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THE LAST ENCAMPMENT.
PREACHED IN THE ENCAMPMENT AT EHDEN, BENEATH THE MOUNTAIN OF THE CEDARS, ON MAY 11, THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.
Num. x. 35, 36.
And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said, Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate Thee flee before Thee. And when it rested, he said, Return, O Lord, unto the many thousands of Israel.
UR last Sunday in Syria has arrived, and it has
been enhanced to us this morning by the sight of those venerable trees which seemed to the Psalmist and the Prophets of old one of the chief glories and wonders of the creation. Two main ideas were conveyed to the minds of those who then saw them, which we may still bear away with us.
One is that of their greatness, breadth, solidity, vastness. • The righteous,' says the Psalmist”, “shall 'flourish like a palm tree'- that is one part of our life; to be upright, graceful, gentle, like that most
1 Psalm xcii. 12.
beautiful of oriental trees. But there is another quality added — He shall spread abroad like a cedar ' in Libanus.' That is, his character shall be sturdy, solid, broad; he shall protect others, as well as himself; he shall support the branches of the weaker trees around him; he shall cover a vast surface of the earth with his shadow; he shall grow, and spread, and endure; he and his works shall make the place where he was planted memorable for future times.
The second feeling is the value of Reverence. It was reverence for these great trees which caused them to be employed for the sacred service of Solomon's Temple, and which has ensured their preservation for so long. It was reverence for Almighty God that caused these trees, and these only, to be brought down from this remote situation to be employed for the Temple of old. Reverence, we may be sure, whether to God or to the great things which God has made in the world, is one of the qualities most needful for every human being if he means to pass through life in a manner worthy of the place which God has given him in the world.
But the sight of the Cedars, and our encampment here recall to us that this is the close of a manner of life which in many respects calls to mind that of the ancient Israelites, as we read it in the Lessons of this and of last Sunday, in the Book of Numbers and of Deuteronomy, 'How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, ' and thy tabernacles, O Israel '— so unlike our common life, so suggestive of thoughts which can hardly come to us again. It brings us back, even with all the luxuries which surround us, to something of the
freshness, and rudeness, and simplicity of primitive life, which it is good for us all to feel at one time or other. It reminds us, though in a figure, of the uncertainty and instability of human existence, so often compared to the pitching and striking of a tent. The spots on which, day after day for the last six weeks, we have been encamped have again become a desolate open waste — 'the spirit of the desert stalks in,' and their place will be known no more.
How like the
way in which happy homes rise, and sink, and vanish, and are lost. Only the great Rock or Tree of Life under which they have been pitched remains on from generation to generation.
But there is one point in the encampment of the Israelites which is connected not only with our present mode of life, but with our whole life, wherever we may be, and that is, the words in which were expressed what may be called their Morning and Evening Hymn, their Morning and Evening Prayer. The Morning Prayer was, “Let God arise, and let His
enemies be scattered, and let them that hate Him flee before Him.' It is very short, but it contains much; and it was used to give fresh point to Jewish Psalms in later times, as, for example, the 68th. It is the call upon God to rise,' as it were, with them, to go forth with them through the day, that all His 'enemies might be scattered, and flee before Him,' as the shades of night are scattered and flee before the rays of the rising sun. And the Evening Prayer is like to it, only shorter still — Return, O Lord, unto the many thousands of Israel. And this, too, is expanded in the 80th Psalm : “Return,' come back,