Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

thoughts of dissolution, and to impress on the , God, thou hast begun to show thy servant soul the sentiment of the wise man concern- | thy greatness and thy mighty hand, for what ing the world, “I hate it, I would not live god is there in heaven or in earth, that can always."

do according to thy works, and according to Long life, however, is not the less to be thy might? I pray thee let me go over and considered as a blessing. The love of it is see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that a constitutional law of our nature; and the goodly mountain, and Lebanon." promise of it is annexed to the sanctions At another time, he seems quietly to give of the written law, as a motive to obedience: up the cause as lost, and patiently prepares “Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy to meet his fate, and meekly resigns himself days may be long upon the land which the to the will of the Most High, which he was Lord thy God giveth thee,"'* and it is here unable to alter. In a word, we see him at bestowed as a reward on the faithful. Pre- once the man and the believer, and a pattern mature death, in like manner, is an object of well worthy of imitation in both respects. natural horror, is threatened in anger, and It is impossible to observe the conflict of inflicted as a punishment." The wicked Moses's soul, when this cup of trembling was shall not live half his days, and his memory put into his hands, without thinking of the shall rot.” In general, a wise and merciful bitter agony in the garden, of the travail of God hides from the eyes of men the era of the Redeemer's soul, of that passionate adtheir departure out of the world. The bi dress, “ Father, if it be possible, let this cup terness of death consists in the foretaste, pass from me”-of “sweat like great drops and the forerunners of that great enemy. of blood falling down to the ground,"t—of That bitterness, in its full proportion, was the triumph of resignation, " nevertheless, wrung out, and mingled in the cup of Moses. not my will, but thine be done"-of “humiThe death of every Israelite was a death- liation to death, the death of the cross." warning to him. He had lately ascended Thus it “ behoved him to fulfil all righteousmount Hor with Aaron his brother, stripped ness." Thus he taught men to obey the law him of his garments, closed his eyes to his of God, to use all lawful endeavours to prelast long sleep, and descended without him; serve life; and thus he inculcated submission and mount Hor is only a few steps distant to that sovereign will which it is unprofitafrom mount Abarím, and his own summons ble and impious to resist. comes at length. He is respited, not par “Get thee up,” said God to Moses, " into doned, and a reprieve of forty years is now this mount Abarim, and see the land which J expired.

have given unto the children of Israel;"I It is in that awful, trying hour, we are at and this is all that the law can do for the this time to trace the character and mark the guilty; it conducts to an adjoining eminence, behaviour of the man of God.

it spreads a distant prospect of Canaan, it can From the moment he fell under the divine display its beauty and fertility, it can inspire displeasure which shortened the date of his the desire of possession: but it cannot divide life, we observe it lying with an oppressive Jordan, it cannot lead to victory over the last weight upon his mind. The love of life ma- enemy, it cannot make “ the comer therenifests itself, and we behold, in the prophet, unto perfect,” nor establish the soul in everthe man of like passions with ourselves. lasting rest. Neither Moses, the giver of the There is no incident of his life on which he law, nor Aaron, the high priest, under the dwells so mueh, and with such earnestness law, could "continue by reason of death." of interest as this. The history of his offence But the Apostle and High Priest of our prois again and again repeated, not in the view fession is “entered into the holiest of all,” of extenuating the guilt of it

, but to vindicate has opened a passage through the gates of the righteous judgment of God. The excel- death, to life and immortality; lifted up,

first lence of this part of his narrative, is its de- upon the cross, and then to his throne in the parting from the direct line of narration. He heavens, he is drawing all men unto him. hastens forward to bring it early into view; Together with the honest, though fond athe returns again upon his footsteps, and pre- tachment to life, which characterizes the sents it a second time to view. Is he re- man, and the pious resignation which marks minding Israel of their rebellion and diso-| the child of God, Moses discovers, on this bedience? his own transgression, and the occasion, that excellent spirit which sinks punishment of it, arise and stare him in the and loses the individual in the public. He face. Is he encouraging them in their pro- cheerfully gives up his personal suit, and the gress towards the promised land ? he sighs to cause of Israel henceforth engrosses him think that he himself shall never enter into wholly. “And Moses spake unto the Lord, it. At one time, he flatters himself with the saying, Let the Lord, the God of the spirits hope that justice might perhaps relent, and of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, presumes to expostulate and entreat, in terms which may go out before them, and which earnest and pathetic, such as these; “O Lord

† Luke xxii. 42–44. Lev. xvii. 12, 13.

* Deut. iii. 24, 25.

Exod. xl. 12.

may go in before them, and which may lead furnished for his great undertaking, God was them out, and which may bring them in; pleased to command a solemn and public dethat the congregation of the Lord be not as claration of his choice, and that the object of sheep which have no shepherd.”*

it should, before the eyes of the people, be set Let modern patriots think of this, and blush apart by the imposition of the hands of Moses at their pride and selfishness. But they are to the office assigned him. lost to all sense of decency, they keep each Forms are necessary, because men are not other in countenance by their multitude and spiritual; forms are interposed, that the unconfidence, and “ glory in their shame.” This derstanding, the heart, and the conscience, noble conduct of the Jewish legislator was may be approached through the channels of not the affectation of virtue and public spirit, sense. And of all forms, recommended by the ostentatious boasting of a man who had divine authority, and its own significant simno prospect, or a distant one of being put to plicity, that of the laying on of hands is one the trial; but the native greatness and supe- of the most ancient, most frequently in use, riority of a mind occupied with two grand ob- and most striking. By this solemn'rite, the jects, the glory of God and the good of his devoted victim was set apart for death, and country; a mind that could rejoice in the ad- the guilt of the offerer transferred, as it were, vancement of an inferior, and decrease with and laid upon the head of the oblation : and inward satisfaction while the other increased. thus were the minister of the sanctuary, the Ordinary men look with an evil eye upon general, the statesman, dedicated to the dutheir successors. A prince and his heir, ties of their respective stations; thus new though that heir be his own son, generally and extraordinary powers were conferred live upon indifferent terms; but Moses sees upon Joshua : thus Jesus took leave of his his dignity departing from himself in his life disciples, and left a blessing behind him, more time, departing from his family, given to his precious than the mantle of Elijah. “He servant, without a murmur, without a sigh. led them out as far as Bethany, and he lifted It was enough to him that God had been up his hands and blessed them." pleased to adopt Joshua, for the purpose of By laying on of the apostles' hands, mira. finishing his work, of introducing Israel into culous gifts of the Holy Ghost were commutheir inheritance. It is no sooner intimated nicated; and by laying on of the hands of the to him, than Joshua becomes his son, his bro- presbytery, Timothy was solemnly set apart ther, his friend: and he proceeds to his in- for exercising the office of a bishop; and stallation with as much alacrity, as he in- thus a great part of the christian world convested Aaron with the pontifical robes. tinues to install its ministers in the pastoral

This solemn ceremony consisted of a vari-office. ety of circumstances, which are well worthy Moses was farther commanded “to cause of our attention; from their being of divine Joshua to stand before Eleazer the priest," appointment, from their great antiquity, from who was probably to offer up sacrifice in betheir inexplicable mysteriousness, or their half of the commander elect, and by this adobvious significancy. Joshua was already ditional solemnity to impress both upon his anointed with the unction of the Spirit: he own mind and upon those of the spectators, was a person of singular piety, undaunted re- the weight and importance of the sacred solution, and unshaken fidelity: he had long charge committed unto him. It is added, attended upon Moses as his minister, had ac verse 20th, “ And thou shalt put some of thine companied him into the mount, when he as- honour upon him, that all the congregation of cended to meet God, had traversed the land the children of Israel may be obedient." of Canaan as one of the spies, had brought This is interpreted by some commentators, up its good report, and stood firm with Caleb of those rays of glory, which are supposed to in resisting the timid and discouraging repre- have surrounded the head of Moses, ever sentations of his colleagues. "He possessed since his descent from God in the mount, and all the qualities natural, acquired, and miracu- which so dazzled the eyes of the beholder, lously dispensed, which were requisite to the that in speaking to the people he was under discharge of the duties of that high and im- the necessity of putting a veil over his face. portant station to which Providence was now By the imposition of his hands upon the head calling him. By the spirit which is said to of Joshua, according to the commandment, have been in Joshua, some understand the this external, sensible honour, is understood spirit of prophecy, or supernatural powers of to have been communicated from the one to foreseeing and providing for future events. the other, and that, in consequence of it, By taking in every circumstance, it seems Joshua henceforth wore a visible token of the rather to denote those rare gifts with which choice of Heaven. nature had so liberally endowed him; wis Conjecture and fancy blend too much in dom, and courage, and strength, and which this exposition, to procure for it a very high Providence was now calling forth for the degree of respect. Juster and more sober general benefit. But though thus amply criticism explain the passage as implying,

* Numb. xxvii, 15-17.

* Luke xxiv. 50.

that Moses should immediately associate fore the Lord : and on looking downwards Joshua with himself in the executive powers upon the Urim in the breastplate, the answer of government, devolve upon him a share of God was seen in characters of reflected both of the respect and the care which per- light, from the excellent glory, and which the tained to the supreme command ; that he high priest audibly repeated in the ears of might enjoy the satisfaction, while he yet the party concerned.--"Go;" or, “ Thou shalt lived, and which he so much desired, of be- not go.” holding a wise and a good man conducting

When the oracle refused to give any rethe Israelitish affairs, in church and state, sponse, as in the case of Saul, it was conwith discretion, and carrying on the plan of sidered as a mark of high displeasure. God Providence to its consummation.

would not answer that wicked prince “ by There is another article in the injunction the judgment of Urim,” but because he had laid upon Moses, respecting the appointment wiltúlly forsaken God, an offended God, in of his successor, which has greatly exercised just displeasure, gave him up to ask counsel and puzzled the critics." And he shall stand of hell, and to follow it to his own destruction. before Eleazer the priest, who shall ask coun

“ We have also," Christians, “a more sure sel for him, after the judgment of Urim, be- word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that fore the Lord; at his word shall they go ou , ye take heed; as unto a light that shineth in and at his word they shall come in, both he a dark place, until the day dawn, and the and all the children of Israel with him, even day-star arise in your hearts."* all the congregation."*

Joshua being referred to this mode of conThe difficulty is, what was the Urim, and sultation, compared with the history of Moses, the judgment of Urim, of which Eleazer was points out the difference between these two to ask counsel in behalfof Joshua, and wherein leaders of Israel. “ There arose not a prophet Moses differed from Joshua as to this ? Urim, since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the is, in general, in scripture, found in connex- Lord knew face to face.”+ ion with Thummim. The words import God manifested himself immediately unto light and perfection ; and they appear to have Moses; conversed with him as a man with been some part or appendage of the breast- his friend. Joshua was kept at a greater dis. plate, that essential article of the high priest's tance, and enjoyed communion with God dress. They were not, it is alleged, the pro- through the intervention of appointed means, duction of human skill, like the other particu- Just as before Moses was admitted to the lars of the sacred clothing, for there is no ac- very summit of the mount, received within count of their fabrication by the hands of the veil of thick darkness, which at once man; but when the breastplate was finished, concealed and revealed the divine glory; Moses, we are told, “put into it the Urim while Joshua was confined to a lower region, and the Thummim," whatever they were, im- kept in the place and on the duty of a servant. mediately from God.

But we must conclude. The method of consultation has also fur The whole scene that has now passed in nished ample matter of dispute. The most review, speaks directly to the heart and conapproved tradition is this, for scripture gives science. It presents a striking and instrucbut few, and those very general hints, upon tive instance of the goodness and severity of the subject, the person who desired to consult God. The faults and infirmities of his dearest the oracle, (and none but public persons, and children he neither overlooks, nor forgets to on great public occasions, were admitted to punish. For one offence, and seemingly a that privilege,) intimated his intention to the slight one, Moses is excluded from Canaan. high priest ; who, at the hour of incense, ar- No humiliation, penitence, or entreaty can, of rayed in his pontifical vestments, entered the themselves, remove the guilt nor prevent holy place, accompanied at a little distance the chastisement of sin. The neglect or inby the magistrate or general, who made the sult offered by a child, a brother, a friend, inquiry. The high priest placed himself strikes deeper than the most violent outrage with his face towards the entrance of the from a stranger, or an avowed enemy. The most holy place. The veil which separated transgression of Moses at the waters of strife the holy place from the holy of holies, was was thus aggravated, and he must die for it. drawn up for the occasion, so that he stood O my God, enter not into judgment with me, directly fronting the ark of the covenant, whose crimes are heightened by every cirovershadowed by the cherubim, where the cumstance of aggravation-deliberation, preSchechinah, or visible glory, resided. The sumption, filial ingratitude, in the face of inquirer then standing behind, pronounced solemn and repeated engagements. If Moses the question, or consultation, in a few plain died the death, for once speaking unadvisedly words; such, for example, as these: “Shall with his lips, in the moment of passion ; “ if I go up against the Philistines, or shall I not thou, Lord, art strict to mark iniquity, where go up?" This question was again repeated shall I stand ?" how shall I escape ?" solemnly and distinctly by the high priest be But is death a punishment to a good man?

| Deut. xxxiv. 10.

* Num. xxvii. 21.

* 2 Peter i. 19.

No. As in the death of Moses, therefore, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy we behold the justice and severity of God, so victory ? Thanks be to God, who giveth us in its consequences, we behold his goodness ine victory, through Jesus Christ our Lord." and loving kindness. The evil is slight and “The saying that is written is come to pass, temporary; the good is unspeakably great, death is swallowed up of victory; mortality and eternally permanent; exclusion from is swallowed up of life.” “ Life and immorCanaan is admission into the kingdom of tality are brought to light by the gospel.' heaven; "to be absent from the body is to be We “know whom we have believed :" we present with the Lord.” “ Faith, indeed, believe in him who hath said, “I am the reredeems not from the power of the grave, surrection and the life; he that believeth in but it dissipates all the horror of the tomb: me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. transforms it into a resting-place for the And whosoever liveth and believeth in me, weary pilgrim; and converts the king of shall never die."* terrors into a minister of joy. “O death,

* John xi. 25, 26.

HISTORY OF MOSES.

LECTURE LXX V.

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt

thou be gathered unto thy people.—NUMBERS Xxxi. 1, 2.

The interest which every reader of taste | hausted as I am, is there no one respect in and sensibility takes in the life and actions which I can yet glorify God, or be useful to of Moses is never permitted to flag, much my fellow creatures? And to the last, the less totally to sink and expire. His infant great Supporter of life, the Ruler of the cries, from the very first moment, awaken world, has some command to give, some our sympathy; and his departing words, at labour to be performed, some exercise of the the age of a hundred and twenty years, con- hand, the head, or the heart to enjoin, some tinue to excite our esteem and admiration. purpose of justice or of love to accomplish. Whether employed as a minister of ven Moses has received warning to depart, but geance or of mercy, he inspires affection or the hour of release is not yet come. And commands respect.

though his offence at the waters of Meribah The love of life is not only natural and in- must be punished with death, the tranquillity nocent, but important, and necessary. We of his mind is not thereby discomposed, nor are instructed to guard, to preserve, to pro- his intercourse with Heaven interrupted, nor long it, at once by the constitution and frame his zeal in performing the duties of his staof our nature, and by manifold examples of tion abated. The God whom he had so long the highest authority. And while Providence and faithfully served, continues to converse permits the farther extension of it, the rea- with him as a man with his friend, commusons and end of that extension are obviously nicates to him his designs, and employs him manifest. Not a single hour is added to the in the execution. Our lives too are forfeited; life of any one, merely to make up such a the sentence of death is upon us; under á quantity of time. No, every moment is des- respite of unknown, uncertain duration, our tined to its peculiar purpose, passes to ac- days are passing away. Improved ever so count, calls to its proper use and employment: well, they cannot indeed redeem from the To dream of premature retirement from the grave, nor alter the immutable decree; but exercise of our faculties and functions, of their improvement may alleviate the bittermere existence without employment, is an ness of death and pluck out the sting. The attempt to defeat the intention of the Creator inevitable course of nature, and the righteous in sending us into the world; is a degradation decisions of a holy law, destroy not the sacred and perversion of the powers of the human communications which subsist between a mind; is to be dead while we live. The merciful God and a gracious spirit. To reinquiry of a well regulated spirit, to the last, ceive a command from an offended father, is, “ Lord, what wouldst thou have me do?" after judgment has been pronounced, parWhile

any

of my powers remain, however takes of the nature of a pardon; and it is no blunted, however impaired, to whom shall I slender consolation, even under the stroke of dedicate the poor remains? Enfeebled, ex-justice, to reflect that paternal affection was

pleased to regard and accept future obedience | nument, how certainly, however slowly, and submission, if not as an atonement for eternal justice overtakes the sinner! offence, at least as a mark of contrition for The immense booty which this easy vicnaving transgressed. As if, therefore, we tory transferred to the Israelites, is a farther could wipe out the memory of the past; as if demonstration of the feebleness and dissolupersevering labours of gratitude and love tion of their unwarlike enemy.

They had could purchase our release; as if death were wealth without being rich, luxury without to be prevented, disarmed, or destroyed, by enjoyment, policy without wisdom, kingly the efforts of the passing moment, let us power without government, and zeal for a wake and arise to the knowledge, the study, religion without an object of worship. Conand the practice of our heavenly Father's quered the moment they are attacked, will.

having no resource in public or private virThe service prescribed to Moses on this tue ; men lost to a sense of what constitutes occasion was the execution of justice on a true female dignity, women precipitating nation of offenders. The nature of the of- that corruption of which they were the misefence has been hinted at in a former Lec- rable victims—they hold up to mankind a ture; and we may form a judgment of its fearful but instructive example of the native, enormity, from the vengeance which pur- necessary, inevitable consequences of vice. sued it. The state of Midian, at the period Up to similar causes the downfall of still in question, exhibits the last stage of moral greater states may be traced; and if sin be depravity-a corrupted people carrying on a the ruin of any kingdom, what individual temporary political design, by means the offender shall dare to flatter himself with most scandalous and dishonourable—the the hope of escaping the righteous judgment dearest and most delicate interests of human of God ? nature vilely sacrificed to its worst and The severity with which judgment was most disgraceful propensities—husbands executed on the Midianites, helps farther to countenancing the prostitution of their wives, unfold their character. An effeminate, luxand parents that of their daughters, in order urious people, generally excites contempt at to gratify ambition, avarice, or revenge. A most; but here a holy and just indignation nation of such a character is necessarily is kindled. Heaven itself is up in arms hastening to utter destruction, without fire against a degenerate race; and Moses, the from heaven, or the sword of a foreign ene- meekest of men, accuses the exterminators my. But what vice was accelerating by its of the whole race of Midian of weak and own native energy, Providence hastens to excessive lenity. How is this to be accountan issue by a special interposition, and “the ed for? It will be found on inquiry, that in Lord makes himself known by the judgment a very dissolute state of society, vices of the which he executes."

most odious and atrocious kind are necessaThe force which it was thought proper to rily blended with others less offensive. The employ for the extermination of this de- love of pleasure is the predominant characbauched race, is indication sufficient how ter; but in order to feed and support that low its character was rated. Immersed in passion, arts the most criminal and detestsensuality, enervated by luxury, a handful able must be employed. Injustice, violence, of men was deemed enough to destroy them. perjury, and murder follow in the train of A thousand out of every tribe of Israel, twelve lust. The moral principle is destroyed : all thousand men in all, Moses considers as fully sense of shame is lost. The general depracompetent to the execution of this enter- vity keeps every individual transgressor in prize; and the event fully justified the countenance. Appearances are no longer estimate he had made. It is likewise re- attended to or kept up. Men glory in their markable, that he neither commands in this shame. The very offices of religion are expedition, in person, nor commits the con- perverted into instruments of debauchery. duct of it to Joshua, or any other of military Such, apparently, was the state of Midian at profession; but to “Phinehas, the son of the period under review; such was that of Eleazer the priest,” furnished “ with the Israel during the government and priesthood holy instruments, and the trumpets to blow, of Eli; and such was that of the Assyrian in his hand.” We have here, therefore, the and Roman empires immediately previous to idea of a solemn public execution, rather their subversion. And in such a state, is it than of regular war. No resistance is made, any wonder to see heaven and earth comno blood but that of the criminals is shed; bined to root out and overthrow-a holy they dare not meet in the field those whom and righteous God employing the ministrain the secret chambers they could ensnare. tion of the gentlest of mankind to cut off the In vain their hoary adviser Balaam, urges name and memory of such a people from the them to eats of arms, and sets them an ex- earth? When punishment so signal is inflictample of courage; supported by five kings ed, we may safely infer, that the guilt which and their armies, he falls ther with provoked it from such hands was enormous them, by the sword of Israel, an awful mo On reviewing the little army of Israen

« AnteriorContinuar »