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the face. The wife of Moses is mentioned, his superiority is shot at. Pride is lightly the ground of all sedition. Which of their faces shined like Moses? Yea, let him but have drawn his veil, which of them durst look on his face? Which of them had fasted twice forty days? Which of them ascended op to the top of Sinai, and was hid with smoke and fire ? Which of them received the law twice in two several tables, from God's own hand? And yet they dare say, “ Hath God spoken only by Moses?” They do not deny Moses his honour, but they challenge a part with him; and as they were the elder in nature, so they would be equal in dignity, equal in administration. According to her name, Miriam would be exalted. And yet how unfit were they! One' á woman, whom her sex debarred from rule; the other a priest, wbom his office sequestered from earthly government. Selflove makes men unreasonable, and teaches them to turn the glass, to see themselves bigger, others less than they are. It is an hard thing for a inan, willingly and gladly to see his equals lifted over his head, in worth and opinion. Nothing will more try a man's grace, than questions of emulation. That man hath true light, wbich can be content to be a candle before the sun of others.
As no wrong can escape God, so, least of all, those which are offered to princes. He that made the ear, needs no intelligence of our tongues. We have to do with a God, that is light of hearing; we cannot whisper any evil so secretly, that he should not cry out of noise: and what need we any further evidence, when our judge is our witness ?
Without any delation of Moses, God hears and challenges them. Because he was meek, therefore he complained not: because he was meek and complained not, therefore the Lord struck in-for him the more. The less a man strives for himself, the more is God his champion. It is the honour of great persons to undertake the patronage of their clients : how much more will God revenge his elect, which cry to him day and night! He that said, “I seek not mine own glory," adds, " But there is one that seeks it, and judges.” God takes his part ever, that fights not for bimself.
No man could have given more proofs of his courage than Moses. He slew the Egyptian; he confronted Pharaoh in his own court; he beat the Midianite shepherds; he feared not the troops of Egypt; he durst look God in the face amidst all the terrors of Sinai; and yet that Spirit which made and knew his heart, says, “ He was the mildest man upon earth.” Mildness and fortitude may well lodge together in one breast; to correct the misconceits of those men, that think none valiant, but those that are fierce and cruel.
No sooner is the word out of Miriam's mouth, than the word of God's reproof meets it. How he bestirs him, and will be at once seen and heard, when the name of Moses is in question! Moses was zealously careful for God's glory, and now God is zealous for his. The remunerations of the Almighty are infinitely gracious. He cannot want honour and patronage, that seeks the honour of his Maker. The ready way to true glory is goodness.
God might have spoken so loud, that heaven and earth should have heard it, so as they should not have needed to come forth for audience; but now, he calls them out to the bar, that they may be seen to hear. It did not content him to chide them within doors; the shame of their fault had been less in a private rebuke; but the scandal of their repining was public. Where the sin is not afraid of the light, God loves not the reproof should be smothered.
They had depressed Moses, God advances him. They had equalled themselves to Moses, God prefers him to them. Their plea was, that God had spoken by them, as well as by Moses. God's reply is, That he hath, in a more intire fashion, spoken to Moses, than them. God spake to the best of them, but either in their dream, sleeping, or in vision, waking; but to Moses he spake with more inward illumination, with more lively representation; to others, as a stranger; to Moses, as a friend. God had never so much magnified Moses to them, but for their envy. We cannot devise to pleasure God's servants, so much as by despiting them.
God was angry when he chid them, but more angry when he departed. The withdrawing of his presence, is the presence of his wrath. While he stays to reprove, there is favour in his displeasure : but when he leaves either man or church, there is no hope but of vengeance. The final absence of God, is hell itself. When he forsakes us, though for a time, it is an introduction to his utmost judgment. It was time to look for a judgment, when God departed : so soon as he is gone from the eyes of Miriam, the leprosy appears in her face: her foul tongue is punished with a foul face. Since she would acknow
mmity is a show sees bid herself, and a
ledge no difference betwixt herself, and her brother Moses, every Israelite now sees his face glorious, her leprous. Deformity is a fit cure of pride. Because the venom of her tongue would have eaten into the reputation of her brother; therefore a poisonous infection eats into her flesh. Now both Moses and Miriam need to wear a veil, the one to hide his glory, the other her deformity. That Midianite Zipporah, whom she scorned, was beautiful in respect of her.
Miriam was stricken, Aaron escaped, both sinned; his priesthood could not rescue him; the greatness of his dignity did but add to the heinousness of his sin ; his repentance freed hiin. Alas, my Lord, I beseech thee lay not this sin upon us, wbich we have foolishly committed! I wonder not to see Aaron free, while I see him penitent; this very confession saved him before from bleeding for idolatry, which now preserves him from leprosy, for his envious repining. The universal antidote for all the judgments of God, is our humble repentance.
Yea, his sad deprecation prevailed, both to clear himself, and recover Miriam. The brother sues for himself and his sister, to that brother whom they both emulated, for pardon from himself, and that God which was offended in him. Where now is that equality which was pretended ? Behold, he that so lately made his brother his fellow, now makes him his god. “ Lay not this sin upon us ; let her not be as one dead;" as if Moses had imposed this plague, and could remove it. Never any opposed the servants of God, but, one time or other, they have been constrained to confess a superiority.
Miriam would have wounded Moses with her tongue, Moses would heal her with his; “ O Lord, heal her now." The wrong is the greater, because his sister did it. He doth not say, I sought not her shame, she sought mine; if God have revenged it, I have no reason to look on her as a sister, who looked at me as an adversary: but, as if her leprosy were his, he cries out for her cure. () admirable meekness of Moses ! His people the Jews rebelled against him : God proffers revenge: he would rather die, than they should perish, His sister rebelled against him, God works his revenge: þe will not give God peace till she be re-cured. Behold a worthy and noble pattern for us to follow! How far are they from this disposition, who are not only content God should revenge, but are ready to prevent God's revenge with their own!
God's love to Moses suffers him not to obtain presently his suit for Miriam ; his good nature to his sister made him pray against himself. If the judgment had been at once inflicted, and removed, there had been no example of terror for others. God either denies, or defers the grant of our requests for our good. It were wide for us, if our suits should be ever heard. It was fit for all parts, Miriam should continue some while leprous. There is no policy in a sudden removal of just punishment: unless the rain so fall, that it lie and soak into the earth, it profits nothing. If the judgments of God should be only as passengers, and not sojourners at least, they would be no whit regarded.
The Searchers of Canaan. I can but wonder at the counsel of God. If the Israelites had gone on to Canaan, without inquiry, their confidence had possessed it. Now they send to espy the land ; six hundred thousand never lived to see it: and yet I see God enjoining them to send ; but enjoining it upon their instance. Some things God allows in judgment; their importunity and distrust extorted from God this occasion of their overthrow. That which the Lord moves unto, prospers; but that which we move him to first, seldom succeedeth. What needed they doubt of the goodness of that land, which God told them did flow with milk and honey? What needed they doubt of obtaining that which God promised to give? When we will send forth our senses to be our scouts in the matters of faith, and rather dare trust men than God, we are worthy to be deceived
The basest sort of men are commonly held, fit enough for intelligencers; but Moses, to make sure work, chooseth forth the best of Israel, such as were like to be most judicious in their inquiry, and most credible in their report. 'Those that ruled Israel at home, could best descry for them abroad. What should direct the body but the head ? Men can judge but by appearance; it is for him only that sees the event, ere he appoint the means, not to be deceived. It had been better for Israel to have sent the offal of the multitude : by how much less the credit of their person is, by so much less is the
than their gettle them in weakness,
danger of seducernent. The error of the mighty is armed with authority, and in a sort commands assent: whether in good or evil, greatness hath ever a train to follow it at the heels.
Forty days they spent in this search; and this cowardly unbelief in the search shall cost them forty years' delay of the fruition. Who can abide to see the rulers of Israel so basely timorous? They commend the land, the fruit commends itself, and yet they plead difficulty; “ We be not able to go up.” Their shoulders are laden with the grapes, and yet their bearts are overlaid with unbelief. It is an unworthy thing to plead hardness of achieving, where the benefit will more than requite the endeavour. Our land of promise is above; we know, the fruit thereof is sweet and glorious, the passage difficult. The giantly sons of Anak (the powers of darkness) stand in our way. If we sit down and complain, we shall once know, that “ without shall be the fearful.”
See the idle pleas of distrust; “ We are not able; They are stronger." Could not God enable them? Was he not stronger than their giants? Had he not promised to displace the Canaanites, to settle them in their stead? How inuch more easy is it for us to spy their weakness, than for them to espy the strength of their adversaries! When we measure our spiritual success by our own power, we are vanquished before we fight. He that would overcome, must neither look upon his own arm, nor the arm of his enemy, but the mouth and band of him that hath promised, and can perform. Who are we, flesh and blood, with our breath in our nostrils, that we should fight with principalities, powers, spiritual wickednesses in heavenly places? The match is too unequal; we are not like grashoppers to these giants; when we compare ourselves with them, how can we but despair? When we compare them with God, how can we be discouraged ? He that hath brought us into this field, hath promised us victory, God knew their strength, ere he offered to commit us.
Well might they have thought, were not the Amalekites stronger than we? Were not they armed, we naked? Did not the only hand of Moses, by lifting up, beat them down? Were not the Egyptians no less our masters? Did not death come running after us in their chariots ? Did we not leave these buried in the sea, the other unburied in the wilderness? Whencc had the Anakims their strength, but from him that bids us go up against them? Why have the bodies of our