Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

forefathers taken possession of their Hebron, but for us? But now, their fear hath not left them so much reason as to compare their adversaries with others, but only with themselves : doubtless, these giants were mighty, but their fear bath stretched them out some cubits beyond their stature. Distrust makes our dangers greater, and our helps less than they are, and forecasts ever worse than shall be; and if evils be possible, it makes them certain.

Amongst those twelve messengers whom our second Moses sent through the land of promise, there was but one Judas; but, amongst those twelve which the former Moses addressed through the same land, there is but one Caleb : and yet those were chosen out of the meanest; these, out of the heads of Israel. As there is no society free from some corruption, so it is hard if in a community of men there be not some faithfulness.

We shall wrong God, if we fear lest good causes shall be quite forsaken. He knows how to serve himself of the best, if the fewest; and could as easily be attended with a multitude, if he did not seek his own glory in unlikelihoods.

Joshua was silent, and wisely spared his tongue for a further advantage; only Caleb spake. I do not hear him say, Who am I to strive with a multitude? What can Joshua and I do against ten rulers? It is better to sit still than to rise and fall : but he resolves to swim against this stream, and will either draw friends to the truth, or enemies upon himself.

True Christian fortitude teaches us not to regard the number or quality of the opponents, but the equity of the cause, and cares not to stand alone, and challenge all comers; and if it could be opposed by as many worlds as men, it may be overborne, but it cannot be daunted: whereas popularity carries weak minds, and teaches them the safety of erring with a multitude,

Caleb saw the giantly Anakims and the walled cities as well as the rest, and yet he says, “ Let us go up and possess it;" as if it were no more but to go, and see, and conquer. Faith is courageous, and makes nothing of those dangers wberewith others are quelled.

It is very material with what eyes we look upon all objects. Fear doth not more multiply evils, than faith diminisheth them; which is therefore bold, because either it sees not,

w the giantly Anays, “ Let us go up and conquer.

or contemns that terror which fear represents to the weak. There is none so valiant as the believer.

It had been happy for Israel if Caleb's counsel had been as effectual as good : but how easily have these rulers discouraged a faint-hearted people! Instead of lifting up their ensigns, and marching towards Canaan, they sit them down, and lift up their voice and cry. The rods of their Egyptian task-masters had never been so fit for them, as now, for crying. They had cause, indeed, to weep for the sin of their infidelity; but now they weep for fear of those enenies they saw not. I fear, if there had been ten Calebs to persuade, and but two faint spies to discourage them, those two cowards would have prevailed against those ten solicitors : how much more, now ten oppose, and but two encourage! An easy rhetoric draws us to the worse part; yea, it is hard not to run down the hill. The faction of evil is so much stronger in our nature than that of good, that every least motion prevails for the one, scarce any suit for the other.

Now is Moses in danger of losing all the cost and care that ever he bestowed upon Israel: his people are already gone back to Egypt in their hearts, and their bodies are returning. Oh! ye rebellious Hebrews, where shall God have you at last! Did ever Moses promise to bring you to a fruitful land, without inhabitants, to give you a rich country, without resistance? Are not the graves of Canaan as good as those of Egypt? What, can ye but die at the hands of the Anakims? Can ye hope for less from the Egyptians ? What madness is this to wish to die, for fear of death? Is there less hope from your enemies that shall be, when ye go under strong and expert leaders, than from the enemies that were, when ye shall return masterless ? Can those cruel Egyptians so soon have forgotten the blood of their fathers, children, brothers, husbands, which perished in pursuing you? Had ye rather trust the mercy of known enemies, than the promise of a faithful God? Which way will ye return? Who shall divide the sea for you? Who shall fetch you water out of the rock? Or can ye hope, that the manna of God will follow you while ye run from him? Feeble minds, when they meet with crosses they looked not for, repent of their good beginnings, and wish any difficulty rather than that they find. How many have pulled back their foot from the narrow way, for the troubles of a good profession!

It had been time for the Israelites to have fallen down on their faces before Moses and Aaron, and to have said, Ye led us through the sea, make way for us into Canaan. Those giants are strong, but not so strong as the rock of Rephidim ; ye struck that, and it yielded : if they be tall, the pillar of God is higher than they: when we look on ourselves, we see cause of fear; but when we consider the miraculous power of you our leaders, we cannot but contemn those men of measures. Leave us not, therefore, but go before us in your directions ; go to God for us in your prayers. But now contrarily, Moses and Aaron fall on their faces to them, and sue to them that they would be content to be conducted. Had they been suffered to depart, they had perished; Moses and his few had been victorious : and yet, as if he could not be happy without them, he falls on his face to them, that they would stay. We have never so much need to be importuned, as in those things whose benefit should make us most importunate. The sweetness of God's law, and our promised glory, is such as should draw all hearts after it; and yet, if we did not sue to men, as for life, that they would be reconciled to God, and be saved, I doubt whether they would obey; yea, it were well if our suit were sufficient to prevail.

Though Moses and Aaron entreat upon their faces, and Joshua and Caleb persuade, and rend their garments, yet they move nothing. The obstinate multitude, grown more violent with opposing, is ready to return them stones for their prayers. Such hath been ever the thanks of fidelity and truth. Crossed wickedness proves desperate, and instead of yielding, seeks for revenge. Nothing is so hateful to a resolute sinner as good counsel. We are become enemies to the world, because we tell them truth.

That God, which was invisibiy present while they sinned, when they have sinned, shews himself glorious. They might have seen him before, that they should not sin; now they cannot choose but see him in the height of their sin. They saw before the pillar of his ordinary presence; now, they see him unusually terrible, that they may, with shame and horror, confess him able to defend, able to revenge. The help of God uses to shew itself in extremity. He that can prevent evils, conceals his aid till danger be ripe; and then he is as fearful as before he seemed connivent.

CONTEMPLATION V.

Korahs Conspiracy. The tears of Israel were scarce dry since the smart of their last mutiny, and now they begin another. The multitude is like a raging sea, full of unquiet billows of discontentment, whereof one rises in the fall of another. They saw God did but threaten, and therefore are they bold to sin. It was now high time they should know what it is for God to be angry. There was never such a revenge taken of Israel; never any better deserved. When lesser warnings will not serve, God looks into his quiver for deadly arrows. In the mean time, what a weary life did Moses lead in these continual successions of conspiracies! What did he gain by this troublesome government, but danger and despite? Who but he would not have wished himself rather with the sheep of Jethro, than with these wolves of Israel? But, as he durst not quit his hook without the calling of God, so now he dare not his sceptre, except he be dismissed of him that called him; no troubles, no oppositions can drive him from his place : we are too weak if we suffer men to chase us from that station where God hath set us.

I see the Levites, not long since, drawing their swords, for God and Moses, against the rest of Israel; and that fact wins them both praise and blessing. Now they are the forwardest in the rebellion against Moses and Aaron, men of their own tribe. There is no assurance of a man for one act; whom one sin cannot fasten' upon, another may. Yea, the same sin may find a repulse one while from the same hand, which another time gives it entertainment; and that yieldancé loses the thank of all the former resistance. It is no praise to have done once well, unless we continue.

Outward privileges of blood can avail nothing against a particular calling of God. These Reubenites had the right of the natural primogeniture, yet do they vainly challenge pre-eminence, where God hath subjected them. If all civil honour flow from the king, how much more from the God of kings? His hand exalts the poor, and casts down the mighty from their throne. The man that will be lifting up himself in the pride of his heart, from under the foot of God, is justly trodden in the dust.

[ocr errors]

Thon agains: Sing

be.

people whom the cople that had nothin a people that coi

Moses - is the prince of Israel, Aaron the priest : Moses was mild, Aaron popular; yet both are conspired against. Their places are no less brothers, than their persons. Both are opposed at once. He that is a traitor to the church, is a traitor to the king. Any superiority is a mark of envy. Had Moses and Aaron been but fellows with the Israelites, none had been better beloved; their dispositions were such, as must needs have forced favour from the indifferent: now they were advanced, their malice is not inferior to their honour. High towers must look for lightenings. We offer not to undermine but those walls which we cannot scale. Nature, in every man, is both envious and disdainful, and never loves to honour another, but where it may be an honour to itself.

There cannot be conceived an honour less worthy of emulation, than this principality of Israel; a people that could giye nothing; a people that had nothing, but in hope; a people whom their leader was fain to feed with bread and water, which paid him no tribute but of ill words; whose command was nothing but a burden ; and yet this dignity was an eye-sore to these Levites, and these Reubenites; “ Ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi.”

And this challenge, though thus unseasonable, hath drawn in two hundred and fifty captains of Israel. What wonder is it, that the ten rulers prevailed so much with the multitude to dissuade them from Canaan; when three traitors prevailed thus with two hundred and fifty rulers, famous in the congregation, and men of renown? One man may kindle such a fire, as all the world cannot quench. One plague-sore may infect a whole kingdom: the infection of evil is much worse than the act.

It is not like these leaders of Israel could err without followers. He is a mean man that draws not some clients after him. It hath been ever a dangerous policy of Satan to assault the best; he knows that the multitude, as we say of bees, will follow their master.

Nothing can be more pleasing to the vulgar sort, than to hear their governors taxed, and themselves flattered. “ All the congregation is holy; every one of them; whereof lift ye up yourselves?” Every word is a falsehood. For Moses dejected himself; “Who am I?” God lifted him up over Israel; and so was Israel holy, as Moses was ambitious. What holiness was there in so much infidelity, fear, idolatry, mutiny, disobedience? What could make them unclean, if

« AnteriorContinuar »