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to authority, the case is desperate, and ripe for judgment. This great Simeonite thought he might sin by privilege: he goes, as if he said, Who dares control me? His nobility hath raised him above the reach of correction. Commonly the sins of the mighty are not without presumption, and therefore their vengeance is no less than their security; and their punishment is so much greater, as their conceit of impunity is greater. All Israel saw this bold lewdness of Zimri, but their hearts and eyes were so full of grief, that they had not room enough for indignation. Phineas looked on with the rest, but with other affections. When he saw this defiance bidden to God, and this insultation upon the sorrow of his people (that, while they were wringing their hands, a proud miscreant durst outface their humiliation with his wicked dalliance), his heart boils with a desire of an holy revenge ; and now that hand, which was used to a censer and sacrificing knife, takes up his javelin, and, with one stroke, joins these two bodies in their death, which were joined in their sin, and, in the very flagrance of their lust, makes a new way for their souls to their own place. O noble and heroical courage of Phineas! which, as it was rewarded of God, so is worthy to be admired of men. He doth not stand casting of scruples; Who am I, to do this? The son of the high priest. My place is all for peace and mercy; it is for ine to sacrifice, and pray for the sin of the people, not to sacrifice any of the people for their sin. My duty calls me to appease the anger of God, what I may, not to revenge the sins of men ; to pray for their conversion, not to work the confusion of any sinner. And who are these? Is not the one a great prince in Israel, the other a princess of Midian? Can the death of two so famous persons go unrevenged? Or, if it be safe and fit, why doth my uncle Moses rather shed his own tears than their blood? I will mourn with the rest; let them revenge whom it concerneth. But the zeal of God hath barred out all weak deliberations; and he holds it now both his duty and his glory, to be an executioner of so shameless a pair of offenders.
God loves this heat of zeal in all the carriages of his servants : and if it transport us too far, he pardoneth the errors of our fervency, rather than the indifferences of lukewarmness. As these two were more beasts than any that ever he sacrificed, so the shedding of their blood was the acceptablest sacrifice that ever he offered unto God: for both all Israel is freed from the plague, and all his posterity have the priesthood entailed to them, so long as the Jews were a people. Next to our prayers, there is no better sacrifice than the blood of malefactors; not as it is theirs, but as it is shed by authority. Governors are faulty of those sins they punish not. There can be no better sight in any state than to see a malefactor at the gallows. It is not enough for us to stand gazing upon the wickedness of the times, yea although with tears, unless we endeavour to redress it; especially public persons carry not their javelin in their hand for nought.
Every one is ready to ask Phineas for his commission : and those that are willing to salve up the act, plead extraordinary instinct from God, who, no doubt, would not have accepted that which himself wrought not. But what need I run so far for this warrant, when I hear God say to Moses, “Hang up all the heads of Israel ;” and Moses say to the under-rulers, “Every one slay his men, that are joined to Baal-peor.” Every Ísraelite is now made a magistrate for this execution; and why not Phineas amongst the rest? Doth his priesthood exempt him from the blood of sinners ? How then doth Samuel hew Agag in pieces ? Even those may make a carcass, which may not touch it. And if Levi got the priesthood by shedding the blood of idolaters, why may it not stand with that priesthood to spill the blood of a fornicator and idolater? Ordinary justice will bear out Phineas in this act. It is not for every man to challenge this office, which this double proclamation allowed to Phineas. All that. private persons can do, is either to lift up their hands to heaven for redress of sin; or to lift up their hands against the sin, not against the person. “Who made thee a judge?” is a lawful question, if it meet with a person unwarranted.
Now the sin is punished, the plague ceaseth. The revenge of God sets out ever after the sin; but if the revenge of men (which commonly comes later) can overtake it, God gives other the chase. How oft hath the infliction of a less punishment avoided a greater. There are none so good friends to the state as courageous and impartial ministers of justice : these are the reconcilers of God and the people, more than the prayers of them that sit still and do nothing.
After many painful and perilous enterprizes, now is Moses drawing to his rest. He hath brought his Israelites from Egypt, through the sea and wilderness, within the sight of their promised land ; and now himself must take possession of that land whereof Canaan was but a type. When we have done what we came for, it is time for us to be gone. This earth is only made for action, not for fruition. The services of God's children should be ill rewarded, if they must stay here always. Let no man think much, that those are fetched away which are faithful to God; they should not change if it were not to their preferment. It is our folly that we would have good men live for ever, and account it an hard measure that they were. He that lends them to the world, owes them a better turn than this earth can pay them. It were injurious to wish, that goodness should hinder any man from glory. So is the death of God's saints precious, that it is certain.
Moses must go up to mount Nebo and die. The time, the place, and every circumstance of his dissolution is determined. That one dies in the field, another in his bed, another in the water, one in a foreign nation, another in his own, is foredecreed in heaven. And, though we hear it not vocally, yet God hath called every man by his name, and saith, Die thou there. One man seems to die casually, another by an unexpected violence : 'both fall by a destiny; and all is set down to us by an eternal decree. He that brought us into the world, will carry us out according to his own purposes.
Moses must ascend up to the hill to die. He received his charge for Israel upon the hill of Sinai; and now he delivers up his charge on the hill of Nebo: his brother Aaron died on one hill, he on another, As Christ was transfigured on an hill, so was this excellent type of his : neither doubt I, but that these hills were types to them of that heaven whither they were aspiring. It is the goodness of our God, that he will not have his children die any where, but where they may see the land of promise before them ; neither can they depart without much comfort, to have seen it: contrarily, a wicked man that looks down, and sees hell before him, how can he choose but find more horror in the end of death, than in the way!..
How familiarly doth Moses hear of his end! It is no more betwixt God and Moses, but, Go up and die. If he had invited him to a meal, it could not have been in a more sociable compellation: no otherways than he said to his other prophet, Up and eat. It is neither harsh, nor news to God's children, to hear or think of their departure; to them, death hath lost his horror through acquaintance. Those faces which at first sight seemed ill-favoured, by oft viewing, grow out of dislike: they have so oft thought and resolved of the necessity, and of the issue of their dissolution, that they cannot hold it either strange or unwelcome. He that hath had such entire conversation with God, cannot fear to go to him. Those that know him not, or know that he will not know them, no marvel if they tremble.
This is no small favour, that God warns Moses of his end. He that had so oft made Moses of his counsel, what be ineant to do with Israel, would not now do ought with himself without his knowledge. Expectation of any main event is a great advantage to a wise heart. If the fiery chariot had fetched away Elias unlooked for, we should have doubted of the favour of his transportation : it is a token of judgment, to come as a thief in the night. God forewarns one by sickness, another by age, another by his secret instincts, to prepare for their end. If our hearts be not now in a readiness, we are worthy to be surprised.
But what is this I hear? displeasure mixed with love, and that to so faithful a servant as Moses. He must but see the land of promise, he shall not tread upon it; because he once, long ago, sinned in distrusting. Death, though it were to him an entrance into glory, yet shall be also a chastisement of his infidelity. How many noble proofs had Moses given of his courage and strength of faith! How many gracious services had be done to his master! Yet, for one act of distrust, he must be gathered to his fathers. All our obediences cannot bear out one sin against God. How vainly shall we hope to make amends to God for our former trespasses, by our better behaviour, when Moses hath this one sin laid in his dish, after so many and worthy testimonies of his fidelity! When we have forgotten our sins, vet God remembers them, and, although not in anger, yet he calls for our arrearages. Alas! what shall become of them with whom God hath ten thousand greater quarrels, that, amongst many millions of sins, have scattered some few acts of formal services ! If Moses must die the first death for one fault, how shall they escape the second for sinning always ! Even where God loves, he will not wink at sin; and if he do not punish, yet he will chastise. How much less can it stand with that eternal justice, to let wilful sinners escape judgment!
It might have been just with God to have reserved the cause to himself; and, in a generality, to have told Moses, that his sin must shorten his journey; but it is more of mercy than justice, that his children shall know why they smart; that God may, at once, both justify himself and humble them for their particular offences. Those to whom he means vengeance, have not the sight of their sins, till they be past repentance. Complain not that God upbraids thee with thy old sins, whosoever thou art; but know it is an argument of love; whereas concealment is a fearful sign of a secret dislike from God.
But what was that noted sin which deserves this late exprobation, and shall carry so sharp a chastisement? Israel murmured for water; God bids Moses take the rod in bis hand, and speak to the rock to give water; Moses, instead of speaking, and striking the rock with his voice, strikes it with his rod. Here was his sin, an over-reaching of his commission, a fearfulness and distrust of the effect. The rod, he knew, was approved for miracles; he knew not how powerful his voice might be; therefore he did not speak, but strike, and he struck twice for failing ; and now, after these many years, he is stricken for it of God. It is a dangerous thing in divine matters, to go beyond our warrant. Those sins, which seem trivial to men, are heinous in the account of God. Any thing that savours of infidelity, displeases him more than some other crimes of morality. Yet the moving of the rod was but a diverse thing from the moving of the tongue; it was not contrary; he did not forbid the one, but he commanded the other: this was but across the stream, not against it. Where shall they appear, whose whole courses are quite contrary to the commandments of God ?
Upon the act done, God passed the sentence of restraining Moses, with the rest, from the promised land : now be performs it. Since that time, Moses had many favours from
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