« AnteriorContinuar »
History of Moses:
LE C T U R E
DEUTERONOMY xxxiv. 1-6. And Mofes went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the Lord Jhewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan, and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and all the land of
Judah unto the utmost fea, and the fouth, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm-trees, unto Zoar. And the Lord said unto him, This is the land which I fware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Yacob, saying, I will give it unto thy feed : I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither. So Mofes the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-Peor : but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.
W HEN strangers accidentally meet to perform to. gether the same voyage or journey, they are apt, at first, to regard each other with looks of caution and distrust; they converse sparingly, and with reserve; they conceal their views and purposes in their own breasts; they attempt to dive into the characters and designs of their fellow-travellers. By degrees this
fufpicious cautiousness wears off ; it becomes their mutual desire and endeavour to please and oblige, they . feel themselves united by a common intereft, their communications become frequent and free, they difcover all that is in their hearts, they take a kind concern in each other's future fortunes, they exchange tokens of affection, they devise the means of coming together again, and part at length with regret. We seem, my brethren, to have been travelling through a vast country; we seem to have been conversing with men of a different age and region; we have contemplated many a fair prospect, we have marked many successive changes, and, at the end of another stage or two, we must separate, and bid each other farewe!. Like men acquainted and friendly, who know each other's meaning, and wilh each other's happiness, we look back to our common pilgrimage with fomc des gree of satisfaction, and forward, I trust, with some degree of desire to meet together again. The mutual token which, in the mean time, we shall carry with us to stir up our minds by way of remembrance, is one that touches the heart by more than one spring, the memory of a dear and estimable common friend, who has contributed much to our pleasure and improvement, who was lovely and pleasant in life, and in death fills the soul with admiration and regret ; but whom we have the felicity of confidering as having only preceded us a little in a journey, on which we too have already entered, and the end of which will bring us to the same home with him.
The pen has now dropt from the hand of Moses, and silent is his tongue; and another, not himself, must tell us what he is, and how he died. Every fcene in the life of this illustrious man is singular, and instructive as fingular ; and his latter end is not the least interesting and useful. He had now completed his one hundred and twentieth year, without having become subject to the usual infirmities of that advanced age. It is one thing to live long, and another to
be old. We frequently see old age commenced by many woful symptoms, long before the man has begun to live at all: and we sometimes see the wisdom and piety of grey hairs giving luftre to the bloom of youth, and tempering the vivacity of the morning of life. We wish to live long, but we weakly associate what never met, except in Moses and a favoured few like him, perfect foundness of faculties and the capacity of enjoying life, united to length of days and richness of experience. We wilh to live long, but fail to reflect on dimness of eyes, decay of memory, wasting of strength, loss of appetite, the neglect or unkindness of friends, and the other concomitants of that forlorn period. We wish to live long, but if the days come we find them evil; when these wished-for years draw nigh we are constrained to acknowledge “ we have no pleasure in them.” The few, the very few exceptions the history of mankind furnishes, from the general rule, ferve only the more grievously to confirm it. Happy would it be for old men, however, happy for themselves, and most happy for others, though they cannot retain at pleasure the clear-sightedness and vigour of Moses, did they cultivate as they ought, and acquire as they might, something of his meekness and gentleness and condescension; they would not have. fuch frequent reason to complain of the petulance, felf-sufficiency and presumption of young men, if they themselves would learn to be less peevish, and obstinate, and overbearing. For, bad as the world is, age will obtain respect, unless it take pains to provoke insult and disrespect.
The death of Moses, then, was not in the ordinary courís of nature, it was not preceded by its usual harbingers, it was not occafioned by a failure of the radical moisture, by the stroke of violence, or the malignity of disease, but by a simple act of the will of God. Wherefore, then, “ should it be thought -a thing incredible that God should raise the dead ?" When we see the antediluvian patriarchs living to one
thousand years, the eye of Mofes, at one hundred and twenty, not dim, nor his natural force abated, and “ Christ, the first fruits,” bursting asunder the bars of the grave; have we not so many concurring presumptions and proofs of immortality and the resurrection. And what must be the angelic beauty, the celestial vigour, the undecaying lustre and glory of bodies “ fashioned like to Christ's glorious body," when we see the face of Moses shine, that it could not be stedfastly looked at, and preserving to life's extremity the morning dew of youth? The honour put on Mofes was rare and singular, but the glory to be revealed is a blessedness of which all the redeemed of the Lord shall partake.
When the summons arrived for Aaron to prepare for death, Moses, his brother, and Eleazer, his son and successor, were commanded to ascend the mountain with him, and to assist in the solemnities of the awful change: but Moses advances alone to meet death, to meet his God. The holy vestments, with the office to which they appertained, descended from father to fon, and were at length done away altogether and loft; but the moral and spiritual parts of the dispensation never waxed old, could not fee corruption, but like God, their author, were unchangeable ; and like Moses, by whom they were delivered to the world, unenfeebled by length of time, continued till Christ, the restorer of all things, interwove them with the tisfue of the gospel, and conferred immortality upon them.
-We must now look back to the sentence of death pronounced against Moses, and to the crime which provoked the irreversible doom : 6 And the Lord spake unto Moses that self-fame day, saying,
Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho ; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possesfion, and die in the mount whither thou goest up; Vou. V, K
and be gathered unto thy people; as Aaron thy brothet died in Mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people: because ye trespassed against me among the children of lfrael at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye fanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel. Yet thou shalt see the land before thee; but thou shalt not go thither unto the land which I give the children of Israel." * Here many things concur to furprise and instruct us.
The offence of Mofes seems a venial one; he erred merely through hastiness of spirit; and had he not good caufe to be angry? He was not often so overtaken, he quickly repented, and recovered tranquillity and selfgovernment again. He repeatedly attempted to soften justice by submission and entreaty; he asked for nothing unreasonable or abfurd : he wished merely to be a witnefs of the divine bounty, truth and faithfulness ; infinitely greater offenders had at his entreaty been forgiven and restored. But justice relented not, Mofes for one offence must die; the grace which he often obtained for others is to himself denied. Let the wretch loaded with a thousand crimes black as hell, and malignant as the spirit that reigns in the children of disobedience, think of this and tremble. That “ fool makes a mock of fin." - Father, forgive him, he knows not what he does." One transgreffion excluded Moses from Canaan ; and with so many imperfections on his head, loaded with so many crimes of a nature fo vile and atrocious, can he think of entering into the kingdom of heaven ? When we fee such inflexible and unrelenting severity pursuing the dearest and most distinguished of God's children, who fhall dare to think or to call any sin a little one ? Who shall presume on mercy, who shall dream of washing away his guilt by the tears of penitence, who shall- harden himself against God and hope to prof. per? The great crime in the sight of God is, give ing that glory to another which belongeth to him.
For * Deut. xxxii. 48—52.