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of Pharaoh, who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods: for, in the thing wherein they dealt proudly, he was above them. And Jethro, Moses's father-in-law, took a burnt-offering and sacrifices for God. And Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses's father-in-law before God.--EXODUS xvii. 7—12.
The great Author and Ruler of the world The very structure of the sacred compohas evidently in view the pleasure and hap- sitions is inimitably calculated, by a beautiful piness, as well as the wisdom and virtue of and easy transition from subject to subject, his rational creatures. We find, through the and from scene to scene, to relieve and yet widely expanded frame of nature, and the to preserve the attention: presenting always extensive plan of Providence, as many a new and interesting object, or the same sources of joy as there are means of improve object placed in a new and interesting light. ment. What an infinite, beautiful, and Thus the tumultuous, noisy, and bloody pleasing variety in the works and in the scenes of Horeb and Rephidim-scenes of ways of God! all ministering to human com- murmuring, rebellion, and war, are happily fort, all aiming at making men good. The relieved by scenes of domestic tranquilmind of man is formed to desire and to relish lity, love, and joy; and we are prepared to variety. The objects with which he is con- attend Moses, to meet God in the mount, versant are therefore varied without end, to by mixing in the virtuous, cheerful, and gratify that desire, and to correspond with affectionate intercourse of his private fathat relish. The glare of perpetual sunshine mily. and the fervid heat of an eternal summer, Let us then thankfully take the relief would speedily oppress and destroy mankind; which a gracious God has in his word probut, relieved by the tranquillity of darkness, vided for us; and contemplate one of those the freshness of spring, the sedateness of au- calm, but neither uninteresting nor unintumn, and even the gloom of winter, they structive representations of human life, which become no less grateful than they are bene- come home to the bosom and the fireside of ficial. In surveying the globe, the eye is not every man who has a heart, who has a relapermitted to tiré by having to crawl along a tion, who has a friend. boundless plain; but sparkles with delight as The history of Moses now looks back, and it springs from valley to valley, and from hill reminds us of his being “a stranger in a to hill. And even the glories of the starry strange land :" namely, of his fleeing from heavens are rendered still more glorious by Egypt into Midian, of his arriving there, conbeing kept in continual motion; and there- ducted of Providence, just at the moment to by are made continually to exhibit a differ- render a seasonable service to the daughters ent appearance.
of Raguel, or Jethro, the priest of Midian; The events of human life, for the same of the hospitable reception afforded him by reason, are endlessly variegated like the that worthy man, and of the alliance which objects of sense. Wretched were the dull he formed with him, by marrying his daughstagnation of constant prosperity, success, ter Zipporah. Upon his being called back and ease. Intolerable would be the agitation to Egypt to undertake the weighty charge and distress of unceasing, unabating, unre- which God had assigned him, he had intendlenting toil, pain, disappointment, and vexa- ed and attempted to carry his wife and chiltion of spirit. But, one thing being set over dren along with him. But being reproved against another, the great, the prosperous, of God by the way for neglecting in his own and the happy are forever admonished, re- family the rite of circumcision, the seal of proved, and brought low; the poor, the de- God's covenant, and, either specially admospised, and the miserable are cheered, sup- nished from Heaven, or following the dicported, and exalted.
tates of human prudence, he sends them all The word of God exhibits a resemblance back to his father-in-law, as likely to prove to the system of nature, and to the conduct either a burden or a hindrance to himself, in of Providence. In it we have the same the discharge of his great trust. For true pleasing, engaging variety; the same happy piety, while it reposes entire confidence in accommodation to the tastes, occasions, and God, will never presumptuously load Provinecessities of mankind. The antiquarian dence with what is the proper work and and the naturalist, the politician and the le- business of man. Diligence and foresight, gislator, the poet and the philosopher, the as well as faith and hope, are its genuine moralist and the divine, the man of retire- offspring. But the tempest being now blown ment and the man of the world, the man of over, and Moses, of a messenger and a supreason and the man of fancy, all find in scrip- pliant unto Pharaoh, being now become the ture an helper toward the discovery of truth, head and leader of a great nation, it was naand the attainment of happiness; a guide to tural for him and for his family mutually to the understanding, a corrector and supporter desire to be restored to each other. Jethro, of the imagination, a comforter of the heart, therefore, having received information where a teacher of wisdom, a rule of faith, a source Israel was, and what the Lord had done for
them, takes his daughter and grandchildren,
and carries them with him to the camp of Public men have too often two different chaIsrael.
racters. Plausible and specious, humble, moThe innocent endearments of natural af- dest, and insinuating before the world, they fection, and the honest communications of are self-willed and tyrannical, confident, asprivate friendship, are graciously intended suming, and brutal in private; they often to alleviate the cares of public life, and to fawn where they fear, and domineer where strengthen the mind by diverting it from in- they have power. Not so the meek and gencessant and intense application to serious tle prophet and judge of Israel. He waits business. No man can always be a general, not in state till his relations are admitted to a statesman, or a king. And happy it is for pay their homage. He reckons .it nothing those who occupy these exalted but trouble- derogatory to his high dignity to go forth to some stations, that they are frequently per- pay the respect due to age; and to humble mitted to sink the public in the private cha- the son, however high in place, at the feet of racter, and to drop the hero, the senator, the the parent. “ And Moses went out to meet judge, the sovereign, in the man.
his father-in-law, and did obeisance, and kissDistance has not alienated affection be- ed him; and they asked each other of their tween the man of God and his family. A welfare; and they came into the tent.” Were slighter affection is effaced and destroyed by it after the separation of but a day, friends absence; a stronger love is confirmed and have a thousand questions to ask, a thousand inflamed by it. Good old Jethro satisfies not little incidents to relate: about their health, himself with sending by the mouth of anotheir entertainment, their dangers, their de ther a compliment of congratulation to his liverances; about the observations which son-in-law; neither will he permit Zipporah they have made, the projects they may have and her sons to go unaccompanied, unpro- formed. What must it then have been for tected through the wilderness; but, aged two such friends, for such a father and son, and infirm as he was, chooses himself to be after a separation of many months, during their companion and their protector. which, events of such high moment to both
Moses seems to take delight in delivering had taken place, to meet together again in to us this passage of his life. He is amiably health and comfort, to communicate mutualminute and circumstantial in the detail of it. ly the full soul, to retire into the tent, to shut He dwells upon the tender and affecting re- out the world, and give vent to the overflowcollections of sorrows and of joys that are ings of tenderness and affection! past. His heart is in it. He stops in his nar And with what a subject of conversation ration to tell us the names of his two sons, are they furnished; “And Moses told his faand his reason for giving them those names. ther-in-law all that the Lord had done unto “ The name of the one was Gershom: for he Pharaoh, and to the Egyptians, for Israel's said, I have been an alien in a strange land: sake, and all the travail that had come upon and the name of the other was Eliezer; for them by the way, and how the Lord delivered the God of my fathers, said he, was mine help, them." The most trifling incidents which and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh." befall a brother, a friend, a child, are interIs this beneath the dignity of history, of sa- esting and important. What must then have cred history? No, it is the most honourable been the emotions of Jethro to hear the wonprovince of history, to exhibit the honest, un- ders of Egypt, to learn the great things of sophisticated feelings of nature, the genuine God, astonishing in themselves, and acquirworkings of the human heart, the real, though ing an additional weight, creating a new inhumbler scenes of human life. What signi- terest, from the person who related them, and fies to us the meeting of two old men three who was himself so deeply concerned in the thousand three hundred years ago ? Much event? every way. One of them is a Moses, and But the good man is elevated, as he wonthat Moses is describing his own sentiments, dering listens to the wonderful tale, above all unveiling his own heart. He can serve as personal and selfish regards, above the paran instructer and an example to none, in re- tiality of private friendship, above the tenderspect of the prophetic dignity, as the bearer ness of natural affection. His heart dilates of the potent rod, as the man whose face shone, at the thought of a whole nation delivered, by forty days' intimate communion with God. of a tyrant trampled in the dust, of the power, He can instruct but a few, by his wisdom and wisdom, and mercy of God magnified. sagacity as a prince and a lawgiver. But as Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which a son, a husband, and a father, he is a pattern the Lord had done to Israel; whom he had to myriads, and shall continue to teach to the delivered out of the hands of the Egyptians. end of the world.
And Jethro said, Blessed be the Lord, who How pleasant it is to find this great man hath delivered you out of the hand of the the same in retirement and privacy that he is Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh, upon the great theatre; and delineating a who hath delivered the people from under battle, a triumph, and a family meeting, with the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the same simplicity and godly sincerity !l the Lord is greater than all gods; for in the
thing wherein they dealt proudly he was unafraid of being overlooked, neglected, and above them."
forgotten in the multitude of the redeemed, This friendly interview issues in a solemn, who there live, and reign, and " rejoice, with religious service, in which Aaron and all the joy unspeakable and full of glory." elders of Israel are called to assist. What a Observe how even a Moses may err in an blessed influence has true religion, in conci- excess of zeal, through ignorance, inexperiliating kindness and confirming friendship! ence, or inattention. Desirous of doing good When men cordially agree in the same glo- by administering justice impartially, he cares rious object of worship, the little peculiarities not what trouble and labour it may cost himof form will not obstruct the mutual attrac- self. The service of fear or of necessity is tion of brotherly love. Prejudice will droop slow, reluctant, partial, and imperfect; the and die, and charity will draw a veil over its labour of love is cheerful, active, and perseneighbour's singularities and imperfections. vering: Moses is in the way of his duty earHappy the family whose union is cemented ly and late. If the public be served faithfulby piety; the family whose happiness and ly, if equity be dispensed, if God be glorified, peace are built upon the love of God; whose he is willing to spend and to be spent in such employments, communications, and pursuits a cause. " And Moses said unto his fatherare improved and sanctified by prayer! in-law, because the people come unto me to
Due attention having been paid to the calls inquire of God: when they have a matter, of hospitality, the dictates of private friend- they come unto me; and I judge between one ship, and the demands of filial duty, Moses and another, and I do make them know the reverts next day betimes to the discharge of statutes of God, and his laws."* the duties of his public station. The time, We have seen Jethro in the character of the talents of the minister of God are not his a pious man, an affectionate neighbour, and own, they belong to mankind. Superficial ob- a kind relation. We see him now blending servers who consider but the eminence of the with these excellent qualities the character place which a magistrate fills, the robe which of an able statesman and sagacious politician. he wears, the respect with which he is at- There is no man so wise as not to need intended, look up to him with envy, and call him struction, and none so simple as to be incablessed. They think not of the thousand sa- pable of sometimes giving advice. Jethro crifices which he his constrained to make of plainly perceived, that the course of life his ease, of his inclination, of his health, of which his son-in-law was pursuing must soon his natural propensities, of his private attach- prove fatal to him. That, by attempting ments. They talk of the honours and emo what was beyond his strength to bear or perluments of his office, but they overlook his form, he was in the way of quickly rendering anxious days, his painful toils, his sleepless himself unable to do any thing at all. He nights, the causeless hatred which he incurs, therefore proposes a subdivision of the toil, the unprovoked insults which he must bear, by the appointment of proper men to the and must not resent, the surrender which he office of judge, who might try and determine must make of solid and substantial felicity, the causes of less importance, and apply to and the exchange of real and certain tran- Moses, and to God, through him, only in quillity, for uncertain usefulness or precari- matters of high moment, and as the last reous reputation. Who would not be Moses, sort. Thus Moses would be greatly relieved, to sit on high and judge the people? But many good men would be trained up to the who would be Moses, to have the people stand useful, honourable and important employment by him for judgment, “from the morning to of judging between his brethren, and the the evening!"
people meanwhile sustain no damage. The obscure part of mankind are little sen The qualities which he points out as requisible what they owe to Providence for their site to constitute this character, show how obscurity. They can go out and come in un- carefully he had considered the subject, and noticed. They can go to rest when they will, how well fitted he was to advise in a matter and continue it as long as they please. "They of this kind. Let those who have the appointhave no vigilant, jealous, envious eye over ment of judges study well what he says, and them. They are free from the dreadful con- act accordingly. “Thou shalt provide out of flict of inclination and duty, of interest and all the people able men, such as fear God, men conscience, of reverence for God, and respect of truth, hating covetousness: and place such for man. They can enjoy their families and over them, to be rulers of thousands, and friends. What they have, however little, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers they can call their own. What, compared of tens." to these, and such advantages as these, is the The first requisite in a judge, according ermine cloak, the ivory sceptre, the gem-en- to Jethro, is ability. He must be a man of circled crown? Rejoice, O man, that the sense, penetration, and discernment. Because world knows thee not, cares not for thee, con- with the best intentions, a stupid, weak, or descends not to trouble thy repose. Creep dissipated man, will be apt to err in judgment; thy way silently, I beseech thee, to heaven; * Exod. xviii. 15, 16. | Ver. 21.
either because he is unable to comprehend / world, and a heart devoted to the love of God the cause, or will not employ the necessary and mankind—basely received the wages of time and pains to understand it.
unrighteousness, accepted a bribe to pervert But what are the greatest and most shining justice, was accused and convicted of corrupabilities, destitute of a principle of conscience? tion in the execution of his high and importThey are but a mischievous weapon in the ant trust, acknowledged his own shame, and hands of a bad man. A judge, therefore, was deservedly driven, with disgrace to himought to be a man that fears God. A man, self, and with the indignation, shame, and not only restrained by respect to the world, pity of a mortified and astonished world, from or actuated by regard to reputation : these are an honourable station which he filled so unfound feeble and inefficacious in the hour of worthily. temptation; these are fluctuating and un But alas, after all, when we read of the steady, as the opinions, passions, and interests appointment of judges and of generals and of men; but the fear of the Lord is a perpetual, of their requisite qualities, of what does it unchanging motive and restraint, the same remind us but that men are selfish, covetous, in darkness as in the light, the same in secret litigious, and violent: tenacious of their own as before the eyes of the whole world. and ready to encroach upon others ? Where
This principle is closely connected with, fore is law? Wherefore are there tribunals ? and indeed it naturally produces, a third They are for “the lawless and disobedient.” quality, of primary importance in this charac- Make men just, gentle, kindly affectioned ; ter. A judge must be a man of truth. A make them Christians indeed, and then war sacred observer of truth in what he says him- is at an end; the courts are shut up; then self; a diligent promoter of truth, and an im- there would be no need of a judge, because partial avenger of falsehood and injustice in there would be no offender. others. Even a regard to some of the princi The advice which was wisely and kindly ples of religion, unconnected with the love given, is graciously and candidly received. of truth and justice, which are of the number A proud and self-sufficient spirit would have of those principles, might be apt to mislead rejected the council, however salutary, bea man.Compassion, for example, might cause tendered by a stranger. But true wisdispose a judge to favour the poor man, dom only considers whether the hint be useful, though he has the worst cause. The all- practicable, and necessary, without regarding wise God, therefore, thought it necessary to from what quarter it comes. And such was throw in a special caution to this purpose, the wisdom of Moses, and he was prepared lest a principle, amiable and excellent in for converse with God, who had learned deitself, should be perverted into a source of ference and respect for the opinions of men. injustice, and has enjoined, by a positive And thus the very first rudiments of the Jewstatute,* that the cause, not the person or ish constitution, were suggested by the obcondition of the man, should be considered servation and experience of a stranger and a by him who sits in judgment.
Midianite. And the great Jehovah disdained Jethro finally lays it down as essential to not to permit his prophet to be taught and the character of a judge, that he be a man his people to be governed, by the wisdom who hates covetousness. In which there is and intelligence of a good man, though he a strong insinuation, that where the love of was not of the commonwealth of Israel. If money predominates, the exercise of all other men were capable of learning to be wise necessary and suitable qualities are likely to and good, He who is wisdom and goodness be obstructed or perverted; ability under itself would vouchsafe to teach them, not by such influence rendered only more dangerous precept only, but by example also. As Jethro and hurtful; the fear of God lulled asleep; suggested, so it was done. Moses was eased the heart hardened; the conscience, by the of a burthen intolerable, the course of justice strong opiate of gold, reduced to a state of was not stopped, God was glorified, and the insensibility, and truth and justice hood- world edified. winked on the tribunal.
You must have observed, that I have once The history of our own country affords a and again held out to your expectation a melancholy example of the truth of this ob- subject of discourse, from which I have once servation, in the conduct of that “greatest, and a second time shrunk back. It is still wisest, meanest of mankind,” Sir Francis before me, and I feel myself as reluctant as Bacon. Lord Verulam, and Lord High Chan- ever to proceed. Who is not ready to sink cellor of England, in the reign of James I. under the awful terrors of the dispensation of who with a soul that comprehended, filled, the law from Sinai? “Whois sufficient for such extended, enlarged the circle of science; a things?" But I must venture to go on, and genius that penetrated through the whole endeavour to carry you with me to the foot of vast system of nature, an imagination that that tremendous mountain. And I flatter transcended the flaming boundaries of the myself you have not been altogether disap
" Neither shalt thou countenance a poor inan in his pointed or injured in being stopped a little in cause."-Exod. xxiii. 3.
your progress. With recruited strength and
spirits, we shall attempt to advance on our That regard to public utility, exalts and way. But we shall first from this eminence improves private friendship. survey the ground over which we have tra That to promote the glory of God, his own velled. Eminence did I say? No. Let us virtue, and the good of his fellow creatures, join the innocent, cheerful society in the tent is the great and constant aim of every good of Moses, and learn to cultivate the endear- man. ing charities of private life; and having That as none are too wise to learn, it is a considered it well, let us retire, making such proof of affection to communicate useful reflections as these
hints; and a high proof of wisdom to take That it is not fortitude, but folly, unneces- and use them, from whatever quarter they sarily to expose ourselves, or those whom come. There is one Being only who is not we love, to hardships and danger. “If any to be instructed. “ How unsearchable are provide not for his own, and specially for his judgments, and his ways past finding those of his own house, he hath denied out; for who hath known the mind of the the faith, and is worse than an infidel."* Lord ? or who hath been his counsellor." It is our care, not our labour and reflection, And finally that, though we cannot sucwhich we are encouraged to cast upon God. cessfully imitate eminent men in every par
That it argues a deficiency in some moral ticular of conduct, or in the display of taprinciple or another, when persons whom lents which may be denied to ourselves, we nature, and the obligations of society have are not thereby precluded from the exercise united, discover an inclination to live asun- of the inferior talents which we possess, and der. Wisdom or necessity may impose a tem- from a virtuous emulation where it is possiporary separation: but well-disposed minds ble for us to succeed. Let me strive to be a ever look to, and eagerly lay hold of the Moses in some things, though I be conscious means and the season of restoration and I must fall inconceivably behind him in most. union.
And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick
cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. And the Lord came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount, and Moses went up And the Lord said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the Lord io gaze, and many of them perish. And let the priests also, which come near to the Lord, sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth upon them.—Exodus xix. 16–22.
In man, as he came perfect from the hands | He makes sense his road to the mind: he of his Creator, the immortal principle, the seizes the conscience, and melts the heart, breath of life," “ the living soul" exercised by speaking to the eyes and the ears. And its just dominion over the earthly and sen- when we consider how easily, and through sual part of his nature. In man, degraded how many different channels he can force by sin, we behold the grosser domineering his way to the inmost recesses of the man, over the purer, the heavenly subjected to the who but must shudder at the thought of terrestrial, the soul a slave to the senses. meeting the Father of spirits, ourselves disWhen our nature through grace shall be re- embodied spirits; at the thought of dropping stored, the soul shall resume its empire; the the clay tabernacle in its native dust, and of body itself shall become spiritual, shall shake becoming all eye to see God as he is, all ear off the power of gravitation, and “ascend to to hear his voice, all soul to perceive and meet the Lord in the air," being “fashioned comprehend him! If God, encouraging and like unto Christ's glorious body.
amiable in purifying and directing fire, in The dispensations of Heaven are suited to the cloudy pillar, and in harmless, unconthe condition of man. “God knows our suming fire in the bush at Horeb, be awful; frame, and remembereth that we are dust." (if dreadful at Sinai, coming in flashing, daz