« AnteriorContinuar »
In the scene that passed in the wilderness, only to the hand which employed it. The zeal we behold the shadow of good things to come, of that pious prince, therefore, is worthy of a prefiguration of the death which Christ commendation, who, in reforming the abuses should die. He is here “evidently set forth of religion, which prevailed at the time that crucified before us,” according to his own he mounted the throne of Judah, abolished words, descriptive of the decease which he this among the rest. Regardless of the purshould accomplish at Jerusalem.” “ And I, pose for which it was at first framed; of the if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all venerable hand which formed and reared it, men unto me. **
and of the lapse of so many years which had This same idea, we have just observed, stamped respect upon it," he brake in pieces had been suggested by the evangelical pro- the brazen serpent which Moses had made ; phet Isaiah, and a similar expression is put for unto those days the children of Israel did into the Saviour's mouth by that harbinger burn incense to it, and he called it Nehushof the Prince of Peace. “ Look unto me and tan,"'* by way of contempt—a piece of be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for brass. I am God, and there is none else."
On this part of the history of Moses, pagan And in another place, speaking of gospel antiquity has founded the fabulous history of times, “ At that day shall a man look to his Esculapius, the pretended god of medicine, Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to whose symbol was a serpent twisted round a the Holy One of Israel.”+
rod. The learned have, through a variety Thus was Moses, by what he did, and of particulars, traced the derivation of the Isaiah, by what he wrote, pointing out to the fable from the fact; but to repeat them, world one and the same great object, Christ would rather minister to curiosity than to Jesus,“ the end of the law for righteousness;" instruction and improvement. We dismiss the substance of the types; the accomplish- the subject, then, with this general remark, ment of prophecy and promise; the bruiser that in more respects than is commonly apof the serpent's head ; the restorer of defaced, prehended, and than it has had the candour defiled, degraded humanity. And thus we to acknowledge, is pagan literature indebted are taught to regard with peculiar respect, to the sacred volume; that the wisdom of an event which Providence has, in so many Egypt, of Babylon, of Greece, and of Rome different ways, rendered illustriously conspi- is traceable up to this source; that Moses is, cuous; the death of Christ on the accursed of course, to be considered as the father of tree.
profane, as of sacred learning, from whom We shall have exhibited to you all that all subsequent historians, legislators, orators, Moses and the prophets, all that the historian and poets have derived the lights which diand the evangelist have suggested, on the rected them in their several pursuits; that subject of the brazen serpent, when we have to the pure source of all wisdom, the revelaled your attention to the impious and idola- tion from heaven, in a word, the world is trous use made of it in after times. That indebted for the first principles of science, this illustrious instrument of Israel's deliver-morality, and religion; which appear to the ance in the wilderness, should be carefully attentive and discerning eye through the mist preserved, as a monument of the divine power in which credulous ignorance or bold fiction and goodness, and by length of time acquire have involved them. venerability and respect among the other Let us hence be encouraged to revere the valuable memorials of antiquity, is not to be scriptures, to search and compare them; to wondered at. But every thing may be per- derive our opinions of religious subjects from verted ; and a corrupt disposition has ever that sacred source, instead of forcing the manifested itself in man, to exalt into the truth of God into an awkward supporter of place of God, something that is not God. Ac- our preconceived opinions. Above all, let it cordingly we find, about eight centuries from be our concern to regulate our conduct by its original fabrication, even in the days of the laws which scripture has laid down, and Hezekiah, the brazen serpent exalted to di- to comfort our hearts by the hope it invine honours, and a besotted people rendering spires, and the prospects which it has unthat homage to the mean, which was due folded. Amen. | Isa. xvii. 7.
• 2 Kings xviii. 4.
• John xii. 32.
HISTORY OF MOSES.
And the Lord said unto Moses, Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given
unto the children of Israel. And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered. For ye rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the water before their eyes. That is the water of Meribah in Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin.-NUMBERS xxvii. 12–14.
There is something peculiarly interesting at the distance of thirty-eight years, the in hearing a plain, honest, intelligent man, whole difference is no more than one thouwithout vanity, or self-sufficiency, or of af- sand eight hundred and twenty men: for at fected humility, talking of himself; going the former period, the number of men of a into the detail of his own history, with the military age was six hundred and three thousame fidelity and simplicity as if it were the sand five hundred and fifty; and at the latter, history of a stranger; unfolding his heart six hundred and one thousand seven hundred without reserve, disclosing his faults and in- and thirty. But though the strength of the firmities without palliation, recording his host was nearly the same, the individuals wise and virtuous actions without ostenta- whereof it was composed were totally tion; and relating events, with all their lit-changed; two names alone of so many my, tle circumstances, according to the feelings riads stood upon both lists, Caleb the son of which they excited at the moment.
Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun, for It is pleasant to see an old man, with his Moses himself was under sentence of confaculties unimpaired, his spirits cheerful, his demnation; he was not to be permitted to temper sweet, his conscience clear, his pros- pass over Jordan; he is already numbered pects bright; enjoying life without fearing with the dead. death; blending the modesty and benevolence The course of nature, it is true, is continuof youth with the wisdom and dignity of age. ally producing a similar effect on the human There is a double satisfaction in hearing such race, upon the whole; but there is a degree a one describe persons whom he knew, scenes of exactness in this instance, not to be acin which he acted, expeditions which he con- counted for on common principles, and which ducted, schemes which he planned and exe- must be resolved into a special interposition cuted.
of Providence, which had pronounced the And such a one was Moses, who having, doom of death on the whole body of offenders, by divine inspiration made the ages and ge- in the moment of transgression, and at the nerations before the flood to pass in review, same instant, promised the reward of fidelity and unfolded the history of redemption, in its and obedience to those illustrious two: lonconnexion with the system of nature and the gevity, and the possession of Canaan. Vain ways of Providence, during a period of two therefore is the hope of so much as one guilty thousand five hundred years; having admit- person escaping in a crowd, groundless the ted us to his familiarity and friendly instruc- fear of singular goodness suffering in the tion during an eventful life of one hundred midst of many wicked. and twenty years, is now, with the same It is related of Xerxes, king of Persia, calmness and ease, admitting us to contem- much to the honour of his humanity, that plate his behaviour in the immediate pros- surveying from an eminence the vast army pect, and up to the very hour of his death. with which he was advancing to the invasion
The idolatrous defection of Israel in the of Greece, he burst into tears to think that plains of Moab, had been visited with a plague in less than one hundred years they should which swept away twenty-four thousand of all be cut off from the land of the living. them. Immediately on the staying of that What then, O Moses, were the emotions of terrible calamity, Moses is commanded, with thy soul, to see the event which Xerxes but the assistance of Eleazer the high priest, to anticipated, realized before thine eyes ? To take the number of the people, from twenty walk through the ranks of Israel without years old and upwards, and to compare the meeting one man who followed thee out of muster-roll of the day, with that taken in the Egypt, with whom thou couldst mingle the wilderness of Sinai, thirty-eight years before. tears of sympathy over so many fallen, or reThis being done with all possible accuracy, mind of the joy and wonder of that great detwo most singular facts turn up, each singu- liverance? Is not that man already dead, lar, considered separately and by itself, and who has survived all his contemporaries? A both most singular, taken in connexion one consideration, among many others, powerwith another. In a multitude so great, and fully calculated to reconcile the mind to the
thoughts of dissolution, and to impress on the God, thou hast begun to show thy servant soul the sentiment of the wise man concern- thy greatness and thy mighty hand; for what ing the world, “ I hate it, I would not live god is there in heaven or in earth, that can always."
do according to thy works, and according to Long life, however, is not the less to be thy might? I pray thee let me go over and considered as a blessing. The love of it is see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that a constitutional law of our nature; and the goodly mountain, and Lebanon."* promise of it is annexed to the sanctions At another time, he seems quietly to give of the written law, as a motive to obedience: up the cause as lost, and patiently prepares “ Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy to meet his fate, and meekly resigns himself days may be long upon the land which the to the will of the Most High, which he was Lord thy God giveth thee, "* and it is here unable to alter. In a word, we see him at bestowed as a reward on the faithful. Pre- once the man and the believer, and a pattern mature death, in like manner, is an object of well worthy of imitation in both respects. natural horror, is threatened in anger, and It is impossible to observe the conflict of inflicted as a punishment. “The wicked Moses's soul, when this cup of trembling was shall not live half his days, and his memory put into his hands, without thinking of the shall rot." In general, a wise and merciful bitter agony in the garden, of the travail of God hides from the eyes of men the era of the Redeemer's soul, of that passionate adtheir departure out of the world. The bit- dress, “ Father, if it be possible, let this cup terness of death consists in the foretaste, pass from me”—of “sweat like great drops and the forerunners of that great enemy. of blood falling down to the ground,"t—of That bitterness, in its full proportion, was the triumph of resignation, "nevertheless, wrung out, and mingled in the cup of Moses. not my will, but thine be done"--of humiThe death of every Israelite was a death- liation to death, the death of the cross.” warning to him. He had lately ascended Thus it “ behoved him to fulfil all righteousmount Hor with Aaron his brother, stripped ness. Thus he taught men to obey the law him of his garments, closed his eyes to his of God, to use all lawful endeavours to prelast long sleep, and descended without him; serve life; and thus he inculcated submission and mount Hor is only a few steps distant to that sovereign will which it is unprofitafrom mount Abarim, and his own summons ble and impious to resist. comes at length. He is respited, not par “Get thee up," said God to Moses, “ into doned, and a reprieve of forty years is now this mount Abarim, and sec the land which I expired.
have given unto the children of Israel;"| It is in that awful, trying hour, we are at and this is all that the law can do for the this time to trace the character and mark the guilty; it conducts to an adjoining eminence, behaviour of the man of God.
it spreads a distant prospect of Canaan, it can From the moment he fell under the divine display its beauty and fertility, it can inspire displeasure which shortened the date of his the desire of possession : but it cannot divide life, we observe it lying with an oppressive Jordan, it cannot lead to victory over the last weight upon his mind. The love of life ma- enemy, it cannot make “the comer therenifests itself, and we behold, in the prophet, unto perfect,” nor establish the soul in everthe man of like passions with ourselves. lasting rest. Neither Moses, the giver of the There is no incident of his life on which he law, nor Aaron, the high priest, under the dwells so much, and with such earnestness law, could "continue by reason of death." of interest as this. The history of his offence But the Apostle and High Priest of our prois again and again repeated, not in the view fession is “entered into the holiest of all,” of extenuating the guilt of it, but to vindicate has opened a passage through the gates of the righteous judgment of God. The excel- death, to life and immortality; lifted up, first lence of this part of his narrative, is its de- upon the cross, and then to his throne in the parting from the direct line of narration. He heavens, he is drawing all men unto him. hastens forward to bring it early into view; Together with the honest, though fond athe returns again upon his footsteps, and pre- tachment to life, which characterizes the sents it a second time to view. Is he re- man, and the pious resignation which marks minding Israel of their rebellion and diso- the child of God, Moses discovers, on this bedience? his own transgression, and the occasion, that excellent spirit which sinks punishment of it, arise and stare him in the and loses the individual in the public. He face. Is he encouraging them in their pro- cheerfully gives up his personal suit, and the gress towards the promised land ? he sighs to cause of Israel henceforth engrosses him think that he himself shall never enter into wholly. “And Moses spake unto the Lord, it. At one time, he flatters himself with the saying, Let the Lord, the God of the spirits hope that justice might perhaps relent, and of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, presumes to expostulate and entreat, in terms which may go out before them, and which earnest and pathetic, such as these; “ O Lord • Exod. xx. 12.
Lev. xvii. 12, 13.
Deut. iii. 24, 25.
1 Like xxii. 42-44.
may go in before them, and which may lead | furnished for his great undertaking, God was them out, and which may bring them in; pleased to command a solemn and public dethat the congregation of the Lord be not as claration of his choice, and that the object of sheep which have no shepherd."*
it should, before the eyes of the people, be set Let modern patriots think of this, and blush apart by the imposition of the hands of Moses at their pride and selfishness. But they are to the office assigned him. lost to all sense of decency, they keep each Forms are necessary, because men are not other in countenance by their multitude and spiritual; forms are interposed, that the upconfidence, and “glory in their shame.” This derstanding, the heart, and the conscience, noble conduct of the Jewish legislator was may be approached through the channels of not the affectation of virtue and public spirit, sense. And of all forms, recommended by the ostentatious boasting of a man who had divine authority, and its own significant simno prospect, or a distant one of being put to plicity, that of the laying on of hands is one the trial ; but the native greatness and supe- of the most ancient, most frequently in use, riority of a mind occupied with two grand ob- and most striking. By this solemn rite, the jects, the glory of God and the good of his devoted victim was set apart for death, and country; a mind that could rejoice in the ad- the guilt of the offerer transferred, as it were, vancement of an inferior, and decrease with and laid upon the head of the oblation: and inward satisfaction while the other increased. thus were the minister of the sanctuary, the Ordinary men look with an evil eye upon general, the statesman, dedicated to the dutheir successors. A prince and his heir, ties of their respective stations; thus new though that heir be his own son, generally and extraordinary powers were conferred live upon indifferent terms; but Moses sees upon Joshua: thus Jesus took leave of his his dignity departing from himself in his life disciples, and left a blessing behind him, more time, departing from his family, given to his precious than the mantle of Elijah. "He servant, without a murmur, without a sigh. | led them out as far as Bethany, and he lifted It was enough to him that God had been up his hands and blessed them.”* pleased to adopt Joshua, for the purpose of By laying on of the apostles' hands, mira. finishing his work, of introducing Israel into culous gifts of the Holy Ghost were commutheir inheritance. It is no sooner intimated nicated; and by laying on of the hands of the to him, than Joshua becomes his son, his bro- presbytery, Timothy was solemnly set apart ther, his friend : and he proceeds to his in- for exercising the office of a bishop; and stallation with as much alacrity, as he in- thus a great part of the christian world covested Aaron with the pontifical robes. tinues to install its ministers in the pastoral
This solemn ceremony consisted of a vari-office. ety of circumstances, which are well worthy Moses was farther commanded - to cause of our attention; from their being of divine Joshua to stand before Eleazer the priest," appointment, from their great antiquity, from who was probably to offer up sacrifice in be their inexplicable mysteriousness, or their half of the commander elect, and by this adobvious significancy. Joshua was already ditional solemnity to impress both upon his anointed with the unction of the Spirit: he own mind and upon those of the spectators, was a person of singular piety, undaunted re- the weight and importance of the sacred solution, and unshaken fidelity: he had long charge committed unto him. It is added, attended upon Moses as his minister, had ac- verse 20th, “ And thou shalt put some of thine companied him into the mount, when he as- honour upon him, that all the congregation of cended to meet God, had traversed the land the children of Israel may be obedient." of Canaan as one of the spies, had brought This is interpreted by some commentators up its good report, and stood firm with Caleb of those rays of glory, which are supposed to in resisting the timid and discouraging repre- have surrounded the head of Moses, ever sentations of his colleagues. He possessed since his descent from God in the mount, and all the qualities natural, acquired, and miracu- which so dazzled the eyes of the beholder, lously dispensed, which were requisite to the that in speaking to the people he was under discharge of the duties of that high and im- the necessity of putting a veil over his face. portant station to which Providence was now By the imposition of his hands upon the head calling him. By the spirit which is said to of Joshua, according to the commandmest, have been in Joshua, some understand the this external, sensible honour, is understood spirit of prophecy, or supernatural powers of to have been communicated from the one to foreseeing and providing for future events. the other, and that, in consequence of it, By taking in every circumstance, it seems Joshua henceforth wore a visible token of the rather to denote those rare gifts with which choice of Ileaven. nature had so liberally endowed him; wis Conjecture and fancy blend too much in dom, and courage, and strength, and which this exposition, to procure for it a very high Providence was now calling forth for the degree of respect. Juster and more sober general benefit. But though thus amply criticism explain the passage as implying,
* Numb. xxvii. 15-17.
* Luke xxiv. 50.
that Moses should immediately associatefore the Lord : and on looking downwards Joshua with himself in the executive powers upon the Urim in the breastplate, the answer of government, devolve upon him a share of God was seen in characters of reflected both of the respect and the care which per- light, from the excellent glory, and which the tained to the supreme command ; that he high priest audibly repeated in the ears of might enjoy the satisfaction, while he yet the party concerned.—"Go;" or, “ Thou shalt lived, and which he so much desired, of be- not go. holding a wise and a good man conducting
When the oracle refused to give any rethe Israelitish affairs, in church and state, sponse, as in the case of Saul, it was conwith discretion, and carrying on the plan of sidered as a mark of high displeasure. God Providence to its consummation.
would not answer that wicked prince" by There is another article in the injunction the judgment of Urim,” but because he had laid upon Moses, respecting the appointment wilfülly forsaken God, an offended God, in of his successor, which has greatly exercised just displeasure, gave him up to ask counsel and puzzled the critics. “ And he shall stand of hell, and to follow it to his own destruction. before Eleazer the priest, who shall ask coun- “ We have also," Christians, “a more sure sel for him, after the judgment of Urim, be- word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that fore the Lord; at his word shall they go out, ye take heed; as unto a light that shineth in and at his word they shall come in, both he a dark place, until the day dawn, and the and all the children of Israel with him, even day-star arise in your hearts."* all the congregation.'
Joshua being referred to this mode of conThe difficulty is, what was the Urim, and sultation, compared with the history of Moses, the judgment of Urim, of which Eleazer was points out the difference between these two to ask counsel in behalf of Joshua, and wherein leaders of Israel. “There arose not a prophet Moses differed from Joshua as to this ? Urim, since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the is, in general, in scripture, found in connex- Lord knew face to face.”+ ion with Thummim. The words import God manifested himself immediately unto light and perfection; and they appear to have Moses; conversed with him as a man with been some part or appendage of the breast- his friend. Joshua was kept at a greater displate, that essential article of the high priest's tance, and enjoyed communion with God dress. They were not, it is alleged, the pro- through the intervention of appointed means. duction of human skill, like the other particu- Just as before Moses was admitted to the lars of the sacred clothing, for there is no ac- very summit of the mount, received within count of their fabrication by the hands of the veil of thick darkness, which at once man; but when the breastplate was finished, concealed and revealed the divine glory; Moses, we are told, “put into it the Urim while Joshua was confined to a lower region, and the Thummim," whatever they were, im- kept in the place and on the duty of a servant. mediately from God.
But we must conclude. The method of consultation has also fur The whole scene that has now passed in nished ample matter of dispute. The most review, speaks directly to the heart and conapproved tradition is this, for scripture gives science. It presents a striking and instrucbut few, and those very general hints, upon tive instance of the goodness and severity of the subject, the person who desired to consult God. The faults and infirmities of his dearest the oracle, (and none but public persons, and children he neither overlooks, nor forgets to on great public occasions, were admitted to punish. For one offence, and seemingly a that privilege,) intimated his intention to the slight one, Moses is excluded from Canaan. high priest; who, at the hour of incense, ar- No hurniliation, penitence, or entreaty can, of rayed in his pontifical vestments, entered the themselves, remove the guilt nor prevent holy place, accompanied at a little distance the chastisement of sin. The neglect or inby the magistrate or general, who made the sult offered by a child, a brother, a friend, inquiry. The high priest placed himself strikes deeper than the most violent outrage with his face towards the entrance of the from a stranger, or an avowed enemy. The most holy place. The veil which separated transgression of Moses at the waters of strife the holy price from the holy of holies, was was thus aggravated, and he must die for it. drawn up for the occasion, so that he stood O my God, enter not into judgment with me, directly fronting the ark of the covenant, whose crimes are heightened by every cirovershadowed by the cherubim, where the cumstance of aggravation--deliberation, preSchechinah, or visible glory, resided. The sumption, filial ingratitude, in the face of mynirer then standing behind, pronounced solemn and re, cated engagements. If Moses the question, or consultation, in a few plain died the death, for once speaking unadvisedly words; such, for example, as these: “Shall with his lips, in the moment of passion; " if I go up against the Philistines, or shall I not thou, Lord, art strict to mark iniquity, where go up?" This question was again repeated shall I stond ?” how shall I escape ?" solemnly and distinctly by the high priest be But is death a punishment to a good man? * Num. xxvii. 91
* 2 Peter i. 19.
| Dül xxxiv. 10.