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"The people murmured against Moses." A worldly mind under distress either flies to the creature for help, or accuses the creature as the cause of its woe. Piety leads the soul directly to God; it views the calamity as his appointment; and finds its removal, its remedy, or its compensation in the divine mercy. Israel tastes the bitter water, desponds, and charges Moses foolishly. Moses cries to God, and is enlightened.
Observe the goodness and longsuffering of God. Readier to listen to the entreaties of Moses than to punish the perverseness and unbelief of the people, he instantly directs to a cure for the nitrous quality of the waters of Marah. "The Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet."
Of little consequence is it to inquire, because it is impossible to determine, whether the wood of this tree had in it an inherent virtue which naturally corrected the brackish taste of the water; or, whether the sweetening quality were preternaturally communicated to it to fulfil the present design of Providence. Whether I see water sweetened by a log of wood cast into it, or issuing from the flinty rock, or flowing naturally in the brook; whether I see Israel fed with bread from heaven, or Moses and Christ subsisting forty days without bread at all; or mankind in general supported by bread growing gradually out of the ground; I still behold but one and the same object; "good gifts coming down" but in so many different ways "from the Father of lights." The wise man, in the apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus, has made a happy use of this passage, to inculcate the necessity of using appointed means in order to obtain success. The Lord (says he) hath created medicines out of the earth, and he that is wise will not abhor them. Was not the water made sweet with wood, that the virtue thereof might be known? and he hath given men skill, that he might be honoured in his marvellous works. With such doth he heal men, and taketh away their pains. My son, in thy sickness be not negligent ; but pray unto the Lord, and he will make thee whole."
A fondness for allegory has represented the effect produced by this tree cast into the waters, as emblematical of the virtue of the cross, in sweetening and sanctifying affliction to the believer, and taking the sting out of death. Undoubtedly, when an object so important and a doctrine so instructive can by whatever means be impressed upon the heart, we ought not too squeamishly to reject application and illustrations of this sort. In order to promote the ends of true piety, what though we relax a little of the laws of rigid criticism? If imagination serve as an handmaid to virtue and devotion, let men be as fanciful as they will. If a serious soul be edified or comforted, shall I mar his joy and disturb his tranquillity, by forcing him to comprehend the meaning of Greek and Hebrew particles? Whether it be warrantable or not to give this evangelical turn to the passage before us, its moral intention and import will hardly be disputed. It exhibits the reluctance which men feel to encounter affliction, their impatience and unreasonableness under it, the wise design of Providence in afflictive dispensations, namely, to "prove men, whether they will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord their God, and do that which is right in his sight." And finally, it illustrates the power, wisdom and goodness of God, in counteracting one natural evil by another evil; making poison serve as an antidote to poison, and healing the greater plague of sin by the less, that of suffering.
Some commentators have conjectured, that it was about this very spot that Hagar was relieved and supplied with water, she and her son, by the angel of the Lord, when they were banished from Abraham's house; and they reprove the incredulity of the Israelites by the example of her faith. After all, it was undoubtedly a very severe trial; whether we consider how much water, sweet water, is connected, not merely with the convenience and comfort, but with
the very existence of human life; the immense quantity necessary for the support of such a vast multitude of men and women, besides cattle; or the peculiar demand occasioned by a vertical sun and a parched soil. We pass on from Marah as men, and as the inhabitants of more favoured regions, prais ing God, "who walks upon the clouds," and refreshes us from heaven above; gushes upon us in a thousand streams of limpid comfort from the earth beneath, and gently flows through every field in a tide of delight; and as christians we flee for refuge and refreshment to that wonderful Man, described in prophetic vision in such beautiful figures as these; "A man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest: as rivers of water in a dry place; as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land."* Gold, silver, and precious stones, are produced in small quantities, and are of diffi cult and dangerous investigation. And happily the life of man consists not in such things as these. Whereas the things which really minister to human comfort, and constitute the real support of human life, are poured down upon us with unbounded profusion. The choicest blessing which ever was bestowed upon the world, is common and free to all as the water in the stream, as the light and air of heaven.
But though the bitter waters are sweetened for present use, Israel must not think of continuing encamped by them. They are to be but the transient refreshment of the wayfaring man, not the stated supply of the land of promise. Whatever we have attained, whatever we enjoy, the voice of Providence still summons us away, saying," Arise ye and depart, for this is not your rest."
Their next journeying is from Marah to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm-trees; and they encamped there by the waters." In the preceding station, their provision was partly from nature, partly from the kindness of a gracious Providence. Nature furnished the substance, a miracle endowed it with the suitable qualities. But at Elim, nature seems to do the whole, with her "threescore and ten palm-trees, and twelve wells of water." And what is nature, but the great JEHOVAH performing the most astonishing wonders in a stated and regular course? Water issuing from a rock when smitten by a rod, is not in itself a whit more miraculous than the continually supplying one little stream from the same spring. Being arrived at Elim, they encamped "by the waters." The word "Elim" standing in our version untranslated, is generally considered as the proper name of a place; but it is by some, and with a great appearance of reason, rendered, "the forests." This is supported by a passage of Strabo,† the famous geographer and historian of Cappadocia, to this purpose; that "at five days journey from Jericho there is a forest of palm-trees, which is held in great veneration throughout all that country, on account of the springs of water which are found there in great abundance." The numbers twelve and seventy in the sacred text, instead of signifying a determinate quantity, may undoubtedly denote indefinitely, according to a license common in all languages, a large abundance. And then the account of Strabo, and the narration of Moses, will naturally confirm and strengthen each other. Two writers of no less eminence and credit than Tacitus and Plutarch plainly allude to this passage, when they say that "the Jews, being ready to perish with thirst, happily disGovered springs of running water."
But, instead of settling the geography of the spot, and the import of the word Elim, let us look into the fact recorded, and through it into the volume of human nature. "They encamped there by the waters." The selfsame spirit which murmured at the taste of a bitter stream, disposed them to seek repose by the side of one that was sweet and placid. Mistaken in both, a
* Isa. xxxii. 2.
† Lib. xvi.
Hist. Lib. v.
Tom. II. Sympos. Lib. IV.
carnal mind is easily unhinged and soon satisfied.-Like children, they are put out of humour with a straw, aud presently pacified they know not why; and behold unbelief lying at the root of both one and the other. Now, eager to get home before the time; by and by drowning all thoughts and hopes of it in the bauble of the present hour. See Israel at one time disconcerted and chagrined to find that the wilderness did not produce every thing to a wish; at another, ready to forego the prospect of Canaan for Egypt, and to accept the land of dates and water for that flowing with milk and honey. Never did any good come of sitting down contentedly in temporal possessions. No sooner do men become easy and comfortable in their circumstances, than they grow capricious and fantastical in their wishes and desires. If Providence visit them not with scarcity, or unpleasantness of water: their own restless appetite shall visit them with an absurd and unreasonable craving for flesh. The fruit and shade of the palm-tree, and the deliciousness of a fresh spring, please not long. Put an end to novelty, and farewell delight. But a month and fourteen days have elapsed, since with so much joy they quitted the house of bondage: and they are weak and wicked enough to wish themselves thither again. And why? because, in a march of a few short weeks at most, through a wild and desert country, they wallowed not in the profusion of Egypt, which they were obliged to purchase at the price of their liberty and blood.
When we hear of such an universal mutiny, for it was not the murmuring of a few factious discontented spirits, but of the whole congregation of Israel, what have we not to fear from the just resentment of a holy and righteous God, thus insulted by mistrust and unbelief? We find him immediately taking up the cause, and, in a manner peculiar to himself. Wonder, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth. "And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold I will rain"-what? Fire and brimstone from heaven, upon this generation of incorrigible rebels, until they be utterly consumed? No, but I will rain bread from heaven upon you." Is this thy manner with men, O Lord God? Surely, it is of thy mercy we are not consumed, because thy compassions fail not."
The historical fact which follows, as the accomplishment of this promise, is one of the most singular upon record; and so mixes itself with the leading objects of the New Testament dispensation, that it well merits a separate and particular consideration.
Being arrived at another of the great epochas, or periods of ancient history the going out of Egypt; we shall make a brief recapitulation of the whole, from the beginning. The first great period of the history of the world, is from the creation down to the deluge; containing the space of one thousand six hundred and fifty-six years; and a succession of eight lives, from Adam, to the six hundredth year of Noah. The second is, from the flood to the calling of Abraham, and contains four hundred and twenty-seven years; and a succession of ten lives, from the hundred and eighth year of Shem, the son of Noah, to the seventy-fifth of Abraham, the father and founder of the Jewish nation six of the patriarchs, after the flood, being now dead, Noah, Phaleg, Rehu, Serug, Nahor, and Terah; and four of them still living, Shem, Arphaxad, Salah, and Heber. So that one life, that of Shem, connects the antediluvian world, and the call of Abraham. For he was ninety-eight years old before the flood came; and lived till Abraham was one hundred and fifty, and Isaac fifty years old. The third grand period of the world, containing four hundred and thirty years, commences on the fifteenth day of the month Abib, which answers to the end of our April, or the beginning of May. And some learned chronologists have undertaken to prove, from the scripture history and astronomical calculations, that Abraham departed from Haran, the paschal Vol. III.
lamb was sacrificed in Egypt, and Christ expired upon the cross, as the propitiation for the sins of the world, on Calvary, in the identical month of the year, day of the month, and hour and minute of the day. This period contains a succession of seven lives, including Abraham's, from his seventy-fifth year to the eightieth of the life of Moses.
From the creation, then, to the exodus, is the space of two thousand five hundred and thirteen years, and a succession of twenty-four lives. The date of this event, in relation to other important and well known events in the history of mankind, stands as follows: it happened after the death of Abraham, three hundred and thirty years. After the death of Isaac, two hundred and twenty-five. After the death of Jacob, one hundred and ninety-eight. After the death of Joseph, one hundred and forty-four. Before the destruction of Troy, about three hundred. Before the first Olympiad, or the earliest reckoning of time among the Greeks, seven hundred and fourteen. Before the building of the temple, when the Israelitish glory was in its zenith, five hundred and six. Before the Babylonish captivity, nine hundred and sixty-three. Before the building of Rome, seven hundred and thirty-eight. Before Christ was born at Bethlehem, one thousand five hundred and fifty-one. Before the present year 1793, three thousand three hundred and forty-four.
What is the conclusion of the whole matter? "Á thousand years," O Lord," in thy sight, are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night."*"Our fathers, where are they? the prophets, do they live forSeeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be, in all holy conversation and godliness; looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."+ "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven."§ "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."|| "And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new." "He which testifieth these things saith, Surely, I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus."¶
+ Psal. xc. 12.
¶ Rev. xxii. 20.
HISTORY OF MOSES.
EXODUS XVI. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15.
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel; speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God. And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar-frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat.
MAN, composed of body and spirit, is giving continual indication of the origin from which he springs. His creative imagination, his penetrating understanding, his quickness of apprehension, loftiness of thought, eagerness of desire, fondness of hope; nay, even his erect figure, and a countenance turned upward to the skies, bespeak him the son of God, into whose nostrils Jehovah has breathed the breath of life, and whom he has framed after his own image. On the other hand, appetites perpetually craving a supply out of the earth; the law of his nature, which stretches him in a state of insensibility upon the lap of his mother, for one third of his existence, in order to support the employments of the other two; and rational powers subjected to the will of sense, shew us a creature taken from the dust of the ground, always dependent upon it, and hastening to return thitherward again.
Providence permits us not for a moment to forget who and whence we are. Have we laboured an hour or two? Hunger, and thirst, and weariness irresistibly draw us to the grosser elements of which we are compounded. A little bread and water having dispensed their nourishing virtue, a short sleep having restored our wasted powers, the soul starts up into conscious immortality, it springs forward to eternity, grasps the globe, expatiates from sphere to sphere, ascends to the throne of God himself. At one time, we behold a grovelling, contemptible being, all body, absorbed in the low and gross desire of the moment, a fit companion to the beasts that perish; and anon we see that very same wretched creature becoming all spirit, leaving the earth behind him, mixing with angels, and holding fellowship with the Father of spirits.
Religion is constantly aiming at the restoration of our fallen nature, is still exerting her quickening power to raise the bestial into rational, the rational into divine; she graciously employs herself in gradually detaching us from things seen and temporal, and in uniting us to those which are unseen and are eternal. The world, on the contrary, is as constantly striving to degrade, to depress, to extinguish the immortal principle, and to sink the man in the brute. Hence we see the worldling dreaming of much goods laid up for