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ear. But we have everlasting consolation and good hope, through grace, of meeting together, and of worshipping in that temple, which has no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it; and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day; for there shall be no night there."* Let us, therefore, “ be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as we know that pur labour is not in vain in the Lord.”+
HISTORY OF MOSES.
EXODUS XVII. 1, 2, 5, 6.
And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their
journies, according to the commandment of the Lord, and pitched in Rephidim; and there was no water for the people to drink. Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water, that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide you with me? Wherefore do ye tempt the Lord ? . And the Lord said umo Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. Behold I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb: and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel
THE reconciliation of interrupted friendship is one of th chief delights of human life. The extatic pleasure of meeting again, after long absence, pera sons whom we dearly love, obliterates in a moment the pain of separation : and one hour of sweet communication compensates the languor, solicitude and gloom of many years. After an interval of five months, I return, to converse with Moses, and to talk of him to you, with the satisfaction of one who has been upon a long journey, and, returning home, finds again those whom he left, those whom he loves; and finds them such as he wishes them to be. Let us, my dear friends, with increased ardour, affection, admiration and gratitude, renew our intimacy with the venerable man to whom we are indebted for so much rational pleasure, and for so much useful instruction. Moses, thou prince of historians, sublimest of poets, sagest of legislators, clearest-sighted of prophets, most amiable of men! To thee we owe our knowledge of the ages beyond the flood! Thou first taughtest to string the sacred lyre, and to adapt the high praises of God to the enchanting concord of sweet sounds. By thee, king in Jeshurun, all succeeding princes have been instructed how to govern; and lawgivers are formed to political wisdom and sagacity. By thee, Jews were led to expect, and Gentiles are encouraged to rejoice in Messiah, the great prophet, after thy similitude ; by whom alone thou art excelled. And by thee, sweetest, meekest, gentlest of mankind, the endearing
charities of private life are most engagingly exemplified, and most powerfully recommended.
But chiefly thee, O Spirit ! thee only, we adore,
- Who didst inspire
Whatever wisdom we may have learned, whatever pleasure we may have errjoyed, whatever comfort we possess, whatever hope we feel-all, all is of thee, pure, eternal, unchanging source of light, and life, and joy.
Moses, in the passage of his writings which I have now read, is carrying on his own interesting, eventful history. At the head of the myriads of Israel, he is now pursuing his march from Egypt to Canaan, following a guide who would not mislead them, and whom they could not mistake; protected by a power, which, like a wall of fire, bid defiance to every threatening foe; and, from day to day, supplied by a bounty incapable of being exhausted. All these present and singular advantages, had the sweetness of hope mingled with them. They had just escaped from the most humiliating and oppressive of all servitude, and they were hastening to the inheritance of their fathers ; yet we find them a people as peevish, irritable, and difficult to please, as if they had never known adversity, and as if they had just issued from the lap of ease and indulgence. To-day, the bread is dry and stale; to-morrow, the water is bitter ; the third day, there is a scarcity of it. The water is sweetened; manna descends ; quails fall around their camp; but there is still "a cruel something unpossessed,” and all that went before is forgotten; all that is in possession becomes insipid. Bestow on the ungrateful person nine hundred and ninetynine favours, and withhold the thousandth, and all you have done for him is lost. The present pressure always seems the heaviest. Mouldy bread and brackish water in the wilderness, are considered as evils more intolerable than all the rigours of slavery in Egypt.
Where does this censure fall ? On that moody, murmuring race, the Jews, and on them only? Alas! it overwhelms ourselves; it bears hard, not upon individuals here and there, but upon mankind! We expect more from the world than it possibly can bestow; and when we discover its insufficiency, we charge God foolishly; and because we have not every thing that we wish, we are satisfied with nothing. Solacing ourselves, like Jonah, under the shadow of a gourd, we fancy it is a perennial shelter. We see not the worm which is gnawing its root! and when it is smitten down and withers, we are ready to say, with the sullen, testy prophet, “ We do well to be angry."
But, was the want of water a slight evil? And, is it sinful to complain under the pressure of calamity like this? And, was this the first time Israel had been in distress, and found relief? Who was it that sweetened the waters of Marah? Who divided the Red Sea ? Who rained bread from heaven? And, who ever mended his condition by murmuring and discontent ! Had God intended to destroy that people, why ail this exertion of a strong hand, and stretched-out arm to deliver them. God in the failure of our earthly comforts intends not our mortification and ruin, but our wisdom and improvement. He thereby teaches us our dependence; it summons us to the observation of his providence; and levels, not the hope and joy, but the pride and self-sufficiency of man.
Water! precious fluid! infinitely more valuable than the blood of the grape, than rivulets of oil, or honey from the rock ; refreshed, sustained every moment by thee, we are every moment wasting, neglecting, forgetting thee. We prize thee not, because of thy rich abundance ; and, because thou enterest into every other mean of food and comfort, thy importance is unobserved, thy benefits forgotten. May I never know thy value from the want of thee.
“ There was no water for the people to drink.” Wherefore the people did chide with “ Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide you with me? Wherefore do ye tempt the Lord ?" If in their calmest moments men are often incapable of reasoning justly, and distinguishing accurately, is it any wonder to find them, in the very tide and whirlwind of passion, acting foolishly and unreasonably ? Who would envy preeminence such as that which Moses enjoyed ? Is glory obtained ? He comes in but for a moderate share. Is blame incurred, or distress felt ? All is imputed to him. To what a severe trial was the temper of this meekest of all men now put! What so provoking as to meet with censure when we are conscious of meriting praise ? What so galling as to have the calamities of others charged upon us as crimes ; to be accused as culpable, merely because we have been unfortunate ? Surely the great are set in “ slippery places;" and “ uneasy must the head lie that wears a crown.”
We see Moses flying in the hour of danger, whither the people ought to have fled in the hour of their affliction. “He cried unto the Lord.” Religion opens a refuge when every other refuge fails: and it administers a remedy to ills otherwise incurable. I tremble for the life of Moses. He trembles for himself. “ They are almost ready to stone me." The voice of Jehovah is again heard, and Moses is in safety. But I tremble now, for these murmuring, unbelieving, rebellious Israelites: Is not the thunder of His indignation going to burst out? Is not the fire hastening to consume ? Or, is the earth going to open her mouth, and swallow them quick up into the pit ? Behold a solemn preparation is making! But it is an arrangement of love. It is the voice of God I hear : but it speaks mercy and peace. The tremendous rod of God, wherewith he bruised and broke Egypt, is again employed; but not as the instrument of punishment to Israel. It smites, not a sinful people, but the flinty rock; and it draws forth, not a stream of blood from the heart of the
soul. Surely, O Lord, “thy ways are not as our ways: for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are thy ways higher than our ways, and thy thoughts than our thoughts."* “ Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God : on them which fell, severity ; but towards thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness : otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.”+ Astonishing instance of the power and sovereignty of the Most High! The same rod which smote the river, and it became blood, smites the rock, and it becomes streams of water. Who is to be feared, who is to be trusted, but the God who can do these great things ?
How honourable had it been for Israel, to have had this stage of their marching through the wilderness, distinguished by a name which betokened and commemorated their faithfulness, obedience and submission. Instead of this, the names Massah and Meribah, must transmit to all generations the memory of temptation, chiding and strife. Happily the monuments of human frailty, folly and guilt, are also the monuments of the divine patience, forbearance and tender mercy. “But the law had only a shadow of good things to come.” Where Moses leaves us, Isaiah takes us by the hand, and leads us on our way, pointing to Him whom all prophesy revealed, and saying, “Behold a King shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. And 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."* And the apostle of the Gentiles conducts our weary, wander
ing steps from the rock in Horeb to the rock Christ, from whence issues the mighty “river, which makes glad the city of our God;" and which affords, not a transitory, tempory refeshment, but a perpetual, never failing supply. " Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud, and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink : for they drank of that spiritual rock which followed them, and that rock was Christ.”* The words of the apostle insinuate, that the stream which issued from the rock in the wilderness continued to flow, and accompanied their progress through the desert during the remainder of their long pilgrimage, till, being arrived at the land of promise, a land watered with the dew of heaven, and the abundance of the rivers, a miraculous supply being unnecessary, was withdrawn.
Thus was the gospel preached to them of old time. The solid rock became, as it were, moveable ; " and followed them” wheresoever they went. The adamant was melted into a pool for their refreshment. Blessed type of Him who in his own person accommodated the immutability of the divine nature to the necessity and the relief of human misery! Blessed type of that stream of blood flowing from the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, and " which taketh away the sins of the world !" Blessed type of that “consolation that is in Christ Jesus” for the weary and heavy laden, for the guilty and the wretched, for the faint and dying! Blessed type of that precious stream which has flowed in every age, and is flowing to every nation and people under heaven; and which never leaves the path of the Zion-traveller, till, through the midst of Jordan, he stands on the delightful shore of the Canaan that is above, where it becomes "a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, there is the tree of life, which bears twelve manner of fruits, and yieldeth her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse : but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it: and his servants shall serve him, and they shall see his face : and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there, and they need no candle neither light of the sun : for the Lord God giveth them light; and they shall reign forever and ever.”+
In the recapitulation of this wonderful history in the book of Numbers, an interesting and important circumstance is recorded, which in Exodus is suppressed ; and which we must here insert, that we may view the event complete in all its parts, and that we may feel it in all its force. The miracle of extracting water from the rock, which proved so salutary to the people, became fatal to Moses himself. And this he, with his native candour and simplicity, thus relates: " And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels ; must we fetch you water out of this rock ? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod hie smote the rock twice; and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel; therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them."| For the illustration and improvement of which, we beg your attention to the following remarks.
Observe, first, The credit which is due to the sacred writers in general, and to Moses in particular, for their fidelity and integrity in relating those
particulars of their temper and conduct which are the object of censure and condemnation, as well as those which merit applause. Indeed they do both with the same “ simplicity and godly sincerity.” They never appear solicitous to celebrate their own praise, and if glory may redound to God, and edification to men, they honestly publish their own shame. Unlike the generality of mankind, who are perpetually catching at opportunities to introduce their dear selves, that they may be valued and admired : and, with equal anxiety, drawing a veil over their errors and imperfections. But these holy men delivered not their testimony “ according to the will of man," nor in the spirit of the world; but, “ spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” And, with candid judges, this candour of theirs will be deemed no slight argument of their veracity in general, and no slender proof of the credibility of the scripture history.
Secondly, Remark the mixture of frailty and imperfection which enters into every human character. Moses himself is not faultless. And what is more observable still, he fails on the side of his greatest excellency; he is found weak there where he seemed most strong. “ Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth."* Nevertheless, what saith the history? He loses temper, and speaks unadvisedly with his lips; “ Hear now, ye rebels ; must we fetch you water out of this rock ?”+ He takes glory to himself instead of ascribing it to God: “ Must we fetch you water ?" He presumptuously exceeds his commission. He lifts up his band and smites the rock twice with his rod, whereas he was commanded only to speak unto it, before the eyes of the people.
Seems it not as if God intended to write vanity and shame on all the glory of man, “ that no flesh should glory in his presence ?" by shewing us faithful Abraham mistrusting his God, and seeking refuge in falsehood: the patient Job growing peevish, and “cursing his day:" the affectionate and zealous Peter basely denying his Master ; and the meek and gentle Moses waxing warm, and in his haste speaking disrespectfully of God, and unkindly of men. “ Be not high-minded, but fear.” “Let him who thinkeih he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” “Keep thy heart with all diligence ; for out of it are the issues of life.""Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, keep the door of my lips.”
Observe, thirdly, The delicacy and the danger of assuming a latitude and a liberty in sacred things. In what concerns the conduct of human life, and our intercourse one with another as the citizens of this world, many things must be left to be governed by occasion and discretion ; but, in what relates to the immediate worship of God, and where the mind of the Lord has been clearly made known, to assume and exercise a dispensing power is criminal and hazardous. The tabernacle must be constructed, to the minutest pin and loop, according to the pattern delivered in the mount. If Uzzah presume to put forth his hand to support the tottering ark, it is at his peril. A holy and a jealous God will be served only by the persons and in the manner which he himself has appointed ; and the intruder into sacred offices and employments is ready to be broken in upon in hot displeasure. Has God said, " Speak to the rock.” Who has the boldness to strike it? Moses dares to do it; and his rashness forfeits his title to a part and lot in the promised inheritance. Into Capaan he shall never enter, but only see it at a distance with his eyes. The offending, chiding, murmuring congregation is pitied, forgiven and relieved. The offending, hasty, presumptuous prophet is punished. “Our God is a consuming fire." " It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Who can understand his errors ? Cleanse thou me from secret faults.