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laid up in the side of the ark, as a standing witness for God against a sinful people; and the business of this interesting and eventful day concludes with a public recital from the lips of Moses of that tender and pathetic song, which we have in the thirty-second chapter. This sacred song every Israelite was to commit to memory, to repeat frequently, and to teach it every man to his son. It was composed expressly by the command of God, and under his immediate inspiration. "Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel : put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel. Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel. And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the words of this song until they were ended."*
And a most wonderful composition it is, whether considered as the production of a lively, lofty, correct imagination ; abounding with the boldest images, and conveying the noblest sentiments; adding all the graces of poetry to all the force of truth; as conveying the most useful and necessary moral and religious instruction, in a channel the most pleasing and attractive; as the address of a dying man, a dying father, a dying minister, to his friends, to his family, to the flock; abounding with the tenderest touches of nature flowing immediately from the heart, and rushing with impetuous force to the lips; as the awful witness of the great God against a disobedient and gainsaying race; exhibiting to this hour the proof of the authenticity of that record where it stands, of the truth and faithfulness, of the mercy and severity of the dread Jehovah, and of the certainty of the things wherein, as Christians, we have been instructed.
What can equal the boldness and sublimity of his exordium or introduction? How is the boasted eloquence of Greece and Rome left at an infinite distance behind! What a coldness in the address of Demosthenes and Cicero, compared to the fervour and elevation of the Israelitish orator! “ Ye men of Athens." "Romans.” “Conscript Fathers.” If ever there was an audience that demanded respect, from numbers, from importance, from situation ; if ever there was a speaker prompted by duty, drawn by inclination, urged on by the spur of the occasion, Israel was that audience, Moses that speaker, on this ever-memorable day. But the ardent soul of this heaventaught orator, with thousands upon thousands before his eyes, grasps, with a noble enthusiasm, an infinitely larger space than the plains of Moab, an audience infinitely more august than the thousands of Israel. “Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.” This was seizing the attention at once; the solid globe, thus summoned, seems to give ear, the celestial spheres stand still to listen, angels hover on the wing to mark and record the last words of the departing prophet; what mortal ear can then be inattentive, what spirit careless? How sweetly calcu-lated is the next sentence to compose the minds of his hearers, roused and alarmed by the solemnity of his first address. The thunder of heaven seemed ready to burst upon their heads, after an invocation so awful, and though Moses alone spake, they were ready to die ; but their fears are gently lulled to rest, the next word he utters ; he has only love in his heart, and honey upon his tongue. “My doctrine shall drop as the rain : my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass.”+ The final object of Moses being to warn, to admonish, and to reprove the perverse nation of whom he was taking leave, observe how skilfully he manages this difficult and delicate part of his task. To have come directly and without preparation to it, had been to give certain disgust
and offence ; for he had to deal with a moody, murmuring, irritable, discontented race; he therefore first fills their minds with great images, leads them to the contemplation of one object surpassingly grand ; impresses it in various points of view upon their hearts and consciences, till having lost themselves in its grandeur and immensity, they are prepared to bear, to approve, and to profit by the severe personal attack that follows. “ Because I will publish the name of the Lord ; ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the rock, his work is perfect ; for all his ways are judgement : a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he."*
Having thus raised them above every mean, every selfish consideration; and placed them, and made them to feel themselves in the awful presence of the great God, “ who is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works,” he descends abruptly, by a transition quick as lightning, to the censure he had in view. But even then, he insinuates it, rather than charges it home: and speaks for some time as of strangers, as of persons absent ; and constitutes his auditors judges as it were of the case of others, not their own ; and by employing the address of the third person, they and their, leaves them for a moment in uncertainty whom he could mean, and when he comes at length to address them in the second person, and to use the terms thee and thy, how delicately is the application qualified, by the introduction of every tender, every melting, every conciliating circumstance! “ They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation. Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise ? Is not he thy Father that hath bought thee ? hath he not made thee and established thee ?”+
He then goes into a recapitulation, partly historical, partly poetic, partly allegorical, at once to refresh the memory, to fire the imagination, and to exercise the invention, of the divine conduct towards them and their fathers, during many generations, that the conclusion he was about to draw might fall with irresistible weight upon the minds of all; that their base ingratitude and desperate folly might appear to themselves in a more odious light, when contrasted with the wisdom, goodness and loving-kindness of the Lord. This occupies a considerable part of the chapter, from the seventh verse to the eighteenth, and a passage it is of exquisite force and beauty as I am convinced you will also think upon a careful perusal of it.
Constrained at last to denounce the righteous judgement of God, in order to approve his own fidelity, and if possible to prevent the ruin which he feared, he makes a display of the awful terrors of divine justice, sufficient to awaken the dead, and to confound the living ; and to increase its force and vehemence, Moses disappears, and God, the great God himself comes forward, and in the first person utters the seven thunders of his wrath ; "For a fire is kindled in my anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. The sword without and terror within shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling, also, with the man of grey hairs."!
The prophet, as it were exhausted with this violent exertion, this formidable denunciation of vengeance, sinks into feeble, hopeless regret, and he reluctantly, despairingly deplores that misery which he can neither prevent nor avert. " They are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them. O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their rock had sold them, and the Lord had shut them up."'S
"Deut. xxxii. 3, 4.
Deut. xxxii. 5,6.
Deut. xxxii. 22, 25.
Deut. xxxii. 28-30,
Finally, a dawn of hope arises, and, wrapt into future time, the sacred bard hails the coming day of deliverance, and exults in the prospect of the junction of the nation with the ancient people of God, in the participation of one and the same great salvation. “Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people ; for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land and to his people."*
Such is the structure, such the general outline of this inimitable piece of sacred poesy. If what has been said shall induce any one to study it more attentively, he will probably discover beauties which have escaped us; and the discovery will bring its own reward. How many fathers, as they afterwards rehearsed the words of this song in the ears of their children, and taught them the knowledge of it, would recollect with a mournful pleasure, that they saw and heard Moses himself recite it aloud, on the very last day of his life ; and glory in relating how near him they stood, and in describing to a new generation the form of his countenance, the deportment of his person, the tones of his voice
That very day, the warrant of death arrives. The ministry of even a Moses is accomplished, and Providence hastens to convince the world, that, depart who will, the work of heaven never can stand still. We have seen him hitherto engaged in active labours for Israel and for God. We shall consider him yet once more, dismissed from his service, and concluding a life of eminent usefulness, by a death of charity, benediction, prescience and resignation. May God impress on our minds a sense of our frailty, mortality and accountableness, that we may redeem the time, fulfil the duties of our day and the design of our Creator, work out our salvation, and so die in peace, die in hope, whenever it shall please Him to call us away to the world of spirits. Amen.
* Deut. xxxii. 13.
HISTORY OF MOSES.
DEUTERONOMY XXXI. 1.
And this is the blessing wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his
SENECA, the celebrated Roman moralist, was preceptor to the Emperor Nero, and bad early and studiously trained him to virtue. But falling under the displeasure of that sanguinary tyrant, he was condemned to lose his life, by being blooded to death. The day of execution being arrived, he prepared to meet his fate with intrepidity, and to die as he had lived, in communicating useful knowledge. His pupils gathered round him, eager to mark his dying deportment, and provided with their writing tables, to record and preserve his last sayings. He was put into the warm bath, the arteries of his legs and arms were opened, and the purple fluid which sustains life, gradually drained off, while his sorrowing, admiring disciples caught the words as they fell from his parched lips.
But a greater than Seneca is here. We are this night gathered round a. dying Moses, to listen to the last accents of that tongue which, once excepted, spake as never man spake. We behold him neither impetuously rushing forwards into the mortal conflict, nor timidly shrinking from it; but advancing with a steady, majestic step to meet the king of terrors. The interests of the Gud of Israel, and of the Israel of God, had employed his thoughts all his life long ; and, blended in one, they glow in and expand his heart to his latest moment. He was speedily to cease from every earthly care, to cease from serving Israel any longer, to be occupied with God only ; but even in death he is contriving the means of doing good to that dearly beloved, that fondly cherished people. As if his heart had relented at the harshness of some of the expressions which fidelity and a sense of duty had extorted from him; like one unwilling to part with them under any semblance of unkindness or displeasure, he again assumes the tender father, tunes his tongue to the law of kindness, buries all resentment of the past, and every thing unpleasant, in the prospects of fururity, in the gentleness and benevolence of friends who were separating to meet no more.
The soul that is at peace with God desires to be at peace with all men ; and it is meet that dying breath be sweetened with mercy, forgiveness and love. Slowly and solemnly as Moses advanced to meet his latter end, would we accompany his steps in his last progress through the beloved tents of Israel, and in his ascent to the bill, from whence he never should return. With a heart like his, overflowing with charity to the whole church of God,
and filled with sentiments of peculiar affection towards you, we behold the approach of that hour which is to disperse us, perhaps too forever. With a blessing on our lips, like him, and O that his God and ours may make it effectual, we are hastening to bid you farewell.
The words which I have read are the beginning of the 54th and last parasha, or great section of the law, into which the whole books of Moses were subdivided, for the conveniency of publickly reading them, in conjunction with the prophets, every sabbath day : a custom which prevailed in the Jewish church, down to the times of our Saviour and his apostles, as we learn from several passages of the gospel history. Thus Christ himself, “ when he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, as his custom was, went into the synagogue, on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor : he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised :
gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unta them, this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."* Thus James, in determining the question in the synod of Jerusalem, concerning the necessity of circumcision, says, “ Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.”+ And Paul and Barnabas, when they came to Antioch, in Pisidia, went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. And after the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.”
The first section begins with the opening of the book of Genesis, and goes up to the ninth verse of the sixth chapter, and is called Bereshit, the first word in the Hebrew bible. The second begins at these words in the sixth chapter, " These are the generations of Noah :" and is thence called Noah, and ends at the beginning of chapter twelfth, which sets out with the call of Abraham, and is therefore styled the section Lec Leca, i. e. “ Get thee out," and so of the rest. To bring the whole fifty-four divisions within the compass of the year, they joined two of the shortest into one reading. Thus the whole constitution, both as to civil and sacred things, was publickly rehearsed once every year; so that it was impossible for any decent Israelite to be grossly ignorant of either the laws, the history, or the religion of his country.
The first publick lecture was on the sabbath that followed the feast of tabernacles, and went on till the anniversary of that feast returned. I have mentioned these circumstances for several reasons. I am not ill pleased to have so respectable an example for attempting a mode of instruction which reason and experience convince us to be at once the most pleasant and the most use. ful. I honour human learning, I admire great talents, I am enchanted with
by the quick and powerful energy of God's word coming, not with the allurements of man's wisdom, “but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power." This leads us to express a wonder why the reading of the scriptures by large portions at a time is not universally practised in christian congregations. Surely there inust be a better reason for neglecting it, than that it is enjoined
The last reason I have at present to render for this digression, if it be thought