Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

bowl, already surcharged with wormwood try, sits down by a well of water to rest and and gall

. Wretched sons of men ! eternally refresh himself. And, as a good man's footarraigning the wisdom and goodness of steps are all ordered of the Lord, Providence Providence; eternally complaining of the sends him thither just at the moment, to hardships of their lot; and eternally swelling succour the daughters of Raguel from the the catalogue of their miseries, by their own violence of some of their neighbours. In perverseness and folly: adding vinegar to those countries, the precious fluid bestowed nitre, and then wondering how their distress- upon us in such boundless profusion, being es came to be so great! Moses reproved dispensed as it were in drops, became an ob the offending Egyptian by a blow, and a mor- ject of desire and a ground of contention. tul one ; he tries to gain an offending brother The daughters of Jethro, sensible of their by meekness and gentleness; he makes rea- inferiority in point of strength, endeavour to son and humanity speak; but they speak in supply it by diligence and address. They yain; for the same spirit that leads men to arrive at the well before their rival shepcommit cruelty or injustice, leads them also herds, and are preparing with all possible to vindicate and support their ill conduct. despatch to water their Hocks, when behold “ And he said to him that did the wrong, they are overtaken by these brutals, who Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? And rudely drive them and their flocks away, and he said, who made thee a prince and a cruelly attempt to convert the fruits of their judge over us; intendest thou to kill me, as labour to their own use. Moses possessing thou killedst the Egyptian ?"* From this, at once sensibility, courage, and force, takes Moses discovered that the rash action which part with the injured, and affords them efhe had committed the day before, was pub- fectual support against their oppressors. An licly known and talked of, and might prove helpless, timid female, assaulted and insultfatal to him, unless he instantly Aed from the ed, an object of peculiar concern to a danger. The affair had reached the ears of bráve and generous spirit; and for this reaPharaoh, who, it would appear, wanted only son, courage and intrepidity are qualities in a decent pretence to rid himself of a man of men, held in great and just estimation by whom all Egypt was jealous. He hurries the female sex. away therefore out of the territories of the If the heroic behaviour of Moses merit apu king of Egypt, into that part of Arabia which probation and respect, the modest reserve of is called Petrea, from its mountainous or the virgin daughters of Raguel is equally rocky aspect; and by a singular concurrence amiable and praiseworthy. It does not apof providential circumstances, is stopped at pear that they solicited protection, but mo a city of that country called Midian, and is destly received it; they look their thanks induced to remain there for many years. rather than utter them; and they deem it

There lived in this city a person of dis- more suitable to their sex and character to tinguished rank and station; but whether appear ungrateful to a generous stranger, possessed of a sacred or civil character, the than to offend him by forwardness and inambiguity of the term in the holy language delicacy. They hasten home to their father, permits us not to determine ; and the scrip- who, surprised at the earliness of their reture leaves us totally uncertain whether he turn, inquires into the cause of it. Happy, were a priest or a prince of Midian. But I doubt not, to celebrate the praises of a man we are left in no doubt respecting his moral whose appearance and behaviour must have and intellectual qualifications; and we shall made a deep impression upon them, they rehave no reason to be displeased at finding late the adventure of the morning; and Rathe history of Moses blended with that of so guel, struck with the magnanimity, gallansensible and so good a man as Jethro, or Ra- try, and spirit of this stranger's conduct, guel, turns out to be. Whatever his dignity eagerly inquires after him, sends to find him was, the sacerdotal or royal, we find his out, invites him to his house and table, and daughters trained up in all the simplicity of endeavours to express that gratitude, which those early times; following the humble, the young women could not, by every effort harmless profcssion of shepherdesses. Wise of kindness and hospitality. is that father, kind and just to his children, Minds so well assorted as those of Moses who, whatever his station, possessions, or and Jethro, and attracted to each other hy prospects may be, brings up his sons and his mutual acts of beneficence, would easily kisdaughters to some virtuous and useful em- similate and unite in friendship. And the ployment; for idleness is not more odious, pleasing recollection of protection given and dishonourable, and contemptible, than it is received, natural sensibility of a female niind inimical to happiness, and irreconcilable to to personal accomplishments, but more esinward peace.

pecially to generosity and courage, on the one Moses, being arrived in the neighbourliood hand; and the irresistible charm of feminine of Midian, weary and faint with a long jour- beauty and modesty to a manly heart, on the ney, through a barren and unhospitable coun- other, would speedily and insensibly, between * Exod. ii. 13, 14.

Moses, and some one of the priest of Midian's

fnir daughters, ripen into love. What fol- ! Wherefore call a man at so late a period of lows, therefore, is all in the course of honest lilc, in the evening of his day, in the decline nature, which never swerves from her pur- of his faculties, to a service that required all pose, never fails to accomplish her end. But the fervour, intrepidity, and exertion of youth? it was Providence that furnished the field To all which we answer in the words of our and the instrtiments with which nature should Saviour on a well known occasion, “ It is not work. That Providence which saved him for you to know the times or the seasons which forty years before from perishing in the Nile; the Father hath put in his own power ?" Man that Providence which delivered him so lately is perpetually in a hurry, and often hastens from the hands of an incensed king; the forward without making progress; but “ he sume Providence now, by a concourse of cir- that believeth shall not make haste.” God, cumstances equally beyond the reach of hu- the father of believers, advances to his end man power or foresight, fixes tlie bounds of not in a vehement and hurried step, but in a his habitation, forms for him the most import- solemn, steady, majestic pace; his progress, ant connexion of human life; and for another which we may in our folly account slow, in space of forty years makes him forget the the issue proves to have been the most extumultuous pleasures of a court, in the more peditious; and the course, which human ige calm and rational delights of disinterested norance may condemn as irregular and cirfriendship, virtuous affection, and heavenly cuitous, will be found in the end the shortest contemplation.

and the surest. It was in this delicious retreat, that the The course of the history then has brought man of God is supposed to have composed, us to that important, eventful hour, when the by divine inspiration, and to have committed shepherd of Midian, trained up in retirement to writing, that most ancient, most elegant, and contemplation, and converse with God, and most instructive of all books; which was to shake off his disguise, and stand concontains the history of the world, from the fessed the minister of the most high God, the creation down to his own times; a period king in Jeshurun, the scourge of Egypt, the which no other writer has presumed to touch | deliverer of Israel. As the commission which upon; holy ground, which none but the foot was given him to execute, and the station of God himself has dared to tread. Here assigned to him, were altogether singular and also, and at this time, as it is conjectured by uncommon, we are not to be surprised if the interpreters, he wrote that beautifully poeti- seal and signature affixed to that commiscal, moral, and historical work, the book of sion, and the powers bestowed for the faithful Job: which, for sublimity of thought, force and effectual execution of it, should likewise of expression, justness of sentiment, strength be out of the usual course of things, and of reasoning, and variety of matter, holds a should announce the power and authority of distinguished place in the sacred code. If Him who granted it. But as this merits a from the schools of the Magi he drew such principal place in the course of these exerstores of wisdom and eloquence, high must cises, we shall not compress it into the conour ideas rise of those noble seminaries of clusion of a Lecture; hoping, through the learning. But Moses derived his wonderful help of God, to resume and continue the subaccomplishments from a much higher source, ject next Lord's day. even from the everlasting Spring of all know Such was Moses, the Jewish legislator and ledge, even from Him who made the heaven hero, during the two first great periods of his and the earth, and caused the light to arise; life. But a greater than Moses is here, even even from Him who can make the desert of He," the latchet of whose shoes Moses is Horeb a school of Wisdom, and the simple to unworthy to stoop down and unloose;" to be wiser than all his teachers. Here, also, whom Moses and Elias, on the mount of transhe has the felicity of becoming a father; and, figuration, brought all their glory and honour, even in Midian, God builds up one of the fa- and laid them at his feet! milies of Israel.

Moses “refused to be called the son of And now at last the time to favour that Pharaoh's daughter;" and Jesus disdained despised, oppressed nation, was come. Egypt not to be called " the son of the carpenter. had changed its sovereign in the inean time, Supreme, all divine though He was, yet he but the seed of Jacob had felt no mitigation declined not the society of the poorest, mcan. of their distress. Every change which they est, most afflicted of mankind! have undergone is only from evil to worse. Was the humiliation of Moses cheerful and Moses was now arrived at his eightieth year, voluntary, not forcibly obtruded upon him, but remained in the full vigour of his bodily but sought out and submitted to Christ, strength, and of his mental powers. Erring, though " in the form of God, and thought it reasoning, cavilling man will be asking, Why not robbery to be equal with God, yet made was the employment of Moses in so import- himself of no reputation, and took upon hima ant a service so long delayed? Wherefore the form of a servant." Was sympathy a bury such talents for such a space of time in leading feature in the character of Moses? the inglorious life of an obscure shepherd? | Jesus hath not despised nor abhorred the

[ocr errors]

affliction of the afflicted, neither hath he hid | every name: that at the name of Jesus every his face from him, but when he cried unto knee should bow, of things in heaven, and him he heard.")* “ In all their affliction he things in earth, and things under the earth : was afflicted, and the angel of his presence and that every tongue should confess that saved them; in his love and in his pity he Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the tedeemed them, and he bare them, and car- Father.” But the time would fail to point ried them all the days of old.”+ Did Moses, out every mark of resemblance. Christ dethrough the vale of obscurity, arrive at the rives no glory from similitude to Moses, but summit of glory? Of Christ it is said, as all the glory of Moses flows from his typifyfollowing up the scene of his humiliation, ing Christ the Lord, in whom “all the pro“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted mises are yea and amen," and who “is the him, and given him a name which is above end of the law for righteousness to every one

Isaiah lxiii. 9. that believeth."

* Psalın xxii. 24.

HISTORY OF MOSES.

LECTURE XXX IX.

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I'AM: And he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.—Exodus iii. 13, 14.

The objects presented to us in the com- | approach; but whose fervent heat arrests merce of the world have a relative greatness, our speed, and remands us to our proper disbut those with which we converse in soli- tance. tude and retirement possess a real grandeur That great man had now passed the seand magnificence. A vast city, a numerous cond great period of his life in the humble and well disciplined army, a proud navy, a station of a shepherd, and the shepherd too splendid court, and the like, dazzle the eyes of another man's flock. He had quitted the of a stranger, and produce a transient won- enchanted regions of high life, not only withder and delight. But a little acquaintance out regret, but with joy; not impelled by dissolves the charm; the dimensions of crea- spleen, not soured by disappointment; but ted greatness speedily contract, the glory filled with a noble disdain for empty honours, departs, and what once filled us with astonish- with generous sympathy towards his afflicted ment is regarded with calm indifference, per- brethren, animated by exalted piety, which haps with disgust. The eye, almost with a settled on an invisible God, and inspired with single glance, reaches the end of human per- a soul which looked at pomp with contempt, fection, and instantly turns from what it has and on obscurity with acquiescence and deseen, in search of something yet undiscover- sire. It was in this calm retreat that he culed, striving to find in novelty and variety a tivated those qualities which proved more compensation for the poverty, littleness, no- favourable to the designs of Providence than thingness of the creature. But when we all the learning which he had acquired in withdraw froin the haunts of men, and either Egypt. retire within ourselves or send our thoughts At the age of cighty the race of glory is abroad to contemplate God and his works, at an end with most men: nay, the drama we meet a height and a depth which the line of life concludes with the generality long of finite understanding cannot fathom ; we before that period arrives. But the fame, expatiate in a region which still discloses activity, and usefulness of Moses commenced new scenes of wonder; we feel ourselves at not till then; for as it is never too early, so once invited and checked, attracted, and re- it is never too late to serve God and to do pelled; we behold much that we can com- good to men; and true wisdom consists in prehend and explain, but much more that waiting for and following the call of Heaven, passeth knowledge; we find ourselves, like not in anticipating and out running it. AbraMoses at the bush, upon “ holy ground,” and ham was turned out a wanderer and an exile the same wonderful sight is exhibited to our at seventy-five. And Moses at fourscore was view_" JEHOVAH!" IN A FLAME OF FIRE! sent upon an enterprise, which it required whose light irradiates and encourages our much courage to undertake, much vigour to

conduct and support, and a great length of to his still greater astonishment, the bush time to execute. But before the divine man- becomes vocal as well as brilliant, and he date, every mountain of difficulty sinks, hears his own name distinctly and repeatedly "every valley is exalted, the crooked be- called, out of the midst of the flame. Cum comes straight, and the rough places plain." riosity and wonder are now checked by a Abraham, at the head of a handful of ser- more powerful principle than either. Tere vants, subdues five victorious kings, with ror thrills in every vein, and arrests his their armies: Sarah, at ninety, bears a son; trembling steps. How dreadful must the and Moses, at eighty, with a simple rod in visitations of God's anger be to his enemies, his hand, advances to succour Israel, and to if to his best beloved children, the intimacrush the power of Egypt.

tions of his goodness, clothed in any thing The solemnity with which the commission like sensible glory, be so awful and overwas given, suited the dignity and importance whelming? When I meet thee, O my God, of the undertaking. The whole was of God, stripped of this veil of flesh, may I find thee and he does every thing in a manner worthy a pure, a genial, and a lambent flame of loving of himself. While Moses was employed in kindness, not a consuming fire of wrath and the innocent cares and labours of his lowly vengeance ! station; and faithful attention to the duties Moses instantly comprehends that the Lord of our several stations is the best preparation was there; or, if he could for a moment have for the visits of the Almighty; a very un- doubted who it was that talked with him, in usual and unaccountable appearance pre- a moment his doubt must have been removed. sented itself to his eyes. A bush wholly by the continuation of the voice of Him who involved in flames, yet continuing unchanged, spake. We find here, as in many other places undiminished, unconsumed by the fire. Whe- of the Old Testament, the same person who ther nature preserves her steady tenor, or is styled in the course of the narration, the suffers an alteration or suspension of the " Angel of the Lord," styling himself JEHOlaws by which she is usually governed, the vah and God; exercising divine prerogafinger of God is equally visible in both; for, tives, manifesting divine perfections, and what power, save that which is divine, could claiming the homage which is due to Deity have established, and can maintain the order alone. T'he person, therefore, thus described, and harmony of the universe? And what can be none other than the uncreated " Anpower short of Omnipotence can break in gel of the covenant,” who “at sundry times, upon that order; can make the sun to stand and in divers manners," in maturing the still, or its shadow return back to the meri- work of redemption, assumed a sensible apdian after it had declined ; can leave to fire pearance; and at length, in the fulness of its illuminating, but withdraw its devouring time, united his divine nature to ours and quality; and render artificial fire, such as dwelt among men, and made them to behold that of Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, harmless his glory, as the glory of the only begotten to the three children of the captivity, but of the Father, full of grace and truth. fatal to ministers of the king of Babylon ? Every thing here is singular, and every Were our hearts right with God, miraculous thing instructive. The first interview beinterpositions would be unnecessary; every tween God and Moses inspires terror; but creature, every event should promote our the spirit of bondage gradually dies away, acquaintance with our Maker. And such is and refines into the spirit of adoption and the condescension of the Most High, that he love. Acquaintance begets confidence, “pervouchsafes to cure our ignorance, inatten- fect love casteth out fear;" and the man who tion, or unbelief, by making the mighty sa- spake to God with trembling in Horeb, by and crifice of that stated course of things, which by becomes strengthened to endure his prehis wisdom settled at first, and which his sence forty days and nights together, in Sinai. power continues to support. Rather than Enduring, as seeing Him who is invisible,” man shall remain unchanged, unredeemed, he "despised the wrath of an earthly king." the great system of nature shall undergo When he comes to the knowledge of that alteration; fire shall cease to burn, the Nile same God, by the seeing of the eye and the shall run blood instead of water, the sun for- hearing of the ear, he“ exceedingly fears get to shine for three days together; the and quakes; abhors himself and lies low in eternal, uncreated Word shall become flesh, dust and ashes.” But, following on to know and the fountain of life to all, shall expire in the Lord, he comes at length to converse with death.

Him, as a man with his friend.

“ Acquaint It required not the sagacity of a Moses to thyself then with Him, and be at peace, discover, that there was something extraor- thereby good shall come unto thee.” Miseradinary here. But mistaking it at first for ble beyond expression, beyond thought are merely an unusual natural appearance, whose they, whose acquaintance with God has *o cause, by a closer investigation, he might be begin at death; who, having lived without a able to discover, he is preparing by nearer gracious, merciful, long-suffering God in the observation to satisfy his curiosity; when lo! world, find they must, hy a dreadful neces

sity, fall into the hands of a neglected, for-| God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and gotten, righteous, incensed God, when they the God of Jacob.” We speak of the dead, leave it.

under the idea that they were; but God reThe appearance of Jehovah in the bush presents them as still existing, and his relawas not only preternatural, but emblemati- tion to them as unbroken, his care of them as cal; it not only sanctioned the commission uninterrupted. The effect which this declagiven to Moses by the seal of Deity, but ex- ration had upon Moses, is such as might have ħibited a lively representation of the state of been expected; no more “ turning aside to his church and people in Egypt; oppressed, see this great sight;" he hides his face, but not crushed, brought low, but not desert- afraid to look upon God.” It is ignorance ed of Heaven, in the midst of flames, but not of God, not intimate communion, which enconsumed. And it is a striking emblem of courages forwardness and freedom. Angels, the church of God in the world, to the end who know him best, and love him most, are of time: "troubled on every side, yet not most sensible of their distance, and are redistressed, perplexed, but not in despair, per- presented as “covering their faces with their secuted, but not forsaken, cast down, but not wings,” when they approach their dread destroyed."

Creator. The same voice which solicited intercourse In the declaration which immediately fol. with Moses, which tendered friendship, which lows, under a sanction so solemn and affectencouraged hope, sets a fence about the divine ing, which shall we most admire, the mercy Majesty; it reminds him of his distance, of and goodness of God, or his perfect wisdom his impurity; it forbids rashness, presumption, and foreknowledge? Four hundred years familiarity. In veneration of the spot which have elapsed since this wretched state of his God had honoured with his special presence, posterity had been foretold and revealed to he is commanded to "put off his shoes from Abraham. For wise and gracious purposes off his feet;" a mandate, which by an image it was appointed and brought to pass. But natural and obvious, enjoins the drawing near the days of darkness are now almost ended, to God in holy places and in sacred services, and the sun returns. Like rain from heaven with seriousness, attention, and reverence; to a dry and thirsty land, the promises of fa. divested of that impurity which men necessa

vour and salvation fall upon a persecuted, rily contract by coming into frequent contact oppressed people; and “that Moses whom with the world. And surely, it is owing to they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler the want of a due sense of the majesty of and judge ?" is after an interval of forty God upon our spirits, that his house is pro- years sent back to Egypt, on the kind, merfaned, and his service marred by levity, care- ciful errand of salvation to an oppressed and lessness, and inattention. Did we seriously persecuted people. consider that the place where we stand is Moses however, it would appear, has not " holy ground," that the word which wespeak forgotten the surly reception which his welland hear is “not the word of men, but of the meant interposition had met with from his living God,” could one short hour's attend- brethren so long before; and presumes to ance betray us into slumber? Could the little urge it as a reason, why a person of more injealousies and strife of a base world intrude fluence and authority should be entrusted into a worshipping heart? Could the eye find with the commission. leisure to wander upon the dress and appear He considered not, that formerly he acted ance of another? Durst a scornful leer or from the impulse of his own mind; with insimpering countenance communicate from deed an upright and benevolent intention, one vain, silly, irreverent spirit to another but with a zeal rather too bold and impetuous; the private sneer and censure? Would there whereas now, he was following the direction be a contention for place and pre-eminence? of Providence, and was therefore certain of Now, surely, God is as really though less success. As there is a sinful pride which sensibly, in this place, as he was in the bush urges men to seek stations and employments, at Horeh: and though we see him not, his to which they have neither pretension, title, eyes are continually upon us, and he will nor qualification; so there is a sinful humilia bring every thing into judgment. O Lord, ty, which shrinks from the call of God, which, open thou our eyes, that we may behold Thee, in the guise of self-denial, contains the spirit and every other object shall instantly disap- of rebellion and disobedience; and which, pear.

under the affectation of undervaluing and The words which follow, if any thing can debasing our own persons and qualities, indiincrease their intrinsic force and importance, rectly charges God with foolishness in choosderive a peculiar energy and value to the ing an instrument so inapt and improper. Christian world, as the passage quoted by Such humility is of the very essence of pride, our blessed Lord, from an authority which and such, with regret we observe it, was they could not deny, to confute the Sadducees, the spirit by which Moses was on this occaon the subject of the immortality of the soul, sion actuated. The heavenly vision removes and the resurrection of the body. “I am the I the objection at once, by assuring him of the

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »