Изображения страниц

piety toward God blended with unkindness though we relax a little of the laws of rigid and unreasonableness toward man. And cow- criticism? If imagination serve as an handardice pitifully levels its keen arrows at the maid to virtue and devotion, let men be as servant, not daring to attack the master. fanciful as they will. If a serious soul be “The people murmured against Moses.” A edified or comforted, shall I mar his joy and worldly mind under distress either flies to the disturb his tranquillity, by forcing him to creature for help, or accuses the creature as comprehend the meaning of Greek and Hethe cause of its wo. Piety leads the soul brew particles? Whether it be warrantable directly to God; it views the calamity as his or not to give this evangelical turn to the appointment; and finds its removal, its re- passage before us, its moral intention and medy, or its compensation in the divine mercy. import will hardly be disputed. It exhibits Israel tastes the bitter water, desponds, and the reluctance which men feel to encounter charges Moses foolishly. Moses cries to God, affliction, their impatience and unreasonableand is enlightened.

ness under it, the wise design of Providence Observe the goodness and longsuffering of in afflictive dispensations, namely, to “prove God. Readier to listen to the entreaties of men, whether they will diligently hearken Moses than to punish the perverseness and to the voice of the Lord their God, and do unbelief of the people, he instantly directs that which is right in his sight.” And finally, to a cure for the nitrous quality of the waters it illustrates the power, wisdom, and goodof Marah. “ The Lord showed him a tree, ness of God, in counteracting one natural which when he had cast into the waters, evil by another evil; making poison serve as the waters were made sweet."

an antidote to poison, and healing the greater X Of little consequence is it to inquire, be- plague of sin by the less, that of suffering. cause it is impossible to determine, whether Some commentators have conjectured, that

the wood of this tree had in it an inherent it was about this very spot that Hagar was be it , , the of

virtue which naturally corrected the brackish relieved and supplied with water, she and ing quality were preternaturally communi- were banished from Abraham's house; and cated to it to fulfil the present design of Pro- they reprove the incredulity of the Israelites vidence. Whether I see water sweetened by the example of her faith. After all, it by a log of wood cast into it, or issuing from was undoubtedly a very severe trial; whether the flinty rock, or flowing naturally in the we consider how much water, sweet water, brook; whether I see Israel fed with bread is connected, not merely with the convenifrom heaven, or Moses and Christ subsisting ence and comfort, but with the very exisforty days without bread at all; or mankind tence of human life; the immense quantity in general supported by bread growing gra- necessary for the support of such a vast muldually out of the ground; I still behold but titude of men and women, besides cattle; or one and the same object; " good gifts com- the peculiar demand occasioned by a verti. ing down” but in so many different ways cal sun and a parched soil. We pass on ' from the Father of lights." The wise man, from Marah as men, and as the inhabitants in the apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus, has of more favoured regions, praising God," who made a happy ise of this passage, to incul- walks upon the clouds," and refreshes us cate the necessity of using appointed means from heaven above; gushes upon us in a in order to obtain success. · The Lord (says thousand streams of limpid comfort from the he) hath created medicines out of the earth, earth beneath, and gently, flows through and he that is wise will not abhor them. every field in a tide of delight; and as ChrisWas not the water made sweet with wood, tians we flee for refuge and refreshment to that the virtue thereof might be known? and that Wonderful Man, described in prophetic ne hath given men skill, that he might be vision in such beautiful figures as these; “A nonoured in his marvellous works. With man shall be as an hiding place from the such doth he heal men, and taketh away wind, and a covert from the tempest: as Cheir pains. My son, in thy sickness be not rivers of water in a dry place; as the shadow negligent; but pray unto the Lord, and he of a great rock in a wcary land."* Gold, will make thee whole."

silver, and precious stones, are produced in A fondness for allegory has represented small quantities, and are of difficult and danthe effect produced by this tree cast into the gerous investigation. And happily the life waters, as emblematical of the virtue of the of man consists not in such things as these cross, in sweetening and sanctifying afflic- Whereas the things which really minister to tion to the believer, and taking the sting out human comfort, and constitute the real supof death. Undoubtedly, when an object so port of human life, are poured down upon us important and a doctrine so instructive can with unbounded profusion. The choicest by whatever means be impressed upon the blessing which ever was bestowed upon the heart, we ought not too squeamishly to reject world, is common and free to ail as the water application and illustrations of this sort. In in the stream, as the light and air of heaven. order to promote the ends of true piety, what

* Isa. Ixxii. 2

But though the bitter waters are sweeten- and behold unbelief lying at the root of both ed for present use, Israel must not think of one and the other. Now, eager to get home continuing encamped by them. They are to before the time; by and by drowning all be but the transient refreshment of the way thoughts and hopes of it in the bauble of the faring man, not the stated supply of the land present hour. See Israel at one time disconof promise. Whatever we have attained, certed and chagrined to find that the wilderwhatever we enjoy, the voice of Providence ness did not produce every thing to a wish; still summons us away, saying, “ Arise ye at another, ready to forego the prospect of and depart, for this is not your rest.”. Canaan for Egypt, and to accept the land of

Their next journeying is from Marah to dates and water for that flowing with milk Elim, “where were twelve wells of water and honey. Never did any good come of and threescore and ten palm-trees; and they sitting down contentedly in temporal possesencamped there by the waters.” In the pre- sions. No sooner do men become easy and ceding station, their provision was partly comfortable in their circumstances, than they from nature, partly from the kindness of a grow capricious and fantastical in their gracious Providence. Nature furnished the wishes and desires. If Providence visit them substance, a miracle endowed it with the not with scarcity, or unpleasantness of wasuitable qualities. But at Elim, nature seems ter: their own restless appetite shall visit to do the whole, with her “threescore and them with an absurd and unreasonable crayten palm-trees, and twelve wells of water." ing for flesh. The fruit and shade of the And what is nature, but the great JEHOVAH palm-tree, and the deliciousness of a fresh performing the most astonishing wonders in spring, please not long. Put an end to noa stated and regular course? Water issuing velty, and farewell delight. But a month from a rock when smitten by a rod, is not and fourteen days have elapsed, since with in itself a whit more miraculous than the so much joy they quitted the house of bond continually supplying one little stream from age: and they are weak and wicked enough the same spring. Being arrived at Elim, to wish themselves thither again. And why? they encamped « by the waters.” The word because, in a march of a few short weeks at “Elim” standing in our version untranslated, most, through a wild and desert country, they is generally considered as the proper name wallowed not in the profusion of Egypt of a place; but it is by some, and with a which they were obliged to purchase at the great appearance of reason, rendered, “ the price of their liberty and blood. forests." This is supported by a passage of

When we hear of such an universal mutiStrabo,* the famous geographer and historian ny, for it was not the murmuring of a few of Cappadocia, to this purpose; that “at five factious discontented spirits, but of the whole days' journey from Jericho there is a forest of congregation of Israel, what have we not to palm-trees, which is held in great veneration fear from the just resentment of a holy and throughout all that country, on account of righteous God, thus insulted by mistrust and the springs of water which are found there unbelief? We find him immediately taking in great abundance.” The numbers twelve up the cause, and, in a manner peculiar to and seventy in the sacred text, instead of himself

. Wonder, O heavens, and be astosignifying a determinate quantity, may un- nished, O earth. “ And the Lord said unto doubtedly denote indefinitely, according to a Moses, Behold I will rain"-what? Fire and license common in all languages, a large brimstone from heaven, upon this generation abundance. And then the account of Strabo, of incorrigible rebels, until they be utterly and the narration of Moses, will naturally consumed? No, but “I will rain bread from confirm and strengthen each other. Two heaven upon you.” Is this thy manner with writers of no less eminence and credit than men, O Lord God? Surely, “it is of thy merTacitust and Plutarchỉ plainly allude to this cy we are not consumed, because thy compassage, when they say that “the Jews, be- passions fail not." ing ready to perish with thirst, happily dis The historical fact which follows, as the covered springs of running water." accomplishment of this promise, is one of the

But, instead of settling the geography of most singular upon record; and so mixes the spot, and the import of the word Elim, itself with the leading objects of the New let us look into the fact recorded, and through Testament dispensation, that it well merits it into the volume of human nature. “They a separate and particular consideration. encamped there by the waters.” The self Being arrived at another of the great same spirit which murmured at the taste of epochas, or periods of ancient history, the goa bitter stream, disposed them to seek repose ing out of Egypt; we shall make a brief recaby the side of one that was sweet and placid. pitulation of the whole, from the beginning Mistaken in both, a carnal mind is easily un- The first great period of the history of the hinged and soon satisfied.— Like children, world, is from the creation down to the dethey are put out of humour with a straw, luge; containing the space of one thousand and presently pacified they know not why; six hundred and fifty-six years; and a suc

* Lib. xvi. Hist. lib v. 1 Tom. II. Sympos. lib. iv. cession of eight lives, from Adam, to the six


hundreth year of Noah. The second is, from sand ninety-eight. After the death of Joseph, the flood to the calling of Abraham, and con- one hundred and forty-four. Before the detains four hundred and twenty-seven years; struction of Troy, about three hundred. Beand a succession of ten lives, from the hun- fore the first Olympiad, or the earliest reckdred and eighth year of Shem, the son of oning of time among the Greeks, seven hunNoah, to the seventy-fifth of Abraham, the dred and fourteen. Before the building of father and founder of the Jewish nation: the temple, when the Israelitish glory was six of the patriarchs, after the flood, being in its zenith, five hundred and six. Before now dead, Noah, Phaleg, Rehu, Serug, Na- the Babylonish captivity, nine hundred and hor, and Terah; and four of them still living, sixty-three. Before the building of Rome, Shem, Arphaxad, Salah, and Heber. So that seven hundred and thirty-eight. Before Christ one life, that of Shem, connects the antedi- was born at Bethlehem, one thousand five luvian world, and the call of Abraham. For hundred and fifty-one. Before the present he was ninety-eight years old before the year 1793, three thousand three hundred and flood came; and lived till Abraham was one forty-four. hundred and fifty, and Isaac fifty years old. What is the conclusion of the whole matThe third grand period of the world, con- ter? “A thousand years," O Lord, “ in thy taining four hundred and thirty years, com- sight, are but as yesterday when it is past, mences on the fifteenth day of the month and as a watch in the night."* “ Our fathers, Abib, which answers to the end of our April, where are they? the prophets, do they live or the beginning May. And some learned for ever?". Secing then that all these chronologists have undertaken to prove, from things shall be dissolved, what manner of the scripture history and astronomical calcu- persons ought ye to be, in all holy conversalations, that Abraham departed from Haran, tion and godliness ; looking for and hasting the paschal lamb was sacrificed in Egypt, unto the coming of the day of God, wherein and Christ expired upon the cross, as the the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, propitiation for the sins of the world, on Cal- and the elements shall melt with fervent vary, in the identical month of the year, day heat? Nevertheless we, according to his of the month, and hour and minute of the promise, look for new heavens and a new day. This period contains a succession of earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”+ seven lives, including Abraham's, from his “ So teach us to number our days, that we seventy-fifth year to the eightieth of the life may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” / “ Many of Moses.

shall come from the east and west, and shall From the creation, then, to the exodus, is sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the space of two thousand five hundred and in the kingdom of heaven."

6 The law was thirteen years, and a succession of twenty- given by Moses, but grace and truth came four lives. The date of this event, in rela- by Jesus Christ."|| * And he that sat upon tion to other important and well known the throne said, Behold, I make all things events in the history of mankind, stands as new." “ He which testifieth these things follows: it happened after the death of Abra- saith, Surely, I come quickly. Amen. Even ham, three hundred and thirty years. After so, come, Lord Jesus."T the death of Isaac, two hundred and twenty

† 2 Pet. iii. 11-13.1 Pg. xc. 12. five. After the death of Jacob, one hundred & Mat. viii. 11. | John i. 17.

* Ps. xc. 4.

| Rev. xxii. 21.



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 carne 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 in 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 eal.—Exodus xvi. 11-15.

Man, composed of body and spirit, is giv-| his penetrating understanding, his quickness ing continual indication of the origin from of apprehension, loftiness of thought, eager. which he springs. His creative imagination, ness of desire, fondness of hope ; nay, even

his erect figure, and a countenance turned supply; not in heaps but in handfuls. And upward to the skies, bespeak him the son of when God was pleased miraculously to feed God, into whose nostrils Jehovah has breath- Israel in the wilderness for forty years toed the breath of life, and whom he has gether, the food of every day came in its day. framed after his own image. On the other All attempts to hoard were defeated. Every hand, appetites perpetually craving a supply one's portion was sufficiently ample; and out of the earth; the law of his nature, which accumulation became a nuisance instead of stretches him in a state of insensibility upon wealth. the lap of his mother, for one third of his ex Men, under the impulse of their passions istence, in order to support the employments sluggishly crawl, or eagerly run to the obof the other two; and rational powers sub-jects of their pursuit; but God is ever adjected to the will of sense, show us a crea- vancing towards his in the same steady, mature taken from the dust of the ground, al- jestic pace. When we hear of the birth of ways dependent upon it, and hastening to Moses, the deliverer of Israel, we immedireturn thitherward again.

ately conclude that the time of their redempProvidence permits us not for a moment tion is now at hand. But behold forty years to forget who and whence we are. Have we elapse before a single effort is made for this laboured an hour or two? Hunger, and thirst, purpose. And, it is then the feeble effort of and weariness irresistibly draw us to the a solitary individual to avenge a private grosser elements of which we are compound- wrong; while the general enfranchisement ed. A little bread and water having dis- seems rather retarded than accelerated by it; pensed their nourishing virtue, a short sleep and another period of forty years passes, withhaving restored our wasted powers, the soul out one apparent step taken towards public starts up into conscious immortality, it springs liberty. The fetters of Egypt are at length forward to eternity, grasps the globe, expa- broken, and Israel is enlarged; but the postiates from sphere to sphere, ascends to the session of Canaan is still at a distance; and throne of God himself. At one time, we be- a third space of forty years consumes that hold a grovelling, contemptible being, all whole generation in the wilderness; and body, absorbed in the low and gross desire Moses, their conductor, dies at the age of of the moment, a fit companion to the beasts one hundred and twenty years, before the that perish; and anon we see that very sole of one foot enters into the land of prosame wretched creature becoming all spirit

, mise, as a possession. So unlike are the Jeaving the earth behind him, mixing with preconceptions of erring men to the designs angels, and holding fellowship with the Fa- of the infinitely wise God. ther of spirits.

When we behold that vast congregation, Religion is constantly aiming at the resto- by such a display of Omnipotence rescued ration of our fallen nature, is still exerting from bondage, conducted through the Red her quickening power to raise the bestial Sea, made to triumph over all their enemies, into rational, the rational into divine; she we are apt to consider them as the favourites graciously employs herself in gradually de- of Heaven, destined to personal honours and taching us from things seen and temporal, possessions. But the event teaches us to and in uniting us to those which are unseen correct our hasty judgment, and instructs us and are eternal. The world, on the con- that not the particular interests of individutrary, is as constantly striving to degrade, als, but the great interests of the church of to depress, to extinguish the immortal prin- God, are the care of Heaven ; that, though ciple, and to sink the man in the brute. Aaron and his sons may die, the priesthood Hence we see the worldling dreaming of ever lives; and that while prophet after promuch goods laid up for many years, endea- phet retires, it is only to make room for the vouring to confer duration even upon his Prince and Lord of all the prophets. sensuality ; while Christ teacheth his disci Of little consequence is it to obtain posples to pray, saying, “Give us this day our session of expected good, unless we be fitted daily bread.'

And by this admonition, he for the enjoyment of it. A nation of slaves powerfully checks immoderate anxiety about was unqualified to exercise the rights, and the future. “ Therefore, I say unto you, to enjoy the privileges of citizens. Israel take no thought for your life, what ye shall had no existence in Egypt but merely a naeat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your tural one. They had no civil constitution, body, what ye shall put on: is not the life no laws, no government. To have been more than meat, and the body than raiment? conducted directly to Canaan in such a state Behold the fowls of the air : for they sow not, had been the reverse of a benefit. Provineither do they reap, nor gather into barns; dence therefore thought proper to employ a yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are series of years in the wilderness, in training ye not much better than they ?!**

the people for empire, in modelling a governTo teach men their constant dependence, ment suitable to their future condition, and their provision is bestowed in a gradual, daily by enacting wise laws, respecting both reli* Mall. vi. 25, 26.

gion and civil polity, prepared them for that

exalted rank which they were to hold among when we are in such a situation, that no the nations; and that duration of power and means can be used with a probability of sucimportance, with which the salvation of the cess. If God in his providence has brought whole human race was so closely connected. us into the wilderness, where no corn can Thus the eternal decree makes the posses- grow, where no water flows, we may reasion of the heavenly Canaan sure to every sonably look for an interposition from above heir of glory; which decree, the justifying for our support, which we should expect in grace, and adopting love of his heavenly vain in a land of corn and vineyards. Where

ner declare and confirm; but he is not there is a field for the exercise of foresiglit, brought home to his Father's house above, industry, and diligence, we tempt God intill through the school of discipline, and by stead of honouring him, when we cast our the Spirit of holiness, he is “made meet to work, and not our care upon him. And yet be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints it is not uncommon to see a listless, indolent in light.”

disposition, wanting to pass itself for reliMen, through impatience and peevishness, ance on the goodness of Heaven. Herod miss the very end at which they aim. Ca- desired to see Christ merely in the view of naan flies but the farther off, from being gratification to an idle curiosity in hope of grasped at too soon. The homely provision seeing a miracle performed; but his motive brought from Egypt was now spent; the being wrong and unworthy, his desire was milk and honey of Canaan were not yet not indulged. The Pharisees, from a capbestowed. The wilderness naturally pro- tious, unbelieving spirit, tempted Christ, duced nothing for food, hardly water to "asking a sign from heaven;" but though quench their thirst. The wonders of Egypt, signs innumerable were every day exhibited the parting of the Red Sea, the sweetening in compassion to the miserable, and condeof the bitter waters of Marah, all, all is for- scension to the weak, no sign but that “ of gotten the moment distress eomes upon them. the prophet Jonas,” was given to the self“And the whole congregation of the chil conceited infidel. JEHOVAH performs the dren of Israel murmured against Moses and wonders of his power and goodness, neither Aaron in the wilderness.” God immediately to save the exertions of the lazy, nor to tickle takes up the cause as his own; but instead the imaginations of the curious. His object of expressing the resentment of an insulted is not to make men stare and wonder, but to sovereign and benefactor, declares his gra- do them good. cious resolution to overcome this ungracious Secondly. Man's happiest estate is to feel spirit, by compliance and kindness; and men, his daily, constant dependence upon his unworthy of the meanest earthly fare, have Maker, and to see the regular promised supa promise of a daily supply of bread from ply evincing the truth and faithfulness of its heaven. But as God does not always with bountiful Author. With a monitor for God hold in displeasure, so he does not always pressing in upon us through every avenue grant from love. When Providence deigns of the soul, we are nevertheless apt to be into indulge the humours and gratify the lusts attentive and unthankful. It is therefore an of men, it is far, very far from being a token instance of great goodness, when God is for good. A promise of bread in the morn- pleased to force himself upon our thoughts, ing is precious information; but the addition and to invite us to communion with the of flesh to the full in the evening wears Father of our spirits,” in the commerce of a rather the appearance of a threatening. constant, habitual friendship. Here then the When our desires exceed the bounds of wis- poor have infinitely the advantage over the dom, the accomplishment, not the disappoint- rich. They see, or they are blind indeed, ment of them, becomes our punishment. they see their “dry morsel and their dinner

It is remarkable too, that the luxurious of herbs," coming at the expected hour from part of their demand was granted before that the bounty of indulgent Heaven. They are which was necessary. The quails came in not suffered to be careless, impious, and unthe evening; the manna appeared not till grateful. Their homely fare is garnished and the next morning. Another proof, that the seasoned with what gold cannot purchase, supply granted flowed not from unmixed nor power compel, the gentle whispers of a affection.

Father's love, the kindly welcome of an afWithout going at present into any of the fectionate friend. And yet the bulk of mancritical inquiries which have been pursued, kind is striving and straining to get out of respecting either the name or the nature of this happy state; eagerly catching at a situthis wonderful bread, we proceed to make a ation which would infallibly betray them into few practical observations upon it, founded self-sufficiency, insolence, and irreligion. upon the letter of the history, as it stands That proud word, independence, is continuin our bible.

ally in their mouths, and the thing itself is | First. Then and then only is faith war- in their hearts; not considering, that the rea! ranted to expect relief from a miracle, when happiness of man consists in mutual connexmeans have been tried without effect; or, lion and dependence, and that the glory and

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »