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And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazer his son: and Aaron died there in the top of the mount. And Moses and Eleazer came down from the mount. And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.-NUMBERS XX. 23—29.
The love of life is one of the most useful flesh, for the greater good cf the church and and important principles implanted in human of the world, argues a great, a noble, and nature; and death, the necessary end of all disinterested spirit; it excites our love and men, is an event mercifully and in wisdom admiration. That man is indeed immortal, hid from our eyes. Hoping that we may the daily language of whose conduct is, live till to-morrow, we feel ourselves impelled “Let me perform at least one good action to exert ourselves to-day, to make some pro- more, I know I am to die; let my tongue, vision for it. Not knowing the time of their then, yet once again speak praise to God and death, men are engaged to act as if they instruction to man, before it becomes for ever were immortal. And though no wise man silent. Before the cold hand of death freezes would " wish to live always," or can deem it up the genial current at my heart, let it pour possible, yet the precise period never comes, out the gentle stream of kindness, sympathy, when we find ourselves so entirely unoccu- and love. While this arm is able as yet to pied with temporal prospects or pursuits, so extend itself, and this hand to expand, let it totally mortified to the world, as to be dis- be extended to protect the oppressed, to supposed with cheerfulness to leave it. Hence port the weak; let it be expanded to feed the the business of the world goes on, which hungry, to clothe the naked, to relieve the would otherwise stand still; and that God, miserable. Ere my eyes close, to open no of whose years there can be no end, is carry- more, let some one of the wonderful things ing on designs of everlasting moment, by of God again pass through them, to revive frail and shortlived instruments. This man my drooping spirits, to cheer and elevate my makes a few feeble, dying efforts, and expires. sinking soul; and before I divest myself of Another comes after him, takes up the instru- my robes of office, never to resume them, ment which his fellow had laid down, makes let me humbly endeavour to minister to the his stroke or two, and expires likewise; and Lord, and to the spiritual wants of men, in yet by means of efforts so weak, so inter- the duties of my station.” rupted, and self-destroying, the purposes of Calm and composed as was the death of Heaven proceed, the building of God rises; Aaron, we advance toward it with slowness every loss is instantly repaired, every defect and reluctance, and therefore with eagersupplied, and no chasm in the chain of Provi- ness seize the occasion which scripture afdence is permitted to take place. Hence fords, of adverting to some farther incidents men are dignified with the title of fellow- of his life, before we come to the history of workers with God, and the perishing attempts that fatal event. of perishing creatures are employed in ma It was with astonishment and grief, we turing the plans of infinite wisdom, and are saw him engaged in a plan of disaffection honoured by the acceptance and approbation and sedition against his amiable and excelof Him who “worketh all things after the lent brother; and in wonder mixed with tercounsel of his own will." What a motive to ror, we observed the mingled lenity and diligence, exertion, and perseverance ! severity of the punishment inflicted by God
"I paint for eternity," replied the great on that impious, unnatural, and ungrateful artist of antiquity, when reprehended for an conduct. But the offence was not expiated over curious, painful, and laborious attention when Miriam was struck with leprosy, and to the more nice and delicate touches of his Aaron thereby tacitly reprehended; when favourite pieces. What a lesson of encour- Miriam was restored, and Israel permitted to agement, admonition, and reproof to Chris- move forwards. Transgressors often flatter tians! They are indeed acting for eternity; themselves that surely the bitterness of death not like the painter, pursuing the empty bub- is past, when a righteous God is but awaking ble, reputation, but aiming at “the end of to vengeance; and it is not seldom found, their faith, even the salvation of their souls.” that between crimes and punishments there They are striving continually to bring a is such an apparent affinity, that the criminal new tribute of praise to God, and to promote cannot but read his guilt in the evil which the everlasting happiness of mankind. overtakes him; and the world is made to
It is truly pitiable to see a poor creature " see," not only the rod,” but “ him that cieaving to life after the relish of it is gone, hath appointed it." merely from a fond attachment to the things Six years have elapsed, from the sedition of time. It is more lamentable still to behold of Aaron and Miriam, when a similar conspi& miserable wretch shrinking from death, racy is formed to discredit the government through a well-grounded horror of its conse- of Moses, and the priesthood of Aaron, by quences. But to desire life from a desire of certain turbulent, envious, and ambitious men doing good; to be willing to continue in the of their own tribe, in confederacy with soine
of a similar spirit of the tribe of Reuben. So signal and alarming, is apt speedily to be obwidely and so suddenly has the malignity of literated—such is the thoughtlessness and revolt spread itself, that no less than two folly of men! He was pleased to appoint a hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, lasting memorial of the preference which he famous in the congregation, men of renown, had bestowed on Aaron and his family, and with their adherents, have been infected by it: to confer a fresh badge of distinction on the and Aaron has his large share of that obloquy, man whom he delighted to honour. Moses which he had before so unjustly employed, is directed to take of each of the tribes of to weaken the hands, and to blast the repu- Israel a several rod, and to inscribe every tation of his brother. But ah! my friends, a one with the name of the prince of that tribe leprosy of seven days could not wash away to which it belonged, writing the name of the stain of this transgression; neither could Aaron on the rod of the tribe of Levi. They the blood of one unhappy victim, make atone- were to be laid up together over night before ment for a crime in which so many were in the Lord, in the tabernacle of the congregavolved. The Lord creates "a new thing,"tion before the testimony, and previous intito mark the severity of his hot displeasure. mation was given to all concerned, that by When Moses had made an end of denouncing the next morning God would give an explithe judgment of God, it came to pass that cit, and unequivocal declaration of his will, “the ground clave asunder that was under respecting the office of priesthood. them, and the earth opened her mouth, and The God whom we adore, would rather swallowed them up, and their houses, and all make himself known by the wonders which the men that appertained unto Korah, and he performs, and the mercies which he disall their goods. They, and all that apper- penses, than by the judgments which he exetained to them, went down alive into the pit, cutes. It was fulfilled accordingly. The and the earth closed upon them: and they rods of the eleven other tribes remained as perished from among the congregation. And they were deposited; separated from the pathere came out fire from the Lord, and con- rent stock, sapless, withered, and dead; but sumed the two hundred and fifty men that the rod of Aaron, as if it had been still a offered incense."* A plague broke out among branch united to a living root, and by a prothe people, which, before it was stayed by gress of vegetation infinitely rnore rapid ihan the interposition of the high priest himself, nature knows, in the course of one night, offering incense between the living and the brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, dead, had consumed fourteen thousand seven and yielded almonds."* And lo, a miracle hundred.
as great as a lifeless twig bringing forth What, О Aaron, were now thy feelings, fruit, the fierce and angry spirit which acts surveying a field of blood so dreadful and so of just vengeance had but irritated, is by a extensive! What were thy feelings in re- miracle of kindness and condescension, molflecting that for the very offence which thou lified, melted, subdued, extinguished: and thyself hadst committed, Miriam was a leper, thus necessary are signs and wonders to siand thousands were slain! Did not thy heart lence and persuade murmuring, unbelieving tremble, as the sword of the destroying angel Hebrews, as well as to render inexcusable laid heaps upon heaps, whilst thou stoodst in impenitent Egyptians. the fearful gap, lest its keen edge should This mark of preference having been reach thyself?
openly exhibited, for the conviction and saIt is remarkable, that the enormity of the tisfaction of all, commandment is once more greater crimes which Aaron committed, was given to carry back this wondrous rod, and exposed by the judgments wherewith God to deposit it by itself before God, with the visited similar crimes in others, not in him- other sacred furniture of the most holy place, self; whereas, for an apparently lighter trans- to serve to latest posterity as one of the pregression, his life was irrecoverably forfeited, cious monuments of the divine favour to their and he fell under a doom, which no peni- forefathers. It is highly probable, that it altence nor supplication could alter or avert. ways preserved that verdure to which it was We cannot judge of the malignity of crimes thus preternaturally restored; and is a lively from certain external circumstances. Both image of the constant preservation of the in the good which men do, and the evil they universe, by that all-powerful Word which commit
, God principally regards the heart spake it into existence at first; of the conand intention; but to discern and to judge of tinued support of life, by the merciful visitathe thoughts and intents of the heart, is a tion of that Spirit who “ breathed into man's prerogative, which with awful propriety he nostrils the breath of life; and man became a has reserved to himself.
living soul.”+ God has punished the defection of Korah Aaron, thus again distinguished and honourand his abettors in the most open and exem- ed of Heaven, continues to enjoy the dignity, plary manner. Not satisfied with this, be- and to perform the duties of the priesthood for cause the memory of judgments the most thirty-one years longer; we doubt not, with
Gen ii. 7.
Numb. xv. 31-33. 35.
Nuinb. xvii. 8.
credit to himself, and to the satisfaction and mount Hor, and learn to die to the vanity advantage of all Israel. But, alas! he has the and glory of this world, and to cleave, with mortification of seeing that people gradually increased ardour to that gospel, by which and imperceptibly wasting away before his “ life and immortality are brought to light," eyes; he feels himself the dying minister of and to trust in that great High Priest, who, a dying congregation; he observes the hand though he “ was dead, is alive, and lives for of justice doing that by slow degrees, which evermore," and giveth “eternal life to as it might have accomplished at once, and em- many as he will." ploying forty years in what could have been Death, the most common of all events, at made the work of a single moment. At every season, and in whatever form it comes, length the stroke of death comes home to his is tremendous and affecting; but the appearown family, and it may be presumed to his ance of death, in the scene before us, is altovery heart. In the one hundred and twen-gether singular and uncommon. . It is indeed tieth
year of his age, and thirty-seventh of the death of an old man, but not occasioned his priesthood, Miriam, his sister by nature, by any apparent decay of nature, not prehis friend by habit and affection, and, sad to ceded by long sickness, not hastened on by think, his companion in offence, is removed disease or accident; but the spirit is surrento a world of spirits, and he is warned of his dered at the command of God, in the fulness own departure, by the loss of one of his near- of health, in the composure of perfect recolest and dearest relations. Moses delineates lection, without a hesitation of reluctant naher character with singular conciseness and ture, without regret, without a pang. When simplicity. The hand which she had in his sentence of death was pronounced upon preservation, when he was exposed, in early Moses himself, and for the self-same transintancy, upon the Nile, procures her an in- gression which shortened the life of Aaron, terest in his affection, and in those of his we find the fondness of nature, and the ferreaders, which the blameableness of some vour of religion, repeatedly uniting, to crave parts of her after conduct is unable wholly to a reprieve at least, if not a total remission: destroy. Our censure of her envy and ma- but Aaron, when summoned to depart, whelignity, in more advanced life, is somewhat ther it was from superior fortitude of mind, softened by the recollection of her childish from the consciousness of greater demerit, or tenderness, attachment, vigilance, and ad- that the historian has charitably drawn a veil dress; and, while we condemn the vehemence over a brother's infirmity, while he frankly of her spirit, and the unruliness of her tongue, exposes his own, prepares instantly and cheer. the edge of resentment is blunted, when we fully for the event. see her punished there, where a female is Were we to follow the impulse of imaginamost vulnerable, in the fairness of her looks, tion, we might, without overleaping the moand the agreeableness of her person, and we desty of nature, represent to you the deep heartily join in the prayer of Aaron in her concern wherewith the good man's own fabehalf: " Alas, my lord, let her not be as one mily was affected when the award of death dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed, was pronounced: the concern of all Israel at when he cometh out of his mother's womb;" | the thought of being deprived of the labours, and in that of Moses himself; “ Heal her the advices, the example, and the prayers of now, O God, I beseech thee.” From thence, their venerable high priest; the concern of to the hour of her death, a period of thirty- Moses in being made the messenger, almost seven years, the history is entirely silent the executioner of death, upon his much beconcerning her, and this is, perhaps, the high-loved brother, associate, and friend; himself est praise that can be bestowed upon her. too lying under the same condemnation. If, The sharp reproof which she had received after he received the command to ascend the for presuming to intermeddle in public affairs, mountain, that he might die, he was permithad taught her, we are bound in charity to ted to minister in the priest's office any more, believe, that the post of honour, for a woman, to pour out the blood of the sacrifice, to burn is a private station; that she is then most dis- incense upon the altar, to lift up his hands tinguished, most respectable, most valuable, and bless the people, with what holy fervour when the world knows and talks least about may we suppose these sacred services perher.
formed! with what devout attention would That self-same year the fatal summons is they be listened unto and waited upon, when addressed to Aaron also, and one brother is both minister and people knew for certain inade the messenger of death to the other. they were to meet no more! May we not The same hand which arrayed him in splen- suppose the good man, in strains such as did apparel, and consecrated him to the high these, taking a last, long farewell of those to and honourable office of priesthood, must strip whom he had for so many years stood in a rehim again, and anoint him to his burying. lation so tender and so intimate. “The time The whole progress of this solemn scene is of my departure, O Israel, is at length come, hughly pathetic and interesting. Let us at- and I am ready to be offered
That God 'end the funeral procession to the top of I who appointed me to serve you in holy things,
permi's me to wait at hisaltar no longer. I have fadeth not away. O death, where is thy sting? fulfilled my day. I have finished my course. O
grave, where is thy victory? Arise, let us I have survived the greatest part of my con- go hence. Arise, let us ascend to the top of temporaries, but must die at length. I leave the mountain.” you with remorse,
because I accuse myself Having, in whatever language, bidden a of many failures in point of duty towards you; final adieu to worldly connexions; in the I leave you with regret, because I sincerely sight of all the people, the high priest, in all love you; I leave you with joy, because I can the splendour of his official habit, sad and sowith confidence commit you to a guardian lemn, climbs up the hill, from which he never Providence, even to the God of your fathers, was to descend. What were the emotions of who can easily supply my place, by one wiser, Israel in gradually losing sight of their veneholier, and more faithful than me; and who, rable patriarch, to see him no more again I trust, will continue still to rule and to for ever? What were the feelings of the palead you by that best of men, of brothers, and triarch in surveying from the summit of the of friends. My body leaves you, but my spi- mountain the goodly tents of Jacob, in which rit cannot be separated from you; in death it he had an earthly concern no longer ? Nawill cleave unto you; and when set free from ture casts many “ a longing, lingering look the clogs of sense, it will still hover over you, behind ;" but faith looks forward, and beattend your journeyings, and, finally, rest in holds mortality swallowed up of life. Nature peace when Israel rests in the promised land. regrets a promised land ; unseen, unpossessThese forty years have I borne your names ed, unenjoyed, because of unbelief: faith engraved on jewels, upon my heart
, and I stretches the wing, and aims a bold but not will carry you with me in my heart, to the uncertain flight, to a heavenly Canaan, where regions of eternal day. Farewell, my sons; “ the wicked cease from troubling, and the Eleazer, the heir of my dignity and anxiety, weary are for ever at rest.” and Ithamar, my youngest hope. Think of The spirit fails as we proceed. The deaththe dreadful fate of your elder brothers, and warrant is again recited. The justice of the serve the Lord with reverence and godly sentence is acknowledged, and the prisoner fear. Think of your father's errors and learn prepares for death. The golden crown, the miwisdom. Ponder his approaching dissolu- tre, the girdle, the ephod, the breastplate, are tion, and learn the nothingness of human one after another deposited, and human glory grandeur. Call to your remembrance what is patiently surrendered. As they were severalProvidence has done to and for me, and re- ly yielded up by the father, they are severally joice with trembling. Again I am summoned assumed by the son. Stripped of all that coveraway; it is the voice of Moses, of my bro-ed the body, the body itself is at length laid ther; it is the voice of God I hear. The Lord down, and the mortal blow is at length struck bless thee, and keep thee, the Lord make his by Him who saith, " I make alive, and I kill.” face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto Aaron dies, but Eleazer lives. The priest exthee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon pires, but the priesthood is immortal. Three thee, and give thee peace. I come, my bro- ascend, only two return. What matters it how ther, I know whose command thou bearest; the poor perishing clay tabernacle were disI know that I must obey. But to part with posed of ? About the spirit of the man whom thee is the bitterness of death; endeared as God thus called away, we can be under no we are to each other by friendship, as allied anxiety nor apprehension. A general, and by blood-conjoined in office, knit together I doubt no., an unaffected mourning of thirty by habits of affection, united in life, and, days takes place; and all Israel lament when blessed reflection, not to be long divided by dead, the man whom many had envied, madeath. Thou wilt bury all my unworthiness ligned, and persecuted through life. in the grave; thou hast already buried it in This is one of the many happy consequenthe profounder, silenter tomb of a gentle and ces and effects of death! It shuts the mouth forgiving heart. I come, O my God, at thy of scandal ; it brings to light, unnoticed or call; I desire not to live, if thou biddest me obscured virtues; it draws the veil over bleto die. Yet I mourn to think that my death mishes and imperfections. is a mark of thy displeasure. But I see the sun Let the son of pride, who is rising into shining through the cloud; it is not wholly splendour, and bears “ his blushing honours in anger, thou art summoning me away; thick upon him," turn his eyes to the top of thou art graciously putting an end to my yonder mountain, and learn the nothingness painful labours, my anxious thoughts, my im- of all the glory of man. Is his station higher perfect services, to my weaknesses and wan- than that of the high priest of Israel? Are derings, and exalting me to a dignity far be- his vestments more magnificent, is his chayond what I have hitherto enjoyed. I shall racter more sacred, is his dignity more persee thee as thou art. I shall serve thee with manent, flow his honours from a higher out wearying. I shall offend no more. Hence source ? Behold Aaron laid low: retiring forth is laid up for me, a diadem for glory and from the world, naked, as naked he came infor beauty, a crown of righteousness that to it; the head which once wore the mitro,
levelled with the dust; the tongue which , or returning thy animosity; and learn to die once spoke so well, for ever dumb.
betimes to these wicked and odious passions. The hour of rest nightly admonishes us of Suppose him laid on the bed of death; stript the last fatal hour. We strip ourselves of our of those honours, talents, advantages, successgarments one by one, and lay them down; es which render him the object of jealousy we are reduced to the image of death ; the and malignity to thee. How you are disarmeye is closed ; our faculties are absorbed; ed! Pity and tenderness awake in your the form of the man only remains. And the breast. You now hate yourself, that ever time is at hand, we know it, when we must you could hate your brother. Let the reflecput off this body, as an uneasy, worn-out, tion of what may so soon happen reconcile useless vestment, fit only for the moth or the thee to him now. Mar not thy own comfort, dunghill. “ Man must say to corruption, by seeking to disturb his repose. The cold Thou art my father; and to the worm, Thou hand of death will speedily extinguish the art my sister and mother." “ All flesh is angry flame. grass, and all the goodliness of man as the “ They truly were many priests, because flower of the field."
they were not suffered to continue by reason Our very children are the harbingers of of death: but this man, because he continueth our dissolution. They are the pleasantest, ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.but the plainest monitors. Every step they Wherefore he is able to save them to the rise brings us a little lower; as they grow uttermost, that come unto God by him, seestronger and stronger, we grow weaker and ing he ever liveth to make intercession for weaker. They wait to assume our name, them."* “ He need not daily, as those high our place, our robes, our office: they are ready priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own to array themselves in our spoils. The eleva- sins, and then for the people's: for this he tion of Eleazer is the fall of Aaron. The pub- did once, when he offered up himself. For lic life of the son, is the death of the sire. the law maketh men high priests which have
Look to that mountain, Oman, and reflect infirmity; but the word of the oath which that he whom now you hate, envy, oppose, was since the law, maketh the Son, who is malign, will speedily be changed into a clod consecrated for evermore.”+ of earth, and rendered incapable of feeling |
| Heb. vii. 27, 28.
* Heb. vii. 23-25.
HISTORY OF BALAAM.
These are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteous ness; but was rebuked for his iniquily: the dumb ass, speaking with man's voice, forbad the madness of the prophet.—2 Peter ii. 15, 16.
Of all the evil propensities to which human and deluged it with blood, may be traced up sature is subject, there is no one so general, to an eager desire to obtain the territory, or so insinuating, so corruptive, and so obstinate, the treasure of another. Age, which blunts as the love of money. "It begins to operate all our other appetites, only whets this; and early, and it continues to the end of life. after the heart is dead to every other joy, it One of the first lessons which children learn, lives to the dear, the inextinguishable delight and one which old men never forget, is, the of saving and hoarding. value of money. The covetous seek and In exact proportion to their incapacity and guard it for its own sake, and the prodigal disinclination to make use of money, is the himself must first be avaricious, before he violence of men's thirst to possess it; and on can be profuse. This, of all our passions, is the threshold of eternity it cleaves to them, best able to fortify itself by reason, and is the as if life were just beginning. Philosophy last to yield to the force of reason. It most combats, satire exposes, religion condemns it unremittingly engages the attention and calls in vain: it yields neither to argument, nor into their fullest exertion all our powers of ridicule, nor conscience. Like the lean kine body and of mind. Ambition and pride, those in Pharaoh's dream, it devours all that comes powerful motives of human conduct, are but near it, and yet continues as hungry and ninistering servants to avarice. Reputation meagre as ever. If a representation of the and power are pursued chiefly as the means odiousness, criminality, and danger of this of procuring wealth ; and all the fierce con- vile affection can be of any use, it must be to tentions which have distracted the world, I those whose hearts are not yet hardened