« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
by, every circumstance of aggravation.... deliberation, presumption, filial ingratitude, in the face of solemn and repeated engagements. If Moses died the death, for once speaking unadvisedly with his lips, in the moment of passion; “if thou, Lord, art strict to mark iniquity, where shall I stand ?” how shall I escape ?
But is death a punishinent to a good man? No. As in the death of Moses, therefore, we behold the jus. tice and severity of God, so, in its consequences, we behold his goodness and loving-kindness. The evil is slight and temporary; the good is unspeakably great, and eternally permanent; exclusion from Canaan is admission into the kingdom of heaven ;." to be ab. sent from the body is to be present with the Lord.'' Faith, indeed, redeems not from the power of the grave, but it dissipates all the horror of the tomb;
transforms it into a resting place for the weary pilgrim; · and converts the king of terrors into a minister of joy.
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory ? Thanks be to God, who giveth us the vic. tory, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” “The saying that is written, is come to pass, death is swallowed up of victory ; mortality is swallowed up of life.” “ Life and immortality are brought to light by the gospel.” We “know whom we have believed :" we believe in him who hath said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die."
HISTORI OF MOSES.
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites : afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people....NUMB. xxxi. 1, 2.
THE interest which every reader of taste and senT sibility takes in the life and actions of Moses is never permitted to flag, much less totally to sink and expire. His infant cries, from the very first moment, awaken our sympathy; and his departing words, at the age of a hundred and twenty years, continue to excite our esteeni and admiration. Whether employed as a minister of vengeance or of mercy, he inspires affection or commands respect.
The love of life is not only natural and innocent, but important and necessary. We are instructed to guard, to preserve, to prolong it, at once by the constitution and frame of our nature, and by manifold examples of the highest authority. And while Providence permits the farther extension of it, the reasons and end of that extension are obviously manifest. Not a single hour is added to the life of any one, merely to make up such a quantity of time. No, every moment is destined to its peculiar purpose, passes to account, calls to its proper use and employment. To dream of premature retirement from the exercise of our faculties and functions, of mere existence without employment, is an attempt to defeat the intention of the Creator in sending us into the world ; is a degradation and perversion of the powers
of the human mind; is to be dead while we live. The inquiry of a well regulated spirit, to the last, is, “ Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do ?” While any of my powers remain, however blunted, however impaired, to whom shall I dedicate the poor remains ? Enfeebled, exhausted as I am, is there no one respect in which I can yot glorify Go!, ir to be useful to my feilow creatures ? And, to the last, the great Sup. porter of life, the Ruler of the world, has some command to give, some labor to be performed, some exercise of the hand, the head, or the heart to enjoin, some purpose of justice or of love to accomplish.
Moses has received warning to depart, but the hour of release is not yet come. And though his offence at the waters of Meribahı must be punished with death, the tranquillity of his mind is not thereby discomposed, nor his intercourse with Heaven interrupted, nor his zeal in performing the duties of his station abated. The God whom he had so long and faithfully served, continues to converse with him as a man with his friend, communicates to him his designs, and employs him in ti.e execution. Our lives too are forfeited ; the sentence of death is upon us; under a respite of unknown, uncertain duration, our days are passing away. Improved ever so well, they cannot indeed redeen from the grave, nor alter the immutable decree; but their improvement may alleviate the bitterness of death, and pluck out the sting. The inevitable course of nature, and the righteous decisions of a holy law, destroy not the sacred communications which subsist between a merciful God and a gracious spirit. To receive a command from an offended father, after judg. ment has been pronounced, partakes of the nature of a pardon; and it is no slender consolation, even under the stroke of justice, to reflect that paternal affection was pleascd to regard and accept future obedience and submission, if not as an atonement for offence, at least aj a mark of contrition for having transgressed. As if, therefore, we could wipe out the memory of the past; as if persevering labors of gratitude and love could purchase our release: as if death were to be prevenied, disarmed or destroyed, by the efforts of the passing moment, let us awake and arise to the knowledge, the study and the practice of our heavenly Father's will.
The service prescribed to Moses on this occasion was the execution of justice on a nation of offenders. The vature of the offence has been binted at in a lormer Lecture; and we may form a judgment of its enormity, from the vengeance which pursued it. The state of Midian, at the period in question, exhibits the last stage of moral depravity...a corrupted people carrying on a temporary political design, by means the most scandalous and dishonorable...the dearest and most delicate interests of human nature vilely sacrificed to its worst and most disgraceful propensities... husbands countenancing the prostitution of their wives, and parents that of their daughters, in order to gratify ambition, avarice or revenge. A nation of such a character is necessarily hastening to atter destruction, without fire from heaven, or the sword of a foreign enemy. But what vice was accelerating by its own native energy, Providence hastens to an issue liy a special interposition, and “ the Lord makes himseit known by the judgment which he executes."
The force which it was thought proper to employ for the extermination of this debauched race, is indication sufficient how low its character was rated. Immersed in sensuality, enervated by luxury, a bandful of men was deemed enough to destroy them. Aibousand out of every tribe of Israel, twelve thousand meu in all, Moses considers as fully competent to the expo cution of this enterprize ; and the event fully justified the estimate he bad made. It is likewise remakable, that he neither commands in this expedition, it! person, nor commits the conduct of it to Joshua, or any other of military profession : but to “Phinta, tile son of
Eleazar the priest,” furnished “ with thie holy instruments, and the trumpets to blow, in his hand.” We have here, therefore, the idea of a solemn public execution, rather than of regular war. No resistance is made, no blood but that of the criminals is shed; they dare not meet in the field those whom in the secret chambers they could ensnare. In vain their hoary adviser Balaam, urges them to teats of arms, and sets them an example of courage ; supported by five kings and their armies, he falls together with them, by the sword of Israel, an awful monument, how certainly, however slowly, eternal justice overtakes the sinner !
The immense booty which this easy victory transferred to the Israelites, is a farther demonstration of the feebleness and dissolution of their unwarlike enemy. They had wealth without being rich, luxury without enjoyment, policy without wisdom, kingly power without government, and zeal for religion without an object of worship. Conquered the moment they are attacked, having no resource in public or private virtue ; men lost to a sense of what constitutes true female dignity, women precipitating that corrup. tion of which they were the miserable victims... they hold up to mankind a fearful but instructive example of the native, necessary, inevitable consequences of vice. Up to similar causes the dowplal of still greater states may be traced ; and if sin be the ruin of any kingdom, what individual oflender shall dare to flatter bimself with the hope of escaping the righteous judgment of God?
The severity with which judgment was executed on the Midianites, helps farther to unfold their character. An effeminate, luxurious people, generally ex. cites contempt at most; but here a holy and just indignation is kindled. Heaven itself is up in arms against a degenerate race; and Moses, the meekest of men, accuses the exterminators of the whole race of Midian of weak and excessive lenity. How is this to be accounted for? It will be found on inquiry, that