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By laying on of the apostles' hands, miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost were communicated ; and by laying on of the hands of the presbytery, Timothy was solemnly set apart for exercising the office of a bishop; and thus a great part of the christian world continues to install its ministers in the pastoral office.
Moses was farther commanded “ to cause Joshua to stand before Éleazer the priest,” who was probably to offer up sacrifice in behalf of the commander elect, and by this additional solemnity to impress both upon his own mind and upon those of the spectators, the weight and importance of the sacred charge committed unto him. It is added, verse 20th, 16 And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient."
This is interpreted by some commentators, of those rays of glory, which are supposed to have surrounded the head of Moses, ever since his descent from God in the mount, and which so dazzled the eyes of the beholder, that in speaking to the people he was under the necessity of putting a veil over his face. By the imposition of his hands upon the head of Joshua, according to the commandment, this external, sensible honour is understood to have been communicated from the one to the other, and that, in consequence of it, Joshua henceforth wore a visible token of the choice of Heaven.
Conjecture and fancy blend too much in this exposition, to procure for it a very high degree of respect. Juster and more sober criticism explain the passage as implying, that Moses should immediately associate Joshua with himself in the executive powers of government, devolve upon him a share both of the respect and the care which pertained to the supreme command; that he might enjoy the satisfaction, while he yet lived, and which he so much desired, of beholding a wise and a good man conducting the Israelitish affairs, in church and state, with discretion, and carrying on the plan of Providence to its consummation.
There is another article in the injunction laid upon Moses, respecting the appointment of his successor, which has greatly exercised and puzzled the critics. " And he shall stand before Eleazer the priest, who shall ask counsel for him, after the judgement of Urim, before the Lord; at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation."*
The difficulty is, what was the Urim, and the judgement of Urim, of which Eleazer was to ask counsel in behalf of Joshua, and wherein Moses differed from Joshua as to this ? Urim is, in general, in scripture, found in connexion with Thummim. The words import light and perfection; and they appear to have been some part or appendage of the breastplate, that essential article of the high priest's dress. They were not, it is alleged, the production of human skill, like the other particulars of the sacred clothing, for there is no account of their fabrication by the hands of man; but when the breastplate was finished, Moses, we are told, “ put into it the Urim and the Thummim," whatever they were, immediately from God.
The method of consultation has also furnished ample matter of dispute. The most approved tradition is this, for scripture gives but few, and those very general hints, upon the subject, the person who desired to consult the oracle, (and none but public persons, and on great public occasions, were admitted to that privilege,) intimated his intention to the high priest; who, at the hour of incense, arrayed in his pontifical vestments, entered the holy place, accompanied at a little distance by the magistrate or general, who made the inquiry. The high priest placed himself with his face towards the entrance of the most
* Numb. xxvii. 21
holy place. The veil which separated the holy place from the holy of holies, was drawn up for the occasion, so that he stood directly fronting the ark of the covenant, overshadowed by the cherubim, where the Schechinah, or visible glory, resided. The inquirer then standing behind, pronounced the question, or consultation, in a few plain words; such for example as these, “ Shall I go up against the Philistines, or shall I not go up ?” This question was again repeated solemnly and distinctly by the high priest before the Lord : and on looking downwards upon the Urim in the breastplate, the answer of God was seen in characters of reflected light, from the excellent glory, and wbich the high priest audibly repeated in the ears of the party concerned. “Go ;" or, « Thou shalt not go."
When the oracle refused to give any response, as in the case of Saul, it was considered as a mark of high displeasure. God would not answer that wicked prince “ by the judgement of Urim," but because he had wilfully forsaken God, an offended God, in just displeasure, gave him up to ask counsel of hell, and to follow it to his own destruction. “We have also," christians, “a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed ; as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the daystar arise in your hearts."*
Joshua being referred to this mode of consultation, compared with the history of Moses, points out the difference between these two leaders of Israel. * There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.”+
God manifested himself immediately unto Moses ; conversed with him as a man with his friend. Joshua was kept at a greater distance, and enjoyed communion with God through the intervention of appointed means. Just as before Moses was admitted to the very summit of the Mount, received within the veil of thick darkness, which at once concealed and revealed the divine glory; while Joshua was confined to a lower region, kept in the place and on the duty of a servant. But we must conclude.
The whole scene that has now passed in review, speaks directly to the heart and conscience. It presents a striking and instructive instance of the goodness and severity of God. The faults and infirmities of his dearest children he neither overlooks, nor forgets to punish. For one offence, and seemingly a slight one, Moses is excluded from Canaan. No humiliation, penitence or entreaty can, of themselves, remove the guilt nor prevent the chas
tisement of sin. The neglect or insult offered by a child, a brother, a friend, - strikes deeper than the most violent outrage from a stranger, or an avowed enemy. The transgression of Moses at the waters of strife was thus aggravated, and he must die for it. O my God, enter not into judgement with me, whose crimes are heightened 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 punishment to a good man? No. As in the death of Moses, therefore, we behold the justice 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 absent 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
* 2 Peter i. 19. Vol. v.
+ Deut. xxxiv. 10.
terrors into a minister of joy. “O death, where is thy sting? O grare, where is thy victory ? Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory, 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.”
HISTORY OF MOSES.
NUMBERS XXXI. 1, 2.
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward
shalt thou be gathered unto thy people. Tue interest which every reader of taste and sensibility 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 esteem 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 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 yet glorify God, or be useful to my fellow creatures? And to the last, the great Supporter of life, the Ruler of the world, has some command to give, some labour 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 Meribah 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 the 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 tedeem from the grave, nor alter the immutable decree; but their improvement may alleviate the bitterness of death and pluck out the stir:g. 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 judgeInent 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 pleased to regard and accept future obedience and submission, if not as an atonement for offence, at least as a mark of contrition for having transgressed. As if, therefore, we could wipe out the memory of the past; as if persevering labours of gratitude and love could purchase our release ; as if death were to be prevented, 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 nature of the offence has been hinted at in a former Lecture; and we may form a judgement 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 mcans the most scandalous and dishonourable--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 utter destruction, without fire from heaven, or the sword of a foreign enemy. But what vice was accelerating by its own native energy, Providence bastens to an issue by a special interposition, and “the Lord makes himself known by the judgement 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 handful of men was deemed enough to destroy them. A thousand out of every tribe of Israel, twelve thousand men in all, Moses considers as fully competent to the execution of this enterprize; and the event fully justified the estimate he had made. It is likewise remarkable, that he neither commands in this expedition, in person, nor commits the conduct of it to Joshua, or any other of military profession; but to “ Phineas, the son of Eleazer the priest,” furnished “ with the hol, 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 feats 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 corruption 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 downfal of still greater states may be traced; and if sin be the ruin of any kingdom, what individual offender shall dare to flatter himself with the hope of escaping the righteous judgement of God ? .
The severity with which judgement was executed on the Midianites, helps farther to unfold their character. An effeminate, luxurious people, generally excites 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 in a very dissolute state of society, vices of the most odious and atrocious kind are necessarily blended with others less offensive. The love of pleasure is the predominant character ; but in order to feed and support that passion, arts the most criminal and detestable must be employed. Injustice, violence, perjury and murder follow in the train of lust. The moral principle is destroyed : all sense of shame is lost. The general depravity keeps every individual transgressor in countenance. Appearances are no looger attended to or kept up. Men glory in their shame. The very offices of religion are perverted into instruments of debauchery. Such, apparently, was the state of Midian at the period under review ; such was that of Israel during the government and priesthood of Eli; and such was that of the Assyrian and Roman empires immediately previous to their subversion. And in such a state, is it any wonder to see heaven and earth combined to root out and overthrow-a holy and righteous God employing the ministration of the gentlest of mankind to cut off the name and memory of such a people from the earth ? When punishment so sigoal is inflicted, we may safely infer, that the guilt which provoked it from such hands was enormous.
On reviewing the little army of Israel, after the victory, a fact turns up unequalled in the history of mankind- not so much as one of the twelve thousand has fallen in battle : and that in attacking and destroying a nation so populous as to contain thirty-two thousand females of a particular description.* The hand of God was clearly visible in this, and thankfully acknowledged. The superfluous ornaments which lately published the shame of Midian, now proclaim the piety and gratitude of Israel; and become part of the sacred treasary of the tabernacle. Every creature of God is good in itself, and intended to do good. Use the world so as not to abuse it, and the Creator is glorified. Every day added to our life is as much a miracle of mercy, as the preservation of every individual of the twelve thousand in the day of battle. Let our gratitude declare itself in an habitual devotedness of heart and life, to the God of our life, and the length of our days; let us present our “ bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service : and be transformed by the renewing of our mind, that we may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”+
In the punishment inflicted on Midian, we behold a righteous God prosecuting an injury done to Israel, as an insult offered to himself. And indeed every offence against society is a direct attack of the divine authority, which has fenced the person, the fame and the virtue of our neighbour on every side, against all the assaults, whether of violence or deceit. The character and conduct, in connexion with the untimely end of the arch-seducer Balaam,
* Nomb xxxi. 35.
* Rom. xii, 1, 2,