« ElőzőTovább »
them that were oppressed, and they had no comforter ; and on the side of their oppressors there was power, but they had no comforter. Their cry reached heaven. He who made them had mercy upon them. He was pleased to choose me out of all the myriads of Israel, to bring them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. He taught my stammering tongue to speak plainly. He said to my fearful heart, Be strong. He armed me with his potent rod; and subjected the powers of nature to my command. The oppressor was crushed in his turn, and the oppressed went out free, full and triumphant. And to me, even unto me, it was given to conduct this great, difficult, dangerous, glorious enterprise; and Heaven crowned it with success."
4. How pleasing to reflect that the Spirit of God had employed him to communicate so much valuable knowledge to mankind! “ To me was this grace given, to trace nature up to its source; to ascend from son to father, up to the general parent of the human race; to rescue from oblivion the ages beyond the flood, and to rescue departed worth from the darkness of the grave. By me these venerable men, though dead, speak and instruct the world. By me the being and perfections, the works and ways, the laws and designs of the great Supreme stand unfolded ; the plan and progress of his providence, the system of nature, the dispensation of grace. To my writings sball ages and generations resort for the knowledge of events past, and for the promises and predictions of greater evenis yet to come. The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue, and the word of the Lord endureth forever.
5. What delight must it have afforded, in reviewing the past, to revive the memory of communion with God, of exalted intercourse with the Father of spirits! “ Blessed retirement from the noise of the world and the strife of tongues; solitude infinitely more delicious than all society! Wilderness of Horeb, school of wisdom, scene of calm and unmixed joy, in thee I learned to commune with my own heart, forgot the sensual, unsatisfying delights of Egypt, observed the glories of nature, contemplated the wonders of Providence, enjoyed the visions of the Almighty! Happy days, when I tended the flocks of Jetbro, obeyed the dictates of inspiration, and conversed with my heavenly Father, as a man with his friend! I saw him in flaming yet unconsuming fire, I heard his voice from the midst of the burning bush, my feet stood upon holy ground. And thou, sacred summit of Sinai, where the Most High imparted to me the counsels of his will; supernaturally sustained the feeble, mortal frame; irradiated my soul with the communications of his love, and my countenance with beams of light; how can I forget thee, and the forty hallowed days passed on thee, in converse more sublime than ever before feil to the lot of humanity! To thee, sacred structure, reared according to the pattern shewed me in the mount, to thee I look in rapturous recollection ! Thou wert my refuge in the hour of danger. In thee the assurances of divine favour and support, compensated, extinguished the unkindness of man. How often hast thou been to me a heaven upon earth!"
-But a retrospective view of life must have presented to Moses many objects painful and humiliating; and bitter recollections inust have mingled themselves with the sweet. The repeated defections of a stiffnecked and gainsaying people, whom no kindness could melt, no threatenings deter, no promise animate, no calamity subdue : a people who had requited the care of Heaven with reiterated, unprovoked rebellions; and his own labours of love, with hatred, insult and ingratitude. Painful it must have been to think, tbat he had survived a whole people, endeared to him by every strong, by every tender tie : that he had been gradually dying for forty years together, in a condemned, devoted race, which melted away before his eyes in the wilderness: that with his own hand he had stripped Aaron, his brother, of his pontifical gar
ments, and closed his eyes. Painful to reflect on his own errors and imperfections—his criminal neglect of God's covenant, which had nearly cost him his life : his sinful delay and reluctance to accept the divine commission appointing him the deliverer of Israel ; the bastiness of his spirit in defacing the work of God, by dashing the tables of the law to the ground, and breaking them in pieces; the impatience of his temper, the unadvisedness of his lips, the unguardedness of his conduct, at the waters of strife, which drew down displeasure on his head, and irreversibly doomed it to death. This uneasy retrospect would naturally lead to prospects as uneasy and distressing— The time of his departure is at hand; the body must speedily be dissolved and the dust return to the earth as it was. Against his admission Canaan is fenced as with a wall of fire, and a distant glimpse must supply the room of possession, and another must finish his work. Besides the natural horror of death, there was mingled in that bitter cup a particular sense of personal offence and fatherly displeasure as inflicting it.' Israel too, he foresaw, would after his decease revolt inore and more, and call down the judge nents of Heaven, and forfeit the promised inheritance—and this was to him the bitterness of death.
But by whạt brighter prospects was this gloom relieved, and the darkness of the valley of the shadow of death illuminated ! He saw the promise of God hastening to its accomplishment. The “ land flowing with milk and honey” was fully in view. The time, the set time was now come ; and what powers of nature could prevent the purpose of Heaven from taking effect ? Lord, thou art faithful and true ; Do now as thou hast said.” Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. My master is dismissing me from painful service ; I shall rest from my labours ; I shall receive the crown.
I am passing from the imperfect, interrupted communion of an earthly sanctuary, to the pure, exalted, uninterrupted, everlasting communications of the heavenly state. I shall see God as he is. I shall be changed into the same image. I shall be ever with the Lord. I shall shine in his likeness. I shall be added, united to the assembly of the faithful; to the venerable men of whom I wrote, to Abel the first martyr to the truth, to Enoch, who walked with Gud, to Noah, the preucher of righteousness, to Abraham, who believed, and was called the friend of God, to Joseph, whose bones are now at length to rest in the land of promise, to Aaron, my brother, by nature, by affection, in offence, in hope. With the natural eye I behold the fertile plains of an earthly Canaan : but by the eye of faith I descry another country, that is an heavenly; watered with the pure river of the water of life, where grow the trees of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations : where there is no more denth. My brethren, I die, but God will surely visit you. There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet, from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him shall ye
hearken. In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory. la Abraham's seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. Mortality is swallowed up of life; O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory."
- Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his." “ Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright for the end of that man is peace."
HISTORY OF MOSES.
DEUTERONOMY XXXI. 1, 2, 3.
Ånd Moses went and spake these words unto all Israel. And he said unto them, I am an hundred and twenty years old this day: I can no more go out and coine in : also the Lord bath said unto me, Thou shalt not go over this Jordan. The Lord thy God, he will go over befere thee, and he will destroy these nations from before thee, and thou shalt possess them: and Joshua, he shall go over before thee, as the Lord hath said.
The last words and the last actions of eminent men are remembered, repeated, recorded with a mournful pleasure. We listen with peculiar attention to those lips, which are to speak to us no more: and the man, and the words, which we neglected, while there was a prospect of their continuing longer with us, we prize, we cleave to, and wish to retain, when they are about to be taken away from us. Indeed we discover the value of nothing, till we are threatened with, or feel the want of it; and we awake to a sense of the happiness which we have possessed, by the bitter reflection that it is gone from us forever.
Farewell addresses serve to rouse both the speaker and the hearers. He is led to weigh well those words which he is to have no future opportunity of altering or amending. His eyes, his voice, his turn of thought, his expression, all will be influenced, by the solemnity of his situation; and what he feels, he will certainly communicate to others. Wherefore is not every address considered in this light; as a last, farewell, dying speech? It may be so in truth; and if it were known to be so, would our attention be so distracted, oar spirit so careless; would our language be thus cold, our zeal thus languid ? Attend, my dear friends, and fellow mortals. This is beyond all controversy, to some of us the last opportunity of the kind. The sound of this voice shall never again meet all those ears in one place. It may be forever silenced; each of them may be forever closed; and the ordinary tide of human affairs must certainly scatter, this night, persons who are never more to reassemble, till that day when the whole human race shall be gathered together in one great multitude.
We are come hither to ponder thy dying words, O Moses, and to gird up our loins, and follow thee.
This whole book may be considered as a series of powerful, pathetic and tender addresses, delivered at different times within the compass of the last month of his life, by Moses to Israel, in the near and certain prospect of dissolution. Art has attempted to divide it into so many several distinct heads or branches, forming together a complete body of instruction, wonderfully adapted to the occasion, and powerfully enforced upon the minds of the hearers by the death of their teacher, which immediately followed.
The first great branch is a succinct and animated historical detail of the conduct of the Divine Providence towards them and their fathers, during the last forty years, commencing with their departure out of Horeb, and containing an account of their successive movements and encampings. A recapitulation of the recent events of their own lives, and of what had befallen their immediate predecessors, was obviously calculated to excite emotions suitable to their present condition. A complete generation of men had melted away before their eyes under the divine displeasure! Every removal, every encampment was marked by the death of multitudes, who had fallen not by the sword of the enemy, but were cut off by the flaining sword of divine justice, and were not suffered to enter into the land promised to their fathers, " because of unbelief."
They saw in this at once the mercy and faithfulness, the justice and severity of God. Israel was still preserved, but every single offender had died the death. The covenant made with Abraham and his seed stood firm, though they were threatened with utter extermination in Egypt, and were actually exterminated in the wilderness. The possession of Canaan was made sure to that chosen race, but not one of the murmurers at Kadeshbarnea was perinitted to survive the threatened destruction. By an example that came so closely home to the breast and bosom of every man, all were admonished of the absolute security, and infallible success of trusting in God, and of following the leadings of his providence; all were warned of the guilt and danger of disobedience and distrust.
We see in this the reason why so great a proportion of the sacred oracles are delivered in the form of history. A fact makes its way directly to the heart, is easily remembered, and readily applied. It requires depth of understanding and closeness of attention to comprehend a doctrine, and to draw the proper inferences from it: but “ the wayfaring man, though a fool,” can discern the meaning, and feels the force of a plain tale of truth, and the recollection of yesterday becomes a lesson of conduct for to-day.
2dly. This valedictory address of Moses consists of a recapitulation of the laws, moral, ceremonial, political and military, which he had already delivered to them in the name of God. On this account, the division of the Pentateuch under consideration, has obtained the name of Mischna Thora, translated by the Seventy ; Deuteronomy, that is, the second law, or a repetition of the law. The men were dead who heard the voice of God speaking these tremendous words from Sinai. The men of the present generation were unbory, or but emerging from childhood, when that fiery dispensation was given : but its obligation was eternal and unchangeable. Providence therefore directed it to be rehearsed aloud in the ears of the generation following, by the voice of a dying man, and to be by him left recorded in lasting characters, for the instruction of every future age. What was local and temporary of this dispensation has passed away : what was immutable and universal, rernains in all its force and importance; and shall continue, though heaven and earth were * dissolved.
There is one law which Moses, in the prospect of death, presses with peculiar earnestness, as he knew it to be of special importance, and was but too well acquainted with the violent, the almost irresistible propensity of his auditory to infringe it—the law which prohibited and proscribed idolatry, that crime of complex enormity, against which the voice of the Eternal had uttered so many thunders, and which had brought on Israel so many grievous plagues. Nothing can be more energetical than the expressions he employs to expose the guilt and danger of this offence against God; nothing more dreadful than the judgements which he denounces against those who should contract it themselves, or presume to decoy others into that odious practice, He leaves them destitute of every thing like a pretext for following the nations in this impiety and absurdity, by calling to the recollection of those who were witnesses of the awful scene, and urging upon the consciences of those who were since born, “that there was no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb, out of the midst of the fire ;'* that therefore to pretend to imitate what never was seen, what cannot be seen, was at once ridiculous folly, and daring, impious presumption. He solemuly eujoins, that the tenderest and most respectable ties of nature be disregarded in the case of those who should dare to set the example of violating the divine will in this respect; that the most intimate friends and nearest relations should become strange and hateful, if they presumed, by precept or by practice, to countenance this transgression. His own emphatic language will best express his meaning, and shew with what oppressive weight the subject lay upon his heart. “ If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, (which thou hast not known, thou nor thy fathers; namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth) thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him. But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die ; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is, among you.”+ And again, “ If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the Lord thy God giveth thee, man or woman that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the Lord thy God, in transgressing his covenant, and hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded; and it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and inquired diligently, and behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel : then shalt thou bring forth that man, or that woman (which have committed that wicked thing) unto thy gates, even that man, or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die. At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death, be put to death ; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death. The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people: so thou shalt put the evil away from among you."I
Did we not know, that “ the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked :" did we not know, by fatal experience, that there is no absurdity too gross for men to adopt, no impiety too daring for them to commit, we should be astonished to think that the enactment of such laws should ever have been necessary; that having been enacted, there should be occasion to explain and enforce them by so many awful sanctions, and that notwithstanding, in defiance of sanctions so formidable, any should have been found bold enough to transgress.
3dly. Moses labours in this, his last discourse, to establish the importance and necessity of knowing the divine law, and, for that end, of making it the subject of continual study and meditation. Every son of Israel must daily employ himself in the reading of it. The young must not plead exemption on account of his youth, nor the old plead the privilege of age. No close.
* Deut. xiv. 15.
+ Deut. xii. 6-11.
Deut. xvii. 2-7.