« ElőzőTovább »
ness of application to secular business, no eagerness to prosecute a journey, no eminence of rank and station, no, not the state and necessary duties of royalty itself, must pretend to claim a dispensation from the superiour obligations of the law of the Most High. "These words," says he, “ which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates."* “ And it shall be," speaking of the duty and office of the king who might hereafter be chosen to reign over God's people of Israel, “ when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book, out of that which is before the priests the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life; that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law, and these statutes, lo do them: that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the come mandment, to the right hand or to the left : to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom ; he, and his children in the midst of Israel.”+
Some of the Rabbins accordingly pretend, that Moses, with his own hand, transcribed thirteen copies of the Deuteronomy, one for each of the twelve tribes, and one to be laid up till the time of electing a king should arrive, to be given him to transcribe for his private and particular use.
4thly. Moses displays, with singular skill and address, the motives suggested from their peculiar circumstances, to make the law of God the object of their veneration, and the rule of their conduct; such as, first-These laws all issue from the love of God as their source, and converge towards it as their centre. Their great aim and end is to engage us to love, with supreme affection, a God who is supremely amiable and excellent. “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes which I command thee this day for thy good ? Behold, the heaven, and the heaven of heavens, is the Lord's thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day.” I
A second motive to obedience is, that the observance of the laws has a native tendency to procure and to preserve both public and private felicity to make them respectable in the eyes of the nations, and thereby to ensure their tranquillity. " Behold I have taught you," says he," statutes and judge. ments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so, in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore, and do them, for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so bigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for ? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgements so righteous, as all this law which I set before you this day ?''S
Thirdly-The laws prescribed were imposed on them by a Being who had lavished miracles of mercy and goodness upon them and their fathers, and stood engaged to be a covenant God to their posterity, to the latest genera. tions. “For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee,
* Deut. vi. 6–9.
Deut. xvij. 18—20.
Deut. 2. 12–15.
Deut. iv. 5–8.
since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there haib been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it ? Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live? Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched-out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes ? Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the Lord he is God; there is none else besides him. Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee : and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire, and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire."'*
In a word, the laws of God are in themselves just and reasonable, plain and intelligible ; accommodated to the nature and faculties of man, and carry their own wisdom and utility engraven on their forehead. “ For this commandment which I coromand thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it onto us, that we may hear it, and do it ! Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.”+
Moses, while he thus forcibly inculcates the motives of obedience, motives inspired and pressed by every tender, by every awful consideration, finds himsels under the unpleasant necessity of venting his heart in the keenest reproaches of that highly-favoured but rebellious nation, for their perverseness and ingratitude; he deplores in the bitterness of his soul, the instability and transitoriness of their good motions and purposes, their fatal proneness to revolt, the inconceivable rapidity of their vibrations from virtue to vice. That exquisitely beautiful and pathetic song with which he closes his tender expostulation, and which contains a striking abridgement of this whole address, consists in a great measure of just and severe, yet affectionate upbraidings and remonstrances upon their past conduct. “They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children ; they are a perverse and crooked generation. Do ye thus requite the Lord, foolish people and unwise ? is not he thy Father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee ?”I
Finally, this long, this instructive, this powerful farewell sermon of the man of God, contains predictions clear, pointed and strong, of the fearful judgements which should overtake that sinful people, and involve them and their posterity in utter destruction. Many learned men, and not without the greatest appearance of reason, have supposed that the spirit of prophecy by the mouth of Moses has foretold the final dissolution of the Jewish government, and their dispersed, reproachful, despised state to this day, until the time of their restoration to the divine favour, and their reestablishment under the bond of the new and everlasting covenant, “a covenant established on better promises, ordered in all things and sure.” This idea seems justified by the following and the similar prophetic denunciations. “Of the rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee. And when the Lord saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters. And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be : for they are a very forward generation, children in whom is no faith. They have moved me to jealousy with that which
* Deut. iv, 32–36.
+ Deut. xxx. 11-14,
Deul, xxxii. 5. 6.
is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities : and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people, I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. For a fire is kindled in my anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. I will heap mischiefs upon them, I will spend mine arrows upon them. They shall be burned with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction : I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust. The sword without, and terror within shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also, with the man of grey hairs. I said I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men.”* “Is not this laid up in store with me and sealed up among my treasures ? To me bolongeth vengeance, and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste. For the Lord shall judge his people and repent himself for his servants; when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left. And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted, which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink-offerings ? Let them rise up, and help you, and be your protection. See now that I, even I am he, and there is no God with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live forever. If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgement; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me. I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain, and of the captives from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy.”+ But the time to favour revolted, returning Israel shall come at length; and together with them the time to irradiate and deliver “ the nations which were sitting in darkness, and in the region and shadow of death ;" and the prophetic soul of Moses hastens forward to conclude the sacred song, with a grand chorus of harmonious voices, the voices of the ransomed of the Lord from every nation, erery kindred and tribe, rejoicing together in one common salvation : " Rejoice, Oye nations, with his people : for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, to his people." I
How powerfully must all this have been impressed on the hearts of his audience by the sight of their venerable instructer, bending under the weight of “an hundred and twenty years:" exhausted by labours performed in the public service, no longer capable of “going out and coming in ;” excluded by the inflexible decree of Heaven from any part or lot in the land of promise; lying under the bitter sentence of impending death ; his power and glory departing, and passing before his eyes to the hand of another! Why are not impressions of this sort more lasting, and more efficient? Shall "the righteous perish, and no man lay it to heart ?” Is“ the merciful man taken away, and will none consider ?" " The righteous is taken away from the evil to come." By his departure the earth is impoverished, but heaven is enriched. Remove the veil, and behold him “ entering into peace :" “ they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness." I hear a voice from heaven, saying, “ Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth : yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours ; and their works do follow them."'S
* Deut. xxxii. 18—26.
+ Deat. xxxii. 34-42.
Deut. xxxii. 48.
$ Rev. xiv. 13.
HISTORY OF MOSES.
DEUTERONOMY XXXI. 7, 8.
And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong, and of a good
courage : for thou must go with this people unto the land which the Lord hath sworn unto their fathers to give thein: and thou shall cause them to inherit it. And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee, he will be with ibee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee; fear not, neither be dismayed.
Is it not a presumption and a presentiment of immortality, that men naturally feel, design and act as if they were immortal? In life we are in the midst of death ; but it is equally true, that in the very jaws of death, we live; and fondly dream of living longer. Let the fatal moment come when it will, it comes to break into some scheme we hoped to execute, to interrupt some work we had begun, to disappoint some purpose we had adopted. The warnings of dissolution which are sent to others, we seem to understand and feel better than those which are addressed to ourselves. One man is under sentence of condemnation, another labours under an incurable disease; one is daily exposing his life to jeopardy in the high places of the field, another putting the knife of intemperance to his throat every hour : this man has completed his seventieth year, and his neighbour has lived to see his children's children of the third and fourth generation.
These are all symptoms equally mortal, but none takes the alarm to himself: every one is concerned for his neighbour's case, and flatters himself his own is not quite so desperate. The wretch condemned to death, soothes his soul to rest with the hope of a pardon, and laments the certain doom of his consumptive acquaintance: the declining man, with his foot in the grave, pities and prays for the unhappy creature who must suffer on Wednesday se'nnight. The soldier braves the death that is before his eyes in a thousand dreadful forms, in the presumption of victory; and the voluptuary thanks his kinder stars that he is likely to sleep in a sound skin. The man of seventy reckons upon fourscore ; and ten years in prospect are a kind of eternity; and the grandsire amuses himself with the hope of seeing his grandchildren settled in the world. Thus the pleasing illusion goes on : and men are dead, indeed, before they had any apprehension of dying.
The thoughtless and impious insensibility with which many advance to their latter end, is not more mournful and distressing, than the steadiness and composure of piety and habitual preparation are pleasing and instructive. Blessed is the state of that man to whom life is not a burden, nor death a terror, who has " a desire to depart and to be with Christ,” but is willing " to continue in the flesh,” for the glory of God, and the good of men; who
neither quits bis station and duty in life in sullen discontent, nor cleaves to the enjoyments of this world, as one who has no hope beyond the grave.
But the cup of death, to the best of men, contains many bitter ingredients. Even to Moses it was far from being unmixed. To the natural horror of dying was superadded the sense of divive displeasure; a sense of death as a particular punishment. It disappointed a hope long and fondly indulged in, the hope of being himself, and of seeing Israel in possession of the promised and expected inheritance. And, what was the bitterness of death to such a spirit as his? Moses died in the persuasion, and a melancholy one it was, that the people on whom he had bestowed so much labour, whom he had cherished with such tender affection, whom he was so unremittingly anxious to conduct to wisdom, to virtue and to happiness, would, after his death, swerve from the right path, provoke God to become their enemy, and thereby bring down certain destruction upon their own heads. " I know thy rebellion, and thy stiffneck : behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebelJious against the Lord ; and how much more after my death? Gather unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to record against them. For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you : and evil will befal you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands."'*
It is pleasant to a dying father to entertain the sweet hope that the children of his care, of his love, will remember the lessons which he taught them, will follow out his views, will support the credit of his name, will instruct and bless the world by the example of their wisdom, their piety, their virtues, though he is not to be the happy spectator of it: but ah! more cruel than the pangs of dissolving nature, the dreadful conviction of approaching folly and disorder: the sad prospect of discord among brethren ; of profligacy and licentiousness, no longer restrained by parental gravity and authority: a fair inheritance, and an honourable name ready to be dissipated by profusion, to be covered with shame, to be disfigured by vice, to be forfeited by treason. It is sweet to a dying pastor to contemplate the success of his ministry, the extent of his usefulness; to cheer his fainting heart with the thought of having been made the humble instrument of bringing many souls unto God, many sons unto glory : and with the well-grounded belief that his doctrine shall survive him : that though dead he shall continue to speak and to instruct. Sweet the prospect of that day when he shall present himself, and the joyful fruit of all his labours, to his father and God, saying, “ Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me, arc for signs, and for wonders in Israel ; from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Zion.”+ It was this which caused the great “ Author and Finisher of our faith” himself to rejoice in spirit, on the very eve of his departure out of the world. "Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled." But O how depressing to reflect, “ I have laboured in vain ; I have spent my strength for nought and in vain ;''S to look back upon a ministry, not the " savour of life unto life, but of death unto death,” and to look forward to the dreadful progress of degeneracy and corruption, from evil to worse, till "sin, being finished, bringeth forth death ;" to look forward to the still more dreadful day of doom and to the prospect of appearing as an accuser and a witness against the despisers of that gospel, which would have saved their souls from death.
The faithful servants of God are not all equally successful, and even a Mow
Deut. xxxi. 27–29.
+ Isa, viii. 18.
# John xvii. 12.
♡ Isa. xlix. 4.