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ses has the mortification of knowing assuredly that all his pains and anxieties should prove ineffectual. The tide of corruption sometimes rushes down so impetuously, that no force can stem it; and Providence is often pleased to put honour upon the meaner and foebler instrument, that the glory may redound not “ to him that willeth, nor to him that runneth, but to God, who sheweth mercy.” But every faithful minister, like Moses, has at least this consolation: “ baving kept nothing back, but declared the whole counsel of God, they have delivered their own souls ;" they published the truth of God, 4 whether men would hear or whether they would forbear ;” and if they have not been so happy as to persuade, they have at least put to silence wicked and unreasonable men; if they have not prevailed to render them boly, they have at least rendered them inexcusable; if they have been unable to subdue the pride of the creature, they have displayed the holiness and justice of the Creator.
We find Moses taking refuge in this, when the dearer, sweeter hope was at an end-the hope of being the favoured, honoured minister of life and salvation. “ I am fast approaching to the end of my career ; I have already passed the limits which God has prescribed to the life of man. Six score of years are fled away and gone, and these hairs, whitened by time, labour and affliction, feelingly inform me that my last moment is at hand, that no more time remains but what is barely sufficient to give you a few parting admonitions, to breathe over you the blessing of a dying friend, and to bid you a long farewell. After a laborious, anxious and painful ministry of more than forty years; after being honoured of God to perform before your eyes, and those of your fathers, a series of miracles, which shall be the astonishment and instruction of the whole world till time expire, I was looking for the compensation of all my troubles, the reward of all my labours, the accomplishment of all my wishes, in your sincere return to God, in your gratitude to your friend and deliverer, in your fidelity and obedience to God, and in the prosperity and happiness which must infallibly have flowed from them. The paternal solicitude I have felt, that ardent love which emboldened me, at the hazard of my own lise, "to stand in the breach" " between you and a boly and jealous God, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy you ;" that fervour of zeal which hurried me on to wish myself blotted out of God's book, if the dearer name of Israel might be permitted to continue written in it; all my discourses, all my emotions, all my efforts; my active days, my sleepless nights; these unceasing sighs which I still breathe to Heaven in your behalf, these last tears which a dying old man sheds over a people still and ever dear to him, and from whom to be torn asunder is the death of deaths; these are the faithful and undoubted proofs of my affection for you, of my unabated, inextinguishable zeal for your salvation. But, alas, however earnestly I may desire it, I dare not, cannot hope! I foresee your perfidiousness and rebellion ; I know your perverseness and ingratitude. “ While I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the Lord; and how much more after my death ?"* What then is left me, but the mingled and strongly allayed satisfaction of reflecting that I am innocent of your blood, that your salvation is in your own hands, that if you perish your blood must be upon your own heads." “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.”+ “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing : therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”I
Having in terms such as these poured out the anguish of an overflowing heart, Moses addresses himself to his last earthly employment. The last exercise of his authority is to lay down all authority. The concluding act of his administration, is to transfer the right of administration to another; and the legislator, leader and commander expires, while the man yet lives. Imagi. gination can hardly paint a more affecting scene. Hear the trumpet sounuing the proclamation of a solemn assembly, an holy convocation. Behold the thousands of Israel flocking together to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation; every eye straining to catch a departing glance of him whom they were to behold no more ; every ear eagerly attentive to drink in the last accents of that voice which the hand of death was about to silence forever. Behold the venerable sage in all the composure of unaffected piety, in all the dignity of wisdom, in all the respectability of age, in all the simplicity of a child, in all the serenity of a celestial spirit, in all the solemnity of death, advancing to his well-known station, presenting to the people him whom they were henceforward to acknowledge and obey as the ruler appointed over them by Heaven. His eyes beam complacency, his tongue drops manna, as he conveys to his noble successor the plenitude of his power, the residue of his honour, a double portion of his spirit. Behold he lifts up his hands and lays them upon the head of Joshua, with a thousand tender wishes that his burden might sit light upon him, that he might escape the pains he himself had endured, and attain the felicity which was denied to him; with a thousand paternal exhortations to follow Providence, and fear nothing ; to love Israel, to seek their good always : with a thousand fervent prayers for his prosperity and success. I see Joshua with modest reluctance shrinking back from a charge so weighty: desirous of being still a subject and a servant: accepting with regret honours of which Moses must be stripped ; ready to cry out, as his master was taken away from him, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof !"* I see on every countenance a mixture of sorrow and resignation, of hope clouded with remorse and concern; they could now die for him, whose life they had embittered by unkindness, levity and ingratitude ; they reproach themselves and one another, as having occasioned the death of the wisest and best of men ; they cannot bear to think of surviving him. But a voice more awful than that of man is heard; a glory more than human appears.
* Deut. xxxi. 27. Vol. v.
+ Deut, xxxi. 28
Deut. xxx. 19.
“ And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die : call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of the congregation, that I may give him a charge. And Moses and Joshua went, and presented themselves in the tabernacle of the congregation. And the Lord appeared in the tabernacle in a pillar of a cloud : and the pillar of a cloud stood over the door of the tabernacle.”+ What solemn moments to the whole congregation, those which Moses and Joshua, passed before the Lord, remote from the public eye! How solemn to the parties themselves! What is a charge from the mouth of a dying man, though that man be a Moses, compared to a charge from the mouth of Jehovah himself, by whom spirits are weighed, and to whom all the dread importance of eternity stands continually revealed ? And this God, O my friends, is daily sounding a charge in every ear, “Occupy till I come.” “ Arise ye and depart, for this is not your rest.” “ Be sober, be vigilant, for your adversary the devil goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." “See that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
This secret conference being ended, they return to the people, and Moses publickly delivers to the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, a copy of the law which he had transcribed with his own hand, to be laid up in the side of the ark, as a standing witness for God against a sinful people, and the business of this interesting and eventful day concludes with a public recital from the lips of Moses of that tender and pathetic song, which we have in the thiriy-second chapter. This sacred song every Israelite was to commit to memory, to repeat frequently, and to teach it every man to his
* 2 Kings ii. 12.
+ Deul. xxxi, 14, 15.
It was composed expressly by the command of God, and under his immediate inspiration. “Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel : put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel. Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel. And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the words of this song until they were ended."*
And a most wonderful composition it is, whether considered as the production of a lively, lofty, correct imagination ; abounding with the boldest images, and conveying the noblest sentiments ; adding all the graces of poetry to all the force of truth; as conveying the most useful and necessary moral and religious instruction, in a channel the most pleasing and attractive; as the address of a dying man, a dying father, a dying minister, to his friends, to his family, to the flock; abounding with the tenderest touches of nature flowing immediately from the heart, and rushing with impetuous force to the lips; as the awful witness of the great God against a disobedient and gainsaying race; exhibiting to this hour the proof of the authenticity of that record where it stands, of the truth and faithfulness, of the mercy and severity of the dread Jehovah, and of the certainty of the things wherein, as Christians, we have been instructed.
What can equal the boldness and sublimity of his exordium or introduction? How is the boasted eloquence of Greece and Rome left at an infinite distance behind! What a coldness in the address of Demosthenes and Cicero, compared to the fervour and elevation of the Israelitish orator! “Ye men of Athens.” " Romans.” Conscript Fathers.” If ever there was an audience that demanded respect, from numbers, from importance, from situation ; if ever there was a speaker prompted by duty, drawn by inclination, urged on by the spur of the occasion, Israel was that audience, Moses that speaker, on this ever-memorable day. But the ardent soul of this heaventaught orator, with thousands upon thousands before his eyes, grasps, with a noble enthusiasm, an infinitely larger space than the plains of Moab, an audience infinitely more august than the thousands of Israel.
“ Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth." This was seizing the attention at once; the solid globe, thus summoned, seems to give ear, the celestial spheres stand still to listen, angels hover on the wing to mark and record the last words of the departing prophet; what mortal ear can then be inattentive, what spirit careless? How sweetly calculated is the next sentence to compose the minds of his hearers, roused and alarmed by the solemnity of his first address. The thunder of heaven seemed ready to burst upon their heads, after an invocation so awful, and though Moses alone spake, they were ready to die; but their fears are gently lulled to rest, the next word he utters; he has only love in his heart, and honey upon his tongue. “My doctrine shall drop as the rain : my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass."+ The final object of Moses being to warn, to admonish, and to reprove the perverse nation of whom he was taking leave, observe how skilfully he manages this difficult and delicate part of his task. To have come directly and without preparation to it, had been to give certain disgust and offence; for he had to deal with a moody, murmuring, irritable, discontented race; he therefore first fills their minds with great images, leads them to the contemplation of one object surpassingly grand ; impresses it in various points of view upon their hearts and consciences, till having lost themselves in its grandeur and immensity, they are prepared to bear, to approve, and to profit by the severe personal attack that follows. “ Because I will publish the name of the Lord ; ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are judgement: a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he."**
* Deut, xxxi. 19-22-30.
| Deut. xxxii..
Having thus raised them above every mean, every selfish consideration ; and placed them, and made them to feel themselves in the awful presence of the great God," who is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works," he descends abruptly, by a transition quick as lightning, to the censure he had in view. But even then, he insinuates it, rather than charges it home: and speaks for some time as of strangers, as of persons absent; and constitutes his auditors judges as it were of the case of others, not their own; and by employing the address of the third person, they and their, leaves them for a moment in uncertainty whom he could mean, and when he comes at length to address them in the second person, and to use the terms thee and thy, how delicately is the application qualified, by the introduction of every tender, every melting, every conciliating circumstance! “ 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, O foolish people and unwise ? Is not he thy Father that hath bought thee ? hath he not made thee and established thee ?"'+
He then goes into a recapitulation, partly historical, partly poetic, partly allegorical, at once to refresh the memory, to fire the imagination, and to exercise the invention, of the divine conduct towards them and their fathers, during many generations, that the conclusion he was about to draw might fall with irresistible weight upon the minds of all; that their base ingratitude and desperate folly might appear to themselves in a more odious light, when contrasted with the wisdom, goodness and loving-kindness of the Lord. This occupies a considerable part of the chapter, from the seventh verse to the eighteenth, and a passage it is of exquisite force and beauty as I am convinced you will also think upon a careful perusal of it.
Constrained at last to denounce the righteous judgement of God, in order to approve his own fidelity, and if possible to prevent the ruin which he feared, he makes a display of the awful terrors of divine justice, sufficient to awaken the dead, and to confound the living ; and to increase its force and vehemence, Moses disappears, and God, the great God himself comes forward, and in the first person utters the seven thunders of his wrath ; “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. 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
The prophet, as it were exhausted with this violent exertion, this formidable denunciation of vengeance, sinks into feeble, hopeless regret, and he reluctantly, despairingly deplores that misery which he can neither prevent nor avert. * They are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them. O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end ! How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their rock had sold them, and the Lord had shut them up."
| Deut, xxxii. 29, 25.
Deul. xxxii. 28-30
Finally, a dawn of hope arises, and, wrapt into future time, the sacred Ward hails the coming day of deliverance, and exults in the prospect of the junction of the nation with the ancient people of God, in the participation of one and the same great salvation. “Rejoice, O ye 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 and to his people.”
Such is the structure, such the general outline of this inimitable piece of sacred poesy. It what has been said shall induce any one to study it more attentively, he will probably discover beauties which have escaped us; and the discovery will bring its own reward. How many fathers, as they afterwards rehearsed the words of this song in the ears of their children, and taught them the knowledge of it, would recollect with a mournful pleasure, that they saw and heard Moses bimself recite it aloud, on the very last day of his life; and glory in relating how near him they stood, and in describing to a new generation the form of his countenance, the deportment of his person, the tones of his voice!
That very day, the warrant of death arrives. The ministry of even a Moses is accomplished, and Providence hastens to convince the world, that, depart who will, the work of heaven never can stand still. We have seen him hitherto engaged in active labours for Israel and for God. We shall consider him yet once more, dismissed from his service, and concluding a life of eminent usefulness, by a death of charity, benediction, prescience and resignation. May God impress on our minds a sense of our frailty, mortality and accountableness, that we may redeem the time, fulfil the duties of our day and the design of our Creator, work out our salvation, and so die in peace, die in hope, whenever it shall please Him to call us away to the world of spirits. Amen.