« ElőzőTovább »
probability in this delightful retreat, during this blessed interval of retirement froin and unconnectedness with what passed on the great theatre, that, divinely taught, he sung " how the heavens and earth rose out of chaos.” It was then and there that the divine spirit disclosed to his astonished, his enraptured eye, the years beyond the flood, the spring season of nature, the first man whom God created upon the earth, the amiableness of pure primeval inno cence, the glories of paradise, the unlimited bounty of indulgent heaven. It was then and there, that good Spirit put the pen into his hand, to trace that sacred record, which has descended to us for our delight and instruction, and which shall remain, till time expire, the wonder, the monitor, the guide of mankind unto all manner of truth.
What a happy period for the human race ! how happy for himself. Were the will of man to prevail, who would exchange such a retirement as this, for the noise and glare which captivates fools? But men, such as Moses, are not made for themselves alone; and ill would he have improved the blessings of solitude, had he not learned in it, cheerfully to sacrifice his own humour and his own ease to the work and glory of God.
The time to favour Israel was now come, and Moses must think of privacy and self-enjoyment no longer. By a vision, such as might appal the boldest, and encourage the most fearful he is remanded to Egypt with a commission under the seal of Heaven, to haughty Pharaoh, and he fears no more the wrath of a king.
But we have insensibly deviated into the history of Moses, instead of delineating his character. . Are they not, however, one and the same thing ? To know what he was, we have but to consider what he said, and how he acted. But how is it possible to comprise, within the bounds of one discourse a detail of forty active, busy years, from the day that God appeared to him in a flame of fire in the bush, to the day of his ascending to the top of mount Nebo to die? In general, they contain a display of almost every human shining virtue, brought forward to the eye, and impressed on the heart, by their most lovely foil, modesty, meekness and humility. What magnanimity! united to what coolness and self-government! what firmness and intrepidity! what patience and gentleness! what consummate wisdom ! what amiable simplicity! in youth, in maturity, in old age; in public and in private life; in every relation and condition, who is like him, who deserves to be compared with him ? Io forming an idea of human excellence, Moses presents himself immediately to my view ; it is no longer an idea, it is a delightful reality.
The more attentive part of my hearers will observe that, to complete the proposed plan of this discourse, there is still wanting the general leading idea of all these discourses, the resemblance between the type and the person typified--the analogy of Moses and Christ. This I refer to another Lecture; and beg leave to subjoin, as a proper sequel to this, the following eulogium of Moses, translated from the works of an eloquent critic of his writings.*
EULOGIUM OF MOSES.
- This most extraordinary personage was presented to the world in very singular circumstances. He appeared at a period of peculiar affliction to bis kindred and nation; and Divine Providence seems to have raised him up expressly for the purpose of exemplifying virtues, which distress and persecution
* Discours Hist. Critiques, &c. sur les Evenemens memorables du vieux Testament par JAQUES SAURIN, Tome I. Discours LXX.
alone are calculated to place in the fairest point of light. By a series of miraculous events he escaped in infancy, the fatal effects of a sanguinary decree, which doomed to death all the male children of the Hebrews from the womb. And, what highly merits consideration, and serves strikingly to display the influence which Sovereign Wisdom exercises over all the affairs of men, he owed his preservation in a great measure, to persons whose interest it was to have destroyed him. These very persons assisted in forming that superiour genius, and in cultivating those wonderful talents, which, in time, qualified him to be the deliverer of a nation wbich it was their intention utterly to extirpate.
“ Scarcely arrived at that stage of life when men begin to form plans for the remainder of their existence, he feels himself called to determine between two objects, so incompatible in their nature, that the maturest judgement can with difficulty hold the balance even ; religion and worldly interest. Under the necessity of making a choice so difficult, he rises above his age, above his passions, nay, in some sense, above humanity, and nobly sacrifices every worldly prospect to religion. He resolves to partake in the miseries of an oppressed people, in order to secure an interest in the favour of that God who is continually watching over his children, even when he seems to have abandoned them io their persecutors; he values nothing in comparison with that favour; he prizes it infinitely more than that of a great king, nay, more than the prospect itself of being heir to a throne and kingdom; and, according to the expression of St. Paul, Esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.*
“ Not satisfied with being a spectator and a partaker of the misery of his wretched brethren, he resolves to meet the torrent; and, of a witness, hastens to become the avenger of the tyranny under which they groaned. Observing one of the merciless tools of oppression abusing an Israelite, he braves the rigour of all the laws of Egypt, kills the oppressor, delivers the sufferer, and, as we have said in another place, performs an anticipated act of the deliverer of his country.
“ Prudence constrains him to withdraw from the danger which threatened the stranger who dared to shed the blood of an Egyptian. He retires into the land of Midian, and there experiences repeated proofs of the care of that miraculous Providence which accompanied him through the whole course of a long life. Cut off from every opportunity of displaying the qualities of the hero, he exhibits those of the philosopher. He employs the calmness of that retreat in contemplating the divine perfections; or rather, in this delicious retirement it was, that he enjoyed the intimate communications of the Almighty, who inspired him, and appointed him to the high destination of laying the first foundations of revealed religion, which was to supply the defects of that of nature, already clouded and disfigured by the prejudices and the passions of mankind. He composed the book of Genesis; and thereby furnished the world with irresistible arms to combat idolatry. He attacks the two most extravagant errors into which the human race had fallen, the plurality of gods, and that which admits imperfection in the Deity. To the one, and the other, he opposes the doctrine of the unity of an all-perfect Being.
" That Gor, whose existence and attributes he thus published, was pleased to manifest himself to him in Mount Horeb, in a manner altogether singular and miraculous. He confers on this chosen servant, the glorious but formidable commission to take the field against Pharaoh, to stem the current of oppression, to attempt to mollify the tyrant; and, if persuasion failed, to employ force, to support arguments by prodigies, to exact from all Egypt the expiation
* Heb. xi. 26.
of those barbarities which she had dared to exercise upon a people distinguished as the object of his tenderest love, and of his most illustrious miracies.
“ This appointment Moses presumes to decline: but from a spirit of humility rather than of disobedience. Ile could not conceive it possible that, at the age of fourscore, and labouring under a defect of speech, he could be the person qualified to address a mighty prince and overturn a whole kingdom. The appointment is a second time pressed upon him; a second time he refuses it. At length, however, his reluctance is overcome; and, filled with that Spirit which animated lim to the conflict, he enters on the carcer of glory which was presented to him, and his first victory is a victory over himself. He tears hinself from the delights of the land of Midian ; he quits the house of a father-in-law, by whom he was most tenderly beloved, to encounter a host of enemies and executioners.
" He arrives in Egypt. Ile presents himself before Pharaoh: he entreats; he threatens ; he draws down upon the Egyptians plagues the most tremendous. He departs from that kingdom, at the head of a people which had endured in it cruelties the most unexampled. The tyrant pursues him, gains ground, presses hard upon him. Behold him encompassed on every side, by a vast and invincible army, by a ridge of inaccessible mountains and by the waters of the Red Sea. He rebukes the roaring billows; they instantly become obedient to the man whom the Deity has made, (if the expression be lawfu) the depositary of his power. The waters were a wall unto them on their right hand and on their left, * as the sacred historian expresses himself. Moses advances into the wilderness, and, by a continuation of miraculous interposition, he bebolds those very waters which had divided, to favour the passage of Israel, closing again, and swallowing up Pharaoh, his court, and his host.
" Delivered, in appearance, from his most formidable enemies, he soon finds he has to maintain a lasting conflict with foes still more formidable, the very people whom he conducted. He discovers in these degenerate sons of Israel every mean and grovelling sentiment which a servile state has a tendency to inspire; all the absurdity of weak and capricious minds; all the cowardice perfidy, and ingratitude of corrupted hearts. With such a race Moses found himself under the necessity of living in a waste and parclied desert, and of struggling there with all the horrors of hunger and thirst, and a total want of every necessary. Exposed to all the insults of an enraged, ungovernable multitude, he is at the same time constrained to act as their intercessor with an offended God. He feels himself called upon to maintain the interests of the divine glory with a stiffnecked and perverse nation : and to plead the cause of that very nation with Deity, provoked to execute righteous judgeinent on a race of men who were continually disposed to insult his authority, and to degrade his perfections, by associating him with the infamous idols of the Pagan world.
" Moses had sometimes the felicity of averting the divine displeasure, and of restraining the madness of the people. But more frequently he endured the mortification of seeing the inefficacy of all his well-meant efforts. The vioJence of the people bore down all opposition ; and offended Heaven turned a deaf ear to the voice of his supplication. Divine justice vindicated its rights; Israel felt its severest strokes, and twenty-four thousandt fall at one stroke.
“ The most awful chastisements have proved equally ineflectual with the tenderest expostulations, to bring them back to a sense of their duty. And as if Moses had been responsible for the calamities which they had brought
+ Numb. xxv. 9.
* Exod. xiv. 29. Vol. v.
upon themselves, by their reiterated crimes, they talk of stoning him. They propose to appoint a commander to conduct them back to Egypt, from whence God had delivered them by a strong hand and a stretched-out arm: they prefer an inglorious servitude to the miraculous protection afforded them in the wilderness, and to all the prospects of the fair inheritance which God had promised to bestow upon them.
"In a state of such anxiety and distress, Moses passed forty complete years, and conducted, at length, the remains of this people to the borders of ihe promised land. Was ever life so singularly eventful ? Was ever hero signalized by so many extraordinary exploits ?
" If we go into a more particular detail of his great actions, we meet with a bright display of every shining virtue.
" What magnanimity! Witness the armies he so successfully commanded; witness the crown and kingdom of Egypt despised, rejected, when put in competition with the obligations and prospects of religion.
" What firmness! Witness his undaunted addresses, and his animated replies to Pharaoh. Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go, that they may serve me.* We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go; there shall not be an hoof left behind. Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more.
“ What fervour! Witness these hands lifted up to heaven, while Israel was fighting against Amalek. Witness these ardent prayers in behalf of the rebellious Israelites : Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt, with great power, and with a mighty hand ? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak and say, For, mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth ? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of, will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it forever.' I
“What charity! Witness these forcible expressions : Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sin: and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. S
“What gentleness! Witness what is said of him, Numbers xii. 3. Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.
“What earnest desire to draw supplies of grace and truth immediately from their source! Witness these ardent aspirations of soul after God: If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.ll
“What zeal for the glory of God! Witness the tables of the law broken in pieces at the sight of a people who had rendered themselves unworthy of receiving marks so tender of the love of God. Witness that rigorous order issued to the sons of Levi: “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.'l Witness his answer to Joshua, when he expressed an apprehension lest the prophetic gifts bestowed on Eldad and Medad
* Exod. viii. 1.
Exod. xxxi. 31, 32.
† Exod. x. 9, 26, 29.
| Erod. xxxii. 11-18.
should eclipse the glory of his master: • Enviest thou for my sake, would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them !**
"What perseverance! Witness those exhortations; and that sacred song, with which he concluded his ministrations and his life.
"But where was perfect virtue ever to be found ? Moses too had his infirmities. In a life so long, however, and so peculiarly circumstanced, who, is chargeable with faults so slight and so few ? His very errors seem to partake of the nature of virtue. . The darker shades of his character become perceptible from the contrast they form with a whole life so bright and luminous. That he should shrink back, at first, from the proposal of an embassy to the king of Egypt; that he should neglect, for a season from certain domestic considerations, the circumcision of a child ; that he should be slow of belief respecting the disposition of a righteous God to extract water miraculously from the rock, to supply the wants of a murmuring generation ; that he should strike the rock a second time, rather from indignation against the rebels, than from distrust of God in whom compassions flow-These undoubtedly are blemishes, nay, offences which God might punish with death, were he strict to mark iniquity ; but, when human infirmity is taken into the account, they are faults that excite pity rather than indignation.
" Should any part of the eulogium we have pronounced on Moses seem exaggerated, we shall add, to all the honourable traits under which we have represented him, one infinitely more glorious still, traced by the hand of God himself, who best knows how to appreciate merit and distribute praise, and which exalts our prophet far above all human panegyric: There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face : in all the signs and the wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land, and in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel." - This truly great man died in the year of the world two thousand five hundred and fifty-three; and before the birth of Jesus Christ one thousand four hundred and fifty-one; eight hundred and ninety-seven years after the flood; and before the building of Solomon's temple four hundred and forty; in the fortieth year from the Exodus, or departure of Israel from Egypt; and of his own age the one hundred and twentieth. Before his death, he uttered a clear and distinct prediction of the Messiah, which, in " the fulness of time,” was exactly accomplished; and he appeared in person on Mount Tabor to lay all his glory and honour at the feet of the Saviour of the world. We shall have finished our plan, after we have suggested a few reflections on this prediction of Moses, and on this his appearance, in company with Elias, to do homage to the Son of God," the Author and Finisher of our faith.” To Him “be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."
*Numb. xi, 29.