« PreviousContinue »
The execution of this dreadful sentence was reserved to the days of Samuel, four hundred and twelve years after; and was committed to Saul, who, through an impolitic and sinful lenity, failed to fulfil the design of Providence, and thereby incurred the displeasure of Heaven, and forfeited his life and crown by his disobedience. I transcribe the passage.
“Samuel also said unto Saul, The Lord sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel ; now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel; how he laid wait for him in the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go, and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.' This order Saul obeyed but in part. He assumed and exercised a dispensing power, and it became a snare to him. He took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive ; and reserved the best of the spoil. The prophet is sent of God to reprove his disobedience; which Saul attempting to palliate, brings down this censure upon his head.
66 When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel ? And the Lord sent thee on a journey, and said, Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed. Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the Lord. And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord ! Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice; and to hearken, than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”+ Has God commanded to destroy ? Who shall presume to save ? Has he commanded to spare? Who dares destroy ? “I say unto you, be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear : fear him, which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell : yea, I say unto you, fear him." I
* 1 Sam. xv. 1-3.
+ 1 Sam. xv. 17, &c.
Luke xii. 4,5.
HISTORY OF MOSES.
EXODUS XVIII. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.
And Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and did obeisance, and kissed him: and they asked
each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent. And Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done unto Pharaoh, and 10 the Egyptians for Israel's sake, and all the travail that had come upon then by the way, and how the Lord delivered them. And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel : whom he had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. And Jethro said, Blessed be the Lord, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh, who bath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods : for, in the thing wherein they deali proudly, he was above them. And Jethro, Moses's father-in-law, took a burut-offering and sacrifices for God. And Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses's fatherin-law befcre God.
The great Author and Ruler of the world has evidently in view the pleasure and happiness, as well as the wisdom and virtue of his rational creatures. We find, through the widely expanded frame of nature, and the extensive plan of Providence, as many sources of joy as there are means of improvement. What an infinite, beautiful and pleasing variety in the works and in the ways of God! all ministering to human comfort, all aiming at making men good. The mind of man is formed to desire and to relish variety. The objects with which he is conversant are therefore varied without end, to gratify that desire, and to correspond with that relish. The glare of perpetual sunshine and the fervid heat of an eternal summer, would speedily oppress and destroy mankind: but, relieved by the tranquillity of darkness, the freshness of spring, the sedateness of autumn, and even the gloom of winter, they become no less grateful than they are beneficial. In surveying the globe, the eye is not permitted to tire by having to crawl along a boundless plain ; but sparkles with delight as it springs from valley to valley, and from hill to hill. And even the glories of the starry heavens are rendered still more glorious by being kept in continual motion ; and thereby are made continually to exhibit a different appearance.
The events of human life, for the same reason, are endlessly variegated like the objects of sense. Wretched were the dull stagnation of constant prosperity, success and ease. Intolerable would be the agitation and distress of unceasing, unabating, unrelenting toil, pain, disappointment and vexation of spirit. But, one thing being set over against another, the great, the
prosperous and the happy are forever admonished, reproved and brought low; the poor, the despised and the miserable are cheered, supported and exalted.
The word of God exhibits a resemblance to the system of nature, and to the conduct of Providence. In it we have the same pleasing, engaging va. riety; the same happy accommodation to the tastes, occasions and necessities of mankind. The antiquarian and the naturalist, the politician and the legis lator, the poet and the philosopher, the moralist and the divine, the man of retirement and the man of the world, the man of reason and the man of fancy, all find in scripture an helper toward the discovery of truth, and the attainment of happiness; a guide to the understanding, a corrector and supporter of the imagination, a comforter of the heart, a teacher of wisdom, a rule of faith, a source of joy.
The very structure of the sacred compositions is inimitably calculated, by a beautiful and easy transition from subject to subject, and from scene to scene, to relieve and yet to preserve the attention : presenting always a new and interesting object, or the same object placed in a new and interesting light. Thus the tumultuous, noisy, and bloody scenes of Horeb and Rephidim-scenes of murmuring, rebellion and war, are happily relieved by scenes of domestic tranquillity, love and joy; and we are prepared to attend Moses, to meet God in the mount, by mixing in the virtuous, cheerful and affectionate intercourse of his private family.
Let us then thankfully take the relief which a gracious God has in his word provided for us; and contemplate one of those calm, but neither uninteresting nor uninstructive representations of human life, which come home to the bosom and the fireside of every man who has a heart, who has a relation, who has a friend.
The history of Moses now looks back, and reminds us of his being “a stranger in a strange land :" namely, of his fleeing from Egypt into Midian, of his arriving there, conducted of Providence, just at the moment to render a seasonable service to the daughters of Raguel, or Jethro, the priest of Midian; of the hospitable reception afforded him by that worthy man, and of the alliance which he formed with him, by marrying his daughter Zipporah. Upon his being called back to Egypt to undertake the weighty charge which God had assigned him, he had intended and attempted to carry his wife and children along with him. But being reproved of God by the way for neglecting in his own family the rite of circumcision, the seal of God's covenant, and, either specially admonished from Heaven, or following the dictates of human prudence, he sends them all back to his father-in-law, as likely to prove either a burden or a hindrance to himself, in the discharge of his great trust. For true piety, while it reposes entire confidence in God, will never presumptuously load Providence with what is the proper work and business of man. Diligence and foresight, as well as faith and hope, are its genuine offspring. But the tempest being now blown over, and Moses, of a messenger and a suppliant unto Pharaoh, being now become the head and leader of a great nation, it was natural for him and for his family mutually to desire to be restored to each other. Jethro, therefore, having received information where Israel was, and what the Lord had done for them, takes his daughter and grand-children, and carries them with him to the camp of Israel.
The innocent endearments of natural affection, and the honest communications of private friendship, are graciously intended to alleviate the cares of public life, and to strengthen the mind by diverting it from incessant and intense application to serious business. No man can always be a general, a statesman or a king. And happy it is for those who occupy these exalted but troublesome stations, that they are frequently permitted to sink the public in the private character, and to drop the hero, the senator, the judge, the sovereign, in the man.
Distance has not alienated affection between the man of God and his family. A slighter affection is effaced and destroyed by absence; a stronger love is confirmed and inflamed by it. Good old Jethro satisfies not himself with sending by the mouth of another a compliment.of congratulation to his son-in-law; neither will be permit Zipporah and her sons to go unaccompanied, unprotected through the wilderness; but, aged and infirm as he was, chooses himself to be their companion and their protector.
Moses seems to take delight in delivering to us this passage of his life. He is amiably minute and circumstantial in the detail of it. He dwells upon the tender and affecting recollections of sorrows and of joys that are past. His heart is in it. He stops in his narration to tell us the names of his two sons, and his reason for giving them those names. “The name of the one was Gershom : for he said, I have been an alien in a strange land : and the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my fathers, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.” Is this beneath the dignity of history, of sacred history ? No, it is the most honourable province of history, to exhibit the honest, unsophisticated feelings of nature, the genuine workings of the human heart, the real, though humbler scenes of human life. What signifies to us the meeting of two old men three thousand three hundred years ago? Much every way. One of them is a Moses, and that Moses is describing his own sentiments, unveiling his own heart. He can serve as an instructor and an example to none, in respect of the prophetic dignity, as the bearer of the potent rod, as the man whose face shone, by forty days intimate communion with God. He can instruct but a few, by his wisdom and sagacity as a prince and a lawgiver. But as a son, a husband and a father, he is a pattern to myriads, and shall continue to teach to the end of the world.
How pleasant it is to find this great man the same in retirement and privacy that he is upon the great theatre; and delineating a battle, a triumph and a family meeting, with the same simplicity and godly sincerity! Public men have too often two different characters. Plausible and specious, humble, modest and insinuating before the world, they are self-willed and tyrannical, confident, assuming and brutal in private ; they often fawn where they fear, and domineer where they have power. Not so the meek and gentle prophet and judge of Israel. He waits not in state till his relations are admitted to pay their homage. He reckons it nothing derogatory to his high dignity to go
the respect due to age; and to humble the son, however high in place, at the feet of the parent. " And Moses went out to meet his fatherin-law, and did obeisance, and kissed him ; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent. Were it after the separation of but a day, friends have a thousand questions to ask, a thousand little incidents to relate: about their health, their entertainment, their dangers, their deliverances; about the observations which they have made, the projects they may have formed. What must it then have been for two such friends, for such a father and son, after a separation of many months, during which, events of such high moment to both had taken place, to meet together again in health and comfort, to communicate mutually the full soul, to retire into the tent, to shut out the world, and give vent to the overflowings of tenderness and affection!
And with what a subject of conversation are they furnished; “ And Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done unto Pharaoh, and to the Egyptians, for Israel's sake, and all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how the Lord delivered them.” The most trifling incidents which befall a brother, a friend, a child, are interesting and important. What must then have been the emotions of Jethro to hear the wonders of Egypt, to learn the great things of God, astonishing in themselves, and acquiring an additional weight, creating a new interest, from the person who related them, and who was himself so deeply concerned in the event ?
But the good man is elevated, as he wondering listens to the wonderful tale, above all personal and selfish regards, above the partiality of private friendship, above the tenderness of natural affection. His heart dilates at the thought of Vol. 11.
forth to pay
a whole nation delivered, of a tyrant trampled in the dust, of the power, wisdom and mercy of God magnified. “And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel ; whom he had delivered out of the hands of the Egyptians. And Jethro said, Blessed be the Lord, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the band of Pharaoh, who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods ; for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them.”
This friendly interview issues in a solemn, religious service, in which Aaron and all the elders of Israel are called to assist. What a blessed influence has true religion, in conciliating kindess and confirming friendship! When men cordially agree in the same glorious object of worship, the little peculiarities of form will not obstruct the mutual attraction of brotherly love. Prejudice will droop and die, and charity will draw a veil over its neighbour's singularities and imperfections. Happy the family whose union is cemented by piety; the family whose happiness and peace are built upon the love of God; whose employments, communications and pursuits are improved and sanctified by prayer!
Due attention having been paid to the calls of hospitality, the dictates of private friendship, and the demands of filial duty, Moses reverts next day betimes to the discharge of the duties of his pubiic station. The time, the talents of the minister of God, are not his own, they belong to mankind. Superficial observers who consider but the eminence of the place which a magistrate fills, the robe which he wears, the respect with which he is attended, look up to him with envy, and call him blessed. They think not of the thousand sacrifices which he is constrained to make of his ease, of his inclination, of his health, of his natural propensities, of his private attachments. They talk of the honours and emoluments of his office, but they overlook his anxious days, his painful toils, his sleepless nights, the causeless hatred which he incurs, the unprovoked insults which he must bear, and must not resent, the surrender which he must make of solid and substantial felicity, and the exchange of real and certain tranquillity, for uncertain usefulness or precarious reputation. Who wonld not be Moses, to sit on high and judge the people ? But who would be Moses to have the people stand by him for judgment, “ from the morning to the evening!
The obscure part of mankind are little sensible what they owe to Providence for their obscurity. They can go out and come in unnoticed. They can go to rest when they will, and continue it as long as they please.
They have no vigilant, jealous, envious eye over them. They are free from the dreadful conflict of inclination and duty, of interest and conscience, of reverence for God and respect for man. They can enjoy their families and friends. What they have, however little, they can call their own. What, compared to these, and such advantages as these, is the ermine cloak, the ivory sceptre, the gem-encircled crown ? Rejoice, O man, that the world knows thee not, cares not for thee, condescends not to trouble thy repose. Creep thy way si lently, I beseech thee, to heaven; unafraid of being overlooked, neglected and forgotten in the multitude of the redeemed, who there live, and reiga, and " rejoice, with joy unspeakable and full of glory."
Observe how even a Moses may err in an excess of zeal, through ignorance, inexperience or inattention. Desirous of doing good by administering justice impartially, he cares not what trouble and labour it may cost himself. The service of fear or of necessity is slow, reluctant, partial and imperfect; the labour of love is cheerful, active and persevering. Moses is in the way of bis daty early and late. If the public be served faithfully, if equity be dispensed, if God be glorified, he is willing to spend and to be spent in such a cause.