« PreviousContinue »
lamb was sacrificed in Egypt, and Christ expired upon the cross, as the propitiation for the sins of the world, on Calvary, in the identical month of the year, day of the month, and hour and minute of the day. This period contains a succession of seven lives, including Abraham's, from his seventy-fifth year to the eightieth of the life of Moses.
From the creation, then, to the exodus, is the space of two thousand five hundred and thirteen years, and a succession of twenty-four lives. The date of this event, in relation to other important and well known events in the history of mankind, stands as follows: it happened after the death of Abraham, three hundred and thirty years. After the death of Isaac, two hundred and twenty-five. After the death of Jacob, one hundred and ninety-eight. After the death of Joseph, one hundred and forty-four. Before the destruction of Troy, about three hundred. Before the first Olympiad, or the earliest reckoning of time among the Greeks, seven hundred and fourteen. Before the building of the temple, when the Israelitish glory was in its zenith, five bundred and six. Before the Babylonish captivity, nine hundred and sixty-three. Before the building of Rome, seven hundred and thirty-eight. Before Christ was born at Bethlehem, one thousand five hundrerl and fifty-one. Before the present year 1793, three thousand three hundred and forty-four.
What is the conclusion of the whole matter ? “ Á thousand years,” O Lord,“ in thy sight, are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night."* “Our fathers, where are they? the prophets, do they live forever ?"
Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be, in all holy conversation and godliness ; looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat ? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”+ “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” I “Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven."S “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."|| “ And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.” “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely, I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” |
* Psal. xc. 4.
1 2 Pet. iii. 11-13.
Psal. xc. 12.
HISTORY OF MOSES.
EXODUS XVI. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15.
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel; speak
unto them, saying, At even ye sball eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread : and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God. And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp : and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. And when the dew that lay was gone up, bebold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as smai as the hoar-frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna : for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat.
Man, composed of body and spirit, is giving continual indication of the origin from which he springs. His creative imagination, his penetrating understanding, his quickness of apprehension, loftiness of thought, eagerness of desire, fondness of hope; nay, even his erect figure, and a countenance turned upward to the skies, bespeak him the son of God, into whose nostrils Jehovah has breathed the breath of life, and whom he has framed after his own image. On the other hand, appetites perpetually craving a supply out of the earth; the law of his nature, which stretches him in a state of insensibility upon the lap of his mother, for one third of his existence, in order to support the employments of the other two; and rational powers subjected to the will of sense, shew us a creature taken from the dust of the ground, always dependent upon it, and hastening to return thitherward again.
Providence permits us not for a inoment to forget who and whence we are. Have we laboured an hour or two? Hunger, and thirst, and weariness irresistibly draw us to the grosser elements of which we are compounded. A little bread and water having dispensed their nourishing virtue, a short sleep having restored our wasted powers, the soul starts up into conscious immortality, it springs forward to eternity, grasps the globe, expatiates from sphere to sphere, ascends to the throne of God himself. At one time, we behold a grovelling, contemptible being, all body, absorbed in the low and gross desire of the moment, a fit companion to the beasts that perish; and anon we see that very same wretched creature becoming all spirit, leaving the earth behind him, mixing with angels, and holding fellowship with the Father of spirits.
Religion is constantly aiming at the restoration of our fallen nature, is still exerting her quickening power to raise the bestial into rational, the rational into divine ; she graciously employs herself in gradually detaching us from things seen and temporal, and in uniting us to those which are unseen and are eternal. The world, on the contrary, is as constantly striving to degrade, to depress, to extinguish the immortal principle, and to sink the man in the brute. Hence we see the worldling dreaming of much goods laid up for many years, endeavouring to confer duration even upon his sensuality ; while Christ teacheth his disciples to pray, saying, “Give us this day our daily bread.” And by this admonition, he powerfully checks immoderate anxiety about the future. “Therefore, I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on : is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment ? Behold the fowls of the air : for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth thein. Are ye not much better than they ?"**
To teach men their constant dependence, their provision is bestowed in a gradual, daily supply; not in heaps but in handfuls. And when God was pleased miraculously to feed Israel in the wilderness for forty years together, the food of every day came in its day. All attempts to hoard were defeated. Every one's portion was sufficiently ample ; and accumulation became a nuisance instead of wealth.
Men, under the impulse of their passions sluggishly crawl, or eagerly run to the objects of their pursuit; but God is ever advancing towards his in the same steady, majestic pace. When we hear of the birth of Moses, the deliverer of Israel, we immediately conclude that the time of their redemption is now at hand. But behold forty years elapse before a single effort is made for this purpose. And, it is then the feeble effort of a solitary individual to avenge a private wrong; while the general enfranchisement seems rather retarded than accelerated by it ; and another period of forty years passes, without one apparent step taken towards public liberty. The felters of Egypt are at length broken, and Israel is enlarged; but the possession of Canaan is still at a distance; and a third space of forty years consumes that whole generation in the wilderness; and Moses, their conductor, dies at the age of one hundred and twenty years, before the of one foot enters into the land of promise, as a possession. So unlike are the preconceptions of erring men to the designs of the infinitely wise God.
When we behold that vast congregation, by snch a display of Omnipotence rescued from bondage, conducted through the Red Sea, made to triumph over all their enemies, we are apt to consider them as the favourites of Heaven, destined to personal honours and possessions. But the event teaches us to correct our hasty judgment, and instructs us that not the particular interests of individuals, but the great interests of the church of God, are the care of Heaven ; that, though Aaron and his sons may die, the priesthood ever lives; and that while prophet after prophet retires, it is only to make room for the Prince and Lord of all the prophets.
Of little consequence is it to obtain possession of expected good, unless we be fitted for the enjoyment of it. A nation of slaves was upqualified to exercise the rights, and to enjoy the privileges of citizens. Israel had no existence in Egypt but merely a natural one. They had no civil constitution, no laws, no government. To have been conducted directly to Canaan in such a state had been the reverse of a benefit. Providence therefore thought proper to employ a series of years in the wilderness, in training the people for empire, in modelling a government suitable to their future condition, and by enacting wise laws, respecting both religion and civil polity, prepared them for that exalted rank which they were to hold among the nations, and that duration of power and importance, with which the salvation of the whole human race was so closely connected. Thus the eternal decree makes the possession of the heavenly Canaan sure to every heir of glory; which decree, the justifying grace and adopting love of his heavenly Father declare and confirm; but he
* Matt. vi. 25, 26.
is not brought home to his Father's house above, till through the school of dis cipline, and by the Spirit of holiness, he is “made meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light.”
Men, through impatience and peevishness, miss the very end at which they aim. Canaan flies but the farther off, from being grasped at too soon.
The homely provision brought from Egypt was now spent; the milk and honey of Canaan were not yet bestowed. The wilderness naturally produced nothing for food, hardly water to quench their thirst. The wonders of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the sweetening of the bitter waters of Marah, all, all is forgotten the moment distress comes upon them. " And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.” Gud immediately takes up the cause as his own; but instead of expressing the resentment of an insulted sovereign and benefactor, declares his gracious resolution to overcome this ungracious spirit, by compliance and kindness; and men, unworthy of the meanest earthly fare, have a promise of a daily supply of bread from heaven. But as God does not always withhold in displeasure, so he does not always grant from love. When Providence deigns to indulge the humours and gratify the lusts of men, it is far, very far from being a token for good. A promise of bread in the morning is precious information ; but the addition of flesh to the full in the evening wears rather the appearance of a threatening. When our desires exceed the bounds of wisdom, the accomplishment, not the disappointment of them, becomes our punishment.
It is remarkable too, that the luxurious part of their demand was granted before that which was necessary. The quails came in the evening; the manna appeared not till the next morning. Another proof, that the supply granted flowed not from unmixed affection.
Without going at present into any of the critical inquiries which have been pursued, respecting either the name or the nature of this wonderful bread, we proceed to make a few practical observations upon it, founded upon the letter of the history, as it stands in our bible.
First. Then and then only is faith warranted to expect relief from a miracle, when means have been tried without effect; or, when we are in such a situation, that no means can be used with a probability of success. If God in his providence has brought us into the wilderness, where no corn can grow, where no water flows, we may reasonably look for an interposition from above for our support, which we should expect in vain in a land of corn and vineyards. Where there is a field for the exercise of foresight, industry and diligence, we tempt God instead of honouring him, when we cast our work, and not our care upon him. And yet it is not uncommon to see a listless, indolent disposition, wanting to pass itself for reliance on the goodness of Heaven. Herod desired to see Christ merely in the view of gratitication to an idle cilriosity in hope of seeing a miracle performed; but his motive being wrong and unworthy, his desire was not indulged. The Pharisees, from a captious, unbelieving spirit, tempted Christ, “asking a sign from heaven;" but though signs innumerable were every day exhibited in compassion to the miserable, and condescension to the weak, no sign but that “of the prophet Jonas," was given to the self-conceited infidel. JEHOVAH performs the wonders of his power and goodness, neither to save the exertions of the lazy, nor to tickle the imaginations of the curious. His object is not to make men stare and wonder, but to do them good.
Secondly. Man's happiest estate is to feel his daily, constant dependence upon his Maker, and to see the regular promised supply evincing the truth and faithfulness of its bountiful Author. With a monitor for God pressing in upon us through every avenue of the soul, we are nevertheless apt to be inat
tentive and unthankful. It is therefore an instance of great goodness, when God is pleased to force himself upon our thoughts, and to invite us to communion with “ the Father of our spirits,” in the commerce of a constant, habitual friendship. Here then the poor have infinitely the advantage over the rich. They see, or they are blind indeed, they see their “ dry morsel and their dinner of herbs," coming at the expected hour from the bounty of indulgent Heaven. They are not suffered to be careless, impious and ungrateful. Their homely fare is garnished and seasoned with what gold cannot purchase, nor power compel, the gentle whispers of a Father's love, the kindly welcome of an affectionate friend. And yet the bulk of mankind is striving and straining to get out of this happy state; eagerly catching at a situation which would infallibly betray them into self-sufficiency, insolence, and irreligion. That proud word, independence, is continually in their mouths, and the thing itself is in their hearts; not considering, that the real happiness of man consists in mutual connexion and dependence, and that the glory and felicity of every rational being is founded upon union with, and a sense of his constant and entire dependence on his Creator.
Thirdly. No fulness and no excellency of created comforts will produce real happiness to rational beings without the aid of religion. During the abode of Israel in Egypt, the observance of the sabbath had been greatly neglected, if not altogether disused. The religious principle of course must have been much weakened, if not wholly destroyed. There was nothing done, then, till this matter was reestablished. For there can be no good government but what is founded upon religion ; and religion cannot long exist in any degree of either fervour or purity, where no attention is paid to the Lord's day. Providence, therefore, employed a certain method to point out that day to Israel, and to enforce the observance of it. On that day no manna fell. But to compensate the failure, a double quantity was given the day before ; and the manna of that day, contrary to its usual custom, retained its sweetness during the sabbath : it neither melted away, nor became putrid. But, alas! long disuse had so much diminished public respect for the ordinance, that a discipline of forty years is scarcely sufficient to restore it to its ancient dignity and estimation. The restraints of religion are no encroachments on human liberty. “ The sabbath was made for man,” a season of rest for his body; a season of contemplation for his mind. It was intended to be his comfort, as a citizen of this world; and his condition as a candidate for another country, that is, an heavenly, is closely connected with it. Can the great God be honoured by our resting from the usual employments of life for a seventh part of our time? Surely not : but God is honoured and glorified, when man is made wise, good and happy.
Fourthly. The folly and perverseness of men exhibit a melancholy contrast to the wisdom and goodness of God. The promise of the Almighty gave full assurance of a daily, certain, stated supply. But either through mistrust at one time they attempt to hoard up to-morrow's provision from the superabundance of io-day; or, through impiety at another, they violate the divine appointment, by going out to gather on that day when they were expressly assured they needed to expect none. Thus we are always doing too little or too much : impatiently and impetuously outrunning Providence, or sluggishly and carelessly lagging behind. And what do we get to ourselves, in either case, but disappointment and dishonour ? The man who diffidently laboured to accumulate for five days of the week, when he looks upon his store, finds he has been treasuring up to himself nothing but stench and putrefaction; and the Israelite who presumptuously trusted his sabbath day's entertainment to the manna of that day, must fast for his folly.
Fifthly. Observe the care of Providence to preserve among this highly