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ing steps from the rock in Horeb to the rock Christ, from whence issues the mighty“ river, which makes glad the city of our God;" and which affords, not a transitory, tempory refeshment, but a perpetual, never failing supply. “ Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Muses in the cloud, and in the sea ; and did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink : for they drank of that spiritual rock which followed them, and that rock was Christ."* The words of the apostle insinuate, that the stream which issued from the rock in the wilderness continued to flow, and accompanied their progress through the desert during the remainder of their long pilgrimage, till, being arrived at the land of promise, a land watered with the dew of heaven, and the abundance of the rivers, a miraculous supply being unnecessary, was withdrawn.
Thus was the gospel preached to them of old time. The solid rock became, as it were, moveable; "and followed them” wheresoever they went. The adamant was melted into a pool for their refreshment. Blessed type of Him who in his own person accommodated the immutability of the divine nature to the necessity and the relief of human misery! Blessed type of that stream of blood flowing from the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, and “ which taketh away the sins of the world !" Blessed type of that “consolation that is in Christ Jesus” for the weary and heavy laden, for the guilty and the wretched, for the faint and dying! Blessed type of that precious stream which has flowed in every age, and is flowing to every nation and people under heaven; and which never leaves the path of the Zion-traveller, till, through the midst of Jordan, he stands on the delightful shore of the Canaan that is above, where it becomes “ a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, there is the tree of life, which bears twelve manner of fruits, and yieldeth her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse : but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it: and his servants shall serve him, and they shall see his face : and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there ; and they need no candle neither light of the sun : for the Lord God giveth them light; and they shall reign forever and ever.”+
In the recapitulation of this wonderful history in the book of Numbers, an interesting and important circumstance is recorded, which in Exodus is suppressed ; and which we must here insert, that we may view the event complete in all its parts, and that we may feel it in all its force. The miracle of extracting water from the rock, which proved so salutary to the people, became fatal to Moses himself. And this he, with his native candour and simplicity, thus relates : “ And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels ; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice ; and the water came out abundantiy, and the con. gregation drank, and their beasts also. And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel; therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them."! For the illustration and improvement of which, we beg your attention to the following remarks.
Observe, first, The credit which is due to the sacred writers in general, and to Moses in particular, for their fidelity and integrity in relating those
* 1 Cor, x. 1, &c.
| Rev. xxii. 1, &c
# Numb. xx. 9, &C.
particulars of their temper and conduct which are the object of censure and condemnation, as well as those which merit applause. Indeed they do both with the same “ simplicity and godly sincerity.” They never appear solicitous to celebrate their own praise, and if glory may redound to God, and edification to men, they honestly publish their own shame. Unlike the generality of mankind, who are perpetually catching at opportunities to introduce their dear selves, that they may be valued and admired : and, with equal anxiety, drawing a veil over their errors and imperfections. But these holy men delivered not their testimony “ according to the will of man," nor in the spirit of the world ; but, “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” And, with candid judges, this candour of theirs will be deemed no slight argument of their veracity in general, and no slender proof of the credibility of the scripture history.
Secondly, Remark the mixture of frailty and imperfection which enters into every human character. Moses himself is not faultless. And what is more observable still, he fails on the side of his greatest excellency; he is found weak there where he seemed most strong.
“ Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth."* Nevertheless, what saith the history? He loses temper, and speaks unadvisedly with his lips ; “ Hear now, ye rebels ; must we fetch you water out of this rock ?"+ He takes glory to himself instead of ascribing it to God: “ Must we fetch you water ?" He presumptuously exceeds his commission. He lifts
his hand and smites the rock twice with his rod, whereas he was commanded only to speak unto it, before the eyes of the people.
Seems it not as if God intended to write vanity and shame on all the glory of man, " that no flesh should glory in his presence ?” by shewing us faithful Abraham mistrusting his God, and seeking refuge in falsehood : the patient Job growing peevish, and “ cursing his day:" the affectionate and zealous Peter basely denying his Master; and the meek and gentle Moses waxing warm, and in his haste speaking disrespectfully of God, and unkindly of men. “ Be not high-minded, but fear." “Let him who thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." "Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, keep the door of my lips."
Observe, thirdly, The delicacy and the danger of assuming a latitude and a liberty in sacred things. In what concerns the conduct of human life, and our intercourse one with another as the citizens of this world, many things must be left to be governed by occasion and discretion ; but, in what relates to the immediate worship of God, and where the mind of the Lord has been clearly made known, to assume and exercise a dispensing power is criminal and hazardous. The tabernacle must be constructed, to the minutest pin and loop, according to the pattern delivered in the mount. If Uzzah presume to put forth his hand to support the tottering ark, it is at his peril. A holy and a jealous God will be served only by the persons and in the manner which he himself has appointed; and the intruder into sacred offices and employments is ready to be broken in upon in hot displeasure. Has God said, “Speak to the rock.” Who has the boldness to strike it? Moses dares to do it; and his rashness forfeits his title to a part and lot in the promised inheritance. Into Capaan he shall never enter, but only see it at a distance with his eyes. The offending, chiding, murmuring congregation is pitied, forgiven and relieved. The offending, hasty, presumptuous prophet is punished.
“ Our God is a consuming fire.” “ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins, let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression."
* Numb. xii. 3.
Numb. xx. 10.
Prov. iv. 23.
$ Psal. cxli, 3.
Remark, in the fourth place, The rashness and folly of man shall not, cannot render the purpose of God of none effect. A whole people shall not be permitted to perish for thirst because the prescribed mode of reliet' has not been exactly followed. Though the rock be stricken, instead of being spoken unto, it shall not fail to yield the promised fountain of water. Moses is frail, but God is gond. There has prevailed, since the beginning, a strange contention between the folly and perverseness of the fallen, apostate creature,
and the wisdom and goodness of the gracious Creator. And, glory be to God, our evil is overcome of his good. And when all struggle and opposition are at an end, when the will of God shall finally prevail, “ and every high thought shall be brought into captivity to the will of Christ," it shall then be found, that “ the wrath of man” has all along been “ working the righteousness of God;" that the elementary strife which was permitted to take place in the natural world ; the jarring, discordant passions which seemed to convulse and disturb the moral government of God, and even the infernal devices of the powers of darkness, were all, without their design, nay, contrary to their intention, carrying on the great plans of the divine providence to their consummation. Glorious, transporting thought! I will henceforth command my troubled soul into peace. I will calmly wait the issue, and leave it to the great God, in his own time and way, to explain the reasons of his conduct, and fully vindicate his ways to men. The troubles which I see, the troubles which I feel, the troubles which I fear, though they may come nigh, shall not overwhelm my soul; “I shall not be afraid when I hear of evil tidings; my heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.”* “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.+ “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and an eternal weight of glory.”I,
Fifthly, When we behold a holy and righteous God thus severely punishing what may be deemed, by some a slight offence, in one of the dearest and best of his children, let none dare to trifle with his justice. If Moses, in one rash moment, by one unadvised step, incurred a displeasure which he could never remove, and forfeited an inheritance, which he never was able to recover, what hast thou, O man, to expect, whose whole life has been an accumulation of offence; has been the addition only of sinfulness to weakness, and of presumption to folly ? “ If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear."S Take care how you estimate the malignity, guilt and danger of sin, by the erroneous and fluctuating standard of your own weak understanding, or still weaker passions. Not according to these, nor the maxims of the world, nor the prejudices of a misguided spirit; but by a steadier rule, by an unchanging law, thou shalt be judged, and finally justified or condemned. If Moses lost an inheritance in an earthly Canaan for neglecting to give glory to God in one instance, tremble to think of being eternally excluded from “ the inheritance of the saints in light," for ten thousand offences of the same nature. Beware of reckoning any transgressions small, any sin venial, any temptation contemptible. Behold the mighty fallen, and be humble.
It is truly affecting to find Moses in the sequel earnestly entreating a remission of the sentence, but entreating in vain ; and, when unable by supplication to prevail, submissively resigning himself to the will of God. But the world bas seen a still more awful demonstration of God's displeasure at sin. When the
* Psalm cxii. 7.
| Rom. viii. 28.
# 2 Cor. iv. 17.
0 1 Peter iv. 18.
Lord laid upon the head of the great atonement "the iniquity of us all; it pleased the Lord to bruise him, and put him to grief.” “God spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all.” Is it possible to conceive a motive so cogent to abstain from evil, and even from the appearance of it; and to loathe and put off from us the garment spotted with the flesh ?
But again, one offence, though it may provoke the anger and call down the chastisement of a holy God, breaks not off all intercourse, and forever, between him and a good man. With the firmness of a wise and just father, he denounces the punishment and intiicts it. With the tenderness and love of a gracious and relenting parent, he carries on the correspondence; and even admits the offending child to closer intimacy, and to familiarity more endearing. For the great God is not like them who mar and embitter their pardon with hard conditions, cruel upbraidings, and mortifying recollections; and who plainly shew, that though they may be capable of forgiving, they know not what it is to bury injuries in everlasting forgetfulness. The conduct of Moses too, under the weight of this awful displeasure, is amiable and instructive. He mutters not, with sullen Cain,“ my punishment is greater than I can bear;" he sinks not into dejection; he replies not in resentment. While he deprecates the penalty, he attempts not to extenuate the guilt of his crime; and though well assured he is not to have the honour of conducting Israel into Canaan, nor the happiness of enjoying a personal possession in that promised inheritance, yet he withdraws himself from no particular of duty, relaxes not his diligence, cools not in his zeal; he labours to the last, does what he can, though he be not permitted to do what he would ; he goes before Israel to the land of promise, though access into it was denied him. This, as much as any thing in his history, marks his character and evinces the greatness of his soul. And this teaches a lesson of no mean importance in friendship among men, namely, to cultivate with diligence and assiduity the charities which we have in common, and to suffer those things to rest and sleep, which, if stirred and awakened, are likely to disturb and separate us.
It is not the design of Providence that we should think exactly the same way on all points. But, shall I agree with my brother in nothing, because we happen to differ in one thing ?
I detain you till I have made only one remark more upon the whole history. The distress of the cattle for want of water, is mentioned as a circumstance of importance both in the books of Exodus and Numbers, and it is especially attended to in the miraculous relief which heaven provided. Is the great God degraded, when he is represented as “caring for oxen, and feeding the ravens, and hearing the young lions when they cry?" No, no ; these minuter views of his providential care and kindness endear him but the more to the understanding that discerns, and the heart that feels. I know not a more tender stroke of the pathetic eloquence than that which we have in the prophesy of Jonah, when God extended mercy in a manner peculiar to himself, to Nineveh, that great and sinful city. “Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow, which came up in a night, and perished in a night : and should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than threescore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand, and also much cattle.”
One stage more will bring us with Israel to the foot of Sinai, to observe and to improve one of the most notable dispensations of Providence upon record ; " The giving of the law.” But here let us pause with devout
* Jonah vi. 10, 11,
acknowledgement of that bountiful hand, which fed the seed of Abraham immediately from the clouds for forty years together; and which feeds us, through rather a longer process, by blending and compounding the qualities and influences of earth, air, fire and water. While we adore the providential care which refreshed Israel by streams from the rock, let us rejoice together, that it refreshes us by keeping our rivers ever flowing, our fountains constantly supplied, and the clouds of our atmosphere, in their season, always imprego nated with the rain and the dew. “ With the bread that perisheth,” gracious God! grant us that “ which endureth to life everlasting." Amen.
HISTORY OF MOSES.
EXODUS XVII. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.
Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose u
out men, and go out, fight with Amalek : to-morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand. So Joshua did as Moses had said to bim, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And it came to pass when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down liis hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses's hands were heavy; and they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat ihereon: and Aaron aud Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side : and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfitea Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
Nothing can be more afflicting to a humane and serious mind, than to reflect on that strife and contention which have in every age deluged the world with human blood. Who could believe, if all history did not prove it, and who can think of it without horror, that men should be continually lying in wait, like beasts of prey, to catch and devour men; that the strong, the cunning and the fierce should be forever on the watch, to take advantage of the weak, the simple and the gentle ? And must it be? Father of Mercies! must it needs be, that war should continue to waste the nations ! shall the earth be forever a field of blood ? Must the peace of private families, and the repose of kingdoms, be eternally disturbed by lust and pride, avarice and ambition, envy and revenge? Blessed God ! send forth the Spirit of thy Son into the hearts of men. Prince of Peace ! command this troubled ocean into a calm. Spirit of Love! put a full end to bitterness and wrath. Subdue this carnal mind, which is enmity against God. Glorious gospel of salvation! as thou bringest good-will from God to men, restore good-will to men among themselves.
It is difficult to say whether men suffer most from their own folly, or from the cruelty and injustice of others. We generally fiud, that when evil from without would, for a while, permit wretched mortals to breathe and be at peace, they perversely become self-tormentors, and ingeniously contrive sources of vexation to themselves. And, which is the greater evil of the two ? That, undoubtedly, of which we are the authors to ourselves. We have, then, to encounter an enemy from whom we cannot hope to escape, and whom we