« AnteriorContinuar »
Wherein he humbled them, and proved them, and tried them, that it might appear what was in their hearts; and he left them to hunger and to thirst, and to murmur and rebel, and to commit idolatry, that their hearts might be turned inside out before their eyes; and, by a long course of discipline, he trained thein up to a sense of his being, and perfections, and government, and to feel their dependance on him, and obligations to him, and by experience learn the dreadful nature of sin. He fed them with angel's food, and gave them water out of the flinty rock; he led them by day in a cloud, and in the night by a pillar of fire; but when they rebelled, the earth opened its mouth, and swallowed up hundreds, and the plague swept away thousands at a stroke; yea, at last, the whole congregation of six hundred thousand were doomed to fall in the wilderness. Nothing impresses the heart of a human creature like
Nor could any series of facts have been better contrived than these to reach their hearts, and make them feel what they were in the sight of infinite holiness, and to bring them to fear the glorious and fearful name of the Lord their God.
At the side of the Red sea they were, to appearance, full of love to God, and there they sang his praise. And had things gone to their minds, they might never have suspected the secret hypocrisy of their hearts. But, as God had contrived the plan, in three days their religious affections were gone, and their corrupt hearts, like the troubled sea, cast up mire and dirt. God knew what they were before, and it was wise in him to take this method to bring them to know it too.
At Mount Sinai they were again deeply affected, when the law was given in a manner so solemn and divine; and there they promised, that whatsoever the Lord their God should command them, that would they do. But in less than forty days they made them a calf after the manner of Egypt, and eat and drank, and rose up to play, after the Egyptian mode. God knew before that all this was in their hearts; and now he wisely permitted it to break out, that they might know it too, and that he might have a good opportunity to let them see how exceedingly he hated their ways. He had tried
words, but these would not do. He had used the plainest and strongest expressions in the first and second commandments, but they were not effectual. Now he proceeds to FACTS. Three thousand are slain by the sword at his command, to let the whole congregation know how detestable their conduct was in his eyes*.
And so again, while the tabernacle was building, and at the time of its dedication, they appeared very forward in religion, as though they loved God, and loved his worship, and were determined for the future to be an obedient people. And this lasted for about a year. And doubtless they thought themselves sincere, and always might have thought so, had no new trials come on. But no sooner did the spies return from viewing the land of Canaan, and bring ill-tidings, but their old Egyptian temper all revived. Now Joshua and Caleb must be stoned for pleading the Lord's cause, and a new captain chosen to conduct them back to Egypt; which they left with reluctance about a year ago; willing, it seems, for ever to part with their God, their tabernacle, and their religion; and turn back to the idols and manners, and leeks, and onions of Egypt; and make their peace with the Egyptians as they could. And had not the Almighty suddenly interposed, no doubt dreadful deeds would soon have been done. God knew all this was in their hearts before; and now he wisely permitted it to break out that they might know it too, and that, by his future conduct toward that people, he might let them know that he was the Lord, and fill the whole earth with his gloryt.
And while that generation was doomed to wander forty years in the wilderness, and their carcasses there to fall as the just punishment of their crimes, their posterity, by the means, had their Egyptiani notions and tempers eradicated, and were trained up in the knowledge of God, and of the true religion ; and prepared to enter, conquer, and possess, the holy land. Nor could they ever, to their dying day, forget the works of the Lord their God, which they had seen in Egypt, at the Red sea, in the wilderness, &c. Nor could they have hall
Exodus xxxii. 28.
+ Numbers xiv.
stronger inducements to tell these things to their sons, and sons' sons.
Nor could a better method have been taken to lay a lasting foundation for a firm belief, and steady practice of the true religion,
It was most for the honour of God, and most for the interest of religion; and so really for the best good of the Israelites, that they should be thus tried ; left to act out their bearts, and then punished, subdued, humbled, and brought into subjection to the divine authority, before they entered into possession of the promised land, although it cost them six hundred thousand lives, and many a dreadful day. For to what purpose had it been for God to have brought them straight from Egypt, with all their Egyptian notions and tempers, into the holy land, there to have polluted it, and to have dishonoured him with their abominations?
Besides, from the murmurings and rebellions of the Israelites in the wilderness, there was the fullest demonstration of the divinity of the Jewish religion. For, had not Moses been sent of God, and supported, too, by the interposition of AlMIGHTY Power, it had been impossible he should have accomplished the design. 'They would surely have deserted him, and returned to Egypt again. Nor could the children of Israel, how degenerate soever they were, and how apt soever to fall into idolatry, in after ages, ever once scruple whether Moses were indeed sent of God, after such a scene of wonders for forty years together. Nor does it appear that the divine legation of Moses was ever called in question by that people.
And whenever they read over the law of Moses, together with the history interspersed in those sacred books, they might not only learn the nature of God and man, and see God's right to command; their obligations to obey; and the great evil of sin, from the law of Moses, as being therein held forth; but might behold all these exemplified, in a most striking manner, in a series of facts. Let them but view the divine conduct in Egypt, at the Red sea, in the wilderness, &c. and it would give them a most lively picture of the DIVINE NATURE ; for here they had the history of the Deity. And let them view the conduct of the Israelites from first to last, and it would give them a most lively picture of human nature; for here they had it acted out to the life. And God's right to command, their obligations to obey, and the great evil of sin, are set in the strongest light. Nor were the ad vantages of these transactions confined to those
* If it was wise in God so to order, that the Israelites should be oppressed above an hundred years before their deliverance, and then pass through such great trials forty years more, before their entrance into the holy land ; how know we but it may be wise that the Christian church in general, and we, infNew-England, in particular, should pass through very dark and trying times, for a long season, before God begins to work deliverance in that remarkable manner which may be expected at the ushering in of the glorious day. To be sure, there seems to be a foundation laid for great distresses, and of long continuance, for our sinful land. Better so than to be left to sleep on, secure in sin. Nothing so dreadful as to be given up to cardal security, and suffered to go on in wickedness and prosper.
onfined to those ages; for all these things happened, and were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the world are come. God is still the same, and so is human nature too. For, as face answers to face in a glass, so does the heart of man to man. O, the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God! Of whom, and by whom, and to whom are all things; to whom belongs glory for ever! And how know we but that the grand affairs of the universe are all conducted as wisely, as were these now in our view ?
To conclude; let these four remarks be well attended to, and remembered :
1. That, in all these instances of God's permitting sin, he had a view to the manifestation of himself. They gave him opportunities to act out his heart; and so to show what he was, and how he stood affected: and he intended, by his conduct, to set himself, i. e. all his perfections, in a full, clear, strong point of light: that it might be known that he was the LORD, and that the whole earth might be filled with his glory.
2. And he intended to let his creatures give a true specimen of themselves: that it might be known what was in their hearts. But,
3. The advantages of acquaintance with God and ourselves are innumerable. We can be neither humble, holy, nor happy, without it. So that,
4. It may easily be seen, how that God, in the permission of sin, may design to advance his own glory, and the good of his creatures. And that this was really God's design, in the instances which have been under consideration, is manifest from the five books of Moses, in which the history of these things is recorded at large. Particularly, I desire the 8th, gth, 10th, and 11th chapters of Deuteronomy may be read, in this view.