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SERMON III.

THE BRAZEN SERPENT SET UP.

NUMBERS XXI. 4.9.

And they journeyed from Mount Hor by the way of the

Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom : And the soul of the people was much discouraged, because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the Wilderness ? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived."

The whole history of Israel, from the time the Lord began to deliver them from the hand of Pharaoh until the day in which

he settled them in the promised land, was full of wonders of various kinds. There were wonders of the power, and grace, , and glory of the Almighty, displayed in behalf of the Israelites in defending, in supporting, and leading them in the way they should go. There were wonders of his power and judgment, displayed in the defeat or destruction of their enemies; and there were wonders of patience and mercy from time to time, displayed in his forbearance with the repeated rebellions, ingratitude, and sins of the Israelites themselves. There was also much wonderful arrangement in the principal events of their history, which were not only suited to the circumstances of the times, as year after year passed over their heads; but in that these events had much instruction in them, pointing as they did to future times, and becoming types, shadows, and representations of gospel mercies and of gospel doctrines. The events recorded in the text are of this nature. Let us then consider,

First, The judgment that befel the

Israelites on the occasion of this outbreak of sin and rebellion recorded in the text; and then,

Second, The means appointed for their deliverance, and the manner in which these means pointed out the future mercies of the salvation of the Gospel.

First, then, as to the judgment. This was a very solemn, and a very righteous one. Long and repeatedly had the glorious Lord borne with the provocations of this people; but there is a limit to forbearance, and the honour of God's moral government, the honour of his holy name and word require that mercy should not always bear with rebellion. Deep and aggravated were the sins and ingratitude of the people at this time. “ And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.” This judgment was a very remarkable one ; it was in itself most frightful and fatal. It was quite out of the power of man or medicine to render assistance ; no human aid could avail, either to ward off the ser

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pents, or to arrest the venom when once a person was bitten.

These animals were called flying serpents, and fiery serpents; because they could fly or spring on a man at a great distance, and because their venom ran through the veins and arteries of every part of the body, and produced a burning, excruciating, fiery state of suffering; increasing every minute until the individual died. Thus the nature of the judgment was a picture of sin and Satan. Satan is called “ The old serpent;” and sin was first thrown into the soul of man by his temptations. And now he is ever going about seeking whom he can fly upon and bite, or tempt with his deadly venom. Again, the serpents could glide along the ground in silence, and they were sufficiently numerous to spread through the whole camp by night and by day, and they did so; and were ready to bite silently and unobserved, or to fly at the very face and throat of the poor Israelites, who could never be on their guard, so as to escape them of themselves. So it is

with sin and Satan. He comes, at times, right, as it were, in the poor thoughtless seaman's face, and openly attacks him with sinful and abominable temptations ; then he comes slyly and silently, and injects the venom of evil thoughts and desires into the mind. And when these thoughts and desires are thus thrown into the heart, they are like the poisonous venom of the serpents. The nature of sin is to deepen and increase until it bringeth forth death; the everlasting death of the soul. Oh, what a scene of misery, cries, and groans must the

camp of the Israelites have presented at this time! How truly did they then find and feel that sin will, sooner or later, be as the gall and bitterness of the asp within; and that none but a fool will make a jest of, or mock at sin. There was one point of view, however, in which the case of the serpent-bitten Israelite, and the sinbitten soul of man do not always agree. The poor

Israelite knew and felt when he was bitten ; but the poor sinner is sometimes under the deadly poison of sin for

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