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THE BRAZEN SERPENT LIFTED UP.
NUMBERS xxi. 9.
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.
From the memorable epoch, when the fearful sentence was pronounced against Israel, for transgression at Kadesh-barnea, a long period of wandering elapses, unvaried except by the account of their different resting places, until we find them again, after thirty-eight years, in the same encampment at Kadesh. Here Miriam, the sister of Moses, dies and is buried. Few, comparatively, now remain of those who had distrusted the word of God, or rebelled against the authority of his servant; for most of “the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host, as the Lord sware unto them ?." Sorrowful must have been the prospect of this station to the leader and to the people, as they revisited the scene of the plague, the fire, and the earthquake, and looked upon the graves of their fathers and of their brethren, Well might Moses trust that the rebellious spirit was at length extinguished ; that they who could not be influenced by the remembrances of mercy would at least be moved by the recollections of terror. Yet here again, unwarned, unawed, they murmur for want of water. Moses and Aaron are required to go and speak unto the rock before their eyes, that it may give forth its streams. Here, the patience tried by so many provocations, the meekness proved by so many rebellions, entirely
fails. They approach the rock in anger, and apparently in arrogant consciousness of the power intrusted to them. They assemble the congregation, and say 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.” “His spirit was provoked,” as the Psalmist says, “so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips ?.'
Even in his favoured servants, even in the highly honoured instruments of his purposes, and messengers of his will, so open a neglect of his commands, so evident an assumption of the Divine authority, of the power which belongeth unto God alone, could not be tolerated or passed over. They were enjoined to speak unto the rock: in anger they smote it twice. It was a mingling of human passions with sacred things. It was a neglect of giving to Jehovah the glory of the miracle. “And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to
• Psalm coi. 33.
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."
As I shall again recur to this subject, when narrating the death of Moses, I shall only notice at present, how speedily that portion of the sentence was executed which related to Aaron. In less than four months, when Israel had journeyed to Mount Hor, “the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, saying, Aaron shall be gathered unto his fathers : for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah.” A scene is now described which it is impossible to read without the deepest feelings of emotion. By an express command, the brother and the son of the great High Priest go up with him to the mount—that mount which was to be to Aaron the bed of death—the place of sepulture-where earthly ties were to
i Numbers xx.
be severed for ever. He ascends in all the robes and ornaments of his holy office, so well according with the solemn act which he is there to perform—the offering of his spirit unto God. He ascends, knowing what is to take place, and, like the prophet Elijah, prepared to leave his mantle
No doubt, no fear, no reluctance is visible, as he is about to enter upon the dark and fearful path which leadeth to the grave, to embark upon the deep waters of eternity. Though he may now be truly said to be walking in the valley of the shadow of death, yet he fears no evil; for one is with him, whose rod and whose staff comfort him. He ascends, as he had received the summons, full of years, and services, and glory. Together they proceed to the place appointed by the Lord; the place, from which, to Aaron, there could be no return. The world is left behind, with all its hopes, and fears, and joys, its employments, and its cares; and when the outermost tent of Israel is passed, he feels that he pertains no longer