Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

gently falls asleep: and he who falls asleep in the bosom of a father, needs be under no anxiety about his awakening. “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord,” Deut. xxxiv. 5. Moses died with Canaan full in view, enjoying every thing but possession; and the utmost that his dispensation can do, is to ascertain the existence of the heavenly country; to de. scribe its boundaries, nature and situation; to conduct to its limits, and to put us under the conduct of the great Captain of salvation.

When we see the prophet of the law so far from having power to introduce others into their promised rest, that he himself could not enter in because of unbelief; we are admonished to court the protection and assistance of a more potent arm; to cleave to Him, who, by dying, has overcome death, and him who has the power of death; “ who openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth."

But Oh, what a blessed transition! from the fairest earthly prospect that eye ever beheld, to the enjoyment of a fairer inheritance, eternal in the heavens; from the tents of Jacob, to the encampment of angels under Michael their prince; from a glory confined and transitory, to glory unbounded, unchangeable; from the symbol of the divine presence, in a pillar of fire and cloud, to his real presence, where there is “fulness of joy,” and where " there are pleasures for evermore, " Psalm xvi. 11, to see him as he is, and to be transformed into the same image from glory to glory. Behold Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, rushing from their thrones to welcome to the realms of light the shepherd of Israel, who had led the chosen seed from strength to strength, from triumph to triumph, while the voice of the Eternal himself proclaims, “ Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of thy Lord.”

But we must descend from this exceeding high mountain, and inquire after the breathless clay of the servant of the Lord. It is precious in the sight of God; not a particle of it shall be lost in the grave, and it shall be raised up at the last day. In every other instance he leaves the dead to bury their dead; but he charges himself with the body of Moses, performs himself the rites of sepulture, conveys it by the ministration of angels, from the top of Nebo to a tomb of his own providing, “ in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-poer: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day,” Deut. xxxiv. 6.

The reason commonly assigned for concealing the place where Moses was interred, was to prevent a superstitious use of his tomb and relics, which a people so prone to idolatry might readily have adopted, and with as good a colour of reason at least as the votaries of any hero, prince or saint that ever was deified, could ever alledge for their conduct. The scripture saith expressly, that, at the time this conclusion of the book of Deuteronomy was written, whether by Joshua, his immediate successor, by Samuel, three hundred and fifty years afterwards, or by Ezra, after the dissolution of the monarchy, and the Babylonish captivity, that then the place of Moses' burial was unknown to any man, and had been so from the beginning; and yet such is the wickedness of imposture on the one hand, and the fondness of credulity on the other, that so late as the

year of our Lord 1655, a pretended discovery of the spot was made, and attempted to be imposed upon the world.

The outlines of the story are as follows: “ Certain shepherds who were feeding their goats on the mountains of Nebo and Abarim, observed that some of their charge were in use to disappear, and were absent for several days together; and that upon their return to the flock, their hair was perfumed with something that smelled extremely sweet. This excited their curiosity, and determined them to investigate the affair with the

utmost accuracy. They accordingly traced their goats, and were led by them through rugged and rocky places to a little vale, where, upon examination, they discovered a kind of cave, out of which proceeded a very agrecable smell, resembling that which the goats conveyed on their fleeces, and had first suggested the inquiry. In the middle of the cave they found a tomb of stone, on which certain characters were engraven, which, being illiterate, they could not decypher; but they soon perceived that the sweet smell was communicated to their persons and garments.

garments. Upon this they went immediately to Mataxat, patriarch of the Maronites, who resided at the monastery of St. Mary, on mount Le. banon, and related to him the particulars of their discovery. The fragrance that still adhered to their clothes confirming their testimony, he sent two of his monks with them; one of them, a man of profound erudition, named Aben-Useph, who found, in the place pointed out to them, a monument inscribed with these words in Hebrew, MOSES THE SERVANT OF THE LORD. The patriarch, transported with joy at a discovery so marvellous, besought Morat, Pacha of Damascus, to constitute him sole guardian of the sepulchre. But the Greeks and Arminians, as well as the Franciscan friars, and after them the Jews, violently opposed it, and unable to agree, tried by dint of in, terest at court, by presents to the Mufti and Grand Visier, to appropriate cach to themselves the superintendance of this tomb, which they equally believed to be that of Moses, and which the Jews, with peculiar earnestness, insisted must belong to them. They represented that, among all the possessions of the Grand Signor, none could be more valuable and illustrious than the property of three sepulchres so renowned as that of Mahomet at Mecca, of Jesus Christ at Jerusa. lem, and of Moses in mount Nebo. But the Jesuits had the address, by presents happily applied, to defeat the claims of all these pretenders, and to obtain an order for shutting up the sepulchre, and obstructing the road that led to it; nay, for prohibiting all access to it, under pain of death. They were meanwhile forming a design of secretly conveying off the body of Moses, which they flattered themselves would prove a considerable accession of respectability, and a new source of wealth to their order. Having, however, with much difficulty and danger, penetrated into the sepulchre, it was found entirely empty; no body, no relics appeared.”* These pleasing chimeras vanished almost as soon as formed; for a learned Rabbin prov. ed that the person interred in this tomb, was not the ancient legislator of the Hebrews, but a modern Jew of the same name.

The sacred history says, that Moses died the fortieth year after the deliverance from Egypt, and the most part of the Jewish writers fix the day of his death to the seventh day of the last month of that year, or the month Adar; and our learned and pious countryman, archbishop of Usher, calculates it to have happened on the first day of the same month.

There is a passage in the New Testament which refers to this event, and which has greatly exercised the labour and ingenuity of critics and commentators: it is in the general epistle of Jude, where that disciple, in reproving the rashness and licentiousness of certain heretics, " who despise dominion, and speak evil of dig. nịties," quotes an example of very high authority, as condemning the practice: “ Yet,” says he, “ Michael the arch-angel, when contending with the devil, he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee,” Jude 9.

Now, as many questions almost as words have been started on this subject: what is an arch.angel; and who is Michael? How came the body of Moses to be

* Hornius, Secul. XVII. Art. XXXII. p, 556.

a ground of controversy between him and the devil, whạt were they severally aiming at, and what was the issue of their quarrel? What authority restrained Michael from preferring a railing accusation against him, how his conduct comes to be adduced as a pattern of self-government, and a reproof of the vices of the tongue? And from what source did Jude derive his knowledge of this transaction? The very mention of so many, some of them, on the first glance, unimportant questions, will, I doubt not, check curiosity altogether, instead of exciting it. It is evident, that the death and burial of Moses interested heaven and earth and hell; that many historical facts of great moment are purposely left unrecorded; that many discoveries are reserved for that great and notable day of the Lord, when God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or evil; that it becomes not us to be wise above what is written, but to rest in hope, that “what we know not now, we shall know hereafter.” This much we know, that, about fifteen hundred years after, Moses appeared in glory. (“whether in the body I cannot tell, or whether out of the body I cannot tell

, God knoweth”) to do homage to his Saviour on the mount of transfiguration, and to lay his glory at the feet of him in whose light he shone; and we know “the hour is coming, when all who are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation,” 28, 29.

Such was the latter end of, “ take him for all in all,” the greatest mere man that ever existed. But I check myself. It is impossible to do any thing like justice to such a character in a few moments of discourse: you will indulge me with another hearing on this subject; I mean, to preach a funeral sermon: the only one I ever undertook without pain, over a character

John v.

VOL. III.

« ForrigeFortsæt »