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forth: and in reference to both of them it may be said, “He was the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."] TO CONCLUDE
[Let us receive from this history the instruction it was intended to convey. Let us learn from it the excellency of the Gospel, which reveals the Saviour to us; and let us see the importance of adorning it by a suitable conduct and conversation; ever remembering, that to them, and them only, who, by a patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory and honour and immortality, will eternal life be assigned.] b Rom. x. 4.
c Rom. ii. 6, 7.
DEATH OF AARON. Numb. xx. 27, 28. And Moses did as the Lord commanded:
and they went up into Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and
Eleazar his son: and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount.
THE lapse of time is so gradual and silent, that, for the most part, it escapes our observation: but there are seasons and occurrences a which almost irresistibly force upon us the conviction that our days are coming to a close. The history before us is particularly calculated to impress our minds with this thought. It was not till an advanced period of life that Moses and Aaron were called to their sacred office: and when, contrary to their expectation, they were turned back into the wilderness, and doomed to sojourn there during the space of forty years, it would appear as though that time would scarcely ever expire. But years rolled on; the destined period arrived; and death, which had nearly completed its work in the destruction of all the men who had come out of Egypt, received a new commission against those most distinguished servants of the Lord. At the commencement of the fortieth year, Miriam died: before it was half expired, Aaron too was cut off; and,
a If this were used as a subject for the New Year, or for a Funeral, the mention of that particular occasion would be proper.
before its termination, Moses himself also was constrained to yield to the stroke of death. In the death of Aaron, to which we would now call
attention, there are two things more especially to be noticed; I. The transfer of his office
Moses received an order to “strip off Aaron’s garments, and to put them on Eleazar his son.” That order was now executed: and in the execution of it we may see the true nature of that law, of which Aaron was the chief minister. We may see, 1. That it could not save
[In the preceding Discourse we have observed, that the sentence of death passed on Moses, marked the insufficiency of the moral law to justify: and now we observe, that the transfer of Aaron's priesthood marked the same respecting the ceremonial law. The ceremonial law was never designed to make any real satisfaction for sin. The annual repetition of the same sacrifices shewed, that they had not fully prevailed for the removal of guilt. As they could not satisfy divine justice, so neither could they satisfy the consciences of those who offered them: “ they were remembrances of sin,” calculated to preserve a sense of guilt upon the conscience, and to direct the people to that great Sacrifice, which should in due time be offered for the sins of the whole world'. This, I say, was shadowed forth in the death of Aaron : for, if those sacrifices which he had offered could really atone for sin, why were they not accepted for his sin; or why was not some fresh sacrifice appointed for it? They could not so much as avert from him a temporal punishment, or procure for him an admission into the earthly Canaan: how then could they prevail for the removal of eternal punishment, and for the admission of sinners into the heavenly land ? The Apostle tells us, that “ it was not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sin :" nor could a more striking evidence of its inefficiency be conceived, than that which was exhibited in the event before us.] 2. That it was not to continue
[The sentence of death denounced against Aaron, manifested, as we have before shewn, that the law itself was in due time to be disannulled. The stripping off of Aaron's garments, and putting of them upon Eleazar, still more clearly marked the changeableness of Aaron's priesthood; and intimated, that it should successively devolve on dying men, till he should arrive, who should never die, but “be a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec."
b Heb. x. 1-4. and ix. 9, 10.
c See the preceding Discourse. If this subject were taken alone, that part of it which illustrates this idea should, in substance, be introduced in this place.
But the manner in which this transfer was carried into execution deserves particular attention, inasmuch as it was peculiarly calculated to give the people an insight into the whole nature and design of the ceremonial law. Whether the ceremony passed in the sight of all the congregation or not, we cannot say: but they were certainly informed of what was about to take place on the arrival of Moses and Aaron at the destined spot. Now Moses was the person who, by God's appointment, had put the priestly garments on Aaron, forty years befored; and he also was the person appointed to strip them off. Was this an accidental circumstance, without any mystical design? Can we suppose that, in a dispensation which was altogether figurative, such a singular fact as this was devoid of meaning ? No: it was replete with instruction. We dread exceedingly the indulgence of fancy in interpreting the Scriptures; but we are persuaded that a very deep mystery was shadowed forth on this occasion. Moses was the representative of the law, as Aaron was of our great High-Priest. Now it was the law which made any priesthood necessary. If the law had not existed, there had been no transgression : if that had not denounced a curse for sin, there had been no need of an High-Priest to make atonement for sin: and if there had been no need of a real sacrifice, there had been no occasion for either a priesthood or sacrifices to shadow it forth. The law then called forth, if I may so speak, the Lord Jesus Christ to his office: and therefore Moses put the priestly garments on him who was to prefigure Christ. But the same law which rendered a real atonement necessary, made the figurative priesthood wholly ineffectual : its demands were too high to be satisfied with mere carnal ordinances : there was nothing in a ceremonial observance that could be accepted as a fulfilment of its injunctions; nor was there any thing in the blood of a beast that could compensate for the violation of them: therefore, to shew that nothing but the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ could be of any avail, the same hand that put the shadowy garments upon Aaron must strip them off again.
Thus in this transaction are we taught, not only that the ceremonial law was a mere temporary appointment, but that men should look through it to Him whom it shadowed forth. The language of it was, in effect, similar to that of the Apostle; “ I through the law ażn dead to the lawe;" that is, “ I, through the strictness of the moral law, am cut off from all hopes of acceptance with God by any obedience to its commands; yea, I despair of obtaining salvation by any works either of the ceremonial or moral law; and I trust wholly in the Lord Jesus Christ: I seek to be justified solely and altogether by faith in him."]
d Exod. xxix. 447.
e Gal. ii. 19.
Whilst our minds are instructed by the transfer of Aaron's office to Eleazar his son, our hearts cannot but be affected by, II. The surrender of his soul
“ The time was come when his spirit must now return unto God who gave it.” He goes up to Mount Hor, the appointed place, where he must lay down his mortal body, and from whence he must enter into the presence of his God. In this last scene of his life there is much that is worthy of observation: 1. The occasion was awful
[Aaron had sinned; and for that sin he must die. We doubt not indeed but that he found mercy before God; but still he died on account of his transgression: his death was the punishment of sin!. This, in fact, is true respecting every one that dies: though in some respects death may be numbered among the Christian's treasures, yet in other points of view it must still be regarded as an enemy, and a punishment for sin. In this light it must be considered even by the most exalted Christian, no less than by the most ungodly; "his body is dead because of sin, even though his spirit be life because of righteousnessh."
But in the death of this eminent saint we have a most instructive lesson. It was doubtless intended as a warning to all who profess themselves the servants of God. Like Lot's wife, it speaks to all succeeding generations, and declares the danger of departing from God. No length of services will avail us any thing, if at last we yield to temptation, and “fall from our own steadfastness i.” The death of Aaron shadowed forth that truth which is plainly declared by the prophet Ezekiel, that "ifą righteous man turn away from his righteousness and commit iniquity, all his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned ; but in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he diek. Many there are, who, from an attachment to human systems and a zeal for truths of an apparently opposite nature, would almost expunge this
passage from the sacred volume: but, whether we can reconcile it with other passages or not, it is true; and every one of us shall find it true at last, that not he who runneth well for a season, but “he who endureth unto the end, shall be saved!."] f ver. 24. 8 1 Cor. xv. 26.
h Rom. viii. 10. i 2 Pet. iii. 17. k Ezek. xviii. 24. I Matt. xxiv. 13.
2. The manner (was] dignified[Methinks I see
Aaron, accompanied by Moses and Eleazar going up to Mount Hor “in the sight of aïl the congregation:” there is in him no appearance of infidel hardness, or unbelieving fear, or pharisaic confidence: he acquiesces in the divine appointment, and, with meek composure, a firm step, and a cheerful countenance, ascends to meet his God.
Thrice happy man! how enviable his state, to be so attended, and to be so assured! What can a saint desire more than this; to have his pious relatives about him; to see, not only those with whom he has moved in sweet harmony for many years, and who are soon to follow him into the eternal world, but his children also, who are coming forward to fill the offices he vacates, and to serve the Lord as he has done before them; to see them around him, I say, in his last hours; to enjoy their prayers ; and to bestow on them his parting benedictions? How delightful, in that hour, to “ know in whom he has believed,” and to be assured that he is “entering into the joy of his Lord!" Such may be the state of all; such ought to be the state of all. Hear how Peter speaks of his death: “I know that I must shortly put off this my tabernaclem.” Hear Paul also speaking of his : " I know that when the earthly house of this tabernacle shall be dissolved, I have an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens :" “ I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith ; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give men.” Shall it be said, These were Apostles; and we must not expect such attainments as theirs ? I answer, These things are the privilege of all: “ Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peaceo."] 3. The event (was] honourable
[Upon every recurrence of difficulties, the whole people of Israel had vented their spleen against Moses and against Aaron. On some occasions they had been ready to stone these distinguished servants of the Lord. But now that Aaron was taken from them, the whole congregation of Israel bemoaned their loss P. Now they call to mind those services, which once they despised. Now they say one to another, “How often have we seen him fall on his face before God, to implore mercy for us, at the very moment when we were murmuring against him as the source of all our troubles! How did we on a recent occasion see him rushing with his censer into the midst of the plague, to arrest the pestilence in its progress, even at the peril of his own life! Alas, alas, what a friend and father have we lost! Yes; thus it too generally is; men know their blessings m 2 Pet. i. 14.
n 2 Cor. v. 1. 2 Tim. iv. 8. o Ps. xxxvii. 37.
P ver. 29