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his people in their resting-places, as in their removals. We too, though apparently in peace, must remember, that "the roaring lion which seeketh to devour us never rests; he is ever going about, and ready to "take advantage of us" to our ruin. In God, and in him alone, is our safety. If He guide us, we shall not err: if He uphold us, we shall not fall: if He be a wall of fire round about us, we may bid defiance to all the assaults of earth and hell -]
2. As our supreme happiness
[At no time should we suffer ourselves to rest in created enjoyments: they are then only conducive to real happiness, when we can enjoy God in them. All, without him, is but "as the crackling of thorns under a pot" To have his
presence in the ordinances, and in the closet, and in our own hearts, this is life, this is peace, this is "joy that is unspeakable and glorified." This therefore we should covet beyond all created good; and every moment that we are bereft of this, we should consider as lost to all the great ends and purposes of life
1. Those who are ignorant of God
[Do not despise the idea of communion with God: there is a time coming, when you yourselves will wish for it. A dying man is a pitiable object indeed without the divine presence. But if we seek it not now, what reason have we to expect it in a dying hour?-- -]
2. Those who indulge unbelieving fears respecting him
[How greatly do you dishonour the God of Israel! See how he attended his people of old, going before them in their journeys, and abiding with them in their resting-places: and is he not the same God still? O blush and be ashamed, that ever ye have limited his power and grace. Only live nigh to him in the exercise of faith and prayer, and you cannot but be happy in time and in eternity.]
3. Those who enjoy his presence
[Be, like Moses, true patriots. Consider "the many thousands of Israel," and let them ever have a remembrance in your prayers. Seek for them, as well as for yourselves, God's blessing and protection. To be intercessors for the Church is an employment worthy the attention of the highest potentates: at the same time" the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man," however low he be in the scale of society, "availeth much." And they who bring down blessings on the Church by prayer, shall be sure to have no small portion of them resting on their own souls.]
INORDINATE DESIRE PUNISHED.
Numb. xi. 10-13. Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: And the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly: Moses also was displeased. And Moses said unto the Lord, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burthen of all this people upon me? Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, (as a nursing father beareth the sucking child,) unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers? Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat.
TRULY humiliating are the views which the Scripture gives us of human instability. Who would have thought that the zeal which all the princes of Israel manifested in furnishing the tabernacle should so soon vanish? The first journey which they have to perform, fills them all with discontent: it being continued three days without intermission, all complain of the length of the way. Some are signally punished by the Lord, being struck dead by fire: but the survivors, neither awed by the judgments inflicted on others, nor won by the mercy shewn to themselves, soon murmur again for want of variety in their food. At this, Moses is deeply grieved, and God is greatly offended. That the different circumstances may come easily under our review, we shall notice in succession,
I. The sin of Israel
They were discontented with the food which God had given them—
[They wanted flesh to eat, that they might gratify their palates; and were so vexed for want of it as to " weep in all their tents." To excuse these inordinate desires, they complained, that they were emaciated by subsisting only on such insipid food as God had provided for them. They invidiously compared their state in Egypt with their present state; omitting all which they had suffered there, and magnifying the
comforts which they had there enjoyed ---Thus they misrepresented both their past and present condition, that they might the better conceal their ingratitude, and justify their complaints.]
This was nothing less than a contempt of God himself
[What had not God done for them? What more could he have done? He had brought them out of Egypt with a high hand; and had overwhelmed their enemies in the Red Sea: he had been their Guide and Protector in all their way: he had given them bread from heaven, and water out of the rock: had revealed unto them his will, and taken them into a peculiar relation to himself above all the people upon the face of the earth; and yet, all that he had done was accounted as nothing, because they wanted flesh to eat. Is it possible to conceive a greater contempt of God than this?
Such a sin is discontent, in whomsoever it is found
[There are many things in this world which a discontented mind will pant after or regret. But the indulging of such a disposition is rebellion against the Sovereign Disposer of all events; yea, it is an utter contempt of him. What! is it not sufficient to have God for our Father, Christ for our Saviour, the Spirit for our Comforter, and heaven for our everlasting inheritance, but must we murmur and complain because all temporal circumstances are not to our mind? What signifies any temporal want or loss, when we have such unsearchable riches secured to us? In comparison of such blessings, the greatest of earthly comforts is no more than the dust upon the balance. But this, alas! we are too apt to forget: we are ready, like the Israelites, to overlook all the mercies we enjoy, through an excessive regret of something lost, or an inordinate desire of something unpossessed.]
When we reflect on the exceeding baseness of this conduct, we shall not wonder at,
II. The grief of Moses
We cannot altogether approve of the manner in which Moses expressed his sorrow
[He not only complained to God, but in reality complained of God himself. God had appointed him to lead that people to the land of Canaan. This should have been considered by him as a singular honour: but he complained of it as a burthen. Not that he would ever have complained of it, if the
c ver. 20. "Ye have despised the Lord," &c.
people had walked worthy of their high calling: but when they
But from this we learn some very important lessons
We learn what the ministerial office is
[God says to a Minister, "Take this people,” and, “as a nursing father carried his sucking child" through the wilderness, where there were no other means for its conveyance, so do you "carry them in your bosom," bearing with all their frowardness, attending to all their wants, administering to all their necessities, and seeking your happiness in their welfare." O! what a charge is this! and what grace do they need who have to sustain and execute it! O that all of us resembled Pauld! -] We learn also what a Minister's heaviest affliction is. [If his people be obedient to their God, great as his difficulties are, he is willing to bear them: his people are his joy and crown of rejoicing:" "he lives, when they stand fast in the Lord: "he has no greater joy than to see his children walk in truth." But when they decline from the ways of God, when they are dissatisfied with his ministrations, and begin to despise the bread of life, because it is plain and unmixed with any thing suited to a carnal appetite, then he is grieved, and wounded in his inmost soul; then life itself becomes a burthen to him, and he is ready to wish for death to put a period to his sorrows. We remember how Paul was grieved by the worldliness and sensuality of some, and by the heretical conduct of others: he could not speak of them without tears; and he was always like a woman in travail, by reason of his anxiety for their welfare. "The care of all the churches" was a heavier burthen to him than all his own perils and dangers, whether by sea or land. "None were weak, but he was weak also;" nor were any offended and turned aside, but "he burned" with an ardent desire to restore them. O that every minister were thus wrapped up in the good of the people committed to his care! "His afflictions might abound; but his consolations should abound" also.]
d 1 Thess. ii. 7, 8.
e Phil. iii. 18, 19. f Gal. iv. 19.
That which so deeply afflicted Moses, excited, in a very high degree,
III. The displeasure of God
It is instructive to observe in what manner God manifested his displeasure—
[He granted their wishes, and sent them such abundance of quails, that for many miles round their camp they lay above a yard thick upon the ground. The people with great avidity began to gather them up. For two whole days and a night did they occupy themselves in this work: so he who gathered least among them, gathered ten homers, or eighty bushels. Now they began to revel upon the spoil; but whilst the flesh was in their mouths, even before it was chewed, God smote them with a very great plague, whereof many thousands of them died How strongly did God mark their sin in
But we are peculiarly interested in the end for which he thus displayed his indignation
[He expressly tells us, that it was for our sakes, and to make them ensamples unto us. He designed to teach us "not to lust after evil things, as they lusted." O that we could learn that lesson, and take warning by them! We are ready to think it a light matter to be dissatisfied with what we have, and to be longing for what we have not: but God has shewn us that he does not account it light: he deems it a contempt of him and of the rich mercies he has vouchsafed unto us; and as such, he will sooner or later visit it with fiery indignation
Suffer ye then, Brethren, a word of EXHORTATION1. Guard against the contagion of bad example—
[It was the mixed multitude" who first began to murmuri; and from them the dissatisfaction spread through all the tents of Israel. Thus did Judas infect all the disciples. Thus shall we ever find it in the Church: "a little leaven is sufficient to leaven the whole lump." If there be any one of a carnal, worldly, querulous and contentious spirit, be sure to let him have no influence over your mind. Reject his counsels as poison; and follow none any further than they follow Christ
2. Cultivate a contented spirit
["Be contented with such things as ye have." It is better
ver. 32, 33. with Ps. lxxviii. 17-31. h 1 Cor. x. 6, 10, 11. i ver. 4. They were Egyptians, who accompanied the Israelites. k Compare Matt. xxvi. 7-9. with John xii. 4-6.