« ForrigeFortsæt »
captives who were restored to Judea from Babylon, it was said, "that if they would continue there, and be obedient to the king of Babylon, they should be preserved in peace and safety: but that if, through fear of the king of Babylon, they should flee to Egypt for safety, they should all perish"." And, when they would not be persuaded to remain there, but would go to sojourn in Egypt, the Lord sent this word to them: "All the remnant of Judah that are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall know whose word shall stand, theirs or mine."
But, that we may depart as little as possible from our text, let us see the event of the prediction before us. God sent a wind; and brought such a number of quails, that they fell round about the tents of Israel, and filled the whole country for the space of one hundred and twenty miles in circuit, above a yard deep so that the whole people occupied about six-andthirty hours in collecting them; every one, even of those who gathered the least, collecting as much as eighty bushels for his own use. Now it was seen "whether God could fulfil his word or not." It was seen, too, whether they had reason to repent of their inordinate desires or not: for "while the flesh was yet in their mouths, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and smote them with a very great plague.
The truth is, that "it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one jot or tittle of God's word to fail." "He cannot lies:" "he cannot deny himself." He could as soon cease to exist, as he could falsify his word in any one particular. And, if we could only bear this in remembrance, we should never give way to unbelief, or doubt the accomplishment of any thing which the Lord God hath spoken.]
1. Those who doubt the fulfilment of God's promises
[Who amongst us is not conscious of great defects in this particular? Who, in trying circumstances, has not found it difficult to cast all his care on God, as caring for him; and has not rather been ready to say with David, "I shall one day perish by the hands of Saul?" Who, whilst he has professed to call God his Father, has been able habitually to walk before him with the same confidence that a child places in his earthly father? Yet this is our duty and it is a shame to us that we find the performance of it so difficult. But let us remember what a God we have to do with; how "merciful and gracious;
n Jer. xliv. 12,-14.
P ver. 31, 32.
Luke xvi. 17.
• Jer. xliv. 26-28.
a ver. 33. with Ps. lxxviii. 26-31.
and how abundant in goodness and truth:" and let us "never stagger at any of his promises through unbelief; but be strong in faith, giving glory to God." And if, according to the views of sense, there be no hope, "let us against hope believe in hope;" and rest assured, that "whatever God has promised, he is both able and willing to perform."]
2. Those who question the execution of his threatenings
[Men will dissuade us from regarding, as we ought, the sacred oracles; and will venture to place their own word in opposition to God's. Your own heart, too, will be apt to suggest, "I shall have peace, though I walk after the imagination of my own evil heart"." But what God said to Moses, he says to us: "Thou shalt know whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not." Go on; listen to your carnal advisers; let them tell you that there is no need to give yourselves up to God; and that you may be the servants both of God and Mammon at the same time. Go on; and take their word in preference to God's; and wait to see "whose word shall stand, theirs or his." But remember, that if, unhappily for you, God's word shall take place, and that threatening be executed, there will be no room left for repentance: your state will be fixed, and that for ever. Choose ye, then, whom ye will believe, and whom ye will serve: and, if ye be truly wise, shut your ears against the assurances of an ungodly world, and say, in reference to them all, "Let God be true, and every man a liary."
u Deut. xxix. 19, 20.
x Ezek. xxiv. 14. y Rom. iii. 4.
JOSHUA'S ENVY REPROVed.
Numb. xi. 27-29. And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them!
EXPERIENCE proves that eminent situations are atttended with manifold anxieties; and that rulers, though envied by their subjects, often feel a weight of care which is burthensome in the extreme. Moses was supported in his office by God himself,
who confirmed his authority by many signal and miraculous interpositions: yet even he complained, "I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me."
To relieve him from the burthen, God promised, that he would pour out his Spirit upon seventy elders, whom Moses should select, and would qualify them for taking a share in the government. Two of the persons nominated, (being deterred, it should seem, by a sense of their own insufficiency for the office,) stayed in the camp, instead of going up with the others to the tabernacle at the time appointed. God however did not on this account withhold his Spirit from them, but gave it to them in the same manner as to the others in consequence of which they began to prophesy in the camp. This innovation excited the jealousy of Joshua; who, fearing lest it should weaken the authority of Moses, instantly informed him of it, and desired him to forbid any further exercise of their gifts: but Moses saw through the hidden motives by which he was actuated, and checked the evil which had risen in his heart.
Let us consider,
I. The principle he indulged
Doubtless, Joshua thought that he was acting under a good impression, and that his zeal was of the purest kind: but Moses traces his conduct to a principle of envy, which needed to be mortified and suppressed. Now envy is,
1. A common principle—
[Few are conscious of it in themselves; but all see the operation of it in their neighbours. There is not any evil in the heart of man more universally prevalent than this. "It is not in vain that the Scripture saith, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy." We may see in Cain, in Joseph's brethren, in Saul, and in all the rulers of the Jewish Church, that this disposition is natural to man. Infants at the breast have been seen to feel its malignant influence, when another has been permitted to participate what they have deemed their
c 1 John iii. 12. Acts vii. 9. 1 Sam. xviii. 9. Matt. xxvii. 18.
exclusive right. There is no age, no situation, exempt. Even those who possess the most, as well as those who are wholly destitute, are open to its assaults --]
2. An active principle
[Whatever is an object of desire, is also an object of envy: for envy is nothing but a regret that another should possess that which we ourselves would wish to enjoy. Usually indeed the things which persons most envy, are such as are proper to their own age or condition in life; and such as they think themselves in some measure entitled to. Those in whom beauty or strength is highly valued, look not with complacency on one who is reckoned to surpass them: nor do those who desire fame on account of mental qualifications, love to acknowledge the intellectual superiority of others. All are happy to hear their rivals depreciated, and themselves preferred. Nor is it respecting natural endowments only that this principle exerts itself: it shews itself no less in reference to acquired distinctions, of whatever kind. Riches and honours are amongst the objects which most powerfully excite this corrupt feeling: and it is difficult for any one to behold the more rapid advancement of his rival, and not to feel in himself some workings of this malignant disposition.
But this principle operates even where personal considerations appear very feeble and remote. The exaltation of a party, for instance, will call it forth in those who belong to an opposite party. There scarcely ever is a popular election, but the partisans of rival candidates are open to its assaults, as much as the principals themselves. Parties in the Church are no less agitated by this corroding passion, insomuch that they will endeavour to outstrip each other in things to which they have no real inclination, in order by any means to gain an ascendency for their own side. In the days of the Apostles, "some preached Christ of envy and strife;" and there is but too much reason to fear, that many also in this day have no better motive for their benevolent and religious exertions, than the strengthening and increasing of a party in the Church.]
3. A deep-rooted principle—
[One would suppose that religion should presently and entirely extirpate this principle: but it is not so easily rooted out. We find it working in persons who profess to have a zeal for God; yea, in persons also of whose piety we cannot doubt. The disciples of John were alarmed for the honour of their master, when they heard that Jesus had more disciples than he: and the Apostles themselves forbade a person to persist in the work of casting out devils, because he did not attach e John iii. 26.
d 1 Cor. iii. 1-4.
himself to them. This was the very spirit by which Joshua was actuated: he was afraid lest the honour and influence of Moses should be weakened by others rising into popularity around him. Of course, this disposition is not wilfully indulged by any who truly fear God: but it is so rooted in the heart, that all have need to be on their guard against it.]
The hatefulness of such a principle may be seen by, II. The reproof it met with
Moses appears truly as a man of God. Behold, in his answer to Joshua,
1. His fidelity
[He had a peculiar regard for Joshua: but that did not cause him to overlook his faults, much less to countenance him in what was wrong. Young men in general are apt to be led away by their feelings, and not to be sufficiently aware of their own corruptions. This was the case with Joshua: and Moses, like a father, watched over him with care, and reproved him with tenderness. Moses pointed out to him the principle by which he was actuated, and that higher principle by which he ought rather to be governed. It would be well if all religious people were equally on their guard, to check, rather than encourage, the growth of evil. If a person be of our party, and more especially if he be our friend, we are ready to receive his reports, without very strict inquiry, and to accede to his proposals, without sufficient care. Hence one person in a society sometimes diffuses throughout the whole a spirit of strife and contention, when, if the erroneousness of his views had been pointed out at first, the peace of the whole body might have been preserved. Great attention therefore do we recommend to all in this particular. More especially would we remind professing Christians of their duty; "Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy brother, and not suffer sin upon him "." We should not be contented with a specious suggestion. We should dread the incursion of an evil principle in the Church, as much as we do the introduction of fire in a place filled with combustibles. We should ever remember, that "a little leaven will soon leaven the whole lump."]
2. His zeal
[The glory of God was that which was uppermost in the mind of Moses: and if that might but be advanced, he was quite indifferent whether his own honour were eclipsed or not. He well knew, that these two men could have nothing except it were given them from above; and that if God had
f Mark ix. 38.
g Lev. xix. 17.
h This was John's answer; Mark ix. 39.