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Fain would I, my Brethren, be " free from your blood,” in that awful day. I would, too, that "you also might, every one of you, deliver your own soulsu." But it is indeed most painful to your minister to reflect, that perhaps at this very moment, whilst labouring to save your souls, he is sinking many of them into yet deeper perdition : for we may be sure, that, “ if he who despised Moses' Law died without mercy, there is a yet sorer punishment” awaiting those who despise the Gospel *. I appeal to yourselves, “How shall ye escape, if ye neglect so great salvation?” Now, then, let me prevail upon you to go unto your God, and to entreat of Him to write these things upon your hearts by his Holy Spirit: for I declare unto you, that “they are your life:” yes, “I call heaven and earth to record against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both
and your seed may livez.")
u Ezek. xxxii. 2-9. x Heb. x. 28, 29.
z Deut. xxx, 19.
THE BLESSING BESTOWED ON THE TRIBE OF LEVI.
Deut. xxxii. 8, 9. And of Levi he said, Let thy Thummim
and thy Urim be with thy holy one, whom thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah; who said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children: for they have observed thy word, and kept thy covenant.
AS the father of his people, Moses desired to bless them before his death; and the pronouncing of this blessing, in which he was endued with a spirit of prophecy, was the last act of his life. The grounds on which the blessing was bestowed on the tribe of Levi, are so peculiar, that they deserve a distinct consideration. There is manifestly a testimony given them of decided approbation: and from this circumstance commentators have been led to regard the whole of what is spoken in the text as of the same import; and to supply from conjecture what is nowhere noticed in the Mosaic history, or rather to contradict altogether what is plainly noticed. The conduct of Levi both at Massah (which was also called Meribah), and, above thirty-eight years afterwards, at another place called Meribah, was exceeding sinful At the latter place in particular, both Moses and Aaron, as well as the people, offended God; and were for that offence doomed to die in the wilderness, and never to enter into the promised land. Hence it might have been supposed that God would punish the tribe of Levi and the house of Aaron by withdrawing from them the peculiar honours he had conferred upon them; but as on one occasion they had signalized themselves by a very exalted act of obedience, he was pleased to record what they had done, and to make it an occasion of continuing in their line the most distinguished testimonies of his regard. This sense accords with the history; to the very terms of which the text seems specifically to refer.
In the words before us there are two things particularly to be noticed;
1. The commendation of Levi
The act for which they were commended was truly laudable
[When the people throughout the camp of Israel were worshipping the golden calf, Moses, filled with indignation, called the Levites to him, and bade them gird on swords and slay the ringleaders in idolatry throughout the whole camp: and this order they executed immediately, without any respect of persons whatever: they spared not either their nearest relatives or their dearest friends; but slew of the people three thousand men
This would be thought by many to be a savage act, and to deserve censure rather than praise: but it must be remembered, that God was, if I may so speak, their earthly Governor (they lived under a theocracy); and, that they acted in obedience to their supreme Magistrate: nor could cruelty be imputed to them any more than to any person who executes the laws amongst ourselves. They were justified in what they did, precisely as Phinehas was justified in destroying Zimri and Cozbi. The law itself required, that, if their nearest relative only enticed them to idolatry, even where there was no a Compare Exod. xvii. 7. with Numb. xx. 10–13. Compare
the language in Numb. xx. 13. with the text. • Exod. xxxii. 25–29.
of idols : on which account, God, in righteous indignation, refused them, on some occasions, the aid which he alone could bestow; and referred them to their idols, in whom they trusted, that they might obtain from them those things of which they stood in need : “Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted, which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink-offerings ? Let them rise up and help you, and be your protection.” But to us is the same reproach most justly due : for though we do not, like them, bow down to stocks and stones, we are far from realizing in our minds the exclusive agency of Jehovah. To us, therefore, no less than to them, may be addressed the solemn admonition before us; “ See now, that I, even I, am he, and there is no strange god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.”
Let me now entreat your attention to,
Agreeably to what is here spoken, we see, that, 1. His agency is universal —
[There is not any thing done, whether it be good or evil, but he is the doer of it. “ I am the Lord,” says he; “ and there is none else; there is no God besides me. I am the Lord; and there is none else. I form the light and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil. I, the Lord, do all these thingsa.” There is nothing so great, or so small, but it must be traced to him as its proper source and author, even to the falling of a sparrow, or the falling of a hair from our heads. And God is desirous that this should be known and duly considered by us. To discover this to his ancient people, was one great reason for his marvellous interpositions for them°, and of the no less marvellous forbearance which he exercised towards themd. And we, also, must bear in mind, that “whether he kill or make alive, whether he wound or heal, it is He alone that does it, and there is no strange god with him.”]
2. His appointments are sovereign
[The whole Scripture bears testimony that“God worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." He does so in relation to all temporal matters: “He killeth, and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up: he maketh poor and maketh rich; he bringeth low and sifteth up: he raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit a throne of glory.” In relation to spiritual matters, also, he exercises no less a sovereign control, “having mercy on whom he will have mercy, and hardening whom he sees good to harden." This was viewed by St. Paul in so important a light, that when he had once touched upon it, he did not know how to relinquish the subject, but insisted on it with every diversity of expression that language could furnish, and yet with such repetitions as appeared almost to be endless. Having said that God had blessed us with all spiritual blessings, he traces the gift to this as its true source: “ He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved; in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he had purposed in himself; that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him ; in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will
, that we should be to the praise of his glory.” We have often read this passage, but with so little care, as scarcely to get a glimpse of its true import: but, the more minutely and attentively we consider it, the more shall we see the amazing importance of the subject contained in it, and of the character of God as a mighty Sovereign, that does what he will, and “ gives not account to us of any of his matters h.”]
3. His power is uncontrollable
[Forcible is that appeal of Elihu, “When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? and when he hideth his face, who then can behold him ? whether it be done against a nation or a man only." He is a mighty “Lawgiver, alike able to save or to destroyk.” Hear Jehovah's own declaration e 1 Sam. ii. 6—8.
f Rom. ix. 18. 8 Eph. i. 3—12. and again in ver. 14. h Job xxxiii. 13. i Job xxxiv. 29. k Jam. iy. 12.
respecting this: “I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me
Let us now proceed to notice,
“ See now," says he, “ that this is my unquestionable, and unchangeable character:” and you are called to contemplate it,
1. That you may give him the glory of all that you have received
[My Brethren, God is a holy and a jealous God: “his very name is, JealousP;” and “his glory he will not give to anotherq." How fearfully he will resent any interference with him in this respect, may be seen in the case of Herod, who, when he was applauded for his eloquence, gave not God the glory; and God, in righteous displeasure, caused him to be “eaten up of worms, till he gave up the ghost." But more especially is God jealous in relation to spiritual blessings, which must be ascribed to him alone. Indeed, he has so constituted the whole work of man's salvation, that no particle of honour should be assumed by man, but all glory should be
1 Isai. xliii. 11, 13.
m ver. 40-42.