Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

There is in mankind a good-natured dis-, noblest, because one of the most scriptural position to spare the dead. Without very parts of it, with indiscriminating charity dishigh provocation, indeed, who could think of penses the kingdom of heaven to the evil disturbing the peace and silence of the grave, and the good, to " him that sweareth as to and of dragging again before the tribunal of him who feareth an oath.” The wretch man those who have already undergone the whose whole life has been a notorious violamore awful judgment of a righteous God? tion of every law human and divine, who

But this generosity does not always pro- grew old in hatred and contempt of the gosceed from pure benevolence. The dead no pel, falls asleep in the “sure and certain hope longer stand in our way; they are no longer of a resurrection to eternal life.” What is our rivals in the pursuits of fame or of for- this but to encourage men to continue in sin, tune. We can here earn the praise of mag- that grace may abound; to live profligates, nanimity, without any danger of suffering in and yet hope to die in peace ? the interests of our reputation, our conse- Happily, the character we are this evening quence, our self-love. From whatever source to bring under your review will stand the this lenity and forbearance proceed, we would test of the strictest examination, will shine not be thought altogether to condemn them; with superior lustre from being touched and but good-nature in this, as in a few other retouched, will discover new excellencies on cases, is apt sometimes to be carried too far. every investigation, will furnish to the humThrough fear of being thought severe to ble, the penitent, and the believing, perpetual those who have no power to defend them- ground of instruction and consolation. After selves, extravagant and unmerited commen- a course of more than fourscore Lectures on dation has been often lavished on the worth the life, character, and writings of Moses, it less and the wicked. I will cheerfully engage may perhaps be thought superfluous, to emnot to violate the ashes of the dead by unjust ploy the whole of another discourse in atcensure, nor even by merited invective; but tempting to elucidate his character, to recomI must not be forced, on the other hand, to mend his example, to embalm his memory. commemorate virtues that were never prac- | But it is this very circumstance which detertised; to bring to light worth that never mined me to attempt a delineation of this existed, except in the tropes of a funeral wonderful man's portrait, to request that you oration; to represent as right, what God, and would join me in meditating a few moments truth, and reason pronounce to be wrong. My over one who has been honoured of God, to tongue shall be silent as the grave over the do more, in order to please and instruct manmemory of the proudest, most selfish, hard- kind, than any mere man that ever existed. hearted, unkind, uncomplying wretch that To say truth, I consider the person of Moses ever lived: but I must not be called in to as a pledge of affection between you and prostitute my conscience by celebrating his myself. He brought us together at first, and humility, generosity, compassion, or sweet- he has kept is together a considerable part of ness of temper. I would correct the com- these three years past; to part with him and mon adage a little, and then give it all the his writings seems a kind of presentiment currency in my power. Instead of rendering of our final dissolution likewise; and, in it

, “of the dead say that only which is good," losing him, I feel as if I were losing a thouI would translate it

, “of the dead say that sand friends at a stroke. But let us speak only which is true,"

and think of Moses, not of ourselves. Indeed, the best thing that can befall most It is impossible to think of Moses without men, when they die, is to be forgotten as first thinking of “his Father and our Father, soon as possible. Few, very few characters of his God and our God.” To be a chosen are such as not to suffer by handling; and instrument in the hand of Heaven to carry there is great danger of rousing and pro- on the plans of Providence, to promote the yoking slumbering resentments against our wisdom and happiness of mankind, is man's departed friends, by an officious zeal to trum- highest glory: as it is his truest felicity to pet their

praise, and display their good qua- do this voluntarily and from the heart, as an lities. The praise bestowed on the dead is obedient, zealous, and cheerful fellow-worker generally contemptible adulation to the liv- with God. Now, Moses possessed this dising; adulation, vilely bestowing the rewards tinction and felicity in a very eminent degree. of piety and goodness on mere greatness or God raised up Pharaoh " in very deed for affluence, and thereby strengthening the this cause, to show in him his power, that his hands of vice, by lulling the conscience to great name might be declared throughout all rest, and deceiving men into the belief, that the earth;" and Pharaoh, unhappily for hima good name may be purchased without pos- self, accomplished the designs of Heaven, sessing a spark of virtue.

by his pride, obstinacy, and rebellion. God The liturgy of our established church, in called “Cyrus his anointed, by name, and how many other respects soever useful and surnamed him who had not known him for excellent, is here faulty, and certainly does Jacob his servant's sake, and Israel his elect.” mischief. The funeral service, one of the Nebuchadnezzar he employed as the rod of

a

[ocr errors]

his anger to chastise a disobedient and gain deliverance which, in process of time, Goc
saying people, and then broke it in pieces and was by him to work in behalf of a whole
dashed it to the ground. These, and many people.
others, stand upon record, as executing the The same spirit which beheld Egyptian
will of the Eternal without their own con- oppression with just resentment, beheld dis-
sciousness or intention, nay, totally against cord among brethren with godly sorrow and
it; but Moses had the rare felicity of enga- regret. He boldly exposed his life to repel
ging in one of the most generous purposes the one ; in the spirit of meekness he tried
which can animate a human breast, knowing to heal the other and he very early experi,
it to be, at the same time, the leading, com- enced the ungracious, and ungrateful, and
manding purpose of God himself. Every discouraging requital of services the most
step he moved was supported by the enliven- kindly intended; the sad presage of that life
ing reflection, that every step he moved was of mortification unparalleled, and most un-
executing the decrees of the Almighty, and merited, which he was afterwards called to
promoting the relief and salvation of his endure. The insolent retort of an unkind
wretched countrymen. How delightful the brother awakened prudence, and put him for
progress, when duty and inclination go hand a season to flight; for valour, as the case then
in hand!

stood, valour against such fearful odds, could
The circumstances in which God raised not have deserved the name of courage, but
up Moses mark him peculiarly as his own. of rashness.
Every thing concurred to prove, that here Providence still directs his path, and con-
“the arm of the Lord was revealed.” Ano-ducts him at once to usefulness and happi-
ther king had arisen, “who knew not Joseph," ness. It seems as if the all-wise Jehovah
the hope of Israel seemed to be perishing; meant to display in Moses an example of the
Egypt was alarmed with expectation or ra- great and of the petty virtues, the virtues of
ther apprehension, of the appearance of this the man, of the citizen, and of the believer
wonderful child; Israel was awakened to united; and in none of his future exploits

, expectation, but abandoned it in despair. To perhaps, is he more amiable, more estimable

, reach the life of one, ten thousand innocents than in protecting the virgin daughters of perish by the sword. But, as if in defiance Jethro from the violence of their rough and of the precautions of human wisdom, Moses surly neighbours. Here we behold again on is born in the very rage of that persecution what delicate hinges the great God turns which threatened his life. The daughter of round the affairs of men. This piece of Pharaoh becomes his protector, and Egyptian natural, honest, commendable gallantry, inMagi vie with each other in rearing that troduces Moses to the acquaintance of a genius, whose ascendant threatened the prince, lays the foundation of an important downfall of their country; and Moses is be-alliance for life, and influences all his future come great, before the world apprehends that fortunes, and feelings, as a man. it is he by whose hand God would deliver his Hence we are conducted to the delicious, people from bondage.

the calm, the contemplative period of our This brings us forward to the period when hero's mortal existence. We behold a simhis personal character began plainly to unfold ple shepherd tending a flock not his own, but itself; and it discovers to us a mind superior enjoying tranquillity and contentment; se to every mean, every selfish gratification. cluded from the society of men, but blessed Men love to adopt the cause that prevails; with the visions

of the Almighty; losing and the cause of Israel was at that time low himself in sweet oblivion of a busy, bustling indeed. At a certain period of life passion world, awake only to the innocent jors of bears unlimited sway. At forty, the calls of domestic life, and the sublimer pleasures of ambition and pride are loudest; and they who religion. It was in all probability in this de are themselves at ease are little disposed to lightful retreat, during this blessed interval embark in the miseries of others. But in of retirement from and unconnectedness with Moses behold a man, not sunk into poverty what passed on the great theatre, that, divine violently obtruded upon him, but poverty de- ly taught, he sung " how the heavens and liberately chosen; a man of forty relinquish-earth rose out of chaos.” It was then and ing, without reluctance or regret, the plea- there that the divine Spirit disclosed to his sures, riches, and honours of a court, and ex- astonished, his enraptured eye, the years bechanging them for the labour and oppression yond the flood, the spring season of nature, of an Israelitish slave, and glorifying in the the first man whom God created upon the reproachful name of Hebrew, much more earth, the amiableness of pure primeval inthan in that of the son of Pharaoh's daugh-nocence, the glories of paradise, the unlimitter.” Behold the manly indignation of a ed bounty of indulgent heaven. It was then noble spirit hastening to avenge wretched and there, that good Spirit put the pen into ness and depression of insolence and cruelty, his hand, to trace that sacred record, which and in the punishment of one oppressor ex- has descended to us for our delight and inbibiting an anticipated view of that great struction, and which shall remain, till time

а

expire, the wonder, the monitor, the guide of of mount Nebo to die? In general, they mankind unto all manner of truth.

contain a display of almost every human shiWhat a happy period for the human race! ning virtue, brought forward to the eye,

and how happy for himself. Were the will of impressed on the heart, by their most lovely man to prevail, who would exchange such a foil, modesty, meekness, and humility. What retirement as this, for the noise and glare magnanimity! united to what coolness and which captivates fools? But men, such as self-government! what firmness and intrepidMoses, are not made for themselves alone; ity! what patience and gentleness! what conand ill would he have improved the blessings summate wisdom! what amiable simplicity! of solitude, had he not learned in it, cheer- in youth, in maturity, in old age; in public fully to sacrifice his own humour and his own and in private life; in every relation and ease to the work and glory of God.

condition, who is like him, who deserves to The time to favour Israel was now come, be compared with him? In forming an idea and Moses must think of privacy and self- of human excellence, Moses presents himself enjoyment no longer. By a vision, such as immediately to my view; it is no longer an might appal the boldest, and encourage the idea, it is a delightful reality: most fearful, he is remanded to Egypt with a The more attentive part of my hearers will commission under the seal of Heaven, to observe that, to complete the proposed plan haughty Pharaoh, and he fears no more the of this discourse, there is still wanting the wrath of a king.

general leading idea of all these discourses, But we have insensibly deviated into the the resemblance between the type and the history of Moses, instead of delineating his person typified—the analogy of Moses and character. Are they not, however, one and Christ. This I refer to another Lecture; and the same thing? To know what he was, we beg leave to subjoin as a proper sequel to this, have but to consider what he said, and how the following eulogium of Moses, translated he acted But how is it possible to comprise, from the works of an eloquent critic of his within the bounds of one discourse, a detail writings. * of forty active, busy years, from the day that God appeared to him in a flame of fire in the rable du vieux Testament par Jaques Saurin, Tome L.

* Discours Hist. Critique, &c. sur les Evenemens memobush, to the day of his ascending to the top Discours LXX.

EULOGIUM OF MOSES.

“This most extraordinary personage was even; religion and worldly interest. Under presented to the world in very singular cir- the necessity of making a choice so difficult, cumstances. He appeared at a period of pe- he rises above his age, above his passions, nay, culiar affliction to his kindred and nation; and in some sense, above humanity, and nobly saDivine Providence seems to have raised him crifices every worldly prospect to religion. up expressly for the purpose of exemplifying He resolves to partake in the miseries of an virtues, which distress and persecution alone oppressed people, in order to secure an interare calculated to place in the fairest point of est in the favour of that God who is continulight. By a series of miraculous events he ally watching over his children, even when escaped in infancy, the fatal effects of a san- he seems to have abandoned them to their guinary decree, which doomed to death all persecutors; he values nothing in comparison the male children of the Hebrews from the with that favour; he prizes it infinitely more womb. And, what highly merits considera- than that of a great king, nay, more than the tion, and serves strikingly to display the in- prospect itself of being heir to a throne and fluence which Sovereign Wisdom exercises kingdom; and, according to the expression of over all the affairs of men, he owed his pre- St. Paul, Esteemed the reproach of Christ servation in a great measure, to persons whose greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.t interest it was to have destroyed him. These “ Not satisfied with being a spectator and very persons assisted in forming that superior a partaker of the misery of his wretched genius, and in cultivating those wonderful brethren, he resolves to meet the torrent; talents, which, in time, qualified him to be and, of a witness, hastens to become the the deliverer of a nation which it was their avenger of the tyranny under which they intention utterly to extirpate.

groaned. Observing one of the merciless * Scarcely arrived at that stage of life tools of oppression abusing an Israelite, he when inen begin to form plans for the re- braves the rigour of all the laws of Egypt, mainder of their existence, he feels himself kills the oppressor, delivers the sufferer, and, called to determine between two objects, so as we have said in another place, performs an incompatible in their nature, that the maturest anticipated act of the deliverer of his country. judgment can with difficulty hold the balance

lieb. xi. 20.

“ Prudence constrains him to withdraw , which had endured in it cruelties the most from the danger which threatened the stran- unexampled. The tyrant pursues him, gains ger who dared to shed the blood of an Egyptian. ground, presses hard upon him. Behold him He retires into the land of Midian, and there encompassed on every side, by a vast and inexperiences repeated proofs of the care of vincible army, by å ridge of inaccessible that miraculous Providence which accompa- mountains, and by the waters of the Red Sea. nied him through the whole course of a long He rebukes the roaring billows; they inlife. Cut off from every opportunity of dis- stantly become obedient to the man whom playing the qualities of the hero, he exhibits the Deity has made, (if the expression be those of the philosopher. He employs the lawful) the depository of his power. The calmness of that retreat in contemplating the waters were a wall unto them on their right divine perfections; or rather, in this delicious hand and on their left,* as the sacred historetirement it was, that he enjoyed the inti- rian expresses himself. Moses advances into mate communications of the Almighty, who the wilderness, and, by a continuation of miinspired him, and appointed him to the high raculous interposition, he beholds those very destination of laying the first foundations of waters which had divided, to favour the pasrevealed religion, which was to supply the de- sage of Israel, closing again, and swallowing fects of that of nature, already clouded and up Pharaoh, his court, and his host. disfigured by the prejudices and the passions “Delivered, in appearance, from his most of mankind. He composed the book of Ge- formidable enemies, he soon finds he has to nesis; and thereby furnished the world with maintain a lasting conflict with foes still more irresistible arms to combat idolatry. He formidable, the very people whom he conattacks the two most extravagant errors into ducted. He discovers in these degenerate which the human race had fallen, the plural- sons of Israel every mean and grovelling ity of gods, and that which adınits imperfec- sentiment which a servile state has a tention in the Deity. To the one, and the other, dency to inspire; all the absurdity of weak he opposes the doctrine of the unity of an all- and capricious minds; all the cowardice, perperfect Being

fidy, and ingratitude of corrupted hearts. “ That God, whose existence and attributes With such a race, Moses found himself under he thus published, was pleased to manifest the necessity of living in a waste and parched himself to him in mount Horeb in a manner desert, and of struggling there with all the altogether singular and miraculous. He con- horrors of hunger and thirst, and a total fers on this chosen servant, the glorious but want of every necessary. Exposed to all formidable commission to take the field against the insults of an enraged, ungovernable mulPharaoh, to stem the current of oppression, to titude, he is at the same time constrained to attempt to mollify the tyrant; and, if persua- act as their intercessor with an offended God. sion failed, to employ force, to support argu- He feels himself called upon to maintain the ments by prodigies, to exact from all Egypt interests of the divine glory with a stiffnecked the expiation of those barbarities which she and perverse nation : and to plead the cause had dared to exercise upon a people distin- of that very nation with Deity, provoked to guished as the object of his tenderest love, execute righteous judgment on a race of men and of his most illustrious miracles.

who were continually disposed to insult his ." This appointinent Moses presumes to de- authority, and to degrade his perfections, by cline: but from a spirit of humility rather than associating him with the infamous idols of the of disobedience. He could not conceive it Pagan 'world. possible that, at the age of fourscore, and la- • Moses had sometimes the felicity of bouring under a defect of speech, he could be averting the divine displeasure, and of rethe person qualified to address a mighty straining the madness of the people. But prince, and overturn a whole kingdom. The more frequently he endured the mortification appointment is a second time pressed upon of seeing the inefficacy of all his well-meant him; a second time he refuses it. At length, efforts. The violence of the people bore however, his reluctance is overcome; and, down all opposition; and offended Heaven filled with that Spirit which animated him to turned a deaf ear to the voice of his supplicathe conflict, he enters on the career of glory tion. Divine justice vindicated its rights ; which was presented to him, and his first vic- Israel felt its severest strokes, and twentytory is a victory over himself. He tears him- four thousand † fall at one stroke. self from the delights of the land of Midian; “ The most awful chastisements have he quits the house of a father-in-law, by whom proved equally ineffectual with the tenderest he was most tenderly beloved, to encounter expostulations, to bring them back to a sense a host of enemies and executioners.

of their duty. And as if Moses had been re“ He arrives in Egypt. He presents him- sponsible for the calamities which they had self before Pharaoh : he entreats; he threat- brought upon themselves, by their reiterated ens; he draws down upon the Egyptians crimes, they talk of stoning him. They proplagues the most tremendous. He departs pose to appoint a commander to conduct them from that kingdoin, at the head of a people

Numb. xxv. 9.

a

a

* Exod. xiv. 29.

We will go

back to Egypt, from whence God had deliver-, source! Witness these ardent aspirations of ed them by a strong hand and a stretched- soul after God: If thy presence go not with out arm : they prefer an inglorious servitude me, carry us not up hence. I beseech thee, to the miraculous protection afforded them in show me thy glory.* the wilderness, and to all the prospects of the “What zeal for the glory of God! Witfair inheritance which God had promised to ness the tables of the law broken in pieces at bestow upon them.

the sight of a people who had rendered them" In a state of such anxiety and distress, selves unworthy of receiving marks so tenMoses passed forty complete years, and con- der of the love of God. Witness that rigoducted, at length, the remains of this people rous order issued to the sons of Levi: Thus to the borders of the promised land." Was saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man ever life so singularly eventful ? Was ever his sword by his side, and go in and out from hero sigualized by so many extraordinary ex- gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay ploits ?

every man his brother, and every man his “ If we go into a more particular detail of companion, and every man his neighbour.'t his great actions, we meet with a bright dis- Witness his answer to Joshua, when he explay of every shining virtue.

pressed an apprehension lest the prophetic • What magnanimity! Witness the ar- gifts bestowed on Eldad and Medad should mies he so successfully commanded; witness eclipse the glory of his master : •Enviest the crown and kingdom of Egypt despised, thou for my sake, would God that all the rejected, when put in competition with the Lord's people were prophets, and that the obligations and prospects of religion. Lord would put his Spirit upon them!'I

What firmness! Witness his undaunted “What perseverance! Witness those exaddresses, and his animated replies to Pha- hortations; and that sacred song, with which raoh. Thus saith the Lord, Let my people he concluded his ministrations and his life. go, that they may serve me.*

“ But where was perfect virtue ever to be with our young and with our old, with our found? Moses too had his infirmities. In a sons and with our daughters, with our flocks life so long, however, and so peculiarly cirand with our herds will we go; there shall cumstanced, who is chargeable with faults not be an hoof left behind. Thou hast spo- so slight and so few ? His very errors seem ken well, I will see thy face again no more.t to partake of the nature of virtue. The

• What fervour ! Witness these hands darker shades of his character become perlifted up to heaven, while Israel was fighting ceptible from the contrast they form with a against Amalek. Witness these ardent whole life so bright and luminous. That he prayers in behalf of the rebellious Israelites: should shrink back, at first, from the proposal • Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against of an embassy to the king of Egypt; that he thy people, which thou hast brought forth out should neglect, for a season, from certain of the land of Egypt, with great power, and domestic considerations, the circumcision of with a mighty hand! Wherefore should the a child; that he should be slow of belief Egyptians speak and say, For mischief did respecting the disposition of a righteous God he bring them out, to slay them in the moun- to extract water miraculously from the rock, tains, and to consume them from the face of to supply the wants of a murmuring generathe earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and tion; that he should strike the rock a second repent of this evil against thy people. Re- time, rather from indignation against the member Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy ser- rebels, than from distrust of God in whom vants, to whom thou swearest by thine own compassions flow. These undoubtedly are self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply blemishes, nay, offences which God might your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this punish with death, were he strict to mark Jand that I have spoken of, will I give unto iniquity; but, when human infirmity is taken your seed, and they shall inherit it for into the account, they are faults that excite ever.'1

pity rather than indignation. What charity! Witness these forcible “ Should any part of the eulogium we have expressions: Oh, this people have sinned a pronounced on Moses seem exaggerated, we great sin, and have made them gods of gold. shall add, to all the honourable traits under Yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sin: and which we have represented him, one infiif not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book nitely more glorious still, traced by the hand which thou hast written.

of God himself, who best knows how to ap“What gentleness! Witness what is preciate merit and distribute praise, and sa id of him, Numbers xii. 3. Now the man which exalts our prophet far above all hu. Moses was very meek, above all the men man panegyric: There arose not a prophet which were upon the face of the earth. since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the

“ What earnest desire to draw supplies of Lord knew face to face : in all the signs and grace and truth immediately from their the wonders which the Lord sent him to do Exod. viii. 1.

• Exod. xxxiii. 15. 18. Exod. xxxli. 11-13. Exod. xxxii. 31, 32

1 Numb. xi. 29.

Exod. x. 9. 26. 29.

+ Exod. xxxii. 27.

« ZurückWeiter »