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found gathering sticks on the Sabbath-day*; those who caught him in the fact, knew not what course to take, they therefore brought him before Moses and Aaron, and all the congregation ; as this was the first offence of the kind, it was thought proper to commit him to prison, till the will of the LORD was enquired; the result of the enquiry was, that the offender should be put to death: he was accordingly carried without the camp, and stoned with stones till he died t. A young man, who blasphemed the name of the Lord, and cursed, was punished in the same manner.
The distinguishing honour which it had pleased God, for the good of the people in general, to confer on Moses and Aaron, occasioned envy in the minds of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram : the first was a near relation to Moses I. These seditious persons aspired to those holy offices to which the Lord had appointed Moses and Aaron; and were desirous to overturn the government, in order to assume equal power with God's ordained ministers; by their artful insinuations, they inflamed the minds of many others, who are said to have been men of renown, who ought therefore to have entertained nobler sentiments. Their number amounted to two hundred and fifty princes, who assembled together and severely reproached Moses and Aaron, for exalting themselves above the rest of the congregation, accusing them of arrogance and injustice.
Moses was so greatly affected with their impiety to God, and unkindness to those who had laboured, with unremitting care, for their welfare, that he fell on his face before them; expressing by this action both sorrow and humility; he calmly remonstrated with them, and desired that they would leave the proof to God; requiring them to attend on the morrow, each man with his censer in his hand. They readily acceded to his proposal, and departed. One would naturally suppose, that as Moses had given them so many hours for re., flection, they would have recollected how impropeis their behaviour was, and declined the trial; but instead of doing so, they employed the intermediate time in persuading all the congregation to support their claiin, and at the appointed hour appeared with censers in their hands, attended by those ungrateful Israelises, who seem to have gladly seized every opportunity of expressing their murmurs and discontent.
* Numb. xv. 32.
# Lev, xxiv, 10
Numb. xvi. 1.
As soon as they were come to the door of the ta ber. nacle, and the princes had laid incense on their cen sers, the GLORY OF THE LORD appeared, and God commanded Moses and Aaron to separate themselves, that he might in a moment destroy the impious multitude; but these good men fell on their faces, and intreated the Lord to spare the nation. The LORD graciously heard their prayer, but caused the earth to open, and swallow up alive Korah, Dathan, and Abiram: and fire came out of the ground, which destroyed those men who dared to appear before the ALMIGHTY in such a cause, and all who belonged to them.
The people were struck with the utmost consterna. tion, expecting to share their fate; but the Divine compassion interposed in their behalf, and they were only commanded to preserve the censers; which were, as a memorial of this wonderful event, afterwards made a covering for the altar.
The behaviour of Moses and Aaron, on this trying occasion, was truly amiable, for they did not suffer private resentment to operate in the least : without
doubt, they made use of every argument to remove the unjust suspicion of the people, and then implored the Lord to turn their hearts; but, as they were so pious, and entertained the highest veneration for the SUPREME Being, it was natural to desire that God might give some signal proof that the priesthood was really of Divine institution ; otherwise there would have been perpetual commotions in the congregation, and the honour of GOD would have been continually insulted.
It is shocking to read of the folly and ingratitude of the Israelites * ; but we are told that, on the very next morning, the congregation which had been so graciously delivered by the mercy of God, at the intercession of Moses and Aaron, once more assembled with clamour and reproach; accusing them for having (as they said) slain the people of the Lord. The Glory OF THE LORD again shone forth in vindication of his insulted servants, who, far from wishing for the destruction of these inconsiderate wretches, as soon as they perceived that a plague was begun, had immediate recourse to the ordinance which God had appointed as a means of reconciliation : Aaron, by the desire of Moses, took a censer with some of the holy fire from the altar, and made an atonement for them; and the LORD graciously rewarded their benevolent purposes, by granting them the heart-felt delight, which those exalted minds must necessarily feel, who can pray for those who despitefully use them, and return good
for evil. It pleased God to appoint another monument, to commemorate the contest between His ministers and these pretenders to the priesthood. He spake unto
# Numb, xvi. 41.
+ Numb. xvii.
Moses, that he slıould command the chief princes of Israel, or heads of tribes, to bring each man a rod, with the name of his tribe written upon it. And the Le. vites were required to write the name of Levi
upon their rod.
As soon as they were collected, Moses, by Divine direction, laid the rods before the Lord in the tabernacle; and, to his great astonishment, when he went to look at them in the morning, he found that the rod of Levi had put forth buds and blossoms, and even yielded almonds. Moses immediately brought them forth, and exhibited the miracle to all the people. There is no doubt, but sufficient care was taken to prevent collusion, and that every one had marked his stick or rod, so as to be able to know it again; they could not there. fore dispute the decision, which was so evidently in fa.. vour of Aaron. God gave command, that from that day none but the sons of Aaron should presume to come into the tabernacle on pain of death.
How graciously kind and condescending was God to this stubborn people! giving them continual proofs of his power and providence, and ordaining memorials, both of his judgments and mercies, to remain for the satisfaction of succeeding generations.
The rod of Aaron was preserved in the Ark, or laid up by it, for a number of years, and certainly was to be seen at the time Moses wrote his history.
The people were so affected with this last miracle, that they fell from presumption to despair, and expressed apprehensions, that if they approached the Tabernacle, they should die; not considering, that those who perished, brought destruction on themselves, excepting indeed the children of the men who were swałowed up alive; but we must remember, that they would have been in a very helpless situation, had they survived their
parents; and as they died innocent, there is no doubt but Divine goodness removed them to a happier state.
Suitable reflections upon this Section will naturally arise from the punishment of the men who broke the Sabbath, and of those who dishonoured the priesthood.
MOSES AND AARON OFFEND THE LORD BY STRIKING
From Numb. Chap. xx.
Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin, in the first month : and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam dicd there; and was buried there.
And there was no water for the congregation; and they gathered themselves together against Moses, and against Aaron.
And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD.
And why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?
And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place ? it is no place of seed, of figs, of vines, or of pomegranates, neither is there any water to drink.
And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly, unto the door of the Tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou