« הקודםהמשך »
culous provision for their wants temporal and spiritual. And if we are right in assigning this interpretation to the text, how exceedingly aggravated was their guilt! We mean not to lessen or extenuate what to some may appear to be the whole amount of the sin connected with this part of their history; namely, the ingratitude connected with the rejection of that merciful Jehovah, who had so graciously cared and so bountifully provided for them, from the day he had brought them up out of Egypt to that very
time. There is no small guilt in forgetting, as many do, the God of providence-and were it not for the prevailing frequency of the sin, there cannot be a doubt but it would be viewed in a much more serious light than is often the case. But the charge brought against the Israelites, that they forgat God their Saviour, implies much more than a neglect of that bountiful Benefactor, who had rescued them from the house of bondage, made a way for them through the sea, and gave them manna from heaven and water from the rock. It implied a renunciation arising from unbelief, of Christ, and of the benefits of his redemption, in so far as these were then known to them; together with an accompanying disbelief and contempt of that great scheme of mercy and salvation, of which their deliverance from the thraldom of Egyptian bondage, and their being separated to constitute a particular people in the midst of the nations, was destined to become subservient as a link in the chain of providential preparation, with a view to the advent of the incarnate Redeemer.
The particular events which fell under their immediate experience, illustrious as they were in their own nature, as manifestations of the Divine power and goodness, were far from constituting the sole or even the chief grounds which they had for loving and confiding in God their Saviour, and for resisting far greater temptations than they ever actually encountered to seduce them from their allegiance. For even according to the lowest estimate that can be put upon their knowledge respecting the work of salvation, they must have understood that it was the design of God to promote an end no less momentous and interesting than to deliver mankind from the guilt of sin, the power of Satan, and the dominion of the grave, and to introduce them, through the merits of a Redeemer, into an immortality of glory and of unmingled blessedness. For to conceive any thing else would be to suppose them, notwithstanding their peculiar privileges, to be as ignorant, or even more so than the surrounding heathen, many of whom were not altogether destitute of some obscure anticipations respecting the exaltation of mankind to a better state of existence in a future life. And if this was the ståte of knowledge of the people of Israel; if, together with all they themselves saw and experienced of the goodness of God their Saviour, they were permitted to look forward in faith to the ulterior developements of that economy of mercy of which their own deliverance from Egypt formed a type and a pledge; if they saw, however far off, the day of Christ, and the benign effects which his death should be attended with, and how through him all the nations of the earth should be blessed; if the blessed vision was in any degree revealed to their eyes, which a prophet of the same age beheld when he said, 6 There shall come a Star out of Jacob and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel;" was not their guilt in forgetting God their Saviour infinitely enhanced by these considerations; and did they not prove them. selves by this sin to be alike insensible to the claims of the past, and indifferent about the interests of the future-to be alike dead to the glory of God and regardless of the dearest privileges of themselves and of their posterity, and of the whole human race? What an awful example then does their case present of the degrading power of the love of sinful and criminal indulgences, and of the success with which a sordid spirit of engrossing selfishness and sensuality will put to flight every principle of piety and faith, every feeling of gratitude, and every holy aspiration of spiritual-mindedness and of hope. All the won
ders of redemption, and all the miracles of a beneficent Providence, are in vain presented before the view of a people whose eyes sin has blinded that they cannot see, and whose hearts it has made fat that they cannot understand.
But this brings us to consider the case of the people of Israel as a warning that is applicable to ourselves, and as a call to beware of those dangers in which we also are placed of falling under the same heinous transgression. To some it may appear, that if they had been situated in the same circumstances with the people of Israel at this period, and had seen the same mighty works, and had received the same miraculous demonstrations of kindness and love, and had been instructed in regard to the same promises, they could never have fallen under the grievous offence which stands charged against that people in the instance before us, when encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai. But have you no mercies for which you are indebted, no light against which you are in danger of sinning, no Saviour and no redemption which you may forget or belie? Is there nothing in your circumstances in any degree analogous to that of the ancient people whose history has been engrossing our attention ? are you placed in a situation so widely different from theirs as to have nothing in common with them, nothing similar ? and is there no hazard that in condemning their ingratitude and depravity, you may not at the same time be in reality pronouncing judgment upon yourselves ?
It is the proof of a lamentable absence of consideration in any, not to acknowledge that they are under obligations to love and to serve God their Saviour, far beyond what they can either express or conceive. Is he not our Creator, the Father of our spirits, and the former of our bodies and, is he not the Author also of that stupendous and glorious universe, in the midst of which we have been placed, surrounded on all sides by the innumerable demonstrations of his majesty and beneficence, which it' every where exhibits to the view of the intelligent and pious obser
ver? And áo we not likewise owe our preservation to him, from countless dangers and evils, many of which we distinguish, but infinitely the greater number of which we can never fully ascertain or learn ? Comparing our state in a temporal point of view with that of God's ancient people, what blessing is there which they received that we have not also obtained, and that we have not cause to acknowledge ? Surely the ordinary operations of Providence are not less the work of Divine power, nor less deserving of our gratitude, than the extraordinary and miraculous interpositions by which God signalized his care and his love for Israel in the wilderness. What would the whole earth become, what our native land, the district in which we live, and the city of our habitation, but a scene of utter desolation, in which every germ of life would soon become extinct, and all vestiges of its present prosperity disappear, but for the goodness of God daily imparted through those various channels, by which he pours down his beneficence upon the sons of men, and causes his goodness to circulate and to flow through all his works? Is not every budding spring, every glowing and blooming summer, every fruit-bearing autumn, and every mitigated and restrained winter, a call to remember God our Saviour; who records his mercy in the institution of the various seasons no less distinctly and conspicuously than when he caused manna to rain from heaven, and water to flow from the flinty bosom of the sterile rock, to supply the wants of his ancient people in the desert ?
But like them, we have higher and more enduring benefits to bind our hearts in grateful and attached allegiance to our blessed Saviour than such as are merely temporary and perishing in their nature. A redemption has been achieved in our behalf, in comparison with which the emancipation of Israel from Egyptian bondage was but a mere sbadow. We can now discern clearly the extent and the value of that mediatorial work, which, though foreshown from the very foundation of the world, has only in these last days been fully revealed, and finally and for ever established. Behold the rod of the oppressor broken, and his prison-gates broken down, and the jubilee proclamation of freedom speeding from land to land, and from shore to shore; and the north, and the south, and the east, and the west, called upon to awaken from the sleep of sin, and shake off the bonds of iniquity, and to evacuate the region of their great adversary the devil, and to become the denizens of a celestial city, the enfranchised possessors of a heavenly Canaan. See the waters of the river of death divided, and a way opened up for the ransomed of the Lord to pass over, and the realms of a blessed immortality inviting you to enjoy the ineffable joys, the high communion, and the sacred rest, which they so bountifully present. Consider how your journey is secured to the land of promise-and, though enemies encompass your path, their power shall not finally overwhelm you, but a table shall be spread for you in the midst of them-and, though Amalek may rage and pour forth its hosts against you, yet you will triumph over all their fury and all their pride, and have cause to raise up your stone of remembrance, having inscribed upon it, Jehovah-nissi, the Lord is my banand my
deliverer. And if the causes for remembering and for living near to God, and for doing his holy will, be so numerous and interesting, consider, further, how despicable and unworthy, on the other hand, are the temptations which would solicit you to forget and to deny God your Saviour. The flesh-pots of Egypt, the pleasures and the delights of sin, the remission of the restraints of religion and duty, the congenial fellowship which the votaries of Satan invite the ignorant and the thoughtless to share—such are the most common motives which weigh with the carnal to estrange them from the homage which they owe to God. But can these compensate for the loss incurred, the misery sustained? Let every man, who would re