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But salvation, such as God hath promised, is not an object to all men. Some have no opinion of it; as there were those amongst the people in the wilderness, who thought scorn of that pleasant land to which they were going. When the spies who were sent to view the land of Canaan made their report of it, and brought back with them some of its fruits, they dif
ed faithful and told the truth, said it was an exceeding good land flowing with milk and honey; and that they were well able, with God on their side, to take possession of it, and overcome the inhabitants, whose defence was departed from them. Others brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched: they described it as a land which ate up, that is, starved its inhabitants ; and that these were men of a gigantic stature, to whom ordinary men were but as grasshoppers. This latter report found too much credit : and the congregation was so discouraged and terrified by it, that they lift up their voices and wept; and they murmured against Moses and Aaron for bringing them into these insuperable difficulties, even determined to make them another captain and go back. This is the act of unbelief for which they were doomed to fall in the wilderness, without being permitted to see that land which they would take no pains to win.
Such is the case of those fearful minds and faint hearts, which say there is a lion in the way, and magnify all the difficulties of the Christian warfare. The heavenly land, as they conceive of it, and as they hear from people like themselves, is not a place that would make them happy. Besides there are such temptations in the way as no man can resist. Vice is strong, and nature is weak. The gospel prescribes a way of life that would starve people, and take away all their comfort. Therefore when all things are considered, nothing is to be done, but to give up the cause, and go back to the opinions and ways of the children of this world.
If I may give you my own sentiment, I do not suppose there is a sin upon earth more hateful to God, than this of undervaluing his promises, distrusting his protection, and making unjust representations either of his religion itself, or of the rewards of it; as if his service were hard, or the end of it not worth attaining. This I can tell you, that such people are often made more miserable, and suffer worse agitations of mind from disappointments in the way of their own chusing, than the most abstracted saint ever suffered from the practice of self-denial in the way of godliness. For we may lay it down as a certain rule, that · they who have not faith to see the value of the other world, have not the wit to use this properly: and no' man need wish his worst enemy more wretched than the abuse of this world will make him. But, on the contrary, what words can describe the blessedness of him, who depending on the promises of God, conquers the difficulties of life, and hath hope in his death! such a hope as is signified by the divine Psalmist, in words much to our present purpose-I should utterly have fainted, but that I believe verily to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. As if he had said, “ I believe the report concerning that good land, to “ the possession of which we are journeying ; I know “ the value of it, and that the Lord himself is my “ defence by the way; and so my heart hath not “ failed me: therefore I give the same advice to all ; “ wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall “ strengthen thine heart : he who led Joshua to vic
“ tory in the promised land, shall bring down the “ walls of the mighty, and support thee against all " that appears gigantic and terrible in the way of thy “ salvation." St. Paul, having pointed out to us, and applied all these figures as examples to us under the gospel, draws this weighty moral from the history of our fathers who journeyed in the wilderness: “ where“fore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest “ he fall. There hath no temptation taken you, but such “as is common to man: but God is faithful who will “ not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, " but will, with the temptation also, make a way to es“ cape that ye may be able to bear it *." This is the doctrine we are to learn from their history. He that standeth may now fall through unbelief, as they did : he that has been brought out of Egypt, may fall in the wilderness; therefore let us pass the time of our sojourning here in fear. But then, as God is still with us, we are never to be discouraged in the time of trial, nor to doubt of his protection. If there is a sea on one side, and a host of Egyptians on the other, and there seems no way to escape, the waters shall be divided and the Egyptians shall be overthrown. If there is neither bread nor water in appearance, some improbable causes shall give us a supply of both; some flinty stone shall become a springing well, and the heavens above shall give us meat enough. Then for the sicknesses of the soul, we have the remedy of the cross; and against the gigantic race of Anak, a defender who will never leave us nor forsake us: howsoever great and formidable the enemies of the Christian may appear, Greater is he that is in us, than he that is in the world.
* 1 Cor. x. 1%, 19.
· Though it is the design of these lectures rather to interpret the scripture than to apply it ; yet we are to consider the application as the end, and the interpretation as the means: therefore I cannot help indulging myself sometimes in dwelling upon the moral part, which is the most edifying of all. The history of the church in the wilderness is figurative, and we have learned what it signifies : but what good will this knowledge do us, if there is no counsel with it? What shall we gain by seeing how men were lost, unless we take advice from thence and learn how we may be saved? I therefore do not spare, when occasion offers, to add to my interpretations such spiritual advice as arises out of them. The length and labour of my undertaking is the greater upon this account ; but I hope your profit will be greater in proportion. The church that went from Egypt to Canaan gives us an example of every thing that can happen to the Christian Church, from the beginning of it even to, the end of the world: therefore no historical figure of the scripture is of more importance to us than this journey of the Hebrews through the wilderness : and I ought not yet to lay it aside. For there are two particulars remaining, which are of great signification: the one is the rebellion of Corah, and the other is the settlement of the church in Canaan, a land of the Gentiles..
St. Jude, in his epistle concerning the corruption of the Church, speaks of some who perished in the gainsaying of Core: therefore this same evil which happened in the church of Moses, is to be found in the church of Christ, and it behoves us to consider what it was. Corah and his company had no dispute about the object or form of divine worship: they questioned none of the doctrines of the law; they rose up against
the persons of Moses and Aaron; that is against the civil and ecclesiastical authority; contending that themselves and all the congregation had an equal right; that Moses and Aaron had taken too much upon themselves : and by exercising an usurped authority were abusing and making fools of the people. This was their sin, and they maintained it to the last, and perished in it. It was the dispute of popular power against divine authority : and wherever the like pretensions are avowed by Christians, and the same arguments used in support of them, there we see the gainsaying of Corah. It is a lamentable circumstance attending this sin, that it inspires great boldness and obstinacy, such as we read of in Corah and his party. Other sinners are apt to be ashamed of themselves ; but these never; because they assert their own sanctity in the act of their disobedience. When they set up human right against that which is by God's appointment; the more proud and obstinate they are, the more colour they seem to give to their pretensions. It is one reason why rebellion was so severely punished in Corah, and is now so severely threatened in the New Testament, that men are never known to repent of it. In vain did Moses exclaim and remonstrate against the wickedness of Corah: he and all his party preserved the same good opinion of themselves, and persisted in it to the last; even appealing to God himself, though they were risen up against God's ministers; till the earth opened ; and the fire devoured them.
From this example of Corah, we are to learn that God considers all opposition against lawful authority, as a sin against himself. He declares that rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity