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HISTORY OF MOSES.
...And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah; for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made jor them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, and said, If thou wilt diligently hearÆen to the voice of the Lord thy God, and will do that which is right in his sight, and will give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes; I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which Ihave brought upon the Egyptians. for I am the Lord that healeth thee. And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and three score and ten palm-trees;
and they encamped there by the waters.--ExoDUs xv. 23–27.
UNLESS the mind be under the regulating power of religion, it will be perpetually losing its balance, and changing its tenor: at one time accelerated into indecent and dangerous speed, through the impulse of desire, ambition or revenge; at another it is chilled into languor and inaction, through fear, despondency and disappointment. We shall behold the same person now believing things incredible, and attempting things impracticable; and anon staggering at the shadow of a doubt, and shrinking from the slightest ap
pearance of difficulty and danger. Insolent, fierce and overbearing in prosperity, the unsteady creature becomes grovelling, dispirited, and mean in adversity. “It is a good thing,” therefore, “that the heart be established by grace:” grace, that calm, steady, uniform principle, which veers not with every wind of doctrine; rises not, nor falls, like the mercury in the tube, with every variation of the atmosphere, according to the alternate transition of disappointment and success, censure and applause, health and sickness, youth and age. In the day of prosperity, religion saith to the soul where it dwells, “Rejoice,” and in the day of adversity, “Consider:” for a wise and a merciful God hath set the one over against the other. This divine principle corrects immoderate joy, saying to the happy, “Be not high minded, but fear;” it consoles and supports the miserable, by breathing the sweet assurance, that the “light affliction, ...; is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” 2 Cor. iv. 17. The want of this balance of the soul, and the dangerous consequences of that want, are strikingly exemplified in the history of the chosen people, whom Providence by a series of miracles undertook to conduct from Egypt to Canaan. Elated or depressed by the aspect of the moment, we find them haughty in the hour of victory, and sunk into despair by a defeat. The deepness of the waters of the Red Sea, and their miraculous separation, afford matter of triumph to-day; the bitterness of the waters of Marah causes universal discontent and dejection to-morrow. But alas! we need not recur to distant periods of history for an example of the ruinous effects produced by a destitution of religious principle, and of the fatal power of unbelief. The history of every man's own experience is illustration sufficient. To what must we ascribe the envy, jealousy, rage, pride, resentment, timidity, diffidence and dejection, which successively and unremit
tingly agitate the human mind? Men walk by sight, not by faith. They feel the powers of the world that is, and are insensible of that which is to come. They look at “things temporal,” and neglect those “which are unseen and eternal.” They stand in awe of the creature, and despise the Creator. While then we discover, deplore and condemn a selfish, a perverse and discontented spirit, and an unbelieving heart, in others, let us study, by the grace of God, to reform the same or like dispositions in ourselves. What a magnificent concert filled the shores of the Red Sea, after Israel was passed over! Every thing was suited to another. The words were adapted to the occasion, the music to the words, the performers to the music. There Moses, leading the bolder, rougher notes of manly voices; here Miriam the prophetess, his sister, in sweet accord, blending the softer harmony of the female strains with the notes of the timbrel, in praise of their great Deliverer. Never surely did such music strike the vault of Heaven, and never shall again, “till the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads; when they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Isa. xxxv. 10—never till the song of Moses be closed with the song of the Lamb. At length they quit the scene of their terror and of their triumph; for the world admits not of a long continuance y either; and they advance three days march into the wilderness. Escaped effectually and for ever from the oppression of Egypt, no more opposed in front by an insurmountable barrier, nor hemmed in on either side by impassable mountains, nor pursued by a numerous and well disciplined army; but the sea, once their hindrance, now their defence; every foe subdued, and the road of Canaan strait before them, what can now give disturbance? On how many circumstances
does life and the comfort of it depend! The failure or disagreeable quality of one ingredient corrupts and destroys the whole. In Shur they found no water; in Marah they find water, but it is bitter. The unavoidable condition of a wilderness state! Always too little, . or too much! Here there are children and penury; there affluence and sterility. This year there is drought parching and consuming every plant of the field; the next, an overflowing flood sweeping every thing before it; and unhappy mortals are eternally augmenting the necessary and unavoidable evils of human life, by peevishness and discontent. Oblige an ungrateful person ever so often, and disappoint or oppose him once, and lo, the memory of a thousand benefits is instantly lost. All that Moses, all that God has done for Israel is forgotten, the moment that a scarcity of water is felt. For it is with this spirit as with that of ambition: nothing is attained in the eye of ambition, while there is yet one thing to be attained. All the favour of Ahasuerus avails Haman nothing, while Mordecai the Jew sits in the king's gate, So ingratitude says nothing is granted, while one thing is denied me. One scanty meal in Shur, or one unpalatable beverage at Marah, has obliterated all remembrance of the recent wonders of Egypt, and the more recent miracles of the Red Sea. And as one evil quality is ever found in company with its fellows, we here findingratitude and impiety toward God blended with unkindness and unreasonableness toward man. And cowardice pitifully levels its keen arrows at the servant, not daring to attack the master. “The people murmured against Moses.” A worldly mind under distress either flies to the creature for help, or accuses the creature as the cause of its wo. $o, leads the soul directly to God; it views the calamity as his appointment; and finds its removal, its remedy, qr its compensation in the divine mercy. Israel tastes
the bitter water; desponds, and charges Moses foolishly. Moses cries to God, and is enlightened. Observe the goodness and long-suffering of God. Readier to listen to the entreaties of Moses than to punish the perverseness and unbelief of the people, he instantly directs to a cure for the nitrous quality of the waters of Marah. “The Lord showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet.” Of little consequence is it to inquire, because it is impossible to determine, whether the wood of this tree had in it an inherent virtue which naturally corrected the brackish taste of the water; or whether the sweetening quality were preternaturally communicated to it to fulfil the present design of Providence. Whether I see water sweetened by a log of wood cast into it, or issuing from the flinty rock, or flowing naturally in the brook; whether I see Israel fed with bread from Heaven, or Moses and Christ subsisting forty days without bread at all; or mankind in general supported by bread growing gradually out of the ground; I still behold but one and the same object; “good gifts coming down” but in so many different ways “from the Father of lights.” The wise man, in the apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus, has made a happy use of this passage, to inculcate the necessity of using appointed means in order to obtain success. “The Lord (says he) hath created medicines out of the earth, and he that is wise will not abhor them. Was not the water made sweet with wood, that the virtue thereof might be known? and he hath given men skill, that he might be honoured in his marvellous works. With such doth he heal men, and taketh away their pains. My son, in thy sickness be not negligent; but pray unto the Lord, and he will make thee whole.” A fondness for allegory has represented the effect produced by this tree cast into the water, as emblema