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from such a wish, and if the granting it could any way contribute to the accomplishment of a purpose so desirable.
The sentiment, then, of those mystics, has no warrant either in the language or in the spirit of any of the persons whom God has proposed to us as patterns in scripture.
Besides their being unscriptural, what can be more extravagant and unnatural, than those ranting expressions of one of that order?” “Though I were sure of being condemned to hell, I would not cease from my penitential acts, and from depriving myself of all comforts for the love of God. If I am to be cast into hell, O my God stay no longer, make haste, and since thou hast forsaken me, finish thy work, precipitate me into the bottomless pit.” Catharine of Sienna thinks fit to express herself thus on the same subject: “Though it were possible to feel all the torments of devils and damned souls, yet should I never call them pains, so much pleasure would the pure love of God make me to find therein.” These are evidently the idle speculations of persons too much at their ease, whom one hour of exquisite torment would bring to their senses, and teach a sounder divinity. What is the foundation of our love to God? His love to us; the good which he has done to us, that which we still expect from him. I feel it impossible for me to love one, whose interest or caprice require that I should be tormented everlastingly. I love the Lord because he hath delivered me from the curse of the law; because he hath saved me from going down to the pit; because he “hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” Eph. ii. 6.
Moses by entreaty obtains a short reprieve for the offenders; but a plain intimation is given that they should not pass wholly unpunished. “In the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them,” Verse 34. The meaning of this threatening is fully explained in the sequel. All that generation of men were blotted
* Angèle de Foligni. Evêque de Meaux Instruct. Pastor. Page 341.
out of the book of the living; their carcases fell gradually in the wilderness: they were not permitted to see the good land promised to their fathers; plague upon plague overtook them, till they were consumed for their idolatry; of the worshippers of the golden calf not one entered into Canaan.
God had hitherto condescended to conduct and de
fend Israel, in that wonderful symbol of his presence, the pillar of cloud and fire. Provoked by their rebellion, their Protector and Guide withdraws from them, and they are left to pursue their march, through paths of their own choosing. The adage says, “Whom God means to destroy, ń. first infatuates.” Had it run more simply, “Whom God means to destroy, he first forsakes,” it had been juster and more consonant to the
tenor of scripture. When Jehovah has withdrawn as a friend, he is not far off as an enemy. But what must it have been to one who felt like Moses, to be commanded to proceed to the conquest of Canaan, destitute of the presence and support of God, the glory and the strength of Israel? It was like sending a ship into a tempestuous ocean, without ballast, without a mast or sail, without a rudder or compass, to be driven at the mercy of every blast; and laid under the necessity of sinking in the mighty deep. Moses apprehends the full extent of an attempt so perilous, and deprecates it with all the energy of supplication. He apprehends no ill, save one, that of being deserted of God. He trembles at no foe, but their best friend estranged.
The wretched multitude now see their nakedness,
and are ashamed. In vain do gold and jewels attempt to hide the deformity of a soul that has lost its innoeence. They were not more eager, the other day, to contribute their ornaments to the formation of an idol, than they are now to hide them out of sight, as the mon
unients of their dishonour. “What fruit have they now in those things whereof they are ashamed?” A face of mourning is seen over the whole camp, and every face is clothed with despair. Direction is given to remove the tabernacle without the camp. A few who had continued faithful, adhere to that divine instrument of protection, and follow it. The cloudy pillar, which, during the period of riot, sedition and revolt, had in wrath departed, returned to its destined residence, the tabernacle. In the eyes of astonished Israel, Moses enters undismayed into that mansion of divine glory, proceeds to meet God, as a man to meet his friend; renews the conference in the plain, which had been broken off on the mount. The result is, God graciously relents, being mindful of his covenant, and again undertakes the safe conduct of his people, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest,” Chap. xxxiii. 14, and all again is peace. And thus conclude the controversies between disobedient and gainsaying children, and their tender-hearted, relenting Father. He is not to be “overcome of evil, but overcomes evil with good.”
But what is this I hear? Moses . for still farther manifestations of the divine perfections? Who had seen, who had heard, who had felt and enjoyed so much of God as he? And yet still he is importunately entreating, “Lord, show me thy glory.” O my friends, how many things of God do “angels still desire to look into?” . There is “a breadth, and length, and depth, and height, in the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.” The response of the oracle to this request, is not less extraordinary than the request itself. “And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me and live. And the Lord .
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said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock. And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock; and will cover thee with my hand, while I pass by. And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.” Chap. xxxiii. 19—23. This opens a field of meditation too ample to be now entered upon. Let it be reserved for the entire ground of another evening’s excursion into the region of scripture: and let us contemplate with wonder the scene which has just passed before our eyes. —Does the wholestory seem to any one incredible? Let the horrid scene which this great metropolis exhibited not many years ago,” arise upon his recollection. Let him think on the frenzy, which, like a mighty torrent, carried every thing before it; which fired the city, overawed the senate, and threatened the dissolution of all regular government. Who can tell the dire effects which desperate enthusiasm, suddenly bursting out and exciting universal terror and consternation, may produce. Had we not seen it with our eyes, we could scarcely have believed, that consequences so momentous should have issued from a source so contemptible. The resolutions and operations of a lawless multitude are truly formidable. Unopposed, they rush on as an overflowing flood; resisted, they melt away; they are scattered like chaff driven by the wind. —Observe, O man, how the most difficult lessons of religion, patience, and forbearance, and forgiveness, are taught thee by the example of the great Jehovah himself. Darest thou to think of vengeance for a petty, a misconceived, and imaginary offence, when thou beholdest the most glorious of all beings, passing by, blotting out the most heinous, the most unprovoked insults, and when thou hearest him pro
claiming his name, “the LORD, the LORD God, .# and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin?” “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good,” Rom. xii. 19, 20, 21. “I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust,” Matt. v. 44, 45. —“Follow on to know the Lord.” Expatiate in nature’s ample field, and you will find profit and instruction blended with delight. Explore the wonders of eternal Providence, and you will see constant cause to rejoice in the thought that there is a GOD who judgeth and ruleth in the earth. Dive deeper and deeper into those mysteries of grace which “angels desire to look into,” and break forth into songs of joy, that “ GOD is love.” “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent,” John xvii. 3. Now “we know in part, and we prophecy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away,” I Cor. xiii. 9, 10. Nature now presents in every plant, in every peb. ble, mysteries that defy the researches of the wisest and most acute; then “the way-faring man, though a fool,” shall comprehend systems the vastest, most complex, most abstruse. Providence now exhibits an apparent inconsistency and disorder, which confounds