« AnteriorContinuar »
majestic step, to meet the king of terrors. The interests of the God of Israel, and of the Israel of God, had employed his thoughts all his life long; and, blended in one, they glow in and expand his heart to his latest moment. He was speedily to cease from every earthly care, to cease from serving Israel any longer, to be occupied with God only; but even in death he is contriving the means of doing good to that dearly beloved, that fondly cherished people. As if his heart had relented at the harshness of some of the expressions which fidelity and a sense of duty had extorted from him ; like one unwilling to part with them under any semblance of unkindness or displeasure, he again assumes the tender father, tunes his tongue to the law of kindness, buries all resentment of the past, and every thing unpleasant, in the prospects of futurity, in the gentleness and benevolence of friends who were separating to meet no more.
The soul that is at peace with God desires to be at peace with all men ; and it is meet that dying breath be sweetened with mercy, forgiveness and love. Slowly and solemnly as Moses advanced to meet his latter end, would we accompany his steps in his last progress through the beloved tents of Israel, and in his ascent to the hill, from whence we never should return. With a heart like his, overflowing with charity to the whole church of God, and filled with sentiments of peculiar affection towards you, we behold the approach of that hour which is to disperse us, perhaps too forever. With a blessing on our lips, like him, and o that his God and ours may make it effectual, we are hastening to bid you farewell.
The words which I have read are the beginning of the 54th and last parasha, or great section of the law, into which the wbole book of Moses were subdivided, for the conveniency of publicly reading them, in conjunction with the prophets, every sabbath-day ; a custom which prevailed in the Jewish church, down to the
times of our Saviour and his apostles, as we learn from several passages of the gospel history. Thus Christ himself, “ when he came to Nazareth, where he hael been brought up, as his custom was, went into the synagogue, on the sabbath-day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor : he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliver. ance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised: to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, ard sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears,” Luke iv. 16...21. Thus James, in de. termining the question in the synod of Jerusalem, concerning the necessity of circumcision, says, “ Mo. ses of old time hath in every city them that prcach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath-day,'' Acts xv. 21. And Paul and Barnabas, when “ they came to Antioch, in Pisidia, went into the synagogue on the sabbath-day, and sat down. And after the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on,” Acts xiii. 14, 15.
The first section begins with the opening of the book of Genesis, and goes up to the ninth verse of the sixth chapter, and is called Bereshit, the first word in the Hebrew bible. The second begins at these words in the sixth chapter, “ These are the generations of Noah :” and is thence called Noah, and ends at the beginning of chapter twelfth, which sets out with the call of Abraham, and is therefore styled the section Lec Leca, i. e. “Get thee out,” and so of the rest. To bring the whole fifty-four divisions within the .compass of the year, they joined two of the shortest into one reading. Thus the whole constitution, both as to civil and sacred things, was publicly rehearsed once every year; so that it was impossible for any decent Israelite to be grossly ignorant of either the laws, the history, or the religion of his country.
The first public lecture was on the sabbath that followed the feast of tabernacles, and went on till the anniversary of that feast returned. I have mentioned these circumstances for several reasons. I am not ill pleased to have so respectable an example for attempting a mode of instruction, which reason and experience convince us to be at once the most pleasant and the most useful. I honor human learning, I admire great talents, I am enchanted with eloquence; but I am persuaded, if saving knowledge be communicated, it is by the quick and powerful energy of God's word coming, not with the allurements of man's wisdom, “ but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of This leads us to express a wonder why the reading of the scriptures by large portions at a time is not universally practised in christian congregations. Surely there must be a better reason for neglecting it, than that it is enjoined by the canons of the church, and is in general practice in the establishment. The last reason I have at present to render for this digression, if it be thought one, is its affording me an opportunity of earnestly recommending to masters and mistresses of fa. milies, the regular and progressive use of the scriptures, within the precincts of their private households, for the instruction of their children and servants. I am well aware that from a diffidence and humility not too severely to be blamed, some younger beads of families are tempted to neglect family worship altogether, because some parts of it they cannot, dare not, undertake: that for example, of addressing God in prayer, as the mouth of their domestic little church. Let
them begin with reading aloud the word of God : for this surely they have courage sufficient. They will be brought to pray insensibly, they will soon cease to be ashamed of that which is their highest honor and most glorious privilege. We now return.
The idea I have formed to myself of “this blessing, wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death,” Deut. xxxiii. l, how justly I presume not to say, is this: Moses, having received his final summons to prepare for death, feels himself prompted at once by affection and the spirit of prophecy, to take a particular leave of every tribe, to bestow a several benediction on every one by name, and to prepare them one by one for the conquest of their inheritance, by giving them prophetically a general notion of their future condition, as constituent parts of the commonwealth of Israel, and of the particular lot to be assigned to each, with its corresponding advantages and pursuits. For this purpose I suppose him making a solemn progress through the whole host, going, from tribe to tribe, from tent to tent, and pouring out his soul, as a dying parent, in blessings upon his offspring, according to their different characters and conditions. O how unlike these visits of selfishness, pride, ambition and strife, which the candidates for fame, place and power, are from time to time, making through a corrupted land! Let us attend his progress, and mark what he says.
We find Moses still beginning, proceeding, conclud. ing with God. He set out on this last awiul circuit, with a mind full of the glorious majesty of the great Jehovah. He calls to his own remembrance, and impresses the image of it on the souls of the whole people, that great and dreadfulday “when the 'Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them,” Deut. xxxiii. 2. The particular mention of Scir and Paran in this exordium, has given birth to a poor conceit in the Jerusalem Targum, to this purpose, “ that God first offered his law, and the protection which it afforded, to the Idumeans, the inhabitants of Mount Seir, and the posterity of Esau, but that they rejected it, because it contained this precept, “ Thou shalt not kill.” That afterwards it was tendered to the Ishmaelites, or inhabitants of Mount Paran, who rejected it, because it said, “ Thou shalt not steal.” That then it was proposed to the posterity of Jacob, who immediately replied, “ All that the Lord hath commanded will we do, and be obedient." Without having recourse to a construction so unsupported, forced and unnatural, the words of Moses, at the first glance, convey to us an image inconceivably grand and sublime, but at the same time simple, natural and obvious. Israel was encamped in the plains of Moab, with Jordan and the fertile fields of Canaan directly in view : the prospect on the south terminated by the lofty mountains of Teman or Seir; and on the north by Mount Paran, while Sinai raised its awful head, and buried it in the clouds of heaven from behind. Moses accordingly represents, in the bold imagery of oriental poetry, the glory of the Lord arising like the sun in the east, from behind the top of Sinai, and instantly darting his light from hill to hill, and increasing in lusture till the whole expanse of heaven is filled with it. The prophet Habakkuk has evidently caught the same celestial fire, is filled with the same animating object, when he exclaims, “ God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah.