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responsible to God: and, if they shrink not from using it, because the exercise of it would subject them to the reproaches of the ungodly, let them bear in mind, that they shall receive commendations from their God; and that, by every friend of piety and of order, they will be reckoned, like Phinehas, the truest patriots of their day. Ministers also, in their respective spheres, should use influence for the suppression of iniquity; boldly rebuking it in public, and using every lawful method of discountenancing it in private. Persons too in every sphere of life should co-operate for the same benevolent purpose; assured that, by obstructing the progress of sin, they approve themselves the best friends both of God and man.]
3. The greatness of our obligations to the Lord Jesus Christ
[If Phinehas was so great a benefactor to his country, and deserved the thanks of all, for sacrificing the lives of two licentious profligates, what thanks are due to the Lord Jesus Christ, who offered his own life a sacrifice for us! Here was love unsearchable, and zeal unparalleled. To him must every human being confess his obligations: to him must every one that shall finally be saved, render everlasting praise and honour. O let every one throughout the camp of Israel behold his Benefactor: let every one contemplate Jesus as appeasing the wrath of God, and effecting our reconciliation with him: and, inasmuch as “ for his obedience unto death God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name,
heart acknowledge him; let every knee bow to him; and every tongue be occupied in ascribing glory to his name.]
PERISHING OF THE ISRAELITES IN THE WILDERNESS.
Numb. xxvi. 63–65. These are they that were numbered by
Moses and Eleazar the priest, who numbered the children of Israel in the plains of Moab, by Jordan near Jericho. But among these there was not a man of them whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered, when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai : for the Lord had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.
THE Israelites in some respects had an advantage over us, inasmuch as they had the most stupendous miracles wrought before their eyes : but we have an incomparably greater advantage over them, in seeing the accomplishment of many prophecies relating to them, and the design of God in his diversified dispensations towards them. The miracles would strike the senses more forcibly for a little time; but the accomplishment of prophecy commends itself to our judgment, and operates with more permanent effect. The event before us, for instance, carries an irresistible conviction with it to every reflecting mind. The Israelites had been numbered in the wilderness of Sinaia : but for their sin at Kadesh-barnea, where they refused to go up and possess the land, they were doomed to die in the wilderness". Two exceptions alone were made, Caleb and Joshua, who had boldly testified against the wickedness of the people on that occasion, and encouraged them to maintain a confidence in their God. Now the time for entering into Canaan was nearly arrived ; and Moses and Eleazar were commanded to number the people again, and to ascertain, for the instruction of the nation at large, the perfect accomplishment of this prophecy. Accordingly, it was ascertained by minute investigation, and it is here distinctly affirmed for the benefit of the whole world. The fact that is here asserted, is often mentioned in the New Testament for the benefit of the Church at this day: and it is in this particular view that we shall insist upon it. intended to shew us, I. That sinners derive no security from their num
[There is a conceit in the minds of men, that God can never condemn so many as they see to be walking in the ways of sin: and though they cannot but acknowledge, that the lives of a few religious persons are far more agreeable to the Scriptures than those of the generality of mankind, yet they deem it presumptuous in these to imagine themselves in a safer state than others. As for the distinctions which are made in the word of God, the promises of life to the godly, and the threatening of death to the ungodly, they are accounted of but little weight: men's own surmisings, however groundless, are made to outweigh the plainest declarations of Holy Writ. Here then the matter has been put to a trial. The whole a Numb. i. 1-3.
b Numb. xiv. 28–30.
nation of Israel had offended God, and were to be excluded from the promised land: but two individuals, who had withstood the torrent of iniquity, were to have the honour and happiness of entering into Canaan. Now on the borders of that land the people are numbered a second time; and after a complete survey of every tribe, it is declared, yea twice declared, that " not a man" against whom the judgment had been denounced, had survived. Thus it will assuredly be in the eternal world. Men are now told that the unrighteous shall not enter into heaven: but, because they constitute the great mass of mankind, they doubt whether the threatening will be executed: nevertheless, when a scrutiny shall be made of those who shall be at the right hand of God, there will not be found a man, no, not a man,” whom God in his word had consigned to another place. The “ broad and frequented road will be found to have led to destruction;" nor will so much as one have attained to life, who did not “enter in at the strait gate, and walk in the narrow way."] II. That no outward privileges or professions will
[In this view in particular is the destruction of the Israelites proposed to our consideration in the New Testamento. Their privileges were exceeding great, and they could boast of having experienced the most marvellous interpositions of the Deity in their behalf. But were they therefore saved ? Yea, was not God so offended with them, that he even sware in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest?” To what purpose then is it that we have been baptized into the name of Christ; that we have his word in our hands, his presence in our assemblies, his promises on our lips ? To what purpose is it that we have “ eaten spiritual meat, and drunk spiritual drink," at his table, if we are yet children of disobedience ? Were the Jews rejected for their unbelief? So shall we be, if we have not that “ faith, which purifies the heart.” If“ Christ be not formed in our hearts,” so as to make us partakers of a divine nature,” “the labour bestowed upon us will be in vain.” We must "live by faith on the Son of God,” and “walk as Christ himself walked,” or else we shall never find admission into his rest. Nor is it by “ running well for a season,” but “ by a patient continuance in well-doing," that we shall attain eternal life. We must both begin well, and “ endure unto the end," if ever we would be counted worthy of that heavenly kingdom.] III. That the divine judgments, however long de
layed, will overtake them at last
c Matt. vii. 13, 14. d Jude, ver. 5. and 1 Cor. x. 146. and Heb. iii. 17-19. and iv. 1.
[Though at first, when sent back into the wilderness, the people confessed their sins with apparent contrition, they soon relapsed into their former habits; and probably after a season indulged a hope, that they should succeed as well as those to whom the promises had been made. This is the way of sinners: “because judgment is not executed speedily upon them,” they think it never will. “The scoffers in the last days will say, Where is the promise of his coming ?” But God assures us, that "the judgment of sinners now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” God had respect to the posterity of Israel, when “he suffered their manners in the wilderness forty years:" he had a chosen seed who were yet in their loins, and who were in due time to enjoy that inheritance, which their fathers had despised. “He gave them also space for repentance,” that they might not be excluded from heaven itself. Thus “is he long-suffering towards us also, not willing that any of us should perish, but that we should come to repentance and live." But we deceive ourselves, if we think that he will never call us into judgment: on the contrary, he will require at our hands every talent he has entrusted to us, and increase our punishment in proportion to the mercies we have abused. O that those who are more advanced in life would contemplate this! that they would “account the longsuffering of God to be salvation,” and not make it the occasion of a more aggravated condemnation!] IV. That no one of God's faithful servants shall ever
[At this numbering of the people, Caleb and Joshua were found alive, though all the rest were dead: so exactly had death executed its commission! Of six hundred thousand offenders, not one had escaped its dart: but the two who had “followed the Lord fully,” remained unhurt. This shews how certainly the promises of God shall be fulfilled to every believer. Be the numbers of the Lord's people ever so few, they shall not be overlooked: though the whole universe be sifted and blown away as chaff, "not the smallest grain of true wheat shall fall upon the earth.". They have many and powerful adversaries; but “none shall pluck them out of their Father's hand.”
“ It is not His will that one of his little ones should perish.” They may be so weak in faith as to indulge many fears of the issue of their warfare ; but God himself pledges his word, that "they shall never perish, but shall have eternal life.” Be not discouraged then, believers, because ye are few, or weak, or despised, or beset with enemies all around; for the word of Christ to you is, “ Fear not, little flock; it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Only "commit your souls to God in well-doing, as into the hands of a faithful Creator," and he will “preserve you blameless unto his heavenly kingdom."]
e Amos ix. 9.
APPOINTMENT OF JOSHUA TO SUCCEED MOSES. Numb. xxvii. 15—21. And Moses spake unto the Lord, saying,
Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd. And the Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay thine hand upon him; and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation : and give him a charge in their sight. And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him, after the judgment of Urim before the Lord. At his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.
WHEN great and good men are taken away, we are apt to suppose that their places cannot be adequately supplied. But God “has the residue of the Spirit,” and can raise up instruments at any time to carry on his gracious purposes in the world. When Elijah was taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot, his servant Elisha was ready to imagine, that all the stay and support of Israel was removed; “ My father, my
father! the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof !” but Elijah’s mantle fell upon Elisha. Thus, when Moses had received God's final decision respecting his dying in the wilderness, it seemed as if the nation of Israel would be left as sheep without a shepherd: but God, in answer to the prayer of Moses, appointed one to succeed him, who fulfilled his trust as well as Moses himself could have done.
The points for our present consideration are, I. The concern of Moses for the people committed