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great encouragement to learn of hima. In reference to Christ therefore, the expostulation in our text has tenfold weight. 0, who must not be afraid to speak against him, or to entertain so much as a thought contrary to his honour ?
Here then we have not to address the unbelievers; for they may well be classed under the former head : those who openly reject Christ, cannot even in profession obey his ministers. But many who are partial to faithful ministers, are yet far from being conformed to the mind of Christ. Many who are in high repute in the Church of Christ, have yet their unsubdued lusts, which rise in allowed hostility against their Lord and Saviour. The murmurs of Aaron and Miriam were not public; but “The Lord heard them.” And so these vile affections may not be known; but God sees them: and he will, if we continue to harbour them, be “a swift witness against us"
With what awful authority did he summon Aaron and Miriam before himb! But with a more awful voice will he call us forth to judgment. With what indignation did he, after reproving their iniquity, “departo!” and will he not depart from such professors here; yea, and bid them to depart from him for ever? Did he expose their sin to all ? Did he inflict a most disgraceful punishment? Did he order Miriam to be excluded from the camp of Israeld ? Who reads not here the shame and misery of those, who, under a cloak of religion, have harboured any secret lusts? Were the most distinguished characters in the whole kingdom dealt with thus? Who then has not reason to fear and tremble? “ Be wise now therefore, Oye kings, be instructed, ye judges of the earth. O kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way." Behold, , the sin of these two professors delayed the progress of all the hosts of Israel for seven days!! Armed hosts, or intervening seas, could not retard them: but sin, that evil and accursed thing, did what all the powers of earth and hell could not have done. O professor, think how many may be retarded in their progress towards heaven by one sin of thine; yea perhaps may be turned out of the way, and ruined for ever! Remember what our Lord has said, " Woe unto the world because of offences! but woe, most of all, unto him, by whom the offence cometh.” It is on this account that God enjoined all his people to "bear in mind what he had done to Miriam by the way, after that they were come forth out of Egypt.” The Lord grant that none of us may ever lose sight of it! May we remember what an evil and bitter thing it is to lose in any degree the fear and love of Godh!]
a Matt. xi. 29.
ver. 10, 14. f Numb. xxii. 15. & Deut. xxiv.9. h Jer. ii. 19.
[To those who have sinned in any of the foregoing particulars, we would particularly recommend, that, like Aaron, they confess their sin humbly, and without delay: Yea, entreat that very Saviour whose authority you have despised, to intercede for you. Seek an interest in him : implore forgiveness for his sake: so will God “
pardon your offences, though he may take vengeance of your inventions k."
“ Turn with unfeigned sorrow from your transgressions; so your iniquity shall not be your ruin.” Leprous as ye are, ye shall yet be healed : and, deserving as ye are to be expelled from the camp of Israel, ye shall yet be received into it, and, through the tender mercy of your God, shall proceed in comfort to the promised land.]
ver. 13, 14.
Numb. xiv. 4, 5. And they said one to another, Let us make a
captain, and let us return into Egypt. Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of Israel.
THAT the journeying of the Israelites in the wilderness is typical of our journey towards the heavenly Canaan is so generally known amongst you, that I need not insist upon it". That being kept in mind, you will at once see the bearing of my present subject on the solemnities in which you have been engaged. The Israelites had now arrived at the borders of Canaan: and they sent spies, one from every tribe, to search out the land. They all agreed respecting the fertility of the country : but ten of the spies represented the attempt to conquer it as altogether hopeless. This report discouraged the whole congregation; who bitterly bewailed their disappointment, cast severe reflections on Jehovah himself as having deceived and betrayed them, and proposed to make a captain over them and to return to Egypt.
a If this should be the subject of an Address to young people After ConfirmATION, this sentiment may be modified according to circumstances. But, if it be used on a common occasion, our baptismal engagements may be substituted for those that are here specified.
Let us consider the circumstances here recorded; and, 1. The proposal made by the people
[The report given by the spies was very unfavourable: the cities were represented as impregnable, being "walled up to heaven;" and the people of such a gigantic stature, that the Israelites were no more than as grasshoppers before them. The climate, too, was represented as so unhealthy, that "the land ate up the inhabitants thereof b.” Hence the people were led to " despise the land” as unworthy of their pursuit', and to despair of attaining it against such formidable enemies: yea, they impiously wished that they had died in Egypt, when the Egyptian first-born were slain; or in the wilderness, when God sent a plague among the people for worshipping the golden calf.
Under the influence of their unbelieving fears, they proposed to make a captain over them, and to return to Egypt, from whence they had come out. They judged this to be so wise a measure, that no one could doubt of its expediency: “Were it not better for us to return into Egyptd?”
And are we not likely to hear of similar proposals at this time? You profess now to have dedicated yourselves to Almighty God, and to be bent on the attainment of the heavenly Canaan. But are you prepared to encounter the discouragements which
will meet with in the way? You have promised, before God, to “ renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh;” but are you girt for the warfare, and ready to go forth, in the strength of Christ, against these mighty foes? What reports, alas! will you hear! The mortality amongst the Canaanites, which the spies represented as arising from the climate, was no other than that occasioned by the hornets, which God, according to his promise, had sent, to weaken the people of the land, and thereby to facilitate the entrance of Israel into ite: yet was that made an additional ground for desisting from the enterprise. In like manner, the very exercises of mind, whereby God weakens the corruptions of his people's hearts, and ensures to them a final victory over all their enemies, are urged, by ignorant and unbelieving men, as reasons for declining all attempts to secure the heavenly inheritance: and you will hear repentance itself decried as melancholy, and denounced as little better than a prelude to insanity. In addition to such obstacles from without, (for I confine myself to those which arise from report only, without
b Numb, xiii. 31-33. c Ps. coi. 24.
ver. 3. Compare Exod. xxiii. 28. Deut. vii. 20. Josh. xxiv. 12.
noticing any from actual opposition,) will not your own hearts suggest, that to overcome such potent enemies, as the world, the flesh, and the devil, will be impossible, especially for persons so young, or so circumstanced, as you?
The result of such misrepresentations and misconceptions is but too likely to appear amongst you at no distant period. You will not in a formal manner actually appoint a captain over you, because every one can act for himself, without any combination with others; but that many of you will be likeminded, in relation to this matter, is greatly to be feared; and that you
will even justify the measure as wise, saying, “ Is it not better that we go back again to the world ?"]
But let us turn our attention to, II. The effect of that proposal on God's faithful
[“ Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of Israel;" filled, no doubt, with grief and shame at so foolish and impious a proposal. What prospect could they have of succeeding in such an enterprise ? Could they suppose that God would go before them; and cause the manna and the water to attend them in their retrograde motions, as he had done when moving according to his will? If not, without any enemy whatever, or any special judgment inflicted on them, they must all die of hunger and thirst in a few days. Or, supposing them to get back to Egypt, what would be their reception there? Would not the rigours of their bondage be increased by their vindictive oppressors to the utmost extent of human endurance? Granting that all their fears respecting the Canaanites were well founded, what could they suffer worse by manfully contending with them, than they would infallibly bring upon themselves by the measure they proposed ?
But the impiety of the proposal was, if possible, still greater than the folly. What a contempt of the promised inheritance did it argue, when they did not deem it to be worth a manly contest! What a distrust of God, too, who had already shewn himself so mighty to save, and had engaged that not one of their enemies should be able to stand before them! What base ingratitude, also, did this express, when they could so soon forget all the wonders that God had wrought for them, and all the benefits he had conferred
them! We wonder not that Moses and Aaron, who were able to form a just estimate of their conduct, were so deeply affected with it.
And shall not we also fall on our faces with grief and shame, my dear young friends, if we see you forgetting the vows that are upon you, and turning back again, and abandoning those
glorious prospects which have just opened upon you ? For, what can you gain by going back to the world? I will suppose you gain all that the world can give. What is it? What satisfaction can it all afford? and how long will you retain it? Or, supposing you could retain it ever so long, would it repay you for the loss of heaven? To what a state, too, will your defection reduce you! Of all the men who came out of Egypt, not so much as one was suffered to enter the promised land, except Caleb and Joshua, who continued faithful in the midst of this general apostasy. A fearful type and pledge of the doom that awaits you?! Hear what God says on this subject, in the Epistle to the Hebrews: “If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him." Ah! know of a certainty, that all who draw back, “ draw back unto perdition h:" and "if, after you have escaped the corruptions of the world, through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, you are again entangled therein and overcome, your latter end will be worse than your beginning: for it would have been better that you had never known the way of righteousness at all, than, after you have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto you." You have all doubtless heard of Lot's wife, who, though brought out of Sodom, was turned into a pillar of salt, because she looked back towards the city, when she should have thought of nothing but of pressing onward to the destined place of refuge. Ah! “remember Lot's wifek,” as our blessed Lord has warned you ; for “if you only look back, after having put your hand to the plough, you are not fit for the kingdom of God!." How can your ministers, who have watched over you, contemplate such an issue of their labours, and not weep and mourn before God on your behalfm? I pray you, beloved, let not this be the recompence of all the pains we have bestowed on you: let us not have the grief of seeing that the very privileges you have enjoyed have only fitted you, like Capernaum of old, for a deeper and heavier condemnation : but let us have joy over you, in beholding your spiritual advancement; and let us have the sweet and blessed hope of having you for "our joy and crown of rejoicing to all eternity.” Be not afraid of any enemies: for God is with you: “if he be with you, who can be against you?" Read the exhortation of Caleb and Joshua to their unbelieving brethren, and apply it to your own souls": and, instead of listening to the ruinous suggestions of unbelief", "be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises."]
i Numb. xxvi. 64, 65. with Jude, ver. 5. and 1 Cor. x. 11.
i 2 Pet. ii. 20, 21. k Luke xvii. 32. 1 Luke ix. 61, 62. m Jer. xiii. 16, 17. ver. 7-9.
o Heb. iii. 18.