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discontent and clamouro: and if by means of this insurrection they could have obtained the distinction which they aimed at, not a word more would have been uttered on the subject of national grievances; nor would one hundredth part of the care have been taken to prevent them. It is impossible to read the history and not to see that this was the true state of the case.
What an insight does this give us into that which is usually dignified with the name of patriotism! If ever there was a mild and just governor, it was Moses. If ever there was a pious, affectionate, and diligent minister, it was Aaron. If ever there was a well-administered government both in church and state, it was at that time. If ever people had cause to be satisfied and happy, it was then. There was not a single ground of sorrow amongst all the people, except that which had arisen solely from their own perverseness, their detention in the wilderness. Yet a few factious demagogues prevail to spread dissatisfaction through the whole camp: and their oppressed state of bondage in Egypt is declared to be preferable to the grievances which they then experienced.] But, in fact, their rebellion was against God himself
[This is plainly declared to them by Moses'. What matter was there of complaint against Aaron? He did only what God had commanded him: and was he to be blamed for that? Moses forbears to make the same apology for himself: but his observation was equally applicable to himself, who had done nothing but by the express command of God. The conspirators then were in reality fighting against God himself, by whose direction every measure of the government had been taken. Moreover there was a typical design in these divine appointments, which this conspiracy was calculated to defeat. Thus, whilst envy and ambition characterized the conduct of the conspirators towards man, they betrayed also the grossest impiety and presumption towards God.]
The best estimate of their conduct may be found in the punishment inflicted for it
[This was truly awful. Moses had obtained mercy from God for the congregation at large; but the leaders of the rebellion must be punished. Accordingly, whilst Dathan and Abiram, together with their wives, and families, and adherents, stood in the door of their tents, setting God himself, as it were, at defiance, Moses declared by what an extraordinary judgment they should perish : and no sooner had he spoken, than the judgment was inflicted : “ the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them all up, with all that appertained unto them.” As for the two hundred and fifty persons who presumed to make e ver. 7.
f ver. 11.
their appeal to God respecting their title to the priesthood,
fire came forth from the Lord, and consumed them all.” Terrible was this if viewed only as a temporal judgment: but if considered in reference to the eternal world, it was awful indeed! That it might be kept in remembrance for the instruction of future ages, "the censers, in which they had offered incense, were ordered to be made into broad plates for a covering of the altar.")
It will be proper then that we distinctly consider, II. The instruction to be gathered from it
To us, no less than to the Jews, does this event most clearly speak. It shews us,
1. That sin is an act of hostility against our own souls
[These rebels might be said to sin against their governors and against God: but they were “sinners also against their own souls :" and, had the object of their desire been the destruction of their own souls, they could not have prosecuted their end by any surer means. Little is this thought of by those who live in sin: but, whatever be the sin which they commit, the effect is still the same 8. If a man will only keep from sin, he may defy all the assaults either of men or devils. Men may destroy his body, but they cannot touch his soul. Satan himself cannot hurt his soul, without his own consent. Sin is the only medium by which the soul can receive any injury. But that inflicts upon it a deadly wound: that destroys its innocence and peace: that brings down upon it the wrath of an incensed God: that subjects it to everlasting misery. See how the earth swallowed up some, and how the fire consumed others; and there you will learn the fate of all who die in their sins: hell will open wide its mouth to swallow them up, and unquenchable fire will consume them as its proper and appointed fuel - O that men were wise, and would consider this; and turn, every one of them, from the evil of their ways!]
2. That opposition to constituted authorities is highly displeasing to God
[We are far from denying that there is such a thing as real patriotism: nor do we mean to say that tyranny and oppression may not rise to such a height, as to justify the overthrow of an existing government. But this we say, that a real Christian will not be hasty to complain of grievances, even where they do exist; much less will he bear the smallest resemblance to these factious people, whose case we have been considering. The Christian is one of “them that are quiet in the land." He
& Prov. viii. 36.
regards government as God's ordinance; and the persons who are invested with authority as God's representatives. He considers that, in obeying them, he obeys God; and in unnecessarily and vexatiously opposing them, he opposes God: and he knows that “God is the avenger of all such," yea, that such persons "shall receive to themselves damnation h." the government itself may justly inflict punishment upon them; and God himself will punish such conduct in the eternal world. Persons of this stamp often pretend to religion: and so they did in the days of the Apostles: but those who “despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities," have a "woe" denounced against them: their spirit is justly marked as a compound of envy, covetousness, and ambition; and having resembled Cain and Balaam in their spirit, they shall resemble Korah in their fate : they shall be eternal monuments of God's heavy displeasure'.
Happy would it be if persons who are of a factious and turbulent disposition would look occasionally on these “censers, and reap the instruction which they are intended to convey !]
3. That a rejection of Christ must of necessity prove fatal to the soul
[Moses as the governor, and Aaron as the high-priest, of Israel, were types and representatives of the Lord Jesus Christk: and in rebelling against them, they virtually rebelled against him also. Thus, amongst ourselves, how many are there who say, “We will not have this man to reign over us?!” Some complain of his authority, as imposing an insupportable yoke upon them; and others of his priesthood, as prohibiting any access to God except through him as the only Mediator. But what the issue of such rebellion will be, we are faithfully warned; and that too with some reference, it should seem, to the judgments exercised on Korah and his company m
At all events, if the opposers of Moses and Aaron were so fearfully destroyed, we may be sure that a far heavier judgment awaits the contemners and opposers of Christ
Let those who do not thankfully come to God by Christ, and unreservedly obey his holy will be instructed by these events In
particular, we entreat them to act like Israel in the case before us : “ All Israel that were gathered round the tents of Dathan and Abiram, fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also°.” Could we but hear the cry
of those that are in hell, we should no longer sit supine and confident. O let us realize this thought ere it be too late, and w flee in earnest from the wrath to come!”]
h Rom. xiii. 1, 2. i Jude, ver. 8, 11.
,12. 1 Lukexix. 14. m Heb. x. 26, 27. o Heb. x. 28, 29. with Luke xix. 27. over. 34.
AARON'S INTERCESSION. Numb. xvi. 48. And he stood between the dead and the living:
and the plague was stayed. CORRUPT as human nature is, there are some sins which we scarcely think it possible for a rational being to be guilty of; and, if it were suggested to us that we ourselves were in danger of committing them, we should be ready to reply, “ Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing ?” Such is the sin which all the congregation of Israel committed on the very day after the death of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. These three persons had excited a rebellion against Moses and Aaron; Korah and his company aspiring to the priesthood, and Dathan and Abiram, with their friends, affecting the office of supreme governor. For this their impiety they had been severely punished; Korah and his company being destroyed by fire that issued from the tabernacle; and all the relatives of Dathan and Abiram being swallowed up by an earthquake. These signal judgments, one would have thought, should have effectually silenced every murmur throughout the camp: but, instead of being humbled, the people were the more enraged; and murmured more than ever against Moses and Aaron, complaining, that the people who had been destroyed were “the people of the Lord,” and that Moses and Aaron had been their murderers: “Ye have killed the people of the Lord.” God now renewed his threatening to destroy them: but Moses and Aaron “fell upon their faces," as they had done frequently before", and importuned God to spare them. God however would not spare them, but sent a plague among them for their destruction. But no sooner did Moses perceive that “the plague was begun,” than he sent Aaron with an offering of incense to arrest its progress. Aaron went immediately into the midst of the people, and succeeded according to his wishes: “he stood between the dead and the living: and the plague was stayed.”
Compare ver. 45. with Numb. xiv. 5. and xvi. 4, 22,
This subject is to be considered in a two-fold view; I. As an historical fact
In this view it is worthy of particular attention. We cannot but admire, 1. The interposition of Aaron
[If ever opposition was unreasonable, it was then: if ever a people had offended beyond all sufferance, it was at that time. Well might Moses and Aaron have said, “We have interceded for you often enough: we have repeatedly saved every one of you from destruction: and now, because God has seen fit to punish some of the ringleaders in rebellion, we are charged with having killed them. If mercies will not reclaim it is high time that judgments should be tried. But not a thought of this kind entered into their hearts. They were filled with nothing but compassion and love. They fell on their faces to intercede for these rebellious people, as much as if they had received no provocation at their hands. The expedient suggested by Moses was instantly carried into effect: and Aaron, at his advanced age, ran with haste into the midst of the congregation, to make an atonement for them. He did not know but that the incensed people would wreak their vengeance upon him, as they had frequently threatened to do; and put him to death, as the author of their present sufferings. Nor could he be certain, but that, if he ran into the midst of the plague, it might sweep him away together with the rest. But he thought not of himself, nor listened for a moment to any personal considerations. He was intent only on saving the lives of his fellow-creatures.
What a glorious example did he afford to all future ministers! What a blessing would it be to the Church, if all her priests were like him; if all could say, “I count not my life dear to me, so that I may but fulfil my ministry b;”.“most gladly will I spend and be spent for my people, though, the more abundantly I love them, the less I be loved C:” “ I could wish even to be accursed after the example of Christ, if I might but by any means save only somed:” yea, most cheerfully would “ I suffer all things for their sakes, that they might obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glorye!” Were there more tender compassion amongst us, more ardent love, more selfdenying zeal, more active exertion to pluck our people as brands out of the fire," and more willingness to perish in the attempt, we might not stop the mouths of gainsayers, it is true ; but " we should save
many souls alive," and have them our joy and crown of rejoicing” to all eternity. O that b Acts xx. 24. C 2 Cor. xii. 15. d Rom. ix. 3. 1 Cor. ix. 22.
e 2 Tim. ii. 10.