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De curious, because it occurred, not occa
inci few instances, but continually, for forty 1 svugh the whole camp of Israel. ose. I apprehend,
* God's merciful disposition towards themSty of circumstances might occur from time to time
come heads of families from making the necessary Core the sun should have dissolved the manna, and id them of the portion which they ought to have
Illness, in themselves or their families, might incavw tiem for the discharge of their duty in this matter; p ure of urgent business cause them to delay it till it the late. In this case, what must be done? God, in his
cyvok care that there should be in some a zeal beyond T i ir own necessities required, and that their abundance
u lie sufficient to counterbalance and supply the wants of
uts In order to this, he needed only to leave men to the woration of their own minds. They did not collect the food
mesure, but measured it after they had brought it home; at so they might apportion it to every member of their Lumily, according to the divine command. Hence it would often occur, that one who was young, active, vigorous, and Jisengaged, would exceed his quota; whilst another who was enfeebled by sickness, or depressed by sorrow, or occupied
h some urgent business, as that of attending on his sick wife
I family, might collect but little. Neither the one might 'ink of administering relief, nor the other of receiving it; but * all cases where there was excess or defect found in the exerrions of one, there was a corresponding want or superfluity in another; so that, on measuring the whole, there was no superfluity or defect throughout the whole camp.
In fact, this, in some respect, obtains throughout the whole world: for though there is doubtless a great disparity in men's possessions, arising from different circumstances, the rich unwittingly supply the necessities of the poor, by dispersing their wealth in return for the comforts or elegancies of life: and thus, to a much greater extent than men in general are aware, is equality produced among them; all having food and raiment, and no one possessing more.]
2. From their bountiful disposition towards each other
[In this view St. Paul quotes the very words of my text. He is exhorting the Corinthians to liberality in supplying the wants of their poorer brethren: he tells them, however, that he did not mean to burthen them for the purpose of easing others; but only that, by an equality, their present abundance waters of a spring, and the barrenness of the land through which they ran, by a single cruse of salta : and thus also when he restored the serpent-bitten Israelites by the mere sight of a brasen serpent. As to the idea of the tree itself possessing qualities calculated to produce the effect, it cannot for one moment be admitted; because the waters were sufficient for the supply of two millions of people, besides all their cattle ; and because the effect was instantaneously produced. We therefore say again, that the insufficiency of the means he used, displayed only the more clearly the all-sufficiency of his own power, precisely as when by the voice of a feeble worm he awakens men from their death in trespasses and sins b.]
2. That he will put honour upon humble and believing prayer
[There is such“ efficacy in the fervent prayer of a righteous man,” that God, if we may be permitted so to speak, is not able to withstand it. See persons in any circumstances whatever, and you are sure to find them extricated from their difficulties, and made victorious over their enemies, when once they begin to pray. Even if the people themselves be ever so unworthy, yet, if they have an Advocate and Intercessor for them at the throne of grace, they almost invariably escape the judgments which God had denounced against them; so cordially does “God delight in the prayer of the upright,” and so desirous is he to encourage all persons to pray for themselves. The murmuring spirit of the people might well have provoked God to decline all further communication with them: but Moses prayed; and his cry entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts.]
But both the trial and deliverance were sent with a view to some ulterior good: let us consider, III. God's design in each
Amongst other objects which God designed to accomplish, the two following seem to be peculiarly prominent. He sought to bring them to a sense of, 1. Their duty
[What particular statutes and ordinances God promulged to them at this time, we are not informed. But there is one thing which he certainly made known to them; namely, the conditional nature of the covenant which he was about to make with them, and the suspension of his favours upon their obedience. They had hitherto dwelt only on their privileges, without at all considering their duties: they thought of what
a 2 Kings ii. 21.
2 Cor. iv. 7.
c ver. 26.
God was to be to them; but not of what they were to be to God. Now God, having softened their minds by a heavy trial, and conciliated their regards by a miraculous interposition, opens to them the connexion between duty and privilege ; and thereby prepares them for becoming “ a holy and peculiar people, zealous of good works."] 2. Their sinfulness
[This mixture of judgment and mercy was well calculated to bring them to a knowledge of themselves. The trial alone would only irritate and inflame their minds : but the deliverance applied a balm to their wounded spirits. By the union of them they would be humbled, and led to acknowledge the heinousness of their ingratitude, their unbelief, their querulousness, and rebellion. This is expressly declared to have been a very principal end of all the dispensations of God towards them in the wildernessd: and it is a main object of his diversified dealings with his people at this day.] Let us LEARN from this subject,
1. To mark the effect of trials and deliverances on our own minds
[If trials always, instead of humbling, disquiet us; and if deliverances produce only a temporary impression, and not a lasting change on our hearts; can we be right before God? They ought to "work patience, experience, and hope ;” and by means of them our faith ought to be so purified, as to tend “to the praise and honour and glory of our God at the appearing of Jesus Christe.” By examining into this point we may “prove our own selves,” and ascertain with considerable precision our true character.] 2. To distrust our religious feelings
[We may be moved under a sermon or any particular occurrence; we may sometimes be dissolved in tears, and at other times be elevated with joy; and yet have no root in ourselves, nor any inheritance with the saints in light. Who that had heard the devout songs of Israel at the Red Sea, would have thought that in three days they could so totally forget their mercies, and indulge such a rebellious spirit? But look within; and see whether, after an occasional exercise of religious affections, you have not, within a still shorter space of time, been hurried into the indulgence of the most unhallowed tempers, and the gratification of a spirit that is earthly, sensual, and devilish? Ah! think of “the stony-ground hearers, who received the word with joy, and yet in time of temptation fell away." Lay not then too great a stress on some transient
.d Deut. viii. 2. e 1 Pet. i. 7.
emotions; but judge yourselves by the more certain test of a willing and unreserved obedience.]
3. To place an entire and uniform dependence on God—
[God may see fit to try us, and to delay the relief that we implore. But let us not entertain hard thoughts of him. From the time of Abraham it has passed into a proverb, that “in the mount the Lord shall be seen." Our Isaac may be bound, and the knife actually lifted up to inflict the fatal blow, and all who might interpose to rescue the victim may be at a great distance; but, in the moment of need, God's voice from heaven shall arrest the murderous hand, and deliver us from the impending stroke. “The vision is yet for an appointed time; therefore, though it tarry, wait for it: for at the appointed season it shall come, and not tarry?." Whether our afflictions be of a temporal or spiritual nature, we may rest assured of this blessed truth, that “ they who wait on him shall never be confounded.”]
f Hab. ii. 3.
LXXXVI. CHRIST THE HEALER OF HIS PEOPLE. Exod. xv. 26. I am the Lord that healeth thee. SCARCELY had the Jews passed the Red Sea before they began to murmur: as the Psalmist has said, “They provoked him at the sea, even at the Red Seaa.” True it was that they must have suffered greatly, both they and their cattle, when they were three days without water; and when, on finding water, it was so bitter that they could not drink it. But, when they had been conducted thither by God himself, (for the pillar and the cloud never left them day or night", they might be assured that He, who had so miraculously delivered them hitherto, would, if they cried unto him, supply their wants. They should have had recourse to prayer therefore, and not to murmuring. But this conduct of theirs gave occasion for a rich display of God's mercy towards them, and for an explicit declaration on his part what the rule of his procedure towards them in future should be. They were delivered from the Egyptian a Ps. cvi. 7.
D Exod. xiii. 22.
yoke : but they were not to cast off obedience to their God. They were, as his redeemed people, to consecrate themselves to him, and to obey his voice in all things: and, according as they performed or neglected their duty to him, he would extend to them his favour, or visit them with his displeasure ; either loading them with, or exempting them from, the diseases with which the Egyptians had been visited, and which they greatly dreaded .
This declaration of God to them was so important, that the Prophet Jeremiah, a thousand years afterwards, referred to it, to shew, that, from the very first moment of the people having been taken into covenant with God, their sacrifices had been held as of no account in comparison of obedience. “I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt-offerings or sacrifices. But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people; and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto youd." Nor is it less important to us, at this day; for God will still deal with us according as we conduct ourselves towards him. The retribution indeed may not now be so visibly marked by external dispensations; but it shall be maintained in reference to our souls, God either healing our spiritual maladies, or giving us up to the power of them, according as we approve ourselves to him, or walk contrary to his commands. If we offend him by a wilful and habitual disobedience to his will, none shall be able to protect us: but, if we surrender up ourselves unfeignedly to him, “none shall be able to harm us :" whatever we may either feel or fear, we may assure ourselves of his favour; for he is, and ever will be, “ The Lord that healeth us.”
In further discoursing on these words, we shall be led to point out, I. The office which God executes in behalf of his
peoplec ver. 26. with Deut. xxviii. 27, 60. d Jer. vii. 22, 23.