Page images

and they awoke from their sad delusion, only to see and bewail too late the folly that preferred the blind guidance of their own devices, to the direction of God, the fidelity of his promise, and the omnipotence of his out-stretched arm.

A voice of warning is meant to reach our conscience from this page in the book of Jewish history. The apostle has made an express appropriation of all these circumstances to the instruction of the Christian church. Where fore, as the Holy Ghost saith, To day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, so, take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. The history included in Numb. xiii. xiv. and thus referred to ourselves, by the unerring authority of inspiration, may be considered under three distinct heads,



I. The persons charged with this important office of searching out the land, were not men chosen from the dregs of the people, or whose ignorance might incapacitate them for fulfiling

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

their duty; but rulers among the tribes of their fathers, from whom a judicious and diligent inquiry, and an accurate report might be expected. Their commission was very clearly defined. “See the land, what it is, and the people that dwell therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many, and what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad, and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents or strong holds ; and what the land is, whether it be fat or lean ; whether there be wood thereon or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land." They accomplished their mission in safety, for the guardian hand of God was their defence. They passed through the land, from KadeshBarnea, on the south, to Beth-Rehob, in its northern border; and, coming to the brook Eshcol on their return, “they cut down from thence a branch, with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and the figs."

The word of God had already declared Canaan to be the glory of all lands, a land flowing with milk and honey; where every thing abounded that was pleasant for the sight, and good for food. But the multitude of Israel had now an evidence from twelve of their own number, that the word of the Lord in the mouth of Moses

was truth. The spies exhibited the grapes of Eshcol, of a size and beauty well calculated to excite a universal expression of desire to possess the land where they grew. They gave a testimony in its favour, suggested by the observation and experience of their own senses, that every declaration concerning it fell short of the reality. They said to Moses, before all the congregation of the children of Israel. “We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey, and this is the fruit of it."

Thus far nothing in their conduct appears to deserve blame or suspicion. But, like their brethren of the camp, they walked by sight, and not by faith. They were carnal, timid spirits, who clung to present ease and indulgence; shrinking, with dislike and terror, from a combat with the warlike inhabitants who dwelt in the mountains and cities of Canaan. In vain, then, had they seen, that it was “a land . of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that sprang out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig-trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil-olive and honey, a land whereon they should eat bread without scarceness, nor lack any thing in it; a land whose stones were iron, and out of whose hills they might dig brass."

All its apparent and pro

mised beauty was obscured by abject fear of the approaching contest for its possession. “ The people be strong that dwell in the land ; and the cities are walled, and very great; and moreover, we saw the children of Anak there. Nay, when Caleb, with a holy confidence, becoming the faith and valour of a soldier of God, would have aroused them and their hearers, to a spirit more worthy of their hopes, they refused to listen. They said, “We be not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we; and they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched, unto the children of Israel, saying, the land through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth


the inhabitants thereof." A pestilence, especially sent by God, was probably at this moment thinning the ranks of their enemies, in order to make the survivors an easier prey to the swords of Israel. Yet this visitation they seem perversely to have represented as the deadly consequence of a noxious climate.

There," add these terrified messengers, saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants : and we were, in our own sight, as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight."

Such searchers of Canaan are ever found within the camp of God, and the church of Christ.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

They have professed religion. They have voluntarily gone forth to examine for themselves, and to report to their brethren, whether all the things that are spoken in the Bible, echoed by ministers, and confirmed by experience, concerning the Zion that is above, be true, indeed. The farther they proceed, the more surely do they learn what the Queen of Sheba knew, when she became an eye-witness of the glory of Solomon, that the half of it was not described. They behold the kingdom of heaven, visited by the refreshing and fertilizing waters of God's Holy Spirit, bearing in all its luxuriance the tree of life, even the rich mercies of the Son of God, filled with peace, and hope, and joy, and every other provision which a converted and sanctified heart can want or wish, in present pilgrimage, and everlasting possession. All this they are compelled to acknowledge before their brethren. They are obliged to give a testimony to the excellence of the kingdom of heaven, whether here, in its means of grace, or hereafter in its consummated hope of glory, similar to that which Balaam was compelled to utter concerning the consecrated camp of God, that lay in plenty and security upon the plains of Moab. Nay, they have, in some degree, tasted the word of God, and the heavenly gift. They have experienced some

« PreviousContinue »