Page images
PDF
EPUB

mercy.'' But every faithful minister, lite Moses, has at least this consolation; "having kept nothing back, but declared the whole counsel of God, they have delivered their own souls;" they published the truth of God, " whether men would hear or whether they would forbear and if they have not been so happy as to persuade, they have at least put to silence wicked and unreasonable men; if they have not prevailed to render them holy, they have at least rendered them inexcuse-able; if they have been unable to subdue the pride of the creature, they have displayed the holiness and justice of the Creator.

We find Moses taking refuge in this, when the dearer, sweeter hope was at an end...the hope of being the -favored, honored minister of life and salvation. u lam fast approaching to the end of my career; I have already passed the limits which God has prescribed to the life of man. Six score of years are fled away and gone, and these hairs, whitened by time, labor and affliction, feelingly inform me that my last moment is at hand, that no more time remains but what is barely sufficient to give you a few parting admonitions, to breathe over you the blessing of a dying friend, and to bid you a long farewell. After a laborious, anxious and painful ministry of more than forty years; after being honored of God to perform before your eyes, and those of your fathers, a series of miracles, which shall be the astonishment and instruction of the whole world till time expire, I was looking for the compensation of all my troubles, the reward of all my labors, the accomplishment of all my wishes, in your sincere return to God, in your gratitude to your friend and deliverer, in your fidelity and obedience to God, and in the prosperity and happiness which must infallibly have flowed from them. The -paternal solicitude 1 have felt, that ardent love which emboldened me, at the hazard of my own life, ** to stand in the breach" "between you and a holy and jealous .God, to turn away his wrath, lest lie should destroy you;" that fervor of zeal which hurried me on to wish myself blotted out of God's book, if the dearer name of Israel might be permitted to continue written in it; all my discourses, all my emotions, all my efforts; my active days, my sleepless nights; these unceasing- sighs which I'still breathe to Heaven in your behalf, these last tears which a dying old man sheds over a people still and ever dear to him, and from whom to be torn asunder is the death of deaths; these are the faithful and undoubted proofs of my affection for you, of my unabated, inextinguishable zeal for your salvation. But, alas, however earnestly I may desire it, I dare not, cannot hope! I foresee your perfidiousness and rebellion; I know your perverseness and ingratitude. "While I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the Lord; and how much more after my death," Deut. xxxi. 27. What then is left me, but the mingled and strongly allayed satisfaction of reflecting that I am innocent of your blood, that your salvation is in your own hands, that if you perish, your blood must be upon your own heads." "Gather unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to record against them," Deut. xxxi. 28. "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that 1 have set before you life and death, blessmg and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live," Chap. xxx.

Having in terms such as these poured out the anguish of an overflowing heart, Moses addresses himself to his last earthly employment. The last exercise of his authority is to lay down all authority. The concluding act of his administration, is to transfer the right of administration to another; and the legislator, leader and commander expires; while the man yet lives. Imagination can hardly paint a more affecting scene. Hear the trumpet sounding the proclamation of a solemn assembly, an holy convocation. Behold the thousands of Israel flocking together to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation; every eye straining to catch a departing glance of him whom they were to behold no more; every ear eagerly attentive to drink in the last accents of that voice which the hand of death was about to silence forever. Behold the venerable sage, in all the composure of unaffected piety, in all the dignity of wisdom, in all the respectability of age, in all the simplicity of a child, in all the serenity of a celestial spirit, in all the solemnity of death, advancing to his well-known station, presenting to the people him whom they were henceforward to acknowledge and obey as the ruler appointed over them by Heaven. His eyes beam complacency, his tongue drops manna, as he conveys to his noble successor the plenitude of his power, the residue of his honor, a double portion of his spirit. Behold he lifts up his hands and Jays them upon the head of Joshua, with a thousand tender wishes that his burden might sit light upon him, that he might escape the pains he himself had endured, and attain the felicity which was denied to him: with a thousand paternal exhortations to follow Providence, and fear nothing: to love Israel, to seek their good always: with a thousand fervent prayers for his prosperity and success. I see Joshua with modest reluctance shrinking back from a charge so weighty: desirous of being still a subject and a servant: accepting with regret honors of which Moses must be stripped; ready to cry out, as his master was taken away from him, "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof!" 2 Kings ii. 12. I see on every countenance a mixture of sorrow and resignation, of hope clouded with remorse and concern ; they could now die for him, whose life they had embittered by unkindness, levity and ingratitude; they reproach themselves and one another, as having occasioned the death of the wisest and best of men; they cannot bear to think of

VOL. II.I. »

surviving him. But a voice more awful than that cT man is heard; a glory more than human appears. "And the Lord said unto Moses, Beh-Jd, thy days approach that thou must die: call Joshua, and present y ourselves in the tabernacle of the congregation, that i may give him a charge. And Moses and Jo. shua went, and presented themselves in the tabernacle of the congregation. And the Lord appeared in the tabernacle in a pillar of a cloud: and the pillar of the cloud stood over the door of the tabernacle," Deut. xxxi. 14, 15. What solemn moments to the whole congregation, those which Moses and Joshua passed before the Lord, remote from the public eye! How solemn to the parties themselves! What is a charge from the mouth of a dying man, though that man be a Moses, compared to a charge from the mouth of Jehovah himself, by whom spirits are weighed, and to whom all the dread importance of eternity stands contiiyrjally revealed? And this God, O my friends, is daily sounding a charge in every ear, "Occupy till I conK'" "Arise ye and depart, for this is not your . rest." "Be sober, be vigilant, for your adversary the devil goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom be may devour." "See that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil."

This secret conference being ended, they return to the people, and Moses publicly delivers to the Levites, w hich bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, a copy of the law which he had transcribed with his own hand, to be laid up in the side of the ark, as a standing witness for God against a sinful people; and the business of this interesting and eventful day concludes with a public recital from the lips of Moses of that tender and pathetic song, which we have in the thirty-second chapter. This sacred song every Israelite was to commit to memory, to repeat frequently, and to teach it every man to his son. It was composed expressly by the command of God, and under his immediate inspiration. "Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel. Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel. And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the words of this song until they wertf ended," Deut. xxxi. 1.9...22L..30.

And a most wonderful composition it is, whether considered as the production of a lively, lofty, correct imagination; abounding with the boldest images, and conveying the noblest, sentiments; adding all the graces of poetry to all the force of truth; as conveying the most useful and necessary moral and religious instruction, in a channel the most pleasing and attractive; as the address ot a dying man, a dying father, a dying minister, to his friends, to his family, to his flock; abounding with the tenderest touches of nature, flowing immediately from the heart, and rushing with impetuous force to the lips; as the awful witness of the great God against a disobedient and gainsaving race; exhibiting to this hour the proof of the authenticity of that record where it stands, of the truth and faithfulness, of the mercy and severity of the dread Jehovah, and of the certainty of the things wherein*, as Christians, we have been instructed.

What can equal the boldness and sublimity of hi* exordium or introduction? How is the boasted eloquence of Greece and Rome left at an infmite distance behind! What a coldness in the address of Demosthenes and Cicero, compared to the fervor and elevation of the Israehtish orator !" Ye men of Athens.", "Romans." "Conscript Fathers." If ever there was an audience that demanded respect, from numbers, from importance, from situation; if ever there was a speaker prompted by duty, drawn by inclinaticn,

« PreviousContinue »