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of the land; for they are bread for us; their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not.
'But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation, before all the children of Israel." (Numb. xiv. 1—10.),
NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS.
As we advance in the history, we advance in beholding stronger features of delinquency. Like the chambers of imagery, into which the Lord the Holy Ghost led the prophet by the hand, as then, so now, every department only unfolds greater abominations than the former. (Ezek. viii. 6, &c.) Oh! were the Lord, the Almighty spiritual anatomist, to dissect to the view the bosom of the man who knoweth and feeleth most of the plague of his own heart; how astonished would he be, when discovered to him, to behold how far deeper and more abundant the workings of corruption are in those latent foldings in himself, than his imagination had before conceived. (Jer. xvii. 9.)
The relation, at this part of the history, opens with an account of the deep affliction of the whole congregation in receiving the report of the false spies, "They lifted up their voice and cried, and wept that night." But what sorrow was this? Not "the godly sorrow (the Holy Ghost speaks of by Paul) which worketh repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of." Not that they had so shamefully distrusted the Lord, and would not take his word, depending more upon an arm of flesh; but it was the "sorrow which worketh death." (2 Cor. vii. 10.) The disappointed views which they had formed of Canaan. They saw, as they thought, their hopes blighted; their expectations of worldly prosperity cut off, and all their carnal prospects of a land flowing with milk and honey now over. Yea, their sorrow,
is marked with peculiar aggravation in one of the Psalms, where it is said: they despised the pleasant land ; they believed not the Lord's word. (Psa. cvi. 24.)
I beg the reader to remark with me, the awful progress of sin. First, that it brake out in unavailing cries and tears, and continued the whole night. Next, in murmuring against God, wishing that they had died in Egypt, or in the wilderness. And then charging God foolishly; as if the Lord had brought them hither for destruction; and that they might fall by the sword; their wives and their children to be given for a prey into the hands of their enemies. Then again, in taking up such a preposterous idea as of going back to Egypt. "Let us make us a captain, (said they) and let us return into Egypt." To what a daring height of rebellion and hardness were they arrived! And according to the relation of this transaction in the wilderness, given by Nehemiah, they actually did make a captain, with that intention to return. (See Nehemiah ix. 17.) Was there ever a conduct so foolish as well as base! To what purport could they propose to return to Egypt? Were they in earnest to go back again into bondage? It was but little more than a year since they left Egypt. And had they forgotten the rigour of their services there? A little straw, could they have found it, when scattered over the land of Egypt, to seek it, would then have been thought a mercy; and since that time the Lord had fed them with bread from heaven, and brought water out of the rock for drink. Besides; to return to Egypt, what madness, not to say what impossibility! Did they suppose that in their daring attempt the Lord would lighten them back as he had lighted them forward; and open a passage again for them through the Red Sea; with their captain at their head, whom they had chosen, in open defiance of God?
But we read Israel's history to little profit, if we look not into it as into a mirror, to behold too near a resemblance to our own: even among those of whom we hope better things, and "things which accompany salvation." Alas! what unbelief may be, and often is, discoverable in our hearts. It is, comparatively speaking, very easy to trust God, when we are able to trace God; and while all things smile to favour our wishes, and nothing thwarts in the Lord's providences to counteract our desires; in those smooth seasons, and the sun-shine of life, as long as the Lord makes every thing minister to our pursuits, it is easy to talk of trusting God. But when matters are dark and discouraging; and the Lord appears to be coming forth as an enemy, and hedges our way with thorns, it must be a blessed frame of mind, and from having received large portions of faith and grace from the Lord, that we follow God in the dark, as well as in the light. The same child of God who in his prosperity said: "I shall never be moved; Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong;" in the same breath added, "Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled." (Psalm xxx. 6, 7.) When the prophet Jonah was sent on a message from the Lord to Nineveh; and the men of that city humbled themselves before the Lord, at the preaching of Jonah ; the prophet was hurt at the Lord's shewing mercy towards them, in that he had received command from the Lord, to tell the Ninevites, that in forty days, and the city should be overthown; and now the Lord suspended the judgment. And the prophet, in the anger of his mind, dared to expostulate with God on his forbearance, and said: "I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying when I was yet in my country? For I know that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil! Therefore, now O Lord, take I
beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than live!"
Is it possible that a prophet of the Lord should have thus acted? Did Jonah really desire rather that the Lord should destroy Nineveh, than that his threatenings should not be fulfilled? Did he dread being found a false prophet, more than being found an unsuccessful preacher? And is this the man that offered up so sweet and gracious a prayer but a little while before, when from the belly of hell, as he called it, he cried unto the Lord in his affliction; and the Lord, as he knew, heard his voice? (See Jonah ii. throughout.)
But here we see what man is ; yea, what every man is in himself; and that it is grace alone, which makes all the difference between one and another. The Calebs and the Joshuas of the present day are faithful, when by communications from the Lord he makes them so. But without these unceasing succours, the best of men are but men; and have a large portion of corrupt nature as well as grace. And the workings of corruption are still in the old man, however mercifully the Lord restrains them from boiling And it is very blessed, when from being garrisoned, as the church in her worst circumstances always is by the Divine presence; the Lord pours in by a way unseen every suited supply of strength and grace to help in time of need. And when from these resources, the child of God is enabled to hold on and hold out, and to hang upon the promise of the faithful God; when to his own apprehension, he can for the moment discover no human way to the accomplishment; this is faith in her best armour; weapons not carnal, but spiritual, when “ every thought is brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." What an interesting contemplation doth the subject furnish, in beholding amidst the murmuring of the
whole assembly, the falling of Moses and Aaron on their faces before the Lord; and Joshua and Caleb, rending their clothes, in token of their deep humiliation of this daring rebellion of the people against the Lord! The falling prostrate before God; rending of garments; smiting on the thigh; is a way of selfreproach; plucking off the hair; and lying down all night in sackcloth and ashes; these were among the tokens made use of by the people of God, in the early ages of the church, to shew their abhorrence of themselves, or of the people, when sin was found among them. And no doubt there were very sweet aboundings of grace on such occasions; distinguishing the precious from the vile. Never doth the child of God lie lower before the Lord than in such hallowed seasons. What a beautiful representation the Holy Ghost hath given us of this in the case of Ezra, the man of God, when he had discovered the defilements of Israel. 66 "O my God, (said he) I am ashamed, and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens." (Ezra ix. throughout.) The reader cannot do better than to turn to Scripture. It is very blessed.
But to what desperate lengths was the whole congregation arrived, when to the gentle entreaties of Joshua and Caleb, who had been to see the land as well as they, and had seen the inhabitants also, they commanded the people "to stone them with stones!" How powerful and unanswerable were the arguments of persuasion, had the hearts of the congregation not been seared as with a hot iron; when not only the good land they urged to bring them from their desperate wickedness, but the Lord's sure presence being with his people; and that all their enemies' strength, and all their defence was gone from them; and their persons and their possessions became only bread for