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wrath, lest he 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 writen 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 forsee your perfidiousness and rebellion; I know you 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 I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live," Chap. xxx. 19.
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 for ever. 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 honour, a double portion of his spirit. Behold he lifts up his hands and lays 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 honours 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
surviving him. But a voice more awful than that of man is heard; a glory more than human appears. "And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die: call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of the congregation, that I may give him a charge. And Moses and Joshua 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 Je-. hovah himself, by whom spirits are weighed, and to whom all the dread importance of eternity stands continually revealed? And this God, O my friends, is daily sounding a charge in every ear, "Occupy till I come.' "" "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 he 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, which 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 were ended," Deut. xxxi. 19, 22, 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 of 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 gainsaying 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 his exordium or introduction? How is the boasted eloquence of Greece and Rome left at an infinite distancebehind! What a coldness in the address of Demosthenes and Cicero, compared to the fervour and elevation of the Israelitish 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 inclinatisn, urged.
on by the spur of the occasion, Israel was that audience, Moses that speaker, on this ever-memorable day. But the ardent soul of this heaven-taught orator, with thousands upon thousands before his eyes, grasps, with a noble enthusiasm, an infinitely larger space than the plains of Moab, an audience infinitely more august than the thousands of Israel. "Give ear, Oye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth." This was seizing the attention at once; the solid globe, thus summoned, seems to give ear, the celestial spheres stand still to listen, angels hover on the wing to mark and record the last words of the departing prophet; what mortal ear then can be inattentive, what spirit careless? How sweetly calculated is the next sentence to compose the minds of his hearers, roused and alarmed by the solemnity of his first address. The thunder of heaven seemed ready to burst upon their heads, after an invocation so awful, and though Moses alone spake, they were ready to die; but their fears are gently lulled to rest, the next word he utters; he has only love in his heart, and honey upon his tongue. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass,' " Deut. xxxii. 2. The final object of Moses being to warn, to admonish, and to reprove the perverse nation of whom he was taking leave, observe how skilfully he manages this difficult and delicate part of his task. To have come directly and without preparation to it, had been to give certain disgust and offence; for he had to deal with a moódy, murmuring, irritable, discontented race; he therefore first fills their minds with great images, leads them to the contemplation of one object surpassingly grand; impresses it in various points of view upon their hearts and consciences, till having lost themselves in its grandeur and immensity, they are prepared to bear, to approve, and to profit by the severe personal attack that follows.