« VorigeDoorgaan »
cause I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he," Deut. xxxii. 3, 4.
Having thus raised them above every mean, every selfish consideration; and placed them, and made them to feel themselves in the awful presence of the great God, "who is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works," he descends abruptly, by a transition quick as lightning, to the censure he had in view. But even then, he insinuates it, rather than charges it home; and speaks for some time as of strangers, as of persons absent; and constitutes his auditors judges as it were of the case of others, not their own; and by employing the address of the third person, they and their, leaves them for a moment in uncertainty whom he could mean; and when he comes at length to address them in the second person, and to use the terms thee and thy, how delicately is the application qualified, by the introduction of every tender, every melting, every conciliating circumstance! "They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation. Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise? Is not he thy Father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?" Deut. xxxii. 5, 6.
He then goes into a recapitulation, partly historical, partly poetic, partly allegorical, at once to refresh the memory, to fire the imagination, and to exercise the invention, of the divine conduct towards them and their fathers, during many generations, that the conclusion he was about to draw might fall with irresistible weight upon the minds of all; that their base ingratitude and desperate folly might appear to themselves in a more odious light, when contrasted with the wisdom, goodness and loving-kindness of the Lord. This occupies a considerable part of the chapter, from the
seventh verse to the eighteenth, and a passage it is of exquisite force and beauty, as I am convinced you will also think upon a careful perusal of it.
Constrained at last to denounce the righteous judgment of God, in order to approve his own fidelity, and if possible to prevent the ruin which he feared, he makes a display of the awful terrors of divine justice, sufficient to awaken the dead, and to confound the living; and to increase its force and vehemence, Moses disappears, and God, the great God himself, comes forward, and in the first person utters the seven thunders of his wrath; "For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consum the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also, with the man of grey hairs,” Deut. xxxii. 22, 25.
The prophet as it were exhausted with this violent exertion, this formidable denunciation of vengeance, sinks into feeble, hopeless regret, and he reluctantly, despairingly deplores that misery which he can neither prevent nor avert. "They are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them. O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their rock had sold them, and the Lord had shut them up?" Deut. xxxii. 28, 29, 50.
Finally, a dawn of hope arises, and, wrapt into future times, the sacred bard hails the coming day of deliverance, and exults in the prospect of the junction of the nations with the ancient people of God, in the participation of one and the same great salvation. "Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land and to his people," Deut. xxxii. 43.
Such is the structure, such the general outline of this inimitable piece of sacred poesy. If what has been said shall induce any one to study it more attentively, he will probably discover beauties which have escaped us; and the discovery will bring its own reward. How many fathers, as they afterwards rehearsed the words of this song in the ears of their children, and taught them the knowledge of it, would recollect with a mournful pleasure, that they saw and heard Moses himself recite it aloud, on the very last day of his life; and glory in relating how near him they stood, and in describing to a new generation the form of his countenance, the deportment of his person, the tones of his voice!
That very day, the warrant of death arrives. The ministry of even a Moses is accomplished, and Providence hastens to convince the world, that, depart who will, the work of Heaven never can stand still. We have seen him hitherto engaged in active labours for Israel and for God. We shall consider him yet once more, dismissed from his service, and concluding a life of eminent usefulness, by a death of charity, benediction, prescience and resignation. May God impress on our minds a sense of our frailty, mortality and accountableness, that we may redeem the time, fulfil the duties of our day and the design of our Creator, work out our salvation, and so die in peace, die in hope, whenever it shall please Him to call us away to the world of spirits. Amen.
HISTORY OF MOSES.
And this is the blessing wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his deathDEUT. XXXiii. 1.
SENECA, the celebrated. Roman moralist, was preceptor to the Emperor Nero, and had early and studiously trained him to virtue. But falling under the displeasure of that sanguinary tyrant, he was condemned to loose his life, by being blooded to death. The day of execution being arrived, he prepared to meet his fate with intrepidity, and to die as he had lived, in communicating useful knowledge. His pupils gathered round him, eager to mark his dying deportment, and provided with their writing tables, to record and preserve his last sayings. He was put into the warm bath, the arteries of his legs and arms were opened, and the purple fluid which sustains life, gradually drained off, while his sorrowing, admiring disciples caught the words as they fell from his parched lips.
But a greater than Seneca is here. We are this night gathered round a dying Moses, to listen to the last accents of that tongue which, one excepted, spake as never man spake. We behold him neither impetuously rushing forwards into the mortal conflict, nor timidly shrinking from it; but advancing with a steady,
majestic step, to meet the king of terrors. The interests of the God of Israel, and of the Israel of God, had employed his thoughts all his life long; and, blended in one, they glow in and expand his heart to his latest moment. He was speedily to cease from. every earthly care, to cease from serving Israel any longer, to be occupied with God only; but even in death he is contriving the means of doing good to that dearly beloved, that fondly cherished people. As if his heart had relented at the harshness of some of the expressions which fidelity and a sense of duty had extorted from him; like one unwilling to part with them under any semblance of unkindness or displeasure, he again assumes the tender father, tunes his tongue to the law of kindness, buries all resentment of the past, and every thing unpleasant, in the prospects of futurity, in the gentleness and benevolence of friends who were separating to meet no more.
The soul that is at peace with God desires to be at peace with all men; and it is meet that dying breath be sweetened with mercy, forgiveness and love. Slowly and solemnly as Moses advanced to meet his latter end, would we accompany his steps in his last progress through the beloved tents of Israel, and in his ascent to the hill, from whence he never should return. With a heart like his, overflowing with charity to the whole church of God, and filled with sentiments of peculiar affection towards you, we behold the approach of that hour which is to disperse us, perhaps too for ever. With a blessing on our lips, like him, and O that his God and ours may make it effectual, we are hastening to bid you farewell.
The words which I have read are the beginning of the 54th and last parasha, or great section of the law, into which the whole books of Moses were subdivided, for the conveniency of publicly reading them, in conjunction with the prophets, every sabbath-day; a custom which prevailed in the Jewish church, down to the