« VorigeDoorgaan »
been some part or appendage of the breast-plate, that essential article of the high-priest's dress. They were not, it is alleged, the production of human skill, like the other particulars of the sacred clothing, for there is no account of their fabrication by the hands of man; but when the breast-plate was finished, Moses, we are told, "put into it the Urim and the Thummim,” whatever they were, immediately from God.
The method of consultation has also furnished ample matter of dispute. The most approved tradition is this, for scripture gives but few, and those very general hints, upon the subject, the person who desired to consult the oracle (and none but public persons, and on great public occasions, were admitted to that privilege) intimated his intention to the high-priest; who, at the hour of incense, arrayed in his pontifical vestments, entered the holy place, accompanied at a little distance by the magistrate or general, who made the inquiry. The high-priest placed himself with his face towards the entrance of the most holy place. The veil which separated the holy place from the holy of holies, was drawn up for the occasion, so that he stood directly fronting the ark of the covenant, overshadowed by the cherubim, where the Schechinah, or visible glory, resided. The inquirer then standing behind, pronounced the question, or consultation, in a few plain words; such for example as these, "Shall I go up against the Philistines, or shall I not go up?" This question was again repeated solemnly and distinctly
the high-priest before the Lord: and on looking downwards upon the Urim in the breast-plate, the answer of God was seen in characters of reflected light, from the excellent glory, and which the high-priest audibly repeated in the ears of the party concerned. "Go;" or, "Thou shalt not go."
When the oracle refused to give any response, as in the case of Saul, it was considered as a mark of high displeasure. God would not answer that wicked prince.
"by the judgment of Urim," but because he had wilfully forsaken God, an offended God, in just displeasure, gave him up to ask counsel of hell, and to follow it to his own destruction. "We have also," christians, "a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts," 2 Pet. i. 19.
Joshua being referred to this mode of consultation, compared with the history of Moses, points out the difference between these two leaders of Israel. "There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face," Deut. xxxiv. 10.
God manifested himself immediately unto Moses; conversed with him as a man with his friend. Joshua was kept at a greater distance, and enjoyed communion with God through the intervention of appointed means. Just as before Moses was admitted to the very summit of the mount, received within the veil of thick darkness, which at once concealed and revealed the divine glory; while Joshua was confined to a lower region, kept in the place and on the duty of a servant. But we must conclude.
The whole scene that has now passed in review, speaks directly to the heart and conscience. It presents a striking and instructive instance of the goodness and severity of God. The faults and infirmities of his dearest children he neither overlooks, nor forgets to punish. For one offence, and seemingly a slight one, Moses is excluded from Canaan. No humiliation, penitence or entreaty can, of themselves, remove the guilt nor prevent chastisement of sin. The neglect or insult offered by a child, a brother, a friend, strikes deeper than the most violent outrage from a stranger, or an avowed enemy. The transgression of Moses at the waters of strife was thus aggravated, and he must die for it. O my God, enter not into judgment with me, whose crimes are heightened
by every circumstance of aggravation-deliberation, presumption, filial ingratitude, in the face of solemn and repeated engagements. If Moses died the death, for once speaking unadvisedly with his lips, in the moment of passion; "if thou, Lord, art strict to mark iniquity, where shall I stand?" how shall I escape?
But is death a punishment to a good man? No. As in the death of Moses, therefore, we behold the justice and severity of God, so, in its consequences, we behold his goodness and loving kindness. The evil is slight and temporary; the good is unspeakably great, and eternally permanent; exclusion from Canaan is admission into the kingdom of heaven; "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." Faith, indeed, redeems not from the power of the grave, but it dissipates all the horror of the tomb; transforms it into a resting place for the weary pilgrim; and converts the king of terrors into a minister of joy. "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ." "The saying that is written, is come to pass, death is swallowed up of victory; mortality is swallowed up of life." "Life and immortality are brought to light by the gospel." We "know whom we have believed:" we believe in him who hath said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die."
HISTORY OF MOSES.
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people.-NUMB. xxxi.
THE interest which every reader of taste and sensibility takes in the life and actions of Moses is never permitted to flag, much less totally to sink and expire. His infant cries, from the very first moment, awaken our sympathy; and his departing words, at the age of a hundred and twenty years, continue to excite our esteem and admiration. Whether employed as a minister of vengeance or of mercy, he inspires affection or commands respect.
The love of life is not only natural and innocent, but important and necessary. We are instructed to guard, to preserve, to prolong it, at once by the constitution and frame of our nature, and by manifold examples of the highest authority. And while Providence permits the farther extension of it, the reasons and end of that extension are obviously manifest. Not a single hour is added to the life of any one, merely to make up such a quantity of time. No, every moment is destined to its peculiar purpose, passes to account, calls to its proper use and employment. To dream of premature retirement from the exercise of our faculties and functions, of mere existence without employment, is an attempt to defeat the intention of the Creator in sending us into the world; is a degradation and preversion of the powers
of the human mind; is to be dead while we live. The inquiry of a well regulated spirit, to the last, is, "Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do?" While any of my powers remain, however blunted, however impaired, to whom shall I dedicate the poor remains? Enfeebled, exhausted as I am, is there no one respect in which I can yet glorify God, or be useful to my fellow creatures? And, to the last, the great Supporter of life, the Ruler of the world, has some command to give, some labour to be performed, some exercise of the hand, the head, or the heart to enjoin, some purpose of justice or of love to accomplish.
Moses has received warning to depart, but the hour of release is not yet come. And though his offence at the waters of Meribah must be punished with death, the tranquillity of his mind is not thereby discomposed, nor his intercourse with Heaven interrupted, nor his zeal in performing the duties of his station abated. The God whom he had so long and faithfully served, continues to converse with him as a man with his friend, communicates to him his designs, and employs him in the execution. Our lives too are forfeited; the sentence of death is upon us; under a respite of unknown, uncertain duration, our days are passing away. Improved ever so well, they cannot indeed redeem from the grave, nor alter the immutable decree; but their improvement may alleviate the bitterness of death, and pluck out the sting. The inevitable course of nature, and the righteous decisions of a holy law, destroy not the sacred communications which subsist between a merciful God and a gracious spirit. To receive a command from an offended father, after judgment has been pronounced, partakes of the nature of a pardon; and it is no slender consolation, even under the stroke of justice, to reflect that paternal affection was pleased to regard and accept future obedience and submission, if not as an atonement for offence, at least as a mark of contriton for having transgressed. As