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I cannot think of that scene in the wilderness which is here depicted, the barren
the desolate prospect, the murmuring tribes and their impatient leader, the smiting of the rock and the gushing out of the waters; without thinking at the same time of the many weary and dreary passages that befall, in human life, the mourning and rebellion of unsubdued minds, and the misgivings and unreasonableness even of faithful persons, while the miraculous goodness of God breaks forth over the whole, making refreshment and revival flow down from flinty discouragements and through the parched waste.
But before coming to the spiritual and accommodated view of the Scripture account, it will be best to take a survey of the facts themselves, as they are recorded in the books of Exodus and Numbers. The fortieth and last year of the tedious wanderings of the Israelites had now begun. But as their season of trial drew towards its close, their patience was ending likewise. They were in a land of drought. They looked to the rising and setting sun, but its hot rays were reflected from no surface of stream or lake. They were drying up with thirst. Then, in their distress, they broke into desponding complaints and mutinous reproaches. “ Would God that we had died when our brethren died! And why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this evil place; — a place without grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates, and where there is no water to drink?” The divine word then came to the disheartened lawgiver, that he should “speak to the rock before their eyes,” and it should yield to them the supplies that they were murmuring after. He did as he was commanded; but not in the temper of confidence or calmness that so great an occasion required. Instead of addressing the stony cliff with the dignity of his commissioned power, and the faith which his wonderful experience should have forbidden ever to fail him, his speech was turned against his people in passionate rebuke: “ Hear now, ye rebels ! are we to bring you water out of this rock?” Whether his sin lay in the feelings that have now been mentioned; or whether it may not be found in the arrogance, with which at such a season he could speak of himself, instead of ascribing the whole glory to God; the shortness of the account does not permit us to determine. But from that hour sentence was pronounced against both the brothers, the legislator and the priest. “ Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.” Aaron was soon called up a mountain upon the coast of Edom, in the top of which he solemnly laid aside the robes of his office and the garment of mortality at the same moment; while Moses journeyed on a little longer, till from the summit of Mount Pisgah, with his eye undimmed and his natural force unabated, he was summoned to look his first and his last upon that country of hope, which was destined to fill so large a space in the memories and destinies of mankind.
“Can we bring you water out of this rock ?” The water nevertheless came; and that by the simple blow of a staff, since such was the good pleasure of the Lord. But as if his mercy must always stand in connection with the unreasonableness of those who need, and the unworthiness of those who enjoy it, this very gift had to be commemorated under a title of reproof. The water was named Meribah, - contention.
How many generations of men have come and gone, since those tribes of Jacob passed through their wanderings and their fate ! What a long course of time has been uttering its revelations to the earth, since the prophet lifted his rod over its