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“ It is a land of cattle, and thy servants have « much cattle. Wherefore, if we have found grace “ in thy sight, let this land be given to us for a pos“ session, and we will build sheepfolds here for our “ cattle, and cities for our little ones; and we our“ selves will go ready armed before our brethren, “ the children of Israel,--and will not return into our “ houses, until they have inherited every man his « inheritance."
“ And Moses said unto them—If you will do “ this thing, and will go all of you armed over Jor
dan before the Lord, until he have driven out his “ enemies from before him; and the land (of Canaan) “ be subdued (for your brethren;) then afterwards
ye shall return, and this land (of Gilead) shall be your "possession before the Lord*.”
This, then, was the great original Contract or Charter, under which these two tribes and a half were allowed to separate from the rest, and to dwell on the other side of Jordan. They were to assist their brethren in their necessary wars, and to continue under one government with them-even that of the great Jehovah Himself-erecting no separate Altar, but coming to perform their sacrifices at that one Altar of Shiloh, where the Lord had vouchsafed to promise His spe
Though this subjected them to inconveniences, yet as Uniformity of Worship and the nature of their Theocracy required it, they adhered faithfully to their contract.
In the fear of God, they bowed themselves at his altar, although not placed in their own land; and, in love to their brethren, they supported them in their wars,
" till there stood not a man of all their enemies “ before them;" and at last, Joshua, their great Leader, having no farther need of their assistance, gave them this noble testimony-That they had in all things obeyed his voice as their general, and faithfully performed all that they had promised to Moses the servant of God. Wherefore, he blessed them, and dismissed them to return to their own land “ with much riches, and with cattle, and with silver, " and with gold, and with much rainent.”
No sooner, therefore, had they entered their own country, than in the fulness of gratitude, on the banks of Jordan, at the common passage, over against Canaan, they built an high or great Altar, that it might remain an eternal monument of their being of one stock, and entitled to the same civil and religious privileges, with their brethren of the other tribes.
But this their work of piety and love was directly misconstrued. The cry was immediately raised against them. The zealots of that day scrupled not to declare them Rebels against the living God, Violators of his sacred laws and Theocracy, in setting up an altar against his holy altar; and therefore the whole congregations of the brother-tribes, that dwelt in Canaan, gathered themselves together, to go up to war against their own flesh and blood; in a blind transport of unrighteous zeal, purposing to extirpate them from the face of the earth, as enemies to God and the commonwealth of Israel!
In that awful and important moment (and oh my God that the example could be copied among the brother-tribes of our Israel, in the Parent Land!) I say, in that awful and important moment, some milder and more benevolent men there were, whose zeal did not so far transport them, but that, before they unsheathed the sword to plunge it with unhal. lowed hand into the bowels of their brethren, they thought it justice first to inquire into the truth of the charge against them. And, for the glory of Israel, this peaceable and prudent council prevailed.
A most solemn embassy was prepared, at the head of which was a man of sacred character, and venerable authority, breathing the dictates of religion and humanity; Phinehas the son of Eleazer the high Priest, accompanied with ten other Chiefs or Princes, one from each of the nine tribes as well as from the remaining half tribe of Manasseh.
Great was the astonishment of the * Gileadites on receiving this embassy, and hearing the charge against them. But the power of conscious innocence is above all fear, and the language of an upright heart superior to all eloquence. By a solemn appeal to Heaven for the rectitude of their intentions, unpremeditated and vehement, in the words of my text, they disarm their brethren of every suspicion.
“ The Lord God of Gods,” say they in the fer. vency of truth, repeating the invocation) “ the Lord God of Gods”-He that made the heavens and the
• The two tribes and a half are here briefly and generally denominated Gileadites, from the name of the land they had chosen.
carth, who searcheth the hearts, and is acquainted with the most secret thoughts, of all men—" He knoweth, and all Israel shall know,” by our unshaken constancy in the religion of our fathers—that this charge against us is utterly false.
Then turning from their brethren, with unspeakable dignity of soul and clearness of conscience, they address the almighty Jehovah himself
Oh thou sovereign Ruler of the universe-Our God and our Fathers' God-if it be in Rebellion or in Transgression against thee, that we have raised this monument of our zeal for the commonwealth of Israel—Save “ us not this day!" If the most distant thought has entered our hearts of erecting an independent altar; if we have sought, in one instance, to derogate from the glory of that sacred Altar which thou hast placed among our brethren beyond Jordan, as the common bond of union and worship among
all the tribes of Israel-let not this day's sun descend upon us, till thou hast made us a monument of thine avenging justice, in the sight of the surrounding world!
After this astonishing appeal to the great God of Heaven and Earth, they proceed to reason with their brethren; and tell them that, so far from intending a separation either in government or religion, this altar was built with a direct contrary purpose-" That it
might be a witness between us and you, and our generations after us; that your children may not
say to our children in time to come, ye have no “ part in the Lord.” We were afraid lest, in some future age, when our posterity may cross Jordan to offer sacrifices in the place appointed, your posterity may thrust them from the altar, and tell them that because they live not in the land where the Lord's tabernacle dwelleth, they are none of his people, nor intitled to the Jewish privileges.
But while this altar stands, they shall always have an answer ready. They will be able to say—“ Be" hold the pattern of the altar of the Lord which our “fathers made." If our fathers had not been of the seed of Israel, they would not have fondly copied your customs and models. You would not have beheld in Gilead, an altar, in all things an imitation of the true altar of God, which is in Shiloh; except only that ours is an high “or great altar to see" from far. And this may convince you that it was not intended as an altar of sacrifice (for then it would have been but three cubits in height, as our law directs) but as a monumental altar, to instruct our generations forever, that they are of the same pedigree with yourselves, and entitled to the same civil and religious privileges.
This noble defence wrought an immediate reconciliation among the discordant tribes. 6. The words,
(when reported) pleased the children of Israel “they blessed God together” for preventing the effusion of kindred blood, “and did not go up to destroy “ the land where their brethren, the children of Reu“ ben* and Gad, dwelt.”
Though for brevity, the sacred text, in this and other places, only mentions Reuben and Gad, yet the half tribe of Manasseh is also sup. posed to be included.