Page images

instance of his care is also thus related in the close of the same chapter. The Israelites had travelled three days in the wilderness. without meeting with any water, and were consequently much oppressed by faintness and thirst. At length they arrived at a place (afterwards called Marah) and were transported with joy by the sight of water; but they found it so bitter that they could not drink it; and stung with their disappointment they began to murmur against Moses. Then God was pleased, in answer to the cry of his servant, to shew him a tree, which being cast into the water rendered it perfectly sweet, not from any peculiar medicinal or corrective qualities in the tree, but through the gracious appointment of God himself. And well are we taught by the circumstance that he can sweeten every bitter potion which the Christian may at any time have to drink.

A further instance of God's providential care, and that also by miracle, is recorded in the chapter which is now before us. In the course of their journey, exactly a month from

their leaving Egypt, they came into the Wilderness of Sin, not far from the Mount Sinai, and there their provisions began to fail. And now see them forgetful of all the former mercies of the Lord, and as ready to look for their safety and supplies to common and ordinary methods, as if they had never had any special interpositions in their behalf. Hear the account of them with surprise. "The

whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness and the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots, and when we did eat bread to the full." It is scarcely possible to conceive any thing more ungrateful or perverse. The very people who had seen all the first-born slain in Egypt in one night on their account, now wish that they themselves had perished in like manner; the very people, that had sighed and cried by reason of their bondage in that country, now magnify its plenty, because they sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full. Alas!

what see we here but a picture, too faithful to the likeness, of our fallen nature? How prone are we to fret and murmur under every present inconvenience! That which troubles

us for the moment is considered the greatest of all troubles. Past dangers and deliverances, past supports and comforts, are all forgotten by us; our minds dwell upon the present evil, and our tempers are irritable, fretful, and impatient; we quarrel openly with our friends, and murmur, though perhaps we dare not express our murmurs, against God. The Scriptures are profitable for reproof and correction, as well as for doctrine and instruction in righteousness. Oh! that we may learn to correct our own faults by the exhibition which we so often have of the faults of others.

Justly might God have forsaken this unworthy people. But if all unworthy persons should be forsaken and punished for their deserts, what alas would be the case with

any of ourselves? But he magnifies his mercy; and therefore by another miracle he supplies their present need, and not only so,

but he provides them with a constant means of subsistence for years to come. "The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread, and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God. And it came to pass that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is Manna, for they wist not what it was." Thus for the immediate satisfying of their hunger an immense number of quails, (some species of wild-fowl,) were made to come and settle upon and about the camp so as easily to be taken, and during the night a quantity of Manna was produced in the regions of the air, and fell like dew, which being dried by the morning sun, became a nutritious and

palatable food. In size and shape it was small and round, like coriander seed, its colour was white, and its taste as wafers made with honey. The Israelites knew not what it was when they saw it, so they called it Manna, which seems to mean, prepared food; as though they said one to another, here is the food which God hath prepared for Different substances, some eatable, and others medicinal, have since been called by the same name, but they none of them are produced as this was. This, I am persuaded, was not a natural, but a miraculous production, formed expressly for the occasion, continued during the time of the sojourn of the Israelites in the wilderness, and then made to cease.


There were moreover several other extraordinary circumstances attending upon this miraculous appointment of their food. In the first place the Israelites were directed to go and gather it every morning in the quantity of an omer, that is, about three quarts for each individual, and it seems that those who gathered more than that quantity

« PreviousContinue »