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EXODUS XV. 23-27.
And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah; for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Mofes, faying, What fhall we drink? And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord fhewed him a tree, which when he had caft into the waters, the waters were made fweet: there he made for them a ftatute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, and said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his fight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all bis ftatutes; I will put none of these diseases upon thee which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee. And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm-trees; and they encamped there by the waters. UNLESS the mind be under the regulating power of religion, it will be perpetually lofing its balance, and changing its tencr: at one time accelerated into indecent and dangerous fpeed, through the impulse of defire, ambition or revenge; at another it is chilled. into languor and inaction, through fear, defpondency and disappointment. We fhall behold the fame perfon now believing things incredible, and attempting
things impracticable; and anon ftaggering at the fhadow of a doubt, and fhrinking from the flightest appearance of difficulty and danger. Infolent, fierce and overbearing in profperity, the unfteady creature becomes grovelling, difpirited, and mean in adversity. "It is a good thing," therefore, "that the heart be eftablished by grace:" grace, that calm, fteady, uniform principle, which veers not with every wind of doctrine; rifes not, nor falls, like the Mercury in the tube, with every variation of the atmosphere, according to the alternate tranfition of difappointment and fuccefs, cenfure and applaufe, health and fickness, youth and age. In the day of profperity, religion faith to the foul where it dwells, " Rejoice," and in the day of adverfity," Confider;" for a wife and a merciful God hath fet the one over against the other. This divine principle corrects immoderate joy, faying to the happy, "Be not high minded, but fear;" it confoles and fupports the miferable, by breathing the fweet affurance, that the "light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."*
The want of this balance of the foul, and the.dargerous confequences of that want, are ftrikingly exemplified in the hiftory of the chofen people, whom Providence by a series of miracles undertook to conduct from Egypt to Canaan. Elated or depreffed by the afpect of the moment, we find them haughty in the hour of victory, and funk into despair by a defeat. The deepness of the waters of the Red Sea, and their miraculous feparation, afford matter of triumph today; the bitterness of the waters of Marah caufes univerfal difcontent and dejection to-morrow. But alas! we need not recur to diftant periods of hiftory for an example of the ruinous effects produced by a deftitution of religious principle, and of the fatal power of unbelief. The hiftory of every man's own experience is illuftration fufficient. To what muft we afcribe the
* 2 Cor. iv. 17
envy, jealoufy, rage, pride, refentment, timidity, diffidence and dejection, which fucceffively and unremittingly agitate the human mind? Men walk by fight, not by faith. They feel the powers of the world that is, and are infenfible of that which is to come. They look at "things temporal," and neglect thofe "which are unfeen and eternal." They ftand in awe of the creature, and defpife the Creator. While then we difcover, deplore and condemn a selfish, a perverse and discontented fpirit, and an unbelieving heart, in others, let us ftudy, by the grace of God, to reform the fame or like difpofitions in ourselves.
What a magnificent concert filled the fhores of the Red Sea, after Ifrael was paffed over! Every thing was fuited to another. The words were adapted to the occafion, the mufic to the words, the performers to the mufic. There Mofes, leading the bolder, rougher notes of manly voices; here Miriam the prophetefs, his fifter, in fweet accord, blending the fofter harmony of female ftrains with the notes of the timbrel, in praise of their great Deliverer. Never furely did fuch mufic ftrike the vault of heaven, and never fhall again," till the ranfomed of the Lord fhall return, and come to Zion with fongs, and everlasting joy upon their heads; when they fhall obtain joy and gladnefs, and forrow and, fighing fhall flee away :"* never, till the fong of Mofes be closed with the fong of the Lamb.
At length they quit the fcene of their terror and of their triumph; for the world admits not of a long continuance of either; and they advance three days march into the wildernefs. Efcaped effectually and forever from the oppreffion of Egypt, no more oppofed in front by an unfurmountable barrier, nor hemmed in on either fide by impaffable mountains, nor pursued by a numerous and well-difciplined army; but the fea, once their hindrance, now their defence; every foe fubdued, and the road to Canaan straight VOL. III.
* Ifai. xxxv. 10.
before them, what can now give disturbance? On how many circumstances does life and the comfort of it depend! The failure or difagreeable quality of one ingredient corrupts and deftroys the whole. In Shur they found no water; in Marah they find water, but it is bitter. The unavoidable condition of a wilderness ftate! Always too little, or too much! Here there are children and penury; there affluence and fterility. This year there is drought parching and confuming every plant of the field; the next, an overflowing flood fweeping every thing before it; and unhappy mortals are eternally augmenting the neceffary and unavoidable evils of human life, by peevifhness and difcontent.
Oblige an ungrateful perfon ever fo often, and difappoint or oppofe him once, and lo, the memory of a thousand benefits is inftantly loft. All that Mofes, ail that God has done for Ifrael is forgotten, the moment that a fcarcity of water is felt. For it is with this fpirit as with that of ambition: nothing is attained in the eye of ambition, while there is yet one thing to be attained. All the favour of Ahafuerus avails Haman nothing, while Mordecai the Jew fits in the king's gate. So ingratitude fays nothing is granted, while one thing is denied me. One fcanty meal in Shur, or one unpalatable beverage at Marah, has obliterated all remembrance of the recent wonders of Egypt, and the more recent miracles of the Red Sea. And as one evil quality is ever found in company with its fellows, we here find ingratitude and impiety toward God blended with unkindness and unreasonablenefs toward man. And cowardice pitifully levels its keen arrows at the fervant, not daring to attack the master. "The people murmured against Mofes." A worldly mind under diftrefs either flies to the creature for help, or accufes the creature as the caufe of its woe. Piety leads the foul directly to God; it views the calamity as his appointment; and finds its removal, its remedy, or its compenfation in the divine mercy. Ifrael taftes
the bitter water, defponds, and charges Mofes foolishly. Mofes cries to God, and is enlightened.
Obferve the goodness and long-fuffering of God. Readier to liften to the entreaties of Mofes than to punish the perverseness and unbelief of the people, he inftantly directs to a cure for the nitrous quality of the waters of Marah. "The Lord fhewed him a tree, which when he had caft into the waters, the waters were made sweet.”
Of little confequence is it to inquire, because it is impoffible to determine, whether the wood of this tree had in it an inherent virtue which naturally corrected the brackish tafte of the water; or, whether the sweetening quality were preternaturally communicated to it to fulfil the prefent defign of Providence. Whether I fee water sweetened by a log of wood caft into it, or iffuing from the flinty rock, or flowing naturally in the brook; whether I fee Ifrael fed with bread from heaven, or Mofes and Chrift fubfifting forty days without bread at all; or mankind in general fupported by bread growing gradually out of the ground; I still behold but one and the fame object; "good gifts coming down" but in fo many different ways "from the Father of lights." The wife man, in the apocryphal book of Ecclefiafticus, has made a happy use of this paffage, to inculcate the neceffity of ufing appointed means in order to obtain fuccefs. The Lord (fays he) hath created medicines out of the earth, and he that is wife will not abhor them. Was not the water made sweet with wood, that the virtue thereof might be known? and he hath given men fkill, that he might be honoured in his marvellous works. With fuch doth he heal men, and taketh away their pains. My fon, in thy fickness be not negligent; but pray unto the Lord, and he will make thee whole."
A fondness for allegory has reprefented the effect. produced by this tree caft into the waters, as emblematical of the virtue of the cross, in fweetening and fanctifying affliction to the believer, and taking the