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EXODUS Xvii. 1, 2,—5, 6.
And all the congregation of the children of Ifrael journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journies, according to the commandment of the Lord, and pitched in Rephidem: and there was no water for the people to drink. Wherefore the people did chide with Mofes, and faid, Give us water, that we may drink. And Mofes faid unto them, Why chide you with me? Wherefore do ye tempt the Lord? And the Lord faid unto Mofes, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Ifrael and thy rod, wherewith thou fmoteft the river, take in thine hand, and go. Behold I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt fmite the rock, and there fhall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Mofes did fo in the fight of the elders of Ifrael.
THE reconciliation of interrupted friendship is one of the chief delights of human life. The extatic pleasure of meeting again, after long absence, persons whom we dearly love, obliterates in a moment the pain of feparation; and one hour of fweet communication compenfates the languor, folicitude, and gloom of many years. After an interval of five months, 1 return, to converfe with Mofes, and to talk of him to you, with the fatisfaction of one who has been upon a long journey, and, returning home, finds again thofe
whom he left, those whom he loves; and finds them fuch as he wishes them to be. Let us, my dear friends, with increased ardour, affection, admiration and gratitude, renew our intimacy with the venerable man to whom we are indebted for fo much rational pleafure, and for fo much useful instruction. Mofes, thou prince of historians, fublimeft of poets, faget of legiflators, cleareft-fighted of prophets, moft ami, able of men! To thee we owe our knowledge of the ages beyond the flood! Thou first taughtest to string the facred lyre, and to adapt the high praises of God to the enchanting concord of fweet founds. By thee, king in Jefhurun, all fucceeding princes have been inftructed how to govern; and lawgivers are formed to political wisdom and fagacity, By thee, Jews were led to expect, and Gentiles are encouraged to rejoice in MESSIAH, the great prophet, after thy fimilitude; by whom alone thou art excelled, And by thee, sweetest, meekest, gentlest of mankind, the endearing charities of private life are most engagingly exemplified, and most powerfully recommended.
But chiefly thee, O Spirit! thee only, we adore, "Who didft infpire
That shepherd who first taught the chofen feed,
Whatever wisdom we may have learned, whatever pleasure we may have enjoyed, whatever comfort we poffefs, whatever hope we feel-all, all is of thee, pure, eternal, unchanging fource of light and life and joy.
Mofes, in the paffage of his writings which I have now read, is carrying on his own interefting, eventful history. At the head of the myriads of Ifrael, he is now pursuing his march from Egypt to Canaan, following a guide who would not mislead them, and whom they could not miftake; protected by a power, which, like a wall of fire, bid defiance to every threatening foe; and from day to day fupplied by a bounty incapable of being exhaufted. All thefe prefent
and fingular advantages, had the fweetnefs of hope mingled with them. They had juft efcaped from the moft humiliating and oppreffive of all fervitude, and they were haftening to the inheritance of their fa thers: yet we find them a people as pecvifh, irritable, and difficult to pleafe, as if they had never known adverfity, and as if they had juft iffued from the lap of eafe and indulgence. To day, the bread is dry and ftale; to-morrow, the water is bitter; the third day, there is a fcarcity of it. The water is fweetened; manna defcends; quails fall around their camp; but there is ftilla cruel fomething unpoffeffed," and all that went before is forgotten; all that is in poffeffion becomes infipid. Beftow on the ungrateful perfon nine hundred and ninety-nine favours, and withhold the thousandth, and all you have done for him is loft. The prefent preffure always feems the heavieft. Mouldy bread and brackish water in the wilderness, are confidered as eyils more intolerable than all the rigours of flavery in Egypt.
Where does this cenfure fall? On that moody murmuring race, the Jews, and on them only? Alas! it overwhelms ourselves; it bears hard, not upon individuals here and there, but upon mankind! We expect more from the world than it poffibly can beftow; and, when we difcover its infufficiency, we charge God foolishly; and because we have not every thing that we with, we are fatisfied with nothing. Solacing ourfelves, like Jonah, under the fhadow of a gourd, we fancy it is a perennial fhelter. We fee not the worm which is gnawing its root; and when it is fmitten down and withers, we are ready to fay, with the fullen, tefty prophet, "We do well to be angry."
But, was the want of water a flight evil? And, is it finful to complain under the preffure of a calamity like this? And, was this the first time Ifrael had been in diftrefs, and found relief? Who was it that sweetened the waters of Marah? Who divided the Red Sea? Who rained bread from heaven? And, who ever mended
mended his condition by murmuring and difcontent? Had God intended to deftroy that people, why all this exertion of a strong hand, and ftretched-out arm to deliver them? God in the failure of our earthly comforts intends not our mortification and ruin, but our wifdom and improvement. He thereby teaches us our dependence; it fummons us to the obfervation of his providence; and levels, not the hope and joy, but the pride and felf-fufficiency of
Water! precious fluid infinitely more valuable than the blood of the grape, than rivulets of oil, or honey from the rock; refreshed, fuftained every moment by thee, we are every moment wafting, neglecting, forgetting thee. We prize thee not, because of thy rich abundance; and, because thou entereft into every other mean of food and comfort, thy importance is unobferved, thy benefits forgotten. May I never know thy value from the want of thee.
"There was no water for the people to drink." Wherefore the people did chide with faid, Give us water that we may drink. faid unto them, Why chide you with me? Wherefore do ye tempt the Lord ?" If in their calmeft moments men are often incapable of reasoning justly, and dif tinguishing accurately, is it any wonder to find them, in the very tide and whirlwind of paffion, acting foolifhly and unreasonably? Who would envy pre-eminence fuch as that which Mofes enjoyed? Is glory obtained? He comes in but for a moderate fhare, Is blame incurred, or diftrefs felt? All is imputed to him. To what a fevere trial was the temper of this meekeft of all men now put! What fo provoking as to meet with cenfure when we are confcious of meriting praife? What fo galling as to have the calamities of others charged upon us as crimes; to be accufed as culpable, merely because we have been unfortunate? Surely the great are fet in "flip
pery places ;" and "uneafy muft the head lie that
wears a crown.'
We fee Mofes flying in the hour of danger, whither the people ought to have fled in the hour of their affliction. "He cried unto the Lord." Religion opens a refuge when every other refuge fails; and it adminifters a remedy to ills otherwife incurable. I tremble for the life of Mofes. He trembles for himfelf. "They are almoft ready to ftone me." voice of Jehovah is again heard, and Mofes is in fafety. But I tremble now, for thefe murmuring, unbelieving, rebellious Ifraelites: Is not the thunder of His indignation going to burst out? Is not the fire haftening to confume? Or, is the earth going to open her mouth, and swallow them quick up into the pit? Behold a folemn preparation is making! But it is an arrangement of love. It is the voice of God I hear: but it speaks mercy and peace. The tremendous rod of God, wherewith he bruifed and broke Egypt, is again employed; but not as the inftrument of punishment to Ifrael. It fmites, not a finful people, but the flinty rock; and it draws forth, not a ftream of blood from the heart of the offender, but a stream of water to cool his tongue, and to restore his fainting foul. Surely, O Lord, "thy ways are not as our ways: for as the heavens are higher than the earth, fo are thy ways higher than our ways, and thy thoughts than our thoughts."* Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, feverity; but towards thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodnefs otherwife thou also fhalt be cut off." Aftonifhing inftance of the power and fovereignty of the Moft High! The fame rod which fmote the river, and it became blood, fmites the rock, and it becomes ftreams of water. Who is to be feared, who is to be trufted, but the God who can do thefe great things?
How honourable had it been for Ifrael, to have had this ftage of their marching through the wildernefs, diftinguished
*Ifa. lv. 8, 9.
+ Rom. xi. 22.