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still the subject of our contemplations; but, in the present instance, it is more limited, and falls upon the servant, rather than upon the sovereign; is against Moses, rather than against God.
Miriam and Aaron, sister and brother of Moses, not having been consulted in the choice of the seventy elders, affect to be highly displeased. “Hath the Lord spoken only by Moses ?” they significantly and complainingly inquire. Shall he arrogate to himself these important appointments, and put dishonor upon us, who have hitherto been his counsellors ?
Such was the jealous and ill-tempered conference between these ambitious, but disappointed relatives of Moses. They are ashamed, however, to make their disappointment a topic of public complaint; since but few, possibly, may be found to sympathize in a matter so personal. They must seize upon something more public; a grievance which will address itself to the nation at large. This they find in connection with some circumstances, not explained, relating to the marriage of Moses with an Ethiopian woman.
But, whatever was the foundation of their complaint against Moses, either as to his wife, or his monopolizing the government, he was inclined to take no notice of it. He had lately been greatly tried by the murmurings of the people; and well might he deem the complainings of Miriam and Aaron ill-timed, as their example was not unlikely to renew the spirit of discontent and mutiny, which had only just been allayed. But being himself meek and forgiving, he was disposed to pass by the wrong which had been done him.
In the more perfect judgment of God, however, theirs was a complaining, which required a prompt and decided rebuke. Accordingly, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam are soon summoned to the door of the tabernacle. Here God addresses the two latter in tones of solemn and pointed censure. At the same time, he takes occasion to pass an encomium on Moses.
which remains on record to his lasting honor His faithful ness receives the divine attestation and indorsement; he is insured holy and intimate communion with God; and even “the similitude of the Lord;" or some visible manifestation of the divine glory shall he behold.
Thus, these complainers stand before the Shekinah, or cloudy pillar, at the door of the tabernacle, rebuked. And, in token of the divine anger, the cloud rises, and as it departs, Miriam, who, it seems, was first in the transgression,” becomes leprous, white as snow.
“ Her foul tongue," says Bp. Hall," is justly punished with a foul face, and her folly, in pretending to rival Moses, is manifest to all."
Had Aaron and Miriam wished to make their confession directly to God, they are, for the present, deprived of an opportunity. The Cloudy Pillar has departed. God will not stay to hear any excuse. Moses may become their mediator; but will he condescend to plead for them, under an injury, which might have caused mutiny throughout the camp of Israel ?
Whatever reluctance Aaron might have to appealing to Moses, in behalf of himself and Miriam, there is no other alternative. Indeed, he soon appears to be sensible of his error, and humbled for it. He approaches Moses, whose forgiveness he implores for himself and Miriam; and Moses, at his further instance, intercedes with God, for the removal of Miriam's leprosy. How affectionately and sincerely he prays; prays as one who, from the heart, has forgiven all the wrong done; and who ardently desires, that her transgression may be forgiven, and her grievous and loathsome malady may be removed !
How often are the good reviled ? Their conduct, however judicious, is censured; their good name traduced; and their influence designedly undermined, and, if possible, destroyed. And even Christian friends and near relatives are sometimes the authors of unfounded aspersions, and auxiliary to inju
ries, which, but for the overruling providence of God, might blight the fairest prospects of usefulness.
But in such cases, let the example of Moses be imitated, both in temper and conduct. How beautiful the spirit he manifests ! how kind the course he adopts! He casts no reproaches; utters no angry denunciations; indulges no revengeful feelings. But in the true spirit of our Lord's gospel injunction, uttered centuries after, he prays for those who had “despitefully” used him.
Such, indeed, are the inculcations of our holy religion. Such the dignified, beautiful, and even sublime conduct of the true children of God. To pass by an insult or injury, in dignified silence, is sufficient to attract the notice and secure the applause of men of the world. But how easy that, in comparison to going to a throne of grace; and there, with a forgiving spirit, truly, and from the heart, imploring rich, lasting blessings upon our calumniators and abusers! This, however, is the law of love ; this the injunction of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We cannot say,
that even the disciples of Jesus do always fully come up to this standard ; at least, not as readily and early as they should do. But there is more forgiveness than the world knows of, or believes, on the part of the truly pious. Nor can I doubt, that when the secrets of the closet shall one day be revealed, it will be known to the honor of religion; to the honor of thousands of Christians, that they prayed; most kindly, most sincerely, most importunately, for enemies. I do not say, that there will not be some sad disclosures ; perhaps many, of a different spirit, and of a contrary practice, on the part of some professors of religion. May be, they will find, to their surprise, that they had none of the forgiving spirit of Jesus; and that even when they prayed, if they ever did, " forgive us, as we forgive others," they were in truth praying against themselves. But the gospel inculcates forgiveness of enemies, and prayer for them. And it is pleas
ant to see such a manifestation of this spirit, in a far-distant age of the world ; identical with that which our Lord so strenuously enjoined upon his followers, and of which he himself gave, in his own spirit and conduct, a bright and memorable example.
PRAYER OF MOSES AFTER THE REPORT OF THE SPIES.
And the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me ? and how
long will it be ere they believe me for all the signs which I have shewed among them? I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they. And Moses said unto the Lord, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, &c.-Numb. xiv. 11-25.
Here is yet another provocation, on the part of God's people; and one which, in some respects, exceeds, in point of aggravation, all that have preceded. But, the picture presented has its colors of relief. We discern the same kind and affectionate friend and mediator, whom we have noticed in past provocations, bending before the footstool, and urging, with holy eloquence, his plea for pardon; and we hear the same merciful and compassionate God, saying, “I have pardoned according to thy word.” We may not admit, that such instances of ingratitude and rebellion are desirable, in order to exhibit the efficacy of prayer; but most happy we may deem it, that we may see how, time after time, man can plead; and how, time after time, God may be influenced to give an answer of peace.
The above is the tenth provocation of the Israelites, since leaving Egypt; and though in this, as in former instances, they are pardoneul, yet important and direful consequences ensue, as the sequel will disclose.
The Israelites had reached the southern border of Canaan, and might soon have entered upon the possession of it. But
the people, through unbelief, proposed (Deut. 1: 22,) to send forward spies, who should search out the state of the country and its inhabitants, and bring back a report; upon which, they designed to predicate their course—either to go up and possess it, or return to Egypt. “Moses, mistaking their intentions,” observes Dr. Scott, “ approved of the plan; and the Lord, being justly displeased, permitted the people to follow their own counsels. As they were unwilling to trust God, but must judge for themselves, as to the expediency of entering upon their inheritance, God permits them to proceed; but gives directions as to the number of spies to be sent, and the manner in which they shall execute their commission." Having received their instructions, the spies departed, and, after an absence of forty days, they returned with “an evil report." The inhabitants, they represented as strong and giant-like, and the cities walled and impregnable. The conquest of the country, in their view, was impracticable.
A report, so gloomy and depressing, filled the camp of Israel with despondency, and even dismay. The night succeeding was one of lamentation and tears. Forgetting their sufferings in Egypt, and their sighs and groans, year after year, for deliverance, they strangely wish that they had never been brought out of bondage. Forgetting the honors which God had put upon them; the divine favors, by which they had been encompassed ; the miracles, which, almost daily, had been wrought in their behalf, they now propose to cast off Moses, and even God himself, and to appoint a captain, under whom they would return to Egypt.
In the midst of this popular infatuation, Caleb and Joshua, two of the spies, rose, and bore direct and solemn testimony to the injustice, and even falsehood, of the report of the majority; at the same time, they reminded the people that God was able to defeat every foe, and give them the quiet possession of Canaan, according to his promise. What were the sons of Anak, or the multitude of walled cities, scattered