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exalted honors-privileges-promises. He is allowed to take of the things of Jesus for himself and the souls of his charge. He has the offer of just as much grace as he desires; and of just such measures of the Spirit, as he will honor, and usefully employ.
Let such heralds of the cross abound, and the world will, at no distant day, do homage, appropriate homage, to the Gospel; and of Jerusalem, our "happy home," it will, in truth, be said:
Praise is in all her gates: upon her walls,
REMOVAL OF THE FIERY SERPENTS.
And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole, and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.-Numb. xxi. 5-8.
We are like some traveler in a mountainous region, who, as he ascends one eminence after another, at length gains one, which he would fain hope to be the last; but finds, as he reaches its summit, that another, and a still higher elevation, lies beyond. In like manner, numerous as we have found the instances of murmuring on the part of the people of God, there is yet another instance before us, and one of great aggravation in the sight of God, if we may judge from the divine judgment which followed. Indeed, it would seem
that murmuring had become a habit with the children of Israel; and hence, we are not surprised that, in the chapter preceding, there is loud and bitter complaining, and in the usual tenor: "Why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?" It is an "evil place-no place of seed, or of figs, or vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink." Water is abundantly supplied, and their complainings cease. But a short time only elapses ere the spirit of discontent pervades the whole people anew, and they give vent to it in terms of bitter reproach: "Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread."
From Deut. 8: 15, we learn that the wilderness through which the Israelites had passed was all along infested with fiery serpents. But God had wonderfully preserved them from their poisonous fangs; nor is it probable that even now would they have been permitted to molest the people of God, had the latter not been most unreasonable in their murmuring against their Divine Benefactor. Isaiah calls these serpents "flying," or winged, (Isa. 14: 29,) from which circumstance, it is inferred, that they were better able to dart upon their victims. They were denominated "fiery," either from their color, their rage, or the effect of their bite upon the body, producing high inflammation, attended with insatiable thirst. The people had, without reason, complained for the want of water; and now, they are chastised with thirst which no water could quench.
The evil soon reaches a frightful magnitude. Hundreds in every part of the camp are stung. Alarming symptoms ensue. Scorching fever sets in, accompanied by racking pain, and probably furious delirium. The poison soon pervades every part of the body; and in every case, it would appear, proves fatal.
This was a judgment, which addressed itself to the fears and consciences of every Israelite. There could be no mistake as to its cause, and none as to its violence. The remedy, also, it was plain, lay only with God. The people, therefore, impelled by the force of their sufferings, hasten to Moses, and make confession of their sin. That sin was two-fold. They had spoken against God and against Moses. This, with becoming humility, they acknowledge, and now intercede with Moses to pray for their relief.
How often it occurs, that sinners are, at length, forced to apply to those whom they have contemned and reproached, to supplicate divine mercy for them! What minister, or what Christian, has not known such instances; and often many? The tongue, which could "speak all manner of evil and falsely" of the Gospel and its professors, is employed in humble supplication, that prayer may go up for pardon and peace. What a change comes over the sinner, in such circumstances! His very looks are altered! his language, his tones, his feelings, all are changed. What he lately scorned, he prizes; what he would have shunned, he seeks; what most of all he would have despised, a throne of grace, where saints pray, he honors; and there will he be found by the side of some child of God, whom he has "reviled,” but who bears his wants and woes most tenderly and affectionately to Him, who alone can impart peace and joy. Never did the Redeemer appear more glorious than on the cross, crying, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." Never did Moses appear more honorable, than when supplicating pardon for those who had murmured against him. And, when, in the present world, does the child of God appear more lovely, than when affectionately offering to God his prayers for those who have "despitefully used him and persecuted him?" This is the manner and spirit of heaven itself. Love, which prompts to prayer, under such circumstances, is as the poet says:
Sweet as the dew on herb and flower,
At evening's soft and balmy hour,
The request of the Israelites was, that Moses should pray the Lord to take away the serpents. We are not informed in what terms the prayer of Moses was couched. "He prayed for the people ;" but whether that the serpents should be removed, or a remedy provided, the sacred narrative does not acquaint us. Probably, however, Moses prayed as the people requested.
His prayer is answered; not, however, in the precise manner, which the people had desired; but in a way which, while it afforded instant and effectual relief, taught them most impressively, that their dependence was upon God. The method of cure was just the one, probably, which would have been deemed, of all others, the most improbable; and, indeed, the more wonderful, and the more manifestly a divine work, if, as some naturalists say, the sight of burnished brass only aggravates the disease of those who are stung by fiery serpents.
We have here an instance in which prayer is answered; but in a different way from what is expected, or was originally desired. The request is, that the serpents may be taken away, and thus the evil be avoided. God decides that the evil shall be remedied, not by the removal of the serpents; but by a process which, while it affords relief, shall secure other important ends.
And in this manner, God, probably, often answers prayer; especially in cases where his people have asked that blessings might be received in a particular way; or, without asking, have so expected them.
Take an example. Look at that child of God, in his closet, praying for non-conformity to the world. He is sincere and ardent in his wishes, for such a self-denying spirit.
But his circumstances in life are opposed to non-conformity. He is rich, and his friends are rich around him; and withal, he is encircled by the gay and the fashionable, whose influence he feels, and from whose society he finds it difficult to escape. Well, in such an atmosphere, and in such circumstances, he brings forth, comparatively, little fruit to God. He ripens slowly for heaven himself, and accomplishes little, either by example or personal effort, for the salvation of others. At length, he is made sensible of his deficiencies; and prays, that the world may exert a less baleful influence upon him. He wishes to be less conformed to the precepts and examples of the gay and thoughtless about him; and so he prays.
Now, in no way can his prayers be answered, and the spiritual good sought be attained; at least, in no so good way, as by affliction. And it must be affliction adapted to his case. And in answer to his prayers, and in kindness to his soul, it is sent. In a few months, or a few years, you find him a poor man. In most unexpected ways, his wealth, of which, perhaps, he was proud, and which was a constant hindrance to his spiritual prosperity, has departed. He is poor, and, perhaps, neglected. But his soul is benefitted. He is cured of his pride, and his love of the world. But the process, by which that cure was effected, was entirely different from what he asked or expected. But approach him, and inquire of him, in what light he views the dispensations of God; and he will tell you, that painful, agonizing, as the trial was, it has proved a blessing to his soul. Instead of longer pursuing after the world, to hoard it up, or to seek its enjoyment, he is striving for an inheritance above; instead of deriving his comforts from earthly sources, he is drinking from the pure and refreshing spiritual fountains on high. His prayers are answered, by a faithful, covenant-keeping God; to whom, looking up through tears and trials, he can exultingly say: