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Copy I 

(From the Statue by Michael Angelo.) 









By the Rev. W. M. TAYLOR, D.D. 

Daniel the Beloved. 
David, King of Israel. 

Elijah the Prophet. 
Moses the Law-Giver. 

Peter the Apostle. 
i2mo, Cloth, $1 50 a volume. 

Published by HARPER & BROTHERS, New York. 

B^^ Any of the above works sent by mail, postage prepaid, to any part 0/ 
the United States, on receipt of t/ie price. 

Copyright, 1879, by Harper & Brothers. 


In issuing this new series of biographical discourses, it is 
not necessary to say much by way of preface. To the study 
of the life of Moses I have been drawn for years, and the 
preparation of these Lectures has been more of a joy than 
of a labor. I began with admiration of the Hebrew leader ; 
but as I advanced that grew into appreciation of his charac- 
ter and work, and that again developed into love. I have 
tried to speak of him as he was, without magnifying his ex- 
cellences, or apologizing for his faults ; and while setting 
him as fully as possible in the environment of his own age, 
I have been most solicitous to point the lessons for to-day 
which are so plentifully suggested by the story of the He- 
brew Exodus. 

I have contented myself mainly with the exposition, de- 
fence, and application of the sacred narrative, and have left 
questions of Egyptology and chronology very largely to the 
consideration of the specialists who have devoted their at- 
tention to them. Had, however, the excellent articles on 
Ancient Egypt, by Mr. Stuart Poole, which have enriched the 
pages of the Contemporary Review for the first three months 
of this year (1879), appeared a little sooner, I would have ac- 
cepted the conclusion at which he has arrived as to the time 
of the Exodus ; and identifying the Pharaoh of the oppres- 
sion with Rameses IL, and the Pharaoh of the Exodus with 
his successor Menptah, I would have formally given as the 
date of the history b.c. 1300, or thereabout. I would have 

iv . Preface. 

modified also to some extent the statements which I have 
made in the second Lecture on the theology of the Ancient 
Egyptians, and would have recognized the presence among 
the few of a kind of belief in the unity of God, though to 
the many that was lost among the polytheistic associations 
which surrounded it. But my main purpose has been to 
treat of the character and work of that patriot and emanci- 
pator whom, without exaggeration, we may call the greatest 
of the sons of men. In prosecuting this design, I have not 
been unmindful that Moses was the precursor of Christ, and 
I have sought to show the intimate connection which sub- 
sists between the Old Covenant and the New. I have read 
the history of the Wandering in the light of the Gospel by 
John ; I have studied the meaning of the Ritual at the feet 
of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews ; and I am not 
without the hope that my readers may rise from the perusal 
of these pages with a clearer comprehension than they had 
before of the place of Moses, and the system which goes by 
his name, in the education of the world for the recognition 
and reception of its Redeemer. 

For the photograph from which has been made the en- 
graving of the famous statue in which Michael Angelo has 
embodied his noble conception of the great law-giver, I have 
been indebted to the kindness of a friend, who sent it from 
Rome with the request that it should be made the frontis- 
piece of this volume. 

If the work now given to the public shall advance in any 
way that interest in Bible study which I am happy to believe 
is reviving in our land, or contribute in any degree to the 
glory of the Master at whose feet it is laid, I shall be abun- 
dantly satisfied. 

5 Wesf i^th Street, New York, 
2.Qth March, 1879. 



I. The Birth of Moses 7 

II. Training and Choice 24 

III. The Burning Bush 41 

IV. First Appearance Before Phai'aoh 61 

V. T'he Ten Plagues 77 

VI. The Passover 95 

VII. The Crossifig of the Red Sea iii 

VIII. Marah, Elim^ afid Sin 128 

IX. Rephidim 149 

X. Jethrd's Visit 164 

XI. Sinai and the Decalogue 182 

XII. The Golden Calf— Aaron's Weakness 198 

XIII. Bitercession 214 

XIV. The Tabernacle y and its Symbolism 232 

XV. The Mosaic Legislation 253 

XVI. Final Incidents at Sinai 274 

XVII. Murmuri7igs 292 

XVIII. Miriam and Aaron's Sedition 307 

XIX. The Report of the Spies 323 

XX. The Korahitic Conspiracy 339 

XXI. The Sin of Moses, and the Death of Aaron 358 

XXII. The Brazen Serpent. 374 

XXIII. Balaam 388 

XXIV. Deuteronomy 408 

XXV. Death and Burial of Moses 434 

XXVI. Characteristics of Moses 451 

INDEX 469 




Exodus ii., i-io. 

BEFORE the descendants of Abraham could take formal 
and permanent possession of the land which had been 
promised by God to their father, three things were, appar- 
ently, indispensable. It was necessary that they should 
become numerically strong; that they should become ac- 
quainted with the arts and sciences in the highest stage to 
which human development had then attained; and that 
they should be trained into courage and endurance, so as 
to be able to thrust out the Canaanites from before them. 
The two former of these were secured by their residence in 
Egypt ; the latter was attained by the discipline of bond- 
age, and by the experiences through which they were led 
during their sojourn in the wilderness. Their extraordi- 
nary increase made them a multitude; but their common 
hardships under slavery, their common deliverance under 
the leadership of Moses, and their common endurance of 
the discomfort of the desert, unified them into a nation fit- 
ted to become the depository of God's truth. 

Egypt is generally regarded as one of the mothers of civ- 
ilization ; and in at least two directions her influence has 

8 Moses the Law-giver. 

told with unparalleled effect upon the history of later times. 
From her, through the medium of Phoenicia, Cadmus re- 
ceived the letters which he introduced to Greece, whose 
literature is even yet an inspiration in poetry, patriotism, 
and political government. By her, too, kindly at first, but 
more harshly as the years went on, that nation was nur- 
tured, whose sacred books, blossoming into the beauty of 
the New Testament Scriptures, have put the benevolence 
into our modern life, and incarnated themselves in the 
Christian Church. 

At the time when Joseph rose into prominence as the 
prime minister of this singular country, its lower province 
was ruled by a dynasty of foreign birth. This may partly 
account for the great favor which was shown to the gifted 
young Hebrew ; while the generation which had profited by 
his forethought and energy would, we may be sure, make 
no objection to the granting of the land of Goshen to his 
brothers and their families. But years flew on. Joseph 
died, and a new dynasty from Upper Egypt, flushed with 
the glory of conquest, took possession of the throne. Nat- 
urally, therefore, its representative would be inclined to 
treat with coldness those who had been specially honored 
by the expelled monarch. And this course, so easily ex- 
plicable on mere general principles, was rendered, in the 
view of the king, the more imperative by the fact that they 
had grown into a formidable people. The seventy that 
went down at first with Jacob"* had, in the course of two 
hundred years, multiplied so amazingly, that, two years after 
the ExoduSjt the full-grown males numbered six hundred 
and three thousand five hundred and fifty; so that if we 
add women and children, the entire number at the time of 
their departure fi-om Egypt would be little short of a million 

* Exod. i., 5. t Ibid., xxxviii., 26. 

The Birth of Moses. 9 

and a half. We may, therefore, safely say that at the date 
of Moses's birth they must have amounted to somewhere 
about three-quarters of a million. Under any circum- 
stances, such a number of foreigners maintaining their 
tribal distinctions and their traditional religion must have 
constituted to a king an element of danger. But though 
they were mainly shepherds, some of them had learned the 
arts in which the Egyptians were so eminent. A few had 
become expert in working with the precious metals,* and 
at least the leaders among them had become proficient 
in the art of writing. All this must have made them ob- 
jects of great anxiety to the king. Indeed, he felt them 
to be so formidable that he dared not make upon them an 
open and fair attack, but had recourse to cunning crafti- 
ness.f Knowing well the decimating influence of enforced 
labor, as it is seen even at this day in the same land among 
the Fellahin, he made them slaves, not to individual mas- 
ters but to the State, and exacted from them the most ex- 
haustive service. He compelled them to make bricks, and 
to build cities ; and he set over them tyrannical and violent 
overseers, who " made their lives bitter with hard bondage, 
in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the 
field." What that means may be inferred from a modern 
fact ; for it is said that when the canal which joins the Nile 
to the sea at Alexandria was made, one hundred and fifty 
thousand men were forced to labor on it, and of these twen- 
ty thousand perished before it was completed. There has 
been discovered, also, a painting on a Theban tomb, which 
though it is now regarded as having no reference to the 
Hebrews, may yet help to illustrate the nature of their toil. 
" In this picture some of the laborers are seen transporting 
the clay in vessels ; some intermingling it with straw ; oth- 

* Exod. xxxi., 3. t Exod. i., 10. 

lo Moses the Law-giver. 

ers are taking the bricks out of the form and placing them 
in rows ; and still others, with a piece of wood on their 
backs and ropes on each side, carry away the bricks already 
dried, while the taskmasters are beside them, some stand- 
ing, others sitting, with their uplifted sticks in their hands." 
Besides this, a learned Egyptologist (Chabas) has translated 
some papyri, which, under the hieroglyphic "Aperiu " (by 
him identified, whether correctly or not I am incompetent 
to determine, with Hebrews), speaks of a foreign race as em- 
ployed on public works. In one of these the writer, mak- 
ing a return to his superior officer, says, " I have obeyed the 
command which my master gave me, to provide sustenance 
for the soldiers, and also for the Aperiu who carry stone for 
the great Bekhen of King Rameses. I have given them 
rations every month according to the excellent instructions 
of my master."* 

The labor was most oppressive, but the purpose of the 
king was not accomplished ; for the more the Israelites 
were afflicted, the more they multiplied and grew. Pha- 
raoh knew not that the people whom he sought to reduce 
both in numbers and in resources were the wards of God ; 
and in his overweening estimate of his own sovereignty, he 
forgot that there was another King, " who doeth according 
to his will in the armies of heaven and among the inhabit- 
ants of the earth." So, foiled in one direction, he set to 
work in another, and enacted yet more brutal measures. 
He attempted to prevail upon those who assisted at the 
birth of the Hebrews' children, to murder all the males as 
they were born; but in that he was out-witted by the 
shrewdness of women, who would rather brave his wrath, 
than lend themselves to his diabolical designs. Then he 

* See Kitto's "Daily Bible Readings," vol. ii., pp. 6-12; ♦'Commeh- 
tary, Critical, Experimental and Practical, on the Old and New Testa- 
ments," by Jamieson, Fausset, and Drown, vol. i., p. 273. 

The Birth of Moses. ii 

gave commandment to his people that every boy born in a 
Hebrew household should be cast into the river Nile, which, 
as the great source of the prosperity of the country, had 
come to be regarded among them with religious reverence. 
It is not likely, however, that this cruel edict could be long 
enforced. It does not seem to have existed at the birth of 
Aaron, who was only three years older than Moses. And 
it could not have been in operation long after the preserva- 
tion of Moses, otherwise it would be impossible to account 
for the large number of the Israelites at the time of the 
Exodus. But we cannot forbear remarking on the fact that 
it happened to be in force just at the time when Moses was 
born ; and that in consequence of its existence, through the 
efforts made by his parents to preserve his life, the future 
deliverer of the Hebrews was introduced into the palace of 
the king's daughter, there to receive a training which helped 
to fit him for his after- work. Thus does cruelty out -wit 
itself; and by the very crushing nature of his oppression, 
the king opened a way into his court for him who was at 
length to be the emancipator of the race that he was seek- 
ing to extirpate. 

//^he parents of Moses both belonged to the tribe of Levi, 
^ylf the genealogical table given in Exodus vi., 16-20, be 
taken as complete, then Amram was the grandson of Levi, 
and Jochebed his daughter; so that Amram married his 
own aunt. But we know that these tables were constructed 
on artificial principles, and that frequently three or four 
generations are overleaped in order to bring the number 
within certain limits, as is the case, for example, in those 
three fourteens in the first chapter of Matthew. We know, 
also, that the terms daughter, sister, son, brother, were often 
used in the sense of our generic word descendant. There- 
fore, it is not likely that Amram and Jochebed were so near- 
ly related as nephew and aunt; but we may simply con- 

12 Moses the Law-giver. 

elude that they were, the one a son, and the other a daugh- 
ter, of collateral branches of the tribe of Levi. 

We have no particulars regarding them that can throw 
any light on their characters, save those which this narrative 
has furnished ; but from them we may infer that they were 
earnest in their piety, simple in their habits, strong in their 
affection, and sagacious in their conduct. Moses was not 
their first-born ; for, as we learn from a subsequent chapter,* 
Aaron was three years old at his brother's birth ; and judg- 
ing from the activity and astuteness which Miriam manifest- 
ed in securing that his mother should be the nurse of her 
infant brother, she must have been at least eight or nine 
years of age at this time. 

The birth of a baby in a home is commonly a joyous 
event ; but in this case the advent of the little one would 
create deep anxiety; for the question would immediately 
arise, whether they were to allow him to be thrown into the 
Nile, or whether they should endeavor to preserve him alive. 
Here, however, in addition to the strength of the parental 
instinct, Amram and Jochebed were impelled to attempt 
to conceal their infant, by his surpassing beauty. Every 
mother, indeed, is apt to think her child supremely fair ; but 
something more than this maternal idealization is implied in 
the words, " he was a goodly child ;" for Stephenf has trans- 
lated the phrase into " divinely fair ;" and as beauty was re- 
garded as a mark of God's favor, it may be that the parents 
of Moses were led to hope that some special protection 
would cover him from harm. The author of the Epistle to 
the Hebrews has thus explained their conduct : " By faith, 
Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his par- 
ents, because they said he was a proper child, and they were 
not afraid of the king's commandment"! But, as we read 

* Exod. vii., 7. t Acts vii., 20. J Heb. xi., 23. 

The Birth of Moses. 


his words, the question rises, " Faith in what ?" and some, 
thinking that faith always presupposes the reception of 
some particular word from God, have conjectured that, be- 
fore the birth of the little one, a divine intimation was given 
to Amram or to Jochebed, to the effect that he would be- 
come the deliverer of his people. There is nothing improb- 
able in that, in itself considered, for a similar announce- 
ment was made to Manoah and his wife, in the case of 
Samson. But we have no record of it here, and it is safer to 
hold that their faith was manifested by their refusal to obey 
the royal edict, out of regard to that prior law which God 
has written in every parent's heart. Nor let any one sup- 
pose that such a view of the case depreciates their faith ; 
on the contrary, it sets it on a higher pedestal than if it had 
rested on some special and supernatural announcement. 
These Hebrew parents were a pious pair, who sought sim- 
ply and only to do right, and looked to God for his bless- 
ing and protection. They did not know what was going to 
happen, any more than other parents do in similar circum- 
stances ; but, happen what might, they would not destroy 
their child ; and therein lay their faith. Would to God the 
same faith were as strong in multitudes among ourselves ! 
fy^\t was no easy task, as we may well believe, to conceal 
their infant for three months. It involved unbroken silence, 
great watchfulness, and agonizing suspense. We can un- 
derstand how the father and mother held their peace. But 
how could Miriam keep the secret about the little stranger ? 
and by what means was Aaron preserved from letting fall 
even one unfortunate word about his new brother.? The 
prudence of these little people is remarkable, and ought 
to be a pattern to the children in our modern homes, who 
not unfrequently make the secrets of the household the 
common property of all their companions. 

But this concealment could not be maintained indefinite- 

14 Moses the Law-giver. 

ly. Not always could the mother hush those cries which,/ 
if heard by any one outside, would have drawn punishmen^ 
upon the parents and death upon the babe. Not forev( 
could she bear the agony that shot through her heart wh( 
a visitor came to her door, or a neighbor looked in updn 
her dwelling. Something else must be attempted; aifid 
after thought, which would often, if not always, end in 
prayer, she determined on the plan which she would adopt. 
" She took for him an ark of bulrushes." The bulrush is 
the papyrus or paper -reed of the ancients. It grows in 
marshy places, and was once most abundant on the banks 
of the Nile; but now that the river has been opened to 
commerce, it has disappeared, save in a few unfrequented 
spots. It is described as having " an angular stem from 
three to six feet high, though occasionally it grows to the 
height of fourteen feet ; it has no leaves ; the flowers are 
in very small spikelets, which grow in thread-like, flowering 
branchlets, which form a bushy crown to each stem."* It 
was used for many purposes by the Egyptians, as for exam- 
ple, for shoes, baskets, vessels of different sorts, and boats ; 
but it was especially valuable as furnishing the material cor- 
responding to our paper, on which written communications 
could be made. To obtain this last fibre, the coarse exte- 
rior rind was taken off, and then with a needle the thin con- 
centric layers of the inner cuticle, sometimes to the number 
of twenty in a single plant, were removed. These were af- 
terward joined together with a mixture of flour, paste, and 
glue ; and a similar layer of strips being laid crosswise in 
order to strengthen the fabric, the whole sheet was sub- 
jected to pressure, dried in the sun, beaten with a mallet, 
and polished with ivory. When completed and written 
over, the sheets were united into one, and rolled on a slen- 

* Smith's " Dictionary," article Reed. 

The Birth of Moses. 15 

der wooden cylinder. Thus was formed a book, and the 
description of the process gives the etymology and primal 
significance of our own word "volume." 

From some portion of this useful plant Jochebed made a 
little chest, using slime to make the different parts adhere 
to each other, and pitch to make it water-tight. Then, with 
many tears and kisses and prayers, she put the baby into it, 
and laid it among the reeds by the brink, or, as the word 
literally is, the " lip " of the river. She did not put it in 
the water, but on the bank among the long reeds which 
grew so luxuriantly there, and among which it might seem 
to have been drifted up and then left stranded by the cur- 
rent. If, as has been commonly supposed, the residence of 
the Pharaohs at this time was at Zoan, or Tanis, on the 
Tanitic branch of the Nile, near the sea, there would be no 
danger from crocodiles, since these animals are never found 
there. It is possible, too, that there may have been some 
place in the neighborhood which was known to be frequent- 
ed by the members of the court, and so Jochebed selected 
that, with the feeling, half of hope and half of mysterious 
premonition, that something might occur similar to that 
which actually happened. But though she prayed and 
trusted, she also used appropriate means ; for she stationed 
the demure little Miriam " afar off to see what would be 
done to him," putting her so near that she might observe 
everything, and do what was required, and yet so far away 
that she would not be in any way associated with the child. 

How long Miriam thus watched the record does not state ; 
but as she stood looking on, she saw the king's daughter, 
with her maids of honor, coming down to wash at the river. 
At first sight it seems to be improbable, as altogether con- 
trary to modern custom in the East, that a princess should 
thus go to bathe in the open river; but Wilkinson gives, 
from one of the ancient monuments — which are the most 

1 6 Moses the Law-giver. 

recent and valuable additions to Biblical evidences, and 
one of which may possibly ere long adorn our own city — 
a picture of a bathing scene, in which an Egyptian lady of 
rank is seen attended by four female servants.* 

As she passed along by the edge of the river, the daugh- 
ter of Pharaoh, observing the little bulrush box, sent her 
maid to fetch it ; and when she opened it, she sav; a beauti- 
ful but weeping babe ! AVhat woman's heart could resist 
such an appeal ? And if, indeed, she were the great Ther- 
muthis, who had been married, but was childless, we have 
another reason why, though she recognized the little one as 
the son of one of the Hebrews, she made it evident that she 
designed to keep him for her own. 

But now was the time for Miriam's diplomacy ; and nobly 
did she act her part. Her heart, indeed, must have been 
full of palpitating interest in the result of her efforts, yet 
there was no manifestation of over-eagerness to excite sus- 
picion ; and in the most unaffected and nonchalant way, as 
if the baby-boy had been of no consequence to her, and she 
was only seeking to do the princess a kindness, she came 
forward and said, " Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of 
the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?" 
The offer was accepted, and with willing feet the little mes- 
senger went and called her mother, to whom Pharaoh's 
daughter gave back her own child, with these words, " Take 
this child away and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy 
wages." Wages ! Had she but known the heart of her to 
whom she spoke, she needed not to have referred to any re- 
ward ; for what could be more delightful to the mother than 
to have her little one restored to her arms, with the assur- 
ance that now she might have no fear of his being put to 

* Wilkinson, vol. iii., p. 389. Quoted by Jamieson in commentary on 
the passage. 

The Birth of Moses. 17 

death ! Who may attempt to describe the joy of Amram's 
household on that memorable night ', when to the happiness 
of having the child, there was added the delight of feel- 
ing that their treasure was secure under the protection of 
the king's daughter ! Who may tell of the thanksgivings 
that went up to God because he had crowned their con- 
fidence in him with such abundant blessing! And how 
would Miriam rejoice that now her tongue was let loose, and 
she could talk to all around her of her little brother without 
endangering his life ! How she would recount again and 
again the adventures of the day, and finish up, in her ecsta- 
sy, with a song which was the prelude and prophecy of that 
glowing anthem chanted by her and her attendant maid- 
ens, with timbrels and with dances, on the Red Sea shore ! 

But one Egyptian mark, which clung to the little one 
through his eventful life, and by which his fame has become 
the heritage alike of Jew and Gentile and Mohammedan, 
was the name he bore. The princess called him Moses, 
" because," she said, " I drew him out of the water." The 
etymology of this word was long matter of perplexity j but it 
is now ascertained that it comes, not from a Hebrew term 
at all, but is — like Zaphnath-paaneah, the name which had 
been given to Joseph — of purely Egyptian origin. It is 
Mosu, which, as Dr. Crosby of this city has said, means two 
things— first, "drawn out," and secondly, "brought forth." 
So Pharaoh's daughter, wanting to call this her child, al- 
though it was not her own, and unable to speak of him as 
"brought forth," could yet, in the other sense of the word, 
give him this name, and she said, " I drew him out of the 
water, and so I have a right to call him Mosu ;" although 
that is the common name to give to one's own child.* 

* See " Lecture on History and the Old Testament in God's Word, 
Man's Light and Guide," p. 134. 

1 8 Moses the Law-giver. 

But now, leaving this interesting narrative for the time, 
let us pause to gather up and carry with us two practical 

We are reminded then, in the first place, by the slavery 
of the Hebrews in Egypt, of the bondage of sin. Through- 
out the Scriptures the circumstances of Israel in Egypt are 
referred to as typical of the servitude under which the sin- 
ner is held. There is more than guilt in wickedness. It 
would indeed be bad enough, even if that were all, but 
there is slavery besides. Our Lord himself says, "Who- 
soever committeth sin is the slave of sin ;"* and there are 
no taskmasters so exacting as a man's own lusts. Look 
at the drunkard ! See how his vile appetite rules him 1 
It makes him barter every comfort he possesses for strong 
drink. It lays him helpless on the snowy street in the bit- 
ing winter's cold. It sends him headlong down the stair- 
case, to the injury of his body and the danger of his 'ife. 
If a slave-holder were to abuse a slave as 'the drunkard 
maltreats himself, humanity would hiss him from his place, 
and denounce him as a barbarian. And yet the inebriate 
does it to himself, and tries to sing the while the refrain of 
the song which ends, " We never, never shall be slaves." 
The same thing is true of sensuality. Go search the hos- 
pitals of this city ; look at the wretched victims of their own 
lusts who fill the wards, and then say if man's inhumanity 
to himself be not, in some aspects of it, infinitely more ter- 
rible than his oppression of his neighbors. Visit our pris- 
ons, and see how avarice, fashion, frivolity, and the love of 
standing well with their companions, have held multitudes in 
their grip, forcing them — nay, I will not say forcing them, 
for they sin wilfully — but leading them to dishonesty day 
by day, until at last the inner servitude gives place to an 

* John viii,, 34. 

The Birth of Moses. 19 

external imprisonment. I tell you, friends, the setting of 
slaves to make bricks without straw is nothing to the drudg- 
ery and the danger — as of one standing on the crater's edge 
— that dishonesty brings upon a man when once it has him 
in its power. And it is the same with every kind of sin. 
But this slavery need not be perpetual ; for the Great Eman- 
cipator has come. Jesus Christ has said, " Ye shall know 
the truth, and the truth shall make you free ;" and Paul has 
affirmed that " the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus 
hath made us free from the law of sin and death that is in 
our members." To him, then, let enslaved ones repair. 
He only can set them at liberty. If they will follow him 
fully their lives will be perpetual jubilee, and their joy will 
be to labor for the manumission of those who have been in 
bondage like their own. Jesus is the great liberator. His 
work on earth and in heaven is one long and loving expo- 
sition of the text which he read that day in the synagogue 
of Nazareth : ** 1 he spirit of the Lord God is upon me ; be- 
cause the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings 
unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken- 
hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening 
of the prison to them that are bound ; to proclaim the ac- 
ceptable year of the Lord.'** In that acceptable year we 
are privileged to live ; but let us see that we improve it, for 
when he comes again, it will be to proclaim " the day of 
vengeance of our God ;" and woe to them who are his ene- 
mies then ! 

But we have here, in the second place, a beautiful instance 
of the minute providence of God. You must have been 
struck, as you have read these opening verses of the biogra- 
phy of the greatest of Old Testament worthies, with their 
simplicity and truthlikeness. Here is no mention of prodi- 

* Isa. Ixi., I, 2 ; Luke iv, 18. 

20 Moses the Law-giver. 

gies such as those which were said to attend the birth of 
Cyrus, and such as mythology deHghted to tell concerning 
Romulus and Remus. It is a plain unvarnished story. 
There is no word of any miracle. The incidents are such 
as, allowing for the differences between ancient and modern 
life, might have happened among ourselves. And yet see 
how they fit into each other, altogether irrespective of, and 
indeed independent of, human calculation. There is the 
edict of the king which took this particular shape, and was 
enacted at this particular time. There is the placing of the 
ark of bulrushes in that special spot, and the coming of 
the princess and her observation of it at the moment; all 
converging toward the preservation of the child. Now these 
were not lucky accidents or happy coincidences. Had it 
been the case of a single fortunate occurrence, we might 
have talked of chance ; but the coalition of so many acts 
of so many agents indicates design. AVhen you g^^)v to a 
great railway junction, at which trains arrive from north and 
south and west, in time to be united lo another that is just 
starting for the east, and you see the connection made, 
nobody talks of a happy coincidence. There was a pre- 
siding mind guiding the time of the arrival of the train in 
each case, so that the junction was reached by all at the 
required moment. Now, at the birth and preservation of 
Moses, one feels himself standing at the meeting -place 
of many separate trains of events, all of which coalesce 
to save the life of the child, and to put him in the way 
of securing the very best education which the World could 
then furnish. Why should we speak of accident in this 
case any more than in the other ? No ! there was a presid- 
ing providence here; and all these things were arranged 
under the supervision of Him who maketh even man's wrath 
to praise him, and who at the very blackest hour of his peo- 
ple's darkness was preparing a Deliverer. 

The Birth of Moses. 21 

And yet we must not imagine that God was more in these 
things than he is in our common lives. The phrase "special 
providence " is liable to be misunderstood. The teaching 
of this book is, not that God overrules some things more 
than others, but that he is in all alike, and is as really in 
the falling of a sparrow as the revolution of an empire. I 
prefer, therefore, to speak of the universality of providence ; 
and I would hav^ you not to forget that God was as truly 
in the removal of the little ones that were taken away, as he 
was in the saving of Amram's son ; and that there were les- 
sons of love and warning from the one, no less than of love 
and encouragement from the other. Nay, more, I would 
have you to remember that God is in the daily events of 
our households precisely as he was in those of the family of 
the tribe of Levi long ago. The births and the bereave- 
ments; the prosperity and the adversity; the joys and the 
sorrows of our homes, are all under his supervision. He 
is girding us when we know it not ; and his plan of our 
lives, if we will only yield ourselves to his guidance, will one 
day round itself into completeness and beauty. Every one 
of us here has as really been preserved from childhood to 
this hour by the providence of God, as Moses was deliv- 
ered on the occasion before us. It is not only when one 
is snatched out of visible danger, that we should speak of 
God's care. The protection is as real, though we may not 
be so conscious of it when no danger is seen. Many re- 
markable stories have been told of the preservation of chil- 
dren from peril, and every one remembers the incident in 
the life of John Wesley, when, while yet a little boy of four 
or five years old, he was saved from his father's burning rec- 
tory. But the continued life of every little child is as much 
due to the watchful care of God's providence as was that of 
Moses or of Wesley. Yes, and I will add, the taking from 
us of little children is as much a matter of providence and 

22 Moses the Law-giver. 

love as the preservation to us of those who survive. I have 
lived long enough, and have known both experiences suffi- 
ciently to be able to bear this testimony. So that they 
who are bereaved are not to feel themselves God-forsaken 
because their Moses has been taken away. 

But, while all that is true, we may surely say that the life 
which God has prolonged ought to be spent in his service. 
Now that comes home to us. We are here, through all 
perils of existence, safe thus far -, and, as we look back, we 
can say with Addison, 

" Unnumbered comforts to my soul 
Thy tender care bestowed, 
Before my infant heart conceived 
From whence these comforts flowed. 

" When in the slippery paths of youth 
With heedless steps I ran, 
Thine arm unseen conveyed me safe, 
And led me up to man. 

" Through hidden dangers, toils, and death, 
It gently cleared my way, 
And through the pleasing snares of vice — 
More to be feared than they. 

" When worn with sickness, oft hast Thou 
With health renewed my face ; 
And when in sins and sorrows sunk, 
Revived my soul with grace." 

And what return are we making for all this ? It will not 
do to content ourselves with singing about it ; but the life 
which God has prolonged should be spent entirely for God. 
You know the story of the Frenchman who, having been 
twice foiled in his attempt to commit suicide, threw away 
the pistol which had thus repeatedly missed fire, saying, 
" Surely, I am intended for something great 3" and gave 

The Birth of Moses. 


himself then and there to a course which ended in his be- 
coming one of the leaders of his nation. So let your pres- 
ervation to this hour lead you, my hearers, to consecrate 
your remaining days to God, Goodness with him is great- 
ness. Holiness with him is excellence. Therefore seek 
these. If you have never sought them before, begin to seek 
them now. God has kept you alive for a great purpose; 
see that you do not miss it. Beware that you receive not 
this grace of God in vain. 



Exodus ii., 11-15 ; Acts vii., 22-29; Hebrews xl., 24-27. 

ANEW sorrow came ere long to Jochebed and her hus- 
band. The time arrived when the king's daughter 
claimed Moses as her own, and his departure for the palace 
would be almost as painful to his parents as it had been 
for them to leave him in his frail bulrush-ark by the river's 
brink. But now, again, their faith would triumph over their 
fear ; and trusting that He who had preserved their son from 
death at first would keep him uncontaminated by the cor- 
ruptions of court life, they would send him away with a ben- 
ediction, while nightly the prayer would ascend from their 
hearts, that the God of their fathers might shield him from 
all harm. 

The son of a king's daughter must be educated in a royal 
manner. Accordingly, we are not surprised at the statement 
made by Stephen,* to the effect that Moses was " learned 
in all the wisdom and knowledge of the Egyptians." That 
was the first-fruits of the spoil which the despised Hebrews 
were yet to take from their oppressors, and we are able now 
to form some definite idea of its value. The extreme dry- 
ness of the Egyptian atmosphere has preserved almost in 
perfection monuments of that early civilization, and the dil- 
igence of modern scholars has discovered the key for the 
deciphering of the inscriptions on them, which had been for 
ages regarded as absolutely incomprehensible. It may be 

* Acts vil, 21. 

Training and Choice. 25 

worth while, therefore, to indicate some of the departments 
of knowledge in which it is probable that Moses was in- 

According to tradition, he studied at the Temple of the 
Sun in Heliopolis, a structure which had been then only re- 
cently restored by Thothmes III.,"* who also, it is said, set 
up in front of it those two granite obelisks which were af- 
terward removed to Alexandria ; and one of which, during 
the last weekf has been so singularly preserved from ship- 
wreck, after having been abandoned by those who were at- 
tempting to convey it to England. At this seat of learning 
Moses would be initiated into the arts of reading and writ- 
ing; for the priestly and military castes among the Egyp- 
tians seem to have been addicted to literature. Many pa- 
pyri have been preserved containing works in history and 
religion ; and some romances of a purely imaginary charac- 
ter have been discovered. There are also collections of 
letters by celebrated persons, kept as models of style, and 
specimens of literary exercises analogous to the orations of 
the Greek and Roman rhetoricians. They had two sorts 
of characters : the one, known as hieroglyphics, which were 
long thought to be symbols of the objects for which they 
stood — but it is now admitted that they were in the major- 
ity of cases purely phonetic, representing either syllables or 
letters ; the other, usually known as the hieratic, were cur- 
sive, and differed from the hieroglyphics much as our ordi- 
nary letters differ from capitals. They were hieroglyphics, 
abbreviated and altered for the convenience of the scribe ; 
and in them all the books on papyrus that remain are writ- 

* "The History of Egypt," by Samuel Sharpe, vol. i., p. 51. 
t This discourse was preached October 21, 1877. 
t " Encyclopaedia Britannica " (9th edition, American reprint), vol. vii., 
p. 629. 

26 Moses the Law-giver. 

To these, now elementary but then advanced, accomplish- 
ments, Moses would add a knowledge of arithm etic, in 
which were used both the duodecimal and decimal scales 
of notation. In geometry he would be taught so much at 
least as to make him familiar with the theory, if not also the 
practice, of land-measuring — an acquirement which was spe- 
cially valuable in Egypt, because the annual inundations of 
the Nile obliterated every boundary mark on the surface of 
the soil. In mathematics he would be instructed in trigo- 
nometry as well as geometry, for a papyrus exists contain- 
ing exercises which extend be)'ond the essential and ele- 
mentary problems of that science. This would be crowned 
with some acquaintance with astronomy ; for that the Egyp- 
tians knew something of that subject is evident from the 
fact that the pyramids are so exact in their orientation, that 
the variations of the compass may be ascertained from their 
observation ; and indeed, if the ingenious calculations of 
Mr. Piazzi Smyth may be accepted regarding the great pyr- 
amid, it would appear that they were already acquainted 
with some of those facts and relations which have been 
boasted of by us as among the most wonderful discoveries 
of our men of science. This much at least is indisputable, 
that from the remotest antiquity they used a year of three 
hundred and sixty -five days, and in later times they in- 
vented a very ingenious astronomical period, to bring their 
calendar from time to time into accordance with the real 
year of three hundred and sixty-five and a quarter days.* 

It is probable, also, that Moses would be trained to acute- 
ness of observation and accuracy of representation in the 
art of painting, for there remain on the monuments many 
specimens of rare excellence in this department. They con- 

* " Encyclopaedia Britannica " (9th edition, American reprint), vol. vii., 
pp. 625, 632. 

Training and Choice. 27 

sist, for the most part, of delineations of common scenes and 
daily occupations, executed with what we should now call 
pre-raphaelite minuteness, and characterized by definiteness 
of outline and correctness of detail, but without any attempt 
at perspective. They are remarkable, also, for the freshness 
and durability of the colors ; but that may be owing in some 
degree to the fineness of the Egyptian atmosphere, which 
does not effect such productions so injuriously as that of our 
damper climate. 

In architecture, there was a constant education for a 
youth oTo'bse TV in g habits, in the buildings by which he was 
surrounded. They were distinguished by massiveness, sub- 
limity, and strength, rather than by beauty. Everything the 
Egyptians built was colossal and enduring ; and the Pyra- 
mid of Cheops, which was perhaps a thousand years old 
when Moses first beheld it, is as stable as ever to-day, 
though since then thirty centuries have run their course. 
Such structures could not be reared without some skill in 
mechanics; and of the six elementary powers known to 
us, they seem to have used the wedge, the lever, and the 
inclined plane, but not the screw, the pulley, or the wheel 
and axle — a fact which makes their achievements in build- 
ing all the more wonderful in our eyes. In medical science 
they were not so advanced as in other departments, though 
there has been found in a mummy a tooth filled with gold, 
and perhaps also with cement, which shows some profi- 
ciency in dentistry; and it is not improbable that Moses 
received some instruction in anatomy. He was also, it is 
likely, trained in chemistry and a knowledge of metals, for 
the Egyptians had copper mines among the mountains of 
Sinai, and gold mines in the Nubian Desert. They were 
familiar with the use of iron, while their skill in the manu- 
facture of bronze became celebrated. They used the blow- 
pipe, the bellows, the syringe, and the siphon; and their 

28 Moses the Law-giver. 

knowledge of metallurgy, as well as the influence of that on 
Moses's education, is attested by the fact that he was able 
in the wilderness to reduce a golden image to powder. 

But, studying at a religious temple, he would be sure to 
acquire a liking for that music which had such a prominent 
place in their sacred services. The harp, the lyre, the flute, 
the tambourine, and the cymbals were largely used in their 
public solemnities. Dancing also was common in their 
worship ; and we have in these facts an explanation of the 
freedom and ease with which Moses sang his grateful psalm 
on the Red Sea shore, and Miriam answered him with tim- 
brels and with dances. We never hear of music in the 
tents of Abraham and the early patriarchs, and therefore it 
is not improbable that this also was one of the finest of the 
spoils which Moses brought with him from his house of 

For amusements, the students had games of chance ; and 
a favorite pastime was draughts, which was played appar- 
ently with equal relish by people of all ranks, for Rameses 
III. is represented more than once as playing it in the pal- 
ace at Thebes. 

From these facts we may form to ourselves some idea of 
the nature of the intellectual training which Moses received, 
and are prepared to accept the statement of Philo when he 
says, regarding him, "He speedily learned arithmetic and 
geometry, and the whole science of rhythm and harmony 
and metre, and the whole of music by means of the use of 
musical instruments, and by lectures on the different arts."* 
But in religious matters he would be taught many things 
which either he could not receive at the time, or must have 
rejected afterward ; for their system was one of sublime 
truths mingled with the strangest errors, and consisted of 

* Quoted by Thornley Smith, in " Moses and his Times." 

Training and Choice. 29 

what one has called "a refined morality, an abject form of 
worship, and popular superstitions coarse to the last de- 
gree."* Their representation of the attributes of deity by 
certain animals degenerated into the grossest sort of idol- 
atry, and the worship of four-footed beasts and creeping 
things was common among them ; yet they seem to have 
recognized the doctrines of human immortality and person- 
al responsibility, and therein they were superior to some 
among ourselves who call themselves the advanced think- 
ers of the age. But much of that Egyptian wisdom, as 
James Hamilton has said, "was the merest foolishness ; ""\ 
and if Moses ever mastered it, it would seem to have drop- 
ped from the memory of his more enlightened years, as the 
baby gewgaws drop from the open hand of manhood ; for 
of their historical mythology there is no more trace in the J 
Book of Genesis, than there is in the worship of Jehovah 
trace of their ridiculous idolatry."! 

But Stephen, in his address to the council, spoke also of 
Moses as " mighty in words and deeds ;" and therefore 
many are prepared to accept the tradition preserved in the 
pages of Josephus, to the effect that he was appointed gen- 
eral of the Egyptian army in a war with the Ethiopians, and 
gained repeated victories over the enemies of his foster- 
mother's nation. The historian goes on to tell that he be- 
sieged a city afterward known as Meroe, but could not 
take it ; when Tharbis, the daughter of the king, seeing him 
fighting with great courage, fell in love with him and sent 
him a proposal of marriage, which he accepted on condition 
that she would find means to transfer the city to his hands. 
Having thus gained the fortress, he consummated the mar- 

* "A Manual of the Ancient History of the East," by Fran9ois Le- 
normant and E. Chevalier, p. 327. 
t " Moses, the Man of God," by James Hamilton, D.D., p. 24, 

30 Moses the Law-giver. 

. riage and returned to Egypt. This story can hardly be 
received as it stands, for it is very improbable in some 
of its details, and not creditable to any of the parties con- 
cerned j yet it may be held as indicating that Moses at 
first took his place alike among the scholars and the war- 
riors of the land, as one of the leading princes. 

But though this was the case, there seems to have been 
within his soul a secret and silent reserve which kept him 
from committing himself to the side of the oppressors of his 
people, and which, while gathering up everything that might 
be of service to him in his future career, was only waiting for 
an opportunity to strike a decisive blow for the emancipa- 
tion of his kinsmen. Lange has suggested, and James Ham- 
ilton has beautifully elaborated, the historic parallel in this 
respect between Moses, the hero of the Exodus, and William 
the Silent, the savior of the United Provinces : and we can- 
not help remarking on the irony of Providence, by which it 
is so frequently brought about, that the oppressor makes a 
rod for his own back, and trains the champion who is to 
become his chastiser. 

/^^*^But reticent and self-restrained as he was, Moses allowed 
himself to be surprised into an act which at once revealed 
his purpose, and, as it seemed, rendered it impossible for 
him to attain it. Visiting his kinsmen at their toil, he hap- 
pened to see one of the taskmasters inflicting the bastinado 
on a Hebrew, and he was so provoked that he lost his self- 
control and slew the assailant. Much has been said and 
written in defence of this act : as for example, that Moses 
was the Goel, or nearest of kin, and so had a right to take 
revenge ; and even the gentle Hamilton has held him up to 
admiration as being the father of chivalry in this act. But 
neither of these views can be accepted. Moses knew he 
was doing an illegal thing, else why did he " look this way 
and that way," and only attempt to slay the Egyptian when 

Training and Choice. 31 

he thought that there was no witness? why, again, did he 
hide the body in the sand ? Nothing is gained by seeking 
to vindicate every action even of a godly man ; and we 
shall miss the force of this incident as a warning to our- 
selves, if we do not frankly admit that Moses here acted 
not only rashly and hastily, but unlawfully. He thought, 
however, that he had covered every trace of his misdeed 
when he had buried the body in the sand ; but he soon 
discovered that he had miscalculated. For on the follow- 
ing day, when he saw two Hebrews fighting, he interposed in 
the interests of peace, saying, "Wherefore smitest thou thy 
fellow?" but was met with the retort, "Who made thee a 
prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as 
thou killedst the Egyptian yesterday?" So it was out. 
That which the slaves knew, the taskmasters would soon 
hear; and what the taskmasters heard, would be speedily 
transmitted to the king. Therefore, he would stay no lon- 
ger ; and, without a farewell word to brother, or sister, or 
father, or mother, he fled from the face of Pharaoh, and 
dwelt in the land of Midian. 

^^ Thus, by his hasty act, Moses banished himself from the 
vicinity of his people for forty years ; and though his sojourn 
in the wilderness, equally with his education in Egypt, was 
lifted up and utilized when he came to the crowning work of 
his life, we may not shut our eyes to the fact that but for his 
lack of self-restraint he might have become an earlier ben- 
efactor to the people whom he desired to liberate. Stephen 
tells us that " he supposed that his brethren would have un- 
derstood how that God by his hand would deliver them."* 
But in such matters a vague supposition is not enough. He 
was running, in this instance, before he had been sent ; and 
he discovered by the result that neither was he as yet com- 

* Acts vii., 25. 

32 Moses THE Law-giver. 

petent to be the leader of the people, nor were the people 
ready to rise at his call. He had not yet acquired sufficient 
command of himself, and they had not as yet been stung 
into mutiny by their oppression ; so he was sent to the wil- 
derness to learn to rule his own spirit, and they were sent 
back to the brick-yards to smart for forty years longer be- 
neath the taskmasters* rods. \ When they met again they 
would both be wiser ; for Moses would do nothing without 
taking with him the elders of Israel, and the people would 
hail his presence as that of their emancipator. There is 
thus a long distance often between the formation of a pur- 
pose and the right opportunity for its execution ; and we 
should not always regard promptitude as wise. The provi- 
dential indicators of duty are the call within us, and the 
willinghood of those whom we would benefit, to receive our 
blessing ; and if either of these is absent, we should pause. 
Above all, we should not allow the passion of a moment to 
throw us off our guard and lead us into sin, for we may be 
sure that in the end it will only retard our enterprise and 
remove us from the sphere of our activities. The ripening 
of a purpose is not always the mark of the presence of an 
opportunity. " Raw haste " is always " half-sister to delay ;" 
and wrong -doing can never help forward, directly at least 
(however God may afterward overrule it), a good cause. A 
man's first battle is with himself; and only when he has 
conquered on that field is he competent to lead others in 
their warfare. 

But while we cannot approve of the rashness of the man- 
ner in which it was indicated by Moses, we must admire his 
decision itself; for now at length he fully and conclusively 
gave up all the advantages of an Egyptian prince, and cast 
in his lot with the people of God. Josephus has a mythical 
story, which tells that when Moses^was a child his foster- 
mother took him to the king and introduced him as the heir 

Training and Choice. 33 

to the kingdom ; whereupon the monarch took him in his 
arms and caressed him, and at length put his own diadem 
on his head. But Moses took it, and in a seeming passion 
threw it on the ground and trod it beneath his feet. Thus 
he despised the treasures of Egypt. But that is all imag- 
inary ; and the true sublimity of this divine record is seen 
in the absence from it of all such tales. It was by the inci- 
dents which we have now reviewed that Moses, as we be^ 
lieve, first publicly indicated his determination to abjure 
Egypt for Israel ; and so to this we must apply the apostle's 
words, " By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused 
to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter ; choosing rather 
to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the 
pleasures of sin for a season ; esteeming the reproach of 
Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he 
had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith 
he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king^ for he 
endured, as seeing him who is invisible.'"* 

Now let us analyze this choice, and see all that it in- 
volved. It was made by him after he was " come to years," 
and in the full maturity of his powers. The impulsive ardor 
of inexperienced boyhood had nothing to do with the forma- 
tion of this resolution. It is delightful, no doubt, to see the 
young, ere yet they are caught in the currents of human ac- 
tivity or tainted with the contamination of worldly men, 
taking their stand upon the side of Christ ; and the very 
hoisting of his banner thus early will be a means of pre- 
serving a lad amid the snares to which he shall be afterward 
exposed. But, from the nature of such cases, they are the 
results of careful and judicious home-training ; and the faith 
which they manifest, real though it be, is more emotional 
than intellectual. There comes a time, however, for every 

* Heb. xi., 24-27. . 

34 Moses the Law-giver. 

one, when this traditional belief has to be exchanged for a 
personal conviction; and in such an hour, often one of 
agony and conflict, it is well to recur to the example of 
Moses here. He was now probably forty years of age. / He 
had received the best education which the world then could 
furnish. \He was possessed of mental powers of the highest 
order; and yet after examination searching and thorough, 
he chose to cast in his lot with the people of God. Religion 
— the religion of Christ — is not, therefore, the thing of blind 
fanaticism which many would represent, else had not intel- 
lects like those of Moses and Paul been found in the service 
of the Lord. '\^ The Bible has nothing to fear on that score. 
Even if it were to come to a counting of heads among the 
great ones of the earth, and men should say, We cannot ac- 
cept a system which has so few master-minds among its fol- 
lowers, we should not need to be afraid. For how many 
do you reckon Moses for ? and who among our modern phi- 
losophers is worthy to be named in the same breath with 
Paul ? Then, as you step down through the centuries, you 
find that the epoch-making men have been those who have 
stood most firmly on the side of God. That cannot be a 
childish choice which was made by such a one as Moses in 
the ripe vigor of his powers. 

Again, this choice was not made by one who had nothing 
to give up. It is often said, sneeringly, by those who read 
that the disciples forsook all and followed Jesus, that they 
did not lose much — only a few battered boats and a few 
frail nets. Be it so, we answer ; but what is to be said of 
that which Moses forfeited ? He stood on the very steps of 
the Egyptian throne. There was before him, if he pleased 
to abjure Jehovah, the very grandest position which earth 
then had to give — all that riches and rank and power and 
splendor could offer. It was as if there had come to him 
the same arch-tempter who, nearly two thousand years later. 

Training and Choice. 35 

confronted Christ ; and as if he had shown him also " all 
the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them," and had 
said, " All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down 
and worship me." But he, too, spurned the offer and stood 
firm. Nor did he refuse in ignorance of what he was giving 
up. • It is easy, comparatively, for a poor man to say, I do 
not want a palace or a throne, for he has never known ei- 
ther ; but it is a harder thing for one who has been accus- 
tomed to luxury and comfort to give them up at the call of 
duty. Yet this harder thing it was that Moses did ; and by 
the doing of it, he places himself side by side with him who 
said so nobly, "What things were gain to me, those I count- 
ed loss for Christ ; yea, doubtless, and I count all things but 
loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my 
Lord." This was no cheap sacrifice. It involved comfort, 
competence, earthly prospects of the most alluring charac- 
ter, and all that men usually hold dear. 
/ Moreover, this choice was not made at a time when it was 
fashionable to be among the followers of Jehovah. The 
worshippers of the true God, then, were for the most part 
slaves, and to join them was to share their oppression. In 
this case, indeed, Moses did not come beneath the taskmas- 
ter's lash, or swelter in the brick-yard under the vertical sun. 
But he escaped these only by betaking himself to the kind- 
lier shelter of the desert. For this choice, he had to give up 
fellowship with kinsmen and friends, and to take his place 
among those who were "persecuted, afflicted, and tormented." 
Now all these things go to show that it was made only 
under an intensely strong conviction that he was doing 
right ; and we can find no adequate explanation of it save 
in the words of the inspired writer. It was by faith ; " for he 
had respect unto the recompense of the reward." It was 
by faith ; " for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible." 
That accounts for it all. Beyond the boundary of earth and 

36 Moses the Law-giver. 

time he saw a glory and a greatness which dazzled into 
dimness the glittering pomp even of an Egyptian royalty ; 
and he gave up the latter that he might secure the former. 
Through the veil which conceals the spirit-realm from mor- 
tal sight, his soul-eye saw the living throne of the eternal 
God ; and that, for him, rectified all the variations of earth, 
so that the compass of his conscience trembled sensitively, 
yet steadily, to Him. In His light he saw clearly the rela- 
tive position of earthly and heavenly things — the infinite 
ratio between the temporal and eternal — and he reckoned 
that the light afflictions, which are but for a moment, are 
not worthy to be put in the balance over against that " far 
more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." 

The perfect eye is that which best combines the telescop- 
ic and the microscopic in itself; that which sees farthest, 
and at the same time sees most distinctly the minute ob- 
jects which are close at hand. And that is the truest intel- 
lectual perception which unites in it the vision of the far 
and the near. One of the most thoughtful of modern poets 
has thus expressed himself: 

" God has conceded two sights to a man— 
One, of men's whole work, time's completed form ; 
The other, of the minute's work, man's first 
Step to the plan's completion." 

And we know that, for all success in any department of 
earthly labor, we need the combination of these two — the 
far sight and the near. But now, if man be indeed immor- 
tal ; if there be an eternity before him ; if on the threshold 
of that eternity there be a throne of judgment whereon One 
sits to whom he is accountable for every deed done in the 
body ; and if by the decision of that Judge regarding his 
earthly character and conduct his eternal destiny is fixed, 
what momentous importance is added thus to these two 
sights, the far and the near, in their combination and in 

Training and Choice. 37 

their relation ! The far sight, that takes in eternity and Him 
who is invisible, what is that but the faith which we have 
seen as the inspiring principle of the grandest human life 
of which ancient history can boast ? The near sight, that 
observes the things of to-day, and can distinguish the pre- 
cious from the vile, the good from the evil, what is that but 
the same faith which led the son of Amram to give up the 
Egyptian throne for a banishment in Midian, because there 
was godlessness in the one and communion with the Invisi- 
ble in the other ? Thus the faith of the man of God, so far 
from being irrational and absurd, is only an application to 
the relation between this life and that which is to come, of 
the principles on which men act, in seeking the honors and 
rewards of earth. Even if it be only the medal of a boat- 
race, or the trophy of an international shooting-match that 
is to be gained, they who strive for it will give up present 
enjoyments, and go into active training for a while, in order,"" 
irpossible, to secure the victory. "They do it for a cor- 
ruptible crown." But the far sight of faith beholds an in- 
corruptible crown as the recompense of its reward; its near 
sight marks what, in the present, is inconsistent with the ul- 
timate attainment of that glory ; and by the final choice of 
the man, the latter is sacrificed for the former. Thus, what 
the student is doing for his scholarship, and the merchant 
for his wealth, and the statesman for his office, and the au- 
thor for his fame, that the believer is doing for his recom- 
pense of the reward. It is not a question, then, of rationality, 
as between the conduct of the Christian and other men. It 
is a question, rather, as to the relative value of the things 
which he gives up and those which he is seeking to attain. 
Moses thought the reproach of Christ was greater riches 
than the treasures in Egypt. If he was right in so thinking, 
his choice was every way rational. But was he right ? Was 
he right ? Let the nobleness of his character, the influence 

38 Moses the Law-giver. 

of his writings, and, more especially, his appearance in glory 
by the side of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, an- 
swer. He was right in his estimate ; he was justified in 
acting on it; and this decision was the first step in that 
ascending ladder of which the other rounds were Horeb, 
Sinai, Pisgah, Heaven. 

Now, at some time or other, every man has to make a 
decision similar to that of Moses. The story of Hercules, 
told by Xenophon in his " Memorabilia," repeats itself in 
every human life ; and each soul, as it wakes to the con- 
sciousness of responsibility, must choose between "the pleas- 
ures of sin " and " the reproach of Christ." It may be that 
some one in the audience to-night is, even at this moment, 
hesitating between the two ; and I would seek, in all faith- 
fulness and affection, to help him to a right decision. I will 
not deny that there are pleasures in sin. There must be 
so, else it would never be committed. There is a joy in 
the wild throb of sensual indulgence, and in the exhilarat- 
ing excitement of the intoxicating cup. The miser must 
have some delight in his gold, and the gambler in his game. 
But admitting all that, what is such pleasure worth ? On the 
testimony of those who know it best, it is short-lived ; and 
brief as it is, it leaves a sting behind — for it is true of every 
form of sin, as of the wine-cup, that " at the last it biteth 
like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder." Moreover, it 
palls upon the palate, and the oftener it is enjoyed there is 
the less enjoyment in it ; while it is procured at an expense 
which no human arithmetic can reckon, and no sum of 
money can represent. The body is enfeebled by it into 
disease; the intellect is shattered by it into imbecility; 
the moral nature is hardened by it into insensibility; the 
man has given himself for it, and what remains as the re- 
sult? On earth, nothing more than that which remains in 
the hand after the bubble has burst — nothing better than 

Training and Choice. 39 

that which remains on the hearth after the thorns have 
burned ; and in eternity, the portion of those where there 
is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. 

Over against this set now the reproach of Christ. It is 
true that, following him, we must bear a cross ; it is true 
that we must endure hardness as good soldiers ; but then, 
along with these, there is within us the testimony of a good 
conscience, and a joy which one who knew the very worst 
of the tribulations has described as " unspeakable and full 
of glory." Nor is that a fleeting thing. It abides and it 
increases the longer it stays, so that we may say that Jesus 
keeps the best wine for the last. Moreover, it is a whole- 
some thing ; for it uses the body without abusing it ; it stim- 
ulates the intellect ; it quickens the affections, and minis- 
ters to health in every department of our nature. Then 
when death comes, it brings to the Christian an abundant 
entrance into the presence of his Lord, and the enjoyment 
of his eternal recompense. The pleasure of sin is external 
and evanescent; Christian happiness is internal and perma- 
nent. The one is galvanic, lasting only while the sin-bat- 
tery works, and requiring evermore a stronger charge ; the 
other is calm, natural, and ever increasing — like the light, 
which waxes on to its meridian glory. In the one, the joy is 
for a moment, and the pain is perennial ; in the other, the 
pain is temporary, while the happiness is everlasting. The 
one is destructive; the other is salutary. The one termi- 
nates in hell, the other leads to heaven. 

Now, with these things before you, why should you hesi- 
tate a moment in making your choice ? If you wish your 
life to resemble the course of the sun, rising in beauty, go- 
ing forth in power, and shining more and more unto the per- 
fect day ; if you would have your death resemble his set- 
ting ; if, like him, you would go down in a sea of gilded 
glory, and set only to shine on in the firmament beyond, 

40 Moses the Law-giver. 

then follow the example of Moses and choose Christ even 
with his reproach ; but if you wish to waste your strength, 
to blast your intellect, to make your influence on others 
blighting and destructive, and to destroy your soul eter- 
nally, then you will give yourself up to the pursuit of the 
pleasures of sin. 

There was once a king in Jerusalem who sounded every 
" depth and shoal " of pleasure, and drank of every cup of 
human joy. If there be any element of permanent satisfac- 
tion in life apart from God, he surely might have found it; 
for, with every possible advantage, he made deliberate search 
for it ; but still, from each new voyage of discovery, he re- 
turned with this melancholy result : "Vanity of vanities ; all 
is vanity and vexation of spirit." Listen to him, my friend, 
if you will not hearken to me ; listen to him as, worn and 
weary, and wounded too, from his life-long pursuit, he cries 
back to you, half in mocking irony, and half in solemn ear- 
nestness : " Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy 
heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the 
ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes : l>7/f know 
thou^ that for all these things God will bring thee into judg- 
ment. ^^ 



Exodus ii., i6; iv., 17. 

THE region to which Moses fled from the face of Pha- 
raoh seems to have been the eastern portion of that 
peninsula from the centre of which the range of Sinai rears 
its bare and jagged granite peaks to the sky. It is true, in- 
deed, that the land of Midian, properly so called, lay on the 
other side of the Elanitic Gulf. But the people whose ter- 
ritory it was were shepherds, migrating from place to place, 
according to the changes of the seasons and the exigencies 
of tlieir flocks ; so that, although their head-quarters were 
on the eastern border of Edom, their wanderings extended 
north as far as Gilead and Bashan, while they embraced on 
the south wide tracts of country along both the shores of 
that which is now known as the Gulf of Akabah."^ 

Here Moses found a home, in a manner which illustrates 
at once the habits of the people, his own inherent hatred of 
oppression, and the minute particularity of the providence 
of God. Resting beside a well, which was the most likely 
place for meeting any of the inhabitants of the country, he 
saw seven young women approach and draw water for their 
flock. But just as they were about to lead the cattle to the 
troughs which they had filled, a company of selfish and ill- 
mannered shepherds came, and attempted to steal from 
them with violence the results of their labor, by driving 
them away and taking possession of the water for their own 

* See Alexander's " Kitto's Cyclopaedia," article Midian. 

42 Moses the Law-giver. 

herds. On this Moses, stung into indignation by the in- 
justice of the rude fellows, and moved also, perhaps, by that 
regard for woman which he had learned in Egypt, where 
alone at that time among the nations she had anything like 
her true position,''^ stood up in defence of the maidens, and 
enabled them so to hold their own that their work was 
speedily performed. 

It has been supposed, from his success in this chivalrous 
interference on behalf of the oppressed, that Moses must 
have been accompanied by some of his kinsmen from 
Egypt ; but there is no necessity for accepting any such 
hypothesis. The bully is invariably a coward; and the 
conscience of the wrong -doer is so thoroughly in alliance 
with the champion of the right, that it is commonly an easy 
thing to overcome him. None the less, however, is Moses 
to be commended for his prompt and decisive resistance to 
such a wanton and unjustifiable iniquity. It was not a great 
thing, indeed. Only a few troughs of water. Just as John 
Hampden's ship-money amounted only to a few shillings. 
But there was a great principle underneath : and, as we shall 
always see, Moses was never wanting in the defence of the 
right. Faithful here in that which was least, he had at 
length an opportunity of showing his fidelity in that which 
was greatest. And small, apparently, as this service was, 
it brought with it a great reward. 

For the damsels whom he had thus assisted were the 
daughters of Reuel, or Raguel, the patriarch and priest of 
his tribe, who, on learning of the stranger's 'kindness to 
them, insisted on receiving him into his home as a guest. 
The result was that Moses abode with him, and ultimately 
obtained Zipporah, one of the seven sisters, for his wife. 

*" Encyclopaedia Britannica" (9th edition, American reprint), vol 
vii., p. 624. 

The Burning Bush. 43 

The members of this household seem to have been very 
highly regarded by Moses ; for on at least one occasion of 
importance Jethro's advice was implicitly followed by him, 
and Hobab accompanied the tribes in their march through 
the wilderness. But as some difficulty exists as to their 
number and identity, this may be the best place to investi- 
gate and, if possible, to settle these questions. In the third 
chapter of Exodus, the father-in-law of Moses is called Je- 
thro. In the Book of Numbers* we have mention made of 
Hobab, the son of Raguel, Moses's father-in-law, and, in the 
Book of Judges,! Heber the Kenite is said to have been of 
the children of Hobab, Moses's father-in-law. Perhaps the 
meaning of the name Jethro may help us to a solution of the 
difficulty, jfether signifies excellence, and Jethro^ his excel- 
lency; so that we may suppose that it was the official title 
of the Priest of Midian, just as Pharaoh was that of the King 
of Egypt. If this view be accepted, then Reuel, or Raguel, 
will be regarded as the proper name of the patriarch, and 
Hobab will be taken as that of the son of the priest, and 
the brother-in-law of Moses. But in that case it will be 
asked, How comes it that, in the Book of Judges, Hobab is 
called Moses's father-in-law.-* and the answer to that in- 
quiry must be found in the latitude of meaning in which all 
terms signifying relationship were used in the East ; so that, 
as Dr. Douglas has affirmed, the same word may be ren- 
dered father-in-law or son-in-law, as the connection may re- 
quire.l Reuel, Raguel, and Jether, Jethro, are thus names 
of the same person, whose daughter, Zipporah, became the 
wife of Moses ; and whose son, Hobab, was in later days 
the companion and counsellor of Moses in his journeyings 
with his people through the wilderness. 

* Numb. X., 29. t Judges iv., ii. 

X See Faiibairn's " Imperial Bible Dictionary," article Raguel. 

44 Moses the Law-giver. 

So far as we can gather from the narrative, Raguel seems 
to have been a worshipper of the true God, something after 
the stamp of that Melchizedek whom Abraham honored, and, 
it may be also, having spiritual kinship to the patriarch of 
Uz, whose trials and triumph are so dramatically told in the 
Book of Job. If this were indeed the case, then Moses must 
have had much profitable fellowship with those among whom 
his lot was cast ; and in their common worship of the one 
living and true God, there would be a bond of union between 
them of the tenderest kind. Yet the son of Amram could 
not forget his kindred. Often would his thoughts recur to 
Egypt, where his brethren were toiling under the most cruel 
bondage ; and as he felt within him the consciousness that 
he had lost, by his own rashness, the opportunity of working 
out their deliverance according to his most cherished ambi- 
tion, he would be apt to sink into despondency, if not even 
into despair. But ever as he remembered God, his hopes 
would revive within him, and there would rise before him 
the vague yet comforting anticipation of the time when, in 
some way, the Lord would break in pieces the oppressor, 
and let the oppressed go free. Some evidence of this alter- 
nation in him between depression and trustfulness is fur- 
nished by the names which he gave to the two sons who 
were born to him in Midian. The first he called Gershom, 
saying, with a feeling of isolation, which is at no time so 
keenly felt as when one cannot have any of his own kin- 
dred to rejoice with him in his joy, "I have been an alien 
in a strange land."* The second he named Eliezer, with a 
heart that seemed fuller, at the moment, of the thought of 
his mercies than of his miseries ; for he said, " The God of 
my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of 
Pharaoh." Thus at length, in spite of temporary deviations, 

* Exod. xviii., 3. 

The Burning Bush. 4^ 

his soul came back to habitual dependence on Him for 
whom he had suffered the loss of all things, and in whom 
he found more than compensation for the comforts he had 

There was much, also, in the solitude of his shepherd-" 
life that would stimulate him to devout meditation. Here 
amidst " the sleep that is among the lonely hills," he com- 
muned with himself, with nature, and with God ; facing for 
himself those "obstinate questionings" which continually 
arise when one seeks to fathom the mysteries of being. A 
very different university was this from that ^t which he stud- 
ied among the worshippers of the Sun at Heliopolis ; yet 
more helpful to him even than the education which he had 
received in Egypt, would be his musings upon the mountain 
sides, as he rose from the thunder-riven peaks to Him who 
before the mountains were brought forth is, from everlasting 
to everlasting, God. Like the Scottish boy, who in the inter- 
vals of his shepherd-life mapped out for himself with beads 
the distances of the stars, and designated himself "God 
Almighty's scholar," Moses was now under the special tui- 
tion of the Lord. His books were the silent stars and giant 
hills ; the shrubs that grew at his feet, and the flocks that 
went on beside him, browsing on the grass ; and often and 
often would he pore lovingly over the pages of man's first 
Bible -/Nature. yBut most frequently, perhaps, he would 
look wTrtTib and/ry to read himself; for of the prophet, fully 
more than of the poet, one must be able to say, 

" He saw through life and death, through good and ill ; 
He saw through his own soul ;" 

and after awhile there was to come to him the vision which 
would open to him as a scroll, " the marvel of the everlast- 
ing will." 

Forty years had this discipline continued, when, leading 

46 Moses the Law-giver. 

his flock away to that wild region, afterward known as the^ 
Mount of God, which lay to the north of the Sinaitic range, 
and was called Horeb, he saw a flame flashing from an 
acacia-bush. At first he was filled with alarm — much as 
one would be now on the parched prairie at the least ap- 
pearance of fire ; for there, too, it would spread rapidly, and 
carry desolation before it. But pausifig a moment to look, 
he was amazed to discover that, though the flame was bright, 
the bush was unconsumed. The lambent glory played 
harmlessly on the branches, and seemed only to make their 
verdure more conspicuous. So he turned aside to see the 
great sight, and found it greater than he had first supposed ; 
for as he advanced, a voice came to him from the bush, say- 
ing, " Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he 
said. Draw not nigh hither : put ofl* thy shoes from off thy 
feet; for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. 
Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of 
Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob."* We 
have, therefore, no need to ask who this mysterious one was. 
The angel of the bush is the God of Abraham ; and we have 
thus another of those symbolic manifestations which pre- 
pared the way for the appearance of the great " mystery of 
godliness," God manifest in human flesh. But it differs 
from those which were given to Abraham and Jacob in this, 
that whereas to the patriarchs God appeared under a hu- 
man form, he makes himself known here to Moses in a 
flame of fire. We have in this the prelude of the Shechinah 
glory over the mercy-seat, by the veiling of- which from all 
save the high-priest, and even from him save when he bore 
the blood of atonement, the Lord would instruct his people 
in the majesty of holiness ; and in the command, " Draw 
not nigh hither," there is the first indication of that restric- 

* Exod. iii., 4-6. 

The Burning Bush. 47 

tion in men's approach to God which is so characteristic of 
the Mosaic ritual. Thus, the system which Moses was to 
introduce was designed to educate men, through reverence, 
into Hberty. It was not so noble as the patriarchal dispen- 
sation that went before it, " for Abraham talked with God 
as a man talketh with his friend;" and it is far outshone by 
that under which now we live, for in Christ we may draw 
near to God with full assurance of faith. " Draw not nigh," 
is the first utterance of the one ; " Come near," is the first 
and last exhortation of the other. 

But though thus inferior to the Gospel, the Mosaic econ- 
omy was not the less necessary in the education of men. 
Its restrictions were like the framework of the horn lantern, 
through which the light of God's truth shone dimly, it is 
true, but by which, also, it was kept from being extinguished 
by the rude blasts of idolatry and unbelief; and it is inter- 
esting to note, in this first divine utterance to Moses, the 
germ of the dispensation which goes by his name. 
/ But in remarking on. that, arresting word of God, let us 
not lose sight of the symbolism of the vision. The bush 
burning, yet not consumed, has always been regarded as an 
emblem of Israel in Egypt. The fire could not waste those 
with vvhom God dwelt; and so we have here set before us, 
in material figure, the same truth which was taught by the 
preseiice of the mystic fourth with the three Hebrews in the 
Babylonian furnace, and which has been illustrated by the 
whole martyrology of the Christian Church. } And perhaps ^ 
I am not wrong in supposing that this aspecjO^tt.hfir xisioSF*^ 
was that which made it to Moses, as he looked back upon 
it in after-life, fullest of consolation and support; for, in his \ 

farewell blessing of the tribes, he could find no richer ben- 
ediction of the sons of Joseph than to wish for them "the 
good-will of Him that dwelt in the bush." The Church of 
Scotland, therefore, has not made an inappropriate or unwar- 

48 Moses the Law-giver. 

ranted use of this emblem, when, looking at her own history, 
how she was cradled in persecution, and nurtured amidst the 
assaults of Claverhouse and his dragoons, she has put upon 
her banner a representation of the burning bush, with the 
legend, "Nee tamen consumebatur ;" yet it was not con- 
sumed. But it is true of every branch of the Church of 
Christ as well as that — yea, of every individual believer ; for 
where God resides, there evil is impotent to harm. 

Let us not fail to observe, also, the foundation which 
there is in the words, " I am the God of Abraham," for the 
argument which the Saviour draws from them for the resur- 
rection of the body.* God does not say, I was the God of 
Abraham, but speaks of himself as being still in that rela- 
tion to the father of the faithful ; therefore, Abraham was 
then existing ; his spirit was still in covenant union with 
God j and at length, in his full identity, he would appear 
among the ransomed. We scarcely think that all that was 
seen by Moses ; but the reference to his great ancestors 
would remind him of all the revelations which God had 
made of himself through them, and specially of the promises 
which he had made to their descendants ; and so it was a 
fitting preparation for the commission which was to follow. 

But " Moses hid his face ; for he was afraid to look upon 
God." It was not the fire he feared, but Him whose pres- 
ence was half concealed and half revealed in its flame. 
The God whom he had been prone, like too many of us, 
to regard for the most part as an abstraction, and speak of 
as the Eternal, the Almighty, the Absolute, had come to him 
as a living person, who could speak to him, and look him 
through; and he did as we should have done, and as in- 
stinctively we try to do yet, whenever we have a vivid sense 
of his presence : he covered his face.^ He shrunk into him- 

* Matt, xxii., 23-32 ; Mark xii., 24-27. 

The Burning Bush. 


self; for he could not bear to stand naked and open to his 
sight. It was a crisis in his history. The meeting of the 
personality within me with the personal God ; the discovery 
that, behind and above nature, there is a living God, who 
says " thou " to me, and to whom I can say " thou ;" the 
confronting of my spirit with the Spirit of God ; that is for 
me the supreme experience of existence, out of which I 
come with a new life-commission, and from which I draw 
inspiration through all my after-wanderings in this wilder- 
ness world ; and the first thing it will make me do is to 
hide my face. The earliest effect of true knowledge is hu- 
mility ; and the eldest daughter of faith is reverence. Ah ! 
would that God might thus reveal himself to the self-confi- 
dent philosophy of these days ! 

//The Lord, referring with deepest tenderness to the suf- 
iferings of his people in their house of bondage, indicates 
his will that Moses should become their emancipator in 
these words : " Come now, therefore, and I will send thee 
unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people, the 
children of Israel, out of Egypt." But he who, forty years 
ago, was so eager to become their deliverer that he ran 
without being sent, is now strangely reluctant to undertake 
the work. \JHeJhad^ leaxned jnoce. of Ms own insufficiency;] 
and there was perhaps also in him something of the vis 
inerticB which accompanies advancing years, and makes one 
increasingly unwilling to enter upon a struggle with oppres- 
sion. At all events, he ofiers four distinct excuses for de- 
clining the work to which the Lord here called him, and 
only under a species of constraint does he consent to under- 
take it. 

The first excuse was his own personal unworthiness ; and \ 
that was removed by God's assurance, " Certainly I will be 
with thee ;" accompanied by such pledge of his success as 
is contained in the promise that after he had brought the 

50 Moses the Law-giver. 

people out of Egypt he should serve God with them in that 
very spot. 

The second excuse was his inability to answer the Israel- 
ites if they should ask him, "Who sent you? What is his 
name ?" And that was met by these far-reaching words, " I 
AM THAT I AM : Thus shalt thou say unto the children 
of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." This is that mys- 
terious name which the Hebrews could not bring themselves 
to write, and which now — as many scholars say incorrectly 
— we pronounce Jehovah; the one, eternal, personal, un- 
changeable God. Xt- is not here used for the first time, but 
it is here for the first time emplo3'ed in its distinctive and 
peculiar sense, as indicating not the Almighty merely, but 
theJDeliverer. It is the name of the Lord as the Saviour, 
and so it ought to be specially dear to the saved. Perhaps 
it was not entirely unknown to Moses, for it entered into 
the name of his mother Jochebed (which signifies Jehovah, 
my glory) \ and Ewald* has "conjectured that, in the small 
circle of her family, a dim conception had arisen of that di- 
vine truth which was through the son of that family pro- 
claimed forever to the world." Slowly after this it made its 
way into the faith of the people, aid we see an evidence of 
that in the fact that Hoshea's name was changed to Joshua; 
while for us Christians it is forever enshrined in the pre- 
cious word "Jesus," which means Jehovah that saves. The 
whole after-life of Moses was inspired by this name ; and 
it was the foundation on which the nation of Israel was 
reared. The movement which the son of Amram was to 
inaugurate w^as no mere struggle for emancipation from civil 
slavery. It was religious, and not political, in its character ; 
and this word, uttered from the flaming bush, was Israel's 
charter of independence. Admirably has Maurice said, 

♦ Quoted by Stanley, "Jewish Church," vol. i., p. 97. 

The Burning Bush. 51 

"The more we read of that nation, the more we shall feel 
that it could not have had for its basis any abstraction or 
logical formula. It stood upon no conception of the unity 
of God ; it stood upon no denial of the Egyptian faith, or 
any other ; it stood upon no scheme of making the specula- 
tions of priests or hierophants the property of the people. 
Either it stood upon this Name, or both it and all that have 
grown out of it are mockeries and lies from first to last ; 
roots, branches, flowers, fruit, all are rotten, and all must be 
swept away. ' The Lord God of the Hebrews, the God of 
our nation, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God 
of our family, has established and upholds the order of hu- 
man existence, and of all nature.' This is the truth which 
Moses learned at the bush, the only one which could en- 
counter the tyranny of Pharaoh or the tricks of the magi- 
cian ; the only one which could bring the Jews, or any other 
people, out of slavery into manly freedom and due obedi- 

The third excuse offered by Moses was that the people ^ 
would not believe him, but would say that the Lord had not 
appeared unto him ; and God took that stumbling-block out 
of his way by showing him two miracles which he was to 
perform in Egypt, and which were at the same time signs to 
himself of the success which would follow from his obedi- 
ence, and the evil which would result from his refusal to do 
what God was now commanding him. Calling attention to 
the rod that was in his hand, the Lord commanded him to 
cast it on the ground, and forthwith it became a serpent, 
from which he fled in terror. But at the word of God he 
put forth his hand and caught it, and it became again a rod 
in his hand. The asp, a kind of serpent, played a conspicu- 

* " The Patriarchs and Law-givers of the Old Testament," by Fred- 
erick Denison Maurice, p. 166. 

52 Moses the Law-giver. 

ous part in Egyptian mythology. It was the emblem of one 
of their goddesses, and, in particular, the sign of royalty. 
So the flight of Moses from it was an apt illustration of his 
unwillingness to encounter the pride and power of Pharaoh 
in the eflbrt to emancipate the Hebrews ; while its becoming 
a rod in his hand was an indication of the ease with which 
the might of Egypt could be turned by God into weakness. 

-The other miracle was more solemnly suggestive in its 
teachings even than that. Putting his hand into his bosom, 
he took it out leprous ; and returning it again into his bos- 
om, he brought it forth as healthy as ever. This miraculous 
infliction and removal of the most loathsome of all diseases 
was a sign to Moses, and through him to the Israelites, be- 
fore whom it was to be repeated, of the danger which they 
incurred by refusing to obey the word of God, and of the 
deliverance that would come if they followed his injunctions. 
God also intimates that when Moses reached Egypt, he 
would compel the people to listen to his words, by turning 
the water of the Nile into blood. 

Driven thus from all the outworks which he had so skil- 
fully thrown up, Moses falls back on his first difficulty — his 
own incompetency — and selects a special feature of that for 
a new excuse. "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither 
heretofore nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant ; 
but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue." Possibly 
that was the real truth. Standing and talking with the 
great I AM, Moses was not likely to say anything that 
was not correct. He was a thinker, rather than a speaker. 
Fluency was not his forte. He saw too much in a moment 
to be able to give utterance to it all at once ; and so his 
lack of readiness in the use of language was the result of 
the richness of his thought, rather than of its poverty. 
When the bottle is full, its contents flows out less freely by 
far than when it is two parts empty. So, very often, the 

The Burning Bush. 53 

fluency of one speaker is due to the fact that he sees only 
one side of a subject ; while the hesitancy of another is the 
consequence of his taking in at a glance all the bearings of 
his theme, and of his desire to say nothing on it that will im- 
peril other great principles with which it is really, but not 
to all minds visibly, connected. No better illustration of 
the truth of these remarks can be given, than the difference 
between Moses and his brother Aaro n, whom the Lord here 
designates as his colleague and interpreter. So long as 
Aaron was the spokesman of Moses's thought, we cannot 
but admire him ; but when he was left to himself, the elo- 
quent orator became, as many another merely eloquent or- 
ator has become, the willing dupe in the hands of a mad- 
dened people, and the very moulder of the golden calf 
which they set up to worship. Speech is noble only when, 
like an honest currency, it represents the gold of thought; 
but when it is merely inflated fluency, it is then like the 
rags of a dishonest currency, which is the symbol of poverty, 
and not of wealth. 

The Lord met Moses's plea by reminding him that he 
was not sending him in his own strength. "Who hath 
made man's mouth ? or who maketh the dumb or deaf, or 
the seeing or the blind ? have not I the Lord ? Now there- 
fore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what 
thou shalt say." That ought to have been enough; but 
now, driven from every refuge, Moses plainly acknowledges 
that he does not want to go, saying, " O my Lord, send, I 
pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send." And 
then, to let him know that he had crossed the line that 
marks disobedience from humility, the Lord showed his dis- 
pleasure, and put an end to the conference by saying that 
he would give him Aaron to bejiis assistant, and by renew- 
ing the command to^liTin to go to Egypt and begin the en- 
terprise. " Thou shalt take this rod in thy hand, wherewith 

54 Moses the Law-giver. 

thou slialt do signs;" and, thus accoutred, he sets out to 
enter on a conflict with the mightiest empire then upon the 
globe ! It was, to human view, like going to shiver the pyr- 
amids into fragments with a baby's hammer ! But, as we 
advance, we shall discover that, when God is in the case, it 
is all one whether we work with a rod or with a mighty 
army, and that human weakness is irresistible in its might 
when the strength of God is made perfect in it. 

It is time, however, that we should draw to a close by 
giving prominence to the practical lessons which this his- 
tory suggests. Let us learn, then, in the first place, not to 
be impatient for the discovery of our true life-work. Moses 
was eighty years old before he entered upon that noble ca- 
reer by which he became the emancipator and educator of 
his nation. Two -thirds of his days were gone before he 
really touched that which was his great, distinctive, and pe- 
culiar labor, and his enterprise was all the more gloriously 
accomplished by reason of the delay. Nor is this a solitary 
instance. The Lord Jesus himself lived thirty years, during 
most of which he was in training for a public ministry which 
lasted only two-and-forty months. John Knox never entered 
a pulpit until he was over forty years of age ; and much of 
the fire and energy of his preaching was owing to the fact 
that the flame had been so long pent up within his breast. 
Havelock was for a dreary while a mere lieutenant, held 
back by the iniquitous system of purchase which was so 
long in vogue in the English army ; but, as it happened, 
that was only a life-long apprenticeship, by which he was 
enabled all the more efficiently to become, at length, the 
savior of the Indian Empire. So let no one chafe and 
fret over the delay which seems evermore to keep him from 
doing anything to purpose for the world and his Lord. The 
opportunity will come in its own season. It does come, 
sooner or later, to every man ; and it is well if, when at 


lX^ {^<^^-'--'^ 

— The Burning Bush. 5^5 

/ length he hears the voice calling " Moses ! Moses !" he is i 

V ready with the answer, " Here am I." 

For while I would comfort you with the assurance that 
the hour will come, I do not mean that you should be idle 
until it strikes. No ; for if you adopt such a plan, the cer- 
tainty is that you will not hear its stroke, or that you will 
not be ready to begin at its call. The true principle is to 
do with your might that which is lying at your hand day 
by day, in the firm conviction that you are thereby train- 
ing yourself into fitness for your future vocation. Moses 
was as observant as a shepherd as he had been diligent as 
a student ; and when at length his higher work opened up 
before him, he saw how it lifted up into itself and utilized 
all the knowledge which he had acquired in his lower pur- 
suits^' He might not be able to discover, during his forty 
years' musings in the wilderness, how his sojourn in these 
wild regions was to be of any after-service ; yet, as we pro- 
ceed with his history, we shall have cause to remark that, 
as his Egyptian learning stood him often in good stead, his 
knowledge of the Sinaitic peninsula was of equal value. 
When he consecrated himself to the great work of his life, 
he discovered, as many since his day have done, that the 
energizing flame which marked the acceptance of his sacri- 
fice infolded and glorified both that which was behind him 
in the past, and that which was before him in the future. ^JL 
was because he had been so diligent in the two preparatory 
stages of his career, that he was so efficient in the latest and 

ripest^chievements of his life. He was all the more able— 

>4hough in his humility he knew it not — to be the leader of 
his people from their house of bondage, because he had been 
so faithful and so earnest alike in Egypt and in Midian. 

You see, then, to what my remarks are tending. Be not 
impatient of delay. Seek not to vault by one sudden leap 
into the throne of your peculiar power. But prepare your- 


56 Moses the Law-giver. 

self for wielding your sceptre when it comes, by doing with 
all fidelity the duties of your present sphere. Men fail in 
the world to do anything to purpose, not because the oppor- 
tunity never comes to them, but because when it does, they 
are not able to take advantage of it ; inasmuch as they have 
been trifling when they ought to have been working. Mul- 
titudes, when they hear of one being as suddenly called to 
some post of usefulness, as Moses was to his great work of 
deliverance, exclaim, " What luck ! Oh, if I could only have 
such a chance !" But there has been neither chance nor 
luck in the case ; for the envied one has been all the while 
steadily making himself in the lower sphere for efficiency 
in the higher, and God has only done with him what you do 
with a diligent clerk in your store, when, seeing his faithful- 
ness and ability, you promote him to a more important of- 
fice. Here, therefore, is the harmonizing principle between 
contentment and ambition. The true man is eagerly anx- 
ious to do his best in some high calling for God, yet he does 
what he can where he is, and is content until it is God's 
time for him to rise ; and when that time comes, he is ready. 
The men who vault at once into greatness, like those who 
become suddenly rich, very commonly squander their influ- 
ence, and make themselves ridiculous. But he who waits, 
and works while he waits, will surely emerge at length, and 
his work will be worthy of his place. The leap is all the 
greater because of the race that goes before it ; the current 
becomes all the stronger at the last because it has been so 
long held back by obstacles ; and the noblest work is done 
by him who has had to wait for long before he could get at 
it. As our own poet has sung in stirring strains : 

" The heights by great men reached and kept 
Were not attained by sudden flight ; 
But they, while their companions slept, 
Were toiling upward in the night. 

The Burning Bush. 57 

"Standing on what long we bore 

With shoulders bent and downcast eyes, 
We may discern— unseen before — 
A path to higher destinies. 

" Nor deem the irrevocable past 
As wholly wasted, wholly vain, 
If, rising on its wrecks, at last, 
To something nobler we attain."* 

But, in the second place, this case of Moses reminds us 
that our best life-work is that on which we enter under a 
feeling that it is absolutely essential that we should do it. 
Moses tried in every way to put away from him the office 
to which God called him. But still it came back upon him. 
He felt that he must go ; and when that irrepressible must 
shaped itself in his soul, he went, and carried all before him. 
We see the same thing in Jeremiah. The man of Anathoth 
did not covet the honor of the prophetic office. Like Moses 
here, he said to Jehovah, " I cannot speak, for I am a child ;" 
but still the Lord strove with him, until at length that which 
was at first an outward constraint became an inner impulse, 
and he could say, " His word was in mine heart, as a burn- 
ing fire shut up in my bones ; and I was weary with forbear- 
ing, and I could not stay." And we hear the same thing in 
Paul's words: "For though I preach the Gospel, I have noth- 
ing to glory of; for necessity is laid upon me : yea, woe is 
unto me, if I preach not the Gospel." It is the irrepressible 
in a man that makes him great. So long as the work he 
undertakes is performed because he must do something, there 
is nothing remarkable either about him or about it; but 
when he enters on it because it is something that he must 
do, then prepare yourself for something noble. Is it not 
just in this that the quality which we call genius peculiarly 

* Longfellow. 

58 Moses the Law-giver. 

resides? If a man thinks that he would like to write in 
verse, or to paint something, or to make a speech, or what 
not, his work will never be heard of. But if there is in him 
a song which insists on singing itself out, or a painting 
which will not let him rest until he has put it on the canvas, 
or a truth, the utterance of which he cannot hold back, then 
he is sure to be at length a poet, an artist, or an orator. 
That was a wise old minister who, on being consulted by a 
youth who desired to become a preacher of the Gospel, said 
to him, "Young man, don't. become a minister if you can 
help it." It is the man who cannot help being a preach- 
er who will be most effective always in the pulpit. The 
work which we can help doing is not for us. If Moses 
could have successfully excused himself, he would have been 
no fit man for the great crusade on which he entered. _ But 
it was because, in spite of all his reluctance, there was with- 
in him the overmastering sense that God had called him to 
be Israel's deliverer, that he was at length so successful. 
Ah ! have we not here the cause of so many failures in mor- 
al and religious enterprises? The men who have inaugu- 
rated them have done so for personal eclat, or pecuniary 
profit, and not because of this inner impulsion. There has 
been no vision of the burning bush to set their hearts on 
fire with a flame which they could not extinguish. That is 
the explanation of the fact that so many educated for the 
ministry, and for a time occupying pulpits, are now retired. 
That is the " open secret " that reveals why so many Sab- 
bath-school teachers are listless and indifferent, and so 
many more have given up the work entirely. That is the 
reason why so many reforms in Church and in State that 
promised so much in the beginning, have been at length 
like " clouds without rain, and wells without water." Write 
it on your hearts, then, my hearers ; grave it on the palms of 
your hands; keep it continually before your eyes: that is 

The Burning Bush. 


your life-work which you feel you must do, which you can- 
not run away from, and which you are constrained to do by 
an irrepressible and irresistible impulse ; if you have no such 
impulse, then go to Midian and seek solitary communion 
with God until you have. Moses ran away at the first dif- 
ficulty, when he attempted the work of deliverance forty 
years before; for then he took it up because he must do 
something : but from this time on he is indomitable, because 
now the something is that which he must do. 

Finally, when we enter upon such a work, we may rely 
thaTTGod" will give us everything that is necessary jfor its 
performance. There was much in the revelation of God to 
Moses, resulting as it did in the revelation of Moses to him- 
self, that was fitted to qualify him for his work ; and we^can- 
not fail to note the parallel which in this respect exists be- 
tween him and the prophet Isaiah and the Apostle Peter. 
To each of these their true vocation came, as here to Moses, 
through a vision of the glory of God, and in them, also, it 
led to the deepest personal humility. But in the promise, 
" Certainly I will be with thee," there was all that the great 
leader needed. His miracles were the consequence of Je- 
hovah's presence, and everything else was contained in this 
assurance. So when we enter on work to which God has 
called us, and from the undertaking of which we cannot es- 
cape, we too may fall back on the persuasion that God is at 
our side j for that which was the personal benison of Moses 
here is the common inheritance of every Christian. " Lo, I 
am with you alway, even unto the end of the world :" such 
was the declaration of Jesus to his followers when he sent 
them to disciple the nations ; and when we engage in any- 
thing which has for its end the glory of Christ and the wel- 
fare of humanity, we may rely on his co-operation. Do we 
need anything more ? Ah, if we but relied less on human 
expedients, and more on that unseen yet real Presence, our 

6o Moses the Law-giver. 

success would be far greater. At the late meeting of the 
American Board,* the question was asked by one of the sec- 
retaries, in a very noble paper, " Shall we have a missionary 
revival ?" And I answer " Yes, when we have more faith 
in the presence with us of our regal and all-powerful Lord." 
The deliverance of Israel from Egpyt did not seem more 
Utopian when Moses set out to accomplish it, with nothing 
in his hand but his rod, than the conversion of the heathen 
nations seem to-day ; yet it was God that effected the one, 
and he is to accomplish the other. All things are possible 
to him ; what we need is but the faith of Moses to go forth 
and act as if we believed that God is with us. That is all. 
But we need all that : we all need that ; and when we have 
it in our churches, we shall see mightier wonders on the 
fields of paganism than Moses wrought by the banks of the 
Nile. Nor let any one lose his sense of individual respon- 
sibility when we speak of the work of the churches. What- 
ever you are called to do, he will help you to accomplish. 
Go, then, in this thy might, and each of you may be a 
Moses in his own little sphere, confronting infidelity and 
immorality, and rescuing some captives from the taskmas- 
ter's oppression. Would that some one here, and now, 
might hear the call, and answer with reverent promptitude, 
" Here am I ; send me — send me !" 

* The meeting in 1877, held at Providence, R. L 



Exodus iv., i8; vii., 7. 

IN our desire to present a clear and connected view of the 
conference between Jehovah and Moses at the burning 
bush, we were compelled to omit all reference to two mat- 
ters of detail which have often proved perplexing to the de- 
vout reader of the narrative. It may be well, therefore, be- 
fore we go farther, to pause a little over them, if haply we 
may be able to clear away all difficulty from them. The 
first is connected with the demand which the Lord instructs 
Moses to make of Pharaoh in these words : " Thou shalt 
come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the King of Egj^pt, 
and ye shall say unto him, The Lord God of the Hebrews 
hath met with us : and now let us go, we beseech thee, three 
days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to 
the Lord our God."* Now, looking at these words in the 
light of the after history, it must be confessed that they have 
an appearance of diplomacy, as if they were intended to de- 
ceive Pharaoh as to the real end which Jehovah had in view. 
But when we go deeper into the matter, we discern in them 
a true purpose of mercy to the Egyptian king. The de- 
mand is made in the most moderate fashion; so that, if 
there had been any disposition in his heart to comply with 
it, he might have found it all the more easy to do so. Ev- 
erything harsh and defiant is avoided, so that no occasion 
is furnished for Pharaoh's anger; while at the same time 

* Exod. iii.» 18. 

62 Moses the Law-giver. 

it is a clear and unmistakable assertion that the Hebrews 
ought to have the liberty to serve their God wheresoever he 
might ask them to sacrifice to him. This is God's common 
mode of procedure. He speaks to men of the near and 
the comparatively small; and according as they respond to 
him in regard to these matters, he leads them on to the 
higher and the greater, or drives them away from his pres- 
ence altogether. In the case before us, the request which 
he instructed Moses to make was so small that no right- 
minded man would have rejected it. Had it been com- 
plied with, negotiations of a peaceful sort might have been 
opened ; difficulties might have been removed by mutual 
consultation ; and the Exodus might have been accom- 
plished in an amicable manner, without any of those des- 
olating judgments with which it was ultimately accompa- 
nied. Thus the presentation of the demand in this mild 
form, so far from being a piece of cunning policy, was in real- 
ity a merciful probation given by God to Pharaoh ; and if he 
had possessed the wisdom to improve it by granting the fa- 
vor which was asked, no plagues had been sent to waste his 
land, but, instead, the richest blessings which the Lord could 
bestow would have descended on him and on his people. 

The second difficulty springs out of the statement, which 
accompanies the declaration, that the Israelites should go 
out of Egypt laden with spoils. These are the words : "And 
I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians : 
and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go 
empty : but every woman shall borrow of her neighbor, and 
of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jew- 
els of gold, and raiment : and ye shall put them upon your 
sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Eg}'p- 
tians."* But if they were to borrow, when there was no in- 

* Exod. iii., 21, 22. 

First Appearance before Pharaoh. 63 

tention whatever of returning that which they received, what 
becomes of the honesty of the transaction ? Now, in repl}^ 
it will not do to say that they had already been defrauded 
by their oppressors of far more than the value of these 
spoils, for they were not commissioned to ask wages of any 
sort. Neither, again, must we say that the Hebrews did not 
know, when they borrowed these things, that they were not 
coming back to Eg}'pt, and so must be held as having acted 
in good faith ; for God at the bush gave Moses the instruc- 
tions which we have just quoted, and the reader's difficulty 
is that He should have so spoken. But all perplexity is re- 
moved when we know that the term rendered here "bor- 
rowed " means simply to " ask," so that this difficulty is one 
which has been created by our generally admirable transla- 
tion. How the word " borrow" came to be used here is more 
than I can explain ; but the fact is indubitable that the 
original verb, which ii> a very common one, always* means 
" ask " or " demand." The request would be natural enough, 
coming from those who had been so long enslaved ; but the 
Egyptians would have declined to comply with it had it not 
been for the influence on them of calamities which they 
could not but trace to supernatural agency, and for the in- 
fliction of which on them they blamed the obstinacy of their 
own king. Thus understood, all difficulty vanishes from the 
history, and we are prepared to go on with the narrative 
with unabated confidence in the divinity of its authorship. 

After his return from Horeb to Midian, Moses requested 
permission of his father-in-law to revisit Egypt, and ask after 
his brethren whom he had left behind him there. He said 
no word even to him of the marvellous vision of the burning 
bush, and the equally marvellous conference with Jehovah 

* Except in these two instances : i Sam. i., 28; 2 Kings vi., 5. See 
" Speaker's Commentary," in loco. 

64. Moses the Law-giver. 

to which that vision led. These were, as yet, personal mas- 
ters, and the impression produced on his soul was too deep 
to be talked about even with those who were nearest him in 
his home. When one is caught up into the third heaven, 
the words he hears there are commonly unspeakable ; and 
he who is always telling of the glory of his secret commun- 
ion with God is thereby only revealing that he knows not 
wherein the true glory of such fellowship consists. When 
one comes down from the mount, the face may shine, but the 
lips are usually silent. Never, so far as appears — save to 
his brother Aaron, in the frank confidence of his first inter- 
view with him after their long separation — did Moses give 
any account of that wonderful colloquy which he was permit- 
ted to hold with the great I AM : and it would be well if 
the same reverent reticence were observed by many among 

Jethro offered no objection to Moses's proposal, but sim- 
ply said to him, " Go in peace." So he took his wife and 
his two sons, and set them on an ass, while, with his rod in 
his hand, he strode on by their side. Three things inter- 
vened between his leaving Midian and his arrival in Egypt, 
and each of them had its own importance as preparing him 
for his arduous enterprise. First, he was encouraged and 
J instructed by the Lord. Lest he should fear that some rem- 
nant of the old difficulty from which he fled at the first 
should meet him, he was assured that all the men were dead 
>yho had sought his life. And that he might not be cast 
down by the antagonism which he would hav6 to encounter, 
he was forewarned that Pharaoh would not let the people 
go. He must not tremble before imaginary dangers, but 
neither must he expect immediately favorable results. Ah, 
how many of our despondencies and disappointments spring 
from these two causes! We fancy enmities where none ex- 
ist ; and we look for such effects from our labors as God has 

First Appearance before Pharaoh. 65 

not unqualifiedly promised, forgetful that the opposition of 
the ungodly to us is as really a testimony to our fidelity as 
would be their submission. If we expect too much, we only 
court disappointment. If we fear what has no existence, we 
put an arrest upon activity. 

But the manner in which the Lord here speaks of Pha- 
raoh's resistance is peculiar ; and as the same phraseology 
is of frequent recurrence in the narrative, we may as well 
consider it here once for all. He says to Moses, " See that 
thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put 
in thy hand : but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let 
the people go." It is somewhat remarkable that the hard- 
ening of Pharaoh's heart is ascribed in this history ten times 
to God, and that in an equal number of passages it is affirm- 
ed that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. It is to be noted, 
also, that up till the sixth plague it is always said that Pha- 
raoh hardened his own heart, and that it is only after that 
we read, as a matter of history, that the Lord hardened it. 
This will help us, I think, to a right understanding of the 
subject, in so far as it can be comprehended by finite minds. 
These, then, are the facts : In the outset of this contest, and 
on till the fifth plague, Pharaoh, in the exercise of his free 
agency, resisted God's demand. This repeated resistance 
had in itself a hardening influence, so that each time he re- 
jected the demand of Jehovah his heart was left more indu- 
rated than it had been before. But at length he passed the 
boundary of God's forbearance, and, as a judicial punish- 
ment upon him, that which had been, up till this point, the 
natural consequence of his conduct, was confirmed by the 
decree of God, who gave him over "to a reprobate mind to 
do those things which are not convenient." At first, the 
hardening was Pharaoh's own act ; later, its increase was 
the fruit of his repeated resistance ; and then, last of all, it 
was the punitive infliction of Jehovah. This seems to me to 

66 Moses the Law-giver. 

be the full truth on the subject ; and the fact that the Lord 
here speaks thus early of his hardening Pharaoh's heart, is to 
be accounted for by the purpose which he had here in view, 
which was to keep the faith of Moses from fainting when he 
should see the first manifestations of Pharaoh's rage ; for 
he was to understand that what in the beginning was pride 
would in the end become perdition.* 

The second experience of Moses on his way to Egypt was 
somewhat mysterious. When he came to a halting-place on 
his journey, the Lord met him, and either threatened him 
with death by violence, or visited him with a sudden and 
dangerous bodily disease. This led him, as it would seem, 
to earnest self-examination, which resulted in the recollec- 
tion that, to please Zipporah, he had neglected or postponed 
the circumcision of his younger son. In the circumstances 
in which he was now placed, such a repudiation of the cov- 
enant which God had made with Abraham appeared to be, 
as it really was, a heinous sin, and was at once recognized 
by him as the cause of his affliction. Accordingly, to save 
his life, he prevailed upon Zipporah to perform the rite her- 
self; and when she laid at his feet the evidence that she 
had done so, she exclaimed, in the excitement of her feel- 
ings and with a tone of displeasure in her voice, " Surely a 
bloody husband art thou to me." But when she saw his 
speedy recovery, she changed her tone, and repeated in grat- 
itude what she had formerly said in anger. 

The third incident of his journey was his meeting with his 
brother Aaron, whom God had directed where to find him. 
No doubt, after their affectionate salutation, they asked each 
other of their welfare, and each would have much to say to 
the other of the incidents of those forty years in Egypt and 

* On this whole subject, see *' Keil and Delitzsch on the Pentateuch," 
vol. i., p. 453-457. 

First Appearance before Pharaoh. 67 

in Midian. But the hearts of both were heavy for their en- 
slaved kinsmen, and the younger brother did not care to 
record anything of their interview but this : " Moses told 
Aaron all the words of the Lord who had sent him, and all 
the signs which he had commanded him." That was enough 
for Aaron. Possibly he too had received some special com- 
munication from Jehovah, which prepared him for ready ac- 
quiescence in the proposal of his brother, thus confirmed 
by miracle, that they should go in company into Egypt and 
begin their emancipation work. At all events, he makes no 
objection and interposes no delay. So, together, they go to 
Goshen, and there assemble the elders of Israel. Moses is 
wiser now than he was forty years ago. He will not begin 
to fight merely "for his own hand." He will not resist in- 
dividual instances of oppression, in the hope of thereby 
rousing the slumbering spirit of the people. But he assem- 
bles the elders, and through them seeks to understand what 
the views and feelings of the people are. From them he 
learned that their oppression continued as burdensome as 
ever ; and it seemed now that the set time of their deliver- 
ance had indeed come, for when the people saw the signs 
which Moses wrought before their eyes, " they believed ; and 
when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of 
Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, they 
bowed their heads and worshipped." 

But the end was not so near as it appeared to be ; for 
when the two brothers went in before Pharaoh and made 
the demand which God had instructed them to present, they 
were met with disdainful defiance. Professing utter igno- 
rance of Jehovah and indifference to him, the king flatly re- 
fused to let the Hebrews go ; and pretending that the pres- 
ence of Moses and Aaron was hindering the people at their 
work, he sent for the taskmasters, who were Egyptians, and 
their officers or scribes, who were Hebrews, and command- 

68 Moses the Law-giver. 

ed them to withhold the straw which they had been in the 
habit of supplying to the brickmakers, and at the same time 
to insist on receiving an undiminished quantity of bricks. 
This branch of work was apparently a government monop- 
oly in ancient Egypt, as nearly all the bricks that are now 
found are stamped with a king's name. They were made 
of clay mixed with chopped straw, and then hardened by the 
sun. At first the straw was given to the Hebrews ; but now 
they had to go and find it for themselves in the fields, where 
it was left by the reapers, who cut the stalks close to the 
ears. Very soon, however, all the meadows in their neigh- 
borhood would be bared, and then they would be compelled 
to scatter over all the land in search of the very materials 
for their work. Of course, they could not keep up their tale 
of bricks, and equally, of course, the officers were beaten ; 
for then, as now, Egypt was ruled largely by the stick. An 
appeal to Pharaoh brought no relief. He was bent on giv- 
ing them something else to think of than sacrificing to their 
God, and he cruelly taunted them with idleness, alleging that 
as the reason why they wished to serve Jehovah. Thus the 
people were discouraged, and upbraided the two brothers 
with being the authors of their misery. 

Dispirited and disappointed, Moses returned unto God, 
and cried to him in passionate ejaculation: "Lord, where- 
fore hast thou so evil entreated this people? Why is it 
that thou hast sent me ? for since I came to Pharaoh to 
speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people ; nei- 
ther hast thou delivered thy people at all." In answer to 
this natural but sad complaint, God renewed in, if possible, 
stronger language than ever the assurances which he had 
already given to his servant. He indicated, moreover, that 
the time had come for the execution of his judgments upon 
Pharaoh, and based the certainty of their infliction on the 
declaration, " I am Jehovah." Indeed, no one can read the 

First Appearance before Pharaoh. 69 

opening verses of the sixth chapter of Exodus without re- 
marking the prominence which is given in them to this sig- 
nificant name. Four times the Lord repeats the words, " I 
am Jehovah/' and in connection with the first occurrence 
of them, he adds, " I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, 
and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my 
name JEHOVAH was I not known unto them." This dec- 
laration has caused great perplexity to the commentators, 
yet a very little penetration will enable us to discover its 
meaning. Many names for deity occur in the Hebrew writ- 
ings, the principal of which are Elohim (sometimes abbre- 
viated into El) ; El Shaddai, or God Almighty, which refers 
especially to the attribute of power ; Adonai, or Lord ; and 
Jehovah, which designates God as he stands in relation to 
men as their deliverer and redeemer. When the word God 
or Lord is printed in the English Bible, in small capitals, we 
may know that it is the equivalent of Jehovah in the origi- 
nal ; but when it is printed in ordinary type, it is then the 
translation of some other name. Now, when the Lord says 
that he was known to the patriarchs as El Shaddai, and 
not as Jehovah, we are to understand that he uses the term 
name, not of the letters which form the word, but of the true 
significance of the word. The patriarchs did know the word 
Jehovah f but the people were now to find out all the faith- 
fulness, and tenderness, and covenant -keeping deliverance 
which the word implied. Thus the statement, which seems 
at first so startling, must be taken not as an absolute, but as 
a comparative negation. Formerly, the chief aspect in which 
God revealed himself was that of power ; now he is about to 
manifest himself as the faithful performer of his promises — 
" the same yesterday, to-day, and forever " — unchangeable 
in his purposes as in his essence. Pharaoh had asked, 

* Gen. xji., 7, 8 ; xxii., 14. 

yo Moses the Law-giver. 

" Who is Jehovah, that I should obey his voice ?" The Lord 
replies, " I AM," and he proceeds to unfold his meaning to 
him in that desolating series of miracles, all of which were 
wrought by him, that he might fulfil the word which he had 
spoken to his servant Abraham. Fitly, therefore, does he 
here connect his new promise to Moses with his old cov- 
enant with the Father of the faithful. He was now about to 
deliver the Hebrews from slavery, to adopt them as his own 
peculiar people, and to give them the secure possession of 
the land of Canaan ; and he would have Moses understand, 
for his own consolation and support, that this was no sud- 
den determination on his part, but only the fulfilment of a 
covenant which had been ratified four hundred years before. 
This assurance was enough for Moses himself, and served, 
for the time at least, to remove all his misgivings ; but when 
he went with it to liis kinsmen, "they hearkened not unto 
him for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage." They 
could not see farther than the present ; and because the first 
attempt of Moses to work out their deliverance had resulted 
in an aggravation of their misery, they had lost heart, and 
would listen to him no more. Worse than all, this rejection 
of him by his kinsmen reacted sorely on Moses himself; 
and when a new commission came to him, "Go in, speak 
unto Pharaoh, king of Egypt, that he let the children of 
Israel go out of his land," he made this desponding repl}'', 
" Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto 
me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircum- 
cised lips ?" This brought new consolation to him from his 
Lord, who once more encouraged him by associating for- 
mally his brother Aaron with him in his mission, and by 
repeating the assurance that Pharaoh would be humbled, 
and compelled to let the people go. And so, fortified by 
these promises, the brothers went together a second time 
into the presence of the king. And there we must leave 

First Appearance before Pharaoh. 71 

them for the present, while we seek to extract for ourselves 
the practical lessons of the history over which we have now 

We may learn, then, in the first place, that he who would 
lead others into obedience must himself be exemplary. This 
seems to me to be the practical significance of that scene in 
the inn, around which so much obscurity still hovers. The 
purpose of God in calling Moses was to make him, human- 
ly speaking, the emancipator and educator of Israel ; and 
one of the first and most important qualifications which he 
needed for that work was reverence for law. Hence means 
were taken to recall to his attention the fact that he had 
neglected to claim the covenant blessing for his son, by 
obeying the command which God had given to Abraham for 
himself and for his seed after him. He had, perhaps, yield- 
ed to the importunities of his Midianitish wife in the matter; 
and he might have been tempted to think that it was a very 
slight thing after all. But he must learn to know no one 
but God, when duty is in the case ; and in the very outset of 
his ministry, he must have it impressed upon his heart that 
nothing is little which God has thought it important enough 
to command. There is a temptation to be encountered at 
the beginning of every enterprise; and according as we 
meet that, we demonstrate our fitness or unfitness for enter- 
ing upon the undertaking. The burning bush and the scene 
in the inn correspond, in the life of Moses, to the baptism, 
and the conflict with Satan in the wilderness, in the history 
of the Lord Jesus ; and the greatest danger to which we are 
exposed at such testing- times is that of thinking that the 
matter in question is one of no great importance. The 
making of bread out of stones was a little thing to him who 
had the power of Omnipotence at his call, even as the cir- 
cumcision of his son was a small afiair to Moses ; but if 
Jesus had yielded to do the one, at Satan's bidding, he 


72 Moses the Law-giver. 

could have been no Saviour of sinners j and if Moses, at the 
urgency of Zipporah, had consented to continue to neglect 
the other, he would never have become the emancipator of 
the Hebrews. This is the great law : " He that is faith- 
ful in that which is least, is faithful also in much ; and he 
that is unjust in the least, is unjust also in much." How 
could Moses have taken such a stand as he afterward did 
with Aaron, with the people, and with the rebellious com- 
pany of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, if he had not first learn- 
ed to take it with himself.? We cannot have it too frequent- 
ly repeated that our first battle is with ourselves, and that it 
is commonly over something which may seem to be a trifle. 
But that intensifies the danger ; for it helps to make us un- 
conscious of the test to which at the moment God is sub- 
jecting us j and so our only safeguard is to seek in every- 
thing, however apparently unimportant it may be, to be loyal 
to the will of God. Friends, will you lay this to heart ? 
When you are starting out on some new and noble work, 
with aspirations kindled at some flaming bush of divine rev- 
elation to your soul, "be not high-minded, but fear." Look 
for some test to be administered to you just then, and look 
for it in no great aflair, but rather in some such common 
thing as the getting of your daily bread, or in some such do- 
mestic matter as the government of your children ; for by 
these God may be determining your fitness for the work you 
covet : and if you fail in the trial, there will come no second 
probation. When Gideon led his forces down to the river 
and made them drink, each man did as he liked best ; and 
yet, unknown to them all, God was thereby dividing the self- 
indulgent from the self-forgetting, and choosing the latter for 
the enterprise of honor which was to rout the Midianites. 
That was not the last time that drinking was made a test 
of fitness, and there may be those before me now who have 
been rejected because they preferred appetite to duty. 

First Appearance before Pharaoh. 73 

But we may learn, in the second place, that when God be- 
gins to work for a soul's emancipation, the first effect is fre- 
quently an increase of its misery. When Moses demanded 
from Pharaoh the liberation of the Hebrews, the tyrant in- 
creased their burdens ; and in like manner, when the soul 
rises to expel evil from its domain, it then for the first time 
discovers the full bitterness of its bondage. Its earliest im- 
pulse thereon is to blame the truth which awakened it to a 
sense of its degradation, for causing the misery which it only 
revealed. The preacher is accounted cruel when he has 
been only faithful ; and his hearer accuses him of personal 
malice when he has been only holding up a mirror wherein 
the angry one caught a glimpse of himself. 

But all these are hopeful signs. They are indeed, when 
rightly regarded and fostered, the prophecies of a coming 
conversion. The docile slave, who is contented with his 
condition, is petted and made much of by his master ; but 
if he tries to run away, he is immediately put into fetters. 
So, when we are roused to battle with sin, it is then that, 
most of all, we feel its power. It is easy to float with the 
current, but it is hard to row against the stream ; and thus 
it comes, that the agony and efforts of the awakened sinner 
are considered by him to be more oppressive than any ex- 
perience of his former iniquities. But the truth should not 
be blamed for that, and neither the sinner nor the Moses 
preacher should fall into despair because of that. It is the 
invariable accompaniment of emancipation. The outgoing 
tenant does not care how dreadfully he abuses the house 
which he is so soon to quit. And Satan does his worst on 
the soul just as he is about to be expelled from its posses- 
sion. You remember the history of the child demoniac, 
who had been brought for cure to the nine disciples during 
the absence of the Lord, and the other three on the Mount 
of Transfiguration, and whose father came to Jesus just as 

74 Moses the Law-giver. 

He descended into the valley. He told a pitiful story, and, 
moved with compassion, the Lord said, " Bring thy son hith- 
er." Then we read, "And as he was yet a coming, the devil 
threw him down, and tare him."* It was poor spite in the 
demon. It was atrociously cruel ; yet it was, after all, a 
confession of defeat in the presence of the Conqueror, and 
so a forerunner of cure. Now, it is the same with those 
aggravations of misery which the sinner feels in the moment 
of his awakening, and just when he thinks he has accepted 
God's salvation. The first stage of the convert's experience 
is one of joy, corresponding to the gladness of the Israelites 
in hearing the first message of Moses and Aaron to them ; 
but the next is one of conflict, corresponding to that of the 
Hebrews when their straw was taken from them, and their 
tale of brick undiminished. Let the anxious soul fully un- 
derstand this, and its perplexity will cease ; for the added 
burdens and the cynical sneers that imputed idleness as a 
motive for worship, will all be accepted as the forerunners 
of its complete deliverance. When the city of Man-soul has 
to be given up by Satan, he will seek first to set it on fire ; 
but before the flames can make head, he is in full retreat, 
and the great Emancipator has taken possession. 

Finally, we may learn that there are only two ways of 
knowing Jehovah. The Israelites up to this time had never 
had God revealed to them as Jehovah ; and now they were 
to learn to know him as such, by his bringing them out of 
the house of bondage. Pharaoh exclaimed, in haughty dis- 
dain, to Moses, "Who is Jehovah?" and he had his answer 
in the plagues and death which devastated his land. The 
obedient know Jehovah as the deliverer ; the disobedient 
know him as the destroyer. There is no middle term. 
Jehovah is the very best friend, or the very worst enemy, 

* Luke ix., 42. 

First Appearance before Pharaoh. 75 

a man can have : the very best friend, because his faithful- 
ness, wedded to his omnipotence, makes his promises all yea 
and amen ; the very worst enemy, because his faithfulness, 
wedded to his omnipotence, makes his threatenings certain 
to be fulfilled. Which is he to you? And oh! remember 
that there is a point beyond which it may be impossible for 
you to have him as your friend. Pharaoh hardened his own 
heart at first; and then, in judgment, God confirmed that 
hardening and made it constant. So it may be with you, 
my hearer, if you persist in your disobedience to his com- 
mands. The capacity may be extirpated in you by disuse, 
and God may deliver you " to your own heart's lusts." I 
dare not say that he has done so in the case of any of you, 
but I must warn the disobedient among you that there is a 
possibility that he may do so ; and I must urge upon them 
immediate submission as the only safeguard. Very solemn, 
in this connection, are the lines written by the late Dr. 
Joseph Addison Alexander. Let me leave their awful -rtrarn' 
ing with you, as the application of this discourse : 

** There is a time, we know not when, 
A point we know not where, 
That marks the destiny of men 
To glory or despair. 

" There is a line, by us unseen, 
That crosses every path ; 
The hidden boundary between 
God's patience and his wrath. 

" To pass that limit, is to die — 
To die as if by stealth ; 
It does not quench the beaming eye, 
Or pale the glow of health. 

"The conscience may be still at ease, 
The spirits light and gay; 

76 Moses *ihe Law-giver. 

That which is pleasing, still may please, 
And care be thrust away. 

"But on that forehead God has set, 
Indelibly, a mark. 
Unseen by men : for men as yet 
Are blind, and in the dark. 

" Oh, where is this mysterious bourne 
By which our path is crossed ? 
Beyond which God himself hath sworn 
That he who goes is lost. 

" How far may we go on in sin ? 
How long will God forbear ? 
"Where does hope end, and where begin 
The confines of despair ? 

"An answer from the skies is sent — 
* Ye that from God depart, 
While it is said to-day, repent, 
And harden not your heart.' " 



Exodus vii., 8-x., 29 ; xii., 29, 30. 

BEFORE proceeding to describe and comment upon the 
contest — so brief, and so decisive, yet in every respect 
so peculiar — which was carried on between Moses, as the 
representative of Jehovah, and Pharaoh, as the head of the' 
world-power ofliis time, we have two preliminary remarks to 
make. In the first place, it is to be noted that only such a 
series of supernatural disasters as the ten plagues can ac- 
count for the escape of the Israelites from their Egyptian 
oppressors. On the one hand, it is incontrovertible, that 
the posterity of Abraham were held in galling servitude for 
generations in the land of Ham. On the other, it is equally 
indisputable that they are found at length emancipated and 
settled in the land of Canaan. How is this to be explained .'* 
Evidently their liberation was not the voluntary act of the 
Egyptian king. It was not the manner of the Pharaohs 
thus to loosen their grasp on those who were in their power. 
Even in this nineteenth century of the Christian era, men 
speak of the emancipation of her slaves by England, and 
the setting free of his serfs by the Russian emperor, as ex- 
ceptionally noble things: but in those early days such a 
generosity of justice was absolutely unknown ; and if it were 
to be asserted that Pharaoh of his own free will, and out of 
regard to the natural rights of the Hebrews, had given them 
their liberty, everybody would feel that such an act was far 
more improbable than the occurrence of a physical miracle. 
Again, their deliverance could not have been the result of 

78 Moses the Law-giver. 

their own uprising, for they had not spirit enough to rebel 
against their masters ; and if they had attempted such a 
thing, and had succeeded in it, they were not the people to 
have kept silence regarding it, but would have emblazoned 
it with unmistakable distinctness on their national annals. 
Furthermore, the escape of the Hebrews could not have 
been the consequence of any overthrow of Egypt by foreign 
enemies who sought to make their emancipation a means of 
weakening the Pharaohs; for not only is there no hint of 
anything of that sort in the sacred history, but in neither 
of the reigns to one or other of which the Exodus has been 
assigned by Egyptologists, is there on the monuments any 
indication of such an occurrence.* Unless, therefore, we 
admit that Egypt was severely crippled, and sorely terrified 
by such a series of desolating calamities, coming one after 
another, as is here recorded, it is absolutely impossible to 
account for the Exodus of the Israelites. Whether these 
judgments were or were not miraculous, is a question which 
will fall to be discussed at a future stage of our investiga- 
tions ; but in the mean time I call your attention to the fact 
that, apart from the exhaustion and terror and humiliation 
of Egypt, which only such a rapid succession of plagues 
could have produced, the exodus of the Hebrews becomes 
an insoluble enigma. The cause which is here assigned is 
the only one adequate to account for the result ; and if we 
refuse to accept that, we leave one of the most marked and 
most impressive events of ancient history not only unex- 
plained, but inexplicable. 

But we must bear in mind, in the second place, that the 
contest on which Moses was now about to enter was not 
one merely for national independence. It is true, indeed, 
that it issued in the emancipation of the Hebrews, and in 

* See " Speaker's Commentary," vol. i., p. 275. 

The Ten Plagues. 79 

the establishment of that sentiment of nationality which in 
the Jews has survived many centuries of expatriation and 
oppression. It is true, also, that it was the first step in the 
direction of that theocratic system which was codified in the 
Sinaitic law, and localized at length in Palestine. And 
every one will be forward to admit that the psalm which 
Moses chanted on the Red Sea shore became the national 
anthem of the Israelites, to which they recurred in all times 
of special trial or triumph. All that Tell was to the Swiss, 
or Bruce and Wallace to the Scotch, or Washington to the 
Americans, Moses was to the Hebrews. But he was also 
infinitely more, and their temporal deliverance was but the 
outward accessory and accompaniment of his prophetic mis- 
sion. His commission came to him at the flaming bush, 
where he accepted the personal and eternal I AM, as the 
only sovereign of his heart, and the only king and ruler of 
the universe ; and it was because he was the legate and 
representative of the one living and true God, that he was 
the emancipator of the oppressed. His mission was relig- 
ious rather than political ; or, if political at all, it was so 
only because it was religious. In a day when the nations 
of the earth had degenerated into the most debasing idol- 
atry, he was sent to the very seat and head-quarters of the 
evil, to meet it with the positive declaration of the unity and 
supremacy of Jehovah ; and we shall lose sight of the full 
magnitude and significance of the conflict in which he en- 
gaged, if we think of it mainly as a struggle for social and 
civil emancipation. It was, in his age, a battle quite similar 
to that which Elijah fought, in a later generation, with Ahab; 
and to that which, with more spiritual weapons, the Lord 
Jesus himself inaugurated during his public ministry on 
earth. That I am not wrong in this, will appear if we put 
into juxtaposition the following passages from the history 
of each. Hear what the Lord says at different times to 


8o Moses the Law-giver. 

Moses: "The Egyptians shall know that I am Jehovah, 
when I stretch forth my hand upon Egypt, and bring out 
the children of Israel from among them." "That thou 
mayest tell in the. ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, 
what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which 
I have done among them ; that ye may know how that I am 
the Lord." "Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute 
judgment: I am Jehovah."* Listen now to what Elijah 
says to God on Mount Carmel : "Jehovah, God of Abraham, 
Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art 
God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have 
done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear 
me, that this people may know that thou art Jehovah God, 
and that thou hast turned their heart back again. "f Then 
open your ears to these words of Jesus, in his unparalleled 
prayer, " that they all may be one ; as thou Father art in 
me, and I in thee ; that they also may be one in us, that the 
world may believe that thou hast sent me."! Thus the per- 
sonal existence and unity of God came uppermost in the 
mission of all the three. They were all alike witnesses for 
the supremacy of the only God, amid abounding idolatry; 
and the glories attendant on each of their histories were 
largely the accessories of this great design. 

When we remember all this, we shall easily understand 
how at each of these three eras, and in connection with each 
of these three names, we have a dispensation of miracles ; 
for only by deviating in individual instances from the estab- 
lished course of things which he is always maintaining, can 
Jehovah indicate that the natural and the supernatural are 
alike from him. Moreover, the perception of this identity in 
the mission of these three gives a new significance to their 

* Exod. vii., 5 ; x., 2 ; xii., 12. t I Kings xviii., 36, 37. 

J Johnxvii., 21. 

The Ten Plagues. 8i 

conference in glory on the Mount of Transfiguration ; for 
it was as if the two great generals had come for a brief 
space to their old battle-field, to share with the commander- 
in-chief in the honor of that final victory which he was to win 
over the enemies whose strength they knew so well, and so 
they spake of " his decease which he should accomplish at 
Jerusalem." Let it be understood, then, that Moses enters 
in before Pharaoh as a legate of the Truth. That is his 
main object, and he becomes an apostle of freedom only be- 
cause liberty and truth go ever hand in hand. 

Now, let us mark the course which here the conflict took. 
At the first formal interview Moses made his demand and 
showed his credentials, for the rod which Aaron cast upon 
the ground became a serpent. But as the magicians whom 
Pharaoh called at the sight of this miracle did something 
like it, the king refused to accept it as the signature of God, 
even although the serpent into which Aaron's rod had been 
changed did, contrary to all nature, swallow up the others. 

This sign was followed by the first of the plagues ; for as 
Pharaoh was going to the Nile, perhaps for some idolatrous 
purpose, Moses met him and renewed his demand that Israel 
should be let go, threatening at the same time that he would 
turn the river into blood. But the king would not hear, and 
so Aaron's rod was stretched out and " all the waters that 
were in the river were turned into blood." That which was 
the pride and idol of Egypt became now an object of loath- 
ing, and " all the Egyptians digged round about the river for 
water to drink, for they could not drink of the water of the 
river." But because the magicians did on a small scale 
what seemed to be as really a miracle as that which follow- 
ed on the word of Moses, Pharaoh would not relent. So 
the second plague was sent, and the land was covered with 
frogs. In the bedchambers and on the beds, in the ovens 
and in the kneading-troughs, these croaking abominations 

82 Moses the Law-giver. 

were found. But because the magicians were able, by their 
sleight-of-hand, to produce an imitation of this miracle, the 
king would not admit, at first, that it had come from Jeho- 
vah. At length, however, he besought Moses to have the 
frogs removed, and promised to yield to his demand ; but 
when " he saw that there was respite," he hardened his heart 
as before. This brought upon him the plague of gnats, a 
species of mosquito, which was exceedingly distressing both 
to man and beast ; but though his magicians failed even to 
imitate the production of these insects, Pharaoh was now 
more stubborn than before. Therefore the gnats were fol- 
lowed by the flies, which corrupted all the land, save the dis- 
trict of Goshen, which was now for the first time exempted 
from the influence of the plagues. Under the influence of 
this distressing visitation Pharaoh came so far as to say that 
the people might go and sacrifice to Jehovah, provided they 
did not leave Egypt. But Moses replied that they could not 
safely offer there in sacrifice animals which the Egyptians 
accounted holy ; and then the king appeared to consent that 
they should go into the wilderness, " Only," he adds, as if re- 
luctant to let them go at all, " ye shall not go very far away." 
That, however, was only a momentary relenting ; for when 
the flies had gone his penitence went with them, and then 
there came in succession a pestilence among the cattle, and 
a loathsome cutaneous disease upon the people themselves. 
These were followed by a fearful and long-continued thun- 
der-storm, in the course of which hail fell so heavily that the 
trees were broken, and the barley and flax, which were then 
upon the ground, were completely ruined. Pharaoh was re- 
duced by these to the same humiliation in the presence and 
under the pressure of the calamity, as before ; but when 
"he saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were 
ceased, he sinned yet more." And thus an eighth plague 
—that of the locusts ; too familiar, alas ! to our own West- 

The Ten Plagues. S$ 

ern farmers from recent experience — came upon the land. 
"And they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit 
of the trees which the hail had left ; and there remained not 
any green thing in the trees or in the herbs of the field." 
It seemed almost as if the force of this chastisement, com- 
bined with the entreaties of some of his own servants, had 
at last prevailed over the royal pride. But no ; for when the 
locusts were removed the king was as defiant as ever ; and 
although after a visitation of darkness, such that " the peo- 
ple saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for 
three days," he sent for Moses and Aaron, with the inten- 
tion of yielding so far as to let the people go if they would 
leave their families and flocks in Egypt, he became so infu- 
riated at the demand that not a hoof should be left behindj 
as to say to Moses, "Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, 
see my face no more ; for in that day thou seest my face 
thou shalt die." And it was as he requested — Moses saw 
his face no more. But ere long he had to meet a greater en- 
emy j for now came the last and severest of these terrible 
calamities, entering into every home save those of the He- 
brews, who were instructed how to ward it from their dwell- 
ings, and ordered, also, to hold themselves in readiness to 
march out of Egypt amid the consternation and preoccupa- 
tion which it caused among their oppressors. It was a fear- 
ful judgment, and no language can portray it so vividly as 
the sublime words of the record itself: "At midnight the 
Lord smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the 
first-born of Pharaoh that sat on his throne, unto the first- 
born of the captive that was in the dungeon ; and all the 
first-born of cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, 
and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a 
great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there 
was not one dead."* 

* Exod. xii., 29, 30. 

84 Moses the Law-giver. 

The issues of this great infliction will come up for consid- 
eration in a future discourse ; meanwhile we must look for a 
little at the general characteristics of these plagues, and at 
the effects which they produced on all concerned. 

The candid reader of the narrative must admit that 
the historian intends to produce the impression that these 
plagues were miraculously inflicted. Indeed, having regard 
to the issues raised in the contest, it is impossible to see 
how they could have had any place in it at all unless they 
are to be so regarded. The very matter to be established 
was the personal existence and supremacy of Jehovah. The 
ground on which the demand of Moses was based was not 
that the Hebrews had a right to their civil freedom, though 
that was true, but rather that Jehovah had the prior claim to 
their service, and that Pharaoh too was bound to yield him 
obedience. The great reason constantly assigned by God 
for Pharaoh's submission to him was, ^^I am Jehovah." This 
involved an assertion of his sovereignty over the universe ; 
and he could prove that he was the upholder of the common 
order of nature only by deviating from that order in certain 
previously indicated instances. When we put the matter in 
this light, you will see in a moment that the whole objec- 
tion, which in these days is urged so much, as to the ante- 
cedent impossibility of miracles, is at once disposed of. For 
if there be an intelligent and personal Cause sustaining the 
common order of nature, it is just as possible for him to de- 
viate in exceptional cases, and for a worthy end, from that 
order, as it is for him to carry it continuously on. So, if the 
being of God be admitted at all, the possibility of miracles 
is involved in that admission. But Pharaoh admitted in the 
abstract the being of Deity, only he contended that the god 
whom he worshipped was the true God ; and now by this 
series of miracles Jehovah demonstrated that he alone is the 
ruler of the universe. 

The Ten Plagues. 85 

It has been attempted by some, indeed, to show that these 
judgments were all of such a sort as occur naturally in 
Egypt. The blood-water they would resolve into the red 
color of the Nile at certain stages of its rise ; and the frogs, 
the gnats, the flies, the thunder and the hail, are all visita- 
tions that might have come in the ordinary course; while 
the darkness "that might be felt" is not unlike that pro- 
duced by a sand-storm in the present day. But suppose we 
admit all that — as, save in the instance of the water, I am 
disposed to do — what the better are we ? Does that dispose 
of the miracles ? That only shows what multitudes of other 
cases go to establish that God in his miracles makes the 
natural the basis of the supernatural. But it is very far, 
indeed, from reducing the occurrences to merely natural 
events ; for, observe, they were all completely under the 
control of Moses as the agent of Jehovah. They came at 
his word, and they went at his intercession. In this partic- 
ular they were precisely similar to the drought which Elijah 
foretold before Ahab ; and they who would reduce them to 
the level of mere natural occurrences are not only shutting 
their eyes to the meaning of the whole contest, but are leav- 
ing the fact of the Exodus, and the whole after-religious his- 
tory of Israel, without adequate explanation. Without this 
supernatural foundation the history of Israel becomes, in it- 
self, a moral miracle so astounding as to be harder of belief 
than that the Nile was changed into blood. With this ac- 
cepted, all that comes after is at once easily accounted for. 

But if we contend that the plagues were miraculous, must 
we not also admit that the works of the magicians were 
supernatural ? This is, in fact, conceded by many eminent 
authors, among whom even such an orthodox expositor as 
Kurtz is to be included. But holding a miracle to be an 
effect out of the usual sequence of secondary causes and 
effects, and produced by the direct agency of God, I cannot 

86 Moses the Law-giver. 

admit that the magicians performed works worthy of that 
name; and the record over which to-night we have trav- 
ersed seems to me, when rightly read, to confirm the opinion 
which I have just announced. Let a careful analysis of 
these chapters be made, and the following things may be in- 
ductively gathered from them, namely, that the magicians 
could only go a certain length in their reproductions (allow- 
ing, for the moment, that they were reproductions) of the 
works of Moses ; that on all the occasions on which their 
feats were successful, intimation was given either of what 
Moses »had done, or of what he was about to do, in time to 
allow opportunity on their part for preparation ; and that in 
the case in which they failed this intimation was not given, 
and so they were taken unawares, having had no informa- 
tion furnished them, and consequently having no prepara- 
tion made. Now, does not all this look as if they had, in 
the successful instances, prepared themselves by some nat- 
ural means to produce something like what Moses was to 
do ; but that, on this new occasion, being taken by surprise, 
they only made a feint of attempting to counterfeit it, and 
immediately covered their retreat by saying, " This is the 
finger of God ?" Indeed, if this explanation be not accept- 
ed, it will be hard to see what there was more difficult in 
the bringing of the gnats than in the production of the frogs. 
Nay, if it be allowed that they really and truly changed a 
rod into a serpent, which was a virtual act of creation — since 
it was the bringing of serpent-life out of that which had in 
it no germ of serpent-life — it will be impossible to tell why 
those who could do that divine work could not perform the 
other. Hence, putting all these things together, we are com- 
pelled to conclude that the wonders done by the magicians 
were not miracles at all, but mere feats of legerdemain sim- 
ilar to those which are common to this day among the jug- 
glers of the East. 

The Ten Plagues. 87 

But some will say, " Is it not affirmed that the magicians 
did so? and does not that imply that they did the same 
things as Moses?" To such a question the obvious reply 
is, " No ; for in the very instance in which they failed the 
same words are employed, ' The magicians did so with their 
enchantments, and they could not' " What is, to my mind, 
conclusive on the point, however, is the fact already advert- 
ed to, that some of the works done at the word of Moses 
were virtual creations. Now, if there be one power which 
may be regarded as more peculiarly and incommunicably 
divine than another, it is that of creation ; yet here, if these 
magicians did real miracles, we are required to believe that 
created spirits-^ it makes no matter whether human or 
demoniacal — working in antagonism to God, did exercise 
this divine omnipotence. The thing is absurd. Even if we 
admit, what indeed it concerns us not to deny, that evil 
spirits can produce piiysical effects just as the will of man 
can, yet it is inconceivable either that they should have a 
power that is distinctively divine, or that God should dele- 
gate that power to them for the mere purpose of contending 
with it — as if one, in a game of chess, should match his 
right hand against his left. Clearly, therefore, whatever 
those works of the magicians were, they were not miracles 
in the only sense in which we can employ that term. They 
were no more than feats of conjuring ; for, as Dr. W. L. Alex- 
ander has said, "The jugglers of India will for a few pence 
do tricks with serpents far more wonderful than making 
them rigid, so as to resemble staves ; and any juggler could 
make water in a tank resemble blood ; or, when the country 
was already swarming with frogs, could cover some place 
that had been cleared for the purpose with these reptiles, as 
if he had suddenly produced them."* And, I may add, if 

* Alexander's " Kitto," vol. i., p. 750. 

88 Moses the Law-giver. 

the magicians had removed the plagues, that would have 
been something to the purpose, and would have clearly 
demonstrated their superiority to Moses ; but the fact that 
they never attempted anything of that kind shows that their 
power was only that of conjurers, inferior in many respects 
to Hartz and Heller among ourselves. 

Another feature of this series of supernatural judgments 
is its climactic character. Each calamity rises above that 
which went before it, adding new elements of terror, until at 
length the culmination is reached in that universal bereave- 
ment when " there was no house in which there was not one 
dead." The first blow fell upon the Nile ; the next three 
affected the physical comfort of the people ; the next deci- 
mated the cattle ; the next affected the health of the nation ; 
the next two swept away the food of the community ; the 
darkness carried terror into the hearts of the individuals, 
and the destroying angel sent death into their homes. Now, 
if with this very striking feature of these plagues we com- 
bine the fact that, from the first up till the ninth, the de- 
mand of Jehovah for the unconditional submission of Pha- 
raoh was repeated and refused after each, we have brought 
before us a most important principle of the divine adminis- 
tration. The Lord does not visit the first act of disobedi- 
ence with his severest punishment, but marks his displeasure 
by a comparatively light affliction ; yet if that be disregard- 
ed, a heavier is sure to follow ; and so on and on, until at 
length " he who, being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, is 
suddenly cut off, and that without remedy." It is a serious 
thing, therefore, for a man, or for a community, to disregard 
even the slightest affliction from Jehovah's hand ; for each 
arrow that is taken from his quiver is more destructive than 
that which went before it, and hardened resistance to his 
will brings down upon itself accumulated and accelerated 
wrath. It was bad enough to have the blessing of pure 

The Ten Plagues. 89 

water changed into a curse, but that was as nothing to the 
death of the first-born ; and if the first had been heeded, the 
last had not been inflicted. So, from the consideration of 
this chapter of ancient history, new emphasis is given to the 
solemn words of Jeremiah: "If thou hast run with the foot- 
men, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou con- 
tend with horses ? And if in the land of peace wherein thou 
trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the 
swellings of Jordan ?" 

But now, turning for a moment or two to the results pro- 
duced by these plagues, we can see that they were calculated 
to prepare the mind of Moses himself for the arduous work 
which lay before him in the leading of the tribes through the 
wilderness. That enterprise would task to the utmost his 
courage, his patience, and his faith ; and reluctant as he was 
to undertake it at the first, he might have been often tempt- 
ed to give it up in despair, had he not been fortified at the 
very outset with the assurance which the sight of these 
plagues produced within him, that the Lord whom he served 
was indeed Jehovah, and had the resources of the universe 
at his command. We may rely upon it that this early expe- 
rience had much to do with the fostering within him of those 
qualities of meekness, calmness, fortitude, and forbearance 
which, as we shall see in the sequel, came out so conspicu- 
ously in his march through the desert. Already the Lord 
was fulfilling to him the promise, "Certainly I will be with 
thee ;" and this foretaste of his faithfulness strengthened 
him forever afterward. Thus the Lord not only " brake the 
head of leviathan in pieces " for him, but gave the monster 
" to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness." A 
similar effect would be produced on the Hebrews them- 
selves ; and they needed this quickening of their faith even 
more than Moses did, for their protracted slavery had re- 
sulted in a great debasement both of their intellectual and 

90 Moses the Law-giver. 

religious life. They might, and did sometimes, forget what 
they had seen done for them by God in Egypt ; but always 
when it was recalled to their recollection they would rise to 
faith in the majesty of God ; while the fact that they them- 
selves experienced the effects of the first four plagues would 
tend to produce in them a holy fear of offending him who 
was, in one aspect of his character, " the great and dreadful 
God." It is probable^ also, that a salutary impression was 
wrought on the minds of many of the Egyptians themselves ; 
for not only did the servants of Pharaoh expostulate with 
him on his stubbornness, but multitudes of the common peo- 
ple joined themselves with the Hebrews, and went forth with 
them when they left the land of Goshen. 

But the pre-eminent design of these wonders was to dem- 
onstrate the glory of Jehovah as contrasted with the vanity 
of the Egyptian idols ; for almost every one of the miracles 
tended to bring into contempt some object which the Pha- 
raohs and their people worshipped. This is clear from the 
following summary, which I take from Dr. William L. Alex- 
ander :* "The devouring of the serpents by the serpent into 
which the rod of Moses had been turned, was directed 
against the serpent-worship of Egypt; the turning of the 
water into blood was an assault on their sacred river, the 
Nile ; the plague of the frogs, the gnats, the flies (or scara- 
baei), all tended to bring objects of idolatrous worship among 
the Egyptians into contempt ; the murrain among the cattle 
was directed against their Apis-worship ; the plague of boils, 
brought on by the casting of ashes from the altar into the 
air — a rite which they followed to arrest evil — showed how 
God could reverse their omen, and make what they used for 
good to turn to evil ; the hail and storm plague was directed 
against their worship of the elements, or of deities supposed 

* Alexander's " Kitto," vol. i., p. 751. 

The Ten Plagues. 91 

to preside over them ; the plague of locusts showed that this 
great scourge, which they were accustomed to trace to the 
wrath of their deities, was entirely in the power of Jehovah; 
the plague of darkness poured contempt on their worship of 
the sun-god ; and the death of the first-born wound up this 
terrible series, by showing that in the hand of Jehovah alone 
was the life of all his creatures. A mighty and a memo- 
rable lesson was thus read out before both Egyptians and 
Israelites, which could not but have its effect in weakening 
among the former the attachment of many to their idols, and 
confirming the latter in their reverence for Jehovah as the 
only true God." 

I have left myself but little time for practical application, 
but I may not let you go without seeking to give brief em- 
phasis to three lessons, which seem to me to be enforced by 
this history. 

We may learn, then, in the first place, that repentance 
which springs only from fear is always transient. After 
each of the plagues, from that of the frogs to that of the 
darkness, Pharaoh promised to let Israel go ; and on one 
occasion he came so far as to say to Moses, "I have sinned 
against the Lord your God, and against you." But it is 
noticeable that this state of mind was evoked only by the 
presence and pressure of calamity, and that so soon as the 
plague was removed he became more hardened in his ob- 
stinacy than before. His professions of repentance and 
promises of amendment were thus like those of the child 
under the rod of chastisement : they were designed to miti- 
gate the infliction, and when the punishment was over, they 
went for nothing. Now, this is always the case when fear 
alone predominates over the soul ; and in proof of that 
assertion, I need only remind you of the parallel cases of 
Saul and Ahab, neither of whom had in his heart even one 
spark of love to God. I would not, indeed, disparage fear 

92 Moses the Law-giver. 

as a motive of action. Terror may awaken a man to 
thought, and may rouse him to self-examination ; but unless 
it yield at length to love, no permanent improvement will be 
produced on the life of the individual ; for fear, of itself, will 
drive away God, and it is only when we are assured that 
God loves us, and have thereby produced in us the begin- 
ning of love to God, that we will repair to him. True and 
permanent penitence, therefore, has its root in faith in God's 
love. It is born now at the cross of Christ, where, though 
the evil of sin is made tremendously apparent, the very black- 
ness of the cloud of judgment only brings into stronger re- 
lief the rainbow of mercy which shines out of it. Love grap- 
ples the soul to God, fear drives it away from him ; and so 
the penitence which springs only from the feeling of present 
punishment, or the fear of future punishment, is never last- 
ing. True repentance has, as its constituent elements, not 
only grief and hatred of sin, but also an apprehension of the 
mercy of God in Christ. It hates the sin, and not simply 
the penalty ; and it hates the sin most of all because it has 
discovered God's love. Ah, how much of our penitence is 
like this of Pharaoh ! and how many are saints on a sick- 
bed, but as wicked as ever when they recover ! During an 
epidemic of cholera in the village where I first labored as a 
minister, the churches were filled to overflowing by suppli- 
ants who had never before entered them ; but when it had 
passed, they relapsed into worse carelessness than ever: 
and there may be some here to-night who, when they were 
dangerously ill, or when they were laying a dear little one's 
body in the grave, vowed to God that they would yield them- 
selves to him ; while now they are as far from his service 
as ever. Let me beseech such hardened ones to beware. 
Their case is perilously like that of Pharaoh ; and they have 
need, ere it be too late, to awake to their great danger. Re- 
member God loves you ; and if you would know how much 

The Ten Plagues. 93 

he loves you, go to Calvary, and see there the sacrifice he 
made that he might be able righteously to forgive you. Let 
that reveal to you the magnitude of your guilt, and the m-aj- 
esty of his mercy. Lay hold now of his love ; for, unless 
you do that, your repentance will be as " a morning cloud, 
or as the early dew," that goeth away. 

But we may learn, in the second place, from this subject, 
that the root of unbelief is in the heart rather than the head. 
Scepticism is not so much an intellectual thing as an im- 
moral thing. There are exceptions ; but for the most part a 
man does not believe, because he does not want to believe. 
We sometimes hear men say that if tliey had seen the mira- 
cles of Jesus, they would certainly have accepted him. But 
Pharaoh saw real miracles. He never thought of question- 
ing their genuineness ; and if he had, the words of his own 
magicians, "This is the finger of God," would have reproved 
him. Yet he did not submit himself to Jehovah. Rather, 
he was determined to oppose him at all hazards. He pre- 
ferred his own royal pride to the humility of obedience ; and 
so, the miracles notwithstanding, he resisted Jehovah. In 
the same way the Scribes and Pharisees saw Christ's mira- 
cles, but were not thereby induced to become his followers. 
They would not join his ranks, not because they disputed 
the reality of his miracles, but because they rebelled against 
the searching inwardness of his doctrines. And, in these 
days of ours, many men profess that they cannot believe in 
Jesus because of intellectual difficulties; when the truth is, 
that they will not believe in him, because their lives are con- 
demned by his words. Even if they were to see miracles 
wrought in his name before their eyes, it would make no dif- 
ference to them ; they do not wish to have him as their 
Lord, and that is all. Ah, there are none so blind as those 
who will not see! And for all its intellectual pretensive- 
ness, infidelity springs from a heart that is wrong with God, 

94 Moses the Law-giver. 

far more frequently than from a head which is unusually 

Finally, we may learn from this subject that the issue of 
a conflict with God must always be disastrous to his ad- 
versary. Pharaoh made nothing out of his resistance. He 
was defeated all along the line, and only courted his own 
destruction. True, it did not come all at once. Long years 
of arrogant oppression of God's people preceded this dread- 
ful Nemesis. But it came at last, and it was crushing when 
it did come. Let not the warning be lost upon us. Our 
antagonism cannot harm God, but it will destroy ourselves. 
Do not forget these words: "The nation and kingdom that 
will not serve thee shall perish : yea, those nations shall be 
utterly wasted.'' And that is as true of individuals as of 
nations. Oh, why will you break yourselves against the 
thick bosses of the Almighty's buckler, when by timely obe- 
dience you may have that buckler spread over you as a 
shield ? 



Exodus xii., 1-5 1 j 2 Cor. v., 7, 8. 

FULLY to understand the position of the Hebrews on 
the night of the Passover and the Exodus, it is neces- 
sary for us to go back a little way in the narrative. The 
first three plagues fell on them equally with the Egyptians ; 
but when Moses, as the legate of Jehovah, threatened Pha- 
raoh with the visitation of swarms of flies, he was commis- 
sioned to say in the name of God, " I will sever in that 
day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no 
swarms of flies shall be there ;"* and from that point on, the 
children of Israel were exempted from the terrible inflictions 
by which the Egyptians were desolated. No pestilence fell 
on man or beast among them ; the lightning and thunder 
and hail which spread terror and destruction elsewhere were 
unknown in Goshen ; the locusts which devastated the fields 
in other districts did no damage among them ; and the thick 
darkness which for three days wrapped its impenetrable 
mantle round the rest of the land did not interfere with their 
convenience, for "all the children of Israel had light in their 
dwellings."t Thus, while the minds of their oppressors were 
engrossed with their own sufferings, the Hebrews were at 
peace; and when the Egyptians were prevented from mov- 
ing from place to place, by storm or darkness, the slave 
population of Goshen had ample opportunity to make prep- 
. — — — — ' % 

* Ejpod. viii., 22, t lb. x., 23. 

96 Moses the Law-giver. 

arations for that departure from their house of bondage 
which Moses assured them was so near. During the days 
when Pharaoh and his people were crippled and confined by 
the plagues which came upon them, Moses and Aaron were 
doubtless busy among the tribes ; and it was on the occasion 
of one such interview that the ordinance concerning the Pas- 
sover, contained in the first part of the twelfth chapter of 
Exodus, was given. I cannot but think that if this consid- 
eration had been duly weighed. Bishop Colenso, who has 
pressed his arithmetic so strongly into the service of unbe- 
lief, would not have insisted on some of his objections to the 
credibility of this narrative so confidently as he has done. 
That ingenious sceptic has alleged, that as Moses received 
his command about the Passover on the very day on which 
it was to be observed, he could not possibly have communi- 
cated it in time to every head of every household among the 
people ; and further, that the notice to start at once in the 
middle of the night could not have been circulated among 
the tribes in so brief an interval. But who told this mitred 
rationalist that Moses received his instructions from Jeho- 
vah, and gave them to the people, on the very day on which 
the Passover was to be eaten ? Let us look at the record it- 
self, and see what materials it furnishes for settling the date 
of the ordinance. It runs in this wise : " Speak ye unto all 
the congregation of Israel, saying, in the tenth day of this 
month they shall take to them every man a lamb."* Here, 
then, is an order given for the tenth day of the month ; but 
the Passover was to be eaten on the fourteenth ; so that, at 
the very least, it must have been received and proclaimed 
four days before the Exodus. But as it is likely that some 
little interval must have come in, even between its publica- 
tion and the tenth day to which it refers, we may not err in 

Exod. xii., 3. 

The Passover. 97 

dating its reception by Moses, and its promulgation among 
the people, at the beginning of the month. No doubt we 
are reminded that, a little farther down, the author of the 
ordinance says, " I will pass through the land of Egypt this 
night."* But every candid interpreter must see that the 
phrase " in this night " refers not to the night of the day 
on which the words were spoken, but rather to that of the 
day to which, throughout, reference is made by the speaker. 
And if we bear in mind that the Exodus was immediately 
preceded by those three days of darkness during which the 
Egyptians could not move from their place, while to the He- 
brews it was light, we shall see in that fact an admirably 
guarded opportunity for the organizing of the slave popula- 
tion for their departure. Of course Colenso will sneeringly 
answer that he does not believe in any such nonsense as 
that preternatural darkness. But happily we are responsible 
only for the consistency of the narrative as it is, and not as 
it would be if every element of the miraculous were elim- 
inated from it ; and when we defend our position by a ref- 
erence to this divine work and the facilities which it afford- 
ed to the Israelites, we are not to be put out of court by 
an objection, on a priori grounds, to the very possibility of 
miracles. If that objection holds, then the whole Bible 
goes, and all the bishop's arithmetical calculations to prove 
its falsity are just so many works of supererogation; but 
if that objection be repelled, and this series of judgments 
which fell on Egypt, but from which the Hebrews were ex- 
empt, be admitted as historical, then we have in them oppor- 
tunities ample enough, if improved, for the preparation even 
of so many lambs for the hasty yet sacramental meal of an 
escaping and delivered nation. 

Let it be understood, then, that on some day between the 

* Exod. xii., 12. 

98 Moses the Law-giver. 

first and the tenth of the month Abib, which corresponds 
to the latter part of our March and the former part of our 
April, Moses communicated to the people through their rep- 
resentatives, called here " the elders of Israel," the injunc- 
tions which are here recounted. They were to be carefully 
obeyed by every household in connection with their ex- 
emption from the plague which inflicted death on the first- 
born, and with their departure from their house of bondage. 
These injunctions were substantially as follows: On the 
tenth day every head of a house was to choose a lamb or a 
kid, a male of the first year, without any disease or physical 
defect. If his family were not sufficient to consume the whole 
lamb, he might unite with his neighbor in its participation ; 
and if any part of it should after all be left, that was to be 
burned with fire. The lamb was to be kept from the tenth 
to the fourteenth day of the month, and then it was to be 
killed in the latter part of the afternoon.* The blood was 
to be preserved in a basin, and was, with a bunch of hyssop, 
to be sprinkled on " the two side-posts and the upper door- 
post " of the tents or houses in which they were. Then the 
carcass was to be cooked entire by being roasted, and not 
boiled, and was to be served with bitter herbs. They were 
to eat it with unleavened bread, having, at the same time, 
their loins girt and their staves in their hands, so as to be 
ready at a moment's notice to set out on their journey. 
Special significance was attached to the sprinkling of the 
blood, as being not simply the sign of their deliverance from 
the last plague, but also, in some sense, the means of ensur- 
ing their safety ; for thus it was ordained, " None of you 
shall go out at the door of his house until the morning, for 
the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and 

* Literally, between the two evenings ; that is, some time between the 
beginning of afternoon and sunset. 

The Passover. gg 

when he seeth the blood upon the lintel and on the two 
side-posts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not 
suffer the destroyer to come unto your houses to smite you." 
Moreover, it was intimated, thus early, that a similar feast 
should be observed on the same day of the same month an- 
nually among them, whereby the remembrance of the deliv- 
erance from Egypt, which God had wrought out on their be- 
half, should be perpetuated among their descendants from 
generation to generation. 

These commands were reverently received and implicitly 
obeyed by the Hebrews. No one among them said, "We 
have escaped five of the plagues without the observance of 
any such rites, and why should we be required to do any- 
thing now?" Neither was the objection started in any 
household, that there was no apparent efficacy in the blood 
of a lamb sprinkled on their door-posts, to keep away death 
from the family. They had seen in these latter months tes- 
timonies enough to the faithfulness of God in the fulfilment 
of his word as spoken by Moses, and now the simple pro- 
mulgation of his ordinance was sufficient. "They bowed 
the head and worshipped," and they went and did as they 
were commanded. That which was in all the years of their 
national history a commemoration of their deliverance, was 
at first a prophecy of their emancipation and an ordinance 
issued in anticipation of their Exodus. Therefore their obe- 
dience was an expression of their confidence in God ; and 
so of them, also, as of Moses, it was true that " through faith 
they kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he 
that destroyed the first-born should touch them."* 

Let us endeavor to reproduce somewhat the scenes of 
that much-to-be-remembered night. The full moon shone 
clearly out over the Egyptian landscape — for in arranging 

* Heb. xi., 28. 

loo Moses the Law-giver. 

for a midnight journey to be hastily made by his chosen peo- 
ple, even such a minute matter was thought of, and the date 
on which the moon was at the full was deliberately selected. 
All was quiet in the streets of the city wherein for the time 
the Pharaoh had his residence ; but out in the quarter occu- 
pied by the Hebrew brickmakers there was unwonted life. 
No one, indeed, could be seen running about among the 
huts; but lights gleamed out through every aperture, and 
in every dwelling there was a feast. As you neared their 
habitations you might have seen by the moonlight the big 
blood-stains on the door-posts ; and if you could have passed 
within each entrance, you would have found that everything 
available had been packed into the kneading-trough, from 
which the unleavened bread had been taken to be hastily 
baked upon the fire ; while the members of the family were 
standing all ready for a journey, and eating their meal with 
as much of eager hurry as is manifested by modern travel- 
lers in the restaurant of a railway station. But if you had 
asked them whither they were going, not one of them could 
have given you a reply ; and if you had requested them to 
go forth with you and look upon the beauteous night, they 
would have pointed you to the mystic blood upon the lintel, 
and would have said, " We pass not out from beneath that 
until Jehovah summons us." Nor had they long to wait for 
his command ; for hark ! a shriek of agony is heard, distinct 
and loud as from some broken-hearted mourner, and anoth- 
er and another rises, long and clear, until the night is filled 
with lamentation. And while they gather at their doors, 
within them — yet near enough to see what is passing with- 
out — the royal messengers appear, with rage in their hearts 
and fury in their eyes, crying for Moses, and saying to him 
in the king's name, *' Rise up, and get you forth from among 
my people." Nay, multitudes of the Egyptians themselves, 
roused by the grief of that awful night, beseech the Hebrews 

The Passover. loi 

to depart immediately, saying, "We be all dead men." But 
they will not move until they have heard the word sent down 
from Moses through their elders ; and then, laden with jew- 
els of silver and jewels of gold, and raiment, which the ter- 
rified Egyptians gave them for the asking, they march out 
from Rameses — a nation born in a day. What a transfor- 
mation that night has made upon them ! Yesterday a horde 
of slaves, to-day a host of exultant freemen ; yesterday a 
multitude of units, to-day a united people. By this one 
journey they have put Egypt and bondage behind them ; 
they have begun that national life which neither Midianite 
nor Philistine, neither Assyrian nor Persian, neither Grecian 
nor Roman could destroy, and which, after eighteen centu- 
ries of dispersion through Gentile lands, beats yet with in- 
extinguishable ardor in the breast of every Jew ; for still, as 
on that paschal night, these scattei*ed ones do eat their food 
with sandalled feet and tightened girdle, ready at any favor- 
able opportunity to return to Palestine and claim their own 
again. Verily, it was a night much to be remembered. 

But now, leaving the history for the time, let us look for 
a little at the Passover feast, with which this deliverance was 
connected. We are impressed, in the first place, with its 
sacrificial character. The lamb chosen by each household 
head was to be slain as " the sacrifice of the Lord's Passo- 
ver;"* and in a remarkable passage occurring later in the 
history, the Lord speaks of it as " my sacrifice."! More- 
over, in the permanent form which it assumed in the after- 
legislation of Moses, it was, like other sacrifices, to be slain 
at the holy place, and its blood was to be sprinkled on the 
altar. Therefore, although at its first observance the head 
of the family was the priest, and the home was the sanctuary, 
it was as really a sacrifice as when, in later days, it was slain 

* Exod. xii., 27. t lb. xxxiv., 25 ; see also Exod. xxiii., 18. 

I02 Moses the Law-giver. 

at the Temple and the blood was sprinkled upon the altar. 
The Israelites were sinners as well as the Egyptians, but for 
their first-born God was pleased to accept the substitution 
of a lamb ; and the putting of its blood upon the door-posts 
was designed to have an influence both toward him and to- 
ward them. So far as they were concerned, it was a sign to 
them of his sparing mercy, and an assurance that they would 
be delivered ; so far as he himself was concerned, it was the 
emblem of a greater satisfaction which was to be rendered 
in the offering of a greater Lamb. And so he said, " When I 
see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not 
be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt."* 
Further, this feast was designed as a memorial, for it was 
to be kept throughout their generations ; and so, even in 
connection with the directions for its first observance, there 
are repeated injunctions concerning its annual celebration ; 
others were added at a later date, yet its perpetual annual 
observance was no after-thought, but was evidently intended 
from the first. This was the birth-night of their national 
independence, and at the same time the date of their formal 
entrance as a people into the service of Jehovah. Now, if 
you will bear in mind that they were ere long to enter into 
covenant with their God, not for themselves only, but for their 
descendants also, you will see how this memorial came to 
be of importance. For the true value of every memorial lies 
in the educational service which it renders to the people 
among whom it is set up. The monuments of a nation are 
an epitome of its history ; and their real worth is not in the 
artistic taste which they foster, or in the architectural adorn- 
ments wherewith they beautify our cities, but in the scenes 
which they commemorate, and in the qualities of character 
for which those in whose honor they were reared were most 

* Exod. xii., 13. 

The Passover. 103 

distinguished. Tiiey are worth preserving, therefore, not 
simply as memorials of the past, but as stimulating each 
successive generation to emulate the virtues of those whose 
names and fame they are designed to perpetuate. Now, 
just such an educational purpose the Passover was designed 
to serve through all the years of Israel's history. There 
were changes, indeed, in some matters of detail, but in its 
great outstanding features the perpetual Passover was iden- 
tical with that of Egypt ; and ever as the children, on their 
way to Jerusalem, inquired of their elders, " What mean ye 
by this service ?" the answer would bring out this old story 
of a wonderful deliverance wrought out for their fathers in 
Egypt by the mighty hand and outstretched arm of Jehovah. 
Thus it is we account for the fact that in all the succeeding 
crises of their history we find the Jews turning with one ac- 
cord to the scenes of this memorable night. The remem- 
brance of these things lay so imbedded in the nation's heart, 
that whenever any great deliverance was spoken of they in- 
variably reverted to them ; and the song which Moses led 
and Miriam answered struck the key-note of all their hymns 
of thanksgiving. When their faith was faint, they called to 
mind these "days of old," and remembered these "years of 
the right hand of the Most High ;"* and when they wished 
to call in the most earnest and believing fashion on their 
God, they cried, "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm 
of the Lord ; awake, as in the ancient days, in the genera- 
tions of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and 
wounded the dragon ? Art thou not it which hath dried the 
sea, the waters of the great deep ; that hath made the depths 
of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over ?"t Thus, 
through the constant observance of this ordinance, their lit- 
erature, their religion, their character as a people were large- 

* Psa. Ixxvii., 10. t Isa. li., 9, 10. 


I04 Moses the Law-giver. 

ly moulded; and in an age when books were almost un- 
known, the constant representation of this first great scene 
in their history served all the purposes which to-day are 
answered by our children's histories and our public schools. 
Nay, the impression made was all the deeper, because some 
of the most significant things were re-enacted before the 
eyes of the young people themselves. 

But we must not neglect to add that this feast had a typi- 
cal significance. In one sense, indeed, every fact in history 
has a bearing on the future ; so that the words of Bacon, 
quoted in this very connection by Fairbairn, are undoubt- 
edly true: "All history is prophecy." But the record with 
which we are now concerned was designed by God to be a 
prophetic parable, as well as a faithful conservator of actual 
fact. It is all true, for everything actually occurred as it 
is here described ; but it is also symbolical, and points to a 
higher truth in the spiritual sphere. So the typical signifi- 
cance of the history as a whole gives a typical character also 
to the Passover. I doubt not John had this ordinance in 
mind when, pointing to Jesus, he said, " Behold the Lamb 
of God that taketh away the sin of the world ;" and there is 
no question whatever as to the meaning of Paul when he af- 
firms that " Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us." Now, 
in this view of the case, it is interesting to trace the points 
of resemblance between the type and the antitype ; and 
though in all such things one is in danger of running the par- 
allel into the ground by insisting on minute matters which 
have neither significance nor importance, yet we cannot be 
far wrong when we enumerate such coincidences as the fol- 
lowing : The lamb was to be " without blemish ;" so Christ 
was " holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners :" 
the lamb was to be slain, and its blood sprinkled on the 
door-posts ; so Christ died for us, and, if we would be saved 
through him, we must make personal appropriation of his 

The Passover. 105 

atonement : the Hebrews were to keep under the blood all 
that night ; so we must not only come to Christ, but abide 
in him — that is, we must keep ourselves in the faith of his 
doctrine, in the imitation of his example, in the obedience 
of his precepts, and in the manifestation of his spirit : the 
lamb of sacrifice was also one of food, and their sacrifice be- 
came their sacrament ; so Christ, the lamb of sacrifice, is 
also the bread of life ; we eat his flesh and drink his blood, 
and he is to our believing souls what food is to the body : 
and, finally, this lamb was to be eaten by the people with 
their loins girt and their staves in their hands, ready at a 
moment's notice to arise and go ; so the life of the believer 
here is one of transit, he is not to be in this world forever, 
and he must be always ready to leave it for a better. It 
would be easy to expand each of these analogies indefinite- 
ly, but I prefer to leave them all thus sharply defined before 
your minds, while I seek to extract from this ordinance, as 
it was afterward enlarged into a seven -day festival, some 
great principles which shall be profitable to us not only for 
doctrine but for life. 

For this purpose I shall avail myself of the words of Paul, 
to which I have already incidentally alluded. They are to 
be found in i Corinthians v., 7, 8, and are as follows ; " For 
even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us : therefore let 
us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven 
of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of 
sincerity and truth." The apostle is giving advice in a case 
of discipline, and counsels that the wicked person should be 
cast out of the church, because " a little leaven " would soon 
" leaven the whole lump." But the reference to that famil- 
iar proverb naturally suggests to him, as a Jew, the fact that 
during the feast of the Passover all leaven was excluded 
from every dwelling among the people; and he proceeds 
to draw a parallel between the great national festival and 

io6 Moses the Law-giver. 

the Christian life. He affirms that Christ has been sacri- 
ficed for us as our paschal lamb ; and that as among the 
Jews a feast of seven days was connected with the slay- 
ing of that victim, and was characterized by the putting 
away of all leaven, so our whole Christian life should be 
a feast to the Lord, during which we should serve him with 
sincerity and truth. Now, accepting this as the true exposi- 
tion of the spiritual significance of the Passover, I find in it 
three things of prime importance to ourselves. 

In the first place, we see that the Christian life begins 
in the acceptance by the soul of deliverance through the 
sacrifice of Christ. " History," says Bunsen, " was born on 
the night when the children of Israel went forth out of 
Egypt ;" and whether we agree with the universality of his 
statement or not, we must at least admit that the national 
life of the Israelites, as a theocracy, began at the Exodus. 
Now, the command to observe the Passover and the sprink- 
ling of blood was the test by which each family was tried, 
and which determined for each whether its members were 
content to go forth under the leadership of Moses, or to re- 
main in bondage. The willingness or unwillingness to ac- 
cept deliverance from the doom of the first-born in God's 
way settled whether the man and his family should become 
free men under God, or should continue slaves under Pha- 
raoh. From the moment of their observing the Passover, 
they were no longer the bondsmen of Egypt, but the children 
of God, soon to be baptized by him " in the cloud and in the 
sea." So the keeping of this Passover marked a new de- 
parture for them. It was the commencement of a new era 
to them, and therefore the month in which it happened was 
to them the beginning of months. But Christ was slain for 
us in the same sense that the Passover was slain for the He- 
brews. His death was vicarious, his blood was atoning ; 
and from the moment of a sinner's acceptance of salvation 

The Passover. 107 

through faith in him as the Lamb of God, he is a new creat- 
ure. Old things are passed away, and all things are become 
new. He is no more the slave of sin, but has become the 
child of God. His relation to God is changed. He has 
been set right with the divine justice, for there is no con- 
demnation to him. His iniquities are forgiven; he is ac- 
cepted as righteous. Nay, more : he is renewed in the spirit 
of his mind, so that whereas he formerly loved sin, he now 
hates it ; and whereas he formerly hated God, he now loves 
him ; and he desires evermore to show forth the praises of 
him who hath called him from darkness into his marvellous 
light. The song of Moses was the anthem of the emanci- 
pated Hebrews ; the song of the Lamb is the grander cho- 
rus of the throng of ransomed sinners. In the death of 
Christ the believer dies with him to sin ; and the key-note 
of his after-life has been struck for him by Paul, when he 
says, " God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of 
the Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified unto 
me, and I unto the world." Thus the Christian dates his 
new birth from the moment of his acceptance of deliverance 
through the sacrifice of his Lord. 

But, in the second place, the exposition given by Paul of 
the Passover in its relation to Christ implies that the Chris- 
tian life should be a feast. On the night of the departure 
from Egypt there was no convenience for keeping the feast 
of unleavened bread, but ever afterward, when the Passover 
was observed, it was associated with a seven days' festival. 
Now, what these seven days were to the Israelites, that his 
whole life is to be to the Christian ; that is to say, his entire 
life is to be consecrated to the service of God, and charac- 
terized by gladness. The feasts of the Jews were all times of 
joy, and each had its own peculiar charm. Passover had the 
joy of deliverance ; Pentecost had the gladsomeness of har- 
vest-home ; and Tabernacles had the delight of settled rest 

io8 Moses the Law-giver. 

after the wanderings in the wilderness. So when Paul says, 
"Let us keep feast," he means to give to the Corinthians, 
under a figure, the same exhortation as he gave to the Phi- 
lippians when he wrote to them plainly, "Rejoice in the Lord 
always, and again I say. Rejoice." There is nothing of gloom 
about the Gospel, and there ought to be nothing of the mo- 
rose or the ascetic about the Christian life. Who has a bet- 
ter right to be joyful than the man who knows that his sins 
are forgiven, that his heart is renewed, and that he himself 
is adopted into the family of God? The joy of the world is 
a baseless thing. It has nothing lasting about it. But that 
of the Christian is both elevating and enduring. It rests 
upon a foundation stable as the throne of God himself; and 
just as the unbeliever, if he knew the real character of his 
life and destiny, would be forever sad, so the Christian, if 
he were rightly to apprehend the blessings that belong to 
him, would be forever glad. Be joyful, then, my brethren. 
Count up the riches that are yours in Christ, and then no 
earthly affliction will distress you. There is no grinning 
mummy seated at the table to which he invites you; and 
your joy in him may be perennial. 

But, finally, observe that the Christian life, according to 
Paul's view of it, as typified by the paschal feast, should be 
characterized by sincerity and truth. Perhaps at first the 
unleavened bread was used because of the haste which the 
people had to make; but afterward its absence from the 
dwelling during the paschal feast became specially signifi- 
cant, and the Jews were accustomed to make the most care- 
ful examination of their houses, that every particle of leaven 
in them might be discovered and cast out; and so the 
Christian should expel everything of insincerity and false- 
hood from his heart. We cannot serve Christ and Belial. 
We cannot go in two opposite directions at one and the 
same time. We cannot live as Christians, and yet live in 

The Passover. 


sin. Hypocrisy is the mark, not of a Christian, but of a de- 
ceiver ; and every one who has named the name of Christ 
should depart from all iniquity. For a time, indeed, false- 
hood may impose upon men. The Church may be deceived, 
the neighborhood may be misled, but the Lord cannot be 
for one moment deluded. He knew the hollowness of the 
heart of Judas from the beginning, and through the most 
cunning mask which one may wear he sees the real face. 
It is useless, therefore, to try to hide anything from him. 
But, worse than that, the effort is dreadfully injurious to the 
individual himself; for truth is the girdle of character, and 
when that is unloosed the whole falls to pieces. It matters 
not how many talents and other excellences a man may 
have, if he have not truth ; if he be acting a part, there is 
no soundness in him, and all the other qualities cri^mble at 
length into ruin. He who is trying to live two lives is 
hardening his conscience, and thereby fitting himself for the 
commission, without a quiver, of the most flagrant offences. 
There are no such sinners as those who have been flaming 
professors of attachment to Jesus Christ, for the insincerity 
of every day has petrified their hearts into utter insensibility. 
For the same reason, there are none whom the minister of 
Christ finds it so hard to reach as the hypocrite. He is 
familiar with all truth. You cannot say anything to him 
that he has not often heard before. His ears have become 
accustomed to the warnings of the Gospel, and his heart 
has become accustomed to resist them ; and, from sorrowful 
experience, I deliberately say that there is more hope of the 
conversion of an open and abandoned prodigal than there 
is of that of one who has made and persisted in an insincete 
profession of attachment to Christ. 

But this personal danger is not the only evil of hypocrisy; 
it paralyzes the church with which the insincere one is con- 
nected. Just as a non-conductor will stop at itself the elec- 

no Moses the Law-giver. 

trie current, so a hypocrite breaks up the fellowship of those 
Christians among whom he is at the time. He mars their 
happiness, and he hinders their usefulness. Because Achan 
has hidden away in his tent the wedge of gold and the Baby- 
lonish garment, Israel must be defeated by the men of Ai ; 
and who can tell how many of the discords and divisions in 
the Church, or how many of its defeats in its conflict with 
evil, ought to be traced to the hypocrites within its pale ? 

Nor is this all; hypocrisy is a terrible dishonor to the 
Lord. There was uo make-believe about his sacrifice. 
The agony of the garden and the anguish of the cross were 
real. He did not feign to love us. He loved us to the 
very death. And is it to such a love as that that we dare 
to offer the hollow mockery of hypocrisy as a return? 
Nay, more — the men of the world themselves expect some- 
thing better from the follower of Jesus than such insincer- 
ity. One such said to Peter, as he listened to his denial, 
" Did not I see thee in the garden with him ?" Ah ! how 
deep that arrow went into Simon's heart. He had been in 
the garden ; he had seen the Saviour's agony there ; he had 
there made an ardent profession of attachment to him, and 
even drawn a sword in his defence; he had there beheld 
the treachery of Judas, and the indignities done to Jesus by 
the Roman soldiery — and yet now he was repudiating all 
connection with him ! It was not what the men of the 
world would have done. The very question carried in it a 
sneer of contempt. And still the insincere one is the object 
of the world's scorn. He brings the Church into derision ; 
he puts a stumbling-stone in the pathway of the inquirer ; 
he gives occasion of perplexity to the young Christian ; he 
hangs like a clog on the chariot-wheels of the Gospel ; and, 
above all, he wounds the heart of the Lord Jesus, by repeat- 
ing in an aggravated form the weakness of Peter and the 
treachery of Judas. 


Exodus xii., 37-39; xiii., 17-22; xiv.; xv. 

WHEN Pharaoh commanded the Hebrews to go forth 
from among his people, Moses, knowing that, as on 
the former occasions, there would come a reaction, made im- 
mediate arrangements for the departure of the tribes. They 
set out from Rameses, a host numbering six hundred thou- 
sand men, besides women and children. This, according to 
the usual average of population, would give a total of about 
two millions four hundred thousand, to which must be added 
the mixed multitude that accompanied them from Egypt, and 
their flocks and herds. Their first halting-place was Suc- 
coth, which could not well have been more than fifteen miles 
from Rameses. Here they took time to bake unleavened 
cakes of the dough which they had brought away with them, 
and probably, also, halted long enough to make their final 
plans for their march. The name of the place signifies 
booths, and may have in it some reference to the temporary 
huts which they erected for their shelter. It is, besides, the 
term which in after-days was used to designate the feast of 
Tabernacles, so that, as Stanley* remarks, this, their first rest- 
ing-place, must have sunk deeply into their remembrance, 
and must have been recognized by them as the first step 
which involved the whole. Here was settled for them the 
route which they were to follow. They might have taken 

Jewish Church," vol. i., p. 108. 

112 Moses the Law-giver. 

the direct road into Canaan, by which they could have 
reached the promised land through Gaza in a few days. 
But that would have brought them into immediate con- 
flict with the Philistines, and their faith was not yet strong 
enough to sustain them in the presence of such fierce ene- 
mies. Besides, it was in the purpose of God that the Egyp- 
tians were to be humbled by the destruction of their army, 
and that the people were to be trained into courage by the 
revelation to be given from Mount Sinai ; so they were not 
permitted to take the straight road to Palestine. But that 
they were not entirely destitute of faith is manifested by the 
fact that they took with them the bones of Joseph ; for that 
was no relic-worship, but, indeed, the declaration of their be- 
lief that their destination was to be the land which God had 
promised to give to Abraham their father. Joseph had been 
dead now a hundred and forty years ; but he died prophe- 
sying that God would surely visit his people, and bring them 
out of Egypt into the land which he sware to Abraham, to 
Isaac, and to Jacob; and in that expectation he "gave com- 
mandment concerning his bones." During successive gen- 
erations his words must often have been the theme of con- 
verse in the Hebrew households ; and now, by taking with 
thenv his embalmed remains, they served themselves heirs 
to his faith, and went forth in the sure confidence that they 
would find a grave for them in the land of promise. Thus 
they left Egypt, not only to escape from slavery, but also 
to set out for Canaan. Nor let us fail to observe that they 
moved forward with deliberation. "They went up," as our 
version has it, "harnessed, out of Egypt." But the word ren- 
dered " harnessed " may mean either fully armed, or in five 
companies ; and, adopting the latter interpretation as the 
correct one, we see already the marshalling genius of Moses 
at work; for thus they could move both with precision and 
haste. Nothing so retards progress as confusion ; but where 

The Crossing of the Red Sea. 113- 

large numbers are concerned, the more order there is, the 
better speed they make. 

From Succoth they went forward another stage to Etham, 
which is described as " in the edge of the wilderness ;" and 
to this place, as in every after-movement in their journeyings, 
they were miraculously led by a pillar which had in the day- 
time the appearance of a cloud, and during the night that 
of fire. We are told that in the campaigns of Alexander the 
Great he caused to be set up beside his tent a lofty pole, 
which had at the top a cresset filled with combustible mate- 
rials, which were always burning. Thus every one could dis- 
tinguish his head-quarters in the day by a cloud of smoke, 
and in the night by the flaming fire. But we must not con- 
found this pillar with any such contrivance. This cloud 
was miraculous. The fire here, as in the burning bush, was 
the symbol of the presence of Jehovah. So that in very 


" Their fathers' God before them moved, 
An awful guide, in cloud and flame." 

At this place the people were commanded not to go round 
the head of the gulf, so as to reach at once its eastern 
shore, but to turn and keep along its western border. Thus 
runs the record: "The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 
Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and en- 
camp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over 
against Baal-Zephon ; before it shall ye encamp by the sea." 
Much controversy has been carried on as to the situation 
of these places; and, indeed, the determination of the route 
by which the Israelites left Egypt, and the settlement of the 
locality at which they crossed the western arm of the Red 
Sea, are among the most difficult questions in Scriptural ge- 
ography. It is impossible, without the aid of a map, to make 
the subject either intelligible or interesting; and, even if we 
were to go elaborately into it, we should have to admit at the 

114 Moses the Law-giver. 

end that absolute certainty is unattainable. The opinions 
of those who may be supposed to be well qualified judges in 
the case may be reduced to two. The first is that of those 
who, placing Rameses on the opposite side of the Nile from 
Memphis, make the first journey to Succoth, take a northerly 
direction, and identify Succoth with the modern Birket-el- 
Hadji, or Pool of the Pilgrims, which is about ten miles to 
the north-east of Cairo, and is at this day the rendezvous of 
the pilgrims from all parts of Egypt on their way to Mecca. 
From Succoth they make the route go eastward to Ethani, 
which they locate near the end of the gulf, not far from 
Suez, but slightly to the north-west. At Etham they sup- 
pose that the turn was made at a right-angle southward, 
and that they went forward until they came to Ras Atakah, 
a lofty ridge, which they identify with Pihahiroth, while they 
regard Baal-Zephon as Suez. "There," says an eloquent 
exponent of this opinion, " within the bend of Jebel Ata- 
kah, between that ridge and the sea, they would be com- 
pletely shut in when overtaken by Pharaoh, having the curv- 
ing range of the mountain on their right and before them, 
the sea on their left, and Pharaoh and his host behind 
them."* This would make them cross the ocean at a point 
twelve miles below Suez, and some probability is given to 
this view of the case by the fact that the name Ras Atakah 
signifies the Cape of Deliverance. The other opinion is 
that of those who regard Rameses as the capital of Goshen, 
and place it at the western extremity of the Wady-et-Tumey- 
lat ; Succoth they place at a point a little to the north-west 
of the Crocodile Lake, and Etham they locate still farther 
to the north-east, at the very edge of the wilderness. Then 
they make the turning an actual retracing of their steps for 

* Rowlands, in Fairbairn's " Imperial Bible Dictionary," article Piha- 

The Crossing of the Red Sea. 115 

some distance to a point north of the Bitter Lakes, whence 
the route leads southward through Serapeum, and along the 
edge of the Bitter Lakes down to Suez, where they suppose 
the crossing was made. Those who adopt this view affirm 
that there is evidence that the sea once extended much far- 
ther north than it does now, and included in it the whole 
basin of the Bitter Lakes ; while they allege that in the im- 
mediate neighborhood of Suez there is at present a camel 
ford which at low-water can be safely crossed, and which is 
broad enough to furnish ample room for the passing, within 
the required limit of time, of a multitude that numbered two 
millions and a half, while it is also wide enough to hold at 
once the whole army of Pharaoh. Of these two theories I 
prefer the latter. Great names are to be found on both 
sides ; but since the taking of the surveys in connection 
with the making of the Suez Canal, the preponderance of 
authorities seems to be in favor of that which I have 

The pursuit by Pharaoh was no mere after-thought, sug- 
gested by the knowledge that the Hebrews had taken a 
southern direction in their march. As I read the narrative, 
he determined to follow them almost from the first. But 
when he learned that they had not gone directly into the 
wilderness, he thought he saw an opportunity of speedily 
cutting off their retreat, and so he quickened his march, 
resolved to fall upon them from behind, while they had 
mountains on their right and in front of them, and the sea 
on their left. His force was composed of chariots which 
could advance with great rapidity, and each of which con- 
tained a charioteer and a warrior. We may not wonder, 
therefore, that when the Israelites became aware that the 
army of Pharaoh was in hot pursuit of them, "they were sore 
afraid." They recalled the cities of the dead which they 
had often seen in the land of their bondage, and looked 

ii6 Moses the Law-giver. 

with horror at the prospect of their carcasses being left to 
whiten on the sand. So they said to Moses, "Because 
there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to 
die in the wilderness ? Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with 
us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word 
that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we 
may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to 
serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilder- 
ness." But Moses had not lost his faith, for he calmly bade 
the people stand still and see how God would save them, 
and assured them that their enemies would be utterly de- 
stroyed. Yet that he knew not precisely how their salvation 
was to be effected, is evident from the fact that he must have 
gone to God earnestly in prayer; for the answer came in this 
fashion : " Wherefore criest thou unto me ? speak unto the 
children of Israel, that they go forward : But lift thou up 
thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide 
it : and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through 
the midst of the sea. And I, behold, I will harden the hearts 
of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them : and I will get 
me honor upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his 
chariots, and upon his horsemen." Now the night came 
down to spread its shield over the fugitives. The two hosts 
were encamped near each other, and between them the pil- 
lar of the cloud miraculously came. To the Hebrews it was 
bright, thus enabling them to see how to arrange their move- 
ments, for its brilliancy would be as dazzling as that of the 
electric light. But to the Egyptians it was dark, like a dense 
mist or fog, thus preventing them from seeing anything, and 
making it difficult for them to advance. Besides, toward 
the morning the fiery, flashing eye of the Eternal looked out 
upon the host of Pharaoh and troubled it ; so that in the 
confusion caused by restive horses and colliding chariots, 
many wheels were broken, and they drave heavily. It would 

The Crossing of the Red Sea. 117 

seem, also, from the psalm which celebrates this memorable 
deliverance, that a terrible thunder-storm was raging ; in the 
midst of which, through the parted ocean, the people passed 
over into safety. No description could more graphically re- 
produce the scene to the eye of the imagination than that 
which the Hebrew poet has given, and I quote it here in the 
rugged sublimity of that Scottish version which early asso- 
ciation makes so dear to me : 

" The waters, Lord, perceived thee, 
The waters saw thee well ; 
And they for fear aside did flee, 
The depths on trembling fell. 

" The clouds in waters forth were poured, 
Sound loudly did the sky ; 
And swiftly through the world abroad 
Thine arrows fierce did fly. 

" Thy thunder's voice alongst the heaven 
A mighty noise did make ; 
By lightnings lightened was the world, 
Th' earth tremble did and shake. 

" Thy way is in the sea, and in 
The waters great thy path : 
Yet are thy footsteps hid, O Lord, 
None knowledge thereof hath. 

" Thy people thou didst safely lead. 
Like to a flock of sheep ; 
By Moses' hand and Aaron's thou 
Didst them conduct and keep." 

Thus their way was miraculously made for them. Some, 
indeed, would resolve the whole phenomena into an ebb-tide 
made lower than usual, and held longer than usual by a 
strong east wind ; but as the effect came at once on the out- 

ii8 Moses the Law-giver. 

stretching of Moses's rod, it was clearly supernatural. It is 
quite immaterial, so far as the miracle is concerned, whether 
the divine power was put forth directly upon the sea, or in- 
directly through the force of the wind upon it ; for the com- 
ing of the wind at once, in connection with the symbolical 
act of Moses, is as much a miracle as the immediate divis- 
ion of the waters, without the intervention of any secondary 
cause, would have been. Still, as the record declares that 
the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind 
all that night, we unquestioningly receive that statement as 
a full history of the case. Only, let it be understood that 
we cannot take the supernatural out of the narrative without 
destroying it altogether; and they who consider the calm 
dignity of the record will be the first to admit that it bears 
the stamp of credibility upon its face. For the rest, let it be 
noted that the people passed through deliberately. "They 
walked upon the dry land." They were in haste, but there 
was no confusion. They passed through safely, for the wa- 
ters on either side were as a wall, or a defence unto them, 
so that their enemies could not come near them. But that 
mode of speech does not necessarily imply that the waves 
stood up on each side of them like perpendicular fortifica- 
tions ; and all the requirements of the narrative are met if 
we suppose that the simple continuance of the water at its 
ordinary depth kept the charioteers of the Egyptians from 
outflanking them, and compelled them to take the rear. 
Furthermore, they all passed through. No one was left 
behind. "There was not one feeble person among their 
tribes "* — and not one fell into the hands of their foes. So 
Moses also could say, " Those that thou gavest me I have 
kept, and none of them is lost ;" and when they stood upon 
the farther strand, they recognized that they were fully and 

* Psa. cv., 37. 

The Crossing of the Red Sea. 119 

finally severed from Egypt, and were committed to follow 
Moses as their leader forever after. Hence, Paul says, 
"They were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in 
the sea;" for this was their initiation into discipleship to 
Moses, even as baptism is our initiation into discipleship to 
Christ. Nor can I help remarking, as this first recorded 
baptism comes up before us, on the fact that, so far as ap- 
pears, it was not immersion. Sprinkled the tribes might be, 
as the clouds poured down water, or the spray was dashed 
upon them by the fury of the wind — but their baptism in the 
sea was contemporaneous with their "walking upon dry land 
in the midst of it." It is a very small matter ; but when es- 
teemed brethren assure us that the word baptize always and 
everywhere means immerse, it becomes important to remark 
that in the very earliest case in reference to which the term 
is applied, it very evidently can have no such significance. 
There was an immersion here, indeed, but it was that of the 
Egyptians; and no one will be very eager to follow their 

Toward the morning, when the tribes were well-nigh over 
the gulf, Pharaoh, not realizing that the path which they 
took had been made for them by miracle — or presuming 
that it would be as good for him as for them — led his host 
after them. But when he had advanced sufficiently to have 
his whole army in the sea, Moses, at the command of God, 
stretched his hand over it, and the waves, let loose from the 
leash in which so long they had been held, flowed back into 
their former channel, and submerged them all. "There re- 
mained not so much as one of them." Long had the op- 
pressor boasted of his might. For generations the Egyptian 
rulers had lorded it with a high hand over the helpless cap- 
tives. They had bruised them with rods, and beaten them 
with the scourge ; they had strangled their children at the 
birth, and given their little ones to the maw of the crocodile.; 


I20 Moses the Law-giver. 

they had ground them with hard bondage, and exacted from 
them "• day labor, hght denied ;" and for more than a cen- 
tury it seemed as if Jehovah heeded not. But he had put 
the tears of the slaves into his bottle ; and when the hour of 
doom rung out, for each of these diamond drops there was 
a victim. The retribution had been long in coming, but it 
was thorough when it did come ; and the arrears which had 
been accumulating for generations were all exacted from 
that which had accepted the gains of its predecessors, and 
thereby become also the heirs of their responsibility. Nor 
has this been a solitary case in history. The victims of 
the Indian mutiny were not the beginners of Indian oppres- 
sion : the citizens over which the thunder-storm of civil war 
burst in this land were not those who had begun negro 
slavery. But they had accepted the position; they were 
content to continue to draw its gains, and let the thing drift 
on ; and lo ! there came at length a tragedy as deep and 
dark as this in the Red Sea. Let us learn wisdom from all 
such events, and seek to understand that retributive provi- 
dence which, in punishing an evil, lets the full judgment fall 
on those who have it last in hand, and are determined to 
keep it at all hazards. The Saviour affirmed that on the 
Jews of his generation would come " all the righteous blood 
shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel unto the blood 
of Zacharias, the son of Barachias, whom they slew between 
the temple and the altar." They might have averted it by 
accepting Him, but they chose the other alternative ; and you 
see the result even yet in the destruction of their city, and 
their own dispersion among the nations. But similar in- 
stances are continually occurring, and we may be sure that 
if in any way we act unjustly or oppressively, the penalty 
will fall either on our heads or on the heads of those who 
shall come after us. Robbery and repudiation may be 
profitable to-day to some ; but when the Red Sea is to be 

The Crossing of the Red Sea. 121 

crossed — and it must be crossed some time — the robbers 
will find themselves submerged. 

The effect of this deUverance on the Hebrews was like 
that which is produced upon a man by his escape from 
death, say in a railway accident, or some other catastrophe. 
They felt that they had been at the point of destruction. 
They had, as it were, looked in at the open door of death ; 
and they came back again with shuddering awe. They were 
subdued and solemn ; while, at the same time, their con- 
sciousness that God was near them in the mystic cloud fill- 
ed their souls with reverence ; so we read that " they fear- 
ed Jehovah, and believed Jehovah, and his servant Moses." 
But when this first feeling of awe-struck solemnity had pass- 
ed, there came a happy gratitude, which Moses voiced for 
them in that outburst of song that has come down through 
the centuries, jubilant with the gladness of the Exodus, and 
which will hold its place as the foremost hymn of praise, 
until the day when it shall be surpassed by the fuller and 
more fervid chorus of " the song of the Lamb." 

I cannot attempt its exposition here. I only call you to 
note the remarkable circumstance that it is presumably the 
oldest poem in the world ; and that, in sublimity of concep- 
tion and grandeur of expression, it is unsurpassed by any- 
thing that has been written since. It might almost be said 
that poetry here sprang full-grown from the heart of Moses, 
even as heathen mythology fables that Minerva came full- 
armed from the brain of Jupiter. Long before the grand 
old ballads of Homer were sung through the streets of the 
Grecian cities, or the foundation of the seven-hilled metrop- 
olis of the ancient world was laid by the banks of the Tiber, 
this matchless ode, in comparison with which Pindar is tame, 
was chanted by the leader of the emancipated Hebrews on 
the Red Sea shore ; and yet we have in it no polytheism, 
no foolish mythological story concerning gods and goddess- 

122 Moses the Law-giver. 

es, no gilding of immorality, no glorification of mere force; 
but, instead, the firmest recognition of the personality, the 
providence, the supremacy, the holiness, and the retributive 
rectitude of God. How shall we account for all this ? If 
we admit the divine legation and inspiration of Moses, all 
is plain ; if we deny that, we have in the very existence of 
this song a hopeless and insoluble enigma. Here is a lit- 
erary miracle, as great as the physical sign of the parting of 
the sea. Even if you deny the latter, you cannot get rid of 
the former. AVhen you see a boulder of immense size, and 
of a different sort of stone from those surrounding it, ly- 
ing in a valley, you immediately conclude that it has been 
brought thither by glacier action many, many ages ago. 
But here is a boulder-stone of poetry, standing all alone in 
the Egyptian age, and differing entirely in its character frorri 
the sacred hymns either of Egypt or of India. Where did it 
come from ? Let your rationalist furnish his reply ; for me 
it is a boulder from the Horeb height whereon Moses com- 
muned with the great I AM — when he saw the bush that 
burned but yet was not consumed — and left here as at once 
a witness to his inspiration, and the nation's gratitude. 

But Moses and the people had not all the music to them- 
selves ; for his sister Miriam, catching something of the fer- 
vor of her brother's soul, led the women even as Moses led 
the men ; and at every pause in the psalm they came in 
with the chorus, to the accompaniment of the timbrel and 
the dance, " Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed glo- 
riously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the 

It was a gladsome time. Will Israel ever forget the good- 
ness of her God to her in this great deliverance ? Ah, me ! 
The very next verses tell of murmuring. But that we must 
reserve for a future time, while we return to glean a handful 
of lessons from this stirring story. v 

The Crossing of the Red Sea. 


We may learn, then, in the first place, that God is the daily 
guide of his people. So soon as the Hebrews left Egypt, the 
pillar of cloud and fire came to show them the way. That 
was a miracle. But the perpetual miracle of his providence 
remains ; and, though we cannot see him, he is hedging our 
way on either side : though we know it not, he is guiding us. 
Which of us, on taking a broad and comprehensive survey 
of his life, will not admit that these statements are true ? 
We thought, as we came along, that we were merely follow- 
ing the bent of our own inclinations ; but now we see that 
the whole has been planned for us from the beginning, and 
that through our years, as through the ages, " one increasing 
purpose," of which, at the moment, we were ignorant, has 
been running. We will all admit that. But the difficulty 
most commonly felt is that we have no visible conductor to 
decide for us, in our present perplexity, the way we ought to 
take ; and there are many who would be glad to hear some 
voice from heaven, or to see some pillar of cloud, by which 
they might be delivered from all uncertainty. But that 
would be no gain to us in the end ; for it is through leaving 
us, as it were, to ourselves, always, of course, under his own 
supervision, that God trains us into strength. He who is 
always told what he must do never knows what he should 
do. Moral thoughtfulness is created by the necessity under 
which we lie to take charge of ourselves. 

Still, conceding all that, there are certain great principles 
which, rightly understood and acted upon, will be of great 
service to us in times of anxiety. First of all, we must take 
the case to God in prayer. No matter though it may be 
a trifle in the eyes of others, if it be important enough to 
trouble us, he will not ridicule our uneasiness, but give us 
grace according to our day. Then, we must remember that 
the first open door is not always the best or the safest for 
us. Multitudes, when they are in difficulties, welcome the 

124 Moses the Law-giver. 

earliest outlet. But God would not take the Hebrews 
through the wilderness to Gaza, though that would have 
been the shortest way, because they had not courage 
enough to face the Philistines. So, when an apparent way 
is opened, let us ask whether there is anything that will be 
likely to endanger our principles, or to render it probable 
that we shall fall into evil habits, if we take it ; and if there 
be, let us avoid it. Suppose, for example, one is out of em- 
ployment, and he is offered work where he would be among 
the Philistines ; he ought to pause, and remember that the 
first offer is not always that which God means us to accept. 

Again, hesitancy as to duty always means, in God's vocab- 
ulary, '■^ Stand still r " He that doubteth is condemned if he 
eat." That is a rule which one may make universal. Once 
more : when a door opens in front, and that which is behind 
us shuts, then God says "Go forward !" If I may speak from 
my own experience, I would testify that these princij^les have 
been of great value to me throughout my life ; and I have, 
therefore, all the more confidence in commending them to 
you. In general, it may be said that when the principles of 
God's Word harmonize with our taking the position which 
his providence appears to open to us, we are safe in accept- 
ing it ; but when either of these elements is wanting, we had 
better be cautious. The navigator finds his position by tak- 
ing the point where latitude and longitude cut each other ; 
and we shall find our guidance in the intersection of the 
precept of the word, with the indication of providence ; 
and for both, like the mariner, we must look to the Sun. 
Believe me, he who looks up to God in prayer, and looks 
out over providence for the answer, will not be long in per- 

In the second place, we may learn that when God leads us 
into danger, he will take us safely through it. Had the Isra- 
elites gone of their own accord to encamp at Pihahiroth, 

The Crossing of the Red Sea. 125 

they would have had no claim on the divine protection ; but 
because God had taken them thither, he stood near to help 
them. Thus it makes all the difference in the world, when I 
am in danger, whether I am there for my own pleasure and 
of my own motive, or on the business and at the bidding of 
the Lord. In the former case, I have no warrant for his 
protection ; in the latter, I may be sure that he will put him- 
self between me and the peril, and make himself indeed my 
shield. This principle is far-reaching, and may be applied 
by us to business, to amusements, and, indeed, to every de- 
partment of life. To go into danger thoughtlessly, is rash- 
ness ,' to go into it wantonly, is foolhardiness ; but to go into 
it because only thereby can I follow my Master, and do what 
he commands, is true courage ; and at such times I shall al- 
ways find him at my side. Thus, it would be reckless in the 
extreme for me to go wilfully and spend a whole evening in 
some haunt of wickedness ; and, though I might be able to 
keep myself pure, I may be sure that some evil would be the 
outcome. But suppose there came to me a telegram from 
over the sea, telling me that the son of a dear friend was 
lying at a certain house, which I knew to be one of the 
worst dens in the city, I could go then with all safety, be- 
cause the pillar and the cloud would be between me and 
harm while I was seeking to save the lost. Pharaoh tried td 
cross the sea without warrant, and he was drowned ; but the 
Hebrews, following their God, went over on dry land. Faith 
is one thing ; presumption is another. To expect that God 
win keep me, no matter though I go recklessly into danger, 
\s presumption ; to go through that danger on his service, is 
courage. Young men, will you mark well that distinction, 
and act upon it through life? for it may save you from mak- 
ing shipwreck of your souls. 

Finally, after deliverance there should come a song. Grat- 
itude is an imperative duty j and one of its first and finest 

126 Moses the Law-giver. 

forms is a hymn of thanksgiving and praise. It is true that 
it will not be worth much if it expends itself only in song; 
but wherever the psalm is sincere, it will communicate its 
melody also to the life. Too often, however, it does not 
give even a song. You remember how only one of the ten 
lepers returned to thank the Lord for his cleansing; and 
perhaps we should not be far wrong if we were to affirm that 
a similar proportion prevails to-day between the thankful 
and the ungrateful. Yet it would be wrong if we were to 
leave the impression that such gratitude as this of Moses is 
almost unknown. On the contrary, the pages of our hymn- 
books are covered with songs which have been born, like 
this one, out of deliverance. Many of the finest of David's 
Psalms are the utterances of his heart in thanksgiving for 
mercies similar to those which Moses celebrated ; and some 
of the noblest lyrics of Watts and Wesley, of Montgomery 
and Lyte, have had a similar origin. Nor is this all ; we can 
see that in all times of great national revival there has been 
an outburst of song. At the Reformation, no result of Lu- 
ther's work was more remarkable than the stimulus it gave 
to the hymnology of the Fatherland. In fact, that may be 
said to have been as good as created by the Reformation ; 
and in our own country each successive revival of religion 
has had its own special hymn. But we have not all the 
genius of Wesley, or the inspiration of Moses or of David ; 
and what shall we do then ? We can at least appropriate 
the lyrics of those who have gone before us, and use them 
in as far as they meet our case ; and I can conceive no more 
pleasant or profitable occupation for the household than the 
singing of those hymns which have become dear to us be- 
cause of the personal experiences which we can read be- 
tween the lines. But we can do better still than that; for 
we can set our daily deeds to the music of a grateful heart, 
and seek to round our lives into a hymn — the melody of 

The Crossing of the Red Sea. 127 

which will be recognized by all who come into contact with 
us, and the power of which shall not be evanescent, like the 
voice of the singer, but perennial, like the music of the 
spheres. To this hymnology of life, my hearers, let me in- 
cite you now ; for only they who carry this music in their 
hearts shall sing at last, on the shore of the heavenly land, 
that song of " pure concent " for which John could find no 
better description than that it was " the song of Moses, the 
servant of God, and the song of the Lamb." But to sing of 
deliverance you must accept deliverance. Open your hearts, 
therefore, for the reception of salvation, and then David's ex- 
perience will be yours. " He hath put a new song into my 
mouth, even praise unto our God. Many shall see it and 
fear, and shall trust in the Lord." 



Exodus xv., 23-xvi., 36. 

AFTER crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites were led 
into '' the wilderness of Shur." This name signifies a 
wall, and is believed to be the ancient designation of that 
wall-like mountain range which runs north and south to the 
eastward of Suez, and which is now called Jebel-er-Rahah. 
It is the continuation, in a northerly direction, of the great 
chain of Jebel-et-Tih ; and by the Arabs who live in the in- 
terior of the wilderness, on its eastern side, it is still called 
Jebel-es-Siir. It is mentioned in the history of Hagar, of 
Abraham,* and of the descendants of Ishmael ; and is gen- 
erally described as " before Egypt," because to one standing 
in that land and looking eastward it would appear to be di- 
rectly in front. In the book of Numbers! it is called the 
wilderness of Etham, and so we are led to conclude that the 
whole of the district of which Jebel-er-Rahah forms the great 
backbone or range was called Shur ; while that part of it 
which skirts the edge of the Red Sea, at the upper end 
of the Gulf of Suez, and extends up on the eastern side of 
the Bitter Lakes, was known by the name of Etham. Into 
this region, then, the tribes went for three days ; marching 
through a district which is now a tract of sand or rough grav- 
el, with here and there some sickly shrubs, and not a foun- 
tain near. Probably they had taken with them a supply of 

* Gen. xvi., 7 ; xx., i j xxv., 18. t Num. xxxiii., 8. 

Marah, Elim, and Sin. i2g 

water from Ayoun Mousa, which seems to have been their 
first halting-place on the eastern shore of the gulf; but that 
would be speedily exhausted, and then they would be re- 
duced to the greatest straits. At the end of the third day's 
journey, however, they saw what seemed from a distance to 
be an oasis, with abundance of water ; but when they came 
up to it, and sought to quench their thirst at its fountains, 
they found that the water was so bitter that they could not 
drink it. This was a sore trial to them, and they vented 
their disappointment in murmurs against Moses. Just as 
before, when they saw the Egyptians coming down upon 
them at Pihahiroth, so now again they upbraided their 
leader for bringing them into trouble, and said unto him, 
"What shall we drink?" This conduct of theirs was at 
once unreasonable, ungrateful, and unbelieving. It was un- 
reasonable, because Moses was only God's lieutenant, and 
was himself a sharer in their affliction. It was ungrateful, 
for Moses had from the first done everything in his power 
for them — and that not for any profit or glory which he might 
gain for himself, but simply and only for their good. It was 
unbelieving, because they might have reasoned that he who, 
three days before, had divided the sea to make a pathway 
for them, would not forsake them now, but would somehow 
make provision for their wants. Yet even as we thus an- 
alyze their guilt, we feel that we are condemning ourselves ; 
for all our fretting at the providence of God is, in the light 
of the cross of Calvary, as bad as this dissatisfaction of the 
Israelites at the waters of Marah, since we may always say, 
with the Christian apostle, "He that spared not his own son, 
but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him 
also freely give us all things ?" 

But Moses met their discontentment with patience, be- 
cause he met it with prayer. He did what the people them- 
selves ought to have done. He went to God with their 

130 Moses the Law-giver. 

trouble. This became his habit ; for long before Paul lived 
and wrote he acted upon the principle of that disciple's 
words, and " in everything, by prayer and supplication, made 
his requests known unto God." The result here was that 
" Jehovah showed him a tree, which, when he had cast into 
the waters, the waters were made sweet." The place where 
this miracle was wrought is almost universally identified with 
the modern Howarah, which is situated in the Wady Ama- 
rah, and is between thirty and forty miles south of Ayoun 
Mousa. It is thus described by a recent traveller : " It is a 
solitary spring of bitter water, with a stunted palm-tree grow- 
ing near it, and affording a delicious shade. The quality of 
the water varies considerably at different times ; and on the 
present occasion it was not only drinkable, but palatable. 
It is, however, only fair to state that Mr. Holland, who had 
visited the well on several former occasions, pronounced 
such purity of the water to be quite exceptional."* 

Some have suggested that the berry of the Ghurkud was 
used for the purpose of sweetening the fountain, and that 
the whole thing is to be resolved into the operation of nat- 
ural law. But, unfortunately, neither the fruit nor the wood 
of the shrub just named has any such property as that which 
is thus ascribed to it ; and so we must look for the virtue 
which healed the spring not in the tree, but in God. The 
tree, like the salt used in a similar instance by Elisha, or the 
clay employed by the Saviour to anoint the eyes of the blind 
man, was only an outward sign to assist the faith of the peo- 
ple ; but the effect which was consequent upon its being 
cast into the water was due not to any natural qualities 
which it possessed, but solely to the agency of God. That 
this was indeed the case, is evident from the fact that, in 
connection with the cure of the waters, "the Lord made for 

* The " Desert of the Exodus," by E. H. Palmer, M. A., p. 45. 

Marah, Elim, and Sin. 131 

them a statute and an ordinance," which would have been 
meaningless if the healing of the spring had not been pro' 
duced by his own direct and immediate energy. It ran in 
this wise : " If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of 
the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his 
sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all 
his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee 
which I have brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the 
Lord that healeth thee." This was a general covenant, 
which embraced in it all that was ultimately proclaimed 
from Sinai. The special precepts were to be afterward 
given ; but now a pledge was exacted from the people that 
they would receive and obey everything that God should 
enjoin. There was given them, also, a promise of special 
preservation from calamity, which was conditioned on their 
perfect obedience to his commandments; while both the 
pledge on their part and the promise on his were enforced 
with the assurance, "For I am Jehovah- Rophek." 

Deliverance increases obligation, and the observance of 
God's statutes secures new blessings. Because God hath 
healed us, he has a claim upon our allegiance ; and the 
more loyal we are to him, the more immunity from calamity 
will he secure for us. He did not lay this ordinance upon 
the people until after he had cured the waters ; but having 
so blessed them, he looked for their gratitude in their obedi- 
ence ; and the more of that he received, the more would he 
continue to bless them. Thus, through our varied necessities 
and deliverances, God increasingly reveals himself to our 
souls; and so even our troubles become useful, in giving 
us deeper insight into his heart. At the burning bush, he 
called himself to Moses simply Jehovah ; on the Red Sea 
shore, through the miracle of salvation to Israel and destruc- 
tion to Egypt, Moses saw him to be Jehovah — my strength ; 
at Marah, he made himself known as Jehovah-Rophek ; and 

1^2 Moses the Law-giver. 

at Rephidim, Moses, seeing yet farther into his grace, built 
an altar which he called Jehovah-Nissi — the Lord my ban- 
ner. So out of every trial we come with some new and 
significant affix to the name Jehovah; while, at the same 
time, we are laid under deeper obligation to walk in all his 
statutes and ordinances blameless. They know God best 
who have been most frequently delivered by him in time 
of trial, and they ought to serve him best. 

From Marah they moved forward, under the guidance of 
the mystic pillar, and came to Elim, identified by some with 
the Wady Ghurundel, six miles to the south of Howarah, 
und described as the most extensive watercourse in the 
western desert. The nearness of this wady to Marah, how- 
ever, is made by others an objection to its being the verita- 
ble Elim ; and they have preferred to locate the oasis of the 
Palm-trees in the AVady Useit, which is a few miles farther 
south, and in which there are two palm-trees at this day. 
From Elim, where their peace and plenty under a pleasing 
shade must have been all the sweeter to them after their ex- 
periences at Marah, they went to that encampment by the 
Red Sea which is specified in the record of their journey- 
ings preserved in the book of Numbers,* and which is thought 
to have been at the farther end of the Wady et Taiyebeh, 
near the headland of Ras-Selima. The valley is described 
as beautiful ; full of tamarisks and other shrubs, and having 
water in it ; which, however, is inferior to that of Ghurundel. 
The place at which the tribes halted must have been of 
"considerable importance as the starting-point of the roads 
to the copper-mines of the Wady Mughara, Sarabit el Kha- 
dim, and the Wady Nasb.f" 

At this point they turned away from the sea, into the in- 

* Num. xxxiii., lo. 

t See " Speaker's Commentary," vol. i., p. 316. 

Marah, Elim, and Sin. 133 

terior of the wilderness. They passed, probably, out of the 
plain of Murkhah by the Wady en Nusb, and encamped at 
the head of the latter, where it broadens out, and where 
there is a fine spring of water. This was the wilderness of 
Sin, at which they arrived a month after their departure from 
Egypt ; and where, for the first time, the full privation of the 
desert life stared the people in the face. Moses, indeed, who 
had lived for forty years in the wilderness, must have known 
what was before them. Even in the most favorable circum- 
stances, the victualling of an army is always a difficult matter 
to arrange for ; and very frequently it is in the commissariat 
department that the strength or the weakness of a general is 
first manifested. We know, too, from the partial experience 
of last summer,* that if a large city like this should be iso- 
lated by the stopping of its railway communications and the 
blockading of its harbor, we should have a famine upon us 
in little more than a month. But the isolation of the wil- 
derness was complete ; and, therefore, the courage and faith 
of Moses in leading two millions and a half of people into 
it, stand forth as amazing. He was not ignorant of the 
character of the desert ; he knew that without miracle it 
would be impossible to provide in it for such a multitude ; 
and that he was willing, in these circumstances, to go for- 
ward with his people, is an evidence that his faith was even 
superior to that of Abraham when he left his native land 
and went out, not knowing whither he went. It might be 
supposed, indeed, that the people could have lived upon 
their flocks and herds ; but pastoral tribes do not slay their 
cattle save on very special occasions. They depend rather 
on their produce ; and, as Kitto has remarked, " We are to 
recollect that their flocks and herds were not the common 
property of all, but were undoubtedly the private property 

* The reference is to the railway strikes in the summer of 1877. 

134 .Moses the Law-giver. 

of a comparatively small number of persons f* while it is 
not to be forgotten that, even supposing these had been 
given up to the wants of the multitude, that supply would 
have been speedily exhausted. So we cannot wonder that 
when the provisions which they had brought with them had 
been consumed the people were at their wits' end. As on 
the former occasions, they blamed Moses and Aaron for 
their misery ; and, in their thoughtless passion, they cried, 
"Would to God we had died by the Iiand of the Lord in the 
land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots, and when we 
did eat bread to the full ; for ye have brought us forth into 
this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger." 

We are not told in so many words that Moses went to 
the Lord with this complaint ; but, judging from his con- 
duct in similar cases, it is every way probable that he did. 
At all events, the Lord was near with his assistance, and 
•sent the people two sorts of supplies, the one temporar}'-, 
and the other permanent. He furnished flesh for them by 
bringing into that region an immense flock of quails ; which, 
being exhausted with their flight, were easily killed or capt- 
ured. These birds, which resemble partridges, are still found 
in the desert of Arabia ; and the miracle of their appear- 
ance now consisted in the fact that they were brought into 
the district of the wilderness of Sin just at the moment when 
they were most needed. The Egyptians had a way of pre- 
serving wild fowl by drying them in the sun ; and even at 
this day, in Lower Egypt, quails, after having been skinned, 
are buried for a short time in the hot sand, by which means 
they are kept from putrefaction.f It is likely, therefore, 
that, by one or other of these methods, the tribes were en- 
abled to store some of this abundant supply for future use. 

* " Daily Bible Readings," vol. ii., p. 114. 
t lb., vol. ii., p. 115. 

Marah, Elim, and Sin. 135 

At a later date, we know that when a similar provision of 
quails was made for them, " They spread them ail abroad 
for themselves around the camp ;"* and it is not unlikely 
that something of the same kind was done by them in the 
present instance. Thus God gave them flesh to eat. 

Their bread came to them in another form ; for, on the 
following 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." The people knew not what 
to make of this, and asked " Man hu " (what is it ?), when, 
to their astonishment, their leader told them that it was the 
bread which God had provided for them. He then com- 
manded them to gather it, at the rate of an omer for every 
man ; and gave instructions that every day's supply was to 
be consumed on its own day. Its appearance was like that 
of coriander -seed, and its taste, when they had prepared 
it either by baking or by boiling, was like that of wafers 
made with honey. Some very remarkable things came out 
in connection with this rich supply of nutritious food. In 
the first place, we read that the people "gathered, some 
more, some less, and when they did mete it with an omer, he 
that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered 
little had no lack." The Rabbins explain this statement as 
meaning that whatever quantity a man might gather, when 
he measured it in his tent he had just as much as was need- 
ed to give an omer for every member of his house ; and Cal- 
vin supposes that the gatherings of all were placed in a heap, 
and then measured out in the ratio commanded ; but the for- 
mer interpretation seems to me to represent more accurately 
the sense of the passage, while it gives us a beautiful illustra- 
tion of the divine economy. He who, when he fed the mul- 

* Num. xi., 34. 

136 Moses the Law-giver. 

titudes on the mountain-side, would have the fragments gath- 
ered that nothing should be lost, would not let his bounty 
here run to waste, but furnished only what was necessary. 
Again, some of the people, in defiance of Moses' command, 
attempted to hoard it from day to day, but found that it be- 
came corrupt ; for the Lord's purpose was to train them into 
constant dependence upon himself. Still further, the peo- 
ple, apparently of their own accord, collected, on the sixth 
day, a double supply ; while a small minority of them went 
out on the seventh day, as usual, and found none. The rul- 
ers of the congregation — that is, as we understand, the heads 
of the tribal families — were surprised at the procedure of 
the former ; and Moses himself was indignant at the con- 
duct of the latter, saying unto them, " How long refuse ye 
to keep my commandments and my laws ? See, for that the 
Lord hath given you the Sabbath, therefore he giveth you on 
the sixth day the bread of two days : abide ye every man in 
his place ; let no man go out of his place on the seventh 
day." From all this, then, the following things seem evi- 
dent : First, that Moses had issued no command on the sub- 
ject of the Sabbath ; for if he had, it is inconceivable, on 
the one hand, that the rulers should not have known it, 
and, on the other, that he should not have mentioned it him- 
self in his rebuke of those who went out on the seventh 
day : second, that the people, in gathering a double portion 
on the sixth day, were acting in observance of a precept 
already known by them : and, third, that God, in preserving 
their double portion over the Sabbath without corruption, 
stamped the action of the people in this matter with his own 
approval. It follows, therefore, that the observance of the 
seventh day as a day of rest does not date from Sinai, and is 
not merely a part of the Jewish ritual, but is an ancient and 
primeval institution. Perhaps in Egypt it had been too 
largely neglected by the tribes, and that may account for the 

Marah, Elim, and Sin, 137 

fact that some of the people took no note of it ; but the 
better portion of the Hebrews seem to have remembered it, 
and the giving of the manna was used as an occasion of em- 
phasizing the holy character of that da}^, which was made 
for no separate nationality, but for man as man. Again, we 
have a supplementary note inserted, as it were, at the close 
of this singular histoiy, either by Moses himself on his final 
revision, or, as seems more probable, by Joshua, to the effect 
that this supernatural food was continued to the people for 
forty years, until they came into the borders of the Land of 
Canaan. During those years, as we shall find, many changes 
came and went, and the whole generation which had reach- 
ed maturity at the date of the Exodus passed away ; but all 
through them, in spite of the weakness, the wavering, the 
murmuring, and even the rebellion of the people, God gave 
them day by day this daily bread — " for his mercy endureth 
forever." Finally, the Lord commanded that a pot of this 
manna was to be preserved, that after-generations might see 
how he had fed them in the desert ; and when the taberna- 
cle was set up, we shall find that this golden vessel was put 
in the very holy of holies itself. 

In another portion of the Pentateuch we are told that 
God's design in giving the Hebrews this wondrous bread 
was that he "might make them know that man doth not live 
by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of 
the mouth of the Lord doth man live ;" and again, " That 
he might humble them, and that he might prove them, to do 
them good at the latter end."=* He wanted to teach them 
that it was always safe to depend on him when they were 
obeying his commands ; and, at the same time, to warn them 
against presuming wantonly on the continuance of his favor. 
He humbled them even while his gifts were so remarkable. 

* Deut. viii., 3, 16. 

138 Moses the Law-giver. 

" I could not understand this for a time," says the good John 
Newton ; " I thought they were rather in danger of being 
proud when they saw themselves provided for in such an 
extraordinary way. But the manna would not keep ; they 
could not hoard it up, and were, therefore, in a state of ab- 
solute dependence from day to day. This was well suited 
to humble them, and so it is with us in spirituals." 

But now, some will ask what relation this manna had to 
the substance which is still called by the same name. There 
is a plant or shrub in the peninsula of Sinai — a species of 
tamarisk — from the trunk and branches of which a kind of 
gum exudes, and forms small white grains. In cool weather 
it preserves its solidity, but in hot weather it melts rapidly. 
Its taste is generally compared by travellers to that of honey, 
and it is found in the district between Elim and Sinai. Its 
resemblance to the substance described in the text, there- 
fore, in color, taste, and shape, is exact. But its difference 
from it in other respects is quite as remarkable ; for it is the 
exudation of a shrub, whereas the Bible manna lay like dew 
or hoar-frost upon the ground ; its production is confined to 
the months of May and June, whereas the food of the tribes 
was found by them all the year round ; the whole quantity 
of the turfa manna gathered in a season does not exceed 
seven hundred pounds, whereas more than that would be re- 
quired by the Israelites in a single day ; its production is 
restricted to the district between Elim and Sinai, whereas 
this was furnished to the Hebrews, wherever they went, for 
forty years ; it keeps sweet and good for more than a day, 
whereas this became corrupt on the morrow ; it comes from 
the shrub during the season on all days alike, whereas this 
was not given on the Sabbath. It is impossible, therefore, 
to pare down this narrative so as to make it mean that the 
children of Israel were fed by a merely natural product. 
But in the resemblance of the manna to that which was ap- 

Marah, Elim, and Sin. 139 

parently indigenous to the place, we have a feature which is 
common to this with other miracles. When Christ fed the 
multitudes on the mountain-side, he did not set before them 
dainty rarities, but gave them loaves and fishes such as they 
were commonly accustomed to eat ; and when he replenish- 
ed the empty jars at Cana, he did so not with an unheard- 
of variety of wine, but with the kind of beverage ordinarily 
drunk on such occasions, only so much better in quality than 
what was ordinary as to call forth remark. So, when he 
provided for his people in. the wilderness, he gave them wil- 
derness food, sending them the quails of the district, and a 
substance similar to, only better than, that which, at the par- 
ticular season at which they had arrived, might have been 
gleaned in small quantities by some of them from the tam- 
arisks of the wady. Thus we may sum up the matter in the 
words of Keil : " We can neither deny that there was some 
connection between the two, nor explain the heavenly man- 
na as arising from an unrestricted multiplication and in- 
crease of this gift of nature. We rather regard the bread 
of heaven as the production and gift of the grace of God, 
which fills all nature with its powers and productions, and 
so applies them to its purposes of salvation as to create out 
of that which is natural something altogether new, which 
surpasses the ordinary productions of nature both in quality 
and quantity, as far as the kingdom of nature is surpassed 
by the kingdom of grace and glory."* 

It is impossible, now, to read this narrative without con- 
necting it with the Saviour's discourse to the Jews which 
John has preserved for us in the sixth chapter of his Gospel, 
and from which it appears that, over and above the supply 
of a present and pressing necessity, this manna was design- 

* " Commentary on the Pentateuch," by Keil and Delitzsch, vol. ii., 
pp. 73. 74- 

I40 Moses the Law-giver. 

ed, like the brazen serpent and the water from the rock in 
Rephidim, to prefigure and prophesy the coming of him in 
whom the wants of the soul would be as fully met as those 
of the body were by the well-known miracles to which I have 
referred. These signs are thus connected with and depend- 
ent upon the one great miracle of the Incarnation, They 
were the forecast shadows of that " coming one " to whom 
all Scripture testifies ; and they help us not only to identify 
him as the " sent of God," but also to understand the work 
he did and the words he spake. They are to the gospel 
history what allegorical pictures are to a book, and by the 
study of them we may learn more of him of whom that his- 
tory tells. When, therefore, we hear him say, " I am that 
bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, 
and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from 
heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die. I am the 
living bread which came down from heaven," we understand 
him to mean that he is himself to the souls of men what the 
manna was to the bodies of the Israelites. And in this view 
of the case we may easily run through the parallel. For as 
the manna was heavenly in its origin, so Jesus Christ is he 
" which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the 
world ;" as the manna was abundant in its supply, so Jesus 
Christ is bread for every man ; as the manna was easily ob- 
tained, so Jesus may be received by any believer ; as the 
manna had to be gathered and eaten by each for himself, so 
Jesus has to be appropriated by each soul to himself; and 
as the manna was given day by day, so we must continually 
resort to Jesus for those supplies of grace which we require 
for the constantly emerging exigencies of life. 

But now, leaving the facts of this wonderful history, let us 
see what great principles we can derive from them for our 
guidance and support through life. And, first of all, I think 
we may learn that we are not done with hardship when we 

Marah, Elim, and Sin. 141 

have left Egypt. This may be regarded as a universal law 
so long as we are in the present life, and may be illustrated 
as really in common and secular matters as in spiritual 
things. The school-boy is apt to imagine that he is a slave. 
He is under tutors and governors ; and as he grinds away 
at his studies, not seeing any relation between them and what 
he is to do in the future, he is tempted to think that the 
drudgery of the Hebrews in the brick-yard was nothing to 
that which he has to undergo, and he longs for the day when 
he shall be a free man, and enter upon the active duties of 
life. His emancipation from the dry and uninteresting la- 
bors at which he has so long been held marks an epoch in 
his history, and he sings over it a song as sincere, if not 
as exalted, as that of Moses at the sea. The burial of the 
books by our graduating classes may be in the main a fool- 
ish freak ; but yet it is the expression, in its own way, of re- 
lief from that which has hitherto been felt to be a restraint, 
and each of those who take part in it is intensely jubilant. 
But after he has entered on the active duties of the work to 
which he devotes himself, the youth has not gone far before 
he comes to Marah, and his first experience is one of disap- 
pointment. Ah ! well for him then if he cries to God, and 
finds the healing tree which alone can sweeten its waters of 
bitterness ! So it is, also, with every new enterprise in which 
a man engages. After his first victory comes something 
which empties it of half its glory. Pure and unmingled suc- 
cess is unknown in the world, and would be, let me add, a 
great calamity if it were to be enjoyed ; for then the man 
would become proud and forget God, and lose all remem- 
brance of that precious influence by which the disappoint- 
ments in our experience are transmuted into means of grace. 
If we knew it, we have as much to be thankful for in our 
Marahs as in our passings through Red Seas of difficulty. 
Surely there is here a lesson at once for instruction and for 

142 Moses the Law-giver. 

comfort to us in our own national history. We have come 
through the fiery flood of war, and we have sung our song 
of gratitude to him who, by that bloody baptism, committed 
us to follow on in the course of justice, of integrity, of true 
national union, and of hearty brotherhood throughout the 
land ; and if now we are made to drink of the bitter waters 
of disappointment, it is not that we should murmur against 
him whose cloud-pillar has led us to our Marah, but rather 
that we should, in trustful prayer, cry to him for the healing 
wood which alone can make the fountain sweet. The lesson 
of the hour, therefore, which God sends us from this timely 
history, is that there should be less murmuring against Mo- 
ses and Aaron, and more earnest supplication to the Lord 

But, in our desire to give expression to the national bear- 
ings of this old history, let us not forget its spiritual appli- 
cation. The young convert imagines that when he has 
found Christ, his whole after-experience is to be that of com- 
fort. But he knows not what he thinks. He will never be 
done with disagreeables until he has entered heaven ; and 
his first three days' journey will bring bim to soniie bitter 
fountain. The Slough of Despond is not far from the city of 
Destruction, and every one who runs away from thte former 
is in danger of falling into the latter. When, therefore, those 
who have just begun the Christian life have to encounter dis- 
appointment, let them not think that some strange thing has 
happened unto them. Others have been there before them, 
and though all have not found the waters equally bitter, yet 
they have been to all distasteful ; and the purpose of bring- 
ing them through this experience is to teach them to depend 
not on external things alone, but on that indwelling Spirit 
who can and who will make all things work together for 
their good, and bring for them meat out of the eater, and 
sweet out of the bitter. An early difficulty, surmounted by 

Marah, Elim, and Sin. 143 

the help of God, is a blessing rather than a calamity. It is 
a revelation at once of our own weakness and of God's fa- 
vor ; and it will lead us, in all similar times, to look for re- 
lief not to the fountains of earth, but to him who has said, 
" If any man thirstj let him come unto me and drink." Let 
the young Christian who is startled at the bitterness of Ma- 
rah, therefore, take heart again. Let him not look back to 
Egypt, with its full-lipped river of delight ; but rather let him 
look up to him who sits upon that throne from out of which 
proceeds "a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal." 
Nor will he look in vain, for these are his words of gracious 
promise : " When the poor and needy seek water, and there 
is none, and their tongue faileth them for thirst, I the Lord 
will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I 
will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst 
of the valleys : I will make the wilderness a pool of water, 
and the dry land springs of water."* 

In the second place, and to prevent misapprehension, we 
may learn that life is not all hardship. There are Elims, 
with their springs of water and their palm-trees' shade, as 
well as Marahs. In the history of our Lord himself we 
have the baptismal glory and the Mount of Transfiguration, 
as well as the darkness of Gethsemane and the anguish of 
the cross ; and if Paul was long in prison, and was "in la- 
bors abundant, and in stripes above measure," we must not 
forget his revelations in the Arabian desert, and his being 
caught up into the third heaven to hear unspeakable words. 
No man's experience is either all sunshine or all shadow. 
Life is of a checkered pattern. In some the dark prepon- 
derates, in some the light ; but in all the two are interblend- 
ed. The dark is there to remind us that we are still on 
earth; the light is there as a foretaste and earnest — if, 

* Isa. xli., 17, 18. 

144 Moses the Law-giver. 

through faith in Christ, we choose to make it such — of the 
inheritance on high. How true that is in ordinary life you 
need not that I should prove to you. It is matter of univer- 
sal experience. You are proving it now. Some are at Ma- 
rah, some are at Elim. We all know the general features 
of both ; but we must all remember that they are only sta- 
tions on our way. We cannot be forever either at the one or 
at the other. Soon the pillar of the cloud shall move again, 
and bring to us either a new difficulty or a new deliver- 
ance. But the comfort is that God is in both. He will 
make the bitter sweet, and the pleasant safe. So long as he 
is with us, adversity has no power to destroy us, and pros- 
perity has no charm to tempt us. At Marah he is the Lord 
the healer, and at Elim he is the Lord the shade. So in 
either he is our benefactor, and in both alike we may sing 
the good old psalm of providence, " The Lord shall preserve 
me from all evil, he shall preserve my soul. The Lord shall 
preserve thy going out, and thy coming in, from this time 
forth, and even for evermore." 

In the third place, we may learn that every great leader 
may lay his account with opposition even from those who 
profess to follow him. What a hard place was this of Moses 
here ! He had consecrated himself to the deliverance of his 
people, and had been instrumental in humbling and destroy- 
ing their oppressor, and in securing their emancipation ; yet, 
as each new difficulty emerges, they turn in threatened muti- 
ny upon him, and taunt him with bringing them away from 
the Egyptian flesh-pots. But this has not been a singular 
experience among the world's benefactors. Every great re- 
former has had to go through a wilderness to the promised 
land of his success ; and always some of those who left 
Egypt with him have turned against him before he had gone 
far. For reform means, not only that others should amend, 
but that we ourselves should put away the evil of our doings 

Marah, Elim, and Sin. 145 

from before God's eyes. It means, therefore, for leader and 
followers alike, self-sacrifice, disinterested service of our gen- 
eration, consecration not to any party, but to the common 
weal ; and they whose hearts are in the flesh-pots cannot 
understand or appreciate such lofty principles. When the 
multitude, full of enthusiasm for Jesus Christ, wanted to take 
him by force and make him a king, you may depend upon 
it they were seeking, not his glory, but their own interests ; 
and it was because he would not open up to them the paths 
to personal aggrandizement which they sought, that, just at 
that moment, so many went back, and walked no more with 
him. Ah, how often all this has been repeated in the world's 
history! I think of the almost mutiny of his men against 
Columbus, as day after day he steered westward and saw no 
land ; I think of the trouble which Luther and Calvin had 
so often with their own followers, and of the banishment, at 
one time, of the latter from that Geneva which, even to this 
day, is the creation of his greatness ; I think of the curs that 
yelped at the heels of the Father of his Country, when he 
was following that course which now the universal voice of 
posterity has applauded ; I think of the difficulties which 
have embarrassed many meaner men, in lower works of ref- 
ormation, which have at length benefited and blessed the 
world, and I blush for the selfishness of those who prefer 
their own interest to the welfare of the community, while, at 
the same time, I honor the conscientious courage which de- 
termines to go on, in spite of opposition in the front and dis- 
satisfaction in the rear. Oh ! ye who are bravely battling 
for the right, the pure, the benevolent, whether it be in the 
sweeping out of corruption from political offices, or in the 
closing of those pestilential houses which are feeding the 
intemperance of our streets, or in the maintenance in the 
churches of the faith once delivered to the saints — take heart 
of grace from Moses here. Go with your causes to the Lord, 

146 Moses the Law-giver. 

and be sure that they who are on his side are always in the 
end victorious. You may be long in the wilderness, but 
even while you are he will sustain you there, and at last the 
Jericho, which is the stronghold of the enemy — though you 
may not be there to see it, and though some younger Joshuas 
may have taken your place — will fall down flat before the 
forces whom you have disciplined and trained. 

Finally, we may learn that the true theory of life is to 
follow the word of God. I recall your attention to the de- 
sign of the manna, as described in the passage which I have 
quoted to you from Deuteronomy, " He fed thee with man- 
na, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know ; 
that he might make thee know that man doth not live by 
bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the 
mouth of the Lord doth man live." Now, you may remem- 
ber that when Satan tempted Jesus to use his divine power 
in turning the stones of the desert into bread, the Lord made 
answer, " It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but 
by every word of God ;" that is to say, life does not consist 
in eating and drinking — life is not the gratification of the 
body in any way, but the obedience of the soul to God. 
There is, doubtless, in the words as used by Christ more 
than that : there is strong faith in the providence of God 
that when we are following him food will not be withheld 
from us. But, while we look at the faith, there is some dan- 
ger of our forgetting the very suggestive definition of life 
which is here given us. Life is to follow the word of God, 
no matter though it may bring privation to the body ; or, as 
Paul has said, " If ye through the spirit do mortify the deeds 
of the body, ye shall live." The great design of life is not 
to eat bread or to gratify appetite. These are only means 
to a higher end, that end being the honor and the glory of 
God, whose we are, and whom we ought to serve. Not, in- 
deed, that we should be anchorites, and seclude ourselves 

Mar AH, Elim, and Sin. 147 

from the world in monastic solitude. No; but that we 
should seek to make the body our servant, and not our- 
selves to be the body's slaves. That is the great turning 
question of life : Am I to be the body's } or is the body to 
be mine, and mine for God ? and according as I answer that 
question, I will be a glutton, a drunkard, an adulterer, or a 
servant of the Lord. Ah, how often is the young man tempt- 
ed into sensuality by the words of his companions, " Come, 
let us see life!" But that is not life — that is death. Life is 
something higher, nobler, more glorious by far : life is to 
obey every word of God. To follow the mere body is to 
lead an existence lower than that of the animals, for their 
instincts regulate them ; but if man will not obey either 
reason or religion, there are no such instincts left to guide 
him. To follow the body is to be carnally-minded, and that 
is death. Ask yourselves, then, this question, What is the 
aim of my life.? do I live to eat and drink? or do I eat 
and drink in order to live and glorify God.? The appetite 
is not sinful, if you keep it in its place ; but if you look on 
its gratification as the great end of your lives, you are mak- 
ing yourselves the slaves of your bodies, and there is no 
slavery more galling. If even such a man as Paul declared 
that he kept his body under, and brought it into subjection, 
lest that by any means when he had preached to others he 
himself should be a castaway, how much more ought we ? 
The body is a good servant, but it is a bad master ; and if 
men will so far yield to Satan as to seek, at his bidding, out 
of stones to make bread for it, they may by-and-by find that 
instead of bread they have received a scorpion. He only 
can be truly said to live who, by faith in God's word and 
obedience unto him, seeks constantly to serve the Lord. 
My hearers, and especially you, young men, will you lay 
that to heart .? Life is not, as the gourmand fancies, to 
enjoy the pleasures of the table ; it is not, as the drunkard 

148 Moses the Law-giver. 

madly sings, to drink the flowing bowl ; it is not, as the 
sensualist declares, to give loose rein to the lowest pas- 
sions of our nature — all that is mere animalism. Life is 
to know God, to love God, to serve God ; and when bodily 
famine comes to us, as we pursue that course, we may rely 
upon it that he will provide for us even angels* food. Bet- 
ter, ten thousand times over, the liberty wherewith Christ 
makes us free, though we fare only on manna, than the slav- 
ery of Egypt, with its flesh-pots — for there is life in the one, 
and death in the other. 



Exodus xvii., 1-16. 

FROM the Wilderness of Sin the children of Israel jour- 
neyed, according to the commandment of the Lord, 
and pitched in Rephidim. In the enumeration of the sta- 
tions at which they sojourned in the wilderness, which is 
contained in the book of Numbers,* two places, named re- 
spectively Dophkah and Alush, are mentioned between the 
Wilderness of Sin and Rephidim ; and, amid the many con- 
troversies which have been raised in connection with the 
geography of the Sinaitic peninsula, it is difficult, if not, in- 
deed, impossible, for one who has not himself visited the 
locality to come to any very satisfactory conclusion as to the 
route which is thus indicated. But, after reading all that is 
of importance on the matter, I may give the result at which 
I have arrived. Identifying, as we have already done, the 
station in the Wilderness of Sin with the broad part of the 
Wady en Nusb, we suppose that, on leaving that, the He- 
brews took the road which passes Sarabit el Khadem, and 
encamped in Dophkah, which may be the Wady Sih, since 
both names mean the same thing ; or which may be some- 
where in the great plain now called Debbet er Ramleh. 
Thence they went up the valleys el Burk and Berah to 
Alush, which it is easy to identify with the modern Elush \ 
and from this point they made their way by the Wady 
Sheykh to Rephidim, which we suppose to have been the 

* Num. xxiii., 12-14. 

150 Moses the Law-giver. 

large open space immediately outside or north of the pass 
which leads into the district of Horeb, properly so called. 
This site is about twelve miles from Mount Sinai, and corre- 
sponds in every respect with the requirements of the narra- 
tive. It is true, indeed, that in the rainy season a large tor- 
rent runs from the Sinaitic region down through the valley 
Es Sheykh, and thence through the Feiran to the sea ; but 
we must remember that the tribes arrived here long after 
the rainy season had passed, and that any ordinary supply 
of water would be speedily exhausted by such a multitude. 
Moreover, though we do not set much store by traditional 
identifications, nor even by the similarity of modern to an- 
cient names, we may mention that near the entrance of the 
pass to which I have alluded there is an insulated rock, 
called the Seat of Moses, which may be the stone on which 
the leader sat when Aaron and Hur supported his hands. 
Again, there is a spring here, called Bir Musa, the well of 
Moses, which may have been originally Bir Massa, the well 
of provocation ; and nearly opposite that, on the west side, 
there is a valley called the Wady Charibeh, which may be a 
corruption for Meribah. Hence, although the English ex- 
plorers do, for the most part, identify Rephidim with Wady 
Feiran, we are disposed to agree with those who fix it at the 
site which we have described, because the Feiran is almost 
universally conceded to have been occupied by the Amale- 
kites, and therefore it would have been impossible for the 
Israelites to have ascended it without coming much sooner 
than they did into collision with their enemies ; who, in that 
case, also, must have attacked them in front, and not, as 
we know they did, in the rear.* 

When the people came to this place, they found no water, 

* Deuteronomy xxv., 17, 18. See Fairbairn's "Imperial Dictionary/ 
art. Rephidim. 

Rephidim. 151 

or the supply which existed on their arrival was speedily ex- 
hausted; and, as usual, they "did chide with Moses," alleg- 
ing that he had caused all their hardships by bringing them 
out of Egypt, the bitterness of whose bondage, in other re- 
spects, was forgotten, for the moment, in the fact that they 
had always had there abundance of bread and plenty of 
water. In vain did he remind them that Jehovah was their 
leader, and that they were really tempting him. Indeed, 
that only exasperated them the more, until " they were al- 
most ready to stone him." In this emergency he cried unto 
the Lord, and was commanded to take with him the elders 
of Israel, and the rod with which he had smitten the River 
Nile, and to go forward to a rock in Horeb, which would be 
pointed out to him, and which, when smitten by him, would 
give forth water. Everything was done by him according to 
these instructions, and very soon a rivulet — if I should not 
rather say a river — ran down through the valley to the en- 
campment. As the people heard the welcome sound of its 
approach, they would hasten forth to refresh themselves at 
its margin, and would rejoice in its presence, even before 
they learned the story of its marvellous origin; for they 
had not seen the smiting of the rock. The miracle was wit- 
nessed only by the elders, and it was wrought some miles 
away from Rephidim. In the valley of the Ledja, which 
runs between Mount Sinai and Mount Catherine, a large 
block of red granite, having on its face a number of horizon- 
tal fissures, at unequal distances from each other, is pointed 
out as the rock which was smitten by Moses. But, while 
some travellers aver that it bears every mark of the action 
of water, others ridicule the^ very idea of its having had any 
connection with this miracle ; and so it is impossible to say 
anything definite regarding it. More important, however, 
than the identification of the precise spot, is the fact that the 
undoubted source of this miraculous river was somewhere in 


152 Moses the Law-giver. 

Horeb, and therefore at an altitude sufficiently great to ad- 
mit of its flowing down through the valleys, just as the ordi- 
nary winter-torrents do now. If, therefore, we may suppose 
that the stream continued to run during the residence of the 
tribes in the vicinity, we can understand how, on at least 
their first journeyings from Horeb, by way of Mount Seir to 
Kadesh Barnea, the water followed them ; and so a little 
light, perhaps, is cast upon the assertion of the apostle that 
" they drank of the rock that followed them.'"*^ That there 
was a certain permanence in this stream seems to be implied 
in the language of Moses, many years later, when, speaking 
of the destruction of the golden calf, he says, " I burnt it with 
fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small, even until it was 
as small as dust : and I cast the dust thereof into the brook 
that descended out of the mount."t It is impossible, also, on 
any other theory to explain the psalmist's words, " He clave 
the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink as out of 
the great depths. He brought streams also out of the rock, 
and caused waters to run down like rivers."$ So we may 
conclude that the rock was situated at such a height, and in 
such a relation to the Sinaitic valleys, as to furnish water 
to the tribes in other encampments than that at Rephidim. 
Thus, again, the extremity of the tribes was God's opportu- 
nity, and their murmuring, perpetuated in the names Massah 
and Meribah, was rebuked by his mercy. Thus, also, the 
rock becomes a finger-post, pointing to him whose cross was 
the altar from beneath which came those fertilizing waters 
which Ezekiel§ saw, and which gave life to everything they 
touched. If the Epistle to the Hebrews be the key to the 
hidden meaning of the ritual which Moses introduced, the 
Gospel by John is as truly the interpreter of much that is 

* I Cor. X., 4. t Deut. ix., 21. 

t Psa. Ixxviii., 15, 16. § Ezek. xlvii., I-12. 

Rephidim, 153 

spiritually significant in the history of the pilgrimage of the 
people through the wilderness ; for in the discourses of our 
Lord which it preserves there are such references as enable 
us to understand more fully the higher import of these an- 
cient miracles. We have already seen how the manna was 
made by him to illustrate the true bread of life ; and now, as 
we hear the rush of this new-born river through Rephidim, 
we cannot fail to be reminded of the words, " AVhosoever 
drinketh of this water shall thirst again : but whosoever 
drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst ; 
but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of 
water springing up into everlasting life."* That rock was 
Christ; for the stream which refreshed Rephidim came from 
him, from whom also, stricken for us, the blessings of salva- 
tion flow, full, free, and perennial, for all who choose to avail 
themselves of his mercy. 

The supply of water had not been long furnished to them, 
when the people were attacked by a wild Arab tribe, who, 
as we learn from the account given in Deuteronomy, fell 
upon them in the rear, and " smote the hindmost of them, 
even all that were feeble behind them, when they were faint 
and weary."t These enemies are called Amalekites, and 
were probably the descendants of Amalek, one of the grand- 
sons of Esau4 They belonged to the common stock of 
Edomites, but they formed, to some extent, a tribe by them- 
selves, and occupied the western parts of Mount Seir. Their 
attack on Israel was probably dictated by religious animos- 
ity, for in the passage which I have already quoted it is said 
that " they feared not God." The Hebrews had not invaded 
their territory, or in any way menaced their possessions ; but, 
acquainted, from their relationship to Esau, with the prom- 
ises made to the seed of Jacob, and aggravated by hearing 

John iv., 13, 14. t Deut. xxv., 18. J Gen. xxxvi., 12. 

154 Moses the Law-giver. 

of the great things which Jehovah had done for his people 
in Egypt, they determined, in a spirit of envy, to destroy 
them, simply and only because God had adopted them as 
his own. They came at what appeared to them to be a fa- 
vorable opportunity to lay their hand, as it were, on the very 
banner of Jehovah ; and sought, if possible, to exterminate 
the people whom he had promised to protect. Their atti- 
tude was thus one of stern defiance to the Almighty, and 
that accounts at once for the manner in which they were 
met by Moses, and for the terrible denunciation which was 
pronounced upon them by the Lord. It was the first col- 
lision between heathenism and the people of God, and so 
Moses bestirred himself for the encounter. Calling Joshua, 
who is here mentioned for the first time, and who must have 
been now about forty-five years old, he commanded him to 
collect an army of picked men, and go forth to fight with 
Amalek, while he himself, with his rod in his hand, ascend- 
ed one of the neighboring hills, accompanied by his brother 
Aaron, and by Hur, the father of Bezaleel, and, according to 
tradition, the husband of Miriam. While Joshua and the 
people were fighting, Moses stood holding the rod with his 
hands, and it was observed that the battle seemed to turn 
with the uplifting or falling of the wonder-working staff. 
When he held up his hands, Israel prevailed ; and when he 
let them down, Amalek prevailed. But the constant eleva- 
tion of his arms in one position made them weary, so Aaron 
and Hur "took a stone and put it under him, and he sat 
thereon ; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one 
on the one side, and the other on the other : and his hands 
were steady until the going down of the sun." This was not, 
as some have imagined, a sign to the army for the direction 
of the fight, but rather a direct appeal to God on their behalf; 
and many have seen in this procedure an illustration of the 
intercession of Jesus Christ in heaven for his Church militant 

Rephidim. 155 

on the earth. But that analogy will not hold in all respects, 
for Christ's hands are never weary ; he needs no Aaron and 
Hur to support him, and his pleading never ceases. We 
prefer, therefore, to regard the whole as enforcing the neces- 
sity of uniting prayer with conflict in our contests with our 
spiritual enemies. Admirably has Keil said here, "As the 
heathen world was now commencing its conflict with the 
people of God, so the battle which Israel fought with this 
foe possessed a typical significance."* It furnishes the law 
for success in all spiritual warfare, namely, that we must 
unite the courage of Joshua with the prayer of Moses. A 
praying soldier is always the most formidable. This is true 
even in the warfare of earth. The piety of Gustavus Adol- 
phus gave a keener edge to his sword ; and when some 
specially difficult work was to be done during the Indian 
mutiny, the call was for Havelock and his " saints." But this 
is particularly true of the good fight in which the Christian 
is engaged ; for the apostle, after enumerating all the pieces 
of our armor, adds, as specially important, " praying always 
with all prayer, "t 

Perhaps, also, we have set before us here the importance 
of a division of labor in the army of the Lord, and we are 
taught that while some are fighting others should be pray- 
ing. In this regard, those Aaron and Hur societies which 
stay up the hands of the minister, and make earnest suppli- 
cation for all who are engaged in any department of Chris- 
tian activity, are among the most useful, as they are, also, 
among the least ostentatious helpers of the host of the 

The result of this conflict was that Amalek was utterly 
discomfited ; and, to strengthen the confidence of the peo- 

* " Commentary on the Pentateuch," by Keil and Delitzsch, vol. ii., 
p. 81. t Eph. vi., 18. 

156 Moses the Law-giver. 

pie that God would similarly help them in all their struggles 
with their enemies, Moses was commanded to write the his- 
tory of this victory in a book — or rather, for the original 
word has the definite article prefixed to it, the book — which 
he had already begun, and which was to be a full and faith- 
ful chronicle of all their history. Moreover, for this bitter 
and unprovoked attack, which emanated from their hatred 
of himself, the Lord declared that he would utterly destroy 
Amalek; and at a later day* he bound Israel "to blot out 
the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven." So we 
read of their defeat by Gideon, and of their partial destruc- 
tion by Saul \ but it was not until the days of Hezekiah 
that they were finally annihilated.! 

To deepen yet further the impression produced by the 
words of the Lord, Moses built an altar, not for sacrifice, 
but simply as a monument, for he called it "Jehovah, my 
banner," saying as he did so, " Because the Lord hath sworn 
that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to 
generation ;" or rather, as some of the best scholars trans- 
late the words, " Because the hand of Amalek was upon the 
banner of the Lord, the Lord will have war with Amalek 
from generation to generation." 

Many valuable lessons might be drawn from this history, 
such as the following : that the people of God may expect 
conflict in the world \ that in their conflicts they must com- 
bine prayer with courage ; and that those who wilfully and 
wantonly assail them on the Lord's account may expect not 
only signal defeat, but prolonged chastisement. These, how- 
ever, will come up on other occasions, and may be conven- 
iently reserved for future treatment, while we devote the re- 
mainder of the present discourse to a few considerations sug- 

*Deut. XXV., 17-19. 

t Judg. vi., 3 ; vii., 12. \ Sam. xiv., 48. i Chron. iv., 42, 43. 

Rephidim. 157 

gested by the name given to this altar, " Jehovah-Nissi — the 
Lord my banner." 

A flag is in itself a simple thing enough. A piece of 
bunting, or of silk, having on it an emblematic device, such 
as a certain number of stars and stripes, or the cross of St. 
Andrew, combined with those of St. George and St. Patrick 
— that is all ! and, when so regarded, it is " nothing in the 
world." But when we view it as a symbol, it forthwith ac- 
quires transcendant importance. It becomes then the mark 
of nationality, and all the sentiments of patriotism are stir- 
red in us by the sight of it. We think of the struggles of 
our fathers, when for the first time it fluttered over them ir< 
the breeze, as they resisted injustice and oppression. We 
recall the many bloody fields over which, amidst the smoke 
of battle, its streaming colors waved their proud defiance. 
The memories of a hundred years have woven themselves 
into its texture ; and, as it floats serenely over us, we see in 
it at once the aggregated result of our history in the past 
and the bright prophesy of our greatness in the future. Now, 
it is quite similar with the banner which God has given us, 
that it may be displayed because of the truth, and which, as 
this inscription declares, he is himself. Its value consists in 
that which it symbolizes or suggests. Let us see, then, what 
this affix to the name Jehovah here implies. 

In the first place, it means that Jehovah is our token of 
decision. The raising of a banner indicates that the person 
who sets it up has made his choice of, and has determined 
to adhere to, the cause of which it is the symbol. Now, 
there are two parties in the world. The one is that of truth 
and love and holiness, the other is that of error and selfish- 
ness and sin ; and they are in constant antagonism with each 
other. Nay, the more earnest the age is, the more intense 
is their opposition to each other, and the more difficult does 
it become for any one to avoid connecting himself openly 

158 Moses the Law-giver. 

with the one or the other. In seasons of prevailing indiffer- 
ence, when no great issues are raised, and lukewarmness is 
the characteristic of all alike, one may be tempted to tamper 
with the matter and stave off decision, with an effort to stand 
well with both. In the opening days of the first French 
Revolution, it is said that a timid trimmer fixed a cockade 
beneath the lappel of his coat on one breast, and a tricolor 
in the corresponding portion on the other ; and that when 
he met a royalist he exposed the cockade, and shouted 
" Long live the king !" but when he met a republican he 
showed the tricolor, and cried '"Long live the republic!" 
That, however, sufficed only for a short time ; for as the 
strife increased, every man was forced to make a decision 
between the two. So sometimes, in times of indifference, it 
has been possible for men to seem to combine the services 
of God and mammon ; but happily, as I think, for us, we 
have fallen on an earnest age. Never was Christianity more 
positive and aggressive than it is to-day. It is pushing its 
claims directly and distinctly before all thoughtful minds. 
Caring less, perhaps, than in former times for minor matters, 
it is calling more attention than ever to the person and work 
of Christ, and no inquirer can leave the subject alone. How 
otherwise shall we explain the appearance, within the last 
few years, of so many works devoted to the consideration of 
the life of our Lord .-* Men feel more and more that they 
must give some answer to the question, "What think ye of 
Christ.?" and the force of the Christian view of the subject, 
illustrated, as that has been, by some great spiritual revivals, 
both in the Old World and in the New, has provoked a cor 
responding intensity in the antagonists of the truth. It is, 
therefore, becoming impossible even to seem to be neutral 
here. From the midst of earnest controversy in thoughtful 
and inquiring circles, from the midst of eager collision be- 
tween principle and interest in business, from the midst of 

Rephidim. 159 

the constant conflict between good and evil in our city 
streets, from the midst of the increasing antagonism between 
Christian integrity and dishonest selfishness — nay, even from 
the debates in our halls of legislation, the cry is raised, "Who 
is on the Lord's side ?" and it becomes us all to hoist our 
flag, and display to the world in its expanding folds this 
old inscription, " Jehovah-Nissi — the Lord is my banner." 
When Hedley Vicars, the Christian soldier, was converted, 
he knew that he should be made the butt of much ridicule, 
and the victim of much petty persecution by his comrades ; 
so he resolved to be beforehand with them, and in the morn- 
ing on which he made his decision he took his Bible and 
laid it down open on his table. Very soon a fellow-officer 
came in, and, looking at the book, exclaimed, " Halloo, Vic- 
ars ! turned Methodist ?" To which he made reply, " That 
is my flag ; and, by the grace of God, I hope to be true to it 
as long as I live !" 'I'hat was his Rephidim, and there he 
too conquered Amalek by raising the banner of the Lord. 
So let it be, dear friends, with you. " If Jehovah be God, 
follow him." Do not go about as if you felt that you re- 
quired to apologize for being his disciples. You have no 
need to hang your heads for him. Hoist your flag, then, 
full in the sight of all your adversaries; and when they 
know that you are resolute, they will be deterred from at- 
tacking you. They who are timid are always most furi- 
ously assailed, for there is the greater likelihood of getting 
them to capitulate at length ; but bold decision wards off 
assault. The worldling will not waste his ammunition on 
those whom he cannot bring down ; and when the scoffer 
sees that a man is determined, he lets him alone. Take 
your stand, then, boldly with the people of God. Raise your 
banner ; see that you never lower it before any earthly influ- 
ence, and be ready to defend it with your lives. 

Again, this name means that Jehovah is our mark of dis- 

i6o Moses the Law-giver. 

tinction. He who has crossed the ocean, and seen vessels 
daily coming into sight, knows how the nationality of each is 
recognized by the flag she shows. Each country has its 
own symbol, and to those who are acquainted with its his- 
tory that symbol connects itself at once with the peculiar 
characteristics of the people to whom it belongs. So the 
Christian is different from other men ; not, indeed, in the 
sense of having any external badge constantly about him, 
but in that of having a distinct and easily recognized char- 
acter. When, in travelling through the midland counties of 
England, one comes on the stately residence of some duke 
or earl, and sees the flag floating in quiet dignity from its 
turret, he knows from that indication that the proprietor is 
himself within the walls. Now, the distinguishing peculiar- 
ity of the Christian is that God, to whom he belongs, is, by 
his spirit, dwelling within him, and that shows itself in many 
ways. It is apparent in the love by which he is animated 
for all who are in suflering, in sorrow, or in want. It is seen 
in the purity of speech and conduct which he maintains ; in 
the earnestness of his devotion to the will of Christ, and in 
the eager eflbrts which he makes to attain to that perfection 
of character which he sees in his Lord. Thus the very 
graces of holiness are the indications of God's presence in 
the heart, and that is the special distinction of the child of 
God. Look at the Israelites here, and when you ask what 
was the difference between them and other nations, you will 
find it in the fact that God was in the midst of them. So 
the Christian is the temple of the Holy Ghost ; and in the 
measure in which he is bringing forth the fruit of the Spirit, 
he is waving the banner which Moses described when he 
called this altar "Jehovah-Nissi." 

Still again, this name implies that Jehovah is our joy. 
When we make demonstration of our enthusiasm, we raise 
a whole forest of flag-staffs, and fix on each an appropriate 

Rephidim. i6r 

banner. Let it be the commemoration of some victory, or 
the celebration of national independence, or the welcome 
to some foreign prince who has visited our shores, and the 
whole city is gay with flags, while the emblems of many 
nationalities are seen fluttering in friendly fellowship from 
the mastheads of the ships in the harbor. So we are re- 
minded, by the inscription on this altar, that " the joy of the 
Lord " is " the strength " of the Christian. His life is one 
of constant gladness ; his characteristic is what I may call 
a calm enthusiasm, or, to use the phrase of Jonathan Ed- 
wards, a " quiet rapture." It is a mistake to think of the 
religion of Jesus as a gloomy thing. Because he is recon- 
ciled to God, because God, by his spirit, is dwelling in his 
heart, and because he has the well-grounded hope of spend- 
ing eternity with God, the Christian cannot but be joyful, 
even though he should be suffering affliction in the world. 
It was because the apostles had hoisted this banner that 
" they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing 
that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his 
name." It was because the Hebrews had hoisted this ban- 
ner that they " took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, 
knowing in themselves that they had in heaven a better and 
an enduring substance." It was because they had raised 
this banner that martyrs and confessors in every age were 
enabled to give such radiant testimony to the truth that God 
never forsakes those that put their trust in him. 

Great has been the enthusiasm which that banner, first 
unfurled here by Moses, has everywhere evoked ; and great 
has been the joy which its adherents everywhere have mani- 
fested, even when, to human view, they have been "desti- 
tute, afflicted, and tormented." Therefore, my hearers, if 
you wish to obtain pure, perennial, and incorruptible happi- 
ness, which the prosperity of the world cannot overlay nor 
its adversity destroy, come raise with me to-night this old 

i62 Moses the Law-giver. 

flag, which has braved the battle and the breeze for over 
thirty centuries, and march forward from this good hour un- 
der the leadership of him whose name it bears. 

Finally, this inscription reminds us that God is the pro- 
tector of his people. There is nothing of which a nation is 
so jealous as the honor of its flag, and he who is in reality a 
citizen has a right to the protection of the government. The 
man who wraps himself in the flag of this republic has the 
whole power of the republic pledged for his security. Great 
Britain has few prouder chapters in her recent history than 
that which tells of the expedition to Abyssinia some years 
ago. A great force was landed on the Red Sea shore; a 
long, troublesome, and dangerous march of many days was 
made into an enemy's country ; a fierce assault was success- 
fully attempted on a hitherto impregnable fortress ; many 
lives were lost, and fifty millions of dollars were spent — and 
all for what ? Because a brutal tyrant was keeping in horrid 
imprisonment two or three men who had a right to the pro- 
tection of the British flag; and you can hardly conceive what 
an outburst of joy broke forth from the nation when the news 
came that they had been set free, and that the insulting mon- 
arch had been made to bite the dust. But what is the power 
of the British empire, or the might of this great republic, in 
comparison with omnipotence ? Yet he who sincerely raises 
this banner has God's pledge that he will protect him. Lis- 
ten to these words: "I give unto them eternal life; and 
they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out 
of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater 
than all ; and none is able to pluck them out of my Fa- 
ther's hand." " No weapon that is formed against thee shall 
prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against thee in 
judgment thou shalt condemn." "In the world ye shall 
have tribulation ; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the 
world." "Fear not; for I am with thee : be not dismayed; for 

Rephidim. 163 

I am thy God: I will strengthen thee ; yea, I will help thee ; 
yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteous- 
ness.'"* These are the words of him who cannot lie, and 
who has the resources of infinite wisdom and power at his 
command. Why, then, should you hesitate to enlist into his 
army ? If you have not done so before, do it now. You 
can never have a better opportunity. The close of the old 
year calls you to reflection, and the near approach of the 
new year makes for you a natural boundary between the 
past and the future. Come, then, and let the time past of 
your life suffice to have wrought the will of the Gentiles. 
Up with the banner of your new Lord, Jehovah Jesus ! 
Raise it in firm decision, with quiet earnestness and with 
humble prayer ; keep it with unflinching fortitude, and be 
ready to die rather than dishonor it. 

•* Take thy banner, and beneath 
The battle-cloud's encircling wreath 
Guard it, while life lasts with thee ! 
Guard it — God will prosper thee ; 
In the dark and trying hour, 
In the breaking forth of power, 
In the rush of steeds and men. 
His right hand will shield thee then."t 

* John X., 28, 29 ; xvi., 33. Isa. xli., 10 ; liv., 17. 

t I trust Mr. Longfellow will forgive me for the slight alteration which 
I have made on the third line in the above stanza of his spirit-stirring 
hymn, that I might appropriate it to the battle of life. But that I may 
not be guilty of giving currency to an impure text of such a classical 
poem, let me say here that in the original it reads thus : 

" Guard it, till our homes are free." 



Exodus xviii., 1-27. 

THE eighteenth chapter of the Book of Exodus contains 
an account of a visit paid by Jethro, the father-in-law 
of Moses, to the camp of the Israelites, and the character 
of the parties combines with the important results which is- 
sued from their interview to make the occasion one of the 
most interesting connected with the wilderness history of the 
tribes. At first sight it would seem that Rephidim was the 
scene of this patriarchal greeting, for the narrative comes in 
between the account of the victory over Amalek and that of 
the journey to the desert of Sinai ; and many of the best ex- 
positors believe that the incidents here recorded did occur 
while yet the people were on the outside of that narrow and 
rocky defile which forms the entrance into the region of Ho- 
reb, properly so called. To me, however, it rather seems as 
if the story of this visit belongs to a later period, and is in- 
serted here out of its chronological position because of cer- 
tain important reasons which, under the guidance of divine 
inspiration, weighed with the mind of the writer. It is not a 
matter of much consequence, and no vital principle is affect- 
ed by its settlement either way ; for we know that in some 
of the gospel narratives the order of time has been made by 
the evangelists in many instances to give way before other 
and higher considerations. We do not suppose, therefore, 
that this chapter has fallen by some literary accident out of 
its proper place j but rather that it has been by its author 

Jethro's Visit. 165 

deliberately inserted here, although it really belongs to a 
period subsequent to that at which it is introduced. 

My belief is that the Israelites had moved into the district 
of Horeb, and had encamped in the plain, in which they re- 
mained for a whole year, and from which they witnessed the 
giving of the law ; and that it was some time during their 
residence there that Jethro came with Zipporah and her sons 
to Moses. I am led to this conclusion by the fact that in 
the fifth verse of the narrative the locality is described as 
"the wilderness where Moses encamped at the Mount of 
God." Now this can mean only one place. The Mount 
of God is pre-eminently and emphatically Sinai ; and there- 
fore, all other considerations to the contrary notwithstand- 
ing, we are shut up to the inference that the encampment 
here referred to was not Rephidim, but Sinai. This view of 
the matter is confirmed by the words of Moses in the first 
chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, where, describing what 
must be held to be the same change in the mode of his ad- 
ministration which he here initiated, he places it clearly in 
Horeb, and not long before the removal of the people from 
the base of Sinai.* Moreover, in this chapter itself there 
are certain expressions which seem to refer to the promulga- 
tion of the law and the establishment of the divine oracle 
as things already past ; for Moses speaks to Jethro of " the 
people coming to inquire of God," and of his making them 
" to know the statutes of God and his laws f while Jethro 
uses language which appears to imply that Moses had al- 
ready begun " to bring their causes unto God."t Besides, 
the time which elapsed between the arrival of the people at 
Rephidim and their journeying to Sinai would hardly admit 
of the occurrence of all the events here enumerated, espe- 
cially when we take into consideration the conflict with Am- 

* Deut. i., 6, 9-17. t See Exod. xviii., 15, 16, 19. 

i66 Moses the Law-giver. 

alek, of which that valley was the scene, and which occupied 
at least one whole day. It is true, indeed, as some one 
has suggested,* that many questions of dispute might arise 
among them as to the disposal of the spoil which was taken 
from their enemies ; but no one can read the words of Je- 
thro without perceiving that his advice to Moses was found- 
ed not upon the sight of the proceedings of a single day, and 
that one of exceptional hardship, but rather on his observa- 
tion, for some considerable time, of the wearing character of 
the constant routine of duties which Moses had undertaken, 
and which he was endeavoring daily to perform. For these 
reasons, therefore, I am disposed to conclude that the narra- 
tive contained in the eighteenth chapter of Exodus belongs 
chronologically to a later date than that of the encampment 
at Rephidim, and has its scene rather in the valley at the 
base of Sinai. f But if that be so, how has it been inserted 
here ? To that question three answers may be given, no 
one of which excludes the others, and in the union of which 
we may probably find the true solution. It may have been 
brought in at this point in order to contrast the joy of a truly 
pious man like Jethro, at the deliverance of the Israelites, 
with the envy, malice, and ferocity of the Amalekites. All 
the neighboring tribes were not so bitterly hostile as the de- 
scendants of Ishmael, but those among them who retained 
their knowledge and worship of the true God were moved 
with gratitude at the manifestation of the goodness of the 


* See Murphy, in loco. 

t To these considerations might be added the fact that the chapter con- 
tains such a repetition of particulars regarding Jethro and the family of 
Moses, as suggests that it stands apart from the general narrative, and 
was probably written at first on a separate roll. It is only fair, however, 
to add that Canon Cook, who notes this characteristic of the chapter, 
considers that it stands in its true chronological position. See " Speak- 
er's Commentary," in loco, vol. i., p. 325. 

Jethro's Visit. 167 

Lord to the Hebrews ; and so the Gentiles were not rejected 
simply and only as Gentiles, but rather as idolaters. There 
is something, to my mind, exceedingly significant and sug- 
gestive in the introduction just here, between the defeat of 
Amalek and the giving of the law, of the account of Jethro, 
Moses, Aaron, and the elders of Israel keeping sacramental 
feast together before the Lord ; and it seems to hint that, 
while the Jews were to be entirely isolated from the degrad- 
ing idolatry of the heathen generally, they were yet to be 
generous and brotherly in their recognition of those who sin- 
cerely sought to serve the one living and true God. If this 
had been better remembered by the people in later days, 
there would have been fewer apostasies into idolatry on the 
one hand, and a less rigid exclusivism observed by them on 
the other. 

But another reason for the placing of this narrative here 
may have been because the writer was about to enter on 
that section of his history which records the giving of the 
law, and desired that nothing should interrupt its conti- 
nuity. The incidents of Sinai were to stand alone, and 
nothing was to be allowed to divert the attention of the read- 
er from them even for a moment ; therefore, before he en- 
tered upon the description of them, he dismisses the personal 
reminiscences connected with the visit of his father-in-law. 
These were too pleasant, and in their results too important, 
to be left out altogether, yet they must not be permitted to 
break in upon a more momentous history, or to withdraw the 
mind from the tremendous majesty of the revelation from 

Again, jealous for the honor of Jehovah, the inspired au- 
thor may have desired to keep clearly distinct before his 
readers the measures which he adopted at mere human 
suggestion, and those which he inaugurated at the bidding 
of Jehovah. The suggestions of Jethro were those of a wise 

i68 Moses the Law-giver. 

man, the law from Sinai was that of God, and the two are 
in nowise to be confounded ; so, before we move forward to 
that valley over which the voice of the Eternal rolled his 
words of thunder, we are permitted to hear and to enjoy the 
counsels of the Midianitish priest. Too valuable to be en- 
tirely overlooked, they must not be overlaid beneath the 
grandeur of Sinai ; while, on the other hand, they must not 
be put on a level with the utterances of God. 

Having thus obtained a distinct idea of the true chrono- 
logical position of this chapter, and of the probable reasons 
which led to its insertion here, let us go on to the considera- 
tion of its contents. 

It would appear that, after the incidents which occurred 
at the inn,* and which led to the circumcision of her young- 
est son, Zipporah was sent back by Moses to her father's 
care. He was going to Egypt, on a mission which he felt 
sure would task his faith and courage to the utmost; and 
though, at first, it had been apparently his intention to take 
his family with him, yet the spirit manifested by Zipporah 
on the occasion referred to convinced him that her presence 
would be a hinderance rather than a help to him in his work ; 
and, therefore, having a regard at once to his own efficiency 
and to her safety, he let her return, for the time, to her fa- 
ther's house. It is probable, also, that he appointed the 
Mount in Horeb, where God had met with him at first, and 
where he had assured him that he would bring his people to 
worship, as a place of tryst, to which Jethro was to bring his 
family, whenever he should hear of the arrival of the Israel- 
ites in that locality. So the good old man, having learned 
of the escape of the Hebrews, and their encampment in Ho- 
reb, set out from his Midianitish head-quarters, and, travel- 
ling after the manner of his people, reached the wilderness 

* Exod. iv., 24-26. See above, p. 66. 

Jethro's Visit. 169 

of Sinai in safety. When he came near the outskirts of the 
camp, he sent on a messenger to announce his arrival to 
Moses j and the leader at once " went out to meet him, and 
did obeisance and kissed him ; and they asked each other 
of their welfare, and they came into the tent." It is a touch- 
ing Oriental picture, and illustrates the confidential character 
of the friendship which existed between these two members 
of God's own aristocracy. Moses does not take airs upon 
him, or assume any superiority over Jethro on the ground of 
the great things in which, during the interval of their sepa- 
ration, he had been so distinguished an actor. Nor does 
Jethro come to him with cringing sycophancy, as if now 
he dared hardly speak to his old acquaintance and friend. 
They are the same to each other as when they parted, only 
their separation has given them a higher opinion of each 
other, and a stronger affection for each other ; and so there 
is not, on either side, the slightest suspicion of insincerity, as 
they run to lock themselves in each other's arms. They be- 
gan again with each other just where they had left off, and 
sat down to tell each other of God's doings with them since 
they saw each other last. On the one hand, Jethro would 
have much to say concerning Zipporah and her sons ; and 
Gershon and Eliezer would chime in with the story of their 
adventures, each trying to outdo the other in the marvellous 
things he had to tell. On the other, Moses would recount at 
length the story of his controversy with Pharaoh ; his turn- 
ing of Jannes and Jambres to confusion ; the desolation of 
Egypt by the plagues ; the Passover ; the Exodus, and the 
crossing of the sea ; and, standing at the door of the tent, 
he would point to the pillar of cloud and fire, as he told 
the miracle of their guidance, and rehearsed the incidents 
of Marah and Rephidim. Doubtless, too, he would dwell 
with all the ecstasy of enthusiasm on the goodness and the 
glory of Jehovah, whose simple instrument he had been 

lyo Moses the Law-giver. 

throughout; for, as he concluded, Jethro broke forth into 
praise, saying, " Blessed be the Lord, who hath delivered 
you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand 
of Pharaoh ; who hath delivered the people from under the 
hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is great- 
er than all gods ; for in the thing wherein they dealt proud- 
ly he was above them." Then, as the priest of God, he of- 
fered a burnt- offering and sacrifices, and sat down with 
Moses, Aaron, and the elders to the holy feast. 

It is rather singular that, throughout the narrative, there 
is no mention made of Zipporah and her sons, except the 
statement that Jethro brought them to Moses. This may 
be owing to the Oriental custom of virtually ignoring wom- 
an, or it may be explained by some peculiarity in the char- 
acter of Zipporah herself; for, so far as appears, she had 
little sympathy with the grand work in which her husband 
was engaged, and perhaps would have been better pleased 
if he had never left his shepherd -life in Midian. But it 
could not be caused by any lack of affection for her, or ap- 
preciation of her, on the part of Moses ; for, at a later date, 
he stood up on her behalf even against Aaron and Miriam. 
Still, we cannot conceal our disappointment that, while so 
much is made — and very properly made — of Jethro, there is 
no remotest reference to the reception by Moses^piiis wife 
and their sons. With that exception, however, we cannot 
but admire everything in this patriarchal greeting. 

Nothing tests a man more than his bearing toward his for- 
mer friends after he has passed through some experiences 
which have brought him great honor and prosperity; and 
when, as in the present instance, he comes back with his old 
frankness and cordiality, and is not ashamed of his old pie- 
ty, he is a great man indeed. Too often, however, prosperity 
deteriorates character, and honor freezes the heart. The 
head swims on the giddy height, and the son returns a com- 

Jethro's Visit. 171 

parative stranger even to his father's house ; while the fam- 
ily worship, which used to be so enjoyed, is smiled at as a 
weakness of the old people's, and avoided as a weariness by 
himself. Old companions, too, are passed without recogni- 
tion ; or, if recognized at all, it is with an air of condescen- 
sion, and with an effort like that which one makes to stoop 
for something that is far beneath him. The development of 
character also estranges us from those whom we once knew 
intimately, and who were once, it may be, the better for our 
fellowship. But the consolation in all such cases is that 
there can be no value in the further friendship of those who 
can thus forget the past. He is the really good friend — as 
well as the truly great man— -who, in spite of his deserved 
eminence, resumes with us at the point at which we sepa- 
rated, and carries us at length with him to the throne of 
grace, to acknowledge there our obligations to the Lord. 
There are men whom one meets from time to time with 
whom he has always to begin anew. They are like a book 
in which you never get fully interested, and which, whenever 
you take it up, you must commence to read again at the very 
preface ; until, in absolute disgust, you cast it away from 
you, and never lift it more. There are others who are like 
a well-beloved volume, with a book-mark in it, which you 
can open at any moment, and resume where you broke off; 
and which, though you may be often interrupted, you con- 
trive to read through to the end. Such a friend was Moses 
to Jethro, and Jethro to Moses ; and though there came a 
final separation of the one from the other on earth, they 
would renew their conference in heaven, where still they 
would tell one another of the goodness which the Lord had 
shown to them. Compared with such frank, confidential, 
and mutually helpful friendships, that of the successful world- 
ling and his fawning parasite is but as tinsel is to gold. 
That Jethro was deeply solicitous for the welfare and honor 

172 Moses the Law-giver. 

of Moses, appears from the wise advice he gave him. He 
found that Moses had taken upon him the sole responsibility 
for the administration of justice among the people ; and, as 
the crowd of suitors continued with little apparent diminu- 
tion from morning till evening, he saw at once that such a 
course would speedily break down the strength of his friend, 
while it must also fail to satisfy the disputants. Therefore, 
with admirable common-sense, he recommended him to di- 
vide the labor with others, rising in regular gradation from 
rulers of tens to rulers of thousands, who should judge the 
people at all seasons, and bring only hard matters to him. 
He advised that he should be for the people to Godward, 
bringing their causes unto God, and teaching them God's 
statutes and ordinances, alike in reference to their daily walk 
and their individual work ; but he urged him to relegate the 
settlement of all minor matters to judges taken from among 
the people themselves. From the reference made to this 
arrangement in the Book of Deuteronomy, it appears that 
these subordinate judges were chosen by the suffrage of the 
tribes ; but Jethro manifested his own sterlingness of char- 
acter, as well as his thorough acquaintance with human nat- 
ure, by urging that the persons so chosen should be " able 
men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness." 
The election was by the people, but the appointment was 
made by Moses ; and it is probable, therefore, that he exer- 
cised a veto on their choice whensoever he considered it to 
be necessary for the best interests of the tribes that he 
should do so. Cavillers have objected to the arrangement 
suggested by Jethro, that it would create at once between 
seven and eight thousand judges; but they arrive at that 
result by taking the individual as the unit ; whereas, in the 
East generally, and specially among such tribes as that to 
which Jethro belonged, and in which his experience was ob- 
tained, the unit is the family ; and the lowest of these jus- 

Jethro's Visit. 173 

tices, therefore, would have jurisdiction over ten families. 
Next came the rulers over fifties, to whom the dissatisfied 
among the tens might appeal, and who were likely to have 
the largest share of the work ; then came the rulers over 
hundreds, and then the rulers over thousands ; and only- 
such causes as ran through the whole ascending series with- 
out satisfactor)^ settlement were brought before Moses him- 
self. It was an excellent plan, which, with the approval of 
God, Moses adopted ; and which the accumulated wisdom 
of thirty intervening centuries has done very little to im- 
prove upon. Thus Jethro lent his sagacity to Moses, and 
Moses helped to stimulate the piety of Jethro, for true 
friendship is always reciprocal in its advantages. But the 
pathways of the two men — so far as earth was concerned — 
diverged again ; and so, after this brief and profitable sea- 
son of fellowship with each other, Moses let his father-in-law 
depart, and he went away into his own land. 

It is time now, however, that we should look for some les- 
sons from this narrative that shall be appropriate to our mod- 
ern life. And, first of all, we may learn here that public duties 
do not absolve a man from domestic responsibility. It may 
be unavoidable that one who has great work laid upon him 
should for a season be separated from his household ; but in 
all ordinary cases a man's family should be under his per- 
sonal supervision, and husband and wife should dwell togeth- 
er. It was not good either for Moses or Zipporah to be so 
long absent from each other, and certainly the effect on Ger- 
shom and Eliezer would be positively injurious ; so, though 
it might be hard for Jethro to part with them all, he recog- 
nized that it was right for them to be with Moses, and inter- 
posed no objection to the reunion of his son-in-law's house- 
hold, but did everything in his power to bring it about. No 
doubt Moses had many and pressing calls on his time and 
his strength. The leader of such a host, however much he 

174 Moses the Law-giver. 

might bring the exertions of others into requisition, had no 
sinecure. But there was one responsibility which he could 
not delegate to any man, and that was the responsibility for 
the ruling of his own house, and the godly upbringing of his 
sons. Nobody could attend to these matters but himself — 
neither Jethro, nor Aaron, nor Joshua, nor Hur could relieve 
him of these duties. God would hold him personally ac- 
countable for their performance ; and we may well believe 
that the visit of Jethro, with his wife and sons, would be the 
means of quickening his conscience in regard to these home 
responsibilities. But how many among ourselves require 
some patriarch to come to us, and, as it were, reintroduce 
us to our wives and children ! We have not left our homes, 
indeed ; it is not quite with us, in this respect, as it was with 
Moses and Zipporah, who had been separated from each 
other for many months. We live beneath the same roofs as 
our families ; we do some of our eating and all of our sleep- 
ing in the home beside them ; we pay the bills ; we say now 
and then an honest word of commendation to one or other 
of the household band ; we preside at the breakfast -table 
and the dinner-table — and what else? We cannot honestly 
add much more. Yet we lay " the flattering unction " to 
our souls that we are model husbands and fathers ; and we 
imagine, too, that we are training our children into habits of 
industry and frugality. What a miserable delusion ! Busi- 
ness is important enough in its own place, and public work 
for the city and for the country is not to be neglected. But 
it seems to me that in these days men — ay, even Christian 
men — are too largely forgetting that their first obligation is 
to their homes. When the apostle wrote, " It remaineth 
that those that have wives be as though they had none," he 
did not mean that when you sit down to the morning meal 
you should bury yourself in the newspaper, and become en- 
tirely oblivious of those who are seated at the table with you, 

Jethro's Visit. 175 

and of her who is even at the moment ministering to your 
comfort j neither did he mean that you should come home, 
after your weary business day, cross, testy, and cantankerous, 
such a son of Belial that you cannot be spoken to ; and that 
when dinner is over you should go to sleep on the sofa, or 
adjourn with a masculine friend to the smoking-room, utterly 
forgetful of her whom you have solemnly vowed to make the 
companion of your life and the sharer of your lot ; and in- 
different, also, to the welfare of the children, who are left to 
be dragged up by some foul-tongued nurse or some cynical 
tutor. How many of the domestic tragedies which are con- 
stantly shocking the community and rending households in 
twain have had their origin in just such thoughtless indiffer- 
ence as that ? Oh, my friends ! we could do with a little less 
courting before marriage, if we only had a good deal more 
after it ; and if parents were to be slightly less solicitous 
about getting the very most out of every bargain they make 
in the store, and a great deal more anxious to become ac- 
quainted with their own children, and to lead them into 
ways of holy happiness, the profiting would appear unto all 
men. What is the good of your money to you if you neg- 
lect your son, and let him grow up unregulated and revenge- 
ful, so that at the least provocation he shoots down the im- 
agined author of the offence ? Would you not, when that 
occurs, willingly offer the half of your fortune to wipe out its 
consequences ? And yet it would have been far more sensible 
to have sought to prevent its causes, even if you should not 
have made the half of those thousands which you now call 
your own. Let me ask every father and every husband here 
to ponder well the appeal which I am now making. Your 
wife and children are of infinitely more importance than 
success in business, or the gaining by you of some public 
office ; yet is it not true that you are largely a stranger to 
those under your own roof.? You give them no confidences; 


t76 Moses the Law-giver. 

you never say a word of endearment to them ; you only want 
to be let alone and left to yourself when you come home ; 
and so you know just as little of the inner life and disposi- 
tion, just as little of the dangers and temptations, just as lit- 
tle of the aptitudes and tastes of the members of your own 
family, as if they were in Kamtchatka and you in New York. 
Let me, therefore, Jethro-like, bring back to you to-night 
your wife and children ; and let me urge you to register the 
resolution, at the commencement of this new year, that you 
will begin your home-life anew, on a different principle from 
that which you have heretofore followed, and that you will 
give to wife and children the foremost place in your affec- 
tion and your care. Think how the sons of Eli brought his 
gray hairs with sorrow to the grave ; remember that the sons 
even of Samuel lived to shame the name of their father ; and 
learn, I beseech you, this great lesson, that even public use- 
fulness, as well as business success, is too dearly purchased 
by the sacrifice of the highest welfare of your children. 

But, in the second place, we may learn that division of 
labor is necessary to permanent efficiency. It may seem to 
you that if you are thus to recognize the paramount impor- 
tance of home-life, there will be no time left for business ; 
and that, in these days of active competition, the upshot 
must be either that you must retire, or you will fail. But 
just here comes in the valuable advice of Jethro as to the 
appointment of subordinates; and I have no hesitation what- 
ever in saying that it is because business men in these days 
insist on doing everything themselves, that they are so ex- 
hausted by the work of the day as to be unfitted for any 
home discipline or enjoyment. We recognize the value of 
the principle of division of labor in manufactures, because 
there it cheapens the manufactured article; but we fail to 
see its importance in our own work, because there, in the 
first instance, it involves additional outlay. We cannot get 

Jethro's Visit. 177 

a man competent to be the head of a department without 
paying him a handsome salary; for responsibility means 
character, and character always commands its price. So, 
to divide our work into so many departments, and to put 
over each a thoroughly capable man, whom we will hold to 
a rigid account, requires the immediate expenditure of a 
large amount of money, and we say we cannot afford it. 
But all that is a short-sighted policy, for, in the long run, 
the greater amount of business done will more than re- 
imburse the original outlay ; and, in addition, you can go 
home, not to fret and worry over trifles, but to be the com- 
panion of your wife and the guide and director of your chil- 
dren. Moreover, instead of breaking down hopelessly un- 
der the strain of carrying everything on your own shoulders, 
and requiring to go abroad for years, or, it may be, to leave 
business altogether, your strength remains unimpaired — nay, 
perhaps it even increases ; and you have the satisfaction of 
seeing your home happy, and your children growing up to 
follow in your footsteps, and to declare that their God is 
dearer to them because he is the God of their father. You 
may tell me that I know nothing about business, and, in- 
deed, I will plead guilty to such ignorance ; but I know 
enough to understand that health is better than success, 
and that many a man would give nine-tenths of the fortune 
he has earned, if he could only thereby get back the health 
which he wrecked in earning it; while not unfrequently a 
great concern which was created and carried by a single 
man has gone to ruin when he died, or has left his widow 
or his children with a responsibility which they could not 
face, and which they were willing to sell to some adventurer 
for a tithe of its value. 

One said to me, when I began my ministry, " Never do 
yourself what you can get another to do for you as well as 
you can do it yourself;" and, though I confess that I have 

178 Moses the Law-giver. 

not acted on the maxim as much as I ought to have done, I 
see the wisdom of it more clearly, the longer I live. " Di- 
vide et impera " was the maxim of the old Roman general — 
divide and conquer; and by dividing our labor into many 
sections, and holding some one responsible for each, we 
shall do more, we shall do it better, and we shall work lon- 
ger, than would be otherwise possible. This is one of the 
best safeguards against that overwork which is slaying so 
many commercial men to-day; and if you read the memoirs 
of such employers as Brassey, Stephenson, Sir Titus Salt, 
Sir William Fairbairn, and the great contractors who seem 
almost to have girdled the world by their enterprise, you will 
discover that they never could have done so much if they 
had not taken Jethro's advice to Moses, and applied it to 
their several pursuits. 

Finally, we may learn here what those qualities are for 
which we ought to look in the men whom we place in posi- 
tions of responsibility. Nothing could be finer than Jethro's 
enumeration, alike in the characteristics which he names, 
and in the order in which he mentions them. He urges 
that the judges to be appointed shall be distinguished for 
ability, piety, truthfulness, and disinterested integrity. It 
may seem strange, at first sight, that he puts ability before 
piety ; but we have only to think a moment or two to be 
convinced that the old sheik was right. The man who 
has piety and nothing else may fill a humble niche in pri- 
vate life with great honor ; but in a place of responsibility, 
his piety will not make up for the lack of ability. Therefore 
ability stands first ; but inasmuch as a man's bearing toward 
God determines also the direction of his ability among his 
fellow-men, after the ability comes the piety. The one is 
the engine of the steamship, the other is the compass ; and 
both alike are necessary, though the engine is first in the 
order of erection. Richard Cobden used to say that "you 

Jethro's Visit. 179 

have no security for a man who has no religious principle f 
and even they who have no great regard for the Lord Jesus 
themselves are glad to get a good Christian into their ser- 
vice j for, like Laban, they can say, " We have learned by ex- 
perience that the Lord hath blessed us for your sake." It 
is true, indeed, that in recent times among ourselves some 
who seemed to be God-fearing men have proved dreadfully 
unfaithful to the trust that was committed to them ; but that 
must not bring the value of real piety to a discount among 
us, for the very outcry that has been raised is a proof of the 
comparative rarity of such occurrences, while the worth of 
the genuine thing furnished the temptation to counterfeit it. 
Perhaps old Samuel Johnson was as rash as he was rude 
when, hearing a man at table make a blatant profession of 
his atheism, he turned to his hostess and said, " Pray, mad- 
am, have you counted your spoons ?" Yet there is a con- 
nection of the closest kind between a man's creed and his 
life; and, other things being equal, the God-fearing man 
ought, for every place that involves responsibility, to be pre- 

Properly speaking, piety carries in it truth and honesty ; 
yet these are so important that Jethro gives them a separate 
place. Truth is the very girdle of character j and where 
that is loosed, everything else falls to pieces. The man 
who can tell a deliberate lie is fit for any other violation of 
the Decalogue ; while he who changes his color with every 
change of circumstances, as the trout does in every several 
pool, is utterly unreliable. You may be sure that there is 
something worse behind, and that, if you could withdraw the 
veil, you would discover that he is scheming for his own ag- 
grandizement j for falsehood and covetousness go commonly 
hand in hand. 

Friends, does it not strike you, as you read these verses, 
that the human nature of to-day is extraordinarily like that 

i8o Moses the Law-giver. 

of Jethro's time, and that the counsels which he tendered to 
Moses are the most appropriate which can be given yet to 
those who, whether in business, in Church, or in State, have 
to do with the selection and appointment of office-bearers to 
places of trust ? On the day of President Hayes's inaugu- 
ration, somebody sent him a postal card which referred him 
to these verses, and doubtless they were excellently fitted to 
give him direction ; but we have to do with ourselves, and 
it is, to my mind, infinitely more important at present that 
the great mass of our citizens, who being at the bottom of 
the pyramid have by far the most in their power, should 
understand and act on this old advice. The glib-tongued 
orator, the party manipulator, the hungry office-seeker, too 
often carries the day with the people over ability and piety 
and truth ; and as for disinterestedness, I am ashamed to 
say that it seems to be one of the lost virtues in American 
politics. Men want everywhere to serve themselves; and 
the honor of the State or the welfare of the community is of 
no moment to them, provided only they can secure their 
personal aggrandizement. Now this is all wrong. The of- 
fice should seek the man, not the man the office. The com- 
manding ability of a citizen in the place he holds in busi- 
ness life, the character he has made in his mercantile trans- 
actions, and the fact that he has no objects of his own to 
seek, ought to point him out to his fellow-citizens as the per- 
son best fitted to serve them in Legislature or Congress. I 
hope the day is coming when the very seeking of an office 
will disqualify a man for holding it ; when the citizens shall 
call for those to represent them and serve them who are 
prominent in everything that is noble and magnanimous; 
and when the whole race of lean and hungry ones that take 
to politics for selfishness and not for patriotism will disap- 
pear from the midst of us. But, if that day is ever to come, 
we must begin at the bottom and work up toward it, and ev- 

Jethro's Visit. i8i 

ery citizen must lay to heart the advice of this old Midian- 
itish chief. In a tree, rottenness begins at the top, but life 
springs from the root. So we must look here not to Cabinet 
or President, but to ourselves ; for with what face dare we 
complain of any appointment that may be made in Wash- 
ington, when we have ourselves sent the owner of a gam- 
bling-house to represent us in the Legislature ? 

You say, perhaps, that this is preaching politics. But I re- 
ply by asking. How can I do anything else from such a text ? 
and by asserting that the preaching of the Gospel from our 
pulpits will be of very little service unless they who listen to 
it begin themselves to preach it in their conduct, both in 
business and in political life. I should despise myself, in- 
deed, if I were to avail myself of the advantage which the 
pulpit gives me in the shape of immunity either from inter- 
ruption, dissent, or debate, for the purpose of advocating any 
party issues. My aim now is not partisanship, but patriot- 
ism. I desire to see all parties among us purified and ele- 
vated ; I wish to bring the people to the determination to 
choose only such men as Jethro has here described — " Men 
of ability, such as fear God and hate covetousness " — to all 
posts of office, from the ruler of ten to the ruler of the re- 
public itself j and if that hurts any party, then so much the 
worse for that party. I am here to expound God's Word in 
its application to living issues among ourselves; and nei- 
ther the frown of one party nor the favor of another will 
keep me from saying what I believe to be right. The true 
remedy for all our political evils is in the hands of the peo- 
ple themselves ; and when they shall determine to act on 
the principles of Jethro, and carry them out in every elec- 
tion, they will preach a sermon more eloquent and effective 
for the advancement of truth and righteousness among us 
than the greatest pulpit orator has ever given. 



Exodus xix., i ; xx., 19. 

" T N the third month, when the children of Israel were 
X gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day 
came they into the wilderness of Sinai." The place of their 
encampment is described as " before the Mount," and its 
identification is one of the most interesting problems of 
Sinaitic geography. For its settlement, we have to deter- 
mine also which of the summits in the region is that from 
which the law was given ; and as almost every peak in the 
range has been advanced to that honor by some enthusias- 
tic traveller, the matter is one which requires patient and 
minute investigation. A careful study of the sacred narra- 
tive itself gives us the following requirements, all of which 
must be met and satisfied by the real site. We must have, 
first, a valley sufficient for a camping-ground for the entire 
Israelitish host.* Then over this valley there must be one 
summit so conspicuous, and rising so commandingly above 
all others, as to be called " the Mount."t Moreover, this 
peak must be everywhere in sight throughout the camp,1: 
while at its base it must be hedged in by no natural boun- 
daries ; for if it had been so marked, Moses would not have 
been commanded to set bounds around it.§ Still further, 

* Exod. xix., 2. t Ibid. 

X Ibid, xix., II. § Ibid, xix., 12. 

Sinai and the Decalogue. 183 

the plain of encampment must be large enough to afford 
space for the people both to come forth to meet with God, 
and to remove and stand afar off.* 

Now, it happens that in the immediate neighborhood of 
the mountain range of which Jebel Musa is the highest 
point there are two plains, either of which has been believed 
to meet sufficiently the conditions which I have just enumer- 
ated, and both of which have had their respective partisans. 
It is difficult, without an ordnance map, or something equiv- 
alent to that, to make the matter perfectly intelligible to an 
audience; but I will set it before you as clearly as I can. 
Imagine, then, a mountain block of about three miles in 
length, lying north-east and south-west, and separated from 
the surrounding ridges by deep defiles, which here and there 
expand into valleys of a greater or less breadth. At the 
south-eastern end, the mountain shoots up to an immense 
dome-like summit, which is about seven thousand feet above 
the level of the sea, and which springs from a perpendicular 
wall of rock that rises sheer from the valley beneath to a 
height of about two thousand feet. This is Jebel Musa, which 
is the traditional site of the giving of the law. It was long 
believed, however, that tradition here, as in so many other 
cases, was wrong, because it seemed that there was no valley 
of sufficient ma'gnitude near from which the summit could be 
seen. But though that was the opinion of so painstaking an 
investigator as the late Dr. Robinson of this city, more re- 
cent explorers have alleged that the Wady Sebaiyeh, stretch- 
ing away to the south of the Sinaitic range, is extensive 
enough to fulfil all the conditions of the sacred narrative. 
One of the earliest modern travellers to visit this site has 
thus described it : " Here, close at my right, arose almost 
perpendicularly the holy mountain, its shattered pyramidal 

* Exod, xix., 17; XX., i8. 

184 Moses the Law-giver. 

peak towering above me some fourteen hundred feet ; of a 
brownish tint, presenting vertical strata of granite, which 
threw off the rays of the morning sun. Clinging to its base 
was a range of sharp, upheaving crags, from one to two hun- 
dred feet in height, which formed an almost impassable bar- 
rier to the mountain itself from the valley beyond. These 
crags were separated from the mountain by a deep and nar- 
row gorge, yet they must be considered as forming the pro- 
jecting base of Sinai. Directly in front of me was a level 
valley, stretching onward to the south for three or four miles, 
and enclosed on the east, west, and south by low mountains 
of various altitudes — all much less, however, than that of 

This plain, according to Mr. Arthur,t who made actual in- 
vestigation of it, has ample accommodation for the encamp- 
ment ; and, without any hesitation, he identifies Jebel Musa 
with Sinai, and puts the encampment in the plain of Se- 
baiyeh, which is to the south of the range. The other 
plain, known as Er Rahah, is at the opposite or north-west- 
ern end of the mountain block, where the bare and granite 
ridges of Ras Sufsafeh, the Horeb of tradition, rise from the 
valley to a height of about twelve or fifteen hundred feet. 
This mountain is very difficult of access ; but those who 
have ascended it, and looked down on the plain beneath, 
have little hesitation in determining that from its summit 
the law was given. My own preferences have hitherto been 
in favor of Sebaiyeh for the encampment, with Jebel Musa 
as the Mount ; but from the statement made by Canon Cook 
in the " Speaker's Commentary," to the effect that military- 
surveyors have declared that there is no level plain in Se- 

* M. K. Kellog, quoted in Kitto's "Daily Bible Readings," vol. ii., 
p. 138. 

t See Fairbairn's " Imperial Bible Dictionary," s. v. SiNAl. 

Sinai ani> the Decalogue. 185 

baiyeh on which the Israelites could be assembled, while in 
Er Rahah, with its branches into Es Sheikh and El Leja, 
which form the transept to this natural cathedral, there is 
abundant accommodation for the tribes, and the Sufsafeh 
summit is everywhere visible, I am constrained, though some- 
what reluctantly, to accept the theory of Robinson and his 

Either of these situations furnishes an admirable and ap- 
propriate temple for the solemn services which the historian 
here describes ; and we may be sure that, on a people accus- 
tomed from their infancy to the flat, sandy, and unbroken 
level of Lower Egypt, the first sight of these thunder-riven 
peaks, pointing in silence to the sky, must have produced 
the most marked effect. The majesty of the external sce- 
nery prepared them for the revelation to them of the majesty 
of Jehovah. The vision of the mountains was to them like 
an appropriate organ prelude, which almost insensibly leads 
the soul into the presence of its God. " The cliff," to bor- 
row Dean Stanley's words, " rises like a huge altar, and is 
visible against the sky in lonely grandeur from end to end 
of the whole plain;" while the valley itself "is the adytum, 
withdrawn, as if in * the end of the world,' from all the stir 
and confusion of earthly things."* 

But we have lingered long enough on the mere topogra- 
phy ; let us advance to rehearse the events of which this 
natural temple was the scene. After the encampment had 
been fairly settled, and, expecting some communication from 
Jehovah, Moses ascended the Mount, perhaps to the place 
where he had formerly seen the bush that burned and yet 
was not consumed. As he was wending his way upward, 
the Lord called unto him, and said, " Thus shalt thou say to 
the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel : Ye have 

* " Sinai and Palestine," p. 43. 

1 86 Moses the Law-giver. 

seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on 
eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now, therefore, 
if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then 
ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people : 
for all the earth is mine ; and ye shall be unto me a king- 
dom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words 
which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel." And 
very wonderful words they are, constituting the prelimina- 
ries of the covenant, and forming what one has suggestively 
called "the gospel of the Mosaic dispensation." Now was 
about to be established among the Hebrews that state of 
things which Josephus has so admirably called a theocracy, 
in which Jehovah was to be the only king ; and though the 
external system has disappeared, yet, as every Christian has 
succeeded to the heritage of these promises, spiritually in- 
terpreted, it may be well to linger a little over the terms in 
which they are expressed. 

Let us not overlook the fact that this royal relationship is 
not one of natural right, but rather one of gracious protec- 
tion. There is a sense in which Jehovah is king of every 
nation, but this people he took for a peculiar treasure ; and 
while not in the least degree withdrawing his former favor 
from other communities — for all the earth is his — he yet 
condescended to enter into special engagements with the 
house of Jacob. But he would not force his favors on a re- 
luctant or unwilling community ; and, recognizing that free- 
dom of choice which is the birthright of every man, he ask- 
ed them first whether they were prepared to accede to his 
terms, and would indeed obey his voice and keep his cove- 
nant. He who has made the soul respects its rights, and 
will not force his way into its throne. He stands at the 
door and knocks, and only when its bolt is undone does he 
consent to enter; but when he enters, he passes in to reign. 

In making this demand on the Israelites, however, he 

Sinai and the Decalogue. 187 

bases his right not on the common prerogative of Deity, but 
on the special claims which he had upon them as their Re- 
deemer and Deliverer. He had ransomed them from the 
power of their oppressors, and had nursed them in the in- 
fancy of their national life, guiding them by the pillar of 
cloud and flame, and providing for them by the gift of the 
manna and the smiting of the rock. He had broken the 
power of the Egyptians, and borne his people as on eagles' 
wings — or, taking the beautiful amplification of this figure 
made by Moses at a later day, "As an eagle stirreth up her 
nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, 
taketh them, beareth them on her wings, so the Lord alone 
did lead them "* — and it was on this ground that he claimed 
their special allegiance as his spiritual subjects. " He gave 
before he demanded ; he gave proofs of his love before he 
asked for obedience ; he gave himself to Israel, before he 
required Israel to give itself to him ;"t and his deliverance 
of them from their captivity, so far from absolving them from 
their obligation to serve him, only laid them under deeper, 
because more tender, responsibility. 

Then, if they rose to their new relationship, and fulfilled 
the duties which it involved, there were yet higher honors in 
store for them ; for they should be unto him a kingdom of 
priests, and a holy nation. As the head of the community, 
he should be himself the king ; but the kingdom would be 
one of priests. Not yet, indeed, had the family of Aaron 
been set apart to the priestly office; but in the patriar- 
chal priesthood exercised among them by the heads of their 
houses, they had already in the midst of them an order 
which enabled them to understand this promise. They 
were to be among the nations of the earth what the priest- 

* Deut. xxxii., ii, 12. 

t Kurtz, " History of the Old Covenant," vol. iii., p. 92. 

i88 Moses the Law-giver. 

hood is to the community of which it forms a part ; that is 
to say, they were to be the trustees, for humanity at large, of 
the revelations, promises, and ordinances which God com- 
municated, and they were to keep them for the benefit of all 
mankind. For a time, indeed, these heavenly communica- 
tions were to be reserved to themselves ; only, however, that 
they might be the more securely preserved ; but at length 
all restrictions would be broken down, and that which, in its 
ritual exclusivism, had been confined to them, would, in its 
spiritual pervasiveness, become the heritage of every true 
believer who should, like them, enter into covenant with the 
Lord, not over a merely typical sacrifice, but over the true 
and real atonement which Christ would make for the sins 
of men. Thus, in this peculiar promise, which looks at first 
as if it conferred a patent of protected privilege, we see that 
the present protection is in order to the future diffusion; 
and we have an echo of the Abrahamic blessing, " In thee 
and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." 
What the Levitical tribe ultimately was among the Israelites 
themselves, that the Israelites were to be among the nations ; 
and the more faithfully they performed their duties, the rich- 
er would be the ultimate blessing to the Gentiles. 

The same thought is presented in another form when the 
Lord adds, "Ye shall be a holy nation." Their outward 
consecration was to be accompanied with, and to result in, 
spiritual purity. Their external separation was in order to 
their inward holiness ; and whenever they exalted the former 
above the latter, they were living beneath their privilege, and 
losing sight of the mission to which he had called them. He 
selected them from the nations to be the teacher of the na- 
tions ; they were set upon a hill that others might learn from 
them ; and the light which was given them, though it was 
isolated and apart, like that of the lone tower on its island 
rock, was elevated so as to be seen by every voyager on 

Sinai and the Decalogue. 189 

life's rough sea, for his guidance into safety. But as the 
light in the lantern shines farthest when the reflector behind 
it is clearest, so they were to learn that their own prosperity 
and their usefulness to others depended on the purity of 
their hearts and lives. God set them apart to show what 
holiness was ; and the effectiveness of that demonstration 
on the world at large depended on the excellence of the ho- 
liness which they manifested. I know not if all this was 
clearly before the mind either of Moses or any one of the 
people when first they heard these words ; but reading them 
now, in the light of the history to which they form the intro- 
duction, we can see that it was all implied ; and it needs no 
great keenness of insight to perceive the bearing of these 
principles upon ourselves : for we Christians are now the 
world's priests, custodiers of those spiritual blessings by 
which our fellow-men are to be benefited ; and only in pro- 
portion as we maintain holiness — not of ritualism, but of 
character — shall we discharge our duties to mankind at 
large. So, side by side with these promises, at the founda- 
tion of the earthly theocracy, we place the words of the Lord 
Jesus Christ, in his manifesto at the inauguration of the king- 
dom of which he is the head ; and we find in the latter the 
spiritual interpretation of the former: "Ye are the salt of 
the earth : but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall 
it be salted ? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be 
cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the 
light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be 
hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a 
bushel, but on a candlestick ; and it giveth light unto all that 
are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that 
they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which 
is in heaven."* 

* Matt, v., 13-16. 

190 Moses the Law-giver. 

When Moses repeated God's words to the people, on his 
descent from the Mount, they answered, "All that the Lord 
hath spoken we will do." Then he returned up the moun- 
tain with his report, and received directions against the third 
day, when the Lord said he would come down upon Mount 
Sinai " in the sight of all the people." He was ordered to 
set bounds around the Mount, and straitly to charge the 
tribes that neither man nor beast should touch it, on the 
pain of death, until the sound of a trumpet, continuing long, 
should give permission to those who were called up to as- 
cend. So he again descended : the people, at his command, 
sanctified themselves for two days, in dread expectancy of 
the heavenly visitant ; and when the third morning dawned, 
Moses led them forth into the plain "to meet with God." 
" They stood," sa5^s Dean Stanley, " in a vast sanctuary not 
made with hands — a sanctuary where every outward shape 
of life, animal or vegetable, such as in Egypt had attracted 
their wonder and admiration, was withdrawn. Bare and un- 
clothed, the mountains rose around them ; their very shapes 
and colors were such as to carry their thoughts back to the 
days of the primeval creation, * from everlasting to everlast- 
ing, before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the 
earth and the world were made.' At last the morning broke, 
and every eye was fixed on the summit of the height. Was 
it any earthly form, was it any distinct shape that unveiled 
itself? There were thunders, there were lightnings, there 
was the voice of a trumpet exceeding loud ; but on the 
Mount itself there was a thick cloud — darkness and clouds 
and thick darkness. It was * the secret place of thunder.' "* 
Mount Sinai was ** altogether on a smoke, because the Lord 
descended upon it in fire, and the smoke thereof ascended 
as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked 

* "Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church," vol. i., p. 130. 

Sinai and the Decalogue. 191 

greatly." Then, at the loud and long sounding of the trump- 
et, Moses, called of God, ascended, followed by the eager 
eyes of the multitude, up into the cloud j only, however, to 
be sent down again, to take yet stronger precautions lest 
any one, through ignorance or rashness, might break through 
the bounds and perish ; and it was while the leader and 
the people stood thus together in a common brotherhood of 
dread,* that the voice of Jehovah broke over the plain into 
articulate speech, and, amidst a retinue of attendant angels,t 
proclaimed those words which men of every succeeding gen- 
eration have read with awe-struck reverence. 

No reader of the Pentateuch can fail to mark the fact 
that a special importance belongs to these commandments. 
They were not only the first laws to be promulgated, but 
they formed the basis of all the rest. They were spoken, 
as we have seen, directly and immediately by the voice of 
God ; and that, too, amidst the most solemn and impressive 
symbols of his majesty. The other precepts, bearing on 
things civil or ceremonial, were communicated through Mo- 
ses j but " God spake all these words " from out the dark- 
ness that covered the Mount. 

Again, they were written on two tables of stone, by the 
very finger of the Almighty ; thus indicating that they were 
designed to have a greater measure of permanence than the 
statutes and ordinances that were given through Moses, and 
which were merely inscribed in a book. This, as one has 
suggestively remarked, was "an emblem of relative perpe- 
tuity ;" while in the very number of the commandments — ten 
— which was the symbol of completeness, we have conveyed 
to us the idea that all duties incumbent upon men, as re- 
lated to God, on the one hand, or to each other, on the 
other, can be classified under one or other of these precepts. 

* Heb. xii., 21. t Gal. iii., 19 ; Heb. ii., 2. 

192 Moses the Law-giver. 

Moreover, when the tabernacle was set up, the tables con- 
taining this law were put within the ark, which stood be- 
tween the cherubim, in the very Holy of Holies. They were 
thus at the very centre of the covenant, and had a place and 
an importance peculiarly their own ; and, while closely re- 
lated to the system in connection with which they were pro- 
claimed, they yet rose to a sublimity and a spirituality pos- 
sessed by no portion of that law which was given by Moses. 

Foremost among the peculiarities of the Decalogue, we 
notice the prominence which is given to the supremacy and 
spirituality of God. The first utterance is still that which 
was so frequently repeated to Moses when he entered upon 
his formal controversy with Pharaoh, "I am Jehovah."* 
This lays down the ground on which the obligation to obedi- 
ence rests in the case of every man. But it was intensi- 
fied, in the case of the Israelites, by the fact that he had 
brought them out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house 
of bondage ; and that they might not confound him with any 
of the deities of the land which they had so lately left, they 
are straitly enjoined not only to worship no other god, but 
also to worship him without any visible or emblematic device. 
The Exodus was thus a divine protest at once against poly- 
theism and idolatry ; and we shall fail to recognize one of 
the greatest purposes which the Lord had in view in the se- 
lection of the Jewish people, if we do not take note of this 
peculiarity. Amidst the deterioration of the race, men were 
gradually losing sight of the unity and spirituality of God ; 
and so, out of the very hot-bed of idolatry, God brought the 
Hebrews to this rocky temple, that they might see the storm- 
robe of his outer majesty, might recognize his unity, and, 
observing no material image, might lay fast hold on his spir- 
ituality. In the course of years, indeed, even the Hebrew 

* See Exod. vi., i-8. 

Sinai AND the Decalogue. 193 

nation repeatedly lapsed back into the debasing practices of 
idolatry ; but, as often, they were restored by the aid of this 
dread law ; and it was only when, after their long captivity, 
they had learned these truths too thoroughly ever to forget 
them again, that the fulness of the time for the appearance 
of their Messiah was come. Humanly speaking, but for this 
law, these two truths— the unity and spirituality of God- 
would have disappeared altogether from among men ; and it 
was to guard these, and all that depended upon them, from 
destruction, that the Mosaic ritual as a whole, and especially 
the Decalogue, was given. 

Almost equally noticeable, however, is the moral tone of 
these precepts. They deal not with formal distinctions, or 
outward services, or temporary and changing relationships, 
but with fundamental principles. In this they differ from 
those portions of the Mosaic law which enjoin minute ritual 
observances, and which might be described as religious ru- 
brics. Concerning this feature, Fairbairn has well remarked 
that "at such a time, in an age when religion was every- 
where running out into shows and ceremonies — under an 
economy, also, which itself partook so largely of the outward 
and the symbolical — it surely was a remarkable, as well as 
an ennobling peculiarity, that this central revelation of truth 
and duty should have stood so much aloof from the circum- 
stantials, and brought men's hearts so directly into contact 
with the realities of things."* 

Then, again, the very order of the precepts is suggestive. 
First come our duties to God, and then those to our fellow- 
men. As in the Lord's Prayer we are taught to think first 
of God's name and kingdom, before we ask anything for our- 
selves, so in the Decalogue our obligations toward God are 
first set before us, and then those under which we lie to our 

* Fairbaiin's "Imperial Bible Dictionary," art. Decalogue. 

194 Moses the Law-giver. 

fellow-men. The earliest thing to be sought by any one is 
to be right with God, and that will bring him into harmony 
with men. Religion is the foundation of morality. The first 
table of the law is the root and trunk of the tree ; the second 
is the outbranching, effloresence, and fruitage thereof. Our 
neighbor has a God-given right to our love, but before we 
can acknowledge that right, we must acknowledge the God 
who gave it ; and, though there may be apparent exceptions 
in the history of individuals, it will be found that all commu- 
nities which have thrown off allegiance to God have been 
cruel and oppressive to men ; w^hile it is just as true that 
they who study to obey the first four commandments, will be 
impelled, as if by some inner necessity, to seek to comply 
with the other six. They cannot stop with the first table, but 
they must go on to the second, and the Sabbath law forms 
the point of transition from the one to the other ; for in it, 
while reserving a day for himself, the Lord teaches all who 
observe it to have a tender regard for the comfort and rest 
of others. And in this respect, as furnishing a witness to 
man's need of periodic relief from labor, and leading all who 
receive it to think for the welfare of others, as well as for 
their own, the fourth commandment has an importance which 
is too seldom recognized. It is the link that binds the love 
of our neighbor to the love of our God ; and if that link 
should be permitted to be broken, the poor working-man 
would be the first to feel the oppression which would ensue. 
But the order in which the several precepts of both tables 
follow each other is at once strictly philosophical and richly 
suggestive. Our duties to God relate first to his being, sec- 
ond to his worship, third to his name, and fourth to his day ; 
while our duties to our fellow-men have their starting-point 
in the home, and then flow out to our neighbor, having re- 
gard first to his life, second to his other self, his wife, third 
to his property, and fourth to his general standing and posi- 

Sinai and the Decalogue. 195 

tion. The law begins with the state of the heart toward 
God, saying, " Thou shalt have no other gods before me," 
involving therein all the other precepts regarding God ; and 
it concludes with the state of the heart toward our fellow- 
man thus, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors house ; thou 
shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor 
his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is 
thy neighbor's ;" and that involves in it all the other pre- 
cepts concerning our neighbor. Thus the Decalogue spheres 
itself into full-rounded perfection, the spiritual nature of the 
law is vindicated, and the golden circlet that began in love 
to God is clasped and completed by the love of man. 

Finally, we cannot fail to note the negative mould into 
which the commandments are run. With but two excep- 
tions—indeed, we might truthfully say with but one excep- 
tion, for the fourth commandment is more apparently than 
really so— they take the form " Thou shalt not." This, of 
course, implies also the positive "Thou shalt," in relation to 
the duty whose violation is forbidden ; still, the prohibitory 
character of the law is incidentally a proof of that inherent 
depravity in the hearts of men which is so constantly tending 
toward the commission of sin, and which needs to be not 
restrained merely, but transformed by the renewing of the 
mind. Paul affirms, in his letter to the Galatians, that the 
law was added to the promise " because of transgressions ;"* 
and if we have read this history aright, we must have per- 
ceived that all the guards and restraints which were enacted 
by God through Moses were but so many outworks and cir- 
cumvallations thrown up around the original promise that 
was given to Abraham, to keep it from being lost, either by 
the treachery of the garrison within, or the assaults of foes 
without. They were preservatives to protect the truth, not 

* G^l. iii., 19. 

196 Moses the Law-giver. 

for the Jews only, but for all nations ; and the fact that we 
to-day, after so many hundred years, go back to Sinai for the 
first principles of morality and religion, and have this law 
engraven in our Christian churches, is a marvellous attesta- 
tion of the wisdom of God in the whole matter. 
' But let us ask ourselves, in conclusion, how we appear 
When judged by its standard. And that we may come to a 
thoroughly accurate decision, let us read its precepts in 
the light of that commentary and exposition of them which 
Jesus gives in the Sermon on the Mount. You remember 
how there he draws the distinction between the overt act 
and the sinful desire, and makes it plain that, unlike the en- 
actments in a human statute-book, these precepts take cog- 
nizance of the thoughts and feelings and desires, as well as 
of the words and actions. This was no new doctrine then 
for the first time introduced by him. Reformation by him, 
in this regard, was sought by bringing his hearers back 
to the original spirituality of the Decalogue. This, as we 
have seen to-night, was one of its most characteristic feat- 
ures. In the process of years, however, men, in the interpre- 
tation of these commandments, had put the sole emphasis on 
the killing, the stealing, the false witness, the profanity, as 
external things. But Jesus, in his rendering of them, laid 
the original stress upon the personal thou; and let us see 
that the killing was not merely that of the hand, but of the 
heart ; the profanity not that of the lip, but of the thought ; 
and the impurity not that of the act, but of the desire. And 
when we take these commandments thus, in all their length, 
and breadth, and depth, who is there among us that has not 
to plead guilty to the charge of disobeying them? When 
they heard these dreadful words proclaimed out of the thick 
darkness, the parties to the old covenant trembled, and cried 
out for a mediator, saying unto Moses, " Speak thou with us, 
and we will hear ; but let not God speak with us, lest we 

Sinai and the Decalogue. 197 

die." And it is when we test ourselves by the standard of 
this law that we are most thoroughly convinced of sin, and 
feel most our need of Christ. Blessed be God, from Sinai 
we can come to Calvary, and there, through the propitiation 
for sin which Christ has made, we can secure forgiveness 
and reconciliation. It were a painful thing for me to-night 
if, after having brought you to the law which condemns, I 
could not also proclaim to you the Saviour who redeems. 
Thanks be unto God, it is written that " Christ hath redeem- 
ed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, 
that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles 
through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise 
of the spirit through faith." Mark these words, "through 
faith."* They are all-important. Without faith in him, we 
are left condemned, and " the wrath of God abideth on us ;" 
but believing in him we have everlasting life, and are among 
those concerning whom the sacred writer speaks when he 
says, "Ye are not come unto the Mount that might be touch- 
ed, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and dark- 
ness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the 
voice of words ; which voice they that heard entreated that 
the word should not be spoken to them any more : but ye 
are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living 
God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable com- 
pany of angels, to the general assembly and church of the 
first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge 
of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to 
Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood 
of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel."t 
Beware, my unconverted hearers, that ye despise not these 
blessings; but to-night, in sight of all these celestial witnesses, 
enter, through Jesus, into covenant with Jehovah — that on 
earth you may enjoy his favor, and in heaven his fellowship. 

* Gal. iii., 13, 14. t Heb. xii., 18-24. 


Exodus xx., i8; xxiv., 1-18; xxxii. 

WHEN the people saw the dreadful accompaniments 
of Jehovah's presence on the Mount, and heard his 
voice proclaiming the words of the Ten Commandments, they 
were filled with terror, and stood afar off, saying the while 
to Moses, " Speak thou with us, and we will hear ; but let 
not God speak with us, lest we die." Though they were 
called to become a kingdom of priests, and might have risen 
to the privilege of direct and immediate fellowship with God, 
yet their consciousness of guilt would not allow them to vent- 
ure nigh to him, and they cried for a mediator who should 
stand between them and him. This suggestion of theirs, as 
we learn from the account in Deuteronomy,* was approved 
by the Lord himself; and accordingly, at the request of God, 
and with the confidence of the people themselves, " Moses 
drew near to the thick darkness where God was." There 
he received those commands which constitute what has been 
called " the civil polity of the Jewish theocracy,"t and which 
are comprised in the twenty-first, twenty-second, and twenty- 
third chapters of the Book of Exodus. These will fall to 
be more fully considered when we come to treat, as we pro- 
pose to do, in a separate discourse, of the legislation given by 
Moses. Meanwhile, it may be enough to say that they are 
arranged apparently in seven groups, each being an expan- 

* Deut. v., 28. t Murphy, /// loco. 

The Golden Calf — Aaron's Weakness. 199 

sion or development of one of the Ten Commandments.* 
The first, relating to the duties of masters and servants, is 
an appendix to the fifth commandment ; the second, dealing 
with injuries tending to destroy or endanger life, belongs to 
the sixth commandment; the third, treating of property, falls 
under the eighth commandment ; the fourth, bearing on the 
marriage vow, belongs to the seventh commandment; the 
fifth, enforcing veracity, is an exposition of the ninth com- 
mandment ; the sixth, appointing set times for religious fes- 
tivals, grows out of the fourth commandment ; and the sev- 
enth, on the acknowledgment and worship of the true God, is 
almost equally related to the first and second commandments* 
These laws, which, when compared with those of other 
contemporary nations, appear to bear the mark of divinity 
upon their face, were rehearsed by Moses to the people ; 
and on their agreeing to obey them, he wrote them in a 
book, and then took measures for solemnly engaging the 
tribes, by covenant, to keep them. As we learn from the 
case of Abraham,! and from the words of Jeremiah,$ in a 
well-known passage, the common form of entering into cov- 
enant was over sacrifice ; the body of the victim being di- 
vided in twain, and the parties to the engagement passing 
between the pieces. Something of the same kind seems to 
have been done in this instance ; for an altar was built, and 
twelve pillars, according to the number of the tribes, were 
set up, while young men officiated as priests for the occa- 
sion, and sacrificed peace-offerings unto the Lord. We do 
not read that the carcasses were divided, but the blood was ; 
for half of it was sprinkled on the altar, and half upon the 
people; while between these two sprinklings the book ofthe 
covenant, containing the laws to which I have just referred, 

* For this arrangement we are mainly indebted to Murphy, as above. 
t Gen. XV., 17, 18. t Jer. xxxiv,, i8, 19. 


20O Moses the Law-giver. 

was read in the audience of the multitude ; and in connec- 
tion with the whole service, Moses said, "Behold the blood 
of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you con- 
cerning all these words." Then, to complete this great so- 
lemnity, he went up again to the Mount, taking with him his 
brother Aaron, his nephews Nadab and Abihu, and the sev- 
enty official representatives of the tribes, and there they met 
their God. But the darkness in which the Eternal had 
shrouded himself had given place to the likeness of "a 
paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of 
heaven in its clearness." No emblems of judgment were 
seen by them now. He who had before covered himself 
with clouds, and indicated his presence in tempests, is now 
arrayed in light. The storm has passed. The calm seren- 
ity of the sky now hides him in its peaceful majesty, and 
nothing comes to create in them either terror or dismay, for 
** upon the nobles of Israel he laid not his hands." There- 
fore, with calm composure and with grateful hearts, they sit 
down before him to keep sacramental feast: "They saw 
God, and did eat and drink." 

The vision of God thus enjoyed could not have been a 
perception of the divine essence by the bodily eye, for that 
is an impossibility, neither could it have been the sight of 
God's glory face to face, for he has said himself, "Thou 
canst not see my face ; for there shall no man see my face 
and live." Nor was it even up to the level of that which 
Moses afterward enjoyed, and which the Lord himself has 
thus described : " And it shall come to pass, while my glory 
passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and 
will cover thee with mine hand, and thou shalt see my back 
parts, but my face shall not be seen." We must conclude, 
therefore, that there was among these elders a vivid mental 
perception of the immediate presence of Jehovah with them, 
suggested and increased by some symbolical appearance. 

The Golden Calf — Aaron's Weakness. 261 

the nature of which is undescribed, but which they were led 
by unmistakable indications to associate with him. What- 
ever it was, however, there was beneath it the "infinite 
azure " of the sky, and the robe of light was unaccompanied 
by those elements of terror in which it had formerly been 
enveloped. In all this, we have clearly set before us the 
difference between God's manifestation of himself to the im- 
penitent sinner, and to the repentant one who enters into 
covenant with him over the sacrifice of his Son ; for now 
that they approach him as his covenanted ones, the heads 
of the people " find his presence no more a source of dis- 
turbance and dread, but radiant in all the bright loveliness 
of supernal glory ;" and their feast upon the Mount may, with- 
out any great stretch of fancy, be regarded as a foretoken 
not merely of the happiness of those who are one with God 
in Christ, but also of the blessedness of that celestial abode, 
where, in the highest sense of which the words are capable, 
it will still be true of its inhabitants that they " see God, and 
do eat and drink." 

After this sacred feast was over, Moses, leaving Aaron 
and Hur to take the superintendence of the people in the 
valley, approached with Joshua still nearer to the presence- 
chamber of Jehovah ; and at length, leaving his youthful at- 
tendant behind him, he went up, on the seventh day, into 
the cloud that covered the Mount, and there remained alone 
with God for forty days. We know not all that passed be- 
tween them on these eventful days, when the favored proph- 
et spoke to God face to face, as a man talketh to his friend ; 
but it was at this time that Moses saw the pattern of the 
tabernacle, and received instructions concerning its erec- 
tion, its furniture, and its services. And at the close of 
their conference, God gave to his servant two tables of 
stone, " tables of testimony," whereon were the words of the 
Decalogue, graven with his own hand. 

202 Moses the Law-giver. 

But when he descended from the Mount, a sad scene, for 
which Jehovah had in part prepared him, and against the 
consequences of which he had earnestly interceded, met his 
view. His long absence had utterly unsettled the people, 
who had learned to look on him as their leader and medi- 
ator. A purely spiritual worship — that is to say, a worship 
which has no outward form — is impossible for any man ; but 
for those who had so lately been slaves in the very metropo- 
lis of the world's idolatry, it was more than impossible — it 
was unintelligible. Therefore they sought some visible em- 
blem of Deity, as well as some outward service of a religious 
sort ; and, at the very moment when God, in consideration 
of their ignorance and earthiness, was giving to Moses the 
model of an erection which, while appealing to the eye of 
sense, should yet suggest great truths to the soul, and so at 
once accommodate their weakness, and keep it from degen- 
erating into wickedness, the people had rebounded to the 
grossness of Egyptian idolatry. It seems almost incompre- 
hensible ; and yet it may, perhaps, be explained much in the 
same way as we account for the intemperance of the Corin- 
thians, even at the table of the Lord. These early converts 
from heathenism had come out of a system in which they 
showed honor to their gods by becoming intoxicated, and, in 
their ignorance, they transferred their old superstitions to 
their Christian worship, so that it became necessary for the 
future purity of the Lord's house that signal punishment 
should be visited upon them ; and hence, as Paul says, many 
were weak and sickly among them, and many died. Simi- 
larly here, the Hebrews, having, perhaps, some sort of an 
idea that Moses had gone to receive for them an outward 
form of worship, were disappointed at his long delay, and, 
fearing that he might never return, they determined to take 
the matter into their own hands. In carrying out this de- 
sign, which was in itself a violation of their covenant, they 

The Golden Calf — Aaron's Weakness. 203 

brought the notions of their old Egyptian neighbors to bear 
upon what they supposed to be their present necessity, and 
said to Aaron, " Up, make us gods, which shall go before 
us ; for as for this Moses, we wot not what is become of 
him." Here was an utter mutiny against Jehovah, and, alas ! 
Aaron was not the man to meet it. Instead of bravely bat- 
tling with it in its initial stages, he temporized with it, and 
gave it time to grow, until it assumed such proportions that 
it was impossible to cope with it. First of all, he tried to 
enlist their worldliness against their idolatry, by asking them 
to bring to him their golden ornaments. He thought they 
would never part with these, and that he would be quite safe 
in making such a proposal, believing that, when they saw it 
was to cost all that, they would go no further ; but when 
they laid their jewels at his feet, he found that he was 
taken in his own snare, and felt compelled to make for 
them a molten calf, like the Egyptian Apis with which they 
had been familiar. When they saw it, they were delighted, 
and said, " These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee 
up out of the land of Egypt !" 

This exclamation of theirs indicates that they did not wish 
to repudiate Jehovah, but simply to worship him under the 
similitude of the calf; and so their sin was rather a violation 
of the second commandment than of the first. But it was 
serious enough, in any case ; and Aaron, catching at any 
straw which might win for him some delay, said, "To-morrow 
is a feast to the Lord." Thus he postponed the consumma- 
tion of the wickedness for a few hours, hoping that Moses 
might meanwhile arrive at the camp ; but at last the morning 
came, and, with all the disgusting rites of heathenism, the 
people kept their festival. They were in the very midst of 
their abominable idolatry, when Moses made his appearance; 
and such was his sense of their sin that he cast from him 
the tables of stone whereon God had written the Ten Com- 

204 Moses the Law-giver. 

mandments, and "took the calf which they had made, and 
burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it 
upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it." 
Then, turning to Aaron, he asked of him an explanation of 
this great apostasy, and got this "lame and impotent" ex- 
cuse, " Let not the anger of my lord wax hot : thou knowest 
the people, that they are set on mischief; for they said unto 
me, Make us gods, which shall go before us : for as for this 
Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, 
we wot not what is become of him. And I said unto them, 
Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they 
gave it me ; then I cast it into the fire, and there came out 
this calf." Alas ! this pitiful display made it but too appar- 
ent that even his own brother could not be relied on in an 
emergency; and so, standing in the gate of the camp, Moses 
cried, "Who is on the Lord's side, let him come unto me." 
His appeal was answered by the rallying round him of the 
sons of Levi, whom he ordered to take their swords and ex- 
ecute justice on those who had thus rebelled against their 
Jehovah-king. And there fell of the people that day about 
three thousand men. 

In reviewing this narrative for practical purposes, I shall 
to-night restrict myself to the lessons which seem to me to 
be suggested by the weakness of Aaron — reserving the con- 
sideration of the bearing of Moses until I have had the op- 
portunity of bringing before you the whole of the incidents 
which centre in his intercession for the people and his 
prayer for himself. This will give distinctness in our view 
to the individuality of the two brothers, while it will prevent 
us from presenting a fragmentary or divided account of those 
facts in the history of Moses which are not merely the most 
exalted in his career, but also the most sublime in the rec- 
ords of humanity. 

Older than Moses by three years, Aaron does not always 

The Golden Calf — Aaron's Weakness 205 

appear to advantage in the sacred narrative. This may be 
partly owing to the pre-eminent greatness of his brother, 
whose brightness of character outshone the meaner endow- 
ments of Aaron, but it is mainly due to his own imperfec- 
tions. Of ready and eloquent utterance, he seems, like 
many who have been similarly gifted, to have been of a pli- 
ant and flexible disposition. He bent, like the sapling, to 
almost every breeze ; his nature was receptive rather than 
creative ; he took impressions from others, but made little 
or no impression on them in return ; he floated on the cur- 
rent which others formed, but he rarely, if ever, made a tor- 
rent which swept all opposition before it. He had little of 
that formative power which is always the indication of the 
possession of the highest greatness, and by which the indi- 
vidual moulds and fashions all who come within the range 
of his influence. He had more of the soft impressiveness of 
the melted wax than of the hardness of the die that stamps 
it. Hence he was well enough in time of peace, and when 
everything was going smoothly j but when a sudden emer- 
gency arose, when a mutiny was to be quelled, or, as in the 
present instance, a fit of idolatrous madness was to be re- 
pressed, he proved unequal to the occasion, and was found 
yielding, against his better judgment, to the demand of the 
multitude. From a timid and pusillanimous regard to his 
own safety, he would not oppose the wishes of the people ; 
and so it happened that the spark, which a moment's firm- 
ness might have trodden out, became at length a mighty 
conflagration, in the flames of which some thousands were 
consumed. It was in his power, had he resisted the demand 
at the first, to have prevented all this evil ; and even if he 
could not have put down the idolatrous revolt, it was still 
his duty to have offered to it the most uncompromising op- 
position. Hence his conduct was not only condemned by 
Moses, but also in the highest degree displeasing to God ; 

2o6 Moses the Law-giver. 

for in the account in Deuteronomy Moses uses these words : 
"And the Lord was very angry with Aaron to have destroy- 
ed him : and I prayed for Aaron also the same time."* 
Now, as the same " fear of man " which brought a " snare " 
to Aaron is entangling multitudes among ourselves, and as 
many who would never think of originating evil are found 
weakly yielding to it when it is proposed by others, it may 
be well to make the case of this ancient worthy the germ of 
a few practical exhortations bearing on this phase of char- 

In the first place, then, I would lay it down as a funda- 
mental principle that it is always wrong to do wrong. That 
may seem a mere truism, and you may be tempted to smile 
at the silliness of the preacher who thus gravely puts forth 
so simple a proposition. But think on it for a moment or 
two, and you may see reason to change your opinion ; for 
you will, find that the extenuations or excuses offered by 
men for their evil deeds commonly amount to this, that in 
the circumstances in which they were placed there were cer- 
tain things which made it unavoidable or warrantable for 
them to sin ; that is to say, that, as they were situated, it was 
not wrong for them to do wrong. Thus, in the instance be- 
fore us, Aaron does not think for a moment of denying that 
idolatry is a sin ; but the whole drift of his reply to Moses 
is that his making of the golden calf was, as far as he was 
concerned, a thing which he could not get rid of. He could 
not help himself Abstractly considered, it was certainly 
improper ; but in the state of affairs at the moment, it could 
not have been avoided ; and so he would have Moses be- 
lieve that it was no fault of his. Nor is this a solitary case 
of such self deception. We have another illustration of it 
in a man of quite different general character from Aaron. 

* Deut. ix.. 20. 

The Golden Calf — Aaron's Weakness. 207 

Herod's whole soul revolted from the crime of putting John 
the Baptist to death. He knew that it was murder; but 
because of a rash oath which he had sworn, and because of 
the men by whom he was surrounded, he tried to persuade 
himself that it was a thing absolutely unavoidable, or, in 
other words, that it was not wrong for him to do wrong. 
But we need not go so many centuries back to seek for 
cases of this sort. The man who came home intoxicated 
last night, saying that he could not help it, because he met 
some friends who insisted on his going with them, and he 
could not get away ; the family who are ruined by reckless 
extravagance, and declare that they were under the neces- 
sity of keeping up appearances ; the merchant who, on the 
eve of bankruptcy, has recourse to dishonorable expedients, 
because they were required to save himself; the youth who 
helps himself to his employer's money, because he had to 
do something to pay his debts — all are in the same category 
with Aaron here, and, while acknowledging that they have 
done wrong, do, at the same time, attempt to justify them- 
selves ; that is to say, they believe that it was not \Yrox\g for 
them to do wrong. Now, if there should be one here un- 
der this delusion, I would say to him that morality is not a 
changing thing, dependent upon fluctuating circumstances. 
In no possible contingency can that which is wrong become 
right. Let not your minds be confused by the consideration 
of mere accidental surroundings. Turn away from all else, 
and fix your attention on the one thought, "This is wrong;" 
and therefore it must be wrong in all places, in all cases, 
and at all times. Then, if you are true to conscience, and 
to Christ, who is the Lord of conscience, you will exclaim, 
" How can I do this wickedness and sin against God ?" 

I am the more particular to put the matter thus, because 
Satan, like a cunning tempter, invariably strives to divert 
attention from the main issue, and to fix it upon the sup- 

2o8 Moses the Law-giver. 

posed advantages that will result from your yielding to his 
enticement, or on the apparent disadvantages that must fol- 
low from the opposite course. But in settling what is your 
duty, you have nothing to do with consequences. Your sole 
concern is with what is right ; and when that is clearly seen, 
you are under obligation to do it "in the scorn of conse- 
quence." The moment you begin to trouble yourself about 
what will be the issue, you admit the tempter to a parley ; 
and it will be well if in the end he do not bring you over to 
his views. Buder was right when he said, " In all common, 
ordinary cases, we see intuitively, at first view, what is our 
duty — what is the honest part. That is the ground of the 
observation that the first thought is often the best. That 
which is called considering what is our duty in a particu- 
lar case is very often nothing but endeavoring to explain it 
away. Thus those courses which, if men would fairly at- 
tend to the dictates of their own conscience, they would 
see to be corruption, excess, oppression, uncharitableness ; 
these are refined upon — things were so and so circumstan- 
tiated — great difficulties are raised about fixing bounds and 
degrees ; and thus every moral obligation whatever may be 
evaded."* It remains, therefore, that, if we would avoid this 
evil, we must fix our thoughts entirely upon the wrongness 
of that which we are tempted to do, to the utter exclusion 
of all other considerations. 

But yet, again, we must remember that no one can compel 
us to sin. Sin is a voluntary thing, and no external force 
can constrain us to commit it. We cannot do wrong until 
we choose to do it, and the choosing is a free act of our 
own. I say a free act — that is, a thing which we might have 
refrained from if we had pleased. But some one says, "Sup- 
pose my life would have been in danger if I had refused ; 

* Sermon on the character of Balaam, in Bishop Butler's works. 

The Golden Calf — Aaron's Weakness. 200 

what then?" Even in such a case your choice would be 
voluntary ; and your yielding to such a temptation, when 
translated into words, just means that you prefer the life of 
the body to the best interests of the soul. No man, no set 
of circumstances, can compel you to will ; that you do al- 
ways for yourself, and for that you are responsible. Thus, 
whether we look at the external standard of God's law, or 
at the internal agent, which is your will, it is undeniable that 
it is always wrong to do wrong. Treasure up that maxim in 
your memories. Write it on the tablets of your hearts, yea, 
on the palms of your hands ; and if, by God's help, you seek 
always to act upon it, you will be kept secure. 

But a second thing suggested by this conduct of Aaron is 
that the difficulty of doing right is always exaggerated by 
the timid. "The slothful man says there is a lion in the 
way ;" and in general, if a man be minded to evade duty, 
he conjures up before him all manner of dangers which he 
must encounter in its performance. Now, even if these were 
a thousand times more formidable than he imagines them 
to be, it would still be right for him to face them j since, at 
whatsoever cost or sacrifice, duty must be done. But the 
point which I now wish to make is that, generally speaking, 
it is not nearly so difficult to do duty as the timid man 
thinks it is. The tempter, indeed, when he seeks to entrap 
us, would say, "You will lose your life," or " You will be de- 
prived of your situation," or " Your temporal interests will 
suffer ;" but though we should do the will of God even at 
the risk of all these things, in reality his threats are either 
wholly false or greatly exaggerated. Take the case of 
Aaron here ; and while I readily admit that, after he had 
allowed the passion of the people to gather strength, there 
might have been some personal danger in standing against 
them, yet a small measure of firmness on his part at the 
outset would have effectually controlled them. His error, 

2IO Moses the Law-giver. 

therefore, lay in not nipping the idolatry in the bud. Had 
he possessed only a small degree of his brother's prompti- 
tude and courage, he would have reminded the people of 
what they had so lately seen ; and, satisfactorily accounting 
for Moses's delay, he would have diverted their minds into 
some other channel. But he temporized, until the current 
was too strong for him ; and then, when it carried him away, 
he weakly said that he could not help himself. Or, taking 
the case of Herod, to which I have also referred, who does 
not see that if he had only set his oath at defiance, and 
done what his better nature indicated, the men by whom he 
was surrounded, instead of blaming, would have applauded, 
and the public opinion of the country would have sustained 
him in the act ? In general, when the opinion of men is in 
the case, it will be found that, though at first there may seem 
to be a sentiment opposed to rectitude, yet that is itself the 
result, in the people, of their fear of each other ; and, if only 
one be faithful to himself, to truth, and to God, there will 
not be wanting multitudes to join him and approve. Be- 
hold what took place on Mount Carmel when the false 
prophets and priests of Baal accepted the challenge of Eli- 
jah. To human view, at first, the Tishbite was in a minor- 
ity of one ; and if he had quailed, a glorious opportunity 
would have been lost. But see how, as he stands firm and 
proves his case, the people, who had been not more afraid 
of Ahab than of each other, took courage and shouted, " Je- 
hovah he is the God, Jehovah he is the God." If but you 
give the popular conscience an opportunity to express itself 
in the first fervor of feeling, before trimming calculations be- 
gin to be made, you may always reckon that it will be with 
you when you stand forth for the right, the manly, and the 
true. Hence, if with dashing promptitude and Elijah -like 
energy, you stand up for God ear/y enough, you will carry 
the mass with you. Your protest against wrong will rally 

The Golden Calf — Aaron's Weakness, 211 

them, and your valiant opposition will furnish an occasion 
for them to emancipate themselves from their slavery one to 
another. The world's own maxim is, "Grasp the nettle firm- 
ly, and it will not sting ;" and a deep knowledge of your 
own heart, or a large experience of the ways of men, will 
convince you that, if with spirit and energy you do the right 
thing at the right time, opposition will fall away from before 
you, and they who threatened to persecute will in the end 
approve. The way to provoke ridicule or antagonism is 
to be nervously afraid of it ; and men may be excused for 
trampling on you if you lay yourself crouchingly at their 
feet. Nor ought we to forget here that God has promised 
to be with those who stand up bravely for his cause. He 
who says "Go forward" will divide the sea for us to pass; 
and not a few who have been anxiously dreading the con- 
sequences of their adherence to conscience have had the 
way opened to them as they advanced ; even as the women 
found the stone rolled from the sepulchre when they reached 
its portal, and were greeted by the angel of the resurrection 
when they supposed that they were going to complete a fu- 
neral. "When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh 
even his enemies to be at peace with him." True, it stands 
recorded here that " all who will live godly in the world will 
suffer persecution;" but it is also said, "Be of good cheer, 
I have overcome the world." "This is the victory that 
overcometh the world, even our faith ;" and the tribulation 
is always sorer to the craven spirit than it is to him who can 
dare the world to its face, feeling that the Lord Jesus is at 
his side. The stern eye of an unflinching man will hold — 
so it is said — even the lion spell-bound ; and courage in the 
service of God, turning an unyielding eye on Satan, will send 
him away from us for a season. There may be, there must 
be, difficulties ; but the more you play the man for Christ, 
the less formidable will all obstacles become. 

212 Moses the Law-giver. 

But I remark, in the third place, as suggested by this 
case, that the consequences of wrong-doing are always more 
serious than the wrong-doer at first supposed. Aaron here 
might think that the making and worshipping of a golden 
calf would not, in the long run, matter much to the people. 
True, it was wrong, but Moses would soon be among them 
again, and he would be able to remedy the evil ; so, after 
all, it was of no great moment. But behold the result in the 
death of three thousand of the people! Yet it is ever thus. 
When Satan wishes to impose upon us, he says, "Ye shall 
not surely die ; the case is not so serious as you suppose ; 
and, in any event, the results are nothing when compared 
with the enjoyment." Thus, when a youth enters upon the 
path of dishonesty, the tempter whispers to him that he will 
never be found out ; and keeps carefully out of view the 
prison, the loss of character, and the disgrace for life. And 
similarly in regard to every sin. He puts before us the 
maximum of danger which we shall incur in resisting it, and 
the minimum of evil which will ensue from our commission 
of it, and thus he intrigues us into it. Dear friends, believe 
him not. " He is a liar, and the father of it." Every sin 
has consequences which stretch through eternity ; every sin 
is a hideous and abominable thing to God, fraught with per- 
nicious results to ourselves, and in most cases also to oth- 
ers. When Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom, he little 
thought that in Sodom itself he should leave all his prop- 
erty, and his whole family, save his two daughters. When 
Achan hid the wedge of gold and the Babylonish garment 
in his tent, he never imagined that for his transgression 
Israel would be worsted before the enemy, and many of the 
people put to death. Let us not, therefore, imagine that if 
we commit sin the consequences will be slight ; for who are 
we that the unalterable law of God should be suspended for 
our deliverance .? I say the unalterable law ; for with a cer- 

The Golden Calf — Aaron's Weakness. 


tainty as great as that fire will always burn, we may be sure 
that punishment will follow iniquity, either in this life or in 
that which is to come. Nay, more ; as no man liveth unto 
himself, so no man sinneth to himself, or perishes alone. 
I can imagine Aaron bitterly upbraiding himself for his 
weakness when he saw the fatal fruits of it, but then it was 
too late to repair the wrong. You cannot stay the shell 
midway in its flight; after it has left the mortar, it goes on 
to its mark, and there explodes, dealing destruction all 
around. Just as little can you arrest the consequences of a 
sin after it has been committed. You may repent of it, 
you may even be forgiven for it, but still it goes on its dead- 
ly and desolating way. It has passed entirely beyond your 
reach ; once done, it cannot be undone. So be it yours to 
guard against all such after-reproaches, by resolutely refus- 
ing, in any circumstances, to commit iniquity yourselves, or 
to be parties to its commission by others. And to this end 
let me urge you to keep near to Christ, for it is always easy 
to be courageous when you are at his side. 


Exodus xxxii.-xxxiv. 

HE who enters upon a new life, or begins a special en- 
terprise, must lay his account with trial. Some test 
will meet him on the very threshold of his endeavor, and 
according as he stands that, his future career will be. If 
he fail, he will be turned away from the door by which he 
sought to pass in to his work ; but if he be found approved, 
he will be introduced to yet higher honors than, up till that 
moment, he had ever thought of. Many illustrations in point 
might be cited from Scripture. Thus, our first parents were 
very early confronted with a command by which their alle- 
giance to God was put to the proof. Each new advance 
made by Abraham toward the attainment of the promise 
was attended by a new temptation ; and after the birth of 
Isaac came the severest of all, in the shape of the command 
to offer him in sacrifice. Nay, even the Lord Jesus himself 
was led straight from the glory of his baptism to the solitude 
of the wilderness, where he was assailed by the prince of 
darkness. Modern engineers, after having erected a viaduct, 
insist upon subjecting it to a severe strain by a formal trial 
trip, before allowing it to be opened for public traffic ; and it 
would almost seem that God, in employing moral agents for 
the carrying out of his purposes, secures that they shall be 
tested by some dreadful ordeal before he fully commits to 
them the work which he wishes them to perform. 

This principle of the divine administration may help us, 

Intercession. 215 

perhaps, to understand more fully the incidents connected 
with the idolatry of Israel at the base of Sinai. The people 
had come to their testing- place, and now it would be seen 
whether or not they were possessed of those qualities which 
would fit them for taking immediate possession of the land 
which God had designed for them. The absence of Moses 
was the means of proving what was in their hearts. The 
proposal made by them to Aaron, that he should make them 
a god, was the searching acid which revealed the alloy that 
was in the character even of the future High -priest. The 
suggestion made to Moses that he should consent to the 
rejection of the people, and allow himself to be made the 
progenitor of a great nation, was the strain to which he was 

The people and Aaron failed, and it was only in answer 
to Moses's intercession that another probation was given 
them ; for, so far as appears, if it had not been for his me- 
diation, the decree which afterward excluded the whole adult 
generation from Canaan, and which was pronounced at Ka- 
desh-barnea, would have been issued at Sinai. But Moses 
stood ; and through his success not only showed his fitness 
to be the mediator between the people and God, but also 
passed up to a clearer vision of Jehovah than he had before 
enjoyed, and a fuller comprehension of his wonderful name. 

To have a clear view of all this, we must go back a little 
over some of the details which, from one side at least, were 
considered by us in our last lecture. Nowhere is a sharper 
contrast brought before us than that which this history pre- 
sents. In the valley the multitude, as if infected by some 
epidemic insanity, are preparing for their idolatrous orgies ; 
on the mountain, within the cloud-veil that shrouds its sum- 
mit, Moses is communing with Jehovah. Below, all is noise, 
and tumult, and passion ; above, all is peace, and contem- 
plation, and fellowship of spirit with spirit : below are sin 


2i6 Moses the Law-giver. 

and shame ; above are intercession and forgiveness. Sharp 
and distinct is the contrast, yet not singular ; for often still, 
while the masses ar^ wild with, some new excitement, the 
Moseses are on the hill-top pleading with God for their par- 
don and restoration ; and when the cloud rises it is seen 
that they have been the saviors of the community. 

After he had seen the pattern of the tabernacle, and taken 
the two tables of testimony written with the finger of God, 
Moses was startled by receiving this command, with its ac- 
companying explanation, " Go, get thee down ; for thy peo- 
ple, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have 
corrupted themselves : they have turned aside quickly out 
of the way which I commanded them : they have made them 
a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed 
thereunto, and said. These be thy gods, O Israel, which have 
brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. I have seen this 
people, and, behold, it is a stiff-necked people : Now there- 
fore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, 
and that I may consume them : and I will make of thee a 
great nation."* 

This must have come on Moses like a thunder-bolt, and 
there was much in it to sadden and alarm him ; while, from 
another point of view, there was in it that which might have 
inflamed selfish ambition to the highest point. On the one 
hand, it was an apparent renunciation of Israel by Jehovah, 
for he calls them to Moses " thy people," " this people," " a 
stiff-necked people;" on the other, it seemed to renew to 
him individually the promise given to Abraham at an earlier 
date, " I will make of thee a great nation ;" and had he been 
desirous of personal honor or glory, he would have eagerly 
caught at such a proposal ; but he who had resisted the at- 
traction of the throne of the Pharaohs, offered by his foster- 

* Exod. xxxii., 7-10. 

Intercession. 217 

mother, had long ago flung away all such earthly ambitions, 
and so such a vision of a great nation from his loins had no 
charm for him, even when it was put before him by the Lord. 
He had accepted a mediator's position, and he would not be 
a traitor to either of the parties for whom he was called to 
act; therefore, with great boldness, and with noble self-de- 
nial, he set himself to plead the people's cause. He re- 
minded the Lord that they were his people, and that he, and 
not Moses, had brought them out of Egypt ; he spoke, also, 
of the injurious effect which it would have upon the sur- 
rounding nations if it should appear that the one God, whose 
supremacy and omnipotence had been so clearly shown in 
emancipating the Hebrews from their house of bondage, liad 
led them from slavery only to destruction ; he recalled, also, 
the covenant, confirmed even by an oath, which he had 
made with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, saying, "I will multi- 
ply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I 
have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall in* 
herit it forever." And on these grounds he urged that, in 
spite of their great sin, the Israelites might be spared. It is 
thus noteworthy that the intercession of Moses proceeds en- 
tirely on a regard for the honor of Jehovah, and that the no- 
ble man does not permit himself even to refer to the pro- 
posal that he should be made the head of a covenant nation 
in room of the rejected tribes. Thus triumphantly does he 
stand the test to which Jehovah subjected him, and we do 
not wonder that his pleading was successful, for " the Lord 
repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his 

But, after this, it is with a feeling of surprise that we 
read of his apparent vehemence, and of his stern execution 
of what seems a very severe sentence, when he descend- 
ed into the valley. Before he came in sight of the camp, he 
heard the noise of singing ; and when he caught a glimpse 

2i8 Moses the Law-giver. 

of the people dancing in their idolatrous worship, he cast the 
two tables of stone from him, and brake them in pieces. 
Then, having reproved Aaron, he called for those who were 
on the Lord's side to show themselves ; and when the Levites 
responded to his appeal, he charged them to fall, sword in 
hand, upon their brethren, and three thousand were put to 
death. Now, all this looks, at first, as if Moses had not be- 
lieved that the sin of the people was forgiven, and almost as 
if he had been himself moved by uncontrollable indignation. 
But when we go below the surface, we discover that his mo- 
tive here, as on the mountain, was a regard at once for the 
glory of God, and for the highest welfare of the people. He 
had been true to the people as before God ; now he was true 
to God as before the people j and to prepare their minds 
and hearts for a right appreciation of the divine pardon, he 
took means to open their eyes to the magnitude of their 
guilt. First of all, he broke the tables of testimony ; but, 
though it is said that his anger waxed hot, we must not sup- 
pose that this action was due to passion, for Moses was nev- 
er slow to confess a sin when he had been guilty of it ; yet, 
in the account which he gives of this transaction in Deuter- 
onomy, he speaks of it without any condemnation, and seems 
to refer to it as a judicial deed. He regarded the law on 
these two tables not as a burden laid on the people, but as 
a blessing given to them. It was part of the benefit which 
they had forfeited by their breaking of the covenant ; and 
he destroyed the stones on which it was written before their 
eyes, that they might see what an evil thing it was to forsake 
their God. For the same reason — that they might be im- 
pressed with the fact that sin brings in its train not only the 
loss of good, but also the endurance of penalty — he burned 
the calf, ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water, 
and made them drink of it. Thus they were taught that the 
sinner must be filled with the fruit of his own doings, and 

Intercession. 219 

were led to loathe the object which, a little before, they wor- 
shipped. Not yet, however, had they been brought to ac- 
knowledge their guilt before Jehovah, and to return to him 
to crave forgiveness ; and so he proceeded to still greater 
lengths, and executed righteous sentence upon them in Je- 
hovah's name. 

But here two things must be borne in mind. We must 
remember, first, that God was the accepted King of the peo- 
ple, and that disobedience to his law was at the same time 
treason to his authority. These idolaters, therefore, were 
guilty of that which corresponds to mutiny on board a ship 
or in an army ; and every one knows that iil all such cases 
severity in the outset is the truest clemency in the end. Be- 
sides, secondly, we must take note that, before the slaughter 
of the three thousand, Moses offered an amnesty to all ; for 
when he stood in the gate of the camp and said, "Who is on 
the Lord's side ?" his call was not for those who had never 
disobeyed God by worshipping the calf, but rather for those 
who, though they had been guilty of that treason, had now 
seen the evil of their way, and were willing to return to their 
allegiance ; and if all the tribes had followed the example 
of the Levites, no man would have been put to death. 

So the night closed over this day which had begun with 
feasting, and had ended in bloodshed ; and we may well be- 
lieve that, during the hours of darkness, there would be great 
searchings of heart among the people. Now would they be- 
gin to see something of the meaning of the words which had 
rolled over them in the promulgation of the law — "I the 
Lord thy God am a jealous God j" and when the morning 
broke, and Moses said unto them, "Ye have sinned a great 
sin," they were ready to assent to his words ; while, when he 
added, "Now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I 
shall make an atonement for your sin," their hearts eagerly, 
though silently, appealed to him to do as he had said. Now, 

220 Moses the Law-giver. 

if I have succeeded in putting my thought clearly before you, 
it will be evident to you that, just as Moses was true to the 
people when he was on the mount, so be was true to God 
when he was in the valley ; and in both places his main so- 
licitude was for the divine honor. He knew that God could 
never forgive, if, by forgiving, the sanction of his law were to 
be weakened ; and precisely as he insisted on God's faith- 
fulness to his promise when he pleaded with him for the 
people, so he required that the people should honor the law 
of God when he pleaded with them for God. He made 
atonement by insisting on justice ; and then, even as the 
high -priest afterward went within the veil when he had of- 
fered sacrifice, so Moses here returned unto the Lord after 
he had punished these three thousand in the room of the 
people, and then began to make intercession on behalf of 
the tribes. And it was this that gave his pleading power; 
for, as Oosterzee has said,* "What would have been the 
meaning of such intercession for a race of sinners, if the 
intercessor had esteemed the sin itself as trivial ?'* He had 
honored law, and brought glory to God, while, at the same 
time, he had led the people to repentance ; and so once 
again he passed in within the cloud to plead on their be- 
half. Never, surely, was there a more tender appeal. Lis- 
ten to its pathetic importunity : " Oh, this people have sin- 
ned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet 
now, if thou wilt forgive their sin — ; and if not, blot me, I 
pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written." There 
is the power as of a sob in this broken utterance. It has 
more of earnestness and sincerity than if it had come with 
faultless volubility from an eloquent tongue ; for often when 
the heart is fullest, speech is its poorest interpreter. God 

* " Moses : a Biblical Study," by J. Van Oosterzee, translated by J. 
Kennedy, B.D., p. 139. 

Intercession. 221 

had offered to make of him a great nation, and here is now 
his answer — " If not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book." 
Of course, he cannot mean what some would make him 
mean — that, if the people were to be cast away, he desired 
to be shut out forever from the presence of the Lord. For 
we have no warrant for believing that those who fell in the 
wilderness perished everlastingly ; and Moses is here refer- 
ring, not to the life that is to come, but to the life that now 
is. Just as Paul, at a later date, said, "To me to live is 
Christ ;" so Moses now declares that he values life only for 
the sake of the people to whose leadership he had been 
called, and affirms that continued existence on the earth 
would be a burden to him, and not a blessing, if he were 
not permitted to conduct them forward to the land of prom- 
ise. All the loftiest aspirations of his heart, all the joys of 
his soul, all the things he cared to live for, were bound up 
in the welfare of those whom he had brought out of bond- 
age ; and if now they were to be abandoned by God, then 
he prayed that he might be taken from the earth. And so 
we have here, in the prospect of failure, something of the 
same spirit which, under the idea that he had failed, prompt- 
ed Elijah, in this same region, to cry, "Take away my life 
now, for what am I better than my fathers ?" while there 
is, at the same time, much of the self-forgetfulness of Paul, 
when he said, " I could wish myself anathema for my breth- 
ren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." To this appeal 
the Lord replied, " Whosoever hath sinned against me, him 
will I blot out of my book ;" and the threat of destruction 
of the people was so far withdrawn that Moses was to con- 
duct them to Canaan, while an angel should go before him. 
But these concessions were accompanied with serious 
drawbacks ; for, in the first place, whenever the tribes com- 
mitted other iniquity, this first apostasy would be remem- 
bered against them, according to this word : " Nevertheless, 

22 2 Moses the Law-giver. 

in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them." 
And we have the full explanation of that threatening at Ka- 
desh Barnea; for, as here they rejected God, so there they 
rejected the land which God had promised them, and drew 
down the decree that every one of that adult generation 
should perish in the wilderness. 

Still further, Jehovah, though promising to send his angel 
with them, declined to dwell any longer in the midst of 
them ; and that as much in mercy to them as in judgment, 
for thus he speaks, " I will not go up in the midst of thee, 
for thou art a stiff-necked people, lest I consume thee in the 
way." This was a terrible blow to them, for it was a virtual 
revocation of that which was their prime and peculiar dis- 
tinction ; so when the people heard it, " They mourned, and 
no man put on him his ornaments." They did not wish to 
be deprived of God; and when they saw that all this was the 
consequence of their sin, they became convinced of its enor- 
mity, and were more deeply penitent than before. 

But Moses would not yet give up their cause. The Lord, 
indeed, had said that he would not dwell among them, so he 
could no longer meet him as before in the business tent in 
the centre of the camp; but he would not, on that account, 
break off, if I may so express it, all negotiations with him. 
So, taking the tent of meeting, he pitched it outside of the 
camp ; and, as he entered that, the cloudy pillar descended 
and stood at its door, and the Lord talked with him. He 
renewed his entreaty with more importunity than ever, and 
this time on more personal grounds. He had experienced 
already much of the hardship of leadership among such a 
people, and if it had been so great with God himself in the 
midst of them, what would it be with a mere angel there ? 
He did not wish to enter upon the unknown without having 
God at his side, for no angel, however exalted, could supply 
his place ; therefore he cried, " If thy presence go not with 

Intercession. 223 

me, carry us not up hence : for wherein shall it be known 
here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight ? is 
it not in that thou goest with us ? so shall we be separated, I 
and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face 
of the earth." This appeal was successful ; and then, em- 
boldened by his victory, Moses immediately said, "I beseech 
thee, show me thy glory." He had been appointed medi- 
ator, and, that he might the better execute his office, he 
wished for a better knowledge of Jehovah. He desired to 
see what no mortal eye could bear — the unveiled face of the 
great I AM ; but, in mercy to him, this was withheld, and 
the Lord substituted his goodness for his glory, making the 
proclamation of his name serve for the manifestation of his 
essence. He commanded his servant to hew two tables of 
stone like unto the first, and, taking them with him, to as- 
cend in the morning to the top of the Mount. Then, as he 
stood in a cleft of the rock, "The Lord descended in the 
cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name 
of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and pro- 
claimed, Jehovah, Jehovah God, merciful and gracious, long- 
suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mer- 
cy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and 
sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty ; visiting the 
iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the chil- 
dren's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation." 
Upon this Moses renewed his prayer for the people's for- 
giveness, and the Lord re-entered into covenant with him in 
the people's name, recapitulating some of the more impor- 
tant of those injunctions which had been formerly given, and 
detaining him with him there in holy fellowship for another 
period of forty days and forty nights. 

At the end of that long absence, marked on this occasion 
with no outbreak of iniquity, he returned to the camp, carry- 
ing with him the two new tables of testimony ; but as he 

224 Moses the Law-giver. 

stood to speak unto the people, they were afraid to look 
upon him, for the skin of his face shone with dazzling lustre, 
the reflection of the glory on which he had so long been 
gazing. At first he was unconscious of its presence, for " he 
wist not that the skin of his face did shine ;" but when his 
attention was drawn to it, he put a veil over his countenance 
when he had done speaking to the people, but carefully re- 
moved it when he went in to speak with God. 

In reviewing this marvellous history, we may best group 
our remarks round these three centres : its educational pur- 
pose, its typical significance, and its practical influence. 

Let us consider, first, its educational purpose. One can- 
not read these chapters without observing the anthropo- 
morphisms in which they abound. Throughout these nego- 
tiations, as I have ventured to call them, God speaks and is 
spoken of as if he were a man. He says, for example, " Let 
me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them ;" and 
after promising to send an angel, he consents to accompany 
Moses himself; while it is recorded concerning him that 
" he repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his 
people." Now, superficial readers are apt to take great ex- 
ception to the narrative on this account. Because, now we 
have attained to an exalted idea of the spirituality and un- 
changeableness of God, they aflirm that all such representa- 
tions as are here made are absolutely unworthy of Deity, and 
they reject them with scorn. But in so doing, they utterly 
forget that these very anthropomorphisms were, in their day, 
a portion of the means by which the Jewish people first, and 
ultimately others, through Jesus Christ, who came as their 
Messiah, were educated up to the lofty conception of God 
which we have now obtained. We must not lose sight of 
the fact that if we are to speak of God at all, we must use 
human terms regarding him ; but these terms are the out- 
growth of our own experience, and cannot but have human 

Intercession. 225 

limitations, so that it is impossible to conceive of God at all 
except under such conditions. Moreover, God's revelations 
take their color from the intelligence of the people to whom 
they are given ; and when we reflect upon the ignorance and 
degradation out of which the Israelites had been brought 
when they were emancipated from their bondage, we shall 
not be surprised at the elementary character of the training 
to which they were subjected. We have seen how hard it 
was for them to rest in the belief of the truth that God is a 
spirit They cried for a material symbol, because they could 
not rise all at once above the grossness of their old Egyp- 
tian surroundings ; and in the destruction of the calf, and 
the chastisement which accompanied its demolition, they 
had their first severe lesson in theology, and learned to con- 
nect Jehovah with no visible similitude. 

Nor was this all. They had here their earliest insight into 
the divine attributes. From our stand-point now we easily 
understand that all his attributes are permanently present in 
the Deity. He is not at one time just, and at another mer- 
ciful ; at one time wise, and at another good ; but he is al- 
ways just, merciful, wise, and good. All his perfections are 
always present and operative in him. We have reached this 
conception ; but the Israelites, up till this time, seem to have 
had no clear view of any of the perfections of God, and if 
they were ever to obtain such a view of them, they could 
do so only through the consecutive presentation of the at- 
tributes, one after another, to their minds. It would have 
been useless to have attempted, in their low state of relig- 
ious development, to set before them a full-rounded idea of 
the Deity; so advantage was taken of their sin to show 
them those attributes consecutively, or one after the other, 
which we now know to be always simultaneously present 
and active in him. Thus their sin is represented as provok- 
ing his anger, atid so they are led to think of his justice. 

226 Moses the Law-giver. 

Again their leader intercedes for them, and prevails, and 
thereby they are introduced to the knowledge of his mercy ; 
while, midway between the expression of his anger and the 
manifestation of his mercy, there is the execution of the 
three thousand in the stead of the people, which made them 
feel that the mercy of the Lord could never be exercised ex- 
cept in such a way as to uphold his justice. In this way 
they learned more of God through these events than they 
had ever known before ; and it was not an accident, but in- 
deed the culmination and climax of the whole lesson, when, 
as he passed by Moses in the cleft of the rock, the Lord 
proclaimed his name thus as " Jehovah, Jehovah God, mer- 
ciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness 
and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity 
and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear 
the guilty ; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the chil- 
dren, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to 
the fourth generation." 

Thus we reach another landing-place in the great stair- 
case up which God was leading his people in that education 
which was to result in the knowledge of himself At the 
burning bush he reveals himself as Jehovah ; at Marah as 
Jehovah -Rophek; at Rephidim in such a way that Moses 
himself called him Jehovah-Nissi ; and now as Jehovah the 
merciful, yet not clearing the guilty ; and in this latter case, 
as in the others, the revelation was connected with certain 
incidents in the history of the people themselves. It thus 
appears that those very things in the narrative which excite 
the ridicule of modern objectors are seen to have been just 
so many lessons in the religious primer of the Israelites, 
through which they were led ultimately to nobler things. 
Those attributes which at Calvary are seen in simultaneous 
and harmonious operation working out redemption for man- 
kind sinners, are here consecutively presented — first the jus- 

Intercession. 227 

tice, and then the mercy — that they might be the better un- 
derstood by the ignorant people to whom the revelation was 
given. But it ought never to be forgotten by us that if it 
had not been for this original presentation of them in their 
separate manifestation, the world would not have been pre- 
pared to understand that marvellous display of their consen- 
taneous operation which the cross of Christ has furnished. 
And yet it all came through the people's sin ! How wonder- 
ful it is that God has made the very disobedience of men the 
occasion of revealing himself to them, so that, as we read 
this name in connection with the events on Calvary, we can 
say, " The highest angel never saw so much of God before." 
But I direct your attention now to the practical influence 
of this subject. That connects itself with the statement that 
" Moses wist not that the skin of his face did shine." He 
had grown so accustomed to the brightness that he ceased 
to be conscious of its presence. The highest excellence is 
that which is least conscious of itself The very forth-putting 
of an effort to be great in any direction indicates that we 
lack that greatness. How true that is in art, for example, 
every one who has an artist among his friends can tell. The 
greatest achievements made by the sculptor or the painter 
have been those in the production of which he has been full- 
est of his conception, and had least thought of himself I 
do not mean to say that the noblest artists have not been 
indefatigable workers ; on the contrary, they have labored 
with such persevering effort that at last they can produce, 
almost without the consciousness of exertion, something that 
will never be forgotten ; and their supreme work is that 
which seems almost to have come to them of itself, so that 
they were more passive than active in its transmission to 
their fellows. The best sermons write themselves, and are 
given to the preacher before they are given by him, so that 
he cannot think of them as wholly his own. But it is the 

228 Moses the Law-giver. 

same in spiritual things. If I am conscious of an effort to 
be humble, very clearly I have not yet attained to humility ; 
while, on the other hand, the very moment I become con- 
scious that I am humble, I have become proud. And so 
with every other grace. What a discount you take from a 
man's character when, after you have said of him he is this, 
or that, or the other thing that is good, you add, " but he 
knows it." You might almost as well have taken a sponge 
and wiped out all that went before. So if you know your 
excellence, you have not yet reached the highest excellence ; 
there remaineth yet the loftiest and the hardest peak of the 
mountain to be climbed by you, and that is humility. A 
beautiful corroboration of this truth is furnished to us by the 
description which the Lord gives of the awards of judgment. 
He represents the Judge as saying to those on his right 
hand, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom 
prepared for you from the foundation of the world," and 
adding, "for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat," and 
so on ; but they are taken by surprise at the revelation, and 
reply, " Lord, when saw we fAee an hungered, and fed thee ?" 
Now, that is no mere mock humility on their part ; it is the 
real truth. The things done by them of which he makes so 
much were done unconsciously. Like Moses, they "wist 
not that the skin of their faces shone." A caviller, indeed, 
might say that it is a farce to reward men for actions the 
real value of which they did not know when they were per- 
forming them ; but when you remember that the highest ex- 
cellence knows not its own excellence, everything is explain- 
ed. Let us, therefore, brethren, aim after this sort of perfec- 
tion. This is the true higher life ; and to get it we must be 
much with God himself upon the Mount. 

I have left myself little time to speak of the typical signifi- 
cance of this veiled face of Moses ; but that is the less to be 
regretted, as the subject will come up again in other connec- 

Intercession. 229 

tions. I may not conclude, however, without directing your 
attention to the use made of it by Paul in the third chapter 
of his Second Epistle to the Corinthians. He is speaking of 
the Christian ministry as contrasted with that of Moses, and, 
while admitting that the ministry of Moses was glorious, as 
indicated plainly by the shining of his countenance, he af- 
firms that as the letter surpasses the spirit, as the table of 
the heart is nobler than any table of stone, as life is better 
than death, as righteousness exceeds condemnation, as the 
permanent is superior to the transitory, so the ministry of 
the new covenant is grander than that of the old. And it is 
especially in contrasting the transitory with the permanent 
that he refers to the veiling of Moses's face. The radiance 
of the old mediator's countenance continued but for a time, 
and the veil was put on, so Paul argues, to conceal its fad- 
ing. His glory, therefore, was an interrupted and transitory 
thing ; but that of the Christian minister is continuous and 

Again, he uses this veil to illustrate the blindness of Israel 
to the meaning of their own law. As they could not recog- 
nize the transitoriness of Moses's ministry, so they do not 
now see the temporary character of the law. It is not per- 
ceived by them that the law is vanishing away in Christ ; 
but when they shall turn to the Lord, then the veil shall be 
taken away, as Moses removed his when he went in to speak 
to God. Then the light shall be kindled by God's presence, 
as it was on Moses's face ; they shall get through the law to 
the Spirit, from the law to the Lord who gave it ; and, hav- 
ing come under the power of the Spirit, there shall be open 
vision ; so that, " beholding with unveiled face the glory of 
the Lord as in a mirror, they shall not only recognize him, 
but be assimilated to him, and be changed into the same 
image from glory to glory." 

In all this, of course, the apostle is using Moses as an il- 

230 Moses the Law-giyer. 

lustration of the system which he inaugurated ; and while 
his words throw light on the rejection of Jesus by the Jews, 
they also remind us that the time is coming when Israel 
shall turn unto the Lord, and the veil shall be taken away. 
One cannot study this old Hebrew literature, and discover 
how much the world has learned from it, without having his 
heart drawn toward the Jewish race. That religion which 
is at the root of our prosperity as a people, which is the 
source of our individual happiness in time, and the inspira- 
tion of our hope for eternity, is the outcome and develop- 
ment of theirs. The Lord we love and trust and worship 
was " made of the seed of Abraham ;" and it is unutterably 
sad to think that, as a race, the Jews have turned against him 
to whom all their prophets gave witness, and in whom all the 
shadows of their law had their true substance. Truly, to 
this day, when Moses is read among them, the veil is upon 
their heart. But it shall not always be thus ; for when the 
fulness of the Gentiles is come in, then the Jews shall return 
to their allegiance ; and their conversion will be as a new 
Pentecost to the Christian Church. I "think if this truth 
were more thoroughly understood, and more constantly re- 
membered by us, we would look with more favor on all wise 
efforts for the conversion of God's ancient people, and would 
take a deeper interest in everything that concerns their wel- 
fare. Too long they were made, as it were, the foot-ball of 
the nations, and denied the common rights of humanity. 
But a better day has dawned. Christians are now acting 
toward them more thoroughly in the spirit of their religion ; 
and soon, perhaps, the cruelties of by-gone generations will 
be forgotten and forgiven by them, as they take their places 
among the followers of Jesus. But if that time is ever to 
come — if that veil is ever to be taken from their hearts, it 
can only be by our giving them, in our character and deport- 
ment toward them, a correct representation of the spirit of 

Intercession. 231 

Him who wept over Jerusalem's doom, and who still 5^earns 
over his covenanted nation. Therefore, despise them not, 
ostracize them not; but remember that they are still "be- 
loved for their father's sake," and deal kindly with them out 
of regard for him who took their nationality upon him when 
he came to earth. 


Exodus xxv.-xxxi. ; xxxv.-xl. 

WHEN Moses undertook the religious education of the 
Hebrews, the problem which he had before him was 
one too hard for merely human intellect to solve. It was 
something like this : Given a people who have been accus- 
tomed to look upon the grossest idolatry, and have just come 
from the midst of polytheism, how shall they be instruct- 
ed in the great truths of the unity, spirituality, holiness, 
justice, and mercy of Jehovah ? under what symbols shall 
these be set before them, so that they shall be most easily 
apprehended by them in their present stage of develop^ 
ment? and by what forms or restrictions shall these sym- 
bols be guarded, so that they shall not aggravate the dan- 
ger, and foster the very evils which are most to be avoided ? 
Happily, he was not left to grapple with these questions in 
his own unaided strength. During his first forty-days' fel- 
lowship with God upon the Mount, the whole divine plan for 
the training of the tribes in spiritual knowledge, and for the 
maintenance of worship among them, was minutely unfolded 
to him. The immediate realization of that design was inter- 
fered with, for a season, by the outbreak of idolatry in the 
matter of the golden calf; but after the renewal of the cove- 
nant, and his return from his second sojourn on the summit 
of Sinai, it was the first thing that claimed his attention. 

The plan, as we have said, was God's ; yet we must not 
fail to observe that it took its shape, in some degree, from 

The Tabernacle, and its Symbolism. 233 

the capacity and past history of the people. The terms in 
which a teacher gives a lesson are conditioned, not only by 
the nature of the subject which he is handling, but also by 
the extent of the previous knowledge of his pupils. He 
must descend to their level, and put his thoughts into such 
language as they can comprehend ; otherwise his instruc- 
tion will be of no value. In the subsequent history of his 
scholars, they may outgrow all such necessity, and may be 
disposed to smile at the expedients to which their teacher 
had recourse ; but they served their purpose at the time, 
and that vindicates their excellence. The full-grown man 
laughs at the stepping-stones which were put into the brook 
for him when he was a little child, for now he can bestride 
it like a Colossus ; but they were very welcome when he 
needed them. And in the same way we may regard th& 
pictorial and symbolic character of the Mosaic worship as 
a childish thing which manhood has now put away ; yet for 
such comparative babes in religious knowledge as the He- 
brews then were, it was every way admirable. It put the 
truth into forms of a sort to which they had been in some 
measure accustomed, and by which they were kept from the 
materialism of other nations. 

They belonged to an age in which symbolism v^as every- 
where employed. They had come from a land in which 
much of the writing was pictorial ; and the nations then, as 
the recently-discovered monuments attest, were in the habit 
of putting all religious truths into external emblems. That 
form, therefore, as being the existing and recognized medi- 
um for the communication of such things at the time, was 
employed by Jehovah. He chose it just as, in giving us a 
revelation of his will, he chose language, because he found it 
already in use. But he did with it as in his revelation he 
has done with human lang^uasfe — he elevated it and refined 
it, and put such new significance into it, that men, looking 

234 Moses THE Law-giver. 

at it, can see as marked a difference between the taberna- 
cle of the Hebrews and the temples of the heathen as there 
is between the Bible and the so-called sacred books of India 
and China. 

The Hebrews of Moses's day were not ready for such a 
clear statement of the truth about the nature and worship 
of God as that which Jesus gave to the woman at the well 
of Sychar. They could not have taken that into their 
minds ; and, even if they could have apprehended it, they 
could not have retained it. They craved for something 
external. That eager desire for an embodiment of Deity 
which, among the heathen, tried to satisfy itself in idolatry, 
and which has now been met for all men in the Incarnation 
of God in Christ, was as strong in them as in others. Their 
lapse into image -worship at the very base of Sinai proves 
that this was the case ; and, therefore, it became necessary 
to give them an outward symbolism — which should meet the 
craving of their hearts, and yet not minister to materialism 
because it had no visible representation of God. 

Such a symbolism was set before them in the tabernacle. 
It was, from first to last, an external emblem of spiritual 
truth. It spoke to the people in a language that they could 
and did understand ; it preached to them always the same 
great sermon ; and its special typical significance, as point- 
ing to the Christian dispensation, is but the result of its gen- 
eral symbolism, and springs from the fact that it was design- 
ed to be emblematic of those abstract principles which have 
found their perfect concrete expression now in the person 
and work of the Lord Jesus. 

Bearing these things in mind, we shall be the better able 
to understand the meaning of the Hebrew tabernacle, to the 
consideration of which I now proceed. The plan after 
which it was constructed was given to Moses either by the 
exhibition of a model of it before his eyes, or by the commu- 

The Tabernacle, and its Symbolism. 235 

nication to his mind of a clear and perfect idea of it, so that 
he was able distinctly to apprehend and accurately to re- 
produce it. The materials for its erection were contributed 
voluntarily by the people themselves, who manifested ex- 
traordinary enthusiasm in the matter, and brought actually 
more than was required, although the cost of the structure 
has been estimated as amounting to more than a million 
and a quarter dollars of our money. The workmanship was 
superintended and directed by Bezaleel, of the tribe of Ju- 
dah, and Aholiab, of the tribe of Dan, both of whom were 
divinely qualified and designated for the service. Under 
them all the skilled artificers of the host were engaged, and 
thus the training in various handicrafts which they had re- 
ceived in the land of Egypt was utilized in the service of 
Jehovah. The curtains of linen and goat's -hair were spun 
and woven by "wise -hearted" women; and such was the 
industry with which they all wrought that on the first day 
of the second year from the date of their emancipation the 
sacred structure was set up, and its services inaugurated 
with great splendor and solemnity. 

It was placed in the centre of the encampment, and was 
enclosed within a rectangular court, whose entrance faced 
the east, and before each side of which, at the distance of 
two thousand cubits, three tribes had their allotted camping- 
ground. On the east, facing the entrance, were Zebulon, 
Judah, and Issachar ; and between them and the enclosure 
were the tents of Moses and Aaron and Aaron's sons ; on 
the north were Asher, Dan, and Naphtali, and between them 
and the wall of curtains were the children of Merari ; on 
the west were Manasseb, Ephraim, and Benjamin, with the 
Levitical family of the Gershonites between them and the 
sacred edifice ; on the south were Gad, Reuben, and Sim- 
eon, with the Kohathites intervening between them and the 
southern wall. 

236 Moses the Law-giver. 

The enclosure itself was one hundred cubits long by fifty 
wide, and was formed by hangings of linen — or, as some 
think, cotton — fastened to pillars by silver hooks and fillets. 
The pillars were five cubits in height, and numbered ten for 
the west end, and twenty for each side ; while at the eastern 
end, in which was the entrance, there were three pillars on 
each side, leaving a space of twenty cubits, in which were 
four pillars, whereon was hung a curtain of fine linen, with 
variegated strips of purple, and blue, and crimson. 

As one entered this enclosure, he came first upon the al- 
tar of burnt-offering, the fire on which, being supernaturally 
kindled at the first, was to be perpetually maintained. " It 
was also a place of constant sacrifice: fresh blood was shed 
upon it continually, and the smoke of the burning sacrifice 
ascended up toward heaven without intermission."* A little 
farther in, beyond this altar, was the laver of brass, cast from 
the metallic mirrors given by the women, and containing 
water which was used by the priest for washing his hands 
and feet as he passed into the sanctuary. Then, at the dis- 
tance of fifty cubits from the entrance, and precisely mid- 
way between the two sides of the court, was the tabernacle 
pioper. This was a rectangular structure, thirty cubits long, 
by ten in width and ten in height. It was open above, and 
was composed of planks of acacia-wood, overlaid with gold, 
which were fixed at the base by tenons fitting into silver 
sockets, and were kept together by means of bars of acacia- 
wood passing through rings of gold. The area thus formed 
was divided into two compartments, the outer one twenty 
cubits long, and the inner ten. The separation was made 
by a veil, of the richest material and most beautifully adorn- 
ed, which was hung upon four pillars of gilt acacia. The 
entrance into the outer apartment was also through a veil 

* Eadie's ** Cyclopaedia," sub voce Altar. 

The Tabernacle, and its Symbolism. 237 

adorned with needle-work, which was suspended by hooks 
on five pillars. 

I have said that there was no roof; but the absence of 
that was made up for by a series of coverings, which were 
thrown over the whole, so as to make a flat surface ; though 
some are of opinion that they were suspended on a ridge- 
pole, like the canvas of an ordinary tent. The innermost 
curtain was of fine linen or cotton ; the second was of goats'- 
hair, which was the ordinary tent-fabric of the time; the 
third was of rams' -skins dyed red; and the fourth was of 
the skins of the tachash, an animal which has not yet been 
identified, but which is thought by some to have been a 
kind of fish — probably the seal — and by others to have been 
a species of deer. Thus, while the under coverings had a 
symbolical character, the upper were added to protect the 
whole fabric from the weather. 

In the inner of the two apartments, known as the Most 
Holy Place, was a chest of acacia-wood, two and a half cu- 
bits long by one and a half broad, having a raised orna- 
mental border round the top. It was overlaid with gold, 
and the lid was made entirely of the precious metal. At 
each end of the lid, looking toward each other, were two 
symbolic composite figures of beaten gold, having wings 
which "stretched forth on high;" and between these wings 
and over them hovered evermore the mystic cloud, wherein 
the presence of God was at once revealed and concealed. 
Within the chest were the two tables of stone which Moses 
brought with him from the Mount ; and, with the exception 
of a golden pot which contained a specimen of the manna, 
and the rod of Aaron, of which we shall afterward hear, this 
ark, with its contents and its cherubic adjuncts, was the only 
furniture of the Holy of Holies. 

In the outer apartment there were three objects of inter- 
est. In the centre, and immediately in front of the entrance 

238 Moses the Law-giver. 

to the Most Holy Place, was the altar of incense, on which 
sweet spices were burned daily. On the south side of that 
altar was the golden lamp-stand, having one main stem, on 
each side of which were three branches. The lamps were 
to be lighted in the evening, and kept burning all the night. 
On the north side of the altar of incense was the table of 
shewbread, which was made of acacia- wood overlaid with 
gold, and on which were laid twelve loaves, corresponding 
to the number of the twelve tribes. These loaves were re- 
moved, and fresh ones substituted, every Sabbath ; and only 
the priests might eat of those which had been taken away. 

When the tabernacle, of which we have given the briefest 
possible description, was set up, it was consecrated to God 
by the anointing of its separate parts and its different arti- 
cles of furniture with oil specially prepared, according to 
God's command, for the purpose. In the same way, special 
attendants were set apart for the stated performance of du- 
ties in it and about it. Designed as it was for a travelling 
people, it was made so that it could be easily taken down, 
removed, and set up again ; and the tribe of Levi, accepted 
by God in lieu of the first-born who had been spared on the 
night when they left Egypt, were appointed and consecrated 
to that work. The Merarites had charge of the boards, bars, 
and pillars ; the Gershonites, of the coverings and hangings ; 
and the Kohathites, of the ark, the table, the candlestick, 
and the altars and the vessels of the sanctuary. Then, out 
of the tribe of Levi the family of Aaron were chosen for the 
priesthood ; and special ceremonies, of great meaning and 
solemnit}^, were connected with their consecration. It was 
the duty of the priests to watch over the fire on the altar of 
burnt-offering, and keep it continually burning ; to attend to 
the lighting and extinguishing of the lamps on the golden 
lamp-stand; to offer a lamb in sacrifice morning and even- 
ing, and two lambs on the Sabbath; to remove the loaves of 

The Tabernacle, and its Symbolism. 239 

presentation, and put others in their stead ; and to be al- 
ways at their post, to do the work of sacrifice or offering for 
any humble penitent or any thankful worshipper who might 
present himself. Then, over these, the head of the family of 
Aaron was designated to the office of high-priest, and, with 
great pomp and ceremony, consecrated to the performance 
of its duties. A dress of great splendor was prescribed to 
him. His were the ephod and the breastplate, the Urim 
and Thummim, and the mitre with its plate of gold, whereon 
were inscribed the words, " Holiness unto the Lord." And 
he alone, of all the people, had the right of entrance into 
the Holy of Holies. Yet not even he could enter when he 
chose ; for only on the great day of annual atonement, when 
he carried with him the blood of the sin-offering, and sprin- 
kled it upon the lid of the ark, was he permitted to venture 
within the veil ; and even on that occasion minute and par- 
ticular directions were given him, which he was most sacred- 
ly to follow, on the pain of death. 

Now, if we carry in our thoughts these particulars, which 
I have endeavored to make as clear as possible, we shall 
have little difficulty in discovering the meanings which they 
symbolically taught. They set before the Hebrews very 
vividly these two sides of truth — God coming to them, and 
the manner of their approach to God. 

From the divine side, this structure symbolized the com- 
ing of God to the people, and his dwelling among them. 
At its consecration, we are told that " a cloud covered the 
tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord covered 
the tabernacle ;" and in the Holy of Holies, the Shechinah, 
or mystic cloud, was always hovering between the cherubim 
over the ark of the covenant. Here, therefore, was the seat 
and centre of the Jewish theocracy. As the kingdom was 
visible, so was the palace, and so also was at least the pres- 
ence of the King. Thus we account for the fact that, when 


240 Moses the Law-giver. 

God commanded Moses to erect it, he said, " Let them make 
me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them," and prom- 
ised regarding it, " I will dwell among the children of Israel, 
and will be their God."* His symbolic presence was over 
the ark, wherein were the two tables of stone having the law 
engraven on them, to indicate that he was in the midst of 
them, a righteous Lord and Governor. "Justice and judg- 
ment" were thus seen to be "the habitation of his throne." 

But the palace wherein God dwelt was also the meeting- 
place between him and the people. It was called " the tent 
of meeting," for that is the correct translation of the phrase 
which, in our version, has been invariably rendered "the tab- 
ernacle of the congregation ;" and it was thus described, not 
because the people met there with each other, but because 
it was the locality in which God had covenanted to meet 
and converse with them. Hence he said to Moses, " There 
will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from 
above the mercy-seat, from between the cherubim which are 
upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give 
thee in commandment to the children of Israel."t More- 
over, the blood of expiation sprinkled on the lid of the ark 
denoted that it was through sacrifice that God was thus gra- 
cious to those who had sinned against him. In this way, 
the grand central truth of the tabernacle symbolism was the 
gracious presence of God with his people as a righteous gov- 
ernor, whose justice has been upheld by sacrifice, so that his 
honor is untarnished in the forgiveness of sin. It was, in 
its own emblematic language, a repetition for all the people, 
in a standing and permanent form, of the proclamation by 
the Lord of that name which he had revealed to Moses, 
when, as he passed by, he said, "Jehovah, Jehovah God, 
merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in good- 

* Exod. XXV., 8 ; xxix., 45. t lb. xxix., 43. 

The Tabernacle, and its Symbolism. 241 

ness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving in- 
iquity, transgression, and sin, and that will by no means 
clear the guilty." 

But in connection with this revelation of God there were 
certain other peculiar features of amazing interest. For in- 
stance, the spirituality of Deity is admirably suggested by 
the bright cloud over the ark. There was no manner of 
similitude permitted ; such a thing, indeed, was expressly 
forbidden. The presence was visible, but the Divine Being 
was invisible. There was enough of the visible to meet the 
craving of the soul for something on which the eye could 
work ; and yet that which the eye beheld was itself a veil, 
within the luminous folds of which the great I AM was hid- 
den from view. Thus there was no encouragement given to 
image -worship, for the presence was in a form which con- 
cealed as well as revealed, and which suggested a spiiiiual 
rather than a corporeal Being. We to-day have reached a 
faith in God which does not need even the visible emblem of 
a glory-cloud to sustain it ; but we should never forget that 
we are the inheritors in this of an education which could 
not have attained to such an exalted conception unless in 
its earlier stages it had been thus assisted. 

In the same way it appears to me that the unity of God 
is throughout this symbolism vividly kept before the mind. 
Just as the Holy of Holies differed from the shrines of 
heathen temples in having no image, it was unlike them, 
also, in conserving the notion of the unity and supremacy 
of Jehovah. There is but one ark, one altar of incense, and 
one altar of burnt -offering; and only at this divinely -ap- 
pointed place were the Hebrews, in all time coming, to offer 
sacrifices and offerings to God. In one point of view, in- 
deed, this seems to have been, perhaps, the narrowest feat- 
ure of the Mosaic system ; and we congratulate ourselves 
that now we live in an age when neither to this spot nor to 

242 Moses the Law-giver. 

that is acceptable service of God restricted, but the worship* 
per may worship the Father anywhere, provided he do so in 
spirit and in truth. Yet, when we look at the subject from 
another side, we see that even this exclusivism was meant 
to conserve a great truth ; for in the proportion in which a 
nation multiplies altars, it ultimately multiplies divinities. 
At first, indeed, the shrines may be erected professedly to 
the true God; but after awhile local influences and jealous- 
ies begin to work, the different "high places" become ri- 
vals, and so they put forth exclusive claims, which end in 
each becoming the altar of a new god. One has only to 
read the history of the Jews themselves to see how true this 
assertion is ; and a glance at the great centres of heathen 
worship in India at the present day will convince you that 
the tendency of the human heart is to have a distinct god 
for every altar. But all this was guarded against by the 
provision of only one altar in the tabernacle, and the com- 
mand that on it alone all sacrifices were to be offered. 

Then, to mention no more, what an impressive manifesta- 
tion of the holiness of God was given by this whole struct- 
ure, and the services to which it was consecrated. Not only 
was the tabernacle set up within an enclosure, but its en- 
trance was veiled ; and in the innermost apartment, behind 
another veil, was the presence-cloud of Deity. Thus, though 
dwelling among the people, he was yet hedged round with 
such restrictions, and to be approached with such rites, as 
emphatically suggested his purity. Everything about the 
tabernacle was set apart by a special consecration unto him. 
The very furniture was holy; the Levites who carried it 
from place to place had to bear a sacred character; the 
priests had to be consecrated to their office with great so- 
lemnity. When they went into the sanctuary they had to 
purify themselves at the brazen laver ; and every personal 
injunction laid upon them was of such a nature as to enforce 

The Tabernacle, and its Symbolism. 243 

the command, "Be ye holy, for I am holy." So, also, the 
high -priest bore upon his mitre the golden plate with the 
inscription, " Holiness unto the Lord." 

But perhaps the most striking enforcement of this attri- 
bute of the divine character was given by the cherubim. It 
is not possible, indeed, now to furnish an accurate descrip- 
tion of these composite figures ; but, whatever their appear- 
ance was, it seems to me to be plain, from the references to 
them throughout the Scriptures, that they are to be under^ 
stood as the symbolic guardians of the divine holiness ; and 
the very fact that no detailed account of them is given here 
indicates that both their likeness and their significance were 
well known to the people. We first meet them guarding 
the tree of life in Paradise, and keeping back our fallen 
parents from its fruit; we next come upon them here, in 
golden effigy, looking down with satisfaction on the blood- 
besprinkled mercy-seat ; we see them next in Isaiah's vision, 
and hear the temple echo with their praise, " Holy,; holy, 
holy is the Lord of Hosts ;" we find them next in the vision 
of Ezekiel, in which they are the guardians of the mystic 
wheels, which are supposed by many to signify the provi- 
dence of God ; and we behold them for the last time in the 
Apocalypse of John, where we hear them once more singing, 
" Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty ;" where, also, there 
is a throne, with a lamb upon it, as if it had been slain, and 
beside the throne four -and -twenty elders, representing the 
tribes of the redeemed. Now, observe how the Apocalypse, 
with its Paradise regained, stands in contrast to Genesis, 
with its Paradise lost. In Genesis, the cherubim are ward- 
ing men away ; in the Apocalypse, they are complacent on- 
lookers, while the elders are seated on either side of the 
throne; and the reason of the difference is that on the 
throne itself there is the Lamb of God who took away the 
§ins of the world. But just as, in John's vision, the cherubim 

244 Moses the Law-giver. 

are satisfied at the reception of the Redeemed, because the 
Lamb was slain, so here on the ark of the covenant they are 
complacent on -lookers as God meets and communes with 
his people through their representative, because his holiness 
has been conserved by the blood of atonement. Perhaps 
this lesson was not learned by the people all at once ; yet 
the fact that, in both the visions of Isaiah and John, the 
cherubic anthem voiced itself in the words, " Holy, holy, 
holy, Lord," is not without its significance as furnishing the 
key to the meaning of their symbolism. 

But now, looking to the teaching of the tabernacle as to 
the manner in which the people were to approach God, there 
are some things of great importance suggested. I have al- 
ready incidentally referred to certain truths which could not 
rightly be overlooked when speaking of God's abode among 
his people ; yet if I should touch them from another side, 
that will only serve to show the importance which they 
held in the view of the Divine Instructor. Pre - eminent 
among the lessons, from the human side, which the taber- 
nacle taught, I place the necessity of a Mediator. The peo- 
ple did not come into direct and immediate dealing with 
Jehovah. Everything was done with him for them through 
the consecrated priest, and on the great annual day of 
atonement through the mediation of the high -priest. At 
the base of Sinai, when they requested Moses to become 
their mediator, they relinquished the honor which God de- 
signed for them when he said, " Ye shall be unto me a king- 
dom of priests ;" and, therefore, when they presented them- 
selves to him, it was through one who was ordained of God 
to offer their gifts and sacrifices. Their guilt rendered them 
unfit to come into immediate fellowship with him, and so 
only through one who was accepted as holy in their stead 
could they offer praise or make request to him. Moreover, 
this mciiiator approached on their behalf always with sacri- 

The Tabernacle, and its Symbolism. 245 

fice. The fire on the altar of burnt-offering never went out j 
victims were always upon it, and every priestly duty was 
performed on the ground of their acceptance. The altar 
stood at the gate — or at least, nearest the gate of the taber- 
nacle enclosure — to show that expiation was the first great 
indispensable thing ; and every step that was taken by the 
priest beyond the altar was taken on the ground of the sac- 
rifice that was offered thereon. Then, in the outer sanct- 
uary, the first things that met the eye of the high-priest after 
he had made atonement, and when he was leaving the Holy 
of Holies, were the table of shewbread, the altar of incense, 
and the seven-branched lamp-stand ; and these were the ap- 
propriate emblems of that constant service which one recon- 
ciled to God by the blood of atonement ought to render 
unto him. The shewbread represents the fruits of diligence 
in that holy living to which all God's culture of the soul 
ever tends, even as bread is the ultimate result of the nat- 
ural husbandry of the agriculturist in the cultivation of his 
fields ; the incense, as many passages of Scripture make evi- 
dent,* represents the offering of prayer, which is the exhala- 
tion of the sweet spices of the heart before God, when they 
are set on fire with the flame of sincere devotion to his will ; 
the golden lamp-stand represents sanctified character, com- 
posed of the interblending of knowledge with holiness,! from 
which a radiance, sustained by the spirit of God, is emitted, 
and by which not the Church only, but the world, is to be 
illuminated. Thus the worshipper, who is represented by 
the priest, went through the gate of expiation into the cham- 
ber of peace, and emerged therefrom into a life of prayer 
and fruitfulness and radiant holiness, by which God was 
honored and the community enlightened. 

* See Psa. cxli., 2 ; Luke i., 10 ; Rev. v., 8 ; viii., 3, 4. 
t SeeEph.v.,8; Phil, i., 14. 

246 Moses the Law-giver. 

It remains that we look for a few moments now at the 
typical significance of this remarkable structure. As I said 
in the outset of my present discourse, the typical teaching 
rests upon the general symbolism ; and as we have now a 
firm grasp of the latter, it will be comparatively easy for us 
to rise to the comprehension of the former ; while the prin- 
ciples which we have already established will save us alike 
from that weak and puerile literalism which would make a 
spiritual meaning out of every loop in the curtains, or every 
little article of furniture, like the spoons and the snuffers; 
and from that extreme and prosaic naturalism which will 
not allow that there was in all this ritual any anticipation or 
prophecy of the Gospel. The truth lies between these two, 
and may be expressed thus : As a symbolism, the tabernacle 
ritualism was a correct representation of the great spirituali- 
ties which have their genuine incarnation in Christ ; and so 
it stood as it were midway between the abstract doctrine 
and the concrete fact. It was the halting-place of the ideal 
on its way toward the real, and thus its very incompleteness 
was a pledge and prophecy of the perfection that was to 

The tabernacle was the dwelling-place of Deity, and the 
point of meeting between God and his people. Where now 
in Christianity do we find the substance of which that was 
the shadow? You have only to put the question, to see 
what the answer must be. The New Testament tabernacle 
is the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom dwelleth 
all the fulness of the Godhead bodily ; and in whom, also, 
God is reconciling the world unto himself, " not imputing 
unto them their trespasses." Of this tabernacle his flesh is 
the veil, hiding, as it did so largely, the lustre of his deity ; 
and when that veil was rent in his death he entered into 
the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 
Thus the truth that God dwells with his people, which was 

The Tabernacle, and its Symbolism. 247 

in the tabernacle in symbol, was in Christ in reality. His 
rx-ame is " Emanuel — God with us ;" and the evangelist, with 
perhaps a reference to this very symbol, has said, "The 
Word became flesh, and dwelt" — literally, " tabernacled " — 
"among us, and we beheld his glory." 

Now, having found out the typical meaning of the taber- 
nacle itself, we can be at no loss to see who the mediator is ; 
for Christ is himself called by that name, and his very In- 
carnation enables him to lay his hand upon both God and 
man. So, again, we find the expiation in his atoning blood j 
"For such a high -priest became us, who is holy, harmless, 
undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the 
heavens; who needeth not dail}^ as those high- priests, to 
offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the 
people's: for this he did once when he offered up himself." 
Thus, wherever I look in the tabernacle there is something 
that points me to Christ. The structure, as a whole, is a 
finger-post directing me to that mystic person in whom 
"God in very deed dwelt with man upon the earth.". ■ Its 
white -robed priest is the shadow of him who was white in 
something higher than vestments, being " holy, harmless, un- 
defiled," and whom I recognize as my true High-priest. Its 
bleeding lamb laid upon the altar is the likeness of that 
Lamb of God by whose precious blood I have been redeem.- 
ed from all iniquity ; its innermost sanctuary is the type of 
that heaven into which he has entered to make atonement 
for my sin, and its outer apartment is the analogue of the 
present world, in which we are to serve him with the in- 
cense of our devotions, the light of our characters, and the 
fruit of our lives. The incarnation in the person of Christ, 
the mediation and expiation of his priestly work, and the 
consequent obligation under which his redeemed people lie 
to honor him with unceasing service and shining holiness — 
or, putting it all into four words, incarnation, mediation, 


248 Moses the Law-giver. 

EXPIATION, CONSECRATION — tlicsc are the things of which the 
tabernacle, with its furniture, services, and attendants, were 
the special types ; and as thus we have condensed its teach- 
ings into their essence, we have come to a larger and more 
comprehensive view of the doctrines of the Gospel itself, 
and discover that we have been studying the same truths, 
only under a different form. 

We have been so thoroughly engaged with doctrine to- 
night that a few practical lessons will be welcome; yet I 
can do little more than name three. 

In the first place, we have here an example of liberality. 
The people gave until they had brought too much. But 
the universality of the giving is as striking as the aggregate 
amount. They all gave something. No class or sex was 
excluded from the privilege. The rulers brought precious 
stones j the princes gave the wagons and oxen for the 
transportation of the fabric; the men gave acacia -wood, 
and brass, and silver, and gold ; and the women contributed 
their mirrors for the brazen laver. So the tabernacle was 
raised without debt; and herein there is a lesson to our 
modern congregations. Commonly, nowadays, men proceed 
with their building, calculating that the necessary funds will 
be forthcoming in the end ; but here the offering came first, 
and that ought to be the invariable rule. If the contribu- 
tions are small, then let the fabric be according to them. It 
is all very well to have an exquisite baptismal font ; but it is 
better to do with an earthenware one that is paid for, than 
to go in debt for one of marble. It is better to have a plain, 
substantial building, with no extravagance about it, but with- 
out a debt, than to have the most splendid specimen of 
Gothic architecture that is overlaid by a mortgage. Ob- 
serve, I do not say a word against elaboration in church 
architecture. I do not think anything is too good for the 
house of God ; and it ought not, at least, to be in any way 

The Tabernacle, and its Symbolism. 249 

behind the comfort and elegance of the homes of the people 
who frequent it. But I do say that the church is too good a 
place to be in debt ; and that if these other adornments can 
be had only by contracting pecuniary obligations of a per- 
manent character, then it is every way better to do without 
them. The apostolic rule is good for churches as well as 
individuals—" Owe no man anything, but to love one anoth- 
er;" and even that love we must be always paying. Oh, 
how many churches in our land to-day would have been 
happier, more prosperous, and more aggressive, if only they 
had acted on this principle ! 

But we have here, secondly, an example of consecrated 
ability. Bezaleel and Aholiab were, doubtless, men of skill 
before the Lord inspired them to take the oversight of the 
erection of the tabernacle ; and they, and all those who 
wrought under them, willingly devoted their genius to the 
Lord. Now, of course, there was a special divine influence 
on these two artists ; but in a very real sense, it is true of 
every man of genius that his excellence has been given him 
by God, and he should seek to consecrate it to God's ser- 
vice. Let us be just, also, and add that, in a large propor- 
tion of instances, they have done so. Take the noblest 
things in poetry, music, architecture, and painting, and you 
will find that they have been done in the service of God, 
and have a religious significance. The grandest epic in our 
language is on a religious theme ; and some of our noblest 
lyrics have come from the harp of a pious heart, swept by 
the breeze of a holy influence. What are the oratorios of 
Handel but the consecration of his genius to Jehovah ? and 
the finest specimens of architecture which Europe has to 
show are its venerable cathedrals, every one of which, in the 
ideal of its designer, was a sermon in stone. The greatest 
triumphs of the painter have been in the delineations of 
sacred subjects ; and many among them who have become 

250 Moses the Law-giver. 

famous have, like the Fra Angelico, done their work upon 
their knees. I do not think the average Christian has been 
at all just to genius in this respect. It has been far too 
much insinuated that genius is the natural antagonist of re- 
ligion. But the truth is, that it is designed to be its spirit- 
ual ally j and where it has not been so, I fear the Church 
has itself been too frequently to blame. We are coming 
round to a better mind upon the subject; and men are 
learning that painting, sculpture, and architecture may be 
wedded to the Gospel, as well as poetry and music. Ev- 
ery true product of art, no matter in what department, is a 
poem ; and if we can adopt the lyrics of the singer into 
our hymnology, why should we not encourage our artists to 
preach on the canvas and in the marble ? Never minister 
gave a more eloquent sermon than that painted by Holman 
Hunt in " The Light of the World." And the advantage is 
on the painter's side in more ways than one ; for, while the 
sermon dies out of recollection, the picture lives. So let us 
encourage men of genius to consecrate their abilities to God's 
service ; and then, perhaps, the time will come when, in the 
highest of all senses, " the day of the Lord shall be upon all 
pleasant pictures." Nothing is so delightful to me as to 
see a work of art which is the embodiment of a religious 
idea ; and if we were but to encourage our artists to pro- 
duce such things, our galleries would be educational even 
in a nobler respect than that of refining the taste, for they 
would be the repositories of good and striking enforcements 
of the truth of God. 

" How beautiful is genius when combined 
With holiness ! Oh, how divinely sweet 
The tones of earthly harp whose chords are touched 
By the soft hand of piety, and hung 
Upon religious shrine, there vibrating 
With solemn music in the ear of God 1" 

The Tabernacle, and its Symbolism. 251 

Finally, we have here an example of thoroughness. Ev- 
erything was made as near perfection as possible. The 
loops and hooks of the curtains were attended to with as 
religious care as the ark of the covenant itself. Nothing 
was slighted. There was no covering up of bad work with 
what looked like an ornament, but was really a hypocrisy. 
The very smallest thing was made as thoroughly according 
to pattern as the greatest. They were working for God, and 
they would do it well. The same thing was seen in the 
Temple in Solomon's time ; and those who inspect the me- 
diaeval cathedrals give a similar testimony in reference to 
them ; so that Longfellow's words are true when he says, 

" In the elder days of art, 

Builders wrought with greatest care 
Each minute and unseen part, 
For the gods are everywhere." 

But in these times a far different spirit seems to be 
abroad, and men cover over with a fair appearance work- 
manship which is simply dishonest. The cry is for cheap- 
ness, and to meet that, efficiency is neglected ; so that here 
not the workmen alone, but the public as a whole, are to be 
blamed. Now, the first great requisite in every product of 
labor is excellence. I care not what a thing may look like ; 
if it be not really that which it is represented to be, it is a 
fraud, and it is dear at any price. We want to-day more 
preaching of this gospel of honesty. It is needed all round. 
You blame those who wish to pass ninety-two cents off for a 
dollar in the shape of a piece of silver, and I join you in do- 
ing so ; but what better are you if you sell a counterfeit for a 
genuine article, or put out of your hands an inferior produc- 
tion that appears for the moment to be all right ? Ah ! have 
you forgotten that God is everywhere, and that he sees what 
is below the surface ? Mr. Spurgeon tells of a domestic ser' 

252 Moses the Law-giver. 

vant who came to him to speak about joining the Church. 
After testing her knowledge, and getting at her experience 
of the great change, he said, "That is all very well ; but what 
evidence have you that you have been really converted ?" 
She replied, after a moment's thought, and with a slight 
blush upon her cheeks, " Well, sir, I sweep under the mats 
now." That is to say, she had learned thoroughness. So 
to-night let each of us go hence and look below the mats 
in his heart, in his home, in his business, in his public life ; 
and sweep out everything he finds that is unholy, ignoble, 
dishonorable, and dishonest there. Let us have less of the 
double standard of profession and practice, and more of the 
gold coin of genuine sincerity in all the businesses and rela- 
tionships of life j and we shall show that we have learned 
something from the workmanship of this old tabernacle. 


Deuteronomy vi., i. 

AS the laws of Moses were given, for the most part, dur- 
ing the encampment of the tribes at Sinai, this will be 
the most convenient place for a brief analysis and review of 
that remarkable system of legislation which gave its distinc- 
tive character and influence to the Hebrew nation. At first 
sight, it might seem that these statutes have little connec- 
tion with the character of Moses, since they were given to 
him by Jehovah, and he was only the instrument of com- 
municating them to the people ; but such a view is entire- 
ly inconsistent with the workings of divine inspiration in 
other cases, for the Holy Spirit has always spoken through 
the individuality of the men whom he has chosen as proph- 
ets and apostles. We do not hesitate to believe that the 
natural lyric genius of David is as conspicuous in his Psalms 
as is the elevating and revealing influence of the supernat- 
ural spirit ; and we feel no difficulty in tracing the mental 
ability and peculiarities of Paul in his Epistles, while, at the 
same time, we cheerfully admit that he wrote the things 
which the Holy Ghost taught him. In the same way we 
distinguish between the poetic grandeur of Isaiah and the 
mystic symbolism of Ezekiel ; while the intuitional depth of 
the Apostle John is easily recognized as different from the 
practical pungency of James. In all these cases we con- 
cede that the personal characteristics of the men underlay 
the spiritual communications which they made, and qualified 

254 Moses the Law-giver. 

and conditioned their utterances. They were the mould* 
into which the several divine messages were run ; and these, 
when given to the people, took their shape from their indi- 
vidual peculiarities. 

But the same thing was true of Moses and his laws ; so 
that, while we constantly see in them the marks of the di- 
vine wisdom, we may also obtain from them an insight into 
his ability as a statesman and legislator. Just as John saw 
farther into the heart of Christ than any other of the disci- 
ples did, and has given us the benefit of his keen-eyed per- 
ception in the fourth gospel, so we may not hesitate to con- 
clude that the Mosaic legislation is the result not only of 
God's revelation to Moses, but also of Moses's ability to 
take in the meaning of the divine plan, and to reproduce it 
to the people of his charge. Such a system could not have 
been given through Aaron, for example, because, great as 
the high-priest was, he had not those natural aptitudes for 
such subjects which his brother possessed, and could not 
have seen all that was visible to him who, for twice forty 
days, was on the Mount alone with God. Inspiration did 
not use the prophet or law -giver as a machine, but it em- 
ployed his powers of apprehension as well as of utterance. 
Moses was far more to God and to the people than the 
mere attendant, who passed the word from the one to the 
other, as the seaman transmits the order from the captain to 
the helmsman on board ship. He was the interpreter of 
the one to the other; and because he understood God so 
well it was that he gave this noble collection of statutes to 
his fellow-countrymen. Jehovah employed his heart, con- 
science, judgment, and intelligence, as well as his speech ; 
and so, in the study of the law, we come into contact as 
really with his human ability as with the divine wisdom. It 
would be impossible, therefore, to form anything like an ac- 
curate conception either of his mental and moral greatness. 

The Mosaic Legislation. 255 

or of his influence not only on his own age, but on all suc- 
ceeding generations, without taking into account the legis- 
lation which is called by his name. 

In reviewing that, however, certain important prelimina- 
ries have to be carefully noted. 

We must remember, in the first place, that, though given 
to the people while they were in the wilderness, these laws 
were adapted and designed for a nation permanently settled 
in the land of Palestine. The mere proclamation of them, 
therefore, was an act of faith. Minute and particular enact- 
ments regarding the holding of property were given to a 
homeless and wandering host, who, to human view, were far 
more likely to sink back into the degradation of the slavery 
from which they had just escaped, than to advance to the 
foremost rank among the nations of antiquity. Laws requir- 
ing the attendance of all the men three times a year at some 
central spot were enacted before they had acquired a foot 
of land that they could call their own, and while yet they 
were sojourning in one unbroken encampment. In this 
view of the case, the very reception and promulgation of 
these precepts by Moses is as great a triumph of faith as 
was his observance of the Passover on the night of the de- 
liverance from Egypt. I am aware, indeed, that some of 
our modern destructive critics would have us to believe that 
this legislation belongs to a much later period of Jewish his- 
tory, and would put it as far down as the age of Josiah, if 
not even of Ezra ; but surely we have only to look at the 
character of many of these enactments to be convinced that 
they could have been published and enforced only in the 
age in which they are here set. If they came from Moses 
at all, then, since he died on the eastern side of the Jordan, 
they must have been promulgated in the desert ; and if they 
were not proclaimed there, to what other period of Jewish 
history can they be assigned ? The age of the Judges was 

256 Moses the Law-giver. 

one of alternate servitude and war, altogether unfitted for 
the publication of such a code ; that of the Kings saw a to- 
tal change in the character of the nation, which was entirely 
inconsistent with much of the spirit of these laws ; and if 
they be referred to the later portion of the Hebrew history, 
it is inexplicable that they should contain no remotest allu- 
sion to Jerusalem, which was the pride of the people, or to 
the Temple, which was the glory of all who looked upon its 
splendor. Moreover, the statutes concerning the allotment 
of the land are of such a character that, at any later point in 
the history of the people, they could not have been acted 
upon without the forcible resumption of all real estate by 
the State ; and the difficulty of carrying any such measure 
into execution would have been so great that we must have 
had some account of the revolution which it created. But 
the absence of any such record is almost equivalent to a 
demonstration that the law as a whole belongs to the wil- 
derness stage of Hebrew history, to which it makes so 
many natural and incidental allusions ; and so its publica- 
tion takes its place side by side with Joseph's command- 
ment concerning his bones, as one of the brightest illustra- 
tions of the power of faith. 

Again, in considering these laws, we must not forget that 
they were designed for a theocracy. God chose the people 
for his own, and the people chose God as their king. The 
fountain of authority, therefore, was his will ; and the stat- 
utes which he enacted were not merely a law for the Jewish 
nation, but a part of God's revelation of himself to men. 
Thus these precepts link themselves on to the great sys- 
tem of prophecy which is comprised in the Old Testament, 
and form a part of that divine education through which the 
Jews, and ultimately the world also, were led up to the fuller 
and more spiritual legislation of the Gospel. 

But this theocratic character of the Mosaic law accounts, 

The Mosaic Legislation. 257 

not only for its relation to prophecy, but also for many of 
the statutes which it contains. Sin, where God is the king, 
becomes also crime ; and idolatry, in such circumstances, is 
not only a moral evil, but a civil treason. In this we have 
the rationale of the fact that image-worship, blasphemy, and 
Sabbath-breaking are all punishable with death, while a ter- 
rible denunciation is made against the false prophet. In a 
similar way we explain the existence of the whole Levitical 
system in this code. The head of the nation was at the 
same time the head of the Church. The Church and State 
were not so much united as identical ; and the two precepts, 
" Fear God," and " Honor the king," were virtually synony- 
mous. We cannot, therefore, fairly judge of such legislation 
from our modern stand-point, neither can we argue from it 
to a state of things so wholly dissimilar as that which exists 
among ourselves. We make a distinction — and we rightly 
make it — between that which is sin, as committed against 
God, and that which is crime, as committed against the com- 
munity. But where God was, not in a mere figurative and 
spiritual sense, but literally and actually the king, that dis- 
tinction vanished ; and things which now we should not 
think of punishing at all, inasmuch as they lie in that de- 
partment which is between God and conscience, were, in 
this code, visited with the severest penalties. It was right 
and beneficial in a theocracy, but it would be intolerant and 
fraught with mischief in an ordinary state ; and for lack of 
perceiving this distinction, many great mistakes have been 
made by those who, in putting religious errorists to death, 
have imagined that they were doing God service. Idolatry 
now is a sin against God ; but among the Hebrews it was 
also subversive of the very fundamental principle of the 
constitution, which was the acceptance of Jehovah as the 
only king; and therefore it was punished with death, just as, 
in these days, he would be treated as a traitor who sought 

258 Moses the Law-giver. 

to subvert our republic, and set up a throne in the midst 
of us. 

Still further, we must bear in mind that this legislation 
was grafted on a previously existing state of things, and 
took its character, in some respects, from customs which 
were inveterate among the people. Laws, to be obeyed, 
must be practicable. They must have regard to the history 
and present condition of the community. They who are to 
be subject to them must be willing to accept them. Nothing 
is gained, but much is frequently lost, by legislation that is 
far in advance of public sentiment ; and so, very frequently, 
the law-giver has to consider, not what is the absolute best, 
but rather what, in the circumstances, will work best. Solon 
said that his laws were not by any means the best which 
he could have made, but that they were the best which he 
could get the Athenians to accept ; and that something of 
the same sort was present to the mind of Moses, is evident 
from the words of the Lord Jesus, when, in the matter of 
divorce, he says, "For the hardness of your heart he wrote 
you this precept."* It is noticeable, however, that, wherev- 
er things in themselves questionable are tolerated, because 
they were too deeply seated to be removed by an immediate 
prohibition, the legislation regarding them is of such a char- 
acter as to mitigate the evils, and prepare the way for their 
ultimate repression. Thus, in the very instance of divorce 
referred to by the Saviour, the abuse was in some degree 
restrained by the necessity which the law enforced of pub- 
licly giving the wife that was put away a writing of divorce- 
ment; and so a fulcrum was left whereon Christ put his lev- 
er when he lifted men up to the great Christian law of mar- 
riage. But perhaps a more striking illustration of the pe- 
culiarity on which I am now commenting was furnished by 

* Mark x., 5. 

The Mosaic Legislation. 259 

the law in reference to the avenger of blood. Among the 
Arab tribes, the nearest of kin is bound by a sacred law of 
honor to put to death the man who has slain his relative. 
He makes no inquiry. He takes no time for deliberation. 
It is his duty — so he is taught — to track the man-slayer, and 
hunt him to his death ; and in a rude state of society, such 
red-handed justice is better than no justice at all. Indeed, 
we have the testimony of some Eastern travellers to the ef- 
fect that this institution has contributed, in a greater degree 
than any other circumstance, to prevent the warlike tribes 
of Arabia from exterminating one another.* But under such 
a system it is inevitable that many guilty ones shall es- 
cape, and some innocent ones shall be put to death ; and so, 
while continuing the responsibility of the nearest of kin in 
part, Moses drew a sharp distinction between murder and 
manslaughter ; took the murderer out of the hands of the 
avenger, and put him into that of the law, requiring that he 
should be put to death ; but prepared six cities of refuge, 
into one or other of which the man-slayer might flee. Yet 
he did not make the right of sanctuary inviolable, for it was 
the duty of the elders of the city to investigate the case ; 
and if they found it murder, they were to give him up ; 
while, if it were death by misadventure, he was to be taken 
into the city, and kept there until the death of the high- 
priest. Thus, while nominally maintaining the old custom, 
its evils were minimized, and a new and important distinc- 
tion introduced, which has been recognized by all civilized 
nations since. 

Again, in the case of slavery, the same thing is apparent. 
At the date of the Exodus, this evil was universally preva- 
lent among the nations ; and, though the Hebrews had only 

* See Layaid and Burckhardt, as quoted in Fairbairn's "Imperial 
Bible Dictionary," article Blood, Avenger of. 

26o Moses the Law-giver. 

recently been themselves emancipated, they were not yet 
prepared for the enforcement of its entire prohibition. But 
while in name the thing remained, the Mosaic enactments 
greatly modified the thing. The free-born Israelite might 
become a slave, either by his own consent, or as an insol- 
vent debtor, or as a thief unable to make restitution ; but in 
no case could his bondage continue more than seven years. 
If, at the end of that time, he preferred to remain in ser- 
vice, then he appeared before a magistrate and had his ear 
bored ; but even such voluntary slavery came to an end in 
the year of Jubilee. No Hebrew could be held to perpet- 
ual servitude. Then, the stealing of men from other na- 
tions for the purpose of selling them as slaves was punisha- 
ble with death. It is true that captives taken in war might 
be kept in bondage ; yet care was taken to make their po- 
sition as comfortable as was compatible with their loss of 
freedom ; and if the death of such a slave was caused by 
the violence of his master, then the punishment was capi- 
tal ; while if, by the smiting of his master, he lost an eye, or 
even a tooth, he was to be instantly set free ; and many are 
of opinion, from the absolute and universal nature of the 
language employed, that all foreign slaves came under the 
operation of the law of Jubilee, and regained their liberty in 
the fiftieth year. Besides all this, they shared in the rest of 
the Sabbath and the great annual festivals ; they had a right 
to everything that grew of itself in the Sabbatical years ; 
and everywhere the Hebrews are enjoined to treat them 
with special kindness, from the memory of their own Egyp- 
tian bondage. There was also a fugitive slave law, but it 
was of an entirely different kind from that which became so 
obnoxious in the history of this land. When a servant es- 
caped from his master, it was presumed that he had good 
reason for running away ; and therefore the law had this 
provision : " Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the ser- 

The Mosaic Legislation. 261 

vant which is escaped from his master unto thee : he shall 
dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he 
shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best : 
thou shalt not oppress him."* "After all," as Milmant has 
said, " slavery is too harsh a term " to apply to this state of 
things ; and the influence of this legislation may be seen in 
the fact that it has been made a question whether servitude, 
even in this modified form of it, existed in Palestine in the 
days of our Lord. It was to be found, indeed, in its most 
odious shape in the Roman Empire, in the days of the apos- 
tles ; but there is nothing in the Gospel narratives to indi- 
cate its existence in any sense among the Jews. And if 
this view be correct, it furnishes ample vindication of the 
wisdom of the course which Moses followed in his legisla- 
tion regarding it. 

We might illustrate this characteristic of the Hebrew laws, 
also, in the matter of the lex talionis^ and in that of the treat- 
ment of filial disobedience ; but we have said enough to 
show how hollow must be the argument of those who at- 
tempt to sustain polygamy and slavery as Scriptural institu- 
tions, simply because they were not abrogated, but only reg- 
ulated by the Mosaic law. The course of Moses was simi- 
lar to that followed, at a later date, in reference to Roman 
slavery by the apostles. They did not enter upon a delib- 
erate struggle with it, determined to crush it at once ; for 
that would have instantly brought upon them the iron hand 
of imperial despotism. But they contented themselves with 
disseminating great principles, which would in the end ele- 
vate the public conscience to the conviction that it was sin- 
ful. And those who would defend either slavery or polj^ga- 
my as permanent institutions, because the one wns tolerated 
by Moses, and the other was not attacked by the apostles, 

* Deut. xxiii., 15, 16. t " Plistory of the Jews," vol. i., p. 215. 

262 Moses the Law-giver. 

are utterly oblivious of the fact that, from the first, society 
has been passing through a process of moral and spiritual 
education.* God, in both instances, spoke through his ser- 
vants to the degree of intelligence then existing ; and enter- 
ing into that, he sought to purify and ennoble it. This is 
the explanation, which Mozley has so well elaborated in his 
work on "Ruling Ideas in Early Ages," of all those moral 
difficulties which arise when, with our New Testament no- 
tions which have been developing for nearly nineteen cen- 
turies, we study the historical parts of the Old Testament ; 
and when we apply these principles not only to the Hebrew 
legislation, but also to such cases as those of the command 
of God to offer up Isaac, and the order to exterminate the 
Canaanites, the vindication is complete. 

Still further, in judging of this code of laws we must have 
regard to the purpose for which the Hebrew nation was 
called into existence. The Pentateuch was not designed 
for a permanent and universal statute-book. The Hebrews 
were selected that God might train a people to be the ulti- 
mate disseminators of his truth throughout the world ; and 
the legislation to which they were subjected, while, as we 
have seen, it was educational not for them alone, but for all 
others, was at the same time exclusive. They were hedged 
off from other nations by religious restrictions, and by enact- 
ments which forbade intermarriages with the heathen. If 
others chose to come and live in their territory, they were 
to be treated with kindness, but the Israelites were to keep 
themselves isolated and segregated. Much has been said 
in ridicule of this by unthinking men, and it cannot be de- 
nied that it did tend, through the depravity of the people's 
hearts, to foster in them ultimately a spirit of pride and vain- 

* See Fairbairn's "Imperial Bible Dictionary," articles Slavery; 
MAiiRiAGE: Law. 

The Mosaic Legislation. 263 

glory ; yet, if 3'ou have regard to the divine plan in the case, 
you will see at once how easily it can be vindicated. Let 
me take two well-known institutions among ourselves by 
way of illustration. We have no standing army, or at least 
none to speak of; yet, in the exigencies of international re- 
lations, it may happen at some time or other that we shall 
have to go to war. But who then shall organize an army or 
man a navy for us? The country has answered that ques- 
tion by instituting and maintaining a military and a naval 
academy for the training of cadets as officers; and it relies 
that, in the event of their being needed, these competent 
men will bring to the occasion all the skill they have ac- 
quired at West Point and Annapolis. But, in order to give 
them that skill, they must, while they are in attendance at 
these institutions, be put under certain restrictions. They 
are, in a sense, secluded from the rest of the people. They 
do not mingle with them ; they cannot come and go as they 
will; they are under special law, because they are under 
special training; and when the training is finished, the re- 
straints are removed, and they will come forth again among 
the people, competent, in any emergency, to serve the coun- 
try which has educated them for its defence. You do not 
complain of exclusiveness in such a case as that. It is im- 
peratively demanded for the education of the young men ; 
and, indeed, a certain degree of the same thing is needed in 
every school and college in the land. Now, Palestine was 
the West Point and Annapolis for the world. In that little 
country God was training up a people out of whom, when the 
fulness of the time should come, his Gospel cadets should 
emerge, fitted by all the training of all their national history 
for going out among the heathen and proclaiming the un- 
searchable riches of Christ. No doubt you reckon the terms 
in that old seminary by centuries rather than by months, 
but the principle is still the same ; and our own procedure, 


264 Moses the Law-giver. 

in the cases which I have specified, furnishes at once an 
illustration and vindication of that system of exclusiveness 
which, by its rehgious rites and matrimonial restrictions, 
surrounded Palestine with a wall more impassable than that 
of China. 

But it is more than time now that we turned to the legis- 
lation itself; and here, as the statute-book itself is in all 
your hands, the merest outline must suffice. At the founda- 
tion of the civil polity of the Hebrews, we find — three thou- 
sand years before the Declaration of Independence, and 
long before any other earthly nation had reached that broad 
table-land of liberty — the equality of every man before the 
law.* The people were represented in a great congregation, 
but we do not know either how the members of that body 
were appointed, or what was the proportion of their number 
to that of the population as a whole. All that appears is 
that it was a kind of rudimentary parliament, which was 
summoned on great occasions ; for we find mention of it 
once or twice in the history of Moses,t and at least twice in 
the history of Joshua, while it recurs again in the histories of 
Samuel and David. Above this was a council of seventy, 
called " elders of the people, and officers over them,"! which 
formed a sort of upper house. The duties of these senators 
are not definitely stated, neither does it appear how they 
were appointed, though the presumption is that they were 
heads of houses ; but, as they are associated with Moses at 
the rebellion of Korah, the probability is that they were the 
privy council, or cabinet of him whom God had for the time 
designated as the leader of the State. Judges, chosen by 
the people, but appointed for life, were designated, as we 

* Lev. xix., 15 ; xxiv., 22 ; Deut. i., 17 ; xvi., 19. 

t Num. xiv., i-io ; xvi., 2 ; Joshua xxiii., i ; xxiv., i. 

t Num. xi., 16. 

The Mosaic Legislation. 265 

recently saw, at the suggestion of Jethro ; and as the juris- 
diction was most minutely subdivided, with the right of ap- 
peal from the lower to the higher tribunals, there was no 
danger of delay in the administration of justice ; while in 
important cases the decision of the ablest, wisest, and most 
experienced men in the nation was secured. Each tribe, 
again, had a separate autonomy of its own. Its members 
lived in one territory, had their own chief or sheik, with his 
counsellors, and governed their own affairs almost like a 
separate republic. But, lest that independence of the tribes 
should lead to the alienation of one from another, and the 
fostering of distinct interests among them, the unity of the 
nation as a whole was conserved by the religious code, and 
especially by the ordinance which required that three times 
in the year all the males should assemble at the place where 
the tabernacle should be fixed. The value of such a custonj 
for the welding of the people together is apparent from the 
fact that when Jeroboam, with the ten tribes, separated from 
the other two, one of the first things which he did was to 
discourage the people under his rule from going to Jerusa- 
lem at the feasts, and to set up for them shrines at Dan and 
Bethel, the attractions of which might counteract those of 
the Temple on Moriah. 

The only distinction which was made among the people 
was that between the tribe of Levi and the priests of the 
family of Aaron, and the rest of the nation ; but that was a 
religious enactment, and did not in the least interfere with 
the civil liberty of the tribes. The priesthood, indeed, is 
sometimes spoken of by writers as a hierarchy, but the word, 
as applied to the sacred ministers of the Jewish religion, is a 
misnomer. The priests had no ex officio duties as civil rulers, 
like those of the English Bishops in the House of Lords ; and 
care was taken, apparently, to withdraw them from all posi- 
tions in which they could unduly and injuriously influence 

266 Moses the Law-giver. 

the people. " There were no private religious rites in which 
they were called to ofnciate. Circumcision was performed 
without their presence ; marriage was a civil contract ; from 
funerals they were interdicted. They were not mingled up 
with the body of the people ; they dwelt in their own sepa- 
rate cities. Their wealth was ample, but not enormous."* 
Thus, though they were set apart from the people, they were 
not placed above them, but were, equally with others, amen- 
able to the law ; while, as priests, they were put under cer- 
tain restrictions which affected themselves only. 

In the matter of education, the great responsibility was 
laid by the Hebrew law- giver on the parent. The home 
was pre-eminently and peculiarly the school. Parents were 
commandedf to teach their children "when they sat in the 
house, and when they walked in the way, and when they lay 
down, and when they rose up." The commemorative fes- 
tivals, like the Passover, were designed to stimulate the cu- 
riosity of the young, and dispose them to ask, "What mean 
ye by this service ?" The very monuments of the land were 
constructed with an educational object in view ;t and, as we 
saw in our last lecture, the tabernacle itself was a standing 
object-lesson, by which constantly the thoughts of the chil- 
dren would be raised to things spiritual and divine. Then, 
on each seventh year, at the feast of Tabernacles, the priests 
were commanded to read the law before all Israel in their 
hearing.§ Thus the sons of Aaron were, in a sense, also the 
teachers of the nation ; but, in addition to them, a prophet- 
ical order was established, of which Moses was himself the 
first representative, which combined in itself many of the 
functions discharged among us by the press and the pul- 
pit, and from which, ultimately, those schools of the sons 

* Milman's " History of the Jews," vol. i., p. 208. 

t Deut. vi., 7. t Joshua iv., 5, 6. § Deut. xxxi., 10-13. 

The Mosaic Legislation. 267 

of the prophets arose whereby the people were so greatly 

The criminal code of Moses took special cognizance of 
all injuries to person or to property. No ancient laws set 
anything like such a high value upon human life as those 
of the Hebrews did. Man was viewed, from first to last, 
in this statute-book as made in the image of God ; and so, 
murder being the destruction of God's image, was regarded 
as a kind of secondary violation of the first commandment, 
and punished with death. The capital sentence could not 
be commuted into a fine. There was no redemption. In 
cases of manslaughter, as we have seen, a refuge was pro- 
vided, pending investigation ; but deliberate murder was al- 
ways capitally punished ; and in one instance, typical, prob- 
ably, of a class, inexcusable carelessness which caused death 
was similarly treated. That instance was the following: if 
an ox gored a man so that he died, the beast was put to 
death ; but i( the owner had been warned of the dangerous 
habit of the animal, and had taken no means to prevent him 
from doing injury, he, too, was sentenced to death; though 
it is added, " If there be laid on him a sum of money, then 
he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever shall 
be laid upon him."* If the dead body of a slain man was 
found, and no one knew who had slain him, then the elders 
and judges of the city nearest to the place where it was 
found were to purge themselves over a heifer that had been 
sacrificed, and to make such a declaration as implied that 
they had instituted and finished the strictest inquiry into all 
the circumstances.f No one can read the section of the 
law bearing on this case without feeling that, in the absence 
of such facilities as the press has furnished in modern times, 
this was the best means of securing publicity and compel- 

* Exod. xxi., 28-32, t Deut. xxi., 1-9. 

268 Moses the Law-giver. 

ling investigation ; and there is little doubt that we have 
here the germ which, in our own legislation, has grown up 
into the coroner's inquest. 

A further illustration of the sacredness of human life is 
found in the enactment that the builder of a house was to 
make a battlement, or balustrade, to the roof; and probably 
that was given only as an indication of a whole category of 
cases, the design being to enforce the principle that all proj> 
er precautions should be taken, so that no preventible death 
might be permitted to occur. 

! In the matter of property, the provisions of the Mosaic 
code were unique, and singularly adapted for the mainte- 
nance of the liberties and comfort of the people as a whole. 
The land was regarded as God's, and was divided to the 
people by lot. Every man thus became a landlord. If he 
were unfortunate or improvident, he might sell his patrimo- 
ny, but not forever ; for the great principle of the law was 
the inalienability of estates. At the Jubilee, every field re- 
verted, without repurchase, to its original proprietor. Thus 
it became impossible for the rich to accumulate all the 
lands, and the political equality of the people was secured ; 
while, no matter how wasteful individuals might be, they 
could not perpetuate a race of paupers. The eldest son 
had a double portion, the rest of the estate being divided 
equally among the other sons ; and though it might have 
been supposed that, under such a system, the land would 
become over-populated and infinitesimaUy subdivided, prac- 
tically no inconvenience arose.* 

Theft was punishable by double or fourfold restitution ; 
and if the man had not the means of making such return, 

* Houses might be redeemed within a year ; but if not so redeemed, 
they were permanently alienated, except in the case of the houses of the 
Levites, which might be redeemed at any time. 

The Mosaic Legislation. 269 

he might be sold into service for his transgression. A noc- 
turnal robber might be slain as an outlaw. 

A beautiful feature of the code was the care which it en- 
joined for the poor. The gleanings of every harvest-field 
were left to the fatherless and widow ; the reaper might not 
go over it a second time. If the garment of the poor was 
taken in pledge, it was to be restored at nightfall ; and the 
wages of the laborer were to be paid him day by day. The 
house of the poor man was his castle, and it could not be en- 
tered for the purpose of seizing that which he had pledged. 
Nothing absolutely necessary to life was to be taken as secu- 
rity ; and not only usury, but all interest whatever, was for- 
bidden for money lent to a Hebrew. And the same thought- 
ful kindness which dictated these statutes for men had re- 
gard also to the lower animals. The ox was not to be muz- 
zled while treading out the corn ; the mother-bird was not 
to be taken with its young ; and beasts of unequal strength 
were not to be yoked together. Thus this code did much 
to soften the ferocity of manners, and to develop kindness 
and humanity among the people. The mere rehearsal of 
its main provisions, necessarily brief as it has been, is its 
noblest panegyric ; and if we were to make ourselves famil- 
iar with its details, and compare them with the contempo- 
rary enactments of other nations, we should begin to under- 
stand how much the world has owed, even in the matter of 
jurisprudence, to the Hebrew law-giver; for, in the very 
points in which the best modern legislation has outgrown 
his system, it has done so only by the ampler development 
of its principles. 

After the full consideration already given to the taberna- 
cle ritual, I need not spend long on the religious and cere- 
monial departments of the Mosaic system. For me the 
statutes in these categories range themselves under three 
divisions. There is, first, that of Expiation^ which includes 

27© Moses the Law-giver. 

the whole rubric of sacrifice, from the daily morning and 
evening burnt-offering to the elaborate service of the great 
day of annual atonement. The second is that of Consecra- 
tion^ which comprises the manifold purifications of individ- 
uals from different sorts of defilement, each of which had 
some symbolical connection with sin ; the distinction be- 
tween animals as clean or unclean ; the holiness of the 
priests and Levites ; and the holiness of the tabernacle and 
its furniture. The central truth of the old economy was 
the holiness of God maintained through sacrifice, while sin 
is forgiven ; and the outcome of that was the dedication 
of the people, purified from sin, to the service of the Lord. 
The first was set forth in sacrifice, and the second was ex- 
hibited in the continued maintenance of their purity by the 
people through their divers washings, and their scrupulous 
attention to the kind of food they ate. Then the third di- 
vision, under which may be ranged many provisions in this 
sacred code, is yubilation. You cannot read the book of Le- 
viticus without being struck with the number of sacred fes- 
tivals which they enjoin. There was, first, the weekly Sab- 
bath, which was not by any means the day .of gloom which 
so many falsely associate with what they call the Jewish 
Sabbath. It was a joyous season, in which the household 
was glad before the Lord. Of the same sort was \\\^fete of 
the new moon, which was specially brilliant in the seventh 
month of the year, and was then called the feast of Trump- 
ets. Then there were the Passover, the Pentecost, the feast 
of Tabernacles, and the feast of the great day of Atonement, 
all of which were characterized by demonstrations of glad- 
ness, and each of which had its own peculiar element of de- 
light. Besides these, every seventh year was one of glad- 
some rest ; and at the end of seven times seven came the 
fiftieth, or Jubilee, year, whose advent brought with it the 
welcome sound of release from debt and bondage, and res- 

The Mosaic Legislation. 271 

toration to the lost inheritance, and so crowned the cycle 
with its coronet of glory and blessedness. 

Expiation ; Consecratioii ; Jubilation. In what more con- 
densed form could we set forth the three great principles of 
the Gospel than these ? " Behold the Lamb of God, that 
taketh away the sin of the world ;" "The temple of God is 
holy, which temple are ye ;" " Rejoice in the Lord always : 
and again I say. Rejoice." Thus we condense the Leviticus 
of the Old Testament into the Gospel of the New ; and that 
is always the noblest life into which these three elements 
enter in the fullest measure.* 

I dare not detain you longer, but will simply leave with 
you two thoughts which you may elaborate for yourselves, 
and which seem to me to rise naturally from our considera- 
tion of this intensely interesting theme. In the first place, 
redemption does not absolve us from law, but only brings 
us under a higher rule. When the Hebrews were led forth 
from Egypt, they were not set free from all subjection. 
They only exchanged the iron despotism of Pharaoh, the 
tyrant, for the loving education of God the Father. In like 
manner, the sinner when forgiven is not set free from obli- 
gation. Nay, rather he is placed under a new law. From 
his Egypt he too is led to Sinai. Here is the whole philoso- 
phy of conversion as unfolded by Paul. "But now being 
made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have 
your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." The 

* Those who desire to prosecute the investigation of the interesting 
subject to which the foregoing lecture is devoted are recommended to 
study the learned work of Michaelis on the " Laws of Moses," and the 
" Commentaries on the Laws of the Ancient Hebrews," by E. C. Wines, 
D.D., LL.D., to both of which, and especially to the latter, I desire to 
express my personal obligations. The synopsis given by Dean Milmah 
in his "History of the Jews" is a model of elegance, accuracy, and con- 


272 Moses the Law-giver. 

law of holiness, therefore, is not made void by our redemp- 
tion, but becomes only thereby the more sacred in our eyes. 
In the second place, redemption makes a brotherhood 
among the redeemed, and stimulates us to kindness toward 
those who are as yet enslaved. The Hebrews were forbid- 
den to oppress each other. They were commanded to as- 
sist each other in every emergency, because they had all 
been alike redeemed by God. So Christians should regard 
each other as brethren for Jesus' sake. And as the Hebrews 
were enjoined to be tender to the alien from the remem- 
brance of their own Egyptian misery, so our hearts should 
go out in love and compassion to the ignorant and them 
who are out of the way. Brotherhood for believers, and 
compassion for the unconverted, these are for us, in the 
Church of Christ, the great lessons to be learned from the 
civil code of the Jews. May God help us to learn them 
well, and practise them constantly ! 

, In after-days the tribes who were thus exhorted to mutual 
brotherhood became alienated from each other. Judah vex- 
ed Ephraim, and Ephraim envied Judah. More than once, 
indeed, their swords were turned against each other in fratri- 
cidal war ; and, alas ! the same evils have appeared during 
the Christian centuries, among those who profess to have 
been redeemed by the blood of the same Redeemer's cross. 
Oh ! how often the folly of the Crusaders, who spent their en- 
ergies in quarrelling with each other, instead of in battling 
with the common enemy, has been repeated by the people 
of God in their conflicts with the spiritual evils by which 
they are surrounded. They have expended, in controversy 
with each other about mint, and anise, and cummin, the 
strength which ought to have been put forth in seeking to 
mitigate the miseries of their fellow-men, and to advance the 
cause of holiness and benevolence. Thus the lack of broth- 
erhood among believers themselves has paralyzed the Church 

The Mosaic Legislation. 273 

in front of the scepticism and immorality of the world ; but 
when we go back, in simple faith, to the one great fact of 
our redemption, we shall be both brought into closer fellow- 
ship with each other, and stimulated to more tender regard 
for the salvation of men. 

On the wall of the study of that Olney vicarage so long 
occupied by the good John Newton, these words were in- 
scribed : " Remember that thou wast a bondsman in the 
land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God delivered thee ;" and 
in the overmastering sense of personal obligation which 
these words, thus selected as his motto by that earnest man, 
express, we find the root of his brotherhood to all believers, 
and his intense passion for the salvation of souls. Let us 
get back to this same humble, grateful, loving spirit to-night, 
and we shall go forth with new tenderness to our fellow- 
Christians, and with new consecration to those works of 
faith and labors of love by which the world is to be regen- 
erated. God grant us grace to receive this deliverance for 
ourselves ; and then we shall show, in the new life of the 
Gospel, something higher far than the old brotherhood of 
the law. 


Leviticus x., 1-20 ; xxiv., 10-16 ; Numbers x., 29-32. 

THE tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first 
month ; and on the twentieth day of the second month 
the encampment of the tribes at Sinai was broken up, and 
the people moved forward to the wilderness of Paran.* Be- 
tween these two dates many interesting and important events 
occurred. Indeed, the entire book of Leviticus belongs to 
this interval ; and within these fifty days were given the 
great rubrics which for so many generations regulated the 
sacrificial, ceremonial, and festive institutions of the Jewish 
nation. We cannot attempt to present even an analysis of 
these enactments, but must restrict our attention to the few 
incidents of a personal and public character which, after the 
manner of Moses, he has recorded in connection with his 

The first of these is the sad termination of a most solemn 
and important service. After they had been invested with 
their appropriate garments, and anointed with the sacred oil, 
and marked on ear and hand and foot with the blood of sac- 
rifice, Aaron and his sons had remained in a state of proba- 
tionary separation for seven days at the door of the taber- 
nacle. Then the high-priest was formally inaugurated into 
his office by the presentation of different kinds of offerings 
in the manner specified for each, and by being introduced 

* Exod. xi., I ; Num. x., 11-13. 

Final Incidents at Sinai. 275 

by Moses into the tabernacle. Thus far everything had 
gone well, and the approbation of God was evinced by the 
descent of fire miraculously upon the altar of burnt-offering, 
which, when the people saw, they " shouted, and fell upon 
their faces."* But, before the day closed, their joy was turn- 
ed into mourning ; for Nadab and Abihu, the two elder sons 
of Aaron, who had been with him and the seventy elders at 
the sacramental feast upon the Mount, were guilty of such ir- 
reverence that they were stricken dead in a moment by the 
lightning-flash of Jehovah's indignation. The particular act 
of disobedience for which they were thus summarily punish- 
ed is somewhat involved in obscurity. The record says that 
they "took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and 
put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, 
which he commanded them not."t Now, this may mean ei- 
ther that the fire which they put into their censers had not 
been taken from the altar of burnt-offering, as the law pre- 
scribed ; or that the incense which they burned was not that 
which the Lord had so minutely designated for the purpose ; 
or that, forgetting the specific enactments for their guidance, 
they had been carried away with the excitement of the occa- 
sion, and had gone at a wrong time to offer incense within 
the holy place. Perhaps the last of these hypotheses is the 
correct one, for the times appointed for the burning of in- 
cense were morning and evening, when the lamps were trim- 
med and lighted ; and, if we are correct in supposing that 
this judgment occurred on the day of Aaron's installation, 
then we can see that the morning would be required for the 
offering of sacrifices ; while his vindication of himself to 
Mosest for not eating the sin-offering, shows that the even- 
ing had not yet come when his sons were killed. Therefore 
we may conclude that they took it upon themselves to offer 

* Lev. ix., 24. t lb. x., i. t lb. x., 19. 

276 Moses the Law-giver. 

incense at an unauthorized time, and, erring in that respect, 
they might not be particular, either, as to the fire they em- 
ployed ; so that we may combine in one, two out of the three 
possible interpretations of the words, and find in that com- 
bination the true description of their conduct. 

But how came they to be thus unmindful of the responsi- 
bilities of their position ? No explanation of their rashness 
is given in plain statement in the narrative ; but the fact 
that the law forbidding the priests to drink wine when they 
went into the tabernacle was enacted in immediate connec- 
tion with the death and burial of these two newly -conse- 
crated priests, leads to the inference that they were under 
the influence of strong drink when they thus foolhardily in- 
truded into the holy place. Sin-offerings, burnt -offerings, 
and peace-offerings had been already made that day; and, 
in connection with these, it is quite possible that they had 
partaken somewhat freely of the wine which formed one of 
the constituent parts of at least one of these kinds of obla- 
tions. I do not mean to say that they were so inebriated 
as to be unconscious of what they were doing, but probably 
they were so excited as to be reckless ; and, thus viewed, 
their case is an illustration of the fact that much evil may 
be done by those who, though they have been taking wine, 
are yet a good way from being what would be called intoxi- 
cated. The balance of their judgment had been disturbed; 
their caution had been destroyed; and in the enthusiasm 
of the moment, when they heard the shout of the people, 
they rushed on to do that which, if it had not been for the 
wine, they would never have dreamed of attempting. 

It may seem to some that this was a dreadful punishment 
for such an offence ; but we have to take into account, in 
estimating the severity of this judgment, the purpose which 
God had in view in the whole tabernacle ritual. His design 
was to lead the people up to something like an adequate 

Final Incidents at Sinai. 277 

idea of the majesty of his holiness. For this end it was that 
the symbol of his presence among them was doubly veiled 
from their view, and that the priests could enter his palace 
only at certain times and in certain ways. Any infringe- 
ment of his laws in these respects, therefore, was an insult 
to his holiness ; in particular, the taking of common fire for 
the purpose of burning incense was a severing of the connec- 
tion which he had established between the altar of sacrifice 
and the altar of service ; and so the overlooking of such an 
act woul#have neutralized the lesson that only through the 
fire of love, which is kindled in the heart by the acceptance 
of forgiveness over sacrifice, can we offer to God the incense 
of holy service. Moreover, this was the first day of the new 
ritual; and as in a mutiny sternness in the outbreak is 
truest kindness in the end, so here the marking of this ir- 
reverence with such swift and awful judgment was the best 
possible means of insuring caution in the priesthood of ev- 
ery after-age. We have a similar case in the breach of Uz- 
zah, when David was bringing up the ark ; and under the 
New Testament dispensation we see the operation of the 
same law in the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, and espe- 
cially, perhaps, in those of the Corinthian Christians who 
had been " drunken " at the table of the Lord. On each of 
these occasions there was what was virtually a new depart- 
ure in the progress of men toward the great goal of human 
perfection ; and, therefore, in connection with each of them 
a solemn and important lesson was given, the effects of 
which were in the highest degree salutary in all concerned. 
But in this case, also, as in that of the Corinthians, the 
judgment was simply temporal death. Nadab and Abihu 
had just come out of Egypt, bringing much of their Egyptian 
error with them ; and it is not unlikely that they were trying 
to wed some of their former notions to their new service, 
even as the Corinthians supposed that they must keep the 

278 Moses the Law-giver. 

feast of Christ as they used to keep those of their old idols. 
So, as we are not warranted to conclude that these mistaken 
Christians at Corinth were visited with everlasting punish- 
ment, neither are we at liberty to draw such an inference in 
reference to the sons of Aaron. The mere infliction of tem- 
poral death as a penalty did not carry with it, of necessity, 
the permanent exclusion of the soul from fellowship with 
God, for Moses himself died on Nebo, as we shall afterward 
see, in consequence of his sin at Meribah ; and, therefore, 
we must not suppose that because the sons of Aiwon were 
smitten in the act of irreverence they were excluded from 
the heavenly Canaan. 

But, though that was not necessarily involved in their 
punishment, yet the time, place, and manner of their death 
were such as must have produced the deepest and most 
painful impression on the people. On Aaron, especially, 
the blow must have fallen with terrible severity ; and though 
in the matter of the golden calf we have had occasion to 
criticise his weakness, yet under this trying ordeal he mani- 
fested the calmest self-control. As he contemplated the aw- 
ful spectacle of his sons stricken together in death, Moses 
came to him and said, " This is it that the Lord spake, say- 
ing, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and be- 
fore all the people I will be glorified." But no murmuring 
word escaped the high -priest's lips — he "held his peace." 
He could not say just then, perhaps, with Job, " Blessed be 
the name of the Lord ;" but he would not say anything de- 
rogatory to the honor or the glory of Jehovah. His silence 
was not that of stubborn stoicism, nor that of unfeeling indif- 
ference, but that of patient submission. He felt keenly, for 
he loved his sons, and had an honest pride in their consecra- 
tion to the priestly office ; but the Lord had done it ; and 
though the circumstances were unusually painful, he quietly 
acquiesced, not because it was inevitable, but because it was 

Final Incidents at Sinai. 279 

the doing of him whose minister he was. No such wail of 
agony came from him as that which burst from the broken 
heart of David when Absalom was slain; and, though he 
could not sing a hymn of trustful afifection, like that which 
Paul Gerhardt chanted over his dead boy, yet his very si- 
lence was the bowing of a soul which said, " The will of the 
Lord be done." The deepest sympathy is often speechless, 
and truest resignation is often that which holds its peace. 
Silence sometimes is a better interpreter of the soul than 
speech, and he who reads the heart never misunderstands 
its dumbness. On ordinary occasions, Aaron was of ready 
utterance, but no address he ever made was so eloquent as 
this holding of his peace. Truly, he was great in grief; and 
remembering that, we can afford to pass lightly over his im- 
perfections in other respects. Ye who have wept irrepressi- 
ble tears over the biers of your children — taken from you 
not by such a sudden and suggestive visitation of God, but 
after weeks of illness — may understand how hard it was for 
Aaron here to control himself, and you will not accuse him 
of stolidity, but rather think of him as illustrating the poet's 
words ; 

" Pain's furnace heat within me quivers, 
God's breath upon the flame doth blow ; 

And all my heart in anguish shivers 
And trembles at the fiery glow ; 

And yet I whisper, * As God will !* 

And in his hottest fire stand still." 

But the death of his sons was not his only affliction ; for 
the restrictions of his office would not allow him to attend 
to their remains, and so his nearest relatives who were not 
priests were called upon to carry forth the corpses from be- 
fore the sanctuary out of the camp ; while he and his surviv- 
ing sons were forbidden either to uncover their heads or to 
rend their clothes, and were commanded to go on with the 

28o Moses the Law-giver. 

performance of their sacred duties. This they all faithfully 
observed ; but when it came to the eating of the sin-offering 
in the holy precinct, they had no heart for food ; and when 
Moses blamed not Aaron, but Eleazar and Ithamar for this, 
the high-priest made reply, " Behold, this day have they offer- 
ed their sin-offering and their burnt-offering before the Lord ; 
and such things have befallen me: and if I had eaten the 
sin-offering to-day, should it have been accepted in the sight 
of the Lord.?" and when Moses heard that, he was content. 
It was an acceptable fast ; and in this case the instinct of 
Aaron's heart was more nearly right than the judgment of 
Moses's head. 

Shortly after this painful chastisement, another incident 
almost equally distressing occurred. There was in the 
camp of Dan a woman named Shelomith, who had during 
the days of their slavery married an Egyptian husband, by 
whom she had a son. This son, now grown to man's es- 
tate, accompanied his mother at the Exodus ; and, while the 
tribes were encamped at Sinai, a dispute arose between him 
and one of the Israelites, in the course of which he " blas- 
phemed the name,* and cursed." This greatly shocked all 
who heard the words ; but, as no law had as yet been given 
for such cases, the judges to whom he was brought knew 
not what to do, and put him in confinement until the mind 
of the Lord might be shown them. When Moses consulted 
the oracle, the Lord commanded him to take the guilty one 
without the camp, and to have him stoned to death by all 
the members of the congregation — after they had laid their 
hands upon his head ; and it was enacted that every blas- 
phemer should be punished in a similar manner. It is 
hardly necessary to repeat what we have already said in re- 

* That is, the sacred and incommunicable name of God (Lev. xxiv., 

Final Incidents at Sinai. 281 

gard to such legislation ; but, to prevent misconception, we 
must remind you that we are dealing with a theocracy, where 
the distinction between sin and crime did not exist, and 
where blasphemy, like idolatry, was virtual high -treason. 
That will account for the severity of the penalty here in- 
flicted on what is now regarded as a sin rather than a 
crime ; while, at the same time, it will explain why it is that 
we cannot reason from a State in which God was the king 
to one like ours, where the civil constitution is of the nature 
of a mutual compact entered into by the citizens themselves. 
Yet, though blasphemy is not punished among us as it was 
in the instance to which we are here referring, let no one 
imagine that it is now any less heinous as a sin in the 
siglit of God than it ever was; for the third commandment 
is to-day as binding as it was when it first thundered from 
Sinai in the ears of the multitude; and, though human law 
takes no cognizance of the evil, we may be sure that the 
Lord " will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name 
in vain." 

After the erection of the tabernacle, Moses organized the 
encampment, and gave to each tribe its place, not only in 
relation to the sacred enclosure, but also on the march ; 
while at the same time he gave orders for the making of 
the silver trumpets, and explained how they were to be 
blown, so as to give the different signals for the summoning 
of the assembly or the princes, or for the making of their 
journeyings. It is interesting, as indicating the wisdom of 
Moses, to mark how the different tribes were arranged, so 
as to prevent as far as possible the outbreak of jealousies 
and rivalries and animosities between them : for the schism 
which was made by Jeroboam after the death of Solomon 
had its roots away back in early divisions ; and even in Mo- 
ses's time the spirit which ripened into that revolt was al- 
ready at work. Judah and Ephraim were the great rivals, 

282 Moses the Law-giver. 

each wishing the sovereignty ; and so to them were given 
the two posts of honor, the one in the front, and the other 
in the rear, alike in the encampment round the tabernacle 
and on the march. This kept them always as far apart as 
possible. Judah led the van ; but from Ephraim, Joshua, 
the military leader, was selected. Judah had in its encamp- 
ment Issachar and Zebulon, younger sons of the same moth- 
er, Leah ; while Ephraim had with it Benjamin and Manas- 
seh, both of whom, like Ephraim, were the descendants of 
Rachel. Reuben was Jacob's eldest son, but his birthright 
was taken from him ; yet, to prevent anything like sullen 
discontent, his tribe was placed at the head of another di- 
vision. But even that precaution was not entirely success- 
ful ; for at the rebellion of Korah the discontented Levites 
were joined by Dathan, Abiram, and On, all of whom be- 
longed to the tribe of Reuben ; and it is a singular coinci' 
dence that the Reubenites occupied the south side of the 
tabernacle, having the Kohathites between them and the 
sacred tent, so that their proximity to each other gave them 
ample opportunities for hatching a plot. 

The standards of the different encampments are nowhere 
described in Scripture ; but Jewish tradition has given to 
the four leaders the four cherubic symbols — to Judah the 
lion, to Reuben the man, to Ephraim the ox, and to Dan the 
eagle ; while the ground on which these symbols were em- 
broidered was of the same color as the precious stone in the 
breastplate of the high-priest, on which the name of the tribe 
to which it belonged was engraved. 

In connection with the preparations for breaking up the 
encampment, a census was taken, which gave the number 
of fighting men at 603,500. The Levites, who numbered 
22,000, were adopted by God, and consecrated to him, in 
lieu of the first-born whom he had spared on the night of 
the Exodus ; but as these last outnumbered the Levites by 

Final Incidents at Sinai. 283 

273, the surplus was redeemed by the payment of five shek- 
els for each individual to Aaron and his sons. 

Before they set out, the Passover was observed for the 
only time between Egypt and Canaan ; the Levites were 
consecrated ; various laws relating to personal and tribal 
purification were enacted ; the beautiful form of priestly 
benediction was prescribed ; and when, at length, the sig- 
nal was given to march, Moses affectionately entreated his 
friend and brother-in-law, Hobab, to accompany them in 
their journeyings. So natural and affecting was the collo- 
quy between them, that we must reproduce it in its original 
simplicity : " Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Raguel the 
Midianite, Moses's father-in-law, We are journeying unto the 
place of which the Lord said, I will give it you : come thou 
with us, and we will do thee good : for the Lord hath spoken 
good concerning Israel. And he said unto him, I will not 
go, but I will depart to mine own land, and to my kindred. 
And he said. Leave us not, I pray thee ; forasmuch as thou 
knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness, and thou 
mayest be to us instead of eyes. And it shall be, if thou go 
with us, yea, it shall be, that what goodness the Lord shall 
do unto us, the same will we do unto thee." And he went 
with them ; for in the book of Judges mention is made of 
his children as dwelling in the land of promise.* 

In reviewing the course over which this evening we have 
come, we find three important practical lessons suggested 
for our consideration. 

There is, first, the danger of tampering with strong drink. 
As we have seen, we can hardly be wrong in attributing the 
irreverence of Nadab and Abihu to the influence of wine. 
And when we read such a law as this, " Do not drink wine, 
nor strong drink, thou nor thy sons with thee, when ye go 

* Judg, i., 16. 

284 Moses the Law-giver. 

into the tabernacle of the congregation," we may not forget 
that all Christians now are priests, and that, as they are al- 
ways doing service before the Lord, they ought to be special- 
ly on their guard against the snare in which Nadab and Abi- 
hu were taken. It might be unwarranted, indeed, if we were 
from such a passage as that to evolve the principle that ev- 
ery Christian should be an abstainer from strong drink ; but 
it is equally unwarranted, on the other side, to seek to restrict 
it to ministers of religion when they are engaged in the con- 
duct of the sanctuary services : for now the Christian priest- 
hood is as wide as the circle of believers ; and the sphere of 
service is not narrowed within any so-called holy place, but is 
co-extensive with the area of our daily lives. Therefore, the 
warning which this law suggests is appropriate, not to clergy- 
men alone, but to all who profess and call themselves Chris- 
tians. It is, no doubt, a healthy public sentiment among us 
which requires that ministers of the Gospel should be above 
suspicion in this respect ; but the danger is as great for oth- 
ers as for them, and there is need here for universal caution. 
The very nature of strong drink is such as to require that 
we should be on our guard in dealing with it, for its tenden- 
cy is to dethrone reason ; and even when taken in quantities 
fur short of producing absolute drunkenness, it removes the 
brake from the balance-wheel of judgment, and makes the 
man reckless, defiant, and self-willed. Nothing is more dif- 
ficult than to secure an exact definition of intoxication ; and 
scarcely any two men will agree in their testimony as to 
whether, in certain described circumstances, a person was or 
was not what we call drunk. Yet I do not think that in 
modern society generally we are enough alive to the fact 
that even that which some would call moderation may be 
the cause of great mischief, by reason of the unnatural ex- 
citement which it produces in the system. I have a pro- 
found conviction that a very large proportion of so-called 

Final Incidents at Sinai. 285 

accidents, alike on land and on sea, on the railroad and in 
the workshop, are the result of drinking which is short of 
intoxication. Enough has been taken to make the man 
reckless, but not enough to make him stupid. An on-looker 
would not be warranted to call him drunk ; and yet if he 
had not been "tasting the wine," he would not have been so 
rash and thoughtless. Thus, one in such a condition goes 
to attend to an engine or to look after a boiler, and the re- 
sult is an explosion, which causes the deaths of a score of 
people and the loss of much valuable property ; or a loco- 
motive engineer, in that exhilarated state, perfectly rational 
to all appearance, but yet inwardly excited and unbalanced, 
forgets to look for the signal, or does not see that it stands 
at danger, and so lets the train dash on to ruin ; or a mer- 
chant, in a similar plight, goes to make his purchases, and 
buys such materials and at such prices as clearly convince 
him, when he returns to his home and examines the goods, 
that his judgment had been blinded, even although nobody 
would have dared to call him drunk. Now, all such cases 
are so many parallels to that of Nadab and Abihu as I have 
this evening described it ; and they all go to establish the 
conclusion that the safest course is to have nothing what- 
ever to do with strong drink as an ordinary beverage. 

But the blinding and exciting influence of wine is not its 
only evil ; for it produces a craving for itself, and creates an 
artificial appetite of the most appalling sort. It is one of 
the daughters of the horse-leech, which is continually call- 
ing, " Give, give !" The oftener you indulge in it, the oftener 
you want to repeat the folly ; until at length, in the case of 
the drunkard, the physical system becomes so diseased that 
the taste or smell of the liquor will set the whole man 
aflame with the desire to have it ; and he will go on and on, 
into the horror of delirium tremens. The beginning is thus 
like the putting of a train of cars on an inclined plane; and 

286 Moses the Law-giver. 

the end is the catastrophe which occurs when, at the bottonn 
of the slope, they are all piled upon each other in promis- 
cuous and irreparable ruin. Of course you will say that, 
though this has been the case with hundreds, there is no 
fear of you ; but so all these hundreds said at one stage of 
their career, and they felt — what you too may feel — that ap- 
petite and custom were too many for them in the end — for 
custom here comes in to intensify the danger. How strange 
it is that men will always admit that there is peril in strong 
drink, and yet, in spite of the peril, will put it on their ta- 
bles, and make it the acknowledged offering of hospitality 
and the general symbol of good-fellowship ! They do not 
deal thus with other dangerous elements. You would not 
handle gunpowder so freely in close proximity to fire as you 
handle strong drink in the immediate neighborhood of your 
friends and children ; yet the danger is probably not greater 
to property in the one case than it is to character in the 
other. Therefore, while the drink retains its nature and the 
custom keeps its hold, it is safest by far for you never to 
touch it, save under medical supervision. The mere possi- 
bility of your being harmed by it, or of your doing harm 
through it, ought to be enough for you ; and so care for oth- 
ers, as well as caution for yourselves, should lead you to ab- 
stinence. Nor can I forbear to add that it is in this way 
that you will best secure the redemption of those who have 
already fallen. They must abstain. There is no middle 
course possible for them ; but their abstinence will be easier 
and your influence will be stronger if you abstain along with 
them. When the Lord of all will say to each of us, in refer- 
ence to those whom intemperance has ruined, "Where is thy 
brother ?" what answer shall we give ? We dare not say we 
are not their keepers, for in the light of the Gospel of Jesus 
Christ that cannot be maintained ; but if we are persisting 
in the common use as a daily beverage of that which is 

Final Incidents at Sinai. 287 

causing our brethren's destruction, and so maintaining the 
customs which have wrought their ruin, can we say that we 
have done all we might have done to help them ? And if we 
cannot, are we guiltless ? I judge no man ; I simply pre- 
sent these questions for the consideration of every thought- 
ful hearer. I ask that they may be fairly faced and deliber- 
ately answered, lest at length, when we stand before the bar 
of God, the " Lady's Dream " of the poet may prove the 
waking reality of our experience, and we may be compelled 
to say, like her — ah me ! 

" The wounds I might have heal'd, 

The human sorrow and smart ; 
And yet it never was in my soul 

To play so ill a part. 
But evil is wrought by want of thought, 

As well as want of heart." 

But the second lesson suggested by the history over which 
to-night we have come is the evil of intermarriages between 
the people of God and those who care not for his name. It 
is not without deliberate purpose that Moses has here so 
carefully recorded the fact that the blasphemer's father was 
an Egyptian ; and many passages of ancient Hebrew history 
emphasize the warning which is thus, by implication, given^ 
But perhaps the most suggestive of them all is that which 
has been so recently before the attention of all our Sunday* 
scholars as they have been studying the International series 
of lessons. Jehoshaphat, the good king of Judah, entered 
into a political alliance with Ahab and Jezebel, who then 
occupied the throne of Israel. That led to a marriage be- 
tween Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, and Athaliah, the 
daughter of Jezebel, who seems to have had all the unscru^ 
pulous cruelty and all the idolatrous fervor for which her 
mother was so infamous. Her son Ahaziah succeeded his 
father, but was slain by Jehu ; and then, murdering all the 


288 Moses the Law-giver. 

seed royal, save one little boy of six years old, who was con- 
cealed from her, she made herself the reigning sovereign, 
and spent six years in introducing Baalism into Jerusalem, 
and despoiling the Temple of its treasures and its glory. 
Nay, long after her death the evil leaven appeared again in 
Joash, the boy -king, whose life had been so signally pre- 
served ; and thus the Jezebelism of that fatal intermarriage 
wrought itself out in cruelty and idolatry from generation to 
generation. I know that you will say that the effects in 
modern families cannot be so disastrous as they were in 
that instance, and that we may not reason from the case of 
kings to those of persons in common life ; but, in reply, I 
affirm that such a case as that of Jehoram and Athaliah is 
like the picture in the stereopticon, enlarged and illumi- 
nated, so that we may see all the more clearly the character 
of the consequences which commonly ensue in ordinary 
households. AVhat the lantern and the lens and the lime- 
light are to the slide, that the royalty of the parties and the 
fierce and unsparing illumination of inspiration are to the 
instance which I have cited ; and few chapters in history, 
whether ancient or modern, can furnish such an enforce- 
ment of Paul's command, " Be not unequally yoked, believ- 
ers with unbelievers," as it affords. I say not, indeed, that 
the issue in every case is blasphemy, idolatry, and moral 
ruin, for there have been marked exceptions. Ahaz was 
the wicked son of a good father, and Hezekiah was the good 
son of a wicked father ; therefore we cannot speak unquali- 
fiedly here. But the tendency of all such unions is evil, and 
the families are too frequently characterized by spiritual in- 
difference. There is a warning against them, so that they 
who enter into them incur a fearful peril. The Christian 
rule is, " Only in the Lord ;" and they who observe that do 
thereby make themselves heirs to the promise which Peter 
declared is to us and to our children. They who are not 

Final Incidents at Sinai. 289 

one in Christ are destitute of the highest happiness of mar- 
ried life ; and the children, according to my observation, are 
often worse than those both of whose parents are indifferent 
to Christ and his salvation. They are not so always ; but 
there is danger that those who are guilty of Shelomith's 
thoughtlessness may at length be visited with Shelomith's 
sorrow ; so let all young people prayerfully ponder the apos- 
tolic law, and see that they obey it. 

Finally, we have in the colloquy between Moses and Ho- 
bab a beautiful illustration of the reciprocity of true friend- 
ship. Moses and Hobab had learned to love each other 
during the shepherd sojourn of the former in the land of 
Midian ; and in their recent fellowship in the Sinaitic valley 
they had grown even more closely into each other. From 
a mere vague monotheism Hobab had advanced, under 
Moses's influence, to a fuller knowledge of the personal, liv- 
ing Jehovah, while the advice of Hobab, like that of his fa- 
ther Jethro, may have been valuable to Moses in many sec- 
ular matters. So they were loath to part; and, therefore, 
Hobab yielded ultimately to Moses's entreaty to remain be- 
side him. But see the ground on which Moses puts his re- 
quest. " Thou mayest be to us instead of eyes ; and what 
goodness the Lord shall do unto us, the same will we do 
unto thee." There was true friendship, consisting in the in- 
terchange of mutual help ; and we may learn from that, on 
the one hand, not to look for companions who shall be the 
mere echoes of ourselves ; and, on the other, not to think of 
getting without giving in such a relationship. "A man that 
hath friends must show himself friendly," and those are ever 
the most profitable fellowships in which the weakness of the 
one party is fortified by the strength of the other. Moses 
was ears to Hobab to hear what the Lord might say, and to 
share with him the knowledge which he thus obtained ; and 
Hobab was eyes to Moses, to communicate to him all his 

290 Moses the Law-giver. 

familiarity with that trackless desert in which he had lived 
so long. So the)^ journeyed on, each helping the other; 
like Peter and John in a later day, and both illustrating the 
graces of self-sacrifice and fidelity. Moses received the 
earthly assistance, and sought to reward it by sharing the 
spiritual blessing ; even as Paul tried ever to repay his ben- 
efactors by enriching them with the blessings of salvation. 
Let not this lesson be lost on you young men, who are be- 
ginning the journey of life, and looking out for those with 
whom you may prosecute your pilgrimage, and who may 
prove helpful to you by the way. Search for such as have a 
large measure of those qualities in which you are conscious 
of your own deficiency ; and be ready to make return by 
imparting to them of those things in which you are strong, 
while they are weak. Let the young seek to share in the 
experience of the old, and the old refresh themselves with 
the vivacity of the young. It was a rule with the elder Lord 
Lytton to have all his friends older than himself until he 
was forty years of age, but after that to turn and cultivate 
the younger ; and there was great wisdom in his resolution. 
Remember, however, that no friendship will be truly helpful 
that leads you away from fellowship with God ; and be care- 
ful to accept those only who will journey with you " to the 
place of which the Lord hath said, I will give it you." Make 
that the test of all your friendships, and you will find at least 
one Friend that "sticketh closer than a brother." 

But how can I conclude without making an appeal to you, 
who have come in to mingle in our worship for this evening, 
but have not yet cast in your lot anywhere with the people 
of God? AVe would have you come with us. We know 
whither we are going. We have a good guide ; a sure pro- 
vider; an unfailing protector; and a happy destination. 
Come with us. You will share all these blessings with us. 
'ii'he. Lord, whom we follow, will give you pardon, peace, holi- 

P'iNAL Incidents at Sinai. 291 

ness, heaven. You need all these. You cannot get them 
elsewhere than in Christ. And the Church of Christ needs 
you. There is a work waiting for you, which only you can 
perform. There are spheres of usefulness which only you 
can fill. You will be to the Church instead of eyes, and will 
bring reports of misery to be relieved, and ignorance to 
be instructed, of which otherwise we might not have heard. 
Do not stand outside criticising any longer. Come in and 
help us, and you will find then that the Church will strength- 
en you. She will gird you with her prayers; nourish you 
with her ordinances ; cheer you with her love ; and encour- 
age you with her co-operation. " Come with us and we will 
do you good, for the Lord hath spoken good concerning 



Numbers xi. 

AT length, after a sojourn of all but twelve months* at the 
base of Sinai, the cloud-pillar ascended from the midst 
of the camp ; and Moses, recognizing the appointed signal 
for departure, said, " Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies 
be scattered ; and let them that hate thee flee before thee." 
As soon as they heard these words, a portion of the Kohath- 
ites, bearing the ark of the covenant upon their shoulders, 
set forward, followed by the tribes of Judah, Issachar, and 
Zebulon. The Gershonites and the Merarites, with the ex- 
ternal parts of the tabernacle, went next; and behind them 
Reuben, Simeon, and Gad took up their march ; while the 
rest of the Kohathites, carrying the sacred vessels, brought 
up their rear. Next the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and 
Benjamin moved into line ; and those of Dan, Asher, and 
Naphtali formed the rear-guard of the host. It must have 
been an imposing spectacle when the solitudes of those 
mountain passes were filled by this moving multitude, not 
one of whom knew precisely where they were to pitch their 
tents at nightfall, and all of whom depended implicitly for 
their guidance on the mystic cloud, which hovered on un- 
ceasingly before them. On this occasion it took them in 
the direction of the wilderness of Paran ; and after three 

* The exact time spent in the Sinaitic valley was a year, all but ten 


days it rested at a place which became memorable in 
their history, because it was the scene of a double ca- 

When Moses saw the halting of the pillar, he cried, " Re- 
turn, O Lord, to the many thousands of Israel ;" and once 
again the tabernacle was raised, while the tribes took their 
appointed stations round it. But with the renewed experi- 
ence of the difficulties of travel through these rocky and 
fatiguing wadys, the old spirit of discontent broke out among 
the people ; and their complaints were displeasing unto the 
Lord. This was a more serious evil now that they had been 
at Sinai, and seen so much of the greatness and majesty of 
Jehovah, and had entered into covenant with him, than it 
had been before ; and we cannot but observe that, from this 
point on, their murmurings were visited with severer chas- 
tisements than they had been on the march from Egypt to 
Sinai. Indeed, at Marah and Sin the Lord had borne with 
them as one bears with the weakness and ignorance of child- 
hood, for then they had not had much opportunity of know- 
ing him ; but now that they had experienced his goodness 
for a whole year, and had seen and heard so much of his 
glory, there was no excuse whatever for their discontent, and, 
therefore, every complaint they made was severely punished. 
Their sin was no longer one of ignorance, and therefore it 
could not be overlooked ; so, either by lightning or in some 
other way which clearly connected it with the divine displeas- 
ure, a fire was sent upon the outskirts of the camp, and con- 
sumed those whose tents were in the neighborhood of its 
outbreak. It seems to have commenced at one of the ex- 
tremities of the encampment, and we can easily imagine the 
panic which it created. They had no facilities for putting 
out a conflagration ; and, if the wind were high, and blowing 
in an unfavorable direction, the consequences might have 
been disastrous. In their consternation they cried to Mo- 

294 Moses the Law-giver. 

ses, and Moses cried unto the Lord, by whom, in answer to 
his prayer, the fire was quenched. 

But the spirit of mutiny was harder to extinguish than the 
flames had been, and very soon it broke out anew in a more 
aggravated form. It may be remembered that on the night 
of the Exodus a multitude of Egyptians joined themselves 
to the Hebrews, and went with them into the wilderness. 
These persons belonged to the lower order of the people ; 
and, having little to lose, we may suppose that they were 
animated mainly by the love of adventure, or by the de- 
sire of change. Some of them, perhaps, were genuine con- 
verts, but the majority were idle hangers-on ; for the terms 
by which they are designated literally mean the "riffraff," 
or "loafers," and their presence was anything but a blessr 
ing. Indeed, from the fact that the fire to which we 
have just referred began in the outskirts of the camp, and 
was confined to them, some have supposed that it fell not 
upon the encampment proper, but on the irregular and ill- 
regulated tents of these lawless stragglers, and have con- 
cluded that they were the complainers against whom princi- 
pally it was directed. But, however that may have been, it 
is certain that, even before they moved from this first station 
after Sinai, these low-caste Egyptians began to cry out very 
loudly for flesh to eat. They looked back longingly to that 
which, when they had it, they cared little for; and talked 
with gusto of the fish, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, 
and the garlic which they had eaten so freely in their native 
land — nay, not content with magnifying the excellence of 
these national dainties, they despised the manna which God 
had miraculously provided. Their discontent spread like 
the contagion of an evil disease, and very soon the Israelites 
also became infected with it ; so that throughout the camp 
the people were weeping, and crying, "Who shall give us 
flesh to eat ?" 


Moses was terribly discouraged. On the one hand, he 
knew that the Lord would be displeased ; on the other, he 
perceived that the disease was likely to be chronic with the 
people ; and as he thought of the difficulties and perplexi- 
ties attendant on the office of a mediator between the two, 
he was fairly overwhelmed, and cried to Jehovah in the bit- 
terness of his soul, " I am not able to bear all this people 
alone, because it is too heavy for me. And if thou deal 
thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have 
found favor in thy sight ; and let me not see my wretched- 
ness." Is this the man that has talked so often face to face 
with God? Is this the dauntless hero that never quailed 
before the haughty Pharaoh? Is this the resolute and de- 
termined ruler who stood alone against an idolatrous host? 
Alas, it is even so, and he who has already so often remind- 
ed us of Elijah is now, like the Tishbite, praying for death. 
But let us not judge him harshly whom Jehovah has not 
condemned. No mere man can be a perfect mediator be- 
tween God and men. The burden of the people was too 
heavy for him to bear. He did, indeed, in a sense, carry 
their sins and bear their sorrows. He did, indeed, in a 
sense, feel the scorching of that fire which they provoked. 
But he sank beneath the load. How true it was, as Kurtz 
has said, that the real mediator was not yet ! Ife had not 
come, who could without a murmur carry the burden of a 
world's sin. There was only one who could with steady 
step and unrepining heart, not only bear with, but bear the 
guilt of men, and /le was more than man. We need not 
blame Moses, therefore, because he was not Christ ; but 
from the failure of the greatest of mere men here, we may 
learn to value the mediation of him who " himself bare our 
sins in his own body A? the tree," and on it, saying the while, 
" The cup which my Father hath given me^ shall I not 
drink it?" ^ 


996. Moses the Law-giver. 

The Lord had compassion on his servant, and gave him 
seventy men to help him in his work ; qualifying them for 
the purpose by making them sharers with him in the special 
graces of the Holy Spirit. He did not take from Moses 
anything which he possessed, but out of the plenitude of 
his resources he gave them of the same spirit ; and that his 
discouraged friend might have full assurance of the fact, he 
called them out before the people and made them stand 
around the tabernacle, and, while they occupied that promi- 
nent position, he talked with them out of the cloud, and the 
Spirit rested upon them and they prophesied. But two of 
those who had been designated as Moses's colleagues had 
from modesty, or from some other cause, remained in the 
camp ; yet upon them also the Spirit came, and, as they 
prophesied under his influence, Joshua ran to Moses, to 
complain of the irregularity, and to ask that it might be pro- 
hibited, but the noble man replied, " Enviest thou, for my 
sake ? Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, 
and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them." It is 
an interesting remark of Trench on this incident, that "in 
the dividing of the Spirit which Moses had upon the seven- 
ty elders of Israel, we recognize an earlier, though a weaker 
Pentecost, in which, however, the later was surely implied ; 
for if from the servant could be imparted of his Spirit, how 
much more and in what larger measure from the Son. This 
should be contemplated as a preparatory working in a lower 
sphere of the same Spirit, which afterward wrought more 
gloriously in the later and crowning act; as knit to that 
later by an inner law, as sharer of the same organic life 
with it."* 

But though the Lord was thus gracious to his overburden- 
ed servant, he punished severely the discontented people, 

♦ Trench, " Hulsean lectures," p. 74, quoted also by Jamieson in he. 


and he did so through giving them that which they desired. 
For, though the faith even of Moses was staggered at the 
very mention of it when he intimated his design, he brought, 
as he had done a year before, flocks of quails over the camp ; 
but this time they were in such abundance that they fell, 
" as it were a day's journey on this side, and as it were a 
day's journey on the other side, round about the camp, and 
as it were two cubits high upon the ground." That does 
not mean, however, that the dead birds lay upon the ground 
to the depth of two cubits, for the word " high " is supplied 
by the authorized version ; but that the quails, wearied with 
their flight, flew about breast-high, and were easily secured 
by the people. The result may be easily anticipated. After 
so long abstinence from flesh, this surfeit of animal food 
bred a pestilence among the people, and many of them 
died ; so that they named the place Kibroth-Hattaavah, the 
graves of lust, or greediness. Thus these two miracles, the 
bringing of the quails, and the inflicting of judgment upon 
the people, were wrought by the divine energy through nat- 
ural causes ; for it is nothing unusual for these birds to ap- 
pear in such quantities and at such a height from the ground 
as to be easily secured ; and God's wrath aggravated the 
natural consequences of a surfeit into a special visitation. 
But now, reviewing this history, let us take with us some of 
those practical lessons which it so richly suggests. 

We may learn, then, in the first place, that those who are 
merely hangers-on to a church are usually the beginners of 
mischief among its members. It is not without significance 
that we are informed in this place that the murmuring of 
the tribes had its origin in the discontent of the mixed mul- 
titude. They did not belong to the chosen race ; they had 
no fixed principles; they left Egypt simply for what they 
thought they could make by it ; and we cannot wonder, 
therefore, that they were disappointed when for rest they 

298 Moses the Law-giver. 

had toil, and for variety of food they had an unchanging 
diet. There was nothing in them to sustain them under 
such a trial. They could not fall back upon the spiritual 
privileges to which Israel had been called, for they did not 
care for these ; neither could they look forward to the land 
of promise, for it was not promised to them, and therefore 
we can very well account for their dissatisfaction. But the 
misfortune was that the proximity of the Hebrews made 
them also liable to be infected by this fickleness ; and thus 
it came about that what began among the mere outsiders 
spread ultimately through the camp. The same thing has 
been seen often since. Judas was no true disciple ; yet his 
remark concerning Mary's use of the ointment, when he 
said, " To what purpose is this waste ? ought not this oint- 
ment to have been sold for three hundred pence, and given 
to the poor?" started off all the other eleven upon the same 
track ; and the heart of the loving woman might have been 
wounded by their rudeness, or broken by their unfeelingness, 
if Jesus had not come to the rescue. So, in the community, 
the men who have no stake in the welfare of the country 
are always the most dangerous element of the population. 
They have nothing to lose in any event ; and it is just pos- 
sible that, in the confusion, they may gain a little. Thus 
they are always ready for either riot or emeute. The " mixed 
multitude " in our cities represents what others call the dan- 
gerous classes j and in proportion as their existence is ig- 
nored by the respectable portion of the people, and nothing 
is done for their education or elevation, the danger is aggra- 
vated. At every time of crisis this peril comes to the front. 
We had a specimen of what it might result in during the 
strikes of last summer ; and it becomes us, not only from 
the higher motive of Christian love, but also from the lower 
one of patriotic selfishness, to do our utmost for the evan- 
gehzation of the masses who are our neighbors ; for if a fire 


breaks out among them, it may not be stayed until it has 
consumed everything that we hold dear. We may apply to 
them the lines which, with almost prophetic presage, Long- 
fellow wrote, more than thirty years ago, concerning the 
slave : 

" There is a poor blind Samson in the land, 

Shorn of his strength, and bound in bonds of steel, 
Who may, in some grim revel, raise his hand 
And shake the pillars of the common weal. 
Till the vast temple of our liberties 
A shapeless mass of wreck and rubbish lies." 

But I did not mean to dwell on that particular illustration 
of the point which is now before us ; I desire, as more befit- 
ting this evening and this place, to give prominence to the 
truth that the dangerous element in all our churches is not 
so much in their members as in those who keep outside of 
their pale, and yet, as ordinary hearers, have a kind of iden- 
tification with them. I admit, of course, that this class is 
very far from being socially of that low-caste character which 
belonged to the mixed multitude here. I gladly bear wit- 
ness, also, that many among them are every way estimable ; 
and, for aught I can see, might as well be in the churches as 
many of those who are already there. I must emphatically 
declare, too, that, so far as my individual experience goes, 
in the churches, both in England and here, with which I 
have been connected, no element of bitterness has come 
from them. But still, from an extensive observation of the 
history of churches, I have come to the conviction that many 
envyings and divisions, resulting in the breaking up of con- 
gregations, and the crippling of ministerial usefulness, have 
arisen from those who are not pillars within the church, but 
only buttresses on its outside walls. The pastor may be an 
eminently spiritually-minded man ; but his very faithfulness 
in the denunciation of fashionable follies may arouse the an- 

300 Moses the Law-giver. 

tagonism of some wealthy hearers who are not church-mem- 
bers, but who, as bearing the purse, have more importance 
in the church than the holiest office-bearer. They begin to 
express dissatisfaction ; and, as a bad example is easily fol- 
lowed, the role is taken up by others, until, with tears in their 
eyes, the good people say to the minister, "You will have 
to go ; we are deeply grieved about it, but we cannot sup- 
port you without them ; and we hope the Lord will soon open 
up to you another sphere." The "mixed multitude" fall 
a-lusting for a pastor who will not wound their consciences ; 
and so a church is sacrificed to their patronage, and a good 
man is turned adrift, to " wander where he can find a place." 
But think you God takes no notice of these things ? Will 
not the fire of his justice somehow descend upon the perpe- 
trators of such selfish cruelty ? and is it not often seen that 
the very next man they get becomes the rod, in God's hand, 
for their chastisement ? This is a sore evil under the sun ; 
and I long to see the day when the spiritual element of 
the Church shall not be at the mercy of those who frequent 
its courts merely for the status it may give them, or from 
the intellectual or aesthetic pleasure which they may derive 
from a preacher who is no more to them than "one who 
has a pleasant voice, and can play well upon an instru- 
ment." Only the Levites should carry the ark, and all out- 
side murmuring should be conclusively put down by those 
who are within. 

We may learn here, in the second place, that murmuring 
is invariably one-sided. These discontented Egyptians and 
Israelites did nothing but look back on Egypt; and even 
when they did that, they saw only the lights, and not the 
shadows. There is a sense, indeed, in which every one 
idealizes the past ; and sometimes, as we look back, we 
see a great deal of good that we did not recognize in it 
when it was present ; so that, as the poet says : 


"The past will always win 
A glory from its being far ; 
And orb into the perfect star 
We saw not when we moved therein." 

But that was hardly the case with these murmurers, for they 
took out the good and left the evil unthought of. It was 
true that they had their rations regularly ; it was true, also, 
that they had such variety as cucumbers, leeks, onions, and 
garlic afforded — though, for my part, I do not envy them 
their diet — but then they had slavery with it all. They had 
the hard toil of making bricks without straw ; they had the 
bitterness of the bastinado, and the shame and sting of the 
lash ; and if they had wished to make a right estimate of 
their Egyptian life, they should have taken in both sides of 
the account. 

Again, in their depreciation of their present lot they were 
equally one-sided. They could see in it nothing but the 
one fact that they had no flesh to eat. They took no no- 
tice of the manna, save to despise it ; they said nothing of 
the water which God had provided for them ; they never 
spoke of the daily miracle that their clothes waxed not old ; 
they made no reference to the constant guidance and pres- 
ence of Jehovah with them — all they saw just then was that 
they had no flesh to eat. Now, this was flagrantly unjust ; 
and yet, in condemning that, it is to be feared that we are 
passing judgment upon ourselves, for if we were fully to 
reckon up both sides of the account, would there ever be 
any murmuring among us at all ? It may be true that we 
have sickness, or poverty, or the antagonism of men, or 
whatever else that is adverse you please to add ; but then 
we have Christy we have pardon and reconciliation to God 
here, and we have heaven hereafter; and if we had anything 
like a right idea of these blessings, the song which began in 
the minor key of complaint would speedily change into the 

302 Moses the Law-giver. 

major key of praise. I cannot read the account of these 
murmuring Israelites without remembering the answer of a 
reclaimed and converted man to his wife, who, seeing him 
give his daughter some money to put into the church col- 
lection-box, said to him, " It seems to me that we have lost 
a great deal by this religion of yours." " Yes," said he, 
turning round upon her with a sad yet earnest look — "yes! 
I used to go in rags, and to keep you in them, too, and we 
have lost our rags ; I used to have a cheerless room, without 
any furniture in it, for a home, and we have lost that, and 
gained this neat and comfortable dwelling; I was a cruel 
husband to you, and kept you in want and wretchedness — 
ay, God forgive me ! I have lifted my hand in these old days 
to strike you — but we have lost all that ; I used to feel that 
the children were in the way, and to grudge them every cop- 
per that went for food or raiment, so that they were afraid 
to come near me lest I should injure them with my violence ; 
but we have lost all that." And when he had gone thus far 
his wife burst into tears, and said, " Forgive me ! there has 
been no loss ; and, if I had seen aright, I might have known 
it was all gain." So let us kill our disposition to discontent- 
ment, by making a fair and faithful balance of both sides of 
the account ; and we shall find that adversity of any kind, 
with God, is better than prosperity without him, and will 
not repine at any sacrifice which he demands. 

We may learn, in the third place, that God is always con- 
siderate of his faithful servants. See how tender he was to 
Moses here. The great leader is broken in spirit. He has 
had a tremendous strain on him for the last eighteen months. 
All the conflict with Pharaoh ; all the excitement of the Ex- 
odus ; all the arrangement of the journeyings to Sinai, had 
told upon him. Jethro saw the difference in his appear- 
ance when he came to Sinai to visit him, and perhaps that 
was one reason for his suggesting to him to divide his judi- 


cial labors among colleagues. But the spiritual elevation 
of Sinai must also have produced its own effect upon his 
frame. He could not be so often with God without having 
his mental powers exhausted. His double sojourn of forty 
days each time upon the Mount must have worn his system 
down ; and so we cannot wonder that this new epidemic of 
discontent should have so distressed him. But God knew 
it all ; and, therefore, there is no word of upbraiding ad- 
dressed by him to his servant. As on a similar occasion he 
strengthened Elijah by sleep and food, so now he encour- 
aged his friend by giving him the assistance of seventy 
properly called and qualified men. He saw that he needed 
human sympathy and support, as well as divine, and there- 
fore he hasted to provide him with them. The throne's 
glory is a lonely thing, and the leader of a great host like 
that of Israel must be, from the very nature of the case, a 
solitary man ; so God surrounded Moses with a cordon of 
kindred spirits, who might act as a breakwater, and keep the 
waves of trouble and discontent that rose in the camp from 
dashmg upon him. One cannot read of this without being 
impressed by the tenderness of God ; and it is to me a sug- 
gestive fact that on almost every occasion on which we are 
told of his judgment falling upon sinners, we have in the 
near vicinity some manifestation of gentleness to his friends. 
Brethren, ye who are trying to serve God with steady, loving 
loyalty, and whose hearts are despondent because of the 
difficulties with which you have to contend, I pray you think 
of his kindness to Moses here, and take new courage. " He 
stayeth his rough wind, in the day of his east wind." We 
serve a considerate master. He knoweth our frames, and 
remembereth that we are dust ; and as in each new perplex- 
ity he appeared to Paul, and said " Fear not," so we may be 
sure that he will somehow sustain us, either by bestowing 
his grace upon us, or by furnishing us with some human 

304 Moses the Law-giver. 

helpers whose counsel may guide us, and whose love may 
cheer us. 

We may learn, in the fourth place, that the truly great 
man is never envious of others. When Joshua saw Eldad 
and Medad prophesying in the camp, he thought it was a 
grievous irregularity. But Moses knew that God's Spirit 
could make no mistakes, and that if these men were under 
His influence, they were really on his side ; so he would not 
have them silenced, but said, " Would God that all the 
Lord's people were prophets." Now here is a lesson for us 
all, and especially for ministers of the Gospel. How hard it 
is to rejoice in the excellence of another, especially if he be 
in the same line with ourselves.? And yet the disparage- 
ment of the gifts of another is really an indication of our 
consciousness of the weakness of our own. It is a pitiful 
thing to hear ministers of all others depreciating each other ; 
and when an earnest man is publishing the Gospel, though 
he follows not with us, it is a paltry thing to think of for- 
bidding him, even if, in a country like our own, it were pos- 
sible to do anything of the kind. When Paul heard that 
the Corinthians were quarrelling over the men who had 
preached to them, he let them know that he regarded their 
conduct as very reprehensible, and he showed them that 
every true minister belongs to all Christ's people alike, for 
he said, " All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or 
Cephas ;" and if we had his spirit, we would rejoice in all 
the good which every preacher, no matter whether he be or- 
dained or not, is enabled to accomplish. Even when men 
thought to spite the apostle by preaching, his only remark 
was, " What of it ? nevertheless, Christ is preached, and 
therein do I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." O for more of 
this spirit among us all, that we may be all for the Lord 
Jesus, and none of us for ourselves ! But, alas ! this is the 
loftiest attainment of Christian excellence ; for the highest 


and the hardest cliff to climb on the mountain of holiness 
is humility. 

We may learn, in the fifth place, that we can set no limits 
to the resources of God. When the Lord said to Moses 
that the people should eat flesh for a whole month, the lead- 
er was startled for a moment into unbelief, and said, " The 
people among whom I am are six hundred thousand foot- 
men ; and thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they 
may eat a whole month. Shall the flocks and the herds be 
slain for them, to suffice them.^ or shall all the fish of the 
sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them ? And 
the Lord answered Moses, " Is the Lord's hand waxed 
short? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to 
pass unto thee or not." We rather wonder at this unbelief 
of Moses, after what he had already seen ; but we have a 
similar spirit in Andrew, when, putting the five loaves and 
two fishes into the Saviour's hand, he said, " What are these 
among so many?" Moses soon saw what the Lord could 
do, and Andrew helped to gather baskets of fragments, each 
of which held more food than what had been served at first 
for five thousand men. So, often in the history of the 
Church it has been proved that God's hand is not shortened, 
and if we will only set out to do anything earnestly for 
him, we may be honored to do something great in the ad- 
vancement of his kingdom ; and, no matter what it requires, 
we may be at least sure of this, that he will keep his word. 

Finally, we may learn from this history that it is not good 
for us to get everything we desire. When the flesh came to 
the Israelites it caused pestilence and death ; and on a sim- 
ilar occasion, unless, indeed, the reference be to this very 
narrative, the Psalmist says, " He gave them their request, 
but sent leanness into their soul."* So again, when the tribes 

* Psa. cv., 15. 

3o6 Moses the Law-giver. 

desired a king, he gave them Saul, that through the infliction 
of that monarch's tyranny they might be convinced of the 
wickedness of their wish. Thus we may learn that if God 
denies us our request, it may be because the granting of it 
would cause us misery rather than happiness. Surely, it is 
better to do without that which we long for, and have mar- 
row and fatness in our hearts, than to get it, and leanness 
of soul with it. Prayers born out of murmuring are always 
dangerous. Rachel cried for children, yet she had no joy in 
them, and had to call the latest born Benoni — "the son 
of my sorrow." When, therefore, we are in a discontented 
mood, let us take care what we cry for, lest God give it to 
us, and thereby punish us. And when the petition which 
we offer in simple faith seems to be denied, let us take even 
the denial for a favor, for " we know not what we ask," and 
we may well trust that he who gave his son to die for us, 
will in every respect consult for our highest good. Even 
one of the world's own poets has said — 

" We, ignorant of ourselves, 
Beg often our own harms, which the wise powers 
Deny us for our good ; so find we profit 
By losing of our prayers." 

And surely we who have learned to say "our Father" at the 
lips of Jesus may learn also, from his example, to append 
to all our petitions, " Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou 



Numbers xii., 1-16. 

FROM Kibroth - Hattaavah the tribes advanced, still in 
the direction of the wilderness of Paran, to a station 
named Hazeroth, where a new and sorer trial came on Mo- 
ses. Hitherto the murmurers against him had been restrict- 
ed to the mixed multitude, and to the masses of the Hebrews 
wlio had little personal intercourse with him, and were im- 
portant rather because of their numbers than because of 
their character or position in the encampment ; but now the 
members of his own family began to speak against him, and 
Miriam and Aaron combined to set his authority at defi- 
ance. This must have been a terrible blow to Moses, for 
Miriam was very dear to him. He had often heard her tell 
the story of her faithful watch over him as he lay, a helpless 
babe, in his bulrush ark by the river's brink ; and the prom- 
inent place which she took in leading the responsive chorus 
when he sang his song of triumph on the Red Sea shore, 
betokened that she was of one heart with him, alike in piety 
and patriotism. That she should turn against him, there- 
fore, would be a positive grief to him ; while the adherence 
of Aaron to her mutiny would be an aggravation of the afflic- 
tion ; for, though the high-priest had some weaknesses and 
faults, he had been, in the main, a true brother. Shoulder 
to shoulder Moses and he had stood all through that long 
and terrible encounter with Pharaoh — strong not only in 
their faith in Jehovah, but also in their fidelity to each othi 

3o8 Moses the Law-giver. 

er ; and though, in the matter of the golden calf, Aaron had 
disappointed Moses, and forfeited his right to unabated con- 
fidence in a time of crisis, yet he was still a tower of strength 
to his brother ; and, at such seasons of peril as that through 
which they had passed at Kibroth, it was something for Mo- 
ses to have one with whom he could unbend, and on whose 
perfect sympathy and co-operation he could, in some degree, 
depend. But now that solace too is taken from him, and 
Aaron has become a negative quantity in the equation of 
the camp ; not merely a non-assistant, but, for the time at 
least, a positive antagonist. 

How shall we account for this? Miriam seems to have 
been the prime mover in the matter ; and, from the words 
that passed between her and Aaron to this effect, " Hath the 
Lord, indeed, spoken only by Moses ? hath he not spoken 
also by us ?" it is evident that envy was at the root of their 
estrangement. They were displeased at the fact that Moses 
had more importance in the camp than that which they pos- 
sessed. They belonged to the same family as he did ; they 
were both older than he ; they had both been chosen as the 
vehicles of divine instruction, as well as he ; and they could 
not brook that he should stand at such a height above them. 
They thought themselves as good as he was, and they want- 
ed to have a public recognition of their equality. 

Now, there were some things connected with Moses, on 
the one hand, and with themselves, on the other, which made 
their guilt in this matter peculiarly aggravated. P'or Moses 
had not courted pre-eminence. The leadership with which 
he had been invested was not of his own seeking. If any 
man could say that greatness had been thrust upon him, 
that man surely was Moses. His fault had been rather in 
the direction of declining responsibility, than in that of as- 
suming prerogative ; and the use which he had made of 
his position was not such as to secure his own aggrandize- 

Miriam and Aaron's Sedition. 309 

ment, but rather such as to promote the highest welfare of 
the nation. He had carried on his administration not for 
the profit of Moses, but for the glory of Jehovah, and for the 
good of the people. No man. in the entire encampment 
worked so assiduously and incessantly as he. The superin- 
tendence of everything had devolved upon him ; he carried 
on his heart the care of all the tribes ; and he was not think- 
ing either of his own interest or of his own honor, but only 
of the interest of the Hebrews, and the honor of their God. 
No mere man was ever more unselfish in his administration 
of a great office than was Moses ; and, with the conscious- 
ness of his own utter disinterestedness within his breast, it 
must have been peculiarly trying to him to hear those to 
whom he was most nearly related, and who ought to have 
known him best, accuse him of taking too much upon him. 
If they thought so meanly of him, what must others say re- 
garding him ? If they rebelled against him, the mixed mul- 
titude might well be excused for their repinings. 

Thus inexcusable, so far as the conduct of Moses himself 
was in the case, the reproaches of Aaron and Miriam were 
equally unjustifiable by any consideration of their own po- 
sition ; for what had either of them of honor or of influence 
which was not due to the accident of their relationship to 
Moses ? Miriam might have been known for her strength of 
mind and general excellence of character among the slave 
population of Egypt, and Aaron might have risen to some 
paltry officership over the brickmakers ; but if it had not 
been for the fact that Moses was their brother, neither of 
them would have come into prominence in the Exodus, or 
would have achieved a permanent and independent renown. 
Moreover, it is not to be forgotten that, by his investiture 
with the office of the priesthood, Aaron had received an hon- 
or which, in its own sphere, was peerless and pre-eminent. 
Why, then, should he be discontented? Having obtained 

3IO Moses the Law-giver. 

so much, wherefore should he murmur that he had no more ? 
Was it that already, so soon after his assumption of the 
ephod and the mitre, that spirit of arrogant intolerance 
which has always been associated with the priesthood had 
begun to work in him, and he was impatient of any influence 
in the camp which should seem to be even on a level with 
his own? Was this the beginning of that jealousy of the 
prophetic office which was so frequently manifested in the 
after - history of Israel by the priestly caste ? and are we to 
regard these two brothers as the representatives of that rit- 
ualistic pretensiveness, on the one hand, and that deter- 
mined assertion of the supremacy of truth, on the other, 
which have been continually striving with each other for the 
mastery in all the religious history of the human race ? Is 
it but another form of the same conflict which emerged, at a 
later day, between Peter and Paul at Antioch ? — a collision 
of the same sort as that which convulsed Europe when Leo 
the priest anathematized Luther the prophet, and sought oc- 
casion for the condemnation too, in a similar complaint, of 
the woman whom he had married ? We cannot tell ; but 
the fact is not without its significance that this mutiny oc- 
curred after, and not before, the inauguration of Aaron into 
the high-priest's office. 

However we may account for the envy which Miriam and 
Aaron felt, there can be no difference of opinion as to the 
meanness of the spirit which they manifested in veiling their 
jealousy of Moses himself under an attack upon his wife. 
They spake against him, " because of the Ethiopian woman 
whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian wom- 
an." They grudged him his greatness, and showed that they 
did so by putting a slight upon his wife. But who was this 
Ethiopian woman? Some suppose that she was a second 
wife, whom Moses, after Zipporah's death, had married, per- 
haps without waiting for the elapsing of a decent interval, 

Miriam and Aaron's Sedition. 311 

and certainly without consulting his near relatives about the 
wisdom of the step which he was about to take. Much may 
be said in favor of that opinion ; and, considering the very 
free criticisms on second marriages which are indulged in, 
not by relatives alone, but by all and sundry ; considering, 
also, the family quarrels which such alliances have often 
caused in modern times, we cannot suppose that there is 
any improbability in such a view of the case. But, in the 
absence of any mention of the death of Zipporah — not to 
speak of the improbability of her death, and the marriage of 
Moses to another, as all having occurred in the brief inter- 
val between the arrival of Jethro at the camp and the com- 
ing of the tribes to Hazeroth — I prefer to believe that the 
allusion is to Zipporah herself, who is called a Cushite, " not 
as being of the children of Cush, but as belonging to a coun- 
try which had received from them its name."* And if this 
solution of the question be adopted, it will help us to under- 
stand how Miriam, taking occasion from female jealousy, 
won Aaron over to her side, and they united in their desire 
to humiliate and annoy their brother. 

Zipporah had been brought to Sinai only a few months 
before. Up till then Miriam had never met her ; and when 
she did come, Miriam would subject her to that sort of mi- 
croscopic scrutiny to which one woman can subject another, 
while yet she seems to be all the time intent on some quite 
different business. The result of that investigation would 
be prejudicially affected by the fact that Zipporah was a 
foreigner. Further intercourse might reveal, what we learn- 
ed for ourselves from that singular controversy over the cir- 
cumcision of her younger son at the caravansary, that she 
was not very earnest in her religious life, or very reverent in 
her conjugal subjection. This would produce a certain re- 

* Kitto's "Daily Bible Illustrations," vol. ii., p. 184. 

312 Moses the Law-giver. 

straint in Miriam's manner toward her ; and as Zipporah 
would naturally resent such treatment, the breach between 
them, without a word of reproach from either side, would grow 
daily wider. Meanwhile the post of female priority in the 
camp, which had been heretofore freely yielded to Miriam as 
the sister, is naturally and inevitably transferred to Zipporah 
the wife. It could not be otherwise ; and if Miriam had 
allowed herself to think rationally for a moment, she would 
have seen that it ought not to have been otherwise. But it 
is a dreadfully hard thing to give up that precedence which 
we have formerly enjoyed, and which another has now come 
to claim ; and Miriam did not enjoy seeing Zipporah in the 
place she used to fill, the rather, perhaps, as she was con- 
scious that she was better able to perform its duties than 
Zipporah ever would be. Then we must not forget that 
Jethro's advice was taken in the appointment of the judges, 
and that Hobab, when he was about to depart, had been 
pressed by Moses to remain with them, on the ground that 
he could render to them all incalculable services. Brooding 
over all these things in her moody and discontented frame 
of mind, we can easily understand how Miriam came to 
think that these " Cushites," as she called the Midianites in 
a kind of scorn, were getting too much of Moses's attention, 
and exercising too great an influence oyer Moses's mind. 
" You and I," we can conceive of her saying in her private 
colloquy to Aaron, " are nobodies now. Our new relations 
are all in the ascendant. I wonder whatever Moses saw in 
her ! and as for her giving herself such airs because she is 
his wife, she ought to remember that there are others here 
as good as he, for if the Lord has spoken by him, he has 
spoken also by us." 

This spirit in his sister ought at once to have been re- 
buked by Aaron, but instead of reproving it, he encouraged 
it, and joined Miriam in making a representation to Moses 

Miriam and Aaron's Sedition. 313 

on the subject. We wonder that Moses did not immediate- 
ly pour out on them a torrent of sanctified indignation. We 
could have forgiven him, if he had showed them unceremo- 
niously to the tent-door, and ordered them to attend to their 
own affairs. But he was too deeply wounded to be violent. 
A little thing might have irritated him. But this was too 
serious to allow of any manifestation of anger. He was too 
sad to scold. They had struck at Zipporah, but they had 
struck through him, and the fact that the blow came from 
their hands intensified its severity. He loved them very 
truly. His intercession on a memorable occasion had saved 
Aaron's life, and his greatest delight had been to minister to 
their happiness as together they sought to serve the Lord. 
But now that they should murmur against him, and that 
they should cloak their envy of his pre-eminence under an 
attack on one who was dear to him as his own soul, and 
whose happiness was of far more importance to him than 
his own, this was an affliction indeed. It was too great to 
be spoken of He would not trust himself to say to Aaron 
and Miriam what he thought of their conduct. Far less 
would he report any of their envious talk to Zipporah, for 
that would have tended to make further friendship between 
her and Miriam impossible. So, with that meekness which, 
though he had been at first deficient in it, had now come to 
be the distinctive feature of his character, he held his peace. 
But the Lord was his vindicator; for, calling the three out 
to the tabernacle, he came down in the pillar of the cloud 
and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and, having sepa- 
rated Aaron and Miriam from Moses, he said unto them, 
" Hear now my words : If there be a prophet among you, I 
the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and 
will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not 
so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak 
mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches ; 

314 Moses the Law-giver. 

and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold : wherefore 
then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses ?" 
Thus, instead of countenancing the idea that they were all 
on an equality, Jehovah distinctly maintains the supremacy 
of Moses, and traces that to his own sovereign appointment. 
It was true that the prophets among them spoke as the Lord 
had instructed them, but there were particularly three things 
in which the pre-eminence of Moses was conspicuous. That 
which was exceptional and ecstatic with them was ordinary, 
and on the level of his common experience with him. The 
prophets needed a special preparation for the reception of 
God's communications. They needed, as Kurtz has ex- 
pressed it, " to pass out of the sphere of the senses, and that 
of intelligent consciousness, into a state of supersensual per- 
ception."* The Lord made himself known to them in vis- 
ions and dreams. But he spoke to Moses in his ordinary 
every-day condition. The great law-giver received the divine 
communications not when he was in a trance, or when he 
was asleep, but in his usual intelligent consciousness ; and 
so it came to pass that the partial obscurity which was nee-: 
essarily connected with the revelations that came through 
others, was conspicuously absent in those which were made 
by Moses. Again, Moses saw the similitude of Jehovah ; 
and although this cannot mean that he beheld the unveiled 
glory of the Lord, it must denote that there was before him 
some visible and objective reality, which symbolized for him 
the presence of Jehovah, and from which, as from the mouth 
of a confidential friend, he received, not in dark and mys- 
terious utterances, but in plain and unmistakable terms, the 
messages which he was to convey to his fellow-men. There 
was thus a difference, if not in the kind of inspiration which 
he enjoyed, at least in the nature of the revelations which 

*" History of the Old Covenant,!' vol. iii., p. 242. •-* 

Miriam and Aaron's Sedition. 315 

were made to him ; for, as the mind of a man takes clearly 
in that which is only as a wonder or a dream to a child, so 
Moses distinctly perceived that which to other prophets was 
little better than a vague and incoherent vision. Moreover, 
with his function of prophet there was combined the author- 
ity of ruler. He was not only a messenger to the people, 
but he was God's servant over them. He was the steward 
over all God's house, and here special emphasis must be 
laid upon the all. The department of Aaron was restricted 
to the tabernacle and its service; but that of Moses took in 
both the civil and sacred categories. Aaron had no right 
to interfere with things outside of his office, but Moses was 
over all the departments alike, and priests as well as princes 
were to receive the law at his lips. For in his administra- 
tion of his government, so far from having taken too much 
upon him, he had been strictly faithful, and had been as 
jealous for the good of the people as for the glory of God. 

Thus not only was there no excuse for any envy of Moses 
on the part of Aaron and Miriam, but it was a flagrant sin, 
not against Moses merely, but against God ; and, in this 
aspect, it drew down severe punishment. For when the 
cloud separated from the tabernacle, it left behind the evi- 
dence of Jehovah's indignation in the leprosy, which over- 
spread the body of Miriam, and made her white as snow. 
Possibly she had indulged in biting sarcasm on the personal 
appearance of Zipporah ; perhaps, also, she had plumed her- 
self on her own stately beauty. We cannot tell ; but on her 
form and features came that ghastly and repulsive malady, 
which made its victim loathsome ; and, under the law of 
which Aaron was the officer, it fell to him to make a formal 
inspection of the case, and to declare that she was leprous. 
So they were both humiliated ; Miriam in the defacement 
of that personal attractiveness to which no woman ever is 
indifferent, and Aaron in being compelled to utter the words 

3i6 Moses the Law-giver. 

which condemned her to isolation without the camp. This 
brought them both to penitence. Miriam, indeed, was too 
much distressed to speak ; but Aaron interceded for her 
with Moses, and Moses interceded for her with God. But 
the offence could not be condoned without some satisfaction, 
and the Lord replied to Moses somehow after this fashion : 
" If her earthly father had shown himself to be displeased 
with her conduct, by doing something to her which could be 
speedily removed, she would still have felt so ashamed as to 
have hid herself from public view for a season ; so now that 
the mark of her heavenly Father's indignation is upon her 
for her great offence, let her, for very shame, remain apart 
for seven days, and after that let her be received again." So 
for a whole week the people were detained waiting for Miri- 
am ; and thus again the hands of Moses were established by 
the vindication of his God. 

Let us linger a little longer, to glean the lessons in which 
this chapter is so rich. 

We may learn, then, in the first place, that the noblest 
disinterestedness will not preserve us from the shafts of 
envy. As we read this history, we can see that the service 
of Moses was rendered all for love, and nothing for reward. 
He did not want honor ; he did not care for power ; he was 
not covetous of this world's goods. All he desired was the 
welfare of his countrymen, and their prosperous settlement 
in the land which God had covenanted to give them. He 
was the most heavily-burdened man in the encampment, and 
was literally only the highest among them, because he was 
the servant of all. One would have thought, therefore, that 
he might have escaped reproach ; and doubtless he would 
have done so if his amiability had been of that willowy sort 
that bends before every blast, and seeks to ingratiate itself 
with everybody. But Moses was true to God ; and his love 
to the people was so intelligent that it would not let him keep 

Miriam and Aaron's Sedition. 317 

silence when he saw them entering upon courses which were 
fraught with peril. Hence he faithfully reproved them, just 
because he had a tender regard for them ; but they, measur- 
ing him by themselves, imagined that his rebukes were mere 
matters of personal pique, and sprung from wounded digni- 
ty, or a desire to show his superiority ; and therefore they 
spoke against him. They grudged him his position. They 
thought he was using it for paltry purposes of individual ag- 
grandizement, and so they cried him down. Now, if this 
were the treatment to which Moses was subjected, we need 
not be surprised if similar feelings should be cherished by 
some toward ourselves. The poet has said, in regard to 
another virtue than that of disinterestedness, " Be thou as 
chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calum- 
ny ;" and, no matter how unselfish we are, we may lay our 
account with some envenomed attacks which shall plausibly 
accuse us of seeking our own things, and not the things that 
are Jesus Christ's. Nay, the more conspicuous we are for 
devotion to the public good, we may be only thereby the 
more distinctly marked as a target for the world's scorn. 
"I am weary of hearing always of Aristides as the Just," was 
the expression of one who plotted for that patriot's banish- 
ment ; and if a man's character be in itself a protest against 
abounding corruption, he will soon be assailed by some one 
in the very things in which he is most eminent. The world's 
plan is to throw mud enough, in the sure confidence that 
some of it will stick ; and its votaries keep on telling lies, 
because they know that a falsehood will travel a hundred 
miles while the truth is drawing on its boots. It is very 
hard, when one has taken a certain course which happens, 
for the moment, to be unpopular — say, for example, with 
workingmen, and has taken it because, seeing farther than 
they can or will do, he perceives that it is for their highest 
interest^— I say it is very hard, in such a case, that the men 

3i8 Moses the Law-giver. 

whose good he has at heart should turn upon him, and ac- 
cuse him of seeking his own benefit at their expense, and 
traduce him as a traitor to the trust which has been commit- 
ted to his hands ; but it is enough for the servant that he be 
as his Lord, and the day of the crucifixion was not the last 
on which, by the mob, Barabbas has been preferred to Christ. 
What then ? Shall we give over laboring for the welfare of 
our race, and say, with Moses at Kibroth, " Kill me, I pray 
thee, out of hand;" or, with Elijah under the juniper-tree, 
" O Lord, take away my life now, for what am I better than 
my fathers?" — nay; for that would be to yield entirely to 
the enemy. Let us stay and keep the ground, and stand 
bravely out for the right, the true, and the good. If we are 
what we ought to be, we work not for thanks, nor for the 
appreciation of men, nor for popularity with the people, but 
for Christ ; and if he did not shrink from the cross for us, 
why should we flee from the post of duty at which he has 
placed us ? Has he not said, " Woe unto you, when all men 
shall speak well of you ?" so let us take the envy of men as 
the indication that a divine beatitude is near, and let us work 
away as he shall strengthen us. Oh, ye public servants ! 
whether in the Church or in the State, who are discharging 
your duties as before God, and have within you the con- 
sciousness of rectitude and entire unselfishness, take heart 
again when you see how Moses was assailed. And you, ye 
mischief-makers and self-seekers, who, because you cannot 
get your axes ground for nothing at the public whetstone, 
keep forever yelping like curs at the heels of those whose 
nobleness you cannot comprehend, beware lest ere long the 
plague of Kibroth or the leprosy of Miriam come upon you; 
for you are companions in the guilt of their ingratitude. 

In the second place, this envy of disinterested greatness 
may show itself in the most unexpected quarters. I have 
named Miriam but now side by side with the mixed multi^ 

Miriam and Aaron's Sedition. 319 

tude ; and yet I almost feel as if I owed her an apology for 
so doing, for, in truth, in the best parts of her nature, she 
had not much in common with them. She was, in the main, 
a good woman ; and Aaron, in spite of some little weak- 
nesses, was a good man. They were not perfect, and nei- 
ther was Moses ; but we might have supposed that they 
were both above such littleness as is here recorded of them. 
Yet, that it is recorded of them is the great point of the nar- 
rative ; for while I was speaking, the other night, of the mur- 
muring of the mixed multitude, I could see that you joined 
in my condemnation of them, and said within your hearts, 
" Yea, verily, they were a scurvy crew — a mean, contempti- 
ble, and discontented set ;" but you never thought of your- 
selves. Now, however, that Miriam and Aaron are infected 
with the same disease, we cannot help bringing the matter 
home to our own hearts. This is a different thing from the 
heartlessness of a mob breaking a great statesman's win- 
dows; this is the sin of one who stood, socially, in the 
same plane with him whom she reviled, and who, to do her 
simple justice, was also a good woman. This, therefore, 
bids us look at our own souls ; for if Aaron and Miriam 
were capable of such envy, we may not think that we are 
immaculate. It asks the minister to examine himself, and 
see whether he has not been guilty of depreciating a broth- 
er's gifts, because he looked upon him as a rival rather than 
as a fellow-laborer ; it bids the merchant search through the 
recesses of his heart, if haply the terms in which he refers to 
a neighbor, or the tales he tells of him, be not due to the 
fact that, either in business or in society, he has been some- 
how preferred before him ; it beseeches the lady, who is en- 
gaged in whispering the most ill - natured gossip against an- 
other in her circle, to inquire and see whether the animus 
of her deed be not the avenging of some fancied slight, 
or the desire to protest against an honor which has beeij 


320 Moses the Law-giver. 

done to the object of what Thackeray — I think it is — has 
called " her due Christian animosity !" Ah ! are we not all 
in danger here? As long as we can patronize one who is 
below us, we can generously appreciate his excellence ; but 
when he comes to be on a level with us, we begin to ques- 
tion the accuracy of our estimate ; and when he shoots above 
us, we are sure we have been wrong, and we advertise every- 
body of our mistake. But it is the consciousness of our own 
inferiority that makes us envious of the superiority of anoth- 
er — nay, more, it is because we are thinking of our own 
position more than of the cause with which we ought to be 
identified, that we allow ourselves to murmur against anoth- 
er. How well it would be if we repelled all temptations to 
envy, as John silenced those who tried to set him against 
Jesus ; for, as Bishop Hall has said, " That man hath true 
light who can be content to be a candle before the sun of 

We may see, in the third place, the utter meanness of 
the weapons which envy is content to employ. Miriam and 
Aaron must needs expostulate with Moses about his wife ; 
but they had nothing whatever to do with his domestic mat- 
ters. The privacy of his tent ought to have been sacred, 
even in their eyes ; and all such intrusiveness is an abomina- 
tion in my sight. Zipporah was Moses's wife ; she was his, 
as a wife, and not theirs. They might have their own views 
about her as their sister ; yet Moses did not marry to please 
them, but to secure a helpmeet for himself. She was not 
the public property of the camp, that they might talk of her 
wherever they went ; and if Moses was satisfied, that was 
enough. Perhaps she was not, in every respect, a model ; 
but, from my observation in similar cases, it is my opinion 
that there was no ground whatever for any accusations 
against her. Still, even if there had been, that was no bus- 
iness of theirs ; and regard for Moses ought to have kept 

Miriam and Aaron's Sedition. 321 

them silent. A man's house is his castle. No personal 
malice should enter into it with its attack ; and no mean re- 
port should be received from the eavesdroppers who have 
first misunderstood, and then misrepresented. If a man's 
public life has been blamable, then let him be arraigned ; 
but let no Paul Pry interviewer cross his threshold to get 
hold of family secrets, or descend into the area to hear some 
hireling's moralizings. If a minister is unfaithful to his duty, 
let him be put upon his defence ; but let no whisperer say, 
" His wife ! his wife !" At least until such times as congrega- 
tions are prepared to pay a separate salary to the pastor's 
partner, as a female missionary among them, let them keep 
their tongues off her. I insist upon it that, in business, in 
politics, in religion, and, may I add also, in newspaper re- 
porting, domestic privacy shall be respected. Even the bees, 
when put into a glass hive, go to work at the very first to 
make the glass opaque, for they will not have their secrets 
made common property ; and surely we busy human beings 
may sometimes be allowed to be by ourselves. The man 
who goes into a house to use what he sees there as an envi- 
ous weapon against the inmates of it is a spy, and should be 
treated as a common outlaw. 

In the fourth place, we may learn that the assaults of 
envy are always best met by a silent appeal to Heaven. 
Moses uttered no word of reproach. But God called the 
complainers before him, and both vindicated his servant and 
punished them. And it is somewhat remarkable that the 
highest testimony to the official pre-eminence of Moses came 
in consequence of this assault upon him. Therefore let the 
victims of unjust assault take comfort, for God will be their 
defence. But let the envious ones take heed, for God hears 
their words, and he will one day confront them with his 
judgment. He may do that long before the day of final as- 
size. He may meet them in his providence, and give them 

322 Moses the Law-giver. 

to understand that they who touch his faithful servants are 
touching the apple of his eye ; nay, he may bring such trou- 
ble upon them that they will be glad to accept of the in- 
tercession of those whom they have maligned. They who 
speak falsely have not only the man concerning whom the 
lie is told against them, but they have God against them ; 
for he is the foe of every falsehood, and his omnipotence 
will one day make its falsity apparent, and punish the malice 
which concocted it. Therefore men may well be " afraid to 
speak against " those whom God has authenticated, for he 
has other ways than that of leprosy of punishing the sedition 
of such as rise up against his servants. You remember the 
weird poem in which Coleridge has told the story of the man 
who shot the albatross, and how the bird was hung around 
his neck, and he was pursued by a phantom ship, and led 
through uttermost misery. Friends, let me assure you that 
to wing an arrow of malicious falsehood at the heart of a 
man who is faithfully seeking to serve his generation by the 
will of God, is to shoot the albatross ; and, sooner or later, 
they who do it shall be followed by the phantom ship of ret- 
ribution with its ghastly crew, and there will be no escape 
from its horror blacker than " an orphan's curse," until love 
return into their hearts, and they repair in supplication unto 
God — for so they realize the poet's description : 

" The self-same moment I could pray ; 
And from my neck so free 
The albatross fell off, and sank 
Like lead into the sea." 

So let us to-night come again to the mercy-seat; let the 
guilty among us confess our envy, repent of our sin, and 
seek its forgiveness : thus our hearts will be filled with 
peace, and will be so enriched with the love of God that 
jealousy and falsehood shall not be able to find an en- 
trance into them. 



Numbers xiii.,xiv. 

THE wilderness of Paran, into which, after leaving Ha- 
zeroth, the tribes of Israel advanced, included about a 
third of the peninsula between Egypt and Canaan. It was 
bounded on the north by the frontier of Canaan, on the west 
by the River of Egypt, on the south by the Desert et-Tih, 
and on the east by the valley ot the Arabah, which divided 
it from the mountains of Edom. Kadesh, in which they 
were now encamped, was eleven days' journey from Sinai,* 
and seems to have been situated in the Arabah, about ten 
miles north of Mount Hor, at a place now known as Ain-el- 
Weibeh. They had thus reached the southern boundary of 
Palestine, and Moses said unto them, "Ye are come unto 
the mountain of the Amorites, which the Lord our God doth 
give unto us. Behold, the Lord thy God hath set the land 
before thee : go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy 
fathers hath said unto thee ; fear not, neither be discour- 
aged."! But they were unwilling to face the hardships 
which seemed to be involved in obeying that command, and 
so, veiling their cowardice under a desire to have some re- 
liable information regarding the country, they proposed that 
men should be sent out to search the land, and bring back a 
report as to its products and its accessibility. It is not, in- 
deed, affirmed in the narrative given in the Book of Num- 

* Deut. i., 2. t lb. i., 20, 21. 

324 Moses the Law-giver. 

bers, that the suggestion to send spies originated with the 
people; but such an assertion is plainly made by Moses in 
the account which is preserved in the Book of Deuteronomy, 
and I am anxious to give it prominence now because it fur- 
nishes the explanation of all that came after. The mission 
of the spies originated in unbelief and craven-heartedness. 
The mere proposal to inspect the land betrayed that there 
was in the hearts of those who made it a suspicion that the 
country would not be found to be so good as it had been 
represented. The intimation that the commissioners might 
be able to guide them as to the best way of entering the 
country was a slight upon the pillar of cloud and flame, by 
which they had heretofore been conducted. And the whole 
project was a device to gain time, and to postpone the con- 
flict through which alone they could obtain possession of the 
heritage which God had designated for them. They did not 
wish, just then, to exert themselves in any measure, and they 
adopted this expedient in order, for the moment, to evade all 

Seeing that this was their disposition, the Lord determined 
to unmask it, and to show them whereunto it would grow. 
He therefore acceded to their proposal ; and twelve men, 
one from each tribe, were designated as inspectors to go up 
through the Negeb, or territory to the south of Palestine, 
and search the land, and to bring back an account, which 
should tell what it was like; whether its inhabitants were 
many or few, strong or weak, and whether they dwelt in 
cities or in tents ; what was the quality of its soil, and the 
nature of its climate ; and what was the character of its pro- 
ductions. Among the men appointed for this purpose were 
Joshua, whose name seems, in connection with his mission 
on this occasion, to have been changed from Hoshea into 
Joshua; and Caleb, who, though mentioned as belonging to 
the tribe of Judah, appears from sundry peculiar references 

The Report of the Spies. 325 

made to him in other passages, to have been not a Hebrew 
by birth, but rather an alien who had come from the Keniz- 
zites to connect himself with the worshippers of the true 
God, and had been formally associated with the family of 
Hezron* The others were apparently men of no great faith 
or force of character, and only too correctly represented the 
prevailing spirit of the Hebrews. 

Entering Palestine by way of the Negeb, these spies trav- 
ersed its entire length to Rehob, in the vicinity of the place 
where the mountain-ranges of Lebanon and Antilibanus ap- 
proach each other. They came back by Hebron, one of the 
oldest cities of the world, and dear to them from its associa- 
tions with Abraham, who dwelt as a stranger in its neigh- 
borhood, and whose ashes rested in that Machpelah cave 
which was his only earnest of the Promised Land. There 
they saw the gigantic race of the Anakim, whose appearance 
filled them with dismay ; and in the valley of Eshcol, which 
was close to Hebron, they found — for it was the vintage- 
time, and the district was covered, as it still is, with vine- 
yards — a branch with a cluster of grapes so large and lus- 
cious that they determined to take it with them as an indi- 
cation of the fertility of the soil. 

They were absent from Kadesh forty days; and as they 
were seen approaching the camp, two of them bearing on a 
pole between them the vine-branch, with its heavy fruitage, 
great excitement must have been created among the people. 
But in answer to the inquiries with which they were met, 
ten of the spies spoke most discouragingly. They admit- 
ted that the land was good, and that its excellence had not 
been misrepresented, for it did flow with milk and honey. 
But they alleged that its inhabitants were numerous and 
fierce ; that its cities were strongly fortified ; and that, be- 

* See Smith's " Dictionary," article Caleb. 

326 Moses the Law-giver. 

fore they could possess it, they would have to conquer the 
Amalekites, the Hittites, the Jebusites, the Amorites, and, 
above all, the children of Anak, whose lofty stature seems 
to have filled their imaginations with a vague and indefina- 
ble alarm. When the people heard these things, they were 
grievously disheartened ; and, though Caleb and Joshua did 
what they could to reassure them, " the congregation lifted 
up their voice and cried " the whole night long. 

In the morning their disappointment ripened into a mu- 
tiny, more pronounced than any which had yet appeared 
among them. They looked back wistfully to their old slave- 
pens in Egypt, and they accused the Lord of bringing them 
out of their bondage that they might fall by the swords of 
the Canaanites. With strange inconsistency, the fear of death 
in the future made them wish that they had been dead al- 
ready ; and they actually proposed to elect another leader 
who should conduct them back to the land of the Pharaohs. 

The effect of all this on Moses and Aaron was tremen- 
dous. They were literally struck dumb with amazement 
and humiliation, and could do nothing but prostrate them- 
selves in silent entreaty before God in the presence of the 
mutineers. But nothing, apparently, could bring the people 
to a better mind ; for when Caleb and Joshua again stood 
forth, and declared their belief that the presence of Jehovah 
with them would make them stronger than the mightiest of 
their adversaries, " the whole congregation bade stone them 
with stones." Thus the cup of their iniquities became full, 
and the time of their probation came to a close. "At Sinai 
they had rejected Jehovah, who led them out of Egypt, and 
had desired a god such as they formerly possessed in Egypt ; 
at Kadesh they rejected the land of Jehovah, the land of 
promise, and wished to return to Egypt."* This brought 

* Kurtz, as above, vol. iii., p. 152. 

The Report of the Spies. 327 

their day of visitation to an end ; for now Jehovah declares 
that he will smite them with pestilence, and destroy them as 
one man, and offers to make of Moses a great nation in their 

But, true to his mediatorial character, Moses puts the offer 
away from him ; reminds the Lord of his promises ; dwells 
upon the effect that would be produced on the Egyptians 
and other idolaters if it should be made to appear that he 
was not able to take his chosen people into the covenanted 
land ; and, recalling that name which he had himself heard 
proclaimed as he stood in the cleft of the rock, he pleads its 
significance with him, and implores that the iniquity of the 
tribes may be forgiven. This prayer was answered, yet only 
so far as a regard for the honor of Jehovah and the best in- 
terests of the people permitted it to be answered. The na- 
tion, as such, would be preserved, but the individuals would 
suffer for their guilt. All of those who had attained the age 
of twenty years at the date of the Exodus would be excluded 
from Canaan, and would, according to their own hasty prayer, 
die in the wilderness. The tribe of Levi, from which no rep- 
resentative had been taken, and which had not been num- 
bered with the others, seems to have been exempted from, 
this doom ; but in the other tribes there were no exceptions, 
save Caleb and Joshua, who had proved their fidelity, even 
at the risk of their lives. And as the spies had been absent 
searching the land for forty days, so the people would be 
detained in the desert forty years, that they might under- 
stand what a serious thing it is to murmur against the Lord. 
Moreover, lest they should imagine that there was no mean- 
ing in this solemn threatening, the ten spies, whose unbelief 
had been the match that lighted the flame of revolt, were 
immediately smitten by the plague. 

This made a very solemn impression upon the tribes. 
They saw now how much they had forfeited. They dis- 

328 Moses the Lawgiver. 

covered that, even when they were at the very gate of pos- 
session, they had been sent back into the wilderness of wan- 
dering ; and now, when it was too late, they would strive to 
repair the mischief which they had done. In spite of the 
warnings of Moses, they became as eager to advance as they 
had been before to return to Egypt ; and they actually pre- 
sumed to attack the Amalekites, and were smitten and dis- 
comfited for their pains. 

Very suggestive is this ancient history in lessons for the 
life of to-day. Let us try to gather them for ourselves, and 
take them with us for our guidance and instruction. 

We may learn, then, in the first place, that God's promises 
will always bear investigation. It was a spirit of unbelief 
that led to the proposal that spies should be sent to search 
out the land ; but, though they went with a foregone desire 
to find an excuse for declining to go up to its possession, 
they could not say, and they did not say, that the Lord had 
misrepresented the case. His words are always true; and 
when, in spiritual things, he promises the sinner pardon, 
peace, purity, and heaven, we may rely implicitly on his as- 
surance. It is true that none of us has entered heaven ; 
but Jesus, who has gone on in advance to take possession 
of it in his people's name, has sent back an Eshcol cluster 
of its vintage, that we may know something of what we 
should expect. He has given us "the earnest of the Spirit 
in our hearts." The knowledge of God which we possess 
here will be the foundation of our knowledge there : the 
happiness which we enjoy here will be the germ of our fe- 
licity there ; and the holiness which he has imparted to us 
here will be the bud of that which shall expand into the 
flower of heaven's own purity. The believer already has 
everlasting life ; for the regeneration which he has here ex- 
perienced needs but to be expanded and elevated and sub- 
limated, to become the life of heaven. I do not mean that 

The Report of the Spies. 329 

there is anything in our present possession that can give us 
an adequate idea of the glories of our celestial inheritance. 
It was, at the best, but a poor notion which the tribes could 
form of Canaan as they looked upon that grape-cluster, but 
it showed them something of it ; and in like manner, though 
the earnest of the Spirit is the same in kind with the full 
fruition of glory, it is no adequate measure of its degree. 
Life is the same in kind in the infant "puling and whining 
in its nurse's arms," that it is in the philosopher ; light is the 
same in kind in the first faint streak of dawn that dapples 
the eastern horizon, that it is in the clear, cloudless brill- 
iance of the summer noon ; but how different in degree ! 
Similar will be the difference between the experience of the 
ransomed saint in heaven and that of the believer who is 
still upon the earth. The child who stands at the source of 
a river which he can bestride with his tiny legs like a Colos- 
sus, has no conception of the magnitude of the same river 
when it reaches the ocean, with a breadth and depth ample 
enough to bear the navy of an empire on its bosom ; and 
so our Christian experiences, exalted as we sometimes think 
them to be, give us but a very imperfect notion of the bliss 
of Heaven. 

But the important point lies here. Such as they are, these 
experiences have come down from Heaven into our hearts, 
and they are an assurance to us that the Promised Land will 
yet be ours. Thus, what this Eshcol branch was to the 
men of Israel, the indwelling of God's holy spirit is to every 
believer. It is an attestation and confirmation of Jehovah's 
word to him ; it is the seal of God himself to the truthful- 
ness of his promise that he shall yet enter into Heaven's 
own rest ; and, amidst all the assaults of scepticism and all 
the sneers of ridicule, he can fall back upon his own con- 
sciousness, and say, " I know that there is a heaven before 
me, for I have some of it already in my heart." This is that 

33© Moses the Law-giver. 

experimental evidence which is ever the innermost citadel 
of Christian apologetics. It does not depend on logic, and 
so it cannot be refuted by logic ; it does not rest on criti- 
cism, and so it cannot be shaken by the captious objections 
made by supercilious scholars to this and the other book of 
Holy Scripture ; it has not been given by the world, and so 
by the world it cannot be taken away ; it is not an experi- 
ment, but it is an experience, and so it is utterly impreg- 
nable. Happy is the man who, in this time of sifting and 
debate, has his mind and heart thus securely garrisoned by 
the peace of God ! " No weapon that is formed against him 
shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against him in 
judgment he shall condemn." 

But, from its very nature, this indwelling Spirit is, in the 
fullest sense, a confirmation only to him who is already a 
believer; yet there are first-fruits of another kind which may 
serve also for a sign to him that believeth not. Of this sort 
is that cluster of graces which, under the one name of the 
fruit of the Spirit, Paul has enumerated thus in his Epistle 
to the Galatians : " The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, 
long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, tem- 
perance ;"* and where these virtues, not in isolated graces, 
but as a united company, appear in a man, they are an as- 
surance to those who look upon them, if they care to think 
the matter out, that God's Word is true, and that there is a 
heaven in store for them that love him. You may find indi- 
vidual virtues in men who yet are strangers to God and to 
his salvation, but you never find the aggregation of this clus- 
ter save on a branch that is in living union to the true Vine ; 
and when that aggregation appears in a man who was once 
noted for characteristics entirely inconsistent with such a 
combination of excellences, there is a clear and irrefutable 

* Gal. v., 22, 23. 

The Report of the Spies. 331 

testimony to the truth of God's words, and the reality of his 
salvation. Every new convert, therefore, who has given up 
the works of the flesh, and is bringing forth this fruit of the 
Spirit, is as real a verification of the truth of the Gospel as 
this bunch of grapes was of the accuracy of God's descrip- 
tion of the Promised Land. Now, these are not rare among 
us. Men, indeed, continually cast up to us the inconsisten- 
cies of so-called Christians; but that is about as honest as 
it would be to judge of an apple-tree from the few worm- 
eaten specimens that have fallen from it, while no note is 
taken of the ruddy, ripening multitudes that bend down its 
branches with their weight. We admit that there are incon- 
sistent men who call themselves Christians; we do not deny 
that, absolutel}', there may be many hypocrites among those 
who have named the name of Christ ; but we affirm that, 
relatively, the proportion of such persons to genuine believ- 
ers in the Church is but like that of the bird -pecked fruit 
that is lying on the ground to the mellow harvest that is 
yet upon the tree ; and in every true Christian you have an 
Eshcol branch, whose grape-cluster is an evidence not only 
of the genuineness of his piety, but also of the true heavenly 
life of the vine to which he is united. Thus every faithful 
follower of Christ is a living volume of apologetics, and the 
trophies of the Redeemer's power are the best evidences of 
the Redeemer's truth. There is not a person now within 
these walls who does not know some one individual concern- 
ing whom he can say, "Yes, he is a. Christian; and if all 
were like him, I would believe the Gospel's truth." That 
individual is to you the Eshcol by which you may know, if 
you will, the reality of spiritual things. Out of your own 
mouth will God judge you, and he will say, "You did recog- 
nize my hand in your friend's character ; why would you not 
make trial of its efficacy in your own?" 

But, we may be reminded, in the second place, that there 

332 Moses the Law-giver. 

are Anakim to be encountered in the conquest of every 
promised land. God had not hidden the fact that the Ca- 
naanites were in the land, from the knowledge of the He- 
brews. Their encounter with Amalek, at Rephidim, had 
taught them what they might expect, while, at the same time, 
it had shown them that he that was with them was greater 
than all they that were against them. Now, in the same 
way Christ has said, "If any man will come after me, let 
him take up his cross daily and follow me," and has urged 
us to count the cost before we commence to raise our tower, 
lest at length they that pass by mock us, saying, "This man 
began to build, but was not able to finish." So he would 
prepare us for self-denial, hardship, and long -continued 
struggle ; but we must not suppose that in all this the Gos- 
pel is an exception to the general law. No Canaan of suc- 
cess, in any pursuit, can be gained save by the conquest of 
the Anakim. He who would rise to a position of eminence 
in the department of literature, for example, must learn to 
"scorn delights, and live laborious days." He must deny 
himself many pleasures in which others allow themselves to 
indulge, and must keep himself, in a sense, secluded from 
the world, living in his library and at his desk. The man 
of business who would climb the steep that leads to wealth, 
must pursue a similar course. He cannot leave his place ; 
he keeps himself chained to the oar; he knows that nothing 
will avail but work, work — hard and continuous work; for 
so only can he conquer those influences that stand in the 
way of his attainment of his object. It is the same with the 
artist ; and, on a lower platform, with the athlete. All of 
them have to go into training ; and, in every pursuit, a cam- 
paign, with its perils and fatigues, comes before a victory. 
We cannot complain, therefore, if the same law holds in the 
spiritual life. Rather, we must cheerfully recognize the fact 
that pre-eminence in holiness, and the attainment of an abun- 

The Report of the Spies. ^^^ 

dant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and 
Saviour, can be gained alone through earnest, self-denying, 
and incessant labor. The first stage of Christian experience 
is one of joy and peace; and, in the consciousness that his 
sins are forgiven, the believer can do nothing but sing. By- 
and-by, however, he discovers that, though he has been de- 
livered from the guilt of sin, he has not yet been emancipated 
from its power. He learns that sin pardoned is one thing, 
and that sin subdued is quite another thing; and when he 
enters upon the conflict which that discovery has rendered 
inevitable, he begins to perceive that his adversaries are 
"great and tall as the Anakim," and that he must fight if 
he would reign. Well for him, then, if he do not turn and 
flee ; well for him, then, if he be not like those whom the 
Saviour has described, who " hear the word, and anon with 
joy receive it, yet have not root in themselves, but dure for 
awhile, for when persecution ariseth because of the word, 
by-and-by, they are offended." 

These giants with whom we have to contend are mainly 
in ourselves, in the shape of evil principles and sins that 
most easily beset us; and it is only through self-conquest 
that we can pass to any external victory. David showed 
that he was prepared to meet Goliath when he held himself 
in under the stinging taunts of his brother Eliab ; and the 
adversaries that are without us can be easily subdued when 
we have first overcome ourselves. This, no doubt, is a seri- 
ous task. It is not a thing of a day. We cannot vault by 
one spasmodic leap up to the height of holiness, any more 
than the Israelites could all at once obtain possession of the 
land of promise. " By little and little " it has to be done. 
It needs prayer, and watchfulness, and constancy; and if we 
decline to enter upon the conflict, we shall fall short of the 
inheritance. Not without special significance, therefore, has 
the inspired writer said, in reference to this very chapter of 

334 Moses the Law-giver. 

ancient history, " Let us labor, therefore, to enter into that 
rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."* 
The faith and the labor thus go together : where the faith is 
deficient, there will be no labor ; and where there is no labor, 
we make it evident that there is no faith. Be not deterred, 
therefore, by the Anakim. You have met them before. 
They are on the confines of every land of promise ; and, as 
with other adversaries, you will discover that they cease to 
be formidable when you resolve to overcome them. 

We may learn, in the third place, that the true believer is 
always able to conquer his spiritual adversaries, with the 
help of God. Caleb and Joshua were permitted, at length, 
to enter Canaan ; and, to show you that the son of Jephun- 
neh was not dealing in mere braggadocio when he said to 
the angry congregation, " If the Lord delight in us, then he 
will bring us into this land ; and the Lord is with us, fear 
them not " — let me anticipate the history by more than forty 
years, and read to you a brief section from the Book of 
Joshua :t "Then the children of Judah came unto Joshua in 
Gilgal : and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said 
unto him, Thou knowest the thing that the Lord said unto 
Moses the man of God concerning me and thee in Kadesh- 
barnea. Forty j^ears old was I when Moses the servant of 
the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to espy out the land ; 
and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart. Nev- 
ertheless, my brethren that went up with me made the heart 
of the people melt : but I wholly followed the Lord my God. 
And Moses sware on that day, saying, Surely the land where- 
on thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy 
children's forever, because thou hast wholly followed the 
Lord my God. And now, behold, the Lord hath kept me 
alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the 

♦ Heb. iv., II. t Josh, xiv., 6-12. 

The Report of the Spies. 335 

Lord spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Is- 
rael wandered in the wilderness : and now, lo, I am this 
day fourscore and five years old. As yet I am as strong 
this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me : as my 
strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both 
to go out, and to come in. Now therefore give me this 
mountain, whereof the Lord spake in that day ; for thou 
heardest in that day how the Anakim were there, and that 
the cities were great and fenced : if so be the Lord will be 
with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord 
said." So this " Great-heart " had been all these years in- 
tent on choosing as his own the very locality which had so 
filled the rest of the spies with fear. He had declared that 
God would enable them to overcome the Anakim, and now 
he will go to prove it; and he did prove it, for in the next 
chapter* we read, " And Caleb drove thence the three sons 
of Anak, Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai, the children of 
Anak." Brave old man ! if the other ten spies had been 
like thee and Joshua, they had not drawn upon the people 
the forfeiture of their inheritance. 

Now, as Caleb succeeded by God's help in conquering 
Hebron and driving out the Anakim, so, if we resolutely set 
ourselves to battle with self and sin, we too shall conquer in 
the might of the Most High. It is not a question of feeble- 
ness, but of faith. Whether the work we set before us be 
our own sanctification, or the evangelization of the city, or 
the conversion of the world through the missionary enter- 
prise, the principle is still the same. We can do all things 
through Christ strengthening us ; and if we attempt great 
things, trusting in him, we may expect to do great things, 
not otherwise. -Ah ! if there were only more Calebs among 
us, what might we not accomplish for God and truth and 

Josh. XV., 14. 


336 Moses the Law-giver. 

purity in the world ! For it was not Caleb that did all this, 
but God through Caleb ; and God is to-day as omnipotent 
as ever. It was because Caleb knew that he was only, as it 
were, the conducting wire, through which the might of God 
was brought to bear upon his adversaries, that he was so 
bold j and if we but remembered that God is working in us 
and through us, we would set no limit to our ambition in his 
service. It seemed rash for David to go with his sling 
against the mailed Goliath, but then he went " in the name 
of the Lord God of Israel," and that proved that his daring 
was not recklessness, but faith. For what is faith ? Is it 
not the attempt at that which is humanly impossible, but 
which becomes possible through the co-working energy of 
God ? Oh for more of that faith among us, and then the 
giant evils of our days will fall before the youthful Davids ; 
and the fenced Hebrons, wherein dwell securely all dealers 
in corruption and iniquity, will be stormed and taken by the 
Calebs who " fully follow the Lord their God." 

Finally, we may learn from this history that there is a 
point beyond which it is no longer possible to repair the fol- 
lies of the past. God had borne long and often with these 
Israelites. They had rebelled, as it is said, ten times ; and 
as ten is the number that denotes completion, that may 
mean that they had filled up the measure of God's forbear- 
ance, so that now he declares in judicial sentence that they 
shall not enter into the land of promise. They who will 
not when they may, shall not when they will. Hence, when 
afterward they made the attempt to attack the Amalekites, 
they were driven back in ignominious defeat. Now, let no 
one suppose that, simply because it is recorded in this book, 
this is an unusual thing. On the contrary, it is only one in- 
stance of a common and universal law. You see it in every 
department and pursuit of life. Up to a certain limit, it 
seems to be in a man's power, if he choose, to make up for 

The Report of the Spies. 337 

the past; but beyond that limit it is no longer possible, 
whether he choose or not. So universal is this principle 
of the divine administration, that the great poet who belongs 
to the race, rather than to any nation, and whose knowledge 
of human life seems to have been encyclopaedic, has said ; 

" There is a tide in the affairs of men, 
"Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune ; 
Omitted, all the voyage of their life 
Is bound in shallows, and in miseries." 

Now, when we look at the matter thus, we see at once 
that the doctrine of a single probation for men is in per- 
fect analogy with the course of God's ordinary providence ; 
and so, while we cannot explain the rationale of it, we can 
understand that the province of religion forms no excep- 
tion to God's ordinary law. And to-night, in the midst 
of all the excitement and discussion which the revival of 
this question has created, I desire to give emphasis to the 
truth that the change in the hearts of the Israelites when 
they expressed their willingness to go up did not lift from 
them God's judicial embargo. They seemed to repent, and 
yet now their repentance was vain. But this was, in rela- 
tion to the land of promise, the analogue of the case of 
those described over and over again by the Saviour. Listen 
to these words, " Strive to enter in at the strait gate : for 
many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be 
able when once the master of the house is risen up, and 
hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to 
knock at the door, saying. Lord, Lord, open unto us ; and he 
shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye 
are ;" and these, " Many will say to me in that day. Lord, 
Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name ? and in thy name 
have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful 
works ? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew 
you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity;" and these, in the 

338 Moses the Law-giver. 

parable of the virgins, which, you remember, is side by side 
with the account of the last judgment, "Afterward came also 
the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he 
answered and said. Verily I say unto you, I know you not." 
Now, no one of these condemned here at Kadesh entered 
the land of promise. The door was shut on them ; the ex- 
clusion was final. Equally, no one of those referred to by 
Christ shall enter Heaven— the exclusion is final ; and when 
to that you add the immortality of the soul, to which nature 
and revelation alike bear witness, then you have the ever- 
lasting exclusion of a living being from Heaven, and that is 
everlasting punishment. AVhen the probation ends, it ends 
forever, and is never reopened. That is the lesson of the 
history that has been before us to-night ; and that lesson, 
applied to the relation between time and eternity, leads to 
the awful conclusion that the lost are eternally lost; and 
that even if they seem to cry for salvation, it is denied them. 
This is not a matter of Greek etymology. It is not to be 
settled by the meaning of the word diu>viog. You have to 
take into account the principle of God's entire administra- 
tion, and those terrible sayings of the Lord Jesus, a speci- 
men of which I have quoted ; and when you do that, you 
cannot get rid of it. He that is too late at the marriage, 
never again has the door open while the feast lasts. But 
the feast is everlasting life, and what is exclusion from that, 
while it lasts, but everlasting punishment ? I beseech you, 
therefore, brethren, that you do not allow yourselves to be 
beguiled into the belief that there will be a state of proba- 
tion after death, or that there is any hope of repairing the 
first exclusion from the heavenly land. Now is the accept- 
ed time ; now is the day of salvation ; therefore improve 
the present opportunity, and press on toward the mark for 
the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus : for if you allow 
yourselves to lose that prize, it is lost forever. 



Numbers xvi., xvii. 

THE prohibition of the adult portion of the tribes from 
entering the Promised Land was followed, after some 
little interval, by a rebellion more deliberate in its character, 
and more terrible, at least in its immediate results, than any 
of those which Moses had to meet. We may best bring out 
the circumstances of the case if we consider the causes 
which led to this mutiny, the spirit by which it was ani- 
mated, the manner in which it was quelled, and the means 
which were taken to prevent a recurrence of the outbreak. 

The ringleader was Korah, a Levite, belonging to the 
family of Izhar, who seems to have been moved throughout 
by jealousy and ambition. It will be remembered that the 
family of Amram, to which Moses and Aaron belonged, was 
not the eldest branch of the tribe of Levi, and that Levi was 
not the first-born of Jacob. Now, the patriarchal custom 
was that the pre-eminence and priesthood should belong to 
the oldest representative of the oldest family in the tribe ; 
and as that had been set aside in favor of Aaron, Korah 
could see no reason why, if it were not to be given to the 
eldest Gershonite, it might not have been given to himself 
just as well as to Aaron. Thus the preference of Aaron to 
himself excited jealousy, which by-and-by ripened into revolt. 
But it would have been madness in him to think of rebel- 
ling single-handed and alone, and therefore he set himself 
to enlist others with him in his insurrection. He began with 

340 Moses the Law-giver. 

his nearest neighbors ; for, as his tent was on the south side 
of the tabernacle, the camp of Reuben was immediately be- 
hind him, at the distance of only one thousand cubits, and 
he used this proximity so well that three of the leading Reu- 
benites were induced to join him. He did not, indeed, make 
known to them his ultimate intentions ; but sought only to 
get their assistance in overthrowing Moses and Aaron, and 
reserved the unmasking of his own purpose for the time 
when a new choice for the priesthood would have to be 
made. He knew that the Reubenites were sensitive on the 
matter of primogeniture, for their father had been the first- 
born of Jacob, and yet, in the organization of the nation, no 
place of importance had been given to them. The priest- 
hood had been given to Levi; the leadership had been, as 
they might allege, appropriated by Moses, who was also a 
Levite ; and the foremost banner in the line of march was 
borne by Judah. Thus Reuben seemed to be slighted, and 
Korah made the most of this apparent neglect. He was 
not speaking, so he would have them believe, as a Levite, 
but as an Israelite ; he did not want anything for himself, 
but he could not reconcile it to his conscience to see the 
tribe of the first-born ignored. It was true that, if they gain- 
ed their pre-eminence, he would lose something of the pres- 
tige which was connected now with being a Levite, but that 
was nothing to him ; he desired only to see justice done, 
and the primacy belonged of right to them. 

In this way we may suppose that the ears of the princes 
of Reuben were gained ; and the Reubenites, in their turn, 
veiling their personal designs, would foment discontent 
among the other tribes, on the general ground that Moses 
and Aaron " took too much upon them." Thus the spirit 
of insubordination spread, until, on its first manifestation, 
apparently at one of the meetings of the congregation, or 
house of representatives, no fewer than two hundred and 

The Korahitic Conspiracy. 341 

fifty of the members of that body, men of renown among the 
people, stood forth upon the side of the mutineers. 

Korah kept his own ambition in abeyance, and stirred up 
dissatisfaction among the Reubenites on the score of their 
right of primogeniture, in order that he might secure their 
assistance. The Reubenites, saying nothing to the other 
members of the congregation concerning their designs, en- 
larged upon the arrogance of Moses and his brother. The 
one object with both was to get rid of the leadership of Mo- 
ses and the priesthood of Aaron ; then, when that had been 
accomplished, the Reubenites would make a bid for the po- 
litical presidency, and Korah would strive to gain the priest- 
hood. Thus the conspirators, to use Dr. Kitto's expressive 
phrase, were playing " a very deep game." Korah was mak- 
ing tools of the princes of the Reubenites, and the Reuben- 
ites were making tools of the lords of the congregation. 
This is the reason why the ground of complaint against the 
two brothers is so general : " Ye take too much upon you, 
seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and 
the Lord is among them : wherefore then lift ye up your- 
selves above the congregation of the Lord ?" The imme- 
diate object was to depose the sons of Amram, and there- 
fore the vaguest accusation was made against them ; but if 
they had succeeded in that object, then the rival ambitions 
would have manifested themselves, and they who had agreed 
in tearing down might not have been of one mind in the ef- 
fort at reconstruction. If I may take an illustration from 
contemporary history, perhaps the condition of France dur- 
ing the last autumn* may help us to understand the situa- 
tion. Two parties were then in league in that country 
against the Republic. On the one hand, the Imperialists 
wished to bring back the Napoleonic dynasty ; and, on the 

* That of 1877. 

342 Moses the Law-giver. 

other, the Legitimatists desired to restore the Bourbons. 
Each of them had their own ulterior ends in view ; but they 
united to attempt the destruction of the Republic, and trust- 
ed to the chapter of accidents to determine how they should 
proceed after that should be accomplished. In the merciful 
providence of God, however, they were both defeated. So 
here, Korah for his own purposes, and the Reubenites for 
theirs, stirred up the two hundred and fifty princes of the 
assembly on the common ground of dissatisfaction with the 
existing state of things, and postponed the attainment of 
their personal ends until they had effectually put out of the; 
way those who were the great obstacles to their ultimate 

But the spirit by which these ringleaders were animated 
was infinitely worse than that of the political bargain-maker; 
for Moses was no politician, and Aaron was no scheming 
and arrogant prelate. Neither of these brothers had been 
desirous of office, and the places which they filled had not 
been taken by them of their own motive. Moses had been 
almost pushed into his priority by the hand of God. He 
had not seized upon authority as a usurper. He had been 
called to his post by Jehovah, who had given him creden- 
tials in the shape of miracles and signs, such as no impostor 
could fabricate, and no enemy could gainsay. In like man- 
ner, Aaron had not taken his office upon himself; he, too, 
had been " called of God," who had commanded him to be 
consecrated by peculiar services to his work. Thus the 
brothers held their places by divine right, and therefore re- 
bellion against their selection for these places was rebellion 
against Jehovah. As in the army, mutiny against an officer 
lawfully exercising his authority is mutiny against the Gov- 
ernment whose commission he holds ; so here, the rejection 
of Moses as leader, and of Aaron as priest, was at the same, 
time the rejection of God, who had appointed them to their 

The KoRAHiTic Conspiracy. 343 

respective offices. It was a disregarding of the clearly ex- 
pressed and frequently indicated will of God, and therefore 
it was treason against the head of that theocratic system of 
government which at Sinai they had so solemnly accepted. 
If, as in a modern State like our own, the people had been 
the fountain-head of authority, then it might have been war- 
rantable enough for them to seek to bring about a change 
of administration, provided there had been good ground for 
their dissatisfaction with Moses and Aaron, and they had 
endeavored to affect an alteration in a constitutional man- 
ner. There is no sin in attempting, in an honest way, and 
without cabal, to unseat an unpopular governor and bring in 
another ; but in the Hebrew commonwealth God was polit- 
ically supreme. The authority of the government in it came 
from above, and not from beneath. It was the prerogative 
of Jehovah to appoint his priest, and to designate his magis- 
terial representative. The people, according to their own 
covenant obligations, had no option but to accept them both. 
They had been taken out from the nations, and elected to 
certain great privileges ; and in connection with their ac- 
ceptance of that position they had taken Jehovah to be their 
King. But his royalty was not a merely nominal thing ; it 
was a reality. It placed them under his authority j it bound 
them to respect his laws, to obey his legate, and to approach 
him in worship through his appointed priest. Therefore, this 
conspiracy to overthrow Moses and depose Aaron was worse 
than any political plot, because it was rebellion against God, 
who was not only the fountain of law among the people, but 
also the object of their worship. 

That I am not wrong in thus characterizing the spirit 
shown by the rebels, will appear from the manner in which 
their outbreak was met by Moses. When he heard their 
words, he fell on his face in mingled humiliation and suppli- 
cation ; and, after a few minutes spent thus in silent prayer, 


344 Moses the Law-giver. 

he rose and said, " Even to-morrow the Lord will shew wha 
are his, and who is holy ; and will cause him to come near 
unto him : even him whom he hath chosen will he cause to 
come near unto h\m. This do ; take you censers, Korah, 
and all his company ; and put fire therein, and put incense 
in them before the Lord to-morrow t and it shall be that the 
man whom the Lord doth choose, he shall be holy : ye take 
too much upon you, ye sons of Levi." In vindicating their 
position, the mutineers had quoted the words of God's prom- 
ise to the people which Moses had repeated to them before 
the covenant of Sinai, namely, '' Ye shall be unto me a king- 
dom of priests, and a holy nation." Thus they put forth 
the universal priesthood of the community as against the 
special priesthood of the house of Aaron ; but they forgot 
that they had themselves deliberately declined to accept that 
position, and had cried passionately for a mediator. They 
forgot, also, that, in answer to that supplication, Moses be- 
came the day's-man between them and Jehovah, and that, at 
the command of God, he had given them Aaron to be their 
priest. They could not now, therefore, go back and begin 
anew. They had received a solemn lesson in the matter of 
the Promised Land which might have taught them, if they 
had been willing to learn, how a lost opportunity never comes 
back again. But it was not a personal matter between Mo- 
ses and them ; it was rather a controversy between them 
and God, and therefore, most appropriately, Moses leaves it 
to the arbitrament of God. If they will be priests, then let 
them take censers, and as priests offer incense unto the Lord. 
If he accepts them, well — there is an end of the matter ; but 
if he rejects them, then his rejection is destruction. Nothing 
could be fairer or more straightforward than such a course, 
for it proposed to submit the whole controversy for adjust- 
ment to Jehovah ; but at the same time nothing could be 
more solemn, for if they were in the wrong, they were only 

The Korahitic Conspiracy. 345 

courting their punishment by accepting such a proposi- 

Moses saw all that it involved, and in mercy to them he 
sought to prevail upon them to back down. Like a wise 
diplomatist, skilled in the knowledge of human nature, he 
took the two wings of the conspirators apart, and dealt with 
each separately. With Korah and the Levites that sympa- 
thized with him, he dwelt upon the honor which God had 
conferred upon them in giving them a place near himself in 
the service of the tabernacle; and exposed the ingratitude 
of their hearts, in that, so far from appreciating what they 
had, they hankered after that which was given to another. 
Not content with the privileges that belonged to the Levites, 
they were coveting also the honors of the priesthood. Be- 
cause God had given them so much, they murmured against 
him because he had not given them more ; yes, against him, 
for Aaron was only his minister, and held his office by his 
appointment. Having thus expostulated with Korah, with 
however but little effect, he sent for Dathan and Abiram 
from the camp of Reuben ; and as On is not mentioned in the 
summons, and does not appear afterward in the narrative, 
the presumption is that he had already seen the error and the 
danger of his ways, and had withdrawn from the conspiracy. 
But there was no relenting in the heart of Dathan or Abiram. 
On the contrary, they flatly refused to obey the command of 
Moses, and sent back an answer of the most impertinent 
sort, as flippant as it was unjust. They accused Moses of 
making himself a prince over them ; they alleged that he 
had not fulfilled his oft-repeated promise to lead them to a 
land flowing with milk and honey ; they insinuated that the 
good land was really that which they had left, and they were 
not willing to give him another opportunity of throwing dust 
m their eyes, by appearing before him. " Wilt thou put out 
the eyes of these men ? We will not come up." This reply 

34^ Moses the Law-giver. 

moved the meek Moses so terribly that he was very wroth ; 
and after his manner when he was excited, he spoke in bro- 
ken and fragmentary utterances, each of which was like the 
explosion of a torpedo, and some of which were the only 
references which he had as yet permitted himself to make 
to his own administration. 

When the morrow came, Korah and his company, two 
hundred and fifty in number, took their censers, with fire 
and incense, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, where 
also were Moses and Aaron similarly provided with censers. 
There, too, were all the members of the representative body 
which is called the congregation, that they might be wit- 
nesses of everything that took place. While they stood, the 
glory of the Lord appeared unto them, and a voice from it 
came out addressed to Moses and Aaron, and saying, " Sep- 
arate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may 
consume them in a moment." When he heard that, the 
magnanimity of Moses returned, and, remembering his medi- 
atorial responsibility, he made intercession for the people — 
Aaron joining him with a fervent heart — and said, " O God, 
the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and 
wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation ?" This prayer 
prevailed so far, that the congregation, as a whole, was not 
consigned to death ; but after a separation had been made 
between the multitude and the tents of Dathan and Abiram, 
and while the mutineers stood with their wives and children, 
apparently in dogged defiance, in the doors of their habita- 
tions, Moses said, "Hereby ye shall know that the Lord hath 
sent me to do all these works ; for I have not done them of 
mine own mind. If these men die the common death of all 
men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men, then 
the Lord hath not sent me. But if the Lord make a new 
thing, and the earth open her mouth and swallow them up, 
with all that appertain unto them, and they go down alive 

The Korahitic Conspiracy. 347 

into the pit, then ye shall understand that these men have 
provoked the Lord." While he was yet speaking, the earth 
opened and swallowed up alive the men of Reuben ; and at 
the same time there came a fire from the Lord and con- 
sumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense. 
But the sons of Korah, as we learn from a subsequent chap- 
ter,"* were not destroyed with their father, and we may there- 
fore infer that they did not share his guilt; while the fact 
that the families of the Reubenites perished with their heads, 
may be held as indicating that they all joined in the revolt. 

We cannot forget here that the Korahites afterward rose 
to great honor in the service of the sanctuary. The prophet 
Samuelt belonged to the family, and its representatives in 
David's time had an important place in conducting "the 
service of song in the house of the Lord." Ten of the 
Psalms bear their names in the inscriptions, and some of 
these are remarkable for the depth of their experience and 
the fervor of their feeling. It is not unlikely, therefore, that 
the fearful infliction of judgment on the head of their house, 
as recorded in this chapter, may have operated with whole- 
some effect upon the survivors, and so may have contributed 
to the production of that excellence for which in later times 
the members of this family were distinguished. 

But sympathy with the mutiny was not confined to those 
who had suffered the miraculous infliction of punishment at 
the hands of God ; for the next day all the congregation mur- 
mured against Moses and Aaron, saying, "Ye have killed 
the people of the Lord." It seems as if these Israelites 
will never learn to distinguish between Moses and Jehovah. 
They are continually blaming Moses for that which God has 
done ; and so they are constantly guilty of doing God dis- 
honor, and of treating his servant with injustice. But no 

-*iNum. xxyi., II. t i Chron. vi., 22-28. 

34S Moses the Law-giver. 

people can do such things with impunity ; and even as they 
are murmuring now the glory-cloud on the tabernacle indi- 
cates that some communication of the Divine will is about 
to be made concerning them. When Moses and Aaron went 
forward to receive it, they heard these awful words — " Get 
you up from among this congregation, that I may consume 
them in a moment." But not yet will Moses abdicate his 
mediatorial office, for once again he stands forth as interces- 
sor ; and knowing that a plague had begun among the peo- 
ple, he sent forth Aaron with his censer, filled with fire from 
the altar, and covered with incense, to make an atonement 
for the people : and as he stood between the living and the 
dead the plague was stayed ; not, however, before fourteen 
thousand and seven hundred persons had perished from its 

Thus, by the destructive results that followed the attempt 
of Korah and his company to intrude into the priest's office 
and burn incense before the Lord — ^as contrasted with the 
beneficent effects of Aaron's approach with his censer unto 
Jehovah when the plague was stayed — the divine and in- 
defeasible right of Aaron to the priesthood is conclusively 

But it was needful that some permanent evidence of this 
divine vindication should be preserved, and that was secured 
in two ways by Moses, according to the commandment of 
the Lord. In the first place, the brazen censers used by the 
two hundred and fifty mutineers were gathered up by Elea- 
zer, the son of Aaron, and made into broad plates for a 
covering of the altar, and there they remained, to be " a me- 
morial unto the children of Israel that no stranger, which is 
not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before 
the Lord." But, to make assurance doubly sure, another 
miraculous testimony was borne to Aaron. Twelve almond 
rods or staves were taken, one for each tribe, and on each 

The Korahitic Conspiracy. 349 

was written the name of the representative of the tribe to 
which it belonged, just as the name of Aaron was written on 
that which stood for Levi. These rods, thus marked, were 
laid up before the ark ; and in the morning that of the man 
whom God had chosen was found with buds, and blossoms, 
and ripe almonds upon it. The rod thus distinguished was 
that which bore the name of Aaron, and it was laid up be- 
fore the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels ; 
so that, if possible, all murmuring should cease among the 
people, and there should be no more necessity for such se- 
vere judicial inflictions. 

This miracle of the blossoming rod was a sign as well as 
a wonder ; and, in our appreciation of its importance as a 
witness to Aaron's priesthood, we must not lose sight of its 
spiritual significance. The staves had in them no natural 
ability to bring forth buds, blossoms, and fruit. In this re- 
spect that of Aaron was no exception to the others ; but 
God, by his power, brought out of it these beautiful things. 
Now, in the same way, the several patriarchs of the tribes, 
and Aaron among them, had no natural qualifications or 
gifts for the priesthood ; but God gave to the son of Amram 
that of which he was originally destitute, and, by his grace, 
fitted him for the office to which he called him, so that he 
bore fruit which was well pleasing in Jehovah's sight. Thus 
the priesthood did not depend upon primogeniture, or upon 
natural endowments ; it was itself the gift of God, and where 
he bestowed it, the evidence of its divine origin was seen in 
the holy beauty of him who had received its unction. 

Now, in seeking to turn this history to account under the 
altered circumstances of the Gospel dispensation, we may 
give the clearest and most easily remembered presentation 
of the truths which it suggests by classing them under the 
two heads of doctrinal and practical. 

The doctrinal connect themselves with the priesthood of 

35Q . Moses the Law-giver. 

our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom Aaron was at once the pre- 
cursor and the type. It is true, indeed, that in the relation 
of his priesthood to the other offices with which he is invest- 
ed, as well as in the perpetuity of its continuance, Christ had 
his fullest prefiguration in the mysterious Melchisedec, to 
whom Abraham gave tithes of all his spoils ; but, as the au- 
thor of the Epistle to the Hebrews reminds us, there were 
many things in the Aaronic priesthood which clearly pointed 
to that of the Messiah. In particular, he teaches us that 
there was a foreshadowing of the sacerdotal pre-eminence 
of Jesus in the divine appointment of Aaron ; and an illus- 
tration of his work in the sacrifices presented, and the inter- 
cession made by the Jewish high-priest. Thus he says, " No 
man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of 
God, as was Aaron ; so also Christ glorified not himself to 
be made a high-priest, but he that said unto him, Thou art 
my son, to-day have I begotten thee."* Just as, therefore, 
the divine appointment of Aaron to his office was manifest- 
ed by the acceptance of his incense, and by the blossoming 
of his rod, so the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews inti- 
mates that, by many infallible signs, the designation of Jesus 
as a high-priest by God has been plainly proved to mankind. 
Among these we might enumerate the scene at his baptism, 
when the Holy Ghost, of which the sacred oil was only the 
symbol, anointed him for the work which he came to earth 
to perform ; and when, almost in the words of the second 
Psalm, the voice from the excellent glory proclaimed, "This 
is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased." In a simi- 
lar way, on the Mountain of Transfiguration, the same testi- 
mony from Heaven was borne to him ; but the most striking 
and convincing proof of all is that which is furnished by his 
resurrection from the dead. It is to this that Paul refers 

* Heb. v., 4. 

The Korahitic Conspiracy. 351 

when, in the beginning of his letter to the Romans, speaking 
of Jesus, he says, " He was made of the seed of David ac- 
cording to the flesh ; and declared to be the Son of God with 
power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection 
from the dead.'"'* Thus the empty tomb of Joseph, and the 
witness borne by many to the fact that Jesus rose from it on 
the morning of the third day, is as clear a demonstration of 
the divine appointment of Jesus to the office of a priest, as 
the brazen plates of the Korahitic mutineers on the altar 
were to that of Aaron and his sons. Nay, more ; as the 
almond-rod of Aaron, with its fruit in the three stages of 
bud, and blossom, and ripened almonds, remained before 
the ark of testimony, to be for coming generations an evi- 
dence that the son of Amram had been chosen to make 
atonement for the people, so the incidents of the day of 
Pentecost continue embalmed in the imperishable amber of 
the New Testament, as a proof for all succeeding ages in 
the history of the human race of the divine origin, the true 
reality, and the sure efficacy of the priesthood of Jesus. 
For, as a mere man, the son of Mary was a root out of a 
dry ground. There was no form or comeliness in him that 
men should desire him. There was not in his humanity, in- 
nocent as it was, any more life-giving potency for the race 
than there is in any other man. But here, on the day of 
Pentecost, we find that dry rod putting forth evidences of 
vitality. We see on it the bud of the awakened sinner, the 
blossom of the sincere penitent, and the full-formed almond 
in the preacher of the day and his noble companions, who 
stood forth to call men to the enjoyment of salvation through 
faith in him. No human causes will account for the phe- 
nomena which that day presented. They were not the re- 
sults of intemperance, or excitement, or fanaticism, or super- 

* Rom. i., 3, 4. 


Moses the Law-giver. 

stition ; they can be truly traced only to the outpouring of 
the Spirit of God, and that was itself the first great result on 
earth of the priestly presentation of his sacrifice for us by 
the Lord Jesus within the veil. In these three thousand 
conversions, then, we have God's own endorsement of the 
divine right of the priesthood of Christ ; but these were only 
the first of a series, the last members of which are the con- 
verts of to-day ; and so every new instance of regeneration 
that occurs before our eyes is a new attestation of the truth 
that we have "a great High-priest that is passed into the 
heavens, Jesus the Son of God." 

Still further, when we see Aaron here standing, censer in 
hand, between the living and the dead, for the staying of the 
plague which had broken out in the camp of Israel, we are 
reminded of the pleadings of our great High-priest, " who is 
even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession 
for us." When the stroke of divine justice is about to fall 
upon the barren tree, it is he who says, " Lord, let it alone 
this year also ;" when the Roman soldiers were nailing him 
to the cross, it was he who held the flaming sword of justice 
back with the prayer, " Father, forgive them ; for they know 
not what they do ;" and it is of him the inspired penman 
has written these memorable words : " Wherefore he is able 
also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by 
him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them."* 
Impenitent sinner, will you remember that you owe the con- 
tinuance of all your blessings to the pleading of that very 
Priest whom you are now despising? Behold him yonder, 
standing, censer in hand, before the throne ! Hear him say, 
" Give him this year also ;" and as your heart is moved with 
gratitude for his intervention, oh, beware of presuming on 
his forbearance ! For if you are not led by his goodness 

* Heb. vii., 25. 

The Korahitic Conspiracy. 353 

unto repentance, the day will come when even he will say, 
" Cut him down ; why cumbereth he the ground ?" Anxious 
sinner, will you bear in mind that by his intercession he is 
able to save to the uttermost those who come unto God by 
him ? " To the uttermost," whether of guilt or of misery ; 
therefore, he is able to save you. But " them that come unto 
God by him ;" therefore, you must go to God by him, for oth- 
erwise there is no deliverance for you. Burdened, tried, and 
weary Christian ! will you never forget that one is pleading 
for you who knows your case, and will come ere long to your 
relief? Recall that dreadful night in the experience of the 
first disciples when, in the effort to cross the lake churned 
into foaming waves by the storm, they rowed on and on till 
the fourth watch, toiling apparently without result. But there 
was One, unseen by them, upon the mountain-side, who was 
bowed in prayer on their behalf; and at length he came to 
them, encompassed with a garment that turned the night al- 
most into day, and girded with a power which stilled the an- 
gry sea to peace. So, unseen by you, the same High-priest 
is interceding for you within the veil; and soon— sooner, 
haply, than you wot of — he will come to you with help. 

But, reminded as we are by this narrative of the divine 
appointment and prevailing atonement of our great High- 
priest, we must not forget the warning which is here sug- 
gested of the guilt and danger of those who would either 
usurp or destroy his priesthood. If I have rightly read the 
motives of Korah here, he desired the priesthood for him- 
self, and so wished to depose Aaron. Now, this may sug- 
gest to us the conduct of those who, not content with the 
honor of the Gospel ministry, which is the noblest office any 
man can hold on earth, desire to mount into that of the 
priesthood, and claim to stand between God and the wor- 
shippers in a certain mediatorial capacity, and offer sacrifice 
on their behalf. I am far, indeed, from alleging, or even in- 

354 Moses the Law-giver. 

sinuating, that they who adopt such a course are intention- 
ally wanting in reverence for Jesus, or are deliberately dis- 
loyal to him. On the contrary, many among them seem to 
love him with an ardent and almost passionate devotion. 
Yet the tendency of their doctrine is to take away from the 
matchless glory of his priesthood. For if in any sense his 
sacrifice needs to be repeated, then in that sense it must 
have been imperfect when he offered it at first, and he was 
wrong when he said, " It is finished !" If in any sense we 
need another priest to whom to make confession, and from 
whom to receive absolution, then in that sense Jesus Christ 
is not a perfect priest for us ; and thus, whether they own it 
to themselves or not, naj^, whether they are conscious of it 
themselves or not, they who would make the Christian min- 
istry a priesthood for the offering of objective sacrifice are 
undermining the priesthood of Christ, and following "the 
gainsaying of Korah." We can confess sin really only to 
him ; we can have true absolution only from him ; and they 
who come to a fellow-man for the performance of the duty 
of confession, or for the reception of the blessing of absolu- 
tion, are robbing Jesus of his priestly honor, and virtually 
denying the perfection of his sacerdotal work. 

But, on the other hand, and at the other extreme, the same 
sin is committed by those who explain away his priesthood 
altogether. Dathan and Abiram said, "All the congrega- 
tion are holy, every one of them :" we are a nation of priests, 
and we have, therefore, no need of a special priest at all. So 
there are those among us who allege that Christians are all 
priests alike, and that there was no atoning or sacerdotal 
efficacy in the work of Christ at all. Now, this is one of 
those pestilent half-truths which, in their results, are always 
mor^ injurious than unmitigated errors. It is true, as Peter 
says, that we are " a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a pecul- 
iar people j that we should show forth the praises of him who 

The Korahitic Conspiracy. 355 

hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light." 
It is true that as priests we may all come to God with spir- 
itual sacrifices, such as prayer and praise and benevolence, 
and that we are to offer our bodies " living sacrifices unto 
him." But then, how has this been brought about ? The 
New Testament answers that it has been accomplished for 
us by the sacrifice of himself upon the cross for us by our 
great High -priest. Without his high -priesthood, our com- 
mon and ordinary priesthood had not been ; and as, in the 
old tabernacle, the priest took the fire for his censer from 
the altar of sacrifice, so the incense which we offer in our 
praises and prayers must be kindled in our hearts with a 
live coal taken from the altar of the cross whereon Christ, 
as High -priest, has made atonement for us. If the Lord 
Jesus did not offer himself a real sacrifice in our behalf, and 
make a real atonement for our sins, then he was no high- 
priest, and our praises and prayers are but like the smoke 
of the incense of Nadab and Abihu when they offered 
strange fire before the Lord. Think not, therefore, that you 
here to-night have nothing to do with this old story ; for if 
you repudiate Christ's death as a sacrifice for sin, if you 
fritter away the crucifixion into a martyrdom, if you deny the 
necessity for atonement of any sort, then are you kindred 
spirits with Dathan and Abiram, who maintained that all 
priesthood was unnecessary. So the middle ground between 
sacerdotalism on the one hand, and repudiation of sacrifice 
on the other, is the only safe ground on which to stand. We 
magnify the high-priesthood of Christ as that of him who 
offered the one true sacrifice for human sin, and makes the 
only efficient intercession ; but we maintain also the univer- 
sal priesthood of believers as ordained of God for the pre- 
sentation of spiritual offerings. By the one we secure the 
peerless pre-eminence of Jesus, by the other we conserve the 
liberty and equality of believers ; and the denial of either 

356 Moses the Law-giver. 

will issue in disaster. The repudiation of the latter will en- 
tail upon us the despotism of priestcraft ; the rejection of 
the former will reduce us to a system of the merest natural- 
ism, and give us a gospel without the cross — "another gos- 
pel which is not another." 

The practical lessons connect themselves with the bear- 
ing of Moses and the fate of the conspirators. In the bear- 
ing of Moses there is much to awaken our admiration and 
incite us to imitation. I will not affirm, indeed, that on this 
occasion there was in our hero no irritation of feeling or 
bitterness of heart. Moses was human, and in his haste he 
may have spoken here, as at Meribah, unadvisedly with his 
lips. But here it was to God he spoke, and not to the peo- 
ple ; and in that, at least, we may securely follow him when 
we are in similar circumstances. Devotion was his safety- 
valve. He went to God with everything, and he waited for 
God's vindication. He was conscious of integrity. He could 
take God to witness that "he had not taken an ass from 
one of them, or injured any of them." And strong in the 
knowledge of his own rectitude, he left the whole matter in 
God's hands. So if we are in the right, and men assail us, 
let us calmly appeal to God, and bide his time. If we are 
in the wrong, the noblest thing to do is to acknowledge our 
error and repent. But if we are right, let us stand still ; for 
when we stand on truth, the world will ultimately come 
round to us. It may be hard to do all this, but it will be- 
come easy when we think of him who, "when he was reviled, 
reviled not again ; when he suffered, he threatened not ; 
but committed himself to him that judge th righteously." 
God's government is, in the long run, on the side of truth ; 
and though he may not always appear to vindicate us so 
speedily as here he vindicated Moses, yet the day will come 
when he will "bring forth our righteousness as the light, 
and our judgment as the noonday." 

The Korahitic Conspiracy. 357 

Finally, from the fate of the conspirators we may learn 
that selfish ambition is courting its own destruction. Korah 
and his company, with the princes of Reuben, sought only 
their own aggrandizement, and they gained a violent death. 
There was but a night here between the manifestation of the 
evil and its punishment. But sometimes in the providence 
of God a long interval elapses, and men are tempted to think 
that success has crowned the schemes of grasping avarice 
and unscrupulous dishonesty. Yet at length the Nemesis 
arrives, and it is all the more dreadful because of the delay. 
Read the histories of those who have waded through blood 
to their greatness, and have made every interest bend to 
their ambition, and you will marvel at the manner in which 
retribution has come upon them. Still, let us not imagine 
that this holds only in the lives of emperors and the histories 
of empires. It is just as true of selfishness in politics and 
in business. The plotter always in the end outwits himself. 
The only safe ambition is that which Christ enjoins : " Who- 
soever will be chief among you, let him be your servant : even 
as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to 
minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." That is 
an ambition that sheds no blood, and sacrifices no interests 
but its own. That is an ambition which blesses humanity 
and glorifies God. There may be a cross in its path, but 
the cross is the last step in the ascent that leads to a throne. 
Moses proved his right to be chief by his continuous self- 
sacrifice ; and so his name to-day ranks next to that of Him 
whose glory he foreshadows ; while Korah, who sought his 
own interests, lost both these and his good name— so that 
he stands here a beacon to warn us of the certain destruc- 
tion that awaits all mere worldly ambition. " He that loveth 
his life shall lose it ; and he that hateth his life in this world 
shall keep it unto life eternal." 



Numbers xx., 1-29. 

BETWEEN the incidents reviewed by us in our last lect- 
ure and those which we are now to consider, an inter- 
val of thirty-eight years elapsed. During all that time the 
Hebrews had been wandering in the wilderness, having their 
head-quarters at the place where the tabernacle happened 
to be at the time ; but probably themselves broken up into 
separate companies, which scattered themselves over the 
wilderness of Paran, and led a nomadic life with the flocks 
and herds. The common idea, indeed, is that they retained 
their compact unity throughout, and moved all together when 
they moved at all ; but the peculiar phraseology of the verse 
which introduces this new section of the history — "Then 
came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, 
into the desert of Zin in the first month" — seems to de- 
scribe a reassembling of the tribes after some such tempora- 
ry dispersion as that which we have hinted at. The fortieth 
year of their desert life had now commenced ; and, expecting 
some immediate and important developments, or summoned 
in some special manner by Moses, the people came and re- 
formed their encampment at the place to which the spies 
had brought their report, and from which, therefore, it was 
most natural that they should make their advance into the 
land of promise. 

The great outstanding features of the camp were the same 

The Sin of Moses, and the Death of Aaron. 359 

as they had been eight- and -thirty years before, but many 
changes had occurred among the tribes themselves. Those 
who were old men and women at the date of the Exodus 
had now been gathered to their fathers ; such as had reach- 
ed middle life when the desert march was begun had also 
passed away; and, with the exception of Moses, Caleb, 
Joshua, and the heads of the Levitical households, there 
were few, if any, out of the two millions of the Israelites who 
had passed the age of threescore years. Between Moses 
and the people generally two entire generations had drop- 
ped out; and those who had been his coadjutors when he 
left Egypt were no longer in the land of the living. We can 
imagine, therefore, that a sense of loneliness would come 
over his heart ; and it is not improbable that this was the 
occasion on which he composed that plaintive yet trustful 
and consolatory psalm,* which has come down to us through 
three millenniums, contrasting for us the eternity of God 
with the brief earthly life of man, and teaching us to find 
our solace, amidst the vicissitudes of the world, in that con- 
tinuous providence whose " increasing purpose," as it runs 
through the ages, transfigures the "work" of the fathers into 
the " glory " of their children, and out of days of affliction 
and years of evil still brings gladness at the last. 

These feelings would be deepened in his breast by the 
death of Miriam, which took place soon after the return of 
the people to Kadesh ; and, as they buried her remains in 
the neighborhood, there were no sincerer mourners beside 
the grave than the brothers with whom she had been so long 
and, in the main, so lovingly associated. Looking back 
from that point to the first dawning of mental consciousness 
when he found himself listening to his sister's song, or play- 
ing gleefully at her feet, Moses would feel anew the truth 

* Psalm xc. 

360 Moses the Law-giver. 

which he has expressed in the psalm before referred to, "We 
spend our years as a tale that is told ;" and as he remem- 
bered all he owed to Miriam, and thought of the good influ- 
ence which, for the most part, she had exercised on those 
around her, all her faults would be forgiven, and all her 
failings forgotten, in the sense of loss which stole into his 

But little time was allowed him for the luxury of sorrow ; 
for, though the people generally must have sympathized with 
him in his bereavement, yet their solicitude for him was soon 
swallowed up in their anxiety for themselves. There was no 
water for them to drink ; and, in the blind unreasonableness 
of their suffering, they repeated the sin of their fathers, and 
blamed Moses and Aaron for their misery. With that per- 
versity which seems always to have possessed them, and 
which led them to look backward rather than forward, they 
envied those who had died, and they complained that they 
had been brought out of Egypt upon false pretences. Thus 
the same spirit of discontentment and unbelief which had 
been so severely punished in the parents seemed to be 
springing up in the children, and Moses was at his wits' 
end. But he went to his old refuge, and, appealing to God, 
received directions as to how he was to proceed. He was 
commanded to take his rod and speak to the neighboring 
rock before the eyes of the assembly, and was assured that 
an abundant stream of water would immediately gush forth 
for their supply. But the self-control of Moses gave way 
before the perversity of the people; so that, instead of 
speaking to the rock, he spoke to them — and that, too, in 
words of anger — while he smote the rock with blows which 
manifested a spirit of vindictiveness strangely out of har- 
mony with his later disposition, and calculated to bring dis- 
honor on the name of the Master whom he served. Such 
an evil — though it were in Moses, the saintliest of all the 

The Sin of Moses, and the Death of Aaron. 361 

people — could not go unchastised ; and therefore, though 
the water came just the same as if he had done everything 
as he had been commanded, the Lord said to him, and to 
Aaron, who was a consenting party to the sin, " Because ye 
believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children 
of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into 
the land which I have given them." Thus the sin of Moses 
is not to be gauged simply by the facts that he smote the 
rock instead of speaking to it, and that he scolded the peo- 
ple for their murmurings, and seemed to indicate that the 
miracle was as much his as God's. It is to be judged of by 
the spirit out of which these things themselves did spring. 
His sin was unbelief in God ; his petulance of temper, and 
hastiness, alike of act and speech, grew out of his temporary 
distrust of God. The murmuring of the people shook, for 
the moment, his confidence in Jehovah, and that having 
given way, his self-control went with it as a thing of course. 
Now, this unbelief was, for the time, so great that he gave 
up all hope of reaching the Land of Promise ; and so he 
put himself in precisely the same category with those who 
"entered not in because of unbelief," and was visited with 
the same punishment. I think we can easily understand 
the case. For eight-and-thirty years he had been looking 
forward to the time when he and the people should enter 
the land of the covenant ; and now, after all that has hap- 
pened, they manifest the same old mutinous spirit as their 
fathers had shown, and he sees nothing before them but a 
prolongation of the ban which had kept them so long in the 
wilderness. It seems to him useless to strive longer against 
their perversity ; he gives up all expectation, for the time at 
least, of ever settling them in their promised inheritance; 
God's covenant is forgotten in the presence of the people's 
disaffection ; and even as he lifts his rod to strike the rock, 
he is thinking less of Jehovah than of them, and saying with- 

362 Moses the Law-giver. 

in himself, " If this is to be their spirit, then we may as well 
give up the hope of Canaan." Thus the sight of their dis- 
contentment affects him as the sight of the Anakim affected 
the majority of the spies : it makes him doubt the possibility 
of their ever acquiring possession of the goodly land ; it 
makes him forget the promise, " Certainly I will be with 
thee ;" and, therefore, having become a partaker in their 
sin, he is a partaker also in their punishment. It was a ter- 
rible disappointment to him ; and again and again he ap- 
pealed to God for a reversal of the sentence, until at length 
he was met with a peremptory command, " Let it suffice 
thee ; speak no more unto me of this matter."* Ere long, 
too, the irrevocable nature of the decree was impressed upon 
him by the death of Aaron, which took place amidst circum- 
stances of deep solemnity, and in a manner which clearly 
connected it with the hand of God. 

From Kadesh, wishing to cultivate friendly feeling with 
the Edomites, who were descendants of Esau, Moses sent 
messengers to their king, asking permission to pass through 
his territory. While these messengers were absent, and cal- 
culating, perhaps, on obtaining the favor which they asked, 
Moses and the people marched up the valley of Arabah, en- 
countering on their way, and defeating, the army of Arad, 
one of the Canaanitish kings, and pitching their camp at 
length at the foot of Mount Hor. 

This somewhat remarkable mountain, now called Jebel 
Nebi Haroun, or the Mount of Aaron the prophet, is in Ara- 
bia Petrsea,on the borders of Idumea, about midway between 
the most northern point of the Red Sea and the most south- 
ern point of the Dead Sea. In its immediate vicinity are 
the ruins of Petra, the famous city of the Rock. The as- 
cent is steep and toilsome. Its summit is about five thou- 

* Deut. iii., 26. 

The Sin of Moses, and the Death of Aaron. 363 

sand feet above the level of the Mediterranean, and consists 
of two peaks, which give it a castellated appearance. On 
the loftier of these there is a mosque built, over what is said 
to be the tomb of Aaron, and from the flat roof of this build- 
ing the traveller's eye may wander over the last prospect 
looked upon by the first Jewish high-priest. It is thus de- 
scribed by Dean Stanley : " He looked over the valley of 
the Arabah, countersected by its hundred watercourses, and 
beyond, over the white mountains of the wilderness they 
had so long traversed ; and at the northern edge of it there 
must have been visible the heights through which the Israel- 
ites had vainly attempted to force their way into the Prom- 
ised Land. This was the western view. Close around him, 
on the east, were the rugged mountains of Edom, and far 
along the horizon the white downs of Mount Seir. A dreary 
moment and a dreary scene — such, at any rate, it must have 
seemed to the aged priest."* Another says, "There is no 
part of the landscape which the eye wanders over with more 
curiosity and delight than the crags of Mount Hor itself, 
which stand up on every side in the most rugged and fan- 
tastic forms ; sometimes strangely piled one on the other, 
and sometimes as strangely yawning in clefts of a frightful 

As the people were encamped in full view of this peculiar 
mountain, the command came from Jehovah which desig- 
nated it as the scene of Aaron's death. Observe, as we 
pass, the kind consideration for Moses which was shown by 
God, in the manner in which the communication was made. 
On other occasions injunctions which had reference to 
Aaron were given to Moses alone, and were by him trans- 
mitted to his brother. But now, when the message is one of 

* Stanley's " Sinai and Palestine," p. 87. 

t Irby and Mangles, quoted in Alexander's " Kitto," s. v. Hor. 

364 Moses the Law-giver. 

death, which it would have given exquisite pain to Moses to 
repeat, God gives it to them both at once, and says to them, 
"Aaron shall be gathered unto his people: for he shall not 
enter into the land which I have given unto the children of 
Israel, because ye rebelled against my word at the water of 
Meribah." What feelings in the hearts of these two broth- 
ers would be stirred up by these words ? Their long com- 
panionship in these wilderness wanderings ; their former as- 
sociation in Egypt, when together they contended with the 
tyrannic Pharaoh, and the tender recollections of boyhood, 
when they met and amused themselves from time to time in 
the home of Amram, would crowd upon their memories, and 
thoughts too deep for utterance would fill their minds. Nay, 
more, the consciousness on the part of Moses that he was 
the main transgressor at the rock would add poignancy to 
the grief he felt, and we may well believe that they sought 
relief each in the silent and loving embrace of the other. 
But not long time could be given to such natural emotion, 
for the command of God must be obeyed. Accordingly, in 
the sight of all the people, Aaron, in his full pontifical at- 
tire, as if he were going to officiate on a high and sacred 
festival, steps forth, and with Moses on one side, and his 
son Eleazar on the other, he sets out for the summit of the 
mountain. As they move up its steep and rugged slopes, 
they are followed by the eager eyes of the people, on whose 
behalf he had gone so often with the blood of atonement with- 
in the veil. What earnest converse has he now with Moses 
concerning the world beyond ? What faithful exhortations 
does he address to Eleazar as to his conduct in that office 
on which he is so soon to enter? What deep consciousness 
of unworthiness and sin would burden his heart ? What 
calm trustfulness in the God of the mercy-seat would cheer 
and sustain his spirit? And now they have reached the 
summit, on which he pauses a moment to take his last look 

The Sin of Moses, and the Death of Aaron. 365 

of earth. There at his feet are the " goodly tents " of Is- 
rael, and over the people once again he pronounces his 
priestly benediction. There is the tabernacle in whose ser- 
vice he had found at once his labor and his joy ; yonder, 
away before him, is the wilderness through which he had 
wandered under the guidance of the mystic pillar for so 
many years ; and far off to the right are the hills beyond 
which Canaan lies— but that Canaan is not for him. Yet 
there is no murmur. Once again it may be written, "And 
Aaron held his peace." But now he strips off his official 
robes, and sees them put upon his son. Then he bravely 
and quietly lies down to die, and even as Moses and Elea- 
zar look at him his spirit has departed, and he is on earth 
no more. 

Thus sublimely died the brother and companion of Israel's 
great leader. He had not, in the highest degree, the quali- 
ties of insight, promptitude, energy, and firmness for which 
Moses was pre-eminent ; but he excelled his brother in the 
passive virtues of patience and endurance. Under the stun- 
ning blow which deprived him of two of his sons in a moment, 
no word of reproach escaped his lips ; while on the occasion 
of the Korahitic rebellion he waited, with a quiet and be- 
coming dignity, until his pre-eminence had been established, 
and then he used his priesthood in making intercession for 
the plague -stricken multitudes. But his character shines 
most brightly at " the evening time ;" and to him we may 
apply the poet's words, " Nothing in his life became him like 
the leaving it." We forget his faults as we see him ascend- 
ing so quietly the hill on which he is to be gathered to his 
people. The clouds which at intervals, in the long day of 
his life, had obscured his sun, have now all cleared away ; 
and, as it set behind the castellated summit of Mount Hor, 
it threw thereon a golden glory, which lingers on it still ! 
Three went up, but only two came down — Moses with a 

366 Moses the Law-giver. 

keener sense of loneliness than ever, and Eleazar mourning 
his father's absence, all the more because of the added re- 
sponsibility of his new position. For thirty days the people 
halted in sorrow for their loss, and then the pillar rose from 
above the tabernacle, and led them on and out toward the 
country of their hope. Everything went on as it had done 
before ; but Aaron was not there ! 

In turning this narrative to profitable account for our 
modern Christian life, I restrict myself to three particulars. 
Let us learn, then, in the first place, that faith in God is the 
regulating grace of the Christian character. So long as that 
is preserved, it will keep all other principles of our nature in 
restraint ; but when that is lost, the brake is removed from 
the wheel, and everything goes wrong. The prophet has 
written, "He that believeth shall not make haste." His 
faith enables him to act with deliberation, and he does noth- 
ing unadvisedly ; but when he sinks into despair he is apt 
to become reckless, and allows himself to speak and act in 
such a manner as to bring reproach upon himself and dis- 
honor upon God. The loss of faith leads to panic, and 
panic is utterly inconsistent with self-control. We have a 
remarkable illustration of the truth of these remarks in the 
history of David ; for it was when, losing hold of God's prom- 
ise to him, he sank into unbelieving despondency, saying, " I 
shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul," that he fled 
to the court of Achish, and became entangled in those sub- 
terfuges and deceits which culminated in the burning of Zik- 
lag and the mutiny of his men ; and if we have given a cor- 
rect analysis of the conduct of Moses here at Meribah, we 
have a manifestation of the same truth in that. Now, the 
importance of this principle can hardly be over-estimated ; 
for, on the one hand, it shows us how we may attain to that 
rule over our own spirits which is a greater glory to a man 
than the taking of a city is to a warrior ; and, on the other, 

The Sin of Moses, and the Death of Aaron. 367 

it gives a very serious aspect indeed to those ebullitions of 
temper, and selfishness, and self-will which we are all too 
prone to regard as of little moment. If we wish to over- 
come ourselves, then the victory is to be won through faith 
in God. Mere watchfulness will not suffice ; but we must 
cultivate that confidence in God which believes that all 
things work together for good to them who love him ; which 
realizes the universality of his providential administration as 
including the minutest as well as the vastest concerns of 
life ; and which has the unwavering assurance that we shall 
enter at last upon our heavenly inheritance. Watchfulness 
is like the boy who knows no better than to be continually 
setting the hands of the clock which is standing still ; but 
the cultivation of faith winds up the spring, and sets and 
keeps everything in proper motion thereby. Therefore, if 
you want to control self, seek faith in the nearness, the faith- 
fulness, and the universality of the providence of God. You 
will not be provoked by the stupidity of a servant or the oc- 
currence of a preventible calamity, or the perversity of those 
with whom you come into contact, so long as you can say, 
" This also cometh from the Lord, who is wonderful in coun- 
sel, and excellent in working." The grasping selfishness or 
unreasonable fault-finding, or plotting cunning of those with 
whom, for the time, you may have to deal, will not throw you 
off your balance, or tempt you to speak unadvisedly with 
your lips, so long as you can remember that you are jour- 
neying to heaven, and that the meeting of these difficulties 
is a part of the training through which God is bringing you, 
for the purpose of preparing you for its enjoyment. " He 
will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on 
him." Therefore, if we wish to preserve our equanimity of 
temper and disposition, let us stay our minds on God. Look- 
ing to him will always keep us right. If I wish to walk in 
a straight line across a pathless field, I fix my eye on some 


368 Moses the Law-giver. 

prominent object on the farther side of it, and go steadily 
toward that, looking neither to the right hand nor the left. 
If I desire to keep my head from reeling as I cross the 
narrow bridge that spans a deep ravine, I fix my gaze on 
some rock upon the other shore, and go forward; but so 
sure as I look down, I begin to tremble, and my panic may 
be my destruction. Similarly, in the trackless mazes of life, 
and in the dizzy paths of business, our only safety is in look- 
ing to God in Christ. We shall never go wrong while we 
keep him in view ; but when we lose sight of him our dan- 
ger begins, and we grow reckless. 

Then, on the other side of the subject, see what the root 
of our explosiveness of temper and rashness of conduct is ! 
There is no sin for which we are more ready to excuse our- 
selves than irritability. We speak apologetically of that "rash 
humor which our mothers gave us," and persuade ourselves 
that testiness and haste of speech are very venial things. 
Now, I will not deny that temperament has something to do 
with them ; but faith can overmaster temperament, as even the 
case of Moses here illustrates, for meekness was not one of 
his original characteristics ; and, therefore, in every instance 
I am bold to say that the loss of self-control has its origin 
in lack of faith, for the time being, in God. We bear a 
great calamity with composure, because we see God's hand 
in that ; but when it comes to the upsetting of a tea-urn, or 
the breaking of a valuable ornament by an inexperienced 
servant, we act as if there was no providence in that, and we 
are guilty, like Moses here, of speaking unadvisedly with our 
lips. The leader who is calm in a great crisis, is thrown off 
his guard by a little breach of discipline ; and the Christian 
who can stand in quiet composure beside the grave of a 
child, is excited into terrible anger by the removal of an ar- 
ticle from its right place on his desk. He thinks it is tem- 
perament ; but he ought to learn that it is lack of faith in 

The Sin of Moses, and the Death of Aaron. 369 

God, and he should be on his guard lest it shut him out 
from some promised land of usefulness, into which he would 
otherwise have entered. 

But, in the second place, we see here how important it is 
to be always ready for death. The death of Aaron was not 
altogether without warning, but in some sense it may be re- 
garded as sudden. There were no premonitions of it in his 
bodily frame, else he could not have ascended Mount Hor ; 
and when God's command came, it might take him, and 
probably did take him, by surprise. Yet he was not appal- 
led, for he believed God, and that kept him in perfect peace. 
" What, sir," said a domestic servant, who was sweeping her 
door-step, to the young Spencer, of Liverpool, as he was hast- 
ening by, " is your opinion of sudden death ,?" He paused 
a moment ; then saying, " Sudden death to the Christian is 
sudden glory," he hurried on ; and in less than an hour af- 
terward he was drowned while bathing in the Mersey. The 
coincidence was remarked on at the time ; and the truth 
that underlies the words was the consolation of his sorrow- 
ing congregation, as they missed him from the midst of them. 
A great change has come over the minds of Christians on 
this subject in later years. The petition of the Litany, 
" From battle, from murder, and from sudden death, good 
Lord, deliver us," is not now regarded as so appropriate as 
it was once ; and many who would be far from agreeing 
to the other changes which it introduces, would prefer the 
amended reading of the Liturgy of the old King's Chapel 
of Boston in this place — "From battle, from murder, and 
from death unprepared, good Lord, deliver us." We are 
coming now to the opinion which, strangely enough, the 
great dramatist has put into the mouth of Hamlet, in ref- 
erence to the time and manner of death, when he says, 
" There's a special providence in the falling of a sparrow : 
if it be now, 'tis not to come ; if it be not to come, it will be 

370 Moses the Law-giver. 

now; if it be not now, yet it will come ; the readiness is all !" 
The pith of the matter lies there — " the readiness is all;" and 
the only readiness is that which Paul has described, when 
he says, " For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." 
Life is the solemn thing, therefore ; and if only that be right, 
we may leave the ordering of our death to Him whose provi- 
dence is in the fall of a sparrow. That was a beautiful an- 
swer given by John Wesley to a lady, when, being asked by 
her how he would spend the intervening time if he certainly 
knew that he was to die at twelve o'clock the next night, he 
replied, " How, madam ? Why, just as I intend to spend it 
now. I should preach this evening at Gloucester, and again 
at five to-morrow morning; after that I should ride to Tewkes- 
bury, preach in the afternoon, and meet the societies in the 
evening. I should then repair to friend Martin's house, who 
expects to entertain me, converse and pray with the family 
as usual, retire to my room at ten o'clock, commend myself 
to my Heavenly Father, lie down to rest, and wake up in 
glory." Here is the secret of an active life, which shall not 
have its interest lessened by any longing to die, or its en- 
joyment marred by any fear of death. Let us serve God, 
through faith in Christ, in all our engagements. These may 
not be apparently so spiritual as those of Aaron in the tab- 
ernacle, or of Wesley in the pulpit. They may be simply 
petty household cares or common business transactions; 
they may be laborious, and to a degree distracting ; but if 
they be duties manifestly set before us, and if they be per- 
formed cheerfully, as unto the Lord and not to men, they 
may be so sanctified by the Word of God and prayer that 
the spirit, while busily occupied on earth, may be in holy 
harmony with heaven ; and death, when it comes, shall only 
lift us into a higher kind of that enjoyment which is our de- 
light on earth. Let us aim after this " readiness ;" for it 
will give new zest to our present existence, and put for us 

The Sin of Moses, and the Death of Aaron. 371 

new interest into the life beyond, when we are able to say, 
" To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." 

But, in the third place, here we may learn the place and 
power of the individual in the onward progress of human 
society. Aaron gives his vestments to Eleazar before he 
dies, and so the priestly work is perpetuated, though he no 
longer performs it. On one side of it, this is melancholy 
enough ; and it would almost seem as if no one man was of 
any great service in carrying forward the work of God upon 
the earth. We are accustomed to say that nobody is indis- 
pensable, and there is a sense in which that is true. The 
death of Aaron does not stop the tabernacle service ; and, 
as we shall by-and-by see, the death of Moses does not keep 
Israel from entering upon Canaan. So it is good for us 
sometimes to remember that God and the world can do 
without us. The king dies ; but with the announcement 
of his demise, the herald proclaims his successor, and says, 
" Long live the king 1" Ministers and people die, but the 
Church abides, and carries still forward its beneficent work. 
That is all true, and it is as consolatoiy to society as it is 
humbling to the individual. But there is another side to the 
subject, which must in nowise be forgotten, for the progress 
of the ages is made through the deposit left by each succes- 
sive generation of individual men. Our possessions to-day 
in life are not all the fruits of our personal efforts. We are 
the heirs of all the preceding generations ; and if we act well 
our part, we shall leave something additional of our own be- 
hind us, which shall enrich those who shall come after us. 
Geologists tell us that, through long millenniums, this earth 
was in process of preparation for the dwelling-place of man. 
One species of vegetation after another came, and left its de- 
posit ; one kind of animals after another appeared, and left 
their bones to petrify. Thus stratum after stratum rose, un- 
til at length our planet was furnished for the abode of the 

372 Moses the Law-giver. 

human race. Now, just so it has been with the successive 
generations of men themselves. They have not been simple 
repetitions of each other, as the generations of the lower an- 
imals have been ; but each, as it has passed away, has left 
something behind it as a legacy to its successors. You see 
how true this is in literature ; for we are to-day the heirs of 
all that is worth preserving in the English language, from 
the days of Chaucer to our own. You know how true this 
is, also, in science ; for the discoveries of the philosophers of 
the past have made a vantage-ground from which their fol- 
lowers have risen, in this age, to results of which the former 
never dreamed. But it is true, also, in moral and spiritual 
things. The children of Israel conquered Canaan without 
Moses. That is, doubtless, the case ; but do not forget that, 
if he had not led them out of Egypt, and governed them for 
forty years, they would not have been in circumstances to 
cross the Jordan under Joshua. The tabernacle service 
went on without Aaron. That is true ; yet if Aaron had 
not gone before him, Eleazar would not have entered upon 
such a sphere of usefulness as that which now opened up 
before him. If there had been no Bacon, there might have 
been no Newton ; and if there had been no Newton, our 
modern philosophers would not have been what they are. 
So in Christian history. If there had been no reformers, 
there would have been no Puritans ; and if there had been 
no Puritans, there would have been no Pilgrims ; and if 
there had been no Pilgrims, there would have been no such 
churches as we have to-day in our land, conducting mission- 
ary operations both at home and abroad. 

What, then, is the lesson of all this ? You already antici- 
pate the answer : it is that each of us shall strive to do his 
utmost in the work to which God has called him, so that we 
may leave a higher platform for those who shall come after 
us. It seems humble to say that God can do without us ; 

The Sin of Moses, and the Death of Aaron. 373 

but though that is true, let us not forget that when he can do 
without us, he will do without us. So long as we are here, 
however, we are required by him for something. Let us 
therefore find out what that is, and do it ; and while we do it, 
let us pray that God may establish it so that it may remain 
to bless posterity. The little coral insect beneath the waves 
builds its tiny cell, and dies ; another comes, and builds on 
that, and dies ; and so on and up it grows, until first a reef, 
and then an island, and then an archipelago of islands rises 
up above the waters. So, my brethren, let us do our work, 
that others entering on it may carry it forward through after 
generations. Thus shall the work of the fathers become 
the glory of their children ; and in the end, when the mystery 
of God shall be finished, we shall see in its completed beauty 
and proportion the great fabric into which we put our little 
all ; and we shall rejoice at once in the skill of the architect 
and the diligence of the successive builders. 


Numbers xxi. 

THE courteous request addressed by Moses to the King 
of Edom for liberty to pass through his dominions was 
bluntly and defiantly refused. This compelled the tribes to 
turn back, and go down the entire length of the valley of the 
Arabah, until they reached a point a few hours distant from 
the shore of the gulf of Akabah, where the Wady Ithm fur- 
nished an opening through which they marched round the 
southern border of the land of Edom, and went up on the 
eastern side of Mount Seir, taking a north-easterly direction, 
and following very much the line of route taken in modern 
times by pilgrims between Mecca and Damascus. The first 
part of this journey must have been exceedingly depressing. 
They had been, as it were, on the very threshold of the door 
into Canaan, but by the rudeness of Edom they were turned 
away ; and as they went down with their faces toward the 
Red Sea, it would seem to them that every step they took 
was increasing the distance between them and the land to 
which they had looked so long as their goal. Besides, the 
valley through which they marched is one of the most dis- 
agreeable to be met with even in that dreary land. Dr. Rob- 
inson writes thus concerning it: "We were now up on the 
plain, or rather the rolling desert of the Arabah ; the surface 
was in general loose gravel and stones, everywhere furrowed 
and torn with the beds of torrents; a more frightful desert it 
had hardly been our lot to behold. Now and then a lone 

The Brazen Serpent. 375 

shrub of the ghudah was almost the only trace of vegeta- 
tion."* The heat, however, is even more terrible than the 
desolation; for almost all travellers bear testimony to the 
discomforts that are connected with traversing a district 
where the sirocco seems to blow incessantly.f It is not won- 
derful, therefore, that " the soul of the people was much dis- 
couraged because of the way ;" but it is somewhat surprising 
that after all their experience of God's care over them, and 
provision for them, they should have allowed their despond- 
ency to pass into dissatisfaction with Jehovah, and murmur- 
ing against Moses. The very manna which had sustained 
them so long has become to them an evil ; "Our soul," they 
cry, " loatheth this light bread ;" and though Egypt must 
have seemed a long, long way behind them, they still harp 
upon its material comfort, and express regret that they had 
ever left its borders. 

This new sin brought with it a new penalty ; for "the Lord 
sent fiery serpents among the people," and many of them 
died. The district in the immediate neighborhood of the 
head of the gulf of Akabah is still said to be infested with 
snakes. Burckhardt tells his readers that on the shore of a 
bay in this vicinity he found everywhere the impression of 
the passage of serpents crossing each other in many direc- 
tions, and then continues, "Ayd told me that the serpents 
were very common in these parts ; that the fishermen were 
much afraid of them, and extinguished their fires in the even- 
ing before they went to sleep, because the light was known 
to attract them."$ But, though it is thus probable that ser- 
pents were already in the neighborhood of the encampment, 
it must not be supposed that there was no~ divine agency, or 

* "Biblical Researches," vol. ii., p. 121. 
f See Smith's " Dictionary of the Bible," article Arabah. 
t See Kitto's " Bible Illustrations," Morning Series, Nineteenth 
Week. Third Day. 

376 Moses the Law-giver. 

moral purpose connected with their attacking the Israelites 
at this time. It is quite likely that the people had been un- 
der special providential protection during all their wander- 
ings, and that at this point, as a punishment for their mur- 
muring, that protection was judicially withdrawn. In any 
case, God availed himself of the presence of these snakes, to 
use them as the means for bringing the Israelites to a sense 
of their iniquity. And they were not long in coming round ; 
for, under the burning inflammation produced by the venom- 
ous bites of these fiery reptiles, they cried to Moses, saying, 
" We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and 
against thee ; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the ser- 
pents from us." Then, true to his mediatorial character, 
Moses made intercession, the result of which cannot be 
more clearly or succinctly described than in the words of 
the narrative itself: "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. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and 
put it upon a pole ; and it came to pass, that if a serpent had 
bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he 
lived." Yet the healing power was not in the glittering 
symbol, but in the Lord himself; and so when, hundreds of 
years after, in the days of Hezekiah the king, that which 
had been preserved as a memorial of God's power and love, 
was itself worshipped as an idol, the good monarch destroy- 
ed it before the eyes of its devotees, and called it Nehushtan, 
a piece of brass.* 

It has been a matter of speculation with many how it 
came that, though the second commandment forbade the 
making of the likeness of anything, Moses should have been 
enjoined to make a brazen serpent ; and some have replied 

* 2 Kings xviii., 4. 

The Brazen Serpent. 377 

that the origin of the symbolism here employed is to be 
found in the history of the Fall ; while others would have us 
believe that it was designed to meet the moral and intellect- 
ual development of the people to whom it was first manifest- 
ed, and was chosen because in Egypt they had learned to 
look upon the serpent as the emblem of the power to heal. 
But to me it rather seems that it was selected and appointed 
by God as the means of healing now, in order that it might, 
in the fulness of time, clearly illustrate the way of salvation 
by Jesus Christ, and help us, on whom the ends of the world 
are come, to identify the Saviour, and understand the nature 
of that faith by which alone we can be benefited through 
him. This is one of the miracles which are foreshadows, 
and so to say parables, of that great supernatural healing 
which comes to men's souls through faith in the uplifted 
Christ ; and in the conversation of our Lord with Nicode- 
mus, we have at once the explanation and the vindication of 
the symbolism which Moses was commanded to employ. 

From the way of the Red Sea, the tribes passed up on the 
eastern side of Mount Seir, through Oboth, Ije-abarim, Zared, 
and on to the borders of Moab. Thence they went to Beer, 
where, through their own exertions, God gave them water. 
The song composed by some one of their poets, to commem- 
orate the digging of the well, is here preserved, and is a cu- 
rious and interesting specimen of that rhythmic cadence of 
echoing parallelisms which is so characteristic of the Hebrew 
lyric. From Beer they journeyed on through various sta- 
tions, which cannot now be precisely identified, until they 
came to the mountain of Pisgah, whence they had their first 
view of the valley of the Jordan and the land of promise. 

But before they could reach that point, and indeed in the 
course of those journeyings which we have but now sum- 
marized, they had been compelled to encounter two very 
formidable enemies. The first was the army of the Amorites, 

378 Moses the Law-giver. 

under Sihon their king, who, not content with refusing to 
permit them to pass through his territories, came out and 
attacked them in the wilderness of Jahaz. The result was a 
signal victory for the Hebrews, who took all his territory, 
and all the cities and villages thereof. This deliverance, 
commemorated by a song, here incorporated in the narra- 
tive, and taken, as it seems, from the Book of the Wars of 
the Lord, was highly prized by the people ; for it is frequently 
mentioned, and always with gratitude, in their later literature. 
After the defeat of the Amorites, Moses and the people 
approached the kingdom of Bashan, whose monarch, appar- 
ently without provocation, and moved by pure animosity to 
the Hebrews, came forth to fight against them at Edrei. 
He too was defeated and slain. Had he remained in his 
own land, the Israelites would not have attacked him ; and 
even if they had, he might have laughed them to scorn, see- 
ing that the strongholds of Bashan, now known as the Lejah, 
are almost impregnable. Our friend. Dr. W. H. Thomson, 
has thus described it : " It consists of an extensive and rich 
plain, capable of sustaining a large population, but surround- 
ed by a complete wall of volcanic rocks, so closely heaped 
together as to have been aptly compared to the waves of a 
great sea instantaneously petrified. Here, amidst the thick- 
ets of scrub-oak and in numerous caves formed by the tilted 
rocks, some 2000 Druses took refuge in 1838, and compelled 
Mohammed Ali to sacrifice 30,000 of his soldiers to bring 
them to terms. In the precarious and constantly hostile 
state of the ancient world, such a country would afford pe- 
culiar advantages to its inhabitants to maintain their inde^ 
pendence. It had also the efiect of rendering anything like 
general law or government impossible, except after long 
struggles, and then for brief intervals, during the sway of 
some great foreign empire. Each city or district, though 
flourishing in itself by reason of its rich soil, was yet at war 

The Brazen Serpent. 379 

with its neighbors. Hence, though the land is now covered 
with the ruins of those times, yet in most cases these re- 
mains indicate the work of a people whose thoughts were 
almost wholly bent on fortifying themselves. Their massive 
houses were literally so' many private castles, with stone 
doors, stone windows, and stone ceilings; so that whole towns 
may be entered and occupied now, the houses erected centu- 
ries ago still standing as they were built."* 

Og himself was one of the last of the giant race inhabit- 
ing this region, and doubtless relied on his own personal 
prowess and on the bravery of his army ; but his forces were 
utterly routed, and the only relic of him is thus referred to 
in the Book of Deuteronomy, " Behold, his bedstead was a 
bedstead of iron ; is it not in Rabbath of the children of 
Ammon? nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits 
the breadth of it, after the cubit of a man."t Dr. Kitto 
supposes that the reference is to a bedstead, properly so 
called, after the Oriental pattern, and made of iron, owing to 
the great weight of the giant ; but others are of opinion that 
the allusion is to a sarcophagus, made of the black basalt of 
the district, which is frequently called iron. In either case, 
the dimensions would be somewhat in excess of those of the 
man himself, so that his stature may be set down as about 
nine feet. 

Thus the first battles of the Israelites were fought in self- 
defence ; and in the acquirement of those territories which 
afterward became the property of Reuben, Gad, and half the 
tribe of Manasseh, they had the earnest of the success which 
awaited them on the other side of the Jordan. 

In seeking to turn this narrative to good practical ac- 
count, I would direct your attention, first, to the danger of 

* " First Statement of the American Palestine Explor. Society," p. 26. 
t Deut. iii., 11. 

380 Moses the Law-giver. 

giving way to despondency. The Israelites, as they turned 
southward from Mount Hor through the hot and dusty Ara- 
bah, were very naturally discouraged ; and if they had turn- 
ed to God in simple, yearning weakness, as a weary child 
seeks to be comforted by its mother, all would have been 
well ; for he would have soothed them by his grace, and 
guided their thoughts in the direction of the great mercies 
which they were continually receiving. But, instead of do- 
ing that, they brooded over their discouragement until it be- 
came rebellion ; and so that which through prayer might 
have been turned into praise, was by moody and unbelieving 
misery nursed into a kind of mutiny. Now, in all this we 
see the peril which constantly attends spiritual despondency. 
There are many causes for such a state of soul. Some of 
them may be purely physical, some of them may be connect- 
ed with the condition of our temporal affairs, and some of 
them may be associated with disappointment — as when we 
see a blessing, which we seemed to be on the very eve of 
securing, snatched away from us, and we are sent down 
some dreary waste of difficulty, that appears only to be lead- 
ing us farther and farther into misery. 

But, natural as, in such circumstances, despondency may 
be, and much as we may be disposed to sympathize with 
him who is, for the time, its victim, we must not lose sight of 
the danger in which he stands ; for the longer he is in this 
condition, the more prone he is to begin to murmur against 
God. That which at first is only passive unbelief, develops 
ultimately into active disobedience, and he who is discour- 
aged is apt very soon to become rebellious. This is a truth 
which we too frequently lose sight of. We speak of despond- 
ency as a misfortune, but we rarely, if ever, regard it as per- 
ilous ; and, in urging the weeping one to rise above his trou- 
ble, we do not set before him with sufficient distinctness the 
danger of his condition. Immoderate grief over bereave- 

The Brazen Serpent. 381 

ment, undue depression over temporal misfortunes, extreme 
sensitiveness to the assaults which men may make upon us 
while we are seeking to follow Christ, morbid regret at the 
disappointment of our hopes of serving God in some pecul- 
iar way on which our hearts are set, and exaggerated ideas 
of the evil which will ensue from the refusal of some Edom- 
ite to do that which would have been of great benefit to us, 
that which would have cost him nothing, and which we had 
courteously requested at his hands — all these are at the next 
station on the line toward rebellion against God, and ought 
to be checked at once, before they lead to more serious con- 

A friend of mine, some years ago, received a letter from 
a missionary on the west coast of Africa, in which, as a cu- 
riosity, some serpent-eggs were contained. He laid them 
carefully aside, thinking to preserve them as they were ; but 
one day, when he went to show them to a visitor, he discov- 
ered, to his dismay, that the heat of the drawer had hatched 
them into serpents, and there was a heap of crawling things 
before his eyes. So despondency is a serpent's egg, which, 
if we are not careful, will hatch in our hearts into a serpent 
itself, and poison us with its venomous bite. It has the 
germ of serious and aggravated sin within it, and we must 
seek very speedily to overmaster it ; nor need we have much 
difficulty in rising above it, for we have only to remember 
and believe that God is on our side, and all discouragement 
will disappear. What though the Arabah be dreary, and 
the way be long, God is in the camp. He has fed us with 
his manna, he has guided us by the pillar of his providence, 
he has redeemed us by the sacrifice of his own Son, and he 
has pledged himself to bring us at last into his heavenly 

Why, then, should we be discouraged ? Let us take both 
sides of the account into consideration ; and when we are 

382 Moses the Law-giver. 

reckoning up the disagreeables, let us not rise until we have 
put over against these the unnumbered and invaluable bless- 
ings of our daily lot ; and then, though we have begun in 
despondency, we will end in triumph, and sing the old, fa- 
miliar strain, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and 
why art thou disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I 
shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance 
and my God." It is hard, when we have reached what we 
thought to be the end of a long lane, to be turned back, and 
sent away round ; and there are many among us in these 
days who have had just such an experience — some in busi- 
ness, and some in spiritual pilgrimage — yet forget not, I 
pray you, that, with God beside you, and so long as you 
have faith in him, nothing can be really against you. Hold 
on, therefore, in patience and in trustfulness — the day of 
your redemption draweth nigh; and oh! let not your de- 
spondency ripen into complaint, for that will only increase 
your guilt, and ultimately also aggravate your misery. 

But, in the second place, let me give emphasis to the typi- 
cal significance of the method which, in obedience to God's 
command, Moses adopted for the healing of the people. 

Here was, first of all, a disease. The Israelites were bit- 
ten by serpents, and the consequence was that the poison 
thereby injected into their systems speedily affected their 
whole bodies, and caused death. Now, alike in its origin 
and nature, the malady of sin is well illustrated by a ser- 
pent's bite. Have we not been taught to trace the entrance 
of evil into the world to the agency of Satan, who, because 
he veiled himself on that occasion under the form of a ser- 
pent, has come to be called among us "the old serpent?" 
And has not the moral poison of evil affected our entire nat- 
ures? Our souls, indeed, have all their original powers; 
but, alas ! these have all come under the deflecting and per- 
verting influence of sin. Our perceptions are biassed ; our 

The Brazen Serpent. 3S3 

judgments are one-sided ; our memories do not care to re- 
tain God in their grasp ; our consciences are blunted, and 
take little or no knowledge of the evil we commit — nay, they 
are like a compass that has been somehow tampered with, 
and gives an erroneous indication; they put light for dark- 
ness, and darkness for light — sweet for bitter, and bitter for 
sweet; our affections are set on things which have been 
described by one of the apostles in this descending climax, 
" earthly, sensual, devilish." 

Thus the derangement made in our spiritual natures by 
the presence of sin is like that produced in the body by a 
serpent's bite ; and, unless a cure be effected, the death of 
the soul must be the result. The death of the soul-^ah ! 
who can tell all that is implied in that } It is not the loss 
of being, but the loss of well-being, and that forever ; and if 
we were but as sensible of our malady as these Israelites 
were of the disease that was burning up their bodies, we 
would cry out in an agony of earnestness for deliverance. 

But let us not forget to look at the cure which was here 
effected. The instrument through which it was wrought was 
a serpent of brass, elevated on a pole or flag-staff, in a con- 
spicuous position in the camp. Of course there was nothing 
in that, in itself considered, to produce a cure. The healing 
power came from God. This was recognized even by the 
Jews themselves ; for the author of the apocryphal Book of 
Wisdom, commenting on this history, has said, " Thy wrath 
endured not forever ; but they were troubled for a small sea- 
son, that they might be admonished, having a sign of salva- 
tion to put them in remembrance of the commandment of 
thy law ; for he that turned himself toward it was not saved 
by the thing that he saw, but by thee, that art the Saviour 
of all." So, also, the author of the Targum of Jonathan 
must have similarly understood the promise to the bitten 
one; for he adds to the proclamation, "If he shall have di- 


384 Moses the Law-giver. 

rected his heart unto the name of the word of the Lord." 
Their case was so serious that there was no help for them 
but in God ; and it is just the same with the sinner — he is 
helpless and hopeless, if God will not deliver him. 

But this instrument of salvation was a brazen serpent; 
and probably Alford has given the true parallelism here 
when he says, in his comment on the Saviour's words to 
Nicodemus, " The brazen serpent, made in the likeness of 
the serpents which had bitten them, represented to them the 
poison which had gone through their frames; and it was 
hung up there on the banner-staff as a trophy, to show that 
for the poison there was healing, that the plague had been 
overcome. In it there was no poison — only the likeness of 
it. Now, was not our Lord Jesus made in the likeness of 
sinful flesh?* Was he not made sin for us, who knew no 
sin ? Did not he, on his cross, make an open show of it, 
and triumph over the enemy, so that it was as if the enemy 
himself had been nailed to it ?"t 

Thus the "lifting up" of the serpent on the pole is the 
prefiguration of that lifting up of Christ when he was cruci- 
fied for the sins of men. But we must not suppose that, be- 
cause there was no inherent efficacy in the serpent of brass 
to heal the bitten ones, therefore there is no intrinsic value 
or influence in Christ's death upon the cross. The one 
was shadow, but the other was substance ; and the power of 
the former, such as it was, was due only to its connection 
with the latter. There was an inherent efficacy in the death 
of Christ ; for has not Paul said, "What the law could not do, 
in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own 
Son in the likeness of sinful flesh (accomplished), and for sin 
condemned sin in the flesh ?"$ 

* Rom. viii., 3. 

t Alford's " Greek Testament," on John iii., 14, 15. 

t Rom. viii., 3. 

The Brazen Serpent. 385 

The bitten Israelites were healed by looking to the ser- 
pent of brass ; so the sinner is saved by believing in Jesus. 
Faith is the soul's eye, by which it " takes in " that on which 
it is turned. Hence the prophet says, in Jehovah's name, 
" Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth : 
for I am God, and there is none else ;"* and, from the side 
of human experience, the Psalmist sings, "They looked 
unto him, and were lightened : and their faces were not 

Two things are specially taught us by this emblem of 
faith. The first is, that the object of faith is not anything in 
ourselves. That on which one looks is external to him that 
looks on it ; and so, if we are ever to be saved from sin, we 
must not seek to build on anything within us, but turn in 
faith to the Saviour without us. So long as we look in, we 
can see nothing to give us hope or happiness ; but when we 
look to Jesus, we behold in him a deliverer, and see in his 
righteousness a foundation on which we may securely rest. 
Thus there is no merit in faith. It is not I who deserve 
credit for the delight which I have in looking upon an ex- 
quisite picture, but rather the artist whose work the picture 
is ; and, in like manner, it is not the sinner who deserves 
honor for his salvation, but rather the Christ through look- 
ing to whom he has obtained it. " It is of faith, that it 
might be by grace." The eye is that which " takes in " the 
realities of the external world, and faith is that which " takes 
in " the truth about Christ. It is the receptive faculty of the 
soul ; and when by it we receive and rest upon Christ for 
our salvation, our act corresponds in spirit to the look of the 
outward eye which was turned by the suffering Israelite on 
the uplifted serpent. 

Observe, I said, when we receive and rest on Christ ; and 

* Isa. xlv,, 22. t Psa. xxxiv., 5. 

386 Moses the Law-giver. 

this resting is the second thing taught us by this emblem of 
faith. " I will look to you, then, to arrange all that," said 
one friend to another, at the close of a business conference ; 
and that trustfulness which he expressed in the honor of his 
friend is of the same kind as the restful confidence which 
the believer has in his Lord. In precisely the same sense 
he " looks " to Jesus, not with expectancy only, but with firm 
assurance that he is all that he declares himself to be, and 
will do for him all that he has promised to accomplish; 
and with that look come peace, and joy, and love, and life. 

But who may look ? Moses was commanded to proclaim 
" That every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall 
live ;" and as the herald passed along, what a scene the 
camp would present ! There you might see the man all but 
dead, raising himself upon his arm, and straining his glazed 
eyes if haply he might behold the glittering symbol ; yonder 
another, wiping away his tears of anguish to look upon the 
glorious object ; and yonder still, a mother with her child, 
eagerly pointing to the flag-staff, if perchance she may fix 
her loved one's gaze upon the mystic healer. But no one 
would be tempted to ask, will it heal me ? for he would rea- 
son thus : it will cure any bitten one that looks, and therefore 
me. So Jesus Christ has been lifted up, that whosoever be- 
lieveth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life ; 
and there is no need for any one to ask, " Will he save me ?" 
The proclamation runs, " whosoever believeth ;" and there- 
fore it is for you if you will believe. Instead, therefore, of 
asking, " Will he save me ?" the question rather is, " Will you 
look or not ?" The " whosoever " includes you, beyond all 
the possibility of doubt ; but how is it with the " whosoever 
believeth ?" Does that describe you ? and if not, why not } 
Ah! my fellow -sinner, how near has salvation thus been 
brought to you? "There is life for a look at the crucified 
one;" there is everlasting life for "whosoever believeth." 

The Brazen Serpent. 387 

"And it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any 
man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived." No 
one looked in vain ; and in like manner, the Gospel of Christ 
is " the power of God unto salvation to every one that believ- 
eth." No one has ever co.r.e lO Jesus and gone away un- 
blessed ; and in the place of woe at last there shall not be 
found a single soul to say, " I looked to Christ, and he would 
not or could not save me." " He is able to save to the ut- 
termost them that come unto God by him ;" and so, if any 
one in this assembly goes away unsaved, I take him to record 
that it is not because there is no Saviour, or because the 
way of salvation has not been simply and plainly set before 
him ; but it is because he will not come unto Christ that he 
may have life. 



Numbers xxii.-xxv. ; xxxi., 8. 

AFTER their conquest of the Amorites, the Hebrews 
found a camping-ground in " the plains of Moab," a 
strip of land about four miles in width, on the eastern bank 
of the Jordan, and extending from the northern end of the 
Dead Sea to the river Jabbok. Originally, this territory be- 
longed to the Moabites, but it had been taken from them by 
the Amorites ; and thus it had come into the possession of 
the Israelites when they subdued Sihon, while it retained 
the name of its first owners. It was bounded on the east 
by the mountains of Abarim ; and immediately opposite to 
it, on the western bank of the Jordan, stood the city of Jeri- 
cho. The tribes were thus at length on the very threshold 
of that land to which they had so many years looked for- 
ward as "the Sabbath and port" of their wanderings; and 
it might have been expected that they would have hastened 
forward to enter upon its conquest. But their unexpected 
acquisition of the country of the Amorites required that they 
should take some measures for its protection ; and some im- 
portant religious services demanded their attention before 
they were permitted to advance into the fields of Canaan. 
During this delay they were exposed to a new danger, the 
singularity of which combines with the strangeness of the 
character and position of him who was especially prominent 
in connection with it, to invest it with a peculiar interest. 
We may, perhaps, reach the most satisfactory conclusions 

Balaam. 389 

regarding it by giving first a simple epitome of the narrative, 
and following that with a brief discussion of the questions 
which it suggests, and a practical analysis of the character 
which it portrays. 

The destruction of the Amorites by the children of Israel 
filled the hearts of the Moabites with dismay. Had they 
known, indeed, that Moses had been commanded* not to at- 
tack them, they need not have been so greatly alarmed ; but 
when they saw that their powerful neighbors had been dis- 
comfited, they were sore afraid. So Balak, their king, en- 
tered into an alliance with the elders, or sheiks, of the Mid- 
ianites, who were leading a nomad life in his neighborhood ; 
and their united forces occupied a strong position on the 
heights of Abarim. They were eager to destroy the new- 
comers ; but, with the fate of Sihon and his army before 
them, and having heard the report of the calamities that had 
fallen on the Egyptians for their oppression of the Hebrews, 
they felt that it would be useless to attack such enemies 
with ordinary weapons. Accordingly, after the manner of 
the heathen of that age, they resolved, if possible, to steal 
from them the protection of their God by putting them un- 
der his ban, or curse. With this object in view, Balak sent 
messengers to Pethor, in Mesopotamia, to invite Balaam, a 
famous soothsayer who resided there, to come to Moab and 
pronounce a malediction over the host of Israel. 

When the messengers arrived, with the rewards of divina- 
tion in their hands, Balaam detained them for a night, that 
he might consult his oracle ; and in the morning he made 
reply, "Get you into your land : for the Lord refuseth to give 
me leave to go with you." But when they returned with 
this answer, Balak felt that there was that in it which indi- 
cated that Balaam had a desire to come ; and, thinking that 

* Peut. ii., 9. 

390 Moses the Law-giver. 

he was only hanging back for a larger reward, the Moabitish 
king sent a more imposing embassage with more alluring 
proposals, saying, " Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee 
from coming unto me : for I will promote thee unto very 
great honor, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me." 
Balaam, however, still held out, and at first repeated, with 
even stronger emphasis than before, his refusal to go with 
the messengers ; but, having detained them, as on the for- 
mer occasion, for a night, the Lord appeared to him, and per- 
mitted him, in judgment rather than in approval, to accom- 
pany the men, with the caution that he was to say nothing 
which he had not received. On his way to Moab, a last 
and solemn appeal to his conscience was made by the ap- 
pearance of an angel, whose presence was miraculously re- 
vealed to him in connection with the speaking of the ass on 
which he rode. But, though he offered then and there to 
turn and go back to his home, the Lord saw that his obedi- 
ence was that of constraint, and not of voluntary and whole- 
hearted choice ; and so permitted him to go. 

When he reached Moab, he was received in great state by 
Balak, who took him to the high places of Baal, whence he 
could see the utmost part of the people ; and, after seven 
oxen and seven rams had been offered on seven altars, he 
received a message for his employer. But, lo! it was a 
message of blessing, and not of cursing ; a message, too, 
expressed in language of unwonted sublimity and force. 
Balak was amazed j and, thinking that the sight of the whole 
encampment had unduly impressed Balaam, he took him to 
a place whence only a small part of Israel could be seen. 
But there also, after the offering of sacrifice, a similar com- 
munication was given ; so that the King of Moab began to 
fear that he had lifted a stone by which his own head was to 
be broken. He had wished a curse, but now he would be 
content if only Balaam would say nothing ; so he made 

Balaam. 391 

this request to him, " Neither curse them at all, nor bless 
them at all ;" and he took him to still another place. But 
there also a blessing came out more emphatic and sublime 
than ever ; and then the king's anger could not be restrain- 
ed, for " he smote his hands together : and Balak said unto 
Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold> 
thou hast altogether blessed them these three times. There- 
fore now flee thou to thy place : I thought to promote thee 
unto great honor ; but, lo, the Lord hath kept thee back from 
honor." But Balaam would not be corrupted ; and ere he 
left the monarch's presence, he was prompted by the Divine 
Spirit to advertise him what Israel should do unto Moab in 
the latter days. With this message he quitted the court of 
Balak ; and if we had heard no more of him, we might have 
gone away with the impression that Balaam was a man of 
unbending rectitude and conscientiousness. 

But there is a darker record behind, which we are left in 
a large degree to fill in for ourselves from suggestive hints 
here and there let fall by the sacred writers. When Balak 
gave up negotiations with Balaam, it would seem that the 
sheiks of Midian, heretofore in the background, went into 
consultation with him. And at his suggestion the women 
of Midian were used as temptresses to seduce the children 
of Israel to commit abominable iniquity.* "They called 
the people unto the sacrifices of their gods : and the people 
did eat, and bowed down to their gods,"t serving them with 
those impure and adulterous rites which were so often con- 
nected with Baal worship among the Eastern nations, and 
the service of Venus among the idolaters of the West. The 
results of this were, first, a terrible infliction of judicial pun- 
ishment at the hands of Moses, who said, " Take all the 
heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord 

* Num. xxxi., 16 ; Rev. 11.^ 14. t Num. xxv., 2. 



Moses the Law-giver. 

against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may be 
turned away from Israel;"* and, second, a fearful plague 
which swept away twenty-four thousand of the people, and 
which was stayed only by the red-handed interposition of 
Phinehas the high-priest, who slew two of the transgressors 
in the very act of their iniquity.f Then, to chastise the Mid- 
ianites for their agency in this vile apostasy, an army com- 
posed of twelve thousand men, one thousand from each tribe, 
was sent against them, "and they warred against the Mid- 
ianites, as the Lord commanded Moses ; and they slew all 
the males. And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the 
rest of them that were slain ; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and 
Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian : Balaam also 
the son of Beor they slew with the sword."1: Thus, by 
the method of indirectness, Balaam sought to accomplish 
that, from the direct denunciation of which in the name of 
the Lord, he had so resolutely held himself. And he who 
had pronounced the grandest blessings on the nation of Is- 
rael was slain as one of its most insidious enemies. 

Such is a brief and comprehensive summary of this mar- 
vellous episode in the history of Israel. Many questions 
arise out of it which are much more easily asked than an- 
swered, and most of them connect themselves with the posi- 
tion and character of Balaam. AVas he a genuine prophet? 
or a mere heathen soothsayer? Some have without quali- 
fication adopted the former alternative ; and others, with 
equal confidence, have accepted the latter. But it is not 
possible for me to rest in either of these opinions. On the 
one hand, it is evident that he possessed some knowledge of 
the true God. Dwelling as he did in that country whence 
Abram emigrated, and where Nahor, and that branch of 
Terah's family remained, he may have gathered some tradi- 

* Num. XXV., 4. t Ibid, xxv., 6-9. J Ibid, xxxi., 7, 8. 

Balaam. 393 

tional ideas of Jehovah from those among whom he lived ; 
while the marvels of the Exodus, reports of which had 
spread abroad among the nations, may have led him to 
clearer views of the unity and supremacy of God than had 
been attained by the multitude. He saw that there is a 
clear distinction between the life and death of the righteous 
and those of the wicked f he would not allow it to be sup- 
posed that Jehovah is changeful and capricious as a man, to 
be influenced by momentary considerations of favor or of 
anger ;t he sought his direction before he entered upon the 
enterprise to which Balak summoned him ;t and his prophe- 
cies, as any one who reads them will be immediately con- 
vinced of, were the utterances of a genuine divine inspira- 
tion.§ Their poetry is not more remarkable than their pre- 
science ; for, while indicating that Israel would be taken 
captive by Assyria, they intimate also that another power 
should arise, which, coming in ships from the West, would 
subjugate Assyria : moreover, in words of rapt sublimity, 
preceded by a personal lament which trembles with the pa- 
thos of despair, he gives a forecast of Messiah's advent, the 
lingering echoes of which, hundreds of years after his day, 
led the Magi to the cradle of the Christ — " I shall see him, 
but not now : I shall behold him, but not nigh : there shall 
come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of 
Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all 
the children of Sheth." Without controversy, therefore, he 
was a prophet. 

But then, on the other hand, he retained, either as matters 
of sincere conviction or for the purpose of making gain, 
many of the heathen practices connected with divination. 
He was so much in advance of his generation as to see and 

* Num. xxiii,, 10. t Ibid, xxiii., 19. t Ibid, xxii., 8. 

§ Ibid, xxii., 7-10, 18-24 ; xxiii., 3-9, 15-24. 

394 Moses the Law-giver. 

know more than the average of his neighbors comprehended, 
and he was mercenary enough to make a merchandise of 
that knowledge, under color of practising augury or magic. 
Thus, in the Old Testament History he occupies a position 
similar to that of Simon Magus in the New. He recognized 
the glory of Jehovah very much as Simon acknowledged the 
wonder-working power of Jesus through his apostles ; but, 
alas, like him too, he Was attracted to the truth more by the 
profit which he thought he might derive from it, than by the 
spiritual effects which it was calculated to produce upon his 
own heart. Thus he was both a divinely inspired prophet 
and a heathen soothsayer.* " He stood," as Kurtz, follow- 
ing Hengstenberg, has admirably put it, "with one foot upon 
the soil of heathen magic and soothsaying, and with the 
other upon the soil of Jehovistic religion and prophecy."! 
In him heathenism and revelation touched each other; the 
truth and the error met and grappled, and the summons of 
Balak was the crisis of his career, wherein, by his own choice, 
it was to be determined whether he would come forth entire- 
ly into the light, or go back again into the darkness* 

It is this fact which makes his history so fraught with in- 
struction to every reader. There came to him — as, sooner 
or later, there comes to every one who is confronted with 
God's truth — a fork in his pathway, at which he was required 
to make a definite and decided preference of one or other of 
two courses ; and then it was discovered that, by the habit 
of his life in turning his knowledge into gold, he had al- 
ready committed himself to the wrong side, so that he went 
forward to his destruction. He tried as long as he could 
to retain his hold both on Balak and on Jehovah ; but he 
ended by breaking with Jehovah, and so his name stands 

* Compare 2 Pet. ii., i6, with Josh, xiii., 22. 
t Kurtz's " Oki Covenant," vol. iii., p. 343. 

Balaam. 395 

upon the page of sacred history as a beacon-light to every 
after-generation ; and his course is, perhaps, the most strik- 
ing illustration afforded by the annals of humanity of the 
truth of the Saviour's words, " No man can serve two mas- 
ters : for either he will hate the one, and love the other ; or 
else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye can- 
not serve God and mammon."* 

Now, if we have been correct in thus describing the posi- 
tion of Balaam, little or no difficulty will be felt concerning 
the miracle of the ass speaking, which has provoked so much 
ridicule among the adversaries of the Scriptures, and which, 
I fear, is about the only incident in all this singular history 
with which they are acquainted. We cannot accept the the- 
ory of those who maintain that the whole scene in which the 
ass played so unwonted a part was a vision ; forj if that view 
be adopted, it will be impossible to retain our faith in any 
objective miracle whatever. We are shut up, therefore, to 
the acceptance, in its literal sense, of the narrative of which 
this singular episode forms a part ; and, in the peculiar posi- 
tiotl occupied by Balaam, which we have just described, we 
find sufficient occasion for the miracle. 

It was one of those meeting -places of truth with error 
which — as in Egypt, in Babylon, in Antioch, in Ephesus, in 
Corinth — were always signalized by supernatural works; 
and, just as in Egypt Pharaoh was met and conquered by 
God on his own ground, so here the soothsayer was outdone 
even in his own domain. Often before Balaam may have 
startled those who came to him for counsel by making a liv- 
ing human voice come apparently from a dead image, or 
from an irrational animal ; and now God comes to him 
through the utterances of his own ass. " Indeed," to quote 
the words of a modern commentator, " to an augur priding 

* Matt«vi.,24. 

396 Moses the Law-giver. 

himself on his skill in interpreting the cries and movements 
of animals, no more startling warning could be given than 
one so real as this, yet conveyed through the medium of his 
own art ; and, to a seer pretending to superhuman wisdom, 
no more humiliating rebuke can be imagined than to teach 
him by the mouth of his own ass."* Besides, as he was 
setting out to go to Balak, with a desire to say, if he could 
or dared, that which was not in accordance with the will 
of God, it was important to remind him, by the miracle to 
which we are referring, that the power of thought and speech 
were entirely under the divine control. And, on the whole, 
the devout reader of this history will be led to acknowl- 
edge, with Bishop Newton and Van Oosterzee, that " the 
greatest wonder in this case is, not that an animal should 
have spoken, but rather that a man who but runs away, like 
an irrational animal, to utter words of cursing, is led to bless 
like an angel of peace, "f 

Passing now to the analysis, for practical purposes, of the 
character of Balaam, we must be on our guard against imag- 
ining that he was so peculiarly bad that his guilt is impossi- 
ble except in connection with the singular circumstances in 
which he was placed. It has fared with him, as with Judas 
and one or two others who are so unqualifiedly condemned 
in the Scriptures, that ordinary readers are disposed to put 
them in a category by themselves, and to thank God that 
they are not in the same class. But though, with Bishop 
Newton, we may call him "a strange mixture of a man," yet 
the strangeness does not consist so much in the uncommon- 
ness of the combination of opposites which we find in him 

* " Speaker's Commentary," in loc. While quoting and appropriating 
these words, however, I cannot adopt entirely the view given by the 
writer in the rest of the note. 

t '* Dissertations on the Prophecies," by Thomas Newton, D.D., p. 62 ; 
" Moses : a Biblical Study," by J. Van Oosterzee, p. 247. 

Balaam. 397 

as in the degree to which, by the intensity of the influences 
that were at work upon him, that combination was devel- 
oped. His case, in its elements, is simply one of practi- 
cal inconsistency ; and its value as a warning arises from the 
fact that, owing to the force of the agencies in operation, we 
are shown, in a short time and in a terrible manner, what is 
in every case the inevitable issue of such a course. 

It is said that sometimes, under the pressure of severe 
anguish, a man's hair may turn from raven blackness to 
snowy whiteness in a single night, but that was only when 
there had been already in him constitutional tendencies in 
that direction ; and so I think that there have been in- 
stances in which, under great testing influences, a character 
which, up till that time, had a fair appearance, has all at 
once developed its real self, and has stood forth in hideous 
distinctness, an object of common execration ; but the evil 
had been already latent in it. In saying this, however, I am 
not vindicating the Balaams, for every man is responsible 
for the character which he chooses to form. Still less am I 
throwing the blame upon their circumstances, for these were 
really opportunities such as, if they had been rightly im- 
proved, would have made their subjects not the warnings, 
but the exemplars of humanity. I am only giving emphasis 
to the fundamental principle that morality is a thing of qual- 
ity rather than of magnitude, in order that we may all real- 
ize that there may be in ourselves the elements of Balaam's 
character, though we may not have had the opportunity of 
manifesting them to the same degree. 

Let me point out to you two great inconsistencies by 
which this man was distinguished, and then let me endeavor 
to account for their existence. 

Observe, then, in the first place, that he knew what was 
right, and yet did what was wrong. His was not a sin of 
ignorance. His intellectual, nay, more, his moral convic- 

398 Moses the Law-giver. 

tions were correct. He knew what he should do, and there 
was in him also a feeling of obligation to do it. Many emi- 
nent commentators believe that the words recorded by Mi- 
cah, " He hath showed thee, Q man, what is good ; and 
what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to 
love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God ?"* were part 
of Balaam's answer to Balak referred to by that prophet; 
and if that view be correct, then we have from his lips a defi- 
nition of human duty which is at once clear, comprehensive, 
and accurate. Yet over against that we have conduct which 
was neither just, merciful, nor godly, in leading Israel to sin. 

Again, it was he who declared that " God is not a man, 
that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should re- 
pent ;" while, by his repeated yieldings to Balak's entreaties, 
he acted just as if he supposed it to be possible to change 
the purpose of God in reference to Israel. 

Once more, it was he who said, with a clear perception of 
the blessedness of the death of the righteous, and its con- 
nection with a righteous life, " Let me die the death of the 
righteous, and let my last end be like his;" yet "he loved 
the wages of iniquity," and died in the ranks of Jehovah's 
enemies. Thus, knowing and feeling are different from be- 
ing and doing. But it is not alone in Balaam that this dif- 
ference is apparent. In him, indeed, the sentence may be 
seen printed, so to say, in the largest type ; but it is visi- 
ble, in smaller characters, in many others. A well-known 
Roman poet represents one of his characters as saying, "I 
see and approve of the better course ; I follow the worse." 
Paul has spoken of some who, "knowing the judgment of 
God, that they who do these things are worthy of death, not 
only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them ;" 
and Jesus himself tells of the servant who " knew his Lord's 




will, and did it not" Nor need we look very far for the 
modern counterpart of these descriptions. Does not this 
phase of Balaam's character, indeed, come very near our- 
selves? Does it not hold up to us the mirror in which we 
may behold our own image } Is there no one here who is 
intellectually convinced of the existence of a future life, and 
yet lives precisely as if there was no such thing as retribu- 
tion ? no one who has been warned by his own conscience 
as really and powerfully as Balaam was by the angel, and 
yet, alas, as vainly? no one who clearly understands what 
the issues of his conduct must be, and yet persists in it unto 
the bitter end ? no one who acknowledges in his conscience 
the right of the Lord Jesus to his allegiance, and yet in his 
life repudiates the authority which intellectually he dares not 
deny ? My hearer?^, let us not deceive ourselves where it is 
of supreme importance that we should be right. He who 
knows what his duty is, and yet deliberately sets himself 
either to evade it or compromise with it, or to go against 
it, has within him the essential elements of that character 
which in Balaam was so fully and so fatally developed. 

But I find in this man another inconsistency ; for his con- 
science was remarkably sensitive in one respect, and yet un- 
scrupulous in another. He could not bring himself to utter 
as God's word that which was not really given him by God. 
He said, " If Balak would give me his house full of silver 
and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, 
to do less or more." That was noble. That had the true 
ring in it. That sounds almost like Peter's "half-battle" 
words, "we ought to obey God rather than man.'* And it 
will not do to say that he was supernaturally restrained, for 
there is nothing of that in the narrative. It was a matter of 
personal purpose with him. He shrunk from the daring im- 
piety of prophesying lies in the name of the Lord. Yet, 
though he would not allow himself to do that, he had no 

400 Moses the Law-giver. 

scruple about giving abominable advice to the Midianites, 
by the following of which they seduced the Israelites to the 
vilest sin, and drew down upon them a terrible infliction. 
He was afraid to sin in one way; yet he did not fear to 
suggest a sinful course of another sort to others. Nor, alas ! 
is this apparent anomaly uncommon. The Pharisees would 
not defile themselves by going into Pilate's house, but they 
could see no evil in their determination to put Jesus to 
death. What a strange faculty is conscience ! and how it 
may be educated to strain out a gnat, while it swallows a 
camel without compunction ! It may keep a man from go- 
ing in the teeth of God's prohibition, and yet it may be for 
the time perfectly peaceful, while the same end is attained 
in a roundabout way. Afraid of the penalty of human law, 
one may keep a statute in the letter, while breaking it in the 
spirit. He may say to some less scrupulous instrument, "It 
will not do for me to appear in the matter, but if you man- 
age it, I will see that you are taken care of" 

You remember how, in one of the great dramatist's won- 
derful productions. King John would not let himself murder 
the young prince, but hired others to do it for him, and 
soothed his conscience with this soporific, " How oft the 
sight of means to do ill deeds makes ill deeds done ;" for- 
getting that such a thing is true only when one desires that 
the ill deeds should be done. And in common life, though 
the deed may not be exactly murder, there are multitudes 
who, while they are restrained from doing it themselves, 
have no objection to incite others to its commission. They 
would not defy the Almighty to his face, but they will try to 
outwit him, while they appear to be regarding his prohibi- 
tion. They will try to outwit God ; ah, what irony has unwit- 
tingly escaped me ! as if he did not know the secrets of their 
hearts, and their hidden plottings with their rougher instru- 
ments. As if, too, he would not hold the instigator and the 

Balaam. 401 

actor as both guilty, and the instigator as the guiltier of the 
two. Still such is their plan ; and in every heart in which 
such a plan is formed in reference to any matter, however 
small it may be, whether in family jealousy, or business rival- 
ry, or political animosity, there is in embryo the character 
of Balaam, which will ere long ripen to its doom. 

But how are we to account for this moral perversion? 
How came it that Balaam acted so inconsistently with his 
knowledge and convictions, and succeeded for the time, as 
we may say, in juggling with his conscience ? The answer 
is not hard to find. He loved money. His heart was set 
on gold. He had allowed the passion of covetousness to 
become the ruling principle of his nature. During his for- 
mer life he had made a gain of his knowledge, and had nour- 
ished his avarice to such a degree that now, when the daz- 
zling offers of Balak were placed before him, he was carried 
away with its overmastering power to do that which in his 
inmost heart he knew to be wrong. There was a time when 
his convictions might have controlled it, but now it was pre- 
dominant, and so it bore him on through that course which 
the apostle has called "the madness of the prophet." 

I have somewhere read of one who, having found a young 
leopard, petted it, and trained it to be his daily companion 
in his chamber. It grew up to maturity, but still it was 
kept beside him, and men wondered at his foolhardiness 
in permitting it to go unchained. But he would not be 
advised. One day, however, as it licked his hand with its 
rough tongue, it ruffled the skin, and tasted his blood ; and 
then all the savage nature of the brute came out, and there 
was a fearful struggle between them, from which he escaped 
only by destroying it. So it was, in some respects, in this 
case. Balaam had nurtured his covetousness into strength ; 
and now, at the offer of Balak's rewards, its full force came 
out ; but, instead of fighting with it and slaying it, he yielded 

402 Moses the Law-giver. 

to it, and was destroyed. Had he always steadily resisted 
the craving for money for its own sake, then the overtures 
of the King of Moab would have been no temptation to him 
at all ; but after he had allowed that evil passion to become 
dominant, you can easily understand how, for it, he went 
against his moral convictions, and silenced his conscientious 
scruples on one point, by an apparent deference to them in 
another. Thus his fear of God kept him from showing his 
enmity to Israel in a plain and direct way, while his love 
of reward determined him to seek Israel's undoing by round- 
about means. His covetousness led him to receive Balak's 
messengers, and lodge them, under color of deliberating 
about a duty which he saw only too clearly, and which he 
only deliberated how he might evade ; it impelled him to 
go with the ambassadors, even against the warning of God ; 
and it led him finally, when all other hope of getting the 
wages of unrighteousness had been abandoned, to suggest 
that the women of Midian might do more to ruin Israel by 
their allurements than he could accomplish by his divina- 
tions, or than the warriors of Moab could effect with their 
swords. Thus his passion held and kept the helm of his 
soul. It might tack now in one direction, and now in anoth- 
er, to satisfy some scruple, but still it beat ever up toward 
the attainment of the object by the gaining of which he 
would secure Balak's gifts. 

What a terrible passion is this of covetousness ! and how 
dangerous it is, especially to those who wish to preserve a 
fair appearance ! For in men's estimation it is, at least in 
its beginnings, a respectable thing. One cannot become a 
drunkard or an adulterer without losing his position in so- 
ciety ; but this covetousness, gratified but a little, will help 
him into the best circles ; and thus it happens that few pas- 
sions have wrought so much havoc among the members of 
the Church, and even among the ministers of religion, aS 

Balaam. 403 

this. Nor is its respectability its only danger, for in the 
minds of many it is associated only with large sums of 
money ; whereas in reality it may be as strong in the heart 
of him whose dealings are carried on in cents as in that 
of one whose transactions are concerned with hundreds of 
thousands of dollars. The poor man thinks that this, at 
least, is an evil which he is in no danger of falling before ; 
and so, all unconsciously to himself, by his avaricious dis- 
position in small matters, he may be fostering that very prin- 
ciple which, when the testing hour arrives, shall work his 
ruin. No one of us, therefore, whether rich or poor, wheth- 
er minister or layman, has a right to say that there is no 
fear of him in this matter ; for if the love of money takes 
possession of the heart, it will blind the eyes, and harden the 
conscience, and become a root of evil, so that, as Paul has 
expressed it, " we shall fall into temptation and a snare, and 
into many foolish and hurtful lusts that war against the soul." 

But what is true of covetousness is true also of every evil 
principle, so that we may generalize the lesson here, and 
say that if the heart be fixed on any object as its god, other 
than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we may 
expect in the end, whatever may be our knowledge, and 
whatever our scruples in other respects, that we shall act 
against our convictions, and make shipwreck not only of the 
faith, but also of ourselves, " without possibility of salvage." 

Take here, for example, the love of display. See how, in 
those who can afford it, there are plannings and schemings 
of the most contemptible sort, with the constant ambition to 
outshine all rivals. See, too, how, in those who cannot afford 
it, all manner of expedients will be resorted to, and honesty 
itself ignored in the determination at all hazards to keep up 
appearances, and put a neighbor into the shade. On other 
points the conscience may be scrupulously correct; and in 
respect to other people the judgment may be sound. You 

404 Moses the Law-giver. 

could not get them to profane the Sabbath, perhaps ; and no 
stronger condemnation of other forms of sin can be heard 
than that which comes from their lips ; but in respect to this 
matter, and in reference to themselves, all is perverted. They 
will do anything rather than step down to a lower level, and 
bring their positions into harmony with their means. They 
think they cannot dig. They are ashamed to beg, and there- 
fore, like the steward in the parable, they steal. Oh, the mis- 
eries, the envyings, the triflings with conscience, and the ef- 
facings of moral distinctions, the private pilferings and pub- 
lic dishonesties that have been caused by this one thing ! 
Yet men will tell us that Balaam is an uncommon and in- 
comprehensible character ! 

And, to take only another instance, behold how morally 
degraded the appetite of the drunkard makes him ! He is 
scrupulous in some respects. There is a restraint upon him 
such that he will not think of cursing those whom God hath 
blessed. Yet for that selfish gratification of his, which is it- 
self a dethronement of reason, the claims of conjugal affec- 
tion, domestic happiness, and religious profession will all be 
set aside ; and though he knows better than another can tell 
him that death, both temporal and eternal, is in the cup, he 
will drain it to the dregs. 

You see, thus, what a fearful thing it is to allow any one 
evil principle to become predominant in us ; and if we would 
keep ourselves from Balaam's inconsistency and doom, we 
must never permit anything to come between our hearts and 
God. When we divide our allegiance between God and an- 
other, we are already guilty of high-treason against Jehovah, 
and our destruction is at hand. The only passion which it 
is safe to have as the " ruling passion " of our hearts is the 
love of Christ ; for if we enthrone him in our affections, he 
will keep us holy; our impulses will be thoroughly in har- 
mony with our convictions ; and we shall be gratifying our 



desires most fully, just when we are living most after his ex- 
ample and for his glory. Mark, I said the love of Christ ; 
not the fear of him. Balaam was afraid of Jehovah, and that 
terror kept him from attempting to curse Israel in his name ; 
but it was not strong enough to keep him from seeking their 
ruin through other forms of sin. Had he loved God instead 
of Gold, it would have been a different case, and all the al- 
lurements that could have been set before him would have 
been impotent to draw him into evil. It was because he 
feared God, and did not love him, that he manifested that 
vacillation between God and Mammon by which he was 
characterized. Fear may keep the man from some forms 
of evil, and may lead him, when he seeks others, to take a 
roundabout road to them ; but it will not prompt to whole- 
hearted and entire allegiance. The servant who feared his 
Lord did not consume his talent in riotous living— so much 
of restraint as that the dread of his Master had put upon 
him — but it did not keep him from burying it in the earth, 
and it did not impel him to " occupy " it to the full. 

Wherever, therefore, a soul is simply afraid of Christ, there 
will be a similar result. There will be a similar refraining 
from doing some things out of regard to God's law, while at 
the same time the heart will seek in other and circuitous 
methods to obtain its own sinful desires ; and the end wiJl 
be a similar catastrophe. " Cast ye the unprofitable servant 
into outer darkness : there shall be weeping and gnashing 
of teeth." But let the love of Jesus become the master- 
principle of our hearts, and there will be no halting or irreso- 
lution ; no parleying with temptation ; no seeking to explain 
away our duty under color of deliberating to discover what 
it is ; no looking one way and walking another ; but with 
undivided souls, and with enthusiastic devotion, we shall do 
only and always the will of Him who loved us, and gave 
himself for us. 

4o6 Moses the Law-giver. 

Thus, through the mazy labyrinth of this strange charac- 
ter, I lead you up once more to the cross of Christ ; and if 
you would save yourselves from Balaam's infamy and Ba- 
laam's doom, let me beseech you to receive Jesus into your 
hearts, and to make his love the ruling passion of your lives. 
Then, instead of seeking to combine two incompatible ser- 
vices, your soul will be concentrated on one thing, and your 
history will illustrate the words of Paul — " For the love of 
Christ constraineth us ; because we thus judge, that if one 
died for all, then were all dead : and that he died for all, that 
they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, 
but unto him which died for them, and rose again." 

But, long as I have dwelt on this history, I dare not con- 
clude without making one remark suggested by the Israelit- 
ish side of the case. No curse can come upon us save 
through our own sin. All Balak's efforts could not harm 
the Hebrews ; but when they fell into idolatry and impurity,' 
God's punishment came down upon their heads. So let us 
keep ourselves calm under the enmities of earth. No mat- 
ter how our adversaries may plot, or how ingeniously they 
may plan our ruin, they cannot hurt us while we are true 
to God, Sin is the only curse, and that is a voluntary thing, 
depending on ourselves. You remember how, appealing to 
the last lingering embers of patriotism in modern Greece, 
the English poet says : 

" 'Twere long to tell, and sad to trace. 
Each step from splendor to disgrace ; 
Enough, no foreign foe could quell 
Thy soul, till from itself it fell. 
Yes ! self-abasement paved the way 
To villain bonds and despot sway." 

But that is just as true, in spiritual matters, of the individ- 
ual, and just as applicable to him. No man is really cursed, 
until he curses himself by yielding to sin ; and our enemies 

Balaam. 407 

are powerless to harm us, until we ourselves become their 
allies in the commission of iniquity. 

How full of comfort, and yet how full of warning is the 
thought! The Christian's graces are his armor also; and 
it is only when he falls from grace and consents to sin, that 
he becomes disarmed and is an easy prey to his enemies. 
They that seek our undoing have no better allies than our 
sins, and our surest defence is in our loyalty to God. Keep 
thyself pure, therefore, and thou mayst laugh to scorn the 
Balaks that are seeking to curse thee from the hills of 
Moab ; but if thou permittest thyself to sin, thine own act 
has doomed thee to a punishment heavier by far than any 
earthly adversary could have brought upon thee. 




Deuteronomy i.-xxx. 

THE territory taken from the Amorites on the eastern 
side of the Jordan was peculiarly a grazing district. 
It was natural, therefore, that the men of Reuben and Gad, 
whose wealth consisted mainly in cattle, should desire it for 
their permanent abode ; but when they applied for it to 
Moses, Eleazar, and the princes of the congregation, they 
were met with scathing reproof Moses at first believed 
that their object was purely a selfish one. He supposed 
that they meant to settle down there and then, and go no 
farther j leaving their brethren, who had assisted in the con- 
quest of Gilead for them, to go forward and fight their bat- 
tles with the Canaanites as best they might by themselves. 
Such a course, he felt sure, would issue in the discourage- 
ment of the other tribes, and in the indefinite postponement 
of their settlement in the Land of Promise. This led him 
to speak to them in the sternest tone, " Shall your brethren 
go to war, and shall ye sit here ?" and to warn them against 
incurring the fate of those who had been cut off in the wil- 
derness, " Behold, ye are risen up in your fathers' stead, an 
increase of sinful men to augment yet the fierce anger of the 
Lord toward Israel." 

It does not clearly appear whether or not the Reubenites 
and the Gadites had any such intentions as Moses imputed 
to them, though it is probable that the sagacious leader saw 
something in them which furnished good ground for his sus- 

Deuteronomy. 409 

picions ; but if they had been forming any such design, this 
indignant remonstrance was all that was needed to lead to 
its abandonment ; for when they heard it, they proposed to 
leave their cattle in sheepfolds, and their families in cities 
under the care of the aged, while the men of war among 
them would go over ready armed with their brethren, taking 
the hazards of the campaign along with them, and only re- 
turning to their households when " the children of Israel 
had inherited every man his inheritance." This put the 
matter on a proper footing ; and, therefore, after solemnly 
reminding them that if they refused to keep their compact 
they would be guilty of sin against the Lord, and their sin 
would surely find them out, Moses consented to their re- 
quest, and gave to them " the kingdom of Sihon, king of the 
Amorites, and the kingdom of Og, king of Bashan, the laud, 
with the cities thereof in the coasts, even the cities of the 
country round about." With these two tribes he joined a 
portion of the tribe of Manasseh, because the children of 
Machir and the children of Jair belonging to that tribe had 
largely contributed by their personal prowess to the con- 
quest of a great part of Gilead. This was done by Moses, 
both as a matter of simple justice to these brave men, and 
as an incitement of the other nine tribes to show similar 
valor when they should cross the Jordan for the assault of 
the Canaanites.* 

And now the time of Moses's departure was drawing nigh. 
Twice already during this fortieth year after the Exodus the 
shadow of bereavement had fallen darkly upon him. In the 
first month, before the tribes left Kadesh, his sister Miriam 
had passed away ; and in the fifth month his brother Aaron 
had died on the top of Mount Hor. The former of these 
events, coming, as it did, in what we may call the course of 

* Num. xxxii., 1-42. 

4IO Moses the Law-giver. 

nature, might affect him simply with a sense of personal 
loss. But the latter had been judicially connected with that 
sin at Meribah, in which he, and not Aaron, had been the 
principal agent, and its occurrence would sound to him as 
the warning of his own approaching dissolution. His exclu- 
sion from the earthly Canaan was a bitter disappointment 
to him ; and, as it would seem, he had repeatedly begged of 
God that he might be allowed to go over " and see the good 
land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Leb- 
anon." But when the answer came, "Let it suffice thee; 
speak no more unto me of this matter," he bent his will to 
that of God ;* and, therefore, when, shortly before the war 
with the Midianites, referred to in my last discourse, the 
Lord told him that he should be gathered unto his people 
on Mount Abarim, as Aaron had been on Mount Hor, he 
was not taken by surprise. No murmur escaped his lips ; 
no expression of sorrow for himself was indulged in by him. 
His whole concern was for the people whom he had so long 
and so faithfully led, and he entreated that the Lord, the God 
of the spirits of all flesh, might set a man over the congrega- 
tion, to go out and in before them, that they might not be 
as sheep without a shepherd. This request was met by the 
command to take Joshua, whom we have met already on 
three several occasions as his minister, and to set him apart 
as his successor before the high-priest and before the peo- 
ple.t And so, having been freed from all anxiety on the 
score of the leadership of the tribes, he made haste to put 
everything else in order, in anticipation of his death. How 
diligently he labored with that end in view will appear from 
the fact that the entire Book of Deuteronomy belongs to the 
closing days of the great law-giver's life. 

According to the third verse of that book, he began the 

* Deut. iii., 23-26. t Num. xxvii., 15-23. 

Deuteronomy. 411 

discourses which it contains on the first day of the eleventh 
month of the fortieth year of the wanderings. But from a 
reference in the Book of Joshua* we find that the Israelites 
under Joshua kept the passover in Gilgal on the fourteenth 
day of the first month of the following year. Four days be- 
fore that, or on the tenth day of the first month, they had 
crossed the Jordan.f Previous to their crossing, they had 
spent three days in making preparations, and in waiting for 
the return of the spies from Jericho. $ This brings us to the 
seventh day of the first month. But before this they had 
mourned thirty days for the death of Moses. Thus the 
death of Moses must be put not later than the seventh day 
of the twelfth month: and therefore the entire series of ad- 
dresses which form the Book of Deuteronomy must have 
been delivered in the short interval between the first day 
of the eleventh month and the seventh day of the twelfth 
month,§ or in the brief space of thirty-seven days. A fact 
like that is in itself an evidence of the depth and fervor of 
Moses's interest in the people of his charge, and at the same 
time an incidental corroboration of the statement that his 
bodily vigor and mental energy were not in the least impair- 
ed by his advanced age. Here is a book equal in size to 
the entire collection of the predictions of some of the larger 
prophets, dealing, too, with minute and intricate details, and 
delivered orally to the representatives of the people, by a man 

* Josh, v., 10. t Ibid, iv., 19. J Ibid, i., 11 ; ii., 22. 

§ Mr. Espin, in his admirable introduction to Deuteronomy in the 
" Speaker's Commentary," vol. i., p. 791, has fallen into a singular mistake 
of a month in his reckoning from the above passages, nfiaking thirty days 
from the tenth of the first month lead back to the tenth of the eleventh 
month, instead of the twelfth. He has forgotten, also, to allow for the 
three days at Shittim before the crossing of Jordan ; and so he restricts 
Deuteronomy to the first ten days of the eleventh month, instead of to 
the thirty'Seven days following the first of the eleventh month. 

412 Moses the Law-giver. 

one hundred and twenty years old, within little more than a 
month. Surely we may venture to say that such a work, 
having in it no symptoms of senility or weakness, is, inspira- 
tion altogether apart, sufficient to stamp its author as one of 
the greatest men whom the world has produced. 

You will not expect that, in a series of discourses like 
that which is now drawing to a close, I should enter upon 
a microscopic analysis of the work which I have thus inci- 
dentally characterized. Nevertheless, as in the course of 
modern controversy, the battle between rationalism and 
faith for the Old Testament has largely narrowed into a 
discussion over the Book of Deuteronomy — even as for the 
New Testament, the key of the position has come to be the 
Gospel by John — it would betray a sense of weakness or a 
cowardice, which I am far from feeling, if I did not spend 
a little time in putting before you the present state of the 
question, and estimating the weight of the arguments which 
have been advanced against the commonly received opin- 
ions regarding it. 

Before doing so, however, it may be well to give a sum- 
mary of the contents of the book itself. It consists of three 
discourses, to which are added three appendices, in the 
shape of the Song of Moses, the blessings pronounced by 
him on the tribes, and the narrative of the time, place, and 
manner of his death. The first address, extending to the 
fortieth verse of the fourth chapter, is mainly introductory, 
and consists of a recapitulation, for the purposes of warning 
and instruction, of the more important incidents in the his- 
tory of the people, from the time of the breaking up of the 
encampment at Horeb until their arrival in the plains of 

The second, and longest address, begins with the fifth 
chapter, and continues to the end of the twenty-sixth. It 
contains a practical exposition, with certain modifications 

Deuteronomy. 413 

and additions, of the law which had been given from Mount 
Sinai. But it is not a mere recapitulation ; for throughout 
the tone is that, not of the statute-book, but of the teacher, 
who is at the same time the father of his people ; and in 
every appeal there is the heart-throb of tenderest affection. 
His solicitude for the welfare of Israel is equalled only by 
his jealousy for the honor of Jehovah. He stands once 
more as the mediator between the Lord and them ; and 
urges them by every consideration of love, and loyalty, and 
regard for their supreme welfare, to be faithful to his com- 

The third address begins with the twenty-seventh chapter, 
and continues to the end of the thirtieth. It is almost ex- 
clusively occupied with the giving of directions for the re- 
newal of the covenant by the people at an appointed place 
in the valley of Shechem, after they had crossed the Jordan ; 
and with an enumeration of the blessings which would follow 
their obedience of God's law, and of the curses that would 
fall upon them if they forsook his covenant and violated his 
injunctions. The blessings are exceedingly rich; but with 
a too sure forecast of the unfaithfulness of the people, the 
law-giver dwells longest on the curses, if by any means through 
this use of the terror of the Lord he might persuade them to 
be true to his covenant. As Dean Milman has said : "The 
sublimity of his denunciations surpasses anything in the ora- 
tory or the poetry of the whole world. Nature is exhausted 
in furnishing terrific images ; nothing, except the real hor- 
rors of Jewish history, the miseries of their sieges, the cru- 
elty, the contempt, the oppressions, the persecutions, which 
for ages this scattered and despised nation have endured, 
can approach the tremendous maledictions which warned 
them against the violation of their law."* 

* " History of the Jews " (latest edition), vol. i., p. 256. 

414 Moses the Law-giver. 

Thus, though called by its Greek name Deuteronomy — the 
second law — this book is not a mere rehearsal of statutes 
moral, religious, and civil. Its aim throughout is hortatory. 
It is the law, so to say, homiletically expounded, with such 
amplification of its principles and modification of its re- 
quirements as were called for by the new circumstances of 
the people. Those now before him were not the men to 
whom at Sinai the law had been proclaimed. A new gen- 
eration had arisen since then; and as large portions of the 
statute-book had lain in abeyance during the journey through 
the wilderness, it became necessary that those parts of it 
bearing on the people generally should be clearly set before 
them. As Mr. Espin has said: "He speaks to hearers nei- 
ther wholly ignorant of the law, nor yet fully versed in it. 
Much is assumed and taken for granted ; again, on other 
matters, he goes into detail, knowing that instruction in them 
was needed. Sometimes, too, opportunity is taken of pro- 
mulgating regulations which are supplementary or auxiliary 
to those of the preceding books ; some few modifications 
suggested by longer experience or altered circumstances are 
now made, and the whole Mosaic system is completed by 
the addition of several enactments of a social, civil, and po- 
litical nature."* 

But through all and over all the moral purpose of the 
speaker is maintained. In his other writings, Moses is, for 
the most part, a historian or a legislator ; in this he is pre- 
eminently a prophet, whose spiritual intuition pierces to the 
true meaning of the law, and interprets it as love ; and whose 
inspired prescience foretells not only the future destiny of 
the Jews, but also the appearance of another prophet like 
unto himself, in being the author of a new economy, whom 
we recognize in the Messiah of the Gospel. In this charac- 

* " Speaker's Commentary," vol. i., p. 791, 

Deuteronomy. 415 

ter he rises to a sublimity not surpassed either by Isaiah or 
Jeremiah, and delivers some of the most remarkable predic- 
tions which the Word of God contains. 

Specially noteworthy here, however, is his insight into the 
character of the Jews, and his presage of the dangers which 
lay before them. On the one hand, he guards them against 
idolatry, and on the other, against self-glorification ; and it 
is remarkable that the first of these was the constant beset- 
ment of the people before the captivity, and the second their 
peculiar characteristic after it. From all these dangers he 
sees no safeguard but in the spiritual devotion of the people 
to Jehovah ; and so it comes to pass that in this book, almost 
side by side with ritual enactments, we have a glorification 
of love as the comprehensive summary of the law, and an 
exhortation to circumcise the foreskin of the heart, as the 
grand essential thing in the sight of God. Thus he was at 
once the anticipator and forerunner of the Christian apostle, 
who wrote, " He is not a Jew which is one outwardly ; and 
circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the 
letter ; whose praise is not of man, but of God ;" and who 
aflSrmed that " love is the fulfilling of the law." 

But now, that higher criticism, from which nothing escapes, 
steps in and says, with a confidence which is apt to answer 
all the purposes of argument, that Moses did not write this 
book. It does not seem to weigh with those who make that 
affirmation, that if Deuteronomy was not written by Moses, 
it must have been written by some one who represented him- 
self to be Moses, or personated him ; and they see no moral 
incongruity between the doing of such an action and the in- 
sisting on that truth in the inward parts to which I have but 
now alluded. They appear to think that it is a perfectly 
natural thing for the highest morality to be enforced by one 
who, even at the very moment, is himself guilty of deceit. 
Therefore we must descend from this lofty region, that is so 


4i6 Moses the Law-giver. 

far above them, and we must seek to meet them on their 
own ground. 

If Moses did not write Deuteronomy, then let us ask when 
and by whom it was written ? And the moment we put that 
question, the greatest controversy arises ; for, in fact, the an- 
tagonists of this book are agreed in nothing save in the opin- 
ion that Moses was not its author. Some will have it that 
it was composed during the Captivity ; others, that it belongs 
to the time of the later kings. One eminent critic* dates 
it in the reign of Manasseh, and ascribes it to a writer in 
Egypt. Another believes it was composed in the days of 
Hezekiah ; and others hold that it belongs to the age of Da- 
vid and Solomon ; while a favorite idea with many used to 
be that the book which Hilkiah said he found in the Temple 
during the reign of Josiah was no other than the Book of 
Deuteronomy ; which he or some person known to him had 
actually written, and which he pretended to find in the Tem- 
ple for the purpose of securing its reception by the king and 
the people. 

Now, if truth be one and error be manifold, it is appar- 
ent that we have here much of the manifoldness that is said 
to be characteristic of error. These various theories have 
been adopted almost at random, and on the most arbitrary 
principles, and they might well be left to neutralize each 
other by what Dean Milman has somewhat caustically 
called " mutual slaughter. "f But as an illustration of the 
false and capricious proceedings of this school of critics, we 
may analyze the view of those who hold that Deuteronomy 
belongs to the age of Josiah, and was written by those who 
professed to have found the book of the law in the Tem- 
ple.1: They accept the history so far as to believe that 

* EwalA t " History of the Jews," vol. i., p. 178. 

t 2 Chron. xxxiv., 14-33. : 

Deuteronomy. 417 

Hilkiah brought out a book ; but they choose to disbeheve 
it when it says that it was the book of the law which had 
been long laid up in the Temple, and affirm that Hilkiah 
wrote it himself. 

Now, on what ground is this discrimination made ? We 
have as much reason for believing the historian when he 
says that the book was found, as when he says that Hilkiah 
brought out the book. The two statements rest precisely 
on the same authority ; and if it were not to bolster up a 
preconceived theory, no such distinction would ever have 
been made between them. Moreover, the story is told sim- 
ply and without parade ; and all who are familiar with the 
history of the Scottish Regalia, as written by Sir Walter 
Scott, will acknowledge that, in an age like that of Manas- 
seh, when persecution raged, it was quite probable that the 
book, which the law required to be laid up in the ark, should 
have been hidden for safety by those whose hearts were 
then trembling for the cause of Jehovah. It is equally 
probable that the secret of its hiding-place may have died 
with those who knew it at the first, and that in the repair- 
ing of the Temple it had been accidentally stumbled on by 
the workmen, who brought it, as of right, to the high-priest. 

There is nothing improbable or unnatural in all this. 
But what an array of improbabilities we encounter on the 
other hypothesis ! If that be true, then a great moral and 
spiritual revival throughout the land had its origin in a 
fraud. But we are wrong, we should not have said revival ; 
for, if that hypothesis be true, this was the inauguration of 
the law which goes by Moses's name. But by what author- 
ity could such a system of enactments have been forced 
upon the people then ? We can understand the enactment 
of these statutes through Moses, and their acceptance by 
the people, if they were promulgated at the Exodus, and in 
connection with the marvels of Sinai ; but that, centuries 

4i8 Moses the Law-giver. 

after, any monarch, however popular, could have procured 
the acceptance of these precepts, is utterly inconceivable by 
us. Besides, how shall we account for the knowledge of 
that law, which is clearly implied by the history of Israel, in 
the interval between Moses and Josiah ? 

In the life of Samuel, in the history of David, especially, 
perhaps in the record of the building of the Temple by Sol- 
omon, we have many passages which imply that in their re- 
spective days the books of Moses were in existence. There 
is the same evidence of their existence in the times of Jo- 
ash and Hezekiah ; so that if this book found by Hilkiah 
was a forgery by him, we must suppose that he virtually re- 
Wrote the history of his nation in order to make that accord 
with his first fraud. The very utterance of such an idea is 
an exposure of its absurdity. The simplest theory of the 
history is that it is true. That is the key which will be 
found most easily to unlock all difficulties \ every other will 
break in the lock. 

It will be said, indeed, that surely much ignorance of the 
law must have existed, else such a revival of religion as the 
Chronicles describes would not have been produced by the 
discovery of the book in which it is written. But the anal- 
ogy of the Reformation in Luther's time will help us to un- 
derstand how it all came about. Manasseh had almost 
stamped out all knowledge of God's truth. Education, 
never, in Judea, at all to be compared with our modern 
standard, must then have been neglected, and religion, at 
least the religion of Jehovah, was persecuted. Hence, all 
interested in it would keep out of the way; and just as Lu- 
ther's finding of the Bible in the convent library was the 
germ of the Reformation, so the finding of this book in the 
Temple was the beginning of the last revival of religion that 
preceded the captivity of the Jews. 

We cannot, therefore, admit that any weight is to be 



given to the opinion of those who have asserted that the 
book said to have been found by Hilkiah was then for the 
first time written. It deals arbitrarily with the narrative; 
it is attended with the greatest improbability in itself; its 
acceptance would require us to believe that much of the 
history of Israel had been fraudulently manipulated in the 
interests, professedly, of truth ; and the idea that now for 
the first time the law of Moses was proclaimed and ac- 
cepted by the people is so wild as to be felt by every candid 
reader to be practically inadmissible. Then, on the other 
side, there are naturalness, probability, and truth -likeness; 
for we have scenes in the later history of other nations 
which are in many respects similar to that which is here 
described. So, without hesitation, we dismiss, as utterly 
untenable, all the negative criticism which has sought to 
find a foothold on Hilkiah's discovery of the book. We 
agree with those who believe that this book was either the 
original autograph of Moses, or the official Temple copy 
of the law ; and we hold with Canon Cook that " fraud or 
mistake might as easily have imposed a new Bible on the 
Christian world in the sixteenth century, as a new law on 
the Jews in the reign of Josiah.''^*^ 

It would be easy to point out in a similar way the base- 
lessness of the several opinions which I have enumerated ; 
and the result would be to emphasize the statement of Mil- 
man, when he says, " Read the Book of Deuteronomy, and 
fairly estimate the difficulties which occur ; . . . then read it 
again, and endeavor to assign it to any other period in the 
Jewish annals, and judge whether difficulties do not accumu- 
late twenty-fold."t 

But what are the reasons which have induced these critics 

* " Speaker's Commentary," vol. iii., p. 127. 
t " History of the Jews," vol. i., p. 253. 

42 o Moses the Law-giver. 

to affirm that Moses was not its author? Let us take a 
few, and estimate their force. First of all, it is affirmed that 
there are various notes of manners and places introduced 
which evidently belong to a later date. Of this sort are the 
references to the Emims, the Horims, the Avims, and Her- 
mon ;* but these have all the look of parenthetic glosses, 
introduced for the purpose of elucidation, by a later editor, 
probably by Ezra, or by some one before his time; and the 
authorship of the book as a whole is not to be invalidated 
by them, any more than it is by the admission of the fact 
that the closing chapter, describing the death of Moses, was 
written by Joshua, or by some one equally well acquainted 
with the facts. These are but in the place of foot-notes to 
a modern volume ; and we know that such additions from 
the hand of an editor furnish no ground for disputing the 
authorship of the work itself. 

Again, it is affirmed that because Deuteronomy contains 
allusions to the appointment of a king, it could not have 
been written until after the beginning of the Jewish mon- 
archy ; that because the descriptions of royal extravagance 
present features which are appropriate to Solomon, there- 
fore it must have been produced after his day ; and that 
because in the curses mention is made of the Captivity, 
therefore it must have been composed after the people had 
been carried away into Babylon. 

Now, all these assertions spring from the adoption of a 
foregone conclusion. Those who make them have adopted 
the opinion that prophecy is impossible ; and just as Renan 
places the Gospel by Luke at a date later than the destruc- 
tion of Jerusalem, because it contains a prediction of that 
event, so others would reject the Mosaic authorship of Deu- 
teronomy because of the prophecies it records. The point 

* See Deut, ii., io-i3^ 22, 23 ; iii., 9. 

Deuteronomy. 421 

thus raised, however, belongs not to criticism, but philoso- 
phy j and if the view of these authors is correct, then the 
supernatural becomes impossible, and the Bible ceases to be 
anything diffe^rent from an ordinary book. Before a question 
of such magnitude as that, all discussions concerning mere 
date and authorship dwindle into insignificance ; and we 
have to go much farther back, and begin with the personal 
existence of God, in order to debate it fully. Evidently we 
cannot do that here ; but it is enough to point out that such 
arguments as those which I have enumerated would, if sus- 
tained, deprive us of the Word of God as a whole ; and, fair- 
ly pushed to their legitimate conclusions, would land us in 
the dreary region of atheism. 

Again, it is alleged that the style of the book is different 
from that of those by which it is preceded, and in particular 
that there are so many resemblances between it and the 
writings of Jeremiah, as to suggest the probability that it was 
either written by that prophet, or by some one who belonged 
to the same age; but, so far as the difference of style be- 
tween Deuteronomy and the other books of the Pentateuch 
is concerned, that is sufficiently accounted for by the differ- 
ent circumstances of the author. The spoken style is al- 
ways distinct from the written ; and he who addresses his 
fellow-men for a practical and hortatory purpose will natu- 
rally adopt a different method from that of the statute-book 
or the historical register. At the same time, it is not to be 
forgotten that there are not infrequent parallelisms between 
it and its predecessors ;* while all the classes of idiom, 
whether in vocabulary or grammar, which have been ac- 
counted peculiar to the Pentateuch, are found in Deuteron- 
omy.t Then, as regards the similarity of Jeremiah's prophe- 

* Compare Deut. xxviii. with Lev. xxvi. 
t " Speaker's Commentary," ubi supra. 

422 Moses THE Law-giver. 

cies to some portions of Deuteronomy, we admit the fact, 
but we deny the inference drawn from it. The resemblances 
are both numerous and striking, but they are easily account- 
ed for on quite another hypothesis. 

Remember that Jeremiah was a contemporary of Hilkiah, 
who found the book of the law in the Temple in the days 
of Josiah, and that he was, perhaps, the nephew of Shallum, 
the husband of that prophetess Huldahf to whom the king 
applied for counsel as to what he was to do in the matter of 
the law, and you will see in these facts a sufficient explana- 
tion of the hold which the Book of Deuteronomy had taken 
upon him. It came to him with all the freshness of a new 
discovery. Its special application to the times in which he 
lived would be apparent to him on a first perusal, and so he 
would go back upon it again and again, until it literally pos- 
sessed him, and became part and parcel of himself. Thus 
the resemblance of his style to that of Deuteronomy is a 
legitimate effect of the finding of the book by Hilkiah, and 
of the interpretation given to it by the occurrences of his 
own times, and is only what might have been expected in 
the circumstances. 

Once more, it is affirmed that there is such a difference 
between the allusions to the priests contained in Deuterono- 
my and those made to them in Numbers and Leviticus, that 
it is hardly conceivable that these books all came from the 
same hand. In the middle books of the Pentateuch the 
priests are carefully distinguished from the Levites ; while 
in Deuteronomy it is alleged that no such hierarchical di- 
vision is found, but the Levites only are mentioned. This, 
however, is not absolutely true; for when Moses speaks of 
the death of Aaron,t he says also, " Eleazar his son min- 

* Compare Jer. xxii., 7, with 2 Kings xxii., 14. 
t Deut. X., 6. 

Deuteronomy. 423 

istered in the priest's office in his stead;" and a verse or 
two subsequently"* he refers to the separation of the tribe of 
Levi to other purposes than those of the priesthood. In the 
eighteenth chapter, also, there is a passage in which the 
priest is clearly distinguished from the Levite.f These two 
cases are sufficient to overthrow the theory of those who im- 
agine that the Deuteronomist, as they call him, knew noth- 
ing of the hierarchy. But we are willing to admit that, in 
the vast majority of instances, the Lord's ministers are all 
included under the one word, " Levites ;" and we find the 
satisfactory explanation in Mr. Espin's words : " Moses, in 
Deuteronomy, is not prescribing the several functions and 
privileges of the various orders of clergy, as he has to do 
in the preceding books, he is addressing the people ; and 
when he has occasion to mention the clergy, it is only in a 
general way, in reference broadly to their relation and duties 
toward the body of the nation. Hence he, for the time, very 
naturally disregards the difference of orders among the cler- 
gy which was not to his purpose, and ascribes priestly and 
Levitical functions indifferently to the tribe of Levi, to which, 
as the priests were of course Levites, these functions really 
belonged. . . . The discrepancies, therefore, between Deu- 
teronomy and the earlier books are, in this particular, su- 
perficial only. They are at once explained by the familiar 
consideration that he who speaks to a large and mixed audi- 
ence will take care, if he knows his business, to shun irrele- 
vant details and distinctions."! 

Finally, it is urged that Deuteronomy contains certain de- 
viations from the earlier narratives, in the way of additions 
to them or variations from them, and therefore it could not 

* Deut. X., 8. t Ibid, xviii., 3, 6 ; see also xviii., i. 

t ** Speaker's Commentary," vol. i., p. 798. See this same point thor- 
oughly and very satisfactorily treated in " The Levitical Priests," by S. J. 

424 Moses the Law-giver. 

have come from the pen of their author. But to this it is 
replied that, on the admission of some of the critics them- 
selves, there is nothing in Deuteronomy which positively 
contradicts anything in the earlier books. And as for the 
variations or deviations, their very existence is a proof that 
the book did not come from an impostor. For that sort of 
discrepancy is the very thing that a deceiver would most 
rigorously avoid ; and nobody but the original law-giver him- 
self would attempt to treat the subject in the same free and 
independent manner. 

It would serve no good purpose to enter upon a minute 
examination of the alleged discrepancies between Deuteron- 
omy and the earlier books. They are in their nature similar 
to those which are to be found on a comparison of the four 
Gospels with each other. And when they are examined in 
a spirit of fairness, comprehensiveness, and common-sense, 
and not after the fashion of an attorney who strains every 
point to make out a case, they may be either satisfactorily 
explained, or quietly left until God in his providence shall 
give more light. Even those of them for which no solution 
is apparent are not sufficient to counterbalance the weight 
of evidence on the other side, and it is easier to believe that 
some mistake may in some unexplained way have crept in 
regarding them, than it is to hold that the Book of Deuter- 
onomy was foisted upon the Jews at a late period of their 
history, by one who sought the reformation of the people by 
a pious fraud."* 

Moreover, we must not forget that the book is quoted 
both by Peter and Paul as the production of Moses, and 

* Those who wish to examine this matter for themselves may find 
these so-called discrepancies fairly faced and candidly considered, by the 
commentator in the " Speaker's Commentary," vol. i. ; by Dr. W. I.. 
Alexander, in the Sunday Magazine^ for 1870-71 ; and by Dr. Murphy, in 
the British and Foreign Evangelical Revitiv for Jan., 1878. 

Deuteronomy. 425 

has at least the endorsement of its inspiration by Christ, 
who quoted from it as from the Word of God in his con- 
flict with the Tempter. It may be said, indeed, that the 
question of inspiration is quite distinct from authorship ; 
and in the case of such a writing as the Epistle to the He- 
brews that may be frankly admitted, because there the writ- 
er does not speak so as to reveal his personality. But in 
the Book of Deuteronomy the speaker claims to be Moses 
throughout (with the solitary exception of the final chapter), 
and so the attestation of its inspiration becomes thereby also 
the confirmation of its authorship. 

It is alleged, however, that our Lord and his apostles 
spoke in harmony with the belief of their times, though they 
were themselves ignorant of the real authorship of the book. 
But while we may admit that some things were not known 
to Jesus Christ as the Son of man, yet, as Mr. Espin forcibly 
reminds us, we mubt not overlook the distinction between 
ignorance and error ; and we are sure that he does not 
speak too strongly when he says that, "To assert that He 
who is the truth believed Deuteronomy to be the work of 
Moses, and quoted it expressly as such, though it was in 
fact a forgery introduced into the world seven or efght cen- 
turies after the Exodus, is in effect, though not in intention, 
to impeach the perfection and sinlessness of his nature, and 
seems thus to gainsay the first principles of Christianity."* 

But you ask me why I have been so particular to put this 
matter before you ; and my reply is, in the first place, be- 
cause I wished to give you a specimen of the way in which 
the "higher critics," as they are styled, deal with such ques- 
tions in their works on the Bible. They affect to tell oracu- 
larly, from the style of a book, whether its author lived six 
or thirteen centuries before the Christian era. Now such 

* " Speaker's Commentary," vol. i., p. 8cx3. 

426 Moses the Law-giver. 

a claim is preposterous. A few years ago, in London, there 
was a great controversy in the columns of the Times over a 
recently discovered poem which was supposed to be the pro- 
duction of John Milton. Great authorities were ranged on 
each side, and the same expressions were regarded by some 
as Miltonic, and by others as a clear proof that Milton had 
nothing to do with the production. 

Now we may surely say that if, two hundred years after 
the death of one of the greatest English poets, men who 
were well acquainted with his writings could not agree upon 
the question whether or not he was the author of certain 
newly discovered lines, it is in the highest degree presumpt- 
uous for critics living thirty-three centuries after the death 
of Moses to declare on mere internal evidence that the 
Book of Deuteronomy was not written by him, but must have 
been composed only twenty-five centuries ago. I make no 
pretensions to superior Hebrew scholarship, yet I do not 
hesitate to say that the claims of the higher criticism in this 
regard are simply ridiculous ; and just because they are so 
confidently made, often too with the coolest naivete^ it is 
right that they should be exposed. Moreover, it is impor- 
tant to remark that their allegations are for the most part 
unproved assertions. Take, for example, here the case of 
Dr. Robertson Smith, which has made so much stir during 
the past year in the Free Church of Scotland ; and we have 
in his article on the Bible the following sentences: "But 
even so, it is difficult to suppose that the legislative part of 
Deuteronomy is as old as Moses. If the law of the king- 
dom in Deut. xvii. was known in the time of the Judges, it 
is impossible to comprehend Judg. viii., 23, and above all 
I Sam. viii., 7." That is his assertion. But he does not at- 
tempt to show how the comprehension of these passages in 
Samuel and Judges is impossible on the theory that the law 
of the kingdom was existing. He expects his readers will 

Deuteronomy. 427 

take the statement on his authority, without ever investi- 
gating the passages. 

But we have had too much experience of what I may call 
the fallacy of references to be caught thus. We look up the 
passages, and we are so dull as not to see the impossibility 
of comprehending them, and at the same time holding the 
Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy. Here they are : "And 
Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall 
my son rule over you : the Lord shall rule over you." "And 
the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the 
people in all that they say unto thee : for they have not re- 
jected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign 
over them." 

Now, to our uncritical judgment, these passages are thor- 
oughly compatible with the law of the kingdom in Deuter- 
onomy. That law was an accommodation to the foreseen 
deterioration of the character of the people of Israel. The 
ideal of the Jewish state was a theocracy. But that, as Mo- 
ses, guided by God, foresaw, would be difficult to maintain 
amidst the influences from surrounding nations to which they 
were exposed, and so provision is made for a kingdom. 
Still, it is clearly implied that the setting up of a kingdom 
would be an evidence of spiritual declension in the people; 
and it was because both Gideon and Samuel saw that the 
people were yielding to evil influence that they protested 
against their conduct. Nay, more, it was for the same rea- 
son that God gave them Saul as a king, " in his anger." So 
the reconciling principle is here, the people would be better 
without a king ; but if they were determined to have a king, 
then he should be appointed thus and so. Now, that is a 
fair specimen of the manner in which the higher critics work. 
They make an assertion as if it were axiomatic or incontro- 
vertible, and, without seeking to prove it, they draw an infer- 
ence from it. The error in their conclusion is really taken 

428 Moses the Law-giver. 

for granted in the unproved allegation of their premise ; and 
a reference to a passage which, candidly interpreted, goes 
against their own views, is all the authority they condescend 
to furnish. That is not argument — that is dogmatism ; and 
yet I deliberately say that it is a fair specimen of their work. 

But my second reason for bringing all this forward is, 
because Christianity itself is at stake in this controversy. 
Christianity is the development of Judaism ; and if the di- 
vine origin of Judaism is successfully assailed, that of Chris- 
tianity cannot be maintained. The Old and New Testa- 
ments stand or fall together. The deity of Christ cannot be 
upheld if the divine legation of Moses is overthrown. You 
may as well imagine that you can blow up the basement of 
a house without injury to the inmates of the parlor, as sup- 
pose that you can demolish the divine origin of Judaism 
without overturning also that of Christianity. Moses wrote 
of Christ, and Christ authenticated Moses. They are inex- 
tricably and inseparably connected ; and I know few more 
dangerous symptoms in the present day than the prevalent 
disposition, even among Christian people, to depreciate the 
Old Testament. To counteract that it is that I have spent 
so much of my time in these recent years on the exposition 
of Old Testament history ; and to protest against that it is 
that I have devoted this discourse to the Mosaic authorship 
of Deuteronomy. When we have discovered the practical 
value of the Old Testament in its bearing on our daily lives, 
we shall not be willing to let it be regarded as of no account. 

And now, having brought to a conclusion this rapid survey 
of the arguments in defence of the Mosaic authorship of 
Deuteronomy, I ask your indulgence for but a few moments 
longer, while I seek to give distinctness to two important 
features by which the book is characterized. The first is its 
prophetic character. We have already seen that here, more 
than in any portion of the Pentateuch, Moses rises from the 



historian and legislator into the prophet, and emphasizes 
that " love " which is " the fulfilling of the law." But taking 
the term prophet in its more restricted signification, as 
meaning one who foretells future events, it is in Deuteron- 
omy also that the fitness of the application of the title in 
that sense to Moses is especially vindicated. The Saviour 
said to the Jews of his day, " Had ye believed Moses, ye 
would have believed me, for he wrote of me ;"* and as we 
know from Stephen,t one of the passages in which he thus 
testified to the Messiah is the following: "The Lord thy 
God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, 
of thy brethren, like unto me ; unto him ye shall hearken."| 
Now, though this prediction had its partial verifications in 
the rise of the separate prophets in the history of Israel, its 
terms are satisfied in none of these, for only in Jesus Christ, 
the " one mediator between God and men," the " mediator 
of the new covenant,"§ do we find the counterpart of Moses, 
who was yet greater and more glorious than he. The pith 
of the prophecy lies in the words, " like unto me ;" and the 
likeness is not moral but official. It is true, indeed, that as 
far as Moses transcended other prophets, Christ transcended 
Moses, in point of character and relationship to Jehovah. 
The Lord said concerning Moses, " If there be a prophet 
among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in 
a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant 
Moses is not so, who is faithful in all my house. With him 
will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in 
dark speeches ; and the similitude of the Lord shall he be- 
hold."|| But of Jesus he said, " This is my beloved Son, in 
whom I am well pleased."ir Thus in dignity of nature and 

* John v., 46. t Acts vii., 37. t Deut. xviii., 15. 

§ I Tim. ii., 5 ; Heb. ix., 15 ; xii., 24. || Nnni. xii., 6-8. 

^ Matt, iii., 17. 

430 Moses the Law-giver. 

excellence of character there was more than a likeness to 
Moses in Jesus. There was superiority over him ; for Mo- 
ses was a servant, but Christ is the Son. But in official 
position there is a perfect similarity. For as Moses was 
the mediator between the nation of Israel and Jehovah, so 
Christ is the mediator between God and men ;* as Moses 
was the introducer of a new economy, so Jesus was the in- 
augurator of a new dispensation ; as Moses was the interces- 
sor for the people, so Jesus is " able to save to the uttermost 
all that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make 
intercession for them."t Thus he crowns the prophecy of 
his whole typical system with this personal description of 
his coming Lord, and furnishes us with a mark by which we 
are enabled to identify in Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah 
promised to the fathers. Nay, more, the very founder of the 
Jewish system does thus, in his final address to the people 
whom he had emancipated, foreshadow the temporary char- 
acter of the whole ritual with which h'ls name is associated, 
and turn their eyes in expectancy toward one who has to 
lead them to heights of privilege, loftier far than those to 
which with him they had ascended. $ 

But it is, perhaps, in his description of the future history 
of the people whom he had, under God, welded into a nation, 
that his prophetic character comes in this book most con- 
spicuously out. Read the twenty-eighth chapter. Compare 
with that the Annals of Josephus, and the history of the 
Jewish people from the destruction of Jerusalem down to 
the present day, and you will find a marvellous correspond- 
ence between the two! The prophecy — for although it is 
hypothetical and conditioned on certain actions of the peo- 
ple themselves, it is nevertheless, in the true sense of the 
word, a prediction — is a forecast epitome of the history ; the 

* iTim. ii., 5. t Heb.vii., 25. J See below, p. 466. 

Deuteronomy. 431 

history is but an expansion of the prophecy. For each chap- 
ter in the annals of the people you may find an appropriate 
and descriptive heading in one of the verses of the prophecy ; 
and as to-day we look upon the descendants of Abraham 
among us, and observe how, living beside us, they are yet 
perfectly distinct from us, we see before us a living testimo- 
ny that this book is from God. This must be felt even by 
those who deny its Mosaic authorship ; for, whoever wrote it, 
there is the clearest evidence that it existed centuries before 
the destruction of the Jewish state by the Romans. There 
is, therefore, no possibility of gainsaying the argument that 
is founded on the fulfilment of this series of predictions. 
On the one hand, it is clearly established that the prophecy 
was in writing, as we have it, centuries before it was fulfilled; 
on the other, the events by which it was fulfilled are as cer- 
tain as any which history has recorded. These are facts as 
really as any established by science. AVhat is the inevitable 
inference.? Plainly that we have here something miraculous. 
But strong as the argument is, even though the Mosaic au- 
thorship be given up — and that we have shown good reason 
for refusing to do— it is even stronger when we regard the 
prophecy as the utterance of Moses. Here is an arch span- 
ning the whole historic age of the world, with one abutment 
resting on the epoch of the Exodus and another resting on 
our own times. Who built that arch? Where shall we find 
the human prescience that can thus bridge over the gulf of 
three thousand years ? Must we not come to the conclusion, 
as we gaze upon it, that its architect was none other than He 
who reared the majestic dome of the heavens, and hung the 
earth itself in space ? 

But in connection with this prophecy, also, another char- 
acteristic feature of Deuteronomy comes specially into prom- 
inence. I allude to its practical bearing on the history and 
destiny of nations. Bacon has said, in one of his essays, 


432 Moses the Law-giver. 

" Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament ; adversity 
is the blessing of the New."* But, though that may be ac- 
cepted as a general statement — liable, of course, to excep- 
tions — for individuals, it is not true of nations. For individ- 
uals there is a future personal existence in another state, in 
which the compensations for adversity may be given — or 
rather, to put it more accurately, in which the ripened bless- 
ing, of which adversity is the acrid and immature berry, will 
be enjoyed by the soul — but for nations in the aggregate 
there is no such future state. Men will be dealt with as in- 
dividuals in the retribution of eternity. There is no such 
judgment of nations. On them retribution falls in the 
course of their history here on earth. And so, in regard to 
them, it holds true, under the new dispensation as under the 
old, that their present prosperity depends on their character 
and conduct. God punishes national crimes by temporal 
judgments, and rewards national virtue by temporal bless- 
ings. This is true even of nations which are ruled by abso- 
lute monarchs ; how much more evidently so it is of a nation 
like our own, in which the people are sovereign. If we per- 
mit our legislators to frame dishonest laws, to break treaties 
which have been solemnly made, to oppress the aboriginal 
tribes who have been dispossessed by the advancing tide of 
population, to deal unjustly with any section of the commu- 
nity, we may expect that before long the result shall be ad- 
versity, in some form or other, which shall be so closely con- 
nected with the sin as to be seen to be its punishment ; but 
if we seek to do justly by all, and to have mercy for them 
that are oppressed ; if we faithfully adhere to the principles 
laid down in our national Constitution, and seek to advance 
the interests of truth, and righteousness, and humanity — not 
within our own borders only, but wherever our influence has 

* Bacon's Essays, with annotations by Richard Whateley, D.D., p. 90. 

Deuteronomy. 433? 

weight — then we may rely that God will favor us w*ith all 
the blessings which Israel forfeited. Thus patriotism as 
well as piety impels us to seek to purify our political life, 
and to secure as our legislators men who have no interests 
to advance but those of the community, no rule to follow but 
that of righteousness, and no reward to seek but the appro- 
bation of conscience and of God. Other nations than the 
Jews have been rejected because of their unfaithfulness. 
The whole track of history is marked with the ruins of 
empires which, having been founded in injustice, or perpet- 
uated by wrong, were ultimately destroyed. Assyria, Baby- 
lon, Persia, Greece, Rome — where are they now? and why 
did they go down? The Book of Deuteronomy, faithfully 
studied, will give us the right answer; while at the same 
time it unmistakably indicates the lesson for ourselves. 
May God help us to lay that lesson to heart! 



Deuteronomy xxxiv., 1-12. 

AFTER he had delivered to the people those addresses 
of which the main part of the Book of Deuteronomy 
consists, Moses, at the command of God, presented himself 
with Joshua in the tabernacle of the congregation. Then, 
as on former occasions of special importance, the cloudy pil- 
lar descended and stood over the door of the tent of meet- 
ing, while Jehovah gave from it to Joshua this solemn yet 
reassuring charge : " Be strong and of a good courage : for 
thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which 
I sware unto them : and I will be with thee."* After this, 
having written out, in a separate roll, the words which he 
had spoken to the assembly at its formal convocation, Moses 
gave the book to the Levites, with instructions to put it in 
the side of the ark of the covenant, there to be a perpetual 
witness of the engagements into which the people had freely 
and deliberately entered. This done, he gathered all the 
elders and officers of the tribes, and " spake in their ears " 
that stirring psalm in which the shout of thanksgiving and 
the song of joy alternate with a roll of terror which sounds 
as if the thunder of Sinai were reverberating anew. 

For poetic sublimity, for devout piety, for holy expostula- 
tion, and for solemn warning, this farewell ode has never 
been surpassed ; and it furnishes an incidental proof of the 

j^, . * Deut. xxxi., 23. 

Death and Burial of Moses. 435 

fact that, unlike most other men, Moses continued, to the 
very end of his long life, to grow in those qualities of imag- 
ination and fiery enthusiasm which are usually regarded as 
the special characteristics of youth. It has nothing in it of 
the pensive sadness which forms the undertone of the nine- 
tieth psalm, and out of which, like a bird darting up above 
the mist that fills an Alpine valley, his faith rises only after 
what seems to be a long and labored effort. Rather, it is 
akin, in some of its strains, to his song upon the Red Sea 
shore ; while in its exquisitely beautiful reference to the 
eagle with her young, as well as in the frequent allusions 
which it makes to the rock -like majesty, stability, and 
strength of God, it connects itself with his meditations and 
observations while, as a shepherd, he followed Jethro's flocks 
in the desert of Midian. 

There is in it thus a wondrous combination of the 
strength of manhood with the experience of old age, and of 
the imaginative force of youth with the wisdom which in- 
creasing years supply. Nor is this all : there is in it a mar- 
vellous interblending of the various relationships in which 
Moses stood at once to God and to the people. He praises 
Jehovah with the fervor of a seraph, and he pleads with 
the people with the tenderness of a father. He deals with 
national subjects in the spirit of a statesman, and warns 
of coming doom with the sternness of a prophet. Now the 
strains are soft and low, as if they came from the chords of 
an ^olian harp stirred by the breeze of a gentle summer 
eve ; anon they are loud and stormful, as if some gust of 
passionate intensity had come sweeping over his spirit : now 
they are luminous with the recollection of God's mercies, 
and again they are lowering, as if laden with the e»ectric 
burden of God's coming wrath. Of course, in all he spake 
as he was moved by the Holy Ghost ; but, as the Spirit 
used not the vocal organs only, but the soul of the man, 

436 Moses the Law-giver. 

this ode conclusively proves that if Moses had not been the 
grandest law-giver and statesman of his nation, and even of 
the world, he might have been one of the noblest poets. It 
shows, too, that there was in him the exceedingly rare alli- 
ance of a mind which was alive to the importance of the mi- 
nutest details of legislation, with a soul whose wings could 
soar into the loftiest regions of thought and feeling. With 
undimmed eye he looked on more trying light than that of 
the common sunshine, and with unabated force he ascend- 
ed, even at the age of sixscore years, a more ethereal height 
than that of Pisgah ; so that, if this ode had been found 
elsewhere than in the Bible, mere literary critics would have 
risen into ecstasies over its exquisite manifestation of beauty 
in the lap of terror. 

But, noble as the psalm contained in the thirty -second 
chapter of Deuteronomy is, I am not sure if it be not sur- 
passed by the blessing of the tribes which is preserved in 
the thirty-third. In form and structure, this last resembles 
Jacob's benediction of his sons upon his death-bed ; yet it 
rises as far above that as the character of Moses transcends 
that of the supplanter. It is a mingling of precept, of 
prophecy, and of prayer ; each clause in it being packed 
with meaning and lustrous with beauty, while here and there 
we come upon phrases which make us start with a strange 
joy, because we recognize in them autobiographic references 
to his own personal history. How touching his benediction 
of his own tribe of Levi, in which, by mere suggestion, he 
contrasts their faithfulness with his own sin ! What could 
be finer, too, than his delicate reference to the first meeting 
between himself and Jehovah, in the words occurring in the 
blessing of Joseph, " The good-will of him that dwelt in the 
bush?" Nor can we help seeing the testimony of his own 
past experience in the prophecy which he gives to Asher, 
when he says, " As thy days, so shall thy strength be." And 

Death and Burial of Moses. 437 

if you wish to learn how much the character of the prophet 
had to do with the texture of his prophecy while yet , he 
spake by inspiration of God, then contrast the blessing ut- 
tered by Balaam over the people whom he so wished to 
curse* with these last recorded utterances of Moses, " There 
is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the 
heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky. The 
eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlast- 
ing arms : and he shall thrust out the enemy from before 
thee ; and shall say. Destroy them. Israel then shall dwell 
in safety alone : the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land 
of corn and wine ; also his heavens shall drop down dew. 
Happy art thou, O Israel : who is like unto thee, O peo- 
ple saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is 
the sword of thy excellency ! and thine enemies shall be 
found liars unto thee ; and thou shalt tread upon their high 

But now, having set his house in order, there is nothing 
more for Moses to do but to die ; and his death was in keep- 
ing with the majesty of his life. The Lord said unto him, 
" Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto Mount Nebo, 
which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho ; 
and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the chil- 
dren of Israel for a possession : and die in the mount whither 
thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people." Though 
born on the flat Egyptian plain, Moses had, for at least two- 
thirds of his life, been familiar with mountains. Amidst the 
solitudes of Horeb he had received his commission from 
Him whose glory burned in the unconsumed bush. Often he 
had ascended the rocky sides of Sinai to commune with the 
Eternal, and in one of its cave-like clefts he had stood while, 

* Num. xxiii., 8-10, 19-24; xxiv., 5^9, 16-24. 

+ Tl^iiif vwiiJ '»A_'»r« 

_,^ — ... .... — , w -»,, - 

t Deut. xxxiii., 26-29 

438 Moses the Law-giver. 

as his glory passed by, Jehovah proclaimed to him his name. 
Not many months ago he had climbed to the summit of the 
castellated Hor, and seen his brother Aaron calmly "un- 
clothed," that he might be " clothed upon with his house 
which was from heaven." But much and strangely as he 
had felt on all these other occasions, his emotions now were 
entirely different from anything he had experienced before. 
He had not " passed this way heretofore." There was that 
immediately before him of which he had no experience. He 
could form no conception of what it was like. He was to 
take a step out into the unknown. He was to leave the 
body, and the lower sphere of earth. He was to lay down 
the charge which he had carried for forty years, and go- 
whither.? He knew not. He only knew that God was 
there, in a yet more glorious and more comforting sense 
than he is here, and than he had met him on the earth; 
and in that assurance he was calm. There is no record 
of individual leave-takings ; for in nothing does the Bible 
more sublimely differ from ordinary biographies than in 
the almost utter absence of death-bed experiences or last 
utterances from its pages. But, withdrawing from the camp, 
perhaps in a quiet and undemonstrative manner, he took 
his way alone up to the range of Abarim and the Pisgah 
summit, which travellers have tried to identify with Jebel 
Neba, that is over against Jericho. And who may attempt 
to describe his feelings as he gazed out upon the land which 
he might look upon but might not enter, while the Lord 
stood by him to point out to him the many localities which 
he had written of in his "book of origins," but which he 
saw now for the first time? At his feet, flowing along the 
edge of the plains of Moab, was the Jordan, hastening to 
lose itself in the waters of the Dead Sea ; to the right, his 
eye took in the land of Gilead, until it ended far away in 
the north ; to the left, the grassy fields of Beersheba shaded 

Death and Burial of Moses. 439 

off into the brown barrenness of the Egyptian desert ; while 
directly in front of him lay all the land of Judah, with the 
distant hills of Naphtali on the northern horizon, and the 
" utmost sea " in the far west. " From Jezreel, with its wav- 
ing corn, to Eshcol, with its luxuriant vines ; from Bashan, 
with its kine, to Carmel, with its rocks dropping honey j 
from Lebanon, with its rampart of snow, south again to the 
dim edge of the desert,"* the prospect was before him. 
As he gazed upon it, the words fell upon his ears^jThis is 
the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto 
Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed : I have caused thee 
to see it with thine eyes ;" and then, not in sternness, nor in 
anger, but in utmost love, like a mother lifting her boy into 
her arms, the Lord added, " but thou shalt not go over 
thither 3" and in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the 
soul of Moses had passed within the veil, and was at home 
with God. 

But even the dust of his people is precious in the sight of 
the Lord ; and the body of that honored saint must not be 
left to become the prey of the vulture, nor his bones to lie 
whitening on the mountain. So God buried him, and, as 
Thomas Fuller quaintly says, " buried also his grave," so 
that " no man knoweth his sepulchre unto this day." What 
a death ! what a burial ! How peaceful the one, how unosten- 
tatious the other ! He died " by the word of the Lord," or, 
as the word literally is, " by the mouth of the Lord ;" and we 
do not wonder that the Jewish Rabbis understand it to mean 
"by the kiss of the Lord." As the father kisses his boy 
when he lifts him to his knee, so death came to Moses as a 
token of his Lord's affection. And in that lonely burial, 
whose sublimity touches even the most cursory reader of the 
narrative, what a rebuke is addressed to those who seek to 

* " Moses, the Man of God," by James Hamilton, D.D., p. 369. 

440 Moses the 1,aw-giver. 

hide the solemnity of death beneath floral offerings and mil- 
itary processions, or who vainly attempt to perpetuate the 
memory of an uneventful life by monumental marble. How 
can I forbear from quoting in this connection the well-known 
lines ? 

« When the warrior dieth, 

His comrades in the war, 
With arms reversed, and muffled drum, 

Follow the funeral car. 
They show the banners taken, 

They tell his battles won, 
And after him lead the masterless steed, 
While peals the minute-gun. 

"Amid the noblest of the land. 

Men lay the sage to rest ; 
And give the bard an honored place, 

With costly marble drest, 
In the great minster transept, 

Where lights like glories fall. 
And the sweet choir sings, and the organ rings. 

Along the emblazoned wall. 

"This was the bravest warrior 

That ever buckled sword ; 
This the most gifted poet 

That ever breathed a word ; 
And never earth's philosopher 

Traced, with his golden pen. 
On the deathless page truth half so sage, 

As he wrote down for men. 

"And had he not high honor "i 

The hill-side for his pall, 
To lie in state while angels wait, 

With stars for tapers tall ; 
And the dark rock-pines, like tossing plumes. 

Over his bier to wave ; 
And God's own hand, in that lonely land, 

Tolay him in the grave." 

Death and Burial of Moses. 441 

But though his grave was hid from the knowledge of men, 
perhaps, as some have hinted, as a safeguard to keep the 
people from giving it a superstitious sanctity, yet when God 
wanted it, he knew where to find it; and the passage in Jude, 
which every reader feels to be so singular in its reference 
to a dispute between Michael and the devil over the body 
of Moses, may really allude to the resurrection of Moses, in 
order that, with Elijah, he might stand in glorified humanity 
beside Jesus on the Mountain of Transfiguration. And if 
this be so, it is interesting to note that thus, not through Jor- 
dan, but over it by way of heaven, he actually at length did 
pass into Canaan, and stood upon the dewy Hermon. 
/Thus died this many-sided man — as many another hero 
has died — within sight of that which through life he had 
been straining after ; but without reaching in Yet his life 
was not therefore a failure. On the contrary, he had made 
it possible for Joshua to succeed ; while in his own charac- 
ter, the consideration of which we must reserve for a final 
discourse, he achieved the grandest success; so that, take 
him all in all, he stands before us the noblest of Old Testa- 
ment worthies, and the peer, if not, in some respects, even the 
superior, of Paul himself. As the carpenter in " Adam Bede " 
said, " He carried a hard business well through." And we 
may add that he did so because the Lord carried him. The 
Transfiguration mountain has for us now taken all sadness 
from the contemplation of the death on Pisgah. We shed 
no tears over a grave which is now empty ; but we do not 
wonder that " the children of Israel wept for Moses in the 
plains of Moab thirty days." They might well weep, for he 
had done much for them ; and perhaps they had never so 
appreciated his ^lue as they did now that he was no more 
among them. >Nor could they forget that, if they had not 
provoked him to anger by their murmuring, they might have 
had him still among them. There are few tears so scalding 

442 Moses the Law-giver. 

as those which disobedient sons drop upon a father's grave ; 
and there might be not a little of similar poignancy in the 
grief of the Israelites over Moses's death. But the past can 
neither be recalled nor atoned for by weeping. What re- 
mains is, that we amend the future ; and it says much for the 
genuineness of the people's sorrow that they "hearkened 
unto Joshua," and did not harass and afflict him with their 
mutinies and their idolatries as they had Moses. 

But seeking now for the practical lessons with which this 
chapter of history is fraught, let us remark, in the first place, 
that even the good man's life may be shortened by his own 
sin. Hear what God said to his servant : " Be gathered unto 
thy people ; as Aaron thy brother died in Mount Hor, and 
was gathered unto his people : because ye trespassed against 
me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah- 
kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin ; because ye sanctified me 
not in the midst of the children of Israel."* Now, it is true 
that, as he has elsewhere said,t " The Lord was wroth with 
him, for the people's sakes." His design was to impress their 
hearts with the evil nature of sin, from the fact that such an 
apparently small ofience in one so excellent and exalted as 
Moses entailed on him such a bitter disappointment ; and, 
as I have already hinted, some of the most pungent elements 
in their mourning over his loss may have been owing to their 
consciousness that he was, in some sort, suffering vicariously 
for themselves. 

But, while all this must be admitted, we shall lose one of 
the most pointed lessons of this event if we fail to take note 
of the fact that untimely death may be the result of special 
sin. We can all understand how this can be the case when 
even a good man, moved by a zeal which is not tempered 
with discretion, forgets the laws of health, and works in such 

* Deut.xxxii.,50,51. t Ibid., iii., 26. 

Death and Burial of Moses. 443 

a way as to bring upon himself premature disease of brain 
or heart, by which he is prostrated long before he reaches 
the limit of threescore years and ten. Such a one forgets 
himself in another sense than Moses did when he lost his 
self-command ; and, though we may loosely speak of him as 
a martyr to the cause in which he labored, we are compelled 
to admit that he sinned against those physical laws which, 
in their own place, are as imperious as the moral code itself, 
and thus entailed upon himself exclusion from his promised 
land, while no Pisgah prospect of its nearness supported him 
in his dying hours. This is especially the temptation of 
the times in which we live. Amidst the hurry and rush of 
our modern business, with our railroads, and telegraphs, and 
steam-navigation, we are all too apt to be borne along with 
the current ; and ever and anon we are startled by the hope- 
less breakdown of some able and energetic leader in the 
very mid-time of his days ; while, in the Church as in the 
world, men of influence and energy burn themselves out by 
the intensity of their devotion to their work. Now and then, 
indeed, a word of warning will be uttered by loving friends 
and earnest fellow-laborers, but it is silenced by the asser- 
tion that "it is better to wear out than rust out;" and the 
issue, as might have been foreseen, is a sudden collapse, or 
a premature grave. It is time, therefore, to call a halt. 
Such self-consuming toil is not only unnecessary, but it is 
positively sinful. We have no right to kill ourselves, and 
call it zeal ; and perhaps, if we were to get at the root of the 
evil in each case, we should find it not in public spirit, but 
in personal ambition. Such a prodigality of vitality is not 
sacrifice, but suicide ; and it ought to be distinctly under- 
stood that overwork is wickedness, the guilt of which will 
keep us forever on the eastern side of our Jordan. 

But there is still another aspect of this subject which 
must not be lost sight of, though we cannot fully investigate 

444 Moses thr Law-giver. 

it without going into those departments of the divine ad- 
ministration which lie beyond our ken. It is possible that 
for personal sin, not in the physical but in the moral sphere, 
a man may die before his time. We recognize the truth of 
this assertion in the case of the ungodly, but it holds also 
in those who must be described as servants of the Lord ; 
and if we could see below the surface, we might discover 
that those deaths which are so often described by us as 
mysterious dispensations of Providence have no more of 
mystery about them than this of Moses, but have occurred 
when they did because of some sin with which the individ- 
uals were chargeable. This is a somewhat awful thought, 
and the mere enunciation of it is all that is required to point 
the warning which it suggests. David was not permitted to 
build the Temple, because he had been a man of war from 
his youth; and the disappointments which have clouded 
many death-beds may have been similarly connected with 
the characters of the antecedent lives. It was after he had 
been indulging in the practice of deceit that the Psalmist 
wrote, " What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many 
days, that he may see good ? Keep thy tongue from evil, and 
thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good ; 
seek peace, and pursue it ;"* and perhaps the experiences 
through which he had just passed had given him a glimpse 
of the truth on which I am now insisting. In any case, it 
may be well for us to remember that our sins may shorten 
our lives, and shut us out of the earthly Canaan which we 
so much wished to possess. 

Nor must it be forgotten that the deaths of public men, 
who, like Moses, are the servants of the Lord, and who, like 
him, too, seem to be taken away at the very moment when 
they were about to reach the goal of their endeavors, may 

* Psa.xxxiv., 12-14. 

Death and Burial of Moses. 445 

be designed by God for the instruction and improvement 
of the people at large, that they may be thrown back more 
thoroughly upon himself, and may be kept from putting the 
servant into the throne which the master alone must occupy. 
We must learn to depend upon Jehovah. We must trust 
neither in princes nor in the sons of men. We must rely 
on him whose gift the Moseses and the Joshuas are, and 
console ourselves with the contrast which Peter has appro- 
priated from Isaiah, "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory 
of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the 
flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endur- 
eth forever."* 

But we are reminded by this chapter, in the second place, 
of the loneliness of the dying. No one accompanied Moses 
to the summit of Pisgah. He had to confront the last mes- 
senger, so far as human fellowship was concerned, all alone. 
From the first, indeed, he had been isolated from those 
around him. During his Egyptian education he must have 
felt, even when moving among his fellow-students at Heli- 
opolis, that he lived apart. His early training in the home 
of Amram lifted him above the moral and spiritual atmos- 
phere which they breathed. When, again, he assayed to 
deliver Israel, he was once more a lonely man ; for his He- 
brew brethren would not understand his overtures, but thrust 
him away, so that he went into the desert of Midian. A sim- 
ilar solitariness must have environed him in the household 
of Jethro. We have seen that even his wife Zipporah was 
not, in the highest sense, his companion ; and when he be- 
came the leader of Israel, his very exaltation set him apart. 
Only one can stand upon a pinnacle, and the loftier the pin- 
nacle is, the lonelier he must be ; so that we cannot wonder 
that neither Aaron, nor Miriam, nor any of the elders of the 

* Isa. xl., 7, 8 ; I Pet. i., 24, 25. 

446 Moses the Law-giver. 

people, was, in the fullest sense, a confidential friend to him. 
Moreover, as the years revolved, those whom he knew in the 
various official positions in the camp dropped at his side ; 
and even before he set out for Pisgah, he stood alone, the 
sole survivor of his generation. Solitude, therefore, was no 
new thing to him ; although never, perhaps, had he realized 
it so keenly as now. Away from children, and nephews, 
and dependents, with no human friend to close his eyes, he 
lay down and died; having in this respect, as his nearest 
likeness, that African traveller who knelt on the floor of his 
grass-covered hut, far away from his daughter and his kins- 
men, to answer the summons of his Lord. But, though few 
are thus segregated from their kindred at that last hour, yet, 
in a very true sense, every man is alone when he dies. You 
are no doubt familiar with the touching lines of Keble : 

" Why should we faint and fear to live alone ? 

Since all alone, so Heaven has will'd, we die ; 
Nor even the tenderest heart, and next our own, 

Knows half the reasons why we smile and sigh : 
Each in his hidden sphere of joy or woe. 

Our hermit spirits dwell, and range apart ; x 
Our eyes see all around, in gloom or glow. 

Hues of their own, fresh borrow'd from the heart." 

Thus, even of the lowliest among us, it is true that we live 
alone; but we become more conscious of the solitude as 
death approaches : for we must meet that, as far as human 
fellowship is concerned, by ourselves. No one can pass 
within the veil along with us ; and no mortal can give us of 
his help while we make the transition. This is true of each 
of us, just as really as it was of Moses. Our friends may 
wipe the damp from our brow, and ease our pillow, and 
whisper to us words of consolation. They may pray for 
us too, and beseech that God may "shield us in the last 
alarms ;" but they cannot give us their faith, or animate us 

Death and Burial of Moses. 447 

with their hope, or inspire us with their courage. Each dies 
upon a mountain-top alone. But when friends are power- 
less, God may be at our side, and he will be there, if in our 
lives we have served him, and in our deaths we cling to him. 
Oh my hearers, will you think of this ? Your friends have 
done much for you, and been much with you in the past, but 
they cannot die for you, and they cannot die with you. That 
is an experience through which you must go without them ; 
and there is only one whose aid will be available at that 
supreme moment. He is the Alpha and the Omega, who 
knows what death is, and who will come to meet you from 
the other side, when weeping children must part from you 
on this. No man was with Moses ; but he was not alone 
after all, for God was with him ; and may the same God be 
with us ! 

" Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes ! 
Shine through the gloom ! and light me to the skies ! 
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee. 
In life ! in death ! O Lord, abide with me !" 

In the third place, we may, nay, we must, take note of 
God's goodness to his dying servant. He took him. to a 
natural observatory, and let him see the land of promise. 
Thus death was for him minimized of its terror, and he was 
permitted to know that his life-work would not be lost. So, 
often, when his servants pass away, God gives them glimpses, 
not of the earthly Canaan, but of the heavenly, granting 
them in this an advantage greater than Moses enjoyed ; for 
he saw the land which yet he must not enter, while they 
have visions of the heaven into which they are about to 
pass. "At evening time it shall be light." How many of 
those whom we have accompanied to the very threshold of 
the world beyond have been thus blessed ! and as we heard 
their sayings, or read them as recorded by those who treas- 

448 Moses the Law-giver. 

ured them as their richest legacy, we were prone to say, 
" Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end 
be like his !" 

But never let us forget that such a life as Moses lived 
must precede such a death as Moses died. And so it is 
not the death, but the life, that demands our care. It is ours 
to live the life, and we may leave God to order the death. 
Moses did not darken that last year of his labor with any 
melancholy forebodings of his coming death. He was not 
harassed and distracted by gloomy fears. He was not con- 
stantly asking whether he could meet the great transition 
without a quiver, or whether his experiences would be those 
of terror rather than of triumph. No, he simply went on do- 
ing his daily duties, if anything a little more diligently than 
ever, just as the traveller quickens his step when he sees the 
sun hastening to his setting. He kept the even tenor of 
his way precisely as he had done before the warning was 
given him, and just as he would have done if no warning 
of a special sort had been received by him ; and he left all 
the rest to God. Now that is the way to live, and that is the 
way to die. Let us follow that rule, filling every day with 
God's service in the service of our generation, and at the 
last we shall either get Pisgah, or something which will 
more than compensate for its absence ; and, better than Pis- 
gah, we shall get heaven, and be at home with Christ. 

Finally, we must not fail to note God's goodness to his 
bereaved people. Before Moses goes, Joshua has already 
received his charge. They missed their great leader indeed. 
It would have said little either for him or for them, if that 
had not been the case. They mourned his absence. It 
was not with him as it has been with some, alike in the fam- 
ily, the Church, and the State, whose deaths have been felt 
by all concerned to be a relief. They could not so regard 
the dissolution of Moses ; but God would not let them sink 

Death and Burial of Moses. 449 

into despair ; and though Joshua could not have done what 
Moses did, and was far from being the equal of his master, 
yet he could and did take up his master's unfinished work, 
and carried it through, at once to the glory of God, and the 
settlement of the people. So Aaron died, but the priesthood 
remained, and not one sacrifice the less was offered on the 
tabernacle altar. Elijah's mantle fell upon Elisha j and just 
as Stephen ascends in the fiery chariot of martyrdom, Saul, 
who also is called " Paul," stands forth to take -up the work 
which the earnest deacon had inaugurated. Thus it always 
is; for Christ has said that the gates of hell — that is, of hades, 
or the unseen world — shall not prevail against his Church. 

Last summer, as I visited Westminster Abbey, and sought 
out the monuments which, since my coming to this country, 
have been added to that marble-chiselled history of the Eng- 
lish people, my eye was arrested by a beautiful tablet, having 
on it medallion portraits of the brothers John and Charles 
Wesley ; and, after I had expressed my gratification to my 
companion at finding such a memorial in such a place, I was 
delighted with the simple beauty and consoling truth of the 
inscription in these words : " God buries the worker, but car- 
ries on the work." For, after all, the work is God's, not ours. 
That is our inspiration in taking it up, and our comfort in 
laying it down. When Jabez Bunting, one of the greatest 
of Wesley's disciples in England, died, a minister of the 
Methodist denomination, in preaching his funeral sermon, 
closed a glowing peroration by saying, " When Bunting died, 
the sun of Methodism set." A plain man in the audience, 
carried away by his feelings, immediately shouted, " Glory be 
to God ! that's a lie !" and though the interjection was more 
forcible than polite, and was, in fact, considering the time 
and the place, impertinent, still there was more truth in it 
than in the preacher's words ; for, so far as Methodism is 
work for Christ, its permanence depends on him, and not on 

45© Moses the Law-giver. 

individual men. And the same is true of all branches of 
the living Church. The cathedral does not remain unfin- 
ished because the workmen die, or even because the archi- 
tect may pass away. Others enter upon their labors ; and so, 
though it may take two generations to complete it, the day 
comes at length when the pealing organ sounds through its 
long-drawn aisles, and thronging worshippers crowd its mar- 
ble pavement. So, from generation to generation, the spir- 
itual Church is rising up toward its perfection ; and though 
one after another the workmen pass away, the fabric remains, 
and the great Master-builder carries on the undertaking. 
Be it ours, my hearers, to build in our portion in a solid and 
substantial manner, so that they who come after us may be 
at once thankful for our thoroughness, and inspired by our 


Deuteronomy xxxiv., 10-12. 

THE life of Moses divides itself naturally into three 
equal periods of forty years. The first was spent in 
Egypt, at the court of Pharaoh ; the second in the wilder- 
ness of Midian, with the family of Jethro ; the third in the 
work of the Exodus, the encampment at Sinai, and the wan- 
derings of the tribes. It is remarkable, however, that the 
narratives over which we have come cover only a very small 
portion of this lengthened career. We have a glimpse of 
him in his infancy, when the king's daughter opened the bul- 
rush ark on the brink of the Nile, and saw a weeping babe ; 
we behold him again, in his fortieth year, chivalrously, though 
rashly, standing up in vindication of an oppressed Israelite, 
and striving, ineffectually, to prevent strife between those who 
were brethren to each other as well as to himself; and just 
as he is entering the asylum of the desert, we behold him 
taking again the side of the weak and the injured, by driving 
away the ill-mannered shepherds who trampled upon and in- 
sulted the defencelessness of woman. Then for forty years 
more he is lost to sight, until, confronted with the vision at 
the burning bush, he is sent back to Egypt as the deliverer 
of his people. The events connected with his mission to 
Pharaoh, and preparatory to the Exodus, filled probably lit- 
tle more than six months. The first year from the Exodus 
ended while the Hebrews were at Sinai ; and the close of 
the second finds them at Kadesh, under the ban of exclu- 

452 Moses the Law-giver. 

sion from the land of promise until forty years should be 
accomplished from the date of their leaving their house of 
bondage. Here, again, there is a hiatus of seven-and-thirty 
years, during which we have no record of Moses or of the 
tribes, save the formal and not perfectly clear enumeration 
of the stations at which, from time to time, they encamped. 
But in the beginning of the fortieth year the history is re- 
sumed, and we can trace the progress of the march from 
Kadesh to Mount Hor, down through the Arabah, and round 
the southern end of Mount Seir, up its eastern side, and on 
through conflict with the Amorites and the Bashanites, until 
the people rested in the plains of Moab. In reality, there- 
fore, though we have been engaged on a life which lasted for 
a hundred and twenty years, the incidents which have pass- 
ed under our review did not themselves, when put together, 
fill a larger space than about three years and six months. 
We see him for a moment as a child ; then, for a little season, 
in his fortieth year ; again, when he has reached fourscore, 
we are his companions for a little over two years ; and, final- 
ly, we are permitted to associate with him for the last twelve 
months of his course. That is all ; three years and a half — 
therein like another three years and a half in a yet greater 
life — out of a hundred and twenty. 

How small the proportion of that which is recorded to 
that which is unwritten ! And, indeed, when we come to 
think it out, how little of a man's real life can ever be writ- 
ten ! Of the noblest of all lives, which could have furnished 
materials for numberless volumes, we have but four brief 
memoirs, none of them so large as many a modern pam- 
phlet; and the grandest biography which the Old Testa- 
ment contains might, when separated from the statute-book 
with which it is associated, be comprised in little more than 
a few pages of an ordinary book. At first view this is great- 
ly disappointing! When we remember that we have more 

Characteristics of Moses. 453 

of Luther's Table-Talk in bulk than we have of the sayings 
and writings of Paul ; when we reflect that the hero-worship 
of James Boswell has given us as many volumes regarding 
Samuel Johnson as we have tracts regarding the Lord Je- 
sus ; when we think that those who swept up the literary 
crumbs which fell from Goethe and Coleridge have preserved 
as many of their utterances as would form books larger than 
the Pentateuch, we are almost tempted to ask why nobody 
was permitted to do a similar work for Paul or Moses, or the 
Saviour, to whom we owe so much. Above all, when we take 
up the memoir which such a one as Lockhart wrote of Sir 
Walter Scott, or which it seems now to be the custom for 
some friend to write of any man who has made a name for 
himself in science, literature, politics, or ecclesiastial affairs, 
and see how its subject is traced up to his earliest ancestors, 
and down through boyhood, student-life, and public labor to 
the time of his death, we marvel that we should have so much 
about our litde more than average contemporaries, and so 
little about those great sovereigns of the past, who still rule 
our spirits, not from their urns, but from their living thrones 
on high. 

But the comfort comes when we take time to consider 
that by- and -by these modern biographies will disappear, 
while that of Moses, or of Paul, or of Christ, brief as each 
is, will last. Very soon few will care to inquire, even, re- 
garding those whose memoirs have been such a world of 
trouble to their biographers. A few lines in a cyclopaedia 
will comprise all that is worth preserving of them ; and af- 
ter the lapse of half a century more or less, even that will 
be dropped out, so that only here and there some literary 
resurrectionist will know of their existence. But these re- 
main, and are the common reading of the common people. 
Does any one know what becomes of the shoals of memoirs 
that are continually emerging from the press? In a few 

454 Moses the Law-giver. 

years they are out of print. You cannot get a copy any- 
where. They disappear as completely as if they had never 
been ; and thus, as the very monuments erected in our cem- 
eteries ultimately crumble into decay, so the biographies 
which love has written perish from the sight and memory 
of men. But time, which has swept away, and is now sweep- 
ing away, so much monumental literature, has only washed 
into brightness the record of such a life as that which we 
have been considering ; and it stands out, fragmentary, as 
in some respects it is, from among other records, with an in- 
dividuality as distinct, and a grandeur as great, and an en- 
durance as indestructible, as those of the Pyramids and of 
the Sphynx from among the relics of past ages. 

But, though so much is omitted in the narrative, it must 
not be supposed that what is passed over is of no impor- 
tance. On the contrary, these omitted intervals were the 
times of discipline and preparation for the doing of the work 
which is actually chronicled ; and if they had not been filled 
with their appropriate labor and meditation, there would have 
been nothing in the life worth recording at all. It seems to 
me, therefore, that no one can study the history of Moses, as 
we have been trying to do, without learning that the head- 
springs of true greatness and efficiency lie far away up out 
of the sight of one's fellows, and are to be filled and fed 
by lonely studyings and solitary musings, communings with 
one's own heart, with God, with nature, and with all those 
questions which any education worthy of the name suggests. 
The noblest life is thus the outcome of that of which no bi- 
ographer can take cognizance. It is true of it, as the Psalm- 
ist says of the body, that it is " made in secret ;" and the 
consolation of each earnest worker is that, though for the 
time he may seem to himself to be groping blindly like one 
in the dark, God has been superintending and shaping all, 
30 that at length he can say, "Thine eyes did see it, while 

Characteristics of Moses. 455 

yet imperfect ; and in thy book it was all written, what days 
it should be fashioned, while as yet there was none of it." 

How clearly does all this appear in Moses ! Each of the 
two former sections of his life gave its own contribution to 
the last, with its glorious time of harvest and achievement. 
He who was to be victor over Pharaoh and the emanci- 
pator of the Israelites, was trained in the very military 
school which he was to oppose. Humanly speaking, he 
could never have so dealt with Pharaoh if he had not en- 
joyed his Egyptian advantages. As William the Silent was 
educated in the closet of Charles V., arid at the court of 
Philip II. into the liberator of the United Provinces, and 
thus turned to account, in the emancipation of his fellow- 
countrymen, the lessons in diplomacy and military tactics 
which he had learned from the oppressor himself, so Mo- 
ses, under God, made his learning in all the wisdom of the 
Egyptians subservient to the great work of his life. Nay, 
as he was to stand before the nations, the grand champion 
for spiritual monotheism, in the face of idolatry, materialism, 
and polytheism, he was first initiated in the system which he 
was to oppose. Just as Saul of Tarsus was prepared, by his 
education in the school of Gamaliel, for understanding the 
real symbolism of Judaism — and thereby advancing the sim- 
plicity and spirituality of the Gospel — so Moses was enabled 
by his Egyptian learning to penetrate to the heart of the re- 
ligious symbolism of his time; and thus at length he became 
the instrument of producing an external system in which the 
eye was made to minister to the understanding, while yet 
there was no sculptured image of Jehovah to ally it with the 
idolatries of the nations. 

Again, the most cursory reader of the history can perceive 
that his sojourn in Midian, apart altogether from the spirit- 
ual training which his personal fellowship with God in its 
secluded wilderness furnished, was valuable to him, as giving 

456 Moses the Law-giver. 

him that familiarity with tent-life in the desert, and that ac- 
quaintance with the geography of the desert itself, which 
were so needful to him in his leading the tribes through it 
to the land of promise. Thus, even as the river Nile it- 
self is fed by those great lakes in Central Africa whereon 
no white man's eye had looked until Livingstone, and Baker, 
and Cameron, and Stanley traced them out, so those inun- 
dations of spiritual power, which in Moses swept all before 
them, have their source in the hidden Nyanzas and Tangan- 
yikas of long preparation and personal seclusion, over which 
his narrative has drawn an impenetrable veil. These eighty 
years of preparation, though little is said about them, were 
not lost ; for, when he came to his life-work, that lifted into 
itself and utilized everything that had gone before. As the 
eloquent Bishop Wilberforce has said, " The sage, learned in 
all Egyptian lore ; the great soul, mighty in word and deed ; 
the deep philosophic intellect, furnished with all transmitted 
wisdom, trained in all school subtleties, practised by the oft- 
handling of State affairs, ripened into mellowness by soli- 
tude, nature, and self- converse — these remained; but on 
them all had passed a mighty change, . . . transmuting the 
earthly into the heavenly, raising the intellectual into the 
spiritual, making the man of power into the man of God, the 
noble, philosophic patriot into the prophet of the Lord."* 

But, passing now from the record to the man, we begin 
our analysis of his greatness with the briefest reference to 
his intellectual qualities. We remember, of course, that he 
wrote by divine inspiration ; but it is not to be forgotten 
that the Spirit of God employed the mental powers of those 
through whom he made his communications to mankind. 
He used them, not as mere machines, but so wrought in 
them and through them that, while the history or prophecy 

* "Heroes of Hebrew History," pp. no, III. 

Characteristics of Mosh.s. 457 

which, each gave is all tliat he meant it to be, it is, at the 
same time, stamped with the individuality of each, and bears 
upon it the marks of his mental peculiarities. One can see 
at a glance a difference between the poetic sublimity of 
Isaiah and the Doric simplicity of Amos; and it is easy to 
distinguish the intellectual qualities of Paul from those of 
John, as these appear in their respeptive. epistles. . , 

It must not be supposed,. therefore, that we ignore tl^i? 
agency of the Holy Ghost in the production of the Pent^ 
teuch, while we direct attention to the marks which it bears 
of Moses's intellectual pre-eminence. There are aboyt tl^e 
narratives of Genesis, and the historical portions of the other 
books which came from his pen, a simple strength and a 
quiet power which indicate that he was a man of mental 
force. Even if w$ adopt the view of those who believe that 
he made use of documents which he found already in exist- 
ence, we shall be compelled to admit that in their arrange- 
ment and adaptation, as well as in the impartation to the fin- 
ished whole of that rounded completeness with which it is 
distinguished, we have something more than mere editpria.! 
^kill. There. is np straining after effect. No attempt is 
made to gild that which is already gold. The narrative is 
left to speak for Hself; and the author never for a moment 
stands aside to draw attention either to himself or tp the 
wonderful events which he is recording. He has to deal 
with such lofty themes as the creation, the fall, the flood, the 
call of Abraham, and th^ early history of the patriarchs 
of his nation ; yet throughout there is a quiet naturalness 
which contrasts most suggestively with the sacred books of 
other nations, and which, as it seems to me, can be account- 
ed for only by his own familiarity with God's wondrous 
works; for I cannot suppose, that the composition of the 
Book of Genesis, belongs to the earlier years of Moses's life. 
To, me. it rather seenis that we must put it in those lat(^r 

458 Moses the Law-giver. 

years between Sinai and Pisgab, of which no record has by 
him been preserved. He speaks of God's creating might 
like one who is not surprised thereat. He has no tone of 
wonder in giving the narrative of the flood. The call of 
Abraham does not startle him by its singularity, and he 
does not marvel at the friendship subsisting between the 
Father of the faithful and his covenant God. No exclama- 
tion of wonder escapes from him as be tells of Jacob's vi- 
sion at Bethel, or of the mysterious wrestling with the angel 
at Peniel ; nor does he stay to moralize over the destruc- 
tion of the cities of the plain. 

Now all this is not a mere literary excellence; it is the 
result of his own personal experience in communion with 
God. The vision of Horeb helped him to understand the 
command which Abram heard in the far land of Ur. Sinai 
destroyed in him the possibility of being astonished at the 
burning of Sodom ; and his own vision in the cleft of the 
rock made the scene at Peniel seem perfectly natural in his 
eyes. Thus, his personal fellowship with God blended with 
his mental greatness, and gave to it that princely supremacy 
whereby it dealt with the loftiest things in the simplest and 
quietest manner. 

The feeble writer betrays his weakness by his fondness for 
epithets, and his ceaseless strivings after climactic elabora- 
tion. But in Moses his own marvellous history conspired 
with his intellectual strength to produce a work wherein 
the loftiest speculations of men are surpassed, while yet 
the style is marked with the ease which only perfect ac- 
quaintance with the subject can confer. Nor must we fail 
to note the perfection of historical imagination with which 
these records are distinguished. He puts us into the midst 
of the scenes which he describes. We look with Abraham 
over the fields toward the plain of Jordan, and go out with 
Isaac to meditate at even-tide. Jacob's life at Padan-aram is 

Characteristics of Moses. 459 

as real to us as if we had ourselves been in the encampment 
at the time ; and the story of Joseph and his brethren is as 
vivid and pathetic to us as if it told of incidents that occur- 
red but yesterday. Now to produce such impressions is one 
of the highest literary achievements ; and even if he had old- 
er documents to work upon, the result proves that he did 
for these documents what Shakspeare did for the stories on 
which he grafted some of his most marvellous productions 
Do not misunderstand me: the Spirit of God was in him and 
with him when he did all that ; but it was done by the Spirit 
of God through his natural powers, and so it proves that 
tiiese were of the highest order. 

We must not linger thus, however, on that which was 
merely intellectual, for his crowning excellences were the 
spiritual graces with which he was adorned. And among 
these, ^s the root from which all the rest did spring, I men- 
tion first his faith. "He endured," says the inspired pen- 
man, "as seeing him who is invisible." He had a vivid and 
constant sense of the presence of God, and a correct esti- 
mate of the relative importance of things seen and temporal, 
as compared with those which are unseen and eternal. This 
kept him from contamination during his early education, and 
while yet he was in the palace of the Pharaohs ; and when 
the day came when he must take the one side or the other 
in that conflict which has continued through all the ages, 
he did not hesitate or attempt to temporize, but "esteemed 
the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in 
Egypt." Never more alluring prospects opened up before 
any man than those which the world held out to him. The 
throne of the greatest monarchy of his age was within his 
reach. All that wealth could procure, or pleasure bestow, 
or the greatest earthly power command, was easily at his 
call. But the glory of these things paled in his view be- 
fore the more excellent character of those invisible honors 

460 Moses the Law-giver. 

which God set before him; and so, without a sigh of regret 
or a thought of sacrifice, he turned his back upon a position 
which he could occupy only by proving false to his country- 
men and disloyal to his Lord. This faith sustained him in 
the solitudes of Midian, and animated him amidst all the 
conflict attendant on the Exodus, and all the difficulties that 
confronted him in the wilderness. At first, indeed, he seemed 
reluctant to accept the great responsibility which God al- 
most thrust upon him ; but from the moment when be heard 
the promise, " certainly 1 will be with thee," on till the day 
when he set out for Pisgah, he was seldom visited with mis- 
giving. His intercourse with God was of the closest and most 
confidential character. Jehovah, to him, was no mere ab- 
straction, of whom he might have spoken as " the Infinite," 
or " the Absolute /' but he was a living person, as real to him 
as was his brother Aaron, and more helpful to him than any 
human friend could be. This faith gave him courage in the 
hour of danger, and calmness in the time of trial. Whether 
he was called to go in before the angry Pharaoh, or to face 
the mutiny of the murmuring tribes, he was equally sustained 
by the sight of the invisible God ; and when at length he 
passed in within the veil, he went only into a higher and 
closer fellowship with one whom he had long known and 

Oh for more of this same principle in us ! Give us clear- 
visioned perception of unseen things such as he possessed, 
and we too might take our places beside the Emancipators 
of the world, and become something like worthy followers of 
him who, in the synagogue of Nazareth, appropriated to him- 
self the prophet's words, " The Spirit of the Lord God is 
upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach 
good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the 
broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the 
opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim 

Characteristics of Moses. 461 

the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance 
of our God ; to comfort all that mourn." 

Closely allied with this strong faith, we find the prayerful- 
ness of Moses. In every time of emergency his immediate 
resort was to Jehovah. His cry was not that of superstition, 
still less was it that of an experimenter, who wished to test 
whether there was any value in prayer at all or not ; but it 
was the appeal of one who knew that he was speaking to a 
real, living, loving person, omnipotently able to help, and 
pledged also to render assistance. He did not send up his 
petition and stand aside, like the mocking ones at the cross 
of Christ, saying, "Let be ; let us see whether God will come 
to save." Rather his prayer was an entreaty addressed to 
one whom he had often proved, on whose affection he knew 
he could rely, and by whose fellowship he had frequently 
been refreshed. He was not speaking to a stranger. He 
was not like one of those needy ones among us, who, having 
heard of the benevolence of some prominent citizen, wTites 
to him on the mere speculation of receiving assistance. But 
he was like a son making application to his father ; and so 
he never pleaded in vain. 

We hear a great deal in these days of the power of 
prayer ; and, when we rightly understand the subject, it is 
hardly possible to over-estimate its importance. But we 
must not imagine that every request professedly addressed 
to God is a prayer ; and perhaps our failure to receive an- 
swers to our petitions may be largely explained by the dis- 
tinction which I have just now drawn. True prayer is that 
which, as in the case of Moses, springs out of faith in God — 
not that which is offered by one who would make the receiv- 
ing or not receiving of an answer a test whether there be 
any God or not ; and those supplications which are offered 
by men who, like Abraham or Moses, are the friends of 
God, and appeal to him as their friend, never come back 

462 Moses the Law-giver. 

unacknowledged. When we pray " as seeing him who is in-^ 
visible," we never pray in vain ; for then we have in our 
hands a wonder-working rod of mightier potency than that 
with which Moses made a pathway through the sea. 

Nor, in speaking of the qualities of Moses, must we for- 
get his humility. He never put himself in the foreground. 
Even at the bush his modesty ran almost into a sinful ex- 
cess, as he repeatedly put from him the honor to which God 
was calling him. He coveted no distinction, and sought 
no prominence ; his greatness came to him, he did not go 
after it. Not as the result of his own ambitious schemings 
did he become the leader and the law-giver of the people. 
These honors were conferred on him unsought ; and when 
they were given to him, he did not use them for his own 

Humility, wherever genuine, is allied with disinterested- 
ness ; and so it is hardly possible to speak of the one with- 
out taking cognizance also of the other. And when we 
speak of Moses's disinterestedness, what a field opens up 
before us ! He gave up his own ease and comfort, to secure 
the emancipation of his people; and, while laboring night 
and day for them, he had no thought whatever of his own 
interests. His office brought him no emolument. He was 
greatest of all, because he was the servant of all ; and 
though, by the command of God, Aaron was made high- 
priest, no other member of his family was pushed by him 
into prominence. He never thought of plotting to secure 
some lucrative employment for his sons ; and at the end of 
his administration he might have said with Samuel, " Behold, 
here I am : witness against me before the Lord ; whose ox 
have I taken ? or whose ass have I taken ? or whom have I 
defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have 
I received any bribe, to blind mine eyes therewith ?" 

But even as Paul, when pursuing a similar course, was at- 

Characteristics of Moses. 463 

tacked with calumny, so Moses had to meet ungrateful mu- 
tiny ; and instead of denouncing that as a base return for 
all services, he calmly appealed from it to God. History is 
loud in her praises of those public-spirited patriots who have 
rendered most eminent services to the countries which they 
loved, and yet have died leaving no fortune behind them ; 
nor, judging from the rarity of such cases in our own day 
and in our own land, does it seem that her approbation is 
unworthily bestowed — but where shall we find equal dis- 
interestedness to that which Moses manifested? Without 
earthly reward of any sort, so far as we can see, he lived for 
forty years, not to serve himself, but to serve the tribes; and 
he did so out of regard to Jehovah. Even when he had it 
in his offer to be made himself the founder of a great nation 
if he would give up pleading their cause, he nobly refused to 
turn against them ; and he grounded his refusal on his solic- 
itude for the honor of the Lord himself. So we find that 
his piety was the source of his disinterested patriotism; and 
when our legislative chambers shall be filled with men who 
have some higher regard for the God of Israel than to use 
his name for the mere pointing of an irreverent jest, we may 
expect to see similar unselfishness among our statesmen— 
but not till then. 

Leaving other features out of view, I must add a word or 
two about the meekness, or, as it might, perhaps, be better 
rendered, the "much endurance," of Moses. Surely we 
have been impressed with this characteristic of the man of 
God, as we have followed, Sabbath by Sabbath, the record 
of his doings. Never was there an undertaking more ardu- 
ous than that on which he was commissioned ; and it would 
be hard to find a more comprehensive summary of its diffi- 
culties than that given in the following words by the elo- 
quent prelate from whom I have already quoted : " To lead 
forth a mob of slaves, debased as only slavery can debase 


464 Moses the Law-giver. 

humanity, sunk below the dead level of pagan Eg}^ptian civ* 
ilization ; to form them into a daring army, a free common- 
wealth, and a believing Church ; to be exposed to all the 
ready and violent vicissitudes of their desires, and hopes, 
and fears, and so to have to suffer their manners in the wil- 
derness j to have them upbraid him for their very deliver- 
ance when their sensual natures lusted after the flesh-pots 
of Egypt; to have them talk of stoning him when the wells 
were dry; to have them dispute with him for his command, 
and rebel against his rule ; to have them break their cove- 
nant with Jehovah, and turn to the sacred calf of their old 
Egyptian oppressors — all this was such a burden as was 
never laid on any other. "^'^ Yet only on one occasion did 
there come from him anything like complaint; and even 
then it would seem that God acknowledged the justness of 
his plea, for he suggested immediate measures for his ser- 
vant's relief. 

Now, at first thought, we may imagine that such noble en- 
durance is discouraging to us, inasmuch as it may seem ut- 
terly hopeless for us to attain it. But, so far from that being 
the case, I venture to say that there is no biography in the 
Bible so full of cheer to us in this very particular as that 
which we have been studying ; for, if we have read his his- 
tory aright, Moses was not, at the outset of his career, dis- 
tinguished either for his patience or his self-control. There 
were about him, apparently, an impetuosity of temper and a 
rashness of disposition which had in them little promise of 
his later excellence. We hear the vehemence of his nature 
in the very tone of his appeal to the two Israelites whose 
strife he tried to terminate. There was undeniable haste in 
the blow which killed the Egyptian who was maltreating the 
Hebrew ; and though we admire the chivalry of his inter- 

* " Heroes of Hebrew History," p. 1 19. 

Characteristics of Moses. 465 

ference on behalf of Jethro's daughters, we cannot but re- 
mark on its impulsive character, and notice the fact that it 
was lacking in caution. 

So, again, we read of his leaving Pharaoh in a great an- 
ger ; and in general, concerning his early days, we may af- 
firm that he was not distinguished for the possession of 
self-control ; when he beheld the idolatry of the Israelites 
as he descended from Sinai, "his anger waxed hot." Yet 
this was the man in whom at length was formed that much- 
enduring character which has received the impartial eulogy 
of the Book of God. So let no one despair of attaining 
excellence even in the very quality in which he is by nat- 
ure most deficient; and in particular, let us never again 
speak of hastiness of temper as an incurable evil. It is a 
thing not to be regarded as a misfortune, and accepted as 
such, but to be fought with and overcome ; and, blessed be 
God, it may be overcome through constant faith in and 
fellowship with him. Still, though, in this aspect of the 
case, the history of Moses is full of comfort, we may not 
forget that it is also fraught with warning ; for it teaches us 
that we must not allow ourselves to think that, in respect to 
our besetments, we are ever out of danger. Moses might 
have supposed that he had entirely subdued that impetuous 
fieriness of temper with which in former days he had to 
contend, and might be giving no heed to that which had 
been in earlier times a weakness, but had now become a 
strength, when, lo I at Meribah, it rose again in its might, 
" so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips." Thus hope- 
ful conflict and constant vigilance are the lessons of this 
aspect of his character. 

Arid now we must tear ourselves away from that fascinat- 
ing and instructive study, which has filled the Sabbath even- 
ings of our ecclesiastical year. We have learned much of 
Moses, and therefore we have learned so much the more of 

466 ^ Moses the Law-giver. 

Christ ; for Moses spake of the Messiah, and is in himself 
one of the most suggestive types of Christ to be found in 
the Old Testament. The great deliverer was to be " like 
unto him /' and in many respects we can clearly trace the 
parallel. As Moses, in the early part of his career, refused 
the Egyptian monarchy, because it could be gained by him 
only by disloyalty to God, so Jesus turned away from the 
kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, because they 
were offered on condition that he would fall down and wor- 
ship Satan. As Moses became the emancipator of his peo- 
ple from their house of bondage, so Jesus lived and died that 
he might save his people from their sins ; as Moses, pene- 
trating to the soul of the symbolism of idolatry, introduced 
a new dispensation wherein symbolism was allied to spirit- 
uality of worship, so Jesus, seizing the spirituality of the Mo- 
saic system, freed it from its national restrictions, and ush- 
ered in the day when neither at Jerusalem nor at Gerizim 
would men seek to localize the service of Jehovah, but the 
true worshipper would worship the Father anywhere, believ- 
ing that the character of the worship is of infinitely higher 
importance than the place where it is offered ; as Moses was 
pre-eminently a law -giver, so Jesus speaks with authority, 
and has, in his Sermon on the Mount, laid down a code 
which not only expounds, but expands and glorifies, or, in 
one word, fulfils the precepts of the Decalogue ; as Moses 
was a prophet, speaking to the people in the stead of God, 
so Jesus is the great prophet of his Church ; as Moses stood 
the mediator of a covenant between God and Israel, repre- 
senting God to the people, and representing the people to 
God, interceding for them when they sinned, while at the 
same time he admitted and condemned their guilt, so Jesus 
is the mediator of the new covenant, standing between God 
and man, and bridging, by his atonement and intercession, 
the gulf: between the two. We cannot wonder, therefore, 

Characteristics of Moses. 467 

that, in the vision of the Apocalypse, they who have gotten 
the victory over the beast and his image are represented as 
singing " the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song 
of the Lamb." 

But though the two are thus combined, the one rises above 
and surpasses the other. For " Moses was faithful as a ser- 
vant, but Christ as a son." The servant passeth away, but 
the son abideth ever. From that " lonely grave in Moab's 
land" Moses came not again to the tribes that mourned 
upon the plain ; but out of the tomb of Joseph Jesus rose, 
and now, in a higher sense than any other, he lives for us ; 
so that we can say, " He is able to save unto the uttermost 
all that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to 
make intercession for them." The much-enduring Moses, 
who bore so bravely the burden of his people's infirmities, 
is excelled by him who never faltered beneath the crushing 
load of the world's guilt ; and, meek as the son of Amram 
was, we must not forget that there is no Meribah spot on 
the bright disk of the Sun of Righteousness. Thus " that 
which was made glorious hath no glory in this respect, by 
reason of the glory that excelleth." 

Yet, though he is far beneath the Son of God, Moses stands 
peerless and pre-eminent among the sons of men ; and hav- 
ing followed his footsteps in the chapters of his recorded life, 
we can endorse the words of one of the noblest of the Fa- 
thers : " This Moses, humble in refusing so great a service ; 
resigned in undertaking, faithful in discharging, unwearied 
in fulfilling it ; vigilant in governing his people, resolute in 
correcting them ; ardent in loving them, and patient in bear- 
ing with them ; the intercessor for them with the God whom 
they provoked, this Moses — such and so great a man — we 
love, and admire, and, so far as may be, imitate."* 

* Augustine, quoted by Isaac Williams, in " Characters of the Old 

468 Moses the Law-giver. 

God buried Moses. It was fitting, therefore, that he too 
should write his epitaph. Here it is, given by his inspira- 
tion, and, though written only in a book, having a perma- 
nence as great as if it had been graven with an iron pen in 
the rock forever :* " And there arose not a prophet since in 
Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 
in all the signs and the wonders which the Lord sent him 
to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, and to all his ser- 
vants, and to all his land, and in all that mighty hand, and 
in all the great terror which Moses showed in the sight of 
all Israel." 

Testament," pp. 84, 85, and by Bishop Wilberforce, in " Heroes of He- 
brew History," p. 130. 
* «* Moses and his Times," by Thornley Smith, p. 294. 


Aaron, age of, 41 ; fluency of, 53 ; given to Moses as assistant, 53 ; 
meets Moses on his return from Midian, 66 ; supports Moses on the 
rock at Rephidim, 154 ; left with Hur in charge of the people, 201 ; 
weakness of, in the matter of the golden calf, 205, 215 ; inaugurated as 
high-priest, 274 ; resignation of, under severe bereavement, 278 ; joins 
Miriam in murmuring against Moses, 307-309 ; rod of, laid up before 
the Lord, 349; priesthood of, vindicated, 349 ; death of, 364; charac- 
ter of, 204, 365. 

Abihu, sin of, 275 ; punishment of, 277 ; lessons from the guilt and doom 
of, 283. 

Ability, example of, consecrated, 249. 

Abiram, takes part with Korah in conspiracy, 345 ; punishment of, 346, 

Abyssinia, British Expedition to, referred to, 162. 

Addison, Joseph, hymn by, quoted from, 22. 

Ain-el-Weibeh, 323. 

Akabah, Gulf of, 375. 

Alexander, Joseph A., D.D., lines by, 75. 

Alexander, Mrs., lines by, 440. 

Alexander, W. L., D.D., Kitto's " Cyclopsedia " edited by, quoted from 
or referred to, 41, 87, 90, 363 ; article by, on Deuteronomy, m Sunday 
Magazine, referred to, 424. 

Alford, Dean, " The Greek Testament," by, quoted from, 384. 

Alush, 149. 

Amalekites, the, attack the Hebrews at Rephidim, and are defeated, 153. 

Ambition, selfish, courts its own destruction, 357. 

American Palestine Exploration Society, first statement of, quoted, 378. 

Amorites, army of the, encountered by the Hebrews, 377. 

Amram, genealogy of, 11 ; faith of, 13. 

Anakim, the, account of, by the spies, 323 ; have to be encountered in the 
conquest of every promised land, 332 ; can be overcome by faith and 
courage, 334. 

Annapolis, academy at, used as an illustration, 263. 

470 Index. 

Anthropomorphisms of the Mosaic narrative accounted for, 224. 

Aperiu, meaning of, 10. 

Ark of bulrushes, how made, 14. 

Ark of the covenant in tabernacle, 237. 

Art in relation to religion, 249. 

Asher, place of tribe of, in line of march, 292 ; blessing of, 436. 

Attributes of God, how the Hebrews were educated into the knowledge 

of the, 225. 
Augustine, quotation from, 467. 

Bacon's Essays quoted from, 432. 

Balaam, story of, 389-392 ; position and character of, 392 ; test applied 

to, 394 ; practical inconsistencies of, 397 ; covetousness, 401. 
Balak, King of Moab, negotiations with Balaam, 389. 
Banner, a symbol of decision, 157 ; mark of distinction, 159; of joy, 160; 

of protection, 162. 
Baptism unto Moses, meaning of, 119. 
Bashan, description of, 378. 
Benjamin, place of tribe of, on the march, 292. 
Bezaleel and Aholiab, examples of consecrated ability, 249. 
Bir Musa, 150. 

Blessing of Joseph and Asher, 436. 
Blood-revenge, law regulating, 259. 

Bondage of sin, the, illustrated by the slavery of the Hebrews, 18. 
Book, finding of the, by Hilkiah, not the origin of Deuteronomy, 417-419. 
Books, how first made, 15. 
Boswell's "Life of Johnson" referred to, 453. 
Brazen serpent, set up, 376 ; typical teaching of the, 382-387 j destroyed 

by Hezekiah, 376. 
Brotherhood enforced by redemption, 272. 
Bush, the burning, vision of, 46 ; significance of, 47 ; revelation made to 

Moses at, 48. 
Butler, Bishop, quotation from, 208. 

Caleb sent as one of the spies, 324 ; nationality of, 325 ; stands with 
Joshua against the report of the other spies, 326 ; courage of, in old 

age, 334, 335- 
Censers of the mutineers used for a covering of the altar, 348. 
Census of the people at Sinai, 282 ; of the Levites, 282. 
Chabas, the Egyptologist, quoted from, 10. 
Cherubim, meaning of the, 243. 

Index. 47 1 

Christ, reproach of, preferred by Moses, 39 ; discourse of, on the manna, 
139 ; discourse of, on the brazen serpent, 387 j parallel between, and 
Moses, 430, 466. 

Christian life, the, begins in the acceptance of deliverance through sacri- 
fice, 106 ; is a perpetual feast, 107 ; should be characterized by sin- 
cerity and truth, 108 ; is not free from hardship, 142 ; is not all hard- 
ship, 143 ; true theory of the, 146. 

Colenso, Bishop, objection to the Passover edict considered, 96. 

Coleridge, S. T., quotation from, 322 ; Table-Talk of, 453. 

Commandments, Ten, importance of the, 191 ; peculiarities of the, 192- 
196 ; interpreted by Jesus, 196. 

"Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical," by Jamieson, 
Fausset, and Brown, quoted from or referred to, 10, 16, 296. 

Conflict with God always disastrous to his adversary, 94. 

Consecration typically taught in the tabernacle, 248 ; and enforced in the 
ceremonial laws, 270. 

Contentment and holy ambition harmonized, 56. 

Courage, distinguished from recklessness, 125. 

Covetousness, danger of, 402. 

Criminal code, the Hebrew, 267. 

Crosby, Rev. Howard, D.D., quoted from, 17. 

Curse comes through sin, 406. 

Curtis, Rev. Professor S. J., D.D., " The Levitical Priests" by, referred 
to, 423. 

Dan, place of the tribe of, on march, 292. 

Darkness, plague of, 83. 

Dathan joins Korah in conspiracy, 345 ; punishment of, 347. 

Decalogue, importance of the, 191 ; peculiarities of the, 192-196. 

Declaration of Independence, the, anticipated in the law of Moses, 264. 

Deliverance prompts to song, 125 ; increases obligation, 131. 

Desire, gratification of, not always a blessing, 348. 

Despondency, danger of, 380. 

Deuteronomy, Book of, contents of, 412-415 ; period covered by, 411 ; 
theories about date and authorship of, 416; objections to Mosaic au- 
thorship of, considered, 420-425 ; characteristcs of, 428 ; prophecies in, 
429-431; practical bearing of, on nations of to-day, 431 ; psalm of 
Moses in, 436-437. 

Devotion, a safety-valve, 356. 

Disinterestedness, will not save from envy, 316; is allied with humility, 
462 ; required in modern political life, 180. 

472 Index. 

Display, love of, a dangerous thing, 403. 

Division of labor recommended, 176. 

Divorce, law of, referred to, 258. 

Domestic responsibility not destroyed by public duties, 173. 

Drunkard, the, moral degradation of, 404. 

Dying, the, loneliness of, 445. 

Eadie, John, D.D., LL.D., " Biblical Cyclopaedia" o^ quoted from, 2361 

Earnest of the Spirit, 328. 

Education, provision for, among the Hebrews, 266. 

Education of the Hebrews through the history and the law, 224, 232. 

Egypt, place of, in history, 7 ; contest of Moses with, 78. 

Egyptians, the, education of, described, 25-28 ; written characters of, 25 ; 
knowledge of the arts and science among, 26-28. 

Eldad and Medad, prophesying of, 296, 304. 

Elim, encampment at, 132, 143. 

Emancipation does not put an end to hardship, 141 ; does not exempt 
from obligation, 271. 

Encampment of the tribes arranged, 281. 

" Encyclopaedia Britannica " referred to, 25, 26, 42. 

Envy, absence of, in the really great man, 304; may show itself in the 
most unexpected quarter, 318 ; is willing to use the meanest weap- 
ons, 320; is best met by an appeal to Heaven, 321. 

Ephraim, tribe of, the place of, in encampment, 281 j on march, 292. 

Exclusion of the lost from heaven final, 338. 

Expiation typically taught in tabernacle ritual, 248, 269. 

Everlasting punishment, doctrine of, 337, 338. 

Face, the, of Moses, shining of, 224 ; use made by Paul of this passage of 

the history, 228-231. 
Fairbairn's " Imperial Bible Dictionary," quoted from, or referred to, 43, 

Faith, distinguished from presumption, 125 ; the regulating grace of the 

Christian character, 366 ; object of, not in ourselves, 385 ; no merit in, 

385 ; is the rest of the soul, 386 ; illustrated in the life of Moses, 36- 

38, 459- 
Fear alone will not bring permanent repentance, 91 ; will not keep from 

sin, 405. 
Feast of the elders on Mount Sinai, 201. 
Feasts of the Jews, purpose of, 265, 270. 
First-born, death of the, S^' 

Index. 473 

Forbearance of God, the, has a limit, 75, 336. 

Fra Angelico, reference to, 250. 

Friendship, true, illustrated in Jethro and Moses, 170; reciprocity of, in 

Hobab and Moses, 289. 
Frogs, plague of the, 81. 

Gad, position of tribe of, on march, 292 j tribe of, ask inheritance with 
Reuben on the east of Jordan, 408. 

Genesis, composition of the Book of, 456. 

Gershonites, place of, in the march, 292. 

Gnats, plague of the, 82. 

God the guide of his people, 123 ; reveals himself to us in connection 
with our troubles, 131 ; dwelling of, with his people symbolized by the 
Shechinah, 239 ; spirituality of, suggested by the Shechinah, 241 ; unity 
of, taught by the tabernacle, 242 ; holiness of, taught by the taberna- 
cle, 242 ; always considerate of his faithful servants, 302 ; no limit to 
the resources of, 305 ; promises of, will always bear investigation, 328 ; 
forbearance of, has its limits, 75, 336 ; goodness of, to Moses at death, 
447 ; goodness of, to his bereaved people, 448. 

Goethe, Table-Talk of, referred to, 453. 

Guidance, how to obtain, 123. 

Gustavus Adolphus referred to, 155. 

Hail, plague of the, 82. 

Hamilton, Rev. James, D.D., " Moses the Man of God," quoted firom, or 
referred to, 29, 30, 439. 

Handel, oratorios of, referred to, 249. 

Hardening of Pharaoh's heart, 65. 

Havelock, General, referred to, 54, 155. 

Hazeroth, 307. 

Hebrews, the, things needed by, for their unification into a nation, 7 ; po- 
sition of, in Egypt in the days of Joseph and after, 8 ; number of, at 
birth of Moses, 9 ; oppression of, by the King of Egypt, 9 ; slavery of, 
an illustration of the bondage of sin, 18 ; borrowing by, from the Egyp- 
tians explained, 62 ; reception of Moses and Aaron by, 67 ; oppression 
of, by the Pharaoh of the Exodus, 68 ; despondency of, when their op- 
pression was increased, 68 ; escape of, from Egypt unaccountable, ex- 
cept in connection with Divine agency, 77 ; position of, on the night of 
the Passover, 95 ; obedience of, to the ordinance of the Passover, 99 ; 
departure of, from Rameses, iii; halting of, at Succoth, iii ; route 
of, 112 ; encampment of, at Ethan, 113 ; led by pillar of cloud, 113 ; at 

474 Index. 

Pihahiroth, 114 ; pursued by Pharaoh, 115 ; pass through the Red Sea 
116; murmuring of, at Marah, 129; encampment in wilderness of 
Sin, 133 ; murmuring of, at Sin, 134 ; come to Rephidim, 149 ; attack- 
ed by Amalekites, 153 ; enter into covenant with God at Sinai, 186- 
189; relapse into idolatry, 202 ; test of, at Sinai, 215 ; ultimate con- 
version of, to Christ, 230 ; educated by the symbolism of the taberna- 
cle, 232 ; liberality of, in erection of the tabernacle, 248 ; educated for 
the world's benefit, 262 ; civil polity of, 264, 266 ; order ot encamp- 
ment of, 281 ; order of tribes on march, 292 ; murmuring of, at Paran, 
293 ; mutiny of, at Kadesh, 326 ; punishment of, 327 ; murmuring of, 
at Kadesh again, 360 ; friendly message of the Edomites, 362 ; in the 
Arabah valley, 374; bitten by serpents, 376; defeat the Amorites, 
378; encamp in the plains of Moab, 388; mourn for the death of 
Moses, 441. 

Heliopolis, Temple of the Sun at, 25 ; obelisk at, 25. 

Higher criticismj claims of the, 425. 

Hobab, relation of, to Moses, 43 ; invited to accompany Moses, 283, 

Holiness of God taught by the tabernacle, 242, 

Hood, Thomas, lines from, 287. 

Hor, Mount, 362. 

Howarah identified with Marah, 130. 

Hunt, W. H., referred to, 250. 

Hur supports Moses on the rock at Rephidim, 152 ; left with Aaron in 
charge of the people, 201. 

Husbands, duties of, at home, 174. 

Hymnology, enriched by gratitude, 126; of life, 127. 

Hypocrisy, evils of, 109. 

Impatience condemned, 54. 

Incarnation typically taught in the tabernacle, 247. 

Individual, place and power of the, in the progress of the Church, 371, 

Inspiration, relation of, to the ability of Moses, 254, 456, 457. 

Intemperance, warning against, 283. 

Intermarriages between the people of God and the ungodly, 287. 

Irritability of temper, how to restrain, 367 ; sin of, 368. 

Issachar, position of the tribe of, on the march, 292, 

Jebel Musa, 183, 184. 
Jebel Nebi Haroun, 362. 

Jehovah, significance of the name of, 50 ; contrasted with other names 
of God, 69 ; proclaims his name to Moses, 226. 

Index. 475 

Jehovah- Nissi, 157. 

Jehovah-Rophek, 131. 

Jesus, the Lord, authenticated Moses, 425, 428 ; parallel between, and 
Moses, 430, 466. 

Jethro, names of, explained and harmonized, 43 ; character of, 44, 170; 
sends Moses to Egypt in peace, 64; brings Zipporah to Moses at 
Sinai, 168; gives Moses wise advice, 172. 

Jochebed, genealogy of, 1 1 ; faith of, 13 ; engaged by Pharaoh's daugh- 
ter to nurse her own son, 16 ; name of, 50. 

Johnson, Samuel, memoir of, referred to, 453. 

Josephus, story from, concerning youth of Moses, 29. 

Joshua, leads the people against Amalek, 154; minister of Moses on 
Sinai, 201; complains of El dad and Medad prophesying, 296 ; sent 
as one of the spies, 324 ; stands with Caleb against the report of the 
other spies, 326 ; succeeds Moses, 410, 448. 

Jubilation provided for in ceremonial law, 270. 

Judah, position of the tribe of, in the camp and on the march, 282, 292, 

Judges, appointment of the, 172, 264. 

Kadesh, position of, 323 ; assembling of the tribes at, 358. 

Keble, Rev. John, lines of, 446. 

♦* Keil and Delitzsch on the Pentateuch," quoted from, or referred to, 66, 

I39» 155. 

Kibbroth-Hattaavah, 297. 

Kitto, Rev. John, D.D., " Daily Bible Illustrations," quoted from, or re- 
ferred to, 10, 134, 184, 311, 341, 371, 379. 

Knox, John, referred to, 54 

Kohathites, position of, on the march, 292. 

Korah, conspiracy of, with Dathan and Abiram, 341 ; punishment of, 
346 ; sons of, not included in their father's punishment, 347. 

Korahites, position of, in the camp, 282. 

Kurtz, J. H., D.D., "The History of the Old Covenant" by, quoted 
from, or referred to, 295, 314, 326, 394. 

Labor, division of, necessary to health, 176. 

Lady, Egyptian, bathing of an, 16. 

Lange's " Commentary on Exodus " referred to, 30. 

Law of blood-revenge referred to, 259. 

Law of divorce referred to, 258. 

Law, tables of, broken by Moses, 218. 

Laws of Moses adapted for a nation permanently settled in Palestine, 

476 Index. 

255; designed for a theocracy, 256 ; conditioned by the character 
and customs of the people, 258 ; regarding crimes, 267 ; regarding 
property, 268 ; regarding the poor, 269 ; religious and ceremonial, 

Lenormant, Franjois, " Manual of the Ancient History of the East " 
quoted from, 29. 

Levites, position of, among the people, 265 ; census of, 282. 

Leviticus, Book of, 274. 

I^x talionis, 261, 

Liberality, example of, given by the people, 24S. 

Life, a good man's, may be shortened by his own sin, 443. 

Life, the unwritten of; 453 ; relation of the, to that which is recorded, 454. 

Liturgy of King's Chapel, Boston, referred to, 369, 

Lockhart's ** Life of Sir Walter Scott" referred to, 453. 

Locusts, plague of the, 53. 

Loneliness of the dying, 445. 

Longfellow, H. W., quoted from, 56, 163, 251, 299. 

Love and faith the true roots of repentance, 92 ; and of holiness, 405. 

Luther, Table-Talk of, referred to, 453. 

Magicians, Egyptian, works of, not miraculous, 86. 

Manasseh, place of the tribe of, on the march, 292; half tribe o^ receive 
inheritance on the east of Jordan, 409. 

Manna, given, 135 ; a double supply collected on the sixth day, 136; none 
furnished on the Sabbath, 136; design of the, 137; relation of the, to 
the natural product of the locality, 138 ; discourse of Christ concern- 

»ng» 139- 

Marah, murmuring of the people at, 129, 

Maurice, Rev. F. D., ** The Patriarchs and Law-givers of the Old Testa- 
ment," quoted from, 51. 

Medad and Eldad, prophesying of, 296, 304. 

Mediation of Moses, 199, 216, 295, 327, 430, 466. 

Mediation typically taught in the tabernacle, 247, 

Merarites, place o^ on the march, 292. 

Michaelis, J. D^ on the ** Laws of Moses," referred to, 271. 

Midian described, 41. 

Milman, Henry H., D.D., " The History of the Jews " by, quoted from, 

Miriam, watching the bulrush ark, 15 ; leads the answering chorus on the 
Red Sea shore, 122; joins Aaron in murmuring against Moses, 307; 
punishment ol^ 315 ; intercession of Moses for, 316 ; death of, 359. 

Index. 477 

Moab, plains of, encampment in, 388. 

Moabites, terror of, at the approach of the Hebrews, 389. 

Monuments, Egyptian, preservation of, 24. 

Monuments of a nation an epitome of its history, 102. 

Mosaic dispensation, gospel of the, 186. 

Moses, parents of, 11; birth of, 12; concealment of, 12; laid on the 
bank of the Nile, 15; found by Pharaoh's daughter, 16; meaning of 
the name of, 17; taken home by Pharaoh's daughter, 24; education 
of, among the Egyptians, 25-28 ; story concerning, from Josephus, 
29 ; parallel between, and William the Silent, 30, 455 ; kills an Egyp- 
tian, 30; rebukes a Hebrew, 31 ; flees to Midian, 31 ; choice of, ana- 
lyzed and applied, 33-35 ; faith of, 35-38 ; arrival of, in Midian, 41 ; 
defends the daughters of Jethro, 42 ; marriage of, to Zipporah, 42 ; sons 
of, 44 ; influence of solitude on, 45 ; vision of the burning bush given 
to, 46 ; call of, by Jehovah, 49 ; response of, 50-52 ; signs given to, 
51 ; slowness of speech of, 52; promise of God to, 60; commission 
of, 61 ; leaves Midian, 64; mysterious incident at the inn, in connec- 
tion with circumcision of child of, 66 ; meeting with Aaron, 66 ; first 
interview with the Hebrews, 67 ; agency of, in the production of the 
ten plagues, 85 ; issues the ordinance of the Passover, 98 ; divides 
the Red Sea by his rod, 118; song of, 121 ; people murmur against, 
at Marah, 129; at Rephidim, 151 j at Paran, 295 ; at Kadesh, 326; 
heals the waters of Marah, 130; hardships of his leadership, 144,460, 
461 ; smites the rock of Rephidim, 151 ; receives Jethro and Zippo- 
rah, 168; adopts the advice of Jethro, 172 ; ascends Mount Sinai, 
185; receives the civil polity of the Jewish theocracy, 198; mediator 
of the covenant, 199; in the mount with God, 201 ; descent from the 
mount, 2i6 ; intercedes for the people, 217, 220 ; punishes the people, 
218 ; prayer to God for his presence, 222 ; asks that he may see God's 
glory, 223 ; shining of the face of, 224, 228 ; reeeives the plan of the 
tabernacle, 235 ; legislation of, 253 ; relation of his ability to the re- 
ception by him of the laws from God, 254 ; discouraged, 295 ; free- 
dom from envy in, 304; assailed by Miriam and Aaron, 307; unself- 
ishness of, 309 ; vindicated by God, 313; pre-eminence above the 
prophets, 314; sends the spies to Canaan, 323 ; effect of report of 
spies on, 326; intercession of, for the people, 327; meets the con- 
spiracy of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, 339-343 ; writes the ninetieth 
psalm, 359 ; sin of, at the rock, 360-361 ; punishment of, 362; time 
required for addresses by, in the Book of Deuteronomy, 411; psalm 
of, 434 ; blessing of the tribes by, 436 ; commanded to go to Pisgah, 
437 ; death of, 439 ; burial of, 440 ; life of, divided into three parts. 

478 Index, 

451 ; characteristics of, 456-465 ; parallel between, and Christ, 430, 

466 ; epitaph of, 468. 
Mozley, Rev. J. B., D.D., " Ruling Ideas in the Early Ages," referred to, 

Murmuring, one-sidedness of, 300. 
Murmuring of the tribes in Egypt, 68; at Marah, 129 ; at Rephidim, 151 ; 

at Paran, 295 ; at Kadesh, 326 ; at Kadesh again, 361. 
Murphy, Rev. James G., D.D., " Commentary on Exodus," quoted from, 

166, 198, 199 ; article by, in British and Foreign Evangelical Review^ 

referred to, 424. 
Murrain of cattle, plague of, 82. 
Must, the irrepressible, the secret of true excellence, 57. 

Nadab, sin of, 275 ; punishment of, 276 ; lessons from, 283. 

Naphtali, place of tribe of, on the march, 292. 

Negeb, or South Country, 324. 

Newton, Rev. John, quotation from, 138 ; anecdote of, 273. 

Newton, Rt. Rev. Thomas, D.D., " Dissertations on the Prophecies," 

quoted from, 396. 
Nile, the, Moses exposed on the bank of, 15 ; turned into blood, 81. 

Obedience the gate-way into authority, 71. 

Og, bedstead of, 379. 

Overwork, dangers of, 442, 443 ; how to be avoided, 1 76. 

Palmer, E. H., «' Desert of the Exodus," referred to, 130. 

Papyrus described, 14. 

Paran, wilderness of, 292, 323, 358. 

Parents, responsibility of, among the Hebrews, 266. 

Parliament, rudimentary, among the Hebrews, 264. 

Passover, ordinance of the, 98 ; night of the, 99-101 ; feast of the, loi ; 
purpose of the, 102; typical significance of, 104-110; compared by 
Paul to the Christian life, 105. 

Pharaoh, the, of the oppression, decree of, regarding Hebrew infants, 10. 

Pharaoh the, of the Exodus, hardening of the heart of, 65 ; oppresses the 
Hebrews, 68 ; conflict between, and Moses, 77-94 ; pursues the He- 
brews, 115 ; host of, drowned, 119. 

Pihahiroth, site of, 113-115. 

Pillar of cloud and fire, 113. 

Pisgah, view from, 438, 439. 

Index. 479 

Plagues, the ten, 77 ; purpose of, 79, 90 ; miraculously inflicted, 84 ; cli- 
mactic in succession, 88 ; results of, 89. 

Pleasures of sin analyzed, 38. 

Polity, civil, of the Hebrews, 198, 264. 

Pollok, Robert, quotation from, 250. 

Priesthood, the, position of, among the Plebrews, 265 ; of Aaron vindi- 
cated, 349 ; of Christ, 350. 

Property, laws regulating, among the Hebrews, 268. 

Providence of God illustrated in the birth and preservation of Moses, 19, 

Psalm, ninetieth, when written, 359. 

Public duties do not absolve from domestic responsibilities, 173. 

Public men, qualities to be sought in, 1 78-181. 

Quails furnished for the people, 134, 297. 

Rameses, King, 10. 

Rameses, departure of the Hebrews from, iii. 

Ras Sufsafeh, probable site of the giving of the law, 184, 185. 

Readiness for death, importance of, 369. 

Redemption does not absolve from law, 271 ; makes a brotherhood 

among the redeemed, 272. 
Red Sea, where crossed by the Hebrews, 1 13. 
Repentance which springs from fear always transient, 91. 
Rephidim, site of, 149. 

Resignation of Aaron under bereavement, 278. 
Retribution on Egypt for oppressing the Hebrews, 120. 
Reuben, position of the tribe of, in the camp, 282, 292 ; princes of the 

tribe of, join Korah in his conspiracy, 340 ; tribe of, ask inheritance 

on the east of Jordan, and receive it on certain conditions, 408, 409. 
Right, the, not so difficult to do as the timid imagine, 209. 
Robinson, Rev. Edward, D.D., " Researches in Palestine," quoted from, 


Sabbath, the, observed before the people came to Sinai, 136 j position 

of law for, in the Decalogue, 194. 
Scott, Sir Walter, lines from, 113 ; life of, by Lockhart, referred to, 453. 
Serpent, the, idolatrous place of, among the Egyptians, 52. 
Serpent, the brazen, made and set up, 376 ; typical meaning of, 382-387. 
Serpents, commonness of, in the neighborhood of the Gulf of Akabah^ 

375 ; attack the Hebrews, 376. 
Seventy, council of, 264 ; assistants to Moses appointed, 296. 


480 Index. 

Shakspeare quoted from, or referred to, 316, 337, 369, 400, 459. 

Sharpe, Samuel, " History of Egypt," quoted from, or referred to, 25. 

Shelomith, son of, his blasphemy and punishment, 280. 

Shur, wilderness of, 128. 

Simeon, tribe of, place of the, on the line of march, 292. 

Sin, bondage of, illustrated by Egyptian slavery, 18 ; pleasures of, ana- 
lyzed, 38 ; consequences of, cannot be arrested, 212. 

Sin, wilderness of, 133. 

Sinai, Mount, geographical questions connected with, 182-185 ; ascended 
by Moses, 185, 201, 223 ; law given from, 190 ; final incidents at, 274- 
283 ; duration of encampment at, 292. 

Slavery, law regulating, among the Hebrews, 260. 

Smith's " Dictionary of the Bible," quoted from, or referred to, 14, 

Smith, Rev. Thornley, " Moses and his Times," quoted from, 28, 468. 
Solon, reference to, 258. 

Song an appropriate expression of gratitude, 125. 
Song of Moses, 121 ; of Miriam, 122. 
" Speaker's Commentary," quoted from, or referred to, 63, 78, 132, 166, 

396, 411, 414, 419. 421, 423, 424, 425- 
Spencer of Liverpool, saying of, 369. 
Spies, the sending of, first suggested by the people, 323 ; route of, 325 ; 

return of, 326. 
Spirit, the earnest of, 328 ; fruit of, 330. 
Spirituality of God taught by the tabernacle, 241. 
Spurgeon, C. H., anecdote from, 251. 
Standards of the four camps, 282. 
Stanley, Dean, " History of the Jewish Church," quoted from, 50, in, 

190. " Sinai and Palestine," quoted from, 185,363. 
Strong drink, danger of tampering with, 283, 404. 
Succoth, halting of the Hebrews at, in. 
Sudden death, prayer for deliverance from, criticised, 369. 

Tabernacle, the, plan of, furnished to Moses, 225 ; contributors to, in 
work and materials, 235 ; place of, in the encampment, 235 ; descrip- 
tion of, 236, 238 ; attendants on, 238 ; symbolical meaning, 239-245 ; 
typical teaching, 246-248. 

Table-Talk of Luther, Goethe, and Coleridge, referred to, 453. 

Ten Commandments, the, importance of, 191 ; peculiarities of, 192 ; moral 
tone of, 193 ; order of, 193 ; negative character of, 195 ; expounded 
by Christ, 196. 

Index. 481 

Ten plagues, the, 77 ; purpose of, 79, 90 ; miraculously inflicted, 84 ; cli- 
mactic succession of, 88 ; results of, 89. 

Tennyson, Alfred, quoted from, 45, 301. 

Testaments, Old and New, stand or fall together, 428. 

Theban tomb, painting on, illustrating the making of brick, description 
of, 9. 

Theocracy, the, establishment of, 186 ; position of the people under, 219, 
343 ; effect oC, on the laws, 256, 

Thomson, Dr. W. H., quoted from, 378. 

Unbelief rooted in the heart more frequently than in the head, 93. 
Unconsciousness, element of, in character, 227. 
Unity of God taught by the tabernacle, 241. 

Van Oosterzee, J., " Moses a Biblical Study," quoted from, or referred 

to, 220, 376. 
Veil on the face of Moses, reference to, by Paul, 229. 
Vicars, Hedley, decision of, 159, 
Volume, etymology of, 15. 

Wady Amarah, 130. 

Wady Charibeh, 150. 

Wady Er Rahah, 184, 185. 

Wady Feiran, 150. 

Wady Ghurundel, 132. 

Wady Ithm, 374. 

Wady Mughara, 132. 

Wady Nasb, 132. 

Wady Sebaiyeli, 183, 184. 

Wady Useit, 132. 

Wesley, John, incident in early life of, 21 ; views of, concerning living 

and dying, 370 ; inscription on monument to, in Westminster Abbey, 

West Point, academy at, illustration from, 263. 
Wilberforce, Rt. Rev. Samuel, D.D., " Heroes of Hebrew History," 

quoted from, 456, 464, 467. 
Wilderness of Paran, 292, 323, 358, 
Wilderness of Shur, 128. 
W^ilderness of Sin, 133. 
William the Silent, parallel between, and Moses, 30, 455. 

482 Index. 

Williams, Rev. Isaac, "Characters of the Old Testament," referred to, 

Wines, Rev. E. C, D.D., LL.D., " Commentaries on the Laws of the 
Ancient Hebrews," referred to, 271. 

Wrong, always wrong, 206; consequences of doing, always more serious 
than were at first supposed, 212; consequences of, cannot be arrest- 
ed, 212. 





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ENGLISH MEN OF LETTERS. Edited by John Morley. 
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