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conferred on them the gift of prophecy, he would overrule the exercise of it for his own glory. Instead therefore of wishing to repress it in them, he would have been glad if every person in the camp had possessed it. had possessed it. What a noble spirit was this! how worthy of universal imitation! It was precisely thus that St. Paul rejoiced, when "Christ was preached of contention." He knew the motives of the preachers to be bad; but he knew that God would render their ministrations subservient to the increase of the Redeemer's kingdom: and therefore, however their conduct might affect his influence, he did, and would, rejoice. Thus, beloved, should we be glad to see the Redeemer's interests advanced, whoever be the instruments, and whatever be the means. This consideration should be paramount to every other; and we should say, with John, "Let me, and my party, decrease, so that Christ and his kingdom. may but increase."]
3. His love
[Moses had no desire to engross or monopolize the gifts of Heaven. As Paul said to his bitterest persecutors, "I would to God that all who hear me this day were both almost and altogether such as I am, except these bonds'," so did Moses wish all the people of Israel to have the Spirit of the Lord imparted to them, as much as he himself had. The more they were benefited, the more would his happiness be increased. This is that very disposition which St. Paul himself exercised, and which he inculcates on us, when he says, "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others"." In fact, this is that principle, which, more than any other, counteracts the baneful influence of envy; "Charity envieth noto." Let universal love reign in our hearts, and, instead of envying any of our brethren, we shall be willing rather to "lay down our lives for them P."]
TO IMPROVE this subject, we would recommend to you two things;
1. Examine well your own principles
[Do not hastily conclude that your principles are right, even though you do not know that they are wrong; but search and try your ways, and maintain a godly jealousy over your own hearts. The Apostles themselves, on more occasions than one, "knew not what spirit they were of." Who amongst us does not see the blindness of others in relation to their principles? Pride, and ostentation, and vanity, and envy, and malice, and a
i Phil. i. 15-18. m 1 Cor. iv. 9.
P 1 John iii. 16.
k John iii. 30.
1 Acts xxvi. 29. o 1 Cor. xiii. 4.
n Phil. ii. 4.
thousand other evils, are visible enough to others, when the persons influenced by them give themselves credit for very different motives. Doubtless, at times, this is the case with all of us. If indeed envy become in any respect a governing principle in our hearts, our religion is altogether vain". Let us therefore watch our own spirits, and be thankful to any friend, who, like Moses, will "point out to us a more excellent way'."]
2. Take diligent heed to the word of God—
[The word of God, if duly attended to, would correct every bad principle in us. It is a two-edged sword, that lays open the inmost recesses of the hearts. To that St. Peter directs us, as the means of subduing envy, and every other evil propensity'. By the word the Apostles themselves were sanctified; and by that also must we be made clean". Meditate then on that day and night: and let it be your earnest prayer, that it may dwell richly in you in all wisdom; and that, being cast into the mould of the Gospel, you may be "changed into the divine image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord."]
q Jam. iii. 14-16.
t 1 Pet. ii. 1—3.
s Heb. iv. 12.
1 Cor. xii. 31.
AARON AND MIRIAM REPROVED.
Numb. xii. 8, 9. Wherefore were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them: and he departed.
WHEN men are angry, we may often, and with reason, doubt, whether there be any just occasion for their displeasure: but when we see Almighty God expressing indignation, we may always ask with confidence, "Is there not a cause?" It is no slight degree of anger which God manifests in the passage before us. And what could be the reason? We are told that "Aaron and Miriam spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married"." But this seems only to have been, if not a fictitious, at least a secondary, reason. (It must be strange indeed if they now began to be displeased with a thing which they knew to have been done many years, and which had never, in that instance,
a ver. 1.
been disapproved by God.) The true reason, I apprehend, was, that they were offended at his not having consulted them about the seventy persons whom he had selected to bear a part of his burthen with him: and it is possible enough that they might ascribe this to his wife's influence. They thought, that, as God had spoken by them as well as by Moses himself, Moses should have treated them with more respect. (This is precisely the way in which many, yea and good people too, are prone to act. If overlooked in any instance wherein they think they had a right to be consulted, they forget all the distinguishing honours which they already enjoy, and become querulous on account of the supposed slight which is cast upon them -- Of this complaint Moses took no notice; but meekly passed it over in silence. (Herein he shews how unreasonable murmurers and complainers should be treated. Would to God we were more like him in this particular! If querulous objections be met by passionate answers, contentions soon arise; whereas silence, or "a soft answer, would turn away wrath.") But the less anxious we are to vindicate our own character, the more readily and effectually will God interpose for us. "He heard," though Moses was as one that heard not; and he immediately summoned the offenders before him, in their presence vindicated the character of his servant Moses, and smote Miriam with a leprosy: and though, at the request of Moses, he restored her to health, yet he ordered her to be put out of the camp for seven days; and thus exposed to shame the persons, who, through the pride of their hearts, had arrogated to themselves an honour which belonged not to them.
On account of the importance of these subordinate circumstances, we have dwelt upon them somewhat longer than usual. But it is not our intention to enlarge any more on them: we wish rather to turn
b Compare ver. 2. with Mic. vi. 4.
The common history of quarrels is, that they begin like those of the ambitious disciples, and proceed like those of the jealous tribes. Matt. xx. 21, 24. 2 Sam. xix. 43.
your attention to the great and leading points contained in the words of our text. In them, God expostulates with Aaron and Miriam for presuming to speak against Moses. Now Moses sustained a variety of characters; in reference to which the words before us may be differently understood. As he was a civil magistrate, they shew God's anger against those who resist the magistracy. As he was a teacher of God's word, they shew how God is offended with a neglect of his faithful ministers. And, as he was a representative of our great Lawgiver and Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, they shew what indignation God will exercise against those who either openly reject, or secretly despise, his only dear Son.
First then we shall consider them as expressing God's displeasure against those,
I. Who oppose the civil magistrate
[Magistrates are appointed of God to bear a portion of his authority; and they are invested with it, that they may a terror to evil-doers, and a protection to the good. To these we are to be subject, not reluctantly through fear of their displeasure, but willingly, and for conscience sake: and "if we will resist them, we shall receive to ourselves damnation." Both temporal and eternal judgments must be expected by us if we rebel against the constituted authorities. Nor is it of open and avowed rebellion only that we speak, but of murmuring and complaining against them without just and great occasion. This was the fault of Aaron and Miriam; "they were not afraid to speak against" the person, whom God had ordained to be "king in Jeshurun." Persons of this class are invariably represented by God himself as enemies to HIM. "Presumptuous are they, says he, and self-willed, and are not afraid to speak evil of dignities." They take liberties with earthly potentates, which the first archangel dared not to take with Satan himself. It would be well if religious people were sufficiently on their guard respecting this. We have seen, during the French Revolution, great multitudes even of them drawn after Satan; and the supporters of civil government traduced by every opprobrious epithet: and though the generality of these deluded people have seen their error, yet the necessity for cautioning you on this head has not ceased. That the rights of people are very different in different countries, is certain; and that rulers may so conduct themselves, as totally to destroy d Rom. xiii. 1—5.
e 2 Pet. ii. 10. f Jude, ver. 8, 9.
the compact between them and their subjects, is also certain : but it is no less certain, that religious people, above all, should be "the quiet in the land," and should ever conform to that solemn injunction, "Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people."]
II. Who disregard the ministers of the Gospel
[Those who minister in holy things are ambassadors from God, and speak to the people" in Christ's stead"." Their word, as far as it accords with the inspired volume, is "to be received, not as the word of men, but as the word of God himselfi:" and whatever, in the name and by the authority of God, they bid you to observe, that you are bound to observe and do. It is true, that ministers are not lords over God's heritage'," neither have they any " dominion over your faith":" yet it is also true, that in things pertaining to God they are invested with a divine authority: they are over you in the Lord":" they "have the rule over you, and you are to obey them, and submit yourselves:" and if, while "they labour in the word and doctrine, they rule well, they are to be counted worthy of double honour"." What shall we say then to those who despise the ministers of God, and that too in proportion to their fidelity? This we must say, that "in despising us, they despise both Christ, and the Father who sent him :" and their opposition to such ministers is felt by God as opposition to himself; such opposition too as will meet with a dreadful recompence in the day of judgments. What Moses had said and done, was by the direction and authority of God: and it was at the peril of the greatest people of the land to contradict and oppose him.]
III. Who neglect the Lord Jesus Christ
[Moses, as the head of the Church and people of God, certainly prefigured the Lord Jesus Christ. The very encomiums here passed on Moses by God himself, are such as of necessity lead our minds to Christ. Was Moses a prophet far superior to all others? Christ is that Prophet of whom Moses was only a shadow, and whom all are commanded to hear at the peril of their souls". Was Moses faithful in all God's house as a servant*? Christ is that Son who presides over his own house. Was Moses the meekest of all men upon the face of the earth? Christ is he whose unparalleled meekness is our
Acts xxiii. 5. k Matt. xxiii. 2, 3. n 1 Thess. v. 12.
q Luke x. 16.
t ver. 6, 7.
y Heb. iii. 2-6.
h 2 Cor. v. 20.
o Heb. xiii. 17.
z ver. 3.
i 1 Thess. ii. 13. m 2 Cor. i. 24.
p 1 Tim. v. 17.