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But that which our text chiefly leads us to consider, is, II. His tender care over them
This towards his ancient people is illustrated both by an appeal to fact, and by an apt and beautiful similitude
[It was in the wilderness that he first formed them into a peculiar people for himself. There he took the entire charge of them, leading them in all their way, and supplying their every want. There he instructed them both by his providence and grace; shewing them by all his diversified dispensations the extreme depravity of their own hearts, and the marvellous patience and long-suffering of their God". Had he even for a few days intermitted his care over them, they must all have perished; being in the midst of perils on every side, and incapable of protecting themselves against any of the dangers to which they were exposed. But “ he kept them even as the apple of his eye,” so that no evil whatever, except what he himself sent for their correction, could assail them. An eagle is very careful of its young: and when the dam judges that her young are prepared to fly, will “flutter over them, and spread abroad her wings, and stir up her nest,” that one or other of her offspring may try their powers : and with such tenderness does she watch the attempt, that, if the scarcely fledged young one prove incapable of stretching its flight so as to return to its nest, she will, with incredible swiftness and skill, fly to its succour, and on her own wings bear it back in safety to its wonted home. Thus did God encourage his ancient people to soar towards heaven, and succour them effectually in every hour of need. And in all this he acted " alone, there being no strange god with him," nor any that could claim the smallest measure of honour from their success. The passage of the Red Sea, the bread from heaven, and the water from the rock, the passage of Jordan, and the fall of Jericho, with a thousand other events, clearly shewed, that all that was effected for them was done by him alone.] And is he not alike attentive to his people now ?
[Where did he “ find any of us,” my Brethren, but "in a waste howling wilderness," where we must have inevitably perished, if he of his own sovereign grace and mercy had not come to our relief? And how has he“ led us about" even to the present hour, not in the way that would have been most pleasing to flesh and blood, but in the way which he knew would be most conducive to our good, and to the glory of his own name! In this way he has conveyed to our minds such instruction as we could not by any means have so well received in any other way. By his word and by his Spirit he has imparted to us much knowledge of himself: but by his various dispensations, and especially those of a more afflictive nature, he has led us into discoveries of his perfections, which we could never otherwise have obtained. Oh! what views has he given us of our own deserts and of his own tender mercy towards us! In fact, we may, in his dealings with his people in the wilderness, see as in a glass all that is passing in the Church at this day, and all that is passing in our own hearts: and our heavenly rest will be infinitely the more endeared to us from our recollection of all our troubles by the way, and of the infinite wisdom and power and love by which we have been led in safety through them.] Think then I pray you, Brethren, what should be our
n Deut. viii. 15, 16. Neh. ix. 19-21.
regard towards this Almighty Saviour
[Who was it that led his people through the wilderness in the days of old ? It was the Lord Jesus Christ, the Angel of the covenant: for he it was whom they tempted", and he it was "whose reproach Moses counted to be of more value than all the treasures of Egyptp.” That same Jesus is still “ Head over all things to his Church," and "guides all his chosen people by his counsel, till he brings them safely to his glory.”
I ask then with confidence should we not love him with most intense affection? and trust in him with unshaken affiance? and serve him with all the powers of our souls? Methinks, there should be no bounds to our love and gratitude, no limit to our zeal in his service". We all see and acknowledge this in reference to the Jews, who were favoured with his visible interposition: and how much more is it all due from us, who enjoy the substance, of which they had but the shadow! I call you then, every one of you, to shew forth your sense of the obligations conferred upon you, and, if possible, to be as zealous in his service as he is in yours.]
o Exod. xxi. 20. 1 Cor. x. 9.
p Heb. xi. 26. 9 Eph. i. 22, 23. r Deut. x. 14, 15. 1 Sam. xii. 24.
THE JEWS MOVED TO JEALOUSY BY THE GENTILES,
Deut. xxxii. 21. They have moved me to jealousy with that
which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.
“ KNOWN unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” Moses informs us, that, in the very first distribution of men over the face of the earth, God had an especial respect to those, who, at a remote period, should spring from the loins of Abraham; and that he assigned to the descendants of cursed Ham that portion of the globe which, in due time, should be delivered into the hands of Israel, cultivated in every respect, and fit for the accommodation and support of the Jewish nation: “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to (or, in reference to) the number of the children of Israela. Yet at the very time when God carried this decree into execution, at the time when the nation of Israel were, by the discipline of forty years in the wilderness, brought to a state of faith and piety that was never equalled at any subsequent period of their history, even then, I say, did God foresee their declension from his ways, and inspire Moses to predict the wickedness which they would commit, and the chastisements which should be inflicted upon them on account of it: he even instructed Moses to record the whole beforehand in a song, which was, in all succeeding ages, to be committed to memory by the children of Israel, and to be a witness for God against them. It was probable that, when he should change his conduct towards them, they would reflect on him either as mutable in his purposes, or as unable to execute his promises towards them: but this song would completely vindicate him from all such aspersions, and be a standing proof to them, that their miseries were the result of their own incorrigible perverseness. “Now,” says God, “write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel. For when I shall have brought them into the land which I sware unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey;
and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant. And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware."
In this song are foretold the awful apostasies of the Jewish nation, together with all the judgments that would be inflicted on them, from that time even to the period of their future restoration.
The words which I have chosen for my text, contain the sum and substance of the whole : they specify the ground of God's displeasure against his people, and the way in which he would manifest that displeasure: and they particularly mark the correspondence which there should be between their sin and their punishment: “ They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.”
In discoursing on these words, there are two things to be considered ; 1. The import of this prophecy respecting the Jews; II. The use to be made of it by us Gentiles. I. The import of this prophecy
The general facts relating to it are so well known, that it will not be necessary to enter very minutely into them. Every one knows how highly favoured a people the Jewish nation have been; how exalted and privileged above all other people upon earth. The manner also in which they requited the kindness of their God, is well known. We are not disposed to think that human nature is worse in them than in others: the reason that it appears so is, that God's conduct towards them, and theirs towards him, is all exhibited to view, and forms a contrast the most humiliating that can be imagined. On some particular occasions they seem to have been penetrated with a becoming sense of the mercies vouchsafed unto them; but these impressions were of very short duration: within the space of a few days only, they forgot that wonderful deliverance which had been wrought for them at the Red Sea; as it is said, “ They remembered not the multitude of his mercies, but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red Sea.” Every fresh difficulty, instead of leading them to God in earnest supplication and humble affiance, only irritated their rebellious spirits, and excited their murmurs against God and his servant Moses. Scarcely had three months elapsed, when, whilst God was graciously revealing to Moses that law by which the people were to be governed, they actually cast off God; and, because Moses had protracted his stay in the holy mount beyond what they thought a reasonable time, they would wait for him no longer; but determined to have other gods in the place of Jehovah, and another guide in the place of Moses: “Up,” said they to Aaron, “ 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.” Immediately “ they made a golden calf (in imitation of the Egyptian Apis), and worshipped it, and sacrificed thereto, and said, These by thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” Thus early did they shew that propensity which was so fatal to them in after ages. In process of time they degenerated so far as to adopt all the gods of the heathen for their gods; even those gods who could not protect their own votaries, did this rebellious people worship, in preference to Jehovah, who had done so great things for them: “they worshipped Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Zidonians, and Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites, and Chemosh,
b Deut. xxxi. 19-21.