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But a single execution of this law would carry an irresistible conviction to every mind. It is supposed that the crime committed has been so secret, that no human being, except the guilty persons, were acquainted with it. It is supposed also that no clew for the discovery of it could possibly be found. Behold the issue of this ordeal, and the offending woman justifying that God who had inflicted vengeance on her: could any doubt now remain, whether God see our actions or not; or whether he will suffer sin to pass unpunished? The most determined atheist (if such a being could be found) must, like the worshippers of Baal, be convinced at such a sight, and exclaim, "The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God!" "verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth!"]
2. To reclaim the vicious—
[What must be the feelings of a man, who, after having rioted in iniquity, beholds such a scene as this? Must it not bring his own iniquities to his remembrance? Must he not tremble at the thought of appearing before this holy Lord God, and at the prospect of those judgments that shall be inflicted on him? Must he not realize in a measure that shame which he will be exposed to in the presence of the assembled universe, and that misery which will be coeval with his existence? Yes; methinks he already begins to smite upon his breast, and cry for mercy; and determines from henceforth to walk in newness of life
3. To comfort the oppressed
[Where a woman of blameless character was made the victim of her husband's jealousy, with what holy confidence would she drink the appointed cup, and make her appeal to the heart-searching God! - and in what triumph would she depart from the tabernacle, when God himself had borne a public testimony to her innocence! From hence then might every one, whose name the breath of calumny had blasted, assure himself that a time was coming, when God would vindicate his injured character, and cause his righteousness to shine as the noonday. David, under the accusations of Saul, consoled himself with this prospect; and lived to attest the fidelity of God to those who trust in him; and to recommend from his own experience this remedy to others---True, the interposition of God may not, towards others, be so immediate, or. so visible, in this world: but, in the world to come, if not before, shall that promise be fulfilled to every servant of the
b Ps. lviii. 11. Such passages as Ps. cxxxix. 11, 12. and Job xxxiv. 21, 22. would now appear to him in their true light.
c Ps. vii. 3-8. d Ps. xviii. 16-20. e Ps. xxxvii. 4-6.
Lord, "Every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn."]
We cannot conclude the subject without RECOMMENDING to all,
1. To beware of appealing lightly to God
[It is grievous to hear how carelessly men swear by God, or use the term, God knoweth.' But, however light men make of such appeals, God heareth them; and he will, sooner or later, manifest his indignation against all who so profane his holy name. Instantaneous displays of his vengeance are sometimes even now given, in order to check such impiety: but, if he bear with such persons for a season, in due time "their sin shall surely find them out" -]
2. To stand ready for the final judgment—
[This law has ceased: but there is another tribunal, to which all, whether male or female, married or unmarried, shall be summoned. Thither shall we be brought by our heavenly "Husband," "who is a jealous God, yea, whose very name is Jealous:" and by his infallible decision will our eternal state be fixed. Think what must have been the frame of a woman's mind on the eve of her trial, when she knew herself to be guilty: must she not be filled with fear and trembling? How then can any of us be gay and thoughtless in the prospect of such an ordeal as we have to pass! We cannot but acknowledge that we are justly branded as "adulterers and adulteresses":" let us therefore confess our sins with all humility of mind, and wash in that "fountain which was opened for sin and for uncleanness."]
f Isai. liv. 17. and lxvi. 5. g Exod. xxxiv. 14. h Jam. iv. 4.
THE LAW OF NAZARITES.
Numb. vi. 21. This is the law of the Nazarite who hath vowed, and of his offering unto the Lord for his separation. THE Nazarites, in the best times of the Jewish state, were eminently pious. God himself declares concerning them, that "they were purer than snow, and whiter than milk." The very order itself was instituted by divine appointment, on purpose that they might be blessings to the nation, and preserve. the tone of piety and morals from decay. It was a
a Lam. iv. 7.
favour to that people that "God raised up of their sons for prophets;" nor was it less so, that he raised up of their "young men for Nazarites"." Some, as Samson and John the Baptist, were separated by God himself even from their mother's womb; and the express order was given, that from their very birth they should drink no wine, and that no razor should come upon their head. Others perhaps, like Samuel, might be consecrated by their parents from the womb. But, in general, the separation of themselves to be Nazarites was altogether voluntary and for a fixed time. The custom continued even to the apostolic age. St. Paul himself seems to have completed the vow of Nazariteship at Cenchrea": and when there were four men performing it at Jerusalem, he, in order to remove prejudice from the minds of those who thought him adverse to the law of Moses, united himself with them, bearing part of the charges attendant on that vow, and conforming himself in every thing to the prescribed ritual'. The law respecting them is contained in the chapter now before us: and, agreeably to the arrangement made for us in our text, we shall consider it as containing,
I. Their vows—
The particulars of their vow are here minutely detailed:
[They separated themselves for a season to an extraordinary course of attendance upon God. During that season they were not to touch any wine, or grapes either moist or dried. They were not to cut their hair, or to approach any dead body, or to mourn even for a father or a mothers. If, by any unforeseen accident, a person should fall down dead near them, or a corpse be brought nearly into contact with them, they were to shave their head, and offer both a burnt-offering and a sinoffering (to atone for the pollution they had contracted), and were to begin again the term of their separation, the whole that had passed having been rendered null and void1.]
The design of it, though not expressly declared in Scripture, yet may without difficulty be ascertained—
[It seems that the order of Nazarites was intended to prefigure Christ, who, though not observant of the laws relating to that order, was from eternity consecrated to the service of his God, not only by the designation of his Father, but by his own voluntary engagement, and completed the course of his obedience till he could say, "It is finished."
But we have no doubt respecting the design of God to exhibit to us in the Nazarites a pattern for our imitation. The appointment itself has ceased with the law: "the believing Gentiles" are expressly told that they are not required to observe any such thing." But, though the form has ceased, the substance remains. We are called to consecrate ourselves unreservedly to God. This is our duty, and our privilege. "We are not our own; we are bought with a price;" and therefore bought, "that we may glorify God with our bodies and our spirits, which are his." Every one amongst us should subscribe with his hand, and say, "I am the Lord'sk". We need not literally abstain from wine; but we should shew a holy superiority to all the pleasures of sense. We may enjoy them, because "God has given us all things richly to enjoy:" but we should not seek our happiness in them, or be at all enslaved by them; or value them any further, than we can enjoy God in them, and glorify him by them. The same indifference should we manifest also in relation to the cares of this life. We may mourn indeed, but never indulge that "sorrow of the world, which worketh death." Having God for our portion, the loss of all earthly things should be comparatively but little felt We are not called to that singularity of dress which marked the Nazarites to public view: but surely we are called not to be conformed to every idle fashion, or to be running into all the absurdities which characterize the votaries of this world. A Christian should despise such vanities, and "be no more of this world, than Christ himself was of the world" - From pollution of every kind we should stand at the remotest distance: we should "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness," but "be purged from dead works to serve the living God." What caution, what holy fear should we maintain! What dread of dishonouring our Lord, and walking unworthy of our holy profession! Surely we should "abstain even from the appearance of evil," and labour to "be pure as God himself is pure'
If at any time, through weakness or inadvertence, we contract pollution, we must not think to proceed as if we had done nothing amiss: no; sin, of whatever kind, must be repented of: for, if it be continued in, it will infallibly destroy us1. We must, like the Nazarite, instantly apply ourselves to the atoning i Acts xxi. 25. k Isai. xliv. 5. Rom. xiv. 7,8. 1 Ezek. xviii. 24.
sacrifice of Christ, and seek remission through his precious blood. Yea, like him too, we must renew our dedication of ourselves to God, just as if we never had been devoted to him before. This is the safest way, and by far the happiest. If we stand doubting and questioning about our former state, it may be long before we come to any comfortable conclusion: but if we leave the consideration of past experiences, or use them only as grounds of deeper humiliation, and devote ourselves to God again as we did at the beginning, we shall most honour the mercy of our God, and most speedily attain renewed tokens of his favour
At the completion of their vows they were required to present,
II. Their offerings
These are particularly specified: they consisted of a he-lamb for a burnt-offering, to acknowledge God's goodness to them; an ewe-lamb for a sin-offering, to obtain mercy at his hands; and a ram for a peaceoffering, to shew that they were in a state of favour and acceptance with God. Besides these, they were to offer a basket of unleavened bread, consisting of cakes mingled with oil, and wafers anointed with oil, with a meat-offering and a drink-offering. Of these a greater portion was given to the priest than on other occasions: for, not only the wave-breast and the heave-shoulder were his, but also the other shoulder of the ram, which was sodden or boiled, was added, with one unleavened cake and one unleavened wafer; and, after having been put into the hands of the Nazarite and waved before the Lord, were given to the priest as his portion. The Nazarite's hair also was shaven, and was burnt in the fire which boiled the.. peace-offerings. Thus was the termination of their vow publicly made known; and they, released from those particular obligations, were at liberty to resume the enjoyments which during their separation they had voluntarily renounced.
It would not be easy to mark with precision the exact design of these multiplied observances: but from a collective view of them we may gather,
m ver. 13-20.