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Spirit; the light of divine wisdom, the power of divine grace, the riches and consolations of divine mercy, the pure delight flowing from peace of conscience, from the favour of God, from the practice of piety, from the hope of glory here is good; substantial good.
2. What is the evil that we see? Ignorance, unbelief, impenitence, disobedience; worldly maxims, cares, fashions, amusements, and pleasures; neglect of duty; transitory joys, the fruit of sin; noise, laughter, song, and revelry; hardness of heart, indifference, presumption; and then at the end of it, (the just recompence of our folly, gaiety, and madness;) the damnation of hell.
In short, then, we are placed in such circumstances, that on one hand we see heaven and all that leads to heaven; and on the other hand hell and all that leads to hell. But now see,
II. The point of true wisdom: "therefore choose life." Like Mary, let us choose "the good part." But some one will say, We cannot of ourselves do this. That is true.
Consider the matter impartially; and how does the case stand? Is a man to wait for conversion until God make an irresistible display of his power? Such an hour may never come. But what does reason say? What does conscience say? "Heaven and Hell, life and death, good and evil, sin and piety, blessedness and misery, are clearly set before me. I know it, I own it, I feel it. I see what I ought to do, and what I must do, or be undone for ever. I must forsake the foolish, and their ways; and I must turn to God, and pray to him, and be earnest about my soul." Do not reason and conscience speak thus? Why not obey them? Are not these convictions from God? Why not yield to them? God has given you some just views and convictions: improve them, and he will deal bountifully with you; but abuse them, stifle and quench conviction and harden your hearts, and then you wilfully drag destruction on yourselves.
Evil is before you in all its hideousness and dreadful consequences: Good is before you in all its beauty and in all its advantages. Reject the one, and choose the other; and pray that your choice and your resolution may be effectual.
But be particular, and know what you choose; know your objects. General notions in religion are but of little use. How many live, in fact, in total ignorance of religion, because they satisfy themselves with vague notions; notions into which they do not enter, and which they cannot explain.
1. Choose true piety. What is true piety? The knowledge and love of God; true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; repentance, humility, a desire of holiness, obedience to the laws of God, resignation to his will. True piety consists of these things, which are wrought in the soul by the Holy Spirit of truth and grace. You own you should choose piety: but now see what piety is.
2. Choose a persevering piety. What says the speculator? The children of God shall persevere. What says the humble practical Christian? I must persevere, or I shall not be saved. It is not enough to begin, and to go on well for a time; but we must proceed stedfast in the faith, praying, believing, repenting, obeying, aspiring after higher and higher attainments, until we are in glory. But let us see,
III. The consequences of our conduct. The Jews were taught to look, under their dispensation, to temporal rewards and punishments: but we, under the gospel, principally look to rewards and punishments which are spiritual and eternal. See Romans ii. 4-11.
1. Do we choose good? Then we have true peace, and the consolations of religion here; and we shall have honour and blessedness hereafter. The blessings of the Kingdom of grace are ours in time, and the blessings of the Kingdom of glory shall be ours in eternity.
2. Do we choose evil? Then our life, with all its merriment, and joy, and pleasures, is nothing but vanity
and vexation; in sickness we have no true comfort; in death we have no just hope; and, awful thought! for eternity we are undone.
Closing our remarks, we see clearly what our state is; we see what our duty is; and we see what the consequences of our choice are.
O the folly and madness of most Christians! They prefer the pleasures of sin to those of religion; the service of the devil to that of God; although they know and their conscience tells them, that they will bring everlasting misery on themselves. Think, ye careless ones! ye men of the world! think, before it be too late.
O the happiness of serious and real Christians! Lovers of God, believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, penitent, humble, devout, obedient, resigned, spiritually minded, hungering and thirsting after righteousness; it shall be well with them. Only let them abound more and more; keep farther from evil; seek and obtain more good; and persevere to the end. Evil will to them be soon a thing unknown; and all will be infinite, unchangeable, and eternal good.
O gracious God, I thank thee for having given me such a clear view of my present state, of my duty, and of my prospects. Enable me to reject the evil and to choose the good. Be thou, in Christ Jesus, my present and everlasting portion: and let my days, through thy grace, be spent in faith, holiness, and obedience. Make me truly pious, and preserve me unto thy heavenly kingdom; for the Redeemer's sake. Amen.
THE DEATH OF MOSES.
And the Lord said unto him, this 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, but thou shalt not go over thither. So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day. And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. Deut. xxxiv. 4-7.
IN the Holy Scriptures we find no ambitious display of what is called fine writing; but we frequently meet with such strokes of lofty and tender eloquence as are not to be found in any uninspired composition. Of the patriarchs before the flood, only their names and the length of their lives are recorded; yet is there one sentence added to the names of each which speaks more powerfully to the heart than many lectures on human mortality" And he died." The death of Moses, and all the circumstances that preceded it, are related in the 31st, 32nd, 33rd, and 34th chapters of this book in a splendid and affecting manner.
I. We will meditate briefly on the death of Moses.
1. If we examine the three preceding chapters, we shall see that he had given the Israelites a song according to the divine commandment; that he had blessed the tribes of Israel; and that he had announced to them his approaching departure. We see him in all this displaying the great and good man, the lofty bard, the faithful teacher, and the affectionate friend.
2. But let us view his death. He has no sooner
finished his pious address to the Israelites, than he is directed that self-same day to get up unto mount Abarim, unto Nebo: chap. xxxii. 48-52. Even in that affecting hour does God remind him of his former offence, when he failed to glorify him as he ought to have done, and spoke "unadvisedly with his lips." See here how God notices the one sin of a faithful servant, and learn how offensive sin is to him: he punishes his own people for their offences.
But God delights in the display of mercy and goodHe permits Moses to see the promised land; to see that the promise made to the patriarchs was speedily to be fulfiled, and that the waste and howling wilderness was to be now exchanged by the Israelites for a land flowing with milk and honey. Here too he holds intimate converse with the present God, and sees the completion of all his labours.
"So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab." Thus does this great man go off the stage of life. He was a hundred and twenty years old; his eye was not dim; nor was his natural force abated. After all the troubles of life, he enjoyed a green old age. His arduous task is completed: he views with a glad eye the temporal Canaan, and by an easy transition he passes from the contemplation of the type to the possession of the antitype; from the earthly to the heavenly inheritance.
The Lord buried him, and suffered no man to know of his sepulchre. This was done most probably to prevent the Israelites from paying divine honours to him, after the custom of the heathen nations.
But surely the death of Moses must be contemplated with emotions of unspeakable delight. He takes leave of his people with wisdom, fidelity, and affection; is freed from the concerns of this world; stands in the presence of his Maker; views the mountains and vallies of Canaan; and then sinks down on the ground, and