« AnteriorContinua »
Were it possible for the human race to assemble in one general council, in order to settle a mode of religion which should suit the whole, they would speedily be constrained to separate, without coming to any specific, decisive agreement on a point so essential; for pride, and selfishness, and the spirit of contradiction, would instantly raise opposition, and the most salutary idea • would be rejected by one party, for no better reason than that it was adopted by another. Were the rich man to come from the dead, commissioned "to tell the secrets of his prison-house;" were Lazarus permitted to leave the bosom of Abraham, in order to display to men the glories of paradise; what could they say that has not been repeated a thousand and a thousand times? The one would be esteemed by a busy, careless, unbelieving world, a poor, moping, melancholy wretch, fit for a place in Bedlam; the other would be called an enthusiastic visionary; and they might, for ought the world cared, return to the places from whence they came, and report that mankind was better employed than to listen to their dreams; that it was election time; that the term was coming on, that a packet was expected, or a fleet arrived.
Men amuse themselves with crying up the advantages of those who saw Christ going about doing good, "healing all manner of sickness among the people;" of those who heard Paul preach, and the like; but the faithful and true witness assures us, that Jesus frequently wrought miracles, and Paul preached in vain. Capernaum, Bethsaida, Jerusalem, remained full of unbelievers; and apostolic eloquence was called babbling by one, it made another to shake under a temporary fit of trembling, and only "almost persuaded" a third to be a christian.
The decision of father Abraham then, in the passage already referred to, is founded in truth and experience. "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead,"
Luke xvi. 13. Moses spake from the brink of the grave, and was forgotten the moment his voice ceased. God himself thundered from Sinai, "Thou shalt not. make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me," Exod. xx. 4, 5; and within "a little month" we see all Israel dancing round a golden calf, and saying, "These be thy Gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt," Exod. xxxii. 4. The Son of Man came down from heaven, disclosed the secrets of the eternal mind; descended into the grave, and returned to the earth, and shewed himself openly. But did infidelity stop her mouth? No. "Some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, his disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day," Matt. xxviii. 11...15.
The circumstances in which Moses took his last long farewell of his beloved charge, were such, one would think, as to leave a lasting, an indelible impresşion on the minds of his hearers; but the sequel shews us, that the impressions of gratitude, sympathy, sorrow and regret, are as the morning cloud and the early dew, which passeth away."
....Having finished his course, and the time of his departure drawing nigh, we behold the man of God making his final progress through the camp of Israel;
going from tribe to tribe, from standard to standard, saluting every one by his name, and pronouncing over him the cordial benediction of a dying friend. We have accompanied him from Reuben to Judah, and from Judah to Levi, and heard his dying breath confirm the promise of royal dignity to the one, and entail the sacred dignity of the priesthood upon the other. They have heard his last adieu. Their eyes shall behold him no more. He has now arrived at the encampment of Benjamin. Benjamin the son of his mother's sorrow, the son of his father's right hand: the last of Israel in the course of nature, not the least in the affection of his sole surviving parent, nor in importance as one of the heads of the holy commonwealth. Benjamin, destined of Providence to support the throne of David, when shaken by the revolt of ten tribes. And what is the blessing of Benjamin?" Of Benjamin he said, The beloved, of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders,” Deut. xxxiii. 12.
The course in which Moscs proceeded in pronouncing the blessing, is supposed by some to be prophetically governed, according to the geographical description of Canaan, and the order and course in which each portion was allotted to every several tribe. Benjamin, therefore, is addressed before his elder brother Joseph, because the lot of his inheritance was to lie between the lots of Judah and Joseph, and to border upon each, and this, by consulting the book of Joshua, xviii. 11, you will find was the case. And we shall afterwards find many circumstances concurring to give a distinction and a consequence to Benjamin, among the tribes of Israel. Jebus, that is Jerusalem, fell to them. Of course, the seat of empire and of religion, in process of time, was fixed in the midst of them. Imperial Judah administered the affairs of government in a city belonging to another tribe, and from the day
that the temple was built, not only the priests the sons. of Levi were called to minister in the order of their course, within the confines of their brother Benjamin ; but all the males of all the tribes were obliged to appear before the Lord in the same place, at the three great stated festivals every year, besides the innumerable occasional visits made to the metropolis of the whole country, as to the centre of civil government and of religious worship.
On comparing the arrangement of the precious stones in the breast-plate of the high-priest, with that of the same number and quality of gems which are represented as constituting the foundation of the new Jerusalem, we find the jasper standing last, with the name of Benjamin engraved upon it, in the breastplate; but the first in the foundation of the holy city, which is the type of the christian church.
With the aid of Benjamin alone Judah was enabled to support an independent sovereignty, which considerably outlasted the kingdom of the ten tribes. This, and various other circumstances, in the future history and condition of this tribe, explain the blessing of Moses, which describes him as "the beloved of the Lord," tenderly watched, over and protected of Jehovah, as the progenitor of this tribe according to the flesh was carefully kept at home, and affectionately cherished by his father Jacob; as dwelling in safety by him," that is, in confidence, in security, there being none to make him afraid," to whom God was so nigh. There is apparently an allusion to this, and a beautiful one, in the 48th Psalm, from verse 1 to 5.. "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great king. God is known in her palaces for a refuge. For lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together. They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were trou
bled, and hasted away." "The Lord shall cover him, adds Moses, "all day long.". "Cover." The Seventy translate the word by one that signifies "to overshadow." The Chaldean paraphrase is, "he shall be a shield over him;" it denotes a security, covering or protection from evil; and the evangelical prophet, Isaiah, beautifully expands the thought in these remarkable words, descriptive of and applied to the same object. "And the Lord will create upon every dwellingplace of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night for upon all the glory shall be a defence. And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the day-time from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from the storm and from rain," Isai. iv. 5, 6. "All day long," or every day; that is, continually. And he shall dwell between his shoulders;" like the head, the glory of the natural body, rearing itself majestically between and upon “the shoulders," the strength and power of the man. This was the blessing of Benjamin.
Moses seems now to turn to a peculiarly favorite object; he seems to rise above himself, the spirit of dying Jacob seems to revive in him. As if the name of Joseph were the fire put to the train, he kindles, he blazes, he lightens. As if the name of Joseph were the signal to be at once great and sublime, tender and pathetic, approaching his standard, recollecting the history and character of their illustrious progenitor, contemplating their rising greatness and prosperity, he thus breaks out in strains loftier than bard ever sung. Blessed of the Lord be his land, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath; and for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon, and for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills. And for the precious things of the earth, and