« PreviousContinue »
send; but enjoining it, upon their instance. Some things God allows in judgment; their importunity and distrust extorted from God this occasion of their overthrow. That, which the Lord moves unto, prospers; but that, which we move him to first, seldom succeedeth. What needed they doubt of the goodness of that land, which God told them did flow with milk and honey? What needed they to doubt of obtaining that, which God pro. mised to give? When we will send forth our senses, to be our scouts in the matters of faith, and rather dare trust men than God, we are worthy to be deceived.
The basesť sort of men are commonly held fit enough for intelligencers; but Moses, to make sure work, chooseth forth the best of Israel, such as were like to be most judicious in their inquiry, and most credible in their report. Those, that ruled Israel at home, could best descry for them abroad: what should direct the body, but the head ? Men can judge but by appearance: it is for him only that sees the event, ere he appoint the means, not to be deceived. It had been better for Israel to have sent the offal of the multitude : by how much less the credit of their persons is, by so much less is the danger of seducement. The error of the mighty is armed with authority, and in a sort commands assent: whether in good or evil, greatness hath ever a train to follow it at the heels.
Forty days they spent in this search; and this cowardly unbelief in the search shall cost them forty years delay of the fruition. Who can abide to see the rulers of Israel so basely timorous ? They commend the land, the fruit commends itself, and yet they plead difficulty: We be not able to go up. Their shoulders are laden with the grapes, and yet their hearts are overlaid with unbelief: it is an unworthy thing to plead hardness of achieving, where the benefit will more than requite the endeavour. Our land of promise is above; we know, the fruit thereof is sweet and glorious, the passage difficult. The gigantic sons of Anak (the powers of darkness) stand in our way: if we sit down and complain, we shall once know, that without shall be the fearful.
See the idle pleas of distrust; We are not able : they are stronger. Could not God enable them? Was he not stronger than their giants? Had he not promised to displace the Canaanites, to settle them in their stead? How much more easy is it for us to spy their weakness, than for them to espy the strength of their adversaries? When we measure our spiritual success by our own power, we are vanquished before we fight. He, that would overcome, must nelther look upon his own arm, nor the arm of his enemy, but the mouth and hand of him that hath promised, and can perform. Who are we flesh and blood, with our breath in our nostrils, that we should fight with principalities, powers, spiritual wickednesses in heavenly places? The match is too unequal: we are but like grasshoppers to these giants; when we compare ourselves with them, how can we but despair? when we compare them with God, how can we be discouraged ? He, that hath brought us into
Leith the cathy thi mean reathe fruit die some
mense is above one then
who are fight weit? The ants; whewhen we hath by
this field, hath promised us victory. God knew their strength, before he offered to commit us.
Well might they have thought, “ Were not the Amalekites stronger than we? Were not they armed, we naked ? Did not the only hand of Moses, by lifting up, beat them down ? Were not the Egyptians no less our masters? Did not death come running after us in their chariots ? Did we not leave these buried in the sea, the other unburied in the wilderness? Whence had the 'Anakims their strength, but from him that bids us go up against them? Why have the bodies of our forefathers taken possession of their Hebron, but for us?” But now, their fear hath not left them so much reason, as to compare their adversaries with others, but only with themselves : doubtless, these giants were mighty, but their fear hath stretched them out some cubits beyond their stature. Distrust makes our dangers greater, and our helps less than they are, and forecasts ever worse than shall be; and if evils be possible, it makes them certain.
Amongst those twelve messengers, whom our second Moses sent through the land of promise, there was but one Judas; but amongst those twelve, which the former Moses addressed through the same land, there is but one Caleb; and yet those were chosen out of the meanest, these out of the heads of Israel. As there is no society free from some corruption, so it is hard, if, in a com. munity of men, there be not some faithfulness.
We shall wrong God, if we fear lest good causes shall be quite forsaken: he knows how to serve himself of the best, if the fewest; and could as easily be attended with a multitude, if he did not seek his own glory, in unlikelihoods.
Joshua was silent, and wisely spared his tongue for a further advantage: only Caleb spake. I do not hear him say, “ Who am I to strive with a multitude ? What can Joshua and I do against ten rulers? It is better to sit still, than to rise and fall :" but he resolves to swim against this stream, and will either draw friends to the truth, or enemies upon himself. True Christian fortitude teaches us not to regard the number or quality of the opponents, but the equity of the cause; and cares not to stand alone, and challenge all comers; and if it could be opposed by as many worlds as men, it may be overborne, but it cannot be daunted : whereas popularity carries weak minds, and teaches them the safety of erring with a multitude.
Caleb saw the gigantic Anakims and the walled cities, as well as the rest; and yet he says, Let us go up and possess it: as if it were no more, but to go, and see, and conquer. Faith is courageous, and makes nothing of those dangers, wherewith others are quailed. It is very material with what eyes we look upon all objects. Fear doth not more multiply evils, than faith diminisheth them; which is therefore bold, because either it sees not, or contemns that terror, which fear represents to the weak. There is none so valiant as the believer.
It had been happy for Israel, if Caleb's counsel had been as effectual as good. But how easily have these rulers discouraged a faint-hearted people! Instead of lifting up their ensigns and marching towards Canaan, they sit them down and lift up their voice and cry, The rods of their Egyptian task-masters had never been so fit for them, as now, for crying. They had cause indeed to weep for the sin of their infidelity ; but now they weep for fear of those enemies they saw not. I fear if there had been ten Calebs to persuade, and but two faint spies to discourage them, those two cowards would have prevailed against those ten solicitors : how much more now ten oppose, and but two encourage! An easy rhetoric draws us to the worse part; yea, it is hard not to run down the hill. , The faction of evil'is so much stronger in our nature than that of good, that every least motion prevails for the one, scarce any suit for the other.
Now is Moses in danger of losing all the cost and care, that ever he bestowed upon Israel : his people are already gone back to Egypt, in their hearts; and their bodies are returning. () ye rebellious Hebrews, where shall God have you at last? Did ever Moses promise to bring you to a fruitful land, without inhabitants ? to give you a rich country, without resistance? Are not the graves of Canaan as good as those of Egypt? What can ye but die at the hands of the Anakims? Can ye hope for less from the Egyptians ? What madness is this to wish to die, for fear of death? Is there less hope from your enemies that shall be, when ye go under strong and expert leaders, than from the enemies that were, when ye shall return masterless? Can those cruel Egyptians so soon have forgotten the blood of their fathers, children, brothers, husbands, which perished in pursuing you? Would ye rather trust the mercy of known enemies, than the promise of a faithful God? Which way will ye return? Who shall divide the sea for you? Who shall fetch you water out of the rock? Or can ye hope that the manna of God will follow you, while ye run from him? Feeble minds, when they meet with crosses they looked not for, repent of their good beginnings, and wish any difficulty rather than that they find. How many have pulled back their foot from the narrow way, for the troubles of a good profession! ..
' It had been time for the Israelites to have fallen down on their faces before Moses and Aaron, and to have said, “ Ye led us through the sea, make way for us into Canaan. Those giants are strong, but not so strong as the rock of Rephidim: ye struck that, and it yielded. If they be tall, the pillar of God is higher than they: when we look on ourselves, we see cause of fear; but when we consider the miraculous power of you our leaders, we cannot but contemn those men of measures. Leave us not therefore, but go before us in your directions; go to God for us in your prayers.”
But now contrarily Moses and Aaron fall on their faces to them, and sue to them, that they would be content to be conducted, Had they been suffered to depart, they had perished; Moses and his few had been victorioas: and yet, as if he could not be happy
without them, he falls on his face to them, that they would stay, We have never so much need to be importuned, as in those things whose benefit should make us most importunate. The sweetness of God's. law and our promised glory is such, as should draw all hearts after it; and yet if we did not sue to men, as for life, that they would be reconciled to God and be saved, I doubt whether they would obey; yea, it were well, if our suit were sufficient to prevail.
Though Moses and Aaron intreat upon their fạces, and Joshua and Caleb persuade and rend their garments, yet they move no. thing. The obstinate multitude, grown more violent with oppo. sing, is ready to return them stones for their prayers. Such have been ever the thanks of fidelity and truth; crossed wickedness proves desperate, and instead of yielding, seeks for revenge. Nothing is so hateful to a resolute sinner, as good counsel; we are become enemies to the world, because we tell them truth.
That God which was invisibly present while they sinned, when they have sinned shews himself glorious. They might have seen him before, that they should not sin; now they cannot chuse but see him, in the height of their sin. They saw before the pillar of his ordinary presence, now they see him unusually terrible; that they may with shame and horror confess him able to defend, able to revenge. The help of God uses to shew itself in extremity. He, that can prevent evils, conceals his aid, till danger be ripe; and then he is as fearful, as before he seemed conniving. Num. xiii.
CORAH'S CONSPIRACY. The tears of Israel were scarce dry, since the smart of their last mutiny, and now they begin another. The multitude is like a raging sea, full of unquiet billows of discontent, whereof one rises in the fall of another. They saw God did but threaten, and therefore are they bold to sin: it was now high time they should know what it is for God to be angry. There was never such a revenge taken of Israel ; never any better deserved. When lesser warnings will not serve, God looks into his quiver for deadly arrows.
In the mean time, what a weary life did Moses lead, in these continual successions of conspiracies! What did he gain by this troublesome government, but danger and despight? Who but he would not have wished himself rather with the sheep of Jethro, than with these wolves of Israel ? But, as he durst not quit his hook, without the calling of God; so now he dare not his sceptre, except he be dismissed of him that called him ; no troubles, no oppositions can drive him from his place: we are too weak, if we suffer men to chase us from that station where God hath set us. .
I see the Levites, not long since, drawing their swords for God and Moses, against the rest of Israel; and that fact wins them both praise and blessing. Now they are the forwardest in the rebellion against Moses and Aaron, men of their own tribe. There is no as
surance of a man for one act: whom one sin cannot fasten upon, another may. Yea, the same sin may find a repulse one while from the same hand, which another time gives it entertainment; and that yielding loses the thank of all the former resistance. It is no praise to have done once well, unless we continue.
Outward privileges of blood can avail nothing, against a particular calling of God. These Reubenites had the right of the natural primogeniture; yet do they vainly challenge pre-eminence, where God hath subjected them. If all civil honour flow from the king, how much more from the God of kings! His hand exalts the poor, and casts down the mighty from their throne. The man,' that will be lifting up himself, in the pride of his heart, from under the foot of God, is justly trodden in the dust.
Moses is the prince of Israel, Aaron the priest; Moses was mild, Aaron popular; yet both are conspired against : their places are no less brothers, than their persons. Both are opposed at once. He, that is a traitor to the Church, is a traitor to the king.
Any superiority is a mark of envy. Had Moses and Aaron been but fellows with the Israelites, none had been better beloved ; their dispositions were such, as must needs have forced favour from the indifferent; now they were advanced, their malice is not inferior to their honour. High towers must look for lightnings; we offer not to undermine but those walls, which we cannot scale. Nature in every man is both envious and disdainful; and never loves to honour another, but where it may be an honour to itself. .
There cannot be conceived an honour less worth emulation, than this principality of Israel; a people that could give nothing; a people that had nothing, but in hope; a people whom their leader was fain to feed with bread and water; which paid him no tribute but of ill words; whose command was nothing but a burden; and yet this dignity was an eye-sore to these Levites and these Reubenites, Ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi.
And this challenge, though thus unseasonable, hath drawn in two hundred and fifty captains of Israel. What wonder is it, that the ten rulers prevailed so much with the multitude to dissuade them from Canaan, when three traitors prevailed thus with two hundred and fifty rulers, famous in the congregation, and men of renown? One man may kindle such a fire, as all the world cannot quench. One plague-sore may infect a whole kingdom: the infection of evil is much worse than the act.
It is not like, these leaders of Israel could err without followers: · he is a mean man that draws not some clients after him. It hath been ever a dangerous policy of Satan, to assault the best: he knows, that the multitude, as we say of bees, will follow their master.
Nothing can be more pleasing to the vulgar sort, than to hear their governors taxed and themselves flattered. All the congregar tion is holy, every one of them : Wherefore lift ye up yourselves? Every word is a falsehood. For Moses dejected himself, Who am !! God lifted him up over Israel ; and so was Israel holy, as Moses was ambitious. What holiness was there in so much infidelity;