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and therefore he quietly submits to the will of God, and holds his peace because the Lord had done it. There is no greater proof of grace, than to smart patiently, and humbly and contentedly to rest the heart in the justice and wisdom of God's proceeding, and to be so far from chiding that we dispute not. Nature is froward; and though she well knows we meddle not with our match, when we strive with our Maker, yet she pricks us forward to this idle quarrel, and bids us, with Job's wife, Curse and die. If God either chide or smite (as servants are charged to their masters) we may not answer again : when God's hand is on our back, our hand must be on our mouth; else, as mothers do their children, God shall whip us so much the more for crying.
It is hard for a stander-by, in this case, to distinguish betwixt hard-heartedness and piety. There Aaron sees his sons lie: he may neither put his hand to them to bury them, nor shed a tear for their death. Never parent can have juster cause of mourning, than to see his sons dead in their sin; if prepared and penitent, yet who can but sorrow for their end ? 'But to part with children to the danger of a second death, is worthy of more than tears. Yet Aaron must learn so far to deny nature, that he must more magnify the justice of God, than lament the judgment. Those, whom God hath called to his immediate service, must know, that he will not allow them the common passions and cares of others. Nothing is more natural than sorrow for the death of our own : if ever grief be seasonable, it becomes a funeral. And if Nadab and Abihu had died in their beds, this favour had been allowed them, the sorrow of their father and brethren ; for when God forbids solemn mourning to his priests, over the dead, he excepts the cases of this nearness of blood. Now all Israel may mourn for these two; only the father and brethren may not. God is jealous lest their sorrow should seem to countenance the sin, which he had punished : even the fearfullest acts of God must be applauded by the heaviest hearts of the faithful.
That which the father and brother may not do, the cousins are commanded : dead carcases are not for the presence of God; his justice was shown sufficiently in killing them : they are now fit for the grave, not the sanctuary: neither are they carried out naked, but in their coats. It was an unusual sight for Israel to see a linen ephod upon the bier ; the judgment was so much the more remarkable, because they had the badge of their calling upon their
Nothing is either more pleasing unto God, or more commodious to men, than that when he hath executed judgment, it should be seen and wondered at; for therefore he strikes some, that he may. warn all,
OF AARON AND MIRIAM, The Israelites are stayed seven days in the station o Hazeroth, for the punishment of Miriam. The sins of the governors are
and which gave hint the prosperity hould ha
a just stop to the people; all of them smart in one; all must stay the leisure of Miriam's recovery. Whosoever seeks the land of promise, shall find many lets : Amalek, Og, Sehon, and the kings of Canaan meet with Israel : these resisted, but hindered not their passage; their sins only stay them from removing. Afflictions are not crosses to us, in the way to heaven, in comparison to our sins. · What is this I see? Is not this Aaron, that was brother in nature, and by office joint commissioner with Moses? Is not this Aaron, that made his brother an intercessor for him to God, in the case of his idolatry? Is not this Aaron, that climbed up the hill of Sinai with Moses? Is not this Aaron, whom the mouth and hand of Moses consecrated a high priest unto God? Is not this Miriam, the elder sister of Moses? Is not this Miriam, that led the triumph of the women, and sung gloriously to the Lord? Is not this Miriam, which laid her brother Moses in the reeds, and fetched her mother to be his nurse? Both prophets of God; both, the flesh and blood of Moses: and doth this Aaron repine at the honour of him, which gave himself that honour, and saved his life? Doth this Miriam repine at the prosperity of him, whose life she saved ? Who would not have thought this should have been their glory, to have seen the glory of their own brother? What could have been a greater comfort to Miriam, than to think, “ How happily doth he now sit at the stern of Israel, whom I saved from perishing in a boat of bulrushes ! It is to me, that Israel owes this commander?'” but now envy hath so blinded their eyes, that they can nei. ther see this privilege of nature, nor the honour of God's choice.
Miriam and Aaron are in mutiny against Moses. Who is so holy that sins not? What sin is so unnatural, that the best can avoid without God? But what weakness soever may plead for Miriam, who can but grieve to see Aaron at the end of so many sins? Of late I saw him carving the molten image, and consecrating an altar to a false god; now I see him seconding an unkind mutiny against his brother: both sins find him accessary; neither, prin cipal.
It was not in the power of the legal priesthood to perform, or promise innocency to her ministers : it was necessary we should have another high priest, which could not be tainted. That King of Righteousness was of another order; he being without sin, hath fully satisfied for the sins of men. Whom can it now offend, to see the blemishes of the evangelical priesthood, when God's first high priest is thus miscarried ? . Who can look for love and prosperity at once, when holy and meek Moses finds enmity in his own flesh and blood ? Rather than we shall want, A man's enemies shall be those of his own house. Authority cannot fail of opposition, if it be never so mildly swayed: that common make-bait will rather raise it out of our own bosom. To do well and hear ill, is princely.
The Midianitish wife of Moses cost him dear. Before, she hazarded his life; now, the favour of his people; unequal matches
are seldom prosperous. Although now this scandal was only taken; envy was not wise enough to choose a ground of the quarrel. Whether some secret and emulatory brawls passed between Zipporah and Miriam, as many times these sparks of private brawls grow into a perilous and common flame; or whether now that Jethro and his family were joined with Israel, there were surmises of transporting the government to strangers; or whether this unfit choice of Moses is now raised up to disparage God's gifts in him ; even in sight, the exceptions were frivolous : emulation is curious, and out of the best person or act will raise something to cavil at,
Seditions do not ever look the same way they move: wise men can easily distinguish betwixt the visor of actions, and the face. The wife of Moses is mentioned ; his superiority is shot at. Pride is lightly the ground of all sedition. Which of their faces shined like Moses? Yea, let him but have drawn his veil, which of them durst look on his face? Which of them had fasted twice forty days? Which of them ascended up to the top of Sinai, and was hid with smoke and fire? Which of them received the law twice in two several tables, from God's own hand? And yet they dare say, Hath God spoken only by Moses? They do not deny Moses's honour, but they challenge a part with him ; and as they were the elder in nature, so they would be equal in dignity, equal in administration. According to her name, Miriam would be exalted. And yet how unfit were they? One, a woman, whom her sex debarred from rule; the other, a priest, whom his office sequestered from earthly government. Self-love makes men unreasonable, and teaches them to turn the glass to see themselves bigger, others less than they are. It is a hard thing for a man, willingly and gladly to see his equals lifted over his head, in worth and opinion. Nothing will more try a mạn's grace, than questions of emulation. That man hath true light, which can be content to be a candle before the sun of others.
As no wrongs can escape God, so least of all those which are offered to princes : he, that made the ear, needs no intelligence of our tongues. We have to do with a God, that is light of hearing: we cannot whisper any evil so secretly, that he should not cry out of noise; and what need we any further evidence, when our judge is our witness? · Without any delation of Moses, God hears and challenges them. Because he was meek, therefore he complained not: because he was meek and complained not, therefore the Lord struck in for him the more. The less a man strives for himself, the more is God his champion. It is the honour of great persons, to undertake the patronage of their clients : how much more will God revenge his elect, which cry to him day and night! He, that said, I seek not mine own glory, adds, But there is one that seeks it, and judges. God takes his part ever, that fights not for himself.
No man could have given more proofs of his courage, than Moses. He slew the Egyptian; he confronted Pharaoh in his own court; he beat the Midianite 'shepherds; he feared not the troops of Egypt; he durst look God in the face amidst all the terrors of Sinai: and yet that Spirit, which made and knew his heart, says, He was the mildest man upon earth. Mildness and fortitude may well lodge together in one breast; to correct the misconceits of those men, that think none valiant, but those that are fierce and cruel. .
No sooner is the word out of Miriam's mouth, than the word of God's reproof meets it: how he bestirs him, and will be at once seen and heard, when the name of Moses is in question ! Moses was zealously careful for God's glory, and now God is zealous for his. The remunerations of the Almighty are infinitely gracious. He cannot want honour and patronage, that seeks the honour of his Maker. The ready way to true glory is goodness.
God might have spoken so loud, that heaven and earth should have heard it, so as they should not have needed to come forth for audience; but now, he calls them out to the bar, that they may be seen to hear. It did not content him, to chide them within doors: the shame of their fault had been less in a private rebuke; but the scandal of their repining was public. Where the sin is not afraid of the light, God loves not the reproof should be smothered.
They had depressed Moses, God advances him : they had equaled themselves to Moses, God prefers him to them. Their plea was, that God had spoken by them, as well as by Moses ; God's reply is, That he hath in a more entire fashion spoken to Moses than them. God spake to the best of them, but either in their dream, sleeping; or in vision, waking: but to Moses he spake with more inward illumination, with more lively representation : to others, as a stranger; to Moses, as a friend. God had never so much magnified Moses to them, but for their envy. We cannot devise to pleasure God's servants, so much as by despiting them.
God was angry when he rebuked them, but more angry when he departed. The withdrawing of his presence, is the presence of his wrath. While he stays to reprove, there is favour in his displeasure; but when he leaves either man or church, there is no hope but of vengeance. The final absence of God is hell itself, When he forsakes us, though for a time, it is an introduction to his utmost judgment.
It was time to look for a judgment, when God departed : $0 soon as he is gone from the eyes of Miriam, the leprosy appears in her face: her foul tongue is punished with a foul face. Since she would acknowledge no difference betwixt herself and her brother Moses, every Israelite now sees his face glorious, hers leprous, Deformity is a fit cure of pride. Because the venom of her tongue would have eaten into the reputation of her brother, therefore a poisonous infection eats into her flesh. Now both Moses and Miriam need to wear a veil : the one to hide his glory; the other, her deformity. That Midianite, Zipporah, whom she scorned, was beautiful in respect of her.
· Miriam was stricken, Aaron escaped : both sinned; his priesthood could not rescue himn; the greatness of his dignity did but add to the heinousness of his sin : his repentance freed him; Alas, my Lord, I beseech thee lay not this sin upon us, which we have foolishly committed. I wonder not to see Aaron free, while I see him penitent; this very confession saved him before, from bleeding for idolatry, which now preserves him from leprosy, for his envious repining. The universal antidote for all the judgments of God is our humble repentance.
Yea, his sad deprecation prevailed, both to clear himself and to recover Miriam : the brother sues for himself and his sister, to that brother whom they both emulated; for pardon from himself, and that God which was offended in him. Where now. is that equality which was pretended ? Behold, he, that so lately made his brother his fellow, now makes him his God: Lay not this sin upon us; Let her not be as one dead : as if Moses had imposed this plague, and could remove it. Never any opposed the servants of God, but one time or other they have been constrained to confess a superiority.
Miriam would have wounded Moses with her tongue; Moses would heal her with his, O Lord, heal her now: the wrong is the greater, because his sister did it. He doth not say, “I sought not her shame, she sought mine; if God have revenged it, I have no reason to look on her, as a sister, who looked at me, as an adversary:" but, as if her leprosy were his, he cries out for her cure. O admirable meekness of Moses! His people the Jews rebelled against him; God proffers revenge; he would rather die, than they should perish: his sister rebels against him; God works his revenge; he will not give God peace, till she be recured. Behold a worthy and noble pattern for us to follow. How far are they from this disposition, who are not only content God should revenge, but are ready to prevent God's revenge with their own!
God's love to Moses suffers him not to obtain presently his suit for Miriam: his goodnature to his sister made him pray against himself. If the judgment had been at once inflicted and removed, there had been no example of terror for others: God either denies or defers the grant of our requests, for our good: it were wide for us, if our suits should be ever heard. It was fit for all parts, Miriam should continue some while leprous. There is no policy in a sudden removal of just punishment: unless the rain so fall that it lie, and soak into the earth, it profits nothing. If the judgments of God should be only as passengers, and not som journcrs at least, they would be no whit regarded. Num. xii.
THE SEARCHERS OF CANAAN. I CAN but wonder at the counsel of God. If the Israelites had gone on to Canaan without inquiry, their confidence had possessa ed it; now they send to espy the land, six hundred thousand of them never lived to see it: and yet I see God enjoining them to