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DEUTERONOMY xxxii, 47.
It is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life.
THE honoured servant of God, whose words are here selected, was favoured with health and the unabated force of all his faculties, at a very advanced time of life: and, so far from claiming a privilege of relaxation from labour, he seems, as death approached, to have redoubled his diligence, in order that the Israelites might have the things which he had taught them in perpetual remembrance. The hoary head is indeed a crown of glory, when thus found in the way of righteousness: and "blessed is that servant, whom his "Lord when he cometh shall find so doing.'
Among other methods of durably impressing the minds of the people, Moses was directed to compose a prophetick song; as poems are generally
learned with greater eagerness, and remembered more easily, than other compositions: and at the close of this sacred song he thus addressed the people, "Set your hearts unto all the words, which
I testify among you this day, which ye shall com"mand your children to observe to do, even all "the words of this law. For it is not a vain thing "for you, because it is your life; and through "this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land, whither ye go over Jordan to possess it." Having given this earnest admonition, he was directed to ascend mount Nebo, that he might die there: a circumstance which could not fail to add peculiar energy to his concluding exhortations.
The nation of Israel had spiritual blessings proposed to them by types and shadows; and Canaan represented the everlasting felicity of heaven, the inheritance of true believers. We live under a different dispensation, and enjoy peculiar advantages. "God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the "fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days
spoken unto us by his Son.""Therefore we "ought to give the more earnest heed to the things "which we have heard, lest at any time we should "let them slip: for-how shall we escape, if we "neglect so great salvation"?" The words of the text are therefore at least as applicable to us, as
Heb. i, 1-3. ii, 1—3.
they were to Israel of old; and we may from them take occasion
I. To consider the subject, which is declared to be no vain thing.
II. To illustrate the import of that declaration.
III. To conclude the whole by a practical improvement.
I. Let us consider the subject, which is declared to be no vain thing.
Moses, no doubt, spoke this concerning religion: but numbers would agree to the sentiment as thus stated, who would object to it when more particularly explained. For it is evident that the prophet was not speaking of natural religion, or that religion which man in his present condition can discover or attain, by the exercise of his natural powers without any assistance from revelation. Alas! the history of the human race proves, that this is indeed a vain thing, and utterly insufficient to direct us into the knowledge of God, or to make us partakers of happiness in his presence and favour. But that religion, which Moses had taught Israel, was given by immediate revelation from God, and was exclusively intended. The
same is delivered to us at present, more fully and plainly, in the sacred scriptures; and we may perhaps obtain the clearest conceptions of it, by considering them as a message from God to us; sent by prophets, apostles, and evangelists; or rather by his well-beloved Son. As far therefore as ministers adhere to the oracles of God, they also deliver the same message; and all who disbelieve or despise them, disbelieve and despise him that sent them.
This message from God declares to us his own mysterious nature, by which he is distinguished from all the objects of idolatrous worship; it discovers to us his glorious attributes; his infinite power, knowledge, wisdom, and greatness; his eternal, omnipresent, unchangeable, and incomprehensible majesty; but, above all, his consummate justice, holiness, truth, goodness, and mercy, as harmoniously exercised in his dealings with his rational creatures, and comprising the full perfection of all that is adorable and excellent.
The message teaches us our relations and obligations to this glorious God, as our Creator, from whom we derive our being and all our capacities; "in whom we live, and move, and are," and, "who
giveth us all things richly to enjoy;" and as our "Governor and Judge, to whom we are in all respects accountable. It further assures us, that our souls are immortal; that our bodies will rise again from the dead; that after death is the
judgment; and that a state of eternal retributions will succeed to the present transitory scene. And after all the conjectures and boasted demonstrations of philosophers, even these fundamental doctrines must rest entirely on the sure testimony of God: for could it be proved with certainty that the soul is naturally immortal, who could know, whether the Creator might not see good to annihilate it, now it is contaminated with sin? So that in every sense, "life and immortality are brought "to light by the gospel."
The same message from God makes known to us his holy law, in its extensive, spiritual, and reasonable requirements, and awful sanction; with the rules of his providential government. It instructs us in the malignant nature and fatal consequences of sin; and gives us a general intimation of the manner in which this destructive evil entered into the world: though it does not satisfy our curiosity by fully explaining that mysterious subject, the difficulties of which are not peculiar to any religious system. But it far more copiously and clearly instructs us in the way, by which we may be saved from sin and misery, which is unspeakably more conducive to our advantage.
The scriptures are indeed more especially a mes sage from God to us, concerning the person and salvation of Christ. "This is the record that God "hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in "his Son. He that hath the Son hath life, and he