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to sober us a little, and call us back to safe thoughts, we have a few most wholesome words of caution: "To-day, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness; when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works." That is to say, when God calls you, when he commands you to do anything, or to leave anything undone, do not harden your hearts against his bidding, as the Jews did in the days of Moses time after time in the wilderness, murmuring at every hardship they had to bear, shewing their want of faith in God, notwithstanding all the wonderful mercies and deliverances they had received, and forsaking the true God, who had poured forth so many blessings upon them, to go astray after the false and bloodthirsty and lustful gods of the nations. For a long time God bore with them. "Forty years long was he grieved with that generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their hearts; for they have not known my ways." But at last the day of grace closed, and the day of punishment began: at last God sware in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest. This was when the children of Israel were in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh: and the story, as we find it in the 14th chapter of the book
of Numbers, is so instructive, that, as that chapter is not read among the Sunday lessons, I shall tell it you at some length.
After the law had been given on Mount Sinai, the children of Israel removed from thence, and journied on toward the land which God had promised them. When they were near the edge of the wilderness, on the borders of the promised land, Moses sent twelve men to spy out the land, and to bring back word what they saw there. So these men went up and searched the land; and after being absent forty days they came back, and told the children of Israel, that the land was very rich, and abounded with the fruits of the earth, and flowed, as it were, with milk and honey; but that the inhabitants were strong and warlike, that some of them were giants, and that they dwelt in great cities with high walls to them, which there was no hope of scaling or beating down. One might have thought that reports of this kind should not have frightened a people who had the Lord for their God. They had witnessed his wonders in Egypt: they had been brought out safe from Pharaoh and all his host: they had passed through the Red Sea as on dry land: they had seen Moses call forth water from the hard rock : they had been fed from heaven with manna and quails: they had heard the voice of God speak
ing out of the midst of the fire when he gave the ten commandments, and had lived. Surely, after so many proofs of God's power and goodness, the Israelites might have trusted that he, who had already done such great things for them, would not desert them at the last; surely they might have gone on boldly at the bidding of the Lord of Hosts. But no: their hearts sank within them at these tidings: they said, "Would God we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! Wherefore bath the Lord brought us to this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should be Were it not better for us to return into a prey ? Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us choose a captain, and let us return into Egypt!" It was in vain that those lion-hearted men, Joshua and Caleb, who had been among the twelve spiers of the land, said to the children of Israel: "The land is an exceeding good land. If the Lord delight in us, then will he bring us into this land, and give it us. Only rebell not against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land: for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not." Instead of listening to these brave and good men, the Israelites waxed furious at being thus crossed and opposed. From stubbornness and rebellion they
went on to brutal violence, and, as cowards usually do, to cruelty for cowardice is a very cruel thing; nine times in ten, as any soldier who has been in the wars will tell you, cowardice and cruelty go together; and the most cowardly men are generally the cruelest. So was it with those wicked cowardly Israelites. Though they were afraid of going forth to meet their enemies face to face in battle, they were not afraid of shedding blood: they were not afraid of committing murder, when they fancied that the strength of numbers was on their side. Because Joshua and Caleb joined with Moses and Aaron in exhorting them to obey God, they all cried out, "Stone them ;” and doubtless they were preparing to do so. Now learn a lesson from these Israelites. Often as they had disobeyed God, and murmured against him, yet up to that time the door of mercy was still open to them. If they had not hardened their hearts, and shut their ears against the words of Caleb and Joshua,-if they had had the wisdom to see and believe that the Lord, who had shewn himself almighty against the Egyptians, must be equally almighty against the Canaanites, if in the strength of this wisdom they had obeyed the will of God, and gone up to battle boldly,-all would have been well with them: they would have been forgiven; the Lord of Hosts would have
been with them; their arms would have prospered, and their enemies would have been overthrown. But they did close their ears; they did harden their hearts; they did persist in disobeying God, and were about to slay his servants. Mark the consequences. The door of mercy was closed upon them the cup of wrath was filled to overflowing: they were condemned to perish in the wilderness. "The glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle before all the children of Israel. And the Lord said: Because all these men, who have seen my glory, and my miracles in Egypt and in the wilderness, have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice, surely they shall not see the land which I promised to their fathers; none of them that provoked me shall see it. Their carcases shall fall in the wilderness: there they shall be consumed; and there they shall die!" And so it came to pass. There they did all die, all save Caleb and Joshua. Out of that vast multitude of men and women, who came with Moses out of Egypt, Joshua and Caleb alone lived to see the promised land: because they alone had trusted heartily in the Lord, and had followed him, and obeyed him. This, my brethren, is the story of God's fearful judgement against the stiffnecked and hardened Jews, which we are reminded of every Sunday morning in the