« السابقةمتابعة »
they reproch themfelves and one another, as having occafioned the death of the wifeft and beft of men; they cannot bear to think of furviving him. But a voice more awful than that of man is heard; a glory more than human appears. "And the Lord faid unto Mofes, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die: call Joshua, and prefent yourselves in the tabernacle of the congregation, that I may give him a charge. And Mofes and Jofhua went, and prefented themselves in the tabernacle of the congregation. And the Lord appeared in the tabernacle in a pillar of a cloud: and the pillar of the cloud ftood over the door of the tabernacle."* What folemn moments to the whole congregation, thofe which Mofes and Jofhua paffed before the Lord, remote from the public eye! How folemn to the parties themselves! What is a charge from the mouth of a dying man, though that man be a Mofes, compared to a charge from the mouth of Jehovah himself, by whom fpirits are weighed, and to whom all the dread importance of eternity ftands continually revealed? And this God, O my friends, is daily founding a charge in every ear, "Occupy till I come." "Arife ye and depart, for this is not your rest." "Be fober, be vigilant, for your adverfary the devil goeth about as a roaring lion, feeking whom he may devour," "See that ye walk circumfpectly, not as fools, but as wife, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
This fecret conference being ended, they return to the people, and Mofes publickly delivers to the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, a copy of the law which he had tranfcribed with his own hand, to be laid up in the fide of the ark, as a ftanding witness for God against a finful people; and the bufinefs of this interefting and eventful day concludes with a public recital from the lips of Mofes of that tender and pathetic fong, which we have in the thirty-fecond chapter. This facred fong every Ifraelite
* Deut. xxxi. 14, 15.
was to commit to memory, to repeat frequently, and to teach it every man to his fon. It was compofed exprefsly by the command of God, and under his immediate infpiration. "Now therefore write ye this fong for you, and teach it the children of Ifrael: put it in their mouths, that this fong may be a witnefs for me against the children of Ifrael. Mofes therefore wrote this fong the fame day, and taught it the children of Ifrael. And Mofes fpake in the ears of all the congregation of Ifrael the words of this fong until they were ended."*
And a moft wonderful compofition it is, whether confidered as the production of a lively, lofty, correct imagination; abounding with the boldest images, and conveying the nobleft fentiments; adding all the graces of poetry to all the force of truth; as conveying the most useful and neceffary moral and religious inftruction, in a channel the most pleasing and attractive; as the addrefs of a dying man, a dying father, a dying minifter, to his friends, to his family, to his flock; abounding with the tendereft touches of nature, flowing immediately from the heart, and rufhing with impetuous force to the lips; as the awful witnefs of the great God against a difobedient and gainfaying race; exhibiting to this hour the proof of the authenticity of that record where it ftands, of the truth and faithfulness, of the mercy and feverity of the dread Jehovah, and of the certainty of the things wherein, as Chriftians, we have been inftructed.
What can equal the boldnefs and fublimity of his exordium or introduction? How is the boasted eloquence of Greece and Rome left at an infinite distance behind! What a coldnefs in the addrefs of Demofthenes and Cicero, compared to the fervour and elevation of the Ifraelitifh orator! "Ye men of Athens." "Romans." "Confcript Fathers." If ever there. was an audience that demanded respect, from numbers, from importance, from fituation; if ever there
Deut. xxxi. 19—22—30.
was a speaker prompted by duty, drawn by inclination, urged on by the spur of the occafion, Ifrael was that. audience, Mofes that fpeaker, on this ever-memorable day. But the ardent foul of this heaven-taught orator, with thousands upon thousands before his eyes, grafps, with a noble enthufiafm, an infinitely larger fpace than the plains of Moab, an audience infinitely more august than the thousands of Ifrael. "Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth." This was feizing the attention at once; the folid globe, thus fummoned, feems to give ear, the celeftial fpheres ftand ftill to liften, angels hover on the wing to mark and record the laft words of the departing prophet; what mortal ear then can be inattentive, what spirit careless? How fweetly calculated is the next sentence to compose the minds of his hearers, roufed and alarmed by the folemnity of his firft addrefs. The thunder of heaven feemed ready to burst upon their heads, after an invocation fo awful, and though Mofes alone spake, they were ready to die; but their fears are gently lulled to reft, the next word he utters; he has only love in his heart, and honey upon his tongue. "My doctrine shall drop as the rain: my speech fhall diftil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grafs."* The final object of Mofes being to warn, to admonish, and to reprove the perverse nation of whom he was taking leave, obferve how fkilfully he manages this difficult and delicate part of his talk. To have come directly and without preparation to it, had been to give certain disgust and offence; for he had to deal with a moody, murmuring, irritable, discontented race; he therefore first fills their minds with great images, leads them to the contemplation of one object furpaffingly grand; impreffes it in various points of view upon their hearts and confciences, till having loft themfelves in its grandeur and immenfity, they are pre
* Deut. xxxii. 2.
pared to bear, to approve, and to profit by the fevere perfonal attack that follows. "Because I will publish the name of the Lord; afcribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth, and without iniquity, juft and right is he.”*
Having thus raised them above every mean, every felfish confideration; and placed them, and made them to feel themselves in the awful prefence of the great God, "who is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works," he defcends abruptly, by a transition quick as lightning, to the cenfure he had in view. But even then, he infinuates it, rather than charges it home; and fpeaks for fome time as of ftrangers, as of perfons abfent; and conftitutes his auditors judges as it were of the cafe of others, not their own; and by employing the addrefs of the third perfon, they and their, leaves them for a moment in uncertainty whom he could mean; and when he comes at length to address them in the fecond perfon, and to use the terms thee and thy, how delicately is the application qualified, by the introduction of every tender, every melting, every conciliating circumftance! "They have corrupted themfelves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation. Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwife? Is not he thy Father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?"
He then goes into a recapitulation, partly historical, partly poetic, partly allegorical, at once to refresh the memory, to fire the imagination, and to exercife the invention, of the divine conduct towards them and their fathers, during many generations, that the conclufion he was about to draw might fall with irrefiftible weight upon the minds of all; that their base ingratitude and defperate folly might appear to themfelves in 2 more odious light, when contrafted with the
*Deut. xxxii. 3, 4.
+ Deut. xxxii. 5, 6.
the wisdom, goodnefs and loving-kindness of the Lord. This occupies a confiderable part of the chapter, from the feventh verfe to the eighteenth, and a paffage it is of exquifite force and beauty, as I am convinced you will alfo think upon a careful perusal of it.
Conftrained at laft to denounce the righteous judgment of God, in order to approve his own fidelity, and if poffible to prevent the ruin which he feared, he makes a difplay of the awful terrors of divine juftice, fufficient to awaken the dead, and to confound the living; and to increase its force and vehemence, Mofes difappears, and God, the great God himself, comes forward, and in the first perfon utters the feven thunders of his wrath; "For a fire is kindled in my anger, and fhall burn unto the lowest hell, and fhall confume the earth with her increase, and fet on fire the foundations of the mountains. The fword without and terror within fhall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the fuckling alfo, with the man of grey hairs,"*
The prophet as it were exhaufted with this violent exertion, this formidable denunciation of vengeance, finks into feeble, hopeless regret, and he reluctantly, defpairingly deplores that mifery which he can neither prevent nor avert. "They are a nation void of counfel, neither is there any understanding in them. O that they were wife, that they understood this, that they would confider their latter end! How fhould one chafe a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their rock had fold them, and the Lord had fhut them up?"+
Finally, a dawn of hope arifes, and, wrapt into future times, the facred bard hails the coming day of deliverance, and exults in the profpect of the junction of the nations with the ancient people of God, in the participation of one and the fame great falvation. joice, O ye nations, with his people; for he will avenge the blood of his fervants, and will render vengeance to
+ Deut. xxxii. 28, 29, 30.
* Deut. xxxii. 22. 25.