صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

denote those rare gifts with which nature had so liberally endowed him; wifdom, and courage, and strength, and which Providence was now calling forth for the general benefit. But though thus amply furnished for his great undertaking, God was pleased to command a folemn and public declaration of his choice, and that the object of it should, before the eyes of the people, be fet apart by the impofition of the hands of Mofes to the office affigned him.

Forms are neceffary, becaufe men are not spiritual; forms are interpofed, that the understanding, the heart and the confcience may be approached through the channels of sense. And of all forms, recommended by divine authority, and its own fignificant fimplicity, that of the laying on of hands is one of the most ancient, most frequently in ufe, and moft ftriking. By this folemn rite, the devoted victim was fet apart for death, and the guilt of the offerer transferred, as it were, and laid upon the head of the oblation: and thus were the minifter of the fanctuary, the general, the statesman, dedicated to the duties of their refpective stations thus new and extraordinary powers were conferred upon Joshua: thus Jefus took leave of his disciples, and left a bleffing behind him, more precious than the mantle of Elijah." He led them out as far as Bethany, and he lifted up his hands and bleffed


By laying on of the apoftles' hands, miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghoft were communicated; and by laying on of the hands of the prefbytery, Timothy was folemnly fet apart for exercifing the office of a bifhop; and thus a great part of the chriftian world continues to inftal its minifters in the paftoral office.

Mofes was farther commanded "to caufe Jofhua to ftand before Eleazar the priest," who was probably to offer up facrifice in behalf of the commander elect, and by this additional folemnity to impress both upon his own mind and upon thofe of the fpectators, the


*Luke xxiv. 50.

weight and importance of the facred charge committed unto him. It is added, verfe 20th, "And thou fhalt put fome of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Ifrael may be obedient."

This is interpreted by fome commentators, of those rays of glory, which are supposed to have furrounded the head of Mofes, ever fince his descent from God in the mount, and which fo dazzled the eyes of the beholder, that in speaking to the people he was under the neceflity of putting a veil over his face. By the impofition of his hands upon the head of Jofhua, according to the commandment, this external, fenfible honour is understood to have been communicated from the one to the other, and that, in confequence of it, Joshua henceforth wore a visible token of the choice of Heaven.

Conjecture and fancy blend too much in this expofition, to procure for it a very high degree of refpect. Jufter and more fober criticifm explain the paffage as implying, that Mofes fhould immediately affociate Jofhua with himself in the executive powers of government, devolve upon him a fhare both of the respect and the care which pertained to the fupreme command; that he might enjoy the fatisfaction, while he yet lived, and which he fo much defired, of beholding a wife and a good man conducting the Ifraelitish affairs, in church and state, with discretion, and carrying on the plan of Providence to its confumma. tion.

There is another article in the injunction laid upon Mofes, refpecting the appointment of his fucceffor, which has greatly exercifed and puzzled the critics. "And he fhall ftand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him, after the judgment of Urim, before the Lord; at his word fhall they go out, and at his word they fhall come in, both he and all the children of Ifrael with him, even all the congrega. tion."*


*Numb. xxvii. 21,

The difficulty is, what was the Urim, and the judgment of Urim, of which Eleazar was to afk counfel in behalf of Joshua, and wherein Mofes differed from Joshua as to this? Urim is, in general, in scripture, found in connexion with Thummim. The words import light and perfection; and they appear to have been fome part or appendage of the breaft-plate, that effential article of the high-prieft's drefs. They were not, it is alleged, the production of human skill, like the other particulars of the facred clothing, for there is no account of their fabrication by the hands of man; but when the breast-plate was finished, Mofes, we are told, " put into it the Urim and the Thummim," whatever they were, immediately from God.

The method of confultation has also furnished ample matter of difpute. The most approved tradition is this, for fcripture gives but few, and thofe very general hints, upon the fubject, the perfon who defired to confult the oracle, (and none but public perfons, and on great public occafions, were admitted to that privilege,) intimated his intention to the high-prieft; who, at the hour of incenfe, arrayed in his pontifical vestments, entered the holy place, accompanied at a little distance by the magiftrate or general, who made the inquiry. The high-priest placed himself with his face towards the entrance of the most holy place. The veil which feparated the holy place from the holy of holies, was drawn up for the occafion, fo that he ftood directly fronting the ark of the covenant, overshadowed by the cherubim, where the Schechinah, or vifible glory, refided. The inquirer then standing behind, pronounced the queftion, or confultation, in a few plain words; fuch for example as these, "Shall I go up against the Philiftines, or fhall I not go up?" This question was again repeated folemnly and diftinctly by the high-prieft before the Lord: and on looking downwards upon the Urim in the breaft-plate,


*Namb. xxvii. 21.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

the answer of God was feen in characters of reflected light, from the excellent glory, and which the highpriest audibly repeated in the ears of the party concerned. "Go;" or, "Thou shalt not go."

When the oracle refused to give any response, as in the cafe of Saul, it was confidered as a mark of high difpleasure. God would not answer that wicked prince "by the judgment of Urim," but because he had wilfully forfaken God, an offended God, in juft difpleafure, gave him up to afk counsel of hell, and to follow it to his own deftruction. "We have alfo," chriftians, "a more fure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed; as unto a light that fhineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the dayftar arife in your hearts."*

Jofhua being referred to this mode of consultation, compared with the hiftory of Mofes, points out the difference between these two leaders of Ifrael. "There arofe not a prophet fince in Ifrael like unto Mofes, whom the Lord knew face to face."t

God manifefted himself immediately unto Mofes ; converfed with him as a man with his friend. Joshua was kept at a greater diftance, and enjoyed communion with God through the intervention of appointed means. Juft as before Mofes was admitted to the very fummit of the mount, received within the veil of thick darkness, which at once concealed and revealed the divine glory; while Jofhua was confined to a lower region, kept in the place and on the duty of a fervant. But we muft conclude.

The whole fcene that has now paffed in review, fpeaks directly to the heart and confcience. It prefents a ftriking and instructive inftance of the goodnefs and feverity of God. The faults and infirmities of his dearest children he neither overlooks, nor forgets to punish. For one offence, and feemingly a flight one, Mofes is excluded from Canaan. No humiliation, penitence or entreaty can, of themselves,


+ Deut. xxxiv. 10.

2 Peter i. 19.

remove the guilt nor prevent the chastisement of fin. The neglect or infult offered by a child, a brother, a friend, ftrikes deeper than the most violent outrage from a stranger, or an avowed enemy. The tranfgreffion of Mofes at the waters of ftrife was thus aggravated, and he muft die for it. O my God, enter not into judgment with me, whofe crimes are heightened by every circumftance of aggravation-deliberation, prefumption, filial ingratitude, in the face of folemn and repeated engagements. If Mofes died the death, for once fpeaking unadvisedly with his lips, in the moment of paffion; " if thou, Lord, art strict to mark iniquity, where fhall I ftand?" how fhall I escape?

But is death a punishment to a good man? No. As in the death of Mofes, therefore, we behold the justice and feverity of God, fo, in its confequences, we behold his goodnefs and loving-kindness. The evil is flight and temporary; the good is unspeakably great, and eternally permanent; exclufion from Canaan is admiffion into the kingdom of heaven; "to be abfent from the body is to be prefent with the Lord." Faith, indeed, redeems not from the power of the grave, but it diffipates all the horror of the tomb; transforms it into a refting place for the weary pilgrim; and converts the king of terrors into a minifter of joy. "O death, where is thy fting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory, through Jefus Chrift our Lord." "The faying that is written, is come to pass, death is fwallowed up of victory; mortality is fwallowed up of life." "Life and immortality are brought to light by the gofpel." We "know whom we have believed:" we believe in him who hath faid, "I am the refurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet fhall he live. And whofoever liveth and believeth in me, fhall never die."


« السابقةمتابعة »