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HISTORICAL FIGURES OF THE SCRIPTURES
LECT. T N the preceding Lecture, we have seen w 1 how the dangers of the Christian war
fare are set before us, in the history of the Militant State of the Jewish Church in its translation from Egypt to Canaan. St. Paul hath expressly taught us, to consider that history as prophetical of our own situation as Christians; and hath shewed how it is to be applied as an admonition or warning to us, that we may not fall after the same example of unbelief. We have seen how the people who had been baptized under Moses, and had passed through the Red Sea, afterwards preferred the slavery of Egypt to the service of God in the wilderness; becoming weary of his ways, and despising the better for love of the worse.
But But we followed them only on a part of LEC T.
VII. their journey. Other circumstances are yet behind, from which the like instruction is to be gathered : and in treating of them, I shall observe the same order as the Apostle hath done in the roth chapter of his first Ep. to the Cor. where he warns us not to be idolaters, as were fome of them ; as it is written, the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play. This refers us to the occasion of their making a golden calf, and worshipping it with the riotous mirth of idolaters; which shewed that they had forsaken the true object of their worship, and had forgotten the design of their redemption from the bondage of Egypt. While Moses was in conference with God upon the mount, their folly had taken up an opinion, that he would not return to them; and consequently, that they might fall into licentiousness, without the fear of being called to an account: So they danced before a golden calf, and gave themselves up to eating and drinking and playing, as if they had totally forgotten the design of
LECT. their journey through the wilderness.
Are these the people whom God, with so mighty a hand, had lately rescued from the tyranny of Pharaoh ? Are these the people who had seen the waters of the sea divided, to save them and destroy their enemies? who had followed a cloud, which led them by day, and gave light to them by night? and had they so soon forgotten all these wonders, and fallen into the senseless mirth of idolatry? Strange it is! but such was the fact. And now let us observe the consequence. Moses, whom they had forgetten, descends from the mount when they little expected him ; he surprises them in the midst of their fin, and sends the Levites, armed, as his ministers, to execute vengeance; who smote with the sword from one side of the camp to the other, and there fell some thousands of the people. Our Saviour, in one of his discourses, hath applied this history as an admonition to those careless finners, who live in pleasure, and are unmindful of Him who will shortly return to be their Judge: But if that evil servant. shall
say in his heart, my Lord delayeth his coming, LECT. and Mall begin to smite his fellow servants, L and to eat and drink with the drunken; the Lord of that servant shall come in a day when be looketh not for him, and in an hour that be is not aware of, and will cut him in funder, and appoint him his portion with the un. believers *. This brings the history home to ourselves. As Moses for a time left the people in the wilderness, so hath our Leader left us, and he is now up with God in the holy mount. In this interval, there are Christians (so called) who wot not what is become of him, and make a profane use of his absence; setting up this world, in some form or other, as their idol, and devoting themselves to the worship of it. Whatever the object may be, which any man has substituted in the place of God, that object is to him what the calf was to the Hebrews. How many are there who spend their lives in the dance of pleasure, as if they had been sent hither for no other purpose ! others devote themselves to honours and preferments; and, to accomplish their designs, * Luke xii. 44.
LECT. affect popularity, and worship the beasts VII.
of the people. Wealth is the object of others; and theirs is a calf of gold. The covetous serve mammon the God of riches; and the sin of covetousness is expressly called by the name of Idolatry*. Are these the people of God? Are these they, who were baptised into the name of Jesus Christ as dead unto fin and alive unto righteousness ? Are these the children of Abraham ; followers of them who through faith and patience obtained the promises ? Merciful God, what a transformation is this ! Are they not rather of those unprofitable servants, whom the Lord at his return from the mount shall surprise and judge as hypocrites and unbelievers ?
We have another example of our danger from the case of the Israelites, who fell into sin from evil communications and bad company. There was a mixt multitude of
* The learned Mr. Parkhurst, in his Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, gives very good reasons why we ought rather here to understand the fin of unlawful lafts, as in that other expreslion, whole God is their belly. See under the word Takovešbą.