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strolling Egyptians and disorderly people LECT. who went up with the Hebrews out of Egypt, and attended their camp from motives of curiosity or beggary. These are said to have fallen a lufting, and to have propagated their evil inclinations among the congregation; who, led by their example, provoked God with their discontent and murmurings. The Christian church hath always been attended by a like unprincipled multitude of heretics, fensualists, enthusiasts, sectaries, and even atheists; men, who being discontented with the ways and doctrines of the Christian society, have recommended and spread their own evil opinions, and occasioned multi. tudes to fall away. A defection from the doctrines of Christianity is the natural consequence of a departure from the worship and facraments and authority of the Church. Some of the earliest instances of blafphemy against the doctrine of the blessed Trinity, were found among ignorant people in those times of confusion and rebellion, when a mixt multitude of more than fixty different sects arose even
LECT. to the astonishment of those who first be
gan the separation*. But afterwards the fame error was adopted by men of higher pretensions to learning, who have found too many followers ; till the times have at length produced a new generation of opinionists, who assume to themselves, and attribute to one another, the honours of confession aud martyrdom, for asserting the blasphemy of Socinus against the church and the kingdom of Christ, with the same boldness as the saints, in the primitive times, afferted the doctrines of the gospel against the heathen powers and the kingdom of Satan. But boldness without truth will never make a Christian confeffor: and if a man injures himself for the love of error, he is not a martyr but a suicide.
They who are acquainted with the world, and the present state of religion
* An authentic and very curious account of the errors and blasphemies of that time, (two years before the death of the king) was published in a Treatise entitled, Gangræna, by Thomas Edwards, Presbyterian minister : of which, fee part 1. p. 32. 110. But see also Burnet's Hift. of the Reformation, An, 1549, vol. 2. p. 111, 112.
and and literature, must have observed, that LECT° heresy, schism, and the new philosophy of the Deists, with their numerous adherents, form a mixt multitude, which are always hovering about the Christian camp, and never fail to corrupt it. They are now boasting of their success, and threaten to overwhelm this church in a very short time with a deluge of Unitarianism, that is, of Mahometan Infidelity*.
The destruction of three and twenty thousand was occafioned by the Israelites associating with the people of Midian, who invited them to the feasts of their idols; in consequence of which, they fell into shameless fornication after the manner of the Heathens. And as there were wicked Midianites and Moabites in the neighbourhood of the camp, so is there a wicked world always near at hand, ready to invite and seduce the servants of God by its ensnaring customs and diversions. To mix with the world on all occasions, and not be corrupted by its ways, is almost as une * See Priestley's Sermon on Free Enquiry. N2
LECT. likely, as that the Hebrews should go to
an idol-feast with the Midianites, and not be the worse for it. What is the natural tendency of many, and even the design of some public diversions tolerated among Christians, but to corrupt youth and give opportunities to vice? How are most of the scenes of public diversion crouded with the daughters of Midian, who are well aware, that what is there to be seen and heard will seldom fail to encourage the vicious, and betray fome of the innocent, into their snares! wherever any public meetings have this tendency to corrupt the manners, we may call them by what names we please, but they are as Moab and Midian, if they are the enemies of Christian virtue.
Balak, the king of the Moabites, hated the camp of Israel, and bribed Balaam, a prophet, to curse them. Just thus doth the world hate the church, and is never happier than when it can hire the ministers of the church to turn against it and betray its interests. But it can no more succeed by
all its curses than the wicked Balak could: LECT.
VII. it must seduce Christians to fin, and then s it prevails; not by its own power, but by tempting the church to provoke the anger of God. When Balaam found that he could prevail nothing by his facrifices and enchantments, then he gave counsel to Balak to corrupt the people of the camp with fornication; and that soon answered the purpose.
. But now we are to learn another lesson, from the example of those who are said to have tempted Christ with their impatience under the ways of his providence. When the people expected to see an end of their journeyings, it pleased God still to lead them round about; but being weary of this unsettled life, we are told, that the soul of the people was much discouraged because of
the way* : and, to punish their impatience , 'on this occasion, fiery serpents were sent to
destroy them. But when Mofes prayed for them, he was directed to place a fer
* Numbers xxi. 4.