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was typical of Christ. "For all are not Israel, (saith the Holy Ghost, by Paul,) which are of Israel. Neither because they are the children of Abraham, are they all children; but in Isaac shall thy seed be called." But the mere carnal Israel had no part or lot in the matter. And agreeably to this, we find the Lord, by his servant the prophet Ezekiel, promising that when he pleaded with his people in the wilderness, he will cause those that were among them to pass under the rod. And the Lord then added; "I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me; I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn; and they shall not enter into the land of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the Lord." (Ezek. xx. 35-38.)
But to manifest yet farther the distinguishing nature of grace, in separating the "precious from the vile;" it is very blessed to observe in the camp of Israel, even in the midst of these judgments, how the faithful were preserved, when the besom of destruction swept away the ungodly. It is said that "much people of Israel died;" but it is no where said, that any one died in the number, but such as had called the manna "light bread;" and in contempt of soul had "loathed it." Oh! had we our spiritual apprehensions more alive, that with enlightened eyes we could plainly discover what the apostle calls, "the hope of Christ's calling;" (Eph. i. 18.) how should we then behold, amidst "the pestilence that walk eth in darkness, and the sickness that destroyeth in the noon day;" how the Lord when sending forth his messengers of death, whether by men or beasts, limits the destroyer, as to those of old, with similar direction: "Come not near any man upon whom is the mark!" (Ezek. ix. 4-6.) Very sweetly the Holy Ghost hath shewn this in many parts of Scripture ; but in none more striking than in that beautiful one
by his servant the prophet Hosea: when speaking of the safety and happiness of his people, when the Lord had taken the names of Baalim out of their mouth; the Lord adds; "And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field; and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground; and I will break the bow and the sword, and the battle out of the earth, and will make them lie down safely." (Hosea ii. 17, 18.) Thus the Lord maketh all creatures to be at peace with his people, when they are at peace with him. But in the departures, and backslidings of his own, the Lord exerciseth an holy jealousy; and when they do not lay it to heart, their very comforts he turns into sorrows; and even curseth their blessings. He saith himself: " to punish the breach of his holy covenant." (Malachi ii. 2.)
"Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people." (Numb. xxi. 7.)
NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS.
I BESEECH the reader to notice this verse, and the opening of it very particularly: "Therefore the people came to Moses." Who were they of the people that came to Moses ? May it be supposed that all the survivors came? It will be well to hope so for charity's sake; for in that case the awful judgment before their eyes, had made (at least for the time,) a suitable impression upon them. But I think it highly probable,
that many of the Lord's people among the younger branches of the house of Israel, might be of those that came to Moses. The reader will recollect that when, in the case of the untrue spies returning with an evil report from searching the Promised Land, the Lord sware that not one of them should go over Jordan to the possession of it. But said the Lord, in great grace, "Your little ones, which ye say should be a prey, them will 1 bring in, and they shall know the Lord which ye have despised. (Numb. xiv. 31.) It is possible therefore, that those might be among the supplicants to Moses. And from beholding the tremendous death of the ungodly in their carcases before their eyes, they felt compassion for those that survived; and like the great father of the faithful, when drawing nigh to the Lord, in his intercession for Sodom, hoped that the Lord had some chosen ones among the remnant that were left, for which the Lord would withdraw his judgment. (Gen. xviii. 23, &c.) And it is possible among those that came, there were others also, who, led away by the rebellion of the multitude, had in their hearts (as many of the Lord's people do in the days of their unregeneracy) followed their pernicious ways, until brought back by sovereign grace to the acknowledging the truth; that their souls might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. In either case, and in both, what a subject for reflection doth it open to melt the heart of saint and sinner! Every redeemed and regenerated saint of God, whom the Lord hath brought to the knowledge of himself, may well exclaim in the review of it, with the astonished Apostle : "Lord! how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?" (John xvi. 22.) And the sinner no less, when from the destruction of the ungodly around, he hath been awakened by such providences of distinguishing mercy, and brought out from among them to the
knowledge of the Lord; like the shipwrecked mariner, brought to shore by an hand unseen, looks back on the floating carcases of his late companions which have perished in the storm; and cry out in the language of Scripture: "Who remembered me in my lost estate; for his mercy endureth for ever."
I will only detain the reader with a short observation more on this interesting passage; namely, of the people being brought to a sense of sin, and a sense of their danger by the Lord's sent judgments. This feature of acknowledgment, in the Lord's people, is what the Lord all along made the very land-mark of their looking for pardon and mercy. In that beautiful chapter, Levit. xxvi. throughout; where the Lord proceeds by a regular process of the chastisement of his people, from one degree of punishment to another, and from the less to the greater; the Lord continually, at every one, makes this the standard of decision: "But if ye will not be reformed by me, by these things, but will walk contrary to me, then will I also walk contrary to you; and will punish you yet seven times more for your sins." At length, after again and again repeating the denunciation, the Lord closeth in with his unparalleled declaration of grace and mercy, and saith; "When they that are left of you shall pine away in your iniquity; if then you shall confess your iniquity, and the iniquity of your fathers, with your trespass that you have trespassed against me; and that you have walked contrary to me, and that I also have walked contrary unto you; and your uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and you accept the punishment of your iniquity; then will I remember my covenant with Jacob; and also my covenant with Isaac ; and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and will I remember the land."
The same gracious doctrine is most blessedly
stated by Ezra, upon the remarkable occasion of Israel's transgression, in making affinity with the people of the nations: "O my God, (said Ezra,) I am ashamed, and blush to lift my face to thee my God; for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens." (Ezra ix. 6.) And to mention no more, the prophet Jeremiah, in the time of dearth, states the very deplorable state of Judah; when the nobles sent their little ores to the pits, and found no water, and returned with their vessels empty, ashamed and confounded, and covered their heads. When the hind also calved in the field, and forsook it, because there was no grass. The prophet puts forth his earnest cry of soul under the deepest sense of the transgression of the people, acknowledging their sin, but laying hold of the covenant in God: "Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? Hath thy soul loathed Zion? Why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? We looked for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and behold trouble. We acknowledge, O Lord, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee. Do not abhor us for thy name sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us." (Jer. xiv. 19-21.)
"And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it shall live.
"And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole ; and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, he beheld the serpent of brass he lived." (Numb. xxi. 8, 9.)