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III. THE PRACTICAL USES OF THIS SUB

JECT IN REFERENCE TO OURSELVES.

It is a history of other times; but the instruction which it conveys will endure to the latest generation.

I. THE CONDUCT OF GOD TOWARDS THE

ISRAELITES.

If we should look only at the circumstances which attended their departure from Egypt, at the desolations which came upon that land to prepare the way for their deliverance, and at the overthrow of Pharaoh and his host in the mighty waters, we might possibly expect one unvaried scene of outward prosperity in the whole of their progress towards the promised land. But it is intimated in the text, that the events which befell them were of a very diversified character; and in reading their history we shall find that they were subjected to many trials, as well as blessed with remarkable manifestations of the goodness of God.

(1.) In speaking of their trials, we cannot but notice the very circumstance of their long journey through the wilderness.

When first brought out of Egypt they would naturally entertain the expectation of a speedy arrival in the land of promise; but for forty years

in the way.

were they doomed to remain in the desert, before they passed over Jordan : for forty years were their hopes indulged only to be disappointed, and, with two exceptions, the whole generation which came out of Egypt perished

And to this lengthened residence in the wilderness are to be added the afflictions of hunger and thirst, and the plague of serpents, with various other proofs of that high displeasure which in one day destroyed from among their armies three-and-twenty thousand. The wrath of God came upon them and smote down the chosen men of Israel: and their days did He consume in vanity, and their years in trouble.*

(2.) Yet how many likewise were the manifestations in their behalf, of the divine goodness

and mercy.

The Psalmist, in recapitulating the chief circumstances of their story, tells us that God made them to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock; and brought them to the border of His sanctuary, even to this mountain, which His right hand had purchased.t In the same strain Moses reminds them of deliverances and mercies, which indicated the special interposition of their Almighty Protec* Psalm lxxviii. 31, 33.

+ Verses 52, 54.

tor: Who led thee through the great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery scorpions, and serpents, and drought where there was no water: who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint: who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not.* These, with many other blessings, which are noticed in this book, distinguished them as a peculiar people, as the special objects of divine regard.

II. But what was THE DESIGN OF THESE INTERPOSITIONS? For what end were the people at one time subjected to difficulties and trials, and at another time so remarkably and miraculously delivered? The object was, according to the testimony of Moses, to humble them, and to prove them, to know what was in their hearts, whether they would keep God's commandments or no: and, further, to convince them that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live: that is, that God is not confined to ordinary means for the support of life, but, when ordinary supplies fail, can appoint other means for the preservation of His people.

It appears, then, that the various and diversified dealings of God with the Israelites were

* Deut. viii. 15, 16.

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intended to prove them, to humble them, to teach them their dependence upon Him, and to render them obedient.

Each of these points is deserving of attention.

(1.) To prove them, to know what was in their hearts: not that it was necessary for any means to be adopted in order that God might know what was in their hearts; all their thoughts were open to His inspection long before they were formed : but to prove them to themselves ; to exhibit to them their real character; to show them what they otherwise could not have believed, the deceitfulness and wickedness of their own hearts. Without the test to which they were thus subjected, it would have appeared to themselves utterly impossible that they could be guilty of such tremendous ingratitude, and prone to so many and such flagrant transgressions, amounting even to idolatry, and the rejection of God their Saviour ; but the testimony of their long and various history was decisive. They perverted, in many instances, both the mercies and the judgments of God: they murmured at His chastisements : they insulted His goodness. The Psalmist lays particular stress upon these circumstances, and represents the people not only as tempting God by their unreasonable demands, but as speaking

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against Him, and repeatedly abusing the blessings which they so largely enjoyed. When He caused the waters to run down like rivers ; they sinned yet more against Him, by provoking the Most High in the wilderness: they said, Behold He smote the rock and the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed ; can He give bread also? can He provide flesh for His people ? * In this respect, likewise, they were miraculously supplied: but for all this they sinned still, and believed not for His wondrous works.f So clearly were they proved : so plainly might they have known what was in their hearts, and have perceived that they were almost universally a stiff-necked and rebellious people.

(2.) Now the direct tendency of this knowledge would be to humble them; to make them stand low in their own estimation ; and to bring them to an acknowledgment of their ingratitude, and of their transgressions against God. Imagine some one of their number, who had murmured and complained, and rejected the worship of Jehovah for the service of the golden calf, or the other idols of the adjacent country, to have seriously considered the events of his own life, the mercies and warnings which he had received, and the return which he had

* Psalm lxxviii. 17, 19, 20.

+ Verse 32.

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