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And now, after admonitions like those which they had just witnessed, were not the perverse and discontented Israelites brought, for a season at least, into a state of submission to the government of God? Would they not fear to treat with disrespect those whom he had placed over them, and whom he had so signally marked out as their rightful rulers, to be sustained by the terrible arm of his power in the exercise of their authority ?
Infatuated people; obstinate and unteachable, amid the most terrible and affecting judgments ! Could we have believed it possible if the divine record did not assert it, that the very next day, all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured ugainst Moses and Aaron, and accused them of having killed the people of the Lord; for such they impiously dared to call Korah and the conspirators. They seemed to be ripe for another, and probably more daring rebellion. Coming hastily together in a body, as if to make some public and general movement against their leaders, they arrayed themselves near the tabernacle.
Again, the cloud which had left it, descended and covered it, and the glory of the Lord beamed forth in view of the people. They could not resist the overwhelming effulgence, and stood abashed and awe-struck. In the meanwhile, Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle, to receive the divine communication.
"Get you up from among this congregation," was the divine mandate," that I may consume them as in a moment.” They fell upon their faces, in humble obeisance before the Majesty of Heaven, and doubtless to intercede, once more, for their sinful countrymen, and avert from them, if possible, the divine vengeance.
But that vengeance had alrcady begun to display itselt. The people were dying in great numbers, through the fatal influence of a plague of some kind which the Lord had sent among them. Moses hoped to arrest it. He immediately directed Aaron to take a censer, and put fire in it from off the altar, and put on incense, and go unto the congregation, and, in his official capacity, with this prescribed offering and his accompanying intercessions, endeavor to obtain the divine forbearance.
He did so, standing between the dead and the living,-between those who had already fallen beneath the stroke of the destroyer, and those who were next to be the victims. His success was im. mediate and complete. The plague was stayed. God honored his own institutions, and placed a signal mark of favor on the priesthood of Aaron, in the presence of all the people. The numbers, however, of those who perished, attest the terrific mortality of the pestilence, and the greatness of the divine displeasure. They amounted to fourteen thousand and seven hundred.
Aaron returned unto Moses, who was still at the door of the tabernacle; and the indications of revolt being once more quelled, they and the people withdrew to their tents.
But God deemed it necessary, (in addition to the severe judgments which had just been inflicted on the Israelites in order that he might sustain the official dignity of Moses and Aaron,) to give another testimony in support of the priesthood's belonging to the tribe of Levi, and to the family of Aaron. This testimony was to be a miraculous one, and so decisive in its character, as to silence, for ever, all further disputes and jealousies on the subject.
Moses was directed to take from the prince, or chief, of each of the twelve tribes, a rod, and to write on each the name of the individual to whom it belonged. Aaron was to give the one for the tribe of Levi. These rods were to be laid
in the tabernacle before the ark of the testimony; and God declared, that the rod of that person whom he would choose, in whose tribe and family to establish the priesthood perpetually, should blossom, "and I will make to cease from me," added he, " the murmurings of the children of Israel, whereby they murmur against you.”
The divine injunction was obeyed, and the fullowing day Moses went into the tabernacle, to ascertain the result. On examining the rods, he found that the rod of Aaron had budded, blossomell, and produced full grown and ripe almonds. He brought the rods out, and, in the presence of the congregation, returned each to its owner. The evidence of the decision which the Lord had made was como plete; for it rested on a miracle too palpable to be controverted. That the memorial of it might be preserved to succeeding generations, Moses, in conformity with the divine direction, took the rod of Aaron, and placed it within the ark, with the golden vessel that contained the manna, and the tables of the covenant; "to be kept," said the Lord, " for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from me, that they die not."
This miracle seems for ever to have settled the question with regard to the priesthood, and its continuance in the person of Aaron and his family. A strange fear, too, was expressed by the people in view of the appalling events which they had just witnessed. “Behold,” said they to Moses," we die, we perish, we all perish. Whosoever cometh any thing near unto the tabernacle of the Lord shall die : shall we be consumed with dying ?"
This is not the language of ingenuous obedience. It proceeded rather from a constrained submission. It was an exaggerated complaint. They knew that there were certain persons chosen by God, who could approach the tabernacle, and enter it, in the discharge of their official duties. But lately, they
claimed that all the people were holy, and ought to be permitted to share in the privileges of the priesthood. Now they go to the other extreme, and, either seriously, or as is most probable with a petulancy of affected dread, utter these fears in the hearing of Moses. His reply, if indeed he made any, is not given to us. We may well imagine how it grieved him, to witness so much discontent and perverseness still prevailing among his country. men, and what his forebodings were of the continued displeasure of God which their disobedient spirit must draw down upon them.
Such is the nature of sin wherever it is found ;self-willed; restless under law and discipline; finding fault with rightful authority ; urging the strangest inconsistencies; and when forbidden one course of conduct, rushing, in the mere spirit of opposition, into the furthest, contrary extreme. Such it showed itself to be among the Israelites. Such it is in your breast, my young friend, if it still retains there its ascendancy.
Look at it, as some of its most revolting features are exhibited, in the language and conduct of that perverse people who were led by Moses through