« PreviousContinue »
In the government of the Israelites God devised a mode of guarding against these evils, and, at the same time, of securing a strict administration of justice. The six cities among those allotted to the Levites, which have just been referred to, were to be cities of refuge; so that any person killing another unintentionally, might flee to them before being overtaken by the avenger of blood, and there be secure against his assault. They were to furnish this security, as well for the stranger and sojourner, as for the Israelites themselves. But the person claiming their protection, was still amenable to justice, and could be brought before the proper tribunals, to have it ascertained whether he were innocent or guilty. If the er, he was to suffer the penalty of the law, which, for murder, was death. If innocent, he was to have the privilege of dwelling securely in the city to which he had fled, till the death of the high-priest, when he would be at liberty to go where he chose. Before that period, should he go without the borders of the city, the avenger of blood might slay him with impunity. Provision was made to have this interval of time elapse, that personal and family resentments, which in some cases might be very strong, should have the opportunity of being allayed; while such a mournful event as the national loss of a high-priest would add its softening influence to produce a cordial and entire reconciliation.
The estimate which God placed upon humun life, is strikingly evident, both from this provision of the cities of refuge, and from the law against murder promulgated at the same time. The very language employed deserves our notice.
" Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses : but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die. Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death : but he shall be surely put to death. And ye
shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest.
shall not pollute the land wherein ye are : for blood it defileth the land : and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it. Defile not there. fore the land which you shall inhabit, wherein I dwell : for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel.”
If the life of the body is so precious, how much more so is that of the soul! If the murderer, according to the divine law, was to be put to death, what shall be the punishment of those who destroy, or attempt to destroy the souls of their fellow-men?
You would shrink back with horror at the thought, my young friend, of giving poison, however protracted might be its operation, which would
cause the death of another. Are you horror-struck, also, at the possibility of your saying or doing that which, by its immoral and irreligious influence, may contaminate the soul, and be one of the causes, perhaps the principal one, of ruining a fellow-being for ever!
There are murderers of the soul as well as of the body. They may do their work more slowly, but not less surely. Every moral contamination addressed to the mind of another, partakes of this guilt Beware, lest in look, in word, or in conduct you impart it. Are your example, your influence, your conversation, your actions, my young friend, just what they should be, as you have intercourse daily with those around you ? Examine and see. Watch and pray, lest you and they fall into temptation.
The parting counsels of Moses. His exhortations and
But one short month remained, for Moses to spend on earth, and finish his important work. He knew that his departure was near. He felt the necessity that was laid upon him of doing what he had to do, with all the energies of his soul. The book of Deuteronomy spreads before us the last labors of this wonderful man. Let us follow the course of its narrative; and while we omit what i Moses found important to recapitulate, of many preceding events, let us give to the rest of the history that attention which it so justly deserves.
It will be recollected, that the Israelites were still encamped near the banks of the Jordan, on the plains of Moab. Every thing in their condition and prospects was well adapted to prepare their minds to receive the parting injunctions and counsels of him who had, through forty years of the most devoted labors, been their faithful leader and friend. Under his command, and with the divine blessing, they had proved victorious over all their enemies, and were now reposing in complete and tranquil security. They had already taken possession of a country in which they found abundant supplies of water, and of pasturage for their flocks; and were separated only by the stream of the Jordan from
influence of Moses ; his unabated vigor and dignity of mind, mellowed indeed by age, but though meek and gentle, not the less regarded with filial reverence and affection; together with the expectation of that mournful event which they knew was soon to deprive them of one whom they thus venerated and loved; all conspired to invest, as it were, his dying counsels with a touching and solemn interest, of which we can form a very inadequate conception.
It was in the fortieth year of the departure of the Israelites out of Egypt, and on the first day of the eleventh month, that Moses began to deliver his farewell address; probably to the heads and principal men of the priests and Levites, and of the various tribes, who afterwards made it known to the different sections of the people with which they were respectively connected; all being assembled for the purpose on this great and solemn occasion.
He first gave them a brief recapitulation of the scenes through which they had passed since they left Mount Sinai. This was the more necessary, as, with a few exceptions, none were now living who were, at that time, twenty years old and upwards ; while many had been born, at successive periods, during the journeyings in the wilderness. They were a new generation of men, and needed to hear the history of the wonderful and instructive events which had attended the progress of their nation to