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the iniquities of their fathers, shall they pine away with them.”
What an evil sin must be, vast beyond conception; and with what hatred God must regard it; and how inflexible must be his justice, to denounce punislıments like these against those who should continue impenitent and disobedient! And yet terrible as these punishments are, they are light when compared with the more awful ones which we must endure, if we are found, at last, among those who refuse submission to God, and reject the Saviour whom he has provided for us !
The judgments which we have been considering, were temporal and all to take place in this world. Those to which we are cxposed, if we continue in our rebellion, are eternal ; the banishment of the soul, for ever, from God and the Saviour, and the communion of the holy and happy in heaven, and its endless abode with lost spirits and fiends in the world of unutterable wickedness, anguigh, and despair! Let sinners in Zion be ufraid. Fearfulness shall surprise them. Who among us shalt dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings ?
But the mercy of God is great, also, beyond conception. While denouncing such terrible judgments against the Israelites should they prove to be disobedient, he left a way open for their deliverance. If they would confess their sins before God; and acknowledge that he was just in punishing them; and be humbled, and accept the punishment of their iniquity; he would remember his covenant with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and not cast them away from his favor, nor abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break his covenant with them, but continue to be their God. They would be restored again to the land of their fathers, returning to it from their captivity to dwell in the midst of it, and enjoy their former blessings.
The Lord is "a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness." He is rich in mercy.
"Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
The threatenings of God, my young friend, and the offers of his mercy are before you. We have seen the exhibition of them in the case of the Israelites of old. It is left on record for our instruction. Standing round Mount Sinai, the scene of the most sublime displays of the majesty of God, they listened both to his denunciations and his promises. We are permitted to see him under milder and more attractive forms. He has been manifest
ed in the Aesh. We behold him in the
person Jesus Christ, a Saviour full of compassion for sin
Have you come to this Saviour ? Have you obtained mercy through his atoning blood ?
The Israelites numbered. Manner of encamping, and
The time was now at hand for the observance of the passover; the first since the departure of the Israelites from Egypt. They were commanded to keep it, "according to all the rites of it, and according to all the ceremonies thereof."
They did so; and under circumstances which called for deep and devout gratitude to God for his countless mercies. At the celebration of the first passover, they were in the midst of their tyrannical oppressors, and passing a night of fearful anxiety. Though on the point of their expected deliverance, they trembled at the prospect of the dangers and difficulties that might await them. A year had now elapsed, and they had thus far proceeded their
way in safety. The Lord had been their constant Guide and Protector, and had just taken up
his abode among them, in his own peculiar dwelling, as their Covenant-God and Sovereign. Were ever people more favored, or under stronger obligations to love and obedience ?
Two weeks after the celebration of the pass. over, that is on the first day of the second month, in consequence of a command from God to that effect, Moses undertook an enumeration of such of the Israelites, among the men, as were twenty years of
and upward, and able to go forth to war. In doing this it was probably the purpose of God, to let his people see that he had been faithful in fulfilling his promise to Abraham of making his descendants very numerous; to have them prepared for a proper division and arrangement in the order of their march; and to make them acquainted with their real strength, that they might be encou. raged by it, under the blessing of the Almighty, to meet with resolution any conflict with their enemies.
Twelve distinguished men assisted Moses and Aaron in this duty, and, after going through all the tribes excepting that of Levi, they found the whole number amounted to six hundred and three thousand, five hundred and fifty.
The reason why the Levites were not included in the enumeration, was, that they were to be de
and to assist the priests in their ministrations.
Moses and Aaron were then directed by God with regard to the manner of encamping, and marching forward on the different stages of their progress to the promised land.
There were four grand divisions of the people, each consisting of three tribes; for although the tribe of Levi was not included, yet as the descendants of Joseph formed two tribes, those of Ephraim and Manasseh, there were twelve in the whole. Each of these divisions had its appropriate standard, and they were so arranged as entirely to enclose the tabernacle, which was in the centre.
The standard of the camp of Judah was first. This division consisted of the tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulon, (the sons of Leah,) and was pilched on the east side of the tabernacle.
On the south side was the standard of the camp of Reuben, under which were the tribes of Reuben and Simeon, (the sons of Leah likewise,) and of Gad, (the son of Zilpah, Leah's maid.)
On the west side was the standard of the camp of Ephraim, under which were the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, (the sons of Joseph,) and of Benjamin.
On the north side was the standard of the camp of Dan, under which were the tribes of Dan and Naphtali, (the sons of Bilhah, Rachel's maid,) and of Asher, (the son of Zilpah.)