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To whatever event this refers, the instruction meant to be conveyed is evident — that the Head of angels, when protecting his church from a temptation to idolatry, in concealing the body of Moses, - or for whatever other cause he then concerned himself about the body of Moses, — he was resisted by the great adversary, did not bring a railing or reviling accusation against him, but was content with a mild rebuke, or rather, simple invocation of the interposing hand of God. This ought to be an example how all his servants ought to act towards the " higher” or “ sovereign powers,” even in those instances where they are bound to contend with them, and where they verily believe them to be under the instigation of the same prince of darkness, opposing themselves to the interest of true religion.
Whenever, therefore, a disposition is observed in professing Christians to throw off all respect for those that are in authority, and to indulge in evil-speaking and reviling of those who bear the sword of justice, and exercise imperial power, and there are Christian teachers who teach men so, it is one of the marks of the last times; it is the consummation of that apostasy which brings upon the world " swift destruction.”
“ But these," despising such an example as the great archangel showed, and the positive precepts of their holy religion, “speak evil of those things which they know not," *— of the measures of their rulers, which they are too ignorant to understand; “ but what they know
“ naturally as brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves;" —" but what they know naturally as ani
* Ver. 10.
mals void of reason, by these they destroy themselves.” 1 This intimates that those pretended apostles of liberty that shall infect Christendom with their abominable principles, are themselves the slaves of sensuality; and that the increase of sensuality will be their ruin and punishment, as it was of the ancient heathen nations before Christianity came to their relief. * Indeed, the sanctity of marriage, as much of it as remains among us, seems much to depend upon the upholding of existing institutions :
11. “ Woe unto them, for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core."
This verse, I conceive, marks the several stages of the APOSTASY in the different ages of the church. First; its members would emulate Cain in his murderous hatred of his better brother; hence the age of the persecution of the true disciples of Christ by their professed Christian brethren: next, they would imitate Balaam in his prostitution of his sacred office for filthy lucre, and in his attempt to corrupt the church to please the great and powerful : lastly, they would meet their end, in somewhat of a different character, at the eve of the predicted interposition of God; they would assume the attitude of Core, and stand up in opposition to the ministers and authorities ordained of God. The times are altered; and Satan sees that his advantageous ground to oppose the cause of God, and of his holy religion, will not now be to instigate his children to persecute, or to prostitute to his
for thy sake; thorns also, and thistles, shall it bring forth to thee." This is not to be regarded as a particular instance, but as a general intimation of the subjugation of the powers of nature to vanity.
By “thorns and thistles," we may understand noxious weeds in general; in the production of which, the same powers
of nature are employed, as in the most valuable productions ; yet they are useless, and do but mock the cultivator's toil. In the animal world, also, we see many instances of the same subjection of the creature to vanity. Here, how often does nature bring forth for nought! Birds, beasts, and fishes, let loose upon each other, full of evil dispositions, exhibit, as it were, in the oppressor and the oppressed, an exact counterpart to the wretchedness of man.
Consider, in this view, the disorder in the elements, experienced, more or less, in every climate. What ruin and devastation! What a continual frustration of purposes, and revocations of apparently destined blessings! How short, in a general point of view, of what the powers of nature could, and in some instances do, accomplish!
A promise, indeed, has been interposed in mercy; “ that summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, shall not fail ;” and man may therefore toil in hope of the reward of his labours. But the very circumstance of a promise having been given, implies, that such had been the disorder introduced — such the perversion which the powers of nature and of all second causes had suffered; that but for His staying hand, who, in a similar manner, to prevent the entire destruction of the human race, put a check upon their evil pron pensities, the regular revolutions of the seasons, upon
which the subsistence of man and beast depends, were in danger of being interrupted, and might have failed in their expected returns.
Look again at the actual state of the surface of . this globe, as subjected to the dominion of man.
He was bid to subdue and replenish it: but see to this present hour its fairest parts lying desolate — the most valuable productions useless and waste; the “rain falling upon the land which no man inhabiteth ;" extensive continents —" the habitation of dragons — the joy of wild asses.” See, too, whole races of men pining in want and in squalid misery, appearing scarcely human ; where, had but the gifts of nature been applied to their destined end, they might have enjoyed themselves as in a paradise. Think, moreover, of the human intellect uncultivated - man, created in the image of God, become an ignorant hind'-a prowling savage, in the wilds of America and Africa - a ferocious cannibal in the islands of the southern ocean.
What is worse, see the good things of nature, where they are enjoyed in the greatest perfection, and where the intellect of man is most cultivated; used to the dishonour of God, and become a snare, and an occasion of misery to man! See the fine powers of reason and imagination employed to counteract the mercies of God, and to establish more firmly the empire of sin ! Surely this is that part of the subjugation to vanity, of which the creation, if it had a voice, would most loudly complain, and from which it would ask most earnestly for deliverance.
The abuse, however, is permitted but for a season. The apostle, still personifying the creation, says it is “ subjected in hope.” It has the expectation that it
shall not always remain in this debased state, but shall one day be delivered from this subjection to the vain purposes of its degenerate master. It cherishes the hope of better times, and of being used to more noble and more suitable purposes. And it is no less extraordinary than true, that in every age of the world it has been the constant belief and expectation of mankind, that nature is not now in that state of perfection in which it once was; but that that primeval state of things, that “golden age,” will at some distant period be again restored.
In the narrative of the sacred page we perceive the grounds of this tradition. Prophecy announces that the common expectation of mankind will not be disappointed. I
22. “ For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now,” or “travaileth in pain to this present [hour.)”
Employing still the metaphorical language which he had adopted, St. Paul represents creation distressed at its present slavery and abuse, and big with expectation of this great event, as groaning like a woman labouring with child. So that imagination may hear in the jarring elements, in the raging storm, in the bursting volcano, or in the more tremendous earthquake, the convulsive throes, as it were, of an agonizing mother. Thus the fabric of universal nature echoes in loud responses the daily prayer of the church, “ Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven."
23. “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within our