Page images

dwellers in tents, or in cities and ftrong holds. The twelve fpies, after having been engaged during forty days in executing the commiffion, returned. They delivered a most favourable account of the fertility of the land of Canaan. They described it as indeed flowing with milk and honey. And among other specimens of the luxuriance of its productions, they brought with them a cluster of grapes fo vaft in fize, that it was carried between two of them upon a staff. But the remainder of their report filled the camp of Ifrael with alarm. They represented the peo ple of Canaan as men of great stature, fome of them even as giants, and as dwelling in very large and fortified cities. And ten of the fpies vehemently diffuaded the Ifraelites from attempting to enter the country; and averred that its inhabitants were far too mighty to be attacked by them with any hope of fuccefs. The other two spies, Caleb and Joshua, remained firm in dependence upon God. They protested against the impiouscowardice of their affociates. They earnestly entreated their countrymen not to rebel against the ordinance of the Lord, who had com manded them to go up and take poffeffion of the land; who had promifed to bestow it upon them and their children for ever; and who

who had proved himself able, by his former glorious deeds on their behalf, to crown them with victory over the most powerful enemies. Their entreaties and exhortations were thrown away. The congregation of Ifrael prepared to ftone to death thefe faithful servants of the Moft High. The divine indignation was awakened. God inftantly deftroyed the ten fpies who had impelled the Ifraelites into tranfgreffion and pronounced this aweful fentence on all among the rebellilious congregation who had attained the age of twenty years, that they fhould wander until they died in the wilderness, and should never fet their feet on the promised land. But to his fervants Caleb and Joshua, who had fully followed him in ftedfast obedience, he repeated his gracious affurance, that they should enter into the land and poffefs it.

The events, which on this occafion took place in the hoft of Ifrael, bear a striking refemblance to thofe, which at the present day are frequently feen to occur on the subject of religion. We perceive numbers pursuing the example of the ten fpies and their disobedient countrymen. And fome, through the bleffing of God, we behold walking in the steps of Caleb and Joshua. On the conduct of perfons of each of thefe two descriptions

I propose separately to offer fome obfervations: and fhall afterwards endeavour to furnish you with the means of judging for yourselves which of the two claffes of men it will be your wisdom to take for your pattern. May the divine grace render what you hear conducive to your edification!

I. Let me in the first place call your attention to a class of men very numerous in the world; men who allow that piety is commendable, and even profefs that they are defirous of paying what they term a reasonable regard to religion: but, having no true love of holiness in their hearts, are continually taking alarm at difficulties, and on the watch to raise objections. Observe how nearly the character and conduct of fuch perfons refemble thofe of the ten fpies. The ten fpies acknowledged the excellence of the land which they had fearched. They faid unto Mofes ; We came unto the land whither thou fentest us, and furely it floweth with milk and honey: and this, added they, while they pointed to the figs and the pomegranates and the wonderful clufter of grapes, this is the fruit of it. So the profeffed Chriftians of whom we fpeak are ready to fay: "We know what religion σε is; we have examined it, and we understand

"it. We admit that the Scriptures are excel"lent books; and that the gospel gives many "admirable directions. We are fully of opi“nion that christianity is well adapted to "produce tranquillity and good order, and "honefty, and charitable actions, and other "valuable fruits among men. And we doubt "not that it fecures great rewards in re"verfion to all who lead exemplary lives." On the spiritual nature of true piety, on the intrinsic odiousness of fin, on the neceffity of a radical change of heart, and on other diftinguishing features of the doctrine which is according to godliness, fuch perfons commonly are filent. They commend religion, as the ten fpies commended the land of Canaan, loudly as to fome particulars, but with various objections in referve: objections which in their cafe weigh, like thofe of the fpies, much more than all the fubjects and circumtances of their praise.


Nevertheless, faid the ten spies, Nevertheless the land through which we have gone to fearch it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof. The heart now began to unfold itfelf. Their real difpofition began to produce its natural effects, on their conduct. They had no fure confidence in God. They placed no firm reliance on his promife of protection.

[ocr errors]

They had not that fervent love for him, which fills the bofom with a prevailing defire to obey him. They fecretly hankered after the flesh-pots of Egypt: and did not regard the promised land with all its bleffings as worthy of being purchased by the trouble and exertions, which were neceffary in order to obtain it. Hence they looked around for objections, which might ferve as excufes for their own difobedience, and might also deter their countrymen from making the attempt. They brought up an evil report on the land which they had fearched; faying, It is a land which eateth up the inhabitants thereof. Thus the class of professed Chriftians now under confideration, men whose desire is to live not unto Chrift, but unto themselves; men who acknowledge the truth of the gospel, but love not the doctrines which it reveals, and still lefs the holiness which it requires; fuch men gladly try to shelter their breach of duty by bringing up an evil report on a life of godlinefs. "The fervice of religion," they exclaim, "is a hard fervice. It is a fervice which wears "away and confumes thofe who engage in it." Again; the fpies proceeded to fet forth and to magnify the difficulties which must be fuftained, and the obftacles which must be furmounted, previoufly to the day when the


« PreviousContinue »