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same reproacheth the Lord, and that soul shall be cut off from among his people : because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall be utterly cut off, his iniquity shall be upon him. The bodies of these rash offenders were not consumed by the fire; their garments were not burned; but they died-probably, as those who are smitten by lightning. They died before the Lord ; that is, before the veil that covered the mercyseat. And is there no voice for us in the fearful import of this remark? There is indeed. It tells us in language, to which the holy dread of our hearts should loudly respond, that even the goodness of God, the best exercise of his love in Jesus Christ, the manifestation of his presence, when the propitiatory blood of his son is pleading for transgressors, will itself avenge the violations of his law, and demand the punishment of those who wilfully and presumptously neglect or transgress the conditions of salvation. He will assuredly magnify his law, and make it honourable ; if not by the recovery of sinners, yet by their punishment. To alter the mode of access and acceptance,-to invent new methods of worship,—to contemn the appointment of infinite wisdom and love, for human redemption,to add to, or diminish from, the word which the Lord hath spoken, must necessarily call down
his indignation upon the offender. Men too frequently suppose, that if they are at all employed in the worship of God, the difference is small, whether it be conducted according to the metaphysical reveries of the Arian, who denies the essential and eternal deity of Jesus ; to the daring infidelity of the Socinian, who banishes the whole stupendous scheme of salvation by the cross from his cold and scanty creed ; or even to the desperate imaginations of the Deist, who spurns at the whole plan of revelation, and who if there be only one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, lives without him in the world. There is a way which seemeth right in the eyes of a man: but the end thereof are the ways of death. Never let it be supposed, that a fancied sincerity will suffice to clear us of the guilty dishonour thus done to the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity. If a man strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. And as ours is a contest for life or death, if we win not the crown proposed, the consequences of our defeat are final and hopeless woe. If sincerity might atone for the falsity of religion, then, every superstition with which the earth is cursed, -every rite of cruelty and lust,--all the nameless and numberless atrocities, at which we shudder, would be acceptable with God,-orat least would be viewed with an excusing partiality. God in Christ Jesus hath delivered that religion which we must accept and live, or reject and die. If we alter it,-especially to offer strange fire, to the dishonour of his Son, who must be the atonement for our sins, the medium of our prayers, the author and finisher of our faith, the Alpha and Omega of our salvation, our hope on earth, our bliss in heaven, he will blot out our names from the book of life. If we reject the terms of mercy, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation. That judgment may not be temporal, may not be immediate ; but it will assuredly be issued against us, in the disclosures and rewards of the last day, when the office and exercise of mercy will have ceased for ever.
The manner in which the punishment was inflicted is not less instructive than the punishment itself. “There went out fire from the Lord and consumed them.” They sinned by offering strange fire, instead of that which came from heaven, and they perished by fire strangely sent upon them from the God whom they had offended. Had the incense been consumed agreeably to the divine appointment, it would have brought a blessing upon themselves, and favour
the camp. But now the very element which should have testified the acceptance of their prayers, is employed to destroy these unhappy men. They were doomed to feel the terrors of that fire which they could not be induced to reverence. Never let us indulge a delusion so destructive of peace, of hope, of happiness, as to imagine, that the provided and offered salvation of the gospel looks upon us with an aspect of indifference; and that we may accept or reject the sacrifice and pleading of the Lamb of God, without any beneficial or injurious consequences. If the incense of our worship be not enkindled at the altar of the Redeemer's sacrifice-if we pretend to worship God, independently of his Son, and expect aceeptance, we are fearfully and fatally deceived. If we have not fled to his atonement, and be not marked by it for life, it must testify against us. If his intercession be not exerted in our behalf, it must plead as our adversary before the throne of heaven. Never yet did sinner live, in whose hands the gospel of Christ crucified was placed, whom that gospel left in a state of neutrality towards him. If it be not a savour of life unto life, because mercy is despised, it will be a savour of death unto death, because mercy will be avenged. What then, is our duty, as professing believers in the scheme of salvation by Jesus Christ; and what the awful sanctions, by which that duty is enforced? The apostle shall declare;—and as you value life and
heaven, beware that he speak not in vain. Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear ; for our God is a consuming fire.
We shall greatly fail in that personal and individual application which is the very end of Scripture, if we omit to profit by the solemn warning which this history conveys. “Then Moses said unto Aaron, this is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me; and before all the people I will be glorified.” They who immediately approached the Lord, were the priests who served in the tabernacle; and were separated from the presence of Jehovah, only by the vail which hid the Shekinah from their view. The punishment of Nadab and Abihu conveys an awful caution to the ministers of the gospel. God will be sanctified by them. He demands from them a service in his sanctuary exactly and conscientiously conformable to the Scriptures of eternal truth and love. Command indeed is laid upon them: and woe unto them if they preach not the gospel! Is it for them to offer strange fire before the Lord—to preach any other faith, than that which God himself hath revealed in his word? Shall they encourage you in the belief, that ye may slight the cross or the pleading of Jesus Christ and live? While they inculcate, as