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urged on by the spur of the occasion, Israel was that audience, Moses that speaker, on this ever-memorable day. But the ardent soul of this heaven-taught orator, with thousands upon thousands before his eyes, grasps, with a noble enthusiasm, an infinitely larger space than the plains of Moab, an audience infinitely more august than the thousands of Israel. "Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth." This was seizing the attention at once; the solid globe, thus summoned, seems to give ear, the celestial spheres stand still to listen, angels hover on the wing to mark and record the last words of the departing prophet; what mortal ear then can be inattentive, what spirit careless? How sweetly cal›culated is the next sentence to compose the minds of his hearers, roused and alarmed by the solemnity of his first address. The thunder of heaven seemed ready to burst upon their heads, after an invocation so awful, and though Moses alone spake, they were ready to die; but their fears are gently lulled to rest, the next word he utters; he has only love in his heart, and honey upon his tongue. "My doctrine shall drop as the rain my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain' upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass," Deut. xxxii. 2. The final object of Moses being to warn, to admonish, and to reprove the perverse nation of whom he was taking leave, observe how skilfully he manages this difficult and delicate part of his task. To have come directly and without preparation to it, had been to give certain disgust and offence; for he had to deal with a moody, murmuring, irritable, discontented race; he therefore first fills their minds with great images, leads them to the contemplation of one object surpassingly grand; impresses it in various points of view upon their hearts and consciences, till having lost themselves in its grandeur and immensity, they are prepared to bear, to approve, and to profit by the severe personal attack that follows. "Be
cause I will publish the name of the Lord; ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he," Deut. xxxii. 3, 4.
Having thus raised them above every mean, every selfish consideration; and placed them, and made them to feel themselves in the awful presence of the great God, "who is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works," he descends abruptly, by a transition quick as lightning, to the censure he had in view. But even then, he insinuates it, rather than charges it home; and speaks for some time as of strangers, as of persons absent; and constitutes his auditors judges as it were of the case of others, not their own; and by employing the address of the third person, they and their, leaves them for a moment in uncertainty whom he could mean; and when he comes at length to address them in the second person, and to use the terms thee and thy, how delicately is the application qualified, by the introduction of every tender, every melting, every conciliating circumstance! " They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation. Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise? Is not he thy Father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee," Deut. xxxii. 5, 6.
He then goes into a recapitulation, partly historical, partly poetic, partly allegorical, at once to refresh the memory, to fire the imagination, and to exercise the invention, of the divine conduct towards them and their fathers, during many generations, that the conclusion he was about to draw might fall with irresistible weight upon the minds of all; that their base ingratitude and desperate folly might appear to themselves in a more odious light, when contrasted with the wisdom, goodness and loving kindness of the Lord. This occupies a considerable part of the chapter, from the
seventh verse to the eighteenth, and a passage it is of exquisite force and beauty, as I am convinced you will also think upon a careful perusal of it.
Constrained at last to denounce the righteous judgment of God, in order to approve his own fidelity, and if possible to prevent the ruin which he feared, he makes a display of the awful terrors of divine justice, sufficient to awaken the dead, and to confound the living; and to increase its force and vehemence, Moses disappears, and God, the great God himself, comes forward, and in the first person utters the seven thunders of his wrath; "For a fire is kindled in my anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. The sword without and terror within shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also, with the man of grey hairs,” Deut. xxxii. 20...25.
The prophet as it were exhausted with this violent exertion, this formidable denunciation of vengeance, sinks into feeble, hopeless regret, and he reluctantly, despairingly deplores that misery which he can neither prevent nor avert. "They are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them. O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their rock had sold them, and the Lord had shut them up," Deut. xxxii. 28, 29, 30.
Finally, a dawn of hope arises, and, wrapt into future times, the sacred bard hails the coming day of deliverance, and exults in the prospect of the junction of the nations with the ancient people of God, in the participation of one and the same great salvation. "Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people; for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land and to his people," Deut. xxxii. 43.
Such is the structure, such the general outline of this inimitable piece of sacred poesy. If what has been said shall induce any one to study it more attentively, he will probably discover beauties which have escaped us; and the discovery will bring its own reward. How many fathers, as they afterwards rehearsed the words of this song in the ears of their children, and taught them the knowledge of it, would recollect with a mournful pleasure, that they saw and heard Moses himself recite it aloud, on the very last day of his life; and glory in relating how near him they stood, and in describing to a new generation the form of his countenance, the deportment of his person, the tones of his voice!
That very day, the warrant of death arrives. The ministry of even a Moses is accomplished, and Providence hastens to convince the world, that, depart who will, the work of Heaven never can stand still. We have seen him hitherto engaged in active labors for Israel and for God. We shall consider him yet once more, dismissed from his service, and concluding a life of eminent usefulness, by a death of charity, benediction, prescience and resignation. May God impress on our minds a sense of our frailty, mortality. and accountableness, that we may redeem the time, fulfil the duties of our day and the design of our Creator, work out our salvation, and so die in peace, die in hope, whenever it shall please Him to call us away to the world of spirits. Amen.
HISTORY OF MOSES.
And this is the blessing wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death.... DEUT. XXXI. 1.
ENECA, the celebrated Roman moralist, was preceptor to the Emperor Nero, and had early and studiously trained him to virtue. But falling under the displeasure of that sanguinary tyrant, he was condemned to lose his life, by being blooded to death. The day of execution being arrived, he prepared to meet his fate with intrepidity, and to die as he had lived, in communicating useful knowledge. His pupils gathered round him, eager to mark his dying deportment, and provided with their writing tables, to record and preserve his last sayings. He was put into the warm bath, the arteries of his legs and arms were opened, and the purple fluid which sustains life, gradually drained off, while his sorrowing, admiring disciples caught the words as they fell from his parched lips.
But a greater than Seneca is here. We are this night gathered round a dying Moses, to listen to the last accents of that tongue which, one excepted, spake as never man spake. We behold him neither impetuously rushing forwards into the mortal conflict, nor timidly shrinking from it; but advancing with a steady,