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UMBERS XVI. 32. And the earth opened her mouthy and swalhwed them up, and their houseSy and aU the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. This chapter gives us an account of a most daríng rebellion of some of the Israelites, and of a most terrible judgment inflicted upon them. We have seen such things before, but we have seen none like this as yet among the Israelites. The overthrow of the old world by the flood^ the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah bv fire from heaven, and the ruin of Pharaoh and his host by the waters of the Red Sea, have shewn us how God commands the elements to execute his vengeance upon the ungodlyj but now we
450 EORAH, DATHAK^ A D ABIRAM. see the same tbings among those who are outwardly his own people ; and never let it be thought for a moment that any extemal privaeges are sufficient to exempt a siimer from the judgments of 6od, or that he will not visit with the rod the transgressions of even those who are spiritually his people. The rank of the persons who were the chief actors and ring-leaders in this rebeUion gives it a pecuUar chaxacter, The first aud apparently the principal one was Korah, a Levite^ and near relation of Moses and Aaron. Joined with him were Dathan and Abiram^ of the descendants of Reuben, the first-bom of the sons of Abraham. It appears that Korah was discontented with hís situation as a common Levite^ and aspired
to a participation in the ofEice of the priesthood. Dathan and Abiram were in like manner dissatisfied with the authority of Moses as their ruler^ so that this was a regular conspiracy against that system of religion and governmeut which God had been pleased to constitute among them. It was a very poweríul and extensive one, as
KORAH, BATHA , A D ABIRAM. 451 they were supported in it by no fewer than two hundred and fiftj príuces of the assembly, famous iu tbe congregatíon, men of renown. Their complaint, as it is here expressed, shews very plaiuly what was their object. -^ Thej gathered themselves together against Moses^ and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon jou, seeing all the congregation are holj, every one of them, and the Lord is among them : wherefore then lift ye up yourselves against the congregation of the Lord." Aaron and his sons were expressly appointed to the príesthood ; none but they were ever to execute it ; it was hereditaiy in his family. Moses was their appointed chief ms^strate: his office -.. n„rhe^. b« r hi, „w„ pe«>a and for his own life he held under God the supreme power among them. The possession of these offices was refused them by these rebellious subjects; they claimed that they should be thrown open^ assertíng that any and all of the people had as much right to them as Moses and Aaron. This was their sin. It was an attempt to overtum the order
462 KORAH, DATHA , A D ABIRAM. which God himself had appointed, in the government of their church and state. Their complaint wa& that Moses and Aaron had usurped this authority to themselves. " Ye
take too much upon you." " Wherefore lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord ?" When Moses heard this he fell on his face, doubtless to commit this cause unto the Lord, yet doubtless also with prayer that God would pardon this their iniquity and their sin. Receiving in that application to 6od a divine communication he tells them what should be done. He bids them all prepare their censers on the morrow and put íire therein, as if to offer sacrifice, as priests, unto the Lord; Aaron also should do the same; and the Lord, he tells them, would shew whom he would have to be his priests, and whom he had appointed to execute that sacred office. Yet he retorts the accusation and tells them that the pride and ambition were with them, and not with him and his brother, " Ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi." Then he reminds them of
KORAHj DATHA ^ A D ABIRAM. 453 the privileges which they abeady enjoyed. He sajs to them, '^ Seemeth it but a small thing unto jou that the God of Israel hath separated you írom the congr^ation of Israel^ to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabemacle of the Lord^ and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them ? And he hath brought thee near, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee ; and seek ye the priesthood also ?" This was the real cause. They were not content with these lower offices» honourable as they were, but they aspired unto the highest aUo. " For this cause'' saith M oses, ^^ both thou and all thy company are gathered together against the Lord : and what is Aaron that ye murmur against him ?" Aaron was nothing but what the Lord had made him ; and therefore their opposition was against the Lord.
ext he applies to Dathan and Abiram. They, it appears, not being of the tribe of Levi, were ambitious of having a share in the civil govemment : the office which Moses sustained was their object of desire : while the Levites sought the priesthood, they would
454 KORAH, DATHA , A D ABIRAM. be rulers and goTernors and lawgivers to the people. M oses therefore summoned them also to appear with Korah and his companj on the morrow, that an appeal might be made to Jehovah himself, and the matter be decided by him. But they retumed a most insolent answer. They said to him, ** We will not come up." They accused him of an intention of making himself altogether a prínce over them. Tliey charged him with having brought them out of the fruitíul land of Egypt, to kiU them in the wildemess. They charged liim witfa not having given them possession of such a land as he had promised them ; and finallj, with having in all these things basély deceived the people. They asked him contemptuously, as if he could no longer impose upon them, ^' Wilt thou put out the eyes of these men ; . We will not come up.*' Alas, alas; it was a discontented, proud and rebellious spirit, that bUnded them ; they saw things through the medium of their own distorted feelings, were themselves altogether in the fault while they accused hím, and perceived not that they were in fact quairelling
KORAH, DATHA , A D ABIRAM. 465 witfa God^ in r^cting the authoritj of his servants. Moses was moved with a just indignation. He saw into all their ambition and príde. He appealed to God that he had not injured them
in the smallest matter ; and prayed that he would not accept theír unauthorized and unhallowed offering, and again directed them to appear beibre God on the morrow, that he migfat faimself decide tfae point hetween tfaem. Tfae morrow came, and tfaeir daríng impiety still continued. Tfaey ventured to bríng tfaeir censers, and tfaey gatfaered togetfaer tfae wfaole congregation, as if to support tfaem in tfaeir claim by numbers and violence. And now tfae glory of tfae Lord appears, as upon sucfa great occasions in tfaeir faistory we faave frequentiy seen. His voice is directed to Moses and Aaron, ^^ Separate yourselves from among tfais congregation, tfaat I may consume tfaem in a moment." They fall upon their face» and intercede for tfae people : tfaey cry, " O God, tfae God of the spiríts of all fiesh, shall one man sin, and wilt tfaou be wrotfa witfa all tfae congregation ?" l^erefore God will tiy
456 KORAH^ DATHA ^ A D ABIRAM. the coDgregation. He directs Moses to wam them to quít the partj and even the neighbourhood of these wicked men. Moses went with all speed on his errand of mercy, and the elders of Israel, men of wisdom and judgment, accompanied him. He expostulated most eamestly and affectíonately with the congregation, " Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins." The people took the waming, and departed from them. How often is this waming necessary in popular tumults. For these almost always arise through the instígatíon of a íew ambitious men, who agitate the public mind on some questíon by which eventually they hope to profit : thus they bring crowds together, who often proceed to acts of violence, and thereby lose or endanger their lives, while the chief projectors and agitators oíten themselves stand at a distance, and keep aloof from the danger. But
here the people acted wisely : they saw the impending danger, and dispersed, leaving these daríng rebellious persons to brave the
KORAH, DATHA , A D ABIRAM. 457 indignation of the Lord wbich they had excited. And they did brave it. They came Tfith all their fanúlies, and stood in the doors of their tents. And now Moses ventured on a proof of his own commission from God, on which no man, but one who knew that he was at that moment under the divine teaching and inspiration would have dared to risk. The words are exceediugly awful. He says, '* Hereby ye shall know that the Lord hath sent me to do all these works ; for I have not done them of mine own mind. If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men ; then the Lord hath not sent me. But if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth; and swallow them up, with all that appertain to them, aud they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord." Such was the issue upon which he put the decision of the controversy. It would have been the height of folly, to have made such an appeal to God, even though he was conscious of his own divine appointment, and also of the sin VOL. III. X
468 KORAH, DATHA , A D ABIRAM. and rebellion of these people, if he bad not at the same time felt within himself that special and extraordinary inspiration from God by
which he knew that the event would be as he predicted. By that event he was justified. For behold, " it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them; and they perished from among the congregation. And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them; for they said, lest the earth swallow us up also. And there came out a fire from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense." Was not this a most awful and terrible judgment? Was it not " a strange punishment to these workers of iniquity ?" Does it not teach us to fear the mighty power of God,
KORAH^ DATHA , A D ABIRAM. 459 who can crush us in an instant by any one of those elements which he has formed, whenever he may give the word ? The heavens and the earth, the flood and the fire, are all the creatures of his hand, and inanimate as they are, thej perform his bidding, as quicklj and effectually as that angel, who destroyed Sennacherib's host before him. But if we fear the power of God, let us much more stand in fear of sin ; for it is sin only that arrays the power of God against us. Oh ! that this history may prove a waming to sinners of every kind, for there are ten thousand forms and acts of sin, and any one of them is enough to rouse the indignation and call down the judgment of a holy and righteous God. We would endeavour to persuade you by his terrors. And without
presuming to say that any new and strange thing shall be done unto you» without saying that the earth shaU open her mouth and swallow you up, or that fire shall come forth from heaven, and consume you, for we have no such revelation, we nevertheless do say that " the wrath of God is revealed from heaven
460 KORAH, DATHA. , A D ABIRAM. against all ungodliness and unrigfateousness/' for so it is WTÍtten : we do say that ^^ the wicked shall be turned into hell, with all the people that forget God/' for so also it is wrítten : these wiU hereafter be cast into tbe bottomless pit, whicb wiU close its mouth upon them, and they shall there be tormented in the lake that bumeth with fire and brimstone for ever. These are the true sajings of God. These are now his threatened punishments for sinners in general, of whatever kind their sins may be. We wam you of these things, with much fear of heart and grief of spírít. We see your danger, and would gladly lead you to escape it. Oh! be advised before it be too late. Perhaps ywi may have been led away by others. Separate yourselves, I pray you, from these wicked men. Depart from their society, lest ye be consumed in their sins. You may see that they are exposed to the wrath of God. Picture to your imagination, as if you now saw it with your eyes, that they are sinking into the pit of hell. Fancy that their cries are even now sounding in your ears, and flee from all theh'
KORAH, DATHA , A D ABIRAM. 461 evil doiugs. Be no longer a partaker in their sins. If you would escape their destruction, quit them altogether. Associate no longer with those who will rnin you along wUh themselves. ïlee to the mercy of God in Christ
for the pardon of all that is past Repent sincerely that you have gone at all in the way of the wicked. Pray that the advances which you have already made in sin may be forgiven you. But take care not to advance a step fiirther. How soon may the yawning gulph be opened for you ! How soon may you drop into the perdition from which there is no recovery ! I would be instant with you, for the time is urgent. I would press upon you with most affectionate entreaty. I pray you to save yourselves írom this untoward generation, and to unite yourself, in true faith and obedience, to Christ and his people. With him is pardon, peace, aud safety. If you be found with him, you will not be condemned with the world. Moses could do no more than wam and beseech his people. I can do no more than wam and beseech you. Yes, I can do something more, I can pray for you ;
462 KORAH, DATHA , A D ABIRAM. I can praj for you, and I do most sincerelj, that God may give you his converting grace, that by its divine influence you may, first, become sufficienily alarmed for the danger in which you are, and then, be effectually persuaded to tum to him, renouncing every wicked way. The subject also requires me to wam you of that particular offence in which these people perished. It was clearly as I have stated an opposition to God's established system of govemment both in the church and state, arising out of the ambition and discontent of the persons specially mentíoned. I am far from saying, that any system of govemment is now so directly and explicitly of divine appointment as that of the Jewish nation ; but I do say that the Christian's duty on these subjects is plainly marked out for him by the writings of the ew Testament, aud especially in the beginning of tbe thir-
teenth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans ; " Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers, for there is no power but of God, the powers that be are ordained of God.
KORAH, DATHA , A D ABIRAM. 463 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation." Without referring to any similar passage^ this is sufficient to teach the Christian what conduct he should pursue towards those who are placed in authority. It is sufficient to shew him that he should not be a turbulent subject^ a reviler and declaimer against them. Feelings and conduct of this kind are unhappily too congenial with our fallen nature, and many self-wiUed persons have always been found ready to speak evil of all constituted authoritieS) merely because they are constituted. These are ever ready for violence and tumult ; the bittemess of their spirit appears in their language, which is such as often to excite others to deeds of violence and blood. Depart, I pray you, from the tents of such wicked men, lest imbibing their spirit, and excited by their harangues, you become partakers of their evil deeds, and perish with them in their sins. The Chrístian spirit is pure and peaceable. It is too much occupied with the things of heaven, to embroil itself
464 KORAH, DATHA , A D ABIRAM. in the politics of earth. Such wiU he ^ver^ the spirit of a true Christian, even if he conscientipasly dissent from the church establishment, or prefer a different form or admiinistration of civil government. May God grant unto us quietness and peace. May he appear for us in every ex-
tremity, and rebuke the presumption and violence of designing and evil-disposed men. Maj he pour out a larger portion of his Spirit upon the whole nation, that the ministers of God and the laitj, the rich and the poor, masters and servants, the govemors and the govemed, maj all know and practise their respective dutíes to him and to each other. May piety, true scriptural piety, increase through all our land, and cure all our disorders and evils in every quarter.
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