Exod. XV. 24, 25. And the people murmured against Moses, say*
ing, IVhat shall ive drink P And he cried unto the Lord ;
and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he cast into the
waters, the ivaters were made sweet. There he made for
them a statute a?id an ordinance ; arid there he proved them.
GREAT are the vicissitudes of human life: nor is
there any person exempt from them. Even the most
favoured servants of God, when moving expressly in
the way that he has appointed for them, may be re-
duced as it were in an instant from the highest pinnacle
of earthly prosperity to a state of the deepest distress
and anguish. ot to mention an imprisoned Joseph,
a dethroned David, an incarcerated Daniel, we notice
the whole nation of Israel exulting in the completest
deliverance that ever was vouchsafed to any people in
the world, and within three days brought down to utter
despondency. But from this we may derive much pro-
fitable instruction ; whilst we notice,
I. Their trial —
This was indeed severe —
[We have no idea in general how much our happiness, and
even our very lives, depend on the common bounties of Pro-
vidence. We acknowledge this indeed in words ; but we have
by no means a proportionate sense of our obligations to God for
a regular supply of water. The Israelites had travelled three
days, and had found none ; till at last, coming to Marah, they
found an abundant supply : but behold the water was so bitter,
as to be incapable of being turned to any general use. When
the Israelites, in addition to their want, were made to expe-
rience this painful disappointment, they broke out into murmur-
ing and complaints.]
But their murmuring was wrong —
[Had the question they put to Moses, been nothing more
than a simple interrogation, it had been innocent enough : but
it was an unbeHeving, passionate complaint. (How often are our
words also, or our actions, inoffensive perhaps as to their ex-
ternal form, while, on account of the spirit with which they are
blended, they are most hateful and detestable in the sight of
God !) But why should they murmur against Moses ? He had
not conducted them thither of his own mind, but by God's
command. Their displeasure against him was, in fact, directed
against God himself. (And it will be well for us to remember,
that in venting our wrath and indignation against the instru-
ments by whom God at any time afflicts us, we vent it in reality
against him who uses them.) And why should they murmur against
God ? Had he committed an oversight in leading them into that
situation ? Had he forgotten to be gracious? Was he so changed
within the space of three days, that he could no longer devise
a way for their relief ? Or was his ear become so heavy that he
could not hear, or his hand so shortened that he could not save ?
Should they not rather have concluded, that now, as on
many recent occasions, he had permitted their trial to be great,
in order that he might the more abundantly magnify his own
power and mercy in their deliverance ? Doubtless this would
have become them who had seen so many and such stupen-
dous miracles wrought in their behalf.]
We next fix our attention upon,
II. Their deliverance —
Some have thought, that the healing of the waters
by casting a tree into them, was intended to typify the
sweetening of all our afflictions, and the removing of all
our sorrows, by the cross of Christ. It might be so:
but we are afraid to venture upon any ground not ex-
pressly trodden by the inspired writers. We therefore
rather content ourselves with shewing what God indis-
putably declared by this singular interposition :
1 . That he is never at a loss for means whereby to
effect his purposes —
[If we cannot see some opening whereby God can come to our
relief, we are ready to think that he is quite excluded from us.
But what need has he of any means at all ? What means did he
employ in constructing the universe ? Indeed the very means he
does use, are generally such, as tend only to evince, by their utter
inadequacy, the mighty working of his own power. It was thus
when he healed the deleterious waters of a spring, and the bar-
renness of the land through which they ran, by a single cruse
of salt * : and thus also when he restored the serpent-bitten
* 2 Kin. ii. 21.
320 EXODUS, XV. 24, 25. [61.
Israelites by the mere sight of a brazen serpent. As to the idea
of the tree iti^elf possessing qualities calculated to produce the
effect, it cannot for one moment be admitted ; because the
waters were sufficient for the supply of two millions of people,
besides all tlieir cattle ; and because the effect was instanta-
neously produced. We therefore say again, that the insufficiency
of the means he used displayed only the more clearly the all-
sufficiency of his own power, precisely as when by the voice
of a feeble worm he awakens men from their death in tres-
passes and sins''.]
2. That he will put honour upon humble and be-
lieving prayer —
[There is such '* efficacy in the fervent prayer of a righteous
man," that God, if we may be permitted so to speak, is not able
to withstand it. See persons in any circumstances whatever, and
you are sure to find them extricated from their difficulties, and
made victorious over their enemies, when once they begin to
pray. Even if the people themselves be ever so unworthy, yet,
if they have an Advocate and Intercessor for them at the throne
of grace, they almost invariably escape the judgments which
God had denounced against them ; so cordially does " God
delight in the prayer of the upright," and so desirous is he to
encourage all persons to pray for themselves. The murmuring
spirit of the people might well have provoked God to decline all
further communication with them : but Moses prayed ; and his
cry entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts.]
But both the trial and deliverance were sent with a
view to some ulterior good : let us consider,
III. God's design in each —
Amongst other objects which God designed to ac-
complish, the two following seem to be peculiarly pro-
minent. He sought to bring them to a sense of,
1. Their duty — •
[What particular statutes and ordinances God promulged to
them at this time, we are not informed. But there is one thing
which he certainly made known to them ; namely, the conditional
nature of the covenant which he was about to make with them,
and the suspension of his favours upon their obedience'^. They
had hitherto dwelt only on their privileges, without at all con-
sidering their duties •- they thought of what God was to be to
them ; but not of what they were to be to God. ow God,
having softened their minds by a heavy trial, and conciliated their
regards by a miraculous interposition, opens to them the con-
nexion between duty and privilege ; and thereby prepares them
*> 2 Cor. iv. 7. " ver. 26.
for becoming '^ a holv and peculiar people, zealous of good
2. Their sinfulness —
[Tliis mixture of jurli^ment and mercy was well calculated to
bring them to a knowledge of themselves. The trial alone would
only irsitate and inflame their minds: but the deliverance ap-
plied a balm to t\\eir wounded spirits. By the union of them
they would be humbled, and led to acknowledge the heinousness
of their ingratitude, their unl)elief, their C|uernlousness, and re-
bellion. This is expressly declared to liave been a very principal
end of all the dispensations of God towards them in the wilder-
ness'* : and it is a main object of his diversified dealings with his
people at this day ]
Let US LEAR from this subject,
1 . To mark the effect of trials and deliverances on
our own minds —
[If trials always, instead of humbling, disquiet us ; and if
deliverances produce only a temporary impression, and not a
la-'ting change on our hearts ; can we be right before God ? '1 hey
ought to "work patience, experience, and hope;" and by means
of them our fuith ought to l)e so purified, as to tend " to
the praise and honour and glory of our God at the appearing of
Jesus Christ"." By examining into this point we may " prove
our own selves," and asceitain with considerable precision our
true character.]
2. To distrust our religious feelings — -
[We may be moved under a sermon or any paiticular oc-
currence, we may sometinjes be dissolved in tears, and at other
times be elevated with joy, and yet have no root in ourselves,
nor anv inheritance with the .saints in light. Who that had
heirrd the devout songs of Israel at the Red Sea, would have
thought that in three days they could so totally forget their
mercies, and induLe such a rebellious spirit ? But look within ;
and see whether, after an occasional exercise of re'igious af-
fections, you have not, within a stdl shorter space of time, been
hurried into the indulgence of the mo!-t unhallowed tempers, and
the gratification of a spirit that is earthly, sensual, and devilish ?
Ah ! think of " the stony-ground hearers, who received the
word with jov, and yet in time of temptation fell away." Lay
not then too great a stress on some transient emotions ;
but judge yourselves by the more certain test of a willing and
unreserved obedience.]
3. To place an entire and uniform dependence on
^ Deut. viii. 2. ' ' Pet. i. 7-
322 EXODUS, XVI. 35. [62.
[God may see fit to try us, and to delay the relief that we
implore. But let us not entertain hard thoughts of Inm. Froro
the time of Abraham it has passed into a proverb, that " m the
mount the Lord shall he seen." Our Isaac may be bound,
and the knife actually lifted up to inflict the fatal blow, and all
who might interpose to rescue the vie im may be at a great
distance ; but, in the moment of need, God's voice from heaven
shall arrest the murderous hand, and deliver us from the im-
pending stroke. " The vision is yet for an appointed time ;
therefore, though it tarry, wait for it : for at the appointed season
it shall come, and not tarry*^." Whether our afflictions be of a
temporal or spiritual nature, we may rest assured of this blessed
truth, that " they who wait on him shall never be confounded."]
f Hab. ii. 3.

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