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In doing this, as we are told in the seventh chapter of Acts, it was their wish to go back to Egypt, and abandon, at once, the land of promise, and all the other blessings which God had held out to them as encouragements in the path of duty.
They would willingly forfeit these inestimable privileges; and dare to become idolaters in violation of one of those commands which they had just promised to obey; and expose themselves to the anger of Jehovah !
Aaron, too, the brother of Moses, who had been associated with him, under the immediate direction of the Almighty, from the very commencement of their momentous enterprise, and been addressed by every motive, and proof, and argument, that was needed to establish his faith and confirm his purpose
perseverance, who had just witnessed the terrors of Sinai, and been permitted to see the awfully sublime manifestations of the presence of the only living and true God, will he yield to these so licitations ? Will he basely and wickedly take a part in the proposed idolatry?
Ah! what is the weak and sinful nature of man when left to itself and the force of temptation! In God alone is our strength of moral resolution and obedience to his will.
Aaron had not the courage to resist the demands of the Israelites. He ordered them to break off the golden ear-rings which their wives, and sons
and daughters wore, and to bring them to him,-a part of the very spoils which they had brought out of Egypt, and now to be used in imitating the wickedness of that idolatrous nation.
The ornaments were brought, and from them Aaron made a molten calf. Those who were active on the occasion, taking it from his hands, and setting it up in the presence of the people, cried out, * These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt."
Aaron, seeing what was done, built an altar before the idol, and made a general proclamation, saying, " To-morrow is a feast to the Lord.”
Some have conjectured, that Aaron did not really design to encourage idolatrous worship, but simply to permit the people to worship the true God as represented by the image which he had formed.
Poor excuse this for his conduct; even if he hoped, in this way, to escape the charge of himself being an idolater! The whole matter was in direct violation of the express commands of God, and a monstrous mingling, to say the least, of his worship with that of a senseless idol. It seems, too, that after making their offerings, "the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play,” to engage, as was the custom among idolaters, in riotous feasting and merriment, and perhaps in the most licentious and shameful conduct. Besides,
we are told in Acts what the direct object of their worship was : " They made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the work of their hands."
What must have been the surprise of Moses at this time, to hear an account of these transactions from the Divine voice, accompanied with a command to go down from the mount, and utter this fearful denunciation ; "I have seen this people, and behold it is a stiff-necked people : Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.”
Will Moses resist the offer;—unsought; coming thus unexpectedly from God; and held forth, too, as but the carrying into effect of his just indignation against a rebellious people ? To be great by the favor of God,—the illustrious head of a new nation, with whom another covenant would be made, probably securing to them all the blessings that the Israelites were to forfeit :-can he refuse prospects so bright and alluring?
Yes; and the trial proved his devotedness to what he conceived to be the divine honor ; his own integrity; and the generous benevolence of his heart.
Hear how this meek and self-denying man replied : " And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand ? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth ? Turn away from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of, will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.".
The prayer of Moses prevailed; "and the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people;" changed his intended course of conduct towards them, as a man changes his who has repented of his purpose.
What an example is here left on record of humble piety, and true magnanimity of soul! Moses regards the glory of God, and the preserving unsullied the honor of his character, so that his enemies shall not be able to bring any reproach against it; the fulfillment of the divine promises; and the prosperity of the children of Israel; as the supreme objects of desire. Himself dwindles into forgetfulness before them! How does the littleness of the falsely-called great ones of the earth, who chase the phantoms of ambition and renown, stand abashed before the moral grandeur of this servant of the Lord! How does the humble prayer which he poured forth, show that it came from a spirit exalted above all that is earthly, and fit for the companionship of heaven!
Imitate this example. Catch this spirit, my young friend. Be truly great, by being humble, pious, and benevolent; by consecrating yourself to the promotion of God's glory, and the best good of your fellow-men. In the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom on earth, with all the sublime and interesting objects attending its progress, be absorbed to the full extent of every power of your soul. Here concentrate your affections, and put
your energies. Lose, forget, annihilate yourself in Christ, and the blessings which his salvation is to bring upon mankind. Live not for yourself, but for him.
Does he not deserve this devotion ? He gave himself for you, to redeem you, by his own blood, from the curse of sin.