Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which faces Jericho. And the LORD showed him the whole land--from Gilead as far as Dan,
We have in this concluding chapter the remarkable account of the death and burial of Moses. He had, as we have seen, blessed the tribes; he had laid his hands on Joshua (ver. 9), and thus ordained him, so to speak, to the leadership; he had given his manuscripts to the priests to be deposited in the ark; and now all that remains for him to do is to take the course God indicated to the mountain-top, see the Promised Land, and die. It has suggested some noble sermons, to which we would at once refer before proceeding with a few observations suggested by the history.
I. LET US NOTICE THE VIEW OF CANAAN AND OF LIFE FROM THE MOUNTAIN-TOP. It is evident, we think, that Moses went up the mountain without an escort. He was going up to hold high communion with God, as he had done on Sinai. Mountain-tops are favorite places for communion with God in the case of busy men like Moses and our Savior (cf. Luke 9:28). It was a sublime solitude, filled with the presence of God. Sooner or later, God draws his servants upwards out of the bustle of life to have special communion with him and finish their course with joy. Moses, moreover, had an undimmed eye at this time, and his natural force was in no wise abated. His outlook was consequently clear. The land of promise lay out before him in all its attractiveness, and he could have wished to cross the Jordan and see it, and the goodly mountain, Lebanon. But the view of it, clear and glorious, is all that in the present life he is to receive. Now, it is sometimes insinuated that saintly, self-denying men, whose lives according to worldly notions have been incomplete and unsuccessful, are unable to form a proper judgment about their careers, and must regret them. But as a rule, God gives in life's last hours the "undimmed eye," and his servants are enabled to see life's relations clearly, and the land of promise under the sunset glow. They regret their incomplete lives as little as Moses did his from the mountain-top. Jonathan Edwards notices, in his 'Notes on the Bible,' that "God ordered that Aaron and Moses should go up to the tops of mountains to die, to signify that the death of godly men is but an entrance into a heavenly state;" and Baumgarten has made a similar remark regarding the death of Aaron. "The circumstance that it was expressly fixed that Aaron should die upon a mountain, and so upon a place which through its very nature points to heaven, the seat of Jehovah, throws into the darkness of his death a ray (Strahl) of hope." The mountain-tops to these great brothers were indeed the gate of heaven, whence clear views of life and of the hereafter were obtained.
II. THE CIRCUMSTANTIALS OF THE DEATH OF MOSES ARE UNIQUE IN THEIR SIMPLE MAJESTY. It has been said that the presence of Moses on the mount of Transfiguration must have suggested a contrast between his death on the top of Pisgah and our Lord's approaching death amid the mocking crowds at Jerusalem. And what a contrast there is between the two departures! In the one case, the servant of God dies amid the solemn grandeur of the hills, with the sunset glow around him - dies, as some Jewish doctors say, "of the kiss of the Eternal;" in the other case, our Lord dies amid the ribaldry and scoffing of overcrowded Jerusalem. There may have been an clement of sadness in Moses dying on the threshold of the Promised Land; but there was an element of glory in the death-bed among the mountains.
III. GOD IN HIS LOVE NOT ONLY TOOK CHARGE OF THE DYING BUT ALSO OF THE DEAD. He died with God; and God buried him. No wonder the poetess calls it "the grandest funeral that ever passed on earth."
"And had he not high honor? -
The hill-side for his pall;
To lie in state, while angels wait
With stars for tapers tall;
And the dark rock-pines, like tossing plumes,
Over his bier to wave;
And God's own hand, in that lonely land,
To lay him in the grave!" This disposal of the body, as well as of the departed spirit, was surely a significant act on the part of God. He took the matter as completely out of the hands of Israel, as in the Resurrection our Lord's body was taken out of the keeping of the Roman guard. Was it not to indicate that the body as well as the soul is to share in the redeeming care of God, and so far an earnest of the resurrection?
IV. THE PRIVACY OF THE TOMB IS ALSO INSTRUCTIVE. Manifestly all Israel saw was the retirement of Moses to the mount; for the rest, his death and his Divine burial, they were dependent upon faith - they believed him when he told them he was going away by death, and that they need make no preparations for him, as God would bury him. Had it not been for his prophetic notice, they might have concluded he was translated. It was a matter of faith entirely, and no searching could bring it within the range of sight. The privacy of the tomb compelled them to take the funeral and burial on trust. The mourning and weeping for a month arose really from faith; Moses was not - God took him; but they had only Moses' word for it that he was to die with God, and be buried by him. And God's dealing with our dead must remain still a matter of faith to us, though of fruition unto them. We believe the very dust of the saints is dear to God, but we have to put their remains in a coffin, and deposit them amid common clay. We believe their spirits are in his safekeeping, but they send no messages and make no sign. If sense is the measure of our knowledge, then assuredly we may put Christian hope into the realm of beautiful dreams, of which there is as little sensible evidence as of Moses' tomb. But there are "foundations of faith" as strong as those of sense and sight. In such assurance, we believe that God took charge of Moses, body and soul, and will take as real and as faithful charge of us. - R.M.E.
Each of us is a Moses, not as regards mission, glory, or virtue, but as regards this last feature of his career. We are all standing on the frontier of a promised land which we shall not enter.
The Lord shewed him all the land.
The great parable of Israel's wanderings has one of its profoundest applications in the death of its two great leaders: men above all others entitled to enter the land of promise; neither falling in battle nor dying a natural death; both doomed to die by the sentence of Jehovah whom they served, and under whom they were leading the people.
I. THE UNREALISED HOPE OF HUMAN LIFE. Every life is a pilgrimage seeking its goal in some Canaan of rest. We picture it, struggle for it, and sometimes seem on the verge of realising it. We "see it with our eyes"; but, in the mysterious providence of life, are "forbidden to go over." Our purposes are broken off, we are disappointed, and resent if faith prevent not. Learn —
1. Success is not the chief nobility of life.
2. The chief blessedness of life is capability of service.
3. It is a blessed thing to die when the work has been so far done that it justifies the worker, demonstrates his character, vindicates his nobleness; so that he is not ashamed to leave it for completion; so that his friends are proud of its unfinished fragments.
4. The formal denial of our hopes may be the means of perfecting our character.
5. If in our service we have sinned against right methods and tempers of service, sinned against Him whom we serve, it is well that His disapproval of our sin should be manifested.
6. The prohibition comes with manifest mitigations.(1) What greater grace wrought in a man than acquiescence in such a mandate?(2) Moses is permitted to prepare for departure.(3) He is permitted to see his successor.
7. God honours His faithful servant by Himself preparing his sepulchre.
8. God fulfilled His promises and the hopes of His servant in a deeper and higher way than he anticipated.
II. THE VISIONS WHICH MAY INSPIRE HUMAN LIFE, its unrealised hopes notwithstanding. To men who live greatly, God gives visions through this very idealism of life, which are glorious inspirations and strength; visions of a great faith and a bright hope; of rest through the toil, of triumph while they fight, of heavenly perfection and blessedness. Many glorious visions had been given to Moses. Who knows, but to his lofty soul Canaan would have been a disenchantment. Many of our realised hopes are. In the better country, no shortcoming, no disappointment. Canaan may suffice for a suggestive prophecy; only God's heaven can be a satisfactory fulfilment. A great thing for faith to climb on heights to survey the heritage of God. And the nearer Jordan, the more glorious the prospect. The goodly land is revealed. All earthly lights pale before the great glory, all things here seem little and unimportant in that great blessedness.
LIFE ENDING IN THE MIDST OF LABOUR. The farmer leaves his field half ploughed; the artist dies with unformed figures on the canvas; the tradesman is cut down in the midst of his merchandise; the statesman is arrested with great political measures on his hand; and ministers depart with many schemes of instructive thought and plans of spiritual usefulness undeveloped.
1. There should be cautiousness as to the work pursued. A sad thing to die in the midst of unholy labour.
2. Earnestness in the prosecution of our calling. Time short.
3. Attention to the moral influence of our labour, both on ourselves and others. We should make our daily labour a means of grace; every secular act should express and strengthen those moral principles over which death has no power. All labour should have but one spirit — the spirit of goodness.
II. LIFE ENDING IN THE MIDST OF EARTHLY PROSPECTS. If men die amidst prospects of good they never realise, then —
1. Human aspirations after the earthly should be moderated.
2. Human aspirations after the spiritual should be supreme.
III. LIFE ENDING IN THE MIDST OF PHYSICAL STRENGTH.
1. Death at any time is painful — painful when the physical machinery has worn itself out; when the senses are deadened, the limbs palsied, and the current of life flows coldly and tardily in the veins. But far more so, when it comes in the midst of manly vigour and a strong zest for a prolonged existence.
2. Does not this view of life — ending in the midst of important labour, bright earthly prospects, and manly strength — predict a higher state of being for humanity beyond the grave?
Moses, the servant of the Lord, now takes his last journey. He has been more or less a pilgrim all his life, and his last journey is in perfect harmony with all his previous ones, for it is taken "at the commandment of the Lord." Throughout his life the society of his God had been his delight. To dwell with God had been the refreshment of his life; and God seems to say to him, "That which has been your joy and refreshment in life, shall be your peculiar privilege in death. I have known you face to face in life; and now you shall die alone with Me, face to face with your God." This thought holds good in another respect. Everything in the career of Moses had been done in absolute obedience to God. The whole life of Moses was a carrying out of the Divine commands. So is it now. God says to him, "Go up and die"; so, characteristically, he went up and died. His act of dying was one of intentional obedience. But before he died God granted him a marvellous sight. "The Lord showed him." His eye had not become dim, but, may be, God gave extra power to the old eye that had been looking for one hundred and twenty years, and such power that he could look north, south, east, and west, and view the whole land. And what a panorama stretched out before him. "He saw the smiling green meadows at his feet, between which the Jordan swiftly flowed, and to the right his eye glanced along the valleys and woods, and the bright waving cornfields, that stretched away into the dim distance where rose the purple snow-crowned hills of Lebanon. To his left he saw the mountains swelling like mighty billows of the sea all struck into stillness. And perhaps, as he looked upon them, some angel voice whispered in his ear, 'There will stand Jerusalem the city of peace. There shall be the temple where, for ages and ages, Jehovah shall be worshipped. And see, yonder among the hills on that little speck in the landscape, a Cross shall one day stand, and the Son of God shall die to save the world.' And across the beautiful land he might perhaps catch some dim sight of the blue Mediterranean, or at least have discovered where the white mists hung above its waters." And then, sweetly emblematical as it seems to me, beneath were the sullen waters of the Dead Sea. Oh, when God takes a man to the top of Pisgah he looks down upon the waters of death. This was the vision that greeted the eyes that had not yet become dim. Then, having had this view of the land, Moses the servant of the Lord "died according to the word of the Lord," or, as the Rabbis say, "at His mouth." God took the old man, wrinkled with age but simple in spirit as a child, and sang his lullaby and kissed him to sleep. What followed has never yet been fully revealed. A veil hangs thickly over the scene of the burial of Moses, but there is the fact recorded that God buried him. "Oh," you say, "what a quiet funeral." Yes, the more the honour of it. I believe that, as the vision of Canaan melted away, the vision of God's face appeared, and he who had known his Lord face to face now knows what it is to behold His glory without a veil between. There you have the setting of our little text. Pisgah was at once the climax and the close of a character and a career. In one sense it is terribly sad, and concerning Pisgah's top it may be said, "Behold the severity of God." He who has high honour put on him by God shall find that there is something in the other scale. Just because of the perilous position of honour to which God had raised Moses, that sin of his, when, in a moment of impatience, he struck the rock twice, is visited with the severe sentence, "Thou Moses, shalt not pass over the Jordan into the land." Pisgah's top has also, I believe, dispensational teaching in it. It was absolutely necessary that Moses should not cross over Jordan. Had he done so the whole allegory of Scripture would have broken down.
I. PISGAH'S TOP MAKES A BEAUTIFUL ILLUSTRATION OF SPIRITUAL LIFE. What was Pisgah? It was an eminence in the wilderness from which might be seen the full extent of the salvation of God. When God brought His people out of Egypt, He did so in order to bring them into Canaan; and I believe that Canaan is intended to represent the life of the believer on earth, with all its privileges and all its joys and all its combats too. It is for the child of God to get a full view of the good land into which God brings him, a bird's-eye view of the whole of God's grand salvation. But how is this to be done? This is a most important question. I believe that there are two absolute essentials, and the first is this: if you would see the whole of the land you must get up on to the heights of Scripture. If your Bible is a neglected book you cannot see the whole length and breadth of the land. It is God's Pisgah, and you must get up to the top. One half hour with God and His Book, and the power of the Holy Ghost will give you a grander view of God's salvation than all the experience that you can hear. And the second absolute necessity is solitude with God. Moses did not get the vision when he was in a mob. He got it when he was alone. It is not enough for us to have a critical knowledge of Scripture. "Spiritual wisdom "is needed. I would sooner accept the interpretation of some pauper woman in the workhouse, if she is full of the Holy Ghost, than the interpretation of the ablest critic who has not the "spiritual" wisdom. We need revelation as well as elevation. It is not enough for us simply to be on Pisgah's top. God must do for us what He did for Moses. "And the Lord showed him.
II. Do you not also think that Pisgah may serve as A PROPHECY OF THE DYING HOUR? Moses was lost to the camp. I hear them say one to another, "He is going; he is going. He has got beyond our reach now." They cannot see him. He is high up there. Have you known what it is to stand by the side of a dying one who has got so far that he cannot speak to you? He has become unconscious of all surroundings. As far as you are concerned, he has gone. Yes, and perhaps Israel was saying, "Poor Moses! We pity him in having thus to die"; and whilst they were pitying him he was seeing visions of God. I dare not speak dogmatically, but I do say that there is a consensus of evidence that cannot be put on one side that the dying very often do see far more than the living. We often say of a departing one, "Oh, he is practically dead now, for he is unconscious." Yes, he may be unconscious to those standing round the bedside, but oh, how conscious of God. Oh, how conscious of a spiritual environment! I do not know whether Moses had a thought about the camp which he had left. I do not suppose that he had. He was looking at that which God showed him. The spiritual world is not a mere unsubstantial dream. No, it is real, and round about us all are the hosts of heaven. After all, Pisgah's top was only the starting point for the upward flight. It seems high up to us because we are dwelling down in the plain of Moab. But when Moses was on the top of Pisgah he was only just on the "departure" platform, not the "arrival." From Pisgah's top I view my home, then take my flight. The sight of Canaan did not long linger on his eyes. Lebanon melts away. The Dead Sea becomes a mist. The rolling fields of golden corn become indistinct. Canaan vanishes. Another vision comes; and the man of God is face to face with his Lord. O child of God, so shall it be with thee. If thou diest in the Lord's embrace, thy head on His breast, thou mayest see much in that dying hour. But thou shalt see more afterwards.
I. Yes; we are on the frontier, on the threshold, at the very door of a land of promise, and we shall die before entering it. REASON is made for truth, and seeks it; but who is there that knows all he would know? Ignorance has reached this point: in its instinctive regrets it stands still, gazing mournfully upon mysteries which it cannot penetrate, upon depths of knowledge of which it has an. instinctive perception, but which it cannot fathom. Science has reached this point: all science ends in a final effort which it fails to accomplish, in a final secret which it is inefficient to discover, in a final word which it is unable to utter. Unbelief has reached this point. Remember the sceptical astronomer who endeavoured daily to explain the first movement of the planets without admitting that they had been set in motion by a Divine hand, and, who dismissed his pupils day after day, bidding them "come again tomorrow"! Faith, too, has reached this point. Faith which knows that it cannot be changed into sight, and that "no man hath seen God," that "none knoweth the Father but the Son," that "great is the mystery of godliness," that even the angels tremble as they look into it. Yes; reason and faith behold a promised, land stretching out before their eyes, but ever do they hear the stern and mighty voice saying, Thou shalt not go over thither.
II. AND WHAT OF HAPPINESS? Is it not true that we are always on its limits? The desire for happiness is natural; more than this, it is lawful, it is religious. Every individual entertains it, notwithstanding his experience of life. We see it sometimes near, oftener at a distance; but this world is so fashioned that we are unable to cross the border and enter it.
III. WITHOUT PEACE THERE CAN BE NO TRUE HAPPINESS. Who is there that has not dreamed of a life of peace, harmony, and love? But no; the machinery of life seizes upon us; competition lays a barrier across our path; we have rights which we must defend, for the sake of those we love, if not for our own; we must adopt as ours the maxim of Paul: "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." In the very domain of religion, we are called to defend our faith, to stand out against the calumnies of intolerance; we would gladly pray and communicate with all, but we are repulsed; we long for an asylum of peace and rest, and the terrible voice is heard, "Thou shalt not enter into it!"
IV. THIS STATE OF THINGS INFLUENCES THE WHOLE OF OUR EXISTENCE, the progress of our soul, the entire labour of our life. Where is the man who brings all his enterprises to a successful issue, or realists all his plans? Where is the man who attains a perfect equilibrium in his desires, faculties, sentiments, and duties? Where is the man who, in a moral and Christian sense, realises his ideal? How many unfinished tasks! The world is full of them. Death comes and prevents their completion. When we examine ourselves, how far we are from sanctification! Alas! the perfect fulfilment of the plans of life, and of the progress of the soul, is a promised land, concerning which each of us is told, "Thou shalt not go over thither!" Who is He that, of all the human race, alone has entered His promised land? Who? Jesus. In Jesus Christ we are enabled to march towards the goal, to increase in knowledge and faith, in happiness and peace, to achieve greater works, and to progress on our way until the last stage of the journey be reached — eternity.
I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.There must have been in Moses' mind, when he thought over his life, a strong consciousness of the opportunities of inward and spiritual culture which God had opened to him even in and through the failure of his plan of life. In his repentance and confession of personal sin he had come nearer to Jehovah than ever before, and now, as the result of all, a patient, loving confidence in God; a deep distrust of himself; a craving for inner purity more than for any outward glory; a pure, deep love overrunning with gratitude for forgiveness, which had deepened with every deepening appreciation of the sin, — all this was filling his heart as he went forth with God, pondering the failure of his life. And this same richness of comfort has come to many a man out of the failure of his hopes. You come up to the certainty that you are not going to accomplish that which you once meant to do, that you might have done if you had not wilfully sinned. You take your last fond look on the Canaan of accomplishment which you are not to enter. You say, "I shall never do what I dreamed of doing," but at the same time there rises up in you another strong assurance, — "God has done In me what I do not see how He could have done except out of my broken hopes and foiled endeavours." You are not glad that you have sinned; you are sure all the time that, if you could have stood sinless, some nobler character would have been trained in you, but you never can think of your sin without feeling alongside of it all that God has done for you through it. The culture of penitence is there, the dearer, nearer sense of God, which has come from so often going to Him with a broken heart, the yearning for an hourly dependence on Him, the craving, almost agonising knowledge of the goodness of holiness, which only came to you when you lost it, the value of spiritual life above all visible and physical delight or comfort, and a gratitude for forgiveness which has turned the whole life into a psalm of praise or a labour of consecration, — these are the cultures by which God bears witness of Himself to numberless lives that have failed of their full achievement. But take another thought. The whole question of how much Moses knew of immortality is very indistinct, but it is impossible to think that in this supreme moment his great soul did not attain to the great universal human hope. It must have come to him that this which seemed like an end was not an end; that while the current of the Jewish history swept on without him, for him, too, there was a future, a life to live, a work to do somewhere, with the God who took him by the hand and led him away. And here must always be the final explanation, the complete and satisfying explanation of human failures. Without this truth of another life there can be no clearness; all is dreary darkness. A man has failed in all the purposes of his life. What is there left for him? He dwells upon the culture which has come to him in and from his failure; but what of him, — this precious human being, this single personal existence, the soul, with all its life and loves? Is that indeed, just thrown aside like a dead cinder, out of which all the power has been burnt? Then comes Christ's troth of immortality. Not so! This failure is not final. The life that has so fallen short is not yet done. It has been tried and found wanting. But by its own consciousness of weakness it is made ready for a new trial in a higher strength.
()There are in history few characters whose grandeur equals that of Moses, and I know not whether the Old Testament contains an account more sublime or more touching than that of his death. Nearly a century had passed since, in the palace of Pharaoh, where he had grown up in the midst of the delights of Egypt and of royal splendour, the thought of the oppression of his people had seized upon his soul to give him no more repose. At last he reached the goal, so long desired, of all his thoughts. The promised land was there before him, and the waves of Jordan alone separated him from it. The promised land! Oh, how often he called for and contemplated it beforehand in his solitary dreams during the long nights of the desert, when, under the starry heaven, he conversed with Jehovah! From the silent summit of Mount Nebo the overworked old man directs his eager looks before him and in every direction: he sees all the country from Gilead to Dan; there stretches out Jericho, the city of palm trees; there the rich palms of Naphtali, of Ephraim, and of Manasseh; there Judah; there, beyond, towards the distant horizon, the Mediterranean Sea. Yes, it is certainly the Promised Land; but — he is forbidden to enter it! For a moment his heart bends under its load of anguish; but, losing sight of himself, he thinks of the future of Israel; he contemplates with emotion those places in which God will establish His sanctuary, those valleys from whence there will issue one day the salvation of the world; on the north the distant mountains of Galilee; on the south, Bethlehem, Moriah, and the hill where the Cross in which we glory was to be erected. Then, having embraced with one last look that land, so long desired, Moses bows his head and dies. From this grand scene there flows for us a grand lesson. Whoever you may be, have you not dreamed here below of a promised land; have you not desired it, have you not thought to reach it, and has not a voice been heard telling you also: "Thou shalt not enter it at all!" I want to inquire today why God refuses us what we ask on earth; I want to plead His cause, and justify His ways. Yes, we all dream here below of a promised land. There is not one of us who has not expected much of life, and not one whom life has satisfied. Do not trust appearance, do not depend on the outward joy, the absence of care painted on so many countenances. All that is the mask — underneath is the real being, who, if he is sincere, will tell you what he seeks and what he suffers. Is the promised land which you seek that renewed earth where righteousness will dwell? Is it the reign of the Lord realised among men? Is it God loved, adored, holding the first place in hearts and minds? Is it the Gospel accepted, the Church raised up again, souls converted, the Cross victorious? Well! need I say it to you? You will not possess that promised land here below, although in the ardour of your faith you had thought to enter it. You had thought by some certain signs to discover in our epoch a time of renovation; you had seen the shaken nations throw off their sleep of death, the Church rise up at the voice of God, and awake to the feeling of its magnificent destinies; you had seen the Holy Spirit descending, as on the day of Pentecost, and inflaming hearts. Thus, in the primitive Church, believers expected on the ruins of the heathen world the triumphant return of Christ. Yes, it was there that the promised land was. Alas! the world has continued its progress, the kingdom of God does not come with show, the work of the Spirit proceeds mysteriously and in secret, and, whilst that brilliant vision of a renewed earth moves before your troubled eyes, a voice murmurs in your ear: "Thou shalt not enter it!" Yes, let us not flatter ourselves. Those are seldom met with in our days who, devoured by hungering for truth and righteousness, long ardently after the reign of God. You had dreamed of a grand and beautiful existence on earth, for it was not towards vile pleasures that your nature carried you. God had given you talents, brilliant faculties, the knowledge of everything that is noble and fair. With what joy you bounded forth on your career! How all good causes appealed to you! Every day was to render you both better and stronger. To know, to love, to act, was your aim. All those enchanted ways opened before you, covered with that haze of the morning through which one predicts in spring the serene clearness and the heat of a fine day. The promised land was there in your eyes; you contemplated it with eager looks, you were going to enter it. All at once misfortune came, disease broke your strength, your property vanished from you, you were obliged to begin to gain by the sweat of your brow your daily bread; crushing cares have come to overwhelm your heart and blight your hopes; selfishness and the harshness of men have given you bitter and cruel surprises, and whilst others got before you in the race and ran towards the prospects of happiness which remained closed to you, the austere voice of trial murmured in your ear: "Thou shalt not enter it!" You had, my sister, dreamed on earth of the happiness of shared affections; the course of life appeared to you pleasant to follow, supported on a manly arm and a loyal heart. What joy to be able every day to pour your thoughts and your affections into a soul which would comprehend yours! The promised land was there to you; and now, you are widowed, and you go, a solitary one, in that path, the asperities of which no one smooths in your case. Or, what is much worse still, you have seen infidelity, falseness, and, perhaps, a cold indifference penetrate between you and the heart of him whose name you bear. To others God has spared that trial. You have seen a joyous family circle form around you — you have prepared for life the children whom God gave you. With what happiness have you followed the first intimations of intelligence in them, with what anxiety their temptations and their sufferings, with what gratitude their victories and their progress! At last you had almost attained your object. They were ready for the struggles of life; all that a vigilant love could sow in their hearts you had shed abroad. It was to you the promised land. Alas! how lately was it true. But a day came — a day of anxiety and fearful forebodings, ending in a reality still more frightful. From your desolated abode a funeral procession has passed, and today it is in Heaven that your wavering faith has to seek an image which floats before your troubled eyes. Shall I remind you of those works — long pursued with self-denial, with love — at the end of which you gathered unsuccess and ingratitude, and have seen your best intentions misunderstood and calumniated? Vain desires! barren illusions! the world cries to us, and in the name of its selfish philosophy it preaches to us forgetfulness and dissipation. But do you desire that forgetfulness? No, it is better still to suffer and to have known these desires, these affections, these hopes; it is better to bear about with one these holy images and sacred recollections; the torment of a soul which believes, and of a heart which loves, is better than the stupid and base frivolity of the world. It is better, O Moses! after forty years of fatigue and of suffering, to die in view of the coasts of Canaan than to lead in the palaces of Egypt the stupid and shameful servitude of pleasure and of sin! And yet before that rigorous law, which closes to us here below the promised land, our troubled heart turns trembling to God; we ask Him, that God of love, the secret of His ways which astonish us and now and then confound us. "Why?" we say to Him, "why?" We shall never here below fully know the cause of the ways of God. There are, particularly in suffering, mysteries which go beyond all our explanations. Nevertheless it is written that the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him. Let us try then to explain something of it. If Moses does not enter into the promised land, it is certainly, in the first place, because Moses sinned. What! you will tell me, could God not forget the faults of His servant? So long as Moses remains on earth he will undergo the visible consequences of his transgression in former times. As he sinned in presence of the people, it is in presence also of the people that he will be smitten. Now, that is what we have a difficulty in comprehending today. Today the sentiment of God's holiness is effaced. God is love, we say with the Gospel, and forget that the Gospel never separates His love and His holiness! We forget it in face of Gethsemane, in face of Calvary, in face of those sorrows, without name, which remind us that pardon does not annihilate justice, and that Divine righteousness demands an expiation. Yes, God is love; but have you reflected on this, that what God loves before everything else is that which is good? Can God love His creatures more than He loves goodness? That is the question. Our age resolves it in the sense which pleases its feebleness. God, it tells us, loves before everything His creatures; and saying that, the whole Gospel is reversed; for it is evident that if God loves His creatures more than He loves what is good, He will save them, be their corruption and their incredulity what they may. Then heaven is assured to all — to the impenitent, to the proud, to the rebellious, as well as to penitent and broken hearts. This is not all. If God can thus place what is good in the second rank, can He not put it there always? What becomes, then, of holiness? What are we told of His law, since that law gives way when He chooses? I go further. What are we told of redemption, and what does the Cross of Calvary say to us, if you efface the idea of a sacrifice demanded by Divine justice? But admit, on the contrary, with Scripture, that God loves what is good before everything; that holiness is His very essence; and you will see that, if face to face with sinners, His name is love, face to face with sin, His name is justice; that suffering willed by Him is inseparably united with evil. You asked why life did not keep its promises to you — why your dreams, your plans of happiness were pitilessly destroyed — why, in presence of the promised land, an inexorable voice came to you: "Thou shalt not enter it!" Scripture answers you — because you are sinners; because this earth, which evil has defiled, cannot be for you the land of repose and of happiness; because God would warn you and prepare you to meet Him. You asked, O ye redeemed by the Gospel, why after having believed the pardon of God, His love, and His promises, you were treated by Him with rigour which confounds you? Ah it is because God, who made you His children, would further make you partakers of His holiness; it is because He would that the suffering attached to your earthly life should remind you every day of what you formerly were, and of what you would be without Him. Thus, at all times, God acts towards those very ones who have most loved Him. Ask Moses why he does not enter Canaan. Does he murmur? does he complain? does he accuse Divine justice? No; he bows his head and adores. Ask Jacob why his hoary hairs go down with sorrow to the grave. Does he accuse God? No; he remember, his deceits of a former time, his conduct towards Isaac, his perfidy towards Esau. Thus He accomplishes the word, that judgment commences at His own house. Thus God reminds those whom He has pardoned and saved, that if they are the children of a God of love, they ought to become the children of a holy God. But in refusing us, as Moses, admission here to the promised land, God has yet another aim — that of strengthening our faith. Let us suppose that it had been given us to realise our desires on earth, to see our designs accomplished, our sacrifices recompensed, to gather here, in a word, all that we have sowed. What would soon happen? That we should walk by sight and no longer by faith — pleasant and easy course, where every effort would be followed with its result, every sacrifice with its recompense. Who would not like to be a Christian at that price? Who would not seek that near and visible blessing? Ah! do you not see that the selfish spirit of the mercenary would come, like a cold poison, to mingle with our obedience? Do you not see that our hearts, drawn to earth by all the weight of our happiness, would soon forget the invisible world and their true, their eternal destiny? What would the life of faith then become; that heroic struggle of the soul which tears itself from the world of sight in order to attach itself to God? What would that noble heritage become, which all believers of the past have transmitted to us? Now, God expects from us better things. That is why He refuses you here below the repose, and the peace, and the sweet security of heart, and those joys in which you would like to rest; and why, when the world has caused to pass before you that promised land of happiness which enchants and attracts you, His inexorable voice says to you: "Thou shalt not enter it." But, know well, He does not deceive you, for true repose and true happiness still await you. Ah! better to die on Mount Nebo, for God has reserved for thee a better heritage, a promised land into which thou shalt enter in peace. There, sin is no more; there, pure voices proclaim the glory of the Lord; there, His sanctuary is reared in light ineffable and in an ideal beauty; there, repose on the bosom of Infinite Love all those who, like thyself, have combated for righteousness; there, God reigns, surrounded with the multitude without number of His worshippers. Close thine eyes, O wearied pilgrim, thou wilt open them again in light, in the celestial Canaan, on the holy Sion, in the heavenly Jerusalem! Lastly, if God refuse us, as He did Moses, what we should have liked to possess on earth, it is that our heart may belong to Him, and be given to Hint forever. I think I hear your protestations. You answer me: "Yes, faith and holiness can be taught in that rude school; but is it right that God should obtain love in this way?" And you add: "Should we have loved Him less if He had left us those treasures which His jealous hand so soon carried off from us Should we have loved less if our heart, instead of falling back sadly upon itself, had been able to bloom and breathe freely in all the confidence of happiness?" Less! ah, we are witnesses to it. Today, if what we have lost could be returned to us; if our youth, our life, our hopes could be born again today, there would not be words in the language of men to testify to Him our gratitude and our love. I under. stand you; but take care, you have said, "today," and you are right; for yesterday, alas! — for formerly — when you possessed those treasures, when your life was happy, where was that gratitude, that love, which should have overflowed? On that earth, blessed and decked with all your joys, did you think God Himself was misunderstood and treated as a stranger? Did you reflect that His cause was forgotten, His Gospel attacked, His Church feeble and divided? Did you think of those thousands of souls groaning under the burden of ignorance, of misery, and of Sin Did you ask for the earth where righteousness dwells? No; in order to reveal all that to you there was need of sorrow. We have seen how God educates us; we have seen how He prepares us for the promised land, which is not here below but in heaven. Happy the one who does not wait for the blows of trial in order to steer his course to it; but, happy, also, the one whose bonds trial has broken, and who has entered upon the journey home.
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