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their trouble; and were not only for returning into Egypt, but for stoning their deliverers.* Those inclined to idolatry were displeased that their golden calf was destroyed. Many of the chiefs thought the new constitution might be injurious to their particular interests, that the profitable places would be engrossed by the families and friends of Moses and Aaron, and others, equally well born, exclnded, f— In Josephus, and the Talmnd, we learn some particulars, not so fully narrated in the Scripture. We are there told, that Korah was ambitious of the priesthood, and offended that it was conferred on Aaron; and this, as he said, by the anthority of Moses only, without the consent of the people. He accused Moses of having, by various artifices, frandulently obtained the government, and deprived the people of their liberties, and of conspiring with Aaron to perpetuate the tyranny in their family. Thus, though Korah's real motive was the supplanting of Aaron, he persuaded the people that he meant only the public good; and they, moved by his insinuations, began to cry out, " Let us maintain the common liberty of our respective tribes; we have freed ourselves from the slavery imposed upon us by the Egyptians, and shall we suffer ourselves to be made slaves by Moses? If we must have a master, it were better to return to Pharaoh, who at least fed us with
• Numbers, chap. xiv.
f Numbers, chap. xvi. ver. 3. "And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregations are holy, every one of them—wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation?"
bread and onions, than to serve this new tyrant, who, by his operations, has brought us into danger of famine." Then they called in question the reality of his conference with God, and objected to the privacy of the meetings, and the preventing any of the people from being present at the colloquies, or even approaching the place, as grounds of great suspicion. They accused Moses also of peculation, as embezzling part of the golden spoons and the silver chargers, that the princes had offered at the dedication of the altar,• and the offerings of gold by the common people.f as well as most of the poll tax; J and Aaron they accused of pocketing much of the gold of which he pretended to have made a molten calf. Hesides peculation, they charged Moses with ambition; to gratify which passion he had, they said, deceived the people, by promising to bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey; instead of doing which, he had brought them from such a land; and that he thought light of all this mischief, provided he could make himself an absolute prince,§ that, to support the new dignity with splendour in his family, the partial poll tax, already levied, and given to Aaron, || was to be followed by a general one, *« which would probably be angmented
• Numbers, chap. vii. .
t Exodus, chapter xxxv. ver. 82.
$ Numbers, chap. iii. and Exodus, chap. xxx. . . »
§ Numbers, chap. xvi. ver. 13. "Is it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in this wilderness, except thou make thyself altogether a prince over us V*
S lumbers, chap. iii. *• Exodus, chap. xxx.
from time to time, if he were suffered to go on promulgating new laws, on pretence of new occasional revelations of the divine will, till their whole fortunes were devoured by that aristocracy.
Moses denied the charge of peculation, and his accusers were destitute of proofs to support it; though facts, if real, are in their nature capable of proof. "I have not," said he (with holy confidence in the presence of God), " I have not taken from this people the value of an ass, nor done them any other injury." But his enemies had made the charge, and with some success, among the populace; for no kind of accusation is so readily made, or easily believed by knaves, as the accusation of knavery. In fine, no less than two hundred and fifty of the principal men, " famous in the congregation, men of renown,"* heading and exciting the mob, worked them up to such a pitch of phrensy, that they called out, "Stone them, stone them, and thereby secure our liberties ; and let us choose other captains, that may lead us back into Egypt, in case we do not succeed in reducing the Canaanites."
On the whole, it appears that the Israelites were a people jealous of their newly acquired liberty $ which jealousy was in itself no fanlt; but that, when they suffered it to be worked upon by artful men, pretending public good, with nothing really in view but private interest, they were led to oppose the establishment of the new constitution, whereby they brought upon themselves much inconvenience and misfortune. It farther appears, from the same
* Numbers, chap. xvl.
inestimable history, that when, after many ages, the constitution had become old and much abused, and an amendment of it was proposed, the populace, as they had accused Moses of the ambition of making himself a prince, and cried out, "Stone him, stone him;" so, excited by their high-priests and scribes, they exclaimed against the Messiah, that he aimed at becoming king of the Jews; and cried, " Crucify him, crucify him." From all which we may gather, that popular opposition to a public measure is uo proof of its impropriety, even though the opposition be excited and headed by men of distinction.
To conclnde, I beg I may not be understood to infer, that our general convention was divinely inspired when it formed the new federal constitution, merely becanse that constitution has been unreasonably and vehemently opposed: yet, I must own, I have so much faith in the general government of the world by Providence, that I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance to the welfare of millions now existing, and to exist in the posterity of a great nation, should be suffered to pass, without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler, in whom all inferior spirits live, and move, and have their being.
THE RETORT COURTEOUS.
"john Oxly, pawnbroker, of Bethnal Green, was indicted for assanlting Jonathan Boldsworth on the highway, putting him in fear, and taking from him one silver watch, value 5/. 5». The prisoner pleaded, that having sold the watch to the prosecutor, and being immediately after informed by a person who knew him, that he was not likely to pay for the same, he had only followed him, and taken the watch back again. But it appearing on the trial, that, presuming he had not been known when he committed the robbery, he had afterwards sued the prosecutor for the debt, on his note of hand; he was found guilty, death."
Old Bailey Sessions Paper, 1747.
I chose the above extract from the proceedings of the Old Bailey in the trial of criminals, as a motto or text, on which to amplify in my ensuing discourse. But on second thoughts, having given it forth, I shall, after the example of some other preachers, quit it for the present, and leave to my readers, if I should happen to have any, the task of discovering what relation there may possibly be between my text and my sermon.
Daring some years past, the British newspapers have been filled with reflections on the inhabitants of America, for not paying their old debts to English merchants. And from these papers the same reflections have been translated into foreign prints, and circulated throughout Europe; whereby the American character respecting honour, probity, and justice In commercial transactions, is made to suffer in the opinion of strangers, which may be attended with pernicious consequences.
At length we are told that the British court has taken up the complaint, and seriously offered it as