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NADAB'S AND ABIHU'S "STRANGE FIRE."
The solemn and august ceremonies of the consecration of the priests and the tabernacle, and the inauguration of the tabernacle service, had a sad and terrible termination. The sacrifices of the inauguration day had been completed, the congregation had received the priestly benediction, the glory of Jehovah had appeared unto the people, and, in token of His acceptance of all that had been done, consumed the victims on the altar. This manifestation of the glory of the Lord so affected the people—as well it might—that when they saw it, "they shouted, and fell on their faces." It was, probably, under the influence of the excitement of this occasion that (vv. 1, 2), "Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And there came forth fire from before the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord."
There has been no little speculation as to what it was, precisely, which they did. Some will have it, that they lighted their incense, not from the altar fire, but elsewhere. As to this, while it is not easy to prove that to 238 light the incense at the altar fire was an invariable requirement, yet it is certain that this was commanded for the great day of atonement (xvi. 12); and also, that when Moses offered incense in connection with the plague which broke out upon the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, Moses commanded him to take the fire for the censer from off the altar (Numb. xvi. 46); so that, perhaps this is not unlikely to have been one element, at least, in their offence. Others, again, have thought that their sin lay in this, that they offered their incense at a time not commanded in the order of worship which God had just prescribed; and this, too, may very probably have been another element in their sin, for it is certain that the divinely-appointed order of worship for the day had been already completed. Yet again, others have supposed that they rashly and without Divine warrant pressed within the veil, into the immediate presence of the Shekinah glory of God, to offer their incense there. For this, too, there is evidence, in the fact that the institution of the great annual day of atonement, and the prohibition of entrance within the veil at any other time, even to the high priest himself, is said to have followed "after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the Lord, and died" (xvi. 1, 2).
It is perfectly possible, and even likely, that all these elements were combined in their offence. In any case, the gravamen of their sin is expressed in these words; they offered "fire which the Lord had not commanded them:" offered it, either in a way not commanded, or at a time not commanded, or in a place not commanded; or, perhaps, in each and all of these ways, offered "fire which the Lord had not commanded." This was their sin, and one which brought instant and terrible judgment.
It is easy enough to believe that yet they meant well in what they did. It probably seemed to them the right thing to do. After such a stupendous display as they had just witnessed, of the flaming glory of Jehovah, why should they not, in token of reverence and adoration, offer incense, even in the most immediate presence of Jehovah? And why should such minor variations from the appointed law, as to manner, or time, or place, matter very much, so the motive was worship? So may they probably have reasoned, if indeed they thought at all. But, nevertheless, this made no difference; all the same, "fire came forth from Jehovah, and devoured them." They had been but so lately consecrated! and—as we learn from ver. 5—their priestly robes were on them at the time, in token of their peculiar privilege of special nearness to God! But this, too, made no difference; "there came forth fire from before the Lord and devoured them."
Their sin, in the form in which it was committed, can never be repeated; but as regards its inner nature and essence, no sin has been in all ages more common. For the essence of their sin was this, that it was will-worship; worship in which they consulted not the revealed will of God regarding the way in which He would be served, but their own fancies and inclinations. The directions for worship had been, as we have seen, exceedingly full and explicit; but they apparently imagined that the fragrance of their incense, and its intrinsic suitableness as a symbol of adoration and prayer, was sufficient to excuse neglect of strict obedience to the revealed will of God touching His own worship. Their sin was not unlike that of Saul in a later day, who thought to excuse disobedience by the offering of enormous sacrifices. But he was sharply reminded 240 that "to obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Sam. xv. 22); and the priesthood were in like manner on this occasion very terribly taught that obedience is also better than incense, even the incense of the sanctuary.
In all ages, men have been prone to commit this sin, and in ours as much as any. It is true that in the present dispensation the Lord has left more in His worship than in earlier days to the sanctified judgment of His people, and has not minutely prescribed details for our direction. It is true, again, that there is, and always will be, room for some difference of judgment among good and loyal servants of the Lord, as to how far the liberty left us extends. But we are certainly all taught as much as this, that wherever we are not clear that we have a Divine warrant for what we do in the worship of God, we need to be exceeding careful, and to act with holy fear, lest possibly, like Nadab and Abihu, we be chargeable with offering "strange fire," which the Lord has not commanded. And when one goes into many a church and chapel, and sees the multitude of remarkable devices by which, as is imagined, the worship and adoration of God is furthered, it must be confessed that it certainly seems as if the generation of Nadab and Abihu was not yet extinct; even although a patient God, in the mystery of His long-suffering, flashes not instantly forth His vengeance.
This then is the first lesson of this tragic occurrence. We have to do with a God who is very jealous; who will be worshipped as He wills, or not at all. Nor can we complain. If God be such a Being as we are taught in the Holy Scripture, it must be His inalienable right to determine and prescribe how He will be served.
And it is a second lesson, scarcely less evident, that with God, intention of good, though it palliate, cannot excuse disobedience where He has once made known His will. No one can imagine that Nadab and Abihu meant wrong; but for all that, for their sin they died.
Again, we are herein impressively taught that, with God, high position confers no immunity when a man sins; least of all, high position in the Church. On the contrary, the greater the exaltation in spiritual honour and privilege, the more strictly will a man be held to account for every failure to honour Him who exalted him. We have seen this illustrated already by the law of the sin-offering; and this tragic story illustrates the same truth again.
But the question naturally arises, How could these men, who had been so exalted in privilege, who had even beheld the glory of the God of Israel in the holy mount (Exod. xxiv. 1, 9, 10), have ventured upon such a perilous experiment? The answer is probably suggested by the warning which immediately followed their death (vv. 8, 9): "The Lord spake unto Aaron, saying, Drink no wine nor strong drink, ... when ye go into the tent of the meeting, that ye die not." It is certainly distinctly hinted by these words, that it was under the excitement of strong drink that these men so fatally sinned.
If so, then, although their sin may not be repeated in its exact form among us, yet the fact points a very solemn warning, not only regarding the careless use of strong drink, but, more than that, against all religious worship and activity which is inspired by other stimulus than by the Holy Spirit of God. Of this every age of the Church's history has furnished sad examples. Sometimes we see it illustrated in "revivals," even in 242 such as may be marked by some evidence of the presence of the Spirit of God; when injudicious speakers seek by various methods to work up what is, after all, merely a physical excitement of a strange, infectious kind, though too often mistaken for the work of the Holy Spirit of God. More subtle and yet more common is the sin of such as in preaching the Word find their chief stimulation in the excitement of a crowded house, or the visible signs of approbation on the part of the hearers; and perhaps sometimes mistake the natural effect of this influence for the quickening power of the Holy Ghost, and go on to offer before the Lord the incense of their religious service and worship, but with "strange fire." Of this all need to beware; and most of all, ministers of the Word.
The penalty of sin is often long delayed, but it did not lag in this case. The strange fire in the hands of Nadab and Abihu was met by a flash of flame that instantly withered their life; and, just as they were, their priestly robes upon them unconsumed, their censers in their hands, they dropped dead before the fatal bolt.
In reading this account and other similar narratives in Holy Scripture, of the deadly outbreak of God's wrath, many have felt not a little disquieted in mind because of the terrific severity of the judgment, which to them seems so out of all proportion to the guilt of the offender. And so, in many hearts, and even to many lips, the question has perforce arisen: Is it possible to believe that in this passage, for instance, we have a true representation of the character of God? In answering such a question we ought always to remember, first of all, that, apart from our imperfect knowledge, just because we all are sinners, we are, by 243 that fact, all more or less disqualified and incapacitated for forming a correct and unbiassed judgment regarding the demerit of sin. It is quite certain that every sinful man is naturally inclined to take a lenient view of the guilt of sin, and, by necessary consequence, of its desert in respect of punishment. In approaching this question, here and elsewhere in God's Word, it is imperative that we keep this fact in mind.
Again, it is not unnecessary to remark, that we must be careful and not read into this narrative what, in fact, is not here. For it is often assumed without evidence, that when we read in the Bible of men being suddenly cut off by death for some special sin, we are therefore required to believe that the temporal judgment of physical death must have been followed, in each instance, by the judgment of the eternal fire. But always to infer this in such cases, when, as here, nothing of the kind is hinted in the text, is a great mistake, and introduces a difficulty which is wholly of our own making. That sometimes, at least, the facts are quite the opposite, is expressly certified to us in 1 Cor. xi. 30-32, where we are told that among the Christians of Corinth, many, because of their irreverent approach to the Holy Supper of the Lord, slept the sleep of death; but that these judgments from the Lord, of bodily death, instead of being necessarily intended for their eternal destruction, were sent that they might not finally perish. For the Apostle's words are most explicit; for it is with reference to these cases of sickness and death of which he had spoken, that he adds (ver. 32): "But when we are (thus) judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world."
What we have here before us, then, is not the 244 question of the eternal condemnation of Nadab and Abihu for their thoughtless, though perhaps not so intended, profanation of God's worship,—a point on which the narrative gives us no information,—but, simply and only, the inflicting on them, for this sin, of the judgment of temporal death. And if this yet seem to some undue severity, as no doubt it will, there remain other considerations which deserve to have great weight here. In the first place, if this reveal God as terribly severe in His judgment, even upon what, compared with other crimes, may seem a small sin, we have to remember that, after all, this God of the Bible, this Jehovah of the Old Testament, is only herein revealed as in this respect like the God whose working we see in nature and in history. Was the God of Nadab and Abihu a severe God? Is not the God of nature a terribly severe God? Who then is it that has so appointed the economy of nature that even for one thoughtless indulgence by a young man, he shall be racked with pain all his life thereafter? It is a law of nature, one says. But what is a law of nature but the ordinary operation of the Divine Being who made nature? So let us not forget that the reasoning which, because of the confessed severity of this judgment on the sons of Aaron, argues God out of the tenth of Leviticus, and refuses to believe that this can be a revelation of His mind and character, by parity of reasoning must go on to argue God out of nature and out of history. But if one be not yet ready for the latter, let him take heed how he too hastily decide on this ground against the verity of the history and the truth of the revelation in the case before us.
Then, again, we need to be careful that we pass not judgment before considering all that was involved in 245 this act of sin. We cannot look upon the case as if the act of Nadab and Abihu had been merely a private matter, personal to themselves alone. This it was not, and could not be. They did what they did in their official robes; moreover, it was a peculiarly public act: it took place before the sanctuary, where all the people were assembled. What was the influence of this their act, if it passed unrebuked and unpunished, likely to be? History shows that nothing was more inbred in the nature of the people than just this tendency to will-worship. For centuries after this, notwithstanding many like terrible judgments, it mightily prevailed, taking the form of numberless attempted improvements on the arrangements of worship appointed by God, and introducing, under such pretexts of expediency often the grossest idolatry. And although the Babylonian judgment made an end of the idolatrous form of will-worship, the old tendency persisted, and worked on under a new form till, as we learn from our Lord's words in the Gospel, the people were in His day utterly overwhelmed with "heavy burdens and grievous to be borne," rabbinical additions to the law, attempted improvements on Moses, under pretext of honouring Moses, all begotten of this same inveterate spirit of will-worship. Nor are such things of little consequence, as some seem to imagine, whether we find them among Jews or in Christian communions. On the contrary, all will-worship, in all its endless variety of forms, tends to confuse conscience, by confounding with the commandments of God the practices and traditions of men; and all history, no less of the Church than of Israel, shows that the tendency of all such will-worship is to the subversion alike of morality religion, occasioning, too often, total misapprehension 246 as to what indeed is the essence of religion well pleasing to God.
Was the sin of the priests, Nadab and Abihu, then, committed in such a public manner, such a trifling matter after all? And when we further remember the peculiar circumstances of the occasion,—that the whole ceremonial of the day was designed in a special manner to instruct the people as to the manner in which Jehovah, their King and their God, would be worshipped,—it certainly is not so hard, after all, to see how it was almost imperative that in the very beginning of Israel's national history, God should give them a lesson on the sanctity of His ordinances and His hatred of will-worship, which should be remembered to all time.
The solemn lesson of the terrible judgment, Moses, as Prophet and Interpreter of God's will to the people, declares in these words (ver. 3): "This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh Me, and before all the people I will be glorified."
If God separate a people to be specially near unto Him, it is that, admitted to such special nearness to Himself, they shall ever reverently recognise His transcendent exaltation in holiness, and take care that He be ever glorified in them before all men. But if any be careless of this, God will nevertheless not be defrauded. If they will recognise His august holiness, in the reverence of loyal service, well; God shall thus glorify Himself in them before all. But if otherwise, still God will be glorified in them before all people, though now in their chastisement and in retribution. The principle is that which is announced by Amos (iii. 2): "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I 247 will visit upon you all your iniquities." And when we remember that the sons of Aaron typically represent the whole body of believers in Christ, as a priestly people, it is plain that the warning of this judgment comes directly home to us all. If, as Christians, we have been brought into a relation of special nearness and privilege with God, we have to remember that the place of privilege is, in this case, a place of peculiar danger. If we forget the reverence and honour due to His name, and insist on will-worship of any kind, we shall in some way suffer for it. God may wink at the sins of others, but not at ours. He is a God of love, and desires not our death, but that He may be glorified in our life; but if any will not have it so, He will not be robbed of His glory. Hence the warning of the Apostle Peter, who was so filled with these Old Testament conceptions of God and His worship: "It is written, Ye shall be holy, for I am holy. And if ye call on Him as Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to each man's work, pass the time of your sojourning in fear" (1 Peter i. 17).
Ver. 3: "And Aaron held his peace."
For rebellion were useless; nay, it had been madness. Even the tenderest natural affection must be silent when God smites for sin; and in this case the sin was so manifest, and the connection therewith of the judgment so evident, that Aaron could say nothing, though his heart must have been breaking.
Mourning in Silence.
"And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said unto them, Draw near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp. So they drew near, 248 and carried them in their coats out of the camp; as Moses had said. And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Let not the hair of your heads go loose, neither rend your clothes; that ye die not, and that He be not wroth with all the congregation: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the Lord hath kindled. And ye shall not go out from the door of the tent of meeting, lest ye die: for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you. And they did according to the word of Moses."
Even in ordinary cases, restrictions were placed upon Aaron and his sons as regards the outward signs of mourning; but exceptions were made in the case of the nearest relations, and, in particular, of the death of a son, or a brother (chap. xxi. 2). In this case, however, this permission could not be given; and they are warned that by public expressions of grief they would not only bring death from the Lord upon themselves, but also bring His wrath upon the whole congregation which they represented before God. They are not indeed forbidden to mourn in their hearts, but from all the outward and customary signs of mourning they must abstain. And the reason for this is given; "The anointing oil of the Lord is upon you." That is, by the anointing they had been set apart to represent God before Israel. Hence, when God had thus manifested His holy wrath against sin, for them to have exhibited the public signs of mourning for this, even though the stroke of wrath had fallen into their own family, would have been a visible contradiction between their actions and their priestly position. To others, indeed, these outward tokens of mourning are expressly permitted, for they stood in no such special relation to God; their brethren, "the whole house of Israel," might bewail the burning which the Lord had kindled, but they, although nearest of kin to the dead, are not 249 permitted even to follow the slain of the Lord to the grave, and (vv. 4, 5) the sad duty is assigned to their cousins, who bear the dead, in their white priestly robes, just as they had fallen, out of the camp to burial, while Aaron and his sons mourn silently within the tent of meeting.
This has seemed hard to many, and has furnished some another illustration of the hardness and severity of the character of God as held up in the Pentateuch. But we shall do well to remember that in all this we have nothing which in any respect goes beyond the very solemn words of the tender-hearted and most compassionate Saviour, who said, for example, "If any man cometh unto Me, and hateth not his own father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, ... he cannot be My disciple" (Luke xiv. 26). In language such as this, we cannot but recognise the same character as in this command unto Aaron and his sons; and if such "hard sayings" are to be held reason for rejecting the revelation of the character of God as given in the Old Testament, the same logic, in the presence of similar words, will require us also to reject the revelation of God's character as given by Christ in the New Testament.
The teaching of both Testaments on this matter is plain. Natural affection is right; it is indeed implanted in our hearts by the God who made us in all our human relations. But none the less, whenever the feelings which belong even to the nearest and tenderest earthly relations come into conflict with absolute fealty and submission to the will of God, and unswerving loyalty to the will of Christ, then, hard though indeed it may be, natural affection must give way, and mourn within the tent in the silence of a holy submission to the Lord.
Carefulness after Judgment.
"And the Lord spake unto Aaron, saying, Drink no wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tent of meeting, that ye die not: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: and that ye may put difference between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean; and that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses. And Moses spake unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons that were left, Take the meal offering that remaineth of the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and eat it without leaven beside the altar: for it is most holy: and ye shall eat it in a holy place, because it is thy due, and thy sons' due, of the offerings of the Lord made by fire: for so I am commanded. And the wave breast and the heave thigh shall ye eat in a clean place; thou, and thy sons, and thy daughters with thee: for they are given as thy due, and thy sons' due, out of the sacrifices of the peace offerings of the children of Israel. The heave thigh and the wave breast shall they bring with the offerings made by fire of the fat, to wave it for a wave offering before the Lord: and it shall be thine, and thy sons' with thee, as a due for ever; as the Lord hath commanded. And Moses diligently sought the goat of the sin offering, and, behold, it was burnt: and he was angry with Eleazar and with Ithamar, the sons of Aaron that were left, saying, Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, seeing it is most holy, and He hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord? Behold, the blood of it was not brought into the sanctuary within: ye should certainly have eaten it in the sanctuary, as I commanded. And Aaron spake unto Moses, Behold, this day have they offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord; and there have befallen me such things as these: and if I had eaten the sin offering to-day, would it have been well-pleasing in the sight of the Lord? And when Moses heard that, it was well-pleasing in his sight."
Such a judgment as the foregoing ought to have had a good effect, and it did. This appeared in renewed carefulness to secure the most exact obedience hereafter in all their official duties. To this end, the Lord Himself now laid down a law evidently designed to preclude, 251 as far as possible, every risk of any such fault in the priestly service as might again bring down judgment. It is not only holiness, but considerate and anxious love, which speaks in the next words, addressed to Aaron (vv. 8, 9): "Drink no wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tent of meeting, that ye die not: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations."
And for this prohibition the reason is given (vv. 10, 11): "That ye may put difference between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean; and that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses."
It was not then that the use of wine was in itself sinful; for this is taught nowhere in the Old or New Testament, and as a doctrine of religion is characteristic, not of Judaism or Christianity, but only of Mohammedanism, of Buddhism and other heathen religions. The ground of this command of abstinence, as of the New Testament counsel (Rom. xiv. 20, 21), is that of expediency. Because, in the use of wine or strong drink, there was involved a certain risk, that by undue indulgence the judgment might be confused or the memory weakened, so that something might be done amiss; therefore the priests, who were specially commissioned to teach the statutes of the Lord to Israel, and this most of all, by their own carefulness to obey all the least of His commandments, are here warned to abstain whenever about engaging in their official duties. As suggested above, it is at least very natural to infer, from the historical setting of this prohibition, that the fatal offence of Nadab and Abihu was occasioned by such an indulgence in wine or strong drink as made it 252 possible for impulse to get the better of knowledge and judgment.
But, however this may be, the lesson for us abides the same; a lesson which each one according to his circumstances must faithfully apply to his own case. For the Christian it is not enough that he shall abstain from what is in its own nature always sinful; it must be the law of our life that we abstain also from whatever may needlessly become occasion of sin. In this we cannot, indeed, lay down a universal code of law. Heathen reformers have done this, and their imitators in the Church, but never Christ or His Apostles. And this with reason. For that which for one carries with it inevitable risk of sin, is not always fraught with the same danger to another person with a different temperament, or even to the same person under different circumstances. In each instance we must judge for ourselves, taking heed not to abuse our liberty to another's harm; and also, on the other hand, being careful how we judge others in regard to things which in their essential nature are neither right nor wrong. But we shall be wise to recognise the fact that it is just in such things that many Christians do most harm, both to their own souls and to those of others. And in regard to the drinking of wine in particular, one must be blind indeed not to perceive it to be the fact that, whatever the reason may be, the English-speaking peoples seem to be peculiarly susceptible to the danger of undue indulgence in wine and strong drink. On both sides of the Atlantic, drunkenness must be set down as one of the most prevalent national sins.
In deciding the question of personal duty in this and like cases, all believers are bound, as the Lord's priestly people, to remember that He has appointed them that 253 they should walk before Him as a separated people, who, by their daily walk, above all, are to teach others to "put a difference between holy and common, and unclean and clean, and to observe all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken."
In vv. 12-15 we have a repetition of the commandments previously given, concerning the use to be made of the meal-offering and the peace-offering. From this it appears that Moses himself, in view of the tragic occurrence of the day, was stirred up to charge Aaron and his sons anew on matters on which he had already commanded them. And with this intensified care on his part is evidently connected the incident recorded in the verses which follow, where we read that, having repeated the directions as to the meal-offering and the peace-offering (vv. 16, 17), "Moses diligently sought the goat of the sin offering, and, behold, it was burnt; and he was angry with Eleazar and with Ithamar, the sons of Aaron that were left, saying, Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, seeing it is most holy, and He hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord?"
It had indeed been commanded, in the case of those sin-offerings of which the blood was brought into the holy place, that their flesh should not be eaten; but that the flesh of all others should be eaten, as belonging to the class of things "most holy," by the priests alone within the Holy Place. Hence Moses continued (ver. 18): "Behold, the blood of it was not brought into the sanctuary within: ye should certainly have eaten it in the sanctuary, as I commanded."
What had been done, as it appears, had been done with Aaron's knowledge and sanction; for Aaron then 254 answered in behalf of his sons (ver. 19): "Behold, this day have they offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord; and there have befallen me such things as these: and if I had eaten the sin offering to-day, would it have been well-pleasing in the sight of the Lord?"
Of which answer, the intention seems to have been this. In this day of special exaltation and privilege, when for the first time they had performed their solemn priestly duties, when most of all there should have been the utmost care to please the Lord in the very smallest things, His holy Name had been profaned by the will-worship of his sons, and the wrath of God had broken out against them, and, in them, against their father's house. Could it be the will of God that a house in which was found the guilt of such a sin, should yet partake of the most holy things of God in the sanctuary?
From this it appears that the judgment sent into the house of Aaron had had a most wholesome spiritual effect. They had received such an impression of their own profound sinfulness as they had never had before. And it is very instructive to observe that they assume to themselves a part in the sinfulness which had been shown in the sin of Nadab and Abihu. It did not occur to Aaron or his remaining sons to say, in the spirit of Israel in the day of our Lord, "If we had been in their place, we would not have done so." Rather their consciences had been so awakened to the holiness of God and their own inborn evil, that they coupled themselves with the others as under the displeasure of God. Was it possible, even though they personally had not sinned, that such as they should eat that which was most holy unto God? They had thus in the letter disobeyed the law; but because their 255 offence was begotten of a misapprehension, and only showed how deeply and thoroughly they had taken to heart the lesson of the sore judgment, we read that "when Moses heard" their explanation, "it was well pleasing in his sight."
All this which followed the sin of Nadab and Abihu, and the judgment which fell on them, and thus upon the whole house of Aaron, is a most instructive illustration of the working of the chastising judgments of the Lord, when rightly received. Its effect was to awaken the utmost solicitude that nothing else might be found about the tabernacle service, even through oversight, which was not according to the mind of God; and, in those immediately stricken, to produce a very profound sense of personal sinfulness and unworthiness before God. The New Testament gives us a graphic description of this effect of the chastisement of God on the believer, in the account which we have of the result of the discipline which the Apostle Paul inflicted on the sinning member of the Church of Corinth; concerning which he afterward wrote to them (2 Cor. vii. 11): "Behold, this selfsame thing, that ye were made sorry after a godly sort, what earnest care it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what longing, yea, what zeal, yea, what avenging!"
A good test is this, which, when we have passed under the chastising hand of God, we may well apply to ourselves: this "earnest care," this "clearing of ourselves," this holy fear of a humbled heart,—have we known what it means? If so, though we sorrow, we may yet rejoice that by grace we are enabled to sorrow "after a godly sort," with "a repentance which bringeth no regret."
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