|They were as it were, complainers| (Num. xi.1).
There is a very remarkable phrase in the book of Numbers, in the account of the murmuring of the children of Israel in the wilderness. It reads like this: |When the people, as it were, murmured.| Like most marginal readings it is better than the text, and a great world of suggestive truth lies back of that little sentence.
In the distance we may see many a vivid picture rise before our imagination of people who do not dare to sin openly and unequivocally, but manage to do it |as it were| only. They do not lie straight, but they evade or equivocate, or imply enough falsehood to escape a real conviction of conscience. They do not openly accuse God of unkindness or unfaithfulness, but they strike at Him through somebody else. They find fault with circumstances and people and things that God has permitted to come into their lives, and, |As it were,| murmur. They do not perhaps go any farther. They feel like doing it if they dared to |charge God foolishly.|
These things were written for our warning.