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Eminence, did I say? No. Let us join the innocent, cheerful society in the tent of Moses, and learn to cultivate the endearing charities of private life ; and, having considered it well, let us retire, making such reflections as these
That it is not fortitude, but folly, unnecessarily to expose ourselves, or those whom we love, to hardships and danger. “If any provide not for his owo, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."* It is our care, not our labour and reflection, which we are encouraged to cast upon God.
That it argues a deficiency in some moral principle or another, when persons whom nature, and the obligations of society have united, discover an inclination to live asunder. Wisdom or necessity may impose a temporary separation : but well-disposed minds ever look to, and eagerly lay hold of the means and the season of restoration and union.
That regard to public utility, exalts and improves private friendship.
That to promote the glory of God, his own virtue, and the good of his fellow creatures, is the great and constant aim of every good man.
That as nonc are too wise too learn, it is a proof of affection to communicate useful hints; and a high proof of wisdom to take and use them, from whatever quarter they come. There is one Being only who is not to be instructed. • How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out ; for who hath known the mind of the Lord ? or who hath been his counsellor.”+
And finally that, though we cannot successfully imitate eminent men in every particular of conduct, or in the display of talents which may be denied to ourselves, we are not thereby precluded from the exercise of the inferior talents which we possess, and liom a virtuous emulation where it is possible for us to succeed. Let me strive to be a Moses in some things, though I be conscious I must fall inconceivably behind him in most. Amen.
HISTORY OF MOSES.
· LECTURE XVII.
EXODUS XIX, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22.
And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and % thick cloud apon the mount, and ihe voice of the trumpet exceeding loud ; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire ; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a for nace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. And the Lord came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount, and Moses went up. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go down, charge ihre people, lest they break through upto the Lord to gaze, and many of them
the priests also, which come near to the Lord, sanctify ihemselves, lesi the Lord break forth upon them.
In man, as he came perfect from the hands of his Creator, the immortal principle, the “ breath of life," " the living soul” exercised its just dominion over the earthly and sensual part of his nature. In man, degraded by sin, we behold the grosser domineering over the purer, the heavenly subjected to the terrestrial, the soul a slave to the senses. When our nature through grace shall be restored, the soul shall resume its empire ; the body itself shall become spiritual, shall shake off the power of gravitation, and “ascend to meet the Lord in the air,” being “ fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body."
The dispensations of Heaven are suited to the condition of man. "God knows our frame, and remembereth that we are dust.” He makes sense his road to the mind : he seizes the conscience, and melts the heart, by speaking to the eyes and the ears. And when we consider how easily, and through how many different channels he can force his way to the inmost recesses of the man, who but must shudder at the thought of meeting the Father of spirits, ourselves disembodied spirits; at the thought of dropping the clay tabernacle in its native dust, and of becoming all eye to see God as he is, all ear to hear his voice, all soul to perceive and comprehend him! If God, encouraging and amiable in purifying and directing fire, in the cloudy pillar, and in harmless, unconsuming fire in the bush at Horeb, be awful; if dreadful at Sinai, coming in flashing, dazzling, threatening fire to promulgate his law; what must he be “ coming in flaming fire to take vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ ?" If the sound of that trumpet, which proclaimed the approach of God to Israel, was ready to kill the living with fear, what must be the trumpet which shall awake the dead? Whatever majesty and solemnity may appear in the giving of the law, every one sball in a little while behold it infinitely exceeded in the consummation of the gospel.
God has hitherto declared his divine perfections by the effects which they produced. The plagues of Egypt awfully manifested his power and justice The daily showers of manga, and water following them from the rock, bespea
his power and goodness. But he now opens his mouth, to proclaim in the ears of men, his name, his nature and his will. Let us, with Israel, at a trembling distance contemplate this great sight, and listen with reverence to the Almighty uttering his voice.
The posterity of Abraham, according to the promise, is now become a great nation. But what are multitudes without goveroment, and what government is a blessing without law ? Happiness consists not in having such and such possessions, but in being fitted to enjoy what we have. The constitution of other states is the work of time, is the result of experience, arrives at maturity by degrees. Laws and restrictions, encouragements and restraints are suggested by events. But when the great Jehovah condescends to become a legislator, the utmost extent of possibility lying open to his view, provision is made from the beginning for every case that can happen. The rule of his government is laid down at once; and the civil and religious constitution of that nation over which he chose to preside, is established by a wisdom which cannot err.
It was not unpleasant, as we were contemplating the scene exhibited in the preceding chapter, to listen to a wise and good man giviog advice with respect to the administration of public justice. But we now tread upon holy ground; and we listen not to a man like ourselves, but to the only wise God. The whole taken together unfolds an unparalleled display of mercy and majesty, of goodness and grandeur.
Forty-seven days have now elapsed, since that night much to be remembered," when the destroying angel walked through the midst of Egypt, and slew all the first-born. And how many singular and interesting events have taken place in that short period ? The Red Sea has been divided ; the bitter waters of Marah sweetened; bread from heaven rained down; a living stream extracted from the flinty rock in Horeb; Amalek discomfited! Whether of the two shall we most admire, the greatness of the works which God performs, or the facility with which he brings them to pass ? What a high value are we taught to put upon time, when we see to what valuable purposes, through the blessing and assistance of Heaven, a little time may be made subservient.
Three days more are employed in making solemn preparation for this celestial visitation ; so that the law was delivered exactly on the fiftieth day after the celebration of the feast of passover : and in commemoration of it, the Jewish feast of Pentecost was ever after observed and rendered illustrious in the annals of the christian church, by a new dispensation, not of terror but of grace; the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles of our Lord, in the miraculous gift of tongues. Even the minute circumstances of times and places, may have a significancy and an importance of which we have at present no apprehension. And I am fully persuaded, when God shall be pleased to vouchsafe us clearer light, and fresh Ciscoveries of his will, numberless instances of coincidence and resemblance between the legal and evangelical dispensations shall rush upon us, of which we can now form no conception. Why God has appointed the seventh day to be the weekly sabbath ; why the law was proclaimed from Mount Sinai just after seven times seven days had elapsed from the going out of Egypt; why, in the possession of Canaan, the land was to be permitted to rest every seventh year; why the general release, or year of jubilee, was to be statedly observed, after a constant revolution of seven times seven years; and why the Holy Ghost was given “ when the day of Pentecost was fully come,” or after seven times seven days from the day that “ Christ our passover was sacrificed for us? These are questions which we pretend not to resolve. But certain it is these things have a meaning: “I koow it not now, but I shall know it hereafter."
Sinai, the scene of this splendid exhibition is the highest eminence of a vast ridge of mountains, which run from east to west through Arabia Petrea, as you go from the north-east coast of the Red Sea to Palestine. The adjoining eminence is called Horeb, and is rendered illustrious by the miracle of the water issuing from the rock. And from their propinquity, and their forming part of the same chain of mountains, they are often put the one for the other ; and the adjacent desert country is called, indifferently, the wilderness of Horeb, or the wilderness of Sinai.
Moses was first called up into the mount alone, and thence sent back to the people with repeated messages full of tenderness and love. Preparation was made for the tremendous appearance of the glory of the Lord, by the most gracious and reiterated assurances of favour and protection. This is the endearing language which the great God condescends to employ on the occasion; “ Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bear you on eagle's wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel." The beautiful image of the eagle, and her young ones, is happy beyond expression, and evidently proceeds from Him from whose view no part of the world of nature lies concealed. The natural history of that king of the feathered race, were this the time and the place to introduce it, would be the best commentary on the passage. But we may at least stop to illustrate, by comparing it with the same image, delineated by the same masterly hand, with still greater strength of colouring, and greater force and variety of expression. “For the Lord's portion is his people ; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings; so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange God with him. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock."* The sagacity and vigilance of the eagle in providing the means of support and safety for her callow brood, her strength and fierceness in de fending them, her tender sympathy with their weakness, her anxiety to hasten on their maturity and capacity to provide for themselves, the pains which she takes to instruct them to fly, as they are all fully justified by facts, so they are conveyed to us in language the most simple, plain and elegant; and raise us to the contemplation of an object, of all others the sublimest, sweetest, most interesting and most composing to the soul. They represent to us, the all-comprehending view of eternal Providence, the never-sleeping eye of the Watchman of Israel, the unassailable protection of the heavenly Guardian, the more than maternal care, diligence and zeal which Jehovah continually exercises over them that are his. Happy is that people that is in such a case ; yea, “ happy is that people whose God is the Lord.”+
As the friendship between God and Abraham, the father and founder of that great nation, commenced and was confirmed in the solemn ratification of a covenant, performed according to rights of God's own appointing ; so the political existence and importance of that nation were directed to take their rise in the cutting or dividing a covenant, with similar solemnities. And this was the tenor, these were the conditions of it. On the part of Israel, in one word, obedience to the voice of God; submission in all things to the will of
* Deut. xxxii. 9, &c
their best friend, and kindest benefactor, who could have nothing in view but their happiness. On the part of God, the promise of a profusion of blessings temporal, spiritual and everlasting ; a rank among the nations, which should render them the envy and wonder of the world; an establishment, which length of time should not impair; a succession of prophets, of priests and of princes, which was to issue in the eternal priesthood and unlimited sovereignty of one, whose government was to be an universal and everlasting blessing to them and to mankind. “ Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people : for all the earth is mine." Segulah, " a peculiar treasure, something exceedingly prized and sedulously preserved, a gem of peculiar lustre and value, which an affluent and powerful prince culls out from among many, takes under his own particular charge, and will not entrust to the care of another.
Moses takes up this striking idea again in that beautiful song of praise, in which, at the close of life, he recapitulates the wonderful ways of Providence to that chosen family : “ The Lord's portion is his people : Jacob is the lot of his inheritance."* The promise which follows in the sixth verse, is wonderfully calculated to inspire ideas of dignity and importance : 6 Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” They had just left a country where the priesthood was held in high estimation; where the persons of those who bore that sacred character were inviolable, and their property exempted from the imposts which were laid upon that of other subjects. But the peculiar respect paid to this order of men, and the immunities which they enjoyed, served only to expose more glaringly the contrast, the degradation and distress of the great body of the people. Whereas here was a whole nation destined of Heaven to equal honours; not a king and subjects, but a commonwealth of kings; not one ministering at the altar in the name of thousands, one admitted within the veil, and myriads removed to an humbling, mortifying distance: but a kingdom of priests, an holy nation, majesty and sanctity in one.
These are the words which Moses is commanded to rehearse in the ears of all the people. Having descended from the mount, he collects them accordingly by their elders; the men first in age, first in wisdom, first in dignity and authority; and delivers to them the high message which he had in charge. Impressed at once with the power and grace of their heavenly King, they as one man reply, “ All that the Lord hath spoken we will do." Which answer Moses again reports to his dread Employer. Thus, in the very preparatives for the publication of the law, the mediation of the gospel was clearly taught and inculcated ; and thus throughout we perceive that guilty creatures can have no safe por comfortable access to a holy God, but by means of “a daysman to lay his hands upon both ;' and thus, the very minister of a fiery law exhibited a type of that great High Priest, at once “ merciful and faithful ;'* “ faithful in the things pertaining to God ;" * merciful, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”
Moses is upon this informed, that God intended on the third day from that time to manifest himself to all the people as the Leader and Ruler of that vast army, and as the Employer and Patron of Moses his prophet, in a manner that should leave no room to doubt in whose name he spake, and by what authority he acted: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee forever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the Lord.” “I come to thee in a thick cloud.” God already resided among Israel, and prea sided over them in a pillar of fire and a cloud. But whatever be the medium of communication between the Deity and his creatures, it is capable of being increased and improved beyond imagination. There is a darkness grossor,