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and a cloud thicker and more awfully impregnated, than any of which we have had experience. There is a voice louder, and a glory brighter than any 'which we have heard or seen. Who can declare, who can conceive the utmost extent of the power of the Almighty? There is a splendour infinitely superiour to that of "the sun shining in his strength." There may be an angel excelling in might: "Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God." Know we ever so much, there is a field of discovery before us infinite as the immensity of JEHOVAH, to employ a duration of inquiry endless as his eternity.
A command is now issued to the people to employ themselves that day and the next in solemn preparation for this august visit. They are directed, as an external mark of respect to the most holy God, as a token of obedience, and as an indication of inward purity, to wash their clothes, to abstain from whatever might defile the body or the mind, and even to deny themselves such innocent and lawful gratifications as might have a tendency to disturb their attention and distract their thoughts. When God came to give the law, he came after solemn warning, he gave evident signs of his approach, he declared to a moment when he was to be heard and seen in his majesty. But, when he shall come to execute the law, we are informed that he shall take the world by surprise, that men may be always ready. “Behold I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee."* "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come."+ "Be ye also ready : for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh."‡
When but a friend or neighbour is expected to visit us, decency requires that our persons, our houses, or entertainment, be rendered as inoffensive and as acceptable as we can make them. The anxiety which men feel, and the pains which they take to receive and entertain their superiours, is too well known to need any remark. It is only when the King of kings, and the Lord of lords announces his approach, that men are incurious, unceremonious, careless and indifferent.
The great Jehovah was to manifest himself first to the eye. "Be ready against the third day; for the third day the Lord will come down, in the sight of all the people, upon Mount Sinia." All is hitherto attractive and encouraging. The face of God is clothed with smiles. He comes "to dwell with men upon earth." But the grace and condescension of God, while they invite to the communications of friendship, forbid the boldness and freedom of familiarity. While he makes himself known as a Father, a Protector, a Guide, he permits us not to forget that he is at the same time" a great God, and a great King." Therefore a strict injunction is given in the twelfth and thirteenth verses, "And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall surely be put to death. There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, ye shall come up to the mount." This last expression, "When the trumpet soundeth long, ye shall come up to the mount," is evidently a caution and a threatening, not an invitation; and seems to import, "Let him who dares, presume to approach nearer; let him come up into the mount, if he will." At the sound of that tremendous trumpet, they were ready to sink into the earth with terror instead of desiring or attempting a nearer intercourse with the great and terrible God, who hath put all nature into consternation.
As they were commanded, so they did. All impurity is carefully removed; and they see, in solemn silence and earnest expectation, in hope mingled with fear, the gradual approach of this all-important, this eventful day.
+ Ver. 44.
* Rev. iii. 3.
Matt. xxiv. 42.
At length, in all its pomp and importance, the third day arrives. Every creature, every element feels and gives witness to the appearance of its God. Heaven and earth, angels and men, the water and the land, air and fire, announce the presence of their great Creator and Ruler. I tremble as I read. What must it have been to see and hear? "And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders, and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled." Lo, the hoarse thunder is lost in the louder sound of the trumpet; and that awful sound, in its turn sinks into silence, before the all-penetrating, all-commanding accents of the voice of God himself. The thick darkness of a cloud, impregnated with the terrors of divine justice, threatens one moment to extinguish forever hope and joy; and that darkness the next moment is dispelled by the more terrible flashes of celestial fire. How poor the state of an earthly prince compared to this! "God maketh his angels spirits, his ministers a flame of fire." What heart is not melted in the midst of this wild uproar? There is not an object of astonishment which we are acquainted with, but what enters into this description. Thunder, lightning, blackness of darkness, tempest, earthquake, the trumpet of God; and all these are but the coverings of terror, the harbingers of majesty and might. Behold, God is in the thunder, in the lightning, in the tempest, in the earthquake! they are mere instruments to do his pleasure.
But we are directed to one object perfectly placid and composed in the midst of tumult and confusion: "even when the voice of the trumpet sounded long and waxed exceeding loud," Moses possessed his soul in patience. "Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice." It is guilt that gives force to fire, that lends fury to the stormy wind, that shakes the earth by first shaking the soul. Faith in God controls the elements, and soothes the soul to rest in communion with God, as the child falls asleep in the fond maternal boson.
Moses comes up at the command of Him who is King and Lord of nature, and therefore he has nothing to fear. The three children fall down bound in the midst of the burning fiery furnace, but the flames have no power to kindle upon them; they consume only the cords with which they are bound; they themselves walk at liberty through the midst of the fire; they rest as on a bed of roses, for behold another is in company with them, and "the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." Daniel sleeps secure in the den among lions, more composedly than Darius in his palace, surrounded by his officers and guards; he sleeps calmly, as a father in the midst of his children. He who fears God has nothing else to fear.
But what new doctrine is to be usherd in under all this formidable apparatus? What law, unknown, unheard of before, is to be introduced and enforced by ceremonies so dreadfully august and solemn? Just that which was from the beginning, that which the finger of God more silently and curiously interwove with the very texture and frame of the human soul. The voice of God says, from the heights of Sinai, none other things than those which conscience speaks to every man, from the deep recesses of his own breast. It is this that gives weight to both the law and the gospel. They have their counterpart in the nature and condition of man. They are of God, who knows what is in man and what is good for man.
But can He whose "presence fills heaven and earth," change his place? Can God be said to ascend, or descend? The devout eye sees him in every creature, in every place, in every event. The pious soul feels and acknowledges him incessantly. But to rouse stupidity, to reprove carelessness, to convince infidelity, God must assume state, clothe himself with thunder, involve the top of Sinai in clouds, and shake its foundation. As in the composure of
Moses we behold the confidence of divine friendship, and the security arising from union with God, so in the caution which is given in the twenty-first verse, "Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish," we see the danger of unlicensed curiosity, of presumptuous boldness. Fire and darkness equally repel and intimidate, equally compose and encourage. All the dealings of God with man, are “line upon line, and precept upon precept."
The similitude of the legal and evangelical dispensations, and their difference, would necessarily occupy a much larger portion of your time and attention than now remains. It were better, therefore, to bring them together in one discourse calculated for the purpose.
I conclude the present Lecture with simply reading two or three short passages of scripture, closely connected with and serving to illustrate our subject; written at two very different periods, and in two very different states of the church. The first is in the history of Elijah, the great restorer of the law, near six hundred years afterward. "And he rose, and did eat, and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights, unto Horeb, the mount of God. And he came thither unto a cave and lodged there. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him; and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even 1 only am left; and they seek my life to take it away. And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And behold the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire, a still hall voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave: and behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah ? And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only am left, and they seek my life, to take it away."* The second is the winding up of that wonderful comparison and contrast of the law and the gospel, which constitute the great body of the epistle to the Hebrews, and which the apostle sums up in these remarkable words, sixty-four years after the advent of Jesus Christ. "For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more. For they could not endure that which was commanded. And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart. And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake. But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels: to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect. And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh: for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we es
1 Kings, xix. 8, &c,
cape if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven; whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire."*
HISTORY OF MOSES.
JOSHUA I. 17.
According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the Lord thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses.
JOHN I. 17.
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
IN forming estimates of greatness, it is natural for men to consult their senses, not their reason. With the idea of royal majesty we connect those of a chair of state, a numerous and splendid retinue, an ermine robe, a sceptre and a crown. But wisdom and goodness are the qualities which confer real dignity, and command just homage and respect. Our preconceptions of earthly magnificence much exceed the truth, and knowledge speedily levels the fabric which imagination had raised. But the wonders of nature, the mighty works of God, grow upon us as we contemplate them. No intimacy of acquaintance reduces their magnitude or tarnishes their lustre. And if the very frame of nature, the vastness, the variety, the harmony and the splendour of the visible creation be calculated to fill us with astonishment and delight, how must the plan of Providence, the work of redemption, the great mystery of godliness, excel in glory!
In the discoveries which it has pleased God, at sundry times and in diverse manners to make of himself to mankind, he has at one time addressed himself directly to the understanding at another, made his way to the heart and conscience through the channel of sense. The law was given in every circumstance of external pomp; it was accompanied with every thing that could dazzle the eye, fill the ear, and rouse the imagination. The kingdom of God, in the gospel of his "Son, came not with observation." The great Author of the dispensation of grace, according as it was predicted concerning him, "did not strive nor cry, nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets." He had, in the eyes of an undiscerning world, "no form nor comeliness, no beauty why he should be desired." And therefore "he was despised and rejected of
*Heb. xii. 18, &c.
men." But we are taught to think very differently of his second appearance. "He shall come in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory:” “In his Father's glory, and all his holy angels :" "With the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God." The manner of delivering the law corresponded with its nature. It was clothed with thunder. It was surrounded with the blackness of darkness. It emitted flaming fire. It denounced death. The spirit of the gospel, in like manner, breathed in the mode of its publication. The doctrine of peace and reconciliation was delivered to men, in the tenderest accents of human friendship. And temporal mercies and deliverances prepared the way for "spiritual and heavenly blessings in Christ Jesus."
We are now to bring these two dispensations together, and to compare the one with the other, in order that we may discover and admire that uniformity of design which they jointly aim at promoting, the mutual lustre which they shed upon, and the mutual aid which they lend to, each other.
By "the law" we understand the whole of that scheme of the divine providence which related to the posterity of Abraham; the promises which were made to them, the ordinances prescribed, the character which they bear, the events which befel them, from the day in which that patriarch left his kindred and country, till the day when the whole was swallowed up and lost in the persons, doctrines, ordinances, life, sufferings and death of Him, who was held up from the beginning as the great, leading, commanding object in the eternal eye! the accomplishment of the promises, the substance of the types and shadows, the "end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."
Moses and Christ frequently speak of their mutual relation and resemblance. "I will raise them up," says God by Moses, "a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words, which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him."* "Search the scriptures," says Christ, "for in them ye think ye have eternal life and they are they which testify of me. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words ?"+
The persons, characters and offices of the two legislators, therefore, naturally fall to be first considered, in tracing the resemblance of the two covenants which were established with mankind through their mediation.
Of the birth of Moses, and salvation to Israel by him, there seems to have been a general expectation in his own nation, and an apprehension of such an event as general in the minds of the Egyptians. Hence the bloody decree of Pharaoh to destroy from the womb all the male children of the Hebrews; and hence, on the other hand, that eagerness to save a child, who, from the moment of its birth, exhibited unequivocal signs of his future greatness and usefulness. When Christ came into the world, multitudes were looking for the "Consolation of Israel." The prophecies concerning the promises of the Messiah, were evidently hastening to fulfil themselves. The Jews expected their king: Herod dreaded a rival. The person of the promised Saviour was pointed out by signs in heaven, and signs on earth, which it was impossible to misunderstand. An extraordinary star describes an unknown path through the air to the place of his birth. A multitude of the heavenly host proclaim the joyful event to the shepherds. It was revealed unto Simeon by the Holy Ghost, "that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ." Conducted of the Spirit he came into the temple at the moment
*Deut. xviii. 18, 19.
John v. 59, &e.
Luke ii. 26.