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every thing into judgment. O Lord, open thou our eyes, that we may behold Thee, and every other object shall instantly disappear.
The words which follow, if any thing can increase their intrinsic force and importance, derive a peculiar energy and value to the christian world, as the passage quoted by our blessed Lord, from an authority which they could not deny, to confute the Sadducees, on the subject of the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection of the body. “ I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." We speak of the dead, under the idea that they were; but God represents them as still existing, and his relation to them as unbroken, his care of them as uninterrupted. The effect which this declaration had upon Moses, is such as might have been expected; no more "turning aside to see this great sight;" he hides his face, “afraid to look upon God.” It is ignorance of God, not intimate communion, which encourages forwardness and freedom. Angels, who know him best, and love him most, are most sensible of their distance and are represented as “covering their faces with their wings” when they approach their dread Creator.
In the declaration which immediately follows, under a sanction so solemn and affecting, which shall we most admire, the mercy and goodness of God, or his perfect wisdom and foreknowledge ? Four hundred years have elapsed since this wretched state of his posterity had been foretold and revealed to Abraham. For wise and gracious purposes it was appointed and brought to pass. But the days of darkness are now almost ended, and the sun returns. Like rain from heaven to a dry and thirsty land, the promises of favour and salvation fall upon a persecuted, oppressed people ; and “ that Moses whom they refused, saying, 'Who made thee a ruler and judge ?” is after an interval of forty years sent back to Egypt, on the kind, merciful errand of salvation to an oppressed and persecuted people.
Moses however, it would appear, has not forgotten the surly reception which his well meant interposition had met with from his brethren so long before ; and presumes to urge it as a reason, why a person of more influence and authority should be entrusted with the commission.
He considered not, that formerly he acted from the impulse of his own mind; with indeed an upright and benevolent intention, bui with a zeal rather too bold and impetuous; whereas now, he was following the direction of Providence, and was therefore certain of success. As there is a sinful pride which urges men to seek stations and employments, to which they have neither pretension, title, nor qualification; so there is a sinful humility, which shrinks from the call of God, which, in the guise of self denial, contains the spirit of rebellion and disobedience; and which, under the affectation of undervaluing and debasing our own persons and qualities, indirectly charges God with foolishness in choosing an instrument so inapt and improper. Such humility is of the very essence of pride, and such, with regret we observe it, was the spirit by which Moses was on this occasion actuated. The heavenly vision removes the objection at once, by assuring him of the divine presence, blessing and support, and refers him for the proof of it, to a train of events closely succeeding each other; and all issuing in the people's assembling together, in that very spot, to worship, after their enfranchisement, all forming a chain of evidence, that the authority under which he acted was divine.
Still doubting and irresolute, Moses ventures to urge another difficulty, which he expresses in these terms; “ And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, the God of your fathers hath sent me unto you : and they shall say unto me what is his name? What shall I say unto them?” God had already declared his name, and purpose, and given his charge, and yet Moses dares to make inquiry. How rare à thing it is, to see a soul wholly' resolved into the will of God! How seldon do we find a faith entirely disposed to be, to do, and to endure, neither more nor less than what God is pleased to appoint! Bat the incredulity and presumption of Moses shall not render the design of God of none effect. When men are contradicted or opposed, they fly out, and storm, and threaten. But the great God bears with our frowardness and folly, gives way to our scruples, and, yielding to our obstinacy, overcomes evil with good. And we are almost tempted to rejoice that Moses stood out so long, as it gave occasion to the most solemn and satisfying proclamation of the name and nature of God, from his own mouth, and the most amiable and engaging picture of tender mercy and longsuffering thai ever was exhibited. " And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: And he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you."
What flimsy things are commissions issued under the handwriting and seals of kings, compared to this! a shred of parchment, a morsel of wax, an unmeaning scrawl: a slender, contracted, shortlived power, delegated from one worm to another. Where is now the signet of Ahasuerus, which pretended to communicate irreversible authority to the writing whereto it was affixed ? Where are the warrants under which the statesmen and heroes of other times deliberated, fought and conquered! With the princes who granted them they are gone to oblivion. They were what they were. They fulfilled their day, and then they fell asleep, and now are seen no more ! What avail the long list of empty titles, which potentates and princes, in the pride of their hearts, affix to their perishing names ? All, all shrink and fade, before that tremendous Power, whose authority no change of circumstances can affect, whose existence no succession of ages can impair; who, yesterday, to-day and forever still proclaims of himself, “ I AM."
Nothing can equal the simplicity, sublimity and force of these remarkable words. Independency of existence, eternity of duration, immutability of purpose, faithfulness and truth in keeping covenant and shewing mercy, are all conveyed in one little sentence, “I AM THAT I Am.” Longinus, the celebrated critic, has with equal judgment and taste, quoted a well known passage from the writings of Moses, as an instance of the true sublime, viz. the first words pronounced by the Creator in the formation of the world, “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.” Why did not Longinus dip deeper into the works of this great historian ; why did he not enrich and embellish his own beautiful little book, and farther approve his exquisite taste, by inserting other passages from the page of inspiration, particularly the passage under review ? A passage which Jews, Heathens and Christians, as one man, have consented to admire.
Under the sanction of this most awful name, God repeats his commission, repeats his charge, repeats his promise of support, assistance and success; success with the elders of Israel ; success with the people; success against Pharaoh. And yet, Moses “staggers at this promise," although it be the promise of the Eternal, “ through unbelief !” What have we most to wonder at here, the strange incredulity and perverseness of the prophet, or the singular fidelity and exactness of the historian, in recording his own errors ? God had said, “ they shall hearken to thy voice:" yet Moses presumes, in the face of this express declaration, to gainsay and draw back.-"And Moses answered, and said, But behold, they will not believe me; nor hearken unto my voice : for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee.” Surely LORD is God, and not man, and therefore the children of men are not consumed." A man of common spirit would here have broken off the conference, and left the timid, froward shepherd to his own folly, and permitted him to remain destitute of the honour which he obstinately persevered to decline. But it pleased God to shew us patience, at least in one instance, too powerful for unbelief : "for his ways are not like our ways, nor his thoughts as our thoughts.” He who would cure infidelity in others, must first be purged of the old leava en himself. To effect this in the heart of his servant Moses, God vouchsafes. to perform miracle upon miracle. He turns the rod which was in the hand of Moses into a serpent; and from a serpent to a rod again : in order to intimate to him and to the world that the most harmless things become noxious, and the most pernicious things innocent at his command. His hand is in a moment covered with leprosy, and in a moment restored—to shew the power of God's holy law to fix guilt upon the sinner, and of his grace to remove it from the penitent. He is enjoined and authorized to perform these signs before all Israel, in order to produce that conviction in them, which they had first wrought upon his own mind. Should these still happen to fail, he is permitted to go a step farther. Nature shall submit to a thorough alteration, rather than the seed of faithful Abraham continue slaves in Egypt, or perish through unbelief. Water shall become blood before their eyes, rather than the blood of their innocent children be poured out any more like water upon
6 the * Exod. iv. 11, 12:
the ground. And now, surely, Moses is gained, and the work of God shall no longer stand still. Alas! the sullen spirit is not yet subdued. Though forced to retreat, he continues to fight as he retires. The slowness of Isreal to believe, was formerly the plea; now his own want of talents is urged in excuse of his strange backwardness and disobedience. That objection too is immediately removed, by a promise of wisdom and eloquence suited to the occasion. The language of the oracle, and the longsuffering of the speaker, are miraculous and supernatural, as all the other circumstances of the case, " And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now, therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say."#
“ Wonder, O heavens, and be astonished, 0 earth !" This, instead of producing humble submission and instantaneous compliance, without a reason and without a plea, meets with a direct refusal; “O my Lord, send I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.” And now what heart does not tremble for fear, that the fire which had spared the bush, should wax hot, to punish the madness of the prophet? What patience can endure such a repetition of insult? The anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses ; and—and what? O it becomes a flame of love to melt his heart, and purify it of its dross.
anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also behold, he cometh forth to meet thee; and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart.” Providence had all this while been preparing a concluding, a convincing proof of power, wisdom and goodness inconceivable. Lo, Aaron is already far advanced on his way from Egypt, in quest of his brother.
That, after so long an interval, through a field of so many chances, he should at that very instant of time arrive-How is it to be accounted for ? On no other principle but this, the Lord is “wonderful in counsel and excellent in working." "He seeth the end from the beginning." He saith, “ My counsel shall stand, and I will fulfil all my pleasure.” « He doth according to his will in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth.” Let every knee bow, let every tongue confess, let every heart adore, and love, and submit. - Moses is at length subdued, and we stand with astonishment and joy to contemplate the triumph of mercy over judgment. God grant we may improve the example of his divine patience as a pattern. God in mercy preserve us from presuming upon it, as an encouragement to offend. And may God bless what has been spoken. Amen.
HISTORY OF MOSES.
EXODUS VI. 9.
ånd Moses spake so unto the children of Israel; but they hearkened not unto Moses, for anguish of
spirit, and for cruel bondage. Every nation has in its history events of peculiar importance, which latest posterity is disposed fondly to commemorate. But the memory of remarkable deliverances is necessarily blended with the recollection of heavy distress or imminent danger, and whether as men, or as citizens, we greatly rejoice, by that very joy we expressly declare that we, or our fathers, once had cause to
Perpetual sunshine suits not the state of the natural world ; perpetual success is by no means favourable either to human happiness or virtue. Hunger is necessary to give a relish to food; the gloom of winter is the happiest recommendation of the cheerfulness and bloom of spring. We discover the value of health by disease ; and the blessings of peace would be but half understood, were it not for the antecedent anxieties and calamities of war. Men therefore act foolishly as well as impiously when they charge the wise, righteous and merciful Governor of the world, with carelessness or unkindness, because he admits into the system of his works, or into his moral government of the universe, what ignorance calls disorder, what presumption cries down as unnecessary, and pride condemns as unjust.
What so irregular at first sight, and always so to the vulgar eye, as the face of the starry heavens ? A handful of little sparks, scattered at random in the air! But to the attentive, inquiring, enlightened spirit, they present a vast combination of worlds, each in its place, every one moving in its proper orbit; the whole possessing every quality that can at once excite astonishment and inspire delight; greatness, order, beauty, harmony, utility! They present excellencies obvious to the slightest observation of the most shallow understanding ; excellencies undiscoverable by the closest investigation of the most penetrating gen.us. Now, clownish thoughtlessness and stupidity is not more incompetent to judge of the order and frame of nature, than passion and prejudice, by which all men are governed, are to determine upon the wisdom and goodness of the ways of Providence. Every man would have every thing bend to his humour, conveniency, indolence or interest. This would produce were it permitted, endless confusion and misery, did not God over-rule and employ the activity and the indolence, the senseless caprices and the jarring interests of men to execute his purposes, and without their intention, nay, in spite of their efforts, make them productive of regularity, stability and happiness. In contemplating, therefore, agents and events, those of which we have
heard and read, or those which we see and in which we are concerned, the only road to composure and improvement is, to consider the whole as the work of a suprems, intelligent, almighty, invisible Agent, who is carrying on a plan which we comprehend not, or understand only in part, and who, from all that we can know of him from nature, from experience and from revelation, takes delight in shewing mercy and doing good, but who, in the exercise of even these gracious prerogatives, governs not himself by the partial lights, hasty conceptions and contracted views of ignorant, erring men, but by his own allcomprehending intelligence, all-pervading benignity, all-subduing love.
If, in that portion of ancient history which is now to come under our consideration, we observe Providence treating one nation with uncommon severity and another with indulgence altogether as singular, we are to regard the parties not as they are in themselves, or in relation to each other, but in their relation to Gov and to mankind in general, as an important link in the great chain of Providence, as serving and instructing the human race to the end of the world. The perverseness and unbelief of Moses met with pity and forgiveness, and were cured by a series of miracles. The impiety and unbelief of Pharaoh meet with resentment and punishment, and were even confirmed and strengthened by a most awful series of miracles; not for the sake of Moses and Pharaoh merely, but to illustrate in the eyes of the whole world the goodness and severity of Gop); the wisdom and safety of repentance and submission on the one hand, the madness and danger of impenitence on the other. Egypt was plagued, and Israel saved, that violence and cruelty might be awakened to see the naked sword of justice suspended by a single hair over its guilty throat; and that misery and depression might find a refuge from despair.
We have seen with what solemnity the commission to Moses for the deliverance of Israel was granted, and the awful seal which was appended to it; even the great and fearful name, Jehovah, “I AM THAT I AM." We have seen the backwardness, irresolution and timidity of the prophet, in undertaking an employment so flattering to ambition, so desirable to the spirit of patriotism, so elevating to a mind awake to the influence of religion. We have seen the goodness and condescension of God in deigning, by repeated exertions of power and mercy, to remove the scruples and level the objections of incredulity and fear. And we have seen Aaron, the brother of Moses, providentially conducted to the spot, and at the moment, to establish a belief in the divine power and veracity, to confirm the wavering, trembling soul, and constituted to a share of the diligence, difficulty, danger and glory of the illustrious enterprize.
Behold then two plain old men, one of eighty, and the other of eighty-three years old, setting out from the deserts of Arabia, on an undertaking to human reason the most wild and romantic that ever was attempted ; to persuade or to constrain one of the most powerful princes of the world to enfranchise, nay, to dismiss the tenth part of his most valuable and useful subjects! And how are they provided for this vast undertaking ? The pleas of reason, the powers of eloquence, the calls of humanity, the claims of justice it is well known, make but a feeble impression on the hearts of kings, when their pride, ambition or interest oppose. For such a vast multitude to slip away by stealth is impossible, and to think of forcing an escape from a power so greatly superior is rashness and ruin. When men engage in hazardous and difficult expeditions, they levy armies, accumulate treasure, provide magazines, strengthen themselves with alliances. But when God addresses himself to action, we behold no apparatus, no effort. Is an universe to start out of nothing ? "God speaks, and it is done.” Is a sun to arise, and light to shine ? God says, “Let there be light.” Is a great nation to be subdued, and a little one