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controlled by much nobler and more generous principles ; zeal for the honour of God, and compassion for a devoted people.
The intercessory address of Moses is a masterpiece of eloquence, and discovers a soul seperiour to all regards, but such as are worthy of a prophet, a hero, a patriot, and what is superiour to all, the friend of God. “ And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt, with great power and with a mighty hand. Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth ? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto themi, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it forever."* The holy man of God is concerned not only that the Judge of all the earth should do right, but that the divine conduct should stand vindicated in the eyes of the heathen. He proposes to himself the same end which Jehovah himself has in view in all that he does the glory of his great name. He nobly prefers the fulfilling of the ancient covenant with his venerable ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to the establishment of a new covenant with himself and his seed. He is willing to decrease, willing that his family continue obscure, that his head be laid low, provided the Lord be magnified, and Israel saved. This is a greatness of mind which religion alone could inspire. Like a true son of Israel, he wrestles and makes supplication ; and as a prince he too has power with God, and prevails, if not to prevent every expression of displeasure, at least to prevent the execution of the general doom. Having obtained this great point, he descends with haste from the mount, bearing in his hand the most precious work of art that skill ever executed. Who does not shudder at the thought of its having been destroyed ? “And Moses turned and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand : the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.”+ But why should we regret that a piece of curious workmanship, in dumb matter, was destroyed ? That loss soon might be and soon was repaired. Alas! we behold a more shocking spectacle every day-a race of thoughtless wretches deliberately, presumptuously defacing God's image, destroying his signature, engraved " not on tables of stone, but on the fleshly tables of the heart;" inflicting on themselves a loss never to be repaired, not in a fit of holy zeal, but in a paroxysm of diabolical frenzy.
Moses might destroy the tablets, but the spirit of the writing he could not disannul. When all sensible monuments are dissolved, the law maintains its adamantine solidity, its uncontaminated purity, its unpliant steadiness, its unbending dignity. The tablets were written on both sides, within and without. Every fragment therefore had some part of the law and testimony written upon it. Thus, in every particle of the human frame, there are self-evident traces of the finger of God—the understanding, the heart, the conscience, the memory; shivers indeed, mutilated, defaced, but capable of being repaired and united.
But I find it impossible to collect into one efficient point of view the sequel of this eventful history, within the limits of one discourse. Here therefore we set up another resting place, and from it take a cursory view of the ground over which we have travelled.
1. What a melancholy vjew presents itself, of the corruption, the degeneracy and degradation of human nature. Behold a people lost to every noble, generous, manly principle : restrained by no law, awed by no threatening, susceptible of no endearment, influenced by neither shame nor gratitude ; boldly overleaping the bounds of reason and religion and in that people behold - the carnal mind, which is enmity against God: which is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Behold “the wickedness of man, how great it is in the earth; and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart, how it is only evil continually.” Think not, however, Oman, that thou art surveying a distant prospect, or travelling through a foreign land. Think not that these Israelites are sinners above all the men of the earth. When thou hast thoroughly searched and known thyself, no account of human frailty will appear exaggerated. They framed and worshipped a goiden image. How many myriads hourly bend the knee to the same idol, changed only a little in form! See the temple of mammon, how it is crowded. His votaries, see how much in earnest they are in their devotions. Early and late the incense ascends. Neither Jewish nor Christian sabbath interrupts their attendance or cools their ardour ; while truth, and justice, and mercy, and the love of God are offered a perpetual sacrifice to the insatiate demon, who never says, “it is enough." Nor think that gold is the only deity which men adore. On searching into thy own bosom, some lurking imp, of different form, complexion and texture will be found; hid in close disguise, unknown indeed of men ; but to the eye of God and conscience clearly confessed. Down with it; it is thy dishonour, and threatens thy ruin.
II. Rejoice with trembling, while you contemplate the affecting prospect which opens of the severity and mercy of the great God-the severity, which by the hand of Levi cut off three thousand of the offenders, in the heat of their offence; which threatened to exterminate the whole race, and which, in " the day of visitation, visited their sin upon them'—the mercy which relented, which pitied and spared the guilty, which listened to the voice of intercession, and accepted the atonement. Thou thyself, O sinner, art a monument of both the one and the other. Thy life is forfeited to justice ; thou art daily enduring the punishment of thy transgressions; thou standest continually exposed to severer ills than any thou hast yet felt, and far beyond what fear itself can figure. Yet mercy suffers thee to live; there is hope concerning thee: the glad tidings of salvation are in thine ears; “Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world !” “Behold now is the accepted time, behold now is the day of salvation !" “ Wherefore, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor : it may be" more than " a lengthening of thy tranquillity,” it may prevent eternal misery.
III. Behold a greater than Moses is here-an Intercessor more compassionate, more earnest, more powerful : "a Prince with God” who ever prevails; a propitiation ever meritorious and successful; “ blood that cleanseth from all sin.” “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins : and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."* " Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared. Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered : and being made perfect, he became tbe author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”+ “ Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we
should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward ; how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard
IV. Let us look forward to “ that great and notable day of the Lord," when the law which was delivered audibly from Sinai, which Moses with a rash, inconsiderate hand could break in pieces, but was unable to repair, shall be restored in all its purity and perfection; shall be engraved on every heart, and become legible to every eye: when the hidden glory of the legal dispensation shall be unveiled, and the greater glory of the GOSPEL displayed: when the divine image shall be again impressed on the soul of man, in all its beauty and exactness-and, we ourselves, degraded and lost as we are, shall “ be raised together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus”and “ beholding with open face as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, shall be changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear, what we shall be ; but we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
HISTORY OF MOSES.
EXODUS XXXIII. 8, 9, 10, 11.
And it came to pass, when Moses went out into the tabernacle, that all the people rose up, and stood
every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the tabernacle. And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses. And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his lent door. And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.
Guilt is the parent of fear and suspicion ; conscious innocence and integrity inspire confidence and tranquillity. “The wicked flee when no man pursueth : but the righteous are bold as a lion.”+ " Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God, amongst the trees of the garden."I Moses ascends undaunted to meet the Lord, into the midst of tempest and fire. Behold the height of heaven, how great it is! What so distant as the Creator and a fallen creature! But lo, the distance is done away; and what is so intimately near as a God reconciled, and a fallen creature restored! Jehovah descending in mercy and grace; the soul arising, upborne on the wings of faith and love, must meet and unite, whether on the mount or in the tabernacle ; in the temple or the closet. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him: and he will shew them his covenant."'S We have heard of Abraham, who was called the friend of God; and we behold a communication of the same distinguished honour, to that illustrious son of Abra
ham who has instructed and blessed mankind by transmitting the history of this sacred friendship to the latest generations of the world. We see it still expressed in the same manner ; on the part of Moses by humble submission, hony zeal and importunity, and childlike freedom and confidence: on the part of God, by the most unreserved communication of his intentions, the most endearing expressions of affection and good will.
The history delivered in the preceding chapter of this book exhibited the blessed communion on the mount, suddenly interrupted, by the dreadful scene of madness and rebellion in the plain beneath. Behold all Israel eating and drinking, dancing and playing, before a dumb idol, the similitude of a brute beast. Behold “a covenant with hell” ratified by the same dread solemnities which had been so recently employed, to join a great nation in alliance with the God of heaven. The law which the plastic hand of Omnipotence had impressed on the soul of man in its very constitution : the law which he lately had condescended distinctly to pronounce in the trembling ears of all Israel; that law he had still farther condescended, with exquisite art and skill, by his own ringer, to engrave on two tablets of stone, for perpetual preservation. Moses descending in haste, with this precious record in his hand, perceives at a distance the disorder which raged in the camp, and, in a transport of indignation, dashes the tablets on the ground, and breaks them in pieces. The motive was good and commendable, but the action was rash and presumptuous. We find, however, no expression of anger against that rashness; the frailty is lost and overlooked in approbation of the principle which led to it. But had not Moses punishment sufficient for his hasty conduct, in the irreparable loss occasioned by it, to himself and to the world? There was no occasion to chide him; his own conscience must have smitten him sufficiently, as often as he reflected on what, in tlie moment of impatience, he had done.
Without inflicting a positive chastisement, a righteous God can easily reprove men by making them to feel the native consequences of their own folly, and, of all the infirmuties to which our nature is subject, anger most certainly and most severely punishes itself.
The man who is thus animated with zeal for the glory of God, has forgotten what fear is. Aaron, under the influence of the fear of man, yielded to the popular frenzy, and fabricated the golden calf: Moses, inspired with the fear of God, defies and despises the multitude, consumes their idol in the fire, and grinds it to powder. This is that Moses of whom they talked so contemptuously a little while ago. What, not one of the thousands of Israel who worshipped the image of the beast bold enough to protect his Dagon ! No: abashed they stand, and feel " how awful goodness is, and see virtue in her own shape how lovely.”
A most remarkable circumstance is added to the history of the destructioa of the idol, which has greatly exercised the ingenuity, learning and imagination of critics and commentators. Moses took the dust into which he had pounded the calf, and “ strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it."'* This seems nothing more than an expression of sovereign contempt, poured upon a most worthless object : and a practical demonstration of the absurdity of idolatry. And it may, perhaps not unwarrantably, be employed as a reproof of the inordinate love of money, that root of all evil. Gold, as an instrument of commerce, as the means of procuring the things that are needful for the body, as a natural production possessed of very singular qualities, may be lawfully sought after and innocently used; but erected into a deity, valued on its own account, swallowing up every other object, engrossing the whole heart, becomes unprofitable and pernicious, as incapable of
gratifying the real appetites of a rational being, as gold in its simple state is incapable of satisfying hunger, or, mingled with water, of allaying thirst.
An imagination perpetually on the stretch to discover evangelical ideas in every jota of the sacred history, has perceived the method of gospel salvation, in this passage of Moses; as if the prophet intended to signify that the Messiah, typified by the water which issued from the rock in Horeb, could alone purify from the guilt of idolatry, and from all other sin.
Moses having executed just vengeance on the idol itself, turns in holy indignation to his weak and guilty brother, who had so readily fallen into and abetted so gross a deviation from all duty and decency. “And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them ?"*An anticipated instance of obedience to the apostolic injunction, “ Thou shalt not suffer sin upon thy brother, but in any ways reprove him." Justice on the tribunal, knows not a brother in court, but examines the cause.Justice, with the pen of the historian in his hand, knows not blood in recording facis, but declares the truth. Justice, as the minister of God, must stille the calls of natural affection, and condemn the guilty. And here again Moses becomes a pattern to all judges and magistrates, to every minister of religion, and every relater of events. His own faults, and those of his nearest relations, are told with the same artless simplicity, as their good qualities and praiseworthy actions. Praise and censure are distributed, with the same candour and impartiality, to his own family and to strangers.
Aaron, formerly an object of condemnation, now sinks into an object of pity; as every man must, in the day when he is called to account, and has no defence to make. “And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot :: thou knowest the people that they are set on mischief. For they said unto me, Make us gods which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.”+ Alas, alas! What a profusion of words is guilt constrained to employ in order to cover what it cannot extenuate or excuse. What must it be to behold a guilty world stand self-condemned before the Judge of the quick and the dead! How dreadful must it be, to appear in the number of that guilty crowd, without being able to escape unnoticed in the crowd!
The scene that follows is one of those from which we turn away our eyes in anguish, or which we contemplate in silent horror and astonishment_Thousands of criminals falling at once by the hands of their brethren! The sons of Levi destined to shed the blood of many victims, to make atonement for the guilty-called to the dreadful ministry of offering up part of the guilty themselves, a sacrifice to justice to make atonement for the rest! Mark how the courage of one man has roused that of many. A whole tribe has fortitude sufficient to follow in a cause, wherein not one man was found daring enough to profess himself a leader. This is one motive, among many, to aim at being singularly good. Mark the timidity of conscious guilt. Levi was the least numerous of all the tribes; but, engaged in the cause of God and truth, the myriads of offending Israelites shrink from their attack, or fall down before them. Mark how dreadful is the brow of justice roused to vengeance. “ Consecrate yourselves to-day to the Lord, eren every man upon his son, and upon his brother, that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.” | What a night of horror and remorse must have succeeded a day of impiety, madness and slaughter! What an awful to-morrow, the day of reckoning, to follow that dismal night!
* Exodus xxxii. 21.