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of events, are able to explain; and which must finally be resolved into a wisdom and power preternatural and divine. Accordingly we find Providence taking immediately the charge of them; but not in the usual way, not by forming a regular discipline, and raising up commanders and magistrates of unusual address and ability, but declaring by sensible tokens, which were seen, read and understood of all, “ I am the Leader and Commander of my people."
But before we proceed to the consideration of this wonderful symbol of the divine presence, we must attend our author, and takt notice of a tender and touching circumstance in the departure from Egypt, namely, the removing of the bones of Joseph. That truly great man had been the saviour of his father's house when he was alive, and was now the hope of Israel after he was dead. In all their afflictions, his precious dust had been to them the pledge of deliverance; and now when that deliverance is come, they bear it with them to the land promised to their forefathers, for burial. Thus respectable and useful, in life and in death, are the wise and the good; thus anxious ought we to be to promote the best interests of mankind, not only while we are yet with them; but to leave something behind us that may bencfit and instruct after we are seen and heard no more.
Christians, we carry
with us, as our hope in this wilderness, not the bones of a departed deliverer, but the memory of a risen Saviour. The sacred pledge of our final redemption is deposited, not in a coffin, but in this precious record—but in the history of facts, well known and firmly believed by you—but in many great and precious promises given
“ For if we believe that Jesus died, and rose again; even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” The ashes of the patriarch Joseph could not rest in the tomb till Israel came to the possession of their promised inheritance; so the Spirit and providence of the great Redeemer are in perpetual
motion and exercise, till he shall have gathered into one all his redeemed unto himself; till the youngest of his sons, the meanest of his daughter's, being glorified, shall take possession of their purchased inheritance, “the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world,”
Thus then Israel takes his departure; thus jcyfully, thus triumphantly, thus increased; and “not one sickly or feeble among them;" a wonder not inferior to any of the rest. But all“ is of the Lord of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.”
The plain of Rameses was the first great rendezvous of the Lord's host. They had built, as part of their task-work, a city of that name at the command of Pharaoh. But it was also thư name of a region of Egypt elsewhere called Goshen; the same which Joseph chose for the reception of his aged parents; because being situated nearest to Canaan, it diminished the length and fatigue of his journey, and being a grassy country, suited his family's employment, that of shepherds. The nearness to Canaan might accordingly be now again considered as a favourable circumstance to the return of Israel thitherward. If we may credit Philo, the two countries were not above three days journey distant the one from the other. And certain it is that the patriarchs, encumbered with a convoy laden with corn, easily performed a journey to a more distant part of Egypt, and back again, in the course of not many weeks at most. Moses might therefore have, without much difficulty, conducted the people of his charge to the place of their destination in a very small space of time. But was the distance of place the only difficulty which they had to encounter? How could men inured to slavery, men just escaped from the rod of a tyrannical oppressor, have the courage to meet the prowess and discipline of the warlike nations of Canaan; unprovided with arms for the field, and with military engines for the attack of fortified towns,
had they been bold enough to attempt to take possession by force. Some interpreters, indeed, render the word harnessed, in the eighteenth verse of the thirteenth chapter, armed. But the term in the original is so equivocal, and the learned attempts to determine its meaning are so unsuccessful, that we remain still in the dark about its true meaning. The presumption certainly is, that the Israelites were not armed. What had a nation of shepherds, living by sufferance in a foreign land, to do with arms? Would the policy of Egypt have permitted it? But Moses, the most accurate of historians, takes care to point out a circumstance which furnishes the first idea of putting arms into the hands of Israel. After the waves of the Red Sea had swallowed up the Egyptian army, their dead bodies with their arms were miraculously cast on shore, and provided Israel with armour from their spoils.
It is evident that God intended to form the courage and discipline of his people in the wilderness, before he tried these upon the nations whom they were destined to subdue. Nay, farther, it was evidently his design to settle their whole civil and religious polity, while they were yet in an erratic state, that when they came to Canaan there might be nothing to do but to take possession, and to execute the laws which they had already received. And alas, what shall we say? This swarm of people, numerous as the sand upon the sea-shore, with the exception of one or two, and Moses their leader among the rest, thus pompously and powerfully saved, were saved from Egypt, but to die in the wilderness. Men die, but the church lives: and the church is the care of God. Thy way, O God, is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known. Thou leddest thy people like a flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron," Psalm lxxvii. 19, 20.
Instead then of marching straight northward, in the direction of Canaan, their course is bent eastward, to the great wilderness which bounds Egypt and Arabia Petræa: God himself leading the way, in a most wonderful display of his glorious presence and power, described in the words which I read at the opening of the Lecture. “ind they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wil. derness. And the Lord went before them, by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night. He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people, Exod. xiii. 20, 21, 22. In this God spake at once to the understanding and to the senses. Could any Israelite doubt that the Lord was there? He had but to open his eyes, whether it were by day or by night, and lo, a thick cloud obscuring the brightness of the one, or a flaming fire dispelling the shades of the other, proclaim the dread presence of Jehovah. Could any one call in question his kindness, when he saw darkness become a guide, and fire a protector? Durst any one presume to approach too nigh, when dimness impenetrable, and light inaccessible, alternately guarded his pavilion? Was it possible for any heart to fear, when the Most Mighty thus declared, in language more emphatical than can be conveyed by words "Lo, I am for you! Who is he that can, that dare to be against you?”
The apperances of God are suited to the circumstances of his people. Cloud by night would have been to increase the horror, and to multiply the unwholesome damps of that season. Fire by day would have been adding fuel to a flame, already intensely hot, in a burning climate and parched soil. But tempered, adapted, distributed, according to wisdom not capable of error, the peculiar inconvenience of each season is relieved; and the ills of nature are remedied by the
dispensations of grace. The cloudy fiery pillar is a manifestation of Deity, suited to a wilderness state. In heaven, a God of love is light, without “any darkness at all.” In hell, a God of implacable wrath is perpetual darkness, without one ray of light. On earth, a God of justice and mercy is darkness and light, in successive order and perfect harmony. In heaven, he is a fame that irradiates, cheers and quickens; in hell, a fire still consuming, never to be extin. guished; on earth, fire in a cloud, mercy flowing in a spacious channel, judgment restrained. Men can only discover that of God which he is pleased to reveal to them. Whether he is pleased to turn his dark or bright side to us, we are stationed equally at a distance from him. To be sensible of our own darkness is to be partakers of his marvellous light. All that the brightest noon of human reason can discover is, that it is ignorance and folly, when placed in comparison with the wisdom of God.
Might not this wonderful pillar prefigure to the ancient church the person and office of the Redeemer of the world? Behold the divine essence wrapped up in, and closely united to, a veil of flesh and blood. Behold Deity raising our nature to incorruptibility and glory“ in CHRIST, the first-fruits; and afterwards in all that are Christ's, at his coming."
Do we not perceive in it, humanity bringing down the divine nature to our bearing and perception; “ the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, declaring him to us.” “ The word made flesh” instructing the ignorant, cheering the disconsolate, directing the wanderer, refreshing the weary; guiding our waking, guarding our sleeping moments; "a partaker of our #esh and blood, that he may be a merciful High Priest: 6 declared the Son of God with power; men adoring and submiting; the powers of hell broken and discomfited: the triumph of heaven complete. “ The Lord our God is a son and shield; the Lord