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HISTORY OF MOSES.
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. 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 furnace, 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 the people, lest they break through unto the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish. And let the priests also, which come near to the Lord, sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth upon them.-Exodus xix 16--22.
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 domin.
eering over the purer, the heavenly subjected to the terrestial, the soul, a slave to the senses. 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 con. dition 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 shall 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 manna, and water flowing from the
rock, bespeak 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 government, and what government is a blessing without law? Happiness consist 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 giving 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 a 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 chris. tian church, by a new dispensation, not of terror, but of grace: the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apos tles 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 a clearer light and fresh discoveries 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 know 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 Petræă, 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; 6 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare 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 trea. sure 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 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