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most wish, when couldest thou have made a complete survey of the little globe wherein we dwell; when couldest thou have explored the innumerable secret wonders of the hoary deep; when examined the precious contents of the everlasting hills; when discovered the nature and properties of air and fire? Supposing the mighty task performed; supposing the untried regions of the air, the untrodden paths of the sea, the deep and the high places of the earth rendered accessible to thy approach, laid fully open to thy view—and lo, the race of knowledge is but beginning. Behold another orb at hand, presenting a new world of wonders: an orb possessing an inconceivably greater extent than our earth, containing an infinitely greater variety of objects, answering a much nobler end in the scale of being; and after that, another; and another still, in end. less succession. Suppose the whole planetary system, in order, to have passed under review, the mind rests not there; the wonders of divine power and wisdom end not then; the soul wings its way to other systems, lighted by other suns, and finds itself but entering on the glorious career.
Were the whole expanse of nature explored, the MORAL government of God over all these spheres and all that they contain, expands the same vast field afresh to the astonished eye, and invites to a second excursion. When that is performed, REDEEMING LOVE, ALMIGHTY GRACE display the ample theatre a third time, and lead us by the hand through the “nations of them that are saved," and point out the successive triumphs of sovereign goodness. As if it were possible to see an end of all this glorous perfection, scripture announces the dissolution of all these things, as a space too small for the soul to expatiate in, as an object too mean for its contemplation; and promises a new and more glorious system of things, suited to its endless duration and exalted powers,“ new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.” And what is it,
even then, that men behold? The works of God, not God himself; the writing, not the hand that writes; the palace that is inhabited, not the divine inhabitant; the emanation, not the essence of his glory. Every gra. cious spirit, then, will with Moses be “following on to know the Lord;" still and ever inquiring, still and ever imploring, “ Lord, show me thy glory.
The answer of God to this request is not less remarkable than the request itself. Moses prayed, saying, “Lord show me thy glory.” Alas, like the disciple on the mount of transfiguration," he knew not what he said.” To have been answered according to the letter of his desire, had been fatal to him; for what created eye can behold the glory of God and live? But a gra. cious God returns an answer suitable to the condition of his servant. “And he said, I will make all my GOODNESS pass before thee; and I will prociaim the name of the Lord before thee, and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy,” Verse 19. This is the glory of God to man, the riches of his grace, the glory of his goodness, the wonders of his love.
In a display of the most striking imagery, God points out to Moses what was weak, ignorant and presumptuous in his petition, and commends what is pious, dutiful and affectionate. “ And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock. And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock; and I will cover thee with my hand, while I pass by. And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen,” Verse 20—23. Expressions painly importing, that by creatures such as we are, the great Jehovah can be seen and known only from those tokens of his presence which he leaves behind him. He comes upon us, as it were, imperceptibly,
unveils his glory for a moment, in his word, in his ordinances, but his hand is upon our eyes. As he departs, he permits us to look up, and to know, by infallible marks, that he has been with us. Thus, Jacob's vision at Bethel was over, before he was aware into what glorious company he had been introduced. “ And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not,” Gen. xxviii. 16. Thus at Peniel he wrestled apparently with a man ; but in departing, his divine antagonist, by a touch, convinced him who he was; and he discovers, that he had seen “ the visions of the Almighty," after he had withdrawn. And thus, the glorified Redeemer talked with the two disciples by the way as they went to Emmaus, and opened unto them the scriptures; while their heart burned within them, but their eyes were held that they did not know him. At length, while he brake bread and blessed it, “ their eyes were opened, and they knew him.” Is God in this place? We see him not:' we cannot see him and live; but by this we shall know it hereafter-Has his word been made quick and powerful to any soul? Has the dignity and importance of communion with him been felt? Is a man departing with a deeper and more humbling sense of his own unworthiness and guilt; and penetrated with a more lively apprehension of the mercy of God through a Saviour? Is sin rendered more odious, and holiness more amiable in the eyes of any one? Is the heart glowing with desire to know more of God, to love him more, and serve him better? Is the spirit of a man pressing - toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus?” Phill. ii. 14. Then of a truth God is in this place; and a day spent thus in his courts, is better than a thousand. · But how is the language of this concluding passage of the chapter reconciled with that in the eleventh verse? “ The Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as
a man speaketh unto his friend.” The expression, " to see the face,” is evidently taken into two different senses. In the 11th verse, it signifies to be regarded with favour or approbation, as it is in the 4th Psalm, verse 6, “Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us;" that is, show thyself gracious unto us, for we prize thy loving kindness far above every earthly blessing: but in the 20th and 23d verse, "to see the face of God,” imports the knowledge of his nature or essence, which to a creature is impossible. Here even a Moses is in darkness, through an excess of light; into this angels desire to look, but instantly shrink back, and shut their trembling eyes. " But the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him," John i. 18; and “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we behold his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth,” John i. 14. Such was the care employed by Him who knows what is in man, to prevent the possibility of idolatry, and to expose the folly of it. Even Moses shall not be trusted with any thing like a representation of Deity; and what so absurd as to frame a similitude of what never was, never can be seen?
“ The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much," says the apostle James; and what a notable instance have we of the truth of this in the passage before us! Moses rises in his demands, as he succeeds by supplicating, and he still prevails. First, he pleads that the presence of God, the light and glory of Israel, might not be withdrawn, as was threatened, but might accompany and lead them to their destined habitation. And lo! God grants his request, with an assurance of peculiar regard and affection to himself, “ Thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name,” verse 17. Upon this he presumes to ask some new, some special manifestation of the divine glory, for his own satisfaction and comfort. This too he obtains, in a promise that the goodness of God, all his goodness should be made to pass before him. Emboldened by this success, he cannot rest till he has obtained for the people a remission of their offence. And he said, “ If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go amongst us, (for it is a stiff-necked people) and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance," Chap. xxxiv. 9.
Chap. xxxiv. 9. And behold he carries this point also, and the covenant is renewed between God and Israel. Let us see that our requests be proper to be granted, and we have them already, before we make them. Let us be solicitous to obtain spiritual blessings in the first place, and the temporal good things which we prize not, asked not, may perhaps come unexpected, unsought. “Give thy servant,” said Solomon, " an understanding heart, that I may discern between good and bad.” “ And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life, neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies, but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment: behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart, so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee, all thy days,” i Kings iii. 102-13.
To enjoy this heavenly vision of all God's goodness, as it passed by, Moses must again ascend' the mount, and draw nigh unto God. He was going up as to meet a friend; but that almighty friend must protect him from himself, as from his most formidable enemy. “ While my glory passeth by, I will put thee in a cleft of the rock; and will cover thee with my hand while