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ing emblem of the church of God in the world, to the end of time; “ troubled on every side, yet not distressed, perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, cast down, but not destroyed.”
The same voice which solicited intercourse with Moses, which tendered friendship, which encouraged hope, sets a fence about the divine Majesty; it reminds him of his distance, of his impurity; it forbids rashness, presumption, familiarity. In veneration of the spot which God had honoured with his special presence, he is commanded to “put off his shoes from off his feet;” a mandate, which by an image natural and obvious, enjoins the drawing near to God in holy places, and in sacred services, with seriousness, attention and reverence; divested of that impurity which men necessarily contract by coming into frequent contact with the world. And surely, it is owing to the want of a due sense of the majesty of God upon our spirits, that his house is profaned and his service marred by levity, carelessness and inattention. Did we seriously consider that the place where we stand is “holy ground,” that the word which we speak and hear is not the word of men, but of the living God," could one short hour's attendance betray us into slumber? Could the little jealousies and strife of a base world intrude into a worshipping heart? Could the eye find leisure to wander upon the dress and appearance of another? Durst a scornful leer or simpering coun: tenance communicate from one vain, silly, irreverent spirit to another, the private sneer and censure? Would there be a contention for place and pre-eminence? Now, surely, God is as really, though less sensibly, in this place, as he was in the bush at Horeb: and though we see him not, his eyes are continually upon us, and he will bring 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 forward. ness 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 fail upon a persecuted, oppressed people: and “ that Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge?” is, after an interval of forty years, sent back to Egypt, on the kind and 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, but with a zeal rather too bold and impetuous; whereas now, he was following the direction of Providence, and was therefore certain of
As there is a sinful pride which urges men to seek stations and employments, to which they have neither pretensions, 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 to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them?” God had already declared his name, and purpose, and given hiš charge, and yet Moses dares to make inquiry. How rare a thing it is, to see a soul wholly resolved into the will of God! How seldom 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! But 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 forwardness 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 che name and nature of God, from his own mouth, and the most amiable and engaging picture of tender mercy and long-suffering that 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
What flimsy things are commissions issued under the hand-writing and seals of kings, compared to this! a shred of parchment, a morsel of wax, an unmeaning scrawl; a slender, contracted, short-lived power, delegated from one worm to another. Where is now the signet of Ahasuerus, which pretended to commů. nicate 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 shrink and fade, before that tremendous Power, whose authority no change of circumstances can effect, 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: suc. cess 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 has 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 “ the 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