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in the midst of flames, but not confumed.
And it is
a striking emblem of the church of God in the world, to the end of time; "troubled on every fide, yet not diftreffed, perplexed, but not in defpair, perfecuted, but not forfaken, caft down, but not deftroyed."
The fame voice which folicited intercourfe with Mofes, which tendered friendship, which encouraged hope, fets a fence about the divine Majefty; it reminds him of his distance, of his impurity; it forbids rafhnefs, prefumption, familiarity. In veneration of the fpot which God had honoured with his special pref ence, he is commanded to "put off his fhoes from off his feet:" a mandate, which by an image natural and obvious, enjoins the drawing near to God in holy places, and in facred fervices, with feriousness, atten, tion and reverence; divested of that impurity which meh neceffarily contract by coming into frequent contact with the world. And furely, it is owing to the want of a due fenfe of the majefty of God upon our fpirits, that his houfe is profaned and his fervice marred by levity, carelefsnefs and inattention. Did we feriously confider that the place where we stand is ' holy gound," that the word which we fpeak and hear is "not the word of men, but of the living God," could one short hour's attendance betray us into flumber? Could the little jealoufies and ftrife of a base world intrude into a worshipping heart? Could the eye find leisure to wander upon the dress and appearance of another? Durft a scornful leer or fimpering countenance communicate from one vain, filly, irreverent spirit to another, the private fneer and cenfare? Would there be a contention for place and pre-eminence? Now, furely, God is as really, though lefs fenfibly, in this place, as he was in the bush at Horeb and though we fee 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 fhall instantly difappear.
The words which follow, if any thing can increase their intrinfic force and importance, derive a peculiar energy and value to the chriftian world, as the paffage quoted by our bleffed Lord, from an authority which they could not deny, to confute the Sadducees, on the fubject of the immortality of the foul, and the refurrection of the body. "I AM the God of Abraham, and the God of Ifaac, and the God Jacob." We fpeak of the dead, under the idea that they were; but God reprefents them as ftill exifting, and his relation to them as unbroken, his care of them as uninterrupted. The effect which this declaration had upon Mofes, is fuch as might have been expected; no more "turning afide to fee this great fight;" he hides his face, "afraid to look upon God." It is ignorance of God, not intimate communion, which encourages forwardness and freedom. Angels, who know him beft, and love him moft, are most fenfible of their distance, and are reprefented as "covering their faces with their wings" when they approach their dread Creator.
In the declaration which immediately follows, under a fanction fo folemn and affecting, which fhall we moft admire, the mercy and goodness of God, or his perfect wisdom and foreknowledge? Four hundred years have elapfed fince this wretched ftate of his pofterity had been foretold and revealed to Abraham. For wife and gracious purpofes it was appointed and brought to pats. But the days of darkness are now almost ended, and the fun returns. Like rain from heaven to a dry and thirsty land, the promises of favour and falvation fall upon a perfecuted, oppreffed people; and "that Mofes whom they refused, faying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge ?" is after an interval of forty years fent back to Egypt, on the kind and merciful errand of falvation to an oppreffed and perfecuted people.
Mofes however, it would appear, has not forgotten the furly reception which his well-meant interpofi, tion had met with from his brethren fo long before;
and prefumes to urge it as a reafon, why a perfon of more influence and authority should be entrusted with the commiffion.
He confidered 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 fuccefs. As there is a finful pride which urges men to feck stations and employments, to which they have neither pretenfion, title, nor qualification; fo there is a finful humility, which fhrinks from the call of God, which, in the guife of felf-denial, contains the spirit of rebellion and difobedience; and which, under the affectation of undervaluing and debafing our own perfons and qualities, indirectly charges God with foolishnefs, in choosing an inftrument fo inapt and improper. Such humility is of the very effence of pride, and fuch, with regret we obferve it, was the fpirit by which Mofes was on this occafion actuated. The heavenly vifion removes the objection at once, by affuring him of the divine prefence, bleffing and fupport; and refers him for the proof of it, to a train of events closely fucceeding each other; and all iffuing in the people's affembling 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 irrefolute, Mofes ventures to urge another difficulty, which he expreffes in these terms; "And Mofes faid unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Ifrael, and fhall fay unto them, The God of your fathers hath fent me unto you and they fhall fay to me, What is his name? What fhall I fay unto them?" God had already. declared his name, and purpofe, and given his charge, and yet Mofes dares to make inquiry. How rare a thing it is, to fee a foul wholly refolved into the will of God! How feldom do we find a faith entirely difpofed to be, to do, and to endure, neither more nor lefs
than what God is pleased to appoint! But the incredulity and prefumption of Mofes fhall not render the defign of God of none effect. When men are contradicted or opposed, they fly out, and ftorm, and threaten. But the great God bears with our frowardnefs and folly, gives way to our fcruples, and, yielding to our obftinacy, overcomes evil with good. And we are almoft tempted to rejoice that Mofes ftood out fo long, as it gave occafion to the most folemn and fatisfying proclamation of the name and nature of God, from his own mouth, and the most amiable and engaging picture of tender mercy and longfuffering that ever was exhibited. "And God faid
unto Mofes, I AM THAT I AM: And he faid, Thus fhalt thou fay unto the children of Ifrael, I AM hath fent me unto you.'
What flimfy things are commiffions iffued under the hand-writing and feals of kings, compared to this! a fhred of parchment, a morfel of wax, an unmeaning fcrawl; a flender, contracted, short-lived power, delegated from one worm to another. Where is now the fignet of Ahafuerus, which pretended to communicate 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 lift of empty titles, which potentates and princes, in the pride of their hearts, affix to their perishing names? All, all shrink and fade, before that tremendous Power, whose authority no change of circumftances can affect, whofe exiftence no fucceffion of ages can impair; who, yesterday, to-day and forever ftill proclaims of himself, "I AM."
Nothing can equal the fimplicity, fublimity and force of these remarkable words. Independency of existence, eternity of duration, immutability of pur
pofe, faithfulness and truth in keeping covenant and fhewing mercy, are all conveyed in one little fentence, "I AM THAT I AM." Longinus, the celebrated critic, has with equal judgment and tafte, quoted a wellknown paffage from the writings of Mofes, as an inftance of the true fublime, viz. the first words pronounced by the Creator in the formation of the world, "And God faid, Let there be light, and there was light." Why did not Longinus dip deeper into the works of this great hiftorian; why did he not enrich and embellifh his own beautiful little book, and farther approve his exquifite tafte, by inferting other
paffages from the page of infpiration, particularly the paffage under review? A paffage which Jews, Heathens and Chriftians, as one man have confented to admire.
Under the fanction of this moft awful name, God repeats his commiffion, repeats his charge, repeats his promife of fupport, affiftance and fuccefs: fuccefs with the elders of Ifrael; fuccefs with the people; fuccefs against Pharaoh. And yet, Mofes "ftaggers at this promife," although it be the promise of the Eternal, through unbelief!" What have we most to wonder at here, the ftrange incredulity and perverfenefs of the prophet, or the fingular fidelity and exactnefs of the biftorian, in recording his own errors? God had faid, "they fball hearken to thy voice:" yet Mofes prefumes, in the face of this exprefs declaration, to gainfay and draw back--And Mofes anfwered, and faid, But behold, they will not believe me; nor hearken unto my voice: for they will fay, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee." Surely" the LORD is GoD, and not man, and therefore the children of men are not confumed." A man of common spirit would here have broken off the conference, and left the timid, froward fhepherd to his own folly, and permitted him to remain deftitute of the honour which he obftinately perfevered to decline.
But it pleafed