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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 gracious spirit, then, will with Moses be “ following on to know the Lord ;” still and ever inquiring, still and ever imploring, “Lord, shew me thy glory.”
The answer of God to this request is not less remarkable than the request itself. Mofes prayed, faying, “ Lord, shew 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 gracious 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 proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. This is the glory of God to man, the riches of his grace, ry of his goodness, the wonders of his love.
In a display of the most striking imagery, God points out to Mofes what was weak, ignorant and presumptuous in his petition, and commends what is pious, dutiful and affectionate. " And he said, Thou canst not fee 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 pafseth by, that I will put thee in a clift 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 fee my back parts : but my face shall not be seen.”+ Expressions plainly 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 VOL. IV. F
the gloupon us, as it were, imperceptibly, unveils his glory for a moment, in his word, in his ordinances, but his hand is upon our cyes. 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." * 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 difciples by the way as they went to Emmaus, and opened unto them the fëriptures, while their heart burned within them, but their eyes were held that they did not know him. At length, while he brake bread and blefsed it, “ their eyes were opened, and they knew him.” Is God in this place? We fee him not; we cannot fee him and live; but by this we fhall know it hereafter---Has his word been made quick and powerful to any foul ? Has the dignity and importance of communion with him been felt? Is a man departing with a deeper and more humbling fense of his own unworthiness and guilt; and penetrated with a more Fively 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 ferve him better? Is the spirit of a man presling “ toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus ?" Then of a truth God is in this place; and a day spent thus in his courts, is better than a thousand.
upon + Verse 20-23
* Verse 19.
But how is the language of this concluding paffage of the chapter to be reconciled with that in the elev. enth verfe?“ The Lord spake unto Mofes face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend."
face, * Genesis xxvii. 16. + Phill. iii. 14.
The expression, “ to see the face,” is evidently taken in two different senses. In the 11th verse, it fignifies to be regarded with favour or approbation, as it is in the 4th Pfalm, verse 6. “ Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us ;” that is, shew thyself gra. cious unto us, for we prize thy loving kindness far above every earthly blefling: 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;"* and " the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only be gotten of the Father) full of grace and truth.”+ 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 Mofes shall not be trusted with any thing like a representation of Deity; and what fo abfurd as to frame a fimilitude 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 palfage 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 threaten. ed, but might accompany and lead them to their deltined habitation. And lo! God grants his request, with an assurance of peculiar regard and affection to himself, “ Thou hast found grace in my fight, and I know thee by name.”I Upon this he presumes to ask some new, some special manifestation of the divine glory, for his own satisfaction and comfort. This too F 2
he * John i. 18. † John i. 14.
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 fin, and take us for thine inheritance."* 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 prized noty: asked not, may perhaps come unexpected, unfought. “ Give thy fervant,” said Solomon, “ an onderstanding heart, that I may discern between good and bad." “ And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had alked this thing. And God said unto him, Because thou haft asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life, neither haft asked riches for thyself, nor haft 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 afked, both riches and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings. like unto thee, all thy days.”+
To enjoy this heavenly vision of all God's goodness, as it passed by, Mofes must again afeend 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 clift of the rock; and will cover thee with my hand, while I pass by.” An inspired apostle tells us
that * Ctrap. xxxiv., 9. + 1 Kings iii. 10-13.: Verse 22.
that “ this rock was Christ:"* And it sheds a pleafing light on the subject. What afforded safety to Mofes in the tremendous hour, when the glory of God appeared ? A clift of that rock from whence the living stream issued forth for the refreshment of God's heritage when it was weary, and which was the type of that wonderful:“ Man” who is an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempeft; as rivers of water in a dry place; as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.”+ Did Moses flee thither for shelter, did he foresee his danger, and provide a covering for his defenceless head? No, the refuge was of God's providing. “I will put thee in a clift of the rock." Not human fagacity, but divine mercy discovers, and prepares a retreat for the miserable. Observe the folid foundation on which that man is established who rests on the word of God; “ thou shalt stand upon a rock." Remove the promise of him who is faithful, of him who is true, and we immediately fink into an horrible pit, and stick fast in the miry clay; but“ Behold,” says God," I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation : he that believeth thall not make haste.” I
Moses is now directed to make all needful preparation for this important visit. In his haste he had thrown the two tables, which contained the law, on the ground, and had broken them in pieces under the mount: but no act of man can disannul the law of God. The loss, though great, was not irreparable. But God will not entirely repair it, that Mofes may have somewhat to regret in the effects of his impatience. The former two tables were wholly of Godthe substance, the form, the writing, the subject; but the last must partake of human ignorance and imperfection. The choice of the stone, and the hewing it into form, are of Moses; the writing and the words are still of God. And these were the tables which were laid up in the ark of the testimony for preserva
tion, + Ifaiah xxxii. 2. | Ifaiah xxviii. 16.
1 Cor. x. 4