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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 effence of his glory. Every gracious spirit, then, will with Mofes be "following on to know the Lord;" till and ever inquiring, ftill and ever imploring, "Lord, fhew me thy glory."
The answer of God to this request is not lefs remarkable than the request itself. Mofes prayed, saying, "Lord, fhew me thy glory." Alas, like the difciple on the mount of transfiguration, "he knew not what he said." To have been anfwered according to the letter of his defire, 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 fervant, "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 fhew mercy on whom I will fhew mercy. 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 difplay of the most striking imagery, God points out to Mofes what was weak, ignorant and prefumptuous in his petition, and commends what is pious, dutiful and affectionate. "And he faid, Thou canft not fee my face: for there fhall no man fee me, and live. And the Lord faid, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou fhalt ftand upon a rock. And it fhall come to pass, while my glory paffeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock; and I will cover thee with my hand, while I pafs by. And I will take away mine hand, and thou fhalt fee my back parts: but my face fhall not be feen."+ Expreffions plainly importing, that by creatures fuch as we are, the great Jehovah can be seen and known only from thofe tokens of his prefence which he leaves behind him. He comes upon
+ Verse 20-23.
* Verse 19.
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 vifion at Bethel was over, before he was aware into what glorious company he had been introduced. And Jacob awaked out of his fleep, and he faid, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not."* Thus at Peniel he wreftled apparently with a man; but in departing, his divine antagonist, by a touch, convinced him who he was; and he discovers, that he had feen " the vifions 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 feriptures, while their heart burned within them, but their eyes were held that they did not know him. At length, while he brake bread and bleffed 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 fenfe of his own unworthinefs and guilt; and penetrated with a more lively apprehenfion of the mercy of God through a Saviour? Is fin rendered more odious, and holiness more amiable in the eyes of any one? Is the heart glowing with defire to know more of God, to love him more, and ferve him better? Is the spirit of a man preffing toward the mark, for the prize of the high. calling of God in Chrift Jefus ?" Then of a truth God is in this place; and a day spent thus in his courts, is better than a thoufand.
But how is the language of this concluding paffage of the chapter to be reconciled with that in the elev enth verfe?" The Lord fpake unto Mofes face to
* Genefis xxviii. 16.
+ Phill. iii. 14.
face, as a man fpeaketh unto his friend." The expreffion, "to fee the face," is evidently taken in two different fenfes. In the 11th verfe, 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, fhew thyfelf gra. cious unto us, for we prize thy loving kindness far above every earthly bleffing: but in the 20th and 23d verfe, "to fee the face of God," imports the knowledge of his nature or effence, which to a creature is impoffible. Here even a Mofes is in darkness, through an excess of light into this angels defire to look, but instantly shrink back, and fhut their trembling eyes. But "the only begotten Son, which is in the bofom 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 begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth."+ Such was the care employed by Him who knows what is in man, to prevent the poffibility of idolatry, and to expose the folly of it. Even Mofes fhall not be trusted with any thing like a reprefentation 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," fays the apostle James; and what a notable inftance have we of the truth of this in the paffage before us! Mofes rifes in his demands, as he fucceeds by fupplicating, and he ftill prevails. First, he pleads that the prefence of God, the light and glory of Ifrael, might not be withdrawn, as was threatened, but might accompany and lead them to their deftined habitation. And lo! God grants his request, with an affurance of peculiar regard and affection to himself, "Thou haft found grace in my fight, and I know thee by name." Upon this he prefumes to afk fome new, fome fpecial manifestation of the divine glory, for his own fatisfaction and comfort. This too F 2
John i. 18.
↑ John i. 14.
+ Verse 17.
he obtains, in a promise that the goodness of God, all his goodness fhould be made to pafs before him. Emboldened by this fuccefs; he cannot reft till he has obtained for the people a remiffion of their offence. And he faid, "If now I have found grace in thy fight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go amongst us, (for it is a ftiff-necked people) and pardon our iniquity and our fin, and take us for thine inheritance."* And behold he carries this point alfo, and the covenant is renewed between God and Ifrael. Let us fee that our requests be proper to be granted, and we have them already, before we make them. Let us be folicitous to obtain spiritual bleffings in the first place, and the temporal good things which we prized not, afked not, may perhaps come unexpected, unfought. "Give thy fervant," faid Solomon, "an understanding heart, that I may difcern between good and bad." "And the fpeech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had afked this thing. And God faid unto him, Because thou haft asked this thing, and haft not asked for thyfelf long life, neither haft asked riches for thyfelf, nor haft afked the life of thine enemies, but haft asked for thyfelf understanding to difcern judgment: behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wife and an understanding heart, fo that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee fhall any arife like unto thee. And I have alfo given thee that which thou haft not afked, both riches and honour fo that there fhall not be any among the kings like unto thee, all thy days."
To enjoy this heavenly vifion of all God's goodnefs, as it paffed by, Mofes 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 moft formidable enemy. While my glory paffeth by, I will put thee in a clift of the rock; and will cover thee with my hand, while I pass by." An infpired apoftle tells us
* Chap. xxxiv..9. +1 Kings iii. 10-13. Verfe 22.
that "this rock was Chrift."* And it sheds a pleafing light on the fubject. What afforded fafety to Mofes in the tremendous hour, when the glory of God appeared? A clift of that rock from whence the living ftream iffued 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 fhadow of a great rock in a weary land." Did Mofes flee thither for fhelter, 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 miferable. Obferve the folid foundation on which that man is established who refts on the word of God; "thou fhalt ftand 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," fays God, "I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-ftone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make hafte." +
Mofes is now directed to make all needful preparation for this important vifit. In his hafte 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 difannul the law of God. The lofs, though great, was not irreparable. But God will not entirely repair it, that Mofes may have fomewhat to regret in the effects of his impatience. The former two tables were wholly of Godthe fubftance, the form, the writing, the fubject; but the last must partake of human ignorance and imperfection. The choice of the ftone, and the hewing it into form, are of Mofes; the writing and the words are ftill of God. And these were the tables which were laid up in the ark of the teftimony for prefervation,
Ifaiah xxviii. 16.
1 Cor. x. 4. + Ifaiah xxxii. 2.