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the sake of illustration. For anything that appears in the words of our Lord, we may conclude, as some writers do, that his allusion is not to the vision of Jacob, but to the custom of Royal Courts, with regard to their ambassadors, though Doddridge thought that our Lord predicted what literally took place at the time he was attended by angels in the days of his flesh, and what will yet be witnessed when he again appears to judge the world. For “the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him.”
That what was seen in vision was, as Fuller says, of the same general import as what was heard in the annexed promise, we may well suppose ; but if so, it must follow, that as the promise itself relates chiefly and almost exclusively to the increase and extension of Jacob's seed, as well as to the protection which God would afford him during his absence from his father's house, until he returned again to the place from which he went, it seems more in harmony with the circumstances of the vision to explain it of Providence in bringing about those things of which God had spoken first to Abraham and afterwards to Isaac, and now again to Jacob. Of that Providence it was a striking representation :
1. As to its reality. The patriarch, we may suppose, had never disbelieved this truth; but such were the circumstances in which he was now placed—the difficulties with which he met -the disappointment he had experienced and so surprising a turn had the whole affair of his obtaining the blessing from his brother taken, that he was in danger of doubting its favourable
aspect towards himself, and especially must he have been perplexed to see how the events predicted could ever come to pass. Nothing was of greater importance, therefore, nor anything more desirable, than that Jacob should have his mind refreshed with the truth of a Providence, and that its confirmation should be effected by such visible manifestations as those with which he was now favoured. Creatures may be distant from each other, and the most tender ties severed, but God is near to every one, Almighty, all-sufficient, and ever ready to succour those who love and trust him. Here was a ladder set up on the earth, whose top reached unto heaven, and above it was seen the eternal God himself, to show how he directs the affairs of this lower world, and constantly keeps up intercourse and communion with his intelligent creatures. It was an emblem of Providence, 2. In its vigilance.
The ladder was not only erected, forming the means of communication, but God was above it, looking down on the earth; so his eyes never sleep nor slumber, they constantly run to and fro the earth ; nothing escapes his notice; a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without him, and the very hairs of our heads are all numbered.
3. It suggested to the patriarch the idea of minuteness. Some persons will believe that the affairs of nations, as such, are superintended by the Divine Being, but it is thought to be beneath him to regard the little concerns of individuals; but there are the same reasons for believing in a particular Providence as a general one, and, in fact, the former is involved in the latter. Jacob
was but one solitary person, yet for his sake the vision took place; and he appears to have been the only person to whom the angelic attendants directed their attention, just as if there were no other in existence. So “the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them."* It was an emblem of Providence,
4. In regard to the agency by which it is carried on; it is through the instrumentality of angels. Those happy intelligences are “ all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.”
5. Of the manner in which it is conversant with difficulties. Many can see a Providence in their comforts, but not in their troubles.
6. The vision taught its constancy. The. angels were ascending and descending continually; there was no period when their motions were not performed. So our Lord declared of all his disciples, and each in particular, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of his Father. I
THE VAIL OF MOSES. “ And it came to pass, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone ; and they were afraid to come nigh him. And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the
* Ps. xxxiv. 7. + Heb. i. 14. I Matt. xviii. 10. rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them. And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face. But when Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded. And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him."*
It is a peculiarity which often characterizes those types and emblems of Scripture that are most impressive and instructive, that they seem to be occasioned and called for by the circumstances in which they occur, and not designed for the immediate purpose they were first used for, or for which the Almighty was about to employ them. The reason for this is obvious; it is the means of their more completely accomplishing the end for which they were instituted, and more effectually calling forth the scrutinizing powers of those for whom they were appointed.
These remarks will apply to the vail of Moses. From the above account of it with which we are furnished by the great Jewish leader himself, it appears to have been used in the first instance as a thing of convenience, to enable him to hold intercourse with the Israelites, when he came down from the Mount, where he
* Exod. xxxiv. 29–35.
had been in communication with God for forty days, for it is said, verse 35, “ And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone, and Moses put the vail upon his face again: until he went in to speak with him ;' but it is evident from the manner in which the Apostle Paul alludes to it,* that what was originally employed to serve a temporary occasion, was immediately afterwards devoted to a significant and emblematical purpose, for he says, that “Moses put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished;" so that the expedient he had recourse to, as made necessary by current circumstances, he afterwards employed for another purpose ; namely, to show the inability of the Israelites to look to the end of the dispensation under which they were placed.
But there is an important question arises here. Was the want of power which was signified by the vail moral or necessary ? was it unavoidable, or were the Israelites responsible for it? Was the vail of Moses an emblem of the dispensation of the Law or of their state, and did it imply that the dispensation was obscure, or that they had weakened their power of vision? or are we to understand it as designed to represent both? Of this latter opinion was Dr. Adam Clarke, Macknight, Doddridge, Mather, Calmet, Guyse, and some others. They have thought that the Apostle alludes to a double vail, or rather one that was used by Moses for two purposes, the first to represent the
* 2 Cor. iii. 13.