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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 Moses may have somewhat to regret in the effects of his impatience. The former two tables were wholly of God-the 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 preservation, and were transmitted to posterity. And it is thus that the precious things of God are still conveyed to men. The casket is human, the jewel which it contains is divine.“ We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.''* And thus, though a merciful God express not displeasure at our rashness and folly, they become in the end their own punishment.
Moses is commanded to be ready in the morning. The operations of human state loiter and linger, and seek to acquire importance from expectation and delay; but the movements of Deity prevent the dawning, and derive all their importance from themselves. Unless prayer be followed out by vigour and exertion, men pray in vain. One hour lost in slumber rendered ten thousand petitions fruitless and ineffectual; but Moses, like a man in earnest, like a man who knew the value of what he had so ardently desired, is ready betimes; he is at the appointed place at the appointed hour; with the tablets prepared to receive the impress of God. He carried them with him, a dead, vacant, useless lump of stone; he brings then back turned into spirit and life, clothed with meaning, speaking to the eye, to the heart, to the conscience ; for if God breathe on dry bones, they instantly live, and stand up a great army.
If we can conceive a situation more awfully solemn than another, it was that of Moses on this occasion. Consider the stillness of the morning, the elevation of the mountain, the pleasing gloom of solitude, the expected display of a glory which he could not behold but as it departed. Every circumstance is great and affecting, but altogether suitable to the glory that followed : for “ the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord.”+ At the inauguration of kings, it is customary to proclaim their names and titles, and to bid defiance to every challenger or usurper of their rights. This is the mere pride of state, the mere insolence of possession. But the names of God are his nature, peculiar to himself, inapplicable, incommunicable to any other. And mark how the tide of mercy flows and swells till it has overcome every barrier; from “ the soles of the feet to the ancles, from the ancles to the knees, till it becomes a river, wherein a man may swim ;' and from an overflowing river converted into a boundless ocean, without bottom, without shore. “ The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression and sin."; While justice is confined in one steady, deep, awful stream, threatening destruction only to the impenitent and unbelieving ; expressed in these awful words, "and that will by no means clear the guilty.”
This was the commencement of an interview “ which lasted forty days and forty nights,” and which contained a repetition of the instructions formerly given respecting the tabernacle and its service. But this merits a separate and distinct consideration : as likewise does the alteration of the external appearance of Moses, on coming down from the mount; of which we mean to discourse next Lord's day. "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."
*2 Cor. iv. 7. + Exodus xxxiv. 5. Exodus xxxiv. 6,7. Exodus xxxiv. 29, 30.
HISTORY OF MOSES.
EXODUS XXXIV. 29, 30.
And it came to pass when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (with the two tables of testimony in
Moses's 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.
The sun, the great light of the natural world, communicates to all bodies a portion of his own splendour, and thereby confers upon them whatever lustre they possess. In his absence, all things assume the same dismal sable hue. The verdure of the meadow; the varied glory of the garden; the brightness of the moon's resplendent orb; the sweet attractions of " the human face divine," pronounce in so many different forms of expression, " The light of yonder celestial globe has arisen upon me: if I have any beauty or loveliness, with bim it comes, and with him it departs." The whole order and system of nature is designed to be a constant witness to the God of grace" the true light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world." If there be in angels any beauty of holiness, any fervour of love, any elevation of wisdom, any excellency of strength; if there be in man any bowels of mercies, any kindness of affection, any gentleness of spirit, any endearment of charity, any humbleness of mind, any meekness, patience, longsuffering, it is a glory reflected from “ the Father of lights.” It neither exists nor can be seen, but as it is supplied and discovered by the eternal Source of light and joy. Say to that tulip, at the gloomy solstice of the year, or at the dusky midnight hour, “ Array thyself in all those beautiful tints of thine wherewith thou charmest the eye of every beholder;" it hears thee not, it exhibits no colour but one. But with the return of the vernal breeze, and the genial influence of the sun, and the moment the dawning has arisen upon it, unbidden, unobserved, it puts on its beautiful garments, and stands instantly clothed in all the freshness of the spring. Why is that face clouded with sorrow, why grovels that spirit in the dust, why lacks that heart the glow of benevolence, the meltings of sympathy? The genial current of the soul is frozen up, it is the dreary winter season of grace. The sun, the Sun of righteousness has withdrawn ; but, lo, after a little while, the winter is past, cheerful spring returns, the voice of joy and gladness is heard, “ Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee."*
We naturally assume the tone of those with whom we frequently converse, and whom we dearly love. “He who walketh with wise men shall become
wise ; but the companion of fools shall be destroyed.” At the social friendly banquet, the eye sparkles with delight, the heart expands, the brow is smoothed, the tongue is inspired by the law of kindness ; every look is the reception or communication of pleasure. In the house of mourning, we speedily feel ourselves in unison with the afflicted ; our eyes stand corrected, our words are few, our heads droop. In the cell of melancholy, the blood runs cold, the features relax, our powers of thought and reflection are suspended, with those of the moping wretches whose misery we deplore. What wonder then if Moses, descending from the mount, after forty days familiar intercourse with “ the Lord God, merciful and gracious," had not the appearance of an ordinary man ; that he had acquired a lustre not his own ! " He was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread nor drink water."*
What a sublime idea does this suggest of communion with God! What created enjoyment has not lost its relish in a much shorter space! What powers of unassisted nature could have so long sustained the want of aliment ! No one thing in a more humiliating manner teaches us our frailty and dependence, than the constant necessity of recurring to the grosser elements for support. Man, the lord of this lower world, must, with the subject tribes, and in a much greater proportion than many of them, pass a very considerable portion of his existence in a state of unconsciousness and insensibility during the hours of sleep : he must purchase with the suspension of his reason, during a third part of his being, the exercise of it during the other two. The happiness of an immortal being is, oftener than once in a day, subjected to a little bread that perisheth; the spirit, however willing, quickly feels the oppressive weight of a body frail and infirm. But behold the triumph of the spirit over the flesh : or rather, the power and grace of God, which, vouchsafing in general to employ means, call upon us diligently to use them ; but which, sometimes neglecting these, and conveying immediate supplies and support, lead us at once to Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."
Moses descends, not with impaired, but with recruited strength; strength, which, to the end of life, never more abated : not with a sunk, darkened, extinguished eye : but an eye, which, having seen God, never afterwards became dim: not with a visage pale and emaciated from a fast of forty days; but with a countenance that dazzled the eyes of every beholder. What a glorious creature is the friend of God; “Lo, () Lord, they that are far from thee shall perish, but it is good for me to draw nigh unto God.” When Moses descended before, he was clothed in just resentment and displeasure ; he came a minister of vengeance, and all Israel trembled as he frowned; he now returns with the covenant renewed, the tables of the law restored, a messenger of peace, and yet the lustre of his appearance is intolerable. What must the great JEHOVAH be in his own glory, when reflected, imparted glory-glory communicated to a creature, thus intimidates and astonishes! How dreadful the glory of wrath and fiery indignation, when the glory of infinite goodness we are not able steadfastly to behold !
Moses descended the first time, with the tables in their original state, alto
of no attempt to collect the scattered fragments, and to reunite them. Superstition might have made an improper use of what could not be distinctly read, and of consequence, but partially understood ; and true piety will seck some surer rule of faith and conduct, some more powerful assistant in devotion, than the scattered shivers of even a sapphire from the throne of God. It has been wofully demonstrated to be an easy matter to mar the work of God. Adam defaced the divine image in his own person, by one wilful trans
gression. Moses cancelled the hand writing of ordinances in one rash moment: and every thoughtless transgressor is pulling down, in his own person, a fabric of God's rearing. But all the powers of nature united, are incapable of rebuilding that temple, of renewing that writing, of restoring that image. He who in the beginning "commanded light to shine out of darkness," alone can relumine the extinguished life of God in the soul. The hand which at first created man out of “dust of the ground," alone can form of the dead in trespasses and sins, “ a new creature in Christ Jesus unto good works.” And what was afterwards laid up in the holy place, and preserved while the taberpacle remained ? Not that which came pure and perfect from the hands of the Creator, but that which God, by an act of grace and the intervention of a Mediator, recovered. Thus “ the general assembly and church of the firstborn written in heaven," is not composed of men that never “ left their first estate,” but of " just men made perfect ;" not of creatures like Adam, in a state of innocence, but of creatures redeemed by the blood of the Son of
the Spirit of the living God. Let us not, then, regret the loss of an earthly paradise, nor the destruction of the image of a changeable, though perfect creature, while, through grace, we may regain the paradise of God, and be fashioned in body and in spirit like unto our glorious Redeemer.
Moses has acquired a glory on the mount which he is not conscious of. “ He wist not that the skin of his face shone, while he talked with him."'* The choicest of God's gifts, and humility is one of the most precious, come not with observation, announce not their approach, are not first visible to the possessor. But it is impossible to converse much with God, without appearing more glorious in the eyes of men. Has a man been in the mount with God ? He needeth not to sound a trumpet before him, to proclaim from whence he has come; he has but to shew itself, and the evidence of it will appear. The man has been in the mount with God. What are the signs of it? Is he ostentatious, self-sufficient. Is he eager to talk of his attainmeuts, to exhibit the shining of his face, to abash and confound a less favoured brother ? He is not like Moses, he has not been with the God of Moses, his pretensions are vain. That man has been in the mount with God. How does it appear ? Is he gloomy and sullen, harsh and uncharitable ? Is his tongue filled with anathemas ? Flashes his eye destruction on mankind ? He is a liar and an impostor, believe him not; he is not come down from the God of the law, from the God of the gospel, from the relenting Father of Israel, from the compassionate Father of the human race: No, he has been convers. ing with, he has ascended from the malignant enemy of God and man: by his spirit you may know who he is.
Pretenders are at as much pains to display the lustre of their outside, as Moses was to conceal his. By this then you shall try and know yourselves, and form your judgment of others. Does a man issue forth from his closet, return from the temple, retire from the Lord's table, with his temper sweetened, his heart enlarged, with the law of kindness on his tongue, with the tear of compassion, or the lustre of benevolence in his eye ? Is he, like Moses, more attentive to the condition, necessities and instruction of others, than earnest to blaze abroad his own excellencies, in order to obtain reputation for himself ? How gloriously does such an one shine in the eyes of men: but that is nothing, how gloriously does he shine in the eyes of God! And that is true only which God sees to be such.
“The face of Moses shone and they were afraid to come nigh him.”+ Of what importance is it to inquire, at what particular moment, and through what
particular medium, this singular appearance was produced ? Is it not sufficient for me, that I see the fruit hastening to its maturity, though the commencement and progress of vegetation escape me? I look up and “behold the face of the sun," and draw coinsort from his beams, though the discriminating instant of darkness and the dawning was too fine for my perception. Let me be able to say, with the man restored to sight, “One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see,”* and I shall leave to others a minute inquiry into the process of the cure. Shew me a man shining in the beauty of holiness; a man really changed in heart and in life, and I will not trouble him to tell me, what perhaps he does not know, and therefore cannot declare,
at what place, by means of what preacher, or by what dispensation of Providence, the important change passed upon him.
A truly good man is among the first to discover, to acknowledge and to correct his own errors and imperfections; but humility spreads the veil which conceals his good qualities first over his own eyes, and he is among the last to discern the splendour which confounds others. What a powerful charm is there in undissembled goodness, when the wicked themselves are constrained to venerate and to approve it, even while it condemns them.
Besides the instance in the text, scripture has furnished us with at least another, and a most illustrious one, in the history of Stephen, the first martyr to christianity, after its divine Author. An enraged multitude, blood-thirsty accusers, and a partial tribunal feel themselves awed into a temporary reverence; their fury stands suspended while they be hold him. “All that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.”+ But there is a greater than even this upon record. The band which broke into the garden, with their officers, under the commission of the chief priests, and headed by the traitor, to apprehend Jesus of Nazareth, were so struck with an inexpressible something in his presence and address, “ that they went backward and fell to the ground." I
But what made Israel 10 shrink from the presence of their gracious leader, intercessor and friend? What could render the presence of his affectionate brother formidable to Aaron ? That which drove the first transgressor to “ hide himself from the presence of the Lord God.” It is conscience that makes cowards of all men ; it is conscience that converts the rustling of a leaf, ihe shaking of a bulrush, into a spectre from the grave, or a flaming minister from heaven to execute vengeance. Under the awful terrors of divine glory, they had lately entreated, saying, “Let Moses speak to us, and we will hear :" but now, even the look of Moses, though he say nothing, is too much for a guilty people to bear. Alas, how little do men reflect, when engaged in criminal pursuits, that the pleasures of sin in which they riot, are one day to become hideous ghosts to disturb their repose, to scare the imagination, to harrow up the soul, to accuse them at the tribunal of God, to be their tormentors forever.
Moses, conscious of good-will at all, exulting in the thought of having procured pardon and reconciliation for them, but unconscious of the change which had passed upon his own person, observes with concern and surprise that every one avoided him. At lengih he discovers the brightness of his own countenance reflected from their guilty blushing foreheads; and by words of kindness encourages them to return, whom the terror of his looks had dismayed and put to flight. We then find him, with the condescension of true goodness, accommodating himself to the circumstances of the people whom he was appointed to instruct. Intercourse with heaven has raised him to a higher pitch of exaltation ; guilt and fear have degraded them: but love levels the mountains, and fills up the vallies of separation. The interposition of a veil re
+ Acts vi, 15.
* John ix, 25.
t John xviji. 6.