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seems to transmit the light, and the solidity of the gem, which no force can penetrate. It is too fanciful to suppose, that there is singular beauty in the colour of the jewel here specified by the sacred penman, who was an eye-witness of this glorious appearance, and who attempts to convey an idea of what he saw. “Paved work of a sapphire stone,” the happy medium between the fair and dazzling lustre of the diamond, and the dim familiar complexion of the emerald: not the fiery glare of the empyrean nor the sober verdure of the earth; but the pellucid azure of the chrystal sky, which equally corrects and tempers the dazzling power of the noontide sun, and the oppressive gloom of the midnight hour; which possesses light enough to discover the object without distressing the organ, and shade sufficient to relieve without sinking into obscurity? Not overwhelmed, but cheered and elevated by this moderate display of the divine glory; having seen God and yet living; feeling his hand upon them, yet uncrushed by its weight; the nobles of the children of Israel conclude the services of this eventful day by
the banquet of peace and love. They must now re
turn to secular employments, and descend from the mountain; but Moses has yet farther manifestations of the will of God to receive, and is commanded to ascend still higher. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them,” Verse 12. Be our attainments what they will, who is it that “hath attained, or is already perfect?” Our arrival at one eminence is only to see from its summit another, and thence another still rising above us: but in moral and intellectual pursuits, this is a disappointment that mortifies not, an exercise that fatigues not: the joy of heaven is to make progress in the contemplation and discovery of perfection that knows no limit, knows no end.
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From this higher elevation, Moses is informed that he is to receive the same law in a different form: “I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them,” Verse 12. As he arises towards heaven, the dispensation of which he was the minister becomes more and more plain and palpable. A matter of such deep importance must not be trusted to the vague and varying traditions of fallible and changing men, but collected into a record that can defy the lapse of time, and preserve unchanging truth and dignity amidst the revolutions of empire and the wreck of nations. This was graciously intended to prevent the necessity of a frequent interposition of Deity, which must at length have diminished its impression by commonness and familiarity. What God therefore at first, with his creative finger, curiously engraved on the heart of man, he audibly pronounced amidst the awful glories of Sinai, and afterwards committed to writing on tables of stone for perpetual preservation. And happy it is for man, that he has not been left, for moral and religious instruction, to the traditions of men who are ever changing and inconsistent with themselves, or to the flimsy, imperfect, contradictory systems of philosophy and science, falsely so called; but that he is brought to the law and to the testimony, to Moses and the prophets, to the Saviour himself and his apostles, to a bible and a Sabbath. Happy it is that every one is furnished with one and the same light to his feet and lamp to his paths, and that all are taught of God from the least to the greatest. But indeed the care of Providence in preserving this precious record, and transmitting it to us unaltered, unimpaired, is a perpetual miracle, a series of revelations, which we are bound to acknowledge with wonder, and to improve with gratitude.
In the next ascent into the mount, Moses is accom. panied, a certain length at least, and no doubt by divine appointment, by Joshua his minister, on whom God began to put honour thus early, in order to exalt him in the eyes of the people whom he was destined one day to command, and to prepare him betimes for the wise, and faithful discharge of his high office, by communion with God. As this absence of Moses, from the weighty duties of his charge, was to be of longer continuance than usual, the management of civil affairs, and the administration of justice were com. mitted, in the mean time, to Aaron and Hur, his companions and coadjutors on the mount, when by the lifting and holding up his hands Amalek was smitten before Israel. Was ever spot of this earthly balk so highly honoured as that barren mountain in the midst of the desert? Persons, not places, possess dignity. The presence of God confers greatness and importance; He can receive none from created, much less from artificial pomp and magnificence. The great God “ dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” “The heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain him;” but “Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones,” Isai. lvii. 15.
The curiosity of travellers has been excited to visit this scene of wonders. But is there not an intentional obscurity spread over the description, to baffle idle curiosity, and to call us to the spirit and intention of the dispensation, not the external apparatus of it? Wherever there is this book; wherever there is a principle of conscience; wherever there is common reason and understanding, there is the law, there is Sinai, there is God. It is not to make a pilgrimage to the holy sepulchre, to stand on Calvary, to drive infi
dels by force of arms out of Jewry, that constitute the faith and piety of the gospel; but to know Christ Jesus and him crucified in “the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death,” Phil. iii. 10. The appearance of God’s presence and providence vary their aspect, according to the distance at which they are contemplated, and the medium through which we view them. What to the nobles in the mount appeared “as it were a paved work of a sapphire-stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness,” verse 10—to the multitude in the plain wore a more threatening and terrible appearance. “The sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire, on the top of the mount, in the eyes of the children of Israel,” verse 17. Fire at once consumes and refines, leaves to the pure gold all its solidity and value, and lays hold only of the dross. Moses undismayed, because following the command of God, advances into the midst of consuming fire; and so far is nature from being overpowered and destroyed by this keen, piercing element, that it is rather cherished and strengthened by it. Flame supplies the place of food; instead of perishing in a moment, at the end of forty days, without any other means of subsistence, we see the prophet descend in additional glory and renovated vigour; for all creatures are and do that which their Creator wills. The next seven chapters contain a minute description of that sacred structure and its service, which God intended should be “the shadow of good things to come;” of which every iota and tittle was of divine contrivance and appointment, and undoubtedly had a meaning and significancy which we cannot in every particular find out to perfection. The pattern of it was showed unto Moses in the mount, and particular directions were given for its construction; in these were employed the forty days mentioned in the close of this chapter; when the history suddenly breaks off
to exhibit a scene of a very different nature, which, if God permit, will form the subject of the next Lecture; namely, the unprovoked revolt of Israel to Idolatry, the fabrication of the golden calf, and the hasty descent of Moses, to stem that dreadful torrent of guilt and wrath which had begun to flow. In the ratification of the covenant between God and Israel, we see the stress that was laid upon blood. The blood of the innocent victim must be poured out, and the altar must be sprinkled with blood. The elders of the people must be purified with blood. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission, no friendship, no peace, no access: life must be paid to redeem life. Blood in the sacrifice is the one thing needful, the one thing significant: blood in religious offices is all in all. Blood applied to any other purpose, is contaminating, unhallowed, unwholesome for food, polluting, not purify. ing to the flesh, is a source of corruption and death, not of health and life. The idea of blood, in one view or the other, runs through the whole history of redemption. It occurs not more frequently in the Old Testament than in the New. One great sacrifice has indeed put an end for ever to the future effusion of blood; but it is still symbolically held out as the medium of reconciliation and access to God. “We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace,” Eph. i. 7. We are redeemed, “not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot,” 1 Peter i. 18, 19. We “draw nigh to God through the blood of his Son.” When we approach to ratify every one his personal covenant with God at the communion table, we commemorate the death of Christ in the symbols of his body broken, and his blood shed. “This is the blood of the covenant, said Moses, which the Lord hath made with you,” and “this is the New Testament in my blood, saith Christ, shed for the remission of sins.” When we look toward eternal rest,