Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries




Exodus 3:1-3

"Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up."

If God have on some occasions revealed himself to people, when, like Saul, they have been in the very act of committing the most heinous sins, Acts 9:4—he has more generally favored them when they have been occupied, like the shepherds, in their proper calling, Luke 2:8-9.

Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, when God appeared to him in a burning bush, and gave him a commission to deliver Israel from their bondage in Egypt. By this extraordinary appearance God not merely awakened the curiosity of Moses, but conveyed to him some very important instruction; to elucidate which we shall,

I. Show what was intended by the burning bush.

1. The burning bush was intended to represent the state and condition of the Israelites in Egypt.

They were cruelly oppressed, and every effort was made to destroy them, Exodus 1:9-22. Nor had they in themselves any more ability to withstand their enemies, than a thorn-bush has to resist the action of fire. Yet not only were they preserved from destruction, but they even multiplied in proportion as means were used to prevent their increase.

2. The burning bush was intended to represent the state and condition of the true church of God in the world.

The church, whose state was typified by that of Israel, has at all times suffered by persecution, though it has enjoyed some intervals of comparative rest. And, considering that all the powers of the world have been confederate against it, we may well be amazed that it has not been utterly consumed. But it has endured the fiery trial to this hour, and still defies the impotent attacks of all its adversaries.

3. The burning bush was intended to represent the state and condition of every true Christian.

The declaration that "all who would live godly in Christ Jesus should suffer persecution," has been verified in every place and every age, "the third part are, and ever will be, brought through the fire." And it is no less than a miracle, that, when the believer has so many enemies, both without and within, he does not "make shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience." But the furnace, instead of destroying, purifies and refines him; and his very graces are perfected by the trials that endanger their existence, Romans 5:3-5.

Having pointed out both the primary and more remote signification of this phenomenon we shall,

II. Account for the miracle which it exhibited.

Well might the sight of a bush burning, but not consumed, excite the astonishment of Moses; but his wonder would cease when he found that God was in the bush.

The person here called "the angel of the Lord" was Christ.

The angel expressly called himself "The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;" which sufficiently proves that he could not be a created angel, seeing that it would be the most daring blasphemy in any creature to assume that incommunicable title of Jehovah. Yet it was not God the Father; for Stephen, recording this history, informs us, that "God sent Moses by the hand of the angel, Acts 7:30-35;" consequently the angel was God the Son, and not God the Father. Indeed Christ, who is elsewhere called "The angel of the covenant," was the person, who, in all the appearances of God to man, assumed the human or angelic shape; thereby preparing the world for the fuller manifestation of himself in his incarnate state. And it is on this account that he is called "The image of the invisible God, Colossians 1:15."

It was Christ's presence with the Israelites that prevented their destruction.

He was in the bush, and therefore the bush was not consumed; so he was in the midst of his oppressed people; and therefore the Egyptians could not prevail against them. Christ was among them before he gave them any symbol of his presence; for it was he who rendered the assistance of the midwives unnecessary, and emboldened them to withstand the commands of Pharaoh. He was afterwards with them in the pillar and the cloud, protecting them from the Egyptian hosts, and stopping the progress of their enemies until they were overwhelmed in the sea. When, for the punishment of their sins, he refused to go with them, they were sure to be overpowered, Numbers 14:42-45; Joshua 7:4-5; but whenever he returned in mercy to them, they prospered and prevailed.

It is that same presence of Christ that preserves the true church and every true Christian.

Christ has said, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world;" and hence it is that "the gates of Hell have never prevailed against the church;" yes, we are assured, they never shall prevail. We are also told that "he dwells in the hearts" of all his people, Ephesians 3:17, and is "their life, Colossians 3:4;" and that, wherever they live and act, it is not so much them, as Christ in them, Galatians 2:20. It is by this consideration that he encourages them to "go through fire and water," persuaded that no evil shall happen to them, Psalm 46:5. And to his continued interposition and support they must ascribe their preservation in every danger, and their deliverance from every enemy, Psalm 124:1-5.

Let us now "turn aside and behold this great sight!"

Let us turn from every worldly thought, and inspect this wonderful appearance, not with curiosity, but profoundest reverence. Let us observe herein,

1. To what state, God's most favored people may be reduced.

Your afflictions may be heavy. But are any discouraged by reason of their great trials? Be it known that tribulation is the way to the kingdom; and all, who arrive there, have trodden the same path, Acts 14:22; Revelation 7:14. Nor need we be alarmed at any fire that is kindled for us, since Christ will be with us in the midst of it, Isaiah 41:10, and "bring us out of it purified as gold!"

2. What they may expect at God's hands.

In seasons of great trial we are tempted to think that God has forsaken us; but he never was more immediately present with the Hebrew youths, than when they were cast into the furnace. Nor did he ever feel more love to his own Son, than in the hour when he cried, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Let us then learn to trust God, and expect that, when we walk through the fire, we shall not be burned, Isaiah 43:2.

3. What in the midst of all their trials should be their chief concern.

Moses in his valedictory address to the twelve tribes, congratulates Joseph on "the good-will of Him who dwelt in the bush, Deuteronomy 33:16." And most truly are they blessed who are thus savingly interested in the divine favor. To them God is "a wall of fire" for their protection, Zechariah 2:5; but to others he is "a consuming fire" for their destruction, Hebrews 12:29.

Alas! alas! in what a fearful state are they, who shall be "cast into the lake of fire and brimstone!" Into "a fire that never shall be quenched," and in which they shall continue unconsumed to all eternity! Oh! "who can dwell with everlasting burnings! Isaiah 33:14."

But, if we are reconciled to him in the Son of his love, we have nothing to fear; we have nothing to fear either in time or eternity; for, however painful our state in this world may be, he will support us with his presence; and in the world to come, we shall be forever beyond the reach of harm, even in "his immediate presence, in the fullness of joy for evermore!" Seek then his favor; yes, seek it with your whole hearts!




Exodus 3:12

"And God said: Certainly I will be with you."

There is nothing more amiable in the character of a saint than true and genuine humility. Without the virtue of humility, all graces are defective, and all attainments worthless in the sight of God. But it is no uncommon thing to see other dispositions assuming the garb of humility, and claiming an excellence which they do not possess.

The Prophet Jeremiah, when called to the prophetic office, declined it under an idea that he was "a child, and unable to speak." But God said to him, "Say not, I am a child; for you shall go to all that I shall send you, and whatever I shall command you, you shall speak, Jeremiah 1:4-7." His pretended insufficiency for the work was, in reality, no other than a cover for his dread of the dangers to which it would expose him; and therefore God, in order to remove the impediment, replied, "Be not afraid of their faces; for I am with you, to deliver you! Jeremiah 1:8."

Thus Moses, when God said to him, "Come now, and I will send you unto Pharaoh, that you may bring forth my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt;" replied, "Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt, Exodus 3:10-11." This was specious enough, and had the semblance of true humility; but it was only a pretext, and a cover to his fears and unbelief. He had, forty years before, exerted himself with great vigor in behalf of that people, and had even slain an Egyptian who was contending with them; but they had thrust him from them, saying, "Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?" and Pharaoh had sought his life, as forfeited to the laws of the land.

Now, therefore, he was afraid that the people would show the same disregard of his efforts, and that his slaughter of the Egyptian would be visited with the punishment which the laws of the land denounced against him. This indeed, did not at first sight appear to be his real motive; but his numerous refusals of the office delegated to him, repeated as they were under a variety of pretexts, clearly discovered at last what was in his heart, and justly excited the displeasure of God against him, Exodus 4:13-14; Exodus 4:19. But the very first answer of God should have been quite sufficient to remove every apprehension. God said to him, "Certainly I will be with you!" and, having that assurance, he should without hesitation have gone forth to his destined labors.

Let us consider,

I. The extent of the promise.

As relating to him, it comprehended all that he could wish.

True, his work was arduous, and to unassisted man impracticable; but, if God was with him, what could he have to fear? He would be guided by a wisdom that could not err, and he aided by a power which could not be overcome. With such an assurance, what had he to do with discouragements? Could Pharaoh hurt him, while he was under such protection; or the Israelites withstand his solicitations, when enforced by such powerful energy on their minds? Every difficulty should have vanished from his mind; and he should have leaped for joy at the prospect of effecting so great and good a work.

But it relates to us also, and pledges God to an equal extent in our behalf.

A similar promise was given to Joshua, on an occasion precisely similar, Joshua 1:5; and that is quoted by the Apostle Paul as applicable to every true believer, "God has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you; so that WE may boldly say: The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me Hebrews 13:5-6." Here the very promise made to Moses, is renewed to Joshua, and declared to belong to us also. Whatever difficulties, therefore, we may have to encounter in the discharge of our duty to God, we need not fear; his promised presence shall be with us in our efforts, and his almighty power secure to us a successful outcome.

The more minute consideration of the subject will fall under the next head of my discourse, while I endeavor to show,

II. The encouragement this promise affords to us.

We may properly view it, in the first place, as applicable to ministers.

Ministers have, if I may so speak, the very same office delegated to them as was assigned to Moses; they are sent to bring men out of spiritual thraldom, and to deliver them from a bondage far more terrible than that of Egypt. The power that opposes them is far stronger than that of Pharaoh; and the unhappy captives are in love with their chains; they are themselves as averse to leave their hard taskmaster, as he is to lose their services. Were we to go in our own strength, we would soon desert our post; as Moses did, when, in reliance on his own arm, he prematurely offered to the people his assistance. But with the promise of God's presence, a promise specifically given to us by our Divine Master for our encouragement, Matthew 28:18, we go forth with confidence; and to every obstacle that is in our way, we say, "Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! Zechariah 4:7."

We know that the people to whom we speak are as incapable of hearing our words, as dry bones scattered upon the face of the earth; yet do we not despond, or even doubt the efficacy of our ministrations for those to whom we are sent; and, in dependence on this word, we hope and believe, that the word which we speak shall prove "the power of God to the salvation" of those who hear it.

We are not unmindful of the question put by the Apostle, "Who is sufficient for these things?" but, if the rod of Moses wrought effectually in his hand for the deliverance of Israel, we have no fear but that the Word of God, by whoever administered, shall be alike effectual for all the ends for which it is sent. It is "the rod of God's strength;" and not all the powers of darkness shall be able to withstand it.

But it is also applicable to all of God's people.

To this extent, as we have before observed, Paul applies it; and every believer needs it for his support. Every one is engaged in a great work, for which no finite power is sufficient. Every one, therefore, needs to be encouraged with an assurance, that God will be with him in all his endeavors to perform it, and will secure to him the desired success.

Believer, have you much to do for God, even so much as you could have no hope of effecting without the arm of Omnipotence exerted in your behalf? Hear what God has said for your encouragement, "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness! Isaiah 41:10."

See here, how God, in every successive part of these promises, accommodates himself to your weakness and your fears. When he says, "I am with you," a thought may perhaps arise, that he will be with you only to witness your defeat; he therefore adds, "I will be your God."

Does a sense of your weakness press upon you? He further says, "I will strengthen you." Are you still discouraged, because the work is left to you? He adds, "I will help you."

Are you still dejected through an apprehension of your failure at last? he takes the whole responsibility on himself, and declares, for your comfort, "I will altogether uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness." This shows the extent to which this promise goes, in relation to everything which our necessities may require.

Again, Have you also much to suffer for God in your Christian course? Doubtless you must have some cross to bear, else you could not be conformed fully to your Savior's image. But, whether your trials are more or less severe, the promise in my text secures to you an effectual help, and a sure deliverance. For thus says the Lord, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you; when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you; for I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior! Isaiah 43:2-3." Here again the extent of the promise clearly appears, and its perfect sufficiency for every trial to which you can be exposed.

Is there yet a lurking apprehension that in the extremity of death your heart will fail? At this season, also, shall the presence of your God afford you effectual support, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me, Psalm 23:4." Now, though the valley of this shadow of death may comprehend the whole of the present life as beset with snares and difficulties—yet it must include the closing scenes of life, as well as those that have preceded it; and, consequently, when our flesh and heart fail, we may be assured that "God will be the strength of our heart, and our portion forever! Psalm 73:26."

Learn from hence.

1. To undertake nothing but in dependence on God.

When God given his assistance to Israel, no man could stand before them; but when they went up against the Canaanites in dependence on an arm of flesh, they were put to flight and slain, Numbers 14:43-45. So it will be with us, if we presume to engage in anything without first asking counsel, and imploring help, from him. God is jealous of his own honor; and if we place our reliance on anything but him, we must expect a curse, and not a blessing, on all our labors, Jeremiah 17:5-6.

2. To shrink from nothing to which God calls us.

If Moses was forbidden to shrink from the duties imposed on him—then what shall we not willingly and confidently undertake for God? We must not contemplate human means, when the path of duty is clear; but must expect him to "perfect his own strength in our weakness." With him it is alike "easy to save by many or by few;" nor need we doubt a moment, but that "through Christ strengthening us we can do all things." "If God is for us, who can be against us?"

3. To despair of nothing which we undertake at his command.

We may be in the path of duty, and yet find many difficulties, even such as may appear utterly insuperable. Moses himself was so discouraged by his lack of success, that he complained of God as having disappointed and deceived him. But he succeeded at last; and the very difficulties which had discouraged him served but the more to illustrate the power and grace of God.

Just so, we may find it for a season; but we should bear in mind, that his word, which he has pledged to us, is immutable, and that his counsel shall stand, though earth and Hell should combine to defeat it. Let us then "commit our every way to him;" and, with a holy confidence, advance, "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might!"




Exodus 3:14

God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

It is of great importance that ministers should be considered as ambassadors of God. They should deliver nothing which they cannot enforce with, Thus says the Lord! Without this, their word can have but little weight. But ministrations thus supported will produce the happiest effects.

Moses was commissioned to offer deliverance to the oppressed Israelites. But he rightly judged that they would ask from whence he had his authority. He therefore inquired of God, what answer he should return, and received from God the direction recorded in the text.

To understand the words aright, we must consider,

I. The title God assumed.

God had hitherto revealed himself to man by the name of God Almighty. Though he had been called Jehovah, he was not fully known by that name, even to his most highly-favored servants, Exodus 6:3. He now was pleased to assume a title similar to that; but, if possible, of still plainer import.

The name, I AM THAT I AM, represents him to be:

1. Self-existent.

Creatures have only a derived existence, and therefore a dependent existence. They are now what they once were not, and may again cease to be. But God from all eternity was precisely what he now is. To him therefore this august title may be properly applied. Nor are there lacking other similar descriptions of him to confirm it, Psalm 102:27; Revelation 1:4.

2. Immutable.

Every creature in earth and Heaven is liable to change. But "with God there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." He himself claims immutability as his own peculiar prerogative, Malachi 3:6. And in this view, the title assumed in the text must ever belong to him.

3. Incomprehensible.

No words can convey, or imagination conceive, an adequate idea of God, Job 11:7; 1 Timothy 6:16. Hence God does not endeavor to explain his nature to Moses. But, by declaring himself to be what he is, intimates, that he is what can neither be comprehended nor expressed. His answer, in effect, was similar to that which he afterwards gave to Manoah, Judges 13:17-18.

The title thus explained, it will be proper to consider,

II. For what end God assumed this title.

The Israelites were extremely cast down by means of their long bondage. It was necessary therefore to prepare their minds for the intended deliverance.

Though they groaned under their oppression, they were too much reconciled to their yoke. They rather affected a mitigation of trouble, than the attainment of liberty. Though the promises made to their fathers were not wholly forgotten, the accomplishment of them was not cordially desired. Indeed, they scarcely conceived it possible that their emancipation should be effected. Hence it was necessary to stimulate their desires, renew their hopes, and confirm their expectations, of a better country.

The title which God assumed was admirably adapted to this end.

If God was so incomprehensible a Being, he could easily devise means of executing his own sovereign will and pleasure. If he was the one self-existent, independent Creator of the universe, all creatures must be wholly subject to his control. And if he were absolutely immutable, he could not recede from the covenant entered into with their fathers. He therefore could not want either inclination or power to deliver them. Yes, He could not but deliver them for his own great name's sake. He could not be I AM, if his promised interposition would be either withheld or defeated. Thus the declaration of his name must inspire them with confidence, and induce them willingly to put themselves under the direction of Moses.


1. What a solemn attention does the Gospel demand!

The Gospel is a message of mercy to those who are in bondage to sin. And they who preach it are ambassadors from the great I AM. Jesus, who sends them forth, assumes to himself this very title, John 8:58. To the same effect also, his character is drawn in Hebrews 13:8. He has commissioned his servants to go forth into all the world, Mark 16:15; and promised (as God did to Moses) to be always with them, Matthew 28:20.

Shall we then make light of the mercy which He offers to us; or doubt his power and willingness to fulfill his promises? Shall we thrust away his servants, saying, Why do you interfere with us? Acts 7:27.

Let us remember who it is that speaks to us in the Gospel, Luke 10:16. Every faithful minister may say, I AM has sent me unto you. Nor, though miracles have ceased, shall signs be wanting to confirm the word; the deaf shall hear, the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers be cleansed. And blessed is he whoever shall not be offended at the Redeemer's voice, Matthew 11:5-6.

2. What encouragement is here afforded to those who are groaning under spiritual bondage!

God brought out his people safely, notwithstanding all their difficulties; and in due time put them into possession of the promised land. Shall the spiritual redemption offered by him be less effectual? Are not his power and faithfulness the same as in former ages? Isaiah 59:1. Will he not remove our obstacles, supply our needs, and destroy our enemies? Surely there are none so weak but they shall be made to triumph! Isaiah 49:24-25. Nor shall the Prince of Darkness oppose with more success than Pharaoh, Romans 16:20.

Behold, then, I AM has sent me to proclaim these glad tidings. Let all arise, and cast off their yoke, and burst their bands asunder. Let not unbelief represent the obstacles as insurmountable; nor fear induce you to comply with the imperious dictates of the world.

Pharaoh, after many successive plagues, agreed first that they should sacrifice to God in the land, but not in the wilderness; then that they should go into the wilderness, but not far; then that the men should go, but without the women or children; then that the women and children, but not the flocks, Exodus 8:25; Exodus 8:28; Exodus 10:11; Exodus 10:24.

Thus the world would prescribe limits to the service we shall pay to God. Behold! the Pillar and the Cloud are ready to conduct your path. The great I AM is for you; who then can be against you? Go forth in obedience to Him! Isaiah 55:12.




Exodus 4:10-14

Moses said to the LORD, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue."

The LORD said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say."

But Moses said, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it."

Then the LORD's anger burned against Moses and he said, "What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you."

That iniquity should prevail among the blind and ignorant, is no more than might reasonably be expected; but when we behold it in the most eminent saints, we are ready to exclaim, "Lord, what is man, that you are mindful of him, and the son of man, that you so regard him?" It would seem indeed that God has determined to stain the pride of human glory, by recording the faults of his most favored servants. It is remarkable that those who are most noted in Scripture for their piety, not only fell, but manifested their weakness in those very graces for which they were most distinguished.

Abraham yielded to unbelief.

Job yielded to impatience.

Moses yielded to anger.

Peter yielded to fear.

The circumstances here related concerning Moses, clearly show, not only what Moses was, but what human nature is, when put to the trial. The following observations therefore, while they elucidate the text, will lead us to behold our own faces as in a looking-glass.

I. There is in man a backwardness to engage in God's service.

Who was this man? Moses, in some respects the most pious of mankind. What was the service to which he was called? The most honorable and beneficial that could possibly be assigned to him. Yet, with a pertinacity truly surprising, he persisted in declining it, and desired that any one might be employed in it rather than he.

We, it is true, are called to no such service. But is there no work committed to us? Has not God appeared to us in his word, and commanded us to devote ourselves to his service? Has not the Savior bidden us to "deny ourselves, and take up our cross daily, and follow him?" And have we not shown an utter aversion to obey his call? As glorious as his service is, have we not declined it; and, like Moses, been more studious of our own ease than either of God's honor or the benefit of our fellow-creatures? Because we have foreseen difficulties, we have been unwilling to embark in the cause of God and of our own souls; when we ought rather to have gloried in enduring hardships for God, and closed with the proposal at once, saying, "Here am I, Lord; send me! Isaiah 6:8."

II. We are prone to cloak this backwardness with vain excuses.

Moses would not in plain terms refuse to obey his God; but he tried by even method to excuse himself from undertaking the office assigned him. He first pretends to decline through modesty, Exodus 3:11; and we might have given him credit for real humility, if his subsequent refusals had not shown that he was actuated by a far different principle. When God has obviated all objections arising from his unworthiness, then, in direct opposition to God's promise, he objects, that the people will not believe his message. Compare Exodus 3:18 with 4:1.

To remove all apprehensions on this ground, God works three miracles before him, and commissions him to perform the same in the sight of Pharaoh and the people of Israel. Still averse to engage in this work, he pleads his lack of eloquence, and his consequent unfitness for such an undertaking. To obviate this, God asks him, "Who made man's mouth;" and whether He, who had given him the faculty of speech, was not able to give effect to his endeavors? Yes, he promises to "be with him, and to teach him what he shall say." And does not all this overcome his reluctance? No; he still declines the service, and begs that God would employ any other person rather than himself.

Now we say that these were vain excuses; for the real principles by which he was actuated, were unbelief and cowardice. He had failed in this attempt forty years before, when he had run unsent, and acted in his own strength, and striven for the victory with no other than carnal weapons; and now he is apprehensive of another failure, when expressly sent, and furnished with a wonder-working rod, and assured of success by a God of almighty power and unimpeachable veracity. Moreover, as on the former occasion Pharaoh sought his life, he is afraid to put himself within his reach, lest Pharaoh should execute his threats upon him.

And what are the pleas whereby we attempt to justify or extenuate our neglect of God? Have they any solidity? Have they any foundation in truth? Are they not mere excuses? Is not an aversion to the service to which we are called, the true reason of our declining to engage in it? We will not say in plain words, 'I hate God; I hate religion; I am determined never to follow the Savior's steps!' But we pretend that this is not a convenient season, or that the work to which we are called is impracticable. Yes; if we will only allow our own consciences to speak, they will tell us that our pleas are mere excuses, and that, in fact, we are hypocrites, and dissemblers with God.

III. However satisfactory our excuses may appear to ourselves, they will only bring upon us God's displeasure.

Possibly Moses was unable to discern the true workings of his own heart; but did not God spy them out? Was not God's anger kindled against him? How God manifested his anger, we know not; it is sufficient to know God's "judgment was according to truth."

Who then are we, that we should think to impose upon God, or to hide from him the motives by which we are actuated? Has he not cautioned us sufficiently against such fatal mistakes, saying, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap?" Has he not warned us, that we shall certainly incur his displeasure, if we allow anything to keep us back from his service? He has mentioned the excuses made by those whom he invited to his feast; one had bought a piece of ground; and another a yoke of oxen which he wanted to see; another had married a wife, and therefore could not come. Now these were as weighty excuses for not going to an entertainment, as any that you can urge for not serving your God; and yet he declared that none of them should ever taste of his supper, Luke 14:18-24.

If this was the doom of those who were invited but once, do you think that you shall sit down at his supper, who have rejected ten thousand invitations! No; you may excuse your supineness by saying, "There is a lion in the way; there is a lion in the streets;" but he will say, "You wicked and slothful servant!" "Cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness."

The spies thought they had reason enough for postponing the invasion of the promised land; but they were all excluded from it; as were all others who yielded to their pernicious counsels.


1. Beware of self-deception.

The heart is deceitful above all things; and we have a subtle adversary, who will not fail to help forward the most fatal delusions. We see how others are biased, and how empty the pleas are by which they often justify their conduct. Let us see in them an image of ourselves; and learn to suspect the treachery of our own hearts. Let us remember that we cannot deceive our God; and that the time is coming when we shall be judged, not by our professions, but by our practice.

2. Learn what are the duties to which you are called.

With respect to particular steps in life, it may be extremely difficult to judge. For instance, whether one should go to such or such a station; whether one should undertake the office of a missionary, etc; but about a life of devotedness to God there can be no doubt. Endeavor then to ascertain what the Scriptures require of you; and set yourselves instantly to fulfill it. Do not invent excuses to shift off your duty; but look up to God to direct you in his way, and to strengthen you for the performance of all his will.

3. Yield not to any discouragements in the way of duty.

It is not to be expected that you should meet with no difficulties. You must doubtless have conflicts, and many of them severe; but "greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." You may not improperly, in a view of your own weakness, say, "Who is sufficient for these things?" But you must never forget who has said, "My grace is sufficient for you." Go on then, expecting assuredly that "your strength shall be according to your day of trial;" that the weaker you are in yourselves, the more shall "Jehovah's strength be magnified in your weakness;" and that "you shall at last be more than conquerors through Him that loved you!"




Exodus 5:1-2

"Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.'" Pharaoh said, "Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go!"

Many of the characters in the Old Testament are "set forth to us as examples;" and their history is recorded "for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world have come, 1 Corinthians 10:6; 1 Corinthians 10:11."

Among these, Pharaoh holds a very conspicuous place. When he persisted in his rebellion against God, Moses was inspired to declare to him what a monument of God's indignation he would be made to all future generations, and that God had raised him up to his exalted station for that express purpose. Not that God had infused any evil disposition into his mind; but by investing him with regal authority, and continuing him in the exercise of that authority notwithstanding his impious abuse of it—he enabled Pharaoh to display more conspicuously the wickedness of his heart, and to involve himself and his whole kingdom in more awful judgments than he could have done if he had moved in the situation of a private man.

Paul quotes this declaration, in order to show that God disposes of men according to his sovereign will and pleasure, either converting them unto himself, or permitting them to proceed in their wickedness, in such a way as shall ultimately conduce most to the honor of his own name, and to the accomplishment of his own eternal purposes. Compare Exodus 9:16 with Romans 9:15-18.

In this view, the passage before us is commended to us, as of singular importance. It shows us not only what Pharaoh was, but what human nature itself is—if left to manifest its dispositions without restraint. I shall take occasion from it, therefore, to show,

I. The impiety of Pharaoh.

I will bring it before you in a brief but comprehensive way. Mark,

1. The source of Pharaoh's impiety.

It arose from pride and ignorance. Because there was no man of greater eminence than himself on earth, this unhappy monarch imagined that there was none above him even in Heaven. Poor foolish worm! Swelling with his own importance, while the plagues inflicted on him showed how impotent he was to repel the assaults of the most base insects. What insufferable arrogance was there in that question, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?" And what horrible impiety in that declaration, "I know not the Lord; neither will I let Israel go!"

True, you son of Belial, you have unwittingly assigned the real cause of your obstinacy, "I know not the Lord! 1 Samuel 2:12." As Paul says of the Jews, "Had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory! 1 Corinthians 2:8." So I say unto you: Had you known what a great and holy Being you were resisting, you would not have dared to withstand him thus. No; you would have bowed before him, and submitted instantly to his commands. Your profaneness was proof enough of your ignorance.

2. The operation of Pharaoh's impiety.

His obstinacy was irreclaimable, whether by judgments or by mercies. Nine successive plagues, and the removal of them all at your request, were insufficient to subdue the pride and haughtiness of your spirit. Not even the tenth, the greatest and heaviest of them all, prevailed on you to desist from fighting against God. Your relentings were only momentary; your hardness returned the very instant you were out of the furnace; your own consent, you did recall; and follow with murderous rage those you had permitted to go forth from your land. How blinded were you by the wickedness of your own heart! You were alike insensible to the evil and the danger of your ways. And in this you have shown what is, in every place and in every age, the sad effect of sin.

3. The outcome of Pharaoh's impiety.

Where did it lead this devoted monarch, but to shame and ruin? You said, "Neither will I let Israel go!" But when that Jehovah whom you defied put forth his hand against you, you did thrust them forth from your land; and so anxious were your whole people to get rid of them, that they loaded them with all their most valuable jewels, and with everything that could be desired to speed their way.

But when they seemed to be entangled in the land, and an opportunity was afforded to you, as you thought, for their destruction, you could not forbear; you would seize the occasion, and summon all your hosts, and execute upon them your vengeance to the uttermost. You saw the sea opening for them a way; but you had yet to learn that God would put a difference between the Israelites and Egyptians!

Presumptuous wretch! You would follow them even through the sea itself, and lead on in passion your infatuated hosts. I see you enter within the watery walls which Omnipotence had raised; but there you hastened to your destruction! Now escape from the snare into which your impiety has led you. You cannot; your chariot wheels are broken; and too late do you find that Jehovah fights for Israel. Of all that followed this infuriated monarch, not one escaped! The sea came upon them, and overwhelmed them all; not so much as one was left, to report to Egypt the calamity they had sustained.

Not to dwell any longer on the impiety of Pharaoh, I shall proceed to that which is of more immediate interest to ourselves; namely, to show,

II. To what an extent this proud, impious spirit prevails among religious professors today.

To you the messages of Heaven are sent.

We are ambassadors of God to you, and in his sacred name do we bring you the counsels which we offer; and every word that is so delivered, in accordance with his mind and will, must be received, "not as the word of man, but as the Word of God himself." To every different class of hearers we have a message suited to their state.

We call upon the licentious to forsake their evil ways.

We call upon the worldling to seek for better things than this world can give.

We call upon the formal and self-righteous to renounce their self-dependence, and to make the Lord Jesus Christ the ground of all their hopes.

But who among you can be prevailed upon to obey the Word?

The same spirit by which Pharaoh was actuated, pervades the great mass of mankind; every one displaying it in a way suited to his own particular state.

Some will openly say, with Pharaoh, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?"

Others, who would not altogether express themselves in such impious terms, will yet in effect maintain the same language, and practically follow the same ungodly course. The inspired writers give this precise view of the ungodly world.

Job speaks of them, as saying to God in his day, "Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of your ways! Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him Job 21:14-15."

David gives a similar representation of them in his day, "They have said: With our tongues shall we prevail; our lips are our own; who is Lord over us Psalm 12:4."

The Prophet Jeremiah gives exactly the same character of those in his age; all classes of the community said to his very face, in answer to the messages he delivered to them from the Lord, "As for the word that you have spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto you; but we will certainly do whatever thing goes forth out of our own mouth, or comes into our own hearts! Jeremiah 44:16-17 with 23:17."

Now from these testimonies it is evident that I am not putting an undue construction on the words of Pharaoh, or pressing them too far, when I represent them as characterizing the spirit of the present day. It is clear that men do at this day, "reject the word of the Lord," and "cast it behind them," and, in effect, say as he did, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?" It is obvious, too, that they do this in the midst of all the judgments and mercies with which God is pleased to visit them.

There may be in many an occasional relenting, or purpose to amend; but all endeavor to lower the commands of God to the standard that is agreeable to their own minds. Nor do any, except those who have been savingly converted to God, through Christ, ever surrender up themselves to God, or yield an unreserved obedience to his commands.

And what must the outcome of your disobedience be?

Ask of people in their career of sin, and they will tell you that they have nothing to fear. The confidence of Pharaoh and all his host exactly represents their state. Behold that whole army; onward they go, in prosecution of their bloody purpose; but little do they think how soon they will rue their folly, and how irretrievable will their ruin be in a short time. See them pressing forward; how little do they apprehend the dreadful fate that awaits them!

Behold the various classes of ungodly men; how little do they dream of the destruction to which they are hastening! Wait but a short time, and they will all sink into everlasting perdition! But will not their confidence deliver them? No! the greater their confidence, the more certain is their ruin.

But surely we may hope that their numbers will be some protection. No; of the whole Egyptian army, not one soul escaped; nor, if the unconverted world were a million times more numerous than they are, would one single soul escape the wrath of God. They are willingly and determinately treasuring up wrath to themselves against the day of wrath; and at the appointed season it shall come upon them to the uttermost. Then they will know who that Lord is, whom now they so despise! They shall find, to their cost, that "those who walk in pride he is able to abase, Daniel 4:37."

See then, from hence,

1. How great is the folly of ungodly men!

Were a small child to contend in battle with a warrior, who would not upbraid him for his folly and presumption in entering into so unequal a contest? But what shall we say of those who set themselves in array against the Majesty of Heaven? Truly, a contest of briers and thorns against a devouring fire would not be more absurd! This is the very comparison which is made by God himself, "Who would set briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, and burn them up together! Isaiah 27:4." I beg you, brethren, remember against whom it is that you fight. It is against Him, who by a word spoke the universe into existence, and by a word could reduce it in an instant to absolute nonentity.

Look at the fallen angels, and see the consequence of rebelling against God!

Look at the antediluvian world, and say, whether it be not an evil and bitter thing to sin against him, and to provoke his displeasure.

Were it possible for you to withstand his power or to elude his search—then you might have some excuse for casting off his light and easy yoke; but indeed you must, before long, be summoned to his tribunal, and receive at his hands a doom which can never be reversed. And "will you be strong in the day that he shall deal with you, or will you thunder with a voice like his!" I beg you, lay down the weapons of your rebellion without delay, and implore mercy at the Savior's hands, while yet "the day of salvation lasts, and the accepted time is continued to you."

2. How greatly are the ungodly to be pitied!

See how secure they are in their own apprehensions, and how confidently they expect a successful termination of their conflicts! Unhappy men! Methinks I see you in the agonies of death, and behold you at the instant of your entrance into the presence of your God. Oh! could we but conceive your terrors, and hear your cries, and witness your unavailing lamentations—then how would we pity you! Could we further behold the triumphant exultations of that cruel fiend, who was once your tempter, and will then be your tormentor to all eternity—how would we weep over you! And lastly, if we could behold you suffering the vengeance of eternal fire, under the wrath of Almighty God, methinks it would be too much for us to endure; the very sight would overwhelm us, even though we had no fears for ourselves.

Truly, it was with good reason that the Savior wept over the devoted city of Jerusalem; and we would wish that "our eyes also were a fountain of tears, to run down day and night" on account of your present obduracy, and on account of the dreadful miseries that await you in the eternal world!

3. How desirable is the knowledge of God, as revealed in the Gospel!

Never was there one who sought the face of God in vain. However long you may have rebelled against God, there is mercy for you, if you turn to him with your whole hearts. Think how many of those who crucified the Lord of glory obtained mercy at his hands—and so shall you also, if you will humble yourselves before him, and seek for mercy through his sin-atoning blood. "Not so much as one of you should perish, if you would but go to him." Truly, "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." "All who believe in him shall be justified from all things." "Acquaint, then, Yourselves with God, and be at peace." Seek "that knowledge of him which is life eternal." And know, that, while "those who know him not, and obey not his Gospel, shall be banished from the presence of his glory," his believing and obedient servants shall both serve him, and be served by him, in his kingdom and glory, forever and ever.




Exodus 5:17-18

Pharaoh said, "Lazy, that's what you are—lazy! That is why you keep saying, 'Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.' Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks."

Man prides himself upon his reason. But only let him be under the influence of passion or self-interest, and nothing can be found more unreasonable:

his eyes are blinded,

his heart is hardened,

his conscience is seared

—and his actions are nearer to those of a maniac, than of a rational being. Nor is his madness ever carried to a greater extent, than when religion is concerned. Look at the persecutors of God's people, from Cain to this present moment—what have they been, but agents of the devil, fighting against God, and murdering their fellow-creatures with insatiable cruelty?

A just specimen of their conduct we have in the history before us. Moses and Aaron were sent of God, to require that the Hebrew nation, who were then in Egypt, should go and offer sacrifices to him in the wilderness; where they might serve him without any fear of offending, or of being interrupted by the people among whom they dwelt. Pharaoh not only refused his permission, but proudly defied Jehovah, and ordered immediately that such burdens should be laid upon the people as it was impossible for them to bear. On their complaining to him of the oppression which they suffered, and of the unmerited punishment that was inflicted on them—he relaxed nothing of his unrighteous decree, but exulted in their miseries, and dismissed them with invectives, "Lazy, that's what you are—lazy! That is why you keep saying, 'Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.' Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks."

In discoursing on these words, it will be profitable to us to consider,

I. What is that sacrifice which God requires at our hands.

We, as well as the Hebrews, are called to sacrifice unto our God.

But is it our flocks and our herds that he requires? No! Psalm 50:8-15; Psalm 51:16. This is the message which he has sent us, "My son, give me your heart Proverbs 23:26." The sacrifice that he demands, is,

1. A humble heart.

Every man must, at his peril, present this to God. And every one that presents it to him, shall certainly he accepted, Psalm 51:17.

2. A believing heart.

"Without faith it is impossible to please God, Hebrews 11:6." It is faith that renders every other offering pleasing and acceptable to him, Hebrews 11:4. This he considers as a sacrifice. It was not sufficient, that penitents under the law confessed their sins, or that they brought their sin-offering to be presented by the priest; they must lay their hands upon the head of their offering, and thereby profess their faith in that atonement which in due time was to be made for the sins of the whole world, Philippians 2:17.

The lamb that was offered every morning and evening, was to have a meat-offering of fine flour mingled with oil, and a drink-offering of wine poured upon it; and all was to be consumed together; Exodus 29:40. Paul, referring to this, calls their faith the sacrifice; and says, that he should rejoice in offering (in pouring out as a libation) his own blood, to be presented to God together with it. In like manner we also must not only "acknowledge our iniquity," but must by faith transfer it to the sacred head of Jesus, who atoned for it on the cross, and through whom alone we can ever find acceptance with God, John 1:29.

3. A thankful heart.

This is a tribute most justly due to Him, who has loaded us with so many benefits, but, above all, has redeemed us by the blood of his only-begotten Son. The command given us is, "Rejoice evermore!" "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice!" This is a sacrifice peculiarly pleasing to God, Hebrews 13:15; Psalm 107:22; Psalm 116:17; and "the very stones will cry out against us," if we should refuse to offer it, Luke 19:40.

4. An obedient heart.

This is the crown of all. It is the end of all. For this we repent; for this we believe; for this we give thanks to God; all without this were only a solemn mockery. It is in order to this that God has given to us so many mercies, Romans 12:1. We may be well assured that every act of obedience, however small, if only it proceeds from a humble, believing, and thankful heart, shall be accepted by him, Hebrews 13:16.

As reasonable as such a sacrifice is, we are shocked to see,

II. In what light it is regarded by an ungodly world.

Did Pharaoh contemptuously resist the divine mandate; did he treat the request of the Hebrews as a pretext for lazyness; and did he make it an occasion for the most cruel oppression? Here we may see a true picture of the world at this day; it is precisely thus that religion is now opposed:

1. With contempt.

Pharaoh regarded the proposal of Moses as unworthy of notice. He saw no necessity for either himself or others to obey the commands of God; nor did he believe that any evil consequences would ensue from disobedience. He calls the threats with which God's command was enforced, "vain words." And how are the requisitions, which are now made to us in Jehovah's name, attended to among us? Is not this the universal cry: 'There is no need of so much religion; we shall do very well without it; we have nothing to fear, though we live in the neglect of it?' Yes; all our exhortations to serve God with your whole hearts are, by many, considered in no better view than as weak, though well-intentioned, effusions of a heated imagination.

2. With calumny.

Men who choose not to obey the calls of God will always revile those who do. They will impute their zeal to hypocrisy, or pride, or vanity. They will presume to judge the motives of pious people, with as much confidence as if they could see the heart. Pharaoh had certainly no reason to ascribe to idleness the request that had been made to him; yet with a malignant triumph he professes to have seen through their motives, which he was determined to counteract.

Just so, at this time, the enemies of true religion will represent the professors of it as heretical and seditious, and the ministers of it as people that "turn the world upside down."

3. With oppression.

It is good for us that all the ungodly do no possess the power of Pharaoh; and that the law has affixed bounds to the tyranny of man. Were it not so, we should still see that the natural enmity of man against his God is as fierce as ever. Civilization has altered our habits, but made no change at all in our hearts. Husbands, parents, masters, in numberless instances, obstruct the progress of religion in the hearts of those over whom they have influence; either requiring services that shall interfere with their religious duties, or laying snares to divert their attention from them. And when complaint is made by their injured dependents, they will show no regard to their consciences, but will exult in tyrannizing over them with their imperious mandate.


1. To the opposers of true religion.

Many who in themselves are serious and devout, are as bitter enemies to spiritual religion as the most abandoned profligate can be. When the Jews wanted to expel Paul and Barnabas from Antioch, they could find no better, or more willing, agents than "devout and honorable women, Acts 13:50." But it were better for any one to have a millstone about his neck, and to be cast into the sea, than to be found among the opposers of vital godliness! Matthew 18:6. "Their Redeemer is mighty;" and he will avenge their cause. Instead therefore of setting yourselves against them, and calumniating them—inquire what is the reason that you yourselves are not pious. May not your own words be retorted upon you, "You are lazy, you are lazy; therefore you say, Let us not sacrifice unto the Lord?" Yes; it is no calumny to affirm this, "Go therefore now, and work." Go; and instead of obstructing the sacrifices of others, present to God the sacrifice that he demands of you.

2. Those who meet with persecution for righteousness' sake.

"All who will live godly in Christ Jesus are taught to expect persecution." Therefore think it not strange that you are called to suffer; but rather "rejoice that you are counted worthy to suffer for Christ's sake."

Are you discouraged, because the relief you have sought for is withheld, and your troubles seem to increase? It was thus that God dealt with the Hebrews in the instance before us; and he frequently deals thus with his people, in order that he may be the more glorified in their ultimate deliverance. If therefore the shadows of the night are still lengthened, you need not despair; for "at evening-time it shall be light;" and in the hour of your deepest distress God will surely interpose for your support and relief, Deuteronomy 32:36.

Take care however that the enemies of religion have no cause to find fault with you for neglecting the duties of your station. It isa great stumbling-block in their way, when you give them occasion to adopt the language of the text. See to it then, that you be active and diligent in every work to which God, in his providence, has called you. The direction given you by God himself combines worldly activity with spiritual fervor, and represents each of them, in its place, as truly acceptable to him, "Be not slothful in business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, Romans 12:11."




Exodus 6:9

"Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage."

"As face answers to face in a looking-glass, so does the heart of man to man." We are apt, indeed, to imagine that the Jews were a people of more than ordinary depravity; but it is found that mankind almost universally act precisely as they did, under similar circumstances. We have here a remarkable instance of despondency. The Hebrews had been long groaning under a most cruel oppression; and God had sent his servant, Moses, to deliver them from it. But the effect of his interposition hitherto had been only to augment their troubles. Of this they had bitterly complained, as indeed had Moses himself also; and now, for their comfort, God sent them by Moses a most consolatory message, assuring them that, however gloomy their prospects might appear to be, a most perfect deliverance was at hand. But they, we are told, "did not listen to Moses because of their discouragement and cruel bondage."

Let us consider,

I. Their conduct on this occasion.

The testimony of Moses was in every respect worthy of receiving.

He had wrought before the people the miracles which God had commissioned him to work, in confirmation of his divine mission, Exodus 4:30; and hitherto, if he had not yet succeeded in his embassy, he had executed his office with fidelity and courage. It might be supposed, indeed, that if Moses himself had fainted under the discouragement which they had experienced, much more might they. But, on the other hand, if God had renewed his commission to Moses, and expressly authorized him to assure them of a speedy and certain deliverance, so that his mind was left without any doubt of ultimate success—they might well receive his testimony, and rest upon it with composure.

Nor could anything be conceived more suited to their necessities.

They were under the most "cruel bondage." But Moses declared, that God had entered into covenant with their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to deliver them; that he had confirmed this covenant with an oath; that, from compassion to them, he was about to fulfill the engagements he had entered into; that he not only would deliver them from their sore bondage, but would, by the judgments which he would inflict on Pharaoh, make him more anxious to rid himself of them than ever he had been to detain them; and would constrain him, in fact, to "drive them out from his land."

He further declared, that God would bring them safely into Canaan, wherein their forefathers had sojourned as pilgrims and strangers, and give it to them for their inheritance; and would "take them to him as his peculiar people, and be unto them a God," yes, and "their God."

In reporting to them these "great and precious promises," he was careful particularly to make known to them the grounds on which they might be received with the most implicit trust; for that God had repeatedly pledged his power and veracity for the performance of them. Thrice had God renewed that solemn declaration, "I am Jehovah"—the eternal, self-existent, and immutable Jehovah; and, times almost without number, he had undertaken to execute, with his own irresistible arm, the whole that he had promised, "I will bring you out. I will deliver you. I will redeem you. I will bring you into the land. I will give it you. I will take you to me for a people. I will be your God!"

Yet the people would not receive, or even "listen to," his words.

Their minds were so wholly occupied with their present troubles, that they could think of nothing else; they were altogether overwhelmed with "anguish of spirit;" and so utterly did they despair of relief, that they desired to be left to live and die under their present servitude, rather than run the risk of augmenting their afflictions by any further application to Pharaoh in their behalf, Genesis 14:11-12.

Without dwelling any longer on their conduct, I beg permission to call your attention to,

II. The instruction to be derived from it.

We may notice from hence,

1. The weakness of the human mind.

It has been justly said, that "oppression destroys a wise man's reason, Ecclesiastes 7:7." The common experience of all is, that "hope deferred makes the heart sick, Proverbs 13:12." In my text, we see both the one and the other strongly exemplified. And, in truth, where afflictions are great and of long continuance, the mind of every man is apt to faint; nor can anything but divine grace adequately sustain it. Even David, when hunted by Saul as a partridge upon the mountains, forgot for a season the power and fidelity of his Protector, and in a fit of despondency exclaimed, "I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul."

Just so, under various circumstances, the Church of old complained, "My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God!" "The Lord has forsaken me, and my God has forgotten me." Sometimes her despair has been so entire, that she has even made the justice of it a ground of appeal both to God and man, "Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?"

But this experience, in whoever it is found, is decidedly contrary to the mind and will of God. We are never to limit the power of God, or to doubt his veracity. We are not to suppose, that, because we see not how deliverance can come, God is at any loss for means whereby to effect it. It is well to "have the sentence of death in ourselves, that we may not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead," and has promised: "The LORD will judge his people and have compassion on his servants when he sees their strength is gone and no one is left,

Deuteronomy 32:36."

2. The proper office of faith.

Faith is to look above all created things, to God; and to realize, under every dispensation, the presence of him that is invisible. It is to lay hold on God's Word, and to rest upon it, and to expect its accomplishment, in defiance of men or devils. It is to hope, even "against hope." Its legitimate exercise may be seen in Abraham, when he was commanded to offer up his son, "I have no fear but that God will fulfill his promise in Isaac; even though I should reduce him to ashes upon an altar, God can raise him up again, yes, and will raise him up again, rather than allow one jot or tittle of his word to fail." "Being strong in faith, and giving glory to God," he both formed, and acted upon, this assured expectation; and in proportion to the strength of our faith will be our confidence in God, even under the most discouraging circumstances. We shall say, "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights! Habakkuk 3:17-18."

Had Israel on this occasion been able to confide in God, how sweetly composed had their minds been in the midst of all their troubles! Let us learn to exercise this grace of faith, and under the darkest dispensations to say, "Though he slay me—yet I will trust in him."

3. The excellency of the Gospel dispensation.

What Moses said to Israel, we are authorized and commissioned to declare to you. You are under a bondage far more cruel than that which Israel experienced; but in the name of Almighty God we come to you, and proclaim:

that he has entered into covenant with his Son for your redemption;

that he has confirmed that covenant with an oath;

that he will bring you out from the power of sin and Satan;

that he will conduct you in safely to the heavenly Canaan.

For the fulfillment of all this he pledges to you his word, saying, in relation to every part of the work, 'I, the immutable Jehovah, will do it for you; I will work; and who shall hinder?' Only believe in him; believe that "what he has promised he is able also to perform."

You have seen what he did for Israel, notwithstanding their unbelief. What then shall he not do for you, if you will truly believe in Christ as your appointed Savior? He will not only bring you forth out of the land of your captivity, but will preserve you throughout the whole of this dreary wilderness, and introduce you finally to the full possession of your glorious inheritance. Yes, brethren, these things we declare unto you in the name of Almighty God; and if, with Caleb and Joshua, you will "follow the Lord fully," like them you shall have your portion assuredly in the realms of bliss!




Exodus 7:3

"I will harden Pharaoh's heart!"

As there are in the works of creation many things which exceed the narrow limits of human understanding, so are there many things incomprehensible to us both in the works of providence and of grace. It is not however necessary that, because we cannot fully comprehend these mysteries, we should never fix our attention at all upon them; as far as they are revealed, the consideration of them is highly proper; only, where we are so liable to err, our steps must be proportionably cautious, and our inquiries be conducted with the greater humility.

In particular, the deepest reverence befits us, while we contemplate the subject before us. We ought not, on the one hand, to indulge a proud and captious spirit that shall banish the subject altogether; nor, on the other hand, to make our assertions upon it with a bold, unhallowed confidence. Desirous of avoiding either extreme, we shall endeavor to explain and vindicate the conduct of God, as it is stated in the text.

I. We shall endeavor to explain the conduct of God.

We are not to imagine that God infused any evil principle into the heart of Pharaoh; this God never did, nor ever will do, to any of his creatures, James 1:13. What he did, may be comprehended in three particulars.

1. He left Pharaoh to the influence of his own corruptions.

Pharaoh was a proud and haughty monarch; and while he exercised a most arbitrary and oppressive power over his subjects, he disdained to respect the authority of Jehovah, who was "King of kings, and Lord of lords."

God, if he had seen fit, might have prevented him from manifesting these corruptions. He might have struck him dead upon the spot; or intimidated him by a dream or vision; or have converted him, as he did the persecuting Saul, in the midst of all his malignant projects; but he left him to himself, precisely as he does other men when they commit iniquity; and allowed him to manifest all the evil dispositions of his heart.

This is no other conduct than what God has pursued from the beginning. When men have obstinately "rebelled against the light," he has "given them up to follow their own hearts' lusts, Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26; Romans 1:28; Psalm 81:11-12; 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12." We have reason to expect that he will deal thus with us, if we continue to resist his will, Genesis 6:3; Leviticus 26:27-28; Proverbs 1:24-30.

2. He allowed such events to concur as should give scope for the exercise of those corruptions.

He raised Pharaoh to the throne of Egypt, and thereby invested him with power to oppress, Romans 9:17. By multiplying the Jews, he made their services of great importance to the Egyptian empire. The labors of six hundred thousand slaves could not easily be dispensed with; and therefore the temptation to retain them in bondage was exceedingly great. Besides, the request made of going to serve their God in the wilderness must appear to him frivolous and absurd; for, why should they not be content to serve him in the land? Moreover, the success of his magicians in imitating the miracles of Moses, would seem to justify the idea that Moses was no more than a magician, only perhaps of a more intelligent order than those employed by him. The frequent and speedy removal of the judgments that were inflicted on him, would yet further tend to harden him, by making him think light of those judgments. Thus the unreasonableness of his opposition would be hidden from him; and he would persist in his rebellion without compunction or fear.

3. He gave Satan permission to exert his influence over him.

Satan is a powerful being; and, when the restraints which God has imposed upon him are withdrawn, can do great things. He cannot indeed force any man to sin against his will; but he can bring him into such circumstances, as shall have a strong tendency to ensnare his soul. We know from the history of Job, how great things he can effect for the distressing of a most eminent saint; much more therefore may we suppose him to prevail over one who is his blind and willing vassal, 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Timothy 2:26.

We do not indeed know, from any express declarations, that Satan interfered in this work of hardening Pharaoh; but, when we recollect how he instigated David to number the people; how he prevailed on Peter to deny, and Judas to betray, his Lord; how he filled the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira that they might lie unto God; and finally, how expressly we are told that he works in all the children of disobedience;" we can have no doubt respecting his agency in the heart of Pharaoh.

Thus, as far as respects:

a withholding of that grace which might have softened Pharaoh's heart,

and a giving him an opportunity to show his malignant dispositions,

and a permitting of Satan to exert his influence

—God hardened Pharaoh's heart.

But as being a perfectly free agent, Pharaoh hardened his own heart; and this is repeatedly affirmed in the subsequent parts of this history.

When once we have learned what was the true nature of God's agency, and how far it was concerned in the hardening of Pharaoh's heart,

II. We shall endeavor to vindicate the conduct of God.

We must never forget that "God's ways and thoughts are infinitely above ours;" and that, whether we approve of them or not, "he will never give account of them to us;" yet, constituted as we are, we feel a satisfaction in being able to discern their suitableness to the divine character. Of the dispensation then which we are considering, we may say,

1. The conduct of God was righteous, as it respected the individual himself.

It was perfectly righteous that Pharaoh should be left to himself. What injury would God have done, if he had acted towards the whole human race precisely as he did towards the fallen angels? What reason can be assigned why man, who had imitated their wickedness, should not be a partaker of their punishment? If then none had any claim upon God for the exercise of his grace, how much less could Pharaoh have a title to it, after having so proudly defied God, and so obstinately withstood his most express commands? If there was anything unjust in abandoning Pharaoh to the corrupt affections of his heart, all other sinners in the universe have reason to make the same complaint, that God is unrighteous in his dealings with them. In that case, God could not, consistently with his own justice, permit sin at all; he must impose an irresistible restraint on all, and cease to deal with us as people in a state of probation.

Again, it was righteous in God to suffer such a concurrence of circumstances as should give scope for the exercise of his corruptions. God is no more bound to destroy man's free agency by his providence, than he is by his grace. Was it unrighteous in him to let Cain have an opportunity of executing his murderous project against his brother Abel? Has he been unjust, as often as he has permitted others to accomplish their wicked purposes? Doubtless he has interposed, by his providence, to prevent the execution of many evils that have been conceived in our minds, Hosea 2:6; but he is not bound to do so for anyone; nor could he do it universally, without changing the nature of his government, and the whole course of the world.

Moreover, it was righteous to give Satan liberty to exert his influence over Pharaoh. Pharaoh chose to believe the agents of Satan, rather than the servants of the Most High God; and to obey their counsels rather than his. Why then should God continue to restrain Satan, when Pharaoh desired nothing so much as to yield to his temptations? When Ahab sent for all his lying prophets to counsel him and to foster his delusions, God permitted "Satan to be a lying spirit in the mouth of all those prophets," that they might all concur in the same fatal advice 1 Kings 22:21-23. Was this unjust? Was it not agreeable to Ahab's own wish; and was not the contrary counsel of the Lord's prophet rejected by him with disdain? Pharaoh wished to be deceived; and God permitted it to be according to his own heart's desire.

On the whole then, if men are to be left to their own free agency, instead of being dealt with as mere machines; and if God have ordered the general course of his providence agreeably to this rule, resisting the proud while he gives grace to the humble; then he was fully justified in allowing this impious monarch to harden his already proud and obdurate heart! Compare Deuteronomy 2:30 and Joshua 11:20.

2. The conduct of God was merciful, as it respected the universe at large.

We form erroneous conceptions of the divine government, because we view it on too contracted a scale. God, in his dealings with mankind, consults, not the benefit of an individual merely, but the good of the whole. Now this conduct towards Pharaoh was calculated exceedingly to promote the welfare of all succeeding generations. It has given us lessons of instruction that are of the greatest value:

It has shown us the extreme depravity of the human heart. Who could have conceived that a man, warned as Pharaoh was by so many tremendous plagues, should continue, to the last, to set himself against the God of Heaven and earth? But in him we see what men will do when their pride, their passions, and their interests have gained an ascendant over them. They will defy God to his face; and, if softened for a moment by the severity of his judgments, they will soon, like metal from the furnace, return to their usual hardness.

It has shown us our need of divine grace. As widely as men differ from each other in their constitutional frame both of body and mind, they all agree in this, that "they have a carnal mind, which is enmity against God; and which neither is, nor can be, subject to his law, Romans 8:7." We may all see in Pharaoh a striking portrait of ourselves! If we are enabled to mortify the evils of our heart, while others continue in bondage to their lusts, then we must say, "By the grace of God I am what I am!" If we have no more grace than Pharaoh in our hearts, we shall have no more holiness in our lives!

It has shown us the danger of fighting against God, Isaiah 45:9. "Fools make a mock at sin," and "laugh at the threatened judgments" of God. But let anyone see in Pharaoh the danger of being given over to a reprobate mind; let any one see in what our hardness of heart may issue; and he will tremble lest God should say respecting him, "He is joined to idols—let him alone!"

It has shown us the obligations we lie under to God for the patience he has already exercised towards us. When we read the history of Pharaoh, we realize how blessed we are that we have not been left, like him, to be a warning to others. No tongue can utter the thanks that are due to him on this account. If we know anything of our own hearts, we shall be ready to think ourselves the greatest monuments of mercy that ever were rescued from eternal perdition!

Now these lessons are invaluable; and everyone who reads the history of this doleful monarch, must see them written in it as with the pen of a diamond!


We are told to "remember Lot's wife;" and it will be well also to "remember Pharaoh." Let none of us trifle with our convictions, or follow carnal policy in preference to the commands of God; Let the messages of God be received with reverence, and obeyed with cheerfulness. Let us be afraid of hardening our own hearts, lest God should give us over to final obduracy, Job 9:4. If God withdraw from us, then Satan will quickly come, 1 Samuel 16:14. If we are left to Satan's agency, better were it for us that we had never been born! Seek of God the influences of the Holy Spirit, who will "take away the heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh."




Exodus 9:16

"I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth!"

It is justly said in reference to evidence, that it is strong in proportion as it arises out of incidental points, which had no necessary connection with the fact to be established. The same I may say in relation to the doctrines of our holy religion, especially those doctrines which are most controverted, and most stand in need of evidence for their support. Of this kind is the doctrine of election; which, being extremely opposed to the pride of human nature, meets with strong opposition from the carnal mind.

I am far from saying that that doctrine is not extremely objectionable, if viewed as its adversaries, and not a few of its advocates also, are accustomed to state it. But, if viewed in its true light, and as the Scriptures themselves state it—I conceive that it cannot reasonably be doubted.

In the passage before us, there was no particular intention to establish that doctrine. Moses had labored in vain to induce Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go to worship Jehovah in the wilderness. He had, as God's appointed instrument, inflicted many plagues on the land of Egypt, and removed them again by his intercessions. Yet neither by the judgments nor the mercies, had he prevailed on Pharaoh, who still continued to harden his heart against God. He now assumed a bolder tone; and declared, that not only should the Egyptians be smitten with pestilence, but that Pharaoh himself also "should be cut off from the earth," for his obstinate resistance to God's express commands. And then he delivers to him, from God himself, this solemn declaration, "I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth!"

It is my intention:

I. To explain God's solemn declaration.

God here asserts, that he had raised up Pharaoh for a special purpose, with which his own glory was intimately connected. He had determined to bring forth his people from Egypt, in such a way as should display most remarkably his own power, and should bring glory to his name throughout all the earth. Some, by the expression "raised up," understand restoring him to health from the disorder inflicted on him in common with his people and the magicians. But it does not appear that Pharaoh had been visited with that disorder; and the threatening in the verse before our text, "I will smite you," rather seems to show, that he had not yet been smitten in his own person. But, whether we understand the words as relating to his elevation to the throne, or to a restoration to health—the main object of the declaration will be the same; namely, that God, knowing what would assuredly be the result of a further trial of his obedience, had determined so to try him, in order that by the outcome of the contest,, God's glory might be displayed throughout all the earth.

The substance of the declaration, then, may be considered as expressing the following truths:

1. That God allots to every man his station in life.

Nothing can be more clear, than that the time and place of every man's entrance into life is fixed by God. That we are born in this age and country, has in no respect depended on ourselves; we might as well, if God had so ordained, been born of Heathen or Mohammedan parents, or never have been permitted to see the gospel truths, and perished in our mother's womb! We might have been brought into the world from parents either of the highest or lowest rank, and been doomed to occupy a place in society widely different from that which we at present fill. All this was true of Pharaoh, and it is equally true of every man. "Our times are in God's hands! Psalm 31:15," and "he determines the bounds of our habitation! Acts 17:26."

2. That he foreknows how every man will act in the situation to which he is called.

He infallibly foresaw how Pharaoh would act in resisting all the means that would be used to bring him to a compliance with the divine command. Nor is there anything hidden from his all-seeing eye! If there were, it would be impossible for him to foretell, as he has done by his Prophets, the minutest circumstances that would occur, and at the distance of many hundreds of years. The prophecies relating to the death of our blessed Lord specify what should be said, as well as done, by people who were least of all aware that they were fulfilling any prediction, and who would rather, if it had been possible, have prevented its accomplishment. We may be sure, therefore, that that testimony respecting him is true, "Known unto him are all things, from the beginning of the world! Acts 15:18."

3. That, while he leaves to every man the free exercise of his will, God overrules the actions of all for the accomplishment of his own eternal purposes!

God, as we have observed, had decreed to magnify himself in his mode of bringing forth his people from Egypt. But, in order to this, it was necessary that his will should be opposed, and that occasion should be given for the executing of his judgments upon the oppressors of his people. He knew what Pharaoh would do under such circumstances; and he both preserved him in life, and elevated him to the throne, that he might have an opportunity of manifesting what was in his heart, and be able to carry into effect the dictates of his own depravity.

In all that he did, he was perfectly a free agent; for though it is said, that "God hardened Pharaoh's heart," he did so, not by infusing any evil principle into him, but by giving him up to the impulse of his own inveterate corruptions. God foresaw how those corruptions would operate, and that they would lead to the accomplishment of his own eternal purpose; and he needed only to leave Pharaoh to the dictates of his own mind, to secure the final execution of all that he himself had ordained.

God had determined everything respecting the crucifixion of our blessed Lord; but he needed not to inspire the Jewish rulers with envy, or the Roman governor with timidity, or Judas with covetousness, or the populace with cruelty. It was sufficient to give them up respectively to the dominion of their own lusts; and they all infallibly concurred to "do what his hand and his counsel had determined before to be done, Acts 4:28."

It is precisely in the same way that we are to account for all that is done, whether it be good or evil; except that, in the effecting of what is good, God puts the desire to effect it into the heart of the agent, while in the perpetration of evil he merely gives up the person to the influence of his own lusts. In either case, the agent is perfectly free, and follows the bent of his own heart; only, in the one case, the heart is renewed, and in the other it is left under the power of its own depravity.

Josiah and Cyrus both fulfilled the counsels of Heaven; the one by burning men's bones on the altar which Jeroboam had raised, and the other by liberating the Jews from Babylon. Both these events were foretold hundreds of years before they came to pass; and the very names of the agents were declared hundreds of years before any people of their name were known in the world.

Sennacherib also fulfilled the will of Heaven, in punishing God's offending people, "Howbeit he meant not so, neither did his heart think so; it was in his heart only to aggrandize himself at the expense of other nations, Isaiah 10:7."

But God, by all, accomplished "the counsel of his own will, Ephesians 1:11;" and in all things "shall his counsel stand, and he will do all his will, Isaiah 46:10."

4. That by all, whatever their conduct be, he will eventually be glorified.

That God will be glorified in the obedience of the righteous, is a truth which needs not to be confirmed. Whatever they do, it is "to the praise of the glory of his grace;" and at the last day the Lord Jesus will come "to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all those who believe."

But will he be glorified in the ungodly also? Yes. He declared that he would "get himself honor upon Pharaoh and all his hosts, Exodus 14:17;" and this he did by overwhelming them in the sea. Just so will he do in the destruction of the wicked, at the last day. He will then make known the inflexibility of his justice, and "the power of his wrath;" and the whole universe shall be constrained to say, "Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are your judgments Revelation! 16:6-7; Revelation 19:2."

Having thus explained the declaration in my text, I proceed:

II. To apply God's solemn declaration.

All Scripture is said to be "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness," or, in other words, for the establishment of sound doctrine, and for the enforcing of a holy practice. For these two ends I will endeavor to improve the subject before us.

1. For the establishment of sound doctrine.

The doctrine which I hinted at, in the commencement of this discourse, is strongly insisted on by the Apostle Paul; and the words of my text are adduced by him in confirmation of his statement. He is showing that God, in the exercise of his mercy to the Jewish nation, had acted altogether in a way of grace, according to his own sovereign will and pleasure; that he had entailed his blessings on Isaac and his seed, instead of imparting them to Ishmael and his posterity. In like manner, God had again limited his blessings to Jacob, the younger son of Isaac, and withheld them from Esau, the elder son.

This had God done "in order that his purpose according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that called." Then, knowing that the proud heart of man would rise against this doctrine, and accuse it as "imputing unrighteousness to God," he further confirms his statement by express declarations of God to Moses. "He says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion!" From thence he draws this conclusion, "So, then, it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy!"

To this declaration he adds another of a similar tendency, addressed to Pharaoh, even the very words of my text, "For this same purpose have I raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth;" from which words he draws again this remarkable conclusion, "Therefore has God mercy on whom he will have mercy; and whom he will, he hardens! Romans 9:7-18."

Now here the doctrine of election is stated in the strongest and most unequivocal terms. But let not anyone imagine that the doctrine of reprobation is therefore true. God has not said in my text, "I have brought you into the world on purpose to damn you, and to get glory to myself in your everlasting destruction." No, there is no such assertion as that in all the Holy Scriptures. There is, in the Epistle of Peter, an expression which in sound has that aspect; but, when properly explained, it has no such meaning. It is said by him, "These stumble at the word, being disobedient; whereunto also they were appointed, 1 Peter 2:8." But to what were they appointed? to disobedience? No; but to make that word, which they would not obey, an occasion of falling.

God has ordained, that "they who will do his will, shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, John 7:17;" but that those who will not do his will, shall stumble at his word, and find the Lord Jesus Christ, as revealed in it, "a rock of offence; yes, a trap and a snare also, Isaiah 8:14-15, compared with the fore-cited passage from Peter."

This will throw the true light upon our text; God did not bring Pharaoh into the world on purpose to destroy him; but, foreseeing the inveterate pride and obstinacy of his heart, he raised him to the throne, where he would have an opportunity of displaying with effect those malignant dispositions, and would thereby give occasion for God to glorify himself, in an extraordinary display of his justice and his power, in the punishment of sin.

Here, then, we see the electing grace of God. God chose Moses, who had been in rank and authority the second person in the kingdom of Egypt, to be the deliverer of his people. Moses, when called to the work, declined it again and again; and might well have been left to reap the bitter fruit of his folly. But God, by his Spirit, overcame his reluctance, and upheld him in the performance of his duty. To Pharaoh he gave not this grace, but left him to the power of his own lusts. In making this distinction, God did no injury to Pharaoh. Neither Pharaoh nor Moses had any claim upon God. If, when Moses declined the honor which was offered him, God had transferred that honor to Pharaoh, and given up Moses to the evil of his own heart, he would have done no injury to Moses; Moses would have brought the punishment upon himself, by his own wickedness. God had a right to bestow his grace on whoever he pleased; and consequently, in leaving Pharaoh to harden his own heart and to perish m his sins, while he showed mercy to Moses, and made him an honored instrument of good to the Jewish nation—God did no injury to Pharaoh or to anyone else.

In the exercise of mercy, God acted as an Almighty Sovereign. In the exercise of judgment, he acted as a righteous Judge, in perfect consistency with justice and with equity. We see at all events the fact, that "God did, after much long-suffering, make known on one his wrath, as on a vessel of wrath prepared for destruction;" and that toward another "he made known the riches of his glory, as on a vessel of mercy which he himself had prepared unto glory, Romans 9:22-23." The exercise of his mercy was gratuitous and without desert; but the exercise of his displeasure was merited and judicial.

Now what is there here to be offended with? The fact is undeniable; and, if God was at liberty to exercise his sovereignty in such a way then, he is at liberty to do it still; and if he may justly do it in any case, as that of Ishmael and Isaac, or of Esau and Jacob, or of Pharaoh and Moses, he may with equal justice do it in every case.

Let us, then, not ignorantly and proudly deny to him a right, which all of us claim for ourselves, even that of dispensing our favors to whom we will. If no one has a claim on God, then no one has a right to complain if a favor which he despises is withheld from him. On the other hand, the person on whom that special favor is conferred, must to all eternity adore the sovereign grace that has dispensed it to him.

2. For the enforcement of a holy practice.

All of us, whether high or low, rich or poor, are in the station, which God, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, has allotted to us. The rich therefore have no reason to boast; nor have the poor any reason to repine. The different members of our own body have not all the same office; but God has "placed each member in the body, as it has pleased him;" and for purposes which each is destined to accomplish.

One great duty is common to us all; namely, that of discharging to the utmost of our power, our respective offices; and of bringing to God that measure of glory of which he has made us capable. God is, in reality, as much glorified in the submission of the poor, as in the activity of the rich. The eye and the foot, equally subserve the interests of the body, while discharging their respective functions; and equally display the goodness of our Creator, in so administering to our needs.

Let us then simply inquire, what that service is which we are most fitted by capacity and situation to perform; and let us address ourselves to it with all diligence.

If placed, like Pharaoh, in a post of great dignity and power, then let us improve our influence for God, and account it our honor and happiness to advance his glory.

If called, like Moses, to labor for the deliverance of God's people from their spiritual bondage, then let us execute our office with fidelity, and never rest until we have "finished the work which God has given us to do. Thus shall we acceptably fulfill the ends of our creation; and God will be glorified in us, both in time and in eternity.




Exodus 9:19-21

"Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every man and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.'" Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside. But those who ignored the Word of the LORD left their slaves and livestock in the field."

The Word of God in every age has met with a very different reception from different people; from the antediluvian scoffers to the present moment, the generality have deemed it unworthy of their attention, while a few have regarded it with reverence and godly fear. Never had any declaration a better title to belief than that to which the text alludes.

Moses had already, in the space of a few days, foretold many judgments, which were instantly inflicted or removed according to his predictions; and since they had not been effectual to subdue the stubborn heart of Pharaoh, he announced the determination of God to send another judgment on the land of Egypt, even a storm of hail and lightning, which would destroy every man and animal that should be exposed to its fury. There were many however who despised the threatening, and disdained to send their servants and cattle to a place of shelter; but others, who had profited by past experience, used with eagerness the precaution suggested to them.

From this circumstance we are led to show,

I. How a regard for God's Word will influence men here.

In all temporal concerns men are affected by any report in proportion to its credibility and importance.

If they hear of any great good that is placed within their reach, they feel a desire after it springing up in their minds; if there is some considerable probability of their attaining it, their hopes are excited, and their endeavors multiplied in order to secure it. If the possession of it appears near and certain, they already congratulate themselves on the expected acquisition, though not without a mixture of anxious suspense.

On the other hand, do they hear of any great evil that may come upon them? They begin to be disquieted as it approaches nearer and nearer? They think how they may avoid it, and use every precaution that prudence can suggest. Does it appear imminent and almost unavoidable? Their fears and anxieties are proportionably increased. Nor are these effects peculiar to any times, places, or people; they will be found on examination to be invariable and universal.

Thus it must also of necessity be with respect to men's spiritual concerns, in proportion of what God has spoken concerning them is believed and felt.

Suppose a person to be thoroughly persuaded that, "unless he repents, he must eternally perish;" that, "unless he is born again of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven;" and that, "he who has the Son has life, and he who has not the Son of God has not life." What effect must such momentous truths produce upon his mind? Must he not of necessity begin to inquire into the meaning of these expressions, and feel a solicitude to have these questions satisfactorily determined: 'Am I a real penitent? Am I born again? Have I truly received the Son of God?'

If he doubts the truth of these things, or thinks they may be taken in a lower importance—he will of course be less concerned to attain the experience of them. Or, if other things appear to him of superior importance—he will attend to those things in preference. But let him have that faith which gives a present subsistence to things future, and a demonstrable reality to things invisible, Hebrews 11:1, and it will be impossible for him to trifle with such solemn declarations.

It is true, he may sin against the convictions of conscience; but if he continues so to do, it is evident that his convictions are not proportioned in any degree to the importance of eternal things, and that he cherishes a secret hope of escaping by some means or other the judgments denounced against him.

Let him but feel the worth of his soul in a degree proportioned to its value; let him estimate that as men estimate the worth of their natural life—and he could no more resist habitually the convictions of his mind, than he could sit composed while his house and family were ready to be destroyed by fire; he would surely resemble those Egyptians who sought shelter for their servants and cattle; he would "flee from the wrath to come, and lay hold on eternal life!"

Such a practical attention will be given to the Word of God by all who truly believe it, because they know:

II. How it will affect their state hereafter.

The distinction put between the believing and unbelieving Egyptians related merely to this present life; but the Scriptures authorize us to declare that an eternal distinction will be made between believers and unbelievers in the day of judgment. Yes assuredly,

1. Those who have sought the appointed refuge shall be eternally saved.

Christ is that hiding-place to which all are enjoined to flee; every other covert will be found "a refuge of lies, which the hail shall sweep away! Isaiah 28:17." But Christ is a sure refuge, "to which whoever runs shall be safe." Whatever we may have been, and whatever we may have done in past times—we have nothing to suffer from the wrath of God, provided we are found in Christ." "Believing in him, we are justified from all things," and shall unite forever with:

the murderous Manasseh,

the adulterous David,

the filthy Magdalen,

the persecuting Saul,

in singing "Salvation to God and the Lamb!"

We must not however be understood to say, that an attention to the faith of the Gospel will save us, while we neglect its practical injunctions; far from it. But this we do say, that the vilest of sinners may find "acceptance in the Beloved;" and that "all who put their trust in him may be quiet from the fear of evil." The declaration of God himself is, "There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."

2. Those, on the contrary, who have despised the offers of mercy, must eternally perish.

"Whatever men sow, that shall they also reap;" and though God's vengeance may be long delayed, it shall surely come at last! What if we see no signs of it now? There was no appearance of a deluge when Noah warned the old world. Nor were the fire and brimstone visible, when Lot entreated his sons-in-law to escape with him from Sodom. Yet were the predictions relative to these events exactly fulfilled; he who built the ark, and he who fled from the city devoted to destruction, were preserved; while they who took not warning, were destroyed.

So also shall it be in the last day, "the unbelief of men shall not make faith in God of no effect." "Their covenant with death shall be disannulled, and their agreement with Hell made void; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, they shall be beaten down by it, Isaiah 28:18." Nor shall the excuses which they now urge with so much confidence, avail them.

It is probable that many of the Egyptians might expose themselves to danger in consequence of urgent business, or from what they judged a necessary obedience to the commands of their masters; but they perished notwithstanding. So shall that word be verified in spite of all excuses, "Whoever despises the word shall be destroyed; but he who fears the commandment, shall be rewarded, Proverbs 13:13."


1. Those who disregard the Word of the Lord.

There are, alas! too many who "stumble at the word, being disobedient." Their language is, "As for the word that you have spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto you! Jeremiah 44:16." If they do not avowedly reject the word, they show by their conduct, that they consider:

its doctrines as fanatical,

its precepts as harsh,

its promises as illusory,

and its threatenings as vain.

But, while "they thus practically reject the word of the Lord, there is no wisdom in them? Jeremiah 8:9." Doubtless if they who were in the midst of the storm saw any of their neighbors housed, they would cast a wishful look at them; and will not their lot be envied in the last day, who shall have taken refuge in Christ, and found protection from the wrath of God?

Let then the remembrance of what took place in Egypt, operate powerfully on our hearts.

Let us "search the Scriptures, and make them our meditation day and night."

Let us take them "as a light to our feet and a lantern to our paths."

Let us "treasure them up in our hearts," and labor to follow the directions they give us.

Let us "receive the word with meekness," "not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God."

Let us beg of God that it may be "living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to our inmost souls, and discovering to us the very thoughts and intents of our hearts."

Let God's blessed word regulate our hearts and lives; then will God look upon us with favorable acceptance, Isaiah 65:2, and acknowledge us as "his in the day that he shall make up his jewels! Malachi 3:17."

2. Those who fear the Word of the Lord.

There are some among us, we trust, who having once, like good Josiah, wept on account of the denunciations of God's wrath; now, like holy Job, "esteem God's Word more than their necessary food."

There is not a threatening in it which they dare to despise.

There is not a promise which they do not desire to enjoy.

There is not a precept which they do not labor to obey.

They desire nothing so much as to be "cast into the mold of the Gospel," and to be "sanctified by means of it in body, soul, and spirit." To all of this character I say, Blessed are you; for if "you tremble at the word" of God, you have no reason to tremble at anything else! You may look at death with delight, and at Hell itself without terror—since you are screened under the shadow of your Redeemer's wings! Envy not then the liberty, and the thoughtlessness of sinners; neither let their revilings deter you from your purpose. The time is quickly coming when your God will appear to their shame, and to your joy! Isaiah 65:5. Then the wisdom of your conduct will be seen in its true colors; and you shall understand the full import of that question, "Does not my word do good to him who walks uprightly? Micah 2:7."




Exodus 10:3

"So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, "This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: 'How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me."

It cannot be denied that Pharaoh was a remarkable character, raised up by God himself to be a monument of God's power and wrath throughout all generations, Exodus 9:16. Yet we mistake if we think that the dispositions which he exercised were peculiar to him; the occasions that called them forth into exercise, were peculiar; but the dispositions themselves were the common fruits of our corrupt nature, visible in all the human race.

The command given to Pharaoh to permit all the Hebrews to go into the wilderness to offer sacrifice to their God, he chose not to comply with; and all the judgments inflicted on him, and the mercies given to him, were ineffectual for the subduing of his rebellious spirit, and for the reducing of him to a willing obedience.

Every one who reads the history of these events stands amazed at the pride and obduracy of his heart. But if we would look inward, and see how we have withstood the commands of God, and how little effect either his judgments or his mercies have produced on us, we would find little occasion to exult over Pharaoh; we would see, that, however circumstances then elicited and rendered more conspicuous the evils of his heart, the very same corruptions which he manifested, are in us also; and that every individual among us has the same need as he of the expostulation in the text, "How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?"

It is remarkable that this very account of Pharaoh was ordered to be transmitted to the last posterity, in order that the men of all succeeding generations might see in it, both what God's enemies and what his friends are to expect at His hands.

That we may render this subject the more generally useful, we will,

I. Show wherein true humiliation consists.

A full and abstract investigation of this point would lead us too far; we shall therefore confine ourselves to such particulars as the context more immediately suggests.

1. True humiliation consists in a deep and sincere sorrow for sin, as contrasted with forced acknowledgments.

If confessions extorted by sufferings or by fear were sufficient evidences of humility, then Pharaoh would never have received the reproof in our text; for on the plague of hail being inflicted, he sent for Moses and said, "I have sinned this time. The Lord is righteous; and I and my people are wicked, Exodus 9:27." But notwithstanding this, in God's estimation he still, as the text expresses it, "refused to humble himself before God."

Yet this is the only humiliation which many among ourselves have ever experienced. In a time of sickness perhaps, or under any great and accumulated afflictions—we have been constrained to confess our desert of God's judgments. We have seen that He has been contending with us; and that yet heavier judgments awaited us, if we did not humble ourselves before him. We have trembled perhaps at the prospect of approaching dissolution, and at the thought of appearing in an unprepared state at the tribunal of our Judge. Hence have arisen some forced acknowledgments of our sinfulness, while yet we neither hated our sins, nor loathed ourselves on account of them; and hence, on our restoration to health, we have returned, like fused metal from the furnace, to our usual hardness and obduracy.

True humiliation is widely different from this. It implies a deep and sincere sorrow for sin, not only on account of the judgments it will bring upon us—but on account of its own intrinsic hatefulness and deformity. It leads us to smite on our bosoms with conscious shame; and fills us with self-loathing and self-abhorrence. It does this not only before we have obtained mercy, but afterwards; yes, and so much the more because God is pacified towards us, Job 42:6 with Ezekiel 16:63.

We readily acknowledge that tears are no certain sign of penitence; and that the sensibility that produces them depends rather on the constitutional habit, than on the convictions of the mind. Yet while we read so much in the Scriptures respecting men sowing in tears, and going on their way weeping, and while we behold the Savior himself weeping over Jerusalem, and pouring out his soul before God with strong crying and tears, we cannot but think that those who have never yet wept for sin, have never felt its bitterness; and there is just occasion for us to weep over all who have not yet wept for themselves. It is scarcely to be conceived that any man has a truly broken and contrite spirit, whose sighs and groans have not often entered into the ears of the omnipresent God, and whose tears have not been often treasured up in his vials.

2. True humiliation consists in an unreserved obedience to God, as contrasted with partial compliances.

Pharaoh, under the pressure of his successive calamities, yielded in part to the commands of God; he resisted altogether at the first; but gradually receded from his determinations, and permitted the Hebrews to offer their sacrifices in Egypt; then to go into the wilderness, provided they did not go very far into it; then he would let the men go; then at last the women and children also; but he would not allow them to take away their cattle; those he was determined to keep, as a pledge of their return. In all this there was nothing but pride and stoutness of heart. He held everything fast, until it was wrested from him by some fresh judgment, and conceded nothing but from absolute compulsion.

Thus it is that many among ourselves part with their sins. They would retain them all, and gladly too, if the indulgence of them would consist with their hope from Heaven. If they part with any, they do it as a mariner who casts his goods overboard to lighten his ship and keep it from sinking; but it is with reluctance that he parts with them; and he wishes for them all again, the very instant he is safe on shore.

From the same motive flows his performance of certain duties; he engages not in them from any delight that he has in them, but from a self-righteous desire of purchasing Heaven by these sacrifices. But in all this there is nothing of true humiliation, nothing of real piety.

The true Christian, when his heart is right with God, desires to fulfill all the commandments of his God, "not one of them is grievous unto him;" he would not wish to be allowed to violate any one of them; but desires to "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." He would not retain a right eye or a right hand, that should be an occasion of offence to his God and Savior. As it is his prayer that "God's will may be done by him on earth as it is in Heaven," so is it his daily endeavor to carry it into effect; and, could he but have the desire of his soul, he would be as "pure as Christ himself is pure," and as "perfect as his Father who is in Heaven is perfect."

This union of deep sorrow for the past, and of unreserved obedience for the future, is marked by God himself as constituting that state of mind which alone will prove effectual for our acceptance with him.

Having explained the nature of true humiliation, we proceed to:

II. Expostulate with those in whom true humiliation is not yet wrought.

There is but too much reason for this expostulation wherever we look. Their need of humiliation before God, none, I apprehend, will venture to deny.

Let us only look back and see how we have acted towards God, as our Creator, our Governor, our Benefactor.

Let us mark our past conduct also towards the Lord Jesus Christ, who assumed our nature, and died upon the cross to save us.

Let us yet further call to mind all the resistance which we have given to the motions of the Holy Spirit within us; and we shall find ground enough for our humiliation before God.

Yet who has humbled himself aright?

Who has sought the Lord from day to day "with strong crying and tears?"

Who has given up himself wholly and unreservedly to God, determining through grace to have no other will but his?

Does not conscience testify against us in relation to these matters, and warn us that there is yet much, very much lacking, to perfect our humiliation before God?

We beg permission then, in the name of the Most High God, to expostulate with all whose consciences now testify against them.

"How long will you refuse to humble yourselves before God?"

Have you ever fixed a time in your minds?

Do you fix your hope upon living to old age? What certainty have you of living to old age?

Do you fix your hope upon having a long time of sickness and of death? How do you know that you shall have space then given for repentance, or that the Spirit of God, whom you now resist, shall be imparted to you for the producing of true repentance? How do you know, that if you do then repent, your repentance will proceed any further, or be more effectual for your salvation than Pharaoh's was?

Consider, I beg you, the guilt, the folly, and the danger of delaying your humiliation before God. Will you make the very forbearance of God which should lead you to repentance, the ground and occasion of protracting your rebellion against him? Do you think that God will not overcome at the last? Will you set briers and thorns in battle against the devouring fire? Did you ever hear of one who hardened himself against God and prospered? Will not sin harden you in proportion as it is indulged? "Will the Spirit strive with you forever?" Have you not reason to fear, that, if you continue impenitent under your present circumstances, God will give you up to judicial hardness, and a reprobate mind?

Beloved brethren, I entreat you to fix some time when you will cast down the weapons of your rebellion, and humble yourselves in truth before God.

Two encouragements I would set before you:

1. It is never too late.

At "the eleventh hour" those who give themselves up to Him shall be received. Let not the aged, or the sick, say, 'There is no hope.' Let not the vilest of the human race indulge despair. A Manasseh holds forth to every child of man the richest encouragement; and an assurance that of those who come to Christ in penitence and faith, "not one shall ever be cast out! 2 Chronicles 33:12-13."

2. It is never too soon.

It was not the men only, but the children also, yes, even "the little ones," whom God required to go forth into the wilderness to offer sacrifice to him. In the New Testament our blessed Lord says, "Let the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of Heaven." O that young people did but know the blessedness of serving God! Who ever yet regretted that he had begun to repent too soon? Who ever yet made it a matter of sorrow that he "had served the Lord from his youth?" "Remember then, my brethren, your Creator in the days of your youth." Let not Satan have the best of your time; and the mere dregs be reserved for God. But "today, while it is called today," begin that life, which is the truest source of happiness in this world, and the most certain pledge of glory in the world to come!

2 Corinthians 2:7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.



Exodus 10:22-23

"So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived."

Of all the plagues which in rapid succession were inflicted upon Egypt, not so much as one fell upon the children of Israel; their cattle, and everything belonging to them, enjoyed the same exemption as themselves. This distinction was well calculated to convince Pharaoh, that Israel's God was the only true God, and that the idols of the heathen were vanity! Exodus 8:22.

But while we admit that this was the primary end of all the judgments, and of the plague of darkness among the rest, we cannot but think that this particular plague had something in it more than ordinarily instructive; inasmuch as it served to show, that between the Lord's people and others there is at all times as great a difference, as there then was between Goshen and the rest of Egypt.

We say not, indeed, that this particular application of the subject is anywhere suggested by the inspired writers; but we do say, that it may well be so applied, in a way of accommodation at least, to the elucidation of this most important point.

I will take occasion from it then to show,

I. The difference which God has put between his own people and others.

In their state, and nature, in their relation to God and to each other, in their prospects also, and in their end—the two descriptions of people are widely different from each other.

The one are quickened from the dead, and partakers of a divine nature; united to Christ and to each other in one body and by one spirit; with a heavenly inheritance before them, which they are speedily and forever to possess!

The others are yet "children of the wicked one," with no other prospect than that of a banishment from the divine presence, and an everlasting participation with the fallen angels in their unhappy lot.

But without entering into this large view of the subject, I will endeavor to show what light the children of Israel are privileged to enjoy in,

1. Things temporal.

In appearance, "all things come alike to all;" or, if there be any particular difference in relation to temporal things, it is rather in favor of the ungodly. But the godly, whether they possess more or less of this world, have an enjoyment of it of which the world at large are destitute, and in their present state incapable. They taste God's love in everything; and have a more vivid apprehension of the smallest blessings, than an ungodly man has of the greatest. The "blessings" of the ungodly are, in fact, "cursed to them;" "their table is a snare to them;" and even their bodily health and strength are made occasions of more flagrant transgressions against their God. To God's Israel, on the contrary, their severest afflictions are made sources of good; insomuch that they can "glory in their tribulations, Romans 5:3," and "take pleasure in their sorest infirmities, 2 Corinthians 12:10." Whatever trials assault them, they "all work together for their good, Romans 8:28;" yes, "light and momentary as they are, they work out for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 2 Corinthians 4:17." The very best portion of the wicked is lighter than vanity; while the worst of a godly man's lot is received by him not only with "patience and long-suffering, but with joy and thankfulness, Colossians 1:11-12." Though he be the poorest of mankind, he does in effect "inherit the earth;" yes, he "inherits all things!"

2. Things spiritual.

The ungodly man is truly in darkness with respect to everything that is of a spiritual nature. He neither does, nor can, comprehend anything of that kind, for lack of a spiritual discernment. But God's highly favored people "have light in their dwellings," whereby they can discern things invisible to mortal eyes.

The evil of sin,

the beauty of holiness,

the glory of Christ,

the blessedness of Heaven,

are open to their view, and are contemplated by them with a zest which can be conceived by those only who actually experience it in their souls. What shall I say of "the light of God's countenance lifted up upon them," or of "the love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit?" What shall I say of the Holy Spirit dwelling in them as "a Spirit of adoption," "witnessing with their spirits that they are God's children," and "sealing them unto the day of redemption," and being "a pledge of Heaven itself" in their souls? To attempt to describe these things would be only to "darken counsel by words without knowledge."

If we would in vain attempt to convey to one immured in a dungeon a just conception of the luster and influence of the meridian sun; then much more must we fail, if we would attempt to give to a natural man a just apprehension of "the things of the Spirit;" for neither have we any language whereby adequately to express them, nor have they any faculties whereby duly to apprehend them.

3. Things eternal.

What can an ungodly man see beyond the grave? Truly in relation to the future world he is in darkness, even in "a darkness that may be felt." If he reflects at all, he can feel nothing but "a certain fearful looking-for of judgment and fiery indignation to consume him," and have no prospect but that of "the blackness of darkness forever."

But in reference to eternity, the child of God is seen to the greatest advantage. O, what prospects are open to his view! What crowns, what kingdoms, await him! Truly he stands as on Mount Pisgah, and surveys the Promised Land in all its length and breadth. He joins already with the heavenly hosts in all their songs of praise, and, according to the measure of the grace bestowed upon him, anticipates "the pleasures which are at God's right hand for evermore."

But, that I may not tantalize you with joys which you can never taste, let me proceed to show you,

II. How we may secure to ourselves their happy lot.

Can an Egyptian become an Israelite? Yes, he may.

An Israelite is a descendant of Abraham, in the line of Jacob. But how then can this relation be transferred to a foreigner?

After the flesh indeed, an Edomite must remain an Edomite; an Egyptian must continue an Egyptian.

But after the Spirit, the transition may be made by all, of whatever nation, provided only they earnestly desire it.

Through faith in that blessed Savior in whom Abraham believed, we may be brought to a participation of all the blessings which were conferred on him. Hear what the Scripture says, "Know that those who are of faith—the same are the children of Abraham;" the same, too, are "blessed with faithful Abraham;" yes, "the blessing of Abraham comes on them through Jesus Christ;" "if we are Christ's, then are we Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise, Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:9; Galatians 3:14; Galatians 3:29."

Under this character, we shall be exempted from all the Egyptian plagues, and entitled to all the distinctions that ever were conferred on God's chosen people!

Truly, however gross the darkness which may have covered us in past times, we shall have "light in our dwellings;" yes, we shall be brought out of darkness into God's marvelous light; and not only "be turned from darkness unto light, but from the power of Satan unto God."

Say, brethren, whether this does not accord with the experience of some among you? Say, whether the brightest hours of your former life are comparable even with your darkest now? I well know that in this present life there will be clouds that will occasionally intercept the full radiance of the Sun of Righteousness, and induce a transient gloom over your horizon; but I ask with confidence, whether at such a season you would exchange your portion for that of the happiest worldling upon earth? No, you well know, that though your "darkness may continue for a night, joy will come in the morning, Psalm 30:5;" and even in the darkest night some gleams of light are accustomed to shine into your soul, according to that sure promise, "Unto the godly there arises up light in the darkness, Psalm 112:4."

True it is, that sin will bring darkness upon the soul; and true it is, also, that bodily disease may sometimes operate unfavorably in this respect; but, if we are upright before God, "when we walk in darkness, the Lord will be a light unto us, Micah 7:8;" and, in due season, "our light shall shine in obscurity, and our darkness be as the noonday, Isaiah 58:10."


1. Those who are walking in their own carnal enjoyments.

Truly it is but a candle that you possess, while you are regardless of the radiance of the noonday sun! And what does God say to you? "This shall you have of my hand at last, you shall lie down in sorrow! Isaiah 50:11."

"Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says:

"My servants will eat, but you will go hungry;

my servants will drink, but you will go thirsty;

my servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame.

My servants will sing out of the joy of their hearts, but you will cry out from anguish of heart and wail in brokenness of spirit! Isaiah 65:13-14."

2. Those who, though Israelites indeed, are yet walking in somewhat of a gloomy frame.

We have before said, that such seasons may occur; but the direction given you by God himself is that which must be your consolation and support, "Who is among you that fears the Lord, that obeys the voice of his servant, and yet walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and relyy upon his God, Isaiah 50:10."

There may be reasons for the withdrawment of light from your souls, reasons of which you at present have no conception. Perhaps God has seen that you have not duly improved the former manifestations of his love; or he may see that an uninterrupted continuance of them might give advantage to Satan to puff you up with pride. But, whether you can trace these suspensions of the divine favor to any particular cause or not, learn at all events to justify God in them, and to improve them for the deeper humiliation of your souls; and look forward to that blessed period when you shall "dwell in the light as God is in the light," and enjoy a day that shall never end! 1 John 1:7; Revelation 21:23; Revelation 22:5.




Exodus 11:7

"But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal. Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel."

A principal intent of God in the various dispensations of his providence is, to make himself known unto the world. By some of his works he makes known his natural perfections of wisdom and power; by others, his moral perfections of goodness and truth. In his dealings with Pharaoh in particular, we are expressly told that he had this end in view, Exodus 10:1-2. The exercise of his sovereignty was in that instance intended to be displayed, Romans 9:17-20; as also in the whole of "the difference which he put between the Israelites and the Egyptians;" but if we consider these two nations as types or representatives of the friends and enemies of God, we shall be rather led to contemplate the equity of all his dispensations towards them. It is in this light that we propose to dwell upon the words before us.

"Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel."

I. He did so from the beginning.

Go back to the antediluvian world. How different was his conduct towards the two first men that were born into the world! Genesis 4:3-5. What singular honor did he confer on Enoch! Hebrews 11:5. What distinguished mercy did he grant to Noah! Genesis 6:9-13.

Consult the patriarchal age. How different his regards to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, from any that he showed to those among whom they dwelt!

Look at the history before us. From the latter plagues, the flies, the murrain, the darkness, and the slaughter of the first-born—the Israelites were exempt. The cloud also was dark to one, but light to the other; and the sea was both a passage and a grave.

Search the records of all succeeding ages. It is impossible to read the history of David or Elijah in the Old Testament, or of the Apostles in the New, and not see this written as with a sunbeam! The annals of the whole world conspire to establish this important truth.

II. He does so at this present hour.

If we have been attentive observers of what passes around us, or within our own hearts, we shall not need to be told that God does at this time, no less than in former ages, distinguish his people from others.

He does so in his dispensations. He frequently interposes to screen them from calamities, (Job 5:19-24.) and always to sanctify the calamities he sends, Romans 8:28. His very presence with them in trouble is equivalent to a deliverance from it, Psalm 31:20. (The full import of this verse will, when discovered, richly repay our meditations upon it.)

He does so in his providence, and in the communications of his grace. Whence is it that the Lord's people are enabled to triumph, as they do, over the world, the flesh, and the devil? Is it not that they are strengthened by Christ, (Philippians 4:13.) and that "his grace is sufficient for them!"

III. He will do so to all eternity.

If we would know the full extent of that difference which he will put between his people and others, we must go up to Heaven, and taste all the glories of it; and go down to Hell, and experience all its miseries! Never until then shall we be adequate judges of this momentous subject.


1. Do you believe this truth?

Many think that "God will not do good or evil," and that he will neither reward nor punish. Whether they be conscious of such infidelity or not, their life too plainly proves its dominion over them. Beware of such atheistical opinions; and seek that, whatever becomes of others, you may be monuments of his love and favor!

2. Do you live under the influence of this truth?

Happy were it for us, if we could always bear in mind this solemn truth!

How importunate would be our prayers,

how ardent would be our praises,

how indefatigable would be our exertions!

Let us contemplate the separation which God will make in the day of judgment, Malachi 3:18; Matthew 25:33; Matthew 25:46; and labor incessantly, that we may be numbered among his most favored saints! Malachi 3:16-17.




Exodus 12:3-11

"Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire—head, legs and inner parts. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD's Passover!"

The mercies promised to the Lord's people shall be fulfilled to them in due season. Their trials may be long continued, and may increase when the time of their termination is near at hand; but God will not forget his promises, or delay the execution of them beyond the proper time. He had foretold to Abraham that his posterity would be ill-treated in Egypt to a certain period; but that they should then be brought out of it with great substance. The appointed period, foretold four hundred and thirty years before, had arrived, and yet the condition of the Israelites was as distressed as ever; but at its conclusion, "even on the self-same day," the promised deliverance was granted; and an ordinance was appointed to keep up the remembrance of it to all future generations.

From the words of our text we shall be led to notice,

I. The Passover ordinance itself.

1. The ordinance was commemorative.

The deliverance of Israel from the sword of the destroying angel, and from their bondage in Egypt, was great, Deuteronomy 26:8, and unparalleled from the foundation of the world, Deuteronomy 4:34. And in the commemoration of it, God appointed that in all future ages one of the junior members of each family should ask the reason of the institution, and the head of the family should relate what God had done for their nation in passing over the houses of the Israelites when he slew the Egyptians, and in bringing them out of their cruel bondage, verses 5–27. To this the Apostle refers, when he speaks of the Lord's Supper as an ordinance appointed for "the showing forth of the Lord's death, until he comes" again at the end of the world to judgment! 1 Corinthians 11:26.

2. The ordinance was typical.

The minutest particular in this ordinance seems to have been intended to typify the redemption of the world by the death of Christ:

"The lamb" which was to be "under a year old," denotes Christ, "the Lamb of God," in a state of perfect purity.

The lamb was to be "a male," as being the most perfect of its kind, and "without blemish," in order to represent the perfect manhood of Christ, who was indeed "a lamb without blemish and without spot! 1 Peter 1:19."

The lamb was to be set apart four days before it was slain; not only to mark God's eternal designation of Christ to be a sacrifice, but to foreshow that Christ, during the four last days of his life, (from his entrance into Jerusalem to his death,) should be examined at different tribunals, to ascertain whether there was the smallest flaw in his character; so that his bitterest enemies might all be constrained to attest his innocence, and thereby unwittingly to declare, that he was fit to be a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.

The precise hour of the day wherein Jesus was to die, is thought to have been predicted by the time appointed for the slaying of the paschal lamb, which was soon after three o'clock in the afternoon.

The lamb was ordered to be slain by all the congregation; to show that all ranks and orders of men, both of Jews and Gentiles, should concur in his death.

The lamb's blood was to be sprinkled on the door-posts and lintels, to show that the blood of Christ must be sprinkled upon our hearts and consciences, if we would not fall a prey to the destroying angel; but it was not to be sprinkled on the threshold, because the blood of Christ is not to be trodden under foot, or counted by any as an unholy thing! Hebrews 10:29.

The lamb's flesh was to be roasted, (not to be eaten raw or boiled,) that the extremity of our Savior's sufferings from the fire of God's wrath might be more fitly depicted.

The lamb was to be eaten by all; because none can ever be saved, unless they eat of Christ's flesh, and receive him into their hearts by faith.

The lamb was to be eaten whole, and not a bone of it to be broken, John 19:36; probably to intimate, that we must receive Christ in all his offices and in all his benefits; and certainly to foreshow that he should be exempt from the common fate of all who died his death, and be marked out thereby with the most undoubted evidence, as the true Messiah.

None of the lamb was to be left until the morning, lest it should be treated contemptuously by the profane, or become an occasion of idolatry or superstition to mistaken zealots; and to guard us also against similar abuses in the supper of our Lord.

Some other particulars worthy of observation will occur, while we consider,

II. The manner of the Passover celebration.

In this also was the ordinance both commemorative and typical.

The bitter herbs and unleavened bread were intended to keep up a remembrance of the bitter sorrows which they endured, and the bread of affliction which they ate, in Egypt, Deuteronomy 16:4.

Their standing, with their loins girt, and shoes on their feet, and staves in their hands, denoted the haste with which they were driven out of the land, as it were, by the Egyptians themselves.

As types, these things declared in what manner we should feed upon the Lord Jesus Christ. We know that it is possible to strain types and metaphors too far; but in interpreting the import of the paschal sacrifice, though in some smaller matters we may not be able to speak with certainty, the great outlines are drawn by an inspired Apostle; who says, "Christ our Passover Lamb, is sacrificed for us, 1 Corinthians 5:7-8." Taking this for our guide, we say that we may learn even from the manner in which the Passover was celebrated, how we are to feast upon the Lamb of God that has been slain for us.

1. We are to feast upon the Lamb with humble penitence.

The bitter herbs reminded the Israelites of the misery they had endured; but we must further reflect upon the guilt we have contracted. Their bondage was the effect of force and constraint; ours has been altogether voluntary; and therefore has involved us in the deepest guilt. When we eat of Christ's flesh, we must recollect that his sufferings were the punishment of our iniquities. We must "look on him whom we have pierced, and mourn; yes, we must mourn for him as one mourns for his only son! Zechariah 12:10." The more assured we are of our deliverance from wrath through him, the more must we abhor ourselves for all our iniquities, and for all our abominations! Ezekiel 16:63.

2. We are to feast upon the Lamb with true sincerity.

This is expressly declared by the Apostle to have been intended by the unleavened bread, 1 Corinthians 5:7-8. Sin is a leaven, the smallest portion of which will leaven and defile our whole souls. It must therefore be purged out with all possible care and diligence. If we retain knowingly and willfully the smallest measure of sin, we have nothing to expect but an everlasting separation from God and his people. Let us then search and try our own hearts; and beg of God also to "search and try us, to see if there be any wicked way in us, and to lead us in the way everlasting!" We must be "Israelites indeed and without deceit," if we would enjoy the full benefits of the body and blood of Christ.

3. We are to feast upon the Lamb with active zeal.

We are in a strange land, wherein "we have no continuing city; but we seek one to come, even a city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." We are not to take up our rest in this world, but, as pilgrims, with our loins girt, our shoes on our feet, and our staff in our hand, to be always ready to proceed on our journey to the heavenly Canaan! In this state and habit of mind, we should feed upon Christ from day to day; commemorating the redemption he has wrought out for us, and receiving from him renewed strength for our journey. This weanedness from the world, and readiness to depart out of it at any moment that our Lord shall call us, constitutes the perfection of a Christian's character, and the summit of his felicity.


Whether we be Israelites feeding on the Paschal Lamb, or Egyptians lying on our beds in thoughtless security—let us remember, that the hour is fast approaching, when God will put a difference between the Israelites and the Egyptians. Let the one rejoice in the safety which they enjoy under the blood sprinkled on their hearts; and let the other tremble at their impending danger from the sword of the destroying angel; and let all endeavor to realize the unavailing cries of God's enemies, and the joyful exultations of his redeemed people. O terrible judgment! O glorious deliverance! May God keep us all from hardening our own hearts, and stir us up to an immediate compliance with the directions given us in the Gospel!




Exodus 12:21-23

"Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning. When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down."

The office of a minister is to declare to the people what he himself has received from God to deliver to them, 1 Corinthians 15:3. Nothing should be added by him; nothing should be withheld, Acts 20:27. The direction given to Moses, "See that you make all things according to the pattern showed to you in the mount, Hebrews 8:5," is that to which all the servants of God should be conformed in all their ministrations. In this consists fidelity. "If we add anything to the Word of God, the plagues contained in it shall be added unto us. If we take away from it, our names shall be taken out of the book of life, Revelation 22:18-19."

It is spoken to the honor of Moses, that "he was faithful in all his house;" and we find invariably, that the messages which he delivered to the people, and the ordinances which he established among them, accorded with the commission which he himself had received from God.

In the words before us, he delivers to them a message of terror and of mercy; he informs them of the judgment about to be inflicted on the Egyptian first-born; and of the means which God in his mercy had appointed for exempting them from the general calamity.

We propose to consider:

I. The means prescribed.

God might have preserved his people without any particular means; as he did when he sent forth an angel to destroy almost the whole Assyrian army. But he intended this deliverance as a type of a far greater deliverance, which he would afterwards effect through the incarnation and death of his own Son; and therefore he appointed certain observances which would lead their minds to that great event.

1. They must kill the paschal lamb.

Though the Passover differed from all other sacrifices, inasmuch as no part of it was burnt upon the altar—yet it is expressly called a sacrifice, Deuteronomy 16:4; and it was ordered to be represented under that character to all succeeding generations, verses 6, 27; and Paul himself speaks of it as prefiguring, in that particular view, the death of Christ, 1 Corinthians 5:7.

Here then it is most instructive to us, as it teaches us that without a sacrifice offered unto God for us—we cannot obtain favor in his sight, or escape the judgments which our sins have merited. We do not presume to say, absolutely, what God might, or might not, have done; because we know nothing of God except as he is pleased to reveal himself to us; but, as far as the revelation he has given us enables us to judge, we are persuaded that a vicarious sacrifice was necessary; and that, without such a sacrifice, God could not have been "just, and at the same time the justifier" of sinful man, Romans 3:25-26.

2. They must sprinkle its blood.

The destroying angel might have been instructed to discern between the Israelites and the Egyptians without any external sign upon the walls; but God ordered that the blood of the lamb should be sprinkled on the lintel, and side-posts of the doors, in order to show us yet further, that the blood of Christ must be sprinkled on our souls.

The blood of the lamb did not save the Israelites by being shed, but by being sprinkled; and, in the same manner, it is not the blood of Christ as shed on Calvary, but as sprinkled on the soul, that saves us from the wrath to come! Hence the Scripture so often speaks of our being "come to the blood of sprinkling, which speaks better things than the blood of Abel, Hebrews 12:24 and 1 Peter 1:2." We must, as it were, dip the hyssop in the blood, and by faith apply it to our own hearts and consciences, or else we can have no benefit from it, no saving interest in it.

3. They must abide in their houses.

This was appointed, that they might know to what alone they owed their safety—namely, to the blood sprinkled on their houses. If, presuming upon their descent from Abraham, or upon their having killed the Passover, any of them had ventured abroad before the morning—they would, in all probability, have perished, as Lot's wife did after her departure from Sodom, or as Shimei afterwards did by going outside the walls of Jerusalem, 1 Kings 2:41-46. The injunction given to them, teaches us, that we must "abide in Christ, John 15:4-7. Five times in four verses this truth is repeated;" and that, to venture for one moment from under the shadow of his wings, will involve us in the most imminent danger, if not in utter ruin. We have no protection from the pursuer of blood any longer than we continue within the walls of the city of refuge! Numbers 35:26-28.

Let us now take a view of,

II. The deliverance given.

The deliverance itself was truly astonishing.

Throughout all the land of Egypt, the first-born of every person, from the king on his throne to the captive in the dungeon, was slain by an invisible agent. By whatever means the various families were awakened, whether by any sudden impression on their minds, or by the groans of their first-born smitten by the destroying angel—there was at the same hour throughout all the kingdom a cry of lamentation and of terror; of lamentation for their deceased relatives, and of terror on their own account, lest a similar judgment should be inflicted on them also.

What dreadful consternation must have prevailed, the instant that the extent of this calamity was seen; when every one, going for relief and comfort to his neighbor, saw him also overwhelmed with similar anguish! But though the first-born of men and cattle was destroyed among all the Gentiles, not one, either of men or cattle, suffered among the Israelites. How must the whole Jewish nation be struck with wonder at this astonishing display of God's mercy towards them!

But a greater deliverance than this was shadowed forth. There is a day coming when God will put a more awful difference between his friends and enemies; when his enemies, without exception, shall be smitten with the second death, and his friends be exalted to eternal glory and felicity! What terror will be seen in that day! What weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth among the objects of his displeasure! And what exultation and triumph among those who shall be the monuments of his distinguishing favor! That deliverance will be indeed wonderful; and eternity will be too short to explore the unsearchable riches of grace and love contained in it.

The manner in which it was effected also deserves particular attention.

There was not one agent only in this transaction, but two; a destroying angel who went forth to execute judgment indiscriminately on one in every house; and God, who attended him, as it were, to intercept his stroke, and ward off the blow wherever the blood was sprinkled on the houses. This is clearly intimated in the text; and it is as clearly referred to by the Prophet Isaiah, who combines this image with that of a bird darting between her offspring and the bird of prey, in order to protect them from their voracious enemy, Isaiah 31:5.

Indeed the very name given to the ordinance which was appointed to commemorate this event, was taken from the circumstance of God's leaping forward, and thus obliging the angel to pass over every house where the blood appeared.

In reflecting on this, we take comfort from the thought that whoever may threaten the Lord's people, God himself is their protector; and that, "while he is for them, none can be effectually against them." If all the angels in Heaven, yes and all the devils in Hell too—were employed to execute vengeance on the earth, we need not fear; since God is omniscient to discern, and almighty to protect, the least of his believing people!

We may learn from hence,

1. The use and excellence of faith.

It was "by faith that Moses kept the Passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the first-born should touch them, Hebrews 11:28." It is by faith also, and by faith alone, that we can obtain a saving interest in the Lord Jesus. In what other way can we present to God his sacrifice? In what other way can we sprinkle our hearts with his atoning blood? In what other way can we "abide in him until the morning" of the resurrection? This is not done by repentance, or love, or any other grace—but by faith alone. Other graces are good, and necessary in their place; but it is faith alone that apprehends Christ, and obtains for us all the benefits of his passion. Let us then "believe in him," and "live upon him," and "dwell in him"—as our sure and only deliverer from the wrath to come.

2. The importance of inquiring into our state before God.

The generality go to their rest as securely as the Egyptians did, unawed by the threatenings of Almighty God, and unconscious of the danger to which they were exposed. But how many wake in eternity, and find their error when it is too late! Let me then entreat you to inquire whether you have ever dreaded the stroke of God's avenging arm? whether you have been made sensible that God has appointed one way, and one way only, for your escape? whether you have regarded "Christ as your Passover that has been sacrificed for you?" whether you have fed upon him, with the bitter herbs of penitence and contrition? Have you dipped the hyssop, as it were, in his blood, and sprinkled your souls with it? And do you feel that it would be at the peril of your souls, if you were to venture for one moment from your place of refuge?

Make these inquiries; and be not satisfied until you are assured on scriptural grounds, that you are out of the reach of the destroying angel! Until then, adopt the prayer of David, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow!"




Exodus 12:41-42

"At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD's divisions left Egypt. Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the LORD for the generations to come."

[Delivered on Easter Sunday]

The Lord, for wise and gracious reasons, often delays the execution of his promises; until we, in our impatience, are almost ready to think he has forgotten them. But, however long he may appear to neglect us, "he is not slack concerning his promises, as some men count slackness, 2 Peter 3:9." He has fixed a time, beyond which there shall be no delay, Habakkuk 2:3; and at the appointed hour he will show himself "mighty to save."

To Abraham and his seed, God promised to give the land of Canaan. But behold, no less than four hundred and thirty years were ordained by him to pass, and a great portion of that time in extreme suffering, before his seed were permitted to see the long-wished-for period. But at the time fixed from the beginning in the divine counsels, "even the self-same day it came to pass," that all the hosts of Israel were brought forth out of Egypt; and God's promises to them were fulfilled.

In like manner it was promised to Adam that "the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head." But four thousand years were allowed to elapse before that promised Seed was sent into the world. "When, however, the fullness of time was come, God sent him, made of a woman, made under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons, Galatians 4:4-5." In effecting this great work, the Messiah was to die, Hebrews 2:14-15. But "he was not to see corruption, Psalm 16:10." On the third day he was to rise again, Matthew 12:40. To prevent this, every expedient was resorted to, that human ingenuity could contrive. But at the appointed moment the Savior rose; and thus completed the deliverance of a ruined world.

These two events are referred to in the text—the one, historically; the other, typically.

To these events I will first call your attention.

Great was the deliverance of Israel from Egypt.

Sore, beyond conception, was the bondage of the children of Israel; insomuch that "God himself was grieved at it." But, through the judgments executed on their oppressors, Pharaoh was at last prevailed on to dismiss them. The last great judgment that was inflicted on their enemies was the destruction of their first-born throughout all the land of Egypt; from which the Israelites were protected by the blood of the paschal lamb sprinkled on their dwellings. This was altogether a wonderful deliverance, such as never had been given to any other nation under Heaven, Deuteronomy 4:32-34.

The end of that deliverance rendered it yet more glorious; because they were now consecrated to the Lord as "a special people above all people upon the face of the earth;" and they were led forth under the immediate guidance and protection of God himself, to "a land flowing with milk and honey," "a land that was the glory of all lands."

This was a redemption which might well be remembered by them, in all future ages, with wonder, and gratitude, and praise.

But infinitely greater is the deliverance that has been given to us.

From how much sorer bondage are we rescued, even from the bonds of sin and Satan, death and Hell!

How much more wonderful is the means of our preservation, even the blood of God's only dear Son, once shed on Calvary, and now sprinkled on our souls!

To how much higher a state too are we raised—to be the sons of God, and the inheritors of the kingdom of Heaven!

What shall we say of this? It surpasses the utmost conception both of men and angels; and has a height and depth, and length and breadth, that is utterly incomprehensible.

Let me next commend to your special observance this day, on which these great events are commemorated. They deserve well to be commemorated by the whole human race.

The deliverance from Egypt will be a standing memorial of God's power and grace to the very end of time. But what shall we say of the redemption which that event typified? Should not that be held in remembrance by us? Should not that be annually commemorated with the devoutest acknowledgments? Truly, "it is a day much to be observed unto the Lord," even unto the latest generations.

And here I cannot but regret that the stated remembrance of these wonderful events is utterly disregarded by a great multitude of religious professors. Under an idea of avoiding Popish superstition, many have run to an opposite extreme, and cast off the very semblance of gratitude, and put from them the most effectual means of exciting it in the soul. That such memorials may degenerate into form, I readily acknowledge; but that they may be subservient to the greatest spiritual elevation, I have no doubt; and I cannot but lament, that, through a licentious zeal for what they call liberty, many deprive themselves of most invaluable blessings. To us of the Established Church, I thank God, these privileges are preserved; and I would recommend to every one of you a conscientious and devout improvement of them. Nor can I doubt, but that as the memorial of our Lord's death continued to us in the Sacramental Supper is found a blessing, so will the stated remembrance of our Lord's birth, and death, and resurrection, on the days on which they are commemorated, prove a blessing to all who will consecrate the time to a special consideration of those stupendous mercies.

The way in which they should be observed may be learned from the history before us.

The Israelites, to their last generations, were on that day to eat of the paschal lamb, and to renew their dedication of themselves to him as his peculiar people. And in this way should we employ this holy day.

Let us this day keep a feast unto the Lord. Let us eat of the Paschal Lamb, and feed on that adorable Savior who shed his blood for us, to redeem our souls from death. But let us "eat it with the bitter herbs" of penitential sorrow, and "with the unleavened bread" of sincerity and truth, with Deuteronomy 16:1-4. Nor is this a suggestion of man; but of the Lord himself, who has given us this very command, 1 Corinthians 5:7-8. Mark well, I beg you, these peculiar circumstances, which alone will ensure a favorable acceptance of your services before God; for without deep penitence and sincerity your services will be only an abomination to the Lord.

Let us also dedicate ourselves to him as his peculiar people, Exodus 13:2 with Numbers 8:17. We are not our own; we are bought with a price; we should therefore glorify our God with our bodies, and our spirits, which are his, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

Remember how entirely the people of Israel were now separated from the world, and how completely they were made dependent on their God.

Remember too, that they had but one object in view, namely, the attainment of the promised land.

Thus in spirit should we be; in spirit, I say; because we have offices to perform, which preclude a possibility of entire separation from the world. But if, while we fulfill the duties of our respective stations in the world, we attain in heart what the external situation of Israel was designed to represent, we shall do well. This should from henceforth be our one labor. Behold them, and God himself at their head. he theirs, and they his! So let us consecrate ourselves this day to him, that "we may be his people, and he our God, forever and ever."




Exodus 13:14-16

"In days to come, when your son asks you, 'What does this mean?' say to him, 'With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed every firstborn in Egypt, both man and animal. This is why I sacrifice to the LORD the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.' And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the LORD brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand."

The works of God deserve to be had in continual remembrance. His interpositions on behalf of our forefathers ought not to be forgotten by us; for we ourselves are greatly affected by them. The whole nation of the Jews at this day, and to the remotest period of time, are deeply interested in the mercy shown to their ancestors when the Egyptian firstborn were slain.

If we reckon that every Israelite had two sons, as well as daughters, (which, considering the care that had been taken to destroy all the male children, may be taken as a fair average,) and one out of those sons had been slain, we may calculate, that not above one third of that nation would ever have come into existence. On account of the distinguished greatness of that deliverance, God appointed that it should be kept in remembrance, by means of a variety of ordinances instituted for that purpose. Some of these institutions were to be annually observed, (as the Passover and the feast of unleavened bread,) and others were designed as daily memorials of it. Such was the redemption of the first-born, mentioned in our text.

In consequence of the preservation of the first-born, both of men and animals, among the Jews, God claimed all their future first-born, both of men and animals, as his property; the clean animals were to be sacrificed to him; the unclean were to be exchanged for a lamb, which was to be sacrificed; and the first-born children were to be redeemed at the price of five shekels, which sum was devoted to the service of the sanctuary. This ordinance the Jews, to the latest generations, were bound to observe,

I. As a memorial of God's mercy.

In this view, the end of the appointment is repeatedly mentioned in the text. Every time that the redemption-price was paid for the first-born, either of man or animal, it was to be like "a token upon their hands, or a frontlet, or memorial, between their eyes See," to bring this deliverance to their remembrance.

The deliverance given to us, infinitely exceeds theirs.

Theirs was great, whether we consider the state from which they were brought (a sore bondage), or the means by which they were delivered (the slaughter of the Egyptian first-born), or the state to which they were raised (the service and enjoyment of God, both in the wilderness and in the land of Canaan).

But compare our deliverance in these respects, the guilt and misery from which we are redeemed; the death, not of a few enemies, but of God's only dear Son, by which that redemption is effected; and the blessedness to which, both in this world and the next, we are brought forth; and all comparison fails; their mercy in comparison with ours, is only as the light of a glow-worm compared to the meridian sun.

Everything therefore should serve to bring it to our remembrance.

God has instituted some things for this express purpose, namely, baptism and the Lord's supper. But why should not the same improvement be made of other things?

Why may not the sight of a first-born, whether of man or animal, suggest the same reflections to our minds, that the redemption of them did to the Jews?

Why should not the revolutions of days, months, and years, remind us of the darkness and misery from which we are brought through the bright shining of the Sun of Righteousness?

What is a recovery from sickness, but an image of the mercy given to our souls?

As for the Scriptures, I had almost said that we should literally imitate the mistaken piety of the Jews, who wore certain portions of them as bracelets and frontlets; but, if not, we should have them so much in our hands and before our eyes, that the blessed subject of our redemption by Christ should never be long out of our minds.

But the redemption of the first-born was to be observed also,

II. As an acknowledgment of their duty.

God, in addition to the claim which he has over all his creatures as their Maker, has a peculiar claim to those whom he has redeemed. In this view he called upon the Jews, and he calls upon us also,

1. To consecrate ourselves to him.

The Jewish first-born of animals (as has been observed) were sacrificed to God; and his right to the first-born of men was acknowledged by a redemption-price paid for them, Numbers 3:46-47. The same price too was paid by all (five shekels, or about twelve shillings), to show that every man's soul was of equal value in the sight of God.

With us, there are some important points of difference. All of us, whether male or female, and whether first or last in order of nativity, are accounted as the first-born, Hebrews 12:23; nor can any price whatever exempt us from a personal consecration of ourselves to the service of the Lord. The Levites were afterwards substituted in the place of the first-born, Numbers 3:44-50; but for us no substitute can be admitted. "We are not our own, we are bought with a price," says the Apostle; from whence his inference is, "Therefore we must glorify God with our body and our spirit, which are his, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20." And in another place he expresses the same idea in terms still more accommodated to the language of our text, "I beseech you," says he, "by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service! Romans 12:1."

2. To serve him with the best of all that we have.

The poorest among the Israelites, whose cow had enlarged his little stock, must immediately devote that little acquisition in sacrifice to God. If it were a horse or a donkey that had produced him a foal, he must redeem the foal with a lamb, or "break its neck;" God having decreed, that his people shall derive no comfort or advantage from anything, with which they are unable, or unwilling, to honor him.

Thus are we bound to "honor God with our substance, and with the first-fruits of all our increase." We must not stay until we have got in our harvest, and then spare to him a pittance out of our abundance; but we must devote to him a portion of what he has already bestowed, and trust him to supply our remaining wants. Strange will it be indeed, if, when "he has not spared his own Son, but delivered him up for us all"—we can grudge him anything that is in the power of our hands to do.


1. Inquire into the nature and ends of God's ordinances.

The rites of baptism and the Lord's supper are very little understood among us; whereas, if we would inquire into the reason of these institutions, we would find them lead us immediately to the great work of redemption; in the former of them we are dedicated to Him who has redeemed us from the bondage of corruption; and in the latter, we renew to him, as it were, our baptismal vows, and derive strength from him for the performance of them. In the common ordinances of divine worship we should see the care which God has taken to make known to us the way of salvation, and to display to us the exceeding riches of his grace in Christ Jesus. If we duly considered God's design in appointing an order of men to minister in his sanctuary, we should not complain that we heard so much of Christ; but rather, we should go up to his house hungering and thirsting after him, as the bread of life and the water of life.

2. Devote yourselves to the service of your God.

The names of the first-born, and of them only, "are written in Heaven." If therefore we would partake of the heavenly inheritance, we must regard ourselves as "a holy nation, and a peculiar people." What the Levites were externally, that must we be in the inward devotion of our souls. We are not loaded, like them, with the observance of many burdensome ceremonies; but the sacrifices of prayer and praise we ought to offer unto God continually; and, in this respect, we are to emulate, as it were, the saints in Heaven, who rest not day and night in ascribing glory "to Him who loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood." We should distinctly consider ourselves as "his purchased possession," and account it our highest happiness and honor to be in everything at his disposal, Revelation 14:4. The redeemed are to "follow the Lamb wherever he goes!"

3. Endeavor to instruct others in the great work of redemption.

On all the different occasions it was appointed that children should make inquiries into the reasons of the various institutions which they saw, Exodus 12:26; Exodus 13:8, and Joshua 4:6-7; and that such explanations should be given to them, as should tend to perpetuate divine knowledge to the remotest generations. Such inquiries we should encourage among our children; and we should cheerfully embrace every opportunity that is afforded us, of instructing them in the things belonging to their eternal peace.

If such catechetical instructions were given in our different families, to how much greater advantage would the word of life be dispensed! Our hearers then, being habituated to the consideration of divine truths, would enter more easily into the various subjects that are set before them. They would attend both with pleasure and profit, more especially when they were arrived at years of discretion; whereas now, the greater part of our auditories hear as if they heard not, and continue years under the ministry of the Gospel without ever understanding its fundamental truths.

Let this attention then be paid by all parents and masters to their respective families. Yes, let the ignorant in general, whether children or adults, be the objects of our affectionate regard; and let us all, in our respective spheres, contribute, as we are able, to impart the knowledge of Christ to others, that they also may behold the salvation of God.




Exodus 13:17-18

"When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, "If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle."

In whatever light we view God, whether as a God of power or of love, we are constrained to say, "Who is like unto you, O Lord!" Behold the outcome of his contest with the haughty Pharaoh; the very instant that the full time is arrived, the time predicted four hundred and thirty years before, the proud monarch not only consents to the departure of Israel, but urges them to go with all possible expedition; and the whole land of Egypt is become so anxious for their departure, that every person is glad to give his most valuable clothing, together with his jewels or vessels, of silver or of gold, to any Israelitish woman that asks them of him, Exodus 3:21-22; Exodus 11:2-3; Exodus 12:35-36. The Israelites did not borrow them with any promise of returning them; but asked for them, and required them; and the people, partly through fear, and partly through a temporary willingness to compensate for the injuries they had sustained, hastily gave them whatever they desired.

Yet, though thrust out by the inhabitants, the Israelites do not go out as by night, but, in an orderly manner, "armed for battle." There were no less than six hundred thousand men, besides women and children. Yes, they left in a triumphant manner also, laden with the spoils of their vanquished enemies, "nor was there one feeble person among their tribes;" not one was left behind; nor was one single person unfit to undertake the journey. Thus was the power of Jehovah magnified in the completest victory that can possibly be imagined; a victory, not over their arms merely, but over their proud, obstinate, rebellious hearts.

But we are no less called to admire the kindness of God to his people—than his power over his enemies. He knew that his people were dispirited through their long and cruel bondage; and that, if he led them the near way to Canaan through the land of the Philistines, (which was at most only a journey of eight or ten days, Genesis 43:2; Genesis 43:10,) they would be intimidated by the hostile appearance of the Philistines, and be ready to return to Egypt, rather than enter on a warfare for which they were unprepared. He therefore condescended to their weakness, and led them another way. This may appear an unimportant circumstance in this astonishing history; but we think it will afford us some useful hints, while we call your attention to the following observations:

I. As long as we are in this world, successive trials must be expected.

The trials of the Israelites did not cease when they came out of Egypt; whichever way they had proceeded, they would have met with difficulties.

Just so it is with those who are redeemed from spiritual bondage; they come not into a state of rest, but of conflict. The bewitching state of the world cannot but place many difficulties in their way. And Satan, even if he knew that he could not finally prevail against them, would not cease to harass them to the utmost of his power. And their own hearts, if they had no other enemy to encounter, would afford them many occasions for labor and sorrow. To every person that is desirous of reaching the promised land, this life is a state of warfare; and if he would gain the victory, he must "put on the whole armor of God," and "endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ," and "fight the good fight of faith!"

For these conflicts God fits his people; but,

II. Whatever deliverances we may have experienced in past times, we are ever liable to faint under future trials.

One would have thought that people who had so recently seen the irresistible power of Jehovah engaged for them, would not have feared any enemies they might be called to encounter. But God knew that the appearance of new difficulties would soon efface from their minds the remembrance of past deliverances. How just his estimate of them was, appeared as soon as ever they knew that they were pursued by the Egyptian armies. They instantly murmured against Moses and against God for bringing them out of Egypt; and regretted that they had ever left the land of their captivity, Exodus 14:11-12; Exodus 16:3.

When they had actually reached the borders of the promised land, so terrified were they at the report of their spies respecting the stature of the Canaanites, and the strength of their fortresses, that they proposed even there to appoint a captain over them, to conduct them back again to the land of Egypt, Numbers 14:2-4.

This principle of unbelief is so deeply rooted in our hearts, that even the most eminent saints have yielded to its influence under severe trials.

David, notwithstanding God had promised him the throne of Israel, thought he should one day perish by the hands of Saul 1 Samuel 27:1.

Elijah, who had so boldly withstood Ahab, fled from his post through fear of Jezebel, 1 Kings 19:1-3.

And the Apostles, who had seen on numberless occasions the almighty power of Jesus, expected nothing but death, even while He was in the vessel together with them, Mark 4:38.

No wonder then if we find "our spirits fail" in seasons of extraordinary difficulty or danger. Who can say at all times, "I know whom I have believed, and that He is able to keep that which I have committed to him! 2 Timothy 1:12," and that God will overrule these troubles for my eternal good! Romans 8:28.

Under great temptations more especially, and under the hidings of God's face, it is not uncommon for truly upright people to doubt, whether they shall ever get safely to Canaan; and almost to regret, that they have ever turned their backs on Egypt.

Not that we shall be really and finally deserted; for,

III. God, in condescension to his people's weakness, proportions their trials to their strength.

What he did to the Israelites on this occasion, he did to the Christian Church in its infancy. The Apostles were screened from persecution until "they had received more power from on high;" and, for a considerable time after the day of Pentecost, they alone were noticed by the ruling powers. Opposition, until the death of Stephen, was limited almost exclusively to them; and very little affected the Church at large.

In the experience of individuals, the tender mercy of God is often very conspicuous at this day. While they are yet young and feeble, he is pleased to screen them from that fierce opposition, which, at a more advanced period, they will have to encounter; and oftentimes their very corruptions appear to be almost extinct, when, in fact, they are only dormant; their joys also in the Lord are made to abound in such a manner, that they are ready to think they shall never more be called to conflict with sin or sorrow. These are mercies to them from the Lord, to strengthen their resolution, and animate their exertions. God is graciously pleased to hide from them at the present the trials which they will hereafter sustain, well knowing that they would be too much discouraged by a sight of them, and perhaps be tempted to despair. "He does not put new wine into old bottles," but only into vessels capable of enduring the expansive efforts of fermentation, Mark 2:22. He will not overdrive the lambs, lest they die of fatigue, Genesis 33:13-14.

In the mean time he expressly assures us, that he will not allow us to be tempted above that we are able, but will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it, 1 Corinthians 10:13, "and that as our day of temptation is, so shall also our strength be! Deuteronomy 33:25."

On these truths we would ground a word of exhortation.

1. Fear nothing in the way of duty.

Had the Israelites considered what God had already done for them, they would not have been afraid of any armies that could be brought against them; for, could not the angel that destroyed the Egyptian first-born, destroy them also?

What have we to fear when once we are enlisted under the banners of Christ? Is not "the Captain of our salvation" at hand to fight for us, Joshua 5:14. "if God be for us, who can be against us! Romans 8:31." Let us not then be afraid, even though earth and Hell should combine against us, "let us not fear like other people; but sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself; and let him be our fear, and let him be our dread. Isaiah 8:12-13." "The waves of the sea may rage horribly; but He who sits on high is mightier! Psalm 93:3-4;" "therefore we should not fear, though the earth were removed, and the mountains cast into the depths of the sea, Psalm 46:2-3."

It is a fixed unalterable truth, sanctioned and confirmed by the experience of millions, that "none can harm us, if we are followers of that which is good, 1 Peter 3:13." If we are weak as "worms," yet shall we "thresh the mountains," and make them as the dust of the summer threshing-floor! Isaiah 41:10-16.

2. Commit yourselves to the divine guidance and direction.

God is the same now that he was in the days of old. What he did for Israel in a visible and external manner, he will do invisibly and internally for his Church at this time. Only "acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will direct your paths, Proverbs 3:6." We say not that he will guide you by visions, or voices, or revelations; but he will by his word and Spirit; in reference to them we may say, "You shall hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way, walk in it! Isaiah 30:21." If your situation is painful at the present, or even contrary to what you have expected, do not hastily conclude that God has forsaken you. The way in which the Israelites were led was circuitous; but it was "the right way, Psalm 107:7." Commit yourselves then to Him, and he shall accomplish for you that which shall ultimately be best for you, Psalm 37:5. "He will lead you by a way that you know not; He will make darkness light before you, and crooked things straight. These things will he do unto you, and not forsake you! Isaiah 42:16." He will guide you by his counsel, "even to old age he will carry you Isaiah 46:4;" and after that "receive you to glory! Psalm 73:24."




Exodus 13:21-22

"By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people."

In reading the Holy Scriptures, we cannot but be struck with the suitableness and seasonableness of the divine interpositions. It might be thought indeed that the Israelites at their departure out of Egypt, amounting to six hundred thousand fighting men, without one single invalid among them, would be irresistible; but if we consider, that they were without military training, without weapons, without stores either of clothing or provision, and without any knowledge of the way through "a great and terrible wilderness," and without any possibility of obtaining even so much as bread or water for their sustenance—we shall see that they needed only to be left to themselves, and they must all quickly perish in the wilderness.

But in the hour of need, God came down in a pillar of a cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night to guide them in their way, and never left them until they arrived at the promised land. This mercy, and the continuance of it, are the two points to which at present we would call your attention.

I. The mercy given to them.

1. This mercy was most signal.

Never was there anything like it from the foundation of the world. God had revealed himself to several in dreams and visions, and under the appearances of men and angels; but never in a visible stationary form, like that before us.

By this cloud, he guided them in the way. Without such a direction they could not have found their way through that trackless desert; but by it they proceeded without fear of erring; and all their motions were regulated by it, whether by day or night, Numbers 9:15-23.

By this cloud also they were protected. Though this use of the cloud is not noticed in the text, it is in other passages, Numbers 10:34; Numbers 14:14 and especially Psalm 105:39. In that hot sandy desert, it would have been impossible for them to prosecute their journey under the rays of the meridian sun; indeed even without journeying, they could scarcely have endured the intense heat to which they would have been exposed. God therefore graciously protected them by the refreshing shadow of that cloud. And to this the prophet evidently alludes, when describing the superior privileges of the Christian Church, Isaiah 4:5-6.

2. This mercy was most significant.

This cloud was, in the first place, a symbol of God's presence. After the Israelites had offended God in worshiping the molten calf, God threatened to leave them, and to commit the care of them to an angel; and on that occasion the cloud removed from the camp, in token that he was about to depart from them, Exodus 33:2-3; Exodus 33:7; Exodus 33:9. And afterwards, when, in the same spirit of rebellion, they were going up against the Canaanites without the pillar and the cloud, Moses said to them, "Do not go up, for the Lord is not among you! Numbers 14:42."

This cloud was also a seal of his covenant. Though the covenant, afterwards made on Horeb, was not yet formally declared—yet it was considered as existing, not only because God had actually now taken the Israelites under his protection, but because he had, four hundred years before, engaged to Abraham that his posterity should be parties in the covenant already made with him. It is true, that circumcision was the rite by which all the descendants of Abraham were to be initiated into the bond of that covenant; but still this was a temporary seal of that relationship, which now existed between God and them; and therefore the Apostle compares it with baptism, by which we are admitted into the Christian covenant; and declares that they were "baptized unto Moses in that cloud," as we are "baptized by water unto Christ."

It was, moreover, an emblem of yet richer mercies. We cannot suppose that, under that typical dispensation, so important a circumstance as this was destitute of any spiritual meaning. Indeed it is manifest from a fore-cited passage, Isaiah 4:5-6, that it was expressly designed to typify the guidance and protection which the Church of Christ would enjoy even to the remotest ages, through the influences of the Holy Spirit.

We cannot fail of observing, that Moses, in recording this mercy, lays great stress on,

II. The continuance of this mercy.

The cloud abode with them during the whole time of their sojourning in the wilderness. What a glorious view does this give us of our God! and how are we constrained to admire,

1. God's inexhaustible patience.

Truly the Israelites were "a rebellious and stiff-necked people." Nor could either mercies or judgments ever produce on them anything more than a mere transient effect. Every fresh trial called forth the same murmuring discontented spirit. On some occasions they seemed almost to have exhausted the patience of God himself. But God is slow to anger, though provoked every day; and if they had been less deserving of his wrath, we would never have known (unless perhaps by our own experience) how far the patience of God could extend. If it had not been ascertained by such an undeniable fact, we could not have conceived it possible for God himself to have "borne their manners in the wilderness during the long space of forty years." See this expatiated upon in a most feeling manner, Nehemiah 9:16-19.

2. God's unbounded kindness.

In reading this history, one is astonished to find that God attended to that people, as if there had been no other creatures in the universe. He was incessantly occupied (if we may so speak) about their matters. He carried them through the wilderness, as a man would carry his infant son, Deuteronomy 1:31. His conduct towards them is beautifully compared with that of the eagle, teaching its young to fly, and darting under them when flying, to bear them up again to their nest on her expanded wings, Deuteronomy 32:11-12. But it is thus that God yet watches over his redeemed people, Isaiah 46:3-4; Isaiah 27:4. "Lo, I am with you always," says he, "even to the end of the world! Matthew 28:20."

3. God's inviolable fidelity.

It was from a regard to the promise which he had made to Abraham, and from a concern for his own honor, that God would not cast them off. He did indeed punish them oftentimes; but yet he continued to the last to acknowledge them as his people, "You were a God who forgave them," says the Psalmist, "though you punished their mis-deeds, Psalm 99:8." What a striking proof does this give us, that "God hates putting away," and that "he will not cast off his people, because it has pleased him to make us his people." "Faithful is He who has called us, who also will do it," that is, He will "finish in us the work he has begun," and "perfect that which concerns us."

We may learn from hence,

1. What reason we have for gratitude.

Let anyone who has been brought out of spiritual bondage, and led forward towards the heavenly Canaan, examine attentively his own experience. Let him see by what particular means he has been brought to enjoy the guidance and protection of God, and to advance in safety through this dreary wilderness; and he shall see as plain marks of a superintending and all-directing Providence, as are to be found in the history before us! Yes, he may see too as wonderful exhibitions of God's patience, kindness, and faithfulness. Let every such person then adore and magnify his God. We all feel how suitable such a frame of mind was for the cloud-directed Israelites; let us all seek to feel and manifest it in our own case.

2. What grounds we have for faith.

Has Jesus Christ come into the world to lessen the privileges of his people? Has he not rather extended and enlarged them? In the external manifestations of God's presence we are inferior to the Jews; but we have, what more than counterbalances that loss—the internal and spiritual communications of his grace. Yes, our God will, by his Spirit, "guide us into all truth," and lead us in the way wherein we should go. By the same Spirit also will he protect us from the burning heat of persecution and temptation, and from the assaults of all our spiritual enemies. Of this we may be assured; for he has said, that "he will keep his sheep, and give unto them eternal life; and that none shall ever pluck them out of his hands!"




Exodus 14:15

"Tell the people of Israel to go forward."

It is truly said by the prophet, "He who believes shall not make haste;" that is, he shall not yield to any fears, so as to be driven by them to adopt any hasty or improper measures for his deliverance. We may say on the other hand: He who believes shall not delay; he shall, in proportion to the degree in which his faith is exercised, discern the seasons for action, as well as for prayer; nor shall he be so occupied in one duty, as to overlook and neglect another.

That Moses believed God's gracious promises of deliverance, we can have no doubt; for he reported them to the Israelites with unshaken confidence; yet it would seem, by the continuance of his urgent petitions after he had received these promises from God, that he was almost afraid that his enemies would be upon him, before the promises could be fulfilled. Doubtless God was pleased with his fervent prayers at other times; but here he gently reproves Moses for remaining occupied in one duty, when there was another which the immediate occasion more urgently required, "Why do you cry unto me?" Go and give the proper directions to the people; go and execute your office as their leader, and command them to "Go forward."

Though this command was given under peculiar circumstances in which it cannot literally be applied to us—yet, in the spirit of it, it is applicable to all the Lord's people when reduced to difficulties in the way of their duty. And it may, not improperly, suggest to us the following reflections:

I. Difficulties in the way of our duty may be expected.

God is pleased sometimes to screen his people from trials, so as scarcely to let them suffer at all from persecutions, and very little even from internal conflicts. As he led not the Israelites the near way to Canaan, lest they should, in their unprepared state, be discouraged by entering into immediate contests with the warlike Philistines, Exodus 13:17, so he sometimes leads his people now in a comparatively safe and easy path. But generally speaking we must expect difficulties.

It cannot be thought that Satan will relinquish his vassals without making repeated efforts to reduce them to their former bondage. When commanded to depart from the youth whom he had so long possessed, he cast him down, and tare him in such a manner, that the spectators conceived him to be dead! Mark 9:26.

Thus does he also at this time frequently deal with those, whom by the superior strength of Jesus he is compelled to relinquish, Luke 11:21-22; he endeavors to shut them up in despondency, or perhaps even to drive them to suicide. And when he has not prevailed in the first instance, he departs from them (as he did even from our Lord himself), only "for a season." Methinks he is in this the very archetype of Pharaoh; who, having liberated the Israelites only by compulsion, rejoiced in a prospect of wreaking his vengeance on them, and collected all his forces to bring them back again to his dominion. To the last hour of their lives, he will avail himself of every opportunity to assault them, and will use all his wiles, and all his devices to harass them, if he cannot finally destroy them.

Nor is it to be supposed that the world will sit contented with the loss of their former companions. It is said of Noah, that in building the ark, "he condemned the world, Hebrews 11:7;" so, in turning from sin to God, we, in fact, condemn the world.

Our faith condemns their unbelief.

Our fear of God condemns their security.

Our obedience condemns their disobedience.

This is clearly declared by Solomon, "Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law resist them, Proverbs 28:4." Our actions speak, though our lips should be silent; and the more brightly our light shines, the more visible must be the surrounding darkness. The world are driven to the alternative of condemning either themselves or us, seeing that it is impossible that such opposite lines of conduct should both be right; we must not wonder therefore if they load us with reproach and ignominy, and if "those especially who are of our own household become our greatest foes." This is the natural result of their self-love; I may add too, of their love for us.

Neither can we hope that all our former bad habits should be at once changed, so that we should feel no difficulty in mortifying our deep-rooted lusts, or in exercising graces, to which until lately we were utter strangers. Old passions will revive; old temptations will recur; and our natural indisposition to holy exercises will show itself; however much we are on our guard, and however diligently we address ourselves to the great work that is before us.

If even the Apostle Paul, after so many years spent in the service of his God, had reason to complain of "a law in his members warring against the law of his mind," so that "the things which he would do, he did not; and the things that he would not do, those he did." We cannot expect such an entire exemption from conflicts, but that we must sometimes have to cry out with him, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me?"

Thus may all of us take to ourselves the advice that is given in the Book of Ecclesiasticus, "My son, if you set your heart to seek the Lord, prepare your soul for temptation."

It is well to be aware of the difficulties that are in our way:

II. Difficulties in the way of our duty must be encountered.

We must not dream of neutrality. It is indeed said by our Lord on one occasion, "He who is not with me is against me; and he who gathers not with me, scatters abroad Matthew 12:30;" and this was to inform us that His cause admits of no neutrality; we must take a determined part against sin and Satan; and even to deliberate, in such a case, is to be guilty of treason and revolt.

Nor must we give way to fear. Let the trials that threaten us be ever so severe, we must not shrink back, as though we had not counted the cost. We must be prepared to "deny ourselves, to take up our cross, to follow Christ;" we must "be ready not only to be bound, but even to die for him," at any time and in any manner that he shall see fit. If we saw the furnace now before us, and burning with seven times its accustomed fury, and men ready to cast us into it, we must take the same decided part that the Hebrew youths did, "Be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up! Daniel 3:18."

Nor must we be discouraged by difficulties. To what purpose is there a complete set of armor provided for us, and a victorious outcome assured to us, if we are to faint as soon as difficulties press upon us? We should rather rise to the occasion. "If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, Ecclesiastes 10:10." As soldiers of Jesus Christ, it is our very profession to endure hardships, 2 Timothy 2:3. If at any time we find our strength decay, we must go to Him, who has promised to "renew" it to such a degree, that we may "mount up with wings, as eagles" after their plumage is restored, and pursue our course as racers, without weariness or fainting! Isaiah 40:27-31.

Whatever be our trials, it is at our peril to draw back from the encounter, Hebrews 10:38-39. "We must not even look back, after having put our hands to the plough." It is "he only that overcomes," who shall possess the crown of victory! Revelation 3:21.

To meet all difficulties thus, we are encouraged by an assurance, that:

III. Difficulties in the way of our duty shall be vanquished.

Consult the promises of God, and see what they say; are they not as extensive as our necessities? What is there that arrests your progress, or obstructs your way?

Is it a mountain? You may say to it, "Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! Zechariah 4:7."

Is it a sea? God will "make even the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over! Isaiah 51:10."

Is it your own weakness that disheartens you? Behold, "one of you shall chase a thousand, and two shall put ten thousand to flight! Joshua 23:10 with Deuteronomy 32:30."

Is it rather your unworthiness? "It was for his own name's sake that he made you his people; and for his own name's sake he will not cast you off! 1 Samuel 12:22."

You will not suppose that there was any great worthiness in the Chaldeans; but see how assured they were of victory when God was on their side, Jeremiah 37:10. And shall your weakness or unworthiness be any effectual obstruction, if your God fights for you? You would not think there was any great cause for a lion to despair when contending with the defenseless lamb; yet that is the very image by which God has been pleased to designate the contest in which you are engaged, and the victory that awaits you! Micah 5:7-8.

If you need anything else to encourage you, look at "the cloud of witnesses" that are now in Heaven, with palms in their hands, and crowns on their heads, and everlasting songs of triumph in their mouths; were not they once in your state, conflicting with the same enemies, and complaining of the same discouragements? Do you not find among them many whose trials were far more severe than you ever experienced? And yet were they not crowned at last? Did not their difficulties yield to their repeated efforts; and was not "the grace of Christ sufficient for them?"

Why then should not you also triumph? "Is God's arm shortened that he cannot save; or his ear heavy that he cannot hear?" Doubt not then but that you also shall see your enemies dead upon the sea-shore, and that, "through the strength of Christ you shall be more than conquerors!"

To you then who have escaped from bondage, and are going under the guidance of your God towards the heavenly Canaan, we say, "Go forward!" But, that we may not leave you without some more particular directions, we say:

1. Go forward, carefully.

Your way is not so clear, but that you need to explore it with continual care. You have indeed the pillar and the cloud; but it is visible only in the Holy Scriptures; it is to be found only in the precepts of the Gospel, and in the example of our Lord. If, because your views of Christian doctrines are clear, you suppose that you are not liable to err materially in your practice, you are greatly mistaken. The Apostle tells us, that "they who strove in the games were not crowned, unless they strove lawfully, 2 Timothy 2:5," that is, according to the rules prescribed to them. So neither shall we be approved by our Judge, if we do not regulate our spirit and conduct altogether by the rules contained in the inspired volume. Hence we need:

"to walk wisely, Exodus 23:13; Ephesians 5:15;"

to look well to our ways;

to consult the Scriptures;

to mark the footsteps of our blessed Lord;

and, above all, to pray, with the Psalmist, "Lead me, O Lord, in the right way, because of my enemies! Psalm 27:11."

2. Go forward, steadfastly.

It is not on some particular occasions only that you are to serve the Lord, but at all times, and on all occasions.

Whatever advances you have made, we still say, "Go forward!"

Whatever obstacles are in your way, we repeat the word, "Go forward!"

Yes, whatever sufferings await you, we say again, "Be not discouraged because of the way, Numbers 21:4," but "Go forward!"

Only be sure that you are in the way of duty; that you are following the Lord's will, and not your own; and then go forward with all patience and perseverance. You must "know no man after the flesh;" you must, as our Lord says, "hate father and mother, and your own life also Luke 14:26," in comparison with him. Having nothing in view but the glory of your God, you must "forget what is behind, and press forward towards that which is ahead." You must "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord—and then your labor shall not be in vain in the Lord."

3. Go forward, triumphantly.

In every other contest, men exert themselves with a degree of uncertainty respecting the outcome; and to "boast, when girding on their armor, as though they had put it off, 1 Kings 20:11," would be only a mark of folly and presumption. But things are far otherwise with you. Your victory depends, not on an arm of flesh, but on the power and veracity of God. While therefore you are yet on the field of battle, you may advance with David's confidence against Goliath, even though you are only "a stripling with a sling," and your enemies are deemed invincible. It was thus that Paul triumphed, and hurled defiance against all the foes that could assault him, whether on earth or in Hell, Romans 8:35-39. Thus also may you anticipate the shouts of victory, and say, "Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me! It is the Sovereign LORD who helps me. Who is he that will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up! Isaiah 50:7-9."




Exodus 14:31

"When the Israelites saw the great work the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant."

The state of man on earth is diversified with trials and deliverances, more or less, to the last hour of his life. Even when we have the clearest evidence that we are in the Lord's way, we shall yet meet with many things which will involve us in trouble and perplexity.

The disciples were ordered by their Lord to cross the sea of Tiberias; but in passing it, they were overtaken with a storm, which threatened them with destruction. It was not possible for the Israelites to doubt, but that they were precisely in the place where God would have them; yet were they threatened with instant death by the proud vindictive monarch, from whose tyranny they had just escaped. But this grievous affliction was only introductory to a signal deliverance. God now interposed on their behalf, and wrought for them a "great work."

That we may make a profitable use of this part of scripture history, let us consider,

I. The work referred to.

This is justly called "great;" for it was no less than the destruction of all the Egyptian army in the Red Sea. But that we may view it distinctly in all its parts, we observe that it was:

1. A discriminating work.

The pillar which had hitherto gone before the Israelites, to lead them in the way, moved, and stood behind them, as soon as their enemies had come within sight of their camp. But to the Egyptians it presented only a dark side, increasing thereby the natural darkness of the night, and preventing them from continuing their march; while to the Israelites it was a light of fire, enabling them to do whatever their situation and safety required.

Again, the sea which was divided by the east wind, opened a secure retreat for all the hosts of Israel; but as soon as the Egyptians attempted to follow them, it resumed its usual state, and overwhelmed them utterly; thus affording a passage to Israel, but only a grave to Egypt.

Now this manifest distinction which God made between the Israelites and the Egyptians, might well exalt the work in the eyes of those who were so greatly benefitted by it.

2. A judicial work.

Pharaoh and his courtiers had hardened their hearts against him, so that all the successive plagues could not bring them to submit to his will. Now therefore God gave them an opportunity to harden their hearts yet more against him. Instead of leading the Israelites at once into the wilderness, he led them aside to a situation, from whence apparently there was no escape. Rocks and morasses were on either side, and the Red Sea before them. This seemed a favorable opportunity for Pharaoh to overtake them, and to wreak his vengeance upon them; and Pharaoh, instigated by his resentment, determined not to lose the opportunity; he instantly collected all the chariots and horsemen in his army, and pursued them; and he rushed into the very snare which God had predicted he would fall into.

Again, Pharaoh had destroyed the male children of the Israelites in the Nile river; and now God visited this iniquity on him, and on all his army, in the Red Sea. Who does not see in these things a judicial blinding, and a judicial sentence; both of which, when contemplated by the Israelites, must raise this work yet higher in their estimation?

3. A glorious work.

God had said that he would get glory from Pharaoh and all his subjects; and that the Egyptians would at last be constrained to acknowledge Him as the one supreme God of all the earth. And truly this work did bring glory to God, Isaiah 63:12-14; for it displayed and magnified everyone of his perfections:

his wisdom in so accomplishing his own will, while no restraint whatever was imposed on the will of Pharaoh:

his power, in dividing the sea, and making the waters to stand as a wall, while the Israelites passed through "dry-shod;"

his justice, in allowing the Egyptians to proceed so far, as that, when enclosed in his net, they might all be destroyed;

his truth and faithfulness, in accomplishing to the posterity of Abraham the deliverance which he had promised four hundred years before.

This work did indeed manifest to Egypt and to Israel, that Jehovah "is the Most High over all the earth," "a God, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders!"

Let us now proceed to notice,

II. The effect this work produced.

As stupid and insensible as that nation had shown themselves in the midst of all the mercies given to them in Egypt, they could not but be affected with this. Accordingly we find that, on seeing the hand of God thus stretched out against them, they began to feel:

1. A regard for God's authority.

Fear is of two kinds, filial and servile; and it is probable that in some of the people the former predominated, and in others the latter. On an occasion somewhat similar, where God, in testimony of his displeasure against his people for desiring a king, sent a tremendous storm of thunder and lightning, we are told that "the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel, 1 Samuel 12:18." This was certainly a servile fear; and it would seem that the greatest part of the Israelites at the Red Sea were affected with no higher principle; because they even "within a few days forgot this work, Psalm 106:12-13," and all the others that God had wrought for them. Indeed temporal deliverances, however great, will produce only transient impressions, if not accompanied with the saving grace of God. But a view of that redemption which we have in Christ Jesus—what will not that effect! That will implant a fear in the heart, a fear that shall be mighty and uniform in its operation, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, a fear that shall expel all other fear, and "bring the whole soul into a willing captivity to the obedience of Christ".

2. Confidence in God's protection.

As fear, so faith also, is of different kinds. We read of many who, when they saw the miracles of Jesus, believed in him; and yet he would not commit himself to them, because he knew that their hearts were yet unrenewed, John 2:11; John 2:23-24. And Simon Magus is said to have believed, Acts 8:13, while yet he remained "in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity." Such in too great a measure, we fear, was the faith which the Israelites now reposed in God, and in his servant Moses. They were struck with an irresistible conviction, that God was all-sufficient for them, and that Moses was infallibly directed by him to manage everything for their good. In the very next trial, however, they lost the remembrance of their present convictions, and began to doubt and murmur as before.

Not so the people whose faith is truly spiritual; who, being united to Christ, are partakers of his redemption; they "know in whom they have believed;" and, whatever difficulties occur, they "hold fast their confidence," saying with the Apostle, "He who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"


1. Let us take care that our pious affections are sincere and permanent.

Many good feelings may be excited in the heart by some particular occurrence, or some moving discourse. But "our goodness is apt to be like the morning dew, or the early cloud that passes away." Such affections however will afford us no support in a trying hour; much less will they benefit us at the bar of judgment. Let us see to it therefore that we obtain, not merely some transient feelings of good, but a new nature; so that our fear of God be such as to make us obedient to his will, and our faith such as shall enable us to commit ourselves entirely to his disposal.

2. Let us, for the purpose of generating those affections in our hearts, contemplate deeply the great work of Redemption.

We never improve aright a typical deliverance, unless we turn our thoughts to the deliverance which it prefigured. What was intended by that before us, we can be at no loss to determine, since God himself has declared it to us in Isaiah 51:10-11. Our redemption by Christ's obedience unto death, and our consequent deliverance from Hell, should never be far from our thoughts. It is so stupendous a work, that it has filled all Heaven with wonder; and the "riches" of divine grace contained in it are absolutely "unsearchable." To know this, to feel this, to be savingly interested in this, will produce a change in our hearts, which shall last forever! The conversion of the soul is spoken of in terms directly referring to this event in Isaiah 11:15-16. And when we shall see our enemies dead upon the sea-shore, and ourselves placed beyond the reach of harm, it will furnish us with an inexhaustible subject of gratitude and thanksgiving.




Exodus 15:11

"Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?"

Exalted favors from God may well be repaid in devout thanksgivings to God; they are the least returns that we can make to our heavenly Benefactor; and so reasonable is this tribute, that people who are far enough removed from solid piety, will, under a sense of recent obligations, often cordially unite in paying it to the God of their salvation.

The hymn before us was composed by Moses, on occasion of the deliverance given to Israel at the Red Sea; and it was sung by all the Israelites, probably by the men and women in an alternate and responsive manner, Miriam leading the women, and, together with them, accompanying the song with timbrels and dances, verses 20-21. It is the most ancient composition of the kind, that is extant in the world. The two first verses are a kind of preface, declaring the occasion, and the inspired penman's determination to celebrate it; somewhat like that in Psalm 45:1. The mercy then is stated in a most animated manner; and afterwards, its effects, both immediate and remote, are circumstantially predicted. But, between the statement of the mercy and its effects, is introduced an apostrophe, addressed to God himself, and ascribing to him the glory due unto his name. To this portion of the hymn we would now direct your more particular attention. It declares that:

I. God is to be admired for his holiness.

God is essentially and supremely holy!

He is not only called, by way of eminence, "The Holy One," but this attribute is said exclusively to belong to him, "You alone are holy." As for the gods of the heathen, many of them were no other than deified monsters, patrons of lewdness, of theft, of drunkenness, and every kind of iniquity; and among the rest there was not found even the smallest semblance of real universal holiness. Well therefore might the challenge be made in reference to this, "Who among the gods is like unto you, O Lord?" This attribute of holiness is, in fact, the crown of all the other attributes of God; for, without it, no other perfection could be either amiable in itself or worthy of the Supreme Being.

But, without entering into the general view of this subject, we need only look at the "wonders done" on this occasion; and there we shall see a display of this attribute in its most striking colors. Behold his indignation against sin, how it burned against the oppressors of his people, and the despisers of his authority! The very elements themselves were made to rise against the proud associates in iniquity, and to execute upon them the vengeance they deserved. For this he is greatly to be admired and glorified.

No other perfection more attracts the attention of all the glorified saints and angels in Heaven, than holiness. Compare Isaiah 6:3 with Revelation 4:8. And, notwithstanding it is hateful and dreadful to impenitent sinners, God's holiness is an object of the highest admiration among those who have learned to appreciate it aright. David was altogether enraptured with God's holiness, Psalm 99:3; Psalm 99:5; Psalm 99:9; and every real saint will "give thanks at the remembrance of it, Psalm 30:4."

While he is thus admired for his unspotted holiness,

II. God is to be feared for his power.

God is a God of unrivaled power!

The gods of the heathen cannot hear, or see, or move; but the power of Jehovah is infinite. What less than omnipotence could have performed the "wonders" which are here celebrated? See how easily the expectations of his enemies were disappointed, and their bloody purposes were frustrated, by one blast of his displeasure! The picture here is highly finished. The amplification in the former verse, and the conciseness of the latter, form a beautiful contract; while the image that closes the description, strongly marks the completeness of the judgment executed.

For his omnipotence God is greatly to be feared.

For this exercise of his power indeed he was praised; as well he might be, for such a merciful and complete deliverance. But it may truly be said, that he is "fearful in praises, for this display of his power clearly shows, that "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Accordingly we find, that the inspired writers generally make this improvement of God's omnipotence, and suggest it as a motive:

to reverence his majesty,

to regard his will, and

to tremble at his displeasure,

Psalm 89:6-8; Hebrews 12:28-29; Deuteronomy 28:58-59.

We may learn from hence,

1. How the mercies of God are to be improved.

All of us have experienced mercies in abundance; and from them we may obtain the brightest discoveries of our God. O what displays of power, of goodness, and of truth, might all of us behold, if we called to mind the various deliverances which God has wrought out for us, and especially that redemption which was prefigured by the history before us!

The connection between the two is expressly marked by God himself; and we are told, what a mixture of admiration and reverence, of love and fear, a just view of these miracles of mercy will assuredly create, Revelation 15:3-4. Let them then produce these effects on us; and let us now begin, what we hope to continue to all eternity, "the song of Moses and the Lamb!"

2. How every attempt against him or his people shall surely end.

Here we see a lively representation of the final outcome of every contest which man shall enter into with his Maker. The forbearance of God may be long exercised; and his enemies may appear for a time to have gained their point. But in due time, Hell shall open wide its jaws to swallow them up, and they shall become the wretched victims of their own impiety! Against God and his Church, there is no device, no counsel that shall stand.

His Church is founded on a rock, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. The enemies of our souls may follow us even to the last moment of our lives; but when the appointed moment is arrived for the completion of all God's promises to us, our souls shall be freed from every assault, and "death and Hell, with all their adherents, be cast into the lake of fire! Revelation 20:14."




Exodus 15:23-25

"When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "What are we to drink?" Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them."

Great are the vicissitudes of human life; nor is there any person exempt from them. Even the most favored servants of God, when moving expressly in the way that he has appointed for them, may be reduced as it were in an instant from the highest pinnacle of earthly prosperity, to a state of the deepest distress and anguish.

Not to mention an imprisoned Joseph, a dethroned David, an incarcerated Daniel—we notice the whole nation of Israel exulting in the completest deliverance that ever was given to any people in the world, and within three days brought down to utter despondency. But from this we may derive much profitable instruction; while we notice,

I. Their trial.

This was indeed severe.

We have no idea in general how much our happiness, and even our very lives, depend on the common mercies of Providence. We acknowledge this indeed in words; but we have by no means a proportionate sense of our obligations to God for even a regular supply of water.

The Israelites had traveled three days, and had found no water; until at last, coming to Marah, they found an abundant supply; but, behold, the water was so bitter, as to be incapable of being turned to any good use. When the Israelites, in addition to their want, were made to experience this painful disappointment, they broke out into murmuring and complaints.

But their murmuring was wrong.

Had the question they put to Moses, been nothing more than a simple interrogation, it had been innocent enough; but it was an unbelieving, passionate complaint. (Just so, how often are our words also, or our actions, inoffensive perhaps as to their external form, while, on account of the spirit with which they are blended, they are most hateful and detestable in the sight of God!) But why should they murmur against Moses? He had not conducted them there of his own mind, but by God's command. Their displeasure against him was, in fact, directed against God himself. (Just so, it will be well for us to remember, that in venting our wrath, and indignation against the instruments by whom God at any time afflicts us, we vent it in reality against the God who uses them!) And why should they murmur against God?

Had God committed an oversight in leading them into that situation?

Had God forgotten to be gracious?

Was God so changed within the space of three days, that he could no longer devise a way for their relief?

Or was his ear become so heavy that he could not hear, or his hand so shortened that he could not save?

Should they not rather have concluded, that now, as on many recent occasions, God had permitted their trial to be great, in order that he might the more abundantly magnify his own power and mercy in their deliverance?

Doubtless this would have befit them who had seen so many and such stupendous miracles wrought in their behalf.

We next fix our attention upon,

II. Their deliverance.

Some have thought that the healing of the waters by casting a piece of wood into them, was intended to typify the sweetening of all our afflictions, and the removing of all our sorrows, by the cross of Christ. It might be so; but we are afraid to venture upon any ground not expressly trodden by the inspired writers. We therefore rather content ourselves with showing what God indisputably declared by this singular interposition:

1. That God is never at a loss for means whereby to effect his purposes.

If we cannot see some opening whereby God can come to our relief, then we are ready to think that he is quite excluded from us. But what need has he of any means at all? What means did he employ in constructing the universe? Indeed the very means he does use, are generally such as tend only to evince by their utter inadequacy, the mighty working of his own power. It was thus when he healed the deleterious waters of a spring, and the barrenness of the land through which they ran, by a single cruse of salt, 2 Kings 2:21; and thus also when he restored the serpent-bitten Israelites by the mere sight of a brazen serpent.

As to the idea of the tree itself possessing qualities calculated to produce the effect, it cannot for one moment be admitted; because the waters were sufficient for the supply of two million people, besides all their cattle; and because the effect was instantaneously produced.

We therefore say again, that the insufficiency of the means he used, displayed only the more clearly the all-sufficiency of his own power, precisely as when by the voice of a feeble worm he awakens men from their death in trespasses and sins! 2 Corinthians 4:7.

2. That he will put honor upon humble and believing prayer.

There is such "efficacy in the fervent prayer of a righteous man," that God, if we may be permitted so to speak, is not able to withstand it. See people in any circumstances whatever, and you are sure to find them extricated from their difficulties, and made victorious over their enemies, when once they begin to pray. Even if the people themselves be ever so unworthy—yet, if they have an Advocate and Intercessor for them at the throne of grace, they almost invariably escape the judgments which God had denounced against them; so cordially does "God delight in the prayer of the upright," and so desirous is he to encourage all people to pray for themselves.

The murmuring spirit of the people might well have provoked God to decline all further communication with them; but Moses prayed; and his cry entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts.

But both the trial and deliverance were sent with a view to some ulterior good; let us consider,

III. God's design in both the trial and deliverance.

Among other objects which God designed to accomplish, the two following seem to be peculiarly prominent. He sought to bring them to a sense of,

1. He sought to bring them to a sense of their duty.

What particular statutes and ordinances God promulgated to them at this time, we are not informed. But there is one thing which he certainly made known to them; namely, the conditional nature of the covenant which he was about to make with them, and the suspension of his favors upon their disobedience. They had hitherto dwelt only on their privileges, without at all considering their duties; they thought of what God was to be to them; but not of what they were to be to God. Now God, having softened their minds by a heavy trial, and conciliated their regards by a miraculous interposition, opens to them the connection between duty and privilege; and thereby prepares them for becoming "a holy and peculiar people, zealous for good works."

2. He sought to bring them to a sense of their sinfulness.

This mixture of judgment and mercy was well calculated to bring them to a knowledge of themselves. The trial alone would only irritate and inflame their minds; but the deliverance applied a balm to their wounded spirits. By the union of them they would be humbled, and led to acknowledge the heinousness of their ingratitude, their unbelief, their murmuring, and rebellion. This is expressly declared to have been a very principal end of all the dispensations of God towards them in the wilderness Deuteronomy 8:2; and it is a main object of his diversified dealings with his people at this day.


1. Let us learn to mark the effect of trials and deliverances on our own minds.

If trials always, instead of humbling, disquiet us; and if deliverances produce only a temporary impression, and not a lasting change on our hearts—then can we be right before God? They ought to "work patience, experience, and hope;" and by means of them our faith ought to be so purified, as to tend "to the praise and honor and glory of our God at the appearing of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 1:7." By examining into this point we may "prove our own selves," and ascertain with considerable precision our true character.

2. Let us learn to distrust our religious feelings.

We may be moved under a sermon or any particular occurrence; we may sometimes be dissolved in tears, and at other times be elevated with joy; and yet have no root in ourselves, nor any inheritance with the saints in light. Who that had heard the devout songs of Israel at the Red Sea, would have thought that in three days they could so totally forget their mercies, and indulge such a rebellious spirit? But look within; and see whether, after an occasional exercise of religious affections, you have not, within a still shorter space of time, been hurried into the indulgence of the most unhallowed tempers, and the gratification of a spirit that is earthly, sensual, and devilish!

Ah! think of "the stony-ground hearers, who received the word with joy, and yet in time of temptation fell away." Lay not then too great a stress on some transient emotions; but judge yourselves by the more certain test of a willing and unreserved obedience.

3. Let us learn to place an entire and uniform dependence on God.

God may see fit to try us, and to delay the relief that we implore. But let us not entertain hard thoughts of him. From the time of Abraham it has passed into a proverb, that "in the mount, the Lord shall be seen." Our Isaac may be bound, and the knife actually lifted up to inflict the fatal blow, and all who might interpose to rescue the victim may be at a great distance; but, in the moment of need, God's voice from Heaven shall arrest the murderous hand, and deliver us from the impending stroke. "The vision is yet for an appointed time; therefore, though it tarries, wait for it; for at the appointed season it shall come, and not tarry, Habakkuk 2:3." Whether our afflictions be of a temporal or spiritual nature, we may rest assured of this blessed truth, that "they who wait on him shall never be confounded."




Exodus 15:26

"I am the Lord who heals you."

Scarcely had the Jews passed the Red Sea before they began to murmur; as the Psalmist has said, "They provoked him at the sea, even at the Red Sea, Psalm 106:7." True it was that they must have suffered greatly, both they and their cattle, when they were three days without water; and when, on finding water, it was so bitter that they could not drink it. But, when they had been conducted there by God himself, (for the pillar and the cloud never left them day or night, Exodus 13:22,) they might be assured that He, who had so miraculously delivered them hitherto, would, if they cried unto him, supply their needs. They should have had recourse to prayer therefore, and not to murmuring.

But this conduct of theirs gave occasion for a rich display of God's mercy towards them, and for an explicit declaration on his part what the rule of his procedure towards them in the future should be. They were delivered from the Egyptian yoke; but they were not to cast off obedience to their God. They were, as his redeemed people, to consecrate themselves to him, and to obey his voice in all things; and, according as they performed or neglected their duty to him, he would extend to them his favor, or visit them with his displeasure; either loading them with, or exempting them from, the diseases with which the Egyptians had been visited, and which they greatly dreaded, verse 6 with Deuteronomy 28:27; Deuteronomy 28:60.

This declaration of God to them was so important, that the Prophet Jeremiah, a thousand years afterwards, referred to it, to show that, from the very first moment of the people having been taken into covenant with God, their sacrifices had been held as of no account in comparison with their obedience. "I spoke not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt-offerings or sacrifices. But this thing I commanded them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you, Jeremiah 7:22-23." Nor is it less important to us at this day; for God will still deal with us according as we conduct ourselves towards him. The retribution indeed may not now be so visibly marked by external dispensations; but it shall be maintained in reference to our souls, God either healing our spiritual maladies, or giving us up to the power of them, according as we approve ourselves to him, or walk contrary to his commands. If we offend him by a willful and habitual disobedience to his will, none shall be able to protect us; but, if we surrender up ourselves sincerely to him, "none shall be able to harm us;" whatever we may either feel or fear, we may assure ourselves of his favor; for he is, and ever will be, "The Lord who heals us."

In further discoursing on these words, we shall be led to point out,

I. The office which God executes in behalf of his people.

As God inflicts judgments on his enemies, so does he administer healing to his people; and this he does:

1. In a way of gracious exemption.

The Hebrews were exempted from the various calamities with which Egypt was overwhelmed. And this is particularly noticed in the words preceding my text, "I will put none of these diseases upon you which I have brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you." In like manner, if we are exempt from many diseases under which others labor, and by which their whole lives are embittered, we should acknowledge God as the Author of this distinction, and receive it as a special mercy at his hands.

We know that even under the Christian dispensation, bodily diseases are often sent by God, as the punishment of sin, 1 Corinthians 11:30 and James 5:14-15; and we cannot but feel that we have merited, on many occasions, such tokens of his displeasure. If therefore we, like the Hebrews, have been more highly favored than others—then we must, like them, be instructed that it is God alone who has healed us.

But in this general description of Jehovah we must not overlook that which, after all, was chiefly intended: his special favor towards his redeemed people, in reference to spiritual disorders. Thousands are given up, like Judas, to an obdurate heart and a reprobate mind; while some, like David and Peter, are recovered from their falls. To whom must the recovery of these be ascribed? To themselves? They had in themselves no more strength or power than the unhappy Judas had. It was to sovereign grace alone that they owed their restoration to the divine favor, and their return to the paths of holiness and peace.

And have not we similar obligations to our heavenly Physician? How often have we indulged in our hearts propensities, to which if we had been given up to, we would have fallen a prey, and perished forever! The sins of the most abandoned of the human race were small in their beginning, and by repetition became inveterate. O! what do we owe to God, who, while he has left others to follow the wicked imaginations of their own hearts, has restrained us, "hedging up our way with thorns, and building a wall, that we might not be able to prosecute the paths" which our corrupt hearts so perversely sought! As far then as by his preventing grace he has kept us from evil, we have reason to adore him as "the healer" of our souls.

2. In a way of effectual interposition.

On many occasions did God visit his people with severe chastisements; which he as often removed at the intercession of Moses, or on the humiliation of their souls before him.

Just so, have there not been times when, by disease or accident, are have been brought low; and when, if the evil inflicted had been allowed to attain the same resistless power as it has acquired over others, we must have fallen a sacrifice to its assaults! Whence is it, I would ask, that we have been restored to health, while others have died under the influence of the same disease? Greatly do we err, if we ascribe our recovery to anything but the gracious favor of our God. He may have made use of medicine as the means; but whatever may have been the secondary cause, the one great primary cause of all has been the good pleasure of God, whose province alone it is "to kill and to make alive, to wound and to heal, Deuteronomy 32:39."

And what shall we say, if we have been healed of spiritual disorders? It is well known that man is altogether corrupt; so that we may apply to him that description which is given of the Jewish state, "from the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in him, but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores! Isaiah 1:6."

In every faculty of our souls we are corrupted and debased by sin:

our understanding is darkened;

our will is rebellious;

our affections are sensual;

our very conscience is blind and partial.

Now, if God has dealt with us as he did with the springs of Jericho, 2 Kings 2:20-22—if he has cast the salt of his grace into our souls, and healed us at the fountain-head, have we not cause to bless and magnify his name? It is expressly in reference to such a miracle as this that God assumes to himself the name contained in our text.

The waters of Marah being so bitter as to be unfit for use, God directed Moses to cast a certain tree into them, by means of which they were instantly made sweet.

And are not we also directed to "a tree, whose very leaves are for the healing of the nations, Revelation 22:2." Its virtue indeed is not known by thousands, in whose presence it stands; and therefore they continue ignorant of its healing efficacy. But was its virtue ever tried in vain? No! nor ever shall it be. Only let Christ be received into the heart by faith, and the whole man will be renewed:

the understanding will be enlightened,

the will will be subdued,

the affections will be purified, and

the whole soul will be "changed into the divine image in righteousness and true holiness.

Now, what if God has pointed out this tree to us? What if we have experienced its healing efficacy? Then have we in ourselves an evidence that our blessed Savior sustains the office claimed by him in our text; and then we are called to acknowledge it with gratitude, and to adore him for this stupendous exercise of his power and grace!

Such being the office of our blessed Lord as our Healer, let us consider,

II. The duty which we owe him in reference to it.

This, though already in a measure anticipated, may with great propriety be now more distinctly noticed.

1. We should acknowledge him in the mercies we have received at his hands.

I am sure that God's preventing goodness is by no means appreciated as it ought to be. We see others sick and dying; and little think to whom we owe it that their lot has not been given to us. We are restored after sickness; and how soon do we forget the hand that has delivered us.

Nor are we less insensible of our obligations to God for preservation from great and heinous sins; whereas, if we noticed the falls of others who were in every respect as likely to stand as ourselves, we would be filled with wonder and admiration at the distinguishing mercies given unto us.

Even converting grace, alas! how little gratitude does it excite in our hearts! We can see clearly enough the goodness of God to Israel in bringing them out of Egypt, and in making them a peculiar people to himself, while their Egyptian taskmasters were left to perish. But "that deliverance, though glorious, had no glory," in comparison with that which is given to us.

But I call on all to look at the mercies which they have experienced, and at the means by which they have been procured for a ruined world. The tree that heals us has been felled; the Savior has been "wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; and by his stripes we are healed!" Yes, the Savior himself has died, that we may live! Compare Isaiah 53:5 with 1 Peter 2:24.

Shall anyone, then, who has experienced the virtue of his blood and the efficacy of his grace, not bless him? O! let every soul stir himself up to praise his God, and break forth like David, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgives all your sins, and heals all your diseases! Psalm 103:1-3."

2. We should apply to him for the mercies which we may yet stand in need of.

Why does the Savior proclaim to us his office as Healer, but that we may apply to him to execute it in our behalf? That you are all laboring under a mortal disease, is certain; and that there is but one remedy for all, is equally clear. That remedy is all-sufficient; none ever perished, who applied it to their souls.

See our Redeemer in the days of his flesh; was there any disease which he could not cure? Was not even a touch of his garment instantly effectual for one who had spent her all upon physicians, and to no purpose?

Methinks I hear one complaining, that sin and Satan have such an entire possession of his soul, as to render his state altogether hopeless. But "is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no Physician there?" Look at the demoniac in the Gospel; so entirely was he possessed by Satan, that no chains could bind him, no restraints prevent him from inflicting deadly wounds upon himself. But a single word from the Savior expels the fiend, and causes the maniac to sit at his feet, clothed, and in his right mind!

Fear not then, desponding sinner; for there is nothing impossible with him. And if you say, 'True; but he has already tried his hand upon me in vain, and given me up as incurable!' Hear then what he speaks to you by the Prophet Isaiah, "For his iniquity I was angry, and smote him; I hid, and was angry; and yet he went on forwardly in the way of his heart." (Here is your very case; and what says he to it? Does he say, 'I have therefore given him up as incurable?' No; but ("I have seen his ways, and will heal him." Heal him, does he say? Yes, "I will heal him, and will restore comforts to him, Isaiah 57:17-18." Go then to him, you desponding soul. Say to him, as David did, "Lord, be merciful unto me; heal my soul, for I have sinned against you, Psalm 41:4."

If you reply, 'There is no hope for me, because I have once known the Lord, and have backslidden from him;' be it so; yet, as a backslider, hear what a gracious message he sends you by the Prophet Jeremiah, "Return, O backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings! Jeremiah 3:2." One thing only would I guard you against, and that is, "the healing of your wounds slightly, Jeremiah 6:14." Let your wounds be probed to the very bottom; and then, as the waters of Marah were healed so as that the fountain itself was changed, so shall your soul be purified throughout, and "the waters flowing from you spring up unto everlasting life! John 4:14; John 7:38."




Exodus 16:16-18

"This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.'" The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed."

To exercise faith, in opposition to all the dictates of sense, is no easy attainment. For instance; the Jews in the wilderness soon found that they had no means of subsistence; and no prospect was before them, but that of speedily perishing by hunger and thirst. Yet they did not well to murmur against Moses and Aaron, who, as God's appointed agents, had brought them forth from Egypt; in fact, their murmuring was against God himself, to whom they should rather have applied themselves in earnest prayer for the relief of their necessities. The wonders which he had already wrought for them were abundantly sufficient to show them, that, while under his care, they had nothing to fear. Doubtless the pressure of hunger and of thirst rendered it difficult for them to believe that God would provide for them; and God therefore mercifully bore with their impatience, and relieved their needs; he gave them water out of a rock; and supplied them with bread from the clouds, even with bread sufficient for them from day to day.

In relation to the manna, which was rained every night round about their tents, and which they were commanded to gather for their daily use before the risen sun had caused it to melt away, there was this very peculiar circumstance daily occurring during the whole forty years of their sojourning in the wilderness, that, while the head of every family was to gather a certain portion (an omer, about five pints,) for every person dependent on him, "and when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed."

Now this circumstance being so very peculiar, I shall endeavor to unfold it to you in its proper bearings; in order to which I shall consider it,

I. As a historical record.

A more curious fact we can scarcely conceive; and it is the more curious, because it occurred, not occasionally in a few instances, but continually, for forty years, through the whole camp of Israel.

It arose, I apprehend,

1. From God's merciful disposition towards them.

A variety of circumstances might occur from time to time to prevent some heads of families from making the necessary exertion before the sun should have dissolved the manna, and have deprived them of the portion which they ought to have gathered. Illness, in themselves or their families, might incapacitate them for the discharge of their duty in this matter; or a pressure of urgent business cause them to delay it until it was too late. In this case, what must be done? God, in his mercy, took care that there should be in some a zeal beyond what their own necessities required, and that their abundance should he sufficient to counterbalance and supply the needs of others. In order to this, he needed only to leave men to the operation of their own minds. They did not collect the food by measure, but measured it after they had brought it home; so that they might apportion it to every member of their family, according to the divine command.

Hence it would often occur, that one who was young, active, vigorous, and disengaged, would exceed his quota; while another who was enfeebled by sickness, or depressed by sorrow, or occupied with some urgent business, as that of attending on his sick wife and family, might collect but little. Neither the one might think of administering relief, nor the other of receiving it; but in all cases where there was excess or lack found in the exertions of one, there was a corresponding lack or excess in another; so that, on measuring the whole, there was no excess or defect throughout the whole camp.

In fact, this, in some respect, obtains throughout the whole world; for though there is doubtless a great disparity in men's possessions, arising from different circumstances, the rich unwittingly supply the necessities of the poor, by dispersing their wealth in return for the comforts or elegancies of life. And thus, to a much greater extent than men in general are aware, is equality produced among them; all having necessary food and clothing.

2. From their bountiful disposition towards each other.

In this view Paul quotes the very words of my text. He is exhorting the Corinthians to liberality in supplying the needs of their poorer brethren; he tells them, however, that he did not mean to burden them for the purpose of easing others; but only that, by an equality, their present abundance might be a supply for the needs of others; who, in return, might supply Their needs, in case circumstances should arise to admit of it and require it; so that there might be, under all circumstances, an equality; as it is written, "He who had gathered much had no excess; and he who had gathered little had no lack, 2 Corinthians 8:13-15."

This sense does not at all oppose that which I have before given; on the contrary, it rather confirms the former sense; for it supposes that the excess was collected accidentally, as it were, in the first instance, and without any express intention to dispose of it to others; but on its being found to exceed their own needs, they liberally dispensed it to supply the needs of others; the donors at one time being the recipients at another; and the obligations conferred being mutual, as occasion required.

This, too, is still agreeable to the order of God's providence in the world. No one can tell what change of circumstances may arise, to elevate or depress any man; but events continually occur to render a reciprocation of friendly offices both practical and necessary, and to call forth among ourselves the dispositions that were exercised among the people spoken of in our text.

But, to enter more fully into the design of God in this fact, we must notice it,

II. As a mystical ordinance or appointment.

That the manna was a type of Christ, is beyond a doubt; our blessed Lord himself drew the parallel, in the most minute particulars, John 6:31-58; On this account the manna is called "spiritual food, 1 Corinthians 10:3;" and when, in the bestowment of it, there was so remarkable a circumstance perpetuated throughout the whole camp for forty years, we cannot doubt but that it was intended to convey some particular and very important instruction. Nor does the construction put upon it by Paul in one point of view, at all militate against a different construction of it in another view. His interpretation refers to it only as a temporal ordinance; but, as it was a spiritual ordinance also, we must endeavor to derive from it the instruction which, in that view, it was intended to convey Matthew's explanation of Isaiah 53:4-5. (See Matthew 8:16-17.) This does not invalidate the construction put upon it by Peter, 1 Peter 2:24. Both senses were true; but the spiritual sense was the more important; I think, then, that we may see in it,

1. Our privilege, as believers.

Believers now feed on Christ, as the whole Jewish nation fed upon the manna; and from day to day it is found, that "those who gather much have no excess; and those who gather little have no lack."

In the Church of God at this day people are very differently circumstanced; some having much leisure, and deep learning, and many opportunities of attending ordinances in public, and of acquiring information in private; while others are so entirely occupied with temporal concerns, or so remote from opportunities of instruction, that they can gather but little comparatively of the heavenly bread. But have the one therefore any excess, or the other any lack? No. We will ask of those who are most devoted to the Word of God and prayer, whether they find their attainments in knowledge and in grace so abundant, that they have more than their necessities require? No. You know, that if your attainments were a hundredfold more than they are, there were scope enough for the employment of them, without overburdening your souls; you would still "forget all that was behind, and be reaching forward for that which was before, if by any means you might obtain the prize of your high calling in Christ Jesus, Philippians 3:13-14."

On the other hand, I will ask of those whose attainments are more contracted; Do you not find that your more slender portion is sufficient for you? You feed on the Lord Jesus Christ as the bread of life; and do you not find that he nourishes your souls; and that pardon, and peace, and holiness, are the fruits of your communion with him? Yes! It is said, "He who believes" (not he who is very strong in faith) "shall be saved;" yes, and that "all who believe (whatever be their stature or growth in grace) are justified from all things."

If you are but a child in the faith, incapable of digesting strong meat, you find that "the sincere milk of the word" is sufficient to nourish and support you. If you be but a lamb in Christ's flock, "he carries the lambs in his bosom," because "it is not the will of your Father that one of his little ones should perish." This is no reason for your neglecting to exert yourselves to the uttermost; but it is a comfort to you to know, that, though from the peculiarity of your circumstances you have been able to gather but little, you neither have, nor shall have, any occasion to complain that you have "lacked" what was needful for you. If you have had no superabundance of grace, "your strength has been according to your day."

2. Our duty, as saints.

All, while they judged their first offices due to those who were immediately dependent on them, considered themselves as members of one great family, and bound to administer help to all whose necessities should require it. Thus should the whole collective mass of believers consider themselves bound to render every possible assistance to every part of Christ's mystical body. Every joint is to supply a measure of nutriment according to its capacity, for the good of the whole body; so that the whole may be strengthened, and edified in love, Ephesians 4:15-16. The command is plain, "Strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees; say unto those who are of a fearful heart, Be strong; fear not; your God will come and save you! Compare Isaiah 35:3-4 with Hebrews 12:12-13."

With whatever we are enriched, we should be ready to impart of our stores liberally and without grudging; considering that we are but stewards of all that we possess, and that in dispensing to others the benefits we have received, whether they are of a temporal or spiritual nature, we most resemble our Heavenly Father, and best answer the ends for which those blessings have been committed to us.

True, indeed, we have not anything of our own, which we can impart to others; (we have no more oil in our lamps than is needed for ourselves Matthew 25:8-9;) nor can any diligence in the head of a family supersede the necessity of every member gathering for himself; (for "every man must bear his own burden Galatians 6:5;") but still, as instruments in God's hands, we may be serviceable to many, James 5:19-20, and may, as golden pipes, convey the golden oil, for the enlightening and edifying of the Church of God, Zechariah 4:12 with 1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:14.

Having thus marked the distinct views in which I conceive the fact before us ought to be regarded, I will now, in conclusion, suggest the instruction to be derived from it in a collective view.

We may learn from it:

1. Contentment.

The whole people of Israel had but this food for forty years; nor, except for use on the Sabbath-day, was any of it to be treasured up, even for a single day. The whole people of Israel were to exist on God's providence, exactly as the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. Nor was anything more than food and clothing to be the portion of so much as one among them; with this they were to be content; and with a similar portion should we also be content, 1 Timothy 6:8.

Hear Paul's experience on this subject, "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in need, Philippians 4:11-12."

Precisely such should be the frame of our minds also. We should offer continually, and from our inmost souls, that prayer which our Lord has taught us, "Give us day by day our daily bread;" and we should be willing to live dependent on our God for every blessing, whether for body or for soul, whether for time or for eternity.

2. Confidence.

In parting with any excess which they might have attained, the whole people of Israel showed that they looked to God alone for a supply of their necessities, and that they had no doubt of his continued care even to the end.

The same lesson should we also learn. "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:31-34."

We should regard God as our Parent; who, if he does not neglect the birds of the air, or the lowest worm of the earth, will surely not neglect his own children, but will rather feed them with bread from Heaven, and cause that bread to follow them in all their journeys, than leave them one day without the supply that is needful for them.

3. Liberality.

Certainly, to give away the excess which they had gathered, when they had not anything in hand for their subsistence on the morrow, was a bright example of generosity. I am far from saying that we, under our dispensation, should carry our liberality to the same extent; but I have no doubt but that the spirit which they manifested should be cultivated by us also, and that to a much greater extent than is generally imagined.

The instruction given by John the Baptist to the people of his day was, "He who has two coats, let him give to him that has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise, Luke 3:11."

If it is thought that this was nothing but an Eastern proverb, I answer, that Paul, in the very place where he quotes the words of my text, proposes to our imitation the example of the Macedonians, "And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 2 Corinthians 8:1-4."

Nay more, he proposes to us the example of our blessed Lord himself, who "though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich! 2 Corinthians 8:9."

Let this mind then be in you, my beloved brethren; and account yourselves rich—not in proportion to what you can consume upon yourselves, but according to what you are able to administer for the benefit of others. "In bearing one another's burdens, you shall best fulfill the law of Christ! Galatians 6:2."





Exodus 16:35

"The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan."

The history of the Israelites in the wilderness contains an uninterrupted series of miracles. It might be well expected, that two million people encamped in a barren desert would soon begin to need fresh supplies of food. And so it happened. In a month after their first departure from Egypt, they had exhausted the store that they had brought with them. But God, who had brought them thus far, would not allow them to remain destitute any longer than was necessary to try their faith and patience. He therefore gave them from the clouds a peculiar kind of food, (such as had never been seen before,) a small white substance, like coriander-seed, which, when ground in a mill and baked or seethed in water, was extremely palatable.

We propose to make some observations upon,

I. The provision God gave the Israelites.

Let the occasion on which he gave the manna be first considered.

Instead of confiding in that God who had so often, and so wonderfully interposed for them, they murmured against him in a most impious manner, wishing that he had involved them in the judgments which had desolated Egypt, rather than that he should have brought them into their present difficulties. And though their complaints were directed professedly only against Moses and Aaron, they were, in fact, against God himself, by whose direction alone every step had been taken.

How astonishing was it that God should take occasion from such a grievous act of impiety to give them such tokens of his love and mercy! Might we not have expected rather that he should execute upon them his severest judgments? But thus he has done in all ages, in order to display the sovereignty and the riches of his grace!

To Adam, Genesis 3:6; Genesis 3:12; Genesis 3:15.

To Saul, Acts 26:10-16.

To ourselves in unnumbered instances, making our sins the occasion of deeper humiliation.

Next, let us notice the directions he gave respecting the manna.

They before to gather the manna from day to day, reserving none of it for the morrow, verse 19. This was to teach them their entire dependence upon God, and impress them with a sense of God's continued care of them. And though we are not forbidden, yes rather are commanded, to make suitable provision for our families—yet in the habit of our minds we are to be continually dependent on God, and free from all anxious care or distrust.

They were not to gather any on the Sabbath, but to provide a double portion on the day preceding it. How early was the observance of the Sabbath inculcated! The law was not yet given; therefore the observance of the Sabbath was not a mere ceremonial commandment. Nor was the injunction relative to it either given by Moses, or received by Israel, as a new thing. It doubtless had been enforced from the beginning of the world; and consequently we, no less than the Jews, are bound to lay aside all temporal concerns, as much as possible, on that day, and to consecrate it wholly to the service of our God.

They were to preserve some of it in a pot, and lay it up before the Lord as a memorial for future generations, verse 33. They were not to forget the mercies given to them; but rather to transmit to their last posterity the remembrance of them; in order that they also might be led to serve and trust in the living God.

And have not we also memorials of the love of God to us? Search the records of our national history, or let every one consult his own personal experience; and we shall find abundant reason to adore that God, who has interposed for us in ten thousand dangers, and supplied our continually returning needs.

The peculiar interposition of God in relation to the manna deserves also particular notice.

It was so ordered by his providence, that, when the members of the different families had put together the portions which they had severally collected, and measured it out again for the purpose of distributing to each his regular portion, there never was found any excess, or any lack, verses 6–18. What this was designed to teach us, we are at no loss to determine; since God himself has suggested the proper improvement of it.

We all are members of one great family. Some, by God's blessing on their diligence, or by some other means, possess much; while others, through a variety of circumstances, possess but little; we ought therefore (not indeed to make one common stock, but) to "lay put aside something for the poor, according as God has prospered us, "that, as far at least as the enjoyment of the necessities of life are concerned, there may be an equality; the abundance of the rich supplying the necessities of their less-favored brethren, 2 Corinthians 8:14-15. O that there were in all of us such a heart, and that, instead of scraping together all that we can save, for the purpose of enriching our families, we found our happiness in doing good, being "glad to distribute, and willing to share!"

From viewing the mercies God given to the Israelites, let us turn our attention to,

II. The corresponding provision he has given us.

The apostle Paul tells us, that the manna of which we have been speaking, was "spiritual food 1 Corinthians 10:3." It was carnal indeed in its immediate use; but it typically shadowed forth the food on which our souls must live; and, to those who partook of it in faith, it was a source of spiritual and eternal blessings.

The Lord Jesus Christ has fully explained the subject to us; and drawn a parallel between the manna on which the Israelites subsisted, and himself as the life of our souls, John 6:32-58. We shall not trace that parallel here, but consider the subject in a more appropriate view.

Three things then we wish you to remark:

1. The freeness of this provision.

What have we done to merit the gift of God's dear Son? We were rebels against the Majesty of Heaven, and deserved nothing but "wrath and fiery indignation to consume us!" The manna rained around the tents of the murmuring Israelites was not more freely given, than Christ is sent to us, and salvation by him is offered to us in the Gospel! Isaiah 55:1.

2. The suitableness of this provision.

The manna was adapted to nourish equally the infant and adult. And to whom is not Christ suited? The great sinner will find in him precisely such a Savior as his necessities require. The weak, the timid, the disconsolate, yes, all people in all possible circumstances, shall find that he is as much suited to their individual cases, as if God had sent him for them alone; and to their palate, as though they themselves had chosen what kind of a Savior they would have.

3. The sufficiency of this provision.

The vigor of all was renewed from day to day by means of the food provided for them; and they were enabled to march or fight, as occasion required.

What cannot he do who feeds upon the Lord Jesus Christ? What conflicts shall not he support; what victories shall not he gain? "The grace of Christ will be sufficient for him;" and he will be "able to do all things through Christ who strengthens him"

He who gathers most of this heavenly manna, will indeed have no excess; but he who gathers ever so little, shall have no lack"; Twice is it repeated in our text, that they ate of the manna until they arrived at the promised land; never did it fail them; nor did they ever need any other food. And thus assuredly shall Christ continue to the end, as the support of all who feed upon him; and, in possessing "that hidden manna," they shall have all that they can need in this dreary wilderness; they shall have a pledge and foretaste of Heaven itself! Revelation 2:17.




Exodus 17:5-6

"The LORD answered Moses, "Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink." So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel."

The whole of man's pilgrimage on earth is but a succession of trials and deliverances. And God so ordains it to be, because it is for our greatest good, "Trials work patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope." The frequent recurrence of difficulties to the Israelites in their journey through the wilderness may serve as a looking-glass wherein to view the state of the Church in this world, and, more or less, of all the individuals that are in the world; and the interpositions of God on their behalf show what is the real, though less visible, course of his providence at this time.

Scarcely had the waters at Marah been sweetened for their use, and manna been given them for their support, than they again experienced a most afflictive pressure (a lack of water for themselves and their livestock); and again a miraculous deliverance, at Massah or Meribah.

We propose to notice in our present discourse,

I. The circumstances of this miracle.

And here there are two things to which we would call your attention:

1. The time of the miracle.

The Israelites had renewed their murmurs against God; and were so incensed at a renewal of their difficulties, that they were ready to stone Moses for having brought them into their present trying situation! As for their Divine Benefactor, they even questioned whether he were with them in the camp or not; assured that, if he was, he was unmindful of their necessities, or unable to relieve them.

Yet at the very moment that they were so offending the Divine Majesty, did God interpose for their relief. What an exalted idea does this convey to us of the patience and long-suffering of God! And, if we were to mark the seasons of God's interpositions in our behalf, we would find abundant matter for admiration and gratitude.

2. The manner of the miracle.

This singularly displays the grace of God. God makes Moses, whom they were ready to kill as their enemy, the instrument of their deliverance. He orders the rod, which had wrought such wonders in Egypt and at the Red Sea, to be used, not for their destruction (as might have been expected), but for the supplying of their necessities. He himself, whose very existence they had questioned, went to preside visibly on the occasion; and the elders, who had so unreasonably doubted his power and love, were allowed to be eye-witnesses of the miracle wrought for their preservation.

How remarkably does this illustrate the precept which God has given us, "not to be overcome with evil, but to overcome evil with good!" And what convincing evidence does it afford us, that, "where sin has abounded, his grace shall much more abound!"

But though these circumstances are instructive, the chief thing to he noticed in the miracle, is,

II. The hidden mystery contained in this miracle.

We can have no doubt but that this part of sacred history was intended to typify and prefigure Christ as a source of all spiritual blessings to the world, 1 Corinthians 10:4.

1. Divinely appointed.

No one would have conceived the idea of looking for water in that rock, any more than in any other spot throughout the plain whereon it stood; nor would it have entered into the mind of man to bring water out of it by the stroke of a rod. But God appointed both the rock and the rod to be means and instruments of communication between himself and his distressed people.

Just so, who would ever have thought that God's only dear Son would be given unto us; and that blessings should be made to flow down to us through the wounds inflicted on him both by God and man? Yet "all this was done according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." "He was smitten, stricken by God and afflicted," that our souls might be redeemed from death, "He was wounded for our transgressions, that by his stripes we might be healed." Yes, it is a faithful saying, that "the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world." "It pleased the Father that in Christ should all fullness dwell;" and that "we should receive out of his fullness" "everything that pertains to life and godliness."

2. All-sufficient.

"The water gushed out of the stricken rock, and flowed like a river; so that it abundantly supplied the whole camp of Israel, (both men and animals,) following them in all their journeyings for the space of eight and thirty years.

Just so, who ever lacked, who has once drunk of the water that Christ gives to his Church and people? Never did any of them, never shall any, thirst again; for "the water that Christ gives them shall be in them a well of water springing up unto everlasting life! John 4:13-14. "

3. Universally accessible.

The water from the rock flowed to every quarter of the camp; and the people instantly dug pools for its reception, so that men and cattle were supplied without the least difficulty, Numbers 21:16-18.

Just so, how free is our access to Christ; free to all people, and at all times! Hear his own invitation, and the invitation of his Spirit, of his Church, and of all that know the value of those living waters, Revelation 21:6-7. As the vilest murmurers in the camp drank of that stream, so may even the most flagrant rebels in the universe drink of these living waters, Psalm 68:18, Christ has within him the fullness of the Spirit, and "pours out that Spirit abundantly, Titus 3:6. " upon all who call upon him; upon all, without price, Isaiah 55:1, without stint, John 7:37-39, and without upbraiding, James 1:5.

We may learn from hence.

1. The experience of real penitents.

Their thirst after the Savior is urgent and insatiable, Matthew 5:6; What a blessed sight would it be to behold a whole congregation as eager in their desires after Christ, as the Israelites were after a supply of water for their bodies! May the Lord hasten the season when this thirst shall prevail throughout all the world!

2. The mercy reserved for them.

They may feel many painful sensations, and be greatly disquieted for a season; but the promise which God has given them shall surely be realized by all! Isaiah 41:17-18; Isaiah 43:20.




Exodus 17:11

"As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning."

It pleases God, in general, to effect his purposes by certain means; yet the very means he uses are, for the most part, such as tend only to illustrate his power, and to lead our minds up to him as the first great Cause of all. But on no occasion has the truth of this observation more manifestly appeared, than in the history now before us, wherein we are informed, that the success of the Israelites in an engagement with Amalek was made to depend, not on the bravery of the soldiers, or the skill of their commander, but on the holding up of the hands of Moses at a distance from the field of battle.

In discoursing on this remarkable event, we shall consider it as,

I. A typical history.

The whole history of the Israelites, from their deliverance out of Egypt to their establishment in the land of Canaan, was altogether of a typical nature; but we shall limit our observations to the circumstances now under our consideration.

1. We may notice a typical reference, in the conflicts which the Israelites maintained.

The Israelites had scarcely come out of Egypt, before they were attacked by the Amalekites, though no provocation had been given on their part. This represented the opposition which the world and Satan make to the true Israelites, as soon as ever they separate themselves from the ungodly, and set their faces towards the promised land. Though they do nothing to merit persecution, yes, though, in every point of view, they are become more excellent and praiseworthy, and desire nothing but to prosecute their journey peaceably through this dreary wilderness—yet are they hated, reviled, persecuted; nor can they obtain the inheritance prepared for them, without arming themselves for the combat, and "warring a good warfare."

2. We may notice a typical reference, in the commander under whom they fought.

Joshua was appointed to set the army in array, and lead them out to battle. Now the very name of Joshua is precisely the same with that of Jesus, Acts 7:45; Hebrews 4:8, who is "given to us by God to be our leader and commander Isaiah 55:4." He is "the Captain of our salvation," under whom we are enlisted, and under whose banners we fight. Whether we bear more or less the brunt of the battle, it is he who appoints us our respective stations; and it is to him that we must look for direction and support. And while, "as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, we endure hardness" at his command, we may depend on him for all necessary provision, and for an abundant share of the spoils of victory.

3. We may notice a typical reference, in the means by which they obtained the victory.

The rod of Moses was that with which he had wrought his wonders in Egypt; and it was a special emblem of the divine power. This he was to hold up in the sight of Israel on an adjacent hill; and, while he held it up, they prospered; but when, through weakness, he let it down, their enemies prevailed against them.

Now it is thus that we are to obtain the victory against our enemies; we must have our eyes fixed on the power of God exerted in our behalf; as long as we have clear views of this, we shall vanquish every adversary; but, if at any time this ceasees to be exalted in our eyes, we shall surely faint and fail.

4. The lifting up of the hands of Moses may further denote the efficacy of prayer. And it is certain that our success will fluctuate, according as our applications at the throne of grace are continued or relaxed.

But this history may further be considered as affording us,

II. An instructive lesson.

1. It may well teach us that whatever mercies we have received, we must still expect conflicts.

The Israelites had been brought through the Red Sea, and fed both with manna from Heaven, and water from the solid rock; and they might have fondly dreamed of nothing but security and peace; but they were rather called to scenes of difficulty and danger.

Thus it is with us, when we commit ourselves to the guidance of the pillar and the cloud. We may think perhaps that, because we are reconciled to God, and made heirs of his kingdom, we are henceforth to enjoy uninterrupted tranquility; but we shall soon find that we have to "wrestle; and that too, not only with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers." We may indeed be screened for a season by the good providence of God; as the Israelites were kept from going through the territory of the Philistines, lest they should be discouraged by the opposition that they would have met with from that warlike people, Exodus 13:17; but we are men of war by our very profession; and, sooner or later, our courage and fidelity will be put to the test. It is through much tribulation that we must enter into the kingdom; and we must "fight the good fight of faith, before we can receive the crown of righteousness from the hands of our righteous Judge."

2. It may well teach us that we must not despond, though our success for a time would appear doubtful.

The Israelites in this very first encounter were at times repulsed; and victory was long held in suspense, before it was finally declared in their favor. Thus we must expect, that our enemies, though frequently beaten, will return to the charge, and often threaten our very destruction.

If wounded, we must apply to Christ for healing.

If faint, we must beg him to renew our strength.

If driven before our enemies, we must rally, and resume the contest, ever remembering under whom we fight, and how much depends upon a victorious outcome.

We must also, like Aaron and Hur, assist each other; holding up each other's hands, and encouraging each other's hearts; nor ever terminate our exertions, until God shall scatter all our enemies, and bruise under our feet the vanquished foe.

3. It may well teach us that a believing use of the appointed means, however inadequate, or even useless, they may appear, will be crowned with success at last.

Nothing can be conceived less connected with the outcome, than the means which were used by Moses; yet were they necessary; for if, when through infirmity the use of them was intermitted, the scale of victory was instantly turned in favor of the Amalekites, much more, if he had disregarded them altogether, would the most fatal effects have followed; but the persevering use of them procured at last the desired success.

Thus the attending of public ordinances, and waiting upon God in secret, may seem but ill-calculated to produce such great effects as are said to depend upon them; but, as the occasional and unallowed neglect of these duties is attended with many painful consequences, so a willful contempt of them would infallibly terminate in our destruction.

On the other hand, a diligent and continued attention to them will and must prevail; our prayer shall go up with acceptance before God, and the word we hear shall prove "the power of God to the salvation of our souls." Only let us "lift up holy hands without doubting," until the evening of life, and we shall be "more than conquerors through him that loved us!"


1. Those who know nothing of spiritual conflicts.

If those who are at ease in Zion, and experience no spiritual conflicts, were real Christians, there would be no resemblance at all between them and the Israelites, by whom they were typically represented; and all that is spoken about the Christian warfare, the armor provided for us, and the General under whom we fight, would be altogether without a meaning. But in vain shall the true Israelites expect peace, as long as there are any Amalekites in the world! Our Lord "came not to send peace on earth, but a sword;" and though he may, in some instances, cause our enemies to be at peace with us—yet will they never be so much at peace, but that we shall have many to contend with. Or, if men should cease from troubling us, we shall have enough, both from Satan and our own lusts, to call forth all our exertions, and to make us fervent in imploring help from God. Let those, then, who feel not these conflicts, inquire whether their peace be not the consequence of a captivity to their enemies, instead of a victory over them; nor let them ever expect to reign with Christ, unless they first enlist under his banners, and fight after his example.

2. Those who are ready to faint by reason of their conflicts.

Your insufficiency to withstand your enemies often discourages and disquiets you; but the Israelites prevailed, notwithstanding their inexperience in the art of war, because they had God on their side. Fear not then, you "whose hands are weak, whose knees are feeble, and whose hearts are faint; for, behold, your God shall come and save you! Isaiah 35:3-4." Behold, his power is now exalted in your sight; look at it; remember what it has effected in the days of old; and know, that it shall be exerted in your behalf, if you do but trust in it.

Nor forget what a Captain you are fighting under! The world which molests you, has been overcome by him; and "the prince of this world has been judged" by him. Fight on then a little longer, assured that you shall before long put your feet upon the necks of your enemies, and enjoy the fruits of victory forever and ever!




Exodus 19:3-6

"Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, "This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 'You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites."

We cannot but admire God's condescension in noticing our fallen race. When we see him renewing to them his acts of kindness after repeated instances of ingratitude, we are yet more amazed. And when we behold him entering into covenant with the most rebellious of his creatures, and binding himself by promises and oaths to load them with his richest benefits, we are altogether lost in wonder.

Since the time that Israel were liberated from their bondage in Egypt, about six weeks had now elapsed; during which time every successive trial had evinced that they were a rebellious and stiff-necked people. But, instead of casting them off, God commissioned Moses to propose to them a covenant, wherein they should engage to be obedient to his will, and he would engage to make them truly prosperous and happy.

The same condescension does God manifest to us; as will appear if we consider,

I. The mercies which God has already given us.

Those enumerated in the text were distinguishing mercies.

God had inflicted the heaviest judgments on the Egyptians; but had brought out his people safely and triumphantly. The eagle, to rescue her young from impending danger, will bear them upon her pinions to a place of safety, to the mountain, which he had long before marked as the place where they should worship him and enjoy his presence, Deuteronomy 32:11. Exodus 3:12. This "they saw;" and therefore could not question the goodness of God towards them.

And have we no distinguishing mercies to call forth our gratitude?

What though we have never experienced such miraculous interpositions; have we not, both individually and collectively, unbounded reason for thankfulness on account of the peculiar favors conferred on us?

Think how many millions of the human race are sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, without the smallest knowledge of the Savior, or even of the one true God! But we are favored with the light of Scripture revelation, and, we hope we may say too, a faithful ministration of the word of life.

Reflect further, how many, under distress of mind, or body, or estate, are sinking under the insupportable load of their afflictions, while we have experienced but little trouble, perhaps so much only as to display more clearly the goodness of God in our repeated deliverances.

Consider also, how many have within a few months or years been summoned into the presence of their God, while we have yet our lives prolonged, and further space given us for repentance.

Could we but realize these thoughts, we should see that not even the Israelites themselves had more reason for gratitude than ourselves.

Let us from the consideration of God's past mercies extend our views to,

II. Those mercies which he has yet in reserve for us.

Those which he promised to the Israelites were exceeding great.

"All the earth was the Lord's;" and therefore he might have taken any other people in preference to them. This is evidently the meaning of the text; and it should not be overlooked; but he had chosen them in preference to all others, Deuteronomy 7:6-8; and promised to exalt them above all others in national honor, and individual happiness.

What an unspeakable honor was it to them to be made "a holy nation," consecrated in a peculiar manner to the service of their God! To be "a kingdom of priests," all having access to God, to offer to him the sacrifices of prayer and praise! and to be regarded by God as "his peculiar treasure," which he prized above all, and would secure to himself forever!

What a happiness too to all of them, as far as worldly prosperity could make them happy; and, to those who could discern the spiritual import of these promises, what a source it was of unutterable peace and joy!

But the mercies promised to them were only shadows of those which are reserved for us.

These promises have their chief accomplishment under the Gospel dispensation, 1 Peter 2:9. And O! how inconceivably "great and precious" are they! Believers are at this time amidst the ungodly world, what the Israelites were in Egypt: "a chosen generation," objects of God's sovereign and eternal choice. They are "a royal priesthood," even "kings and priests unto their! God Revelation 1:6," having dominion over sin and Satan, and "yielding up themselves to him as a living sacrifice, acceptable to him through Jesus Christ." As embodied under one head (the Lord Jesus), and living under the same laws, and enjoying the same privileges—they are also "a holy nation;" and as differing from all others in their views and principles, their spirit and conduct, they are "a peculiar people zealous of good works, Titus 2:14."

These are the blessings promised to men under the Gospel; and it will be utterly our own fault if we are not partakers of them.

But these blessings must be sought for in God's appointed way. Let us therefore consider,

III. The terms upon which he will bestow them upon us.

The promises of God to Israel were altogether conditional.

We have seen what he engaged to do for them; but it was upon the express condition, that they "obeyed his voice, and kept his covenant." They must take him for their God and devote themselves to his service. And then he would make them his people, and give them incessant and increasing tokens of his love and favor.

This covenant was not wholly legal, nor wholly evangelical, but a mixture of both. Inasmuch as it prescribed conditions, it was legal; and inasmuch as it secured to them a remission of sins upon their returning unto God, it was evangelical. But on the whole the legal part was far the more prominent; and the promises were made void by their neglecting to perform the stipulated conditions.

Those promises made to us, though absolute in some respects, are conditional in others.

Under the Christian dispensation, all is of grace. Grace is not only the predominant feature, but the sum and substance of the New Covenant. Repentance, faith, and holiness, are not merely required, but bestowed, Acts 5:31; Hebrews 12:2; Romans 6:14; and that freely unto all who ask for them at the hands of God Ezekiel 36:37. "By the grace of God we are what we are;" and "by grace are we saved" from first to last.

Yet faith and obedience are indispensably necessary to our eternal salvation; nor need we be afraid of speaking of them as conditions of our salvation, provided we be careful to divest them of all idea of merit, or of being a price whereby ulterior blessings are to be purchased.

God has given us a covenant of grace; and that covenant we must embrace; and it will be in vain to hope for acceptance with God, if we do not found all our hopes of happiness on Christ the Mediator of that Covenant.

God has also given us a revelation of his will; and that will we must do; nor will that "grace of God ever bring salvation unto us, if it does not lead us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live righteously, soberly, and godly in this present world! Titus 2:11-12."

These then are the terms on which we shall enjoy all the privileges of God's chosen people; and, though it is true that "without Christ we can do nothing," it is also true, that the only way in which we ever can attain eternal happiness, is, by repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is ready to save all; but he will ultimately prove a Savior to only those who obey him.

In applying this subject to ourselves, we shall,

1. Deliver God's message to you.

Observe how solemnly God's injunction to Moses respecting the delivery of this message is twice repeated in the text. In reference to this, God twice says by the prophet, that "he protested, yes protested earnestly," to this people, Jeremiah 11:7. But you have already seen that the promises in our text refer principally to the dispensation under which we live. To you therefore must this message be addressed, in the name, and by the command, of God himself. And, as Moses "laid before the faces of that people the words which God commanded him," so also would we "use great plainness of speech," while we are delivering to you the message of the Most High God.

The terms on which alone you can be saved have been already stated to you. We ask you then, is there anything unreasonable in them? Are you not rather so convinced of their reasonableness, that, if we were to tell you that you were at liberty to disregard God's covenant, and to violate his will, then you would cry out against us as impious blasphemers? Behold, then, we have a testimony in your own consciences in favor of the message which we have delivered to you; and, if you continue to expect Heaven on any other terms, you will be self-condemned to all eternity! See Jeremiah 11:1-5.

2. Inquire what answer we must return to God.

Moses received the people's answer, and reported it to God. And O that we could near the same answer from you all, "All that the Lord has spoken, we will do!" It is true, they spoke in their own strength, and therefore failed to execute their promises; but surely it was good to form the determination; it showed that they saw the equity of God's commands; and, had they sought strength from God to fulfill his will, their resolution would have produced the best effects. But are not many of you disposed rather to reply, "As for the word that you have spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto you! Jeremiah 44:16." Perhaps you are not yet hardened enough to make this reply in words; but is it not the language of your hearts and lives? Must we not carry this report to God? O that you would hearken to God's voice, before it be too late! Jeremiah 13:15-17!

But we trust there are some of a better mind among us, some who cordially assent to whatever God has been pleased to propose. On behalf of them we pray, that God may fix this pious disposition abidingly in their hearts, 1 Chronicles 29:18. Happy are we to see the rising purpose to obey God! But we must caution all not to adopt the purpose lightly, or to carry it into execution in a partial or listless manner. The message of God in the text is, "If you will obey my voice indeed."

Our obedience must be sincere, habitual, and unreserved! We must not be satisfied with mere resolutions, but must carry them into effect; nothing must divert us, nothing must intimidate us, nothing must retard us. But let us hold fast the covenant of grace, and uniformly obey the commands of God, and then all. the blessings of grace and glory shall be ours!




Exodus 20:18-19

"When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die."

The law of God was originally written on the heart of man; but by sin it was almost obliterated, so that scarcely any traces of it remained. When therefore it pleased God to separate to himself a peculiar people, who should know his will, and enjoy his presence, and subserve his glory, it was necessary, if we may so speak, that he should republish his law, and record it in some way, which might give it a permanent establishment in the world. This he was pleased to do on Mount Sinai, after having conducted his people there in safety, and shown, by the wonders he had wrought, that he was indeed the only true God. What were the particulars of that law, we do not now stop to inquire. See discussion on Romans 3:20.

That to which we would draw your attention is, the manner of its promulgation. In the preceding chapter we are informed of all those particulars which are briefly recapitulated in our text. On contemplating that tremendous scene, we are naturally led to inquire, Why did God publish his law in that manner? The answer to this question is important; and will prove highly instructive to us all. He did it:

I. To impress their minds with a fear of his Majesty.

God is a great God, and greatly to be feared, Deuteronomy 10:17. But though the Israelites had seen ample demonstrations of this in Egypt, they had a very inadequate sense of it upon their minds. Hence arose their murmurings and distrust as often as any fresh difficulty occurred. And what is at the root of all our disobedience? Is it not that "we do not fear that great and fearful name, The Lord our God! Deuteronomy 28:58."

To beget in the minds of those whom he was bringing into covenant with himself a just sense of his greatness, he appeared to them in a thick cloud, with thunderings, and lightnings, and the most terrific sound of a trumpet. The effect was produced, insomuch that Moses, though terrified beyond measure himself, was forced to administer comfort and encouragement to them.

We find somewhat of a similar effect upon ourselves in a violent tempest; and, if we could realize the scene that was exhibited on Sinai, we would say indeed, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!"

II. To show them the nature of that dispensation.

The dispensation of the law, though suited to the Jews at that time, and even glorious, as a type or figure of the Gospel dispensation, was yet in fact "a ministration of death, 2 Corinthians 3:7; 2 Corinthians 3:9." It required perfect obedience to the law, and denounced a curse for every instance of disobedience; and required all the people, not only to accept it, but to approve of it, in that particular view. Compare Galatians 3:10 with Deuteronomy 27:26.

Who can contemplate such a covenant, and not tremble to have his hopes founded on it? There was indeed much of the Gospel contained in the ceremonial law; and the penitent Israelite found refuge there. But the law published on Sinai was "a fiery law," "a ministration of condemnation;" and the terrors which were infused into the people by the thunders of Sinai, fitly represented the terrific nature of that covenant. Happy would it be for us, if we availed ourselves of these instructive intimations, to renounce that covenant which consigns us over unto death, and to embrace that better covenant which is revealed to us in the Gospel!

III. To make them feel their need of a Mediator.

The people, who but just before had been with difficulty restrained from breaking through the bounds that had been assigned them, were now so alarmed, that they fled from their station, and entreated that God would no more deliver his commands to them in that way, lest they should die. They desired that Moses might be appointed as a Mediator between God and them, and that all future intimations of God's will should be given them through him. Of the full meaning of their own request they themselves were not aware; for, inasmuch as Moses was a type of Christ, it was, in fact, a desire that Christ might be their Mediator, and that all their fellowship with the Deity might be through Him. This was the construction which God himself put upon it; and in this view he approved of. Compare Deuteronomy 5:27-28; Deuteronomy 18:15-18;

To the same effect also the Apostle speaks. He tells us that the law was not designed to give us life, but to show us our need of Christ, and to bring us unto him as our only hope, Galatians 3:24.


1. How thankful should we be for the Christian covenant!

It is to this that we are come, if we have truly believed in Christ. And oh! how different is our state from those who are yet under the law, Hebrews 12:18-24. Instead of being prohibited from drawing near to God, we are permitted and commanded to come unto him. Let us avail ourselves of the blessed privilege, and seek closer fellowship with our God, and brighter views of his glory.

2. How careful should we be not to revert to the Jewish covenant!

We do, in fact, revert to it, if we seek justification by the law of works. If we do anything in order to be justified by it, we instantly become debtors to do the whole law. Let it not then appear to us a light matter to indulge a self-righteous spirit; for if we do, we renounce all hope from the grace of the Gospel, and "Christ, with respect to us, has died in vain, Galatians 5:1-4."

3. How studiously should we cultivate the fear of God!

As terrible as the appearance and the voice of God were on that occasion, his appearance in the day of judgment will be infinitely more tremendous! "Knowing therefore the terrors of the Lord, we would persuade you" to turn unto him, before it be too late. We wish however to produce in you, not a slavish fear, but a filial fear. A slavish fear will only drive you from God. But a filial fear will make you happy in the service and enjoyment of God; and therefore we add, "Let his fear be ever before your faces, that you sin not."




Exodus 23:13

"Pay close attention to all My instructions!"

If we were about to prosecute a journey through an extensive forest, where the path was exceeding intricate, where we were in hourly danger of treading upon serpents and scorpions, and where there were declivities so steep and slippery that it was almost impossible but that we must fall down some tremendous precipice—we would feel it necessary to get the best information, and to use the utmost caution in all our way.

Such is really our state. In our journey towards Heaven we may easily mistake the road; and, even when we are walking in it, we are encompassed with so many dangers, and obstructed by so many difficulties, that we need to exercise continual vigilance. Hence, in tender love to us, our heavenly Guide puts us on our guard, and says, "Pay close attention to all My instructions!"

In discoursing on these words we shall consider,

I. The injunction.

It is our duty and our happiness to have all our actions conformed to the mind and will of God; but, in order to this, we must attend diligently to the matter, the manner, and the end of our actions:

1. The matter of our actions.

Notwithstanding that we have the written word, which, when duly followed, will suffice to direct our conduct; yet we must have a very considerable knowledge of the Scriptures, and a well-regulated mind, in order to ascertain clearly the will of God. It frequently happens that one duty seems to interfere with another; as when a work of mercy calls for a violation of the Sabbath, or a command of an earthly parent militates against the command of God. In the former case we are to "prefer mercy before sacrifice;" in the latter, we must "obey God rather than man." But how to discriminate aright at all times, is very difficult; and a well-intentioned person may grievously err, if he does not bring his actions to the touch-stone of God's Word, and determine, through grace, to regulate them according to that standard, Acts 26:9-11; Galatians 2:13 and John 16:2.

2. The manner of our actions.

It is by no means sufficient that the matter of our actions is right, for they may be so debased by the manner of performing them, as to be rendered hateful in the sight of God. Prayer is a duty plainly enjoined; but if it is cold and formal, or offered with an unbelieving heart, it will find no acceptance with God; in vain do people worship God in such a manner, Matthew 15:7-9; they shall receive nothing at his hands, James 1:6-7.

Nothing could have been more pleasing to God than David's attempt to bring up the ark to Mount Zion, after it had been at least fifty years in a state of obscurity; but David was inattentive to the manner in which God had appointed the ark to be carried; he put it on a new cart, instead of ordering it to be borne upon the shoulders of the Levites; and therefore God manifested his displeasure against him, and against all the people, by striking Uzza dead upon the spot for presuming to touch the ark! 1 Chronicles 15:13.

We ourselves are not satisfied to have our commands obeyed, unless a due attention is paid also to the manner of executing our will. Much less therefore will God be pleased, if we be not as studious to "serve him acceptably," as to serve him at all.

3. The end or motive of our actions.

Our end or motive in acting determines more than anything the quality of our actions. Not that a good end will sanctify a bad action; but a bad end will vitiate every action connected with it. If, for instance, in our religious services we seek the applause of men, we must expect no reward from God. The gratification of our pride and vanity is all the reward that such polluted services can obtain, Matthew 6:1-5; Matthew 6:16.

In the account which is given us of Jehu, we find that the very same action, which was rewarded on account of its outward conformity with God's command, was punished on account of the evil principle by which he was influenced in performing it. He did well in extirpating the seed of Ahab, and was rewarded for it to the fourth generation, 2 Kings 10:30. But forasmuch as he was actuated by vanity and ambition, the blood which he shed was imputed to him as murder! 2 Kings 10:16 with Hosea 1:4.

Nor is there anything more common than for even religious people to mistake the path of duty through an inattention to their own spirit. The disciples doubtless thought themselves under the influence of a commendable zeal, when they would have called fire from Heaven to consume a Samaritan village; as did Peter also, when he cut off the ear of Malchus. We should therefore be peculiarly cautious with respect to this, lest by the mixture of any selfish motive or base affection we offend Him, whom it is our desire and endeavor to please.

God having prescribed rules for a just ordering of our whole spirit and conduct, we must, "Pay close attention to all God's instructions!"

The importance of this injunction will appear, while we consider,

II. The reasons for God's command.

Surely it is a necessary injunction, and no less reasonable than necessary; for,

1. The same authority exists in each of God's commandments.

It is God who issued a prohibition of adultery and murder; and it is the same Almighty Being who forbids us to entertain a selfish wish or covetous desire! James 2:10-11. Shall we then acknowledge his authority in our actions, and disregard it in our principles? Shall we think ourselves at liberty to deviate from any part of his revealed will? If so, we cease to act as his creatures, and become a god unto ourselves.

2. Without close attention to all of God's instructions, we cannot perform any duty aright.

We cannot find out the real motives of our actions without daily self-examination, and earnest prayer to God for the teachings of his Spirit. However simple the path of duty may appear, there are ten thousand ways in which we may depart from it. And, as long as our hearts are so deceitful, and we have such a subtle adversary striving to mislead us, we shall be in perpetual danger of mistaking our way. If therefore we would serve God aright in anything, we must pay close attention to everything.

3. An inattention to smaller duties, will lead to a violation of the greatest duties.

Who shall say where we shall stop, if once we begin to trifle with God? Eve little thought to what she should be brought by only listening to the suggestions of the tempter; nor did David foresee what would result from the wanton look which he cast on Bathsheba. It was on account of the danger arising from the smallest approach to sin, that God, in the words following our text, forbade his people even to "mention the name" of a heathen deity; and on the same account he requires us to "abstain from the very appearance of evil!" And if we will not "watch in all things," we shall soon have to eat the bitter fruit of our negligence; yes, it will be well, if from walking in the counsel of the ungodly, we do not soon stand in the way of sinners, and at last sit in the seat of the scornful! Psalm 1:1. Every word in this verse rises in a climax:

"walk, stand, sit;"

"counsel, way, seat;"

"ungodly, sinners, scornful."

4. The greater our attention to all of God's instructions, the more shall we adorn our holy profession.

There are multitudes on the watch to find out the smallest faults in those who profess religion; and to condemn religion itself on account of them. But an attentive, obedient walk "cuts off occasion from those who seek occasion;" and "by well-doing we put to silence the ignorance of foolish men." It can scarcely be conceived what an effect the conduct of religious people has upon the world, either to recommend religion to them, or to harden them against it. Should we not be careful that we "give no occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully?" Should we not endeavor to "be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves?" Let us then "so make our light to shine before men, that they may be constrained to glorify our Father that is in Heaven."

5. The whole of our conduct will be reviewed in the day of judgment.

The most secret springs of action will be brought to light in that solemn day, and "the counsels of the heart be made manifest, 1 Corinthians 4:5; Ecclesiastes 12:14." God will weigh, not our actions only, but our motives, Proverbs 16:2. "Men judge according to appearance; but He will judge righteous judgment." If this consideration will not make us attentive and obedient, then what can we hope to prove effectual? O that we could bear in mind the strictness of that scrutiny, and the awfulness of that decision!


1. Those who ridicule the preciseness of others.

To what end has God commanded us to be careful, if we are not to regard the injunction? Do you suppose that you are to annul his commands, and to establish rules of conduct that are contrary to his? Or, if you are presumptuous enough to do so in reference to yourselves, do you think that you are to prescribe for others also? You affect to pity the Lord's people as weak enthusiasts; but know that you are the true objects of pity, who can rush blindfold in such a manner to your own destruction. Yes, over such as you the Savior wept; and if you knew your guilt and danger, you would weep for yourselves! Repent, before it is too late; for, however wise you may imagine yourselves to be, the time is coming when you will change your voice, and say, "We fools counted our life madness!" Take care that you yourselves be righteous enough, before you ridicule others as "righteous over-much."

2. Those who, in spite of scoffers, are endeavoring to please their God.

Blessed be God, who enables you to stem the torrent, and to serve him in the midst of a wicked world! But, be on your guard against that scrupulosity, which makes those things to be sins which are no sins; and that superstition, which makes things to be duties which are no duties. Be as careful of adding to the Word of God as of detracting from it. Let the different parts of Scripture be compared with each other; and learn your duty not so much from any detached passage, as from a collective view of all those passages which may reflect light upon it. Nevertheless in doubtful matters, you will do well to lean to the safer side.

Yet while you are thus circumspect yourselves, do not presume to judge others. Things may be right in others, which would be wrong in you; and right in you under some circumstances, which under different circumstances would be highly improper. Do not then bring others to your standard, or try them at your bar, "it is to their own Master that they must stand or fall."

Lastly, let not your preciseness fill you with self-preference and self-esteem. However accurately you may walk, there will be still enough to humble you in the dust. You must to your last hour go to Jesus as the chief of sinners, and seek acceptance with God through his blood and righteousness!




Exodus 23:20-22

"See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you."

It is but too common for men to cast the blame of their own negligence on God. But they who labor so much to exculpate themselves now, will one day be silent; and God will finally be justified in every sentence that he shall pass. His kindness to the church of old may show us what his conduct is towards us. And they who are thus guided, warned, and encouraged, must, if they perish, ascribe their condemnation to themselves alone. The words before us contain,

I. The work and office of Christ.

Christ is here called an angel or messenger.

He is often called by this name in the Holy Scriptures. He is the angel that was in the pillar and the cloud, Exodus 14:19. That angel was Jehovah, Exodus 13:21. That Jehovah was Christ, 1 Corinthians 10:9. See also Malachi 3:1. Nor does he disdain to assume it himself John 12:49. In his essential nature indeed Jesus is equal with the Father. But in his mediatorial capacity he sustains the office of a servant.

As the angel of the covenant, Jesus leads and keeps his people.

He is represented as a leader and commander, like Joshua, his type, Isaiah 55:4. He went before them in the wilderness in the pillar and the cloud. And still, though invisible, Jesus guides them in their way to Heaven, Psalm 25:9; Psalm 32:8.

Nor does he leave them until he brings them safely to glory.

He did not forsake the Israelites, until he had accomplished all his promises, Joshua 23:14. Having "prepared the land for them," he preserved them for it. Thus has he "prepared mansions for us" also, John 14:2; and will surely bring us to the full possession of them! 1 Peter 1:4-5.

But as this office of Christ implies a correspondent duty in us, God suggests,

II. A caution against neglecting him.

We are much in danger of displeasing him.

As our guide, he expects implicit obedience. Nor can we rebel against him without "provoking" his indignation, Isaiah 63:10. Hence we need continual circumspection.

The consequence of displeasing him will be terrible.

Doubtless to penitents he is full of mercy and compassion. But to impenitent offenders he will manifest his wrath, Psalm 7:11-13. Nor will he allow any to continue in their sins with impunity, Ezekiel 24:13-14.

His power and dignity are a certain pledge to us that he will avenge the insults that are offered him.

By "the name of God" we understand not his authority only, but his very nature, John 14:10-11; John 10:30. And this union with the Father is a pledge to us, that he will act as befits the divine character. Nor will any consideration of mercy ever tempt him again to sacrifice the honor of the Deity to the interests of man.

It is not however by terror only that God would persuade us; for he adds,

III. An encouragement to obey him.

Obedience is in one sense, the condition of God's favor.

We know that there is nothing meritorious in man's obedience. Yet is there an inseparable connection between that and the divine favor. Nor is it a partial obedience only that he requires at our hands. Obedience must be earnest, unwearied, uniform, and unreserved.

And to those who yield him this obedience he will show himself an active friend, and an almighty protector.

His favor consists not in a mere inactive delight. It will manifest itself in a constant and powerful interposition on their behalf, 2 Chronicles 32:8; Isaiah 49:25. He will not fail to secure them the victory over all their enemies.


1. Those who disregard the voice of this divine Messenger.

From what is spoken of his mercy you are ready to think him destitute of justice. And from the depth of his condescension you conclude he will not vindicate his own honor. But where God most fully proclaims his mercy, he declares his justice also, Exodus 34:7. Do not make him your enemy, who came from Heaven to save you.

Consider what means he has used to guide you to the promised land.

Consider what great things he would do for you, if you would obey his voice.

Consider what certain and terrible destruction your rejection of his mercy will bring upon you, Hebrews 12:25. And instantly surrender up yourselves to his direction and government.

2. Those who, though they submit to his government, are doubtful of success.

The Israelites, notwithstanding all the miracles they had seen, were afraid they should not finally attain the object of their desires.

Thus among ourselves, many tremble lest their expectations should never be realized. But is not God able to beat down your enemies before you? Or will he forget the promise he has so often renewed? If he is incensed against you, it is not owing to unfaithfulness in him, but to instability in you! Jeremiah 2:17. Only be vigilant to obey his will, and to follow him fully; and you need not doubt that he will preserve you unto his heavenly kingdom 2 Timothy 4:18.

3. Those who are following him with cheerfulness to the heavenly land.

Blessed be God, there are some of you like-minded with Joshua and Caleb, Numbers 14:24; Numbers 32:12. And are not you living monuments of the power and grace of God? Have you not on many occasions proved his readiness to pardon sin? And do you not daily experience his paternal care and protection? Go on then with increasing vigilance and an assured hope. Know that all the power and perfections of God are engaged for you; and that "having guided you by his counsel, he will finally bring you to glory."




Exodus 23:29-30

"But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land."

The more we investigate the dispensations of Providence, the more we shall see that "God's ways are not as our ways, nor his thoughts as our thoughts." If we had been left to form conjectures respecting man in his first creation, who would have conceived that God would allow the work of his hands to be so marred as Adam was by the fall, and so large a portion of his creatures to perish in everlasting misery?

Nor, if we were told that God would take to himself, from among the fallen sons of Adam, a peculiar people, and rescue them by so many signs and wonders from their bondage in Egypt, would we have imagined that he would, after all, keep them in the wilderness for the space of forty years, until the whole generation were swept away; and allow two individuals only, of the whole nation, to enter the promised land. But "his ways are in the great deep; and his footsteps are not known."

When, at last, he had brought his people into Canaan, we would then at least suppose that he would give them a speedy and quiet possession of the land. Yet, behold, he tells them beforehand, that he will "not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land."

We propose to inquire into,

I. The design of God in the dispensation here referred to.

It was intended,

1. As an act of mercy, to preserve his people.

The people altogether amounted to about two millions; and the country which they were to occupy extended from the Red Sea to the Euphrates, Genesis 15:18. But, if so small a population were spread over so wide a space, the wild beasts would quickly multiply, and speedily desolate the whole land. True, indeed, God could, if it would so please him, interpose by miracle to change the ferocity of the most savage animals; but that was no part of his plan. He permitted, therefore, vast multitudes of the heathen nations yet to live, so that they might, for their own sake, prevent the increase and incursions of the wild beasts, until Israel should have multiplied so as to be able, in every part, to protect themselves.

2. As an act of righteousness, to test them.

All the trials with which God's people were visited in the wilderness were sent "to prove them," whether they would serve the Lord or not. Not that God needed any such information, as the result of experiment; because "he knew what was in man," whose heart and thoughts were open to him from the foundation of the world; but it was desirable, for their own sakes, that they should have an insight into their own hearts, and be able to appreciate the whole of God's dealings with them.

By the continuance of the heathen nations among them, they would see how prone they were to seek their own carnal ease and interests, by mingling themselves among them, when they should have been laboring with all their might to effect their utter extirpation.

By observing also the success or failure of their efforts against these enemies, they would be able to judge with accuracy, how far they were in favor with God, or under his displeasure; and would consequently be led to approach him with suitable emotions of gratitude or contrition. This is the view which the Scripture itself gives us of this very dispensation, "These were the nations which the Lord left to prove Israel by them: the Philistines, Canaanites, Sidonians, and the Hivites; it was to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken to the commandments of the Lord, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses, Judges 3:1-4."

3. As an act of judgment, to punish them.

Though there were good ends to be answered, by a gradual execution of the judgments denounced against the seven nations of Canaan, it was the fault of the Israelites themselves that the extirpation of them was not more rapid and complete. They gave way to sloth, when they should have been in full activity. They yielded to fear, when they should have gone forth in assured dependence on their Lord. By this, they greatly increased their own trials, and multiplied their own afflictions. God had told them by Moses, saying, "If you will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come to pass, that those whom you let remain of them shall be thorns in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein you dwell. Moreover, it shall come to pass, that I shall do unto you, as I thought to do unto them, Numbers 33:55."

Joshua also, at the close of his life, reminded them, that "no man had been able to stand before them;" and then assured them, that "one man of them should be able to chase a thousand, if only they would take heed to themselves to love the Lord their God; but that, if they did in any wise go back, and cleave unto the nations which remained among them, and make marriages with them; then know for a certainty," says he, "that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which the Lord your God has given you, Joshua 23:9-13."

Accordingly, this prediction was soon verified; and God punished them, as he had said; for, on their "making leagues with the inhabitants of the land," they were induced at last to "forsake the Lord, and worship Baal and Ashteroth;" and "the Lord's anger was kindled against them; and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies; and they were greatly distressed. Therefore the Lord left those nations, without driving them out hastily; neither did he deliver them into the hand of Joshua, Judges 2:2; Judges 2:12-15; Judges 2:23."

Thus in this dispensation there was a mixture of mercy and of judgment; of mercy primarily; of judgment through their own fault.

This view of God's dealings with his people of old affords us a fit occasion to inquire into,

II. His design in a corresponding dispensation towards his people at this day.

The redemption which he has given to us through the blood of his only dear Son might justly lead us to expect, that when once we are truly brought out from the dominion of sin and Satan, our triumphs over them would be complete. But it is not so; for though the yoke with which we were oppressed is loosened, a measure of our bondage still remains; there is yet "the flesh lusting against the spirit, so that we cannot do the things that we would do, Galatians 5:17." Yes more, "there is yet a law in our members warring against the law in our minds, and too often bringing us into captivity to the law of sin which is in our members! Romans 7:23." Now why is it, that God allows his people to be yet harassed with the remains of sin? He allows it,

1. For our deeper humiliation.

The sins of our unconverted state may well humble us in the dust, and cause us to "go softly," in the remembrance of them, to our dying hour. But the views of our depravity, which we derive from them, are as nothing in comparison with those which we gain from the workings of corruption in our converted state. These are the views which cause us to cry out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me! Romans 7:24." These were the views which constrained Job to exclaim, "Behold, I am vile;" "I repent, and abhor myself in dust and ashes! Job 40:4; Job 42:6."

And, in proportion as they are revealed to us, they will constrain every living man to "loath himself for his iniquities and abominations! Ezekiel 36:31." Now this is a feeling that well becomes our sinful race; and though the acquisition of it is obtained through much painful experience—yet does it, in the outcome, well repay all that we have suffered in the attainment of it.

2. For our ultimate advancement.

A child has all the members of a perfect man; yet are they in a very feeble and imperfect state; and it is by the exercise of his powers that he has those powers strengthened and enlarged.

Just so it is with every child of God. He is born a babe; and, though every gracious principle exists within him, he is so feeble as scarcely to be able to withstand temptation, or to exercise his powers to any great extent. But, through the remains of sin within him he is led to frequent conflicts with it; by exercise, his powers are increased; and by progressive increase, they are perfected. Thus, from "a babe," he grows up to maturer age and stature, and becomes "a young man;" and from "a young man," "a father."

Nor is it in this world only that the believer is benefitted by his conflicts; for in proportion as he grows in the knowledge of the Savior and in a conformity to his image, will be the weight of glory bestowed on him in the realms of bliss. The improvement of the talents committed to him will bring a corresponding recompense, at the time that he shall give up his account to God. If no corruption had remained in his heart "to prove him," he would have had scarcely any opportunity of showing his fidelity, his zeal, his love, his gratitude. But being called "to fight a good fight," and having approved himself "a good soldier of Jesus Christ," he shall receive, together with the approbation of his Lord, a brighter crown, and a more glorious inheritance, than could have been awarded to him at the period of his first conversion.

3. For his own eternal glory.

Doubtless the first exercise of mercy towards a repenting sinner brings much glory to God; and if at the first moment of his conversion every saint were translated to glory, he would have abundant reason to adore and magnify the grace to which he was so greatly indebted. But of the patience, the forbearance, the long-suffering, the compassion, and the faithfulness of God—he would have a very indistinct and inadequate conception. It is by his inward trials and conflicts that he acquires the fuller discovery of these perfections, and is prepared to give God the glory of them in the eternal world. The shouts of one who is but a babe in Christ will, on his introduction to the divine presence, no doubt be ardent; but what will be the acclamations of a soul that has passed through all the eventful scenes of arduous and long-protracted warfare! Of what wonders will he have to speak! or rather, how may we conceive of him as prostrating himself in silent adoration through his overwhelming sense of the divine goodness, while the less-instructed and less-indebted novice rends the air with acclamations and hosannahs! Yes truly; if the angels stand round about the saints, as not having so near an access to God as they, so we may conceive of the less-privileged saints as standing round about the elders, in whom "God will be more admired," and by whom he will be more "glorified, 2 Thessalonians 1:10 with Revelation 7:9-12."

We must not however dismiss this subject without adding:

1. A few words of caution.

It is, as we have said, the fate of man in this world still to carry about with him a corrupt nature, which proves a source of much trouble and distress; nor can any man hope to get rid of it, until he shall be liberated by death itself. Nevertheless, it is our own fault that the corruptions which remain within us are not more weakened and subdued. Let anyone read the account given of the different tribes, in the first chapter of the book of Judges, and say whether he does not impute blame to the Israelites themselves, for allowing the nations, whom they were ordered to extirpate, to retain so formidable a power in the midst of them, Judges 1:21; Judges 1:27; Judges 1:29-35. Had they persevered with the same zeal and diligence as they exercised on their first entrance into Canaan, and pursued with unrelenting energy those whom they had been commanded to destroy, their occupation of the land had been far more peaceful and entire.

Just so, if we, from our first conversion to God, had maintained with unremitting zeal our warfare with sin and Satan, as it became us to do, we should have had all the corruptions of our nature in more complete subjection, and should have enjoyed a far greater measure of tranquility in our own souls. Let not anyone, then, delude himself with the thought that the strength of his corruptions is a subject rather of pity than of blame; but let all know, that they are called to maintain a warfare; that armor, even "the whole armor of God," is provided for them, in order that they may prosecute it with success; and that, if only they will "behave like men," the Captain of their salvation has assured to them a complete victory. Gird on your armor then, my brethren; and, if your enemy has gained any advantage over you, return to the charge; and never cease to fight until Satan, and all his hosts, are "bruised under your feet!"

2. A few words of encouragement.

The doom of your enemies is sealed, Deuteronomy 7:22-23; and, if you "go forth in the strength of your Lord," "you shall be more than conquerors through him who loves you! Romans 8:37." Let it not be grievous to you that such a necessity is imposed upon you. Did your Savior himself enter the lists, and fight against all the powers of darkness until he had triumphed over them and despoiled them all; and will not you, at his command, go forth, to follow up, and complete, his victory, Colossians 2:15 with John 16:11.

Fear not on account of the strength or number of your enemies; for "they shall be bread for you;" and your every victory over them shall nourish and strengthen your own souls.

Let all animate one another to the contest. See the happy effect of this among God's people of old. We are told, "Judah said unto Simeon his brother, Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with you into your lot. So Simeon went with him. And Judah went up; and the Lord delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand, Judges 1:3-4."

True it is, indeed, that we cannot aid each other precisely in the same way that they did; but we may encourage one another, and strengthen one another, and by our example animate one another to the combat; and may thus contribute, each of us, to the success of those around us. And it is but a little time that we have to fight; for soon we shall come to that better land, where "there shall no more be the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of Hosts." Even in this world we are taught that such a period shall arrive Zechariah 14:21; but, if not permitted to behold it here, we shall assuredly behold it in the world above, where "former things shall have passed away, and sin and sorrow shall be found no more! Revelation 21:4." "Therefore comfort one another with these words!"




Exodus 24:6-8

"Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, "We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey." Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words."

Of such terrible majesty is God, that none could behold his face and live. Even in his most condescending fellowship with men, he has made them to feel, that he is "a God greatly to be feared, and to be had in reverence of all those who are round about him." When he descended on Mount Sinai, to proclaim his law, all the people of Israel entreated that he would not speak to them any more, except through the intervention of a Mediator. He was graciously pleased to make further communications to his people, and to enter into a covenant with them; but here a select number only were permitted to approach him, and of them none but Moses was allowed to "come near unto him."

The covenant which he made with them, is the subject now before us; and we shall consider it in a two-fold view:

I. As made with Israel.

An altar being built, together with twelve pillars, the one to represent Jehovah, and the other the twelve tribes of Israel.

1. The covenant was made.

God, as the author of that covenant, declared by Moses the terms on which he would acknowledge Israel as his peculiar people. Moses had written In a book the laws which God had made known to him—the moral, the ceremonial, the judicial; and all these he read in the audience of the people. To these, in the name of God, he required a cheerful and uniform obedience; and, upon their obedience to these, God promised on his part to favor them with his continued protection, and with the ultimate and peaceful enjoyment of the promised land. Thus was care taken that they should know to what they were to subscribe, and that their future welfare depended on their fidelity to their own engagements.

The people on their part gave their consent to the terms prescribed; and this they did in the most solemn manner. In declaring their acceptance of the covenant they were unanimous, cordial, unreserved. There was not one dissenting voice. They had repeatedly before engaged to do whatever the Lord should enjoin, Exodus 19:8; Exodus 24:3; but here they do it with additional force and emphasis, "We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey." Nor do they make the least exception to any one thing as burdensome or oppressive. In the most unqualified manner they bind themselves to a perfect and perpetual obedience, We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey."

2. The covenant was ratified.

From the very time that God first set apart Abraham to be the progenitor of his peculiar people to the time when that people were carried captive to Babylon, it seems to have been customary to confirm covenants by sacrifices; which, when slain, were divided into parts placed opposite to each other; and then the parties covenanting passed between those parts, and thereby pledged themselves to a faithful observance of the covenant. In Abraham's time, Genesis 15:9-10; Genesis 15:17; in David's time, Psalm 50:5; in Jeremiah's time, Jeremiah 34:18-20. A similar custom obtained also among the Greeks.

But in this instance solemnities were used, which showed that the sacrifices were essential to the covenant itself. God could not enter into covenant with sinners until an atonement had been offered for their sins. And now that this atonement was offered, one half of the blood of the sacrifices was poured upon the altar, to evince that God was reconciled to them; and the remainder was sprinkled upon the book and upon the people, in order to seal upon their hearts and consciences his pardoning love, and to remind them that all their hope in that covenant depended on the blood of atonement with which it was sprinkled.

After having duly considered this covenant as made with Israel, it will be proper to view it,

II. As typifying that covenant under which we live.

That it was a type of the Christian covenant we are sure, because Paul quotes the very words of our text, to prove that the death of Christ was necessary to give efficacy to his mediation, and to secure to us the blessings of his covenant, Hebrews 9:17-19. He mentions also some additional circumstances not related in the history; but of them we forbear to speak, that our attention may be confined to the point immediately before us. The connection between the two is that which we assert, and which we wish to illustrate. Let us then return to the covenant made with Israel, and notice more particularly,

1. The nature of the covenant made with Israel.

The covenant made with Israel was a mixed covenant:

partly legal, for it contained the law of the ten commandments delivered on Mount Sinai;

partly evangelical, for it comprehended many ceremonial institutions whereby the people were to obtain remission of their sins;

and partly national, because it comprised many civil restrictions which were peculiar to that people.

But the covenant under which WE are, is purely evangelical, having not the smallest mixture of anything else with it. Our covenant does not prescribe laws, by obedience to which we are to obtain mercy; but offers mercy freely as the gift of God through Christ, and promises grace, whereby we shall be enabled to fulfill the will of God. Sanctification is not required of us as a ground for our justification, but is promised to us as a fruit and evidence of our justification. In this New Covenant we are not to obey in order that God may give, but to obey because he has given, and will give. We are not first to give to God that he may afterwards give to us; but he gives all, and we receive all.

2. The ratification of the covenant made with Israel.

The blood of sprinkling used by Moses was a mere shadow; it had of itself no value whatever; it could neither satisfy the justice of God, nor bring peace into the consciences of men. But the blood with which our covenant is ratified is called "the blood of GOD, Acts 20:28," because it was the blood of Him who was God as well as man. That blood has indeed an efficacy that transcends all conception. It has reconciled God to a guilty world; and, when sprinkled on the hearts of men by faith, it fills them with "a peace which passes all understanding." And as Moses, in the quality of God's high-priest, sprinkled the blood both upon the altar and the people, so does our "great High-Priest," the Lord Jesus, now sprinkle his blood for us before the throne of God, and sprinkle it also on our hearts, whenever we go to him for that purpose.

The New Covenant too itself is continually exhibited to us as sprinkled with his blood; so that we may be certain that God will fulfill it to us in all its parts. If only we accept it, and rely upon it, all its blessings shall be ours, both in time and in eternity.

3. The acceptance of the covenant made with Israel.

There was much in the people's acceptance of that covenant worthy of our imitation; but there was also much which it befits us carefully to avoid:

In the first place, guard against their ignorance. They were evidently not acquainted with the requisitions of the covenant to which they subscribed. They heard its contents read to them indeed; but they did not enter into their full meaning, neither had they duly considered them.

Let not this be the case with us, lest we "begin to build without counting the cost." Let us consider that it requires us to receive everything as people wholly destitute, and to receive it in every part without the smallest partiality or reserve. Let us remember, that though it does not require holiness as a meritorious condition of our acceptance, it promises holiness as one of its chief blessings, Ezekiel 36:25-27; and that, if we do not desire, and strive, to be "asholy as God is holy," and "as perfect as God is perfect," all our professed hope in the covenant is vain and delusive. We can no more be saved by the covenant without holiness, than we can without faith. Let this be known, and weighed, yes and be wrought into the soul as a fixed principle, before we presume to think that we have any interest in Christ, or in the covenant which he has sealed with his blood.

In the next place, guard against their self-righteousness. They imagined that they could so fulfill their obligations as to earn and merit all the blessings of the covenant.

Let not us make so fatal a mistake. Let us rather acknowledge, that "if we had done all that is commanded us, we would be only unprofitable servants." But who will say that he has done all that is commanded him, or indeed any one thing, in which God could not discern some imperfection and defect? If this is so, then do we need mercy and forgiveness even for our best actions; and consequently can never merit by them the salvation of God. Let this then be also engrafted in our minds, that we may be accepted with the publican, and not be rejected with the Pharisee.

Lastly, let us guard against their self-dependence. They never doubted but that they were able to do all that was commanded them. They thought it was as easy to perform as to promise. But in a very few days they provoked God to jealousy with their golden calf; so little did they remember the precepts that had been given to them, or the vows that were upon them.

Let it not be so with us. Let us bear in mind, "we have not of ourselves a sufficiency even to think a good thought;" and that "without Christ we can do nothing." If we embrace the covenant as they embraced it, we shall fail as they failed.

We cannot better CONCLUDE this subject than by addressing you as Moses addressed the Israelites, "Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you;" or, as Paul quotes the words, "the covenant which God has enjoined unto you!"

1. Behold the covenant itself.

It is "ordered in all things and sure;" there is not a need which a human being can feel, for which ample provision is not made in it. And it is free for every creature under Heaven. Whatever you may have been in times past, you may at this moment partake of all the blessings of this covenant, if only you are willing to receive them freely, and without reserve.

On the other hand, if you disregard this covenant, and "count the blood of it an unholy thing," "there remains no other sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation to consume you!" God has shut you up to this, and enjoined it unto you by an irreversible decree. Receive it therefore, and live; reject it, and perish!

2. Behold the blood of the covenant.

What instruction does that blood convey! Did the Israelites see their bleeding sacrifices, and not discern the desert of sin? How much more then must we discern it in the precious blood of our incarnate God! And surely we may also see in it the transcendent love of Christ, who submitted to "make his soul an offering for sin," that, the covenant being sealed with his blood, we might be partakers of its richest blessings.

What comfort too does it convey to the soul! Look on that blood, you doubting Christian, and then say whether God will not fulfill all the promises that he has ever made; say whether, in such a mode of ratifying his covenant he has not provided "strong consolation for all who flee to the refuge set before them" in the Gospel.

Finally, What a stimulus does it give to all holy and heavenly affections! Shall not that question be continually upon your mind, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits unto me?" Look on that blood, and grudge God your services, if you can. Think much of any duties you can perform, or of any sufferings you can endure for him, if you can. Only keep your eye fixed upon that blood, and you shall be irresistibly constrained to exult and glory in God, and to consecrate unto him all the faculties and powers of your souls.




Exodus 24:11

[KJV translation] "And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink."

[NLT translation] "And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence!"

God is everywhere present, but no where visible, unless he is pleased to draw aside the veil—and reveal himself to us. It is in Heaven alone that his unveiled glory is continually seen. There have however in former times, been many occasions whereon he has discovered himself to men, sometimes in human form, sometimes in angelic form, and sometimes in a bright appearance, in which no similitude could be traced, and of which no representation can be made. The manifestation of which the text speaks, seems to have been of the last kind. It was given to a great many people at once; and while they beheld his presence, they feasted before him.

In discoursing upon this interesting event, we shall notice,

I. Their vision.

The circumstances of the vision are particular, and deserve an attentive consideration.

The people to whom the vision was given were Moses, and Aaron with his two eldest sons, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the "elders of Israel," who are also called "nobles." Who these nobles were, we cannot absolutely determine; but it is most probable that they were people of consequence in the different tribes, who were selected to represent the nation at large; and, if six were taken out of each tribe, they might in round numbers be called seventy, though strictly speaking they would amount to seventy-two.

The time at which they were thus favored, was after they had consented to the covenant which God had made with them. Subsequent to the publication of the moral law from Mount Sinai, God ordained a variety of statutes, which were peculiar to Israel as a nation; and at the same time made with them a national covenant, partaking of a covenant of works, and partly of a covenant of grace. In this, they undertook to serve God; and God undertook to protect and bless them. This covenant had been confirmed by a sacrifice, in which the different parties had met, as it were, and given their consent to it. God was represented by the altar; and the twelve tribes were represented by the twelve pillars which Moses had erected near the altar, as well as by the seventy elders, who had been chosen out from among them. The blood of the sacrifice had been sprinkled on them all—on the altar, the pillars, and the people. The book of the covenant also had been sprinkled with it, Hebrews 9:18-23, to show that, though God did not relax the demands of his law, he would not be extreme to mark the unallowed violations of it. After this covenant had been thus made and ratified, God called Moses and the others to come up higher on the mountain; and revealed his glory to them.

The manner also in which God revealed himself, is worthy of notice. There had been a manifestation of the Deity prior to this; but O! how different from it! That display which God made of himself at the giving of the law was in blackness and darkness, and tempest; and attended with such tremendous thunderings and lightenings, that all the people, yes, and Moses himself, exceedingly trembled and quaked.

But, in this vision all was light and serene, and calculated to inspire the beholders with joy and confidence. The appearance of the Deity was beyond the brightness of the meridian sun; and underneath it "the pavement, as it were, upon which he stood, was like the sapphire" stone, or like the azure sky, bespangled with stars!

Thus the vision altogether was suited to a new-covenant state, wherein the people were introduced into communion with their God, and honored with these astonishing tokens of his love and favor.

Such a vision is now given to us under the Gospel.

We shall not indeed behold God precisely as they did; for such visions have long since been discontinued. But there is a spiritual view of the Deity, which we may, and must, partake of; and which. we are authorized to say, was typified by the vision before us. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the preceding context is expressly quoted, and that too with some additional circumstances not related by Moses, Hebrews 9:18-23; and we are told that the event there referred to, was "a pattern of the heavenly things," which we enjoy under the Gospel. The view which we have of the Deity, prior to our embracing the new covenant, inspires us with nothing but terror; but when we have accepted the covenant of grace, which was confirmed by the sacrifice of Christ, and have sprinkled on our consciences the blood of that sacrifice, then we shall be admitted to a more clear, but less dreadful, new of God. is justice will appear more dreadful in the sacrifice which it demanded, than even in the curses it denounced. It will be seen tempered with mercy; and ready to harmonize with mercy in every act of love. This vision we are to enjoy, not through the medium of representatives, but every one of us for himself. It is of Christians in general, and not of some distinguished favorites only, that the Apostle says, "God has shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ! 2 Corinthians 4:6." Here, by the way, we see where we are to have this vision; it is to be "in our hearts;" it is an object of contemplation to the mind; and not of sight to our bodily organs.

Together with their vision, it will be proper to notice also,

II. Their feast.

It was generally supposed that none could see God and live, Genesis 32:30; but here the seventy elders, as well as Moses and Aaron, beheld him, and yet "he laid not his hand on any one of them" to hurt them. This is the meaning of the words preceding the text. On the contrary,

They feasted on their sacrifice in the divine presence.

They had sacrificed burnt-offerings, and peace-offerings. Of the latter, the offerers were allowed to eat in token of their acceptance with God. Indeed it had long before been customary for parties covenanting with each other, to feast together at the ratification of their covenant, Genesis 31:54. And here, if we may so speak, the different parties feasted together; God's part of the sacrifices had been consumed upon his altar; and the remainder was eaten by the offerers. Doubtless it must have been a precious feast to those, who had so lately trembled at the thunders of Mount Sinai. Their souls must have been yet more refreshed with a sense of the divine favor, than their bodies by the provision thus allotted for their support.

But their feast was no less typical than their vision.

Christ, who is our sacrifice, calls all his people to "eat his flesh, and to drink his blood." But we must not imagine that this refers to corporeal food; our Lord speaks of spiritual food, of which our souls are to partake by the exercise of faith on him. Yes, his atonement is indeed a feast to the soul; in this sense it may be truly said, "His flesh is food indeed; and his blood is drink indeed! John 6:53-56." On this we are to feed in the immediate presence of our God. However "far off we are, we may draw near by the blood of Jesus, Ephesians 2:13." Yes, "we may have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus Hebrews 10:19;" we may see God reconciled to us in him; and may rejoice in him as our God and portion forever. The wonders of his love are to be the continual banquet of our souls. His "exceeding great and precious promises" are "a feast of fat things, of wines on the lees well refined! Isaiah 25:6." Of these we are to "eat freely, and abundantly! Song of Solomon 5:1." We are to "sit under his shadow; and his fruit will be sweet unto our taste! Song of Solomon 2:3." Yes, "we shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, Psalm 63:5;" enjoying a "peace that surpasses all understanding," and being "filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory! 1 Peter 1:8."


1. Those who are afar off from God.

The prohibition given to the Israelites, is cancelled with respect to you. The veil of the temple was rent in twain at the death of Christ, in token that a new and living way was opened to all, and that all who believed, were constituted "a royal priesthood, 1 Peter 2:9." Will you then decline the invitation that is sent to you? We are commissioned to go forth into the highways and hedges to call you to the feast, which a God of infinite love has prepared for you. O come, and partake of it.

But remember that, in order to enjoy it, you must first accept the new covenant, and submit to be saved by the free mercy of God in Christ Jesus. Sprinkle yourself with the blood of Christ, your all-atoning sacrifice for sin; and then you may have fellowship both with the Father and the Son, and feast before God forever on the provisions of redeeming love.

2. Those who are inclined to rest in external privileges.

Such was the case with the greater part of those to whom the text refers. One would have supposed that they could never have forgotten their obligations to God, or have ceased to serve him; but, alas! in a very little time, Nadab and Abihu were struck dead for their impiety; and of the seventy elders, not one, as far as we know, held fast his integrity. They were ready, as indeed were all the people also, to profess their allegiance to the Deity, "All that the Lord has said, will we do, and be obedient;" but they soon forgot their pious resolutions, and revolted from their duty.

Beware, brethren, lest it be so with you. It will be to very little purpose to say at last, "Lord, Lord, have we not eaten and drunk in your presence? Luke 13:26." If you have "not been steadfast in his covenant," your outward professions, or past experiences, will avail little. Maintain therefore continually your dependence upon Christ; and, in his strength, exert yourselves to fulfill his holy will.

3. Those who are coming to the table of their Lord.

We ask not whether you have a deep experience of divine truth, but whether you have fled to Christ from the terrors of the law? Have you seen yourselves condemned by the covenant of works; and are you seeking mercy through the covenant of grace? Are you really sprinkling yourselves with the blood of Christ, your great sacrifice, and coming to God through him alone? If so, behold, there is a table spread, and you are called to come and feast upon your sacrifice in the presence of your God.

Come there in faith; and your God will make his glory to pass before your eyes. Yes, Christ will "reveal himself to you in the breaking of bread, Luke 24:31; Luke 24:35," "and fill you with "his loving-kindness, which is better than life itself." Thus shall you be strengthened for all future services, until at last you shall be called to "eat and drink at Christ's table in the kingdom of your Father! Luke 22:30."




Exodus 25:8-9

"Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you."

The more minutely we consider the Mosaic economy, the more we find it fraught with the richest instruction; and we are persuaded, that, if the lovers of literature had any idea what inexhaustible treasures of wisdom and knowledge are contained in it, they would not be so regardless of it, as they too generally are. We cannot read a single chapter without seeing ample ground for this remark. To go no further than the text; wherein we have the command of God to build a tabernacle for him, and to fit it up in a peculiar manner. Even upon the face of this command there is something that invites inquiry; but, when we have explored its hidden sense, we shall discover in it a deep mystery, and derive from it much important information.

Let us consider then the directions,

I. As given to the Jews.

In order to obtain a clear and just view of the subject, it will be proper to notice,

1. The general direction.

God delights in the exercise of mercy. Mercy prompted him to separate for himself a peculiar people in the midst of a ruined world. Mercy led him to reveal himself to them in such a way as to impress them with a solemn sense of his majesty; and afterwards to give an order respecting the making of a sanctuary for him, where they might obtain more easy and familiar access to him, and he might the more abundantly display unto them the riches of his grace. It was not for his own accommodation that he gave the order, (for "the Heaven of heavens cannot contain him,") but for their benefit; that, by seeing him continually in the midst of them, they might know that he was in a peculiar manner their God. It was an honor to them that he would accept their offerings, and that he would condescend to dwell in a habitation, such as his poor and sinful creatures could provide for him.

2. The particular limitation of it.

Such things only as he appointed were to be used either in the framing, or the furnishing, of the tabernacle; and, that everything might be formed agreeably to his mind, he not only gave to Moses a general description of what was to be done, but showed him a model of every individual thing that was to be made; and enjoined him to make it exactly according to the pattern shown to him in the mount. This order was given to Moses repeatedly, and with very peculiar force and emphasis; and his strict adherence to it in every particular is, in the last chapter of this book, mentioned no less than eight times, once after every separate piece of furniture that was made, Exodus 40:16-33.

In the New Testament too his compliance with the command is repeatedly noticed, and the very order itself expressly quoted, Acts 7:44; Hebrews 8:5.

Now what was the reason of this limitation? Why must only such and such things be made; and they of such precise materials and shape? The reason was, The whole was intended to typify things under the Gospel dispensation; and as none but God could know all the things which were to be prefigured, so none but he could know infallibly how to designate them to the best effect. Had Moses been left to contrive anything out of his own mind, there might have lacked a correspondence between the type and the antitype; but when a model of everything was shown him by God himself, the whole must of necessity accord with the mind and purpose of him for whom they were made.

We forbear to particularize the correspondence between the shadows and the substance, because that cannot be profitably done without entering more fully into the subject than our time at present will admit of; but that the correspondence was designed by God, and actually exists, and was the end for which such precise orders were given, is beyond all doubt.

Hebrews 8:5, "They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in Heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: "See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain."

Hebrews 9:8-10, "The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings--external regulations applying until the time of the new order."

But the directions in our text had not merely a typical reference; for it may properly be considered,

II. As applicable to us.

The tabernacle typified, not only the Lord Jesus, "in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily," but us also.

"The Church of God is his house, 1 Timothy 3:15," "the habitation of God through the Spirit, Ephesians 2:21-22." Yes, every believer is himself "the temple of the living God; as God has said; I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people, 2 Corinthians 6:16." Moreover, God himself, commending the fidelity of Moses in constructing everything according to his order, draws for us the parallel between the tabernacle erected by him—and that which Christ possesses in our hearts, "Moses truly was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; but Christ as a Son over his own house; whose house are we, Hebrews 3:5-6." The truth is, that "God dwells not in temples made with hands." Even while his tabernacle and temple were yet standing, God testified respecting them, that the temple which alone he regarded, was a broken and contrite spirit! Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 66:1-2 with Acts 7:47-50.

To us therefore may the direction fitly be addressed.

My brethren, make a sanctuary for the Lord, that he may dwell among you; let every one willingly present unto him his heart, and entreat him to fill it with his presence. Let his habitation too be furnished with everything suited to the worship which you have to offer. You are not called to carnal ordinances, and therefore have no need of such things as were needed under the Jewish dispensation. It is with the gifts and graces of the Spirit that you are to serve and honor God.

Abound therefore in them. Grudge no expense whereby you may obtain them. Let them all be formed according to the model shown you in the mount. In Christ Jesus you have a perfect pattern of them all. "Look to it," that your graces accord with his. Let none be lacking, none be different. Let the command of God be the reason of all that you present unto him, the example of Christ the pattern, and the glory of God the end. Whatever you have brought with you out of Egypt (out of your unconverted state) honor God with it; let it be gold and silver, or talents of any kind, consecrate them to the Lord; make use of them for the building of his tabernacle, and the exalting of his glory in the world.

More especially, remember to be conformed to the pattern in this respect; his tabernacle was most glorious within; on the outside were rams' skins, and badgers' skins; but within, all was of gold and linen exquisitely wrought. O that our interior might be such, as most to glorify our God! We are far from saying that the exterior should be neglected; but it should be modest and unassuming; and those who from their connection with us can penetrate within the veil, should see that our hidden virtues are the most eminent, and that God is most honored in those dispositions and habits of ours, which are most concealed from public view.

In vain are you baptized into the name of the Sacred Trinity, if you do not "observe and do all things Christ has commanded you;" nor indeed can you in any other way hope for the accomplishment of that promise, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world! Matthew 28:19-20."

Let me therefore entreat you to seek for "grace" whereby you may serve God acceptably; and to make the blessed resolution of the Psalmist, that "you will give neither sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eye-lids, until you have found a place (in your own hearts) for the Lord—a habitation for the mighty God of Jacob! Psalm 132:2-5."




Exodus 28:29-30

"So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel on the breastplate of judgment over his heart, when he goes into the holy place, as a memorial before the LORD continually. And you shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaron's heart when he goes in before the LORD. So Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel over his heart before the LORD continually."

Little do men in general imagine what treasures of knowledge are contained in the Old Testament. There is little revealed concerning Christ in the New Testament, which was not prefigured in the Mosaic ritual. As everything relating to his life and death may be clearly seen in the prophets, so everything relating to his office and character may be learned from the ceremonial law. Even the ornaments of the high-priest were intended to shadow forth some of the most important offices which our blessed Lord sustains. That particular ornament which we propose to notice at present, is the breastplate of judgment; respecting which we shall point out,

I. Its primary use.

It will be proper, before we speak of its use, to show what the breastplate was.

The priest wore an ephod, (a kind of short coat without sleeves,) made of fine linen, richly embroidered. The breastplate was a piece of fine linen, which, when doubled, was a span square. Upon that were placed twelve precious stones, each of them having the name of one of the tribes (according to their seniority) engraved upon it. This was worn upon the bosom, over the ephod; and the high-priest was to wear it whenever he went into the presence of God; and it was called "the breastplate of judgment," because God, by means of it, communicated his mind and judgment to him respecting the children of Israel.

Within this breastplate were placed the Urim and the Thummim. What these were, we are not informed. Many have thought, that they were not distinct from the stones; and that the terms Urim and Thummim merely designated the use to which those stones were applied. But the language of the text, especially when confirmed by Leviticus 8:8, leaves no doubt, but that the Urim and Thummim were distinct from the breastplate, and were "put into" it after it was made. It is no objection to say, that the one is sometimes mentioned without the other, or, that we know not who made the Urim and Thummim, or what they were. It is sufficient for us to know, that they were added to the breastplate, and that they were appointed for a very important purpose.

The particular use of the breastplate shall now be distinctly declared.

The breastplate thus formed, was to be worn by the high-priest, whenever he performed the duties of his office. It was suspended from his shoulders by two golden chains, fixed to two onyx-stones; on which, as well as on the twelve stones, were engraved all the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, six on each stone; and both the one and the other were "for a memorial before the Lord continually." We must understand this as spoken after the manner of men. We are not to suppose that God needs to be reminded of his people; but the sight of their names, whenever the high-priest came into his presence, was (so to speak) to remind him that he had a people who were to be the objects of his peculiar care.

The Urim and Thummim were for a different purpose. They were, in some way or other, to communicate answers to the high-priest, whenever he consulted God upon any matter relating to the civil or religious concerns of the nation. To inquire how the answers were given, whether by a secret suggestion to the mind of the high-priest, or by an audible voice, or in any other way, is vain; we should be content to be ignorant about those things whereon God has not seen fit to inform us. That the Urim and the Thummim were consulted, and not only by the high-priest, but by others without him; and that specific answers were obtained from God, is certain. Joshua, Numbers 27:21, and those who succeeded him in the government of Israel, Judges 1:1, sought instruction from God through the medium of these. The eleven tribes had the mind of God repeatedly made known to them in the same way, when they desired to be informed, whether they were to wage war against the offending tribe of Benjamin, Judges 20:18; Judges 20:23; Judges 20:27-28. David in various straits took counsel of God in this way, and had such information conveyed to him as was impossible for any but the omniscient God to impart, 1 Samuel 23:9-12; 1 Samuel 30:7; 1 Samuel 8. Saul asked counsel in the same way; but could not obtain an answer, because he had provoked God to cast him off, 1 Samuel 28:6. At the time of the Babylonian captivity, the Urim and the Thummim were lost, and were never afterwards recovered, Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65; until Christ, whom they typified, came to instruct us in all things that can at all conduce to our real welfare.

The very names, Urim and Thummim, serve in a great measure to designate their particular use. Their import is, Lights and Perfections; and they were for the express purpose of conveying light to those who consulted them, even such light as would perfectly and infallibly direct their way.

Thus, as the breastplate of judgment consisted of two different parts, so it was intended for two different uses:

the stones in it were for a memorial before God;

the Urim and Thummim that were in it, were for the obtaining of instruction from God.

But we shall have a very inadequate notion of the breastplate, unless we understand,

II. Its typical intent.

Few are so ignorant as to need to be informed, that Christ is our great High-Priest. Now the breastplate, of which we have been speaking, was designed to represent,

1. What Christ is doing for us.

Christ, in the execution of his priestly office, was to "enter into the holy place," there "to appear in the presence of God for us." Accordingly, after his resurrection, he ascended to Heaven, that he might there complete the work he had begun on earth. On his heart are engraved the names of all his people; on his shoulders he also bears them all; not one of them is forgotten by him; he presents them all before his Father, and is "their memorial before God continually."

God cannot even look upon his Son without being reminded, that there is in this lower world a people who need his incessant care. He sees at one view all their states, and all their circumstances. He sees how dear they are to his Son, who bears them ever on his heart; who sympathizes with them in their afflictions, and desires to have them extricated from all their difficulties. Were he disposed to be unmindful of them, he could not cast them out of his thoughts, or be deaf to the intercessions of our great High-Priest.

Here then is the security of all the children of God, "they have a great High-Priest, who is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God," who has undertaken their cause, and is their Advocate with the Father, and "who is therefore able to save them to the uttermost, because he ever lives to make intercession for them!"

2. What Christ will do in us.

In Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." There is no case wherein we may not consult him; nor any, wherein he will not grant to direct our steps. How he will answer us, we will not presume to say; he has ten thousand ways of making known his will, and of over-ruling our purposes, without at all infringing the liberty of our will, or altering the general dispensations of his providence. It is sufficient for us to know, that "the meek he will guide in judgment, the meek he will teach his way;" and that "whatever we ask of him he will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son."

From the consideration of his being our great and compassionate High-Priest, we are encouraged to come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help us in the time of need! Hebrews 4:14-16; and we are sure, that, if we come unto God through him, "we may ask what we will, and it shall be done unto us." We need not say, This is so great a matter, that it would be presumptuous in me to ask it; nor, This is so small, that it would be unworthy of his attention; for, whether it be great or small, he would spread it before his heavenly Father, and obtain for us an answer of peace; his light should dispel our darkness, and his perfections dissipate our fears; the weakest should not be left to faint, Isaiah 40:29-31, nor the most ignorant to err, Isaiah 35:8.

In this subject we may find abundant matter,

1. For reproof.

When we come into difficult circumstances, we are too apt to imagine, like the Church of old, that "God has forsaken and forgotten us." But if God reproved them by declaring, that "a nursing mother could sooner forget her nursing child than he could forget them, since they were engraved on the palms of his hands, Isaiah 49:14-16," how much more are we reproved by this typical representation of Christ, on whose shoulders we are supported, and on whose heart we are engraved! O let such unbelieving fears be put away! Let us "know in whom we have believed, that He is able to keep that which we have committed to him." Let us remember, that, while he retains his priestly office, and his Father retains his regard for him, "he will not allow one of his people to perish!"

2. For encouragement.

Our trials may be numerous, and our difficulties urgent; but our High-Priest is ever at hand, to inquire of God for us. Nor does he need to be informed by us, what to ask; for he "knows what is in man," and sees at the same time all the devices of our enemy. If only we lift up our hearts to him, his effectual aid shall be instantly obtained; for he is with us, to know our desires; and with God, to interest him in our favor. Let us then be encouraged to cast our care on him; and let us make him, what God has intended he should be to us, "our wisdom, and righteousness, our sanctification, and redemption! 1 Corinthians 1:30."




Exodus 28:36-38

"Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: HOLY TO THE LORD. Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. It will be on Aaron's forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron's forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the LORD."

If it were once ascertained that God had imposed a number of ordinances upon his people, we should be ready to conclude that his institutions were not mere arbitrary and insignificant laws, but that they had some spiritual meaning, worthy of their divine Author. But when we are informed by God himself, that many things, apparently most indifferent, were intended to shadow forth the great mystery of redemption, we are persuaded that not even the minutest ordinance among them was without some appropriate and important signification. But though we believe this, we do not presume to assign the meaning of each, any further than we are warranted by the Scriptures themselves. Instead of wandering into the regions of conjecture, we judge it more for general edification to confine ourselves to matters which are obvious and acknowledged.

The whole dress of the high-priest was unquestionably typical; and designated either the office of our great High-Priest, or his qualifications for the discharge of it. That part to which we would now direct your attention, is his mitre. This, as the text informs us, was a covering for his head (somewhat like the turbans worn in the East at this day); it was made of fine linen, and had, in the front of it, a gold plate, with this inscription, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. It was worn by him whenever he officiated in the temple. Through this the high-priest was considered as holy, and was the appointed means of expiating the defects that were in the services of the people, and of procuring acceptance for their persons. Now, while the end for which it was worn manifests, beyond a doubt, that the appointment was typical, it enables us to declare with certainty the true intention of the type.

This institution then was intended to foreshow,

I. The holiness of our great High-Priest.

Christ was in truth "the holy one of Israel" It was necessary that he should be spotless himself; for had he not been so, he could not have made atonement for us; yes, he would have needed an atonement for himself, Hebrews 7:26-27. 1 John 3:5. The utmost care was taken respecting the typical offerings, to ascertain that they were without blemish; and it seems to have been particularly ordained by God that the innocence of Jesus should be established by every possible proof, (and by the repeated testimony even of the judge that condemned him,) in order that his fitness, as our sin-offering, might appear. Thus was the type accomplished in him; and a sure foundation was laid for all the hopes that are built upon him.

II. The need we have of a saving interest in it.

The high-priest, so dressed, was to "bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the people should hallow." Their best services were imperfect, in manner at least, if not in the matter of them also; and they were to seek acceptance through the holiness of their high-priest alone.

Thus it is with us also. All that we do is imperfect. The best service we ever performed was mixed with sin, and needed an atonement to be made for it. Without an atonement, it could never have been regarded by a holy God. This was strongly marked in the ordinance before us, and ought to be remembered by us as a ground for the deepest humiliation.

III. Its efficacy in our behalf.

The people's services were, through this typical holiness of their high-priest, accepted by God, notwithstanding the imperfection of them; nor shall ours be despised, if we trust in the merits and mediation of the Lord Jesus. This was beautifully represented under the Mosaic dispensation by the acceptance of leavened bread, Leviticus 2:11 with 7:13 and 23:17, and mutilated beasts Leviticus 22:21-23, when offered as thank-offerings, and not as offerings for sin; and the same encouraging truth is plainly asserted in the New Testament, Hebrews 13:15; 1 Peter 2:5. Let us only be savingly interested in "the spotless Lamb of God," and all that we do in his name shall find acceptance before God.

This subject is well calculated,

1. To humble the self-righteous.

What room can there be for trusting in our own righteousness, when the most righteous act we ever performed had an iniquity in it which needed to be borne by our great High priest? Lay aside your proud thoughts, and "seek to be found in Christ, not having your own righteousness, but his."

2. To encourage the desponding.

Be it so; you are a sinner, "but if any man sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;" and through him you may draw near to God with boldness and confidence! Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 10:19-22.

3. To direct and animate the godly.

You are now "priests unto God;" and are to have holiness to the lord written upon your foreheads, Zechariah 14:20, that it may be visible to God and man. Remember that "God will be sanctified in all who draw near unto him, Leviticus 10:3; Psalm 93:5;" and that "as He who has called you is holy, so must you be holy in all you do, 1 Peter 1:15-16; 1 Peter 2:9."




Exodus 30:7-10

"Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly before the LORD for the generations to come. Do not offer on this altar any other incense or any burnt offering or grain offering, and do not pour a drink offering on it. Once a year Aaron shall make atonement on its horns. This annual atonement must be made with the blood of the atoning sin offering for the generations to come. It is most holy to the LORD."

The little acquaintance which Christians in general have with the Mosaic Law, unfits them for the reception of that instruction which the Law is well calculated to convey. Doubtless, to find the precise import of all its ordinances is beyond the power of man. But there is much of it explained in the New Testament; and much may properly be explained from analogy; and the light which it reflects on the truths of Christianity would richly repay any efforts that were made for the discovery of it.

In the altar of incense, in its materials, for instance, or its structure, we are not aware that any mystery of practical importance is contained, except indeed that it was preeminently holy, and therefore required peculiar sanctity in those who should approach it. Its situation too, as immediately before the mercy-seat, and separated from it only by the veil which divided the sanctuary from the holy of holies, marked in a peculiar way, that those who burnt incense upon it were to consider themselves as more than ordinarily near to God, and to have in exercise every disposition that befits them in so high and holy an employment. The use to which it was ordained, is the point to which I would more particularly call your attention. And we may consider it,

I. As a typical institution.

And here are two things particularly to be noticed in relation to it, namely:

1. Its daily use.

Aaron himself in the first instance, and afterwards other priests in their courses, Luke 1:8-9, was to trim the lamps every morning and evening, and to light any of them that might have gone out. At these seasons, he was to take fire from the altar of burnt-offering, and to put it on a censer, and to burn incense with it upon the altar of incense. This, I say, he was to do every morning and evening; and that was called "a perpetual incense before the Lord."

This, beyond all doubt, was intended to typify the Lord Jesus Christ, who, as our great "High-Priest, is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man, Hebrews 8:1-2." To him is assigned the office of interceding for his Church and people; and he has ascended up into the more immediate presence of his God for that end; as says the Apostle, "Christ has not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into Heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us! Hebrews 9:24." There he superintends the lamps of his sanctuary, "walking among the seven golden candlesticks, which are the seven Churches, Revelation 1:13; Revelation 1:20; Revelation 2:1," and either trimming or furnishing them with supplies of oil, as their various necessities may require. At the same time he offers up to God his intercessions for them, pleading with him in behalf of every individual, and obtaining for them all those blessings which they more particularly stand in need of.

To the Aaronic priests God had said, "There will I meet with you;" and no doubt he did, in numberless instances, as well as in that of Zachariah, Luke 1:11-13, grant to them there more peculiar answers to their prayers. Our Great Intercessor could say, "I know that you hear me always, John 11:42;" nor can we doubt but that myriads of his people are either preserved from falling, or restored after their falls, purely through "his intercession for them, that their faith may not ultimately fail, Luke 22:32."

2. Its annual expiation.

It was enjoined that "an atonement should be made upon the horns of this altar once a year with the blood of the sin-offering of the atonements." And this, I apprehend, was to show that without the blood of atonement, no intercession could be of any avail. An atonement must be made for sin; and "without it there could be no remission, Hebrews 9:22." The blood, too, that must be put on this altar must be the blood of bullocks, and not either of goats or lambs; for in the very same offering which was made for sins of ignorance, the blood or bullocks which was shed for a priest, and for the whole congregation, was put upon the horns of the altar of incense; whereas that which was shed for a ruler, or a common person, which was of goats and lambs, was put upon the altar of burnt-offering; by which the sins of priests were marked as of greater enormity than the sins of others; and the altar of incense as of higher sanctity than the altar of burnt-offering. Compare Leviticus 4:7; Leviticus 4:18 with Leviticus 4:22; Leviticus 4:25; Leviticus 4:27; Leviticus 4:30; Leviticus 4:34.

This is very strongly expressed in the New Testament, there being always a superior efficacy ascribed to the intercession of Christ than even to his death. Thus when, to the question, "Who is he that condemns?" the Apostle answers, "It is Christ that died," he adds, "yes rather, who is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us! Romans 8:34."

Again, in the Epistle to the Hebrews he lays the greatest stress on the intercession of Christ as being the most effectual for the salvation of his people, "He is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them! Hebrews 7:25."

And to the same effect, also, in his Epistle to the Romans, "If when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life! Romans 5:10." Whether this was intended to be marked by the atonement being only annual, while the offering of incense was daily, I pretend not to say. I would apprehend not. I should rather think that that part of the appointment signified that Christ would make the expiation but once, while his intercession would be continual; but, at all events, the union of the two is absolutely indissoluble; as John intimates, when he says, "If any man sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who is also the atoning sacrifice for our sins! 1 John 2:1."

In fact, his atonement is the very plea which he offers in our behalf. When the high-priest entered within the veil, immediately after burning the incense he sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice upon the mercy-seat and before the mercy-seat, Leviticus 16:11-14; intimating thereby, that all his hope of acceptance, whether for himself or others, was founded on the sacrifice which he had offered.

Precisely thus does the Lord Jesus Christ prevail; for it is in consequence of his having offered his soul a "sacrifice for sin," that he is authorized to expect a spiritual seed to be secured to him; and in consequence of his "having borne the sins of many," that he confidently and with effect "makes intercession for the transgressors! Isaiah 53:10; Isaiah 53:12."

I have observed, that we may yet further consider this ordinance,

II. As an emblematic rite.

In this view it marks,

1. The privilege of Christians.

We have before said, that common priests were ordained to officiate at this altar. And are not we "a royal priesthood? 1 Peter 2:9." Are not we "made kings and priests unto our God? Revelation 1:5-6." Yes; and "the prayers we present to God come up before him as incense; and the lifting up of our hands is as an evening sacrifice, Psalm 141:2."

In this manner are we privileged to draw near to God. We, every one of us, "have, through Christ, access by one Spirit unto the Father, Ephesians 2:18;" yes, "we have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, Hebrews 10:19," and to prostrate ourselves at the very footstool of God himself. Did God say to Aaron, "I will meet you there?" So says he to us also, "Draw near to me; and I will draw near to you, James 4:8." Nor need we go to Jerusalem, or to his tabernacle to find him; for he has said, that "in every place incense should be offered to him, and a pure offering, Malachi 1:11." And, that we may feel ourselves more at liberty to approach him, his altar under the Christian dispensation is represented as of wood, and not of gold, and as being four times the size of that which was made for his tabernacle, Ezekiel 41:22; to denote, I apprehend, the greater simplicity of Gospel worship, and the admission of all nations to the enjoyment of it.

We must indeed pay particular attention to that caution given to Aaron in the text, "You shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt-sacrifice, nor meat-offering; neither shall you pour a drink-offering thereon." The incense was to be that alone which God had appointed; and special care was taken to make no confusion between the offerings belonging to the altar of burnt-offering, which were for an atonement, and that which was proper to the altar of incense, which was for acceptance only.

Thus, when drawing near to God in prayer, we must not bring the fervor of mere carnal spirits, which are so often mistaken for true devotion; but a broken and contrite spirit, which alone sends forth an fragrance that is well pleasing to God, Psalm 51:17.

Nor must we imagine that by our prayers, or by anything else that we can bring to God, we can atone for sin, or contribute in the least degree towards the efficacy of Christ's atonement; these must be kept quite distinct; and while our prayers are offered on the altar of incense, our pleas must be taken solely from the altar of burnt-offering, even from the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, "by whom alone our offerings can ascend to God, Hebrews 13:15," and "through whom alone they can be acceptable in his sight, 1 Peter 2:5."

In this manner we are to approach God, while we go in before him to trim our lamps, and to have them duly supplied with oil. Every morning and evening at the least must the fragrance of our incense ascend up before God; or, as the Apostle says, we must "pray without ceasing, 1 Thessalonians 5:17;" and we may be sure that "God will meet with us," and bless us in all that we solicit at his hands, "However wide we open our mouth, he will fill it, Psalm 81:10;" yes, "he will do for us exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think, Ephesians 3:20."

2. The ground of their acceptance in the use of it.

This is strongly marked in the annual atonement made on this altar. Day and night was the priest to officiate there; yet, after he had presented incense on that altar for a whole year, he must make atonement on the altar with blood.

Just so, however much or devoutly we pray, we must trust, not in our prayers, but in the great Sacrifice that has been offered for us. Yes, our very prayers need that sacrifice; the very best service we ever offered, needed an atonement; nor could it come up with acceptance before God, if it were not washed in the Redeemer's blood, and presented to God by him!

Hear what John says, in the book of Revelation, "Another angel came, (the Angel of the Covenant, the Lord Jesus,) and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar that was before the throne; and the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God, out of the angel's hand, Revelation 8:3-4." "Were God to call us into judgment for the very best prayer we ever offered, we could not answer him for one of a thousand, Job 9:3;" no, nor for one during our whole lives; but when cleansed in the Redeemer's blood, both our persons and our services shall be regarded by God as pure, even "without spot or blemish! Ephesians 5:25-27."

Of course, it is here supposed that we harbor no willful sin within us; for, "if we regard iniquity in our hearts, God will not hear us Psalm 66:18;" our very "incense will be an abomination to him, Isaiah 1:13;" and, in offering it, "we shall be as though we offered swine's blood, or blessed an idol, Isaiah 66:3." But, if we "draw near to God with a true heart, we may also approach him with full assurance of faith, Hebrews 10:22."

Let us see here,

1. How highly we are privileged under the Christian dispensation.

The Jews were privileged, and highly too, in comparison with all the nations of the earth, in that they had ordinances of divine appointment, in the due observance of which they might find favor with God.

But how infinitely are we distinguished above the Jews themselves! We have not to seek the intervention of a man, a sinful man, yes, and a dying man, who must soon leave his office to another, and be followed by an endless succession of sinners like himself. We have a High-Priest, who is "Emmanuel, God with us;" "who needed not to offer first for his own sins, and then for the people's sins;" and "who, having an unchangeable priesthood, continues forever," and "is consecrated for evermore Hebrews 7:23-28." Moreover, we are not like the Jews, to whom all access to God in their own persons was prohibited; and who, if they had presumed to invade the priestly office, would have been made monuments of God's vengeance on the very spot.

No, we may draw near to God, every one of us for himself; even to God's throne may we go, and offer him our sacrifices with a certainty of acceptance. The way prepared for us is "a new and living way;" and while going to him in that way, "we may ask what we will, and it shall be done unto us;" yes, even "before we ask, he will answer; and while we are yet speaking, he will hear, Isaiah 65:24." Reflect on these privileges, brethren, and be thankful for them; and improve them diligently in the way prescribed.

2. What a holy people we should be unto the Lord.

What the priests were in their attendance on the altar, yes, what the Lord Jesus Christ himself is before the throne of God—that should we be, to the utmost of our power. We should be ever delighting ourselves in the exercise of prayer and praise, and dedicating our whole selves to the service of our God. Let our "lamps" be ever kept burning bright before the Lord. Let us obtain "from the sacred olive branches fresh supplies of golden oil through the golden pipes" of his word and ordinances, Zechariah 4:11-12; and let our whole deportment show, that we correspond with the description given us, "a people near unto the Lord! Psalm 148:14."




Exodus 30:14-16

"All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the LORD. The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the LORD to atone for your lives. Receive the atonement money from the Israelites and use it for the service of the Tent of Meeting. It will be a memorial for the Israelites before the LORD, making atonement for your lives."

It is always profitable to mark the accomplishment of the divine promises, that, from discovering the faithfulness of God, we may learn to acknowledge his providence, and depend upon his care. He had promised to Abraham, that "his seed should be as the stars of Heaven for multitude;" and, though their increase for about three hundred years was but small—yet, previous to their departure from Egypt, they had become exceeding numerous; and God appointed that they should be occasionally numbered, and a stated tax be levied on every individual, so that the fulfillment of his word might be made manifest.

In this appointment there were some circumstances peculiarly instructive, especially the equality of the tax, and the application of it to the service of the sanctuary.

Let us notice,

I. The tax levied.

The tax being "a ransom, and an atonement for their souls," had evidently a spiritual import; and from the same being leveled upon all, we observe,

1. That the souls of men are of equal value in the sight of God.

The half-shekel was equal to about fifteen-pence of our money; and this was to be paid by every one that was numbered, without any regard to his station or ability, "The rich were not to pay more, nor the poor less." Now as this was "a ransom and atonement for their souls," it is manifest, that all their souls were of equal value in the sight of God. And who is there that does not feel this?

There are many things in this world the value of which is purely imaginary, and depends upon the taste of the possessor; but the worth of the soul is real; the poorest of men has as deep an interest in the welfare of his own soul as the richest; Heaven is as desirable, and Hell as terrible—to the one as to the other; and God has an equal respect for both Job 34:19. Let not anyone despise others, as though their eternal interests were not to be consulted; or imagine that they themselves are overlooked by God, as though he did not will their salvation as much as that of any other person in the universe, 1 Timothy 2:4.

2. That all equally need reconciliation with God.

A ransom and an atonement were required for all; and as all of them needed mercy at God's hands, so do all of us. We are far from saying that all are equally sinful; for there doubtless are different degrees of guilt, and will be corresponding degrees of punishment; but this we say: that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; and consequently all are liable to "that wrath of God, which is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men."

We know that many conceive so highly of themselves, as to imagine that God would be unjust if he should consign them over to destruction. But such people have never considered what the law of God requires, or what it denounces against those who have violated its commands, Galatians 3:10. We willingly concede, that, in the eyes of men, some may be comparatively innocent; but, "before God, every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty."

3. That all must seek reconciliation with God on the same terms.

Here again we remark, that no difference was put between one and another; all were to offer the half-shekel as an atonement for their souls. It is by an atonement too, that we also must seek acceptance with God. None can merit forgiveness at his hands; none can do anything towards meriting it; the sin-atoning blood of Christ is that which alone can satisfy divine justice; and it is his obedience unto death which must constitute the justifying righteousness of all mankind, Isaiah 45:24-25; Jeremiah 23:6. Anything of our own, blended with that, or added to it, will invalidate it altogether. Salvation must be wholly of works, or of grace Romans 11:6; and if we cannot earn it by our works, (which no created being can,) then must we accept it altogether as "the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, Romans 6:23."

It is evident that so small a sum as half a shekel could not purchase the divine favor; it was a mere acknowledgment that they needed an atonement, and were willing to accept the favor of God on any terms that he should propose. Just so, our humiliation and faith can purchase nothing; but only manifest our cordial acquiescence in the way of salvation provided for us.

It will be yet further instructive to consider,

II. The use and application of the tax.

The tax was intended,

1. To obtain acceptance for the offerers.

The very terms "ransom," and "atonement," clearly show, that the offerers were considered as in a state of guilt and bondage; and they were warned, that, if they refused to pay "the atonement-money," they would bring upon themselves the divine displeasure. It was certainly an aggravation of David's sin in numbering the people, that, while he gratified his own pride and creature-confidence, he neglected to honor God by levying for him the appointed offering; and no less than seventy thousand of his subjects were destroyed in three days by a pestilence sent from God. This may give us some little idea of the vengeance that will overtake those who despise the atonement of Christ; and of the glorious deliverance which they shall obtain, who believe in him. The protection, the peace, the plenty, which his obedient people enjoyed in the wilderness, and their final possession of the promised land, represented the spiritual blessings which all "the ransomed of the Lord" shall eternally inherit.

2. To convey instruction to the rising generation.

The money, we are told, was to be "a memorial unto the children of Israel before the Lord." We read of different memorials in the Scriptures. The censers in which Korah and his company offered incense were taken out of the fire with which the offerers were consumed, and were made into plates for the covering of the altar, "to be a memorial, that none but the seed of Aaron come near to offer incense before the Lord, Numbers 16:36-40."

The jewels and bracelets of which the Israelites took from the slaughtered Midianites were presented to the Lord, "as a memorial unto the children of Israel," that not one of their own army fell, though the whole Midianite kingdom was utterly destroyed, Numbers 31:48-54.

Now such memorials were the half-shekels at the numbering of the people; they served to remind the whole nation of Israel, that, as sinners, they stood in need of an atonement, and that none who consecrated themselves to the service of their God would ever perish.

Such memorials too are all who now seek for mercy through the sin-atoning blood of Christ. They are as lights in a dark world; they unwittingly instruct all around them; as Noah by building the ark "condemned the world," and tacitly admonished them of the impending judgments, so do those who flee to Christ for refuge, testify to all around them, that there is salvation in Him, and in him alone.

3. To give honor unto God.

It was by these offerings, that the various services of the tabernacle (by which above all things God was honored) were maintained.

And who are they that now honor God in the world? Who are they that truly and spiritually maintain his worship? We fear not to say, that God is more acceptably served by his penitent and believing people, than by all the world besides. The gift of his only-begotten Son to die for us is that which he himself most commends to our attention; nor can he be more glorified on earth, or even in Heaven itself, than in acknowledgments of our obligations to him for this stupendous effort of his love.


Among the Israelites there were several classes exempt from the payment of this tax; but none among us can plead any exemption from that which is required of us, the tribute of a broken and contrite spirit.

1. Not the Levites.

These were not numbered for war, and therefore were not included in the tax, Numbers 1:47. But the Levites among us should be the very first to devote themselves to God, and to render to him that tribute, which they demand from others.

2. Not old people.

These for the same reason were omitted both in the numbering and the taxation. But who have so much cause to bear in mind the atonement of Christ, as they who are on the borders of eternity, and are so soon to stand at his judgment-seat? It is to be lamented, that people advanced in years too generally take for granted that all is well with them, though they have never sought "a ransom, or an atonement, for their souls." But let the aged among us be diligent in working out their salvation, and "so much the more as they see the day approaching."

3. Not women.

These were considered as included in the men; and therefore were not personally either taxed or numbered.

But our offerings must be personal; nothing can be done by proxy; as there is "neither Jew nor Greek among us, so is there neither male nor female;" all must be judged by their own works, and all must be accepted through their own faith.

4. Not children.

Persons under twenty years of age were not deemed strong enough for war, and therefore were passed over, Numbers 1:3. But who shall say at what age our responsibility to God begins? Who shall assign the limit at which God will "wink at," or condemn, the transgressions of his law? Surely this were presumptuous and dangerous ground; let not any of you dare to stand upon it.

If the services of a Samuel or a Timothy can be acceptable to God, the iniquities of childhood are provoking to him.

The tax required from you is not burdensome to any; seek not therefore, nor desire, an exemption from it. It is your heart, and not your property, that God requires. Present it to him as purchased by the blood of his dear Son, and you shall be numbered among his people to all eternity.




Exodus 30:25-31

"Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil. Then use it to anoint the Tent of Meeting, the ark of the Testimony, the table and all its articles, the lampstand and its accessories, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the basin with its stand. You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy. "Anoint Aaron and his sons and consecrate them so they may serve me as priests. Say to the Israelites, 'This is to be my sacred anointing oil for the generations to come.' "

Of the Ceremonial Law in general we may say, it was intended to shadow forth the Lord Jesus Christ in the whole of his work and offices. The Epistle to the Hebrews admirably illustrates it in this peculiar view, showing with minuteness and precision the scope and object of it as relating to him, and as fulfilled in him.

To his priesthood, in particular, the ordinance which we here read of more especially referred; for in the fortieth chapter, where the words of my text are, again almost literally repeated, it is said, "Their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations, Exodus 40:10-15."

But it is remarkable, that after the Babylonish captivity, this ointment, so far as we are informed, was never made. And this seems to have been permitted by God, in order to direct their minds to that richer unction, which they were to receive from their Messiah.

Previous to the time of Christ, the Holy Spirit was very sparingly and partially bestowed; as it is said, "The Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified, John 7:39;" but after the ascension of our Lord and Savior to Heaven, "the Spirit was shed forth abundantly" upon God's people, Titus 3:6; and from that time, multitudes, both of priests and people, have been wholly sanctified unto the Lord. Under this dispensation it is our happiness to live; so that, with a special reference to ourselves, I may well proceed to show,

I. The universal need there is of the Holy Spirit's influence.

There was nothing under the Law so holy, that it needed this divine unction.

"The tabernacle" itself, the immediate residence of the Deity; and "the ark," wherein the tables of the Law were placed, and which was a preeminent type of the Lord Jesus Christ, who fulfilled the Law for us; these, I say, were anointed; as were also "the table" of showbread, and the candlestick, the one representing Christ as the bread of life, and the other "as the light which enlightens every man that comes into the world."

Now, whence was it that these needed such purification? They were used in the service of sinful man, and therefore were polluted, and needed to be so purified; as Heaven itself, the abode of all the glorified hosts, is said to be; for "the patterns of things in the heavens were purified with these earthly sacrifices, while the heavenly places themselves were purified with better sacrifices than these, Hebrews 9:23."

That "Aaron and his sons" needed this holy ointment, we do not wonder, since they were sinners like unto us. But taking the whole together as used for sinful man, they serve to show us, that there is not a thing or person in the universe that must not be so sanctified, before God can find pleasure in any services presented to him.

Nor is there anything under the Gospel which does not need this divine unction.

What are the ordinances of religion, or what the souls of men, without the Holy Spirit? The ordinances are an empty form; and the hearts of men, "a cage of every unclean bird." Regard us as men, and everything we do is defiled before God. But consider us as priests, for into that office every true Christian in the universe is brought, 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6, and how can we approach the Most High God, and offer any acceptable sacrifice unto him, unless we are first consecrated with that divine unction, which God has promised to all who seek him in spirit and in truth, Luke 11:13. It is the duty of the greatest of men, and the privilege of the lowest, to get himself anointed with this holy oil. Even our Lord Jesus Christ himself, as man and as Mediator, needed it. We are informed, that "God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, Acts 4:27; Acts 10:38," Much more, therefore, must we, corrupt and sinful creatures, need, under all circumstances, his gracious communications; indeed we are expressly told, that, "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his Romans 8:9."

II. Holy Spirit's sufficiency for all to whom that influence is applied.

This appears,

1. From the preciousness of the ointment which was used.

The spices were peculiarly rare and fragrant; and the oil with which they were blended was most pure. And was this appointed for nothing? Doubtless this was intended to shadow forth the excellency of the Spirit's gifts; for on whoever he was poured, whether on the Savior himself or on any men—he was "a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and of might, a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord, and he made the person of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord, Isaiah 11:2-3."

There is not a faculty in man to which the Spirit's influence does not extend, or which it will not sanctify. The Spirit imparts:

light to the understanding,

subservience to the will,

purity to the affections,

tenderness to the conscience,

and holiness to the entire man.

The Spirit makes us altogether "a new creation," and sanctifies every offering which we present to God; so that "God smells a sweet savor from it, Philippians 4:18," and is well pleased with services which could not otherwise be accepted by him.

2. From the virtue infused into everything anointed with it.

Every vessel that was anointed with that ointment, imparted a sanctity to everything with which it came in contact. And thus, in like manner, every true Christian communicates to others, so far as his influence extends, the same divine principles which he himself has imbibed. As it was said of the Savior, so may it be said of all the Lord's anointed, "Their garments smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia, Psalm 45:8;" and wherever they come, they diffuse around them "the savor of the knowledge of Christ."

We cannot have a more complete idea of its efficacy, than the Corinthian Church, through the instrumentality of Paul, exhibited. In their unconverted state, many of them had been of a most abandoned character; yet, having drawn that character in all its most degraded forms, he says of them, "Such were some of you; but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11." Only let the Spirit of God accompany the word to the hearts of men, and the day of Pentecost fully shows us what effects it will produce.

I entreat you then, my brethren:

1. Seek the Holy Spirit for your own souls.

There is "an anointing of the Holy One," which every one of you may obtain, and which will operate upon you to your complete salvation, 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27.

But I must guard you against every counterfeit that may be mistaken for it. There is such a thing as mere enthusiasm; and it is by no means uncommon for people to mistake some feelings or conceits of their own for the sanctifying influences of the Spirit of God. And I must warn you, that, as any person compounding for himself an ointment similar to that which was made for God was to be cut off from his people, verse 33, so a substitution of anything in the place of God's Holy Spirit will infallibly outcome in your destruction. You shall not however err, if you go to your great High-Priest, and ask for the Holy Spirit at his hands; for he has been anointed with "the Spirit without measure, John 3:34;" and the Spirit who has been poured so largely upon him shall "descend to the skirts of his garments, Psalm 133:2," and to the very lowest of all his members.

2. Guard against everything that may reflect dishonor upon him.

The high-priest under the Law was forbidden to display those feelings which were incident to common men, because "the crown of the anointing oil was upon him, Leviticus 21:10-12." And you likewise, my brethren, if you have been indeed anointed with the Spirit of God, must show that superiority to earthly things, which would be in vain looked for from the natural and unconverted man. Very striking is that expression of Solomon, "As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor, Ecclesiastes 10:1." There is a sanctity about the Christian character which should be kept inviolate. If you are "sons of God, you should be blameless and harmless in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, shining among them as lights in the world, Philippians 2:15."

The Spirit of God may be soon "grieved;" yes, he may be even "vexed," and "quenched" by any deliberate sin; for sin in you will "cause the very name of God himself to be blasphemed." I beg you, then, walk wisely, and in a way "worthy of your high calling." Yes, "worthy also of Him who has called you unto his kingdom and glory." O "may the Spirit of God sanctify you wholly! and I pray God that your whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."




Exodus 31:6

"I have given special skill to all the gifted craftsmen so they can make all the things I have commanded you to make."

When the time is come for carrying into effect the purposes of God, difficulties, which appeared insurmountable, vanish, and "mountains become a plain." The obstacles which opposed the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, were only augmented until the precise hour for its accomplishment arrived; but at the appointed hour, even "the self-same night," they not only went out unmolested, but were actually thrust out by their oppressors. At the Red Sea, an interposition equally seasonable was given to them; as was also a supply both of bread and water in the wilderness, in the hour of need. Those who looked only to second causes judged the various blessings as unattainable; but, on all the occasions, God showed that there was nothing impossible to him; and that whatever he had ordained, should not fail for lack of means and instruments whereby to effect it. Having brought his people into the wilderness, he commanded a tabernacle to be reared, and to be furnished with a great diversity of vessels proper for his service. The most costly materials were to be used, and the most exquisite workmanship employed, in the structure of the whole. But where should all the materials be found? Behold! the Egyptians themselves had loaded the Israelites with them to an immense amount, no one throughout the whole land of Egypt refusing to an Israelite anything that he required.

Still, though gold and silver and precious stones and other things were found among them, and were granted by them with a liberal hand, who was there among the whole nation that could fashion them according to the model shown to Moses in the mount? They had been so oppressed, that it would be in vain to look for people sufficiently skilled in works of gold and jewelry and embroidery, to execute all that was required for the occasion. But was the work therefore delayed? No; God, by his Spirit, instructed two people, Bezalel and Aholiab, with a perfect knowledge of the whole work; and, under their superintendence, others were speedily qualified for executing the office assigned to him; so that the whole was finished within the short space of nine months. Every one performed his part aright, because "in the heart of all that were wise-hearted God had put wisdom."

From this remarkable expression I shall take occasion to point out, in reference to "wisdom,"

I. Its only source.

The wisdom here spoken of, proceeds from God.

Whatever difference may be occasioned in men by education, the original faculty of understanding is our Creator's gift. Some, indeed, are born into the world destitute of any rational powers; if, therefore, we have been favored with them, we are the more indebted to the goodness of our heavenly Father. It is probable that among the poor, or even among the uncivilized part of mankind, many possess by nature as much strength of intellect as the most learned philosopher; while, for lack of the advantages of education, they have never been able to turn it to any good account. If, therefore, we have enjoyed the means and opportunities of cultivation which have been withheld from others, we must ascribe that also to God, who in this respect, also, has made us to differ.

The Scriptures trace to this same source the wisdom manifested by the gardener in ploughing his ground and threshing out the corn, "Does the plowman plow all day to sow? Does he open the clods of his ground? His God instructs him to discretion, and does teach him. This also comes forth from the Lord of Hosts, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working Isaiah 28:24-29."

We wonder not, therefore, that the skill so suddenly given to Bezalel, and to all who worked under him, is ascribed to God; for that was indeed truly miraculous.

But the declaration which traces it to God, extends to every kind and every measure of wisdom; and consequently constrains us to give God the glory of every faculty we possess, and of all the improvement that we have made of it. We are not left in any respect to boast in our abilities; the whole honor must be given to God, and to God alone.

But to the same source must we yet more eminently trace the attainment of spiritual wisdom.

Of this, no measure whatever is born with man, or is natural to man. "He is born like a wild donkey's colt." As for "the things of the Spirit of God, they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

Nor is wisdom the product of mere human instruction; for "the world by wisdom knew not God." The Apostles, when instructed in divine knowledge, traced the acquisition to the only true source, "We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God."

Even the Messiah himself was instructed for the discharge of his office by the very same Spirit who wrought in Bezalel for the forming of the tabernacle. Of Bezalel it is said, "I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship;" and of Jesus it is said, "The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and of might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord, Isaiah 11:2-3."

The same Spirit will be given to us also, to enlighten our minds with saving knowledge; for Paul says, "I pray always for you, that God may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of his calling, Ephesians 1:17-18." To him, then, must every man look for wisdom; and from him shall every man receive it, who seeks it in a befitting way, Proverbs 2:1-6. As Bezalel and Aholiab were instructed at once how to perform all manner of work; and as the disciples of Christ, poor uneducated fishermen, were enabled at once to speak different kinds of tongues; so shall the Spirit impart to us also, according to our respective necessities, that we may both know and do all that God has required of us.

In the works to which this consummate wisdom was to be applied, we may see,

II. Its most appropriate use.

This wisdom given for the formation of the tabernacle.

For that work it was indispensably necessary; for the things which were to be formed had never been seen before; no, nor anything like them; and for such sacred vessels the most exquisite skill was required. Had even angels been employed in the formation of this structure, their utmost abilities would have been well employed.

And have not we a similar use for the wisdom bestowed on us?

Behold "the tabernacle of David which is broken down!" does not that need to be reared again? Amos 9:11-12 with Acts 15:16-17. Are not the whole race of mankind to be formed as "vessels of honor fit for their Master's use?" But who can discharge this office? If Paul, with all his endowments, was constrained to ask, "Who is sufficient for these things, 2 Corinthians 2:16." how much more must we? For, who among us has such an insight into the deep mysteries of the Gospel, as to be fully assured that he shall in no respect deviate from "the pattern shown" to Prophets and Apostles "in the mount?" Or who shall undertake to fashion the crude materials of the human heart after the perfect image of our God? Who that knows anything of Jewish prejudice or Gentile superstition, shall attempt to cope with them in his own strength, or hope to reduce them to the obedience of faith? Truly the Preacher of the Gospel needs to be endued with wisdom from above, with wisdom too of no ordinary measure, for the work to which he is called; and all the talents that the most distinguished philosopher can possess, will find ample scope for exercise in this great work.

In comparison with rearing a tabernacle for the Lord, what is there under Heaven that deserves a thought? If the forming of the shadows of divine truth was a just employment of supernatural skill, doubtless an exhibition of the substance may profitably engage all the talents that were ever confided to mortal man.

To all, then, I would say,

1. Acknowledge God in all the talents you possess!

Not only Bezalel and Aholiab, but all who were employed in the different departments of the work, were taught of God. So, whatever ability we have for the constructing of God's spiritual tabernacle, we have received it from the same heavenly source, and must ascribe the glory of it altogether to our God. Let this be borne in mind, and none will envy those who are endowed with greater talents than themselves, or despise those who are called to occupy a humbler post. The eye in the natural body vaunts not itself above the hand, nor the hand above the foot; but each is satisfied with executing the work for which it is fitted and ordained; so let it be with us; every one doing what God has called him to, and every one seeking the glory of God in all that lie performs.

2. Improve your talents for the end for which they have been committed to you.

At the formation of the tabernacle, everyone engaged, according to his ability, to expedite the work. Men, women, rulers, all accounted it their honor to be employed for God, Exodus 35:21; Exodus 35:24-27; and "so," we are told, "it became one tabernacle, Exodus 36:13." And who can say what the effect would be, if all men, women, and rulers, engaged heartily in the work of God, and labored to advance his glory in the world?

Beloved brethren, let us not sit down in despair, because the work is too great and arduous. God can fit us for it, however ignorant we are; and can bless us in it, however unequal we may be for the task assigned us. Only let it be said of every one among us, "He has done what he could," and we shall yet see glorious days among us; and God will rear his tabernacle, and glorify himself, as in the days of old.

But, for this end, it is necessary that you "stir up your hearts;" for, by nature, they are sadly averse to it. Nor need we fear that any exertions of ours will exceed the demand for them. The materials for the tabernacle, and the work, were soon supplied, when a whole nation were willing and active in the cause; but there is no fear that we shall have to bid you to cease either from your offerings or your labors, Exodus 36:5-7. The whole world is the tabernacle which you are to rear; and every soul within it is a vessel you are to form for God's honor. Go on then, all of you, both in your individual and collective capacity, without intermission and without weariness; so shall the work proceed to the honor of our God, and a rich recompense be treasured up for your own souls.




Exodus 32:19-20

"When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it."

It is painful to reflect how transient is the effect of the most laborious ministry, and in how many instances hopeful appearances of piety come to nothing. If ever any man was faithful, it was Moses; of whom God himself says, "He was faithful in all his house." And if ever there was reason to expect that the work of conversion had taken place upon many hundreds of thousands of people, it was when Israel were singing praises to their God on occasion of their deliverance at the Red Sea. It might well be supposed, that their gratitude to God on that occasion, deepened by the awe impressed upon their minds at the thunders of Mount Sinai, would never be forgotten. But, behold! Moses, summoned as he was by God into the holy mount, in order that he might receive from Jehovah a written copy of that Law which had been just proclaimed, had not been absent from the people forty days, before they all concurred in asking Aaron to make for them a God whom they might worship, and who should go before them in their way to the promised land; and even Aaron himself became an active confederate in this horrible apostasy. As for Moses, they seem to have lost all respect for him, as well as all befitting reverence for Jehovah, whose minister he was.

Of this, God apprised Moses; and at last sent him down in haste to the people, that he might see with his own eyes what impiety they were committing. Moses, therefore, hastened down from the mount; and, filled with indignation against them for their wickedness, he testified his displeasure in the way recorded in our text.

Let us consider,

I. The grounds of Moses' indignation.

The worshiping of the golden calf was a sin of most extraordinary enormity.

Such interpositions in their behalf had that people seen, as never had been witnessed by any other people under Heaven. And they were still within sight of that burning mount where Jehovah himself, their great Deliverer—had given to them his visible presence. They had but just before, too, received an express command to make no symbol of the Deity, Exodus 20:4, nor to keep in existence any of the gods of the heathen, but to "destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire;" and not so much as to "desire the silver or gold that was on them, or to take it unto them, lest they should be snared therein; but they were utterly to detest and abhor it, as an accursed thing! Deuteronomy 7:5; Deuteronomy 7:25-26."

Yet, behold! within less than forty days, they desire Aaron to make them a golden image, similar, probably, to what they had seen in Egypt, Ezekiel 20:8; and they take the ear-rings from their sons and from their daughters for the purpose of forming it; and, having formed it, they offer sacrifices to it, and ascribe to it the honor of all their past deliverances, saying, "These are your gods, O Israel, which have brought you up out of the land of Egypt, verses 1–8."

This was plain and unequivocal idolatry. Perhaps they might be ready to deny this charge, just as the Papists have since done; and to say, that they only looked to the calf as a symbol, to remind them of the Deity, to whom alone they had respect in all the worship that they paid. They might say, that they could not be supposed to ascribe their deliverance to that which but a few days before was in their own ears, and had no collective existence until it was cast into a mold and made a calf.

But God declares it to have been idolatry, as all the worship paid to images and crucifixes by the Church of Rome also is; as the Apostle, in reference to this very transaction, says, "Neither be idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play. Compare with 1 Corinthians 10:7." Here, then, was ample occasion for the hot displeasure of Moses.

And is there no similar evil prevalent among us?

As Protestants, we have discarded the idolatrous practices of the Church of Rome. But we may "set up idols in our hearts! Ezekiel 14:3," as well as in our houses; we may have the love of money there; and that is expressly designated by the opprobrious name of idolatry, "Covetousness," says the Apostle, "is idolatry Colossians 3:5." We may be addicted to sensual appetites; and then we make, as we are told, "a God of our belly, Philippians 3:19." "The loving and serving of the creature more than the Creator, Romans 1:23," in whatever way we do it, is the very essence of idolatry; and "provokes the Lord to jealousy, 1 Corinthians 10:22," as much without an external symbol, as with one. God says, "My son, give me your heart;" and if that is withheld from him, he is justly filled with indignation against us!

Let me, then, bring home this matter more closely to your hearts and consciences.

The Israelites professed to celebrate their redemption from Egypt; and having presented their sacrifices of burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, "they sat down to eat and to drink (of the portion of the peace-offerings which was allowed to them, and rose up to play." And, when Moses came down from the mount, he heard, while yet at some distance, their carnal revelry; which they judged a befitting mode of honoring their great Deliverer.

Now at this Christmas season, we profess to commemorate the Redemption, not of a single nation, but of the whole world; and not by power only, but by price—even the precious blood of God's only dear Son. We commemorate, I say, the Incarnation of the Son of God, for the deliverance of our souls from sin and Satan, death and Hell. And in what way do we commemorate it? Is not this season proverbially devoted to carnal mirth? We present our offerings, if I may so say, on the day appointed; and throughout the whole season, with the exception of two or three hours, "we sit down to eat and to drink, and rise up to play!" Such is our religion, precisely like that of those impious idolaters!

To the honor of the Levites, it must be acknowledged that they did form an exception to this national transgression. Would to God the like could be said of our Levites! or even of our Aarons! But, with us, Levites and Aarons too are found, for the most part, sanctioning, by their presence and example, these sad enormities; as if Christ had come for no better purpose than to give us a more ample occasion for carnal indulgence!

Judge, then, whether God may not well be filled with indignation against us, as he was against his less enlightened and less indebted people of that day?

Having seen the grounds of Moses' indignation, let us proceed to mark,

II. Moses' expressions of it.

1. He broke before their eyes the tables of the Law, which God had committed to him.

Was this done in a fit of rage? No! The manner in which Moses, forty years afterwards, relates it, sufficiently proves this. See Deuteronomy 9:16-17. It was a significant action, declaring, in effect, to the whole people, that they had made void all their solemn engagements with God, Deuteronomy 5:27; and that therefore the covenant he had made with them, of which "these tables were a testimony, verse 5," was utterly annulled.

And are not all the provisions of the Gospel, too, made void by willful and deliberate sin? They are; and all hope in the Gospel, while our hearts are alienated from God, and fixed on earthly vanities, is nothing but delusion. Our Lord has faithfully warned us, that it is in vain for us to "cry, Lord! Lord! if we do not practice the things which he says;" and that however we may debate the matter with him in the last day, saying, "Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, and in your name cast out devils, and in your name done many wonderful works? He will reply, I never knew you; depart from me, you who work iniquity! Matthew 7:21-23."

Whoever then you are, who, instead of delighting yourselves in God, are addicted to carnal mirth, I break the tables of the covenant before your faces this day; and declare, that "whoever does not practice righteousness, is not of God;" but that, on the contrary, "whoever commits sin, is of the devil, 1 John 3:6; John 3:8-9."

It is needful that we declare this faithfully; for, while dancing about your golden calf, you conclude that all is well, and little think in what light your conduct is viewed by a holy and jealous God. And to learn it, first, when your Lord shall descend from Heaven to judge the world, will be too late; for, as the Levites passed through the camp, and avenged the cause of God on the offenders without favoring even their nearest relatives, so will the angels at that day inexorably and irresistibly execute on all the violators of God's covenant the judgments denounced against them! Compare Isaiah 37:36 with Matthew 13:41-42. Let all, then, bear in mind, that "God is a jealous God;" and that "he will neither give, nor allow us to give, his glory to another."

2. He ground the calf to powder, and constrained the people to swallow it with their drink.

We need not look for any recondite mystery in this, because the obvious effect of the act itself was sufficiently instructive. No greater indignity could be offered to this worthless idol, than that which he devised; nor any more humiliating punishment be inflicted upon the people, than to compel them to swallow their God, and to "cast him out into the draught" with their common food.

And shall not we, also, be made ashamed of the gods that we have chosen? Yes! if we will choose "vanity, we must have vanity for our recompense." Do I say, We must? Let me rather change the word, and say, "We have; for I may ask of all the votaries of earthly gain or pleasure, "What fruit have you ever had of those things whereof you are now ashamed? What have you done, but "filled your belly with the east wind?" I must warn you, then, that you shall all "eat of the fruit of your own ways," and "be filled with your own devices." The day is quickly coming, when you shall be as much ashamed of those things which you now regard with idolatrous affection, as ever the Israelites were of their golden calf; yes, and when you yourselves also "shall wake to shame and everlasting contempt! Daniel 12:2."

From this subject we may fitly learn,

1. The danger of sanctioning the evils around us.

Aaron should have rejected with abhorrence the measure proposed to him; but he acquiesced, and even made himself a ringleader in this vile apostasy. With such a sanction as his, it is not to be wondered at if the people went forward with unsuspecting alacrity, and sacrificed with readiness their most valuable ornaments for the furtherance of their plans.

But who does not see how aggravated his guilt was, in comparison with theirs? He, from his nearer fellowship with God, had far greater information than they; and, from the high office which he sustained, he was bound to use his influence for the suppression of evil, and the enforcing of God's commands.

The same I must say of all who are possessed of influence among ourselves. Whether it be magisterial or ministerial influence that we possess, or only that which is connected with our respective situations in life, we are bound to exert it for God; and, if we neglect to do so, the blood of those who perish through our neglect may well be required at our hands.

I know that we have excuses without number to offer in our behalf; just as Aaron had when reproved for his conduct on this occasion. But, behold, what a pitiful figure he made, when attempting to justify himself before his reprover! "Let not the anger of my Lord wax hot; you know the people, that they are set on mischief." (This was a reason why he should have withstood them, and not a reason for concurring with them.)

Again, "The people said to me, Make us gods who shall go before us. Then I said to them, Whoever has any gold, let him break it off. So they gave it me; and I cast it into the fire; and this calf came out! Verses 1–24". It came out accidentally, I suppose, and without any mold prepared for the formation of it! What a web of folly and of falsehood! See to what a state this man was reduced, even he who was so eloquent, that he was appointed to "be a mouth to Moses."

But thus it will be with sinners in the last day, with Aarons as well as others; (for official dignity is of no account in the sight of God;) or rather, their mouths will be shut through their utter incapacity to offer the smallest vindication of their folly! Matthew 22:12. Remember this, brethren; and "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them, Ephesians 5:11."

2. In what way we should be affected with the evils around us.

See what a contrast there was between the conduct of Moses and of Aaron on this occasion! While Aaron was uniting with the people in their transgression, Moses was filled with indignation against the sin, and with pity for the sinners. His indignation we have seen; and no sooner had he expressed it in the way that befit him, than he returned to God, to implore mercy in their behalf. Forty days and forty nights had he already fasted; and he went up to the mount and fasted forty more days and forty nights, wrestling with God in fervent intercession, if that by any means he might prevail to obtain pardon for their sin, Deuteronomy 9:18-19. Here was a man of God indeed!

This, then, is the way in which we should act in reference to the sins around us. We should weep over them before God; yes, "rivers of tears should run down our eyes, because men keep not God's law." Such men as he are blessings to the world; for, as "God hearkened unto him at that time also, Deuteronomy 9:18-19," so will he do to us, if we "stand in the gap before him, to avert his wrath" from an ungodly world! Psalm 106:23. Little did that people think to whom the preservation of their lives was owing; and little do an ungrateful world know to whom they are indebted for the forbearance that is yet daily exercised towards them, Matthew 24:22.

Let it be sufficient for us, that God knows and approves our labors of love; and that, whether we prevail for others or not, our prayers shall surely return into our own bosom, to the everlasting benefit of our own souls! Ezekiel 22:30.




Exodus 32:26

"Who is on the Lord's side? Let him come unto me."

These are the words of Moses; and they were spoken on a very particular occasion. While he had tarried on the top of Mount Sinai for the space of forty days, Aaron and the people of Israel, despairing of his return, had made a golden calf to represent Jehovah, and had worshiped that as their God. Moses, on his return, found them in the very act of performing their idolatrous rites; and, filled with indignation against them, he broke the two tables of the Law which he had received from Jehovah, in token that the covenant which God had made with them was altogether dissolved; and he reduced the golden calf to powder, and strewed it upon the water, and made the people to drink of it; so that they might have within themselves a testimony of their folly, and be assured that a cup of merited affliction should one day be put into their hands. And it is remarkable, that the Jews in general conceive that, in all their afflictions, there are, as it were, some grains of this golden calf even to this very day. For Aaron, Moses interceded, and obtained forgiveness, Deuteronomy 9:20. And on behalf of the people, too, he so far prevailed, that only the ringleaders in this rebellion should be punished in the first instance; though, at a future period, this sin should surely be visited upon them all. To punish those who were most bold and daring in this impiety, and were walking abroad as not ashamed of it, Moses called to him those who were zealous for God's honor, and ordered them to go through the camp and indiscriminately slay all they met with, without regarding even their nearest and dearest relatives. This was doubtless a most painful service to all who were engaged in it; but they executed it with fidelity, and brought thereby a blessing on their own souls.

Now, let it not for a moment be imagined that God's faithful servants are called to any such office now. Christianity provides no such bloody employment for its votaries; it consigns the sword altogether to the civil magistrate, who alone is empowered to use it for the punishment of evil-doers. Still, however, there will arise many profitable lessons from this passage; to elicit which, I shall make some observations upon,

I. The inquiry instituted.

Among the people of Israel there were, especially of the tribe of Levi, some who had not joined in the idolatrous rites, but had remained faithful to their God; and Moses, standing in the gate of the camp, called them to his assistance, saying, "Who is on the Lord's side?" Now from hence we observe,

1. That there are two classes, and two classes only, into which the whole world must be divided.

There are some who are "on the Lord's side." And there are others who are on the side of sin, and the world, and Satan. That in these two great parties there may be many subdivisions, I grant; but there is no third party. Among the godly there may be people of different opinions and different habits; and among the ungodly there may also be many different degrees of impiety, and different states of mind; but, still, the great leading features of both parties sufficiently and infallibly attest to which they belong. The distinguishing marks of each I shall trace presently; at present I have only to show, that two parties do actually exist, and must of necessity exist, as long as there continues an ungodly man on earth. They may be very unequal in their numbers, as was the case in the history before us; an immense multitude, with Aaron at their head, were on the side of idolatry; and a little remnant, with Moses at their head, were "on the Lord's side." It is probable, that, at that time, the friends of idolatry poured contempt on the godly as a party, just as the ungodly world do at this day on the advocates of true religion; forgetting that they themselves also are a party, no less than their opponents. But whose fault is it if the godly are a party? Are they to blame for adhering to their duty, and siding with their Lord? No, surely; the blame must attach altogether to those who turn from their God, and are disobedient to his will. And if the godly are but "a little flock" in comparison with their opponents, it may be their misfortune, but it is not their fault, any more than it was the fault of Noah, or of Lot, or of Elijah, that they were so circumstanced in the ages and places wherein they lived.

Let it not be thought that I am justifying what is usually called a party spirit; for I cannot but reprobate that as a very great evil; but I do, and must maintain, that to serve our God with fidelity is our bounden duty, even though the whole world, with Aaron at their head, should depart from him; and, if they choose to designate us as a party, I would have no man ashamed of belonging to a party of which our Lord and Savior is himself the Head.

2. That it is of great importance to ascertain to which class we belong.

Both are alike in this respect, that they are rational and mortal beings; but in many respects they differ widely from each other.

The one are "partakers of a divine nature" through the influence of the Spirit of God upon their souls; the others are altogether carnal, possessing nothing but what they brought into the world with them.

The one live altogether for God; the others, for themselves.

The one are in favor with God; the others are under his just and heavy displeasure.

The one will, before long, stand at the right hand of their Judge; the others will be turned to his left hand, differing as widely from the former as goats from the sheep.

The one will be exalted to Heaven, and be seated forever on the throne of God; the others will be cast down to Hell, and take their portion in the lake of fire and brimstone forever and ever.

Can these differences be contemplated for a moment, and any doubt remain whether we ought to examine to which class we belong? Methinks the matter should not be left in suspense one single moment; more especially since the means of ascertaining the point are close at hand, and easy to be used. The blessed Word of God, if studied with prayer, will enable us to form a very correct judgment. True it is, that we cannot determine the question in relation to others, because we know not what passes in the hearts of men, and can therefore judge of each other by the outward conduct alone; but we have an internal monitor, that will faithfully discharge its office, if we will listen to it, and will declare to us all that it has seen in the inmost recesses of our hearts; and, if we will but lay, to our own souls, "judgment for a line, and righteousness for a plummet," we shall soon discover "whose we are," and with whom we must expect our everlasting abode.

To this I will add some observations on,

II. The direction given.

Moses, in calling to him the faithful servants of the Lord, showed, that the Lord's people should on all occasions manifest,

1. A readiness to confess him.

Neither the authority of Aaron, nor the rage of all Israel, was to deter any one from showing himself on the Lord's side. So neither should any of us be afraid to confess Christ openly in the face of an ungodly world. We err exceedingly if we imagine that there is any third party to which we may adhere with safety to our souls. There are but two governors, to one or other of which we must adhere, "the god of this world," and the God of Heaven. The servants of Satan are bold in serving Satan; and the servants of the Lord Jesus must be bold in confessing him; and if, from any motive whatever, we deny him, he will be ashamed of us, and deny us, in the presence of his Father and of the holy angels. I mean not to say, that Christians are to distinguish themselves by foolish singularity in matters of indifference; but in matters of plain duty they are to differ from the ungodly as widely as light from darkness, "they are to come out from among them, and be separate, and not to touch the unclean thing," if they would have "God for their Father," and approve themselves to him as "his sons and daughters"

2. A determination of mind to sacrifice everything for him.

Moses, in his farewell discourse, at the distance of forty years, particularly commends this conduct of Levi, in that "he said unto his father and his mother, I have not seen him, neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor know his own children; but he had observed God's Word, and kept his covenant, Deuteronomy 33:9." And this shows, that, though we are not called to follow his act, we are to imbibe and manifest his spirit, so far at least as to sacrifice everything to, and for, our God. Our blessed Lord distinctly and frequently inculcates this important lesson, "We are to forsake all for him; father, mother, brother, sister, houses, lands, yes, our very life also, if we would be his disciples;" yes, we are to "hate them all for him," that is, in comparison with him, Luke 14:26. Doubtless, in the execution of this duty, we may appear unkind, undutiful, and cruel; but we must be firm, and Allow nothing to divert us from the path of duty; however painful it may be to discharge it, we must proceed, and, in dependence on divine strength, endure firmly unto the end. No doubt, if we are called to advance in opposition to the will of those who have the rule over us, we should be much on our guard, that we give them no unnecessary offence. We are to take great care that we contend for nothing but what is of vital importance, and that in our necessary conflicts we manifest nothing of an unhallowed spirit. But we must proceed in obedience to our God; and if called to an account for it by any human authority whatever, our answer must be, "Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, you judge; for we cannot but do what is commanded us by our God."

As a further improvement of this subject, we will proceed:

1. To pursue the inquiry.

"Who among you is on the Lord's side?" I have before said, that this is easy to be ascertained; and now let us address ourselves to the inquiry. By nature, we are all "enemies to God," and "children of wrath." It is by grace alone that our state can be changed, so that we can with justice be numbered as the servants of the Lord.

Who then, among you, has been made sensible of his guilty and undone state?

Who, among you, has fled to the Lord Jesus Christ for refuge from the wrath of God?

Who is yet daily imploring mercy at the hands of God in his name?

Who has given up himself unreservedly to God, as his reconciled God in Christ Jesus?

Who is living to the glory of his holy name?

These are questions to be asked, and answered, in order to ascertain the point in hand. You must remember, that your having been baptized into the name of Christ will by no means determine the point; for all the Israelites had been circumcised, and had been "baptized also unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;" and as their profession was insufficient to prove them the Lord's, so also is ours. Nor will any transient impressions of joy and gratitude prove the point; for such emotions had been lately experienced by all Israel at the Red Sea, though now, alas! they were altogether forgotten. It is the daily life and conduct that alone can determine this all-important point. "Examine yourselves then, my brethren, and prove your own selves."

Try whether you are ready to obey the call of God, and to abandon all for Christ.

See whether you resemble your Lord and Savior in the whole of his spirit and deportment.

See whether, while you profess to be on the Lord's side, you are really "walking as he walked," and giving up yourselves entirely to him.

Do not decide the question on any doubtful or insufficient grounds, lest you deceive your own souls, and perish amidst the enemies of God!

One thought only I will leave upon your minds; and it is this: 'If you be not on the Lord's side, can you reasonably hope that ever he should be on yours? And if you have not him for your friend and portion in the day of judgment, how awful will be your condition!' But an hour before, the whole camp of Israel was filled with the noise of joy and shouting; and in another hour, thousands were smitten down by the swords of their own brethren.

Just so, in a few more hours may the most thoughtless among you be consigned over to the jaws of death, by the hands of an angry and avenging God. Oh! may God awaken you to your condition before it is too late! and may you be found of that party, of which God himself is the acknowledged and eternal Head!

2. To enforce the direction.

"Come unto me," says Moses; and I also would say, "Go unto him." If you belong truly to the Lord, you must go and learn from Moses what the will of the Lord is. The tables of the Law must be to you a rule of life and duty. "The whole Law is comprehended in these two commandments, To love God with all your heart, and mind, and soul, and strength, and To love your neighbor as yourselves." This is "the law of love, which if you fulfill, you will do well." This is the law of Christ, which every follower of Christ is bound to obey. Go then, daily, and sit at the feet of Moses. For your principles and motives you must go to Christ alone; but for your directory in the path of duty, you must go to the law of Moses, which is a perfect transcript of God's mind and will. Never can I enforce this too strongly, and especially after what I have said of sacrificing all for Christ. The command to honor your father and your mother is "the first commandment with promise;" and this shows how high it stands in the estimation of your God. Let it not be less high in your estimation also; and remember that, except in those things which are directly contrary to God's revealed will, the commands of earthly superiors should be regarded by you as the commands of God. A sword is indeed put into your hands; but it is for the purpose of slaying, not men—but sin and Satan, with whom you are to contend, until they are "bruised under your feet." Gird yourselves, therefore, for the occasion; and go through the whole camp of your spiritual enemies, and spare neither small nor great. So shall the blessing of God come upon you, both in time and in eternity!




Exodus 32:31-33

"So Moses went back to the LORD and said, "Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin--but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written." The LORD replied to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book!"

Well may it be said, "Lord, what is man?" Truly "his goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew that passes away." If we did not see it verified in fact, one would scarcely conceive it possible that man should be so frail and mutable as both history and experience attest him to be. The Israelites were now at the very mount where they had beheld Jehovah shining forth in all his terrific majesty, and had heard him proclaiming in most tremendous sounds his holy law. They beheld also upon the mount that very same cloud, the symbol of the divine presence, which had led them in their way from the land of Egypt to that place; yet, because Moses, when summoned by God to come up to the mount, abode there longer than they expected—they cast off him, and God also; and desired visible gods to be made for them, that they might in future commit themselves to their guidance and protection. It is this, which Moses so pathetically laments in the words before us.

The whole history is very instructive. That we may have a concise, but comprehensive, view of it, let us notice,

I. The sin of Israel.

This was a dreadful compound of ingratitude, folly, and impiety!

The people had already forgotten the numberless mercies which they had received from God, through the ministration of his servant Moses; they thought that they themselves could form an image which should supply the place of all other benefactors, human and divine; and in direct opposition to the most express commands, Exodus 20:4; Exodus 20:23, to which they had so recently promised the most faithful adherence, they made a golden calf, and appointed it as the representative of the Deity, and offered sacrifices to it as their deliverer and their guide. Yes, so bent were they upon having a visible God to go before them, that they at the very first proposal gave up their jewelry, in order that from them an image might be formed, which they might worship after the manner of Egypt. But most of all are we surprised that Aaron, the divinely appointed colleague of Moses, should, at the first mention of such a wicked device, assent to it, and be the very person to form the image, and to proclaim a feast unto Jehovah in honor of it; and that, when reproved for his wickedness, he should attempt to justify it by such frivolous and even false excuses, verse 4. Well might Moses lament before God, "Oh! this people have sinned a great sin!"

But the greatness of the sin will be more easily imagined from the indignation which both God and Moses expressed against it.

The wrath of God, we are told, was "fierce, and waxed hot" against the offending people; and he threatened instantly to destroy them. The anger of Moses also "waxed hot" as soon as ever he beheld their impiety; and the indignation he manifested clearly showed his opinion of their wicked conduct.

First, having in his hands the tables of stone, whereon God had with his own finger written the precepts of his law, he dashed them in pieces before their eyes. This was no rash expression of intemperate wrath, but a holy and significant emblem, representing to them the crime they had committed. God had condescended to enter into covenant with them to be their God; and they had covenanted to be his people; and these tables of stone contained, as it were, the terms of the agreement; and were a pledge that God would fulfill to them all that he had spoken. But this covenant they had entirely annulled; and all their expectations from God were utterly destroyed.

Next, he reduced the idol to dust, and cast it on the water, that all the people might be compelled to drink of it. This was well calculated to show them how much they had debased themselves, in submitting to worship that as a God, which they must swallow with their food, and cast off together with it.

But lastly, he made them feel, as well as see, the marks of his displeasure. He called the Levites, who notwithstanding the defection of Aaron had remained faithful to their God, and commanded them to go through the camp, and without favor or pity to slay all the ringleaders with the sword. Thus were three thousand of them punished on the spot; there needed no formality of trial; they were caught in the fact; and the judgment with zeal was deservedly executed upon them.

That no part of Moses' anger was of a sinful kind, or expressed with undue severity, is evident from his tender compassion for the offenders, while he hated and abhorred their offence. To elucidate this, we notice,

II. The intercession of Moses.

No sooner did he see how God was displeased with them, than, notwithstanding the prohibition given him, Moses began to intercede for them.

The prohibition, "Let me alone," operated on his mind rather as an encouragement to intercede; because it seemed to say, If you intercede for them, my hands are tied; and I cannot execute upon them my threatened vengeance. He fell down instantly before God, and urged in their behalf every plea which was suited to the occasion.

He reminded God of His relation to them. Though God had appeared to disclaim them in that he had called them Moses' people, Moses pleaded, that God himself had brought them out of Egypt, and had signally marked them as his peculiar people. He reminded God also of his promise to their fathers, which, if they were utterly destroyed, would be violated. As for having another nation raised up from his loins, he did not desire that honor; all he wanted was, to avert from this offending people the judgments they had merited. He further expressed his concern to God respecting his honor among the heathen. Lord, what will the Egyptians say? What opinion will they form of you? Will they not represent you either as weak, and incapable of carrying this people to the promised land; or as cruel, and bringing them out here on purpose to slay them? Lord, if you regard not them, have regard for your own honor, and spare the people for your great name's sake.

After reproving their iniquity, he returned again unto the Lord, to renew, more fervently than ever, his intercession for them.

He confesses humbly the greatness of their sin; well knowing, that for the obtaining of mercy, nothing is so efficacious as humiliation before God.

He then implores pardon for them, if pardon can be extended to so rebellious a people.

But, if some atonement must be made, and if some signal mark of his displeasure must be given, then he entreats that the judgment may fall on him, and not on them. He desires to be excluded from Canaan, and, as far as relates to this life, to be blotted out of the list of God's peculiar people, in their stead; so that the enormity of their sin, and God's abhorrence of it, might be made manifest, and yet the transgressors themselves be living monuments of God's mercy. It were absurd to think that he proposed to subject himself to eternal misery for them; for this would be more than even Christ himself has done for us.

What a bright pattern is here of zeal for God, and compassion for men! And how desirable is such a union of them, as will keep us from palliating sin on the one hand, or hating and despising the sinner on the other.

How far this intercession prevailed will be found in,

III. The reply of God.

God condescended to remit the punishment of their iniquity.

At the very first intercession of Moses, God repented of the evil which he had thought to do unto his people; and, in answer to the last, he renewed his commission to Moses to lead them to the promised land; and, though he withdrew himself from them in a measure, he commanded a created angel to guide them in the way. He declared indeed, that, if by a continuance of their rebellions they compelled him to punish them, he would then visit for this sin together with the rest; but, if they were truly penitent, and observant of his will in the future, he would remember it against them no more.

What an amazing view does this give us of the condescension of God, and the efficacy of fervent prayer! The prayer of one single person availed for the procuring of pardon for two million people, and for Aaron at their head, notwithstanding the peculiar enormity of his sin! Deuteronomy 9:20. Read that whole chapter; yes, it prevailed at a time when God was so incensed against them as to forbid any intercession in their behalf, and to declare that he would "blot out their name from under Heaven." Surely the remembrance of this single instance is sufficient to encourage all the world to implore mercy for themselves, and to make continual intercession also for others.

He declared, however, that at his future tribunal justice should be strictly administered to all.

Rewards and punishments are often national in this world, and consequently partial; sometimes the innocent are involved in the punishment of the guilty; and sometimes the guilty escape without any punishment at all. But at God's tribunal in the last day, no such inequalities will be found; there every one will answer for his own personal transgressions, and stand or fall according to his own personal conduct, "The wicked will go into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal." Multitudes in that day will be found, who, in name and profession, were the Lord's people; but, inasmuch as they "had only a name to live, and were really spiritually dead," God will blot them out of his book, and disclaim all relation to them or regard for them. Solemn indeed, and most worthy to be impressed upon our minds, is this declaration of God; it relates, not to that people only, but to all that dwell upon the face of the whole earth. Intercession may prevail in this world for the averting of temporal judgments even from the impenitent; but, in reference to the eternal world, nothing will prevail but personal repentance, and humble affiance in the Lord Jesus Christ.

From this subject we may learn,

1. What an evil and bitter thing sin is!

The Israelites might have excused themselves by saying, as the Papists do respecting their images, that they did not intend to make a God of the golden calf, but only to use it as the means of bringing the true God more forcibly to their minds. But what would such sophistry have availed them? Would either God or Moses have altered their estimate of the crime, because they chose to veil it under specious names? It is expressly called idolatry! 1 Corinthians 10:7. And to what purpose is it for us to extenuate our crimes? We have soft imposing names whereby to conceal the evil of covetousness and sensuality; but does not God declare both the one and the other to be idolatry? Ephesians 5:5; Philippians 3:19. Does he not speak of men having "idols in their heart! Ezekiel 14:3-4; Ezekiel 14:7." and is not this the essence of all idolatry, to "love and serve the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for evermore?"

We may attempt also to extenuate our guilt, as Aaron did, from our acting under the influence of others, and not designing to do exactly all that we did; but this could not deceive Moses; much less can it deceive God.

Moreover, both the people and Aaron might even think that they were honoring Jehovah; for they kept the feast professedly unto him; and when they had eaten and drunk of their sacrifices, they might think it well befit them to indulge in mirth. We too may keep our feasts, and fasts, and Sabbaths, professedly to the Lord; and may conclude we have ground for cheerful security; but God may, all the while, be as angry with us, as he was with them, and may have determined to blot out our unworthy names from the book of life! O that we would duly reflect on these things! O that we would consider that sin, however extenuated by us, is hateful to God; that he sees it wherever it is transacted, and under whatever veil it may be concealed; and that, finally, the time is quickly coming, when he will execute judgment upon all according to their works! Then will sin appear in its real colors; not in the temporal destruction of a single nation, but in the everlasting destruction of all who have died in impenitence and unbelief.

2. How much we are indebted to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The intercession of Moses for the Jewish nation was typical of the yet more effectual intercession of our great Advocate, the Lord Jesus Christ. We may in a measure picture to ourselves the benevolent exercise of Moses, while the thoughtless Israelites were reveling in security. In that then let us view what has been taking place in Heaven on our behalf. We have been sinning against God, a stiff-necked and rebellious generation; and many times has the decree gone forth, "Cut them down! Why do they cumber the ground?" But the Lord Jesus, presenting that most efficacious of all pleas, his own atoning blood—has said, "Spare them, O my Father! spare them yet another year." Yes; had it not been for his intercession, we would not have been now in this place, but in that place of torment from whence there is no return. O that we might learn to estimate our obligations to him! O that we might go to him ourselves, and entreat him to obtain for us converting grace, and everlasting glory! Were but our eyes duly turned to him, our expectations could not be too large, or our confidence too strong.

But we must remember that nothing can supersede our own repentance; not even the blood and intercession of Christ will avail for those who die impenitent. The declaration of God shall never be reversed, "Whoever has sinned against me, him will I (if he dies impenitent) blot out of my book."

There are two fatal errors which pervade the great mass of nominal Christians:

the one is, that they shall be saved by their repentance, though they trust not in Christ.

The other is, that they shall be saved by Christ, though they do not personally repent.

But neither of these things can ever take place.

The impenitent may be spared for a time; but they shall perish forever!

But the penitent who believe in Christ, "shall never come into condemnation, but shall have everlasting life!"




Exodus 33:5-6

"For the LORD had said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites, 'You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you! Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.'" So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb."

That which is principally required of ministers is fidelity, 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, to dispense the Word of God aright, without courting the applause of men, or fearing their displeasure.

That which is principally required of hearers is that they receive the Word of God with all readiness of mind, and obey it without reserve.

Where such ministers and such people are, will they be happy in each other, and happy also in their God.

Of the description we have mentioned was Moses; but not so the people of Israel; they were stiff-necked and rebellious throughout the whole course of his ministry among them. On some few occasions, however, they seemed to be of a better mind; particularly on the occasion now before us.

Moses had declared to them a message from God; in which their true character was drawn, and his judgments against them were awfully denounced; and the effect, for the present at least, was such as was reasonably to be expected: they trembled at the divine judgments, and humbled themselves instantly in the mode prescribed. This is declared in the text; for the elucidating of which we observe,

I. God is not able to exercise mercy towards an impenitent transgressor.

God certainly is "rich in mercy," and delights in the exercise of it; and would gladly manifest it towards all the human race, 1 Timothy 2:4; Ezekiel 33:11. But impenitence presents an insurmountable obstacle in his way, so that he cannot show mercy towards any who abide in it.

1. God cannot exercise mercy to the impenitent, because it would be inconsistent with his own perfections.

He is a God of inflexible justice, unspotted holiness, and inviolable truth. But what evidence would there be that anyone of these perfections belonged to him, if he, in direct opposition to his own most positive declarations, put no difference between the proud despiser of his authority, and the humble repenting suppliant?

2. God cannot exercise mercy to the impenitent, because it would be ineffectual for the happiness of the people themselves.

Annihilation indeed would be a benefit, if that were granted to them; because they would then be rescued from the sufferings that await them; but to raise them to Heaven would be no source of happiness to them. Having still a carnal mind which is enmity against God, they must hate him even in Heaven; either God, or they, must change, before they can have fellowship with each other. As little comfort could they find in the society or employment of the heavenly hosts. The glorified saints and angels could not unite with those who had no one sentiment or feeling in unison with their own. They would be ready to "thrust him out" of their society, Luke 13:28; nor would they who hate the exercises of prayer and praise in this world, find any satisfaction in such exercises in the world above. I say therefore again, that to an impenitent sinner, Heaven would be no Heaven; for while sin reigns within him, he has a Hell in his own bosom, and carries it with him wherever he goes.

3. God cannot show mercy to the impenitent, because it would introduce disorder into the whole universe.

What sensations must it occasion in Heaven! for if God can so change his very nature as to love an unholy creature, who can tell but that he may go one step further, and hate a holy one? As for the effect of it on earth, no one from that moment would either hate or fear sin; not hate it, because they would see that God does not hate it; and not fear it, because they would see that he will not punish it. Even in Hell the effect of it would be felt; for, if God takes an impenitent man to his bosom, why may he not an impenitent spirit also; and what hinders but that the fallen angels may yet become as happy as those who never fell? Could such a thought as this be cherished in that place of torment, Hell would from that moment cease to be the place it is!

Here then is ample reason why God, notwithstanding his delight in mercy, cannot find how to exercise it towards impenitent sinners. But,

II. Where humiliation is manifested, there mercy may be expected.

1. This appears from the very mode in which repentance is here enjoined.

When we speak of God as embarrassed in his mind, or perplexed in his counsels, we must not be understood to intimate that such things actually exist; for "known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world;" nor can any occasion possibly arise, wherein he can be at a loss how to act. But he is pleased to speak in this kind of language respecting himself, in order to accommodate himself to our feeble apprehensions, "Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you." Thus in various other places he speaks as perplexed in his mind about the line of conduct he shall pursue, Hosea 6:4, and as wishing to show mercy, but not knowing how to do it consistently with his own honor, Jeremiah 3:19. Let us not then be misunderstood, as though, in accommodating ourselves to the language of our text, we deviated at all from that reverence which is due to the Supreme Being.

It is here intimated then, that, while impenitence continues, he knows not how to exercise mercy to the sinner; but it is also intimated, that, when once people are humbled for their wickedness, he is at no loss at all how to act towards them; he can then give full scope to the merciful disposition of his own heart, and can pour out all his benefits upon them without any dishonor to his own name. Yes; that point attained, the law is honored by the sinner himself; the sin-atoning blood of Christ may be applied freely to cleanse him from his guilt; the mercy given to him will not be abused; the heavenly hosts will be made to shout for joy; and God himself will be glorified to all eternity. There is no obstacle whatever to the freest and fullest exercise of love towards such a Being; and therefore God knows both what to do, and how to do it to the best effect.

2. This appears from the experience of penitents in all ages.

Look at those in our text; God had threatened that he would go with them no more, but commit them to the guidance of a created angel. This had produced upon them a very deep impression; the fear of being deserted by him had wrought more powerfully upon them than the slaughter of three thousand of their number on the day before. They humbled themselves in the way that God had commanded; and, behold! the mercy, so ardently desired by them, and by Moses, was granted, "My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest!"

Look at all other penitents from the foundation of the world; was ever so much as one spurned from the footstool of divine grace? Was ever one sent empty away? Even where the repentance was far from genuine, considerable respect was paid to it, and the blessing sought for was bestowed, 1 Kings 21:27-29. How much more where the repentance itself has been deep, and the contrition manifest! Not even the greatest accumulation of guilt that ever was known, was allowed to outweigh the tears of penitence, or to shut up the tender mercies of our God from a contrite soul 2 Kings 21:16 with 2 Chronicles 33:1-13. The Savior was sent into the world for the very purpose of saving those who are lost; and he assures "all who are weary and heavy laden with a sense of their sins, that, on coming to him, they shall find rest unto their souls."


1. Consider what obstructions you have laid in the way of your own happiness!

Had you not sinned, or, after your sins, continued impenitent, you would have been happy long since in the enjoyment of your God. He has been long "waiting to be gracious" unto you, but you would not allow him to be so. He has been longing "to gather you, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you would not." Say then, what alternative is left to God? He has called, but you have refused; he still calls, and you still continue to reject his counsels.

Truly, "he knows not what to do;" if he spares you—then you only add sin to sin; and if he cuts you off—then you will perish without the smallest hope of mercy. Who can tell but that he is deliberating at this moment, and just about to form his ultimate decision? Who can tell but that this very night he may determine, as he did respecting his people of old, "Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled, Isaiah 5:5." Or, as he elsewhere says, "I swear in my wrath that they shall never enter into my rest?" Know, beloved, that if this calamity falls upon you, the fault is utterly your own; nothing but "iniquity can separate between you and your God; nothing but sin unrepented of, can hide his face from you, Isaiah 59:2."

2. Endeavor instantly to remove these obstructions.

Methinks I see your impenitence, like a dam, barring out from you those streams of mercy, which would refresh and fertilize your souls. O remove it without delay! But take care that your repentance is genuine and unreserved.

External and temporary repentance will avail only for the removal of temporal judgments. That which is required in order to the final remission of your sins, must be deep, spiritual, and abiding; it must show itself in the whole of your conduct and conversation. You will put away those sinful pleasures, those sinful vanities, those sinful companions, that have been to you an occasion of falling; and you will "walk mournfully before the Lord Almighty" to the last hour of your lives, "you will loath yourselves for all your iniquities and abominations," as well after God is pacified towards you, as before, Ezekiel 36:31 with 16:63. Let this then be begun immediately, even as "the Israelites put off their ornaments on the very mount of Horeb."

Let there be no delays; no waiting for a more convenient season.

And let not the loss of Heaven be the only object of your fear; fear also the loss of the divine presence. This, as you have seen, was peculiarly dreaded by the Israelites; let it also be peculiarly dreaded by you; and never cease to humble yourselves before God, until you have attained a sweet assurance of his guidance through this wilderness, and of his blessing in Canaan at the termination of your way!




Exodus 33:12-13

"Moses said to the LORD, "You have been telling me, 'Lead these people,' but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, 'I know you by name and you have found favor with me.' If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find grace in your sight. Remember that this nation is your people."

Nothing is more profitable than to be brought, as it were, into the secret chamber of the saint, and to be a witness of his fellowship with God.

His humble confidence,

his holy boldness,

his fervent supplications,

his almost irresistible pleadings

—give us a juster view of man's present salvation, than any declarations, however strong, could convey. The blessedness of true religion is there embodied, and is therefore seen in all its fair proportions and magnificent dimensions.

The prayer which we have just heard, was uttered on occasion of the transgression of Israel in the matter of the golden calf. God had threatened to destroy the whole nation; but, at the intercession of Moses, he so far forgave them, as to suspend his judgments, and to promise, that though he would conduct them no longer by his immediate presence, he would send an angel with them, who would lead them to the promised land. This, however, Moses could not endure; if God would not go with them, he judged it undesirable to be guided there at all; and therefore he renewed his pleadings with God in their behalf, hoping to prevail to the full extent of his wishes.

God had offered to destroy that whole nation, and to raise up another from the loins of Moses; and this token of God's good-will towards him he laid hold of as a ground of hope, and urged it as a plea with God to grant him his full desire, "You have been telling me, 'Lead these people,' but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, 'I know you by name and you have found favor with me.' If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and grace in your sight."

Let us notice here,

I. The fact pleaded.

God had given him the assurances here spoken of.

We are not told exactly either when, or how, God had declared to him these glad tidings. It is probable, however, that it was by an audible voice during their late extraordinary fellowship, wherein, we are told, "The Lord spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaks unto his friend." The import of the declaration, however, is clear. It could not mean that God merely knew the name of Moses; for he knew the name of every human being as well as his; it means, that from all eternity he had ordained Moses to his high station, and had appointed him to be a vessel of honor, in whom he would be glorified.

I say not, but that the conduct of Moses, as contrasted with that of Aaron and the people of Israel, might bring down upon him more special tokens of God's favor; for I can have no doubt but that God, who rewards every man according to his works, did confer upon him many blessings as the reward of his piety, according to that established rule of his, "those who honor me, I will honor." But the primary source of all his blessedness was God's electing love and sovereign grace; though the manifestations of that love, by an immediate assurance from Heaven, might be given him as a recompense for his fidelity.

And are not similar assurances given to God's faithful people at this day?

If we examine the Holy Scriptures, we shall find that neither electing love, nor the manifestation of it to the soul, are confined to Moses. To Jeremiah this declaration was given, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations, Jeremiah 1:5." Here the very same expression, "I knew you," is explained as equivalent to a fore-ordination of him to the prophetic office. And the same sovereign grace is exercised towards men in reference also to their everlasting concerns; as it is said, "Whom God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, Romans 8:29." Nor must we understand this foreknowledge as forming the ground of God's future mercies to the people foreknown, but rather as constituting the source from whence those blessings flow; as the Apostle says, "God has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy (not because he foresaw that we would be holy, but in order that we might be holy) and without blame before him in love Ephesians 1:4." And it is on this electing love of his, and not on any merits or strength of ours, that our security, in reality, depends; for it is said, "The foundation of God stands sure, having this seal: The Lord knows those who are his, 2 Timothy 2:19."

But does God manifest his electing love to any now, as he did to Moses? Yes; not indeed by an audible voice, but by other means sufficiently intelligible both to themselves and others. What else is meant by the Witness of the Spirit? for, now, as well as in former days, "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God, Romans 8:16." Nor is it in that way only that he makes known our relation to him, but by a work of grace upon our souls; for it was from the "work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ," which Paul saw in his Thessalonian converts, that he "knew their election by God, 1 Thessalonians 1:3-4."

The fact, then, which Moses pleaded with God is no other than what all his saints are at liberty to plead; for as it is true, that "he knows them by name, and that they have found grace in his sight," so is it true, also, that he has, more or less evidently, declared it to them all; not indeed to any by an audible voice; but to some by the secret influences of his Spirit, and to all by the visible operations of his grace.

The next point for our consideration is,

II. The petition urged.

It is thought by many, that an assurance of our acceptance with God would render us careless and supine; but,

The very reverse was its effect on Moses.

The mercies given to him, only stimulated him to a more earnest desire after further blessings. He does not say, "If I have found grace in your sight, I am content; but, if I have found grace in your sight, then show me your way, that I may know you, and that I may find further grace in your sight."

And such will be its effect on all God's chosen people.

Blessings will be regarded by them, not as gifts wherein to rest, but as pledges of future blessings. It was a wise and truly spiritual argument which was offered by Manoah's wife for the pacifying of her husband's mind, "If the Lord were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt-offering or a meat-offering at our hands, neither would he have showed us all these things, nor would he, as at this time, have told us such things as these Judges 13:23." Past mercies are rather urged by them in prayer as pleas for further blessings.

It was thus that David regarded them, "You have delivered my soul from death; will not you deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living Psalm 56:13." And in this way will God's special favor operate on every sincere mind. Instead of being satisfied with a taste of his love—we shall hunger and thirst after the full banquet; and never cease from aspiring after a further growth in grace, until we have attained the full measure of the stature of Christ, and our graces are perfected in glory.

Nor shall we be anxious about our own advancement only; we shall feel for God's honor also; and for the welfare of those around us. This appears, in a striking point of view, in the conduct of Moses on this occasion; for, not content with finding grace himself, he adds, "And consider that this nation is your people;" in which words he combines a tender regard for God's honor with a concern for his people's welfare.

His further pleading also deserves attention, "Wherein shall it be known here, that I and your people have found grace in your sight? Is it not in that you go with us, Exodus 34:9." Now this shows us the true effect which a sense of God's love will produce; it will make us not only anxious to obtain richer communications of grace and peace to our own souls, but more earnest also to promote to the utmost of our power, the good of all around us.

The answer given to this petition leads us to notice,

III. The plea admitted.

God, in his mercy, gave to Moses an answer of peace.

The plea peculiarly honored God, in that, while it acknowledged his sovereign grace in the blessings already bestowed, it regarded him as a God of unbounded goodness, able and willing to fulfill all his petitions. And God's answer to it showed how greatly it was approved by him, "The Lord said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that you have spoken, for you have found grace in my sight, and I know you by name!" Here, I say, God not only grants the petition, but specifically founds the grant upon the very plea that had been urged.

And when did he ever refuse to hear a petition so enforced?

God loves to be addressed with confidence, provided the confidence is grounded on his power and grace. He bids us to come to him "with a full assurance of faith;" to "ask what we will;" and he gives us reason to hope, that, if we come in faith, he will "do for us not only what we ask, but exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think." It might be feared, that the importunity of Moses would offend him. But it did not; nor was he angry with Jacob, who "wrestled with him in prayer all night," and boldly said, "I will not let you go until you bless me." On the contrary, he commands us to wait on him with unwearied importunity, and to "continue instant in prayer," until he bestows upon us all that our hearts can wish. "The wider we open our mouths in prayer, the more he will fill them!"

To improve this subject, I would say,

1. Bear in mind the tokens of God's love.

Look at what he "has said to you" in his word; take his "exceeding great and precious promises," and tell me whether you can ever lack a plea to urge at the throne of grace. You admire his condescension and grace to Moses; but it is no other than what he will manifest to you—if, like Moses, you consecrate yourself to his service. You cannot, indeed, expect to converse with God face to face, as a man converses with his friend; but by faith you may approach him no less certainly, and no less nearly; and may be sure of obtaining from him an answer of peace. Only take with you his words of promise, and spread them before him; and every jot and tittle of them shall be fulfilled to your souls!

2. Let the effect of his distinguishing grace, be to make you more earnest in your desires after him.

When David said, "O God, you are my God," he added, "early will I seek you." In truth, this is our great encouragement to seek him; for, if he "loved us with an everlasting love," then what may we not expect his loving-kindness to do for us? If once you could bring yourselves to say, 'I am one of God's elect, and therefore am at liberty to relax my efforts in his service;' you would need no further evidence, that you are "yet in the gall of bitterness," and have no part or lot in his salvation. If you have a good hope that you are his children indeed, then you will"walk worthy of your high calling," and "purify yourselves even as he is pure."

3. Improve your saving interest in God for the good of others.

In this Moses greatly excelled; he was willing and desirous even to "be blotted out of God's book" himself, if that, by means of it, he might obtain mercy for his offending nation. See to it, brethren, that your religion operates thus on you. Behold the state of those around you; how many thousands there are dying in their sins! And will you not interest yourselves in their behalf, and labor to obtain for them the mercy that has been given to you? Will you allow your very friends and relatives to perish, without any serious effort in their behalf? Oh! pity them, and pray for them; and "give unto God no rest," until you have obtained some evidence that you have not labored altogether in vain!




Exodus 33:14

The LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."

It is not in the power of words to express, or of any finite imagination to conceive—the extent and riches of divine grace! The instances in which God manifested his grace to the Israelites of old, inasmuch as they were obvious to the eye of sense, are more calculated to excite our admiration. But the church at this time, and every believer in it, experiences equal tokens of God's kindness, if we can but view them with the eye of faith.

It was under circumstances, wherein the Israelites had justly incurred God's heavy displeasure, that the promise in the text was made to them; and to us, if we do but use the proper means of attaining a saving interest in it, is the same promise given, notwithstanding our heinous backslidings, and innumerable provocations.

That we may be stirred up to improve it, we shall point out,

I. The blessings here promised.

Though the promise was given immediately to Moses—yet it was not literally fulfilled either to him or to the people of that generation; since both he, and they, died in the wilderness. This circumstance alone would lead us to look for some mystical accomplishment, which it would receive; and while the Scripture warrants, it will also fully satisfy, our inquiries on this head. The promise has relation to us, as well as to the Israelites.

1. God's promise teaches us to expect His presence along our way.

God had refused to proceed any further with the Israelites, on account of their worshiping the golden calf. In answer however to the supplications of Moses, he had condescended to say that he would "send an angel" in his stead. But when Moses would not be satisfied with that, and continued to plead for a complete restoration of his favor to Israel, with God, overcome, as it were, by his importunity, promised to go before them still in the pillar and the cloud, Exodus 32:34, with the text. More than this they did not need; and less than this could never satisfy one who had ever experienced the divine guidance and protection.

And has not our blessed Lord made the same promise to us? Has he not said, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world! Matthew 28:20." Has not his prophet assigned this as a reason why we should dissipate our fears, and look forward to the eternal world with confidence and joy, Isaiah 41:10. On this promise then let us rely; and let us know, that if we have God for our guide, our protector, and provider—then we have all that can be necessary for us in this dreary wilderness world.

2. God's promise teaches us to expect His glory as our end.

Canaan was a place of rest to the Israelites after the many difficulties that they sustained in their way to it. Just so, Heaven will be indeed a glorious rest to us after our weary pilgrimage in this poor world. Now as the prospect of the land flowing with milk and honey, sweetened all the fatigues and dangers of their journey in the wilderness, so the hope of "that rest which remains for God's children," encourages us to persevere in our labors to attain it; and this rest is promised us, in spite of all the exertions of men or devils to deprive us of it. Our conflicts may be many, and our trials great; but our rest is sure; for God has said, "I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you! Compare Joshua 1:5, with Hebrews 13:5-6."

These blessings being so necessary, we should anxiously inquire into,

II. The means of attaining these blessings.

Moses is here to be considered in a double view, as a type of Christ, and as an example to us.

1. We are to attain these blessings through the intercession of Christ. Christ, like Moses, has immediate access to that Divine Being who is wholly inaccessible to us, 1 Timothy 6:16; and it is owing to his entrance within the tabernacle to "appear in the presence of God for us," that the wrath of the Almighty has not burst forth upon us on numberless occasions, and consumed us utterly! Hebrews 9:24. It is not only at our first return to God that we must seek the mediation of Jesus Christ; we must apply to him continually as our advocate with the Father, expecting nothing but through his prevailing intercession. This is the way pointed out for us by the beloved disciple, especially in seasons when fresh-contracted guilt has excited just apprehensions of the divine displeasure, "If any man sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, 1 John 2:1." Whether therefore we desire grace or glory—let us seek it through Christ, as the purchase of his blood, and the consequence of his intercession.

2. We are to attain these blessings through our own importunate supplications.

While the Israelites took off their ornaments in token of their sincere humiliation, Moses, as their representative, importuned God for mercy, and urged his requests with the most forcible and appropriate pleas. In this manner should we also cry unto our God for pardon and acceptance, not enduring the thought of being left by him, lest we come short of that rest to which he has undertaken to lead us, Hebrews 4:1. Nor should we cease to plead, until we have an assured hope that he is reconciled towards us, and a renewed prospect of his continued presence with us to the end of life.

It is in this way that his people have prevailed with him in every age, Daniel 4:7-8; Daniel 4:17-19; and he has pledged himself to us, that, when our uncircumcised hearts are humbled, he will remember his holy covenant, and return in mercy to us, Leviticus 26:40-42.


1. How greatly are we indebted to Jesus Christ!

Where shall we find one who has not made to himself some idol, and "provoked the Lord to jealousy?" And how justly might God have sworn in his wrath that we should not enter into his rest! But our adorable Savior has sprinkled the mercy-seat with his precious blood, and offered up the incense of his own prevailing intercession on our behalf. Surely he is well called "Our peace, Ephesians 2:14," since he alone procures it, maintains it, perfects it. Let us bear in mind then our obligations to him, and ascribe to him the glory due unto his name.

2. How earnest ought we to be in intercession for each other!

In the history before us we behold one man interceding for a whole nation, and that too under circumstances where there could be scarcely any hope to prevail; yet he not only obtains a revocation of the sentence which God had passed, but a renewal and continuance of his usual favors towards them. Shall we then neglect the duty of intercession, or intercede for each other merely in a formal way, as though we expected no answer to our petitions? Let us not so greatly dishonor God, and so wickedly slight our own privileges, 1 Samuel 12:23. We are expressly commanded to pray one for another, yes, and to make intercessions for all men, James 5:16; let us not doubt therefore but that, by pleading earnestly with God, we may obtain blessings for our friends, for our country, and for all whose cause we plead. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much!"

3. How happy are those who are enabled to live upon the promises!

Were we to consider:

the length and difficulty of our way,

the enemies we have to encounter, and

our utter insufficiency for anything that is good

—we would utterly despair of ever reaching the heavenly Canaan.

But God promises to us his presence along the way, and his rest at the end of our journey; and "he who has promised is able also to perform." Let our trust then be in him, "with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." Let us "cast our cares on him who cares for us." Let our discouragements, yes, our very iniquities, bring us nearer to him, and cause us to rely more simply on his word. Thus shall we experience his faithfulness and truth, and be monuments of his unbounded mercy to all eternity!




Exodus 33:18-19

Then Moses said, "I beseech you, show me your glory." And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."

No man can have ever contemplated the intercession of Abraham in behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah, without being astonished at the condescension of God, who would permit a worm of the earth so to encroach upon his goodness, and so to make every fresh concession a foundation for yet further petitions.

Somewhat of the same kind we behold in Moses when interceding for Israel, when God had threatened to destroy them for worshiping the golden calf. He had, by his importunity, prevailed on God to promise that he would suspend the execution of his judgments on them; and that, though he could no longer promise to conduct them himself, he would send an angel, who should lead them in safety to the promised land. Having succeeded so far, he prosecuted his work of intercession, until he had prevailed on God yet further to bear with them, and to continue to them his presence and guidance as he had hitherto done. And now, having found Jehovah so infinitely condescending to him when importuned for others, he determined to urge a petition for himself; a petition, which, under any other circumstances, he could never have dared to ask; and it was no less than this, "I beseech you, show me your glory."

His success in this petition will form the first part of our present subject; and some reflections arising out of that success will close it. Let us notice,

I. His success in this petition.

The petition itself must be first explained.

Respecting its import, commentators have differed; some having imagined that it proceeded from weakness and infirmity, as if he had needed further evidence of God's presence and favor. But a due attention to God's reply will remove all doubt respecting the precise meaning of his servant's request. Moses had enjoyed many visible tokens of God's presence; in the burning bush; in the bright cloud which conducted Israel out of Egypt; on the burning mount, where he had been admitted into the immediate presence of the Deity; and at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, where God had descended on purpose to honor him in the sight of all Israel, and "spoken with him face to face, as a man speaks to his friend;" Jehovah had appeared to him.

How then, after so many manifestations of the divine presence, could he say, "Show me your glory?" I answer, In all those manifestations he had seen only a symbol of the Deity; now therefore he desired a sight of the Deity himself. He knew that the Deity was visibly seen in Heaven; and he did not know but that he might also be visibly seen on earth; and therefore he made this the subject of his request.

God's gracious reply to him shows clearly that this was the thing desired; for he said to Moses, "You cannot see my face; for no man shall see me, and live." Human nature, in its present shape, is incapable of sustaining so bright a vision; as the unprotected eye is of gazing upon the meridian sun. And therefore, while God approved of the petition as proceeding from an ardent desire after a more perfect knowledge of him, he told him that in its full extent it could not be granted; not because of any lack of condescension in the Deity to grant it, but for lack of a capacity in Moses himself to sustain it.

The answer of God to Moses' petition will be now clear.

"I will make all my goodness pass before you;" so that, though the full effulgence of my glory will be veiled, all that can be endured by you, and that will profitably correspond with your petition, shall be granted. In respect of the effulgence of my glory, I will favor you with such a view of my back parts (for my face you can not see) as shall give you as full a conception of my glory as you are capable of in your present state; and, by an audible voice, will make known to you my perfections, which you are more concerned to know, and by an acquaintance with which your soul will be far more enriched, than it could be by any manifestation of my Godhead, however clear or bright!

Accordingly, God put him into a cleft of a rock, and covered him there with his hand while he was passing by; and then withdrew his hand, that he might have such a distant and mitigated view of his back parts, as might be seen without the utter destruction of the beholder.

This vision God accompanied with a distinct and audible annunciation of his own attributes, as a God of infinite majesty, of almighty power, of unbounded mercy, and of immaculate and inexorable justice—all of which perfections were illustrative of his goodness, Exodus 34:5-7. Here it is of importance to observe, that God's justice, no less than his mercy, is an essential part of his goodness. As in human governments the exercise of justice, however painful to those who by their violations of the law have incurred a sentence of condemnation, is beneficial to the whole community; so is it in the divine government, which, if it allowed impunity to transgressors, would be disparaged and dishonored.

The particular perfection of God's sovereignty is supposed by many to be in direct opposition to the attribute of goodness; and is therefore denied by them as having any existence, or at least any exercise, in the divine government. But, the very moment that God says to Moses, "I will make all my goodness pass before you," he adds, "and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you, and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy to whom I will show mercy." This perfection, therefore, in conjunction with all the rest, must be considered as constituting an essential part of the divine character, and as properly illustrating his "goodness."

And here let me remark, that it is not in any single perfection that God's glory consists, but in the united and harmonious exercise of all. "God is light," we are told in 1 John 1:5. Now light consists of many different rays, some of a more brilliant, and others of a more somber aspect; and we can no more detach from it those which are of a darker hue, than those which are more bright and vivid. It is in the union and just admixture of all, that light consists.

And so it is with respect to the divine glory; to which all of God's perfections—the more austere attributes of sovereignty and justice, no less than the more endearing perfections of love and mercy, are necessary. And this view of the divine glory fully answered the wishes of Moses, which a more literal compliance with his petition, even if it could have been endured, would not so well have satisfied.

A more distinct explanation of the particulars contained in this answer to Moses will more properly arise, while we make,

II. Some reflections arising out of his success.

Behold here,

1. The excellence of the Gospel.

In the Gospel, all that was given to Moses is imparted to us with tenfold advantage; because, while a fuller insight into the revelation itself is granted to us than was ever given to him, we can contemplate it at our leisure, and without any such emotions as would tend to confuse our minds. Behold then, I say, that Almighty God, "who dwells in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man has seen or can see, 1 Timothy 6:16," has become visible to us in the person of his Son; as it is said, "No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him, John 1:18."

The Lord Jesus Christ, "having in himself all the fullness of the Godhead, Colossians 2:9," is, on this very account, called "the image of the invisible God, Colossians 1:15;" because Jehovah, who in his own essence is invisible to mortal eyes, has become visible to us in the person of his Son, who is "the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person! Hebrews 1:3;" insomuch, that "whoever has seen him, has seen the Father, John 14:9."

In truth, this was the mystery, which Moses probably did not understand at the time; the mystery, I mean, of his being put into the cleft of the rock. For, "that rock was Christ! 1 Corinthians 10:4;" and it is in Christ alone that God's perfections can find scope for exercise towards sinful man, and be all displayed in united splendor. But in Christ, "mercy and truth meet together, and righteousness and peace kiss each other! Psalm 85:10."

Come then, Beloved, come to the Gospel, even to "the glorious Gospel of the blessed God!" come there, and "behold in it, as in a looking-glass, the glory of the Lord, that you may be changed by it, even as Moses was, into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord! 2 Corinthians 3:18." You are privileged beyond all the prophets, not excepting even the Baptist himself; for Paul says, that "what no eye had seen, nor ear heard, neither had it entered into the heart of man to conceive, (no, not even the eye, or ear, or heart of Moses himself,) God had revealed unto the Christian by his Spirit! 1 Corinthians 2:9-10." And by that same Spirit, working in and by the word, will God reveal it unto you also, even all "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 4:6."

2. The power of faith.

Faith is justly called "the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen, Hebrews 11:1." Faith penetrates into the highest heavens, and "beholds Him who is invisible! Hebrews 11:27." It "sees God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, Acts 7:55," able to support, and ready to reward, his faithful people. Yes, "though now we see not our adorable Savior with our bodily eyes—yet, believing in him, we rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory, 1 Peter 1:8."

We need not envy Moses; for as great as his privilege was, it was not to be compared with ours. His eyes were gratified with a glorious sight, no doubt; and his mind was instructed with audible sounds; but he saw not the truths realized; nor did he fully comprehend the things revealed to him, 1 Peter 1:10-12. But we have seen our God incarnate; and have "beheld his glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father, John 1:14." We have seen in his atonement, all the perfections of God harmonizing and glorified; and we understand clearly, how God can be "just, and yet the justifier of sinful men! Romans 3:26." We know him to be "a just God, and yet a Savior, Isaiah 45:21;" and live in the sweet assurance, that he is not only merciful, but "faithful also, and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness! 1 John 1:9."

The world at large, indeed, and multitudes even of the professing Christian world, have no experimental sense of these things; and the reason of their blindness is, they have not saving faith; but to genuine believers, "Christ manifests himself as he does not unto the world, John 14:22;" and so enables them to "behold his glory, that they are changed by it into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord, 2 Corinthians 3:18."

Blush, then, you who "see in Christ no beauty nor loveliness for which he is to be desired, Isaiah 53:2;" know that this is the result of "unbelief, by which the devil has blinded you, 2 Corinthians 4:4;" and that, "if you will believe, you shall see the glory of God! John 11:40;" you shall see it, not only in the exercise of his power, but also in the display of "all his goodness."

3. The efficacy of prayer.

Wonderfully is this illustrated in the passage before us. But shall we suppose that God is less condescending now than in the days of Moses, or that he will not answer prayer at this time as well as then? Know that God is the same gracious God as ever, "with him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning, James 1:17;" "The prayer of the upright is still his delight, Proverbs 15:8," as much as at any period of the world; and that "those who come to him in his Son's name, he will never cast out." On the contrary, he tells us, that "we may ask what we will; and it shall be done unto us, John 15:7." There is no limit to his answers to believing prayer, except such as his own glory, or our capacity, have imposed. "It is not in him that we are straitened, but in our own affections, 2 Corinthians 6:12."

How, then, should we urge the petition of Moses, and say, "O Lord, I beseech you, show me your glory!" Let us have but "one thing to desire of the Lord;" and let that be, that we may behold his glory! Psalm 27:4. Let us go into his presence; and say, with David, "O God, you are my God; early will I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land, where there is no water; to see your power and your glory, Psalm 63:1-2;" and God will draw aside the veil that intercepts our views of him. Yes, "he will come down from the habitation of his holiness and his glory, Isaiah 63:15," and present himself before us, saying, "Here I am! Isaiah 58:9." He would even fulfill to us his promise, "hearing us before we ask, and answering while yet we are speaking to him, Isaiah 65:24."

O that we would plead with him as he has commanded us to do, Luke 18:1; Luke 18:7, and "give him no rest, Isaiah 62:7," until he answers us in the desire of our hearts! Let us not imagine, that he will be offended at the largeness of our petitions; for he is as willing, as he is "able, to do exceeding abundantly for us above all that we can ask or think! Ephesians 3:20." Let us "open our mouths ever so wide, he will most surely fill them! Psalm 81:10."

4. The blessedness of Heaven.

When Peter beheld his Lord transfigured upon Mount Tabor, he said, "It is good to be here." And if such a view of Christ's glory, with his bodily eyes, was so delightful—then what must it be for our disembodied spirits to be introduced into his immediate presence, and to "see him as he is! 1 John 3:2." What views shall we then have of the perfections of the Godhead all uniting and glorified in the work which he accomplished on the cross! Truly that heavenly city, where he abides, "has no need of the sun or moon to lighten it; for he will be the light thereof, Revelation 21:23," and with his glory shall every soul be filled. If we account Moses happy when favored with his transient visions of God, then what shall we be, when around his throne we behold him in all his glory, and look forward to a never-ending duration of our bliss! O that we could contemplate more the blessedness of that state; and live more in a habitual preparation for it! Lift up your hearts, brethren; for the blessed period is near at hand. Be "looking for it, and hastening to it, 2 Peter 3:12;" and let "nothing short of that have any glory in your eyes, by reason of the glory that excels."

Take now already the golden harps into your hands; and begin "the blissful song." Emulate to the utmost of your power, those who are gone before you; and soon you shall join the countless choir in singing "the song of Moses and the Lamb!"




Exodus 34:5-7

"Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished."

The voice of inspiration says to every one of us, "Acquaint yourself with God, and be at peace." An acquaintance with ourselves (which indeed is equally necessary to our salvation) will only lead us to despair, unless its effects are counteracted with a proportionable knowledge of our God. The more we discern of our own depravity, the more must we see of our guilt, our danger, and our helplessness; nor can anything pacify our consciences, and allay our fears, but a view of the divine perfections, as united and harmonizing in the work of redemption. But that once obtained, our minds will be serene and happy; and the more complete our view of God is, the more firm will be our confidence in him, and the more sublime our joy.

Moses, well aware of this, prayed to God to show him his glory. To this request God graciously condescended, and appointed him a place where he would meet him, and make this discovery unto him. In discoursing upon this marvelous event, we shall notice,

I. The situation in which Moses was placed.

We are told that "God stood with him there;" but this not being a prominent feature in the text, we shall premise some observations as introductory to our remarks upon it.

In the first place, we would observe that in interpreting the Holy Scriptures, we are not at liberty to indulge our own imagination; we must approach them with sacred awe and reverence; and give such explanations of them only, as we truly believe to be agreeable to the mind of that blessed Spirit, through whose inspiration they were written.

Next, we observe, that the whole of the Mosaic economy was of a typical and mysterious nature; and that, though it is sometimes difficult to ascertain the precise import of some events—yet the meaning of those which are more striking is clear and obvious, and may be stated without any fear of deviating from the truth.

Further, there are many events, of which we should have made only a general improvement, which God himself has marked as conveying very minute and particular instruction. For instance, the miracle wrought by Moses, when he struck the rock, and thereby gave the whole nation a supply of water, which followed them all through the wilderness, might be supposed to teach us only that God will supply the needs of his people who put themselves under his guidance; but Paul teaches us to look deeper into that miracle, and to find in it the great mysteries of redemption. He tells us that "that rock was Christ!" and, that the water which they drank of was "spiritual drink." Or, in other words, that the miracle denoted, that Christ, being struck with the rod of the law, becomes unto us a never-failing source of all spiritual blessings! 1 Corinthians 10:4.

We only observe further, that there was no occasion whatever, in which we might more certainly expect to find something typical and mysterious, than in that before us. God was about to reveal himself to Moses in a manner that he never did, either before or since, to any mortal man; and the directions which he gave previous to this discovery of himself, and which were necessary for the safety of his favored servant, were so minute and significant, that we cannot doubt but that the whole transaction was replete with mysterious import, and most valuable information.

We come now to notice the situation in which Moses was placed.

God commanded Moses to go up to Mount Sinai, and stand upon a rock; and promised that he would there pass by him in a visible manner; but, because it was not possible for Moses to behold the splendor of the divine glory, God told him, that he would put him into a cleft of the rock, and reveal to him such a view of his glory as his frail nature could sustain. Accordingly, having put him into the cleft of the rock, and covered him with his hand, to prevent him from getting any sight of his face (which he could not have seen consistently with the preservation of his life), he passed by, and then, withdrawing his hand, he permitted him to see his "back parts," that is, to have such an indistinct view of him as we have of a person who has passed by us, Exodus 33:20-23.

Now Sinai and Horeb, it appears, were two tops of the same mountain. We are told in the context, that God called Moses to come up unto Mount Sinai; yet the preceding chapter informs us that the Israelites were at that time encamped by the Mount of Horeb, Exodus 33:6. The whole nineteenth chapter of Exodus informs us that the fellowship which Moses had with God at the time of the giving of the law, was on Mount Sinai; whereas Moses elsewhere informs us, that he stood before the Lord in Horeb, Deuteronomy 4:10; Deuteronomy 4:15; and that the Lord made a covenant with them in Horeb, Deuteronomy 5:2; and that the people provoked the Lord to wrath in Horeb, Deuteronomy 9:8 with 10:1–5. which was the very period alluded to in the text. Hence it is manifest, that the terms Horeb and Sinai are used as nearly, or altogether, synonymous; because the same transactions are represented indifferently as having taken place on the one, or on the other.

Now it has already appeared that the rock in Horeb is declared by God himself to have been a lively representation of Christ; and therefore we may well suppose, that this rock, which was certainly in the same mountain, if not the very identical rock, was intended also to prefigure Him; more especially as the putting of Moses into the cleft of it exactly represents the benefits we receive by virtue of a saving interest in Christ.

To those who are not "in Christ," "God is a consuming fire! Hebrews 12:29;" and, if he were to pass by any people who have not "fled to Christ for refuge, Hebrews 6:18," he would instantly "burn them up as thorns! Isaiah 27:4," and "consume them with the brightness of his coming! 2 Thessalonians 2:8." Besides, it is in Christ alone that we can have even the faintest view of God; because it is in Christ alone that his perfections are displayed to man; and it is only when we are in Christ, that we have any eyes to behold them!

Here then we see, not only that there is something mysterious in the situation of Moses, but that a due consideration of it is necessary to a full understanding of the passage before us.

In considering this singular favor conferred on Moses, we proceed to notice,

II. The revelation which God gave of himself to him.

Though the terms in which God described his perfections are many—yet they may be reduced to three heads:

1. His majesty.

God, in calling himself "the Lord, the Lord God," intimated that he was that eternal, self-existent Being, who gave existence to every other being, and exercised unlimited authority over the works of his hands.

His dominion is universal,

his power is irresistible,

his sovereignty is uncontrolled, "He does according to his will in the armies of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth;" "nor can any stay his hand, or say unto him, What are you doing?"

Such a manifestation of his majesty was peculiarly necessary, in order that our obligations to him might appear in their proper light; for never, until we have learned to acknowledge and adore his sovereignty, shall we be able rightly to appreciate his love and mercy.

2. His mercy.

Many expressions are heaped together upon this subject, because mercy is the attribute in which God peculiarly delights; and because he desires to impress our minds with right apprehensions of it.

God first, in general terms, declares himself to be "merciful and gracious;" by which we are to understand, that he is ever ready to pity the miserable, and relieve the needy. He is in his own nature has a propensity to love and kindness, and forward to exercise his benevolence, whenever he can do it in consistency with his other perfections.

The first-fruit of his mercy is "long-suffering."

And how long did he bear with the antediluvian world? For the space of one hundred and twenty years did he wait, to see if by the ministry of Noah he could turn them from their evil ways.

What can we conceive more insufferable than the conduct of the Israelites in the wilderness? They were always murmuring and rebelling against God, who had done such great things for them yet did he bear with them forty years.

But we need not look back to the Antediluvians or the Jews; what monuments have we ourselves been of his patience and long-suffering! How have we provoked him to anger every day of our lives? Yet we are here at this moment on praying ground, instead of being, where we most richly deserve to be, in the very depths of Hell!

Nor has he merely borne with us; he has shown himself also "abundant in goodness and truth." He has been doing us good from the first moment of our existence to this present hour. He has "made his sun to shine, and the rain to descend upon us," and "given us fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." But he has done infinitely more for us than this; for he has given his only dear Son to die for us, and "his Spirit to instruct us," and has been calling us by the ministrations of his servants to receive all the blessings both of grace and glory. Many "great and precious promises also, has he given us;" not one of which has he ever falsified, or shown the least reluctance to fulfill.

Moreover, this kindness of his extends to the last generations; for he is "keeping mercy for thousands" that are yet unborn. One reason why he bears with many proud rebels, is that he has mercy in reserve for many who are to proceed from their loins, who would never be brought into existence, if he were to execute on their offending parents the judgments they deserved. Who can tell? He may have "kept mercy" for some of us to this present hour; and the time may now be come, wherein he shall make us willing to accept it. Would to God it might be so!

But the completion of his mercy is seen in his "forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin." Search the sacred records, and see what sins he has forgiven! what sins before conversion! what sins after conversion! and you will find, that there is no species or degree of sin which he has not pardoned, even though it has been often repeated, and long continued in. Let anyone attempt to enumerate his own transgressions, and he will find them more in number than the sands upon the sea-shore, and sufficient, if visited according to their desert, to sink the whole world into perdition! Yet, if he is a believer in Christ, they are all forgiven. How many iniquities then is God continually pardoning in every quarter of the globe! But this is the habit which most characterizes his nature and perfections. Though he cannot look upon iniquity without the utmost abhorrence of it—yet "judgment is his strange work," and mercy is his delight.

3. His justice.

The concluding sentence of our text is understood by some to mean, that when he begins to punish "he will not make a full end," but "in judgment will remember mercy;" and it is certain that it will bear this sense, because, literally translated, it stands thus, "Clearing, he will not clear." But then, in this description of his attributes, God would wholly omit his justice, which we cannot suppose he would; nor would the words, in this sense, at all agree with the words that follow them.

We take them therefore as they are in our translation; and, according to their obvious meaning, they convey to us a most important truth. God does indeed take pleasure in the exercise of mercy; but still he will never violate the rights of justice; he will pardon; but not the impenitent or unbelieving. It is to those only who repent, and believe the Gospel, that he will finally approve himself a reconciled God. Nothing shall ever prevail upon him to "clear one guilty" person, who holds fast his iniquities, or will not wash them away in the Redeemer's blood. It may be asked, Will he not have respect to the multitude, of those who are in that predicament? Or will he not be softened when he shall see them weeping, and wailing, and gnashing their teeth, in Hell? We answer, No; he will by no means clear the guilty; if they will live and die in sin—then they must "eat the fruit of their own doings."

It is worthy of particular notice in this place, that Moses desired to see God's glory; and that God said, he "would make all his goodness pass before" him; from whence we are assured, that God's goodness and his glory, are as much seen in his justice, as in any other attribute whatever. Indeed, if God were destitute of impeccable justice—then he would cease to be either glorious or good; he could not be glorious, because not perfect; nor could he be good, because he would give licence to his creatures to violate his law, to throw his whole government into confusion, and to render themselves miserable; for even God himself could not make them happy, while sin lived and reigned in their hearts. It is by his justice that he deters men from sin; and teaches them to flee from that which would embitter even Paradise itself; and therefore justice, however severe may he its aspect upon sin and sinners, is indeed a part of the divine goodness, and a ray of the divine glory.


1. How wonderful is the efficacy of prayer.

Moses, notwithstanding an apparent prohibition, had interceded with God on behalf of the idolatrous Israelites, and had prevailed, Exodus 32:10-14. Still however, God, to mark his displeasure, refused to go with the people any more; and said he would commit the guidance of them to an angel, Exodus 32:34. But Moses, having thus far obtained a favorable audience, requested and urged that God himself should still go with them, as he had hitherto done. Nothing would satisfy him but this, Exodus 33:15. When he had succeeded in this, he grew bolder still; and asked, what no living creature had ever dared to ask, "O God, I beseech you. show me your glory!" God approved of his boldness, and granted him this also.

Just so, what would he not grant to us, if we would ask in humility and faith? He says himself, "Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it! Psalm 81:10."

O brethren! see in this instance the efficacy of prayer; and know, that if you asked forgiveness for the vilest of all sins, and prayed to have the presence of God with you all through this wilderness, and even begged to have the glory of God himself pass before your eyes, it would be given to you; your iniquities would be forgiven; you would have God for your constant protector and guide; and he would "shine into your hearts, to give you the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus! Christ 2 Corinthians 4:6." O pray without ceasing, and without doubting!

2. Of what importance is it to obtain a saving interest in Christ.

All, except the true Christian, have erroneous views of God; some are led by his majesty or justice to give way to desponding fears; others from a sight of his grace and mercy are induced to cherish presumptuous hopes. It is the Christian alone who sees his majesty tempered with mercy, and his mercy harmonizing with the demands of justice. No man can have this sight of God, until he is put into the cleft of the rock. What we said at the beginning, we now repeat, that to all who are not in Christ, God will be a consuming fire! Seek then, my brethren, to be "found in Christ." Then "you shall see the King in his beauty! Isaiah 33:16-17." Then you shall behold him transfigured, as it were, before your eyes Matthew 17:1-2; and have a foretaste of that blessedness which you shall enjoy, when "you shall see him as you are seen, and know him even as you are known! 1 John 3:2 with, 1 Corinthians 13:12."




Exodus 34:14

"The Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God."

Genuine religion is founded on the character of God. If he were, as many foolishly imagine him to be, "a Being like unto ourselves," a very small measure of duty and service would be all that he could reasonably require. But being a God of infinite majesty, and unbounded mercy, it is not possible to exercise towards him too great a measure of fear and love; nor can he be too strict in exacting at our hands the utmost that we are able to pay. In this view, the feeling of jealousy, which seems at first sight not to comport well with our notions of the Supreme Being, may very properly be ascribed to him; and we may justly say, as in our text, "The Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God."

Let us contemplate:

1. The character of God, as here described.

Jealousy does exist in the bosom of Jehovah.

Jealousy in man is a painful feeling, arising from a suspicion that a measure of the regard due to us is transferred to another, who is in no respect entitled to it. And so deep is the wound which it inflicts, especially on a husband who conceives himself to have been dishonored by his wife, that nothing can ever heal it. "Jealousy," says Solomon, "is the rage of a man; therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance; he will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though you give many gifts, Proverbs 6:34-35."

In God, also, does jealousy burn with a most vehement flame, "They have moved me to jealousy," says God, "and a fire is kindled in my anger, and it shall burn unto the lowest Hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. I will heap mischiefs upon them, and will spend my arrows upon them! Deuteronomy 32:21-23." To the same effect the Prophet Nahum also speaks, "God is jealous; and the Lord revenges; the Lord revenges, and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries; and he reserves wrath for his enemies! Nahum 1:2."

Nor is jealousy unworthy of God's character.

On account of his own inconceivable excellency, God deserves to stand without a rival in our affections. On account of what he has also done for us in creation, in providence, and in grace, especially in the gift of his only dear Son to die for us; and, I may add, on account of the relation in which he stands as "the Husband of his Church, Isaiah 54:5"—God has additional claims to our supreme regard; and if he sees that we are in any respect allowing anything to stand in competition with him, he may well be jealous.

In truth, he could not, consistently with his own perfections, dispense with these obligations, even for a moment. "He cannot give his glory to another, Isaiah 42:8;" he would cease to be God, if he could allow his own inalienable rights to be withheld from him, and not express his indignation against the idolatrous offender. It is his very "name" and nature to be jealous! As to those who love him, he is a God of love and mercy. So is he, of necessity, to those who alienate their affections from him, "a jealous God, and a consuming fire! Deuteronomy 4:23-24."

From this view of his character, let us proceed to notice,

II. Our duty, as arising from God's jealousy.

We must not act in any way inconsistent with the relation which we bear to him.

1. We must not allow any alienation of our affections from him.

We are bound to love him with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul, and all our strength. Nothing is to be loved by us but in subordination to him, and for his sake. If anything under Heaven is permitted to share our regards with him, we are guilty of idolatry, Colossians 3:5. Nothing is excepted. The Apostle says, "Set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth! Colossians 3:2." We must take care, therefore, not only not to love anything above him, but to "hate even father and mother, and our own lives also," in comparison with him.

2. We must not allow any abatement in our devotion to him.

God speaks of our espousals to him as a season of peculiar love, Jeremiah 2:2. And at that season we are, for the most part, delighted with everything that may bring us into nearer communion with him, and express the feelings of our heart towards him. Then the reading of his word, and secret prayer, and an attendance on the public ordinances of religion are to us sources of the sublimest joy.

But if we become cold in these respects, and the ardor of our love abates, can we suppose that he will be pleased with us? Will he not say to us, as to the Church at Ephesus, "I have somewhat against you, because you have left your first love! Revelation 2:4." Surely, if an earthly husband will not endure a declension in his wife's regards, then much less will the God of Heaven and earth endure a diminution of ours.

3. We must not allow any unnecessary fellowship with things which have a tendency to draw us from him.

This is particularly marked in the preceding context. God requires his people not to form alliance with their heathen neighbors, nor to accept invitations to their idolatrous feasts; he commands them to "destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves," and to forbear even the mention of the gods whom they worshiped. He knew how soon "bad company corrupts good character;" and therefore he forbade any unnecessary fellowship with the heathen.

And has he not given a similar injunction to us also? Has he not declared, that, as soon may "light and darkness have communion with each other, or Christ with Belial, as a believer with an unbeliever;" and that, therefore, we must come out from the ungodly world, and be separate, and not touch the unclean thing, if we would have him for "a father unto us, and act as befits his sons and daughters, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18."

This is a gracious and merciful warning, similar to what an affectionate husband would give his wife in relation to the society of one who was seeking to seduce her. And we must carefully attend to it; and be no more "of the world, than Christ himself was of the world." We must endeavor to "keep our garments clean" amidst the pollutions that are around us, Revelation 3:4, and "hate even the garment spotted by the flesh, Judges 1:23." We must not be contented with avoiding evil, but must "abstain even from the appearance of it! 1 Thessalonians 5:22."


1. To those who think it an easy matter to serve God.

Though a woman may without any great difficulty perform her duties to an affectionate husband, where the bias of her natural affections is on the side of duty—it is not so easy to execute all that our God requires; for there we stem the current of nature, instead of being carried forward by it. Hence, when the whole people of Israel were so ready to bind themselves to serve their God, Joshua warned them, that they could not do it without divine aid, Joshua 24:18-19. So let me say to you, that, if you will indeed give yourselves to the Lord, and take him as your portion, you must not engage in your own strength; but must look unto your "God, who alone can work in you either to will or to do."

2. To those who are unconscious of having given occasion to God to be jealous of them.

Look, not merely at your acts, but at the depositions of your heart and mind; and then judge. He says, "Give me your heart!" Now see whether your affections have not strayed; yes, whether you have not been like the wild donkey in the wilderness, whom none can overtake or keep from her mate, Jeremiah 2:23-24. This is a humiliating, but a just, image of our conduct; and if we will not acknowledge it, remember that God is a jealous God!

3. To those who are ashamed of their past ways.

Among men, the unfaithfulness of a wife may have been such as to preclude a possibility of her restoration to the station she once held; but no departures, however grievous, shall prevent our restoration to the divine favor, if, with sincerity of heart, we humble ourselves before him, Jeremiah 3:1. In the name of God himself, I am commanded to proclaim this, and to invite the most abandoned of you all to return to him, "Return, faithless Israel,' declares the LORD, 'I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,' declares the LORD, 'I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt--you have rebelled against the LORD your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,'" declares the LORD. "Return, faithless people," declares the LORD, "for I am your husband! Jeremiah 3:12-14. "Return, then, unto him, so that your iniquity shall not be your ruin Ezekiel 18:30."




Exodus 34:23-24

"Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign LORD, the God of Israel. I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the LORD your God."

Besides the weight of evidence arising from the accomplishment of prophecy, and the working of miracles, to prove the divine origin of the Mosaic dispensation; there is a great abundance of internal evidence in the dispensation itself, that corroborates and confirms our conclusions respecting it. What impostor that ever lived would have been weak enough to put his religion to such a test as this which we have now read? No one would have done it even for a few years, while he himself might be at hand to execute his own plans; much less would any man transmit such an ordinance to posterity, when one single instance of failure would be sufficient to subvert his whole religion. But, not to dwell on this, we will,

I. Draw your attention to the institution itself.

It was that all the males should go up to Jerusalem thrice in the year, from every quarter of the land, to keep a feast there unto the Lord.

1. Consider of what nature this appointment was.

It was partly political, and partly religious.

As a political ordinance, it was intended to cement the people together, and to keep them united in love. Had they no common center of union, no appointed means of communion, the different tribes might in process of time have forgotten their relation to each other, and have sought their own separate interests, instead of acting in concert with each other for the good of the whole. But by this expedient, all who had the greatest influence among them were brought frequently into the closest interaction with each other, and, on their return to their respective homes, diffused the same brotherly affection through the land.

As a religious ordinance, it was of singular importance, not only for the preserving of the people from idolatry, (to which they were always prone,) but for the impressing of their minds with a love to vital godliness.

The times appointed for their assembling at Jerusalem were:

1. At the feast of unleavened bread, to commemorate their deliverance from Egypt and from the sword of the destroying angel.

2. At the feast of weeks, that is, that of Pentecost, seven weeks after the Passover.

3. At the feast of tabernacles, or of in-gathering (as it was called), to commemorate their living in tents in the wilderness, and to render thanks for the fruits of the earth which they had gathered in. See Deuteronomy 16:1-16.

Thus at the returning seasons of spring, of summer, and of autumn, they were required to commemorate the mercies which had been given to their nation, and with joy and gratitude to acknowledge their obligations to Jehovah.

They were ordered to rejoice before the Lord, and to make free-will offerings to him, "None were to come empty." Mark especially, Deuteronomy 16:10; Deuteronomy 16:15-16. What a blessed tendency had such seasons to keep alive in their minds a sense of their high privileges, and to spread a savor of true religion through every family in the land!

2. Consider what care God took to guard against the objections to which it was liable.

It would of necessity occur to all, that, by their observance of this ordinance, their land on every side would be exposed to the incursions of their enemies, who would not fail to take advantage of their absence, and to retaliate upon them the injuries they had sustained. In this view it should seem, that they would be highly criminal in leaving the women, the children, the aged, and the sick, in such a defenseless state; and that it would be more advisable to depute some from every quarter to represent the rest. But God would not be served by proxy; he commanded all to keep the feasts at the place prescribed; and, to remove all apprehensions about their property or their families, he pledged himself to protect their frontier, and so to overrule the minds of their enemies, that they should not even "desire" to invade their land at any of those seasons. They had seen how able he was to turn the minds of their enemies in Egypt, who had just before sent, yes even "thrust," them out of the land, laden with spoil; and he engaged that, to the remotest period of their existence as a nation, he would interpose for them with equal effect, if only they would trust their concerns to him, and serve him in his appointed way.

We indeed have nothing to do with the institution before us; nor do we much admire the formal custom (which seems to have arisen from it) of attending at the Lord's supper on the three great festivals of our Church, while we live in the neglect of that ordinance all the year besides. Nevertheless the institution is far from being uninteresting to us; as will be seen, while we,

II. Suggest some observations founded upon it.

Much might we speak respecting the providence of God, who so miraculously wrought upon the minds of their enemies, that no infidel could ever adduce one single instance wherein this promise failed. We might speak also respecting the happiness of true religion; and draw a parallel between the Jews assembling for their solemn feasts, and Christians universally uniting in the same grateful acknowledgments and heavenly joys. But there are two observations, to which, as arising clearly out of the subject, and as being of singular importance, we would limit your attention:

1. The service of God is of paramount obligation.

We have seen what strong objections might have been made to the ordinance before us, which yet was required punctually to be observed. And we know that carnal reason has much to suggest in opposition to the commands of God, much that is founded in fact and in the experience of mankind: 'If I serve my God according to the requisitions of his word, I shall be forced to deny myself many things that are pleasing to flesh and blood; I shall also be singular, and shall expose myself to the derision and contempt of those who are hostile to true religion; my very friends may turn against me; and I may suffer materially in my temporal interests.'

All this, and more than this, is very true; but it affords no reason whatever for disobeying the commands of God. The Jews would doubtless on many occasions have preferred their domestic ease and comfort, or the occupations in which they were engaged, to the fatigue and trouble of a long expensive journey. But the command was positive; and so is ours; it admits of no excuses; we are expressly required to "deny ourselves, to take up our cross daily, and to follow Christ;" and it is on these terms alone that we can be his disciples. If called to "forsake father and mother, and houses and lands, for the Gospel's sake," we must forsake, yes and "hate them all," if they stand in competition with Christ, or would draw us from our allegiance to him.

We must not love even life itself in comparison with him, but cheerfully sacrifice it at any time, and in any way that our fidelity to him may require.

Thus must the Christian say, "Tell me not of difficulties, or dangers; it is not necessary that I should be rich, or honored, or even that I should live; but it is necessary that I should obey my God. A heated furnace, or a den of lions, is nothing to me; duty is all. If I die for conscience sake, I rejoice that I am counted worthy to suffer in so good a cause."

This was the mind of Paul, "None of these things move me," says he, "neither do I count my life dear unto me;" "I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the Lord's sake." O that we might be like him:

men of piety,

men of principle,

men of firmness and decision!

2. Those who serve the Lord shall be saved by him.

The trust which the Jews at those stated seasons reposed in God was never disappointed. Nor shall ours be, though all the hosts both of men and devils were confederate against us. The challenge is justly given us: "Who ever trusted in the Lord, and was confounded?"

There is a great fault among religious people in relation to this; many are distressing themselves with doubts and fears, 'Shall I persevere to the end? Shall I be saved at last?' A holy caution is doubtless very befitting in every state; but not a slavish fear. Our concern should be to serve God. It is his concern, if I may so speak, to save us. Even from temporal trials he can, and will, protect us, as far as is for our good.

See a most striking illustration of this truth in Acts 18:9-18. To allay Paul's fears, God promised to protect him in Corinth—a city proverbially abandoned to debauchery. He preached there eighteen months unmolested. At last a violent assault was made upon him by all the Jews in the city; but the judge would take no cognizance of their complaints, and drove them away from his judgment-seat. The Greeks, who had joined with the Jews, being irritated by this conduct, laid hold on Sosthenes, whom they conceived to be a friend of Paul's, and beat him in the very presence of the judge; but Paul, on whose account the clamor was raised, escaped unhurt, and continued in the city a good while longer without any injury whatever; and at last departed from it in peace. So faithful are the promises of God!

As for spiritual and eternal evils, he will assuredly protect us from them. "Who is he who shall harm us, if we be followers of that which is good?" Satan, it is true, will never for a moment relinquish his desire to assault us; that roaring lion will never intermit his wish to devour; but God will be as "a wall of fire round about us," and "his grace shall be at all times sufficient for us;" "nor shall any temptation take us beyond what we are able to bear, or without a way to escape from it."

"Know then, brethren, in whom you have believed; that he is able to keep that which you have committed to him." Know that, if only your eyes were opened, you might at this moment see horses of fire and chariots of fire all around you, and a host of angels encamped around you for your protection. Invade not any longer the province of your God. Leave to him the care of preserving you; and confine your solicitude to the serving and honoring of him. This is your duty; it is also your privilege. The direction of God himself is this, "Commit your souls to him in well-doing as into the hands of a faithful Creator." Be assured that he will not fail you; and that "He who has promised, is able also to perform."




Exodus 34:33-35

"When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the LORD's presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the LORD."

It is an established and invariable truth, that "those who honor God, shall surely be honored by him." We have the clearest evidence of this, both in the antediluvian and patriarchal ages. Did Abel honor God by his offering, Enoch by his walk, and Noah by his faithful warning of an ungodly world? They also were blessed with signal manifestations of the divine favor. Did Abraham, Lot, or Job display singular piety? They were as singularly protected, delivered, and exalted by their God.

The same we observe of Moses. He was faithful to his God, when all Israel, not excepting Aaron himself, revolted from him; and to him did God grant so bright a glory, that none of his countrymen were able to fix their eyes upon him; insomuch that he was constrained to put a veil upon his face, in order to facilitate their access to him, and restore his usual opportunities of conversing with them. This veiling of his face is to be the subject of our present consideration; and we shall notice it in a two-fold view:

I. This veiling of Moses' face was a kind expedient.

The face of Moses shone with a dazzling and overpowering splendor.

He had for forty days and nights been communing with God upon Mount Sinai; and it pleased God, for the confirmation and increase of his authority among the people, to send him down to them with a luster upon his countenance, that should at once convince them whose servant he was, and whose authority he bore.

At the first sight of him, both Aaron and all the people were affrighted. This was the natural effect of that guilt which they had so recently contracted. They feared that he was sent as an avenger to punish their iniquity. When they found that their organs of sight were too weak to behold the bright effulgence of his glory, they felt how unable they must be to withstand the terror of his arm.

As the brightness of Moses' face was supernatural, so the effect of it on the people was peculiar to that occasion. But there is an awe inspired by the presence of every godly man, in proportion to the weight of his character and the eminence of his piety. Herod, though a king, "feared John, because he knew that he was a just and holy man." And Job tells us, that at his presence "the aged rose, and the young men hid themselves."

To facilitate their access to him, he adopted the expedient mentioned in the text.

He was not conscious of the splendor with which his countenance was irradiated, until their inability to behold him convinced him of it. Just so, those who bear much of the divine image are not conscious of their own superiority; their minds are fixed on their own defects rather than on their excellencies, and, from their deep views of their remaining corruptions, they are ready to count themselves "less than the least of all saints."

When he perceived the effect which the sight of him produced, instead of being elated with the honor conferred upon him, or desiring to employ it for the maintenance of his own authority, he put a veil upon his face to conceal its brightness, and called them to him that he might impart unto them the instructions he had received from God. As often as he returned to commune with God—he took off the veil, as not either necessary or befitting in the divine presence; but in all his fellowship with the people, he covered his face.

On this point many useful thoughts occur; but we shall reserve them for the close of our subject, where they will be more advantageously suggested in a way of practical improvement.

II. This veiling of Moses' face was an instructive emblem.

Whether Moses himself understood the full signification of his own act, we cannot say; it is probable he did not; for certain it is, that the prophets in many instances could not see the full scope of their own prophecies. But, whether he understood it or not, we are assured, on infallible authority, that his covering his face with the veil was intended by God to represent,

1. The darkness of that dispensation.

The Mosaic dispensation was "a shadow of good things to come;" but what the substance was, none could exactly ascertain. The very tables which at this time Moses had brought down from God, contained a law, the nature, intent, or duration of which none of them could understand. They could not discern its spiritual import, but judged of it only by the letter.

They thought it to be a covenant of life; whereas it was not at all designed "to give life," but rather to be "a ministration of condemnation and death."

They supposed it was to continue to the end of time; when it was merely given for a season, until the things which it prefigured should be accomplished.

Its splendor was veiled from their sight, as was the brightness of Moses' face; and Paul informs us, that the expedient to which Moses resorted, was intended to show that the law was in itself "glorious, 2 Corinthians 3:7," but that "the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of it, 2 Corinthians 3:13."

2. The blindness of the human mind.

There were in the Jews of those days, and there are at this hour, a blindness of mind, and an obduracy of heart—which render them almost invincibly adverse to the truth of God. We see it, and wonder at it, in them; but are unconscious of it in ourselves, and insensible of it as a matter of personal experience. Yet are we, in fact, greater monuments of obduracy than they; because there was a veil over their dispensation, which is removed from ours. Did they continue stiff-necked and rebellious, amidst all the mercies and judgments with which they were visited? So do we: The "God of this world has blinded us."

"Our understanding is darkened."

"We are alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in us, and because of the blindness of our hearts."

We "hate the light, and will not come to it, lest our deeds should be reproved."

Now this propensity in human nature to reject the truth, and to "account it foolishness," was intended to be marked by this significant action of the Jewish lawgiver. Paul explains it in this very way, "But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts." 2 Corinthians 3:14-15

3. The benefit to be expected from their promised Messiah.

The occasional removal of his veil when he went into the presence of his God, showed, that it was not always to continue in the dispensation, but that at a future period it should be removed, and the dispensation itself "abolished." The Messiah, to whom they were constantly directed to look, as to that promised seed in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed, was to take away both the foregoing veils; the one, by fulfilling the law in all its parts; and the other, by communicating his Holy Spirit to all his followers. Then the true nature of that law would be fully understood; and Christ would be recognized as "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes." Then should the glory of that dispensation be clearly seen, and the incomparably brighter glory of the Christian dispensation be seen also.

For this view of the subject we are also indebted to the Apostle Paul; who tells us that the Gospel, as "a ministration of the Spirit" and "of righteousness," was to succeed, and to eclipse, the law; and that "when the Jews should turn to the Lord, the Messiah would take away that veil" from their hearts, and bring them into the light and "liberty" of the children of God, 2 Corinthians 3:7-11; 2 Corinthians 3:16-17.

In the former part of our discourse we forbore to make several remarks, which we reserved for this place; and which, while they elucidate the subject, will afford rich instruction,

1. To ministers.

We have seen what Moses did; and in some respects we should imitate him; but in others we should adopt a directly opposite conduct.

It was truly amiable in him to condescend to the infirmities of the people, and to veil his own glory for their good. Thus every minister should prefer the instruction of his people, to the display of his own talents, or the aggrandizement of his own name. It is pitiful indeed to court applause for our learning, when we should be converting souls to Christ.

Paul, qualified as he was to astonish men with his abilities and talents, "would rather speak five words to the understandings of men, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue."

Our blessed Lord "spoke as men were able to hear it;" and reserved his fuller instructions until his hearers were better qualified to receive them.

Paul also gave only "milk to babes," while "to those who were of full age he administered meat." Thus should we do, lest we blind or dazzle men by an unseasonable display even of truth itself.

But are we, like Moses, to use concealment? No; the Apostle expressly guards us against imitating Moses in this particular, "NOT as Moses," says he, "NOT as Moses, who put a veil over his face;" but, on the contrary, we must "use great plainness of speech, 2 Corinthians 3:12-13."

There is nothing in the Gospel that requires concealment, nor anything that admits of it; we must "declare unto men the whole counsel of God." We must discriminate so far as to judge what will, and what will not, "be profitable to men;" but the truth we must declare without the smallest mixture or reserve; and "by manifestation of the truth must commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God, 2 Corinthians 4:2." It must be our labor to rend away the veil from the hearts of our hearers; for "if our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are lost, 2 Corinthians 3:13 to 2 Corinthians 4:6." "The glory of God shines in the face of Jesus Christ;" and to show them that God's glory in all its brightness, is to be the one object of our labor; just as it is the unwearied effort of the devil to conceal it from their view, 2 Corinthians 3:13 to 2 Corinthians 4:6. The beauty of the passage is lost if the two chapters be not read together.

2. To hearers.

You should be aware that there is a veil upon your hearts, else you will never pray unto the Lord to remove it. Even the Apostle Paul, learned as he was in all biblical knowledge, had, "as it were, scales fall from his eyes," when God was pleased to lead him to a clear view of his Gospel.

So must "the eyes of your understanding also be enlightened," before you can "discern aright the things of the Spirit." But though God has appointed ministers to instruct you, you are all at liberty, yes you are required, to go yourselves, like Moses, into the presence of your God. Do not however veil your faces before him, but go exactly as you are. Your fellow-creatures could not endure to see all that is in your hearts; nor would it be of any use to reveal it to them; but "to God all things are naked and open;" and the more fully you unbosom yourself to him, the more will his blessing come upon you. It is by putting off the veil from your own hearts, that you shall with "open unveiled face behold his glory;" and, by beholding it, "be changed into the same image from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord."

Truly you shall, in a measure, experience the same benefit as Moses did; you shall be "beautified with salvation;" "the beauty of the Lord your God shall be upon you;" and all that behold you shall be "constrained to acknowledge that God is with you of a truth."

When this effect is produced, "let your light shine before men." You are not called to veil it, but rather to display it; not indeed for your own honor (that would be a base unworthy motive), but for the honor of your God, that those who "behold your good works may glorify your Father that is in Heaven."




Exodus 36:5-7

And they spoke unto Moses, saying, "The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the LORD commanded to be done." Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: "No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary." And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work."

The followers of Christ are supposed to regard this as their favorite maxim, 'The greater the sinner, the greater the saint.' They are considered also as approving an inference that may be deduced from it, namely, that it is advisable to commit some gross crime, in order to augment our future piety. We trust however, that such calumnies, though often affirmed, are not really credited. The least consideration would convince a man, that such a sentiment could find no place in a religious mind.

But though we disclaim any such licentious tenets, (yes, and utterly abhor them,) yet we must say, that "he who has been forgiven much, will love much;" and that "godly sorrow," in proportion as it exists in the soul, "will work indignation and revenge" against all our spiritual enemies, and will lead us invariably to "bring forth works fit for repentance." This truth is strongly illustrated in the history before us.

The whole nation of the Jews had revolted from God, and worshiped the golden calf. For this God had threatened them with utter destruction; but, upon the intercession of Moses, had reversed his decree, and had received them again to his favor. Instead of forsaking them utterly, he had even determined to dwell among them as their God; and had ordered a tabernacle to be made for him, with everything else which would be needed for the services they were to present unto him. For the constructing of this he relied on the liberality of his people; and the outcome proved that his reliance was well placed; and that their sense of the obligations conferred upon them was sufficiently powerful for the occasion. The account given us of their zeal is truly edifying. It will be proper to notice,

I. The object of it.

They had lately shown an unhappy zeal in the service of a false God; and now they labored to evince their gratitude to Jehovah, and to exalt the honor of his name. This desire filled the whole nation, and was the mainspring of those exertions which they now made.

And who must not acknowledge this to have been an object worthy of their supreme attention? Survey the objects which occupy the minds of men, and to the pursuit of which they willingly devote their wealth and labor! The gratifications of sense, how base are they, in comparison with that which now animated the Jewish people. The attainment of honor, or the acquisition of wealth, how empty are they in comparison with that nobler end which Israel pursued! Theirs was worth ambition, and might well provoke them all to holy emulation. To have Jehovah resident among them. to provide for him a suitable habitation, to have proper means of access to him, and of communications from him, and, finally, to possess before their eyes a pledge of his continued care, and his eternal love. This was as much beyond the poor objects of common ambition, as the contemplations of reason and philosophy exceed the dreams of children!

Happy would it be for us, if we all formed the same judgment, and were all penetrated with the same desire!

II. The operation.

There are two things in their conduct which we cannot fail to notice and admire; namely, their liberality and their diligence. No sooner did they know what things would be accepted, than they vied with each other in supplying them. Whatever any man possessed that could be applied to the projected structure, he deemed it instantly, "Corban"; and without hesitation consecrated it to the service of his God. Their ornaments, of whatever kind, were stripped off; all, both men and women, being more desirous to beautify the sanctuary of their God, than to adorn themselves. Each seemed to think himself rich, not in proportion to what he retained for his own use, but to the supplies he was able to contribute. The poorest among them were as glad to give their wood, their rams' skins, or their brass, as the richest were their jewels and their gold.

Nor were they less solicitous to work, than to supply materials for working. The women engaged in spinning the goats' hair and in embroidering the linen, while the men were occupied in forming the wood and metals for their respective uses. Those who could teach were as glad to instruct others, as others were to receive instruction; and all desired, in whatever way they could, to advance the work.

Now it is in this way that genuine piety always operates. The converts in every age are represented as coming unto God, "their silver and their gold with them. Compare Isaiah 60:17; Acts 2:44-45; 2 Corinthians 8:1-4." It is characteristic of them all, that they are "a peculiar people, zealous for good works".

III. The effect.

Such was the conduct of all who were "wise-hearted," and "whose spirits made them willing" to glorify their God. Mark how often these expressions occur in this and the preceding chapter. The effect was, that, in a very few days, the abundance of the gifts exceeded the occasion for them; and it became necessary to issue through the camp a prohibition against adding anything further to the store.

O what might not be done for the honor of God and the benefit of mankind, if all exerted themselves according to their ability! How easy would it be to erect places for the worship of God; to provide accommodations for the poor; to administer:

instruction to the ignorant,

consolation to the troubled,

and relief to the distressed!

Such a union of zealous exertions as we see exhibited on this occasion, would in a great measure drive affliction from the world, and turn this valley of tears into a paradise!


1. Let the cause of God be dear unto our souls.

We have not, it is true, any such edifice to raise, and therefore may be supposed to have no such call for zeal and diligence. But is there not a spiritual temple which God desires to have erected for him, and wherein he may be glorified? Yes, is not that temple infinitely more dear to him than any which can be formed by human hands? The material tabernacle was only a shadow of that better habitation wherein God delights to dwell.

Should not that then be an object of our concern? Should not the manifestations of his presence, and the establishment of his kingdom in the world, call forth our zeal, as much as the erection of that fabric in the wilderness did the zeal of Israel?

Well may it shame the world at large, that every trifle occupies their minds, more than this; and even the people of God themselves have reason to blush, that their feelings are so acute in reference to their own interests and honor—and so dull in what regards the honor and interests of their God.

2. Let us cordially and universally cooperate for the advancement of it.

It is generally thought that the duty of propagating Christianity pertains to ministers alone. But it is very little that a minister can do without the cooperation of his people. Multitudes will never come to hear him, or afford him any opportunities of benefitting their souls; and the greater part even of those who do attend his ministry, gain little from it, for lack of having the subjects which they hear impressed upon their minds in a way of private instruction.

All should contribute, according to their ability, to advance the salvation of those around them. Masters should take the superintendence of their families, and parents of their children. The more enlightened among the people should endeavor to instruct their unenlightened neighbors. The visiting of the sick, the relieving of the needy, the conducting of Sunday schools for the benefit of the poorer classes, these, and such like works, should be regarded by all, both men and women, as their common province, and followed by all according to their respective abilities. See Romans 16:3; Romans 16:12 and Philippians 4:3.

The people of Israel deemed it not so much their duty, as their privilege, to contribute to the raising of the tabernacle; and this is the light in which we should view our calls to exertion. Do any account it hard to sacrifice somewhat of their time and interest in such a cause? O "tell it not in Gath; publish it not in the streets of Askelon!" "Let not the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from the hand of the enemy." Let us rather unite, all of us, with willing hearts, in the service of our God; and, "whatever our hand finds to do, let us do it with all our might!"




Exodus 40:1-2

"The Lord spoke unto Moses, saying: On the first day of the first month shall you set up the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation."

The beginning of a new year is, not without reason, considered by professing Christians in general as a fit occasion for more than ordinary attention to religious duties. I say not, indeed, that the generality of Christians actually so employ that hallowed time; for, in fact, the whole season wherein we commemorate the incarnation of our blessed Lord is by the generality made rather a time for carnal mirth. But still, this is acknowledged by all to be rather an abuse of our religious privileges than a suitable improvement of them. There is in the minds of all a consciousness, that to review our past errors with penitence, and to prepare for a more diligent performance of our duty in future, is the proper employment of that period, when we are entering, as it were, upon a new scene of things.

In my text, "the first day of the first month" was appointed by God himself as the time for commencing the services of the tabernacle, after the Israelites had abode in the wilderness nearly a whole year. Doubtless, both Moses and the various workers had used great diligence to get every vessel ready for the service which it was destined to perform; and great exertion must have been made on the day here spoken of, wherein the tabernacle and all the vessels of it were not only got ready for their destined use, but were employed in the very service for which they had been formed. But the command of Jehovah animated the people on this occasion; and, I hope, their conduct will encourage us also to prosecute with befitting earnestness the labors which this season calls for at our hands.

For the advancement of this blessed object, I will set before you,

I. The work here assigned to Moses.

He was ordered now to set up the tabernacle with everything belonging to it, and to commence the service of it. A pattern of every part of it had been shown to him on Mount Sinai, and according to that pattern had everything been formed. No less than eight times in this one chapter is it said, that Moses did everything "as the Lord had commanded him."

For all this care, both in relation to the pattern given him, and to the execution of it by himself and all under his command, there was, no doubt, a very important reason. The very injunction given him at the time of showing to him the pattern, "See that you make all things according to the pattern shown to you in the mount, Exodus 25:40," strongly marked, that, in the divine mind, there was some very important end to be accomplished by it. What that end was we are informed in the Epistle to the Hebrews: The tabernacle itself, and all its vessels, were intended to be "an example and shadow of heavenly things," that is, of the things revealed to us under the Christian dispensation. In a word, the law and its ordinances were intended to give a just representation of the Gospel and its mysteries; and the two were to accord with each other in every minutest part, even as an impression with the seal by which it was made, Hebrews 8:5. Behold, then, here was the work assigned to Moses, namely, to give to the Jewish people such an exhibition of the Gospel and its mysteries as would suffice for them under that shadowy dispensation, and prepare them for that fuller manifestation which would be given to the Church by the ministry of Christ and of his holy Apostles.

The tabernacle itself was a representation of Christ, "in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, Colossians 2:9," and who in his incarnate state "dwelt (tabernacled) among us, John 1:14."

The priests, the altar, and the sacrifices, shadowed him forth as "the Great High-Priest," through whom alone we can come to God, Hebrews 10:19-22; and who, being himself the altar that sanctified the gift, Hebrews 13:10, "offered himself a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, Hebrews 10:12," even "an offering and a sacrifice to God of a sweet smelling savor Ephesians 5:2." The altar of incense also designated that same divine Savior as ever living to make intercession for us, Hebrews 9:24. The candlestick also, and the table of showbread, represented him as "the light of the world, John 8:12," and as "the bread of life, of which whoever eats shall live forever, John 6:48; John 6:58." The lavers too represented him as "the fountain opened for sin Zechariah 13:1," in which every one "who washes is cleansed from all sin, Revelation 1:5." The same may be said of every minute vessel in the sanctuary; they all shadowed forth the Lord Jesus in some part of his Mediatorial office.

But I must by no means omit to mention the ark, in which the tables of the Law were placed, and which was covered by the mercy-seat of precisely the same dimensions, and which represented him as fulfilling the Law for us, Romans 10:4, and as obtaining mercy for all who would come to God by him, Hebrews 7:25.

Now all of these, whether the vessels, or the people who officiated in the use of them, "were anointed with oil, verses 13-15," to show, that even Christ himself, "being anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, Psalm 45:7," had "the Spirit given to him without measure for the performance of his work, John 3:34;" and that no person or service can ever be "acceptable to God," unless it id "sanctified by the Holy Spirit, Romans 15:16."

Let us next turn our attention to,

II. The corresponding work that is now called for at our hands.

We are now called, every one of us,

1. To realize in our minds the things here shadowed forth.

The wonders of Redemption should occupy our attention every day; but on this day especially should we be coming to God in "that new and living way which Christ has opened for us through the veil." We should go to the Lord Jesus Christ as our sacrifice, and as the altar that sanctifies that sacrifice, and as the priest that offers it. Under all the characters that have been before contemplated concerning him, we should apply to him, "receiving everything out of his fullness, John 1:16." From day to day, as long as the Jewish polity existed, were the various sacrifices and services of the Mosaic ritual renewed; and as long as the world shall stand, must we look to Jesus as here shadowed forth:

feeding on him as our bread,

washing in him as our laver, and

living altogether by faith on him! Galatians 2:20.

Would to God that every one of you would this very day begin these services, if you have hitherto been strangers to them; or prosecute them with redoubled ardor, if you have already entered on this life of faith!

2. To get them spiritually wrought within our own souls.

We have said that Christ was mystically shadowed forth in all the services of that day. And this is true. But it is also true that the life of God in our own souls was spiritually represented. Yes, brethren, "we are temples of the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 6:19;" and "God will come down and dwell in us, 2 Corinthians 6:16;" yes, "Christ will dwell in our hearts by faith, Ephesians 3:17." And in us"the sacrifices of prayer and praise are to be offered to him continually, Hebrews 13:15." In truth, we ourselves are to be living sacrifices to him, Romans 12:1; and, as a holy priesthood, we are to be offering ourselves to him, 1 Peter 2:5.

Every faculty of our souls is to be sanctified to his service by the Holy Spirit, lightened by his light, and nourished by his grace. We are, in fact, to be "lights in this dark world, Philippians 2:15," and "witnesses for Jehovah, that he alone is God, Isaiah 43:12."

My dear brethren, this conformity to Christ is at once our duty and our privilege; and to "grow up into him in all things as our living Head," is the work of every day throughout our whole lives, Ephesians 4:15. Now, then, I call you to commence this work, if it is not yet begun; or to proceed in it with augmented ardor, if, through the grace of God, it is already begun in your souls.

And for your encouragement, I will venture to affirm, that the tokens of God's approbation which were given to Moses, shall as really, if not so sensibly, be renewed to you; for "the glory of the Lord shall fill" your souls, and the most signal manifestations of his love shall abide with you, both in this world, and in the world to come!

And now I appeal to you, whether this will not be a good employment for the season on which we have just entered?

Who does not regret that he has lost so much time already? Moses, considering how many months had been consumed in the wilderness before he began his work, could not have well completed it before. But who among you might not have begun long before, and been now both serving and enjoying God in a tenfold greater degree, if he had duly improved his time, and prosecuted his work with unremitting care?

Let it then be your endeavor now to "redeem the time;" that, if this be the destined period that is to put an end to your earthly existence, you may enter with joy into the presence of your Lord, and be for ever happy in the bosom of your God.




Exodus 40:33-34

"And so Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle."

A union of many hands and much zeal must of necessity expedite any work that is undertaken. So it proved in the constructing of the tabernacle; the whole of which, notwithstanding the exquisite skill and workmanship with which every part of it was formed, was in about the space of seven months completely finished, so as to be capable of being all erected, and brought into use in one single day. Such activity could not but be highly pleasing to God, in whose service it was employed. Accordingly we find that he immediately testified his approbation of it by a most astonishing act of condescension and grace.

That we may see the subject in its true light, let us inquire into,

I. The work here referred to.

This was the constructing of the tabernacle; a work of singular excellency and importance, whether it is considered in itself, or in its typical design. Let us view it:

1. In itself.

It will be proper to notice briefly its form. There was a court about sixty yards long, and thirty yards broad, enclosed by linen curtains, suspended about nine feet high on brazen pillars. Within that, at the west end of it, was a structure, about eighteen yards long, and six broad, made with boards of Shittim wood, covered with gold, and fastened together by bars of the same materials. The boards were forty-eight in number, fixed in ninety-six sockets of silver, each of them about a hundred pounds weight. The whole was covered first with curtains of fine embroidered linen, and then with three other coverings, one of goats' hair, another of rams' skins dyed red, and another of badgers' skins.

This structure was divided into two apartments, called the holy place, and the holy of holies; the former being about twelve yards by six; and the latter six yards square, and as many high. The entrance to each of these was from the east, (as was that of the outward court also,) each leading to the other through a veil of embroidered linen.

The furniture of the whole was quite appropriate. In the outer court, (to which all clean Hebrews and proselytes had access,) was the brazen altar, on which the sacrifices were offered, and the brazen laver, in which the priests and Levites were to purify themselves. In the holy place (into which the priests were admitted) was the candlestick, the table of showbread, and the altar of incense. In the holy of holies (where the high-priest alone entered, and that only on one day in the year,) was the ark, covered by the mercy-seat; on which abode the Shechinah (the bright cloud, the symbol of the Deity), between cherubim. In the ark the tables of the law were deposited; and at a subsequent period, Aaron's rod that budded, and the golden pot that had the manna, were laid up before it. Compare Hebrews 9:4-5 with 1 Kings 8:9.

We need not enter minutely into these things; it will be more instructive, after taking this summary view of the whole, to notice it,

2. In its typical design.

In interpreting the types, we must bear in mind that the greater part of them had reference to Christ in one view, and to his people in another view. This was particularly the case with respect to the tabernacle.

The tabernacle typified, in the first place, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord himself, speaking of his own body, says, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again, John 2:19; John 2:21." And in the Epistle to the Hebrews, his body is represented as that "more perfect tabernacle in which he ministered, and which was not made with hands, as the other was, but by the immediate agency of the Holy Spirit, Hebrews 8:2; Hebrews 9:9-11." The correspondence between the two is obvious; for "in Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;" and through his sin-atoning sacrifice, and sanctifying grace, and prevailing intercession, we all are brought into a state of acceptance with God. On the other hand, as there was no way to the Mercy-seat but through the Holy Place, "so no man can now come unto the Father but by him."

It further typified the Church, which, though base on the outside, "is all glorious within." In that alone is any acceptable sacrifice offered unto God. In that alone are the sanctifying operations of the Spirit experienced. In that alone is the bread of life administered, or the light of truth exhibited. In that alone does God manifest his glory, or communicate his saving benefits. Hence the beloved disciple, speaking of the Church in the latter days, says, "The tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God, Revelation 21:3."

Once more, it typified Heaven also. Remarkable is the language of the Apostle, who says, "Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into Heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us! Hebrews 9:24." There, not the symbol of the Deity, but all the glory of the Godhead, is unveiled! There the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving ascend up with a sweet fragrance unto God continually. There the illumination, the nourishment, the purity of every soul is complete. No veil obstructs the view, or forbids the access, of any individual; the beatific vision is given to all, and the full fruition of their God is the portion of all the saints.

If we judged only from the minuteness of the orders which God gave respecting this work, we should conceive highly of its importance; but still more shall we see it, if we consider,

II. The testimony of his approbation with which God honored it.

We must bear in mind that Israel had sinned a grievous sin; that, at the intercession of Moses, God had turned away from his holy indignation, and promised to continue with them as their God. In token of his reconciliation, he ordered this tabernacle to be made for him; and the very day it was erected, he came down visibly to take possession of it as his peculiar residence, and so filled it with his glory, that Moses himself could no longer stand to minister there.

Now while this testified his approbation of their work, and of those who had been engaged in it—it showed to all future generations, that He will return to those in love and mercy, who return to him in a way of penitence and active obedience.

In this view, we are led to consider this event, not as relating to the Israelites merely, but as speaking to us. Where is the nation, where the church, where the individual, who has not given just occasion to the Lord to shut up his loving-kindness in displeasure? Yet where is there to be found, in the annals of the world, one single instance, wherein God has turned a deaf ear to the supplications of a real penitent? Instances to the contrary are without number.

God, as in the history before us, has seemed ambitious, as it were, to make "his grace abound, not only where sin had abounded," but (I had almost said) in proportion as sin had abounded. We must be careful not to "limit the Holy One of Israel," whose "ways and thoughts are as far above ours, as the heavens are above the earth." We are apt to forget that he is the same God now, as he was in the days of old; but "he changes not;" and if his manifestations be less visible than formerly, they are not a whit less real, or less gracious, 2 Corinthians 6:16 and John 14:21.


The day on which this work was finished was the first day of the year. What a blessed commencement was it of the new year! How sweet must have been the retrospect to all who had been engaged in the work, when they saw that they had not spent the preceding year in vain! Each could call to mind some sacrifices which he had made for God, or some exertions used in his service; and they would enter on the new year with a determined purpose to serve and honor God more than they had ever yet done.

Beloved brethren, is it so with you? Have you in your consciences an evidence that you have lived for God, and made it a principal object of your life to serve and honor him? But, however the past year may have been spent, think now what work you have to do for him, and how you may perfect it with expedition and care. And O that we may speedily have such a day among us as the Israelites enjoyed; all of us presenting to him our souls and bodies for his habitation, and receiving from him undoubted tokens of his favorable regard!