Page images




Encampment near Mount Sinai. The Covenant. The

people to sanctify themselves.

Having contemplated the natural scenery of Mount Sinai and the surrounding region, we are the better able to understand the wisdom of God in his providential dealings with the Israelites. He acts in accordance with the character of man. He led a people such as the Israelites were to a spot like that of Sinai, for the sake of the moral impression which would be made

them. It was necessary that instructions to their minds, and appeals to their consciences, should be accompanied with a powerful address to their senses. By their long bondage and degradation, they had sunk down into a state of great comparative ignorance and stupidity. Excessive and constant labor hail left them little or no time for intellectual improvement. To escape, if possible, the lash of the oppressor by urging on their daily task, and to provide for the immediate and pressing wants of themselves and their families, filled up the round of their unceasing occupations. Toiling thus like the very animals which were associated with them in their labor, they were in danger of approaching more and more to their condition. With spirited and soul-elevating objects of thought or action they had scarcely any acquaintance; and living in the midst of an idolatrous and superstitious people, they were insensibly losing the knowledge of Divine truth which their ancestors, the patriarchs, had enjoyed.


Such a people needed to be roused from their moral ignorance and lethargy. Strong impressions must be made upon them through the medium of the senses, to prepare the way for their subsequent elevation of character. This is true, every where, of human nature. The individuul, in the season of childhood and youth, must thus be addressed, and reached, and instructed. And God has made wonderful provision for this discipline, in the fascinating attractions that sensible objects possess in the early dawn of our being. Nations, in the infancy of their history, where masses of men begin to emerge from a state of ignorance and barbarism, need the same kind of discipline. And this truth was never more strikingly exemplified than in the history of the Israelites.

The plagues inflicted on their oppressors ; the awful circumstances attending their midnight departure, with the killing and eating of the passover; the assembling of their hosts to move in one body under their one heaven-directed leader; the mysterious rod which he carried with him, that had already been the visible instrument of accomplishing so many prodigies, and was yet to accomplish more; the pillar of a cloud and of fire ; the passage of the Red Sea; the destruction in it of their

oppressors ; the national song which they sung; the waters made sweet at Marah; the fountains and palm-trees of Elim; the supply of quails and manna ; the smiting of the rock in Horeb, and the refreshment which it so long afforded ; Moses on the hill-top, and the defeat of the Amalekites; the altar of JehovahNISSI; the burnt offerings and sacrifices of Jethro; all these are so many illustrations of the truth which we have been considering. They constituted, as it were, a living panorama of bold and striking objects affecting vividly the senses, and, through them, the imagination and the heart.

The panorama is not yet complete. The wilderness of Sinai, with its scenes of solitary, awe-inspiring grandeur ; and the Mount of God, the spot where Jehovah is to show himself by manifestations the most terrific and sublime; are to be added to it, and heighten its effect. What a place for reli gious instruction and impression ; secluded, quiet, soul-subduing; reflecting on every side the majesty of God, echoing his voice, and breathing his presence! Nearly a year's residence amid scenes like these, is a period of time not too long for the truths that were to be inculcated


the Israelites, and the directions that they were to receive in their course of duty, and future service of Jehovah.

They had encamped, at length, in the immediate neighborhood of Mount Sinai; and, as we suppose, soon beheld the cloudy pillar moving up its side, and resting on its summit. There was now the peculiar seat of the divine

presence. Moses

approached it; "and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel ; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.” “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.”—God would be their immediate Sovereign, and distinguish them from all other people by his peculiar protection and favor. They should be a kingdom of priests, ("a royal priesthood," as the apostle expresses it,)—having great dignity and honor conferred upon them; as the kingly and priestly offices were marks of high exaltation, on the part of those who bore them, above their fellow men. They should be a holy nation ; set apart from all others; consecrated to the peculiar service of Jehovah, and to the accomplishment, through them, of his great designs for the salvation of mankind.

Moses, descending from the mountain, called together the elders of the people, and made known to them the divine communication; and, through them, to all the people in the various parts of the encampment.

One sentiment pervaded the whole. They promised to keep the covenant.

The universal response was ; All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. Ah! how easily they could engage; how often afterwards did they fail to perform.

Moses, immediately on hearing this, returned to the mountain, and carried back to the Lord the words of the people.

The reply was, "Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever."

Moses was then directed to see that, on that and the following day, the people should sanctify themselves, (prepare for the setting apart of themselves from all worldly concerns and occupations, and consecrating their time to the more immediate service of God.)

This was to be done by washing their clothes, and undoubtedly their bodies also, in water, that

« PreviousContinue »