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utmost reverence and veneration. It happened exactly three nionths after the departure of the Israelites out of Egypt.
The Lord was now going to renew his covenant with the people whom He had saved and rede med out of the land of Egypt. He designed to bestow great honours and privileges upon them; but expected that they should comply with certain conditions, which he required on their part. The advantages which, in his message by Moses, God proposed to the Israelites, were astonishingly great, To be the peculiar treasure of that ALMIGHTY BEING, who is the proprietor of the whole universe. A kingdom of priests, or a kingly priesthood, authorised to offer up sacrifices acceptable to God; and to be an holy nation sanctified by the visible presence of the LORD God among them. All that the LORD expected in return, was, that they should willingly obey His commands, and keep His covenant.
There was such amazing condescension and goodness in this proposal, that no rational being could hesitate a momentin expressing a ready concurrence with it.
To prevent the Israelites from entertaining any suspicion that Moies deceived them, the Lord promised to appear Himself, for the purpose of renewing his covenant with His people, but required Moses to sunctify them, by withdrawing them from secular employments, in order to give them time to prepare their minds for the approaching solemnity; and also to wash their apparel, that they might, when they approached the Divine presence, be as free from defilement, both in body and soul, as they could possibly render themselves.
Hitherto the Israelites had seen the LORD only in His wondertul works, and in the pillar of the cloud, which, though a pledge and token of His presence, gave no
idea of His Divine Majesty. Little did they conceive what an awful scene was preparing for their view. It was highly proper to assign bounds to them, that they might keep at a respectful distance from that sacred spot, chosen by the LORD for Himself and His heavenly attendants.
The priests who are mentioned in this Section are supposed to have been the eldest sons of families *.
At length the expected day arrived, and the LORD descended (or made the presence of the DEITY manifest) on Sinai. The ever memorable morn was ushered in with the sound of the trumpet of the Archangel. The ALMIGHTY, making the clouds his chariots †, came flying upon the wings of the wind+; He covered Himself with light as with a garment, and was clothed with majesty and honour §. The pavilion of the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, a thick cloud and impenetrable darkness |, in which His ineffable glory veiled itself from mortal eyes, was pitched on the Holy mountain. The earth shook, and the heavens also dropped at the presence of God, even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of GOD, the God of Israel **. Thousands of celestial spirits, shining in immortal beauty, surrounded the darkness that covered the glory of the LORD tt. Their appearance was like flames of fire; and out of the fire went forth lightnings ‡‡. At the sound of the trumpet the people are said to have trembled: What must then have been their sensations, when, coming forth to meet their GOD, they beheld the glorious spectacle, of which the words even of the inspired writers can give but a faint idea! Strengthened to sustain the heavenly vision, Moses
Ps. xviii. 10.
** Ps. lxviii. 8. Ezek. i. 13.
spake unto the LORD what he said is not related; buť we may conjecture, that it was something expressive of the people's penitence. To shew His kindness to them, the LORD called Moses (who acted as a Mediator between Him and the Israelites) up to the top of the mount; after repeating His charge, that the people might not break the prescribed bounds, the LORD spake all the words of that excellent law, called the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, every sentence of which demands particular examination, as the observance of its precepts makes a principal part of the Christian religion; and this law will never be abolished as long as the world lasts *.
We may assure ourselves, that this law was spoken by the LORD GOD Himself. Had it proceeded from an angel, or any created being, it certainly would have tended to lead the Israelites into the very crime they were repeatedly required to avoid, that of Idolatry; for the people would naturally worship Him, who declared himself to be the GoD, to whom their adoration was due.
In addition to the Decalogue Moses received a number of ceremonial, political, and moral laws; the former related solely to the Jewish constitution, and are abolished; but those of a moral tendency are calculated for the whole race of mankind, and are worthy of the attention of Christians.
The Angel whom Gop promised to send to keep His people in the way, could be no other than the ANGEL OF THE LORD, HIS DIVINE IMAGE. He certainly cannot justly be regarded as a created being, for no one could have the name of GOD in him, who was not of
In my Companion to the Common Prayer of the Church of England, there is a full comment upon the Decalogue; in which I hav attempted to shew in what manner Christians should keep these Commandments.
the same nature, for we have already seen that this great name, viz. I AM THAT I AM, is incommunicable to any creature. If it was dangerous for the Israelites to disobey Him to whom the name of God so essentially belonged, it must be equally so for Christians to dishonour Him, since it is He alone that can keep thena in the way of everlasting life.
What Christian, that calls to mind the solemnity with which the Law was given from Mount Sinai, and that it was designed to be of perpetual obligation to all those who should be considered by God as His peculiar treasure, a kingdom of priests, a hol, nation, can forbear to practise its Divine precepts ? By obeying the voice of our Lord, and keeping His covenant, Christians can alone secure to themselves these honourable distinctions. Let us then pay grateful homage to that transcendantly glorious BHING, who delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage, and us from the bondage of sin ; and let us make His Divine precepts the rule of all our actions.
The Law, we find, was given with such proofs of the greatness and majesty of God, that the people were ready to die with fear and apprehensions, and requested that, for the future, Moses might be their Mediator. Moses endeavoured to remove their terrors by assuring them, that the ALMIGHTY only meant to prove to them, that He was above all the heathen gods : and that this tremendous ceremony was intended, not to impress their minds with a slavish fear, but only to excite reverence, and restrain them from the commission of
Having said that Moses was henceforth to be a Me diator between God and the people of Israel, it is necessary to observe, that the word Mediator signifies ore who acts as a peace-maker, or intercessor, between two contending parties ; or as a deputy and representative of each to the other, as occasion may require,
It is to be particularly observed, that the Israelites were commanded not to make to themselves gods of silver or gold. This may be done without making graven images; for whoever suffers riches to occupy that place in his affections, which the Deity ought to fill, or puts his trust in them, makes a GOD of them.
MOSES AGAIN ASCENDS THE MOUNT.
JOSHUA AND THE ELDERS BEHOLD THE GLORY OF
From Exodus, Chap. xxiv.
AND GOD said unto Moses, Come up unto the LORD, thou and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: and worship ye afar off. And Moses alone shall come near the LORD; but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him.
And Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said, will we do.
And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel.
And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt-offerings, and sacrificed peace-offerings of oxen unto the LORD.
And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.
And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people and they said, All that the LORD hath said, will we do, and be obedient.