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these are we beholden for our peace, preservations, and all the rich mercies of God which we enjoy. We could not want, if we could ask.
Every man's hand would not have done this, but the hand of a Moses. A faithless man may as well hold his hand and tongue still; he may bauble, but prays not; he prays ineffectually, and receives not: only the prayer of the righteous availeth much; and only the believer is righteous.
There can be no merit, no recompense answerable to a good man's prayer; for heaven, and the ear of God is open to him; but the formal devotions of an ignorant and faithless man, are not worth that crust of bread which he asks: yea, it is presumption in himself, how should it be beneficial to others? It profanes the name of God, instead of adoring.
But how justly is the fervency of the prayer added to the righteousness of the person! When Moses hand slackened, Amalek prevailed. No Moses can have his hand ever up; it is a title proper to God, that his hands are stretched out still, whether to mercy or vengeance. Our infirmity will not suffer any long intention, either of body or mind. Long prayers can bardly maintain their vigour, as in tall bodies the spirits are diffused. The strongest hand will languish with long extending: and when our devotion tires, it is seen in the success; then straight our Amalek prevails. Spiritual wickednesses are mastered by vehement prayer, and, by heartlessness in prayer, overcome us.
Moses had two helps, a stone to sit on, and an hand to raise his : and his sitting and holpen hand is no less effectual. Even in our prayers will God allow us to respect our own infirmities. In cases of our necessity, he regards not the posture of body, but the affections of the soul.
Doubtless Aaron and Hur did not only raise their hands, but their minds with his. The more cords, the easier draught. Aaron was brother to Moses : there cannot be a more brotherly office, than to help one another in our prayers, and to excite our mutual devotions. No Christian may think it enough to pray alone. He is no true Israelite, that will not be ready to lift up the weary hands of God's saints.
All Israel saw this : or if they were so intent upon the slaughter and spoil, that they observed it not, they might hear it after from Aaron and Hur; yet this contents not God; It must be written. Many other miracles, had God
done before, not one directly commanded to be recorded : the other were only for the wonder, this for the imitation of God's people. In things that must live by report, every tongue adds or detracts something. The word once written is both upalterable and permanent.
As God is careful to maintain the glory of his miraculous victory, so is Moses desirous to second him; God by a book, and Moses. by an altar, and a name. God commands to enrol it in parchment; Moses registers it in the stones of his altar, which he raises not only for future memory, but for present use. That hand which was weary of lifting up, straight offers a sacrifice of praise to God. How well it becomes the just to be thankful! Even very nature teacheth us men to abhor ingratitude in small favours; how much less can that fountain of goodness abide to be laded at with unthankful hands! O God, we cannot but confess our deliverances ! Where are our altars ? Where are our sacrifices? Where is our Jehovah-nissi ? I do not more wonder at thy power in preserving us, than at thy mercy, which is not weary of casting away
Of the Law.
It is but about seven weeks since Israel came out of Egypt; in which space God had cherished their faith by five several wonders; yet now he thinks it time to give them statutes from heaven, as well as bread. The manna and water from the rock (which was Christ in the gospel) were given before the law; the sacraments of Grace before the legal covenant. The grace of God preventeth our obedience, therefore should we keep the law of God, because we have a Saviour. O the mercy of our God! which, before we see what we are bound to do, shews us our remedy, if we do it not. How can our faith disannul the law, when it was before it? It may help to fulfil that which shall be, it cannot frustrate that which was not. The letters which God had written in our fleshy tables, were now (as those which are carved in some barks) almost grown out: he saw it time to write them in dead tables, whose hardness should not be
capable of alteration. He knew, that the stone would be more faithful than our hearts.
O marvellous accordance betwixt the two testaments ! In the very time of their delivery, there is the same agreement which is in the substance. The ancient Jews kept our feasts, and we still keep theirs. The feast of the passover is the time of Christ's resurrection; then did be pass from under the bondage of death. Christ is our passover, the spotless Lamb; whereof not a bone must be broken. The very day wherein God came down in fire and thunder to deliver the law, even the same day came also the Holy Ghost down upon the disciples in fiery tongues, for the propagation of the gospel. That other was in fire and smoke, obscurity was mingled with terror; this was in fire without smoke, befitting the light and clearness of the gospel ; fire, not in flashes, but in tongues; not to terrify, but to instruct. The promulgation of the law makes way for the law of the gospel. No man receives the Holy Ghost, but he which hath felt the terrors of Sinai.
God might have imposed upon them a law by force; they were his creatures, and he could require nothing but justice. It had been but equal, that they should be compelled to obey their Maker ; yet that God which loves to do all things sweetly, gives the law of justice in mercy, and will not imperiously command, but craves our assent for that, which it were rebellion not to do.
How gentle should be the proceeding of fellow-creatures, who have an equality of being, with an inequality of condition ! when their infinite Maker requests, where he might constrain ! God will make no covenant with the unwilling; how much less the covenant of grace, which stands all upon love? If we stay till God offer violence to our will, or to us against our will, we shall die strangers from him. The church is the spouse of Christ : he will enjoy her love by a willing contract, not by a ravishment. The obstinate have nothing to do with God. The title of all converts is, a willing people.
That Israel inclined to God, it was from God. He inquires after his own gifts in us, for our capacity of more. They had not received the law, unless they had first received a disposition fit to be commanded. As there was an inclination to hear, so there must be a preparation for hearing. God's justice had before prepared his Israelites by hunger,
thirst, fear of enemies ; his mercy had prepared them by deliverances, by provisions of water, meat, bread: and yet, besides all the sight of God in his miracles, they must be three days prepared to hear him. When our souls are at the best, our approach to God requires particular addresses ; and if three days were little enough to prepare them to receive the law, how is all our life short enough to prepare for the reckoning of our observing it? And if the word of a command expected such readiness, what shall the word of promise, the promise of Christ and salvation ?
The murrain of Egypt was not so infectious as their vices ; the contagion of these stuck still by Israel. All the water of the Red Sea, and of Marah, and that which gushed out of the rock, had not washed it off. From these they must now be sanctified. As sin is always dangerous, so most when we bring it into God's sight: it envenometh both our persons and services, and turns our good into evil. As therefore we must be always holy, so most when we present ourselves to the holy eyes of our Creator. We wash our hands every day; but, when we are to sit with some great person, we scour them with balls. And if we must be so sanctified only to receive the law, how holy must we be to receive the grace promised in the gospel?
Neither must themselves only be cleansed, but their very clothes : their garments smelt of Egypt; even they must be washed. Neither can clothes be capable of sin, nor can water cleanse from sin. The danger was neither in their garment nor their skins; yet they must be washed, that they might learn by their clothes, with what souls to appear before their God. Those garments must be washed, which should never wax old, that now they might begin their age in purity; as those which were in more danger of being foul, than bare. It is fit that our reverence to God's presence should appear in our very garments, that both without and within we may be cleanly; but little would neatness of vestures avail us with a filthy soul. The God of spirits looks to the inner man, and challenges the purity of that part which resembles himself; “ Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purge your hearts, ye double-minded.”
Yet even when they were washed and sanctified, they may not touch the mount, not only with their feet, but not with their eyes. The smoke keeps it from their eyes, the marks from their feet. Not only men, that had some impurity at their best, are restrained, but even beasts, which are not capable of any unholiness. Those beasts which must touch his altars, yet might not touch his hill. And if a beast touch it, he must die; yet so, as no hands may touch that which hath touched the hill. Unreasonableness might seem to be an excuse in these creatures : that, therefore, which is death to a beast, must needs be capital to thein, whose reason should guide them to avoid presumption. Those Israelites which saw God every day in the pillar of fire, and the cloud, must not come near him in the mount. God loves at once familiarity and fear; familiarity in our conversation, and fear in his commands. He loves to be acquainted with men in the walks of their obedience; yet he takes state upon him in his ordinances, and will be trembled at in his word and judginents.
I see the difference of God's carriage to men in the law, and in the gospel. There, the very hill where he appeared may not be touched of the purest Israelite. Here, the hem of bis garment is touched, by the woman that had the flux of blood; yea, his very face was touched with the lips of Judas. There the very earth was prohibited them, on which he descended. Here, his very body and blood is proffered to our touch and taste. O the marvellous kindness of our God! How unthankful are we, if we do not acknowledge this mercy above his ancient people! They were his own ; yet strangers, in comparison of our liberty. It is our shame and sin, if, in these means of entireness, we be no better acquainted with God than they, which in their greatest familiarity, were commanded aloof.
God was ever wonderful in his works, and fearful in his judgments; but he was never so terrible in the execution of his will, as now in the promulgation of it. Here was nothing but a majestical terror in the eyes, in the ears of the Israelites, as if God meant to shew them by this how fearful he could be, Here was the lightning darted in their eyes, the thunders roaring in their ears, the trumpet of God drowning the thunder-claps, the voice of God out-speaking the trumpet of the angel : the cloud enwrapping, the smoke ascending, the fire flaming, the mount trembling, Moses climbing and quaking, paleness and death in the face of Israel, uproar in the elements, and all the glory of heaven turned