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father, who, surprised at the earliness of their return, inquires into the cause of it. Happy, I doubt not, to celebrate the praises of a man whose appearance and behaviour must have made a deep impression upon them, they relate the adventure of the morning; and Raguel, struck with the magnanimity, gallantry and spirit of this stranger's conduct, eagerly inquires after him, sends to find him out, invites him to his house and table, and endeavours to express that gratitude, which the young women could not, by every effort of kindness and hospitality.
Minds so well assorted as those of Moses and Jethro, and attracted to each other by mutual acts of beneficence, would easily assimilate and unite in friendship. And the pleasing recollection of protection given and received, natural sensibility of a female mind to personal accomplishments, but more especially to generosity and courage, on the one hand, and the irresistible charm of feminine beauty and modesty to a manly heart, on the other, would speedily and insensibly, between Moses, and some one of the priest of Midian's fair daughters, ripen into love. What follows, therefore, is all in the course of honest nature, which never swerves from her purpose, never fails to accomplish her end. But it was Providence that furnished the field and the instruments with which nature should work. That Providence which saved him forty years before from perishing in the Nile; that Providence which delivered him so lately from the hands of an incensed king; the same Providence now, by a concourse of circumstances equally beyond the reach of human power or foresight, fixes the bounds of his habitation, forms for him the most important connexion of human life ; and for another space of forty years makes him forget the tumultuous pleasures of a court, in the more calm and rational delights of disinterested friendship, virtuous affection, and heavenly contemplation.
It was in this delicious retreat, that the man of God is supposed to have composed, by divine inspiration, and to have committed to writing, that most ancient, most elegant, and most instructive of all books; which contains the history of the world, from the creation down to his own times ; a period which no other writer has presumed to touch upon; holy ground which none but the foot of God himself has dared to tread. Here also, and at this time, as it is conjectured by interpreters, he wrote that beautifully poetical, moral and historical work, the book of Job : which, for sublimity of thought, force of expression, justness of sentiment, strength of reasoning, and variety of matter, holds a distinguished place in the sacred code. If from the schools of the Magi he drew such stores of wisdom and eloquence, high must our ideas rise of those noble seminaries of learning. But Moses derived his wonderful accomplishments from a much higher source, even from the everlasting Spring of all knowledge, even from Him who made the heavens and the earth, and caused the light to arise ; even from Him who can make the desert of Horeb a school of wisdom, and the simple to be wiser than all his teachers. Here, also, he has the felicity of becoming a father ; and, even in Midian, God builds up one of the families of Israel.
And now at last the time to favour that despised, oppressed nation was come. Egypt had changed its sovereign in the mean time, but the seed of Jacob had felt no mitigation of their distress. Every change which they have undergone is only from evil to worse. Moses was now arrived at his eightieth year, but remained in the full vigour of his bodily strength, and of his mental powers. Erring, reasoning, cavilling man will be asking, Why was the employment of Moses in so important à service so long delayed? Wherefore bury such talents for such a space of time in the inglorious life of an obscure shepherd? Wherefore call a man at so late a period of life, in the evening of his day, in the decline of his faculties, to a service that required all the fer
vour, intrepidity and exertion of youth? To all which we answer in the words of our Saviour on a well known occasion, “ It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power.” Man is perpetually in a hurry, and often hastens forward without making progress ; but “ he that believeth shall not make haste.” God, the father of believers, advances to his end not in a vehement and hurried step, but in a 'solemn, steady, majestic pace; his progress, which we may in our folly account slow, in the issue proves to have been the most expeditious; and the course, which human ignorance may condemn as irregular and circuitous, will be found in the end the shortest and the surest.
The course of the history then has brought us to that important, eventful hour, when the shepherd of Midian, trained up in retirement and contemplation, and converse with God, was to shake off his disguise, and stand confessed the minister of the most high God, the king in Jeshurun, the scourge of Egypt, the deliverer of Israel. As the commission which was given him to execute, and the station assigned to him, were altogether singular and uncommon, we are not to be surprised if the seal and signature affixed to that commission, and the powers bestowed for the faithful and effectual execution of it, should likewise be out of the usual course of things, and should announce the power and authority of Him who granted it. But as this merits a principal place in the course of these exercises, we shall not compress it into the conclusion of a Lecture; hoping, through the help of God, to resume and continue the subject next Lord's day.
Such was Moses, the Jewish legislator and hero, during the two first great periods of his life. But a greater than Moses is here, even He, “the latchet of whose shoes Moses is unworthy to stoop down and unloose ;” to whom Moses and Elias, on the mount of transfiguration, brought all their glory and honour, and laid them at his feet !
Moses “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter ;" and Jesus disdained not to be called " the son of the carpenter.” Supreme, all divine though He was, yet he declined not the society of the poorest, meanest, most afflicted of mankind!
Was the humiliation of Moses cheerful and voluntary, not forcibly obtruded upon him, but sought out and submitted to ? Christ, though " in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, yet made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant." Was sympathy a leading feature in the character of Moses ? Jesus “ hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, neither hath he hid his face from him, but when he cried unto him he heard."* “ In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them ; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them, and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.”+ Did Moses, through the vale of obscurity, arrive at the summit of glory? Of Christ it is said, as following up the scene of his humiliation, “ Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth : and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” But the time would fail to point out every mark of resemblance. Christ derives no glory from similitude to Moses, but all the glory of Moses flows from his typifying Christ the Lord, in whom "all the promises are yea and amen," and who " is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."
* Psal. xxii. 24.
| Isai. Ixiii. 9.
HISTORY OF MOSES.
EXODUS III. 13, 14.
And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them,
The God of your fathers hath seat me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: And he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
The objects presented to us in the commerce of the world have a relative greatness, but those with which we converse in solitude and retirement possess a real grandeur and magnificence. A vast city, a numerous and well disciplined army, a proud navy, a splendid court, and the like, dazzle the eyes of a stranger, and produce a transient wonder and delight. But a little acquaintance dissolves the charm; the dimensions of created greatness speedily contract, the glory departs, and what once filled us with astonishment is regarded with calm indifference, perhaps with disgust. The eye, almost with a single glance, reaches the end of human perfection, and instantly turns from what it has seen, in search of something yet undiscovered, striving to find in novelty and variety a compensation for the poverty, littleness, nothingness of the creature. But when we withdraw from the haunts of men, and either retire within ourselves or send our thoughts abroad to contemplate God and his works, we meet a height and a depth which the line of finite understanding cannot fathom ; we expatiate in a region which still discloses new scenes of wonder ; we feel ourselves at once invited and checked, attracted and repelled; we behold much that we can comprehend and explain, but much more that passeth knowledge; we find ourselves, like Moses at the bush, upon “holy ground," and the same wonderful sight is exhibited to our view=“ JEHOVAH!" IN A FLAME OF Fire ! whose light irradiates and encourages our approach; but whose fervent heat arrests our speed, and remands us to our proper distance.
That great man had now passed the second great period of his life in the humble station of a shepherd, and the shepherd too of another man's flock. He had quitted the enchanted regions of high life, not only without regret, but with joy; not impelled by spleen, not soured by disappointment ; but filled with a noble disdain for empty honours, with generous sympathy towards his afflicted brethren, animated by exalted piety which settled on an invisible God, and inspired with a soul which looked at pomp with contempt, and on obscurity with acquiescence and desire. It was in this calm retreat that he cultivated those qualities which proved more favourable to the designs of Providence than all the learning which he had acquired in Egypt.
At the age of eighty the race of glory is at an end with most men: nay, the drama of life concludes with the generality long before that period arrives. But the fame, activity and usefulness of Moses commenced not till then ; for
as it is never too early, so it is never too late to serve God and to do good to men; and true wisdom consists in waiting for and following the call of Heaven, not in anticipating and outrunning it. Abraham was turned out a wanderer and an exile at seventy-five. And Moses at fourscore was sent upon an enterprise, which it required much courage to undertake, much vigour to conduct and support, and a great length of time to execute. But before the divine mandate every mountain of difficulty sinks, “every valley is exalted, the crooked becomes straight, and the rough places plain.” Abraham, at the head of a handful of servants, subdues five victorious kings, with their armies : Sarah, at ninety, bears a son; and Moses, at eighty, with a simple rod in his hand, advances to succour Israel, and to crush the power of Egypt.
The solemnity with which the commission was given, suited the dignity and importance of the undertaking. The whole was of God, and he does every thing in a manner worthy of himself. While Moses was employed in the innocent cares and labours of his lowly station ; and faithful attention to the duties of our several stations is the best preparation for the visits of the Almighty; a very unusual and unaccountable appearance presented itself to his eyes. A bush wholly involved in flames, yet continuing unchanged, undiminished unconsumed by the fire. Whether nature preserves her steady tenor, or suffers an alteration or suspension of the laws by which she is usually governed, the finger of God is equally visible in both; for, what power, save that which is divine could have established, and can maintain the order and harmony of the universe? And what power short of Omnipotence can break in upon that order; can make the sun to stand still, or its shadow return back to the meridian after it had declined ; can leave to fire its illuminating, but withdraw its devouring quality; and render artificial fire, such as that of Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, harmless to the three children of the captivity, but fatal to ministers of the king of Babylon ! Were our hearts right with God, miraculous interpositions would be unnecessary ; every creature, every event should promote our acquaintance with our Maker. And such is the condescension of the Most High, that he vouchsafes to cure our ignorance, inattention or unbelief, by making the mighty sacrifice of that stated course of things, which his wisdom settled at first, and which his power continues to support. Rather than man shall remain unchanged, unredeemed, the great system of nature shall undergo alteration ; fire shall cease to burn, the Nile shall run blood instead of water, the sun forget to shine for three days together ; the eternal, uncreated Word shall become flesh, and the fountain of life to all, shall expire in death.
It required not the sagacity of a Moses to discover, that there was something extraordinary here. But mistaking it at first for merely an unusual natural appearance, whose cause, by a closer investigation, he might be able to discover, he is preparing by nearer observation to satisfy his curiosity; when lo! to his still greater astonishment, the bush becomes vocal as well as brilliant, and he hears his own name distinctly and repeatedly called, out of the midst of the flame. Curiosity and wonder are now checked by a more powerful principle than either. Terror thrills in every vein, and arrests his trembling steps. How dreadful must the visitations of God's anger be to his enemies, if io his best beloved children, the intimations of his goodness, clothed in any thing like sensible glory, be so awful and overwhelming ? When I meet thee, O my God, stripped of this veil of flesh, may I find thee a pure, a genial and a lambent flame of loving kindness, not a consuming fire of wrath and vengcance!
Moses instantly comprehends that the Lord was there; or, if he could for a moment have doubted who it was that talked with him, in a moment his doubt must have been removed by the continuation of the voice of Him who spake. We find here, as in many other places of the Old Testament, the same person
who is styled in the course of the narration, the “ Angel of the Lord," styling himself JEHOVAH and God; exercising divine prerogatives, manifesting divine perfections, and claiming the homage which is due to Deity alone. The person therefore, thus described, can be none other than the uncreated " Angel of the covenant,” who " at sundry times, and in divers manners," in maturing the work of redemption, assumed a sensible appearance; and at length, in the fulness of time, united his divine nature ours and dwelt among men, and made them to behold his glory, as the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Every thing here is singular, and every thing instructive. The first interview between God and Moses inspires terror; but the spirit of bondage gadually dies away, and refines into the spirit of adoption and love. Acquaintance begets confidence, “perfect love casteth out fear ;” and the man who spake to God with trembling in Horeb, by and by becomes strengthened to endure his presence forty days and nights together, in Sinai. “ Enduring, as seeing Him who is invisible," he “despised the wrath of an earthly king.” When he comes to the knowledge of that same God, by the seeing of the eye and the hearing of the ear, he "exceedingly fears and quakes; abhors himself and lies low in dust and ashes.” But, following on to know the Lord, he comes at length to converse with Him, as a man with his friend. “ Acquaint thyself then with Him, and be at peace, thereby good shall come unto thee.” Miserable beyond expression, beyond thought are they, whose acquaintance with God has to begin at death ; who, having lived without a gracious, merciful, longsuffering God in the world, find they must, by a dreadful necessity, fall into the hands of a neglected, forgotten, righteous, incensed God, when they leave it.
The appearance of Jehovah in the bush was not only preternatural, but emblematical ; it not only sanctioned the commission given to Moses by the seal of Deity, but exhibited a lively representation of the state of his church and people in Egypt; oppressed, but not crushed, brought low, but not deserted of Heaven, in the midst of flames, but not consumed. And it is a striking emblem of the church of God in the world, to the end of time : " troubled on every side, yet not distressed, perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, cast down, but not destroyed.”
The same voice which solicited intercourse with Moses, which tendered friendship, which encouraged hope, sets a fence about the divine Majesty ; it reminds him of his distance, of his impurity; it forbids rashness, presumption, familiarity. veneration of the spot which God had honoured with his special presence, he is commanded to * put off his shoes from off his feet :” a mandate, which by an image natural and obvious, enjoins the drawing near to God in holy places and in sacred services, with seriousness, attention and reverence; divested of that impurity which men necessarily contract by coming into frequent contact with the world. And surely, it is owing to the want of a due sense of the majesty of God upon our spirits, that his house is profaned and his service marred by levity, carelessness and inattention. Did we seriously consider that the place where we stand is “ holy ground," that the word which we speak and hear is “not the word of men, but of the living God," could one short hour's attendance betray us into slumber? Could the little jealousies and strife of a base world intrude into a worshipping heart? Could the eye find leisure to wander upon the dress and appearance of another ? Durst a scornful leer or simpering countenance communicate from one vain, silly, irreverent spirit to another the private sneer and censure? Would there be a contention for place and preeminence ? Now, surely, God is as really though less sensibly, in this place, as he was in the bush at Horeb: and though we see him not, his eyes are continually upon us, and he will bring