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The passage to that eternal resting-place is a safe passage, in the strength of the Lord God, and through the power of his might; only, do not think to obtain possession of it by your own might, or as the reward of your own goodness; do not once doubt of God's ability to instate you in it; do not approach it by any other road than that which his love and wisdom have laid down; follow his directions, use his means; look upon Christ as the way, the Truth, and the Life; seek salvation in dependence upon his merits to earn it, his grace to keep you by the way, and you shall never fall. Nothing but persisting in unbelief can ruin you, and shut the gate against you. If you will give credence to God's word, and trust to Him to make it good, and plead his promises in prayer, God will first make you meet for your inheritance, and then bestow it upon you freely. You shall know that you are in the road to glory by your progressive growth in godliness, and by your willingness to forsake sin for duty. Prove yourselves all along by this rule, and the great things you hear of faith shall not make you careless in your practice. Where the works of the flesh are manifest in the heart and life, there be ye sure that your belief is a vain presumption, as surely as that is an ungrafted stock which produces no better fruit than wild berries. But, on the other hand, it is no less a truth, that “ without faith it is impossible to please God 8 ;" for no man pleases God except in Christ, and none but a believer is united to Christ. No man merits heaven by his deeds; and the deeds of one who seeks to do so, however glorious they may appear to men, are abomination in the sight of God. Therefore, whilst ye strive earnestly to enter in at the straight gate, let this be your confidence; “There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus ',' Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning!!! 8 Heb. xi. 6.
9 Rom. viii. 1. 1 James i. 16, 17.
THE PRAYER OF MOSES.
Exodus xxxiii. 18—20.
“ And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. “ And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I
will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew
mercy. “And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man
see me, and live."
He who made the petition here set down “Shew me thy glory” was Moses, the great lawgiver and leader of God's people Israel; and the answer is from the mouth of God Himself, who, in his distinguishing love, was wont to speak with “Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend !.”
In discoursing upon the words, it is my intention briefly to set before you the history connected with them, explaining it as far as is needful for my purpose, and employing it for the illustration of God's great mercy in having shown his glory to ourselves also, through the manifestation of Jesus Christ in the flesh.
Moses was commissioned by God to bring his people Israel out of bondage in Egypt, and to conduct them to the good land of Canaan, which God had determined to bestow upon them. He was, however, only to bring them to the borders of it; for into the land itself Moses was not allowed to go. This was an enterprise of great difficulty and peril; and at the time of which
we are about to speak, a most tremendous obstacle had been thrown in the way of a happy issue, by the shameful revolt from God of the people themselves; who, whilst Moses was absent from them, receiving the law, had made them a golden calf to worship. Jehovah, upon this, had threatened to withdraw his own presence from them, indeed to come up into the midst of them in a moment and to consume them. Upon the intercession of Moses, however, He had stayed his hand, and in his wonderful clemency at length promised further, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest ?.”
But Moses felt, no doubt, at this time, the arduousness of his undertaking more than ever, and had a most affecting foresight of the impediments yet to be expected; and therefore he felt also, more than ever, the necessity that there was to himself, if he was not to draw back from duty, to have the clearest, most serious, and most lively apprehensions possible both of the might and of the love of Him who was to be his strength and guide. He was not satisfied, therefore, even with this gracious assurance, if something still higher might be had. One great step further, therefore, he advances towards the Lord, and makes the bold but wise supplication of the text: “Shew me thy glory.” As though he had said, “Thou hast promised to be present with me in my work; but, that I may better know how much thy presence may do for me, let me now see thee as thou art; let me have a full perception or vision of thine excellency, so that I may never be tempted to doubt any more of thy perfect goodness and absolute all-sufficiency.” Jehovah was not offended with a courage in asking, which his own grace had inspired : and He answered, that the desire of Moses should be granted as far as might be consistent with his safety, and as far as was needful for him. “I will make all my goodness to pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee, and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.”
Exod. xxxiii. 14.
But he adds, “Thou canst not see my face,” that is, the full and absolute effulgence of God's glory; " for there shall no man see me and live.” And then He gives him a more special intimation of the manner in which he should see as much as would be permitted to him. “And the Lord said, Behold there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: and it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: and I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen 3.”
Moses is then ordered to go up unto Mount Sinai. And having obeyed, “the Lord,” it is said, “ descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children unto the third and to the fourth generation +.” It is needless, as it must be useless, for us to inquire how all this was done, or in what manner Moses saw Him whom
hath not seen nor can see. It is enough that we understand that the expressions are used, in condescension to the infirmity of our own minds, after the manner of men; that Jehovah is all that He here declares Himself to be; and that Moses had what he desired to have, so clear and sublime a view or perception of the Divine perfections as was adequate for the strengthening and encouraging of him in all his labours for the Lord and his people to the end of his days.
The first thing Moses does is to adore the Lord in humble prostration of body and soul before Him; and the next, fervently to intercede with Him for Israel :
pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance.” The Lord replies, “Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such 3 Exod. xxxiii. 19-23.
4 Ibid. xxxiv. 5. 7.
as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the Lord : for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee 5.” The terrible thing which in due time He did was to make this people the executioners of his vengeance against the idolatrous nations of Canaan, his enemies and theirs. But them He brought safe to their resting-place. As for Moses, by what he now saw, he received strength to go on, in despite of discouragement, in his enterprise. The Lord was ever before his soul, according to this vision of Him which he had seen. Thenceforth he knew in whom he believed and to whom he had to trust. Obstacles, therefore, were little in his eyes; and, in spite of the most formidable of them, he continued stedfast to his duty, till the time came when the Lord would call him to Himself.
All this is excellently illustrative of God's dealings with ourselves.
We have all of us, if we understand our own case, a great work upon our hands, as Moses and Israel had. We “seek a country 6," or resting-place, as they did, a heavenly Canaan before the throne of God above; and, in order to our possession of it, we have enemies to fight against, as they had : not the seven nations of Canaan; not the drought and scorpions of the wilderness; but our own evil lusts, the snares of the world, the temptations of Satan; foes quite as powerful as the Canaanites were, and as much in possession of our souls as the Canaanites were of the land of promise.
There is but one Leader or Captain of our salvation, under whom we may make head against these potent adversaries. There is but one strength in which we can stand. 6. In the name of the Lord we must “destroy them ?," or remain their slaves for ever.
But we are not to stand still whilst the Lord works for us, as, on more than one special occasion, Israel was commanded to do. But, as they fought and strove, so are we to fight the good fight of faith. And though “God worketh in us both to will and to do of his good Exod. xxxiv. 9, 10.
6 Heb. xi. 14. 7 Ps. cxviii. 11.