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which led him to look up to God—and down upon the worldand forward to eternity-and to act accordingly. Faith made future things present, and distant things nigh. Faith showed him the canker in earth's fairest rose; the flaw in its richest pearl ; the thorn in its brightest crown; and led him to prefer the humblest portion with the people of God to the noblest distinctions which earth and time had to offer. Do you ask what was the secret of his success? It was the providence of God, to whose care his parents early committed him, and to whose guidance he subsequently committed himself. He bore a charmed life. That ark was precious in the eye of his mother and sister, but more precious still in the eye of Heaven. We may almost imagine a command to the nonsters of the Nile, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophet no harm.
The great peculiarity connected with this signal manifestation at the burning bush, arose from the circumstance that this is the first recorded revelation which God made of himself to Moses,
appears to have been the time in which he first openly received his official commission and designation to the service of oppressed Israel. In his personal history, therefore, this event may be compared with the appearance of God to Jacob at Bethel, which was the turning point of that patriarch's religious experience; and in his public capacity, it may be compared with the vision of God to Isaiah, when he saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and received his call to the prophetic office, Isaiah vi.
But we shall contemplate it chiefly in relation to our own personal edification. We propose therefore to consider,
I. SOME OF THE LEADING CIRCUMSTANCES OF THIS AFFECTING HISTORY, CONSIDERED AS ILLUSTRATIVE OF GOD'S CARE AND CONDESCENSION TOWARDS HIS SUFFERING PEOPLE.
You are aware that in the earlier dispensations of religion, God taught his servants his will, not so much by written communications as by visible signs. He taught them through the medium of the eye quite as much as by the medium of the ear. Thus Jacob was instructed by the vision at Bethel; Abraham by the burning lamp; Noah by the bow in the cloud; the Israelites by the brazen serpent; Gideon by the fleece saturated with dew; and here Moses is taught God's superintending care of his church by the symbol of the burning bush. Three things are memorable here:
1. The time in which it occurred. The time of Israel's distress.
It was at the time of the death of one tyrant, and the time of the coronation of another, for though tyrants are mortal, tyranny is a long-lived thing. Consequently it was the time in which Israel's fears were multiplied, and their afflictions seemed at the height. The children of Israel sighed by reason of their bondage. The darkest hour of night is that which precedes the breaking of the day: and God interferes when all hope is gone, and there is none shut up or left. God is always a refuge and strength; but a very present help in trouble.
Stephen has a remarkable expression, Acts vii. 17: When the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had shown to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt. God is very attentive to times and seasons, and has his eye stedfastly fixed on the promise, as he would have ours fixed upon it as the pole-star, by which to direct our course.
He has made every thing beautiful—but every thing beautiful in its time. has established a character of punctuality in his dispensations to the church, and this may teach us not to be discouraged at the slowness of his providence. Though God often outstays our time, he never outstays his own: and one minute before God's time, would not be his people's mercy. God does not hasten and precipitate his dealings, in order to meet human fretfulness and impatience. He waited with exemplary patience for 4000 years, till the fulness of time was come—till the harvest of his dispensations was ripe, and then God sent forth his Son, made of a woman. He, with whom one day is as a thousand years, can afford to wait. He has all time to work in, and all eternity too, and waits the fittest seasons for the accomplishment of his own glory, and his church's good. “O tarry thou the Lord's leisure." Wait for his seasonable aid," &c.
It was the time of the church's prayers. Their up unto God. The cry of faith and prayer is always sacred to
and cannot ascend in vain. This was a very earnest cry, and a very united one; and it is the
of the church's united
that moves heaven. When the dis. ciples gathered with one accord in one place, the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost. Before the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdoms of our God, and his Christ, the prayers of all saints must ascend. It is at the breath of prayer, like the first breathings of spring, that the dark and clouded atmosphere of the moral world shall be rolled away.
This was the time in which the angel appeared in the burning bush, and lighted up the night of their despair with more than mortal hope.
It was the time in which the faith of Moses was put to the utmost possible test. Forty years rolled by before the great impulse moved his spirit to act for Israel—and a crisis came,
in which it was needful for him to take a stand, and make his choice. He must now be all the Egyptian, or all the Israelite. He had been, according to prophecy, a successful general in Pharaoh's wars, and was within one step of the throne, and yet he decides for Israel, and not for Egypt, preferring the reproach of Christ. He visits his brethren—and concludes the time for action and great enterprise is come.
Rescues the oppressed Israelites-vanquishes the Egyptians-but Israel was not ripe for freedom. For he supposed his brethren, says Stephen, would have understood how that God by his hand would have delivered them; but they understood not. But forty years more had now rolled by: and when forty years were expired, there appeared in the wilderness of Sinai an angel of the Lord. What a trial to his faith—what a demand for patience. They that would have great faith, must look for great exercise of faith. As gold is tried by fire, so is faith by adversity. And Moses stands the test. Heroes in battle, pilots in a storm, and virtue in calamities, admire. My son, if thou wilt enter into the service of God, prepare thy soul for temptations.
2. The Place—the desert of Horeb. Stephen says, the wil. derness of Sinai-a vast range of mountains in the Arabian
Desert, of which Horeb was the Western peak, and Sinai the Eastern one.
But it was a desert: yet here he saw the vision of the burning bush-God's great and gracious manifestation to him. This may show that it is in the wilderness that God displays his gracious dispensations to the soul. You read of no such manifestation of God's
presence to him all the while he was in Egypt, surrounded by the wealth of princes, and ennobled by the smile of kings. He had no such conference with his God while he was the son of Pharaoh's daughter, as now that he is a poor shepherd, guiding and leading another man's flock. But now that he is an outlawed and an exiled man, forgotten by the court, deserted by the world; or, if remembered, remembered only as a bye-word for mockery and scorn; a price set upon his head, and the avengers of blood in full cry after him-now, now it is, that God interferes, and irradiates the wilderness with supernatural light, and causes the gentle accents of divine consolations to fall upon his prepared and attentive ear.
“For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord, I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.”
Thus, in the most signal instances, scenes of severe trial have been chosen for divine communications. Jacob was a stranger in the land when God spake to him at Bethel; Daniel a captive in Babylon when God revealed his prophecies to him; John a prisoner in Patmos when he beheld the glories of the apocalyptic vision; and Moses an exile in Midian when he shared the good-will of him that dwelt in the bush. It seems also a part of the divine dispensations, that those who are destined to the highest trusts in the church of God, are often trained and educated by the action of trial and of vicissitude,
God no sooner bestows
upon them a glimpse of their future eminence and value as agents in his hand, than he has instantly called for a cloud to darken their immediate prospects. What became of Joseph after he had dreamed his dream? Of David, after he was anointed? Of Paul, after he was caught up to the third heaven? Of Moses, after he thought his brethren would hail
him as deliverer ? His forty years' servitude in Midian prepared him for forty years' dominion as king of Jeshurun.
3. The spectacle itself, which produced upon his mind an impression of mingled terror and tenderness.—“Moses hid his face, and was afraid to look upon God”—and yet he ever after thought and spoke of the goodness of him that dwelt in the bush. It was a sight of terror, and a sight of mercy.
There was terror in the sight of the burning bush; but there was mercy in the thought that, though burning, it was not consumed. There was terror in the thought of the majesty of that Being who chose such a medium in which to invest himself, and seemed, in his intercourse with mortals, begirt with devouring flames : but there was mercy in every accent that spoke from that throne of terror. The same Angel of the covenant that was in the fiery furnace, was in the burning bush ; and the same cause will always produce the same effect. If the sight was calculated to arouse with consternation and alarm, the sound that proceeded from it was calculated to melt with tenderness and love. I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob; I have seen the affliction of muy people, I know their sorrows, and am come down to deliver them. God delights to dwell on this his covenant relation, -on this his paternal character. Say to them, The God of your father hath sent me. And God said, I am that I am,
“As when God speaks of himself, so when he speaks in reference to his people, he simply says, I am. He sets, as it were, his hand to a blank, that his people may write under it what they please that is good for them. As if he should say, Are they weak ? I am strong. Are they poor? I am rich, in trouble ? I am comfort. Are they sick? I am health, Are they dying? I am life. Have they nothing ? I am all things. So that, in short, God here represents himself to us as an universal good, and leaves us to make the application of it to ourselves, according to our several wants, capacities, and desires, by saying, in general, I am. There is more solid joy and comfort in one single thought of God, rightly formed, than in all the riches, honour, wealth, pleasure, the world can afford. Let