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and hesitation, and we flee defeated before our spiritual foes; but if we feel that our assailants are God's enemies also, with whom he hath sworn to have perpetual war, even Satan, and sin, and death, we may trust through faith to have the victory, and to triumph over them in Him.*
THE GIVING OF THE LAW.
THE people of Israel, in their departure out of
Egypt, had trusted themselves entirely to the guidance of Moses, being convinced, doubtless, by the many mighty works which they had seen him perform, that God was with him. Having no settled system of laws of their own, and no regular form of government, it was but natural, that, when any occasion of strife and controversy arose among them, rendering needful the interposition of a judge, they should have recourse to him as their leader, for his decision, and thus impose upon him a burthen too heavy for any one man to bear. He undertook the task, however, with readiness and good will, sitting to judge the people from morning unto evening. They were now drawing near to the mount Horeb or Sinai, in which God had formerly appeared to him as he fed the flock of Jethro ; and though his continual occupations afforded him but little leisure to turn his thoughts to his own private affairs, we may yet reasonably suppose, that the aspect of this well-known country, in which he had sojourned for forty years, would recall to his remembrance his beloved wife and
• 2 Cor. ii, 14.
children, whom he had left there when he proceeded upon his perilous journey into Egypt. For although he who does the work of God, must never suffer those who are dearest to him upon earth, to interfere with its punctual and complete performance, yet he may rest assured, that He who planted those holy affections in his breast, never intended that he should rudely stifle them, or deny himself their moderate enjoyment: it is only he that loveth father, or mother, or wife, or children,* more than Christ, who is not worthy of him. Moses therefore went forth gladly to meet his father-in-law, who came, bringing him his wife Zipporah, and his sons Gershom and Eliezer,-and received with the respect due to its wisdom the advice which he gave him, not to weary himself out by the continual toil of judging every matter which the people brought before him, but to refer those which were of less importance than the rest, to the decision of certain grave and righteous men, whom he should appoint to that office. Still, though in this manner a form of government might be established, a regular system of law was wanting, according to which the governors might act. Moses indeed possessed the privilege of consulting God in every case of difficulty, but this was not so with the rest, and serious evils must soon have arisen, had things been long left in such a state. When, therefore, at the expiration of three months after quitting Egypt, they arrived at the foot of mount Sinai, God intimated to Moses his intention of taking the people under his own immediate governance, and of himself giving them a law. To this end, after keeping them for three days in a state of reverential preparation for his coming, the Lord descended in a cloud, accompanied by lightnings, thunderings, and a dreadful sound, as of the blast of a trumpet, upon the
Matt. x. 37.
top of the mount: and from thence he uttered his voice, speaking to them what are called the ten words, or Decalogue, that is, the ten commandments: by which they were forbidden to have any other gods but him; to worship any graven image, or representation even of him ; to take his holy name in vain, by perjury, or swearing, or irreverent speech ; to do any work upon the Sabbath day; to treat with disrespect their father or mother; to commit murder, adultery, or theft ; to bear false witness against any man, or to covet any thing that was his. These ten commandments God himself spake in the hearing of the people, and he added no more; these he himself wrote upon two tables of stone, and entrusted to the care of Moses; and from these peculiarities attending them, as well as from the character of their subjectmatter, we believe that he intended them to remain in force as long as the world should endure, and to make them binding upon all people of the earth, to whom at any time the knowledge of them should be communicated, except in so far as any subsequent revelation should affect their observance; which has taken place, in some degree, with regard to the Sabbath, the rest of which is now transferred from the seventh to the first day of the week, by the authority of Christ's apostles, and is adapted, as to the manner of its observation, to the religion of Christ. * The people, awestruck by the terrible sight of the burning mountain,
* “If we consider advisedly, and soberly, of the Moral Law, or ten commandments, which God by the hand of Moses gave unto his people, it will appear, that such was his merciful providence in the choice of them, as, were there neither pain nor profit adjoyned to the observing, or not observing of them; were there no divine power at all, nor any religion among men; yet, if we did not for our own sakes strive to observe these laws, all society of men, and all endeavours, all happiness and contentment in this life would be taken away, and every state and common-weal in the world fall to the ground and dissolve. Therefore these laws were not imposed as a burthen, but as a blessing: to the end that
and by the voice of God, besought him that in the further communications which he might have to make, he would speak to them by Moses : and this request the Lord, ever condescending to the infirmities of his creatures, was graciously pleased to grant. Moses accordingly-a splendid vision of God's glory having
the innocent might be defended, that every man might enjoy the fruits of his own travel, that right might be done to all men, from all men : that by Justice, Order, and Peace, we might live the lives of reasonable men, and not of beasts ; of free men, and not of slaves; of civil men, and not of salvages. And hereof making our humane reason onely Judg, let us see the inconveniences in this life, which would follow by the breach and neglect of these Laws. As first, what would the issue be, if we acknowledged many gods? would not a far greater hatred, warr, and bloudshed follow, than that which the difference of ceremony, and diversity of interpretation, hath already brought into the world, even among those nations which acknowledg one God, and one Christ? And what could it profit mankind to pray to idols, and images of gold, metal, dead stones, and rotten wood, whence nothing can be hoped, but the loss of time, and an impossibility to receive thence-from, either help or comfort ? The breach of the third Commandment bringeth therewith this disadvantage, and ill to man, that whosoever taketh the name of God in vain, shall not at any time benefit himself by calling God to witness for him, when he may justly use his holy Name. The observing the Sabbath holy, giveth rest to men and beasts, and Nature herself requireth intermission from labour. If we despise our Parents, who have given us being, we thereby teach our children to scorn and neglect us, when our aged years require comfort and help at their hands. If murther were not forbidden, and severely punished, the race of mankind would be extinguished; and whosoever would take the liberty to destroy others, giveth liberty to others to destroy himself. If adultery were lawful, and permitted, no man could say unto himself, this is my son: there would be no inheritance proper, no honour descend to posterity, no endeavour by vertue and undertaking to raise families; murthers and poisonings between man and wife would be daily committed ; and every man subject to most filthy and unclean diseases. If stealth and violent rapine were suffered, all mankind would shortly after perish, or live as the salvages, by roots and acorns. For no man laboureth, but to enjoy the fruits thereof. And such is the mischief of robbery, as where Moses, for lesser crimes, appointed restitution fourfold, policy of state, and necessity hath made it death. To permit false witnesses, is to take all men's lives and estates from them by corruption; the wicked would swear against the vertuous; the waster against the wealthy; the first been shown to a few chosen elders of the people, went up alone into the cloud which rested on the mountain, and remained there forty days and nights, unsupported by any food of man, living by the words which proceeded out of the mouth of God.* It was a miracle which represented that spiritual truth which Christ afterwards told his disciples,—“He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”+ During this period he received from God that vast body of ordinances, of a judicial and ceremonial character, which form, in conjunction with the ten commandments, what usually is called the Mosaic law. The limit of these discourses does not allow me to enter into any detail of laws abounding in so many minute particulars : the great division of them into judicial and ceremonial has been already noticed; and each of these may perhaps be profitably again divided, into such as had a direct reference to idle beggar and loiterer, against the careful and painful labourer; all trial of right were taken away, and Justice thereby banished out of the world. The coveting of that which belongs to other men, bringeth no other profit than a distraction of mind, with an inward vexation ; for while we covet what appertains to others, we neglect our own; our appetites are therein fed with vain and fruitless hopes, so long as we do but covet; and if we do attain to the desire of the one, or the other, to wit, the wives, or goods of our neighbours; we can look for no other, but that ourselves shall also, either by theft or by strong hand, be deprived of our own. Wherein then appeareth the burthen of God's commandments, if there be nothing in them, but rules and directions for the general and particular good of all living? Surely, for our own good, and not in respect of himself, did the most merciful and provident God ordain them; without the observation of which, the vertues of heavenly bodies, the fertility of the earth, with all the blessings given us in this life, would be unto us altogether unprofitable, and of no use. For we should remain but in the state of brute beasts, if not in a farr more unhappy condition.”—Sir Walter Raleigh's History of the World. Book II. Chap. II. s. 15.