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History of Mofes.
EXODUS iii. 13, 14.
And Mofes faid unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Ifrael, and fhall fay unto them, The God of your fathers hath fent me unto you; and they shall fay to me, What is his name? What shall I fay unto them? And God faid unto Mofes, I AM THAT I AM: And he faid, Thus fhalt thou fay unto the children Ifrael, I AM bath fent me unto you.
THE objects prefented to us in the commerce of the world have a relative greatness, but those with which we converse in folitude and retirement poffefs a real grandeur and magnificence. A vaft city, a numerous and well-difciplined army, a proud navy, a fplendid court, and the like, dazzle the eyes of a stranger, and produce a tranfient wonder and delight. But a little acquaintance diffolves the charm; the dimenfions of created greatness speedily contract, the glory departs, and what once filled us with aftonifhment is regarded with calm indifference, perhaps with difguft. The eye, almost with a fingle glance, reaches the end of human perfection, and inftantly turns from what it has feen, in fearch of fomething yet undiscovered, ftriving to find in novelty and variety a compenfation for the poverty, littlenefs, nothingnefs of the creature. But when we withdraw from the haunts of men, and either retire within ourselves or fend our thoughts abroad to contemplate God and his works, we meet a
height and a depth which the line of finite underftanding cannot fathom; we expatiate in a region which still difclofes new fcenes 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 paffeth knowledge; we find ourselves, like Mofes at the bufh, upon " holy ground," and the fame wonderful fight is exhibited to our view" JEHOVAH!" IN A FLAME OF FIRE whose light irradiates and encourages our approach; but whofe fervent heat arrefts our speed, and remands us to our proper distance.
That great man had now paffed the fecond great period of his life in the humble ftation of a fhepherd, and the fhepherd 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 fpleen, not foured by disappointment; but filled with a noble difdain for empty honours, with generous fympathy towards his afflicted brethren, animated by exalted piety which fettled on an invisible God, and infpired with a foul which looked at pomp with contempt, and on obfcurity with acquiefcence and defire. It was in this calm retreat that he cultivated those qualities, which proved more favourable to the defigns 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 ufefulnefs of Mofes commenced not till then; for as it is never too early, so it is never too late to ferve God and to do good to men; and true wisdom confifts 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 feventy-five. And Mofes at four-fcore was fent upon an enterprife, which it required much courage to undertake, much vigour to conduct and fup
port, and a great length of time to execute. But be-
The folemnity with which the commiffion was given fuited the dignity and importance of the undertaking. The whole was of God, and HE does every thing in a manner worthy of himself. While Mofes was employed in the innocent cares and labours of his lowly flation; and faithful attention to the duties of our several stations is the beft preparation for the vifits of the Almighty; a very unusual and unaccountable appearance prefented itself to his eyes. A bush wholly involved in flames, yet continuing unchanged, undiminished, unconfumed by the fire. Whether nature preferves her fteady tenor, or fuffers an alteration or fufpenfion of the laws by which the is ufually governed, the finger of God is equally vifible in both; for, what power, fave that which is divine, could have established and can maintain the order and harmony of the univerfe? And what power fhort of Omnipotence can break in upon that order; can make the fun to ftand ftill, or its fhadow return back to the meridian after it had declined; can leave to fire its illuminating, but withdraw its devouring quailty; and render artificial fire, fuch as that of Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, harmless to the three children of the captivity, but fatal to the minifters of the king of Babylon? Were our hearts right with God, miraculous interpofitions would be unneceffary; every creature, every event should promote our acquaintance with our Maker. And fuch is the condefcenfion of the Moft High, that he vouchfafes to cure our ignorance, inattention or unbelief, by making the
mighty facrifice of that stated course of things, which his wifdom fettled at firft, and which his power continues to fupport. Rather than man fhall remain unchanged, unredeemed, the great fyftem of nature shall undergo alteration; fire fhall ceafe to burn, the Nile fhall run blood inftead of water, the fun forget to fhine for three days together; the eternal uncreated Word fhall become flefh, and the fountain of life to all, fhall expire in death.
It required not the fagacity of a Mofes to discover, that there was fomething extraordinary here. But miftaking it at first for merely an unusual, natural appearance, whofe caufe, by a clofer investigation, he might be able to discover, he is preparing by nearer obfervation to fatisfy his curiofity; when lo! to his ftill greater aftonishment, the bufh becomes vocal as well as brilliant, and he hears his own name distinctly and repeatedly called, out of the midst of the flame. Curiofity and wonder are now checked by a more powerful principle than either. Terror thrills in every vain, and arrefts his trembling fteps. How dreadful muft the vifitations of God's anger be to his enemies, if to his best beloved children, the intimations of his goodness, clothed in any thing like fenfible glory, be fó 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 lambent flame of lovingkindness, not a confuming fire of wrath and vengeance !
Mofes inftantly 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 fpake. We find here, as in many other places of the Old Teftament, the fame perfon who is ftyled, in the course of the narration, the
Angel of the Lord," ftyling himself JEHOVAH and GOD; exercifing divine prerogatives, manifefting divine perfections, and claiming the homage which is
due to Deity alone. The perfon therefore, thus defcribed, can be none other than the uncreated "Angel of the covenant," who "at fundry times, and in divers manners," in maturing the work of redemption, affumed a fenfible appearance; and at length, in the fulness of time, united his divine nature to 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 fingular, and every thing inftructive. The firft interview between God and Mofes inspires terror; but the spirit of bondage gradually dies away, and refines into the spirit of adoption and love. Acquaintance begets confidence, " perfect love cafteth out fear ;" and the man who fpake to God with trembling in Horeb, by and by becomes ftrengthened to endure his prefence forty days and nights together, in Sinai. "Enduring, as feeing Him who is invifible," he "despised the wrath of an earthly king.' When he comes to the knowledge of that fame God, by the feeing of the eye and the hearing of the ear, he "exceedingly fears and quakes; abhors himself, and lies low in duft and afhes." 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 fhall come unto thee." Miferable beyond expreffion, beyond thought are they, whofe acquaintance with God has to begin at death; who having lived without a gracious, merciful, long-fuffering God in the world, find they muft, by a dreadful neceffity, fall into the hands of a neglected, forgotten, righteous, incenfed God, when they leave it.
The appearance of Jehovah in the bush was not only preternatural, but emblematical; it not only fanctioned the commiffion given to Mofes by the feal of Deity, but exhibited a lively reprefentation of the state of his church and people in Egypt; oppreffed, but not crushed, brought low, but not deferted of Heaven,