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Power and Providence over them, at most they could be only Ministers of the Divine Will, and cherefore could have no Title to Divine Honours, no more than Ministers of State have to the Royal Dignity : And it was very reasonable to conclude this, when they saw that this Supreme God would not suffer Israel, whom he had chosen for his peculiar People, to'worship any other God besides himself: This was not unknown to the Egyptians, but was more manifest in After-Ages, when God so severely punished them for their Idolatry; and was made evidenc to Nebachadnezzar and Darius, when God delivered Sbadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, out of the fiery Furnace, who refused to worship the Golden Image which he had set up; and delivered Daniel from the power of the Lions, when he was cast into the Lions Den for praying to his God. This shews the strange Power of Prejudice and Custom; but yet we must confess; that this was wisely designed by God for che cure of Polytheism and Idolatry.
Having thus vindicated and explained the Wisdom of Providence, both with respect to the removal of Israel out of the Land of Canaan into Egypt, and the hard Bondage they suffered there; and their deliverance out of Egypt with a mighty Hand, and outstretched Arm, with Signs and Wonders, and Miracles; let us now follow them into the Wilderness.
God having chofe Israel for his peculiar People, and delivered them out of Egypt ; before he Thewed them apenly to the World under such a peculiar Character, it was necessary first to form their Manners; to take care that they should own him for their God, and behave themselves
as it became so glorious a Relation : This could not be done in Egypt, where they were oppres. fed by hard Bondage ; and therefore God' first leads them into the Wilderness, remote from the Conversation of all other People, and upon all accounts a fit Place both to instruct and try them. I do not intend, as I said before, to enquire into the Mystical Reasons of those various Provi. dences with which God exercised them in the Wilderness, to which our Saviour and his Apoftles so often refer, and which they apply to the Gospel State ; but shall only consider the Wildom of Providence, as to the external and visible Conduct of that people, to make them fit to be owned before all the world for his peculiar People.
They had lived two hundred Years in Egypt, and were tinctur'd with the Idolatries, and had learnt the corrupt Manners of that People, and had all that Meanness and Stupidity, and Perverseness of Humour, that a State of Servitude and Bondage is apt to create; of which we have too many visible Instances in their Behaviour towards Mofes. All this was to be corrected before their entrance into Canaan; which will give us the Reasons of some very wonderful Providences.
The first remarkable thing to this purpose to be observed, is God's delivering the Law to them with all the most formidable Solemnities, in an audible Voice from Mount Sinai: Which
" Moses tells them was such a thing as
was never known before, since the day 32, 33.
that God created Man upon the Earth: Did ever People hear the voice of God Speaking out of the midst of the Fire, as thou hast beard, and live? And che use Moses makes of it is very natural, to cona
firm them in the Belief and Worship of the One Supreme God. Unto tbee it was shewed, 35e that tbou mightest know, that the Lord be is God, there is none else besides him. Out of Hea- 36. ven be made thee to bear bis Voice, that he might instruct thee; and upon Earth he shewed thee his great fire, and thou heardest bis words out of the midst of the fire. - Know therefore this day, and con- 39. sider it in thine beart, that the Lord is God in beaven above, and upon the earth beneatb; there is none else. For what can convince Men that there is One Supreme God, if such a terrible Appearance as that on Mount Sinai, ard the Law delivered in an audible Voice from Heaven, will not convince them? Numa pretended to receive his Laws from the Goddess Ægeria, as some other Lawgivers pretended to do the like; but no Man knew any thing of it but themselves; but here a whole Nation heard God speak to them, and say such an Awful Appearance upon the Mount, as made Moses himself fear and tremble. I defire any Man to tell me, how God, who is a Pure Invisible Mind, could possibly give a more visible Demonftration of his presence and his Power? I desire the Wittiest and most Philofophical Acheists, only for Experiment fake, to suppose the Truth of that Relation which Moses gives us of this matter; and that they themselves had been present at Mount Sinai, had seen the Smoke and Fire cover the Mountain, had heard the Thunder and the Trumper, and at last a Voice delivering the Law with an unimitable Terror and Majesty, what would they then have thought of this? Or what farther Evidence would they have desired, that it was God who spoke to them? This could be no Dream, nor melancholy Apparition, or disturbed Fancy, for A a 2
they had timely notice of it three days before, and were commanded to fan&tify themselves to meet their God; and if a whole Nation had been imposed on after such fair Warning, it had 'been as great a Prodigy and Miracle, as the Appearance on Mount Sinai, and would have argued some Divine and Supernatural Infatuation, and that would have proved a God.
This then was as visible a Demonstration as could be given of the Presence, and Power, and Majesty of God, who rejected all other Gods from any share in his Worship, and declares himself to be the Maker of Heaven and Earth; for I'm sure the Wit of Man cannot invent à more effectual Conviction than this.
Let us then consider the Wisdom of Providence in this, both with respect to the Israelites, and to the rest of Mankind.
He that cometb. to God, must believe that he is, and that be is a rewarder of them that diligently seek bim. And therefore when God intended to restore his own Worship again in the World, and to make Israel a Pattern and Example of it to the rest of Mankind, it was necessary to give them as visible and ocular a demonftration of the Power and Glory of God, as it was possible for Creatures to have. When the whole world was over-run with Idolatry, and the Ifraelites themselves so strongly inclined to it, nothing less than such an Appearance from Mount Sinai was likely to establish the Faith and Worship of the One Supreme God ; and we see that this it self could very hardly do it ; for immediately after they had heard God speak to them, while Moses was in the Mount, they made them a Golden Calf, and worshipped it ; and as soon as they mingled with any other People, they joined in
their Idolatrous Worship; a sad Example of which we have in their worship of Baal Peor, 25. Numb. But this was the highest Evidence God could then give them of his Power and Glory; and it did in time prevail; and in them all Mankind who know their Story, have a vifible demonstration of One Supreme God.
But not to insist on every particular, which would be endless; it may seem strange, that when God brought Israel out of Egypt to give them Poffeffion of the Promised Land, he should make them wander in the Wilderness forty Years, till all that Generation of Men which came out of Egypt were dead, excepting Joshua and Caleb, The Apoftle to the Hebrews gives us the general Account of this matter, 3. Heb. 7. to the end; which resolves it into their Idolatry and Infidelity. Wherefore as the Holy Ghost săitb, To day if ye
will bear bis voiee, barden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the Wil derness; when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart, and they have not known my ways; so I sware in my wrath, they shall not enter into my rejt. Which he makes an Admonition to Christians, Take beed, Brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God; that is, in forsaking the True God, and declining to Idolatry, as the Israelites in the Wilderness did. And to whom (ware be, that they should not enter into bis rest, but to them that believed not? So we see, that they could not enter in, because of unbelief.
The plain State of the Case is this; That Generation of Men, which came out of Egypt, and remembred the Customs and Practices of A a 3