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when shaking heaven also. If then your fathers, who were receiving a kingdom, liable to constant alarm and commotion, served God on this mountain, let us, who profess to be looking for a heavenly and immoveable kingdom, serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear ; remembering that our God is a consuming fire, just as much now, as when it appeared on the top of the mountain."
The people were sanctified accordingly, and on the third day, Jehovah descended in all the glory of divine majesty. There are subjects which the feeble pen of a guilty mortal may attempt to illustrate. That now before us is of a very different kind. The heart is callous indeed, which can read this chapter unappalled. It compels us to think of another, and still more glorious descent, when every eye
shall see him, and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel !
CHAP. XX.-Before entering upon the particulars of that FIERY LAW, which God delivered to Israel, amidst such awful displays of majesty and power, it seems requisite that we should inquire a little into the design of this revelation of God, and how far we are justi. fied in considering the blackness, darkness, and tempest of these WRATHWORKING WORDS, as descriptive of the nature and tendency of the old covenant; and therefore justly contrasted with the mild peace. speaking voice of the gospel from Mount Zion, as men talk. And in order to avoid prolixity on a subject, which, however entitled to minute investigation, would easily lead us beyond our bounds, we shall briefly state a few remarks, which the reader can investigate more fully, by comparing with other passages of scripture.
1. There is not a commandment given from Mount Sinai by the Lord himself, who spake these ten words with his own almighty voice and trumpet in the ears of all the assembly, and added no more, which is in any respect peculiar to the Sinai covenant. 2. The words here spoken, are the same which the finger of God wrote at first on the heart of man; nay they are traced by his almighty hand on the hearts of the whole human race to this day, and constitute the law of conscience, even independent of revelation. In this sense, those without law do by nature the things contained in the • law, the conscience in the meanwhile accusing or excusing. See Romans i. (Perhaps the second, third, and fourth commandments should be here excepted; of which, in their place). There is no hu. man being, however estranged from revelation, but feels a voice within him, testifying that there is a SUPREME BEING to whom his worship is due. To honour parents; not to kill, steal, commit adultery, bear false witness, or covet, are laws which find testimony from the consci.
3. But more particularly, and which is sufficient for our ar. gument, even should the two former be denied, is this, that our Lord's sermon on the mount contains a transcript of this law, and was delivered by him, on his entrance upon his public ministry, for the same purpose, that the law of the ten words was delivered from Sinai, previous to the promulgation of the gospel, in the law of command. ments contained in ordinances. This leads to 4. That the design of this law, delivered with every concomitant display of justice, was to establish on its own sacred basis the authority of the divine law, as binding on the consciences of every guilty sinner : it was to demonstrate that the infinite power of God, his majesty, and the glory of his justice, were all connected in defence of this law; and that although hand should join in hand, sin should not go unpunished. Yea, although he was now about to proclaim his character as merciful and gracious, and to deliver a law by the Mediator, Moses, which should point out atonement for their souls, yet in thus cleansing, he would not clear the guilty ; his divine law must be satisfied, ere mercy could rejoice against judgment. In like manner, before our Lord entered upon that ministry, the whole design of which was to shew, that he came to seek and to save that which was lost,' he sat down on the mount, and, though unaccompanied with storms and tempests, delivered the same law, in a manner not less awful to the conscience. Before he could
say, • all manner of sins and blasphe. mies shall be forgiven unto men,' he publicly declared on the mount, • Be ye therefore perfect, as your father in heaven is perfect.' 5. The giving of the law on Sinai, was for the purpose of laying that foundation, which can never be overthrown, God will be just, even while justifying the ungodly.' Those who have not heard the voice of God in the ten words condemning before God, will never hear the Mediator speaking peace by the blood of the cross. Thus it will always be found, that those who neglect and despise the gospel, must in the first place deface the law of the ten words. For example, the religion of the world at this day is in general founded on Pope's distich.
For forms of faith, let fools and zealots fight,
Pope. Now, no man can seriously adopt these views, until he has in the first place blunted the language of the divine law in his conscience, and reduced that law to the ordinary level of human action. The conscience which feels the extent of these words, “ Thou shalt not co* vet,' as Paul did, would never open his mouth to utter Pope's words, whose life is in the right. A proper view of the divine law will bring the whole human race on the same level before God; and all the little distinctions in human character, will appear of no greater importance than as they affect man's temporal interests, and his situation in society. The difference between a thief, and what the world call an honest man, is important in society; nay, it is even a proof of the fear of God; for he who knows the gospel, though he stole, will steal no
more;' yet if the honest man is taught to feel the extent of the divine law, which is exceeding broad, touching the thoughts and intents of his heart, and making the coveting what he has not, sin, will find all the boasted distinctions of his honesty vanish, and that he must appear before his Maker as much an object of mercy as the vilest felon. This is a hard saying ; who can bear it ? • Blessed is he, who
soever shall be offended in me,' said our Lord, when telling the Pharisees, that publicans and harlots went into the kingdom of hea.
ven before them. Lastly, the visible display of justice, and the power of divine wrath accompanying the promulgation of the law on Si. nai, was suited to the nature of the old covenant. Why were their tabernacle, and still more their temple, glorious ? why was all that ceremonial worship attended with visible glory? because it was typical. It was the nature of that dispensation to have a mount that could • be touched, blackness, darkness and tempest ;' for the same reason, that in their tabernacle, they had cherubims of glory overshadow, • ing the mercy-seat.' But when Christ appeared, although the • glory of the only begotten of the Father' was in him; he had no outward form nor comeliness to attract notice ; his kingdom came with, no observation. In a word, Jesus sitting on the mountain, yet teaching with the highest authority, corresponded with the nature of his appearance on earth, while all the solemnity and majesty which accomé panied the giving of the law, was suited to the visible glory of the old covenant. It is impossible to leave this part of our subject without remarking, that it is very strange in those who are opposing Sinai and Zion, that they are opposing two parts of the same dispensation. Zion and Jerusalem, the name used by Paul in the 12th of He. brews, were both names which took their rise under the old covenant. Paul surely never meant to oppose one part of the old covenant to an. other.
Let us now attend to the awful words which proceeded out of the mouth of God on Mount Sinai. And in doing so, let us divest our minds of that erroneous doctrine, that we are attending to a part of the old covenant which has now vanished away. We are called to at. tend to words, as powerfully binding on the consciences of all of us at this day, as they were when first proclaimed in blackness, darkness and tempest.
It is certainly worthy of notice, that although this law is in all its parts perfect, and a transcript of divine holiness; and although the evident use of it is, as Paul expresses it, ' by the law is the knowledge 6 of sin ;' yea farther, although the law in itself knows nothing of mercy; yet even as here delivered, mercy, sufficient to support the minds of those who heard, beams forth. Israel" could not endure • that which was commanded,' Paul assures us, because it condemned them all as transgressors before God. Yet, fearing and quaking, as they now all stood around the mount, it had sunk them in utter mi. sery, but that, as we have said, mers, gleamed through the cloud.
It is ushered in with these words, • I am the Lord thy God, who • brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bon
dage. Here the Lawgiver brings himself to their view, as their God: the covenant of mercy with Abraham is brought to mind ; and they are thus encouraged to hope, because he who now speaks to them out of the midst of the fire, was not their enemy; Abraham was his friend, and he had redeemed them from Egypt and bondage. In place of filling them with despair, by reminding of his infinite justice and holiness, he gives them confidence, by speaking as their Redeemer and Saviour. Nor can we mention this house of bondage, of which the text speaks, without recalling the attention of our readers to one of the heavy charges, brought against the old covenant as being a system of unbearable bondage, and that all who were under it were groaning under the yoke of an unfulfilled law. Let us again say, that it were very unlike the Lord God, merciful and gracious, to bring Israel out of temporal bondage and oppression in Egypt, to groan under spiritual bondage and slavery in the wilderness. This manner of speaking of the bondage of the old covenant, has arisen from perverting a few
passages of the New Testament, to which we must request our reader's attention ; because, although they do not properly fall to be considered here, yet if we do not remove them, the use which has been long made of them will weigh in the mind, to the prejudice of the views we shall be led to take of the glorious liberty which the sons of God under the old covenant enjoyed, and which was shadowed forth by the redemption from Egypt. It will be remembered, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bond-maid, the other by a free woman. Both these sons, and their mothers, lived in the house together, until • the bond-woman and her son were cast out, for perm
secuting the son of the free ;' an event which took place, when Abraham's fleshly seed were unchurched, after the death of Christ. At the time we are now speaking of, the giving of the law, both were in the house together; and it is proper to consider the distinction of these seeds while in this situation. It is very obvious, that the chil. dren of Sarah, the free woman, are the children of the promise ; in other words, all who were born again to a lively hope through the gospel as preached before to Abraham, these are sons and free indeed! All again who are merely connected with the earthly hope, and were Israelites merely from temporal blessings, and farther, who became obedient to the law, as a ground of righteousness before God, these were and are still children of the bond-woman. Wherever, then, in the camp of Israel, there were any who, in the redemption of Egypt, foresaw the redemption by Christ; and who obeyed the ceremonial law as expressive of the ground of their hope towards God, they were free indeed ; they were under no bondage ; the gospel gave them the same freedom and liberty then, which it does to this day. On the other hand, every one who was seeking life and acceptance, as it were by the works of the law, was in the utmost possible bondage. Now, when Christ appeared, as the end and spirit of the law, and they received him not, but laboured by the righteousness which they vainly supposed was connected with the deeds of the law; our Lord said, they were not Abraham's real seed, but were in bondage. It is in this point of view, that · Jerusalern, which now is, and is in • bondage,' is opposed to the • Jerusalem which is above, and is the • mother of us all.' All who adhered to the earthly Jerusalem, after Christ abolished her worship, manifested their ignorance of Christ as the end and design of the whole ; by whose death the veil of her temple was rent, and her elements became weak and beggarly. From this it appears, that the law was good, if used lawfully ; but when Jerusalem that now is, viz. those who adhered to the Jewish worship after the death of Christ, sought justification by the deeds of the law, they manifested themselves to be sons of the bond-woman. Thus then there were bond-men and free in the church of God of old, as there are to this day. But it was not the old covenant which necessarily produced bondage, but those who misapplied it. The old covenant was not faultless, for it made nothing perfect ; but when used as 'the bringer in of the better hope,' as the handmaid to raise up spiritual seed to Abraham, then it was most valuable to the house. hold,
The law of the ten words is divided into two tables, viz. love to God, and love to our neighbour. On these two hang all the law and the prophets ; and thus love is the fulfilling of the law. The love to God which his law requires is like himself, perfect. The law says not only, • Thou shalt love the Lord,' but that, with all thy heart, • soul, strength and mind,' and thy neighbour as thyself.' Here is a view of the love which the law requires, and which alone fulfils the law, infinitely beyond what the heart of man conceives. The natural language of the heart of man concerning God, is fear. •I knew thee • that thou art an austere man,' is the genuine language of the heart ; and the cause is obvious : man trembles for God's righteous judg. ment, to which his conscience tells him he is justly exposed. It is the gospel, which displays the character of God, as love, which can alone beget love to God in the heart of man. Thus says John, . We • love God, because he first loved us. The first fruit of this love which the gospel awakens in the heart of man, is obedience to the law of God. • Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.' We smile contemptuously at the idolatry of the heathens ; yet there is more frossness in what we may call Christian idolatry than in Pagan. How many around us are rolling in sensuality and fleshly lusts, whose God is their BELLY? How many pursuing their covetousness ? and covetousness is in scripture called idolatry. Nor need we be more particular : Whatever the heart of man pursues with that avidity and regard which is due only to God, is their IDOL. Although the sacred text in this commandment mentions particularly the images which were worshipped by the idolatrous nations, it embraces idolatry in every shape. The worship and service of God which is here requi. red, can only be paid by those who know Him, who is the image of the invisible God. Thus, in this commandment, while God demands the service and love of guilty man, he manifests his own character, as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ, in that light in which alone man can love God. • For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, vi• siting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and • fourth generation of them that hate me ; and shewing mercy unto • thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.' We shall not detain our readers with any inquiry into the particular display of the divine character here set before us, because in this same book xxxiv. 7. we find it still more clearly expressed, and it will be then attended to. The next commandment, ver. 7. prohibits taking the name of God in vain. This not only includes profane oaths, swearing, &c. but seems to point still more directly to using God's name vainly in his worship. The reader will recollect that the idols