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journey, of living well through the world. It is like to be more than ordinarily difficult in our times. A spirit of delusion threatens a dark and misty day. Labour to taste the power of truth, if you would be established in it. A Popish and malignant spirit threatens with darkness, blood, aud confusion. This is evident, if we consider the apostacy in these nations from the once covenanted work of reformation, the blood of the saints yet lying at their doors, with the profanity and irreligion which is abounding among all ranks. As we have reason to think the Popish and malignant party in these nations, setting up for a Popish pretender, are infatuated of God to their own ruin, that they may get blood to drink; so we have ground to fear God may make them a scourge to the nations, and perhaps by them he may drive them to reformation. Whatever, then, the clouds may turn to, eat for a wilderness-journey.-You have,
2. Your journey out of the world, that is, to die well. It is a weighty journey from time to eternity. Eat for it this day, and do as you will wish to have done when you come to a dying-hour. It may be some will not have as much time to think on it when it comes, as they will have this day at a communion table. And that at a communion-table you may eat,-labour to have your appetite after Christ sharpened. Open your mouths wide, and he will fill them. Consider well your own needs, and his fullness.-Adore the wonderful condescension of the great God. Reverence his greatness; but beware of slavish fear and amazement. Look to God through the veil of Christ's flesh.-In a word, beware of unbelief. Rest not in a general faith, but exercise a faith of application: Gal. ii. 20" I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; and yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
THE DISTINGUISHING PRIVILEGE OF GOD'S FAITHFUL SERVANTS.*
EXOD. xxiv. 11,
And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.
THE Lord is calling us to come up to him into the mount of solemn ordinances; and though there be some who will abide at the foot of the hill, unconcerned and stupid, like Abraham's servant and the ass, I hope there are others who will desire to go forward, though it is likely there may be a struggle betwixt hope and fear about their entertainment there. How are your hearts affected upon this awful approach? are they saying within you, as these Greeks, "We would see Jesus?" Or, as the prodigal Jew, Luke xv. 17, "We perish with hunger." And at the same time with the men of Bethshemesh, 1. Sam. vi. 19, "Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?" Our text gives you encouragement from this instance of the nobles of Israel. Upon God's call they came up to the mount; and (which divides the text into two parts), first, They were safe: "And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand;" Secondly, They were kindly entertained: "Also they saw God, and did eat and drink."-We shall attend to these separately.
The first part is, they were safe in their approach. Moses remarks this, to the praise of the divine clemency in a Mediator, through whom sinners may see God, and not die. Sin has set man at such a distance from God, and put his body into such a weak and mouldering condition, that consciousness of guilt and a sight of the divine glory meeting together, is more than enough to exanimate and make him faint away, to break to pieces the corrupt earthen pitcher the soul dwells in. Hence it was a common opinion, that such a sight was deadly.-Consider here,
1. The parties whose safety is particularly remarked, the nobles of the children of Israel. Some reckon Nadab and Abihu among these; but if so, why not Moses and Aaron ? It is plain they were all there, ver. 9, and 10. I think, however, it is only the seventy elders who are meant; and therefore it is expressed emphatically in the Hebrew, intimating, that not only was Moses, the typical Media
* This and the following discourse were delivered at Maxton, August 11 and 12, 1716.
tor, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, who were designed to be priests, preserved; but even the elders, the representatives of the people, these also were safe.-You will accordingly observe, that the people are as welcome to the divine favour, and to gracious manifestations of God, as ministers. Tho' ministers be employed to open the doors of the temple, the people stand as fair for a sight of the glory within as they do. Though Moses, &c. went up foremost to the mount; yet no man should either value himself before the Lord, or be discouraged upon the character which he bears. Ordinarily, people will pray that ministers may be helped in their public ministrations, to preach, &c.; but they should even also be concerned, that they may be helped to believe, taste, feel, and feed, with the rest of the children.
They were nobles, great men, rulers of the people; yet they went up to the mount with Aaron, and sat down to the sacred feast there, after they had taken the national covenant of Israel with the rest of the people, ver. 8 9.-You will thence observe, that it is the honour of the nobles of a land to see God, and to be seen upon the mount with God, at the sacred feast, as covenanters with him. This was some time the honour of Scotland's nobility and gentry; they were forward in the national covenant with God; and we have heard the days have been, when scarlet-cloaks and velvet-hoods bare great bulk in such meetings as this. But, ah! how is our gold become dross! they leave these things now mostly to the common people, with contempt of both. What wonder is it that they have been left to make themselves the tail, and not the head! to row us into deep waters, where the state is sunk, and the church is broken to turn Babel-builders, so that for once the scaffolding is broken, and the builders, with many others, heavily crushed. For, "these that honour God, he will honour; but they that despise him, shall be lightly esteemed."
There were seventy of these nobles, the number of the children of Israel when they went down to Egypt, and so a fit number to represent the body of the people, who were now solemnly taken into covenant with God. God saw it not meet to give this sight of the divine glory to the multitude, and to set all down to the sacred feast on the mount; but, since it was covenant-entertainment, the seventy were brought to it, as the representatives of the people. Thus also the New-Testament church is represented by twenty-four elders about the throne, Rev. iv. 4-From this you may learn, that safe communion and fellowship with God is the privilege of the church of believers, the Israelites indeed.-That all the people of God have not alike nearness of access to God; some come farther forward than others.
Peter, James, and John, were taken up to the mount of transfiguration, and not the rest of the apostles.-That it is a mercy to have an interestin, and relation to, these who are brought near to God, especially such as will act for us in the mount with God. There may be some young ones here, whose fathers or mothers are to approach the table of the Lord. I would advise them to tell them to mind them there. Say, "I cannot go, but, O! give up my name to Christ, consent you in my name to the covenant, and tell your covenanted God, I am also content to be his." Or, if you have not father or mother, tell any other godly person ye know. And so may one distressed Christian do with another: Song, v. 8. "I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem if ye find my Beloved, that ye tell him that I am sick of love." -We may observe,
(2.) How their safety is expressed: "He laid not his hand upon them," that is, did not hurt or destroy them, Gen xxxvii. 22. Though they saw God, (ver. 10.) yet they died not, their lives were preserved. This imports, that he might in point of justice have laid his hand on them. They were sinful creatures; and though they were on the mount of God, yet they had a sinful nature with them, which did leave the marks of it even upon what they did there. But he overlooked their weakness, and in mercy spared them. This instructs us, that when we are at our best, if God should mark our iniquity, we could not stand before him. We are ever in mercy's debt, and cannot be one moment safe without being under the covert of blood. Even in heaven, it is under that canopy the saints will feast for ever, Heo. vii. 25.—It also imports, that the weight of his hand would have crushed them. If he had but laid it on them, it would have done their business. If he had but put forth his hand and touched them in wrath, they would have gone like a moth with a touch of the hand. From this we may learn the utter weakness and nothingness of the creature before the Lord. He can touch it to destruction, and can frown it back, when he will, into the womb of nothing. Why, then, should we strive with our Maker?-More particularly, that the greatest of men are nothing before the great God; Upon the nobles he laid not his hand. Though they caused terror to their inferior fellow-creatures, they were as unable to bear the terror of God as the meanest in the camp of Israel. All flesh is alike before God. You will observe,
(3.) How they came to be safe. The word nobles signifies select, separate ones, who had been set apart. They were selected out of the covenanted body of the people, to come up into the mount to the Lord, at his call. Moses gets an order for so many to come up with him, ver. 1. Having that order, he first proposes a covenant
to the people, and they declare their acceptance, ver. 3.; then he writes the words of the covenant, and the covenant is most solemnly entered into, ratified, and sealed; there is an altar built to represent God in Christ, ver. 4, and twelve pillars to represent the twelve tribes. Thus these were the parties. Sacrifices were offered, ver. 5, shewing the covenant to be founded on the blood of a Mediator. The half of the blood was sprinkled on the altar, ver. 6, shewing it was not an absolute God with whom they were to covenant, but a God atoned by the blood of a crucified Saviour. Then he read the book of the covenant; thus proposing it to the people; and their second thoughts are as their first, they solemnly consent to it, ver. 7.; and he sprinkles the rest of the blood on them, and so it was sealed and ratified. Then, after all this, he and these selected elders go up to the mount, in obedience to the call formerly given; and there they saw God, and were safe notwithstanding. Thus, their separation was their security. From which you may observe, That there is safety in following God's call, be the calling never so high. Had any of the people attempted to have gone whither they went, they had smarted for it; but being called, they were safe. Some, who measure reverence of God more by their own carnal wisdom than by God's word, cry out on us for not kneeling, but sitting, at the Lord's table. But though sitting be a gesture of more familiarity than kneeling, yet seeing it is instituted, we may expect more safety in it than in their kneeling, which at the Lord's table, wants both precept and example,-We now come to the
Second part of the verse. They were kindly entertained in their approach: Also (or but) they saw God, and did eat and drink.— Here observe,
1. A glorious sight which they got.-Where consider,
(1.) The object, God more largely expressed, ver. 10, "The God of Israel." Not any visible resemblance of the divine nature, but some glorious appearance and token of God's special presence. Our Lord Jesus Christ was known to the Old Testament church by this uame, the God of Israel. And that this was the Son of God, seems very plain from that word, ver. 1," He said, Come up unto the Lord." Compare ch. xxiii. 20-23, with Exod. iii. 2-8. Now, he who sends is the Father, and it is the same who speaks here; and he speaks of another person, who also is the Lord. And, seeing we read of his feet, ver 10, he seems to have appeared in a glorious human shape, as a pledge of his future incarnation. This, then was a most glorious sight of Jesus Christ. Nothing is here described but what was under his feet; though the text seems to intimate they saw more, an