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DEUT. V. 28, 29,
They have well said all they have spoken: O that there were such an heart in them.
THE historical parts of the Old Testament are more worthy of our attention than men generally imagine. A multitude of facts recorded in them are replete with spiritual instruction, being intended by God to serve as emblems of those deep mysteries which were afterwards to be revealed. For instance: What is related of our first parent, his creation, his marriage, his sabbatic rest, was emblematic of that new creation which God will produce in us, and of that union with Christ whereby it shall be effected, and of the glorious rest to which it shall introduce us, as well in this world as in the world to come. In like manner the promises made to Adam, to Abraham, and to David, whatever reference they might have to the particular circumstances of those illustrious individuals, had a farther and more important accomplishment in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the second Adam, the promised seed, the King of Israel.
The whole of the Mosaic dispensation was altogether figurative, as we see from the Epistle to the Hebrews, în which the figures themselves are illustrated and explained. But there are
some facts which appear too trifling to afford any instruction of this kind. We might expect indeed that so remarkable a fact as the promulgation of the law from Mount Sinai should have in it something mysterious; but that the fears of the people on that occasion, and the request dictated by those fears, should be intended by God to convey any particular instruction, we should not have readily supposed; yet by these did God intend to shadow forth the whole mystery of redemption. We are sure that there was somewhat remarkable in the people's speech, by the commendation which God himself bestowed upon it;-still however, unless we have turned our minds particularly to this subject, we shall searcely conceive how much is contained in it.
The point for our consideration is, the request which the Israelites made in consequence of the terror with which the display_of the divine Majesty had inspired them. The explication and improvement of that point is all that properly belongs to the passage before But we have a further view in taking this text: we propose, after considering it in its true and proper sense, to take it in an improper and accommodated sense; and, after making some observations upon it in reference to the request which the Israelites then offered, to notice it in reference to the requests which we from time to time make unto God in the Liturgy of our Established Church.
The former view of the text is that which
we propose for our present consideration: the latter will be reserved for future discussion.
The Israelites made an earnest request to God; and God expressed his approbation of it in the words which we have just recited"They have well said all that they have spoken: O that there were such an heart in them!"" From hence we are naturally led to set before you the sentiments and dispositions which God approves; the sentiments; "They have well said all that they have spoken;" the dispositions; "O that there were in them such an heart."
1st. The sentiments which he approves.
Here it will be necessary to analyse, as it were, or at least to get a clear and distinct apprehension of, the speech which God commends. It is recorded in the preceding context from the 23d verse. "And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire,) that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders; and ye said, Behold, the Lord our God has shewed us his glory, and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day, that God doth talk with man and he liveth. Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we
trave, and lived? Go thou near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say; and speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it and do it."Then it is added, “And the Lord heard the voice of your words when ye spake unto me; and the Lord said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken."
Now in this speech are contained the fol lowing things-An acknowledgment that they could not stand before the Divine Majesty-A desire that God would appoint some one to mediate between him and them; and lastly, An engagement to regard every word that should be delivered to them through a Mediator, with the same obediential reverence, as they would if it were spoken to them by God himself. And these are the sentiments, on which the commendation in our text was unreservedly bestowed.
The first thing then to be noticed is, Their acknowledgment that they could not stand before the Divine Majesty.
Many things had now occurred to produce an extraordinary degree of terror upon their minds. There was a blackness and darkness in the sky, such as they never before beheld. This darkness was rendered more visible by the whole adjacent mountain blazing with fire, and by vivid lightnings flashing all around in quick succession. The roaring peals of thunder added an awful solemnity to the scene.
The trumpet sounding with a long and increasingly tremendous blast, accompanied as it was by the mountain shaking to its centre, appalled the trembling multitude; and Jehovah's voice, uttering with inconceivable majesty his authoritative commands, caused even Moses himself to say, I exceedingly fear and quake.* In consequence of this terrific scene we are told that the people "removed and stood afar off," lest the fire should consume them, or the voice of God strike them dead upon the spot.t Now though this was in them a mere slavish fear and the request founded upon it had respect only to their temporal safety, yet the sentiment itself was good, and worthy of universal adoption. God being hidden from our senses, so that we neither see nor hear him, we are ready to think lightly of him, and even to rush into his more immediate presence without any holy awe upon our minds: but when he speaks to us in the thunder or by an earthquake, the most hardened rebel is made to feel that "with God is terrible majesty," and that "he is to be had in reverence by all that are round about him." This is a lesson which God has abundantly taught us by his dealings with the Jews.-Among the men of Bethshemesh, a great multitude were slain for their irreverent curisioty in looking into the ark; as Uzzah also afterwards was for his well meant but erroneous zeal in *Compare Exod.xix.16-19, with Heb.xii.18-21. Exod. xx, 18, 19.
Ver. 21, above cited.