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presuming to touch it.
The reason of such
acts of severity is told us in the history of Nadal and Abihu, who were struck dead for offering strange fire on the altar of their God; they are designed to teach us, "that God will be sanctified in all that come nigh unto him, and before all the people he will be glorified "*
The next thing to be noticed is, Their desire to have some person appointed who should act as a mediator between God and them. They probably had respect only to the present occasion; but God interpreted their words as general, and as importing a request that he would send them a permanent Mediator, who should transact all their business, as it were, with God, making known to him their wants, and communicating from him the knowledge of his will. That God did construe their words in this extended sense, we are informed by Moses in a subsequent chapter of this book. In 18th of Deut. and 15th and following verses, this explanation of the matter is given. "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee of thy brethren like unto me; unto him shall ye hearken according to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more that, I die not. And the Lord said unto me, they have well spoken that which they Lev. x. 1-3.
have spoken. I WILL RAISE THEM UP A PROPHET FROM AMONG THEIR BRETHREN like unto thee, and will put my words in HIS mouth; and HE shall speak unto them all that 1 command him and it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which HE shall speak in my name, I will require it of him." Who this Prophet was, we are at no loss to declare; for the apostle Peter, endeavoring to convince the Jews from their own scriptures that Jesus was the Christ, and that Moses himself had required them to believe in him, cites these very words as referring to Christ, and calls upon them to regard him as that very Mediator, whom God had sent in answer to the petitions which had been offered by their forefathers at Mount Horeb.*
Here it should be remembered that we are speaking not from conjecture, but from infallible authority; and that the construction we are putting on the text is, not a fanciful interpretation of our own, but God's own exposition of his own words.
Behold then the sentiment expressed in our text, and the commendation given to it by God himself; it is a sentiment which is the very sum and substance of the whole gospel; it is a sentiment, which whosoever embraces truly, and acts upon it faithfully, can never perish, but shall have eternal life. The preceding sentiment, that we are incapable of standing before an holy God, is good, as introduc*Acts iii. 22, 23.
tory to this; but this is the crown of all; this consciousness that we cannot come to God and that God will not come to us, but through CHRIST. This acquiescence in HIM as the divinely appointed Mediator; his acceptance of him as "the Way, the Truth, and the Life;" this sentiment, I say, ́God did, and will approve, wheresoever it may be found. The Lord grant that we may all embrace this sentiment as we ought; and that having tasted its sweetness and felt its efficacy, we may attain by means of it all the blessings which a due reception of it will insure!
The third thing to be noticed is, Their engagement to yield unqualified obedience to every thing that should be spoken to them by the Mediator. This, if viewed only as a general promise of obedience, was good, and highly acceptable to God; since the obedience of his creatures is the very end of all his dispensations towards them. It is to bring them to obedience, that he alarms them by the denunciations of his wrath, and encourages them by the promises of his gospel: when once they are brought to love his law, and obey his commandments, all the designs of his love and mercy are accomplished; and nothing remains but that they attain that measure of sanctification, that shall fit them for the glory which he has prepared for them.
But there is far more in this part of our subject than appears at first sight. We will endea yor to enter into it somewhat more minutely
in order to explain what we conceive to be contained in it.
The moral law was never given with a view to men's obtaining salvation by their obedience to it; for it was not possible that they who had transgressed it in any one particular, should afterwards be justified by it. St. Paul says, "If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.”* But the law could not give life to fallen man: and therefore that way of obtaining righteousness is forever closed. With what view then was the law given? I answer, to shew the existence of sin, and the lost state of man by reason of sin, and to shut him up to that way of obtaining mercy which God has revealed in his gospel. I need not multiply passages in proof of this; two will suffice to establish it beyond a doubt: "As many as are under the law, are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." Again, "The law is our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." But when the law has answered this end, then it has a further use, namely, to make known to us the way in which we should walk. In the first instance we are to flee from it as a Covenant, and to seek for mercy through the Mediator: but when we have obtained mercy through the Mediator, then we are to receive the law † Cal. iii. 10-24.
* Gal. iii. 21.
at his hands as a rule of life, and to render willing obedience to it. Now all this was shadowed forth in the history before us. God gave Israel his law immediately from his own mouth: and, so given, it terrified them beyond measure, and caused them to desire a Mediator. At the same time they did not express any wish to be liberated from obedience to it; on the contrary they engaged, that, whatever God should speak to them by the Mediator they would lis ten to it readily, and obey it unreservedly. This was right; and God both approved of it in them, and will approve of it in every child of man. We are afraid of perplexing the subject if we dwell any longer on this branch of it; because it would divert your attention, from the main body of the Discourse. We will therefore content ourselves with citing one passage, wherein the whole is set forth in the precise point of view in which we have endeavoured to place it. We have shewn that the transactions at Mount Sinai, where intended to shadow forth the nature of the two dispensations, that of the law and that of the gospel, in a contrasted view; that the terrific nature of the one made the Israelites desirous to obtain an interest in the other; and that the appointment of Moses to be their Mediator, and to communicate to them the further knowledge of his will with a view to their future obedience, was altogether illustrative of the gospel, which, whilst it teaches us to flee to Christ from the curses of the broken law, requires us afterwards to obey