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sinking, but from the bottom of the deeps, | them dance before it. It is a miserable call upon him; “ and though he kill them, thing, when governors humour the people will trust in him."
in their sins, and instead of making up the Superstition besots the minds of men, breach, enlarge it. Sin will take heart by and blinds the eye of reason; and first the approbation of the meanest looker on; makes them not men, ere it makes them but if authority once second it, it grows idolaters. How else could he that is the impudent: as contrarily, where the public image of God, fall down to the images of government opposes evil, though it be creatures ? How could our forefathers have under-hand practised, not without fear, so doated upon stocks and stones, if they | there is life in that state. had been themselves ? As the Syrians Aaron might have learned counsel of his Fere first blinded, and then led into the brother's example. When they came to midst of Samaria, so are idolaters first him with stones in their hands, and said, bereaved of their wits and common sense, “ Give us water," he ran as roundly to and afterwards are carried brutishly into all God with prayers in his mouth: so should palpable impiety.
Aaron have done, when they said, “ Give Who would not have been ashamed to us gods ;" but he weakly runs to their earhear this answer from the brother of Moses. rings, that which should be made their god, “ Pluck off your ear-rings ?" He should not to the true God which they had, and have said, “ Pluck this idolatrous thought | forsook. Who can promise to himself freeout of your hearts." And now, instead of dom from gross infirmities, when he that chiding, he soothes them. And, as if he went up into the mount comes down, and had been no kin to Moses, he helps to doth that in the valley which he heard forlead them back again from God to Egypt. | bidden in the hill ? The people importuned him, perhaps with I see yet, and wonder at the mercy of threats. He that had waded through all that God which had justly called himself the menaces of Pharaoh, doth he now jealous. This very Aaron, whose infirshrink at the threats of his own? Moses is mity had yielded to so foul an idolatry, is not afraid of the terrors of God: his faith, after chosen by God to be a priest to himthat carried him through the water, led him self. He that had set up an altar to the up to the fire of God's presence ; while his calf, must serve at the altar of God. He brother Aaron fears the faces of those men, that had melted and carved out the calf for which he lately saw pale with the fear of a god, must sacrifice calves and rams and their glorious Lawgiver: as if he, that for- bullocks unto the true God. He that con. bade other gods, could not have maintained secrated a day to the idol, is himself consehis own act and agent against men. Sud-secrated to him which was dishonoured by den fears, when they have possessed weak the idol. The grossest of all sins cannot minds, lead them to shameful errors. Im- prejudice the calling of God; yea, as light portunity or violence may lessen, but they | is best seen in darkness, the mercy of God cannot excuse a fault. Wherefore was he is most magnified in our unworthiness. a governor, but to depress their disordered 1 What a difference God puts between per. motions? Facility of yielding to a sin, or sons and sins! While so many thousand wooing it with our voluntary suit, is a Israelites were slain, that had stomachfully higher stair of evil ; but even at last to be desired the idol, Aaron, that in weakness won to sin, is damnable. It is good to re- condescended, is both pardoned the fact, sist any onset of sin ; but one condescent and afterwards laden with honour from loses all the thanks of our opposition. What God. Let no man take heart to sin from will it avail a man that others are plagued mercy. He that can purpose to sin upon for soliciting him, while he smarteth for the knowledge of God's mercy in the reyielding? If both be in hell, what ease is it mission of infirmities, presumes, and makes to him that another is deeper in the pit? hiniself a wilful offender. It is no comfort
What now did Aaron ? Behold, he that to the wilful that there is remission to the alone was allowed to climb up the trem weak and penitent. bling and fiery hill of Sinai with Moses, and The ear-rings are plucked off. Egyptian beard God say, “ Thou shalt not make to jewels are fit for an idolatrous use. This thyself any graveti image, for I am a jealous very gold was contagious. It had been God," as if he meant particularly to pre- better the Israelites had never borrowed Fent this act, within one month calls for these ornaments, than that they should their ear-rings, makes the graven image of pay them back to the idolatry of their first a calf, erects an altar, consecrates a day to owners. What cost the superstitious Isit, calls it their god, and weeps not to see raelites are content to be at for this lewd devotion! The riches and pride of their | Aaron could be thus desperately mad? outward habit are they willing to part with The image and the holy day were both to to their molten god; as glad to have their one deity: “ 'To-morrow is the holy dav ears bare, that they might fill their eyes. of the Lord your God.” It was the true No gold is too dear for their idol : each God they meant to worship in the calf; man is content to spoil his wives and child and yet at best this idolatry is shameful. dren of that whereof they spoiled the It is no marvel if this foul sin seeks preEgyptians.
tences; yet no excuse can hide the shame Where are those worldlings that cannot of such a face. God's jealousy is not abide to be at any cost for their religion? | stirred only by the rivality of a false god, which could be content to do God charge- | but of a false worship. Nothing is more less service? These very Israelites that dangerous than to mint God's services in were ready to give gold, not out of their our own brain. purses, but from their very ears, to misde God sends down Moses to remedy this votion, shall once condemn them. O sa- sin. He could as easily have prevented, as crilege succeeding to superstition ! Of old redressed it. He knew ere Moses came they were ready to give gold to the false up what Israel would do ere he came down; service of God; we, to take away gold from likeas he knew the two tables would be the true. How do we see men prodigal to broken, ere he gave them. God most their lusts and ambitions, and we hate not wisely permits and ordinates sin to his own to be niggards to God!
ends, without our excuse : and though he This gold is now grown to a calf. Let could easily by his own hands remedy evils, no man think that form came forth casually, yet he will do it by means both ordinary out of the melted ear-rings. This shape and subordinate. It is not for us to look was intended by the Israelites, and per-| for any immediate redress from God, when fected by Aaron. They brought this god we have a Moses, by whom it may be in their hearts with them out of Egypt, and wrought. Since God himself expects this now they set it up in their eyes. Still from man, why should man expect it from doth Egypt hurt them. Servitude was the God? least evil that Israel receives from Egypt; Now might Moses have found a time to for that sent them still to the true God, have been even with Israel for all their unbut this idolatrous example led them to a thankfulness, and mutinous insurrections: false. The very sight of evil is dangerous; “ Let me alone: I will consume them, and and it is hard for the heart not to run into make of thee a mighty nation." Moses those sins, to which the eye and ear are should not need to solicit God for revenge: inured. Not out of love, but custom, we God solicits him, in a sort, for leave to refall into some offences.
venge. Who would look for such a word The Israelites wrought so long in the from God to man, “Let me alone?". As furnaces of the Egyptians' brick, that they yet Moses had said nothing: before he have brought forth a molten calf. The opens his mouth, God prevents luis imporblack calf with the white spots, which they tunity, as foreseeing that holy violence saw worshipped in Egypt, hath stolen their which the requests of Moses would offer hearts; and they which before would have to him. Moses stood trembling before the been at the Egyptian flesh-pots, would now majesty of his Maker; and vet hears him be at their devotions. How many have say, “ Let me alone." The mercy of our fallen into a fashion of swearing, scoffing, God hath, as it were, obliged his power to drinking, out of the usual practice of others; the faith of men. The fervent prayers or as those that live in an ill air are infected | the faithful hold the hands of the Almighty. with diseases. A man may pass through As I find it said afterwards of Christ, That Ethiopia unchanged, but he cannot dwellhe could do no miracles there, because there and not be discoloured.
of their unbelief;" so now I hear God (as Their sin was bad enough: let not our if he could not do execution upon Israel, unclaritableness make it worse. No man because of Moses' faith) say, “Let me may think they have so put off humanity, alone, that I may consume them.” and sense, with their religion, as to think We all naturally affect propriety, and that calf a god, or that inis idol, which they like our own so much better, as it is freer saw yesterday made, did bring them out of from partners. Every one would be glad Egypt three months ago : this were to to say, with that proud one, “ I am, and make them more beasts than that calf which there is none beside me." so much the this image represented. Or, if they should more sweetly would this message have have been so insensate, can we think that sounded to nature, “ I will consume them
and make of thee a mighty nation." How I had wrought, promises not to do that which many endeavour that, not without danger he threatened. But what needs God to of curses and uproar, which was voluntarily care for the speech of the Egyptians - men, tendered unto Moses! Whence are our infidels ? And if they had been good, yet depopulations and inclosures, but for that their censure should have been unjust. men cannot abide either fellows or neigh Shall God care for the tongues of men ; bours? But how graciously doth Moses the holy God for the tongues of infidels ? strive with God, against his own prefer The very Israelites, now they were from ment! If God had threatened, “I will under the hands of Egypt, cared not for consume thee, and make of them a mighty their words; and shall the God of heaven nation," I doubt whether he could have regard that which is not worth the regard been more moved. The more a man can of men ? Their tongues could not talk leave himself behind him, and aspire to a against God, but from himself; and if it care of community, the more spiritual he could have been the worse for him, would is. Nothing makes a man so good a patriot he have permitted it? But, O God, how as religion.
dainty art thou of thine honour, that thou On the sweet disposition of Moses, fit canst not endure the worst of men should for him that should be familiar with God! have any colour to taint it! What, do we He saw they could be content to be merry | men stand upon our justice and innocence, and happy without him : he would not be with neglect of all unjust censures, when happy without them. They had professed that infinite God, whom no censures can to have forgotten him: he slacks not to reach, will not abide that the very Egyptians sue for them. He that will ever hope for should falsely tax his power and mercy ! good himself, must return good for evil unto | Wise men must care, not only to deserve others.
well, but to hear well, and to wipe off, not Yet, it was not Israel so much that only crimes, but censures. Moses respected, as God in Israel. He There was never so precious a monuwas thrifty and jealous for his Maker; and ment as the tables written with God's own would not have him lose the glory of his hand. If we see but the stone which Jamighty deliverances; nor would abide a pre-cob's head rested on, or on which the foot tence for any Egyptian dog to bark against of Christ did once tread, we look upon it the powerful work of God: “ Wherefore with more than ordinary respect. With shall the Egyptians say?" If Israel could what eye should we have beheld this stone, have perished without dishonour to God, which was hewed, and written with the perhaps his hatred to their idolatry would very finger of God? Any manuscript scroll, have overcome his natural love, and he had written by the hand of a famous man, is let God alone. Now so tender is he over laid up amongst our jewels : what place the name of God, that he would rather then should we have given to the handhave Israel escape with a sin, than God's writing of the Almighty ? glory should be blemished in the opinions That which he hath dictated to his serof men by a just judgment. He saw that vants the prophets, challenges just honour the eyes and tongues of all the world were from us: how doth that deserve veneration, intent upon Israel, a people so miraculously which his own hand wrote immediately ? fetched from Egypt, whom the sea gave Prophecies and evangelical discourses he way to; whom heaven fed; whom the rock hath written by others; never did he write watered; whom the fire and cloud guarded; any thing himself, but these tables of the which heard the audible voice of God. He law ; nor did he ever speak any thing audi. knew withal, how ready the world would bly to the whole of mankind, but it. The be to misconstrue, and how the heathens ! hand, the stone, the law, were all his. By would be ready to cast imputations of levity how much more precious this record was, or impotence upon God; and therefore says, by so much was the fault greater of de. "What will the Egyptians say?" Happy is facing it. What king holds it less than that man which can make God's glory the rebellion to tear his writing and blemish scope of all his actions and desires ; neither his seal ? At the first, he engraved his cares for his own welfare, nor fears the image in the table of man's heart; Adain miseries of others, but with respect to God blurred the image, but, through God's in both. If God had not given Moses this mercy, saved the tablet. Now he writes care of his glory, he could not have had it: his will in the tables of stone ; Moses and now his goodness takes it so kindly, as breaks the tables, and defaces the writing. if himself had received a favour from his If they had been given hin for himself, creature; and, for a reward of the grace he | the author, the matter had deserved, that
as they were written in stone for perma- | next day they might find their god in their nency, so they should be kept for ever; 1 excrements, to the just shame of Israel, and, as they were everlasting in use, so when they should see their new god canthey should be in preservation. Had they | not defend himself from being either nothing, been written in clay, they could but have or worse. been broken ; but now they were given for | Who can but wonder, to see a multitude all Israel, for all mankind. He was but of so many hundred thousands (when Moses the messenger, not the owner. Howsoever came running down the hill) to turn their therefore Israel had deserved, by breaking eyes from their god, to him ; and, on a this covenant with God, to have this monu- sudden, instead of worshipping their idol, ment of God's covenant with them broken to batter it in pieces, in the very height by the same hand that wrote it; yet how of the novelty. Instead of building altars durst Moses thus carelessly cast away the and kindling fires to it, to kindle a hotter treasure of all the world, and by his hands fire than that wherewith it was melted, to undo that which was with such cost and consume it? instead of dancing before care done by his Creator ? How durst he it, to abhor and deface it ? instead of sing. fail the trust of that God, whose pledge he ing, to weep before it ? there was never received with awe and reverence? He a more stiff-necked people : yet I do not that expostulated with God, to have Israel hear any one man of them say, He is but live and prosper, why would he deface the one man; we are many: how easily may rule of their life, in the keeping whereof we destroy him, rather than he our god ? they should prosper? I see that forty days' If his brother durst not resist our motion talk with God cannot bereave a man of in making it, why will we suffer him to dare passionate infirmity. He that was the to resist the keeping of it? It is our act, meekest upon earth, in a sudden indigna- and we will maintain it. Here was none tion abandons that, which in cold blood of this, but an humble obeisance to the he would have held faster than his life. He basest and bloodiest revenge that Moses forgets the law written, when he saw it shall impose. God hath set such an im. broken. His zeal for God hath transported pression of majesty in the face of lawful him from himself, and his duty to the authority, that wickedness is confounded charge of God. He more hated the golden in itself to behold it. If from hence visible calf, wherein he saw engraven the idolatry powers were not more feared than the inof Israel, than he honoured the tables of visible God, the world would be overrun stone, wherein God had engraven his com- with outrage. Sin hath a guiltiness in it. mandments; and more longed to deface self, that, when it is seasonably checked, the idol, than he cared to preserve the it pulls in its head, and seeks rather a tables. Yet that God, which so sharply hiding-place than a fort. revenged the breach of one law upon the ! The idol is not capable of a further reIsraelites, checks not Moses for breaking venge. It is not enough, unless the idolaboth the tables of the law. The law of ters smart. The gold was good, if the God is spiritual. The internal breach of Israelites had not been evil : so great a sin one law is so heinous, that, in comparison cannot be expiated without blood. Behold, of it, God scarce counts the breaking of the that meek spirit which, in his plea with outward tables a breach of the law. The God would rather perish himself, than Isgoodness of God winks at the errors of rael should perish, arms the Levites against honest zeal, and so loves the strength of their brethren, and rejoices to see thougood affections, that it passeth over their sands of the Israelites bleed, and blesses infirmities. How highly God doth esteein a their executioners. well-governed zeal, when his mercy crowns It was the mercy of Moses that made it with all the faults !
him cruel. He bad been cruel to all, if The tables had not offended : the calf some had not found him cruel. They are had, and Israel in it. Moses takes revenge merciless hands which are not sometimes on both; he burns and stamps the calf to imbrued in blood. There is no less charity powder, and gives it Israel to drink, that than justice, in punishing sinners with they might have it in their belly, instead death : God delights no less in a killing of their eyes. How he hasteth to destroy mercy than in a pitiful justice. Some the idol, wherein they sinned! that, as an tender hearts would be ready to censure idol is nothing, so it might be brought to the rigour of Moses. Might not Israel notliing; and atoms and dust is nearest to have repented, and lived? Or, if they nothing: that, instead of going before Is- must die, must their brethren's hand be tael, it might pass through them, so as the upon them? if their throats must be cut
by their brethren, shall it be done in the made the first tables; the matter, the form very heat of their sin ? But they must was his : now Moses must hew the next. learn a difference betwixt pity and fondness, As God created the first man after his own mercy and injustice. Moses had a heart image ; but that once defaced, Adam begat as soft as theirs, but more hot; as pitiful, Cain after his own; or as the first temple but wiser. He was a good physician, and razed, a second was built: yet so far short, saw that Israel could not live, unless he that the Israelites wept at the sight of it. bled; he therefore lets out this corrupt The first works of God are still the purest : blood, to save the whole body. There those that he secondarily works by us, de. cannot be a better sacrifice to God, than cline in their perfection. It was reason, the blood of malefactors; and this first that though God had forgiven Israel, they sacrifice so pleased God in the hands of should still find they had sinned. They the Levites, that he would have none but might see the footsteps of displeasure in the them sacrifice to him for ever. The blood | differences of the agent. of the idolatrous Israelites cleared that | When God had told Moses before, “ I tribe from the blood of the innocent She will not go before Israel, but my angel shall chemites.
lead them," Moses so noted the difference, that he rested not, till God himself undertook their conduct; so might the Israelites
have noted some remainders of offence, BOOK VI.
while, instead of that which his own hand
did formerly make, he saith now, “ Hew CONTEMPLATION 1.— The Veil OF MOSES. thee." And yet these second tables are
kept reverently in the ark, when the other It is a wonder that neither Moses nor any lay mouldered in shivers upon Sinai : likeIsraelite gathered up the shivers of the as the repaired image of God in our reformer tables. Every shred of that stone, generation is preserved, perfected, and laid and every letter of that writing, had been up at last safe in heaven; whereas the first a relic worthy laying up; but he well saw | image of our created innocence is quite dehow headlong the people were to supersti- | faced : so the second temple had the glory tion, and how unsafe it were to feed that of Christ's exhibition, though meaner in disposition in them.
frame. The merciful respects of God are The same zeal that burnt the calf to not tied to glorious outsides, or the inward ashes, concealed the ruins of this monu- worthiness of things or persons : “ He ment. Holy things, besides their use, hath chosen the weak and simple to conchallenge no further respect, The break found the wise and mighty." ing of the tables did as good as blot out all Yet God did this work by Moses. Moses the writing; and the writing defaced left no hewed, and God wrote. Our true Moses virtue in the stone, no reverence to it. repairs that law of God, which we, in our
If God had not been friends with Israel, nature, had broken; he revives it for us, he had not renewed his law. As the Is- and it is accepted of God, no less than if raelites were wilfully blind if they did not the first characters of his law had been see God's anger in the tables broken, so still entire. We can give nothing but the could they not but hold it a good sign of table; it is God that must write in it. Our grace, that God gave them his testimonies. hearts are but a bare board, till God, by
There was nothing wherein Israel out-his finger, engrave his law in them. Yea, stripped all the rest of the world more than | Lord, we are a rough quarry; hew thou in this privilege; the pledge of his cove-us out, and square us fit for thee to write nant, the law written with God's own hand. upon. Oh what a favour, then, is it, where God Well may we marvel to see Moses, after bestows his gospel upon any nation! That this oversight, admitted to this charge again. was but a killing letter; this is the power Who of us would not have said, Your care of God to salvation.
indeed deserves trust : you did so carefully Never is God thoroughly displeased with keep the first tables, that it would do well any people, where that continues. For like to trust you with such another burden? as those which purpose love, when they! It was good for Moses that he had to fall of, call for their tokens back again, so, do with God, not with men. The God of when God begins once perfectly to mislike, mercy will not impute the slips of our in. the first thing he withdraws is his gospel. firmity to the prejudice of our faithfulness.
Israel recovers this favour, but with an i He, that after the mis-answer of the one abatement: “ Hew thee two tables." God taient, would not trust the evil servant with