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HISTORY OF MOSES.
DEUTERONOMY XVIII. 15, 16, 17, 18.--ACTS III. 22.
The Lord thy God will raise up unto thce a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like onto me; unto him ye shall 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 in 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 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 I shall command him. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me, hin shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.
In the frame and course of nature, who does not perceive evident marks of wisdom in design, order in execution, energy in operation ? All is plan, system, harmony. Every thing bespeaks a Being provident, omnipotent, unremittingly attentive: whose works, indeed, infinitely exceed our comprehension; but which by their beauty, simplicity and usefulness, fill the mind with wonder and delight, while their variety, lustre, magnificence and immensity astonish and overwhelm. The government of the world, it is equally evident, is the result of contrivance; it evinces a constant, superintending care. Event arises out of event, link runs into link. What to the first glance appeared an assemblage of scattered fragments, is found on a more careful and attentive inspection, to be a regular, beautiful, well proportioned fabric, a " body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of erery part.”
It must be pleasing to every serious mind to observe in the work of redemption a similar uniformity of design, progress and execution. We find patriarchs, prophets, apostles remote from, unknown to one another, at different ages, in dillerent regions, declaring the same purpose, promoting the same plan, aiming at the same end. This affords a presumption, at least, that he who made, upholds and governs the universe, is likewise the Author of salvation; in all whose works and ways a noble and important end is obviously kept in view ; and that end pursued and attained by means the wisest and the best. The Mosaic and Christian are not separate, unconnected, independent dispensations, but corresponding and harmonious members of the same great building of God. Nature and grace have one source, one date ; they proceed in a parallel direction, they are hastening to one cominon consumination. Or to speak more properly, the system of external nature and the scheme of redemption are the well-adjusted, the harmonized parts of the one great plan of eternal Providence, which contains the whole purpose of the glorious CREATor concerning man--his first formation, his present state and cbaracter, and his final destination,
Turn up the inspired volume at whatever page you will, and you have a person, or an event, or a service, or a prediction unfolding, in one form or another, the merciful “ purpose of Ilim who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, that we should be to the praise of his glory.” Transport yourself in thought to whatever period of the world you will, and you still find the gospel preached; whether in the sacrifice of righteous Abel, the translation of Enoch, the ark of Noah, the promise made to Abraham, the predictions of dying Jacob; from the seat of Moses, the throne of David, the dungeon of Jeremiah. They all speak an uniform language, all give witness to the same person, all disclose their own peculiar portion of the gospel treasure, for the illumination of an ignorant, the reformation of a corrupted, the salvation of a perishing world.
The writings of Moses exhibit a singular display of this grand combined plan. Ile traces nature up to her birth, and instructs us “ how the heavens and earth rose out of chaos." He conducts us through the mazes of the moral government of the Great Supreme, and there too unfolds wild uproar reduced to order, and “the wrath of man working the righteousness of God." Ile draws aside the curtains of the night, and “the dayspring from on high" dawns on fallen humanity. He attends us through the morning of that bright day, and, constrained at length to retire, leaves behind him the assurance, that "the fulness of the time” would come, that “the morning light” would advance with growing splendour unto “the perfect day.” He presents to our astonished eyes the vast, the complicated, the beautiful machine; wheel within wheel put in motion, preserving from age to age its steady majestic tenor, with native, unwearied, undiminished, force; referring us still to its divine AUTHOR, who made and upholds all “ by the word of his power," and for whose “ pleasure they are and were created.”
Moses not only in what he wrote, but in what he was and acted, illustriously displayed the grace of God in the redemption of the world. Not only did he write and testify concerning the great Deliverer, but his person, his character, his offices, were a prefiguration of " Ilim who was to come,” and to whom "all the prophets give witness.”
The prediction which has been read, and the pointed application made of it by the apostles to their divine Master, constitute the proof of what we have just advanced. Moses, under the direction of the spirit of prophecy, raises the expectation of mankind to the appearance of a prophet, like, indeed, but far superiour to himself; and the apostles point with the finger to Jesus of Nazareth, saying, “ We have found him of whom Moses, in the law, and the prophets did write.”
A limited creature, of threescore years and ten, is lost in the contemplation of a period of fifteen hundred and eleven years, for such was the distance of this prophecy from its accomplishment. The shortlived creature loses sight of it, feels his interest in it but small, is at little pains to transmit the knowledge of it to those who shall come after him; the next generation it is neglected, overlooked, forgotten ; or, if observed and recollected, is misunderstood, misapplied. But during every instant of the extended period, the eternal eye has been watching over it; in solemn silence attending its progress, triumphing over both neglect and opposition ; and a slumbering world is roused at length to see and to acknowledge the truth and faithfulness, the power, wisdom and grace of the Most High.
The day of Moses then, in the eye of God, runs down to that of Christ; as his, in return, ascends to the earliest of the promises and predictions, illuminating, quickening, confirming, fulfilling all that is written. Placed at whatever point of the system of nature, whether on our own planet or on any other, to the north, or to the south, in summer or winter, the eye is still attracted to the common centre of all, the great “ Light of the world.” In like manner, at whatever distance we are placed, and in whatever direction we contemplate the system which redeeming love has framed, from under the shade of the tree of life in Eden, from the summit of Ararat, Moriah, or Pisgah, in the plain of Mamre, or from a pinnacle of the temple; with Abraham, viewing the Saviour and his day afar off, or with Simeon embracing him, the same " Sun of righteousness” sheds his glory around us; we see the light, we feel the influence of him who quickeneth and enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world.
As we find Moses plainly and unequivocally referring men to Christ, so the Saviour as explicitly refers to Moses for a testimony concerning himself; thereby plainly insinuating, that if the Jewish prophet deserved any credit, possessed any respectability, this credit, this respectability were ministering servants to the dignity of his own person, the sacredness of his character, the divinity of his mission. And this is accompanied with a severe denunciation of judgement against such as admitted the authority of Moses, but rejected that of Christ; to introduce, recommend and confirm which was the end for which Moses was raised up. “Do not think I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words ?”
This reciprocal testimony, therefore, of the founders of the ancient and new economy, throws light on both, and communicates mutual credibility and importance. Moses satisfies himself with simply delivering the prediction which he had in charge; he forms no plan, enters into no arrangement to bring it into effect, but leaves to Providence the care of leading forward to the accomplishment, in the proper time and method. Christ simply points to what was written, and was generally known, received and respected as a revelation from heaven, and requires to be believed and obeyed no farther than he bore the characters under which Moses had announced him; particularly that of “the great Prophet which should come into the world."
- The proper character of a prophet is to communicate the special will of Heaven to men. God, indeed, writes his will on the mind of every man, as he comes into the world; interweaves it with the very constitution and frame of his being, so that, in truth, every man is a law, is a prophet to himself. But the characters are quickly erased, effaced; education, example, superstition, vicious propensities, obliterate the writing of God; habit and the commerce of the world harden the heart, and lull the conscience asleep, and “the hearts of men are set in thein to do evil.” Hence the necessity of a prophet, of a messenger, of a minister from heaven, to republish the original law, to restore the obliterated characters, to call men back to God, from whom they have revolted.
And such an one was Moses ; raised up of God at a period of singular darkness and depravity, divinely commissioned to promulgate the royal law. Not to settle a different, a novel constitution, not to new-model human nature, but to revive and enforce the primitive constitution, to proclaim in the ear what nature whispered from the beginning, to hang up the conspicuous tablet before the eye, whose contents are the exact counterpart of what the finger of God, in the very formation of man, engraved on the living tables of the heart.” And when Christ came, the Prophet after his similitude, was it not in like manner to rebuild what was broken down, not to rear a totally different edifice ? to magnify the law and make it honourable, to clear it from misinterpretation and perversion, to restore it to its native purity and simplicity, and to extract the spirit out of the letter ? " Think not," says he, “ that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to
fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."* This confirms the observation we have been all along endeavouring to inculcate respecting the uniformity and perseverance of the divine procedure. Men start from purpose to purpose, from pursuit to pursuit ; they lose sight, they tire of their object; they waste their strength, they are discouraged by opposition, they began to build belore they counted the cost. But “known to God are all his works from the beginning." He forms his plan, and undeviatingly pursues it. " I am the Lord, I change not." He lays his foundation, and it standeth sure, and the building rises ; "he willeth, and none can let it.” “God made man upright;" and to maintain or restore that uprightness is his great aim and end, under every dispensation of his providence, under the law and the gospel, by Moses and by Christ.
--A prophet must have the necessary qualifications for his office, must be instructed in the mind of God, be filled with zeal for his glory, be animated with ardent love to mankind, be fortified against the assaults and opposition of ignorance, and prejudice, and envy. And such an one was Moses, " whom the Lord knew face to face,” with whom he conversed as a man with his friend; his zeal was inextinguishable ; for the good of Israel he was ready to make the sacrifice of self; his meekness was uuruffled, his patience not to be subdued, his perseverence indeiatigable, his resolution undaunted. How much more eminently conspicuous were these characters of a prophet, in the great “ Author and Finisher of the christian faith ?" The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him;" “ the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” “I came not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” “ The cup which my Father giveth me, shall I not drink it ?” “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”+
Moses conversed forty days with God in the mount ; but thus saith uncreated Wisdom, “ The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old, I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning or ever the carth was ;” “ before Abraham was, I am.” “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him ; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men."}
The spirit of Moses was sometimes stirred within him; he dashed the tables of the law to the ground, “ he spake unadvisedly with his lips ;" he incurred the displeasure of his heavenly Father, he drew down a sentence of just condemnation upon his head; but the spirit of the christian Leader was in no one instance discomposed. “He did no sin, neither was guile found in his lips.” He suffered indeed and died, but it was without a crime, “ the just for the unjust, that he might bring us unto God.” Moses expressed a willingness to be blotted out of God's book, to be deprived of his personal right as a son of Israel, provided Israel might receive the remission of sin, have their rights preserved, and the covenant of promise be confirmed. But Christ became “a curse for us," was “hanged on a tree,” was “ cut off from the land of the living,” became “ a propitiation for sin," " bare our sins in his own body on the tree," " became sin for us, though he knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
-A prophet must exhibit the signs of his mission. Men will not believe him on his own report, will suspect him of attention to his own fame, or interest, or authority. To prove therefore that he came from God, that he speaks in his name, that he is vested with his authority, he must do the works of God.
* Mat. v. 27, 18.
' + Matt. ü. 17.
Joho i. 1, 4,
And thus was Moses commissioned and permitted to prove his mission. By sign upon sign he demonstrated that the Lord had appeared unto him, and spake by him ; earth, and water, and air bore their united testimony to his divine legation; and the most enlightened nation of the globe was made to feel his ascendant by arguments addressed at once to the senses and the understanding. Is it needful to say that the great Prophet, “ Apostle and High Priest of our profession,” by similar means, by more irresistible evidence, evinced that he was “a teacher sent from God ?” I shall say nothing respecting the greater number, variety and notoriety of Christ's miracles ; though every one of these circumstances furnishes ample matter of discussion ; I satisfy myself at present with mentioning two particulars which strikingly establish Christ's prophetic character, and give it a clear and decided superiority to that of Moses. The latter acted by a delegated authority according to a prescribed form ; he assumed nothing to himself, but was checked, reproved, condemned, the moment he presumed to arrogate independence, to speak or act for himself. Bui Jesus Christ wrought miracles in his own name, by his own power, as the Lord of nature, as possessed of independent sovereignty. Again, the signs which Moses exhibited were of a mixed nature, they declared both the mercy and judgement of God, they poured down hail, and tempest, and pestilence on Egypt, as well as dropped manna on the tents of Israel ; whereas the signs which Jesus adduced in support of his mission were all miracles of mercy; the powers of hell alone felt the rod of his anger; and the iniracles by which he confirmed his doctrine, breathed its meekness, and gentleness, and charity.
“Of the things which have been spoken this is the sum: we have such an High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man."* “ Holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. For every house is buildod by some man: but he that built all things is God. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after ; but Christ as a son over his own house : whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoiciog of the hope firm unto the end."* “We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him ; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will ?"! " He that despised Moses' law, died without mercy, under two or three witnesses : of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sactified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace ?''
Having now, in the course of these exercises, through a series of years, endeavoured to trace the history of mankind, in a series of characters, from Adam to Moses, copied from the original portraits which the pencil of inspiration has itself vouchsafed to delineatc; the whole in general, and every one
* Heb. viii. 1, 2.
+ Heb, iii. 1--6.
Heb. ii, 1–4.
Heb. x. 28, 29.