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that it would be the most daring blasphemy in any creature to assume that incommunicable title of Jehovah: yet it was not God the Father: for St. Stephen, recording this history, informs us, that "God sent Moses by the hand of the angel:"e consequently the angel was God the Son, and not God the Father. Indeed Christ, who is elsewhere called “The angel of the covenant," was the person, who, in all the appearances of God to man, assumed the human or angelic shape; thereby preparing the world for the fuller manifestation of himself in his incarnate state.]
It was his presence with the Israelites that prevented their destruction
[He was in the bush, and therefore the bush was not consumed: so he was in the midst of his oppressed people; and therefore the Egyptians could not prevail against them. Christ was among them before he gave them any symbol of his presence; for it was he who rendered the assistance of the midwives unnecessary, and emboldened them to withstand the commands of Pharaoh. He was afterwards with them in the pillar and the cloud, protecting them from the Egyptian hosts, and stopping the progress of their enemies till they were overwhelmed in the sea. When, for the punishment of their sins, he refused to go with them, they were sure to be overpowered:f but whenever he returned in mercy to them, they prospered and prevailed.]
It is that same presence that preserves the church and every member of it
[Christ has said, "Lo, I am with you alway even to the end of the world;" and hence it is that "the gates of hell have never prevailed against the church;" yea, we are assured, they never shall prevail. We are also told that "he dwelleth in the hearts" of all his people, and is "their life;" and that, wherein soever they live, and act, it is not so much they, as Christ in them. It is by this consideration that he encourages them to "go through fire and water," persuaded that no evil shall happen to them. And to his continued interposition and support they must ascribe their preservation in every danger, and their deliverance from every enemy.']
Let us now "turn aside and behold this great sight" (let us turn from every wordly thought, and inspect this wonderful appearance, not with curiosity, but profoundest reverence) let us notice herein
e Acts vii. 30-35.
Eph. iii. 17.
k Ps. xlvi. 5.
f Numb. xiv. 42-45. Josh. vii, 4, 5. h Col. iii. 4.
i Gal. ii. 20.
1. Ps. cxxiv. 1—5.
1. The state of the church
[Are any discouraged by reason of their great trials? Be it known that tribulation is the way to the kingdom; and all, who arrive there, have trodden the same path." Nor need we be alarmed at any fire that is kindled for us, since Christ will be with us in the midst of it, and "bring us out of it pu rified as gold.""]
2. The concern of God for his church
[In seasons of great trial we are tempted to think that God has forsaken us: but he never was more immediately present with the Hebrew youths, than when they were cast into the furnace; nor did he ever feel more love to his own Son, than in the hour when he cried, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Let us then learn to trust God, and expect that, when we walk through the fire, we shall not be burnt."]
3. The difference between the Lord's people and others
[To his own people "God is a wall of fire" for their protection:P to all others "he is a consuming fire" for their destruction. Not but even they shall, in some sense, be as the burning bush, unconsumed in the midst of flames; for "their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched."O dreadful state! "who shall dwell with everlasting burnings?". Let us then seek"the good will of him who dwelt in the bush." So shall we be eternal monuments of his power and grace, whilst others are kept as monuments of his righteous indignation.]
m Acts xiv. 22. Rev. vii. 14. P Zech. 2. 5.
Deut. xxxiii. 16.
n Isai xli. 10.
q Heb. xii. 29.
• Isai. xliii, 2.
CXLIII. GOD THE PROTECTOR OF HIS CHURCH.
Isai. iv. 5. The Lord will create upon every dwelling-place of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud, and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.
THE church of God is frequently represented as hated both by men and devils, and exposed to their united assaults. But it is protected by an invisible and Almighty Agent, who keeps it alive, as a spark in the midst of a tempestuous ocean. His watchful eye is ever over it for good: He considers it as his glory, and will therefore himself be its defence. This is promised to the church, in the words before us; in which we are told
I. The church is God's glory.
Mount Zion is a name given to the gospel church;2 and a strict attention to the text will shew, that it is here considered as "the glory" of God; by which term its members also are expressly designated by God himself. 1. The various "dwelling-places of Mount Zion" are his glory
[Wherever Christianity has gained its full ascendant over any family, God will most assuredly be worshipped and served by every member of it. The master will say with Joshua, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord;" and, in order to carry this resolution into effect, he will, like Abraham, command his children, and his houshold after him. His house will be a temple in which he himself officiates as priest; and, as far as he can prevail, he will cause every heart to be an altar to the Lord, that they may daily offer to him the sacrifices of prayer and praise. Such a family will be like a beautiful garden, filled with "trees of righteousness of the LORD's planting, that He may be glorified;"e and while God calls himself " their God," he will dignify them with the exalted appellation of "his people;" and "his servants in whom he will be glorified."]
2. The "assemblies of Mount Zion" also are his glory
[As the Israelites came up thrice every year to worship God at Jerusalem, so on every sabbath do his people assemble for the exercise of social and public worship. In those holy convocations does every one speak of his glory; and his ministers in particular, who are "the glory of Christ," proclaim the riches of his grace and mercy. In these God vouchsafes his more peculiar presence; for "he loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob." "He comes down as in the days of old, and fills the place with his glory;" he pours out his Spirit in a more abundant measure; and by communicating the blessings of grace and peace, he "glorifies the house of his glory."]
While they are thus highly esteemed by God, they are favoured with his peculiar care; for
a Heb. xii. 22.
"The glory" evidently relates to the "dwelling places," &c. before mentioned.
e Isai, xlvi. 13.
e Isai. Ixi. 3.
d Josh. xxiv. 15. Gen. xviii. 19.
g Ps. xxix. 9.
h 2 Cor. viii. 23.
Exod. xl. 34, 35, 2 Chron. vii. 1.
1 Isai. lx. 7.
II. God is the church's guardian
The Israelites when coming out of Egypt, had a cloud with them as a symbol of the divine presence." This was intended both to guide them in their journeys, and to protect them from their enemies. And in reference to it God promises to his church to be
1. Her guide
[The cloud went before the people in all their journeys, moving or resting when it was proper for them to move, or rest." Thus will God direct the concerns of his church. Though he will not interpose in the same visible manner, yet he will manifest the same attention to its interests, and guide it, with the same unerring hand. Nor is it to the church at large only that God extends his care; he will regard "the dwellingplaces of Mount Zion" no less than "her assemblies;" and consult the welfare of the meanest individual as much as of the largest community. Does any one look up to him for direction? He says, "The meek he will guide in judgment, the meek he will teach his way:" "He shall have an unction of the Holy one that shall teach him all things;" and so plainly shall his path be marked, that, "though a fool, he shall not err therein." Is he involved in any peculiar difficulty, he shall hear a voice behind him, saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it." And though his path may often appear dubious, yet he shall find at last that he has been "led in the right way to the city of habitation."]
3. Her defence
[The cloud on one occasion went behind the Israelites, and wore a dark and threatening aspect to their enemies, while it gave light to them." Thus will God give salvation for walls and bulwarks to his church. No weapon that is formed against it shall prosper: God will not only go before it, but be its rear-ward: nor shall the gates of hell ever prevail against it.a Never for one moment will he intermit his care:b his protection shall be as effectual as that of lofty mountains, or an impassable river," or a wall of fire. And its preservation shall be seen to be evidently his work, as much as the "creation" itself; so that all who behold it shall say, This hath GoD wrought.]
Exod. xiii. 21, 22. Neh. ix. 19.
。 Isai. lxvi. 2.
P Ps. xxv. 9.
Isai. xxxv. 8.
☐ Exod. xiv. 19, 20.
z Isai. lviii. 8.
Isai. xxx. 21.
* Isai. xxvi. 1.
a. Matt. xvi. 18.
Ps. cxxv. 2.
f Job xii. 9. Isai, xli. 4.
n Exod. xl. 34-38.
q 1 John ii. 20.
t Ps. cvii. 7.
3. Her glory
[It was the presence of God with Israel of old that marked them as his peculiar people. They were feared on this account, so that "all the inhabitants of Canaan melted because of them;"s as also terror was diffused through the whole camp of the Philistines. Thus it is with the church at this time; it is the presence of God in it that renders it the joy of the whole earth. It is God's glory that is seen upon it, which brings kings to the brightness of its rising. There is often a power in the ordinances that evidences the presence of the Deity, and constrains his most inveterate enemies to submit themselves to him, and to unite themselves to his church.1 And it will be in consequence of that more abundant manifestation of his presence which shall be vouchsafed to the church at a future period, that all the nations of the earth shall seek with eagerness an interest in its privileges, and a participation of its blessings. Persons of all ranks, from the lofty "firtree" to the humble "box," shall come together to the church, of which it will be said, The Lord is thine everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.""]
1. How must we admire the condescension of God!
[If we were all holy as the angels, it would be a wonderful condescension in God to pay such attention to us: how adorable then is that goodness which notices us in our fallen state, and which is so incessantly occupied in the promotion of our welfare! Were an earthly monarch to visit the humblest cottages, and enter into all the concerns of his poorest subjects, the whole world would resound with his praises: shall we not then admire the King of kings, and magnify him with thanksgiving? Only let us realize the truths contained in the text, and our hearts will quickly overflow with wonder, love, and praise.]
2. How earnestly should we desire to participate the church's privileges!
[The same cloud was dark to Egypt, and light to Israel, thus also is the church now distinguished from the world around it: the same word is a savour of life to the salvation of the church, and a savour of death to the condemnation of its enemies: yea, the same precious Saviour also is to the one a sanctuary; but to the other a stumbling-block, and a rock of
Josh. ii. 9, 11. k Isai. Ix. 1-3. » Isai. lx. 13, 14, 15, 16, 19.
h1 Sam. iv. 7.
i Ps. xlviii. 2.