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into terror. In the destruction of the first world, there were clouds without fire. In the destruction of Sodom, there was fire raining without clouds ; but here was fire, smoke, clouds, thunder, earthquakes, and whatsoever might work more astonishment than ever was in any vengeance inflicted.
And if the law. were thus given, how shall it be required? If such were the proclamation of God's statutes, what shall the sessions be? I see and tremble at the resemblance. The trumpet of the angel called unto the one: the voice of an archangel, the trumpet of God, shall summon us to the other. To the one, Moses (that climbed up that hill, and alone saw it) says,
“God came with ten thonsands of his saints.” In the other, “Thousand thousands shall minister to him, and ten thousand thousands shall stand before him.” In the one, mount Sinai only was on a flame; all the world shall be so in the other. In the one there was fire, smoke, thunder, and lightning; in the other a fiery stream shall issue from him, wherewith the heavens shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt away with a noise. O God, how powerful art thou to infict vengeance upon sinners, who didst thus forbid sin! And if thou wert so terrible a lawgiver, what a judge shalt thou appear! What shall become of the breakers of so fiery a law! O where shall those appear, that are guilty of the transgressing that law, whose very delivery was little less than death! If our God should exact his law but in the same rigour wherewith he gave it, sin could not quit the cost. But now the fire, wherein it was delivered, was but terrifying; the fire, wherein it shall be required, is consuming. Happy are those that are from under the terrors of that law, which was given in fire, and in fire shall be required.
God would have Israel see, that they had not to do with some impotent commander, that is fain to publish his laws, without noise, in dead paper, which can more easily enjoin than punish, or descry than execute; and therefore, before he gives them a law, he shews them that he can command heaven, earth, fire, air, in revenge of the breach of the law, that they could not but think it deadly to displease such a lawgiver, or violate such dreadful statutes; that they might see all the elements examples of that obedience which they should yield unto their Maker.
This fire, wherein the law was given, is still in it, and will
never out: hence are those terrors which it flashes in every conscience that hath felt remorse of sin. Every man's heart is a Sinai, and resembles to him both heaven an hell. The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.”
That they might see he could find out their closest sins, he delivers his law in the light of fire from out of the smoke. That they might see what is due to their sins, they see fire above, to represent the fire that should be below them. That they might know he could waken their security, the thunder and louder voice of God speaks to their hearts. That they might see what their hearts should do, the earth quakes under them. That they might see they could not shift their appearance, the angel calls them together. O royal law, and mighty lawgiver ! how could they think of having any other God, that had such proofs of this ! How could they think of making any resemblance of him, whom they saw could not be seen, and whom they saw, in not being seen, infinite ! How could they think of daring to profane his name, whom they heard to name binself, with that voice, Jehovah! How could they think of standing with him for a day, whom they saw to command that heaven which makes and measures day! How could they think of disobeying his deputies, whom they saw so able to revenge! How could they think of killing, when they were half dead with the fear of him that could kill both body and soul! How could they think of the flames of lust, that saw such fires of vengeance! How could they think of stealing from others, that saw whose the heaven and the earth was, to dispose of at his pleasure! How could they think of speaking falsely, that heard God speak in so fearful a tone! How could they think of coveting others' goods, that saw how weak and uncertain right they had to their own! Yea, to us was this law so delivered, to us in them. Neither had there been such state in the promulgation of it, if God had not intended it for eternity. We men, that so fear the breach of human laws, for some small mulcts of forfeiture, how should we fear thee, O Lord, that canst cast body and soul into hell! CONTEMPLATION VI.
. Of the Golden Calf. It was not much above a month since Israel made their covenant with God, since they trembled to hear him say,
“Thou shalt have no other God but me;" since they saw Moses part from them, and climb up the hill to God; and now they say, “Make us gods : we know not what is become of this Moses.” Oye mad Israelites, have ye so soon forgotten that fire and thunder, which you heard and saw ? Is that smoke vanished out of your mind, as soon as out of your sight? Could your hearts cease to tremble with the earth ? Can ye, in the very sight of Sinai, call for other gods ? And for Moses, was it not for your sakes that he thrust himself into the midst of that smoke and fire, which ye feared to see afar off? Was he not now gone after so many sudden embassages, to be your lieger with God? If ye had seen him take his heels, and run away from you into the wilderness, what could ye have said or done more? Behold, our better Moses was with us awhile upon earth; he is now ascended into the mount of heaven to mediate for us : shall we now think of another Saviour? Shall we not hold it our happiness, that he is for our sakes above?
And what if your Moses had been gone for ever? Must ye therefore have gods made? If ye had said, Choose us another governor, it had been a wicked and unthankful motion; ye were too unworthy of a Moses, that could so soon forget him. But to say,
But to say, “ Make us gods,” was absurdly impious. Moses was not your god, but your governor: neither was the presence of God tied to Moses.You saw God still, when he was gone, in his pillar, and in his manna ; and yet ye say, “Make us gods.” Every word is full of senseless wickedness. How many gods would you have? Or what gods are those that can be made! Or, whatever the idolatrous Egyptians did, with what face can ye, after so many miraculous obligations, speak of another god? Had the voice of God scarce done thundering in your ears ? Did ye so lately hear and see him to be an infinite God? Did ye quake to hear hiin say out of the midst of the flames, “I am Jehovah thy God; thou shalt have no gods but me? Did ye acknowledge God your Maker; and do ye now speak of making of gods ? If ye had said, Make us another man to go before us, it had been an impossible suit. Aaron might help to mar you and himself; he could not make one hair of a man: and do ye say, “ Make us gods?" And what should those gods do? “Go before you?” How could they go
How could they go before you, that cannot stand alone? Your help makes them to stand, and
yet they must conduct you. O the impatient ingratitude of carnal minds! O the sottishness of idolatry! Who would not have said, Moses is not with us; but he is with God for us?
He stays long. He that called him, withholds him. His delay is for our sakes, as well as his ascent. Though we see him not, we will hope for him. His favours to us have deserved not to be rejected: or, if God will keep him from us, he that withholds him, can supply him. He that sent him, can lead us without him ; his fire and cloud is all-sufficient. God hath said, and done enough for us, to make us trust him. We will, we can, have no other God; we care not for any other guide. But, behold, here is none of this. Moses stays but some five and thirty days, and now he is forgotten, and is become but this Moses : yea, God is forgotten with him; and, as if God and Moses had been lost at once, they say, “Make us gods." Natural men must have God at their beck; and if he come not at a call, he is cast off, and they take themselves to their own 'shifts; like as the Chinese whip their gods when they answer them not; whereas his holy ones wait long, and seek him; and not only in their sinking, but from the bottom of the deeps, call upon him; And though he kill them, will trust in him.”
Superstition besots the minds of men, and blinds the eye of reason; and first makes them not men, ere it makes them idolaters. How else could he, that is the image of God, fall down to the images of creatures? How could our forefathers have so doated upon stocks and stones, if they had been themselves? As the Syrians were first blinded, and then led into the midst of Samaria; so are idolaters first bereaved of their wits and common sense, and afterwards are carried brutishly into all palpable impiety.
Who would not have been ashamed to hear this answer from the brother of Moses, “ Pluck off your ear-rings?" He should have said, “Pluck this idolatrous thought out of your hearts.” And now, instead of chiding, he soothes them. And, as if he had been no kin to Moses, he helps to lead them back again from God to Egypt. The people importuned him, perhaps with threats. He that had waded through all the menaces of Pharaoh, doth he now shrink at the threats of his own? Moses is not afraid of the terrors of God: bis faith, that carried him through the water, led him up to the fire of God's presence; while his brother Aaron fears the faces of those men, which he lately saw pale with the fear of their glorious Lawgiver: as if he, that forbade other gods, could not have maintained his own act and agent against men. Sudden fears, when they have possessed weak minds, lead them to shameful errors. Importunity or violence may lessen, but they cannot excuse a fault. Wherefore was he a governor, but to depress their disordered motions? Facility of yielding to a sin, or wooing it with our voluntary suit, is an higher stair of evil; but even at last to be won to sin, is damnable. It is good to resist any onset of sin; but one condescent loses all the thanks of our opposition. What will it avail a man that others are plagued for soliciting him, while he smarteth for yielding? If both be in hell, what ease is it to him that another is deeper in the pit?
What now did Aaron? Behold, he that alone was allowed to climb up the trembling and fiery bill of Sinai with Moses, and heard God say,
“ Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, for I am a jealous God,” as if he meant particularly to prevent this act--within one month, calls for their ear-rings, makes the graven image of a calf
, erects an altar, consecrates a day to it, calls it their god, and weeps not to see them dance before it. It is a miserable thing, when governors humour the people in their sins, and instead of making up the breach, enlarge it. Sin will take heart by the approbation of the meanest looker on; but, if authority once second it, it grows impudent. As contrarily, where the public government opposes evil, though it be under-hand practised, not without fear, there is life in that state.
Aaron might have learned counsel of his brother's example. When they came to him with stones in their hands, and said, “Give us water,” he ran as roundly to God with prayers in his mouth; so should Aaron have done, when they said, “ Give us gods;" but he weakly runs to their ear-rings, that which should be made their god, not to the true God which they had, and forsook. Who can promise to himself freedom from gross infirmities, when he that went up into the mount comes down, and doth that in the valley which he heard forbidden in the hill?
I see yet, and wonder at the mercy of that God which had justly called himself jealous. This very Aaron, whose infirmity had yielded to so foul an idolatry, is after chosen