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the Church of God; danger of life may: we love not the Church if we easily leave it; if in a case of life, we leave it not, upon opportunity, for a time of respite, we love not ourselves.
The first part of Moses's requital was his wife; one of those whom he had formerly protected. I do not so much marvel that Jethro gave him his daughter (for he saw him valiant, wise, learned, nobly bred) as that Moses would take her; a stranger both in blood and religion. I could plead for him necessity: his own nation was shut up to him; if he would have tried to fetch a daughter of Israel, he had endangered to leave himself behind. I could plead some correspondence in common principles of religion; for doubtless, Moses's zeal could not suffer him to smother the truth in himself: he should have been an unfaithful servant, if he had not been his master's teacher. Yet neither of these can make this match either safe or good. The event bewrays it dangerously inconvenient.
This choice had like to have cost him dear: she stood in his way for circumcision; God stands in his way for revenge. Though he was now in God's message, yet might he not be forborne in this neglect. No circumstance, either of the dearness of the solicitor or our own engagement, can bear out a sin with God.
Those, which are unequally yoked, may not ever look to draw one way. True love to the person cannot long agree with dislike of the religion. He had need to be more than a man, that hath a Zipporah in his bosom, and would have true zeal in his heart.
All this while Moses's affection was not so tied to Midian, that he could forget Egypt. He was a stranger in Midian: what was he else in Egypt? Surely, either Egypt was not his home, or a miserable one; and yet, in reference to it, he calls his son Gershom, a stranger there. Much better were it to be a stranger there, than a dweller in Egypt. How hardly can we forget the place of our abode or education, although never so homely! And if he so thought of his Egyptian home, where was nothing but bondage and tyranny; how should we think of that home of ours, above, where is nothing but rest and blessedness! Exod. ii.
OF MOSES'S CALLING.
FORTY years was Moses a courtier; and forty years, after that, a shepherd. That great men may not be ashamed of honest vocations, the greatest that ever were have been content to take up with mean trades. The contempt of honest callings in those which are well born, argues pride without wit. How constantly did Moses stick to his hook! and yet a man of great spirits, of excellent learning, of curious education; and if God had not, after his forty years' service, called him off, he had so ended his days. Humble resolutions are so much more heroical, as they fall into higher subjects.
There can be no fitter disposition for a leader of God's people, than constancy in his undertakings, without either weariness or
change. How had he learned to subdue all ambitious desires, and to rest content with his obscurity! So he might have the freedom of his thoughts and full opportunity of holy meditations, he willingly leaves the world to others, and envies not his proudest acquaintance of the court of Pharaoh. He, that hath true worth in himself and familiarity with God, finds more pleasure in the deserts of Midian, than others can do in the palaces of kings.
While he is tending his sheep, God appeared unto him: God never graces the idle with his visions: when he finds us in our callings, we find him in the tokens of his mercy. Satan appears to the idle man in manifold temptations; or rather presents himself, and appears not. God was ever with Moses, yet was he not seen till now. He is never absent from his, but sometimes he makes their senses witnesses of his presence.
In small matters may be greater wonders. That a bush should burn, is no marvel; but that it should not consume in burning, is justly miraculous. God chuseth not ever great subjects wherein to exercise his power. It is enough that his power is great in the smallest.
When I look upon this burning bush with Moses, methinks I can never see a worthier and more lively emblem of the Church; that in Egypt was in the furnace, yet wasted not: since then how oft hath it been flaming, never consumed! The same power, that enlightens it, preserves it; and to none but to his enemies, is he a consuming fire.
Moses was a great philosopher; but small skill would have served to know the nature of fire, and of the bush; that fire meeting with combustible matter, could not but consume: if it had been some solid wood, it would have yielded later to the flames; but bushes are of so quick dispatch, that the joy of the wicked is compared to a fire of thorns. He noted awhile, saw it continued, and began to wonder. It was some marvel how it should come there; but how it should continue without supply, yea, without diminution of matter, was truly admirable.
Doubtless he went oft about it, and viewed it on all sides; and now, when his eyes and mind could meet with no likely causes, so far off, resolves, I will go see it: his curiosity led him nearer; and what could he see but a bush and a flame, which he saw at first unsatisfied? It is good to come to the place of God's presence, howsoever God may perhaps speak to thy heart, though thou come but for novelty. Even those which have come upon curiosity have been oft taken: absence is without hope: if Moses had not come, he had not been called out of the bush.
To see a fire not consuming the bush, was much; but to hear a speaking fire, this was more; and to hear his own name out of the mouth of the fire, it was most of all. God makes way for his greatest messages by astonishment and admiration; as, on the contrary, carelessness carries us to a mere unproficiency under the best means of God. If our hearts were more awful, God's messages would be more effectual to us.
In that appearance, God meant to call Moses to come; yet, when he is come, inhibits him; Come not hither. We must come to God; must not come too near him. When we meditate of the great mysteries of his word, we come to him; we come too near him, when we search into his counsels. The sun and the fire say of themselves, "Come not too near;" how much more the light which none can attain unto! We have all our limits set us: the Gentiles might come into some outer courts, not into the inmost: the Jews might come into the inner court, not into the temple; the priests and Levites into the temple, not into the Holy of Holies; Moses to the hill, not to the bush, The waves of the sea had not more need of bounds, than man's presumption, Moses must not come close to the bush at all; and where he may stand, he may not stand with his shoes on. There is no unholiness in clothes: God prepared them for man at first, and that of skins, lest any exception should be taken at the hides of dead beasts. This rite was significant. What are the shoes but worldly and carnal affections? If these be not cast off when we come to the holy place, we make ourselves unholy: how much less should we dare to come with resolutions of sin! This is not only to come with shoes on, but with shoes bemired with wicked filthiness; the touch whereof profanes the pavement of God, and makes our presence odious.
Moses was the son of Amram, Amram of Kohath, Kohath of Levi, Levi of Jacob, Jacob of Isaac, Isaac of Abraham. God puts together both ends of his pedigree; I am the God of thy father, and of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. If he had said only, I am thy God, it had been Moses's duty to attend awfully; but now that he says, I am the God of thy father, and of Abraham, &c. he' challenges reverence by prescription. Any thing, that was our ancestors', pleases us; their houses, their vessels, their coat-armour; how much more their God! How careful should parents be to make holy choices! Every precedent of theirs is so many monuments and motives to their posterity.
What a happiness it is, to be born of good parents! Hence God claims an interest in us, and we in him, for their sake, As many a man smarteth for his father's sin, so the goodness of others is crowned in a thousand generations. Neither doth God say, " I was the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob;" but, I am. The patriarchs still live, after so many thousand years of dissolution. No length of time can separate the souls of the just from their Maker, As for their body, there is still a real relation betwixt the dust of it, and the soul; and if the being of this part be more defective, the being of the other is more lively, and doth more than recompense the wants of that earthly half.
God could not describe himself by a more sweet name than this, I am the God of thy father, and of Abraham, &c. yet Moses hides his face for fear. If he had said, "I am the glorious God that made heaven and earth, that dwell in light inaccessible, whom the angels cannot behold;" or, "I am God the avenger, just and
terrible, a consuming fire, to mine enemies; here had been just cause of terror. But why was Moses so frighted with a familiar compellation? God is no less awful to his own in his very mercies: Great is thy mercy, that thou mayest be feared; for to them, no less majesty shines in the favours of God, than in his judgments and justice. The wicked heart never fears God, bu* thundering, or shaking the earth, or raining fire from heaven; but the good can dread him in his very sun-shine: his loving deliverances and blessings affect them with awfulness. Moses was the true son of Jacob; who, when he saw nothing but visions of love and mercy, could say, How dreadful is this place!
I see Moses now at the bush hiding his face at so mild a representation hereafter we shall see him in this very mount betwixt heaven and earth; in thunder, lightning, smoke, earthquakes, speaking mouth to mouth with God, barefaced, and fearless: God was then more terrible, but Moses was less strange. This was his first meeting with God; further acquaintance makes him familiar, and familiarity makes him bold: frequence of conversation gives us freedom of access to God; and makes us pour out our hearts to him, as fully and as fearlessly as to our friends. In the mean time, now at first he made not so much haste to see, but he made as much to hide his eyes,
Twice did Moses hide his face; once, for the glory which God put upon him, which made him so shine, that he could not be beheld of others; once, for God's own glory, which he could not be hold. No marvel. Some of the creatures are too glorious for mortal eyes; how much more, when God appears to us in the easiest manner, must his glory needs overcome us!
Behold the difference betwixt our present and future estate: then, the more majesty of appearance, the more delight: when our sin is quite gone, all our fear at God's presence shall be turned into joy. God appeared to Adam before his sin with comfort, but in the same form which after his sin was terrible. And if Moses cannot abide to look upon God's glory when he descends to us in mercy, how shall wicked ones abide to see his fearful presence when he sets upon vengeance! In this fire he flamed and consumed not, but in his revenge our God is a consuming fire.
First, Moses hides himself in fear, now in modesty: Who am I? None in all Egypt or Midian was comparably fit for this embassage. Which of the Israelites had been brought up a courtier, a scholar, an Israelite by blood, by education an Egyptian, learned, wise, valiant, experienced? Yet, Who am I? The more fit any man is for whatsoever vocation, the less he thinks himself. Forwardness argues insufficiency. The unworthy thinks still, "Who am I not?" Modest beginnings give hopeful proceedings, and happy endings. Once before, Moses had taken upon h m and laid about him; hoping then they would have known, that by his hand God meant to deliver Israel; but now, when it comes to the point, Who am I? God's best servants are not ever in an equal disposition to good duties. If we find differences in ourselves
sometimes, it argues that grace is not our own. It is our frailty, that those services which we are forward to, aloof off; we shrink at near hand, and fearfully misgive. How many of us can bid defiances to death, and suggest answers to absent temptations, which when they come home to us, we fly off, and change our note, and instead of action, expostulate! Exod. iii.
OF THE PLAGUES OF EGYPT.
IT is too much honour for flesh and blood, to receive a message from heaven; yet here God sends a message to man, and is repulsed. Well may God ask, Who is man, that I should regard him? but for man to ask, Who is the Lord? is a proud and bold blasphemy.
Thus wild is nature at the first; but ere God hath done with Pharaoh, he will be known of him; he will make himself known by him, to all the world. God might have swept him away suddenly.
How unworthy is he of life, who, with the same breath that he receives, denies the Giver of it! But he would have him convinced, ere he were punished; first therefore, he works miracles before him, then upon him.
Pharaoh was now, from a staff of protection and sustentation to God's people, turned to a serpent that stung them to death: God shews himself in this real emblem; doing that suddenly before him, which Satan had wrought to him by leisure; and now when he crawls, and winds, and hisses, threatening peril to Israel, he shews him how in an instant he can turn him into a senseless stick, and make him if not useful, yet fearless.
The same God, which wrought this, gives Satan leave to imitate it: the first plague, that he meant to inflict upon Pharaoh, is delusion. God can be content the devil should win himself credit, where he means to judge, and holds the honour of a miracle well lost, to harden an enemy; yet, to shew that his miracle was of power, the others of permission, Moses's serpent devours theirs. How easily might the Egyptians have thought, that he, which caused their serpent not to be, could have kept it from being; and that they, which could not keep his serpent from devouring, could not secure them from being consumed! but wise thoughts enter not into those that must perish.
All God's judgments stand ready, and wait but till they be called for. They need but a watch-word to be given them. sooner is the rod lift up, but they are gone forth into the world; presently, the waters run into blood, the frogs and lice crawl about, and all the other troops of God come rushing in upon his adversa
All creatures conspire to revenge the injuries of God. If the Egyptians look upward, there they have thunder, lightning, hail, tempests; one while no light at all, another while such fear