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they were of pre-eminent importance, and were intended to convey the most valuable instruction. Mark,
1. The renewing of the tables which had been broken
[This intimated that God was reconciled towards them, and was still willing to take them as his people, and to give himself to them as their God. The very first words of the Law thus given said to them, “ I am the Lord thy God.” So that on this part of the subject it is unnecessary to dwell.]
2. The putting of them, when so renewed, into an ark
[Christ is that ark into which the law was put. To him it was committed, in order that he might fulfil it for us. He was made under the law for this express endf: and he has fulfilled it in all its parts; enduring all its penalties, and obeying all its precepts. This he was appointed of God to do: the law was put into his heart on purpose that he might do ith: and having done it, he is “ the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth'.” Hence we are enabled to view the law without fear, and to hear it without trembling. Now we can contemplate its utmost requirements, and see that it has been satisfied in its highest demands. We can now even found our hopes upon it; not as obeyed by us; but as obeyed by our surety and substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ; by whose obedience it has been more magnified than it has ever been dishonoured by our disobedience. It is no longer now a “ ministration of death and condemnation k," but a source of life to those who plead the sacrifice and obedience of Jesus Christ. In this view the law itself, no less than the prophets, bears testimony to Christ', and declares that, through his righteousness, God can be " a just God, and yet a Saviour"," “just, and yet the justifier of all them that believe." This is the great mystery which the angels so much admire, and which they are ever endeavouring to look intoo.
If it appear strange that so much should be intimated in so small a matter, let us only consider what we know assuredly to have been intimated in an occurrence equally insignificant, which took place at the very same time.
When Moses came down with these tables in his hand, his face shined so bright that the people were unable to approach him; and he was constrained to put a vail upon his face in order that they might have access to him to hear his instructions P. This denoted their incapacity to comprehend the law, till Christ should come to remove the veil from their hearts 9. And precisely in the same manner the putting of the law into the ark denoted the incapacity of man to receive it as it is in itself, and the necessity of viewing it only as fulfilled in Christ. "Through the law” itself which denounces such curses", and "through the body of Christ " which sustained those curses, we must be “ dead to the law," and have no hope whatever towards God but in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, who, in consequence of obeying its precepts and enduring its penalties, is to be called by every child of man, " The Lord our Righteousness."]
f Gal. iv. 4, 5. & Gal. iii. 13, 14. Phil. ii. 8. h Ps. xl. 8.
i Rom. x. 4.
k 2 Cor. ü. 7, 9. i Rom. iii. 21, 22. m Isai. xlv. 21. n Rom. iii. 26. • Carefully compare Exod. xxv. 17–20. with 1 Pet. i. 12.
3. The preparing the tables on which the law was written
[The first tables were prepared by God himself: but, when they were broken, and to be renewed, Moses was ordered to prepare the tables, and carry them up to the mount, that they might there have the law inscribed upon them by God himself. Commentators have suggested that this was intended to intimate, that though God alone could write the law on the heart, means were to be used for that end by people for themselves, and by ministers in their behalf. But I rather gather from it a deeper and more important lesson, namely, that notwithstanding the law was fulfilled for us by Christ, we must seek to have it inscribed on our stony hearts; and that, if we go up with them to the mount of God from time to time for that end, God will write his law there. I the rather believe this to be the true meaning, because our deadness to the law as a covenant of works is continually associated with a delight in it as a rule of life"; and because the writing of the law upon our hearts is the great distinguishing promise of the New Covenant*. In this view the direction respecting the tables is very instructive, seeing that it unites what can never be separated, a “hope in Christ" as the only Saviour of the world, and a “purifying of the heart as he is purey."] IMPROVEMENT
1. Let us be thankful that the law is given to us in this mitigated form
[The law is the same as ever: not a jot or tittle of it was altered, or ever can be: it is as immutable as God himselfz.
p Exod. xxxiv. 29-35. 9 2 Cor. iii. 13-16. r Gal. i. 19. s Rom. vii. 4.
t Gal. ii. 15, 16. Phil. iii. 9. u See Gal. ii. 19. and Rom. vii. 4. before cited. x Jer. xxxi. 31–33. with Heb. viii. 8-10. y 1 John iii. 3.
z Matt. v.
But as given on Mount Sinai, it was "a fiery law;" and so terrible, that the people could not endure it; and “even Moses himself said, I exceedingly fear and quakea." But in the ark, Christ Jesus, its terrors are abated: yea, to those who believe in him, it has no terror at all: its demands are satisfied in their behalf, and its penalties sustained : and, on it, as fulfilled in him, they found their claims of everlasting life". It must never be forgotten, that the mercy-seat was of the same dimensions with the ark; and to all who are in Christ Jesus does the mercy of God extend. If we look to the law as fulfilled in and by the Lord Jesus Christ, we have nothing to fear: 56
we are no longer under the law, but under graced :" and " there is no condemnation to use." Only let us rely on him as having effected every thing for us', and all that he possesses shall be ours."]
2. Let us seek to have it visibly written upon our hearts
[None but God can write it there: our stony hearts are harder than adamant. Nevertheless, if we go up to God in the holy mount, “ he will take away from us the heart of stone, and give us a heart of flesh ":" and then “ on the fleshly tables of our heart” will he write his perfect law'. O blessed privilege! Beloved Brethren, let us covet it, and seek it night and day. Only think, what a change will take place in you when this is wrought! What a lustre will be diffused over your very countenancek! Yes verily, all who then behold you shail "take knowledge of you that you have been with Jesus," and “confess, that God is with you of a truth.” Despair not, any of you: though ye have turned from God to the basest idolatry, yet has your great Advocate and Intercessor prevailed for you to remove the curses of the broken law, and to restore you to the favour of your offended God. Bring me up, says God, your hearts of stone, and I will so inscribe my law upon them, that "ye shall never more depart from me, nor will I ever more depart from you!" Brethren, obey the call without delay: lose not a single hour. Hasten into the presence of your God; and there abide with him, till he has granted your request. So shall " ye be God's people, and he shall be your God, for ever and everm"]
a Heb. xii. 19-21. b Isai. xlv. 24.
e Rom. viii. 1. f Rom. viii. 34. & 1 Cor. iii. 21-23. h Ezek. xxxvi. 26. i 2 Cor. iii. 2, 3. k Exod. xxxiv. 29, 30. 1 Jer. xxxii. 38-41. m Jer. xxxii. 38–41.
REASONABLENESS AND EXCELLENCY OF GOD'S COMMANDS.
Deut. x. 12, 13. And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God
require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? PECULIAR seasons call for the exercise of
peculiar duties. A new era was just opening upon the Hebrews, at the time when this address to them was delivered. They had, by the worshipping of the golden calf, entirely annulled the covenant which God had made with them, and had subjected themselves to his heavy displeasure. But, at the intercession of Moses, God had graciously renewed his covenant with them, by giving them again a copy of that Law which they had broken, and by committing them again to the care of Moses, whom he had appointed to conduct them to the land of Canaan. Now, therefore, Moses called on them to renew their solemn dedication of themselves to God, according to the tenor of those commandments which he had given them.
Somewhat of a similar era has commenced to us this day. Many have been our offences in the past year: and God might have justly cast us off, and abandoned us to utter ruin. But he is now renewing to us his tender mercies: and may, therefore, justly call upon us to renew our surrender of ourselves to his service.
The words which I have just read to you will lead me to point out, I. What God requires from us
Israel had been redeemed from Egypt, and were regarded as a peculiar people unto the Lord. And such is our state. We have been redeemed from a far sorer bondage, by the blood of God's only dear
a This supposes that the subject is used on New-Year's Day.
Son; and by the very name we bear, we profess ourselves the followers of Christ, and the servants of the living God. Our duty, then, is “ to serve our God,” and to serve him in the very way prescribed in our text. We must serve him, 1. With reverential fear
[Never for a moment must we forget that we are sinners, deserving of God's wrath and indignation. The circumstance of our having been forgiven by him, so far from removing all occasion for reverential fear, is rather a reason for the augmentation of it. We should " lothe ourselves the more because our God is pacified towards usb;" for his very mercy shews how basely we have acted, in sinning against so good a God. If the glorified saints in heaven fall upon their faces before the throne, whilst yet they are singing praises to God and to the Lamb, much more should we on earth, who have yet so much corruption to mourn over, and so many evils to deplore. As for that kind of experience which some think to be warranted by their views of God's faithfulness to his promises, and which others derive from a conceit of their own sinless perfection, (I mean, that confidence, on the one hand, which is divested of fear; and that familiarity, on the other hand, which is not tempered with contrition,) I cannot but regard it as most delusive and dangerous. It would be well, too, if some, who are not carried to these extremes of doctrinal error be not equally defective, through a captious abhorrence of all forms in external discipline and deportment. Many, from a zeal against what they are pleased to designate as Popish superstition, conduct themselves with sad irreverence in the worship of the Most High: and, if they feel not already a contempt for the Majesty of heaven, sure I am that they take the most effectual means to generate it in their hearts. Men, as sinners, should lie low in the dust before God: and though, as redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ, they are to put away slavish fear, they are never for a moment to divest themselves of that fear which is filial, but to “walk in the fear of the Lord all the day long.”] 2. With ardent love
[A filial fear will not in the least degree impede the exercise of love; but will temper it with a becoming modesty and
Blended with fear, it cannot possibly be too ardent. We should so “ love our God, as to serve him with all our heart and with all our soul.” In truth, without love, our obedience, however exact, would be nothing worth. Love is the crown of all. Even amongst men, it is love which constitutes
b Ezek. xvi. 63.