Imagini ale paginilor

of the people should touch the ground hallowed by the Almighty's presence. From that dread circle proceeded, on the third day, "thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud was upon the mount, and the voice of the tempest was exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Mount Sinai was altogether in a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire.” Well might they, sinners as they knew themselves to be, tremble at his presence who is "of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look upon iniquity1;" well might they, with self-accusing consciousness of their own utter unworthiness, tremble at the manifestation of him who " is a consuming fire!" Never was offered to mortal vision such a display of terrorstriking power and majesty: never fell upon mortal ear such a voice as that which, louder than the roar of thunders,

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness." Thus was proclaimed the moral law, the law of righteousness; that pure and perfect will of God, whose extent passes human comprehension. Awed by these wonders and subdued with apprehension at the requirements of Jehovah, the people entreat that they may hear that fearful voice no more, and say unto Moses, " Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die."

With this prayer of Israel the Lord complies, and commands Moses to "come up alone into the mount, that he may give him tables of stone, and a law and commandments.". "For six days a cloud covers the mount, and the glory of the Lord abides upon it: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel." Here Moses continues forty days and forty nights, and receives not only the ceremonial law, but

"two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God '."

Returning from Sinai with these precious gifts, he finds, with dismay, that his people have already forgotten their terrors, broken their covenant with the Lord, and fallen into the grossest idolatry -that very sin from which it was the especial object of the Almighty to guard them; that they have plunged at once into the basest of the Egyptian superstitions; and that Aaron himself is an accomplice in this iniquity. In righteous indignation at their foul apostasy, he casts the tables of the law out of his hands, and breaks them beneath the mount; thus annulling, on God's part, the covenant which he had made with them. Empowered, however, not only in his religious, but in his magisterial character, he proceeds to inflict a severe, though deserved punishment upon the offenders. He calls around him the sons of Levi, who, possibly, had kept themselves clear

1 Exod. xxxi. 18.

from the transgression, and commands them "to go through the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour." And they did so:" and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men." Having seen this summary vengeance exacted, he returns to make intercession for the survivors.

God had already threatened to destroy the whole nation, and had offered to transfer all his great and gracious promises to Moses and his family; but no root of personal ambition seems to have been planted in his bosom. Uninfluenced by selfishness, unallured by the prospect of temporal fame or power, in perfect simplicity and purity of mind, he regards only the glory of God. He pleads no extenuation of their crime, for he too well knew its enormity. He urges a fear of the effect which such an extermination of the Jewish people might have upon heathen nations; and he concludes his petition with the memorable and affecting sentence, unparalleled in

self devotion: he offers to resign his own share of the promise made with Abraham, if it may be accepted as some atonement for the sin of his people; to give up his own portion of that covenant rather than enjoy it without his brethren. "This people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sin;-and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written." So grateful is intercession to the Almighty that he appears overcome by this entreaty, and replies, "Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book." As if he had said, I blot not out the righteous from the book of my remembrance, neither do I punish one man for the sin of another: "Therefore, now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee."

Pardon having been granted to Israel, the Lord again descends in the cloudy pillar upon the tabernacle of the congregation, which he had abandoned because of their idolatry. After a lengthened

« ÎnapoiContinuă »