on Exodus 13 :22
He took not away the pillar of the cloud - Neither Jews nor Gentiles are agreed how long the cloud continued with the Israelites. It is very probable that it first visited them at Succoth, if it did not accompany them from Rameses; and that it continued with them till they came to the river Jordan, to pass over opposite to Jericho, for after that it appears that the ark alone was their guide, as it always marched at their head. See Joshua 3:10-11, etc. But others think that it went no farther with them than Mount Hor, and never appeared after the death of Aaron. We may safely assert that while it was indispensably necessary it continued with them, when it was not so it was removed. But it is worthy of remark that the ark of the covenant became its substitute. While a miracle was necessary, a miracle was granted; when that was no longer necessary, then the testimony of the Lord deposited in the ark was deemed sufficient by Him who cannot err. So, under the Gospel dispensation, miracles were necessary at its first promulgation; but after that the canon of Scripture was completed, the new covenant having been made, ratified by the blood of the Lamb, and published by the Holy Spirit, then God withdrew generally those outward signs, leaving his word for a continual testimony, and sealing it on the souls of believers by the Spirit of truth.
It is also worthy of remark that the ancient heathen writers represent their gods, in their pretended manifestations to men, as always encompassed with a cloud; Homer and Virgil abound with examples of this kind: and is it not very probable that they borrowed this, as they did many other things in their mythologic theology, from the tradition of Jehovah guiding his people through the desert by means of the cloud, in and by which he repeatedly manifested himself?
1. Extraordinary manifestations and interpositions of providence and grace should be held in continual remembrance. We are liable to forget the hole of the pit whence we were dug, and the rock whence we were hewn. Prudence and piety will institute their anniversaries, that the merciful dealings of the Lord may never be forgotten. The passover and the feast of unleavened bread, by an annual commemoration, became standing proofs to the children of Israel of the Divine origin of their religion; and are supporting pillars of it to the present day. For when a fact is reported to have taken place, and certain rites or ceremonies have been instituted in order to commemorate it, which rites or ceremonies continue to be observed through succeeding ages, then the fact itself, no matter how remote the period of its occurrence may have been, has the utmost proofs of authenticity that it is possible for any fact to have; and such as every person pretending to reason and judgment is obliged to receive. On this ground the Mosaic religion, and the facts recorded in it, are indubitably proved; and the Christian religion and its facts, being commemorated in the same way, particularly by baptism and the Lord's Supper, stand on such a foundation of moral certainty as no other records in the universe can possibly boast. Reader, praise God for his ordinances; they are not only means of grace to thy soul, but standing irrefragable proofs of the truth of that religion which thou hast received as from Him.
2. A serious public profession of the religion of Christ has in all ages of the Church been considered not only highly becoming, but indispensably necessary to salvation. He who consistently confesses Christ before men shall be confessed by him before God and his angels. A Jew wore his phylacteries on his forehead, on his hands, and round his garments, that he might have reverence in the sight of the heathen; he gloried in his law, and he exulted that Abraham was his father. Christian! with a zeal not less becoming, and more consistently supported, let the words of thy mouth, the acts of thy hands, and all thy goings, show that thou belongest unto God; that thou hast taken his Spirit for the guide of thy heart, his word for the rule of thy life, his people for thy companions, his heaven for thy inheritance, and himself for the portion of thy soul. And see that thou hold fast the truth, and that thou hold it in righteousness.
3. How merciful is God in the dispensations of his providence! He permits none to be tried above what he is able to bear, and he proportions the burden to the back that is to bear it. He led not the Israelites by the way of the Philistines, lest, seeing war, they should repent and be discouraged. Young converts are generally saved from severe spiritual conflicts and heavy temptations till they have acquired a habit of believing, are disciplined in the school of Christ, and instructed in the nature of the path in which they go, and the difficulties they may expect to find in it. They are informed that such things may take place, they are thus armed for the battle, and when trials do come they are not taken by surprise. God, the most merciful and kind God, "tempers even the blast to the shorn lamb." Trust in him therefore with all thy heart, and never lean to thy own understanding.
4. The providence and goodness of God are equally observable in the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire. The former was the proof of his providential kindness by day; the latter, by night. Thus he adjusts the assistance of his grace and Spirit to the exigencies of his creatures, giving at some times, when peculiar trials require it, more particular manifestations of his mercy and goodness; but at all times, such evidences of his approbation as are sufficient to satisfy a pious faithful heart. It is true the pillar of fire was more observable in the night, because of the general darkness, than the pillar of cloud was by day; yet the latter was as convincing and as evident a proof of his presence, approbation, and protection as the former. It is the duty and interest of every sound believer in Christ to have the witness of God's Spirit in his soul at all times, that his spirit and ways please his Maker; but in seasons of peculiar difficulty he may expect the more sensible manifestations of God's goodness. A good man is a temple of the Holy Spirit; but he who has an unholy heart, and who lives an unrighteous life, though he may have an orthodox creed, is a hold of unclean spirits, and an abomination in the sight of the Lord. Reader, let not these observations be fruitless to thee. God gives thee his word and his Spirit, obey this word that thou grieve not this Spirit. The following figurative saying of a Jewish rabbin is worthy of regard: "God addresses Israel and says, My son, I give thee my lamp, give me thy lamp. If thou keep my lamp, I will keep thy lamp; but if thou quench my lamp, I will extinguish thy lamp:" i.e., I give thee my word and Spirit, give me thy heart and soul. If thou carefully attend to my word, and grieve not my Spirit. I will preserve thy soul alive; but if thou rebel against my word, and quench my Spirit, then thy light shall be put out, and thy soul's blessedness extinguished in everlasting darkness.
on Exodus 13 :22
on Exodus 13 :22