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The Revelation On Horeb.

(A Sermon For Pentecost, 5604.)

Sovereign of the Universe, whose mercy embraces all that has life! we bow before Thee in humble adoration. If we lift our eye unto the material world, we discover Thee in the works which thy hand has wrought; if we turn our look upon the spirit which dwells within us, we distinguish in it thy creative energy, the Parent of all that exists; and if we raise our view to the wisdom which shines so abundantly from amidst the book which is the direction of our life, we shall have cause for gratitude that it was Thou, O Father! who hast written it for our instruction. Humble and high alike are thy creatures, and the foolish and the wise are alike guided by Thee. How then shall we adore Thee, the Lord of all spirits? How shall fallible man sing thy praises, God of all flesh?—O weak in our strength, fallible in our wisdom, we can only bow in silence and adore thy power, which redeemed our body from thraldom, thy wisdom which taught us thy ways with man, and thy superabundant mercy which has preserved us undestroyed in thy presence. O may it be thy will, this day, and all the days of our existence, to render us truly conscious how much thy power, wisdom and mercy have wrought for us; that our hearts may not rise in rebellion and pride above thy instruction, but devote themselves for ever and aye to be servants in that holy structure of faith and duty which thy voice erected from the summit of Horeb, when thy thunders, and thy lightnings, and thy clouds of glory subdued the will of the children of Israel, whilst the knowledge of Thee, O Lord of truth! Was implanted in the souls of thy adorers. And how abiding has been this holy structure? Centuries have passed since it arose before our eyes; we have at times been obedient, at times rebellious; nations, then unborn, rose up like the grass, and have withered like the flowers of the field; and our race has been scattered and the outward temple destroyed; yet has it, thy Word, stood firm, unmoved, unshaken, and it still abides with us, to be our teacher, our guide, our testimony. Do Thou, O God! therefore uphold what thy wisdom has made; and teach us thy fear that we may glorify thy name and bless thy power, for ever and ever. Amen!


Malachi, the last of the prophets, at the close of his book, exclaims as the summing up of his prophetic mission:

זכרו תורת משה עבדי אשר צויתי אותו בחרב על כל ישראל חקים ומשפטים׃ מלאכי ג׳ כ״ב׃

“Remember the law of Moses, my servant, to whom I commanded on Horeb, for all Israel, statutes and judgments.” MALACHI, 3. 22.

The seer only adds the promise of the mission of Elijah to restore peace and to announce the redeemer, whose coming will be salvation to those who will repent, and punishment to those who refuse to believe, when the mouth of prophecy was closed unto the world until the restoration of the glory to Zion, and the return of the dominion to whom it pertained. We may, therefore, boldly assume, that with the last outpouring of his spirit, which renders man wise unto salvation, the God of Israel, who was from eternity, and will ever abide in glory, again sanctified and confirmed what He had announced on the first Pentecost, the recurrence of which festival we now celebrate, when it was his pleasure to become himself, without the intervention of a messenger, the Teacher and Guide of the people that He had purchased and formed to proclaim his praise.

The call is addressed to all Israel, to every one whose lineage or choice makes him one of those who have a share in the heritage of Jacob; and each one of all these is admonished to remember the law—because, in the first place, it was commanded by God; secondly, because with the observance thereof are connected the hope of salvation, and the exemption from the curse which attaches itself by the immutable will of God to disobedience.—And this day of Pentecost is well fitted to induce us to dwell upon the theme, and to refresh our memory with the great doings of the Lord, when He instituted the seed of Abraham a nation before Him, to stand foremost among the families of the earth, as a kingdom of priests and a holy people. It is for this reason that our wise men have instituted the particular portion, embracing the descent on Sinai and the ten commandments, to be read in all our assemblies as the lesson of the day, in order to recall every year, on its anniversary, the great event which contains the seed of all that the Lord will ever do to bring the world under the subjection of the truth, the germ, as it were, of the emancipation of mankind from error at the time when a new energy will be infused in the sons of Adam, who will have been spared, to seek the Lord and his strength.

Ye sons of Israel, remember the law of Moses! When you enter upon the path of life, when you seek your daily bread by the toil of your hands, when the hours of labour follow unceasingly one upon the other, when care is there, and temptation should point out a probable means of enriching yourselves, in contravention to the will of God, at the expense of the rights of others: O, then remember the law of justice, which descended unto you from heaven; lay it as a check upon your spirit, and allow not the tempter to find a response in your heart; but toil on, toil on, amid care, even amid despondency; your God watches you, He beholds your sorrows, and will bless the faithful servants who eschew evil and do good, because they thus deem themselves ful­filling the will of their Maker; and before long the task will be lightened, and you will bless the hour that your religion counselled you to prefer honourable poverty to inglorious ease; and mankind too will accord you the meed of approbation, and be improved by the example of the triumph which you achieved in subduing your evil desires, in subjecting your inclinations to the statutes of the law!

But when prosperity is yours, ye favoured ones of the earth! When you see your substance multiply, your children grow up around your table like olive shoots in a fruitful soil; if ease and health crown your manhood, and every thing invites you to pleasure and enjoyment: O then remember the law of Moses, the servant of God, The teacher, too, like yourselves, ye fortunate! was great in worldly things, he was the adopted son of a princess of Egypt; endowed with mind of a high order he might, with his courage and address, have stood foremost, had so it pleased him, amidst the throng of honoured menials who surrounded the great Pharaoh’s throne. But he disdained the pomp and enjoyment of a courtly life; he saw his brothers enslaved, and he could not resist taking part in their sorrow; in his zeal, an agent of the tyrant fell by his hands, and he fled from his native soil to roam alone in foreign lands. Again he rose from the lowly state of a shepherd in the desert, and he issued forth the leader of the house of Israel, after their chains of bondage had been broken; and yet he loved not to rest in idleness, though age now counselled repose; he gave himself up to the glorious task of instructing and remodelling, by the divine aid, an entire people, though they were thankless and constantly forgetful of the good things the Lord had wrought for them through the agency of his servant; and he, therefore, became the means, the instrument of the noblest monument of divine wisdom being imparted to man; he received, as a gift, the commandments from on High, and they are called, after him, “the Law of Moses;” they were given for Israel and for the world, and the aon of Amram’s name is imperishably interwoven with them in all the lands where the glorious tidings have penetrated. Remember then, in your moments of ease, the law which has descended through Moses: let it admonish you to beware of yielding to the temptation of luxury and sinful enjoyment; peruse its pages, that it may tell you what the law asks of you, and abide strictly by its ordinances and judgments. O think not that your opulence or your station can be any excuse for your neglect of our heavenly faith; you, though blessed, belong to Israel! you, though at ease, are amenable to the God who spoke through Moses! Remember your mortality, remember that the Lord is undying; let you escape from visitation an hundred times, retribution is nigh if you continue to forget, if you indulge in your desires, unmindful of what has been written in the book of the law. O believe not that your station exempts you from duty! What is your greatness when you come hither to pray? What is your strength when you stay at home unwilling to humble yourselves? To-day you are in possession of all you desire, you feel yourselves impelled to quaff the brimming bowl which pleasure presents to your eager lips. But the day wanes and your glory abideth not; and before the cup is drained, the bitterness of wormwood is mingled with the sparkling wine. And still you refuse to remember! Still you are unwilling to hear! O, blind to your danger, you hurry to your own destruction; for behold the Purifier comes, and his hands hold the touchstone of excellence, and He will sift you out as the chaff from the wheat, and leave you to the contempt and destruction which you have so eagerly courted. O fly while it is yet time, before your day passes away, before the wine is dashed from your lips. O come to the word of God, remember the commandments which were proclaimed from Horeb, and be Israelites, distinguished, if you possess superior gifts, by more meekness, by more charity, by more devotion than those whose necessities leave them no time for extended usefulness. Become you the guides to those who are lost, the props to those who need a stay; and let the book of the law be a witness for you, that you have not lived forgetful of your destiny, unworthy of being considered children of the Most High; and remember that, however exalted may be your lot, you can never surpass in worldly greatness even the saints mentioned in the books of the covenant; and yet they were obedient in all things, friends to man, servants unto God; remember this, and be you too obedient to the law promulgated this day, and be in very truth sons of Israel, children of salvation.

And ye, oppressed brothers, who live under a tyrant’s sway, ye become desponding because you are scorned for no crime you have committed, but because you are sons of Israel. You are taunted daily with your faith, you are spurned by the rabble, you are insulted by those who hold rule on earth. You feel tired of life, nothing but anguish by day, nothing but sorrow by night appears to be your lot. And now the enemies of the Lord rise up against you, to flatter you, to bribe you to forsake what you have so long cherished; they offer you liberty, they offer you ease, they offer you wealth, they offer you high places and preferment, so you will but renounce your religion, and sit down in communion with the sons of the stranger. And you waver; you are weary of the long scene of strife which the world has imposed on you; you hunger after the fleshpots of modern Egypt, and you feel inclined to embrace the murderous hand which deceit and hypocrisy hold out to you.—But O! beware! remember the law of Moses the servant of God! consider what is there recorded, reflect what this must teach you. You envy now the ease of the gentiles who oppress you; so did our forefathers when they worked day after day in the brickyards of Mitzraim’s ruler; you envy now the power which is removed from Judah; so did ancient Israel when they were slaves unto Egypt in all manner of work in the field. And what does history teach us on this point? But, that not many days elapsed, when the depth of sorrow was changed into joy, and the tyrant’s exaltation turned into sobs and moaning. It is hard to bear the contumely of the world; it is hard to know that we are unjustly spurned from no evil that we have done, only because we bear in our veins blood from a distant lineage, and because our law is one of ancient date. But how dastardly and contemptibly would we act, could we submit to profess opinions which we do not hold, to swear with our lips that we believe as true what our soul loathes, whilst we are uttering the words that sever us outwardly from the community of Israel! How ineffably base not be that wretch who claims the honour of man, to be exalted to some subordinate employment in the state, to be a legislator where his voice is scarcely heard, at the price of being a traitor to his God! How grovelling must be that spirit who, for the sake of so much money, of so many pieces of silver, declares that he no longer has part in Israel’s hope, no share in Israel’s law, no portion in Israel’s God! And such as these present themselves to our view! they call themselves men! converts to a better faith! But O, let us be wise, let nothing induce us to swerve! What matters it to us, when our race is run, that we have been the humble and the trodden down? Each one of our sighs is remembered by the Ancient of days; each one of our tears is treasured up in his secret abode; each one of our prayers is recorded in his book of memorial; and then instead of shame we will be clothed in glory, instead of tears we will be bound with the pearls of undying lustre which spring from the saving effect which deeds of righteousness cause to grow for those who love their God and are true to his word, amidst the years of darkness no less than the hours of gladness.—O all ye oppressed, remember the law of Moses! let the tribulations of the earth draw you closer to Him who can save when man smites, who can protect when the world is ready to destroy. Let it be engraven on your hearts that from amidst the darkness sprung forth the light which enlightens the world; from amidst slavery came forth the people who became the harbingers of freedom to all mankind, just as from the corruption of the seed springs forth the plant which sustains life, just as from the corruption of the body the soul arises unto immortality. Why then will ye falter? why will you despair? The same Power which bore rule at the commencement is yet the Governor of all things; the same Eye that looked over all creation and found that it was very good, to this moment overlooks and watches all the deeds of men, those done before the face of the sun, and those wrought in the darkest secrecy: and the same Voice which thundered on Sinai and proclaimed unto the assembled nation of Israel “I am the Lord thy God,” is not silenced to this day, but speaks through the written Word no less than through the varied book of nature which is spread open before the eyes of all living. When, therefore, tyrants frown on you, because you believe in one God, and in one only revealed faith, if they threaten you with all the terrors which their malevolence can invent: do not be dismayed, do not forsake the covenant in which you have been reared, but remember the law of Moses which was announced from Horeb; cling to it as you would to a tower of strength, and forsake it not as though it were your very life, the heart’s blood which circulates in your veins. With it you are exposed to ills which try your constancy; how much more would you have to endure were you living without its guidance, were you to stay on the earth with the wrath of God impending over you because you have forsaken the covenant which He made with your fathers.—Remember, then, remember! and be true and faithful servants, even as was Moses who was faithful in all the house of the Lord.

And ye too, brethren who mingle with the gentiles as friends, as equals, who have never heard the words of imperious command, who are free to go, free to come, untrammelled in your industry, unfettered in your opinions,—ye who live under the rule of benign laws,—ye too are sons of Israel, you are a part of the ancient people,—and ye too are bid to remember the law of Moses. Not you feel the bond of slavery which oppression twineth around your brothers’ neck; you know not how humbled the unfortunate is who is daily scorned because that he is a Jew; you, therefore, do not, perhaps, experience the deep consolation which springs to the brethren in other lands from the possession of the only treasure which the world cannot deprive them of. Ye mingle, as I said, freely amidst your gentile neighbours, and you see their manners, you observe their customs, and listen to their conversation. However you may feel affected towards them, however kindly you may think of all who bear the human form, you ought to be aware that gentiles, if they are sincere in their religious professions, feel themselves in duty bound to endeavour to make proselytes to their own tenets.—A Jewish maiden, from pure kindness, has stood by the death-bed of her gentile friend; and there the dying girl adjured her by the peace which she felt in parting from this world to seek the same hope in the religion of the gentiles. No opportunity is lost, no solemn occasion is pretermitted to make a strong impression where this is possible. You Israelites, who are weak in your own faith, you among our people who feel not deeply penetrated with the earnestness of religious conviction, and even you who are truly faithful, cannot comprehend the strong hold which the persuasion “that no salvation can be had beyond the limited pale of a particular church” has upon the votaries of the same. They persuade themselves that it is their business to see that no sou1 be lost by their omission to admonish; hence they seize every opportunity to make an impression among those who come near them, they draw the conversation upon matters of religion, and always finish by hoping that the person appealed to will see the error of his way and—join himself to their creed. I can feel the embarrassment of a timid girl in a circle of Nazarenes, alone of the faith of Israel, adjured by a dying friend to forsake the truth and join the vanities of a stranger’s belief; since inexperienced persons are but too apt to imagine that sincerity of profession, especially in the solemn moments of death, is a certain token that the opinions entertained are sure and true. In this matter, then, it is requisite to be strong in resistance and not to be drawn aside by one consideration or the other. The opinions of a dying person are no more true than those of one in full health; they are merely an evidence that the sufferer was strongly impressed with their importance, probably because he knew no others, and consequently he gives utterance to them in the last moments of consciousness which are left him, as the strongest consolation he can frame in the dread hour of the change from time to eternity. Surely a person dying is not for this reason a prophet, that his word should bear the seal of infallibility. I respect the sincerity of such a person whose last thoughts confirm the consistency of an entire life; but beyond this they can have no value for any one who is familiar with the workings of the human mind.—But I am wandering too far. All I meant to call your attention to was, that in your intercourse with the world you are constantly brought in contact with different zealots who would move heaven and earth to make one proselyte, especially if this person be one of Jacob’s sons or daughters. As I said, no opportunity will be omitted to encompass this result, and in season and out of season the shafts of argument or of ridicule will be levelled against our blessed faith, as though it were to be attacked at all hazards. Some one may smile in his strength against these useless efforts, these harmless arrows shot from bows wielded by weak hands. But, brethren, the persons attacked are not always the learned and strong-minded, they are but too often the weak, the inexperienced, children or minors, whose knowledge is insufficient to cope with the dangerous sophistry which our opponents know so well to employ. To you all, therefore, the prophet speaks: “Remember the law of Moses my servant;” upon all occasions be ready with the law of God in your hearts to offer a strong, a resistless opposition to the appeals which may be made against your peace; arm your children and scholars with the necessary knowledge that they may be enabled to contend likewise for the truth, in order that through them too the law may be remembered.—Let it be impressed on your minds, that the intercourse with the world not rarely blunts the feelings, and removes the great barrier which at one time previous impressions opposed to the approach of new ideas. The example of others is a most powerful incentive to give up our own views of right, especially if we are not very earnest in our own conduct. The persuasion of our friends, persons whom we esteem for the benevolence of their feelings and the goodness of their hearts, will more or less weigh with the best of us. Reflect on this upon your entrance into the great world, and regulate your conduct accordingly. Let it be your constant aim to oppose a sturdy resistance to any invitation to follow your gentile friends in their amusements, when they are in contradiction to your received instruction. If you are invited, for instance, be present at a ceremony as a witness in which no Israelite should take part, if you are called upon to partake of food which you are taught to be prohibited, if you are asked to attend on the Sabbath assemblies which are a desecration of the day of rest: let no complaisance on your part induce you to participate, and do not excuse yourselves by saying “it is but a trifle.” It is by trifles we begin the road of sin, and we end by great transgressions.—Should you find that the zeal of your neighbours leads them to decry your religion, you ought to forbid the recurrence of such a breach of politeness, and if it be repeated, or at once, avoid the person who is guilty of this treason against your faith.

A fair discussion is one thing; a bold appeal to do so great a sin as apostacy quite another. If you are skilled in Scriptures you may freely meet your friendly opponent upon the broad ground which they present to us; but take heed that you resent any direct appeals with becoming firmness. Do not, above all, be ashamed of being Israelites; let the world know, and particularly your proselyting friends, that you are proud of your faith, that you glory in your birthright, that you find the highest consolation in all circumstances of life in the law which Moses received on Horeb. For what have the heathens, Mahomedons and Nazarenes to offer which this law does not contain? Let us ask the latter especially, what change has come over the world that our law should not be true as it was on the day of the descent on Horeb? that should make it inferior to their system every word of which is borrowed from the superabundant spiritual wealth of ours?—Yes! what have they to offer! The law says “the Lord is one;” no, say they, He is three! The law says “God is no man that He should deceive;” no, say they, He has cast you off, you are no longer his people; as though the Holy One could promise a word and not fulfil it. The law says “Ye shall not make unto you the image of any thing to bow down before it;” no, say they, emblems are permitted to remind us of the unseen glory. The law says “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy;” no, say they, the Sabbath is a Jewish ceremony, we will keep in its stead the first day of the week. To be brief, they claim contradictions to the law as a part of religion, and they bid us to place our hope of salvation upon a being of whom the law does not speak, whilst on the contrary it forbids us to worship aught save the great Unseen that spoke on Horeb from amidst the fire. And you gentiles expect to lead us astray by such appeals? can you imagine that the truth of the Lord is so much forgotten that we could doubt of his saving power, his mercy, his unwavering faithfulness? Is it for a plurality in the godhead which does not exist that we are to forsake the standard of Israel? Is it for a new law which was never revealed that we are to take up a belief in a system which is borrowed from our blessed law? Can we imagine that so unfaithful were the promises of the Lord, that He could have rejected us from his grace when He so often assured us that He would be our God for ever? O surely God is true, and his words are true, and He spoke nothing which is not to endure; He has promised nothing which will not come to pass.

Thus, brethren, you must be always armed; let the world around you be what it may: be you labouring amidst poverty, or revelling in wealth: be you the oppressed for your faith, or the equals of the gentiles around—in every instance remember the law which has been written for your instruction. It has stood unshaken when your own kingdom fell: it has stood triumphant when one by one your oppressors sunk into the gulf of destruction; and by the blessing of God it will stand unshaken when the tyrants who now tread down Israel will be forgotten, and their thrones have become a prey to aliens. “Remember the law of Moses, my servant.” these are the words of Malachi, they are a command, but a prophecy also, and in this sense they mean, that the sons of Israel will ever remember the law, even to the day of the coming of Elijah, who will prepare the way for the Messiah, before cometh the day of the Lord, the great and fearful. How many dangers has the law survived since Malachi spoke? How many millions of its followers have fallen by the sword, the famine, the tooth of wild beasts, the boiling sea, the stake, and the scaffold? How have the sons of Jacob wandered, with no human heart to feel for their sorrows? And still two thousand and more years have elapsed, and the law is untouched, unassailed, nay triumphant over many pestilential errors. Arouse then, Israel, remember your God, remember your future glory, your past shame; remember the law under which you have lived so long, for which you have endured so much. Arouse! And show yourselves children of faith, heirs of salvation. Glorify your God by your words and actions, and swear fidelity to that unsurpassed code which your fathers received on this day as the brightest gift of the Lord. Remain firm in the path of duty, and may the blessing of the Lord of heaven and earth be yours, even according to his great mercy which endureth forever, and according to the word which He hath spoken through his servants the prophets. Amen.

Sivan 5th, May 23rd, 5604.