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where he fixed his abode between the cherubims, and from whence he frequently displayed himself before the whole congregation in the beams of that visible glory which he there assumed as the symbol of his special presence: and by thus doing he took a most wise and effectual course, not only to raise and excite their devotion, but also to restrain and confine it within its proper bounds and limits; for while men are under the government of sense,
, there is nothing hath that prevalence with them, to excite their affections and fix their thoughts, as material phantasms; so that God, by exhibiting to them a visible presence of himself, and thereby impressing their imaginations with a material phantasm of his presence and glory, did at once both spur their affections, and bridle their fancies from roving into wild similitudes of him, and thereby take an effectual course to prevent the worshipping him by those outward images which they exemplified from the similitudes which they framed of him in their own fancies : and having this visible glory to entertain their fancies, they had the less temptation from their sense to hunt after sensible similitudes and representations of him, that outward shechinah, which they sometimes saw, being a sufficient help to raise up their grovelling minds and carnal affections to the contemplation and worship of his invisible glory. And that that outward visible glory, in which he appeared to them, was intended for this purpose, seems plainly implied in Deut. iv. 12. where Moses tells them, that when God spake to them out of the midst of the fire, they heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude ; and so again, ver. 15. from whence he infers, Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves-lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make ye å graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, &c. ver. 16, 17. Where by their seeing no similitude is not meant that they saw nothing; for God himself had promised Moses, that the third day he would come down in the sight of all the people on mount Sinai, Exod. xix. 11, and therefore in all probability they saw the fire, or visible glory, in which he descended; for it is expressly said they saw it afterwards, Exod. xxiv. 17. But this fire shining without any determinate form or shape, they might very well be said to see no similitude ; for by similitude it is evident he means a determinate shape, ver. 16. where he bids them beware of making the similitude of any figure; so that the people saw God only in an unfigured flame, or visible glory, that was cast into no determinate shape, (though within that, it is probable, as was shewn before, God appeared to Moses and the seventy elders in a glorious human shape.) And this, it seems, God deemed a sufficient help to enable them to fix their thoughts on, and determine their worship to himself; and therefore he strictly charges them to content themselves with this, and not let their fancies rove, as they were too prone to do, after formed similitudes and images of him, lest those images should create in their minds false and opprobrious notions of him, and cause them to imagine the immense Godhead, as the heathen did, to be like unto gold, or silver, or stone engraven by art and man's device, Acts xvii. 29. Thus men being degenerated into a life of sense, and thereby rendered extremely propense to idolatry, to worship God by
images, and thereupon to form blasphemous notions of him, as if he were such a one in himself as those images represented him, God was pleased to exhibit to them a sensible presence of himself, that thereby he might the more effectually excite their awe and reverence, and at the same time restrain their imaginations from debauching their minds with unbecoming similitudes of his infinite being and perfections.
And for the same reason that God, under the old law, appeared to the Jews in a visible glory, he afterwards appeared to this lower world, and doth still continue to appear to the upper, personally united to a human body and soul; for so St. John represents Christ assuming of human nature (who, before he assumed it, was that God who appeared to the Jews from their tabernacle in that shechinah of visible glory)to be only a removing out of one tabernacle into another, out of the tabernacle of the law into the tabernacle of human nature, John i. 14. The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth ; where, instead of he dwelt among us, in the Greek it is coKÝWoey év nuov, i. e. he tabernacled, or dwelt as in the tabernacle, among us; he removed his abode out of the old tabernacle, and took a new habitation in human nature: for that this is the apostle's meaning is evident from what follows, and we beheld his glory, which plainly refers to that glorious light, or flaming substance, called the glory of the Lord, in which of old he was wont to display hinself before the congregation of Israel from between the cherubims. And in this very glory St. John says he beheld him, viz. at his baptism and transfiguration, at both which times he was seen by them shining in the very same glory, wherein of old he was wont to shine out of the Old Testament: and therefore it is added, that this glory, wherein St. John beheld him, was the glory as of the only begotten of the Father; i. e. it was the very same glory with that wherein the only begotten was heretofore wont to display himself from the tabernacle of Moses : so that the meaning of the words seems at least to be this; He dwelt among us in our nature, just as heretofore he did in the Mosaic tabernacle ; and in this tabernacle of our nature we twice beheld him shining forth with the same glory wherein he was wont to shine out of that old tabernacle from between the cherubims. Since therefore Christ dwelt in our nature in the same manner, and therein appeared in the same visible glory, that he formerly did in the old tabernacle, there is no doubt but he did it for the same ends and purposes; and therefore, since one of the ends of his dwelling in that tabernacle was to restrain men from running into idolatry, there is no doubt but, among others, he intended this end also in assuming our nature, than which there can be no visible appearance in nature more proper to excite our sluggish, and to determine our roving devotions upon him. For since in this life of sense
. which we now lead, we need a sensible presence of God to raise up our minds and affections to him, in what presence could he have appeared to us more proper for this end than that of our own nature ? a presence which is not confused like that of the old tabernacle, which was only a mixture of shapeless lights and shadows; but distinct and determinate, and of our own form and shape, which, of all others,
is most familiar to, and most beloved and reverenced by us, and consequently of all others is most apt to encourage our prayers, and inflame our zeal, and raise our admiration. For in what sensible appearance could God have more powerfully affected our sense, than in that which we are most inclined to love, most prone to trust to, and most accustomed to reverence and obey; and than that, in which alone we discern the image of God, and the reflections of those divine attributes of wisdom and goodness, and truth and justice, for which we reverence and adore him ? There being therefore no visible substance in which God could more advantageously exhibit himself to us, in order to the exciting our worship to him, and determining it upon him, than that of a human form, he thought meet to assume our natures into a personal union with his divinity, and therein to rule and govern us. So that now the humanity of our Saviour is the tabernacle and shechinah of God, wherein the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth bodily, and the two natures, united in person and glory, are the immediate object of our worship. Wherefore, as the ancient Jews fell upon their faces and worshipped when they beheld the shechinah, or glory of the Lord, their imagination being thereby assisted, and their affections excited, Levit. ix. 24. so when we, by our internal sense or imagination, look up to the glorified humanity of our Saviour in heaven, it is our duty to raise up our affections to heaven, by that sensible shechinah of God, and thereupon to fall down and worship. But as the Jews, when they fell down before their shechinah, did not worship the visible light or glory separately from God, but as it was