A View of God's Glory
Written by: Spurgeon, C.H. Posted on: 04/01/2003
A View of God's Glory
by C. H. SPURGEON,
"And he said, I beseech thee, show me thy glory."Exodus 33:18.
WHAT WAS A large request to make. He could not have asked for more: "I beseech thee, show me thy
glory." Why, it is the greatest petition that man ever asked of God. It seems to me the greatest stretch of
faith that I have either heard or read of. It was great faith which made Abraham go into the plain to offer
up intercession for a guilty city like Sodom. It was vast faith which enabled Jacob to grasp the angel; it
was mighty faith which enabled Elijah to rend the heavens and fetch down rain from skies which had been like
brass before; but it appears to me that this prayer contains a greater amount of faith than all the others put
together. It is the greatest request that man could make to God: "I beseech thee, show me thy glory." Had he
requested a fiery chariot to whirl him up to heaven; had he asked to cleave the water-floods and drown the
chivalry of a nation; had he prayed the Almighty to send fire from heaven to consume whole armies, I could have
found a parallel to his prayer; but when he offers this petition, "I beseech thee, show me thy glory," he stands
alone, a giant among giants; a Colossus even in those days of mighty men. His request surpasses that of any other
man: "I beseech thee, show me thy glory." Among the lofty peaks and summits of man's prayers that rise like
mountains to the skies, this is the culminating point; this is the highest elevation that faith ever gained: it is the
loftiest place to which the great ambition of faith could climb; it is the topmost pillar of all the towering structures
that confidence ever piled. I am astonished that Moses himself should have been bold enough to supplicate so
wondrous a favor. Surely after he had uttered the desire, his bones must have trembled, his blood curdled in his
veins, and his hair must have stood on end. Did he not wonder at himself? Did he not tremble at his own
hardihood? We believe that such would have been the case had not the faith which prompted the prayer sustained
him in the review of it.
Whence, then, came faith like this? How did Moses obtain so eminent a degree of this virtue? Ah, beloved, it
was by communion with God. Had he not been for forty days in the council-chamber with his God? Had he not
tarried in the secret pavilion of burning fire? Had not Jehovah spoken to him as a man speaketh with his friend, he
would not have had courage enough to ask so large a boon. Yea, more, I doubt whether all this communion would
have been sufficient if he had not also received a fresh testimony to the grace of God, in sparing a nation through
his intercession. Moses had argued with God, he had pleaded the covenant, and although God had said, "Let me
alone that I may destroy them," he had still maintained his hold; he had even ventured to say, "If not, blot my
name out of the book of life," let me die as well as the rest; he had wrestled hard with justice, and had prevailed.
The strength gained by this victory, joined with his former communion with the Lord, made him mighty in prayer;
but had he not received grace by these means, I think the petition was too large even for Moses to venture to carry
to the throne. Would you, my brethren, have like faith, then walk in the same path. Be much in secret prayer.
Hold constant fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ; so shall you soar aloft on wings of
confidence, so shall you also open your mouth wide and have it filled with divine favors, and if you do not offer
the same request, yet you may have equal faith to that which bade Moses say, "I beseech thee, show me thy
Allow me to refer you to the 13th verse of this chapter, where Moses speaks unto his God"Now therefore, I
pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way." Moses asked a less favor before he
requested the greater. He asked to see God's way before he prayed to see his glory. Mark you, my friends, this is
the true mode of prayer. Rest not content with past answers, but double your request and go again. Look upon
your past petitions as the small end of the wedge opening the way for larger ones. The best way to repay God, and
the way he loves best, is to take and ask him ten times as much each time. Nothing pleases God so much as when
a sinner comes again very soon with twice as large a petition"Lord thou didst hear me last time, and now I am
come again." Faith is a mighty grace, and always grows upon that which it feeds. When God has heard prayer for
one thing, faith comes and asks for two things, and when God has given those two things, faith asks for six. Faith
can scale the walls of heaven. She is a giant grace. She takes mountains by their roots, and puts them on other
mountains, and so climbs to the throne in confidence with large petitions, knowing that she shall not be refused.
We are most of us too slow to go to God. We are not like the beggars who come to the door twenty times if you
do not give them anything. But if we have been heard once, we go away, instead of coming time after time, and
each time with a larger prayer. Make your petitions longer and longer. Ask for ten, and if God gives them, then for
a thousand, and keep going on until at last you will positively get faith enough to ask, if it were proper, as great a
favor as Moses did"I beseech thee, show me thy glory."
Now, my friends, we have just spoken a word or two on the prayer itself; we shall have to see how it was
received at the throne. It was answered, first, by a gracious manifestation; secondly, by a gracious concealment;
and, thirdly, by a gracious shielding.
I. First of all this prayer which Moses offered was heard by God, and he gave him A GRACIOUS
MANIFESTATION: "And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee; and I will proclaim the name of
the Lord before thee; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show
I think that, when Moses put up this prayer to God, he was very much like Peter, when, on the mountain top,
he wist not what he said. I do think that Moses himself hardly understood the petition that he offered to God. With
all the clearness of his ideas; however pure his conception of the divinity might be, I do think that even Moses
himself had not adequate views of the Godhead. He did not then know so much of God as he now has learned
where he stands before the throne of the Most High. I believe that Moses knew that God is a Spirit. I think he
must have been sensible that the mind of man can never conceive an idea of the incomprehensible Jehovah. He
must have learned that the God of Mount Sinai, the King whose feet glowed like a furnace, and made the
mountain smoke, could never be grasped by the senses of a mortal. Yet it is likely with all this knowledge, the
great lawgiver had a vague and indistinct idea that it might be possible for divinity to be seen. My friends, it is hard
for creatures encumbered with flesh and blood to gain a just conception of a spirit. We are so linked with the
material, that the spiritual is above our reach. Surely then, if a mere spirit is above our comprehension, much more
"the Father of Spirits, the Eternal, Immortal, Invisible."
The poet sings most truly
"The more of wonderful
Is heard in him, the more we should assent.
Could we conceive him, God he could not be;
Or he not God, or we could not be men.
A God alone can comprehend a God."
These eyes are but organs to convey to me the knowledge of material substances; they can not discern spirits;
it is not their duty; it is beyond their province. Purer than celestial ether of the most refined nature; subtler than the
secret power of electricity; infinitely above the most rarified forms of matter is the existence we call a spirit. As
well might we expect to bind the winds with cords, or smite them with a sword, as to behold spirits with eyes
which were only made to see gross solid materialism.
We find that Moses saw no similitude; no form passed before him. He had an audience; he had a vision; but it
was an audience from behind a covering, and a vision, not of a person, but an attribute. Behold then the scene.
There stands Moses about to be honored with visions of God. The Lord is about to answer thee. O Moses, God is
come. Dost thou not tremble; do not thy knees knock together; are not thy bones loosened; are not thy sinews
broken? Canst thou bear the thought of God coming to thee? O, I can picture Moses as he stood in that cleft of
the rock with the hand of God before his eyes, and I can see him look as man never looked before, confident in
faith, yet more than confounded at himself that he could have asked such a petition.
Now, what attribute is God about to show to Moses? His petition is, "Show me thy glory." Will he show him
his justice? Will he show him his holiness? Will he show his wrath? Will he show him his power? Will he break
yon cedar and show him he is almighty? Will he rend yonder mountain and show him that he can be angry? Will
he bring his sins to remembrance, and show that he is omniscient? No; hear the still small voice"I will make all
my goodness pass before thee." Ah! the goodness of God is God's glory. God's greatest glory is that he is good.
The brightest gem in the crown of God is his goodness. "I will make all my goodness pass before thee." There is a
panorama such as time would not be long enough for you to see.
Consider the goodness of God in creation. Who could ever tell all God's goodness there? Why, every creek
that runs up into the shore is full of it where the fry dance in the water. Why, every tree and every forest rings
with it; where the feathered songsters sit and make their wings quiver with delight and ecstasy. Why, every atom
of this air, which is dense with animalculae, is full of God's goodness. The cattle on a thousand hills he feeds; the
ravens come and peck their food from his liberal hands. The fishes leap out of their element, and he supplies
them; every insect is nourished by him. The lion roars in the forest for his prey, and he sendeth it to him. Ten
thousand thousand creatures are all fed by him. Can you tell, then, what God's goodness is? If you knew all the
myriad works of God, would your life be long enough to make all God's creative goodness pass before you?
Then think of his goodness to the children of men. Think how many of our race have come into this world
and died. We are of yesterday, and we know nothing. Man is as a flower; he lives, he dies; he is the infant of a
day, and he is gone to-morrow, but yet the Lord doth not forget him. O, my God! if thou shouldst make all thy
goodness pass before meall thy goodness to the children of menI must sit me down on an adamantine rock
forever and look throughout eternity; I should wear these eyes out, and must have eyes of fire, or else I should
never be able to see all thy goodness toward the sons of men.
But then rise higher still, and think of his sovereign goodness toward his chosen people. O, my soul, go thou
back into eternity and see thy name in God's book of predestinating, unchanging grace! And then come down to
the time of redemption, and see there thy Saviour bleeding and agonizing. O my soul, there were drops of
goodness before, but O, rivers of goodness roll before thee now! When thou sawest the Son of God groaning,
agonizing, shrieking, dying, buried in his grave, and then rising again, thou sawest the goodness of God. "I will
make all my goodness pass before thee." I say again, what a panorama! What a series of dissolving views! What
sight upon sight, each one melting into the other! Could I stand here this morning, and borrow the eloquence of an
angel; could I speak to you as I might wishbut, alas! I cannot break these bonds that hold my stammering
tonguecould I loose these lips and speak as angels speak, then could I tell you something, but not much, of the
goodness of God; for it is "past finding out." Since I cannot utter it myself, I would invoke all creation to be vocal
in his praise. Ye hills, lift up your voices; let the shaggy woods upon your summits wave with adoration. Ye
valleys, fill the air with the bleatings of your sheep and the lowing of your cattle. Ye that have life, if ye have
voices, tune his praise; and if ye walk in silence, let your joyful motions show the thanks ye cannot speak. O, ye
trees of the field, clap your hands; ye winds, in solemn harmony chant to his glory. Thou ocean, with thy myriad
waves, in all thy solemn pomp, thy motion to and fro, forget not him who bids a thousand fleets sweep over thee
in vain, and write no furrow on thy ever youthful brow. And you, ye storms, howl out his greatness; let your
thunders roll like drums in the march of the God of armies; let your lightnings write his name in fire upon the
midnight darkness; let the illimitable void of space become one mouth for song; and let the unnavigated ether,
through its shoreless depths, bear through the infinite remote the name of him who is ever good and doeth good.
I can say no more concerning God's goodness. But this is not all that Moses saw. If you look to the words
which follow my text, you will see that God said, "I will make all my goodness pass before thee;" but there was
something more. No one attribute of God sets God out to perfection; there must always be another. He said, "I
will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will snow mercy," there is another
attribute of God. There is his sovereignty. God's goodness without his sovereignty does not completely set forth
his nature. I think of the man who, when he was dying, called me to see him. He said, "I am going to heaven."
"Well," I replied. "what makes you think you are going there, for you never thought of it before?" Said he, "God is
good." "Yes." I answered. "but God is just." "No," said he, "God is merciful and good." Now that poor creature
was dying, and being lost forever; for he had not a right conception of God. He had only one idea of God, that
God is good; but that is not enough. If you only see one attribute you only have half a God. God is good, and he is
a sovereign, and doeth what he pleases; and though good to all in the sense of benevolence, he is not obliged to be
good to any. "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and show mercy on whom I will show mercy."
Do not you be alarmed, my friends, because I am going to preach about sovereignty. I know some people,
when they hear about sovereignty, say, "O, we are going to have some terrible high doctrine." Well, if it is in the
Bible, that is enough for you. Is not that all you want to know? If God says, "I will be gracious to whom I will be
gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy," it is not for you to say it is high doctrine. Who told
you it was high doctrine? It is good doctrine. What right have you to call one doctrine high and one low? Would
you like me to have a Bible with "H" against high, and "L" against low, so that I could leave the high doctrine out
and please you? My Bible has no mark of that kind; it says, "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious." There
is divine sovereignty. I believe some are afraid to say any thing about this great doctrine lest they should offend
some of their people; but. my friends, it is true, and you shall hear it. God is a sovereign. He was a sovereign ere
he made this world. He lived alone, and this was in his mind: Shall I make any thing or shall I not? I have a right to
make creatures or not to make any. He resolved that he would fashion a world. When he made it, he had a right to
form the world in what shape and size he pleased; and he had a right, if he chose, to leave the globe untenanted by
a single creature. When he had resolved to make man, he had a right to make him whatever kind of creature he
liked. If he wished to make him a worm or a serpent, he had a right to do it. When he made him. he had a right to
put any command on him that he pleased; and God had a right to say to Adam. Thou shalt not touch that
forbidden tree. And when Adam offended, God had a right to punish him and all the race forever in the bottomless
God is so far sovereign, that he has a right, if he likes, to save any one in this chapel, or to crush all who are
here. He has a right to take us all to heaven if he pleases, or to destroy us. He has a right to do just as he pleases
with us. We are as much in his hands as prisoners in the hands of her majesty when they are condemned for a
capital offense against the law of the land; yea, as much as clay in the hands of the potter. This is what he
asserted, when he said, "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious. and I will show mercy on whom I will show
mercy." This stirs up your carnal pride, does it not? Men want to be somebody. They do not like to lie down
before God, and have it preached to them that God can do just as he wills with them. Ah! you may hate it, but it is
what the Scripture tells us. Surely it is self-evident that God may do as he will with his own. We all like to do what
we will with our own property. God has said, that if you go to his throne he will hear you; but he has a right not to
do it if he likes. He has a right to do just as he pleases. If he chooses to let you go on in the error of your ways,
that is his right; and if he says, as he does, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give
you rest," it is his right to do so. That is the high and awful doctrine of DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY.*
Put the two together, goodness and sovereignty, and you see God's glory. If you take sovereignty alone, you
will not understand God. Some people only have an idea of God's sovereignty, and not of his goodness; such are
usually gloomy, harsh, and ill-humored. You must put the two together; that God is good, and that God is a
sovereign. You must speak of sovereign grace. God is not grace alone, he is sovereign grace. He is not sovereign
alone, but he is graciously sovereign. That is the best idea of God. When Moses said, "I beseech thee, show me
thy glory," God made him see that he was glorious, and that his glory was his sovereign goodness. Surely,
beloved, we cannot be wrong in loving the doctrine of free, unmerited, distinguishing grace, when we see it thus
mentioned as the brightest jewel in the crown of our covenant God. Do not be afraid of election and sovereignty.
The time is come when our ministers must tell us more about them; or, if not, our souls will be so lean and starved
that we shall mutiny for the bread of life. O, may God send us more thorough gospel men who will preach
sovereign grace as the glory of the gospel.
II. The second point isthere was A GRACIOUS CONCEALMENT.
Read the next verse. "He said, thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me and live." There was
a gracious concealment. There was as much grace in that concealment as there was in the manifestation. Mark
you, beloved, when God does not tell us any thing, there is as much grace in his withholding it as there is in any of
his revelations. Did you ever hear or read the sentiment, that there is as much to be learned from what is not in the
Bible, as from what there is in the Bible? Some people read the Scriptures, and they say, "I wish I knew
so-and-so." Now you ought not to wish such a thing; for if it was good for you, it would be there; and there is as
much grace in what God has not put in the Bible, as in what he has put there. If he had put more in it, it would
have been our destruction. There is just enough and no more. Do you know how Robert of Normandy lost his
sight? His brother passed a red-hot copper bowl before his face, and burned the eyes out of their sockets; and
there are some doctrines that men want to know, which, if they could understand them, it would be like passing a
red-hot bowl before their eyes. They would scorch men's eyes out, and their understandings would be completely
crushed. We have seen this in some ministers, who have studied so much that they have gone out of their minds.
They have gone further than they ought to have ventured. There is a point to which we may go, and no further;
and happy is the man who goes as near to it as possible without overstepping it. God said to Moses"Thou canst
not see my face and live." There are two senses in which this is true. No man can see God's face as a sinner; and
no man can see God's face even as a saint.
First, no man can see God's face as a sinner. There comes a wretch before the throne of God. God has
spread his books, and set his seat of judgment. There comes a man before the throne of God. Look at him! He is
wearing a robe of his own righteousness. "Wretch, how comest thou in hither?" And the creature tries to look at
God; he cries that he may live! But, no! God saith, "he cannot see my face and live." Thus saith the Judge.
"Executioners of my vengeance, come forth!" Angels come with crowns on their brows; they grasp their swords
and stand ready"Bind him hand and foot; cast him into the lake that burneth." The wretch is cast away into the
fire of hell. He sees written in letters of fire"No man can see my face and live." Clothed in his own
righteousness, he must perish.
Then, again, it is true that no man, even as a saint, can see God's face and live; not because of moral
disability, but because of physical inability. The body is not strong enough to bear the sight or vision of God. I
cannot tell whether even the saints in heaven see God. God dwells among them; but I do not know whether they
ever behold him. That is a speculation. We can leave that till we get there. We will decide it when we get to
heaven. I hardly know whether finite beings when immortalized would be capable of seeing God. This much is
certainthat on earth, no man, however holy, can ever see God's face, and yet live. Why, Manoah, when he saw
an angel, thought he should die. He said"I have seen an angel of the Lord; I shall die." If you and I were to meet
an angel, or a troop of angels, as Jacob did at Mahanaim, we should say"We shall die." The blaze of splendor
would overwhelm us. We could not endure it. We "cannot see God and live." All that we can ever see of God, is
what Moses called his "back parts." The words, I think, signify "regal train." You have seen kings have trains
hanging behind them; and all that we can ever see of God is his train that floats behind. Yon sun that burns in the
heavens with all his effulgence, you think he is bright; you look upon him, and he dazzles you; but all his splendor
is but a single thread in the regal skirts of the robe of Deity. You have seen night wrapped in her sable mantle
woven with gems and starsthere they shine as ornaments worked by the needle of God in that brilliant piece of
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