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Chapter 16.—In What Manner Moses Saw God.

26. There is yet another difficulty which troubles most people, viz. that it is written, “And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend;” whereas a little after, the same Moses says, “Now therefore, I pray Thee, if I have found grace in Thy sight, show me now Thyself plainly, that I may see Thee, that I may find grace in Thy sight, and that I may consider that this nation is Thy people;” and a little after Moses again said to the Lord, “Show me Thy glory.” What means this then, that in everything which was done, as above said, God was thought to have appeared by His own substance; whence the Son of God has been believed by these miserable people to be visible not by the creature, but by Himself; and that Moses, entering into the cloud, appeared to have had this very object in entering, that a cloudy darkness indeed might be shown to the eyes of the people, but that Moses within might hear the words of God, as though he beheld His face; and, as it is said, “And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend;” and yet, behold, the same Moses says, “If I have found grace in Thy sight, show me Thyself plainly?” Assuredly he knew that he saw corporeally, and he sought the true sight of God spiritually. And that mode of speech accordingly which was wrought in words, was so modified, as if it were of a friend speaking to a friend. Yet who sees God the Father with the eyes of the body? And that Word, which was in the beginning, the Word which was with God, the Word which was God, by which all things were made,309309    John i. 1, 3—who sees Him with the eyes of the body? And the spirit of wisdom, again, who sees with the eyes of the body? Yet what is, “Show me now Thyself plainly, that I may see Thee,” unless, Show me Thy substance? But if Moses had not said this, we must indeed have borne with those foolish people as we could, who think that the substance of God was made visible to his eyes through those things which, as above mentioned, were said or done. But when it is here demonstrated most evidently that this was not granted to him, even though he desired it; who will dare to say, that by the like forms which had appeared visibly to him also, not the creature serving God, but that itself which is God, appeared to the eyes of a mortal man?

28. Add, too, that which the Lord afterward said to Moses, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see my face, and live. And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shall stand upon a rock: and it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee into a watch-tower310310    Clift—A.V. Spelunca is one reading in S. Aug., but the Benedictines read specula = watch-tower, which the context proves to be certainly right. of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: and I will take away my hand, and thou shalt see my back parts; but my face shall not be seen.”311311    Ex. xxxiii. 11–23


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