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unreasonableness of fear. " Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness." What were they afraid of now? A grave in the wilderness.
in the wilderness. What do they put in comparison with, and prefer to it? A grave in Egypt. It was a grave at the worst. Their wretched lives had got at least a short reprieve. If they died now, they died at once; and died like men, defending their lives, liberty, and families: not pouring out life, drop by drop, under the whip of a taskmaster. But slavery has broken their spirit. They are reduced to the lowest pitch of human wretchedness; for this, surely, is the last stage of it. 16 It had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness."
To this abject view of degeneracy and dejection, two objects are placed in contrast--the calmness and intrepidity of Moses, and the majesty and power of God. In contemplating the former of these, as one great object of these Lectures is to unfold human character, and to hold up to imitation and applause praise-worthy conduct, let me endeavour to fix your attention upon the more obvious features of the great man, who is here drawing his own portrait.
All the great interests of Moses were embarked, with those of the commonwealth of Israel. His lot was cast into the common lap. He had made a sacrifice unspeakably greater than any individual of the congregation had done. His prospects, for either himself or his family, were neither brighter nor more flattering than those of the obscurest Hebrew among them. If there were danger from the pursuing host of Pharaoh, his share, most assuredly, was not less
than that of any other man.
. He had rendered himself peculiarly obnoxious to that stern, unrelenting ty. rant, and must have been among the first victims of his resentment. But the pressing danger of Moses did not arise from Pharaoh, and the Egyptians, but from an intimidated, distracted multitude, who were ready to wreak their vengeance on whoever might first meet their resentment, or could be most plausibly charged as the author of their misfortunes. The composure of Moses, in such circumstances, is therefore justly to be considered as an instance of uncommon heroism and magnanimity. But why do we talk of heroism? the man who fears God knows no other fear. In the confidence of faith, though he knew not yet which way God was to work deliverance for Israel, he thus attempts to diffuse the hope, which he felt irradiating his own soul: “ Fear ye not; stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show to you to-day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you,
and ye shall hold your peace. Let me entreat you to observe, that the agent in this great transaction is also the historian of it; and that the resolution and spirit of the one is to be equalled only by the modesty and simplicity of the other. In the hands of one of the eloquent orators of Greece or Rome, what a figure would this passage of the life of the Jewish legislator have made, could we suppose them entering into the situation of a stranger, with the warmth which they feel in delineating the characters and conduct of their own heroes, and embellishing the dignity of modest merit with the glowing ornaments of rhetoric? But scripture says much, by saying little. And the meek reserve, the unaffected conciseness of the sacred historian, infinitely exceed the diffusive and laboured panegyrics of profane poetry or history. We have already, perhaps, deviated too far from that beautiful simplicity; and diminished, instead of magni
fying our object, by multiplying words. We hasten, therefore, with our author, to contemplate an object of infinitely higher consideration than himself; to which he constantly brings his own, and instructs us to bring our tribute of praise,
Behold the obstructions, which nature and art and accident have assembled to distress, to discourage, and to destroy the church of God! An impassable ridge of mountains upon the right hand and upon the left; the roaring sea in front; a powerful, exasperated, re. vengeful enemy following close behind; internal weakness, irresolution and dissension: the voice of sedition loud; Moses on his face before God. In such a situation as this, Omnipotence alone can save. No voice but that of a God is worthy of being heard. Be silent then, O heavens, and listen 0 earth, it is God, who speaks. " And the Lord said unto Moses, Where. fore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward!” What sublimity, simplicity, and force was here! “Go forward!” What, into the raging billows? Great God, thy commands declare thy name and thy nature! What power ex
own, but must have been exposcd and disgraced, by assuming such a high tone of authority! But what obstacle can oppose Him, who said, “Let there be light, and there was light?” “who spake, and it was done; who gave commandment, and it stood fast?”
My heart is agitated with a mixture of fear and joy as I proceed. “The Lord God has given the word Let the people go forward.” When lo, the conducting pillar instantly changes its position, and solemnly retreats to the rear of the Israelitish host. The word given clears all the way before them, and “the glory of the Lord becomes their reward.” Now, behold the double effect of this symbol of the divine presence! To Israel, the cloud is all light and favour; to the Egyptians, all darkness and dismay. To those, night shineth as the day-to these, there is obscurity at noon
day! “ And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed, and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them. And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night.” Awful distinction! Where shall we find the solution of the difficulty? where, but in this, “He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy; and whom he will he hardeneth,” Rom. ix. 18.
To prepare us for the history of the miracle which follows, give your attention, for a few moments, to what every man and woman among you may have ob. served a thousand and a thousand times. Go to the bank of the river, go to the shore of the sea, and twice in every twenty-four hours, as certainly as light pro. ceeds from the sun, what is now dry land will be covered with water, and what is now overflowed shall infalibly become dry ground. Farther, when a little wandering star, called the moon, is in this direction, or in that, the whole waters of the globe, in the ocean, in the seas, in the rivers, are elevated or depressed to such a certain degree, Let that planet be in an eastern or a western direction, the tide is precisely at the same pitch of height or depth. After we have made this remark, which is obvious to the notice and level to the understanding of a child; the question will naturally occur, What, does this never fail? May we depend and act upon the certainty of such a regular succes. sion and change taking place? Do the waters of the earth thus certainly feel, or seem to feel, the various appearances of the moon? Then it cannot be without the design and interposition of an intelligent and powerful cause, which never misses its aim, is never off its guard, is never thwarted or defeated by unforeseen ob. stacles. Then, that invisible, unknown, incomprehensible power, may exercise a discretionary influence
over the stream of a particular river, over the billows of a particular sea.
with or without apparent second causes, make the current overflow its banks, or to become dry.
Or, to make another appeal to common observation and experience, when the sun is in such a certain posi. tion with respect to our earth, and the wind blows in such a direction, the water in that lake will be liquid and transparent, and the smallest, lightest pebble will sink to the bottom. But let the elevation of the sun be changed to an angle somewhat more acute, and let the wind shift into the opposite quarter, then, beyond all doubt, the self-same water shall become solid as the rock, lose its transparency, and become capable of sustaining any weight that can be put upon it. How easy had it been for Him, who produces regularly these changes in the course of every changing year, to have given the globe such a position, as would have rendered the hoary deep one vast mountain of ice, all the year round, or have prevented a single drop of water from ever being congealed. And “ wherefore should it be thought a thing incredible,” that such an one, willing to make his power known, and his grace felt, s.hould at his own time, and in his own way, do that in a particular instance, which he could have done perpetually and universally. Grant me the usual appearances and operations of nature, and I am prepared for all the uncommon, miraculous phenomena, with which the God of nature may see meet to present me.
We come, accordingly, to the history of dividing the Red Sea, perfectly convinced that he who made it at first, can make of it whatever he pleases; and thoroughly satisfied that the occasion of such a notable miracle, as it is related by Moses, was entirely worthy of it.
If it be a just rule in criticism, that a Deity is never to be introduced but when bis interposition is necessary, and on occasions becoming his dignity, the Mosaic account of this wonderful event, stands fully justified in