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thousands of Israel with meekness and wisdom-he most challenges our admiration and praise. Had the world never been favoured with his works, or were it now to be deprived of that precious treasure, the loss were inconceivably great. Who does not shudder at the thought? What a fearful gap in the history of mankind! What a blow to take, what a blank in science, what an impoverishing of the public stock of harmless pleasure, what an injury to the dearest, the best, the everlasting interests of mankind!
The venerable man, who has for so many evenings past condescended to delight and instruct us by the reIation of events the most singular, interesting and important, assumes this night a new character; and in strains the sweetest and boldest that bard ever sung; in verses the loftiest that the imagination of poet ever dictated, rouses, warms, transports the mind. We forget the distance of three thousand years. We feel ourselves magically conveyed to the banks of the Red Sea. We join in the acclamations of the redeemed of the Lord, as this song of Moses swells upon our ear.“ Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots, and with his horsemen into the sea, and the Lord brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea.
The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone,” Verses 1, 1945. How wonderfully suited to each other, the event and the celebration of it!
In fulfilling the promise made in the conclusion of the last Lecture, and executing the business of the present, three objects are proposed. First, to attempt a vindication of the history of the passage of the Red Sea, from some objections which have been made to the credibility or miraculousness of it. Secondly, to
make a few criticisms on the sacred hymn which was composed on the occasion, and now, in part, read in your hearing; in the view of pointing out a few of its more striking beauties. And, thirdly, to make a few remarks on sacred poesy in general, tending to evince its superiour excellency; and to point out the delicacy and difficulty of attempting to amplify or imitate what the inspired poets have written, as helps to devotion. In the first I shall, without ceremony or apology, borTow the assistance of the pious and learned author of Dissertations, historical, critical, theological and moral, on the most memorable events of the OLD AND New TESTAMENT history-James Saurin, late minister of the French church at the Hague.* In the second, I shall submit to be instructed by an ingenious, pious and eloquent professor of rhetoric in the university of Paris, who has made choice of this passage, expressly for the purpose of exemplifying the majesty, beauty and simplicity of the scripture style.t And in the third, I shali do little more than transcribe from an elegant, penetrating and instructive moralist of our own age and country. To return:
If we collect the several circumstances of this wonderful piece of history, it will readily be acknowledged, that there is here presented to the mind one of the greatest, or rather a series of the greatest miracles, which the hand of Omnipotence ever wrought in be. half of any nation. It is not therefore to be wondered at if the enemies of revelation have endeavoured to sul.' ly their lustre, and impeach their credibility.
Three methods have been employed for this purpose--To ascribe these events to natural causes To put them on a footing with others related in profane history, and to represent them as contradictory and inconsistent. Three bulwarks of infidelity; as many grounds of triumph for truth.
* Tom. i. Disc. xlix. + Rollin Bel. Let. Tom. ii. Eloq. de Liv. Sacr.
Johnson's Life of the poet Waller.
First, these events, which we ascribe entirely to the almighty power of God, have been accounted for from the common and natural operation of cause and effect. Eusebius has preserved and transmitted to us a frag. ment from an ancient author, Artapanes,* to this purpose: “Those of Memphis, one of the chief cities of ancient Egypt, allege, that Moses perfectly understood the country; that he had accurately observed the ebbing and flowing of the sea, and took advantage of the retreat of the tide to lead the people over. But they of Heliopolis relate the matter differently, saying, that while the king was pursuing the Israelites, Moses, by the command of Heaven, struck the waters with a rod, upon which they immediately separated, and left a spacious and safe passage for that great multitude; and that the Egyptians attempting to follow them the same way, were dazzled and confounded by preternatural fires, lost their way, and by the reflux of the sea, were overtaken in the midst of the channel, and thus all perished either by water or by fire.”
Now, granting to this quotation all the force that unbelief can give it, this evidently appears upon the face of it, that Moses has vouchers of his divine legation, even in Egypt, even among the idolators themselves. If the Memphites accuse our historian of endeavouring to make a natural pass for a miraculous event, the Heliopolitans acknowledge that it was preternatural, and ascribe it to an immediate interposition of Heaven. And this concession is important, when we consider that it comes from the mouth of an enemy.
Again, the supposition of the Memphites must be rejected by all those who pay any regard to the authority of Moses, and of the other sacred writers. He himself indeed admits, that the effect was forwarded by the assistance of a strong east wind. And whatever he ascribes to that, may seem so far to derogate from the greatness of the miracle. But it is no less
* Euseb. Prepar. Lib, ix. Cap. xxvii.
true, that he throws out nothing like an insinuation that the passage of the vast host of Israel was produced by the intervention of second causes. And all the inspired authors, who, after him, have mentioned it or alluded to it, acknowledge only a supernatural agency. Thus Joshua, who was an eye-witness and a party deeply concerned in the event.
« For the Lord your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: that all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever,” Josh. iv. 23, 24. Thus, Psalm lxvi. 6. turned the sea into dry land: they went through the flood on foot; there did we rejoice in him.” And Ixxviii. 13. “ He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through, and he made the waters to stand as an heap.”. And cvi. 9. “ He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it was dried up: so he led them through the depths as through the wilderness.” And Heb. xi. 29. “ By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.” So that Moses, Joshua, David, and Paul, have but one and the same opinion on this subject.
But farther, the essence of a miracle does not always consist in counteracting or suspending the laws of nature. One of the most contemptible of the adversaries of religion has weakly imagined, * that by a single objection he was able to invalidate one of the bulwarks, and shake one of the pillars of revelation. “ These miraculous effects," says he, " are referred, by the confession of scripture historians themselves, to the operation of second causes. It was by warming the body of a child, that Elijah brought him to life again. It was by applying clay, or dust mingled with
* Spinosa Tract. Theol. Polit. Cap. vi.
spittle, to the eyes of a blind man, that Jesus Christ restored him to sight. It was by a wind, that Moses brought locusts upon Egypt, and obtained a passage through the Red Sea.” To this it is replied— That the most common and natural things become miracles, when they present themselves precisely at the time and in the manner prescribed by Him who commands their appearance, for the confirmation and establishment of a certain doctrine. What so natural and common, for example, as to see the sun shining one moment in full and unobstructed glory, and the next darkened and concealed by clouds? But, if a person publishing a new doctrine as divine, should undertake to prove his mission by changing the appearance of the bright orb of day, at his pleasure, and by showing him either in unclouded majesty, or eclipsed and shorn of his beams, according as he gave the word; and should we behold this very ordinary natural phenomenon actually and uniformly obeying the mandate, would not such an event, however natural in itself, become preternatural and miraculous, from its circumstances? Thus, there might be occasion for the influence of the wind, to favour and facilitate the passage of Israel. But how was it possible for their leader, by mere human sagacity, to discover that a wind from such a quarter, springing up exactly at such an hour, should harden the bottom of the deep?
But, supposing the philosophy of Moses sufficiently accurate to assure him, that at such a time he might in safety march over his cumbersome retinue; could it inform him also that Pharaoh and his captains would certainly be mad enough to follow them through that dangerous route? Could it assure him that the rashness of the tyrant, and the law which regulated the flowing of the sea, would exactly keep time, so as effectually to produce the destruction of his whole army? The Aux and reflux of the tide were known to Moses; but, was it entirely unknown to the Egyptians? What,