« PreviousContinue »
compliance of a grateful and affectionate heart. Pharaoh, like a sullen, sturdy slave, will not move a step, till stimulated by a fresh application of the whip; the moment that the pain of the stripe ceases, he stands still, or turns back. The first summons is treated by him with insolence and scorn; and he resolves that Israel shall not have a single moment's relaxation from their burthens. Brought
to himself by a few strokes of the rod of God's anger, he yields a tardy consent to the intermission of their labours for a little while, and to their doing sacrifice to their God: but it must be “in the land where they dwelt, even in Egypt.” That alternative being rejected, and a new demand made, backed with a new threatening, and followed with a new plague, he agrees to permit the male part of Israel, who were arrived at man's estate, to resort to the place appointed; but he is determined to detain their wives, children and cattle, as hostages for their return. Constrained, at length, by dint of judgments, to let the whole congregation depart, he endeavours to stipulate, that they should not go very far off; and not, till bro. ken by the last dreadful plague, can he be brought to resign his usurped authority over the free-born sons of God.
We often find men pretending to make a merit of giving up what it is no longer in their power to retain. After a man has squandered away his ineans, in riot and extravagance, deserves he the praise for living sparing. ly? Another has ruined his constitution by intemperance; is his forced continence an object of admiration? By no means. He has discontinued his debaucheries through disability, not from inclination and conviction of his error. Old age has debilitated a third; is he therefore virtuous? No, no: his vices have forsa. ken him, not he his vices. When a man serves through fear, he does no more than he needs must; but love is liberal and generous, and stands not questioning, “yea hath God said?” but, ever on the watch, ever on the
wing, the moment that the voice of God is heard, it is ready to reply, "Here am I, Lord, send me.” This leads me to remark,
Fourthly, The wisdom of giving up, at the command of God, with alacrity, what we must give up at last, whether we will or not. What a pitiful figure does Pharaoh make in the end! baffled in every attempt, driven out of every fortress, dishonoured in the eyes of his own servants, transmitted to the latest posterity a monument of pride and impotence. Were not the proud man blind and infatuated, he would yield through self-love; he would submit to preserve his own consequence, at least the appearance of it. Unhappily for us, our will stands but too often in opposition to the will of God. When they come to clash, who ought in reason to give way? Who must of necessity submit? Knowest thou not, Oman, that to destroy thyself, thou needest but to follow thy own headstrong inclination: knowest thou not, that the gratification, not the disappointment of illicit de. sire is ruinous? but who ever made a sacrifice of inclination to duty, and had reason to repent of it? Who knows not, that to yield submission is to obtain a triumph? In a contention where there is a probability, or even a possibility of our prevailing, it may be worth while to risk a combat; but who, except a madman, will seek to encounter a foe by whom he is sure to be defeated? And yet in that mad, that ruin. ous strife, see how many are engaged? Behold the stars in their course ranged on the part of their Creator; behold all nature standing in arms to espouse his cause; and who must be overcome? Against whom is this formidable preparation made? There stands the enemy, in all his weakness and folly; a crawling worm on a dunghill, provoking his fate, tampering with eternal ruin, hardening himself against God, and yet thinking to prosper. The influence of no malignant star is necessary to, blast him: there is a necessity for no
earthquake to swallow him up: no archangel armed with a sword of fire, need descend to cut him asunder; his breath is in his own nostrils; he is sinking into his dust; his own ridiculous efforts are wasting and consuming him. Foolish creature and unwise! why wilt thou contend longer? “ Wherefore shouldst thou be stricken any more? “Constrain not him to be thy foe who has towards thee the disposition of the best of friends, and who is mighty to save even “ to the uttermost, them that come unto him."
Fifthly, In the course of these dreadful plagues, we observe, not only the pride of man effectually humbled, but the power of Satan trampled in the dust, under the feet of the Most High. It is highly interesting to ob. serve, by what gradual steps the enemy and the avenger is laid low, till he is at length destroyed. Presumption, at first induces him, in confidence of a permitted power, to enter the lists and to try his strength with God. Aaron's rod is turned into a serpent. The magicians attempt the same, and succeed. Their rods also become serpents. But Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods. By and by the water of the river is turned into blood, and the fishes die. The magicians, by their enehantments, madly assist the plague, and acquire a little transitory reputation, by doing mischief. Flushed with this farther success, they go on to imitate the miracles of Moses and Aaron; but, to their confusion, they fail there, where it seemed most probable that they should with greatest ease support their fame. That loathsome vermin, lice, is to be produced miraculously, which slovenliness and filth naturally produce without any effort. At the word of Moses, the dust of the land is transformed into this noisome, nauseous insect. But the whole power of hell cannot effect, at the time, and in the manner which it would, what time and earelessness alone, in the usual course of things, would certainly have produced; and they feel themselves attacked with a plague which their art could not bring
upon others. Finally, after having become the subjects of a miraculous calamity which might be borne, they are at length attacked with one absolutely intolerable, which drives them from the competition: they give up their silly arts of sorcery, and attempt to rival the true God no more. And thus, when the mystery of godliness shall be finished, an astonished world shall behold the sleight and devices of Satan falling upon his own head, his momentary triumphs covering him with more accumulated disgrace, and his infernal malice and diabolical craft made ministering servants to the wisdom and goodness of God. A good reason, among many others, why we should judge nothing rashly before the time till the Lord cometh, who shall bring light out of obscurity, and fully vindicate his ways to men.
Sixthly, We observe how unlike the latter ends of things are to their beginnings. The world laughs at the idea of two feeble old men, issuing forth from a descrt, the patrons of liberty; to force a mighty prince, and a powerful nation, to listen to the dictates of justice and humanity, and to liberate a million of wretched creatures, whose spirits were totally broken by their miseries, and who seemed to have lost even the inclination of vindicating their own rights. Pharaoh despised them; the magicians defied them; Israel distrusted them; they themselves are ready to sink under the difficulty and danger of the enterprise. But, conducted of Heaven, they attempt, they proceed, they prosper, they overcome. They invade Egypt, two solitary, unsupported individuals! They leave it at the head of six hundred thousand men, fit to bear arms, with a corresponding number of females, besides old men and children, and a mixed multitude of non-descript per. sons; bidding defiance to the whole force of a wise, and populous, and warlike country. And we see them in the course of a few years taking forcible possession of one of the strongest, most impracticable and best defended countries in the world.
I need but hint to you the counterpart of this. Behold the unconnected son of a carpenter, at the head of twelve simple illiterate fishermen, attacking the religious establishments of the whole globe, and prevailing. Behold him, armed with a few plain facts, and a few doctrines as plain, overturning the whole fabric of heathen mythology and worship; ingrafting on the stock of Moses, and the legal dispensation, a scion from a nobler root; which has swallowed up the parent tree, has filled the earth with its branches, is feeding the nations to this day with its fruit, and is likely to maintain its place till all the gracious purposes of Heaven are accomplished. “ It is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.” “When the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe.” The next lecture will, by divine favour, exhibit the institution and celebration of the first passover, with the event which gave occasion to it. May God bless what has been spoken. To him be glory and honour for ever and ever. Amen.