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comprehending intelligence, all-pervading benignity, all-fubduing love.

If, in that portion of ancient history which is now to come under our confideration, we obferve Providence treating one nation with uncommon feverity, and another with indulgence altogether as fingular, we are to regard the parties not as they are in them. felves, or in relation to each other, but in their rela tion to God and to mankind in general, as an important link in the great chain of Providence, as ferving and inftructing the human race to the end of the world. The perverfenefs and unbelief of Mofes met with pity and forgiveness, and were cured by a series of miracles. The impiety and unbelief of Pharaoh meet with refentment and punishment, and were even confirmed and strengthened by a moft awful feries of miracles; not for the fake of Mofes and Pharaoh merely, but to illustrate in the eyes of the whole world the goodness and feverity of GoD; the wifdom and fafety of re pentance and fubmiffion on the one hand, the madness and danger of impenitence on the other. Egypt was plagued, and Ifrael faved, that violence and cruelty might be awakened to see the naked sword of juftice fufpended by a fingle hair over its guilty throat; and that mifery and depreffion might find a refuge from despair.


We have seen with what folemnity the commiffion to Mofes for the deliverance of Ifrael was granted, and the awful feal which was appended to it; even the great and fearful name, JEHOVAH, "I AM THAT I AM.” We have feen the backwardnefs, irrefolution and timidity of the prophet, in undertaking an employment fo flattering to ambition, fo defirable to the fpirit of patriotifm, fo-elevating to a mind awake to the influence of religion. We have feen the goodness and condefcenfion of GoD in deigning, by repeated exertions of power and mercy, to remove the fcruples and level the objections of incredulity and fear. And we have seen Aaron, the brother of Mofes, providen

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tially conducted to the fpot, and at the moment, to establish a belief in the divine power and veracity, to confirm the wavering, trembling foul, and conftituted to a fhare of the diligence, difficulty, danger and glory of the illustrious enterprize.

Behold then two plain old men, one of eighty, and the other of eighty-three years old, fetting out from the deferts of Arabia, on an undertaking to human reason the moft wild and romantic that ever was attempted; to perfuade or to constrain one of the most powerful princes of the world to enfranchife, nay, to difmifs the tenth part of his most valuable and useful fubjects! And how are they provided for this vast undertaking? The pleas of reason, the powers of eloquence, the calls of humanity, the claims of juftice, it is well known, make but a feeble impreffion on the hearts of kings, when their pride, ambition or interest oppofe. For fuch a vaft multitude to flip away by ftealth is impoffible, and to think of forcing an efcape from a power fo greatly fuperior is rafhnefs and ruin. When men engage in hazardous and difficult expeditions, they levy armies, accumulate treasure, provide magazines, ftrengthen themselves with alliances. But when God addreffes himself to action, we behold no apparatus, no effort. Is an universe to start out of nothing?"GOD fpeaks, and it is done." Is a fun to arife, and light to fhine? GOD fays, "Let there be light." Is a great nation to be fubdued, and a little one afferted into liberty? Our eyes are directed, not to a general at the head of a mighty hoft, but to a thepherd with his crook in his hand.

But the commands of Heaven break not in upon the facred duties and the virtuous charities of private life. The charge given to Mofes was preffing, the object most important, and the authority under which it was iffued, fupreme; but yet he is permitted to return for a little while, to attend to the calls of nature, of gratitude, to the gentle claims of filial piety, of conjugal and paternal affection. He went back to his


father-in-law to acknowledge his protection, hofpitality and kindness to him when a ftranger, to inform him of the extraordinary commiffion he had juft received, and the neceffity he was thereby laid under of immediately entering upon the execution of it; to obtain his confent for this purpofe, and to afk his paternal benediction. Religion is in a happy ftate in the foul of that man, who has learned to unite and reconcile the views and purfuits of the citizen with those of the private man; who pleads not the performance of one duty as an excufe for the omiffion of another; whofe life exhibits every moral and divine principle in action, every one in his feason, every one in his place. How fimple and affectionate the difmiffion which honeft Raguel gave to Mofes, compared to that of the felfifh, rapacious Laban to Jacob:*" Go in peace!" fays Raguel; an adieu expreffive at once of fubmiffion to the will of Providence, and of affection to his fon-in-law, mixed with regret at the thought of parting with him.


It pleafed GoD again to confirm the confidence of Mofes, by affuring him that all who had ever harboured a defign against his life were now dead; and that nothing therefore remained, but to addrefs himself boldly to his great work. Accompanied with his wife and two fons, he leaves the land of Midian, and proceeds towards Egypt.

On this journey, a very extraordinary incident occurs: but the concifenefs of the facred hiftory leaves it involved in much darknefs and difficulty. GOD had bleffed him with two fons in Midian, whom, in compliance with the commandment of GOD, and as a fon of Abraham, he ought to have circumcifed on the eighth day from their birth. This however, either for want of the proper minifter, from inattention, or out of improper refpect to the feelings or prejudices of Zipporah his wife, or fome other reafon that appears not, had been hitherto wholly neglected; and thereby

* Gen. xxxi. 26, &c.

his children, the younger at least, through his neglect, feems to have incurred the dreadful penalty denounced by the terms of the covenant againft uncircumcifed perfons, that of being "cut off from his people." This punishment God feems disposed to exact at the hand of Mofes himself, who was indeed the guilty. perfon, by attacking him either with a threatening bodily distemper, by remorfe of confcience for his criminal neglect, by the appearance of an avenging angel, or fome other fenfible token of difpleasure. But the difficulty is, Why the conduct of Mofes in this respect was never called in queftion before? Why he was not purged of this guilt before he was honoured at all with the divine commiffion? Why the precept was enforced upon a journey, and at an inn, where the operation could be performed lefs commodiously, and was accompanied with fome degree of danger? What could Zipporah mean when the reproached Mofes as "a bloody husband?" The paffage is evidently enveloped in much obfcurity; and probably with defign. Inftead of curiously inquiring into its hidden meaning, an attempt vain and unprofitable, we may, by the bleffing of God, learn from it more than one practical leffon, neither obfcure nor unimportant; and this, no doubt, the Spirit of GoD principally intended. The firft is, that no circumstances of prudence or conveniency can ever be with propriety urged as a difpenfation with a clearly commanded duty. Secondly, that as there may be a finful undervaluing of the feelings, prejudices and inclinations of our near and dear relations, fo there may be a finful tenderness for, and compliance with them, to the neglect of God's known and declared will, and at the risk of falling under his just cenfure. Thirdly, that he who is to be the interpreter of the law to others, ought in all points to be blameless, and in all things conformed to the law himself. To which we may add yet a fourth, not of lefs importance than any of thefe; namely, that when GoD has procured the


proper refpect to his revealed will, the controverfy between him and the offender is at an end, the object of his government being not fo much to avenge himfelf

as to amend the criminal.

This fcene of domestic danger and distress is speedily followed by another of a pleasanter kind, namely, the interview between the two brothers, in the wil dernefs; an interview attended with many circumstances to render it mutually interefting and satisfactory. It must have been highly gratifying to Mofes, after living forty years among ftrangers, to meet his own brother, to receive particular information concerning his family and nation, and to communicate to a friendly ear the knowledge of his own fituation during fo long an interval. What must it have been, on the other hand, to Aaron, to learn from the mouth of his brother the great defigns of Providence refpecting themselves and their people? With what overflowings of heart would they mingle their fighs and tears! With what ardour would their united prayers, and vows, and praifes afcend to heaven? How confirmed the faith, how forward the zeal of each, ftrengthened and ftimulated by that of the other! They go on their way rejoicing; they are following God, and they must profper.

Mofes had found the evidence of his divine miffion completed, in the opportune arrival of his brother Aaron, according to the declaration of the oracle at the bufh; and he foon finds a refolution of his first doubt, in the very entrance upon the discharge of his office. Compare the firft, and the two laft verses of this 4th chapter, and fee what a contraft they form to one another. "And Mofes anfwered, and faid, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will fay, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee." "And Aaron spoke all the words which the LORD had spoken unto Mofes, and did the figns in the fight of the people. And the people believed: and when they heard that the Lord


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