« PreviousContinue »
is written of me: I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart."* "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I ftraitened till it be accomplished?" And, yet there was no shame, no pain, no cross in the way of Mofes; whereas the Captain of falvation was to be "made perfect through fufferings; nevertheless, he advanced undifmayed to the combat. "With defire I have defired to eat this paffover with you before I fuffer." Mofes frequently refiled from the conflict, fhrunk from the difficulty and danger, failed in the hour of trial but our great Leader and Commander went on "conquering and to conquer ;" turned not back; defifted not from doing and from fuffering, till he could fay, "It is finished." The Sun of righteousness fhineth in his ftrength, let every ftar hide his diminished head. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
*Pfal. xl. 7, 8.
+ Luke xii. 50.
Ib. xxii. 15.
History of Mofes.
EXODUS vi. 1.
Then the Lord faid unto Mofes, Now fhalt thou fee what I will do unto Pharaoh; for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand fhall be drive them out of his land.
THE hiftory of the divine conduct is the best illuf
tration of the nature of GOD. Do we defire to know what the Supreme Being is? We have but to confider what he does. Are we anxious to be fatisfied of the truth of the declarations made by the great JEHOVAH concerning himself in his word? Let us compare them with the history and experience of men in every age. The proofs of the divine goodness and mercy are written in characters fo fair, and are fo frequently prefented to our view, that not to obferve them muft argue the groffeft ftupidity and inattention; and not to acknowledge, love and adore the glorious Source of that unbounded goodness, must argue the blackest ingratitude. When the Lord makes himself known by the judgments which he executes, we fee him advancing, to ufe the ideas and the language of men, with flow and reluc tant fteps. When mifery is to be relieved, benefits conferred, or fins forgiven, the bleffing outruns expectation, nay, even defire. But, when the wicked are to be punished, juftice feems to regret the neceffity under which it is laid, to maintain itself, and the finVOL. III.
ner is not destroyed till, to his own conviction, his condemnation is acquitted of unrighteoufnefs, and till every thing around him calls for vengeance.
The wickednefs of the old world was fo great, that GOD is faid to have "repented that he had made man." Nevertheless after God had threatened to destroy the human race with a deluge, a reprieve of many years is granted, to afford space and means for averting the calamity by repentance. Abraham was permitted, nay encouraged, to intercede for the finful, the devoted cities of the plain of Jordan; and the righteoufnefs of so small a number as five perfons would have faved the whole people of thofe regions. The nations of Canaan were not expelled, to make way for Ifrael, till the measure of their iniquity was full; and the haughty fpirit of Pharaoh was not brought low, by wonder upon wonder, by plague upon plague, till he had hardened his heart against the power of God, and the fufferings of men, and thereby made himself a "veffel of wrath fitted for deftruction."
The awful fcene which we are this night to contemplate, is, in more refpects than one, fingular and unexampled. We are not only prefented with a feries of miracles, a demonftration of the tremendous power of Almighty GoD, but, what is ftill more extraordinary, they are a feries of miracles, all marked with uncommon rigour and feverity. The wife and righteous Governor of the world feems, in this instance, to have deviated from the ufual lenity of his proceeding; as if determined to make men tremble before him, and to ftand in awe of his power and juftice, as well as to hope in his mercy.
Mofes and Aaron, though their former embafly to Pharaoh had met with a reception fo mortifying to themselves, and fo fatal to their afflicted brethren, are obliged and encouraged at God's command to undertake a fecond. And the haughty tyrant having dared to reject the firft, as delivered in the name of an unknown God, they are now furnifhed with credentials
which carried their own authority on their foreheads, and which were calculated to convince every thing but rooted infidelity, of the divine power by which they were iffued. First, they make reafon fpeak.
And had Pharaoh been wise, no other monitor had been neceffary, But a deaf ear being turned to that meek and heavenly charmer, it becomes needful to employ a stronger and more forcible language. Being again introduced, they again deliver their meffage, and are again treated with fcorn. Aaron, as he was commanded, having the rod of God in his hand, casts it upon the ground before Pharaoh and his court, and lo! it instantly becomes animated; it is converted into a ferpent, armed with deadly poifon. When Mofes firft beheld this strange fight, he "was afraid, and would have fled:" but Pharaoh appears not in the leaft alarmed. The fame fire melts wax, and hardens clay; the fame doctrine is the favour of life unto life in them that believe, and of death unto death in them that perish.
Some interpreters have alleged, that this transformation was not only miraculous, but emblematical, and that it was intended to humble this tyrannical and fanguinary prince, by exhibiting a reprefentation of his own character, and of his fubferviency to the power of that God whom he had prefumed to defy. What a fudden and striking change, through the permiffion of Providence, takes place! A harmless rod or fhepherd's crook, the emblem of mild, wife and good government, is changed into a poisonous fnake, the emblem of cruelty and oppreffion. And lo, at the divine pleasure, the poifon is again extracted, the deadly tooth is plucked out, and the fiery ferpent becomes a harmless rod again. And thus, in general, afflictive providences are either the gentle rod of a wife father to admonish, to correct and to reform; or the keen two-edged fword of an adversary, to cleave asunder, to devour and to destroy. Whether this were intended or not, it is evident Pharaoh understood it not, or difregarded
it. And, as infidelity is always defirous of fortifying itself by fomething that has the femblance of reafon : and, while it pretends to doubt of every thing, is, in truth, the most fimple and credulous principle in the world, Pharaoh affects to treat the miracle which was wrought by Mofes and Aaron, as a mere trick, a feat of necromancy or magic. He calls for fuch of his own people as profeffed thefe arts, to confront them with the Ifraelitish ambaffadors; in order to oppose fkill to skill, and to diminish the respect and attention claimed by Mofes and Aaron, to their miffion, and to their God, by fhewing fimilar, or equal figns, performed by Jannes and Jambres, the votaries of an Egyptian deity.
The magicians confidently undertake the tafk, and, through the permiffion of Heaven, partly fucceed. Their rods caft upon the ground, likewife become ferpents. The heart of Pharaoh exults, and the ma gicians of Egypt laugh the Jewish shepherds to scorn. But the triumph of unbelief is only for a moment. Aaron's rod, in its ferpent state, swallowed up their rods. Reafoning man will afk, why were not impiety and infidelity checked in their very firft attempt? Why were the demons of Egypt left in poffeffion of the flightest veftige of power, to oppofe or to imitate the mighty power of God? Why grant to Pharaoh and to his magicians, even the momentary triumph of their incantations? The reason is obvious. Had the Egyptian enchantments been attended with no fuccefs, and produced no effect, infidelity would have had its plea at hand. "Your pretended miracle is mere illufion, it is an attempt to mislead our understanding, by impofing upon our fenfes. Though we cannot produce this particular effect, or perform this particular trick, by our art, we can effect wonders equally or much more aftonishing." But, by being permitted to fucceed in their firft effort, and to rival Moses and Aaron fo far in power and reputation, they are insenfibly drawn in to give their fanction to the fign per