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And the Lord fpake unto Mofes and Aaron in the land of Egypt, faying, This month fhall be unto you the beginning of months; it fhall be the first month of the year to you. Speak unto all the congregation of Ifrael, faying, In the tenth day of this month they fhall take to them every man a lamb, according to the boufe of their fathers, a lamb for an house.
IN the history of all nations, there are eras and events of peculiar importance, which extend their influence to future ages and generations, and are fondly commemorated by lateft pofterity. Hence, every day of the revolving year becomes, in its courfe, to one people or another, the anniversary of fomething memorable which befel their forefathers, and is remembered by their fons with triumph or with forrow. Moft of the religious obfervances which have obtained in the world, when traced up to their fource, are found to originate in providential difpenfations; and history thereby becomes the beft interpreter of cuftoms and manners. It is a most amufing employment, to observe the operation and progrefs of the human mind in this refpect; and to confider how varioufly different men, and at different periods, have contrived to tranfmit to their children the memory of fimilar achievements, fucceffes, or difafters. A great stone fet up on end, a heap of ftones, a mound of earth,
and the like, were, in the earlier, ruder, fimpler state of the world, the monuments of victory; and to dance around them with fongs, on an appointed day, was the ruftic commemoration of their rude and fimple pofterity. The triumphs and the death of heroes came, in procefs of time, to be remembered with conviviality and mirth, or with plaintive strains and folemn dirges. The hoary bard varied and enlivened the feaft, by adapting to his rough voice or rougher harp the uncouth rhymes which he himself had compofed, in praise of departed gallantry and virtue. arts were invented and improved, the wife, the brave and the good were preferved from oblivion by monuments more elegant, more intelligible, and more lafting. A more correct ftyle of poetry, and a sweeter melody were cultivated. Sculpture and painting conveyed to children's children an exact reprefentation of the limbs and lineaments of the venerable men who adorned, who inftructed, who faved their country. And thus, though dead, they continued to live and act in the animated canvafs, in the breathing brafs, or the speaking marble. At length, the pen of the hiftorian took up the caufe of merit, and diffufed over the whole globe, and handed down to the very end of time the knowledge of the perfons and of the actions which fhould never die.
We are this evening to beftow our attention upon an inflitution altogether of divine appointment, intended to record an event of fingular importance to the nation immediately affected by it, and which, according to its intention and in its confequences, has involved a great part of mankind.
Mofes and Aaron having, as the inftruments in the hand of Providence, chastised Egypt with nine fucceffive and fevere plagues, inflicted in the view of procuring Ifrael's releafe, are at length difmiffed by the unrelenting tyrant, with a threatening of certain death, fhould they ever again prefume to come into his prefence. Mofes takes him at his word, and bids
him a folemn, a long, and everlasting farewell. When men have finally banished from them their advisers and monitors, and when God has ceafed to be a reprover to them, their deftruction cannot be very dif tant. Better it is to have the law to alarm, to threaten and to chaftife us, than to have it in anger altogether withdrawn. Better is a confcience that disturbs and vexes than a confcience laid faft afleep, than a confcience "feared as with a hot iron."
What folemn preparation is made for the tenth and laft awful plague of Egypt! God is about to reckon with Pharaoh and his fubjects, for the blood of the Ifraelitish male children, doomed from the womb to death, by his cruel edict. His eye pitied not nor fpared the anguifh of thousands of wretched mothers, bereaved of their children the inftant they were born; and a righteous God pities, fpares him not, in the day of vifitation.
The circumstances attending this tremendous calamity are ftrikingly calculated to excite horror. Firft, God himfelf is the immediate author of it. Hitherto He had plagued Egypt by means and inftruments; "Stretch out thy hand :" "Say unto Aaron, Stretch forth thy hand with thy rod." But now it is, "I will go out into the midst of Egypt." "And it came to pafs that at midnight the LORD fmote all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that fat on his throne, unto the first-born of the captive that was in the dungeon, and all the firft-born of cattle." As mercies coming immediately from the hand of our heavenly Father are fweeter and better than thofe which are communicated through the channel of the creature: fo judgments, iffuing directly from the ftores of divine wrath, are more terrible and overwhelming. The fword of an invading foe is a dreadful thing, but infinitely morc dreadful is the fword of a deftroying angel, or the uplifted hand of God himself.
Secondly, The nature and quality of the calamity greatly increase the weight of it. It is a wound there, where the heart is moft fufceptible of pain; an evil which undermines hope; hope, our refuge and our remedy under other evils. The return of another favourable feafon, may repair the waftes and compenfate the fcarcity of that which preceded it. A body emaciated or ulcerated all over, may recover strength, and be restored to foundness; and there is hope that the light of the fun may return, even after a thick darknefs of three days. But what kindness of nature, what happy concurrence of circumftances, can re-animate the breathlefs clay, can reftore an only fon, a first born, ftricken with death?
The univerfality of this deftruction is a third horrid aggravation of its woe. It fell with equal feverity on all ranks and conditions; on the prince and the peasant; on the mafter and the flave. From every house the voice of mifery burfts forth. No one is fo much at leifure from his own diftrefs as to pity, foothe or relieve that of his wretched neighbour,
Fourthly, The blow was ftruck at the awful midnight hour, when every object affumes a more sable hue; when fear, aided by darkness, magnifies to a gigantic fize, and clothes in a more hideous fhape the real and fantaftical, the feen and the unfeen difturbers of filence and repofe. To be prematurely awakened out of fleep by the dying groans of a friend suddenly fmitten, to be prefented with the ghaftly image of death in a darling object lately feen and enjoyed in perfect health, to be forced to the acknowledgment of the great and holy Lord God, by fuch an awful demonftration of his prefence and power! what terror and astonishment could equal this?
The keen reflection that all this accumulated diftrefs might have been prevented, was another cruel ingredient in the embittered cup. How would they now accufe their defperate madnefs, in provoking a power, which had fo often and fo forcibly warned
them of their danger? If Pharaoh were not paft feeling, how dreadful muft have been the pangs which he felt, while he reflected, that after attempting to destroy a haplefs, helpless race of strangers, who lay at his mercy, by the most unheard-of cruelty and oppreffion, he had now ruined his own country, by an obftinate perfeverance in folly and impiety; that he had become the curfe and the punishment of a nation, of which he was bound by his office to be the father and protector; and that his own hopes were now blasted in their faireft, moft flattering object, the heir of his throne and empire, because he regarded not the rights of humanity and mercy in the treatment of his vaffals.
Finally, If their anguish admitted of a ftill higher aggravation, the diftinction from firft to laft made between them and Ifrael, the blessed exemption which the oppreffed Hebrews had enjoyed from all these calamities, especially from this laft death, must have been peculiarly mortifying and afflictive. against any of the children of Ifrael fhall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beaft; that ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Ifrael." This partakes of the nature of that mifery which the damned endure; who are reprefented as having occasional, diftant and tranfitory glimpfes of the bleffednefs of heaven, only for their punithment, only to heighten the pangs of their own torments. Of the approach of their other woes, these unhappy perfons had been repeatedly warned. But this, it would appear, came upon them fuddenly and in a moment. They had gone to reft in fecurity. The fhort refpite which they enjoyed from fuffering had stilled their apprehenfion; "furely," faid they," the bitterness of death is paft." But ah! it is only the deceitful calm which precedes the hurricane or the earthquake. Let men never dreanr of repofe from the righteous judgment of God, whatever they may have already endured, till they have forfaken