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HISTORY OF MOSES.
And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land
of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house,-Exodus xii. 1-3.
IN the history of all nations, there are eras and events of a peculiar importance, which extend their influence to future ages and generations, and are fondly commemorated by latest posterity. Hence, every day of the revolving year becomes, in its course, to one people or another, the anniversary of something memorable which befel their forefathers, and is remembered by their sons with triumph or with sorrow. Most of the religious observances which have obtained in the world, when traced up to their source, are found to originate in providential dispensations; and history thereby becomes the best interpreter of customs and
It is a most amusing employment, to observe the operation and progress of the human mind in this respect; and to consider how variously different men, and at different periods, have contrived to transmit to their children the memory of similar achievements, successes, or disasters. A great stone set up
on end, a heap of stones, a mound of earth, and the like, were, in the earlier, ruder, simpler state of the world, the monuments of victory; and to dance around them with songs, on an appointed day, was the rustic commemoration of their rude and simple posterity.The triumphs and the deaths of heroes came, in process of time, to be remembered with conviviality and mirth, or with plaintive strains and solemn dirges.The hoary bard varied and enlightened the feast, by adapting to his rough voice or rougher harp the uncouth rhymes which he himself had composed, in praise of departed gallantry and virtue. As arts were invented and improved, the wise, the brave, and the good were preserved from oblivion by monuments more elegant, more intelligible, and more lasting. A more correct style of poetry, and a sweeter melody were cultivated. Sculpture and painting conveyed to children's children an exact representation of the limbs and lineaments of the venerable men who adorned, who instructed, who saved their country. And thus, though dead, they continued to live and act in the animated canvas, in the breathing brass, or the speak. ing marble. At length, the pen of the historian took up the cause of merit, and diffused over the whole globe, and handed down to the very end of time the knowledge of the persons and of the actions which should never die.
We are this evening to bestow our attention upon an institution altogether of divine appointment, intend. ed to record an event of singular importance to the na. tion immediately affected by it, and which, according to its intention and its consequences, has involved a great part of mankind.
Moses and Aaron having, as the instruments in the hand of Providence, chastised Egypt with nine succes. sive and severe plagues, inflicted in the view of procuring Israel's release, are at length dismissed by the unrelenting tyrant, with a threatening of certain death,
should they ever again presume to come into his pre
Moses takes him at his word, and bids him a solemn, a long, and everlasting farewell. When men have finally banished from them their advisers and monitors, and when God has ceased to be a reprover to them, their destruction cannot be very dis
Better it is to have the law to alarm, to threaten and chastise us, than to have it in anger altogether withdrawn. Better is a conscience that disturbs and vexes than a conscience laid fast asleep, than a conscience "seared as with a hot iron."
What solemn preparation is made for the tenth and last awful plague of Egypt! God is about to reckon with Pharaoh and his subjects, for the blood of the Israelitish male children, doomed from the womb to death by his cruel edict. His eye pitied not nor spared the anguish of thousands of wretched mothers, bereaved of their children the instant they were born; and a righteous God pities, spares him not, in the day of visitation.
The circumstances attending this tremendous calamity are strikingly calculated to excite horror. First, God himself is the immediate author of it. Hitherto he had plagued Egypt by means and instruments; “ 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
« pass that at midnight the Lord smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt from the first-born of Pharaoh that sat on his throne, unto the first-born of the captive that was in the dungeon, and all the first-born of cattle." As mercies coming immediately from the hand of our heavenly Father are sweeter and better than those which are communicated through the channel of the creature; so judgments, issuing directly from the stores of divine wrath are more terrible and overwhelming. The sword of an invading foe is a cireadful thing, but infinitely more dreadful is the sword of a destroying 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 most susceptible of pain; an evil which undermines hope; hope, our refuge and our remedy under other evils. The return of another favourable season, may repair the wastes and compensate the scarcity of that which preceded it. A body emaciated or ulcerated all over, may recover strength, and be restored to soundness; and there is hope that the light of the suni may return, even after a thick darkness of three days. But what kindness of nature, what happy concurrence of circumstances, can re-animate the breathless clay, can restore an only son, a first-born, stricken with death?
The universality of this destruction is a third horrid aggravation of its woe.
It fell with equal severity on all ranks and conditions; on the prince and the peasant; on the master and the slave. From every house the voice of misery bursts forth. No one is so much at leisure from his own distress as to pity, soothe or relieve that of his wretched neighbour.
Fourthly, The blow was struck at the awful midnight hour, when every object assumes a more sable hue; when fear, aided by darkness, magnifies to a gigantic size, and clothes in a more hideous shape the real and fantastical, the seen and the unseen disturbers of silence
To be prematurely awakened out of sleep by the dying groans of a friend suddenly smitten, to be presented with a ghastly image of death in a darling object lately seen and enjoyed in perfect health, to be forced to the acknowledgment of the great and holy Lord God, by such an awful demonstration of his presence and power! what terror and astonishment could equal this?
The keen reflection that all this accumulated dis.. tress might have been prevented, was another cruel in
gredient in the embittered cup. How would they now accuse their desperate madness, in provoking a power, which had so often and so forciby warned them of their danger? If Pharaoh were not past feeling, how dreadful must have been the pangs which he felt, while he reflected, that after attempting to destroy a hapless, helpless race of strangers, who lay at his mercy, by the most unheard-of cruelty and oppression, he had now ruined his own country, by an obstinate perseverance in folly and impiety; that he had become the curse 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 fairest, most flattering object, the heir of his throne and empire, because he regarded not the rights of humanity and mercy in the treatment of his vassals.
Finally, if their anguish admitted of a still higher aggravation, the distinction from first to last made between them and Israel, the blessed exemption which the oppressed Hebrews had enjoyed from all these calamities, expecially from this last death, must have been peculiarly mortifying and afflictive.
“ But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast; that ye may know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.” This partakes of the nature of that misery which the damned endure; who are represented as having occasional, distant and transitory glimpses of the blessedness of heaven, only for their punishment, only to heighten the pangs of their own torments. Of the approach of their other woes, these unhappy persons had been repeatedly warned. But this, it would appear, came upon them suddenly and in a moment. They had gone to rest in security. The short respite which they enjoyed from suffering had stilled their apprehension; “surely,” said they, “ the bitterness of death is past.” But ah! it is only the deceitful calm which precedes the hurricane or the earthquake. Let