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DISCOURSE IIT. of the Miracles by which the Deli
verance of the Israelites from their Bondage in Egypt was effected.
And Israel Saw the great works which the
Lord did upon the Egyptians, and the people feared the Lord, and his servant Mofes.
Exod. xiv. 31.
There is nothing so interesting to man as the intercourse he has with his Maker, because his happiness is most nearly concerned in it; and the more interested we are in any thing, the more it behoves us to see that we be not imposed upon, but that we have sufficient ground for our belief. Reason and revelation are equally enemies to implicit faith, and require that we do not give our afsent to important propositions without the most satisfactory evidence. Though when any object of faith is of a
E 3 pleasing
pleasing nature, we may be thought difposed to take up with leis evidence, yet the magnitude of any thing will always require a proportionably clear proof. Thus we cannot doubt but that the apostles were pleased with the idea of their master's resurrection, yet the greatness of the event begat a disposition to incredulity; and we read that when they were first informed of it, and upon no apparently suspicious ground, they believed not through joy. They thought the news too good to be true, and they did not give their full affent to the joyful tidings till they had the most oyerbearing evidence, such as no disposition to incredulity could relist, · It behoves us, therefore, to examine with the most scrupulous attention every circumstance in histories of intercourse between God and man; and at this time I shall select for your attentive consideration, the first of which we have an account from eyc-witnesses, I mean the deliverance of the Israelites from their state of servitude in £gypt, and the promulgation of the law from Mount Sinai, recorded in the writ
ings of Moses, who was himself the chief instrument in these wonderful events.
Prior to this the Israelites had been in Egypt about two hundred years, about the latter half of which term they had been reduced to a state of the most abject servitude. This was evidently the case at the birth of Mofes, who was him-. self saved in an extraordinary manner from being drowned, in consequence of an or- , der to throw every male child of the If. raelites into the river, and he was eighty years old when he received his commission to effect their deliverance. It is probable, therefore, that they had been enslaved, and oppressed, in various forms, about a hundred years, though the order for the destruction of the male children had been withdrawn.
During this period of extreme oppression it is probable that the Israelites had in general ceased to worship the God of their fathers, and had conformed to the superstitions of their masters, which they would do the more readily from seeing the very flourishing state they were in, and their
own abject condition. For, in all the early ages of the world, outward prosperity was considered as the consequence of the public religion of any people; and the better condițion of any nation with respect to any other, as a proof of the superiority of the gods they worshipped.
God had informed Abraham, that his posterity would be in bondage in Egypt; but that after four hundred years (reckpning, as it appears, from the time of the prediction) they would be delivered, and become a great nation. This promise, however, they seem to have forgotten, or to have lost all faith in. Moses himself had abandoned his countrymen, and had been forty years resident in Arabia, where he had married a wife, so that it is pro þable he had no expectation of any thing very flattering being reserved for his națion. He had even neglected the rite of circumcision, which was the peculiar symbol of the divine promise to the descendants of Abraham, For it was only in conse: quence of the interposition of an angel, or some fupernatural appearance, that he was compelled to perform this rite on his fon, on his return to Egypt.
In this situation of things there did not appear to be any prospect of relief from this state of bondage. And, alarmed as the Egyptians were at the increase of the Ilraelites, it may be taken for granted that the use of arms was strictly forbidden them, while their masters appear to have been the most warlike people in that age of the world; having not only an armed infantry, but multitudes of horses and chariots for war.
Supposing the Israelites to have been fo. oppressed as to be driven to despair, and to have come to a determination to aban, don the country at all events, it is probable that they would have fought some place of retreat, where they were likely to meet with the least resistance, either from the country being thinly inhabited, or inhabited by an unwarlike people. But instead of this, they not only emancipate themselves, but take possession of a country inhabited by the most warlike people in the world next to their masters, if they were