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less have carried it on in the manner, by which we see it at last completed. For the process was oftentimes contrary to human prudence, though consonant to divine wisdom. My meaning is, that the Israelites in their progress to Canaan were led into scenes of distress, in which no person, who had the charge of them, would have permitted them to have been engaged. No leader in his senses would have suffered those difficulties and embarrassments to have arisen, into which the people were at times plunged; and when they were brought into these straits, no human power was adequate to free them from the danger. In short, through the whole process of the history every step seems contrary to what human foresight and common experience would have permitted to take place. But I speak only in respect to man. With God it was far otherwise. He can raise, and he can depress; he can kill, and he can make alive. If he led the people into difficulties and dangers, he could remedy those difficulties; and free them from those dangers. ' For my thoughts, says the Almighty, are not your thoughts: neither are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the
Isaiah viii. 9.
earth, so are my ways higher than your ways; and my thoughts than your thoughts. It therefore seemed good to divine wisdom to bring the Israelites into perils of various kinds, from whence there seemed no opening for escape; no subterfuge, which could avail them. And this was done, that they might manifestly see, that their safety was not effected by any human means: but that it was a far higher power, which both conducted and preserved them. Upon these principles I purpose to shew, that the authority by which Moses. acted was of divine appointment; and his mission immediately from God. And my chief reason I bring within this small compass ---because no man, of common prudence, would have acted as Moses did, unless directed by a superior influence.
A person who was of great eminence in the church, and of knowledge equal to his high station, took a different method to ascertain the same truth. He observed, that in all civilized counties the legislators had introduced future rewards and punishments as a sanction to their laws. But nothing of this sort is to be found in the laws of Moses. They were therefore of divine original; for he would
have availed himself of the same advantage, had he been the real institutor and compiler, Upon this basis he founded his system; and in every stage of it are marks of that genius, and acuteness, which distinguish his writings. But as he has not barred any other openings, which may offer, towards the prosecuting of the same views, 1 shall take the liberty to proceed upon a different principle; and make my inferences, not from what was omitted, but what was done. It will be my endeavour, as I before mentioned, to shew, that the great lawgiver and leader of the Israelites, in numberless instances, acted contrary to common prudence; and that the means used seemed inadequate, and oftentimes opposite, to the end proposed. Hence the great events which ensued, were brought about not only without any apparent probability, but even possibility, of their succeeding by human means.
Of the birth of MOSES, and his wonderful Preservation: also the Servitude of the ISRAELITES in Egypt.
In order more clearly to disclose my purpose, it will be proper to consider the history
of Moses from the beginning; and the situation of the Israelites in his time. He was the son of Amram, of the tribe of Levi: and born about one hundred and three years after the death of Joseph, and a hundred and seventyfive from the first descent of the Israelites into Egypt. At this season there had arisen a king who did not acknowledge any obligations to this people; nor to the memory of the person through whom they had been introduced. into that country. He conceived the same cruel policy against the Israelites, which the Lacedemonians practised against their unfortunate Helots. This was to oppress them with the most severe bondage; and, as they increased in number, to cut them off, lest they should prove dangerous to the state.
Come on, said the prince, let us deal wisely with them: lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. Exod. i. 10.
Ver. 11. Therefore they did set over them task-masters, to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure-cities, Pithom
V. 12. But the more they afflicted them, the
more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.
V. 13. And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour.
V. 14. And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.
The Israelites are represented as a refractory and stiff-necked people; whom God chose not on their own account, but for the sake of their fathers, to be the keepers of his oracles, and to preserve his name. For this purpose they were to be brought out of Egypt. But they were so pleased with their situation, and habituated to the customs of the Egyptians, that, without these severities, neither the importunities of Moses, nor the display of miracles, which they experienced, would have induced them to quit the country. Even when they were upon their progress to the land of Canaan, they often looked back with too much satisfaction upon the fruits and plenty of Egypt. This weakness and partiality brought on an irreverence towards the God of their fathers, which could not be remedied but by the severe discipline which they experienced and