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of ease and retirement, and bidden adieu to his connections of very long standing, he arrived with his staff in his hand like a pilgrim in Egypt. He had here two difficulties to encounter. The first was to get together some hundreds of thousands of people, who were scattered over the face of the country, and then to persuade them to follow him to Canaan. This was a real difficulty, as it could not be easy to collect them, much less to gain their confidence. Some of the tribe of Ephraim had upon a time made an invasion upon the land of Canaan, but were cut off by the natives of Gath. 1 Chron. ch. vii. ver, 21. This could not afford any encouragement to the remaining Israelites to undertake an expedition against the people of that country. The next difficulty was to get access to the prince who reigned; and beg, or demand, the dismission of so many useful subjects. Moses was quite a stranger at the Egyptian court, and not gifted with the powers of persuasion; and at the same time in character no better
than a Midianitish shepherd.. What plea could he use, or what art employ, which could in the least favour his purpose? All that he
I Exodus v. 12.
could say upon the occasion was, that he was a prophet of the Lord, the God of the Hebrews; and that he desired in his name to carry the people collectively, old and young, to sacrifice in the wilderness. But this would prove but a weak plea, when not supported by some sign, to shew that it had the sanction of divine authority. What answer could be expected from a monarch upon such an occasion? Even the same which was really given. Exod. ch. v. ver. 2. Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go. Get ye unto your burdens. And what was the consequence ?---An imposition of double duty. V. 9. Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein: and let them not regard vain words. They were in consequence of this to make bricks without the requisites, being denied straw. V. 12. So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt, to gather stubble instead of Yet the same tale of bricks was demanded. This was enough to make the people detest the name of Moses. It must have ruined him in their opinion, and defeated all his views; for the people, whom he wanted
to collect, were separated more than ever. Their disaffection may be learned from their words, when Moses had delivered his message. And they met Moses and Aaron, who stood in the way as they came forth from Pharaoh.
And they said unto them, The Lord look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hands to slay us. Exod. v. 20, 21.
Thus we see from the wonderful texture of this history, that the deliverance of the Israelites could not be effected without the divine interposition. For these were difficulties, which neither the wisdom nor ability of men could remedy. Yet they were remedied; but it was by a far superior power. It was by God himself, who suffered his people to be in this perplexity and distress, that they might wish for deliverance, and be ready to obey. Accordingly when, upon the display of his wonders, they acknowledged the hand of the Almighty, and proffered their obedience to his prophet, they were delivered by him from. those evils, from which no power on earth could have freed them. Thus we see, that the same mode of acting may be wisdom in God, and folly in man.
But it may be said, that these supposed miracles were casual and fortunate events, of which Moses availed himself to soothe his brethren and alarm the superstition of the king. In truth, they are occurrences so interwoven with the history, and of such consequence, that it is not possible to set them aside. That they happened, either as casual prodigies or artful illusions, must even by the sceptic be allowed. But they came too quick upon one another, and at the same time, as I have shewn, were too apposite in their purport, and too well adapted, to be the effect of, chance; and as they were contrary to all experience, and wonderful in their consequences, they could not have been produced in the common course of nature, much less by human contrivance. The Egyptians were a very knowing people; and though Moses was well instructed in all their learning, yet it cannot be supposed that he could blind their whole court, and deceive their wise men. The secret design and purport of the operations shews that they could not be illusions. The
last extraordinary occurrence was the death of the first-born, and the destroying angel passing over the dwellings of the Israelites, who were preserved. There was a rite ordained as a memorial of this event, and as a type of a greater, which happened many ages afterwards. The reference is of the utmost consequence, and too plain to be mistaken. But this rite was instituted before the judgment took place. It was observed immediately upon the spot, and is continued to this day, and cannot be contradicted. And though the purport of this ordinance is too plain to be mistaken now, yet it was a secret of old. There was a latent meaning and allusion, to which we have reason to think that Moses himself was a stranger. He therefore could not be the original institutor and designer, who knew not the design. Thus, I think, the history may be made to prove the miracles. In short, if he did know the secret purport, it must have been by inspiration; and this would prove, that he was under divine influence, and had his commission from God; the very thing we contend for..