« EdellinenJatka »
adopt the language, the ideas, and the prejudices of the vulgar; and, that it employs, not the accurate language and just ideas of philosophy, but those of common life, in treating the greatest and most important subjects. We thence conclude, that whether the enchantments of the magicians produced real miracles, or were deceptions merely, the Spirit of God would certainly have narrated the fact in the selfsame terms. From the letter of the sacred history, therefore, we can draw no conclusive argument for either side of the ques
We shall have equal reason to suspend our judgment, if we try, secondly, to decide it by the relations transmitted to us, from various ages and regions of the world, concerning real or seeming enchantments. It would, perhaps, be as difficult to persuade the men of our own age, that such a thing as witchcraft ever existed, as it would have been, to convince our ancestors in some former ages, that most of the effects ascribed to Satan and his agents, had no foundation but in the cunning, dexterity and knavery of one part of mankind practising on the ignorance, credulity and simplicity of another. But, as it would betray a silly and ridiculous easiness of belief, on the one hand, to admit as true, the ten thousand stories, which the times of ignorance devised, related and believed ; and with which our own childhood may have been scared and alarmed: so, it would certainly be an unreasonable and absurd degree of scepticism, on the other, lo reject as fabulous every relation of this sort, however well authenticated. Wise and good men have proved, by arguiments amounting almost to demonstration, the absurdity of admitting the actual interference of a diabolical power in order to deceive mankind. And wise and good men, by evidence apparently as clear and satisfactory, have endeavoured to establish the certainty of such interference in particular instances. And this seems a good reason against pronouncing hastily upon the nature of the sorceries practised by the magicians of Egypt.
We shall find ourselves equally in the dark, if we attempt to form our judgment, in the third place, on metaphysical notions. Our minds are exceedingly limited with respect to all objects, and particularly with respect to the nature of spirits. We know, from experience, that the soul, little as it comprehends its own nature and essence, has a wonderful influence over every particle of that body to which it is united: but we can form no notion of the power and influence, which spirits of a different order may possess over larger portions of matter, and even over our bodies, and, of consequence, over our minds. Much less are we able to conceive what an extent of power the Father of spirits may for wise purposes, have permitted to evil spirits, over the whole world of nature, which has fallen into disorder, and is labouring under the curse of Heaven, on account of man's apostacy. The limited nature of human understanding, therefore, likewise forbids us to decide too peremptorily on a subject so obviously involved in difficulty.
Finally, the principles of religion here refuse to lend us their aid. In whatever tends to convey saving light to the soul, or peace to the conscience ; in all that relates to the government of the heart, or the wise conduct of the life, religion is ever at hand, and kindly offers her aid, nay, presses it upon us; but, in questions of doubtful disputation, in which men rather aim at gratifying a restless curiosity, or wild imagination, than at improving the understanding, or mending the heart, revelation rather checks and represses inquiry, than promises or lends her assistance. It is sufficient then, for our purpose, to say, that of whatever nature were the incantations of the Egyptian magicians, and whatever their effects, the God of truth, by the hand of Moses and Aaron, put his infinite superiority beyond a possibility of doubt ; and extorted an acknowledgment of it from the mouths of the magicians themselves. But though they are put to silence, and Pharaoh is confounded, by the miracle of Aaron's rod swallowing up their rods, yet they are not brought to see the insufficiency of their art, neither is he yet reduced to yield obedience to an authority asserted by so high a hand. A miracle, therefore, which only threatened, but continued harmless ; a miracle which proved tatal only to the instruments of sorcery and enchantment, failing to produce compliance, it becomes at length necessary to follow up the remonstrances of reason and humanity and the evidence of signs, powerful indeed, yet innocent, by the operation of signs that shall be felt : signs, which shall address themselves to the understanding, and the senses, at once : and shall force conviction upon the most careless and incredulous.
The river, the Nile, was the chief ground of glorifying to the Egyptians. It was the ornament of their country, and the source of its fertility. Deriving the moisture, necessary to fructification, from thence, they vainly boasted that they were independent of the heavens; standing in no need, like the rest of the world of the refreshing drops which fall from thence. Egypt, therefore, is first smitten, in the darling source of its pride; and that which presumptuously put itself in the place of God, first feels the power of God; and becomes, not a cause of vainglorious boasting, but a loathing and an abomination to its worshippers. Smitten with the awful rod, its waters are instantly and universally turned into blood. Horrid change : an inundation of the river too scanty, threatened a famine : an inundation too copious, threatened a deluge. But, О dreadful reflection! the river no longer flows with that precious refreshing fluid, which gives drink and renewed vigour to thirsty man, to thirsty cattle, to the parched ground ; but a fluid which taints the air; which excites abhorrence, instead of satisfying the appetite ; and which kills what it contains, instead of communicating life and fruitfulness wherever it is diffused. And should it rise and swell, what is it ? An abominable deluge of blood. Its streams had been often stained with the blood of Hebrew innocents; and its savage master is now punished with seeing its vast channel filled, from shore to shore, with one crimson tide. In this awful glass we are made to see, that whatsoever men exalt into the room of God, and worship as God, will sooner or later become a loathing or a curse to thein; and that the instrument of their sin assuredly will be converted, at length, into the instrument of their punishment.
"And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments.” Foolish, unhappy men ; to try to increase an evil which was already intolerable! If their art could have done any thing, it had been more wisely employed in endeavouring to purify and sweeten those polluted streams. To succeed in multiplying blood was ruinous. The greater the power of their art, the more pernicious it was to themselves and to their country. And this is the whole extent of the boasted power of Satan : it is a power to do evil, a power to destroy: but a power destitute both of capacity and of inclination to do good. Whereas that of Heaven, though it be an ability to do evil, is an ability to this effect, which it exercises rarely, and with reluctance : whereas the doing of good, and the diffusing of happiness, is its habitual object, and its constant employment.- Vain man would be independent, and sometimes boast that he is so; and yet, what is he? A creature sustained by bread, and refreshed by water ; he lives by respiring the air which he sucks in; he depends, every instant of his existence, on the aid of every element. Let the quantity or the qualities of any one of them be ever so little changed, and that moment he becomes miserable. One rainy or droughty season makes whole nations to languish ; the frost of a night destroys the hope of a year; and a single blast of wind sends mighty navies to the bottom. There is no need of a miracle to plague those whom God means to punish. All nature is at war with his adversaries: the stars, in their courses, fight against those who fight with God. O may we never be so mad as to provoke that Power by which we are continually supported, and from which we cannot fee!
After a chastisement so awful, who could have imagined that Pharaoh was able still to stand out ? But the human heart exhibits a mystery of iniquity, which nothing but miltiplied experience could render credible. The next summons has a threatening annexed to it; and the moment of refusal is to be the moment of execution. The plague threatened, being particularly specified beforehand, was likely to excite the greater alarm, and thereby to drive the offender to the means of prevention ; but, it would appear, Pharaoh despised it. What, terrified at a swarm of frogs ! vermin, loathsome indeed, but despicably harmless. How ignorantly do men estimate the judgments of God, when they consider only the instrument wbich he employs. Men effect little with large and abundant means; God performs wonders with things mean and contemptible. Is a haughty tyrant to be subdued ? There is no need of more than twelve legions of angels ; an army of frogs, in the hand of God, is sufficient for the purpose. Again the magicians are weak enough to assist the plague ; at least, they affect to lend their aid; and rather than not be thought mighty, will seek to themselves a name by doing mischief. Again the river, which ministered so much to their pride, is made the minister of avenging Heaven to punish them. As its waters were lately all blood, to poison the fishes which it contained, and to taint the air, so now they are all putrefaction, to give dreadful life to an innumerable race of odious vermin, for humbling the proud. Every creature is, and does, just that which God would have it to be, and to do--it becomes either a blessing or a curse, at his command! And, were we wise enough, to assist our weak, or to correct our erroneous vision, by the optics of the sanctuary, we should behold, under many a fair and flattering foun, much loathsomeness and deformity.
Pharaoh despised this plague, while it was only threatened, but feels it to be no slight one, when it falls upon him: and he is, in this respect, the image of many a thoughtless sinner, who tritle with the judgments denounced in the word of God, ull bitter experience teaches them, that every arrow from the quiver of the Alpighty is both penetrating and poisonous. The proud heart which refused to bend, at length begins to break ; and a slow, lingering, partial, reluctant consent is given to the demand of Heaven; and permission is granted to the people, to go, “ that they may do sacrifice unto the Lord."--The concession, slight as it is, procures a respite, Mercy, ever on the wing, flies to succour the miserable.
We have seen Moses and Aaron executing the judgments of avenging Heaven, by the agency of a rod. Christ himself is the powerful word, by which God made and sustains worlds; the all potent instrument to save, and to destroy. “With righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity, for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.” Moses acted by a delegated power : Jesus has all power in himself. “Moses verily was faithful in all his house as a servant: but Christ as a son over his own house.” The same Moses was the deliverer of Israel, and the scourge of Egypt: the same Jesus, who is the author of eternal salvation to them that believe, “ shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire : taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “All judgment is committed to the Son.", “ He shall reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet." - The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”
“() death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory ? Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
HISTORY OF MOSES.
EXODUS X. 7.
And Pharaoh's servants said unto him, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? Let the men
go, that they may serve the Lord their God i knowest thou not yet, that Egypt is desiroyed ?
How very different an appearance do objects wear, according as they are beautified and exalted by the favour of Heaven, or blasted and disfigured by the curse of an offended God! Eden, before man's apostacy, Eden, fresh planted, by the sovereign hand of the Creator, containing every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, and in the midst of it was the tree of lite; but o sad reverse, the fatal effect of transgression ! " Cursed is the ground for thy sake; thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee;" and the tree of life is removed to happier regions, or guarded from guilty man's approach, by the flaming swords of the cherubim. The plain of Jordan, well watered every where, and beautiful as the garden of the Lord, delighted the eyes, and allured the heart of Lot, when he separated himself from his uncle Abraham. But O how awfully changed that once delicious spot! The day when Lot went out of it, “ Abraham looked towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and towards all the land of the plain, and beheld, and lo, the smoke of the country went up, as the smoke of a furnace.” What a charming prospect did Egypt present in the days of her glory? Her fertile surface, covered with the silver flux of her stately, overflowing river, except where thousands of populous cities lifted up their proud heads to the skies ; or, when the river retreated, her golden, luxuriant harvests waving with the fragrant wind. How changed the scene, when the Nile ran, not water, but blood : after the murrain had destroyed all their cattle ; after the lightning and the hail had blasted every tree, had devoured every herb, and the “ locusts had consumed what the hail had left!" What makes earth resemble heaven; and men like angels? The presence, the blessing, and the image of Gop! What once covo ered the earth with water, and shall at length destroy it by fire ? What sinks men to the level of diabolical, damned spirits, and adds tenfold horror to gloomy hell ? The wrath of the Almighty, and the deprivation of his glorious similitude. Nature sinks under the description and the denunciation of the divine displeasure. What must it be to endure its dreadful effects, without intermission, and without end !
Instead of going into a particular detail of the subsequent plagues wherewith God afflicted Egypt, we shall suggest a few historical and practical re marks upon the subject in general, serving to unfold the windings and the workings of the human heart, to illustrate and vindicate the ways of Providence, to expose the madness of striving against God, and to display the wis
dom, the safety and the happiness of submitting readily, cheerfully and universally to the divine authority.
And, first. We observe, that as God has many inconceivable methods of doing good to men; so his power of punishing is unlimited, and the treasures of his wrath are far beyond what fear itself, which magnifies every object, can fancy. Of his glorious capacity and disposition to bless mankind, who has not enjoyed the sweetest, and frequently repeated experience ? Whose life is so short, as not to contain a history of benefits, a display of mercy, a profusion of loving kindness, which astonish while they delight ? Whose portion of felicity is so scanty, as not to exhibit wonders of goodness infinitely above the desert of angels ? What understanding is so brutish, what heart so ungrateful, as not to recur, at the first call, to a multitude of special blessings, pressing upon the memory, urging prior or superiour claims of acknowledgement and praise? Need you to be told, ungrateful, forgetful children of men ! Need you to be told, the value of an uninterrupted and steady course of good health ; or of the more sensible benefit of recovery from sickness and pain? Shall I send you back to years that are long past, or recall yesterday to your recollection ? Shall I remind you of that common bounty which gives you, day by day your daily bread ; or of that singular, shall I say miraculous, interposition, which seemed to drop down manna around your tabernacle ? Must all ages, and nations, and regions of the world be made to pass in review before your eyes ; or will you contine your observation to your own moment of existerice, your own handbreadth of space, your own two or three acquaintances and contemporaries, your own pittance of knowledge ? Shall the glories of nature, or the wonders of Providence, be unfolded to your view ! Will you contemplate the fatness and fragrancy of the fertile earth, or the vastness and brilliancy of the azure vault of heaven? Will you confine yourselves to things seen and temporal : or borne as on the eagle's wing, contemplate things which are unseen and eternal ? Will you converse with your fellow mortals on the surface of this molehill, or join in the songs and raptures of angels, who surround the throne, and of the spirits of just men made perfect, immortal intelligences, perfectly awake to the full perception of their blessedness? Choose you to dwell on the transitory comforts of the life that now is, or to anticipate the joys substantial, sincere and lasting, of that which is to coine? Creation spreads her fair, her ample, her splendid page to the delighted eye. The mysterious volume, sealed to the careless reader as with seven seals, to the serious and attentive soul unveils the hidden wisdom of God, and, written with a sunbeam, there stands recorded the gracious purpose of Him who “ worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."
Wouldst thou be satisfied, O man, that the great God has means innumerable, unutterable, incomprehensible, of conferring happiness on mankind ! Think, O think, how he has loved the world, in the redemption of it by CHRIST Jesus! Think how many demonstrations of grace meet in that one, “ GOD spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all!” And when you have ruminated, and ruminated on the history of redeeming love! when you have recovered from the astonishment and joy of contemplating what God has done for you, lose yourself afresh in the prospect of what the LORD hath laid up for the heirs of salvation-in the prospect of that great, exceeding and “eternal weight of glory," " which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, and of which it hath not entered into the heart of man" to form any adequate conception or idea! Fly, O my soul, whithersoever thou wilt; settle wherever thou wilt, infinite goodness still supports thy flight, and settle thou must on the rock of ages at last.
But, ah! my friends, this God, almighty to save, is also mighty to destroy. As his bounty is an inexhausted source of plenty to bless his friends, $0 bis