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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 : knowest thou not yet, that Egypt is destroyed ? 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 pieasant to the sight and good for food, and in the midst of it was the tree of hite; but Osad 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 leit !" What makes earth resemble heaven ; and men like angels? The presence, the blessing, and the image of God! What once covered the earth with water, and shall at length destroy it by fire ? Whæt 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 wisdom, 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 existence, 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 come ? 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, 6 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, so bis
justice is a capacious quiver, stored with innumerable poisoned arrows, to shed the blood, to drink up the spirits of his adversaries. Think, in how many parts art thou vulnerable ? In every particle of thy frame, in every faculty of thy soul. Every sense opens a passage for the entrance of an avenging God. The understanding at his command, expands to the dreadful perception of justice that will not bend; of severity that knows not to relax ; of vengeance that admits not of pity. Memory, roused by that trumpet which awakes the dead, gives new form and substance to the hideous spectres of transgressions long since departed, and which were vainly imagined to be laid in the grave forever ; and the guilty wretch is dragged to the bitter recollection of what he once dwelt on with unhallowed delight, and now would fain bury in eternal oblivion; or which he gladly would, at the price of worlds, redeem from the history of his wretched life. As memory, to fulfil the righteous judgment of God, can readily summon up all that is past, in order to awaken remorse, and inspire terror: so fear launches forth into the boundless, endless regions of futurity, and rouses despair ; and in the very abysses of burning hell, shudders at the thought of a deeper gulph, and of a hotter flame. Read, O sinner, the history of the plagues of Egypt, and tremble ! Suppose, for a moment, the cup wherewith thou art ready to quench thy burning thirst, instantly turned into blood, to the loathing of thy soul and thy flesh. Suppose thy body struck with an universal leprosy, or the dust under thy feet quickened into abominable virmin: the air around thy head impregnated with swarms of noisome insects; thy sun extinguished for three tedious lingering days, and the thunder of an angry God rolling over thy guilty, devoted habitation; and suppose all this to be but the beginning of sorrow; the mere threatenings of wrath to come ; woe that may be endured, torment that may expire : for ah ! from yonder fearful pit arises the smoke of a fire that shall not be quenched ; smoke that shall ascend forever and ever. I hear groans bursting from the bosom of despair ; and the rattling of everlasting adamantine chains. Behold the wild looks, the agonizing pangs of that poor rich man, when, from the flames of his torment, he beholds Lazarus in Abraham's bosom: when he beholds heaven removed to an inaccessible distance : heaven disjoined by an unpassable gulph. Heaven, the rest of the weary, and the reward of the faithful, affords to him a momentary glimpse of its joys, only to embitter remorse, only to pierce the soul with keener pangs, and to heat the furnace seven times hotter than it was before. “ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
After serious reflection upon these things, our second observation would seem ill founded, and destitute of all probability and truth, did not all history, and daily experience confirm the woeful certainty of it. It is this : that by frequent iudulgence, and inveterate habits of sin, the heart may at length become quite callous; may be rendered equally insensible to the calls of mercy, and the alarms of justice. We are struck with astonishment, at the sight of a poor, infatuated wretch like Pharaoh, repeatedly braving that power which returned to crush and humble him, and slighting that grace which as often relented and afforded space and means for repentance. Would to God there were room to think the representation more unnatural than it is, and that the character of Pharaoh were a rarity in the world. But alas ! what is the life of most men, but an habitual fighting against God? Upon whom falls the weight of our remark? Upon a few thoughtless, hardened wretches only, who have found out the secret of lulling conscience to rest ; who, having conquered the sense of fear and of shame, commit iniquity with greediness; who “ hide not their sin, like Sodom, but publish it like Gomorrah ?" Let us not deceive ourselves, but watch over our own hearts, and “ exhort one another daily, lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." " There stands
Pharaoh, the daring, the presumptuous sinner: whom goodness could not mollify, nor judgments subdue; and let him who is without sin cast the first stone at him. Who can flatter himself with the thought, that the errors of his life were the mere inadvertencies of haste and inattention ? Who can say of himself, “ This fault I corrected, as soon as I discovered it ? Having been once made sensible of the danger and wickedness of that sinful course, I instantly forsook it, and have returned to it ne Smarting from the effects of my folly, I have never again dared to provoke the lash of my Father's chastening rod. The resolutions which I made in the day of sickness, and sorrow, and calamity, I have faithfully remembered, and diligently kept. Vows made at the Lord's table, I have made conscience to perform. The threatenings of God's word I have not disregarded; the longsuffering of my God I have not abused." Alas! alas! the reverse of all this is the truth which condemns every one. Not a single, but repeated acts of intemperance, injustice, impurity, impiety; not casual and undesigned expressions, but deliberate and indulged habits of falsehood, malevolence, selfishness and uncharitableness, place us as criminals at the bar, by the side of Pharaoh, and forbid us to condemn him, because we also have sinned. What avails it me to say, that my offence is not the same with his ? Perhaps I had neither power, nor inclination, nor opportunity, for committing that man's transgression. Have I therefore washed my hands in innocence ? Can I therefore plead, “not guilty ?" The great question is, Have I kept myself free from mine own transgression ? And, spared of God to inake the inquiry—let Pharaoh's impenitence, and Pharaoh's doom, awaken us to a sense of our danger; and urge a speedy flight from the wrath that is to come.
Thirdly, this history leads us to remark the great difference between the slow, reluctant, partial submission of fear, and the prompt, cheerful and unreserved compliance of a grateful and affectionate heart. Pharaoh, like a sullen, sturdy slave will not move a step, till stimulated by a fresh application of 'the whip; the moment that the pain of the stripe ceases, he stands still, or turns back. The first summons is treated by him with insolence and scorn ; and he resolves that Israel shall not have a single moment's relaxation from their burthens. Brought to himself by a few strokes of the rod of God's anger, he yields a tardy consent to the intermission of their labours for a little while, and to their doing sacrifice to their God: but it must be " in the land where they dwelt, even in Egypt.” That alternative being rejected, and a new demand made, backed with a new threatening, and followed with a new plague, he agrees to permit the male part of Israel, who were arrived at man's estate, to resort to the place appointed ; but he is determined to detain their wives, children and cattle as hostages for their return. Constrained, at length, by dint of judgments, to let the whole congregation depart, he endeavours to stipulate, that they should not go very far off; and not till broken by the last dreadful plague, can he be brought to resign his usurped authority over the freeborn sons of God.
We often find men pretending to make a merit of giving up what it is no longer in their power to retain. After a man has squandered away his means, in riot and extravagance, deserves he praise for living sparingly? Another has ruined his constitution by intemperance; is his forced continence an object of admiration ? By no means. He has discontinued his debaucheries through disability, not from inclination and conviction of his error. has debilitated a third ! is he therefore virtuous ? No, no : his vices have forsaken him, not he his vices. When a man serves through fear, he does no more than he needs must; but love is liberal and generous, and stands not questioning, "yea hath God said ?" but, ever on the watch, ever on the wing,
the moment that the voice of God is heard, it is ready to reply, " Here am I, Lord, send me.” This leads me to remark,
Fourthly, The wisdom of giving up, at the command of God, with alacrity what we must give up at last, whether we will or
What a pitiful figure does Pharaoh make in the end! baffled in every attempt, driven out of every fortress, dishonoured in the eyes of his own servants, transmitted to latest posterity a monument of pride and impotence. Were not the proud man blind and infatuated, he would yield through self-love ; he would submit to preserve his own consequence, at least the appearance of it. Unhappily for us, our will stands but too often in opposition to the will of God. When they come to clash, who ought in reason to give way? Who must of necessity submit? Knowest thou not, O man, that to destroy thyself, thou needest but to follow thy own headstrong inclination : knowest thou not, that the gratification, not the disappointment of illicit desire, is ruinous ? But who ever made a sacrifice of inclination to duty, and had reason to repent of it? Who knows not, that to yield submission is to obtain a triumph? In a contention where there is a probability, or even a possibility of our prevailing, it may be worth while to risk a combat; but who, except a madman, will seek to encounter a foe by whom he is sure to be defeated ? And yet, in that mad, that ruinous strife, see how many are engaged ! Behold the stars in their courses ranged on the part of their Creator ; behold all nature standing in arms to espouse his cause; and who must be overcome? Against whom is this formidable preparation made ? There stands the enemy, in all his weakness and folly; a crawling worm on a dunghill provoking his fate, tampering with eternal ruin, hardening himself against God, and yet thinking to prosper. The influence of no malignant star is necessary to blast him; there is a necessity for no earthquake to swallow him up: no archangel armed with a sword of fire, need descend to cut him asunder : his breath is in his own nostrils; he is sinking into his dust; his own ridiculous efforts are wasting and consuming him. Foolish creature and unwise! why wilt thou contend longer? ? Wherefore shouldst thou be stricken any more?” Constrain not him to be thy foe who has towards thee the disposition of the best of friends, and who is mighty to save, even “ to the uttermost, them that come unto him."
Fifthly, In the course of these dreadful plagues, we observe, not only the pride of man effectually humbled, but the power of Satan trampled in the dust, under the feet of the Most High. It is highly interesting to observe, by what gradual steps the enemy and the avenger is laid low, till he is at length destroyed. Presumption, at first, induces him, in confidence of a permitted power, to enter the lists and to try his strength with God. Aaron's rod is turned into a serpent. The magicians attempt the same, and succeed. Their rods also become serpents. But Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods. BY and by the water of the river is turned into blood, and the fishes die. The magicians, by their enchantments, madly assist the plague, and acquire a little transitory reputation, by doing mischief. Flushed with this farther success, they go on to imitate the miracles of Moses and Aaron ; but, to their confusion, they fail there, where it seemed most probable that they should with greatest ease support their fame. That loathsome vermin, lice, is to be produced miraculously, which slovenliness and filth naturally produce without any effort. At the word of Moses the dust of the land is transformed into this noisome, nauseous insect. But the whole power of hell cannot effect, at the time, and in the manner which it would, what time and carelessness alone, in the usual course of things, would certainly have produced : and they feel themselves attacked with a plague which their art could not bring upon others. Finally, after having become the subjects of a miraculous calamity which might be borne, they are at length attacked with one absolutely intolerable,