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your own sins, it hath, probably, made you hate the Most High, his cause, and his people, more than you did before you heard it. What a dreadful thing, that you
should be able to hear Sermon after Sermon, ever hard and insensible; or if you were moved somewhat at first, that you should have gotten the better of your qualms of conscience! In that case you are fast advancing to the state of those, whose consciences are seared as with a hot iron. You used to feel remorse on account of such sins as you know to be grievous and horrible; and sometimes to make faint efforts to amend. But now you can practise them daily, and hear of eternal ruin, the certain consequence of living and dying in them, and be not at all affected. That indignation, which used to turn, in some measure, against yourself for practising sin, is now turned against God. You inwardly dislike his laws more than ever; you hate his people whose contrary practice rebukes yours, and you treat them as Ahab did Elijah. “ Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” Hence you love to vex and torment them if you can, as Pharaoh did Israel; and if you hear a story tending to their reproach, you are pleased, for the opportunity it gives you of glorying over them.
We find afterwards, in the seventh Chapter, that Moses and Aaron deliver the same message again to Pharaoh accompanied with miracles : but, he regards them not. The river is turned to blood;" but he is hardened still. The next plague is that of the frogs ; but still he refuses to be humbled before the Most High. Let us inquire here what were the specious reasons that induced Pharaoh
still to hold out against the God of Israel. His Magicians turn rods into serpents, water into blood, and bring up frogs on the land of Egypt. Poor comfort one would think this, since they could add to his evils, without being able to remove one of them by the help of their enchantments. But the credit of the false gods of Egypt was now at stake; and Satan, it seems, was permitted to assist his agents, the Magicians, that the power of Jehovah, in the end, might be more fully manifested.
There is no way in which Satan more prevails, to discredit divine truth, than by these counterfeit works. At this day, wherever a real work of divine grace is carrying on, there Satan busies himself to set up some counterfeit, which, to superficial observers, carries the appearance of a real work of grace also. And, when this counterfeit work is laid open in its folly, its wickedness, and its hypocrisy, then cry the men of the world, 6. You see what these pretenders to religion are, they are all alike.” Men soon persuade themselves to believe that which they wish. The real finger of God in the conversion of sinners they will not acknowledge. Any trifling argument serves as a specious pretence to justify their unbelief. Tell them of the holiness of the true disciples of Christ :—they can show, as they would persuade themselves, better men among those who do not hold such and such doctrines. Let them suffer affliction :-They will not look on it as a visitation of the Most High, speaking to them to turn to him, lest they perish : It might be
a chance that befel us," say they, with the Philistines of old, when they suffered on account of the ark of God: If it were otherwise, why did not such persons suffer who are as bad as we; and why
; did such persons suffer also, who yet seem to be very religious ? The whole tendency of their reasoning is to cast God out of their system of thinking and acting: for “the ungodly is so proud, that he careth not for God, neither is God in all his thoughts.”
But we are apt to think it is a pity, that such and such stumbling blocks, of a hardening tendency, should have been laid in the wicked man's
If they were removed, he might judge better, and see the glory of the Lord, and humble himself before him. I believe not. These stumbling blocks are not really the cause, that the man continues impenitent and unbelieving; they serve him indeed as OCCASIONS, at present, of maintaining himself in his wickedness; but the root lies deeper in the heart that " is enmity against God.” Let these stumbling blocks be taken away; Pharaoh, and every natural man, will find or make others : or without any reason at all will still be obstinately bent against God, from positive depravity of heart. An infinite power only can cast down the strong holds of sin. Without that, sinners, when beat from one hold, will only to another : and their heart will be steady in the interest of sin.
The very thing, which you would think should have cured Pharaoh of his unbelief and impenitence, is granted. The next plague is that of the lice, and “the Magicians did so with their enchantments, to bring forth lice, but they could not. Then the Magicians said unto Pharaoh, this is the finger of God.” They yield, and own the superiority of God. Pharaoh though he has nothing to say against it, yet is hardened still in his heart, and “ hearkened not unto them, as the Lord had said," viii. 19.-I wish that instances of the same kind were not to be found among ourselves. The character of Pharaoh is not uncommon. Every unconverted man in this house is a Pharaoh. When the doctrines of the Gospel, the corruption of human nature, justification complete, from first to last by faith in Christ, and the necessity of regeneration, are set forth among us, many say, they see not, but that men, who follow not these doctrines lead as good lives as those who do. Thus they harden themselves against the Lord, as Pharaoh did, because his Magicians were permitted, in some instances, to do the same works as Moses. I may
well compare these cases, since the workings of unbelief and of hardness of heart are the same in all ages, however different the circumstances may be. When afterwards this plea can no more be made; when the superior piety and holiness of men who profess the above mentioned truths, and the evident profaneness and immorality of those who oppose them, might show which doctrines are from God, according to our Lord's rule of judging by the fruits,--then what is the consequence? Too
I fear, are still hardened as Pharaoh. Though they have nothing to say; though they cannot, dare not deny the finger of God to be with the Gospel and its peculiar doctrines, yet they will not humble themselves to receive them.
In the plague of the swarms of flies, the Lord made an evident difference between HIS people
and Pharaoh's people ; yet is Pharaoh hardened and unbelieving still. The same was the case in the murrain of beasts. The boil follows, and the hail, and the locusts. He remains the same. And are not many like Pharaoh in this? They will be afraid of judgments. When sharp affliction comes upon them, they will pray, and make some outward reformation. Let them recover from a bed. of sickness; let the impending danger be removed; and they will be harder than ever. Conversion, when real, is the giving up of the whole heart to God, without terms. While Pharaoh stands on terms, “Go sacrifice to your God in the land; only you shall not go very far away: I will not let you go and your little ones : When after being more pressed he yields to the departure of their little ones, “ Only let your flocks and your herds be stayed ;”—This is not the submission of a rebel to his Sovereign. It is as the equal talking with an equal. While we keep back any thing from God we are not sincere with him. The Lord makes no account of Pharaoh's partial surrender, -as appears from the history. He treats him as one that still refuses to humble himself before God. And, while men will treat with God, in the same manner, and give up this and that bad practice, yet keep up others that are equally heinous before God, --they are unconverted. The allowed prevalence of any one known sin is sufficient to exclude them from the character of God's children. Sin, all sin, must be renounced, even the right eye that offends must be plucked out and the right hand cut off; else the Lord will say to us, as he did to Pharaoh, “ How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me?”