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which drives them from the competition : they give up their silly arts of sorcery, and attempt to rival the true God no more. And thus, when the mystery of godliness shall be finished, an astonished world shall behold the sleight and devices of Satan falling upon his own head, his momentary triumphs covering him with more accumulated disgrace, and his infernal malice and diabolical craft made ministering servants to the wisdom and goodness of God. A good reason, among many others, why we should judge nothing rashly before the time till the Lord cometh, who shall bring light out of obscurity, and fully vindicate his ways to men.
Sixthly, We observe how unlike the latter ends of things are to their beginnings. The world laughs at the idea of two feeble old men, issuing forth from a desert, the patrons of liberty; to force a mighty prince, and a powerful nation, to listen to the dictates of justice and humaniy, and to liberate a million of wretched creatures, whose spirits were totally broken by their miseries, and who seemed to have lost even the inclination of vindicating their own rights. Pharaoh despised them; the magicians defied them; Israel distrusted them; they themselves are ready to sink under the difficulty and danger of the enterprise. But, conducted of Heaven, they attempt, they proceed, they prosper, they overcome. They invade Egypt, iwo solitary, unsupported individuals! They leave it at the head of six hundred thousand men, fit to bear arms, with a corresponding number of females, besides old men and children, and a mixed multitude of non-descript persons; bidding defiance to the whole force of a wise and populous, and warlike country. And we see them in the course of a few years taking forcible possession of one of the strongest, most impracticable and best defended countries in the world.
I need but hint to you the counterpart of this. Behold the unconnected son of a carpenter, at the head of twelve simple, illiterate fishermen, attacking the religious establishments of the whole globe, and prevailing. Behold him, armed with a few plain facts, and a few doctrines as plain, overturning the whole fabric of heathen mythology and worship; ingrafting on the stock of Moses, and the legal dispensation, a scion from a nobler root; which has swallowed
the parent tree, has filled the earth with its branches, is feeding the nations to this day with its fruit, and is likely to maintain its place till all the gracious purposes of Heaven are accomplished. “It is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes." “ When the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe." The next Lecture will, by divine favour, exhibit the institution and celebration of the first passover, with the event which gave occasion to it. May God bless what has been spoken. To him be glory and honour forever
HISTORY OF MOSES.
EXODUS XII. 1, 2, 3.
And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months ; it shall be the first month of the year 10 you. Speak unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house.
In the history of all nations, there are eras and events of peculiar importance, which extend their influence to future ages and generations, and are fondly commemorated by latest posterity. Hence, every day of the revolving year becomes, in its course, to one people or another, the anniversary of something memorable which befel their forefathers, and is remembered by their sons with triumph or with sorrow. Most of the religious observances which have obtained in the world, when traced up to their source, are found to originate in providential dispensations; and history thereby becomes the best interpreter of customs and manners. It is a most amusing employment, to observe the operation and progress of the human mind in this respect; and to consider how variously different men, and at different periods, have contrived to transmit to their children the memory of similar achievements, successes, or disasters. A great stone set up on end, a heap of stones, a mound of earth, and the like, were, in the earlier, ruder, simpler state of the world, the monuments of victory; and to dance around them with songs, on an appointed day, was the rustic commemoration of their rude and simple posterity. The triumphs and the death of heroes came, in process of time, to be remem. bered with conviviality and mirth, or with plaintive strains and solemn dirges. The hoary bard varied and enlivened the feast, by adapting to his rough voice or rougher harp the uncouth rhymes which he himself had composed, in praise of departed gallantry and virtue. As arts were invented and improved, the wise, the brave and the good were preserved from oblivion by monuments more elegant, more intelligible, and more lasting. A more correct style of poetry, and a sweeter melody were cultivated. Sculpture and painting conveyed to children's children an exact representation of the limbs and lineaments of the venerable men who adorned, who instructed, who saved their country. And thus, though dead, they continued to live and act in the animated canvass, in the breathing brass, or the speaking marble. At length, the pen of the historian took up the cause of merit, and diffused over the whole globe, and handed down to the very end of time the knowledge of the persons and of the actions which should never die.
We are this evening to bestow our attention upon an institution altogether of divine appointment, intended to record an event of singular importance to the nation immediately affected by it, and which, according to its intention and in its consequences, has involved a great part of mankind.
Moses and Aaron having, as the instruments in the hand of Providence, chastised Egypt with nine successive and severe plagues, inflicted in the view of procuring Israel's release, are at length dismissed by the unrelenting tyrant, with a threatening of certain death, should they ever again presume to come into his presence. Moses takes himn at his word, and bids him a solemn, a long, and everlasting farewell. When men have finally banished from them their advisers and monitors, and when God has ceased to be a reprover to them, their destruction cannot be very distant. Better it is to have the law to alarm, to threaten and to chastise us, than to have it in anger altogether withdrawn. Better is a conscience that disturbs and vexes than a conscience laid fast asleep, than a conscience “ seared as with a hot iron."
What solemn preparation is made for the tenth and last awful plague of Egypt! God is about to reckon with Pharaoh and his subjects, for the blood of the Israelitish male children, doomed from the womb to death, by his cruel edict. His eye pitied not nor spared the anguish of thousands of wretched mothers, bereaved of their children the instant they were born; and a righteous God pities, spares him not in the day of visitation.
The circumstances attending this tremendous calamity are strikingly calculated to excite horror. First, God himself is the immediate author of it. Hitherto He had plagued Egypt by means and instruments; “ Stretch out thy hand :" " Say unto Aaron, Stretch forth thy hand with thy rod.” But now it is, “ I will go out into the midst of Egypt.” “ And it came to pass that at midnight the LORD smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh that sat on his throne, unto the first-born of the captive that was in the dungeon, and all the first-born of cattle.” As mercies coming immediately from the hand of our heavenly Father are sweeter and better than those which are communicated through the channel of the creature ; so judgments, issuing directly from the stores of divine wrath, are more terrible and overwhelming. The sword of an invading foe is a dreadful thing, but infinitely more dreadful is the sword of a destroying angel, or the uplifted hand of God himself.
Secondly, 'The nature and quality of the calamity greatly increase the weight of it. It is a wound there, where the heart is most susceptible of pain ; an evil which undermines hope ; hope, our refuge and our remedy under other evils. The return of another favourable season, may repair the wastes and compensate the scarcity of that which preceded it. A body emaciated or ulcerated all over, may recover strength, and be restored to soundness; and there is hope that the light of the sun may return, even after a thick darkness of three days. But what kindness of nature, what happy concurrence of circumstances, can reanimate the breathless clay, can restore an only son, a firstborn, stricken with death?
The universality of this destruction is a third horrid aggravation of its woe. 'It fell with equal severity on all ranks and conditions ; on the prince and the peasant; on the master and the slave. From every house the voice of misery bursts forth. No one is so much at leisure from his own distress as to pity, soothe or relieve that of his wretched neighbour.
Fourthly, The blow was struck at the awful midnight hour, when every object assumes a more sable hue ; when fear, aided by darkness, magnifies to a gigantic size, and clothes in a more hideous shape the real and fantastical, the seen and the unseen disturbers of silence and repose. To be prematurely awakened out of sleep by the dying groans of a friend suddenly smitten, to be presented with the ghastly image of death in a darling object lately seen end enjoyed in perfect health, to be forced to the acknowledgement of the
great and holy Lord God, by such an awful demonstration of his presence and power! what terror and astonishment could equal this?
The keen reflection that all this accumulated distress might have been prevented, was another cruel ingredient in the embittered cup. How would they now accuse their desperate madness, in provoking a power, which had so often and so forcibly warned them of their danger ? If Pharaoh were not past feeling, how dreadful must have been the pangs which he felt, while he reflected, that after attempting to destroy a hapless, helpless race of strangers, who lay at his mercy, by the most unheard of cruelty and oppression, he had now ruined his own country, by an obstinate perseverance in folly and impiety ; that he had become the curse and punishment of a nation, of which he was bound by his office to be the father and protector ; and that his own hopes were now blasted in their fairest, most flattering object, the heir of his throne and empire, because he regarded not the rights of humanity and mercy in the treatment of his vassals.
Finally, if their anguish admitted of a still higher aggravation, the distinction from first to last made between them and Israel, the blessed exemption which the oppressed Hebrews had enjoyed from all these calamities, especially from this last death, must have been peculiarly mortifying and afflictive. “But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast ; that ye may know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.” This partakes of the nature of that misery which the damned endure ; who are represented as having occasional, distant and transitory glimpses of the blessedness of heaven, only for their punishment, only to heighten the pangs of their own torments. Of the approach of their other woes, these unhappy persons had been repeatedly warned. But this, it would appear, came upon them suddenly and in a moment. They had gone to rest in security. The short respite which they enjoyed from suffering had stilled their apprehension ; “ surely,” said they, “the bitterness of death is past." But ah! it is only the deceitful calm which precedes the hurricane or the earthquake. Let men never dream of repose from the righteous judgment of God, whatever they may have already endured, till they have forsaken their sins, and fled for refuge in the divine mercy.
It is now worth while to consider the notice given to God's own people of this approaching evil, and the means which were appointed and employed to secure them from being involved in the general ruin. The event so destructive to Egypt, was intended to be the era of their liberty, and the means of their deliverance. They had hitherto reckoned the beginning of their year from the month Tisri, which answers to our September; which, as they supposed, was the time when the creation was begun and completed; but they are now positively enjoined to begin to reckon from the month Abib or Nisan, that is, March, in memory of a new creation ; whereby their condition was totally changed, from servitude of the most abject kind, into freedom the most exalted and perfect, even the glorious liberty of the sons of God. They are distinctly informed of the stroke which providence was meditating against Egypt, and of the precise time when the blow was to be struck. They are accordingly directed to two things; First, to provide for their own safety; and, secondly, to hold themselves in perfect readiness to take advantage of the permission to depart, which the panic occasioned by the death of the first-born should extort from Pharaoh. For the former of these purposes, every particular family, or the two adjoining, in proportion to their number, the lowest, according to the Jewish writers, being not under ten, nor the highest above twenty, were commanded to choose out, and to set apart, every household, a male lamb, or kid, of a particular description, on the tenth day of the month, and to kill it on the evening of the fourteenth. The flesh of the victim was commanded to be eaten by every several household apart, roasted with fire. They were all enjoined carefully to keep within their houses. And the blood of the sacrifice was to be taken and sprinkled on the two side-posts, and the upper doorpost of every house where it was eaten. This sprinkling of the blood was to be the token of God's covenant, and a protection to the families so distinguished, from the sword of the avenging angel.
But, a positive institution so immediately from heaven, an institution so full of meaning and instruction, of such celebrity in the history of the world, and connected so closely with an ordinance of still greater notoriety, and of much more extensive influence, an ordinance of much longer duration, and which commemorates an event of infinitely greater importance, surely demands the most minute attention, and the most serious inquiry. We pretend not to comprehend, and therefore undertake not to explain every particular circumstance of this solemn, divine institution : but the moral and religious design is, in general so obvious, that a reader of ordinary capacity has but to run over it with a common degree of seriousness and attention, in order to understand what the Spirit of God is saying in it, for the edification of mankind.
And first, God was about to distinguish Israel by special marks of his favour. In order to this, they must carefully distinguish themselves by a punctual observance of his command. Is more expected of an Israelite than of an Egyptian ? Undoubtedly. The blessings which come down from above, from the Father of lights, are not mere arbitrary and capricious effusions of liberality, falling upon one spot, and passing by another without reason or design. No, they are the wise and gracious recompense of an intelligent, observing and discriminating Parent, to faithful, affectionate and obedient children. Israel had been forewarned of the ensuing danger to no purpose, had one iota or tittle relating to the ordinance of the paschal lamb been neglected. Calamity is to be avoided, not by foreknowing that it draws nigh, but by running to a place of safety. Salvation by Christ, consists, not merely in headknowledge of his person, doctrine and work; but in a cordial receiving and resting upon him alone for salvation, as he is freely offered to us in the gospel, for “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." careful selection, then, of a proper victim, and the exact application of it, according to the commandment, have a plain and an instructive meaning.
Secondly, As Israel was to depart in haste, the Spirit of God was pleased to enjoin a memorial of that haste, in the quality of the bread which they were to use, during the celebration of this festival. When liberty, dear liberty is in view, who so silly as to care whether the taste be gratified or not, for a few days, with a less palatable kind of food ? Our most perfect enjoyments in this world, and our highest attainments have a mixture of bitterness or of insipidity attending them: like the flesh of lambs eaten with bitter herbs, and unfermented bread. The Jews, we know, were singularly diligent and curious, in searching out and removing from their houses every thing leavened, during this sacred season. With superstitious scrupulousness, they prepared unleavened bread for themselves, and the poor for months before the solemn day arrived. A few days previous to the feast they cleansed all their vessels and furniture. What could stand the fire, they purified with fire ; what could not, they dipped in or rinsed with water. Their marble mortars they had hollowed anew. The night preceding the day of unleavened bread, they lighted wax tapers, and prepared for a general search after every remainder of leaven. The master of the family began the ceremony with this solemn address to God; “ Blessed art thou, O Lord, who has commanded us to put away all that is leavened out of our houses.” All the males of the household; master, children, domestics, assisted in searching the whole house over, and examined into the most secret corners, lest peradventure some lurking