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bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypto.” Moses goes as he is commanded; he delivers his message to Pharaoh, and makes request on behalf of Israel that they may go into the wilderness to sacrifice. The proud king, however, answers him with a direct defiance of God, and issues a fresh and most unreasonable order to oppress Israel yet more. Upon this the Israelites themselves begin to murmur through impatience and distrust of God. But He will not cast them off; on the contrary, He declares his determination (overlooking their perverseness) to “redeem them with a stretched-out arm, and with great judgments.”
Moses is commanded first, to work a miracle in confirmation of his mission, in Pharaoh's presence. This miracle, however, the Egyptian magicians contrive to imitate (as they do by some others afterwards); and though God enables his servant to give an evident testimony of the superiority of his power to theirs, Pharaoh is blinded by his passions, his heart is hardened, and he will not let Israel go. The Almighty then stretches forth his hand in judgment against Egypt and her king. He brings upon them, one by one, many dreadful plagues, always sending them at the word of Moses, and removing them at his intercession, upon Pharaoh's making any profession of submission. Pharaoh, however, invariably repents of his submission, so soon as the plague is removed; and God at length gives warning of yet another judgment, by which He is determined to force him to obedience. He declares that his angel shall pass throughout the whole land of Egypt, and smite the firstborn in every house. But the Israelites are commanded to kill a lamb in every house of theirs, and to sprinkle their doorposts with its blood; which blood, when the destroying angel should see, he should pass over those houses, and not enter to smite any there. Israel did as was required of them, and the event came to pass as God had said; and now Pharaoh and his people are terrified effectually: they thrust Israel out in baste, and eagerly accommodate them with every thing they 3 Exod. iii. 7, 8. 10.
4 Ibid. vi. 6.
need for their journey; for there was not a house in Egypt where there was not one dead.
The contest, however, is not ended yet. In a short time Pharaoh recovers from his fright; and hearing that Israel are encamped betwixt him and the sea, he assembles a mighty host, and follows after them. The people see the approaching danger, and are beyond measure terrified. They chide with Moses, and repent of their enterprise. But God passes by their unbelief again; and Moses, by his command, assures them, “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace 5.” God had before directed their march by a cloudy pillar going before them. He now stations this pillar betwixt them and Pharaoh's host. It gives light to Israel, but is a cloud of darkness to Egypt; so that the two armies approach no nearer to each other all night. In the mean time God is miraculously providing for Israel's rescue: by a mighty wind He divides the sea into two parts, and in the morning his people march through in safety. Pharaoh, in his madness, follows, and is destroyed, with all his armament. “The waters returned” at the word of Moses, “and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh; there remained not so much as one of them. Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians : and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses 6."
Now observe what a lively picture is here presented to us of God's dealings with his Church; of the natural estate of all; of the trials and supports which believers meet with when they are to be delivered from this evil world out of which God calls them; of the performances of Him who is their ransom, on their behalf; and of the sure destruction of all God's adversaries and theirs. Egypt represents this vain sinful world in the midst of which we dwell; the world, as it lies in subjection to its spiritual Pharaoh, the prince of darkness. The Egyptians typify the 5 Exod. xiv. 14.
6 Ibid. xiv. 28. 30, 31.
children of that wicked one who league with him against the cause and people of God.
God's people, like ancient Israel, are only sojourners in Egypt. The world is not their home. They look forward to inherit a land of promise; a land good and large, a heavenly Canaan, an eternal resting-place.
However, they are born in sin, and are children of wrath, even as others. God, indeed, sees them afar off, and has determined upon their rescue from spiritual slavery. But of themselves they are devoted to their taskmasters. They do not think of Canaan, but betake themselves to any drudgery about which “the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience?" shall employ them. They labour for that which satisfieth not, commit iniquity with greediness, are led captive by Satan at his will; and their servile spirit seems content with this loathsome degradation and wretched prostitution of their powers and talents.
If however they begin (as at length they do), through Divine grace preventing them and putting into their hearts good desires, to show evident marks of a change of sentiments and pursuits; if they seem to be awaking from the sleep of sin and death, and cry out, “ Let us go, and sacrifice to the Lord our God * ;" Egypt is alarmed; Pharaoh musters his powers against them, and takes counsel to defeat their enterprise.
Let him who has been the slave of sin, tamely yielding submission to the world's ungodly maxims, and conforming himself with scrupulous cowardice to its vain and wicked fashions ; let him make a vigorous effort to change sides and declare for God, and Satan at the instant will assail him by all his agents. He has allies both without us and within us, and he will set them all to work.
They of a man's own household shall be his foes, if they lie not under some restraint, or have not embarked themselves in the same holy cause. The adversaries, so soon as their attention is excited by a decided profession, shall be all in arms; and now, like Pharaoh's magicians, they shall attempt to invalidate the evidences Eph. ii. 2.
8 Exod. v. 8.
for the truth, by lying pretences. And if this fails, and they are withheld, as it is like they may be, from persecuting ; cruel mockings, and slanderous insinuations, and bitter expressions of contempt shall not be wanting to keep him back who is to be terrified by the reproach of men.
But Satan hath a party nearer to us; yea, in our very hearts. And now a man shall understand, by feeling it, what the Scripture means when it says, “When I would do good, evil is present with me'.” When his eyes are opened to see the nature of sin and duty; when conscience is wrought upon and he perceives that he must be conformed to this world no more; when these right views beget religious resolutions, then he feels his fetters; he becomes sensible of his devotedness to sin,—sensible that it is like the plucking out of a right eye to part with it. And the tempter all the while will aggravate the difficulties of the surrender.
These obstacles are too mighty for a man's own strength. The conflict is too sharp. The hazards to be run, and the self-denial to be exercised, and the labour to be endured, overpower his feeble faith. And until such time as God shall give more grace, he will despond, as Israel did, when, in consequence of their manifestation of a wish to depart, their burdens were increased. He will charge God foolishly, and complain, and be ready to revolt and go backward, as though religion were like to bring him into all manner of distress, and to afford him no sufficient consolations.
But God has patience with his children, and absolute control over all their enemies. In the end, through Him that loved them, they shall be more than conquerors over every obstacle. He renews their spiritual strength, that in spite of discouragements they shall follow on to seek the Lord, and overcome their own doubts and misgivings; and if outward persecution befal them, as there have been times when Christians have been severely proved in this way, Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee, the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain."
9 Rom. vii. 21.
The opposition which Israel met with in their departure out of Egypt; the difficulty of the work; the obstinacy and malice of the Egyptians; the defenceless state of the people themselves; the seeming weakness of Moses and Aaron, and their want of earthly auxiliaries ;- none of these things, nor all put together, could defeat God's purpose: He delivered them as effectually, and with as much ease to Himself, as if no obstacle whatever had intervened. And He gat Himself honour upon Pharaoh and his hosts, and by the weak things of the world brought the mighty to nought; so that the excellency of the power might be seen to be of Him alone, and no flesh should glory in his presence.
Just so at the first delivery of the Gospel He took out of the ungodly world a people for his name. In despite of the rage and power of Jews and Gentiles; not by might, not by power of man, but by his own Spirit only, through the instrumentality of the feeblest hands and most unlikely methods, He founded the Church of the Redeemer upon a rock, and caused persecution to strengthen it, and opposition to promote its increase. And just so He brings every individual member of that Church out of darkness into his marvellous light. The sinner can do nothing of himself; yet he has much to do. He can overcome no spiritual adversary of himself; yet he has principalities and powers and traitorous inbred lusts to deal with. But he can do all things through Christ strengthening him; and so his feebleness, and the strength of temptation, and the reluctances of natural corruption and opposition from without and from within, shall serve only in the end to illustrate God's power and faithfulness : for the shield of faith shall blunt the edge of every hostile weapon;
; and as the Lord sent plague upon plague upon the Egyptians, so the sword of the Spirit with reiterated wounds shall beat down and prevail against every enemy.
10 See Ps. lxxvi. 10.