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Finding that the children of Israel had rapidly multiplied, and that their bodies were of a more vigorous growth than those of the Egyptians ; from the apprehension of distant danger, the monarch and his people conspired to depress, by every circumstance of vigorous tyranny, that people from whose future greatness they prognosticated their own humiliation. “ The Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour, and they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field : all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.”* But, the more the Egyptians afflicted them, the more they grew; their enemies, spurred on by blind malice, issued an edict by which every male child was doomed to die, as soon as he was born. During the time that this edict was in force, Moses was born, and having impressed on his countenance, by the hand of God, the stamp of his future dignity, as the Messenger of Heaven, his parents, influenced by faith, and regardless of their own danger in concealing him, hid him for the space of three months. When afterwards they found themselves under the necessity of exposing him on the brink of the Nile, by the particular superintendence of Jehovah, he was saved from a watery grave by the compassion of Pharaoh's daugh. ter, the daughter of that very tyrant from whom the order of infanticide had proceeded. At the very hour of his exposure, under the direction of providence, she had gone down to bathe in the river : and seeing the vessel in which he was exposed, she sent her maid to fetch it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold the
babe wept. And she had compassion on him. By ano. ther interposition of providence, the child was committed, though without any knowledge of the relation subsisting between them on the part of the princess, to the charge of his own mother, who was generously rewarded by the Monarch's own daughter, for nursing the child whom his impious orders had condemned to death. Thus, in the righteous judgments of God, his daughter was the means of preserving the man, whom the divine vengeance afterwards employed for the punishment of the haughty tyrant's pride, and the almost total ruin of his empire.
When Moses was about eighty years of age, he received the Divine commission to rescue the children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt; and though, in the execution of it, he had to combat innumerable difficulties and dangers, without any other assistance than that of an invisible, but omnipotent arm, he was at last completely successful. Though opposed by the combined strength of the most powerful empire on the face of the earth, and but feebly, as well as often reluctantly, supported by the very people whom he was sent to save; by a series of the most awful judgments, miracles, and mighty works, which concluded with the destruction of the first-born of every Egyptian family, from the King on the throne to the lowest of his servants, their resistance was overborne and the deliverance of the Israelites effected. At last the Egyptians were urgent upon the people that they might send them out of the land in haste : for they said, we be all dead men !* It is worthy of our particular attention, that for the redemption of the Israelites from Egyptian bon
• Exod. XII, 33.
dage, the promise given by God was fulfilled to a day. Four hundred years was the time fixed by God, from the commencement of the persecution by the Egyptians, and four hundred and thirty from the coming down of Jacob's family into Egypt. Now the sojourning of the children of Israel who dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years, and it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty yeurs, even the self-same day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.*
No sooner had the children of Israel escaped from the house of bondage, and their persecutors from the terror of immediate death, than all the evil dispositions of the latter returned, and they hastened again to seize the prey, while it was yet within their reach. And it was told the King of Egypt that the people fled : and the hearts of Pharaoh and of his servants were turned against the people, and they said, why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us? And he made ready his chariot and took his people with him. And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them.f
At the approach of this mighty host the God of Israel made the Red Sea divide its waters, and open a passage for the people whom he had redeemed. The host of Pharaoh pursuing the same tract, met their deserved punishment. As soon as the Israelites had passed over, and reached the opposite shore, the waters returned with all their strength, and swallowed up their enemies.
During their abode in the wilderness, for the space of forty years, they were protected and supported, in that
dreary sterile region, which knew neither spring nor harvest, nor sowing nor reaping, by a train of miracles. The morning brought them a supply of bread, and the return of the evening a sufficiency of flesh, for the God of Israel opened the windows of Heaven, and poured upon them his blessing. From the opening rock he made the gushing waters to flow, and sent drink to his chosen people. By day, he screened them from the rays of a burning sun, by the pillar of a cloud ; and by night, with a pillar of fire he enlightened and warmed them.
That the Israelites lived forty years in the wilderness, is a fact as well attested as any other in the history of any nation whatsoever. But for this fact nothing can account, but the miraculous interpositions with which their whole history is blended. About two millions of human beings were supplied with the means of sustenance, not in straggling parties, but in a regular camp; insulated from all the supplies, both of agriculture and of commerce; and where nothing rose spontaneously for the relief of human wants. The people, to whose consciousness their prophet appealed for the truth of the facts, could not possibly be deceived with respect to those miraculous events which he called to their recollection, and of which they were the most competent witnesses. These facts were committed to record, and that record having been read to them all, was, by themselves in full assembly, declared to be authentic; and, with their own approbation, was laid up as a faithful and sacred deposit, in the Ark of the Covenant. Many of the religious rites which are still preserved among the Jews are founded on these miraculous circumstances of their history, and never could have had any other origin, than in the universal belief of that record. So far from being superstitiously addicted to receive, without sufficient evidence of its Divine authority, that system of laws which their prophet gave them, they were often hurried by their passions and appetites to the most flagrant violations of its precepts. Punishment of a miraculous kind was, in every instance, found to close the scene of their rebellions. When we think of nothing but their particular history, we are sometimes hardly able to account for the frequency of their disobedience, considering the frequency of their punishment. But when we extend our views to the general history of mankind, we recover from our surprise by reflecting on the innumerable multitudes of men, who, in every age, have both felt, and seen others feel, the baleful effects of ungoverned appetites and passions; and who yet have again become the victims of the first solicitation.—“ They have stricken me, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.”*
There are but two ways by which infidelity can hope to encounter this evidence of the Divine Legation of Moses. The first is, by questioning the fact, and endeavour. ing to account for the reception of its history, on the supposition that the record of their sojourning for forty years in the wilderness was a forgery, executed for the honour of the Jewish nation, and which found a ready reception from the same principle. But the force of truth will soon dislodge the infidel from this imaginary strong-hold; for that record carries on its face, that it was for the pune ishment of their Rebellions and Crimes, that they were condemned to waste their strength and their years, amidst des. erts and tracts of burning sand. It only, therefore, remains
Prov. XXIII, 35.