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them that the Lord God of their fathers wag caring for them, and about to deliver them. They bowed their heads and worshipped. He knew that he had come in the right Name; he had not to prove his commission; their sufferings interpreted it. Through suffering God had revealed Himself to their fathers, through suffering He spoke to them. He had now encouragement for the other part of his task. He went in unto Pharaoh and said, * Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness. And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.' We may think that this would be of course the language of a heathen king, of one who was not in the covenant. The Scripture does not teach us so. We are told that the Lord spoke to Laban and to Abimelech, and that they understood His voice. When Joseph told the Pharaoh who was reigning in his day, that the Lord had sent him his dream, and had interpreted it, he believed the message and acted accordingly % It is never assumed in any part of Scripture that God is not declaring Himself to heathens, or that heathens may not own Him. We shall find precisely the opposite doctrine in the Old Testament as in the New. When then this Pharaoh said, 'Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?' we are to understand that he had brought himself into a condition of ignorance and darkness, which did not belong to him in consequence of his position, or of any natural disadvantages. He had come to regard himself as the Lord, his will as the will which all things were to obey; therefore he said inevitably, 'Who is the Lord?' He had lost the sense of a righteous government and order in the world, he had come to believe in tricks and lies, he had come to think men were the mere creatures and slaves of natural agencies. Had God no voice for such a man, or for the priests and the people whom he represented, and whose feelings were the counterparts of his? We shall find that He had. But it must be another voice than that which said, 'I am the Lord. Let my people go.' It must utter itself in plagues of fire and darkness and blood.
Pharaoh said that the people were idle, and therefore that they desired to cease from their works. He commanded the taskmasters to increase their burdens; they were to make bricks without straw. The officers of the children of Israel saw that they were in evil case. They thought that those who professed to be their deliverers had proved their worst enemies. And Moses and Aaron felt the same. Had they not deceived themselves, after all? Was not the whole of that strange vision in the desert a mockery? Was not Moses born to be the plague of his nation, and his own? And Moses said, Wherefore is it that thou hast so evil intreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me f for since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all.
It was the hardest, bitterest of all experiences. And yet for a man who had a mighty work to do, and who must be assured that he was merely the instrument in doing it, not the author of it, the most necessary. And such, even such a discipline, only deeper and more dreadful, because He was not merely the deliverer of a nation, but of mankind, not merely a man, but the Man, not merely the servant, but the Son, did He pass through who trod the winepress alone, when of the people there was none with Him; who knew the sorrows and oppressions of His creatures by actual experience of them, who in the hour of redemption felt the most unutterable desertion, and who yet could say, (and the Jews understood what He meant, for they took up stones to stone him,) 'Before Abraham was, I AM.'*
THE MIRACLES OF MOSES, AND THE
Lessons for the day, Exodus IX. and X.
Preached at Lincoln's Inn, on Palm Sunday, April 13,1851.
Exodus X. 20.
But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.
THREE questions arise out of the chapters which we read this morning and this evening, each of which has exercised the skill of commentators, and, what is far more important, the hearts of earnest practical readers. The first concerns the nature and purpose of the miracles which Moses wrought in Egypt; the second, the powers which the magicians are said to have put forth in rivalry of his; the third, the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, which is attributed in my text, and in many other passages, to 'the Lord.'
As the last subject bears the most seriously upon our own lives and upon our views of the character of God, I wish to keep it most prominently before me, and to devote most of this discourse to it. But I cannot omit the other topics. They too are, in a moral point of view, deserving of the greatest attention. The right consideration M. s. 11
of them will, I believe, be very helpful to the right consideration of the other deeper enigma.
A free-thinking traveller in Egypt, who wrote about twenty years ago, said that he had seen himself all the plagues which Moses speaks of as miraculously inflicted upon the land. Allowing for the exaggeration of a man who wished to utter a startling sentence, there is little in this statement to which a literal believer in the Mosaic narrative need object. The sacred historian never intimates that there had not been plagues of locusts, or of hail, or of flies, or of darkness before, or that there might not be again. More than once he suggests distinctly a comparison between the one which he is describing and others of a like kind. In what sense then, it may be asked, did they deserve the name of portents or miracles? I answer, these names or some equivalent names, would have been given to them by the Egyptians themselves, or by any people to whom they occurred, without any reference to the purpose with which Moses connects them, or to the Being who he says was the sender of them. That which presents itself to the senses of men as something strange, unusual, fearful, they will call a portent: that which awakens their wonder, and for which they cannot account, they will describe as a miracle. The scientific man is as much bound to admit the existence of portentous and wonderful facts as the most vulgar man; only he says that he can account for a great many of those by which the other is staggered. Those which he cannot account