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more gracious to their subjects, not more just in their dealings with other nations, but in all respects more pitiless, more defying, more determined to assert the dominion as theirs which God has so solemnly by his judgments declared to be his. What can we say but that the Lord hath hardened their hearts?
But how then does it ever come to pass that the hearts of any are softened? How is it that individuals, yes, and that kings and nations, have come out of the fires with their dross burnt out and the gold shining clear and bright? Is this the Lord's work, or is it their own? Surely they would all confess, 'It is not our own work. We were proud, self-willed, choosing a way that was not good. He has chastened and subdued us.' Are we then to say, as some delight to say, 'It is mere sovereignty. He decrees that this man should be gracious, and that obstinate?' How can we say that if all the evidence we have considered, whether drawn from the words and facts of the Bible, or from our own lives, has gone to prove that no mere act of divine power, no mere decree, can affect the heart or will of any human being? 'For this cause,' it is said, 'have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power.' The demonstration that the Creator was mightier than the creature; that the king must give way before the King of kings, was decisive. The Will and Order of God were proved to be the Will and Order which must and should prevail, let what would stand in their way. Just what was wanting, was the consent of the creature's will to the divine Will. That, this mighty demonstration could not bring about. It is the very purpose of the divine historian to shew us that it could not. There needs a demonstration of the Love of the Almighty Lord, a recognition of that by the spirit of the man, in order that it may humble itself and repent in dust and ashes. When once it perceives this Love as the essence of the divine Mind, as the spring of all its purposes, as directed towards it and the whole universe, as manifested and expressed in those punishments which grieve it most, then the softening begins, and not till then. Up to that moment the severe lesson and the gracious one, the famine and the plenty, the locusts and the east wind which drives them away, are equally lost, are equally hardening. Not but that they serve, one and all, very great and glorious purposes. They declare what God is doing and means to do. They are his proclamations of war against oppression and falsehood, they are actually missiles and engines against the oppressor and the liar. But while they are only thought to proceed from a great Lord, and not from a Father who desires that we should be like to Him, that we should hate oppression and lying as He hates them, that we should be gracious and true as He is, that we should be fellow-workers with Him to carry out his plans for the extirpation of evil and the establishment of righteousness and peace on the earth, they will stir up the discords of our hearts, not bring out their sweeter music.
My brethren, it is very needful that we should fully recognise this distinction; it may save us from much despair, both of ourselves and of our fellow-men. We shall give up wondering and complaining that circumstances which are thought eminently favourable have not produced the effects which we looked for from them; we shall let go our displeasure that the trying discipline has not made our own characters or the characters of those we care for, what we think it ought to have made them. We shall learn not to worship circumstances or discipline, but to seek for Him who ordains them; to ask what He is and what He would wish to do with us. And to these questions we can find an answer. If we have trusted that Passion-weeks would of themselves work a reformation in us, we shall have been as sorely disappointed as if we expected it from personal sorrows or national judgments. But Passion-week will tell us whence the help is to come which it cannot bring. It may tell us, indeed, that the mere sight of the Lamb of God in his outward form could not soften the hearts of Jewish priests or Roman soldiers. It may tell us that the hearts of those who saw Him hanging on the cross were hardened by that spectacle, so that they cried, 'He saved others, himself He cannot save.' It may tell us that the sop at the Paschal feast, the last token of friendship and tenderness from the Master and Lord, hardened the heart of the Son of Perdition, so that Satan entered into him, and he went out a conscious traitor. It tells us that even the eleven had their hearts hardened so that at the last Supper they were disputing which of them should be the greatest, so that they could not watch with Christ one hour during the agony, so that they all forsook Him and fled. But it tells us of a Love deeper than all this mockery, betrayal, desertion, of a Love brought out through them and by means of them. It tells us that in the agony and death of Christ the will of the Son yielded itself absolutely, unreservedly, to the Will of the Father, and that the whole of that perfectly loving Will shone forth in the acts and sufferings of a Man. It tells us that with this sacrifice God is well-pleased, that this sacrifice is an eternal bond between the Creator and creature, which sin and death and hell cannot break. It tells that we may give up ourselves to God, and that His own Spirit, the Spirit in which Christ offered up Himself, will come down to consume the sacrifice. It tells us that whatever reluctance we may feel in ourselves, or see in our brethren, there is a mysterious power which can make us willing; it tells that however hard our hearts may be, and whatever new hardness they may have contracted from God's own discipline and our refusal to understand it, the divine Spirit of grace and discipline can subdue even all things to Himself. It teaches us to find something beneath all Pharaoh's hardness and our own, something far beyond our faculties to understand or measure in the words, 'And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.'
Preached at Lincoln's Inn, on Easter Sunday, April 20,1851.
Exodus XIV. 13, 14.
And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.
THE feast of the Passover may have suggested very different thoughts to Israelites eating at the same table, partaking together of the lamb and of the bitter herbs. We may imagine two persons coming to it during the period of Persian or Roman ascendancy, both well instructed in the history of their country, neither of them indifferent to the events which they were commemorating, patriots, and religious men. One may have fixed his mind on the destruction of the Egyptian firstborn, upon the change in Pharaoh's mind from defiance to cowardice, upon his subsequent relapse, upon the overthrow of his hosts in the Red Sea. Such reflections were naturally suggested by the M. s. 12