תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. 24 And beholding one of them injured, he defended him ; and smiting 25 the Egyptian, he avenged him that was oppressed. And he supa

posed that his brethren would have understood that God would

give them salvation by his hand : but they did not understand it. 26 And the next day he shewed himself to them, as they were quara

reling, and would have persuaded them to peace, saying, Men, you 27 are brethren, why do ye injure one another ? But he that injured

his neighbour thrust him away, saying, Who hath made thee à 28 ruler and a judge over us? Wilt thou kill me, as thou didst yes. 29 terday slay the Egyptian? Then Moses fled at this saying, and

became a sojourner in the land of Midian ; where he begat two 30 sons --And when forty years were fulfilled, the angel of the Lord

appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush, in the wilderness of 31 mount Sinai. And Moses seeing it. greatly r wondered at the 32 vision : and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lod

came unto him, saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of

Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And 33 Moser trembled, and did not dare (steadfastly] to behold it. And

the Lord said unto him, Loose thy shoes from thy feet ; for 34 the place in which thou standest is holy ground. I have surely

seen the evil treatment of my people which are in Egypt,

and I have heard their groaning, and I am come down to deliver 35 them : and now come, I will send thee into Egypt. This Moses,

whom they renounced, saying: Who hath constituted thee a ruler, and a judge ? this very person did God by the hand of the angel,

who appeared to him in the bush, send to be a ruler, and a redeem36 er. He led them forth, doing wonders and signs in the land

of Egypt, and in the Rüd Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years.

REFLECTIONS. He is indeed faithful that hath promised : he remembereth his cover nant for ever, the word which he commanded even to a thousand generations. He multiplied his people in Egypi, that Canaan might not want inhabitants, when the sinners against their own souls, that then held it, should be cụt off : And when he had determined so to multi«ply the holy seed, vain were all the attempts of the ungratefal Egyptjans to destroy the kindred of him by whom, as they had formerly confessed their lives had been saved : Yet was ne rod of the wicked permitted for a while to rest usion their back, that the remembrance of the bondage and the cruelties they had there endured might, throughout all generations, be a source of joyful and grateful obedience to that God who delivered them from the land of Egypi, and from the house of bondage, and an engagement to serve him who had so ila. lustriously triumphed over idolatry, as it were in its head-quarters. The church has often had its winter season ; yet Providence has overruled the severity of that, to conduce to the verdure and beauty of in spring, and to the fruitfulness of its summer and its autumn.

Moses was born in the midst of this persecuting time, and when exposed, was the care of divine Providence; the compassion which God put into the heart of this Egyptian princess, was to draw after it . a train of most important consequences. Moses was fitted for the great part he was to act in the close of life by very different means ; the learning, the magnificence, and politeness of the court of Egypt were to do their part, that he might be able to appear with honour in ihat court as an ambassador, and to conduct himself with becoming dignity as a prince : but they could not do the whole :

They were to illustrate his generosity in seeking, in the midst of such various pleasures, and at the expense of such high prospects, to vindicate his oppressed brethren, whose sorrows touched his heart, and whose groans pierced (if I may so express it) through all the music of the court, through all the martial noise of the camp, in which he might sometimes reside and command. Glorious triumph of faith, that when he was come to such full age, he refused to ģe called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, and chose rather to meet with affliction in the cause of Christ, than to enjoy the temporary pleasures of sin! But forty years of retirement in the desert of Midian, spent in the meditations and devotions, for which the life of a shepherd gave so great advantage, must ripen him to feed God's people Israel ; while they, in the mean time, justly groaned under the continuance of that bondage from which they were so backward to accept of a proffered deliverer. At length light breaks in upon them in the midst of their darkness : Let us turn aside and behold with proper affection this great sight, the bush burning but not consumed ; and therein an emblem of the preservation of the church, even amidst the fiercest flames. Let us hear with pleasure that voice which proclaims to all that hear it, So compassionate and faithful a God; which opens so glorious' and lasting a hope; I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the Gud of Jacob. Thou art not, O Lord, the God of the dead, but of the living ; these pious patriarchs therefore live with thee, and their believing seed shall partake of that life and joy in the city, which because thou hast prepared for them, thou art not ashamed to be called their God.

How does God manifest the heart of a parent towards these his oppressed children! I have seen, I have seen the affliction of Israel : Thus, O Lord, dost thou see all our afflictions! Let thy church, and each of thy people, trust thee to come down for their deliverance in thine own time and way. Let us with pleasure behold this Moses whom they rejected, and from whom a worthless offender could not bear a reproof, made a leader and a redeeiner : So is our blessed Jesús, though once rejected and despised, exalted to be a prince and a saviour. It is not in vain that we have trusted, it is he that should rem deem Israel. He has conquered the tyrant of hell, he has broken our chains, he has brought us forth into a wilderness, but a wilderness in which God nourishes and guides us; and he shall ere long have what Moses had not, the honour and delight of leading all his people into the land of promise, and dividing to them a joyiul and everlasting inheritance there,

SECTION XV.

Stephen proceeds in his discourse, till his audience are so enraged that they

stone him. Ch. vii. 37, &c.— viii. 1.

LJAVING mentioned to the sanhrdrim the divine commission of 37 IT Mos18, Stephen proceeded,,This is that Moses, who said

to the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise

up unto you from amongst your brethren, like unto me ; him 38 shall you hear. This is he, who was in the assembly in the wil.

derness, with the angel, that spake to him on mount Sinai, and

with our fathers, who received the lively oracles, to give him un39 to us. To whom our fathers would not be obedient, but thrust

him from them, and returned back again to Egypt in their hearts, 40 si ying to Aaron, Make us gods, who may march before us; for

as for this Moses, who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, 41 we know not what is become of him. And they made a calf in

those days, and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and rejoiced in 42 the works of their own hands. But God turned, and gave them

up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, “() ye house of Israel, did ye offer victims and sacrifices to me for forty years in the wilderness? And you have since taken up the tabernacle of Moioch, and the star of your god Remphan, even the figures, which you have made to worship

them: and therefore I will carry you away beyond Babylon.” 44 (Amos v. 25.) The tabernacle of witness was with our fathers in

the wilderness, as he had appointed, who spake unto Moses to 45 make it according to the model which he had seen : which also

our fathers receiving, brought in with Joshua into the possession

of ihe heathen, whom God drove out from before the face of 46 our fathers, until the days of David; who found favour before

God, and made it his petition to find a dweliing for the God of Ja47 cob. But Solomon built him an house : yet the Most High dwell48 eth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet (Is. 49 lxvi. 1.) “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool :

what house will you build for me, saith the Lord ? or what 1& the 50 place of my rest ? Hath not my hand made ail these things?”

And strphen (probably perceiving that they understood whither his

discourse tended, and that they were eager to interrupt him, more 51 closely addressed his fiersecutors, saying, Oh ye stiff-necked, and

uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye always do resist the Holy 52 Spirit: As your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets

did not your fathers persecute ? yea, they slew those, who spake

before of the coming of that righteous one; of whom you have 53 now become the betrayers, and murderers. Who have received 54 the law through ranks of angels, and have not kept it. And

hearing these things, they were cut to the heart*, and they gnash

* Or, “ their hearts were sawn 'astunder.” D.

55 ed their teeth upon him. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit,

loking up stedfastly towards heaven, saw the glory of God, or a bright symbol of the divine presence, and Jesus standing at the 56 right hand of God. And he said, Behold, I see the heavens

opened, and the Son of man standing at the right-hand of God. 57 But crying out with a loud voice, they stopped their ears, and 58 rushed upon him with one accord. And casting him out of the

city, they stoned him : and the witnesses laid down their garments 59 at the feet of a young man, whose name was Saul. And they

stoned Stephen invoking his great Lord and saying, Lord Jesus, 60 receive my spirit. And bending his knees, he cried out with a viii. loud voice, O Lord, chargé not this sin to their account. And I when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was well pleased

with his slaughter.

REFLECTIONS. Thankfully must we own the divine goodness in having fulfilled this important promise, of raising up a prophet like Moses, a prophet incieed far superior to him whom God's Israel is on the highest penalties required to hear. May we be all taught by him, and ever own that divine authority which attends all his doctrines and all his commands! By him God has given us lively oracles indeed, that may welli penetrate deep into our souls, as being well contrived to animate them, and to secure their eternal life. But O, how many of those who have heard of him, and been bapiized into his name, in a more express manner than Israel was baptized into Moses in the cloud and in he sea, refuse to hearken to him, and in their hearis turn back into Egypt; being guilty of practices as notoriously opposite to his pre cepts, as the idolatry of the golden calf to those of Moses. Long did the patience of God bear with Israel in succeeding ages, while the tabernacle of Molsch and the star of Remphan diverted their l'egards from the worship of their living Jehovah ; but at length he gave thein up to captivity. Well have we deserved, by our apostacy from God, to be made proportionable monuments of his wrath ; yet still he continues graciously to cwell among us; and while the Jewish iabernacle, formed so exactly afer the divine model in the niount is no more, and while the niore splendid temple which Solomon raised is long since laid in desolation the most high God, superior to all temples made with hands, infinitely superior even to heaven itself, continues stil to favour us with his presence, and condescends to own us for his people, and to call himself our God. Let us take the most diligent heed that we be not uncircumcised in heart and in ears, and that we do not, after so fatal an example, resist the Holy Spirit, and by rejecting Christ, incur a guilt greater than that of the Jews, who violated the law received through ranks of attendant angels ; for that milder and gentler form, in which this divine law giver has appeared to us, will render the ingratitude and guilt of our 'rebellion far more aggravated than theirs.

The reproofs of the Holy martyr Stephen were indeed plain and faithful, and therefore they were so much the more kind ; but instead

of attending to so just and so wise a remonstranee, those sinners against their own souls stopped their ears, lift up an outrageous cry, and like so many savage beasts 'rush upon him to destroy him ; overwhelming that head with stones which shone like an angel of God! Fatal instance of prejudice and of rage! But how were all the terrors of this murderous crew, when armed with the instruments of imme. diate death, dispelled by the glorious vision of Christ at the right-hand of God! Well might he then remain intrepid, well might he commend his departing spirit into the hands of his divine Saviour, as able to keep what he committed to him until that day. Let us with holy pleasure behold this bright image of our Redeemer, this first martyr, who, following so closely his recent steps (as he suffered so near the place that had been the scene of his agonies) appears to have imbibed so much of the same Spirit : Having thus solemnly consigned his soul to Christ, all that remained was, like Christ, to pray for his murderers ; full of compassion for their souls, while dying by their hands, he only said, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge, and then gently fell asleep; expired in holy composure and serenity of soul, and slept sweetly in the soft bosom of his Saviour.

O Saul, couldst thou have believed, if one had told thee, while thou wast urging on the cruel multitude, while thou wast glorying over his venerable corpse, that the time should come when thon thyself shouldst be twice stoned in the cause in which he died, and triumph in having committed thy soul likewise to that Jesus whom thou wast now blaspheming? In this instance his dying prayer was illustriously answered : In this instance the lion lies down with the lamb, and the leopard with the kid ; and it is most delightful to think, that the martyr Stephen, and Saul that barbarous persecutor (afterwards his brother both in faith and in martyrdom) are now joined in bonds of everlasting friendship, and dwell together in the happy company of those who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb ; May we at length be joined with them, and in the mean time let us glorify God in both !

SECTION XVI.

The Christian converts dispersed by persecution. Philip goes to Samaria, where many emórace the gospel, and Simon the sorcerer is baptized. Chviii. 113.

1 A ND in that very day in which Stephen was stoned, there was

N a great persecution excited against the church in Jerusalem ; and they were all dispersed through the regions of Judea, and Sa2 maria except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen 3 forth to his burial, and made great lamentation for him. But Saul

made havock of the church, entering into houses, and dragging 4 men and women, whom he committed to prison. Nevertheless they

who were dispersed, went about preaching the word. 5 Then came Philip to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ G unto them. And the people unanimously attended to the things

« הקודםהמשך »