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PRISONERS RISONERS is a title for the spiritual condition of all men since the fall; but prisoners of hope is a name peculiar to the children of God. They are thus called, that they may humbly remember from what they are to be delivered, and at the same time may in hope consider the name, and some present privileges arising from it, as an earnest of their full redemption.
It was the appointed office of Christ to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;* and not only to proclaim this jubilee, this year of grace, or acceptable year of Jehovah, but to perform what he proclaims. Jehovah himself was in Christ and held his hand, or gave him power, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house. They are therefore called upon to turn to the STRONG HOLD;‡ and all, who really hear the voice of the Son of God, crying, go forth, § and embrace by faith the covenant of his blood, are these prisoners of hope. Their hope springs from their faith. All others, having no faith, are said to be without hope, and remain in their prison still.
This natural captivity of the redeemed is most strikingly exhibited, under the colours of a true history, in what passed upon the sons of Israel in the land of Egypt. If we understand the lively facts of that great affair, to which such frequent reference is made in the Bible, as a grand memorial, in the true importance; we shall see, that they have a meaning which comes home to ourselves, and that the interpretation of them is not private or peculiar to one generation, but is common and general to the whole church of God.
Pharaoh represents the prince of darkness; and Moses and Aaron, uniting the offices of leader, prophet, and priest, exhibit the great Redeemer. The children of Israel are the subjects of redemption: the Egyptians are the powers of darkness, confederate with the men of the world.
1. Pharaoh was in very deed raised up, and hardened,* that God might show in him his power, and that his name might be declared, or recorded, throughout all the earth.† Satan, like this vessel made unto dishonor,‡ stands as a proof of God's indignation, without hope of mercy or redemption.
Pharaoh's first attack was upon the children of the Israelites, that their increase might be prevented, that the
* The word pin, however harsh it may seem to some ears, admits of no softer sense, than that in our translation, and is repeated many times upon this occasion to declare, that, "to his own secret purpose God directs the worst actions of tyrants, no less than the best of godly princes." The reader is requested to compare these texts in Exodus with Isa. vi. 9. &c. John xii. 39, &c. Deut. ii. 30. Josh. xi. 20. Wisd. xix. 4. Ecclus. xvi. 15. + Exod. ix, 16, x. 1,
Rom. ix. 21.
nation might fail, by the destruction of males, and be sunk amongst his Egyptians.-So the great business of Satan was murder from the beginning. He instigated the death of righteous Abel, in the infancy of the church. He prevents, in all ages, as much as in him lies, the increase of it. And it is his constant endeavour to sink the children of God into mere children of the world.
2. Moses, the deliverer, was more than (what is rendered) a goodly child; he was fair to God,* had grace given him from God, appeared in a most providential way, and was a chosen vessel for the deliverance of Israel. -Christ also, the great Redeemer, of whom the other was but a shadow, was the elect of God, was born and appeared like no other man, was persecuted of the devil, and was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power to bring in salvation.
3. The children of Israel were oppressed in Egypt'; they sighed; they cried; by reason of their bondage; and their cry came up unto God.-The true Israel have ever been oppressed by the powers of darkness in the world: but when they have felt their bondage, and cried, and groaned, for their deliverance, God hath heard them and remembered his holy covenant.†
4, The Egyptians, the taskmasters, showed no pity to the sons of Jacob; but gave reproaches, in the hours of keen distress, and to their reproaches added blows and stripes. The men of the world, their counter-part, have no feeling for a child of God groaning under the burden of sin, but add to his affliction, as much as may be, and, as their least degree of enmity, shoot out their arrows, even bitter words.
*Acts vii. 20.
† Exod. ii. 23.
These are the persons, who form the scene. Their course and actions are the next object of consideration. Briefly we may observe, that the whole together is a representation of God's grace to his people; of the nature and means of their redemption; of the progression of sin in worldly men; and of their final destruction with Satan, the author and promoter of sin.
When Moses, by divine command, proclaimed deliverance to the captives; the Israelites could scarcely believe the joyful sound. Pharaoh raged and stormed, blaspheming the Most High himself; and his officers increased their cruelty. All things appeared the more dark and alarming, as the deliverance drew nigh. In the darkest moment of all, THEN Jehovah peculiarly revealed both HIMSELF, and his mighty power.t He not only showed himself to be the Alehim of Moses; but he made Moses himself, typically, to be the Alehim unto Pharaoh.-So when Christ brings peace to his people, they can scarcely know how to receive it, either from weakness of faith or excess of joy; the devil rages with all his might, blasphemes himself, and invites the soul to blaspheme; and the world, his tools, scoff or persecute, as they find opportunity. But, when Christ powerfully comes, he reveals Jehovah in covenant, and also the covenant of Jehovah, making all plain and comfortable to the conscience of the redeemed; and at the same time proves, that he is the devil's ruler, and the mighty one of Jacob to subdue him.
The first act of Moses and Aaron (whom we must
Exod. v. and vi. 9
Exod. vi. 1. 3, &c.
consider typically as one person with two offices) was to declare the divine commission and authority by a miraculous power. The emblem of this, the rod which God had given,* when thrown down before Pharaoh, or the enemy, became a serpent, and devoured or swallowed up all other rods, or authorities or powers, which came before it.t-How forcibly doth this action preach, that Christ hath power and authority over all enemies, and all things, for the welfare of his church!
When Moses had exhibited his divine commission, which was rejected; then began the series of judgements upon Pharaoh and his people. The FIRST of these was the turning of water into blood throughout all the land of Egypt, so that the Egyptians could not drink of the water in the river, or in store, but were constrained to dig for it elsewhere.-This was a figure of the declaration, that the fountain of a perpetual running river troubled with foul blood, even the fountain of life, of which blood is the emblem, is polluted and corrupted in man by nature; and that therefore it is so under the curse and wrath of God, as to render it incapable of affording or enjoying that true life, which before the fall it had with him.
After seven days were fulfilled, which was the longest warning of all, Moses was commanded to denounce the SECOND judgement, which from the river overwhelmed the whole country, and every part of every dwelling, with frogs. This, like the former judgement, though it made a temporary-impression, was ultimately in vain;
* Exod. iv. 17.
↑ Wisd. xi. 6,
+ Exod. vii.