« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
be what you are: it is he who hath upheld you to this moment, and in whose hand your breath is: it is he who will shortly vindicate his right over you, will summon you to his bar, and judge you according to your works. And is he the object of your scorn? What must be the issue, if you presume to strive with him?
The enmity and the rage of Pharaoh, which had been excited by the declaration of the Lord's message to him, appeared also in his persecuting spirit. And when the Lord himself is set at nought, it is no wonder that his servants are despised. Long time had the Israelites groaned under the Egyptian bondage. The exercise of their religion was denied them; and now, when some privilege of this nature was demanded for them, they were oppressed the more. idle, ye are idle ;-let there more work be laid upon the men.'
Let us beware, lest we betray the same scornful and oppressive spirit, especially towards persons professing godliness.' We possess not the power of Pharaoh; but are we not exerting all the influence we have, to prevent the true Israel of God from sacrificing unto him? Perhaps their sentiments and practice may oppose our covetous or aspiring views; and is it not for this cause that we reproach them as neglecting their appointed work, and lay heavy burdens upon them? Let us fear for ourselves; God will surely avenge the wrongs of his insulted people, to the utter confusion of their enemies.
The two prophets of Israel had a second and third audience of the king, but with no better success. They performed certain miracles in his presence, in order to prove their commission: [Exod. vii. 10, &c.] but he wished, or rather determined, not to be convinced; and therefore it pleased God, in righteous judgement on his obstinacy, to furnish him with a pretext for his incredulity. The magicians were permitted to imitate some of the wonders which had been wrought: whence, probably, Pharaoh concluded, that the two messengers of Heaven were no other than skilful sorcerers, who might indeed. have the advantage of his magi, but had no more right to dic tate unto him. On this account he despised and insulted them as mere pretenders to revelation.-Perhaps some modern infidels may be under a similar delusion, and be given up, like Pharaoh, to believe a lie.' They are unwilling to receive the word of God, and strive, with the utmost stretch of their in
genuity, to invent arguments to disprove the divine authority of the Scriptures. It is nothing strange, then, that to persons so disposed many objections arise, which seem to themselves to justify their unbelief. The Lord suffers our integrity to be put to the test in this very way. The evidence for Christianity is abundantly sufficient to convince men of meek and upright minds but we allow, that it is not of such a nature as to force conviction upon those who secretly dislike it, and are resolved to reject it. Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.' [John iii. 19.]
Various miracles were wrought, or rather, one plague after another was inflicted, in order to humble this proud sinner. But Pharaoh continued to harden his heart against all conviction: each judgement found him more unfeeling than the preceding; at least he was as far removed from real humiliation and repentance, in the end, as at the beginning. It is a most unfavourable sign indeed, when the severest punishments produce no proper sense of sin, and give no alarm to the conscience. Consider, you children of affliction, what effect your sufferings have had upon you! You have been tried, perhaps, by various calamities, in your persons, your families, your substance; but have you enquired, 'Where is God my maker? Wherefore doth he contend with me? or, What would he have me to do?' For, surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement; I will not offend any more. That which I see not, teach thou me: if I have done iniquity, I will do no more.' [Job xxxiv. 31, 32.] Listen to the gracious voice of God in his severest dispensation, which calls you to prayer, and contrition, and repentance.
It may be urged, perhaps, that Pharaoh discovered hopeful appearances of conversion. But the plea will not prove anything in his favour. For it points him out as a hypocrite and a dissembler with God: and this, it should be remembered, is one distinguishing part of his character. The insincerity of Pharaoh was manifest in two instances.
1. He was unwilling, throughout, to submit to the terms which God required. The divine injunction was, that he should let Israel go three days' journey into the wilderness, for the purpose of a religious festival; but Pharaoh stood like one making a bargain and requiring some abatement. He
insisted that they should not depart out of his dominion: "Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.' When this would not suffice, he allowed that they might go into the wilderness, but limited the distance; Only ye shall not go very far away.' When he consented, that the Israelites might depart, and take with them their families, he still insists that their flocks and their herds should be left behind. How common is this case! The Lord calls to an unconditional submission. If every thing be not given up to God, and his will complied with, in one instance as well as another, there is no true resignation of the soul to him; and, in such a state, professions of regard will avail nothing, neither will they be lasting. Do you imagine, that he will accept of less than your whole hearts? No: he is in one mind, and who can turn him? Do you plead for any prohibited indulgence; for this sin to be retained, for that passion to be gratified? It cannot be allowed. Do you object to one duty, because it is inconvenient; to another, as being too strict, and exposing you to many difficulties? What do you, but tread in the steps of Pharaoh, and discover the same dissimulating temper?
The king of Egypt, we have seen, at times acknowledged his guilt; but here also his want of integrity appeared: for
2. His very confessions were constrained, and of such a sort as to prove, that he was a stranger to real humiliation, throughout the controversy. He cried out in anguish, 'I have sinned; but this he did, only under the pressure of affliction, or the dread of an impending calamity. When restored to ease, he forgot his resolutions and engagements, and returned to his former sentiments. Alas! how often have appearances deceived us! We have seen persons under heavy losses, in extreme pain, or dangerous disease, lamenting their folly, making strong protestations of amendment, sending for pious friends and ministers, and calling upon them all to pray for them. But we have been distressed to find, that those impressions were superficial and transient, and therefore not the effect of any good principle. They have been as a morning cloud, and as the early dew that goeth away.' [Hos. vi. 4.] We apprehend, that the approach of death, the dread of meeting an incensed God, and of being doomed to everlasting misery, may force many to speak the language of penitents, which, nevertheless, they understand not. They retain the
love of sin, and have no true knowledge of the evil of it: but they fear punishment, and therefore most eagerly implore deliverance. Lord, in trouble have they visited thee; they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them.' [Isa. xxvi. 16.] But all this passes for nothing in the court of heaven. For the Lord saith, They have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds.' [Hos. vii. 14.]
One circumstance deserves our serious notice. Pharaoh frequently besought Moses to intercede for him, and to entreat the Lord on his behalf. But we do not perceive, that he ever bowed his knees before God, or put up one petition for himself. And alas! what avail all our confessions to men, or solicitations for their help? We must make supplication to our Judge; or else we have no proper sense of our ill desert.But let not the instance before us discourage those who are importunately calling upon God, under a conviction of their exceeding guiltiness, and who desire peace with him above all other blessings. These persons submit to their severest trials without murmuring, and feel the burden of sin heavier than all other afflictions. But it is evident, that Pharaoh sought deliverance from trouble, more than reconciliation with God, and retained, to the last, the same proud, oppressive disposition. No sooner had he permitted the Israelites to depart, when, mortified for the disgrace he had suffered, and fired with indignation against those who had triumphed over him, he formed the scheme of pursuing them, that he might either bring them back to his dominion, or else wreak all his vengeance upon them. As if every former conviction had been utterly effaced, he was led away by his impetuous passions, ambition, covetousness, anger, and revenge. With his best chosen troops he followed the Hebrews, and pressed upon them so closely, that they were cut off from all visible means of deliverance; and, probably, the infatuated king was confident of obtaining an easy and complete victory. But he did not recede, when the Lord, with his glorious arm, divided the water,' and conducted his redeemed nation through the deep! Did not this stupendous miracle at last prove to him, that they were the immediate care of an Almighty God, and that it were madness to carry on so unequal a contest? Alas! no evidence is sufficient to convince a determined infidel. He is blinded
by his vile affections; a deceived heart hath turned him aside.' Thus it was with Pharaoh, who rushed into the sea, as the horse into the battle,' filled with rage against God and his people, and vainly attempted to recover them out of his hand. At length he confessed his folly, and consulted about retreating: but it was too late. The command was given for the waters to return to their place; the proud rebel was vanquished, and, with all the flower of Egypt, buried in the deep. 'So shall the wicked perish in the presence of God.' In the example of Pharaoh, we have an awful representation of their case. When loud calls to repentance have been disobeyed, and both the judgements and the mercies of God have been ineffectual to bend the stubborn heart, what is to be expected, but the most presumptuous continuance and rapid advancement in sin, and, of consequence, aggravated ruin? They will not turn nor fear God, though, in the way of their opposition, nothing but final and everlasting destruction awaits them. They stretch out their hand against God, and strengthen themselves against the Almighty.' [Job xv. 25.] But the adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces." [1 Sam. ii. 10.] We would affectionately warn them of those floods of wrath, which will overwhelm the ungodly in the bottomless pit.' We would address them with a compassionate importunity, Have pity on your own souls: destroy not yourselves for why will ye die? Behold, the God, who is jealous of his honour, and is determined to take vengeance on his enemies, hath prepared for you the instruments of death: he hath bent his bow, and made it ready.' [Psal. vii. 12, 13.] O drop the vain contest; throw down your arms, and surrender at discretion. We pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God!' [2 Cor. v. 20.]
Nothing, that has been here advanced, should discourage the awakened and humble penitent. Many sincere persons are distressed by the fear of resembling Pharaoh, at the very time they exhibit the strongest evidence that their character is most opposite. We ask, then, Do you mourn before God, for your past rebellion against him? Do you hate every false way? Do you unfeignedly desire to be reconciled to God? And are you willing to submit to his terms? Then be not terrified: Pharaoh's case is not yours. You are not given up to final impenitence; for the impressions you now have upon