« AnteriorContinuar »
owed his preservation, in a great measure, to persons whose interest it was to have destroyed him. These very persons assisted in forming that superior genius, and in cultivating those wonderful talents, which, in time qualified him to be the deliverer of a nation which it was their intention utterly to extirpate.
"Scarcely arrived at that stage of life when men begin to form plans for the remainder of their existence, he feels himself called to determine between two objects, so incompatible in their nature, that the maturest judgment can with difficulty hold the balance even; religion and worldly interest. Under the necessity of making a choice so difficult, he rises above his age, above his passions, nay, in some sense, above humanity, and nobly sacrifices every worldly prospect to religion. He resolves to partake in the miseries of an oppressed people, in order to secure an interest in the favor of that God who is continually watching over his children, even when he seems to have abandoned them to their persecutors; he values nothing in comparisons with that favor; he prizes it infinitely more than that of a great king, nay, more than the prospect itself of being heir to a throne and kingdom; and, according to the expression of St. Paul, Esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt," Heb. xi. 26.
"Not satisfied with being a spectator and a partaker of the misery of his wretched brethren, he resolves to meet the torrent; and, of a witness, hastens to become the avenger of the tyranny under which they groaned. Observing one of the merciless tools of oppression abusing an Israelite, he braves the rigor of all the laws of Egypt, kills the oppressor, delivers the sufferer, and, as we have said in another place, performs an anticipated act of the deliverer of his country.
"Prudence constrains him to withdraw from the danger which threatened the stranger who dared to shed the blood of an Egyptian. He retires into the land of Midian, and there experiences repeated proofs
of the care of that miraculous Providence which accompanied him through the whole course of a long life. Cut off from every opportunity of displaying the qualities of the hero, he exhibits those of the philosopher. He employs the calmness of that retreat in contemplating the divine perfections; or rather, in this delicious retirement it was, that he enjoyed the intimate communications of the Almighty, who inspired him, and appointed him to the high destination of laying the first foundations of revealed religion, which was to supply the defects of that of nature, already clouded and disfigured by the prejudices and the passions of mankind. He composed the book of Genesis ; and thereby furnished the world with irresistible arms to combat idolatry. He attacks the two most extravagant errors into which the human race had fallen, the plurality of gods, and that which admits imperfection in the Deity. To the one, and the other, he opposes the doctrine of the unity of an all-perfect Being.
"That GOD, whose existence and attributes he thus published, was pleased to manifest himself to him in Mount Horeb, in a manner altogether singular and miraculous. He confers on this chosen servant, the glorious but formidable commission, to take the field against Pharaoh, to stem the current of oppression, to attempt to mollify the tyrant; and, if persuasion failed, to employ force, to support arguments by prodigies, to exact from all Egypt the expiation of those barbarities which she had dared to exercise upon a people distinguished as the object of his tenderest love, and of his most illustrious miracles.
"This appointment Moses presumes to decline; but from a spirit of humility rather than of disobedience. He could not conceive it possible that, at the age of fourscore, and laboring under a defect of speech, he could be the person qualified to address a mighty prince, and overturn a whole kingdom. The appoint. ment is a second time pressed upon him; a second
time he refuses it. At length, however, his reluctance is overcome; and filled with that Spirit which animated him to the conflict, he enters on the career of glory which was presented to him, and his first victory is a victory over himself. He tears himself from the delights of the land of Midian; he quits the house of a father-in-law, by whom he was most tenderly beloved, to encounter a host of enemies and executioners.
"He arrives in Egypt. He presents himself before Pharaoh he entreats; he threatens: he draws down upon the Egyptians plagues the most tremendous. He departs from that kingdom, at the head of a people which had endured in it cruelties the most unexampled. The tyrant pursues him, gains ground, presses hard upon him. Behold him encompassed on every side, by a vast and invincible army, by a ridge of inaccessible mountains, and by the waters of the Red Sea. He rebukes the roaring billows: they instantly become obedient to the man whom the DEITY has made, (if the expression be lawful) the depositary of his power. The waters were a wall unto them on their right hand and on their left, Exod. xiv. 29, as the sacred historian expresses himself. Moses advances into the wilderness, and, by a continuation of miraculous interposition, he beholds those very waters which had divided, to favor the passage of Israel, closing again, and swallowing up Pharaoh, his court, and his host.
"Delivered, in appearance, from his most formidable enemies, he soon finds he has to maintain a lasting conflict with foes still more formidable, the very people whom he conducted. He discovers in these degenerate sons of Israel, every mean and grovelling sentiment which a servile state has a tendency to inspire; all the absurdity of weak and capricious minds; all the cowardice, perfidy, and ingratitude of corrupted hearts. With such a race Moses found himself under the necessity of living in a waste and parched desert, and of struggling there with all the horrors of hunger and thirst, and
a total want of every necessary. Exposed to all the insults of an enraged, ungovernable multitude, he is at the same time constrained to act as their intercessor with an offended God. He feels himself called upon to maintain the interests of the divine glory with a stiff-necked and perverse nation; and to plead the cause of that very nation with Deity, provoked to execute righteous judgment on a race of men who were continually disposed to insult his authority, and to degrade his perfections, by associating him with the infamous idols of the Pagan world.
"Moses had sometimes the felicity of averting the divine displeasure, and of restraining the madness the people. But more frequently he endured the mortification of seeing the inefficacy of all his well-meant efforts. The violence of the people bore down all opposition; and offended Heaven turned a deaf ear to the voice of his supplication. Divine justice vindicated its rights; Israel felt its severest strokes, and twenty-four thousand, Numb xxv. 9, fall at one stroke.
"The most awful chastisements have proved equally ineffectual with the tenderest expostulations, to bring them back to a sense of their duty. And as if Moses had been responsible for the calamities which they had brought upon themselves, by their reiterated crimes, they talk of stoning him. They propose to appoint a commander to conduct them back to Egypt, from whence God had delivered them by a strong hand and a stretched-out arm: they prefer an inglorious servitude to the miraculous protection afforded them in the wilderness, and to all the prospects of the fair inheritance which God had promised to bestow upon them.
"In a state of such anxiety and distress Moses passed forty complete years, and conducted, at length, the remains of this people to the borders of the promised land. Was ever life so singularly eventful? Was ever hero signalized by so many extraordinary exploits?
"If we go into a more particular detail of his great ace tions, wemeet with a bright display of every shining virtue,
"What magnanimity! Witness the armies he so successfully commanded; witness the crown and kingdom of Egypt despised, rejected, when put in competition with the obligations and prospects of religion.
"What firmness! Witness his undaunted addresses, and his animated replies to Pharaoh. Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go, that they may serve me, Exod. viii. 1. We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go; there shall not be an hoof left behind. Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more, Exod. x. 9...26...29.
"What fervor! Witness these bands lifted up to heaven, while Israel was fighting against Amalek. Witness these ardent prayers in behalf of the rebellious Israelites: Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt, with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of, will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it forever, Exod. xxxii. 11...13.
"What charity! Witness these forcible expressions: Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sin and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written, Exod. xxxii. 91, 32.
"What gentleness! Witness what is said of him, Numbers xii. 3. Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth. "What earnest desire to draw supplies of grace and truth immediately from their source! Witness these