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instrument for the display of all his glorious attributes.
In the manner and character of their origin.
The origin of nations is, for the most part, enveloped in fable, and embellished with poetic fiction; or it is the gradual result of personal enterprise and heroic achievement. The foundation of the Jewish nation was laid in the counsels of eternity, and for nobler ends than the perishable glories of this world. They were to be the subject of a mighty dispensation,—the depositories of the revealed will of God, the channel through which he was to accomplish the purposes of his mercy, in the person of a Redeemer, and in the establishment of an everlasting kingdom. They were to be the instruments in and by whom he was to be glorified, through all the vicissitudes of their eventful history. This design is repeatedly announced in the sacred volume. “ This people have I formed for myself ; they shall show forth my praise” (Isaiah xliii. 21); “ Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified” (xlix. 3); “ The branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.” (lx. 21.)
Their origin was in accordance with these declarations, and a fit commencement for such a Divine procedure. The call of Abraham is the first great link in the history of Israel. It forms one of the most memorable eras ever recited in the annals of mankind, whether we consider the minuteness of its beginning, the extraordinary events that marked its progress, or the mighty results with which it will be ultimately crowned.
We behold this distinguished individual selected by Divine Providence as the medium through whom, and by means of whose posterity, the knowledge of the true God was to be kept alive, when the whole world was immersed in idolatry. We see also the uniform order and manner of the Divine proceeding. “I will bless thee, and thou shalt be a blessing.” (Gen. xii. 2.) Personal religion is invariably the foundation of all true exertion and future usefulness. We must first experience the power of Divine truth on our own hearts, before we can ever expect to be the honoured instruments of imparting it to others.
What a concentration of graces do we observe in the history of this eminent patriarch! What a living exemplification of the faith which is the evidence of things not seen, and the substance of things hoped for;" going 6 not knowing whither he went;” « sojourning in a land of promise, as in a strange country;" “ hoping against hope;" the founder of a nation like the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the seashore, innumerable. What a series of signal interpositions, splendid miracles, and remarkable events, derive their origin from this single and common source, each unfolded in its appointed time, and in their immediate or remote contingencies influencing every age, connected with the rise and fall of empires, and exhibiting God's providential dealings, as the supreme Moral Governor of the world. Kings spring from his loins ; prophets lift up the veil of futurity; and how often have the songs of Zion refreshed the mourner in the house of his pilgrimage!
Blended with this eventful history, and resulting from the same original source, we behold the two covenants—the holy law delivered amidst the thunders of Mount Sinai, the transcript of the pure mind of God, the guide of the believer, the schoolmaster to bring us to Christ; and the precious and everlasting Gospel, proclaimed amidst the chaunt and acclamation of angels, the only foundation of pardon and peace, the only sure title to life and immortality. What a theme for adoration and praise, worthy of the intellect of the loftiest archangel, yet intelligible to the meek and lowly spirit !—forming altogether a combination of events, surpassing in grandeur and interest the annals of any other time or nation: displaying all the Divine attributes in their fullest perfection; affecting the hopes and fears of every generation of men; and reaching through the long vista of time, till they shall receive their final consummation in eternity.
In their subsequent increase and deliverance from Egypt.
These events were a fit sequel to such a commencement. The latter is the frequent subject of reference in the sacred Scriptures, and is recorded as a special act of Almighty power. 6 I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage."* It is called the “ iron furnace,” “ hard bondage,” 6 cruel bondage.” + Declarations like these are familiar to every awakened mind, and endeared to the believer as recalling that spiritual emancipation which is the frequent theme of his gratitude and praise.
All the circumstances that preceded or accompanied this deliverance of the Israelites are signal manifestations of Divine power. For them the order of nature was inverted, and suspended in its course. The river was turned into blood, the thunder, hail, and fire descended from heaven; thick darkness covered the whole land, and all the first-born of Egypt perished. The miracle wrought in dividing the waters of the Red Sea forms the subject of the sublime song of Moses:
* Deut. v. 6. Deut. iv. 20; Exod. i. 14; vi. 9.
6 With the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together: the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.”
“ The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them.”
“ Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them; they sank as lead in the mighty waters.”*
I cannot allude to this event without observing, that, since Egypt has become accessible to the traveller, a tradition is found to exist among the Bedouin Arabs respecting this journey, and the subsequent passage of the Israelites through the
The tract of country through which they are said to have pursued their course is presumed to be ascertained, and the names and titles of places in the route have been transmitted through successive generations. The scene of encampment at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness, is pointed out. It is said not to have been a town or city, but a district of that name. The road then descends through a valley in a straight line, terminating with a conical mount of imposing appearance to the left, and called the Mountain of Doubt; because the direct road to the Red Sea lying in that direction, and the Israelites being
* Exod. xv. 8, 9, 10.