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that the way of the LORD with presumptuous sinners, is either to strike them dead by some signal judgment, or to withdraw His grace, and give them up to a reprobate mind, or a mind void of judgment*,” and make them unwilling instruments of shewing forth to the world the greatness of that power which they defy.
Pharaoh was a sinner of this description : he had resigned his heart to ambition and avarice, which led him first to injustice and cruelty, and then to a presumptuous defiance of the Great CREATOR of the universe. When Moses and Aaron entered into the presence
of Pharaoh, and delivered, in a solemn manner, a message from the LORD God, he refused to listen to them, pretending that he knew of no such Being as the LORD God, and disclaimed His authority. This was an act of presumptuous defiance; and it behoved the LORD to maintain his own honour.
Pharaoh's not knowing the Lord was no excuse for him : his very ignorance was a sin, because his own "reason would have taught him, that there must be a SUPREME Being; and if he had not been totally devoid of piety, he would at least have paid attention to the persons who professed to be the immediate ministers of the SUPREME BEING; and he would have feared to treat with rigour those whom the Lord styled his people ; on the contrary, the haughty tyrant resolved to increase his cruelties to the Israelites on this very account, and commanded even the messengers of the Lord to submit to his yoke.
The task imposed on those among the Israelites, who were styled officers, was particularly hard ; for they were required to enforce on their brethren the severities of the cruel monarch. The answer which Pharaoh made to these unhappy men, when they applied to him for redress, shews that he had no clemency in his nature. * Rom. i. 28.
The situation of the officers was truly distressing : they were enjoined to perform and exact impossibilities. They had not yet experienced the wonderful goodness of the LOR : they had no Scriptures to support their faith, by relations of what had been done for others under the like circumstances: we cannot then wonder that they should fall into despondency, when they found their case worse, instead of better, for the interference of Moses and Aaron. This trial was so great, as to stagger the faith even of Moses himself: he could not, by his own reason, discover why the LORD should do evil to the people He had promised to deliver ; or why he should delay their relief, when every human means failed. To revive his hope, the Lord graciously vouchsafed to inform ses, what He designed to do, in order to accomplish the purpose He had before declared : and that Moses might not doubt His power to effect it, the Lory reminded him of the excellency and perfection of His Divine nature, enumerating the several titles by which He had formerly been known to the patriarchs.
The name JEHOVAH is synonymous with LORD, and the original word is frequently so translated in our version of the Old Testament; it can belong to none but God Himself; for it imports, not only eternal existence, but omnipotent power, and unchangeable truth. By this title, the Divine IMAGE of God was distinguished from false deities in the family of Seth*; and by this. He revealed Himself to Abraham and Jacob.
That Moses might not be disheartened by the opposition of Pharaoh, God intimated to him, that the proud king would make great resistance ; but that he should finally be subdued. As a farther encouragement Moses was assured, that God remembered his covenant, and attended to the distresses of His chosen people.
☆ Gen. iv, 26.
What could be more comfortable to the Israelites, than the words which God dictated to Moses to speak unto them! They contained every thing that their hearts could wish, yet the people. derived no consolation from them: harassed with continual labour, and overwhelmed with grief: for their accumulated misfortunes, they had no leisure to consider the authenticity of the message which Moses delivered to them. He had as yet done no act to engage their confidence ; and the things which He promised to them, were such as had never been done for
pation. In - consi.' deration of these circumstances, we may presumé, GOD pardoned their unbelief; for we do not read that. He expressed any displeasure at their murmurings,
As Moses had found on a former occasion, as well as in addressing the Israelites, the want of persuasive eloquence, it was natural for him to fear a second repulse from the king of Egypt.
It is observable, that in giving a charge to Moses and Aaron, the LORD assigned to each of them a distinct province: Moses was to be the immediate representative of JEHOVAH, invested with authority to demand the obedience of Pharaoh ; and Aaron to be his prophet, or subordinate minister. The LORD Himself engaged to perform signs and wonders.
From the expression I have made thee a God to Pharaoh, we may understand, that every petition which this obdurate king might have occasion to offer for respite, from tine to time, should be made to Moses, as the LORD Hiniself disdained to hearken to him. That Moses and Aaron might not suppose God required of them more than they were able to perform, the Lord acquainted them that they would have nothing to do but to speak and act as He should from time to time direct, and that
they might be prepared for great opposition, He also informed them, that ". He should harden, Pharaoh's heart;" by which (I think) may be understood, not only that the LORD would abandon Pharaoh to his own, wicked inclinations, but that he would moderate, for a time, that part of the punishment annexed to presumptuous sin, which is emphatically called the terror of the LORD ; a kind of instinctive dread of divine vengeance, the
very reverse of that consolation which the righteous. often feel, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, in the midst of the heaviest afflictions.
From the expression, The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, it is evident, that they believed in false gods ; and the history of ancient times corroborates this opinion, for it is related, that they were notorious for num. berless idolatries.
We may learn from this lesson, that God's delaying His
mercy is no proof of His having forsaken His servants; that He compassionates their sufferings, and draws nearer to them the more they are oppressed, and that He bears with their infirmities. These considerations should incline us to place our trust and confidence in Him.
i We also learn (as the Apostle expresses it) that such as do not like to retain God in their knowledge, he gives over to a reprobate mind, or a mind void of understanding ; destitute of the aid of the Holy Spirit. This is the greatest evil that can be inflicted in this life, for the assistance of the Holy Spirit is absolutely necessary to help our discernment, in respect to the things which belong unto our peace, and to regulate our judgment in all spiritual matters. The person, who is deprived of this divine guide, however wise, he may be in worldly matters, abuses his reason in religious concerns, * Rom. i. 28.
and commits the greatest enormities. While we are willing to retain God in our knowledge, there is no fear that He will abandon us. Let our will therefore ever co-operate with His grace; and be it our earnest and daily prayer to God, that He may not take his Holy SPIRIT from us !
IN:0 SERPENTS - THE WATER
TURNED INTO BLOOD.
From Exodus, Chap. vii. And the Lord spake unto Moses, and unto Aaron, saying,
When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you ; then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod and cast it before Pharaoh, and shall become a serpent.
And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the LORD had commanded : and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent.
Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorce. rers; now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments.
For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents, but Aaron's rod si allowed
their rods. And he hardened Pharaoh's heart, that he hearkened not unto them ; as the LORD had said.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh's heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.
Get thee unto Pharaoh in the morning ; lo, he goeth out unto the water ; and thou shalt stand by the river's bank against he come ; and the rod which was turned to a serpent shalt thou take in tline hand.“