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children, Moses was soon cheered by the presence of his brother Aaron, who came, divinely directed, to meet him in the wilderness: there they conferred together upon the wondrous task assigned them; and when they reached Egypt, Aaron commenced his portion of the duty, by speaking unto the people of Israel all the words which God had spoken unto Moses ; a communication which they received with humble faith and grateful adoration. Far different was the reception that they met with from Pharaoh, when they required of him to let the people go : though their request was limited to obtaining leave to hold a festival to their Lord in the wilderness, a stern rebuke, and a command that the labours of the people should be increased yet more, was all the answer they had from the haughty monarch. But God consoled them under the despondency which this first result of their endeavours could not fail to cause, and encouraged them to go in again unto Pharaoh, and offer to prove their words by the test of a miracle : this miracle, which was the turning of Aaron's rod into a serpent, was imitated by Jannes and Jambres, the Egyptian sorcerers ;* and though Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods, yet the partial success of his wise men caused the heart of Pharaoh to be hardened, and he refused to let the people go. So dangerous is a little prosperity, a little success in worldly devices, when it leads men on to fight against God.

The miracles of Moses now changed their character, and became inflictions of punishment upon the proud king, and his blinded subjects: the waters of their river, the rich and fertilizing Nile, were changed into blood, unfit for drinking, and destructive of the fish; and out of them, after the lapse of seven days, came forth an innumerable multitude of frogs, which, contrary

2 Tim. iii. 8.

"*

to their usual habits, crawled up into the houses, and even to the beds of the Egyptians, insomuch that no place was exempt from their annoyance; and their very death, when at the prayer of Moses they died, infected the air with noisome vapours.

These two miracles also the sorcerers of Egypt were enabled, we know not how, to imitate by their enchantments : at the next, which was productive of a still minuter and more disgusting animal, even lice in all their quarters, they were compelled to own their failure, and said unto Pharaoh,“ This is the finger of God.” But this confession, extorted from those in whom he vainly trusted, produced no alteration in the purpose of Pharaoh ; and though for a moment his obstinacy gave way before the grievousness of the next plague, an enormous swarm of flies, which become in hot countries an insupportable annoyance, so that he even promised to dismiss the people, on condition that they would not go far; yet even this concession he soon retracted, when the plague which caused it was removed, and resisted with greater obduracy than ever that which followed it, a very grievous murrain upon the cattle and the sheep, from which those belonging to the Israelites were perfectly secure. Then the Lord

gave him up to the hardness of his heart, and resolved to make of him a terrible example : the cruel punishment of boils and blains breaking forth on man and beast, had no effect upon him — the rain and hail, which struck down the vines and fig-trees, the barley and the flax, produced in him only a fruitless sentiment of momentary remorse—the dreadful visitation of countless locusts, so long as it lasted, impelled him to express a wish that his bondmen might depart; but the moment a west wind arose and cast them into the Red Sea, the favourable dis

• Exod. viii. 19.

position passed away from his soul, and left him more hopelessly obstinate than ever, more desperately bent upon his own destruction. Then ensued a thick darkness over all the land of Egypt, a darkness that might be felt : the sun, whom they ignorantly worshipped, refused the comfort of his beams to the dismayed idolaters--they sat in silence and in loneliness, not venturing to move, “ fettered,” as it is expressed in the book of Wisdom,“ with the bonds of a long night,'* while “ all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings"-an apt image of the gloom and misery of sin, and the illumination and happiness of those who fear their God. Even Pharaoh, hardened as he was, was not altogether insensible to the contrast - he offered to let the people go, if they would leave their flocks and herds behind them : in this he showed a covetous, as he had before showed a haughty mind—the love of gain, or rather the fear of losing what he had unjustly gotten, prevailed over all other fears; and the words of his last communing with

“ Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more ; for in that day thou seest my face, thou shalt die.” And Moses, being full of a prophetic spirit, and foreseeing his speedy overthrow, answered, “ Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more."

Moses were,

CHAP. XIV.

THE GOING FORTH OUT OF EGYPT.

THO
PHOUGH the last interview of Moses with Pharaoh

had been unsuccessful, as regarded its main object, namely, the sending away of the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, yet the Lord, who knew how soon the determination of that obstinate ruler would be shaken by the terrible blow which still remained to be inflicted on him, began now to work upon

* Wisd. xvii. l.

* Exod. x. 23.

| Ibid. x. 28, 29.

the minds of his subjects, inducing them to look with favour upon the Israelites, and to supply them in abundance with valuable gifts, “ jewels of silver and jewels of gold,"* under the expectation probably of thereby escaping the wrath of that awful Being who had so visibly bared his arm for the protection of his people. But the long oppression which they had exercised over God's heritage, when it lay in its despised and helpless state, was now to be visited with the fullest chastisement; and that cruel device in particular which aimed at the enfeebling of the nation through the destruction of its infant males, met now with its appropriate punishment, in the blow by which in one night their own first-born were smitten of God. In the former plagues which had vexed the Egyptians, the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel dwelt, was preserved uninjured; but it appeared that God had so ordained this his tenth and last visitation, that unless the Israelites had protected themselves after a certain manner, in which they were instructed, their firstborn also would have been involved in the universal destruction. And this he did, in order that by means of that ceremonial institution, which he appointed to preserve them, he might give them some intimation of the method in which the salvation of all them that are saved would finally be brought to pass: that when the time came, the true Israelites might recognise in their paschal lamb, and in its blood of sprinkling, the sacrifice of Christ, and keep the feast thenceforward according to its spiritual import, in remembrance of him.

The directions which the people received from Moses, with respect to the means of averting the danger that hung over them, were to this effect:-On the tenth day of the month called Abib, thenceforward to be esteemed the first of their religious year, the head of every family was to select a lamb of a year old, pure and unblemished: he was to keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month, and then to kill it in the evening. Its blood was to be sprinkled on the two side-posts and upper door-posts of their houses, as a token to the destroyer; that he might pass over those houses on which the instituted sign was, and smite none within them. Its flesh they were to eat that same evening, with unleavened bread, and with bitter herbs ; they were to let none of it remain until the morning; they were not to break a bone thereof. They were to eat it as men preparing to set off upon a journey, with their loins girded, their shoes on their feet, their staff in their hand; and the circumstance of their bread being unleavened, which might seem to have been owing to the necessity of the case, which allowed them no time to leaven it, was not to be neglected in their future celebrations of it, (for they were to keep it a feast for ever,) but for seven days, beginning with that on which the lamb was slain, no leaven was to be found in their houses; the leaven being emblematical, as an apostle of Christ tells us, of malice and wickedness, and the unleavened bread, of sincerity and truth. * The children of Israel, being thus warned and instructed, did as Moses had enjoined them; and while each of them at the head of his family feasted in security upon the typical lamb, whose blood was his defence from evil, the Lord smote all the first-born of the Egyptians, from the first-born of Pharaoh, who sat on his throne, unto the first-born of the captive that was in the dungeon.

* Exod. xi. 2; xii. 35.

* 1 Cor: y. 8.

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