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MOSES AND HIS CHOICE.
Heb. xi. 24–26. By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called
the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season ; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.
It was promised in the last lecture, that I would subsequently take up one of the many illustrious characters referred to in this chapter for more minute and particular discussion. I have accordingly selected that of Moses as probably the best suited to our purposes.
One of the most forcible methods of exhibiting truth, is to contrast it with its opposite. If we wish to discover the various windings of a crooked path, we draw a straight line by its side, and every deviation is at once plain. Christ himself sometimes fell upon this plan to give a more forcible impression to his teaching. In proof of this I need only refer you to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Under what facinating colors did he there paint sin? “ There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.” And in what unengaging forms did he picture piety? “And there was a certain beggar which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores." But after carrying the contrast forward to another life, how effectually does he show the great preferableness of virtue even with the humblest condition of life, to vice even with the magnificence and luxury of kings! The history of Moses, and particularly the circumstance alluded to in the text, furnishes opportunity for inculcating the same truth in a similar way. I propose 1st. To give a brief account of Moses; 2nd. To show the choice he made; and 3d. To consider the wisdom of that choice.
To those who read their Bibles, the history of Moses is so familiar that not much need here be said about it. A brief account however will not be unacceptable. He was born of Israelitish parents, of the tribe of Levi, in the line of Koath, in Egypt. The time of his birth was shortly after the publication of the bloody edict of Pharoah for the destruction of every new-born male Hebrew child. The motive of this decree was a low jealously on the part of the Egyptians. It was feared, from the rapid increase of the Hebrew slaves, that they would soon outnumber their masters, rebel against them, and finally usurp the entire government of the nation. And this was but one expedient adopted to prevent the rapid multiplication of the Israelites. A very short time after this cruel decree was proclaimed, Moses was born. But to avoid it, his parents concealed him. It is said that "they were not afraid of the king's commandment.” The reason of this was “because they saw he was a proper child." They saw something unusual in bis infant features which seemed to indicate his future greatness. Probably his countenance was lit up with something of that sacred radiance which in the wilderness became too bright for men to look upon. And if it was not so, a mother's love could easily fancy it; and his parents determined that he should not be slain.
It was at length found that further concealment was very difficult and dangerous. Reports had probably gone abroad that such a Hebrew mother had hid her child. Threats of official search were made. And it was found extremely hazardous and imprudent to attempt to keep him concealed any longer. But were those fond parents now to become the murderers of their child? Having with so much anxiety and care kept him “ three months,” were they now to slay him with their own hands? The thought was too shocking. Divine mercy suggested an expedient. They constructed a little "ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein, and laid it in the flags by the river's brink. And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him. And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river's side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maids to fetch it. And when she had opened it, she saw the child; and behold the babe wept. And she had compasion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrew's children. Then said his sister to Pharaoh's
daughter, shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee? And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child's mother. And Pharaoh's daughter said unto her, Take this child away and nurse it for me and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child and nursed it. And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses; saying, Because I drew him out of the water."
We cannot fail to observe here a most mysterious and wise Providence. This is seen, not only in the preservation of his life; but in securing for him a thorough education, a familiar acquaintance with the affairs of government, and a dignity which must have commanded respect; while at the same time it so preserved his intercourse with his own family and nation, that as he was instructed “ in all the wisdom of the Egyptians,” he acquired at home a knowledge of the redemption of Israel, and of that great Savior who was promised to the world.
Nor can we fail to be struck with the singular, sudden, and marked elevation which was thus given to the infant Moses. One hour he was the innocent and unfortunate victim of Egyptian jealously, with a watery grave before him; the next he was reputed the son of a princess, and crowned with the titles of Egyptian royalty. A little while ago he was the poor dying child of a slave; and now he is the legitimate heir of the throne of the mightiest kingdom in the world. From under the sentence of death—from the very mouth of an ignoble grave he is taken to the palace as his home, and set down at the right hand of the king himself.
But subsequently, “ when he was come to years,” there was another change as singular, sudden and marked as this, brought about in his circumstances. Steven says, “when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.” The ease and affluence of the Egyptian court did not deaden the sensibilities of his heart to the wants and woes of others. Amid all his princely prospects he never forgot the despised and oppressed people from whom he sprung. When he entered the palace, a mother's pious influence went with him, and shielded his affections from the seductive influences of royalty. Nor could the selfish joys of the court satisfy his soul whilst his brethren were
eating the bread and drinking the waters of affliction. He felt that the throne of Egypt was not the place for him; and he could not accept of a heathen crown and sceptre whilst the people of God were groaning in their bondage. Confiding in the statements of his fathers concerning the Divine promises to Israel, he "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter." It does not signify that he rejected the nominal appellation, but that he refused to be treated as her son. He positively declined all the honor and aggrandizement which was implied in that relation; “ choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season ; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.”
This brings us to consider the choice which Moses made. And here it is to be observed that religion is a matter of free and unbiased choice. Upon this point there does not seem to be any room for doubt. 1st. Because it is in accordance with our own consciousness. Every one has an inward sense that all his actions are free. “We feel and know that we act for ourselves; that we are led to determine our own conduct in an infinite variety of circumstances; that we are not impelled contrary to our own choice and inclinations.”! 2nd. Because it is altogether agreeable to the manner in which the Scriptures are addressed to mankind. The whole compass of the Bible, that is more than the simple declaration of facts, is presented in the form of invitation, exhortation, or command. Invitation plainly implies the independent agency of the one invited to accept or not accept as he may choose. Exhortation is an address to the will, and presupposes that the person exhorted can yield or refuse at his own discretion. And as to the commands of God, every one knows that they can be broken, and are broken at the sinner's own pleasure. 3rd. Because it accords precisely with examples which we find in the sacred record. In the valedictory of Joshua to the people of Israel we find him calling upon them to choose whom they would serve. It is also said of his predecessor that he set before the people blessing and cursing, life and death for their choice. And so in the text it is said of him, that he chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. 4th. There
Hall's Works, Vol. IV. p. 176.
does not seem to be any room for doubt on this point, because of the harsh and unfortunate lengths to which the contrary would conduct us. If we conclude that man is not left to act freely and of his own choice in everything relating to his sphere, or that he is in any shape or form, a creature of necessity, then we have been altogether wrong in our theory of moral government, and virtue and vice are mere fancies which may as well be applied to a steam-engine, or any other machinery, as to man. All this is harsh, unnatural, and absurd, and furnishes a strong testimony to the statement which has been made. I hold then, that religion is a thing of choice—that every one who becomes pious, does so of his own election, and feels at the time that a different course might be pursued.
Whenever choice is to be made, there must be two or more objects between which to choose. Otherwise there is no choice. The objects between which Moses was to decide, were, on the one hand, princely wealth, glory, and authority, with a religion of idolatry; and on the other, poverty, shame, and oppression, with a hope of reward beyond the grave. Here were two powerful competitors for the suffrage of Moses. Each one possessed strong claims, and urged them upon the soul with great and almost irresistible force. To decide in the favor of either one, violence must be done to his feelings toward the other. If he chose the court and the throne, he must then forever tear himself away from his suffering kindred, and give up the hope of ever participating in the rest which was promised to Israel. If he chose to cast in his lot with the Hebrews, he must then forego all his enjoyments and prospects of a worldly nature, and outrage those grateful feelings which he owed to his adopted mother for sparing his life and conferring upon him his exalted distinction. A mighty struggle must have agitated his bosom. Many prayers and tears and sleepless nights must it have occasioned. But finally he decided ; and a magnanimous decision it was. He "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward." And what adds to the significance and glory of this choice is, that it was made deliberately, “in the grand climacteric of life, with all