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Exodus viii. 28–32.
28. And Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far cray : entreat for me.
29. And Moses said, Behold, I go out from thee, and I will entreat the Lord that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, to
morrow : but let not Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.
30. And Moses went out from Pharaoh, and entreated the Lord.
31. And the Lord did according to the word of Moses : and he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people : there remained not one.
32. And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let ihe people go.
PHARAOH, as we have seen, having found his boon rejected, advanced one step farther; the Israelites shall now not only sacrifice, but even sacrifice in the wilderness, if they will undertake "not to go very far away.”
What an admirable picture does the whole of this portion of Pharaoh's conduct afford of the fear-extorted, time-serving, bargainingobedience of the world in general! Driven, perhaps, by terror in sickness or sorrow into some momentary compunction for long and deeply-rooted disobedience and neglect, they begin to ask, what does the Lord require of me? and having seen the answer, as made by our Lord himself in the pages of the New Testament, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me,” - they immediately commence, by abstracting as much from the command as they think can be done with safety, and then by promising to obey the remainder.
They will follow Christ, just so far as convenience, and the countenance of those around them will admit; they do not wish to be singular, or to excite the remarks or animadversions of their usual associates, but, so far as Christ and the world can be blended, they will not object to follow him. They will sacrifice to him in the land," but they will not go out to him in the wilderness. They will attend a few outward ordinances which they think compatible with a continued enjoyment of the pleasures of the world, they will make a few formal protestations of respect and regard to religion in general, and to their national church in particular, but as to any real intention of devoting the whole heart to God, or of submitting their whole will to his, or of really leaving the sinful habits of the world, and distinctly and decidedly obeying the apostolical injunction, “Let us go forth, therefore, unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach," it forms no part whatever of their intentions, and is just as far from their thoughts and resolutions as from those of Pharaoh himself.
To such persons we would say with sincere affection, but at the same time with unshrinking firmness, you cannot remain" in the land," and yet sacrifice as God has required in the wilderness;" there must be a going forth, a separation, a coming out from the
world of unbelievers. He who has said, “ My son, give me thy heart,” will be contented with nothing less, and nothing short of it; and to endeavour to pacify your own consciences and your own souls with that poor limited degree of service, which you must be perfectly aware cannot satisfy God, is a measure of folly so great, of self-deception so blind, and at the same time so ruinous, that we know no language sufficiently strong in which to deprecate it. Our Lord has plainly said, " ye cannot,” not ye must not,“ serve God and mammon;" and he who, after so signal a warning, still resolves to make the attempt, may rest assured that in the end he shall « lie down in sorrow.”
Exodus ix. 1-15.
1. Then the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
2. For if thou refuse to let them go, and wilt hold them still,
3. Behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain.
4. And the Lord shall sever belween the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children's of Israel.
5. And the Lord appointed a set time, saying, To-morrow the Lord shall do this thing in the land.
6 And the Lord did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one.
7. And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.
8. And the Lord said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh.
9. And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains upon man and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt.
10. And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaver: and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man and upon beast.
11. And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians.
12. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaok, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had spoken unto Moses.
13. And the Lord said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
14. For I will at this time send all my plugues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth.
15. For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth.
The first judgment recorded in the verses that we have just read, is the murrain, which God inflicted upon all the cattle of the Egyptians, and it was accompanied by that marked peculiarity which attended the previous plague of flies; it was not permitted to enter that portion of the country in which the Israelites dwelt, viz. the land of Goshen. “ The Lord,” says the historian, “shall sever between the cattle of
Israel, and the cattle of Egypt; and there shall nothing die of all that is the children's of Israel.” So in the previous plague of flies, “I will sever in that day, the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarm of Aies shall be there." 66 In that day,” marks the first time that this distinction had been made; previously to this, the Israelites were alike partakers of the chastenings from the hand of God, with the Egyptians; there was evidently no exception; the waters were turned into blood, “throughout all the land of Egypt;" the frogs were ordered to come up upon Pharaoh, and upon his
people, and “upon all his servants," or slaves; “ All the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt.” But even while this similarity of treatment continued, how different the intention was on the part of him who inflicted it, and on the part of those who suffered from it, let their whole succeeding history demonstrate. 6 The same sun that hardens the clay, softens the wax.” The same sufferings that were merely ripening the Egyptians for ruin, and driving them farther from God, were, indeed, chastening the Israelites for past offences, but at the same time drawing their hearts closer to the Father, by whom they were afflicted. The Israelites, as we have seen in a former exposition, needed chastisement, and God loved them too well to withhold it, but he also loved them too well to continue it one moment longer than was absolutely necessary. And now this painful necessity appears to have been at an end, for, from every future punishment of the Egyptians, we are expressly informed, as each particular