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as both Pharaoh and his people were, suffering nature would have said, “To-day,” but insolent, unfeeling pride replies, “To-morrow.” And Moses accepts the time which Pharaoh chooses to name, probably to demonstrate, by the departure of the plague at the precise period fixed by Pharaoh, that not chance but Providence, determined alike the coming and the departure of these fearful judgments.
Exodus viii. 16–18.
16. And the Lord said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.
17. And they did so: for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt.
18. And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man, and
It is singular that the first of the plagues which the Egyptian magicians were unable to imitate, was this third plague, of lice. The smallest and least imposing of all the different judgments, and, perhaps, on that very account selected by the Almighty as the one which should first discomfit and defeat the magicians. Proving thus, that though acting by diabolical agency, which we cannot doubt they did, the
Egyptian enchanters were entirely controlled by the divine permission, without which they could have no more possessed the ability to have turned the water into blood, or to “bring up frogs into the land of Egypt,” than in after ages the devils could have had power to enter into the herd of swine, until the Saviour of the world allowed it. What can be more encouraging to the Christian than these many and ample proofs of the limited rule of his subtle and malevolent enemy? Is it true that Satan could not, even to forward one of the most important oppositions in which he ever engaged with the Most High, create a single insect of the smallest and most contemptible order, when earth and air were swarming with them? And shall he, of his own free will, be able to create such formidable impediments to the Christian's salvation, that by his evil machinations, one who has forsaken sin, and fled to Christ for refuge, one weak brother, for whom Christ died, should perish? “That be far from thee, O Lord; that the righteous be as the wicked, that be far from thee.” Surely, never shall Satan pluck one penitent, believing, obeying child of God out of his Father's hand; never shall the destroyer have power to quench the life which Christ has given, to reverse the pardon which Christ has sealed. No, he may turn our waters into blood, he may render our most innocent pleasures painful, or our most necessary enjoyments noxious, but he cannot go one step beyond the line which Christ has drawn; he cannot regain one captive who clings in faith and hope to the Saviour by whoin he has been liberated; he cannot, blessed be
God, destroy one humble, praying, loving soul, which Christ has ransomed for himself, and saved with an everlasting salvation.
Exodus viii. 19_27.
19. Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said.
20. And the Lord said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; lo, he cometh forth to the water; and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
21. Else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses; and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are.
22. And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no ,swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth.
23. And I will put a division between my people and thy people : to-morrow shall this sign be.
24. And the Lord did so : and there came a grievous swarm of fies into the house of Pharaoh, and into his servants' houses, and into all the land of Egypt; the land was corrupted by reason of the swarm of flies.
25. And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.
26. And Moses said, It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the Lord our God : lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?
27. We will go three days' journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the Lord our God, as he shall command us.
At the commencement of the portion of Scripture which we have just read, we find that the magicians themselves were convinced that the wonders which were now performing, were wrought by the finger of God. Their own power had found its limit, and they felt that the evil spirit, with whom they dealt, was in the hands of one greater and stronger than he, and could no longer aid them. Hitherto, indeed, they had been permitted to increase the plagues of their master, to turn more water into blood, and “to bring up more frogs," and strange and very wonderful was the demoniacal power which was permitted thus for wise and obvious purposes to aid them; but it had now reached its boundary, it never had been allowed to alleviate, and it is no longer suffered to increase those judgments, which must be distinctly acknowledged by the whole world, to be the sole work of the great Jehovah, unimitated and inimitable. Unable, therefore, to produce any resemblance of the last miracle of Moses, they acknowledge at once, and with far more candour han their master, the sovereignty of God, and by so doing, afford to Pharaoh another powerful evidence of the existence of the great Jehovah, and another opportunity, before the gate of mercy should be for ever closed, of submitting himself to the Most High. But all was lost upon this rebellious monarch, for we read, “Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said,” or had predicted. The Almighty, therefore, immediately prepares another judgment in the shape of swarms of flies throughout all the houses of the Egyptians, so that the land was corrupted by reason of the flies. This, for the first time, appears to have bent the proud and stubborn heart of the king into some approach to an unconditional obedience. Pharaoh had in the former portion of the chapter offered the dismissal of the Israelites in return for an alleviation of his sufferings, but we are now told that he called Moses and Aaron, and simply said unto them, “Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land;" that is, remain within the boundaries of the land of Egypt, but without setting foot in the desert, and you may obey at least half the injunction of your God; you shall have permission to sacrifice, but it must be here, and among ourselves; there shall be no going forth into the wilderness.
How close a resemblance is there here to the manner in which the world still acts towards the people of God! Are you commanded to sacrifice, to worship? Assuredly you should obey, but there is no need that we should separate for such a purpose; remain in the world, it will hinder no religious duties, it will stand in the way of no holy devotedness to God, you can serve him just as well without any of this unnecessary singularity. Alas! for those who listen to its siren voice-how few, how very few of such ever escape its thraldom!
The Christian's course is plain: if “the friendship of the world be enmity with God," the sooner the child of God renounces his Father's enemies, the better: the sooner he withdraws from all unnecessary intercourse with them, the holier will be his walk, the safer his peace, the more abundant his consolation.