Page images

eminent saint: much more therefore may we suppose him to prevail over one, who is his blind and willing vassale. We do not indeed know, from any express declarations, that Satan interfered in this work of hardening Pharaoh: but, when we recollect how he instigated David to number the people ; how he prevailed on Peter to deny, and Judas to betray, his Lord; how he filled the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira that they might lie unto God; and finally, how expressly we are told that “he works in all the children of disobedience;" we can have no doubt respecting his agency in the heart of Pharaoh.

Thus, as far as respects a withholding of that grace which might have softened Pharaoh's heart, and a giving him an opportunity to shew his malignant dispositions, and a permitting of Satan to exert his influence, God hardened Pharaoh's heart: but as being a perfectly free agent, Pharaoh hardened his own heart: and this is repeatedly affirmed in the subsequent parts of this history.]

When once we have learned what was the true nature of God's agency, and how far it was concerned in the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, we shall be at no loss, II. To vindicate it

We must never forget that “God's ways and thoughts are infinitely above ours;” and that, whether we approve of them or not, “he will never give account of them to us:" yet, constituted as we are, we feel a satisfaction in being able to discern their suitableness to the divine character. Of the dispensation then which we are considering, we may say,

1. It was righteous, as it respected the individual himself—

[It was perfectly righteous that Pharaoh should be left to himself. What injury would God have done, if he had acted towards the whole human race precisely as he did towards the fallen angels? What reason can be assigned why man, who had imitated their wickedness, should not be a partaker of their punishment? If then none had any claim upon God for the exercise of his grace, how much less could Pharaoh have a title to it, after having so proudly defied God, and so obstinately withstood his most express commands? If there was any thing unjust in abandoning Pharaoh to the corrupt affections of his heart, all other sinners in the universe have reason to make the same complaint, that God is unrighteous in his dealings with them. In that case, God could not, consistently with his own

e 2 Cor. iv. 4. 2 Tim. ii. 26.

justice, permit sin at all: he must impose an irresistible restraint on all, and cease to deal with us as persons in a state of probation.

Again, it was righteous in God to suffer such a concurrence of circumstances as should give scope for the exercise of his corruptions. God is no more bound to destroy man's free agency by his providence, than he is by his grace. Was it unrighteous in him to let Cain have an opportunity of executing his murderous project against his brother Abel? or has he been unjust, as often as he has permitted others to accomplish their wicked purposes? Doubtless he has interposed, by his providence, to prevent the execution of many evils that have been conceived in our minds': but he is not bound to do so for any one; nor could he do it universally, without changing the nature of his government, and the whole course of the world. .

Moreover, it was righteous to give Satan liberty to exert his influence over Pharaoh. Pharaoh chose to believe the agents of Satan rather than the servants of the Most High God; and to obey their counsels rather than his. Why then should God continue to restrain Satan, when Pharaoh desired nothing so much as to yield to his temptations ? When Ahab sent for all his lying prophets to counsel him and to foster his delusions, God permitted “ Satan to be a lying spirit in the mouth of all those prophets," that they might all concur in the same fatal advice. Was this unjust? Was it not agreeable to Ahab's own wish; and was not the contrary counsel of the Lord's prophet rejected by him with disdain? Pharaoh wished to be deceived; and God permitted it to be according to his own heart's desire.

On the whole then, if men are to be left to their own free agency, instead of being dealt with as mere machines; and if God have ordered the general course of his providence agreeably to this rule, resisting the proud while he gives grace to the humble; then was he fully justified in suffering this impious monarch to harden his already proud and obdurate heart 6.]

2. It was merciful, as it respected the universe at large

[We form erroneous conceptions of the divine government, because we view it on too contracted a scale. God, in his dealings with mankind, consults, not the benefit of an individual merely, but the good of the whole. Now this conduct towards Pharaoh was calculated exceedingly to promote the welfare of all succeeding generations. It has given us lessons of instruction that are of the greatest value.

It has shewn us the extreme depravity of the human heart. Who would have conceived that a man, warned as Pharaoh was

permitted acts to counsetations ? Whendesired not

him with disdantrary counselor cable to Ahab's to

f Hos. i. 6. & 1 Kings xxii. 21-23.
h Compare Deut. ii. 30. and Josh. xi. 20.

by so many tremendous plagues, should continue, to the last, to set himself against the God of heaven and earth? But in him we see what men will do, when their pride, their passions, and their interests have gained an ascendant over them: they will defy God to his face; and, if softened for a moment by the severity of his judgments, they will soon, like metal from the furnace, return to their wonted hardness.

It has shewn us our need of divine grace. Widely as men differ from each other in their constitutional frame both of body and mind, they all agree in this, that “ they have a carnal mind, which is enmity against God; and which neither is, nor can be, subject to his lawi.” We may all see in Pharaoh a striking portrait of ourselves: and if one be enabled to mortify the evils of his heart, whilst others continue in bondage to their lusts, he must say, “ By the grace of God I am what I am." If we have no more grace than Pharaoh in our hearts, we shall have no more holiness in our lives.

It has shewn us the danger of fighting against Godk. “Fools make a mock at sin,” and “puff at the threatened judgments" of God. But let any one see in Pharaoh the danger of being given over to a reprobate mind: let any one see in what our hardness of heart may issue: and he will tremble lest God should say respecting him, “He is joined to idols; let him alone.”

It has shewn us the obligations we lie under to God for the long-suffering he has already exercised towards us. We read the history of Pharaoh: happy is it for us, that we have not been left, like him, to be a warning to others. No tongue can utter the thanks that are due to him on this account. If we know any thing of our own hearts, we shall be ready to think ourselves the greatest monuments of mercy that ever were rescued from perdition.

Now these lessons are invaluable: and every one that reads the history of this unhappy monarch, must see them written in it as with the pen of a diamond.] ADDRESS

[We are told to “remember Lot's wife:” and it will be well also to remember Pharaoh. Let none of us trifle with our convictions, or follow carnal policy in preference to the commands of God -- Let the messages of God be received with reverence, and obeyed with cheerfulness --- Let us be afraid of hardening our own hearts, lest God should give us over to final obduracy? If God withdraw from us, Satan will quickly comem: and if we are left to Satan's agency, better were it for us that we had never been born. ---Seek of God the influences of the Holy Ghost, who will “ take away the heart of stone, and give you an heart of flesh."]

i Rom. viii. 7. Isai. xlv. 9. Job ix. 4. m 1 Sam. xvi. 14. LXXI. PHARAOH'S ELEVATION TO THE THRONE OF EGYPT. Exod. ix. 16. In very deed, for this cause have I raised thee

up, for to shew in thee my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.

IT is justly said, in reference to evidence, that it is strong in proportion as it arises out of incidental points, which had no necessary connexion with the fact to be established. The same I may say in relation to the doctrines of our holy religion, especially those doctrines which are most controverted, and most stand in need of evidence for their support. Of this kind is the doctrine of election; which, being extremely opposed to the pride of human nature, meets with strong opposition from the carnal mind. I am far from saying that that doctrine is not extremely objectionable, if viewed as its adversaries, and not a few of its advocates also, are wont to state it; but, if viewed in its true light, and as the Scriptures themselves state it, I conceive that it cannot reasonably be doubted.

In the passage before us, there was no particular intention to establish that doctrine. Moses had laboured in vain to induce Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go to worship Jehovah in the wilderness. He had, as God's appointed instrument, inflicted many plagues on the land of Egypt, and removed them again by his intercessions; and yet neither by the judgments nor the mercies had he prevailed on Pharaoh, who still continued to harden his heart against God. He now assumed a bolder tone; and declared, that not only should the Egyptians be smitten with pestilence, but that Pharaoh himself also “should be cut off from the earth,” for his obstinate resistance to God's express commands. And then he delivers to him, from God himself, this awful declaration: “In very deed, for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.”

This declaration it is my intention, in the present discourse, I. To explain

God here asserts, that he had raised up Pharaoh for a special purpose, with which his own glory was intimately connected. He had determined to bring forth his people from Egypt, in such a way as should display most remarkably his own power, and should bring glory to his name throughout all the earth. Some, by the expression “ raised up,” understand restoring him to health from the disorder inflicted on him in common with his people and the magicians. But it does not appear that Pharaoh had been visited with that disorder: and the threatening in the verse before our text, “I will smite thee,” rather seems to shew, that he had not yet been smitten in his own person: but, whether we understand the words as relating to his elevation to the throne, or to a restoration to health, the main object of the declaration will be the same; namely, that God, knowing what would assuredly be the result of a further trial of his obedience, had determined so to try him, in order that by the issue of the contest God's glory might be displayed throughout all the earth.

The substance of the declaration, then, may be considered as expressing the following truths1. That God allots to every man his station in life

[Nothing can be more clear, than that the time and place of every man's entrance into life is fixed by God. That we are born in this age and country has in no respect depended on ourselves : we might as well, if God had so ordained, been born of Heathen or Mahometan parents, or never have been permitted to see the light, and perished in our mother's womb. We might have been brought into the world from parents either of the highest or lowest rank, and been doomed to occupy a place in society widely different from that which we at present fill. All this was true of Pharaoh, and it is equally true of every child of man. “Our times are in God's hands," and “ he determines the bounds of our habitation 6."]

2. That he foreknows how every man will act in the situation to which he is called

a Ps. xxxi. 15. b Acts xvii. 26. VOL. I.


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »