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LECTURE 117. That we need the help of God without delay. Pharaoh has due notice of the plague of frogs; “ if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs.” It does not appear that any such notice was given of the plague of lice. But in both cases the result is the same; Pharaoh “hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said.” Some judgments befal us suddenly; of others we have notice long beforehand. It makes no difference to those whose hearts are hardened; in neither case will they hearken to the Lord. The magicians by their enchantments “ brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt.” But though they tried they could not do so with the lice. And thereupon they said unto Pharaoh, , “This is the finger of God.” And yet he would not let the

peoAs the magicians bare witness to God, so in after times the very devils testified to Christ. And yet there were some found to say, “ He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils." John 11. 15. Where the will is obstinate, the weight of evidence is lost upon the mind. Lord, turn Thou the hearts of unbelievers ! Lord, help Thou our unbelief!

The plague of frogs was the last of those in which the miracle wrought by Moses was imitated by the magicians of Egypt. It was also the first which was expressly removed at the intercession of the prophet of the Lord. Thus though it was but one plague, it forms two miracles; of which the latter, namely the deliverance from the plague, was not so much as attempted by the magicians. And to make the workmanship of God more plain in the matter, Moses bids Pharaoh name the time when the plague should cease. “Glory over me:" put me to the severest test, take every means in your power to try my pretensions. “When shall I intreat for thee!" "What confidence in the arm of God is here shewn by his servant! What a pattern for us, to have faith in his ability and willingness to help! We cannot indeed name the time. This must in our case be left to God. But we can do more; for we can attain to being persuaded, that the time at which He chooses to grant our prayers, is better than any time which we could choose for ourselves. And he said, Tomorrow.” What pride in Pharoah, that he should be above saying today, lest he should seem to be smarting under the lash! What unbelief, that he should put off intercession till tomorrow, in the hope that today the plague might cease without it! Lord, we know that only by thy grace we stand; put not off, we pray Thee, thy succour till tomorrow! Lord, we own that under thy chastisements we faint ; spare us, we beseech Thee, and deliver us, this day! Take not away thy face even for a moment, or we suffer ! Shew us the light of thy countenance, and in a moment we are whole!

The plague of swarms. Pharaoh is moved. 20 And the LORD said unto meet so to do; for we shall saMoses, Rise up early in the crifice the abomination of the morning, and stand before Pha- Egyptians to the LORD our raoh; lo, he cometh forth to the God: lo, shall we sacrifice the water; and say unto him, Thus abomination of the Egyptians saith the Lord, Let my people before their eyes, and will they go, that they may serve me. not stone us? 21 Else, if thou wilt not let my 27 We will go three days' jourpeople go, behold, I will send ney into the wilderness, and saswarms of flies upon thee, and crifice to the Lord our God, as upon thy servants, and upon thy he shall command us. people, and into thy houses: 28 And Pharaoh said, I will let and the houses of the Egyptians you go, that ye may sacrifice to shall be full of swarms of flies, the LORD your God in the wiland also the ground whereon derness; only ye shall not govery they are.

far away : intreat for me. 22 And I will sever in that day 29 And Moses said, Behold, I the land of Goshen, in which go out from thee, and I will inmy people dwell, that no swarms treat the Lord that the swarms of flies shall be there ; to the end of flies may depart from Phathou mayest know that I am the raoh, from his servants, and from Lord in the midst of the earth. his people, tomorrow: but let not

23 And I will put a division be- Pharaoh deal deceitfully any tween my people and thy people: more in not letting the people go to morrow shall this sign be. to sacrifice to the Lord.

24 And the Lord did so; and 30 And Moses went out from there came a grievous swarm of Pharaoh, and intreated the flies into the house of Pharaoh, Lord. and into his servants' houses, and 31 And the LORD did accordinto all the land of Egypt: the ing to the word of Moses ; and land was corrupted by reason of he removed the swarms of flies the swarm of flies.

from Pharaoh, from his servants, 25 And Pharaoh called for Mo- and from his people; there reses and for Aaron, and said, Go mained not one. ye, sacrifice to your God in the 32 And Pharaoh hardened his land.

heart at this time also, neither 26 And Moses said, It is not would he let the people go.

LECTURE 118. Warning against dealing deceitfully with God. Here is a fresh token to prove the hard heart of Pharaoh, namely, the distinction made in this plague between the land of Egypt, and the land of Goshen. Here is a fresh sign most convincing to Pharaoh, and most affecting to the Israelites, to shew that these miracles were the work of the God of Israel. At least it is not mentioned that any such distinction was made in their favour, in the case of the plagues previous to this. And as it is probable that the Israelites were infected with a taint of the Egyptian idolatry, and also not heartily determined to follow Moses at all costs in the way of God's commandments, it might be well for them to taste the bitterness of God's wrath, before they experienced the sweetness of his mercy. And is it not thus that He still deals with his best loved servants? Do they not for a season share the many and grievous plagues, which are inflicted by the disordered course of nature on a wicked world? But let us be of good cheer. It is only for a season. God will soon make a signal difference between them that dwell in Goshen, and the citizens of Egypt. What is time, when weighed against eternity? What matter the few plagues we suffer here, if they prevent us from continuing in sins, which would expose us to misery for ever ?

There is some doubt as to what this plague consisted in; by what kind of swarms “the land was corrupted.” For there is no word in the original that answers to “flies” in our translation; as may be known by observing, that in our bibles this word is in a different print. That they were flies has been supposed from a comparison of this passage with the Psalm in which the plagues of Egypt are spoken of, where “all manner of fies” are mentioned amongst the rest. Ps. 105. 31. In the margin it is suggested that the word may mean: “a mixture of noisome beasts.” And as it is said, that after the Lord had removed this plague of swarms, “there remained not one,” that is to say, no one of these creatures, whatsoever they were ; it is possible that they were something strange, something never before and never after seen in Egypt, and perhaps never in all the world.

But be this as it may, it is evident in any case that this plague had very great weight with Pharaoh for a time. First he proposed that the Israelites should sacrifice in Goshen. And when Moses objected, that they had to sacrifice the very animals which the Egyptians worshipped, and therefore durst not do it before their eyes, Pharaoh then gave leave for their departure ; adding “ye shall not go very

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intreat for me.

Well might Moses warn bim not to deal deceitfully. Well may we take this warning to ourselves, if we are apt to comply with the commandments of God, only just whilst we are smarting under the chastisements of his hand, and then again, as soon as we are relieved of our affliction, apt to follow our own will and pleasure. Oh what can more plainly argue hardness in the heart, what can more surely tend to harden it

, than thus to promise to God, without performing, to purpose without doing; to prove by our purposes that we know our duty, and by our practice that in reality we are determined not to do it ? God forbid that we should ever so sin against light and knowledge ! God grant that we may never deal thus deceitfully, both towards ourselves, and towards Him!

The plague of murrain ; and the plague of boils. i Then the LORD said unto Mo- tle of the Israelites dead. And the ses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell heart of Pharaoh was hardened, him, Thus saith the LORD God and he did not let the people go. of the Hebrews, Let my people 8 And the Lord said unto Mogo, that they may serve me. ses and unto Aaron, Take to you

2 For if thou refuse to let them handfuls of ashes of the furnace, go, and wilt hold them still, and let Moses sprinkle it toward 3 Behold, the hand of the LORD the heaven in the sight of Phais upon thy cattle which is in the raoh. field, upon the horses, upon the 9 And it shall become small asses, upon the camels, upon the dust in all the land of Egypt, and oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a boil breaking forth with shall be a very grievous murrain. blains upon man, and upon beast,

4 And the LORD shall sever throughout all the land of Egypt. between the cattle of Israel and 10 And they took ashes of the the cattle of Egypt: and there furnace, and stood before Phashall nothing die of all that is the raoh; and Moses sprinkled it up children's of Israel.

toward heaven; and it became a 5 And the LORD appointed a set boil breaking forth with blains time, saying, To morrow the upon man, and upon beast. Lord shall do this thing in the ii And the magicians could land.

not stand before Moses because 6 And the Lord did that thing of the boils; for the boil was upon on the morrow, and all the cattle the magicians, and upon all the of Egypt died: but of the cattle Egyptians. of the children of Israel died not 12 And the LORD hardened the one.

heart of Pharaoh, and he heark7 And Pharaoh sent, and, be- ened not unto them; as the hold, there was not one of the cat- LORD had spoken unto Moses.

LECTURE 119. The danger of idolizing any earthly object. Both these plagues appear to have had a reference to the idolatry which prevailed amongst the Egyptians. For it is well known, that in after times they used to worship for gods the very animals who suffered by this murrain. And it is probable that this practice was already common amongst them; or the Israelites in the wilderness would not so readily have bethought themselves of bowing down to a golden calf. So that we may suppose, that it is to this very plague that Moses in part refers, when he says of Jehovah, in the book of Numbers, 33. 4, “Upon their gods also the Lord executed judgments.” And then in the other plague, the “ ashes of the furnace,” cannot mean, as some have supposed, the ashes of the brick kilns, at which the Israelites were oppressed; because their bricks were not burnt by fire, but only hardened in the sun. And they therefore probably mean ashes from the hearths of their altars, sacred in their eyes, but offensive to the majesty of God, and therefore by Him justly applied to bring the plague of sore boils on the idolaters.

This latter plague affected all, both man and beast, both the foolish worshippers of animals, and the animals which they worshipped. It also reached to the magicians, so that they could not stand before Moses because of the boils.” By which means their folly was manifest, as St. Paul writes, unto all men. See 2 Tim. 3. 8, 9. The former plague cut off “all the cattle of Egypt;" that is to say, all that were threatened with it by Moses, all which were 6s in the field.” And in this case, as before, God made a distinction in favour of his people; that nothing should die of all that belonged to the children of Israel. They had been in some degree chastised already. Instead of sacrificing to their cattle, they were now willing to sacrifice of their cattle to the Lord, as He had commanded their fathers before them, and had now instructed them by his servant Moses. Now this is exactly the difference between a worldly state of mind, and a Christian disposition, in regard to all our earthly treasures. The natural man turns them into idols. The spiritual man counts them all but loss, is willing to sacrifice them all, for the sake of winning Christ. Oh how often, whilst men are setting their affection on earthly objects, how often does it happen that the things which they so highly prize, are abomination in the sight of God! How exactly according to their deserts does God often bring it to pass, that the desire of their eyes proves the plague of their hearts ; that the wealth which they have coveted, destroys such peace as they enjoyed before they had it, that the child whom they have idolized, is the very one that brings down their gray hairs with sorrow to the grave!

Let us then listen to the exhortation of the apostle, “ Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5. 21. Let us be afraid lest if we make to ourselves idols of the blessings, which God allows us to enjoy, He should execute judgments upon our gods, as well as upon ourselves. How great must have been the horror of the Egyptians, to see their sacred cattle slain by murrain, and the consecrated ashes of their idol altars turned into blains and boils ! How bitter will be our grief, if we allow ourselves to love any one on earth in preference to our Lord, how bitter will be our grief, how unavailing our regret, when death in some frightful form carries off the object of our idolatry; we feeling that we have ourselves provoked the blow !

O God, let us hearken to thy prophets, and apostles, whilst yet there is time! Let us have grace to put away from us all idolatry, ere yet Thou comest to judge the earth !

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