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bold. Frequency of conversation gives us freedom of access to God, and makes us pour out our hearts to him as fully and as fearlessly as to our friends. In the mean time, now at first he made not so much haste to see, but he made as much to hide his eyes. Twice did Moses hide his face; once for the glory which God put upon him, which made him so shine that he could not be beheld of others; once for God's own glory, which he could not behold. No marvel. Some of the creatures are too glorious for mortal eyes; how much more, when God appears to us in the easiest manner, must his glory needs overcome us! Behold the difference betwixt our present and future estate. Then the more majesty of appearance, the more delight. When our sin is quite gone, all our fear at God's presence shall be turned into joy. God appeared to Adam before his sin with comfort, but in the same form, which, after his sin, was terrible. And if Moses cannot abide to look upon God's glory, when he descends to us in mercy, how shall wicked ones abide to see his fearful presence when he sets upon vengeance! In this fire he flamed, and consumed not; but in his revenge, our God is a consuming fire.
First, Moses hides himself in fear, now in modesty. "Who am I?" None in all Egypt or Midian was comparably fit for this embassage. Which of the Israelites had been brought up a courtier, a scholar, an Israelite by blood, by education an Egyptian, learned, wise, valiant, experienced? Yet, "Who am I?" The more fit any man is for whatsoever vocation, the less he thinks himself. Forwardness argues insufficiency. The unworthy thinks still, Who am I not? Modest beginnings give hopeful proceedings and happy endings. Once before, Moses had taken upon him, and laid about him; hoping then they would have known, that by his hand God meant to deliver Israel: but now, when it comes to the point, Who am I?” God's best servants are not ever in an equal disposition to good duties. If we find differences in ourselves sometimes, it argues that grace is not our own. It is our frailty that those services which we are forward to aloof off, we shrink at near hand, and fearfully misgive, How many of us can bid defiances to death, and suggest answers to absent temptations, which, when they come home to us, we fly off, and change our note, and, instead of action, expostulate!
The Plagues of Egypt.
'IT is too much honour for flesh and blood to receive a message from heaven; yet here God sends a message to man, and is repulsed. Well may God ask, Who is man, that I should regard him? But for man to ask, Who is the Lord? is a proud and a bold blasphemy. Thus wild is nature at the first; but ere God hath done with Pharaoh, he will be known of him, he will make himself known by him to all the world. God might have swept him away suddenly. How unworthy is he of life, who, with the same breath that he receives, denies the giver of it! But he would have him convinced, ere he was punished. First, therefore, he works miracles before him, then upon him. Pharaoh was now, from a staff of protection and sustentation to God's people, turned to a serpent that stung them to death. God shews himself, in this real emblem, doing that suddenly before him, which Satan had wrought in him by leisure: and now, when he crawls, and winds, and hisses, threatening peril to Israel, he shews him how in an instant he can turn him into a senseless stick, and make him, if not useful, yet fearless. The same God which wrought this, gives Satan leave to imitate it. The first plague that he meant to inflict upon Pharaoh, is delusion. God can be content the devil should win himself credit, where he means to judge; and holds the honour of a miracle well lost, to harden an enemy: yet, to shew that his miracle was of power, the other's of permission, Moses' serpent devours theirs. How easily might the Egyptians have thought, that he which caused their serpent not to be, could have kept it from being and that they, which could not keep their serpent from devouring, could not secure them from being consumed! But wise thoughts enter not into those that must perish. All God's judgments stand ready, and wait but till they be called for. They need but a watch-word to be given them. No sooner is the rod lift up, but they are gone forth into the world: presently the waters run into blood; the frogs and lice crawl about, and all the other troops of God come rushing in upon his adversaries. All creatures conspire to revenge the injuries of God. If the Egyptians look upward,
there they have thunder, lightning, hail, tempests: one while no light at all; another while such fearful flashes, as had more terror than darkness. If they look under them, there they see their waters changed into blood, their earth swarming with frogs and grashoppers: if about them, one while the flies fill their eyes and ears; another while they see their fruits destroyed, their cattle dying, their children dead. If, lastly, they look upon themselves, they see themselves loathsome with lice; painful and deformed with scabs, biles, and botches.
First, God begins his judgments with waters. As the river of Nilus was to Egypt, instead of heaven, to moisten and fatten the earth; so their confidence was more in it than in heaven. Men are sure to be punished most, and soonest, in that which they make a corrival with God. They had before defiled the river with the blood of innocents; and now it appears to them in his own colour. The waters will no longer keep their counsel. Never any man delighted in blood, which had not enough of it ere his end: they shed but some few streams, and now behold whole rivers of blood. Neither was this more a monument of their slaughter past, than an image of their future destruction. They were afterwards overwhelmed in the Red Sea and now, beforehand, they see the rivers red with blood. How dependent and servile is the life of man, that cannot either want one element, or endure it corrupted! It is hard to say, whether there were more horror or annoyance in this plague. They complain of thirst, and yet doubt whether they should die or quench it with blood. Their fish (the chief part of their sustenance) dies with the infection, and infecteth more by being dead. The stench of both is ready to poison the inhabitants; yet Pharaoh's curiosity carries him away quite from the sense of the judgment. He had rather send for his magicians to work feats, than to humble himself under God for the removal of this plague; and God plagues his curiosity with deceit: those whom he trusts, shall undo him with prevailing. The glory of a second miracle shall be obscured by a false imitation, for a greater glory to God in the sequel.
The rod is lift up again. Behold, that Nilus, which they had before adored, was never so beneficial as it is now troublesome; yielding them not only a dead, but a living annoyance: it never did so store them with fish as it now
plagues thein with frogs. Whatsoever any man makes his god, besides the true one, shall be once his tormentor. Those loathsome creatures leave their own element, to punish them which rebelliously detained Israel from their own. No bed, no table can be free from them: their dainty ladies cannot keep them out of their bosoms; neither can the Egyptians sooner open their mouths than they are ready to creep into their throats as if they would tell them, that they came on purpose to revenge the wrongs of their Maker. Yet even this wonder also is Satan allowed to imitate. Who can marvel to see the best virtues counterfeited by wicked men, when he sees the devil emulating the miraculous power of God? The feats that Satan plays may harden, but cannot benefit. He that hath leave to bring frogs, hath neither leave nor power to take them away, nor to take away the stench from them. To bring them, was but to add to the judgment; to remove them, was an act of mercy. God doth commonly use Satan in executing of judgment, never in the works of mercy
Yet even by thus much is Pharaoh hardened, and the sorcerers grown insolent. When the devil and his agents are in the height of their pride, God shames them in a trifle. The rod is lift up. The very dust receives life. Lice abound every where, and make no difference betwixt beggars and princes. Though Pharaoh and his courtiers abhorred to see themselves lousy, yet they hoped this miracle would be more easily imitable but now the greater possibility, the greater foil. How are the great wonder-mongers of Egypt abashed, that they can neither make lice of their own, nor deliver themselves from the lice that are made! Those that could make serpents and frogs, could not either make or kill lice; to shew them that those frogs and serpents were not their own workmanship. Now Pharaoh must needs see how impotent a devil he served, that could not make that vermin which every day arises voluntarily out of corruption. Jannes and Jambres cannot now make those lice (so much as by delusion) which, at another time, they cannot choose but produce unknowing, and which now they cannot avoid. That spirit which is powerful to execute the greatest things when he is bidden, is unable to do the least when he is restrained. Now these corrivals of Moses can say, "This is the finger of God." foolish enchanters, was God's finger in the lice, not in the
frogs, not in the blood, not in the serpent? And why was it rather in the less than in the greater? because ye did imitate the other, not these; as if the same finger of God had not been before in your imitation, which was now in your restraint; as if ye could have failed in these, if ye had not been only permitted the other. While wicked minds have their full scope, they never look up above themselves; but when once. God crosses them in their proceedings, their want of success teaches them to give God his own. All these plagues, perhaps, had more horror than pain in them. The frogs creep upon their clothes, the lice upon their skins: but those stinging hornets which succeed them, shall wound and kill. The water was annoyed with the first plague, the earth with the second and third; this fourth fills the air, and, besides corruption, brings smart. And that they may see this winged army comes from an angry God (not either from nature or chance), even the very flies shall make a difference betwixt Egypt and Goshen. He which gave them their being, sets them their stint. They cannot more sting an Israelite than favour an Egyptian. The very wings of flies are directed by a providence, and do acknowledge their limits. Now Pharaoh finds how impossible it is for him to stand out with God, since all his power cannot rescue him from lice and flies.
And now his heart begins to thaw a little: "Go, do sacrifice to your God in this land;" or, (since that will not be accepted) go into the wilderness, but not far." But how soon it knits again! Good thoughts make but a thoroughfare of carnal hearts, they can never settle there; yea, his very misgiving hardens him the more, that now neither the murrain of his cattle, nor the botches of his servants can stir bim a whit. He saw his cattle struck dead with a sudden contagion'; he saw his sorcerers (after their contestation with God's messengers) struck with a scab in their very faces, and yet his heart is not struck. Who would think it possible, that any soul could be secure in the midst of such variety and frequence of judgments? These very plagues have not more wonder in them, than their success hath. To what an height of obduration will sin lead a man, and, of all sins, incredulity! Amidst all these storms Pharaoh sleepeth, till the voice of God's mighty thunders, and hail mixed with fire, roused him up a little.
Now, as betwixt sleeping and waking, he starts up, and