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priests alone untouched. He then gave them seed, and restored their lands, on the condition of their paying a tax of the fifth part of the produce to the king every year. By so doing he consolidated and confirmed the king's authority; and enabled him, if so disposed, to become an absolute monarch. All this, it has been said, might be grateful to the sovereign; but was, by no means, advantageous to the people. He found them, say the objectors, a free people; and he reduced them to bondage; and his conduct can only be excused on the ground that he knew not the consequences which must ensue from the adoption of his own plans. Now, I confess I see no reason to impute folly to Joseph, to save him from the imputation of something worse. What evidence have we that, before his day, the Egyptians were a free people? Considering the irregular and undefined condition of monarchies, in their first formation, we must allow that it was doing them an essential favour to change the lawless and despotic exactions of a sovereign into a certain and determinate tax. The people themselves, unquestionably the best judges, felt deeply indebted to Joseph. "Thou hast saved our lives," said they, "let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's servants." From the constitution of society there must needs be subordination; and experience has proved, that under certain restrictions and regulations one master is better than many. Every society will have a degree of liberty proportioned to its ability to use it. The infant's will is wholly guided by that of another; and our liberty is given, by degrees, as we approach to manhood, and attain the requisite knowledge. Where there is too little liberty there is tyranny, where too much, licentiousness. This is true in states, as well as in the case of individuals. By
Joseph's plans the powers of the king were limited and defined, and the mutual happiness of the governor and the governed promoted.
It has often been thought that a man's character is most strongly indicated by his last action. It was Joseph's last act to exact an oath from his brethren that, when God should visit and deliver them, they would carry his bones into Canaan. This was a proof of his faith. "By faith," says St. Paul, "Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones." For ages, his skeleton was a prophecy, a pledge of the going forth of Israel out of Egypt. Having lived to a good old age, and seen his children's children, full of days, and filled with God, he closed his eyes on this world, and opened them on the paradise above.
We have now travelled through the whole of his recorded history, and never, excepting the incarnate Son of God, was there a character of so many virtues and so few blemishes. There was something more exalted in his illustrious great grandfather. But piety, generosity, intelligence, and genius, are everywhere conspicuous in him. His reverence for his father, his gratitude to his masters, his patience in suffering, his firmness in temptation, his meekness in adversity, his humility in prosperity, his consistency and probity, are all stars of the first magnitude in the constellation of his virtues.
"Come now, therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt," Exod. iii, 10.
MOSES is one of the most singular characters of whom sacred or profane history makes mention. Considered merely as a political or private character, his history can never be read without a singular degree of interest. In the circumstances of his birth, education, and adventures, there is something exceedingly romantic. The history of his political life is a part of the history of the world. The people he governed are, to this day, the wonder and astonishment of mankind. Part of them live among us; and are governed by the same laws as ourselves. But though we see them daily, they are, comparatively, strangers; and we have more sympathy for men born in the most distant regions than for them. They have their peculiar customs and ceremonies, civil and sacred, which they profess to deduce from the remotest antiquity; and of whose institution we read, in this man's life, for he was their legislator. To be possessed then of any authentic account of the origin of such a people must be a matter of high interest.
But, in another respect, the character of this man is of importance, more especially to such as believe the divinity of the Bible. He was not only a man of singular piety, as an individual; but he occupied a distinguished station in the church of God.
divinely commissioned to work miracles in confirmation of his divine mission. He beheld God face to face; and talked with him, "as a man talketh with his friend." He received, by divine communication, a revelation of his will, his law, and a large commentary upon that law; as also the whole economy of the Levitical institutions. He foretold the coming of Messiah; and described himself as a type of him that was
We propose to consider him in his life as a private, as a political, and as a sacred character.
I. We consider Moses as a private character. He was of the children of Israel. His father and mother were of the tribe of Levi. He was born at the time when the long-foretold period of Israel's sojourn in Egypt was hastening to its close. Only seventy-five persons, the family of Jacob, had gone down into Egypt; but these, in the course of a hundred and thirty-five years, had prodigiously multiplied, till they had become a great nation. The circumstance of their living separate, in property, pursuits, and family connections, from the Egyptian nation, even in the heart of their country, was sufficient to awaken the jealousy of the king, and of the inhabitants of the land. Indeed it is almost a matter of surprise that their jealousy should have so long lain dormant. Actuated by a fear (or feigning it for political purposes) that these strangers, in a case of rebellion or invasion, events no way uncommon in the then unsettled state of governments, might join the king's enemies, Pharaoh resolved, with savage policy, to exterminate the whole of the Israelitish males. He thought to have compassed his design by procuring the destruction of every male infant; but in this attempt he utterly failed. Nor was he more
successful in the infliction of various cruelties upon the people; for the more they were oppressed the more they grew and multiplied.
It was at this period that Moses was born. For three months after his birth his mother contrived to elude the execution of Pharaoh's inhuman order, that every male child should be cast into the Nile. But, after spending that time in the utmost anxiety, she resolved to commit him to the care of Providence; and having made a little basket of bulrushes, "and daubed it with slime and with pitch, she put the child therein; and laid it in the flags by the river's brink." By the wise and kind providence of God, a circumstance of the most romantic kind led to the preservation of the child. One of the princesses, the daughter of Pharaoh, as she was walking on the banks of the river, with her attendants, saw something remarkable among the flags; and sent one of them to see what it was. She received the little basket from her servant; and, on opening it, behold there was a child! "And the babe wept." Its tender age, its helpless condition, and the eloquence of its tears had a powerful effect upon the princess; and from that moment, although fully aware it was an outcast of the Hebrews, she loved him as her own. The sister of Moses, either by her mother's direction, or through the impulse of her own affection, looked, from a distance, on the scene; and, coming forward, offered to bring a Hebrew woman to nurse the child for her. Under this character she introduced the mother of Moses to Pharaoh's daughter. The child was committed to her care; and when he was weaned, he was adopted by the princess as her son; and subsequently instructed "in all the learning of Egypt." The whole story is so much out of the common course of events,