Page images

that scarcely any thing less than the authority of the Bible could have recommended it to our belief. It should teach us the doctrine not merely of a general, but also of a particular providence, which orders every event, and, in a special manner, watches over those who are designed by God to fill distinguished stations in his church.

By the circumstance of his adoption, Moses obtained an education which, otherwise, he could not; and which he turned to the best of purposes. He continued for forty years of his life to breathe the tainted atmosphere of a court. "And he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds." But, notwithstanding the pride of heart which, in an unsanctified mind, these things tend to awaken and nourish; (for whose moral constitution is so vigorous that he can retain his health amidst pollution? who can be wiser than his fellows and not be vain ?) they had not this effect upon him. But two other circumstances are to be kept in view, as suggested by St. Paul, Heb. xi, 24, namely,-1. His refusal "to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter," although a prospect was thereby opened to his ambition of one day swaying the Egyptian sceptre, as the Jewish writers assert without reserve; and, 2. His choosing the only remaining alternative, if he fled the court, the schools, and the avenue to the throne, namely, affliction with the people of God. He certainly owed a debt of gratitude to his adopting mother for having saved his life, and for the advantages of education. But neither the plea of gratitude nor the attraction of a court, neither the pride of ambition nor the dread of suffering, could prevent this holy man from bearing his cross with his brethren.

A very awful circumstance obliged him to leave the land of luxury and snares. He was forty years of age when it came into his mind to go and visit his afflicted brethren, whose residence and place of occupation were, probably, at some distance from the residence of Pharaoh and his court. As he approached the tents of his oppressed brethren, and beheld their cruel burdens, he saw, what was no rare occurrence, an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew. Grief, pity, and indignation, by turns, swelled his breast; till, at length, the last prevailed and, looking this way and that to see if he were within observation, he hastened to side with his countryman; and, in the end, slew the oppressor. His crime did not, perhaps, amount to murder; for, as the law of God has it, "he hated not the man aforetime." He did not come to the place with any intention of perpetrating such a deed; and, at the moment of conflict, it was not likely that he contemplated such an issue. These are palliating circumstances, to say nothing of the provocation, which was very great. But we do not mean altogether to defend, but simply to state his conduct. Having slain the Egyptian, he hastily buried him in the sand; and thought he had concealed the deed from every eye. In this expectation, however, he deceived himself: for, the next day, it was his lot to see two Hebrews striving with each other. He attempted to separate them, in an affectionate manner, reproving the aggressor. "Wherefore," said he, "smitest thou thy fellow?" Inflamed with every cruel and bad passion, the other retorted by asking, "Who made thee a prince and a judge over us?" and by reminding him of his conduct on the preceding day, saying, "Intendest thou to kill me as thou killedst the Egyptian?" It is no way unlikely that there was a tone of superiority in

Moses's speech. He had just before left a court where he was a favourite; and, in such a place, and under such circumstances, he was not likely to speak in a very humble manner. Alarmed to find that the earth had not covered the slain, and still more terrified to understand that Pharaoh sought his life, he fled from his countrymen and from Egypt; and sojourned in the land of Midian, on the borders of the wilderness. It is probable that the father and mother of Moses were now dead; and also the princess who had brought him up; for we hear no more of them.

He was now reduced, at once, from affluence to want. Banished from a court, where he had spent the best of his days; from the land of his birth; and from his countrymen whom he loved and pitied, but who did not yet acknowledge him; labouring under the imputation of an awful crime, and conscious to himself of, at least, some guilt; we may, in a measure, conjecture his feelings. The heart bleeds for him, suffering under the pain of a wounded reputation, as he sat him down by a well. There was no apparent way, in which he could be saved from perishing; when a singular and romantic circumstance introduced him to new connections and to new pursuits. The priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they, as usual, tended his flocks. As Moses sat upon the well, it happened that they came to water their flocks; and were rudely repulsed by some unceremonious shepherds. Moses gallantly interposed, and watered their flock. Having returned home sooner than usual, the father of the shepherdesses inquired, "How is it that you are come so soon to-day?" and they narrated the civility of the stranger. Scripture history is very brief in relating events of the greatest importance to those concerned. In one place, it tells

us, in two expressions, events of no common kind to those concerned-"So Zimri died, and Omri reigned." We are not here told more of the particulars than that Moses was introduced into the family, and was beloved by them. He lived with them, and loved them. His affection increased with his acquaintance; and, in the end, he married Zipporah, one of the daughters; who bore him two sons, according to Stephen's account; though the birth of only one of them is mentioned in the book of Exodus.

For the space of forty years Moses resided in the land of Midian, and was a stranger to his own people. At what period of this time he was united to Zipporah, Scripture history does not inform us. It is equally silent about any thing which befell him during the whole of that time. We have every reason to believe that he increased in piety to God and benevolence to man. It is a remarkable circumstance, in the conduct of divine providence, that men, who are designed to fill distinguished stations in the church of God, should oftentimes be fitted for them by undergoing much of the discipline of sanctified affliction. Such was the case with Moses. The occupation which he now followed left him much time for reflection. No doubt the condition of his countrymen was the frequent subject of his thoughts, and of his prayers. However comfortable he might be himself, he could not forget the closeness of those ties which united him to his brethren; nor the misery which they endured. Sometimes he would be ready to think that God had forgotten to be gracious; that his mercies were clean gone for ever; and that he remembered no more the covenant which he had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. During this period of his life, he, doubtless, greatly improved in that

[ocr errors]

quality of mind for which he was famed above all the men on the face of the earth; and was daily becoming better prepared for the discharge of the duties to which he was afterward to be called.

We are come nearly to the close of his private life; and, really, the circumstances which are noticed of him are so few that it is somewhat difficult to determine his character. One thing, however, is truly observable in him throughout; namely, his generous sympathy with the distressed. He could not be happy in the midst of the greatest court then on earth, (for Egypt was the cradle of the arts and sciences long before Greece rose into notice,) when he remembered the state of his brethren. He was not, as some, forgetful of his unhappy kinsmen. With a spirit the very opposite of Haman's, he said, in reviewing his fortunate condition, and beholding his flattering prospects, "Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Israel in bonds." But the day of their redemption was drawing nigh. The number of their appointed years of servitude was filled up. They were worn down with hard labour; so that their cry came up to God for deliverance, by whomsoever he pleased to send. They were, at length, willing to encounter any dangers, to suffer any privations, so that they might but escape the yoke of the Egyptians. They were even disposed to receive him, whom they had previously rejected, as their divinely appointed deliverer; nor had their ingratitude to him extinguished his love to them.

« PreviousContinue »