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should not be furnished with "straw to make bricks," and yet that the full "tale of bricks" should be required as before. Of what use the straw was is somewhat problematical. Three conjectures have been started: that it was used for firing the clay; that it was employed in covering the bricks from the too intense heat of the sun which dried them; or, that it entered into their composition. The new grievance was most cruelly enacted; and when the Israelites themselves prayed Pharaoh for its removal, they were both insulted and refused. In anguish of soul, they reproached Moses and Aaron as the cause of aggravated misery to them. The brethren were, however, encouraged to comfort Israel with assurances of deliverance, and again to petition Pharaoh. In both they failed of success. The king refused to hearken. And when Aaron threw down his rod, and it became a serpent, the magi were sent for, who did the same with the rods of their own; but with this difference as to the result, that their rods were swallowed up by that of Aaron.
Many have been the discussions upon the subject of the miracles wrought by the magicians. The following seems to me to be the most satisfactory conclusion yet arrived at. In early ages, and until the revival and spread of literature and science, a learned or scientific man was accounted a magician. The more thinking part of the community attributed any thing extraordinary which he did to his skill and learning: the more ignorant ascribed it to diabolical assistance, a mistake into which they would the more naturally fall, because the boundaries of science were neither defined nor understood; because the learned affected secresy; and the cause of what was done was unperceived. The ingenious Bacon was accounted a magician; and Co
pernicus was imprisoned for affirming that the earth was round. Pharaoh imagined that this apparent miracle was only a deceptio visus, which Moses by his skill had effected. The swallowing of the other rods he overlooked. But how could the magicians imitate the miracle? Is it either impossible or improbable that God might permit them to succeed in the presumptuous attempt, at least to a limited extent ?
Again and again did God intimate his will to Pharaoh, but avarice, rendering him reluctant to lose so precious a vassalage, and pride, indisposing him to yield to Moses, made him slow of heart to believe. The waters were turned to blood, and continued in that state for seven days; but something like this was done by the magicians also. Frogs covered the whole land, and this was imitated; but these the magicians could not remove. Pharaoh was, therefore, mortified, and promised obedience to God. To let him see that the hand of the Lord was in it, they were taken away at a certain hour the next day, and then presumption returned, and he refused to hearken. Then, by another command of God to Moses, to smite the land, lice or gnats (a small insect with a sting) were innumerable in the land. As a proof of the truth of the remarks made above, concerning the Egyptian magicians and Pharaoh, it may be observed, that the former tried to imitate this last miracle, in which success seemed, at first sight, as easy as in the former; and which, therefore, they attempted without scruple, not anticipating a failure, or they would have refrained from making the attempt. But this was beyond their power; and they said unto Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God."
The mercy of God to Pharaoh was remarkably shown in the pains (if I may so speak) which were
taken to convince him; showing clearly that it was God, and not man, with whom he had to contend, and preintimating the plagues which befell the land. But he rushed on to his own destruction. Another message is sent and another threatening given, of the plague of flies; from which Goshen was to be exempted. The plague came and increased. The stubborn man at length yielded so far as to direct Moses "to sacrifice in Egypt." Compliance was avoided, by reminding him that oxen were held sacred by the Egyptians; that these animals must be sacrificed by the Israelites; and that to do this in Egypt would be equally impolitic and dangerous. The king dreaded to lose them, and they were resolved to go. At length he promised assent; and entreated Moses to intercede for him, that the plague might be removed. This was done, and his rebellion recurred again. The facility with which he agreed to let the people go was presumptive proof of insincerity. How gracious and long-suffering was God, both to him and his people, if haply they might repent!
Five more plagues, the murrain, the biles and blains, the hail, the locusts, and the darkness followed, in awful succession. Under each, Pharaoh was submissive; but when the terror was removed, his obstinacy returned. After the last of them, the darkness, Moses and he parted, never more to meet on friendly terms. It was now that God resolved to put into execution the awful threat which hung over Pharaoh and his people. He had declared that if Pharaoh would not let the Lord's first-born go free, his own first-born should be slain. It was now evident that no milder summons would avail; and, therefore, he must suffer. The intimation of this determination, on the part of God, was
communicated to Moses, along with a command that every Israelite should borrow his neighbour's jewels. And when this was announced to Pharaoh, his wrath was kindled, but his heart was hardened and unmoved. The preceding circumstances had, as may be supposed, aroused the awe and attention of all Egypt; every eye was turned upon Moses; and he and all his people found favour in the sight of the Egyptians.
The feast of the paschal lamb was ordained, for the perpetual remembrance of the exodus and passover; and this is not forgotten by Israel to this day. The Jews still eat the unleavened bread, on the appointed day, yearly. The lamb was to be eaten by one or more families, with haste, their staves in their hand, and ready prepared for journeying. No part was to remain till the morning. And, finally, as a singular type of that blood which brings exemption from eternal death, their door posts were to be sprinkled with its blood, that the destroying angel might pass over their habitations. The awful moment drew near, and, at midnight, a cry was heard throughout all the land of Egypt, for every man's first-born was slain; and "there was not a house where there was not one dead." The suddenness, the awfulness, and the extent of the calamity, awakened the greatest terror in the minds of the Egyptians and their king. By the command of the latter, the Israelites were ordered out of Egypt instantly; and so eager were the people for their departure, that they would not allow them time to bake their bread; and readily gave them whatever they asked. The night was still dark, when six hundred thousand men, besides women and children, set forth from Goshen, Such a multitude, travelling in one body, day by day, and under a vertical sun, must have been seriously
inconvenienced. But to their astonishment, the inconvenience was no sooner felt than removed; for a mighty canopy of cloud stretched itself over the whole camp; and what must have been their surprise on perceiving that it extended no farther than to the extremities of their camp, and that it moved as they moved, and they soon learned to stop when it stayed. It were vain to say this was a common cloud; for clouds and rain are equally rare in Egypt; and the circumstance of its circumscribed extent and its removal prove it supernatural. It was the chariot of God. Add to this another circumstance. The twilight, in those climes, is much shorter than with us, and the approach of night more sudden. With what wonder, then, would they perceive, that when the sun went down, the pillar of cloud brightened into a steady flame, which, while it shed abundant light over all the camp, was not, by any means, oppressive. This phenomenon continued during the whole period that Israel was in the wilderness, and guided them in all their journeyings.
On the first occurrence of any alarming event, it has long been the custom of men to conceive it to be wholly providential; to acknowledge "this is the finger of God;" and then, as soon as the first emotions subside, to see nothing extraordinary in the matter; nothing that may not be traced to second causes; nothing for which we cannot account, at the same time that God is left wholly out of the question. Accordingly, as soon as the terror of the Egyptian court had been somewhat calmed, their ingenuity discovered a reason for the late awful mortality, without any reference to a divine intervention. Their avarice revived, when they thought of the national loss they had sustained in the escape of the Israelites. Their revenge