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of a certain doctrine. What so natural and Israel, Josephus, first started this objection. common, for example, as to see the sun shi- These are his words; “ this," speaking of ning one moment in full, and unobsructed the passage of the Red Sea, “ I have related glory, and the next darkened and concealed with all the circumstances, as I find them in by clouds ? But if a person publishing a new our sacred authors. Nobody ought to think doctrine as divine, should undertake to prove it an incredible thing, that a people which his mission by changing the appearance of lived in the innocence and simplicity of the the bright orb of day, at his pleasure, and by first ages, might have found a way through showing him either in unclouded majesty, or the sea to save themselves. Whether it was eclipsed and shorn of his beams, according as that the sea itself opened it for them, or whehe
gave the word; and should we behold this ther it was done by the will of God: since very ordinary natural phenomenon actually the same thing happened long after to the Maand uniformly obeying the mandate, would cedonians, when they passed through the sea not such an event, however natural in itself, of Pamphylia, under the conduct of Alexanbecome preternatural and miraculous from der, when God thought fit to make use of its circumstances? Thus, there might be oc- that people for the destruction of the Persian casion for the influence of the wind, to favour empire, as it is affirmed by all the historians and facilitate the passage of Israel. But, who have written the life of that Prince. how was it possible for their leader, by mere However, I leave all men to judge of this human sagacity, to discover that a wind from matter as they think fit.” Thus far Josephus.* such a quarter, springing up exactly at such
The other instances which some presume an hour, should harden the bottom of the deep? to be put in competition with this, are the
But, supposing the philosophy of Moses approach of Scipio with his army to the atsufficiently accurate to assure him, that at tack of New Carthage, by means of an exsuch a time he might in safety march over traordinary ebb at the change of the moon, his cumbersome retinue ; could it inform him recorded by Livy;t a similar ebb of the river also that Pharaoh and his captains would cer- Euphrates, related by Plutarch, in his life of tainly be mad enough to follow him through Lucullus ; and, a flood altogether as singuthat dangerous route ? Could it assure him lar, upon the coast of Holland, in the year that the rashness of the tyrant, and the law 1672, which kept up for twelve whole hours, which regulated the flowing of the sea, would and was apparently the means of preserving exactly keep time, so as effectually to pro- that republic from the consequences of a joint duce the destruction of his whole army? The attack of the fleets of England and France. flux and reflux of the tide were known to It is handed down to us in the life of the faMoses; but, was it entirely unknown to the mous admiral De Ruyter, who had the comEgyptians ? What, in so great an army, led mand of the Dutch squadron at that time. by the sovereign in person, in a land renown. Neither your time nor patience admitting of ed for natural knowledge, was there no man an inquiry into the truth of these several astronomer enough to know, that the differ- facts, we satisfy ourselves with observing, ence of a few hours is every thing in a case that admitting them to be true, not one of of this sort ; that to be in such a spot, at such them is any way worthy to be compared with a time, was inevitable destruction ? Incredi- the Mosaic account of the passage across the ble! impossible!
Red Sea. The pointed and particular preFinally, it is altogether inconceivable that diction of Moses; the rod employed, and the the space of three or four hours, the utmost instantaneousness of the effect; the facility that an ebb merely natural could have and speed of the passage; the rashness of afforded them, was sufficient for the tran- the Egyptians; their tragical end; every sition of such an astonishing multitude as thing in short concurs to render this an unthat which Moscs conducted. The learn- paralleled event. And nothing but an imed Calmet has so fully demonstrated this moderate desire of depreciating the miracles point,* as to enforce the conclusion, that no of the sacred history, could have attempted degree of human knowledge could have dis- to diminish this celebrated transit into a comclosed to Moses a foresight of the events parison with any of the other events which which proved so propitious to him. Not there are alluded to. fore to the superiority of genius, but to a The third objection is, to the truth of the power divine, the praise is to be ascribed. history; pretended to be taken from the hisAnd to the same principle we must recur in tory itself. The time allotted by Moses, by order to explain the mighty difference which his own account, for the congregation, conProvidence puts between the Israelites and sisting of so many myriads, to pass over, is the Egyptians, in the midst of the Red Sea. considered by the objectors as much too short
Attempts have been made to debase the for the purpose. But in order to support it, dignity of this great event, by reducing it to they are obliged to go into uncertain, fanci. the level of similar appearances récorded by ful, and unsupported conjectures, about the profane historians. That degenerate son of breadth of the Red Sea at the place where * Dessert, sur le passage de la Mer Rouge.
*Antiq. Jud. lib. ii. cap. vii. Lib. xxvi. cap. xlv
the passage was opened. They make the individual is overlooked and lost in the gebreadth of that passage just what it suits i neral. No; every thing here is peculiar and their own arbitrary conjecture and calcula- personal. Every Israelite for himself reflects tion. They must needs constrain a great with joy on his own chains now forever bromultitude, in very peculiar circumstances, ken in pieces. He seems to exult over his unaccustomed to discipline, stimulated by own tyrant-master now subdued under him, fear, and borne on the wings of hope, to and hails his personal liberty now effectually move with the leisure and deliberation of a secured. For it is natural to the heart of regular army. They will not deign to man, in extreme danger, to refer every thing acknowledge the power and grace of the to himself, and to consider himself as all in Most High in every part of the transaction. all. “ The horse and his rider hath he thrown They overlook the description given of that into the sea:" for the same reason the horse people, Psalm cv. 37, as a people full of is much more forcible than horses would have strength and vigour, and not one sickly been; it marks strongly the suddenness, the among them.” They forget what God him- universality, the completeness of the destrucself soon after says of them, “ You have seen tion. The Egyptian cavalry, numerous, what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I formidable, covering the face of the ground, bare you on eagle's wings, and brought you is represented in a moment, by a single effort, unto myself.” We conclude, that as the case at one blow, overthrown, overwhelmed, as if taken all together was singular, unprece- they had been but one horse and one rider. dented, and followed by nothing like it; so
Verse 2. “ JEHOVAH is my strength and the particular circumstances of it are like song, and he is become my salvation: he is wise singular and unexampled, and will, my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; with every candid person, bear out Moses, my father's God, and I will exalt him.” Is it the sacred historian, against the charge of lawful to say that the poet employs the most being inconsistent with himself.
exquisite art, in representing this great deWe proceed to the second object which liverance, in every part and every view of it, we proposed, namely, to point out a few of as the work of JEHOVAH: the great “I AM the more striking beauties of the sacred song, that I am:" that name of God, by which he which was composed and sung in grateful chose to be known to Israel through the acknowledgment of that great deliverance whole of those memorable transactions? my which we have been contemplating. What strength, that is, the source or cause of my will undoubtedly give it a high value in the strength : and it points out the great God as estimation of many is, that it is the most an- the courage and force of Israel, without the cient morsel of poetry which the world is in necessity of their exerting any of their owo. possession of: being three thousand three My song,” that is, the subject of it. No hundred and thirty-seven years old, that is, instrument divides the praise with him. No six hundred and forty-seven years before power, no wisdom is employed but his own. Homer, the most ancient and the best of He planned, arranged, executed every thing heathen bards, lived or sung. But its anti- by himself
. “ He is become my salvation." quity is its slightest excellency: The The fine writers of Greece or Rome would general turn of it is great, the thoughts probably have said, “He hath saved me." nobly simple, the style sublime, the expres- But Moses says much more; the Lord hath bion strong, the pathos sweet, the figures undertaken himself to work deliverance fer natural and bold. It abounds throughout me: he hath made my salvation his own, his with images which at once strike, warm, personal concern, and is become to me every astonish, and delight. The occasion of it thing I can want. you well know. The poet's view is to in “ He is my God." Every word is emphadulge himself in transports of joy, admiration, tical." He,” in opposition to the gods of and gratitude, and to inspire the people with Egypt, which cannot hear, nor see, nor save. the same sentiments. Accordingly he thus" My God;" all-attentive to my interest and impetuously breaks out,
safety, as if he had no creature but me to care Verse 1: " I will sing unto the Lord, for for: and therefore my God : for I acknowledge he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and not, I never will acknowledge, any other. his rider hath he thrown into the sea." Here " My father's God." This repetition is most the tremendous majesty of God the deliverer, beautifully tender and pathetic. He whose and the lively gratitude of the people saved, greatness I adore, is not a strange God, unthe leading object of the piece, are placed known till now; a protector for a moment. instantly and powerfully in sight; and they No, he is the ancient patron of my family, are never dropt for one moment, to the end. his goodness is from generation to generation. I, in the singular number, is much more I have a thousand domestic proofs of his energetic and affecting than we in the plural constant, undiminished affection; and he 18
would have been. The triumph of Israel now making good to me only that which he y over the Egyptians did not resemble the usual solemnly promised to my forefathers. And
triumphs of nation over nation; where the how has he effected this?
“ The LORD is a man of war."
said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will An ordinary writer would probably have divide the spoil: my lust shall be satisfied represented the Almighty here as the God of upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand armies: and as such discomfiting the host of shall destroy them.”. You see here ven. Pharaoh. But Moses does more; he brings geance hastening to its object, regardless of him forth as a champion, a soldier; puts the opposition. The words, unconnected with a sword into his hand, and exhibits him fighting conjunction, seem to hurry on like the pashis battles, the battles of Israel.
sion that prompts to them. And in what The fourth and fifth verses contain a very does it issue !
—Thou didst blow with thy fine display and amplification of the simple wind, the sea covered them.” And the picidea suggested in the first, " the horse and ture is finished with this happy stroke, his rider.
" They sank as lead in the mighty waters. “ Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he But I feel I have undertaken a task far cast into the sea : his chosen captains are beyond my ability, and the limits of your also drowned in the Red Sea, the depths time. And therefore break off with another have covered them, they sank into the bottom borrowed remark, namely, that whatever as a stone.” Image rises and swells above grandeur and magnificence we may discover image. Pharaoh's chariots, his hosts, his in this song, as it stands in such a place and chosen captains-cast into the sea, drowned connexion, its beauty and force must greatly in the Red Sea-covered with the depths, rise upon us, were we permitted to penetrate sunk to the bottom, at once, as a stone. Not- through the mysterious sense concealed bewithstanding their pride and insolence, they hind the veil of this great event. For it is can make no more resistance to the power of certain, that this deliverance from Egypt Jehovah, than a stone launched from the arm covers and represents salvation of a superior of a strong man into the flood.
and more extensive nature. The Apostle of Every writer but a Moses must have stop- the Gentiles teaches us to consider it as a ped short here; or flattened his subject, by type of that freedom which the christian obrepeating or extending the same ideas. But tains by the waters of baptism and the renew. the seraphic poet, upborne by an imagination ing of the Holy Ghost, from the yoke of the which overleaps the boundaries of the world, prince of this world. And the prophet, in and an enthusiasm which cannot rest in any the book of Revelation, makes it to shadow creature, springs up to the Creator himself, forth the final and great deliverance of the in these rapturous strains.
redeemed, by introducing the assembly of “Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glori- those who overcome the beast, holding the ous in thy power: thy right hand, O Lord, harps of God in their hands, and singing hath dashed in pieces the enemy. In the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the greatness of thine excellency thou hast over- song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marthrown them that rose up against thee." vellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty ;
When the heart is full of an object, it just and true are thy ways, thou King of turns it round, as it were on every side, re- saints! Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, turns to it again and again; never tires in and glorify thy name? For thou only art contemplating it, till admiration is lost in holy; for all nations shall come and worship astonishment.-Moses after this effusion of before thee; for thy judgments are made joy and praise returns again to the matter manifest."* Now, as the scriptures declare of fact: but not in the language of mere de- that the wonders of this second deliverance scription, as in the 4th verse; but in a con- shall infinitely surpass the first, and shall tinuation of his bold animated address to entirely obliterate the remembrance of it; God himself; which gives it a life and fer- we may easily believe that the beauties of vour superior to any thing human. As if the the spiritual sense of this divine poem may strength of one element had not been suf- totally eclipse those of the historical. ficient to destroy God's enemies, every ele Having endeavoured imperfectly to unfold ment lends its aid. The deep opens its mouth, some of the excellencies of this ancient sathe fire consumes, the wind rages; all nature cred composition, I should proceed, as I prois up in arms, to avenge the quarrel of an posed, to point out the delicacy of attemptincensed God. The poet ennobles the wind, ing, and the difficulty of succeeding, in by making God the principle of it; and ani- imitating or extending devotional poetry; mates the fire, by making it susceptible of but your time and patience, perhaps, will be
fear. In the same style of address to God, better employed in hearing me read to you a 1 he throws himself as it were into the person short passage, containing the sentiments of
and character of the enemy, previous to their an excellent modern critict on the subject, defeat, and pours forth their sentiments of with which I shall conclude this exercise. threatening and slaughter; the more strong “ It has been the frequent lamentation of 'y to mark their disappointment, by contrast- good men, that verse has been too little ap. ing the folly and impotence of man, with the plied to the purposes of worship; and many power and justice of God. “The enemy * Rev. xv. 3, 4. | Dr. Samuel Johnson
attempts have been made to animate devotion | as it is; suppression and addition equally by pious poetry. That they have very sel- corrupt it; and such as it is, it is known aldom attained their end is sufficiently known; ready. and it may not be improper to inquire why “ From poetry the reader justly expects, they have miscarried.
and from good poetry always obtains, the en"Let no pious ear be offended, if I ad- largement of his comprehension, and elevayance, in opposition to many authorities, that tion of his fancy; but this is rarely to be poetical devotion cannot often please. The hoped for by d ristians from metrical devodoctrines of religion may, indeed, be defend- tion. Whatever is great, desirable, or treed in a didactic poem; and he who has the mendous, is comprised in the name of the 'appy power of arguing in verse, will not Supreme Being. Omnipotence cannot be ose it because his subject is sacred. A poet exalted ; infinity cannot be amplified ; permay describe the beauty and grandeur of fection cannot be improved. nature, the flowers of spring, and the har “The employments of pious meditation vests of autumn, the vicissitudes of the tide, are faith, thanksgiving, repentance, and supand the revolutions of the sky, and praise the plication. Faith, invariably uniform, cannot Maker for his works, in lines which no rea- be invested by fancy with decorations.der shall lay aside. The subject of the dis- Thanksgiving, the most joyful of all holy putation is not piety, but the motives to piety; effusions, yet addressed to a being without that of the description is not God, but the passions, is confined to a few modes, and is works of God.
to be felt rather than expressed. RepentContemplative piety, or the intercourse lance trembling in the presence of the judge, between God and the human soul, cannot be is not at leisure for cadences and epithets. poetical. Man admitted to implore the mercy Supplication of man to man may diffuse of his Creator, and plead the merits of his itself through many topics of persuasion, Redeemer, is already in a higher state than but supplication to God can only cry for poetry can confer.
mercy. “The essence of poetry is invention ; such "Of sentiments purely religious, it will be invention as, by producing something unex- found that the most simple expression is the pected, surprises and delights. The topics most sublime. Poetry loses its lustre and of devotion are few, and being few are uni- its power, because it is applied to the decoraversally known; but few as they are, they tion of something more excellent than itself can be made no more; they can receive no All that verse can do is to help the memory grace from novelty of sentiment, and very and delight the ear; and for these purposes little from novelty of expression.
be very useful; but it supplies nothing “ Poetry pleases by exhibiting an idea more to the mind. The ideas of christian theology grateful to the mind than things themselves are too simple for eloquence, too sacred for afford. This effect proceeds from the dis- fiction, and too majestic for ornament; to roplay of those parts of nature which attract, commend them by tropes and figures, is to and the concealment of those which repel magnify by a concave mirror the sideral the imagination; but religion must be shown hemisphere."
HISTORY OF MOSES.
And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah; for they were bitter: there
fore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there
he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, and said, if thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wil do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee which I have brought upon the Egyptians : for I am the Lord that healeth thee. And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm-trees; and they encamped there by the waters. -EXODUB IV. 23—27.
UNLESS the mind be under the regulating gerous speed, through the impulse of desire, power of religion, it will be perpetually ambition, or revenge; at another it is chilled osing its balance, and changing its tenor: at into languor and inaction, through fear, desme time accelerated into indecent and dan- spondency, and disappointment. We shall 2 D
behold the same person now believing things over! Every thing was suited to another incredible, and attempting things impracti- The words were adapted to the occasion, the cable; and anon staggering at the shadow of music to the words, the performers to the a doubt, and shrinking from the slightest music. There Moses, leading the bolder, appearance of difficulty and danger. Insolent, rougher notes of manly voices; here Miriam, fierce, and overbearing in prosperity, the the prophetess, his sister, in sweet accord, unsteady creature becomes grovelling, dis- blending the sotter harmony of female strains pirited, and mean in adversity. “It is a with the notes of the timbrel, in praise of good thing," therefore, " that the heart be their great Deliverer. Never surely did such established by grace :" grace, that calm, music strike the vault of heaven, and never steady, uniform principle, which veers not shall again, “till the ransomed of the Lord with every wind of doctrine; rises not, nor shall return, and come to Zion with songs, falls, like the mercury in the tube, with and everlasting joy upon their heads; when every variation of the atmosphere, according they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorto the alternate transition of disappointment row and sighing shall flee away:""* never, till and success, censure and applause, health and the song of Moses be closed with the song of sickness, youth and age. In the day of pros- the Lamb. perity, religion saith to the soul where it At length they quit the scene of their terdwells, “ Rejoice,” and in the day of adversity, ror and of their triumph; for the world admits “Consider;" for a wise anda merciful God hath not of a long continuance of either; and they set the one over against the other. This advance three days' march into the wilderness. divine principle corrects immoderate joy, Escaped effectually and forever from the saying to the happy, “Be not high minded, oppression of Egypt, no more opposed in front but fear;" it consoles and supports the mise- by an unsurmountable barrier, nor hemmed rable, by breathing the sweet assurance, that in on either side by impassable mountains, nor the “light affliction, which is but for a moment, pursued by a numerous and well disciplined worketh for us a far more exceeding and army; but the sea, once their hindrance, now eternal weight of glory."
their defence; every foe subdued, and the The want of this balance of the soul, and road to Canaan straight before them, what the dangerous consequences of that want, can now give disturbance ? On how many are strikingly exemplified in the history of circumstances does life and the comfort of it the chosen people, whom Providence, by a depend! The failure or disagreeable quality series of miracles, undertook to conduct from of one ingredient corrupts and destroys the Egypt to Canaan. Elated or depressed by the whole. In Shur they found no water; in aspect of the moment, we find them haughty Marah they find water, but it is bitter. The in the hour of victory, and sunk into despair, unavoidable condition of a wilderness state! by a defeat. The deepness of the waters of Always too little, or too much! Here there the Red Sea, and their miraculous separation, are children and penury; there affluence and afford matter of triumph to-day; the bitter- sterility. This year there is drought parching ness of the waters of Marah causes universal and consuming every plant of the field; the discontent and dejection tomorrow. But next, an overtlowing flood sweeping every alas! we need not recur to distant periods of thing before it; and unhappy mortals are history for an example of the ruinous effects eternally augmenting the necessary and unproduced by a destitution of religious princi- avoidable evils of human life, by peevishness ple, and of the fatal power of unbelief. The and discontent. bistory of every man's own experience is Oblige an ungrateful person ever so often, illustration sufficient. To what must we and disappoint or oppose him once, and lo, ascribe the envy, jealousy, rage, pride, re- the memory of a thousand benefits is instantly sentment, timidity, diffidence, and dejection, lost. All that Moses, all that God has done which successively and unremittingly agitate for Israel is forgotten, the moment that a the human mind? Men walk by sight, not scarcity of water is felt. For it is with this by faith. They feel the powers of the world spirit as with that of ambition : nothing is that is, and are insensible of that which is attained in the eye of ambition, while there to come. They look at "things temporal,” is yet one thing to be attained. All the favour and neglect those which " are unseen and of Ahasuerus avails Haman nothing, while eternal.” They stand in awe of the creature, Mordecai the Jew sits in the king's gate. So and despise the Creator. While then we ingratitude says nothing is granted, while discover, deplore, and condemn a selfish, a one thing is denied me. One scanty meal perverse, and discontented spirit, and an un- in Shur, or one unpalatable beverage at Mabelieving heart in others, let us study, by the rah, has obliterated all remembrance of the grace of God, to reform the same or like recent wonders of Egypt, and the more redispositions in ourselves.
cent miracles of the Red Sea, And as one What a magnificent concert filled the evil quality is ever found in company with nores of the Red Sea, after Israel was passed its fellows, we here find ingratitude and iwe * 2 Cor. iv. 17.
*Lsai. xxxv. 10