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That mankind are such by nature, I need not stay to prove. Of this truth both observation and experience may convince those, who have failed to learn it by the word of God. Regard we, then, our fallen race lying helpless in the bondage of corruption, after the manner of the Israelites in Egypt. As the Egyptians grievously oppressed the children of Israel, in like fashion does sin constrain its servants “to “ serve with rigour,” and make “ their lives “ bitter with hard bondage.” (Exod. i. 13, 14.) Regard we also “a Prophet raised up among “ them, like unto Moses,” (Acts iii. 22.) to be their Deliverer. God, who is the God not more of the Jews than of the Gentiles, having seen the affliction of mankind in the world, serving divers lusts and passions, and under subjection to the powers of darkness, hath indeed sent a greater than Moses, even His own Son, to redeem them. “ This man,” saith the apostle to the Hebrews, “was counted worthy “ of more honour than Moses;” (Heb. iii. 3.) He was God manifest in the flesh, and therefore can have been likened unto Moses, only from the similarity between their respective missions.
What, however, were the immediate consequences of the ministry of this more mighty Deliverer ? When He came, and (as the prophet had foretold of Him) preached deliverance “ to the captives, and the opening of the
prison to them that were bound,” (Isa. Ixi. 1.) did all who heard Him find themselves at once enlarged, and restored to the enjoyment of freedom ? Did the chains of sin instantly drop off at His bidding ? and did the prince of this world, who was the tyrant that oppressed them, suffer them to go in peace, and to serve the Lord their God ? Such was not the general case with those, unto whom Jesus Christ personally appeared, as the messenger of spiritual liberty: nor is it now the case with the larger number of mankind, unto whom that precious benefit is proclaimed by His written Gospel and Ministers. Rather may we observe, that, like Pharaoh, when Moses spake with the Israelites about forsaking his service, and called on him to let them depart, the oppressor of men's souls is commonly moved, by every hope which is set before them of deliverance, and by every desire which they evince to obtain it, to make their state more grievous, and to lay on them heavier burdens : he usually deals with them, as with rebellious servants, when they shew a mind to break his yoke from off their necks; and sets himself instantly to crush the rising spirit of freedom, which would lead them forth in the paths of righteousness and life.
The question, then, here occurs—May not the followers of Jesus Christ assume the liberty of remonstrating, as if no deliverance had been made good to them? In answer to this, I will reply, that a man can have no right to complain, because a promise hath not been fulfilled, before the time for its fulfilment shall have gone by. Even Moses, after his first burst of impatience, appears to have discerned the truth of the matter. During the forty subsequent years which intervened, ere the Israelites were completely delivered, he appears not again speaking reproachfully unto God, as to one unmindful of His promise. Their condition, while wandering in the wilderness, was perhaps not outwardly better than that which they had left for it in Egypt; nay,
appears on sundry occasions to have been hardly so good, since the carnally-minded amongst them repeatedly expressed a mind to return thither. Yet, at no subsequent period is Moses described to have sanctioned, or to have taken any part in, their repinings. Never, except in the single instance under review, can we find him adopting, and transmitting to the Divine Majesty, the impatient murmurs continually repeated by his countrymen. Having, “ by faith,” a better land in view, he would not so much as allow a thought of returning unto that whence he had
come out with the people. Not all the perplexities and perils of their progress towards it, could materially shake the steadfastness of mind, which had succeeded in him to his previous mistrust. Laying aside every doubt and discontent, he persevered in the race which was set before him, under circumstances of the most discouraging aspect, and at length, like the patriarchs who had been gathered to their fathers in the former days, was prepared to die “ in “ faith, not having received the promises, but
having only seen them afar off,” (Heb. xi. 13.) and conceived a satisfactory persuasion of them in his mind.
No Christian, therefore, may presume to upbraid the Lord God in the words, or after the tenour, of my text. One who should be indiscreet enough to do so, would surely betray a deficient apprehension—such as Moses was then probably possessing—of the general method of the Divine dealings with mankind.
Regarding principally the present world, a man might, it is true, almost see reason thus to complain. I have already allowed that our first attempts to forsake the service of sin, and to become followers of Jesus Christ, whom God hath sent to deliver our souls from bondage, are apt to have only the effect of making our chains more galling, and our burdens heavier
than before. The fact is, that, from having been born with the bands of sin about us, we do not feel ourselves intolerably straitened or incommoded by them, so long as we use no endeavours to break them off. But when, having learned to a full conviction, by the gospel, that the end of such bondage will be death, a man sets about to recover his freedom, then how fiercely, as it were, do they encircle and compel him! Every step which he takes, draws them tighter; and the corrupt principle, whence they originate, exercises its most oppressive severity on the revolting captive. Let us, however, suppose the cords of sin to have been broken—as, after a while, they certainly will be broken, through the power of the Spirit of Christ, by all who have a hearty desire to be rendered free-let us suppose this first step to have been attained, and upon that, into what state do men perceive themselves to have been delivered? Truly, into one, which may in many respects be likened unto that of the Israelites in the wilderness. Have not the redeemed of the Lord still to sojourn in a land, which may often seem to them spiritually desolate and dreary? Is it not so, even with those who have repented and believed the gospel, that the flesh yet lusteth against the Spirit, and will not, without much painful discipline, be sub