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It is a pleasure to me to find these gentlemen solicitous about the performance of their duty; and therefore, let me address to them a word of consolation and encouragement. Be not swallowed up by overmuch uneasiness, as touching this matter. Rest satisfied that whatever may be determined concerning the wonders wrought by the magicians, whether they are supposed to have been wrought in reality, or appearance only; by legerdemain, or the power of evil spirits, through the permission of God, willing to make his power known in this grand contest -either way, the argument drawn from miracles, in support of revelation, will remain in its full strength. The superiority of the God of Israel was manifested, and the contest yielded by the adversaries, who could not protect themselves or their friends from the maladies and plagues inflicted by omnipotence. Whatever the magicians did, or however they did it, it appeared evidently, they might as well have done nothing. Mankind can never be ensnared by pretences of this sort, when they see such pretences controlled and overruled by a superior power. You are men of too much sense, I am sure, to be found on the side of Jannes and Jambres, or to take a retainer from Simon Magus.
Page 13. "Where did the magicians find water to "practise their art upon, since Aaron had already "turned it all into blood?”
Not all, gentlemen, by your leave. The Egyptians not being able to drink of the water of the river, "digged round about it (as you are told) for
• Exod. vii. 24.
"water to drink." And, depend upon it, they found some, or it had been very bad with them indeed. But the truth is, that nothing is more common among writers, both sacred and profane, than the use of the word all, not in an absolute, but a relative, or comparative sense, as implying many, some of all sorts, &c, By adverting to this simple and obvious consideration, you might have spared yourselves the trouble of labouring in vain, through three or four pages, to be witty on the subject of Pharaoh's cattle being killed more than once, and such like pleasant conceits. These are poor peddling doings; but we shall have some flashing, by and by, to make amends.
Page 15. "Some weak believers are in doubt, "whether so mean, so ungenerous, and so dishonest an act, as borrowing the jewels of the Egyptians, "without any intention of returning them, did not "rather originate in that disposition, which charac"terizes the Jews to this day, than in the command "of the just God, who certainly could need no such "tricks to accomplish his intentions."
Much reason have we to wish, that some one among the unbelievers would take the pains to acquire a moderate stock of Hebrew, that so he "might have to give," upon such occasions as these "to him that needeth." For that the Isralites, in the proper sense of the English word, borrowed these jewels, or gave the Egyptians reason to expect a return of them, does by no means appear from the original, to which a man, when he is disposed to play the critic upon an author, should always have re
course, if he be solicitous to deserve the character of an honest man and a scholar. The general signification of the word is to ask, to require, to demand. In the three texts relative to this transaction, the Seventy', and in the two former, the Vulgate, render it by a term of similar import. It is said, "the Israelites spoiled the Egyptians;" they took these jewels, vessels, &c. and the Egyptians gave them, as the spoil of a conquered enemy, glad to escape with life, and to dismiss a much injured people; they took these spoils, as wages due, and withholden, for immense labour undergone; as a recompense for long and cruel oppression; some of them, probably, as insignia of the vanquished Egyptian deities, to be afterwards employed in the service of the true God, whom Egypt, as well as Israel, ought to have acknowledged and adored; who, as the great Lord and Proprietor of all things in heaven and earth, taketh from one, and giveth to another, according to his good pleasure, founded evermore in wisdom, truth, and righteousness; who at the beginning foretold that the Egyptians should be spoiled, and when the time came, directed his people so to spoil them. "God gave them favour:" the act was his, and the Israelites were instruments only in his hands. If men are pleased to concern themselves at all with the history, they must take the whole as it stands, neither blaming those on whom no blame can properly fall, nor accusing their Maker of ini
e Exod. iii. 22. xi. 2. xii. 35.
quity, who can be guilty of none, but at a future day, to the confusion of all his blasphemers, will be fully "justified in his saying, and clear when he is "judged."
One cannot but bless oneself to see how ready these writers are, at every turn, to give sentence against the people of God, in favour of their enemies; as if they emulated the fame of a set of worthies in the fifth century, called Cainites; who, having reprobated the Saviour of the world, his prophets, and apostles, are said to have adopted into the catalogue of their saints, and paid especial honours to the memories of Cain, Korah, Dathan, Esau, the Sodomites, and Judas Iscariot.
As to their intimation, at page 17, that, because Egypt was a country intersected by canals, there never were any horses or chariots in it; they ought for this to take their part in the next general flogging at Westminster school. During the operation, perhaps, the captain of the school will be enjoined by the master to read aloud the following short passage from Rollin's Ancient History: "Foot, Horse, "and Chariot-races were performed in Egypt with "wonderful agility, and the world could not show "better horsemen than the Egyptians'."
In the next letter we shall proceed to the consideration of a topic entirely new-BALAAM'S ASS.
Vol. i. p. 48.
THE first difficulty here is, Why God should be angry with Balaam for going, when he had given "him leave to go?"
To be sure, all circumstances continuing the same, it would be strange-it would be passing strange. But if circumstances varied, the divine conduct might vary too. Go," says God, “but”
-observe--" the word which I shall say unto thee, "that shalt thou dok." Balaam seems to have set out with a resolution to obey; for like a man, and like an honest man, he had boldly and nobly said, "If Balak would give me his house-full of silver "and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the "Lord my God, to do less or more'." However, it is possible that, upon the road, either by the persuasive arguments of the princes of Moab who accompanied him, or by the wicked suggestions of his own deceitful heart, an alteration had taken place in his mind, and interest had gained the ascendant over duty. I say, this is possible: considering his character, it is probable: but a passage in the history itself seems to make it certain. "I went "out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse
k Numb. xxii. 20.
1 Ibid. xxii. 18.