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seek some different solution of the present problem than that which is usually drawn from the absolute sovereignty of Jehovah.
Accordingly, there are others who maintain that when God is said to have hardened Pharaoh's heart, nothing more is intended than that He suffered him to harden his own heart, that He left him to the natural consequences of his own unbridled pride and passion, and did not interpose with His gracious influences to soften and subdue that corruption of his nature which of itself was sufficient, without further aid, to overpower not only his better principles, but his natural prudence and discretion And this interpretation they support by several remarkable
passages in the same chapters of Exodus to which I have already referred, and which ascribe to Pharaoh himself and his own agency that induration which, as we have seen, is in others ascribed to the Lord. Thus, it is said of Pharaoh, in the seventh chapter and the twenty-third verse, that “ he did not set his heart” to profit by the warnings which had been given him. It is said in the eighth chapter, that“when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart and hearkened not unto them ;'* and at the end of the same chapter, that • Pharaoh hardened his heart” after the plague of the flies also.f Nay more; they urge, that in the only place in the seventh chapter where, according to our translation, the Lord is said to have “hardened Pharaoh's heart,"I the original and all the best versions say merely that the “ heart of Pharaoh was hardened.” And they conclude that, even if God had meditated the ruin of the Egyptian king, it is apparent that nothing more was necessary than thus to leave him to himself, inasmuch as the Allwise knew beforehand, and had beforehand declared to Moses, the obstinate and perverse spirit to whom the prophet was His messenger. “ I am sure,” said the Lord in Horeb, “ that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand.”* Accordingly they urge, that Pharoah himself was the only agent in his own destruction, and that it was the foreknowledge,not the predetermination of the Most High, which induced him thus to express Himself.
+ Ver. 32.
* Ver. 15.
In all this there is doubtless much which is true but to the peculiar difficulties of the case it can scarcely be said to be relevant. The passages which are alleged to favour this opinion, and where Pharaoh is said to have hardened his own heart, and not to have set his heart to understand the will of the Lord, will only prove, (what the most unbending Calvinist does not deny) that the immediate cause of Pharaoh's hardness and impenitence is to be sought for in his own perverse will, and his own ungoverned passions. If we cast a cripple into a pool, it is vain to pretend that our hand is not upon him, and that he sinks through the infirmity of his limbs which prevents his swimming. And, if God placed Pharoah in a situation where, without repentance, he must needs be undone,
* Exod. iii, 19.
while He withheld from him that grace without which no man can repent, it is evident that the Almighty's pleasure was, if not the immediate, yet doubtless, the primary and efficient cause of his destruction.
Nor does there seem any sufficient reason for a yet minuter distinction which has been made by some learned and ingenious men, that, during the earlier plagues, it was still in the power of Pharaoh through grace, to awaken to his true interests, and humble himself with an effectual and prevailing repentance; and that it was not till after the plague of the boils that the decree of God went forth against him, and his heart was sealed
in impenitence. According to these commentators, who are certainly here, as in the former instance, countenanced by the earlier versions, the word which we render “raising up,” will more properly signify
preserved,” and the sense will be that Pharaoh, having provoked God by his obstinacy under the seven former inflictions, would have been destroyed in the eighth if he had not been spared for another and a more exemplary punishment. But, in the first place, it is certain that before Moses had seen Pharaoh at all, the Almighty had already assigned as a reason why even the first plague would not be effectual, that“ He” (Jehovah) would harden the king of Egypt's heart; and as there is no appearance that any of the plagues but the last, however troublesome and alarming, were of a mortal nature, it is not easy to say how Pharaoh had been pecu
ljarly preserved or spared in calamities which he shared with the meanest of his subjects.
On the whole, then, we must grant that God does really represent himself as the cause of Pharaoh's frantic disobedience, no less than of the ruin to which that disobedience conducted him; and we must also discover some better and more relevant method of vindicating God's justice and mercy in such a transaction, than that appeal which the followers of Calvin have made to His absolute and unbounded sovereignty. And such a vindication may, I trust, be obtained by a due attention to the following particulars.
First, it is not asserted in the present text, or in any other part of Scripture, that God created Pharaoh or brought him first into the world as a vessel of wrath fitted for destruction. God does not say, “ for this cause have I predestined thee to be born into the world, that thou mightest rebel against me, and by that rebellion purchase to thyself everlasting punishment to the praise of my justice.” This He does not say. He only assures him, that “ for this cause He had raised him up,” according to our translation; but according to the most approved ancient versions,“ preserved, continued, or spared him." That is, that either He had first made him king, and seated him on the throne of Memphis, or had endured him there, in spite of his crimes, as a proper person upon whom, in that elevated situation, might be displayed the judgments which God is accustomed to inflict on the oppressive and impenitent.
We are not authorized to suppose that the unbridled passions and frantic obstinacy which made Pharaoh a fit subject for this awful and exemplary chastisement, were, from the first and in the early part of his life, invincible and involuntary. We are not even to suppose that the peculiar situation of life into which he was thrown had a necessary tendency to render him obstinate and furious. God forbid! God Himself hath told us that He tempteth no man, and that He hath no pleasure in the death of him who perisheth for his sins. The wickedness of Pharaoh was his own; but, being already impious and cruel, having already offended to a sufficient degree against the light of natural religion, having already, to a sufficient degree, resisted and grieved that good Spirit whose gracious helps and comforts are, for Christ's sake, offered to all, he was placed or continued by Divine Providence in a rank of which he was unworthy, both as a means of punishment to the sinful nation under
and that he himself, by the greatness of his fall, might afford to other men a more effectual warning. In his anger God gave a king to Egypt, in His wrath He took him away, and Pharaoh was raised up on high,
“ut lapsu graviore ruat!"*
But, secondly, we have no reason to conclude from Scripture that the consequence of his obstinacy in
* Claudian : in Ruf. iii. 23,