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greatest) are a constant and perpetual evidence of his almighty power and universal dominion ?
To account for this, you must consider the state of religion in the world at the time when God assumed this character, and sent Moses to show signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. All the nations of the earth had at that time their several local deities ; and as every nation is naturally inclined to think their own the best, a message delivered in the name of the deity of any one people could have no effect on another. And therefore, when Moses delivered a message to Pharaoh in the name of the God of Israel, Pharaoh's answer was, · Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord ; neither will I let Israel go: Exod. 2. Now the
which God made choice of to convince Pharaoh was, ' by multiplying signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, that the Egyptians might know that he was the Lord, when he stretched forth his hand on Egypt :' Exod. vii. 3, 5.
5 Here the question plainly was between God under the character of the God of the Hebrews, and the god of the Egyptians, which of them was supreme : and this point could only be determined by a superiority of power shown in miracles. And if we attend to the nature of the miracles wrought by Moses, they will appear to be such as plainly pointed out the hand of the almighty Creator. The author of the book of Wisdom tells us, that the Egyptians, being deceived by the foolish devices of their wickedness, worshipped serpents void of reason :' Wisd. xi. 15. And the most ancient account we have of that people from profane history confirms the observation. And therefore the first miracle performed by Moses was a direct conquest over the deities of Pharaoh: for when his rod was changed into a serpent, and devoured all the serpents produced by the magicians,
what could Pharaoh reasonably conclude, but that the God in whose name Moses spoke,
• God of gods, and Lord of lords ? And when the magicians were compelled to acknowlege the divine power of Moses, and openly to declare to Pharaoh that the finger of God was in it, one would imagine that this triumph over the deities and magicians of Egypt should have furnished a complete
answer to that demand of Pharaoh, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice ? But he continued obstinate.
But the purpose of God in sending Moses to show his wonders in the land of Egypt, was intended not only for the deliverance of the Hebrews, but to make his name known over all the nations of the earth : for as Egypt was at that time a great and florishing kingdom, and was notoriously the seat of superstition and idolatry, from whence the infection spread to all the nations round about, it was of all others the properest scene for God to exert his power and authority for the conviction of all people.
And for this reason God had connived at the wickedness and idolatry of Egypt, and suffered the kingdom to grow very great, that their punishment might be the more exemplary : • In very deed for this cause have I raised thee
up, for to show in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth :' Exod. ix. 16.
The miracles wrought in Egypt were such as all the world had a concern in : for they were so near akin to the works of the creation, that by a just comparison they might be known to come from the same hand : for who but the Author of nature. could stir up things animate and inanimate to punish offenders ? When God slew all the first-born in Egypt in one night, and preserved the people of Israel in safety; when he led the people of Israel through the Red Sea by commanding the waters to open them a passage, and drowned Pharaoh and all his host by bringing the waters back on them; did not God by these signs plainly speak to them, and say, See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me : I kilị, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal : neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand'? Deut. xxxii, 39.
This use of miracles appears throughout the history of the Jews. Thus, in the contest between Elijah and the priests of Baal, the Prophet laid before the people this choice ; If the Lord be God, follow him ; but if Baal, then follow him :' 1 Kings xviii. 21. The people were silent: the dispute was referred to be determined by signs and wonders : and when the people saw the hand of God made manifest, they fell on their SHERL.
faces, and said, “The Lord, he is the God! the Lord, he is the God !' verse 39.
The case of the destruction of the army of the Assyrians in the reign of Hezekiah, when a hundred and fourscore and five thousand men were destroyed in one night by the angel of God, seems to carry with it a severity hard to be accounted for. The king of Assyria with his great host laid siege to Jerusalem; and so had other princes done without falling under so great calamity : but the case of Sennacherib has this peculiar in it, that he sent a defiance to God, and boasted himself of many victories obtained against him. Hear the message he sent to Hezekiah: Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest? Hearken not unto Hezekiah : for thus saith the king of Assyria, Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria ? Who are they, among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of
my hand ? 2 Kings xviii. You see here the king of Assyria acting the same part with the king of Egypt; and if his power was broken all at once, he suffered but in the same way that the king of Egypt did ; and this judgment was brought on him with the same view, to make him an example, and to vindicate and assert the supremacy of God in the eyes of all the nations.
This appears to be the first and original use of miracles, and they are an immediate and direct proof of what they are brought to assert, the supremacy of God. For when the single question is, who is the mightiest, must it not be decided in his favor who visibly exerts the greatest acts of power ? In this case no difficulty can arise from the supposition that other beings as well as God are able to work miracles. The miracles performed by the magicians in Egypt were so far from lessening the authority of the works done by Moses, that they added to it: for the greater the powers were which God humbled and subdued, the greater evidence did he give of his own superiority. So that, whether you suppose that evil spirits have natural powers to do such and the like works, or are sometimes
employed and permitted by God, for the punishment of men, to deceive them by such appearances, in both cases they are equally subject to the power of God.
With respect to the people of the Jews, miracles had a double use ; for by their long continuance in Egypt they became infected with the errors and superstitions of the country, and served their idols. So that they wanted a proof that the God of their fathers was indeed the supreme Being, as much as the Egyptians themselves. Thus the Prophet Ezekiel says in the name of God, “In the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up mine hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob, and made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt, when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying, I am the Lord your then said I unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. But they rebelled against me;-they did not cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt:' Ezek. xx. 5. &c. Which account given by the Prophet shows plainly their corrupt state in Egypt; which was not easily worn off, as appears from their frequent acts of disobedience in their passage through the wilderness, and their great propensity to fall back into idolatry; so that God was frequently provoked to destroy them; and had they been chosen for their own sake, they would have been destroyed: but God having made choice of them to be his own peculiar people, and intending to manifest himself to the heathen world by the protection of that people, - he saved. them for his own name's sake :' which is the account the Prophet Ezekiel gives, speaking in the name of God,
I said, I will pour out my fury on them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. But I wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, among whom they were, in whose sight I made myself known unto them, in bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt:' verse 8, 9.
But there was another use of miracles peculiar to the Jewis, in which the Egyptians had no concern : for Moses was sent not only to be their deliverer, but also to be their lawgiver. With the Egyptians he had no covenant to make, nor new sta
tutes to give : he required of Pharaoh to let the children of Israel go; which in justice and equity he ought to have done, considering how his country had been saved by one of that family, and how highly he offended against the laws of hospitality by detaining them as slaves, who came into his country on the hopes and promise of protection. But the Jews were called out of Egypt to be the peculiar people of God, and to be put under a new covenant and new laws, under the immediate government of God; blessings which they had no right to expect, and for the accomplishment of which Moses could give them no assurance, but by the evidence of such works as plainly proceeded from the hand of God, and proved the commission which Moses had to speak in his name.
The Jewish government, being a theocracy, leads us to expect a series of miracles in the administration by the immediate hand of Providence; and so indeed we find the case to be: and the wonderful preservation of that people, when obedient, and the as wonderful punishments, when they were disobedient, were standing proofs to themselves, and to all the nations round about them, that their God was the only Lord and Governor of the world. But Moses had no successor as a lawgiver: prophets and righteous men were often sent by God to reprove and admonish the people for their manifold transgressions of the law given by Moses, but without any authority to add to, or diminish from it. And so the case stood, till the great Prophet, like 'unto Moses, came in the full power and authority of God to make a new covenant, not with one people, but with all the nations of the earth, 'Jesus of Na. zareth, a man approved of God by miracles and wonders and signs.
It has been before observed that the great doctrines of natural religion have for their evidence the works of nature, and want not the support of miracles. But when any new doctrine is published to the world, or any new command, of which nature has given no notice, it is of necessity that such new doctrines should be established by new proofs. One thing indeed we learn from natural reason, that God is to be trusted and obeyed in whatever he promises or commands : but still a proof is required, that such new doctrine or command does