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If there be any one truth which the deductions of reason alone, independent of history, would lead us to anticipate, and which again history alone would establish independently of antecedent reasoning, it is this: that a whole class of men placed permanently under the ascendancy of another as subjects, without the rights of citizens, must be a source, at the best, of weakness, and generally of danger to the State. They cannot well be expected, and have rarely been found, to evince much hearty patriotic feeling towards a community in which their neighbours looked down on them as an inferior and permanently degraded species. While kept in brutish ignorance, poverty, and weakness, they are likely to feel like the ass in the fable indifferent whose panniers they bear. If they increase in power, wealth, and mental development, they are likely to be ever on the watch for an opportunity of shaking off a degrading yoke.... Indeed almost every page of history teaches the same lesson, and proclaims in every different form, 'How long shall these men be a snare to us? Let the people go, that they may serve their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?'
In a letter, written during 1840, to awaken the upper orders of Britain to the social evils which the Chartist movement sprang from, Dr. Arnold of Rugby wrote: 'My fear with regard to every remedy that involves any sacrifices to the upper classes, is, that the public mind is not yet enough aware of the magnitude of the evil to submit to them. "Knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?" was the question put to Pharaoh by his counsellors; for unless he did know it, they were aware that he would not let Israel go from serving them.'
The question with me is, not whether you have a right to render your people miserable; but whether it is not your interest to make them happy. It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do.
Burke, Speech on Conciliation with America.
References. X. 8. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi. No. 1830. X. 8, 9. J. Oswald Dykes, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. 1894, p. 261. X. 11. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Lessons for Daily Life, p. 291.
Pharaoh's 'I Have Sinned'
What was Pharaoh's 'I have sinned?' Where did it tend?
I. It was a Mere Hasty Impulse. 'Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste ; and he said, I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you.' There was no thought in it; no careful dealing with his own soul; no depth. Real repentance is never like that. It may express itself quickly. It may come suddenly to a crisis. But that which leaps to the surface is the result of much that has been going on long before in secret.
II. The Moving Principle was Nothing but Fear. He was agitated greatly agitated only agitated. He said it the first time under 'the hail'; the second, under 'the locust'. Property was going; the land was being devastated; his empire was impoverished; and he exclaimed, 'I have sinned'. He simply desired to avert a punishment that was throwing a black shadow over him! Now, fear may be, and probably it must be, a part of real repentance. But I doubt whether there was ever a real repentance that was promoted by fear only. This is the reason why so few so very few sick-bed repentances ever stand. They were dedicated by fear only. When the Holy Ghost gives repentance, He inspires fear; and He also adds, what, if we may not yet call it love, yet has certainly some soft feeling some desire towards God Himself. If you have fear, do not wish it away. But ask God to mingle something with your fear some other view of God, which, coming in tenderly, and mellowingly, may melt fear, and make repentance.
III. Pharaoh's Thoughts were Directed far too much to Man. It was not the 'Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned'. He never went straight to God. Observe what he said: 'I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you. Now, therefore, forgive' Moses and Aaron 'forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and intreat the Lord your God, that He may take away from me this death only'. The more God is immediate to you, there will be repentance. The more you go to Him without any intervention whatsoever feeling: 'It is God I have grieved, it is God must forgive; it is God only who can give me what I want; it is God only who can speak peace' the more genuine your sorrow will be; and the more surely it will be accepted.
References. X. 16. J. Vaughan, Sermons Preached in Christ Church, Brighton (7th Series), p. 71. X. 20. J. Owen, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xli. 1892, p. 166.
If all Egypt had been light, the Israelites would not have had the less; but to enjoy that light alone, while their neighbours lived in thick darkness, must make them more sensible of their privilege. Distinguishing mercy affects more than any mercy.
Baxter, Saints' Rest, chap. III.
'In the great majority of things,' said John Foster, 'habit is a greater plague than ever afflicted Egypt; in religious character it is eminently a felicity.'
References. X. 24. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi. No. 1830. X. 26. Ibid. vol. vi. No. 309. Ibid. vol. xxxi. No. 1830. XI. 1-10. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Exodus, etc., p. 33.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Exodus 10". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany