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ABRAHAM IN EGYPT.
PREACHED ON THE NILE, BETWEEN CAIRO AND THEBES, ON THE
FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, MARCH 9, 1862.
GEN. xii. 10.
Abraham went down into Egypt to sojourn there.
when the First Lesson of last Sunday afternoon was read at Cairo, containing these words, that it was a fitting welcome to our arrival in this country. It is the earliest mention of that connexion of Egypt with the Bible which was never afterwards lost. In those few verses, which describe the visit of Abraham, some of the main features of the country appear, as we see them at this day. The great river was flowing then, as it had flowed for ages before, and has flowed for
ages since, scattering verdure and fertility along its banks, so that when Abraham found a famine elsewhere, he could still be sure of finding plenty in Egypt. There was already seated on the Egyptian throne, one of the ancient dynasty, called by the name of the
Sun, whose brightness and penetrating power we feel so powerfully at this moment, Pharaoh, 'the Child or
Servant of the Sun. And it is clear from the account that this Pharaoh was not the first of his race; that he was one of a long succession that had gone before. The monarchy had already grown up; his court and his princes were round him, and his power and his fame were so great as to inspire awe and terror into the heart of the simple Shepherd Chief, who came with his wife from Palestine; and when that Shepherd Chief goes away, the Egyptian King lavishes upon him, with a profusion of liberality, all the gifts of Egypt, such as we now see them, and such as would be most acceptable to one who was still a traveller and wanderer in the desert: droves of oxen and' herds of sheep, and he asses and she asses, and camels.'
This is our first introduction to Egypt in the Bible. Let us ask, on this day, what religious lessons it is intended to teach us: what was the relation of Egypt to the Chosen People and the religious history of mankind?
It is, in one word, the introduction of the Chosen People to the World—to the world, not in the bad sense in which we often use the word, but in its most general sense, both good and bad.
1. Egypt was to Abraham—to the Jewish people to the whole course of the Old Testament—what the world, with all its interests, and pursuits, and enjoyments, is to us.
It was the parent of civilization, of art, of learning, of royal power, of vast armies. The very names which we still use for the paper on which we write, for the sciences of Medicine and Chemistry, are derived from the natural products and from the old religion of Egypt. We might think, perhaps, that the Bible would take no account of such a countrythat it would have seemed too much belonging to this earth, and the things of this earth. Not so; from first to last, this marvellous country, with all its manifold interests, is regarded as the home and the refuge of the chosen race. Hither came Abraham, as the extremest goal of his long travels, from Chaldea southwards ; here Joseph ruled, as viceroy ; here Jacob and his descendants settled as in their second home, for several generations; here Moses became ' learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.' From the customs, and laws, and arts of the Egyptians, many of the customs, laws, and arts of the Israelites were borrowed. Here, in the last days of the Bible history, the Holy Family found a refuge. On these scenes, for a moment, even though in unconscious infancy, alone of any Gentile country, the eyes of our Redeemer rested. From the philosophy which flourished at Alexandria came the first philosophy of the Christian Church. This, then, is one main lesson which the Bible teaches us by the stress laid on Egypt. It tells us that we may lawfully use the world and its enjoyments—that the world is acknowledged by true religion, as well as by our own natural instincts, to be a beautiful, a glorious, and, in this respect, a good and useful world. In it our lot is cast. What was permitted as an innocent refreshment to Abraham; what was enjoined as a sacred duty on Moses and Apollos ; what was consecrated by the