« AnteriorContinuar »
ISRAEL IN EGYPT.
PREACHED ON THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, MARCH 16, IN THE
GREAT HALL OF THE TEMPLE OF KARNAK AT THEBES.
Ps. lxxx. 8.
Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt.
Ps. lxxxi. 10. I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land
relation to the Bible, I said that there were two sides which it presented—one is that of contrast to the Chosen People; and the other is that of likeness and sympathy. These two points appear in the Psalms of the day which we have just heard. Let us briefly touch on both as regards not merely the country, but the worship and the religion of Egypt.
I. The points of likeness.
gave form and direction to the great works which we see. These buildings are the oldest consecrated places of worship in the world - older than anything else existing -- older than any Christian Church - older than the Jewish Temple. From these the leading idea of Solomon's Temple was taken. In them the principles of religious art first appeared, which have never since been lost.
2. The belief in a Future Judgement and a Future Life. This caused the old Egyptians to build their vast tombs, and embalm their bodies, as if to last for ever. They were the first nation that had the great and elevating thought of thinking more of the future than of the present-of the unseen world than the
3. The religious feeling of intense thankfulness for the gifts they enjoyed. Hence the thousands of offerings represented on these walls, as if they could not be thankful enough.
In all these points, we may say, with St. Paul at Athens, “That unknown God whom they thus ignorantly and imperfectly worshipped, Him the true
Religion has declared to us since more clearly;' and we may well ask ourselves, as we look round on these rude but gigantic steps towards a better knowledge of God, whether, with that better knowledge of Him, we serve Him with anything like the same devotion and success as did those first forefathers of the faith and worship which we have been permitted to enjoy. II. But the Bible — and especially the account
of the time when Israel came out of Egypt -- bids us still more to reflect on the change made by the Exodus of the Israelites, for them and for us.
1. It was their deliverance from Egypt. Whatever else the Exodus was, it was the first inauguration, the first sanction, of the blessing of freedom and
liberty. Every Englishman knows what this is ; to be a citizen of a free country, of a free commonwealth — to have liberty of speech and action and conscience. This is that of which the old world, on which we are now treading, had no conception. These enormous buildings were raised by the labour of countless slaves. Those countless slaves looked up to the tremendous kings who ruled over them, and in whose presence we now stand, with a feeling of awe and terror of which we can now hardly form any notion. In their day, this awful terror, no doubt, had its use. It was the earliest stage in the education of mankind; to it we owe these astonishing works, which have guided the thoughts of men ever since. But, if the world were ever to make progress,- if the soul of man were ever to be what God intended it to be -- it must be able to walk by itself, to lean upon itself and upon God, and not upon any human power,
however great. This is what was effected for Israel, for Christendom, for the whole human race, when God, by the hand of Moses and Aaron, led His people out of the house of bondage and the dominion of Pharaoh. If, in this and other Eastern countries, the freedom which was then given has never yet been fully enjoyed, yet not the less is it our most precious privilege. May we all have grace to act and think and live worthily of that freedom-that manly freedom - that glorious liberty of the children of God, wherewith God and Christ have made us free.
2. It is impossible not to feel more strongly here than anywhere else what was the special need and
force of the first commandment, Thou shalt have 'none other gods but me.' The Unity of God. In the present day we hardly can imagine how any one should have been tempted to think otherwise. But look at the many shapes and figures of the gods to which the wisest nation of the world at that time bowed down. It may be that even then a few loftier minds saw behind these many forms and shapes one presiding Spirit. But it was reserved for Moses to make this high truth the inheritance of all classes alike. That all should know that there is one and the same God for all — one and the same for rich and poor, for dull and clever, for small and great, this is what the ancient Egyptians hardly could have thought possible. In joy, in sorrow, in the hour of death, and in the day of judgement, whatever else befalls us, and whatever other belief we may have, we all believe, and have endless comfort in the thought, that we are in the hands of One overruling God, who makes all things work together for the best.
3. Still more strongly is the contrast brought out in what we call the Second, but, according to some old divisions, is part of the First Commandment,— Thou shalt not make to thyself any likeness of anything that is in the heaven above, or in the earth beneath, bor in the water under the earth. We cannot doubt that this, to the Israelites, meant that they were not to make to themselves graven images of the hawk and the ibis that fly through the heavens, or the crocodile and the fish that swim in the Nile, or the serpent that creeps in the caves of the earth, or the lion, the jackal, and the wolf, that prowl on the rocky hills. These were the forms under which, at that time of the world, the human mind loved to represent the Divine nature. Perhaps these were the best figures that could be used in those early ages; and we may still learn something from seeing how, out of those earthly shapes, they drew lessons of that which is heavenly and divine. Even to us the animal creation, with all its manifold instincts and powers, is still, if we rightly reflect, a constant revelation of the Divine mind, of which it is the noble workmanship. But there is a more excellent way
of thinking of God, which these imperfect and strange representations shut out from us; and that is, the way which was opened to us, first through Moses, and then through Christ. God is a Spirit; God is Truth; God is Justice ; God is Purity ; God is Love. Whenever we fancy that He can pass over or be pleased with anything that is untrue, or unjust, or impure, or unlovely, we fall back into worse than the old Egyptian darkness. In proportion as we value and revere truth and justice and purity and lovingkindness, in that proportion we are worthy of the new religion of the new world, to which, by God's grace, we belong
4. There is the humanity which ran through the law of Israel, and which so rarely appears in the ancient Egyptian religion. The first object that an Egyptian saw, when he came to worship, was the figure of the King receiving the command from the gods to slaughter all his captives. Israel, on the other hand, were, by the very recollection of their own bondage,