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to Himself this title, even as in after days, and during the time of His incarnation, He employed the same tense of precisely the same verb. “ I AM" in asserting His own existence anterior to the birth of Abraham.* And, accordingly, by this text those Christians are convicted of error who suppose, with Arius, that Christ has had a beginning, or that in the trinity which we worship any one is before or after the other.
The second inference is that awful comparison between a temporal and eternal existence, which is so often enforced and enlarged on by the authors of the Sacred Volume as a motive for deep reverence toward God on the part of all God's creatures, and as an inducement to raise our thoughts above the limits of a perishable world, to Him in whose presence is deathless life, and at whose right hand there are pleasures for evermore. “Of Old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth; and the Heavens are the work of Thy hands. They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure, yea all of them shall wax old like a garment, as a vesture shalt Thou change them and they shall be changed, but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end.”+
If God then be eternal, how dreadful must His wrath be esteemed, whose power never passeth away, neither does His purpose change; who in the same light in which He views any action or thought
* St. John viii. 58.
+ Psalm cii. 25, 26, 27.
of ours to day, must continue to view it through countless ages; whose laws are without repeal, and His purposes, though from the first conditional on our actions, are, so far as He is Himself concerned, without repentance or shadow of turning! If God is for ever, how ill do we calculate in preferring to His love and protection the span of happiness which His visible creation can offer, the fashion of this world which is so soon to pass away into silence! Yea, rather, forasmuch as the things around us, which are all one day to be dissolved, are so goodly and glorious during their stage of momentary existence, “ if God so clothe the grass of the field which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven ;'* if this earth which, ere long, must melt with fervent heat, is now so richly adorned with fruits and flowers by the lavish munificence of its Creator ; if the firmament which is one day to wither like a parched scroll, is now set thick with suns, and all nature, even in this its ruined state, is teeming with whatever can supply the wants, whatever can delight the senses of us, poor exiles from Paradise ; what may we not anticipate from the power and mercy of the Most High in that new Heaven and new earth, whose foundations shall be laid from everlasting, and where they whom He loves, and who have lovingly served Him shall be gathered as the wheat into His garner!
* Matt. vi. 30.
GOD'S DEALINGS WITH PHARAOH.
Exodus ix. 16. In very deed for this cause I have raised thee up, for to show
in thee my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth. THESE words were spoken by Moses, in the name of God, to that unhappy king of Egypt who, for the visitations to which he was exposed, and his obstinate hardness under them, stands alone in the history of the ancient world, as a dreadful monument of the power of the Most High, and of the folly and perverseness of human nature. Ten times were plagues inflicted on himself and his people, the very least of which might have sufficed to humble the proudest heart, and awaken the most careless and incredulous spirit to attention, and conviction, and obedience. Ten times, while the hand of the Almighty as yet lay heavy on his land, did Pharaoh humble himself before Jehovah's prophet, and promise, with apparent sincerity, a complete and immediate compliance; and ten times did he fly back from his word so soon as his punishment was withdrawn, till the end was answered for which he had been endured so long, till the span was past
to which his guilt and his power were limited, and the chained sea was let loose to quench that frantic impiety which had seemed but to gather fresh strength from every former dispensation, whether of vengeance or of mercy.
All this, indeed, is strange, but this is not, to human ears, the strangest part of Pharaoh's history. Other fruitful lands, besides Egypt, have been, for a time, made barren through “ the wickedness of them that dwelt therein." * Other nations, besides the children of Misraim, have smarted for their ruler's folly; and other kings, besides the one whose history we are now examining, have by their sins incurred the anger of Heaven, and by their blindness courted destruction. When Spain, by an opposite crime to that of the Egyptians in the time of Moses, expelled her Morisco brethren from those valleys which were, in their industrious hands, as another garden of Eden, how surely did she entail the curse of poverty on her soil, and in how legible and lasting characters has God's anger since been written on her rocks, her mountains, and her deserted fields! How strangely has the despotism of the Sultans reduced to an uniform barbarism and sterility the countries once most favoured by knowledge and genius, by nature and improvement; and how strangely have we ourselves beheld a bold, and wise, and wary conqueror entangled in those snares which his ambition was framing for mankind, and, in spite of warning to avoid his
* Psalm cvii. 34.
calamities, in spite of opportunity to retrieve them, despising security and empire in the pursuit of yet further power, and, like Pharaoh, incurring a ruin which lay before him in the broad book of nature, as calculable as the moon, and as certain as the return of the seasons !
In the great mass, indeed, of human misery, by whatever secondary cause produced, by the wickedness of mankind, or by the phenomena of nature; the plagues of Egypt may seem to sink into insignificance. Streams broader than the Nile flowed with a worse crimson to the sea, when Attila, the scourge of God, was suffered by His providence to pass the Danube, and when Timur laid waste the regions round Euphrates; and the human beings who miserably perished during the single expedition of Xerxes, may have exceeded many times the number of first-born children whom the wrath of Jehovah cut off on the night of the passover. A volcano, an earthquake, an inundation, a famine, or a pestilence, are agents of destruction more sweeping by far, though, from their comparative frequency, less awful, perhaps, and terrible than those miraculous inflictions which are recorded in the early chapters of Exodus. Nor can it be regarded by the rational deist as in itself impossible, or as any probable impeachment of the Divine goodness, that the same Providence which, in the ordinary course of nature, dispenses, for wise and gracious purposes, these other and more formidable plagues, should, in a remarkable instance, and where the