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Gomorrah, and the cities of the plain, were overwhelmed with a fiery deluge. Still the knowledge of God became less distinct; his nature, attributes, and perfections, less vividly impressed upon the minds of men ; his truth unknown; his commands forgotten or despised. Idolatry sprung up in all its various forms, and multiplied in all its absurdity, and all its hideousness.
To preserve some portion of divine truth in the earth, and to prepare the way for a more complete regeneration in fulness of time, the Lord determined, in his wisdom, to establish a church and a nation, which should préserve his name, and be a witness for him among men—which should be as a green spot in the vast wilderness of human depravity : as a pillar of fire amidst the thick darkness.
With this design He called Abraham; He withdrew him from the idolaters by whom he was surrounded in Chaldea; He tried his faith and obedience, and finding him, like his great progenitor Noah, perfect in his generation," He
finally established with him his covenant; He promised that he would bestow upon him, as a temporal inheritance, the land of Canaan, the place of his banishment; and that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. The accomplishment, however, of this promise, even in its temporal part, was remote. It resembled most of the other promises of God, which are intended at once to encourage and to prove; to strengthen our endurance and to try our obedience; that faith may exalt our hope, and hope enlarge our faith.
Various were the trials which the infant church was to undergo, before this consummation. The Lord concealed not from his servant the perils and the sufferings; but he also showed him their glorious termination. “ Know of a surety," says he, “that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not their's, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance 1.”
The account which we possess of the residence of the children of Israel in Egypt, is extremely concise : the long period from the death of Joseph until the birth of Moses, being contained in the first chapter of the book of Exodus. In a similar style of brevity and simplicity, the first eighty years of the life of Moses, namely, the whole period preceding his mission to his brethren, is comprised in twenty-two verses of the second chapter. From narratives thus brief and compendious, we cannot expect to derive all that minute information, which our present curiosity would wish, or even the laudable spirit of inquiry into subjects so sacred and interesting, might desire. Yet how wonderfully are the great lines of the history drawn for us! how admirably are all the principal objects presented before us! what a perfect picture is given
Gen. xv. 13, 14.
of all the occurrences of this momentous period !
Jacob, in want and famine, goes down into Egypt; finds there his son, whom he had long mourned as dead, exalted to the highest rank in the most powerful kingdom then in the world. By his interest and authority, he and his children are established in a portion of this fruitful land, and thus placed beyond the reach of want or the fear of famine, Jacob dies. Joseph is gathered to his fathers; and, in the impressive words of Scripture, “all that generation passed away.
Another king is seated upon the throne of the Pharaohs, " who knew not Joseph ;" who remembered not his services; who felt no interest in the new people. In the mean time, “ the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty ; and the land was filled with them.” By a barbarous policy, which served, though the Egyptians thought not of it, to accomplish the prophecy made unto Abraham, the whole people are at once re
duced to a state of slavery. They set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens.” They compelled them to labour in their public works, to build their treasure cities. Yet the more they were afflicted, the more they multiplied and grew. The rigour of their servitude is consequently increased, and an inhuman edict is published, to destroy all their male children as soon as born ; so that the whole nation might gradually be exterminated.
Now, however, that his people are in the greatest distress, the arm of the Lord is stretched out to save them. The time draws nigh when Israel's probation is to have an end, and the promise made to Abraham to receive its accomplishment. The same beautiful simplicity, which we have already noticed, characterizes this part of the narrative.-" There went,” we are told, a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi.” The name of the man was Amram ; that of his wife Jochebed. Amram was the grandson of Levi; and Jochebed, though