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HEBREWS xi. 24, 25, 26.
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused
to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect
unto the recompense of the reward. WHEN we trace the circumstances connected with the early life of the great Jewish Lawgiver, the brief account which he himself has given in the second chapter of Exodus is materially assisted and elucidated by two passages in the New Testament. One of these occurs in the historical exposition of the grounds of his belief, delivered by Stephen in
answer to the high-priest and the assembled council, as related in the seventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. The other, in that chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews from which the text is taken ; wherein the apostle enumerates, and sets forth in such glowing terms, the victories and triumphs of faith in all ages of the world, and under all the various dispensations of the Almighty.
The thoughts of the Jews were continually turned to Moses, both in the reading of the Law and in the performance of their ritual. He was on every account an object of pride and veneration. It is not wonderful, therefore, that they should possess many traditions respecting so remarkable a personage, and that every circumstance, whether true or false, which once gained credit, if it only appeared to reflect honour upon him, should be carefully and religiously handed down from generation to generation. Their existence as a people, or at least as a free
people, they owed to him. The land which they possessed they owed to him. The
worship in which they joined, the rites to which they were bound, the restrictions by which they were confined, they owed to him. He was the minister through whom every benefit was conferred, every law promulgated, every ordinance imposed. In fact, the Jews could scarcely move or speak or think--could scarcely perform the most insignificant action, or view the most ordinary object, without being reminded of Moses. Their whole form of government and civil polity was of his institution. Their whole literature was for ages comprised in his writings, and in those of the prophets, which may be considered as explanatory of his system. The Jews had only one book, but that book was the Scriptures.
With the traditions so handed down, a considerable portion of fable might naturally be expected to mingle. And though his character and his writings were too sacred in their eyes, to permit them to falsify his own account of himself; yet any thing which seemed, however erroneously, to exalt his reputation, was eagerly received, and fondly cherished.
Is it not then remarkable, that neither Stephen nor the apostle to the Hebrews brings forward any of those extravagant traditions respecting him, which were at that time as firmly believed in Judea as the Scriptures themselves ? Their narratives coincide in substance exactly with that of Moses. They are given indeed with conciseness, and with the greatest perspicuity, and they merely add a few circumstances, which are not only natural and probable, but evidently and almost necessarily true.
Let us compare these three narratives. In Exodus the account runs thus. “ When the mother of Moses saw that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. And when she could no longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and put the child therein ; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink.” The history then proceeds to describe the mode in which the child was found by Pharaoh's daughter, and delivered to his own mother to be nursed; and concludes by saying, that “the child grew, and was brought unto Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses. And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens.”
We shall perceive that the story loses nothing of its beautiful simplicity in the mouth of Stephen.
“ In which time," says he, (that is, in the time when Israel was so evil-entreated by the Egyptians,) “ Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months : and when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son. And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.”
Here, then, we have the same history,
with the addition of two new facts.