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Christianity, considered as a moral system, is made up of two elements, beauty and severity; whenever either is indulged to the loss or disparagement of the other, evil ensues.... Even the Jews, to whom this earth was especially given, and who might be supposed to be at liberty without offence to satiate themselves in its gifts, were not allowed to enjoy it without restraint. Even the Paschal Lamb, their great typical feast, was eaten 'with bitter herbs'.
Newman, Sermons on Subjects of the Day, pp. 120-121.
References. XII. 8. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvii. No. 2727. XII. 13. Ibid. vol. v. No. 228; ibid. vol. xxi. No. 1251; see also Twelve Sermons on the Atonement, p. 25. XII. 14. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Lessons for Daily Life, p. 317. XII. 21-22. J. McNeill, Regent Square Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 33. XII. 21-27. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiii. No. 1988; see also Twelve Sermons to Young Men, p. 252.
'What then,' asks the author of Let Youth But Know (p. 50), 'is the fundamental task of a liberal education? What should be its constant endeavour? Surely to awaken and to keep ever alert the faculty of wonder in the human soul. To take life as a matter of course whether painful or pleasurable that is the true spiritual death. From the body of that death it is the task of education to deliver us.'
The Meaning of the Observance of Easter
Take the first things commemorated by the Jewish Passover, and see how they are fulfilled in the Christian's Easter.
I. The Passover told, first, of the deliverance from the misery of Egyptian bondage; and Easter tells of man's deliverance from a bondage worse than that of Egypt the bondage of sin.
II. The Passover commemorated the means by which the Israelites were delivered the death of the first-born, the substituted blood of the lamb. And this is what Good Friday and Easter preaches to the Christian the love of God, Who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all the power of Christ's resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, by which we are freed from the bonds of our sins, and are raised with Him.
III. The Jews were reminded by the Passover that the Agent of their deliverance was none other than Jehovah Himself, Who overthrew their enemies and brought them safely through the Red Sea. And we are reminded that the Agent of our sanctification is the Holy Ghost, by whose special grace preventing us all good desires are poured into our hearts, and by whose operation in the sacraments both actual and sanctifying grace are conveyed to our souls.
IV. We observe that in the feast of the Passover was fulfilled God's command, 'This day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever'.
The Passover, like other Jewish rites, has been abrogated; or, rather, has been taken up into and fulfilled in its highest sense in the sacrifice of the altar, whereby, according to our Lord's holy institution, we 'continue a perpetual memory of that His precious death until His coming again'.
A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, part ii. p. 336.
References. XII. 26. Henry Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. i. p. 17. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxviii. No. 2268. XII. 26, 27. R. E. Hutton, The Crown of Christ, vol. ii. p. 343. A. Murray, The Children for Christ, p. 84.
Speaking in favour of peace with Russia, John Bright once employed this passage most effectively in the House of Commons. 'I do not suppose,' he said, 'that your troops are to be beaten in actual conflict with the foe, or that they will be driven into the sea; but I am certain that many homes in England in which there now exists a fond hope that the distant one may return many such homes may be rendered desolate when the next mail shall arrive. The Angel of Death has been abroad throughout the land; you may almost hear the beating of bis wings. There is no one, as when the first-born were slain of old, to sprinkle with blood the lintel and the two side-posts of our doors, that he may spare and pass on; he takes his victims from the castle of the noble, the mansion of the wealthy, and the cottage of the poor and lowly, and it is on behalf of all these classes that I make this solemn appeal.'
References. XII. 29. T. A. Gurney, The Living Lord and the Opened Grave, p. 57. XII. 30. A. Ainger, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. 1901, p. 91.
No one doctrine can be named which starts complete at first, and gains nothing afterwards from the investigations of faith and the attacks of heresy. The Church went forth from the old world in haste, as the Israelites from Egypt 'with their dough before it was leavened, their kneading troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders'.
Newman, Development of Christian Doctrine (chap. II. 1).
Writing, in his Letters (p. 42), of one practical problem which emerged at the time of the slave emancipation in America, Dr. John Ker observes: 'While the slave owes nothing to the system except to runaway from it, there may have been, and I believe were, masters who held up the chains they could not break, and made the system, in fact, not slavery, and a runaway slave might owe such a master something in honour. The Israelites borrowed asked jewels from the Egyptians their kept back wages, I suppose but then we live under a more generous economy.'
Aberrations there must ever be, whatever the doctrine is, while the human heart is sensitive, capricious, and wayward. A mixed multitude went out of Egypt with the Israelites. There will ever be a number of persons professing the opinions of a movement party, who talk loudly and strangely, do odd or fierce things, display themselves unnecessarily, and disgust other people; persons too young to be wise, too generous to be cautious, too warm to be sober, or too intellectual to be humble. Such persons will be very apt to attach themselves to particular persons, to use particular names, to say things merely because others do, and to act in a party-spirited way.
Newman, Apologia pro Vita Sua, p. 99.
The Message of the Book of Exodus
The story of Exodus is the story of a Divine deliverance.
I. This story of deliverance is in its first stage a story of an awakening. When God came to Israel in Egypt he found her in bondage. She was the slave of Pharaoh, fulfilling his purpose and doing his work. But Pharaoh had no right to Israel's services Israel belonged to God. What she needed was awakening to a sense of her true dignity and her high destiny. Now this awakening God brought about in a twofold way:
1. By increasing the severity of the oppression until it became unbearable. Then the children of Israel sighed by reason of their bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.
2. And then, just as this national conscience was awaking, God sent Moses to nurse it into vigorous life.
II. The awakening past, the story begins.
A story of struggle. When Israel awoke to desire deliverance and to work for it, there began one of the greatest struggles in the world's history. Israel never knew how strong the arm of Pharaoh was until she tried to shake herself loose from it just as no man knows what a grip sin has on him until he strives to Be free from it; but the moment Israel awoke it began. God then fought for Israel, as He always fights for the soul who is seeking to be His.
So the story of struggle becomes a story of deliverance. In this story of deliverance two things are specially emphasized: (1) that from beginning to end the deliverance was the work of God ; (2) that this deliverance was a deliverance through blood-shedding. All the might of the first nine plagues did not avail. It required the knife that shed the blood of the Paschal Lamb to sever the cords that kept the Israelites slaves.
III. Having recorded the Deliverance, the book takes a step forward and becomes a story of Guidance and Instruction. With this story the greater part of the book is filled. From the Red Sea Israel is led to Sinai. Instruction is the necessary sequence of deliverance. So Israel is brought to Sinai to receive it. There God gives a law, obedience to which will furnish the fullest expression for a godly life.
But after the laws for the regulation of life have been given there follow laws for the regulation of worship. It is important then for us to note this: While our whole life is to be a life of worship, recognition of this must not prevent our engaging in special acts of worship. But when we worship God, God desires that in our worship we should accept His guidance. Therefore after the laws for the regulation of life come the directions for the making of the Tabernacle. And then the current of the book is for the time changed to remind us that, in the life of the saved, there is always the possibility of backsliding. The book of Exodus would be distinctly less valuable, and its picture of the spiritual life distinctly less complete, had it not contained the story of the Golden Calf.
The last six chapters of the book are devoted to a record of how Moses, in implicit obedience to the orders he had received, made the Tabernacle.
And how does the story close? 'So Moses finished the work... and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle.' That was the supreme reward of Israel's obedience. By her obedience she became a people among whom God dwelt. The Lord her God was in the midst of her, blessing her, saving her, guiding her in all her journeys, until he led her right into the promised land.
G. H. C. Macgregor, Messages of the Old Testament, p. 17.
Reference. XII. 41. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii. No. 55.
The lesson taught to Pharaoh and to Israel on that awful, that joyous night of deliverance, is still a living lesson; not one jot of its force is abated. God neither slumbers nor sleeps. He watches ever. Not one slip passes unrecorded in the heavenly volume.... This is the first lesson taught by our watch-night the lesson of the sleepless justice of God, which brings home at last the sin to the guilty, and which remembers pitifully, lovingly, every suffering soul that sin has wronged.
Morris Joseph, The Ideal in Judaism, p. 65.
References. XII. 42. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix. No. 1092. XII. 48. W. Binnie, Sermons, p. 72. XIII. 1, 13-15. A. Murray, The Children for Christ, p. 92. XIII. 8. C. S. Robinson, Simon Peter, p. 63. XIII. 9. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Exodus, etc., p. 46.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Exodus 12". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany