Imágenes de páginas

rived principles from their ancestors which were deemed sacred during successive generations, should, without a divine impulse upon every individual mind, renounce immediately all their gods, and all their superstitious rites, upon their becoming acquainted with invaders who professed a purer and more sụblime religion. The utmost that could at first be expected must be a perception that the God of the Israelites was greatly superior to the deities whom they served. They would first learn. fear his matchless power ; to wonder at the great things done for this strange people; and to acknowledge that this people must be happy under such a protector. These impressions would prepare the way for others, which had a tendency to mitigate the horrors of a religion which their habits would not permit them to relinquish entirely, and render them less tenacious of its most profligate rites.

Such effects, which it was natural to expect, were produced to a considerable extent.

A multiplicity of Gods was essential to pagapism. Most of these Gods were considered as the tutelar deities of particular kingdoms, provinces, minuter districts, and as agents in all the personal concerns of individuals. This very multiplicity generally rendered the Pagans tolerant, and upon great occasions they readily adopted the gods of their neighbours, or of their enemies, of whose patronage they had formed an exalted opinion. But the long captivity of the Hebrews, and the insulting hardships to which they were continually exposed, could not in-) spire these Egyptians with a favourable opinion of the God of Israel. As the Hebrews were. suffered to remain in a state of the most abject penitence, for so many centuries, the Egyptians would be disposed to infer, that their Jehovah was impotent to save them from the hands of masters, who were under the protection of more potent deities. Contrary to the usual custom of paganism,' this people were so far intolerant, that they would not permit their slaves to esercise the public 'solemnities of worship. When Pharaoh was induced, by terror, to grant: thein the indulgence of public sacrifices in the. land, the answer of Moses discovers to us the severity of their restrictions. “Shall we sacrifice, the abominations of the Egyptians before their cyes, and will they not stone us?” The severity may be ascribed to the veneration in which those animals were held, which constituted the most solemn sacrifice of the Israelites ; but it manifested the greatness of Pharaoh's panic in being willing to grant an indulgence in a ritụal which insulted the divinities of Egypt,

The numerous and distressing miracles which Jehovah wrought for the liberation of his people, finally convinced them of their mistake concerning the impotency of Jehovah. Contempt gave way to astonishment and despair. The reiteration of the most dreadful calamities proved to this superstitious nation, that the God of their slaves was no creature of the imagination ; that his existence was real; and that he possessed a power far beyond that which they could ascribe to their fictitious Deities. The three trifling imitations of his magicians might at first suggest to the sovereign, that his gods were at least equal in power.

Yet the triumphs of Jehovah were finally complete, although the tyrant was deeply interested in the detention of so large a number of laborious subjects, and used every evasion to prevent their being rescued from his arm. The magicians owned that the miracles which they could not imitate were wrought by a more powe erful God. Many of the people believed in his judgments, and listening to the advice of Moses, when he predicted a tremendous storm of hail and rain, preserved their property from destruction:, and Pharaoh himself, wbo at an early

interview with the servant of God, haughtily demands who is Jehovah that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not Jehovah, nei. ther will I let Israel go," was finally compelled to intreat that Moses would intercede in his be. half, and to implore the blessing of the God whom he had defied. “ Begone, and bless me also.” · But the greatness and extent of the impression made upća the community at large is inanifest from the “mixed multitude” which accompanied the Hebrews in their flight. We may suppose this multitude to consist of Egyptians, and of Ethiopians, and other sojourners in the Land, who were so deeply convinced of the superior power of the God whom the Hebrews worshipped, that they willingly relinquished everything which could have endeared to them their native or adopted country, in order to place themselves under his protection, and share in the destiny of this highly-favoured people. They were doubtless instrumental in preparing the way of the Lord, by bearing testimony to the wonders. wrought in Egypt, and proving to all the nations, with whom they had intercourse, that the reports concerning the miraculous escape of the Israelites, were neither invented, norexaggerated. We are informed by their leader, Moses, that one

object in miraculously preserving the Israelites from the avenging pursuit of Pharaoh, was that the Egyptians might be more fully convinced of the power of Jehovah, and the certainty of his protecting those who confided in him.

“I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them, and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his hosts, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen; and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten my honour upon

upon Pharaoh, upon nis chariots, and upon his horsemen.”

When Jethro, the idolatrous priest of Midian, heard "all that the Lord had done unto Pharaoh, and to the Egyptians, før Israel's sake, he blessed the God of Israel, saying, "now I know that Jehovah is greater than all gods, for in the things wherein they dealt proudly he was above tliem.”

His education and his profession naturally induced him to beliere in the existence and influence of other gods, but the wonders of which he was informed compelled him to acknowledge their inferiority.

Moses expected that these wonders, wrought for the chosen people, would make a deep impression upon the heathens. This is obvious from the tenour of his expostulation with God, when the people had provoked his wrath by

« AnteriorContinuar »