Brother Beebe: Writing a few days since to a distant friend, on a subject which she had proposed, namely a hard heart; I was led, in speaking on it as a distinguishing trait of an unregenerate state, to refer to Pharaoh as a Scriptural instance illustrative of this subject. And in drawing a contrast between the heart of Pharaoh and the hearts of the children of Israel, as manifested under God’s dealings with them, I was led to some ideas, which may perhaps, be edifying to some, who have not thought particularly on the subject. I therefore send them to you for publication, if you see fit to give them a place in the Signs.
In contemplating that portion of Sacred History which relates to God’s bringing Israel out of Egypt, I find the fact prominent, that Moses’ mission, he having Aaron for his mouth or minister, was directed both to Israel and Pharaoh; that whilst God’s purpose in sending Moses into Egypt, as foretold, and as accomplished, was to bring Israel in particular, out of their bondage, yet that He had a demand upon Pharaoh and that demand was made through Moses. From the fact that in the New Testament, the name of Moses is substituted for the law as given by him, see Luke 16:29 & Acts 15:21, we are scripturally authorized to consider Moses as prefiguring the Law. – And as Moses’ message both to Israel and Pharaoh, was declared by Aaron as his mouth, see Ex. 4:15,16,30, so the true demands of the law, as spiritual, are brought to view only in the doctrine, the life and death of Christ. And it is the Law as thus established by the Gospel, and not the Sinai covenant, that speaks through our Spiritual Aaron, or in the gospel ministry, showing the just condemnation of all the human family, convincing the regenerated of sin, and producing in them a death to it, as the way of acceptance with God. I am aware that from Egypt’s being denominated the house of bondage, Israel’s bondage there, is thought to prefigure the situation of the sinner under the Law. To this I answer, that the Law is good and the commandment holy, just, and good; but the bondage of Egypt was unjust and oppressive. I therefore consider it more consistent with the tenor of divine revelation, to consider Moses as representing the Law. As Moses’ mission to Israel, though the occasion of an increase of their oppression, for a season, was a gracious mission; so the Law, although the occasion of much bondage to the spiritual Israel whilst in their Egypt, was graciously given in reference to them, to convince them of sin, and to prostrate them at the feet of sovereign mercy. The fact is, the Law as given in thunder from Sinai, has no direct tendency to produce that slavish bondage under which men labour in seeking justification by their works; but on the contrary, by entering that the offense may abound, or in other words by searching out and bringing to our view the depravity of our hearts, its tendency is, to show us the folly of looking to our own works, for salvation, and to bring us to cry with the Publican for mercy. On the other hand the Egyptian bondage, prefigured that bondage under which the sinner labors, in consequence of his disbelief of the testimony of God borne through the Law, his predetermination to cling to legal principles for life; and above all, of his substituting the Sinai covenant as given nationally to Israel, for the Law, as the standard of individual justification before God. To these things the pride and self-will of man, has, in every age, predisposed him to; and his own consciousness of transgression, driving him from a confident reliance on the moral principles of the Law covenant, substituting since the gospel day, baptism for circumcision, and natural faith and repentance, reformation, profession, prayers, &c. for the titles, and offerings to which the Jews clung. This drudgery is frequently called legal obedience, but it is more properly termed illegal, for it certainly is not sanctioned by the law.
Having premised thus much relative to Moses’ mission into Egypt, and the bondage of Israel, I proceed to the point in view; namely, to show by the different effects the message of Moses had, upon Pharaoh on the one hand, and Israel on the other; the evidence of that hardness of heart, which is characteristic of unregeneracy, as manifested in the course pursued by the unregenerate relative to the demands of the Law as published through the gospel ministry, and as contrasted with that conduct produced by the heart being regenerated. For Pharaoh notwithstanding his exalted station, stood manifestly in the relation of a creature of God, and bound to yield obedience to the divine will, although his exaltation tended the more to harden his heart.
As the demand of God was pointed upon Pharaoh, and so declared by Aaron, so the demands of the Law are equally pointed toward every child of Adam, requiring him to give up his heart to God, and bow to His sovereignty; and should be so published in the ministry of the gospel.
As Pharaoh in reply to the first delivery of Moses’ message to him, said, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice &c.,” so the unregenerate practically treat with contempt the demands of God’s law, many of them living as though they knew not, that there is a Lord, whom they should reverence and obey. Again, as Pharaoh appealed to his magicians to invalidate the miracles of Moses by imitation, and as God permitted them in these cases to perform acts resembling those miracles He wrought by Moses; so the unregenerate, frequently, try to evade the manifestation of their obligation to God arising from His providential goodness to them, by ascribing their preservation, their health, prosperity &c. to their own prudence, exertions, &c. and so the Lord often permits those who disown His special government, to prosper in the world, whereby their hearts become the more hardened against Him, and they fill up the measure of their iniquities; and at the same time His purpose is accomplished by them, as it was in bringing about the occasion for manifesting His great power in bringing His people out from under the yoke of Pharaoh. They also seek to invalidate the truth of God’s word, in which is revealed the helpless state of the sinner in reference to salvation, his necessity of being born from above, &c., by appealing to their power to reform their outward lives, to perform the outward forms of religion &c. Indeed there are, at this day, many who are fitly prefigured by Pharaoh’s magicians, from the mock conversions, they are producing by their various acts; and the Lord is permitting them to succeed in drawing the multitude after them, under the impression that theirs is the great power of God, and all this that God’s mighty power may be known, not only in sustaining His church, in opposition to the rage of the foaming current, but also in the complete, ultimate overthrow of the man of sin in all his entrenchments.
In other instances, Pharaoh finding himself pressed by the judgments of God, sends in haste for Moses and Aaron, and proposes a partial submission to the demand made, and in some cases promises compliance on condition of being relieved from the evil he dreaded, but when relief was had, he forgot his promises. We see much like this, at this day, in persons under those natural convictions which are produced, either by the fears of approaching death, or by excitements produced, whether with, or without the methodical forms of camp or protracted meetings. Many persons condemn death-bed repentances, who extol as a high state of religious exercise the very same kind of terror when produced at meetings by the preachers harrowing up the feelings of the afflicted or, as though it was his element, pouring forth torrents of hell-fire against those who have not as yet submitted to be converted by him; and this in a manner that would be considered insufferably coarse, if coming from any other source than his pulpit. But these slavish fears, excited by what they may be, are as void of pure religion as was Pharaoh’s which was occasioned by seeing the fire and hail mingled. The unregeneracy of the subjects of these excitements is manifested, frequently in their sinning, like Pharaoh, yet more, in going back wherein they had reformed; if not in this, yet in manifesting a determination to adhere to their own terms for acceptance with God; saying with Pharaoh to those who would point to a finished salvation; look to it, for evil is before you, that is in depending as helpless condemned sinners, upon the free and sovereign grace of God in Christ for salvation, without having their prayers, and other performances, acknowledged, as good and acceptable in the sight of God. And when they professedly submit to acknowledge themselves to be lost sinners, and to give themselves up, as they say, to be saved by Christ, it is with the understanding, on their part, that in consideration of their doing so, Christ has bound Himself to save them. Thus instead of acknowledging and submitting to the righteous and unalterable demands of God’s Law, and being willing to rely for salvation, as objects of mercy, upon the sovereign pleasure of God in Christ, they would have God to come to such terms as they according to their various systems, think are right. Who, that has eyes to see, does not see in this kind of religion, put on in order to be saved, a correspondence in principle and practice, with Pharaoh’s attempts to escape the judgments of God? If his was the workings of a hardened heart, so must theirs be.
Fairfax C. H. Va. March 10, 1835.
Signs of the Times
Volume 3, No. 7.
April 1, 1835