This discourse was delivered at Cross-hill, near Glasgow, October 11, 1741, immediately after the admission of the Rev. Mr. James Fisher, late minister of the gospel at Glasgow.
"I have seen, I have seen the afflictions of my people which is in Egypt; and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt."—Acts 8:3.
This discourse was delivered at Cross-hill, near Glasgow, October 11, 1741, immediately after the admission of the Rev. Mr. James Fisher, late minister of the gospel at Glasgow.
"I have seen, I have seen the afflictions of my people which is in Egypt; and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt."—Acts 8:3.
The temporal deliverance which God gave his church out of their Egyptian bondage was typical of the spiritual deliverance of his people in after ages, from whatever spiritual bondage they are under. The text now read shows God's pity and mercy towards his people, after they had been for many years in a pitiful case, and under grievous oppressions. And there are these five particulars I would observe in the words. 1. The designation of the people who were pitied of the Lord, My people. 2. The grievous case and distress they were in. It is called their affliction in Egypt. 3. The carriage and behavior of these people under their distress; they groaned. 4. How the Lord showed his pity to them, namely, both by seeing their calamity, "I have seen, I have seen it;" and by hearing also, "I have heard their groaning;" and then by coming to their help, "I am come down to deliver them." 5. What means he used for this end, and how he calls Moses for that purpose: "And now come, I will send thee into Egypt."
Waving the formality of a doctrinal proposition, at the time, we shall speak a little to each of these particulars, in the order now laid down, viz.:
I. Speak to the designation of the people who are pitied.
II. The grievous case and distress they were in.
III. Their behavior under their distress.
IV. How the Lord showed his pity to them.
V. What means he used for this end.
VI. Make some improvement of the whole.
I. The first thing then is, The designation of these who were pitied of God, and shown compassion unto by him: My people; I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people." Why, what people of the earth are not his? It may be said, indeed, "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof." All the people in it are his. All the people in heaven, angels and saints, are his. All the people on earth; yea, and all the people in hell. He is Lord of all, and hath power over all. There is not a fish in the sea, nor a fowl in the air, nor a worm in the earth, but they are the Lord's. But yet, for all that, God has a people that are his in a special manner. And you may see the description of them, "To whom belongeth the adoption, and the glory, the covenants, the promises, &c. Whose are the fathers, and of whom, concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is God over all, blessed for ever," (Rom. 9:4-5). God claims a relation to them.
And here it is proper to observe, that in this, and several other places in Scripture, this title of God's people is spoken of with respect to a visible church, a mixed people of good and bad; as when he says to Israel, "I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of bondage." And whereas, in many instances, it is spoken collectively of the whole body of the church, this rule is to be observed, that, where the Lord is mentioned thus, in relation to a mixed people, all the privileges that flow from such a relation of God, to that people are but common privileges: I mean, common to all that visible church. Thus the privilege of bringing out of the land of Egypt was a common privilege; common to all the people, good and bad among them; even as our deliverance from Romish Babylon, in the Reformation, &c. But though God be called the God of a church or people, collectively, and they called his people, which infers many excellent privileges, though common to them all, as in the forecited, (Rom. 9:4); yet he is not their God in the same respect as he is the God of these that are believers and true Israelites amongst them. As "they are not all Israel that are of Israel," so the true Israel have distinguished favors and privileges conferred on them beyond others; he is their God, and they are his people, in a peculiar manner; and they are possessed of saving privileges. Israel, or the church in general, hath a right to Christ, but true Israelites have a right in him; by their being made to take possession of the general right that all the rest have, by the federal relation to him as his people. Israel was a people in covenant with God; he chose them for his people, and they chose him by profession for their God; and happy Israelites they were, that did so in reality. They had his truth for their security, his mercy for their comfort, his wisdom for their counselor, his Spirit for their guide, his angels for their guardians and ministering spirits.
My people: It is, (1.) A title of peculiarity, importing a separation from other people; that they are not the people of the world, but chosen out of the world; they are not their own people, but bought with a price. (1.) A title of propriety, importing God's interest in them; being a people of his choice, his purchase, his promise, his conquest, his love, and his care. (3.) A title of dignity, importing their high privilege; his people are his pleasure, his treasure, his heritage, his flock, his witness, his crown, his glory, &c. (4.) A title of divinity, God's people; importing their professed or real participation of the divine nature and image; a people formed by himself to show forth his praise.
My people: they were so federally, by virtue of the covenant God made with their fathers. God said to Moses, when sent to deliver them, "I am the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob." Now, he calls them his people, because they were some of these, of whom he declared himself to be their God, and the God of their seed; and with whom he had before entered into covenant, saying, "I am thy God;" namely, in Christ, the Mediator of the covenant, who was to descend of them, according to the flesh. Indeed, it is only through Christ that we can be God's people; for all the promises are made to Christ and through him to us. The promise made to Abraham was of the Messiah: "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." And it is said, "Out of Egypt have I called my Son," (Hosea 11:1). There the prophet seems only to mean God's people, whom he delivered out of Egypt; but yet we see, (Matt. 2:15), it is applied particularly to Christ, because it was only through him, and for his sake, that this deliverance was both promised and wrought. We are not then of the number of God's people, if we be not in Christ; take away Christ and the gospel, and you take away your title to be God's people.
My people: how? They were his by virtue of the old relation to their fathers. There was a long time between his saying, "I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed," and the time that he said to Moses, "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." It was at least the space of four hundred years: yet, by virtue of that covenant, he calls them that were come of them, after so long a time, my people. Hence many years after a covenant is made, the covenant stands. When God hath manifested his covenant of grace to a people, receiving them to be his; and they have thereupon entered into a covenant of duty with him, avouching him to be their God, and promising, through grace, subjection to him, though it were four hundred years old; yea, though it were four thousand years, it stands; and they who succeed are bound by that covenant. There are personal covenants and national covenants. In baptism, and the Lord's Supper, there is a personal covenanting to be the Lord's, and to fight against the devil, the world, and the flesh. But besides, there are national covenants, wherein we in these lands have devoted ourselves to the Lord, and avowed ourselves to be his people. In which practice we were warranted by many scripture precedents, such as Joshua 24:14-18, 2 Kings 17:11 and 2 Chronicles 15 &c. Never was any action done more sedately and advisedly than this covenanting work was done, that is now so much buried, forgotten, and slighted. The binding obligation thereof upon us is plain; if we have the benefit of that religion to which our forefathers swore an hundred years ago, then we must be heirs of the oath they came under to the most high God. We find, in scripture, that Levi is said to pay tithes to Melchisedec; and yet Levi was not born at this time; but it was Abraham that paid tithes, and Levi being to come of Abraham, therefore he is said to pay them. Therefore, when our fathers swore to this Covenant, we swore as well as they; and we are obliged to stand to it, though it were never so many years after. This generation is now making light of Scotland's Covenant with God; and are so far renouncing their relation to him, as his people by solemn Covenant. But see how God speaks in scripture of his people, and their posterity after them, it is said, (Ps. 66:6), that God did turn the floods into dry land, and they went through the flood on foot; then, there did. We rejoice in him. How could this be, that they did rejoice in him, then and there, since they were not then come into the world? Why, because they got deliverance at that time: otherwise they had been destroyed, and had not then existed. Even thus, when this land was delivered from Popery, at the Reformation; and, by solemn Covenant, got the true reformed religion, we being partakers of the benefits, are bound to perform that which they promised to do for it. Thus the prophet Hosea, (12:4), speaking of the wrestling of Jacob with God at Bethel, says, "He met with him in Bethel, and there he spake with us," though many years before they were born. Here the prophet shows, that they were degenerate from their believing progenitors; and that they had turned Bethel to Bethaven, the house of God to the house of vanity. Thus people are charged in scripture with the breach of covenant that their fathers made.
What did we receive from our forefathers? Much light was conveyed from them; but what are we transmitting to our posterity, but darkness and defection? Is it any wonder then we are broken to pieces, because of a broken Covenant? The children of Israel made a covenant with the Gibeonites; and though it was obtained by fraud, yet when after four hundred years, that it might have been thought forgotten, for breaking of it they were plagued of God with a great famine; and God's wrath could not be appeased till seven of Saul's sons were hanged for the hand they had in it. How then may we suppose, will God avenge the violation of a lawful oath made with himself in this land? If but a parent bind and oblige his children to do so and so, we count it justice to do it, and great injustice and iniquity if it be not done, when parents are dead and gone; is not their seed and heirs bound by their right, promise, or covenant, as well as they were? What continual change and confusion would there be in the world, if persons themselves were only to be tied by their own personal bonds? How much more iniquity is it for men to deny their obligation by Covenant to God, made by their forefathers in their name? And, indeed, Scotland is more obliged than other nations; for God was never more with any than with them, nor any more with him than they. Many arrows hath God to shoot against such a nation, if we be a nation: many arrows hath he shot. As the Israelites, when they made the golden calf and worshipped it, it is remarked by one, that "never a plague came upon them after, but there was an ounce of the golden calf in it." God could not forget that it was such a heinous sin: and so we may say, many a plague hath God sent these years bygone, and many more terrible ones seem a-coming; but never a plague hath yet befallen us, but there has been an ounce of this great sin of covenant-breaking in it: for God hath a just controversy with the land for our covenant-breaking and perjury. Meantime, however light we make of our solemn covenant, yet this is one of the grounds of our claim to him as his people. It is also one of the grounds of his continuing to lay claim to us, who own these Covenants, and to call us his people: My people.
II. The second thing in the words is, the miserable condition they were in: "I have seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt." I have seen it to be a great affliction, and the greatness of it may appear in the following particulars.
1. They dealt craftily with them when they increased: for the king of Egypt and his councilors said, "Come, and let us work wisely with them." Their affliction was devised by the king and his council. Their whole wit and policy was employed to afflict God's people, and the wisdom of Egypt was not small; though it was not true wisdom, yet it was great, like that of the old serpent. The afflictions of God's people are great, when the wisdom and policy of men and devils are employed against them.
2. The greatness of their affliction appears from the manner how they were enslaved; they were employed in mire and clay, by the side of the river Nile, and making of tile for building houses for the king, and erecting their pyramids. They were not employed in curious work, but in the coarsest of work in making bricks; and their tasks were doubled upon them: they behooved to do twice as much work as they did before. Task-masters were set over their head, by whom thy were beaten, if they fulfilled not their task. And yet, being denied straw, one part of them must wander about seeking straw, and another making tile.
3. The greatness of their affliction appears in that it lasted long; for it seems to have begun shortly after the death of Joseph and his brethren, when there arose another king who knew not Joseph: and though their trouble was not all that time in extremity, yet it was a growing trouble, till they came at last,
4. To be cut off from all hope of any posterity; the midwives of Egypt being commanded to kill all their male children: and when the midwives refused, the Egyptians were commanded to take and cast them into the river Nile: and, you know, this occasioned the miraculous preservation of Moses. Thus their affliction was great and grievous: it was as great as the wisdom of Egypt and as base also; likewise growing and lasting, till it came to an extremity. Then it was that the Lord said, "I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people."
Question: How came they to be thus afflicted? Was it not by the providence of God? Yea, indeed, it was; as you see Psalm 105:25, where it is said, "He turned their hearts to hate his people, and to deal subtilly with his servants:" so that their afflictions were ordered of the Lord, for these and the like ends.
(1.) Lest his people, living amongst the Egyptians, should become too familiar with them, and so be drawn to their idolatry, he would have them to hate them; for if they had been well entertained among them, they might have fallen away from the true God, as some of them did, (Joshua 24; Ezek. 23:), for as sore as they were afflicted. How much more would they have fallen, if they had been kindly entertained by them? For they had as much natural inclination to fall away from the worship of the true God, to idolatry, as all other men hath; therefore he would have the Egyptians to oppress them.
(2.) That they might long to be delivered from their grievous affliction and to be possessed of the good land promised to them; as the seed of Abraham. He would thus stir up in them a sense of their present state, and a desire after liberty. Hence, when Moses was sent, they were glad to hear of their deliverance, and that there was hope they would get their head out of the yoke of bondage they were into.
(3.) That they might not return to Egypt again, when once they were out of it, remembering what slavery they were in; though yet it is strange, as you see, (Num. 14), they would gladly have been back again; though Canaan was called a land flowing with milk and honey, and Egypt a place of onions and garlic; yet, when they found but a little distress in the wilderness, how would they have been back again? Much more would they have longed to return, if they had not been sore afflicted in Egypt. I may add another reason,
(4.) That, in their deliverance from the affliction, God's glory might be the greater, both in manifesting his justice, in punishing the Egyptians; and his truth and mercy, in delivering his people.
And here, to adapt this matter to the case of God's people at present in Scotland, have they not been in great bondage, and under grievous oppressions and church tyranny? Have not judicatories been dealing craftily with them? And, have they not been brought under great hardships, by severe task-masters, and cruel watchmen? How long hath the bondage continued, and how greatly hath it been growing these good many years? How have defections come to such a height, that a covenanted Reformation was like to have no shadow of a testimony for it, and so all hope of transmitting it purely to posterity, was ready to be cut off, and we from having a posterity to praise the Lord, and do service to him, as a covenanted land? Those that were appearing for that cause of God, have been cut off, and cast out of the synagogue; and so they, and all that cleave to them, cast, as it were, to the door: the Lord having turned the hearts of this generation to hate his people, and deal subtly with his servants, [The oppression and tyranny of Church-judicatories, the severity and cruelty of the watchmen, their opposition to a testimony for truth, and their thrusting out of the synagogue those who befriended it, and adhered thereto, have been already laid open in the notes to the former volumes]. And wherefore hath the Lord done this?
1. That we may not fall in love with the fashions of the generation, nor may go on in the same course of defection. Nay, how hath God made his people's affliction and oppression, by ecclesiastical sentences, the occasion of rendering their crafty and cruel oppressors hateful and contemptible in their eyes, and their ways to be odious?
2. God hath so ordered it, that his people might long to be delivered from their afflictions, and relieved from the hardships they were wider with reference to the want of church privileges.
3. That, being once set at liberty, they might use all means not to be entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
4. That God might be the more glorified, both in showing his just displeasure against oppressors, and his mercy to his people, according to his promise in Christ.
III. The third thing here is, The carriage and behavior of this people under their distress and affliction: it is expressed by the word groaning. In the book of Exodus it is said, they sighed, they cried, they groaned: here there is but one word used. For understanding whereof; there is a twofold cry to God in affliction. 1. The cry of oppression. 2. The cry of the oppressed. The first is real, the other is vocal.
1. The first, I say, is the real cry of sin itself: The hire of the laborer is said, (Jam. 5:4), to cry in the ears of God. A mercenary servant that has no more to live upon but his wages, the withholding of it cries for a curse in the ears of God. And, when God questions Cain about his brother Abel, and he says, "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen. 4:10). God answers, "The cry of thy brother's blood is come up to heaven before me." And, (Gen. 18:20), the sin of Sodom is said to cry in God's ears for a curse. Thus the sin of oppression is a crying sin, and many other sins are crying sins. Scotland's perjury is a crying sin. Sin cries for vengeance to come down upon the committers thereof: thus when Israel were afflicted and oppressed, their oppression cried. But,
2. This was joined with the cry of the oppressed; the cry of the prayer of God's people; "When we cried unto the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression," (Deut. 26:7). Sirs, when people are afflicted and oppressed, what is the reason that the Lord rises not up to deliver them? Do not oppressions cry in the ears of the Lord? Yea, but there should be a twofold cry; with the cry of oppression, there should be the cry of the oppressed: for, God has two ears, so to speak; an ear of justice, to hear the cry of oppression; and an ear of mercy, to hear the cry of the oppressed: now, when the cry of oppression comes up before him, he keeps up the stroke till the cry of the oppressed come also up. Well, the cry of oppression, even of church oppression in this land, hath come up before the Lord of hosts: O that there were more of the cry of the oppressed the cry of the prayer of faith. It is not a clamor I am speaking of; Non vox, sed votum [Not words, but deeds]. Moses is said to cry, when he uttered not a word; and there are "groanings which cannot be uttered," which the Lord hears and answers. If under the influence of the Spirit helping our infirmities, our hearts and voices were going together, through the land, to cry to the Lord, we might expect he would hear. As the ear of his justice hath been deafened, as it were, with the cry of oppression, obtrusions, errors, defections, and corruptions; if the ears of his mercy were also deafened with the importunate cries of the oppressed, afflicted, and scattered heritage of God; as we believe, in some measure, this exercise is taking place among some of the praying societies in Scotland: but if there were more and more of it, we might expect the Lord would remember his covenant, and put to his hand, and help up with reformation-work, maugre [despite] all the opposition made to it.
Observe, It is a pitiful case when people are in affliction, and yet are not groaning nor crying to the Lord, nor seeking help from him. You should look upon affliction as a scourge to drive you to God. As a good child, when beaten by his father, will not run away from him, but draw nearer to him, and cry for mercy; so, in affliction, we are to rent our hearts, and cry to a God in Christ.
IV. The fourth thing here is, The way how the Lord showed his pity to his oppressed people: "I have seen, I have seen; I have heard; I am come down to deliver." There are three expressions here by which he shows his pity and compassion.
1st, It is expressed by seeing: "I have seen, I have seen their affliction;" or, "seeing I have seen it." Here is mercy in his eye; he gives a look of pity and compassion.
2dly, It is expressed by hearing: "I have heard their groaning, I have heard their groaning." Here is mercy in his ear, which was open to their cry.
3dly, It is expressed by a coming down: "I am come down to deliver them." Here is mercy in his feet, and hand, and motion, for their help. These are figurative expressions, God speaking after the manner of men, by an usual allegory; and you have it very orderly expressed, (Ex. 3:7-9).
We shall here observe three reasons of these expressions.
1. To show his wisdom, that when men would act rightly towards oppressors or oppressed, they should cognosce [to determine judicially], and put matters to a fair trial; or should see with their eyes, as it were, how matters are; and hear with their ears, what humble supplications are made to them, and act a just and equal part.
2. To let us see the patience of God, that he runs not at the first to strike, like a furious person, but comes at leisure, and by degrees: having seen the case of his people, he hears their cry.
3. To let us see the certainty and solidity of God's dealings, that though he suffers long, he will not suffer always: and that, when he comes, he comes to purpose, for judgment on his enemies, and mercy to his friends. When men have pronounced judgment, they may retract, because they have not considered duly beforehand; but God hath seen, and seen again; and heard, and well considered matters, before he strikes. If he hath come with feet of wool, when he comes, he will have hands of iron. We need not say the Lord is long in coming to punish the wicked; for when he comes, his strokes are sad, and sure, and heavy. His judgments are great and heavy. Nor that he is long in coming to deliver his people; for, when he comes indeed, he comes down with a vengeance on their enemies, and with an out-stretched arm of salvation and deliverance towards them: "The day of vengeance is in my heart; for the year of my redeemed is come," (Isa. 63:4).
Therefore, let us reverence the providence of God in a way of showing mercy; let us wait upon God, and give him time; his own time, to see, and hear, and come. He must have his seeing-time: "I have seen their affliction." He must have his hearing time: "I have heard their groanings." And then he will have his coming-time: "I am come down to deliver." "He that believeth maketh not haste," but waits his time. Are you oppressed with spiritual enemies? with strong, powerful, and prevalent lusts and corruptions? Are you crying day and night, "Lord, avenge me of mine adversary? (Luke 18:3). Are you longing for God's coming down for your deliverance? O wait patiently upon this merciful and compassionate God: for he is neither blind, nor deaf, nor dead, like the idol gods of the nations: No; he is a seeing God, an all-seeing God: "I have seen, I have seen your affliction;" he is a hearing God: "I have heard your secret groanings;" and he is a coming God, he is on his way coming down to you: "He is a God of judgment; blessed are all they that wait for him."
V. The fifth thing in the words is the means and instrument that he uses for their help. "And now come, Moses, I will send thee into Egypt." Now, we are to consider these words, 1. Literally as they relate to Moses; and, 2. Typically, as they relate especially to Christ, of whom Moses was but a type and shadow.
1st, Let us consider them literally, as they relate to Moses: "Come now, and I will send thee into Egypt, to be a deliverer to my people there." And here the following remarks may be offered.
Remark 1: "That though God could have delivered Israel by his own almighty hand immediately, without any means or instrument, yet he chose to do it by a Moses." He that made a voice to speak to Moses, could, by a voice, deliver them without the help or hand of any instrument. He could, by an extraordinary providence, do whatever he did by an instrument; but he chooses to employ instruments. Thus God could bring about a reformation in Scotland, without the instrumentality of any man; but he chooses to do otherwise: therefore let none say, I need not put to my hand, for God will do his work whether I meddle or not: but if he be calling us to do work for him, let us not say it is needless. What if Moses had said so to God at this time? surely it would not have become him to have refused such an honorable employment. Put to thy hand, in the name of God, to the work of personal, family, and national reformation; and, if you can do more, pray the Lord earnestly that he would work the work. We ought not to go into lurking holes, when God hath anything ado; for, God honors men thus when he employs them in any good work. Yet it is not for want of strength he does this, but to try people, if they will be zealous and valiant for a good cause. We should bless the Lord, if he be making any small number to take the cause of reformation to heart. I have heard how, in our glorious reformation days, God spurred a number of young noblemen oftentimes to meet by six or seven in the morning, to stay together till nine or ten at night; and all that time to be only occupied about religion, and never a word of any other thing; and yet not at all wearied or uneasy. How did this appear to be a work of God! Indeed, if God has a mind to bring about reformation in our day, it looks not very likely as yet, that God is to honor our nobility and gentry [social position] to be the beginners of it; but if he shall leave in the midst of us a poor, afflicted and despised people, a contemptible handful, and make them his instrument; he can do glorious things even by very base and contemptible means; for so did be here. Therefore,
Remark 2: "Moses is taken from the station of a shepherd, to be a king in Jeshurun; a commander and deliverer to Israel; like David, from following the ewes with young." Moses, from his mean service, is called to lay the foundation of the Jewish church. So the apostles, a company of poor fishermen, were taken from their ships and nets, to lay the foundation of the Christian church. God doth great things by small contemptible means, and means that are despised; for so was Moses, as you see in the verse following the text. This Moses, whom they refused, saying, "Who made thee a ruler and a judge?" the same did God send to be a ruler and deliverer by the hands of the angel which appeared to him in the bush. When God appears for his work in a church, some expect it will be by very remarkable instruments; and that he will make use of silver or golden trumpets to gather his church: but if he come not that way, but rather by most despicable means, like rams horns; why, think they, what will these do? O how apt are we to mistake Christ, even when he comes for our deliverance, especially if he come in some strange unbeaten path, as when he came to the disciples' relief, but came walking on the waves of the sea? Indeed, the floods have lifted up their voice: floods of opposition to God's work, floods of church authority and ecclesiastical sentences against the work of God, and witnesses for it. If Christ come walking upon such floods, and treading but these proud waves, and pouring contempt upon human authority, which stands in his way: some are freighted at his coming in such a road, and afraid it be a spirit, a delusive spirit: yea, but God has strange ways of delivering his people: "His ways are not our ways." Man's ways savor of the things of the earth: "Is this the manner of man?" says David: No; not a man in all the world would have taken you from sheep-herding, and made you a king; nor Moses from being a shepherd also to be a prince: yea, but it is part of God's way, whose ways are above our carnal and earthly ways, as the heaven is above the earth.
Remark 3: "The time of God's employing Moses: Come now, I will send thee, &c." Moses might have thought with himself, why now? for I was forty years there already; and now it is forty years since I came out of it: yea, but he was to be employed now a third forty years, in leading Israel towards Canaan. But my appearing formerly to be a deliverer among them misgave, might he think; why therefore now? Well, but the time was not then come; but now is the time come for delivering them; and therefore his errand was to be the more successful. Now their affliction is come to an extremity; now is the accepted time; now the four hundred years are elapsed, and the promise to their fathers, that I would appear for them about such a time; therefore, there is work for you now, Moses, not only as a prophet, to tell the people that I am about to deliver them; but as my ambassador to Pharaoh, to demand, in the name of the King of kings, that he would render the Lord's people to him. He is sent as a king of Israel to lead them forth. God, many times, when he is about to deliver his people, screws up their trials to the highest degree, that so their deliverance may be the more wonderful and remarkable.
Remark 4: "That Moses runs not till he is sent." He declared himself indeed somewhat unwilling at first, but this flowed from a sense of his own unworthiness. True ambassadors of God are sent of him; they have a regular mission, and must not fail to go when they are sent. Their comfort, if not their success, depends upon their being called of God and sent. The success, indeed, must be referred to God; but we must evermore look to our duty, and yield obedience to the divine call, using the means, and leaving the event to God.
2dly, Consider these words typically, as they relate to Christ, of whom Moses was a type. His being sent to deliver Israel out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of bondage, was a typical representation of God's sending his Son to redeem us from our natural state of sin and misery, and worse than Egyptian bondage. Moses himself prophesied of Christ's being sent of God upon this errand, (Deut. 18:18; See Acts 7:37), where our text lies. Now, as it relates to Christ and the spiritual salvation from the spiritual Egypt, we are to take a twofold view of it, namely, Christ in his person, and Christ in his ministers and messengers.
[1.] As it relates to Christ himself, here typified by Moses, we observe, That Christ is the Sent of God to deliver us out of the bondage of a natural state. He is sent of God, of God the Father, for our redemption. God the Father says, upon the matter, in this transaction, "Come now, and I will send thee into Egypt." "God sent not his Son to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved," (John 3:17). Christ made no objection, but says, "Lo! I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me." Here consider a few things.
1. The person sent: "I will send thee." Thee, my eternal Son; for, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son. Thee, my Servant whom I have chosen; mine Elect in whom my soul delighteth."
2. The person sending, in the pronoun I: "I will send thee." Who is this I? It is even God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, one God, by unanimous counsel, ordained and appointed the Son to come into the world, in his own person, upon the errand of man's redemption; and God the Father being the first in the order of subsistence, and so the first in operation, ad extra [common and inseparable], therefore the sending is primarily ascribed to him, "I came forth from the Father," (John xvi. 28), says Christ; "and they have believed that thou didst send me," (John 8:42), "I come not of myself, but he sent me;" and "He that sent me is with me; the Father hath not left me alone," (v. 29).
3. Observe the sovereign reason of Christ's mission; it is the divine will: "I will send thee." Christ went into it, saying, "Lo! I come; I delight to do thy will." By this will Christ is sent; by this will we are sanctified, saved, and redeemed. The whole covenant of redemption or grace stands upon this divine will: "I will give thee for a covenant of the people." See how Christ opens up his commission, saying, This and this is the will of him that sent me: "I am come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will that hath sent me, that of all that he hath given me, I should lose nothing," (John 6:38-40). "I lay down my life for my sheep; and this commandment have I received from my Father." Thus it was the Father's will, for the great ends of his glory, to send his Son, our true Moses.
4. Observe here, the errand on which he was sent: "I will send thee to Egypt;" to my people, who are in the Egypt of this world, and are in a state of sin and misery, and bondage to Satan, death, and hell, and wrath, that thou mayest deliver them: "I will give thee to be my salvation to the ends of the earth, to proclaim liberty to the captive, and the opening of the prison to them which are bound," (Isa. 49:6).
5. Observe the solemnity of his mission, and the time of it: "Come now, and I will send thee." "We have struck hands from all eternity, might the Father say to the Son; we have been waiting for this time; our delights were with the sons of men; and now come, let us accomplish our love-design: now is the fit time; the necessity of my chosen ones cries for the accomplishment of the promise, That the seed of the woman should braise the head of the serpent. "Come now, and I will send thee to Egypt." And accordingly, "When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law," (Gal. 4:4).
6. Observe here, the nature of the mission itself; it is called a sending; "Come now, and I will send thee." And it imports the incarnation of the Son of God; "The Word was made flesh:" it imports the fitness of Christ for the work; "I will send and qualify thee, and put my Spirit upon thee, that thou mayest bring forth judgment to the Gentiles:" it imports the authority of Christ's mission, and God's confidence in him as able for, and faithful to perform the whole work that he gave him to do; hence the Father glories in him, "I have laid help upon One that is mighty," (Ps. 89:19): and again, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased:" and, in a word, it imports the Father's zealous concern for the errand on which he was sent, viz., the redemption and salvation of men, that before this be left undone, he will rather part with his own Son, and send him to Egypt, and send him clothed with all authority, office, and ability, needful for this work: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son." He was sent, and came as a fruit of his everlasting love.
Hence, by way of application of this particular, viz., the Father's sending Christ, two things especially may be inferred.
(1.) O sirs, see and admire the love both of the Sender and the Sent; both of the Father and of the Son towards lost and undone sinners, lying in their Egyptian bondage to sin, and Satan, and death: "In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins," (1 John 4:9-10). And as the love of God in sending Christ, so the love of Christ in coming, is wonderful: "He loved us, and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour unto God," (Eph. 5:2). "He loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood," (Rev. 1:5). "He loved me, and gave himself for me," (Gal. 2:20). "I will send thee," said the Father; and "I will go," said the Son: I will go down to earth, down to Egypt, down to the cross, down to the grave, and down to a hell for thee and for them.
(2.) See what a sure foundation is laid in Zion, for the salvation of sinners, whereof a number must and shall be saved out of the Egyptian bondage of their state of sin and misery: "Other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ," (1 Cor. 3:11). "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven whereby we must be saved," (Acts 4:12). O how should sinners welcome the Sent of God! (John 5:24), and believe in him as sent upon such a saving errand as that mentioned, where it is said, "That God having raised up his Son Jesus, hath sent him to bless us," (Acts 3:26). He hath sent him to bless you, in turning every one of you from your iniquities. But how does God send him to bless us, even after he hath raised him from the dead, and received him into heaven? Why, it is even by the continued ministry of the gospel to the end of the world, (Matt. 28:20). This leads to another view of the words, viz.,
[2.] As they relate to Christ in his ministers and messengers. "Come now, and I will send thee into Egypt." And here is the effect and consequence of God's sending Christ, namely, Christ sent his servants: "As my Father sent me, so send I you," (John 20:21). Which words may be viewed either as they relate to the apostles, and so to show their immediate mission from Christ, "I send you;" or, as they relate to other ordinary ministers, and what is common to them with the apostles: it may be said of them, "As my Father hath sent me, so send I you." Where there is, 1. The act of sending. 2. The manner of it: so send I you, as my Father sent me.
I. The act of sending, "I Send you." Christ is the author of this ministerial function. He sends not only immediately, by himself; but immediately, by the church; in such order as he hath appointed in his word. This ordinary gospel-mission is necessary; for, "How shall they preach, except they be sent?" (Rom. 10:15). Why, God looks upon them as imposters, "They have run, and I have not sent them," (Jer. 23:21). Their message is void, even as one that is an ambassador, without the prince's leave; his whole embassy is null. And only these that are sent can promise themselves and expect his blessing, his sustenance and support in their work, to whom he says, Go; to them he says, "Lo! I am with you," (Matt. 28:19-20). Christ says of every faithful minister, whom he sends to labor in any spot of his vineyard, "Come now, and I will send thee into Egypt," to deliver my people there, that are yet in the house of bondage, in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity; to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God, (Acts 26:17-18).
2. The manner in which he sends them: "As my Father hath sent me, so send I you;" and that in the following respects.
(1.) Christ was sent into the Egypt of a sinful world by his Father: so are ministers sent of Christ; "As thou halt sent me into the world, so have I also sent them into the world," (John 17:18). "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature," (Mark 16:15).
(2.) And more particularly, it is as if he had said to his servants, As my Father sent me out of his bosom, to declare his mind, (John 1:18); so send I you out of my bosom to discover my mind and message, to declare the whole counsel of God, "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you," (Matt. 28:20). As my Father sent me with authority, to act in his name, as his Ambassador; so send I you with authority to act in my name, as my ambassadors; "We are ambassadors of Christ." As my Father sent me with a promise that he would be with me, "He that sent me is with me," (John 8:29): so send I you with the promise, "Lo! I am with you always unto the end of the world." As the Father sent me to do nothing of myself, but as he taught, (John 8:28), so send I you to do nothing of yourselves, but as you are taught of me. As my Father hath sent me not to speak of myself, but as he gave me commandment what I should say, and what I should speak, (John 12:49), so send I you, not to speak of yourselves, nor for your own glory, (John 7:18), but as I give commandment what you should say, and what you should speak. As my Father sent me, and anointed me to preach glad tidings to the meek, (Isa. 61:1), so send I you to preach the gospel to every poor creature. My Father sent me to live by him; "The living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father," (John 6:57); so send I you, so as that you may live by me; that the life you live, may be by the faith of the Son of God. My Father sent me to give out freely of the gifts I received for men, even for the rebellious; so send I you; "Freely you have received, freely give;" tell the poor world, they have nothing to pay for life and salvation, for I have paid for all. My Father sent me to be assaulted by many bulls of Bashan, compassing me about; so send I you; "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves," (Matt. 10:16); think not strange though they attempt to tear you and your commission. My Father sent me to be an example to you, and to leave you an example, that you might follow my steps: so send I you, that ye may be ensamples to the flock, (1 Pet. 5:3). My Father sent me with a promise of a reward of my work; Though Israel should not be gathered, yet should I be glorious in the sight of the Lord: even so send I you; for, "When the chief Shepherd shall appear, you shall receive a crown of glory which fadeth not away." Again, my Father sent me to be a light to the world, a light to lighten the Gentiles: so send I you; "Ye are the light of the world," (Matt. 5:14), and ye are to shine as lights in the world, (Phil. 2:15). My Father sent me to be a sign, a sign that should be spoken against, (Luke 2:34), even so send I you, "Son of man, I have set thee for a sign to the house of Israel;" (Ezek. 12:6), a sign of mercy to some, a sign of judgment to others, and a sign of reproof unto many. How sad! that some instead of being signs are snares! (Hosea 9:8). Again, my Father sent me to be a world's wonder; "Behold I, and the children whom thou hast given me, are for signs, and wonders even in Israel:" so send I you, Zech. iii. 8, "O Joshua, thou and thy fellows that sit before thee: they are men wondered at," (Joshua 3:8). "I am a wonder to many; but thou art my strong refuge," (Ps. 71:7). My Father sent me to be a witness; and "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth:" even so send I you, to be witnesses for me; "Ye are my witnesses, (Isa. 43:10-12). Ye are my witnesses, that I am God; I am Jehovah, and besides me there is no Saviour; therefore ye are my witnesses that I am God." My Father sent me to gather sinners unto him; and "How often would I have gathered them, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings?" So send I you, to gather the outcasts of Israel, and to gather the dispersed of Israel into one. In a word, my Father sent me down to Egypt, down to this world, a place of Egyptian darkness and idolatry, of Egyptian bondage and slavery: so send I you, with the gospel of light and liberty, to deliver sinners from darkness and bondage. My Father sent me, and sealed me, and anointed and qualified me; "Behold my servant whom I uphold; mine elect in whom my soul delighteth:" so send I you, with my seal, my anointing, my furniture; you go not on this warfare at your own charges, but at my cost. Finally, my Father sent me, with a "come now, and I will send Thee," thee in particular; even so send I you; not only you in general, who are ministers of mine, but thee in particular; every minister in particular, is to apply the mission to himself; I send thee to such a corner, and thee to such another corner. He that hath appointed the bounds of our habitations hath appointed the bounds of thy ministration. It is true, thy general commission is large, "Go, preach the gospel to every creature," as you have access; but he ordinarily assigns his servants also each his particular charge; and wherever it is, it may be called an Egypt, because of the multitude of bond slaves to sin and Satan that are there; and therefore his call is, "Come now, and I will send thee into Egypt." Thus of the manner in which he sends.
Hence, see, by way of application, these two particulars following.
1. What regard ought to be paid to a faithful gospel-ministry. It is to be reverenced as God's sent. Christ hath said, "He that receiveth you, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me." Respect is due to the ministerial vocation because it resembles the call of Christ from the Father. It is a divine call and mission, I send: it is God that sends a faithful minister. It is a particular call, I send Thee. God points out in providence, the particular person for the particular charge. It is a sovereign call: I Will send thee. It is my will and pleasure to give you such a minister. It is not a pastor at the pleasure of the patron, prince, prelate, or prelatical court; no: it is according to the will of God, and the mind of God, that a faithful minister is given in an ordinary way: and therefore to be regarded and reverenced Again, it is a weighty call that a gospel-minister hath, a weighty mission; I send thee into Egypt. O sirs, people should pray for their ministers, and pity them when sent to Egypt; hard work is upon their hand there. It is a needful mission: when the cry of the oppressed is great, when the case of sinners is sad and deplorable. It is a solemn mission; Come Now, "and I will send thee." The circumstances of the present admission of a minister here amongst you is such as makes the matter very weighty and solemn in all its circumstances: I doubt if ever there was the like. The circumstances of the time, and the place, and the persons that gave the call, and the person called, yea, admitted amongst you.
I have heard of Glasgow, that some time ago it hath been like a Goshen for religion, when men could not walk almost through the streets of it, without hearing the morning and evening sound of family worship on weekdays, as well as Sabbath-days; but I have also heard, that now it is degenerate to an Egypt of gross darkness, error, irreligion and ungodliness; an Egypt where a number of God's people, that desire to see reformation-work reviving, have been long oppressed, scattered, reproached, and kept in bondage; and (though I know the modesty of the minister this day admitted amongst you, will hardly bear with such an honorable application of this text, yet) what a mercy would it be to this place, if God be this day saying, with reference to him, "Come now, and I will send thee into Egypt; for I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people; I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver," and am to make thee the instrument? This would be such a mercy, that, I think, all the Lord's people should be crying with their hearts to God for it, saying, "O! that he may be sent of God to be the happy instrument of delivering many souls out of their house of bondage to sin and Satan!" Let this be your prayer and desire in secret; and, who knows what God may do? Though a Red-sea of difficulties should be in the way, the God of Israel still remains; he can work his work by what instruments he will.
2. Is God saying to every gospel minister, whom he calls to work for him, "Come now, and I will send thee to Egypt?" and is Christ saying to us, "As my Father sent me, so send I you?" Then you may look upon us ministers here this day, as sent from him who is the Son of God, and the Sent of God, to call you to believe in him whom the Father has sent. We are only sent to speak in his name and not in our own. We are only sent, indeed, of Christ at the second hand; but Christ is the Sent of God immediately, and at the first hand. We are sent of Christ to call you to come to the Sent of God; and, indeed, saving faith lies in a coming to, and believing in Christ, as he is the Sent of God. Many a time, in the gospel according to John, the main hinge and mystery of faith is made to lie in this; "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth in him that sent me, hath everlasting life," (John 5:24). "As I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me," (John 11:42); "He that believeth on me, believeth on him that sent me," (John 12:24). And, "He that seeth me, seeth him that sent me" (v. 45). "That the world may know that thou hast sent me," (John 17:22); "That the world may believe that thou hast sent me," (John 17:21). Yea, about forty times, in that one book of John, Christ is proclaimed as the Sent of God He spake of himself as the Sent of God, and also of faith as fixing upon him as the Sent of God. And John 6 when it is questioned, "What shall we do, that we may work the work of God," (v.28) Christ answers, "This is the work of God, that ye believe in him whom he hath sent," (v.29). This is the work of his approbation; yea this is the work of his operation; "No man can come unto me, except the Father which sent me draw him," (vv. 45, 65) But how does he draw? Why, as the Father sent Christ, so Christ promises to send the Spirit; "If I go, I will send him," says Christ, "and when he is come, he shall convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment," (John 16:8). He shall testify of me, and he shall glorify me. And thus he shall draw sinners to me, and that by the ministry of the word: for the Spirit again, he sends and qualifies his own ministers, and makes them able ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the Spirit, (2 Cor. 3:6). And when their ministry is the ministration of the Spirit, which is the Spirit of power and life; "For the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life." And thus the word of grace, in the mouth of the minister, and in the hand of the Spirit, sent by him who is the Sent of God, is the means of quickening the soul to this faith of the Son of God, and Sent of God.
O then, sinner, before you go, consider how many sends there are for you; Christ is sent, the Spirit sent, the minister sent; he that said to Moses, "Come now, and I will send thee to Egypt," said to Christ, our true Moses, "Come now, and I will send thee;" and Christ is saying to the Spirit, "Come now, and I will send thee," and the Spirit is saying to the minister, "Come now, and I will send thee, to deal with such a soul, in the name of Christ, to come to him, and believe in him as the Christ of God, the Sent of God."
O then, sinner, if you would have the benefit of this day's work, and the profit of a gospel-ministry to your eternal salvation, I call you to this work of God, which is to believe in him whom he hath sent; to believe that God hath sent Christ to the Egypt of darkness, death, and bondage that you are into; to believe that he is sent to loose your bonds, and bring you out of that house of bondage: "If thou wouldst believe thou shouldst see the glory of God."
O sinner, sinner, that hears me, you cannot deliver yourself out of your bondage; you cannot save yourself either from sin or wrath: but wilt thou believe that Christ is sent to deliver you? that "God hath sent him to bless you," O cursed sinner? That God hath sent him to save thee, O lost sinner? That God hath sent him to pardon thee, O guilty sinner? That God hath sent him to wash thee, O polluted sinner? You shall die in your sin, if you believe not that God hath sent him as a Jesus, to save thee from thy sin. But if thou believest in him as the Sent of God, thou shalt see the glory of God; for, "If thou believest, thou shalt be saved." We are sent to tell you what the Sent of God says; he says, "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." God hath sent him down to Egypt, to deliver thee from death, spiritual and eternal; and he is come to save and deliver thee, because his Father sent him.
And wherefore hath he sent him? Why, he is sent to bring thee out of thy Egyptian darkness and ignorance of God: and particularly,
(1.) He is sent to make known his Father, and his Father's mind; and hence he says, "He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father." And, "No man hath seen God at any time, but the only begotten Son, that is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him."
(2.) He is sent to make known himself, both as the Son and Sent of God; as the Son equal with the Father, and one with him, saying, "I and my Father are one." And as the Sent and Sealed of the Father, to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
(3.) He is sent to make known the Spirit, as he is the Spirit both of the Father and of the Son; and as such, promised to be sent of Christ to apply, by his power, all that Christ purchased by his blood: and to be sent in the most plentiful manner after Christ's ascension to heaven; "If I go, I will send him." And, "When he is come, he will convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment: He shall testify of me. He shall glorify me." Thus Christ is sent to make known a glorious Trinity, God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and the concern that each person hath in our salvation and deliverance out of Egypt, and the house of bondage.
And is he now come to seek and save you after this manner? Shall I not ask you, "Do you now believe?" Or, will you come now to him, and be delivered? Will you now come and welcome the deliverer? "Now is the accepted time;" and what if it be now or never? You have been long in Egypt, some of you. Some of you have been long enough in the Egypt of a corrupt, persecuting church. What if this day's work be a call to you to come out of that Egypt, and join in with the witnesses for Christ, and the doctrine, discipline, worship, and government of his house, against the defections, errors, corruptions, and ungodly measures of the day? Some of you have been long enough in the Egypt of a natural state, in a state of spiritual darkness and death; and behold now Christ is sent to give you the Spirit of light and life! And, if you believe in him, as the Scripture hath said, out of your belly, out of your bowels and heart, shall flow rivers of living waters, (John 7:38): "This he spake of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive." But then it is said, "The Spirit was not then given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." But now he is glorified; having run the errand on which he was sent of the Father, he is gone back again to the Father, that he may send the Spirit, and to give the Holy Ghost more plentifully; and, if you now believe in the Sent of God, then the Holy Ghost is here, the living water is running through your heart; the quickening Spirit is within you, as a well of water, springing up to everlasting life.
O sirs, he is come he is come to open the fountain of living water, and he is saying, "If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink." Any man, be who he will, if you be of the race of Adam; if any man need a drink of these quickening, purifying, healing waters of the sanctuary, let him come to me and drink; for, "He that believeth on me, shall never thirst;" either with a thirst of total want again, or with a thirst of greedy desire after worldly lusts and passing vanities again; nor after the flesh-pots of Egypt. O poor soul, do you now believe in him who is come down to Egypt for you, down to your hell of sin and misery for you? Say not, Where is he, that I may believe in him? Nay, you need not say, "Who shall ascend, to bring him down? or descend, to bring him up? He is near you in this word," by his Spirit that he promises to send; and what if, by the hand of a poor servant, sent to speak in his name, he be saying to you, just now, as he said to the woman of Samaria, I that speak unto thee am he;" I am "the Messiah; I am the Sent of God, to deliver you; I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." And if you now believe, then life is begun, that shall never end.
O sirs, may it be evidenced by your walk and deportment, and conversation for the future, that the Sent of God hath got his errand, that you are delivered out of Egypt, and are in your way to the heavenly Canaan! Depend upon this glorious Deliverer; a greater than Moses is here; whatever Red seas be in your way, or wildernesses of temptation and trouble be in your way, he is able to carry you mercifully through it, as on eagles' wings, till he bring you to the Jordan of death; and he will not leave you there, as Moses did Israel; no, he can make the waters of Jordan to divide before you, and bring you safely to the rest that remains for the people of God.
May the Lord follow with power what is delivered in weakness. To his name be praise.
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