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XXII.

Τ

THE PLAGUES.

HREE millions of people were in slavery. They

were treated with the utmost rigor, and so fearful were their masters that they might, in time, increase in numbers sufficient to avenge themselves, that they took from the arms of mothers all the male children and destroyed them. If the account given is true, the Egyptians were the most cruel, heartless and infamous people of which history gives any record. God finally made up his mind to free the Hebrews; and for the accomplishment of this purpose he sent, as his agents, Moses and Aaron, to the king of Egypt. In order that the king might know that these men had a divine mission, God gave Moses the power of changing a stick into a serpent, and water into blood. Moses and Aaron went before the king, stating that the Lord God of Israel ordered the King of Egypt to let the Hebrews

go that they might hold a feast with God in the wilderness. Thereupon Pharaoh, the king, enquired who the Lord was, at the same time stating that he had never made his acquaintance, and knew nothing about him. To this they replied that the God of the Hebrews had met with them, and they asked to go a three days journey into the desert and sacrifice unto this God, fearing that if they did not he would fall upon them with pestilence or the sword. This interview seems to have hardened Pharaoh, for he ordered the tasks of the children of Israel to be increased; so that the only effect of the first appeal was to render still worse the condition of the Hebrews. Thereupon, Moses returned unto the Lord and said "Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? Why is it that thou hast sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all."

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Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharoah ; for with a strong hand shall he let them go; and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land."

God then recounts the fact that he had appeared unto Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that he had established a covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, that he had heard the groanings of the children of Israel in Egyptian bondage; that their groanings had put him in mind of his covenant, and that he had made up his mind to redeem the children of Israel with a stretched out arm and with great judgments. Moses then spoke to the children of Israel again, but they would listen to him no morė. His first effort in their behalf had simply doubled their trouble and they seemed to have lost confidence in his power. Thereupon Jehovah promised Moses that he would make him a god unto Pharaoh, and that Aaron should be his prophet, but at the same time informed him that his message would be of no avail; that he would harden the heart of Pharaoh so that he would not listen; that he would so harden his heart that he might have an excuse for destroying the Egyptians. Accordingly, Moses and Aaron again went before Pharaoh. Moses said to Aaron;

-"Cast down your rod before Pharaoh," which he did, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh not in the least surprised, called for his wise men and his sorcerers, and they threw down their rods and

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changed them into serpents. The serpent that had been changed from Aaron's rod was, at this time crawling upon the floor, and it proceeded to swallow the serpents that had been produced by the magicians of Egypt. What became of these serpents that were swallowed, whether they turned back into sticks again, is not stated. Can we believe that the stick was changed into a real living serpent, or did it assume simply the appearance of a serpent? If it bore only the appearance of a serpent it was a deception, and could not rise above the dignity of legerdemain. Is it necessary to believe that God is a kind of prestigiator-a sleight-of-hand performer, a magician or sorcerer? Can it be possible that an infinite being would endeavor to secure the liberation of a race by performing a miracle that could be equally performed by the sorcerers and magicians of a barbarian king?

Not one word was said by Moses or Aaron as to the wickedness of depriving a human being of his liberty. Not a word was said in favor of liberty. Not the slightest intimation that a human being was justly entitled to the product of his own labor. Not a word about the cruelty of masters who would destroy even the babes of slave mothers. It seems

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to me wonderful that this God did not tell the king of Egypt that no nation could enslave another, without also enslaving itself; that it was impossible to put a chain around the limbs of a slave, without putting manacles upon the brain of the master. Why did he not tell him that a nation founded upon slavery could not stand? Instead of declaring these things, instead of appealing to justice, to mercy and to liberty, he resorted to feats of jugglery. Suppose we wished to make a treaty with a barbarous nation, and the president should employ a sleight-of-hand performer as envoy extraordinary, and instruct him, that when he came into the presence of the savage monarch, he should cast down an umbrella or a walking stick, which would change into a lizard or a turtle; what would we think? Would we not regard such a performance as beneath the dignity even of a president? And what would be our feelings if the savage king sent for his sorcerers and had them perform the same feat? If such things would appear puerile and foolish in the president of a great republic, what shall be said when they were resorted to by the creator of all worlds? How small, how contemptible such a God appears! Pharaoh, it seems, took about this view of the

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