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they might add sin to sin ; that walked to go down into Egypt, and had not asked at his mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt.”
Very different was the advice which the prophet was sent to offer them in this emergency. He was commissioned to call them to the exercise of the faith which had been so remarkable in their fathers, and to invite them to rely entirely on the Lord. Human aid could not profit them. The alliance with Egypt would be of no avail. They must look to Jehovah alone for help and protection.
“ For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose : therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.” They had only one course to take. They must expect no help from Egypt, nor expect to achieve their own deliverance,—and leave it to God to make for them a way of safety. “For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest shall ye be saved ; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”
If the people of Judah disregarded this Divine communication, and still fondly trusted in human help, till human help was taken away, may we, my brethren, receive it in a more teachable spirit, and pray the Father of mercies that He will at the present time give us the grace of his Holy Spirit, to enable us to enter into the meaning of this striking passage of His word !
It is very evident that the words of the text, though originally referring directly to the circumstances which have been noticed, contain a precept of universal application. When regarded in themselves, we cannot help finding in them a principle which never ceases to be of force, and which is of no less importance to us, than it was to the Jews. Though there is not among us a Moses, saying with words of Divine authority, “ Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord,” (Exod. xiv. 13.) while the embattled host of Pharaoh presses behind, and before, the sea spreads a barrier that would seem impassable ;though an Isaiah is not in person addressing us in burning language, and saying, while Sennacherib is at hand, “ Their strength is to sit still :"—the inspired words of those illustrious ministers of Jehovah form part of the book which is given for our learning, and, different as are our circumstances, we are bound to regard them as setting before us our duty, and furnishing us with the encouragements which we might need to induce us to perform it.
"“ In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” By a common instinct of our nature we look to our bodily and mental faculties for self-preservation and safety. If danger presents itself, we avail ourselves of every thing which promises to afford us help. In more tranquil circumstances, we are constantly engaged in search of happiness and enjoyment, and in the pursuit eagerly embrace whatever offers to supply our wants and to minister to our pleasure. This is the natural law of our being: it is the natural law of all beings. But man is a fallen being; and if he follows this instinct of his nature, he will only become continually more corrupt and sinful; for his desires prompt him to sin : and unless he acts under a sense of his relations to God, and acknowledges the restraints which are laid upon his appetites by the divine law, they will lead him to certain ruin.
To be safe, we must always look beyond ourselves; we must seek a rule of heavenly origin, and we must look to heaven for strength to enable us to observe it. The first point of wisdom is to know our own ignorance and weakness. Humility is the foundation of the whole structure of holiness. Nothing is gained till we approach God in the spirit which expresses itself in the confession, “ We have destroyed ourselves; in thee is our help.”
Those who are living under a sense of their relations to God, have always been mainly distinguished by one peculiarity: they walk by faith, not by sight. Instead of holding intercourse only with what is visible, they feel most interested by the great realities which they see not. They see not God; they see not the Saviour; they see not the purer spirits which minister to the heirs of salvation; they see not heaven; yet there are realities to them as cogent and as influential as if they were seen in all their brightness; they are very greatly more influential than the things which form the present visible world. For to a sense of their importance they give up the vain show, which passes for real and substantial with those who close their eyes against spiritual illumination.
Those who walk by faith, who live in a conviction that the course of this world, both within and without us, is ordered as the Scripture tells us it is, regard things in a very different way to the unthinking many. With the love of God in their hearts, and his word in their hands, even in this evil world they may see their way plainly. They have been made children of God: the Saviour has taken them in his arms, and admitted them to the washing of regeneration. The Holy Spirit has enabled them to hold on their way to the city which is to be their home. They have done nothing for themselves everything has been done for them. The same must be the case always; they can never advance