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God hath a juft controverfy with the land for our covenant-breaking and perjury. Mean-time, however light we make of our folemn Covenant, yet this is one of the grounds of our claim to him as his people. It is alfo one of the grounds of his continuing to lay claim to us, who own thefe Covenants, and to call us his people : My people.
II. The fecond thing in the words is, the miferable condition they were in; I have feen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt. I have feen 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 increafed for the king of Egypt and his councillors faid, "Come, and let us work wifely with them." Their af fiction was devifed by the king and his council. Their whole wit and policy was employed to afflict God's people, and the wifdom of Egypt was not fmall; though it was not true wifdom, yet it was great, like that of the old ferpent. The afflictions of God's people are great, when the wisdom and policy of men and devils are employed against them.
2. The greatnefs of their affliction appears from the manner how they were enflayed; they were employed in mire and clay, by the fide of the river Nile, and making of tile for building houfes for the king, and erecting their pyramids. They were not employed in curious work, but in the coarfeft of work, in making bricks; and their tasks were doubled upon them; they behoved to do twice as much work as they did before. Taikmafters were fet over their head, by whom they were beaten, if they fulfilled not their task. And yet, being denied ftraw, one part of them muft wander about feeking straw, and another making tile.
3. The greatnefs of their affliction appears in that it lafted long; for it feems to have begun fhortly after the death of Jofeph and his brethren, when there arose another king who knew not Jofeph and though their trouble was not all that time in extremity, yet it was a growing trouble, till they came at laft,
4. To be cut off from all hope of any pofterity; the midwives of Egypt being commanded to kill all their male children: and when the midwives refused, the Egyptians were commanded to take and caft them into the river Nile: and, you know, this occafioned the miraculous prefervation of Mofes.-Thus their affliction was great and grievous: it was as great as the wif dom of Egypt, and as bafe alfo; likewife growing and lafting, till it came to an extremity. Then it was that the Lord faid, I have feen, I have seen the affliction of my people.
Queft. How came they to be thus afflicted? Was it not by the providence of God? Yea, indeed, it was; as you fee Pfalm cv. 25. where it is faid, "He turned their hearts to hate his people, and to deal fubtilly with his fervants" fo that their afflictions were ordered of the Lord, for thefe and the like ends.
(1.) Left his people, living amongst the Egyptians, fhould become too familiar with them, and fo 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 fome of them did, Jofhua xxiv. Ezek. xxiii. for as fore 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 opprefs them.
(2.) That they m ght long to be delivered from their grievous affliction, and to be poffeffed of the good land promifed to them, as the feed of Abraham. He would thus ftir up in them a fenfe of their prefent ftate, and a defire after liberty. Hence, when Mofes was fent, 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, remembring what fla.. very they were in; though yet it is strange, as you see, Num. xiv. 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 garlick: yet, when they found but a little diftrefs in the wilderness, how would they have been back again? Much more would they have longed to return, if they had not been fore 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 juftice, in punishing the Egyptians; and his truth and mercy, in delivering his people.
And here, to adapt this matter to the cafe of God's people at prefent in Scotland, have they not been in great bondage, and under grievous oppreffion and churchtyranny? Have not judicatories been dealing craftily with them? And, have they not been brought under great hardfhips, by fevere task-mafters, and cruel watchmen? How long hath the bondage continued, and how greatly hath it been growing thefe good many years? How have defections come to fuch a height, that a covenanted Reformation was like to have no fhadow of a teftimony for it, and fo all hope of tranfmitting it purely to pofterity, was ready to be cut off, and we from having a pofterity to praise the Lord, and do fervice to him, as a covenanted land? Thofe that were appearing for that caufe of God, have been cut off, and caft out of the fynagogue; and so they, and all that cleave to them, caft, as it were, to the door; the Lord having turned the hearts of this generation to hate his people, and deal fubtilly with his fervants *. 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 fame courfe of defection. Nay, how hath God made his people's afAliction and oppreffion, by ecclefiaftical fentences, the occafion of rendering their crafty and cruel oppreffors hateful and contemptible in their eyes, and their ways. to be odious?
The oppreffion and tyranny of Church-judicatories, the feverity and cruelty of the watchmen, their oppofition to a teftimony for truth, and their thrusting out of the fynagogue those who befriended it, and adhered thereto, may be feen laid open, Vol. V. p. 298. 399, 390.
2. God hath fo ordered it, that his people might long to be delivered from their afflictions, and relieved from the hardfhips they were under with reference to the want of church-privileges.
3. That, being once fet 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 fhewing his juft difpleafure againft cppreffors, and his mercy to his people, according to his promife in Chrift.
III. The third thing here is, The carriage and beha. viour of this people under their distress and affliction : it is expreffed by the word groaning. In the book of Exodus it is faid, they fighed, they cried, they groaned: here there is but one word ufed. For understanding whereof, there is a two-fold cry to God in affliction. 1. The cry of oppreffion. 2. The cry of the oppreffed. The firft is real, the other is vocal.
1. The first, I fay, is the real cry of fin itself: The hire of the labourer is faid, James v. 4. to cry in the ears of God. A mercenary fervant, that has no more to live upon but his wages, the with-holding of it cries for a curfe in the ears of God. And, Gen. iv. 10. when God queftions Cain about his brother Abel, and he fays, "Am I my brother's keeper?" God anfwers, "The cry of thy brother's blood is come up to heaven before me." And Gen. xviii. 20. the fin of Sodom is faid to cry in God's ears for a curfe. Thus the fin of oppreffion is a crying fin, and many other fins are crying fins. Scotland's perjury is a crying fin. Sin cries for vengeance to come down upon the committers thercof: thus when Ifrael were afflicted and oppreffed, their oppreffion cried. But,
2. This was joined with the cry of the oppreffed; the cry of the prayer of God's people, Deut. xxvi. 7. "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 oppreffion." Sirs, when people are afflicted and oppreffed, what is the reafon that the Lord rifes not up to deliver them? Do not oppreffions cry in the ears. of the Lord? Yea, but there fhould be a two-fold cry;
with the cry of oppreffion, there fhould be the cry of the oppreffed for, God has two ears, fo to fpeak; an ear of juftice, to hear the cry of oppreffion; and an ear of mercy, to hear the cry of the oppreffed: now, when. the cry of oppreflion comes up before him, he keeps up the ftroke till the cry of the oppreffed come alfo up. Well, the cry of oppreffion, even of church oppreffion in this land, hath come up before the Lord of hofts: O that there were more of the cry of the oppressed! the cry of the prayer of faith. It is not a clamour I am fpeaking of; Non vox, fed votum. Mofes is faid to cry, when he uttered not a word; and there are groanings which cannot be uttered, which the Lord hears and anfwers. 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 juftice hath been deafed, as it were, with the cry of oppreffion, obtrufions, errors, defections, and corruptions; if the ears of his mercy were alfo deafened with the importunate cries of the oppreffed, afflicted, and fcattered heritage of God; as we believe, in fome measure, this exercife is taking place among fome of the praying focieties in Scotland: but if there were more and more of it, we might ex. pect the Lord would remember his covenant, and put to his hand, and help up with reformation work, maugre all the oppofition made to it.
Obferve, It is a pitiful case when people are in affliction, and yet are not groaning nor crying to the Lord, nor feeking help from him. You fhould look upon affiction as a fcourge 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; fo, in affliction, we are to rent our hearts, and cry to a God in Chrift..
IV. The Fourth thing here is, The way how the Lord shewed his pity to his oppreffed people; I bave feen, I have feen; I bave heard; I am come down to deliver. There are three expreffions here by which he fhews his pity and compaffion.