And the LORD said unto Moses, Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go hence: when he shall let you go, he shall surely thrust you out hence altogether.
(1) If I observe my own mind, one of the first powers of which I become conscious is the power to choose. This power is universally assumed as the ground of men's dealings with each other.
If we open the Inspired Book, we find the same fundamental assumption, that all men have a will and are responsible for their acts. "To him that knoweth to do good," says St. James, "and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (2) On the other hand, it is a fact as well attested, although by a different kind of evidence, that God is the King of all the earth. The world is governed, the laws of matter, of life, of individual and social action are so arranged, as to produce order and harmony.
I. The reality of the human will, and consequently of responsibility is attacked on different sides; here on physiological and there on historical grounds. We are told that facts connected with the human will admit of exact calculation and prediction, according to what is termed the law of averages, and that consequently the doctrine of free will, which was never capable of proof, must be displaced by a doctrine recognising the certainty of human action. To this we answer—(1) the belief that man has the power to choose is so far from wanting proof that it has all the force which universal consent can give it. (2) This average, which is supposed to rule the will like a rod of iron, is itself the most variable. It yields under the hand like tempered clay. That which our will is now acting upon, which varies in different countries because the will of man has made different laws there, cannot be conclusive against the doctrine of free will.
II. The words of the text are not without their warning. They mean that God, who punishes sin with death, sometimes punishes sin with sin. At a certain stage in the sinner's dreary downward course, the Lord hardens his heart. God is not responsible for his sin, but when he has repelled the voice of conscience, and the warning of his Bible, and the entreaties of friends, then grace is withdrawn from him, and sin puts on a judicial character, and is at once sin and punishment.
Archbishop Thomson, Lincoln's Inn Sermons, p. 325.
References: Exodus 12:1, Exodus 12:2.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1637. Exodus 12:1-14.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 124. Exodus 12:1-29.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 160. Exodus 12:1-39.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 122. Exodus 12:1-42.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vi., p. 211. Exodus 12:1-51.—W. M. Taylor, Moses the Lawgiver, p. 95.
Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man borrow of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold.
And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh's servants, and in the sight of the people.
And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt:
And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts.
And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more.
But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.
And all these thy servants shall come down unto me, and bow down themselves unto me, saying, Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee: and after that I will go out. And he went out from Pharaoh in a great anger.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.
And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.