Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelled in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.…
View it in three lights.
I. AS AN EMANCIPATION OF SLAVES. God is the sworn foe of the slave-holder. Only in a very modified sense was slavery tolerated in Israel; and the laws were such as gradually to undermine the system. Historically, God's religion has proved itself the great slave-liberator.
1. In Egypt. Here were two millions of a slave population set free in a single night.
2. In Israel. Consider the effect on the abolition of the slave system of the single precept in ver. 44 of this chapter. The slave sat down with his master on equal terms at the board of the passover. The same thing happened in the Christian Church. When the Lord's Supper was dispensed, the Christian slave remained; the master, if he was only a catechumen or a penitent, retired.
3. In Christian countries. Christianity, it is true, did not preach a crusade against slavery - a course which would only have led to a slave-revolt - but it inculcated truths and principles which undermined the system. Slavery was the corner-stone of the ancient civilisations. Philosophers defended it. The pagan religions did nothing to overthrow it. But the Christian Church took up from the very first the cause of the slave. The master who ill-treated his slave was excommunicated. He was compelled to marry the female slave whom he had seduced. He sat with his slave at the Lord's table. The slave might hold office in the church, and thus become, in a spiritual point of view, the superior of his master. The influence of the Church was used to secure the liberation of the slave. Under Domitian, a prefect of Rome, named Chromatius, freed one thousand four hundred slaves who had become Christians, saying, "Those who have become the children of God ought to be no longer slaves of men." Says J. S. Mill, "In an age when the weak were prostrate at the feet of the strong, who was there but the Church to plead to the strong for the weak?" (Dissert. 2:155). The emancipation of four millions of American slaves - so long a blot on a so-called Christian civilisation - has been accomplished in our sight, a second exodus. "We can say to-day that, with some trifling exceptions, the soil of Christian nations is free from the disgrace of slavery. Under what influences have the efforts been produced which have brought about such a result? We have only to look at recent facts, and we see the whole clearly. What men, in the middle of last century, were the first to advocate and emancipate slaves? The Quakers of America, who held that bondage was contrary to the Gospel. What men have pleaded in the English Parliament with the most power and perseverance? Decided Christians - Wilberforce and Buxton. What spirit animated the book called Uncle Tom, which acted so powerfully upon opinion in favour of the slaves? A spirit steadfastly Christian. To what sentiment did the Czar of Russia appeal, when he gave liberty to twenty millions of men? Read his proclamation of Feb. 19th, 1864." (Ernest Naville.) Revealed religion - the religion of the Bible, is thus the great liberator of the slave.
II. As, TEMPORAL DELIVERANCE OF THE CHURCH. Many such deliverances has the Church, both in Old and in New Testament times, experienced since. Deliverances under the Judges; destruction of Sennacherib; edict of Cyrus, and return from captivity; Maccabaean Era. Read Christian Church history. See the Church emerging triumphant, laden with the spoils of the foe, from the days of persecution under the Roman Emperors. Later instances in the Albigenses, in the Lollards of England, in the Huguenots of France, in the Covenanters of Scotland, etc.
III. As A TYPE OF A GREATER DELIVERANCE THAN ITSELF. Redemption from sin and wrath through Christ. See previous Homilies. - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.