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that the sepulchrés of the ancients were vaults hewn with immense labour, out of the solid rock, and so imperish able, that they are shown at the present day, amongst the curiosities of the Holy Land.*
The "land of Goshen," the habitation of the Israelites, lay near the north-western termination of the Red Sea. From hence, they might, by an easy journey, have reached their promised land, but much was yet to be done before they were prepared to enjoy that repose.
Born and educated in slavery, and amongst an idolatrous people, they necessarily partook of the moral debasement incidental to that unhappy condition. To ameliorate their manners, therefore, and qualify them for the high and conspicuous rank they were about to assume as an independent nation, and God's peculiar people, they were led into the wilderness of Shur, and there instructed by a constitution framed especially for their government. - †
You remember the prophecy delivered to Abram, while he dwelt in the plain of Mamre-" that Sarah should be the mother of nations-that his posterity should be afflicted in a land wherein they were strangers-that they should be delivered from servitude in the fourth generation, and afterwards their oppressors should be judged." And here you see the exact accomplishment. The family of Jacob consisted of seventy persons, when they came into Egypt. They returned with six hundred thousand men, besides women and children. They were subjugated and treated with excessive rigour and now were brought
out, exactly 430 years after their entrance into that country.
*See Clarke's Travels in the Holy Land.
The threatened judgments seem already to have been executed, but neither judgment nor mercy had yet subdued the desperate Pharaoh,-and we must now return to our narrative---and accompany him to his final destruction.
Though the king of Egypt had so far relented, that he had suffered the Israelites to depart, and had even entreated them to "pray for him, also"-yet they had scarcely left his dominions, when his avaricious soul accused him of folly in releasing so numerous a body of profitable subjects.
He had seen that that despised people were the peculiar care of an uncontrollable Power; but had experienced too, that He was also a merciful being, who seemed to have been propitiated even by his insincere promises. But he might be like the gods of Egypt-a local deity,-he might protect his people in Goshen, and abandon them in the Desert! Thus beguiled to his own ruin, Pharaoh hastily collected his armies, his horsemen, and his chariots-a very great multitude, and pursuing the Israelites, overtook them, encamped by the sea.
CATHERINE. Of what sea do you speak?
MRS. M. By the Sea, or emphatically the great Sea, in scripture, is generally understood the Mediterranean. But the sea here spoken of was the Arabian gulf, or Red Sea. Instead of passing from its northern point, near which the land of Goshen was situated, immediately into the promised land, which a few days would have effected, the Israelites were directed to proceed along its western border, and encamp near a place called Pi-hahiroth.
Here, obstructed by the water on the one hand, and by mountains on the other, they seemed to offer an easy con'quest to the enraged potentate, and his mighty hosts. Ter
rified and disheartened, they upbraided Moses and Aaron, "Did we not say unto thee in Egypt, that it were better for us to serve the Egyptians, than to die in the wilderness ?" CATHERINE. It seems wonderful that this people should be discouraged by any dangers, however great, when so many miracles had been exhibited expressly to show them, that they were under the care of Omnipotence.
MRS. M. Nay, more, when they had at the very moment a visible emblem of his presence! for it is said, "The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way, and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light.".
When their pursuers came within view, their intrepid leader aroused their fainting hope, by the assurance, that the Egyptians, whom they then saw, they should see no more for ever; for the Lord of Hosts would fight for them. "Bid the people go forward," said their Supreme Commander to Moses, "but lift thou up thy rod, and stretch thine hand over the sea and divide it, and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea."
Moses obeyed, and the "waters were driven back by a strong east wind, which blew all that night," so that they passed over in perfect safety, the divided waters erecting a wall on either side! Meanwhile their pillar of light had removed from before them, and stood between their camp and that of their enemies, illuminating the one, and involving the other in total darkness !
But this last token of divine forbearance was contemned by the infatuated king, equally with those that had gone before. He rushed blindly on, not knowing, perhaps, whither he went, and was overwhelmed by the returning waters, so that of all the dreaded host of Pharaoh, a few dead
bodies cast up by the waves were all that the morning light discovered to the triumphant Hebrews!
What was the breadth of the sea at the place
of this astonishing passage?
MRS. M. The sacred record is silent on that question: but some pains have been taken to ascertain it. The place is believed to be known, and is said to be two or three miles across.
CATHERINE. The people, for whose sake this miracle was performed, would surely be very sensibly affected by their extraordinary deliverance.
MRS. M. They were at the moment, and they celebrated the praises of Jehovah, "their strength and salvation," in sublime strains, accompanied with instruments of music and dancing. The song of Moses, with the chorus of Miriam, and the women of Israel, on this memorable occasion, are recorded in the fifteenth chapter of Exodus. The poetry of the Hebrews, of which you have many fine specimens in the sacred writings, abounds, like that of all eastern nations, with strong and lofty images. It was evidently written in measured numbers, but whether in rhyme, as we generally construct our lines, is uncertain, for the original pronunciation of the language has long been lost, Rhymes, however, are so agreeable to our ears, that I have undertaken to give you this lyric ode in English verse. Fanny will read it to us.
SONG OF MOSES AND MIRIAM.
FANNY. Begin the sacred dance-the timbrels bring,
To Him, my father's God, my strength, the Lord
Who triumphed gloriously-the praise accord,
My fortress, and my Saviour, he became,
In praises fearful-doing wondrous deeds!
And rule-our sovereign king, from age to age.
CATHERINE. Our partiality for any essay of yours, mother, will certainly decide in favour of your versification. I have kept my eye on the text whilst my sister was reading, and find that you have not varied in sentiment.
MRS. M, It would have been happy for the Israelites,