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Exodus 10:16-20 - Homiletics

The agency of nature used by God both in inflicting and removing judgments.

God's footsteps are not known. Since Eden was lost to us it has pleased him, for inscrutable reasons, to withdraw himself behind the screen of nature, and to work out his purposes—in the main, through natural agencies. He punishes idleness and imprudence by poverty and contempt; intemperance and uncleanness, by disease; inordinate ambition, by collapse of schemes, loss of battles, deposition, exile, early death. Civil government is one of the agencies which he uses for punishing a whole class of offences; hygienic laws are another. It is comparatively seldom that he descends visibly to judgment, as when he burnt up the cities of the plains. So, even when he was miraculously punishing Egypt and Pharaoh, he used, as far as was possible, the agency of nature. Frog, mosquitoes, beetles, thunder, hail, locusts, worked his will—natural agents, suited to the season and the country—only known by faith to have come at his bidding, and departed when he gave the order. And he brought the locusts and took them away, by a wind. So the temporal punishments of the wicked came constantly along the ordinary channels of life, rash speculation producing bankruptcy; profligacy, disease; dishonesty, distrust; ill-temper, general aversion. Men curse their ill-luck when calamity comes on them, and attribute to chance what is really the doing of God's retributive hand. The east wind, they say, brought the locusts on them; but they do not ask who brought the east wind out of his treasury. God uses natural means also to remove judgments. " A wind takes the locusts away." A severe winter stops a pestilence. An invasion of their own territory recalls devastating hordes to its defence, and frees the land which they were ravaging. Reaction sets in when revolution goes too far, and the guillotine makes short work of the revolutionists. Want stimulates industry, and industry removes the pressure of want. Even when men's prayers are manifestly answered by the cessation of thought, or rain, or the recovery from sickness of one given over by the physicians, the change comes about in a natural way. A little cloud rises up out of the deep, and overspreads the heavens, and the drought is gone. The wind shifts a few points, and the "plague of rain" ceases. The fever abates, little by little, the patient finds that he can take nourishment; so the crisis is past, and nature, or "the strength of his constitution," as men say, has saved him. The changes are natural ones; but God, who is behind nature, has caused the changes, and, as much as miracles, they are his work.

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