Page images

to pieces: but God defeated them in an instant, with a single effort, at a blow. He overthrew, drowned, overwhelmed them all, as though they had been but one horse, and one rider: The horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

The Lord is my strength and my song, &c. This is the amplification of the first words of the song. I will sing. Let us observe in what manner this is extended.

Of the several attributes of God, he praises only his strength, because it was by that he had been delivered.

My strength. This figure is energetic, for, the cause of my strength, which is flat and languid; besides that, my strength shews, that God alone was to the Israelites as courage, and dispensed with their making any use of it.

My song. This is the same figure, and equally emphatic. He is the only subject of my praise: no instrument divides it with him; neither power, wisdom, nor human industry, can be associated with him: he alone merits all my gratitude, since he alone performed, ordained, and executed every thing. The Lord is my song.

He is become my salvation. The writers of the Augustan ages would have writ, hath saved me, but the Scripture says much more. The Lord hath undertaken to perform himself, every thing that was requisite for my salvation; he made my salvation his own, his personal affair; and, what is much more emphatical, is become my salvation.

He is my God. He is emphatical, and signifies much more than it is supposed to do at first sight. He, not the gods of the Egyptians and nations; gods void of strength, speechless and lifeless: but he who performed so many prodigies in Egypt and in our passage, he is my God, and him will I glorify.

My God. This my may have a double relation, the one to God, the other to the Israelite. In the former, God appears to be great, powerful, and a God for me only. Unattentive to the rest of the universe, he is employed wholly on my dangers and on my safety;



[ocr errors]

and is ready to sacrifice all the nations of the earth to my interest. In the second relation, he is my God; I will never have any other. To him only I consecrate all my wishes, all my desires, all my confidence. He only is worthy my worship and love, and to him only will I for ever pay homage.

My father's God, and I will exalt him. This repetition is inexpressibly tender. He whose grandeur I exalt, is not a strange God, unknown till this day, a protector for a moment,, and ready to assist any other. No: he is the ancient protector of my family. His goodness is hereditary. I have a thousand domestic proofs of his constant love, perpetuated from father to son, down to me. His ancient kind

nesses were so many titles and pledges, which assured me of the like. He is the God of my father: he is the God who displayed himself so often to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In fine, he is the God who but now fulfilled the mighty promises which he had made to my forefathers.

What has he done to effect this? The Lord is a man of war. He might have said, as he is the God of armies, he has delivered us from the army of Pharaoh; but this was saying too little. He considers his God as a soldier, as a captain; he puts, as it were, the sword into his hand, and makes him fight for the children of Jacob.

The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name; In the Hebrew it is, Jehovah is a man of war, Jehocah is his name. Moses insists on the word Jehovah, the better to shew, by this repetition, who this extraordinary warrior is, who has deigned to fight for Israel.

As though he had said, Jehovah, the Lord, has appeared like a warrior. Is what I now say well understood? Is this miracle comprehended in its full latitude? Yes, I again repeat: It is the supreme God in person, it is the only God; it is, to say all in one word, he who is called [p] Jehovah, whose name is incommunicable, who alone possesses all the fulness [P] Qui est... Ego sum, qui sum.


of being; he is become the champion of Israel. Himself has been to them instead of soldiers. He took upon himself the whole weight of the war. [9] The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace, said Moses to the Israelites before the battle; as though he had said, You shall be still, and not fight.

Ver. 4 and 5. Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea; his chosen captains hath he also drowned in the Red Sea. The depths have covered them; they sank into the bottom as a stone.

Observe the pompous display of all that is contained in these two words, the horse and his rider.

1. Pharaoh's chariots. 2. His hosts. 3. His chosen captains. A beautiful gradation.

How wonderful is this amplification! He cast into the sea. They are drowned in the Red Sea. The depths have covered them: They sank to the bottom as a stone; all this to explain, He has thrown into the sea. We observe in these words, a series of images, which succeed one another, and swell by degrees. 1. He cast into the sea. 2 They are drowned in the Red Sea. They are drowned, improves on He cast. ... In the Red, Sea, is a circumstance which more determinates than simply, the sea. (The Hebrew has it, in the sea Suph.) One would conclude, that Moses was desirous of heightening the greatness of the power which God exhibited in a sea which formed part of the Egyptian empire, and which was under the protection of the [r] gods of Egypt. 3. His chosen captains, the greatest of Pharaoh's princes; that is to say, the proudest, and perhaps those who opposed with greatest violence the laws of the God of Israel; in a word, those who were most able to save themselves from the shipwreck, are swallowed up like the meanest soldiers. 4. The depths have covered them. What an image is here! They are covered, overwhelmed, vanished for ever. 5. To complete this picture, he concludes with a simile, which is, as it were, the stroke that animates and points out the whole; they sank into the bottom as a stone. Notwithstanding their [r] Beelsephon.

[9] Exod. xiv, 14.

[ocr errors]


pride and haughtiness, they make no greater resistance to rise up against the arm of God who plunges them, than a stone that sinks to the bottom of the waters.

After this, what should Moses think, what should he say? One of the most important rules of Rhetoric, and which Cicero never fails to observe, is, that, after an account of a surprising action, or even of an extraordinary circumstance, the writer must quit the calm and easy air proper to narration, and deliver himself with more or less impetuosity, according to the nature of the subject; this is commonly done by apostrophes, interrogations, exclamations, which figures enliven both the discourse and the hearer. All this Moses has done inimitably in the song before us.

Thy right-hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power; thy right-hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.

There are several things to be observed here.

1. Moses might have said, God has displayed his strength by striking Pharaoh. But how faintly, in how languid a manner, would that express so great an action! He springs toward God, and says to him in a kind of enthusiasm, Thy right-hand, O Lord, is become glorious, &c.

2. He might have said, O Lord, thou hast displayed thy strength, &c. But this is not strong enough, and does not convey a sensible idea to the mind; whereas, in the expression of Moses, we see, we distinguish as it were, the Almighty's hand, which extends itself, and crushes the Egyptians. Whence I conclude at once, that the true Eloquence is that which persuades; that it commonly persuades no other way than by moving; that it moves by things and palpable ideas only; and that for these several reasons no Eloquence is so perfect as that of the Holy Scriptures, since the most spiritual and metaphysical things are there represented by sensible and lively images.

3. Thy right-hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. A most beautiful repetition! and very necessary to give a stronger idea of the power of God's


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

arm. The first member of the period, thy right-arm has become glorious in power, having hinted only at the event in loose and general terms, the prophet thinks he has not said enough, and to denote the manner of this action, he immediately repeats, thy righthand hath dashed in pieces the enemy. It is the nature of great passions, to repeat those circumstances which foment them, as appears from all the passionate places in the best authors; and as is seen in the Sacred Writings, particularly in the Psalms.

4, In the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee. So many great beauties are concealed in the original text, that they merit some illustration.

1. By these words, in the greatness of thine excellency, the sacred writer would describe the action of a nobleman of figure, who assumes a haughty air; who rises in proportion as an impotent inferior presumes to rise against him, and is pleased to sink him the lower for that reason. The Egyptians looked upon themselves as very great; they even attacked God himself, and asked with a haughty tone, [s] Who is then the Lord? But as these feeble, though insolent creatures rose, God rose also, and assumed all the elevation of his infinite grandeur, all the height of his supreme majesty against them: [t] The proud he knoweth afar off. And it is from thence he overthrew his enemies who were so full of themselves, and hurled them, not only against the earth, but down into the most profound abysses of the sea.

2. That rose up against THEE. It was not against Israel that the Egyptians declared war, but it is You they presumed to attack; it is You they defied. Our quarrel was Yours; it was against You they warred; against Thee. This is a delicate, affecting turn, in order to engage God himself in Israel's cause.

Ver. 7. Thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumeth them as stubble.

[s] Exod. v. 2.

[t] Psal. cxxxviii. 6.

0 3


« PreviousContinue »