MOSES; Or, The Young Man's Choice
James Smith, 1856
"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to suffer affliction along with the people of God — rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward!" Hebrews 11:24-26
Moses was an extraordinary character. Born in times of bitter persecution, his life was preserved by a special providence, and his education conducted at the expense of the persecutor of his people. His name reminded him of his early danger, and was illustrated in the after dealings of God with him. Drawn out of the water by Pharaoh's daughter in his childhood, he was drawn out of his retirement and privacy in Midian by the grace and power of God. Brought forth in remarkable times, he was prepared for a remarkable work, and was elevated to a remarkable post of dignity, responsibility, and labor. In some things, he can be no model for us; in others, he is a most striking and lovely one. As the deliverer, lawgiver, and king of Israel — he is beyond our reach, and above our imitation; but as the decided youth, the devoted believer, and the active servant of God — he is not. We have now only to do with his choice, his preference; he chose to suffer affliction with the people of God, and preferred the sorrows of true religion — to the pleasures of sin.
The people of God are often called to suffer, to suffer severely for a long period of time, and without any apparent cause. The Lord has chosen his people to suffer here. They are generally a poor and an afflicted people. Through much tribulation they are to enter into the kingdom, prepared for them from the foundation of the world. In the world, they are to expect tribulation. It is their lot. It is the legacy of their Lord. They are generally placed in circumstances of suffering; many of them are poor; for God has "chosen the poor of this world," who are "rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which God has promised unto them that love him."
POVERTY is a trial. The sinner dreads it, and the saint, though generally improved by it, suffers from it. Hunger, cold, and nakedness — are great trials to the flesh. To wander about in sheep skins and goat skins, in dens and caves of the earth, is very humiliating. The cottages of the poor brick-making Hebrews, formed a strange contrast to the palaces of the Pharaohs. The clay, the kiln, the task-master, and the whip — were appalling to one highly cultivated and brought up. Yet Moses chose to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.
SICKNESS is very frequently the portion of the saints. Many are smitten, as Job was; and many are as diseased as Lazarus was. They suffer from unstrung nerves, weak bodies, and the thousand forms of disease which flesh is heir to. While the ungodly are healthy, vigorous, and strong — the saints are often suffering from pain upon their beds, and their bones are filled with strong pain.
To be DESPISED is an affliction; yet the believer is often called to drink of the same cup with his Lord, and "is despised and rejected by men." The wealthy, the learned, the successful in trade, often look down with great contempt on the Lord's poor, afflicted, oppressed, persecuted, and illiterate people. Their claim to a special interest in the Lord's love, they deny; their peculiar connection with the Son of God, they disbelieve; and their hopes of an eternal inheritance, they despise. They look upon them as knaves, fanatics, or enthusiasts; and consider that as their lives are without human applause — their end will be without honor.
No doubt the haughty princess of Pharaoh, and the rich and conceited sons of Egypt, looked down thus upon the poor, enslaved, and oppressed sons of Jacob; but Moses was taught of God, he believed the promise made to Abraham, he confided in the veracity of the God of Jacob, and, therefore, chose "rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time." Noble-minded man! His heart was wise, his eye was penetrating, and his conduct was commendable.
There are many pleasures in sin. This we never attempt to deny, or wish to conceal. Heartily, most heartily, do many young people enjoy the pleasures of a sinful course. Who can listen to profane music, witness the lively dance, or be present at the gaieties of the ball-room — and say there is no pleasure in sin? Young people do find much present pleasure in the indulgence of the carnal passions and propensities — and imagine it to be real happiness.
If it were virtuous, instead of wicked;
sanctifying, instead of polluting;
solid, instead of frothy;
enduring, instead of evanescent;
and pleasing to God, instead of offensive in his sight — it would be so.
The excitement produced, the hilarity displayed, and the enchantment felt, is called pleasure; youth loves it, pride feasts on it, and carnality is increased by it. The man, therefore, must be taught of God, who prefers to be "mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time."
Sin can boast of its wealth, its grandeur, its honors, its applause, and its delirious enjoyment — and human nature in the young, thoroughly relishes these things. Our natures, under the power of sin, run out after such things! We never did say, we never could say — that there are no pleasures in sin! We know there are — for we have tasted them, felt them, and thoroughly enjoyed them.
But we have said, and do say, that there is no real happiness in sin; for happiness is sober, solid, spiritual, holy, and divine.
Its fountain is the heart of God;
the only channel in which it flows to sinners — is the person and work of Christ;
the only agent who can direct it into our hearts — is the Holy Spirit;
and the means he generally employs to do so — is the gospel, the ordinances of God's appointment, and fellowship with God on his mercy-seat.
Sin has its pleasures — they are many and various; true religion has its sorrows — they, also, are many and various. Sinners are often clothed in purple and fine linen — while the people of God are poor and penniless. It was so in former times, it was so in Egypt — and yet Moses chose "to suffer affliction along with the people of God — rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time."
Did Moses act wisely? Egypt was rich and cultivated; the Egyptians were learned and mirthful. He moved in the highest circle, for his home was the palace of the monarch. He bid fair to possess the highest post of honor and glory; for it was quite possible that he might have become king. He was surrounded by all that is dazzling, attracting, and captivating to the senses. Every sinful pleasure was at his command.
Israel, his own people, were in slavery, in poverty, and cruelly oppressed; he need not own them; he was not required to mingle with them; he might pursue his present course, in hope that some day Providence might enable him as a prince in Egypt to befriend them. But it comes into his mind to visit them. He is full of strange thoughts about them. His affections are strangely drawn out to them. He goes among them, sees their poverty, marks their degradation, sympathizes with them in their affliction — and strikes down an Egyptian who smote one of them. His mind reverts to the covenant made with Abraham, and the oath unto Isaac; the eye of his faith brightens — he looks through the telescope of the promise, he sees their future glory, he thinks, "I will cast in my lot among them!"
Full of new, strange, and burning thoughts, he retires from the brick-field; he re-enters his mansion; he reposes on his pillow; but sleep forsakes his eyes; he looks at Egypt's present grandeur, glory, and wealth; also at his own bright prospects. The morning dawns, he rises, he ruminates: now he dwells on Israel's sorrows — and then on Egypt's pleasures. Now a word of strange power throws its influence over his soul — these pleasures are but for "a short time."
But for "a short time!" And how short, how uncertain a season! He falls on his knees before the God of his fathers — he weeps, he pleads, he prays. A new power is felt, resolution is forming; he is about to determine; he lifts up his eyes to Heaven and exclaims, "Your people shall be my people! I solemnly, deliberately, voluntarily choose rather to suffer affliction with your people — than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time."
The choice is done. Moses is determined. He has counted the cost!
Instead of honor — shame;
instead of praise — blame;
instead of respect — contempt;
instead of plenty — poverty;
instead of a princely portion — a brick-maker's lot.
Is this wise? Was Moses a wise man — or a fool? Young men, young women, I ask you! I leave you to decide.
What do you think of Moses — was he right or wrong? But if Moses was right, as I suppose you will admit, allow me to ask: Have you acted rightly? Have you made the same choice? Have you looked at the world at its best, and at true religion at its worst; and have you seriously, deliberately, and prayerfully decided to renounce the world, and embrace the despised religion of Christ, with all the scorn, contempt, and sufferings to which it may expose you? You cannot be called to make a greater sacrifice than Moses did. Your prospects are not so flattering, your snares are not so numerous, your fetters are not so strong. Looking at the subject naturally, it is much easier for you to decide than it was for him.
But be not deceived — the grace of God is necessary to produce this decision — that grace is promised in God's holy Word to all who ask it. Do not attempt to imitate Moses in your own strength; you will certainly fail if you do. Do not excuse yourself under any idea you may have of your own weakness. The difficulty lies not so much in the lack of power — as in the lack of will.
Jesus said to the Jews of old, "Search the Scriptures; for in them you think that you have eternal life; and they testify of me; and you will not come unto me that you might have life." (John 5:39, 40.) Moses made his choice between the children of God and their sufferings — and the Egyptians and their pleasures. And you must make your choice between . . .
Christ — or the world,
sin — or holiness,
the path to Heaven — or the road to Hell.
The address of Joshua just as he was leaving Israel is as applicable to you as it was to them, "Choose this day whom you will serve!" A master you must have, and it must be Satan — or Christ. Serve you must, and your service must be sin — or righteousness.
Look then, at the world — at its honors, wealth and pleasures;
look also at the church — at its poverty, despisedness, and sufferings.
Look also at Hell — with its bitter reflections, deep sorrows, and indescribable torments;
look also at Heaven — with its sweet thoughts, pure enjoyments, and endless grandeur.
Now make your choice! Which do you elect — the world and its pleasures now — and Hell and its horrors forever? Or do you turn to the Lord Jesus and say, "Your people shall be my people, and your God my God!" If so, happy are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But if not, what shall I say unto you?
Say? why I must say that Moses will rise up in the day of judgment and condemn you; for he chose "rather to suffer affliction with the people of God," when they were poor, oppressed, persecuted slaves, "than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time;" whereas, with clearer light, in happier times, with ten times more to induce you to do as he did — you chose rather to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time, than to serve and suffer with the people of God, though you knew the end would be as bitter as wormwood, and as dreadful as the just wrath of a holy and unchangeable God could make it. If Moses was right, you are wrong. If Moses was wise — then what can you be, but a fool? And your foolishness now — will increase your anguish and agony to all eternity!