“By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of reward.”—Heb. 11:24–26.
Common history generally overlooks the servants of God as unworthy of its notice. The world has thought it worth while to hate and persecute them in all ages, but not to record either their lives or deaths. Statesmen, warriors, philosophers, poets, and the like, are held up to view, while they and their memorial are consigned to oblivion. It is not so however in God’s history. The world loves its own, and God loves his own. God’s history takes as little notice of the sons of the mighty as man’s history does of the sons of the holy, exhibiting them as a succession of wild beasts, who have rendered themselves conspicuous only by their rapacity; while it holds up the characters whom they have traduced as men “of whom the world was not worthy.” What a catalogue is given us in this chapter! To have a name in such a record is true honour.
Among these worthies stands the name of Moses. From his early childhood he was an object of the special care of Heaven; and when arrived to years of maturity, he was a believer, and an eminent servant of God.
It is pleasing to observe how the apostle finds an evangelical spirit in Old Testament saints. Moses was distinguished as the lawgiver of Israel, and he venerated the law which he had the honour to dispense. He did not, however, trust in his obedience to it for acceptance with God, but in Christ, in whom he believed. Yes, the religion of Moses was an attachment to Christ, though at that time he was known only by promise. Moses had also an expectation of the earthly Canaan, of that goodly mountain and Lebanon, though for his sin in a single instance he was deprived of it; but his principal “respect” did not terminate here, but on a “recompense of reward” beyond the grave, even in that better country in the faith of which the patriarchs lived and died.
To illustrate and vindicate the choice of Moses, which is here celebrated, is all I shall attempt. There are three remarks which offer concerning it.
1. The choice of Moses is ascribed to faith. He believed in the Messiah who was promised covertly to Adam, and to Noah, and more explicitly to Abraham, as the Seed in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed. He also believed in the invisible realities of a future state. And thus his faith determined him to embrace even the reproach of Christ, and to relinquish every thing which stood in the way of the heavenly prize. The choice of Moses was free; yet it was not the effect of free will, but of faith in Christ, and which was the gift of God. And if we make the same choice, it will be owing to the same cause.
2. It was made under the strongest temptations. The refusing to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter was in effect refusing a crown; for she is supposed to have been the only daughter of the king of Egypt, and to have had no children of her own. Moses therefore appears to have been designed for a successor to the throne. For this also he seems to have received a suitable education, being “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” All things conspired to tempt him. Fortune, with her flattering smiles, invited him to her banqueting-house, and to think no more of his abject relations. Forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house, was her language. Apis must be thy God, and worship thou him.
We who are stationed in the common ranks of life may think but little of such a temptation. A crown never having been within the reach of our expectations, it may possess but few charms for us. We cannot be ignorant, however, that for such stations men in high life have frequently sacrificed every thing. Poor Henry IV., king of France, about two hundred years ago, though a protestant in principle, and a truly great man, yet, rather than relinquish a crown, abjured his religion. It is true our James II. lost his throne through his attachment to popery; but he meant not so, and even his friends ridiculed him for it. “There is a certain good man,” said they, “lately come to Rome, who has resigned three crowns for a crucifix!”
There is no principle that is equal to the choice which Moses made but faith. Nothing else can find an object that will outweigh it. “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he who believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”
3. In making such a choice, the best of this world was weighed against the worst of religion, “the reproaches of Christ;” and yet the latter was preferred. If the best on Christ’s side had been weighed against the worst on the side of the world, or even the best on both sides against each other, the triumph had been less glorious. But here we see in one scale the pleasures of sin, and the treasures of a mighty empire; objects for which men are continually sacrificing their health, peace, conscience, character, lives, and souls; in the other, Christ and religion, with the greatest outward disadvantages; yet the latter preponderates. An attachment to the cause of the Messiah would at any time excite the reproaches of proud men; but at this time more especially, when his kingdom seemed so unlikely to prevail that his subjects were actually in a state of slavery. “The people of God” are at all times, more or less, in an afflicted state; but now waters of a full cup were wrung out to them; yet with all these disadvantages, faith obtains the victory. Many are daily choosing the world, with not a thousandth part of this to choose; and setting light by Christ and his people, with not a thousandth part of this to refuse.
To a mind blinded by carnality, the choice of Moses will appear fanatical and foolish; but it was not so. Faith and right reason are not at variance. His decision was as wise as it was just. He did not choose afflictions and reproaches for their own sake; for he had all the feelings of a man as well as we. His choice terminated on “the recompense of reward,” which, like the joy that was set before the great Object of his faith, enabled him to endure the cross, and despise the shame. More particularly,
1. The things which he refused would last only for a season; but the things which he chose were of everlasting duration. We measure periods in all other estimations; and why should we not in this? Who would give so much for a short lease, or rather an uncertain tenure, as for a full purchase, and a lasting possession? 2. The society of the people of God, though afflicted, reproached, and persecuted, exceeds all the pleasures of sin while they do last. It is delightful to cast in our lot with them; for the bond of their union is holy love, which is the sweetest of all sweets to a holy mind. If we have once tasted of this, every thing else will become comparatively insipid. How sweet a bond of union is the love of Christ!—how sweet is the fellowship of saints! Even when borne down with reproaches and afflictions, how sweet are the tears of sympathy! What are the country and the gods of Moab to Ruth, after having lived in a religious family, and become acquainted with the true and living God? And what are the discouragements which Naomi presented, on the ground of future poverty and neglect? “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee,” was her answer: “for whither thou goest I will go, and where thou lodgest I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried. Jehovah do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me!” The Lord, moreover, hath spoken good concerning his people, and he delights to do them good. This motive was held up by Moses to Hobab, to induce him to cast in his lot with them; and, in persuading his friend, he doubtless made use of the same considerations which had prevailed on himself.
3. The very reproaches of Christ contain greater riches than all the treasures of this world. They carry with them, not only the testimony of a good conscience, but the approbation of God; and these are substantial riches. They are accompanied with the fellowship of Christ; for in suffering for him, we suffer “with him;” and these also are substantial riches. Nor is it a small thing to be counted worthy to suffer for his name’s sake. It becomes the servants of Christ to consider the reproach of his enemies as their honour, and to bind it to them as a crown.
Let us then inquire what is our choice. We may not have the offer of a crown; or, if we had, it might have but little influence upon us. The desires of man are mostly confined to things a little above his present situation, or which are next within his reach. A good estate, or a well-watered plain, might weigh more with many of us than a kingdom. Nor may the people of God in our day lie under such reproaches and afflictions as in the time of Moses. But this only proves that our temptations are not so strong as his; and, consequently, that if the world conquer us, we shall be the less excusable. But the world and Christ are in competition for our choice, and we are required to give a decisive and immediate answer. Choose ye this day whom ye will serve. There are many who can and do say as Joshua did, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” His people shall be our people, and his cause our cause. If any refuse, and prefer the present world before him, be it known to them that, as is their choice in this world, such will be their portion in that which is to come
Excerpt from “The Choice of Moses,” a sermon in Sermons and Sketches.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 426–428). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.