But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and listened not to them; as the LORD had said.
I. I observe, that when God issues out His terrible threatenings against sinners, HE IS WONT TO SUSPEND OR STAY THE FULL EXECUTION OF HIS SENTENCE, AND GIVE THEM MANY AN INTERVAL FOR REPENTANCE. A criminal shut up in the condemned cell, is said to be respited when, by a royal grant, his punishment is put off from the day appointed. This practice in the administration of human laws, may serve the purpose of illustrating the dispensations of Providence, or the dealings of God with men. The stubborn rebel is often admonished ere he meets the stern arrest of justice; and the guilty soul is often respited before the sentence is carried into execution. It seems to me, that this procedure of the great Judge in the mysterious ways of Providence is a bright display of mercy, blended even with the tokens of His displeasure. Each interval between successive warnings and judgments is a space given for repentance. But the final term of forbearance is not far distant; and with some of you it may be now the very last reprieve.
II. I observe, THAT IT PROVES A STATE OF MOST DREADFUL DEPRAVITY, WHEN MEN TAKE OCCASION, FROM THE VERY COMPASSIONS AND MERCIES OF GOD, TO HARDEN THEMSELVES IN SIN. The goodness of God is designed to lead you to repentance; but if you either do not know, or will not consider this, then the most lovely and attractive of all the Divine perfections is shamefully abused and contemned by you. But can you hope to escape? Is it possible to evade the eye of Omniscience, or resist the hand of Omnipotence? Where can you find an asylum for your souls, when the only Refuge which God has prepared, is scorned and set at nought?
III. I observe, THAT GOD PERFECTLY KNOWS ALL THE DEEDS OF WICKED MEN BEFORE THEY ARE DONE, AND ALL THEIR DESIGNS BEFORE THEY ARE CONCEIVED.
IV. Do you now ask, WHAT ARE THE SIGNS BY WHICH IT MAY BE KNOWN, THAT ANY MAN IS GIVEN UP TO HARDNESS OF HEART?
1. It is a dark sign that the heart is desperately hardened, when men sin on knowingly and deliberately. A crime is deeply aggravated, which is committed with the full consent of the will, in defiance of the clearest dictates of the understanding and the conscience.
2. It is a dark sign that the heart is desperately hardened, when men hate and shun those who faithfully warn and reprove them, and affectionately labour to reclaim them.
3. It is a dark sign that the heart is desperately hardened, when the very intervals and opportunities which mercy gives for repentance, are perverted to the purpose of adding sin to sin. Are there not some of you, who have been brought under the scourge of God's afflicting hand? Remember, it is written, "He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall be suddenly destroyed, and that without remedy."
Parallel VersesKJV: But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.