91. It is related as a memorable deed of a Roman general, 695 that when the physician of a hostile king came to him and promised to give him poison, he sent him back bound to the enemy. In truth, it is a noble thing for a man to refuse to gain the victory by foul acts, after he has entered on the struggle for power. He did not consider virtue to lie in victory, but declared that to be a shameful victory unless it was gained with honour. 696
92. Let us return to our hero Moses, and to loftier deeds, to show they were both superior as well as earlier. The king of Egypt would not let the people of our fathers go. Then Moses bade the priest Aaron to stretch his rod over all the waters of Egypt. Aaron stretched it out, and the water of the river was turned into blood. 697 None could drink the water, and all the Egyptians were perishing with thirst; but there was pure water flowing in abundance for the fathers. They sprinkled ashes toward heaven, and sores and burning boils came upon man and beast. 698 They brought down hail mingled with flaming fire, and all things were destroyed upon the land. 699 Moses prayed, and all things were restored to their former beauty. The hail ceased, the sores were healed, the rivers gave their wonted draught. 700
93. Then, again, the land was covered with thick darkness for the space of three days, because Moses had raised his hand and spread out the darkness. 701 All the first-born of Egypt died, whilst all the offspring of the Hebrews was left unharmed. 702 Moses was asked to put an end to these horrors, and he prayed and obtained his request. In the one case it was a fact worthy of praise that he checked himself from joining in deceit; in the other it was noteworthy how, by his innate goodness, he turned aside from the foe those divinely ordered punishments. He was indeed, as it is written, gentle and meek. 703 He knew that the king would not keep true to his promises, yet he thought it right and good to pray when asked to do so, to bless when wronged, to forgive when besought.
94. He cast down his rod and it became a serpent which devoured the serpents of Egypt; 704 this signifying that the Word should become Flesh to destroy the poison of the dread serpent by the forgiveness and pardon of sins. For the rod stands for the Word that is true—royal—filled with power—and glorious in ruling. The rod became a serpent; so He Who was the Son of God begotten of the Father became the Son of man born of a woman, and lifted, like the serpent, on the cross, poured His healing medicine on the wounds of man. Wherefore the Lord Himself says: “As p. 83 Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” 705
95. Again, another sign which Moses gave points to our Lord Jesus Christ. He put his hand into his bosom, and drew it out again, and his hand was become as snow. A second time he put it in and drew it out, and it was again like the appearance of human flesh. 706 This signified first the original glory of the Godhead of the Lord Jesus, and then the assumption of our flesh, in which truth all nations and peoples must believe. So he put in his hand, for Christ is the right hand of God; and whosoever does not believe in His Godhead and Incarnation is punished as a sinner; like that king who, whilst not believing open and plain signs, yet afterwards, when punished, prayed that he might find mercy. How great, then, Moses regard for virtue must have been is shown by these proofs, and especially by the fact that he offered himself on behalf of the people, praying that God would either forgive the people or blot him out of the book of the living. 707
S. John iii. 14.83:706 83:707
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