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6And God spoke in these terms, that his descendants would be resident aliens in a country belonging to others, who would enslave them and mistreat them during four hundred years.

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6. Thy seed shall be a stranger. Stephen putteth the Jews in mind in how miserable and reproachful an estate their fathers were in Egypt; and showeth that this their servitude, wherewith they were oppressed, came not by chance; because it was foretold long before by the oracle of God. This history ought to have been of great force, partly to tame their lofty courages, 380380     “Feroces illorum spiritus,” their fierce tempers. and to teach them modesty; partly to set forth the grace of God, because God had always had a care of that nation. For this is a singular benefit, in that the people are restored wonderfully, as it were, from death to life. In the mean season, the Jews are taught that the Church of God was elsewhere than in the land wherein they dwelt; that the fathers were chosen to be a peculiar people, and that they were kept safe under the tuition of God, before ever the temple was built, or the external ceremonies of the law were instituted.

These things appertain unto the general scope or drift of the sermon. But hence may we gather a profitable admonition. Bondage is of itself hard and bitter; but when cruelty of masters is added thereunto, it seemeth to be intolerable. Wherefore, it must needs be that the mind of the godly man was sore wounded, when he heard that his seed should serve, and be villanously and cruelly entreated, Moreover, this was no small trial; forasmuch as these things were, to look to contrary—the inheritance of the land of Canaan which was now promised, and bondage in a strange country. For who would not have thought that God had, as it were, forgotten his former promise, when as he telleth Abraham that his seed shall endure miserable bondage? He saith, at the first, that he will give his seed the land. But he had as yet no seed; yea, all hope of seed was now cut off. But when doth he promise that he will give it? After his death. By and by he saith, that that seed should be carried away to another place, that it may serve strangers. And how long? Four hundred years. Doth he not seem, by this means, to pull back his hand, that he may not perform that which he had promised?

Let us know that this was done, (not once only,) for God dealeth oftentimes with us thus, so that he may seem contrary to himself; and he speaketh also in such sort as that he may seem to call back 381381     “Retractare,” to retract. that which he had promised. Therefore, it cannot be but that flesh will judge that he is contrary to himself; but faith doth know that his words do agree well together amongst themselves, and with his works. And this is the purpose of God, to the end he may extend the sight of our faith the farther, to show his promises afar off, as it were, a long place [space] being put between. Therefore it is our duty to go forward, and to strive to attain unto that salvation which is set before us through many straits, 382382     “Per innumeros anfractus,” though innumerable wanderings. through divers lets, through long distance, through the midst of deeps, and, finally, through death itself. Furthermore, seeing that we see that the people which God had chosen did serve the Egyptians, and was uncourteously 383383     “Inhumaniter,” inhumanly. afflicted, we must not be discouraged if the like condition be prepared for us at this day. For it is no new thing, neither any unwonted thing, for the Church of God to lie oppressed under tyranny, and to be, as it were, trodden under foot of the wicked.