GENESIS

Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries


DISCOURSE 1

CREATION OF MAN

Genesis 1:26. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.

THOUGH men constantly trace their origin to their immediate parents, and frequently to their remoter ancestors, yet they rarely consider When, or How they first came into existence, or Whether any change has taken place in their nature since they came out of their Creator's hands. That there was a period when no such creature as man existed, even reason itself would teach us; for every effect must proceed from some cause: and therefore the formation of man, however remotely we trace his origin, must, in the first instance, have been the product of some intelligent Being, who was eternally self-existent. But we are not left to the uncertain deductions of reason: God has been pleased to reveal unto us (what could not otherwise have been known Hebrews 11:3. ) the time and manner of our creation, together with the state in which we were created. And these are the subjects which we would now propose for your consideration:

I. The circumstances of our creation—

We may not unprofitably notice somewhat respecting the time—

Five days had been occupied in reducing to order the confused chaos, and in furnishing the world with whatever could enrich or adorn it. On the sixth, God formed man, whom he reserved to the last, as being the most excellent of his works; and whose formation he delayed, until everything in this habitable globe was fitted for his accommodation. It is not for us to inquire why God chose this space of time for the completion of his work, when he could as easily have formed it all in an instant: but one instructive lesson at least we may learn from the survey which he took of every day's work; it teaches his creatures to review their works from day to day, in order that, if they find them to have been good, they may be excited to gratitude; or, if they perceive them to have been evil, they may be led to repentance. At the close of every day, God pronounced his work to be "good:" but when man was formed, and the harmony of all the parts, together with the conduciveness of each to its proper end, and the subserviency of every part to the good of the whole, were fully manifest, then he pronounced the whole to be "very good." From this also we learn, that it is not one work or two, however good in themselves, that should fully satisfy our minds; but a comprehensive view of all our works, as harmonizing with each other, and corresponding with all the ends of our creation.

In the manner of our creation there is something worthy of very peculiar attention—

In the formation of all other things God merely exercised his own sovereign will, saying, "Let there be light," "Let such and such things take place." But in the creation of man we behold the language of consultation; "Let us make man." There is not the least reason to suppose that this was a mere form of speech. like that which obtains among monarchs at this day; for this is quite a modern refinement: nor can it be an address to angels; for they had nothing to do in the formation of man: it is an address to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both of whom co-operated in the formation of Him who was to be the master-piece of divine wisdom and power The work of Creation is ascribed to Jesus Christ, John 1:1-3 and to the Holy Spirit, Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13; Job 33:4. This appears from a still more striking expression, which occurs afterwards; where God says, "Now man is become like one of us, to know good and evil Genesis 3:22." And it is confirmed in a variety of other passages, where God, under the character of our "Creator," or "Maker," is spoken of in the plural number See Job 35:10; Isaiah 54:5; Ecclesiastes 12:1. These are all plural in the original.

We must not however suppose that there are three Gods: there certainly is but One God; and His unity is as clear as his existence: and this is intentionally marked in the very verse following our text; where the expressions, "us" and "our" are turned into "he" and "his:"—"God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him."

Here, then, we may see an early intimation of the Trinity in Unity; a doctrine which pervades the whole Bible, and is the very corner-stone of our holy religion. And it is deserving of particular notice, that, in our dedication to our Creator at our baptism, we are expressly required to acknowledge this mysterious doctrine, being "baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit Matthew 28:19."

The text informs us further respecting,

II. The state in which we were created—

There was some "likeness" to God even in the nature of man. "God is a spirit," who thinks, and wills, and acts. Man also has a spirit, distinct from his body, or from the mere animal life: he has a thinking, willing substance, which acts upon matter by the mere exercise of its own volitions, except when the material substance on which it operates is bereft of its proper faculties, or impeded in the use of them. But the image of God in which man was formed, is, properly, two-fold:

1. Intellectual—

"God is a God of knowledge." He has a perfect discernment of everything in the whole creation. Such. too, was Adam in his first formation. Before he had had any opportunity to make observations on the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, he gave names to every one of them, suited to their several natures, and distinctive of their proper characters. But it was not merely in things natural that Adam was so well instructed: he doubtless had just views of God, his nature and perfections: he had also a thorough knowledge of himself, of his duties, his interests, his happiness. There was no one thing which could conduce either to his felicity or usefulness, which was not made known to him, as far as he needed to be instructed in it. As God is light without any mixture or shade of darkness 1 John 1:5, so was Adam, in reference to all those things at least which he was at all concerned to know.

2. Moral—

Holiness is no less characteristic of the Deity than wisdom. He loves everything that is good, and infinitely abhors everything that is evil. Every one of His perfections is holy. In this respect, also, did man bear a resemblance to his Maker. "God made him upright Ecclesiastes 7:29." As he had a view of the commandment in all its breadth, so had he a conformity to it in all his dispositions and actions. He felt no reluctance in obeying it: his will was in perfect unison with the will of his Maker. All the inferior appetites were in habitual subjection to his reason, which also was in subjection to the commands of God. We are told respecting the Lord Jesus Christ, that he was "the image of God 2 Corinthians 4:4," "the image of the invisible God Colossians 1:15," "the express image of his person Hebrews 1:3." What the Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, was upon earth, that was man in Paradise—"holy, harmless, undefiled Hebrews 7:26."

That man's resemblance to his Maker did indeed consist in these two things, is manifest; because our renewal after the divine image is expressly said to be in knowledge Colossians 3:10, and in true holiness Ephesians 4:24. Well, therefore, does the Apostle say of man, that "he is the image and glory of God l Corinthians 11:7."

Infer

1. What an awful change has sin brought into the world!

Survey the character before drawn: and compare it with men in the present state: "How is the gold become dim, and the fine gold changed!" Men are now enveloped in darkness, and immersed in sin. They "know nothing as they ought to know," and do nothing as they ought to do it. No words can adequately express the blindness of their minds, or the depravity of their hearts.———Yet all this has resulted from that one sin which Adam committed in Paradise. He lost the divine image from his own soul; and "begat a son in his own fallen likeness:" and the streams that have been flowing for nearly six thousand years from that polluted fountain, are still as corrupt as ever. O that we habitually considered sin in this light, and regarded it as the one source of all our miseries!

2. What a glorious change will the Holy Spirit effect in the hearts of all who seek Him!

In numberless passages, as well as in those before cited See notes m and n, the Holy Spirit is spoken of, as "renewing" our souls, and making us "new creatures 2 Corinthians 5:17." What Adam was in Paradise, that shall we be, "according to the measure of the gift of Christ." "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle-tree Isaiah 55:13." He will "open the eyes of our understanding," and cause us to "know all things" that are needful for our salvation 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27; and at the same time that he "turns us from darkness unto light, he will turn us also from the power of Satan unto God:" "He will put his laws in our minds, and write them in our hearts Hebrews 8:10." Let not any imagine that their case is desperate; for He who created all things out of nothing, can easily create us anew in Christ Jesus: and he will do it, if we only direct our eyes to Christ: "We all beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord 2 Corinthians 3:18."

3. What obligations do we owe to the ever-blessed Trinity!

If we looked no further than to our first creation, we are infinitely indebted to the sacred Three, for making us the subject of their consultation, and for co-operating to form us in the most perfect manner. But what shall we say to that other consultation, respecting the restoration of our souls? Hear, and be astonished at that gracious proposal, "Let us restore man to our image." "I," says the Father, "will pardon and accept them, if an adequate atonement can be found to satisfy the demands of justice." "Then on me be. their guilt," says his only dear Son: "I will offer myself a sacrifice for them, if anyone can be found to apply the virtue of it effectually to their souls, and to secure to me the purchase of my blood." "That shall be my charge," says the blessed Spirit: "I gladly undertake the office of enlightening, renewing, sanctifying their souls; and I will "preserve every one of them blameless unto your heavenly kingdom." Thus, by their united efforts, is the work accomplished; and a way of access is opened for every one of us through Christ, by that one Spirit, unto the Father Ephesians 2:18. O let every soul rejoice in this Triune God! and may the Father's love, the grace of Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore! Amen.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 2:2-3

 

DISCOURSE 2

APPOINTMENT OF THE SABBATH

Genesis 2:2-3. On the seventh day, God ended his work which he had made: and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work, which God created and made.

THOUGH we know no reason on God's part why he should proceed in the work of creation by slow and gradual advancement, instead of perfecting the whole at once; yet we may conceive a reason on the part of man, who is enabled thereby to take a more minute and deliberate survey of all its parts, and from every fresh discovery of the creation to derive fresh themes of praise to the Creator. This idea seems to be countenanced by the institution of a Sabbath immediately after the completion of the sixth day's work. At all events, this is the improvement which it becomes us to make of the Sabbath: in speaking of which we shall show,

I. The reason of its appointment—

God, after finishing his work, "rested, and was refreshed Exodus 31:17." Whether this expression be merely a figure taken from what is experienced by us after any laborious and successful exertion, or whether it intimate the delight which God felt, as it were, on a review of his works, we cannot absolutely determine. But his sanctifying of the seventh day in consequence of that rest, shows, that he consulted,

1. His own glory—

As "God made all things for himself," so he instituted the Sabbath in order that his rational creatures might have stated opportunities of paying him their tribute of prayer and praise. If no period had been fixed by him for the solemnities of public worship, it would have been impossible to bring mankind to an agreement respecting the time when they should render unto him their united homage. They would all acknowledge the propriety of serving him in concert; but each would be ready to consult his own convenience; a difference of sentiment also would obtain respecting the portion of time that should be allotted to his service: and thus there would never be one hour when all should join together in celebrating their Creator's praise. But by an authoritative separation of the seventh day, God has secured, that the whole creation shall acknowledge him, and that His goodness shall be had in everlasting remembrance. In this view, God himself, speaking of the Sabbath which he had instituted at the creation, and the observance of which he was, with some additional reasons, enforcing on the Jews, calls it "a sign" between him and them, that they might know that he is the Lord Exodus 31:13; Exodus 31:17.

2. His people's good—

Though men might have worshiped God in secret, yet the appointment of a certain day to be entirely devoted to His service, had a tendency to spiritualize their minds, and to make every one in some respect useful in furthering the welfare of the whole community. Sympathy is a powerful principle in the human breast: and the sight of others devoutly occupied in holy exercises, is calculated to quicken the drowsy soul. The very circumstance of multitudes meeting together with raised expectations and heavenly affections, must operate like an assemblage of burning coals, all of which are instrumental to the kindling of others, while they receive in themselves fresh ardor from the contact.

A further benefit from the appointment of the Sabbath is, that the attention of all must necessarily be directed to the eternal Sabbath, which awaits them at the expiration of their appointed week of labor. Each revolving Sabbath, freed from the distractions of worldly care, and attended, not merely with bodily rest, but with a rest of the soul in God, must be to them a pledge and foretaste of Heaven itself. Well therefore does Nehemiah number the Sabbath among the richest benefits which God had conferred upon his chosen people Nehemiah 9:14.

But as some have thought the Sabbath to be a mere Jewish institution, which, like the rest of the ceremonial law, is abrogated and annulled, we shall proceed to show,

II. The continuance of its obligation—

That there was something ceremonial in the Jewish Sabbath, we readily acknowledge: but there was something moral also; and therefore, as to the moral part of it, it must, of necessity, be of perpetual obligation. To remove all doubt on this important subject, consider,

1. The time of its institution—

Some have thought that the mention which is made of the Sabbath in the words before us, was merely by anticipation; and that the appointment never took place until the days of Moses. But if this were the case, how came Moses to specify the circumstance of God's resting on the seventh day as the reason of that appointment Exodus 20:11. ? It would have been a good reason for our first parents and their immediate descendants to hallow the seventh day; but it could be no reason at all to those who lived almost five-and-twenty hundred years after the event; more especially when so obvious and cogent a reason as their deliverance out of Egypt was assigned at the very same time Deuteronomy 5:15. But if the command given to the Jews was a repetition of the injunction given to Adam, then there is an obvious propriety in assigning the reason that was obligatory upon all, as well as that which formed an additional obligation on the Jewish nation in particular.

Besides, there are traces of a Sabbath from the beginning of the world. For, if no Sabbath had ever been given, whence came the practice of measuring time by weeks? Yet that custom obtained both in the patriarchal Genesis 29:27-28. and antediluvian ages Genesis 8:10; Genesis 8:12; and therefore, since it accords so exactly with what was afterwards instituted by divine authority, we may well infer its original appointment by God himself. And if its obligation existed so many ages before the ceremonial law was given, then must it continue to exist after that law is abolished.

2. The manner of its re-establishment—

Notwithstanding the long continuance of the Jews in Egypt, the remembrance of the Sabbath was not effaced: for Moses, before the giving of the law, speaks of the Sabbath as an institution known and received among them Exodus 16:23. And, without any express direction, they gathered on the sixth day a double portion of manna to serve them on the Sabbath; which they would not have done, if they had not thought the observance of the Sabbath to be of the first importance Exodus 16:22. That they did this without any direction from Moses, is evident from the complaint which the Rulers made on the occasion; for which complaint there could have been no ground, if any direction had been given.

Nevertheless, for the more effectual maintenance of its authority, God judged it necessary to publish it to them again, both upon the original grounds, and on other special grounds peculiar to that people. And how did he publish it? Did he deliver it to Moses in the same manner as he did the ceremonial law? No: he wrote it with his own finger in tables of stone, and embodied it with the moral law Deuteronomy 10:3-4. Surely this affords a very strong presumption that God himself considered its duties, not as ceremonial, limited, and transient, but as moral, universal, and permanent.

3. The confirmation of it by the Prophets—

That its obligations should be sanctioned by the prophets, we might well expect; because they lived under the authority of the Jewish law. The mere circumstance, therefore, of their insisting on the observation of the Sabbath would prove nothing. But their speaking of the Sabbath, as to be observed under the Christian dispensation, very strongly corroborates the perpetuity of its obligations. Now the prophet Isaiah does speak of the Sabbath in such a connection, that we cannot doubt of its referring to the times of the Gospel: and he represents the "keeping of the Sabbath" as no less necessary to our happiness, than the laying hold of Christ's righteousness and salvation Isaiah 56:1-2. We can scarcely think that the prophet would have so strongly marked the continuance of the Sabbath, if its obligations were to cease with the ceremonial law.

4. The observation of it by the Apostles—

The precise day on which the Jews kept their Sabbath, was indeed changed; and the first day of the week was substituted for the seventh. This was done in order to commemorate the resurrection of our blessed Lord; an event, the most interesting that ever occurred from the foundation of the world; an event which proved, beyond all doubt, the Messiahship of Jesus, and has served from that time as the corner-stone of all our hopes Acts 4:10-12. When Israel was brought out of Egypt, God, in order to commemorate that deliverance, changed the commencement of the year from the Autumn to the Spring Exodus 12:2; can we wonder then, that, in remembrance of an infinitely greater deliverance, he should alter the day on which the Sabbath had been observed? It was in the appropriation of a seventh part of our time to God, that the morality of the Sabbath consisted; and that is preserved under the Christian, as much as under the Jewish economy.

This change was sanctioned by our blessed Lord, who repeatedly selected that day for the more public exhibition of himself to his disciples Luke 24:13; Luke 24:33; Luke 24:36; Luke 24:40; Luke 24:45; John 20:19; John 20:26. ; and on that day sent down the Holy Spirit upon them This is ascertained by calculators, as well as from its being the seventh Sabbath after his resurrection. ; in order that the application, as well as the completion of his redemption, might give a further sanctity to the new-appointed day.

From that time the first day of the week was invariably observed for the public services of the church Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2. ; and, to stamp peculiar honor upon it, it was distinguished by that endearing name, "The Lord's day Revelation 1:10."

Who that weighs all these arguments, can doubt the continued obligation of the Sabbath?

For the regulation of our conduct on the Sabbath, we should inquire into,

III. The nature of its requirements—

The same kind of strictness is not required of us as was enjoined under the law—

We have before said, that there was something of a ceremonial nature in the Jewish Sabbath. The Jews in the wilderness were not permitted to leave their habitations on the Sabbath-day Exodus 16:29, except to assemble for divine worship; and the portion of manna which they gathered on the preceding day for the consumption of that day, was, for the space of forty years, kept fit for their use upon the Sabbath by a constant miracle, on purpose that they might have no excuse for transgressing the divine command Exodus 16:24. They were forbidden even to kindle a fire on the Sabbath-day Exodus 35:3, or to do any species of servile work. But all this rigor is not necessary now: it was suited to the burdensome dispensation of the law; but not to the more liberal dispensation under which we live. Indeed, our blessed Lord has shown us clearly that works of necessity Matthew 12:1-8, or of mercy Matthew 12:10-13, may be performed on that as well as any other day. Being himself "the Lord of the Sabbath day," he dispensed with those rites which were merely temporary, and requires of us such services only as a spiritual mind will most delight in.

Our sanctification of the Sabbath should consist rather in mental than in bodily exercises—

What are the proper employments for our minds, the prophet Isaiah has plainly told us: "We should account the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and should honor him, not doing our own ways, nor finding our own pleasure, nor speaking our own words Isaiah 58:13." We should endeavor to have our thoughts abstracted from the world, and to fix them with intenseness and delight on heavenly objects. On every day we should present to God our sacrifices of prayer and praise: but as, under the law, the accustomed sacrifices, both of the morning and evening, were doubled upon the Sabbath Numbers 28:9-10, so, under the Gospel, we should have our minds doubly occupied in the service of our God.

The subject before us suggests ample matter,

1. For reproof—

Many, very many there are who hate the duties of the Sabbath; and, breaking through all the restraints of conscience, follow without remorse their usual occupations. Others, complying with the established forms, cry, "What a weariness is it Malachi 1:13. !" When shall the Sabbath be over, that I may prosecute more pleasing or more profitable employments Amos. 8:5. ? When they come up to the house of God, they find no pleasure in his service, but are rather, like Doeg, "detained before the Lord 1 Samuel 21:7." Some, indeed, conceiving that they are doing somewhat meritorious, spend without reluctance the time allotted for public service; but, though they draw near to God with their lips, their hearts are far from him Matthew 15:8. It is not such worshipers that God seeks or approves; nor is such the sanctification of the Sabbath that he requires. On the contrary, he is indignant against all such profaneness or hypocrisy; and declares that such persons "worship him in vain. Matthew 15:9. " Whatever such persons may imagine, they indeed profane the Sabbath. And what the consequence will be, they may form some judgment, from the punishment inflicted on the man who gathered sticks upon the Sabbath-day. By God's express command, he was stoned to death Numbers 15:32-36. If, then, so heavy a sentence was executed upon him by the direction of the Most High, can we suppose that God is more indifferent about the conduct of his creatures now? or that he has loaded them with mercies for no other end than to give them a greater license to sin? Let us well consider this: for "if they, who despised Moses' law, died without mercy," surely a far sorer punishment awaits us, if, with our additional obligations, we disregard the wonders of redeeming love Hebrews 10:28-29.

2. For encouragement—

Not only personal, but even national judgments may be expected for the violation of the Sabbath Jeremiah 17:27. But, on the other hand, every blessing may be expected, both by individuals Isaiah 56:4-7. and the community Jeremiah 17:24-26, if the Sabbath be habitually and conscientiously improved. Indeed, it seems almost impossible that anyone who sets himself in earnest to improve the Sabbath-day, should ever perish. God would bless to such an one the ordinances of his grace; and rather send him instruction in some extraordinary way, than suffer him to use the means in vain Acts 8:27-35; Acts 10:1-21. We can appeal to all who have ever labored to sanctify the Sabbath, whether they have not found their labor well repaid? Surely "God has never said to any, 'Seek you my face in vain': "and the more diligently we keep his Sabbaths below, the more shall we be fitted for our eternal rest.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 2:16-17

 

DISCOURSE 3

COVENANT MADE WITH ADAM

Genesis 2:16-17. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.

WHEN the creation was formed, it was proper that every part of it should show forth the Creator's glory, and, as far as its peculiar nature and capacity would admit of, fulfill his will. The sun and moon and stars being inanimate bodies, it was sufficient for them to move with regularity in their respective orbits. The creatures that were endued with life, were to follow their respective instincts, and, according to their abilities, to yield obedience to man, who was God's viceregent over them. To man more had been given: of him, therefore, was more required. He was endued with understanding and will: he was capable of knowing what he owed to his Maker, and of exercising discretion in performing it. To him therefore, in addition to the moral law which was written on his heart, and from which he could not deviate without opposing all his innate propensities, a positive precept was given: the will of his Creator was enacted into a law: and that which was indifferent in itself, was made a test of its obedience. All the trees in Paradise were given to him for the nourishment and support of his body. But that he might have an opportunity of acknowledging his dependence on God, and his ready submission to the divine will, one tree was excepted; and the use of it was prohibited under the severest penalties. This prohibition is to be the subject of our present consideration: and, in order that it may be understood in all its bearings and relations, we shall endeavor to explain,

I. Its import—

The name given to the forbidden tree strongly marked the importance of abstaining from it—

Adam was created in the perfect image of his God. He knew everything that was good, but nothing that was evil. This was his honor and his felicity. The knowledge of evil would have marred, rather than augmented, his happiness. Such knowledge, if speculative, would be only vain; if practical, be ruinous. We have no reason to think that the fruit of the tree was at all noxious in itself; but, as being forbidden, it could not be eaten without guilt: and therefore the designation given to the tree itself was a standing memorial to Adam on no account to touch it; since by eating of it he would attain the knowledge of evil, which. through the perfection of his nature, he was hitherto unacquainted with.

The necessity of abstaining from it was yet more awfully inculcated in the penalty annexed to disobedience—

The death which. in the event of his transgressing the command, was denounced against him, was three-fold; it was temporal, spiritual, eternal. His body, which had not in it naturally the seeds of dissolution, was to be given up a prey to various diseases, and at last to return to the dust from which it sprang. His soul was to lose both the image and enjoyment of God, and to be consigned over to the influence of everything that was earthly, sensual, and devilish. And, after a certain period, both his body and soul were to be "cast into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone; which is the second death."

That such was the penalty, appears from the event: for, upon transgressing the divine command, he became mortal: a change also instantly took place in his intellectual and moral faculties; as he showed, by attempting to hide himself from God, with whom he had hitherto maintained the most familiar converse. The eternal duration of his punishment may be inferred from the penalty annexed to sin at this time: for if the wages of sin be eternal death now, there can be no doubt but that it was so then In Romans 6:23 death, which is the wages of sin, and the life which is the gift of God, are contrasted; both being of the same duration. Compare also Matthew 25:46.

There was, however, an implied promise, that, if he persevered in his obedience, he should live forever. In the law which God has since published, and to which the same penalty is annexed for disobedience, we are assured, that whoever does the things which are commanded, shall live in them Compare Deuteronomy 27:26 and Galatians 3:10 with Leviticus 18:5 and Romans 10:5 and Galatians 3:12; from whence we may conclude, that there was a similar reward prepared for Adam, if he should continue to obey his God. It is true that the law can not give us life now Galatians 3:21. ; but that is not owing to any change in God's regard for obedience, but to our incapacity to render that obedience which his law requires Romans 8:3-4. If we could keep all the commandments, we should, by keeping them, enter into life Matthew 19:17. And it is manifest that the same reward would have been given to Adam; since we are told, that "the law was ordained to life Romans 7:10."

The import of the prohibition being made clear, let us consider,

II. Its nature—

It could not be expected that in so brief a history as that before us, every minute particular should be explained: indeed, it was intended that the subsequent revelations of God's will should clear up things which were left in a state of obscurity. Now from other parts of scripture we find, that this prohibition was, in reality, a covenant; in which. not Adam only, but all his posterity were interested. In this covenant, Adam was the head and representative of all his seed; and they, to the remotest generations, were to stand or fall in him. In proof of this we may observe that,

1. In this prohibition are contained all the constituent parts of a covenant—

Here are the parties; God on the one side; and Adam, for himself and all his posterity, on the other. Here are the terms expressly declared: there was a condition prescribed, namely, that Adam should obey the divine mandate; on his performance of which condition, he had a promise of life; but on his neglecting to perform it, a threatening of death. Lastly, there was also a seal annexed to the covenant: as the rainbow was a seal of the covenant made with Noah; and circumcision and baptism were the seals of the Abrahamic and Christian covenants; so "the tree of life" was a seal of the covenant made with Adam Genesis 9:8-17; Romans 4:11. ; it was a pledge to Adam, that, on his fulfilling the conditions imposed upon him, he should participate the promised reward.

2. The consequences flowing from the transgression of it, prove it to have been a covenant—

Death and condemnation were the immediate consequences of Adam's sin. Nor were these confined to the immediate transgressor; they were entailed on his remotest posterity: by that one act of his all his children are constituted sinners, and are consigned over to death and condemnation. Both scripture and experience attest this melancholy truth How often is it repeated, that all these evils proceeded from the offence of one man! See Romans 5:12-19. Now how can we account for so many millions of persons being involved in his punishment, if they were not in some way or other involved also in his guilt? Surely "the Judge of all the earth will do right;" and therefore, when we behold punishment inflicted on so many beings, who were once formed after the divine image, we may be sure that in the sight of God they are considered as guilty; and, as infants cannot have contracted guilt in their own persons, they must have derived it from Adam, by whom they were represented, and in whom they died.

3. It is represented as exactly corresponding with the covenant which God made with Christ on our behalf—

Nothing can be more labored than the parallel which Paul draws between Adam and Christ in the passage we have just referred to. Not content with tracing all evil to the offence of one, he declares that that one person, even Adam, was "a type or figure of Him who was to come;" and that as death and condemnation came by the offence of ONE, that is, Adam; so righteousness and life come by the obedience of ONE, even Christ Romans 5:12-19. In another place he draws precisely the same parallel, representing Christ as "the second man," "the last Adam 1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Corinthians 15:47. ;" and affirming, that "as in Adam all died, so in Christ shall all be made alive 1 Corinthians 15:22."

These things collectively, clearly prove, that the prohibition was not a mere personal concern with Adam, but that it was a covenant made with him on behalf of himself and all his posterity.

If it be thought strange that God should make other persons responsible for Adam's conduct; we answer, that, among ourselves, the happiness of children is greatly involved in the conduct of their parents; and that God expressly avows, on another occasion, that he did make a covenant with some on behalf of others who were yet unborn Deuteronomy 29:14-15; and if he did it on one occasion, he might with equal propriety do it on another.

But lest there should lurk in the mind any dissatisfaction with this mysterious appointment, we proceed to show,

III. Its reasonableness—

Consider its reasonableness,

1. As a prohibition—

If the will of the Maker were to be enacted into a law, for the purpose of trying the obedience of man, we cannot conceive a more easy and simple method than the prohibiting the use of one single tree amidst the thousands which were laden with the choicest fruits. If God had prohibited all except one, it would have been highly reasonable that He should be obeyed, seeing that they were all the works of His hands, and He was at liberty to give or withhold, as it seemed to Him good. But when He gave the free enjoyment of all, and denied him only one, certainly nothing could be more reasonable than that His will should be honored by a cheerful compliance.

Nor was it less reasonable that the prohibition should be enforced with so severe a penalty: for the object of the penalty was, to keep Adam from transgression, and to shut him up under a necessity of continuing holy and happy: and therefore the more awful the sanctions were, the more likely they were to answer the desired end; and the more gracious was God in annexing them to the prohibition.

2. As a covenant—

It is but a small thing to say concerning the covenant, that it was just: we go much further; and affirm, that it was in the highest degree favorable and advantageous to all who were interested in it. Consider the state in which Adam was, when subjected to the temptation; and compare with it the state in which we should meet temptation, supposing every one of us to be called forth to the trial as soon as ever we entered into the world: he was perfect; we are imperfect: he was in full possession of all his faculties; we should begin our conflict while all the powers of our souls were in a state of infantile weakness: he was exposed to only one temptation, and that apparently easy to be withstood, on account of his having no evil disposition to close with it; we should be assaulted with ten thousand temptations, with every one of which we have a proneness to comply: he conflicted with his enemy who was yet unskilled in the work of beguiling souls; we should engage him after his skill has been augmented by the experience of six thousand years: he was fortified by the consideration that not his own happiness only, but that also of all his posterity, depended on him; whereas we should have no other motive to steadfastness than a regard to our own personal welfare. Let anyone compare these states, and then say, whether Adam or We were more likely to fall: and if it appear that his situation was far more conducive to stability than ours, then must it be considered as a great advantage to us to have had such a person for our covenant-head. If it be said, that eventually we are sufferers by it; we may well be satisfied with it; since if he, with all his advantages, was overcome, there is no hope at all that we, under all our disadvantages, should have maintained our integrity. Nor can we doubt, but that if all the human race had been summoned before God at once to hear the proposal of having Adam for their covenant-head, every one of them would have accepted it, as a signal token of the divine goodness.

Infer,

1. What folly is it to seek for happiness in sin!

Depraved as everything is by means of sin, yet is there all that we can wish for in this transient state, together with a liberty "richly to enjoy it." We have not a sense for which God has not provided a suitable and legitimate indulgence. Survey the number, brightness, magnitude, and order of the heavenly bodies; or the innumerable multitude of animate and inanimate beings, with all their variegated hues, the exquisite formation of their parts, their individual symmetry, their harmonious configuration, their wonderful adaptation to their respective ends. Can we conceive a richer feast for our eyes? Behold how the earth is strewed with flowers, that cast their perfumes to the wind, and regale us with their odors! Where, among all the contrivances of are, will anything be found to equal the fruits of the earth, in the variety and richness of their flavor? or where will the sons of harmony produce such exquisite notes as the feathered tribes gratuitously afford to the meanest cottager? Take the feelings for which so many myriads of mankind sacrifice their eternal interests; and we will venture to affirm, that even those are called forth with keener sensibility and richer zest in the way of God's appointment, than they ever can be in a way of licentious and prohibited indulgence. What need have we then of forbidden fruit? If nothing were left us in this world but the favor of God and the testimony of a good conscience, we should have a feast which nothing but Heaven can excel: but when, together with these, we have all that can conduce to the comfort of the body; when we have "the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come," is it not madness to seek for happiness in sin; to relinquish "the fountain of living waters, and to hue out to ourselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water?" Let us but learn to enjoy God in everything, and everything in God, and we shall find that this world, polluted as it is, is yet a Paradise: with God's favor, pulse is better than royal delicacies, and the meanest dungeon is a palace.

2. With what abhorrence should sin be viewed by us!

Look through the creation which God pronounced to be very good, and see how all things are out of course: the earth that should nourish us, struck with barrenness; the elements that should administer to our comfort, armed against us for our destruction. See the smallest insects in the creation invading us with irresistible force, and by their united efforts desolating our fairest prospects. Look at man himself, once the image of his Maker; see with what malignant dispositions he is filled. See him passing his time here in labor and sorrow, and generation after generation swept away from the face of the earth. Follow him into the eternal world, and behold him banished from the presence of his God, and cast into a lake of fire and brimstone, there to endure the full penalty of all his crimes. Behold all this, I say, and consider that this is the work of sin. One sin introduced it all; and successive generations have lived only to complete what our first parents began. O that we could view sin in this light! O that we could bear in mind the judgment denounced against it, "In the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die!" We have warnings sufficient to intimidate the stoutest heart: "The wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men Romans 1:18;" "The soul that sins, it shall die Ezekiel 18:20;" "Sin, when it is finished, brings forth death James 1:15." Only let sin be stripped of its deceitful attire, and be viewed in all its naked deformity, and we shall shudder even at the thought of it, and flee from it as from the face of a serpent.

3. How thankful should we be for the tree of life!

Blessed be God, the tree of life yet grows in the midst of us Revelation 2:7. No cherubim with flaming swords obstruct our way to it; on the contrary, all the angels in Heaven are ready to exert all their influence to conduct us to it; and God, even our Father, invites and entreats us to gather its life-giving fruits. This tree of life is no other than the Lord Jesus Christ: "it bears twelve manner of fruits," suited to all our various necessities; and its very "leaves are for the healing of the nations Revelation 22:2." Let us then flock around this tree: let us with humble boldness stretch forth our hands to gather its fruits. We may see around us many who have already experienced its efficacy to heal the sick, and to revive the dead. Let us view the Savior as God's instituted ordinance for this very end: and now that he is accessible unto us, let us approach him; lest haply the accepted time be terminated, and we eat forever the bitter fruits of our transgression.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 3:4

 

DISCOURSE 4

THE SERPENT BEGUILING EVE

Genesis 3:4. And the serpent said unto the woman, You shall not surely die.

IN reference to the fact before us, Paul says, "The serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety." And great is the subtlety which appears throughout the whole of his conduct on this occasion. He took an opportunity of addressing himself to Eve when she was alone, that so she might become an easier victim to his wiles. He insinuated his temptation first in a way of inquiry only; "Has God said, You shall not eat of every tree in the garden?" By this he intimated, that she had made some mistake respecting the supposed prohibition, since it was scarcely probable that her Maker, who had granted her everything else in the garden, should impose such an unnecessary restriction upon her. When, in answer to this, Eve informed him, that not only was the restriction really given, but that it was enforced with the most tremendous sanction that could possibly be imagined, he again insinuated that she must be under a mistake, since it could not be that so good a God should inflict so heavy a judgment for so slight an offence: "You shall not surely die."

Now this is the very temptation with which he has ever since, even to this present hour, assaulted unwary men, and by which he is yet daily ruining millions of the human race. We will therefore endeavor to put you on your guard against it, by showing,

I. The falsehood of the suggestion—

Two things were here insinuated, namely, That the threatening was not of such a terrific import as she imagined; and that, whatever it might import, it should not be eventually executed. But in both these things "he lied unto her;" for,

1. God will fulfill his threatenings to whatever they may relate—

See his threatenings to individuals—Ahab, in dependence on his false prophets, and on Satan who inspired them, thought to come off victorious: but, notwithstanding his device to escape the notice of the Syrians, he was slain, according to the prediction of the prophet Micaiah. Hiel the Bethelite would rebuild the city of Jericho: but did he escape the judgment denounced, many hundred years before, against any person who should presume to make the attempt? Did he not lay the foundation in the death of his first-born, and raise up the gates in the death of his youngest son Jos. 6:26 with 1 Kings 16:34. ? See his threatenings against the whole nation of Israel: Were they not carried captive to Babylon, according to His word? and is not the dispersion of the Jews at this day a proof, that no word of God shall ever fall to the ground? See his threatenings against the whole world—Did not the deluge come according to the prediction, and sweep away every living creature (those only excepted that were in the ark) from the face of the earth? Let us be sure that God is true: and that whatever He has spoken shall surely come to pass.

2. He will fulfill them in the extent that is here declared—

Death temporal, spiritual, and eternal were included in the sentence denounced against transgression: and on our first parents it came, the very day that they ate of the forbidden tree. They did not, it is true, cease on that day to live, because God had purposes to serve by their continuance in life: but the seeds of death were that day implanted in their constitution; and in due time they returned to their native dust. That they died at that very moment a spiritual death, is evident from their conduct: for they foolishly hoped to hide themselves among the trees of the garden from the eyes of the omniscient God; and offered vain excuses for their transgression, instead of humbling themselves for it before God. To eternal death also they were subjected; and to it they would have been consigned, had not God, of his infinite mercy, provided a way of deliverance from it, through that seed of the woman, who was in due time to bruise the serpent's head. If it be doubted whether God will execute so heavy a judgment on the sinners of mankind, I hesitate not to declare, that he most assuredly will; since he has himself declared it in terms that admit of no reasonable doubt See Matthew 25:46 the Greek—and Mark 9:43-48—and Revelation 14:10-11. —and "he is not a man that he will lie, nor the son of man that he will repent."

But since so many are deceived by this suggestion, I will endeavor to show, more distinctly,

II. The danger of listening to it—

The effect of this sad delusion is visible in all around us. It is entirely owing to this that Satan retains so many in bondage, and leads them captive at his will.

1. Hence it is that men make so light of sin—

Whence is it, I would ask, that men are drawn aside by every temptation, and that for a momentary gratification they will offend their God? Is it not from a secret persuasion, that God will not fulfill his threatenings, and that they may sin against him with impunity? If men saw before their eyes the instruments of torture whereby the violators of a law were to be put to a lingering and cruel death, and knew at the same time that there was no possibility of escape to anyone who should transgress the law, would they incur the penalty with the same indifference that they now transgress the laws of God? How much less then would they rush into wretchedness, if they saw Hell open before them, and heard the groans of those who are now suffering under the wrath of God? No truly: they would not then "make a mock at sin, but would tremble at it, and flee from it as from the face of a serpent. If then you would be preserved from sin, listen not a moment to this accursed suggestion: and if the whole world should unite in saying, "You shall not surely die," reply to them, "Get you behind me, Satan," for "you are a liar from the beginning."

2. Hence it is also that men make so light of salvation—

Salvation by Christ is offered to a ruined world. But who believes our report? Who receives it with that gratitude which it might well be expected that a perishing sinner should feel towards his reconciled God and Savior? With the exception of a few, the whole world regard the Gospel as little better than a cunningly devised fable; so faint are the emotions it excites, and so transient the effects which it produces. And what is the reason of this? Is it not that men do not feel their need of such a Savior, and that they do not believe that God's threatenings will ever be executed upon them? Yes: to this source must it be traced: for if they truly believed, that the wrath of God, which is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, would fall upon them, and that all their hope of escaping it was by embracing the Gospel, they would flee to Christ with their whole hearts, and cleave unto him with their whole souls, and not rest a moment until they saw themselves within the gates of the city of refuge. Were they duly sensible of their danger, even a hope, a mere perhaps that God might have mercy upon them, would be sufficient to make them weep before him day and night. Not a word of mercy was mixed in Jonah's message to Nineveh: yet the most distant hope of mercy was sufficient to encourage that whole city to repent in dust and ashes. What then would not all the promises of the Gospel effect, if men really felt the greatness of their guilt and danger?. It is evident, that all the indifference of men about the Gospel must be traced to this one source, their believing of Satan's lie in preference to the truth of God: and, if ever the Gospel is to have a saving influence on our hearts, we must begin by rejecting this suggestion of the devil, and by believing that all the threatenings of God against sin and sinners shall assuredly be accomplished.

Observe then, on the whole,

1. What need there is of fidelity in ministers—

Satan at this time, no less than formerly, suggests to men, "You shall not surely die:" and his emissaries all the world over are re-echoing the, delusive sound. Every friend we have, father, mother, brother, sister, husband, wife, the very instant we begin to dread the wrath of God, unite their endeavors to compose our minds, by saying, 'There is no such penalty against sin as you suppose, nor have you any reason to fear that it shall be inflicted on you.' Our own wicked hearts also are but too ready to adopt a sentiment so gratifying to the mind, and to speak peace to us on insufficient grounds. And what would be the consequence if ministers also favored such delusions, and, through fear of alarming you, neglected to warn you of your danger? Would not Satan triumph to a far greater extent than he already does? Would he not be secure of his prey? Is not this the very effect produced, wherever the Gospel, instead of being preached with apostolic fidelity, is kept upon the back ground, and modified to the taste of a deluded world? Be thankful then if you hear your guilt and danger faithfully set before you: be thankful, as you would be if a man, seeing your house on fire, roused you from your slumbers, and saved you from death. And, if God have given to you this mercy, improve it with all diligence, by fleeing from the wrath to come, and laying hold on eternal life.

2. What a mercy it is, that, notwithstanding the truth of God in his threatenings, there is a way o salvation opened for us in the Gospel—

Yes; God can be true, and yet absolve the sinner from his guilt: for, in Christ Jesus, "Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other." The penalty of death has been inflicted upon the Lord Jesus Christ, as the surety and substitute of sinners: and, if we believe in him, all that he has done and suffered for us shall be so imputed to us as to be accepted of God in our behalf, so that God shall be "a just God, and yet a Savior," yes "just, and yet the justifier" of sinful man. O blessed tidings! amply sufficient to pacify the most afflicted mind, and to warrant in our hearts the most joyful hope! Brethren, only believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and I will adopt with confidence the very words of Satan, and say, "You shall not surely die." I will go further still, and from a doubtful suggestion turn them to a direct affirmation, and say, 'Surely you shall not die.' So says our blessed Lord himself: "My sheep shall never perish:" Paul also says, "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." On this, therefore, you may rely, with the fullest possible assurance: for, if the threatenings of God shall be fulfilled, so shall also His promises be: not one of them shall ever fail, as long as the world shall stand. Fear not then to see the worst of your state: fear not to acknowledge the extent of your guilt and danger, since the provision for you in Christ Jesus is fully commensurate with your necessities, and suited to your wants. Only believe in Him, and you shall not be ashamed or confounded world without end.

 

 

 

Genesis 3:6-7

 

DISCOURSE 5

THE FALL OF MAN

Genesis 3:6-7. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened.

THE happiness of our first parents in Paradise must have far exceeded anything which we can conceive. Formed in the image of God, they had not a desire or thought contrary to His holy will. There was no cloud upon their understanding; no undue bias on their will, nothing inordinate in their affections. With respect to outward comforts, they possessed all that they could wish. God himself had planted a garden for them, and given them the whole produce, except one tree, for their support. Above all, they enjoyed the freest fellowship with their Maker, and conversed with Him as a man converses with his friend. But this happiness, alas! was of short continuance: for Satan, who had left his first estate, and, from being a bright angel before the throne of God, was become an apostate spirit and a wicked fiend, he, I say, envied their felicity, and sought to reduce them to the same misery with himself. An opportunity for making his attempt soon occurred. He saw the woman near the forbidden tree, and at a distance from her husband. So favorable an occasion was not to be lost. He instantly took possession of a serpent; which being confessedly the most subtle of all animals, was least likely to create suspicion in her mind, and fittest to be employed in so arduous a service. Through the instrumentality of this creature, Satan entered into conversation with her; and, as we learn from the history before us, succeeded in withdrawing both her and her husband from their allegiance to God. In the text we have a summary of the fatal tragedy: in it, as connected with the context, the whole plot is developed, and the awful catastrophe declared.

That we may have a just view of the conduct of our first parents, we shall consider,

I. Their temptation—

The scope of Satan's conversation with Eve was to persuade her that she might partake of the forbidden tree,

1. With safety—

With this view, his first attempt was to raise doubts in her mind respecting the prohibition. And here his subtlety is very conspicuous; he does not shock her feelings by any strong assertion; but asks, as it were for information, whether such a prohibition as he had heard of had been really given. Nevertheless, his mode of putting the question insinuates, that he could scarcely credit the report; because the imposing of such a restraint would be contrary to the generosity which God had shown in other respects, and to the distinguished love which he had professed to bear towards them.

Now, though he did not so far prevail as to induce her to deny that God had withheld from her the fruit of that tree, yet he gained much even in this first address: for, he led her to maintain a conversation with him: he disposed her also to soften the terms in which the prohibition had been given God had said, "In the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die:" and she, in reporting it, said," You shall not eat of it or touch it, lest you die; "thus converting a most positive threatening of instant and certain death, into a gentle caution against a possible, or probable, misfortune: "Touch not, for fear you die.": and though she might intend nothing more than to prevent his entertaining any hard thoughts of God, she hereby emboldened him to prosecute his purpose in a more direct and open manner.

Improving the advantage he had already gained, he proceeded to question in direct terms the grounds of her fears, in relation to the penalty: "You shall not surely die." He here intimates, that she must be mistaken with respect both to the extent and certainty of the penalty. God could never threaten "death" for such an offence as that: he could threaten nothing worse even for the most heinous transgression that could be committed: how then could he annex that to so small a matter as the eating of a piece of fruit? At least, if he did put forth his threat, he certainly would never execute it; "You shall not surely die:" it could not be, that a just and good God should ever proceed to such rigorous measures on so slight an occasion. By this daring assertion, he quite disarmed her; and persuaded her, that she must have misunderstood the divine declaration, or, at least, that it never could be carried into effect.

2. With advantage—

Finding that Eve did not revolt at his impious assertions, he went on to direct and open blasphemy. He knew, that to an intelligent and holy being nothing was so desirable as knowledge: he therefore affirmed, that there was in the fruit of that tree a virtue capable of wonderfully enlarging her views, so that she and her husband should "become as gods," and possess a self-sufficiency and independence suited to that high character. In confirmation of this, he appeals to God himself; and blasphemously insinuates, that God, in withholding the fruit from them, had been actuated by nothing but envy, and a jealousy, lest they should become as wise and happy as himself.

Such was the temptation with which that "old serpent" assaulted Eve; hoping that, if he could prevail with her, he might, through her influence, overcome her husband also.

Happy would it have been, if we could have reported of them, as we can of the second Adam, that they repelled the Tempter. But, in following the course of their history, we are constrained to notice,

II. Their sin—

Eve, overpowered by the alluring aspect of the fruit, and the hope of attaining a knowledge as superior to what she already possessed, as this serpent's was to that of all the rest of the creation, ate of the fruit, and prevailed upon her husband to partake with her A variety of questions might be asked respecting different parts of this history; but where God has not been pleased to inform us, we should be contented to be ignorant: and where no certainty can be attained, we judge it better to pass over matters in silence, than to launch out into the boundless and unprofitable regions of conjecture.

Without inquiring how she prevailed with him, or what would have been the effect if she alone had fallen, let it suffice to know, that Adam transgressed in eating the forbidden fruit, and that this was the sin whereby he and all his posterity were ruined. That the offence may not be thought trivial, let us consider of what malignant qualities it was composed:

1. What pride!

Our first parents were endowed with facilities unknown to any other creatures. While, in common, with all the rest, they possessed a beautifully constructed frame of body, they had a rational soul also, which assimilated them to God; so that they were a connecting link between God and the brute-creation, a kind of compound of both. Moreover, they were constituted lords of this lower world; and all other creatures were subjected to their dominion. None was above them but God himself. But they chose to have no superior: they affected to be as gods. What daring presumption! What criminal ambition! It was time indeed that "their loftiness should be bowed down, and their haughtiness be made low."

2. What unbelief!

God had spoken with a perspicuity which could not admit of misconstruction, and an energy that precluded doubt. Yet they listen to the suggestions of a wicked fiend, and believe the lies of Satan in preference to Jehovah's word. Can anything be conceived more insulting to the Majesty of Heaven than this? Can an offence be deemed light which offers such an indignity to the God of truth?

3. What ingratitude!

What could God have done more for them than he had done? What could they have, to augment their felicity? And, if any restraint at all was to be laid upon them for the purpose of trying their fidelity and obedience, what smaller restraint could be conceived than the prohibition of one single tree amidst ten thousand? Was one tree too much for Him to reserve, who had created all the rest for their use? Were they to think much of so small an act of self-denial, where so much was provided for their indulgence? Were they to be so unmindful of all which He had done for them, and of all the good things which He had in store for them, as to refuse Him so small a testimony of their regard? Amazing! Incredible! that such favors should be so requited!

4. What rebellion!

God had an undoubted right to command; and, whatever His injunctions were, they were bound to obey them. But how do they regard this single, this easy precept? They set it at nothing: they transgress it: they violate it voluntarily, immediately, and without so much as a shadow of reason. They lose sight of all the considerations of duty, or interest: they are absorbed in the one thought of personal gratification; and upon that they rush, without one moment's concern, how much they may displease their Friend and Benefactor, their Creator and Governor, their Lord and Judge. Shall not God visit for such rebellion as this?

After their transgression, we are naturally led to inquire into,

III. Their recompense—

Satan had told them, that "their eyes should be opened:" but little did they think in what sense his words should be verified! "Their eyes were now opened;" but only like the eyes of the Syrian army when they saw themselves in the heart of an enemy's country 2 Kings 6:20, or those of the rich man when he lifted them up in Hell torments. Luke 16:23. They beheld now, what it was their happiness not to know, the consequences of sin. They beheld,

1. The guilt they had contracted—

Sin, while yet they were only solicited to commit it, appeared of small malignity: its present pleasures seemed to overbalance its future pains. But when the bait was swallowed, how glad would they have been if they had never viewed it with desire, or ventured to trespass on what they knew to have been forbidden! Now all the aggravations of their sin would rush into their minds at once, and overwhelm them with shame. It is true, they could not yet view their conduct with penitence and contrition, because God had not yet given to them the grace of repentance: they could at present feel little else than self-indignant rage, and self-tormenting despondency: but their anguish, though not participating the sincere feelings of self-loathing and self-abhorrence, must have been pungent beyond all expression: and they must have seemed to themselves to be monsters of iniquity.

2. The misery they had incurred—

Wherever they cast their eyes, they must now see how awfully they were despoiled. If they lifted them up to Heaven, there they must behold the favor of their God forever forfeited. If they cast them around, everything must remind them of their base ingratitude; and they would envy the meanest of the brute creation. If they looked within, O what a sink of iniquity were they now become! The nakedness of their bodies, which in innocence administered no occasion for shame, now caused them to feel what need they had of covering, not for their bodies merely, but much more for their souls. If they thought of their progeny, what pangs must they feel on their account; to have innumerable generations rise in succession to inherit their depravity, and partake their doom! If they contemplated the hour of dissolution, how terrible must that appear! to be consigned, through diseases and death, to their native dust; and to protract a miserable existence in that world, where the fallen angels were banished, and from whence there can be no return! Me-thinks, under the weight of all these considerations, they wept until they could weep no more 1 Samuel 30:4. ; and until their exhausted nature sinking under the load, they fell asleep through excess of sorrow Luke 22:45.

Infer,

1. How deplorable is the state of every unregenerate man!

Any one who considers the state of our first parents after their fall, may easily conceive that it was most pitiable. But their case is a just representation of our own. We are despoiled of the divine image, and filled with all hateful and abominable dispositions: we are under the displeasure of the Almighty: we have nothing to which we can look forward in this world, but troubles, disorders, and death; and in the eternal world, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish for evermore. Why do we not endeavor to get our minds suitably affected with this our melancholy condition? Why do we not see ourselves, as in a glass; and apply to ourselves that commiseration which we are ready to bestow on our first parents? Alas! "the God of this world has blinded our minds:" else we should smite upon our breasts with sorrow and anguish, and implore without delay the mercy which we so much need.

2. How astonishing was the grace of God in providing a Savior for us!

It is needless to say that our first parents could do nothing to repair the evil which they had committed. And how far they were from attempting to make reparation for it, we see, when they fled from God, and cast the blame on others, yes even on God himself, rather than acknowledge their transgressions before him. But God, for His own great name sake, interposed, and promised them a Savior, through whom they, and their believing posterity, should be restored to his favor. To this gracious promise we owe it, that we are not all involved in endless and irremediable misery. Let Heaven and earth stand astonished at the goodness of our God! And let all the sinners of mankind testify their acceptance of his offered mercy, by fleeing for refuge to the hope set before them.

3. How vigilant should we all be against the devices of Satan!

He who "beguiled Eve under the form of a serpent," can assume any shape, for the purpose of deceiving us. He is sometimes "transformed into an angel of light," so that we may be ready to follow his advice, as if he were a messenger from Heaven. But we may easily distinguish his footsteps, if only we attend to the following inquiries:—Does he lessen in our eyes the sinfulness of sin? Does he weaken our apprehensions of its danger? Does he persuade us to that which is forbidden? Would he make us think lightly of that which is threatened? Does he stimulate our desires after evil by any considerations of the pleasure or the profit that shall attend it? Does he calumniate God to us, as though He were unfriendly, oppressive, or severe? If our temptations be accompanied with any of these things, we may know assuredly that "the enemy has done this," and that he is seeking our destruction. Let us then be on our guard against him. Let us watch and pray that we enter not into temptation. However remote we may imagine ourselves to be from the love of evil, let us not think ourselves secure: for if Satan vanquished our first parents under all the advantages they enjoyed, he will certainly overcome us, unless "we resist him," "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might."

 

 

 

 

Genesis 3:11-13

 

DISCOURSE 6

EXCUSES MADE BY OUR FIRST PARENTS, AFTER THEIR FALL

Genesis 3:11-13. Have you eaten of the tree whereof I commanded you that you should not eat? And the man said, The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that you have done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

THE immediate effects of sin are not easily discovered by us at this time: for if we look for them in ourselves, our partiality and self-love conceal them from us; and if we look for them in others, the universal prevalence of those effects prevents us from ascribing them to their proper cause. To see them in their true colors, we should be able to contrast the habits of some person during a state of innocence with those which he manifests after the commission of sin. Doubtless there are glaring instances of iniquity, from the investigation of which we may gather instruction: but we shall make our observations to the greatest advantage, if we examine the records respecting the conduct of our first parents after their unhappy fall. The accounts given of them are not indeed very full and circumstantial; yet the narration, brief as it is, is sufficient to elucidate the immediate influence of sin upon the mind, as well as its remoter consequences in the destruction of the soul. There are two things in particular which we shall be led to notice from the words before us;

I. The way in which men betray their consciousness of guilt—

Mark the conduct of our first parents. While they were innocent, they were strangers either to shame or fear: but instantly after their transgression, they made coverings for themselves of fig-leaves, and fled from the presence of their God. Here we may behold ourselves as in a glass: they have set a pattern to us which all their posterity have followed: however men may affect to be innocent, they all be-tray their consciousness of guilt in these two things;

1. They conceal themselves from themselves, and from each other—

Knowing that their hearts are depraved, and that, if narrowly inspected, they would exhibit a most disgusting appearance, men will not turn their eyes inwards. They will not examine the motives and principles of their actions: they cast a veil over the workings of pride and ambition, of envy and malice, of falsehood and covetousness, of carnality and selfishness: and then, because they see no evil in their actions, they hastily conclude there is none. And so successful are they in hiding from themselves their own deformity, that when all around them are even amazed at the impropriety of their conduct, they take credit to themselves for virtuous principles and laudable deportment.

If we should attempt to open their eyes, and to set before them their own picture, they would not even look at it, but would be offended with our fidelity, and condemn us as destitute of either charity or candor.

Now, would men act in this manner if they had not a secret consciousness that all was not right within? Would they not rather be glad of any assistance whereby they might discover any latent evil; or, at least, be glad to "come to the light, that their deeds might be made manifest that they were wrought in God?"

There is the still greater anxiety in men to hide their shame from each other. The whole fellowship of mankind with each other is one continued system of concealment. All endeavor to impose on others, by assuming the appearances of virtue; but no one will give credit to his neighbor for being as guiltless in his heart as he seems to be in his conduct. A thorough knowledge of a person whose principles have been tried, will indeed gain our confidence: but who has so good an opinion of human nature in general as to commit his wife or daughter to the hands of a perfect stranger; or to give him unlimited access to all his treasures; or even to take his word, where he can as easily obtain a legal security? But, if men were not conscious of depravity within themselves, why should they be so suspicious of others? The fact is, they know themselves to have many corrupt propensities; and justly concluding that human nature is the same in all, they feel the necessity of withholding confidence where they have not been warranted by experience to place it.

2. They shun, rather than desire, the presence of their God—

God comes to all of us in his word, and speaks to us in the language of love and mercy: He bids us to draw near to Him, and to enjoy "fellowship with him, and with his Son, Jesus Christ." But are these employments suited to the taste of all? or do the habits of the generality evince any regard for these inestimable privileges? Nay, if we endeavor to set God before them, and to make known to them his will, do they consider us as their friends and benefactors? They may bear with us, indeed, in the exercise of our public ministry: but will they be pleased, if we come home to their houses, and labor to bring them, as it were, into the presence of their God? Will they not be ready to say to us, as the demoniac did to Christ, "Are you come hither to torment us before the time;" or, like the Jews of old, "Prophesy unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits; make the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us?"

Now would this be the conduct of men, if they were not conscious of much guilt within? Would a man who had just received gold from the mint, be afraid of having it tried by a touchstone? or one who was perfectly innocent of a crime, be afraid of being interrogated in relation to it? Would not rather the knowledge of God be desirable to one who had no wish but to perform his will? Would he not account it his highest happiness to gain an increasing acquaintance with his Savior, and a more entire conformity to his image?

When the guilt of men can no longer be concealed, they have many refuges of lies to which they flee; to expose which, we shall show,

II. The way in which they endeavor to palliate and excuse it—

Our first parents confessed indeed their transgression, but in a way which clearly showed, that they were not humbled for it. Thus, when we cannot deny our guilt,

1. We cast it upon others—

Doubtless we all are accessory to the production of much guilt in others: and it is well to take shame to ourselves in that view. But to take occasion from this to excuse our own wickedness, is only to add sin to sin. Yet who does not betake himself to this refuge? Mark persons in the early stage of life; they will deny their faults as long as there remains for them any hope of concealment; and, when they are clearly detected, they will do their utmost to shift the blame off from themselves: according to the nature of the crime alleged, they will impute it to accident, or inadvertence, or mistake, or, like our first parents, to the instigation and example of their accomplices. What is the disposition which shows itself in persons of riper years, when they are called to account for any evil that they have committed, or when their angry passions have involved them in dispute and quarrel: is it not the endeavor of each to criminate the other, in hopes thereby to exculpate himself? Or when no particular ill-will is exercised towards others, is not the same system prevalent; and do not men justify their own conduct from the habits and examples of those around them? But what folly is this! Did the Serpent compel Eve to eat the fruit? or was Adam necessitated to follow her example? They were free agents in what they did: and they should have rejected with abhorrence the first proposals of sin, however specious they might be, and by whoever they might be made. And in the same manner, it is no excuse to us that the ways of iniquity are crowded; for we are to withstand the solicitations that would allure us from God, and stem the torrent that would drive us from him.

2. We cast it even upon God himself—

There is peculiar force in those words of Adam, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat:" it is no less than a reflection upon God himself for giving him the woman; and a casting of the blame upon him as accessory at least to his fall, if not also as the original cause of it. It is thus also that we account for our transgressions from the peculiar circumstances in which we are placed, and thus ascribe them rather to the dispensations of Providence, than to our own willful depravity. One is poor, and therefore has not leisure to consult the welfare of his soul; or is under the authority of others, and cannot serve God without subjecting himself to their displeasure. Another is rich, and cannot deviate so far from the habits of the world, as to conform to the precise rules which God has prescribed. In this manner, persons endeavor to persuade themselves that a life of entire devotedness to God is incompatible with their worldly duties; and that their deviations or defects are rather their misfortune than their fault. Some indeed will be yet more bold in accusing God; and, when condemned for giving the rein to their appetites, will say, 'Why did God give me these passions? I cannot act otherwise than I do.'

How far these excuses will avail in the day of judgment, it becomes every one to consider with fear and trembling. They may stifle the accusations of a guilty conscience now; but there is not a man in the universe so stupid as seriously to believe that his conscience will acquit him at the tribunal of his God.

We shall conclude with an address,

1. To those who are unhumbled for their sins—

Some are so impious, that "they declare their sin as Sodom: the very show of their countenance witnesses against them." To such persons we say with the prophet, "Woe unto them Isaiah 3:9. !" Nor can we deliver any milder message to those who "cover their transgressions, as Adam, and hide their iniquity in their bosom Job 31:33:" for God's word to them is plain; "He that covers his sins shall not prosper: but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy. Proverbs 28:13. " It is absolutely indispensable that we humble ourselves before God, and that we repent in dust and ashes. God has noted our transgressions, whether we have observed them or not: for "there is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves Job 34:22." God is extremely earnest in endeavoring to impress this thought upon our minds Isaiah 29:15 with Amos. 9:2-3. It is equally certain that we cannot impose upon him by any vain excuses. The day is coming, when he will not only ask in general, "Have you eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded you that you should not eat?" but will interrogate us, as he did Eve, with holy indignation, saying, "What is this that you have done?" Are you aware of its malignity? are you prepared to meet the consequences? O let us, every one of us, humble ourselves before him, while yet the effects of his displeasure may be averted from us: but if yet we remain impenitent and stout-hearted, a sudden and irremediable destruction shall come upon us Proverbs 29:1.

2. To those whose hearts are beginning to relent—

Do not think that a small and transient humiliation is sufficient. If you could weep "rivers of tears," it would be no more than the occasion calls for. You may perhaps comfort yourselves with the thought of not having committed many or great offences: but consider what it was that brought guilt and ruin upon the whole race of mankind; it was not many offences, but one; nor was it what would appear to us a very heinous sin, but only the violation of a positive precept, the eating of a forbidden fruit: reflect on this, and you will derive little consolation from the thought that you are not so bad as others. But, whether your sins have been more or less heinous, there is one Refuge, and only one, to which you must flee for safety. The refuge provided for our first parents was, "The seed of the woman, who was in due time to bruise the serpent's head." The same is provided for you. Jesus was born into the world for this very end: He has made a full atonement for your sin: and if "only you acknowledge your transgressions," and believe in him, they shall be "remembered against you no more forever."

 

 

 

 

Genesis 3:15

 

DISCOURSE 7

THE SEED OF THE WOMAN

Genesis 3:15. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed: it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

THIS was the first promise that was ever given to fallen man. The occasion on which it was given was this: Satan had beguiled our mother Eve, and, through her, had prevailed on Adam to transgress: and he had thereby destroyed both them and all their posterity: for, since they were corrupt, nothing but what was corrupt could proceed from them. But God, in his abundant mercy, interposed for our fallen race, who must without such interposition have been involved in all the misery of the fallen angels. Against Satan he denounced a curse suited to his crime: and at the same time informed him, that, though for the present he had prevailed over the woman, a seed should spring from her who should execute on him the vengeance he deserved, and rescue mankind from the misery he had entailed upon them.

Now, as the oak with all its luxuriant branches is contained in the acorn, so was the whole of salvation, however copiously unfolded in subsequent revelations, comprehended in this one prophecy; which is, in fact, the sum and summary of the whole Bible. And on this promise all the Saints lived, during the space of 2000 years: yes, all from Adam to the time of Abraham were encouraged, comforted, and saved by this promise alone, illustrated as it was by sacrifices appointed by the Lord.

In explaining this prophecy, I shall call your attention to,

I. The person here predicted—

It was the Lord Jesus Christ; who was in a peculiar way "the seed of the woman:" for he was formed in the womb simply by the agency of the Holy Spirit, and was born of a pure virgin altogether without the intervention of man. And this was necessary: for, had he been born like other men, he would have been in the loins of Adam, like other men; and therefore would, like them, have been partaker of his guilt and corruption. But, being the sole and immediate workmanship of God, he was absolutely perfect, and therefore capable of sustaining the office of a Savior for fallen man: whereas, if he had been otherwise formed, he would have needed a Savior for himself, and been incapable of effecting salvation for others. Thus you see, that when it was impossible for man to restore himself to God, God "laid help for him upon One that was Mighty;" on one who, being God and man in one person, was able to effect for men all that their necessities required. As man, he could atone for sin; and as God, he could render that atonement available for all who should trust in him.

At the same time that this prophecy announced the Messiah's advent, it declared,

II. The conflicts he should sustain—

Between Satan and him, God put an irreconcilable enmity; which, without a moment's intermission, has raged, from that very time even to the present hour. Satan, having, thus introduced sin into the world, instigated every child of Adam to the commission of it. And how far he prevailed, may be seen in this, that he induced the very first-born of man to murder his own righteous brother, for no other reason than because he was more righteous than himself. At times he had so entirely reduced the whole race of man to his dominion, that scarcely a righteous man existed upon earth. And, when God sent prophets to reclaim the world, Satan stirred up the people of every age and place to destroy them. At last, when the promised Seed himself came, Satan only exerted himself the more violently against him, if by any means he might prevail to destroy the Savior himself. No sooner was Jesus born into the world, than Satan stimulated Herod to destroy all the males around Bethlehem from two years old and under, that so it might be impossible for Jesus to escape. And, when Jesus was entering upon his ministry, he urged him to cast himself down from a pinnacle of the temple, if perhaps he might thus induce him, under an idea of trusting in God, to destroy himself. Afterwards he stirred up Peter to dissuade him from executing the work he had undertaken; saying, "Master, spare yourself." When he could not prevail in any of these ways, he put it into the heart of Judas to betray him, and stirred up all the Priests and Elders to put him to death. In like manner has this wicked adversary still prosecuted his malignant work even to the present hour, blinding the eyes of men, and hardening their hearts, and "leading them captive at his will:" and if any have dared to resist his will, he has stirred up all his own agents, to persecute them, and to put them to death.

On the other hand, Christ has also fought against him from the beginning, rescuing men from his dominion, and "turning millions from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God." In the days of his flesh especially he showed his superiority to Satan, by dismissing him from many whom he had possessed, and constraining him to relinquish the hold which he had gained, both of their bodies and their souls. And though he seemed himself to sink under Satan's attacks, yet did he, in fact, defeat Satan by the very means which that adversary had used for his destruction: for by death he overcame death, and "him that had the power of death, that is, the devil Hebrews 2:14;" yes, "on the very cross itself he spoiled all the principalities and powers of Hell, triumphing over them openly in it Colossians 2:15." And in his ascension, "he led captivity itself captive;" and has bound all the hosts of Hell, "reserving them in chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day." In his people, too, he gets the victory from day to day, enabling them to resist him manfully, and to trample both Satan and all his hosts under their feet.

This conflict is still passing from day to day. The God of this world, and the God of Heaven, are contending for us, and in us 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 4:6; and as long as the world shall stand, will this contest continue.

But in our text we are informed, that Jesus will prevail, and enjoy at last,

III. The victory assured to him—

In the conflict, the Savior's "heel is bruised:" but "he bruises the head" of his great adversary, and breaks his power for evermore. Behold the Savior on his throne of glory, far above all the principalities and powers, whether of Heaven or Hell! Behold the progress of his Gospel in every age! and see in Heaven the multitudes which no man can number, continually increased by fresh accessions from every quarter of the globe, from the most blinded votaries of Satan among the Heathen, as well as from his more specious servants among ourselves! See the weakest of the children of men enabled to triumph over him, and, though persecuted like their divine Master, "made more than conquerors through him that loved them!" This is going forward among ourselves: so that you see the most devoted vassals of Satan casting off his yoke, and "brought into the liberty of the sons of God:" and soon shall you behold those whom once he held in the most miserable bondage, seated upon thrones of glory, and actually sitting in judgment upon the angels, as assessors with their divine Master 1 Corinthians 6:2-3. Yes: it is but a little time, and the seed of Christ, as well as Christ himself, will be seated upon thrones of glory; while Satan, and his seed, shall be cast into the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Such is the prophecy before us: and in this way is it accomplishing yet daily; and shall be accomplished, until the final destinies of each shall terminate the contest for evermore.

Behold then, brethren,

1. How marvelous is the grace of God!

Think under what circumstances he made this promise to man. He had placed our first parents in Paradise, where there was everything that could conduce to their happiness; and he himself visited and communed with them, as a friend. Yet did they, on the very first temptation, violate his express command: and then, instead of humbling themselves before him, they fled from him; and, when summoned into his presence, excused themselves, and even cast the blame of their iniquity on him:—"The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat: The woman, whom you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." What might we expect now that he should do unto them? surely, that he should consign them over to the misery they deserved. But no: unsought and unsolicited, he promised them a Savior, even his only dear Son, who should rescue both them and all their believing posterity out of the hands of their great adversary. Now then, I ask, If God, unsolicited, bestowed the Savior himself on these impenitent offenders, will he refuse salvation to any penitent who calls upon him? Let no sinner in the universe despond: but let every one see in this prophecy how abundant and inconceivable is the grace of God.

2. How complete shall be the victory of all who believe in Christ!

You appear to be in a hopeless condition, because your corruptions are so great and your enemies so mighty. Go, then, to the cross of Christ, and there see the Savior himself hanging, an helpless and inanimate corpse! What hope has he of victory? Wait a moment, and you will see. Behold him rising from the grave, ascending to Heaven, sending down the Holy Spirit, establishing his kingdom upon earth, surrounded in Heaven by myriads of his redeemed, and sealing up his great adversary, with his hosts, in the bottomless abyss of Hell! See all this; and then know what shall be the outcome of your conflicts. You are fighting with a vanquished enemy: and it is but a little time, and he, your Almighty Savior, "will bruise Satan under your feet," and will elevate you to thrones of glory, like unto his own. Only follow him in his conflicts, and you shall be partakers with him in all his victories and triumphs for evermore.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 3:21-24

 

DISCOURSE 8

THE WAY OF SALVATION ILLUSTRATED TO OUR FIRST PARENTS

Genesis 3:21-24. Unto Adam also, and to his wife, did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them. And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to until the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden, cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

THE works of God are extremely different from those which are carried on by man. Creatures of limited capacity are compelled to act as unforeseen occasions require; and hence their works are, for the most part, independent and detached, without being regulated by any fixed system: but the works of God are all united and harmonious, as parts of one grand whole. In the structure of the tabernacle and all its diversified rites, there was not anything, however minute or obscure, which did not shadow forth some mystery. This appears from the strict injunction given to Moses to "make everything according to the pattern shown to him in the mount." It is thus also with respect to all the most remarkable events recorded in the Bible, whether they relate to the Jewish, patriarchal, or antediluvian ages; they were all, in some respect, figurative and emblematical. Among these we must certainly number the fall of man, with all its attendant circumstances: the covenant made with him, the means by which he was induced to violate it, the way provided for his recovery, were all of lasting and universal importance. In like manner, the facts specified in our text must be regarded, not as mere uninteresting casualties, but as occurrences of most mysterious import. In God's conduct towards our first parents, as it is here related, we may see,

I. The manner in which He illustrated to them his promised salvation—

Our first parents, feeling in themselves the sad effects of their fall, "sewed fig-leaves together and made themselves aprons," or rather, twined together the tender branches of the fig-tree for girdles. But God was pleased to clothe them in another manner, even with the skins of beasts; and thus to direct their attention to,

1. The blood of atonement—

We are not expressly told, that the animals which were slain on this occasion were offered in sacrifice; but if we duly weigh the reasons for believing that God ordered them to be slain for this purpose, we can scarcely entertain any doubt upon the subject.

In the first place, we may be sure that the offering of sacrifices was not an institution of man's device; and that, if it were, it could not be pleasing and acceptable to God. How could it enter into the mind of man to imagine, that the blood of a beast could make any satisfaction to God for sin? What connection is there between the blood of a beast and the sin of man? There was much more reason to think that God would be displeased with the unauthorized destruction of his creatures, than that he would be so pleased with it as to forgive the iniquities of mankind on account of it. Moreover, had not God himself enjoined this method of propitiating his anger, we cannot doubt but that he would have answered the presumptuous offerer, as he did the Jews, "Who has required this at your hands Isaiah 1:12. ?" But we know that when a bleeding sacrifice was offered to him by Abel, he testified his acceptance of it in a visible manner, probably by sending fire from Heaven to consume it. We cannot doubt, therefore, but that the institution of sacrifices was of divine appointment.

In the next place, if sacrifices were not now instituted, we can scarcely account for the slaughtering of the animals, and much less for God's direction respecting it. It is thought indeed by some, that the flesh was given to our first parents for food: but this seems very improbable, because God told Adam at this very time, that he should henceforth exist, not upon the fruits of the garden as before, but on "the herb of the field," which should be produced only by constant and laborious cultivation Genesis 3:18-19. Nor was it until after the flood that God gave to man the liberty of eating the flesh of animals Genesis 9:3. Hence, if the animals were not offered to God in sacrifice, they were killed merely for their skins, which seems to be by no means an adequate reason for God's interposition. On the contrary, if they were by God's commandment offered in sacrifice, we see, what we are in no other place informed of, the origin of the institution; and at the same time we behold abundant reason for God's special interference. We see what instruction and consolation our first parents must derive from such an ordinance: for while they beheld their own desert in the agonies and death of an unoffending creature, they must be encouraged to look forward to that Seed of the Woman, who was in due time to offer himself a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.

We cannot doubt therefore but that this was the time when sacrifices were instituted; and that, as they were appointed of God to prefigure the great sacrifice, they were enjoined at this time for the express purpose of directing the views of fallen man to that atonement which Christ should afterwards offer to God upon the cross. In this sense, as well as in the divine purpose, may Christ be called, "The Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world Revelation 13:8."

2. The righteousness of Him who made that atonement—

When we are told that "the Lord God made them coats of skins, and clothed them," can we suppose that nothing was intended by him but to provide more conveniently for their decency and comfort? Impossible! There was in this a deep stupendous mystery. Adam and Eve thought only of a covering for their bodies: God pointed out to them a covering for their souls. They were despoiled of their original righteousness; and they needed a robe to cover their naked souls, that they might again stand before God "without spot or blemish." All means which they could devise for this purpose would be ineffectual. God therefore was pleased to shadow forth to them the righteousness of Christ; of Him who was "to be the atoning sacrifice for their sins," and emphatically to be "called, The Lord our Righteousness Jeremiah 23:6." How far they beheld the substance in the shadow, we cannot say: but there is abundant proof that the same means were used in subsequent ages to represent the Savior to the world. All the vestments of the priests, sprinkled with the blood of sacrifices, clearly showed in what manner all were to be clothed who would be "a holy priesthood to the Lord." And the language of Prophets, and Apostles, and of Christ himself, has so strict an analogy with the event before us, that we cannot but discern their harmony and agreement. Isaiah speaks of being "clothed with the garments of salvation, and covered with a robe of righteousness Isaiah 61:10;" Paul, enjoying the fuller light of the Gospel, says more plainly, "Put you on the Lord Jesus Christ Romans 13:14;" And our blessed Lord more plainly still, "I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white clothing, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness may not appear Revelation 3:18."

We need only further observe, that in this marvelous appointment God taught our fallen parents to look to Him through one Mediator, and to make that one object the only ground of all their hopes; or, in other words, to expect pardon only through His atoning blood, and acceptance only through His meritorious and perfect righteousness.

Having seen how strongly God illustrated to them his promised salvation, let us notice,

II. The means he used to secure their acceptance of it—

He banished his guilty creatures from Paradise, and, by the ministration of angels, prohibited effectually their return to it. This he did,

1. Partly in judgment—

The ironical and sarcastic expressions which purpose to be the reason of this dispensation, are certainly strong indications of his heavy displeasure. The flattering hope of "becoming as Gods," had led Adam and his wife to transgress the divine command. Now therefore God casts it, as it were, in their teeth, with holy indignation, in order that they might see what they had gained by their folly and presumption. And whereas they had hitherto enjoyed the liberty of eating all the fruits of Paradise, and especially that which was a pledge and earnest to them of God's eternal favor, he drives them out from the garden, to live in a far different manner by the sweat of their brow, and to feel that they were cut off from that life, which, had they maintained their innocence, would have been consummated in glory.

Thus we behold them driven as outcasts from God and happiness, and doomed to a life of labor and sorrow which should outcome in a painful death, and (if repentance intervened not) in everlasting misery.

2. Partly in mercy—

God's judgments in this world have always been tempered with mercy; yes so tempered, as to be capable of being turned into the richest blessings. Thus it was in the case before us. Our first parents had been accustomed to consider the tree of life as a pledge of the divine favor; and would be likely to regard it in the same view after their fall, as they had done before. Under this delusion they would be ready to embrace these means of reconciliation with their offended God, and would be led thereby to neglect the means which God had prescribed. Persisting in this mistake, they would pacify their own consciences; and having lulled themselves asleep under the guilt of their transgressions, they would perish in the midst of all the mercy which God had offered them through the mediation of his Son. To prevent these fatal consequences, God cuts them off from all access to the tree of life, and thus necessitates them to seek for mercy in his appointed way. Precisely as, in destroying the Jewish nation and polity, God punished his people indeed, but at the same time consulted their truest interests, by rendering it impossible for them to fulfill the righteousness of the Mosaic law, and thereby "shutting them up unto the faith of Christ Galatians 3:23. ;" so did he expel our first parents from Paradise, that they might have nothing to divert their attention from that "Seed of the Woman who was in due time to bruise the Serpent's head."

Thus did God "in judgment remember mercy;" and, in the very hottest exercise of his anger, provide means for the richest display of his unmerited, unsought kindness.

From this subject we may learn,

1. The antiquity of the Gospel—

Whenever Salvation by the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus is insisted on, it is exclaimed against as a new doctrine: but it is none other than "the good old way Jeremiah 6:16," which has been pointed out by our Reformers, by the Apostles, by the Prophets, and by God himself from the beginning of the world. God showed it to our first parents immediately after their fall: he showed it them not only by a prophetic declaration, but also by an emblematical exhibition. And our very clothing in which we are so apt to pride ourselves, would, if we considered the origin and occasion of it, lead us to that way, even to Jesus, in whom alone we can find righteousness and life. Let us then hold fast the Gospel, without regarding the senseless cavils of the world: and while "the proud make it only a stumbling-block, and the conceited reject it as foolishness," let us receive and glory in it as "the power of God and the wisdom of God."

2. The necessity of embracing it—

Like our first parents, we are ready to rest in the seals of the covenant (as baptism and the Lord's supper), instead of fleeing to the Savior himself. But whatever devices we use for the reconciling of ourselves to God, they will all prove vain and useless: we shall find them "a bed too short to stretch ourselves upon, and a covering too narrow to wrap ourselves in Isaiah 28:20." There was one way appointed from the beginning: that way has been progressively displayed, and illustrated in different ages; but it has never been altered, no not in the slightest degree. "There never has been any other name whereby we could be saved, but that of Jesus Christ Acts 4:12. ;" and the only difference between us and the Jews, or us and Adam, is, that we behold in meridian splendor the truths, of which they saw only the early dawn. Let us be persuaded then that all access to life by the first covenant is stopped; and that all plans for covering our own shame will be in vain. We must all be accepted through one sacrifice, and all be clothed in one righteousness; and all comply with that direction of the prophet, "In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory."

 

 

 

 

Genesis 4:8-10

 

DISCOURSE 9

THE DEATH OF ABEL

Genesis 4:8-10. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel your brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper? And He said, What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood cries unto me from the ground.

IT is scarcely to be conceived how much iniquity there is in the heart of fallen man. That we have passions which incline us occasionally to deviate from the path of duty, is nothing more than what all feel and confess: but that we are ready to perpetrate all manner of evil, not excepting even murder itself, few are sufficiently candid or intelligent to acknowledge. This seems an excess of wickedness, of which human nature, unless in very extraordinary circumstances, is not capable. To such a charge most men would be ready to reply, "Is your servant a dog, that I should do this thing?" But we may behold in Cain a just picture of ourselves. What he was by nature, that are we also. The first-born of Adam, begotten after his own fallen image, shows what all are, until renewed by grace: "they live in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another:" and their contempt of God is equal to all the other odious qualities that defile their souls. We cannot but be struck with this in the history of Cain, who having murdered his brother Abel, presumed even to insult his God. His conduct will come properly under our review, if we consider,

I. The Murder—

In this awful transaction, there are two things to be inquired into:

1. The manner in which it was perpetrated—

Satan, in his assaults on man, can exert himself only by wiles and stratagems, not being permitted to exercise his power against us in any other way. But when he employs human agents in his service, he stirs them up to combine in their attacks "deceit and violence." Such were the weapons with which the blood-thirsty Cain sought the destruction of his brother Abel. "He talked with Abel his brother." What the subject of the conversation was, it would be foolish to conjecture: but that it was of a friendly nature, there can be no doubt. It was evidently with a design to allure him into a place of solitude, where he might effect his murderous purpose without difficulty or detection. Had he disclosed the sentiments of his heart, he would have put his brother on his guard: whereas by feigning affection towards him, he would remove all fear or suspicion from his brother's mind, and facilitate the accomplishment of the fatal deed Psalm 55:21. To similar means assassins have had recourse in all ages. It was thus that Joab slew both Abner and Amasa: "he sent messengers after Abner, and took him aside in the gate to speak with him quietly 2 Samuel 3:26-27;" "to Amasa he said, Are you in health, my brother? and took him by the beard to kiss him 2 Samuel 20:9-10;" but his pretenses to friendship were only to secure access to them, that he might strike with effect the dagger to their heart. It was thus that Absalom also contrived to murder his brother Amnon: he made a feast for all his family, and expressed particular solicitude to have the company of Amnon: but the whole was a cover, to effect the destruction of his brother in the midst of his convivial mirth 2 Samuel 13:26-28.

The murder of a brother is such an atrocious act, that it scarcely admits of being aggravated by any circumstances: but if any thing can aggravate it, surely the treachery of Cain must awfully enhance its guilt. Had it been the effect of sudden wrath, it had even then been criminal beyond the power of language to express: but being the result of premeditation and contrivance, of deceit and treachery, its enormity is increased an hundred-fold.

2. The motive to the commission of it—

Gladly would we, if possible, find somewhat to extenuate the guilt of this transaction: but the more minutely we examine it, the more heinous it appears. The Scripture informs us, that Cain, in the commission of this act, was impelled only by envy and hatred. God had been pleased to testify his acceptance of Abel and of his sacrifice, while no such token of approbation was given to Cain. The effect of this should have been, to lead Cain into a close examination of his spirit and conduct, and to make him earnest in prayer, that he might know why this preference had been given to Abel, and how he also might obtain the favor of his God. But, alas! his heart was filled with envy and wrath, insomuch that his whole countenance was changed. In vain did God expostulate with him on the unreasonableness of his behavior Note:, 7. "The spirit that dwelt in him lusted to envy James 4:5;" this malignant passion "was as rottenness in his bones Proverbs 14:30," so thoroughly had it corroded his very inmost soul. The excellence of Abel's character served only to add fuel to the flame. His virtues were his faults; so "impossible is it to stand before envy Proverbs 27:4." Cain hated in him the divine image, as much as he envied him the divine favor. The light of his brother's example was offensive to his eyes; and on this account he sought to extinguish it. John, having told us that Cain slew his brother, asks, "And why slew he him?" he then answers, "Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous 1 John 3:12."

Such were the motives by which Cain was instigated to this infernal deed. The murder was first committed in his heart; and then completed with his hand; according to that saying of the Apostle, "He who hates his brother is a murderer 1 John 3:15." Indeed there is such a connection between "envy, debate, deceit, and murder Romans 1:29." that wherever the first is harbored, the rest would follow of course, if God in his infinite mercy did not interpose to limit the operation of our sinful propensities.

God, who "makes inquisition for blood," would not suffer the murder to be concealed: he therefore sought out the offender, and commenced,

II. The Inquest—

It is said, that "Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be showed before the whole congregation Proverbs 26:26;" and where that hatred has proceeded to murder, God in his providence has generally fulfilled this saying. On this occasion, the Governor of the Universe proceeded exactly as he had done upon the first transgression: He summoned the criminal, and made inquiry at his hands. In the trial we notice,

1. Cain's denial of the fact—

Being interrogated, "Where his brother Abel was," he answered with consummate effrontery, "I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?" Alas! how inseparable the connection between guilt and falsehood! But what blindness had sin induced upon his mind, and what obduracy upon his heart! What could he imagine, when he thus flatly denied any knowledge of his brother? Did he suppose that he could deceive his God? Had he forgotten, that omniscience was an attribute essential to the Deity? Yes: such is the atheism which sin produces: he said in his heart, "Tush, God has not seen: Can he see through the thick clouds Job 22:14. ?" Not contented with uttering this impious falsehood, he added an insult, which we should scarcely have thought he would have dared to offer to his earthly parent, much less to his Maker and his God. Behold this murderous wretch presuming to criminate his Judge, and to reprove him as unreasonable and unjust! "Am I my brother's keeper?" that is, 'What right have you to interrogate me respecting him?' We stand amazed at this effort of impiety: but, in truth, it is no other than what is daily exemplified before our eyes. If we question men respecting the performance of any of their duties, they will not hesitate to condemn our expectations as unreasonable, and the laws on which they are founded, as absurd: and when the authority of God is urged in support of his law, they will not scruple to arraign the wisdom and equity of the Lawgiver himself. The very manner in which Cain attempted to conceal his crime was of itself a strong presumption against his innocence. What need had he to be offended with an inquiry after his brother, if he really knew not where he was? What occasion was there for all this petulance and profaneness? But it was in vain to deny a fact which the all-seeing God was ready to attest Psalm 94:7-10.

2. His conviction before God—

He had effectually silenced his brother's voice; so that no testimony could be borne by him. But the blood which he had shed, had a voice, which cried aloud; a voice which reached the throne of Almighty God, and brought him down to plead the cause of injured innocence. Indeed, every sin has a voice, which speaks powerfully in the ears of God, and calls for vengeance on the head of him who has committed it. It was in vain to dispute the testimony of Jehovah. The criminal stands confounded, and waits the sentence awarded by his Judge. Surely now then at least we shall behold him softened: his obdurate heart must now relent; and he will accept with resignation the punishment of his iniquity. Not so indeed: he expresses no contrition: he asks not once for mercy: he complains indeed, but not of himself, not of the guilt he has contracted, not of the deed he has perpetrated, but of the punishment he has incurred; "My punishment is greater than I can bear." But let not this be wondered at: It is the effect of sin to sear the conscience, and to harden the heart: and the more heinous our transgressions are, the more shall we be disposed to criminate the authority that calls us into judgment for them. Even in Hell itself this disposition is exercised, yes, it rages with uncontrolled and incessant fury: the damned spirits "gnaw their tongues for pain, and blaspheme the God of Heaven because of their pains, and repent not of their deeds Revelation 16:10-11."

Hence then we may observe,

1. How soon did "the enmity which God has put between the Serpent's and the Woman's seed Genesis 3:15. begin to show itself!

It is an undeniable fact, that "all who live godly in Christ Jesus do suffer persecution 2 Timothy 3:12;" and the world, yes sometimes Christians themselves also, are ready to think that the opposition made to them is discreditable to their cause. But our Lord and his Apostles taught us to expect precisely the same treatment which they themselves received John 15:18-20. They inform us also how all the Prophets were used by those among whom they sojourned Acts 7:52; they declare that, in all ages, even from the beginning of the world, "they who have been born after the flesh have persecuted those who were born after the Spirit Galatians 4:29. ;" and that all "the blood shed from the time of righteous Abel" to the time that Christ himself was nailed upon the cross Matthew 23:35, served to illustrate "the enmity of the carnal mind against God," and the path in which all must walk who would finally attain to glory. Hence persecutors are emphatically said to "go in the way of Cain Judges 11." Let none then think it strange that they are called to endure a fiery trial, as though some strange thing happened unto them l Peter 4:12. ;" but "let them rejoice and glorify God on this behalf 1 Peter 4:13-14; 1 Peter 4:16. ;" knowing that myriads who are now in Heaven "came thither out of great tribulation Revelation 7:14. ;" and that, "if they also suffer with Christ, they shall in due time be glorified together with him Romans 8:17."

2. How vain is it to cultivate the friendship of the world!

If, in any situation, fellowship could have been maintained between a carnal and a spiritual man, we may well suppose that it should exist between the two first men who were born into the world, educated as they must have been with the strictest care, and necessitated as they were to cultivate a friendly fellowship on account of the contracted state of society in the world: yet not even these could enjoy spiritual communion with each other. It is true, that all natural men do not give themselves up, like Cain, to the dominion of their lusts: but it is equally true, that all men have in their hearts the same envious and malignant passions James 4:5, and that, until they are renewed by divine grace, they are enemies to true religion Romans 8:7. Hence we are told to come out from the world and be separate, because there can be no more true communion between believers and unbelievers, than between light and darkness, or Christ and Belial 2 Corinthians 6:14-15; 2 Corinthians 6:17. And they who, in opposition to this direction, choose the unregenerate for their associates, or form still more intimate connections with them, are sure to "suffer loss" in their souls; and, if saved at all, they are "saved only so as by fire 1 Corinthians 3:15."

3. How certainly "will sin find us out" at last!

We may conceal our iniquities from man; but we can never hide them from God: "There is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves." God does not often interfere to make known our guilt, as in the case before us; (though the interpositions of His providence in the discovery of murder are sometimes extremely marked and visible;) but in the day of judgment "he will make manifest the very counsels of our hearts." It will be in vain then to deny our guilt, or to raise those captious, not to say impious, objections, which now appear to us of so much weight: Everything will be substantiated by the fullest evidence, and be recompensed according to its desert. O that "in that day we may be found without spot, and blameless!" This may be the state of all, not excepting even murderers themselves, provided they wash in the fountain of Christ's blood, and be renewed by his Holy Spirit. Let us then seek his pardoning and renewing grace. Then shall we be enabled to "stand before our God with boldness," and "give up our account to him with joy, and not with grief."

 

 

 

 

Genesis 4:26

 

DISCOURSE 10

INSTITUTION OF PUBLIC WORSHIP

Genesis 4:26. Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.

OF the various institutions of religion, some were clearly founded on an express appointment from God himself; others appear to have arisen, in the first instance, from the suggestions of holy men, and to have been afterwards authorized and established by divine authority. It is manifest that baptism was practiced by the Jews long before it was appointed by Christ as the rite whereby his followers were to be consecrated to his service: but when it was first introduced, or whether by any express command of God, we know not. The change of the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first was sanctioned by the practice of the Apostles: but whether they received any particular direction respecting it, we are not informed. The presumption indeed is, that all the observances which God has sanctioned, originated from him; and that men began to practice them in consequence of some intimations from him: but as this is not declared in Scripture, we must be contented to leave the matter undecided. We are not any where told that God commanded men to meet together for the purposes of public worship. If we take the text in the precise sense that it bears in our translation, it should seem that public assemblies of worship were rather the offspring of necessity; and that they arose out of an increase of population, and a growing neglect of personal and family religion.

The text indeed is, in the margin of our Bibles, rendered differently: "Then began men to call themselves by the name of the Lord:" Nor are commentators agreed to which of the versions we should give the preference. We shall therefore include both; and take occasion from the words to show,

I. In what manner we should confess God—

The descendants of Cain, who had become "a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth," soon cast off all regard for God, and addicted themselves to open and shameless impiety. Lamech broke through the restraints which the Creator had imposed in relation to marriage, and "took unto him two wives;" leaving thereby an example, which in process of time effaced the very remembrance of God's original institution. From these and other abominations arose an imperious necessity for the godly to separate themselves from the ungodly, and to maintain by an open and more visible profession the honor of God in the world. This they did: and in so doing they have taught us,

1. To separate ourselves from the ungodly—

There is a certain degree of fellowship which must exist between us and the world. But it is by no means desirable to extend it beyond that which the duties of our calling absolutely require. Our Lord repeatedly declares that his faithful followers "are not of the world, even as He was not of the world John 17:16;" The Apostles also with one voice guard us against cultivating the friendship of the world; James 4:4. and teach us to come out from among them 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, and to live as a distinct "peculiar people 1 Peter 2:9," "shining among them as lights in a dark place Philippians 2:15." We should go to them, indeed, when duty calls, as the physician enters the infected chambers of the sick: but we should never forget, that "evil communications corrupt good manners 1 Corinthians 15:33. ;" and that an undue familiarity with them is far more likely to weaken the spirituality of our own minds, than to generate a holy disposition in theirs. In us should be verified the prophecy of Balaam, "Israel shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations Numbers 23:9."

To make an open profession of our attachment to Christ—

The godly, in the antediluvian world, called themselves Children of God, as distinct from those who were only children of men: and it was foretold that a similar distinction should obtain among the followers of Christ Isaiah 44:5. If in one instance Peter failed in acknowledging his Lord, on other occasions he witnessed a good confession, and manfully withstood the threatenings of his enemies Acts 4:8; Acts 4:10; Acts 4:19-20. It may be thought perhaps, that, because Christianity is the established religion of the land, there is no occasion for such boldness now: but the sons of Cain and of Ishmael are yet among us Judges 11; Galatians 4:23; Galatians 4:29; there are in every place those who deride all vital godliness: and it requires almost as much fortitude to withstand their sneers and contempt, as it does to brave more cruel persecutions. There is the same necessity for us to "take up our cross and follow Christ," as there was for the primitive Christians: and the command given to them to "be faithful unto death," is equally to be regarded by us: for the same conduct will be observed by the Judge towards men of every age and nation; "he will confess those before his Father who have confessed him in the world," and "deny before his Father those who have denied," or been ashamed of him Matthew 10:32-33; Mark 8:38.

But the text instructs us also,

II. In what manner we should worship him—

We cannot doubt but that Adam and his pious offspring maintained the worship of God both in their families and their closets: but until the human race were considerably multiplied, there was no occasion for what may be called public worship. But when the families became so numerous that they were obliged to separate, then it was necessary to call them together at stated times and seasons, that, by forming different congregations, they might all receive instruction at once, and keep up in their minds an habitual reverence for God.

The necessity for public ordinances is obvious; and the benefit arising from them is incalculable.

1. They preserve the knowledge of God in the world—

There is reason to fear, that if there were no public ordinances of religion, the very name of God would be soon forgotten. Notwithstanding the establishment of such institutions, the generality are "perishing for lack of knowledge:" darkness has overspread the land, even a darkness that may be seen and felt Exodus 10:21 with Isaiah 9:2. But there is some light shining in the world; and that is diffused almost exclusively by the public ministry of the word. Occasionally, God is pleased to instruct men by his word and Spirit, without the intervention of human agents: but, as he has set apart an order of men for the express purpose of propagating his truth, so he delights to honor them as his instruments to convey his blessings to the world Compare Zechariah 4:11-14 and 2 Corinthians 4:7 with Acts 8:26-39; Acts 10:9-44. Doubtless he vouchsafes his blessing to those who read and pray in secret, provided they reverence, as far as their circumstances admit, his public institutions: but never did he, from the foundation of the world, impart his blessing to those who continued to live in an avowed contempt of his ordinances: No: "he loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob Psalm 87:2."

2. They are the means of perfecting his work in his people's hearts—

God has told us that this was a very principal end for his ordaining men to preach the Gospel Ephesians 4:11-15. ; but it is by means of the public ordinances chiefly that Ministers can address the people: and consequently the ordinances themselves are the means by which God accomplishes his end. We have said before, that God will also reveal himself to his people in secret: and it sometimes happens that their communion with him in private is more sweet and intimate than in the public assembly: but may we not ask, on the other hand, whether, when the heart has been cold and formal in the closet, it has not often been warmed and animated in the church? And is not much of the enjoyment experienced in secret, the result of instructions administered in the public ordinances? In the one they gather the food; in the other they ruminate and chew the cud: but the pleasure and nourishment derived to their souls must be acknowledged, in part at least, as originating in their public duties. To these has God promised his peculiar blessing Exodus 20:24; Matthew 28:20. ; and therefore we should "reverence his sanctuary," and join with one consent in a public surrender of ourselves to God See Zephaniah 3:9; Zechariah 8:20-22.

Address,

1. Those who have others under their control—

Parents, and Masters, you are responsible to God for the exercise of your power and influence. Will you then, either by precept or example, encourage a conformity to the world, or a disregard of the worship of your God? O "destroy not their souls, for whom Christ died!" Employ your authority for God: and, whatever opposition you may meet with in the world, learn to say with Joshua, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord Jos. 24:15."

2. Those who are acting for themselves—

If you have "chosen the good part," be careful that it "be not taken away from you," either through the love of this world, or through the fear of man. Be steadfast, and "endure unto the end, that you may be saved at last." If you lose your life for Christ's sake, you shall find it unto life eternal. But if you are "walking in the broad road," think where it leads: and begin to serve your God in this world, that you may be honored by him in the world to come John 12:26.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 5:24

 

DISCOURSE 11

ENOCH'S WALKING WITH GOD

Genesis 5:24. And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

THE cares of a family are by no means incompatible with a life of devotedness to God. The man distinguished for his piety above all others in the antediluvian world, had a very numerous offspring His eldest son, Methuselah, was born to him at the age of sixty-five; after which he continued for the space of three hundred years to beget sons and daughters. 1–23, to whom doubtless he paid every attention in his power: yet he was not impeded in his spiritual course; but found time to serve his God, as much as if he had been free from all concern about this present world.

We shall consider,

I. His conduct—

We are told, he "walked with God." Now "walking with God" implies,

1. Agreement—

Enoch, as a fallen creature, was once alienated from God, like others Ephesians 4:18, and, during his unconverted state, was full of enmity against him both in heart and life Romans 8:7; Colossians 1:21. ; "walking after the flesh," according to the course of this world, and altogether contrary to God Romans 8:1; Ephesians 2:2; Leviticus 26:27-28. But now he was reconciled to God through faith in Christ It is said in Hebrews 11:5 that Enoch was "translated by faith:" and though that faith might have more immediate respect to some promise given him relative to his translation, yet we can scarcely conceive but that it had a further respect to the promised Messiah. And this idea is greatly strengthened by the account Jude gives of his foretelling the very manner of the future judgment (4, 15.): for if he prophesied of Christ's second coming, doubtless he was not ignorant of his first advent; And was brought by this means to an agreement with him both in mind and will. Thus must all of us obtain reconciliation with God through the blood of Christ, before we can resemble this eminent saint; for it is not possible for "two to walk together except they be agreed Amos. 3:3."

2. Familiarity—

Friends who associate much together, contract a familiarity with each other: they open to each other their sorrows and their joys: they consult each other in their difficulties; and maintain with the greatest freedom a mutual fellowship. Thus did Enoch with his God. He considered God as his friend: he had familiar access to him at all times: he opened to him all his wants, all his fears, all his trials: he did nothing without first asking counsel of his friend, and engaging his assistance.

Nor was this an honor peculiar to him: it is the duty and the privilege of all the saints: we may go and knock at the door of our Friend, and he will always open unto us Matthew 7:7-8; we may have access to him with boldness and with confidence, even in his most private apartments James 4:8; Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 10:19: we may ask what we will of him, and he will do it for us John 15:7. He, on the other hand, will come and knock at our door; and will come in and sup with us Revelation 3:20; John 14:23; he will communicate to us his secrets Psalm 25:14. ; and will in ten thousand ways manifest himself unto us as he does not unto the world John 14:21-22.

3. Affection—

Affection is the very essence of friendship: mere agreement or familiarity are of little value without it: where this does not exist, the fellowship cannot be such as is implied in walking with God. Enoch loved his God, if I may so speak, with all his heart, and mind, and soul, and strength: God would never have given him a special testimony of his approbation, if his heart had been destitute of the sacred flame of love. He went forth to meet his God, as Adam was accustomed to do in his state of innocence: he looked forward with joy to the seasons when he should again renew his fellowship with him: he studied to avoid everything that might in any respect grieve him; and made it the great object of his life to do what was pleasing in his sight.

It is in this way that we also are to walk with God: we Hebrews 10:19. must commune with him not by constraint, but willingly and of a ready mind 1 John 1:3. We must delight ourselves in him Psalm 37:4. His loving-kindness must be better to us than life itself Psalm 63:3; and it must be as marrow and fatness to us to serve and honor him. Psalm 63:5.

How acceptable to God this conduct was, we may learn from,

II. The reward with which God honored him—

The manifestations of God's presence and favor which he continually enjoyed, were a rich recompense for any self-denial which he exercised, or any exertions which he used, to please his God. But, besides all these, God,

1. Exempted him from death, the common lot of all men—

All, the righteous as well as the wicked, must pay the penalty of death, which has been entailed on them by the sin of Adam, and been richly merited by their own personal transgressions. But God has been pleased to exempt from it one in the old world, and one in the new Compare 2 Kings 2:11 with the text. This testimony of his approbation God given to Enoch. He was a bold and faithful witness for God, and doubtless incensed many against him Judges 14, 15; And God took him from a persecuting and ungodly world, who probably enough were seeking to destroy him on account of his pungent admonitions In Hebrews 11:5 before cited, it is said "he was not found." This may refer to some search made by his friends (see 2 Kings 2:16.) or rather by his enemies, (see 1 Kings 18:10.). He took him in the prime of life, without any previous pain or sickness. To some indeed it might appear a calamity to be taken away, in the midst of his useful labors, and while his family were still looking up to him for instruction and support: but he thought it "far better to depart and to be with Christ," than to prolong his days in the midst of a tempting and ungodly world: and God gave him the desire of his heart.

We, however diligent in walking with God, cannot hope to participate in such a reward as this. But death shall be disarmed of its sting, so that it shall be to us rather an object of desire, than of fear and terror 2 Corinthians 5:4; and while the most stout-hearted sinner in the universe trembles at its approach, we shall be enabled not only to meet it with serenity and composure, but to triumph over it as a vanquished enemy. 1 Corinthians 15:55.

2. Exalted him both in body and in soul to a more immediate enjoyment of his presence—

While Enoch was in the body, he could not endure the full splendor of the divine glory 1 Timothy 6:16; he could only behold his God through the dark medium of faith 1 Corinthians 13:12, or, at most, be permitted to "see his back parts Exodus 33:23." But God translated him, both in body and soul, to the highest heavens; making him thereby not only an eminent type of Christ's ascension, but an earnest and pledge to us, that our bodies shall hereafter be raised to a participation of the happiness, which our glorified souls shall enjoy at the instant of their departure from the body. To what extent the blessedness of every individual will be advanced by the re-union of the soul and body, it is not possible to say: but it is reasonable to suppose, that that which consummates our reward, will greatly enhance our felicity. This, however, Enoch had not to wait for; he received his full reward at once; and was thereby distinguished from all those disembodied spirits, which, though perfected in glory, waited for their complete happiness until the day of judgment. The happiness of Enoch in communing with God on earth was doubtless exceeding great: but when he arrived at the full fruition of the divine glory, his blessedness as far exceeded all that he had before experienced, as the early dawn is surpassed by the meridian light.

It need not, however, be any matter of regret to us, that we are not to expect this reward; since, on our dismissal from the body, we shall instantly be in Paradise; and at the day of resurrection, we shall have our bodies raised to a participation of our bliss.

3. Made him a most distinguished monument to the whole world, of the love he bears to those who seek communion with him—

We know but little of the state of those who are gone into the invisible world, though we believe, from the word of God, that they are completely happy. But here is an evidence to our very senses, that none shall be suffered to "seek God's face in vain." Who, after beholding such an interposition of the Deity, such an honor conferred on a "man of like passions with ourselves," can doubt one moment of the acceptance which all shall find, who serve their God in sincerity and truth Isaiah 64:5. ?

In this view then we may consider his reward as a pledge of ours. We shall not be left without many expressions of God's love even in this world, if we endeavor to walk closely with him. But, whether our present state be more or less joyous, we are sure that in the eternal world we shall not lose our reward. We need only to consider the exalted condition of this distinguished saint and we may see in him the blessedness reserved for us.

Infer,

1. What an honorable character is the Christian!

We consider those as honorable who associate with great men on earth: but the Christian has higher company than earthly monarchs; he walks with God himself; and God is not ashamed to call him his friend Hebrews 11:16; James 2:23; John 15:15. In some sense, the Christian is already translated into God's kingdom Colossians 1:13, and admitted into the heavenly Zion, and joined to the society of glorified saints and angels Hebrews 12:22-23.

Let every one then walk worthy of this high calling; and, in a dignified contempt of all inferior objects, endeavor to attain this sublime privilege in its highest perfection.

2. What a happy character is the Christian!

His singularity may bring upon him much odium and persecution. But what need he to regard the frowns of men, who enjoys fellowship with God? One smile from his almighty Friend is sufficient to counterbalance all the indignities that can possibly be cast upon him. Yet, after all, his happiness in this world is but as the drop before the shower. When he has filled up the measure of his obedience, God takes him to himself; a band of angels are sent to bear his spirit to the regions of the blessed. It must not be said of the Christian, "He dies;" but merely, that "God translates him" from a world of sin and misery, to a world of blessedness and glory. "Such honor have all his saints; "God grant it may be ours forever and ever! Amen.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 6:3

 

DISCOURSE 12

STRIVINGS OF THE SPIRIT

Genesis 6:3. And the Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man.

MAN, at first, was created in the image of his God: but when he fell, he begat children in his own fallen image. His very first-born became a murderer. Some of his posterity, however, were pious: but they, not being careful to connect themselves with those who feared God, were drawn aside from religion by their ungodly wives, insomuch that, in eight or nine generations, "all flesh had corrupted their way," and it repented "God that he had made man Genesis 6:6-7; Genesis 6:12." In consequence of this, God determined to destroy the whole earth. But yet, being full of mercy, he would not proceed to this extremity without giving to man space for repentance. Accordingly, he commanded Noah to preach to them; and to declare, that in the space of 120 years the threatened judgments should be inflicted, if the people did not avert those judgments by their penitence. During that period his Holy Spirit should continue to strive with them—but no longer: for "he should not always strive with man, who was now become altogether flesh," and carnal; and who, if he did not repent in the time allotted him, should be left to reap the bitter fruit of his own ways.

That this warning may have a beneficial effect on us, I will endeavor to show,

I. That the Spirit of God, if long resisted, will cease to strive with us.

Certain it is, that the Spirit of God does strive with unregenerate men—

He strove with the whole antediluvian world, by the ministry of Noah: for "by the Spirit did that holy man preach, during the whole period while the ark was preparing, even to the spirits which for their disobedience were condemned, and shut up in the prison" reserved for all impenitent transgressors 1 Peter 3:19-20. "To the whole nation of Israel, also, did the Holy Spirit for ages testify, in and by his Prophets, notwithstanding they dealt proudly, and withdrew their shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear Nehemiah 9:29-30." With us also does he strive, both by the ministry of his word, and by his own immediate agency on the hearts of men. For, what is conscience, but God's viceregent in the soul? By that, God speaks to us; warning, and inviting us from time to time, if by any means we may be induced to repent and turn unto him. Let anyone only look back upon his past life; and he shall find that there have been some periods when he has felt a conviction upon his mind that it was his duty, and would be his happiness, to seek after God, and obtain, while yet he might, the remission of his sins.

But we resist his sacred motions—

To whom among us may not those words of Stephen be applied, (if not in reference to the present moment, yet certainly in reference to some period of our lives,) "You stiff-necked, and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so also do you Acts 7:51." We may not, indeed, have set ourselves in such hostility to the truth as they did; but have we been more practically obedient than they? Have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, calling us to repentance, and to a dedication of our whole selves to him? Alas! there has been the same stoutness of heart in us, as in persons of a more profane character; many of whom, perhaps, have "said, I will not, but afterwards have repented, and went" into their Lord's vineyard; while we, perhaps, have said, "I go, Sir," but have been as far from executing our acknowledged duty as ever Matthew 21:28-30.

And will the Spirit always continue to strive with us?

No: we are assured he will not. We know that his motions may be resisted, until they are altogether "quenched 1 Thessalonians. 5:19." And in many instances has he been driven away by the obstinacy of those with whom he had striven. Of Saul we are told, that "the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul; and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him 1 Samuel 16:14." And it was not without reason that David prayed, "Cast me not away from your presence! and take not your Holy Spirit from me Psalm 51:11. !" When God saw his ancient people incurably addicted to idolatry, He said, "Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone Hosea 4:17." And what else can we expect, if we continue obstinate in our sins? The doom of Israel must of necessity be ours. Of them it is said, "They rebelled and vexed his Holy Spirit; therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and fought against them Isaiah 63:10;" and we truly can expect no other, than that He, whose solicitations we refused to follow, as a Friend, shall send forth his vindictive judgments against us, as an Enemy.

Let me then proceed to show,

II. What is the state of a soul thus abandoned by the Lord.

Truly its condition is most pitiable. God has said, "Woe unto them, when I depart from them Hosea 9:12;" and truly it will be a woeful day for any one of us, if God should ever abandon us to ourselves! for the deserted soul is from that moment given up, yes, and given up forever,

1. To delusion—

It is surprising what delusions an abandoned sinner will harbor in his heart: "I shall have peace, though I walk in the imaginations of my heart to add drunkenness to thirst, and sin to sin Deuteronomy 29:19." Refuges of lies he shall have in plenty, to administer to his composure: 'There is no future state: death is but an eternal sleep: or, at all events, God is too merciful to inflict punishment in a future state: or, at any rate, the punishment cannot be eternal. As for the Holy Scriptures, perhaps they are only the writings of fallible men, like ourselves: or, at best, they are so highly figurative, that you cannot depend upon them.' Thus men take refuge in infidelity, that so they may rid themselves of records, which, if credited, would be subversive of their peace. And to these delusions God will give them up; as he has said: "They have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations: I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them Isaiah 66:3-4." In the New Testament, this judgment is yet more emphatically denounced: "They (the Anti-christian powers) received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved," says Paul: "and for this cause, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness 2 Thessalonians. 2:10-12." Oh, terrible judgment!—and the more terrible, because they who are subjected to it have no conception that they are lying under it: but it will be the assured portion of all with whom the Spirit of God has ceased to strive.

2. To bondage—

To the power of their own lusts will they be given up, so that Satan shall lead them captive at his will. How awful is that declaration of Solomon, "His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself; and he shall be held with the cords of his own sins Proverbs 5:22. !" Yet this must be the fate of all who constrain the Holy Spirit to depart from them. If men "will despise and reject all the counsel of the Lord, they will assuredly be left to eat the fruit of their own ways, and be filled with their own devices." It was so with the Heathen, "who liked not to retain God in their knowledge: he gave them over to a reprobate mind Romans 1:28." It was so, also, with the Israelites: "My people would not hearken to my voice, and Israel would none of me: so I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust; and they walked in their own counsels Psalm 81:11-12." What more common than to see this very judgment inflicted before our eyes? The infidel, the drunkard, the whoremonger, the thief, the covetous man, the profane swearer, what slaves do they become to their respective habits! These show us the very truth that I am insisting on; and declare, with one voice, that the Ethiopian may as well change his skin or the leopard his spots, as they renounce the habits to which they have been given over by their God.

3. To obduracy—

Pharaoh, for his obstinacy, was given up to a state of hardness that is scarcely to be credited. And how many, in every age, when forsaken by the Lord, have had "their consciences seared as with a hot iron," and become altogether "past feeling Ephesians 4:19; 1 Timothy 4:2. !" Behold the scoffer, who pours contempt on all religion, and, with daring impiety, cries, "Where is the promise of God's coming to judgment? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation 2 Peter 3:4." If reproved for their impiety, they will in effect say, "Who is Lord over us Psalm 12:4. ?" "We know not the Lord; neither will we obey his voice Exodus 5:2." Even in death itself, they often evince the very same hardness, and show how entirely they are given over by the Lord. Their friends around them are ready to say, "They died like lambs:"—and so indeed they did, even like brute beasts that have no understanding, having no conception of the state which awaits them at their departure hence. A terrible judgment this is! and a certain prelude,

4. To ruin!—

There is a time wherein God may be found, by every living man: but that season may be passed; and a time arrive, when he will no more be found Isaiah 55:6, and when all God's offered mercies shall be forever withheld. Such a period had actually arrived to the Jewish nation, when they crucified the Lord of glory. Our blessed Savior, previous to his death, took up this lamentation over them: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets, and stone them who are sent unto you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate Matthew 23:37-38. !" "Oh that you had known, even you, at least in this your day, the things which belong unto your peace! but now they are hid from your eyes Luke 19:42." Thus, it is to be feared, there may be, even among ourselves, some with whom God will strive no longer: they have so long trifled with the means of grace, and been unprofitable under all the culture that has been bestowed upon them, that they shall be henceforth left only to be gathered, in due season, as fuel for the fire Hebrews 6:7-8. What an awful thought, To be left only to "fill up the measure of their iniquities," and to ''treasure up wrath against the day of wrath Romans 2:5. !" Better were it for a man that he had never been born, than that ever he should live for such an end as that! But such is the state of the deserted soul: and at the appointed hour, "wrath will come upon him to the uttermost."

Address,

1. Those who are yet withstanding the motions of the Holy Spirit—

Little do you think how greatly you offend your God, or what misery you are entailing on your own souls. But let me ask, Is there one among you that does not look back upon his past rebellion with regret? Is there one who is not persuaded in his mind, that he would have been a far happier man, if he had obeyed the voice of the Lord, and followed, instead of resisting, the dictates of his conscience? How long, then, will you continue this rebellious course? Shall not the declaration in my text affect you? Shall not even the possibility of your day of grace having come to an end, appal you? Do but think how much you have at stake: and how short is the time which you have to seek the things belonging to your peace; I pray you, Arise, before it be too late, and cry unto your God, "if God perhaps may give you repentance, and you may be recovered out of the snare of the devil, by whom you have been taken captive at his will 2 Timothy 2:25-26. !" "Today, while it is called today, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, as in the day of temptation in the wilderness; lest you provoke God to swear, in his wrath, that you shall never enter into his rest Psalm 95:7-11."

2. Those who through grace have obeyed his blessed will—

Truly this is of the Lord, who alone has "made you willing Psalm 110:3," and has thus caused you to "differ from those around you l Corinthians 4:7." Be thankful for this distinguishing grace; but remember that you still need his gracious influences as much as ever. There is not any part of the divine life that can be carried on within you but by the operation of the Holy Spirit. He must be within you "a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and of might, a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord, and must make you of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord Isaiah 11:2-3." Seek him, then, for all these gracious ends: and be careful that you "do not grieve him," by any sinful disposition, or any secret neglect Ephesians 4:30. It is by him that you are to be "sealed unto the day of redemption Ephesians 4:30," and by him that you are to be "rendered fit for your heavenly inheritance." To him, therefore, "I commend you, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them that are sanctified Acts 20:32."

 

 

 

 

Genesis 6:5

 

DISCOURSE 13

EXTENT OF MAN'S WICKEDNESS

Genesis 6:5. God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

THE extent of man's wickedness is far greater than the generality of mankind have any conception of. While a person's words and actions are inoffensive before men, he is supposed to conduct himself acceptably to God. And even when his words and actions are blameworthy, he is judged as having nothing wrong in his intentions, and as possessing, on the whole, a good heart. But God looks chiefly at the heart, which is the fountain from whence everything that is evil proceeds Matthew 7:21-23; and his testimony respecting it is, that "the heart," not of this or that more egregious offender, but of every man by nature, "is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked." In the passage before us, God assigns his reason for destroying the whole world by an universal deluge. And that we may be suitably affected by it, I shall set before you,

I. The testimony of God respecting man—

He speaks more immediately respecting the antediluvian world—

In general, the wickedness of man was great in the earth. No doubt, every species of wickedness was committed, in the most shameless manner. But, more particularly, "the hearts" of men were evil; "the thoughts" of their hearts were evil; "the imaginations" of the thoughts were evil, and this too without exception, without mixture, without intermission; for every imagination was evil, and "only" evil, and that "continually" What an awful statement is here!

But how could this he ascertained? Who could he competent to judge of this? and on what authority is this declared? I answer, It is the declaration of God, who can discern all things; for "all things are naked and opened before him Hebrews 4:13. ;" and he himself says, "I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them Ezekiel 11:5." And, as he knows everything, so he is able to estimate the quality of everything; for "he weighs the spirits Proverbs 16:2." And this is his testimony, after a thorough inspection of every human being.

But the same must be spoken of man at this day—

God himself repeats the same testimony, in relation to those who survived the deluge, and of all their descendants Genesis 8:21. And it is as true of us, as it was of them. In proof of this, I will appeal to your own observation and experience. What, from observation, would you yourselves say was the state of the world around you? Do you not see that evil of every kind obtains to a vast extent; and that piety, except in some very narrow circles of persons whom the world, regards as weak enthusiasts, is altogether banished; insomuch that you may mix in society for months and years, and yet never once hear them speak with admiration and gratitude respecting all the wonders of Redeeming Love? Of what passes in the hearts of others you are not able to judge; and therefore, in relation to that, I appeal to every man's own experience. What has been the state of your hearts? As to your words and actions, I will suppose them to have been correct: but your "hearts," your "thoughts," "the imaginations of your thoughts," what report must you give of them? Have they been all correct? or, could you bear that man should see them as God has seen them? The proud, the envious, the uncharitable, the angry, the vindictive, the impure thoughts, say, (whether carried into effect or not) have they not sprung up within your hearts as their proper soil, and so occupied the ground, that no holy fruits would grow unto perfection? If occasionally a transient thought of good has arisen, how coldly has it been entertained, how feebly has it operated, how soon has it been lost! And, at all events, if compared with what the Law requires, and what God and his Christ deserve at your hands, tell me whether it do not fall so short of your duty, that you cannot venture to call it good, but only evil of a less malignant kind?

Know you then, all of you, that this is your real state before God: and now learn,

II. What effect it should produce upon you—

Certainly this view of our state, and especially as attested by the heart-searching God, should produce in us,

1. Humiliation—

Even on a review of our words and actions, I am convinced there is not any one of us who has not reason to be ashamed, especially if those words and actions be tried by the standard of God's holy Law. But who among us could bear to have all his thoughts inspected and disclosed? Who would not blush, and be confounded before God and man, if his heart were exposed to public view, so that every imagination of every thought of it should be disclosed? Yet God beholds it all; and has as perfect a recollection of all that has passed through our minds from our earliest infancy to this present moment, as if it had passed not an hour ago. What then becomes us, but the deepest humiliation? In truth, our religious thoughts, when compared with what they ought to have been in number and intensity, are no less a ground of humiliation, than those which have sprung from a more impure source; since they prove, indisputably, how defective are our conceptions of God's excellency, and how faint our sense of the Redeemer's love. I call on you then, every one of you, my brethren, to "loath yourselves for your abominations," and to "abhor yourselves," as Isaiah did, and as holy Job did, "in dust and ashes Isaiah 6:5 and Job 42:6."

2. Gratitude—

We have often told you, that God has sent to us a Savior, even his only dear Son; and that through Him all our iniquities, how great soever they may have been, shall be forgiven. But methinks, this is only "a cunningly-devised fable:" for, how can it be supposed, that God should ever have shown such mercy, and manifested such love, towards such vile creatures as we? But, brethren, however incredible it may appear, it is true, even the very truth of God. Notwithstanding all you have done amiss, "God is not willing that any of you should perish, but that all should come to repentance and live." Yes, brethren, he has laid all your iniquities on his only-begotten Son; who, agreeably to the Father's will, has expiated them by his own blood, and will take them away from your souls forever. Tell me, then, whether gratitude do not well become you? Tell me, whether there should be any bounds to your gratitude? What, think you, would the fallen angels feel, if such mercy were shown to them? And what are millions of the redeemed now feeling before the throne? Oh, let your souls be penetrated with a measure of their love, and your songs of praise abound day and night, even as theirs.

3. Fear—

Though your hearts may have been renewed by divine grace, you are renewed, brethren, only in part: you have still the flesh within you, as well as the Spirit; and you carry about with you still "a body of sin and death," from which, to your dying hour, you will need to be delivered. In fact, your whole life must be "a putting-off of the old man, and a putting-on of the new." I need not tell you what precautions people take, when they carry a light in the midst of combustibles, which, if ignited, will spread destruction all around. Know, that you carry such combustibles about you, wherever you go; and you know not how soon you may come in contact with somewhat that may cause a desperate explosion. You all know how David fell, in an unguarded moment; and what a dreadful tissue of evil was produced by one sinful imagination. Know you, then, what corrupt creatures you are: be sensible of your proneness to commit even the vilest abominations: and pray, day and night, to God, to "hold up your goings in his ways, that your footsteps slip not." It was from sad experience that Peter spoke, when he said, "Be sober, be vigilant; for your adversary, the devil, goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist, steadfast in the faith 1 Peter 5:8." He had indulged self-confidence, and had slept when he should have watched: and hence arose his fall, which speaks loudly to every one of us. "Be you, then, not high-minded; but fear:" and "what I say unto one, I say unto all, Watch."

 

 

 

 

Genesis 6:6-7

 

DISCOURSE 14

GOD'S DETERMINATION TO DESTROY MAN

Genesis 6:6-7. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth.

THE evil of sin is visible wherever we turn our eyes. Not only has a manifest deterioration taken place in the intellectual and moral qualities of man, but the material world itself, together with all the brute creation, bears marks of God's displeasure, and of the curse inflicted on account of sin. The spring with all its vivifying powers, or the autumn with all its profusion of matured fruits, does not more surpass the desolate appearances of winter, than the earth at its first formation did the state to which it is now reduced. It was the garden of the Lord, replete with beauty, and productive of nothing which did not minister to the comfort of its inhabitants: but it is become a waste howling wilderness, infected with plagues, agitated with storms, and fruitful in occasions of sorrow. Whether any additional curse was inflicted on it at the time of the deluge, we cannot say: but the shortening of man's life from eight or nine hundred years to less than one tenth of that period, seems to indicate, that both the frame of our bodies, and everything that contributes to their support, have undergone a further change, and "become subject to vanity" in a yet greater degree, than they were before the deluge. However this may be, it is certain that, of all the judgments with which God has ever visited his rebellious creatures, the deluge was the most tremendous. All other expressions of God's anger have been limited to a few individuals, or cities, or nations; but this extended over the face of the whole earth.

That we may view aright this awful dispensation, let us consider,

I. The state of the antediluvian world—

The degeneracy of mankind had been advancing with rapid strides from the time that Adam fell, to the time spoken of in our text. Their state was characterized by

1. General supineness—

Our blessed Lord informs us, that "in the days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark Matthew 24:37-39." By this he did not mean to condemn the use of those means which God himself had appointed for the maintenance of life and the preservation of our species, but to inform us, that the people were altogether addicted to carnal and sensual indulgences, without paying any regard to their spiritual and eternal interests. The great ends of life were quite forgotten by them; and their only study was, how to dissipate care, and spend their time in pleasure.

2. Awful depravity—

The expressions used in the preceding and following context clearly show, that wickedness of every kind was practiced without restraint Note:, 11, 12, 13. The words themselves are strong; but the frequent repetition of them greatly increases their energy. The law of God being disregarded, and human laws not having been framed and executed as they are among us, the strong and violent oppressed the weak and peaceable; and whatever any man's interest or inclination prompted him to do, that he did without shame or remorse. We may form some idea perhaps of the state which then existed, from what still exists among uncivilized nations, and among us also, when the restraints of human laws are withdrawn How ready are men to embark their property and risk their lives in privateering expeditions, when they can obtain a licence to rob and plunder their unoffending neighbors! And how terrible are the atrocities committed by victorious armies!.

3. Obstinate impenitence—

For a hundred and twenty years did Noah continue to warn that wicked generation 1 Peter 3:19-20. By his practice also as well as by his preaching, did he condemn them. Before their eyes "he prepared (with vast expense and labor) an ark for the preservation of his household Hebrews 11:7. ;" giving them thereby a certain pledge that the threatened judgments should be inflicted on the impenitent and unbelieving: but they, no doubt, ridiculed his precautions as absurd and visionary; and the longer the judgment was delayed, the more bold was their confidence, and the more bitter their derision 2 Peter 3:3-6. Among us, the Gospel, though generally, is not universally, despised: some are brought to listen to its benign overtures: but to such a degree did the contemporaries of Noah harden themselves against the gracious messages of Heaven, that in that whole space of time there was not (as far as we know) one single person awakened to a sense of his guilt and danger.

Fearful indeed must have been their state, when we consider,

II. The regret which it excited in the bosom of Jehovah—

We must understand the language of the text, not in a literal, but figurative sense—

We are not to suppose that God did not foresee what would happen; for prescience is an essential perfection of His nature: take away his foreknowledge, and you deny him to be God. Nor must we suppose that his happiness was really interrupted by what he saw in his creatures; for he is as immutable in his happiness, as in his nature. The language of the text is accommodated to our feeble apprehensions: it is taken from what passes among men, when they are disappointed in their expectations and endeavors. As a potter, finding that a vessel which he has formed with the utmost care does not answer the desired purpose, regrets his labor, and casts out of his sight the worthless object with indignation and grief; so God represents himself as "repenting that he had made man, and as grieved at his heart" that he had bestowed upon him so much labor in vain.

Nevertheless the figure conveys to us much plain and solid instruction—

The same figure occurs in various other parts of holy writ: sometimes it imports a change from anger to pity Jon. 3:10, and sometimes the reverse 1 Samuel 15:11. It is used in both senses, and in connection with the foregoing illustration. Jeremiah 18:3-10. In the text, it is intended to intimate, that God is not an unconcerned spectator of human actions: that he expects men to answer the end of their creation, by seeking his glory and their own happiness—and that he will manifest against sin his heavy displeasure, making all who practice it the objects of his fiery indignation—

The feelings of our Creator on account of man's apostasy are more plainly shown by,

III. The resolution he adopted in consequence of it—

To destroy all the human race was indeed a terrible resolve—

We can form little conception of the distress occasioned through the habitable globe, when once the flood began to rise above its accustomed limits. Every contrivance would be resorted to, and every eminence be made a refuge, in hopes that the waters would subside, and that a premature death might be avoided. When one place was covered, happy would they feel themselves who could flee to some lofty mountain, and carry with them provision for their support. But they would soon find that they indulged a vain hope: a suspense, more painful than death itself, would soon occupy their minds; and the waves, fast approaching, would at last terminate their lives, which fear and terror had already half destroyed. It is probable that many would seek admittance into the ark, and cling to it, when every other refuge had failed. Many too would, doubtless, betake themselves to prayer in the midst of their distress: but the time of judgment was come; and mercy, whether exercised or not in the eternal world, could not be extended to them Thus it was with Saul, 1 Samuel 15:25-26. Children in vain solicited their parents' aid; in vain did the fond mother clasp them in her arms, or the affrighted husband strive to support his beloved wife: all, in quick succession, were swept away; and neither man nor beast (those only in the ark excepted) were permitted to survive the wreck of nature.

But, however terrible this judgment was, it was strictly just—

The punishments inflicted by human governors, of necessity, involve the innocent with the guilty: the children suffer through the misconduct of their parents; yet no one on that account exclaims against the laws as unjust. Why then should that be deemed unjust in the government of God which is approved as just in the governments of men? But God, who is the giver of life, and by whom alone it is maintained, has a right to take it away at any time, and in any manner that he sees fit. Does any one arraign his providence, if numbers both of men and children are carried off by a pestilence, or overwhelmed in a storm? By what authority then do we prescribe limits to God, and say unto him, "Hitherto shall you go, and no further?" We might as well condemn the Governor of the Universe for inflicting disease and death upon one single infant, as arraign his justice for destroying many. The lives of all are forfeited: and whether he take them away after a longer or shorter period, or cut them off singly or at once, he is still the same; "a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he." The Judge of all the earth will do right: and who are we that we should reply against him? "Whoever reproves God, let him answer it."

Infer,

1. We are not at all the more safe for having many on our side—

No doubt, the antediluvians fortified themselves against the warnings of Noah, by the consideration that they acted only like those around them. They probably replied, as many at this time do, 'If I perish, what must become of all the world? And, Is God so unmerciful as to destroy the whole world?' But the event showed the folly of all such reasonings: and we should learn from it to expect safety in no other way than in turning from all iniquity, and seeking refuge in Christ Jesus.

2. There will certainly be a day of future retribution—

From the judgment executed at the deluge it is manifest, that God will punish sin: but from the indiscriminate manner in which that punishment was inflicted, we may be assured, that there shall be a day in which justice shall be more equitably dispensed 2 Peter 2:4-5; 2 Peter 2:9, or, as it is called in Scripture, "a day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God." Then shall every one receive according to his deeds, whether they be good or evil: "the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." May God prepare us all for that great and solemn day!

3. It becomes us all to grieve and mourn for our past sins—

Have the sins of men caused God himself to "repent and be grieved at his heart" that ever he formed man; and should not our sins awaken sorrow and contrition in our hearts? O that we could but view them aright! O that we could mourn over them, as it becomes us, and weep in dust and ashes! Surely if we go on impenitent in our sins, the day will come, when we shall repent that ever we were created; we shall wish that we had died in our mother's womb; we shall find that "it would have been better for us if we had never been born."

 

 

 

 

Genesis 6:22

 

DISCOURSE 15

NOAH'S OBEDIENCE

Genesis 6:22. Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.

NEVER, from the foundation of the world to this hour, if we except the sacrifice which Christ made of himself upon the cross for the sins of men, was there such a demonstration of God's hatred of sin, as that which was given at the universal deluge. All flesh having corrupted their way, God determined to execute vengeance upon all, and to destroy from the face of the earth every living thing. There was, however, one favored servant, whom, together with his family, he was pleased to exempt from the general judgment. Noah was a righteous man, and obtained favor in his sight; and, by means prescribed to him by God himself, he was preserved. Let us consider,

I. The obedience rendered by him—

It is not easy to form a just estimate of this—

Let us contemplate the circumstances in which he was placed. He was appointed "a preacher of righteousness," unto all who came within the reach of his ministrations: and he was commanded to declare that God would overwhelm the whole world with a deluge. Of such a judgment there was no appearance whatever for the space of 120 years, during the whole of which period he proclaimed its approach. If at the beginning of his ministrations any were impressed with fear, they soon were led to deride the menace; and to conclude, from the delay, that the threatened calamity should never come upon them.

Let us next notice the means he was directed to use for the preservation of God's chosen remnant. He was to build a vessel of stupendous magnitude, capable of holding two of every sort of animals that breathed, and of containing also provision for them. The expense and labor employed in constructing this ark must have been immense: and the ridicule which it must have excited, year after year, must have been almost beyond endurance.

Let us, lastly, observe his perseverance in the use of those means, until he had completed the work assigned him. Nothing could induce him to desist from his work, until it was perfected in every part. Then he, with his whole family, entered into the ark, having first assigned to every living creature its place: and then "God shut him in:" and on that very day the rain descended, and the flood commenced, which speedily reached above the highest mountains, and destroyed every living creature from the face of the earth.

Truly this obedience was of a most exalted character—

It showed how firmly he believed the divine testimony, while yet there was not only no symptom of any such calamity, but no conceivable mode by which the threatened judgment could be inflicted. It showed how much he stood in awe of God; and how determined he was, while yet the means of safety were within his reach, to avail himself of the opportunity that was afforded him, lest he also should be involved in the general ruin. It showed, too, how boldly he faced reproach, when cast upon him for executing the divine commands. Had such a conduct been called for during the space of a few days only, we should have been the less astonished at it: but when it continued without intermission or abatement for the space of 120 years, we cannot but reckon it among the sublimest acts of obedience ever rendered unto God by fallen man.

But in perfect accordance with this, is,

II. The obedience required of us—

1. The danger to which we are exposed is similar—

God has declared that he will call the whole world into judgment; and that in that day "the wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the nations that forget God Psalm 9:17." We see not, indeed, any preparation for such a judgment; and are ready to think that it never can be executed. But God has denounced it against the whole world; and executed it shall be, whether men will believe it or not. Multitudes who assisted in building the ark, would not believe the declarations of God, until the threatened judgments were inflicted: and so it is with us. Multitudes laugh at the threatenings of God; and will continue to do so, until their day of grace shall have passed, and the wrath of God shall fall upon them to the uttermost.

2. The means provided for our escape are similar—

God has provided an ark for us—even his only dear Son; an ark, into which all who believe shall be admitted, but which will speedily be closed against the unbelieving world. Many think it altogether absurd to imagine that such an ark is provided for us: they would prefer one of their own constructing, and for which their own good works shall afford the materials. To enter into Christ by faith, and to look for salvation through faith in him, is in their eyes an unsuitable device: and it is derided accordingly, as an indication of weakness and folly. But this, after all, will be found "the wisdom of God," yes, and "the power of God unto salvation" also to all them that embrace it

3. The distinction that will be made between the believing and unbelieving world will also be similar—

Of those who believed the testimony of Noah, not one perished: of those that disbelieved it, not one was saved. And so it will be at the last day. Those who are "found in Christ," will be monuments of God's sparing mercy; while those who have neglected and despised him, will be monuments of his righteous indignation forever and ever.

To dilate more, either on the original fact, or on its typical adaptation to our circumstances, will not be necessary: the whole taken together in one combined view will be found, I apprehend, more instructive.

Learn then, from the whole,

1. The office of faith—

It was to his faith that Noah's conduct on this occasion must be ascribed Hebrews 11:7. He did not reason on the subject that was revealed to him. He did not say, How can such a deluge be produced? or, How can it be supposed that a merciful God should exercise such severity? or, How can it be hoped, that, if all the rest of the world be destroyed, any vessel that I can build will preserve me? It is probable that others argued thus: but he believed, and acted upon, the divine testimony. Now it is precisely in that way that we must exercise faith in the divine records. We are not to argue, How can it be, that any should be punished with endless torments in Hell? or, that so great a part of mankind should be doomed to that fate? or, that a simple faith in the Lord Jesus Christ should be sufficient to deliver those, who without such faith must inevitably perish? We are to give credit to the divine testimony; and to assure ourselves, that whatever God has spoken shall surely come to pass;—that "he who believes and is baptized, shall be saved; and that he who believes not, shall be damned."

2. The necessity of fear—

By this also was Noah actuated; and under the influence of it he prepared the ark Hebrews 11:7. And if we believe God's threatenings against sin and sinners, how can we but fear? The wrath of God is not to be disregarded, as a matter of no concern: no, in truth, it becomes us to tremble at it, and to flee from it with all imaginable earnestness. Well would it have been for them, if the people whom he warned had feared also: but, because they would not fear, they perished. So will it be with us also Matthew 24:37-39. It shall surely be found a truth at last, that "he who, being often reproved, hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without a remedy Proverbs 29:1. Compare 2 Peter 2:5; 2 Peter 2:9."

3. The benefit of obedience—

Here you behold with your eyes what shall be again realized in the day of judgment. Behold Noah for 120 years an object of universal derision, but now, with his family, borne above the waves in perfect safety, while all the rest of the world, not excepting the very builders of the ark, are overwhelmed in one common destruction! Thus let the ungodly world laugh at piety now, if they will: but such will be the outcome of their contemptuous proceedings, when those who were the objects of their scorn will be honored by their God, and be saved with an everlasting salvation. "Say you to the righteous, that it shall be well with him; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings: but woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him Isaiah 3:10-11."

 

 

 

 

Genesis 7:1

 

DISCOURSE 16

PRESERVATION OF NOAH

Genesis 7:1. And the Lord said unto Noah, Come you, and all your house, into the ark.

THE Church of God has frequently been at so low an ebb, that its existence cannot now be traced. There have been times, even since the promulgation of Christianity, when the righteous have been but few: they appear to us indeed much fewer than they really were: and, if we had authentic records respecting them, as we have concerning the Jews, it is probable that we should find several thousand worshipers of Jehovah for one whose name has been transmitted to us 1 Kings 19:14; 1 Kings 19:18. But in the patriarchal ages we are certain that the knowledge of God was very limited: yes, so universal was the degeneracy of man before the flood, that piety was confined to one single family: nor were all of them truly religious, though for their parents' sake they were all made partakers of the same deliverance. The history before us presents to our view a most distressing scene; a world of sinners doomed to destruction; and the only righteous family in the world selected out of them, to be monuments of God's sparing mercy. The account given of Noah in the text will lead us to show,

I. The provision made for his security—

Righteousness is universally an object of God's regard: and though it is not meritorious in his sight so as to justify men before him, yet is it so pleasing and acceptable to him, that he will on account of it bestow many temporal blessings, and in the eternal world will confer a more exalted state of glory Ezekiel 9:4 with 1 Timothy 4:8. On account of his eminent piety, God distinguished Noah See the words following the text, and instructed him to make an ark for the saving of himself and his household.

This ark was typical of the Church of Christ. Peter compares it with baptism, by which we are initiated into the Church; and tells us, that as Noah was saved by his admission into the one, so are we by our introduction into the other 1 Peter 3:20-21.

To mark the resemblance between the type and antitype, we may observe that the ark was,

1. Divinely appointed—

As the Tabernacle in the time of Moses, so the Ark in Noah's times was made according to a pattern devised by God himself.

Noah never could have thought of constructing such a vessel himself: the suggestion originated with God: the model for it was given by God: nor was even the smallest part of it left to be formed after man's device.

And who among the sons of men ever conceived the idea of saving man through the incarnation and death of God's only-begotten Son? Who could ever have imagined that Jehovah's Fellow should become a man; that He should submit to this degradation, yes, moreover should endure the accursed death of the cross, for the purpose of reconciling us to his offended Father, and of "gathering together into one body all things both in Heaven and on earth Ephesians 1:10. ?" Who, I ask, would have ever thought of forming a church in such a way, and of saving man by such means? The whole plan bears the stamp and character of a divine origin, according to what is said by the Apostle, "By grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God Ephesians 2:8. Ôï it should seem, refers rather to the sentiment expressed, than to ðßóôéò, which is of the feminine gender."

2. Wisely framed—

The ark, it must be confessed, did not accord with those principles of navigation which obtain among us: it was defective in some of the most essential points: it had no mast, no sails, no rudder. But it was so constructed as to convince all who were saved in it, that their salvation was of God alone, and that to him alone was all the glory due. At the same time it was so formed, that every creature in it found ample accommodation.

The Church too is constituted far otherwise than human wisdom would have framed it. Man would have left room for the display of his own skill, and for the establishment of his own righteousness. He would not have chosen to stand indebted wholly to the righteousness of another: that is too offensive to his natural pride: it is "to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness 1 Corinthians 1:23." To have no sails or rudder left for him to manage, would be disgusting; because it would necessitate him to feel his entire dependence on God, and to acknowledge, that "it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy Romans 9:16." Yet in all these things God's wisdom is displayed. This way of salvation is justly called, "the wisdom of God, and the power of God 1 Corinthians 1:24." It cuts off all possible occasion for boasting Romans 3:27, and compels us to say, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto your name be the praise." At the same time it is the most suitable that can possibly be imagined. "While the moral and discreet are constrained to seek refuge in Christ, the vilest prodigal is not left to despair of mercy: he may enter in at the same door with others, and participate the salvation which God has provided for him.

3. Richly furnished—

There was in the ark an abundant store of provision both for man and beast: so that no creature, from the largest animal to the smallest insect, lacked anything that was needful for it.

Surely in this respect it beautifully represents the Church of Christ, wherein the ordinances of divine grace are administered, and "exceeding great and precious promises are given" for our support. There is not a person in it, from the greatest to the least, who may not find all that can conduce to his health and comfort. There is milk for babes, and meat for those who are of full age Hebrews 5:13-14. There is "a feast of fat things" provided for our daily sustenance. There are the richest cordials, "even wines upon the lees well refined," that are dispensed freely to all who desire them. Nothing is lacking: we need never fear lest the store should be exhausted. Nothing is grudged to the meanest servant in the family: all is given to one as well as to another; and to every one, "without money and without price."

We may yet further trace the typical import of the ark in,

II. The direction given in reference to it—

Noah having finished the ark, waited for further intimations of the divine will, which at length were given him. The direction, as it relates to us, implies two things;

1. That we should use the appointed means of salvation ourselves—

God having formed his church, and provided everything requisite for the preservation of our souls, now speaks to every one of us, "Enter you into the ark."

Christ says to us, "I am the door;" "I am the way, the truth, and the life." By Him therefore we are to enter in John 10:9." By faith in him we shall be placed beyond the reach of harm, and may "rejoice in hope of the glory of God Romans 5:2." This is the duty to which we are called.

We are not to amuse ourselves with indulging idle speculations about the fitness of the ark to answer its intended purpose: we have no time to lose: the danger is imminent: if we lose the present moment, we may be undone forever. We have nothing to do but to "enter in," and to commit ourselves to the care of our heavenly Pilot.

2. That we should exert ourselves for the salvation of others—

We should not be contented to go to Heaven alone: we should say with the church of old, "Draw me; and we will run after you Son. 1:4." It is the height of impiety to ask, "Am I my brother's keeper?" We are all appointed to watch over each other: What the Minister is among his flock, that every Parent and Master is among his children and servants. We should employ all the influence we possess, for the advantage of those around us. God testified his approbation of Abraham on account of his fidelity in improving this talent; and inflicted signal judgments upon Eli for neglecting to exert his parental authority. If, like Lot, we cannot prevail upon our relatives to follow our advice, we shall not be responsible for them: but if they perish through our neglect, their blood will be required at our hands Ezekiel 33:8-9. We should therefore warn our children and servants to flee from the wrath to come. We should open to them the way of salvation through faith in a crucified Savior We should declare faithfully to them, that there is "no other name given under Heaven whereby we can be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ;" and we should urge them with all possible earnestness to embrace his covenant, and seek acceptance through him: In short, we should separate both ourselves and them from an ungodly world, and" seek to be found in Christ, not having our own righteousness, but that which is of God by faith in him."

We are aware that many objections will arise against this advice: which therefore we will briefly consider.

1. We are in the ark already—

It is granted, that as far as the ark designates the visible Church of Christ, we are all inclosed in it In the baptismal service we pray, that, "as Noah and his family, were saved in the ark from perishing by water, so we, being received into the ark of Christ's Church, may so pass the waves of this troublesome world, that we may be finally brought to the land of ever-lasting life." But we must distinguish between the visible and the invisible church. Our blessed Lord has taught us carefully to distinguish between the fruitful and unfruitful branches; which, though they are both "in him," will be very differently dealt with by the great Gardener John 15:2. The Gospel net incloses many fishes; but the good only will be preserved: the bad will be cast away Matthew 13:47-48. In the field, the tares grow together with the wheat: but a separation will be made at last; the-one for the fire of Hell, the other for the granary of Heaven Matthew 13:30. The Jews were the peculiar people of God: and Paul tells us, that "to them pertained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises:" Yet "he had great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart on account of them;" which he would not have had, if he had thought that the possession of those outward privileges was sufficient. But he accounts for his feelings by saying, that "all are not Israel, who are of Israel Romans 9:3-6." And he elsewhere assures us, in still stronger terms, that it is not any outward privilege or profession that constitutes us Christians, but an inward change of heart, which approves itself to the all-seeing God Romans 2:28-29. Let us not then deceive ourselves, or imagine that we must of necessity be saved because we have been baptized: for there was an "accursed Ham" in the ark, as well as a righteous Noah: but let us inquire into the dispositions and habits. of our minds: let us examine whether we have given up ourselves unreservedly to God; and whether we are striving to "glorify him with our bodies and our spirits, which are his?"

2. We do not see that we are in any danger—

This was the case with the antediluvian world. They saw no appearance of any deluge: they could not persuade themselves that God would ever inflict such a tremendous judgment on the earth: and they imputed the anxiety of Noah to superstition, credulity, and folly. But did their unbelief make void the truth of God? Yes rather, did it not harden them to their own destruction? What security then will our unbelief afford us? We see not any symptoms of that wrath which is threatened against an ungodly world: but will it therefore never come? Will the word of God fail of its accomplishment? Is it safe for us to set up our opinions against the positive declarations of Heaven, and to found all our hopes of salvation upon the presumption that "God will lie?" Seen, or unseen, our danger is the same: and if all perished at the deluge who took not refuge in the ark, so will all perish at the day of judgment who have not "fled for refuge to the hope set before them."

3. We shall become singular—

This is an objection which we cannot but allow; and it is with pain and grief that we confess its force. We acknowledge that, if we will seek in earnest the salvation of our souls, we must be singular. But whose fault is this? It was not Noah's fault that he was singular in the old world: it was the fault of those who refused to listen to the voice of mercy, and to obey the commands of God. And surely Noah would have paid a very unfitting deference to the world, if he had followed their example rather than his own convictions, and consented to perish with them, rather than secure his own salvation. Why then should we carry our complaisance to such a criminal extent, when the everlasting salvation of our souls is at stake? We regret that we are compelled to be singular: but we must confess, It is better to be saved with Noah and his little family, than to perish with an ungodly world: It is better to walk in the narrow and unfrequented way which leads unto life, than to go in the broad road which terminates in destruction.

Dismissing then your objections, "suffer a word of exhortation"—

To every one we would address the words of our text, "Enter you, and all your family, into the ark." Consider, how near the day of mercy may have come to its close! The day of judgment may be far off, as it respects the world at large; but it may be near at hand as it respects ourselves. The hour of death may be much nearer to us than we imagine: and that will, in effect, be the day of judgment to us. O what shall we then do, if we be not found in the true ark? What shall we do, if we belong not to Him "of whom the whole family in Heaven and earth is named," and be not numbered among his "little flock," on whom alone the kingdom of Heaven will be conferred? Let us only paint to ourselves the distress we should have felt, if we had seen the waters rapidly surrounding us, and the ark shut against us: yet this would be a very faint image of what we shall feel, when the vials of God's wrath shall be poured out upon us, and no hope of deliverance be afforded. Let us then "not seek merely, but strive, to enter in." Let us endeavor to bring all we can along with us. It will be a painful sight, if we be saved ourselves, to see our wife, our children, our servants, our friends perishing around us, and swallowed up in "the lake that burns with fire and brimstone." On the other hand, what a joy will it be to present them unto God, saying, "Here am I, and the children, you have given me!" Let us then exert our influence while we can; and I pray God that our labors may be crowned with success; and that, instead of going to Heaven alone, we may all have some to be "our joy and crown of rejoicing" in that solemn day!

 

 

 

 

Genesis 9:12-16

 

DISCOURSE 17

GOD'S COVENANT WITH NOAH

Genesis 9:12-16. And God said, This is the token of the Covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: and I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud, and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.

MAN has no claim whatever upon his God, any more than a vessel has upon the potter who formed it. He is indebted to God for the existence which he has, and depends altogether on his will for the continuance of that existence. But God has been pleased to lay himself under voluntary engagements with his creatures, in order that they may know how gracious he is, and be encouraged to serve him with more lively gratitude. When he had formed man at the first, he entered into a covenant with him to bestow on him blessings to which he could not otherwise have been entitled. And after that the extreme wickedness of the world had provoked him to destroy it, he given to make another covenant with Noah, whom he had preserved in the ark. He knew that the severe judgment which he had inflicted on the human race would, for a time at least, strike terror into succeeding generations, and perhaps deter them from cultivating the earth. He therefore gave to Noah an assurance that he would never again destroy all his creatures with a flood; and confirmed this promise by a covenant and an oath.

It will be instructive to mark,

I. The peculiarities of this covenant—

In many things it differs very widely from any other covenant that God has ever entered into. Its peculiarity is visible,

1. In the parties with whom it was made—

The covenant made with Adam, included him and his posterity. That with Abraham, extended only to him and his believing Seed. That with Moses, was limited to the Jewish nation. But the covenant with Noah comprehended the whole creation: it embraced the beasts of the field, as well as the human race: every living creature, not excepting the meanest reptile, was interested in it.

2. In the blessings which it promised—

All other covenants held forth spiritual and eternal blessings to those who were admitted into them. Even the Mosaic covenant, which dwelt so much upon the enjoyment of the promised land, can by no means be considered as confining the prospects of the Jews to temporal happiness: for the presence of God among them was very distinctly promised them, together with the special manifestations of his love and favor: and the very land itself was regarded as typical of a better rest, which they were hereafter to receive. But the covenant made with Noah, promised only that the earth should not any more be destroyed by a flood. It engaged indeed that there should be a constant succession of the seasons until the end of time: but it gave no intimation whatever of spiritual mercies. Being made with the whole creation of beasts as well as men, it promised only such blessings as all the creation could partake of.

3. In the seal with which it was confirmed—

Every covenant has a seal affixed to it, as a pledge of its accomplishment. The Adamic covenant was confirmed by the tree of life; the Abrahamic, by circumcision; the Christian, by baptism. In each the seal was significant, either of duties undertaken, or of benefits conferred. But the seal that was chosen for the covenant with Noah, was very peculiar. It was the rainbow. Whenever a rainbow appears, it is a sign that there is rain at that very moment descending on the earth; (for a rainbow is nothing more than the rays of the sun reflected from the drops that fall): consequently, it is in itself rather a ground for apprehending that another deluge may come. Yet God was pleased to appoint that as a token and pledge, that he never will deluge the earth again: he has chosen that, I say, which is an intimation of our danger, to be his pledge for our security.

Without insisting any longer on these subordinate matters, we proceed to notice,

II. Wherein it accords with the Christian covenant—

There certainly are some striking features in this covenant, which, if not intended absolutely to typify the Christian covenant, are at least well calculated to draw our attention to it.

1. It was founded upon a sacrifice—

This is particularly deserving of notice. As soon as Noah had come out from the ark, he built an altar, and offered sacrifices upon it. These sacrifices were to God "an odor of a sweet smell:" yes, so acceptable were they to him, that he immediately "said in his heart, I will not curse the ground any more for man's sake Genesis 8:20-22." Can we refrain from acknowledging the correspondence which this bears with the covenant of grace? The hopes which God has been pleased to give us of deliverance from the curses of his law, are altogether founded on that great sacrifice which was once offered on the cross. The covenant indeed was made thousands of years before our blessed Savior became incarnate: but he was, in the divine intention and purpose, "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." From the moment he undertook our cause, he engaged to "make his soul an offering for sin Isaiah 53:10-12;" and it was on that ground that he was to have a people given to him for "a purchased possession Ephesians 1:14."

Let us never forget this glorious truth; "Our curse was removed by Christ being made a curse for us Galatians 3:13;" Our reconciliation with God was effected solely by the blood of his cross Colossians 1:20; God smelled the sweet savor of his sacrifice Ephesians 5:2, and determined that all who came to him through Christ should find acceptance with him; and that "through the blood of the everlasting covenant" he would be a God of peace unto them Hebrews 13:20-21.

2. It embraced all, without any respect to their moral character—

In the passage before cited Genesis 8:20-22. God declares that "he would not anymore curse the earth, though The marginal version is "though;" and it is certainly preferable to the word "for," which stands in the text. the imagination of man's heart was evil from his youth." It was not on account of the merits of mankind that God made that covenant with Noah, nor would he withhold the blessings of it on account of their demerits: yes, though he foresaw that men would still be naturally and universally prone to evil, he voluntarily entered into this covenant, in order that he might display his own grace and mercy towards them. And what did God find in our fallen race that could induce him to enter into covenant with his Son on their behalf? Had he respect to any merit of theirs; or was he prevented by what he foresaw in reference to their demerit? Had he, in short, any other view than that of displaying "the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus?" The parallel in this respect is exact. There is indeed a point connected with this, which forms rather a contrast than a parallel: and we the rather specify it, because the mention of it is necessary to guard against all misconception of our meaning. The covenant made with Noah not only extended its benefits to the ungodly, but left them still as ungodly as ever: whereas the covenant of grace makes provision for the change of men's characters Jeremiah 31:33; it offers indeed all its blessings to the most unworthy; but when they embrace it, they are made partakers of a new and divine nature 2 Peter 1:4, which secures the gradual renovation of their souls after the image of their God. "Sin is no longer suffered to have dominion over them, because they are not under the law, but under grace Romans 6:14." Nevertheless, we repeat it, the Christian covenant includes none on account of their superior goodness, nor rejects any on account of their more atrocious sinfulness; but embraces all who will accept its benefits, and imparts salvation to them freely "without money and without price."

3. It was immutable and everlasting—

It is above four thousand years since the covenant was given to Noah; and no part of it has ever yet failed. There have been partial inundations, and partial suspensions of fruitful seasons: but at no period, from the deluge to this hour, has anything occurred like the desolation that was inflicted in the days of Noah. And we may rest assured, that the revolutions of night and day, summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, will continue until the day of judgment, when the earth, and all that is therein, shall be destroyed by fire. And can we not affirm the same respecting the covenant of grace? Is not that "ordered in all things and sure?" We are told that "God, in order to show the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to Christ for refuge, might have strong consolation Hebrews 6:17-18,:" And when did He ever violate his solemn engagements? Who that ever sought to lay hold on this covenant, was rejected? Who that firmly trusted in it ever found it to fail him in any one particular? We challenge the whole world to produce a single instance, wherein "God has ever broken his covenant, or altered the thing that had gone out of his lips Psalm 89:34." The comparison between the two covenants in this particular is not forced or fanciful; it is suggested by God himself; who assures us that the covenant of his grace and peace shall be more immovable than rocks or mountains, yes, as unalterable as the covenant which he made with Noah Isaiah 54:8-10.

We will close the subject with two suitable reflections:

1. What reason have we to admire the forbearance of God!

The continuance of the world, considering the state of its inhabitants, is a most astonishing proof of God's mercy and forbearance. Let us only look around, and see whether mankind be not almost universally living as they did before the flood: "they were then eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage," and regardless of the warnings of God's righteous Monitor. And this is precisely our state: yet God has spared us, instead of inflicting on us the judgments we have deserved. He has even sent us "fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." What reason then have we to bless and magnify his name! But let us rather turn our eyes inward, and see what reason God has had to make us monuments of his vengeance. Let us contemplate how many of our fellow-creatures are at this moment suffering the just desert of their deeds, while we continue upon mercy's ground, and have all the offers of salvation still sounding in our ears. Let us "account this long-suffering of God to be salvation:" let us "seek him while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near."

2. What encouragement have we to seek his grace!

Without ever once adverting to it in our minds, we are at this moment enjoying the benefits of the covenant made with Noah: and, notwithstanding all our unworthiness, we are yet daily invited to embrace that better covenant, the covenant of grace. What shall we do then? Shall we continue regardless of God's mercies, until our day of grace is irrevocably past? O let us "not despise the riches of his patience and long-suffering and forbearance; but let his goodness lead us to repentance." Let us "not receive such stupendous grace in vain." Let us entreat him to "look upon the face of his anointed," as he looks continually upon the rainbow; and for the sake of Jesus to pity and pardon us. Then shall we find favor in his sight, and be delivered from the desolations, which must at last come upon the unbelieving world.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 11:4-8

 

DISCOURSE 18

CONFUSION OF TONGUES

Genesis 9:4-8. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city, and a tower whose top may reach unto Heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

THERE are many things observable in the world, of which neither reason nor history enables us to give any account. One would naturally suppose that Noah and his family speaking the same language, their children should speak the same; and that the same would be transmitted to their latest posterity. Small alterations might be expected to arise; but they would only be different dialects of the same language. But instead of this, there are hundreds of different languages in the world. Even in this island there are no less than three. Learned men have indeed endeavored to trace various languages to one; but though by their efforts they have displayed their own ingenuity, they have never been able to establish their hypothesis. The true origin of this diversity of languages is revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures. In the passage before us we are informed respecting the time and manner and occasion of their first introduction. The descendants of Noah were building a city and tower in order to prevent that dispersion of their families, which God had ordained for the replenishing of the earth: and God, in righteous displeasure, confounded their languages, so that they could not understand each other: by this means they were necessitated to relinquish their project, and to fulfill the designs of his overruling Providence.

In our observations on the history of these builders we shall notice,

I. Their intentions—

It does not appear that they designed to fortify themselves against another deluge; for then they would have built on a mountain rather than a plain.—They had principally two things in view:

1. The advancement of their own honor—

They said, "Go to, let us make ourselves a name." They thought that by raising this city they should immortalize themselves, and be famed for their wisdom and energy to the remotest generations. And here we see the principle which actuates all the world. What is it but the desire of fame which impels the warrior to the field of battle? What has greater influence on the philosopher, or more forcibly animates him in his researches after knowledge? What is it that actuates the rich in constructing and decorating their spacious edifices, but a desire to display their taste and opulence? Even the charitable are too often under the influence of this motive. To this, in many instances, must be ascribed the founding of colleges, or endowing of hospitals, or contributing to the support of established institutions. If, in any public charity, the publishing of the names of its supporters were to be discontinued, a difference would soon be found in the amount of the contributions. Would to God we could exempt the professors of religion also from this imputation! Where the heart is really right with God, it is on its guard against this base principle; but there are too many hypocrites, whose chief aim is to be accounted religious, and to be admired either for their talents or their virtues. There will at times be a mixture of principle in the best of men, which it is the labor of their lives to detect and rectify: and there is in all who are truly conscientious a commendable desire to approve themselves to their fellow-creatures in the discharge of their several duties. It is not in reference to either of these that we now speak. It is rather in reference to those in whom the love of fame has a predominant ascendancy: of them we say, as of the builders of Babel, that they are the objects of God's just and heavy displeasure See this exemplified in Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:30-31.) Herod (Acts 12:22-23.) and even the pious Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:13-18.).

2. The gratification of their own wishes—

God had ordered that the survivors of the deluge should "increase and multiply, and replenish the earth Genesis 9:1." Of course, if the whole earth was to be re-peopled, the rising generations must gradually enlarge their borders, with a view to occupy every quarter of the globe. But the builders of Babel thought that such a dispersion would deprive them of many comforts, and be attended with many inconveniences. As for the divine will, they were not much concerned about it: all they thought of was, their own ease and pleasure: and if obedience to God stood in competition with the gratification of their own wishes, they did not hesitate to sacrifice duty to inclination.

In this respect their example is very generally followed. God has prescribed a line of conduct to us which is difficult and self-denying. He requires us to sit loose to the vanities of this world, and to seek our rest and happiness above. This but ill suits our earthly and sensual dispositions. Hence we choose not to submit to such restraints: we think we are at liberty to please ourselves: we pronounce the commands of God to be unnecessarily strict and severe: we content ourselves with such a conformity to them as will consist with the indulgence of our own desires: and we prosecute our plans without any reference to His will, or any subjection to His control.

Look at the young, the mirthful, the worldly, the ambitious; and say whether they be not all treading in the steps of these infatuated builders? Say whether they do not systematically shun a life of self-denial, and follow their own inclinations rather than the commands of God?

How offensive such a life is to God we may collect from those declarations of the apostle, That "to be carnally-minded is death," and that "they who are in the flesh cannot please God Romans 8:6; Romans 8:8."

Since their purpose was directly opposite to God's decree, we shall not wonder at,

II. Their disappointment—

God in this place, as also in several other places, speaks in the plural number; "Let US go down Genesis 1:26; Genesis 3:22." By this form of expression he gave, it should seem, an early intimation of the mysterious doctrine of the Trinity, which was afterwards to be more clearly revealed. Moreover, speaking after the manner of men, he represents himself as coming down from Heaven to inspect their work, and as feeling an apprehension, that, if he did not interrupt its progress, his own plans respecting the dispersion of mankind would be defeated. He then declares his determination to frustrate their design, and to accomplish his own purposes, by confounding their language.

Now in this their disappointment it will be profitable to notice.

1. The time—

God interrupted them in the midst of all their hopes and projects. They had made considerable progress in their work, and were, doubtless, anticipating the satisfaction they would feel in its completion. And thus it is that the expectations of those who are seeking their happiness in this world are generally disappointed. They form their plans; they prosecute their designs; they advance in their prospects; partial success animates them to a more diligent pursuit of their favorite object: but sooner or later God stops them in their career, and says to them, "You fool, this night shall your soul be required of you." "When they are saying, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction comes upon them, as a thief in the night, or as travail upon a woman with child."

2. The manner—

The means which God used to stop the progress of the work was the most unlooked for that can be imagined. The people engaged in it might conceive it possible that they should be stopped by quarrels among themselves, or by another deluge, or by fire from Heaven; but they could never entertain the remotest idea of such an interruption as they experienced. And thus does God generally interpose to disappoint the expectations of worldly men. He has ten thousand ways in which to render their plans abortive, or to embitter to them the very things in which they have sought their happiness. We have labored for honor and distinction: he suffers us perhaps to attain our wishes; and then makes our elevation a source of nothing but disquietude and pain. Many have looked for enjoyment in the acquisition of a partner or a family; who after a time would give the world perhaps to loose the indissoluble knot, or to have been "written childless in the earth." In short, the Governor of the Universe is never at a loss for means to confound the devices of the wise, or frustrate the counsels of the ungodly.

Moreover, as the disappointment of the builders was strange and unlooked for, so was it in a way that perpetuated their disgrace. The building which they had raised would, for many centuries perhaps, be a witness against them: every time also that they opened their lips, they would be reminded of their folly and wickedness by the very language which they spoke: and as long as the world shall stand, the different nations of the earth will exhibit the sad effects of their impiety, the indelible records of their shame.

And where can we turn our eyes without seeing memorials of human folly, and evidences, that all creature-confidences are vain? Ask the aged, and they will testify; inquire even of the young, and they will confess; that the creature, however fair its appearance or promising its aspect, is only "a broken cistern which can hold no water." All of them, both rich and poor, "have gone to it with their vessels, and come away ashamed Jeremiah 14:3." They renew indeed their applications from time to time; but only to experience repeated disappointments. There are but few who have not found their cup, notwithstanding its occasional sweets, so distasteful on the whole, that they are almost weary of the world by the time that they have half completed their destined course. And the more eager they have been in their pursuit of earthly good, the more painfully have they been made to feel, that it was all "vanity and vexation of spirit."

If we look into the eternal world, what monuments shall we there find of disappointed ambition! What multitudes are there, who once said, 'I aspire after happiness; I shall find it in the attainment of wealth, and in the gratifications of sense!' They passed their time in dreaming of happiness which they never realized; and knew not that they had been dreaming, until "they awoke to shame and everlasting contempt." And though, while in this world they justified their choice, they themselves will to all eternity be witnesses for God, acknowledging the folly of their former conduct, and the justice of their present doom.

We cannot conclude without OBSERVING,

1. How awfully do we at this moment suffer under the curse inflicted on them!

Difference of language has not only placed obstacles in the way of commercial fellowship, but has given occasion to contiguous or distant nations to consider each other as enemies. Moreover, it has been the means of excluding the greater part of the world from all the advantages of revelation. And if a benevolent person, desirous of diffusing the knowledge of Christ among the heathen, engage in the arduous undertaking, he must first lose several years before he can attain a competent knowledge of the languages in which he is to address them: even then he labors under the greatest disadvantages in speaking to them; and, after all, he must limit his exertions to two or three nations at the uttermost. Multitudes there are who would gladly encounter labor and fatigue in the service of their fellow-creatures; but they are discouraged by these difficulties, and are compelled to restrain their benevolent wishes through a conscious incapacity to carry them into effect. Nor is this all: for the unlearned of our own nation sustain incalculable loss through the introduction of foreign words, and foreign idioms, into our own language; insomuch that, if they hear a discourse that has been penned for the edification of the learned, the preacher is, in fact, "a barbarian to them," almost as much as if he spoke in another language.

Suffering thus as we do for the transgression of those builders, we ought at least to shun a repetition of their sins, and to humble ourselves before God for all the pride and worldliness of our hearts.

2. How graciously has God blended mercy with judgment!

When the plan of salvation was perfected, and the time for the more extensive propagation of the Gospel was arrived, God inspired holy men, without any previous instruction, to speak all manner of languages, and to diffuse the knowledge of the truth through all nations; that as by the division of tongues he had dispersed men through the earth, so by the gift of tongues "he might gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad Acts 2:3-6 with John 11:52." The end of that gift having been in a measure attained, and the gift itself withdrawn, he stirred up men of learning and piety in different countries to translate the Scriptures into their respective languages, so that the unlearned might read them in the language which they understood. "What do we of this nation owe to God, and, under God, to our Reformers, for giving us the Bible in our own tongue! If the volume of inspiration were locked up in the languages in which it was first written, how deplorable would be our state! Oh, never, never can we be sufficiently thankful that the fountains of divine knowledge are open and accessible to all!

Moreover, though the languages of men are still different, there is a language in which all the children of God throughout the earth agree,—the language of the heart. As far as respects the work of God upon their souls, they all speak precisely the same thing. Sighs and groans and tears are universally the expressions of their sorrow on account of sin. They all agree in exalting Christ as "their wisdom, their righteousness, their sanctification, and their complete redemption." They glory in Him, and in him alone. They are indeed Barbarians to the ignorant ungodly world, who are ready to say of them as the Jews did of the Apostles, "These men are full of new wine," they are foolish, they are mad. But they understand each other: though brought from the most distant parts of the earth, there will be found such an agreement between them, as will unite their hearts to each other in the closest bonds of love. What was said of them before their dispersion, may be said of them now again, "They are all one, and they have all one language." Though Egyptians by nature, they have learned the language of Canaan Isaiah 19:18, and are again united in building an edifice that shall last forever.

Let us then bless our God for these rich mercies; and from being "strangers and foreigners, let us seek to become fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God."

 

 

 

 

Genesis 12:1-4

 

DISCOURSE 19

CALL OF ABRAM

Genesis 12:1-4. Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father's house, unto a land that I will show you: And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him.

OUR God has been pleased to teach us, no less by example than by precept: and the instruction to be gathered from the life and conduct of his saints, commends itself to us with peculiar force, as being less open to the evasions of criticism, or the objections of prejudice. Doubtless we must exercise a sober judgment in determining how far we are to follow the Patriarchs, Prophets, or Apostles; for there were many things in their conduct which were peculiar to their situation and circumstances. But we can never materially err, if we attend to the spirit of their actions: here they were patterns to us: and as far as relates to this, we are to be "followers of them who through faith and patience now inherit the promises." We are bidden particularly to "walk in the steps of our father Abraham:" one of the most remarkable of which is that which is mentioned in our text.

We shall endeavor to observe that sobriety of interpretation, while we consider,

I. The Call of Abram—

The command given to him was most extraordinary—

The world had speedily relapsed into idolatry. Abram was brought up, it should seem, in the common superstition. But it pleased God to separate him from the idolatrous world, in order that he might be a living witness for Jehovah, and preserve in his family the knowledge of the true God. For this end God appeared to him, and commanded him to leave his country and friends, and to go into a land which should afterwards be shown him.

But however strange this may appear, a similar command is given to every one of us—

We are not indeed called to leave our country and connections: but to withdraw our affections from earthly things, and to fix them upon things above, we are called Colossians 3:1-2. The whole world around us lies in wickedness 1 John 5:19; and we are expressly forbidden to be of the world, any more than Christ himself was of the world John 17:14; John 17:16. We are not to love it, or anything that is in it 1 John 2:15-16. We are not to be conformed to it Romans 12:2, or to seek its friendship James 4:4; we are rather to come out from it 2 Corinthians 6:17-18, and be altogether crucified to it Galatians 6:14. We are to regard it as a wilderness through which we are passing to our Father's house; and in our passage through it to consider ourselves only as strangers and pilgrims Hebrews 11:13. If we meet with good accommodation and kind treatment, we are to be thankful: if we meet with briers and thorns in our way, we must console ourselves with the thought, that it is our appointed way, and that every step will bring us nearer home Acts 14:22. Nothing good is to detain us; nothing evil to divert us from our path. We are to be looking forward to our journey's end, and to be proceeding towards it, whatever be the weather, or whatever the road Hebrews 11:14-16. The direction given to the church, is the same in every age; "Hearken, O daughter, and incline your ear; forget also your own people and your father's house; so shall the King have pleasure in your beauty Psalm 45:10-11." There is no exemption, no dispensation granted to any, no difference allowed. Some from their occupations in society must be more conversant with the world than others: but in heart and affection all must be withdrawn from it; "not partaking of its sins, lest they should receive also of its plagues Revelation 18:4."

There will not appear to be anything harsh in the command given to Abram, if we consider,

II. The inducements offered him—

These were far more than equivalent to any sacrifice he could make—

He was to be blessed in himself, and a blessing to others. In respect of temporal things, he was blessed in a very signal manner to the latest hour of his life Genesis 24:1; Genesis 24:35. He was loaded also with spiritual and eternal benefits, being justified and accounted righteous before God, and being exalted after death to the highest seat in his Father's house. He was also a blessing to many: for his children and household were governed by him in a way most conducive to their best interests. The people among whom he sojourned could not but be edified by his instructions and conduct: and to this day the whole of his life affords a stimulus to the church to serve God after his example. But most of all was he a blessing in being the Progenitor of the Messiah, "in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed Acts 3:25, and Galatians 3:8; Galatians 3:16;" and every person will be blessed or cursed according as he accepts or rejects that promised Seed.

Similar inducements are offered to us also—

Everyone who, for Christ's sake, will renounce the world, shall be blessed. He may not possess opulence and honor; but "the little that he has, shall be better to him than all the riches of the ungodly." In his soul he shall be truly blessed. View him in the state least enviable according to human apprehension; see him weeping and mourning for his sins; yet then is he truly blessed Matthew 5:3-4; he shall have pardon and acceptance with his God: he shall experience the renewing and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit: he shall have "joys and consolations which the stranger intermeddles not with:" and in due time "he shall be blessed with faithful Abraham," in the eternal fruition of his God.

He shall be a blessing too to all around him. View him in his family connections; view him as a husband, a parent, a master, a friend; who so kind, so benevolent, so anxious to promote the happiness of those connected with him? View him in the church, or in the state; what blessings does he communicate by the light of his example! what evils does he avert by his prevailing intercessions! Suppose the Christian to be instrumental to the salvation of one single soul; the whole world is not equivalent to the good that he has done. Nor is it that individual soul only that shall acknowledge him as its benefactor; for, all the good that shall arise through the medium of that soul to the remotest posterity, shall be traced up to him as its author; and shall occasion thanksgivings to God on his behalf to all eternity.

Let these inducements be duly weighed, and how light will the vanities of this world appear in comparison of them!

From a believing prospect of these benefits arose,

III. His ready obedience—

Notwithstanding all the obstacles in his way, he without hesitation obeyed the call—

His friends and relatives would consider his conduct as an indication of consummate weakness and folly: especially, when he could not so much as tell them where he was going, they would be ready to pity him as insane. But as, on the one hand, he valued not the comforts of their society, so neither, on the other hand, did he regard their contempt and ridicule: every consideration gave way to a sense of duty, and a desire of the promised blessings. He believed, firmly believed, all that God had spoken. He believed especially that the Savior of the world should spring from his loins; and that, through the merits of that Savior, he himself, together with all his believing posterity, should possess that good land, even Heaven itself, of which Canaan was a type and shadow. Under the influence of this faith he was contented to forego all the comforts that he could lose, and to endure all the sufferings that could come upon him Hebrews 11:8-10.

In this he was a pattern and example to all believers—

If we renounce the world for Christ's sake, and set ourselves in earnest to seek the land of promise, we shall be despised and hated, even as Christ himself was John 15:18-20. But this we are not to regard. We are "not to confer with flesh and blood;" but instantly and perseveringly to pursue our destined course. What though we have never seen Heaven, nor can even tell where it lies? it is sufficient for us to know that it is a land flowing with milk and honey, and that it is "kept for us until the time appointed of the "Father." Nor need we doubt but that it will far more than counterbalance all the sufferings that we can endure in our way to it Romans 8:18. Let us only exercise the faith of Abram, and we shall instantly set out to follow his steps.

Address,

1. Those who are at ease in their native land—

It may appear harsh to say, that, "if you hate not father and mother, and houses and lands, yes and your own life also, you cannot be Christ's disciple Luke 14:26;" but this is the word of Christ himself. It is true, we are not to understand it in a literal sense; for we are not to "hate" even our enemies: but when our friends, or even life itself, stand in competition with Christ, we must act as if we hated them; we must sacrifice them all without one moment's hesitation. On lower terms than these Christ never will accept us: "We must forsake all, and follow him."

2. Those who have set out towards the land of promise—

Terah the father, and Nahor the brother, of Abram, accompanied him as far as Charran; and there (from what motive we know not) they all abode five years. God then renewed his call to Abram; but alas! his father was dead; and Nahor was weary of a wandering life; so that, on the recommencement of his journey, Abram had no associate but his Wife and Nephew. We pretend not to determine anything of the spiritual state of Terah or Nahor; but their never entering into the land of Canaan may well be a caution to us to "beware, lest, having received a promise of entering into God's rest, any of us should seem to come short of it Hebrews 4:1." It were better never to have begun our journey heaven-ward, than to turn back, even in our hearts 2 Peter 2:20-21; Hebrews 10:38-39.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 12:5-6

DISCOURSE 20

ABRAM'S JOURNEY TO CANAAN

Genesis 12:5-6. They went forth, to go into the land of Canaan: and into the land of Canaan they came.

THE call of Abram is one of the most instructive subjects that can occupy the human mind; both because the perfections of Almighty God were most gloriously displayed in it; and because, in it, he showed himself one of the brightest patterns of obedience that ever the world beheld.

He had had a revelation from God while yet he was at Ur, in the land of the Chaldees: by that he was directed to leave his native country; which was immersed, as he also and his father were, in idolatry Jos. 24:2. At Haran (or, as it is also called, Charran) he abode until his father's death; when he received from God a further direction to go into Canaan, with an express assurance that the whole land of Canaan should be given to him and his posterity for an inheritance, and that in his seed should all the nations of the earth be blessed –4 with Acts 7:2-4. With this direction he complied: he took his wife and family, and all that he possessed, and set out upon the journey; as it is said in the words before us—"They went forth, to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came."

Now this call of Abram is very instructive; no less as displaying the glorious perfections of God who called him, than as exhibiting the distinguished virtues of him who obeyed the call. I propose then, in illustrating this subject, to set before you,

I. The perfections of God for your admiration—

To this we are particularly led by that expression of Stephen, "The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham." Observe, then,

1. His sovereignty—

Why was Abram distinguished above all other of the sons of men, to be so blessed in himself, and such a blessing to the world? He and all his family were idolaters, as also were all around him: yet was he selected by Almighty God from among them, and made the friend and favorite of Heaven. Can any account for this? Can it be traced to anything but the sovereign will and pleasure of Jehovah? However adverse any man may be to the idea of God's sovereignty in the dispensation of his blessings, he cannot deny, he cannot question it, in this case. Yet this is really what is done in the conversion of every soul to God. The Almighty Sovereign of the universe "has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began 2 Timothy 1:9." "It is God, and God alone, that has made any of us to differ" from our fellows 1 Corinthians 4:7; and every saint, whether in Heaven or on earth, must say, "By the grace of God I am what I am 1 Corinthians 15:10."

2. His power—

Nothing less than omnipotence could have effected such a sudden and total change in the heart of Abram as was wrought at this time: nor, in truth, could anything less than omnipotence have sufficed to accomplish for him all that was now promised. And is less power required for the "turning of any man from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God?" It is a new creation, and is expressly called so by God himself Ephesians 2:10. It is compared by Paul to the power which the Father exercised in raising his Son Jesus Christ from the dead, and exalting him to glory far above all the principalities and powers, whether of Heaven or Hell Ephesians 1:19-21. See the wonderful force of the original. From the first awakening of a sinner to his final exaltation to glory, he must say, in reference to the whole work, "He who has wrought me to this self-same thing is God 2 Corinthians 5:5."

3. His faithfulness—

Not one foot of ground had Abram: nor for twenty-five years after the promise was made to him, had he the child to whom the promises were made. The time was past in which, according to the course of nature, it was possible for him and Sarah to have a child. Yet the child was given him; and to his posterity all the land of Canaan; and in due time, the seed also, in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed. Thus, in like manner, are all the promises fulfilled to every one who believes in Christ: not one jot or tittle of God's word is ever suffered to fail Jos. 23:14. "The promises of God in Christ are, not yes and nay, but yes and amen, to the glory of God 2 Corinthians 1:20," and to the everlasting salvation of all who rely upon them. However numerous their dangers be, or great their difficulties, "they shall never be plucked out of God's hands John 10:29," but shall be "kept by his power unto full and complete salvation 1 Peter 1:5."

Let us now set before you that which is no less conspicuous in our text; namely,

II. The virtues of Abram, for your imitation—

We are told, on divine authority, that if we be Abram's seed, we shall do the works of Abram. Behold, then,

1. His simple faith—

He received implicitly all that God spoke unto him. To whatever it referred, and however improbable, humanly speaking, the accomplishment of it was, he never for one moment doubted the truth of God's word, "nor ever staggered at any promise through unbelief." Now in this most particularly he is set forth as an example to us; who are required to "walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had while he was yet uncircumcised Romans 4:12." And more especially are we to imitate him in relation to the faith which he exercised on the Lord Jesus Christ, whom he beheld at the distance of two thousand years as the Savior of the world. If any person ever could be justified by his works, Abram might have claimed that honor: but, eminent as his obedience to the divine mandates was, "he had nothing whereof to glory before God;" and, sensible of his own utter unworthiness, he believed in the Lord Jesus Christ for righteousness, and was justified solely by faith in him ib. –3. And why is this so minutely recorded concerning him? Was it for his sake, that he might be honored? No: it was altogether for our sakes, that we might know how we also are to be justified, and may look simply to Christ as our all in all ib. 2–25.

2. His prompt decision—

It is said concerning him, that "when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, he obeyed." There was in him no hesitation, no delay. And in this way must we also obey the divine call, when bidden to "forsake all and follow Christ." We must "not confer with flesh and blood Galatians 1:16. ;" but must, like the Disciples with their nets, and Matthew at the receipt of custom, leave all for Christ. We must be on our guard against specious excuses, "Lord, let me go home and bury my father," or "take leave of my friends:" we must not be looking for "a more convenient season;" our obedience must be prompt, our decision firm and unchangeable: while it is called today, we must avail ourselves of the opportunity that is afforded us to do the will of God: to hesitate, is treason: to delay, is death. "What our hand finds to do, we must do it instantly, and with all our might."

3. His self-denying zeal—

Doubtless Abram felt that attachment which men usually do to their native country; and found it painful to turn his back upon all his friends, and to forsake all the comforts which he enjoyed in opulence and ease. No doubt, too, he had much to combat with among his friends and acquaintance. He was leaving his native country, and yet "he knew not where he was going." How strange must this appear! yes, what a folly and infatuation! But "he knew in whom he had believed," and had no fear but that the Lord Jehovah, who had called him, would guide his feet, and keep him in all his ways. And shall not we also have much to contend with, if we obey the call of God in his Gospel? To renounce the world, to "mortify our members upon earth, to cut off a right hand, to pluck out a right eye, to crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts," is surely no easy work. The very terms in which these duties are expressed sufficiently declare what self-denial is necessary for the discharge of them. From without, also, our difficulties will be increased. We shall have foes without number to obstruct our way; and most of all, "those of our own household." Hence our blessed Lord warned his followers, saying, "If any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." In truth, "if we hate not father and mother, and houses and land, yes, and our own lives also in comparison of him, we cannot be his disciples." Let not this appear a hard saying: obey it, like Abram; and, like him, you shall find it "a light burden and an easy yoke."

4. His prudent care—

Abram collected together all the substance which he could conveniently carry with him, and took it along with him for his support. To have acted otherwise, without necessity, would have been to tempt God, rather than to trust in him. He had many dependent on him; and it became him, as far as with propriety he could, to provide for their support. And the same prudent care becomes us also. It is one thing to improve the means we possess, and another to trust in them. We must never say to gold, "You are my hope; or to the fine gold, You are my confidence:" but at the same time we are to employ the talents which God has committed to us, that we may support ourselves, and not be chargeable to others. That is a remarkable expression of Solomon, "I wisdom dwell with prudence Proverbs 8:12." And a prudent attention to our worldly circumstances tends rather to honor, than disgrace, religion. Abram, as the head of a family, provided for his own: and he did right in this: yes, if he had not done it, he would have "denied the faith, and been worse than an infidel." Whatever, then, be your situation in life, endeavor to discharge the duties of it in a becoming manner; and let your determination through grace be like that of David, "I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way Psalm 101:2."

5. His persevering diligence—

In stopping at Haran until his father's death, I suppose, he judged that to be, or rather, that it was for the time, his proper destination. But being afterwards directed to go to Canaan, he went forth, and turned not aside until he came thither: and there he abode for many years. Indeed, to the very end of his life he held on in the good way which God had directed him to pursue. And thus it is that we also must approve ourselves to God. We must "not turn back: for, if we do, God's soul will have no pleasure in us." If we "turn back" at any time, it is to certain "perdition." Let us "remember Lot's wife." In fact, it were better for us never to have "known the way of righteousness, than, after having known it, to depart from it." Go on then, like Abram, "as pilgrims and sojourners here," "showing plainly, that you are seeking a better country Hebrews 11:9-10; Hebrews 11:13-16." And be assured, that "if, by patient continuance in well-doing, you seek for glory and honor and immortality, you shall in the end attain eternal life Romans 2:9."

 

 

 

 

Genesis 13:8-11

DISCOURSE 21

SEPARATION OF ABRAM AND LOT

Genesis 13:8-11. And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray you, between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself, I pray you, from me: if you will take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left. And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you come unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan.

WEALTH is almost universally considered as a source of happiness, and in that view is most eagerly desired. That it may conduce to our happiness in some respects, especially when it is improved for the relief of our fellow-creatures, we admit: but it is much oftener a source of trouble and vexation than of satisfaction and comfort. "If goods increase, (says Solomon,) they are increased that eat them Ecclesiastes 5:11." A multitude of servants augments our care. Their disagreements among themselves, or disputes with the servants of others, frequently become an occasion of disquietude to ourselves. The envy also and jealousy that are excited in the breasts of others, operate yet further to the disturbance of our peace. In how many families have contentions arisen from this source! How many who have spent years together in love and harmony, have been distracted by feuds and animosities as soon as ever they were called to share the property that has been bequeathed them! Even piety itself cannot always prevent that discord, which the pride or covetousness of others is forward to excite. Abram and Lot had lived together in perfect amity, while their circumstances were such as to preclude any jarring of interests; but when their opulence increased, occasions of jealousy arose; their servants, espousing too warmly their respective interests, quarreled among themselves; and it became expedient at last, on account of the difficulty of finding pasturage for such numerous flocks and herds, and for the sake of preventing more serious disputes, that a separation should take place between them. The manner in which this separation was effected will afford us much instruction, while we consider,

I. The proposal of Abram—

His conduct on this occasion was indeed such as became his exalted character. It was,

1. Conciliatory—

Abram well knew the value and blessedness of peace. He knew that "the beginning of strife is as when one lets out water;" the breach, however small at first, being quickly widened by the stream that rushes through it, and speedily defying all the efforts of man to prevent an inundation. He had learned that valuable lesson, "To leave off contention before it be meddled with Proverbs 17:14. ;" knowing that when it is once begun, no man can tell when or how it shall terminate. Hence he was desirous of promoting peace between the herdsmen, and more especially between himself and Lot. The consideration of the relation subsisting between himself and Lot, rendered the idea of contention still more hateful in his eyes; "Let there be no strife, I pray you, between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we be brethren." How amiable was this spirit, how engaging was this address! and how happy would the world be, if all were thus studious to prevent contention, and to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace!"

2. Condescending—

Abram, as standing in the superior relation of an Uncle, and as being the person peculiarly called of God, while Lot was only a Nephew and an attendant, might well have claimed the deference and submission that were due to him. But, instead of arrogating to himself any authority or asserting his own rights, he was ready to act the part of an inferior; rightly

Judging, that condescension is the truest honor, and that to e the servant of all is to imitate most nearly the character of our blessed Lord Matthew 20:26-28. Accordingly the proposal came from him, that, since circumstances imperiously required a separation, they should separate in a manner that became their holy profession. How many angry disputes, and bitter quarrels, and bloody wars might be avoided, if the contending parties, instead of proudly requiring the first advances from each other, would strive who should be foremost in making proposals for peace!

3. Generous—

Common justice required that the partition of land should be such as to secure to Abram equal advantages with Lot. But Abram waved his rights, and cheerfully conceded to his Nephew whatever portion he chose to take. Though he could not but know that there was a great difference between the lands on either side of him, the one being far more fertile and better watered than the other, he desired Lot to occupy whichever he preferred, and to leave the other to him. What a noble, unselfish, generous mind did this manifest! Would to God that such an indifference about carnal interests were more prevalent in the world, and especially among the professors of religion! This would show a becoming deadness to the world: it would give an evidence, that our hearts were set on things above, and not on things below: it would illustrate, more strongly and convincingly than ten thousand words, the efficacy of faith, and the excellence of true religion.

Admirable as was the example of Abram, we observe a perfect contrast to it in,

II. The choice of Lot—

Whether Lot was at that time a converted man, we cannot say: it is certain that twenty years after this he was a truly righteous man, and a most distinguished favorite of Heaven 2 Peter 2:7-8; and it is not improbable that the change of heart which he experienced, arose from the troubles which his present choice entailed upon him. But without determining his general character, it is very plain that his conduct in the present instance argued,

1. Too great a concern about his temporal interests—

As far as the history informs us, we have no reason to think that Lot felt any reluctance in parting with Abram. He had now an opportunity of gratifying his covetous desires; and he seems to have embraced it with greediness and joy. If he had not been blinded by selfishness, he would have returned the compliment to Abram, and given him his choice: or, if he had accepted Abram's offer, he would at least have endeavored to make an equitable division of the lands, so that each might have his proper portion of the more fertile country. But instead of this, he surveyed with pleasure the well-watered plains of Jordan, which were beautiful and fruitful like Eden of old, and took the whole of them for himself; regardless what difficulties his Uncle might experience; and intent only on his own interests. Who does not see the baseness and illiberality of this conduct? Who does not see that worldliness and covetousness were the governing principles of his heart? If the man who requested our Lord to interpose in order to obtain for him his proper share of his father's inheritance, needed that caution, "Take heed and beware of covetousness," much more did the choice of Lot betray a very undue concern about his temporal interests, and a selfishness that was deeply reprehensible.

2. Too little regard to the interests of his soul—

Lot could not but know the character of the people of Sodom; for they declared their sin before all, and without the least reserve: and he ought to have considered what a tendency there is in "evil communications to corrupt good manners." But as he left Abram without regret, so he went to dwell in Sodom without fear. What benefits he was losing, and what dangers he was about to rush into, he little thought of: his earthly prosperity was all that occupied his mind: and whether the welfare of his soul were forwarded or impeded, he did not care. This conduct every one must blame: yet how many are there who pursue the same heedless and pernicious course! How many for the sake of temporal advantage will leave the places where their souls are nourished with the bread of life, and take up their abode where there is an incessant "famine of the word!" How many will form their connections even for life upon no better principle than this! Well will it be for them, if the troubles which they bring upon themselves, operate, as they did on Lot, to bring them to repentance.

Let us learn from hence,

1. To guard against the love of this world—

It is not without reason that John says, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world: if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him 1 John 2:15-16." We see in the instance before us what unhappy dispositions the love of this world generated, and what unworthy conduct it produced. Indeed the folly as well as sinfulness of this disposition is strongly illustrated in the present case: for Lot had enjoyed his portion but a little time before he was plundered of all that he possessed, and himself and family were carried into captivity Genesis 14:12; and, after his restoration to liberty and opulence, he at last was forced to flee for his life, and to leave all his property, and part also of his family, to be destroyed by fire from Heaven Genesis 19:14; Genesis 19:17; Genesis 19:25-26. Thus shall a love of this world be recompensed to all. If God have designs of mercy towards them, he will either take away from them the objects of their idolatrous regard, or embitter to them the possessions in which they have sought delight. Let us then be on our guard against that "love of money which is the root of all evil; which while some have coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows: for they that would be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition 1 Timothy 6:9-10."

2. To cultivate an affectionate and self-denying spirit—

If we look no further than this present life, the exercise of love and self-denial has greatly the advantage of selfishness, even when it is most successful. Let us compare the feelings of Abram and of Lot on this occasion: how refined, how enviable were those of Abram in comparison of Lot's! Give to Lot all the joy of successful covetousness, and conceive him. to be filled with exultation at the portion he had gained, and at his prospects of increasing opulence: suppose, on the other hand, Abram impressed with thankfulness to God for having enabled him to sacrifice his own interests rather than contend about them, and for having disposed his mind to generosity and love: which of these two had the more solid happiness? No man who has any just notions of happiness, can entertain a doubt. What then we admire in another, let us cultivate in ourselves: and what we cannot but acknowledge to be highly virtuous and laudable, let us labor to attain, let us endeavor to preserve in constant exercise. "Let us be kindly affectioned one to another in brotherly love, in honor preferring one another Romans 12:10." Let us "look not on our own things only, but rather and principally on the things of others Philippians 2:4-5." Thus "walking in the steps of our father Abraham," we shall approve ourselves his children; yes, we shall resemble that greatest of all patterns, the Lord Jesus Christ, who "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many Matthew 20:26-28." And as Abram was immediately visited by God, and refreshed with more assured prospects of the promised land 4–17, so shall every one who denies himself for God, be recompensed with present consolations, and eternal joys Luke 14:14.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 14:18-20

 

DISCOURSE 22

MELCHIZEDEK BLESSING ABRAM

Genesis 14:18-20. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth tread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of Heaven and earth: and blessed be the most high God, which has delivered your enemies into your hand. And he gave him tithes of all.

WAR is a calamity arising out of the state of fallen man. We have innumerable lusts which cannot be satisfied without trespassing on others, and which lead us to retaliate injuries with vindictive ferocity. Hence there is no nation, whether savage or civilized, which is not frequently engaged in war: and if there were any one nation determined to cultivate peace to the uttermost, it would still be necessary for them to learn the are of war, in order that they might be ready, when attacked, to repel aggression, and to maintain their liberties. The first war of which we read in history, was that recorded in the chapter before us. Chedorlaomer king of Elam, with three confederate kings, invaded the cities of the plain, who had combined for their mutual defense; and, having defeated the combined armies, took Sodom and Gomorrah, and plundered them of all that was valuable or useful. Abram, as we have already seen in his conduct to Lot, was a man of peace: and from the history before us it is clear, that he was not under the influence either of covetousness or ambition; but, living in the midst of hostile nations, he had wisely trained his servants, 318 in number, to the use of arms: and finding that his nephew Lot had been carried captive by the victorious invaders, he determined, with God's help, to rescue him. Accordingly he armed his little band, and, with a few allies, pursued the victors. He speedily came up with them, and, by a stratagem suited to the inferiority of his force, prevailed against them. Having dispersed or slain his enemies, he recovered all the captives and the spoil; and returned in triumph to those whose cause he had espoused. In his way to them he received the testimonies of God's approbation mentioned in the text. To elucidate these, together with the circumstances connected with them, we shall consider,

I. The respect which Melchizedek paid to Abram—

Melchizedek was a person of most singular and mysterious character—

Some have thought that he was the same as Shem: but Shem's parentage was known; whereas Melchizedek's was not. Others have thought that he was Christ, who just for that occasion assumed the appearance of a man: but he was a person "made like unto the Son of God;" and therefore could not be the Son of God himself. Whoever he was, he was certainly a very eminent type of Christ. His name imported that he was king of righteousness, while at the same time, as king of Salem, he was king of peace See Hebrews 7:1-2. He was also "a Priest of the most high God," ministering, not to one peculiar people, as the Levites afterwards did, but to mankind at large without any distinction. In these respects he typified the Lord Jesus, whose "scepter is a right scepter Psalm 45:6," who "makes peace for us by the blood of his cross Colossians 1:20," and who is "the great High Priest" that once ministered on earth, and is "now passed into the heavens" to offer incense before the throne of God Hebrews 4:14. In him alone, after Melchizedek, were combined the offices of King and Priest: He and he only is "a Priest upon his throne Zechariah 6:13."

Moreover, Melchizedek was a type of Christ in those things which we do not know concerning him, as well as in those things which we do know: yes, there were many things concealed from us, on purpose that he might be a more illustrious type of Christ. We are not informed of his birth, or parentage, or death. We are not told who preceded him in his office, or who followed him. He is merely introduced on this occasion as "without father, without mother, without beginning of life or end of days," that he might fitly represent that adorable Jesus, who was without father, as Man, and without mother, as God, and who abides a priest continually Hebrews 7:3.

As God's servant, he came forth on a remarkable occasion to honor Abram—

Abram was returning with his victorious bands, laden with the spoil that he had recovered from the slaughtered kings. For the refreshment of his weary troops, Melchizedek brought forth bread and wine. It is certainly a striking coincidence, that this, even bread and wine, is the provision which our great High Priest has appointed to be received by all his people to refresh them after their conflicts: but we do not on the whole apprehend that there was anything more intended by the bread and wine, than to administer suitable nourishment to Abram and his attendants after their fatigues. But from the other tokens of respect which Melchizedek showed to Abram, there is much instruction to be derived.

Melchizedek blessed Abram for the zeal he had manifested, and blessed God for the success he had given. In blessing Abram he showed what obligations we owe to those who go forth to fight in our defense, and by their valor procure to us the peaceful enjoyment of our possessions. If Abram had not stood forth on that occasion, what misery would have been entailed on those who had been taken captive, and on those who were left behind to bewail the loss of their dearest relatives, and experience the pressure of want and famine! And we also may easily conceive to what a deplorable state we of this nation should soon be reduced by our envious and ambitious neighbors, if we had not fleets and armies ready to maintain our cause. It is to be lamented indeed that all our warriors are not so pacific in their principles, and unselfish in their patriotism, as Abram was; but still they are instruments of good to us; and we ought to acknowledge with gratitude the benefits they confer upon us.

Had Melchizedek rested there, he had ill performed the office of a priest. But he proceeded to bless God also; showing thereby, that all success must ultimately be traced to God, "the giver of every good and perfect gift." It would have been impiety indeed not to give him the glory of so complete a victory, obtained by so small a force over four confederate and triumphant kings, without the loss of one single follower. But he should be acknowledged in every instance of success, whether more or less complete, and whether more or less dearly purchased: for "it is He who gives victory unto kings;" "he raises up one and casts down another;" "he saves whether by many or by few."

Let us now turn our attention to,

II. The return which Abram made him—

Had we been told that Abram gave Melchizedek a present in return for his kindness, we should merely have considered it as a proper compliment suited to the occasion. But we are informed that" he gave him tithes of all." This circumstance is peculiarly important. If we attend to it, and consider it according to the light reflected upon it in other parts of Scripture, we shall find in it,

1. An acknowledged duty—

Melchizedek was God's Minister. In the performance of his high office, he had taken a lively interest in the concerns of Abram: he had not merely congratulated him as a friend, but blessed him officially as a priest; and had rendered thanks also to God for him as his Minister and representative. In short, he had been a kind of Mediator between God and Abram, acting, as Priests are ordained to do, for each, with and towards the other Hebrews 5:1. Abram, viewing him in this light, gave him the tithes, not as a friend, but as God's representative. Doubtless Abram accompanied the present with sincere expressions of personal respect and gratitude: but still, though he might intend it in some measure as a token of love to man, he designed it principally as a tribute of piety to God. And herein he has shown us our duty towards the Priests and Ministers of God. If they perform their office, as Melchizedek did, with a tender concern for those among whom they minister, and with real piety towards God, they ought to be "esteemed very highly in love for their work's sake:" "While they serve at the altar, they ought to live of the altar;" and "while they minister unto us of their spiritual things, we should feel happy in imparting to them of our temporal things." What if our property be earned with the sweat of our brow, or purchased, as Abram's was, at the risk of our life; we should account a portion of it due to God, who has enabled us to acquire it; and we should consider the support of his Ministry and his religion as having the first and most urgent demand upon us.

2. A hidden mystery—

We should have seen nothing particular in this transaction, if God had not been pleased to reveal it to us. But by the light of the New Testament we see in it nothing less than the abolition of the whole Jewish polity, and the establishment of Christianity upon its ruins.

The tribe of Levi were by God's special command ordained to be priests; and the tithes of everything (which God claimed as his property) were to be given to them for their support. They were to be considered as God's representatives; and therefore they had, in this respect, a superiority above all the other tribes. But Melchizedek ministered in the priesthood four hundred years before they had any designation to the office; and an hundred and fifty years before Levi himself existed: and to him Abram, the father of all the tribes, paid tithes. The same superiority therefore which the tribe of Levi claimed on account of the priesthood above their brethren, Melchizedek claimed above Abram himself, and consequently above Levi also: for "Levi being in the loins of his father Abram, may be considered as paying tithes in Abram." Here then at once we see, that Melchizedek's priesthood was superior to that of Levi. Now the priesthood of Christ was to be, not after the order of Levi, but after the order of Melchizedek; (for God foretold, even while the Levitical priesthood was in all its plenitude of sanctity and power, that another priest should arise after the order of Melchizedek Psalm 110:4.) Christ therefore had a priesthood of a higher order than that of Levi. This further appears from the circumstance of his being appointed to the priesthood with an oath, ("The Lord swore, and said, You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek:") whereas the Levitical priests were appointed without any such solemnity. Moreover, as we before hinted, there was no successor to Melchizedek in his priestly office; which intimated, that Christ should have none in his; but that his priesthood should be everlasting: whereas the Levitical priests could not continue in their office by reason of death. From all this it appears, that Christ's priesthood was intended to supersede that which was appointed by the law; and consequently, that the law itself, which was so intimately connected with the priesthood, was to yield to the dispensation which Christ should introduce. For if Melchizedek's priesthood, which was only typical, was superior to that of Levi, much more must Christ's priesthood be superior; because the things which exalted the person and office of Melchizedek, were merely figurative and shadowy; whereas those which dignify the person and office of the Lord Jesus, are real and substantial; he is really in his person the eternal God, and will execute to all eternity the office he has undertaken See the whole seventh chapter to the Hebrews.

Behold, then, how deep a mystery is contained in that which appears at first sight so unimportant! O that we may all bear it in mind, and present to him, not a portion of our property only, but "our bodies and our souls also to be a living sacrifice unto God!"

To improve this subject, we would earnestly entreat of you these two things:

1. Study the Scriptures with earnest prayer to God for the teaching of his good Spirit—

In every part of God's word there are many important truths which cannot be discerned, unless God be pleased to "open our eyes to see them, and our understandings to understand them." "We do not mean by this observation to refer to mysteries merely, but to great practical truths. We may understand the letter of Scripture, and yet be extremely ignorant of its spirit. Take, for instance, such an expression as this, "God is love:" What, I ask, can we understand of it without humble meditation and prayer? Yet if we have meditated and prayed forever so long a time, there would still be unsearchable riches in those words to reward our continued search; yes, eternity itself will not suffice to explore their full meaning. Exactly as we might have meditated a thousand years upon the text, and not found out the truths which by the light of subsequent revelations we discover in them, so it is with ten thousand other passages, which we cannot duly comprehend or feel, until God is pleased to reveal them to us by his Spirit. The Bible is "a sealed book;" and neither the unlearned nor the learned can open it of themselves Isaiah 29:11-12. It contains inexhaustible "treasures of wisdom and knowledge" which God alone can impart. Let us then search the Scriptures with humility and diligence, lifting up at the same time our voice to God for understanding: for it is God alone who gives wisdom; "out of his mouth comes knowledge and understanding Proverbs 2:1-6.

2. Let every mercy you receive, lead you to God the giver of it—

Ungodly men would have been rioting upon the spoil, and abusing the gifts which God had bestowed upon them 1 Samuel 30:16. But Abram and Melchizedek made this victory an occasion of glorifying God. O that we could learn of them! Our successes too often lead to intemperance and riot: yes, mercies of every other kind have but little effect to solemnize the spirit, or to change the heart. Deliverances from sickness, how little are they improved as they ought to be! Instead of devoting our renewed strength to the service of our God, we too commonly lose the impressions that were upon us, and forget the vows which we made in the day of our calamity. But let it not be thus in future: let the honor of God be dear to us: let it be the first desire of our hearts to render unto him our tribute of praise and thanksgiving: and the more visible his interpositions have been in our favor, the more earnest let our endeavors be to live to his glory.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 15:1

 

DISCOURSE 23

ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE FEARFUL

Genesis 15:1. After these things, the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward. This is only a slight sketch, given extemporaneously to a friend. WE may here observe,

I. The most eminent saints need encouragement—

They are apt at times to feel discouragement,

1. From a review of past difficulties—

Persons under the immediate pressure of their trials are often not aware of their greatness. God mercifully conceals it from them, lest their energies should be weakened. But when they see, in their calmer moments, what difficulties they have had to encounter, they are amazed at themselves: I had almost said, They are amazed at God: and they tremble, lest there should be a recurrence of similar trials; apprehending nothing but a failure under them. This was the special case with Abram at this time.

2. From a prospect of augmented trials—

Trials in prospect are always formidable; and the imagination often paints them in the deepest colors. A sense of weakness gives rise to fears; and the most eminent saints are apt to be appalled.

3. From an apprehension of disappointed hopes–

Confidence in a time of ease is apt to fail when the hour of trial comes: e. g. Peter, on the waves; and Moses Exodus 5:22-23. ; and Joshua Jos. 7:7-9. And you too, my brethren, who have hoped that sin should be entirely slain, are apt to be discouraged when you find it still working in you.

II. The encouragement which God affords them—

God affords them the richest encouragement:

1. He assures them of protection—

He provides armor for his people: and that armor shall be effectual. But he himself is in the place of armor: and our enemies must break through him, to reach us. He is "a wall of fire," that devours the assailants. See how this is represented by Paul (Colossians 3:3): "Your life is hid with Christ in God." Who can fear, that has such a protection as this? The weakest may laugh all his enemies to scorn.

2. He gives himself to them, as their portion—

Happiness too, as well as protection, will he afford them: happiness here; happiness hereafter. Conceive of all the glory of heaven—how rich a reward! But Heaven is nothing in comparison of the reward provided: it is the God of Heaven that is our portion. See him in all his perfections, in all his glory, in all his blessedness: he is yours; that is yours, forever—your eternal portion, your indefeasible inheritance. Say, fearful saint, whether here is not sufficient encouragement?

And now, is there here a timid saint?

Come with me, and survey your enemies. Who are they? what are they? They are "crushed before the moth." And look at your Friend: survey him, his power, his goodness, his fidelity. Have you now any cause for fear? Be strong: fear not. See 1 Timothy 4:10.

To the careless unbeliever let me also speak—

Tell me, Have not you cause to fear? Think of the danger to which you are exposed. And where will you find "a shield?" Think of the recompense that awaits you: how different from that of the believing soul! Exceeding bitter will be "your reward": O that I could awaken you to fear! The world and the devil say, "Fear not." But I say, "Fear, and tremble." Yet will I say, that Abram's God may still be your: he was once an idolater, as you are: the sovereign grace that elected him, may fix on you: the covenant made with him is open to you; and all the blessings of it will be your, if, like him, you will be "strong in faith, giving glory to God." The seed for whom he waited, is come: the blessings, to which he looked forward, are poured out upon all the families of the earth. Look to the Lord Jesus Christ, and they shall all be your.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 15:5-6

 

DISCOURSE 24

ABRAM JUSTIFIED BY FAITH

Genesis 15:5-6. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward Heaven, and tell the stars, if you be able to number them. And he said unto him, So shall your seed be. And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

THE enjoyment of the divine presence is truly satisfying to the soul. In having the light of God's countenance we have all that we can desire: we are elevated above earthly things; the possession of them cannot add to our happiness; the want of them cannot diminish it. Yet, in another sense, the soul is not satisfied: the more it has of God, the more it desires; nor will it ever be satisfied, until it shall have attained the full, uninterrupted, everlasting fruition of him. Unspeakably blessed was the state of Abram, when God, in return for his active and unselfish zeal in rescuing Lot from captivity, gave him that promise, "I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward." This was sufficient to dissipate all fear with respect to confederacies that might be formed against him, and to confirm that contempt of lucre which he had shown in refusing to accept even a thread of a shoe-latchet of all the spoil that he had taken. But was Abram contented with this promise? No. God had before promised that he should have a child, from whom in due time the Messiah should spring. He had waited already ten years, and had no child: and as he and his wife were far advanced in years, the prospect of outcome became, daily, more dark and discouraging. He therefore could not be completely happy until he could see this great point accomplished. Hence, notwithstanding the declaration which God had just made to him, he expressed his regret at not having an offspring to inherit his substance, and to confirm his expectations of the promised Messiah; "Lord God, what will you give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? Behold, to me you have given no seed: and lo, one born in my house is mine heir." We cannot suppose that it was merely an anxiety to have an heir to his fortune, that produced this reply to God: that, though natural enough, would have been unworthy of so eminent a saint, and especially at the very moment when he was receiving such communications from God. But, if we suppose his anxiety to have respect chiefly to the Messiah, then was it every way worthy of his high character. Indeed the answer which God gave to him in the text, clearly shows that Abram's views extended not to an immediate progeny, so much as to a remote posterity, who should "be blessed through him." And in this view the conduct of Abram strongly exemplifies our introductory observation.

We do not apprehend that he doubted whether the promise formerly given him would be fulfilled; but, that he began to be impatient for its accomplishment. The repetition of the promise, however, with all its attendant circumstances, confirmed his faith; in the exercise of which he obtained renewed testimonies of his acceptance with God.

We shall endeavor to set before you,

I. The faith he exercised—

The promise which was now given him, was very extensive—

It being early in the morning before sun-rise, God "brought him forth abroad, and bade him count, if he could, the stars of Heaven;" and then told him that "his seed should be, like them," innumerable. This doubtless respected, in the first instance, his natural seed: and though he waited fifteen years longer for the birth of that child from whence that numerous progeny was to spring, yet it was accomplished, as Moses repeatedly declared, previous to their taking possession of the promised land Deuteronomy 1:10; Deuteronomy 10:22. But the promise, taken as it must be in connection with that which had been before given him Genesis 12:2-3, and that which was afterwards given Genesis 17:4-7; Genesis 22:17-18. (for they were all either different parts, or only repetitions of the same promise), had an ulterior, and more important view. It assured to him, that he should have a spiritual seed; that the Messiah himself should spring from his loins; and that multitudes, both of Jews and Gentiles, should, through faith in the Messiah, become his spiritual children.

That the promise had this extensive meaning, we cannot doubt: for we are told, that the seed promised to Abram, was Christ Galatians 3:16. ; and that in this promise the Gospel was preached unto him Galatians 3:8. Now the Gospel includes everything respecting the work and offices of Christ, and the call of the Gentiles to believe in him: and therefore these were the things to which Abram was taught to look forward when this promise was given him.

The faith which he exercised, had respect to the promise in all its parts—

He believed that he should have a numerous progeny: yes, fifteen years afterwards, when it was more plainly declared that he should have a child by Sarah, notwithstanding he was about an hundred years old, and Sarah ninety, and both the deadness of his own body and of Sarah's womb forbade all hope that a child should be born to him in the natural way, "he, against hope, believed in hope:" God had said to him, "so shall your seed be;" and "he staggered not at the promise through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; being fully persuaded, that what he had promised he was able also to perform Romans 4:18-21." At the same time, in this progeny he beheld the promised seed, the Lord Jesus Christ. Of this we can have no doubt; for our blessed Lord himself said to the Jews, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad John 8:56." What can be the meaning of this? can it mean only that he foresaw that this progeny could continue so many hundred years? In truth, he had no reason to rejoice, if that were all; for the terrible destruction that was speedily to terminate their political existence, had far more in it to make him weep, than the prolongation of it to that period had to make him rejoice. There can be no doubt but that by "the day of Christ" is meant, the whole scheme of Christianity as promulgated by the great Founder of it, together with its establishment throughout the world by the ministry of his apostles. In this he might well rejoice, because he himself was to be saved by what Christ should do and suffer; and myriads even to the remotest corners of the earth should be made partakers of the same salvation. That his faith thus terminated on the Lord Jesus, seems intimated even in the very words of our text: for when the promise was given him, it is not said merely that he believed the Lord, but that "he believed in the Lord." We do not indeed mean to lay any great stress on this; because we are aware that to believe, and to believe in, may be considered as synonymous expressions: but, as agreeing with the universal testimony of Christ and his apostles, it ought not to be overlooked. The faith of our father Abraham is constantly said to be the same with ours Romans 4:12; Romans 4:16; but if his had not respect to Christ, it is essentially different from ours: if it related only to the power of God, it agreed as much with the faith of those who crucified the Lord Jesus, as of those who trusted in him for salvation; and therefore we are sure that, like the faith of all his believing children, his faith terminated upon Christ.

It is this view alone of Abram's faith that can account for,

II. The benefit he obtained—

Every exercise of faith on God's word insures the accomplishment of that word to the believing soul: "God cannot deny himself." But as the faith of Abram respected in this instance the whole of God's promises relating to the work of redemption, it brought not merely one single benefit, but all the blessings of redemption into his soul: "it was counted to him for righteousness." This expression is the foundation of much and important reasoning in the New Testament: we shall endeavor therefore to state to you what we apprehend to be its precise import.

1. It does not mean that the act of faith constituted Abram's righteousness, or that he was in any way justified by it as an act—

Faith, considered as an act, is the same as any other act of the human mind. As hope, or love, or fear, or any other grace, is a work of man; so faith, considered as an act, is a work of man: and if Abram was justified by it in this view, he was justified by works: but the whole Scripture positively contradicts this, and affirms that he was justified by faith as opposed to works. Paul, referring to the words of our text, says, "What says the Scripture? Abraham believed God; and it was counted unto him for righteousness Romans 4:3;" then explaining himself more fully, he adds, "We say that faith was counted to him for righteousness Romans 4:9. " He afterwards calls it "the righteousness of faith," as opposed to the works of the law Romans 4:13; and repeats again, respecting his faith, that "it was imputed to him for righteousness Romans 4:22. See also Galatians 3:6."

Moreover if the mere act of faith constituted Abram's justifying righteousness, he had whereof he might glory before God: he could say, 'I performed an act which was the true and proper ground of my-salvation; so that my salvation was not altogether a gift of free grace, but, as far at least as respected that act of mine, it was a debt paid to me in consideration of the work which I had performed.' But this idea also Paul expressly controverts; and maintains, in opposition to it, that Abram "had not any thing whereof to glory before God," but that the reward given him was of grace, and not of debt:" and from thence he deduces this general position, that "to him that works not, but believes on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted to him for righteousness Romans 4:2-5."

2. The meaning is, that his faith, as laying hold of Christ and of his righteousness, was the mean or instrument whereby he was justified—

Much has been said on the subject of imputed righteousness; and controversies have been raised about the words, while in substance the same thing has been intended. That we should "contend earnestly for the faith," is certain; but "strifes of words" we should avoid: and if we hold fast that which we have stated to be the import of the expression, we hold that in which all good men are agreed, without relinquishing one atom of important truth.

We have before shown, that Christ and his salvation were contained in the promises made to Abram; and that Abram's faith had respect to them. Now we say that by his faith Abram became interested in all that Christ did and suffered, precisely as we do at this day. The only difference between Abram and us is this: Abram believed in a Savior that should come; and we believe in a Savior that is come. As to the efficacy of Christ's death, there is no difference at all between those who preceded, or those who followed him: he was "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." The righteousness of Christ also availed as much for the justifying of believers under the Old Testament, as of those who were his more immediate followers. The parallel drawn by Paul between the sin of the first Adam and the righteousness of the second Adam, is equally just, whether it be referred to Abram or to us: it designates the way in which Abram was justified, as well as the way in which we are justified: "By one man's offence death reigned by one: much more they which receive the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." "As by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of One the free gift comes upon all men to justification of life." "As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made. righteous Romans 5:17-19." In a word, "Christ, who had no sin of his own, became a sin-offering for" Abram, just as he did for us: and Abram, by believing in Christ, became, as all other believers do, "the righteousness of God in him 2 Corinthians 5:21."

APPLICATION—

We entreat you, Brethren,

1. To bear in mind in what way you yourselves are to be saved—

You have heard how Abram's faith "was counted to him for righteousness." But was this only an historical fact; a fact in which you have no personal interest? Far from it: Paul assures us, that "it was not recorded for Abram's sake only, but for ours also, to inform us, in what manner we are to be justified, and to assure us that righteousness shall be imputed to us also, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification Romans 4:23-25." Now in this passage there is an express parallel drawn between the manner of Abram's justification, and of ours. "While therefore it proves on the one hand that Abram had respect to the death. and resurrection of Christ, it shows us, on the other hand, that we must seek for justification, not by our works, but by faith in Christ Jesus. For if so eminent a man as Abram, who had forsaken his country and kindred, and sojourned willingly in a strange land where he had not the smallest possession, and even offered up his own son, at the command of God, if he was not justified by his works, but by his faith in the promised Messiah, then it must be madness indeed for us to dream of justification by works, or to hope for acceptance in any other way than through the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus.

It is worthy of observation also, that as his being justified by his faith before he had performed any of the good works for which he was so eminent, proves that he was justified by faith only; so its being spoken of him after he had performed these acts, proves that he was justified by faith only from first to last. This it is of great importance to notice: for it shows us, that we also must be justified from first to last in the very same way. It is true that God will reward our works; but the reward will be of grace, and not of debt: the only meritorious ground of our acceptance from first to last must be the righteousness of the Lord Jesus. We must exercise the faith of Abram, if we would be numbered among his children Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:9.

It may be objected indeed that James says, "Abram was justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar James 2:21." But Abram was justified by faith twenty-five years before Isaac was born See notes b and c; which alone is an absolute demonstration that James did not speak of the same justification that Paul did, since that mentioned by Paul had taken place at least fifty years before. The truth is, James speaks of Abram's works as manifesting the truth and excellence of his faith: for the whole scope of his argument is to show, that we are not saved by a dead faith, but by a living and operative faith: in confirmation of which he observes, that the perfection of Abram's faith was displayed by that consummate act of his obedience: and that it was this faith, and not a dead faith, that was imputed to him for righteousness. There is therefore no real opposition between the two apostles, nor any argument to be derived from James that can in the smallest degree invalidate the foregoing statement.

We recur then to what we have before said, and urge you to believe in Christ for the salvation of your souls Hebrews 10:39.

2. To be concerned about nothing so much as the manifestation of Christ to your souls—

Nothing dwelt so much upon the mind of Abram as the promise given to him relating to the Messiah: Nor could anything that God himself could say to him allay the thirst which he had after that unspeakable gift. His longing after Christ arose, as we should think, even to impatience and ingratitude. But God approved of it; and instantly renewed his promises to him in a more plain and express manner than before. And thus will he do towards us, if we manifest the same holy ardor after the knowledge and enjoyment of Christ. He will permit us to say to him, 'What are all your gifts to me, or all your promises, if I go Christless See, or have not assured hopes of an interest in him!' Yes, he would be pleased with such apparent ingratitude; and would speedily return unto us an answer of peace. Let then everything which you possess, appear as nothing in your eyes in comparison of Christ: let nothing comfort you while you are destitute of Christ: let it not satisfy you to have embraced the promises which relate to Christ; but endeavor to obtain brighter prospects of their approaching accomplishment. Like the holy Patriarch of old, entreat of God that you may not die until you have embraced Jesus in your arms, and can confidently say, "Mine eyes have seen his salvation Luke 2:28-30." This is the boldness which Jacob exercised when he wrestled with the angel Genesis 32:26; and similar importunity shall surely be crowned with similar success.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 15:8

 

DISCOURSE 25

COVENANT CONFIRMED TO ABRAM

Genesis 15:8. And lie said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?

THE innumerable instances of God's condescension which occur in the holy Scriptures, familiarize the idea of it so much to our minds, that we cease to wonder at it even on occasions the most stupendous. In the history before us we are ready to conceive of God as if he was a man like ourselves. His appearances to Abram are so frequent, his fellowship with him so intimate, his regard for him so tender and affectionate, that we really lose sight of the Deity in the Friend. Every fresh manifestation of himself seems only introductory to still higher exercises of his condescension and grace. In the preceding verses God had been pleased to allay the fears of Abram, and confirm his hopes of a numerous posterity: but, Abram being still desirous of receiving stronger assurances respecting his possession of the promised land, God graciously complied with his request in this respect also, and confirmed his expectations of it in a manner that deserves particular attention.

Let us consider,

I. The inquiry which Abram made—

We may perhaps be disposed to blame this inquiry, as savoring of vain curiosity, or sinful distrust. To obviate such misconceptions, we shall distinctly state,

1. Its nature—

The very same act may be good or evil, according to the principle from which it proceeds. Had this inquiry arisen from unbelief, it would have been decidedly sinful. It would have resembled the question which Zachariah asked, when the angel told him from God, that he should have a child; "Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years Luke 1:18;" for which unbelieving question he was immediately struck dumb. If, on the other hand, it expressed a wish to be informed more clearly respecting the divine purposes, or to receive those superabundant testimonies which God himself was willing to communicate, then it was perfectly innocent, and consistent with the strongest faith. It was for the purpose of instruction only that the blessed Virgin inquired of the angel, how she should have a child, since she was a Virgin Luke 1:34. The question did not materially differ from that of Zachariah; but the principle was different; and therefore the one received a gracious answer; the other a severe rebuke. Many instances are recorded where God has been graciously pleased to give signs to his people for the confirmation of their faith, when there was not any doubt upon their minds respecting either his faithfulness or power. When he appeared to Gideon, and told him that he should deliver his country from the yoke of Midian; Gideon said, "If now I have found grace in your sight, then show me a sign that you talk with me:" in answer to which, God caused fire to come out of the rock, and consume the kid and cakes which Gideon had prepared for him Judges. 6:14; Judges. 6:17; Judges. 6:21; and presently afterwards, he gave him another sign, making the dew to fall alternately on the fleece and on the ground, while the other remained perfectly dry Judges. 6:36-40. In the same manner he gave to Hezekiah a choice of signs, offering to make the shadows on the sun-dial to go backward or forward ten degrees, according as he should desire 2 Kings 20:8-11. From hence it appears that the inquiries which proceed from faith, are good and acceptable to God: and that Abram's was of this nature is manifest; because his faith on this occasion was specially commended by God himself.

2. Its importance—

If we were to limit the inquiry to the mere circumstance of Abram's inheriting Canaan in his own person, it would be indeed of very little importance: for he never did possess (except the burying-ground which he purchased) one single foot of ground in the country Acts 7:5, nor, as far as appears, had he any expectation of gaining any permanent settlement in it. But, viewed in its just extent, the inquiry comprised in it nothing less than the happiness of Abram and of all mankind. We are willing to allow that the prospect of having a posterity so numerous and so renowned, must be gratifying to flesh and blood: but that was, at best, but a very small part of Abram's hope: he regarded the promised land as the scene of all those wonderful transactions, where God should be honored and enjoyed by his posterity; where the redemption of mankind should be effected by the Messiah; and where the final rest of the redeemed should be typically exhibited: in the possession of that, all his hopes centered; yes, all his happiness in time and in eternity was bound up. If by any means that were prevented from taking place, the day of Christ, which he had foreseen, would never arrive; and consequently all his own prospects of salvation, as also of the salvation of the whole world, would be altogether annihilated. Canaan was in his estimation the pledge and earnest of Heaven Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 11:13; Hebrews 11:16; and if he failed of the one, both he and all mankind must fail of the other also. Surely when so much depended on that event, the most reiterated assurances respecting it were no more than what it became him to desire.

We shall be yet more fully convinced that Abram's inquiry was proper, if we notice,

II. The way which God took to satisfy him respecting it—

God commanded Abram to take of every animal that was proper to be offered in sacrifice, whether of beasts or birds; each beast was to have attained its full age and perfection (for nothing but an absolutely perfect sacrifice could avail for ratifying of God's covenant with man), and, after being slain, their parts were to be divided and placed opposite to each other, so that a sufficient space should be left for a man to pass between them. Whether this way of making covenants had obtained before, or whether it was first suggested by God on this occasion, we cannot tell: but we have notices of it in the heathen world, both among the Greeks and Romans; and it was certainly practiced by the Jews also Jeremiah 34:18-19. But, whatever was its origin, God appointed it now for the purpose of satisfying Abram's mind. The sacrifice being prepared, God accompanied it,

1. With significant emblems—

God designed to give Abram a just conception of the manner in which the desired object should be accomplished; and by various emblems showed him that it should be against much opposition—after many troubles—and long delays.

The opposition was signified to Abram by "the birds that came down upon the carcasses," and that were with difficulty driven away. It is no uncommon thing for the enemies of our salvation, whether men or devils, to be represented by this figure 1 with Jeremiah 34:20 and Matthew 13:19. And it was indeed verified by the efforts which the Egyptians made to detain them in bondage, and the confederacies which the nations of Canaan formed to obstruct their entrance into the land, or to dispossess them of it when they were there.

"The horror of great darkness that fell upon Abram when he was in a deep sleep 2," denoted the heavy troubles that his posterity should endure in Egypt; such troubles as made them groan for anguish of spirit, and made "the soul of God himself to be grieved for the misery of Israel Judges. 10:16." Perhaps too the judgments inflicted on them through the various oppressions of the Midianites and Philistines, the Assyrians and Chaldeans, might be represented to his mind.

The long interval of time that passed between the promise and the ratification of it, even from the earliest dawn, while the stars were yet shining bright, to the return of darkness after the setting of the sun—all this time had Abram to wait: and though part of it would be consumed in the preparing of the sacrifices, yet a considerable part was occupied in his endeavors to drive away the birds, and in the preternatural sleep and horror that came upon him. This lapse of time, I say, intimated the delay that should take place before the promise should be fulfilled, or his wishes receive their final completion.

If in deciphering these emblems we seem to have gone beyond the line of sober interpretation, let us turn to the explanation which God himself gives us of them, and we shall see all these particulars distinctly enumerated;—the opposition they should encounter, the troubles they should endure, and the delay they should experience, even four hundred years 3. And so far from exceeding the limits of sobriety, we are by no means certain that much more is not intended under these emblems, even to designate the trials and conflicts which the children of Abraham shall experience in their way to the promised land.

2. With demonstrative attestations—

After the parts of the sacrifice were properly disposed, it was customary for the parties who covenanted with each other, to pass between them Jeremiah 34:18-19. ; intimating, if not expressing, their willingness to be cut asunder in like manner, if they should ever violate their engagements. God therefore, assuming the appearance of a smoking furnace and a burning lamp, passed visibly between the pieces that were placed opposite to each other; and thereby ratified the covenant on his part, as Abram, in all probability, did on his part. Why God assumed these diversified appearances, we cannot absolutely determine. But at all times, if he did not assume the human or angelic shape, he revealed himself in the likeness of fire. It was in a burning bush that he was seen by Moses Exodus 3:2. ; and in a burning mountain by Israel Exodus 19:18 with Hebrews 12:18. ; and in a pillar of smoke and fire that he went before his people in the wilderness Exodus 14:19-20; Exodus 24:17; from whence we are disposed to think that, though the appearances were diverse, the intent was one; namely, to represent himself to Abram, as he did to his descendants, as "the Glory and Defense" of all his people Isaiah 4:5. Under this character he showed himself to Abram, and, passing between the pieces of the sacrifice, pledged himself for the accomplishment of all that he had promised.

Let us learn from hence,

1. To make a similar inquiry relative to the inheritance which we seek—

We profess to be looking for Heaven and eternal glory. Ought we not then, every one of us, to ask, "Whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?" Surely the inquiry is as important to us, as Abram's was to him: and we have more encouragement to ask the question, because God has provided us with such ample means of solving it. As for anything to confirm the veracity of God, nothing can be added to what he has already done: he has sent his only dear Son into the world to die for us; he has given his Holy Spirit to instruct us; he has already brought myriads, of Gentiles as well as Jews, to the possession of the inheritance; so that nothing remains but to inquire into the marks whereby he has taught us to judge of our own character. Am I "poor in spirit?" Then is the kingdom mine, and I shall surely inherit it Matthew 5:3. Am I living daily upon Christ, as the Israelites did upon the manna? Then I have, and shall have, everlasting life John 6:53-58. Am I "keeping his commandments diligently and without reserve?" Then I may know from hence my interest in his favor 1 John 3:24 with 1 Thessalonians. 1:3-4. We are not to expect visions, such as were given to Abram: "we have a more sure word of prophecy; and to that it behooves us to take heed 2 Peter 1:19." Let us then "examine ourselves whether we be in the faith:" let us "prove our own selves 2 Corinthians 13:5;" thus shall we "make our calling and election sure 2 Peter 1:10," and be enabled to say with confidence, "I know that when the earthly house of this tabernacle shall be dissolved, I have an house, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens 2 Corinthians 5:1."

2. To look forward to the full possession of our inheritance without regarding any difficulties that we may have to encounter in our way to it—

Abram was not discouraged either with the difficulties or delays which he was instructed to expect. He never once regretted the losses he had sustained in leaving his native country; nor was he wearied with the inconveniences of a pilgrim's life. He steadily pursued the path of duty in expectation of the promised blessings Hebrews 6:15. Let us then "walk in the steps of our father Abraham." Let our prospect of the inheritance reconcile us to the hardships of our pilgrimage; and our view of the prize animate us throughout the whole of our course. If enemies oppose us, and troubles come upon us, and our possession of the inheritance be delayed, it is no more than what God has taught us to expect. But God has said, "He who endures to the end, the same shall be saved." Let us therefore confide in that promise, and expect its accomplishment to our souls. Let us not be weary in well-doing; "for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."

 

 

 

 

Genesis 16:13

 

DISCOURSE 26

THE OMNISCIENCE OF GOD

Genesis 16:13. She called the name of the Lord that spoke unto her, You God see me.

AFFLICTIONS sanctified are among our greatest mercies. Hagar would have known less of herself, and less of God, if she had not experienced domestic trouble. She had indulged an exceeding bad spirit in despising her mistress on account of her barrenness; and, when she had thereby provoked the resentment of her mistress, she could not bear it; but fled away towards her own country. The gracious and seasonable visit however which she received from God, brought her to a better temper: it led her to return to that station which she had left; and to adore that God, whom as yet she had altogether neglected.

The person that appeared to her is called "an angel;" but he was "the Angel of the Covenant," the Lord Jesus Christ, under the semblance of an angel. This appears from the promise which he gave her, "I will multiply your seed;" and, still more clearly, from the discovery which was made to her, that it was "the Lord Jehovah who spoke to her;" and from the name by which she called him, "You God see me."

From this name of God we shall be naturally led to speak of his Omniscience: but we will not occupy our time with proofs that this attribute belongs to God, or with uninteresting speculations respecting it: we will rather endeavor to impress the consideration of it upon our minds, and to mark its aspect upon the different states and conditions of men.

The consideration then of the Omniscience of God is suited to produce in us,

I. Conviction and sorrow—

Men commit iniquity under an idea that God does not notice them Psalm 73:11; Job 22:13-14; Hence, though they know that they have sinned, they are regardless of the consequences of their sin They are afraid of being detected by man, but not of being judged by God, Job 24:15-17 with Proverbs 30:20; But God has indeed been privy to every one of their most secret thoughts Jeremiah 23:24; Ezekiel 11:5. This is not only asserted by God, but acknowledged by men. Job 34:21-22; Job 42:2; Psalm 139:1-12 and exemplified in Achan, Gehazi, and Ananias; And he has noticed them in order that he may bring them into judgment, and make them the foundation of his own decisions at the last day Jeremiah 17:10; What a fearful thought is this! and what a necessity does it impose on every one to search out his iniquities, and to humble himself for them in dust and ashes Psalm 139:23-24. !.

II. Circumspection and fear—

"God will not judge according to appearance, but will judge righteous judgment." If he saw only our outward actions, we might hope perhaps to find a favorable acceptance with him: but he discerns the motives and principles of our actions 1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 11:4; Job 26:6; Proverbs 16:2; he sees whether they flow from a regard to his authority;—whether they be done in the precise manner that his word requires;—and whether, in doing them, we seek the glory of his name. If we do the best things under the influence of a corrupt principle, they are no better in his sight than splendid sins Isaiah 1:11-15; Isaiah 66:3; Ezekiel 33:31-32; Matthew 12:8; What self-examination then is requisite, to ascertain the secret springs of our actions, and to guard against the delusions which we are so prone to foster!.

III. Consolation and hope—

In seasons of temporal affliction, we may be ready to think that our state is altogether desperate This was certainly the state of Hagar under the harsh treatment of her mistress; and was probably so when the angel appeared to her. Under false accusations especially, we may be incapable of establishing our own innocence, and of vindicating our character from the vilest aspersions This was David's case, when fleeing from Saul, and accused by him of treason. Psalm 35:11-14; Psalm 35:22. But it is consoling to reflect, that "all things are naked and open before God Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 Corinthians 4:3-5;" and that he can, when-soever it shall seem good to him, extricate us from all the miseries that we either feel or fear 2 Chronicles 16:9; Psalm 33:18-19.

Under spiritual trouble also, O how consolatory is it to know, that God is thoroughly acquainted with the inmost desires of our souls: that if, on the one hand, he has seen our corruptions, he has, on the other hand, beheld our conflicts, and can bear witness to the ardor and sincerity of our exertions He testified that there was some good thing in the heart of young Abijah; 1 Kings 14:13 and will bear witness even for those who only "think upon his name." Malachi 3:16-17. !: What a comfort is it to know, that he sees us striving after universal holiness, and plunging daily and hourly, as it were, into "the fountain that was opened for sin," and relying, as the very chief of sinners, upon his covenanted mercy in Christ Jesus John 1:47-48. !: In this view, the most desponding soul may cast itself at the foot of the cross, and may say, "If I perish, I will perish here."

ADDRESS—

Endeavor to realize the thought of God's presence with you, wherever you are; and to behold, as it were, the name of God inscribed on every place, "You, God, see me": Endeavor also to "set the Lord always before you," and to order all your actions, words, and thoughts with a direct reference to his approbation in the future judgment Psalm 44:20-21 with 1 Chronicles 28:9,.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 17:9-10

 

DISCOURSE 27

CIRCUMCISION OF ABRAHAM

Genesis 17:9-10. And God said unto Abraham, You shall keep my covenant therefore, you, and your seed after you, in their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep between me and you, and your seed after you; Every man-child among you shall be circumcised.

TO a Jewish auditory the subject before us would be so familiar, that it might be treated without any difficulty. But as it is otherwise with us, we shall wave everything relative to the right of circumcision, and fix our attention upon the ends for which it was instituted. The writings of the New Testament, as well as of the Old, abound with references to this ordinance: and a just knowledge of its original design is necessary to a due understanding of the corresponding ordinance under the Christian dispensation. Let us then state to you,

I. What were the great ends of circumcision—

The importance attached to this rite under the Jewish dispensation clearly shows, that it was not a mere arbitrary imposition, but an ordinance fraught with instruction. It was imposed on Abraham and all his posterity,

1. As a seal of their privileges—

Abraham had from the first believed the promises which God had given him relative to a numerous posterity, and to "that seed in particular, in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed:" and, in consequence of that faith, he was justified before God; or, to use the expressive language of Scripture, "his faith was counted to him for righteousness." But when five and twenty years had elapsed, and it was more distinctly made known to him that the promised seed was to spring from Sarah, he had some pledges given him that God's word, however improbable, should be fulfilled. His name was changed from Abram, which means high father; to Abraham, the high father of a multitude. His wife's name also was changed, from Sarai, my princess, to Sarah, the princess of a multitude Note::15. Now also circumcision was enjoined on him and fill his posterity: and Paul expressly says, that it was "a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had being yet uncircumcised Romans 4:11." To Abraham and his believing seed, this seal assured the certain enjoyment of "God as their God" and Portion forever Note:, 8; but as administered to infants, it assured only that they should participate all the blessings of God's covenant, as soon as ever they exercised the faith of Abraham, and "walked in his steps Romans 4:12." But towards all, it had the same force as a seal has when annexed to a covenant: it was God's seal impressed on their flesh See 3, latter part, that he would fulfill to them all the promises which he had given.

2. A memorial of their engagements—

In the verse following our text, God calls circumcision "a token of the covenant between him and his people." It was designed by God that his people should be separated from all the world, and that they should be constantly reminded of their engagements to him. When they submitted to that rite, whether it were in infancy or at an adult age, they were no longer to consider themselves as at their own disposal, but as dedicated to the service of their God. Paul, in reference to the scars and bruises with which his body had been covered in the service of his Lord, said, "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus Galatians 6:17." The same language might with propriety be used by every Jew in reference to this sacred memorial: for, having in his own person the appointed sign of his relation to God, he must be continually reminded "whose he was, and whom he was bound to serve."

3. An emblem of their duties—

We cannot doubt but that this painful rite was intended to represent the mortification of sin. The Scripture speaks much of the "putting off the whole body of sin;" "the crucifying of the flesh with the affections and lusts;" "the putting off the old man, and putting on the new:" which expressions exactly coincide with the chief intent of this ordinance: they show, that we bring a corrupt nature into the world with us; and that it must be the labor of our lives to put away sin, both original and actual, both root and branch. Indeed Paul explains the ordinance in this way, and calls it "a putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh." But there are also other expressions of Scripture which show that this rite imported the highest degrees of sanctification and holiness. Moses repeatedly speaks of "the circumcising of the heart to love the Lord with all our heart and all our soul Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 30:6." And the prophet Jeremiah's language is singularly emphatic: "Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it Jeremiah 4:4." From all these passages we learn, that the ordinance was figurative, and designed to instruct the Lord's people in. the nature and extent of their duties towards him.

This rite however being dropped, it will be proper to show,

II. How those ends are attained under the Christian dispensation—

The rite of circumcision has been superseded by the rite of baptism, just as the Passover has given way to the supper of our Lord. The dispensations being changed, a change was made of the two great ordinances which were adapted to Judaism; and others were introduced more immediately suited to Christianity. Paul, in reference to the ordinances which we are now comparing, distinctly draws the parallel; and shows that, though different in their nature, they were of precisely the same import: "In Christ," says he, "you are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised him from the dead Colossians 2:11-12."

Now in Baptism we have,

1. A seal of our privileges—

When Christianity was first preached, the ordinance was principally administered to adults, because they alone were capable of that instruction which the Apostles were sent to convey. To them the baptismal rite was administered after they had believed in Christ, and after "their faith had been imputed to them for righteousness:" and to them it was, precisely what circumcision had been to Abraham, "a seal of the righteousness which they had being yet unbaptized." It assured them, that they were "accepted in the Beloved;" that, "they had redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins;" that "grace and glory should be given them;" and that while the inheritance of Heaven was kept for them, they also should by the mighty power of God be preserved for it 1 Peter 1:4-5. But to their infant offspring the ordinance of baptism assured nothing more than an external right to these blessings, and a certainty of possessing them as soon as they believed. It was of the unbelieving and impenitent Jews that Paul said, "Theirs is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises Romans 9:4." This therefore must be understood of the title to these things which they enjoyed by means of their admission into covenant with God. The actual enjoyment of these things they could not have, until they became obedient to the commands of God. It is exactly in the same manner that our Church instructs children to say, that in their baptism they were made "members of Christ, children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of Heaven." They have a title to these privileges, as a woman has to the estate of her deceased husband, which yet she cannot legally possess, until she take out administration: so these cannot attain the actual enjoyment of their privileges, until they sue them out by believing.

2. A memorial of our engagements—

The effects of the baptismal water are not indeed long visible upon the body; but the name given to us at our baptism (emphatically called our Christian name) continues with us until death: and the name of the society into which we are introduced (that of Christians) is an indelible badge of our profession, and of the solemn engagements that we have entered into. It is worthy of observation that, when the sacred historian says, "They were called Christians first at Antioch," he uses a word, which, with one only exception, always implies a divine appointment It is used nine times in the New Testament; Matthew 2:12; Matthew 2:22; Luke 2:26; Acts 10:22; Acts 11:26; Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 11:7; Hebrews 12:25. See also Romans 11:4; and in the passage that we except, it may very properly be so interpreted Romans 7:3. If it be considered that our Lord abolished the polygamy which obtained by divine connivance, and in some cases, as it should seem, by divine appointment, the excepted case will perhaps be thought no exception at all. Now, in this view of the subject, the divine appointment of the name Christian, to those who had before no right or title to it, is exactly equivalent to the change of Abram's and of Sarai's names: and in thus being brought to "name the name of Christ, we are taught to depart from all iniquity." We can never recollect to what society we belong, or hear ourselves addressed by our Christian name, but we have a striking memorial, that "we are not our own; and that, having been bought with a price, we are bound to glorify God with our body and our spirit which are his 1 Corinthians 6:19-20."

3. An emblem of our duties—

In our Catechism we are told that baptism is "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace: "nor are we at any loss to declare what that grace is which it was intended to represent: the symbol is clear enough of itself; but it is explained by God himself; who informs us, that it is "not the putting off of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God 1 Peter 3:21." In this, of course, the cleansing of ourselves from outward pollutions is intended: but there is also much more implied, even a life of entire devotedness to God: for thus it is said in another place; "We are buried with Christ by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life Romans 6:4." While our blessed Lord sojourned upon earth, he set us a perfect example of the divine life: but in his resurrection and ascension to Heaven he left us, if I may so speak, a visible exhibition of our duty: he showed us that it consists in "a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness;" and in having "our conversation henceforth, as much as possible, in Heaven."

The instruction which we would further suggest as arising from this subject, is comprised in two things. We learn from it,

1. Why infants ought to be baptized—

The great argument for not baptizing infants is, that they are incapable of performing the duties of the Christian covenant, and therefore they ought not to have the seal of that covenant applied to them. Now if children had never been admitted into covenant with God at all, this argument would have had some weight. But under the Jewish dispensation they were admitted into covenant with God at eight days old; and the seal of that covenant was applied to them. Moreover, this was done by the absolute command of God; who ordered, that a despiser of this ordinance should be cut off from his people. This objection therefore can be of no validity under the Christian dispensation. It is further objected, that God does not particularly order children to be baptized. True, he does not; nor was it necessary that he should: for there was no change of the persons who were to be admitted into covenant with him, but only of the rite by which they were to be admitted. If there was to be a change of the persons as well as of the rite, we might well expect that he should have revealed his will to us respecting it. But there is not one syllable in the whole New Testament that will admit of any such construction: and if God has not deprived children of the honor and privilege of being admitted into covenant with him, who are We, that we should take it away from them? By thus robbing them of their privileges, we represent Jesus Christ as less merciful to children now, than he was to the children of Jewish parents: and we put an almost insurmountable obstacle in the way of the Jews; who, though convinced of the truth of Christianity, might justly keep back from embracing it, on account of their children; seeing that, while they remain Jews, their children are partakers of the covenant; but, when they become Christians, their children are cut off from all interest in it.

Some indeed are superstitiously anxious about the early administration of this ordinance to their children, as if their salvation entirely depended upon it. That it should not be needlessly delayed we grant: but the command to circumcise the children on the eighth day sufficiently shows, that the children who died under that age, did not perish for the mere want of that ordinance: and Christian parents may be equally assured, that, if their infants die before they have been initiated into the Christian covenant by baptism, the want of that ordinance will not at all affect their eternal welfare. It is the avowed contempt of the ordinance, and not the providential seclusion from it, that makes us objects of God's displeasure.

2. How baptized persons ought to live—

Though this idea has been in part anticipated, it may very properly be repeated in our practical application of the subject. The persons whom we address, have all been devoted to God in their infancy. But have all remembered the obligations which their baptism entailed upon them? Have all experienced "the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit Titus 3:5. ?" Are all walking worthy of Him into whose sacred name they have been baptized? Are not many at this hour still "uncircumcised in heart and ears?" If we be not conformed to the death and resurrection of Christ, to what purpose are we called Christians? We are told by Paul, that "he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God Romans 2:28-29." All this is true in reference to those who have been baptized. Our baptism is, in fact, no baptism Romans 2:25, if we be not washed from our "filthiness, both of flesh and spirit." "Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but the keeping of the commandments of God 1 Corinthians 7:19 and Galatians 5:6." Paul, in holy contempt and indignation, calls the ungodly Jews, "the concision," as being unworthy of the name by which the more pious among them were designated Philippians 3:2. Let us know then, that even the heathen themselves are in a better state than we, if we "walk not worthy of our high vocation Ephesians 4:1;" and that, if we would be Christians indeed, we must answer to the character given of them by the apostle; we must "worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh Philippians 3:3."

 

 

 

 

Genesis 18:13-14

 

DISCOURSE 28

SARAH REPROVED FOR HER UNBELIEF

Genesis 18:13-14. And the Lord said unto Abraham, Why did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.

THERE is no time, no situation, no circumstance wherein We are not in danger of falling into sin. Whether we be in good company or in bad, we have need to be on our guard against the influence of our indwelling corruption. We may be engaged in the most sacred duties, and yet be assaulted by the most horrible temptations: we may be performing the kindest offices to others, or be receiving the most important instructions from them; and the things which in their own nature tended only to good, may through the depravity of our hearts become occasions of sin.

Abraham and Sarah were occupied in a way truly pleasing to God. The aged Patriarch, seeing three strangers at a distance, ran and invited them to his tent; and having brought them thither, gave immediate directions for their hospitable entertainment. He desired his wife to make ready some cakes; and ran himself and fetched a young calf from the herd; and, when it was dressed, he set it with butter and milk before them. In this he is proposed as a pattern to us; and we are told for our encouragement that "he entertained angels unawares." No doubt, Sarah also performed her part with as much alacrity as Abraham himself: yet behold, the very kindness with which her hospitality was rewarded, called forth the latent evil of her heart; and occasioned her to commit a sin, which brought down upon her a severe rebuke.

We propose to consider,

I. The reproof given to Sarah—

Sarah, occupied in her domestic engagements, was not present while these illustrious strangers partook of the refreshment provided for them: but, being close at hand, she overheard the inquiries made after her, and the assurance given to Abraham that she should bear him a son. Not able to credit these tidings, she "laughed within herself." But the Lord (for he was one of the guests in human shape) knew what passed in her heart, and testified his displeasure on account of it. In his reproof, we notice,

1. A just expostulation—

Sin of every kind is unreasonable; but unbelief in particular: because it questions every perfection of the Deity, and contradicts all the records both of his providence and grace. However secret may be its actings, or however specious its appearances, God will not fail to notice and reprove it. Sarah might have said, that she had done nothing but what Abraham himself had done, the very last time that the divine purpose respecting a son had been announced to him Genesis 17:17; but though the external act of laughing was the same both in her and in him, the principle from which it sprang was widely different: Abraham's was a laugh of admiration and joy; Sarah's was a laugh of unbelief and distrust. But instead of attempting to extenuate her fault, she denied the fact altogether. Alas! how awfully prolific is sin! it never comes alone: it generally brings a multitude of others to justify or conceal it. But it is in vain to cover our iniquities: God sees through the cobweb veil, and will charge upon us the aggravated guilt which we thus foolishly contract. And sooner or later he will call every one of us to account, 'Why we did so or so?' and especially, 'Why we disbelieved his word?'

2. A convincing interrogatory—

Unbelief has not respect so much to the veracity, as to the power of God. "He has given water indeed, but can he give bread also; can he provide flesh for his people?" Even Moses doubted how God could supply the Israelites with flesh in the wilderness, since it would require all the flocks and herds that they possessed, to feed them one single month Numbers 11:22. But God has given abundant evidence of his power, so that no apparent impossibilities ought at all to shake the steadfastness of our faith. Did he not form the universe out of nothing, by a simple act of his will? Did he not give laws to all the heavenly bodies; and does he not still preserve them in their orbits? Does he not also supply the wants of every living creature upon earth? Is he not moreover the true and proper Father of all who are born into the world, and especially "the Father of their spirits?" How absurd then was it to suppose, that her age, together with that of her husband, was any effectual obstacle to the accomplishment of God's word? "Can anything be too hard for the Lord?" One moment's reflection on his omnipotence should banish unbelief from the heart forever.

3. A reiterated assurance—

It is most humiliating to think what a necessity our unbelief imposes upon God to repeat and renew his promises to us: and the earnestness with which the promise so often given, is here repeated, shows the just displeasure which Sarah's unbelief had excited in the bosom of her God. We cannot indeed but be filled with amazement that he did not rather say, 'Since you treat my promises with profane derision, you shall never be made a partaker of them.' But God well knows the weakness of the human heart; and therefore, in condescension to it, he has confirmed his promise with an oath, that we might have the fuller assurance, and the stronger consolation Hebrews 6:17-18. It is thus that he tenderly reproved the church of old; "Why say you, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, saying, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Have you not known? have you not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, faints not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding Isaiah 40:27-28. Then see the additional promises, 29–31. See also Isaiah 49:13-16." Were he to suffer our unbelief to make void His truth, no one of his promises would ever be fulfilled. But he has assured us that this shall not be the case Romans 3:3-4 with 2 Timothy 2:13. If anything will put to shame our unbelief, surely this must. Such tenderness cannot but prevail upon us more forcibly than ten thousand menaces.

While we contemplate the reproof so long since administered, let us consider,

II. The instruction to be gathered from it—

In truth, it sets before us many an instructive lesson. Among many others, it teaches us,

1. What need we have to guard against the workings of unbelief—

Sarah, fifteen years before, had betrayed her unbelief, in giving her servant Hagar into Abraham's bosom, in order that she might obtain through her the child which she despaired of obtaining in her own person. She had waited ten years, and began to think, that the promise would fail, if she did not resort to such an expedient as this Similar to this was Rebekah's policy, Genesis 27:6-10. And though she had been deservedly punished for her unbelief by the petulance and contempt of Hagar, and by the workings of envy and wrath in her own heart, yet she still yielded to the same evil principle as soon as a fresh occasion for its exercise arose. It is astonishing what deep root this malignant principle has taken in our fallen nature. From the moment that our first parents questioned the fulfillment of that word, "In the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die," man has been prone to doubt the veracity of God. There is not a promise or a threatening, to which we do not find some objections, and some imagined ground for doubting its accomplishment. If we do not directly contradict the declarations of God, we still entertain a secret suspicion, that they will not be verified. But let us be on our guard: for though the sin of unbelief is but small in human estimation, it is exceedingly offensive to God, and will, if allowed to gain an entire ascendency over us, assuredly exclude us from his heavenly kingdom Hebrews 3:19; Hebrews 4:11.

2. How ready God is to mark the good that is in our actions, while he casts a veil over the evil with which it is accompanied—

At the very time that Sarah yielded to unbelief, she exercised a reverential regard for her husband: and though our duty to man is certainly inferior to our duty to God, God has passed over in silence the unbelief she betrayed, and recorded with peculiar approbation the terms in which she spoke of Abraham: "After I am waxed old, shall I have pleasure, my Lord being old also?" Peter, I say, records this, and proposes her as a pattern to all married women; saying, "In this manner in the old time the holy women who trusted in God adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands; even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord." We see in the Scriptures many instances wherein God has manifested the same condescension to his frail and sinful creatures. In the reproof which our blessed Lord gave to Peter, he acknowledged that he had a little faith, at the very time that he had been yielding to unbelieving fears. And because there was some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel in the heart of young Abijah, God was pleased to distinguish him from all the family of Jeroboam by giving to him a peaceful death, and an honorable interment 1 Kings 14:13. This is a great encouragement to us amidst all the weakness that we feel: and we may be assured that if, on the one hand, the evils of our heart will be disclosed, so, on the other hand, there is not a good purpose or inclination that shall not be made manifest, in order that every one may have his due proportion of praise from God 1 Corinthians 4:5.

3. What a mercy it is to have our secret sins detected and reproved—

From this time we hear no more of Sarah's unbelief: on the contrary, the reproof given her on this occasion was effectual for the confirming and establishing her faith. In the account given of the most eminent Saints who were distinguished for their faith, Sarah herself is mentioned; and her faith is said to have been instrumental to the accomplishment of that very promise, which in the first instance she had disbelieved Hebrews 11:11-12. And how many have found similar reason to bless God for the fidelity of their friends, or for the inward rebukes of their own conscience! Had their sin passed without notice, they had lived and died under its dominion: but by a timely discovery of it they have been led to repentance, and stirred up to the exercise of the virtue they had overlooked. Let us then "in any wise rebuke our brother, and not suffer sin upon him." And let us be studious to improve the instructions we receive, that we may be radically amended by them, and "make our profiting appear unto all."

4. How essential to our best interests is a right knowledge of God—

Had Sarah duly adverted to the omnipotence of God, she had escaped the shame and the reproof which her unbelief drew down upon her. And what is it that is really at the root of all our sin? Is it not an ignorance of God? If we duly considered how great he is, should we not be afraid to provoke his displeasure? If we reflected properly on his goodness, should we not be shamed into a sense of our duty? If we were mindful of his truth and faithfulness, should we not expect the certain completion of every word that he has ever spoken? We are told, that the Jews "would not have crucified the Lord of Glory if they had really known him:" in like manner we may say of every sin we commit, We should not have committed it, if we had known what a God we sinned against. Let us then endeavor to obtain just views of God, and of all his perfections. Let us not limit either his power or his grace: but knowing him to be "God Almighty, let us walk before him, and be perfect Genesis 17:1."

 

 

 

 

Genesis 18:19

 

DISCOURSE 29

ABRAHAM'S CARE OF HIS FAMILY

Genesis 18:19. I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord.

WONDERFUL is the condescension of Almighty God. His attention to his own peculiar people surpasses almost the bounds of credibility. Who would think that He "whose ways are in the great deep" should yet so far humble himself as to "do nothing without first revealing his secret unto his servants the prophets Amos. 3:7. !" He had in his righteous judgment determined to take signal vengeance on Sodom and Gomorrah for their horrible iniquities. But he had a favored servant who was particularly interested in the fate of those cities; and he knew not how to proceed in the work of destruction until he had apprised him of his intention, and given him an opportunity of interceding for them: "The Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?" No; I will not: "for I know him," how faithful he is in the discharge of all his duties to me: and since he so delights to honor me, I also will delight to honor him.

The duties, for the performance of which Abraham was so highly commended, were of a domestic nature: "I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord." He eminently excelled in the observance of what may be called, family religion. And this being of such incalculable importance to the maintenance of piety in the world, I will propose him as an example to you; and with that view will show,

I. The use we should make of influence—

Influence, of whatever kind it be, should be diligently improved;

1. To enforce the commands of God—

Nothing should be of importance in our eyes in comparison of the honor of God. To uphold it should be our chief aim. The power given us, of whatever kind it be, is bestowed for this end. It is, in fact, God's own power, delegated to us; and, so far as we possess it, we are responsible to him for the use of it. Magistrates are invested with it by him, and are therefore called "his Ministers" and Viceregents upon earth Romans 13:1-6. Masters in like manner bear his authority, and are his Representatives in the exercise of it Colossians 3:24. To encourage virtue, to repress vice, to enforce the observance of "justice and judgment," and to make men "keep the way of the Lord," this, I say, is the true end of authority, whether it be official or personal, civil or religious. In particular, everything that dishonors God, no less than that which is injurious to society, must be opposed with determined vigor. The violation of the Sabbath, and all kinds of profaneness, must be discountenanced to the utmost: and all the maxims and habits of the world, as far as they are contrary to the commands of God, must be held up to decided reprehension. The Gospel too, which above all things most exalts the honor of God, must be patronized, inculcated, enforced. The utmost possible exertion should be made to diffuse the knowledge of a crucified Savior, "in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells," and "in whose face all the glory of the Godhead shines." In a word, the legitimate use of power is, so to exercise it "that God in all things may be glorified through Christ Jesus 1 Peter 4:11."

2. To promote the best interests of men—

Were this world our only state of existence, it would be sufficient so to use our authority as most to subserve the present happiness of mankind. But men are immortal beings; and their chief concern in this life is to prepare for a better. In this work then we should aid them to the utmost of our power. To this should all our instructions and exhortations tend. We should, as far as we are able, make known to them "the way of the Lord," and especially the way in which they may find acceptance with Him in the last day. With this view we should enable, and indeed require, them to attend upon the ordinances of religion. We should inquire from time to time into their proficiency in divine knowledge, and their progress in the heavenly road. This is not the duty of Ministers only, but of all, according to their ability, and to the measure of influence which they possess. Parents should pay this attention to their children; and Masters to their servants, and apprentices. They should not be content to see those whom God has committed to their care prospering in a worldly view, but should be anxious for the good of their souls, praying for them, and praying with them, and using every effort for their eternal welfare. Paul speaks of his "power as given to him for edification 2 Corinthians 10:8;" and the same may be said of all influence whatever: it is a talent committed to us for the benefit of others: and we are not to hide it in a napkin, but to improve it for the good of all around us. Of course, the nearer any are to us, the stronger claim they have upon us for our exertions in their behalf: and hence our domestic duties are of primary obligation. But we are not to say in reference to any man, "Am I my brother's keeper?" but to do him good in every way that we can, and to the utmost extent of our ability. As our blessed Lord did all imaginable good to the bodies of men, yet did not neglect their souls, so in relation to these more important duties we must say, "These ought we to do, and not to leave the other undone."

That we may be stirred up to exert our influence in this way, let us consider,

II. The benefit of using it aright—

This is great,

1. To those who exercise it—

So Abraham found it: he was approved of his God, and had the most astonishing testimonies of Divine approbation given to him. 'I know him,' says God; 'and he shall know that I know him. Go, you my angels, and make known to him my purposes respecting Sodom and Gomorrah. He has a zeal for my honor, and a love for his fellow-creatures: go, give him an opportunity of exercising both. He has Relations too in Sodom: go and deliver them. This holy man shall never want a testimony of my love: I will fulfill to him in their utmost extent all the promises of my covenant 0.'

And shall any other person "give unto the Lord, and not be recompensed again Romans 11:35. ?" The ungodly have indeed said, "What profit is there that we should serve him Malachi 3:14. ?" but he never gave occasion for such an impious charge. Say, you who have endeavored to live for His glory, has he not favored you with his visits, and "lifted up upon you the light of his countenance?" Has he not shed abroad his love in your hearts, and "by the witness of his Spirit enabled you to cry, Abba, Father?" Yes, his promise to you is this; "Because he has set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he has known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble: I will deliver him, and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation Psalm 91:14-16." This, I say, is his promise to his faithful servants; and the whole of it shall be fulfilled to you in its season. "Faithful is He who has called you; who also will do it 1 Thessalonians. 5:24."

2. To those over whom it is exercised—

It is said, "Train up a child in the way he shall go, and when he is old he will not depart from it Proverbs 22:6." This is not to be understood as an universal truth: for it is in many instances contradicted by experience: but it is a general truth: and there is ample ground to hope for its accomplishment. At all events some benefit must accrue to those who are brought up in the fear of God. Innumerable evils, which under a different education would have been committed, are prevented; and good habits are, for a time at least, induced. And though afterwards the force of temptation may prevail to draw them aside from the good way, yet in a season of trouble they may be brought to reflection, and the seed long buried in the earth may spring up, and bring forth fruit to their eternal welfare. The prodigal son is no uncommon character. The advantages of a father's house may be forgotten for a season; but in a day of adversity may be remembered, and be realized to an extent greater perhaps in proportion as they were before neglected and despised.

That this subject may be more deeply impressed on our minds, let us pursue it,

1. In a way of inquiry—

Are we, Brethren, "walking in the steps of our father Abraham?" Can God say respecting each of us, "I know him:" 'I know his principle: he regards all that he possesses, his wisdom, his power, his wealth, his influence altogether, as a talent committed to him by me, to be improved for the good of others, and the glory of my name. I know his inclination: he has a zeal for my honor, and longs to be an instrument of exalting and magnifying my name: he has also a love to his fellow-creatures, and desires to benefit them in every possible way to the utmost of his power. I know his practice too: he calls his family together from day to day, to unite in worshiping and serving me. He catechizes his children; he instructs his servants; he labors steadily and affectionately to guide them all into the way of peace. His heart is set upon these things: he enters into them as one who feels his responsibility, and has no wish but to approve himself to me, and to give up a good account of his stewardship at last.'

Say, Brethren, whether the heart-searching God can testify these things respecting you? Must he not rather, respecting many of you say, "I know him," that he cares no more for the souls committed to him than he does for his flocks and herds, or for the cattle which are employed in his service? If only they are well, and subserve his interest, and do his work, it is all he is concerned about. Even his very children are not regarded by him as immortal beings: if they do but get forward in their respective callings, and prosper in relation to the present world, he is satisfied, and leaves all the rest to "time and chance." Alas! alas! what an account will such persons have to give at the judgment-seat of Christ, when the Lord Jesus shall say to them, 'Is this the way in which you dealt with the souls committed to you, the souls which I purchased with my own blood?' Beloved, brethren, if you are so unlike to Abraham in this world, do you think that you can be numbered among his children in the world to come? O judge yourselves, that you may not be judged of the Lord in that great and fearful day.

2. In a way of reproof—

Surely this subject administers a severe reproof not only to those who never employ their influence at all for God, but those also who exert it only in a tame and timid ineffectual way.

Think, you who have children, servants, apprentices, have you no responsibility on their account? Has not God constituted you watchmen to give them warning of their subtle enemy, and to show them how they are to escape from his assaults? And, if they perish through your neglect, shall not their blood be required at your hands? Did God entrust them to you for your comfort and advancement only, and not at all for their benefit? And the many Sabbaths which he has given you to be improved for them, shall not a fearful account be given of them also? Is it pleasing to Him, think you, that you suffer the ordinances of divine worship to be neglected by them, and the Sabbaths to be wasted in idle vanities, instead of being employed by them and you for their welfare?

But perhaps you will say, 'I do occasionally give them good advice.' What is that? Abraham did not satisfy himself with giving good advice to his children and his household, but "commanded them:" he maintained authority in his family, and exercised that authority for God. And thus should you do also. Eli could say to his sons, "Nay, my sons, this is no good report that I hear of you: you make the Lord's people to transgress." He even went further, and reminded them of the day of judgment: "If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall entreat for him?" But was this all that his situation called for? No: he should have "commanded them," and have thrust them out from the priestly office, if they did not obey his injunctions: and because he neglected to do this, God sent him a message that "made the ears of all that heard it to tingle." And some awful message shall you also have, if you neglect to employ for God the authority you have received from God: for "them that honor him he will honor; and those who despise him shall be lightly esteemed 1 Samuel 2:22-23."

3. In a way of encouragement—

True it is, that though you may command, you cannot ensure obedience to your commands: and notwithstanding your utmost care, there may be much amiss among those who are under your control. In Abraham's family there was a mocking Ishmael, in Isaac's a profane Esau, and in Jacob's many a sinful character. But still, if you fail in many instances, and succeed in only one, will not one soul repay you for all your trouble?: The testimony of your own conscience too, confirmed by the witness of God's Spirit—is this no recompense? Will not this amply repay every effort you can make, even though you should never succeed in one single instance? Reflect too on the testimony which God himself will give you in the last day: "I know him:" I know how he persevered under the most discouraging circumstances: I know the battles he fought for me: I know the contempt he endured for me: but he was determined to persevere: and "he was faithful unto death: and therefore I award to him a crown of life." Say, Brethren, is there not enough in such a prospect as this to carry you forward, though your difficulties were ten thousand times greater than they are? Say not, 'I am not able to conduct family worship, and to instruct my family.' If this be the case, as doubtless in many instances it is, are there not helps sufficient to be obtained from books of instruction and from forms of prayer? Do your best; and beg of God to bless your endeavors: and you shall not labor in vain nor run in vain: for "out of the mouth of babes and sucklings God will ordain strength, and perfect praise."

 

 

 

Genesis 18:32

 

DISCOURSE 30

ABRAHAM'S INTERCESSION FOR SODOM

Genesis 18:32. And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Perhaps ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake.

THE selection of this chapter as one of the Lessons for this day Trinity Sunday. intimates, that the doctrine of a Trinity of persons in the Godhead derives some confirmation from it. That one of these strangers who visited Abraham in the likeness of men, was God, cannot admit of any doubt: for He is called The LORD, that is Jehovah, above ten times in this and the following chapter; and Abraham's address to him clearly shows, that he knew him to be God. Moreover there is reason to think that it was the Second Person in the Trinity, who thus conversed with Abraham; because Abraham calls him "the Judge of all the earth." Now "the Father judges no man; but has committed all judgment to the Son John 5:22;" and therefore we conclude, that this was not God the Father, but God the Son. But it is by no means clear that the other two strangers were the other Persons in the Trinity. Many of the ancients indeed thought they were so; and there is some foundation for their opinion: for Lot addressed them in terms which seem more properly applicable to God than to angels; "Behold now, your servant has found grace in your sight, and you have magnified your mercy, which you have showed unto me in saving my life Genesis 19:18-19." And one of the angels (for so those two are called Genesis 19:1. ) answered him in language almost too exalted for a creature to use, "See, I have accepted you concerning this thing Genesis 19:21." But if we consider the peculiar nature and extent of their commission, we may account for the use of this language without supposing either of them to be God. And indeed there is clear evidence that they were only angels, attendant on the Son of God, and sent by him; for they themselves say, "The Lord has sent us to destroy Sodom Genesis 19:13." Nevertheless, if we admit, as we must, that the person who is here so frequently called Jehovah, was God the Son (for no man has seen the Father at any time John 1:18. ), the chapter clearly marks a plurality of persons in the Godhead; and therefore is properly read on this day, when the Trinity in Unity is the peculiar subject to which our attention is called.

To Him, even to our adorable Emmanuel, did Abraham address his intercession on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah: an intercession the most instructive of all that are recorded in the sacred volume. When Abraham understood that this divine Person with his attendant angels was come to destroy those wicked cities, he entreated that, if fifty righteous persons could be found in them, the wicked might be spared for their sake. Having prevailed thus far, he in five successive petitions reduced the number to ten, and obtained a promise that if only ten could be found, the rest should be spared for their sake. What an astonishing idea does this give us of God's regard for his people!

Let us observe,

I. How dear to Him are their persons!

We forbear to notice the honorable appellations which he gives them (as his jewels, his peculiar treasure, etc.) or the great and precious promises made to them, or the blessings of grace bestowed upon them: we shall confine our attention solely to the interpositions of his providence in their behalf: because it is in that view only that they are noticed in the text. But in marking God's kindness to them, we shall notice it as manifested,

1. To them personally—

We cannot conceive anything so great, but God has actually done it for his people.

He has controlled the elements. The earth has opened at his command to maintain the authority of his chosen prophet, and to swallow up his insolent competitors Numbers 16:32. The air has raised itself into tempests, and shot forth its lightnings, and shaken the foundations of the earth, with its thunders, in order to punish the enemies of his people Exodus 9:23-25, or vindicate their injured honor 1 Samuel 12:16-18. Fire also has suspended its destructive energies, in order to defeat the persecuting rage of a tyrant, and rescue from his hands the children of oppression Daniel 3:27. Nor has the water been backward to obey his will, when any signal benefit was to be conveyed to his favorite people. It has repeatedly stood as a wall, to open an avenue for them through the rivers Jos. 3:15-16; 2 Kings 2:8; 2 Kings 2:14, and through the sea Exodus 14:21-22.

God has compelled all classes of the brute creation also to consult their benefit. The birds, though of the most voracious kind, have served up the stated meals of bread and food to his prophet in a time of dearth and necessity 1 Kings 17:6. The beasts, though fierce and hunger-bitten, have shut their mouths before the saint, whom they were invited to destroy Daniel 6:22. The fishes have swallowed up a drowning prophet, to discharge him again in safety upon the dry land Jon. 2:10; Jon. 3:10. ; or taken into their mouth a bait unsuited to their appetite, that the Savior in his humiliation might be enabled to pay his tax Matthew 17:27. The insects too have united their irresistible efforts to punish a proud and cruel nation, and to assert the liberties of God's oppressed people Exodus 8:17; Exodus 8:24.

We may add also, that even the heavenly bodies have been overruled by God for the purpose of aiding, or comforting, or honoring those who were dear to him. The sun and moon stood still for the space of a whole day, to witness the triumphs of his chosen servants Jos. 10:13. "The stars in their courses fought against Sisera Judges. 5:20." And the shadow on the sun-dial of Ahaz returned ten degrees, that a pious and afflicted monarch might be assured of the deliverance which his soul desired Isaiah 38:6-8.

How dear to God must they be to whom the whole creation is thus made subservient, and for whose benefit the government of the universe is administered!

2. To others for their sake—

For their sakes blessings have been imparted to the undeserving, and judgments averted from the wicked. For Jacob's sake God multiplied the flocks of Laban Genesis 30:27. ; and from respect to Joseph he prospered the house of Potiphar Genesis 39:5. If ten righteous could have been found in Sodom, the impending destruction would have been turned from all the cities of the plain The text; and notwithstanding the extreme wickedness of its inhabitants, the city of Zoar was exempted from the common fate, at the intercession of Lot Genesis 19:21. ; nor could the storm be poured out upon Sodom, until Lot was placed beyond its reach Genesis 19:22. The mercy shown to a whole ship's company on account of Paul, deserves peculiar notice. There were 276 souls on board: the storm was so violent that there was no hope left for their preservation; they were just ready to be swallowed up in the tempestuous waves. But there was one saint on board; a saint, hated of men, but beloved of God: and for his sake the whole were preserved from death, and not a hair of their heads suffered to perish Acts 27:24; Acts 27:34. When God was about to send the Jews into captivity, he told them, that if they could find one righteous man in Jerusalem, he would spare them all Jeremiah 5:1; and after he had inflicted his judgments upon them, he assigned as his reason for it, that not one had been found to stand in the gap, and to intercede for them Ezekiel 22:30-31. After the murder of the Messiah, the Jewish nation was devoted to utter destruction: but when the days of vengeance came, "they were shortened for the elect's sake;" yes, it was out of respect to them alone that there was not an utter excision of the whole human race Matthew 24:22.

What stronger proofs can be given of God's love to his chosen people?

But we shall have a further insight into this subject, if we consider,

I. How acceptable are their prayers!

Who can contemplate one single individual interceding, as Abraham did, for all the cities of the plain, and not admire the condescension of God to his praying people? He has heard and answered them, for whoever they made their supplications; whether,

1. For themselves—

No limits whatever, except those which were necessarily fixed by a concern for his own honor, have been assigned by God to the exercise of his own grace in answer to his people's prayers. God has said to them, "Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it:" "You shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you." Agreeably to these promises he has done for them not only what they have asked, but exceeding abundantly above their most sanguine hopes. The prayer of Jonah ascended up even from the bottom of the sea, and brought him a deliverance unprecedented in the annals of the world. The situation of the Canaanite woman may be considered in some respects still more desperate, because her request had been repeatedly refused: but by persisting in her supplications she obtained the desire of her heart Matthew 15:22-28. No kind of blessing has ever been denied to the prayer of faith. David sought information whether the men of Keliah would betray him; and God told him that they would 1 Samuel 23:11-12. He desired direction, when and in what manner he should attack the Philistine armies: and God pointed out to him the precise time and place for making his attack successfully 2 Samuel 5:19; 2 Samuel 5:23-24. Thus also when they have implored mercy after the most heinous transgressions, God has shown the same readiness to hear and answer their requests Psalm 32:5; 2 Chronicles 33:12-13. "He has never said to any of them, Seek you my face in vain."

2. For each other—

Mutual intercession is a duty which has been expressly enjoined, and to which we have been encouraged by the most signal tokens of God's acceptance. The deliverance given to Peter deserves particular attention. He was secured in prison with all the care that human foresight could devise.

He was chained between two soldiers, and guarded by many others. Prayer was made for him by the church; but apparently to no purpose. The day appointed for his execution was almost arrived. But at midnight God returned an answer; an answer which as much surprised the suppliants, as it confounded their enemies: his chains fell off, the iron gates opened to him of their own accord, and his adversaries were put to shame Acts 12:4-19. It was from a full persuasion of the efficacy of intercession, that Paul was so earnest in requesting the prayers of others for him Romans 15:30, and that he was so unwearied in his prayers for them 1 Thessalonians. 3:10; Philippians 1:4; Colossians 4:12. And it is particularly in reference to intercession for the saints, that James says, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much James 5:16."

3. For the ungodly—

The iniquities of a nation may indeed arrive at such a height, that if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, those holy men should not prevail, except for the preservation of themselves Ezekiel 14:14. But the instances wherein God has heard prayer on behalf of the ungodly are very numerous, and very encouraging. How speedily did the supplications of Amos remove the threatened judgment from his country Amos. 7:1-6. ! And how irresistible, if we may so speak, were the intercessions of Moses! God had determined to execute vengeance on his people for making and worshiping the golden calf. He therefore, fearing, as it were, that Moses would interpose in their behalf, and prevent the execution of his purpose, said to him, "Let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them;" that is, 'If you intercede for them, you will bind my hands; therefore let me alone, that I may inflict upon them the judgments they have deserved.' But Moses would not "let him alone:" he instantly "besought the Lord," and, as it were, prevailed against him: for "the Lord repented of the evil which he had thought to do unto his people Exodus 32:10-11; Exodus 32:14."

While in such instances as these we contemplate the condescension of our God, we cannot fail to notice the love which he bears to his chosen people, and the peculiar delight which he feels in hearing and answering their prayers.

Observe,

1. What blessings are God's people in the places where they live!

Our blessed Lord represents them as "the lights of the world," and "the salt of the earth;" because, without them, the world would be immersed in total darkness, and speedily become one mass of corruption. Little do the world think how much they are indebted to the saints. They are ready to traduce the characters of God's people, and to represent them as "the troublers of Israel:" but, were they viewed aright, they would be considered rather as "the shields of the earth," who ward off from it the judgments of the Almighty. Only let us duly notice the tokens which God has given them of his regard, and the mercy he has shown to others for their sake, and we shall know how to appreciate their value, and ardently pray for their increase in the earth.

2. What encouragement have the ungodly to pray for themselves!

Has God shown himself so willing to hear the prayers of a single individual in the behalf of populous cities, and will he not hear the prayers of individuals for themselves? Never from the foundation of the world has he rejected the petitions of a real penitent: nor, as we have before observed, has he prescribed any limits to our petitions for spiritual blessings. "The Lord will not be angry," however frequently we renew, or however largely we extend, our supplications: "If we ask, we shall have; if we seek, we shall find;" yes, if we ask for all the glory of Heaven, it shall be given to us. O that men were duly sensible of the privilege of prayer! and that they would plead for mercy while yet a throne of grace is open to them!

3. How diligently should the godly improve their interest in the behalf of others!

We can scarcely conceive a person so obdurate, but that if, by speaking to another, he could obtain health for the sick, and relief for the indigent, he would avail himself of such an opportunity to benefit his fellow-creatures. Yet is there among us a lamentable backwardness to the work of intercession, notwithstanding our almighty Friend is at all times accessible, and the blessings which he will bestow are infinitely greater than words can express. O let all of us stir up ourselves to this blessed work! Let us consider how much we ourselves need the prayers of others; and let a sense of our own necessities stimulate us to "labor fervently in prayer" for others. We are sure at least that, if we prevail not for them, we shall bring down a blessing upon our souls, and "our prayer shall return into our own bosoms." Let us consider also that to neglect to pray for others, is to sin against our God 1 Samuel 12:23. ; and that, if we have no heart to sigh and cry for the abominations or the miseries of others, we have great reason to fear and tremble for ourselves Ezekiel 9:4 with Amos. 6:6-7.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 19:17

 

DISCOURSE 31

LOT DELIVERED OUT OF SODOM

Genesis 19:17. And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for your life; look not behind you, neither stay you in all the plain: escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.

IT is extremely profitable to observe how ready God is to honor those who honor him. Lot had been a very distinguished character in Sodom. He had seen and heard with much concern the iniquities that were committed by those around him: "he had vexed his righteous soul with their unlawful deeds from day to day;" and had set them a pattern of piety and virtue. Nor was he inattentive to the welfare of strangers: he was ready at all times to exercise the rights of hospitality, and to show to others the same liberality which he would wish to meet with at their hands. Indeed his sense of honor in this respect carried him beyond the bounds of prudence or propriety: for when he was protecting his guests from the assaults of those who would have injured them, he even preferred the sacrificing of his daughters, to the suffering of the laws of hospitality to be so grossly violated. That he erred in this matter, we have no doubt; because he had no right to commit one sin in order to prevent another. But he meant well: and probably was so agitated with fear and horror, as scarcely to be aware of the impropriety of his proposal. His zeal for God, and his attention to his guests, were well rewarded. He was informed that the persons whom he had received under his roof were angels in human shape; that they were sent to destroy the cities of the plain; and that they were commissioned to rescue him and his family from the common ruin. In what manner they executed their commission, we may judge from the urgent advice which they gave him in our text; and which we shall consider,

I. As given to Lot—

If we consider the circumstances of Lot, the advice given him was,

1. Most beneficial—

The measure of this people's iniquities was now full: and God had determined utterly to destroy them. This determination had already been announced to Lot; and he had been sent to his friends and relatives to declare it to them; though, alas! they had only treated his message with contempt and derision. His own mind indeed was convinced that the wrath of God would fall upon those devoted cities: but yet he was disposed to linger, and defer his flight. Whether he felt regret at leaving so many relatives behind him, or was grieved at the thought of losing all his substance, or had an idea that some time would elapse before the threatened judgments should be inflicted, he was not sufficiently earnest to escape the impending danger. The angels therefore took him and his wife and daughters by the hand, and led them forth without the city; and gave them the counsel which is contained in the text.

The time for executing vengeance was just at hand—There was no safety but in flight; nor any refuge but that which God had appointed—A little longer delay would prove fatal to them all—Though they were out of Sodom, they were at a considerable distance from the mountain—To reach it, required their utmost exertions: it became them therefore to strain every nerve in order to secure the offered mercy—

To promote this was the direct tendency of the advice: so suited was it to their condition, and so conducive to their welfare.

2. Most benevolent—

It is obvious that the extreme earnestness expressed by the angels, together with the whole tenor of their advice, was exceedingly alarming. It was calculated to inspire Lot himself with terror, and to extinguish in the weaker females all the powers of reason and reflection. But shall we therefore say that these divine Monitors were impertinently officious, or needlessly severe? Suppose that, having received a commission to warn Lot, they had yielded to a mistaken tenderness, and forborne to alarm his fears: suppose they had gently admonished him of his danger, and suggested the expediency of providing against it: suppose that, when they saw him lingering, and knew that one hour's delay would involve him and his family in the common ruin, they had contented themselves with hinting in a distant manner that more expedition would be desirable: would such conduct have become them? Would they have acted the part of friends? Yes, would they not have been awfully responsible to God for their unfaithfulness, and been really chargeable with the death of all the family? Assuredly, the more faithful and earnest they were in the discharge of their duty, the more real benevolence they exercised: nor could they have displayed their love in any better way, than by seizing hold of them to quicken their pace, and urging them by the most powerful considerations to secure their own safety.

We shall not depart from the real scope of the advice, if we regard it,

II. As applicable to ourselves—

Our condition is certainly very similar to Lot's—

God has declared that he will destroy the whole world of the ungodly, as soon as ever they shall have filled up the measure of their iniquities: and the judgments that he will execute upon them were typified by those that were inflicted upon Sodom. "The cities of the plain were set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire Jude,." And it is doubtless in reference to the destruction with which they were visited, that the place of torment is described as "a lake that burns with fire and brimstone Revelation 20:10. " But there is a place of refuge provided for us; a mountain where no storms can assail us, no judgments ever hurt us. This refuge is the Lord Jesus Christ; "whose name is a strong tower, to which the righteous runs and is safe." On the other hand, there is no salvation for us, unless we flee to him. While we continue of the world, we must take our portion with the world: we must "come out of it, if we would not be partakers of its plagues Revelation 18:4." We must "bear our testimony against it, that its ways are evil," and must in the whole of our spirit and conduct be separate from it 2 Corinthians 6:17.

The same advice therefore is proper for us, as for him—

Two things are indispensably necessary for us, if we would enjoy the benefits which God has offered us in his Gospel; and these are personal exertion and persevering diligence.

It had been declared to Lot, that the threatened destruction could not be executed until he should have arrived at the place provided for him Genesis 19:22. But could he therefore say, I am in no danger; I may take my leisure; I may leave myself in God's hands? Surely if he had acted in so presumptuous a manner, he would have perished with the ungodly multitude. When he had come out of Sodom, his exertions were no less necessary than before. He must flee to the mountain: he must escape as for his life: he must not delay a moment, lest he should be consumed. Thus it is with us. We cannot say, God has sent his only dear Son to save me, and therefore I have nothing to do: we must rather say, God has offered to have mercy on me, and therefore I must "work out my salvation with fear and trembling." To found our hopes upon the secret purposes of God, would be to delude ourselves, and to ensure our eternal ruin. We might as well hope to win a race without running, or to gain a battle without fighting, as to get to Heaven without personal exertion. We must seek; yes not only seek, but strive, to enter in at the strait gate, if ever we would find admittance into it.

Nor will it avail us anything to put forth our strength to the uttermost, unless we maintain a constant, vigorous, persevering diligence in the course that we have begun. Lot's wife was a partner of his flight, but not of his preservation: for she looked back, and was therefore made a lasting monument of God's displeasure 6. And if Lot himself had remitted his endeavors, he also would have perished in like manner. We may "run well for a season, and yet be hindered:" we may "begin in the spirit, and yet end in the flesh:" we may "escape the pollutions of the world, and yet be again entangled therein, and overcome." We may come out of Egypt, and yet never reach the promised land. It is not he who begins well, but "he who endures unto the end, that shall be saved." "If we put our hand to the plough, and look back, we are not fit for the kingdom, of Heaven."

Address,

1. Those who are at ease in Sodom—

We would not willingly speak reproachful words, or address you in terms that are needlessly offensive: but we are sanctioned by the prophet Isaiah in saying, "Hear the word of the Lord, you Rulers of Sodom, and you people of Gomorrah Isaiah 1:10." We bless our God that the abomination referred to in the context, is held in universal abhorrence; and that the very thought of it excites as general indignation among us, as it did in Sodom a general concurrence and approbation. But in all other respects those wicked cities are a glass wherein we may behold ourselves. "This," says the prophet, "was the iniquity of your sister Sodom; pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her Ezekiel 16:49." And what can be conceived more characteristic of our state? Our pride, our luxury, our love of ease are not a whit inferior to theirs. Again, our Lord says, "As it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from Heaven, and destroyed them all; even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man shall be revealed Luke 17:28-30;" and let me ask whether it is not so at this day? We are attending to our temporal concerns, our cares and pleasures, with avidity: but notwithstanding we are warned continually of our guilt and danger, how backward are we to flee from the wrath to come! Know you then that the wrath of God is about to be poured out upon you: and that if you flee not with all earnestness to the Lord Jesus Christ, you must inevitably and eternally perish. Perhaps in warning you thus we appear "as persons who mock verse 14," or, at best, as needlessly harsh and severe: but we affirm, that what we speak will soon be found true; and that in discharging our duty thus, we perform an office worthy of an angel. We believe God's denunciations, and therefore we speak: and if we should "speak smooth things to you, and prophesy deceits," we should prove your bitterest enemies. In this urgent matter, concealment is treachery, and fidelity is love. Arise then, every one of you; and "escape for your lives."

2. Those who are lingering, and deferring their flight—

Many, we doubt not, are convinced of the necessity of taking refuge in Christ, yet are so immersed in worldly cares or pleasures that they know not how to commence their heavenly course. They think that a more convenient season will present itself; and that they shall carry their purposes into effect before the day of vengeance shall arrive. But how many have grown grey with age, while their convictions have led to nothing but abortive wishes and ineffectual resolutions! And how many have been overtaken with the storm, while they were thinking and intending to escape from it! There are indeed many, who have come out of Sodom so as no longer to participate in its grosser abominations; and are, in profession at least, advancing to the place of refuge; while yet in their hearts they are attached to the things that they have renounced. To such persons we would say, with our blessed Lord, "Remember Lot's wife Luke 17:32." She looked back, while she was following her husband's steps. We inquire not what her motives were; it is sufficient, she looked back; and for that she was struck dead upon the spot; for that she was made a monument to all future ages, to assure us, that if our heart be in Sodom, we shall perish like Sodom: whatever be our professions, or whatever our progress, if our heart be not right with God, "we shall take our portion in the lake of fire and brimstone, which is the second death Revelation 21:8." "Make haste then, and delay not, to keep God's commandments Psalm 119:60," and to "lay hold on eternal life." Rest not in any purposes, professions, or attainments. Turn not back even in thought: but "forgetting what is behind, press forward toward that which is before." It will be time enough to "rest from your labors," when you are got safe to Heaven.

3. Those who are daily running in the way prescribed—

Faint not, dearly Beloved, "neither be weary in well doing." For your encouragement you are told to regard Lot's deliverance as a proof, that "God knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations, as well as to reserve the ungodly for punishment 2 Peter 2:6-9." Whatever difficulties therefore you have to encounter, fear not. And do not unbelievingly wish that your way were shorter than God has appointed it. This was Lot's weakness and folly. God did indeed graciously condescend to his request; and spared Zoar for his sake: but his unbelief was punished, not only in the fears which harassed him in Zoar, but in the awful dereliction that he afterwards experienced. From this time we hear nothing of him except his drunkenness and incest: and, if Peter had not given us reason to believe that he became truly penitent, we should have had ground to apprehend that he was, after all, an outcast from Heaven. Plead not then for any other refuge, or for the indulgence of any sin. Say not of anything that God has proscribed, "Is it not a little one?" A little one it may be in comparison of others; but, whether little or great, it must be renounced: we must abandon forever our connection with it, and let our regards terminate in God alone.

But let not those who are hastening towards Heaven, be contented to go alone: let them seek to take all they can along with them. Let them exert their influence to the uttermost over all their friends and connections, in order that they may be instrumental to their salvation also. Let them especially manifest their conjugal and parental affection in this way. Yet if, after all, they be derided as visionaries by some, and be forsaken in their progress by others, let them not for one moment intermit their diligence in the preservation of their own souls. If their labors prove effectual only to one or two, it will be a rich consolation to them in the day of judgment, that, though many who were once dear to them have reaped the fruits of their supineness, there are others for whom they have "not labored in vain, nor run in vain."

 

 

 

 

Genesis 20:9

 

DISCOURSE 32

ABRAHAM REPROVED FOR DENYING HIS WIFE

Genesis 20:9. Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What have you done unto us? and what have I offended you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great tin? you have done deeds unto me that ought not to be done.

WE admire the fidelity of Scripture history. There is not a saint, however eminent, but his faults are reported as faithfully as his virtues. And we are constrained to acknowledge, that the best of men, when they come into temptation, are weak and fallible as others, if they be not succored from above. We are habituated to behold Abraham as a burning and shining light: but now we are called to view him under an eclipse. We see the father of the faithful drawing upon himself a just rebuke, and that too, not for some slight defect in his obedience, but for a great and heinous transgression. It will afford us a beneficial lesson to consider,

I. The offence which Abraham committed—

He was guilty of dissimulation in calling Sarah his sister, when she was in reality his wife. It is true, she was also his sister, in the same sense that Lot was his brother; she was his niece, the daughter of Haran, who was his brother by the father's side. But was there nothing wrong in this concealment? We do not hesitate to declare, that it was a very grievous sin. Consider,

1. The principle from which it sprang—

He had been called out from his country to sojourn in a strange land: and, depending upon God for direction and support, "he went forth, not knowing where he went." For the space of twenty-five years he had experienced the faithfulness and loving-kindness of his God. And he had recently received the most express promises that he should have a son by Sarah, who should be the progenitor of the Messiah. Yet behold, when he comes to Gerar, a city of the Philistines, he is afraid that the people will kill him, in order to gain possession of his wife, who, though ninety years of age, still retained a considerable measure of her former beauty: and, in order to secure himself, he has recourse to this expedient of denying his wife. But was not God still able to protect him? or could the Philistines touch an hair of his head without God's permission? In what had God failed him, that now at this time he should begin to doubt his faithfulness or power? It was the limiting of these perfections that in after ages brought down upon the whole nation of Israel the heaviest judgments Psalm 78:20-22; Psalm 78:40-42; and it could not but greatly aggravate the offence of Abraham in the present instance.

2. Its natural and necessary tendency—

We shudder while we contemplate the tendency of this shameful expedient. It was calculated to ensnare the people among whom he sojourned; while it exposed the virtue of Sarah to the extreme hazard. Had she been acknowledged for Abraham's wife, every one would have known the unlawfulness of entertaining a desire after her, and would have abstained from showing her any undue attention, or from cherishing in his bosom an inclination towards her. But when she passed for an unmarried woman, every one was at liberty to insinuate himself into her affections, and to seek to the uttermost an honorable connection with her. The event indeed shows what might reasonably have been expected from such a plot. What other catastrophe could well be looked for? Terrible as it might have proved, both to her and to Abimelech. it was no other than the natural consequence of the deceit which was practiced.

But what was its aspect and tendency with respect to the Messiah? We tremble to relate. Surely the whole human race combined could not have devised or executed anything more injurious to his honor. It was but just before, perhaps a week or two, that God had promised to Abraham, that within the year he should have a son by Sarah. Suppose then that matters had proceeded according to Abimelech's intention, and that God had not miraculously interposed to prevent the execution of his purpose, it would have remained a doubt at this moment whether the promises were ever fulfilled to Abraham, and whether the Messiah did indeed descend from his loins. Consequently, the covenant made with Abraham, and all the promises made to him and his seed, would be left in an awful uncertainty. If it would have been criminal in Abraham and Sarah to concert such a plan under any circumstances whatever, how much more criminal was it to do so under the peculiar circumstances in which they then were!

3. Its having been before practiced by him, and reproved—

Had the Philistines come suddenly upon Abraham, and threatened to put him to death for his wife's sake, we should the less have wondered that they were prevailed upon to conceal their relation to each other. But he had committed this same offence many years before; and had thereby ensnared Pharaoh king of Egypt; nor was he then delivered without a divine interposition, and a just rebuke from the injured monarch Genesis 12:12-20. Surely he ought to have profited by past experience: he should have been sensible of the evil of such a proceeding; and, having been once rescued, as it were by a miracle, he should never have subjected himself again to such danger, reproach. and infamy. The repetition of so heinous a crime, after such a warning and such a deliverance, increased its malignity an hundred-fold.

If we consider the offence of Abraham in this complicated view, we shall not wonder at,

II. The rebuke given him on account of it—

Abimelech. admonished by God in a dream to restore Abraham his wife, sent for him, and reproved him for the imposition he had practiced. In this rebuke we observe,

1. Much that was disgraceful to Abraham—

It was no little disgrace that Abraham, a saint, a prophet of the most high God, should be reproved at all by a heathen: but, when we reflect how much occasion he had given for the reproof, it was disgraceful indeed.

The uncharitableness which he had manifested was very dishonorable to his character. He had indeed just heard of the horrible impiety of Sodom; and he concluded perhaps, that if a whole city so virulently assaulted Lot for the purpose of gratifying their diabolical inclinations with the men that were his guests, much more would some individual be found in Gerar to destroy him, for the purpose of gaining access to a female that was so renowned for her beauty. Glad should we be to offer this excuse for him: but he had before acted in the same manner without any such considerations to influence his conduct; and therefore we cannot lay any material stress on this recent occurrence. But supposing he had been actuated by such reflections, what right had he to judge so harshly of a people whom he did not know? Abimelech justly asked him, "What saw you that you have done this thing?" He had no other grounds than mere surmise: "I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place." But why should he think so? Could not that God who had brought him out from an idolatrous country, and preserved Lot and Melchizedek in the midst of the most abandoned people, have some "hidden ones" in Gerar also? Or, supposing that there were none who truly feared God, must they therefore be so impious as to murder him in order to possess his wife? It is a fact, that many who are not truly religious, have as high a sense of honor, and as great an abhorrence of atrocious crimes, as any converted man can feel: and therefore the reproach which he so unjustifiably cast on them, returned deservedly upon his own head.

In what a disgraceful manner too was his wife restored to his hands! How must he blush to be told, that he who should have been her protector, had been her tempter; that, in fact, he had put a price upon her virtue; and that, instead of being willing, as he ought to have been, to die in her defense, he had sacrificed her honor to his own groundless fears. It must not be forgotten, that Sarah was actually given up to Abimelech. and that Abraham had forborne to claim her: so that he was answerable, not only for the consequences that did ensue, but for those also which. according to the common course of things, were to be expected.

Further, in what light must he appear to himself and all around him, when he was informed, that he had brought on Abimelech and all his household some very severe judgments, and had actually exposed them all to instantaneous death! What Abimelech had done, "he had done in the integrity of his heart:" and, if he and all his family had died for it,, Abraham would have been the sole author of their ruin.

We need add no more to the humiliating picture that has been exhibited. Methinks we see Abraham before our eyes ashamed to lift up his head, and with deepest penitence accepting the punishment of his iniquity.

2. Much that was honorable to Abimelech—

If we were to judge from this portion of sacred history, we should be ready to think that Abraham had been the heathen, and Abimelech the prophet of the Lord. In the reproof this offended king administered, he was a most eminent pattern of moderation, of equity, and of virtue,

Considering what injury he had sustained, it is truly wonderful that he should express himself with such mildness and composure. The occasion would almost have justified the bitterest reproaches: and it might well be expected that Abimelech would cast reflections on his religion; condemning that as worthless, or him as hypocritical. But not one reproachful word escaped his lips. The only word that has at all that aspect, is the gentle sarcasm in his address to Sarah; "I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver;" admonishing her thereby no more to call him by that deceitful name.

On restoring Sarah to her husband, he endeavored to make all possible reparation for the evil which he had unwittingly committed. He loaded Abraham with presents, and permitted him to dwell in any part of his dominions; and gave him a thousand pieces of silver to purchase veils for Sarah and her attendants, that they might no longer tempt his subjects by their beauty This seems to be the sense of 6. "It (the silver) is to you, etc."

Finally, we cannot but admire the utter abhorrence which this heathen prince expressed of a sin, which is too lightly regarded by the generality of those who call themselves Christians. It is observable that he never once complained of the punishment which he and his family had suffered, nor of the danger to which they had been exposed, but only of their seduction into sin. He considered this as the greatest injury that could have been done to him: and inquired what he had done to provoke Abraham to the commission of it: "What have I offended you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin?" Surely a more striking refutation of Abraham's sentiments concerning him it was not in the power of language to express.

On this subject we would found "a word of exhortation"—

1. Shun every species of equivocation and deception—

They are rarely to be found who will under all circumstances rigidly adhere to truth. Many who would not choose to utter a direct and palpable falsehood, will yet put such a color upon things as to convey an idea quite contrary to truth. To magnify another's faults or to extenuate their own, to raise or depreciate the value of some commodity, to avoid persecution or obtain applause, are temptations which forcibly operate to produce either exaggeration or concealment. In disagreements especially, no person can be fully credited in his own statement. But this is dishonorable to religion. There is scarcely anything that affords a greater triumph to the enemies of religion, than to find instances of disingenuousness in those who profess it. And it requires constant watchfulness and self-command to speak the truth at all times. O let us beg of God to "put truth in our inward parts:" and let none of us think it beneath him to use that humiliating prayer of David, "Remove from me the way of lying Psalm 119:29."

2. Guard against relapses into sin—

We may have repented of a sin, and for a long time forsaken it, and yet be in danger of falling into it again. Indeed our besetting sin, however repented of, will generally continue our besetting sin: and the power of divine grace will appear, not so much in taking away all temptation to it, as in enabling us to withstand and vanquish the temptation. The Spirit of God may form the contrary grace in our hearts, and even cause us to exercise it in a very eminent degree: but still we are not beyond the reach and influence of temptation. If we had all the strength of Abraham's faith, we might fall, like him, through cowardice and unbelief. Let us then watch in all things, but especially in those things wherein we have once been overcome: and let our falls be constant monitors before our eyes, to show us our weakness, and to stimulate us to prayer. More particularly, if we imagine that we have so forsaken our sin as to be in no danger of committing it again, let us beware: "let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall."

3. Be thankful to God for his protecting and preserving grace—

If God had taken no better care of us than we have done of ourselves, how many times should we have dishonored our holy profession! Who that knows anything of his own heart, is not conscious, that he has at some times tampered with sin; and laid such snares for his own feet, that nothing but God's gracious and unlooked-for interference has preserved him? While we were in our unconverted state, "God has withheld us" on many occasions, as he did Abimelech. "from sinning against him." And since God has been pleased to call us by his grace, we have frequently been rescued by his providence from dangers, to which the folly and depravity of our own hearts have exposed us. Let us then magnify the grace of God: and, if we are enabled to maintain a holy and consistent conduct, let us say with David, "My foot stands fast; in the congregations will I praise the Lord."

4. Strive to the uttermost to cancel the effects of your transgressions—

Abraham by his prevarication had brought distress on Abimelech and all his household. But when he was humbled for his transgression, he prayed to God to remove his judgments from the persons whom he had so seduced. By this means, as far as in him lay, he counteracted and reversed the evil that he had done. It is but seldom that we can cancel in any degree the evil that we have committed: but, if any way whatever present itself to us, we should embrace it gladly, and pursue it eagerly. At all events, the measure adopted by Abraham is open to us all. We may pray for those whom we have injured. We may beg of God to obliterate from their minds any bad impression, which either by our words or actions we have made upon them. And, if we find in them a kind forgiving spirit, we should so much the more redouble our exertions, to obtain for them the blessings of salvation, which will infinitely overbalance any evils which they may have suffered through our means.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 21:9-10

 

DISCOURSE 33

ABRAHAM CASTING OUT HAGAR AND ISHMAEL

Genesis 21:9-10. And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had borne unto Abraham, mocking. Why she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bond-woman and her son: for the son of this bond-woman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.

SIN, even in this world, almost always brings its own punishment along with it: and not unfrequently the sin itself is marked in the punishment that follows it. We can have no doubt but that Sarah erred when she gave Hagar into Abraham's bosom, in hopes of having the promised seed by her. And scarcely had her device been carried into execution before she began to suffer for it. As soon as Hagar had a prospect of becoming a mother, she began to despise her mistress. Her contempt excited vehement indignation in the breast of Sarah; insomuch that she made Abraham himself also a party in the quarrel, and accused him of encouraging Hagar in her insolence. When Abraham, to vindicate himself, empowered her to use her own discretion with respect to Hagar, she began to retaliate on her contemptuous bond-maid, and to treat her with excessive severity. Thus was domestic harmony interrupted by those very means which Sarah had adopted to increase her happiness. Hagar, unable to bear the unkind treatment of her mistress, fled from her face; and returned to her only in consequence of being commanded to do so by an angel of the Lord Genesis 16:3-9. We cannot suppose that her forced submission was attended with much comfort either to herself or her mistress: where there was no love, there would be found many occasions of vexation and dispute. At last, after about eighteen years, a quarrel arose, which determined Sarah to expel from her family both Hagar and her son. This domestic occurrence is replete with instruction: we propose therefore to make some observations upon,

I. The history itself—

The expulsion of Hagar and her son, who was now about seventeen years of age, was a strong measure. Let us inquire into,

1. The grounds and reasons of it—

Sarah had seen Ishmael mocking Isaac. From the resolution adopted by Sarah in consequence of it, we apprehend, that Ishmael had derided the pretensions of Isaac to inherit his father's substance. No doubt, Isaac was instructed as early as possible to regard God as his God, and to expect both from his earthly and his heavenly Father the accomplishment of all that God had promised him. Ishmael, on the other hand, would but ill brook the idea of being excluded from the birth-right; and therefore would be ready to dispute Isaac's title to it. Possibly too the very name Isaac, which signifies laughter, would afford Ishmael many occasions of profane banter. Had this "mocking" been nothing more than idle jest, attended with a foolish pleasure in teasing her child, we take for granted that Sarah would have deemed it sufficient to reprove the fault, and to point out to Ishmael the impropriety of his conduct. But she saw that it proceeded from profaneness; that it argued a rebellious spirit against God; that it would become his daily practice; and that his mother encouraged him in it, glad to avenge in that way the wrongs that she supposed herself to suffer. On these accounts Sarah despaired of accomplishing her ends by correction, and determined to prevent a recurrence of such offences by an immediate and final expulsion of the offenders.

2. The manner in which it was carried into execution—

Sarah, though right in her judgment respecting the means of obtaining domestic peace, seems to have been too precipitate, and too peremptory in her demands for their expulsion: and Abraham demurred about the carrying it into execution. He indeed had different feelings from Sarah. Sarah's regards were fixed exclusively on Isaac: she did not consider Ishmael as a son, but rather as an intruder, and a rival. But Abraham, being the father of both, felt a paternal affection towards each of them: nor was he indifferent towards Hagar, whom he had considered, and lived with, as a legitimate wife. Perhaps too he suspected that Sarah's proposal originated in an irritation of temper, and that less severe measures would in a little time satisfy her mind. He was grieved exceedingly at the thought of proceeding to such extremities: but finding how resolutely she was bent upon it, he committed the matter to God, and sought direction from above. God directed him to acquiesce in Sarah's wishes; and reminded him, that her proposal, however grievous it might be to him, accorded exactly with his repeated declarations, that "in Isaac should his seed be called," and that all the blessings of the covenant exclusively belonged to him Genesis 17:19; Genesis 17:21. The divine will being thus made known to him, he deferred not to comply with it, but dismissed them early the very next morning. The provision which he gave them for their journey, was not such as might have been expected from a person of his opulence; but we can have no doubt but that he acted in this by the divine direction, and that the mode of their dismissal, as well as their dismissal itself, was intended for their humiliation and punishment, and probably too for the showing unto us, that the natural man has no claim upon him for even the most common blessings of his providence. That Hagar and Ishmael were reduced to straits, was owing to their having "wandered" out of their way in the wilderness of Beersheba: had they prosecuted their journey in the direct path to Egypt, where Hagar's friends were, we take for granted that they would have found their provision adequate to their support.

Hitherto we have seen nothing but a domestic occurrence: we must next contemplate,

II. The mystery contained in it—

Here, as in multitudes of other passages, we are entirely indebted to the New-Testament writers for the insight which we have into the meaning of the Old Testament. Here also we see the advantage that is to be derived from the study of the Old-Testament history: since in very many instances the incidents that are recorded, are not mere memoirs of what has passed, but types and shadows of better and more important things. This family quarrel was designed to instruct the whole world; and to show us,

1. That the children of promise would always be objects of hatred and contempt to the natural man—

We should not have ventured to deduce such a position as this from an altercation that took place between two children so many hundred years ago, if an inspired Apostle had not put this very construction upon it. But the disagreements of Cain and Abel, and of Ishmael and Isaac, are recorded on purpose to show us what is in the heart of man. The principles upon which they acted are common to the whole human race; and will operate in a similar manner whenever circumstances arise to call them forth into action. On this ground we might have formed a reasonable conjecture, that every one who resembled Ishmael, would be hostile to those who resembled Isaac. But the Scriptures supersede all conjecture about the matter: for they affirm, in reference to this very history, that "as then he who was born after the flesh, persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now Galatians 4:29." Indeed the very same things are grounds of offence to the carnal man in this day, as were in the days of Ishmael. He cannot endure that any persons should be marked by God as his favored and peculiar people. Our blessed Lord says, "Because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you John 15:19." The very name of "saints" and "elect" is as offensive to the world, as that of Isaac was to Ishmael, because it imports a preference in the Father's estimation of them. Some indeed will say, that there is no persecution in this day: but Paul expressly calls Ishmael's conduct towards Isaac "persecution:" and let it be remembered, that to be mocked and despised by our relations and friends is as bitter persecution, and as difficult to bear, as almost any other injury that men can inflict. The Apostle thought so when he numbered "mockings and scourgings with bonds and imprisonment Hebrews 11:36." And if those who profess religion are not imprisoned and put to death for their adherence to Christ, sure I am that they are mocked and derided as much as in any age; and that, in this sense at least, "all who will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution 2 Timothy 3:12."

2. That they alone are members of the true church—

St. Paul explains this whole history as an allegory Galatians 3:24-28. He tells us that Hagar, the bond-woman, typified the Mosaic covenant entered into at Mount Sinai, which brought forth children in a state of bondage: but Sarah, the free woman, typified the Christian covenant, which brings forth children in a state of liberty. The natural seed of the former represents all who are born after the flesh: the spiritual seed of the latter, that is, the child of promise, represents those who are born after the Spirit. Hence it appears that we must be children of promise, in order to belong to the church of Christ. We must have embraced the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus; we must, "by means of the promises, have been made partakers of a divine nature 2 Peter 1:4. ;" and been led by them to "purify ourselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit 2 Corinthians 7:1." These things are the inseparable attendants of a spiritual birth; and are therefore necessary to make us real members of the church of Christ. The mere circumstance of being descended from Christian parents, or having received the seal of the Christian covenant, or making a profession of the Christian faith, will not constitute us Christians. Paul, in reference to this very history, makes this distinction, and leaves no doubt respecting the truth or importance of it: "All," says he, "are not Israel, who are of Israel: neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but In Isaac shall your seed be called: that is, They who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of promise are counted for the seed Romans 9:6-8."

3. That they alone shall finally possess their Father's inheritance—

Whether there was an undue mixture of warmth in Sarah's spirit, or not, we are sure that, as far as respected the words that she uttered, she spoke by a divine impulse: for Paul, quoting her words, says, "What says the Scripture? Cast out the bond-woman and her son; for the son of the bond-woman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman Galatians 4:30." And this he declares to be a general sentence; a sentence of expulsion passed on all who remain under the covenant of works, and an exclusive grant of Heaven and happiness to the children of promise. It is not the persecuting son only, but the bond-woman herself, the mother, the whole Jewish Church, the collective body of natural and unconverted men, wherever they be, all must be "cast out:" no regard will be shown either to their privileges or professions: if they live and die in their natural state, they can have no part or lot with the children of God. They only who in this world rested on the promises as the one ground of their hope and joy, shall experience their accomplishment in the world to come. Doubtless, if we may so speak, it will be grievous to our heavenly Father to disinherit so many of his professed children; for he swears that "he has no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he turn from his wickedness and live:" but still his decree is gone forth, and cannot be reversed: we must be living members of Christ's church below, before we can inherit his kingdom above.

From this subject we may gather some hints:

1. For the regulating of the conduct of earthly parents—

It can scarcely be expected in this state of imperfection, but that disagreements will arise between some individuals of a large family. The imperiousness of a master or mistress, the petulance or idleness of a servant; the severity of a parent, or the forwardness of a child; the want of brotherly kindness in children towards each other; and especially the jealousies which exist, where either the husband or wife is called to exercise authority over the children of the other by a former marriage; any of these things, I say, may soon produce dissatisfaction, and turn our "laughter" into an occasion of sorrow: nor is this ever more likely to arise, than when a husband and his wife differ in their judgment respecting the mode of conducting themselves towards their children. But in all cases it is desirable to avoid precipitancy and passion. Authority must be maintained by those whose right it is to govern: and when occasion calls for it, correction must be administered. But it should always be grievous to us to proceed to extremities: nor should we ever exercise very severe discipline without having first spread the case before God, and implored his direction and blessing. There is an excessive lenity which is as injurious in its effects as the contrary extreme. We should inquire at all times, "What says the Scripture?" And, when we have once ascertained the will of God, we should neither come short of it through a foolish fondness, nor exceed it through vehement irritation. There is one thing which above all should be checked with a strong hand; I mean, profaneness. Parents in general are too strongly impressed with things which relate to themselves, and too little affected with what relates to God. But a scoffing at religion, or impiety of any kind, ought to be an object of our heaviest displeasure. And though nothing but the most incorrigible impiety can warrant us to proceed to such extremities as those which were enjoined in the instance before us, yet we do not hesitate to say, that an incurable member should rather suffer amputation, than that all the other members should be incessantly tormented, and the life itself endangered, by its union with the body. Nevertheless we say again, No chastisement should ever be given "for our pleasure," that is, for the gratification of our spleen or anger, but solely "for the profit" of the individual chastised, and the benefit of all connected with him.

2. For the perpetuating of the regards of our heavenly Parent—

Thanks be to God, we materially differ from Ishmael and Isaac in this, that whereas Ishmael could not become a child of promise, we may: for the Scripture says, "If you be Christ's, then are you Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise Galatians 3:29." Moreover, if we be indeed Christ's, then shall we never be disinherited: for "he hates putting away Malachi 2:16. ;" nor will he suffer any to "pluck us out of his hands John 10:28-29," or to "separate us from his love Romans 8:35-39." If we offend, he will chastise with suitable severity: but he will not cast off his people Psalm 89:30-35; whom he loves, he loves to the end John 13:1. Behold then the way of securing to yourselves the heavenly inheritance; lay hold on the promises, especially "the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus 2 Timothy 1:1." Rely on the promises; plead them at a throne of grace; take them as your portion and your heritage; seek to experience their renovating, cleansing efficacy See notes h and I. Be not satisfied with any outward privileges or professions; but "live the life which you now live in the flesh, entirely by faith on the Son of God, as having loved you, and given himself for you Galatians 2:20." Thus, though "once you were aliens, and strangers from the covenants of promise, you shall become fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God Ephesians 2:19," and shall "inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world Matthew 24:34."

 

 

 

 

Genesis 22:6-10

 

DISCOURSE 34

ISAAC A TYPE OF CHRIST

Genesis 22:6-10. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son: and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife: and they went both of them together. And Isaac spoke unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt-offering. So they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of: and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order; and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

MANY and wonderful are the instances of faith and obedience recorded in the Scriptures. But no action whatever (those only of our Lord himself excepted) has at any time surpassed or equaled that related in the text. It justly obtained for him who performed it, the honorable title of The Father of the Faithful, and, The Friend of God James 2:21; James 2:23. We shall find it profitable to consider,

I. The history itself—

Abraham had often enjoyed intimate and immediate communion with the Deity. But now he heard the command which was of a most singular and afflictive nature—

God in some way clearly intimated to Abraham his will: nor left him to doubt one moment, whether it were his voice or not. He commanded Abraham to take his only, his beloved son, Isaac, and to offer him up as a burnt-offering in a place that should afterwards be pointed out. How strange the order! How difficult to be complied with! How well might Abraham have said, "Would God I might die for you, O Isaac, my son, my son!"

Instantly, however, and without reluctance, he arose to execute the will of God—

Had he presumed to reason with God, what specious arguments might he have adduced for declining the way of duty! The certainty of his being reproached by Sarah, "A bloody husband are you to me Exodus 4:25-26;" the offence that would be taken by all the neighboring nations against him, his religion, and his God: the counteracting and defeating of all the promises which had been made by God himself, and which were to be accomplished solely in and through his son Isaac Genesis 17:19; all this, with much more, might have been offered in excuse for his backwardness, if indeed he had been backward, to accomplish the will of God. But he conferred not with flesh and blood Galatians 1:16.

Nor was he diverted from his purpose during the whole of his journey—

Having prepared the wood, he proceeded instantly, with Isaac and his servants, towards the place that God had pointed out. Nor did he open his intentions to Sarah, lest she should labor to dissuade him from his purpose. But what must have been his thoughts every time that he looked on Isaac? Yet never for one moment did he relax his determination to execute the divine command. Having come in sight of the mountain, he ordered his servants to abide in their place, lest they should officiously interpose to prevent the intended offering. He put the wood on his son, and carried the fire and the knife in his own hands. Affecting as these preparations must have been to a father's heart, how must their poignancy have been heightened by that pertinent question, which was put to him by his son ! His answer, like many other prophetic expressions, conveyed more than he himself probably was aware of at the moment. Without giving a premature disclosure of his intention, he declares the advent of Jesus, that Lamb of God, who in due time should come to take away the sin of the world ; John 1:29. Thus for three successive days did he maintain his resolution firm and unshaken.

Having arrived at the spot determined by God, he with much firmness and composure proceeded to execute his purpose—

He built the altar, and laid the wood upon it in due order. Then with inexpressible tenderness announced to Isaac the command of God. Doubtless he would remind his son of his preternatural birth; and declare to him God's right to take away, in any manner he pleased, the gift he bestowed Job 1:21. He would exhort him to confide in God as a faithful and unchangeable God; and to rest assured, that he should, in some way or other, be restored, after he was reduced to ashes, and have every promise fulfilled to him. Having thus gained the consent of his son, he binds him hand and foot, and lays him on the altar; and, with a confidence unshaken, and obedience unparalleled, holds up the knife to slay the victim. Whether shall we more admire the resolution of the father, or the submission of the son? O that there were in all of us a similar determination to sacrifice our dearest interests for God; and a similar readiness to yield up our very lives in obedience to his will!

Nothing but the interposition of God himself prevented the completion of this extraordinary sacrifice—

God had sufficiently tried the faith of his servant. He therefore, by a voice from Heaven, stopped him from giving the fatal blow; ordered him to substitute a ram in the place of Isaac; renewed to him with an oath his former promises; rendered him a pattern to all succeeding generations; and, no doubt, is at this instant rewarding him with a weight of glory, proportioned to his exalted piety.

Almost every circumstance in this narrative deserves to be considered in,

II. Its typical reference—

Waving many less important points, we may observe that Isaac was a type of Christ:

1. In his appointment to be a sacrifice—

Isaac was a child of promise, born in a preternatural way, of a disposition eminently pious; yet him did God require for a burnt-offering: it must not be Abraham's cattle, or his son Ishmael, but his beloved Isaac. Thus was Jesus also, the promised seed, named, like Isaac, before he was conceived in the womb: he was born, not after the manner of other men, but of a pure virgin: He was that only, that beloved Son, in whom the Father was well pleased: yet him did God appoint to be a sacrifice. A body was given him for this very purpose Hebrews 10:4-5. He was ordained from eternity to be a atoning sacrifice for sin Romans 3:25; nor did the Father recede from his purpose for four thousand years. Having set apart his Son for this end, he changed not: and Jesus, at the appointed time, became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross Philippians 2:8."

2. In the manner of being offered—

Isaac bore the wood on which he was afterwards to be lifted up; and voluntarily yielded up his body to be bound, and his life to be destroyed in God's appointed way. Thus did Jesus bear his cross to the place of his crucifixion; and, having been bound, was lifted up upon it. On the very spot where Isaac had been laid upon the altar, was Jesus (most probably) offered in sacrifice to God Mount Calvary was one of the mountains in that small tract of country called the land of Moriah: and from it can scarcely be doubted, but that it was the very spot pointed out by God. It could not possibly be far from the spot; and therefore, when the place for the sacrifice of Isaac was so accurately marked, it can scarcely he thought to be any other, than the very place where Jesus was offered two thousand years afterwards. And by whose hand was Isaac to bleed, but by that of his own Father? By whom too did Jesus suffer, but by Jehovah's sword Zechariah 13:7; Isaiah 53:10. ? It was not man, who made him so to agonize in the garden; nor was it man, that caused that bitter complaint upon the cross Luke 22:44; Mark 15:34. Nevertheless it was with the perfect concurrence of his own will that he died upon the cross; "He gave himself an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet smelling savor Ephesians 5:2."

There is one point, however, wherein the resemblance does not appear—

For Isaac was found a substitute; for Jesus none. Neither the cattle on a thousand hills, nor all the angels in Heaven, could have stood in his place. None but Jesus could have made a full atonement for our sins. He therefore saved not himself, because He was determined to save us.

INFERENCES—

1. How marvelous is the love of God to man!

We admire the obedience of Abraham: but God had a right to demand it: and Abraham knew, that he was about to give his son to his best and dearest friend. But what claim had we on God? Yet did he give up his Son for us, for us sinners, rebels, enemies; nor merely to a common death, but to the agonies of crucifixion, and to endure the wrath due to our iniquities Isaiah 53:6. What stupendous love! Shall any soul be affected with a pathetic story, and remain insensible of the love of God? Let every heart praise him, trust him, serve him: and rest assured, that He, who delivered up his Son for us, will never deny us any other thing that we can ask Romans 8:32.

2. What an admirable grace is faith!

The faith of Abraham certainly had respect to Christ, the promised seed Hebrews 11:17-19. And, behold how it operated! So will it operate in all who have it. It will keep us from staggering at any promise, however dark or improbable; and will lead us to obey every precept, however difficult or self-denying. Let us seek his faith: and, while we are justified by it from the guilt of sin, let us manifest its excellence by a life of holiness.

 

 

 

Genesis 22:12

 

DISCOURSE 35

IMPORTANCE OF EVIDENCES

Genesis 22:12. Now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.

THERE are in the Holy Scriptures many expressions, which, if taken in the strictest and most literal sense, would convey to us very erroneous conceptions of the Deity. God is often pleased to speak of himself in terms accommodated to our feeble apprehensions, and properly applicable to man only. For instance; in the passage before us, he speaks as if from Abraham's conduct he had acquired a knowledge of something which he did not know before: whereas he is omniscient: there is nothing past, present, or future, which is not open before him, and distinctly viewed by him in all its parts. Strictly speaking, he needed not Abraham's obedience to discover to him the state of Abraham's mind: he knew that Abraham feared him, before he gave the trial to Abraham: yes, he knew, from all eternity, that Abraham would fear him. But it was for our sakes that he made the discovery of Abraham's obedience a ground for acknowledging the existence of the hidden principle from which it sprang: for it is in this way that we are to ascertain our own character, and the characters of our fellow-men. And this is the point which it is my intention chiefly to insist upon at this time. I shall not enter upon the circumstances of the history, but confine myself rather to the consideration of two points; namely,

I. The general importance of evidences for ascertaining our state before God—

Many are ready to pour contempt on marks and evidences, as though they were legal. They imagine that the direct agency of the Spirit on the souls of men is quite sufficient to satisfy our minds respecting our real state. Now, though we deny not that there is a direct agency of the Holy Spirit on the souls of men, and that "God's Spirit does witness with our spirits, that we are his Romans 8:16," yet is this not of itself sufficient; because it may easily be mistaken, and can never, except by its practical effects, be discovered from the workings of our own imagination. Indeed, the greater our confidence is, when independent of evidences, the more questionable it is; because there is the more reason to suspect that Satan has made the impression in order to deceive us. Evidences in confirmation of this persuasion are necessary,

1. For the satisfaction of our own minds—

The Scriptures suggest innumerable marks whereby to discover our true character. John seems to have written his First Epistle almost for the very purpose of informing us on this head, that he might leave us altogether inexcusable if we erred respecting it: "Hereby we do know that we know God, if we keep his commandments. He who says, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him: but whoever keeps his word, in him truly is the love of God perfected. Hereby know we that we are in him See 1 John 2:3-5; 1 John 3:6-10; 1 John 3:14-15; 1 John 3:18-21; 1 John 4:13; 1 John 4:20; 1 John 5:1-4; 1 John 5:10; 1 John 5:18 ." (Some of the other passages referred to may also be cited.) And Paul particularly exhorts us to consult these marks and evidences, just as we would in the assaying of gold: "Examine yourselves whether you be in the faith: prove your own selves."

2. For the satisfaction of others—

What can others know of our state, any farther than it is discoverable in our lives? Our blessed Lord teaches us to bring all, even though they may call themselves prophets, to this test: "You shall know them by their fruits: do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. "Why by their fruits you shall know them Matthew 7:15-20." And to this test must we ourselves be brought: "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another John 13:35."

3. For the honor of our God—

Men will judge of our principles by our practice. Now the Gospel is represented as "a doctrine according to godliness." But how shall men know it to be so? Our mere assertions will carry no conviction with them, if they be not confirmed by manifest and substantial proofs. Men will naturally say to us, "Show me your faith by your works:" and, if our works be unworthy of our profession, "the name of God and his doctrine will be blasphemed 1 Timothy 6:1." It is by our works that we are to shine as lights in the world: and we are therefore bidden to let our light shine before men, that they, seeing our good works, may glorify our Father that is in Heaven Matthew 5:16."

From the text we learn,

II. What is that evidence which alone will prove satisfactory to God or our own souls—

Never was there a more glorious act of obedience than that which Abraham performed in offering up his son, his only son, Isaac. But it will be asked, Is anything like that required of us? I answer,

1. A full equivalent to this is required of us—

True, indeed, we are not called to that very act of offering up our own son: but we are expressly commanded to "hate father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yes, and our own life also, in comparison of Christ Luke 14:26;" and our blessed Lord declares, that "whoever comes not after him, and forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be his disciple Luke 14:33." This may be deemed a hard saying; but so it is; and the declaration is irreversible: and further still, our blessed Lord has decreed, that "he who saves his life shall lose it; and he only who loses his life for his sake, shall find it unto life eternal Matthew 16:25." There is no difference between either persons or times: the same is true respecting all his followers, in every age and place. On no lower terms will any human being be acknowledged as a friend of Christ; nor will any child of man that is unwilling to comply with them, find acceptance with him in the day of judgment.

2. Without a compliance with this, we in vain pretend to have the fear of God—

"The fear of God" is the lowest of all graces: yet must that, no less than the highest, be tried by this test. The truth is, that the new creature, even in its lowest state, is complete in all its parts. A little infant has all the parts of an adult: there is nothing added to him even to his dying hour: the only difference between him in the different periods of his life is, that his parts are more matured by age, and capable of greater exertion when he arrives at manhood than they were in the earlier stages of his existence. The different rays of light may be separated by a prism, and so be brought under distinct and separate consideration: but it is the assemblage of all the rays that constitutes light. In like manner, we may separate in idea the graces of a Christian: but where there is one truly operative, there is, and must be, all. One particular grace may shine more bright in one person, and another in another; but when "Christ is formed in us Galatians 4:19," not one of his graces can be absent. Hence then I say, that the fear of God, no less than the love of him, must be tried by this test: and by this alone will "God know that you fear him, if you withhold not your son, your only son, from him."

Now, let me ASK, What testimony must God bear respecting you?

He knows every one among you, and every secret of your hearts: yet will he not proceed in judgment without adducing the proofs which you had given of your true character. If he say to you, "Come, you blessed," or, "Go, you cursed," he will assign his reasons for it, and thereby approve the equity of his sentence before the whole universe Matthew 25:34-43. Let me ask, then, What sacrifices have you made for him? and what duties have you performed? Have you "plucked out the right eye, and cut off the right hand, that has offended you?" If not, you know the sad alternative, that "your whole body and soul will be cast into Hell fire Mark 9:43-48." Examine yourselves, then, and inquire, whether God can bear this testimony respecting you? Must he not rather, with respect to the greater part of you, say, 'I know you, that "you have not the fear of God before your eyes Romans 3:18. !" You have made no sacrifice for me; nor have you paid any attention to my commands. Abraham consulted not even his own wife, lest she should prove a snare to him: but you have been ready to follow any adviser that would counsel you to disregard me.' Well, know of a surety that the time is shortly coming, when God will call every one of you into judgment, and when he will put an awful difference between his friends and his enemies; between those who feared his name, and those who feared him not Malachi 3:18.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 22:14

 

DISCOURSE 36

JEHOVAH-JIREH, THE LORD WILL PROVIDE

Genesis 22:14. And Abraham called the name of that place, Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.

THE Saints of old took special care to remember the mercies of their God. Hence they scarcely ever received any remarkable deliverance from evil, or communication of good from him, but they erected some memorial of it, and gave either to the place or to the memorial itself, some name, that should transmit to posterity a remembrance of the blessing given unto them. Such was "Beth-el," where Jacob was favored with a special vision Genesis 28:19. ; and "Peniel," where he wrestled with the angel Genesis 32:30. ; and "Eben-ezer," the stone erected by Samuel in remembrance of Israel's victory over the Philistines 1 Samuel 7:12. Frequently the name of Jehovah himself was annexed to some word expressive of the event commemorated; as, "Jehovah-nissi, meaning, The Lord my banner;" a name given to an altar raised by Moses, to commemorate the total discomfiture of the Amalekites Exodus 17:15. ; and "Jehovah-shalom, The Lord send peace;" being the name given to another altar, which Gideon erected in remembrance of a special visit which he had received from the Lord in Ophrah of the Abi-ezrites Judges. 6:24. The Father of the Faithful set an example in this respect. He had been ordered by God to sacrifice his son Isaac; but in the very act of offering him up, God had arrested his uplifted arm, and directed him to offer in the stead of his son a ram caught in the thicket which was close at hand. This was in fact an accomplishment of what Abraham himself had a little before unwittingly predicted. For, in answer to Isaac's question. "My father, behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?" he replied, "My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt-offering." By this answer he merely intended to satisfy his son's mind for the present, until the time should arrive for making known to him the command which he had received from God; in which command that provision was actually made: but through the miraculous intervention of Divine Providence and the substitution of the ram in Isaac's place, it had now been literally verified in a way which he himself had never contemplated. And it was in reference to this expression which he had used, that he called the name of the place, "Jehovah-jireh," which means, "The Lord will provide."

This circumstance, occurring on Mount Moriah at the very instant when Abraham's hand was lifted up to slay his son, passed immediately into a, proverb, and has been handed down as a proverb through all successive generations even to this very day: the proverb is, "In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen;" or, as it should rather be translated, "In the mount the Lord shall be seen." To enter fully into this most instructive proverb, it will be proper to show,

I. What it supposes—

Much important truth lies concealed in it. It supposes,

1. That God is the same in all ages—

It may be thought that this is a truth which no one will controvert. I grant that no one will controvert it in theory: but practically it is denied every day. The God who is revealed in the Scriptures is evidently a God of infinite condescension and grace; as appears in all his mercies to the children of men. He is also a God of inflexible justice and holiness; as appears by the awful judgments he has executed on account of sin. But, if we now hold him forth in either of these points of view, and inculcate the necessity of our regarding him with hopes and fears suited to these perfections, we are considered as either derogating from his Majesty on the one hand, or from his goodness on the other hand. The notion, that "the Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil," though not openly avowed, is yet the secret persuasion of almost every heart. But if there were any foundation for this Epicurean sentiment, what room could there be for this proverb? But know assuredly, that "He changes not;" "with Him is no variableness neither shadow of turning;" "He is the same yesterday, today, and forever."

2. That the privileges of his people in all ages are the same—

To imagine this, is thought by many to be the height of presumption. But what privilege had Enoch, or Noah, or Abraham, or Moses, or any other of the children of men, which we have not? No one of them enjoyed anything which was not contained in the covenant of grace. And what was the great promise in that covenant? Was it not, "I will be their God, and they shall be my people?" Was there anything that was not comprehended in that? or could anything whatever be added to it? Yet behold, that covenant is as much in force at this day as it was at any period of the world: and those who lay hold on that covenant are as much entitled to its blessings, as any ever were from the foundation of the world. Were this not so, we should have been injured, rather than benefitted, by the coming of Christ. But our interest in it is not only as great as theirs was in the days of old, but, I had almost said, greater: for in the mention of this part of the covenant in the New Testament there is this remarkable difference: in the Old Testament God says, "I will be their God;" but in the New Testament he says, "I will be a God unto them Hebrews 8:10." This seems to convey a stronger and more determinate idea to the mind. We all know what it is to be a friend or a father to any person: but oh! what is it to be a God unto him? This none but God can tell: but the least it means is this; that, whatever situation a believer may be in, all that infinite wisdom, unbounded love, and almighty power can effect, shall be effected for him. Of the believer therefore now, no less than in former days, it may be said, "All things are yours: whether: Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's 1 Corinthians 3:21-23."

3. That whatever God at any time has done for the most favored of his saints, may be expected by us now, as far as our necessities call for it—

Of all the circumstances related in the Old Testament, scarcely any one was so particular and so exclusive as this which we are considering. Who besides him was ever called to sacrifice his own son? Who besides him was ever stopped by a voice from Heaven in the execution of such a command, and directed to another offering which God himself had provided? Yet behold, this very event was made the foundation of the proverb before us; and from this, particular and exclusive as it was, all believers are taught to expect, that God will interpose for them in like manner, in the hour of necessity! If then we may expect such an interposition as this, what may we not expect?

But let us take some other events, to which nothing parallel exists. The passage of Israel through the Red Sea; the striking of the rock, in order to supply them with water in the wilderness; and the feeding of them with daily supplies of manna for forty years: can we expect any interpositions like these? Yes: and an express reference is made to these in the Holy Scriptures in order to raise our expectations to the highest, and to assure us that we shall receive from God everything that our necessities may require. Were "the depths of the sea made a way for the ransomed to pass over?" With similar triumph may all the "redeemed of the Lord hope to return and come to Zion Isaiah 51:9-11. Cite the whole." What was done in the ancient days, in the generations of old," is there made the very pattern of what shall be done for all the Lord's people. A similar assurance is given in reference to the water that issued from the rock; and we are told "not even to remember or consider the former things," since God will repeat them again and again, doing them "anew," so that "every body shall know" and observe it: "I will give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen Isaiah 43:18-20. Cite the whole." As for the manna, you all are taught by our blessed Lord to pray, "Give us day by day our daily bread Luke 11:3. See the Greek." The matter then is plain: for, if such things as these are to be realized in our experience, there is nothing which was ever done for mortal man, which we are not authorized to expect, as far as our necessities require it. Miracles indeed we are not to expect: but what was formerly done by visible exercises of a miraculous power, shall now, in effect, be done by the invisible agency of God's providential care. The mode of effecting our deliverance shall be varied; but the deliverance itself shall be secured.

Now we come to,

II. What it affirms—

The proverb is express: "In the mount the Lord shall be seen:" that is,

1. He will interpose for his people in the hour of necessity—

This is its plain import: and to the same effect it is elsewhere promised, "The Lord will judge his people, and repent himself for his servants; when he sees that their power is gone, and that there is none shut up or left Deuteronomy 32:36." If it be asked, 'In what way will he interpose?' I answer, 'This must be left to him: he is not limited to any particular means: he can work by means, or without them, as he sees fit: the whole creation is at his command: the wind shall divide the sea; and the sea shall stand up as a wall on either hand, when he is pleased to make a way through it for his people: and the waters shall resume their usual state, when he gives them a commission to overwhelm his enemies: and both the one and the other shall be done at the precise moment of Israel's necessity Exodus 14:10-14. If confederate armies come against his people, his enemies shall defeat their own sanguinary purpose, and be the executioners of God's vengeance on each other 2 Chronicles 20:1; 2 Chronicles 20:10-13; 2 Chronicles 20:16-17; 2 Chronicles 20:22-24. Is the destruction of a faithful servant menaced and expected by blood-thirsty persecutors? an angel becomes the willing agent of Jehovah for his deliverance Acts 12:4-10. Sometimes he will defeat the enterprises of his enemies by the very means which they use to carry them into effect. This was the case with respect to Joseph, whose exaltation sprang from the very means used by various instruments for his destruction Genesis 50:20. As for means, we may safely leave them to God. Two things we certainly know; namely, that he will interpose seasonably; and that he will interpose effectually: for he is, and ever will be, a very present help in trouble Psalm 46:1.'

2. We may confidently trust in Him in seasons of the greatest darkness and distress—

God may not come to our help at the moment that our impatient minds may desire. On the contrary, he may tarry, until we are ready to cry, like the Church of old, "The Lord has forsaken us, and our God has forgotten us Isaiah 49:14." But he has wise and gracious purposes to answer by such delays. He makes use of them to stir us up to more earnest importunity Matthew 15:22-27. ; to render us more simple and humble in our dependence upon him 2 Corinthians 1:8-10. ; to display more gloriously before our eyes the riches of his power and grace John 11:6; John 11:15; John 11:40, and to teach both us and others to wait his time Psalm 40:1-3; Luke 18:1. Sometimes he suffers the enemy so far to prevail as that to all human appearance our case shall be irremediable: while yet those very enemies are instruments in his hands to accomplish unwittingly the very ends which they are laboring to defeat; disappointing thus the devices of the crafty, and taking the wise in their own craftiness Acts 23:12-17. The history of Joseph will of necessity occur to every mind in illustration of this point Genesis 50:20. ; But what does all this say to us? Its language is precisely that of the prophet: "The vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry Habakkuk 2:3."

Address,

1. Those who have never yet been brought into deep waters—

Do not imagine that because you have hitherto experienced but little trouble, your path shall always be smooth and easy. No: it is a thorny wilderness that you have to pass through, and a troubled ocean that you have to navigate, before you can reach the desired haven. The mariner when scarcely launched upon the deep does not expect that the breeze shall be alike gentle to the end of his voyage: he prepares for storms, that he may be ready to meet them when they come. In like manner you also will do well to prepare for seasons of adversity and trial. The seaman takes with him his compass, his chart, his quadrant; and makes his daily observations, that he may know where he is, and not be driven from his course. So likewise do you take with you this proverb; which will ever be of use to you in the most trying hour, and enable you to steer your course with safety to the haven of rest.

2. Those who are under any great and heavy calamity—

The Lord's people are no more exempt from trouble than others. When most in the path of duty, storms and tempests may overtake you, and menace your very existence: yes, and in the midst of all, your Lord and Savior may seem regardless of your trouble. But remember, that, embarked as you are with him, you can never perish. In the fittest moment, he will arise and rebuke the storm; and both winds and waves shall obey him Mark 4:37-39. Go forward, as Abraham did, in the path of duty, and leave events to God. Do not be impatient because God does not appear for you so soon as you could wish. Perhaps you have not gone above one day's journey yet in the path assigned you: if so, you have another and another day yet to go. Possibly you may have been long tried, and are got to the very mount: but you are not yet got to the top of that mount: much less have you bound your Isaac, and lifted up your hand to slay him. If not, the time for the Lord's interposition is not yet come. See how it was with David. He fled from Saul—The Ziphites came and informed Said of the place where he was hid—Saul blessed them for the intelligence they had brought him: and set out immediately and encompassed with his army the very spot where David was. Alas! David, your God has forsaken you! No: not so: in that critical moment, "a messenger comes to Saul, saying, Haste you, and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land." And thus was the snare broken, and the persecuted saint delivered 1 Samuel 23:19; 1 Samuel 23:21; 1 Samuel 23:26-27. Thus also shall it be with you. Only stay until the critical moment has arrived, and you shall find the proverb true: "In the mount the Lord shall be found." "Whatever you may imagine, the Lord is not an inattentive observer of your state. He may suffer you to be cast into the tempestuous ocean, and to be swallowed up by a whale, and yet bring you up again from the very depths of the sea, and advance his own glory the more in proportion to the greatness of your deliverance Jon. 2:1-9. Trust then in the Lord, and let your mind be stayed on him.

This is the direction which he himself gives you: "Who is among you that walks in darkness, and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God Isaiah 50:10." And if the time for your deliverance seem to be utterly passed, go with the Hebrew youths into the fiery furnace, taking God's express promise with you Isaiah 43:2-3, and say with Job, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him Job 13:15. See the whole subject illustrated in Psalm 30:1-12."

 

 

 

 

Genesis 22:18

 

DISCOURSE 37

ABRAHAM'S PROMISED SEED

Genesis 22:18. In your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.

THERE is nothing in man which can merit the divine favor: the promises of God to us are altogether free, resulting wholly from his sovereign grace: yet does God frequently manifest his love towards us in consequence of something done by us. Abraham, it should seem, was an idolater, when God first made himself known to him in his native land: and then did the Almighty promise, that in him should all the families of the earth be blessed. But, in the passage before us, Abraham is recorded to have performed the most extraordinary act of obedience that ever was known from the foundation of the world: and God takes occasion from that to renew his promise, and, for his more abundant consolation, to confirm it with an oath. To ascertain the full import of this glorious prophecy, it will be proper to inquire,

I. Who is the seed here spoken of—

It is not to all the natural descendants, or to that part of them that composed the Jewish nation, or even to the spiritual seed of Abraham, that these words refer: they speak of one particular individual, the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. To him all the types direct our attention—

The temple with all its utensils, the priests with, all their habits and services, the sacrifices and oblations of every kind, all shadowed forth his work and offices. The principal events in the Jewish history, together with the great persons engaged in them, their lawgiver, their commanders, judges, kings, and prophets, prefigured him in different points of view, and, as so many lines, meet in him as their common center. On this account we have reason to think that the prophecy before us relates to him.

2. In him all the prophecies receive their accomplishment—

However some of the prophecies might be partially fulfilled in Solomon or others, it is certain that all of them together were never accomplished in any one but Jesus. They were intended to designate him, that, when he should arrive, there might be no doubt of his being the very person fore-ordained of God to be the Savior of the world. The minute description of the promised Messiah, together with the marvelous combination of circumstances that marked Jesus as the person foretold, lead us further to believe that the text had particular respect to him.

3. To him exclusively the text is applied by God himself—

St. Paul tells us that the blessing of Abraham was to come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ Galatians 3:14. ; and that the words of the text related, not to others, but to Christ alone Galatians 3:16.

This point being ascertained, let us inquire,

II. In what respect all nations are blessed in him—

The full accomplishment of the text will not take place until that glorious period when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea. Yet, in a limited sense, all nations have experienced the truth of this prophecy already.

1. They are reconciled to God through him—

Christ died not for one nation only; he was a atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Many of all nations have already believed in his name, and rejoiced in his salvation: and in every place they who believe in him shall find acceptance with their God Colossians 1:20-22.

2. They are united in one body in him—

He has broken down the middle wall of partition that divided the Jewish and Gentile world, and, having reconciled both unto God in one body by the cross, he has slain the enmity thereby Ephesians 2:14-16. All mankind are now brought into one family, and are taught to regard each other as brethren: and in proportion as the religion of Jesus gains the ascendant over our hearts, we are united in love to every member of his mystical body.

3. They are blessed with all spiritual blessings—

There is not anything that can conduce to our present or future happiness which Jesus will not bestow on his believing people. Adoption into his family, peace in our consciences, holiness in our hearts, and an eternity of glory in the Father's presence, are the certain portion of all his faithful followers. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile; all are admitted to the same privileges, and all shall participate the same enjoyments.

Infer,

1. The antiquity of the Gospel—

The sum and substance of the Gospel is, that Christ is the only source of all spiritual and eternal blessings. Wherever this truth is strongly urged, men are ready to cry out against it as a new doctrine. But we can trace it, not only to the Reformers of our church, but to the Apostles, yes to Abraham also: for Paul declares, that when God spoke the words to Abraham, he "preached the Gospel to him" even that very Gospel whereby he and all the nations of the earth must be saved. Galatians 3:8. Let this truth then no longer be reviled as novel, but be received as the one ground of all our hopes.

2. The importance of faith—

Abraham's faith in this Gospel was imputed to him for righteousness Galatians 3:6. ; and by believing the same divine record we also must be justified Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:9. No doctrine whatever is more explicitly declared in Scripture than this. Let us then acknowledge the necessity of faith, and look to the Lord Jesus Christ as that promised seed, through whom alone the blessings of Abraham can flow down upon us.

3. The connection between faith and works—

Faith was that principle which produced in Abraham such exemplary obedience Hebrews 11:17; and the same root will bear similar fruits wherever it exists Acts 15:9. Indeed the pardon of past sins would be utterly insufficient to make us happy, if it were not accompanied with the renovation of our natures. To this effect Peter expounded, as it were, the very words of the text, declaring to the Jews, that conversion from sin was one of the first blessings which the Lord Jesus was sent to bestow Acts 3:25-26. Let us then not consider faith and works as opposed to each other, but as possessing distinct offices, the one to justify our souls, the other to honor God, and to manifest the sincerity of our faith.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 23:17-18

 

DISCOURSE 38

ABRAHAM PURCHASING A BURYING-PLACE IN CANAAN

Genesis 23:17-18. And the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the care which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession, in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city.

THERE is something in a holy life which wonderfully conciliates the minds of men. At first indeed, like a strong influx of light, it offends their eyes; and the beholders, unable to bear the effulgence of its beams, turn away from it, or perhaps desire its utter extinction. But when it has shone for a long time before them, and they have had sufficient opportunity to contemplate its worth, they are constrained to acknowledge, that "the righteous is more excellent than his neighbor:" and they begin to venerate the character, whose virtues at first were occasions of offence. We have a striking instance of this in the chapter before us. The children of Heth were not acquainted with Abraham's principles: but they had seen his exemplary deportment for many years: and when the death of his wife necessitated him to ask a favor at their hands, they were as glad to confer it, as he could possibly be to receive it. The purchase of a burying-place does not indeed appear at first sight to be an incident worthy of notice: but in the present instance there is much that deserves attention. We would make some remarks upon,

I. The manner in which the agreement was made—

No records, human or divine, afford us a more admirable pattern for transacting the common business of life than the history before us. All parties seemed to be penetrated with the same spirit: they vied with each other in all that was amiable and praiseworthy. We may notice in particular,

1. Their courteousness—

Abraham, in his address to the chief persons of the city, testified all the respect due to their character, "standing up before them, and bowing to them:" and they, on the other hand, addressed him as "a mighty prince," whom they were forward and happy to oblige. It were well if, in all our fellowship with mankind, we were careful to maintain a similar deportment. But there are many Christians who seem almost to forget that God has said unto them, "Be courteous 1 Peter 3:8." They are arrogant and assuming towards their superiors; they are haughty and imperious towards their inferiors; they are ready to claim as their right what they ought to ask as a favor; and, if they grant a favor, they confer it in so ungracious a way, as to destroy all sense of obligation in him who receives it. Some allowance indeed must be made for natural disposition, and for defects of education: yet, after all, the Christian ought to be the most polite of men, because he ought to feel in his heart all that others express in their conduct: he should "esteem others better than himself Philippians 2:3," and "prefer them in honor before himself Romans 12:10," and make himself the servant of all for his Master's sake 1 Corinthians 9:19. He should have in subjection all that pride and selfishness, that stimulates to contention Ephesians 4:31-32. ; and maintain in exercise that divine philanthropy, which is the foundation and cement of all civilized society Colossians 3:12-14. "Whatever is lovely and of good report," he should revolve it in his thoughts, and manifest it in his actions Philippians 4:8.

2. Their equity—

Gladly would Ephron have given to Abraham both the sepulcher which he desired, and the field in which it was contained: but Abraham entreated that he might be permitted to pay for it a valuable consideration. Accordingly the price was fixed on the one part with perfect equity, and paid, on the other, with perfect cheerfulness. Would to God that all men would adopt this mode of dealing, and buy and sell according to this pattern! Would to God that even professed Christians would copy after this example! How much falsehood, how much imposition, would then be avoided! Solomon has drawn to the life the characters of many, who depreciate everything which they wish to buy, and then go away boasting of the advantageous bargains they have made; "It is naught, it is naught, says the buyer; and when he is gone his way, he boasts Proverbs 20:14." But this is beneath the character of a good man. We should not wish to obtain more, or to pay less, for a thing, than it is worth. We should not advance the price on account of the purchaser's necessity, or refuse what is right on account of the necessity of the seller: but, whether we buy or sell, should act towards our neighbor as we in a change of circumstances would have him do to us.

3. Their prudence—

To Abraham especially it was of importance that the purchase should be known and ratified. Had he accepted the sepulcher as a present, or bought it in a private way, his title to it might at some future period have been disputed, and his descendants been deprived of that which he was desirous of securing to them. But all fears of this kind were effectually prevented by the publicity of the transaction. The chief persons of the city were not only witnesses of it, but agents, by whose mediation Ephron was induced to conclude the bargain. Moreover, all who went in or out of the gate of the city, were witnesses; so that, after possession was once taken, no doubt could ever arise respecting the transfer of the property, or the title of Abraham's descendants to possess it.

How unlike to Abraham are many who call themselves his children! They embark in business, and enter into contracts, without due consideration: they transact their affairs without order, and leave them in confusion: and thus by their indiscreet conduct they involve their names in disgrace, and their families in ruin. Let us learn from him: let us act with caution: let not even affliction itself render us inattentive to the welfare of our posterity: let us conduct ourselves conformably to that sage advice of Solomon, "Prepare your work without, and make it fit for yourself in the field; and afterwards build your house Proverbs 24:27." In other words, Let deliberation and foresight so regulate our conduct, that they who succeed us may applaud our wisdom, and reap the benefit of our care.

If the manner of forming this agreement is profitable, much more shall we find it profitable to consider,

II. The ends for which it was made—

There was much more in the mind of Abraham than was known to the people among whom he sojourned. Besides the immediate and ostensible reason of making that purchase, he had others that were no less important. We shall mention them in their order. He bought the field,

1. To bury his wife—

Sarah had lived with him to a good old age. But the dearest relatives, how long soever their union may continue, must part at last This idea is judiciously put into the mouths of both the parties at the time they betroth themselves to each other at the altar; "Until death us do part." And when the time of separation is come, the most beloved object ceases to please. The soul having taken its flight, the body hastens to putrefaction; and we are as glad to have it removed out of our sight, as ever we were to enjoy communion with it. To give it a decent interment, and drop a tear over it at the grave, is the last office of love which we are able to show to our clearest friend: and he who lives the longest, has only to perform this painful office the more frequently, until he sees himself, as it were, forsaken by all, and left desolate, unknowing, and unknown. O that we could all bear this in mind! We are born to die: the moment we drew our breath, we had one breath less to draw. Every hour we live, we approach nearer and nearer to our grave. If we continue our course, like the sun, from its rise to the meridian, and from its meridian to the close of day, still every moment shortens our duration; and while we are speaking to you now, we are hastening to the chambers of death. Let husbands and wives, parents and children, and friends who are to each other as their own soul, remember this. Let them sit loose to each other; and let the time that they enjoy the society of their friends, be regarded by them as the interval allotted to prepare for their interment.

2. To express his confidence in the divine promise—

God had promised to him and to his seed the land wherein he sojourned. But Abraham had continued there above sixty years without gaining in it so much as one foot of land Acts 7:5. But was the promise therefore to be doubted? No. It was not possible that that could fail. Abraham was as much assured that the promise should be fulfilled, as if he had seen its actual accomplishment. Under this conviction, he purchased the field as a pledge and earnest of his future inheritance. In the prophecies of Jeremiah we have a similar compact made with precisely the same view. The prophet had foretold the speedy desolation of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, and the restoration of the Jews to their own land after a captivity of seventy years. His uncle's son, alarmed, as it should seem, by the approach of the Chaldean army, determined to sell his estate; and offered it to Jeremiah first, because the right of redemption belonged to him. By Gods command Jeremiah bought the inheritance; and had the transfer signed and sealed in a public manner; and buried the writings in an earthen vessel; that, being preserved to the expiration of the Babylonish captivity, they might be an evidence of his title to the estate. This was done, not that the prophet, or his heirs, might be enriched by the purchase, but that his conviction of the truth of his own prophecies might be made manifest Jeremiah 32:6-16; Jeremiah 32:42-44.

3. That he might perpetuate among his posterity the expectation of the promised land—

It was to be four hundred years before his seed were to possess the land of Canaan. In that length of time it was probable that the promise itself would be forgotten; and more especially during their Egyptian bondage. But their having a burying-place in Canaan, where their bones were to be laid with the bones of their father Abraham, was the most likely means of keeping alive in every succeeding generation the hope of ultimately possessing the whole land. Accordingly we find, it did produce this very effect: for as Abraham and Sarah were buried in that cave, so Isaac and Rebekah were, and Jacob and Leah, notwithstanding Jacob died in Egypt Genesis 25:9-10; Genesis 45:28; Genesis 49:30-32; Genesis 50:13. And Joseph also, though buried in Egypt, gave commandment, that when the Israelites should depart out of Egypt to possess the land of Canaan, they should carry up his bones with them, and bury them in the sepulcher of his progenitors Genesis 50:24-25 with Hebrews 11:22.

ADDRESS—

1. Let us seek an union that shall never be dissolved—

All earthly connections must sooner or later be dissolved: and when once they are broken by death, they are terminated for ever. But an union formed with the Lord Jesus Christ shall never cease. If we are grafted into him as the living vine, we shall never be broken off: if we are made living members of his body, he will suffer nothing to separate us from him. Death, so far from destroying that union, shall confirm it, and bring us into a more intimate enjoyment of it. Let us then seek that union which is effected by faith in the Lord Jesus. If we consider only the present happiness arising from it, it infinitely transcends all other: but if we regard its continuance, the longest and dearest connections upon earth are not worthy a thought in comparison of it.

2. Let us look forward to the possession of the heavenly Canaan—

There is "a promise left us of entering into rest," even into "that rest which remains for the people of God." But we may experience many difficulties and trials in our way thither. Nevertheless "the promise is sure to all the seed:" and "our Forerunner is already entered" into Heaven, to take possession of it for us. Nay more, he has given us his "Holy Spirit to he a pledge and earnest of our inheritance." Let us then be contented to live as pilgrims and sojourners in this world; and make it our chief labor to keep our title to that inheritance clear. Let us he anticipating the time when the promise shall bring forth, and all the seed of Abraham rejoice together in its full accomplishment.

3. Let all our fellowship with men be worthy of our professions and expectations—

If we have indeed been chosen of God to an eternal inheritance, we should show a deadness to the things of this world, and an amiableness in the whole of our deportment. It is a shame to be outdone by heathens in anything. We should excel in courteousness and generosity, in prudence and equity, as well as in heavenly-mindedness and devotion. In short, we should endeavor in all things to "walk worthy of our high calling," and to "show forth the virtues, as well as the praises, of him who has called us to his kingdom and glory." Such behavior will go far towards conciliating our enemies. It will "put to silence the ignorance of foolish men;" and "make those ashamed, who falsely accuse our good conversation in Christ:" and, our light shining thus with uniform and engaging splendor, will constrain many to "glorify our Father that is in Heaven."

 

 

 

 

Genesis 24:2-4

 

DISCOURSE 39

MARRIAGE OF ISAAC

Genesis 24:2-4. And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray you, your hand under my thigh: and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of Heaven, and the God of the earth, that you shall not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; but you shall go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.

THE great events which take place in the world, such as the rise and overthrow of kingdoms, are disregarded by God as unworthy of notice; while the most trivial things that appertain to his church and people, are recorded with the minutest exactness. The whole chapter from whence our text is taken relates to the marriage of Isaac. We are introduced into the most private scenes, and made acquainted with the whole rise, progress, and consummation of a matter, which might as well, to all appearance, have been narrated in a few words. But nothing is unimportant in God's eyes, that can illustrate the operations of his grace, or tend to the edification of his church. in discoursing on this part of sacred history we shall notice,

I. Its peculiar incidents—

Abraham commissioned his servant to go and seek a wife for his son Isaac—

That holy man could not endure the thought of his son forming a connection with the Canaanites, who would be likely to draw him aside from the worship of the true God. He therefore ordered his old and faithful servant, Eliezer It is not absolutely said that, this was the servant; but the confidence placed in him sixty years before, renders it most probable. Genesis 15:2, to go to the country where his father's relations lived, and where, though idolatry obtained in part, Jehovah was still known and worshiped, to bring for his son a wife from thence. As Isaac was forty years of age, it might have seemed more proper for him to go himself: but Abraham had been called out from thence, and would on no account either go back thither himself, or suffer his son to go, lest he should appear weary of his pilgrimage, or countenance his descendants in going back to the world from whence they have been brought forth. On this account, when his servant asked whether, in the event of the woman, whom he should fix upon, being unwilling to accompany him, he should take Isaac thither to see her, Abraham in the most peremptory manner imaginable forbade any such step; and declared his confidence, that while he was thus jealous for the honor of his God, God would overrule the mind of any person who should be selected as a partner for his son –8. But not contented with charging him in this manner, he imposed an oath upon him, and bound him by the most solemn obligations to execute his commission with fidelity and care The more customary mode of swearing was by lifting up the hand to Heaven (Genesis 14:22.): but here it was by putting his hand under Abraham's thigh; which was afterwards required by Jacob for the same purpose of his son Joseph. Genesis 47:29.

How admirable a pattern is this for parents, in reference to the forming of matrimonial connections for their children! The generality are influenced chiefly by the family and fortune of those with whom they seek to be allied: and even professors of godliness are too often swayed by considerations like these, without adverting sufficiently to the interest of their immortal souls. But surely the religious character of a person ought to operate upon our minds beyond any other consideration whatever. To what purpose has God told us, that the believer can have no communion with an unbeliever, any more than light with darkness, or Christ with Belial 2 Corinthians 6:14-15. ? To what purpose has he enjoined us to marry "only in the Lord 1 Corinthians 7:39," if we are still at liberty to follow our carnal inclinations and our worldly interests, without any regard to our eternal welfare? Let the example of Abraham and of Isaac have its due weight on all, whether parents or children: and let a concern for God's honor regulate our conduct, as well in choosing connections for ourselves, as in sanctioning the choice of others.

The servant executed his commission with fidelity and dispatch—

Never was there a brighter pattern of a servant than that which this history sets before us. In every step that Abraham's servant took, he showed how worthy he was to be entrusted with so important a mission. In his first setting-out he acted with great prudence: for, if he had gone alone without any evidences of his master's wealth, he could not expect that he should obtain credit for his assertions. Therefore, without any specific directions from his master, he took ten camels richly laden, and, with them, a proper number of attendants; who, while they evinced the opulence of his master, would be witnesses also of his own conduct. His dependence indeed was upon God, and not on any devices of his own: nevertheless he rightly judged that a dependence upon God was not to supersede the exercise of wisdom and discretion.

Having reached the place of his destination, he earnestly implored direction and blessing from God: and in order that he might ascertain the will of God, he entreated that the woman designed for him might of her own accord offer to water all his camels. A better sign he could not well have asked: because such an offer, freely made to a stranger, would indicate a most amiable disposition: it would demonstrate at once the humility, the industry, the affability, the extreme kindness of the female; and would be a pledge, that she who could be so courteous and obliging to a stranger, would certainly conduct herself well in the relation of a wife. Scarcely had he presented his silent ejaculations to God, when Rebekah came, according to the custom of those times, to draw water; and, on being requested to favor him with a draught of water, made the very reply which he had just specified as the sign that was to mark the divine appointment. And no sooner had she made the offer, than she set herself (though it was no inconsiderable labor) to perform it. Amazed at the merciful interposition of his God, he stood wondering, and adoring God for the mercy given unto him: nor did he suffer any of the inferior servants to assist her; that, by leaving her to complete the work alone, he might see more clearly the hand of God ordering and overruling the whole matter. When she had finished, he inquired her name and family: and finding that they were his master's nearest relations, he made her a present of some valuable ornaments; and proposed, if her father could accommodate him, to spend the night at his house. She went home immediately to inform her friends, who came to the well, and invited him to return with them. Having brought him to their house, and shown him the greatest hospitality, he refused to partake of any refreshment until he had made known to them the design of his coming. He then began to relate the wish of Abraham his master, the oath that he had imposed upon him, the prayer which he himself had silently offered to God, and the miraculous answer he had received to it; informing them at the same time of the opulence of Abraham, and that Isaac, on whose behalf he was come, was to be his sole heir. Immediately they all agreed, that the matter proceeded from the Lord; and they testified their willingness to accede to the proposal. They wished however for a few days' delay; but the servant, having succeeded in the object of his mission, was impatient to be gone, and to deliver his master from the suspense in which he must of necessity have been kept. And Rebekah declaring her readiness to proceed with him, he took her and her nurse (after having given presents to all her relations, and thereby increased their esteem for his master), and brought her in safety to Isaac; who gladly received her as a present from the Lord, and was thenceforth united to her with the most affectionate regard.

In all this transaction we cannot but admire, on the one hand, the wisdom, the zeal, and the piety of the servant; and, on the other hand, the condescension and goodness of Jehovah. And though we are not warranted by this history to expect precisely the same interposition in our behalf, yet we are warranted to confide in God, and to expect his direction and blessing in all the things which we humbly commit to him.

As a mere history, this is replete with instruction; but it is still more so, if considered in,

II. Its emblematic import—

Fearful as we would be, exceeding fearful, of imposing any sense upon the Holy Scriptures, which God himself has not plainly sanctioned, we will not take upon ourselves absolutely to affirm that the marriage of Isaac was allegorical: but when we consider that some of the most striking parts of Isaac's history are explained by the inspired writers as emblematical of some mystery; that as the promised seed, born in a preternatural way, he was certainly a type of Christ; and that, as being the heir in opposition to Ishmael, he shadowed forth that spiritual seed who should inherit the promises; when we consider too the marvelous circumstances attending his marriage; we cannot reasonably doubt, but that it was a figure or emblem of some mysterious truth. If this ground of interpretation be admitted, we do not then hesitate to say, what that point is which it was intended to prefigure: it was certainly the marriage of God's only dear Son to his bride, the church.

1. God, like Abraham, sends forth his servants to obtain a bride for his Son—

The object nearest to the heart of our heavenly Father is to bring souls into connection with his dear Son. This connection is often represented under the idea of a marriage. Not to mention the innumerable places in the Old Testament where this image is used, we would only observe, that Jesus Christ is expressly called "the Bridegroom;" that his servants are called "the friends of the bridegroom, who hear his voice, and rejoice" in his prosperity John 3:29. ; and that the church is called "the Lamb's wife Revelation 21:9." Ministers are sent forth to prevail on persons to unite themselves to him by faith, so as to become one flesh, and one spirit Ephesians 5:30; 1 Corinthians 6:15; 1 Corinthians 6:17, with him. And when they are successful in any instances, "they espouse their converts to one husband, that they may present them as a chaste virgin to Christ 2 Corinthians 11:2. Who that weighs these words, can doubt the propriety of interpreting Isaac's marriage as emblematical of Christ's union with the Church?." To this office they are sworn in the most solemn manner: they are warned, that they shall be called to an account for their discharge of it; that if any through their neglect remain unimpressed with his overtures of mercy, their souls shall be required at the hands of him who neglected them. At the same time they are informed, that if their want of success is not owing to their own negligence, but to the obstinacy of the people to whom they are sent, it shall not be imputed to them; but "they shall receive a recompense according to their own labor 1 Corinthians 3:8," and "be glorious in God's eyes though Israel be not gathered Isaiah 49:5 with 1."

2. His servants execute their commission in the very way that Abraham's servant did—

They look unto God for his direction and blessing; knowing assuredly, that, though "Paul should plant and Apollos water, God alone can give the increase." They endeavor to render the leadings of his providence subservient to their great end. They watch carefully for any signs which may appear of God's intention to render their message effectual; and they are forward to set forth the unsearchable riches of Christ, together with his suitableness and sufficiency for his church's happiness. They declare that He is "appointed heir of all things;" and that out of His fullness all the wants of his people shall be abundantly supplied. They exhibit in their own persons somewhat of that "salvation with which he will beautify the meek;" and to every soul that expresses a willingness to be united to him, they are desirous to impart pledges and earnests of his future love. And if in any instance God blesses their endeavors, they labor to accelerate that perfect union which is the consummation of all their wishes. To anything that would divert their attention or retard their progress, they say, "Hinder me not, seeing the Lord has prospered my way 6."

3. Their labors are crowned with similar success—

No faithful servant labors altogether in vain Jeremiah 23:22. Some doubtless are far more successful than others; but all who endeavor earnestly to "win souls to Christ," have the happiness of seeing some who obey the call, and cheerfully "forsake all to follow him." These are to them now their richest recompense; and in the last day will also be "their joy and crown of rejoicing:" for "when the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready," then shall they also be "called to the marriage supper of the Lamb," and be eternally blessed in his presence. "These are the true sayings of God Revelation 19:7-9."

To make a suitable improvement of this history,

1. Let us have respect to God in all our temporal concerns—

We have seen how simply and entirely God was regarded by all the parties concerned in this affair; by Abraham who gave the commission, by Isaac who acquiesced in it, by the servant who executed it, by Rebekah's friends who submitted to the proposal as proceeding from God, and by Rebekah herself, who willingly accompanied the servant to his master's house. Happy would it be if all masters, children, servants, families, were actuated by such a spirit! We need not limit our thoughts to the idea of marriage; for we are told that "in all our ways we should acknowledge God, and that he will direct our paths." There is not a concern, whether personal or domestic, which we ought not to commit to him. And if all our "works were begun, continued, and ended in him," we should find that God would "prosper the work of our hands upon us:" "being in his way, he would most assuredly lead us" to a happy and successful outcome 7.

2. Let us execute with fidelity every trust reposed in us—

It is the privilege both of masters and servants to know, that "they have a Master in Heaven;" who accepts at their hands the most common offices of life, provided his authority is acknowledged, his honor consulted, and his will obeyed, in the execution of them. This is God's own direction to them: "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatever good thing any man does, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, you masters, do the same things unto them Ephesians 6:5-9." Whatever be our particular calling, it is that to which God himself has called us, and which ought to be exercised with a view to him, and as in his immediate sight. O that when we come into the presence of our Lord in the last day, we may be able to give as good an account of ourselves to him, as this servant did to his master Abraham!

3. Let us accept the offers which are sent to us in Jesus' name—

The great concern typified in the history before us, is that in which we are this moment engaged. We are the servants of the most high God; and you are the people to whom we are sent. We are ambassadors from him; and we beseech you, in Christ's stead, to be reconciled to him, and to accept his overtures of love and mercy. We declare to you, that now he will adorn you with a robe of righteousness and the graces of his Spirit, which were but faintly shadowed forth by the clothing and the jewels that were given to Rebekah 3. You shall be "all glorious within, and your clothing of wrought gold Psalm 45:13." O let us not go away ashamed: let us not return and say, that those whom we have solicited, "refuse to come with us." This is the message which he has sent to every one of you: "Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear; forget also your own people and your father's house; so shall the King have pleasure in your beauty Psalm 45:10-11." May God of his mercy incline you to accept his invitation, and make you willing in the day of his power!

 

 

 

 

Genesis 25:23

 

DISCOURSE 40

JACOB PREFERRED BEFORE ESAU

Genesis 25:23. The elder shall serve the younger.

THE common gifts of Providence are bestowed in such a regular and ordinary way, that the hand of God is scarcely seen or acknowledged in them. They are considered as resulting from a settled order of things, and are placed to the account of an imaginary cause, called Nature. But it pleases God sometimes to mark his dispensations in so plain a manner, that his agency cannot be overlooked. He withheld from Abraham the promised seed, until there was not the most remote hope of a child being born to him of his wife, Sarah, according to the common course of nature; and thus evinced, beyond a possibility of doubt, that the child was a special and miraculous gift from him. In the same manner he kept Isaac also twenty years childless; and then at last condescended to his repeated supplications, and granted him the desire of his heart. On that occasion God further manifested, that, as "children are a fruit and heritage that comes of the Lord," so all that relates to them, even to the remotest period of time, is ordered by him. Rebekah, who had been twenty years barren, at last found in herself symptoms of a very extraordinary kind; and being unable to account for them, consulted the Lord. God answered her, that twins were in her womb; that they should be fathers of two distinct nations; that their characters, as also that of their descendants, should be extremely different; that they should contend with each other for the superiority; that the younger should be victorious; and that "the elder should serve the younger." This was not fulfilled in the children themselves; for Esau was stronger than Jacob; being at the head of a warlike band Genesis 36. while Jacob was only a poor shepherd, and having many generations of great and powerful men, while Jacob's posterity were oppressed with the sorest bondage. But in the time of David the prophecy began to be accomplished 2 Samuel 8:14. (we may indeed consider Jacob's obtaining of the birthright as a partial fulfillment of it), and in after ages it was fulfilled in its utmost extent; Edom being made a desolation, while the kingdom of Judah was yet strong and flourishing Obadiah. 1:6-10; Obadiah. 1:17-18; Ezekiel 25:12-14. We must not however imagine that this is all that is contained in the words of our text. This prophecy is referred to by the inspired writers both of the Old and New Testament; and that too in such a way, as to show that it is of singular importance. The prophet Malachi adduces it in proof of God's partiality towards the Jewish nation Malachi 1:2-3; and Paul quotes it, to confirm the idea he has suggested of God's determination to reject the Jews, who were the elder part of his family; and to receive the Gentiles, who were the younger Romans 9:10-13. The whole train of the Apostle's argumentation in that chapter shows, that he had even an ulterior view, which was, to vindicate the sovereignty of God in the disposal of his favors, whether temporal or spiritual; and to make every one sensible that he was altogether indebted to the free grace of God for his hopes of mercy and salvation.

To confirm the words in this view, we may observe,

I. That God has a right to dispense his blessings according to his own sovereign will—

God, as the Creator of all things, has an unlimited right over all—

It was of his own good pleasure that he created the world at all: there was nothing that had any claim upon him to call it into existence. When he had formed the chaos, no part of matter had any claim above the rest: that which was left inert had no reason to complain that it was not endued with vegetative power; nor vegetables, that they were not enriched with animal life; nor animals, that they were not possessed. of reason; nor our first parents, that they were created inferior to angels. Nothing had any claim upon its Maker. He had the same right over all as "the potter has over the clay, to make one vessel to honor, and another to dishonor:" nor could any presume to say, "Why have you made me thus Romans 9:20-21. ?" If this then be true, what claim can man have upon his Maker now? If he had none when innocent, has he acquired any by his fall? Does a loyal subject acquire new rights by rising in rebellion against his prince?

As the Lord and Governor of all things too, he may dispose of them as he sees fit—

An earthly monarch does not consider himself accountable to his subjects for disposing of that which is properly, and in all respects, his own. He obliges those who are the objects of his favor, but does no injury to those who participate his bounty only in a less degree. Indeed every individual thinks himself at liberty to bestow or withhold his gifts, according as his inclination or judgment may dictate. And shall we deny to God what we concede to men? Shall we bind Him by a law from which we ourselves are free? If any one were to blame us for using our own discretion in conferring obligations, we should ask without hesitation, "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own Matthew 20:15. ?" Shall we then presume to negative that question when put to us by the Governor of the Universe?

Let this idea be well fixed in our minds, that God has a right to bestow his blessing on whom he will; and it will root out that arrogance which is the characteristic of fallen man: it will bring us to the footstool of the Deity, and constrain us to say, "Let him do what seems him good:" "I was dumb, because you did it."

We cannot doubt but that God possesses this right, since it is clear,

II. That he actually exercises it—

We may daily see this,

1. In the dealings of his providence—

He consulted not any of his creatures how long a space of time he should occupy in completing the work of creation; or how many orders of creatures he should form. He could as easily have perfected the whole at once, as in six days; or have endued everything with a rational or angelic nature, as he could diversify their endowments in the marvelous way that he has done. But he acted in all things "according to the counsel of his own will." When it pleased him to destroy the works of his hands on account of their multiplied iniquities, why did he preserve a wicked Ham, when millions no worse than he were overwhelmed in the mighty waters? But to speak of things that have passed since the deluge—Who has ordered the rise and fall of nations? Who has raised or depressed the families of men? Who has given to individuals their measure of bodily or intellectual strength, or ordered the number of their days on earth? Is not this the Lord? Who is it that gives us fruitful seasons, or causes drought and pestilence and famine to oppress the world? "Is there either good or evil in the city, and the Lord has not done it?"

If it be thought that these different events are regulated according to the moral state of mankind, and that therefore they exemplify rather the equity than the sovereignty of God; we would ask, What was the foundation of the distinction put between Esau and Jacob, together with their respective families? Paul particularly notices, that, when the prophecy in our text was delivered, "they were not yet born, nor had done any species of good or evil;" and that the decree was delivered at that time, in order "that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calls Romans 9:11." It is clear therefore and indisputable that "he does according to his will in the armies of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and that none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What do you Daniel 4:35. ?"

2. In the dispensations of his grace—

In the call of Abraham, and the separation of his seed for a peculiar people; in distinguishing between his immediate sons, Ishmael and Isaac, as also between Isaac's sons, Esau and Jacob; in giving to their posterity the revelation of his will, while the whole world were left to walk in their own ways; in making yet further distinctions at this present moment, sending the light of his Gospel to a few of the Gentile nations, while all the rest are permitted to sit in darkness and the shadow of death; in all this, I say, has not God clearly shown, that "he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and that whom he will he hardens, or gives over to the blindness and obduracy of their own hearts Romans 9:18. ?" But, as among Abraham's seed "all were not Israel who were of Israel," so it is now in the Christian world: there is a great and visible distinction made between the different hearers of the Gospel: some have "their hearts opened," like Lydia's of old, to receive and embrace the truth, or, like Saul, are arrested in their mad career of sin, and made distinguished monuments of grace; while thousands around them find "the word, not a savor of life unto life, but of death unto death." "Who is it that makes these persons to differ 1 Corinthians 4:7. ?" To whom is it owing that "the deaf hear, the blind see, the lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised?" We answer, It is all of God: "It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy Romans 9:16." The favored objects "are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God John 1:13. "

The existence of this right being thus incontrovertibly manifest, we observe,

III. That all in whose favor it is exercised, are bound to acknowledge it with most ardent gratitude—

Impious indeed would it be to arrogate the glory to ourselves—

We have not of ourselves a sufficiency for the smallest thing, even for the forming of a good thought: what folly then is it to suppose that we can create ourselves anew, and renovate our souls after the divine image! This is the work of God alone. If then we have any reason to hope that God has wrought this great work within us, what base ingratitude is it to rob him of his glory! Is it for this end that he has shown to us such unmerited regard? or is it such an use that we ought to make of his distinguishing mercy? Surely, what he has done, he has done "for the praise of the glory of his own grace Ephesians 1:6;" and if we have been made partakers of his grace, we should strive to the uttermost to answer the ends for which he has bestowed it.

Those who have been the most highly favored by God, have always been most forward to acknowledge their obligations to him—

Ask of Paul, To whom he owed his eminent attainments? and he will answer, "By the grace of God I am what I am 1 Corinthians 15:10." Ask him, To whom all Christians are indebted for every grace they possess? he will answer, "He who has wrought us for the self-same thing is God 2 Corinthians 5:5." Ascend to the highest heavens, and inquire of the saints in glory: you will find them all casting their crowns at their Redeemer's feet, and singing, "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God and our Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever." To imitate them is both our duty and happiness. Our daily song therefore should be, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Your name be the praise:" "Salvation to our God which sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever."

To guard this deep subject against the abuses to which it is liable, and to render it conducive to its proper and legitimate ends, we shall add a word,

1. Of caution—

If, as the Apostle says, "there is a remnant according to the election of grace Romans 11:5," we are ready to suppose that those who are not of that number are not accountable for their sins, and that their final ruin is to be imputed rather to God's decrees than to their own fault. But this is a perversion of the doctrine. It is a consequence which our proud reason is prone to draw from the decrees of God: but it is a consequence which the inspired volume totally disavows. There is not in the whole sacred writings one single word that fairly admits of such a construction. The glory of man's salvation is invariably ascribed to the free, the sovereign, the efficacious grace of God: but the condemnation of men is invariably charged upon their own willful sins and obstinate impenitence. If, because we know not how to reconcile these things, men will controvert and deny them, we shall content ourselves with the answer which Paul himself made to all such cavilers and objectors; "Nay but, O man, who are you that replies against God Romans 9:19-20. ?" And if neither the truth nor the authority of God will awe them into submission, we can only say with the fore-mentioned apostle, "If any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant 1 Corinthians 14:38." As for those, if such are to be found, who acknowledge the sovereignty of God, and take occasion from it to live in sin, we would warn them with all possible earnestness to cease from their fatal delusions. In comparison of such characters, the people who deny the sovereignty of God are innocent. We believe there are many persons in other respects excellent, who, from not being able to separate the idea of absolute reprobation from the doctrine of unconditional election, are led to reject both together: but what excellence can he have, who "turns the very grace of God into licentiousness," and "continues in sin that grace may abound?" A man that can justify such a procedure, is beyond the reach of argument: we must leave him, as Paul does, with that awful warning, "His damnation is just Romans 3:8."

2. Of encouragement—

To one who feels his utter unworthiness of mercy, we know not any richer source of encouragement than the sovereignty of God. For, if he may dispense his blessings to whoever he will, then the very chief of sinners has no need to despair: the person who is most remote from having in himself any ground to expect the birthright, may be made a monument of God's grace; while the person who by nature seems to have had fairer prospects, may be left, like the rich youth, to perish in his iniquities. The obstacles which appear to stand in the way of his acceptance may even be turned into grounds of hope; because the more unworthy lie feels himself to be, the more he may hope that God will glorify the riches of his grace in showing mercy towards him. We do not mean that any person should rush into wickedness in order to increase his prospects of salvation; for, abstractedly considered, the more sinful any man is, the greater prospect there is of his perishing forever: we only mean to say, that, in the view of God's sovereignty, that which would otherwise have been a ground of despondency, may be turned into a ground of hope. Let the subject then be thus improved: and while some dispute against it, and others abuse it, let us take occasion from it to make our supplication to God, saying with David, "Be merciful unto my sin, for it is great!"

 

 

 

 

Genesis 25:32

 

DISCOURSE 41

THE BIRTHRIGHT TYPICAL OF THE CHRISTIANS PORTION

Genesis 25:32. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?

IT may be considered as a general rule, that no man abstains from anything which he has purposed to do, for want of some excuse of expedience or necessity to justify it. A melancholy instance of infatuation we have in the history before us; an instance singular indeed as to the immediate act, but common, and almost universal, as to the spirit manifested in it. Esau, having come home from hunting unusually oppressed with fatigue and hunger, set his heart upon his brother's pottage; and not only agreed to sell his birthright for it, but confirmed with an oath the alienation of that inheritance, to which, by primogeniture, he was entitled. To justify his conduct he offered this vain and false apology, "Behold, I am at the point to die; and what profit shall this birthright do to me?" But the fact is, as the historian informs us, he "despised his birthright."

Let us then consider,

I. Esau's contempt of his birthright—

There were many important privileges attached to primogeniture among the Jews—

The first-born was by God's appointment to have dominion over his brethren Genesis 27:29; Genesis 27:37; Genesis 49:3, and to enjoy a double portion of his father's inheritance This was not optional with the parent in any case. Deuteronomy 21:15; Deuteronomy 21:17. But besides these civil, there were also some sacred privileges, which he possessed. The Messiah, of whom he was to be a type, and who, in reference to the ordinances of birthright, is called "the first-born among many brethren Romans 8:29," was to spring from his loins In one instance this privilege was separated from the foregoing one; and both were alienated from the first-born; the former being given to Joseph, and the latter to Judah, as a punishment of Reuben's iniquity in lying with his father's concubine. 1 Chronicles 5:1-2. Yes, in some sense, the firstborn had a better prospect even of Heaven itself, than the rest of his brethren; because the expectation of the Messiah, who was to descend from him, would naturally cause him to look forward to that great event, and to inquire into the office and character which the promised seed should sustain.

But these privileges Esau despised—

He accounted them of no more value than a mess of pottage: nor did he speedily repent of his folly and wickedness. If he had seen the evil of his conduct, he would surely have endeavored to get the agreement cancelled; and if his brother Jacob had refused to reverse it, he should have entreated the mediation of his father, that so he might be reinstated in his natural rights. But we read not of any such endeavors: on the contrary, we are told, "He did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way;" so little did he value, or rather, so utterly did he "despise, his birthright." On this account is he stigmatized by the Apostle, as a profane person Hebrews 12:16; had he disregarded only temporal benefits, he had been guilty of folly; but his contempt of spiritual blessings argued profaneness.

Jacob's conduct indeed in this matter was exceeding base: but Esau's was inexpressibly vile. Yet will he be found to have many followers, if we examine,

II. The analogy between his conduct and our own—

The birthright was typical of the Christian's portion—

The true Christian has not indeed any temporal advantages similar to those enjoyed by right of primogeniture: but he is made an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ. He has a distinguished interest in the Savior, and an indisputable title to the inheritance of Heaven. And hence they who have attained the full possession of their inheritance are called, "The general assembly and Church of the first-born Hebrews 12:23."

But the generality are like Esau, having,

1. The same indifference about spiritual blessings—

Some excuse may be offered for Esau, because he knew not what a Savior, or what an inheritance, he despised. But we have had the Savior fully revealed to us; and know what a glorious place the heavenly Canaan is. Yet too many of us think as lightly of Christ and of Heaven, as if neither he nor it were worth our attention: yes, we are ready at any time to barter them away for the most trifling gratification: and what is this, but to imitate the profaneness of Esau?

2. The same insatiable thirst after earthly and sensual indulgence—

Though Esau pretended that he was near to die, it was only an excuse for his profane conduct; for it cannot be conceived, but that, in the house of an opulent man like Isaac, there either was, or might easily be procured, something to satisfy the cravings of nature. But he was bent upon having his brother's pottage, whatever it might cost His extreme eagerness may be seen in his words, "Give me that red, red." Being captivated with the color, he determined to get it, whatever it might be, and whatever it might cost: and from thence the name Edom, which signifies red, was given him. 0. And is it not so with those who yield to impurity, intemperance, or any base passion? Do they not sacrifice their health, their reputation, yes, their very souls, for a momentary indulgence? Do they not say, in fact, 'Give me the indulgence of my lust; I must and will have it, whatever be the consequence: if I cannot have it without the loss of my birthright, be it so; let my hope in Christ be destroyed; let my prospects of Heaven be forever darkened; let my soul perish; welcome Hell; welcome damnation; only give me the indulgence which my soul longs after.' This sounds harsh in words; but is it not realized in the lives and actions of the generality? Yes; as the wild donkey, when seeking her mate, defies all endeavors to catch and detain her, so these persist in spite of all the means that may be used to stop their course; no persuasions, no promises, no threatenings, no consequences, temporal or eternal, can divert them from their purpose Jeremiah 2:23-24.

3. The same want of remorse for having sold their birthright for a thing of nothing—

Never did Esau discover any remorse for what he had done: for though, when the birthright was actually given to Jacob, he "cried with an exceeding bitter cry, Bless me, even me also, O my father Genesis 27:34," yet he never humbled himself for his iniquity, never prayed to God for mercy, nor endured patiently the consequences of his profaneness: on the contrary, he comforted himself with the thought, that he would murder his brother, as soon as ever his father should be dead Genesis 27:41-42. And is it not thus also with the generality? They go on, none saying, What have I done? Instead of confessing and bewailing their guilt and folly, they extenuate to the utmost, or perhaps even presume to justify, their impieties. Instead of crying day and night to God for mercy, they never bow their knee before him, or do it only in a cold and formal manner. And, instead of submitting to the rebukes of Providence, and kissing the rod, they are rather like a wild bull in a net, determining to add sin to sin. Even Judas himself had greater penitence than they. Alas! alas! what a resemblance does almost every one around us bear to this worthless wretch, this monster of profaneness!

Address,

1. Those who are still despising their birthright—

Reflect a moment on your folly and your danger. Place yourselves a moment on a death-bed, and say, 'I am at the point to die; and what profit do my past lusts and pleasures now do me?' Will you then justify yourselves as you now do, or congratulate yourselves on having so often gratified your vicious inclinations? Suppose on the other hand that you were dying, like Isaac, in the faith of Christ; would you then say, What profit shall my birthright do to me? Would it then appear a trifling matter to have an interest in the Savior, and a title to Heaven? Consider further, how probable it is that you may one day, like Esau, seek earnestly the inheritance you have sold, and yet find no place of repentance in your Father's bosom! We mean not to say that any true penitent will be rejected: but the Apostle intimates, what daily experience proves true, that, as Esau could not obtain a revocation of his father's word, though he sought it carefully with tears, so we may cry with great bitterness and anguish on account of the loss we have sustained, and yet never so repent as to regain our forfeited inheritance Hebrews 12:17. At all events, if we obtain not a title to Heaven while we are here, we may come to the door and knock, like the foolish virgins, and be dismissed with scorn and contempt. Having "sown the wind, we shall reap the whirlwind." Let us then "seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near."

2. Those who value their birthright above everything else—

Amidst the multitudes who pour contempt on spiritual blessings, there are some who know their value and taste their sweetness. But how often will temptations arise, that divert our attention from these great concerns, and impel us, with almost irresistible energy, to the commission of sin! And how may we do in one moment, what we shall have occasion to bewail to all eternity! Let us then watch and pray that we enter not into temptation: and, however firm we may imagine our title to Heaven, let us beware lest our subtle adversary deprive us of it: Let us fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into the heavenly rest, any of us should seem to come short of it Hebrews 4:1.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 27:35

 

DISCOURSE 42

JACOB OBTAINING THE BLESSING

Genesis 27:35. And he said, Your brother came with subtlety, and has taken away your blessing.

IT is not within the reach of our limited capacity to conceive how many and how great events depend upon causes apparently unimportant. We can have no doubt but that parents so pious as Isaac and Rebekah, and who excelled all the patriarchs in the conjugal relation, endeavored to discharge their duty towards their children in a becoming manner. But each of them felt a partiality for one of their children in preference to the other. Esau, the first-born, who was "a cunning huntsman," and supplied his father with venison, was Isaac's favorite: Jacob, on the other hand, who was of a more domestic turn, and had from the womb been designated by God himself as the inheritor of the birthright, was the favorite of Rebekah. To this circumstance, as it should seem, we must refer all the most important events of Jacob's life. Isaac, in his partiality for Esau, had either misconstrued the intimations which God had given him respecting the birthright, or perhaps had forgotten them. He therefore, when he apprehended himself to be near death, told Esau to go out and bring him some venison, and to receive from his hands the blessings of primogeniture. Rebekah, alive to the interests of Jacob, and afraid that her wishes, as well as the counsels of the Deity, would be thwarted, suggested an expedient to Jacob, which, though adopted with reluctance, was conducted with are, and crowned with the desired success. She bade him fetch her two kids, which she dressed so that they might appear like venison. She moreover clothed him in an odoriferous garment belonging to his elder brother, and put the skins of the kids upon his hands and neck, in order that he might as nearly as possible resemble Esau. And then she sent him in to deceive his aged father, and, by personating Esau, to obtain the blessing. Jacob acted his part with more skill and confidence than could have been expected from a person unaccustomed to deceit: he hesitated not to accumulate falsehoods in support of his claim, and even to represent God himself as having interposed to expedite his wishes. His greatest difficulty was to imitate the voice of Esau. Isaac was blind; and therefore no discovery was dreaded from the difference which there must have been in their appearance. The taste of Isaac, as well as his sight, was easily deceived. His ear however was more capable of discernment, and excited strong suspicions, that the person who addressed him was not the person he professed to be, but Jacob in disguise. To satisfy his mind, he determined to call in the evidence of his other senses: and by these, as well as by the firmness of Jacob's asseverations, he was deceived. He smelt the rich odors of Esau's garment (which probably was preserved in the family as the distinguishing property of the eldest son), and he felt, as he thought, the roughness of Esau's hands and neck; and therefore imputing his suspicions to his own infirmities, he proceeded without further hesitation to bestow his blessing, together with all the privileges of the birthright, on this treacherous impostor. When Esau, who had been thus defrauded, came to him, the unhappy father found out the treachery that had been practiced upon him, and announced to his bereaved son the melancholy tidings; "Your brother came with subtlety, and has taken away your blessing."

Much is to be learned from this extraordinary portion of Holy Writ. Let us consider,

I. The event referred to—

The circumstances being so universally known, we need not go particularly into them. The fraud practiced in order to obtain the birthright is that which more immediately calls for our attention—

1. In reference to the end, it was unnecessary—

It is certainly true, that God had, while Esau and Jacob were yet in the womb, promised the birthright to Jacob the younger son: and no doubt, the birthright was a blessing greatly to be desired. It was also true that Isaac, either through forgetfulness or partiality for his favorite son, was about to bestow the birthright upon Esau. But were there no other means to be used in order to the accomplishment of the divine counsels? Why could they not have reminded Isaac of the promise which God had made, which, as it had been made seventy-six years before, might now well be supposed to have been forgotten by him, especially in his present infirm and dying state? Isaac was a pious man, and would not have dared knowingly and intentionally to thwart the revealed purposes of his God. But supposing, what indeed cannot be reasonably supposed, that this holy man could have so far declined from God as to set himself in deliberate and determined opposition to his will, was not God able to overrule his actions, and to constrain him, as he afterwards did Jacob himself, to cross his hands, and, even against his will, to transfer the blessing to him for whom it was designed Genesis 48:8-20. ? At all events, if they could see no means of preventing the dreaded event, was God unable to effect it? and might not he be safely left with the execution of his own purposes? Was it necessary for them to resort to fraud and lying, in order to prevent his decrees from being superseded and defeated?

2. As means, it was most unjustifiable and base—

We are perfectly astonished when we see a person of Rebekah's exemplary character devising such a plot, and a plain man like Jacob executing it in such a determined way; a plot to deceive a holy and aged man, a husband, a parent, in the very hour of his expected decease, and in reference to a point of such importance. We know from the whole of their lives that this was not their ordinary mode of acting: but from the address they showed throughout the whole of it, we should have thought them the greatest proficients in the arts of dissimulation and fraud. Every difficulty seems to have been foreseen and guarded against with consummate skill: and where Rebekah's experience had not suggested a precaution, the subtlety of Jacob supplied a ready remedy. Lies, when once begun, were multiplied without fear or shame: and because they were not sufficient, God himself was called in as aiding the deception. It was in vain to think that the circumstance of God's having made known his will respecting the birthright could sanction any such means as these; or that they were at liberty to do evil in order that good might come. The whole transaction was vile and hateful in the extreme: and, as long as fraud, and lying, and hypocrisy before God, and uncharitableness and undutifulness to man, are odious, so long must this action merit the execration and abhorrence of all mankind.

But that we may have a more complete view of this event, let us consider,

II. The reflections it suggests—

Truly profitable is it to the contemplative mind. Methinks, the most superficial observer cannot but remark from hence,

1. How mysterious are the ways by which God accomplishes his own purposes!

He had determined that Jacob should have the blessing: but who could have thought that he should ever confer it in such a way? Who would have thought that he should employ all this treachery and deceit and falsehood in the bestowment of it? Let not any one however imagine, that the divine conduct is vitiated by overruling thus the wickedness of men; or that Jacob's conduct was justified by accomplishing thus the purposes of Heaven. Evil ceases not to be evil because God overrules it for good: for, if it did, then would the crucifiers and murderers of the Lord of glory be innocent, because by their instrumentality God accomplished the redemption of the world. But as it was "with wicked hands that the Jews crucified and slew Jesus, notwithstanding he was delivered into their hands by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God Acts 2:23," so were Jacob and Rebekah most criminal, while God, who wrought by them, was holy, and just, and good. We must say respecting all the ways of men, of whatever kind they be, they shall eventually "praise God;" and, however contrary to his commands, shall assuredly both accomplish his will and glorify his name Psalm 76:10.

2. How weak are the best of men when they come into temptation!

It is not to be supposed that either Jacob or Rebekah would have acted thus on any common occasion: but the importance of the occasion seemed to them to justify the expedients they used. Thus are even good men sometimes betrayed into the commission of evil. They are not aware how much they may be biased by interest or passion. They have an object to attain: that object is in itself desirable and good: how to attain it in a direct way, they know not. Therefore they incline to an indirect way, conceiving that the end will justify the means. It was thus that Peter brought upon him the rebuke of Paul. He doubtless wished to soften the prejudices of his Jewish brethren; and he thought that a little sacrifice of liberty on the part of the Gentiles might well be made for so good an end. Hence he required the Gentiles to make the sacrifice: and so plausible were his reasonings on the occasion, that even Barnabas was drawn away by his dissimulation. What wonder then if even good men be sometimes deceived by the specious reasonings of others, or of their own minds, especially when there is some great interest to serve, and when our tempters are those on whose judgment we rely? Let every man then stand on his guard, and beware how he be drawn by any authority whatever to the commission of evil. It will be of little avail to say, My adviser was my father or my mother: there is a plain path, from which no authority under Heaven should induce us to deviate. We must walk always as in the immediate presence of God. We must not for a moment allow ourselves in deceit of any kind. Little do we know where we may be drawn, if once we depart from the path of truth and honesty. Who would have thought that Jacob should have been drawn from dissimulation and falsehood to the most horrid blasphemy, even that of making God himself his confederate in sin; and that Rebekah should go farther still, even to the very braving of the curse and wrath of God 3. ? Beware then of evil in its very first approaches. Pray to God. that you may not be led into temptation of any kind. "Cease from man;" and learn not to follow him, any further than he follows Christ. If Satan can assume the form of "an angel of light," and "his ministers appear as ministers of righteousness," so may our relations and friends appear. Not that this consideration should induce us to disregard good advice; but it should lead us to try all counsels by the word and testimony of God: for "if men speak not according to the written word, there is no light in them."

3. How vain is it to hope for happiness in the ways of sin!

Jacob was successful in his impious device. But what fruit had he of his success? "He sowed the wind, and he reaped the whirlwind." Soon was he forced to flee from his brother's wrath: and years of trouble followed his departure from his father's house. Similar measure too was meted out to him both by Laban and his own children. Say, Jacob, what did you not suffer from the thought that your beloved Joseph was devoured of wild beasts: yet was that only a deception of your own sons for the purpose of gaining your favor to themselves. Nearly did they bring your grey hairs with sorrow to the grave; and you deserve it all, for your treachery to your father, and your cruelty to your brother. And let all know, that the sin which they roll as a sweet morsel under their tongue, shall prove gall in their stomach. You did succeed, Gehazi; and thought yourself exceeding rich when you had deposited your ill-gotten wealth in the house. But what was your gain at last? or who envies you your newly-acquired wealth? So it will be with all who seek their happiness in the ways of sin. They behold, and covet, the bait: but before long they shall feel the hook. Jacob for the space of twenty years was still under alarm and terror for the consequences of his deceit. In the first instance he was forced to flee in haste, and to go, unprovided, and unprotected, a journey of four hundred miles; and, when he got there, was doomed to experience evils to which in his father's house he was an utter stranger. But where will your evils end, if you live and die impenitent and unrenewed? Consider this, Brethren, before it be too late: and beg of God to keep your feet in the ways of holiness and peace.

Address,

1. Those who despise their Birthright—

Esau had despised his birthright, and sold it for a mess of pottage: and now "he could not recover it, though he sought it carefully with tears 8 with Hebrews 12:16-17." Nor was it any mitigation of his grief that he had been defrauded of it. So neither will it be any comfort to the sinners of mankind that Satan has beguiled them, or that they have been brought to ruin by the fraudulence of others. Dear brethren, what will it avail you to say, My mother, and my brother, were the instruments of my destruction? the loss is still your own, and must be your own to all eternity. If you duly value your Birthright, God will watch over you, and will preserve both it for you, and you for it 1 Peter 1:4-5; But, if you make light of God's promised blessings, whatever may be the immediate means of your privation, you shall never enjoy them, nor ever so much as taste the banquet which your Lord and Savior has prepared Luke 14:18; Luke 14:24.

2. Those who desire the Birthright—

Seek it in a humble simple dependence upon God. In this both Jacob and Rebekah failed: they could not leave God to accomplish his promises in his own time and way. Hence they resorted to such unworthy expedients. But as Abraham felt assured, that, though the promised seed should be slain and reduced to ashes, the promises should yet be verified in him, so should we expect assuredly the fulfillment of God's promises to us. Happy had it been for Jacob if he had thus believed: he might have enjoyed the birthright without any of the subsequent afflictions. Let us then guard against an unbelieving and impatient spirit. Let us commit our every concern to God, and expect, that in the mount of difficulty his interposition shall be seen. This is our wisdom and our happiness: for "His counsel shall stand, and he will do all his will," even though earth and Hell should be confederate against him. Let us comply with that important precept, "He who believes shall not make haste Isaiah 28:16," and we shall secure beyond the possibility of failure the blessing we seek after: for "he who believes in God shall not be ashamed or confounded world without end."

 

 

 

Genesis 28:12-13

 

DISCOURSE 43

JACOB'S VISION A TYPE OF THE MINISTRATION OF ANGELS TO CHRIST

Genesis 28:12-13. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set upon the earth, and the top of it reached to Heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood above it.

NOW that God has given to the world a complete revelation of his mind and will, we are no longer to expect any extraordinary and personal communications with him: but, in former days, he frequently instructed his more favored servants by dreams and visions. The particular vision recorded in the passage before us is almost universally considered as typical, though few, if any, have given any satisfactory account wherein the type consists. We shall endeavor therefore to put the subject in a just point of view; and for that purpose shall consider,

I. The immediate end of the vision—

When so remarkable a revelation is given to man, we may conclude that some end, worthy of the divine interposition, is to be answered by it. The intent of the vision here given to Jacob, seems to be,

1. To dispel his fears of merited evils—

Jacob could not but be conscious that he had acted a base and treacherous part: and that therefore he had incurred the divine displeasure, at the same time that he had excited a murderous rancor in the breast of his injured brother. He was now fleeing to avoid the effects of his brother's wrath, and had but too much reason to dread some righteous judgment from the hand of God. But God, who is altogether sovereign in the distribution of his favors, and frequently bestows them at seasons, when, according to our conceptions, they could be the least expected, appeared to him, with expressions of love and mercy. He assured the unhappy fugitive, that he was reconciled towards him, and would give his angels charge over him to keep him in all his way, to protect him from all danger, and to supply his every want 5. Thus were all his apprehensions at once removed, and his mind restored to perfect peace.

2. To confirm his hope of promised blessings—

He had received a promise of the birthright, while yet he lay in his mother's womb; and doubtless he had expected its accomplishment. But when he saw his father dying, and knew that the rights of primogeniture were about to be confirmed to his elder brother, his faith failed him; and, instead of waiting like David for the throne of Saul, he yielded to the solicitations of his mother, and sought to obtain by craft, what, if he had waited God's time, he would have received in a fair and honorable way. And now he had good reason to doubt, whether he had not forfeited his interest in God's promise, and entailed a curse upon himself instead of a blessing. But God, on this occasion, renewed his promise to him, almost in the very terms, in which, but a few hours before, it had been declared by his father Compare 3, 14 with, 4. ; and thus assured to him, not only a numerous seed, and the inheritance of Canaan, but (which was infinitely the dearest right of primogeniture) the descent of Christ from his loins. From henceforth therefore we behold him walking steadfastly in the faith of Abraham, looking forward with joy to the day of Christ, and maintaining a conduct suitable to his profession.

While the vision was replete with personal benefit to Jacob, it conveyed instruction also to the Church, by,

II. Its typical reference—

Instead of supposing, with all writers upon this subject, that the ladder was a type of Christ in his divine and human nature mediating between Heaven and earth (which is fanciful, and without any warrant from Scripture), we rather think that the vision itself was the type (if it was indeed a type), and that it prefigured,

1. The testimony which angels were to give to Christ—

Our Lord himself has cast the true light on this passage. In his conversation with Nathanael, he tells the young convert, that he should one day see that realized in him, which had been shadowed forth in Jacob's vision John 1:51. Accordingly we find that as, from the first conception of Christ in the womb to that very hour, the angels had deeply interested themselves in everything that related to him, so they continued on all occasions to wait upon him, to soothe his sorrows, to animate his courage, to fulfill his will, and to bear testimony on his behalf Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43; Luke 24:4-7; Luke 24:23. More than twelve legions of them would have come to his support if he had desired their aid Matthew 26:53. Here then is a correspondence between the type and antitype: Jesus was a man of sorrows, and cast out by his brethren, who said, "This is the heir, come let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours Luke 20:14." But God would not leave his beloved Son without witness, or without support; and therefore opened a communication between Heaven and earth, that the angels might have continual access to him, while "he himself stood, as it were, at the top of the ladder" to direct their operations.

2. The confirmation which his people's faith was to receive from that testimony—

The circumstances of Nathanael and his other disciples, to whom this ocular demonstration was to be given, were not unlike to those of Jacob, to whom the vision was given. They had believed in Jesus; but their faith was to be sorely tried, so that they should be reduced almost to despair. There was however a seasonable support to be afforded them by the intervention and agency of angels. It was the repeated testimony of angels that first inspired them with hope John 20:12, and that, afterwards, at the time of Christ's ascension into Heaven, filled them all with a pleasing expectation, that they should one day see him come again in power and great glory Acts 1:11. In consequence of their declarations, no less than of the declarations of Christ himself, "they returned to Jerusalem with great joy," and waited for the promised effusion of the Holy Spirit, "knowing in whom they had believed, and assured, that he would keep that which they had committed to him." Thus in this respect also did the type receive a suitable accomplishment.

For our further improvement of this history, we may observe,

1. There is no person so guilty, but God is willing and desirous to show mercy to him—

We cannot but admire the extent and freeness of that mercy with which God revealed himself to this guilty fugitive. We have a similar instance in the mercy shown to Saul, at the very instant he was "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of Christ Acts 9:1-6." And, has not the Apostle told us, that he was intended of God to be in this respect a monument of God's long-suffering, and a pattern to those who should hereafter believe on him 1 Timothy 1:16. ?" Let none then despair; but, whatever evils they have brought upon themselves by their iniquities, and whatever reason they may have to dread the wrath, either of God or man, let them call to mind the example before us; and turn unto him, who has promised "that he will in no wise cast them out."

2. There is no distress so great, but God is able and willing to deliver us from it—

God has thousands of angels at his command, and has appointed them to "minister unto those who shall be heirs of salvation Hebrews 1:14." These he orders to "encamp round about his people, and deliver them Psalm 34:7." Let us then suppose ourselves as destitute as Jacob himself, having only the earth for our bed, a stone for our pillow, and no other canopy than the heavens; still, a vision of God, with the ministry of his angels, shall render our situation both comfortable and happy; yes, shall make it appear to us as "the very house of God, the gate of Heaven 7." And such a confirmation will these "visions of the Almighty" give to our faith and hope, that we shall be fitted for all future trials, and be enabled to testify on God's behalf, that "he will never leave his people, until he has fulfilled to them his promises in their utmost extent 5."

 

 

 

 

Genesis 28:15

 

DISCOURSE 44

THE MANNER IN WHICH GOD DISPENSES HIS FAVORS

Genesis 28:15. Behold, I am with you, and will keep you in all places where you go, and will bring you again into this land: for I will not leave you, until I have done that which I have spoken to you of.

THE study of profane history is exceeding profitable, inasmuch as it brings us into an acquaintance with human nature in all its diversified forms, and thereby qualifies us to discharge all our own duties with more wisdom and propriety. But sacred history, besides that it sets before us incomparably brighter examples of virtue, has this peculiar advantage, that it brings God himself to our view, and exhibits him to us in all the dispensations of his providence and grace. The account which is here given us of his fellowship with Jacob, will serve to show us, in a very striking point of view, in what manner he disperses his favors.

I. He bestows them sovereignly—

Jacob had grievously sinned both against God and man, in personating his brother, in imposing on his father, in blasphemously ascribing to God what was the fruit of his own device, and in fraudulently obtaining his brother's birthright. Having incensed his injured brother, he was now fleeing, to avoid the effects of his indignation. And in what manner should we suppose that God would meet him, if indeed he should deign to notice such a miscreant? Would he not say to him, as he afterwards did to the fugitive prophet, "What do you here, Elijah?" Or rather, instead of noticing him at all, may we not suppose that he would send a lion to destroy him 1 Kings 13:24. ? But behold, for the displaying of the riches of his own grace, he revealed himself to him in a most instructive vision; he confirmed to him all the promises that had been made to Abraham and to Isaac; and even extended beyond all former bounds the manifestations of his favor.

A similar instance we have in the Apostle Paul; whom, at the very instant that he was laboring to extirpate the followers of Christ, God was pleased to stop, not, as might have been expected, with some signal judgment, but with singular expressions of his regard, conferring oil him the highest honors, and communicating to him the richest blessings.

And may not we also admire the sovereignty of God in the exercise of his mercy towards ourselves? Why is it that we are favored with the light of his Gospel, when so many myriads of our fellow-sinners are left in darkness and the shadow of death? If we have experienced in our souls the efficacy of divine grace, may we not look back with wonder to the period of our conversion, when we were either drinking iniquity with greediness, or proudly establishing our own righteousness in opposition to the righteousness of Christ? Let us deliberately consider our state when God first caused a ray of light to shine into our minds, and implanted his grace in our hearts, and we shall esteem ourselves no less indebted to the electing love of God, than Jacob, or Saul, or any other whom he has ever chosen 2 Timothy 1:9.

II. He times them seasonably—

The fugitive patriarch was now in a very desolate and forlorn condition, wearied in body From Beersheba to Beth-el was about forty miles, and distressed in mind. Probably his conscience now smote him, and he was saying with himself, as Joseph's brethren afterwards did, "I am truly guilty concerning my brother Genesis 42:21." How welcome then must the tokens of God's regard be to him at that season! What a support under his present trials! what an antidote against any future calamities!

Thus it is that God interposes on the behalf of his people, and "repents himself for them, when their strength is gone, and there is none shut up or left Deuteronomy 32:36." When the contrite soul is bowed down, under a sense of guilt, and ready to say, There is no hope; then does God speak peace unto it, saying, "Be of good cheer, I am your salvation." Just as, in Hagar's extremity, God sent his angel to point out to her a spring, whereby the life of her child was unexpectedly preserved, so in ten thousand instances he appears for us, when we are ready to despair of help: and though his interpositions on our behalf are less visible than these, yet every one of us has reason to acknowledge the truth of that proverb, "In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen Genesis 22:14." Let us but review our lives, and call to mind the aids of his Spirit under temptations, trials, difficulties; let us see how marvelously we have been upheld when conflicting with sin and Satan, and we shall confess indeed, that "he is a present, a very present, help in trouble."

III. He imparts them suitably—

It is probable that Jacob's reply to the advice of his mother was now, in his apprehension, about to be verified; and that he expected a curse rather than a blessing. His evil conscience now might well suggest to him such thoughts as these: 'God has forsaken me, and some great evil will come upon me. I can never hope to return again to my father's house in peace, or to enjoy the blessing which I have so treacherously pained.' To remove these apprehensions, God given to him exactly such tokens of his regard, as were best calculated to allay his fears. In the vision, God showed to him both his providential care, and his redeeming love: for doubtless, while he discovered to him the ministry of angels who were commissioned to protect him, he also showed him that promised Seed, who was in due time to spring from him, and whom at that very instant he typically represented This is more fully opened in the preceding Discourse. In the promise, he assured him, that his presence should follow him; that his power should preserve him; that he would bring him back again to that very land; and that not one of all the promises that had been ever made to him, should fail of accomplishment.

In this respect also we may trace the tender mercies of our God towards all his people. His manifestations of himself to them, and his application of promises to their souls, are wonderfully suited to their several necessities. We cannot indeed justify those, who open the sacred records, and expect that the portion of Scripture, on which they cast their eye, shall be a kind of literal direction to them; (a most unwarranted and delusive method of ascertaining the mind of God!) but this we must affirm, that, whatever we want, whether wisdom, or strength, or grace of any kind, it shall be given us, if we ask in faith. And the experience of all the saints attests the truth of that promise, "You shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you."

IV. He continues them faithfully—

God had given promises, not to Abraham only and to Isaac, but to Jacob also, while he was yet in his mother's womb. But instead of fulfilling them to him after this flagrant instance of misconduct, he might well have said to him, as he did to his unbelieving posterity, "You shall know my breach of promise Numbers 14:34;" "I said indeed, that your house and the house of your father should walk before me forever: but now it shall be far from me: for them that honor me I will honor; and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed 1 Samuel 2:30." But he had spoken, and would not go back: for his word's sake he would not cast off his offending child, or even suffer one jot or tittle of his promises to fail.

Thus to his descendants in future ages did God manifest his fidelity; insomuch that Joshua, after eighty years' experience, could appeal to the whole nation, saying, "You know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spoke concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing has failed thereof Jos. 23:14."

To us also will he approve himself faithful. "He will not cast off his people, because it has pleased him to make us his people 1 Samuel 12:22." He has said, I will never leave you, I will never, never forsake you Hebrews 13:5. "He may indeed hide his face from us for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will he have mercy on us: the mountains may depart, and the hills be removed; but the covenant of my peace," says he, "shall not be removed: for like as I have sworn that the waters of Noah shall no more cover the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with you, nor rebuke you Isaiah 54:7-10."

Improvement—

1. For caution—

We have seen that Jacob inherited the blessing which he had gained by treachery; and that, where sin had abounded, grace did much more abound. But shall we do evil that good may come; or commit sin that grace may abound? God forbid. We must never expect the blessing of God but in the way of duty.

2. For encouragement—

If through temptation we have fallen into sin, let us not flee from God, like Adam, but go to him in humble hope that he will magnify his mercy towards the chief of sinners.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 28:16-19

 

DISCOURSE 45

JACOB'S PILLAR AT BETH-EL

Genesis 28:16-19. And Jacob awaked out of his sleep; and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God; and this is the gate of Heaven. And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Beth-el: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. Preached at the chapel erected and endowed by the Revelation Lewis Way, in Stansted Park (Sussex), on the day previous to the consecration of it by the Right Revelation Lord Bishop of David's, and the Hon. and Right Revelation Lord Bishop of Gloucester, on January 24th, 1819: the day on which is annually commemorated the Conversion of Paul. ON whatever side we look, we see abundant evidence that "God's ways are not as our ways, nor his thoughts as our thoughts." With us, there are laws of equity prescribed for the regulation of our conduct in the whole of our fellowship with men; and on our strict observance of them the welfare of society depends. But God is not restrained by any such rules in his government of the world: men having no claims whatever upon him, he has a right to dispose of them, and of all that pertains unto them, according to his own sovereign will and pleasure. This right too he exercises in a way, which, though inexplicable to us, is manifest to all. In the conversion of Paul we see this in as striking a point of view as it can possibly be placed. Paul, even to the very moment of his conversion, was breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of our Lord, having voluntarily enlisted himself in the service of the high-priest to execute against them his cruel decrees. He was, as he himself tells us, "a blasphemer, and injurious, and a persecutor;" nor had so much as one penitential pang, until he was arrested by the grace of God, and favored with a sight of that very Jesus, whose interests he was laboring to destroy. Somewhat of a similar display of God's grace may be seen in the history before us. Jacob had been guilty of base deceit in relation to his brother's birthright. He had even represented God himself as confederate with him in that wicked act, and as facilitating by an extraordinary exercise of divine power the attainment of his object. By this treacherous conduct he had greatly incensed his brother against him, and rendered any longer continuance under his father's roof unsafe. Rebekah, who had instigated him to this wickedness, recommended him to flee: and, to reconcile Isaac to his departure, proposed that he should go to his uncle Laban, and take a wife from among his own relatives, and not connect himself with any of the daughters of Canaan, as his brother Esau had done. This however was a mere pretext: the true reason of his departure was, that he feared the wrath of Esau, and fled to avoid the effects of his merited indignation. Thus circumstanced, it could not fail but that he must at this time be in a state of much disquietude, not only as being driven from his family at the very time that his pious and aged father was supposed to be dying, but as having brought this evil on himself by his own base and treacherous conduct, and as having provoked God to anger, as well as man, by his impiety. Wearied with fatigue of body and anxiety of mind, he laid himself down to rest under the open canopy of Heaven, with nothing but the bare ground for his bed, and a stone for his pillow. If it be asked, why he did not go into the adjacent city to seek a more comfortable lodging there; I answer, that it was altogether owing to the state of his mind: and his conduct in this respect was perfectly natural; the pain of a guilty conscience uniformly indisposing men, not only for society, but even for any corporeal indulgence.

Who would have thought that under such circumstances he should so speedily be honored with one of the most wonderful manifestations of God's love that ever were given to mortal man? Yet on this very night did God draw near to him as a reconciled God, and pour into his bosom all the consolations which his soul could desire.

Well might Jacob express surprise at this marvelous display of God's love and mercy: and I pray God that somewhat of the same holy feelings may be engendered in us, while we consider,

I. His unexpected discovery, and

II. The grateful acknowledgments which it drew from him.

I. We notice his unexpected discovery—

There were two things with which Jacob was favored on this occasion; a vision, and a voice. In the vision, he saw a ladder reaching from earth to Heaven, and angels ascending and descending upon it, while God himself stood above it to regulate their motions. This imported, that, however destitute Jacob at this time was, there was a God, who ordered everything both in Heaven and earth, and who by means of ministering angels would effect in behalf of his believing people whatever their diversified necessities might require. By the voice, he was informed, that all which had been promised to Abraham and to Isaac, respecting the possession of Canaan by their posterity, and the salvation of the world by the promised Seed, should be fulfilled, partially in his own person, and completely in his posterity. Thus did God exhibit himself to him on this occasion as a God of providence and of grace, and, under both characters, as his God forever and ever. Such a revelation, at such a time, and such a place, a place where the grossest idolatry prevailed to the utter exclusion of the only true God, astonished him beyond measure, and constrained him to exclaim, "Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not" He now saw that God was not confined to any place or country; and that wherever he should reveal himself to man, there was "the house of God, and there the gate of Heaven," through which the vilest sinner in the universe might gain access to him.

To prosecute this subject further in reference to Jacob is unnecessary. It is of more importance to consider its bearing on ourselves. Know you then, that, though the vision and the voice had a special respect to Jacob, and the circumstances in which he was more immediately interested, they are eminently instructive to us also, and that, not merely as prophecies that have been fulfilled, but as illustrations of the way in which God will yet magnify the riches of his grace towards his believing people.

How wonderful on many occasions have been the dispensations of his providence! Circumstances as much unlocked for as Jacob's possession of the land of Canaan, have not unfrequently occurred; and, though perhaps small in themselves, have led to results, which have been of the utmost importance through our whole lives. Had we been more observant of the leadings of providence, and marked with more precision the time and the manner in which the different events of our lives have occurred, we should be no less struck with wonder and amazement than Jacob himself. And how extraordinary have been the communications of his grace! Perhaps when we have been surrounded on every side by men immersed in the cares and vanities of this world, ourselves also destitute of all holy principles, and under the guilt of all our past sins, we have been brought to hear the word of God, and to feel its power, yes and to taste its sweetness also, through the manifestations of the Savior's love to our souls. Possibly, even the enormity of some particular sin has, as in the case of Onesimus, been the very means which God has made use of for bringing us to repentance, and for converting our souls to him. It may be that, like Zaccheus, we have gone to some place, where we contemplated nothing but the gratification of our curiosity; and have been penetrated beyond all expectation by a voice from Heaven, saying, "Come down, Zaccheus; for this day is salvation come to your soul." Perhaps some heavy affliction has been made the means of awakening us to a sense of our lost estate; and through a manifestation of Christ to our souls we have found a Heaven, where we anticipated nothing but accumulated and augmented sorrow. Yes truly, there are witnesses without number, at this present day, that God still acts in a sovereign way in dispensing blessings to mankind; and that those words are yet verified as much as ever, "I am found of them that sought me not; I am made manifest to them that asked not after me Romans 10:20. !"

And now let me ask, Whether the effect of such manifestations be not the same as ever? Have we not on such occasions been ready to exclaim, "This is the house of God! this is the gate of Heaven?" Yes: it is not in the power of outward circumstances, however calamitous, to counterbalance such joys as these. Even the terrors of a guilty conscience are dissipated in a moment; and peace flows in upon the soul like a river.

The practical effects upon the life which will result from this experience may be seen in,

II. The grateful acknowledgments which it drew from Jacob.

"He rose up early in the morning, and took the stone which he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Beth-el; but the name of the city was called Luz at the first." He determined to erect a memorial of the stupendous mercy that had been given to him, and to serve his God in that very place which had been so commended to him by the providence and grace of God. Accordingly he took the stone on which he had reclined his head, and erected it for a pillar, and poured oil upon it, in order to consecrate it to the special service of his God. We have no account of any express command from God that oil should be applied to this purpose by him: but in after-ages it was particularly enjoined to Moses to be used in consecrating the tabernacle, together with all the holy vessels and instruments that were employed in God's service Numbers 7:1. ; as also to be used in all the peace-offerings that were presented to the Lord: "This is the law of the sacrifice of peace-offerings, which he shall offer unto the Lord. If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried Leviticus 7:11-12." Thus not only under the law, but long before the law, we behold the solemn rite of consecration performed by one of God's most highly-favored servants; and a place that was common before, rendered holy to the Lord by the administration of this ordinance. And how acceptable to God this service was, may be judged from hence, that, twenty years afterwards, God again appeared to Jacob, and reminded him of this very circumstance, saying, "I am the God of Beth-el, where you anointed the pillar, and where you vowed unto me Genesis 31:13." "Arise, and go up to Beth-el, and dwell there; and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother Genesis 35:1." And in obedience to this command, we are told, "Jacob came to Luz, that is, Beth-el, and built an altar there, and called the place El-beth-el, because God there appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother Genesis 35:6-7."

Do we not then see in this record how we also should mark the interpositions of God in our behalf? Does it not become us to remember them, and to perpetuate the remembrance of them for the instruction and encouragement of others? Should not the honor of God be dear to us; and, if the place which God has signalized in so remarkable a way, have hitherto been distinguished by the name of Luz (a place of almonds, and of carnal delights), should we not labor to convert it to a Beth-el, and to render it to all future generations a house of God, and, if possible, the very gate of Heaven? Let the idea be derided as it may by them that know not God, this is an action worthy of a child of Abraham, a service acceptable and well-pleasing unto God.

In the verses following my text we have the vow of Jacob respecting this place recorded: "This stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house; and of all that you shall give me, I will surely give the tenth unto you." Thus, while he consecrated here an altar to the Lord, he provided for the service of that altar by an actual endowment. What might be his circumstances, or the circumstances of his family, in future life, he knew not: yet he bound himself by this solemn and irrevocable vow. What any ignorant and ungodly man might think of this, it is easy to imagine: but I find not in all the inspired volume one single word that discountenances such a conduct. I find, on the contrary, the whole people of Israel contributing according to their power towards the erection of the tabernacle, and stripping themselves of their ornaments in order to furnish it with vessels for the service of their God—I find David, the man after God's own heart, even when not permitted to build the temple himself, devoting not less than eighteen millions of money to the preparing of materials for it—I find similar exertions made by others, at a subsequent period, for the rebuilding of the temple—and I find a poor widow, who had but one farthing in the world, commended for casting it into the treasury, to be expended for the Lord. In whatever light then the lovers of this world may view such an appropriation of wealth, I have no hesitation in saying, that it will never be condemned by our God. What if, by means of it, God's salvation be made known, and his name be glorified? What if many who have immortal souls, now sunk in ignorance and sin, "be turned by means of it from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God?" What if, by the erection of an altar here, there be in this place somewhat effected towards the accomplishment of that promise, "In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the Lord: and it shall be for a sign and for a witness to the Lord in the land of Egypt; for they shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a Savior, and a Great One, and he shall deliver them Isaiah 19:19-20. ?" Should God so honor this place, and so testify his acceptance of the sacrifices that shall here be offered, how will they bless him, who have been born to God in this place! and how will they bless him, who have been his honored instruments of erecting an altar here, and of consecrating it to his service!

What now remains, but that I endeavor to improve this joyful occasion for the benefit of those who hear me?

Are there any here who are bowed down under a sense of sin? Perhaps, though you may have come hither only to witness a novelty, God has brought you hither to speak peace unto your souls, and to anoint you to the possession of a kingdom, when you have no more contemplated such an event than Saul did, when he was in the pursuit of his father's donkeys. Know you of a truth, that God is in this place, though you may not be aware of it. Know, that he is a God of love and mercy, as much as ever he was in the days of old. Know that he has still the same right to dispense his blessings to whoever he will, even to the very chief of sinners. Know that he has not only the same communication with men as ever through the instrumentality of angels, but that he has access to the souls of men by his Holy Spirit, who is ready to impart unto you all the blessings of grace and glory. Know that the Seed promised to Jacob has come into the world, even the Lord Jesus Christ; and that he has fulfilled all that is necessary for our salvation. He has expiated our guilt by his own blood upon the cross; and has made reconciliation for us with our offended God; so that through Him all manner of sin shall be forgiven unto men, and "all who believe in him shall be justified from all things." O Beloved, only look unto Him, and whatever were the load of guilt under which you groaned, you should find rest and peace unto your souls: "Where sin had abounded, His grace should much more abound:" and "though your sins were as scarlet, they should be as wool; though they were red like crimson, they should be white as snow."

It may be that someone may have come hither, who, though not particularly bowed down with a sense of guilt, is oppressed with a weight of personal or domestic troubles. Who can tell? God may have brought such an one hither this day, in order to fill his soul with heavenly consolations. O that, if such an one be here, God may now appear unto him as a reconciled God, and "say unto him, I am your salvation!" O that by the word now spoken in God's name, there may this day be "given unto him beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that he may become a tree of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, and that God may be glorified!" You have done well that you have come hither; for it is in the house of prayer that God pours out more abundantly upon men the blessings of grace and peace: "He loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob." Thousands and millions of afflicted souls have found in God's house such discoveries of his love, and such communications of his grace, as they before had no conception of: and you at this hour, if you will lift up your soul to God in earnest prayer, and cast all your burdens upon him, shall say before you go hence, "This is the house of God: this is the gate of Heaven." Know of a truth, that one ray of the Sun of Righteousness is sufficient to dispel all the gloom and darkness of the most afflicted soul: and, if only you will direct your eyes to Him, however your afflictions may have abounded, your consolations shall much more abound.

I trust there are not wanting here some who can bear testimony to the truth of these things by their own experience; and who, from the discoveries which they have received of the Savior's love, "are filled with peace and joy in believing." To such then will I say, Bless and magnify your God with all the powers of your souls: "let the children of Zion be joyful in their King;" let them "rejoice in the Lord always;" let them "rejoice in Him with joy unspeakable and full of glory." At the same time, even while they are, as it were, "at the very gate of Heaven," let me particularly caution them against that kind of joy which is tumultuous, and that kind of confidence which borders on presumption. There is a holy fear, which is rather increased than dissipated by heavenly joy; and a solemn awe, that always accompanies the manifestations of God to the soul. Observe the state of Jacob's mind on this occasion: "He was afraid; and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God; this is the gate of Heaven." Thus blended in its nature, thus tempered in its exercise, thus chastised in all its actings, should our joy be. It is of great importance that we should all remember this: for there is among the professors of religion much joy that is spurious, much confidence that is unhallowed. We may have great enlargement of heart; but we must "fear and be enlarged:" we may possess much joy; but we must "rejoice with trembling." Even in Heaven itself the glorified saints, yes, and the angels too, though they have never sinned, fall upon their faces before the throne, while they sing praises to God and to the Lamb. Let such then be your joy, and such your sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving.

But let not all your gratitude evaporate in unsubstantial, though acceptable, emotions. Think with yourselves what you can do for Him, who has done so much for you. Say with yourselves, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits?" Think how you may improve your mercies for the good of your fellow-creatures, and the honor of your God. Of Jacob it is said, "He rose up early in the morning, and took the stone and raised it for a pillar." Let it be thus with you also: lose no time in honoring your God to the utmost of your power. Account all you have, whether of wealth or influence, as given to you for that end. Determine that those who are around you shall have before them the evidences of true piety, and such memorials as shall, if possible, lead them to the knowledge of the true God. Jacob had it not in his power at that time to do all that his heart desired: but he did what he could; and twenty years afterwards, when his means of honoring God were enlarged, he executed all his projects, and performed the vows which he had made. Thus let your desires be expanded to the uttermost; and then fulfill them according to your ability. So shall you have within yourselves an evidence that God is with you of a truth; and having been faithful in a few things, you shall be rulers over many things in the kingdom of your God.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 28:20-22

 

DISCOURSE 46

JACOB'S VOW

Genesis 28:20-22. And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and clothing to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that you shall give me, I will surely give the tenth unto you.

IT is thought by many, that it is wrong to make any kind of vows. But the propriety of making them depends on the manner in which they are made. If, for instance, we make them in our own strength; or hope that by them we can induce God to do for us what he is otherwise unwilling to perform; or imagine that the services which we stipulate to render unto God will be any compensation to him for the mercies he vouchsafes to us; we are guilty of very great presumption and folly. Vows are not intended to have the force of a bargain or compact, so as to involve the Deity in obligations of any kind; but merely to bind ourselves to the performance of something which was before indifferent, or to impress our minds more strongly with the necessity of executing some acknowledged duty. Of the former kind was Hannah's vow, that if God would graciously give unto her a man-child, she would dedicate him entirely, and forever, to his immediate service 1 Samuel 1:11. Independently of her vow, there was no necessity that she should consecrate him to the service of the tabernacle: but she greatly desired to bear a son; and determined, that if God heard her prayer, she would testify her gratitude to him in that way. Of the latter kind was the vow which Israel made to destroy both the Canaanites and their cities, if God would but deliver them into their hands Numbers 21:2. God had before enjoined them to do this; and therefore it was their bounden duty to do it: and their vow was only a solemn engagement to execute that command; which however they could not execute, unless he should be pleased to prosper their endeavors. That such vows were not displeasing to God, we are sure; because God himself gave special directions relative to the making of them, and the rites to be observed in carrying them into execution Numbers 6:2; Numbers 6:21. Even under the New-Testament dispensation we find Aquila vowing a vow in Cenchrea Acts 18:18. ; and Paul himself uniting with others in the services, which the law prescribed to those who had the vows of Nazariteship upon them Acts 21:23-24.

The first vow of which we read, is that contained in our text: and extremely instructive it is. It shows us,

I. Our legitimate desires—

Man, as compounded of soul and body, has wants and necessities that are proper to both: and whatever is necessary for them both, he may reasonably and lawfully desire. We may desire,

1. The presence and protection of God—

The Israelites in their journeys from Egypt to the promised land passed through a "great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water Deuteronomy 8:15;" and such is this world wherein we sojourn. Dangers encompass us all around: and, if left to ourselves, we never can reach in safety the land to which we go. Well therefore may we adopt the language of Moses, when Jehovah threatened to withdraw from Israel his own immediate guardianship, and to commit them to the superintendence of an angel; "If you go not up with us, carry us not up hence Exodus 33:1-3; Exodus 33:12-15." "It is not in man that walks to direct his own steps Jeremiah 10:23;" nor will any created aid suffice for him: "his help is, and must be, in God alone." If God guide us not, we must err; if He uphold us not, we must fall; if He keep us not, we must perish. We may therefore desire God's presence with us, and so desire it, as never to rest satisfied one moment without it. "As the deer pants after the waterbrooks," says David, "so pants my soul after You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God Psalm 42:1-2." And, when he had reason to doubt whether God was with him or not, his anguish was extreme: "I will say unto God my rock, Why have you forgotten me? As with a sword in my bones, my enemies reproach me, while they daily say unto me, Where is your God Psalm 42:9-10. ?" This was the language of the man after God's own heart; and it should be the language also of our souls.

2. A competent measure of earthly comforts—

These also are necessary in this valley of tears. Food we must have to nourish our bodies, and clothing to cover us from the inclemencies of the weather: these therefore we may ask of God: beyond these we should have no desire: "Having food and clothing we should be therewith content 1 Timothy 6:8." To wish for more than these is neither wise Proverbs 30:8-9, nor lawful Jeremiah 45:5. Nor even for these should we be over-anxious. We should rather, like the birds of the air, exist on the providence of God, and leave it to Him to supply our wants in the way and measure that he shall see fit Matthew 6:25-26. Yet it is proper that we make it a part of our daily supplications; "Give us this day our daily bread."

3. The final possession of the promised land—

Canaan was desired by Jacob not merely as an earthly inheritance, but chiefly as a pledge of that better land which it shadowed forth. None of the patriarchs regarded it as their home: "they dwelt in it as sojourners, and looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God Hebrews 11:9-10; Hebrews 11:13-16." There is for us also "a rest" which that land typified Hebrews 4:8-9, and to which we should look as the end of all our labors Hebrews 11:26, and the consummation of all our hopes 2 Timothy 4:8. It is "the inheritance to which we are begotten 1 Peter 1:3-4," and "the grace which shall surely be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ 1 Peter 1:13." To be waiting for it with an assured confidence, and an eager desire 1 Corinthians 1:8; Philippians 1:23, is the attainment to which we should continually aspire; yes, we should be "looking for it and hastening to it" with a kind of holy impatience 2 Peter 3:12, "groaning within ourselves for it, and travailing as it were in pain," until the period for our complete possession of it shall arrive Romans 8:22-23.

All these things God had previously promised to Jacob 5; and he could not err, while making God's promises the rule and measure of his desires. The engagement which he entered into, and to which he bound himself in this vow, shows us further,

II. Our bounden duties—

Though the particular engagement then made by Jacob is not binding upon us, yet the spirit of it is of universal obligation—

1. We must acknowledge God as our God—

"Other lords have had dominion over us:" but they are all to be cast down as usurpers; and God alone is to be seated on the throne of our hearts Isaiah 26:13. No rival is to be suffered to remain within us: idols, of whatever kind they be, are to be "cast to the moles and to the bats." We must avouch the Lord to be our only, our rightful, Sovereign, whom we are to love and serve with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul, and all our strength. Nor is it sufficient to submit to him merely as a Being whom we are unable to oppose: we must claim him with holy triumph as our God and portion, saying with David, "O God, you are my God; early will I seek you Psalm 63:1." It is remarkable that this very state of mind, which was yet more conspicuous in Jacob in his dying hour, is represented as characterizing the people of God under the Christian dispensation: "It shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him; we will rejoice and be glad in his salvation Isaiah 25:9 with Genesis 49:18."

2. To glorify him as God—

The two particulars which Jacob mentions, namely, the building of an altar to the Lord on that very spot where God had visited him, and the consecrating to his especial service a tenth of all that God in his providence should give unto him, were optional, until he by this vow had made them his bounden duty. With those particulars we have nothing to do: but there are duties of a similar nature incumbent on us all. We must maintain in our families, and promote to the utmost in the world, the worship of God; and must regard our property as his, and, after we have "labored with all our might" to serve him with it, must say, "All things come of You, and of Your own have we given you 1 Chronicles 29:2; 1 Chronicles 29:14." There must be one question ever uppermost in the mind; What can I do for God; and "what can I render to him for all the benefits that he has done unto me?" Can I call the attention of others to him, so as to make him better known in the world? If I can, it shall be no obstacle to me that I am surrounded with heathens; nor will I be intimidated because I stand almost alone in the world: I will confess him openly before men: I will "follow my Lord and Savior without the camp, bearing his reproach:" I will "esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt:" whether called to forsake all for him, or to give all to him, I will do it with alacrity, assured, that his presence in time, and his glory in eternity, will be an ample recompense for all that I can ever do or suffer for his sake. He has bought me with the inestimable price of his own blood; and therefore, God helping me, I will henceforth "glorify him with my body and my spirit, which are his 1 Corinthians 6:19-20."

ADDRESS—

1. To those who are just entering upon the world—

Be moderate in your desires after earthly things. You can at present have no conception how little they will contribute to your real happiness. Beyond food and clothing you can have nothing that is worth a thought. Solomon, who possessed more than any other man ever did, has pronounced it all to be vanity; and not vanity only, but vexation of spirit also. And, while it is so incapable of adding anything to your happiness, it subjects you to innumerable temptations 1 Timothy 6:9, impedes in a very great degree your progress heaven-ward Habakkuk 2:6, and greatly endangers your everlasting welfare Matthew 19:23-24. "Love not the world then, nor anything that is in it 1 John 2:15-16;" but "set your affections altogether on things above." In your attachment to them there can be no excess. In your desire after God you cannot be too ardent: for "in his presence is life, and his loving-kindness is better than life itself." Set before you the prize of your high calling, and keep it ever in view: and be assured that, when you have attained it, you will never regret any trials you sustained, or any efforts you put forth, in the pursuit of it. One hour spent in "your Father's house "will richly repay them all.

2. To those who have been delivered from trouble—

It is common with persons in the season of deep affliction to make vows unto the Lord, and especially when drawing near to the borders of the grave. Now you perhaps in the hour of worldly trouble or of spiritual distress regretted that you had wasted so many precious hours in the pursuit of earthly cares and pleasures, and determined, if God should accomplish for you the wished-for deliverance, you would devote yourselves henceforth entirely to his service. But, when delivered from your sorrows, you have, like metal taken from the furnace, returned to your usual hardness, and forgotten all the vows which were upon you. Even "Hezekiah rendered not to God according to the benefits conferred upon him," and by his ingratitude brought on his whole kingdom the heaviest judgments, which would have fallen upon himself also, had he not deeply "humbled himself for the pride of his heart 2 Chronicles 32:25." Do you then, Brethren, beware of trifling with Almighty God in matters of such infinite concern: "it were better never to vow, than to vow and not pay Ecclesiastes 5:4-5." God forgets not your vows, whether you remember them or not. At the distance of twenty years he reminded Jacob of his vows; and then accepted him in the performance of them Genesis 35:1; Genesis 35:3; Genesis 35:6-7; Genesis 35:9-12. O beg of him to bring yours also to your remembrance! and then "defer not to pay them," in a total surrender of yourselves to him, and a willing consecration of all that you possess to his service Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 8:3-5.

3. To those whom God has prospered—

In how many is that saying verified, "Jeshurun waxed fit and kicked." But, Beloved, let it not be so with you. It were better far that you were spoiled of everything that you possess, and driven an exile into a foreign land, than that you should "forget God who has done so great things for you," and rest in any portion short of that which God has prepared for them that love him. Who can tell? your prosperity may be only fattening you as sheep for the slaughter: and at the very moment you are saying, "Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years; eat, drink, and be merry;" God may be saying," You fool, this night shall your soul be required of you." Know that everything which you have is a talent to be improved for your God. Have you wealth, or power, or influence of any kind, employ it for the honor of your God, and for the enlargement and establishment of the Redeemer's kingdom. Then shall you be honored with the approbation of your God; even with the sweetest manifestations of his love in this world, and the everlasting enjoyment of his glory in the world to come.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 32:26

 

DISCOURSE 47

JACOB PLEADING WITH GOD

Genesis 32:26. And he said, I will not let you go, except you bless me.

SOME have thought that the circumstances here recorded were a mere vision; and others a reality: but they seem to have been neither the one nor the other; but a real transaction under a figurative representation. The "wrestling" was not a corporeal trial of strength between two men, but a spiritual exercise of Jacob with his God under the form of an angel or a man. That it was not a mere man who withstood Jacob, is clear, from his being expressly called "God," and from his taking upon him offices which none but God could perform 9, 30. And that it was a spiritual, and not a corporeal, exercise on the part of Jacob, is evident, from what the prophet Hosea says respecting it; "By his strength Jacob had power with God; yes, he had power over the Angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him Hosea 12:3-4." Such manifestations of God under the angelic or human form were not uncommon in the earlier parts of the Jewish history: and it is generally thought, that the Lord Jesus Christ was the person who assumed these appearances; and that he did so in order to prepare his people for his actual assumption of our nature at the time appointed of the Father. His appearance to Jacob at this time was for the purpose of comforting him under the distressing apprehensions which he felt on account of his brother Esau, who was "coming with four hundred men" to destroy him Note:, 7. Jacob used the best means he could devise to pacify his brother, and to preserve as many as he could of his family, in case a part of them should be slain. But he was not satisfied with any expedients which he could use. He well knew, that none but God could afford him any effectual support: he therefore "remained alone" all the night, that he might spread his wants and fears before God, and implore help from him. On this occasion God appeared to him in the shape and form of a man, and apparently withstood him until the break of day. Then the person would have departed from him: but Jacob would not suffer him; but held him fast, as it were, saying, "I will not let you go, except you bless me."

From these words I shall take occasion to show,

I. The constituents of acceptable prayer—

These are beautifully displayed in the prayer of Jacob:

1. A renunciation of all dependence on ourselves—

With this acknowledgment Jacob began his prayer: "O God of my father Abraham, I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which you have showed unto your servant 0." And such is the feeling that must influence our hearts whensoever we attempt to draw near to God. If we think ourselves deserving of the divine favor, not one word can we utter with becoming humility; nor have we the smallest prospect of acceptance with God: "The hungry he will fill with good things; but the rich he will send empty away Luke 1:53." It is "he who humbles himself, and he alone, that shall ever be exalted." In this respect the returning prodigal is a pattern for us all. He takes nothing but shame to himself, and casts himself wholly on the mercy of his father. O that there were in us also such a heart! for not the Pharisee who commends himself, but the Publican who smites on his breast and cries for mercy, shall obtain the blessings of grace and glory.

2. A simple reliance on the promises of God—

Jacob puts God in remembrance of the promise which had been made to him twenty years before; "You said, I will surely do you good 2." And this is the true ground on which alone we can venture to ask anything of God. He has "given us exceeding great and precious promises 2 Peter 1:4," which he has also "confirmed with an oath, on purpose that we may have consolation" in our souls Hebrews 6:17-18, and be encouraged to spread before him all our wants. Behold how David laid hold of the promises, and pleaded them before God in prayer: "O Lord God, you have promised this goodness to your servant: do as you have spoken; do as you have said 2 Samuel 7:25-29. ": Again, and again, and again does he in this passage remind God of the promises he had made; and declares, that on them all his prayers, and all his hopes, were founded. In this manner then are we also to come before him; "Put me in remembrance," says God: "let us plead together: declare you, that you may be justified Isaiah 43:26." Are we anxious to obtain the forgiveness of our sins? we should take with us such promises as these; "Whoever comes unto me I will in no wise cast out:" "Though your sins be as crimson, they shall be as white as snow." Do we want deliverance from some grievous temptation? we should remind the Lord, Have you not said, "There shall be no temptation without a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it?" So, whatever our want be, we should take a promise suited to it, (for what trial is there that is not provided for among the promises of God?) and plead it, and rest upon it, and expect the accomplishment of it to our souls.

3. A determination to persevere until we have obtained the desired blessing—

This is the particular point mentioned in our text. And it is that without which we never can prevail. Jacob, though lamed by his antagonist, still held him fast. And thus must we do also: we must "pray, and not faint." A parable was delivered by our blessed Lord for the express purpose of teaching us this invaluable lesson Luke 18:1-8. It should be a settled point in our minds, that "God cannot lie," and "will not deny himself." He has said, "Ask, and you shall have; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." He has not determined anything indeed with respect to the time or manner of answering our petitions: but answer them he will, in the best manner and the fittest time. He may not grant the particular thing which we ask for, because he may see that the continuance of the trial will answer a more valuable end than the removal of it: but in that case he will give us, as he did to Paul, what is far better 2 Corinthians 12:8-9. ". In the confidence of this we should wait for him. "If the vision tarry, still we must wait for it, assured that it will come at last Habakkuk 2:3." And if at any time our soul feel discouraged by the delay, we must chide it, as David did: "Why are you cast down, O my soul; and why are you disquieted within me? Hope you in God; for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God Psalm 42:11." In a word, we must hold fast our blessed Lord, though under the greatest discouragements Son. 3:4, and must say, "I will never let you go, except you bless me."

Where such prayer is offered up before God, no tongue can tell,

II. The blessings it will bring down into the soul—

It will ensure to us,

1. The effectual care of God's providence—

The danger to which Jacob was exposed was imminent: but his prayer averted it, so that the brother whom he feared as an enemy, was turned into a friend. And what interpositions will not persevering prayer, when offered with humility and faith, obtain? It matters not what situation we are in, if God be our God. We may have seas of difficulty in our way; but they shall open before us: we may be destitute of food; but the clouds shall send us bread, and the rocks gush out with water for our use. Even though we were at the bottom of the sea, from thence should our prayers ascend, and thither should they bring to us effectual help. We read of such things in the days of old: but we are ready to think that no such things are to be expected now. But has God ceased to govern the earth? or is he changed in any respect, having "his hand shortened, that he cannot save, or his ear heavy, that he cannot hear?" What if God do not repeat his former miracles now, has he no other way of accomplishing his will, and of fulfilling his gracious promises? If our hairs are all numbered, and not so much as a sparrow falls to the ground without him, shall it be in vain for us to call upon him? No: he is still "a God that hears prayer:" and "whatever we shall ask of him, believing, he will do:" yes, "we may ask what we will, and it shall be done unto us."

2. The yet richer blessings of his grace—

The new name which God gave to Jacob was a standing memorial of God's love 8 with Hosea 12:5, and a pledge of all that should be necessary for his spiritual welfare. And what will he withhold from us, if we seek him with our whole hearts? Recount all the necessities of your soul: express in words all your wants: and when you have exhausted all the powers of language, stretch out your thoughts to grasp in all the ineffable blessings of his grace; all that the promises of God have engaged; all that the covenant itself contains; and all that an almighty and all-gracious God is able to bestow: and, when you have done this, we will not only assure it all to you, but declare that "he will do for you, not this only, but exceeding abundantly above all that you can ask or think Ephesians 3:20." However "wide you open your mouth, he will fill it." Make what attainments you will, you shall still find, that "he gives more grace." And, whatever difficulties you may have to encounter, you shall find "that grace sufficient for you." Only "continue instant in prayer," and God will give you, not a new name only (for that also will he give, even a name better than of sons and of daughters Isaiah 62:2; Isaiah 62:12; Isaiah 56:5,) but a new nature also, like unto his own 2 Peter 1:4, that shall progressively transform you into his perfect image "in righteousness and true holiness. Ephesians 4:24; 2 Corinthians 3:18. "

3. The full possession of his glory—

The answer which God gave to Jacob's prayer is more fully recorded in a subsequent chapter. There, after declaring plainly who he was, "I am God Almighty," he promises, "The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to you will I give it, and to your seed after you Genesis 35:11-12." This was typical of that better inheritance, to which all the Lord's Israel are begotten, and for which they are reserved Hebrews 11:16; 1 Peter 1:3-5. And thither shall the prayer of faith carry us: for "God will never leave us, until he has done all for us that he has spoken to us of Genesis 28:15," and brought us to "his presence, where there is fullness of joy, and to his right hand, where there are pleasures for evermore Psalm 16:11." Hear the dying thief preferring his petitions; "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom!" And now hear the Savior's answer; "Today shall you be with me in Paradise Luke 23:42-43." Thus he speaks also to all who seek him in humility and faith. It is curious to observe how often, without any apparent necessity, he repeats this promise to us. After saying, "He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he that believes on me shall never thirst," he repeats no less than four times, "I will raise him up at the last day;" and repeatedly also adds, "He shall have everlasting life; he shall not die; he shall live forever John 6:35-58." And whence is all this but to assure us, that, "Whatever we ask in prayer, believing, we shall receive Matthew 21:22. ;" yes, that he will "give us, not to the half, but to the whole, of his kingdom Mark 6:23. ?"

Let me add in conclusion,

1. A word of inquiry—

What resemblance do we bear to Jacob in this particular? I ask not whether we have ever spent a whole night in prayer, but whether we have ever wrestled with God at all; and whether, on the contrary, our prayers have not for the most part been cold, formal, hypocritical; and whether we have not by the very mode of offering our prayers rather mocked and insulted God, than presented to him any acceptable sacrifice? Say whether there be not too much reason for that complaint, "There is none that calls upon Your name, that stirs up himself to lay hold of You Isaiah 64:7. ?" Dear Brethren, I know nothing which so strongly marks our departure from God as this. To an earthly friend we can go, and tell our complaints, until we have even wearied him with them; and in the prosecution of earthly things we can put forth all the energy of our minds: but when we go to God in prayer, we are straitened, and have scarcely a word to say; and our thoughts rove to the very ends of the earth. The prophet Hosea well describes this: "They have not cried unto me with their heart. They return, but not to the Most High: they are like a deceitful bow Hosea 7:14; Hosea 7:16," which, when it promises to send the arrow to the mark, causes it to fall at our very feet. O let us not fancy that we are of the true Israel, while we so little resemble Him whose name we bear, and bear as a memorial of importunity in prayer. The character of the true Israel ever has been, and ever will continue to be, that they are "a people near unto their God Psalm 148:14."

2. A word of caution—

On two points we are very liable to err; first, in relation to the fervor that we exercise in prayer; and next, in relation to the confidence that we maintain. Many, because they are ardent in mind, and fluent in expression, imagine that they are offering to God a spiritual service; when, in fact, their devotion is little else than a bodily exercise. "Whoever has made his observations on the way in which both social and public worship is often performed, will have seen abundant cause for this caution. In like manner, the confidence of many savors far more of bold presumption, than of humble affiance. But let it never be forgotten, that tenderness of spirit is absolutely inseparable from a spiritual frame. When our blessed Lord prayed, it was "with strong crying and tears Hebrews 5:7;" and when Jacob wrestled, "he wept, and made supplication." This then is the state of mind which we must aspire after. Our fervor must be a humble fervor; and our confidence, a humble confidence. And while we look to God to accomplish all things for us, we must at the same time use all proper means for the attainment of them. Jacob, though he relied on God to deliver him from his brother s wrath, did not omit to use all prudent precautions, and the most sagacious efforts for the attainment of that end –8. So likewise must we "labor for the food which the Son of man will give us John 6:27," and "keep ourselves in the love of God Judges , 1," in order to our being "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation 1 Peter 1:5."

3. A word of encouragement—

It is said of Jacob, that "God blessed him there 9," even in the very place where he lamed him. Thus shall you also find that your greatest discouragements are only a prelude to your most complete deliverance. To his people of old he said, "You shall go even to Babylon: there shall you be delivered: there shall the Lord redeem you from the hand of your enemies Mic. 4:10; Jeremiah 30:7." Go on, therefore, fully expecting that God will interpose in due season, and that your darkest hours shall be only a prelude to the brighter day Isaiah 54:7-8; Psalm 30:5.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 33:4

 

DISCOURSE 48

RECONCILIATION OF ESAU AND JACOB

Genesis 33:4. And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.

SUCH are the dispositions of men in general, that they cannot pass any considerable time without feeling in themselves, and exciting in others, some malignant tempers. The more nearly men come in contact with each other, the more do they disagree. Nations are most inveterate against those who are most in their vicinity. Societies are for the most part distracted by opposing interests. Families are rarely to be found, where the demon of Discord has not raised his throne: yes, even the dearest friends and relatives are too often filled with animosity against each other. Happy would it be, if disagreements were found only among the ungodly: but they not unfrequently enter into the very church of God, and kindle even in good men a most unhallowed fire. Paul and Barnabas were a lamentable instance of human weakness in this respect. But on the present occasion we are called to consider, not a quarrel, but a reconciliation. The quarrel indeed had been rancorous in the extreme; but the reconciliation, as described in the text, was most cordial and most affecting.

We would call your attention to a few observations arising from the circumstances before us—

I. The resentments of brethren are usually exceeding deep—

If a stranger injure us in any respect, the irritation produced by the offence is, for the most part, of very short duration. But if a brother, or a friend, and more especially a person with whom we have been united in the bonds of the Spirit, provoke us to anger, the wound is more severe, and the impression more lasting. In many cases the difficulty of effecting a reconciliation is so great, as almost to preclude a hope of restoring the former amity. One who was thoroughly conversant with human nature, has told us, that "a brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city." We should be ready to imagine that in proportion as the previous union was close and affectionate, the restoration of that union would be easy; and that the spirits which had suffered a momentary separation, would, like the flesh which has been lacerated, join together again readily, and, as it were, of their own accord. But the reverse of this is true: nor is it difficult to be accounted for. The disappointment of the two parties is greater. From strangers we expect nothing: and if we find rudeness or selfishness or any other evil quality, though we may be offended at it, we are not disappointed. But from friends, and especially religious friends, we expect all that is kind and amiable; and therefore we are the more keenly affected when anything of a contrary aspect occurs. Moreover the aggravating circumstances are more numerous. Between friends there are a thousand little circumstances taken into the account, which could find no place among strangers, and which. in fact, often operate more forcibly on the mind than the more immediate subject in dispute. Above all, the foundations of their regard are overthrown. Each thinks himself in the right. Each thought highly of the honor, the integrity, the friendship, or perhaps the piety of the other: and behold, each imagines that the other's conduct towards him has violated all these principles, and given him reason to fear, that he was deceived in his judgment of the other; or at least, that he was not deserving of that high opinion which he had entertained of him.

From some such considerations as these, the alienation of the parties from each other, if not more fierce and violent, is usually more fixed and settled, in proportion to their previous intimacy and connection.

But,

II. However deep the resentment of any one may be, we may hope by proper means to overcome it—

We cannot have a better pattern in this respect than that which Jacob set before us. The means we should use, are,

1. Prayer to God—

God has access to the hearts of men, and "can turn them wherever he will." The instances wherein he has exerted his influence upon them, to induce them either to relieve his friends, or to punish his enemies, are innumerable. By prayer his aid is obtained. It was by prayer that Jacob prevailed. He had experienced the seasonable and effectual interposition of the Deity when Laban pursued him with such wrath and bitterness: he therefore again applied to the same almighty Friend, and again found him "ready to save." Prayer, if fervent and believing, shall be as effectual as ever: there is nothing for the obtaining of which it shall not prevail. To this then we should have recourse in the first instance. Nothing should be undertaken without this. We should not neglect other means; but our chief dependence should be placed on this; because nothing but the blessing of God can give success to any means we use.

2. A conciliatory conduct to man—

Nothing could be more conciliatory, nothing more ingenious, than the device of Jacob, in sending so many presents to his brother, in so many distinct and separate parts, and with the same information so humbly and so continually repeated in his ears. Vehement as Esau's anger was, it could not withstand all this kindness, humility, and gentleness. The submission of his brother perfectly disarmed him: and "the gift in his bosom pacified his strong wrath Proverbs 21:14."

Thus we may hope to "overcome evil with good Romans 12:21." As stones are melted by being subjected to the action of intense heat, so are the hardest of men melted by love: it "heaps coals of fire upon their head Romans 12:20," and turns their rancorous hostilities into self-condemning accusations 1 Samuel 24:16-17. We say not indeed that the victory shall be certain and uniform in all cases; for even the Savior's meekness did not prevail to assuage the malice of his enemies: but, as a means, we may reasonably expect it to conduce to that end. As a proud, distant, and vindictive carriage serves to confirm the hatred of an adversary, so, on the other hand, a kind, gentle, and submissive deportment has a direct tendency to effect a reconciliation with him.

Not that a short and transient care will suffice: on the contrary,

III. When once a reconciliation is effected, extreme caution is necessary to preserve and maintain it—

A wound that has been lately closed, may easily be rent open again: and friendship that has been dissolved by any means, does not speedily regain its former stability. To cement affection, much attention is required. We must aim at it,

1. By mutual kindnesses and endearments—

Exceeding tender was the interview between the brothers, after their long absence, and alienation from each other. Nor should we deem it beneath us to yield thus to the emotions of love, or to express our regards by salutations and tears. These may possibly be counterfeited by a consummate hypocrite: but, in general, they are the involuntary effusions of a loving heart. And as denoting cordiality, they have the strongest tendency to unite discordant minds, and to efface from the memory all painful recollections.

2. By abstaining from all mention of past grievances—

The revival of things which have been matters in dispute, generally revive the feelings which the dispute occasioned. And, as few are ever found to acknowledge that the fault or error has been wholly on their own side, recriminations will arise from accusations, and the breach perhaps be made wider than ever. To bury matters in oblivion is the readiest way to the maintenance of peace. In this respect the reconciled brothers acted wisely: explanations would only have led to evil consequences; and therefore they avoided them altogether. And we in similar circumstances shall do well to follow their example.

3. By guarding against that kind or degree of fellowship that may rekindle animosities—

There are some whose dispositions are so opposite, that they cannot long move in harmony with each other: "not being agreed, they cannot walk comfortably together." It is thus particularly with those whose spiritual views are different: for, "what communion has light with darkness, or Christ with Belial?" It was prudent in Jacob to decline the offered civilities of Esau, when he saw the mutual sacrifices that would be necessary in order to carry them into effect: it was prudent that Esau with his four hundred armed men should prosecute their journey without needless incumbrances and delays; and that Jacob should be left at liberty to consult the comfort of his children, and the benefit of his flocks. Had the two endeavored to make concessions, and to accommodate themselves to each other, neither would have been happy; and their renewed amity would have been endangered. Thus, where the dispositions and habits are so dissimilar as to bid defiance, as it were, to mutual concessions, the best way to preserve peace is to interfere with each other as little as possible.

APPLICATION—

Are there any who are involved in disputes and quarrels? Follow after peace: and be forbearing and forgiving to others, if ever you would that God should be so to you Matthew 18:35. Are there any who desire reconciliation with an offended friend? Be willing rather to make, than to exact, submission: and let generosity and kindness be exercised to the uttermost, to soften the resentments which have been harbored against you. And lastly, are there any who have an opportunity of promoting peace? Embrace it gladly, and exert yourselves with impartiality. And instead of widening a breach. by carrying tales, endeavor to heal it by all possible offices of love. Let the quarrels of brethren be regarded as a fire, which it is every one's duty and desire to extinguish. Thus shall you yourselves have the blessing promised to peace-makers, and be numbered among the children of God Matthew 5:9.

 

 

 

Genesis 34:31

 

DISCOURSE 49

SLAUGHTER OF THE SHECHEMITES

Genesis 34:31. And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?

THE life of man is continually exposed to trouble; and not unfrequently waves follow waves with little intermission. It was thus in Jacob's case, who, from the time that he fled from the face of Esau, met with a continued series of difficulties and distresses. Having terminated his hard service under Laban, and miraculously escaped the vindictive assaults both of Laban and of Esau, he seemed to have obtained a respite. But his peace was of very short duration; for his own children, to whom he looked for comfort in his declining years, became to him a source of the most poignant sorrows. It appears indeed, from various circumstances in this short history, that he did not maintain sufficient authority over his own house. Had he taken the direction of matters into his own hands, instead of waiting to consult his young, inexperienced, and headstrong sons, he had prevented those horrible crimes which they perpetrated without fear, and vindicated without remorse.

In considering the petulant answer which they made to his reproofs, we shall be led to notice,

I. The provocation they had received—

We apprehend that Leah herself was in part accessory to the evils that befell her daughter—

Dinah, like other young people, wished to see, and be seen; and on some festive occasion went to visit the daughters of the land of Canaan. She would probably have been displeased, if her mother had imposed restraints upon her. But it was her parent's duty to consult, not so much her inclination, as her safety: and it was highly blamable in Leah to suffer her daughter, scarcely fifteen years of age, to go into scenes of gaiety and dissipation unprotected and unwatched.

Perhaps by this calamity Leah herself was punished for the prostitution of herself (for what else can it be called?) in compliance with her father's wishes. Personating her sister Rachel, she had yielded to what might be justly termed, an incestuous commerce: and now she lives to see the humiliation and defilement of her only daughter.

But, whatever degree of blame attached either to Dinah or her mother, the provocation given by Shechem was doubtless exceeding great—

To take advantage of a thoughtless unprotected female was exceedingly base: and the distress brought by it upon her whole family was most deplorable. Ah! little do the mirthful and dissipated think, what sacrifices they require for the gratification of their lusts. Here was the happiness, not of an individual only, but of a whole family, destroyed. That her seducer endeavored afterwards to repair the injury, is true: and in this he differed from the generality, who, as soon as they have accomplished their vile purposes, have their love turned into indifference or aversion: but the injury was absolutely irreparable; and therefore we do not wonder that it excited a deep resentment in the breasts of her dishonored relatives.

But though her brothers were justly indignant at the treatment she had received, they were by no means justified in,

II. The manner in which they resented it—

Shechem, though a prince among the Hivites, instantly made application to Dinah's father to give her to him in marriage. Though he had humbled her, he did not wish to perpetuate her disgrace, but sought, as much as possible, to obliterate it for ever. The terms he proposed were dictated not only by a sense of honor, but by the most tender affection. Happy would it have been if Jacob's sons had been actuated by principles equally honorable and praiseworthy! But they, alas! intent only on revenge, contrived a plot as wicked and diabolical as ever entered into the heart of man. They formed a design to murder, not only the person who had given them the offence, but all the men of his city together with him. In the execution of their purpose they employed,

1. Hypocrisy—

They pretended to have scruples of conscience about connecting themselves with persons who were uncircumcised. We may admit for a moment, that this did really operate on their minds as an objection to the projected union; and that this objection was sufficient to weigh down every other consideration: still what regard had they for conscience when they could deliberately contrive a plan for murdering the whole city? This was indeed to "strain at a gnat, and to swallow a camel."

2. Profaneness—

They knew that both the prince and his people were altogether ignorant of Jehovah, and destitute of the smallest wish to be interested in the Covenant which God had made with Abraham: and yet they proposed that all the males should receive the seal of God's covenant in circumcision; and that too, not in order to obtain any spiritual benefit, but solely with a view to carnal gratification. What a profanation was this of God's holy ordinance! and what impiety was there in recommending to them such a method of attaining their ends!

3. Cruelty—

One would scarcely have conceived that such cruelty could have existed in the human heart. That a spirit of revenge should excite in the minds of these men the thought of murdering the person who was more immediately implicated in the offence, was possible enough: but that it should prompt them to involve a multitude of innocent persons in the same ruin; and at a time when those persons were making very great sacrifices in order to conciliate their favor; and that it should induce them to make use of religion as a cloak for the more easy accomplishment of their execrable purpose; this almost exceeds belief: yet such was their inhuman plot, which too successfully they carried into effect. And though their brethren did not join them in destroying the lives of any, yet they so far participated in the crime, as to take captive the defenseless women, and to seize upon all the cattle and property for a prey.

There is nothing so iniquitous, but the perpetrators of it will justify it. This appears from,

III. Their vindication of their conduct—

In their answer to their father's reproof we behold nothing but,

1. Offended pride—

They would not have felt any displeasure against Shechem, if he had dealt with any other female, or any number of them, as harlots; but that he should offer such an indignity to "their sister" this was the offence, an offence that could not be expiated by anything less than the blood of all that were even in the most distant way connected with him. We are surprised and shocked at the relation of this event: and yet is it very similar to what occurs continually before our eyes. Is an injury done, or an affront offered to us? we feel ourselves called upon by a regard for our own honor to seek the life of the offender. Is a slight encroachment made on the rights of a nation? it is deemed a just cause of war; and the lives of thousands are sacrificed in order to avenge it. But Jacob formed a just estimate of his children's conduct, when he said, "Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel."

2. Invincible obduracy—

We might well expect that, after a moment's reflection, these bloody murderers should relent, and be filled with remorse. But all sense of guilt, yes, and all regard for their own and their father's safety, seemed to be totally banished from their minds. Instead of regretting that they had acted so treacherous and cruel a part, they vindicate themselves without hesitation, and even tacitly condemn their father, as manifesting less concern for his daughter than they had shown for their sister. We can scarcely conceive a more awful instance than this of the power of sin to blind the understanding and to harden the heart. But daily experience shows, that, when once the conscience is seared, there is no evil which we will not palliate, no iniquity which we will not justify.

Infer,

1. How astonishingly may the judgment of men be warped by partiality and self-love!

These men could see evil in the conduct of Shechem, and yet justify their own; though theirs was beyond all comparison more vile and horrible than his. And is it not thus with us? If the world behold anything amiss in the conduct of a person professing religion, with what severity will they condemn it, even though they themselves are living in the unrestrained commission of ten thousand sins! And even professors of religion too are apt to be officious in pulling out a mote from their Brother's eye, while they are inattentive to the beam that is in their own eye. But let us learn rather to exercise forbearance towards the faults of others, and severity towards our own.

2. How certainly will there be a day of future retribution!

Here we behold a whole city of innocent men put to death, and their murderers going away unpunished. But let us not on this account arraign the dispensations of Providence. In the last day all these apparent inequalities will be rectified. It will then infallibly go well with the righteous, and ill with the wicked. The excuses which men now make, will be of no avail: but every transaction shall appear in its proper colors; and every man receive according to what he has done in the body, whether it be good or evil.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 37:4

 

DISCOURSE 50

JOSEPH ENVIED BY HIS BRETHREN

Genesis 37:4. When his brethren saw that his father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.

WE are not expressly told in Scripture that the events of Joseph's life were intended to prefigure those which should afterwards be accomplished in the Messiah: but the humiliation and exaltation of each, together with the means whereby both the one and the other were effected, are so much alike, that we can scarcely view them in any other light than as a typical prophecy fulfilled in the Antitype. It is not however our intention to prosecute the history of Joseph in this view: we shall rather notice some of the most striking particulars as tending to elucidate the passions by which mankind in general are actuated, and the changes to which they are exposed. The words of our text describe the dispositions of his brethren towards him; and will lead us to consider,

I. The occasions of his brethren's hatred—

Joseph was pre-eminently marked as the object of his father's love—

That his father should love him above all his brethren is not to be wondered at: Joseph was born to him of his beloved Rachel; and in him, Rachel, though dead, might be said to live. He was also imbued with early piety, while his brethren were addicted to all manner of evil; insomuch that he himself was forced to report their wickedness to his father, in order that they might be corrected and restrained by his parental authority. It is probable also that he stayed at home to minister to his aged father, while they were occupied in their pastoral cares; and that he won the affections of his parent by his dutiful and incessant assiduities.

As a general principle, we highly disapprove of partiality in parents towards their children; though we think it justified, when it is founded on a great and manifest difference in their moral character; inasmuch as it is a parent's duty to mark his approbation of religion and morals. But in no case ought that partiality to be shown by such vain distinctions as Jacob adopted. Joseph's "coat of many colors" was calculated to generate nothing but vanity in the possessor, and envy in those who thought themselves equally entitled to their parent's favor: and indeed this very distinction proved a source of all the calamities which afterwards befell him.

God himself also was pleased to point him out as destined to far higher honors—

God revealed to him in dreams that all his family should one day make obeisance to him. The dreams were doubled, as Pharaoh's afterwards were Genesis 41:32, to show that his exaltation above all his family, and their humblest submission to him, should surely come to pass. These dreams being divulged by Joseph, he became more than ever an object of most inveterate hatred to his brethren. They could not endure that even God himself should exercise his sovereign will towards him. They considered every favor shown to him (whether by God or man) as an injury done to themselves; and the more he was honored, the more were they offended at him. They did not consider, that he was not to be blamed for his father's partiality, nor to be condemned for those destinies which he could neither procure nor prevent. Blinded by envy, they could see nothing in him that was good and commendable, but made everything which he either said or did, an occasion of blame.

To set his brethren's conduct in its true light, we will endeavor to show,

II. The evil of that principle by which they were actuated—

Envy is one of the most hateful passions in the human heart:

1. It is most unreasonable in itself—

It is called forth by the honor or advantages which another enjoys above ourselves. Now if those advantages be merited, why should we grudge the person the possession of them? If they be not acquired by merit, still they are given to him by the unerring providence of God, who "has a right to do what he will with his own. Is our eye then to be evil because he is good Matthew 20:15. ?" Besides, the things which we envy a person the possession of, are often snares, which we should rather fear than covet: and, at best, they are only talents, of which he must soon give an awful account to God. If therefore we are sensible how little improvement we have made of the talents already committed to us, we shall see at once how little reason we have to envy others their increased responsibility.

2. It is extremely injurious both to ourselves and others—

Nothing can be more destructive of a person's own happiness than to yield to this hateful passion. It causes him to derive pain from those things which ought to afford him pleasure; and to have his enmity augmented by those very qualities which ought rather to conciliate his regard. It is justly declared to be "the rottenness of the bones Proverbs 14:30." It corrodes our inmost souls, so that we can enjoy no comfort whatever, while we are under its malignant influence. And there is nothing so spiteful, nothing so murderous, which we shall not both devise and execute, when we are subject to its power James 3:16. Behold Cain, when envying Abel the testimonies of God's approbation: behold Saul, when he heard David celebrated as a greater warrior than himself: how downcast their looks! what wrathful and vindictive purposes did they form! how were they changed into incarnate fiends! Thus it was also with Joseph's brethren, who could be satisfied with nothing but the utter destruction of the envied object.

3. It renders us as unlike to God as possible—

See how our God and Savior acted towards us in our fallen state: instead of rejoicing in our misery, he sought to redeem us from it, and sacrificed his own happiness and glory to re-establish us in the state from which we had fallen. What a contrast to this does the envious person exhibit! He repines at the happiness of others, while God is grieved at their misery: he seeks the destruction of others, while God labors for their welfare: he breaks through every restraint to effect their ruin, though with the loss of his own soul; while God takes upon him all the pains of Hell, in order to exalt as to the blessedness of Heaven. He is thus hostile to those who have never injured him, while God loads with his benefits those who have lived in a constant scene of rebellion against him. What can set the passion of envy in a more hateful light than this?

4. It transforms us into the very image of the devil—

Satan was once an angel of light, as happy as any that are now before the throne: but he kept not his first estate: he sinned; and thereby brought upon himself the wrath of Almighty God. It pleased God afterwards to form another order of beings, who were designed to fill up, as it were, the seats from which the fallen spirits had been driven. But this envious spirit strove to turn them from their allegiance. He knew well enough that he could not thereby mitigate his own misery: but he could not endure to see others happy, while he himself was miserable: yes, he was willing even to augment his own guilt and misery, provided he might destroy the happiness of man. With the same view he afterwards strove to set God against his servant Job, in order that he might deprive that holy man of his integrity and bliss. In this mirror let the envious man behold himself, and he will discern every lineament of his own hateful image. Well did Jesus say of such persons, "You are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your lather you will do John 8:44."

By way of improving the subject, let us inquire,

1. Whence it is that persons are so unconscious of this principle within them?

It is not surely, because they have not this principle in their hearts; for, "Has the Scripture said in vain, The spirit that dwells in us lusts to envy James 4:5. ?" No: all are more or less actuated by it, until it has been conquered by divine grace. But it is confessedly a mean principle, and therefore men are averse to acknowledge its existence in them. It is also a principle easily concealed by specious coverings. Its effects are ascribed to just indignation against sin: and the most eminent virtues of a person are blackened by the most opprobrious names, in order to justify the resentment which it excites in the bosom. Other strong passions, as lust and anger, are more determinate in their actings, and therefore less capable of being hid from our own view; but envy, like avarice, is of so doubtful a character, and admits of so many plausible excuses, that those who are most subject to it are unconscious of its existence and operation within them.

2. How it may be discerned?

Envy is not excited, except where the advancement or happiness of another appears within our own reach. To discern its workings therefore, we must watch the actings of our mind towards persons whose situation and circumstances nearly accord with our own. The principle is then most strongly operative, when there is a degree of rivalry or competition existing. People do not like to be excelled in that line wherein they themselves affect distinction. The female that courts admiration, the tradesman that values himself upon the superiority of his goods, the scholar that is a candidate for fame, the statesman that is ambitious of honor, must consider how he feels, when he sees himself outstripped in his course; whether he would not be glad to hear that his successful competitor had failed in his expectations; whether his ear is not open to anything that may reduce his rival to a level with himself; whether, in short, the fine coat and promised elevation of Joseph do not grieve him? Let persons be attentive to the motions of their hearts on such occasions as these, and they will find that this accursed principle is exceeding strong within them; and that they need to watch and pray against it continually, if they would gain the mastery over it in any measure.

3. How it may be subdued?

Doubtless many things might be prescribed which would conduce to this end. We content ourselves however with specifying only two. First, Let us endeavor to get a knowledge of our own vileness. When we have thoroughly learned that we deserve God's wrath and indignation, we shall account it a mercy that we are out of Hell. We shall not then be grieved at any preference shown to others. We shall see that we have already far more than we deserve; and we shall be willing that others should enjoy what God has given them, when we see how mercifully he has dealt with us.

Next, Let us get our hearts filled with love to our fellow-creatures. We do not envy those whom we love: the more we love any person, the more we rejoice in his advancement. The Apostle justly says, "Charity envies not." Let us beg of God then to implant this better principle in our hearts. Then shall our selfish passions be mortified and subdued; and we shall be made like unto him, whose name is Love 1 John 4:8.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 39:9

 

DISCOURSE 51

THE NEED OF FLEEING FROM SIN WITH ABHORRENCE

Genesis 39:9. How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

THE grace of God is equally necessary for us in every situation of life; in adversity, to support us; and in prosperity, to keep us—We should have been ready indeed to congratulate Joseph on his advancement in the house of Potiphar, as though his trials had been ended: but we see that, if his former path was strewed with thorns, his present station was slippery, and replete with danger—His history is well known, and need not be insisted on: suffice it to say, that when tempted by his mistress, and importuned from day to day to commit sin with her, he resisted her solicitations with unshaken constancy, and rejected her proposals with indignation and abhorrence—The reply, which through the grace of God he was enabled to make, leads us to observe that,

I. Sin is no light evil—

The world in general imagine sin to be of very little moment—

Sin universally prevails, and, except where it greatly interferes with the welfare of society, is countenanced and approved—The customs of the world sanction the practice of it to a certain extent in every one, whether male or female; though the greater latitude of indulgence is allowed to men—The very education that is given both to our sons and daughters, tends only to foster in them pride and vanity, wantonness and sensuality, worldliness and profaneness: let but these dispositions assume the names of ease, elegance, and gaiety, and they instantly lose all their malignant qualities; and, instead of exciting our abhorrence, endear to us the persons by whom they are indulged—Too many indeed will not submit to any restraints, but will even justify the grossest immoralities—They impose upon their excesses some specious appellation; they call drunkenness, conviviality; and whoredom, youthful indiscretion—Thus they commit sin without fear, persist in it without remorse, and even glory in their shame, when, through age and infirmity, they can no longer follow their former courses—

But, if viewed aright, it will appear a dreadful evil—

Can that be light or venial which cast myriads of angels from their height of glory into the bottomless abyss of hell?—Is that of trifling importance which in one moment ruined the whole race of man, and subjected them to an everlasting curse?—But if these effects be not sufficient to convince us, let us behold the Savior in the garden of Gethsemane, or on the hill of Calvary: let us behold the Lord of glory bathed in blood, and expiring under the curse which our sins have merited; and we shall instantly confess with Solomon, that they are "fools, who make a mock of sin"—

Not however to insist on this general view of sin, we observe that,

II. Considered as an offence against God, its enormity is exceeding great—

This is the particular light in which it struck the mind of Joseph—Though the iniquity to which he was tempted, would have been a defiling of his own body, and an irreparable injury to Potiphar his master, yet every other consideration seemed to be swallowed up in that of the offence it would give to God David viewed his sin in this light, Psalm 51:4. —Sin is leveled more immediately against God himself—It is,

1. A defiance of his authority—

God commands us to keep his law; and enforces his commands with the most awful and encouraging sanctions—But sin says, like Pharaoh, "Who is the Lord, that I should regard him? I know not the Lord, neither will I obey his voice Exodus 5:2. See also Psalm 12:4 and Jeremiah 44:16. "—And is it a light matter for a servant thus to insult his master, a child his parent, a creature his Creator?—

2. A denial of his justice—

God threatens that "the wicked shall not be unpunished"—But what does sin reply? It says like them of old, "God will not do good, neither will he do evil Zephaniah 1:12. "—And shall it be thought a trifling matter to rob the Deity thus of his most essential perfections?—

3. An abuse of his goodness—

It is altogether owing to the goodness of God that we are even capable of sinning against him—It is from him that we receive the bounties which administer to our excess, and the strength whereby we provoke the eyes of his glory—And can anything be conceived more vile than to make his goodness to us the very means and occasion of insulting him to his face?—

4. A rejection of his mercy—

God is continually calling us to accept of mercy through the Son of his love—But sin "tramples under foot the Son of God;" it even "crucifies him afresh, and puts him to an open shame"—It proclaims aloud, that the glory of Heaven is not to be compared with the gratification of our lusts; and that it is better to perish by self-indulgence, than to obtain salvation in the exercise of self-denial—What terms then can sufficiently express the enormity of that, which so blinds and infatuates its wretched votaries?—

It is not possible to behold sin in this light, without acknowledging that,

III. We ought to flee from it with indignation and abhorrence—

Instead of tampering with it we should flee from it—

Sin is of so fascinating a nature that it soon bewitches us, and leads us astray—As "a man cannot take fire into his bosom without being burnt," so neither can he harbor sin in his heart without being vitiated and corrupted by it—Had Achan fled from the wedge of gold as soon as ever he found a desire after it springing up in his heart; and David turned away his eyes the very instant he saw Bathsheba, how much shame and misery would they have escaped! But the breach, which might easily have been stopped at the first, presently defied the efforts of an accusing conscience; and a flood of iniquity soon carried them away with irresistible impetuosity—Thus also it will be with us; if we parley with the tempter, he will surely overcome us: we must resist sin at the first, if we would oppose it with success—

Instead of loving it, we should utterly abhor it—

The grace of God enabled Joseph to reject with abhorrence the offers proposed to him; and to prefer a dungeon with a good conscience before the indulgence of a criminal passion, or the favor of a seducing mistress—Thus should we turn with indignation from the allurements of sin—We should "make a covenant with our eyes," yes, with our very hearts, that we may close, as much as possible, every avenue of ill—Instead of palliating sin, we should new it in all its aggravations; and especially as an offence against a just and holy, a merciful and gracious, God—Nor should we ever forget, that, though it be "rolled as a sweet morsel under the tongue, it will prove gall in the stomach;" and though it flatter us with its innocence, "it will bite as a serpent, and sting like an adder"—

Address,

1. Those who think lightly of sin—

We well know that the generality of men have much to say in extenuation of their guilt; and, if they had been in the situation of Joseph, would have accounted the greatness of the temptation a sufficient excuse for their compliance with it—But to what purpose shall we palliate our guilt, unless we can prevail on the Judge of quick and dead to view it with our eyes? We may indeed weaken our present convictions, but we shall only secure thereby, and enhance, our eternal condemnation—Let us remember that "fleshly lusts war against the soul 1 Peter 2:11. ;" and that either we must mortify and subdue them, or they will enslave and destroy us Romans 8:13; for, even though the whole universe should combine to justify the commission of sin, not one who yields to its solicitations, shall ever pass unpunished—

2. Those who begin to see the evil of it—

It is an unspeakable mercy to have any view of the malignity of sin—To see how much we have deserved the wrath and indignation of God, is the very first step towards repentance and salvation—Let not any then turn away from this sight too hastily, or think they have discovered the evil of sin in its full extent—This is a lesson we are to be learning all our days; and it is only in proportion as we advance in this humiliating knowledge, that we shall be qualified to receive and enjoy the Savior—It is necessary indeed that, while we look at sin, we look also at Him who made atonement for it; for otherwise, we shall be led to despair of mercy; but, if we keep our eyes fixed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and see the infinite extent of his merits, we need never be afraid of entertaining too bitter a remembrance of sin—The more we loath ourselves for past iniquities, the more shall we be fortified against temptations to commit them in future, and the more will God himself be ready to preserve and bless us—

3. Those who, like Joseph, are enabled to withstand it—

Blessed be God, there are many living witnesses to prove, that the grace of God is as sufficient at this day, as ever it was, to purify the heart, and to "keep the feet of his saints"—Let those then who are enabled to hold fast their integrity, give glory to him, by whom they are strengthened and upheld—But let them remember, that they are never beyond the reach of temptation, nor ever so likely to fall, as when they are saying, "My mountain stands strong; I shall not be moved"—Let us then continue to watch against the renewed assaults of our great adversary—Never let him find us off our guard, or draw us to a parley with him—Let us suspect him, and he shall not deceive us; let us resist him, and he shall flee from us: and the very assaults that he shall make upon us, shall terminate in our honor and his own confusion—

 

 

 

 

Genesis 40:23

 

DISCOURSE 52

INGRATITUDE OF PHARAOH'S BUTLER

Genesis 40:23. Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgot him.

IT was a wise and prudent choice which David made, "Let me fall into the hands of God, and not into the hands of man." Man, when intent on evil, knows no bounds, except those which are prescribed by his ability to execute his wishes. He is easily incensed, but with difficulty appeased. The ties of blood and relationship are not sufficient to bind persons in amity with each other, when once any ground of discord arises between them. It might have been hoped that in such a family as Jacob's, love and harmony would prevail: but to such a degree had envy inflamed his whole family against their younger brother, that they conspired against his life, and only adopted the milder alternative of selling him for a slave, through a horror which they felt at the thought of shedding his blood. Nor will the most amiable conduct always ensure regard, or protect a person from the most cruel injuries. The holy, chaste, and conscientious deportment of Joseph should have exalted his character in the eyes of his mistress: but when she failed in her attempts to ensnare his virtue, her passionate desire after him was converted into rage; and she procured the imprisonment of him whom she had just before solicited to be her paramour. During his confinement, he had opportunities of showing kindness to his fellow-prisoners. To two of them he interpreted their dreams, which proved to be prophetic intimations of their respective fates. Of Pharaoh's chief butler, whose speedy restoration he foretold, he made a most reasonable request: he told him, that he had been stolen out of the land of the Hebrews; and that there existed no just cause for his imprisonment: and he entreated, that he would make known his case to Pharaoh, and intercede for his deliverance. In making this request, he never once criminated either his brethren who had sold him, or his mistress who had falsely accused him: he cast a veil of love over their faults, and sought for nothing but the liberty of which he had been unjustly deprived. Who would conceive that so reasonable a request, presented to one who had such opportunities of knowing his excellent character, to one too on whom he had conferred such great obligations, should fail? Lord, what is man? how base, how selfish, how ungrateful! Let us fix our attention upon this incident in the history of Joseph, and make some suitable reflections upon it—

We observe then,

I. That gratitude is but a feeble principle in the human mind—

Corrupt and sinful principles are, alas! too strong in the heart of man; but those which are more worthy of cultivation, are weak indeed. To what a degree are men actuated by pride—ambition—covetousness—envy—wrath—revenge!—To what exertions will they not be stimulated by hope or fear!: But the motions of gratitude are exceeding faint: in the general, they are scarcely perceptible: and though on some extraordinary occasions, like that of Israel's deliverance at the Red Sea, the heart may glow with a sense of the mercies given unto us, we soon forget them, even as the Israelites did, and return to our former coldness and indifference.

II. That its operations are rather weakened than promoted by prosperity—

Pharaoh's butler, when restored to his master's service, thought no more of the friend whom he had left in prison. This is the general effect of prosperity, which steels the heart against the wants and miseries of others, and indisposes it for the exercise of sympathy and compassion. It is usually found too that the more we abound in temporal blessings, the more unmindful we are of Him who gave them. That is a true description of us all; "Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked." On the other hand, adversity tends to bring us to consideration: when we have suffered bereavements of any kind, we begin to feel the value of the things we have lost; and to regret, that we were not more thankful for them while they were continued to us. The loss of a part of our blessings often renders us more thankful for those that remain: and it is no uncommon sight to behold a sick person more thankful for an hour's sleep, or a small intermission of pain, or the services of his attendants, than he ever was for all the ease and sleep that he enjoyed, or the services that were rendered him, in the days of his health. We have a very striking instance of the different effects of prosperity and adversity in the history of Hezekiah. In his sickness he exclaimed, "The living, the living, he shall praise you, as I do this day:" but when restored to health, he forgot his Benefactor, and "rendered not again according to the benefits that had been done unto him." In this, I say, he is an example of the ingratitude which obtains in the world at large; for we are told, that "God left him to try him, and that he might know all that was in his heart."

III. That the want of it is hateful in proportion to the obligations conferred upon us—

We suppose that no man ever read attentively the words of our text without exclaiming (in thought at least, if not in words), What base ingratitude was this! Whether we consider his obligations to Joseph, who had been to him a messenger of such glad tidings, or his obligations to God, who had overruled the heart of Pharaoh to restore him to his place, he surely was bound to render that small service to his fellow-prisoner, and to interpose in behalf of oppressed innocence. And we cannot but feel a detestation of his character on account of his unfeeling and ungrateful conduct. Indeed it is thus that we are invariably affected towards all persons; and more especially those who have received favors at our hands. If we receive an injury or an insult, or are treated with neglect by persons whom we have greatly benefitted, we fix immediately on their ingratitude, as the most aggravating circumstance of their guilt: it is that which pains us, and which makes them appear most odious in our eyes. And though this sentiment may be easily carried to excess, yet, if kept within due bounds, it forms a just criterion of the enormity of any offence that is committed against us. It was this which in God's estimation so greatly aggravated the guilt of the Jewish nation; "They forgot God who had done so great things for them Psalm 106:7; Psalm 106:13; Psalm 106:21." And we shall do well to bear it in mind, as the means of awakening in our own minds a just sense of our condition before God: for ingratitude, above all things, subjects us to his displeasure Romans 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:2; Isaiah 1:3; Deuteronomy 28:45; Deuteronomy 28:47.

This subject may be fitly improved—

1. To fill us with shame and confusion before God—

If we think of our temporal mercies only, they call for incessant songs of praise and thanksgiving: but what do we owe to God for the gift of his dear Son—and of his Holy Spirit—and of a preached Gospel?—What do we owe to God if he has rendered his word in any measure effectual for the enlightening of our minds, and the quickening of our souls? "What manner of persons then ought we to be?" How should our hearts glow with love, and our mouths be filled with his praise! Let us prosecute these thoughts, and we shall soon blush and be confounded before God, and lie low before him in dust and ashes.

2. To keep us from putting our trust in man—

Many years had Joseph been confined in prison, and now he thought he should have an advocate at court, who would speedily liberate him from his confinement. But God would not let him owe his deliverance to an arm of flesh: yes, he left him two years longer in prison, that he might learn to put his trust in God only: and then he wrought his deliverance by his own arm. "Until his time was come, the word of the Lord tried him." At last, God suggested to Pharaoh dreams, which no magicians could expound; and thus brought to the butler's recollection the oppressed youth who had interpreted his dreams, and who was the only person that could render similar service to the affrighted monarch. Now we also, like Joseph, are but too apt to lean on an arm of flesh, instead of looking simply to the Lord our God: but we shall always find in the issue, that the creature is only a broken reed, which will pierce the hand that leans upon it; and that none but God can render us any effectual assistance. Let us then trust in him only, and with all our heart, and then we shall never be confounded.

3. To make us admire and adore the Lord Jesus—

That blessed Savior is not less mindful of us in his exalted state, than he was in the days of his flesh. Yes, though not at all indebted to us, though, on the contrary, he has all possible reason to abandon us forever, yet is he mindful of us day and night; he makes intercession for us continually at the right hand of God; he considers this as the very end of his exaltation; and he improves every moment in protecting, comforting, and strengthening those who depend upon him. We challenge any one to say, When did the blessed Savior forget him? We may have been ready to say indeed, "He has forsaken and forgotten us;" but "He can no more forget us than a woman can forget her sucking child." Let us then bless his name, and magnify it with thanksgiving. And let us from time to time offer to Him the petition of the dying thief, "Lord, remember me now you are in your kingdom:" and not all the glory and felicity of Heaven shall divert his attention from us for a single moment.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 41:41

 

DISCOURSE 53

JOSEPH'S ADVANCEMENT

Genesis 41:41. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.

IN the eventful life of Joseph we are particularly struck with the suddenness and greatness of the changes he experienced. One day he was his father's favorite; the next he was menaced with death and sold as a slave: one day at the head of Potiphar's household; the next immured in a prison and laden with fetters of iron. From that state also he was called in a moment by the singular providence of God, and exalted to the government of the first nation upon earth. Of this we are informed in the text; from whence we take occasion to observe,

I. That we can be in no state, however desperate, from whence God cannot speedily deliver us—

The state of Joseph, though considerably ameliorated by the indulgence of the keeper of his prison, was very hopeless. He had been many years in prison; and had no means of redress afforded him. His cause being never fairly tried, his innocence could not be cleared: and there was every reason to apprehend that his confinement would terminate only with his life. The hopes he had entertained from the kind offices of Pharaoh's butler had completely failed: and God had suffered him to be thus disappointed, in order that, "having the sentence of death in himself, he might not trust in himself, but in God that raises the dead." But when God's time was come, every difficulty vanished, and his elevation was as great as it was sudden and unexpected.

It would be well if we bore in mind the ability of God to help us. People when brought into great trials by loss of dear friends, by embarrassed circumstances, or by some other calamitous event, are apt to think, that, because they see no way for their escape, their state is hopeless; and, from indulging despair, they are ready to say with Job, "I am weary of life," and "my soul chooses strangling, and death rather than my life Job 7:15." But we should remember that there is "a God with whom nothing is impossible:" though human help may fail us, "his arm is not shortened, that it cannot save, nor is his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:" yes rather he would glorify himself, as he did in rescuing Israel at the Red Sea, if we would call upon him; and our extremity should be the opportunity he would seize for his effectual interpositions: "In the mount, the Lord would be seen."

We may apply the same observations to those who seem to have cast off all fear of God, and to have sinned beyond a hope of recovery. But while the conversion of Saul, and the deliverance of Peter from prison, stand on record, we shall see that there is nothing too great for God to effect, and nothing too good for him to give, in answer to the prayer of faith.

II. That God is never at a loss for means whereby to effect his gracious purposes—

He had decreed the elevation of Joseph to the highest dignity in the land of Egypt. To accomplish this, he causes Pharaoh to be disturbed by two significant dreams, which none of his magicians could interpret. The solicitude of Pharaoh to understand the purpose of his dreams leads his butler to "confess his fault" in having so long neglected the youth who had, two years before, interpreted his dreams; and to recommend him as the only person capable of satisfying the mind of Pharaoh. Instantly Joseph is sent for (not from a sense of justice to an injured person, but from a desire for the information which he alone could give); and, upon his interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh, and giving suitable advice respecting the steps that should be taken to meet the future distress, he is invested with supreme authority, that he may carry his own plans into execution. Thus God, by suggesting dreams to Pharaoh, and to Joseph the interpretation of them, effects in an hour what, humanly speaking, all the power of Pharaoh could not otherwise have accomplished.

If we were duly observant of the works of Providence, we should see, in many instances relating to ourselves, how wonderfully God has brought to pass the most unlooked-for events. Things the most strange have been made to subserve his gracious purposes, and to accomplish what no human foresight could have effected for us. In relation to the concerns of our souls this may perhaps be more visible than in any temporal matters. The history of God's people, if it were fully known, would furnish thousands of instances, not less wonderful than that before us, of persons "raised" by the most unexpected and apparently trivial means "from the dust or a dunghill, to be set among princes, and to inherit a throne of glory." We are far from recommending any one to trust in dreams, or to pay any attention to them whatever: for "in the multitude of dreams are divers vanities." But we dare not say that God never makes use of dreams to forward his own inscrutable designs: on the contrary, we believe that he has often made a dream about death or judgment the occasion of stirring up a person to seek after salvation; and that he has afterwards answered the prayers, which originated in that apparently trifling and accidental occurrence. At all events, there are a multitude of little circumstances which tend to fix the bounds of our habitation, or to bring us into conversation with this or that person, by whom we are ultimately led to the knowledge of the truth. So that we should commit our every way to God, and look to him to order everything for us according to the counsel of his own gracious will.

III. We are never in a fairer way for exaltation to happiness than when we are waiting God's time, and suffering his will—

We hear nothing respecting Joseph but what strongly impresses us with a belief that he was perfectly resigned to the will of God. It is most probable indeed that he had formed some expectation from an arm of flesh: but two years experience of human ingratitude had taught him that his help must be in God alone. At last, his recompense is bestowed, and ample compensation is given him for all that he endured. With his prison garments, he puts off his sorrows; and, from a state of oppression and ignominy, he is made the Benefactor and the Savior of a whole nation.

Happy would it be for us if we could leave ourselves in God's hands, and submit ourselves in all things to his wise disposed! We are persuaded, that our want of submission to Divine Providence is that which so often necessitates God to afflict us; and that if we could more cordially say, "Your will be done," we should much sooner and much oftener be favored with the desire of our own hearts. Have we an husband, a wife, a child in sick and dying circumstances? our rebellious murmurings may provoke God to inflict the threatened stroke, and to take away the idol which we are so averse to part with: whereas, if we were once brought to make a cordial surrender of our will to His, he would in many instances arrest the uplifted arm, and restore our Isaac to our bosom. At all events, he would compensate by spiritual communications whatever we might lose or suffer by a temporal bereavement.

We may yet further learn from this subject,

1. To submit with cheerfulness to all the dispensations of Providence—

We may, like Joseph, have accumulated and long-continued trials; the end of which we may not be able to foresee. But, as in his instance, and in that of Job, "we have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy," so we may be sure that our trials shall terminate well; and that however great or long-continued they may be, our future recompense, either in this world or the next, will leave us no reason to complain.

2. To be thankful to God for the Governors whom he has been pleased to set over us—

It is "by God that kings reign, and princes decree justice." Sometimes, "for the punishment of a land, children (that is, persons weak and incompetent) are placed over it," that their infatuated counsels or projects may bring upon it his heavy judgments. We, blessed be God! have been highly favored in this respect. By his gracious providence, we have for a long series of years had persons exalted to posts of honor, who, like Joseph, have sought the welfare of the nation, and have promoted it by their wise counsels and indefatigable exertions. Let us thankfully acknowledge God in them, and endeavor to show ourselves worthy of this mercy, by the peaceableness of our demeanor, and the cheerfulness of our submission to them.

3. To be thankful, above all, for our adorable Emmanuel—

"Him has God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior." "To Him has he given a name that is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow Compare 3 with Philippians 2:9-11." To Him does our almighty King direct us, saying to every famished soul, "Go to Jesus 5." In Him there is all fullness treasured up: to Him all the nations of the earth may go for the bread of life: nor shall any of them be sent empty away. They shall receive it too "without money and without price." O what do we owe to God for raising us up such a Savior! and what do we owe to Jesus, who has voluntarily undertaken this office, and who submitted to imprisonment in the grave as the appointed step to this glorious elevation! Let us thankfully bow the knee to him; and go to him continually for our daily supplies of grace and peace.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 42:21

 

DISCOURSE 54

THE POWER OF CONSCIENCE

Genesis 42:21. And they said one to another, We are truly guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear: therefore is this distress come upon us.

THE history of Joseph appears rather like a well-concerted fiction than a reality. In it is found all that gives beauty to the finest drama; a perfect unity of design; a richness and variety of incident, involving the plot in obscurity, yet gradually drawing it to its destined end; and the whole issuing happily, to the rewarding of virtue and discouraging of vice. The point to which all tends, is, the fulfillment of Joseph's dreams in the submission of his whole family to him. And here we find his dreams realized through the very means which were used to counteract their accomplishment. Already had his brethren bowed themselves down with their faces to the earth: but this was only the commencement of their subjection to him: they must be brought far lower yet, and be made to feel the guilt they had contracted by their cruelty towards him. With this view Joseph forbears to reveal himself to them, but deals roughly with them, imprisoning them as spies, and menacing them with death if they do not clear themselves from that charge. They had formerly cast him into a pit, and sold him as a slave; and now they are cast into prison and bound: they once were deaf to his cries and entreaties; and now the governor of Egypt is deaf to theirs. This brings to their remembrance their former conduct; and they trace the hand of an avenging God in their sufferings. Their conscience, which had been so long dormant, now wakes, and performs its office.

This is the incident mentioned in our text: and, confining our attention to it, we shall show,

I. The general office of conscience—

To enter into any philosophical discussion respecting that faculty which we call conscience, would be altogether beside our purpose, and unsuited to the present occasion. It will be sufficient to take the word in its popular sense, as importing that natural faculty whereby we judge both of our actions and the consequences of them. It is given to us by God, to operate as,

1. A guide—

Of itself indeed it cannot guide, but only according to rules which before exist in the mind. It does not so much tell us what is right or wrong, as whether our actions correspond with our apprehensions of right and wrong. But as we are apt to be biased by interest or passion to violate our acknowledged obligations, conscience is intended to act as a guide or monitor, warning us against the commission of evil, and inciting us to the performance of what is good. True it is indeed that it often stimulates to evil under the notion of good: for Paul followed its dictates in persecuting the Christians, when "he thought he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus Acts 26:9;" and our blessed Lord informs us, that many who would kill his disciples would do it under an idea that they were rendering unto God an acceptable service John 16:2. The fault of these persons consists not in following the dictates of their conscience, but in not taking care to have their conscience better informed. A thing which is evil in itself cannot be made good by any erroneous conceptions of ours respecting it: but things which are of themselves innocent, become evil, if they be done contrary to the convictions of our own minds Romans 14:14; for we ought to be fully persuaded of the propriety of a thing before we do it Romans 14:5. ; and "whatever is not of faith is sin Romans 14:23."

2. A judge—

Conscience is God's viceregent in the soul, and authoritatively pronounces in the soul the judgment which God himself will pass on our actions Romans 2:15. It takes cognizance not of our actions only, but of our principles and motives, and brings into its estimate everything that will form the basis of God's judgment. Of course, in this, as well as in its suggestions, it may err: for, if it form a wrong judgment of the qualities of our actions, its judgment must be wrong also as to the consequences of them. It may promise us God's approbation upon grounds that are very erroneous: but when its apprehensions of our duty are themselves just, its award respecting our performance of it is a prelude of God's final judgment: for John says, "If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things:" but "if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God 1 John 3:20-21,"

But, as its operations are by no means uniform, we proceed to mark,

II. Its insensibility, when dormant—

Wonderful was its insensibility in the sons of Jacob—

When they conspired against their brother Joseph, and cast him into the pit, that he might perish with hunger, they regarded not the cries and entreaties of the youth, but proceeded in their murderous career without remorse. But the seasonable appearance of a company of Ishmaelites suggested to them somewhat of an easier method of ridding themselves of him. At the suggestion of Judah, "What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother, and our flesh;" they acceded to it, and "were content." In the first instance, after putting him into the pit, "they sat down to eat bread," evidently without any compunction: but now they were quite "content," applauding themselves for their humanity, instead of condemning themselves for their injustice and cruelty Genesis 37:23-28.

View next their mode of deceiving their aged father. They took Joseph's coat, and dipped it in the blood of a kid which they killed for the purpose; and brought it to their father, in order that he might conclude, that an evil beast had devoured his son. (How far God might design this as a just retribution for the deceit which Jacob himself had practiced towards his aged father, when he, by assuming Esau's coat, stole away the blessing that belonged to Esau, we stay not to notice: with this the sons of Jacob had nothing to do.) They behold their aged parent overwhelmed with grief, and absolutely inconsolable for the loss of his son: and these detestable hypocrites "rise up to comfort him Genesis 37:31-35." Where is conscience all this time? Has it no voice? Is there not one among them all that has any compunctious visitings? not one among all the ten? Does no heart relent at the sight of the anguish of an aged and pious parent, sitting from day to day and from month to month "with sackcloth on his loins," and "going down mourning to the grave?" No; not one of them all, as far as we know, ever "repented, saying, What have I done?" For the space of two and twenty years they all continued in impenitent obduracy; and were not made even at last to feel the guilt they had contracted in selling their brother, until they themselves were brought into somewhat similar circumstances with him, and constrained to read their own crime in their punishment. Such was conscience in them!

Yet this is in reality what we may see in ourselves and in all around us—

Behold the profane, who have not God in all their thoughts, and who never utter the name of God but to blaspheme it: they can go on for years and years, and yet never imagine that they have once offended God. Behold the sensual, who revel in all manner of impurity: they "wipe their mouth, like the adulteress, and say, I have done no wickedness Proverbs 30:20." Behold the worldly, who have no cares whatever beyond the things of time and sense: their idolatrous love to the creature raises no doubts or fears in their minds: yes, rather, they bless themselves as wise, prudent, diligent, and think that they have done all that is required of them. Behold the self-righteous, who, from an overweening conceit of their own goodness, will not submit to the righteousness of God: they can make light of all the invitations of the Gospel, and pour contempt upon its gracious overtures, and yet never once suspect themselves to be enemies of Christ. Behold the professors of religion who "confess Christ with their lips but in their works deny him:" they will spend a whole life in such self-deceit, and never entertain a doubt but that he will acknowledge them as his in the day of judgment. And whence is this? Is it not that conscience is asleep? If it performed in any measure its office, could it be thus? Yet thus it is sometimes even with those who are well instructed in religion. The sins of David are well known: yet even he, who at one time was smitten with grief and shame at having cut off the skirt of a man who sought his life, now kills the very man who was daily hazarding his life for him, and feels no remorse: yes, after having seduced the wife of his friend, and then murdered him, he continues at least nine months as obdurate as the most profligate of the human race: to such a degree was his "conscience seared as with a hot iron 1 Timothy 4:2," and to such a degree may our "hearts also be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin Hebrews 3:13."

But the text leads us to contemplate more particularly,

III. Its power when awake—

God has various ways of awakening a drowsy conscience. Sometimes he does it through some afflictive dispensation, as in the case before us: sometimes through the conversation of a friend 2 Samuel 12:7; sometimes by the public ministry of the word Acts 24:25; sometimes by an occurrence arising out of men's wickedness 2 Samuel 24:10, or in some way connected with it Daniel 5:5-6; Matthew 14:1-2. But by whatever means it is called into activity, it will make us hear when it speaks to us.

Some it inspires only with terror—

Thus it wrought on these: they saw their guilt, and the wrath of God upon them on account of it: "We are truly guilty concerning our brother," said they, "and behold his blood is required of us 2." Thus it wrought also on the unhappy Judas, who, when he saw what he had done, could no longer endure his very existence Matthew 27:3-5. And on how many does it produce no other effect than this! They see how grievously they have offended God: and, not having the grace of repentance given to them, they sink into despondency. Life now becomes a burden to them: and they choose rather to rush into an unknown state than to endure the stings of an accusing conscience. Hence the suicides that are so frequent in the world. Men live in sin, imagining that no painful consequences shall ever ensue: but at last "their sin finds them out;" and they seek in suicide a refuge from the torments of a guilty mind. But where a sense of guilt does not drive men to this extremity, it makes them tremble, as Felix did; and embitters to them their whole existence, so that they are utter strangers to peace, according as it is written, "There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked."

On others it operates with a more genial influence—

Thus it wrought on Manasseh, when he was taken among the thorns 2 Chronicles 33:11-13. And thus on Peter also, when he "went out, and wept bitterly Luke 22:61-62." V Happy, happy they, on whom it produces such effects as these! They will have no reason to repine at any afflictions that are productive of such a blessing Job 36:8-9. What if the intermediate trials be severe? we shall have reason to bless God for them to all eternity, if they lead to this end Psalm 32:3-6. ; and shall have cause to say with David, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted."

On all, its testimony is as the voice of God himself—

It speaks with authority. The stoutest man in the universe cannot endure its reproaches: and the most afflicted man in the universe is made happy by its testimony in his behalf 2 Corinthians 1:12. We should therefore keep it tender, and be ever attentive to its voice. On no occasion should we violate its dictates: for though we may silence its voice for a time, or drown it in vanity and dissipation, it will speak at last, and constrain us to hear all that it has recorded concerning us. And when once it does speak, then we may say concerning it, that "he whom it blesses, is blessed; and he whom it curses, is cursed."

Advice—

1. Seek to maintain a good conscience before God—

Let your minds be well instructed in the written word, and your lives be regulated by its dictates. To have always a conscience void of offence towards both God and man is no easy matter: but it is worth the utmost labor and vigilance that you can bestow upon it.

2. Do not however rest too confidently in testimonies of its approbation—

It will not always speak the same language that it does when blinded by prejudice or passion. At the time of committing this great evil, the sons of Jacob "were content;" and they applauded themselves for their forbearance towards their ill-fated brother. But at a subsequent period, how different were their views of the very same action! So will it be with us. We may now approve and applaud our own conduct: but we must not conclude that we shall therefore always do so. We are now too apt to be partial in our own favor; but at a future period we shall judge righteous judgment, even as God himself will do: and we are no longer certain that our judgment of our own state is correct, than when it manifestly accords with the word of God.

3. Look forward to the future judgment—

That will certainly be correct: for God knows our hearts, and will bring every secret thing into judgment, whether it be good or evil. But oh! how painful will be the review in that day, if then for the first time we are made sensible of our sins! What a bitter reflection will it be, 'I did so and so; and therefore all this is come upon me: I have procured it all unto myself.' On the other hand, how delightful will it be to look back, and be able to appeal to God and say, "I have walked before you with a perfect heart!" True it is, this will afford us no ground for boasting: but, if we walk before God in all good conscience now, we shall have its approving testimony in a dying hour, and the approbation of our God in the day of judgment Isaiah 38:3.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 42:36

 

DISCOURSE 55

JACOB'S UNBELIEVING FEARS

Genesis 42:36. All these things are against me!

THE best of men are weak when they come into temptation. The trials of Jacob were indeed heavy: and, if we suppose that he had any idea that his sons had been active agents in bereaving him of his beloved Joseph, his grief must have been poignant beyond all expression. Not having been able to bring home to them any proof of such a conspiracy, he seems never to have dropped any hint to them before respecting it; and possibly he did not even now mean to charge it home upon them, but only to say, that he had been bereaved in some measure through them: nevertheless his words seem to betray a lurking suspicion, that they had been accessory to Joseph's death; "Me you have bereaved; Joseph is not:" and this might well make him averse to trust Benjamin in their hands. But in the complaint he uttered respecting the ultimate end of his trials, he was manifestly wrong. We say not, that we should have shown more constancy than he: it is more than probable that none of us in his circumstances would have acted better: but from his language on the occasion we may learn, how we do act in trying circumstances, and how we ought to act.

I. How we do act—

"We are born to trouble as the sparks fly upward:" none therefore can hope to escape it; and least of all they, who, like Jacob, have large families. While our trials are light, we can bear them with composure; but if they become heavy and accumulated, we are then apt to indulge,

1. Murmuring complaints—

Whether Jacob meant to reflect on his sons or not, he certainly meant to complain of his afflictions; which was, in fact, to complain of God, who, in his all-wise providence, had appointed them. It was thus with his posterity during their sojourning in the wilderness: they always murmured against Moses, and against God, whenever they were involved in any difficulty or distress; and, when they were discouraged by the report of the spies respecting the land of Canaan and its inhabitants, they even proposed to make a Captain over them, and to return unto Egypt Numbers 14:4. And how many such "murmurers and complainers" are there among ourselves! Some will expressly declare, that they think God deals hardly with them: others content themselves with venting their spleen against the instruments of their calamities: but all, in one way or other, are apt to "charge God foolishly," as if he were unmerciful, if not unrighteous also, in his dispensations towards them.

2. Desponding fears—

So filled was Jacob with a sense of his present calamities, that he could not indulge a hope of a favorable outcome from them: he thought of nothing but increasing troubles, which should "bring down his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave." Thus also his descendants, whom we have before alluded to: they had seen bread given them from Heaven, and water out of the stony rock; but they doubted whether God were able to provide flesh also for their sustenance: and when they were brought to the very borders of Canaan, they doubted whether it were possible for them ever to conquer the inhabitants, and take their fenced cities. And are not we also ready to say, on some occasions, "Our hope is lost; we are cut off for our parts?" Are we not ready to ask with David, whether his "mercy be not come utterly to an end?" Yes; in temporal things we too often sink under our troubles as absolutely irremediable; and in spiritual matters, we doubt almost the ability, and at all events the willingness, of Christ to save us.

While we condemn the unbelief of this afflicted patriarch, we acknowledge, in fact,

II. How we ought to act—

However dark may be the dispensations of God towards us, we should,

1. Wait his time—

We are not to be impatient because relief does not come at the first moment that we ask for it. There must be a time for the dispensations of God to produce their proper effects upon our hearts. We do not expect that a medical prescription shall effect in one moment all for which it was administered; we expect its operation to be unpleasant; and we are contented to submit to pain for a season, that we may afterwards enjoy the blessings of health. Now we know that our heavenly Physician prescribes with unerring wisdom, and consults our greatest good: whatever time therefore the accomplishment of his designs may occupy, we should wait with patience, assured that the intended benefits shall ultimately be enjoyed. We should give him credit, if we may so speak, for his wisdom and love; and leave him to display them in his own way: "He who believes, shall not make haste."

2. Rest on his promises—

The promises of God to his people, respecting the outcome of their trials, are exceeding great and precious. He declares, that we shall have "no temptation without a way to escape;" that "all things shall work together for our good," and "work out for us a more exceeding weight of glory." Surely such promises as these should reconcile us to trials, however great. What can we wish for more? And how can we dare to say, "All these things are against me," when God tells us positively that they are working for us? Did we ever know that one of God's promises failed? Why then should we doubt the accomplishment of these, when they have already been fulfilled in so many thousand instances? Let it satisfy us, that God has promised; and that "what he has promised, he is able also to perform."

3. Hope against hope—

This was Abraham's conduct under far heavier trials than we have ever experienced Romans 4:18 with Hebrews 11:17-19. What though we cannot see how God can effect our deliverance? Is he also at a loss? The darker our state, the more simple should be our affiance. We should say with Job, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." How was Jacob reproved at last, when he saw the outcome of those things which in his haste he had so deplored! Let us remember that there is the same gracious, almighty God at this time; and that "they who trust in Him shall never be confounded."

We may further learn from this subject,

1. What an excellent grace faith is—

Faith beholds nothing but paternal love in the heaviest chastisements. Faith "brings meat out of the eater," and tastes sweetness in the bitterest cup. Faith looks to the end of things, and sees them, in a measure, as God sees them. It is the great and sovereign antidote to troubles of every kind. If Jacob had exercised faith as Abraham did, the trials of which he complained would scarcely have been felt at all. But God is pleased to try us on purpose that we may learn to trust in him. In this world "we are to walk by faith, and not by sight." Let us therefore cultivate continually this divine principle, which, while it honors God, tends exceedingly to the advancement of our own happiness.

2. How blessed a state Heaven will be—

Here God has wisely and graciously hid futurity from our view. But when we are arrived at the heavenly mansions, we shall see all the merciful designs of God developed, and the wisdom of his dispensations clearly displayed. We shall then see that the trials of which we once complained, were not only beneficial, but absolutely necessary for us; and that, if they had been withheld from us, there would have been wanting a link in that chain, by which we were to be brought in safety to Heaven. Who will there adopt the language of the text? Who will utter it in reference to any one trial of his life? Who will not rather say, "He has done all things well?" Let us then look forward to that time, and not pass our judgment on present things, until we see and understand the design of God in them.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 45:8

 

DISCOURSE 56

GOD VIEWED IN JOSEPH'S ADVANCEMENT

Genesis 45:8. So now, it was not you that sent me hither, but God.

BY looking through second causes to the first Cause of all, we learn to trace events to an all-wise Being, who "works all things after the counsel of his own will," and whose prerogative it is to bring good out of evil, and order out of confusion. To this view of things we are directed, and in this we are greatly assisted, by the Holy Scriptures; which draw aside the veil of mystery that is on the ways of God, and set before our eyes the most hidden secrets of divine providence. The history before us more especially affords a beautiful illustration of those ways, in which the Governor of the Universe accomplishes his own designs: he suffers, in many instances, such adverse circumstances to occur, as apparently to preclude almost a possibility of their terminating according to his original purpose: yet does he wonderfully interpose in such a manner as to bring them easily, and, as it were, naturally, to their destined issue. If in anything his intentions could be frustrated, we should have found them fail in reference to the predicted elevation of Joseph above his brethren: yet that event took place at last, and that too through those very means which were used to defeat it: and Joseph, alter the event was actually accomplished, referred the whole dispensation to God, as its primary Author and infallible Director.

To elucidate this subject, we shall show,

I. What part God takes in the actions of wicked men—

Though God cannot be a partaker in the wickedness of men, yet he may, and certainly does, bear a part in those actions which wicked men perform. We need go no further than the text, to confirm and establish this truth. That the conduct of Joseph's brethren, notwithstanding it was ultimately instrumental to his advancement, was deeply criminal, can admit of no doubt: yet says Joseph, "It was not you that sent me hither, but God." The question is then, What is that part which God takes in the actions of wicked men? To this we answer,

1. He affords them opportunities of perpetrating what is in their hearts—

The brethren of Joseph were full of envy and malice against him: but while he was under his father's wing, they could not give full scope to their hatred, because they were afraid of their father's displeasure. To remove this difficulty, God so ordered matters that Joseph should be sent to inquire after the health of his brethren when they were at a distance from home. This gave them an opportunity of executing all that was in their hearts. But as the executing of their first intention would have defeated the plans of Providence, it was so appointed that certain Ishmaelite merchants should be passing that way, and that he should be sold to them for a slave instead of being put to death.

That we do not err in tracing these minuter incidents to divine providence, is manifest; for the elevation of Pharaoh to the throne of Egypt is expressly said to have been effected by God for that very purpose, that he might be an instrument on whom the divine power should be exerted, and in whose destruction God himself should be glorified Romans 9:17.

But in thus facilitating the execution of evil, God does not make himself a partner in the crime: he only affords men power and opportunity to do what their own wicked dispositions prompt them to: and this he does, as in the instances before referred to, so also in every crime that is committed in the world. What our blessed Lord said to his judge who boasted of having power to release or condemn him, we may say to every criminal in the universe, "You could have no power at all to commit your crimes, except it were given you from above."

2. He suffers Satan to instigate them to evil—

"Satan is always going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour:" but he cannot act without divine permission: he could not tempt Job, or even enter into the herd of swine, until he had first obtained leave of God. For the most part, God imposes a restraint on this our inveterate enemy; or, if left to himself, he would soon "sift us all as wheat," and reduce us all to the lowest ebb of wickedness and misery: but at times he leaves the fiend somewhat more at liberty, and permits him to exercise his power over his wretched vassals. On these occasions Satan operates upon their minds with more than usual violence, and not only leads them captive at his Will, but instigates them to the commission of the most heinous crimes. Of these acts God is frequently represented as the author, while in other parts of Scripture their origin is referred to Satan. We are told that Satan moved David to number the people; and that he sent forth lying Spirits into all the prophets of Baal, that they might induce Ahab to go up to Ramoth-Gilead to battle, where he was sure to fall. But both these things are also said to have been done by God 2 Samuel 24:1 with 1 Chronicles 21:1 and 2 Chronicles 18:20-22. The fact is, that God did these things through the agency of Satan; that is, he permitted Satan to act according to the impulse of his own mind, and left the persons whom he assaulted to comply with his temptations.

3. He withdraws from them his restraining grace—

Man needs nothing more than to have the preventing grace of God withheld, and he will as surely fall, as a stone, cast out of the hand, will gravitate to the earth. Now it is in this way that God often punishes the sins of men: he leaves them to put forth the depravity of their own hearts: he withholds those mercies which he sees they despised, and gives them up to follow their own vile propensities without restraint. To this effect, it is often said in Scripture, "So I gave them up;" "So I gave them up." Yes, the sacred records speak yet more strongly, and represent God as "blinding the eyes of men," and "hardening their hearts Exodus 7:3; Exodus 7:13; Isaiah 6:9-10, which is quoted six times in the New Testament." But we must not imagine that God ever actively concurs in the production of sin: in fact, there is no occasion for any active exertion on his part; nothing further is necessary than for him to withdraw his preventing grace; and evil will blaze forth, as fire will to consume the stubble, when no counteracting influence is used to extinguish the flames.

To remove all objection against his participating in the actions of wicked men, we proceed to point out,

II. The benefit arising from acknowledging Him in them—

It may be thought that such an acknowledgment, if it did not make God a minister of sin, would at least represent him in a very unamiable light; and that it would tend to justify men in their iniquities. But we affirm, on the contrary, that such an acknowledgment is calculated rather to bring good to man, and honor to our God.

1. It affords us sweet consolation under our troubles—

Were we to look no further than to second causes, we should be grieved beyond measure at the instruments of our affliction, and be filled with apprehensions at their malevolent desires. But when we reflect that our enemies are no more than the sword in our Father's hand, and the rod with which he corrects us; when we consider that his design in correcting us is widely different from theirs Isaiah 10:4-6, and that after he has made use of them for our good, he will cast them into the fire Isaiah 10:12; Isaiah 10:16, and receive us to his bosom in an improved state Isaiah 10:24-27, our minds are pacified, and we say, "It is the Lord, let him do what seems him good." What a source of comfort was this to Job, when the Sabeans and Chaldeans slew his servants and his cattle! "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!" It is thus with all the sons and daughters of affliction, when once they can view the hand of God in their trials: they adopt the language of the Psalmist; "I was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because You did it."

2. It disposes us to a ready forgiveness of those who injure us—

It does not incline us to palliate their faults, as if they were mere unconscious instruments impelled by the force of Him who made use of them; (for in all that they do, they act as freely as if God bare no part at all in their actions:) but it inclines us to pity, to forgive, and pray for them, as slaves to their own passions, enemies to their own welfare, and real, though unwitting, benefactors to our souls. This effect is strongly exemplified in our text: Joseph saw the hand of God overruling the designs of his brethren; and from that consideration, he not only readily forgave them, but entreated them "not to be grieved or angry with themselves;" since, whatever had been their intentions, God had made use of their counsels for the accomplishment of his own gracious purposes: yes, thrice does he repeat this idea as a ground whereon he would have them satisfied with the dispensation, as he himself also was –8. We have also a similar effect mentioned in the history of David. Shimei, in the hour of David's adversity, loaded him with execrations; and Abishai, eager to avenge the insult offered to his master, desired permission to go and kill him: but David forbade it, saying, "Let him curse, because the Lord has said unto him, Curse David: let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord has bidden him: it may be that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day 2 Samuel 16:5-12." Thus shall we also mortify all vindictive feelings, when once we discern that our enemies are agents for Him: we shall say with Stephen and our blessed Lord; "Lay not this sin to their charge:" "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

3. It fills us with an admiration of the divine wisdom—

It is impossible to trace all the parts of this history, and not adore the wisdom, whereby the various incidents in Joseph's life were made to concur to the production of one great event, the preservation of Jacob and all his family. If we contemplate the still greater diversity of circumstances, whereby Jesus was made to fulfill the Scriptures, and to effect the redemption of the world; or the astonishingly mysterious designs of God relating to the excision of the Jews, as the means of engrafting the Gentiles into their stock; and the restoration of the Jews, as the means of bringing in all the fullness of the Gentiles; I say, if we contemplate these things, we are necessitated to exclaim with the Apostle, "O the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out Romans 11:33. !" In like manner, the more we are habituated to trace the mercies of God in our own personal experience, and the numberless instances wherein he has made "the wrath of men" and devils "to praise him," the more heartily shall we join in the adoring language of Moses, "Who is like unto You among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders Exodus 15:11. ?"

In prosecuting this subject, we cannot but be struck with the following reflections—

1. How happy is the Christian in this world!

Those that know not God, have no refuge to flee unto; no consolation under the trials they endure, no security against the evils they dread. But the true Christian is persuaded, that, though he navigates a tempestuous ocean, he has an all-wise, almighty Pilot at the helm: and "therefore he will not fear though the waves thereof roar, and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." He knows not indeed what will be the precise outcome of impending calamities; but he knows that it shall be precisely such as his heavenly Father sees to be best for him; and with that assurance he is satisfied. Thus is he kept in perfect peace, because he "trusts in God."

2. How happy will he be in the future world!

Here "he walks by faith, and not by sight." He believes that things are working for his good, because God has said that they shall do so. But in Heaven he will have a perfect discovery of all the links in that chain of providences, whereby he has been brought to glory. He will see the importance of those things which once appeared most trifling, and the necessity of those things which once were most distressing, and the perfect harmony of those things which once were involved in the most impenetrable darkness and confusion. What cause will he then see to bless and adore his God! What views will he then have of the unsearchable depths of wisdom, which ordered everything for his good! Well may he leave himself at God's disposal now, when such shall be his recompense at last! Let us then commit ourselves entirely to God, and be satisfied with all his dealings towards us: and "what we know not now, we shall know hereafter."

 

 

 

 

Genesis 45:27-28

 

DISCOURSE 57

JACOB'S RESOLUTION TO VISIT JOSEPH IN EGYPT

Genesis 45:27-28. And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived: and Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die.

IT is of very great importance to exercise sound wisdom and discretion in interpreting the Holy Scriptures, lest, by imposing on them a forced or fanciful meaning, we bring the sacred oracles themselves into contempt. Yet is there a certain latitude allowed us, provided we do not set forth the subordinate and accommodated sense as if it were the true and primary import of the passage. The Apostles themselves frequently take this liberty. The prophet, speaking of the Babylonish captivity, says, "A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping: Rachel, weeping for her children, refused to he comforted for her children, because they were not Jeremiah 31:15." This passage Matthew applies to the slaughter of the children in Bethlehem, to which, in its primary sense, it had no reference Matthew 2:17-18; nevertheless, the citation of it was just, and the accommodation beautiful. A similar use the same evangelist makes of a passage primarily referring to the atonement which Christ should offer for the sins of mankind: he applies it to his miraculously healing their bodily disorders Compare Isaiah 53:4 with Matthew 8:16-18. These examples, and others which might be adduced, would justify a considerably greater latitude of observation than we propose to adopt on the present occasion. In considering this portion of sacred history, we do not found upon it any doctrine relating to the Gospel: we do not even insinuate that it was originally intended to illustrate any of the peculiar doctrines of Christianity: we shall merely take occasion from it to introduce to your notice some useful observations, with which indeed it has no immediate connection, but with which it has a very striking correspondence.

Joseph having made known himself to his brethren, and cautioned them against "falling out by the way," (an event too probable in their circumstances,) sends them back to their father, with orders to inform him of all that they had seen and heard, and to bring him and their respective families down to Egypt. Jacob, when first he received the information, could not credit it: but upon further conversation with his sons he was convinced of the truth of their report, and determined to accept the invitation which his beloved Joseph had sent him.

Now we propose to notice,

I. The grounds of his doubts—

There seem to have been two reasons for his questioning the truth of the information he received;

1. The report contradicted all that he had before received for truth—

'He had above twenty years before had reason to believe that his son Joseph had been torn in pieces by a wild beast; he had even seen his son's coat torn and drenched in blood; nor had the lapse of so many years brought him any other information: how then could this son be the person that presided over the kingdom of Egypt at this time? There might be someone that resembled him in name; but it could not possibly be his darling son: had Joseph been alive, he must long since have heard of him: whoever therefore the person might be, or whatever he might profess to be, he could not be the long-lost son of his beloved Rachel.' Such were Jacob's arguments, and such his reasons for rejecting the testimony of his sons.

And do we not here see one ground on which the testimony of those who preach the Gospel is rejected? We find men rooted in certain sentiments, which, in their opinion, they have adopted on very sufficient grounds. The general acceptance which those sentiments meet with, and the confirmation of them during a long course of years, concur to render them, as it were, fixed principles in their minds. But the doctrines of the Gospel are directly the reverse of those which pass current in the world. The extreme depravity of human nature, the desert and danger of all mankind, the insufficiency of any good works to recommend us to God, the necessity of seeking justification by faith alone, the nature and extent of true holiness, and the impossibility of being saved without an entire consecration of ourselves to the service of God, are as opposite to the doctrines and sentiments of the world, as light is to darkness: and on this account they are rejected by the generality with scorn and contempt. It was on this ground that Nicodemus rejected the doctrine of the new birth; "How can these things be?" 'I have never held this sentiment; therefore it cannot be true.' And on the same grounds it is, that the preaching of the Gospel is at this time, no less than in former ages, accounted foolishness.

2. The tidings were too good to be true—

There is a proneness in the human mind to believe evil reports more easily than those which are favorable. Jacob instantly acceded to the idea that his son Joseph had been torn in pieces, notwithstanding, if he had considered the spirit and temper of his brethren towards him, there was very abundant reason to doubt the fact. But, when he is told that Joseph is alive, and at the head of the Egyptian kingdom, he cannot entertain the thought one moment: "his heart even faints" at the mention of the fact, (not because he believed it, but) because he believed it not.

Here again we trace the workings of the human mind in relation to higher things. If we come and tell persons that they must make their peace with God by a long course of repentance and good works, they will believe us readily enough; though, if they duly considered the nature of such tidings, they would have evidence enough of their falsehood. But if we declare to them, that Christ has made a full atonement for our sins; that a free and full salvation is offered them through Him; that they may partake of it "without money and without price," that is, without anything on their part to merit it; and that their former guilt, however great and aggravated, is no bar to their acceptance with God, provided they simply and sincerely believe in Christ; 'all this seems too good to be true: it can never be, that the way to Heaven should be so easy.' This is the argument used by all the train of self-righteous Pharisees, who, "being whole, feel no need of a physician;" and by multitudes also of repenting "Publicans, who dare not lift up their eyes to Heaven," or entertain a hope, that "grace should ever so abound towards them, in whom sin has so greatly abounded See Isaiah 49:24-25."

Having canvassed thus his doubts, we proceed to notice,

II. The means of their removal—

Of these we are minutely informed in the words of our text. They were,

1. A fuller recital of Joseph's words—

Jacob's sons had told him of Joseph's elevation; but not obtaining credit, proceeded to "tell him all the words that Joseph had said unto them." Now their testimony became so circumstantial and convincing, that he could resist no longer: his incredulity was borne down by a weight of evidence that could not be withstood.

Thus also it is that the Gospel forces its way into the hearts of thousands, to whom, at its first statement, it appeared no better than an idle tale. Ministers set forth innumerable declarations which Jesus has made respecting us: they report his gracious invitations, his precious promises, his tender expostulations; all of which evince such a perfect knowledge of our state, and are so suited to our necessities, that we cannot any longer doubt from whom they come. They shame us out of our doubts, and constrain us to exclaim, "Lord, I believe; help you my unbelief!"

2. An actual sight of the tokens of his love—

A view of the wagons which Joseph had sent, stored with everything requisite for his accommodation in his journey, completed his conviction. All the patriarch's doubts were dissipated, and his "spirit instantly revived."

And what will not give way before the sensible manifestations of God's love to the soul? Let "His love be shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit;" let the promises be applied with power to the soul; let "the Spirit of God once witness with our spirit that we are God's;" and no fears will then remain respecting the truth of the Gospel or the power and grace of Christ: we shall then "have the witness in ourselves," that "Jesus is exalted to be a Prince and a Savior," and that he is "able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him."

With the removal of his doubts there was an instantaneous change in his determinations. This will appear while we consider,

III. The effect which their removal produced upon him—

He had been hitherto reluctant to leave his home; but now,

1. He desired nothing so much as to see the one object of his affections—

Joseph was now more dear to him than ever; and if he might but live to enjoy a sight of him, he should consider himself as having attained all for which he wished to live: "It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive; I will go and see him before I die."

And let us once be persuaded that Jesus is set at God's right hand, far above all principalities and powers, and that he has all Heaven at his disposal, and has sent to invite us to come unto him, and has made ample provision for us by the way, and prepared mansions for us at the end of our journey, and engaged that we shall dwell in his immediate presence forever and ever; let us be persuaded of this, and shall we feel no disposition to visit him? Will it not, on the contrary, be the first desire of our hearts? Shall we not say, "Whom have I in Heaven but You; and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of You?" Will not the attainment of this object appear to be the only thing worth living for? And having an assured prospect of this, shall we not say, "Now let you your servant depart in peace?" Yes; this desire will swallow up, as it were, every other; and to secure this happiness will be the only end for which we shall wish to live.

2. He disregarded all the difficulties he might encounter in the way to him—

It was not a pleasing thing for an infirm old man, who was one hundred and thirty years of age, to leave his home, and set out upon so long a journey: but the mountains became a plain, when such an object was to be attained.

Nor is it pleasing for flesh and blood to encounter the difficulties which we must meet with in our journey heaven-ward. But who that loves our exalted Jesus will regard them? who will not welcome reproach, and take up with cheerfulness whatever cross may lie in his way to that blessed kingdom 2 Suppose that we must suffer the loss of our worldly interests and accommodations; who will not account them mere "stuff," that is unworthy of one moment's notice? who will not readily exchange them for the fullness of the heavenly land, and for the enjoyment of the Savior's presence? Difficulties become no difficulties, and sacrifices no sacrifices, when by faith we behold the Savior's glory, and have an assured hope of participating it forever.

Reflections—

1. How amiable is the exercise of sincere love!

Joseph, for peculiar reasons, had imposed a restraint upon his feelings, until the proper time arrived to give them vent: but when he was no longer under any necessity to conceal them, they burst forth in a torrent of affection, as waters that have broken down the dam by which they had been confined. He retained no anger against his murderous brethren, but fell on their necks and kissed them. His charge to them "not to fall out by the way," showed how ardently he desired that they might maintain, with each other as well as with himself, the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. And how animated was his message to his dear aged father! "Haste you, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus says your son Joseph; God has made me lord of all Egypt: come down to me; tarry not: and you shall dwell in the land of Goshen; and you shall be near unto me, you and your children, and your children's children, and your flocks, and your herds, and all that you have: and there will I nourish you!" Nor was the aged patriarch's affection less ardent, when once he was persuaded that his Joseph was yet alive. His whole soul was enrapt up in his darling son: and, in his determination to visit him, he lost sight of all his temporal interests: the thought of enjoying plenty in Egypt seems not to have entered into his mind: all that he cared for was a sight of Joseph; and beyond that he had no wish in life.

Would to God it were thus in every church, and every family! Thus indeed it will be, wherever the grace of God reigns in the heart. Instead of "rendering evil for evil," we shall "heap coals of fire on the heads" of those who injure us, to melt them into love. Instead of harboring envy, or hatred, or a selfish indifference in our hearts, we shall feel the sublimest happiness in the exercise of love: parents will love their children, and children seek to requite their parents, and "brethren delight to dwell together in unity." O let us cultivate such a spirit, which shall be the best evidence, both to ourselves and others, that we are Christ's disciples.

2. How delightful will be our interview with Christ in Heaven!

If we had beheld the meeting of this aged patriarch with his beloved Joseph, who among us could have refrained from tears?: But what must be the meeting of the soul with Jesus, on its first admission into his presence? Who can conceive the tender endearments of the Savior's love, or the admiration, gratitude, and joy with which the soul shall be overwhelmed in his embrace? Surely such an interview is worth the longest and most arduous journey. Well may we account everything as dung and dross, to obtain it; more especially because it shall not be transient, like that which Jacob enjoyed, but permanent and everlasting. Behold then, we invite you all to a participation of it. He has said respecting you, "Father, I will that they whom you have given me may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which you have given me." And is there one among you that will not add his Amen to that petition? Make haste then, tarry not: "Mind not your stuff" but commence your journey instantly: and soon shall death transport you into his presence; and "then shall you be forever with the Lord. Comfort you one another with these words."

 

 

 

 

Genesis 47:7-10

 

DISCOURSE 58

JACOB'S INTERVIEW WITH PHARAOH

Genesis 47:7-10. And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old are you? And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers, in the days of their pilgrimage. And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.

TO acknowledge God in all our ways, and to commit our way to him, secures to us, as we are told, his gracious interposition for the direction of our paths, and the accomplishment of our desires. It is possible that Jacob, after he had set out towards Egypt in the wagons that Joseph had sent for him, felt some doubts about the propriety of leaving the promised land, when, at his advanced age, he could have no reasonable prospect of returning thither with his family. But, knowing from experience the efficacy of prayer, he betook himself to that never-failing remedy: he stopped at Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the Lord. That very night God given to appear to him in a vision, and to dissipate his fears, by an express command to proceed on his journey, and by a promise that he should in due time be brought back again Genesis 46:1-4. He then prosecuted his journey in safety, and had a most affecting interview with his beloved Joseph. Soon after his arrival, five of his sons were introduced to Pharaoh; and afterwards he himself. It is this introduction of the aged patriarch to Pharaoh that we are now more particularly to consider. In the account given us of the interview, we notice,

I. The question which Pharaoh put to Jacob—

It could not be expected that persons so remote from each other in their station, their views, and habits of life, should have many topics in common with each other whereon to maintain a long and interesting conversation. The interview seems to have been very short, and of course the conversation short also. All that is related concerning it contains only one short question. This, as far as it related to Jacob, was a mere expression of kindness and respect on the part of Pharaoh. To have questioned him about matters which he did not understand, would have been embarrassing to Jacob, and painful to his feelings: and to have asked him about anything in which neither party was at all interested, would have betrayed a great want of judgment in Pharaoh. The topic selected by Pharaoh was liable to no such objection: for it is always gratifying to a person advanced in years to mention his age, because the "hoary head, especially if found in the way of righteousness, is always considered as a crown of glory Proverbs 16:31; Leviticus 19:32."

As a general question, independent of the history, it cannot fail of suggesting many important thoughts to all to whom it is addressed. "How old are you?" Are you far advanced in life? how much then of your allotted time is gone, and how little remains for the finishing of the work that is required of you! how diligently therefore should you redeem every hour that is now added to your expiring term! Are you, on the contrary, but just setting out in the world? how little do you know of its snares, temptations, sorrows! what disappointments and troubles have you to experience! and how deeply are you concerned to have your news rectified, and your conduct regulated by the word of God! Whatever be your age, you should consider every return of your birth-day rather as a call to weep and mourn, than as an occasion of festivity and joy: for it is the knell of a departed year; a year that might, in all probability, have been far better improved; a year in which many sins have been committed, which are indelibly recorded in the book of God's remembrance, and of which you must shortly give a strict account at his judgment-seat.

We notice,

II. Jacob's answer to it—

The patriarch's mind was fraught with zeal for God; and therefore not contenting himself with a plain short answer, he framed his reply in words calculated to make a deep impression on the mind of Pharaoh, without giving him the smallest offence.

He insinuates, and repeats the idea, that life is but a "pilgrimage;" that we are merely sojourners in a foreign land, and that our home and our inheritance is in a better country. This part of his speech is particularly noticed in the Epistle to the Hebrews, as being an open acknowledgment of his principles as a worshiper of Jehovah, and of his expectations in a better world Hebrews 11:13-14; Hebrews 11:16. He intimates also that his years, though they had been an hundred and thirty, were few. This age might appear great to Pharaoh; but it was not near equal to that of Jacob's progenitors Terah was 205 years old; Abraham 175; Isaac 180. On a retrospect, every person's days appear to have been but few. Various incidents of former life seem to have been but recently transacted; the intervening time being lost, as it were, like valleys intercepted by adjacent hills. He further declares, that these years of his had been replete with evil. Certainly his life, from the time that he fled from the face of his brother Esau to that hour, had been a scene of great afflictions. His fourteen years' servitude to Laban, the disgrace brought on him and his family by Dinah his only daughter, the murderous cruelty of his vindictive sons, the jealousies of all his children on account of his partiality to Joseph, the sudden loss of Joseph, and all his recent trials, had greatly embittered life to him, and made it appear like a sea of troubles, where wave followed wave in endless succession. And who is there that does not find, (especially in more advanced life,) that the evil, on the whole, outweighs the good?

These hints, offered in so delicate a manner to a potent monarch, with whom he had only one short interview, afford a beautiful pattern for our imitation, at the same time that they convey important instruction to our minds.

We conclude with commending to your imitation the whole of Jacob's conduct towards Pharaoh—

At his first admission into Pharaoh's presence, and again at his departure from him, this holy patriarch blessed him. We do not suppose that he pronounced his blessing in a formal and authoritative manner, as Melchizedek did to Abraham; but that he rendered him his most grateful acknowledgments for the favors he had conferred, and invoked the blessing of God upon him and upon his kingdom on account of them. Such a mode of testifying his gratitude became a servant of Jehovah, and tended to lead the monarch's thoughts to the contemplation of the only true God. And well may it put to shame the greater part of the Christian world, who systematically exclude religion from their social converse, under the idea that the introduction of it would destroy all the comfort of society: True Christians, however, should learn from this instance not to be ashamed of their religion; but, as inoffensively as possible, to lead men to the knowledge of it; and to make the diffusion of it a very essential part of all their fellowship with each other: More especially we should embrace every opportunity of impressing on our own minds and on the minds of others the true end of life; that we may thereby secure that rest which remains for us after our short but weary pilgrimage.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 48:15-16

 

DISCOURSE 59

JACOB BLESSING THE SONS OF JOSEPH

Genesis 48:15-16. And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads!

THERE are not any more profitable scenes than those which we behold in the chambers of dying saints. There religion is exhibited in the most lively colors, and evinces itself to be, not a visionary phantom, but a real and substantial good. We are bidden to "mark the perfect man, and to behold the upright, because the end of that man is peace." Some instances there are, where persons on their death-bed are transported with unutterable joy: they seem to breathe the very atmosphere of Heaven, while they are yet in the body. But it is more frequent to behold them waiting for their dissolution with a peaceful dignified composure; and improving their precious moments for the benefit of their surviving friends. Such was the closing scene of Jacob. We read not of any particular ecstasies that he enjoyed; but we see him with a hope full of immortality, and an affectionate attention to the welfare of all his children. It seems indeed that several of the patriarchs were on these occasions endued with a spirit of prophecy, and directed to pronounce blessings on those, for whom God, of his own sovereign will, had reserved them. They were not left to their own caprice or judgment in this matter; but were overruled, sometimes contrary to their own intentions to convey the blessings of primogeniture to the younger branches of the family in preference to the elder. Thus Isaac, having unwillingly given the blessing to Jacob, was constrained to confirm it to him, notwithstanding Esau labored with tears to prevail upon him to recall his word. Somewhat similar to that was the transfer of the blessing to the younger of Joseph's sons in preference to the elder. Joseph brought his sons to his dying parent, and placed them so that Manasseh, his first-born, should have the right hand of Jacob placed upon his head: but the dying patriarch was inspired of God to counteract the wish of Joseph in this particular, and, by crossing his hands, to convey the principal blessing to Ephraim, who was the younger son. We might remark upon this subject, that God often, if we may so speak, crosses his hands in bestowing his blessings, since he gives them to those, who, in our eyes, are least worthy of them, and least likely to receive them. But our object at present is rather to inculcate the necessity of attending to the spiritual interests of young people, and especially of those who by the ties of consanguinity are connected with us.

In prosecuting this subject, we observe, that,

I. We should feel a concern for the spiritual welfare of the rising generation—

We should by no means be indifferent to the souls of any: on the contrary, the conveying of religious instruction to children is an occupation well worthy the attention of all, who have leisure and ability to engage in it If this were the subject of a sermon for the support of charity, or Sunday Schools, the idea of relationship should be dropped, and the sentiments a little varied. But we are more especially bound to instruct those who are related to us and dependent on us: indeed they may justly claim this service at our hands—

1. Their spiritual welfare is incomparably more important than their temporal—

All persons feel it incumbent on them to consult the temporal welfare of their children, and account themselves happy, if they can bequeath them an inheritance, that shall make them independent of the world; or give them such an education, as shall enable them to make a comfortable provision for themselves. But how much richer is a child that possesses a saving knowledge of Christ, however low he be in outward circumstances, than the heir of a kingdom would be, if destitute of that knowledge!: Shall we then be diligent in promoting the temporal prosperity of our relations, and show no regard for their eternal interests? God forbid! Let rather our care be most bestowed on those things which most of all deserve our care.

2. Their spiritual welfare greatly depends on us–

Who is to instruct our children, if we do not? or how can they gain knowledge without instruction? We provide for their bodies, because nature, as well as custom, tells us that it is our duty to do so. But is it not equally our duty to provide for their souls? If we educate them in ignorance, what can be expected but that they should grow up in sin? and how can it be thought that they should bestow any pains in cultivating divine knowledge for themselves, when they see us, whom they suppose to have formed a right estimate of things, indifferent whether they possess it or not? On the contrary, if we conscientiously discharge our duty to them in this respect, we have reason to hope, that God will bless our endeavors, and make us instruments of good to their souls. For though the best efforts may not universally succeed, we may assume it as a general truth, that "if we bring up a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it."

3. Their souls will be required at our hands—

This is a truth acknowledged in reference to Ministers: all agree that they must give account of the souls committed to their charge. Why then should not this be the case with those who have the care of children? Methinks every parent, as soon as ever a child is born, should receive it as it were from the hands of God, with this charge, "Bring this child up for me Exodus 2:9." As for the attention which a parent bestows on the temporal advancement of his children, it will not only not excuse his neglect of their better interests, but will be a fearful aggravation of it. The Judge will say to them as he once did to the hypocritical Pharisees, These things ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

If we should feel this concern at all times for the rising generation,

II. We should express it more especially in a dying hour—

Every word acquires weight from the circumstance of its being uttered at the approach of death. We should avail ourselves therefore of that advantage, to impress the minds of young people with a concern for their souls. Two things in particular we should do:

1. We should commend God to them—

This Jacob did: and we cannot do better than follow his example.

Young people are ready to think, that religion is a new thing, and that the exhortations of their parents are the effects of needless preciseness, or of superstitious fear. On this account, it is well to show them, that all those eminent characters of old, whom they profess to reverence, were devoted to the service of their God: and that, in recommending religion, to them, we recommend only what all the wise and good in all ages have approved; that, if God is our God, he was "the God also, before whom Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob walked." Moreover, though it is not always expedient to be talking of our own experience, yet, at such a season, we may do it to good effect. We may declare to others what we have known of God, both as a God of providence and of grace. It is of great importance to make them entertain right sentiments respecting the providence of God, and to make them know, that whether they become rich by industry or by inheritance, it is "God who feeds them all their life long." It is also indispensably necessary to direct their attention to that "Angel," Jehovah, the Lord Jesus Christ, "the Angel of the Covenant The same Person is spoken of as in the former members of the text: nor would Jacob have prayed to him, if he had not been God. Compare Genesis 32:24; Genesis 32:28; Genesis 32:30 with Hosea 12:3-5 and Malachi 3:1," through whom alone we have redemption, either from the moral evil of sin, or from the penal evil of damnation. It is "He who redeems us from all evil," temporal, spiritual, and eternal. If we can from our own experience bear testimony to Christ in this view, it will avail more than a thousand lectures given in a time of health: for then the surrounding relatives will see, the sting of death is taken away, and that "they are indeed blessed who put their trust in Christ."

2. We should pray to God for them—

The prayer of Jacob is short, but sententious. The expression, "God bless you!" is often uttered in a dying hour, but without any just ideas affixed to the petition. But we, in imploring the blessing of God upon our children, should distinctly inform them wherein that blessing consists. We should inform them, that, to enjoy God in the dispensations of his providence, and Christ in the riches of his grace, and to walk before God in Christ, as our God and Savior, in all holy obedience, is to be truly blessed; and that we are then indeed blessed, when God by his Spirit enables us thus to enjoy and to serve him. Having these things in our own minds, and conveying them to the minds of those whom we desire to instruct, we need not multiply words in prayer: while we entreat of God to bless those for whose welfare we are particularly concerned, we shall find acceptance with God, and obtain mercies for them.

It is recorded of Jacob, that in this prayer of his he exercised faith Hebrews 11:21. Now we have not precisely the same grounds for faith that he had; because he was inspired to pronounce over the youths the blessings which God had before determined to bestow: but the more we are enabled to believe in God as a prayer-hearing and promise-keeping God, the more reason we have to hope that our prayers shall be answered, whether for ourselves or others.

ADDRESS—

1. To those who are advanced in life—

You see before you the composure of a dying saint. Seek to obtain such for yourselves. And that you may "die the death of the righteous," be diligent to live his life. If your own business be not already transacted with God, (so to speak,) you will have little disposition either to speak to others in a dying hour, or to pray for them: but if your own calling and election be made sure, then will your dying exhortations be delivered with ease, and received with benefit.

2. To those who are coining forward into life—

You are apt to slight the instructions of your parents, under the idea that they are unnecessary or unsuitable to your state. But you see what has always occupied the minds of dying saints. You know that Jacob's example is commended by God himself. Be thankful then, if you have friends or relatives who walk in the steps of Jacob: and let that, which they above all things desire for you, be your chief desire for yourselves.

 

 

 

Genesis 49:10

 

DISCOURSE 60

CHRIST THE TRUE SHILOH

Genesis 49:10. The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come: and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

THERE was a series of predictions relative to the Messiah from the very beginning of the world; and, as the time for the accomplishment of the prophecies drew near, the predictions concerning him were more particular and minute. About seventeen hundred years before his appearance, the time of his coming was fixed with great accuracy and precision. At the very first moment that the sons of Jacob were made heads of different tribes, it was foretold, that the continuance of Judah's power should extend beyond that of the other tribes, and that the Messiah should arrive before its expiration. In explaining this prophecy we shall of necessity be led to speak of,

I. The time of his advent—

This, according to the text, was to precede the departure of Judah's scepter—

Judah is here represented as a lion gorged with his prey, and couching in his den with a scepter between his feet; a scepter, which none should ever wrest from him, until he should come, whose right it was. "The scepter" does not import dominion over the other tribes, but only the same kind of separate and independent jurisdiction which was vested in Dan, and in all the other tribes 6. Nor does the term "lawgiver" mean a person who should enact laws; but rather, one who should execute and enforce them. Moses was the only lawgiver of the Jews; and even the kings were required to write a copy of his law, and to obey it in all things. Now it was here foretold, that this particular power should remain with Judah after that the other tribes should have been deprived of theirs; and that it should continue vested in persons belonging to that tribe until the Messiah should come. The precise import of the term "Shiloh" is not certainly known; but it is thought by most to mean, The Peacemaker. All however are agreed that it is a name for the Messiah, whose advent was to precede the dissolution of the Jewish polity.

The event exactly corresponded with the prediction—

The ten tribes were spoiled of their power when they were carried captive to Assyria. But the tribe of Judah retained both their ecclesiastical and civil polity even in Babylon. If they did not exercise it to the same extent as before, they had by no means wholly lost it. As they had possessed it in Egypt, and retained it the whole time of their Egyptian bondage Exodus 34:31-32, so they still nominated their chiefs and elders, yes and appointed fasts and feasts, while they were oppressed with the Chaldean yoke Moses and Aaron were sent to the elders of the people, Exodus 3:16; Exodus 4:29; and these were heads of houses, Exodus 6:14; and rulers of the congregation, Exodus 16:22. Compare Numbers 1:3; Numbers 1:16. See Sherlock's third Dissertation, people. 342, 346, 6th edition. Their bondage in Babylon was indeed, on the whole, exceeding heavy; but many of them were suffered to build houses and plant gardens, and to live rather as a colony than as slaves Jeremiah 29:5; Jeremiah 29:7. On their return from Babylon, their own chiefs and elders were appointed to superintend the execution of Cyrus' decree Ezra. 1:5; Ezra. 1:8. ; and, after that period, they continued to enjoy their privileges until the time of our Lord's advent. Soon after that, they were reduced to the state of a Roman province; but still exercised the same powers, only in a more limited manner Compare John 18:3; John 18:31. But, forty years after the death of Christ, when his Gospel had been fully preached, and people of all nations had been gathered to him, their city and temple were utterly destroyed; and they themselves were dispersed into all lands. From that time their scepter has utterly departed from them; nor can the smallest vestige of their former power be traced. They are therefore living proofs throughout the whole world that their Messiah is indeed come.

The time of Christ's advent being thus clearly ascertained, let us consider,

II. The consequences of it—

The last clause of the text is by some applied to Judah, to whom the tribe of Benjamin was attached, and the few of the other ten tribes, who returned after their dispersion by the Assyrians, were gathered 1 Chronicles 9:3. But the sense of that clause is both more clear, and infinitely more important, as applied to Shiloh. And, if it be understood, as it may well be, as a further limitation of the time beyond which Judah should not retain this power, it will mark, with most astonishing accuracy, the precise period at which his scepter was to depart.

But, taking it according to its general acceptance, it declares the calling of the Gentiles to the knowledge of Christ—

The Scriptures speak much upon this glorious subject. Without noticing the innumerable passages that declare God's intention to convert the Gentiles, we will confine our attention to two or three that speak of it almost in the very same terms as those in the test. Isaiah, representing Christ as standing for an ensign to the people, says, "To him shall the Gentiles seek, and his rest shall be glorious Isaiah 11:10." There was a remarkable prophecy to the same effect unwittingly uttered by Caiaphas the high-priest. While he designed nothing more than to instigate the Jews to destroy Jesus, God overruled his mind to declare that Jesus should die for the whole world, and should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad John 11:52. Our Lord himself also, foretelling the same glorious event, said, "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me John 12:32." Nor is only the mere circumstance of their conversion declared in the test; the manner also of their coming to him is strongly intimated. They "shall be a willing people in the day of God's power," and as the prophet describes at large, shall fly to him as a cloud, or as doves to their windows Isaiah 60:3-8.

This part of the prediction also has received, and is daily receiving, its accomplishment—

No sooner had our Lord given up the Spirit, than the centurion, the first fruits of the Gentiles, was led to acknowledge him as the Son of God. Presently, not Judea only, but the whole Roman empire, was filled with those who were gathered unto him. And, at this moment, "all who are taught of God come unto him" as the one foundation of all their hopes, and the only fountain of all their blessings. There is a period still future, when this prophecy shall be fulfilled in its utmost extent; when "all kings shall bow down before him, and all nations shall serve him." Blessed period! may "God hasten it in its time!" may his "Gospel run and be glorified," and "his glory fill the whole earth!"

Let us now ADDRESS a few words,

1. To those who are yet dispersed, and at a distance from the Lord—

We need not here turn our eyes to Jews, but reflect how many are there even in this Christian land, who have no more fellowship with Jesus than if he had never come into the world! But what account will they give to him when they shall stand at his tribunal in the last day? Are not the words of our text a direction, as well as a prophecy? Are they not equivalent to an express command? Has not Christ himself enforced this command by repeated invitations and promises, "Look unto me, and be saved;" "Come unto me, and you shall find rest unto your souls?" Has he not even sworn that all shall come to him, or perish for their neglect Isaiah 45:22-25. ? Why then should we not all gather ourselves around him as in the days of his flesh? Why should not the blind, the lame, the leprous, the possessed, come to him for deliverance? Why should not the poor trembling sinner press through the crowd, and "touch the hem of his garment?" Surely none should find it in vain to come unto him; "Virtue should go forth from him to heal them all." O let the prophecy then receive a fresh accomplishment this day; and may God so "draw us by his Spirit that we may run after him," and abide with him forever!

2. Those who, through grace, have been gathered to him—

The scepter is now passed into the hands of Jesus. He is the true lion of the tribe of Judah Revelation 5:5, to whom all power in Heaven and in earth has been committed. What then have you to fear, who are under his protection? Who shall ever pluck you from his hands John 10:28. ? When, or to whom shall his scepter ever be transferred? His mediatorial kingdom will indeed be put down, when there shall be no more occasion for it 1 Corinthians 15:24. This relates to the peculiar mode of administering the affairs of his kingdom as our Mediator. But though he will cease to mediate between God and man, his sovereign dominion shall exist to all eternity; "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; of your kingdom there shall he no end Isaiah 9:7; Daniel 2:44; Hebrews 1:8." Rejoice then, believers, in your Lord; "let the children of Zion be joyful in their king." Cherish his attractive influences: gather yourselves around him yet daily and hourly: spread before him your every want: commune with him on every occasion: consult him; listen to him; obey him: cleave to him with full purpose of heart: so will he keep you steadfast unto the end, and admit you to the richer fruition of his presence in his kingdom above.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 49:22-24

 

DISCOURSE 61

JOSEPH A TYPE OF CHRIST

Genesis 49:22-24. Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall. The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him. But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob: from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel.

PECULIAR care is to be used in unfolding the types, lest, by indulging our own imagination, we bring the very truth of God itself into contempt. Where the Scriptures themselves have marked the typical reference, we may proceed without fear; but when once they cease to guide us, we should not venture one step but with fear and trembling. This observation is peculiarly applicable to the subject before us. It does not appear that Joseph is anywhere declared to be a type of Christ, notwithstanding the circumstances wherein they resemble each other are as numerous and remarkable, as in almost any other instance whatever. We forbear therefore to assert anything on this subject with confidence; while, in compliance with the opinion of the most judicious commentators, and indeed with the almost irresistible conviction of our own mind, we proceed to trace the resemblance of Joseph to Christ, in,

I. His distinguishing character—

Joseph is represented as "a fruitful bough"—

Every tribe is distinguished by something characteristic, either of the patriarchs themselves, or of their descendants. The distinction assigned to Joseph, is that of peculiar fruitfulness: and to him it eminently belonged. All his brethren indeed were honored with being heads of distinct tribes: but Joseph had both his sons chosen of God, and appointed to be Leads of separate tribes; and thus two tribes sprang from him, while one tribe only sprang from any of his brethren.

To our Lord also is a similar title frequently ascribed—

Jesus was that "beautiful and glorious branch," which was in due time to spring from the stem of Jesse Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 11:1, the fruit whereof was to fill the whole earth Isaiah 27:6. It was not one tribe only, or two, that was to acknowledge him as their head, but all the tribes; yes, Gentiles as well as Jews, even all the ends of the earth: his fruit was to shake like the woods of Lebanon, and they, who should spring from him, were to be numerous as the piles of grass Psalm 72:16, the stars of Heaven Genesis 15:5, and the sands upon the sea-shore Genesis 22:17. And so abundantly has this prediction been already verified, that we may say of this Branch as the Psalmist did of that which typically represented it, "It has taken deep root, and filled the land: the hills are covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof are like the goodly cedars; it has sent forth its boughs unto the sea, and its branches unto the river Psalm 80:9-11."

But the resemblance will more fully appear, while we consider,

II. His grievous sufferings—

Joseph was for many years very grievously afflicted—

He was eminently the beloved of his father Genesis 37:3. ; and, being utterly averse to sin himself, he would reprove, and lay before his father, the misconduct of his brethren Genesis 37:2; he also, unreservedly, communicated to them all the repeated intimations, which he had had in dreams, respecting his future exaltation above his whole family Genesis 37:5; Genesis 37:9. For these reasons he was envied, hated, and persecuted by his brethren Genesis 37:4; Genesis 37:11. And when he came to them from his father, upon an errand of love, they conspired against him to kill him Genesis 37:18-20. An opportunity offering at the moment, they sold him into the hands of strangers for twenty pieces of silver Genesis 37:28. After that, he was accused of a crime he utterly abhorred, and, without any one to plead his cause, was cast into prison Genesis 39:12-20, where, for a time at least, "he was laid in irons," and galled with heavy fetters Psalm 105:18. ; so "sorely did the archers grieve him, and shoot at him, and hate him."

And can we err in tracing here the sufferings of our Lord?

Jesus was, infinitely above all others, the well-beloved of his Father Matthew 3:17. ; and, while he faithfully reproved the sins of his brethren, declared to them his future exaltation and glory John 7:7 and Matthew 26:64. Filled with envy and wrath against him, they said, as it were in malignant triumph, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him Matthew 21:38. ;" so cruelly "did they reward him evil for good, and hatred for his love Psalm 109:3-5." When he was come to them from his Father with the most benevolent design, behold, one of his own disciples sold him, and that to strangers too, for thirty pieces of silver Matthew 26:15-16. He was accused of blasphemy against God, and of rebellion against his king; and, without any one appearing to speak on his behalf Isaiah 53:8. See Bp. Lowth's translation and note, and Psalm 69:20, was instantly condemned; and thus, though "none could convince him of sin," "was numbered with the transgressors." Could there have been such a coincidence of circumstances between his lot and Joseph's, at least is it probable there would have been, if it had not been particularly ordained of God?

We may pursue the comparison yet further, in,

III. His unshaken constancy—

Joseph was marvelously upheld under all his trials—

Though he besought his brethren with cries and tears, we read not of any reproachful language that he used: when he entreated Pharaoh's butler to intercede for him, he did not so much as mention either his brethren, who had sold him, or his mistress, who had falsely accused him Genesis 40:14-15; nor, while he was enduring his hard lot, did he once murmur or repine at the providence of God: through the whole of his trial he possessed his soul in patience: nor, when he had it in his power to revenge himself, did he render anything but love for hatred, and good for evil. The apparent unkindness of his deportment, which he adopted for a time, was a violence done to his own feelings, in order that he might discern the real state of their minds, and reveal himself to them afterwards to better effect Genesis 42:7; Genesis 42:9; Genesis 42:12. When the proper season was arrived, he fully evinced the tenderness of his heart, and the delight he took in the exercise of mercy; and, so far from upbraiding his brethren, he said all he could to extenuate their crime, and referred the whole event to the overruling providence of God Genesis 45:5. So effectually were "his hands strengthened by the mighty God of Jacob," that in no instance was he "overcome of evil, but at all times overcame evil with good."

Our blessed Lord also shone like him, only with infinitely brighter luster—

Never did an inadvertent word drop from the lips of Jesus under all his persecutions: "When he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, threatened not; but committed himself to him that judges righteously 1 Peter 2:23." "As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so opened he not his mouth Isaiah 53:7. " either in menaces, or complaints. His meekness was uniform, his fortitude undaunted, his patience invincible. He sought nothing but the good of those who were daily conspiring against his life: he wept over them, when they resisted all his overtures of mercy Luke 19:41; he even prayed for them, and apologized for their crimes, when they were in the very act of putting him to death Luke 23:34; and, after his resurrection, commanded that the offers of salvation through his blood should be made first to the very people who had so lately shed it Luke 24:47.

There is yet one more feature of resemblance to be noticed, in,

IV. His glorious advancement—

After all his trials Joseph was exalted to a throne—

Through the good providence of God, Joseph was enabled to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh, and was, on that account, brought from the dungeon, and made, next to Pharaoh, the supreme governor of the Egyptian kingdom Genesis 41:14-15; Genesis 41:41; all were ordered to bow the knee to Joseph Genesis 41:43. ; and all, who came for a supply of corn, received this direction, Go to Joseph Genesis 41:55. Thus did God exalt him to be both "the shepherd and the stone of Israel," that he might not only provide for Egypt and the neighboring kingdoms, but be an effectual support to all his kindred, and preserve the lives of those very persons who had sought his destruction.

Can we reasonably doubt but that in this he was a type of Jesus?

Jesus was raised from the prison of the grave by the effectual working of God's power: "he was highly exalted; and had a name given him above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow Philippians 2:9-11; Psalm 72:8-9; Psalm 72:11;" "all power was committed to him in Heaven and in earth; and all things were put under him, he only excepted, who did put all things under him 1 Corinthians 15:27." Whatever we want for our souls, we must receive it all out of his fullness John 1:16; the direction given to every living creature is, Go to Jesus, Look to Jesus Isaiah 45:22; John 7:37. And how does he exercise his power? Behold, he calls his sinful brethren from a land of want and misery, and brings them to his own land of peace and plenty. There he nourishes them with the bread of life, and "reigns over the house of Jacob forever and ever." Thus, as "the great Shepherd of the sheep," he both feeds and rules his flock, while as "the foundation" and "cornerstone" he supports and connects, confirms and dignifies, all the "Israel" of God Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:6.

By way of improvement we observe,

1. The purposes of God, whatever may be done to frustrate them, shall surely be accomplished—

We are amazed at the variety of incidents, that seemed to put the elevation of Joseph, and of Christ, almost beyond the reach of Omnipotence itself. Yet God's purposes were accomplished by the very means used to defeat them. Thus shall it be with us also, if we confide in the word of God. Whatever means Satan, or the world, may use to "separate us from God," they shall not prevail. "What God has promised, he is able also to perform." Let us therefore trust in him; for He will work, and who shall let it? He has purposed, and who shall disannul it? His counsel shall stand; and he will do all his pleasure Isaiah 43:13; Isaiah 14:27; Isaiah 46:10.

2. God's dearest children must expect many trials in their way to glory—

Joseph, and Christ, endured much before their exaltation. And we also "through much tribulation shall enter into the kingdom." The number and weight of our trials are no grounds of concluding ourselves to be objects of God's displeasure: they should rather, especially if they be sanctified to us, be considered as tokens of his love Hebrews 12:6. As the Captain of our salvation was, so also must we be, made perfect through sufferings Hebrews 2:10. Let us then "arm ourselves with the mind that was in Christ." We shall surely have no reason to regret the difficulties of the way, when we have attained the rest prepared for us.

3. We should not labor to control events, but study rather to accommodate ourselves to the circumstances in which God has placed us—

How often might Joseph have escaped from the house of Potiphar, or sent to his brethren the news of his exaltation in Egypt! But he left all in the hands of God, endeavoring only to fulfill his duty, whether as a slave or a steward, whether as a jailor or a prince. Thus did our Lord also, when he could in ten thousand ways have changed the course of events. Let us do likewise. Whatever be our circumstances or condition in life, let us be more desirous of glorifying God under them, than of contriving, by any means, to alter them. God's time and manner of accomplishing his own ends will be found infinitely better in the issue, than any we can devise Isaiah 55:8-9. Let us then tarry his leisure, and leave ourselves wholly to his disposal, and approve ourselves to him as faithful, and obedient children.

 

 

 

 

Genesis 50:15-17

 

DISCOURSE 62

JOSEPH'S BRETHREN FULFILLING THE PROPHECY RESPECTING THEM

Genesis 50:15-17. And when Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will perhaps hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him. And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Your father did command before he died, saying, So shall you say unto Joseph; Forgive, I pray you now, the trespass of your brethren, and their sin; for they did unto you evil: and now, we pray you, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father. And Joseph wept when they spoke unto him.

THE heart of man by nature is vindictive. It was a just observation of Saul to David, "If a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away 1 Samuel 24:19. ?" Hence, when men have injured any person, they hate him, because they think he must of necessity have become their enemy: and, if they are within the reach of his power, they fear him, because they conclude that he will avail himself of any favorable opportunity to revenge himself upon them. It was thus with Joseph's brethren. Their father being dead, and they being entirely at the mercy of their brother whom they had sold into Egypt, they concluded, that "he would requite them all the evil which they had formerly done unto him." It is probable that this apprehension was strengthened by a recollection of what their father Jacob had suffered from the vindictive spirit of Esau: "The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob." Full of fear, they sent to Joseph to implore his forgiveness: which, as will be seen, they readily obtained.

The points to which we would direct your attention are,

I. The means they used to conciliate his favor—

These were certainly well adapted to the end proposed.

1. They plead the dying request of their revered father—

What more cogent argument could be used with a pious mind than this? The dying request of a friend is sacred: and how much more of a parent, a parent of such consummate piety as Jacob! A request too so reasonable in itself, and so conducive to the welfare of his whole family! It is probable indeed that the representation which they gave of their father's request was not altogether correct. We cannot conceive that Jacob should have entertained any suspicions about the subsequent conduct of Joseph; or that, if he had, he would have left a posthumous request to be made through his other children, when he could have urged it himself with so much more effect in his lifetime. The probability is, that he enjoined them to act in a submissive spirit towards Joseph, and not by any refractory conduct to bring upon themselves his displeasure. But, however this might be, the plea was very powerful, and could not fail of obtaining for them the favor they implored. True indeed it is, that persons of a headstrong disposition frequently forget, and that at no distant period, the dying advices of their parents: but it was not probable that Joseph should do so, after having so long evinced a disposition most contrary to that of which he was suspected.

2. They unite with it their own most humble and earnest entreaties—

However strong may be our propensity to revenge, the entreaties of a penitent offender will disarm us. It is scarcely possible for a man to revenge himself on one who lies prostrate at his feet. But there is a very peculiar delicacy in this address which they make to Joseph: in speaking to him of Jacob, they do not designate him as their father, but as his; "Your father did command." And when they speak to him of themselves, they do not designate themselves either as Jacob's sons, or as Joseph's brethren, but as "the servants of the God of your father; "thus keeping out of view everything which might appear presumptuous, and calling to their aid Joseph's love to his parent, and his duty to his God. If this was the result of ingenuity, we admire it; but if of real humility, we greatly applaud it: for there is a delicacy in humility, a beautiful and lovely delicacy, which, though in words it amount to little, as indicating the spirit by which a man is actuated, is extremely valuable. The true point to be aimed at in asking forgiveness is humility: to be open and sincere in our confessions, to take shame to ourselves for what we have done amiss, and to make all the reparation in our power, this is the spirit we should cultivate; and it is pleasing to see these long-obdurate men brought at last to a measure of this experience.

Reserving for a while our further observations on this part of our subject, we pass on to notice,

II. The effect produced on Joseph's mind—

Considering how long they had forborne to humble themselves aright, he might well have upbraided them, both with their former cruelty, and their subsequent impenitence: or he might have imposed conditions upon them, as Solomon afterwards did on Shimei: or he might have pardoned them in kind and condescending terms. But the way in which he expressed his forgiveness was more eloquent and convincing than any words which human ingenuity could ever have devised: "Joseph wept when they spoke unto him."

His weeping was from mixed emotions in his mind. The human heart is susceptible of greatly diversified impressions even at the same moment. The two Marys, when they had ascertained beyond a doubt the resurrection of their Lord, "departed from the sepulcher with fear and great joy Matthew 28:8." Thus in the breast of Joseph, we apprehend, there was a mixture both of grief and joy:

1. Of grief—

It must have been inexpressibly painful to him to have such suspicions entertained respecting him, especially after he had for the space of seventeen years manifested such uniform kindness towards them. A man possessed of a generous mind cannot endure that all the love he exercises should be construed as a mere hypocritical pretense, covering a rooted enmity that will break forth as soon as an opportunity shall enable him to manifest it with effect: yes, the more conscious a man feels of his own integrity, the more deeply will he feel such unfounded suspicions. If jealousy is painful to him who harbors it, it is no less painful to him who is undeservedly the object of it. This avowal therefore of their secret fears could not but inflict a deep wound on his tender spirit.

At the same time it must be distressing to Joseph to see, that, after all they had witnessed of piety in their father Jacob, and all the reason they had to believe he was possessed of the same divine principle, they should betray such ignorance of religion, as to suppose, that, where the lowest degrees of it existed, a vindictive spirit could be indulged. If indeed they thought him a determined hypocrite, they might suppose him capable of harboring such resentment: but, if he had any hope of forgiveness from God himself, he never could suffer such feelings to rankle in his breast. While therefore they doubted the influence of true religion in him, they showed, that they were in a very great degree strangers to it themselves: and this discovery must have been painful to him, in proportion to the love he bore them, and the desire he felt for their eternal welfare. Hence that expression of his, "Am I in the place of God," to whom exclusively "vengeance belongs," and whose prerogative, if I avenged myself, I should usurp Romans 12:19 with Genesis 50:19. ?

2. Of joy—

While they thus betrayed an ignorance of genuine religion, they gave by their voluntary humiliation some reason to hope that the seeds of true piety were springing up in their souls. And this hope doubtless filled him with holy joy. Say, any of you, who have wept over an abandoned child, or the impiety of a friend or brother, what joy has not sprung up in your bosom when you have first seen the obdurate heart to relent, and the tears of penitential sorrow to flow down, so as to justify a hope that a work of grace was begun in the soul! How have you secretly lifted up your heart to God in devout aspirations, to entreat, that he would confirm the rising purpose, and perfect in their souls the work he had begun! Doubtless then, in such a pious mind as Joseph's, the very first dawn of piety in his obdurate brethren could not but cause the tear of love and gratitude to start from his eyes.

Another thought too, that could not fail of rushing into his mind, and filling him with adoring gratitude to God, was, that in this act of humiliation his brethren had voluntarily fulfilled those dreams which they had before accomplished only from necessity and constraint. To trace the ways of Providence, and especially to see how mysteriously God has dealt with us, and made all things to work together for our good, is one of the sublimest enjoyments that we can experience on earth; and I doubt not but that it will constitute in no small degree the blessedness of Heaven. Well therefore might Joseph now weep for joy, more especially as the exaltation which all his previous trials had led to, enabled him now to requite, not evil for evil, as they feared, but good for evil, and to "overcome evil with good Romans 12:20-21."

From hence then we may learn,

1. To ask forgiveness of those whom we have injured—

This is a hard task to an unhumbled spirit: but it is indispensably necessary: nor can any man be upright before God, who will not submit to it. To approach the table of the Lord without first endeavoring to conciliate our offended brother is directly to oppose the command of God, who says, "Leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way:" "Go your way: first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift Matthew 5:23-24." Many will be the excuses which we shall be ready to offer for our neglect of this duty; but the command of God is plain and express; and a compliance with it is indispensable, to prove that our penitence is sincere: nor can we ever obtain forgiveness from God, if we are too proud to solicit forgiveness from man.

2. To forgive those who have injured us—

This is a far easier duty than the other; because, while a compliance with the other humbles us, the performance of this elevates and exalts us. Is it asked, "How often shall I forgive an offending brother? until seven times?" I answer, Yes, and "until seventy times seven Matthew 18:21-22." Nor is our forgiveness to be merely negative, such as consists in a forbearance from retaliation: no; it must be real, cordial, permanent: for in the parable of the unforgiving servant who is represented as cast into prison until he shall have paid the uttermost farthing, we are warned, "So also shall your heavenly Father do unto you, if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses Matthew 18:35." Let not any one then say, 'I cannot forgive, or, Though I forgive, I cannot forget:' for we must, in the mercy which we extend towards man, resemble that which we ourselves hope to receive from God; and must "forgive our brother as completely and cordially as God for Christ's sake has forgiven us Ephesians 4:32."