Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the way

and deviated from the true worship of the God of their fathers. To have continued there, would have been to prefer a situation dangerous to religion and virtue. Why may we not suppose the call given him to depart, to be the impulse of an honest and enlightened mind, stirred at the sight of so many idols, and the impure rites of their worshippers ; and prompted to flee, at whatever expense, from scenes of so much impiety and pollution. When men are to receive immediately their indemnification or equivalent, the merit of a surrender is small; but it requires the faith and trust of an Abram, to take a general promise of God as full security. But his faith had to struggle, in the very setting out, with difficulties seemingly unsurmountable. The promises made to him were not only conveyed in very general terms, and the accomplishment removed to a great distance; but natural impossibilities also barred

What a slender prospect must a man entertain of a numerous offspring, when both nature and religion prevent the possibility of his having children? The spirit of God therefore bestows a just tribute of praise on this part of his conduct, he “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness,” because that “ against hope, he believed in hope.” But when we come to examine the promise more particularly, we shall find that it contained every thing which can rouse and fire a noble and generous mind: personal honour and felicity; “ I will bless thee and make thy name great :” a numerous and a thriving progeny, who to latest ages should acknowledge him as their founder, and glory in their relation to him ; " I will make of thee a great nation, and thou shalt be a blessing :" universal benefit accruing to the human race from him ; 6 in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Behold then the illustrious exile turning his back on home, attended only by his aged parent sinking into the grave under the weight of years and infirmity; his beloved Sarai ; and Lot his nephew, who it would seem, was determined to share the fortunes of his pious uncle, and with him to sacrifice every worldly consideration to religion. With Providence for their protector and guide, and the word of God for their encouragement and consolation, they set out in confidence, and arrive at their destined habitation in safety. But God, who had provided for Abram a country, would nevertheless have him carry away from Chaldea, all his honestly acquired property; for true faith makes light of none of God's benefits; and worldly prosperity, honourably acquired, moderately and thankfully enjoyed, is an undoubted mark of God's favour.

Being arrived in Canaan, God appears to Abram again, and informs him that this was the land which he had in view for him ; and renews the declaration, “ Unto thy seed will I give this land." In these words two things are remarkable. First, a farther delay of the accomplishment of the promise, I will give ; and secondly, a transferring of the gift of it, from Abram himself, to his seed. Each of these alone had been sufficient to have cooled an ordinary ardour, to have discouraged an ordinary spirit. But the good man discovers no symptom of dissatisfaction or disappointment, at either the delay or the change of destination; he does not so much as inquire when or how that promised offspring of his was to arise. It is sufficient for him, that he is following the call of Heaven, and that he is blessed with the divine presence through his pilgrimage: with him, even “hope deferred maketh” not "the heart sick ;" he finds he is not even now come to his rest, yet repines not. But though he finds no house nor city for himself to dwell in, he finds both leisure and inclination to erect an altar unto God; " and there builded be an altar unto the Lord who had appeared unto him."* He who has set up his rest in the Almighty, is every where and always at home; and a truly gracious spirit will never omit a work of piety and mercy, under a pretence of wanting means or opportunity.

* Genesis xii. 7:

Why should we inquire, in what manner God appeared unto Abram; or how much wiser should we be for knowing it ? Has not the great, the Almighty God, resistless power over our bodies and our minds ? And can he not make every element, every creature a vehicle of his will to us? Behold the patriarch removing from place to place; “ sojourning in the land of promise as in a strange land,” travelling from Sichem to the plain of Moreh ; from Bethel to Hai; probably through fear of the idolatrous Canaanites; who, we are told, then occupied the land. But though he sojourn, as the wayfaring man, but for a night, the altar is constituted, and the victim is offered up. * And Abram’s altar is not built in the spirit wherein many a sacred edifice has been since reared, and many a pious volume purchased, for shew, not for use; having built an altar to Jehovah, “ he called upon the name of Jehovah.'

But a wandering life through Canaan is not the worst of his condition. His faith is put to a new and severe trial; he is driven out of that land by famine. The country so pompously promised, as a portion to his seed, when increased to the number of the sand upon the sea-shore, refuses subsistence sufficient to his family in its present diminutive state. What then ? Let nature or providence raise what obstacles they may, faith removes or surmounts them. He sits not down suddenly with the peevish prophet, saying, “I do well to be angry," but employs sagacity and diligence to discover, and to obtain, the means of relief. He retires to Egypt, which the scarcity had not reached, or which it had afflicted in an inferior degree. Self-preservation is the first law of our nature; " and he that provideth not for his own, especially those of his own house, hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."

But where, alas, shall we find the faith that never staggered through unbelief; the confidence in Heaven that never failed ? On his entrance into Egypt, Abram is seized with an unaccountable fit of distrust, altogether unbecoming his character, and equally injurious to God, to Sarai, and to the king of Egypt. He is afraid of trusting the honour of his wife, during a temporary residence in a strange country, to that God, at whose command he had given up his native country and his all. He injures the friend and companjon of his youth, in supposing her capable of being allured by the splendour and flattery of Egypt, to forget her duty to her husband. He affronts a prince whom he knew not, by suspecting him of a base and criminal design against the peace and honour of a stranger, driven into his dominions for relief from famine. He has recourse to the crooked path of cunning and falsehood, when the direct road of fairness and truth would have served his turn much better. Over caution, is brother to great rashness. He who wants to shew himself over wise, soon proves himself to be a fool. The very means which Abram has devised for preserving Sarai's chastity, exposed her to danger. As his sister, she might be lawfully addressed by any one ; as his wife, she was considered as sacred to himself; for the rights of wedlock were held in reverence, even by idolatrous Egyptians. What must have been his feelings when the imposture was detected ? How keen his remorse, to see Pharaoh and his innocent household, plagued for his fault? The conscious shame of having acted wrong, and of thereby having brought mischief upon another, is, perhaps, the severest punishment an ingenuous mind can suffer.

The next remarkable event of Abram's life is infinitely more honourable for him, and which therefore we pursue with much greater satisfaction. Being safely brought back again to Canaan, he resorts to his former residence between Bethel and Hai, and “pitches his tent by the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first." And there again he renews his communion with Heaven ; for one failing breaks not off the intercourse between God and

* Genesis xii. s.

a good man. Enjoying here a temporary repose, his worldly substance increases fast upon him: for “the blessing of the Lord it maketh rich.” But every earthly good thing brings its inconvenience along with it. His brother's son has cast in his lot with Abram, and is cherished by him with singular tenderness and affection : when, behold, the increase of riches becomes an increase of vexation. Though the masters are disposed to peace, the servants cannot agree.

6 A strife arose between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle :" and what augmented the folly of such a contention, it is remarked, that " the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land :” so that their quarrel among themselves, rendered them more vulnerable by the common enemy. For once that riches promote friendship, they ten times engender strife; by setting on fire, envy, or jealousy, or pride, or some such destructive passion. The behaviour of Abram on this occasion, merits particular notice and commendation. “ And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen: for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me; if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.”* An hundred sermons preached, or an hundred volumes written, in favour of a peaceable, gentle, yielding, generous, manly spirit, were far short of the plain, and persuasive lesson taught us by this conduct of the patriarch. But it merits a larger place in the history of his life, than is now left for it, in what remains of your time. We willingly, therefore, reserve it, to be drawn out into greater length, and to be pressed more particularly, as an useful and striking example to believers.

Christian, you call yourself a son of faithful Abram : let me see that you are actuated by his spirit. What sacrifice, I beseech you, are you making ; what sacrifice have you made, to conscience, to duty, to your christian profession ! What worldly interest have you given up ?

What lust have you mortified? What exercise of humility, of self-denial, of self-government, are you engaged in ! Faith in God, and submission to his will, were the leading principles of Abram's life: What are yours? Deal faithfully with God, and with yourselves ; and know, that to be a lover of the pleasures, riches or honours of a present world, to the neglect of religion and its joys, is to prefer Ur of the Chaldees, with its impurity, impiety, and idolatry, to the love and worship of the living and true God.

Was the faith of Abram always uniform, his obedience perfect, his conduct irreproachable ? No. Then it is not always to be imitated, nor at all to be depended upon But there is a pattern of faith and obedience, which all may propose as an example and upon which all may rest as a ground of acceptance with God. When such an one as Abram falters in his duty, “ let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall :” let none “be high-minded, but fear;" let us account no danger small, no foe contemptible, no deviation from the path of rectitude a light thing. Let us watch most diligently on our weakest side : and let us learn from the patience, forbearance, and tender mercy of God, when," a brother is overtaken in a fault,” to “ restore such an one in the spirit of meekness."

Had Abram an altar for God, before he had an habitation for himself ? Learn from him, 0, young man, how to begin the world, as you wish to thrive and prosper in it. The house in which no altar is erected to God, wants both a foundation and a covering.'

The family which wants the word and the worship of God, is not yet begun to be furnished. Make room for your Maker and he will settle you in a large place. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all things shall be added to you."

* Genesis xiii, 8, 9.

Did Abram rule his own spirit, did he meekly recede from his just right, did he gently yield to an inferior, for the sake of peace? Blush, Oman, to think of thy pride and selfishness; of thy positiveness in opinion, thy devotedness to interest, thy insolence in the day of power, thy contempt of the opinions, thy indifference to the feelings and the happiness of others. Look to Abram, and learn to be a conqueror.

6. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Look to your Father in heaven, who " is kind to the evil and unthankful :" “ for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” And thus “ be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Finally; Was the word made to Abram, sure ?

Has his name become res nowned, did his progeny increase, were his seed planted in the promised land, and in him are all the families of the earth blessed ? Then learn to honour God by reposing confidence in him, assured that, " though heaven and earth pass away, his word shall not pass away.”

The next Lecture will carry on the History of Abram“ the friend of God,” and exhibit the gradually opening discovery of the scheme of redemption by Jesus Christ. The blessing of the Almighty we implore on what is past, and his assistance and blessing on what is to come, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

HISTORY OF ABRAM.

LECTURE XI.

GENESIS XIII. 8.

And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my

herdmen and thy herdmen : for we be brethren.

The history of Abram alone, occupies a larger space in the sacred volume than that of the whole human race from the creation down to his day. Hitherto we have had rather sketches of character, than an exact delineation of the human heart; we have had hints, respecting remote important events rather than an exact and connected narrative of facts. But the inspired penman has gone into the detail of Abram's life, from his being called of God to leave Ur of the Chaldees, to the day of his death; a detail including the space of one hundred years. Moses marks with precision the succession of events which befel him; unfolds his character on a variety of trying and interesting occasions; and discloses the operations of a good mind through the course of a long life, adorned with many virtues and excellencies, yet not exempted from blemish and imperfection.

What renders the scripture history in general, and that of our patriarch in particular, useful and instructive, is, the exhibition of private life therein presented to us, and the lessons of wisdom and virtue thereby taught to ordinary

The intrigues of a court, the operations of a campaign, the consequences of a battle, the schemes of a statesman, the prowess of a hero, and the

men.

like, represented skilfully, and adorned with the charms of eloquence, may amuse or dazzle the reader. But the actors being altogether out of our level, and the scenes entirely out of the line of our experience, though pleasure may, no great advantage can, result from acquaintance with them.

To perform splendid actions, and to exhibit heroic virtue, is given but to a few; and opportunities of this kind but seldom occur in the course of one life. Whereas occasions to practise generosity, justice, mercy, and moderation; to speak truth and shew kindness: to melt with pity, and glow with affection ; to forbear and to forgive, are administered to us every step we move through the world, and recur more frequently upon us, than even the means of gratifying the common appetites of hunger and thirst.

When, therefore, we behold men of like passions with ourselves, placed in situations exactly similar to our own, practising virtues within our reach, and discovering a temper and disposition which, if we please to cultivate, we may easily attain ; then, if we read not with profit as well as delight, it must be because we want not the power, but the inclination, to improve.

Abram has left his kindred and father's house at God's command. Multitudes do the same thing every day, impelled by ambition, by avarice, by curiosity, by a wandering, restless disposition. Happy is he, who, in removing, does not leave his religion behind him; and who in the midst of the employments, or the delights of a new situation or place of residence, is not tempted to forget or to forsake the God of his native home, and of his early years. Alas, how often does this very metropolis prove the grave of virtuous sentiments, of religious principles, and a regular education ! 'Though Abram be but a pilgrim in Canaan, yet he thrives and prospers there. As the pious soul seeks and finds means of intercourse with Heaven in every condition and state of life, so God, who suffers none to lose by fidelity and attachment to him, can render the most untoward, unsettled, and dangerous condition, productive of real happiness : “ if a man's ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”

But never do we find wealth flowing in, and increasing upon a man without some corresponding peril or inconvenience. Either the mind is corrupted by it; or the possessor is exposed to be hated, envied, and plundered. The peace of Abram's family had like to have been disturbed, by a quarrel arising out of its prosperity; but it was preserved by the good man's wisdom, moderation, and condescension. The officious zeal of pragmatical servants has well nigh embroiled their peaceable and kindly affectioned masters.

66 And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle; and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land." How can any one think of security and peace in this world, when the rashness, malice, folly, or pride of a domestic, may set a man at variance with his chief friends ? Indeed we are vulnerable in exact proportion to the extent of our possessions.

How great is Abram's mind, how amiable his conduct upon this occasion! “And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen ; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me ; if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left."* Abram was the elder man; he was to Lot in the room of a father. Him had God distinguished by special marks of his favour, and by the promises of future greatness and pre-eminence. If the one must give way to the other, who would not instantly pronounce, that undoubtedly Lot ought to yield. Might not the call and desti

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »