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OBEDIENCE AND SUCCESS CONTRASTED WITH
NEGLIGENCE AND RUIN.
Introductory remarks. The inevitable consequences of obedience
and neglect illustrated by reference to two of the most memorable instances in Scripture.
THROUGHOUT these pages, the object of the writer, with regard to the Domestic Constitution, is to arrive at the knowledge of the thing as it is.” Whether he succeeds, it will remain for others to determine; but the object is certainly of the first importance, not only to the kingdom of Christ, but to the state of society in general: for although God himself does not govern the world as he does the church, nor treat the individual Christian as he does the unbeliever, still there are certain great fixed principles which, it seems, He owes to himself—to his government—and to man, as man, inviolably to maintain. Thus, if Jehovah is “angry with the wicked every day," he also “judgeth the righteous" every day; and his judgments thus beginning with them in this life, though all should be virtually converted into the chastisements of a Father, “who judgeth according to every man's work of what sort it is,” still, such judgments or chastisements are intended to warn the unbelieving or disobedient, of what inevitably awaits him, both in time and eternity. “For if judgment must begin at the house of God, what shall the end be of them who obey not the gospel of God? and if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
At all events, whatever may be said in reference to some other subjects of investigation, the Domestic Constitution is one which, it appears, is regarded by its Divine Author, according to certain fixed and unalterable laws, such as we have already attempted to illustrate; and it will afford additional confirmation, if we again see the Almighty acting towards his own people on the same impartial and fixed principles which he has revealed for the guidance and monition of man, as man.
For the exhibition of a contrast between the frown and the favor of God, resting on a Father and his posterity, I have therefore selected, not two persons of opposite sentiments, but two parents whose individual character for piety has been admitted by all ages. Such a picture will serve to show the reader that there is no respect of persons with God, and that he is determined to act on the same solemn principles with his own people, as with those who do not, in any degree, acknowledge his authority.
OBEDIENCE AND SUCCESS. Several circumstances unite to render the family of Abraham a subject of peculiar interest. At the age of seventy-five, he was himself a convert from idolatry, or, at all events, he was then called to give his opinion and decided testimony against it, by first leaving his country, and finally his Father's house. In the course of but a
few years after this, though God had given him no such prospect, and though there was nothing respecting which he was less solicitous, he had in fact become a very wealthy man. Not being permitted either to build or to purchase land, this increase of his property operated greatly in extending his responsibility, and increasing the burden of his care. His family, and especially a household of such extent, living in Canaan at such a time, was far from being beyond the influence of contamination. The vicinity of wicked cities required constant vigilance, and Abraham dwelt actually in sight of Sodom and Gomorrah. There too he had relations, at least a nephew and his family, which might lead him and his servants to visit Sodom occasionally; indeed we know, that the strength of his household had, upon one occasion, to be exerted on their behalf. At the same time he lived not far from Salem, the residence of Melchisedec. Though inferior to this wonderful man in some respects, at that period of his life to which Scripture refers,* with him he might associate, and without doubt enjoy all the intimacy of which patriarchal neighborhood could admit. Thus was Abraham and his family placed between good and evil, between a blessing and a curse-life and death were set before them.
Let us then endeavor to ascertain a few of the most important features of Abraham's character and conduct, as a Father and a Master. " And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.”+
* Hebrews vii. 4, 6, 7. Genesis xviii. 17—19.
First,—His behavior at home is inferred from his known character.
The Almighty here, in order to impress our minds more deeply, condescends to adopt the language of men. “ I know Abraham, that he will” do so and so. This is not only a natural, but it is almost the universal way in which we judge, and it agrees with common observation to this hour. It is on this principle, as safe as any which can be adopted, that the most judicious selection is made of an individual, or the most important charge committed to him ; and it is on this principle alone that we often repose the utmost confidence, or anticipate the greatest good. “I know him," said Jehovah, “that he will," as a natural and necessary effect, resulting from his fear of me, “ command his family, and his household after him, to keep the way of the Lord.” On any express precept given to him, which Abraham might have been expected to venerate, Jehovah rested not—but on ground higher far than this, he knew that the patriarch would certainly proceed. So, when a man possesses the fear of God akin to that of Abraham, he will act in the same way: where this is wanting, whatever may be his profession, he as certainly will not.
Second, —Abraham's care over his family, and his affection for all under his eye, were to be discovered by his maintaining his authority over all.
Of Abraham being a very affectionate man there can be no question. His bringing his nephew into Canaan with him, and the manner of his parting with that nephew afterwards; his memorable exclamation over Ishmael, and the language used by God himself, when he called upon him to surrender Isaac, alike prove this beyond a doubt. Yet, there is a more unequivocal proof of an affectionate heart; much more formidable than any temporary trial can discover, or any warm expression can evince. Such