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was first made known to Adam and Eve, when the Lord assured them that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. It was renewed with Noah and his sons, when they came out of the ark. And now, it was presented to Abraham with still greater fulness. Christ was promised from his loins ; and in him, it was declared, that all the families of the earth should be blessed. This was a great Era in the Church.
Conficing in the word of the Lord, this pious patriarch took Sarai his wife, and Lot, his brother's son, and all their substance, passed to Sichem, in the land of Canaan, and there built an altar unto the Lord. There again, God appeared to him, and renewed covenant with him. Finding a grievous famine in the land, he went to Egypt, where he came near losing his wife, because she was very beautiful, and was known only as his sister. But God interposed for her rescue, and made his power and his wrath known to the Egyptians. When the famine had ceased, Abraham returned to Canaan, laden with much wealth, and di. vided the land with Lot. There he became a man of great sub. stance and strength : having 318 servants in his household, and being able to wage effectual war with the plundering nations around him. God often appeared to him; assuring him that he was his shield and his exceeding great reward; accepting his sacrifices and confirming the promises. On a certain occasion Melchisedec, king of Salem, a priest of the most high God, met him and blessed him in the name of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth.
But though Abraham believed the word of the Lord, that in his seed should all the families of the earth be blessed, yet so long was the promised heir delayed, that he foolishly took to himself Hagar, his Egyptian maid; and became the father of a son whom he called Ishmael. But this was not the promised seed. So far were all the nations from being blessed in him, that the angel of the Lord prophecied concerning him, " He will be a wild man, his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him." His posterity, the Arabs, have to this day, been thieves and robbers, unsubdued by any people.
At length, however, when God had well tried the faith of the patriarch, he gave him in the hundredth year of his age, the
promised son; again renewing with him his covenant for an everlasting covenant, promising that he would be a God to him and to his seed after him, and instituting the ordinance of circumcision; which was to seal to them the covenant of grace, and bind them to an observance of all its requisitions.
Hitherto the Church had existed in an unembodied state. By no token was she distinguished from the world. God was now pleased to give her a visible standing among the nations. By the ordinance of circumcision, all his people, with their infant seed, were set apart as the Lord's. Whoever beheld them in successive generations, might know by this sign and seal, that God was their God, and they were his people. From this event, which occurred in the 2108th year of the world, is dated the establishment of the
JEWISH CHURCH. By two other remarkable events, was the life of this eminently holy man, this head of the Church, and father of believers, distinguished.
One was an awful destruction of the ungodly.
The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, with whom Lot dwelt, were among the most wicked of the posterity of Ham. Their abominations cried aloud to heaven for vengeance : and the Lord God determined to make "an example of them to those that should after live ungodly.” His tremendous purpose he made known to his favoured servant, Abraham ; whose humble, fervent intercession for the righteous that might dwell among them, has since greatly endearca nin to the people oi Gvu. Lot was a righteous man, a member of the true Church, the only one that dwelt in the cities of the plain. His righteous soul was vexed from day to day, with the conversation of the wicked, and with their unlawful deeds; yet he remained among them, from an inordinate "attachment to the world, and saw all that were dear to him corrupted and destroyed. But for him Abraham had effectually interceded ; and the angels said unto him, “ Escape for thy life.” No sooner had he fled, than the Lord rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and the inhabitants were totally destroyed, and the whole plain was converted into a vast lake, called the Dead Sea ; which still remains a memorial of the vengeance of God. How awful the wrath of an holy Je. hovah! This judgment was inflicted in the 2108th year of the world, and 1896 years before Christ.
The other event was a trial of Abraham's faith.
Thirty years had elapsed since the birth of Isaac; the long expected seed, the child of promise, the declared progenitor of Him, in whom “ all the families of the earth were to be blessed;" when God said to Abraham, “ Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” Never was there a com
mand so full of terror! Every word must have wrung triarch's heart with anguish. What can we look for but a firm remonstrance against the horrid deed; a plea from the fatal example on the surrounding heathen, the reproach of his piety', and the very promises and covenant of God ratified over and over! But nothing of this. With calm submission and holy confidence in Jehovah, he went forward and built the altar, and laid the wood, and bound Isaac his son, and lifted the knife to slay him when the Angel of the Lord interposed and said, “ Now I know thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. It was a glorious exhibition of faith ; for which God again confirmed to him his exceeding great and precious promises. Having laid Sarah in the grave, and provided a wife for Isaac, from the family of his brother Nahor, in Padanaram, Abraham died in the 175th year of his age.
This eminent patriarch was as distinguished for his piety, as for the remarkable events of his life. In humility, meekness, patience, submission and unwavering confidence in God, he has been a pattern to all saints of succeeding ages. Like the rest of this fallen world, he was a sinner; he could not be justified
he had nothing whereof to glory. But he saw Christ's day afar off
, and was glad. He believed in God—rejoiced in a Saviour to come, and his faith was counted for righteousness. His faith was a vital principle. “It wrought with his works, and by works was his faith made perfect; and he was called the FRIEND OF GOD."
The age of Abraham was one of great declension. It was the age
of Sodom and Gomorrah. But it was not the period, when in one of the capital cities of the world, an altar should be erected “ To the unknown God.” Mankind had not as yet lost the knowledge of Jehovah. Some who came out of the ark with their immediate descendants, were still living. A knowledge of that dread event, and of the power and holiness of God which occasioned it, must therefore have existed
peo. ple, while not a few were to be found of sincere and fervent piety. The Persians were the descendants of Shem, by his son Elam, as Abraham and his descendants were by Arphaxad; and continued, probably for a considerable period, to walk in the way of their fathers. The Chaldeans, the descendants of Ham, were so far corrupt, as to expel the father of Abraham for his religion, from their country. Among them, therefore, we may look in vain for any true religion.
The Arabians retained the knowledge and worship of the
God of Heaven, until after the days of Moses. Among them we find in this far distant age, Job. He dwelt in that part of Arabia Petrea, which was called Edom, and bordered upon the tribe of Judah to the south. His origin is uncertain ; and the exact period in which he lived cannot well be determined. His years were more than 200—the age of man before the days of the patriarchs. In his writings are mentioned only the most ancient species of idolatry, the worship of the Sun and Moon and his riches are reckoned by his cattle. If he lived after the days of Abraham, and, as some suppose, as late as Moses, still he appears to have known nothing of that eminent patriarch, or of the wanderings of the children of Israel. His knowledge of God was evidently handed down to him from Noah; but was greatly increased by intimate communion with Ileaven. The book which bears his name, and gives an account of the wonderful dealings of God with him, has been ascribed to Moses, to Solomon, to Isaiah and Ezra, but it is evidently the work of Job himself. Its style is sublime and losty ; full of figure, and corresponds to the genius of the Arabic language. It every where abounds with religious instruction, and the noblest sentiments of piety; and, with inimitable majesty, proclaims the Almighty power and unsearchable wisdom of the Maker of the universe.
With all his faults, Job was a man of deep humility and ex. alted piety. Through traditional religion and the suggestions and influences of the Holy Spirit, he disclaimed all hope of justification from his own righteousness; placed his confidence in the great Redeemer, and looked forward with joyful hope, to a resurrection and future judgment. Such a man must have been a light in the world. His book conveyed truths to mankind which unassisted reason had never learned, and powerfully refuted the erroneous views which were fast spreading in the earth, of the moral government of God. When it was admitted into the sacred canon we know not; but it is cited as inspired by the Apostles, and was universally received as canonical by the early Christians.
Among the Canaanites, Abraham lived as those who were well acquainted with Jehovah. He even there found a king, Melchisedec, who ruled his people in righteousness and peace, and officiated at the altar, as priest of the most high God; a man who, on both these accounts, was a remarkable type of Christ. Abraham honoured him for his rank and piety, and priestly character, and received as a distinguished favour, his blessing
Over Gerar in Philistia, reigned Abimelech, an upright man, who acknowledged and feared Jehovah. All these nations must have been solemnly impressed with the majesty and holiness of God, in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The Egyptians early fell into idolatry, but the God of Abra. ham was terrible among them. And in subsequent ages, he must have been extensively known by the piety of Joseph, the religion of the Hebrews, and more especially, by the plagues upon Pharaoh and the nation, in the days of Moses.
It may be inquired, why, if there was so much knowledge of the true God in the world, was Abraham called ? It was no doubt, in part perspective. The clouds of pagan darkness were fast overshadowing the earth. In a little time, the knowledge of Jehovah, of his uame, his worship and his laws, would be ban. ished from among men, without some special provision for its preservation, and the earth would be in complete subjection to the prince of darkness.
Descent of the Church in the line of Patriarchs. Prophecy re
specting Shiloh. Joseph. Residence of the Church in Egypt. Her deliverance from bondage. Plagues of Egypt. Institu. tion of the Passover. Baptism of the Church. Murmurings of the Israelites. Their typical journey.
If there was true piety elsewhere in the earth, still we are now to contemplate the Church of God embodied in the family of Abraham, and sealed with the seal of circumcision. God con. firmed to Isaac the promises made to his father, “in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” In his youth, profane Esau sold his birthright for a trifle to Jacob his younger brother ; thus in the freedom and wickedness of his own heart, accomplishing, though he meant not so, a purpose of divine sovereignty ; “For the children, being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand, not of works, but of him that call. eth : it was said unto her (Rebecca) the elder shall serve the younger.*
Zealous for the execution of the divine purpose thus revealed to her ;-revealed, no doubt, that it might be ac
* Romans, ix. 11.