« AnteriorContinuar »
his generation. His faith, however, failed not: as the Apostle tells us (Heb. xi. 19.) he believed that God would even raise Isaac from the dead rather than come short of bis promise. When our faith is thus tried may we like Abraham be readily obedient, not counting the cost, but freely giving up at God's command what he has already given to us, whether the sacrifice required be an object of affection, or of interest or of usefulness; firmly relying upon Infinite Wisdom and love to make up to us our loss either in time or in eternity. (13). Mat. xi. 6. Blessed is he whosoever shall not be
offended in me. TRE Jews took offence at the meanpess of Christ's appearance and condition, the Gentiles, at the ignominious nature of his death. Men of the present day who can bear to hear of Christ's humble condition of life, and even of the character of his death, yet take deep offence at the doctrines which he taught, as recorded in the New Testament. They are offended at the description there given of the natural state of the human heart, at the way in which the wickedness of the world is denounced. They take offence at the spiritual nature of the worship Christ requires, and at the silence which both He and his apostles observe respecting matters of outward form and ceremony. To be thus offended is, however, a sign that we are ignorant of Him, for “ blessed are they who are not offended in him!" They have an inward evidence that they are taught of God, that they are in the way to reap the spiritual and eternal blessings which He died to procure for all true believers. May such evidence be ours !
(14). Gen. xxv. 34. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and
pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birth
right. This verse relates the conclusion of a bargain made by Esau with his brother Jacob, whereby he gave up the privileges of the first-born, in consideration of a present satisfying of his hunger. This birth-right of Esau included more than the usual rights of temporal possession: it carried with it spiritual blessings belonging to the covenant which God had made with Abraham and Isaac and their seed for ever. In the New Testament (Heb. xii, 16.) Esau is spoken of as a “profane person," for having thus sold his birth-right: he shewed by so doing that his mind was wholly get on worldly eniorment that he despised his
heavenly heritage. This conduct in Esau we can clearly see to have been both foolish and wicked: but do we never follow his example in practice if not in words ? When we knowingly or carelessly indulge in those sins which shut us out from the kingdom of heaven, when we follow any worldly advantage at the expense of our souls, do we not despise our christian birth-right, the inheritance purchased for us by the death of Christ?
(15). Gen. xxviii, 12. And he (Jacob) dreamed, and
behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God as
cending and descending upon it. OF dreams in general we may observe that the less we talk about them, and the sooner we forget them, the better. But under the Old Testament dispensation they were employed by the Almighty as means to convey his will to the minds of his faithful servants. Under Jacob's immediate circumstances, forced to flee from his father's house, in fear of his brother Esau, it was a signal comfort to him to be assured of God's over-ruling providence, and of the protection of those heavenly spirits who as St. Paul affirms (Heb. i. 14) are sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation. There is something soothing in the idea that the angels are employed invisibly for the good of man, thus, as it were, endeavouring to repair the evil inflicted on our race by the chief of their fallen brethren. The Psalmist speaks (Ps. xxxiv. 7.) of the angel of the Lord tarrying round them that fear him, and delivering them. And if we should be doomed like Jacob to “wander out of the way in the wilderness,” yet if our hearts wander not from God He will give his angels charge over us, that nothing shall by any means hurt us.
(16). Rom. xiv. 17. For the kingdom of God is not meat
and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy, in
the Holy Ghost. The apostle had been called upon to settle disputes among the Christian converts at Rome, about the lawfulness of eating, or abstaining from, certain meats. Some thought one thing and some another; but all were vehement on their own side of the question, and apparently somewhat harsh with their opponents.
St. Paul reminds them that the life and spirit of christianity are not to be found in its outward forms and ceremonies; the religion of Jesus is rather a subjection of the inner man to the love of God and our neighbour, producing “righteousness," obedience to Christ's commands; and “peace," from the due regulation of all the passions and affections within us; and "joy in the Holy Ghost," arising from the witness of the Spirit that we are the children of God; and if children then heirs through Cbrist of the kingdom of Heaven.
(17). Gen. xxxii. 7, 8. Then Jacob was greatly afraid
and distressed : and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands; and said, If Esau come to the one company,
and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape. The period to which these transactions refer is that in which Jacob on his return to Canaan was about to meet his injured brother Esau, of whom he entertained a fear that he might yet execute vengeance on him for the part he formerly took in depriving him of his father's blessing. His conduct on this occasion is worthy of imitation : having made all the arrangements which prudence dictated to provide against the worst, he humbled himself before God, (v. 9-12) committing himself to his protection, and beseeching him to deliver him. When we are in danger and difficulty let our care be to engage the Almighty on our side by “pouring out our hearts before him, and shewing him of our trouble;" and then to employ the means he has put into our hands for escape from the impending evil. Prayer without exertion is presumption: exertion without prayer is a species of impiety; the union of both marks the conduct of the wise and good. Jacob by this conduct found success, Esau embraced him, fell on his neck and kissed him.
(18). GEN. xxxiv, i. Dinah the daughter of Leah, which
she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the
land. And dearly did she pay for her curiosity in going out unprotected amongst heathens and idolaters, persons without the fear of God before their eyes, and intent only on worldly pleasures. There have been but too many Dinahs since her day, who have had occasion to rue their departure from the Apostle's counsel to young women, to be “keepers at home.” The love of seeing is usually accompanied with a desire to be seen; but the girls most ready to shew themselves at feasts and fairs are not the most admired by those whose admiration and approval are alone worth having. A fondness for visiting and company,
induces a love of dress, a showy, fashionable attire generally very
unsuitable to the circumstances of the wearer, and betraying a lightness of mind unbefitting the sobriety of a Christian. This love of dress, which in any rank proclaims a degree of levity in the character, is especially dangerous for those who are unrestrained by the forms and ceremonies of the higher classes, as it attracts the notice of evil disposed men, encourages that "jesting which is not convenient," and ends perhaps, as in the case of Dinah, with irretrievable ruin involving a whole family in quarrels and bloodshed.
(19). GEN. XXXV, 18. And it came to pass that as her
(Rachel's) soul was departing, (for she died) that she called his name Ben-oni : but his father called him
Benjamin. “Ben-oni" siguifies “son of my sorrow," the name that Rachel gave to her infant son in allusion to the sorrows she endured at his birth: but his father unwilling to have a continual remembrance of these sufferings before his eyes called him the “son of my right hand;" hoping that he would prove the staff of his old age. The expression in the text teaches us what death is, the departure of the soul from the body, its removal into a world of spirits. By language such as this the Scriptures kept up amongst the Israelites the knowledge of a future state, whilst the nations around them were in doubt or in darkness upon the subject. In considering the death of Rachel we cannot but remark that the passionate wish she had formerly expressed “give me children or I die,” was gratified, but at the expense of her life. Better is it to submit our will to the Allwise providence of God who knows what is best for us, than to murmur at his dispensations, and provoke him to indulge us in such ways and to gratify us in such wishes as may prove fatal to us.
(20). Gen. xxxix, 9. How then can I do this great wicked
ness, and sin against God ? We have here the working of a pious mind which sets God always before it, and estimates sin according to the view He takes of it, not according to the opinion of the world: the considerations of honor, or of credit, or of interest are too low a standard for a religious character. They offer withal a very insufficient security against sin, depending as they do, upon the changing opinions of man, varying at different times and in different places, whilst the All-seeing, Pure, and Holy God is the same yesterday and 0-day, and for ever : what He has once pronounced to be sin
ains sin in his sight for ever, His word is Truth and
changes not. Here we find a distinctive mark of God's children, how do they look upon sin i The holy psalmist shall answer. “Against Thee only have I sinned and done evil in thy sight:" all minor causes of offence being overlooked in the
dishonour cast upon God's glory. May the sense of God's all-seeing eye keep us from those secret and heart sids which no worldly motives can reach.
(21). Gen. xli: 9. I do remember my faults this day. His fault was ingratitude towards Joseph, who, when the chief butler was in prison, had interpreted his dream and given peace to his mind, requesting only as a recompense that he would speak for him to Pharaoh to deliver him from his unjust imprisonment. But as is often the case, in
prosperity “ did not the chief butler remember Joseph but forgat him." God has different ways of reminding people of their faults: the widow of Zarephath of whom we read (1 Kings xvii, 18.) remembered her faults when she lost her child by death: for she said to the prophet Elijah, “ Art thou come to call my sins to remembrance, and to slay my son P” Sometimes a striking sermon is made the means of awakening the conscience, as in the case of Felix, who trembled under Paul's preaching: a mere passing word or accidental occurrence has often been made an instrument of arousing the sleeping memory to faults long past and forgotten. The chiefbutlerimmediately confessed his neglect, and repaired it to the best of his power; so should we lose no time in humbling ourselves before God, and confessing our misdeeds to those among men whom they may concern, as St. James admonishes his converts “confess your faults one to another;” not, (as the Romanists teach) to a priest, who has no more right to demand confession of God's people than they have to demand it of him.
(22).1 Cor. iv. 7. Who maketh thee to differ from another?
and what hast thou that thou didst not receive ? “Where is boasting then ? it is excluded;" we cannot surely take credit for that which is the free unmerited gift of another. Yet we do too often hear the words of pride where gratitude alone should stir the heart, accompanied perhaps with disparaging remarks upon unsuccessful rivals in the race of worldly prosperity. But this self-complacency and self sufficiency are unworthy of a Christian; for let our exertions or our skill have been what they may, who endowed us with the skill, who gave us the health an strength to labour,? who disposed our circumstances favour