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44

TRAINING IN THE FATHERS-ABRAHAM

[LEC. IV.

argue a full knowledge of the natural laws, in the Guide and Lawgiver of Israel. These, however, we do not now dwell upon: if personal beauty, and bodily activity and strength, were attended to in the choice of the fathers and mothers of this peculiar people; much more may we expect that attention should be paid to their minds--to the improvement and invigorating of their moral and intellectual constitution.

One of the first lessons which Abraham had to learn, was, the proper exercise of Faithan immediate dependence upon the guidance and protection of the unseen God. He was called to go out, not knowing whither went, -nor ho

he was to be supported and preserved,—otherwise than as the Almighty would vouchsafe. At the same time, his Hope was brought into most healthful influence, by the many precious promises that were given to him, with regard to his seed; and especially with regard to Messiah's day, which he was permitted to see afar off; and his possession of the land wherein he was a stranger; and of that city, which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God. His Veneration was given abundant occasion for exercise, not more by the need he had for patient submission to the will of God, during the long delay, and the trials which God in his sovereignty allowed him to endure,—than by the call for the rejoicing devotion to Him, by whom he was ever so signally delivered, and so abundantly blessed. The sentiment of Justice was nourished by the sacrifices he was enjoined to offer, as pointing forward to the sacrifice of God's beloved Son, for the sins of guilty men. And lessons of truth were equally impressed upon him, by his being shown the folly of duplicity, as in the case of denying his wife; and by his Great Teacher's so wonderfully fulfilling his word to him. By this divine goodness, also, was his Benevolence instructed; and in its exercise was he encouraged, by his being privileged to entertain angels unawares. And, to crown all, he was, by his constant ultimate success, after long wait

ing, taught patience in waiting, and perseverance in acting—in acting as being made of one mind with the most high God,—who condescended to have fellowship with him, and to call him his friend. True dignity, and yet humble and delighted obedience, might therefore be expected to belong to the character of Abraham.

At the same time, his Intellect must have been greatly cultivated by his being led into such a variety of scenes and circumstances. His knowledge of localities must have been greatly enlarged, by his travels into such a variety of countries. And his Individuality, or power of observing and distinguishing objects, was given exercise by coming into contact with various nations, as well as with so many individuals. The various productions of nature, and of art, in the different countries through which he passed, would also help to keep this important mental power well employed. He must have been well acquainted with civil affairs,—and we see that he was far from being unskilled in diplomacy; nor was he uninstructed or unsuccessful in war: although, only for the sake of peace does he seem to have turned his attention to the sword. Astronomical knowledge, it is likely, he brought with him from the east; and in Damascus and Egypt, and the smaller states between, he had an opportunity of being made well acquainted with the arts, and their various productions. In learning the ways of God, which were so unfolded to him, his Causality must have been well employed, and his Comparison, in the illustrating these to others, while commanding his children and his household after him, that they should keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment. His powers of intelligence and reflection, no less than the higher sentiments, must, by all this, have become greatly cultivated. All this training seems to have been, not alone for his own advantage, but clearly, also, for the benefit of his numerous posterity,—on account of which he was called Abraham, the father of a multi

LEC. iv.]

ISAAC-JACOB-JOSEPH.

45

tude; a great and mighty nation, through whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed. It was not until his mind had attained that maturity, which all this training was calculated to afford, that to him, Isaac, in whom his seed was to be called,

was born.

In the case of Isaac there seems to have been, in many respects, a repetition of the same trials and travels;the same exercises of faith, and hope, and veneration, and justice, and benevolence, and firmness. Many of the very same incidents seem to have happened in his case, which had occurred in that of his father; and therefore it may be, that less is said respecting him. If we may be allowed the expression, there seems to have been in him, a conning over the lessons taught to his father. His life appears to have passed in greater quietness; and in a calm cultivation of personal piety, and of the domestic affections,until the waywardness of his affections led him to destroy that domestic peace he seems to have so valued, by his endeavouring to thwart the purposes of God, as to the bestowment of the Blessing.

In Jacob, another useful class of faculties were called into play, in addition to those already mentioned in the case of Abraham and Isaac. These have their organs situated on the side of the head, and are mainly prudential. He was early called upon to exert prudence, even in the preservation of his life from the wrath of his brother; after he had, by stealth, procured the blessing. Prudence, also, he had to exert, in the acquisition, preservation, and management of his property; as well as in the preventing of mischief in his numerous family; or in the assuaging of disputes when they arose. The wisdom he was thus called upon to exercise, was, no less than the virtues taught his fathers, necessary to be possessed by a people who are to supplant every other, and be made princes in all the earth;—justifying their title to the two names given to their father, -Jacob, a supplanter, and Israel, prince of God. In the case of

Joseph and his brethren, Jehovah seems to have manifested himself less immediately to man; but equally instructive is He, by his providence. What a powerful lesson of virtue is given in Joseph, as triumphing over all the unkindness and powerful treachery of brethren and of strangers ! Separated from his father's house, and with his true origin unknown, he is put into a position of returning good for evil, and of being a succour, in trouble, for those who had appointed him unto death, and sold him into bondage. His firm resistance of the seducements of sin, prepare for his being given the control of all that was possessed by the most polished nation, then in the world. At the same time we are shown how his over-faithfulness to Pharaoh, in making the Egyptians become slaves for a morsel of bread, is rewarded upon his own posterity; who, under the descendants of these same Egyptians, were subjected to cruel bondage. But God overruled this, for good. Previously to this, the chosen race had only been accustomed to pasturage, or tillage; but they were designed to plant cities, and dwell in them, and become more concentrated than could be allowed them in the pastoral life.

The imaginative, or conceptive powers, had been greatly called into exercise, in the case of Joseph, by the position in which he was placed in Egypt, where so much depended upon his management. His power of planning seems to have grown almost to the degree of abuse, at the time his brethren arrived first in Egypt. But not only was it useful that he should have been given much exercise of that inventive and improving genius, for which his descendants were to be so remarkable,—it was also requisite that the race, generally, should be broken in; so as to perform the duties, and the labours, of more settled life; and, accordingly, they are laid hold upon by the Egyptians, and are taught by them those arts, which it was now requisite for them to possess :—such as the making brick, and the building

46

TRAINING OF ISRAEL AS A NATION.

[LEC. IV.

cities:--they are trained to industry and hardship. They acquired by their previous way of life, a strong physical constitution,—and now it was given abundance of profitable exercise: if not immediately profitable to them,—yet, certainly, to their posterity. At the same time, then- moral feelings are educated, by their becoming acquainted with the heart of a stranger: so that when given a land of their own, they might deal with the stranger, as they themselves would have chosen to be dealt with, in the same situation. All the while their patient waiting upon God, for the accomplishment of his promise, is put to a severe trial. At length God makes bare his Holy arm, and seizes upon the simplest means the rod of a shepherd—to break the sceptre of Egypt,--and clear a way for the oppressed, through all the difficulties wherewith they were surrounded. They are taught the justice, the wisdom, and the power of Jehovah, in his safely leading Israel, his first-born, through the deep ; whilst the enemy sank as lead in the mighty waters. After having been taught all the wisdom, and made to feel all the power of Egypt,—they are made to see all such to be of no avail, in contravening the purposes of the God of Israel.

In the wilderness, we behold another course of training commenced, connected with their future destination. They are instructed in their religious, social, and personal duties, in the most minute particulars. They are led about, and habituated to military discipline. They are taught alike personal cleanliness, and holiness of heart. They are taught to put away every thing hurtful or unseemly, and to be considerate of each other's welfare and happiness. They are given a body of political institutions, remarkably calculated to teach them order, and train them up for independence—for the enjoyment and preservation of their public and individual rights. They are initiated into the forms of a popular government; and are taught, by the division of their nation into

tribes, the principles of the confederation of states. It may be observed, that there has been, up to this time, a gradual development of the principles of government, according as they were called for by the condition of the people. In the infancy of the race, whilst they lived as a family, under Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the patriarchal principle prevailed. Upon the death of Jacob, when twelve brethren were left pretty equal in authority, the aristocratical form of goverment may be said to have existed; and this rule, by elders, being the heads of families, seems to have continued till Israel were brought out into the wilderness. In the wilderness the democratical principle was added to their political constitution; as we read, Deut. i. 9—18. Then were the whole body of the people commanded to look out, from among themselves, good men, and true, who should be appointed officers among them; as rulers of tens, of fifties, of hundreds, and of thousands: so that every matter, great or small, might be instantly attended to, and put to rights, by men in whom they had confidence; who understood the affairs of those they represented; who had wisdom to direct; and who were men known to have integrity, to act according to the best of their knowledge and judgment.

They were, also, here given a body of religious rites, remarkably calculated to lead them into a minute knowledge of both nature and art. They could not make those distinctions, as to clean and unclean animals,—and the different parts of the same animal;

as to the different plants, and spices, and ointments;—and as to metals and precious stones;—without becoming extensively acquainted with natural history. And they could not but become well accustomed to chronological and astronomical observation, by their regularly occurring festivals. At the same time, the acquisitions made in Egypt were not to be lost. The perfection of the arts, which they had there learned, was called for, in the constructing of the Tabernacle, and its various important contents; the

LEC. iv.]

TRAINING IN THE WILDERNESS.

47

making of dresses for the priests; the engraving of stones, and compounding of ointments; and working variously in wood, and precious metals. They are taught to work for the Lord, and to feed at his hand. At once do they see Him as the God of creation, of providence, and of redemption; by whom the ordinary laws of nature are overruled, that the people he had ransomed from the hand of the enemy, might be delivered and sustained. God is their Lawgiver, Governor, Judge, and Guide; a wall of fire around them, and the glory in the midst of them.

There, in the quiet of the desert, with all the world shut out, that so their attention might he the more entirely concentrated upon the words of their Great Teacher, and the visible representations of spiritual truths, which they were, as yet, too carnal,—too much in childhood, otherwise to learn; and which it was important should be impressed upon their imaginations, with all the solemnity, brightness, and power, that now accompanied them, God drew near, and was himself their Teacher. What simple sublimity in the scene! How full of meaning the words that were uttered, (Exodus xxxiv. 5—7):And the Lord descended in the cloud, And stood with him there, And proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him and proclaimed,

The Lord,

The Lord God,
Merciful and gracious,

Long-suffering,
And abundant in goodness and truth;

Keeping mercy for thousands.
Forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and
And that will by no means clear :
Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon

the children, And upon the children's children, unto

the third and to the fourth "The grand course of God's procedure, in providence and grace, is set before them, both by word, and in lively emblems:—As, when hid in a cleft of the rock, their leader saw thus the God of Israel passing by, and proclaiming, “ The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious," which he was at

the first advent, in the bestowment of his Son, and his Spirit: and then he is “ long-suffering," during the backsliding and wanderings of both the houses of Israel; until his second appearing, when he shall be seen as “ abundant in goodness and truth."

The same things were expressed in grand scenic representation: when the high priest, with the blood of atonement, was seen entering into the most holy place, to appear in the presence of God, for the people,—who, without, were waiting for his second appearing; when he came forth, not clad in plain raiment, as before,—but clothed in garments of glory and beauty, to bless the people in the name of the Lord. So our Great High Priest, after having entered into the holiest of all, not made with hands,—and not with the blood of others, but with his own blood, though now gone to appear in the presence of God for us, will—to those that look for him, appear the second time in glory and in majesty,—fully to bestow the blessing he hath gone to procure. The power of tracing analogies,--so essential to them as the intended instructors of mankind, was given thus the highest cultivation. And the whole of their reflective faculties were brought into healthful exercise upon all that the Lord had done, was doing, and would do with them. They are taught the origin of the world, and the past history of man, to see sin as the cause of all evil; and the goodness of God as the source of all good to man. They are, as it were, put to school, to learn in lively emblems, the justice and the mercy of God; and the future history of their nation and of the world. And their sense of propriety is educated in the most profitable manner, by the minute attention they are taught to pay to the holy service of religion, -to useful, social, and most wholesome private observances. Of the observing powers, that which observes size—which takes notice of proportions and measures distances,—was especially useful to them,

,-as intended to be the Lord's measuring line,--to com

sin;

48

TRAINING IN THE LAND.

[LEC. iv.

pass sea and land for the extension of the divine goodness among men; and the bringing all parts of the world into one grand interchange of blessing. And the provision made for the cultivation of this mental power is abundantly manifest,—when, in reading the books of Moses, we observe the minute attention which was to be paid to every sort of measurement; as in the making of the tabernacle and its contents. It may justly be questioned whether there be a single profession, or trade, or art, or science, with regard to which profit may not be derived, from the diligent perusal, and thorough understanding of the books of Moses. It is short of the truth to suppose that these books had but the inculcation of one truth in view, however important that one truth may be. Israel in the wilderness, was in a grand course of training, with regard to everything requisite; whether belonging to their physical, or moral, or intellectual constitution; in order that they should be eminently a seed to serve the Lord,—and be strong for labour—in diffusing blessings among men.

Having been duly prepared in the wilderness, they are at length brought forward into the land of Canaan. And it is granted them, according as is required, and as they have a heart to take possession. Moses and Joshua are dead; but their King liveth, and is Almighty. They lie exposed to their enemies, who surround them on every side; and who give them continual occasion for the vigorous exercise of their minds in defence, and in the wise management of their national relations. Their enemies have no power, but when Israel themselves give it to them by their rebellion against their heavenly King. They are taught to depend upon the Almighty, who will infallibly protect them in the right, and punish them in

Their Judges are his officers, raised up for the occasion. To them the nation must not look; but to that God, who hath appointed them. If they look to man, they are

disappointed, and broken. It is now, more especially, that the Lord is training them to go alone. Each individual is, in a great measure, made to think and act for himself. A more powerful or better consolidated government, among them, than that of the Judges, might have given to the body of the people more strength; but it would not, so much, have strengthened the individual character: and it was with a regard to this, that the Lord was training them, much more than for the purpose of giving them present ease as a nation. It was not to make them the useful instruments of one man, as under an absolute monarchy; but to make them a nation of kings and priests unto God, that he had delivered them from their Egyptian task-masters. But they did not consider their latter end, for which their Lord was preparing them. They grew impatient of this state of things, and required a king, like the nations around them. He warned them of the evils into which they were plunging: but they were importunate,--and he gave them a king in his anger, and took him away in his wrath. They are again taught the folly of trusting in man :—the king who was to combine their scattered energies, and lead them forth successfully to battle, left them in the hands of the enemy.

But the Lord has again a bright course of training for them; and to this, the concentrated form of a kingly commonwealth is better adapted. And David is raised up to execute the purpose of God. It would be difficult to name a single faculty of the human mind, affective or intellectual, which was not remarkably manifested in David; who, from feeding his father's flock, was taken to feed the flock of God—the people of Israel. His genius, with regard to music and poetry, was especially remarkable. To the beautiful appointments in the service of God, addressed to the eye, and chiefly administered by Moses; he added those, which were no less necessary and instructive, addressed to the ear: and the songs of rejoicing are sung, which anticipate the glory of

the wrong:

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