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BIOGRAPHY OF ABRAHAM.
Now the Lord had said unto Abram, get thee out of thy couiti.
try, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee; and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; und thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."
GEN. xii. 1-3.
When the apostle Peter would rebut the grand objection brought by unbelievers of his own and indeed of every age, against the scriptural development of God's purposes and plans, we mean the long delay in the consummation of those plans, he appeals to a fact which all rational and enlightened men admit, the proper eternity of the great Su. preme:"One day is with the Lord as a thousand years; and a thousand years as one day.” This single but important circumstance accounts sufficiently for the striking difference which every one must notice between the evolu. tion of the purposes of heaven, and the works projected and carried on by man. Circumscribed in our existence, it is natural and even necessary that all our movements should be rapidly conceived and executed with celerity. They are the things of a day in which all our interests centres
and we feel that it is wisdom when our plans are once conceived to push them on rapidly to their final consammation. Indeed this disposition is so inseparable from our nature, that even when we make excursions into the world of imagination, we picture every thing as regulated on the views and principles common among ourselves. All works of fiction, from the tales of the genii up to the finest effusions of the pagan world, depict superior beings according to this law; and whatever be the wisdom and power with which they are invested or indued; all that wisdom, all that power serves only to secure the more rapid execution of their stupendous plans.
The bible only reveals to us the One Eternal Spirit, and it exhibits all his movements in far other guise. Gradual evolution is the plan of God; and the bible represents him as unfolding in slow succession, plans that boast their commencement in eternity, and run on still unfolding, but ever incomplete till their consummation must be traced through eternity again. This is the bible God. A being, o how different from the phantasies sketched out by men! And this single circumstance is no mean indication that the scriptural delineation is indeed a true and an inspired delineation of the God of this great universe. This one law pervades his universal works, and not singly his work of grace. The acorn that fell this autumn to the ground, liable to perish in the jaws of some animal, little weak and mean, may neve ertheless escape, and in the returning spring shoot forth a tender sprig. That little sprig will be liable to be crushed and destroyed forever beneath the lighest tread, or it may bend like a reed under the smallest of the feathered tribe. But should it escape, one thousand years hereafter may exhibit it in far different guise. Then it will send
its roots abroad and strike them deep into the earth, while lifting high toward the heavens and stretching far and wide its venerable branches, it frowns in awful grandeur, the king of all the forest. It is thus throughout all nature that all things take their rise; it is thus that they in crease by little and little from smallest beginnings to results incalculable, till crowned with the spoils of accumulated centuries, they speak forcibly to the world of the eternity of him who because he is eternal need never be in haste to consummate his plans.
To-day, my brethren, we mark the small beginnings of a plan, the first germ of a great system which yields to no competior among the forest oaks, or among the mountain rocks, or among all that is most durable in this material world. The oak of many centuries is at last sluiced of all its sap, and stretching awhile its withered and its naked arms, totters to its fall; rocks themselves may grow, but convulsions will unseat them, the lightnings force will blast them, and they too crumble away, and become soft as common earths. But that great society of men constituted of old for the purposes of salvation, and visibly separated from the world at large, that society first set up in the single person of our venerable patriarch, from him evolved into the myriads of Israel, and embracing at length so many of the gentiles, that church of God so small in its beginnings, that kingdom of Messiah so unimposing in its aspects, still lives, still increases among the nations of the earth; and we behold it at this hour, far from the decrepitude that speaks a speedy fall, we see her in all the vigour of a youth renewed still growing up to greater magnitude, still accumulating greater strength; and now she has been increasing for near four thousand years, we
recognize her as but on the entrance of that bright careef, which shall manifest her vigor and multiply her conquests for above a thousand
to come. It was in the age of Abraham, it was in the person of Abraham that her career commenced. Truth indeed had always had her advocates, and piety her votaries, from the days of our first father. Imperfectly as we have sketched to you a few short memoirs of ante-diluvian worth, you have seen enough to know that such had been the fact. But hitherto we have seen little more than mere isolated examples of goodness and greatness. The domestic circle may have been often cheered by piety. Fathers may have taught their children, and they again reported to another generation, the interesting truths on which human hope is built. But these families, at most but thinly scattered over the face of the earth, were linked together by no common bond; they were not compacted in one great associa. tion formally and ostensibly devoted to God, and visibly distinguished from the great mass of the world. It therefore depended on single families and individual persons, whether the knowledge of God should be kept alive in the earth.
So long as the alterations introduced by the deluge had not materially affected the human constitution so as to shorten the duration of life, there was less occasion for that. public institution which we call the church of God. It was necessary to connect together the lives of but a very few persons, in order to make them reach down through a great many ages, and thus in a measure secure the purity of traditionary information. Thus, for example, Noah was born but 126 years after the death of Adam, and he lived 350 years
after the flood, till within two years of the birth
of Abraham. Thus, with the intervention of two small chasms, amounting together to only 128 years, the whole duration from the creation till the death of Abraham was filled up by three lives. This was a period of 2182 years i for Abraham did not die till 14 years subsequent to the birth of Jacob and Esau.
In fact we can find you three lives that will cover al. most all this space without
chasm at all. Methuselah was born 293 years before the death of Adam; and he lived till within a few months of the deluge; at which time Shem the son of Noah was about 100 years old. Shem lived after the flood above 500 years, and died in the year of the world 2158, fourteen years after the death of Sarah the wife of Abraham, and only 24 years before the death of Abraham himself. Thus the single life of Methuselah, who was a long time the cotemporary both of Adam and Shem, presents us with an unbroken series of three lives reaching till within 1846 years of the christian æra. Eva ery one must see that it was next to impossible for tradis tion to become very corrupt during this long period, unless through a degree of negligence as well as impiety among men greater than we can well imagine. But already the deluge had begun to make havoc of the life of man. The stamina of life become perceptibly weaker in each ! successive generation; and long before Shem the son of Nos ah fell under the burden of his years, so robust was a constitution formed before the flood, many of his descendants of the 5th and 6th and 7th generations had died in weak old age. Even Sarah the wife of Abraham, and a descendant of his own in the 9th generation, died before Shem in a good old age. It was thep bigh time to make other provision for the