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interests of truth and of Messiah's kingdom, than that which had answered in more auspicious times. Already the knowledge of truth was beginning to fade from the minds of men, as its power had long before faded from their consciences. The rapid succession of nine generations sufficiently indicates what must soon have been the condition of the world if a merciful Providence had not in good time interposed with a new order of things suited to the novel circumstances of the world. In the call of Abraham then, and in the organization of the church as a visibly distinct and well-defined society, we recognize the germ of one of those stupendous plans which shed such lustre on the ways of Providence.
This patriarch, destined as he was to become the head of a mighty nation, and still more honoured as the head of that great social institution, distinguished of old and consecrated to heaven by the sign of circumcision, and now in latter times by the seal of baptism—this father of the faithful, whose children are to be sought among the Jews and Gentiles, whose children are all who profess their faith in God our common Saviour—this truly dignified personage was not distinguished in his earlier life by any wisdom or goodness that may seem to have entitled him to such a high distinction. At that time, and even for several gen. erations afterwards, God had his worshippers in various parts of the East who were not at all connected with this great association, but whose knowledge and piety stand confest. Such was Melchizedec king of Salem, and others, with whom, as we shall see, Abraham maintained intercourse: such too were the famous Job, and many of his friends: such was the fatherinlaw of Moses, the priest of Midian: and such were many others. All these however were mere isolated examples. They formed nothing like a church; their piety alone distinguished them as individuals from the world at large.
But when God would lay the foundation of that great association, whose laws and institutions should place it under the bonds of a visible consecration to himself and separation from the world, he chose for the germ of this grand association a person not distinguished either for piety or knowledge. And thus he shewed to all the nations at the very outset, the truth of a principle which you are hearing day by day: It is not our goodness but our misery that commends us to the mercy of him in whom we trust. And whatever may have been our characters, whatever our demerits, if he pardon us at all he will fully pardon, and then his bounty and tenderness will know no bounds.
The early character and pretensions of our patriarch may be summed up in a single sentence. In after times when Israel alone retained the knowledge of God and all other nations were sunk in pagan wickedness as well as ignorance; while the irradiations of hope beamed forth with, the lights that flamed upon God's altar, and the beauty of holiness was seen by none except those who saw the temple of the Lord of Hosts:-even then Israel was directed to be humble as well as thankful for her singular privileges; and to cultivate humility by a constant recurrence to the once hopeless condition of that venerated patriarch from whom she derived her all. “A Syrian ready to perish was my father,” said the Israelite as he bowed before the altar of the Lord of Hosts and remembered who it was that had made him to differ from the degraded idolators that filled every other land.
The first annunciation of the honours designed for A
bram, was uttered in terms particularly imposing; but it was also burdened with a requisition of no trifling magnitude. Abraham was “a Syrian ready to preach.” He had been reared and probably born in Ur of the Chaldees, a spot somewhere in the neighbourhood of the banks of the Euphrates. There were the tombs of his fathers. There were the friends of his youth. There were the scenes to which his attachments bad grown with his growth. There he would have wisbed to live. And there he hoped to die. But God met this Syrian. He unfolded to him a destiny far more noble than ever his ambition had ventured to pourtray. He named him as the founder of a mighty nation. He told him he should not only be illustrious in point of dignity, but that future ages should love as well as respect him, bis fame should be crowned with blessings. Even among nations of whom he was not to be the father his name should be illustrious, even to them he should be a source of blessing; and all ages, all nations, should know the worth of Abraham; bis honours should spread wide as the race of men, and remain unblighted long as time should last.
Honours like these, unsolicited, unexpected, undeserved, were enough to excite the strongest feelings of humiliation as well as gratitude in the bosom of this hitherto undistinguished Mesopotamian. What was he and what was his father's house, that the God of the Universe should thus heap his blessings on him! What had been his deserts that such a fame should be allotted him; a fame so far exceeding that of the great men of the earth-a fame that at this day shines well-defined and obtrusive as the sun in heaven, while the glimmering memorials of earth's mighty chieftains, your Cesars and your Nimrods, are dim and dissipating like some small and fleecy clouds
But Abraham was not to inherit this distinction without first making sacrifices of no little difficulty. The tombs of his fathers, the associates of his youth, he must consent to see no more. Mesopotamia and all the adjacent countries were fast receding from the light of life. Abram and his family had also been receding; a perishing Syrian was her He must leave these lands devoted to idolatry, over which the demons of darkness were already beginning to spread their black and ample wings. He must remove to those spots thereafter designed to be marked as the last refuge of the truth; he must pitch beside those mountains designed to echo praises to the name of Israel's God. This was the first trial of our patriarch's faith and patience. To us who can look through six and thirty hundred years, and note the still unfolding plan of Providence, who can mark the generations rising up in succession from the parent stock, and recognize at this moment almost all nations, according to the prophecy, blessing him and blessed. To us who see so clearly the plan of Providence, and know the veneration which his name inspires—to us it may seem a very light thing that Abram should depart at once for that land in which the destinies of Israel were in due time to be unfolded, and leave his natal Mesopotamia without a sin. gle sigh. But it is one thing to acquiesce in the plans of Providence when fully developed before us; and another thing to wait in patience the progress of their slow development, and to trust the word of God, and to confide in his good guidance when we have nothing else to look to. Yet such, it is well known, is the general plan of Providence, His greatest blessings do not fall most suddenly; the bays that deck the foreheads of his most honoured servants spring not up like the goard of Jonah, in a night. But
generally there are delays, disappointments, tribulations, all that can exercise the patience of God's people, and ha. bituate them implicitly to submit their ways to him. This Abram was taught in many bitter lessons; this Israel experienced through successive centuries before a footing was given them in the promised land. It is, my dear friends, the badge of christianity; from the days of Abram down it has been the common lot; you must yourselves expect it. This little church, whose prosperity we know to be dear to the hearts of many of you, may be tried with it, let all people calculate upon it, wheresoever the blessing from on high is hoped. And who will quarrel with this wise arrange. ment. The plans of Providence, we have told you, are ex. tensive and eternal plans. The foundations of his build. ings, whose tops aspire to heaven, are first laid deep and solidly in earth. And though it be a truth that on the day of their foundation the morning may be darkened with heavy floating mists, and the winds of heaven may visit his workmen roughly, yet that brightest sun of heaven in due time dissipates the clouds, and pours upon his labourers and on their favored work the warmth and effulgence of eternal day.
We consent then that our patriarch should take a painful leave of all places and people endeared to him on earth, and should enter on the first stages of his long and bright career with feelings and prospects that no living man would envy. Be it only that he went. Went forth relying on the Divine protection, although he knew not the country or people where Providence would cast his lot. We consent that in going he should drop "some natural tears,” and feel as we would feel like a banished