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BIOGRAPHY OF ABRAHAM.(CONTINUED.).
“Now Sarai, Abram's wife, bare him no children,” &c.
Gen. xvi. 1
“In my prosperity I said, my mountain stands strong, I shall never be moved. Thou didst hide thy face and I was troubled.” It were well, my brethren, if the psalmist of Israel had been the only person who was ever compelled to make this melancholy and humiliating reflection. But generation may confess it to generation, that in this as in a variety of other respects, heart answers to heart and experience to experience, as in water face to face. There is probably nothing about which we hear and experience so much and yet learn so very little, as about the instability and deceitfulness of the human heart. When fired by the charms of novelty or operated on by any other cause that excites a strong, but momentary feeling, we are apt to mistake the impulse of that feeling for the dictate of sober judgment and well regulated principle, and therefore calculate with certainty that the views we now cherish and good resolutions we form will be lasting as our being. And yet who has not felt it a thousand times that the moment these strong feelings begin to subside our perceptions of truth and excellence become less vivid, we no longer obey
the dictates of the sober judgment, and those moral principles which we bad deemed so pure, so commanding, so impregnable, those principles give way before the first attack that enlists our feelings against the cause of upright. ness.
There is but the one way, my brethren, known to this universe, in which intelligent beings can maintain under every circumstance the glory of their uprightness. It is by making the known will of the Supreme Intelligence the reason of our conduct, and by loving him 60 entirely and trusting him so implicitly that we can only find and wish for happiness in abiding by his will. You know that the sacrifices made by ardent love are never painful sacrifices; and that the labours prompted and stimulated by love are always pleasant labours.
But in our world of sin, where so many things combine to obscure our views of the Divinity, where our own depravity intercepts to such a degree the communications of his goodness, and where anhallowed passion and the powerful in fluence of example equally tend to alienate our regards from God, you are never to expect that pure and perfect excellence that blesses those whom sin has never tainted. There often may be moments when our views of eternal things are peculiarly lucid and extensive, when the heart is melted by the sense of the Divine goodness and feels most deeply the obligations of his love, when we are lifted high in our hopes of eternal happiness, and feel disposed to 'confide all things implicitly to his management whose ways we know are marked with goodness and wisdom. In moments like this, we move in a region elevated far above our narrow views and selfish passions: we see all things on the relations in which they really stand to us and to one
another; we see them as God sees them, in the light of truth;--and then we are apt to think that we can never more revert to the crooked ways of error, never more stoop to the base servitude of passion, never more depart from our confidence in God: we say, "our mountain stands strong, we never can be moved."-But our vivid perceptions fade, and our steps begin to faulter; the darkness of our minds abates our confidence in God, intercourse with the world gives birth to new desires, the force of example lends vigour to the passions, God hides his face and we are troubled.
The history of our psalmist is the history of every christian. Because every christian is a sinner to be redeemed by grace; and the redemption of his nature being only perfected in part, he has neither the clear perceptions nor the strong and steady feelings that sustain the upright in an even course. The story of his redemption is a story of grace abounding; a history of God's patience ten thousand times tested; a history of his pity ten thousand times displayed; a history of his power ten thousand times exerted; and all to confirm to us this single simple truth, that all our own goodness is like the morning cloud, and that if ever we attain to the perfection of our being, the work from first to last must be salvation by his grace.
You saw our patriarch on last Lord's day in all the purity of his exalted piety, and in all the elevation of a great and lofty spirit. You saw a man to whose service kings stood debtors, and who scorned a recompense at the hand of kings; you saw him stooping lowly with his fresh cropped laurels and owning all subjection to the God of battles ; you saw that God of battles like a father and a friend come down to the lowly dwelling of the patriarch, and tell him
of future plans of glory and of good, which centuries alone would be sufficient to unfold; you saw how he was at pains to provide for his frail frieud new and strange assurance that bis hope should not miscarry; you saw the spirit of this man of God wrapt for a while from mortal sense and sight, while the visions of God were made plain to his per. ceptions, and the voice that never deceives was made dis. tinctly audible. You knew well the feelings of the highly favored Abram as the symbols of God's presence passed before him; it was then your own conviction that had you stood in Abram's stead, had you seen the smoking furnace and the burning lamp, and heard distinctly that voice of the Almighty, you would have rested most securely in the promise and the pledge, and no more considered delay as the trial of your patience.
So thought Abram when the vision of God had left him. So no doubt for months he rested in contentment. But the promise was to him a matter of tender interest; to Sarai it was a matter of high and ardent hope. The man who had exhibited such a gallant spirit, when his little band hung on the rear of the invading armies, and when his soul spurned reward in the vale of Shaveh; a man of such a high and uncontaminated mind would of course be communicative to the woman of his choice about all in which their hearts and their interests were so blended. For take this as a rule that knows of no exception, a pure and elevated mind, is always the most feeling, and always the most faiibful in every thing connected with our social relations. Even the affection and heroism of his little band of servants proclaim the mild and fatherly dominion of their gallant master; the wife and the children, the de. pendant or the friend, will meet with a consideration at
once respectful; tender and unfailing from the mind that cannot stoop in any situation to act the unworthy or unfeeling part. And there too is the strength of friendship unimpaired, and there the fires of love will ever glow; while the little, fluttering, domineering, changeling, intoxicated one moment with a small superiority, and blown about the next with a puff of vanity, has neither self-com mand nor self-respect sufficient to act a part consistent with the relations he sustains; to the mighty he is a sycophant, to the weak a tyrant; among the wise a mere tyro, among the ignorant a Solomon; and a changeling among all.The elevation of our patriarch's sentiments kept pace with the honors that bloomed upon his brow, kept pace with the dignity to which his character was advanced in being wrapt in the solemnities of the visions of God. Still he was a kind and condescending master; and the hero of the age, the friend of the Almighty, the father of the faithful, still breathed into the ear of his Sarai the thoughts of his heart, still shared with her his solicitude and cares; and that in an age when woman was degraded from a companion and a friend to a state the most abject.
How strong and how tender was this mutual solicitude, and how frequent and free their interchange of thought, appears from the device suggested by Sarai. They had been now above ten years in Palestine; for ten long years they had hoped and looked for that promised son, the founder of their race, and still were disappointed. The late reRewal of the promise in terms so magnificent and with so-, lemnities so august, while it re-assured their minds that their hope should one day be crowned, within no long while excited greater impatience to witness the accomplishment. It was this that prompted Sarai at length to make a proposal which under the guidance of well regula