« AnteriorContinuar »
ted feelings she never could have brooked. Sarai bad favorite handmaid; she was an Egyptian, and no doubt one of those that Abram had acquired when he increased his wealth and tarnished his fame in that unhappy trip to Egypt. Hagar the Egyptian should have ever stood as a memorial of their former sin and shame to this adventurous couple. Hagar the Egyptian ought ever to have reminded them how they were taught in Egypt that nothing is acquired by distrust in God but disappointment and dist grace. Hagar the Egyptian ought ever to have taught them that an attempt at forestaHing the intents of Providence by ways of our devising can end only in our hurt. For Hagar was a memorial of that unhappy journey. They had in all probability acquired her there, and she was a witness to the dishonour with which they had been thence dismissed. Yet this very Hagar did Sarai herself point out in a second attempt to forestal the plans of Providence, and to accomplish in her own way what Almighty God stood pledged to accomplish at length in his. She, you will recollect, never had been mentioned as the mother of that son who was to lay the foundation of the family honors. She at last concluded that she was not to be a mother. And yet she was eager to see the hope aocomplished; she was willing to share with another the honor and the care of training up the heir of so many precious promises. Let then the mother of that heir be her own handmaid. Thus as the mistress of Hagar and the wife of Abram she should still have a sort of double property in the son so much desired: she thought- she felt as if though not bis mother, she could hail him as her son. Thus in her folly Sarai reasoned; ignorant that she was sowing thorns which should one day rankle in her bosom, and thoughtless of the purity of high heaven's laws.
Full of her plan she proposed it to Abram, and Abram, we Deed not tell you, speedily acceded to it. Let us not however, leave this unhappy woman under all the obloquy which in modern circumstances would attach to such a deed. Far be it from us to say her fault was small. Farbe it from us to diminish aught" that should teach you to abhor it. But then be it remembered that in those eastern countries, and in that early age, poligamy was common; and gustom so sanctions crime or teaches us to forget it, that the offence against the laws of God would weigh but little, or might not have weighed at all in the mind of Sarai. Apart from this we see much to pity as well as much to
Attached as Sarai doubtless was to Abram, it argued no little self-denial, indeed no little magnanimity, in her to consent, that an event so desirable might be accomplished, to share with another the affections of Abram, We speak the lauguage of nature and of all the world, when we say that the spirit of love is of all others the most monopolizing, and that the affection which can be content with the return of half the heart, must be a poor, a wretched thing. Viewed in all its circumstances, Sarai was making a sacrifice of her peace in no contemptible dea gree; she was making a willing sacrifice of an honor of all earthly honors the dearest to her heart-she was giving away to a stranger and an inferior the right of becoming progenitor to that great and glorious line, which for a long time she had hoped would have hailed her as their mo. ther. We know not what may have been the conflicts of her bosom, we know not what may bave been the sugges tions of her heart, before she was brought to tender such a sacrifice; but in this voluntary resignation of her honors, in this painful surrender of her rights, that ber husband might be happy in the accomplishment of his great wish, we cannot but mark a degree of tenderness and humility and magnanimity that, in despite of her error and illy governed zeal, so far does honor to the wife of Abram.
But God Almighty promises no honors to the violation of his law. No one may do evil in the hope that good may come. And if in contempt of the arrangements of heay. en we aim at the accomplishment of any of our wishes, not only shall we be grasping at forbidden fruit, but at fruit that, like'the fabled apples which grew by the lake of Sodom,
will fill the mouth when tasted with salt and bitter ashes.
So Sarai found. No sooner had this woman who from a slave had been raised to something like an equality with her mistress, no sooner did Hagar begin to entertain the hope that she was to be the mother of Abram's glorious line, than the very woman whose partiality had raised her, became contemptible in her eyes; and she began to as sume airs of superiority to her mistress. It is one,
and it is not the smallest of the curses of slave ry, that it degrades the feelings and almost annihilates the principles of those who are its subjects. A little mind will always triumph in a fancied superiority, and a person without principles will as readily triumph over those by -whose aid they have arisen as over any others. The triumph of Hagar was that of a base born slave, and it was precisely such as might have been looked for under such circumstances. It was the triumph of ignorance, ingratitude and baseness, over the woman who had unwisely, we must add sinfully, but at the same time in a spirit of no ori dinary magnanimity, sacrificed much and hazarded a great deal more, we will not say for her sake, but nevertheless for her advantage.
It is not strange that Sarai should have resented prompta ly and indignantly such ungrateful conduct. The loftiness of her spirit, and the generous but mistaken policy she had adopted in the case, would lead us to expect some such burst of passion. The noblest minds are always the. most sensitive; and none will so promptly resent an ungenerous outrage as those who are least capable of committing it. For, independently of the ardor of such minds, independently of all selfish considerations, there is a feeling quick and haughty that will spurn at baseness in whatever form it shews itself, while it can bear with patience, and even with tranquility, wrongs of another description a thousand times as great.
This, however, was an evil of Sarai's own procuring, and she certainly deserved it all. She who in Egypt had already learned the danger of attempting even lawful things in an unlawful way, she who had been made to see her wisdom to be folly when attempting to secure in her way what Providence had undertaken to provide for in its own, she should never have furnished to this Egyptian woman an occasion of teaching her that lesson a second time--a lesson at once so humiliating and so painful. But it is thus that our self-will, our imagined wisdom, and our distrust of Providence, perpetually are bringing us into dangers and troubles. It is in fact very rare that any one suffers for adhering to their duty. It is equally rare that they escape suffering who desert the plain and forward track of duty either to avoid difficulties or to secure advantages. It is in their own devices that cunning men are caught, it is into the pit themselves had digged designing men are tumbled, it is by the castles of their own folly that the self-willed are crushed. This is the general plan of
Providence; out of our sin he elicits punishment, and our own crooked ways conduct us to destruction.
Sarai had no one but herself to blame. But nevertheles, in the style of our first father when he impiously accused his Maker, she lays on Abram the burden of her wrong. We would by no means insinuate that Abram was not to blane. With greater light than Sarai may be supposed to have enjoyed, he was equally in fault. But then she who was the instigator had no right to charge him. Nevertheless, it was just in the dispensations of Provi. dence, that he who had acted wrongly should have his feelings wounded by the imputation of this wrong. It was just and wise that they who had conspired to increase their domestic comfort by forbidden means, should have their wishes thwarted and their comfort banished by domestic jars. And it was right that Hagar, who had triumphed so unworthily, should reap the consequence of her ingrat itude and vanity. Abram committed her entirely to Sarai's management; and Sarai dealt so hardly with her that she betook herself to flight. The next that we hear of her, she is alone in the wilderness. But into that wilder ness we will not follow ber now. We will barely note, and note for our own instruction, the sum of this sad story.
We find that this device of Sarai, for hastening the accomplishment of the promise so long looked for, ended not only in the bitterest disappointment, but in jealousies and strife and cruelty. A son indeed was born, but it was not the child of promise. And never yet did God give grounds to any mortal of high and holy hope, which he meant to fulfill by other than high and holy means. And never yet did man by any hotbed process attempt to accomplish even just and lawsul wishes, in which he has not retarded what