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the sense of our dependance upon God; it is only when we are deprived of earth-born consolation that we seek eagerly the solace of our eternal friend. To meet these. dispositions the administrations of Providence are admirably adapted. All individuals, all families, with here and there a solitary exemption, have just as many difficulties as they can well get along with; and however wisely we may plan and successfully accomplish such changes in our eircumstances as promise something like unalloyed felicia ty; yet when all bas succeeded even better than our wishes, we find ourselves, in point of real felicity, just where we were before. Or if it should at any time be our hap. piness to boast an exemption from the common experirience and feeling upon this subject, if tranquility should perch for months upon the pillow, and more than contentment beam in every expression of the eye; yet, who will guarantee our peace from those sudden interruptions which the dispensations of Providence often work in a single hour; who will assure us that we may not yet encounter even more than a common portion of the common woe, when desolation, like a hurricane, shall break over our heads, and cover with wreck the smiling prospects that surround us.
It was a dispensation of the Almighty, thus suddenthus unlooked for, that put a period to our services a very little time ago, when two of his own worshippers, while in the courts of his own house, and while the notes of his praise yet trembled on their lips, were summoned to their account before his awful throne. One minute they looked around upon a group of earthly worshippers, the next minute saw them spectators of the scene where Abraham and Isaac, and an incomprehensible multitade, the lofty
and the lowly, the aged and the young, give a loose to feelings of more than mortal utterance. God Almighty wields the energies of his own creation, and points the laws which his wisdom has established to the swift and certain execution of his will.
No condition, no prospects, no description of character, san secure us from these sudden inroads on all our plans, of happiness. Affliction comes not of the earth; trouble springs not from the ground. Almighty God wields the creation which he himself has founded, and infinite wisdom can never be at a loss about marshalling it in such a way as shall certainly accomplish, naturally and infallibly, every dictate of his will.—No condition, no prospects, no description of character, can shield us from those alarms to which it is proper we should be subject, lest in short-lived felicity we forget our eternal home.
The foundations of our felicity may seem to all around ús firm and deep-rooted as the everlasting hills, the pros- . pects which gild the residue of our years may seen stable as eternity itself; he who springs his earthquake and unseats the hills can easily crumble the foundations of our greatness; he who rides forth in the darkly lowering tempest can wrap from our vision the prospects which had charmed it.
Thus suddenly, thus completely, were all the prospects of our patriarch darkened, when, in the bosom of his family and enjoying the tempered lustre of the evening of his life, the fearful mandate announced in this short sentence met bis ear: "Take now thy son, thine only son, Isaac whom thou lovest, and get thee into land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will thee of." It is remarked in the intro
duction to this narrative that in giving this commandment God was tempting Abraham. This word we now use in a restricted, and, almost always, I believe, in a bad sense. It was not so restricted when this translation was made, nor is the original word so translated to be thus restricted in its meaning. It is used as the general designation of those appeals which may be made either to the good or bad dispositions of the heart with a view to exhibit its real character. The trial in this instance was of Abram's devos tion, whether he would cheerfully submit his will and wishes to the divine will; it was also the trial of his humility, whether he would bow the dictates of his own un derstanding to the strange requisition which infinite wisdom made; finally, it was the trial of Abraham's faith: The promise of God had taught him to expect that from this very Isaac should spring a mighty nation, that through the progeny of Isaac all nations should be blessed. Could Abraham obey this extraordinary mandate? could he offer up his son a sacrifice on mount Moriah, and yet believe that the promise should be fulfilled.
Common men would have hesitated, they might well have hesitated, before they determined on obedience to a commandment so shocking to their feelings, and so deso-. lating to their hopes. But Abram did not hesitate--not a day- not an hour. With the morning light he rose; and summoning his son and two of his domestics, announced to them his speedy departure, required their attendance, and entered on immediate preparation for the journey. They who can estimate the immensity of the sacri. tice he was about to make, and the circumstances of peculiar tenderness under wbich it was exacted, can best divine his feelings on this oecasion. It was not the smallest
aggravation that while so many were nearly concerned in the event of this journey, all the immediate sorrow was his own, and must be carefully confined within his own bosom. It is a law of our nature-a law well adapted to strengthen the social bond, and to multiply and extend the charities of life-that the strongest emotions become less intolerable when we are permitted to vent our feelings in the 'audience of a friend. The tempest of our joys as well as of our sorrows often works a mortal issue when too mighty for our utterance. Like some of the mighty forces of this world pent up within narrow compass and labouring for expansion, if no readier vent be given, they burst the rind of earth and desolate whole provinces--thus swells, thus labours, thus bursts, the human heart, under the violence of feelings which we struggle to conceal. But let the bosom surcharged with high wrought emotion, communicate from its fullness to the bosom of a friend let the tongue let the eye, sluice the overburdened heart and the feelings which first mounted with the violence of a whirlwind will subside to milder grades.
But this, the common privilege of grief-the ready and the cheap relief of those whom God has smitten, was not allowed to Abraham. He might not expound the occasion of his anguish; it was not even expedient that the anguish itself should be observed. But, with an heart all turmoil, he must preserve the semblance of ordinary tranquility; and witness without the utterance of a sigh the preparations for that journey which was to harrow up his soul.
Meanwhile every little circumstance in making this pre paration-every little article packed up to aid the sacrifice, · must have furnished so many new and strong appeals to all a father's feelings. The solicitude of a son to promote a parent's wishes would no doubt engage Isaac busily in this scene of preparation; and what must he have felt who saw him thus engaged-busily engaged in forwarding their journey, unthinking that for himself it was a journey to the grave. Every look he gave, every step he took, every word he uttered, must have come home like daggars to the heart of Abraham.
And Sarah too, providing from her domestic stores things needful for their journey in those wild unsocial times, furnished new source of the bitterest reflections.. Doating as she did on the son of her old age, solicitous for their comfort on a journey of such length, inquiring and calculating the time of their return-what force was in the stroke which smote the heart of Abraham when, on turning from his tent, a mother's fond adieu was directed to a son, an only son, whose face she should no more see. Under circumstances like thesemand no doubt with feelings thus natural--thus acute, the patriarch led on the melancholy way.
Nor was it a slight aggravation of the pains of this trial that the way was very long. Gerar lay at the south. west extremity of Canaan. Mount Moriah, on which the temple of Jerusalem afterwards stood and to which the footsteps of our patriarch were directed, lay in a northeast direction, and distant from seventy to ninety miles. Here then was leisure fof the ready play of ten thousand varying feelings. Might the commandment have been executed as speedily as it was given unexpectedly; had no occasions been presented to call forth and marshal the strong feelings of nature in the husband's and parent's breast; had no time been allotted to those ever recurring