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HISTORY OF ABR A M.
And it came to pass, that when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold, a smoking furnace, and a
burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the saine day the Lord made a covenant with Abram.--GENESIS XV. 17, 18.
THERE is something awfully pleasant, in they are put upon a clearer and surer fountracing the manners and customs of ancient dation than they were before. Now the times, and of distant nations ; particularly in order and form of Abram's sacritice described the celebration of their religious ceremonies. in the ninth and tenth verses of this chapter, Religion in every age and nation, has been is a full illustration of the meaning of the the foundation of good faith, and of mutual words, “ And he said unto him, Take me an confidence among men. The most solemn heifer of three years old, and a she-goat of conventions, and the most explicit declara- three years old, and a ram of three years old, tions have been considered as imperfect, till and a turtle dove, and a young pigeon. And the oath of God was interposed, and until the he took unto him all these, and divided them other august sanctions of divine worship rati- in the midst, and laid each piece one fied and confirmed the transaction. It can- against another; but the birds divided he not but be a high gratification to every lover not." And in the text, “ the Lord made a of the holy scriptures, to find in the Bible the covenant," i. e. he cut asunder or divided origin and the model of all the significant a purifying victim. Abram, according to religious rites of latter ages and of remoter God's command, took an heifer, a she-goat nations; to find in Moses, the pattern of and a ram, each of three years old, slew usages described by a Homer and a Titus them; divided each into equal parts ; placed Livius, as in general practice among the the separated limbs opposite to each other, two most respectable and enlightened nations leaving a passage between; passed between of antiquity, the Greeks and Romans. the parts himself, according to the custom of
Making of covenants is one of the most the sacrifice; and when the sun was down, frequent and custoinary transactions in the that the appearance might be more visible history of mankind. Controversies and quar- and striking, the Shechinah, or visible token rels of every sort issued at length in a cove- of God's presence, passed also between the nant between the contending parties. The divided limbs of the victims, as “a smoking solemn compacts which have taken place be- furnace and a burning lamp;" the final ratitween God and man, are known by the same fication of this new treaty between God and name; and have been confirmed by similar Abram. By this covenant God graciously forms and ceremonies. The word translated became bound to give Abram a son of his to make a covenant, in all the three learned own loins, who should become the father of languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin: that a great nation, and the progenitor, after the is, according to the uniform application of it flesh, of the great Saviour and deliverer of in the Old Testament, and the constant the human race; and Abram on his part phraseology of the most approved Greek and bound himself to a firm reliance upon all Roman authors, signifies to cut, to separate, God's promises, and a cheerful obedience to by cutting asunder, to strike down. The all his commands. Such were the awful soword translated covenant, in the original lemnities of this important transaction. What Hebrew, according as we derive it from one mysteries were contained in these sacred or two words of similar form and sound, sig- rites, we pretend not to unfold. They were nifies either a purifier, that is, a purifying evidently of divine institution, for God hovictim; and the phrase, to make a covenant noured them with his presence, approbation, will import, to kill, strike, cut off, a purify- and acceptance. They apparently had been ing victim; or it may signify a grant of fa- long in use before this period; for Abram, vour, a deed of gift freely bestowed and so- without any particular instruction, prepares lemnly ratified by the most high God. And and performs the sacrifice; and they certainly according to this derivation it imports, that continued long in the church of God after the party with whom it is made, is put into this; for we find the practice as far down as a new and happier state."* Between man the times of Jeremiah, that is about the peand man, it denotes a new arrangement of riod of the dissolution of the Jewish monarcertain concerns common to both, whereby chy. The passage in this prophet to which
* Taylor's Hebrew Concordance, o. 232. we refer, describes so minutely these ancient
religious customs, and so strikingly illus- | the beasts of the earth.”
Now the exprestrates and supports the history of Abram's sions here employed, of “polluting God's covenant and sacrifice, that I trust you will name, transgressing his covenant, and not forgive my quoting it at full length. • This performing it," and the threatened punishis the word that came unto Jeremiah from ment of this violation, “their dead bodies the Lord, after that the king Zedekiah had shall be for meat unto the fowls of the heaven, made a covenant with all the people which and to the beasts of the earth,” explain to us, were at Jerusalem, to proclaim liberty unto in some measure, the meaning of those them. That every man should let his man- solemn ceremonies with which covenants servant, and every man his maid-servant, were executed. And here surely it is not being an Hebrew, or an Hebrewess, go free, unlawful to employ the lights which are that none should serve himself of them, to thrown upon this subject, by the practice of wit, of a Jew his brother. Now when all the Gentile nations, and the writings of the princes, and all the people which had those who are styled profane authors. From entered into the covenant, heard that every them we learn, that on such occasions the one should let his man-servant, and every custom was, that the contracting party or one his maid-servant go free, that none parties, having passed between the divided should serve themselves of them any more, limbs of the sacrifice, and expressed their then they obeyed, and them go. But full assent to the stipulated terms of the terwards, they turned, and caused the ser-agreement or covenant, in solemn words, vants and the handmaids, whom they had let which were pronounced with an audible go free, to return, and brought them into voice, imprecated upon themselves a bitter subjection for servants and for handmaids. curse, if they ever should violate it. Therefore the word of the Lord came to strike down this heifer, or ram, so may God Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Thus saith strike me with death, if I transgress my word the Lord, the God of Israel, I made a cove- and oath.” “ As the limbs of this animal are nant with your fathers, in the day that I divided asunder, so may my body be torn in brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, pieces, if I prove perfidious." Permit me to out of the house of bondmen, saying,• At the present one instance of many, from the two end of seven years let ye go every man his illustrious nations alluded to. The Greeks brother, an Hebrew which hath been sold and the Trojans, according to Homer, having unto thee; and when he hath served thee agreed to determine the great quarrel besix years, thou shalt let him go free from tween them, by the issue of a single combat thee: but your fathers hearkened not unto between the two rivals, Menelaus and Paris, me, neither inclined their ear. And ye the terms being solemnly adjusted and conwere now turned, and had done right in my sented to on both sides, the ratification of the sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to covenant is thus described, Iliad, lib. III. 338.1 his neighbour, and ye had made a covenant “ The Grecian prince drew the sacred knife, before me in the house which is called by cut off a lock of wool from each of the heads my name. But ye turned and polluted my • Jer. xxxiv. 8-20. name, and caused every man his servant, † It may perhaps be amusing to the reader, to com. and every man his handmaid, whom he had pare the simplicity of a literal prose translation, with
the poetical elegance and spirit of the English Homer. set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and The passage follows: brought them into subjection, to be under
"On either side a sacred herald stands,
The wine they mix, and on each monarch's hands you for servants and for handmaids. There
Pour the full urn; then draws the Grecian Jord fore, thus saith the Lord, Ye have not heark His cutlass sheath'd beside his pond'rous sword; ened unto me, in proclaiming liberty every
From the sign'd victims crops the curling hair,
The heralds part it, and the princes share; one to his brother, and every man to his Then loudly thus before the attentive bands, neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for
He calls the gods, and spreads his lifted hands : you, saith the Lord, to the sword, to the pes
"O first and greatest Pow'r! whom all obey,
Who high on Ida's holy mountain sway, tilence, and to the famine, and I will make
Eternal Jove! and you bright orb that roll you to be removed into all the kingdoms of From east to west, and view from pole to pole, the earth. And I will give the men that
Thou, mother earth! and all ye living floods!
Infernal furies and Tartarean gods, have transgressed my covenant, which have Who rule the dead, and horrid woes prepare not performed the words of the covenant For perjur'd kings, and all who falsely swear! which they had made before me, when they
“ With that the chief the tender victims slew, cut the calf in twain, and passed between the
And in the dust their bleeding bodies threw! parts thereof, the princes of Judah, and the
The vital spirit issued at the wound, princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, and the And left the members quiv'ring on the ground.
Froin the same urn they drink the mingled wine, priests, and all the people of the land which And add libations to the powr's divine ; passed between the parts of the calf ; I will While thus their pray’rs united mount the sky; even give them into the hand of their ene
Hear mighty Jove! and hear, ye gods op high!
And may their blood, who first the league confound, mies, and into the hand of them that seek Shed like this wine, distain the thirsty ground: their life; and their dead bodies shall be for
May all their comforts serve promiscuous lust,
And all their race be scatter'd as the dust!"" meat unto the fowls of the heaven, and to
Pope's Iliad, III. 376.
Hear and be witness. Ir
of the devoted lambs, which being distributed | intended ; I now return to take up the thread among the princes of the contending parties, of the narration. Abram having returned he thus, with hands lifted up and in a loud from the slaughter of the kings; having voice, prayed; O Father Jove, most glori- achieved the deliverance of Lot his brother's ous, most mighty: O sun, who seest and son from captivity ; having paid tithes to hearest every thing: ye rivers, thou earth, Melchizedec, the type and representative of and ye powers who in the regions below the great High Priest over the household of punish the false and perjured, be ye witness- God, perhaps the Son of God himself, thus es, and preserve this covenant unviolated.' early exhibited in human nature to the world; Then, having repeated the words of the co- having received the blessing from him, and venant in the audience of all, he cleft asun- bidden him farewell, retires again to the der the heads of the consecrated lambs, quietness and privacy of domestic life, humplaced their palpitating limbs opposite to bly confiding in the divine protection, and each other on the ground, poured sacred patiently waiting the aecomplishment of the wine upon them, and again prayed, or rather promises. The man who habitually seeks imprecated: 0 Jupiter Almighty, most God, is readily and happily found of him. glorious, and ye other immortals? Whoever “ After these things the word of the Lord shall first transgress his solemn oath, may his came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear brains and those of his children, flow upon not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceedthe ground like this wine, and let his wife ing great reward."* The din of war, and be divided from him and given to another.' the gratulations of victory, these transitory Thus when it was agreed to settle the con- and perturbed occupations and comforts being test for empire between Rome and Alba by over, intercourse with Heaven recoinmences the combat of three youths, brothers, on and improves : the still small voice of divine either side; after the interposition of cere- favour is again heard—“ Fear not, I am thy monies similar to those which have been de- shield.” Abram was become the dread of scribed, the Roman priest who presided, ad- one confederacy of princes, and the envy of dressed a prayer to Heaven to this effect: another; both of them situations full of dan•Hear, Father Jupiter, hear prince of Alba, ger; but his security is the protection of the and ye whole Alban nation. Whatever has Almighty. He scorned to be made rich by been read from that waxen tablet, from first the generosity of the king of Sodom; and his to last, according to the plain meaning of the magnanimity and disinterestedness are rewords, without any reservation whatever, compensed by the bounty of the great Lord the Roman people engages to stand to, and of all; “I am thy exceeding great reward.” will not be the first to violate. If with a Why should we curiously inquire after the fraudulent intention, and by an act of the nature of the heavenly vision, and ask in state, they shall first transgress, that very what manner the word of the Lord came day, O Jupiter, strike the Roman people as I unto him? Know we not the secret, the to-day shall strike this hog, and so much the inexplicable, the irresistible power which more heavily, as you are more mighty and God possesses, and exercises over the bodies more powerful than me.' And having thus and over the minds of men ? Know we not spoken, with a sharp flint, he dashed out the what it is to blush for our follies, though no brains of the animal."
eye beholds us, to tremble under the threatenThus in the three most distinguished na- ings of a guilty conscience, though no aventions that ever existed, we find the origin of ger be pursuing; and to enjoy serenity and their greatness, in similar ceremonies; em- peace, in the midst of confusion and tempest? pire founded in religion, and good faith se- Whence is this, but from the word of the cured by the sanction of solemn sacred rites. Lord within us, constraining or encouraging And is it not pleasing to find the living and us to hear ? true God, as in respect of majesty and dig This renewed declaration of the divine nity, so in priority of time, taking the lead in favour, draws from Abram a dutiful yet paall that is great and venerable among men ? thetic expostulation, on the condition of his We find Moses, the prince of sacred writers, family and affairs; in which the impatience describing a religious sacrifice performed by and fretfulness of the man, mingle with the Abram one thousand nine hundred and thir- submission and resignation of the believer. teen years before Christ, which the prince of He was grown rich and respected; he had heathen poets so exactly describes as the been victorious over his enemies, and become practice of his own country upwards of one a blessing to his friends; but he is sinking thousand years later; and which the great into the vale of years, and his great possesRoman historian relates as in use among his sions are ready to descend to a stranger, countrymen, in the time of Tullus Hostilius, Eliezer of Damascus, the steward of his the third king of Rome, before Christ about household. Is it any wonder to see a proud, six hundred and sixty-eight years.
"unmortified Haman dissatisfied, though baskThe circumstances of this interesting ing in the sunshine of royal favour, because transaction have led me much farther than I
• Gen. xv. 1.
one Mordecai sits in the king's gate, when to determine what God would have left una pious Abram feels uneasy in the enjoyment determined. It being an object of much of all this world could bestow, because one greater importance to a wise and good prince, thing was withheld ? Alas, what condition to see his subjects thriving, numerous, and of humanity is exempted, for any length of happy, than to know the exact number over tiine together, from sorrow and vexation which he reigns; just as it is much more deof spirit? How much of the affliction of the lighttul and beneficial to a man, to contemremainder of Abram's life, arose from the plate the beautiful seeming irregularity of possession of that blessing, which he now the starry heavens, to lose ourselves, as it coveted so earnestly! But surely we should were, in their glory and immensity, and to do but slender justice to the holy man, in enjoy their benign influences, than to fix supposing that the sentiments which he ex- with the utmost exactness and precision, their pressed upon this occasion were merely the number, motions, and distances. Accordingeffect of a natural desire of having children ly, we find, that in the days of Solomon the of his own body, to whom his large posses- son of David, when Jewish splendour and sions might descend. The man who rejoiced populousness were at their zenith, no atin the prospect of the Saviour's day; the man tempt was made to discover the number of who was ready at God's command to offer the people; but in conformity to the obvious up Isaac in sacrifice ; the man who had given intention of God, in the passage now under up every thing nature holds dear, when duty review, that matter was for ever left in a called him to it; and who took the simple pro- state of glorious uncertainty. mise of God as a full indemnification ; such a Abram's doubts are now entirely removed ; man must, in charity, be presumed to entertain he believed in the Lord; and counted it to the most liberal and disinterested views, in him for righteousness."* As God rewards thus ardently desiring a son. We hear of the faithful, not by halves, not sparingly, nor no disapprobation expressed against his ar- grudgingly; so all true believers, like faithdour and impatience; on the contrary, it pro- ful Abram, honour God by an entire and uncures from God a more distinct and decisive limited confidence; and believe not only in promise of the speedy accomplishment of his hope but against hope. The patriarch thus wishes—" And behold, the word of the Lord indulged and encouraged, presumes still farcame unto him, saying, This shall not be ther on the divine goodness, to entreat some thine heir; but he that shall come forth out present token of the truth and certainty of of thine own bowels shall be thine heir."* the promises made to him. And he said, The time, though not the manner of the vi- Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall sion is fully conveyed to us; it was early in inherit it?”ł Both from what goes before the morning while it was yet dark, for «he and follows, we must conclude, that this was brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now not a request of diffidence, but of desire and toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be love. We neither desire nor exact from our able to number them. And he said unto friends formal obligations to show us kindhim, So shall thy seed be.”+ Scripture allu- ness: this would imply a doubt of their atsions to natural objects, are adapted to the tachment; but we dearly love to bear about ordinary conceptions of mankind.
us the tokens of their affection. In like is represented as rising, and setting, and manner Abram asked for a sign, not that he moving round the earth; and the stars are suspected any thing, but because he loved represented as innumerable, because this is much. It was taken, as it was meant; and apparently the case, and justified by the ideas friendship was strengthened by the request and and language of all nations, though the fact the grant of it. The covenant which ensued, be philosophically otherwise. Surely the and the ceremonies by which it was ratified, truth of God, in his promise to Abram, is have already been considered. But some farlittle affected by the astronomical arrange-ther circumstances here recorded well dement of the heavenly bodies, which latter serve our notice. The order for the sacrifice ages have devised, and whereby the number was given early in the morning. The former of those glorious luminaries is determined to part of the day was employed in preparing it; a greater degree of accuracy. What the and we may suppose all things ready by promise means to give the good man full as Abram has done what was incumbent surance of, is, that his posterity should be upon him; but the great God is not limited both numerous and illustrious beyond all to seasons or forms; Abram must therefore conception. And, if I may be permitted to wait and watch-wait till God condescends hazard a conjecture, and to anticipate an ob- to appear-watch, that his sacrifice be not servation on this subject, the error of David, plundered or polluted. At length, about the many ages afterwards, in insisting on having going down of the sun, the approach of deity the people numbered in his reign, which was is felt
. “And when the sun was going down one of the most prosperous periods of the Is- a deep sleep fell upon Abram: and lo, an horraelitish history, consisted in his attempting ror of great darkness fell upon him."| How in. Gen. xv. 5.
Gen. xv. 8. 1 Gen. xv. 12.
Gen. xv. 4.
* Gen. xv. 6.
supportable must be the visitations of God's an- day, when they that be wise shall shine as ger! (I tremble while I speak) if the visions the brightness of the firmament, and they of his mercy and love are so awful and tre- that turn many to righteousness, as the stars mendous! While he was in this ecstacy, the for ever and ever." principal events that should affect his family Is every discovery of God a mixture of light for the space of four hundred years, are re- and darkness, “a furnace that smoketh, a vealed to him; and the issue is to be, at the lamp that burneth,” “ a pillar of cloud, a pilend of that period, the quiet and certain pos- lar of fire ?". Let us rejoice, and walk, and session of the very land which he then inha- live in that light; let us revere, adore, and bited ; even from the Nile to the Euphrates. preserve an humble distance from that darkBut we trespass on your patience too long. ness. Are the visits of God's wrath intolerable
Let us, in conclusion, raise our thoughts to the wicked; and the approaches of his to a new covenant, established on better pro- gracious presence awful even to the good ? mises; to a sacrifice whose “ blood cleanseth Let us, then, think of drawing nigh to him, from all sin;" “ to a new and living way con- only through the son of his love, in whom he secrated into the holiest of all, through the is ever well pleased. veil, the Redeemer's flesh." Let us look to Is the covenant on God's part “ ordered in that body which was broken upon the cross, all things and sure ?" Are all“ the prothe atonement for transgression ; “ to that in- mises” in Christ "yea and amen?" Is the heritance which is incorruptible, undefiled, “glory” they propose and ensure,“ yet to be and that fadeth not away ;" * to that kingdom revealed ?" “ Be not faithless but believwhich cannot be moved,” that government ing;" "cast all your care upon him, for he and peace of " which there shall be no end;" careth for you." “ Now we see through a to that “great multitude which no man can glass darkly; but then face to face: now I number, of all nations, and kindreds, and know in part; but then I shall know even as people, and tongues, which stand before the also I am known." "He who cometh, will throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white come and will not tarry.” “ 'The of robes, and palms in their hands;" to that our Lord Jesus be with your spirits." Amen
HISTORY OF ABRAM.
He that believeth shall not make haste.--ISAIAH xxvii. 16.
TAB ways of Providence and the workings | wash in Jordan seven times, and thou shalt be of the human mind do not always keep pace clean." It is rare to find a faith which steadily, one with another. In the pursuit of their ends, cheerfully, and constantly walks hand in hand men are at one time careless and indolent, with the purpose and promise of Heaven. at another, over eager and hasty; but God is We either " stagger at the promise, through ever advancing towards his, with a steady, unbelief," or impatiently strive to bring forprogressive, majestic pace. When we get ward the accomplishment by indirect mesight of a favourite object, we grasp at it thods. through possibility and impossibility ; we When we look into history, how unlike do hurry on to possession, too little scrupulous events appear from the form into which they about the means. To God all things are were previously shaped by the fond expectapossible; and “he is the rock, his work is tions of the persons concerned! The Jews, perfect, for all his ways are judgment: a God in the person of Messiah, looked for a prince of truth and without iniquity; just and right who should revive the faded splendour of is he.” Men ignorantly and weakly judge David's throne ; but the Messiah whom God of their Maker by themselves, and foolishly raised up, established a kingdom "of rightattempt to regulate the divine procedure by eousness and peace, and joy in the Holy their own preconceived opinions of it: “ Be- Ghost." The disciples are dreaming of sithold I thought,” said Naaman the Syrian, ting at their Master's right and left hand, "he will surely come out to me, and stand, when “the kingdom should be restored to and call upon the name of the Lord his God, Israel;" he is sending them forth to “suffer and strike his hand over the place, and re- shame for his name. cover the leper;" but God had said, “Go and The sentiment of the prophet which I have