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now read, as the foundation of another Lec- | with Sarai's beauty, had made his court to ture on the history of Abram, is just and her, on the presumption of her being a single striking. “He that believeth shall not make woman, by the usual modes of attention, and haste.” Faith neither lags behind, nor strives presents numerous and costly, suitable to his to outrun the word of God. “ Thus saith the rank and the manners of the times: “ sheep, Lord," is its rule and measure; it endures, oxen, he-asses, men-servants, maid-servants, waits, proceeds, acts, refrains, as “ seeing him she-asses, and camels.". Of the female serwho is invisible.” But in the most composed, vants probably bestowed upon that occasion, firmest, and faithfullest of believers, we find one is now brought particularly into view, the frailties and infirmities of the man fre- and occupies a conspicuous place henceforquently predominant; and a slighter tempta- ward in this history. The deception attempttion sometimes prevailing, after more severe ed by Abram, in making his wife pass for a and difficult trials have been withstood and sister, is very little to his credit; and his overcome. Nothing can exceed the solem- accepting presents from Pharaoh, circumnity with which God ratified his covenant stanced as he was, and knowing what he did, with Abram, as recorded in the fifteenth chap- was far from being an honourable proceeding; ter of Genesis. Under the sanction of the indeed, no good could be expected to come most awful forms and ceremonies, a son is of it; and though God did not, at the time, promised, the future father of a numerous reproach him for his conduct by a verbal reOffspring; and an inheritance is allotted to proof, he is now preparing, by his righteous that chosen seed, by him who has all things providence, to make him feel that he had in heaven and in earth at his disposal. Abram acted wrong. Thus, the monuments of our takes the word of God as a full security; faults become the instruments of our punishbelieves and rejoices. He had now dwelt ten ment. Sarai proposes to her husband to asyears in Canaan : and notwithstanding his sume this Egyptian handmaid, Hagar, as a advanced period of life, we find him discover- secondary, or inferior wife : in hope of building nothing like eagerness or impatience; ing up a family by her, and thus of making he“ believed" and therefore did not make the promise to take effect. Unnatural as this haste.” But though he was not the first to may appear, it is far from being without a de an undue and intemperate method of parallel. The truth is, it is very natural, and arriving at the accomplishment of the pro- very common, to try to get rid of a present mise, we find him ready enough to adopt one pressure, though with the hazard of subjectof this nature when it was suggested to ing ourselves to a heavier burthen. Every him.
thing was wrong here. A shameful distrust It was now put beyond a doubt that Abram of God; an attempt to introduce a foreign should become a father, but it has not yet and perhaps an idolatrous mother into the been declared explicitly that Sarai shall be family of Abram: a most unwise and incona mother. With the anxiety natural to wo-siderate tampering with her husband's affecmen in her circumstances, however, we may tion ; a foundation laid of probable, if not of suppose her to hope till she could hope no certain domestic jealousies and quarrels; longer. At length, her feelings as a wife gave evil done in vain expectation that good may way to her concern about her husband's glory come of it. Abram complies with the sugand happiness ; and she consents to Abram's gestion of his wife, and Hagar conceives. having children by another, rather than that It requires not the gift of prophecy to foresee he should not have children at all. Projects the consequence. Hagar becomes vain and formed and executed in haste, are generally insolent, and Sarai is thoroughly mortified. repented of at leisure; and when we fly in The handmaid now considers herself as her the face either of nature or of religion, we mistress's equal, if not her superior; she shall speedily and infallibly find both the one views Abram's vast possessions, and vaster and the other much too powerful for us. Sarai's prospects
, as entailed on her posterity. Little was a lot to be envied by most women; beau- and wicked minds are soon elevated, and as tiful and beloved even to old age; mistress easily depressed. The whole of Sarai's beof an ample fortune, and a numerous train haviour, is that of a peevish, unreasonable, of domestics: the wife of a prince, and, what disappointed woman. The wise scheme was is much more, of an amiable and excellent of her own contriving; and now that she man. But the glory and joy of all these flat- feels the effect of her impetuosity and rashtering circumstances were marred and di-ness, she turns the edge of her resentment minished by one perverse accident, “she bare against her innocent husband; “ And Sarai Abram no children.” Not blindly and capri- said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: ciously, but in wisdom and in righteousness, I have given my maid into thy bosom, and the great God apportions to the sons of men when she saw that she had conceived, I was good and evil in this life; that none may be despised in her eyes: the Lord judge beexalted above measure, and that none may tween me and thee."* How weak, wicked, sink into dejection and despair. During and absurd is all this! Had the good man Abram's sojouru in Egypt, Pharaoh, smitten |
* Gen. xvi. 5.
formed a deliberate design of injuring and for “when Sarai dealt hardly with her, sho
This is the first time we read in scripture upon a false or frivolous one; an angry spirit of the appearance of an angel; and it was to sticks at nothing. For this reason, I will reprove, exhort, and succour an helpless afsooner believe a plain, unprofessing man, on flicted woman: and thus is mercy ever more his simple word, than ten thousand common ready to come at the call of misery, than jusswearers, under the sanction of as many tice to pursue the footsteps of guilt. From oaths.
the whole tenor of the history, we are led to See into what disorder one ill-advised mea- conclude, that this heavenly vision was the sure has thrown a happy, well-regulated fa- uncreated angel, God in the form, and permily. Abram’s ill-judged compliance with forming the office of a “ministering spirit;" the precipitate advice of his wife, has em- for this angel assumes the names and attribroiled him in contention with herself; it butes of God, speaks of Hagar's present conconstrains him to connive at her cruel treat- dition, and future prospects, with the knowment of an unhappy woman, who is at least ledge peculiar to Deity; and describes the to be pitied as much as blamed; and renders extraordinary future greatness of the male the prospect of the promised seed a heavy child, with which she was pregnant, as his affliction instead of a blessing. Sarai is be- own work. The event demonstrates whose trayed by the eagerness of her spirit, first the prediction was: and Hagar evidently into an absurdity: then into unkindness and considered the person who spake with her undutifulness towards her lord; then into in this light; for she ascribes to him the inprofanity and impiety towards God; then by communicable name Jehovah, and adores an easy transition, into barbarity towards a him as the omniscient, omnipresent God.wretched slave, who was entirely at her“ And the angel of the Lord said unto her, mercy, who had been brought, without any I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it high degree of criminality, into a condition shall not be numbered for multitude. And which claims compassion and attention from the angel of the Lord said unto her, Beall; brought into it by herself too: and this hold thou art with child, and shalt bear a to the endangering, for ought she knew, of son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; beall the hopes of her husband's family, and the cause the Lord hath heard thy affliction.greater interests of the human race. Hagar, And he will be a wild man; his hand will hapless wretch! an object of commiseration be against every man, and every man's hand throughout; led, perhaps reluctantly, to her against him, and he shall dwell in the premaster's bed, elevated to a transient gleam sence of all his brethren. And she called the of hope, exulting in the prosperity of a nio- name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou ment, hurried instantly back, by all the seve- God seest me: for she said, Have I also here rities which jealousy can inflict, into the hor- looked after him that seeth me. rors of slavery, and driven from visionary A great number of striking circumstances prospects of bliss, into scenes of real distress; press upon us in the careful perusal of these ready to perish with the innocent unborn words. Does God condescend to exercise all fruit of her womb, in the wilderness, by fa- this care and tenderness about a person so mine, or the jaws of some ravenous beast! |
* Gen. xvi. 10-13.
obscure, helpless, and unbefriended as Ha- | must surely have humbled the spirit and molgar; then who is beneath his notice, or un- lified the heart of Sarai, and disposed her to important in his sight? Are the secondary receive the returning fugitive, if not with and subordinate designs of his providence of marks of external complaisance, at least with such extensive and permanent consequence secret and silent satisfaction. And Abram, to the world? Then, of what infinite and always wise, and gentle, and good, would eternal weight, is his first, great leading ob- now necessarily rejoice in the restored peace ject? If an Ishmael be introduced into the of his family; in this fresh demonstration of world with so much pomp and solemnity, the divine tenderness towards himself and all what must the birth of an Isaac be? And who belonged to him; in the farther enlargewhat must it be, when God bringeth his own ment and extent of the blessing promised; first-begotten upon the scene, whom all the and in the prospect of the final and full accomangels are commanded to worship? How plishment of all that the Lord had spoken. astonishingly awful is that foreknowledge, According to the word of the angel, Hawhich discovered, before he was born, Ish- gar in due time bears a son to Abram, in the mael's character; and that power which pre- eighty-sixth year of his age, and the eleventh determined and affected the character and after his departure from Ur of the Chaldees. state of his posterity to the latest ages, while To preserve forever the memory of the divine as yet their progenitor was in his mother's interposition, the name given to the child by womb ? How are all the designs of the Most the angel in the wilderness, is put upon him High, in the course of his adorable provi- by his pious father, to whom, no doubt, Hadence, and the execution of them, rendered gar had carefully related the whole transsubservient to one glorious purpose, which action, Ishmael, “God shall hear,” because rises superior to, and absorbs all the rest - God heard, pitied, and relieved her affliction. the plan of salvation by a Redeemer! How And such was the origin of the father and wisely are the children both of the bond wo-founder of the Arabian nation; a people, man and of the free, reminded of the lowness who, in their character and manners, through and helplessness of their original ! “ A Sy- every period of their history, evince from rian ready to perish was my father," says the what root they sprung, and verify the preone; " an Egyptian bondmaid ready to perish diction concerning their progenitor, “ he will was my mother," says the other.
be a wild man, his hand will be against What a happy circumstance it was for every man, and every man's hand against Hagar to have lived so long in Abram's house! him.” And history illustrates the expression Liberty in Egypt had not proved a blessing of the angel, “and he shall dwell in the preso great, as slavery in Canaan. To be ex- sence of all his brethren.” For whereas the alted to the dignity of a mother to princes ! slavery and subjection of all other nations To be introduced to the knowledge of the make a considerable part of their history, living and true God! How different are the that of the Arabs is entirely composed of a appearances of Providence, considered at the relation of their conquests, or their independmoment, and viewed through the medium of ence. They are at present, and have conreflection and experience! Under the im- tinued through the remotest ages, during the pulse of sorrow or of joy, we cry out, “all various and successive victorious expeditions these things are against me,” or “ it is good of Greeks, Romans, and Tartars, a separate, for me to be here" but when the account a free, an independent, and an invincible nacomes to be arranged, after the transport is tion; a mighty band of illustrious robbers, over, we find ourselves necessitated to trans- united among themselves, and formidable to fer many articles to the opposite pages, and all the world; inhabiting a vast country of to state that as favourable, which once we one thousand three hundred miles in length, called adverse; and that a misfortune which and one thousand two hundred in breadthonce we accounted a blessing.
one region of which, from the purity and saThe history informs us of Hagar's flight, lubrity of its air, and the fertility of its soil, but leaves us to draw our own conclusions is deservedly denominated the happy; it prorespecting her return. Indeed, we may now duces the finest fruits, spices, and perfumes suppose all parties to have been brought a in the world, and is remarkable for breeding little to themselves. The solitude and dan- the most beautiful and useful animals of their gers of the wilderness, and the apparition of kind, horses, camels, and dromedaries. the angel, awful, though in mercy, have of We hasten to conclude this Lecture, by course, greatly diminished in Hagar's mind adding to the reflections already made, this the rigour of her mistress's treatment, and farther one, that we are not to judge of the she is glad to return to her former habitation. greatness and importance of the designs of The sudden disappearing of her maid; the Providence, by any worldly marks of distincjust apprehension of the evil which might tion and pre-eminence. The posterity of have befallen a desperate woman in her deli- Ishmael was much earlier, and has been cate situation; time, serious reflection, and much longer established, and existed in a remorse for her cruel and unjust behaviour, much higher degree of national dignity and
consequence, than the posterity of Isaac. But sage, which is Hagar; for this Hagar is Mount in the line of Isaac, not that of Ishmael, run Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to," or is in the promises of life and salvation. To Isaac the same rank with, “Jerusalem which now and not to his elder brother, pertained “the is, and is in bondage with her children. But adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, Jerusalem which is above is free, which is and the giving of the law, and the service of the mother of us all. For it is written, reGod, and the promises,” and of him “as con- joice, thou barren, that bearest not: break cerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over forth and cry, thou that travailest not, for the all, God, blessed forever.” The things which desolate hath more children than she which are highly esteemed among men, are often hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as of no price in the sight of Him, who “ hath Isaac was, are the children of promise: but chosen the foolish things of the world to as then, he that was born after the flesh, perconfound the wise, weak things to confound secuted him that was born after the Spirit, the mighty, base things of the world, and even so it is now. Nevertheless, what saith things which are despised, yea, and things the Scripture? Cast out the bond woman which are not, to bring to nought things and her son; for the son of the bond woman which are, that no fesh should glory in his shall not be heir with the son of the free presence.” With Ishmael we have nothing woman. So then, brethren, we are children to do, nor with his posterity; they are to us not of the bond woman, but of the free."* only a wild man and a wild people, inhabiting Behold the two prime branches of Abram's such a region of the globe. But in Isaac and family from their birth down to this day, sethe fortunes of his family we are deeply in- parated, supported, distinguished from the terested indeed, as the apostle Paul, writing rest of mankind, and from each other, a to the Galatians, clearly evinceth: and his standing proof of the power and providence words shall be the evangelical illustration of God, and a demonstration of the authentiof the subject.“ Abram had two sons; the city of that revelation which we acknowone by a bond maid, the other by a free wo- ledge as divine, and on which we will build man, but he who was of the bond woman all our faith and hope. “Behold, the counwas born after the flesh; but he of the free sel of the Lord shall stand forever, and the woman was by promise; which things are purpose of his heart to a thousand generaan allegory,” (that is, one thing is expressed, tions.” God grant us wisdom to understand and another hinted at or signified,) " for and do his will, to the glory of his great these are the two covenants: the one from name, and our own eternal salvation. Amen. the Mount Sinai, which gendereth to bond
• Gal. iv. 22–31.
HISTORY OF ABR A M.
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.—HEB. xiü. 2.
When men are disappointed in their ex Men stand continually in need of each pectations, it is natural for them to become other, and therefore every man is bound to negligent about the performance of their give his countenance, to show kindness, and duties. Irritated or grieved at one thing, to grant support to every man. We cannot they grow careless in every thing; and be move a single step through the world, withcause another has failed in affection or re- out being brought into connexion with spect to us, we suffer ourselves to behave strangers, and of course, without having opunkindly and disrespectfully to others. The portunities afforded us of doing or receiving effect which mortification, disappointment, some instance of hospitality. To be careless or injuries, have upon truly good minds, is, or unkind in this respect, then, is to be at however, the reverse of this; the vexation or once unwise, inhuman, and unjust. Chrisdistress they themselves have endured, is tianity has taken into its service every valuathe strongest of incentives to prevent, as far ble and worthy principle of our nature, and as they are able, similar occasion of affliction calls the whole catalogue of human virtues to their brethren of mankind.
As we are continually reminded,
in the course of providence, of our being title is premature; but faith considers that pilgrims and strangers upon earth, so we are as done which is promised. Observe Abrastrictly and repeatedly enjoined by the laws ham's posture while God talks with him ; of the gospel, to be attentive and kind to "he fell on his face."* The presence of the strangers. "Be given to hospitality,” says Almighty is the loudest call to humility, and Paul. “ Use hospitality one to another with the more any one knows of God, the more he out grudgings," says Peter; and in the words must fear before him. Behold Abraham I have read, the Apostle recommends the fallen to the ground, and angels covering same duty of humanity, " be not forgetful to their faces with their wings, and tremble entertain strangers,” which he enforces by a thou, O man, before him ! motive which every heart must feel, “for But the trial of Abraham's faith and obedi. thereby some have entertained angels una- ence is not yet over. God has appeared, not wares." It is of this motive, and of the his- to fulfil the promises under the first covetory to which it refers, that we are now to nant, but to enter into a second : and, instead discourse.
of receiving the long expected son, he is After a delay of ten years, the promise of commanded to perform an unpleasant and a son is made good to Abram. But as he painful operation upon his own body, and consulted not God in the means of obtaining upon all the males of his family. To quality, that blessing, so God consults not his views however, the bitterness of this prescription, and expectations in the character and desti- the promise becomes more express, and brings nation of the son given to him. For it is one the darling object closer to the eye; it is thing to be blessed and to prosper in the gifts now declared that Sarai, whose name too of Providence, and another to be blessed in was changed, as a witness and token of the the course of the promise, and according to event, should bear a son, and that next year the tenor of the covenant. The seed which should at length crown all his wishes, and the Most High sware that he would raise up, evince the truth and faithfulness of God. was to prove an universal benefit to man- Abraham acquiesces with gratitude and joy. kind; but the son whom Hagar bear, was to He had believed and trusted God, when the be “a wild man; whose hand should be event was more obscure and remote, and against every man, and every man's hand now that it is more distinctly seen, and against him:" Abram therefore is apparently brought to the very eve of accomplishment, as far as ever from his favourite object; and his heart exults with purer and more sensias a farther trial of his faith, perhaps to pu- ble delight. This the scripture expresses, by nish him for deviating from the strict line of saying, he fell on his face and laughed ; a his duty, though with an honest intention, circumstance which Providence instantly thirteen years more are permitted to elapse, lays hold of, and perpetuates to every future and yet no symptom of the expected mercy generation the memory of Abraham's faith appears.
on this occasion—the son that should be At that period, while the improbability, in born, shall by his name, Isaac, he shall laugh, the course of nature, was daily increasing, express that emotion, which his pious, beAbram is again visited with the visions of lieving father felt, when the will of God was the Almighty. Our attendance upon God revealed to him. Abraham laughed in faith, must be constant and assiduous, and it is and is rewarded every time he beholds his equally our interest and our duty to wait son, or hears his name pronounced, by the upon him; but if he makes himselfknown to approbation of God and his own conscience: us at all, at whatever season, in whatever Sarah afterwards laughed in incredulity, and manner, it is infinite grace and condescen- was as often reproved for her unbelief. sion. Jehovah's appointed time is now at We hear not Abraham inquiring into the length come to enter on the performance of reasons or meaning of God's covenant of his own work in his own way. The very circumcision ; and we will imitate his pious first word that proceeds from his lips removes reserve and submission. It was sufficient to every difficulty, though natural obstacles him, and be it so to us, that thus God would might seem increased: “I am the Almighty have it to be. That the great Jehovah God,''* or God all-sufficient; fear therefore should have distinguished the descendants no failure of the covenant on my part, for of that family from all the families of the what truth hath spoken, that shall omnipo- earth, by this token, and continue to the tence bring to pass; and see that there be no present hour thus to distinguish them, after unfaithfulness on thine,“walk before me, and almost every other badge of difference is obbe thou perfect." The former declarations literated and lost ; that the posterity of Abraconcerning a numerous offspring are renew- ham should persevere in this practice, ed, and an alteration is made in the patri- through a period so extended, and that no arch's name, importing his relation to a mul- other nation should ever have adopted it as titude of princes and nations who should an established rite of their religion, is one of spring from him. To the eye of nature the those apparently unimportant circumstances
• Gen. xvii. 1.
• Gen. xvii. 7.