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which he had been accustomed to; and he was not like young Samuel, who had not . learned to know the voice of the Lord. *: 2. He set about the work immediately. It seems to have been in the night that the command was given, and he rose up early in the morning to put it into execution. We could not have blamed him had he lingered, like Lot in Sodom; but Abraham was not a loiterer in the service of God. He left the business of his flocks and herds, and went directly upon the business of the Lord.
3. He carefully guarded against hindrances. He neither told Sarah, nor Isaac, nor his servants, what he was about to do. Perhaps they would have opposed his pious resolution to put into execution the divine command. The maternal feelings of Sarah, especially, might have induced her to interpose; but it does not appear that she was acquainted with her lord's intention. For want of prudence, we often make our way rough and unpleasant, and our duties far more difficult than they otherwise might be. A multitude of counsellors may be safe in doubtful cases; but when our way is plain, by a revelation from the Lord, we need no other counsel.
4. Abraham made no ostentatious show of his obedience. He might have called his friends and neighbours to witness his heroical piety;
but he knew that the Lord would be his witness, and that was enough for him. He had no desire to have human applause. Hypocrites desire nothing so much as the praise of men; but all who are sincere of heart, desire above all things the approbation of the Lord. Jehu said, “ Come see my zeal for the Lord.” Let us carefully guard against a desire to be seen of men. Not that our conduct can be hid, for if we honour God, he will honour us before the people; but our intentions should ever be free from this base motive. It is worthy of remark, that Abraham did not suffer even his young men to witness his conduct upon this occasion; for when they drew near the place where Isaac was to be offered up, he said to them, “ Abide ye here with the ass, and I and the lad will go yonder and worship."
5. Abraham was persevering in duty. Many have begun well, who at length have tired and become faint in their minds; but Abraham persevered to the end. He had time to reflect and to waver, for he had a long journey to perform before he could offer up his son; but he did not waver a moment from first to last. The journey was performed, the altar erected, the wood prea pared, Isaac was bound and laid upon the altar, and the hand was stretched forth to slay him; when God interposed, and said, “ Lay not thine hands upon the lad, nei
ther do thou any thing unto him.” O what faith-what love to God what obedience to the will of heaven! We talk a great deal about duties : we complain bitterly of hardships; but Abraham's obedience was silent and cheerful. im
III. WHAT LESSONS MAY WE LEARN FROM THE WHOLE TRANSACTION ?
1. We learn from this transaction, that the will of God should be a law to man. We should be more anxious to know whether what we do be the will of God, than to pry into the reasons of it; for that being clearly determined, the other may be left. Whatever God wills is not only good, but absolutely necessary; and when the will of God is known, man should instantly comply. We are apt to set up our pretended wisdom against God, as if we knew better what should be done than he can tell us; but Abraham manifested real wisdom, by making the will of God his sovereign law. Let us imitate his bright example, saying in all circumstances, and upon all occasions, “ The will of the Lord be done.”.
2. This transaction proves that what the Lord requires is not impossible. When God commands, he always gives strength to obey: He helps feeble man by the secret influences of his holy Spirit, so that nothing is wanted
in difficult duties, buta willing mind. Power belongeth unto God, and he imparts that degree of power which is needful. Never was a case more difficult than this; but it was easy to Abraham, because he had the help of God. Let the followers of Jesus take encouragement! Each of them may say with the apostle Paul,' “ I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
3. The greatest favourites of heaven may be severely tried. Out of much tribulation the best of men must enter the kingdom of God. This world is not our rest. Let us recollect how Job, David, Daniel, and other holy men, were tried! And is it not fit that we should be tried? Should not every grace and every virtue be proved? Besides, heaven will be more welcome after these afflictions. There we shall look back with gratitude, and bless God for the severest affliction which we have experienced in this state of trial.
4. Severe triuls frequently arise from peculiar comforts. No doubt Abraham had more comfort in Isaac than in all his other enjoyments; but Isaac must be given up. The loss of his flocks and herds, and of his gold and silver, would have been trifling. We little know, when our affections are placed upon earthly comforts, the pangs
they may cause before all is over. Jacob loved Joseph; but he was sold into Egypt. David loved Absolom; but he became a rebel, and died in disgrace.
5. It is both our wisdom and our interest to submit to the will of God in severe trials. The creature was never intended to be our chief good. At most it is but a subordinate blessing. We are in the hands of God, to whom we should leave all our concerns. When he has the rule over us, and chuses for us, all is well; and submission to his will brings peace and joy in the most calamitous events.
6. God, who gives the choicest blessings, may take his gifis away. We are but stewards, and our Lord may do what he will with his own. When Job had lost both his wealth and his children, he said, “ The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." The Lord prepared a gourd to cover the head of Jonah; but a worm smote the gourd, and it withered. Thus all our comforts may be taken away; but let us still rejoice in the Lord, and bless the God of our salvation.
7. Dark duties are no objection against clear promises. Whether we can see or not, God will fulfil his word. “Abraham judged so, and thought that God could even raise his