« AnteriorContinuar »
So they went both of them together. And they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order; and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.”
Thus Abraham, when he was tried, promptly obeyed the divine command. Neither his affection for his son, nor the severity of the divine requirement, nor his ignorance of the reasons of such a strange command, nor its apparent inconsistency with the divine promises, staggered him in the least, or caused him to hesitate a moment. As soon as he knew the will of God, he hastened to obey it. He stopped He did not wait to hear the reanot to confer with flesh and blood. sons of the divine injunction, or to have the mystery cleared up. It was enough, that God had given him the word. He made no reply; but immediately prepared to execute the dread mandate,
It remains to enquire,
III. How Abraham's obedience, on this trying occasion, was an exercise and fruit of his faith?
It is so represented by the author of our text: "By faith, Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac." It is inconceiveable, that he should have done as he did, if he had not been in the exercise of a living, strong and cordial faith. If he had either disbelieved, or felt unreconciled to the truth, on this trying occasion; if he had not received the word of God with implicit belief and unreserved submission; his natural affection would have started a thousand objections against the painful, mysterious, and apparently unreasonable and inconsistent command, laid upon him. He would have said to himself, 'Is it possible, that my Heavenly Father, who is kind and of tender mercy, and takes no delight in giving pain to any of his creatures, should really intend to subject me to the sorrow and anguish of parting with my beloved son, so unexpectedly and prematurely? Was it for this, that He miracu lously made me a joyful father, at the age of one hundred years? Did He cause Sarah to embrace a son, at the age of ninety years, that He might wring her heart with grief? Why did He suffer the child to live and grow to be a lad, and by his engaging qualities and actions, to endear himself to his parents; if He did not intend, that he should support their tottering steps, and cherish and comfort them in the evening of their days? Is it the manner of God to excite fond hopes, merely to blast them? But, what reasons can He possibly have, for requiring Isaac to be made a burnt sacrifice? Are there not lambs and kids enough for this purpose? Is it possible, that the holy God, who forbids man-slaughter, should desire a human sacrifice? But if nothing short of such a victim will satisfy Him; why does he compel the agonizing father to perform the shocking rite? And if this, indeed, be his will; how is it to be reconciled with his command to make Isaac my heir, and with his promise, that in Isaac shall my seed be called?' It cannot be. There is some misunderstanding. Either it is not God
that speaks, or he does not seriously mean to be taken, as He seems to
Thus would Abraham have reasoned and objected, if he had been an unbeliever. But he believed in God. He believed, without a doubt, that it was God who spake to him. He believed, that God had a right to command him to sacrifice his son, as He is the Maker and Possessor of the world and all that is in it, and may do what He wil with his own.' He believed, that God had good and sufficient reasons for requiring him to make such a painful sacrifice; though, for the present, He concealed them. He was sensible, that he had no right to demand of God the reasons of his mysterious requirement. And finally, Abraham believed that God knew how, and was well able to fulfill his promises; though Isaac should be slain. This we are told in the words following our text: "He that had received the promises, offered up his only-begotten Son, of whom it was said, 'That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure." Thus, against hope, he believed in hope.' He staggered not at the promises of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God." And as Abraham believed these things; so he felt reconciled to them. He was willing that God should exercise his sovereign right to take from him his beloved son, in any way he saw fit. He felt no disposition to murmur or reply against God. He desired to give God the glory dae unto his great and holy name. He was willing to part with all that be had, and to endure any affliction, whenever the glory of God required it. His faith was that true and living faith, which worketh by love,” and prompts its possessor to unconditional submission to the Divine will, and unreserved obedience to the Divine commands. Thus, By faith, Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac.
The interesting subject, which has been thus imperfectly illustrated, may serve to throw light upon some things, in the word and providence of God, which have appeared obscure. As,
1. This subject may teach us, why the faith of Abraham was accounted to him for righteousness. The apostle writes, Gal. iii. 5, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
His faith was not a dead faith, a mere speculative belief, without feeling, or against the affections of his heart. It was a holy and living faith, comprising supreme love to God, and true benevolence to his fellow-creatures. His faith, therefore, constituted him a righteous man. Possessing such faith, he was the friend and servant of God, and a proper object of the divine complacency and favour. And though he had been a sinner, and by nature a child of wrath even as others; yet, being reconciled to God and become a true penitent and righteous man, God could consistently pardon and accept him through the atonement which it was his gracious purpose should be made, in the fulness of time, by his Seed, in the line of Isaac; of which the ancient sacrifices were eminent types. Thus Abraham's faith was accounted to him for
righteousness, or reckoned to him instead of perfect obedience, as it both fulfilled the divine law, when he exercised it, and procured, through Christ, the pardon of his past transgressions.
2. This subject shows us how Abraham was justified by works. In James, ii. 21, 22, it is asked, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect."
It cannot be supposed, that Abraham was justified on the ground of any merit there was in his works. His best works were no more than his duty, and neither made an atonement for his sins, nor rendered him deserving, in point of justice, of any reward. Hence, Paul says, "We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law :" and again, 'Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ-for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."
But still, there is an important sense, in which Abraham was justified by works. His faith was a holy faith, and was proved to be so by his works. His faith led him to offer up his beloved son, at the divine command. His faith manifested itself by submission and obedience; and thus was perfected, and shown to be genuine. His works exhibited evidence, both to himself and to all who read his history, that he was the friend of God, and possessed that holy faith, which is the grand condition of justification before God. "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only," or by a faith which is alone; while, at the same time, all true believers are 'justified freely by God's grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.'
3. In the light of what has been said, we may see the reason why God tempted, or tried Abraham, in such a peculiar manner. It, no doubt, appeared very unaccountable to him, at the time. It appears, that he really thought it to be the design of God, that his son should be sacrificed by his own hands. But why God should lay upon him a command, so severe in itself, and so apparently inconsistent with the divine character, law and promises, must have seemed to him very mysterious. But,
"God is his own interpreter;
The whole transaction now appears consistent and worthy of God.It was God's design to try Abraham, in the best and most effectual manner, and not to deprive him of his beloved son. And the object in thus trying him, was, to make his faith manifest to all succeeding saints, as an example of that true and living faith, which worketh by love, and is perfected by works. In thus tempting his faithful servant, God did only that, which, as the Owner and Sovereign of the world, he had a perfect right to do. And, in his being thus tempted, we may now see, not only that the end proposed was benevolent and good, but that the means employed were suitable and wise. No doubt Abraham saw
abundant reason to bless God, for trying him, in such a peculiar and painful manner; and the Church, in all subsequent ages, have had cause to be thankful, that such an instructive and persuasive example of faith in God, submission to his will, and obedience to his commands, is set before them in the history of the father of the faithful.
4. This subject may teach us one reason, why the people of God are so often afflicted. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous." It is generally "through much tribulation" that they "enter into the kingdom of heaven." These afflictions of the righteous, have appeared unaccountable to many, besides the three friends of Job. But why may they not be designed as trials of their faith and submission, like the command of Abraham to offer up his darling son? By means of losses, bereavements and persecutions, God gives saints an opportunity to manifest the sincerity and heavenly nature of their faith, and thus to furnish evidence, to themselves and others, that they are the friends of God. Trials both form and exhibit the characters of saints, and both fit them for heaven, and increase their hope of ultimately arriving at that "holy and happy place." Hence saith Peter, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, a9 though some strange thing had happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also, with exceeding joy." And Paul writes, "We glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope; and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."
In view of this subject, let those, who hope that they are believers, examine the fruits and effects of their faith. If their faith be genuine and saving, it shows itself by their works. It is just such faith as Abraham had. He is called the father of all them that believe. True believers are the children of Abraham, as they bear his moral likeness.— Those only are true believers, who walk in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham, and obey all the commands of God, however crossing to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. Christ is not the minister of sin. He requires his followers to purify their hearts by faith, and to have their fruit unto holiness, in order that the end may be everlasting life.
Let believers be thankful for their trials. Though not joyous, but grievous in themselves; yet they are blessings on the whole, and are sent by their Heavenly Father, in faithfulness and kindness. Abrahain had reason to be thankful for his sore trial, and no doubt will be thankful for it, as long as he exists. Though few believers are tried so severely as Abraham was, and none precisely in the same way; yet all believers, when tried, may receive similar benefit from their afflictions, as the means of exercising and increasing their faith, and of manifesting it to the world. Hence James writes, "My brethren, count it all joy, when ye fall into divers temptations, (i. e. trials,) knowing this, that
trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her rfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."rue faith, which is much more precious than gold, is purified in the rnace of affliction, and prepared for praise and honour and glory, at e appearing of Jesus Christ.
Let unbelievers be exhorted to exercise a true and living faith in od, and in his Son, Jesus Christ. This duty God commands; and ithout the performance of it, no one can possibly please him. Let hem do this, and they will be the friends of God, and prepared to meet he trials, to which all are exposed in this state of probation. We know not what a day may bring forth. Parents may be called soon and suddenly, to give up their children, and children their parents : Husbands may be called to part with their wives, and wives with their husbands: and how can they do it without faith?
But there is one trial, to which all are equally exposed, which none upon earth can escape, and for which it equally concerns all to prepare. It is that of death. How happy, when this last trial comes, to have that faith, which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen, and that consequent good hope through grace, which is an anchor to the soul both sure and steadfast. Take heed, therefore, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, which departeth from the living God; but be ye followers of them who through faith and patience are inheriting the promises.' Amen.
ON DIVINE AGENCY.
Reply to Enquirer, page 490.
DEAR SIR-In respect to the case of the lying spirit, all has probably been said, that we can say to illustrate it; and our readers must judge for themselves. The substance of what I have meant to say, is, that God's telling the spirit to go, is no evidence that he went self-moved; while God's saying I have put a lying spirit, etc. is evidence that the spirit went under the influence of his agency. I am still unable to see, how it would be proper for a monarch to say, I have put such a subject in a certain place, because he barely permitted the subject to put himself there, when he, as the Regulator of the kingdom,' could have prevented his being there. I do not think it is common for intelligent men to say, that Divine Providence does, what they suppose God merely suffers or permits. To say that God may determine, or decree certain wicked things, and accomplish them, merely by giving wicked men an opportunity to do them,' is only to beg the question in dispute between us; but suppose he could; it would hardly seem proper to say, in such a case, as is said in that of the murder of Christ, that his hand, as well as his counsel, determined what should be done.
However "undeniable" it may seem to you, I shall venture to deny that "man has an agency in the creation of his voli