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victim, the process was very affecting; but in that of a human victim, a son, an only son, a beloved Isaac, the heir of promise and the channel of all Divine blessing, who can comprehend the feelings which such a requisition must have excited !! But the requisition was too positive and peremptory to admit of hesitation or delay.* Abraham knew the authority from which it was derived ; and, as we shall hereafter see, he knew also the hidden mystery which the tremendous process involved. This, and this only, could have reconciled him to obedience in the performance of such an act as that which was required of him.
The age of Isaac at the time when this offering was required, is a subject that involves great difficulty, and a variety of opinion has been formed upon the subject. Perhaps more may be said in support of that which has been espoused by our learned Lightfoot, than of any other. He supposed Isaac to be about thirtythree years of age at the time of this transaction, and he founded his supposition on a correspondence between the type and antitype in respect of age, such a correspondence being found to have existed in so many other circumstances. It must, I think, be admitted that Isaac was of an age to judge of the reasonableness of submission to the Divine authority of Him who required his life, and that he voluntarily yielded himself to the will of God revealed to him by his father. That he might have escaped from his aged father, or have resisted the execution of his design, can hardly be made a question. It is certain that he understood the rite of sacrificature ; for he conversed with his father on the subject. It is also certain that he had attained a sufficient age to have strength for carrying the wood that was necessary for consuming the offering of himself, which could not have been a burden of light weight.
* 73 73 Go, Go ; or, go without hesitation or delay. This repetition of the imperative verb seems more probably to be the sense of the passage, than that of our translation and of some commentators, who take the second word to be the pronoun personal of the second person with the preposition prefixed. t Chron. Tempor. Vet T, cap. 21 and 22. Oper. Tom. i.
So also Estius, quoted by Poole in his Syuopsis. Probabile est Isaacum, cujus oblatio illustris erat typus oblationis Christi, in eo etiam cum antitypo convenisse, ut circa annum 33 offeretur.
This hypothesis of Lightfoot meets no objection in the term 79, applied to Isaac in the 18th verse, as appears by the application of this word in a variety of other instances.
It is a circumstance of no trifling aggravation in the requisition Divinely made of the father of the faithful, that Sarah his wife was alive at the time. For what reproaches might he not expect from a mother's fondness after such an act. But he consulted not with flesh and blood. The command was clear, the authority was paramount, and he obeyed.
St. Paul has pointed out the principle on which Abraham acted in this astonishing instance of self-denying obedience. It was BY FAITH that Abraham was induced and enabled to offer up his only son. No other motive could have produced such an effect. And this faith which operated so powerfully in the mind of Abraham, is to be considered not merely as credit given to the authority by which the demand was made, but as reliance placed on the faithfulness of Him who made that demand. It was “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Abraham “ believed that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.”. But we must return again to this subject. I pass on therefore for the present with only requesting your attention to the mighty obstacles with which faith, in this instance, had to contend. It had to contend both with nature and grace, if I may so speak. For the act required was not only opposed to, and subject to reprobation by all the natural instincts of the human heart; but it seemed inconsistent with the previous actings of his own faith on the promise which had been made him, that “in Isaac should his seed be called.” It had to combat with all the tender emotions of parental affection, which are, perhaps, the strongest and most durable feelings of which we are conscious. The intention of compliance with the act required must have been greatly
embittered by reflection on a mother's sufferings, when Sarah should be made acquainted with it. For Abraham must have inferred from his own feelings that those of Sarah would be exquisite, since a mother, unless she be worse than brutalized, cannot forget, so as to be destitute of compassion for the son of her womb. We may also suppose, without improbability that, among the crowd of afflicting reflections which must have rushed into the patriarch's mind, one, and that not the least, was the effect which his unnatural act would produce on the minds of the idolatrous Canaanites among whom he sojourned; the dishonour it would bring on his God, the reproach on his religion, the infamy it would entail on the character of one, who had appeared among them as the professor of a creed and worship purer than their own. Might he not have had reason to apprehend, as Jacob did in another case, Gen. xxxiv. 30, that they would rise up as one man to avenge so gross an insult on humanity and religion?
Can we suppose that, amidst this host of opponents to the patriarch's faith, the Devil was an idle and indifferent spectator of the arduous contest. In the case of Adam at the commencement of the patriarchal dispensation, and in that of Job at its close, we know that Satan was neither indifferent nor idle. And surely in a case of so great importance to Abraham, to his posterity,
and to the world at large, as that under our present consideration, he must have felt deeply interested, and have interfered with all his infernal subtilty and malice, on the mind both of the parental offerer and on that of the filial victim. This is so natural a supposition that the Jews have invented a conversation which they state to have passed between Abraham and the Devil on the way to Mount Moriah. We recollect the declaration of Isaac's great Antitype—“This is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
But the shield of faith, with which the patriarch was armed, was proof against all assaults. He believed that it was his duty, in compliance with the command he had received, to sacrifice his
That he intended to do so, is not to be doubted, since the Searcher of hearts, when the trial was over, said “thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” Without this intention, the act of taking Isaac to Moriah, of binding him, and of placing him on the altar, would have been no proof of faith or obedience. But he believed also that God was able to raise his son again, even from the dead. He knew the faithfulness of God in the promises he had received, for he had already obtained the fullest evidence of their veracity, and therefore, as in a former instance, he staggered not through unbelief. (Comp. Rom. iv. 18—20.) He was assured of what God could do, and of what He had