Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

pious purpose ? Does it inspire reverence, Should all, or any of these remarks seem wonder, gratitude, love to God; dependence to bear hard on any of the comparisone upon, and trust in him? Does it engage us which we have endeavoured to establish, we to study, to search, to love the scriptures ? are disposed cheerfully to relinquish the most Does it impress on the heart a sense of our favourite analogy, rather than seem, in the own weakness, ignorance, and guilt; and, of slightest degree, to misrepresent, disguise, or the deference, respect, and good will which pervert the truth. We mean not to wrest we owe to others ? Or, is it made a minis- scripture to our purpose: but would make tering servant to vanity and self-conceit? our purpose with reverence bend to that Leads it our attention from practice to specu- sacred authority. We would not with salation, to theory from real life? Does it crilegious hands force out of the Bible, by place the essentials of religion in modes of violence and art, a scanty and unnaturalcrop; opinion and forms of worship; and, neglect- but by diligent cultivation and assiduous care, ing the heart, content itself with playing draw from it a plenteous harvest of what the about and tickling the imagination? The soil naturally produces. And, we now reanswer to these questions will decide the turn from this digression, to pursue the point. By its fruit, the tree is known. history of Jacob.

HISTORY OF JACOB.

LECTURE XXIV.

And Isaac sent away Jacob, and he went to Padan-aram, unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Syrian, the

brother of Rebekah, Jacob's and Esau's mother. And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went towards Haran.-GENESIS Xxviij. 5. 10.

At what stage, or in what condition of the very next breath, feels himself constrainhuman life, can a man say, Now my heart is ed to pronounce sentence of dismission and at rest, now my wishes are accomplished, banishment upon him. “The whole ordering now my happiness is complete? By what of the lot is of the Lord,” but “men themunaccountable, untoward circumstances is selves cast it into the lap.” Providence only the comfort of the worthiest, best ordered, brings that out, which, with our own hands, most prosperous families, oft times marred we first put in. and destroyed! Not through vice only do Jacob has by skill and address pushed we suffer, but up to some piece of impru- himself into the birthright, and by subtilty dence, or inadvertency; up to some trifling insinuated himself into the blessing. And infirmity in our nature, or some petty fault how do they sit upon him? Very uneasily in our conduct, our greatest calamities may indeed. His father's house is no longer a easily be traced. One man has made his home for him. Grasping at more than his fortune, as it is called, but he has impaired right, he loses what he already had. Eagerhis health in the acquisition of it, or made ly hastening to preferment, without waiting shipwreck of a good conscience. Another for Providence, he puts himself just so much inherits a fine estate; but goes childless. farther back. And, seeking rule and preThere, we behold a numerous and promising eminence in his father's family, he finds serfamily of children; but the wretched parents vitude and severity in the house of a stranger. have hardly bread to give them: and here, If men will carve for themselves, they must both progeny and plenty ; but hatred, and not charge the consequences of their rashjealousy, and strife, banish tranquillity and ness and presumption upon God.

The heart of this child is corrupted Behold the pilgrim then, on his way, penithrough indulgence; the spirit of that one is sive and solitary; without so much as a fabroken by severity.

vourite, faithful dog, to accompany and to Isaac is wealthy, but his eyes are dim that cheer his wanderings. His whole inherihe cannot see. God has given him two sons tance, the staff in his hand. Now, for the at once, but they are the torment of his life. first time, he knows the heart of a stranger. He is fondly partial to Esau; and Esau does Now he feels the bitter change from aitluevery thing in his power to mortify and dis- ence to want, from society to solitude, from oblige his kind and indulgent father. He is security and protection to anxiety and danunwittingly drawn in to bless Jacob; and, Iger. More forlorn than Adam when expelled

ease.

from paradise, than Abraham when exiled | every time of need. The strong hand of nefrom his father's house, he has no gentle cessity is upon our patriarch; submit he mate to participate and to soothe his anxie- must, and therefore he submits with alacrity. ties and cares.

And now behold the heir of Abraham and The Scripture assigns no reason, why of Isaac, without a place where to lay his Isaac's heir, and Rebekah's favourite son, the head; that head which maternal tenderness hope of a powerful and wealthy family, was had taken pleasure to pillow so softly, and to dismissed with such slender provision, wholly watch so affectionately. “He lighted upon a unattended, and unprotected too, upon a jour- certain place, and tarried there all night, beney, according to the best calculations, of cause the sun was set: and he took of the about one hundred and fifty leagues, or four stones of that place, and put them for his hundred and fifty miles, through a country in pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep."* many places desert and savage, and in others

-"Sweet are the uses of adversity; no less dangerous, from the hostile tribes Which like the load, ugly and venomous, which inhabited and ranged through it. But

Wears yet a precious jewel in his head." the reason, though not directly assigned, is Jacob, removed from his earthly parents, plainly hinted at in the sixth verse of this is but the nearer to his heavenly Father; a chapter, which informs us, that Esau knew stranger in the waste howling wilderness, of this journey, as well as of the cause and he is at home with God. Cares perplex his intention of it. Jacob therefore may be sup- waking thoughts, but angels in bands lull posed to have stolen away secretly, and with his perturbed breast to rest; they guard, and out any retinue, and to have shunned the instruct, and bless his slumbering moments. beaten and frequented path to Padan-aram, in Who does not pity Jacob, as the evening order to elude the vigilance and resentment shades gather and close around his head ?of his brother, who, he had reason to appre- Who does not envy his felicity when the hend, would pursue him to take away his morning light appears, and with it, the recollife. And besides this, we may justly consi- lection of a night passed in communion with der both the errand on which he was sent, to God? Jacob sleeps, but his heart wakes.take a wife from an allied and pious family, What had been most upon his mind through to propagate a holy and chosen seed; and the day, continues to occupy and to impress the homely, solitary style of his travelling, his thoughts after his eyes are closed. Wonas a very illustrious instance of faith in God, derful, awful, pleasing power of God! which and obedience to his will, and that not in Ja- in the city and in the field, at home and abroad, cob himself only, but in his parents also, who awake and asleep, moves, directs, governs our could thus trust the sole prop of their family bodies and our spirits as it will. What lofty hopes, and of the promise, to dangers so great, heights is the mind of man capable of attainand distresses so certain, with no security ing! What wonders of nature and of grace but what arose from the truth, mercy, and is the great God capable of unfolding to it, faithfulness of God.

when delivered from the grossness of this The uneasy reflections arising from soli- clay tabernacle, or when joined to a spiritual tude, and inspired by a gradual removal from body; when we consider the astonishing the scenes of his youthful and happy days flights it is even now capable of taking, when must have been greatly embittered to Jacob, the duller senses are laid to rest, and their by the consciousness of his having brought influence suspended ! all this upon himself; by the keenness of dis Dreams are generally frivolous, meaningappointment, in the very moment when the less, or absurd. But here is a dream worth spirits were wound up to their highest tone repeating, worth recording; whether we atthrough success; and by total darkness and tend to what was seen or what was said.-uncertainty with respect to his future for- What was seen? Behold a ladder set upon tunes. However, the cheerfulness of light, the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: the pleasing change and variety of natural and behold the angels of God ascending and objects as he journeyed on, the ardour and descending on it.”The circumstances of confidence of youthful blood and spirits, car- the dreamer, partly interpret the vision. Jary him with confidence and joy through the cob's holy desires, his faith and his prayers, day. But ah! what is to become of him now had ascended, as on angel's wings, up to the that the sun declines, and the shadows of the throne of God. Protection and favour, and evening begin to lengthen? Overtaken at comfort, descend from the eternal throne, as once by hunger and fatigue, and darkness through the ministration of angels, on Jacob's and apprehension, where shall he seek shel- head. The top of the ladder reacheth unto ter, how find repose? Happily, calamity heaven, but the Lord on high is above it. It strengthens that soul which it is unable to standeth upon the earth, but the eye of Jehosubdue. The mind, forced back upon itself, vah is at its foundation, and his almighty arm finds in itself resources which it knew not giveth it stability. The cherubim and the seraof before, and the man who has learned to phim are not above his control and authority; seek relief in religion, knows where to fly in * Gen. xxviii. 11. | Gen. xxviii. 12.

a poor benighted pilgrim is not beneath his much to hear that the land which he then notice.

occupied with his weary limbs, as a way. Thus, the great plan of the Divine Provi- faring men who continueth but for a night, dence, upholding all things, observing all should afterwards be given to him and to his things, subduing all things to his will, was seed for a possession. It was much to hear, feelingly conveyed to Jacob's mind, in this from the mouth of God himself, the blessed vision of the night. And in it, the world is assurance of protection through his journey, instructed, that however great the distance of success in his undertaking, and of a safe between heaven and earth, however inacces- return to his native home. It was much to sible that bright abode may be to flesh and hear of a posterity, innumerable as the sand blood, to celestial spirits it is but a few steps upon the sea shore, and spreading to the four of a ladder; before an omnipresent God, in- winds of heaven. But the essence of all these tervening space is swallowed up and lost; promises, the joy of all this joy, was to hear and, condescending mercy! sovereign grace the renewed, the reiterated promise of a seed keeps that communication ever open, which descending from him, in whom "all the famithe malice of hell and the apostacy of man lies of the earth should be blessed.” What had well nigh interrupted for ever.

could Jacob ask? What had God to bestow, But I should have given you a very imper- more than this? fect interpretation of this mysterious dream, Here then the vision ends, and Jacob did I stop short in it, as merely a symbolical awakes. After the obvious, natural, and we representation of the plan of Providence. For trust, scriptural view, which we have atin looking into another part of the sacred re- tempted to give you of the subject, I shall cord, I find the same expressions and ideas not use your patience so ungratefully as to applied to a subject of peculiar concernment trespass upon it by going into a detail of the to the christian world. Christ, when entering wild waking dreams of paraphrasts, and Rabon the discharge of his public ministry, hav- bins, and pretended interpreters, on this pas. ing given Nathaniel a personal and convinc-sage of the sacred history. It is of more iming proof of his divine knowledge, adds,-portance to attend to our patriarch, restored, Thou shalt see greater things than these. with the morning light, to the perfect use of Verily, verily, I say unto you, hereafter ye his rational faculties, and making use of the shall see heaven open, and the angels of God admonitions and consolations of the night ascending and descending upon the Son of season, as a help to piety, and a spur to duty Man."* Here then is the true mystery of the through the day. There was something so ladder which unites heaven and earth. The singular, both in the subject and external Son of Man first descending to assume our circumstances of his dream, that he immedinature, to achieve in it the work of man's ately concluded, and justly, that it was from redemption; and then having finished the heaven. And is it not strange, that he who work given him to do, ascending triumphant- felt no horror at the thought of laying himly in glorified humanity, up to heaven again. self down to sleep in a desert place, under And, hehold here too, “The Lord standing the cloud of night, and alone, is filled with a above." The plan of salvation, as of Provi- holy dread when morning arose, at the thought dence, is the design of him “who worketh of being surrounded with God. “And he was all things after the counsel of his will."— afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! “ Who in Christ Jesus hath abounded to This is none other but the house of God: and wards us in all wisdom and prudence," and this is the gate of heaven.”* And, if the viwho “in bringing many sons unto glory, hath sits of the Almighty, as a father and a friend, made the Captain of their salvation perfect be thus awful even to good men, what must through sufferings.”+

be the visitation of his wrath to the ungodly And who are they that ascend and descend and the sinner? along this mysterious scale? “He maketh Jacob arises immediately, and erects a mohis angels spirits, and his ministers a flame nument of such simple materials as the place of fire." " Are they not all ministering spi- afforded, to the memory of this heavenly virits, sent forth to minister for them, who shall sion, which he was desirous thus to impress be heirs of salvation."

for ever on his heart. The difference of the If what by Jacob was seen in vision at expression in the eleventh verse, "he took Bethel be worthy our attention, less me of the stones of the place, and put them for morable and important are the things which his pillows,” and in the eighteenth," he took he heard. It was much to hear a repetition the stone that he had put for his pillow and of the covenant of God with Abraham and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the Isaac, his fathers, ratified and confirmed to top of it,"t has given occasion to one of the himself. It was much to hear the blessing Jewish Rabbins to attempt a reconciliation lately pronounced over him by the prophetic by a fiction of his own brain. Jacob, he says, lips of his earthly parent, conveyed to his having chosen out just three stones over ear by a voice infinitely more sacred. It was night, to support his head, found them all * John i. 51. | Heb. ii. 10. 1 Ib. i. 7. $ Ib. i. 14.

| Verse 18.

* Gen. xxviij. 17.

joined into one the next morning; which, cob must earn that by long fourteen years he pretends to allege, was a signification of servitude, which Abraham's servant was so the strict and solid union which subsisted be- successful as to accomplish in the pronouncing tween God and Jacob. And some later inter- of almost as many words. preters, though aided by the superior light But here we must make another pause, of the gospel dispensation, have been simple and leave the next sweet scene of Jacob's enough to adopt this fable, and to explain it, life, and the sequel of it, to another Lecture. some, of the ineffable union of the three per- But we must no longer defer, the beginning sons who are the object of our worship; at least of that parallel which is one object others, of the conjunction of the soul, body, among others, if not the chief, in these exerand deity in the person of Jesus Christ. cises.

It appears that Jacob intended simply to Jacob was destined of Providence to power record, in such characters as his situation and precedency before he was born. Jesus afforded, that night's important transaction. is declared the Son of God, and the heir of He sets up the stone, or stones, upon which all things, by the angel who announced his * his head had reposed when visited with the miraculous conception and birth to his virgin visions of the Almighty, in the form of a mother. Jacob, the last in order of nature, rustic pillar, and solemnly anoints, and there but first in the election of grace, prefigures by consecrates it, to the honour of God, by him, who, appearing in the end of the world, the name of Bethel, that is, “ the house of is nevertheless “ the first-born among many God;" and over it, thus dedicated, he afresh brethren." Jacob, hated and persecuted of and voluntarily enters into solemn covenant his brother, is an obvious type of him who with God, obliging himself by a sacred vow, was to come, “despised and rejected of men;" to acknowledge and worship none but him; crucified and slain by the impious and unnacommitting himself with filial confidence to tural hands of those who were his bone and the protection of his gracious providence; his flesh. Jacob, dismissed with blessings by trusting the time and manner of his return to his father from Beer-sheba, points out to us the care of infinite wisdom; promising ever Jesus leaving heaven's glory, and the bosom to consider this monumental pillar as an altar of the Father, in compliance with the eterdevoted to the service of God; and binding nal decree, to become a wanderer in our himself, by an explicit declaration, to devote world; "a man of sorrows, and acquainted to pious uses the tenth part of whatever he with grief.” The object of Jacob's journey should through the divine blessing acquire. and of Christ's is one and the same. Jacob, By the way, the oil wherewith he consecrated to procure for himself a believing spouse, to his pillar was undoubtedly part of the slen- become the fruitful mother of an elect offder provision made for his journey; and ap- spring; Jesus, to purchase for himself, at the parently a little bread and oil was all he price of his own blood, “ the church, which could possibly carry with him. But of that is his body, to espouse it to himself as a chaste little he cheerfully spares a portion for the bride,” united to him in everlasting bands of purposes of religion ; for the possession of a interest and affection. Jacob, deserted and truly pious soul is small indeed, if it bestow solitary in the plain of Bethel, is a shadow nothing when charity, mercy, or devotion of Christ forsaken of all in the wilderness of give the call.

this world, yet not alone, but his heavenly With what alacrity does he now prosecute Father always with him.” The vision of the his journey! Whai a change in his condi- ladder has already spoken for itself. What tion produced in one short night! When then remains but to add, Jacob's covenant, " the heart is established by grace,” difficult consecration, and vow, are so many different things become easy; the valley is exalted, representations of Christ's covenant of reand the hill laid low; the crooked becomes demption: his unction by the Spirit to the straight, and the rough places plain. No-execution of his high office; and not the thing that the sacred historian deemed worth tithe, but the whole of his vast and glorious recording, occurred during the remainder of acquisition rendered unto God even the Fathis pilgrimage. Jacob at length arrived in ther: when the kingdom is finally delivered the land of the people of the east.” And up to “ him for whom are all things, and by now, no doubt, he flatters himself that all his whom are all things, that God may be all in all.” troubles and mortifications are at an end. I add no more but my most fervent prayers His grandfather's servant, Eleazer, had been to Almighty God—That by night and by day, happy enough to finish a marriage treaty for alone and in society, when you sleep and his master's son in a few hours conversation; when you wake, in prosperity and in adversurely then the heir of the same family may sity, you may be still with God: and that. be equally successful when making personal " the Almighty may be your refuge, the application for himself. Ah blind to futurity! Most High your habitation,” and “underStrange, unaccountable difference in the di- neath” and around you “the everlasting vine conduct towards different persons ! Ja- (arms." Amen.

HISTORY OF JACOB.

LECTURE XX V.

And Jacob served seven years for Rachel : and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he

had to her.-GENESIS xxix. 20.

The great Author of our nature has wisely, tual endowments: while as yet, commerce and wonderfully adapted the various objects had not opened her ten thousand channels of which successively solicit our attention and luxury, to enervate, corrupt, and destroy manengage our pursuit, to the different periods kind. His conversation with the shepherds of our life, the different and successive affec- of Haran* must always afford exquisite detions of our heart, the different stations which light to those, whose taste, undebauched by we have to occupy, and the duties which we the frippery of modern manners, and the afare bound to perform. Human life, in so far fectation of ceremony and compliment, can as nature predominates over it, does not con- relish the honest simplicity of nature, and the sist of violent and sudden transitions, but of genuine expression of unaffected, unsophisticalm, gentle, imperceptible changes: like cated kindness and benevolence. From them the gradual progress of the day, from the he has the pleasure of hearing that his kinsmorning dawn to meridian splendour; and man Laban lived in the neighbourhood, and thence gradually back again, to the glim- was in health; and that his daughter Rachel mering twilight of the evening, and the was every moment expected to come to the shades of night. We emerge not at once watering-place, with her father's flock.from infancy into manhood; we sink not in While they are yet speaking, Rachel, beaua moment from manhood into old age. We tiful as the opening spring, and innocent as grow, and we decline, without perceiving the lambs she tended, draws nigh with her any alteration. Betwixt the giddiness and fleecy charge. With what admirable propriinconsideration of childhood, and the serious ety and skill do the holy scriptures represent cares and employments of mature age, there the most distinguished, exalted, and amiable is a middle and an important stage of life, female characters, engaged in virtuous, humwhich connects the two. And there is a ble, useful employments! Sarah, baking cakes passion happily suited to it, which contains upon the hearth, for the entertainment of her and unites the spirit of both ; a passion which husband's guest; Rebekah, drawing water blends the vivacity and impetuosity of the for the daily use of her brother's family, and boy with the gravity and thoughtfulness of the refreshment of the weary traveller; and the man: that noble, generous passion, which Rachel feeding her father's sheep. O that the great God has implanted in our nature, ye knew, my fair friends, wherein your true to attract, unite, and bless mankind; and dignity, value, and importance consisted ! which, therefore, the pen of inspiration has They consist in being what God from the benot disdained, in its own inimitable manner, ginning intended you to be, “an help meet to describe. It was this passion which speedi- for man;" not the mere instrument of his ly compensated to Jacob the loss of his fa- pleasure, nor the silly idol of his adoration. ther's house, and the pains of a tedious jour Jacob, with the ardour natural to a manly ney; which sweetened and shortened seven spirit, and the zeal of an affectionate relation, long years of hard and mortifying servitude; runs up to salute and assist his fair kinswobut which, at the same time, anticipated both man. Little offices of civility are the natuthe cares and the delights of future life. ral expression of a good and honest heart;

Jacob, cheered and supported by the recol- they often suggest the first sentiments of lection of his vision at Bethel, and animated love, both to those who confer, and to those with the hope of a happy meeting with his who receive them; and they keep love alive affriends and relations at Padan-aram, goes on ter it is kindled. The meeting of that day, and his way rejoicing; and, guided, protected, Jacob's natural, easy, officious gallantry, in and sustained by an indulgent Providence, relieving Rachel, on their very first rencounhe arrives in safety. It was that simple, in- ter, of the heaviest part of her pastoral task, nocent and happy age of the world, when the inspired, I doubt not, cmotions very different chief occupations and enjoyments of human from those which the mere force of blood pronature were seen in the shepherd's life; duces; and were, I am sure, recollected by while, as yet, gold had not settled the price both, with inexpressible satisfaction, many a of every other production of the natural world, time afterward. And little do I know of the nor determined the importance of all intellec- !

* Gen. xxix. 1-8.

« AnteriorContinuar »