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HISTORY OF ABRAM.
And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my
herdmen and thy herdmen: for we be brethren.-GENESIS xiii. 8.
The history of Abram alone, occupies a , which, if we please to cultivate, we may larger space in the sacred volume than that easily attain: then, if we read not with profit of the whole human race from the creation as well as delight, it must be because we down to his day.-Hitherto we have had ra- want not the power, but the inclination, to ther sketches of character, than an exact de- improve. lineation of the human heart; we have had Abram has left his kindred and father's hints, respecting remote important events house at God's command. Multitudes do the rather than an exact and connected narrative same thing every day, impelled by ambition, of facts. But the inspired penman has gone by avarice, by curiosity, by a wandering, into the detail of Abram's life, from his being restless disposition. Happy is he, who, in called of God to leave Ur of the Chaldees, removing, does not leave his religion behind to the day of his death; a detail including him; and who, in the midst of the employthe space of one hundred years. Moses ments, or the delights of a new situation or marks with precision the succession of events place of residence, is not tempted to forget which befel him ; unfolds his character on a or to forsake the God of his native home, and variety of trying and interesting occasions; of his early years. Alas, how often does this and discloses the operations of a good mind very metropolis prove the grave of virtuous through the course of a long life, adorned sentiments, of religious principles, and a rewith many virtues and excellencies, yet not gular education! Though Abram be but a exempted from blemish and imperfection. pilgrim in Canaan, yet he thrives and pros
What renders the scripture history in ge- pers there. As the pious soul seeks and finds neral, and that of our patriarch in particular, means of intercourse with Heaven in every useful and instructive, is, the exhibition of condition and state of life, so God, who suffers private life therein presented to us, and the none to lose by fidelity and attachment to lessons of wisdom and virtue thereby taught him, can render the most untoward, unsetto ordinary men. The intrigues of a court, tled, and dangerous condition, productive of the operations of a campaign, the conse- real happiness: “if a man's ways please the quences of a battle, the schemes of a states- Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at Inan, the prowess of a hero, and the like, re- peace with him." presented skilfully, and adorned with the But never do we find wealth flowing in, charms of eloquence, may amuse or dazzle and increasing upon a man, without some the reader. But the actors being altogether corresponding peril or inconvenience. Either out of our level, and the scenes entirely out the mind is corrupted by it, or the possessor of the line of our experience, though 'plea- is exposed to be hated, envied, and plundersure may, no great advantage can, result ed. The peace of Abram's family had like from acquaintance with them.
to have been disturbed, by a quarrel arising To perform splendid actions, and to exhibit out of its prosperity; but it was preserved by heroic virtue, is given but to a few; and op- the good man's wisdom, moderation, and conportunities of this kind but seldom occur in descension. The officious zeal of pragmatithe course of one life. Whereas occasions cal servants has well nigh embroiled their to practise generosity, justice, mercy, and mo- peaceable and kindly affectioned masters. deration ; to speak truth and show kindness: “ And there was a strife between the herdto melt with pity, and glow with affection; men of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of to forbear and to forgive, are administered Lot's cattle; and the Canaanite and the Peto us every step we move through the world, rizzite dwelled then in the land." How can and recur more frequently upon us, than even any one think of security and peace in this the means of gratifying the common appe- world, when the rashness, malice, folly, or tites of hunger and thirst. When, therefore, pride of a domestic, may set a man at vawe behold men of like passions with our- riance with his chief friends? Indeed we are selves, placed in situations exactly similar to vulnerable in exact proportion to the extent our own, practising virtues within our reach, of our possessions. and discovering a temper and disposition How great is Abram's mind, how amiable
his conduct upon this occasion! “ And Abramselves."* “We then that are strong, ought said unto Lot, let there be no strife, I pray to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not thee, between me and thee, and between my to please ourselves. Let every one of us herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be bre- please his neighbour for his good to edificathren. Is not the whole land before thee? tion. For even Christ pleased not himself; Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me; if but as it is written, The reproaches of them thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go that reproached thee, fell on me. Now the to the right; or if thou depart to the right God of patience and consolation, grant you hand, then I will go to the left."* Abram to be like-minded one towards another, acwas the elder man; he was to Lot in the cording to Jesus Christ.”+ Thus have we room of a father. Him had God distinguished precept upon precept, pattern upon pattern, by special marks of his favour, and by the on a subject as plain as the light at noon-day, promises of future greatness and pre-emi- and which is presenting itself to us almost
If the one must give way to the every hour we live. But alas! it is not other, who would not instantly pronounce, preaching that can confer the temper of an that undoubtedly Lot ought to yield. Might Abram; and that can induce men to forego not the call and destination of God have been the claims which pride and self-conceit are warrantably pleaded as a reason why Abram incessantly urging them to advance. should have the first choice? Abram no Behold then Abram and his nephew at doubt, both might and could have asserted length constrained to separate. Nature, afthe preference; and he proves that he well fection, religion, afliction, had all conspired deserved it, by giving it up. What person to unite them; but a flow of worldly success in this assembly but stands reproved or ad- dissolves their union; and the old adage is monished by the example of the patriarch's exemplified in them, “relations sometimes humility, moderation, and affability? It is agree best at a distance from one another." indeed a perfect contrast to that tenacious- The power of choosing was given to Lot, and ness of their opinions, that punctilious adhe- he exercised it accordingly; “ And Lot litted rence to the least iota of their rights, that up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jorinflexibility of self-love and self-conceit
, that dan, that it was well watered every where, perpetual assumption or demand of prefer- before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorence and superiority, which mark the con- rah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the duct of most men. Were it necessary to land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. enforce the example of Abram by the precepts Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan: of the gospel; the whole spirit of Christianity, and Lot journeyed east; and they separated a multitude of particular injunctions, and themselves the one from the other."I How above all, the temper and conduct of the wisely this choice was made, we shall have great pattern of all that is amiable and excel- occasion to remark in the sequel of the hislent, might be adduced, to expose and con- tory. demn, if not to cure, thạt selfish spirit, equally So good a man, and a 'relation so kind as inconsistent with good sense and with reli- Abram, must sensibly have felt this separagion, which exacts a perpetual sacrifice from tion from his nearest kinsman. But whatothers, without discerning the propriety or ever blank was made in his happiness by the necessity of making the slightest sacrifice to failing of this creature comfort, he has the others in return. Permit me to recite a few consolation of reflecting, that it was not passages on the subject. “For I say, through brought upon him through his own fault; and the grace given unto me, to every man that it is speedily and abundantly compensated by is among you, not to think of himself more the visions of the Almighty; by the promises highly than he ought to think, but to think of Him that is faithful and true, and by the soberly, according as God hath dealt to every presence and affection of that Friend, who man the measure of faith. For as we have sticketh closer than a brother. “And the many members in one body, and all members Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was have not the same office; so we, being many, separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, are one body in Christ, and every one mem- and look from the place where thou art, bers one of another. Be kindly affectioned northward, and southward, and eastward, one to another, with brotherly love, in honour and westward. For all the land which thou preferring one another. Be of the same mind seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed one towards another. Mind not high things, forever. And I will make thy seed as the but condescend to men of low estate. Be not dust of the earth : so that if a man can numwise in your own conceits. If it be possible, ber the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with also be numbered. Arise, walk through the all men.”+ “Let nothing be done through land, in the length of it, and in the breadth strife or vain-glory, but in lowliness of mind of it: for I will give it unto thee." There let each esteem others better than them- is something delightfully soothing to the
† Rom. rv. 1, 2, 3. 5. Gen. xiij. 8, 9. † Rom. xii. 3, 4, 5. 10. 16. 18. 1 Gen. xiji. 10, 11. § Gen. viii. 14-17.
* Phil. ii. 3.
human heart in the idea of property ;-one's | fection; his honest indignation at violence own home, his own field, his own flock. If and oppression ; the skill with which he any thing can add to the satisfaction of this planned his enterprise; or the vigour, boldkind of possession, it is the having acquired ness, and intrepidity with which he executed it honourably, and the capacity of enjoying it; the moderation with which he exercised it with cheerfulness, wisdom, and moderation. his victory; his disinterestedness in declinDishonest gain can never bestow content- ing any share of the fruits of it for himself; ment, and seldom descends to a remote heir. or his justice and good faith in attending to, But the gratification of honest prosperity and and supporting the just right of his allies ? success is capable of being still unspeakably All, all together, constitute an unequivocal heightened and sweetened; namely, by the and a brilliant proof, of a mind truly noble heart-composing, spirit-elevating considera- and dignified : and his conduct on this occation, that the blessing enjoyed is the gift of sion suggests a crowd of reflections both God, is the pledge of paternal love, and the pleasing and useful. earnest of eternal felicity. In such happy Remember, Christians, it is the same man, circumstances did our patriarch inhabit the who for the sake of peace with brother plains of Mamre; blessed in the present, gave up his just claim to a junior and infemore blessed in the prospects of futurity; rior; that was not afraid in the cause of the blessed in the fulness of this world, more injured and oppressed, to attack a numerous blessed in the favour of God, which is better host, headed by princes, and flushed with than life; blessed in the promise of a nume- victory. With whom then does true magnarous and prosperous offspring, infinitely more nimity reside? Surely with the humble and blessed in the promise of that holy seed in condescending. The man who has subdued whom “all the families of the earth are his own spirit is invincible. Behold in this the blessed.” When we find the good man abid- nature, and the foundation, of true courage. ing in tents, a pilgrim and a stranger in It is not to make light of life; it is not to Canaan, do we not perceive it written in rush like the horse into battle;" it is not to legible characters, “arise ye and depart, for talk high swelling words of vanity : It is to this is not your rest ?" Hear we not the fear God; it is to be calm and composed in voice of God, saying plainly, “ seek ye another danger; it is to possess hope beyond the country, that is an heavenly one ?"
grave; it is to be superior to the pride, and But even the life of a pilgrim, and of a incapable of the insulting triumph of sucshepherd, is not secure; neither does any cess. Behold how the kindred graces and worldly condition admit of a certain or long virtues delight to reside in unity and harrepose. Let a man be ever so peaceably in- mony, in the bosom of a good man! Neither clined, how easily may he be involved in the good nor bad qualities are to be found solitafeuds of contentious neighbours? This was ry in the breast of any one. Is a man pious ? the case with Abram. In the fourteenth Then he is humble. Is he humble? Then chapter of this sacred book, we have the his- meek and condescending. Is he condescendtory of a powerful confederacy of four kings ing? Then bold, then just, then generous, against five; founded no doubt, as all such then merciful. Is he a child of God, a disconfederacies are, in a lust of poweror wealth; ciple of Jesus? Then he is all that is amiaor directed by a spirit of cruelty and revenge. ble. Behold in Abram, a soul superior to the It issues in a bloody conflict in the vale of love of riches, and consequently greater than Siddim. Sodom, where Lot had chosen to a king; “ And the king of Sodom said unto dwell, becomes a prey to the conqueror, and Abram, Give me the persons, and take the he himself is made a prisoner, and his goods goods to thyself. And Abram said to the are plundered. These facts are related by king of Sodom, I have lift up my hand unto Moses, and become interesting to us, merely the Lord, the most high God, the possessor from their connexion with the history of of heaven and earth, that I will not tuke from Abram. What, but for this, are Cheder- a thread even to a shoe-latchet, and that I loamer, Amraphel, and Arioch, to the men will not take any thing that is thine, lest of this day, but mere names ? Lot must now thou shouldst say, I have made Abram rich." have grievously felt the consequences of his That integrity is incorruptible which consiimprudent choice of a place of residence, had ders life and happiness as consisting not in it not been for the friendship and valour of the abundance of the things which a man his venerable uncle; who, roused by the in- possesseth :" which prizes an honest, though telligence of his nephew's distress and dan-humble independence, above the honours and ger, flies instantly to his relief. Behold the treasures which princes have to bestow. good old man exchanging his shepherd's crook Abram, on this occasion, is found in confor the warrior's spear, and rushing with all nexion with a most extraordinary person, theardour and impetuosity of youth on the in- who bursts upon us like the sun froin behind sulting victor. Which shall we most admire a thick cloud, unveils his splendour for a in this important and interesting transaction, moment, and then hides himself again in the the strength and eagerness of his natural af
Gen. xiv. 21-23.
shades of night: “Melchizedec, king of Sa-, become weak, and meffèctual to salvation, lem, and priest of the most high God;" whose through the corruption of human nature; and appearance, history, and character, we could it prefigured a covenant still more sure and have hardly comprehended, had not a brighter immoveable than itself, “ established upon day since arisen, and an inspired apostle un- better promises,” even the sending of the folded the meaning of what one inspired pro- Son of God, in the likeness of sinful flesh, phet acted, and another has recorded. The and for sin; to condemn sin in the flesh.” history of Melchizedec, short as it is, with The prompt obedience of Abram to the call the apostolic comment upon it, will easily of Heaven, leads us directly to Him, who furnish materials for a Lecture by itself, and says of himself, “ my meat is to do the will shall not now therefore be anticipated. The of him who sent me;" and the language of story of Abram himself shall for the present whose whole life, spirit, sufferings, and death stand still, to be resumed and prosecuted in is, “ Father, not my will
, but thine be done.” its order: it being now high time to look for- Abram's appearing on the stage, and enterward, and to bring that patriarch, with those ing on the discharge of the duties of his pubwho went before him, to the feet of Jesus lic character, in the full maturity of his age, his "offspring;” yet his “root:" later than suggests to us, the Saviour of the world enhim by almost two thousand years; yet be- tering upon, and discharging his public fore him “ of old, even from everlasting;" re- ministry, in the full vigour of life, and flower ceiving existence from him in the order of of his age. When I behold Abram sojournnature, and by the tenor of the covenant; yet ing in the land of promise as in a strange bestowing existence upon him, as the eternal country, I think of him, who “came to his Word, " by whom all things were made, and own and his own received him not:" and without whom nothing was made that is meditate on the Son of Man, who had not made."
where to lay his head.” Abram, chased into Abram may be first compared to Adam, Egypt by famine, reminds me of Jesus flying being both the fathers of many nations, and into Egypt from the wrath of a jealous and especially constituted of God for that end. incensed king. Who can read of Abram disWith both, the covenant of God was esta- comfiting confederate princes, without beblished, which included and involved their thinking himself straight of the triumphs of posterity, though the children were not as a Redeemer over “principalities and powers, yet born: for with God, that is effected, and the ruler of the darkness of this world;": which is purposed to be done; and his pro- Satan, sin, and death “cast into the lake of mises are gifts already bestowed. Adam's fire ?" When we behold Lot brought back transgression transmitted evils innumerable from captivity by the kindness and intrepidity to his offspring ; Abram's faith entailed bless-) of his affectionate kinsman, can we refrain ings unspeakable upon his family for many from turning our eyes to our compassionate generations. Both of them typified Christ elder Brother, who through death has dein their day; and both “ saw his day afar oft.” stroyed him that had the power of death, Abram may be compared with the princes that is, the devil; and delivered them who and great men of the age in which he lived. through fear of death were subject to bondAnd in true dignity of mind, in elevation of age;" and who has restored his younger brespirit
, in generosity of sentiment, in pro- thren to the glorious liberty of the sons of priety of behaviour, he will be found superior God?" Abram nobly refuses to be made to most, and inferior to none. We see kings rich by the bounty of the king of Sodom; receiving obligations from him ; while he thus when the Jews would have taken nobly shows himself above receiving an obli- Christ and made him a king, he withdrew gation from any one. And Abram is a type himself: and when the prince of the power of every real Christian giving up the world of the air presented him with the prospect of as a portion, at God's command, and sacri- the kingdoms of the world and the glory of ficing the dearest delights of nature to the them, and proffered all to him on condition demands of duty; living as a stranger upon of his doing homage for them, he rejected earth, and looking for “a city which hath the offer with disdain, “get thee behind me, foundations, whose builder and maker is Satan.” The amiable qualities of Abram's God."
mind bear a lively resemblance to the spirit But the great venerability of Abram's cha- that dwelt in our divine Master. But in racter arises from his relation to Jesus Christ, Abram it was a spirit imparted, in Jesus a whom he shadows forth in a great variety of spirit inherent; it was bestowed on the forrespects. Abram was called and constituted mer in measure, on the latter it was poured of God, to be the natural head of a great and out without measure: in the patriarch it was powerful nation; Jesus,“ the first-born among mingled with dross, alloyed by a mixture of many brethren,” to be the spiritual father of human imperfection; in the Saviour it was the whole vast family of believers. The cove- unmixed, unalloyed, for “he did no sin, neinant of God with Abram came in aid to the ther was guile found in his lips.” insufficiency of the first covenant; which had But the time would fail to enumerate all
the marks of resemblance. Many others will singular history of Melchizedec; which, God occur to the careful and attentive reader of willing, shall be the subject of the ensuing Abram's history; these shall for the present Lecture, and to which permit me to implore suffice from this place. The farther continu- your patient and candid attention. Earnestation of it shall be suspended, and give way, iy praying that the blessing of the Most High according to the order of the narration, and may crown what has been spoken, we ascribe to give these exercises all the advantage of praise to His name, through Jesus Christ our variety which their nature will admit, to the Lord. Amen.
HISTORY OF MELCHIZEDEC.
LECTURE XI I.
And Melchizedec, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine : and he was the priest of the most high
God.-GENESIS xiv. 18.
The Lord hath swom, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedec
Psalm cx. 4.
Jesus, made an high priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedec.—HEBREW8 vi. 20.
The eagerness and avidity with which of those which have afforded ample employmen pry into abstruse and difficult subjects, ment to critics and commentators. Were can be exceeded only by their coldness and our object amusement only, it were easy to indifference to obvious and important truth. entertain you for months to come, with the The religious controversies which have en- ingenious, the fanciful, the absurd, and nongaged so much attention, occupied so much sensical expositions which have been given time, and furnished employment for so many of the person and history of Melchizedec. rare talents; which have whetted the tem- Butas we aim at usefulness, and acknowledge pers, and too often the swords of men against no guide in sacred things but the holy Scrip each other, are, in general, on points of doc- ture, Moses shall be our only authority and trine too deep and mysterious ever to be fa- guide in tracing this remarkable story; Dathomed by human understanding, too lofty to vid and Paul our only interpreters, in the be scanned without boldness and presump- application and use of it. tion, or too trifling to merit regard. Re Abram, with a little band of three hundred vealed religion, like every thing that is of and eighteen persons of his own household, God, must necessarily present many difficul- and a few friends, has pursued, overtaken, ties to a creature so limited as man. But surprised, and discomfited four confederated instead of being rejected on that account, it kings, with their victorious army; and reis the more to be prized and reverenced; as covered Lot, his brother's son, into liberty. having this evidence, among many others, of Returning from this honourable, bold, and coming from Him, whose nature, whose successful enterprise, he is met by a prince works, and whose ways, none “can find out of a very different character from those unto perfection.” Curiosity, guided by hu- whom he had conquered, and those whom he mility, and aiming at useful discovery, is a had delivered. They were sons of violence, laudable and useful principle. But curiosity sons of blood; his name was Melchizedec, impelled by self-conceit, and resting in mere and Melchisalem,-king of righteousness, speculation, is generally rash and presump- king of peace. It is extremely probable, tuous, often trifling, impertinent, and con- that these epithets were titles conferred upon temptible. In every branch of knowledge, this great and good man, as being descriptive those truths are the most valuable which are of his person and character; and might be the plainest, and which present themselves designed of Providence as a memorial to all in the greatest abundance: just as nature princes of what they ought to be ; lovers, produces in the greatest profusion those com- preservers, and promoters of justice, mainmodities which are most useful and necessary tainers and conservators of peace. to man.
It is pleasing to find ourselves mistaken in The subject of this night's Lecture, is one lour calculations of the numbers of good men,