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sion-learn at once to perform your duty, I with some degree of comfort and of credit. and to promote your interest. It suits the | The transition from a dutiful and affectionate early bloom of life, it suits your sex, it is son, to a kind and indulgent husband, is natucongenial to your natural propensities, to be ral and easy. And here, my young friends, gentle, to be courteous; and, believe me, it you are furnished with a plain, but importis equally conducive to your honour and ad- ant rule, for forming the great choice of vantage. The obliging deportment of Rebe- life. Is an undutiful child likely to make a kah to the servant, paved the way to her good husband or wife? Have I reason to advancement to the rank of his mistress. And expect that one who has violated the first can you think the dignity of Isaac's future law of nature, of morality, of religion, will wife in the smallest degree impaired, by her fall at once, and without preparation, into civilities to his servants, or by her humanity the more complicated and more difficult to the poor dumb brutes which followed him? duties of the conjugal state? Believe me, an insolent, unfeeling, uncomply But what lot of humanity is free from ing young woman, is an odious, contemptible, anxiety, free from disappointment, free from unnatural—a monstrous thing. Look at Re- pain?' The heir of Abraham's wealth ; but bekah yet once more, my beloved dnughters, what signifies Abraham's wealth? The heir. and learn openness, frankness, sincerity.of the promise goes childless. Who is so Was she deficient in virgin modesty, that foolish as to look for perfect happiness in a most attractive of all female graces, when world of vanity, in a valley of tears? Those asked, “ wilt thou go with this man?" she to whom the blessing of children is denied, ingenuously replied, “I will go." No; but are fretful and discontented; and those on the honest simplicity of nature was not then whom it is bestowed, are in terror, anxiety, corrupted and disguised by modes of beha- and vexation every hour. Happily, I hear viour, the beggarly refinement of modern of Rebekah's suggesting no dangerous, no education. Then, what the heart and con- unwarrantable expedient as a remedy for science dared to avow, the cheek blushed this sore evil ; and holy Isaac thinks of seeknot at hearing, the tongue scrupled not to ing relief there only, where he was accusutter. I cannot yet cease to speak of that tomed to seek, and to find the cure of all sweet, that amiable creature. Mark again, his ills. “ Isaac entreated the Lord for his I beseech you, as she approaches her des- wife, because she was barren: and the Lord tined lord, how female delicacy, how maiden was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife diffidence and reserve, resume their empire! conceived. And the children struggled to“She alighted off the camel, she took a veilgether within her; and she said, If it be so, and covered herself.”
why am I thus? And she went to inquire And where, and how was Isaac found of of the Lord. And the Lord said unto her, his fair spouse? He had gone out “to medi-two nations are in thy womb, and two mantate, or to pray in the field at the even-tide." ner of people shall be separated from thy This is the leading, prevailing lineament in bowels: and the one people shall be stronger the good man's character: a heart turned to than the other people ; and the elder shall devotion, an eye continually directed to serve the other."* He asked a child, and wards heaven. Meditation and prayer are his prayer is answered by the gift of two the proper improvement of all mercies past, sons. And thus Providence, often slower and the best preparative for mercies yet ex- than our wishes and desires, frequently compected; a cordial balm for the woes which pensates that delay by greatly outdoing our we already endure, and an infallible antidote requests and expectations. But lo again to the poison of those evils which we have how care and sorrow arise out of our greatyet to fear. What is not to be hoped for, est comforts ! The children are hardly confrom an union built on such a foundation? ceived when their strife begins; and Isaac The fear and love of God on both sides; has as much reason to entreat the Lord, that calmness, wisdom, fidelity, and affluence on his wife might be spared in the pangs of an the part of the husband; humility, decency, unnatural labour, as he formerly had, that meekness, frankness, and discretion on the she might be delivered from the infelicity of part of the wife; a mutual desire of pleasing, barrenness. Indeed, “who knoweth what and of being pleased. Isaac brought her is good for man in this life, all the days of into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Re- his vain life, which he spendeth as a shadow ?” bekah, and she became his wife; and he But this we know, " that all things work toloved her: and Isarc was comforted after gether for good to them that love God, to them his mother's death."* So wisely and so who are the called according to his purpose.”+ graciously hath God provided a suitable re The strife which thus began in the womb, lief from every human calamity. And thus becomes visible at the birth, and continues Providence prepares us, in one form of the through life : nay, is transmitted to posterity. school of relative duty, for a higher and a The remark of the fanciful and ingenious higher still, till we have filled every station bishop Hall on the passage, is to this pur.Gen. xxiv. 67.
Rom. viii. 22
• Gen. xxv, 21-23.
pose.“ Before Rebekah conceived she was persecuted of his brother, the son of his own at ease : so before spiritual regeneration, all | father; and the persecution of Jesus from the is peace
in the soul : but no sooner is the new sinful world he came to save, began at his man formed in us, but the flesh conflicts with birth, continued through the whole of his the spirit. There is no grace where there life, and issued in a shameful, painful, and is no unquietness. Esau alone would not accursed death. “He came to his own and have striven; for nature will ever agree with his own received him not. He was despised itself. Never any Rebekah conceived only and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and an Esau, or was so happy as to conceive none acquainted with grief.” but a Jacob: she must be the mother of both, But what was seen in the mountain of the that she may have both joy and exercise. Lord, forms the closest resemblance, and afThis strife began early: every true Israelite, fords the sublimest instruction. In the sacribegins his war with his being. How many fice on Mount Moriah, we behold the father actions which we know not of, are not with- and son like-minded in presenting it cheerout presage and signification. In this con- fully at the command of God. Abraham withtest, Esau got the right of nature, Jacob of held not his son, his only son, and Isaac vograce: yet that there might be some pre- luntarily surrendered himself, as a lamb, for tence of equality, lest Esau should outrun a burnt offering. And on Mount Calvary what his brother into the world, Jacob holds him do we behold ? “God so loved the world, that fast by the heel, so his hand was born before he gave his only begotten Son, that whosothe other's foot. But because Esau was ever believeth in him should not perish, but some minutes the elder, that the younger have everlasting life."* " God spared not his might have better claim to that which God own Son, but delivered him up for us all, and had promised, he buys that which he could how shall he not with him also freely give us not win. If either by strife, or purchase, or all things?"| And Jesus gave himself for us, suit, we can attain spiritual blessings, we “a sacrifice of a sweet smelling savour unto are happy. Had Jacob come out first, he God.” He “ loved us, and washed us from had not known how much he was indebted our sins in his blood.” Here also the Father to God for his advancement.” Thus far the and Son like-minded, and in the same view, bishop. And thus, at the age of threescore and for the same end, the redemption of an years, and after twenty years from his mar- elect world. “O the height and depth, the riage with Rebekah, Isaac became the happy length and breadth, of the love of God: it father of two hopeful sons. And here, the passeth knowledge!" expiration of your time obliges me to inter The private personal character of Isaac, a rupt his story. But I must not conclude the man of calmness, contemplation, and peace; Lecture till I have, in a very few short hints, the dutiful son of his affectionate mother; the endeavoured to show you the analogy of respectful observer of his father's will, might, Isaac the son of Abraham, and Jesus Christ without doing violence to the subject, be the son of God.
brought into comparison with the pure and They were both raised up for one and the perfect character of his antitype, whose spisame purpose ; even to manifest the mercy rit nothing could discompose, whose nights and love of God to fallen men; the one as were spent in prayer, and his days in doing the bright and morning-star to usher in the good; “whose meat and drink it was to do day, the other as the meridian sun, “ travel the will of his Heavenly Father, and to finish ling in the greatness of his strength.” Isaac, his work,” and whose dying breath uttered the natural root and progenitor of Christ: the accents of filial affection, and provided a Christ, the spiritual author, root and head of son, a protector, and a home, for his desolate, Isaac. Isaac was the son of much expecta- afflicted mother. O the glorious excellency tion, the subject of many prophecies. The of that character, which exhibited the examset time of his birth was determined and ple of every personal, every relative virtue: foretold by almighty Power, by unerring which comprised the essence of all that is Wisdom, long before it happened ; thus the amiable in every other character, and left all birth of Christ, the desire of all nations, was created goodness at an infinite distance beannounced to the world by a cloud of wit hind! Look to Isaac and be instructed. Look nesses, not years, but ages, centuries, many to Jesus and “grow in grace," and go on tocenturies before the time. The time, the wards perfection, and * press towards the place, all the circumstances attending it, mark, for the prize of the high calling of God were written as with a sun-beam, so as to in Christ Jesus." render mistake impossible. Both Isaac and The next Lecture, with the divine permisChrist were conceived out of the usual course sion, will contain the remaining part of the of nature, that the finger of God might be life of Isaac, from the death of his father to his seen and acknowledged in both events; own. May God communicate saving knowIsaac of a mother beyond the natural possi- ledge to us all, by every mean of instruction: bility of having children, Jesus of an im- and to his name be praise in Christ. Amen. maculate virgin. Isaac was early hated and
† Rom. viii. 32
John iii. 16.
HISTORY OF ISA A C.
LECTURE XX I.
And he went up from thence to Beer-sheba. And the Lord appeared unto him the same night, and said,
I am the God of Abraham thy father; fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed, for my servant Abraham's sake. And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac's servants digged a well.-GENESIS XXVI. 23–25.
It is a pleasing and an instructive view of counter the most threatening dangers, to unthe Divine Providence, to consider one and dertake the most difficult employments, and the same great design as carried on to ma- to render the most painful and costly sacriturity, in periods and by persons the most re-fices at God's command. The faith of Isaac, mote from each other, without communica- placid and contemplative, sought the happition of intelligence, without concurrence orness of communion with God in calmness and exertion among themselves; to behold the solitude, and satisfied itself with the secret, great God moulding, guiding, subduing the untumultuous delight of beholding his family various passions, purposes, and private inter- built up, and the promises of God advancing ests of men to his own sovereign will; to be to their accomplishment. The faith of Jacob, hold the building of God rising in beauty, active and persevering, wrought upon and advancing towards perfection, by the hands excited by the peculiarities of his ever-varyof feeble workmen, who comprehend not the ing condition, supported a life of much bustle thousandth part of the plan which they assist and industry, and surmounted disappointin executing, and who, instead of co-operat- ments and afflictions the most mortifying and ing, frequently seem to counteract one an- oppressive. For it is the office of this divine other. One digs his hour in the quarry; an- principle, not to alter, to suppress, or eradiother lifts up his axe, and strikes a stroke or cate the natural tempers and dispositions of two in the forest; a third applies the square men, but to guide, impel, or control them, in and the compass to the stone which his conformity to their proper destination. neighbour had polished. But their labours, Abraham, sensible of the ungovernable, their views, their abilities, however different, encroaching spirit of Ishmael, of the numerall promote the same end; and though they ous and pressing claims of his younger chiland their endeavours be frail and perishing, dren, and of the gentle, yielding, unresisting the work in which the Almighty employs nature of Isaac, had, with the prudent forethem is progressive, is permanent, is immor- sight of a good parent, made such a disposital.—Here a shepherd, there a king; here a tion of his temporal affairs in his life time, little child, there a sage; here a legislator, as was most likely to prevent contention and there a conqueror; here a deluge, there a mischief after his death. Ishmael had been conflagration, fulfils the design of high Hea- dismissed many years before, had already beven; and the glorious fabric of redemption come the head of many numerous and powerrises and rises, though patriarchs, and pro- ful tribes, “twelve princes according to their phets, and apostles sink, one after another, nations,”* and from habit, inclination, and into the dust. Man often begins to build, but necessity, had contracted a fondness for a is unable to finish, because he had not counted roving, erratic course of life. He had been the cost; but God "seeth the end from the be- brought into a transient connexion with his ginning." He can never want an instrument, brother Isaac, by an event which softens the who has heaven, earth, and hell at his dis- most rugged and obdurate dispositions, the posal. “Surely, O Lord, the wrath of man shall death of their common father; and their repraise thee," Satan is thy chained slave, and sentments, for a time at least, perhaps for* ten thousand times ten thousand mighty ever, are buried in the tomb of him to whom angelsminister unto thee.” How then can thy they owed their birth. But difference of aim be defeated? How can thy counsels fail? interest
, affection, and pursuit speedily sepaThe personal characters of the three lead- rates them again. Ishmael betakes himself ing patriarchs of the house of Israel, differ to his favourite occupations in the desert, exceedingly in many respects, and their man- and Isaac abides quietly in his tent, and tendner of life differs as much, while their ruling ing his flocks, by the well Lahai-roi. principle is the same. The faith of Abraham, The sons of Abraham by Keturah had been ardent and intrepid, was ever ready to en
* Genesis xxiv. 13—16.
more recently removed, with a suitable pro The distresses which embittered the revision, into a distant part of the country.* mainder of Isaac's life, were chiefly internal So that upon his father's demise, Isaac found and domestic; and, alas ! had their source in himself in the quiet possession of by far the his own infirmity, namely, a fond partiality greatest part of his immense wealth, but ex- in favour of his elder son; the mischief of cluded from the 'society of those whom his which was increased and kept alive, by a own sweetness of temper and sense of duty, partiality, equally decided, which Rebekah and the proximity blood, would have led had conceived in favour of Jacob. “Isaac him to cultivate and cherish. And thus loved Esau because he did eat of his venison; riches, the object of universal desire and but Rebekah loved Jacob."* Most of the pursuit, create more and greater wants than evils of a man's lot may be easily traced up those which they are able to remove. By to some weakness in which he has indulged exciting envy, jealousy, and suspicion, they himself, some error into which he has fallen, separate those whom nature has joined; some opportunity he has let slip, or some friendship is sacrificed to convenience; and, crime which he has committed. Of all the to enjoy in security what Providence has infirmities to which our nature is subject, given him, the unhappy possessor is con- none is more common, none is more unreastrained to become an alien to his own bro sonable, unwise, and unjust, none more easily ther. We cannot refrain from bestowing, guarded against, none more fatal in its consein this place, a posthumous praise upon Abra- quences to ourselves and others, than that ham, who, uninfected by the tenacity of old of making a difference between one child and age and selfishness, cheerfully surrendered, another. It destroys the favourite, and diswhile he yet lived, a considerable part of courages those who are postponed and slighthis property, in order to insure the future ed; it sows the seeds of jealousy and malice, peace of his family, and wisely left his prin- which frequently produce strife, and end in cipal heir a poorer man, that he might leave violence and blood. It sets the father against him happier and more secure. How unlike the mother, and the mother against the fathose sordid wretches, who will scatter no- ther; the sister against the brother, and the thing till death breaks into the hoard; and brother against the sister. It disturbed the who care not what strife and wretchedness repose of Isaac's family, and had well nigh overtake those who come after them, in the brought down Jacob's hoary head with sorvery distribution of their property, provided row to the grave. Parents ought to examine, they can keep it all to themselves, were it and to watch over themselves carefully on but for one day longer !
this head. If they are unable to suppress Isaac had hitherto trusted every thing to the feeling, the expression of it, at least, is the wisdom and affection of his kind father, in their power; and policy, if not justice, and to the care of an indulgent Providence, demands of them an equitable distribution even so far as to the choice of his partner of their affection, their countenance, and for life. But his father being now removed their goods. For, if there be a folly which, by death, and his own children growing up more certainly than another, punishes itself, fast upon him, he is under the necessity of it this ill-judged and wicked distinction arising and exerting himself. For the bless between equals. One is ashamed to think ing of Providence is to be asked and ex- of the reason which is assigned for Isaac's pected, only when men are found in the way preference of his elder to his younger son, of their duty, and wisely employing lawful “ Isaac loyed Esau because he did eat of his and appointed means of prospering. We venison.” The original language expresses accordingly find him, with the prudent sa- it still more forcibly, “because his venison gacity of a good husband, father, and master, was in his mouth.” By what grovelling and directing the removal of his family from place unworthy motives are wise and good men to place, as occasion frequently required; often actuated! And what a mortifying forming alliances with his powerful neigh- view of human nature is it, to see the laws bours, for their mutual security; and presid- of prudence, and justice, and piety, vilely ing in the offices of religion, his favourite controlled and counteracted by the lowest employment. And though Providence has and grossest of our appetites ! It was not deprived him of the counsel and protection long before the effect of parental partialities of an earthly parent, he finds, in his happy appeared. A competition for precedency, experience, that the man whom God con- and the rights of primogeniture, engaged the tinues to protect and bless, has lost nothing. attention of the two brothers, and whetted “Father and mother have forsaken him, but their spirits against each other, from their the Lord has graciously taken him up,” earliest years. The pretensions of each " hedged him round on every side," and put were supported respectively by the parents the fear and dread of him into all the neigh- according to favour, to the disregard of every bouring nations, who, though they envied, maxim of good sense, and of the destination durst not hurt him.
and direction of the Divine Providence.
*Gen. xxv. 28.
.Gen. xxv. 6.
Who it was that prevailed in this conten- of God over the hearts of men. The dread tion, and by what means, will be seen in the ful judgment of Sodom, where Lot dwelt; sequel.
the blindness which punished the attempt to While the family of the patriarch was thus violate his guests, and the more tremendous torn with internal dissension, Providence destruction which avenged just heaven of was pleased to visit him with a grievous ex- their ungodly deeds, might operate powerternal calamity. “There was a famine in fully, so far as these events were known and the land, besides the first famine that was in their memory was preserved, to overawe the the days of Abraham.”* This, for a while, neighbouring nations, and to procure for represses animosity. Distress, common to Lot's family and kindred, the attention and all, teaches them to love one another; and, respect which fear, if not love, inspires. And, instead of a struggle for precedency, the as a proof of his supremacy, that God," in weightier concern, “Where shall we find whose hand the heart of the king is, and who bread ?” now occupies their thoughts. This can turn it which way soever he will," has dispensation was probably intended as a re- frequently constrained the enemies of his proof and correction to all parties. The church and people to be their friends and parents were admonished of the folly of aid- protectors. ing and increasing the unavoidable ills of This repeated visitation of Canaan by falife, by wilfully sowing discord among bre- mine, was a repeated trial of the patriarch's thren. Esau, ready again to perish with faith. The promise of a land, so frequently want, is stung with remorse to think, that in unable to sustain its inhabitants, could have one hasty impatient moment of hunger, he little value in the eye of a worldly mind. had sold, for the transient gratification of a But faith in God discerns the principal worth low appetite, what no penitence could undo, and importance of temporal blessings, in their no money repurchase. And Jacob, feeling being connected with, and representing spi. himself the cravings of hunger, was chas- ritual objects; and examines events, not by tised for taking an unkind advantage of his their agreement with preconceived opinions, brother's necessity; and, ready in his turn and extravagant expectations, but by their to perish, might be constrained to adopt the moral effects and consequences. A region words of starving Esau, “ behold, I am at the uniformly and unfailingly plenteous, might point to die, and what profit shall this birth- betray its possessor into the belief that its right do to me.”+ For, although God serves fertility flowed solely from natural causes, himself of the weaknesses and vices of men, and God might be forgotten and neglected. he approves them not, nor will suffer them A year of scarcity is calculated to teach man to pass unpunished.
his dependence, and to force him to implore Isaac, warned of God, removes not into "the blessing which maketh rich, and causeth Egypt, the land which had afforded his father the earth to yield its increase.” shelter and subsistence in a similar storm, While he sojourned among the Philistines, and which has often proved an asylum to the Isaac falls into the same infirmity which dischurch; but retires to Gerar, one of the ci- honoured his father in Egypt. "Misled, by ties of Palestine, situated between Kadesh suspicion unworthy of an honest man, and and Shur. [ Abimelech was the prince who fear unworthy of the friend of God, he violates at that time reigned over the Philistines. sacred truth, and sins against his own conThe same person, according to Josephus, science: for when interrogated concerning with whom Abraham had formed a con- Rebekah," he said, She is my sister: for he nexion so friendly,and with whom, for that feared to say, She is my wife, lest, said he, reason, Heaven now directed Isaac to sojourn, the men of this place should kill me for Retill the famine should be relieved. This con- bekah: because she was fair to look upon." jecture of the Jewish historian, though not The criminality of this mistrust is greatly insupportable, from a physical impediment aggravated by the clearness and fulness of seems highly improbable; if we consider that the heavenly vision, whereby he had been seventy-five years have elapsed since Abra- admonished to bend his course to the court of ham resided at Gerar: and history furnishes Abimelech. " And the Lord appeared unto few, if any examples, of reigns of so long him and said, Go not down into Egypt. Dwell continuance. It is more probable that Abime in the land which I shall tell thee of. Sojourn lech was then the general appellative name in this land, and I will be with thee, and will of the princes of that part of Palestine, as bless thee: for unto thee, and unto thy seed, Pharaoh was that of the kings of Egypt. I will give all these countries, and I will perWhen we behold the patriarchs thus remov- form the oath which I sware unto Abraham ing from place to place, a feeble, unwarlike, thy father. And I will make thy seed to encumbered band, through nations fierce, en- multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give vious, and violent, their safety is to be ac- unto thy seed all these countries: and in thy counted for only from the restraining power seed shall all the nations of the earth be
blessed. Because that Abraham obeyed my Gen. xrv. 32.
Gen. xx. 14, 15.
.Gen. xxvi. 1.
Gen. xxvi. 7.