« AnteriorContinuar »
voice, and kept my charge, my command- the flocks and the herds. For without water, ments, my statutes, and my laws.' Slight “the cattle upon a thousand hills” are a temptations frequently prevail, after trials poor, perishing commodity. Envy considers more formidable have been successfully re- that as gained to itself which is lost to ansisted and overcome. The wise, therefore, other: and not only delights in destruction, will reckon no danger small, no foe con- from which it hopes to draw advantage, but temptible, no condition perfectly secure. The enjoys the mischief which it works merely faithful will learn to ak truth, to do good, for mischief's sake. Envy will even submit to trust in the Lord, and fear nothing. to hurt itself a little, to have the malicious
Virtue is not hereditary in families, it de- satisfaction of hurting another much. Abiscends but in rarer instances; whereas frail- melech himself, more liberal-minded than ty, alas! descends from every father to every meaner men, grows at length weary of his
Virtue is the water in the particular guest, feels hurt at his growing prosperity, pool ; vice the torrent in the river, which envies his greatness, and dismisses him with sweeps every thing before it. The modera- cold civility. “ And Abimelech said unto tion, honour, and good sense of Abimelech, Isaac, Go from us : for thou art much mightier are the severest imaginable reproof of the than we."* Grandeur admits not of frienddisingenuousness of the prophet,t and hap- ship; and friendship disdains to dwell with pily prevented the mischief, which Isaac, profligacy. Of all the men in a nation, the seeking by improper means to shun, had well king is most certainly excluded from this nigh occasioned.
blessing ; and surely, his lot contains nothing Under the protection and friendship of to be once compared with it, or which can this prince, he has no obtained a settlement supply its want. in the land; and by the blessing of Heaven Isaac prudently gives way. He withupon his honest industry, he prospers and in- draws the hated object from before the eyes creases in the midst of difficulties. " Isaac of envy, and leaving the city, pitches his sowed in the land, and received in the same tent in the valley of Gerar. Apprehending, year an hundred fold : and the Lord blessed he had a hereditary right to the wells of him. And the man waxed great, and went water which were his father's, and which forward, and grew, until he became very the Philistines had maliciously obstructed, great. For he had possession of flocks, and he digs again for them in the valley. And possession of herds, and great store of ser- from respect to the memory of Abraham, as vants."! But we are by no means to imagine, well as to keep alive the remembrance of that worldly success is ever proportioned to the gracious interpositions of the Divine promising means and favourable opportuni- Providence in his behalf
, he revives the anties. “ The race is not always to the swift, cient names by which the wells were disnor the battle to the strong." Some men's tinguished. Particularly the name Beersails seem to gather every breath of the sheba, or, the well of the oath, preserved, wind: they get forward in spite of every the memorial of the covenant ratified up obstacle. Others feel the tempest continu- wards of seventy years before, between the ally blowing in their faces. All things are king of the Philistines and Abraham; and against them, and though they set out with which was known by that name for many the fairest, most flattering prospects, unac- ages afterwards, as one of the extreme bouncountably thwarted and disappointed, they daries of the holy land. But the unrelenting " wax poor, and fall into decay.” Let not jealousy of the Philistines pursues him from prosperity, then, be deemed an infallible the city into the field. No sooner has he by proof of wisdom, or worth, or of divine favour. industry procured for his family that importNeither let want of success be always de- ant necessary of life, water, than the herdrived from folly, or vice, or the curse of Hea- men of Gerar, endeavoured by violence to ven; for in this mixed, imperfect, probation- possess themselves of it. Isaac, fond of ary state, “time and chance happen to all peace, chooses rather to recede from his just men," neither can a man tell “what is good right, than to support it by force; and still for him all the days of his vain life, which he retires, seeking relief in patience and indusspendeth as a shadow."
try. He finds himself still pursued by the Every temporal advantage has a corres- pride and selfishness of his neighbours; but ponding infelicity. Isaac grew rich and great, at length conquers by yielding. A victory but “the Philistines envied him.” And, “who the most certain, the most honourable, and can stand before envy?". That dark, malig- the most satisfactory. And the tranquillity nant passion, prompted his surly, jealous foes and ease of Rehoboth,t amply compensate to cut off one source of his wealth, " for all the troubles and vexation of Eseki and Sitthe wells which his father's servants had dig-nah. Finally, to prevent as far as in him ged in the days of Abraham his father, the lay, every ground of quarrel, he fixes his Philistines had stopped them, and filled them residence at a still greater distance from with earth.”$ This was, in effect, to destroy Abimelech. “He went up from thence to
Gen. xxvi. 2-5. ^ Ib. 9—11. Ib. 12-14. § Ib. 15. * Gen. xxvi. 16. f Room Contention. Hatred.
Beer-sheba ;" where feeling himself at home, son; who, in the fortieth year of his own life, after so many removals, he at once pitches that is, the hundreth of his father's, introhis tent for repose, and builds an altar for duced two idolatrous wives at once, into the religion; and the hatred and violence of man holy family. This was two great evils in is lost and forgotten in communion with one. It was being unequally yoked with inGod.
fidelity; and carrying on a practice which The expression, “ he called upon the name has ever been and ever will be fatal to doof the Lord,” seems to import, that when his mestic peace. The daughter of a Hittite altar was built, it was consecrated to the would naturally be disposed to interrupt the service of God, with certain extraordinary religious harmony which prevailed in Isaac's solemnities; such as sacrifice, and public habitation, and two wives at once would, as thanksgiving, at which the whole family as- certainly, be disposed to annoy each other, sisted, and in which the holy man himself, and to embroil the whole family in their the priest as well as the prince of his family, quarrels. Isaac was well acquainted with joyfully presided. His piety was speedily the solicitude of his pious father on his own acknowledged and crowned with the appro- account, in the important article, marriage; bation' and smiles of his Heavenly Father. and was conscious of a similar anxiety resFor, “the Lord appeared unto him the pecting the settlement of his sons. We may same night, and said, I am the God of Abra- easily conceive, then, how he felt at this acham thy father, fear not, for I am with thee, cumulated irregularity and imprudence of and will bless thee, and will multiply thy Esau. He was
wounded there, where as a seed, for my servant Abraham's sake."* His man, a father, and a servant of the true God, meek and placid deportment, together with he was most vulnerable. To be neglected, his increasing power and wealth, and the unacknowledged in a matter of the highest favour of Heaven so unequivocally declared, moment to his comfort, by that son whom he have rendered the patriarch so dignified and had cherished with the fondest affection, and respectable in the eyes of the world, that on whom he rested his fondest hopes; how the prince, who from an unworthy motive mortifying to a father! But besides the had been induced to treat him with unkind- holy descent was in danger of being marred ness, and to dismiss him from his capital, by an impure heathenish mixture; and the now feels himself impelled to court his minds of his grandchildren likely to be perfriendship, and to secure it by a solemn com- verted from the knowledge and worship of pact. Abimelech considers it as no diminu- the God of their fathers. Such is the untion of his dignity, to leave home, attended gracious return which parents often meets with the most honourable of his council
, and with, for all that profusion of tenderness and the supreme in command over his armies, in affection which they lavish upon their offorder to visit the shepherd in his tent. The spring; such their reward, for all their expostulation of Isaac is simple and natural, wearisome days, and sleepless nights. The and his conducts exhibits a mind free from ingrates dispose of their affections, their pergall, free from resentment. The reply of sons, their prospects, their all, in a hasty fit Abimelech discloses the true motive of this of passion; as if the father who brought them visit. And we are not surprised to find, that up with so much toil and trouble, as if the fear has at least as large a share in it as love. mother who bore them had no concern in the The worst of men find it to be their interest matter. The ungrateful, disorderly conduct to live on good terms with the wise and pious: of their elder son, and no wonder, was “a and good men cleave to each other from af- grief of mind to Isaac and to Rebekah." fection.
Whether it was from the vexation occaThe covenant being amicably renewed, sioned by this event, from disease, from acciand the oath of God interposed, and, “an oath dent, or some natural weakness in the organs for confirmation is an end of all strife," the of sight, we are not informed, but we find king of Gerar and his retinue return in peace, Isaac, in the one hundred and thirty-fifth and leave Isaac to the retirement which he year of his life,-in a state of total blindness; loved, and to that intercourse with Heaven, and he was probably visited with the loss of which he prized infinitely above the friend that precious sense at a much earlier period. ship of earthly potentates. And now, a de- But forty-five years, at least, of his earthly lightful calm of eighteen years ensued, of pilgrimage were passed in this dark and which no traces remain to inform or instruct comfortless state. “All men wish to live to men, but which from the well known cha- old age; but when they have attained their racter of this patriarch, we may well suppose wish, they are apt to repine at the infirmiwere spent in such a manner, as to be had ties and the discomforts which are necessain everlasting remembrance before God. rily incident to it. They would be old ; but
At this period, his domestic tranquillity was they would not be blind, and palsied, and again cruelly disturbed, and, by his favourite feeble. They would be old; but they would * Gen. xxvi. 24. † Gen. xxvi. 27.
not be neglected, wearied of, and forsaken. I Gen. xxvi. 30. $ Gen. xxvi. 28, 29.
They would be old; but they would not be
practised upon and deceived. But, old age, blame, have been known to establish distinccertainly brings on all these, and many more tions in families, which destroyed their peace inconveniences; and vain it is to dream of and accelerated their ruin. Children unborn the benefit, without the care. We read but have often felt the dire effects of a silly nickof one, that is Moses himself, whose “ eye at name, imposed on a progenitor whom they the age of one hundred and twenty, was not knew not, and whose relation to them was dim, nor his natural force abated."
thereby rendered a curse. Men are often This dark period of Isaac's life, containing deemed unfortunate, both by themselves and many interesting and instructive particulars, others, where they deserve to be reckoned will furnish matter for a separate discourse. unwise. They themselves do the mischiel, In reviewing the past, we are under the ne- and then wonder how it came about. They cessity of again admonishing parents on that spoil their children, and then complain that momentous article. Impartiality in the dis- they are so perverse. I know how difficult it tribution of their attention, their tenderness, is to bring up youth; how difficult to bear an and their property, among their children.— even hand between child and child, to coun
The trifling circumstances of name, of per- teract the bias of favour and affection, to consonal likeness, of beauty and deformity, and ceal and disguise the strong emotions of the like, over which parents had little power, the heart. But it is only the more neces. and the children none at all; and which in sary to be prudent, to be vigilant, “to walk themselves have neither merit nor demerit, circumspectly,” and, to ask “ wisdom of and are the objects of neither just praise nor | God."
HISTORY OF ISAAC.
And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son, and said unto him, My son. And he said unto him, Behold, here am I. And he said, Behold, now I am old, I know not the day of my death. Now, therefore, take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison ; and make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die. And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son: and Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it.-GENESIS xxvii. 145.
THERE is a generous principle in human good report,”* and the persons who love and nature, which commonly disposes us to take practise them. part with the weakest. We feel an honest It is not the least profitable part of the stuindignation at seeing weakness oppressed by dy of both providence and scripture, to trace might, honesty over-reached by cunning, and the conduct of a righteous God in punishing unsuspecting goodness played upon by self- the offender, though he has subdued the ofishness and knavery. God himself feels the fence into a servant of his own will; chasteninsults offered to the destitute and the help- ing his children by a rod of their own preless; declares himself “ the judge of the wi- paring; tumbling the wicked into the pit dow, the protector of the fatherless, the shield which themselves have digged, and bringing of the stranger.” He aims his thunder at the backsliders again to himself, by making them head of him who putteth a “stumbling-block to eat the bitter fruit of their own doings.in the way of the blind, and planteth a snare Happy it is for the children of men, if their for the innocent.” And though, in the sove- deviations from the path of rectitude meet reignty of his power, and the depths of his their correction in a temporal punishment. wisdom, he is sometimes pleased to employ But wo to that man, whom justice permits the vices of men to execute his purposes of to thrive in his iniquity, and to grow hardengoodness and mercy, he loves and approves ed through impunity; whose retribution is only "whatsoever things are true, whatso- deferred, till repentance can produce no ever things are honest, whatsoever things are change. Chastise me, O Father, as severely just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever as thou wilt. Let me not fall asleep under things are lovely, whatsoever things are of
* Phil. iv. 8.
my transgression, and thy hot displeasure.- | ly principle of grace may consist with much Dispose as thou wilt of my body, my estate, natural weakness. my worldly comfort; but let my soul live be Rebekah, equally attentive to the interest fore thee. Let me see my sin, and purge me of her younger son, happened to overhear the thoroughly from it.
charge which Isaac gave to Esau, and immeWe are now to attempt the illustration of diately, with the quickness of a female, dethese reflections, from history.
termined, at all hazards, to carry a favourite The life of Isaac may be divided into three point, she builds upon it a project of obtainperiods. The first, containing seventy-five ing, by management and address, what she years, from his birth to the death of Abra- despaired of bringing about by the direct road ham; during which, being under parental of entreaty or persuasion. Unhappy it is for government, and of a meek, unaspiring dis- that family, the heads of which entertain opposition, his history is blended with, and in- posite views, and pursue separate interests. cluded in that of his father. The second, One tent could not long contain two rival commencing at his father's death, and end- brothers, whose animosity was kept alive and ing in his one hundred and thirty-seventh encouraged by those whose wisdom and auyear: when it pleased God to visit him with thority should have interposed to suppress it. extreme weakness, or total loss of eye-sight. It is affecting to think how little scrupulous This contains the space of sixty-two years, even good people are, about the means of which may be termed his active period. To accomplishing what their hearts are set upon; it succeeds a heavy period of forty-three how easily the understanding and the conyears, up to the day of his death. During science become the dupe of the affections.which we see a poor, dark old man, at the The apologists of Rebekah charitably ascribe disposal of others, moving in a narrow sphere; her conduct on this occasion to motives of “knowledge” and comfort wat one entrance, religion. She is supposed to be actuated quite shut out.” We behold a man, who, throughout by zeal for supporting the destiwhen “ he was young, girded himself
, and nation of Heaven, “ The elder shall serve the walked whither he would; but now become younger;" a destination which she observed old, stretching forth his hands, and another her husband was eager to subvert. I am not girding him, and carrying him whither he disposed to refuse her, to a certain degree, would not.” This portion of his history, ac- the credit of so worthy a principle; for the cordingly, is blended with, and swallowed up piety of her spirit, on other occasions, is unin that of his two sons.
questionable. But I see too much of the woAt the beginning of this period, we find man, of the mother, of the spirit of this world, Isaac sensible of his growing infirmities, feel in her behaviour, to believe that her motives ing the approach of death, though ignorant were wholly pure and spiritual. Religion, of the day of it, and anxious to convey the true religion, never does evil that good may double portion, the patriarchal benediction come. and the covenant promise, according to the Admitting that Isaac was to blame, for misbent of his natural affection, to his elder and understanding, forgetting or endeavouring to more beloved son. He calls him with accents contradict the oracle which gave the preferof paternal tenderness, and proposes to him ence to Jacob; surely, surely, it belonged to the mingled gratification of pursuing his own the wife of his youth to have employed other favourite amusement, of ministering to his means to undeceive and admonish him. Was fond father's pleasure, and of securing to the deception which she practised upon his himself the great object of his ambition and helplessness and infirmity, the proof she exdesire, the blessing, with all its valuable ef- hibited of the love, honour, and obedience fects.
which she owed her lord? Was it consistent Behold of what importance it is, that our with genuine piety, to take the work of God propensities be originally good, seeing indul- out of his hands? As if the wisdom of Jehovah gence and habit interweave them with our needed the aid of human craft and invention. very constitution, till they become a second And, could a mother, not only herself deviate nature, and age confirms, instead of eradi- into the crooked paths of dissimulation and cating them. We find the two great infirmi- falsehood, and become a pattern of deceit
, ties of Isaac's character predominant to the but wickedly attempt to decoy, persuade, last, a disposition to gratify his palate with constrain her own son, to violate sacred a particular kind of food, and partiality to his truth?" It is not, and it cannot come to son Esau. Time has not yet blunted the edge good ?" of appetite; and the eye of the mind, dim as Having planned her scheme, and overthe bodily organ, overlooks the undutifulness persuaded Jacob to assist in the execution which had pierced a father's heart, by unhal- of it, Rebekah loses not a moment; and Isaac's lowed, inauspicious marriages with the Hit- favourite dish is ready to be served up, long tite ; and Isaac discerns in his darling, those before the uncertainty of hunting, and the qualities only in which misguided affection dexterity of Esau could have procured it. had dressed him out. Thus a strong and live- Jacob, arrayed in goodly raiment of his elder
brother, disguised to the sense of feeling, as would, but as the Spirit of God constrained much as art could disguise him, and furnished him; and thus, Caiaphas predicted the death with the savoury meat which his father loved, of Christ for the sins of the people; but advances with trembling, doubtful steps to this spake he not of himself; but being his apartment. In the conversation that en- high priest that year, he prophesied that Je sued, which is most to be wondered at the sus should die for that nation."* honest, unsuspecting simplicity of the father; Thus was Isaac deceived, in having Jacob or the shameless, undaunted effrontery of the imposed upon him for Esau. Nor was Reson? But, in thinking of the one, our won- bekah less disappointed. For the blessing der is mingled with respect and esteem; the which she had surreptitiously obtained for other excites resentment and abhorrence. It her favourite, instead of producing the imshows the danger of getting into a wrong mediate benefits expected from it, plunged train. One fraud must be followed up with him into an ocean of distress, exiled him another; one injury must support and justify from his country and his father's house, exanother; and simple falsehood, by an easy posed him, in his turn, to imposition and inprogress, rises up to perjury. Who is not sult; and, but for the care of a superintendshocked, to hear the son of Isaac interposing ing Providence, the success which he had the great and dreadful name of the “ LORD earned by the sacrifice of a good conscience, God of his father," not to confirm the truth, must have defeated and destroyed itself. But but to countenance and bear out a wilful and the counsel of the Lord standeth forever, deliberate lie ? What earthly good is worth the thoughts of his heart to all generations." purchasing at such a price? Surely his “ His decree may no man reverse.” “The tongue faltered when it pronounced those wrath of man worketh not the righteousness solemn, those awful words.
of God;" but the wisdom and righteousness The good old man's suspicions were evi- of God, can easily bend the wrath of man to dently alarmed, either by the tone of Jacob's their purpose. voice, or by the hesitating manner in which Jacob has hardly departed with his ill-gothe spoke. And, apprehending he had an in- ten benediction, when Esau arrives in the fallible method of detection, if a fallacy triumph of success and hope; his heart overthere were, he appeals from the testimony flowing with filial tenderness, and panting of his ears, to his feeling. But behold, craft for the promised reward of his labours. The is too deep for honesty. Rebekah and her feelings of both the father and son, when the son have not contrived their plot so ill, as to cheat was discovered, are more easily confail at this stage of the business; and Isaac ceived than described : the shame of being is too good himself to imagine that others over-reached, resentment against the imposcould be so wicked. He suffers himself, tor, the chagrin of disappointed hope, of distherefore, to be at length persuaded; and, appointed ambition; bitter reflection on the refreshed with meat and drink, pronounces folly and danger of resisting the high will the blessing which he had promised. Had he of Heaven, and on the hard necessity of subnot been blinded, when he saw, with ill. mitting to the irreversible decree. Nothing judged favour to Esau, and seduced by the can exceed the tenderness of Esau's exposflavour of his venison, he had not been ex- tulation, when he found the blessing was irposed to this imposition, in his helpless state. recoverably gone from him. The name of Could Jacob have trusted in God, and waited his brother; the occasion of its being given to be conducted of Providence, he had ar- him; his conduct since he grew up; the rerived at his end no less certainly, and with peated advantage he had taken, of his necesmuch less dishonour. But “God is true, sity at one time, of bis absence at another, though every man be found a liar." all rush upon his mind at once, and excite a
It is worthy of observation, that though tempest of passion which he is unable to go Isaac, by the spirit of prophesy which was vern. “ And Esau said unto his father, Ilast in him, foresaw and foretold the future for- thou but one blessing, my father? Bless me, tunes of his family ; though he could clearly even me also, O my father; and Esau lift up discern objects at the remotest distance, his his voice and wept."| The ability and the natural discernment was so small, and even good will of an earthly parent have their lihis prophetic knowledge so partial, that he mits. He has but one, or at most a second could not distinguish the one branch of his blessing to bestow. What he gives to this family from the other; and, impelled by a child is so much taken away from that other. will more powerful than his own, he involun- But the liberality, and the power of our heatarily bestowed dominion and precedency venly Father, are unbounded. “In our Fawhere he least intended it. “ For the pro- ther's house there are many mansions." phesy came not in old time by the will of With him “there is bread enough and to man: but holy men of God spake as they spare.” Isaac discovers at length, that he were moved by the Holy Ghost.”* Thus, has been fighting against God; and while he Balaam afterwards prophesied, not what he resents Jacob's subti!ty, and the unkindness
* John xi. 51. † Psalm xxxiii. 11. 1 Gen, xxvii. 38.
* 2 Peter i. 21.