« AnteriorContinuar »
of Rebekah, he acknowledges and submits to length, settle on him whom he loved less. the high will of Heaven. The blessing But, to part with the heir of the promise, at which he had pronounced unwittingly, and the age of one hundred and forty years, to which he finds to be irrevocable, he now de- send him away into a far country-was it liberately and cheerfully confirms.
not to part with him for ever? The fervour And now, behold the little spark of dis- of his farewell benediction, pathetically excord between the brethren blown up into a presses his despair of meeting him again, fame, which threatens destruction to the “God Almighty bless thee, and make thee whole family. And, dreadful to think, Esau fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest looks forward, with desire to the death of his be a multitude of people: and give thee the old, kind father, that he might prosecute re- blessing of Abraham, to thee and to thy seed venge against his brother unto blood. Hither with thee; that thou mayest inherit the to we have seen in Esau an object of com- land wherein thou art a stranger, which passion: we now view him with detestation; God gave to Abraham."* These are the and we find the righteous judgment of God last words, this the last action of Isaac's life, prosecuting this murderous disposition in his upon record. But his latter end was at a posterity to their utter ruin. “For thy vio- greater distance than he or than Esau aplence against thy brother Jacob, shame shall prehended. He survived this event forty cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for years. He lived to lose in communion with ever.” “As I live, saith the Lord God, I God, the disorder and dispersion of his will prepare thee unto blood, and blood shall family. He lived to shelter and to bless by pursue thee: sith thou hast not hated blood, his prayers, him whom the paternal roof even blood shall pursue thee. Thus I will could shelter and protect no longer. He make Mount Seir most desolate, and cut off lived to be refreshed with the good tidings from it him that passeth out and him that of the success of the blessing, and the happy returneth.”+ “Thus saith the Lord, For increase of Jacob's family. He lived to three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I see him" again in his touch," and to emwill not turn away the punishment thereof; brace his grandchildren. This period of his because he did pursue his brother with the life is a mere blank to posterity. But if we sword, and did cast off all pity, and his an- are ever admitted to read in “ the book of ger did tear perpetually, and kept his wrath God's remembrance," O how will these forty for ever.
But I will send a fire upon Te- years of silence and oblivion arise and shine! man, which shall devour the palaces of Boz At last, old and full of days, Isaac drops rah."| Rebekah too, now that “a sword into the grave. “ The days of Isaac were pierces through her own soul,” ready “to an hundred and fourscore years, and Isaac lose both her children in one day," too late gave up the ghost and died, and was gadiscerns how imprudently she has acted, thered unto his people.”+ “Let me die the and is glad to purchase the safety of her fa- death of the righteous, and let my last end vourite at the price of his banishment. So be like his!" T'ime, and
a better spirit and uneasily do those possessions sit upon us the death of a father, have happily extinwhich we have acquired by improper means. guished resentment between the brothers.
The threatening words of his elder son, Esau thinks no more of slaying Jacob. They must have speedily reached the ears of the mingle tears, as did Isaac and Ishmael, over aged patriarch also. And he has the inex- their parent's tomb, and their angry passions pressible mortification of learning that the sleep in the dust with him. ungrateful wretch whom he had cherished Thus lived and died Isaac, the son of Abrain his bosom, and to whom his fondness ham, a man of contemplation, piety, and would have given every thing, was enjoying peace. A man of few and slight infirmities;. the prospect of his approaching death, be- of many and eminent virtues.
A man, canse it would afford a safer opportunity of whom Providence tried with multiplied and practising his meditated revenge. This in- severe afflictions; and whom faith strengthdeed was the bitterness of death, to "feel ened to bear them with patience and fortihow sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to tude. His story comes home to the breast have a thankless child. And, thus severely and bosom of every man. His excellencies the unwise attachment of both the parents are such as all may, by due cultivation, acpunished itself, by the effect which it pro- quire; his virtue such as all may imitate. duced.
His faults are those, to which even good men To prevent the dreadful mischief which are liable, and which they are the more conhung over his hoary head, all his prospects cerned to avoid, or to amend. concerning Esau, being now blighted by the To young men, we would hold him up as heathenish alliances which he had formed, a pattern of filial tenderness and submission. by his diabolical character, and by the re- Isaac possessed in an eminent degree, that jection of Heaven, he gladly consents to the most amiable quality of ingenuous youth, dismission of Jacob: and all his hopes, at dutiful respect to the mother who bare him. * Obad. verse 10. † Ezek. xxxv. 6, 7. | Amos i. 11, 12. * Gen. xxviii. 3, 4.
Gen. XXXV. 28, 29.
He cherished her with pious attention while, temper, his resignation under affliction, his she lived, and sincerely lamented her in gentle requital of deception and insult, his death; till duty called him to drop the grate- superiority to the world, his composure in the ful and affectionate son, in the loving and prospect of dissolution, and the faith which faithful husband. So long as Abraham lived, triumphed over death and the grave. Let Isaac had no will but the will of his father. the affluent and the prosperous learn of him, The master of a family may learn of him to adorn high rank and ample fortune, by hudomestic piety and devotion, conjugal fide- mility and condescension; and the wretched, lity, prudent foresight, persevering industry. to endure distress with fortitude and resig
The selfish and contentious are reproved, nation. Let his faults be forgotten, and his by the example of his moderation, by his infirmities covered; or remembered only patience under unkindness and injustice, by as a reproof and admonition to ourselves. his meek surrender of an undoubted right, And let us be followers together of him, and for the sake of peace. Let the aged con- of all them who “through faith and patience sider him well, and imitate his sweetness of inherit the promises."
HISTORY OF JACOB.
And the boys grew; and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field : and Jacob was a plain man. dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison; but Rebekah loved Jacob. And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field and he was faint. And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage, for I am faint; therefore his name was called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day: and he sware unto him : and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles, and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way; thus Esau despised his birthright.-GENESIS XXv. 27–34.
The importance of personages, to whose and the ensamples of all them who in after acquaintance we are introduced in the sacred ages should believe. “I am the God of Abrapages, is to be estimated, not by circumstances ham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of which catch and engage the superficial and Jacob.” Thus it is spoken of the men, whom the vain, and which constitute what is called the King of kings delighted to honour. And greatness among men. No; “God hath chosen what is rank and title, among men, compared the weak things of the world, to confound the to this? things which are mighty; and base things of Jacob was, by the ordinance of heaven, the world, and things which are despised, destined to pre-eminence and superiority behath God chosen, yea, and things which are fore he was born. And he who could have not, to bring to naught things that are." raised him to the rights of primogeniture, in When great men are to be sought for, the the ordinary course of nature, was pleased, mind that is governed by worldly ideas, such is divine sovereignty, to bestow this adrushes straight to the palaces of kings, or vantage upon him, by the concurrence of enters into the cabinet where statesmen as- various providential events. That men may semble, or attends the footsteps of the warrior adore, and submit to the God " who worketh over the ensanguined field. But reason and all things according to the counsel of his own religion conduct us in far different paths, and will." present us with far different objects. They The struggle between the twin brothers discover to us, many a time, true greatness began early, and lasted long. With more under the obscure roof of a cottage, or the than ordinary reasons for loving each other, spreading branches of a great tree. They the ill-judged partialities, of parental affecexhibit dignity and consequence, affixed, not tion, and the lust of precedency and power, to the royal sceptre, but to the shepherd's inflame them to uncommon rancour and anicrook; and feelingly teach us, that what is mosity. The strife, which was at first accihighly prized among men is of little estima- dental, or instinctive, becomes at length wiltion in the sight of God.
ful and deliberate. And the name of Jacob The person on whose history we are now imposed in the beginning, from the slight entering is the third in order and succession incident of his laying hold, with his hand, of of the illustrious three, who are distinguished his brother's heel, comes in process of time in scripture as the covenant friends of God, I to be a mark of his character, and a record
of his conduct. Events unimportant, inci-| hands; but if we presume to take the whole dental, contingent in the eyes of men, are or any part of the work of God upon ouroften matters of deep design, of mighty and selves
, it is both with sin and with danger. lasting consequence with God. The natural - His counsel indeed shall stand,” but the disposition of the two brothers early disco-offender shall pay the price of his rashness. vered itself. Esau betakes himself to the It is a dreadful thing to get into a course and active and laborious sports of the field. habit of acting amiss. When once we have Jacob, formed for social and domestic life, got a favourite object in view, how every abides at home in the tents, attending to fa- thing is made to bend to it! The birthright, mily affairs, cultivating filial affections, and the birthright was the darling object of Jaliving in the exercise of filial duties. The cob's fondest wishes; and, as if the decree Chaldee Paraphrast gives a translation of the and the prediction of heaven had not been words of Moses, rendered in our version, security sufficient for the attainment of it, he "dwelling in tents,” considerably different seeks to confirm it to himself by a deed of in sense, “ He was a minister in the house sale with his brother, and the interposition of teaching," understanding by the word tents of a solemn oath; and finally, is eager to or tabernacles, the place appointed for divine have the bargain ratified by the solemn beneworship.
diction of his father's prophetic lips.. “He The first action of Jacob's life, which we that believeth shall not make haste.” But find recorded by the sacred historian, is by alas! I see in Jacob an earnestness to obtain no means calculated to give us a favourable his end, that borders on diffidence and susimpression of his heart. The young men picion; and indeed, whom or what can that were now in their twenty-fifth year. The man trust, who has not confidence in his elder entirely devoted to his favourite pur- Maker? The vile scene of imposition and suit: the younger, ever on the watch to ob- fraud practised upon his blind and aged patain that by art or industry which nature had rent, as forming an essential article of Jacob's taken from him. It happened on a certain history, rises again to view. Nike his taking day, that Jacob had employed himself in pre- advantage of his father's blindness still less paring a plain dish of pottage of lentiles, for than his attempt to carry a favourite point by his own entertainment. And here, let not taking advantage of his brother’s hunger and the fastidious critic, who measures every impetuosity. The latter was but the skill and thing by modern manners and maxims, con- address of an open adversary; the former sider this as an employment beneath the dig- was the cunning and deceit of a crafty and nity of Isaac's son. It is, in truth, one of a undutiful child. Observe how cautiously, multitude of instances, of the beautiful sim- and fearfully, and slowly, the footsteps of the plicity of ancient customs. The greatest deceitful must proceed. The moment that heroes, and proudest princes, whom Horner the conscience swerves from truth and rectihas exhibited, are frequently found engaged tude, the man becomes jealous, and anxious, in similar occupations. Esau, returning from and timid. But integrity advances with firmthe field, and having been either unsuccess-ness and intrepidity. “ And Jacob said to ful in hunting, or being too impatient to delay Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brothe gratification of his appetite till his venison ther is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. was prepared, entreats his brother to give My father peradventure will feel me, and I him a share of the provision which he had shall seem to him as a deceiver, and I shall made for himself. Jacob, taking advantage bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing."* of his hunger and eagerness, proposes, as an
But, what could make Rebekah and her equivalent for his pottage, no less a price than favourite son so anxious to attain this superithe favourite object of all his ambition and ority? What was there in the birthright, desire, the birthright. Unconscious or re- to make it thus fondly coveted, and unre- . gardless of its value, and in a haste to satisfy mittingly pursued? The answer to these the cravings of the moment, he inconsider- questions will at least plead some excuse for ately parts with that which nature had given their zeal, if not wholly do away the guilt him in vain, and which a father's fondness of their falschood. First—The gift of prostrove to secure for him; but which a con- phesy was known to reside in the patriarch duct so“ profane" and precipitate proved him Isaac; and the parental benediction, in ceraltogether unworthy of possessing.
tain circumstances, was considered as havBut, was the conduct of Jacob pure and ing the force of a prediction. Secondlypraise-worthy in this transaction? It cannot Preeminency and power over the rest of the be affirmed. Providence had indeed ordained family in patriarchal times, were affixed to him to the blessing which he so ardently priority of birth ; thus God speaks to Cain coveted; but Providence neither appoints nor concerning Abel, “ Unto thee shall be his approves of crooked and indirect paths to the desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” Thirdends which it has proposed. Weak and err- ly–A double portion of the paternal inheriing men may perhaps not be displeased, to tance appertained to the first born. And have part of their work taken off from their
*Gen. xxii. 11, 12.
this perhaps explains the meaning of Elisha's Abraham's servant being arrived in Mesorequest at the rapture of Elijah, “ Let a potamia, in search of a wife for Isaac, his double portion of thy spirit be upon me :" young master, providentially conducted, not as if he meant to ask, or expect, twice lights on Rebekah, the sister of this Laban, so much as Elijah had, but the share of an by the well of water. Having briefly un. elder brother. Fourthly—The honour of folded his commission, and made her a prepriesthood resided then and for many years sent suitable to his master's rank and afafter, in the first born, and was justly con- fluence, she runs home to acquaint her residered as the first of privileges. Finally, lations of the adventurė. Laban, instantly The promise of the Messiah, “ the first born attracted by the sight of the gold, and by the among many brethren," was entailed upon account he had heard, of the state in which the eldest son: and this was justly under- Abraham's servant travelled, very prudently stood to confer a dignity and lustre infinite-concludes, that such a connexion might be ly superior to all temporal blessings. The improved to very great advantage. Hence guilt of Esau consisted in undervaluing and that profusion of civility and kindness to an despising an advantage so distinguished.— entire stranger, “Come in, thou blessed of The offence of Jacob's fraud is greatly ex- the Lord, wherefore standest thou without ? tenuated, if not wholly extinguished, in the For I have prepared the house, and room for nobility and worth of the prize for which he the camels."* Did we not afterwards discontended. Behold him, then, retiring from cover him to be grovelling, greedy, and the presence of his deluded father, who had mercenary, this might have passed for the prescience sufficient to discern, at the dis- language of kindness and hospitality. But, tance of ages, the future fortunes of his fa- when the whole is taken in connexion, we mily, without sagacity capable of discerning see a man from first to last invariably attachthe imposture, which was, at that very in-ed to his own interest, employing his very stant, practising upon his credulity and want daughters as mere instruments of commerce, of sight. Behold Jacob retired, in possession and prizing nothing, but in proportion as it indeed of the blessing, but haunted with the ministered to his own advantage. terrors which eternally pursue the man, who Of all the passions of our nature, there is is conscious to himself, that he has acted none so steady, uniform, and consistent as wrong. He has gained the birthright, but this is. Avarice never tires by exercise, he has lost a brother. He has by subtilty never loses sight of its object: it gathers stolen away the prophetic benediction, but strength by gratification, grows vigorous by he has raised up against himself an implaca- old age, and inflames the heart, when the ble foe. The possession of nothing yields vital fluid can hardly force a passage through that satisfaction which we proanised our it. What a feast for such a spirit, the conselves in it beforehand; and conscience will cluding scene of the marriage treaty for Renot permit us to enjoy peaceably that which bekah? “The servant brought forth jewels we have acquired unworthily. His father's of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, blessing announced every kind and degree and gave them to Rebekah : he gave also to of prosperity, “the dew of heaven, the fat- her brother and to her mother precions ness of the earth, the servitude of nations things.”+ Such was the man, with whom and people, lordship over his brethren." But Jacob was now destined to spend a very conhe is instantly constrained to become an exile siderable part of his life; and whose treatand a wanderer from his father's house. And ment of him, in the eyes of the severest when he himself comes to make the estimate judge, may pass as a sufficient punishment of his own life, in the close of it—what is for the little fallacies which he had practised the amount? “ Few and evil have the days in his father's house. of the years of my life been.” His elder Behold then, in the covenant head and rebrother is declared his inferior, but he has presentative of the holy family, “a Syrian by much the stronger arm of the two. And, ready to perish,” leaving the paternal roof while he is practising deceit upon his near- without an attendant, without a guide, withest relations in Canaan, Providence is silent-out a companion; more forlorn than his ly preparing the means of requiting him in grandfather Abraham himself. For the bitPadan-aram, in the person of one already a terness of his exile was alleviated by the near relation, and about to be much more company and conversation of his beloved closely allied to him, Laban the Syrian, a Sarah ; whereas, the affliction of Jacob's man much more cunning and selfish, and banishment was grievously increased, by much less scrupulous than himself. As this the consciousness that he had brought it up, is a character which the inspired painter has on himself; and from the bitter necessity of delineated with peculiar felicity and skill, it enduring its wearisome days and nights by may now be necessary to look back for a himself alone. What could have supported few moments, and to observe the first open-a man in such circumstances? A man, who ing of Laban's spirit and temper, as they ap- was attached to domestic life; a plain man, pear on the face of the sacred drama.
Gen. xxiv. 53.
*Gen. xxiv. 31.
“abiding in tents;" a man who had fondly firmity, of like passions with others," and fattered himself with the hope of power and whose faults are but the more conspicuous, tranquillity ; who had dreamed of superiority from the honourable station, and employment over his brother, but had not attained unto to which they were called. It will follow, it? I can think of but one thing, that could Secondly; That the comparison is not to have rendered his lot supportable, as it then be stated and pursued through every particustood. Jacob, after all, was a good man.- lar incident of the life, and every feature of His conduct was not indeed pure and per- the personal character of the person who is fect, but his heart was right with God. He the type. Men of very different characters, had once and again been mistaken in the and in very different situations, typified the means which he had employed, but he had Saviour of the world. To suppose every all along aimed at the noblest and most im- article of their history, condition, and chaportant end : and, from the chagrin and dis-racter to be typical and prophetic, would appointment which ever attended the plans therefore, in many instances, involve absurdof his own devising, he had always a sure ity and contradiction. Samson, David, and and a satisfying refuge, in the wisdom and many others who might be mentioned, were mercy of God. In truth, he had not attain- eminent types of Christ; but then, the reed the knowledge of true practical, vital re- semblance holds only in certain great leadligion, in the house of even his father Isaac, ing circumstances: the miraculous concepin Lahai-roi : but he learns it in silence and tion, for example, the Nazaritic sanctity, the in solitude, in the plains of Luz. It is a good invincible strength, the solitary, victorious thing for a young man to feel his own weight, achievements, the triumphant death of the “ to bear the yoke in his youth.” At ease, former: the divine appointment and elevaand in a multitude, we forget God—in retire- tion, the royal dignity, the providential sucment and danger, we learn and feel our de- cess of the latter, the subduing all the pendence, and call to remembrance a long-church's enemies; these and the like, are forgotten God.
the typical circumstances. But to pursue This is also a proper stage for resting on the resemblance throughout, to make every our way. We cannot lead our traveller action of Samson's or of David's life typical from home, till we have found for him a of something correspondent in the Messiah, place where to lodge. We cannot bear to would lead far beyond absurdity; it would see him from under the protection of the pa- issue in impiety and blasphemy. rental wing, till we are secure that he has Thirdly; Scripture by direct application, got another protector and friend, that "friend or by fair, unrestrained analogy, ought therewho sticketh closer than a brother." fore to lead, to regulate, and to correct all
Conformity to the plan we have proposed, our inquiries of this sort. We shall else be and regard to the analogy of scripture, would in danger of rearing a baseless, flimsy strucnow lead us to exhibit the patriarch Jacob, ture in the clouds, which can afford 'neither as a type of the Messiah, to whom patriarchs shelter nor rest. When pleasant amusement and "prophets all give witness," and who alone is the object, invention and fancy may was specially prefigured by the son of Isaac. be allowed their full exertion. But when But, his story is not yet sufficiently ad- we aim at religious instruction, we must be vanced, to afford a foundation broad and solid contented to take the Spirit of God for our enough to support a comparison, such as a guide. And here too, men ought to be more extended view of the subject will fur- jealous and watchful over their own spirits ; nish, and such as might more rationally con- lest, in endeavouring to establish a favourite duce to the ends of edification. We deem system, and to justify or support preconit of more importance, at this period, to sub-ceived opinions, they give to their own wild mit to your consideration a few general ob imaginations the solidity and weight of divine servations, respecting typical representation, truth, and, departing from the simplicity of and the proper use to be made of it. the gospel, presume to stamp the poor trash
First; In order to constitute a proper type, of their own brain with the sacred impress it is by no means necessary, that the person of God. It has often, and with too much who answers this important purpose should justice, been lamented, that many apply to possess perfect moral qualities. Were this the Bible for a justification of the opinions requisite, who ever was worthy to represent which they have already formed, and which the Son of God, the holy Jesus, “who did no they are determined, at all risks, to maintain; sin, neither was guile found in his lips?" and not to receive the information which But as "the law maketh men high priests they need, and to rectify the prejudices unwhich have infirmity,” though the law gives der which they labour. DO countenance to error or infirmity; so Finally; To determine the nature and Providence, " at sundry times and in divers propriety of typical representation, it is of manners,” raised up men to prefigure to importance to inquire, Whether or not the their contemporaries an immaculate Saviour, resemblance which we mean to pursue, has who were themselves "compassed with in- I a tendency to promote some moral, practical,