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other alluşions to the narrative in the epistles of St. Paul, which we shall have to notice.
It is said in the introduction of the record, that “God did tempt Abraham," or bring the faith which he had given him to a test of its existence, purity, and vigour. In this statement the manner in which both the author and subject of the temptation are characterised in the original Hebrew, is worthy of special notice. The word “God” or Aleim, has the emphatic particle * prefixed to it, and might be rendered the ALEIM themselves originated this trial of Abraham's faith. The Divine Covenanters who had pledged themselves to effectuate human salvation by means of this very son, who had promised, (and had confirmed that promise by oath) that Isaac should be a principal link in the chain of the blessed Seed, demanded the sacrifice in which Abraham was required to act as the sacerdotal offerer. There is also an emphatic particle prefixed to the proper name Abraham, which, though unnoticed in our translation, is full of meaning. | The subject of the temptation was that very person to whom the promises were made. To this the Apostle seems to refer in saying, “ Abraham when he was tried, offered up Isaac, and he,” that very father, who had
received the promises,
up begotten son.”
The faith of Abraham had been previously subjected to a variety of tests ; * but this, the last, was the most severe. His faith had advanced towards maturity under the discipline of former trials ; and now, when it could bear what may be truly called “a fiery trial,” was put,
a if we may so speak, into a crucible of experiment, “ heated ten times more than it was wont to be heated," and came from it 'proved and purified to the utmost. Thus his “ faith being much more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried by fire, will be found to praise, and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” In the interval it has been exhibited as a pattern to all his spiritual posterity, and has redounded to the glory of Him, who was both its author and its object.
The person, then, who was brought to this severe trial of faith was Abraham, who had
received the promises,” temporal and spiritual, of which we read in the accounts recorded by Moses in the several Divine manifestations vouchsafed to him, which promises were centered in Isaac as the first link in their fulfilment. God had promised to be his shield, and his exceeding
Perhaps this is referred to in the record “ After these things God did tempt Abraham.
great reward—to be Aleim, or God in covenant, to him and to his seed for ever--to give the land of Canaan for an inheritance to his posterity by Isaac,—that he should become a great nation, and that in his Seed other nations, even all the nations of the earth, should be blessed. These promises he had embraced by faith, so as to depend fully on their accomplishment.*
The words in which this trial of Abraham's faith was proposed to him, are very remarkable. “ Take now thy son—thy only son—Isaac, whom thou lovest,” and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him up for a burnt-offering on one of the mountains which I will tell thee of." Gen. xxii. 2. Every word was a dagger to the patriarch's heart. Let us consider them in detail, and mark the gradation of afflictive circumstances in this extraordinary requisition. The victim required was his son.
The patriarch had two sons, of one of whom it had been said, “ In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” (Heb. xi. 18. Comp. with Gen. xxi. 12.) Had the life of Ishmael been required, the trial had been lighter, since to Isaac the promises, temporal, spiritual, and eternal, were all limited; and since, on this account, as well as on account of the various wonderful circumstances attending the birth of Isaac, and his own dutiful behaviour, he must have been much dearer to his parent's heart. Further, the victim is characterised as the patriarch's “ only son." He was the only son left to him after Ishmael's ejection, by Divine command, from his family—the only son of Sarah his lawful wife-his only legitimate seed. Ishmael is spoken of as a servant, having been born of a mother in a servile condition of life, whereas Isaac was, in every sense, his son. Add to all this that he was the child of promise, for whose birth the anxious father had waited for many years, a son born out of the usual course of nature. He was the seed through whom the blessing of salvatiom, was to be derived to Abraham and to the world. (Comp. Rom. ix. 6—9.)
* This seems to be implied in St. Paul's compound verb. Αναδεχεσθαι plus est quam δεχεσθαι. Grotius.
In the gradation of endearing circumstances ascribed to the victim demanded, the name of Isaac is introduced—“ Isaac, whom thou lovest.” Oh, how this must have pierced the parent's heart! What is said of Jacob, in relation to Joseph (Gen. xliv. 30) may be said; also of Abraham in relation to Isaac, that “his life was bound up in the lad's life.” Every affectionate parent is able, in some little measure to appreciate the crucifixion of feeling which such a demand must have occasioned; but unless we placed in the same circumstances in which the patriarch was, it is impossible for us fully to know the extent of his sufferings, or the strength of the principle which overcame them. Isaac was not only dear to his father's soul by bonds of natural affection; but he was, as it were, the great pledge which God had given him of His love, the pledge of all the blessings he expected from it. Isaac, the son of laughter, became indeed a Benoni, a son of sorrow.*
But what was the direction which Abraham received ? Was it, in its letter, like any of those communications which he had before received from the source of grace and love from which it proceeded? On the contrary, it seemed a direct contrast to those communications, and irreconcilable with them. How mysterious to carnal reason, and even to a weak faith, must the command given to Abraham have been !
“Take now thy son, thine only son, Isaac whom thou lovest, and
get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”
The terms of the command are sacrificial and Abraham well understood them. They describe the awful process of expiation by blood. The victim was first to be seized, then taken to the altar, bound and laid on it, after which the knife was to be applied to its throat, and its body consumed to ashes. In the case of an irrational
* There is an emphasis in the Apostle's manner of introducing the required victim: Τον Ισαακ, τον μονογενης