« ForrigeFortsett »
BIOGRAPHY OF ABRAHAM.-(CONTINUED.)
And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land." Gen. xii. 6.
"YE know the heart of a stranger; for ye yourselves were strangers in the land of Egypt."-Such was the appeal which the God of Israel made to an uncultivated people, in a barbarous age, when he would enlist their best feelings in behalf of the stranger, unknown and unfriended, in a stranger-land. It was not in behalf of any wor shipper of his, that the God of their fathers thus addressed the Israelites; it was in behalf of the wanderer from the pagan nations around, who might at any time seek the shelter of their more happy homes. We know of no case in which a sense of duty will be more powerfully seconded by those lively feelings to which experience alone gives being, than that on which this appeal is grounded. They who had been strangers in the land of Egypt had known the anguish of indignity and oppression they had felt what it is to be without a country, without resources, and without a friend-they could not but remember how bitter, far above the bitterness of death, to sink not only be neath the respect, but below the pity of their fellow men;
become an outcast whose tears no man regarded. could they now, when settled at last in a country and a home that they might call their own, when abundance crowned them, when friendships blessed them, when their importance was conceded by society around-could they so far forget the feelings of their bondage, as to embitter by neglect the already lacerated feelings of the stranger who would have enough to remind him, without their cold repulses, that Palestine was not his country, and that his friends were far away.
We might hold up to you this appeal, as no faint illus tration of the strong and tender sympathies of that Fatner of mercies whom it is above all things our wish that you should know. But we bend it this morning to a far humbler purpose; we use it to shed light on the emotions of our patriarch, when, passing with his family the limits of Palestine, he first pitched his tents within the land of promise. Abram, indeed, was not that servant, cheerless and oppressed, such as his descendants were seen in after times, when driven and trampled by the Egyptian king. His family were with him, he was master of his own time, and Providence had endowed him with ample wealth. But still he was a wanderer, far from his native home: his was a single family in a land of strangers: no man knew him, no man cared for his peace.-Your modern traveller who visits foreign countries in all the security and pomp of travelled wealth; whose letters introductory usher him at - once into those high circles where courtesy and vanity e qually secure him a cheerful welcome and princely enter tainment-such a traveller knows nothing about the stran ger's heart: he sees every thing around him through a de ceitful medium, in its gayest livery. But if there are any
among you who were ever far from home, among a people where no one took an interest in your welfare; where the eye that beamed in kindness on many a passing object, glanced carelessly at you; if in difficulties and dangers, “no man said God save you;" or if you have wandered among a people lawless and uncultivated, where your very possessions were the source of greatest danger:then you can enter into the feelings of our patriarch when he pitched at first among the hordes of Palestine: you will know what it is to feel lonely and disconsolate, while the glance of the stranger falls carelessly upon you, yet seems to strike home as if darted by a baselisk: you well know how the heart, tremblingly alive to every little circumstance, startles and then sickens at each unusual sound; then musters all its energies to dwell with tenfold force on the remote atquaintance and forsaken home. We would have you to paint the feelings of this little cavalcade when entering the borders of their adopted country they first mingled with the men of that uncultivated age, whose names and char. acters were equally unknown.
They passed on, we are told, among the descendants of Canaan, the youngest son of Ham, by whose name the country is to this day often called; nor did they halt till they had traversed almost the half of it, when they fixed their abode in the plain of Moreh. It is a spot since rendered famous in evangelic story. It was thence that Jacob afterwards fled the men of Shechem; and it was there, by a well which Jacob himself had digged, that the Saviour maintained that long and interesting conversation with the woman of Samaria recorded in the fourth chapter of John, and first opened up to those erratic Gentiles the gor pel of salvation.
There, we are told, God again appeared to him, and announced that this was the land promised as his heritage It is useless to inquire in
while yet he was in Chaldea.
what manner this manifestation of the Deity took place. We who know so little of ourselves, who can form no clear conception of any substance corporeal or spiritual, and are equally lost in attempting to trace out the operations of matter and of mind, we cannot be expected to form concep tions of the manner in which the Eternal Spirit unfolds himself to men. We cannot even mount to any concep tion of the manner in which that awful presence is rendered perceptible to the spirits of heaven; much less can we say how God will stand revealed to the hosts of his redeemed after the general resurrection, when in body as well as spirit they shall stand before his throne and see him face to face. But one thing is most clear. To the Infinite One there is neither place nor boundaries. God lives in all things, and all things live and move in God. Earth and heaven are equally before him; and he is equal ly present in both. If any where, then, he can stand un veiled to men, if he have access at all to the senses of his creatures, no difficulty can arise from the mode of their existence or from the place of their abode. Our difficulty arises from the withdrawal of his presence, which takes place in the punishment of a sinful world. And because we are alone in this great universe of life, because we are strangers to that free and fixed communion which holiness may not maintain with the rebellious and impure, we are apt to call in question the reality of appearances which we have never witnessed; and marshal such objections as, if they proved any thing at all, would prove the impossibility of any manifestation of the Deity at any time or
place, and would cut off all creation from communion with its God. We know not how God appeared to Abram—but we know that he is every where; and we doubt not his power to lift our perceptions to the apprehension of himself, as we know that he has fitted them to apprehend things around us.
It is of more consequence to notice the tempers with which our patriarch received these communications. The first annunciation of Abram's future lot had been made in very indefinite, though in highly magnificent terms. On this occasion we discover something a little more definite, and as we proceed you will perceive that every new communication serves to define more and more clearly the great events at first so indistinctly named. Indeed this is one of the uniform laws of prophecy, and it maintains a strong analogy with the general laws of Providence. The egg about to be quickened into life by the vital warmth of the incumbent fowl, presents at first a few faint and bloody streaks, furnishing a kind of outline for the more important parts, but still nothing that can indicate the future perfect form. In process of time we trace an eye and an heart; then all the parts unfold in due proportion, and the little creature pierces at length its shell, and looks abroad upon the wondrous world around. Thus God has fashioned his scriptural scheme of prophecy. A first indefinite and shawdowy intimation, is fashioned and filled up by successive revelations, till we trace distinctly every portion of his stupendous plans, and can speak with precision of the times and the manner in which the future shall be evolved.
But to Abram there was nothing very encouraging in this increase of light. Nothing was said to him, while in