« ForrigeFortsett »
But that which no adverse circumstance was capable of effecting, was speedily brought about by the excess of prosperity. Let it add one to the long list of warnings how readily abundance destroys the finer and keener sensibilities of the human heart, and renders men less capable of appreciating the only solid and permanent felicity that the universe ever witnessed, or to eternity will witness, the strong and pure emotions of a strong and true attachment. It appears as though in this erratic world of ours a sense of mutual dependance is the only sufficient bond to bind men's hearts together; that in the earlier stages of society or among the more dependant classes of the community, the finest samples of social feelings and felicity are to be found; and that precisely in proportion as men rise high above the fear of want or necessity of exertion, they seek in themselves the happiness of their existence, and give the better feelings of friendship and of affectionate solicitude-give all that really constitutes their true felicity, like chaff, to the winds of heaven.
Excess of prosperity enforced the separation of these long tried friends; and just when placed in circumstances in which they might have lived more happily together, they agreed to part company and spend the remainder of their lives with strangers. It was a quarrel among their servants that enforced this step. A dispute between their herdmen, probably in relation to the use of some well of water, an article always of difficult attainment and of more than common necessity in Judea, seemed likely to involve the masters in the quarrel. Our patriarch, however, would submit to any sacrifice rather than cultivate hostility toward his kinsman. He himself proposed the separation, and in doing so furnished a fiue example of that mag
nanimity and modesty which are among the first distinctions of a truly elevated and virtuous mind. Abram was the elder; he had been Lot's protector; to him very prob ably Lot had been indebted for no small portion of his wealth; and it was his unquestionable right to have urged in this instance his claim to a prior choice, provided he chose to do so. But he magnanimously gave up his rights to the inferior; he left it to Lot to choose the place of his abode, and contented himself with occupying what the other might refuse. "And Abram said unto Lot, let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left."-Gen. xiii. 8, 9.
To Abram it has happened according to that which is written in the scriptures, "he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." The moderation and magnanimity of our patriarch on this occasion have been admired and celebrated through all ages and nations; and he who tarnished the brightness of his fame in Egypt is universally conceded to have done much more than wipe away that blem> ish when both the right and power unquestionably belonged to him. Nor did he derive honour alone from this prompt concession to the younger and the weaker. We shall speedily see that a mighty and mysterious Providence rendered his humility the shield of future safety; while Lot, who had the preference, employed it to his hurt. He chose the left hand route and pitched his tents in the delightful vale of Jordan. Watered by that river and its few tributary streams, it stretched above fifty miles from Ff
north to south, varying from ten to twenty in its breadth; and is represented as being one of the most fruitful and delightful spots on earth: "Like the land of Egypt, like the garden of the Lord," says our historian. But abundance had enervated its favored inhabitants: already they bowed under a foreign yoke: Prosperity had long corrupted them: "they were wicked," says my text, "and sinners before the Lord exceedingly." But Lot-the thoughtless and unhappy Lot looked only at the climate, thought only of the pasturage, luxuriant and abundant: he chose the plain of Sodom, though it was a land of slaves; he joined the social circles of the men of Sodom, though "sinners before the Lord exceedingly." Years rolled on, and you shall mark the consequences of this improper-may I not say of this unprincipled choice?
Meanwhile our patriarch continued a while longer in the rocky plain of Luz. He was now left alone among the Canaanites. And yet he was not alone. A present Deity had seen his moderation, and well knew how to recompense it. The first keen sensations which he must naturally have felt at parting with his nephew were speedily succeeded by far different emotions, when new assurances of his future greatness, and of the unfailing-unbounded goodness of Providence were communicated to him in another revelation. "And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through
the land, in the length of it, and in the breadth of it: for I will give it unto thee." Gen. xiii. 14-17. That man is never alone who maintains his fellowship with the Father of his mercies: that man is never in danger, though the Canaanites surround him, who dwells for shelter under the shadow of his wings: that man is never wretched to whom Providence has guaranteed all that is absolutely needful in this world and life everlasting in the world to come. Abram remains still in the rugged plain near Bethel: but he has a companion in his loneliness; it is the Father of his mercies. The flocks of Lot are revelling on the luxuriant vale of Jordan, but he exchanges acts of friendship with the unprincipled slaves of Sodom. O, many are the Sodomites that dwell in many lands, and many are the Lots who hold them to their hearts, while estranged from the circles that bow around the altar, and far from the fellowship of the Lord of Hosts. Wait but a little, a very little time, and he now the most humble shall rise up in the strength and in the awfulness of virtue, while enervated vice shrinks like a coward from the dangers it had invited, and drags along with it its friendships into captivity and death.
3 Our patriarch in obedience to the heavenly vision re
moved his tents, and wandering again to the southward fixed his abode in the plain of Mamre, the centre of the country which afterwards fell to the lot of Judah when Palestine was portioned out among the tribes of Israel. There he was not forgetful of Jehovah who had appeared to him, but again prepares the altar and provides the sacrifice. Behold the stedfast nature of real christian piety; see how it displays itself, unobtrusive yet imposing—always to be recognized without keen discrimination, always to be dis
covered without anxious search, because the regulator of the conduct, the business of the life. Abram, we must repeat it, never omitted to provide an altar, because his stay was uncertain and his avocations multiplied. At this hour he reaps the profit of his unremitted devotion. The dust of our patriarch sleeps in the cave of Machpelah: long has he rested from his fatiguing journeys: his wealth and his hopes, his sorrows and his joys, all that could interest the wanderer's heart, all that could plead for his neglect of God, is as though it had never been. But the fruit of his piety remains. The spirit thus moulded and purified and elevated by acts of piety and by intercourse with heaven, met, when entering on the eternal world, with a friend it had known before; and he who was thus honoured by his worshipper on earth, now honours and blesses him in heaven.
But calamity is written at the head of every page of hu 'man history, and it is vain for any one to hope that they shall long avoid it. That calm retirement, that soothing peace, that remoteness from the turmoils and difficulties of life, to which we all look forward as the summit of our earthly wishes, no one on earth ever yet attained; or if they have attained it, never long enjoyed. They who are shielded by a conduct and lot peculiarly happy from per sonal exposure to the common ills of life, will often have to experience anxieties and fears when calamity assails them through the persons of their friends. They cannot encircle all in whose happiness they take an interest in the peaceful mansion and devout society which witnesses their And they must part with all concern in the welfare of others they must become unworthy of tranquility be fore they can enjoy it-for man may not cease from suffer ing until he cease to feel.