« ForrigeFortsett »
Abram rested tranquilly in the plains of Mamre: in the Occupations and cares connected with the pastoral life and in the devotions of the altar, his days rolled on quietly and tranquilly. But his tranquility was interrupted by most disastrous news. A man of the plains of Jordan, es caped from a battle, or rather from a rout, brought him intelligence that his nephew was a prisoner in the hands of strangers. We can feel at this day very little interest in the names or proceedure of those bands of ravagers with which the newly settled world was disturbed in Abram's day, except as they may be connected with his own eventful story. The circumstances of this case were briefly these: Palestine, like most of the countries of the world, was then cut up into innumerable little principalities, probably at first dvided and regulated on the patriarchal principle. There were no extensive territories, no cunningly-woven policies; every little clan had its territory and its village, and every village had its king. In the vale of Jordan there were no less than five. These little governments had become already corrupted and enfeebled; and we find that fourteen years before this they had bartered their liberties for peace from the hands of the more rugged sons of some more northern spot. Who they were we know not, it matters not. Elam was the name of the patriarch of Persia, Elam is still a scriptural name of Persia, and we find that the principal of these invaders was a king of Elam, probably the chief of some inferior branch of that large family, who may have settled with his clan in the north-east of Syria; for in that direction we find the host retiring. Be this as it may, he had fourteen years before subjected the people of Jordan to his sway,. and their rulers stood as tributary kings. During the pre
ceding year they had thrown off the yoke. It was an effort worthy a far better people. But they, though claiming, and no doubt vaunting independence, had neither the skill nor the courage to maintain it. The king of Elam, with three confederates, among whom we recognize the ruler of the people on the plains of Babylon, came the ensuing year to chastise their temerity, and rolled over the plain of Jordan like a torrent. If we are to judge from the extent of country over which the invaders exercised authority, the people of Jordan could have been no match for them at best. But of their attempts to meet them very little is recorded. We know only the event. Their rulers fled, and perished in their flight; a part of the people betook them to the mountains; but the greater portion became the prey of their conquerors. They could no longer be trusted, they were carried into slavery. Cattle and all moveables, every thing was taken, and the delightful plain of Jordan was left a perfect desert. This was the news that broke in on Abram's quiet. All were fled or killed or taken captive. Lot too was in slavery; his family were slaves, and all his large possessions the prey of brutal spoilers.
It fired the spirit of our peaceful patriarch. He did not wait to ponder the odds between his slender means and that mighty combination. He did not consider the distance to which they must already have borne their acquisitions. He remembered only that Lot was his near kinsman, his only kinsman in that land of strangers; he remembered all the excellencies of his adopted child; he thought of his being a prisoner; and these thoughts deci ded him for an immediate pursuit.
We said his means were slender. They consisted sole
ly of his household-servants and the keepers of his cattle. All men unused to the trade of war. Men who would be likely, if they thought at all, to think of the vast disparity between their slender and undisciplined ranks, and the hosts of so many kings whose trade was war. But they felt a reverence for their master's feelings; and reared in his family, nursed as his children, they were devoted to his will. Behold then our patriarch, that old and peaceful man, for the first time perhaps in his life, exchanging the implements of the shepherd for the weapons of the soldier; and leading forth his band, armed as he could supply them in the hurry of that hour, his little band of three hundred and eighteen servants, against the armies of four victorious kings. A long way he pursued them. He passed the northern limits of the plain of Sodom, he passed the borders of the sea of Genneserat, he passed the tributary streams of Jordan, he traced that river to its very head, and still the victorious armies were before him. In this long pursuit he had full leisure to think of all the dangers he was encountering for his kinsman; his spirit might well have fainted at the unequal conflict. He might have thought of Sarai left so far behind, and of the perils that would await her should he be unsuccessful. But Abram once roused had the spirit of a hero. His courage was cool, collected and unbending. The noblest feelings had dictated this pursuit, conscience approved it, the God of battles was full able to give success; and he never would give over till no hope remained. One hundred and fifty miles he followed them, and overtook them among the hills of Lebanon, near the Syrian borders. Secure in their numbers and in the distance they had gone, they looked for no such greeting. He wisely parted his little
company into three divisions, and then availed him of the darkness of the night when none could guess the number of assailants or distinguish friend from foe.
We need not dilate on the result of this attack. The terror would be great in proportion to their security, and the rout the more dreadful in proportion to their num bers. It was speedy, it was complete. The conquering army fled, they were pursued, they were slain; nor did the slaughter cease till the remnant had been chased full fifty miles to the very heart of Syria.
But again we must leave our patriarch, now returning triumphant from this field of blood. The great deliverance which his courage wrought, the disinterestedness and modesty which closed this scene of victory, deserve more marked attention than we could possibly allow to them in the conclusion of this exercise. On next Lord's day we hope to raise high our pæan to the victor. This morning we will leave him in his blood-stained robes.
We will just look one moment at that unhappy Lot. A wise Providence read him a lecture on his foolish choice, when he prefered the company of the men of Sodom, because their vale was fruitful. Little did it avail the unhappy Lot that pastures were abundant and his flocks most prosperous, when he saw them driven away to swell the wealth of spoilers, or bleeding beneath the knives of the ravenous soldiery. Bitter must have been the feelings of the better instructed Lot, when he thought how he had agreed to mingle with the corrupted men of Sodom that he might share the advantages of their delightful home, when he and they were led captive from that home, doomed to eat together the bitter bread of slavery-when he must still share their converse, share the horrors of their purt
ishment, though the prospect of the advantage which had invited this rash league was now snatched from him forever. This brief history does not indeed descant on the of fence of Lot; it does not say that his calamity was the punishment of his offence. But it glances at the impropriety and dangers of that choice, when, after stating that he made his election of the plain of Jordan, it forthwith states so explicitly the characters of the people. "The men of Sodom were sinners before the Lord exceedingly," ,"-and Lot chose to associate with them for the advantage of their pastures. He endangered the better sentiments of his early life, he endangered the morals of his rising family, he threw them into a vortex of unparalleled wickedness, not because he hoped to enlighten by his instructions or to improve by his examples the people of the plain; but because they possessed a country watered and fruitful as the garden of the Lord. And it was fit that Providence should read him such a lecture on the just deserts of his immoral choice.
You need not be told that the nephew of our patriarch is only one among many who have thrown themselves headlong into the circles of vice, into vortices of folly, where all was temptation, corruption, pollution, for no better end than the more certain and speedy advancement of their fortunes. You need not be told that even less than this, that the dread of singularity or the love of distinction, have bound their thousands to the chariot-wheels of vice, and borne them far away from the temple and the altar, till habits and tastes and feelings have been new moulded; till the society of Sodom becomes the native element; till any thing seems preferable to the fellowship of heaven, so safe, so elevating, so peaceful and so pure. This