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THE BOOK OF GENESIS.

VOL. II.

CHAPTER XXII.

If those portions of history are most replete with interest and instruction which exhibit to us illustrious characters in trying situations, having their virtues put to the severest test, yet holding fast their integrity, conquering difficulties, and rising superior to temptation by the power of moral principle, then the ensuing narrative of Abraham's last and greatest trial prefers the strongest claims to our attention. It is an event preeminently memorable in the life of the patriarch. Whatever signal instances of faith and obedience have hitherto distinguished his conduct, they are all eclipsed by that which we are now called to consider. At the very time when we are prompted to congratulate the happy sire, and flatter ourselves that his tribulations have an end; that the storms which ruffled the noon of life are blown over, and the evening of his age is becoming calm and serene, the sorest of his struggles yet awaits him. The loss of a beloved child would, under any circumstances, have been a grievous affliction; but in the present case he finds himself required to submit to a bereavement which threatened to extinguish the hopes of the world. Nor was this all. The fatal blow was to be struck with his own hand! And in this he was called to obey a mandate in which the divine counsel seemed so evidently to war with itself, that his bosom could not but be torn with a conflict of emotions, such as the mere grief of a father could never occasion. To a command which should merely pnt to the proof his paternal affection, he 1

VOL. II.

could, no doubt, have submitted without hesitation; but when, to the eye of reason, he saw the precept arrayed against the promise of God, and an act enjoined directly at variance with all the attributes of a Being holy, just, and true, he could not but be conscious of an inward struggle, ineffably severe. But the faith which had triumphed before, triumphed now; and as he came forth from the terrible ordeal, like gold tried in the furnace, how pertinently may we conceive an approving God addressing him in the language of the poet :

"All thy vexations Were but my trials of thy love: and thou Hast strangely stood the test."

The command here given to the patriarch to sacrifice his only son has ever been so fruitful a theme of cavil with the enemies of revelation, that it will be proper, in the outset, to advert with some particularity to the objections usually urged against it. The command, it is said, is inconsistent with the attributes of a Being of perfect justice and goodness. But to this it may be replied, that the assertion rests upon no sufficient grounds. As God is the author and giver of life, he surely can, without the least shadow of injustice, take it away when and in what manner he pleases. It cannot be supposed that he conferred life either upon Abraham or Isaac, upon the terms of taking it away only in one certain manner, or in the way most agreeable to them. It was given in this, as in all other cases, under the ordinary reserve of his own indisputable right of resumption in any mode that

might seem to him best. doubtedly something shocking in the idea of a parent's taking away the life of his own child; but when this is done in obedience to an express command from a competent authority, then that which would otherwise be a sin becomes a duty, and whoever would impugn the act, must necessarily impugn the authority from which it proceeds. To human view it might appear a very barbarous deed in a father to order a son to be beaten to death with rods before his eyes; yet the conduct of Junius Brutus, who passed this sentence upon his own children, is usually considered as having been fully justified by the circumstances which occasioned it. And did Abraham owe less obedience to God than Brutus to his country? Indeed, had the command been actually executed, we should have been bound, by our antecedent knowledge of the perfections of the Deity, to regard it as wise, just, and good; though we might not, from our limited powers, have been able to see the reason of it; for a divine command necessarily supposes wis-was not executed, it has been affirmed

There is un- from being concerned in guarding great minds from great trials, that it is rather evinced in granting them. Nor are we to estimate such a dispensation by the slight and transient anxieties or pains of the trial itself, but by the lasting joy that awaits and rewards the triumph. Add to this the incalculable advantages that would redound to mankind at large from such an example. No one can doubt that every signal instance of devout submission to the will of God under the pressure of sharp temptations is among the stablest supports and the most powerful incitements to a similar conduct under similar circumstances. Every such example is a new and shining light set up on high to guide, enlighten, and cheer us in the path of duty. But while we find, in these considerations, an ample vindication of the wisdom and equity of this command, perhaps a still more adequate estimate will be formed of it, if we view it in another light. It has generally been held that the present command was imposed merely as a trial of Abraham's faith; and seeing the deed

dom, justice, and goodness in the highest possible degree. But this was not the case. God never intended that the command should be actually executed. His purpose was to make trial of Abraham's faith and obedience; to make him perfect by suffering; and in him to propose to all coming generations an illustrious example for their imitation in the various trying services and sacrifices to which the voice of duty might call them. And will any one affirm that God may not, without impeaching this he builds the conclusion that the his wisdom, his justice, or his mercy, command was imposed upon him chiefput true religion to the test ?-the test ly with the design of teaching him by of severe and repeated trials-the bet-action, instead of words, and thus enater to display, to perfect, and to crown bling him to see and feel by what means it? Great virtue has a right to be made this great end should be accomplished. conspicuous. It is sinking the merit of In other words, that it was a prefiguraall true moral heroism to withold from tion of the sacrifice of Christ. it the occasions of exercising itself. The justice of God, therefore is so far

that there was nothing unworthy the divine goodness in having instituted such a trial; all which may be readily admitted: but as Bp. Warburton has suggested, it hardly accounts for all the circumstances; and it may be well to state, in a condensed form, the theory of that learned divine in regard to it. He supposes that Abraham was desirous of becoming acquainted with the manner in which all the families of the earth should be blessed in him; and upon

This theory the author founds upon that passage of the Gospel of John 8

AND it came to pass after these Abraham, and said unto him, Abrathings, that God did tempt ham: and he said, Behold, here I

am.

a 1 Cor. 10. 13. Heb. 11. 17. Jam. 1. 12. 1 Pet. 1.7.

56. in which the Lord says to the unbe- Abraham must have rejoiced to see, and lieving Jews, 'Your father Abraham re-seeing which he was glad. But there joiced to see my day; and he saw it is nothing recorded of Abraham in the and was glad.' It is evident, from the Old Testament, from which it could be reply made by the Jews to this asser- inferred that he saw Christ's day in tion, that they understood the expression this sense, if he did not see and feel it in to see in its most literal sense; while it the command to sacrifice his only son. is equally evident, that when they ob- In this transaction therefore, he would jected to the possibility of a man, not have a lively figure of the offering up of yet fifty years old; having seen Abra- the Son of God for the sins of the ham, our Lord did not correct them in world; and not only so, but the interthe notion which they had formed as mediate system of typical sacrifices unto seeing. It was not, however, himself der the Mosaic economy was reprepersonally, whom our Saviour asserted sented by the prescribed oblation of the that Abraham rejoiced to see, but his ram instead of Isaac. day; by which cannot be meant the On the whole, we regard this as a veperiod of his sojourn upon earth, but the ry rational and plausible hypothesis, and circumstance in his life which was of one that derives no little support from the highest importance, and mainly the place where the scene of the transcharacteristic of his office as the Re-action was laid. If the design of the deemer. That the term will admit of command had been simply a trial of this interpretation is indubitable, from Abraham's faith, it is not easy to see the frequent use made, in a similar why he should have been required to sense, of the word hour. Thus, when go to such a distance to perform an act our Lord repeatedly says, 'My hour is that might as well have been performnot yet come''the hour is at hand, ed anywhere else. But when we find and the Son of Man is betrayed into him directed to go to the site of Jerusathe hands of sinners;' when he prayed lem, and to rear his altar, and offer up that 'if it were possible the hour might his sacrifice, on or near the very spot pass from him' where it is said, that where the Saviour was afterwards actu'no man laid hands on him, because ally crucified, we cannot well avoid seehis hour was not yet come;' and again, ing in the incident a designed typical 'that the hour was come when the Son and prophetical character. But a fuller of Man should be glorified,'-in all these view of the event in its various bearinstances it is evident that the wordings will be gained from the explanadoes not signify a mere portion of time, from which no one can be saved by its passing from him; but some particular circumstance or circumstances in his life, which were peculiar to him as the Redeemer. The peculiar circumstance, however, which constituted Jesus the Redeemer of the world, was the laying down of his life; and this it was which

tions that follow.

1. And it came to pass after these things. Heb. After these words That is, we suppose, not merely after the things recorded in the preceding chapter, but after all the previous trials which Abraham had been called to pass through. Notwithstanding he may have hoped for a period of tranquil rest in the de

2 And he said, Take now thy | land of Moriah; and offer him there son, thine only son Isaac, whom for a burnt-offering upon one of the thou lovest, and get thee into the mountains which I will tell thee of.

Heb. 11. 17. b2 Chron. 3. 1.

cline of life, after the various trials and conflicts, the dangers and deliverances through which he had passed; yet he is once more reminded that he is still in the flesh, that the days of his warfare are not yet accomplished, and that he must arm himself for a far more fiery trial than any he has yet endured. We cannot but feel for the venerable patriarch thus suddenly awakened from his state of repose, and summoned to a new and unparalleled conflict; but the event teaches us that a believer's trials are not confined to the commencement of his course; that the longest period of rest and peace may be succeeded by a sore temptation; and the severest conflict be reserved for the last.- - God did tempt Abraham. Heb. nissah, tried, proved. Gr. ETεipnoε, id. This literal rendering of the term, which is actually given in the old Geneva version, 'God did prove Abraham,' goes at once to correct the erroneous impression that might possibly be received from our English word 'tempt,' which usually has the sense of exciting to sin. But in this sense we are expressly assured by James 1. 13, that God is not tempted of evil, neither tempteth he any man;' he neither deceives any man's judgment nor perverts his will, nor seduces his affections, nor does any thing else that can subject him to the blame of men's sins. Temptation in this bad sense always proceeds from the malice of Satan working on the corruptions of our own hearts. God may, however, consistently with all his perfections, by his providence, bring his creatures into circumstances of special probation, not for the purpose of giving him information, but in order to manifest to themselves

and to others the prevailing dispositions without first waiting to know distinctly

of their hearts. In this sense of trying,
putting to the proof, bringing to the test,
the original term in many other instances
is used in reference to the Most High
and always in such a way as to leave
his attributes unimpeached. Thus
Deut. 13. 3, 'For the Lord your God
(0) nissah) proveih you, to know
(i. e. to make known) whether ye love
the Lord your God with all your heart
and all your soul.' 2 Chron. 32. 31, 'In
the business of the ambassadors God left
him (777013 lenassotho) to try him, that
he might know all the evil that was in
his heart.' Indeed, in some cases we
find this kind of trial made a subject of
petition on the part of good men, as if
they regarded it as a special favor. Ps.
26. 2, 'Examine me, O Lord, and (
nassani) prove me; try my reins and my
heart.' And so with a different word,
but to the same effect, Ps. 139. 23, 24,
Search me, O God, and know my
heart: try me, and know my thoughts,
and see if there be any wicked way in
me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
And we find Paul, 2 Cor. 13 5, employ
ing the corresponding Gr. term, her
enjoining as a duty to be performed by
Christians towards themselves, the very
probation, which is indicated by the Heb
word; 'Examine (Tεipagerε try) your
selves, whether ye be in the faith;
prove your own selves.'- -¶ Behold,
here I am. Heb. hinnini, be-
hold me. Arab. What is thy plea-
sure?" The patriarch's prompt ob-
scquiousness to the slightest call of
God is strikingly set forth in this reply.
It exhibits him as presenting himself in
the divine presence, ready at a mo-
ment's warning to enter upon any ser
vice that might be enjoined upon him,

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