Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

employing such mystical representation and expression to instruct men in the nature of prayer, and to enforce the obligation of it? To the end that we should pray always and not faint." Do we prevail in our applications at the throne of grace? It is because our heavenly Father is disposed to yield, and stands out only to heighten our exertions, and call forth our importunity. Have we "power with God, and prevail?" Then "what is man who shall die, and the son of man who is a worm?" Did Jacob sink and fail in the very moment of victory! We are just what God makes or permits us to be.

Whatever were the real circumstances of this extraordinary scene, it procured Jacob a new and an honourable name, which obliterated to his posterity, if not altogether to himself, that less honourable appellation which commemorated a little, though significant incident attending his birth, and which recorded the infamy of his unfair dealings with his father and brother; Jacob, the supplanter, is transformed into Israel, a prince with God.

The vision of the Almighty is scarcely at an end, when the interview with Esau takes place. And we are then fittest for every service, for every trial, when we have settled matters with Heaven. He who by a touch disjointed Jacob's thigh, could by a word have scattered Esau's host. But behold a greater miracle! By a simple act of his sovereign will, he has in a moment changed Esau's heart. They meet, they converse, they love, as brothers ought to do. And "O how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" We apprehend a strife of fierce and angry looks, of reproachful words, of violence and blood. But how joyful the disappointment! Behold a contention of kindness, a blessed contest of affection; the honest, heart-melting triumph of nature, the noble victory of goodness. Let the proud and the resentful peruse, with care, this inimitable scene of tenderness, painted in colours so bright and so touching by the pencil of inspiration,* and say, whether it be possible for any gratification of revenge, any depression of a hated rival, any triumph of violence and blood, to yield any thing that deserves the name of joy, compared with the sweet satisfaction which must have filled the bosoms of this pair of brothers, burying animosity and discord in mutual endearments, and expressions of good will. Ah, why should so many wretched brothers as there are of us, pass through a world in which there is so much unavoidable misery, estranged from one another; or madly, wantonly, wickedly interrupt and disturb each other's passage, by bitterness and wrath! What wretched things are wealth, and pomp, and state, and power, which will not permit

*Gen. xxxiii. 4-15.

brothers to live together in love as they might, and as, but for one or other of these disturbers of human quiet, they would do!

Such scenes as that which now passed between Jacob and Esau ought to have been perpetual. But alas, it cannot be! Esau must return to his possession in Mount Seir that very day; and Jacob pursue his journey to Canaan. The paternal roof must no more cover their heads again at one time, nor the affectionate parents enjoy the supreme felicity of witnessing their reconciliation, and of strengthening it by their blessing and their prayers. Let the lower ranks of mankind rejoice, that a gracious Providence, in withholding from them affluence, and station, and distinction, has left them a blessing greater than all put together, friendship, and the means of exercising and enjoying it. Parents, as ye love your children, and wish to have them near you, and to bless you with a sight of their health and prosperity, be moderate in your views and efforts concerning them. Prospects of ambition, or of avarice, will of necessity banish them from your sight, will separate them from each other, will scatter them upon the face of the earth.

Jacob, by slow movements, as the delicate condition of part of his retinue required, advances homewards in a south-west direction from the ford of Penuel, on the south bank of the Jabbok, towards Jordan; and arrived safe at the ford of Succoth. So called from the booths which he erected there, for a temporary repose to himself and family, in the plains of Jordan, about twelve or fifteen miles from Penuel; ten miles south of the sea of Galilee; and five south of the Jabbok, where it runs into Jordan: a city afterwards assigned by lot to the tribe of Gad. After resting at Succoth about a month, he proceeds to travel from Jordan west and by south about thirty-five miles, and arrives in peace and safety, according to the promise and covenant of the God of Bethel, which was ratified more than twenty years before, at Shechem, the city of Hamor, the Hivite; of whom he bought a field, in the same place where Abraham first pitched his tent upon coming into Canaan. And there Jacob erected an altar, and dedicated it by the name of El-Elohe-Israel, God, the God of Israel. Now this event happened in the year of the world two thousand two hundred and sixtysix; before Christ, one thousand seven hundred and thirty-eight; after the flood, six hundred and ten; from the peregrination of Abraham, one hundred and eighty-three; before Jacob's descent into Egypt, thirtytwo; before the going out of the children of Israel from Egypt, two hundred and fortyseven; and in the year of Jacob's life, ninety-eight; Isaac, his aged father, living then at Beer-sheba, one hundred and fifty-seven years old. And this naturally furnishes ano

triarch.

ther resting place in the history of our pa- | heir of the promise, at Bethel, at Mahanaim, lead our thoughts directly to the annunciaThe next Lecture, if God permit, will tion, the nativity, the temptation in the wilresume the subject, and carry it forward to derness, the agony in the garden, the resura conclusion. We detain you only for a mo-rection, the ascension, the second coming of ment or two, to suggest a few thoughts on our blessed Lord. The wrestling at Peniel, the analogy of Jacob and Christ, from this is a strong figurative description of the pow portion of the Scripture history. How beau-erful and prevalent intercession of the Prince tifully and how exactly does the account with God, Messiah himself, whose language which Jacob gives of himself as a shepherd is not "Father, I beseech thee," but "Father, correspond to the character of the "good I will." Jacob's safe and happy return to Cashepherd who giveth his life for the sheep!" naan, and to his father's house, every enemy "This twenty years have I been with thee: being subdued either by fear or by love, acthy ewes and thy she-goats have not cast companied with two bands of sons and daughtheir young, and the rams of thy flock have ters, wherewith God had enriched him in I not eaten. That which was torn of beasts, the land where he was a stranger, and where I brought not unto thee: I bare the loss of he had been humbled, and oppressed,-prefiit. Of my hand didst thou require it, whe-gures, as has been suggested in a former disther stolen by day, or stolen by night. Thus I was, in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night, and my sleep departed from mine eyes." ."*"And he said unto him, my lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me and if men should over-drive them one day, all the flock will die. Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant; and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me, and the children be able to endure; until I come unto my lord unto Seir."+ "He shall feed his flock | like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young." Angels, thus ministering to the

[blocks in formation]

course, the triumphant return of the great Captain of salvation, to his father's house above, loaded with the spoils of principalities and powers: the power of hell vanquished by force, an elect world redeemed and rescued by love. "His right hand and his holy arm had gotten him the victory;" "he shall reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet," "sing praises to his name, sing praise." "Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive, thou hast received gifts for men: yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.”* “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father: to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever." Amen.

[blocks in formation]

HISTORY OF JACOB.

LECTURE XXVIII.

And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children; Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me. And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again. And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befal him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.-GENESIS xlii. 36-38.

There is no greater error

Ir is a pleasing and an useful employment | unlikely causes. to trace important events up to their sources; in conduct than to reckon certain actions reto mark the gradual progress of human af-lating to morals, trifling and insignificant. fairs; to observe the same persons at differ- When revolutions in private families, and in ent periods of their existence, and in differ-empires, are pursued up to the springs from ent situations; to discover on what delicate whence they flow, they are often found to hinges their fortunes have turned; and to commence in some little error, inadvertency, contemplate the wisdom, power, and good-or folly, which, at the time, might have been ness of Divine Providence, in producing the despised or neglected. Just as mighty rivers greatest effects from the slightest and most begin their course in some paltry, obscure

stream, which the peasant could dry up with the sole of his foot. The past is infinitely less perspicuous to the eye of human understanding, than the future is to divine intelligence. God "seeth the end from the beginning, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will fulfil all my pleasure." The periods which make the most brilliant figure in the page of history, were periods of anxiety and trouble to the men and the nations who then figured on the scene. A life of many incidents is a life of much distress. When the writer has got a great deal to relate, the person whose life is recorded has had a great deal to suffer.

Much more is written of Jacob than of any other of the patriarchs. Alas! it is only saying that his miseries were much more numerous and severe. In a life shorter than his father's by thirty-three years, calamity so crowded upon calamity, that it seems extended to the utmost stretch of even antediluvian longevity. What hour of his mature age is free from pain and sorrow? Not one! In what region does he find repose? No where. Canaan, Haran, Egypt, are to him almost equally inclement. As a son, a servant, an husband, a father; in youth, in manhood, in old age; he is unremittingly afflicted. And no sooner is one difficulty surmounted, one wo past, than another and a greater overtakes him. Formerly he had youthful blood and spirits to encounter and to endure the ills of life. Hope still cheered the heart, and scattered the cloud. But now, behold the hoary head sinking with sorrow to the grave; the spirit oppressed, overwhelmed, with a sea of trouble. Keen recollection summons up the ghosts of former afflictions, and past joys recur only to remind him that they are gone for ever; and black despair obscures, excludes the prospect of good to come. What heart is not wrung, at hearing a poor old man closing the bitter recapitulation of his misfortunes, in the words I have read, "All, all these things are against me?"

Perhaps the life of no other man affords a like instance of accumulated distress. The mournful detail of this evening will present, collected within the compass of not many months, a series of the heaviest afflictions that ever man endured; and all springing up out of objects, in which the heart naturally seeks and expects to find delight. An only daughter dishonoured-his eldest hope stained with incest-Simeon and Levi polluted with innocent blood-Judah joined in marriage to a woman of Canaan, and a father by his own daughter-in-law-Joseph torn in pieces by wild beasts-his beloved Rachel lost in childbirth-his venerable father removed from him in the course of naturethe miserable wreck and remains of his family ready to perish with famine-Simeon a prisoner in Egypt,-and Benjamin, the only

remaining pledge of his Rachel's love, demanded and forced to be given up. What sorrow was ever like this sorrow? "This is the man who hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath." And does all a partial mother's fondness; do all a father's blessings, wishes, and prayers; do all the promises and predictions of Heaven issue in this? "If in this life only there were hope," who so miserable as God's dearest children? Whose lot is so much to be deplored as that of the son of Isaac?

Jacob, after an absence of more than twenty years, has returned to the land of his nativity. A guardian Providence has protected and delivered him from his avowed enemies, from Laban, and from Esau: but the most dangerous enemies of his repose are still nearer to him, they "are those of his own house." He has purchased an estate, he has spread his tent, he has erected his altar; "his mountain stands strong," what can move him? From what slight beginnings, do great events arise! Dinah the daughter of Jacob, prompted by female vanity, curiosity, or some other motive equally deserving blame, ventures, unattended, beyond the verge of the paternal superintendence and protection, and falls into danger and shame. She went out, says the scripture, "to see the daughters of the land." Josephus affirms, that she was attracted by the celebration of a great public festival, according to the manners of the country. Her youth, innocence, and inexperience inspire confidence; novelty awakens curiosity; beauty tempts, opportu nity favours, and virtue is lost. From the first transgression, down to this day, female disgrace and ruin have begun in the gratification of an immoderate desire to see, and to know, some new thing; from an inclination to exhibit themselves, and to observe others. One daughter of Israel is much more likely to be corrupted by communication with many daughters of Canaan than they are to be improved by the conversation of that one. There is much wisdom, my fair friends, in keeping far, very far within your bounds. There is danger, great danger, in advancing to the utmost limit of liberty and virtue. For, the extreme boundary of virtue is also the extreme boundary of vice; and she who goes every length she lawfully may, is but half a step from going farther than she ought, or perhaps than she intended.

Desire is commonly extinguished by gratification; but it is also sometimes inflamed by it. And so it was with Shechem. The first disorder of his passion and its effects, are not more to his shame, than the reparation which he intended and attempted, is to his honour. Indeed, if we except the leading step in this transaction, the whole proceeding on the part of the young prince is noble and generous to a high degree; and loudly

reproves and strikingly exposes the cool, the "Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; cruel, remorseless seducers of a Christian age, and of a civilized country.

and their wrath, for it was cruel; I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel."* We no where meet with an instance of more savage, indiscriminating barbarity. For the offence of one, a whole nation is mercilessly cut off, and rapine closes the scene of blood. For they plundered the city, and carried off the wretched women captive whose husbands they had murdered. Horrid, infernal passion! And how was Dinah's honour repaired by this? And these simple, easy, believing men, these harmless, unoffending women, what had they done? Daughters of Canaan, dearly have ye bought the favour of a visit from Jacob's daughter. Idle and unhallowed was the opening of the scene, and dreadful has the conclusion been. I should not have been surprised to hear of a confederacy among all the neighbouring

The unhappy father receives the news of his daughter's dishonour with silent sorrow. And how often does he wish in the sequel, that he had forever buried his grief in his own heart? Hamor readily adopts the views of his son, disdains not the alliance of a shepherd, courts Dinah, though humbled, with all the respect due to a princess, and all the munificence becoming one who was himself a sovereign. Those who are fathers, who have daughters for whom they feel, or for whom they fear, will judge of Jacob's satisfaction at this proposal. To have the wound which had been made in the fond paternal heart, instantly closed up; the stain cast upon his name, wiped clean away; his darling child's peace and reputation restored; an honourable alliance formed with a weal-states, to exterminate such a band of robbers thy, virtuous, and generous prince; a whole people proselyted from idols to the God of Israel. How many sources of exquisite satisfaction! Is the black cloud over Jacob's head going for once to descend in refreshing drops, is it going for once to burst, and disperse itself into calmness and serenity? Alas, alas! the tempest is only gathering thicker around him; and dreadful must the discharge of it be. I shudder as I proceed.

and murderers from the face of the earth. Jacob is justly alarmed with the apprehension of this, and, warned of God, removes from the neighbourhood of Shechem to Bethel; a spot that brought to his recollection, calmer, happier days-when he was flying indeed from his country, without wealth, without a friend; but free also from the anxiety, vexation, and care, which an increased family and abounding wealth have brought Simeon and Levi, two brothers german of upon him. How much better is it to go childDinah, and who, on that account, think them-less, than have children to be the grief and selves peculiarly concerned in the vindica- plague of a man's heart? tion of their sister's honour, affect to receive Shechem's overtures with complacency.They have no scruples but what arise from religion. Let these be removed, and the way is cleared at once. Deep, designing, dissembling villains! The ordinance of God is in their mouths, the malice of the devil lies brooding in their hearts. They recommend a sacrament, and they are preparing a sacrifice, a horrid human sacrifice, of many victims.

Being arrived at Bethel, where he had been blessed with the visions of the Almighty on his way to Padan-aram, he deems it a proper time and place to purge his family of every vestige of idolatry. It is no easy matter to live in an idolatrous, or irreligious country, without losing a sense of religion, or acquiring a wrong one. This is one of the great evils which attend travelling into distant lands. Our young men who reside long abroad, whatever else they bring back to their native country, generally drop by the way the pious principles which were instilled into them in their youth. Some very nearly related to Jacob, I am afraid, had a

There is not a more singular fact in all history, than the ready compliance of the whole inhabitants of Shechem with the proposal of changing their religion, and of receiving, at so late a period in life, the pain-violent hankering after the gods beyond the ful sign of circumcision. Great must have flood. Why else did Rachel steal away the been the authority which Hamor had over images which were her father's? However them, or great the affection which they bore that may be, Jacob now disposes of them in him. Unhappy man! he practised a little a proper manner, and buries every shred that deceit in stating the case to his people, but could minister to idolatry, under the oak that was himself much more grossly deceived. was by Shechem. The conduct of Jacob's And I greatly question whether he had pre-sons had, of necessity, awakened a hostile vailed, had not the temptation of Jacob's cattle and other substance, been held out as a motive to obtain their consent. Comply however they did and it proved fatal to them. For on the third day, the two sons of Jacob already mentioned attended probably by a band of their friends and servants, rushed upon them and put them all to the sword.

spirit in the country against him, which, had
it not been providentially restrained, must
have proved fatal to him. But "the terror
of God was upon the cities that were round
about them, and they did not pursue after the
sons of Jacob."t

About this time, a breach was made in the
Gen. xlix. 7.
↑ Gen. xxxv. 5.

family by the death of Deborah, Rebekah's | think of, and "such as is not so much as nurse; the threatening and fore-runner of a named among the Gentiles;" a crime which much heavier stroke. For, just after they had left Bethel, as he was on his way finally to join his father with all his family, with a heart exulting, no doubt, in the prospect of presenting to his venerable parents the wives and children which God had given him; Rachel, his much-loved Rachel, is suddenly taken in labour by the way side, and dies, after bearing another son. Unhappy woman! She falls a victim to what she had coveted so earnestly. "Give me children else I die," in her haste, in the bitterness of her heart, she exclaimed. She obtains her wish, and it proves fatal to her. God, a righteous God, gives her children, and she dies. Resentment at her vehemence and impatience is lost in sorrow for her loss.

blended the guilt and shame of another with his own; which could not make the usual apologies of surprise, temptation, or passion for itself. But let us hasten from it. We can sit and weep awhile upon the grave of Rachel; but from the incestuous couch of Reuben, imagination flies away with horror and disgust. What a dreadfully licentious, irregular, and disorderly family, is the family of pious Jacob! Each of his sons is worse and more wicked than another. Accursed Laban, I see thy infernal avarice at the bottom of all this disorder and wickedness! It was that which first introduced a multiplicity of wives into Jacob's bosom. It was that which created and kept up jarring interests in his family; and gave birth to those unhallowed, disgraceful, head-strong passions, which disturbed his peace, pierced his heart, and dishonoured his name.

The history does not expand itself here, but simply relates the fact. Some causes are injured, not assisted, by a multiplicity of words. The feelings of the patriarch on this An affliction more in the order of nature, occasion are rather to be conceived than de- and whose certain and gradual approach scribed. Rachel early, constantly, tenderly must have prepared the heart to meet it, at loved; earned with long and severe servi- length overtakes him. After an absence of tude; endeared by knowledge and habit, and more than twenty years, he rejoins his aged rendered more important and valuable by father, now in his one hundred and sixtyfruitfulness, could not be lost without pain. third year, at Arbah, afterwards called HeIt was natural for the dying mother to think bron, "the city where Abraham and Isaac soof perpetuating the memory of her mortal journed." It does not appear whether Rebeanguish, by giving the son whom she brought kah yet lived, or not. If she did, what must into life at the expense of her own, the name have been her feelings at embracing her of Ben-oni, “the son of my sorrow." It was long-lost, darling son; and at finding him so wise and pious in the surviving father, to abundantly increased in children and in preserve rather the memory of the benefit wealth? Pure and perfect is the delight of received, than of the loss sustained; and by a grandmother, as she caresses the young the name of Benjamin, “the son of my right ones of a beloved child, the heirs and reprehand," to mark and record submission to, and sentatives of the husband of her youth, the trust in Providence, rather than seek to per- supporters of his name, prospects, and dignity. petuate his grief, by retaining the maternal In presenting his family to his father, Jacob appellation, which seemed to murmur at and must have been agitated by various and mixed to reflect upon the dispensations of the Al-emotions. It was natural for the old man to mighty. Dying in childbirth, it was found necessary to bury her with greater expedition than the removal of the corpse to the cave of Machpelah permitted; though there the precious dust of Sarah and of Abraham reposed. And, as it is happily ordered by nature, Jacob amuses, soothes, and spends his grief, which might otherwise have oppressed and spent him, in erecting a monument to Rachel's memory. Thus, what the heart in the first paroxysms of its anguish, intends as the means of rendering grief lasting or continual, gradually, imperceptibly, and most graciously extinguishes it altogether.

While this wound was still bleeding, the patriarch's heart is pierced through with another stroke, if not so acute, perhaps more overwhelming. Reuben, his eldest hope, raised and distinguished by Providence, placed in the foremost rank among many brethren, degrades and dishonours himself by the commission of a crime which modesty blushes to

inquire minutely into the events of his son's life, during the tedious years of their separation; into the character and qualities of his grandchildren; into the state of Jacob's worldly circumstances; much more, into the state of his mind as a believer, and the heir of the promise. The answer to these parental inquiries must of necessity have awaked in the bosom of the wretched sufferer ten thousand melancholy and painful sensations; and torn open afresh those wounds which the lenient hand of time had begun to close up. The hardships endured in Padan-aram; the severity, churlishness, and deceit of Laban, would rise again to view. And almost every child, as he presented them one by one to his sire, must have suggested some mortifying and distressful circumstance to wring his heart. Dinah, not in the bloom and dignity of virgin innocence, but humbled and dishonoured, robbed of that which makes youth lovely, and age respected-Simeon and Levi, her

« ÎnapoiContinuă »