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his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him."* The secret divulged under this sacred seal, is God's determination speedily and signally to destroy Sodom, and the neighbouring cities whose profligacy was arrived to such a height, as suffered not justice to rest. Whatever thoughtless men may think of sin, it can be no light thing which reaches the eternal throne, calls forth the terrors of Almighty Power, and brings down the Most High from heaven to earth. Abraham, justly alarmed at this intimation, with the sympathy and tenderness natural to a good mind, takes upon him to intercede in behalf of his unhappy neighbours, now placed on the very brink of ruin. A truly gracious spirit is never harsh and unmerciful. The vilest criminal, when delivered up to the punishment he justly merits, excites compassion in the feeling and humane. The persons who themselves most need forgiveness, are generally the most unrelenting, and make lightest of the judgments of God upon others.

Lot, allured by the beauty and fertility of the plain of Sodom, had chosen to fix his residence there, when he parted from his uncle, and is now ready to pay dearly for the imprudence of that choice. When we view an object but in one light, that which strikes us first, and flatters us most, and when we make choice of it for a few more obvious and attractive qualities, we are laying up for ourselves sorrow and remorse in the day when experience has opened our eyes to the discovery of circumstances unheeded or overlooked before. In Abraham's place an ordinary mind would have enjoyed, at least, a temporary triumph, when Sodom was threatened; the triumph of sagacity and ease, over rashness, imprudence and danger. But far different concerns occupy Abraham's breast; concern about the interests of God's glory, and about precious souls ready to perish. The whole intercessory scene is affecting in a very high degree, and needs no commentary to illustrate its force and beauty. I shall simply read it. "And Abraham drew near and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city; wilt thou also destroy, and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked, and that the righteous should be as the wicked that be far from thee: shall not the judge of all the earth do right? And the Lord said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. And Abraham answered and said, Behold now I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes, Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous; wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there and he said, I will not do it for forty's sake. And he said unto him, Oh, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall be thirty found there. And he said, 1 will

not do it, if I find thirty there. And he said, Behold, now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake. And he said, Oh, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once : Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake."+

It was thus that God, and Abraham the friend of God, lived and conversed together; it was thus this sacred friendship was mutually expressed. The fearful catastrophe that presently ensued, falls not within the design of the present lecture, which is to trace the history and character of the patriarch

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Abraham. The next time he is brought into our view, we behold him at an awful distance contemplating that destruction which he could not by entreaty and intercession avert. Dreadful change! That beautiful plain which had allured the eyes of Lot, in one eventful day converted into a vast smoking furnace. Cities and their inhabitants swallowed up in a deluge of fire. "The Lord reigneth, let the people tremble."

Abraham had lived sixteen years in the plain of Mamre; but now, whether by the particular direction of Heaven, or prompted by a natural desire to withdraw from a neighbourhood rendered unwholesome and unpleasant by the change which had passed upon it, and which incessantly presented such a tremendous monument of divine wrath to his eyes, he removes to the south-west corner of Canaan, between Kadesh and Shur, near the wilderness, and sojourned in the kingdom of Gerar, the country of the Philistines, and which afterwards was by lot assigned to the tribe of Judah. And here again, Abraham, through fear and suspicion, is induced to employ the same deceit which he had practised in Egypt, respecting his relation to Sarah, and thereby runs into the very danger which he meant to avoid. His conduct on this account is undoubtedly very reprehensible. He was to blame for judging so dishonourably of mankind, as to think ill of a people whom he knew not-" Surely the fear of God is not in this place: and they will slay me for my wife's sake."* Surely the fear of God was not before his own eyes, when he had recourse to a subterfuge so mean, to preserve the honour of his wife, and his own life. He was to blame for employing artifice a second time, after God had extricated him so mercifully from his first error. Had not God said, "I am thy shield?" and yet he fears where no fear was. Had not God said, "walk before me, and be thou perfect ?" and yet he yields to a slight temptation. The very apology which he makes for his conduct, when the truth was brought to light, discovers a mind not perfectly satisfied with itself. "And yet indeed she is my sister: she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife."+ O, how lovely, how majestic is simple truth! It seeks no retirement, stands in need of no defence, is ever consistent with itself, ever inspires with courage him who practises it. Falsehood strips the mind of its conscious dignity, keeps a man perpetually in fear, puts invention continually on the rack to prevent the means of detection. But the weakness of man shall not make the purpose of God of none effect. Sarah, now pregnant of the promised seed, is miraculously protected of Heaven, and the truth of God in Abimelech's dream exposes Abraham's waking deception. "Surely, O Lord, the wrath of man shall praise thee."

Abimelech, by the various uncommon circumstances which had affected his family and kingdom, from the time that Abraham had come into it, being fully persuaded that he was a favourite of Heaven, endeavours by presents and courtesy to attach him closely to himself, and prevails with him to accept a habitation in his country. There, it was so determined of Providence, Sarah, was delivered of the long expected son of promise. Time creeps or flies to us, according to our hopes or our fears, our sorrows, or our joys; but with God, there is no quickness or slowness of progression, no distance of place or time. Our eagerness and impatience cannot accelerate, our reluctance or aversion cannot retard his purpose a single instant of time. The joy of such an event is rather to be imagined than described. The birth of a child is always matter of unutterable satisfaction to the mother at least; what then must have been the solid, the heartfelt joy of Abraham and Sarah, on the birth of a son, the heir of great possessions, the father and founder of

* Gen. xx. 11.

+ Gen. xx. 12.

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a mighty nation, the progenitor, according to the flesh of the Saviour of the world; given by promise, and raised up by a miracle!

Sarah herself, it would appear, performed the material office of suckling this precious child; neither her high rank, nor abundant affluence, nor advanced period of life, are pleaded to exempt her from this task of nature. According to the custom of the times, Abraham made a great entertainment on the day that Isaac was weaned, when probably he was solemnly recognized as Abraham's heir, and by some public act invested with his rights as such. This would naturally excite the envy and displeasure of Ishmael, and produced that insolent or contemptuous behaviour, which our translation renders by the word "mocking," and by which Sarah was so much incensed, that she insisted on the immediate banishment of Hagar and her son. No created joy is either pure and unmixed, or of long continuance. Sarah's comfort is marred by the brutality and insolence of Ishmael to her son, and not improbably by the fear she entertained of one so much advanced in age, stature, and strength, above Isaac, and of such a wild untoward disposition. Abraham's peace is destroyed, and his life embittered by the necessity he is under of driving from his house his own child and the unhappy mother. Whether the good man were criminal or not, in the assumption of Hagar as his concubine, sure I am, first and last, he smarts severely for it. And Isaac the covenant head and representative of the church, begins at an early period of life indeed, to suffer persecution from the jealousy and malignity of the serpent's issue. Thus, in every state and condition of human life, God sets one thing against another, that we may still and ever be brought to the recollection, that "this is not our rest." We are more surprised at the slender provision with which Hagar and Ishmael are dismissed, than at the dismission itself. That the patriarch, for the sake of peace at home, should consent to part with the bond woman and her son, is very conceivable; but that they should be turned adrift into the wide world, without protection, without attendant, without provision, except so much bread and water as the wretched mother could carry upon her own shoulders; these are circumstances, which, on the usual principles of human conduct, appear altogether strange and unaccountable. But in God, the fatherless and the friendless ever find mercy. Lost in the wilderness, outcast from society, disowned and rejected, ready to perish with hunger and thirst, they meet with attention from Him who feeds the ravens, and without whom a sparrow falleth not to the ground.

We may well suppose that Ishmael's expulsion from his father's house and fortunes, and the way of life into which it forced him, would greatly increase his natural ferocity of temper, and contribute to form and fix that character which was given of him by the angel before he was born, "he shall be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren." God brings his predictions to pass, not always, nor generally, by miraculous interposition, but by the operation and concurrence of natural causes. "He became an archer,' lived by declaring war on the beasts of the field, and gradually brought himself to bear, and even to prefer that way of living, which had at first been obtruded upon him by the strong hand of necessity. So happily is our nature framed, that use at length reconciles the mind to what was in prospect insupportable, and, at first, galling and distressful. Hagar, in resentment probably of the treatment she had met with, in order to widen the breach, and to bar the way to reconciliation, forms a marriage for her son with a woman of her own country from which we may conclude that they went back headlong into idolatry.

The vexation arising from this domestic dissension has scarcely subsided, when Abraham finds himself embroiled with his host and protector the king

of Gerar. The servants of Abimelech take violent possession of a well of water which the servants of Abraham had digged, and the quarrel is taken up by the principals themselves. Such is human nature: such is human life. From the beginning to this day, miserable mortals have been contending and striving, and shedding each other's blood about a well of water, or some such ground of dissension. The whole world is a possession too small for ambition and avarice, and selfishness considers that as taken from us which another enjoys. Happily, moderation and good sense prevented this offence from coming to an open rupture. When men are disposed to peace, punctilio is easily overlooked; but where there is a disposition to quarrel, it is easy to magnify the most petty neglect into an affront, and to make an unmeaning look the occasion of a breach. The convention between Abraham and Abimelech is ratified in the most solemn manner, by the making, that is, the cutting or dividing of a covenant, according to the form observed on a much more important occasion, and which has been described in a former Lecture: namely, The ratification of the covenant between God and Abraham. But why should covenants, promises, oaths, be necessary in the commerce of human life? Alas! because men are false, treacherous, and perfidious. The awful manners and customs of times that are past, only serve to convince us, that in every age the corruption of man has been so great upon the earth, that ordinary obligations will not bind; that without the sanctions of religion, the sense of honour, regard to the rights of mankind, and the supposed rectitude of human nature, are feeble and inefficacious. No other argument is necessary to prove that our nature is depraved, and that religion is necessary to man, than the necessity to which men have been reduced, in every age and nation, to secure and preserve the interests of truth and justice, by explicit compacts, and solemn appeals to the Deity: by making "an oath for confir Abraham dreads Abimelech as not having the fear of God before his eyes. Abimelech stands in awe of Abraham as under the special protection of Heaven: they agree in one thing, in revering the sanctity of a solemn oath; which being interposed, they both sit down secure and happy; Abimelech rests satisfied that Abraham will do nothing to disturb his family or government, or injure his person; Abraham, that Abimelech will not encroach on the rights of private property, or invade those of conscience.

mation an end of all strife.”

This transaction seems to have brought our patriarch to a resting place. He is not himself to be a potentate in the earth, but a great prince courts his alliance, and forms a league with him. The possession of Canaan is postponed, but Isaac is born. The son of the bond woman is banished, but the son of the free woman lives in his house, grows, and prospers, and increases in stature, and in favour with God and man. We e see the good man now in the serenity of a vigorous, placid old age, enjoying all that this world can bestow ón a virtuous mind, united to a wholesome constitution; unimpaired by intemperance or disease, failing only by the gradual imperceptible decays of nature; capable of enjoying life to the last. I behold the venerable man planting his oaks in Beersheba, solacing himself with the thought, that though his head was soon to be laid low, his Isaac would in due time repose under their shade. How contemptible is the spirit which considers self only in all that it does! How I honour the man who lives to the end of life; nay strives to prolong existence, and succeeds in the attempt, by engaging in pursuits through which posterity is to be benefited! We will now leave him in this happy tranquillity of life; and may his trees quickly rise to shelter his aged head from the sultry heat of the noon-tide sun; and be his Isaac a comfort greater than ever parent knew; and let the tide of benevolence from his honest heart, roll back to its source, increased with overflowing fulness from the

ocean of everlasting love. But the grove which he planted was not merely an amusement for old age, or an embellishment of his habitation, it was dedicated to God, and destined as a seat of devotion; there "he called on the name of the Lord."

We bid him adieu then at this pleasant resting place of life, rejoicing in the past, and calmly waiting the hour of dismission from all his trials and sorrows. But I dread this treacherous tranquillity. Bodes it not an approaching storm? The event will shew. I shall not anticipate, but hasten to conclude this Lecture, with inviting you to a participation in that divine friendship which Abraham enjoyed, and from which none are excluded; for "the secret of the Lord is with all them that fear him, and he sheweth to them his holy covenant." What is the birth of an Isaac compared to the manifestation of God in the flesh?"To us a Son is born, to us a Saviour is given," and "in him all the families of the earth are blessed." Let the history of Abraham teach us how vain it is to expect unmixed happiness in a world of vanity; and to dread the approach of calamity when we possess uncommon ease. Let us adore and admire the wonder-working hand of God, which unseen directs, controls, subdues all creatures, and all events, to its own purposes. Let us trust in the Lord and do good, and love, and speak, and practise truth. When we see the father of the faithful failing and faltering, let none be highminded but fear, and "let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." Did Providence take Ishmael the outcast, the wild man under its protection? Let poor and virtuous parents take encouragement to cast the care of their helpless offspring on the Father of the fatherless and the Judge of the widow. Did one hasty ill-advised step involve the patriarch in such acute and lasting distress? Ponder, then, Ö man, the paths of thy feet, and beware of doing evil, in expectation that good may come of it.

By casting your eyes up on the sacred page, you will see what is to form the subject of the next discourse. It is a topic well known, and which has been frequently handled, but it is one of those that will ever please and ever instruct. May God bless what has been spoken. Amen.



HEBREWS XI. 17, 18, 19.

By faith Abraham when he was tried offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, that in Isaac shall thy seed be called; accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead: from whence also he received him in a figure.

THE parts of history which please and instruct us most, are those which exhibit to us illustrious persons in trying situations, holding fast their integrity, conducting themselves with wisdom, and overcoming great difficulty by patience and fortitude, and trust in God. The passages of our own lives which we recollect with the greatest satisfaction, and which we find ourselves most disposed to relate to others, are those which, while they passed, were involved in the greatest danger and distress. The memory of past joys is generally insipid and disgusting, but the recollection of the perils which we have

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