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Title: Notes on the Book of Genesis
Author: Mackintosh, Charles Henry, 1820-1896
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                          NOTES

                           ON

                    THE BOOK OF GENESIS.

                   "Things new and old."

                  FIRST AMERICAN EDITION.

                      PHILADELPHIA:
                    HENRY LONGSTRETH,
                  1336 CHESTNUT STREET.
                          1863.



CONTENTS.


                                                                  PAGE
 CHAPTER I.                                                         13

 CHAPTER II.                                                        29

 CHAPTER III.                                                       42

 CHAPTER IV., V.                                                    64

 CHAPTER VI.-IX.                                                    90

 CHAPTER X.                                                        115

 CHAPTER XI.                                                       118

 CHAPTER XII.                                                      123

 CHAPTER XIII.                                                     140

 CHAPTER XIV.                                                      151

 CHAPTER XV.                                                       158

 CHAPTER XVI.                                                      171

 CHAPTER XVII.                                                     181

 CHAPTER XVIII.                                                    189

 CHAPTER XIX.                                                      197

 CHAPTER XX.                                                       205

 CHAPTER XXI.                                                      210

 CHAPTER XXII.                                                     217

 CHAPTER XXIII.                                                    230

 CHAPTER XXIV.                                                     235

 CHAPTER XXV.                                                      248

 CHAPTER XXVI.                                                     251

 CHAPTER XXVII.-XXXV.                                              256

 CHAPTER XXXVI.                                                    300

 CHAPTER XXXVII.-L.                                                300

 CHAPTER XXXVIII.                                                  305

 CHAPTER XXXIX.-XLV.                                               306



PREFACE.


To all who love and relish the simple gospel of the grace of God, I
would earnestly recommend the following "Notes on the Book of Genesis."
They are characterized by a deep-toned evangelical spirit. Having had
the privilege of reading them in MS., I can speak as one who has found
profit therefrom. Man's complete ruin in sin, and God's perfect remedy
in Christ, are fully, clearly, and often strikingly, presented,
especially in the earlier chapters.

To Christ's servants in the gospel sound, forcible statements as to
what _sin_ is and what _grace_ is, are deeply valuable in the present
time, when so much that is merely superficial is abroad.

The gospel of Christ, as perfectly meeting man's nature, condition, and
character, is comparatively little known, and less proclaimed. Hence,
the numerous doubts, fears, and unsettled questions which fill the
hearts and perplex the consciences of many of God's dear children.
Until the soul is led to see that the entire question of sin and the
claims of divine holiness were _all and forever settled_ on the
cross, sweet, quiet rest of conscience will be but little known.

Nothing can meet the urgent cry of a troubled conscience but the one
perfect sacrifice of Christ; offered _to_ God _for us_, on the cross.
"For even Christ _our_ passover is sacrificed _for us_." There, and
there alone it will find a _perfect answer_ to its every claim; because
there it will find, through believing, all ground of doubt and fear
removed, the whole question of sin eternally settled, every divine
requirement fully met, and a solid foundation laid for present, settled
peace, in the presence of divine holiness: Christ "delivered for our
offences, and raised again for our justification," settles every thing.
The moment we believe the gospel, we are saved, and ought to be
divinely happy. "He that believeth on the Son _hath_ everlasting life."
(Rom. iv. v.; John iii.)

We see the greatness of God's love to the sinner in his judgment of
sin in the person of his own dear Son on the cross. There God, in
perfect grace to us, dealt with sin according to his infinite holiness
and justice. He went down to the depths of our ruin and all our sin,
measured it, judged it, and put it forever away, _root_ and _branch_,
by shedding the precious blood of the spotless Victim. "He condemned
sin in the flesh;" that is, he there condemned the evil root of sin
which is in our flesh,--our carnal nature. But he also "made an end of
sins,"--of the actual sins of every believer. Thus, between God and
Christ alone the entire question of sin was gone into, and finally
settled on the cross. "Simon Peter said unto him, Lord whither goest
thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go _thou canst not follow me now_."
Just as Abraham and Isaac were alone on the top of the mountain in the
land of Moriah, so were God and Christ alone, amidst the solemnities
and solitudes of Calvary. The only part we had in the cross was, that
our _sins_ were there. Jesus _alone_ bore the full weight of their
judgment. (Comp. Dan. ix. 24; Rom. viii. 3; 2 Cor. v. 21; Heb. ix. 26,
28.)

Whenever this blessed truth is learnt from God's own word, and
maintained in the soul by faith, through the power of the Holy Ghost,
all is peace, joy, and victory. It takes the believer completely away
from himself, from his doubts, fears, and questions. And his eye now
gazes on ONE who, by his finished work, has laid the foundation of
divine and everlasting righteousness, and who is now at the right hand
of the Majesty in the highest, as the perfect definition of every true
believer. With him, with him alone, the believer's heart is now to be
occupied.

Faith is fully assured that when _God_ puts away sin, it must be put
away entirely; that, when Jesus exclaimed, "IT IS FINISHED," the work
was done,--God was glorified, the sinner saved, the whole power of
Satan completely destroyed, and peace established on the most solid
basis. Hence, we find, "The God of _peace_ brought again from the dead
our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of
the everlasting covenant." He was the God of _judgment_ at the cross.
He is the God of _peace_ at the opening grave. Every enemy has been
vanquished, and eternal peace proclaimed, through the blood of his
cross. "He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father." He
rose "in the power of an endless life," and associates every believer
with himself, in the power of that life in resurrection. Having been
cleansed by his blood, they are accepted in his person. (See Eph. i. 6;
Col. ii. 10; 1 John v. 20.)

Jesus, having thus fully accomplished the work that was given him to
do, and gone up on high, the Holy Ghost came down as a witness to us
that redemption was finished, the believer "perfected forever" and
Christ glorified in heaven.

The apostles then began to publish the glad tidings of salvation to the
chief of sinners. The subject of their preaching was, "_Jesus and the
resurrection_." And all who believed on him as risen and glorified were
immediately and eternally saved. "And this is the record that God hath
given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son: he that hath the
Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." (1
John v. 11, 12.) There is no blessing outside of, or apart from, the
PERSON OF CHRIST--THE HEAVENLY MAN; "for in him dwelleth all the
fulness of the Godhead bodily." Ever since that time, God has been
placing before the sinner, in connection with _his_ gospel, a risen
living Christ, as the ALONE object of faith, and "the end of the law
for righteousness to EVERY ONE THAT BELIEVETH." (Rom. X.)

When the eye is kept on this heavenly Christ, all is light, joy, and
peace; but if it be turned in on self, and occupied with what it
_finds_ there, and what it _feels_, or with any thing whatever that may
come between the heart and Christ, all will be darkness, uncertainty,
and unhappiness in the soul. Oh, how blessedly simple is the gospel of
the grace of God!

The burden of its message to the _lost sinner_ is, "Come, for all
things are now ready;" the question of sin is not raised,--"_Grace
reigns_ through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our
Lord." Christ, having perfectly satisfied God about sin, the only
question now between God and your heart is this: _Are you perfectly
satisfied with his Christ as the alone portion of your soul?_ This is
the one grand question of the gospel. Christ has settled every other to
the glory of God; and now the Father is going to "make a marriage for
his Son,"--to honor, exalt, and glorify him. Is your heart in full
harmony with God's on this point? Work is not required at your hands;
strength is not needed; fruit is not demanded. God has provided every
thing, and prepared every thing. It is all grace,--the pure grace of
God. "Only believe;" "Come, for all things are now ready." The
marriage-supper; the wedding-garment, royal honors, the Father's
presence, fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore--all are
ready,--ready now--"ready to be revealed." Dear reader, are you ready?
Oh, solemn question! Are you ready? Have you believed the message? Have
you embraced the Son? Are you ready to "Crown him Lord of all?" The
table is spread, the house is filling fast: "yet there is room."
Already you have heard the midnight cry, "Behold the bridegroom
cometh, go ye out to meet him," "and they that were READY went in _with
him_ to the marriage, AND THE DOOR WAS SHUT." "Be ye therefore ready
also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not." (Matt.
xxii., xxv.; Luke xii., xiv.)

      *       *       *       *       *

But I must now refer my reader to the "Notes" themselves, where he will
find this most blessed subject fully, frequently, and pointedly stated,
and many other subjects of deep practical importance; such as the
distinctive position and perfect unity of the Church of God; real
saintship; practical discipleship; sonship; &c., &c.

With the exception of the four gospels, I suppose there is no book in
the Bible more deeply interesting than the Book of Genesis. It comes to
us with all the freshness of God's first book to his people. The
contents are varied, highly instructive, and most precious to the
student of God's entire book.

These "Notes" are again laid at the Master's feet in earnest prayer
that he would take them up and send them forth under the stamp of his
own divine approval. Amen.
                                                                    A.M.
  _London._



PREFATORY NOTE TO THE FOURTH EDITION.


I cannot suffer this Fourth Edition to go forth without an expression
of heartfelt thankfulness to the Lord for his goodness in making use of
such a feeble instrumentality for the profit of souls and the spread of
his own simple truth.

It is an unspeakable privilege to be permitted in any small degree to
minister to the souls of those who are so precious to Christ. "Lovest
thou me?... Feed my sheep." Such were the touching words of the
departing Shepherd; and, assuredly, when they fall powerfully upon the
heart, they must rouse all the energies of one's moral being to carry
out, in every possible way, the gracious desire breathed therein. To
gather and to feed the lambs and sheep of the flock of Christ are the
most exalted services in which any one can be engaged. Not a single
honest effort put forth for the achievement of such noble ends will be
forgotten in that day "when the Chief Shepherd shall appear."

May God the Holy Ghost fill the heart, anoint the lips, and consecrate
the pen of every servant of Christ, so that streams of pure and living
truth may flow in every direction for the refreshment of all those who
are on their way to glory.
                                                                  C.H.M.
 _Dublin, May, 1861._



                           NOTES

                            ON

                    THE BOOK OF GENESIS.



CHAPTER I.


There is something peculiarly striking in the manner in which the Holy
Ghost opens this sublime book. He introduces us, at once, to God, in
the essential fulness of his being, and the solitariness of his acting.
All prefatory matter is omitted. It is to God we are brought. We hear
him, as it were, breaking earth's silence, and shining in upon earth's
darkness, for the purpose of developing a sphere in which he might
display his eternal power and Godhead.

There is nothing here on which idle curiosity may feed,--nothing on
which the poor human mind may speculate. There is the sublimity and
reality of DIVINE TRUTH, in its moral power to act on the heart, and on
the understanding. It could never come within the range of the Spirit
of God to gratify idle curiosity by the presentation of curious
theories. Geologists may explore the bowels of the earth, and draw
forth from thence materials from which to add to, and, in some
instances, to contradict, the Divine record. They may speculate upon
fossil remains; but the disciple hangs, with sacred delight, over the
page of inspiration. He reads, believes, and worships. In this spirit
may we pursue our study of the profound book which now lies open before
us. May we know what it is to "inquire in the temple." May our
investigations of the precious contents of holy scripture be ever
prosecuted in the true spirit of worship.

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." The first
sentence in the divine canon sets us in the presence of him who is the
infinite source of all true blessedness. There is no elaborate argument
in proof of the existence of God. The Holy Ghost could not enter upon
any thing of the kind. God reveals himself. He makes himself known by
his works. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament
showeth his handy-work." "All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord."
"Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty." None but an
infidel or an atheist would seek an argument in proof of the Being of
One who, by the word of his mouth, called worlds into existence, and
declared himself the All-wise, the Almighty, and the everlasting God.
Who but "God" could "create" any thing. "Lift up your eyes on high, and
behold who hath _created_ these things, that bringeth out their host by
number; he calleth them all by names, by the greatness of his might,
for that he is strong in power; not one faileth." (Is. xl. 26.) "The
gods of the heathen are idols, but the Lord made the heavens." In the
Book of Job (chap. xxxviii.-xli.) we have an appeal of the very
grandest description, on the part of Jehovah himself, to the work of
creation, as an unanswerable argument in proof of his infinite
superiority; and this appeal, while it sets before the understanding
the most vivid and convincing demonstration of God's omnipotence,
touches the heart, also, by its amazing condescension. The majesty and
the love, the power and the tenderness, are all divine.

"And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the
face of the deep." Here was, in good truth, a scene in which God alone
could act. Man, in the pride of his heart, has since proved himself but
too ready to interfere with God in other and far higher spheres of
action; but, in the scene before us, man had no place until, indeed, he
became, like all the rest, the subject of creative power. God was alone
in creation. He looked forth from his eternal dwelling-place of light
upon the wild waste, and there beheld the sphere in which his wondrous
plans and counsels were yet to be unfolded and brought out--where the
Second Person of the Eternal Trinity was yet to live, and labor, and
testify, and bleed, and die, in order to display, in the view of
wondering worlds, the glorious perfections of the Godhead. All was
darkness and chaos; but God is the God of light and order. "God is
light, and in him is no darkness at all." Darkness and confusion cannot
live in his presence, whether we look at it in a physical, moral,
intellectual, or spiritual point of view.

"The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." He sat brooding
over the scene of his future operations. A dark scene, truly; and one
in which there was ample room for the God of light and life to act. He
alone could enlighten the darkness, cause life to spring up, substitute
order for chaos, open an expanse between the waters, where life might
display itself without fear of death. These were operations worthy of
God.

"God said, Let there be light: and there was light." How simple! And
yet how Godlike! "He spake, and it was done. He commanded, and it stood
fast." Infidelity may ask, "How? where? when?" The answer is, "By faith
we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that
things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." (Heb.
xi. 3.) This satisfies the teachable spirit. Philosophy may smile
contemptuously at this, and pronounce it rude ignorance, or blind
credulity, suitable enough for an age of semi-barbarism, but quite
unworthy of men living in an enlightened age of the world's history,
when the museum and the telescope have put us in possession of facts of
which the inspired penman knew nothing. What wisdom! What learning!
Yea, rather, what folly! What nonsense! What total inability to grasp
the scope and design of sacred scripture! It, assuredly, is not God's
object to make us astronomers or geologists; or to occupy us with
details which the microscope or the telescope lays before every
school-boy. His object is to lead us into his presence, as worshippers,
with hearts and understandings taught and duly governed by his Holy
Word. But this would never do for the so-called philosopher, who,
despising what he terms the vulgar and narrow-minded prejudices of the
devout disciple of the Word, boldly seizes his telescope, and
therewith scans the distant heavens, or travels into the deep recesses
of earth in search of strata, formations and fossils,--all of which,
according to his account, greatly improve, if they do not flatly
contradict, the inspired narrative.

With such "oppositions of science falsely so called," we have nothing
to do. We believe that all true discoveries, whether "in the heavens
above, in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth," will
harmonize with that which is written in the word of God; and if they do
not thus harmonize, they are perfectly contemptible in the judgment of
every true lover of scripture. This gives great rest to the heart in a
day like the present, so productive of learned speculations and
high-sounding theories, which, alas! in too many instances, savor of
rationalism and positive infidelity. It is most needful to have the
heart thoroughly established as to the fulness, the authority, the
completeness, the majesty, the plenary inspiration of the sacred
volume. This will be found to be the only effectual safeguard against
the rationalism of Germany and the superstition of Rome. Accurate
acquaintance with, and profound subjection to, the Word, are the great
_desiderata_ of the present moment. May the Lord, in his great grace,
abundantly increase in our midst both the one and the other.

"And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light
from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he
called Night." Here we have the two great symbols so largely employed
throughout the Word. The presence of light makes the day; the absence
thereof makes the night. Thus it is in the history of souls. There are
"the sons of light" and "the sons of darkness." This is a most marked
and solemn distinction. All upon whom the light of Life has shone,--all
who have been effectually visited by the Day-spring from on high,--all
who have received the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the
face of Jesus Christ,--all such, whoever and wherever they may be,
belong to the first class, are "the sons of light, and the sons of the
day."

On the other hand, all who are still in nature's darkness, nature's
blindness, nature's unbelief,--all who have not yet received into their
hearts, by faith, the cheering beams of the Sun of righteousness, all
such are still wrapped in the shades of spiritual night, are "the sons
of darkness," "the sons of the night."

Reader, pause and ask yourself, in the presence of the Searcher of
hearts, to which of these two classes do you, at this moment, belong.
That you belong to either the one or the other is beyond all question.
You may be poor, despised, unlettered; but if, through grace, there is
a link connecting you with the Son of God, "the Light of the world,"
then you are, in very deed, a son of the day, and destined, ere long,
to shine in that celestial sphere, that region of glory, of which "the
slain Lamb" will be the central sun, forever. This is not your own
doing. It is the result of the counsel and operation of God himself,
who has given you light and life, joy and peace, in Jesus, and his
accomplished sacrifice. But if you are a total stranger to the hallowed
action and influence of divine light, if your eyes have not been opened
to behold any beauty in the Son of God, then, though you had all the
learning of a Newton, though you were enriched with all the treasures
of human philosophy, though you had drunk in with avidity all the
streams of human science, though your name were adorned with all the
learned titles which the schools and universities of this world could
bestow, yet are you "a son of the night," "a son of darkness;" and, if
you die in your present condition you will be involved in the blackness
and horror of an eternal night. Do not, therefore, my friend, read
another page, until you have fully satisfied yourself as to whether you
belong to the "day" or the "night."

The next point on which I would dwell is the creation of lights. "And
God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven, to divide
the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and
for days and years. And let them be for lights in the firmament of the
heaven, to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two
great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light
to rule the night: he made the stars also."

The sun is the great centre of light, and the centre of our system.
Round him the lesser orbs revolve. From him, too, they derive their
light. Hence, he may, very legitimately, be viewed as an apt symbol of
Him, who is soon to arise with healing in His wings, to gladden the
hearts of those that fear the Lord. The aptness and beauty of the
symbol would fully appear to one who, having spent the night in
watching, beholds the rising sun gilding, with his bright beams, the
eastern sky. The mists and shades of night are all dispersed, and the
whole creation seems to hail the returning orb of light. Thus will it
be, by and by, when the Sun of righteousness arises. The shadows of
night shall flee away, and the whole creation shall be gladdened by the
dawning of "a morning without clouds,"--the opening of a bright and
never-ending day of glory.

The moon, being in herself opaque, derives all her light from the sun.
She always reflects the sun's light, save when earth and its influences
intervene.[1] No sooner has the sun sunk beneath our horizon than the
moon presents herself to receive his beams and reflect them back upon a
dark world; or should she be visible during the day, she always
exhibits a pale light, the necessary result of appearing in the
presence of superior brightness. True it is, as has been remarked, the
world sometimes intervenes; dark clouds, thick mists, and chilling
vapors, too, arise from earth's surface, and hide from our view her
silvery light.

Now, as the sun is a beautiful and an appropriate symbol of Christ, so
the moon strikingly reminds us of the Church. The fountain of her light
is hidden from view. The world seeth him not, but she sees him; and she
is responsible to reflect his beams upon a benighted world. The world
has no other way in which to learn any thing of Christ but by the
Church. "Ye," says the inspired apostle, "are our epistle, ... known
and read of all men." And again, "Forasmuch as ye are manifestly
declared to be the epistle of Christ." (2 Cor. iii. 2, 3.)

 What a responsible place! How earnestly should she watch against every
 thing that would hinder the reflection of the heavenly light of Christ,
 in all her ways! But how is she to reflect this light? By allowing it
 to shine upon her, in its undimmed brightness. If the Church only
 walked in the light of Christ, she would, assuredly, reflect his light;
 and this would ever keep her in her proper position. The light of the
 moon is not her own. So it is with the Church. She is not called to set
 herself before the world. She is a simple debtor to reflect the light
 which she herself receives. She is bound to study, with holy diligence,
 the path which he trod, while down here; and by the energy of the Holy
 Ghost, who dwells in her, to follow in that path. But, alas! earth with
 its mists, its clouds, and its vapors, intervenes, and hides the light
 and blots the epistle. The world can see but little of the traits of
 Christ's character in those who call themselves by his name; yea, in
 many instances they exhibit an humbling contrast, rather than a
 resemblance. May we study Christ more prayerfully, that so we may copy
 him more faithfully.

The stars are distant lights. They shine in other spheres, and have
little connection with this system, save that their twinkling can be
seen. "One star differeth from another star in glory." Thus will it be
in the coming kingdom of the Son. He will shine forth in living and
everlasting lustre. His body, the Church, will faithfully reflect his
beams on all around; while the saints individually shall shine in those
spheres which a righteous Judge shall allot to them, as a reward of
faithful service during the dark night of his absence. This thought
should animate us to a more ardent and vigorous pursuit after
conformity to our absent Lord. (See Luke xix. 12-19.)

The lower orders of creation are next introduced. The sea and the earth
are made to teem with life. Some may feel warranted in regarding the
operations of each successive day, as foreshadowing the various
dispensations, and their great characteristic principles of action. I
would only remark, as to this, that there is great need, when handling
the word in this way, to watch, with holy jealousy, the working of
imagination; and also to pay strict attention to the general analogy of
scripture, else we may make sad mistakes. I do not feel at liberty to
enter upon such a line of interpretation; I shall therefore confine
myself to what I believe to be the plain sense of the sacred text.

We shall now consider man's place, as set over the works of God's
hands. All having been set in order, one was needed to take the
headship. "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our
likeness; and let _them_ have dominion over the fish of the sea, and
over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth,
and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God
created man in his own image, in the image of God created he _him_:
male and female created he _them_. And God blessed them, and God said
unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and
subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the
fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the
earth." My reader will observe the change from "him" to "them." We are
not presented with the actual fact of the formation of the woman, until
the next chapter; though here we find God blessing "them," and giving
"them" jointly the place of universal government. All the inferior
orders of creation were set under their joint dominion. Eve received
all her blessings in Adam. In him, too, she got her dignity. Though not
yet called into actual existence, she was, in the purpose of God,
looked at as part of the man. "In thy book were all my members written,
which, in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of
them."

Thus it is with the Church,--the bride of the Second Man. She was
viewed from all eternity in Christ, her Head and Lord; as we read in
the first chapter of Ephesians, "According as he hath chosen us in him,
_before the foundation of the world_, that we should be holy and
without blame before him in love." Before a single member of the Church
had yet breathed the breath of life, all were, in God's eternal mind,
predestinated to be conformed to the "image of his Son." The counsels of
God render the Church necessary to complete the mystic man. Hence the
Church is called "the fulness ([Greek: plêrôma]) of him that filleth
all in all." This is an amazing title, and it develops much of the
dignity, importance, and glory of the Church.

It is too common to view redemption as bearing merely upon the
blessedness and security of individual souls. This is entirely too low
a view to take of the matter. That all which pertains, in any way, to
the individual is, in the fullest manner, secured, is, blessed be God,
most true. This is the least part of redemption. But that Christ's
glory is involved in, and connected with, the Church's existence, is a
truth of far more dignity, depth, and power. If I am entitled, on the
authority of Holy Scripture, to regard myself as a constituent part of
that which is actually needful to Christ, I can no longer entertain a
doubt as to whether there is the fullest provision for all my personal
necessities. And is not the Church thus needful to Christ? Yes, truly.
"It is not good that _the_ man should be alone; I will make him an help
meet for him." And, again, "For the man is not of the woman; but the
woman of the man; neither was the man created for the woman; but the
woman for the man.... Nevertheless, neither is the man without the
woman, neither the woman without the man in the Lord. For as the woman
is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of
God." (1 Cor. xi. 8-12.) Hence, it is no longer the mere question
whether God can save a poor, helpless sinner,--whether he can blot out
his sins, and receive him in the power of divine righteousness. God has
said, "it is not good that the man should be alone." He left not "the
first man" without "an help meet;" neither would he leave the "Second."
As, in the case of the former, there would have been a blank in the
creation without Eve, so--stupendous thought!--in the case of the
latter, there would be a blank in the new creation without the bride,
the Church.

Let us, now, look at the manner in which Eve was brought into being,
though, in so doing, we shall have to anticipate part of the contents
of the next chapter. Throughout all the orders of creation there was
not found an help meet for Adam. "A deep sleep" must fall on him, and a
partner be formed, out of himself, to share his dominion and his
blessedness. "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam,
and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh
instead thereof." And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man,
builded[2] he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said,
This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be
called Woman, because she was taken out of man. (Chap. ii. 21-23.)

Looking at Adam and Eve as a type of Christ and the Church, as
scripture fully warrants us to do, we see how that the death of Christ
needed to be an accomplished fact, ere the Church could be set up;
though, in the purpose of God, she was looked at, and chosen in Christ,
before the foundation of the world. There is, however, a vast
difference between the secret purpose of God and the revelation and
accomplishment thereof. Before the divine purpose could be actualized
in reference to the constituent parts of the Church, it was necessary
that the Son should be rejected and crucified,--that he should take his
seat on high,--that he should send down the Holy Ghost to baptize
believers into one body. It is not that souls were not quickened and
saved, previous to the death of Christ. They assuredly were. Adam was
saved, and thousands of others, from age to age, in virtue of the
sacrifice of Christ, though that sacrifice was not yet accomplished.
But the salvation of individual souls is one thing; and the formation
of the Church, as a distinctive thing, by the Holy Ghost, is quite
another.

This distinction is not sufficiently attended to; and even where it is
in theory maintained, it is accompanied with but little of those
practical results which might naturally be expected to flow from a
truth so stupendous. The Church's unique place,--her special
relationship to "the Second Man, the Lord from heaven,"--her
distinctive privileges and dignities,--all these things would, if
entered into by the power of the Holy Ghost, produce the richest, the
rarest, and the most fragrant fruits. (See Eph. v. 23-32.)

When we look at the type before us, we may form some idea of the
results which ought to follow from the understanding of the Church's
position and relationship. What affection did not Eve owe to Adam! What
nearness she enjoyed! What intimacy of communion! What full
participation in all his thoughts! In all his dignity, and in all his
glory, she was entirely one. He did not rule _over_, but _with_ her. He
was Lord of the whole creation, and she was one with him. Yea, as has
already been remarked, she was looked at, and blessed _in_ him. "The
man" was the object; and as to "the woman," she was needful to him, and
therefore she was brought into being. Nothing can be more profoundly
interesting as a type. Man first set up, and the woman viewed in, and
then formed out of him,--all this forms a type of the most striking and
instructive character. Not that a doctrine can ever be founded upon a
type; but when we find the doctrine fully and clearly laid down in
other parts of the Word, we are then prepared to understand,
appreciate, and admire the type.

The 8th Psalm furnishes a fine view of man set over the work of God's
hands: "when I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers; the moon
and the stars which thou hast ordained: what is man that thou art
mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him? For thou
hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with
glory and honor. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy
hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: all sheep and oxen,
yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air, and the fish of
the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea." Here man
is looked at, without any distinctive mention of the woman; and this is
quite in character, for the woman is looked at _in_ the man.

There is no direct revelation of the mystery of the Church, in any part
of the Old Testament. The apostle expressly says, "in other ages it was
not made known to the sons of men as it is _now_ revealed unto his holy
apostles and prophets (of the New Testament) by the Spirit." (Eph. iii.
1-11.) Hence, in the Psalm just quoted, we have only "the man"
presented to us; but we know that the man and the woman are looked at
under one head. All this will find its full antitype in the ages to
come. Then shall the True Man, the Lord from heaven, take his seat on
the throne, and, in companionship with his bride, the Church, rule over
a restored creation. This Church is quickened out of the grave of
Christ, is part "of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." He the
Head and she the body, making one Man, as we read in the fourth chapter
of Ephesians, "Till we all come, in the unity of the faith, and of the
knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of
the stature of the fulness of Christ." The Church, being thus part of
Christ, will occupy a place, in the glory, quite unique. There was no
other creature so near to Adam as Eve, because no other creature was
part of himself. So, in reference to the Church, she will hold the very
nearest place to Christ, in his coming glory.

Nor is it merely what the church _will be_ that commands our
admiration; but what the Church _is_. She is now the body of which
Christ is the Head; she is now the temple of which God is the
Inhabitant. Oh, what manner of people ought we to be! If such is the
present, such the future dignity of that of which we, through God's
grace, form a part, surely a holy, a devoted, a separated, an elevated
walk is what becomes us.

May the Holy Ghost unfold these things, more fully and powerfully, to
our hearts, that so we may have a deeper sense of the conduct and
character which are worthy of the high vocation wherewith we are
called. "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may
know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory
of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness
of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his
mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the
dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far
above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every
name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is
to come; and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be
the head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fulness
of him that filleth all in all." (Eph. i. 18-23.)

FOOTNOTES:

[1] It is an interesting fact that the moon, as viewed through a
powerful telescope, presents the appearance of one vast ruin of nature.

[2] The Hebrew word which is rendered "builded" in the margin, is
[Hebrew: vayyven] which the LXX. render by [Greek: ôkodomesen]. A
reference to the original of Eph. ii. 20, 22 will show the reader that
the words rendered "built" and "builded together" are inflections of
the same verb.



CHAPTER II.


This chapter introduces to our notice two prominent subjects, namely,
"the seventh day" and "the river." The first of these demands special
attention.

There are few subjects on which so much misunderstanding and
contradiction prevails as the doctrine of "the Sabbath." Not that there
is the slightest foundation for either the one or the other; for the
whole subject is laid down in the Word, in the simplest possible
manner. The distinct _commandment_, to "keep holy the Sabbath-day,"
will come before us, the Lord permitting, in our meditations on the
book of Exodus. In the chapter now before us, there is no command given
to man whatever; but simply the record that, "God rested on the seventh
day." "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host
of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made;
and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it
he had rested from all his work which God created and made." There is
no commandment given to man, here. We are simply told that God enjoyed
his rest, because all was done, so far as the mere creation was
concerned. There was nothing more to be done, and, therefore, the One
who had, during six days, been working, ceased to work, and enjoyed his
rest. All was complete; all was very good; all was just as he himself
had made it; and he rested in it. "The morning stars sang together; and
all the sons of God shouted for joy." The work of creation was ended,
and God was celebrating a sabbath.

And be it observed, that this is the true character of a sabbath. This
is the only sabbath which God ever celebrated, so far as the inspired
record instructs us. After this, we read of God's commanding man to
keep the sabbath, and man utterly failing so to do; but we never read
again the words, "God rested:" on the contrary, the word is, "My Father
worketh hitherto, and I work." (John v. 17.) The sabbath, in the strict
and proper sense of the term, could only be celebrated when there
really was nothing to be done. It could only be celebrated amid an
undefiled creation,--a creation on which no spot of sin could be
discerned. God can have no rest where there is sin; and one has only to
look around him in order to learn the total impossibility of God's
enjoying a rest in creation _now_. The thorn and the thistle, together
with the ten thousand other melancholy and humiliating fruits of a
groaning creation, rise before us, and declare that God must be at
_work_ and not at _rest_. Could God rest in the midst of thorns and
briers? Could he rest amid the sighs and tears, the groans and sorrows,
the sickness and death, the degradation and guilt of a ruined world?
Could God sit down, as it were, and celebrate a sabbath in the midst
of such circumstances?

Whatever answer may be given to these questions, the word of God
teaches us that God has had no sabbath, as yet, save the one which the
2d of Genesis records. "The seventh day," and none other, was the
sabbath. It showed forth the completeness of creation-work; but
creation-work is marred, and the seventh-day rest interrupted; and
thus, from the fall to the incarnation, God was working; from the
incarnation to the cross, God the Son was working; and from Pentecost
until now, God the Holy Ghost has been working.

Assuredly, Christ had no sabbath when he was upon this earth. True, he
finished his work,--blessedly, gloriously finished it,--but where did
he spend the Sabbath-day? _In the tomb!_ Yes, my reader, the Lord
Christ, God manifest in the flesh, the Lord of the Sabbath, the maker
and sustainer of heaven and earth, spent the seventh day in the dark
and silent tomb. Has this no voice for us? Does it convey no teaching?
Could the Son of God lie in the grave on the seventh day, if that day
were to be spent in rest and peace; and in the full sense that nothing
remained to be done? Impossible! We want no further proof of the
impossibility of celebrating a sabbath than that which is afforded at
the grave of Jesus. We may stand beside that grave amazed to find it
occupied by such an one on the seventh day; but, oh! the reason is
obvious. Man is a fallen, ruined, guilty creature. His long career of
guilt has ended in crucifying the Lord of glory; and not only
crucifying him, but placing a great stone at the mouth of the tomb, to
prevent, if possible, his leaving it.

And what was man doing while the Son of God was in the grave? He was
observing the Sabbath-day! What a thought! Christ in his grave to
repair a broken sabbath, and yet man attempting to keep the sabbath as
though it were not broken at all! It was _man's_ sabbath, and not
God's. It was a sabbath without Christ,--an empty, powerless,
worthless, because Christless and Godless, form.

But some will say, "the day has been changed, while all the principles
belonging to it remain the same." I do not believe that scripture
furnishes any foundation for such an idea. Where is the divine warrant
for such a statement? Surely if there is scripture authority, nothing
can be easier than to produce it. But the fact is, there is none; on
the contrary, the distinction is most fully maintained in the New
Testament. Take one remarkable passage, in proof: "In the end of the
Sabbath, as it began to dawn towards the first day of the week." (Matt.
xxviii. 1.) There is, evidently, no mention here of the seventh day
being changed to the first day; nor yet of any transfer of the Sabbath
from the one to the other. The first day of the week is not the Sabbath
changed, but altogether a new day. It is the first day of a new period,
and not the last day of an old. The seventh day stands connected with
earth and earthly rest: the first day of the week, on the contrary,
introduces us to heaven and heavenly rest.

This makes a vast difference in the principle; and when we look at the
matter in a practical point of view, the difference is most material.
If I celebrate the seventh day, it marks me as an earthly man, inasmuch
as that day is, clearly, the rest of earth--creation-rest; but if I am
taught by the Word and Spirit of God to understand the meaning of the
first day of the week, I shall at once apprehend its immediate
connection with that new and heavenly order of things, of which the
death and resurrection of Christ form the everlasting foundation. The
seventh day appertained to Israel and to earth. The first day of the
week appertains to the Church and to heaven. Further, Israel was
_commanded_ to observe the sabbath day; the Church is _privileged_ to
enjoy the first day of the week. The former was the _test_ of Israel's
moral condition; the latter is the significant _proof_ of the Church's
eternal acceptance. That made manifest what Israel _could do_ for God;
this perfectly declares what God _has done_ for us.

It is quite impossible to over-estimate the value and importance of the
Lord's day, ([Greek: hê kyriakê hêmera,]) as the first day of the week
is termed, in the first chapter of the Apocalypse. Being the day on
which Christ rose from the dead, it sets forth not the completion of
creation, but the full and glorious triumph of redemption. Nor should
we regard the celebration of the first day of the week as a matter of
bondage, or as a yoke put on the neck of a Christian. It is his delight
to celebrate that happy day. Hence we find that the first day of the
week was pre-eminently the day on which the early Christians came
together to break bread; and at that period of the Church's history,
the distinction between the sabbath and the first day of the week was
fully maintained. The Jews celebrated the former, by assembling in
their synagogues to read "the law and the prophets;" the Christians
celebrated the latter, by assembling to break bread. There is not so
much as a single passage of scripture in which the first day of the
week is called the sabbath day; whereas there is the most abundant
proof of their entire distinctness.

Why, therefore, contend for that which has no foundation in the Word?
Love, honor, and celebrate the Lord's day as much as possible; seek,
like the apostle, to be "in the Spirit" thereon; let your retirement
from secular matters be as profound as ever you can make it; but while
you do all this, call it by its proper name; give it its proper place;
understand its proper principles; attach to it its proper
characteristics; and, above all, do not bind down the Christian, as
with an iron rule, to observe the seventh day, when it is his high and
holy privilege to observe the first. Do not bring him down from heaven,
where he can rest, to a cursed and bloodstained earth, where he cannot.
Do not ask him to keep a day which his Master spent in the tomb,
instead of that blessed day on which he left it. (See, carefully, Matt.
xxviii. 1-6; Mark xvi. 1-2; Luke xxiv. 1; John xx. 1, 19, 26; Acts xx.
7; 1 Cor. xvi. 2; Rev. i. 10; Acts xiii. 14; xvii. 2; Col. ii. 16.)

But let it not be supposed that we lose sight of the important fact
that the sabbath will again be celebrated, in the land of Israel, and
over the whole creation. It assuredly will. "There remaineth a rest
([Greek: sabbatismos]) for the people of God." (Heb. iv. 9.) When the
Son of Abraham, Son of David, and Son of Man, shall assume his position
of government over the whole earth, there will be a glorious
sabbath,--a rest which sin shall never interrupt. But now, he is
rejected, and all who know and love him are called to take their place
with him in his rejection; they are called to "go forth to him without
the camp bearing his reproach." (Heb. xiii. 13.) If earth could keep a
sabbath, there would be no reproach; but the very fact of the
professing church's seeking to make the first day of the week the
sabbath, reveals a deep principle. It is but the effort to get back to
an earthly standing, and to an earthly code of morals.

Many may not see this. Many true Christians may, most conscientiously,
observe the sabbath day, as such; and we are bound to honor their
consciences, though we are perfectly warranted in asking them to
furnish a scriptural basis for their conscientious convictions. We
would not stumble or wound their conscience, but we would seek to
instruct it. However, we are not now occupied with conscience or its
convictions, but only with the principle which lies at the root of what
may be termed the sabbath question; and I would only put the question
to the Christian reader, which is more consonant with the entire scope
and spirit of the New Testament, the celebration of the seventh day or
sabbath, or the celebration of the first day of the week or the Lord's
day?[3]

We shall now consider the connection between the sabbath, and the river
flowing out of Eden. There is much interest in this. It is the first
notice we get of "the river of God," which is, here, introduced in
connection with God's rest. When God was resting in his works, the
whole world felt the blessing and refreshment thereof. It was
impossible for God to keep a sabbath, and earth not to feel its sacred
influence. But, alas! the streams which flowed forth from Eden--the
scene of earthly rest--were speedily interrupted, because the rest of
creation was marred by sin.

Yet, blessed be God, sin did not put a stop to his activities, but only
gave them a new sphere; and wherever he is seen acting, the river is
seen flowing. Thus, when we find him, with a strong hand, and an
outstretched arm, conducting his ransomed hosts across the sterile sand
of the desert, there we see the stream flowing forth, not from Eden,
but from the smitten Rock,--apt and beautiful expression of the ground
on which sovereign grace ministers to the need of sinners! This was
redemption, and not merely creation. "That rock was Christ," Christ
smitten to meet his people's need. The smitten Rock was connected with
Jehovah's place in the tabernacle; and truly there was moral beauty in
the connection. God dwelling in curtains, and Israel drinking from a
smitten rock, had a voice for every opened ear, and a deep lesson for
every circumcised heart. (Exod. xvii. 6.)

Passing onward, in the history of God's ways, we find the river flowing
in another channel. "In the last day, that great day of the feast,
Jesus stood, and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto
me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out
of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." (John vii. 37, 38.)
Here, then, we find the river emanating from another source, and
flowing through another channel; though, in one sense, the source of
the river was ever the same, being God himself; but, then, it was God,
known in a new relationship and upon a new principle. Thus in the
passage just quoted, the Lord Jesus was taking his place, in spirit,
outside of the whole existing order of things, and presenting himself
as the source of the river of living water, of which river the person
of the believer was to be the channel. Eden, of old, was constituted a
debtor to the whole earth, to send forth the fertilizing streams. And
in the desert, the rock, when smitten, became a debtor to Israel's
thirsty hosts. Just so, now, every one who believes in Jesus, is a
debtor to the scene around him, to allow the streams of refreshment to
flow forth from him.

The Christian should regard himself as the channel through which the
manifold grace of Christ may flow out to a needy world; and the more
freely he communicates, the more freely will he receive, "for there is
that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more
than is meet, and it tendeth to poverty." This places the believer in a
place of sweetest privileges, and, at the same time, of the most solemn
responsibility. He is called to be the constant witness and exhibiter
of the grace of him on whom he believes.

Now, the more he enters into the privilege, the more will he answer the
responsibility. If he is habitually feeding upon Christ, he cannot
avoid exhibiting him. The more the Holy Spirit keeps the Christian's
eye fixed on Jesus, the more will his heart be occupied with his
adorable Person, and his life and character bear unequivocal testimony
to his grace. Faith is, at once, the power of ministry, the power of
testimony, and the power of worship. If we are not living "by the
faith of the Son of God, who loved us, and gave himself for us," we
shall neither be effectual servants, faithful witnesses, nor true
worshippers. We may be doing a great deal; but it will not be service
to Christ. We may be saying a great deal, but it will not be testimony
for Christ. We may exhibit a great deal of piety and devotion; but it
will not be spiritual and true worship.

Finally, we have the river of God, presented to us in the last chapter
of the Apocalypse.[4] "And he showed me a pure river of water of life,
clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb."
"There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God,
the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High." This is the last
place in which we find the river. Its source can never again be
touched,--its channel never again interrupted. "The throne of God" is
expressive of eternal stability; and the presence of the Lamb marks it
as based upon the immediate ground of accomplished redemption. It is
not God's throne in creation; nor in providence: but in redemption.
When I see _the Lamb_, I know its connection with me as _a sinner_.
"The throne of God," as such, would but deter me; but when God reveals
himself in the Person of the Lamb, the heart is attracted, and the
conscience tranquillized.

The blood of the Lamb cleanses the conscience from every speck and
stain of sin, and sets it, in perfect freedom, in the presence of a
holiness which cannot tolerate sin. In the cross, all the claims of
divine holiness were perfectly answered; so that the more I understand
the latter, the more I appreciate the former. The higher our estimate
of holiness, the higher will be our estimate of the work of the cross.
"Grace reigns, through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus
Christ our Lord." Hence the Psalmist calls on the saints to give thanks
at the remembrance of God's holiness. This is a precious fruit of a
perfect redemption. Before ever a sinner can give thanks at the
remembrance of God's holiness, he must look at it by faith, from the
resurrection side of the cross.

Having thus traced the river, from Genesis to Revelation, we shall
briefly look at Adam's position in Eden. We have seen him as a type of
Christ; but he is not merely to be viewed typically, but personally;
not merely as absolutely shadowing forth "the second man, the Lord from
heaven," but also as standing in the place of personal responsibility.
In the midst of the fair scene of creation, the Lord God set up a
testimony, and this testimony was also a test for the creature. It
spoke of _death_ in the midst of _life_. "In the day that thou eatest
thereof, thou shalt surely die." Strange, solemn sound! Yet, it was a
needed sound. Adam's life was suspended upon his strict obedience. The
link which connected him with the Lord God[5] was obedience, based on
implicit confidence in the One who had set him in his position of
dignity--confidence in his truth--confidence in his love. He could obey
only while he confided. We shall see the truth and force of this more
fully when we come to examine the next chapter.

I would here suggest to my reader the remarkable contrast between the
testimony set up in Eden, and that which is set up now. Then, when all
around was _life_, God spoke of _death_; now, on the contrary, when all
around is death, God speaks of life: then the word was, "in the day
thou eatest thou shalt _die_;" now the word is, "believe and _live_."
And, as in Eden, the enemy sought to make void God's testimony, as to
the result of eating the fruit, so now, he seeks to make void God's
testimony as to the result of believing the gospel. God had said, "In
the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely _die_." But the
serpent said, "Ye shall not surely _die_." And now, when God's word
plainly declares that "he that believeth on the Son _hath_ everlasting
_life_," (John iii. 36,) the same serpent seeks to persuade people
that they have _not_ everlasting _life_, nor should they presume to
think of such a thing, until they have, first, _done_, _felt_, and
_experienced_ all manner of things.

My beloved reader, if you have not yet heartily believed the divine
record, let me beseech you to allow "the voice of the Lord" to prevail
above the hiss of the serpent. "He that heareth my word, and believeth
on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into
condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." (John v. 24.)

FOOTNOTES:

[3] This subject will, if the Lord permit, come before us again in the
twentieth chapter of Exodus; but I would, here, observe, that very much
of the offence and misunderstanding connected with the important
subject of the sabbath, may be justly traced to the inconsiderate and
injudicious conduct of some who, in their zeal for what they termed
Christian liberty, in reference to the sabbath, rather lose sight of
the claims of honest consciences; and also of the place which the
Lord's day occupies in the New Testament. Some have been known to enter
on their weekly avocations, simply to show their liberty, and thus they
caused much needless offence. Such acting could never have been
suggested by the Spirit of Christ. If I am ever so clear and free in my
own mind, I should respect the consciences of my brethren; and,
moreover, I do not believe that those who so carry themselves, really
understand the true and precious privileges connected with the Lord's
day. We should only be too thankful to be rid of all secular occupation
and distraction, to think of having recourse to them for the purpose of
showing our liberty. The good providence of our God has so arranged for
his people throughout the British Empire that they can, without
pecuniary loss, enjoy the rest of the Lord's day, inasmuch as all are
obliged to abstain from business. This must be regarded by every
well-regulated mind as a mercy; for, if it were not thus ordered, we
know how man's covetous heart would, if possible, rob the Christian of
the sweet privilege of attending the assembly on the Lord's day. And
who can tell what would be the deadening effect of uninterrupted
engagement with this world's traffic? Those Christians who, from Monday
morning to Saturday night, breathe the dense atmosphere of the mart,
the market, and the manufactory, can form some idea of it.

It cannot be regarded as a good sign to find men introducing measures
for the public profanation of the Lord's day. It assuredly marks the
progress of infidelity and French influence.

But there are some who teach that the expression [Greek: hê kyriakê
hêmera], which is rightly enough translated, "the Lord's day," refers to
"the day of the Lord," and that the exiled apostle found himself
carried forward, as it were, into the Spirit of the day of the Lord. I
do not believe the original would bear such an interpretation; and,
besides, we have in 1 Thess. v. 2, and 2 Peter iii. 10, the exact
words, "the day of the Lord," the original of which is quite different
from the expression above referred to, being not [Greek: hê kyriakê
hêmera], but [Greek: hê hêmera kyriou]. This entirely settles the
matter, so far as the mere criticism is concerned; and as to
interpretation, it is plain that by far the greater portion of the
Apocalypse is occupied, not with "the day of the Lord," but with events
prior thereto.

[4] Compare, also, Ezekiel xlvii. 1-12; and Zech. xiv. 8.

[5] My reader will observe the change in the second chapter from the
expression "God" to "Lord God." There is much importance in the
distinction. When God is seen acting in relation with man, he takes the
title "Lord God,"--(Jehovah Elohim;) but until man appears on the
scene, the word "Lord" is not used. I shall just point out three out of
many passages in which the distinction is very strikingly presented.
"And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as _God_
(Elohim) had commanded him; and the _Lord_ (Jehovah) shut him in."
(Gen. vii. 16.) Elohim was going to destroy the world which he had
made; but Jehovah took care of the man with whom he stood in relation.
Again, "that all the earth may know that there is a God (Elohim) in
Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord (Jehovah)
saveth," &c. (1 Sam. xvii. 46, 47.) All the earth was to recognise the
presence of Elohim; but Israel was called to recognise the actings of
Jehovah, with whom they stood in relation. Lastly, "Jehoshaphat cried
out, and _the Lord_ (Jehovah) helped him; and _God_ (Elohim) moved
_them_ to depart from him." (2 Chron. xviii. 31.) Jehovah took care of
his poor erring servant; but Elohim, though unknown, acted upon the
hearts of the uncircumcised Syrians.



CHAPTER III.


This section of our book sets before us the breaking up of the whole
scene on which we have been dwelling. It abounds in very weighty
principles; and has, very justly, been, in all ages, resorted to as a
most fruitful theme for those who desired to set forth the truth as to
man's ruin and God's remedy. The serpent enters, with a bold question
as to divine revelation,--terrible model and forerunner of all infidel
questions since raised by those who have, alas! too faithfully served
the serpent's cause in the world,--questions which are only to be met
by the supreme authority and divine majesty of Holy Scripture.

"Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"
This was Satan's crafty inquiry; and had the word of God been dwelling
richly in Eve's heart, her answer might have been direct, simple, and
conclusive. The true way in which to meet Satan's questions and
suggestions, is to treat them as his, and repel them by the word. To
let them near the heart, for a moment, is to lose the only power by
which to answer them. The devil did not openly present himself and say,
"I am the devil, the enemy of God, and I am come to traduce him, and
ruin you." This would not be serpent-like; and, yet, he really did all
this, _by raising questions_ in the mind of the creature. To admit the
question, "hath God said?" when I know that God has spoken, is positive
infidelity; and the very fact of my admitting it, proves my total
incapacity to meet it. Hence, in Eve's case, the form of her reply
evidenced the fact that she had admitted to her heart the serpent's
crafty inquiry. Instead of adhering strictly to the exact words of God,
she, in her reply, actually adds thereto.

Now, either to add to, or take from, God's word, proves, very clearly,
that his word is not dwelling in my heart, or governing my conscience.
If a man is finding his enjoyment in obedience, if it is his meat and
his drink, if he is living by every word that proceedeth out of the
mouth of Jehovah, he will, assuredly, be acquainted with, and fully
alive to, his word. He could not be indifferent to it. The Lord Jesus,
in his conflict with Satan, accurately applied the word, because he
lived upon it, and esteemed it more than his necessary food. He could
not misquote or misapply the word, neither could he be indifferent
about it. Not so Eve. She added to what God had said. His command was
simple enough, "Thou shalt not eat of it." To this Eve adds her own
words, "neither shall ye touch it." These were Eve's words and not
God's. He had said nothing about touching; so that whether her
misquotation proceeded from ignorance, or indifference, or a desire to
represent God in an arbitrary light, or from all three together, it is
plain that she was entirely off the true ground of simple confidence
in, and subjection to, God's holy word. "By the words of thy mouth, I
have kept me from the paths of the destroyer."

Nothing can possess more commanding interest than the way in which the
word is everywhere put forward throughout the sacred canon, together
with the immense importance of strict obedience thereto. Obedience is
due from us to God's word, simply because it is his word. To raise a
question when he has spoken, is blasphemy. We are in the place of the
creature. He is the Creator; He may, therefore, justly claim obedience
from us. The infidel may call this "blind obedience;" but the Christian
calls it intelligent obedience, inasmuch as it is based upon the
knowledge that it is God's word to which he is obedient. If a man had
not God's word, he might well be said to be in blindness and darkness,
for there is not so much as a single ray of divine light, within or
around us, but what emanates from God's pure and eternal word. All that
we want to know is that God has spoken, and then obedience becomes the
very highest order of intelligent acting. When the soul gets up to God,
it has reached the very highest source of authority. No man, nor body
of men, can claim obedience to their word, because it is theirs; and
hence the claims of the Church of Rome are arrogant and impious. In her
claiming obedience, she usurps the prerogative of God; and all who
yield it, rob God of his right. She presumes to place herself between
God and the conscience; and who can do this with impunity? When God
speaks, man is bound to obey. Happy is he if he does so. Woe be to him
if he does not. Infidelity may question if God has spoken; superstition
may place human authority between my conscience and what God has
spoken; by both alike I am effectually robbed of the word, and, as a
consequence, of the deep blessedness of obedience.

There is a blessing in every act of obedience; but the moment the soul
hesitates, the enemy has the advantage; and he will assuredly use it to
thrust the soul farther and farther from God. Thus, in the chapter
before us, the question, "Hath God said?" was followed by, "Ye shall
not surely die." That is to say, there was first the question raised,
as to whether God had spoken, and then followed the open contradiction
of what God had said. This solemn fact is abundantly sufficient to show
how dangerous it is to admit near the heart a question as to divine
revelation, in its fulness and integrity. A refined rationalism is very
near akin to bold infidelity; and the infidelity that dares to judge
God's Word is not far from the atheism that denies his existence. Eve
would never have stood by to hear God contradicted, if she had not
previously fallen into looseness and indifference as to his word. She,
too, had her "Phases of Faith," or, to speak more correctly, her phases
of infidelity; she suffered God to be contradicted by a creature,
simply because his word had lost its proper authority over her heart,
her conscience, and her understanding.

This furnishes a most solemn warning to all who are in danger of being
ensnared by an unhallowed rationalism. There is no true security, save
in a profound faith in the plenary inspiration and supreme authority of
"ALL SCRIPTURE." The soul that is endowed with this has a triumphant
answer to every objector, whether he issue from Rome or Germany. "There
is nothing new under the sun." The self-same evil which is now
corrupting the very springs of religious thought and feeling,
throughout the fairest portion of the continent of Europe, was that
which laid Eve's heart in ruins, in the garden of Eden. The first step
in her downward course was her hearkening to the question, "Hath God
said?" And then, onward she went, from stage to stage, until, at
length, she bowed before the serpent, and owned him as her god, and the
fountain of truth. Yes, my reader, the serpent displaced God, and the
serpent's lie God's truth. Thus it was with fallen man; and thus it is
with fallen man's posterity. God's word has no place in the heart of
the unregenerated man; but the lie of the serpent has. Let the
formation of man's heart be examined, and it will be found that there
is a place therein for Satan's lie, but none whatever for the truth of
God. Hence the force of the word to Nicodemus, "Ye must be born again."

But, it is important to observe the mode in which the serpent sought to
shake Eve's confidence in God's truth, and thus bring her under the
power of infidel "_reason_." It was by shaking her confidence in God's
love. He sought to shake her confidence in what God had said by
showing that the testimony was not founded in love. "For," said he,
"God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be
opened, and ye shall be as gods knowing good and evil." (Ver. 5.) In
other words, "There is positive advantage connected with the eating of
that fruit of which God is seeking to deprive you; why, therefore,
should you believe God's testimony? you cannot place confidence in one
who, manifestly, does not love you; for, if he loved you, why should he
prohibit your enjoying a positive privilege?"

Eve's security against the influence of all this reasoning, would have
been simple repose in the infinite goodness of God. She should have
said to the serpent, "I have the fullest confidence in God's goodness,
and, therefore, I deem it impossible that he could withhold any real
good from me. If that fruit were good for me, I should surely have it;
but the fact of its being forbidden by God proves that I would be no
better, but much worse off by the eating of it. I am convinced of God's
_love_, and I am convinced of God's _truth_, and I believe, too, that
you are an evil one come to draw my heart away from the fountain of
goodness and truth. Get thee behind me, Satan." This would have been a
noble reply. But it was not given. Her confidence in truth and love
gave way, and all was lost; and so we find that there is just as little
place in the heart of fallen man for God's love, as there is for God's
truth. The heart of man is a stranger to both the one and the other,
until renewed by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Now, it is deeply interesting to turn from Satan's lie in reference to
the truth and love of God, to the mission of the Lord Jesus
Christ, who came from the bosom of the Father in order to reveal what
he really is. "Grace and truth,"--the very things which man lost, in
his fall,--"came by Jesus Christ." (John i. 17.) He was "the faithful
witness" of what God was. (Rev. i. 5.) Truth reveals God as he is; but
this truth is connected with the revelation of perfect grace; and thus
the sinner finds, to his unspeakable joy, that the revelation of what
God is, instead of being his destruction, becomes the basis of his
eternal salvation. "This is life eternal, that they might know thee,
the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." (John xvii.
3.) I cannot know God and not have life. The loss of the knowledge of
God was death; but the knowledge of God is life. This, necessarily,
makes life a thing entirely outside of ourselves, and dependent upon
what God is. Let me arrive at what amount of self-knowledge I may, it
is not said that "this is life eternal, to know themselves;" though, no
doubt, the knowledge of God and the knowledge of self will go very much
together; still, "eternal life" is connected with the former, and not
with the latter. To know God as he is, is life; and "all who know not
God" shall be "punished with everlasting destruction from his
presence."

It is of the utmost importance to see that what really stamps man's
character and condition is his ignorance or knowledge of God. This it
is that marks his character here, and fixes his destiny hereafter. Is
he evil in his thoughts, evil in his words, evil in his actions? It is
all the result of his being ignorant of God. On the other hand, is he
pure in thought, holy in conversation, gracious in action? It is but
the practical result of his knowledge of God. So also as to the future.
To know God is the solid ground of endless bliss,--everlasting glory.
To know him not is "everlasting destruction." Thus the knowledge of God
is every thing. It quickens the soul, purifies the heart, tranquillizes
the conscience, elevates the affections, sanctifies the entire
character and conduct.

Need we wonder, therefore, that Satan's grand design was to rob the
creature of the true knowledge of the only true God? He misrepresented
the blessed God: he said he was not kind. This was the secret spring of
all the mischief. It matters not what shape sin has since taken,--it
matters not through what channel it has flowed, under what head it has
ranged itself, or in what garb it has clothed itself,--it is all to be
traced to this one thing, namely, ignorance of God. The most refined
and cultivated moralist, the most devout religionist, the most
benevolent philanthropist, if ignorant of God, is as far from life and
true holiness, as the publican and the harlot. The prodigal was just as
much a sinner, and as positively away from the Father, when he had
crossed the threshold, as when he was feeding swine in the far country.
(Luke xv. 13-15.) So in Eve's case. The moment she took herself out of
the hands of God,--out of the position of absolute dependence upon, and
subjection to, his word,--she abandoned herself to the government of
sense, as used of Satan for her entire overthrow.

The sixth verse presents three things, namely: "the lust of the flesh,
the lust of the eye, and the pride of life;" which three, as the
apostle states, comprehend "all that is in the world." These things
necessarily took the lead, when God was shut out. If I do not abide in
the happy assurance of God's love and truth, his grace and
faithfulness, I shall surrender myself to the government of some one,
or it may be all, of the above principles; and this is only another
name for the government of Satan. There is, strictly speaking, no such
thing as man's free-will. If man be self-governed, he is really
governed by Satan; and if not, he is governed by God.

Now, the three great agencies by which Satan works are "the lust of the
flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life." Those were the
things presented by Satan to the Lord Jesus, in the temptation. He
began by tempting the Second Man to take himself out of the position of
absolute dependence upon God. "Command these stones that they be made
bread." He asked him to do this, not, as in the case of the first man,
to make himself what he was not, but to prove what he was. Then
followed the offer of the kingdoms of the world, with all their glory.
And, finally, conducting him to a pinnacle of the temple, he tempted
him to give himself, suddenly and miraculously, to the admiration of
the assembled people below. (Comp. Matt. iv. 1-11 with Luke iv. 1-13.)
The plain design of each temptation was to induce the Blessed One to
step from the position of entire dependence upon God, and perfect
subjection to his will. But all in vain. "_It is written_," was the
unvarying reply of the only dependent, self-emptied, perfect man.
Others might undertake to manage for themselves: none but God should
manage for him.

What an example for the faithful, under all their circumstances! Jesus
kept close to scripture, and thus conquered: without any other weapon,
save the sword of the Spirit, he stood in the conflict, and gained a
glorious triumph. What a contrast with the first Adam! The one had
every thing to plead for God: the other had every thing to plead
against him. The garden, with all its delights, in the one case; the
wilderness, with all its privations, in the other: confidence in Satan,
in the one case; confidence in God in the other: complete defeat in the
one case; complete victory in the other. Blessed forever be the God of
all grace, who has laid our help on One so mighty to conquer, mighty to
save!

Let us now inquire how far Adam and Eve realized the serpent's promised
advantage. This inquiry will lead us to a deeply-important point in
connection with the fall of man. The Lord God had so ordered it, that
in and by the fall, man should get what previously he had not, and that
was _a conscience_,--a knowledge of both good and evil. This, man
evidently could not have had before. He could not have known aught
about evil, inasmuch as evil was not there to be known. He was in a
state of innocence, which is a state of ignorance of evil. Man got a
conscience in and by the fall; and we find that the very first effect
of conscience was to make him a coward. Satan had utterly deceived the
woman. He had said, "your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as
gods, knowing good and evil." But he had left out a material part of
the truth, namely, that they should know good, without the power to do
it; and that they should know evil, without the power to avoid it.
Their very attempt to elevate themselves in the scale of moral
existence involved the loss of true elevation. They became degraded,
powerless, Satan-enslaved, conscience-smitten, terrified creatures.
"The eyes of them both were opened," no doubt; but alas! to what a
sight! It was only to discover their own nakedness. They opened their
eyes upon their own condition, which was "wretched, and miserable, and
poor, and blind, and naked." "They knew that they were naked,"--sad
fruit of the tree of knowledge! It was not any fresh knowledge of
divine excellency they had attained,--no fresh beam of divine light
from the pure and eternal fountain thereof,--alas! no: the very
earliest result of their disobedient effort after knowledge was the
discovery that they were naked.

Now, it is well to understand this; well, too, to know how conscience
works,--to see that it can only make cowards of us, as being the
consciousness of what we are. Many are astray as to this: they think
that conscience will bring us to God. Did it operate thus, in the case
of Adam and Eve? Assuredly not. Nor will it, in the case of any sinner.
How could it? How could the sense of what _I am_ ever bring me to God,
if not accompanied by the faith of what _God is_? Impossible: it will
produce shame, self-reproach, remorse, anguish. It may, also, give
birth to certain efforts, on my part, to remedy the condition which it
discloses; but these very efforts, so far from drawing us to God,
rather act as a blind to hide him from our view. Thus, in the case of
Adam and Eve, the discovery of their nakedness was followed by an
effort of their own to cover it. "They sewed fig-leaves together and
made themselves aprons." This is the first record we have of man's
attempt to remedy, by his own device, his condition; and the attentive
consideration thereof will afford us not a little instruction as to the
real character of human religiousness in all ages. In the first place
we see, not only in Adam's case, but in every case, that man's effort
to remedy his condition is based upon the sense of his nakedness. He
is, confessedly, naked, and all his works are the result of his being
so. This can never avail. I must know that I am clothed, before I can
do any thing acceptable in the sight of God.

And this, be it observed, is the difference between true Christianity
and human religiousness. The former is founded upon the fact of a man's
being clothed: the latter, upon the fact of his being naked. The former
has for its starting-post what the latter has for its goal. All that a
true Christian does, is because he is clothed,--perfectly clothed; all
that a mere religionist does, is in order that he may be clothed. This
makes a vast difference. The more we examine the genius of man's
religion, in all its phases, the more we shall see its thorough
insufficiency to remedy his state, or even to meet his own sense
thereof. It may do very well for a time. It may avail so long as death,
judgment, and the wrath of God are looked at from a distance, if looked
at at all; but when a man comes to look these terrible realities
straight in the face, he will find, in good truth, that his religion is
a bed too short for him to stretch himself upon, and a covering too
narrow for him to wrap himself in.

The moment Adam heard the voice of the Lord God, in Eden, "_he was
afraid_," because, as he himself confessed, "I was naked." Yes, naked,
although he had his apron on him. But it is plain that that covering
did not even satisfy his own conscience. Had his conscience been
divinely satisfied, he would not have been afraid. "If our heart
condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God." (1 John iii. 20,
21.) But if even the human conscience cannot find repose in man's
religious efforts, how much less can the holiness of God. Adam's apron
could not screen him from the eye of God; and he could not stand in his
presence naked: therefore he fled to hide himself. This is what
conscience will do at all times. It will cause man to hide himself from
God; and, moreover, all that his own religiousness offers him is a
hiding-place from God. This is a miserable provision, inasmuch as he
must meet God, some time or other; and if he has naught save the sad
conscience of what he is, he must be afraid,--yea, he must be wretched.
Indeed, nothing is needed, save hell itself, to complete the misery of
one who feels he has to meet God, and knows only his own unfitness to
meet him.

Had Adam known God's perfect love, he would not have been afraid.
"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear, because
fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." (1
John iv. 17, 18.) But Adam knew not this, because he had believed the
serpent's lie. He thought that God was any thing but love; and,
therefore, the very last thought of his heart would have been to
venture into his presence. He could not do it. Sin was there, and God
and sin can never meet; so long as there is sin on the conscience,
there must be the sense of distance from God. "He is of purer eyes
than to behold evil, and cannot look upon iniquity." (Hab. i. 13.)
Holiness and sin cannot dwell together. Sin, wherever it is found, can
only be met by the wrath of God.

But, blessed be God, there is something beside the _conscience of what
I am_. There is _the revelation of what he is_; and this latter the
fall of man really brought out. God had not revealed himself, fully, in
creation: he had shown "his eternal power and Godhead,"[6] ([Greek:
theiotês]) but he had not told out all the deep secrets of his nature
and character. Wherefore Satan made a grand mistake in coming to meddle
with God's creation. He only proved to be the instrument of his own
eternal defeat and confusion, and "his violent dealing" shall forever
"come down upon his own pate." His _lie_ only gave occasion for the
display of the full _truth_ in reference to God. Creation never could
have brought out what God was. There was infinitely more in him than
power and wisdom. There was love, mercy, holiness, righteousness,
goodness, tenderness, long-suffering. Where could all these be
displayed, but in a world of sinners? God, at the first, came down to
_create_; and, then, when the serpent presumed to meddle with creation,
God came down to _save_. This is brought out in the first words uttered
by the Lord God, after man's fall. "And the Lord God called unto Adam,
and said unto him, Where art thou?" This question proved two things. It
proved that man was lost, and that God had come to seek. It proved
man's sin, and God's grace. "Where art thou?" Amazing faithfulness!
Amazing grace! Faithfulness, to disclose, in the very question itself,
the truth as to man's condition: grace, to bring out, in the very fact
of God's asking such a question, the truth as to his character and
attitude, in reference to fallen man. Man was lost; but God had come
down to look for him--to bring him out of his hiding-place, behind the
trees of the garden, in order that, in the happy confidence of faith,
he might find a hiding-place in himself. This was grace. To create man
out of the dust of the ground was _power_; but to seek man in his lost
estate was _grace_. But who can utter all that is wrapped up in the
idea of God's being a _seeker_? God seeking a sinner? What could the
Blessed One have seen in man, to lead him to seek for him? Just what
the shepherd saw in the lost sheep; or what the woman saw in the lost
piece of silver; or what the father saw in the lost son. The sinner is
valuable to God; but why he should be so eternity alone will unfold.

How, then, did the sinner reply to the faithful and gracious inquiry of
the Blessed God? Alas! the reply only reveals the awful depth of evil
into which he had fallen. "And he said, I heard thy voice in the
garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he
said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree,
whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man
said, The woman whom _thou gavest_ to be with me, she gave me of the
tree, and I did eat." Here, we find him actually laying the blame of
his shameful fall on the circumstances in which God had placed him, and
thus, indirectly, upon God himself. This has ever been the way with
fallen man. Every one and every thing is blamed but _self_. In the case
of true conviction, the very reverse is exhibited. "Is it not _I_ that
have sinned?" is the inquiry of a truly humbled soul. Had Adam known
himself, how different would have been his style! But he neither knew
himself nor God, and, therefore, instead of throwing the blame entirely
upon himself, he threw it upon God.

Here, then, was man's terrible position. He had lost all. His
dominion--his dignity--his happiness--his innocence--his purity--his
peace--all was gone from him; and, what was still worse, he accused God
of being the cause of it.[7] There he stood, a lost, ruined, guilty,
and yet, _self-vindicating_, and, therefore, _God-accusing_ sinner.

Now, it is perfectly true, that no man can believe the gospel, except
by the power of the Holy Ghost; and it is also true, that all who so
believe the gospel are the happy subjects of God's eternal counsels.
But does all this set aside man's responsibility to believe a plain
testimony set before him in God's Word? It most certainly does no such
thing. But it does reveal the sad evil of man's heart, which leads him
to reject _God's testimony_ which is plainly revealed, and to give as a
reason for so doing _God's decree_, which is a profound secret, known
only to himself. However, it will not avail, for we read in 1 Thess. i.
8, 9, that those "who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,
shall be punished with everlasting destruction."

Men are responsible to believe the gospel, and they will be punished
for not believing it. They are not responsible to know any thing about
God's counsels, inasmuch as they are not revealed, and, therefore,
there can be no guilt attached to ignorance concerning them. The
apostle could say to the Thessalonians, "knowing, brethren beloved,
your election of God." How did he know it? Was it by having access to
the page of God's secret and eternal decrees? By no means. How then?
"Because ([Greek: hoti]) our gospel came not unto you in word only, but
also in power." (1 Thess. i. 4, 5.) This is the way to know the
election of any. When the gospel comes in power, it is a plain proof of
God's election.

But, I doubt not, the people who draw a plea from the divine counsels
for rejecting the divine testimony, only want some flimsy excuse to
continue in sin. They really do not want God; and it would be far more
honest in them to say so, plainly, than to put forward a plea which is
not merely flimsy, but positively blasphemous. Such a plea will not
avail them much amid the terrors of the day of judgment, now fast
approaching.

But, just at this point, God began to reveal himself, and his purposes
of redeeming love; and herein lay the true basis of man's peace and
blessedness. When man has come to the end of himself, God can show what
he is; but not until then. The scene must be entirely cleared of man,
and all his vain pretensions, empty boastings, and blasphemous
reasonings, ere God can or will reveal himself. Thus it was when man
was hidden behind the trees of the garden, that God unfolded his
wondrous plan of redemption through the instrumentality of the bruised
seed of the woman. Here we are taught a valuable principle of truth as
to what it is which alone will bring a man, peacefully and confidingly,
into the presence of God.

It has been already remarked that conscience will never effect this.
Conscience drove Adam behind the trees of the garden; revelation
brought him forth into the presence of God. The consciousness of what
he was terrified him; the revelation of what God was tranquillized him.
This is truly consolatory for a poor sin-burdened heart. The reality of
what I am is met by the reality of what God is; and this is salvation.

There is a point where God and man must meet, whether in grace or
judgment, and that point is where both are revealed _as they are_.
Happy are they who reach that point in grace! Woe be to them who will
have to reach it in judgment! It is with what we are that God deals;
and it is as he is that he deals with us. In the cross, I see God
descending in grace to the lowest depths, not merely of my negative,
but my positive condition, as a sinner. This gives perfect peace. If
God has met me, in my actual condition, and himself provided an
adequate remedy, all is eternally settled. But all who do not thus, by
faith, see God, in the cross, will have to meet him, by and by, in
judgment, when he will have to deal, according to what he is, with what
they are.

The moment a man is brought to know his real state, he can find no rest
until he has found God, in the cross, and then he rests in God himself.
He, blessed be his name, is the Rest and Hiding-place of the believing
soul. This, at once, puts human works and human righteousness in their
proper place. We can say, with truth, that those who rest in such
things cannot possibly have arrived at the true knowledge of
themselves. It is quite impossible that a divinely quickened
conscience can rest in aught save the perfect sacrifice of the Son of
God. All effort to establish one's own righteousness must proceed from
ignorance of the righteousness of God. Adam might learn, in the light
of the divine testimony about "the seed of the woman," the
worthlessness of his fig-leaf apron. The magnitude of that which had to
be done, proved the sinner's total inability to do it. Sin had to be
put away. Could man do that? Nay, it was by him it had come in. The
serpent's head had to be bruised. Could man do that? Nay, he had become
the serpent's slave. God's claims had to be met. Could man do that?
Nay, he had already trampled them under foot. Death had to be
abolished. Could man do that? Nay, he had, by sin, introduced it, and
imparted to it its terrible sting.

Thus, in whatever way we view the matter, we see the sinner's complete
impotency, and, as a consequence, the presumptuous folly of all who
attempt to assist God in the stupendous work of redemption, as all
assuredly do who think to be saved in any other way but "by grace,
through faith."

However, though Adam might, and, through grace, did, see and feel that
he could never accomplish all that had to be done, yet God revealed
himself as about to achieve every jot and tittle thereof, by the seed
of the woman. In short, we see that he graciously took the entire
matter into his own hands. He made it, altogether, a question between
himself and the serpent; for although the man and the woman were called
upon, individually, to reap, in various ways, the bitter fruits of
their sin, yet it was to the serpent that the Lord God said, "Because
thou hast done this." The serpent was the source of the ruin; and the
seed of the woman was to be the source of the redemption. Adam heard
all this, and believed it; and, in the power of that belief, "he called
his wife's name the mother of _all living_." This was a precious fruit
of faith in God's revelation. Looking at the matter from nature's point
of view, Eve might be called, "the mother of all _dying_." But, in the
judgment of faith, she was the mother of all _living_. "His mother
called him Ben-oni; (the son of my sorrow;) but his father called him
Benjamin (the son of my right hand)."

It was through the sustaining energy of faith that Adam was enabled to
endure the terrible results of what he had done. It was God's wondrous
mercy to allow him to hear what he said to the serpent, before he was
called to listen to what he had to say to himself. Had it not been so,
he must have been plunged in despair. It is despair to be called upon
to look at myself, without being able to look at God, as revealed in
the cross, for my salvation. There is no child of fallen Adam who could
bear to have his eyes opened to the reality of what he is, and what he
has done, without being plunged in despair, unless he could take refuge
in the cross. Hence, in that place to which all who reject Christ must
finally be consigned, hope cannot come. There, men's eyes will be
opened to the reality of what they are, and what they have done; but
they will not be able to find relief and refuge in God. What God is,
will, _then_, involve hopeless perdition; as truly as what God is,
doth, _now_, involve eternal salvation. The holiness of God will, then,
be eternally against them; as it is now that in which all who believe
are called to rejoice. The more I realize the holiness of God, now, the
more I know my security; but, in the case of the lost, that very
holiness will be but the ratification of their eternal doom.
Solemn--unspeakably solemn--reflection!

We shall, now, briefly glance at the truth presented to us in God's
providing coats for Adam and Eve. "Unto Adam, also, and to his wife,
did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them." We have here,
in figure, the great doctrine of divine righteousness set forth. The
robe which God provided was an effectual covering, because he provided
it; just as the apron was an ineffectual covering because man had
provided it. Moreover, God's coat was founded upon blood-shedding.
Adam's apron was not. So also, now, God's righteousness is set forth in
the cross; man's righteousness is set forth in the works, the
sin-stained works, of his own hands. When Adam stood clothed in the
coat of skin he could not say, "I was naked," nor had he any occasion
to hide himself. The sinner may feel perfectly at rest, when, by faith,
he knows that God has clothed him: but to feel at rest till then, can
only be the result of presumption or ignorance. To know that the dress
I wear, and in which I appear before God, is of his own providing, must
set my heart at perfect rest. There can be no true, permanent rest in
aught else.

The closing verses of this chapter are full of instruction. Fallen man,
in his fallen state, must not be allowed to eat of the fruit of the
tree of life, for that would entail upon him endless wretchedness in
this world. To take of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever, in
our present condition, would be unmingled misery. The tree of life can
only be tasted in resurrection. To live forever, in a frail tabernacle,
in a body of sin and death, would be intolerable. Wherefore, the Lord
God "drove out the man." He drove him out into a world which,
everywhere, exhibited the lamentable results of his fall. The Cherubim
and the flaming sword, too, forbid fallen man to pluck the fruit of the
tree of life; while God's revelation pointed him to the death and
resurrection of the seed of the woman, as that wherein life was to be
found beyond the power of death.

Thus Adam was a happier, and a safer man, outside the bounds of
Paradise, than he had been within, for this reason--that, within, his
life depended upon himself; whereas, outside, it depended upon another,
even a promised Christ. And as he looked up, and beheld "the Cherubim
and the flaming sword," he could bless the hand that had set them
there, "to keep the way of the tree of life," inasmuch as the same hand
had opened a better, a safer, and a happier way to that tree. If the
Cherubim and flaming sword stopped up the way to Paradise, the Lord
Jesus Christ has opened "a new and living way" into the holiest of all.
"I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father,
but by me." (Compare John xiv. 6; Heb. x. 20.) In the knowledge of
this, the believer now moves onward through a world which is under the
curse,--where the traces of sin are visible on all hands. He has found
his way, by faith, to the bosom of the Father; and while he can
secretly repose there, he is cheered by the blessed assurance that the
one who has conducted him thither, is gone to prepare a place in the
many mansions of the Father's house, and that he will soon come again
and receive him unto himself, amid the glory of the Father's kingdom.
Thus, in the bosom, the house, and the kingdom of the Father, the
believer finds his present portion, his future home and reward.

FOOTNOTES:

[6] There is a profoundly interesting thought suggested by comparing
the word [Greek: theiotês] (Rom. i. 20) with the word [Greek: theotês]
(Col. ii. 9.) They are both rendered "Godhead;" but they present a very
different thought. The heathen might have seen that there was something
superhuman, something divine, in creation; but pure, essential,
incomprehensible Deity dwelt in the Adorable Person of the Son.

[7] Man not only accuses God of being the author of his fall, but also
blames him for his non-recovery. How often do we hear persons say that
they cannot believe unless God give them the power to believe; and,
further, that unless they are the subjects of God's eternal decree,
they cannot be saved.



CHAPTERS IV., V.


As each section of the Book of Genesis opens before us, we are
furnished with fresh evidence of the fact that we are travelling over,
what a recent writer has well termed, "the seed-plot of the whole
Bible;" and not only so, but the seed-plot of man's entire history.

Thus, in the fourth chapter, we have, in the persons of Cain and Abel,
the first examples of a religious man of the world, and of a genuine
man of faith. Born, as they were, outside of Eden, and being the sons
of fallen Adam, they could have nothing, natural, to distinguish them,
one from the other. They were both sinners. Both had a fallen nature.
Neither was innocent. It is well to be clear in reference to this, in
order that the reality of divine grace, and the integrity of faith, may
be fully and distinctly seen. If the distinction between Cain and Abel
were founded in nature, then it follows, as an inevitable conclusion,
that they were not the partakers of the fallen nature of their father,
nor the participators in the circumstances of his fall; and, hence,
there could be no room for the display of grace, and the exercise of
faith.

Some would teach us that every man is born with qualities and
capacities which, if rightly used, will enable him to work his way back
to God. This is a plain denial of the fact so clearly set forth in the
history now before us. Cain and Abel were born, not inside, but outside
of Paradise. They were the sons, not of innocent, but of fallen Adam.
They came into the world as the partakers of the nature of their
father; and it mattered not in what phase that nature might display
itself, it was nature still,--fallen, ruined, irremediable nature.
"That which is born of the flesh is (not merely fleshly, but) flesh;
and that which is born of the Spirit is, (not merely spiritual, but)
spirit." (John iii.)

If ever there was a fair opportunity for the distinctive qualities,
capacities, resources, and tendencies of nature to manifest themselves,
the lifetime of Cain and Abel furnished it. If there were aught in
nature, whereby it could recover its lost innocence, and establish
itself again within the bounds of Eden, this was the moment for its
display. But there was nothing of the kind. They were both _lost_. They
were "flesh." They were not innocent. Adam lost his innocence and never
regained it. He can only be looked at as the fallen head of a fallen
race, who, by his "disobedience," were made "sinners." (Rom. v. 19.) He
became, so far as he was personally concerned, the corrupt source, from
whence have emanated the corrupt streams of ruined and guilty
humanity,--the dead trunk from which have shot forth the branches of a
dead humanity, morally and spiritually dead.

True, as we have already remarked, he himself was made a subject of
grace, and the possessor and exhibitor of a lively faith in a promised
Savior; but this was not any thing natural, but something entirely
divine. And, inasmuch as it was not natural, neither was it within the
range of nature's capacity to communicate it. It was not, by any means,
hereditary. Adam could not bequeath nor impart his faith to Cain or
Abel. His possession thereof was simply the fruit of love divine. It
was implanted in his soul by divine power; and he had not divine power
to communicate it to another. Whatever was natural, Adam could, in the
way of nature, communicate; but nothing more. And seeing that he, as a
father, was in a condition of ruin, his son could only be in the same.
As is the begetter, so are they also that are begotten of him. They
must, of necessity, partake of the nature of him from whom they have
sprung. "As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy." (1 Cor.
xv. 48.)

Nothing can be more important, in its way, than a correct understanding
of the doctrine of federal headship. If my reader will turn, for a
moment, to Rom. v. 12-21, he will find that the inspired apostle looks
at the whole human race as comprehended under two heads. I do not
attempt to dwell on the passage; but merely refer to it, in connection
with the subject in hand. The fifteenth chapter of first Corinthians
will also furnish instruction of a similar character. In the first man,
we have sin, disobedience, and death. In the Second man, we have
righteousness, obedience, and life. As we derive a nature from the
former, so do we also from the latter. No doubt, each nature will
display, in each specific case, its own peculiar energies; it will
manifest, in each individual possessor thereof, its own peculiar
powers. Still, there is the absolute possession of a real, abstract,
positive nature.

Now, as the mode in which we derive a nature from the first man is by
birth, so the mode in which we derive a nature from the Second man is
by _new_ birth. Being born, we partake of the nature of the former;
being "born _again_," we partake of the nature of the latter. A
newly-born infant, though entirely incapable of performing the act
which reduced Adam to the condition of a fallen being, is,
nevertheless, a partaker of his nature; and so, also, a newly-born
child of God,--a newly-regenerated soul, though having nothing whatever
to do with the working-out of the perfect obedience of "the man Christ
Jesus," is, nevertheless, a partaker of his nature. True it is that,
attached to the former nature, there is sin; and attached to the
latter, there is righteousness,--man's sin, in the former case; God's
righteousness in the latter: yet, all the while, there is the actual,
_boná fide_ participation of a real nature, let the adjuncts be what
they may. The child of Adam partakes of the human nature and its
adjuncts; the child of God partakes of the divine nature and its
adjuncts. The former nature is according to "the will of man," (John
i.,) the latter is according to "the will of God;" as St. James, by the
Holy Ghost, teaches us, "of his own will begat he us by the word of
truth." (James i. 18.)

From all that has been said, it follows, that Abel was not
distinguished from his brother Cain by any thing natural. The
distinction between them was not grounded upon aught in their nature or
circumstances, for, as to these, "there was no difference." What,
therefore, made the vast difference? The answer is as simple as the
gospel of the grace of God can make it. The difference was not in
themselves, in their nature, or their circumstances; it lay,
_entirely_, in their _sacrifices_. This makes the matter most simple,
for any truly convicted sinner,--for any one who truly feels that he
not only partakes of a fallen nature, but is himself, also, a sinner.
The history of Abel opens, to such an one, the only true ground of his
approach to, his standing before, and his relationship with, God. It
teaches him, distinctly, that he cannot come to God on the ground of
any thing in, of, or pertaining to, nature; and he must seek, _outside
himself_, and in the person and work of another, the true and
everlasting basis of his connection with the Holy, the Just, and only
True God. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews sets the whole subject before
us, in the most distinct and comprehensive way. "By faith Abel offered
unto God a more excellent sacrifice ([Greek: pleiona thysian]) than
Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God bearing
witness ([Greek: martyrountos]) to his gifts; and by it he being dead
yet speaketh." Here we are taught that it was, in nowise, a question as
to the men, but only as to their "sacrifice,"--it was not a question as
to the offerer, but as to his offering. Here lay the grand distinction
between Cain and Abel. My reader cannot be too simple in his
apprehension of this point, for therein lies involved the truth as to
any sinner's standing before God.

And, now, let us inquire what the offerings were. "And in process of
time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an
offering unto Jehovah. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of
his flock, and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel,
and to his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering, he had not
respect." (Gen. iv. 3-5.) This passage sets the difference clearly
before us: Cain offered to Jehovah the fruit of a cursed earth, and
that, moreover, without any blood to remove the curse. He presented "an
unbloody sacrifice," simply because he had no faith. Had he possessed
that divine principle, it would have taught him, even at this early
moment, that "without shedding of blood there is no remission." (Heb.
ix.) This is a great cardinal truth. The penalty of sin is death. Cain
was a sinner, and, as such, death stood between him and Jehovah. But,
in his offering, there was no recognition whatever of this fact. There
was no presentation of a sacrificed life, to meet the claims of divine
holiness, or to answer to his own true condition as a sinner. He
treated Jehovah as though he were, altogether, such an one as himself,
who could accept the sin-stained fruit of a cursed earth.

All this, and much more, lay involved in Cain's "unbloody sacrifice."
He displayed entire ignorance in reference to divine requirements, in
reference to his own character and condition as a lost and guilty
sinner, and in reference to the true state of that ground, the fruit of
which he presumed to offer. No doubt, reason might say, "what more
acceptable offering could a man present, than that which he had
produced by the labor of his hands, and the sweat of his brow?" Reason,
and even man's religious mind, may think thus; but God thinks quite
differently; and faith is always sure to agree with God's thoughts. God
teaches, and faith believes, that there must be a sacrificed life, else
there can be no approach to God.

Thus, when we look at the ministry of the Lord Jesus, we see, at once,
that, had he not died upon the cross, all his services would have
proved utterly unavailing as regards the establishment of our
relationship with God. True, "he went about doing good" all his life;
but it was his death that rent the veil. (Matt. xxvii. 51.) Naught but
his death could have done so. Had he continued, to the present moment,
"going about doing good," the veil would have remained entire, to bar
the worshipper's approach into "the holiest of all." Hence we can see
the false ground on which Cain stood as an offerer and a worshipper. An
unpardoned sinner coming into the presence of Jehovah, to present "an
unbloody sacrifice," could only be regarded as guilty of the highest
degree of presumption. True, he had toiled to produce this offering;
but what of that? Could a sinner's toil remove the curse and stain of
sin? Could it satisfy the claims of an infinitely holy God? Could it
furnish a proper ground of acceptance for a sinner? Could it set aside
the penalty which was due to sin? Could it rob death of its sting, or
the grave of its victory? Could it do any or all of these things?
Impossible. "Without shedding of blood is no remission." Cain's
"unbloody sacrifice," like every other unbloody sacrifice, was not
only worthless, but actually abominable, in the divine estimation. It
not only demonstrated his entire ignorance of his own condition, but
also of the divine character. "God is not worshipped with men's hands
as though he needed any thing." And yet Cain thought he could be thus
approached. And every mere religionist thinks the same. Cain has had
many millions of followers, from age to age. Cain-worship has abounded
all over the world. It is the worship of every unconverted soul, and is
maintained by every false system of religion under the sun.

Man would fain make God a receiver instead of a giver; but this cannot
be; for, "it is more blessed to give than to receive;" and, assuredly,
God must have the more blessed place. "Without all contradiction, the
less is blessed of the better." "Who hath _first_ given to him?" God
can accept the smallest gift from a heart which has learnt the deep
truth contained in those words, "of thine own have we given thee;" but,
the moment a man presumes to take the place of the "first" giver, God's
reply is, "if I were hungry, I would not tell thee;" for "he is not
worshipped with men's hands, as though he _needed any thing_, seeing he
_giveth_ to _all_ life and breath and _all_ things." The great Giver of
"all things" cannot possibly "need any thing." Praise is all that we
can offer to God; but this can only be offered in the full and clear
intelligence that our sins are all put away; and this again can only be
known by faith in the virtue of an accomplished atonement.

My readers may pause, here, and read prayerfully the following
scriptures, namely, Psalm i.; Isaiah i. 11-18; and Acts xvii. 22-34, in
all of which he will find distinctly laid down the truth as to man's
true position before God, as also the proper ground of worship.

Let us now consider Abel's sacrifice. "And Abel, he also brought of the
firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof." In other words, he
entered, by faith, into the glorious truth, that God could be
approached by sacrifice; that there was such a thing as a sinner's
placing the death of another between himself and the consequence of his
sin, that the claims of God's nature and the attributes of his
character could be met by the blood of a spotless victim,--a victim
offered to meet God's demands, and the sinner's deep necessities. This
is, in short, the doctrine of the cross, in which alone the conscience
of a sinner can find repose, because, therein, God is fully glorified.

Every divinely-convicted sinner must feel that death and judgment are
before him, as "the due reward of his deeds;" nor can he, by aught that
he can accomplish, alter that destiny. He may toil and labor; he may,
by the sweat of his brow, produce an offering; he may make vows and
resolutions; he may alter his way of life; he may reform his outward
character; he may be temperate, moral, upright, and, in the human
acceptation of the word, religious; he may, though entirely destitute
of faith, read, pray, and hear sermons. In short, he may do any thing,
or every thing which lies within the range of human competency; but,
notwithstanding all, "death and judgment" are before him. He has not
been able to disperse those two heavy clouds which have gathered upon
the horizon. There they stand; and, so far from being able to remove
them, by all his doings, he can only live in the gloomy anticipation
of the moment when they shall burst upon his guilty head. It is
impossible for a sinner, by his own works, to place himself in life and
triumph, at the other side of "death and judgment,"--yea, his very
works are only performed for the purpose of preparing him, if possible,
for those dreaded realities.

Here, however, is exactly where the cross comes in. In that cross, the
convicted sinner can behold a divine provision for all his guilt and
all his need. There, too, he can see death and judgment entirely
removed from the scene, and life and glory set in their stead. Christ
has cleared the prospect of death and judgment, so far as the true
believer is concerned, and filled it with life, righteousness, and
glory. "He hath abolished death, and brought life and incorruptibility
to light, through the gospel." (2 Tim. i. 10.) He has glorified God in
the putting away of that which would have separated us, forever, from
his holy and blissful presence. "He has put away sin," and hence it is
gone. (Heb. ix. 26.) All this is, in type, set forth in Abel's "more
excellent sacrifice." There was no attempt, on Abel's part, to set
aside the truth as to his own condition, and proper place as a guilty
sinner,--no attempt to turn aside the edge of the flaming sword, and
force his way back to the tree of life,--no presumptuous offering of an
"unbloody sacrifice,"--no presentation of the fruit of a cursed earth
to Jehovah,--he took the real ground of a sinner, and, as such, set the
death of a victim between him and his sins, and between his sins and
the holiness of a sin-hating God. This was most simple. Abel deserved
death and judgment, but he found a substitute.

Thus is it with every poor, helpless, self-condemned,
conscience-smitten sinner. Christ is his substitute, his ransom, his
most excellent sacrifice, his ALL. Such an one will feel, like Abel,
that the fruit of the ground could never avail for him; that were he to
present to God the fairest fruits of earth, he would still have a
sin-stained conscience, inasmuch as "without shedding of blood is no
remission." The richest fruits, and the most fragrant flowers, in the
greatest profusion, could not remove a single stain from the
conscience. Nothing but the perfect sacrifice of the Son of God can
give ease to the heart and conscience. All who by faith lay hold of
that divine reality, will enjoy a peace which the world can neither
give nor take away. It is faith which puts the soul in present
possession of this peace. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with
God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom. v. 1.) "By faith Abel
offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain."

It is not a question of feeling, as so many would make it. It is
entirely a question of faith in an accomplished fact,--faith wrought in
the soul of a sinner, by the power of the Holy Ghost. This faith is
something quite different from a mere feeling of the heart, or an
assent of the intellect. Feeling is not faith. Intellectual assent is
not faith. Some would make faith to be the mere assent of the intellect
to a certain proposition. This is fearfully false. It makes the
question of faith human, whereas it is really divine. It reduces it to
the level of man, whereas it really comes from God. Faith is not a
thing of to-day or to-morrow. It is an imperishable principle,
emanating from an eternal source, even God himself: it lays hold of
God's truth, and sets the soul in God's presence.

Mere feeling and sentimentality can never rise above the source from
whence they emanate; and that source is self; but faith has to do with
God and his eternal word, and is a living link, connecting the heart
that possesses it with God who gives it. Human feelings, however
intense,--human sentiments, however refined,--could not connect the
soul with God. They are neither divine nor eternal, but are human and
evanescent. They are like Jonah's gourd, which sprang up in a night,
and perished in a night. Not so faith. That precious principle partakes
of all the value, all the power, and all the reality of the source from
whence it emanates, and the object with which it has to do. It
justifies the soul; (Rom. v. 1;) it purifies the heart; (Acts xv. 9;)
it works by love; (Gal. v. 6;) it overcomes the world. (1 John v. 4.)
Feeling and sentiment never could accomplish such results: they belong
to nature and to earth,--faith belongs to God and to heaven; they are
occupied with self,--faith is occupied with Christ; they look inward
and downward,--faith looks outward and upward; they leave the soul in
darkness and doubt,--faith leads it into light and peace; they have to
do with one's own fluctuating condition,--faith has to do with God's
immutable truth, and Christ's eternally-enduring sacrifice.

No doubt, faith will produce feelings and sentiments,--spiritual
feelings and truthful sentiments,--but the fruits of faith must never
be confounded with faith itself. I am not justified by feelings, nor
yet by faith _and_ feelings, but simply by faith. And why? Because
faith believes God when he speaks; it takes him at his word; it
apprehends him as he has revealed himself in the person and work of
the Lord Jesus Christ. This is life, righteousness, and peace. To
apprehend God as he is, is the sum of all present and eternal
blessedness. When the soul finds out God, it has found out all it can
possibly need, here or hereafter; but he can only be known by his own
revelation, and by the faith which he himself imparts, and which,
moreover, always seeks divine revelation as its proper object.

Thus, then, we can in some measure enter into the meaning and power of
the statement, "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent
sacrifice than Cain." Cain had no faith, and therefore he offered an
unbloody sacrifice. Abel had faith, and therefore he offered both
"blood and fat," which, in type, set forth the presentation of the
life, and also the inherent excellency of the Person of Christ. "The
blood" set forth the former; "the fat" shadowed forth the latter. Both
blood and fat were forbidden to be eaten under the Mosaic economy. The
blood is the life; and man, under law, had no title to life. But, in
the sixth of John we are taught that unless we eat blood we have no
life in us. Christ is _the_ life. There is not a spark of life outside
of him. All out of Christ is death. "In him was life," and in none
else.

Now, he gave up his life on the cross; and, to that life, sin was by
imputation attached, when the blessed One was nailed to the cursed
tree. Hence, in giving up his life, he gave up also the sin attached
thereto, so that it is effectually put away, having been left in his
grave from which he rose triumphant, in the power of a new life, to
which righteousness as distinctly attaches itself as did sin to that
life which he gave up on the cross. This will help us to an
understanding of an expression used by our blessed Lord after his
resurrection, "A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have."
He did not say, "flesh and blood;" because, in resurrection, he had not
assumed into his sacred person the blood which he had shed out upon the
cross as an atonement for sin. "The life of the flesh is in the blood,
and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your
souls: for it is the blood which maketh an atonement for the soul."
(Lev. xvii. 11.) Close attention to this point will have the effect of
deepening in our souls the sense of the completeness of the putting
away of sin by the death of Christ; and we know that whatever tends to
deepen our sense of that glorious reality, must necessarily tend to the
fuller establishment of our peace, and to the more effectual promotion
of the glory of Christ as connected with our testimony and service.

We have already referred to a point of much interest and value in the
history of Cain and Abel, and that is, the entire identification of
each with the offering which he presented. My reader cannot possibly
bestow too much attention upon this. The question, in each case, was
not as to the person of the offerer; but entirely as to the character
of his offering. Hence, of Abel we read that "God testified of his
_gifts_." He did not bear witness to Abel, but to Abel's sacrifice; and
this fixes distinctly the proper ground of a believer's peace and
acceptance before God.

There is a constant tendency in the heart to ground our peace and
acceptance upon something in or about ourselves, even though we admit
that that something is wrought by the Holy Ghost. Hence arises the
constant looking _in_, when the Holy Ghost would ever have us looking
_out_. The question for every believer is not, "what am I?" but, "what
is Christ?" Having come to God "in the name of Jesus," he is wholly
identified with him, and accepted in his name, and, moreover, can no
more be rejected than the One in whose name he has come. Before ever a
question can be raised as to the feeblest believer, it must be raised
as to Christ himself. But this latter is clearly impossible, and thus
the security of the believer is established upon a foundation which
nothing can possibly move. Being in himself a poor worthless sinner, he
has come in the name of Christ, he is identified with Christ, accepted
in and as Christ, bound up in the same bundle of life with Christ. God
testifies, not of him, but of his gift, and his gift is Christ. All
this is most tranquillizing and consolatory. It is our happy privilege
to be able, in the confidence of faith, to refer every objection and
every objector to Christ and his finished atonement. All our springs
are in him. In him we boast all the day long. Our confidence is not in
ourselves, but in him who hath wrought every thing for us. We hang on
his name, trust in his work, gaze on his person, and wait for his
coming.

But the carnal mind at once displays its enmity against all this truth
which so gladdens and satisfies the heart of a believer. Thus it was
with Cain. "He was very wroth, and his countenance fell." That which
filled Abel with peace, filled Cain with wrath. Cain, in unbelief,
despised the only way in which a sinner could come to God. He refused
to offer blood, without which there can be no remission; and then,
because _he_ was not received, _in his sins_, and because Abel was
accepted, _in his gift_, "he was wroth, and his countenance fell." And
yet, how else could it be? He should either be received with his sins,
or without them; but God could not receive him with them, and he would
not bring the blood which alone maketh atonement; and, therefore, he
was rejected, and, being rejected, he manifests in his ways the fruits
of corrupt religion. He persecutes and murders the true witness,--the
accepted, justified man,--the man of faith; and, in so doing, he stands
as the model and forerunner of all false religionists in every age. At
all times, and in all places, men have shown themselves more ready to
persecute on religious grounds than on any other. This is Cain-like.
Justification--full, perfect, unqualified justification, by faith only,
makes God every thing, and man nothing: and man does not like this; it
causes his countenance to fall, and draws out his anger. Not that he
can give any reason for his anger; for it is not, as we have seen, a
question of man at all, but only of the ground on which he appears
before God. Had Abel been accepted on the ground of aught in himself,
then, indeed, Cain's wrath and his fallen countenance would have had
some just foundation; but, inasmuch as he was accepted, exclusively on
the ground of his offering; and, inasmuch as it was not to him, but to
his gift, that Jehovah bore testimony, his wrath was entirely without
any proper basis. This is brought out in Jehovah's word to Cain: "If
thou doest well, (or, as the LXX. reads it, if thou offer correctly,
[Greek: orthôs prosenenkês],) shalt thou not be accepted?" The
well-doing had reference to the offering. Abel did well by hiding
himself behind an acceptable sacrifice. Cain did badly by bringing an
offering without blood; and all his after-conduct was but the
legitimate result of his false worship.

"And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they
were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew
him." Thus has it ever been; the Cains have persecuted and murdered the
Abels. At all times, man and his religion are the same; faith and its
religion are the same: and wherever they have met, there has been
conflict.

 However, it is well to see that Cain's act of murder was the true
consequence--the proper fruit--of his false worship. His foundation was
bad, and the superstructure erected thereon was also bad. Nor did he
stop at the act of murder; but having heard the judgment of God
thereon, despairing of forgiveness through ignorance of God, he went
forth from his blessed presence, and built a city, and had in his
family the cultivators of the useful and ornamental
sciences,--agriculturists, musicians, and workers in metals. Through
ignorance of the divine character, he pronounced his sin too great to
be pardoned.[8] It was not that he really knew his sin, but that he
knew not God. He fully exhibited the terrible fruit of the fall in the
very thought of God to which he gave utterance. He did not want pardon,
because he did not want God. He had no true sense of his own condition;
no aspirations after God; no intelligence as to the ground of a
sinner's approach to God. He was radically corrupt,--fundamentally
wrong; and all he wanted was to get out of the presence of God, and
lose himself in the world and its pursuits. He thought he could live
very well without God, and he therefore set about decorating the world
as well as he could, for the purpose of making it a respectable place,
and himself a respectable man therein, though in God's view it was
under the curse, and he was a fugitive and a vagabond.

Such was "_the way of Cain_," in which way millions are at this moment
rushing on. Such persons are not by any means divested of the religious
element in their character. They would like to offer something to God;
to do something for him. They deem it right to present to him the
results of their own toil. They are ignorant of themselves, ignorant of
God; but with all this there is the diligent effort to improve the
world; to make life agreeable in various ways; to deck the scene with
the fairest colors. God's remedy to _cleanse_ is rejected, and man's
effort to _improve_ is put in its place. This is "the way of Cain."
(Jude 11.)

And, my reader, you have only to look around you to see how this "way"
prevails at the present moment. Though the world is stained with the
blood of "a greater than" Abel, even with the blood of Christ; yet see
what an agreeable place man seeks to make of it! As in Cain's day, the
grateful sounds of "the harp and organ," no doubt, completely drowned,
to man's ear, the cry of Abel's blood; so now, man's ear is filled with
other sounds than those which issue from Calvary, and his eye filled
with other objects than a crucified Christ. The resources of his
genius, too, are put forth to render this world a hot-house, in which
are produced, in their rarest form, all the fruits for which nature so
eagerly longs. And not merely are the real wants of man, as a creature,
supplied, but the inventive genius of the human mind has been set to
work for the purpose of devising things, which, the moment the eye
sees, the heart desires, and not only desires, but imagines that life
would be intolerable without them. Thus, for instance, some years ago,
people were content to devote three or four days to the accomplishing
of a journey of one hundred miles; but now they can accomplish it in
three or four hours; and not only so, but they will complain sadly if
they happen to be five or ten minutes late. In fact, man must be saved
the trouble of living. He must travel without fatigue, and he must hear
news without having to exercise patience for it. He will lay iron rails
across the earth, and electric wires beneath the sea, as if to
anticipate, in his own way, that bright and blissful age when "there
shall be no more sea."[9]

In addition to all this, there is abundance of religion, so called;
but, alas! charity itself is compelled to harbor the apprehension, that
very much of what passes for religion is but a screw in the vast
machine, which has been constructed for man's convenience, and man's
exaltation. Man would not be without religion. It would not be
respectable; and, therefore, he is content to devote one-seventh of his
time to religion; or, as he thinks and professes, to his eternal
interests; and then he has six-sevenths to devote to his temporal
interests; but whether he works for time or eternity, it is for
_himself_, in reality. Such is "the way of Cain." Let my reader ponder
it well. Let him see where this way begins, whither it tends, and where
it terminates.

How different the way of the man of faith! Abel felt and owned the
curse; he saw the stain of sin, and, in the holy energy of faith,
offered that which met it, and met it thoroughly,--met it divinely. He
sought and found a refuge in God himself; and instead of building a
city on the earth, he found but a grave in its bosom. The earth, which
on its surface displayed the genius and energy of Cain and his family,
was stained underneath with the blood of a righteous man. Let the man
of the world remember this; let the man of God remember it; let the
worldly-minded Christian remember it. The earth which we tread upon is
stained by the blood of the Son of God. The very blood which justifies
the Church condemns the world. The dark shadow of the cross of Jesus
may be seen by the eye of faith, looming over all the glitter and glare
of this evanescent world. "The fashion of this world passeth away." It
will soon all be over, so far as the present scene is concerned. "The
way of Cain" will be followed by "the error of Balaam," in its
consummated form; and then will come "the gainsaying of Core;" and what
then? "The pit" will open its mouth to receive the wicked, and close it
again, to shut them up in "blackness of darkness forever." (Jude 13.)

In full confirmation of the foregoing lines, we may run the eye over
the contents of Chapter V. and find therein the humiliating record of
man's weakness, and subjection to the rule of death. He might live for
hundreds of years, and "beget sons and daughters;" but, at last, it
must be recorded that "_he died_." "Death reigned from Adam to Moses."
And, again, "It is appointed unto men once to die." Man cannot get over
this. He cannot, by steam, or electricity, or any thing else within the
range of his genius, disarm death of its terrible sting. He cannot, by
his energy, set aside the sentence of _death_, although he may produce
the comforts and luxuries of _life_.

But whence came this strange and dreaded thing, death? St. Paul gives
us the answer: "By one man sin entered into the world, and _death by
sin_." (Rom. v. 12.) Here we have the origin of death. It came by sin.
Sin snapped asunder the link which bound the creature to the living
God; and, that being done, he was handed over to the dominion of death,
which dominion he had no power whatever to shake off. And this, be it
observed, is one of the many proofs of the fact of man's total
inability to meet God. There can be no fellowship between God and man,
save in the power of life; but man is under the power of death; hence,
on natural grounds, there can be no fellowship. Life can have no
fellowship with death, no more than light with darkness, or holiness
with sin. Man must meet God on an entirely new ground, and on a new
principle, even faith; and this faith enables him to recognize his own
position, as "sold under sin," and, therefore, subject to death; while,
at the same time, it enables him to apprehend God's character, as the
dispenser of a new life,--life beyond the power of death,--a life
which can never be touched by the enemy, nor forfeited by us.

This it is which marks the security of the believer's life. Christ is
his life,--a risen, glorified Christ,--a Christ victorious over every
thing that could be against us. Adam's life was founded upon his own
obedience; and, therefore, when he disobeyed, life was forfeited. But
Christ, having life in himself, came down into this world, and fully
met all the circumstances of man's sin, in every possible form; and, by
submitting to death, destroyed him who had the power thereof, and, in
resurrection, becomes the Life and Righteousness of all who believe in
his most excellent name.

Now, it is impossible that Satan can touch this life, either in its
source, its channel, its power, its sphere, or its duration. God is its
source; a risen Christ, its channel; the Holy Ghost, its power; heaven,
its sphere; and eternity, its duration. Hence, therefore, as might be
expected, to one possessing this wondrous life, the whole scene is
changed; and while, in one sense, it must be said, "in the midst of
life we are in death," yet, in another sense, it can be said, "in the
midst of death we are in life." There is no death in the sphere into
which a risen Christ introduces his people. How could there be? Has not
he abolished it? It cannot be an abolished and an existing thing at the
same time and to the same people; but God's word tells us it is
abolished. Christ emptied the scene of death, and filled it with life;
and, therefore, it is not death, but glory that lies before the
believer. Death is behind him, and behind him forever. As to the
future, it is all glory,--cloudless glory. True, it may be his lot to
"fall asleep,"--to "sleep in Jesus,"--but that is not death, but "life
in earnest." The mere matter of departing to be with Christ cannot
alter the specific hope of the believer, which is to meet Christ in the
air, to be with him, and like him, forever.

Of this we have a very beautiful exemplification in Enoch, who forms
the only exception to the rule of Chap. V. The rule is, "he died;" the
exception is, "he should not see death." "By faith Enoch was translated
that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had
translated him; for before his translation he had this testimony, that
he pleased God." (Heb. xi. 5.) Enoch was "the seventh from Adam;" and
it is deeply interesting to find, that death was not suffered to
triumph over "the seventh;" but that, in his case, God interfered, and
made him a trophy of his own glorious victory over all the power of
death. The heart rejoices, after reading, six times, the sad record,
"he died," to find, that the seventh did not die; and when we ask, How
was this? the answer is, "by faith." Enoch lived in the faith of his
translation, and walked with God three hundred years. This separated
him, practically, from all around. To walk with God must, necessarily,
put one outside the sphere of this world's thoughts. Enoch realized
this; for, in his day, the spirit of the world was manifested; and
then, too, as now, it was opposed to all that was of God. The man of
faith felt he had naught to do with the world, save to be a patient
witness therein of the grace of God and of coming judgment. The sons of
Cain might spend their energies in the vain attempt to improve a cursed
world, but Enoch found a better world, and lived in the power of
it.[10] His faith was not given him to improve the world, but to walk
with God.

And oh, how much is involved in these three words, "walked with God!"
What separation and self-denial! what holiness and moral purity! what
grace and gentleness! what humility and tenderness! and yet, what zeal
and energy! What patience and long-suffering! and yet what faithfulness
and uncompromising decision! To walk with God comprehends every thing
within the range of the divine life, whether active or passive. It
involves the knowledge of God's character as he has revealed it. It
involves, too, the intelligence of the relationship in which we stand
to him. It is not a mere living by rules and regulations; nor laying
down plans of action; nor in resolutions to go hither and thither, to
do this or that. To walk with God is far more than any or all of these
things. Moreover, it will sometimes carry us right athwart the thoughts
of men, and even of our brethren, if they are not themselves walking
with God. It may, sometimes, bring against us the charge of doing too
much: at other times, of doing too little; but the faith that enables
one to "walk with God," enables him also to attach the proper value to
the thoughts of man.

Thus we have, in Abel and Enoch, most valuable instruction as to the
sacrifice on which faith rests; and, as to the prospect which hope now
anticipates; while, at the same time, "the walk with God" takes in all
the details of actual life which lie between those two points. "The
Lord will give grace and glory;" and between the grace that has been,
and the glory that is to be, revealed, there is the happy assurance,
that "no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly."
(Psalm lxxxiv. 11.)

It has been remarked, that "the cross and the coming of the Lord form
the termini of the Church's existence," and these termini are
prefigured in the sacrifice of Abel, and the translation of Enoch. The
Church knows her entire justification through the death and
resurrection of Christ, and she waits for the day when he shall come
and receive her to himself. She, "through the Spirit, waits for the
hope of righteousness by faith." (Gal. v. 5.) She does not wait for
righteousness, inasmuch as she, by grace, has that already; but she
waits for the hope which properly belongs to the condition into which
she has been introduced.

My reader should seek to be clear as to this. Some expositors of
prophetic truth, from not seeing the Church's specific place, portion,
and hope, have made sad mistakes. They have, in effect, cast so many
dark clouds and thick mists around "the bright and morning star," which
is the proper hope of the Church, that many saints, at the present
moment, seem unable to rise above the hope of the God-fearing remnant
of Israel, which is to see "the Sun of righteousness arise with healing
in his wings." (Mal. iv.) Nor is this all. Very many have been deprived
of the moral power of the hope of Christ's appearing, by being taught
to look for various events and circumstances previous to the moment of
his manifestation to the Church. The restoration of the Jews, the
development of Nebuchadnezzar's image, the revelation of the man of
sin,--all these things, it is maintained, must take place ere Christ
comes. That this is not true, might be proved from numerous passages of
New-Testament scripture, were this the fitting place to adduce them.

The Church, like Enoch, will be taken away from the evil around, and
the evil to come. Enoch was not left to see the world's evil rise to a
head, and the judgment of God poured forth upon it. He saw not "the
fountains of the great deep broken up," nor "the windows of heaven
opened." He was taken away before any of these things occurred; and he
stands before the eye of faith as a beautiful figure of those, "who
shall not all sleep, but shall all be changed, in a moment, in the
twinkling of an eye." (1 Cor. xv. 51, 52.) Translation, not death, was
the hope of Enoch; and, as to the Church's hope, it is thus briefly
expressed by the apostle, "To wait for the Son from heaven." (1 Thess.
i. 10.) This, the simplest and most unlettered Christian can understand
and enjoy. Its power, too, he can, in some measure, experience and
manifest. He may not be able to study prophecy very deeply, but he can,
blessed be God, taste the blessedness, the reality, the comfort, the
power, the elevating and separating virtue of that celestial hope which
properly belongs to him as a member of that heavenly body, the Church;
which hope is not merely to see "the Sun of righteousness," how blessed
soever that may be in its place, but to see "the bright and morning
star." (Rev. ii. 28.) And as, in the natural world, the morning star is
seen, by those who watch for it, before the sun rises, so Christ, as
the morning star, will be seen by the Church, before the remnant of
Israel can behold the beams of the Sun.

FOOTNOTES:

[8] The word used by Cain is [Hebrew: minneso'] which occurs in Psalm
xxxii. 1, "whose transgression is _forgiven_." The LXX. renders it by
[Greek: aphethênai], "to be remitted."

[9] True, the Lord is using all those things for the furtherance of his
own gracious ends; and the Lord's servant can freely use them also; but
this does not hinder our seeing the spirit which originates and
characterizes them.

[10] It is very evident that Enoch knew nothing whatever about the mode
of "making the best of both worlds." To him there was but one world.
Thus it should be with us.



CHAPTERS VI.-IX.


We have now arrived at a deeply-important and strongly-marked division
of our book. Enoch has passed off the scene. His walk, as a stranger on
earth, has terminated in his translation to heaven. He was taken away
before human evil had risen to a head, and, therefore, before the
divine judgment had been poured out. How little influence his course
and translation had upon the world is manifest from the first two
verses of Chapter VI. "And it came to pass, when men began to multiply
on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the
sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took
them wives of all which they chose."

The mingling of that which is of God with that which is of man is a
special form of evil, and a very effectual engine, in Satan's hand, for
marring the testimony of Christ on the earth. This mingling may
frequently wear the appearance of something very desirable; it may
often look like a wider promulgation of that which is of God,--a fuller
and a more vigorous outgoing of a divine influence,--a something to be
rejoiced in rather than to be deplored: but our judgment as to this
will depend entirely upon the point of view from which we contemplate
it. If we look at it in the light of God's presence, we cannot possibly
imagine that an advantage is gained when the people of God mingle
themselves with the children of this world; or when the truth of God is
corrupted by human admixture. Such is not the divine method of
promulgating truth, or of advancing the interests of those, who ought
to occupy the place of witnesses for him on the earth. Separation from
all evil is God's principle; and this principle can never be infringed
without serious damage to the truth.

In the narrative now before us, we see that the union of the sons of
God with the daughters of men led to the most disastrous consequences.
True, the fruit of that union seemed exceedingly fair, in man's
judgment, as we read, "the same became mighty men, which were of old,
men of renown;" yet, God's judgment was quite different. He seeth not
as man seeth. His thoughts are not as ours. "God saw that the
wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of
the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Such was man's
condition before God,--"evil _only_"--"evil continually." So much for
the mingling of the holy with the profane. Thus it must ever be. If the
holy seed will not maintain its purity, all must be forfeited, as
regards testimony on the earth. Satan's first effort was to frustrate
God's purpose, by putting the holy seed to death; and when that failed,
he sought to gain his end by corrupting it.

Now, it is of the deepest moment that my reader should clearly
understand the aim, the character, and the result of this union between
"the sons of God" and "the daughters of men." There is great danger, at
the present day, of compromising truth for the sake of union. This
should be carefully guarded against. There can be no true union
attained at the expense of truth. The true Christian's motto should
ever be--"maintain truth at all cost; if union can be promoted in this
way, so much the better; but maintain the truth." The principle of
expediency, on the contrary, may be thus enunciated:--"Promote union at
all cost; if truth can be maintained as well, so much the better; but
promote union." This latter principle can only be carried out at the
expense of all that is divine in the way of testimony.[11] There can,
evidently, be no true testimony where truth is forfeited; and hence, in
the case of the antediluvian world, we see that the unhallowed union
between the holy and the profane--between that which was divine and
that which was human--only had the effect of bringing the evil to a
head, and then God's judgment was poured out.

"The Lord said, I will destroy man." Nothing less would do. There must
be the entire destruction of that which had corrupted God's way on the
earth. "The mighty men, and men of renown," must all be swept away,
without distinction. "All flesh" must be set aside, as utterly unfit
for God. "The end of _all_ flesh is come before me." It was not merely
the end of _some_ flesh; no, it was all corrupt, in the sight of
Jehovah,--all irrecoverably bad. It had been tried, and found wanting;
and the Lord announces his remedy to Noah in these words, "Make thee an
ark of gopher wood."

Thus was Noah put in possession of God's thoughts about the scene
around him. The effect of the word of God was to lay bare the roots of
all that which man's eye might rest upon with complacency and pride.
The human heart might swell with pride, and the bosom heave with
emotion, as the eye ran down along the brilliant ranks of men of art,
men of skill, "men of might," and "men of renown." The sound of the
harp and the organ might send a thrill through the whole soul, while,
at the same time, the ground was cultivated, and man's necessities were
provided for in such a way as to contradict every thought in reference
to approaching judgment. But, oh! those solemn words, "_I will
destroy!_" What a heavy gloom they would necessarily cast over the
glittering scene! Could not man's genius invent some way of escape?
Could not "the mighty man deliver himself by his much strength?" Alas,
no: there was one way of escape, but it was revealed to faith, not to
sight,--not to reason,--not to imagination.

"By faith Noah, being _warned of God_, of things _not seen_ as yet,
moved with fear ([Greek: eulabêtheis]), prepared an ark to the saving
of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of
the righteousness which is by faith." (Heb. xi. 7.) The word of God
brings his light to shine upon all that by which man's heart is
deceived. It removes, completely, the gilding with which the serpent
covers a vain, deceitful, passing world, over which hangs the sword of
divine judgment. But it is only "faith" that will be "warned of God,"
when the things of which he speaks are "not seen as yet." Nature is
governed by what it sees,--it is governed by its senses. Faith is
governed by the pure word of God; (inestimable treasure in this dark
world!) this gives stability, let outward appearances be what they
may. When God spoke to Noah of judgment impending, there was no sign of
it. It was "not seen as yet;" but the word of God made it a present
reality to the heart that was enabled to mix that word with faith.
Faith does not wait to _see_ a thing, ere it believes, for "faith
cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

All that the man of faith needs, is to know that God has spoken; this
imparts perfect certainty to his soul. "Thus saith the Lord," settles
every thing. A single line of sacred scripture is an abundant answer to
all the reasonings and all the imaginations of the human mind; and when
one has the word of God as the basis of his convictions, he may calmly
stand against the full tide of human opinion and prejudice. It was the
word of God which sustained the heart of Noah during his long course of
service; and the same word has sustained the millions of God's saints
from that day to this, in the face of the world's contradiction. Hence,
we cannot set too high a value upon the word of God. Without it, all is
dark and uncertainty; with it, all is light and peace. Where it shines,
it marks out for the man of God a sure and blessed path; where it
shines not, one is left to wander amid the bewildering mazes of human
tradition. How could Noah have "preached righteousness" for 120 years
if he had not had the word of God as the ground of his preaching? How
could he have withstood the scoffs and sneers of an infidel world? How
could he have persevered in testifying of "judgment to come," when not
a cloud appeared on the world's horizon? Impossible. The word of God
was the ground on which he stood, and "the Spirit of Christ" enabled
him to occupy, with holy decision, that elevated and immovable ground.

And now, my beloved Christian reader, what else have we wherewith to
stand, in service for Christ, in an evil day, like the present? Surely,
nothing; nor do we want aught else. The word of God, and the Holy
Ghost, by whom _alone_ that word can be understood, applied, or used,
are all we want to equip us perfectly--to furnish us thoroughly--"to
all good works," under whatever head those works may range themselves.
(2 Tim. iii. 16, 17.) What rest for the heart! What relief from all
Satan's imagery, and man's imaginations! God's pure, incorruptible,
eternal word! May our hearts adore him for the inestimable treasure!
"Every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart was only evil
continually;" but God's word was the simple resting-place of Noah's
heart.

"God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me.... Make
thee an ark of gopher wood." Here was man's ruin, and God's remedy. Man
had been allowed to pursue his career to the utmost limit, to bring his
principles and ways to maturity. The leaven had worked and filled the
mass. The evil had reached its climax. "All flesh" had become so bad
that it could not be worse; wherefore nothing remained but for God to
destroy _it_ totally; and, at the same time, to save all those who
should be found, according to his eternal counsels, linked with "the
eighth person,"--the only righteous man then existing. This brings out
the doctrine of the cross in a very vivid manner. There we find at once
God's judgment of nature with all its evil; and, at the same time, the
revelation of his saving grace, in all its fulness, and in all its
perfect adaptation to those who have really reached the lowest point of
their moral condition, as judged by himself. "The Day-spring from on
high hath visited us." (Luke i. 78.) Where? Just _where we are_, as
sinners. God has come down to the very deepest depths of our ruin.
There is not a point in all the sinner's state to which the light of
that blessed Day-spring has not penetrated; but, if it has thus
penetrated, it must, by virtue of what it is, reveal our true
character. The light must judge every thing contrary to itself; but,
while it does so, it also "gives the knowledge of salvation through the
remission of sins." The cross, while it reveals God's judgment upon
"all flesh," reveals his salvation for the lost and guilty sinner. Sin
is perfectly judged,--the sinner perfectly saved,--God perfectly
revealed, and perfectly glorified, in the cross.

If my reader will turn for a moment to the First Epistle of Peter, he
will find much light thrown upon this entire subject. At the third
chapter, verse 18, we read, "for Christ also hath once suffered for
sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put
to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which (Spirit)
he went and preached (through Noah) to the spirits (now) in prison;
which once were disobedient, when the long-suffering of God waited in
the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, wherein few, that
is, eight souls, were saved through water ([Greek: di' hydatos]); to
which the antitype ([Greek: antitypon]) baptism doth also now save us,
not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, (as by water,)[12] but
the answer of a good conscience towards God, by the resurrection of
Jesus Christ, who, having gone into heaven, is at the right hand of
God, angels, and authorities, and powers, being made subject to him."

This is a most important passage. It sets the doctrine of the ark and
its connection with the death of Christ very distinctly before us. As
in the Deluge, so in the death of Christ, all the billows and waves of
divine judgment passed over that which, in itself, was without sin. The
creation was buried beneath the flood Of Jehovah's righteous wrath; and
the Spirit of Christ exclaims, "All thy billows and thy waves have gone
over me." (Ps. xlii. 7.) Here is a profound truth for the heart and
conscience of a believer. "_All_ God's billows and waves" passed over
the spotless person of the Lord Jesus, when he hung upon the cross;
and, as a most blessed consequence, not one of them remains to pass
over the person of the believer. At Calvary we see, in good truth, "the
fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven
opened." "Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts."
Christ drank the cup, and endured the wrath perfectly. He put himself,
judicially, under the full weight of all his people's liabilities, and
gloriously discharged them. The belief of this gives settled peace to
the soul. If the Lord Jesus has met all that could be against us, if he
has removed out of the way every hindrance, if he has put away sin, if
he has exhausted the cup of wrath and judgment on our behalf, if he has
cleared the prospect of every cloud, should we not enjoy settled peace?
Unquestionably. Peace is our unalienable portion. To us belong the deep
and untold blessedness and holy security which redeeming love can
bestow on the righteous ground of Christ's absolutely accomplished
work.

Had Noah any anxiety about the billows of divine judgment? None
whatever. How could he? He knew that "_all_" had been poured forth,
while he himself was raised by those very outpoured billows into a
region of cloudless peace. He floated in peace on that very water by
which "all flesh" was judged. He was put beyond the reach of judgment;
and put there, too, by God himself. He might have said, in the
triumphant language of Romans viii., "If God be for us, who can be
against us?" He had been invited in by Jehovah himself, as we read in
Chapter vii. 1, "Come thou and all thy house into the ark;" and when he
had taken his place there, we read, "_the Lord shut him in_." Here,
assuredly, was full and perfect security for all within. Jehovah kept
the door, and no one could go in or out without him. There was both a
window and a door to the ark. The Lord secured, with his own omnipotent
hand, the door, and left Noah the window, from which he might look
upward to the place from whence all the judgment had emanated, and see
that no judgment remained for him. The saved family could only look
_upward_, because the window was "above." (Chap. vi. 16.) They could
not see the waters of judgment, nor the death and desolation which
those waters had caused. God's salvation--the "gopher wood," stood
between them and all these things. They had only to gaze upward into a
cloudless heaven,--the eternal dwelling-place of the One who had
condemned the world, and saved them.

Nothing can more fully express the believer's perfect security in
Christ than those words, "the Lord shut him in." Who could open what
God had shut? None. The family of Noah were as safe as God could make
them. There was no power, angelic, human or diabolical, which could
possibly burst open the door of the ark, and let the waters in. That
door was shut by the self-same hand that had opened the windows of
heaven, and broken up the fountains of the great deep. Thus Christ is
spoken of as the One "that hath the key of David, he that openeth and
no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth." (Rev. iii. 7.) He
also holds in his hand "the keys of hell and of death." (Rev. i. 18.)
None can enter the portals of the grave, nor go forth therefrom without
him. He has "all power in heaven and on earth." He is "head over all
things to the Church," and in him the believer is perfectly secure.
(Matt. xxviii. 18; Eph. i. 22.) Who could touch Noah? What wave could
penetrate that ark which was "pitched within and without with pitch?"
Just so now, who can touch those who have, by faith, retreated into the
shadow of the cross? Every enemy has been met and silenced,--yes,
silenced for ever. The death of Christ has triumphantly answered every
demur; while, at the same time, his resurrection is the satisfactory
declaration of God's infinite complacency in that work which is, at
once, the basis of his righteousness in receiving us, and of our
confidence in drawing nigh unto him.

Hence, therefore, the door of our ark being secured, by the hand of God
himself, nothing remains for us but to enjoy the window; or, in other
words, to walk in happy and holy communion with him who has saved us
from coming wrath, and made us heirs and expectants of coming glory.
Peter speaks of those, who "are blind, and cannot see afar off, and
have forgotten that they were purged from their old sins." (2 Peter i.
9.) This is a lamentable condition for any one to be in, and it is the
sure result of not cultivating diligent, prayerful communion with him
who has eternally shut us in in Christ.

Let us, now, ere we proceed further with Noah's history, glance for a
little at the condition of those to whom he had so long preached
righteousness. We have been looking at the _saved_,--let us now look at
the _lost_: we have been thinking of those _within_ the ark,--let us
now think of those _without_. No doubt, many an anxious look would be
cast after the vessel of mercy, as it rose with the water; but, alas!
"the door was shut," the day of grace was over, the time of testimony
closed, and that forever, so far as they were concerned. The same hand
which had shut Noah _in_, had shut them _out_; and it was as impossible
for those without to get in as it was for those within to get out. The
former were irrecoverably lost; the latter, effectually saved. The
long-suffering of God, and the testimony of his servant, had both been
slighted. Present things had engrossed them. "They did eat, they drank,
they married wives, and were given in marriage, _until_ the day that
Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all."
(Luke xvii. 26, 27.) There was nothing wrong in any of these things,
abstractedly looked at. The wrong was not in the things done, but in
the doers of them. Every one of them might be done in the fear of the
Lord, and to the glory of his holy name, were they only done in faith.
But, alas! they were not so done. The word of God was rejected. He told
of judgment; but they did not believe. He spoke of sin and ruin; but
they were not convinced. He spoke of a remedy; but they would not give
heed. They went on with their own plans and speculations, and had no
room for God. They acted as if the earth belonged to them, by a lease,
forever. They forgot that there was a clause of surrender. They thought
not of that solemn "_until_." God was shut out. "Every imagination of
the thoughts of their heart was only evil continually;" and hence, they
could do nothing right. They thought, spake, and acted for themselves.
They did their own pleasure, and forgot God.

And, my reader, remember the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, how he
said, "_as it was_ in the days of Noah, _so shall it be_ in the days
of the Son of man." Some would have us to believe that ere the Son of
man appears in the clouds of heaven, this earth shall be covered, from
pole to pole, with a fair mantle of righteousness. They would teach us
to look for a reign of righteousness and peace, as the result of
agencies now in operation; but the brief passage just quoted cuts up by
the roots, in a moment, all such vain and delusive expectations. How
was it in the days of Noah? Did righteousness cover the earth, as the
waters cover the sea? Was God's truth dominant? Was the earth filled
with the knowledge of the Lord? Scripture replies, "the earth was
filled with violence." "All flesh had corrupted his way on the earth."
"The earth also was corrupt before God." Well, then, "_so_ shall it be
in the days of the Son of man." This is plain enough. "Righteousness"
and "violence" are not very like each other. Neither is there any
similarity between universal wickedness and universal peace. It only
needs a heart subject to the Word, and freed from the influence of
preconceived opinions, in order to understand the true character of the
days immediately preceding "the coming of the Son of man." Let not my
reader be led astray. Let him reverently bow to Scripture. Let him look
at the condition of the world, "in the days before the flood;" and let
him bear in mind, that "_as_" it was then, "_so_" shall it be at the
close of this present period. This is most simple,--most conclusive.
There was nothing like a state of universal righteousness and peace
then, neither shall there be any thing like it by-and-by.

No doubt, man displayed abundant energy in making the world a
comfortable and an agreeable place for himself; but that was a very
different thing from making it a suitable place for God. So also at
this present time; man is as busy as he can be, in clearing the stones
off the pathway of human life, and making it as smooth as possible; but
this is not "making straight in the desert a highway for our God;" nor
is it making "the rough places smooth," that all flesh may see the
salvation of Jehovah. Civilization prevails; but civilization is not
righteousness. The sweeping and garnishing are going forward; but it is
not in order to fit the house for Christ, but for Antichrist. The
wisdom of man is put forth in order to cover, with the folds of his own
drapery, the blots and blemishes of humanity; but, though covered, they
are not removed! They are underneath, and will, ere long, break out in
more hideous deformity than ever. The painting of vermilion will soon
be obliterated, and the carved cedar wood destroyed. The dams by which
man sedulously seeks to stem the torrent of human wretchedness, must
soon give way before the overwhelming force thereof. All the efforts to
confine the physical, the mental, and the moral degradation of Adam's
posterity within those enclosures, which human benevolence, if you
please, has devised, must, in the sequel, prove abortive. The testimony
has gone forth. "The end of _all_ flesh has come before me." It has not
come before man; but it has come before God: and, albeit, the voice of
the scoffers may be heard, saying, "Where is the promise of his coming?
for, since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were
from the beginning of creation;" yet the moment is rapidly hastening on
when those scoffers will get their answer. "The day of the Lord will
come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away
with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the
earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up." (2
Peter iii. 4-10.) This, my reader, is the answer to the intellectual
scoffs of the children of this world, but not to the spiritual
affections and expectations of the children of God. These latter, thank
God, have a totally different prospect, even to meet the Bridegroom in
the air, before evil shall have reached its culminating point, and,
therefore, before the divine judgment shall be poured forth thereon.
The Church of God looks not for the burning up of the world, but for
the arising of "the bright and morning Star."

Now, in whatever way we look at the future, from whatever point of view
we contemplate it, whether the object, which presents itself to the
soul's vision be the Church in glory, or the world in flames, the
coming of the Bridegroom, or the breaking in of the thief, the morning
Star, or the scorching sun, the translation, or the deluge, we must
feel the unspeakable importance of attending to God's present testimony
in grace, to lost sinners. "_Now_ is the accepted time; behold, _now_
is the day of salvation." (2 Cor. vi. 2.) "God was in Christ,
reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto
them." (2 Cor. v. 19.) He is reconciling now, he will be judging
by-and-by; it is all grace now; it will be all wrath then; he is
pardoning sin now, through the cross; he will punish it then, in hell,
and that forever. He is sending out a message of purest, richest,
freest grace. He is telling sinners of an accomplished redemption
through the precious sacrifice of Christ. He is declaring that all is
done. He is waiting to be gracious. "The long-suffering of our Lord is
salvation." "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men
count slackness, but is long-suffering to usward, not willing that any
should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter iii.)
All this makes the present moment one of peculiar solemnity. Unmingled
grace declared!--unmingled wrath impending! How solemn! How deeply
solemn!

And, then, with what profound interest should we mark the unfolding of
the divine purposes! Scripture sheds its light upon these things; and
such a light, too, that we need not, as another has said, "vacantly
stare on passing events, as those who know not where they are, and
whither they are going." We should accurately know our bearings. We
should fully understand the direct tendency of all the principles now
at work. We should be well aware of the vortex, toward which all the
tributary streams are rapidly flowing on. Men dream of a golden age;
they promise themselves a millennium of the arts and sciences; they
feed upon the thought, that "to-morrow shall be as this day, and more
abundant." But, oh! how utterly vain are all those thoughts, dreams,
and promises. Faith can see the clouds gathering thickly around the
world's horizon. Judgment is coming. The day of wrath is at hand. The
door will soon be shut. The "strong delusion" will soon set in with
terrible intensity. How needful, then, it is to raise a warning
voice,--to seek, by faithful testimony, to counteract man's pitiable
self-complacency. True, in so doing, we shall be exposed to the charge
which Ahab brought against Micaiah, of always prophesying evil: but no
matter for that. Let us prophesy what the word of God prophesies, and
let us do this simply for the purpose of "persuading men." The word of
God only removes from beneath our feet a hollow foundation, for the
purpose of placing instead thereof a foundation which never can be
moved. It only takes away from us a delusive hope, to give us, instead,
"a hope which maketh not ashamed." It takes away "a broken reed," to
give us the "Rock of ages." It sets aside "a broken cistern, which can
hold no water," to set in its place "the Fountain of living waters."
This is true love. It is God's love. He will not cry "peace, peace,"
when there is no peace; nor "daub with untempered mortar." He would
have the sinner's heart resting sweetly in his own eternal Ark of
safety, enjoying present communion with himself, and fondly cherishing
the hope, that, when all the ruin, the desolation, and the judgment
have passed away, it shall rest with him in a restored creation.

We shall now return to Noah, and contemplate him in a new position. We
have seen him building the ark, we have seen him in the ark, and we
shall now view him going forth of the ark, and taking his place in the
new world.[13] "And God remembered Noah." The strange work of judgment
being over, the saved family, and all in association with them, come
into remembrance. "God made a wind to pass over the earth; and the
waters assuaged; the fountains also of the deep and the windows of
heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained." The
beams of the sun now begin to act upon a world that had been baptized
with a baptism of judgment. Judgment is God's "strange work." He
delights not in, though he is glorified by, it. Blessed be his name, he
is ever ready to leave the place of judgment, and enter that of mercy,
because he delights in mercy.

"And it came to pass, at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the
window of the ark which he had made: and he sent forth a raven, which
went forth, to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the
earth." The unclean bird made its escape, and found, no doubt, a
resting-place upon some floating carcase. It sought not the ark again.
Not so the dove. "She found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she
returned unto him into the ark ... and again he sent forth the dove out
of the ark: and the dove came in to him, in the evening; and, lo, in
her mouth was an olive-leaf, pluckt off." Sweet emblem of the renewed
mind, which, amid the surrounding desolation, seeks and finds its rest
and portion in Christ; and not only so, but also lays hold of the
earnest of the inheritance, and furnishes the blessed proof, that
judgment has passed away, and that a renewed earth is coming fully into
view. The carnal mind, on the contrary, can rest in any thing and every
thing but Christ. It can feed upon all uncleanness. "The olive-leaf"
has no attraction for it. It can find all it needs in a scene of death,
and hence is not occupied with the thought of a new world and its
glories; but the heart that is taught and exercised by the Spirit of
God, can only rest and rejoice in that in which he rests and rejoices.
It rests in the Ark of his salvation "until the times of the
restitution of all things." May it be thus with you and me, beloved
reader! May Jesus be the abiding rest and portion of our hearts, that
so we may not seek them in a world which is under the judgment of God!
The dove went back to Noah, and waited for his time of rest; and we
should ever find our place with Christ, until the time of his
exaltation, and glory, in the ages to come. "He that shall come, will
come, and will not tarry." All we want, as to this, is a little
patience. May God direct our hearts into his love, and into "the
patience of Christ!"

"And God spake unto Noah, saying, Go forth of the ark." The same God
that had said, "Make thee an ark" and "Come thou into the ark," now
says, "Go forth of the ark." "And Noah went forth ... and builded an
altar unto the Lord." All is simple obedience. There is the obedience
of faith and the worship of faith: both go together. The altar is
erected, where, just before; all had been a scene of death and
judgment. The ark had borne Noah and his family safely over the waters
of judgment. It had carried him from the old into the new world, where
he now takes his place as a worshipper.[14] And, be it observed, it was
"unto the Lord" he erected his altar. Superstition would have
worshipped _the ark_, as being the means of salvation. It is ever the
tendency of the heart to displace God by his ordinances. Now, the ark
was a very marked and manifest ordinance; but Noah's faith passed
beyond the ark to the God of the ark; and hence, when he stepped out of
it, instead of casting back a lingering look at it, or regarding it as
an object of worship or veneration, he built an altar unto the Lord,
and worshipped him: and the ark is never heard of again.

This teaches us a very simple, but, at the same time, a very seasonable
lesson. The moment the heart lets slip the reality of God himself,
there is no placing a limit to its declension; it is on the highway to
the grossest forms of idolatry. In the judgment of faith, an ordinance
is only valuable as it conveys God, in living power, to the soul; that
is to say, so long as faith can enjoy Christ therein, according to his
own appointment. Beyond this, it is worth just nothing; and if it in
the smallest degree comes between the heart and his precious work and
his glorious person, it ceases to be an ordinance of God, and becomes
an instrument of the devil. In the judgment of superstition, the
ordinance is every thing, and God is shut out; and the name of God is
only made use of to exalt the ordinance, and give it a deep hold of the
human heart, and a mighty influence over the human mind. Thus it was
that the children of Israel worshipped the brazen serpent. That, which
had once been a channel of blessing to them, because used of God,
became, when their hearts had departed from the Lord, an object of
superstitious veneration; and Hezekiah had to break it in pieces, and
call it "a piece of brass." In itself it was only a "Nehushtan," but,
when used of God, it was a means of rich blessing. Now, faith owned it
to be what divine revelation said it was; but superstition, throwing,
as it ever does, divine revelation overboard, lost the real purpose of
God in the thing, and actually made a god of the thing itself. (See 2
Kings xviii. 4.)

And, my reader, is there not a deep lesson in all this for the present
age? I am convinced there is. We live in an age of ordinances. The
atmosphere which enwraps the professing church, is impregnated with the
elements of a traditionary religion, which robs the soul of Christ, and
his divinely full salvation. It is not that human traditions boldly
deny that there is such a person as Christ, or such a thing as the
cross of Christ: were they to do so, the eyes of many might be opened.
However, it is not thus. The evil is of a far more insidious and
dangerous character. Ordinances are added to Christ, and the work of
Christ. The sinner is not saved by Christ alone, but by Christ and
ordinances. Thus he is robbed of Christ altogether; for it will,
assuredly, be found that _Christ and ordinances_ will prove, in the
sequel, to be _ordinances, and not Christ_. This is a solemn
consideration for all who stand up for a religion of ordinances. "If ye
be circumcised Christ shall profit you nothing." It must be Christ
wholly, or not at all. The devil persuades men, that they are honoring
Christ when they make much of his ordinances; whereas, all the while he
knows full well that they are, in reality, setting Christ entirely
aside, and deifying the ordinance. I would only repeat here a remark
which I have made elsewhere, namely, that superstition makes _every
thing_ of the ordinance; infidelity, profanity, and mysticism, make
_nothing_ of it; faith uses it according to divine appointment.

But I have already extended this section far beyond the limit which I
had prescribed for it. I shall, therefore, close it with a hasty glance
at the contents of Chapter ix. In it we have the new covenant, under
which creation was set, after the Deluge, together with the token of
that covenant. "And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them,
Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth." Observe, God's
command to man, on his entrance into the restored earth, was to refill
that earth; not parts of the earth, but the earth. He desired to have
men dispersed abroad, over the face of the world, and not relying upon
their own concentrated energies. We shall see, in Chap. xi., how man
neglected all this.

The fear of man is now lodged in the heart of every other creature.
Henceforth the service, rendered by the inferior orders of creation to
man, must be the constrained result of "fear and dread." In life, and
in death, the lower animals were to be at the service of man. All
creation is delivered, by God's everlasting covenant, from the fear of
a second deluge. Judgment is never again to take that shape. "The world
that then was, being overflowed with _water_, perished; but the heavens
and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store,
reserved unto _fire_ against the day of judgment and perdition of
ungodly men." The earth was once purged with water; and it will be
again purged by fire; and in this second purgation none will escape,
save those, who have fled for refuge to him who has passed through the
deep waters of death, and met the fire of divine judgment.

"And God said, This is the token of the covenant ... I do set my bow
in the cloud ... and I will remember my covenant." The whole creation
rests, as to its exemption from a second deluge, on the eternal
stability of God's covenant, of which the bow is the token; and it is
happy to bear in mind, that when the bow appears, the eye of God rests
upon it; and man is cast, not upon his own imperfect and most uncertain
memory, but upon God's. "I," says God, "will remember." How sweet to
think of what God will, and what he will not, remember! He will
remember his own covenant, but he will not remember his people's sins.
The cross, which ratifies the former, puts away the latter. The belief
of this gives peace to the troubled heart and uneasy conscience.

"And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that
_the bow shall be seen in the cloud_." Beautiful and most expressive
emblem! The beams of the sun, reflected from that which threatens
judgment, tranquillize the heart, as telling of God's covenant, God's
salvation, and God's remembrance. Precious, most precious sunbeams,
deriving additional beauty from the very cloud which reflects them! How
forcibly does this bow in the cloud remind us of Calvary. There we see
a cloud indeed,--a dark, thick, heavy cloud of judgment, discharging
itself upon the sacred head of the Lamb of God,--a cloud so dark, that
even at mid-day "there was darkness over all the earth." But, blessed
be God, faith discerns, in that heaviest cloud that ever gathered, the
most brilliant and beauteous bow that ever appeared; for it sees the
bright beams of God's eternal love darting through the awful gloom, and
reflected in the cloud. It hears, too, the words, "It is finished,"
issuing from amid the darkness, and in those words it recognizes the
perfect ratification of God's everlasting covenant, not only with
creation, but with the tribes of Israel and the Church of God.

The last paragraph of this chapter presents a humiliating spectacle.
The lord of creation fails to govern himself: "And Noah began to be an
husbandman, and he planted a vineyard; and he drank of the wine, and
was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent." What a condition
for Noah, the only righteous man, the preacher of righteousness, to be
found in! Alas! what is man? Look at him where you will, and you see
only failure. In Eden, he fails; in the restored earth, he fails; in
Canaan, he fails; in the Church, he fails; in the presence of
millennial bliss and glory, he fails. He fails everywhere, and in all
things: there is no good thing in him. Let his advantages be ever so
great, his privileges ever so vast, his position ever so desirable, he
can only exhibit failure and sin.

We must, however, look at Noah in two ways, namely, as _a type_, and as
_a man_; and while the type is full of beauty and meaning, the man is
full of sin and folly; yet the Holy Ghost has written these words,
"Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generation; and Noah walked
with God." Divine grace had covered all his sins, and clothed his
person with a spotless robe of righteousness. Though Noah exposed his
nakedness, God did not see it, for he looked not at him in the weakness
of his own condition, but in the full power of divine and everlasting
righteousness. Hence we may see how entirely astray--how totally
alienated from God and his thoughts--Ham was in the course he adopted;
he evidently knew nothing of the blessedness of the man whose iniquity
is forgiven and his sin covered. On the contrary, Shem and Japheth
exhibit in their conduct a fine specimen of the divine method of
dealing with human nakedness; wherefore they inherit a blessing,
whereas Ham inherits a curse.

FOOTNOTES:

[11] We should ever bear in mind, that "the wisdom which is from above
is _first pure_, then peaceable." (James iii. 17.) The wisdom which is
from beneath would put "peaceable" first, and, therefore, it can never
be pure.

[12] It is impossible to over-estimate the wisdom of the Holy Ghost,
as seen in the way in which he treats the ordinance of baptism, in the
above remarkable passage. We know the evil use which has been made of
baptism; we know the false place it has gotten in the thoughts of many;
we know how that the efficacy, which belongs only to the blood of
Christ, has been attributed to the water of baptism; we know how the
regenerating grace of the Holy Ghost has been transferred to water
baptism; and, with the knowledge of all this, we cannot but be struck
with the way in which the Spirit of God guards the subject, by stating,
that it is not the mere washing away of the filth of the flesh, as by
water, "but the answer of a good conscience toward God," which "answer"
we get, not by baptism, how important soever it may be, as an ordinance
of the kingdom, but "by the resurrection of Jesus Christ," "who was
delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification."

Baptism, I need hardly say, as an ordinance of divine institution, and
in its divinely-appointed place, is most important and deeply
significant; but when we find men, in one way or another, putting the
figure in place of the substance, we are bound to expose the work of
Satan by the light of the word of God.

[13] I would here mention, for my reader's prayerful consideration, a
thought very familiar to the minds of those who have specially given
themselves to the study of what is called "dispensational truth." It
has reference to Enoch and Noah. The former was taken away, as we have
seen, before the judgment came; whereas the latter was carried through
the judgment. Now, it is thought that Enoch is a figure of the Church,
who shall be taken away before human evil reaches its climax, and
before the divine judgment falls thereon. Noah, on the other hand, is a
figure of the remnant of Israel, who shall be brought through the deep
waters of affliction, and through the fire of judgment, and led into
the full enjoyment of millennial bliss, in virtue of God's everlasting
covenant. I may add, that I quite receive this thought in reference to
those two Old-Testament fathers. I consider that it has the full
support of the general scope and analogy of Holy Scripture.

[14] It is interesting to look at this entire subject of the ark and
deluge, in connection with that most important and deeply significant
ordinance of baptism. A truly baptized person, that is, one who, as the
apostle says, "obeys from the heart that type of doctrine to which he
is delivered," is one, who has passed from the old world into the new,
in spirit and principle, and by faith. The water rolls over his person,
signifying that his old man is buried, that his place in nature is
ignored, that his old nature is entirely set aside; in short, that he
is a dead man. When he is plunged beneath the water, expression is
given to the fact that his name, place, and existence, in nature, are
put out of sight; that the flesh, with all that pertained thereto, its
sins, its iniquities, its liabilities, is buried in the grave of
Christ, and never can come into God's sight again.

Again, when he rises up out of the water, expression is given to the
truth, that he only comes up as the possessor of a new life, even the
resurrection life of Christ. If Christ had not been raised from the
dead, the believer could not come up out of the water, but should
remain buried beneath its surface, as the simple expression of the
place which righteously belongs to nature. But, inasmuch as Christ rose
from the dead, in the power of a new life, having entirely put away our
sins, we also come up out of the water; and, in so doing, set forth the
fact, that we are put, by the grace of God, and through the death of
Christ, in full possession of a new life, to which divine righteousness
inseparably attaches. "We are buried with him by baptism into death;
that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the
Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (See Rom. vi.
and Col. ii. _passim_. Comp. also 1 Peter iii. 18-22.) All this makes
the institution of baptism one of immense importance, and pregnant with
meaning.



CHAPTER X.


This section of our book records the generations of Noah's three sons,
noticing, especially, Nimrod, the founder of the kingdom of Babel, or
Babylon, a name which occupies a very prominent place on the page of
inspiration. Babylon is a well-known name,--a well-known influence.
From the tenth chapter of Genesis, down to the eighteenth chapter of
Revelation, Babylon, again and again, appears before us, and always as
something decidedly hostile to those who occupy, for the time being,
the position of public testimony for God. Not that we are to look upon
the Babylon of Old Testament scripture as identical with the Babylon of
the Apocalypse. By no means. I believe the former is a city; the
latter, a system; but both the city and the system exert a powerful
influence against God's people. Hardly had Israel entered upon the wars
of Canaan, when "a Babylonish garment" brought defilement and sorrow,
defeat and confusion, into the host. This is the earliest record of
Babylon's pernicious influence upon the people of God; but every
student of Scripture is aware of the place which Babylon gets
throughout the entire history of Israel.

This would not be the place to notice in detail the various passages in
which this city is introduced. I would only remark here, that whenever
God has a corporate witness on the earth, Satan has a Babylon to mar
and corrupt that witness. When God connects his name with a city on the
earth, then Babylon takes the form of a city; and when God connects his
name with the Church, then Babylon takes the form of a corrupt
religious system, called "the great whore," "the mother of
abominations," &c. In a word, Satan's Babylon is always seen as the
instrument moulded and fashioned by his hand, for the purpose of
counteracting the divine operations, whether in Israel of old, or the
Church now. Throughout the Old Testament Israel and Babylon are seen,
as it were, in opposite scales; when Israel is up, Babylon is down; and
when Babylon is up, Israel is down. Thus, when Israel had utterly
failed, as Jehovah's witness, "the king of Babylon broke his bones,"
and swallowed him up. The vessels of the house of God, which ought to
have remained in the _city_ of Jerusalem, were carried away to the
_city_ of Babylon. But Isaiah, in his sublime prophecy, leads us onward
to the opposite of all this. He presents, in most magnificent strains,
a picture, in which Israel's star is in the ascendant, and Babylon
entirely sunk. "And it shall come to pass in the day that the Lord
shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the
hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve, that thou shalt take up
this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the
oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!... since _thou_ art laid
down, no feller is come up against _us_." (Isa. xiv. 3-8.)

Thus much as to the Babylon of the Old Testament. Then, as to the
Babylon of Revelation, my reader has only to turn to the 17th and 18th
chapters of that book to see her character and end. She is presented in
marked contrast with the bride, the Lamb's wife; and as to her end, she
is cast as a great millstone into the sea; after which we have the
marriage of the Lamb, with all its accompanying bliss and glory.

However, I could not attempt to pursue this most interesting subject
here: I have merely glanced at it in connection with the name of
Nimrod. I feel assured that my reader will find himself amply repaid
for any trouble he may take in the close examination of all those
scriptures in which the name of Babylon is introduced. We shall now
return to our chapter.

"And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a _mighty one in the earth_. He
was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, Even as
Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his
kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, _in the land of
Shinar_." Here, then, we have the character of the founder of Babylon.
He was "a mighty one _in the earth_"--"a mighty hunter before the
Lord." Such was the origin of Babylon; and its character, throughout
the entire book of God, remarkably corresponds therewith. It is always
seen as a mighty influence in the earth, acting in positive antagonism
to every thing which owes its origin to heaven; and it is not until
this Babylon has been totally abolished, that the cry is heard, amid
the hosts above, "Alleluia; for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth."
Then all Babylon's mighty hunting will be over forever, whether it be
its hunting of wild beasts, to subdue them; or its hunting of souls, to
destroy them. All its might, and all its glory, all its pomp and pride,
its wealth and luxury, its light and joy, its glitter and glare, its
powerful attractions and wide-spread influence, shall have passed away
forever. She shall be swept with the besom of destruction, and plunged
in the darkness, the horror and desolation, of an everlasting night.
"How long, O Lord?"



CHAPTER XI.


This is a chapter of very deep interest to the spiritual mind. It
records two great facts, namely, the building of Babel, and the call of
Abraham; or, in other words, man's effort to provide for himself, and
God's provision made known to faith; man's attempt to establish himself
_in the earth_, and God's calling a man _out of_ it, to find his
portion and his home _in heaven_.

"And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech. And it came
to pass as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the
land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.... And they said, Go to, let us
build us a city, and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let
us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the
whole earth." The human heart ever seeks a name, a portion, and a
centre in the earth. It knows nothing of aspirations after heaven,
heaven's God, or heaven's glory. Left to itself, it will ever find its
objects in this lower world; it will ever "build beneath the skies." It
needs God's call, God's revelation, and God's power, to lift the heart
of man above this present world, for man is a grovelling
creature,--alienated from heaven, and allied to earth. In the scene now
before us, there is no acknowledgment of God, no looking up to, or
waiting on, him; nor was it the thought of the human heart to set up a
place in which God might dwell,--to gather materials for the purpose of
building a habitation for him,--alas! no; his name is never once
mentioned. To make a name for himself was man's object on the plain of
Shinar; and such has been his object ever since. Whether we contemplate
man on the plain of Shinar, or on the banks of the Tiber, we find him
to be the same self-seeking, self-exalting, God-excluding creature,
throughout. There is a melancholy consistency in all his purposes, his
principles, and his ways; he ever seeks to shut out God and exalt
himself.

Now, in what light soever we view this Babel confederacy, it is most
instructive to see in it the early display of man's genius and
energies, regardless of God. In looking down along the stream of human
history, we may easily perceive a marked tendency to confederacy, or
association. Man seeks, for the most part, to compass his great ends in
this way. Whether it be in the way of Philanthropy, Religion, or
Politics, nothing can be done without an association of men regularly
organized. It is well to see this principle,--well to mark its
incipient working,--to see the earliest model which the page of
inspiration affords of a human association, as exhibited on the plain
of Shinar, in its design, its object, its attempt, its overthrow. If we
look around us at the present moment we see the whole scene filled with
associations. To name them were useless, for they are as numerous as
are the purposes of the human heart. But it is important to mark that
the first of all these was the Shinar association, for the
establishment of the human interests, and the exaltation of the human
name,--objects which may well be set in competition with any that
engage the attention of this enlightened and civilized age. But, in the
judgment of faith, there is one grand defect, namely, God is shut out;
and to attempt to exalt man, without God, is to exalt him to a dizzy
height only that he may be dashed down into hopeless confusion and
irretrievable ruin. The Christian should only know _one_ association,
and that is, the Church of the living God, incorporated by the Holy
Ghost, who came down from heaven as the witness of Christ's
glorification, to baptize believers into one body, and constitute them
God's dwelling-place. Babylon is the very opposite of this, in every
particular; and she becomes at the close, as we know, "the habitation
of devils." (See Rev. xviii.)

"And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one
language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained
from them which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and
there confound their language, that they may not understand one
another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon
the face of all the earth; and they left off to build the city." Such
was the end of man's first association. Thus it will be to the end.
"Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces
... gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves,
and ye shall be broken in pieces." (Isa. viii. 9.) How different it is
when God associates men! In the second chapter of Acts, we see the
blessed One coming down in infinite grace to meet man in the very
circumstances in which his sin had set him. The Holy Ghost enabled the
messengers of grace to deliver their message in the very tongue wherein
each was born. Precious proof this, that God desired to reach man's
heart with the sweet story of grace! The law from the fiery mount was
not thus promulgated. When God was telling what man ought to be, he
spoke in one tongue; but when he was telling what he himself was, he
spoke in many. Grace broke through the barrier which man's pride and
folly had caused to be erected, in order that every man might hear and
understand the glad tidings of salvation,--"the wonderful works of
God." And to what end was this? Just to associate men on God's ground,
round God's centre, and on God's principles. It was to give them, in
reality, one language, one centre, one object, one hope, one life. It
was to gather them in such a way as that they never should be scattered
or confounded again; to give them a name and a place which should
endure forever; to build for them a tower and a city which should not
only have their top reaching to heaven, but their imperishable
foundation laid _in_ heaven, by the omnipotent hand of God himself. It
was to gather them around the glorious person of a risen and highly
exalted Christ, and unite them all in one grand design of magnifying
and adoring him.

If my reader will turn to the seventh chapter of Revelation, he will
find at the close thereof, "All nations, and kindreds, and people, and
tongues," standing round the Lamb; and, with one voice, ascribing all
praise to him. Thus the three scriptures may be read in most
interesting and profitable connection. In Gen. xi. God gives various
tongues as an expression of his _judgment_; in Acts ii. he gives
various tongues as an expression of _grace_; and in Rev. vii. we see
all those tongues gathered round the Lamb, in _glory_. How much better
it is, therefore, to find our place in God's association than in man's!
The former ends in glory, the latter in confusion; the former is
carried forward by the energy of the Holy Ghost, the latter by the
unhallowed energy of fallen man; the former has for its object the
exaltation of Christ, the latter has for its object the exaltation of
man, in some way or other.

Finally, I would say, that all who sincerely desire to know the true
character, object, and issue of human associations, should read the
opening verses of Genesis xi.; and, on the other hand, all who desire
to know the excellency, the beauty, the power, the enduring character
of divine association, should look at that holy, living, heavenly
corporation, which is called, in the New Testament, the Church of the
living God, the body of Christ, the bride of the Lamb.

May the Lord enable us to look at and apprehend all these things, in
the power of faith; for only in this way can they profit our souls.
Points of truth, however interesting; scriptural knowledge, however
profound and extensive; Biblical criticism, however accurate and
valuable, may all leave the heart barren, and the affections cold. We
want to find Christ in the Word; and, having found him, to feed on him
by faith. This would impart freshness, unction, power, vitality,
energy, and intensity, all of which we deeply stand in need of, in this
day of freezing formalism. What is the value of a chilling orthodoxy
without a living Christ, known in all his powerful, personal
attractions? No doubt, sound doctrine is immensely important. Every
faithful servant of Christ will feel himself imperatively called upon
to "hold fast the form of sound words." But, after all, a living Christ
is the very soul and life, the joints and marrow, the sinews and
arteries, the essence and substance of sound doctrine. May we, by the
power of the Holy Ghost, see more beauty and preciousness in Christ,
and thus be weaned from the spirit and principles of Babylon.

We shall, God willing, consider the remainder of Chapter xi. in the
next section.



CHAPTER XII.


The book of Genesis is, for the most part, taken up with the history of
seven men, namely, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and
Joseph. There is, I doubt not, a specific line of truth brought out in
connection with each of those men. Thus, for example, in Abel we have
the great foundation truth of man's coming to God, in the way of
atonement,--atonement apprehended by faith. In Enoch, we have the
proper portion and hope of the heavenly family; while Noah presents to
us the destiny of the earthly family. Enoch was taken to heaven before
the judgment came; Noah was carried through the judgment into a
restored earth. Thus, in each, we have a distinct character of truth,
and, as a consequence, a distinct phase of faith. My reader can pursue
the subject fully, in connection with the eleventh of Hebrews; and I
feel assured he will find much interest and profit, in so doing. We
shall now proceed with our immediate theme, namely, the call of
Abraham.

By comparing Chapter xii. 1, Chapter xi. 31, with Acts vii. 2-4, we
learn a truth of immense practical value to the soul. "The Lord _had_
said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and _from thy kindred_,
and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee." (Chap.
xii. 1.) Such was the communication made to Abraham,--a communication
of the most definite character, designed of God to act upon Abraham's
heart and conscience. "The God of glory appeared unto our father
Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, and
said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and
come into a land that I will show thee. Then went he forth out of the
land of the Chaldeans, and dwelt in Charran, (or Haran;) and from
thence, _when his father was dead_, he removed him into this land
wherein ye now dwell." (Acts vii. 2-4.) The result of this
communication is given in Chapter xi. 31: "And Terah took Abram his
son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son's son, and Sarai his
daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them
from Ur of the Chaldees, _to go into the land of Canaan_: and they
came _unto Haran, and dwelt there_ ... and Terah died in Haran."

From all these passages taken together, we learn that the ties of
nature hindered the full response of Abraham's soul to the call of God.
Though called to Canaan, he, nevertheless, tarried at Haran, till
nature's tie was snapped by death, and then, with unimpeded step, he
made his way to the place to which "the God of glory" had called him.
This is full of meaning. The influences of nature are ever hostile to
the full realization and practical power of "the calling of God." We
are sadly prone to take lower ground than that which the divine call
would set before us. It needs great simplicity and integrity of faith
to enable the soul to rise to the height of God's thoughts, and to make
our own of that which he reveals.

The apostle's prayer (Eph. i. 15-22) demonstrates how fully he, by the
Holy Ghost, entered into the difficulty with which the Church would
ever have to contend, in seeking to apprehend "the hope of _God's
calling_, and the riches of the glory of _his_ inheritance in the
saints;" because, evidently, if we fail to apprehend the calling, we
cannot "walk worthy" thereof. I must know where I am called to go,
before I can go thither. Had Abraham's soul been fully under the power
of the truth that "God's calling" was to Canaan, and that there, too,
lay "his inheritance," he could not have remained in Charran. And so
with us. If we are led by the Holy Ghost into the understanding of the
truth, that we are called with a heavenly calling; that our home, our
portion, our hope, our inheritance, are all above, "where Christ
sitteth at God's right hand," we could never be satisfied to maintain
a standing, seek a name, or lay up an inheritance, on the earth. The
two things are incompatible: this is the true way to look at the
matter. The heavenly calling is not an empty dogma, a powerless theory,
nor a crude speculation. It is either a divine reality, or it is
absolutely nothing. Was Abraham's call to Canaan a speculation? Was it
a mere theory about which he might talk or argue, while, at the same
time, he continued in Charran? Assuredly not. It was a truth, a divine
truth, a powerfully practical truth. He was called to Canaan, and God
could not possibly sanction his stopping short thereof. Thus it was
with Abraham, and thus it is with us. If we would enjoy the divine
sanction and the divine presence, we must be seeking by faith to act
upon the divine call. That is to say, we must seek to reach, in
experience, in practice, and moral character, the point to which God
has called us, and that point is full fellowship with his own
Son,--fellowship with him in his rejection below, fellowship with him
in his acceptance above.

But, as in Abraham's case, it was death that broke the link by which
nature bound him to Charran; so, in our case, it is death which breaks
the link by which nature ties us down to this present world. We must
realize the truth that we have died in Christ, our Head and
Representative,--that our place in nature and in the world is amongst
the things that were,--that the cross of Christ is to us what the Red
Sea was to Israel, namely, that which separates us forever from the
land of death and judgment. Thus only shall we be able to walk, in any
measure, "worthy of the calling wherewith we are called,"--our high,
our holy, our heavenly calling,--our "calling of God in Christ Jesus."

And here I would dwell for a little on the cross of Christ in its two
grand, fundamental phases, or in other words, the cross as the basis of
our worship and our discipleship, our peace and our testimony, our
relation with God, and our relation with the world. If as a convicted
sinner I look at the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, I behold in it the
everlasting foundation of my peace. I see my "sin" put away, as to the
root or principle thereof, and I see my "sins" borne. I see God to be,
in very deed, "for me," and that, moreover, in the very condition in
which my convicted conscience tells me I am. The cross unfolds God as
the _sinner's_ Friend. It reveals him in that most wondrous character
as the righteous Justifier of the most ungodly sinner. Creation never
could do this. Providence never could do this. Therein I may see God's
power, his majesty, and his wisdom: but what if all these things should
be ranged against me? Looked at in themselves abstractedly, they would
be so, for I am a sinner; and power, majesty, and wisdom, could not put
away my sin, nor justify God in receiving me.

The introduction of the cross, however, changes the aspect of things
entirely. There I find God dealing with sin in such a manner as to
glorify himself infinitely. There I see the magnificent display and
perfect harmony of all the divine attributes. I see love, and such love
as captivates and assures my heart, and weans it, in proportion as I
realize it, from every other object. I see wisdom, and such wisdom as
baffles devils and astonishes angels. I see power, and such power as
bears down all opposition. I see holiness, and such holiness as
repulses sin to the very farthest point of the moral universe, and
gives the most intense expression of God's abhorrence thereof, that
could possibly be given. I see grace, and such grace as sets the sinner
in the very presence of God,--yea, puts him into his bosom. Where could
I see all these things but in the cross? Nowhere else. Look where you
please, and you cannot find aught that so blessedly combines those two
great points, namely, "glory to God in the highest," and "on earth
peace."

How precious, therefore, is the cross, in this its first phase, as the
basis of the sinner's peace, the basis of his worship, and the basis of
his eternal relationship with the God who is there so blessedly and so
gloriously revealed! How precious to God, as furnishing him with a
righteous ground on which to go in the full display of all his
matchless perfections, and in his most gracious dealings with the
sinner! So precious is it to God that, as a recent writer has well
remarked, "All that he has said,--all that he has done, from the very
beginning, indicates that it was ever uppermost in his heart. And no
wonder! His dear and well-beloved Son was to hang there, between heaven
and earth, the object of all the shame and suffering that men and
devils could heap upon him, because he loved to do his Father's will,
and redeem the children of his grace. It will be the grand centre of
attraction, as the fullest expression of his love, throughout
eternity."

Then, as the basis of our practical discipleship and testimony, the
cross demands our most profound consideration. In this aspect of it, I
need hardly say, it is as perfect as in the former. The same cross
which connects me with God has separated me from the world. A dead man
is evidently done with the world; and hence the believer, having died
in Christ, is done with the world; and, having risen with Christ, is
connected with God, in the power of a new life, a new nature. Being
thus inseparably linked with Christ, he of necessity participates in
his acceptance with God, and in his rejection by the world. The two
things go together. The former makes him a worshipper and a citizen in
heaven, the latter makes him a witness and a stranger on earth. That
brings him inside the veil; this puts him outside the camp. The one is
as perfect as the other. If the cross has come between me and my sins,
it has just as really come between me and the world. In the former
case, it puts me into the place of peace with God; in the latter, it
puts me into the place of hostility with the world, that is, in a moral
point of view; though in another sense it makes me the patient, humble
witness of that precious, unfathomable, eternal grace which is set
forth in the cross.

Now, the believer should clearly understand, and rightly distinguish
between, both the above phases of the cross of Christ. He should not
profess to enjoy the one, while he refuses to enter into the other. If
his ear is open to hear Christ's voice within the veil, it should be
open also to hear his voice outside the camp. If he enters into the
atonement which the cross has accomplished, he should also realize the
rejection which it necessarily involves. The former flows out of the
part which God had in the cross; the latter out of the part which man
had therein. It is our happy privilege, not only to be done with our
sins, but to be done with the world also. All this is involved in the
doctrine of the cross. Well, therefore, might the apostle say, "God
forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by which the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Paul
looked upon the world as a thing which ought to be nailed to the cross;
and the world, in having crucified Christ, had crucified all who
belonged to him. Hence there is a double crucifixion, as regards the
believer and the world; and were this fully entered into, it would
prove the utter impossibility of ever amalgamating the two. Beloved
reader, let us deeply, honestly, and prayerfully ponder these things;
and may the Holy Ghost give us the ability to enter into the full
practical power of both the phases of the cross of Christ.

We shall now return to our theme.

We are not told how long Abraham tarried at Haran; yet God graciously
waited on his servant until, freed from nature's clog, he could fully
obey his command. There was, however, no accommodation of that command
to the circumstances of nature. This would never do. God loves his
servants too well to deprive them of the full blessedness of entire
obedience. There was no fresh revelation to Abraham's soul during the
time of his sojourn in Haran. It is well to see this. We must act up to
the light already communicated, and then God will give us more. "To him
that hath shall more be given." This is God's principle. Still we must
remember that God will never _drag_ us along the path of true-hearted
discipleship. This would greatly lack the moral excellency which
characterizes all the ways of God. He does not _drag_ but _draw_ us
along the path which leads to ineffable blessedness in himself; and if
we do not see that it is for our real advantage to break through all
the barriers of nature, in order to respond to God's call, we forsake
our own mercies. But alas! our hearts little enter into this. We begin
to calculate about the sacrifices, the hindrances, and the
difficulties, instead of bounding along the path, in eagerness of soul,
as knowing and loving the One whose call has sounded in our ears.

There is much true blessing to the soul in every step of obedience, for
obedience is the fruit of faith; and faith puts us into living
association and communion with God himself. Looking at obedience in
this light, we can easily see how distinctly it is marked off, in every
feature of it from legality. This latter sets a man with the entire
burden of his sins on him to serve God by keeping the law; hence the
soul is kept in constant torture, and so far from running in the path
of obedience, it has not even taken the very first step. True
obedience, on the contrary, is simply the manifestation or outflow of a
new nature communicated in grace. To this new nature God graciously
imparts precepts for its guidance; and it is perfectly certain that the
divine nature guided by the divine precepts can never by any
possibility resolve itself into legality. What constitutes legality is
the old nature taking up God's precepts and essaying to carry them out.
To attempt to regulate man's fallen nature by God's pure and holy law,
is as useless and absurd as any thing can be. How could fallen nature
breathe an atmosphere so pure? Impossible. Both the atmosphere and the
nature must be divine.

But not only does the blessed God impart a divine nature to the
believer, and guide that nature by his heavenly precepts, he also sets
before it suited hopes and expectations. Thus, in Abraham's case, "_The
God of glory_ appeared unto him." And for what purpose? To set before
his soul's vision an attractive object,--"a land that _I_ will show
thee." This was not compulsion but attraction. God's land was in the
judgment of the new nature,--the judgment of faith, far better than Ur
or Charran: and albeit he had not seen the land, yet, inasmuch as it
was God's land, faith judged it to be worth having, and not only worth
having, but also fully worth the surrender of present things. Hence we
read, "by faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place
which he should after receive as an inheritance obeyed, and he went
out, not knowing whither he went." That is to say, "he walked by faith,
not by sight." Though he had not seen with his eyes, he believed with
his heart, and faith became the great moving spring in his soul. Faith
rests on a far more solid ground than the evidence of our senses, and
that is the word of God. Our senses may deceive us, but God's word
never can.

Now, the entire truth of the divine nature, together with the precepts
which guide and the hopes which animate it, the whole of the divine
doctrine respecting these things is completely thrown overboard by the
system of legalism. The legalist teaches that we must surrender earth
in order to get heaven. But how can fallen nature surrender that to
which it is allied? How can it be attracted by that in which it sees
no charms? Heaven has no charms for nature; yea, it is the very last
place it would like to be found in. Nature has no taste for heaven, its
occupations, or its occupants. Were it possible for nature to find
itself there, it would be miserable. Thus, then, nature has no ability
to surrender earth, and no desire to get heaven. True, it would be glad
to escape hell and its ineffable torment, gloom, and misery. But the
desire to escape hell, and the desire to get heaven, spring from two
very different sources. The former may exist in the old nature; the
latter can only be found in the new. Were there no "lake of fire," and
no "worm" in hell, nature would not so shrink from it. The same
principle holds good in reference to all of nature's pursuits and
desires. The legalist teaches that we must give up sin before we can
get righteousness. But nature cannot give up sin; and as to
righteousness, it absolutely hates it. True, it would like a certain
amount of religion; but it is only with the idea that religion will
preserve it from hell fire. It does not love religion because of its
introducing the soul to the present enjoyment of God and his ways.

How different from all this miserable system of legalism, in every
phase thereof, is "the gospel of the glory of the blessed God!" This
gospel reveals God himself coming down in perfect grace, and putting
away sin by the sacrifice of the cross; putting it away, in the most
absolute manner, on the ground of eternal righteousness, inasmuch as
Christ suffered for it, having been made sin for us. And not only is
God seen putting away sin, but also imparting a new life, even the
risen life of his own risen, exalted, and glorified Son, which life
every true believer possesses, in virtue of being linked, in God's
eternal counsels, with him who was nailed to the cross, but is now on
the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. This nature, as we have
remarked, he graciously guides by the precepts of his holy word,
applied in power by the Holy Ghost. He also animates it by the
presentation of indestructible hopes. He reveals, in the distance, "the
hope of glory"--"a city which hath foundations"--"a better country,
that is an heavenly"--the "many mansions" of the Father's house, on
high--"golden harps"--"green palms," and "white robes"--"a kingdom
which cannot be moved"--everlasting association with himself, in those
regions of bliss and light, where sorrow and darkness can never
enter--the unspeakable privilege of being led, throughout the countless
ages of eternity, "beside the still waters, and through the green
pastures" of redeeming love. How different is all this from the
legalist's notion! Instead of calling upon me to educate and manage, by
the dogmas of systematic religion, an irremediably corrupt nature, in
order that thereby I may surrender an earth that I love, and attain to
a heaven which I hate, he, in infinite grace, and on the ground of
Christ's accomplished sacrifice, bestows upon me a nature which can
enjoy heaven, and a heaven for that nature to enjoy; and, not only a
heaven, but himself the unfailing spring of all heaven's joy.

Such is God's most excellent way. Thus he dealt with Abraham. Thus he
dealt with Saul of Tarsus. Thus he deals with us. The God of glory
showed Abraham a better country than Ur or Charran. He showed Saul of
Tarsus a glory so bright, that it closed his eyes to all earth's
brightest glories, and caused him to count them all "but dung," that he
might win that blessed One who had appeared to him, and whose voice had
spoken to his inmost soul. He saw a heavenly Christ in glory; and,
throughout the remainder of his course, notwithstanding the weakness of
the earthen vessel, that heavenly Christ and that heavenly glory
engrossed his whole soul.

"And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the
plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land." The presence
of the Canaanite in God's land would, necessarily, prove a trial to
Abraham. It would be a demand upon his faith and hope, an exercise of
heart, a trial of patience. He had left Ur and Charran behind, and come
into the country of which "the God of glory" had spoken to him, and
there he finds "the Canaanite." But there, too, he finds the Lord. "And
the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this
land." The connection between the two statements is beautiful and
touching. "The Canaanite was then in the land," and lest Abraham's eye
should rest upon the Canaanite, the present possessor of the land,
Jehovah appears to him as the One who was going to give the land to him
and to his seed forever. Thus Abraham was taken up with the Lord, and
not with the Canaanite. This is full of instruction for us. The
Canaanite in the land is the expression of the power of Satan; but,
instead of being occupied with Satan's power to keep us out of the
inheritance, we are called to apprehend Christ's power to bring us in.
"We wrestle, not with flesh and blood, ... but with spiritual
wickedness in the heavenlies." The very sphere into which we are called
is the sphere of our conflict. Should this terrify us? By no means. We
have Christ there,--a victorious Christ, in whom we are "more than
conquerors." Hence, instead of indulging "a spirit of fear," we
cultivate a spirit of worship. "And there builded he an _altar_ unto
the Lord, who appeared unto him." "And he removed from thence unto a
mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his _tent_." The altar and
the tent give us the two great features of Abraham's character. A
worshipper of God, a stranger in the world,--most blessed
characteristics! Having nothing on earth,--having our all in God.
Abraham had "not so much as to set his foot upon;" but he had God to
enjoy, and that was enough.

However, faith has its trials, as well as its answers. It is not to be
imagined that the man of faith, having pushed out from the shore of
circumstances, finds it all smooth and easy sailing. By no means. Again
and again he is called to encounter rough seas and stormy skies; but it
is all graciously designed to lead him into deeper and more matured
experience of what God is to the heart that confides in him. Were the
sky always without a cloud and the ocean without a ripple, the believer
would not know so well the God with whom he has to do; for, alas! we
know how prone the heart is to mistake the peace of circumstances for
the peace of God. When every thing is going on smoothly and pleasantly,
our property safe, our business prosperous, our children and servants
carrying themselves agreeably, our residence comfortable, our health
excellent, every thing, in short, just to our mind, how apt we are to
mistake the peace which reposes upon such circumstances for that peace
which flows from the realized presence of Christ. The Lord knows this;
and, therefore, he comes in, in one way or another, and stirs up the
nest, that is, if we are found nestling in circumstances, instead of in
himself.

But, again, we are frequently led to judge of the rightness of a path
by its exemption from trial, and _vice versa_. This is a great mistake.
The path of obedience may often be found most trying to flesh and
blood. Thus, in Abraham's case, he was not only called to encounter the
Canaanite, in the place to which God had called him, but there was also
"a famine in the land." Should he, therefore, have concluded that he
was not in his right place? Assuredly not. That would have been to
judge according to the sight of his eyes, the very thing which faith
never does. No doubt it was a deep trial to the heart, an inexplicable
puzzle to nature; but to faith it was all plain and easy. When Paul was
called into Macedonia, almost the first thing he had to encounter was
the prison at Philippi. This, to a heart out of communion, would have
seemed a death-blow to the entire mission. But Paul never questioned
the rightness of his position. He was enabled to "sing praises" in the
midst of it all, assured that every thing was just as it should be: and
so it was; for in the prison of Philippi was one of God's vessels of
mercy, who could not, humanly speaking, have heard the gospel, had not
the preachers of it been thrust into the very place where he was. The
devil was made, in spite of himself, the instrument of sending the
gospel to the ears of one of God's elect.

Now, Abraham should have reasoned in the same way, in reference to the
famine. He was in the very place in which God had set him; and,
evidently, he received no direction to leave it. True, the famine was
there; and, moreover, Egypt was at hand, offering deliverance from
pressure; still the path of God's servant was plain. _It is better to
starve in Canaan, if it should be so, than live in luxury in Egypt._ It
is better far to suffer in God's path, than be at ease in Satan's. It
is better to be poor with Christ, than rich without him. "Abraham had
sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and men servants, and maid servants, and
she asses, and camels." Substantial proofs, the natural heart would,
doubtless, say, of the rightness of his step, in going down to Egypt.
But, ah! he had no altar,--no communion. Egypt was not the place of
God's presence. He lost more than he gained by going thither. This is
ever the case. Nothing can ever make up for the loss of our communion
with God. Exemption from temporary pressure, and the accession of the
greatest wealth are but poor equivalents for what one loses by
diverging a hair's breadth from the straight path of obedience. How
many of us can add our amen to this! How many, in order to avoid the
trial and exercise connected with God's path, have slipped aside into
the current of this present evil world, and thereby brought leanness
and barrenness, heaviness and gloom, into their souls! It may be they
have, to use the common phrase, "made money," increased their store,
obtained the world's favor, been "entreated well" by its Pharaohs,
gotten a name and a position amongst men; but are these a proper
equivalent for joy in God, communion, liberty of heart, a pure,
uncondemning conscience, a thankful, worshipping spirit, vigorous
testimony, and effectual service? Alas, for the man that can think so!
And yet all the above incomparable blessings have been often sold for a
little ease, a little influence, a little money.

Christian reader, let us watch against the tendency to slip aside from
the narrow, yet safe, the _sometimes_ rough, yet _always_ pleasant,
path of simple, wholehearted obedience. Let us keep guard--jealous,
careful guard--over "faith and a pure conscience," for which nothing
can compensate. Should trial come, let us, instead of turning aside
into Egypt, wait on God; and thus the trial, instead of proving an
occasion of stumbling, will prove an opportunity for obedience. Let us,
when tempted to slip into the course of the world, remember him "who
gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present
evil world, according to the will of God, and our Father." (Gal. i. 4.)
If such was his love for us, and such his sense of the true character
of this present world, that he gave himself, in order to deliver us
from it, shall we deny him by plunging again into that from which his
cross has forever delivered us? May God Almighty forbid! May he keep us
in the hollow of his hand, and under the shadow of his wings, until we
see Jesus as he is, and be like him, and with him forever.



CHAPTER XIII.


The opening of this chapter presents to us a subject of immense
interest to the heart,--namely, the true character of divine
restoration. When the child of God has, in any way, declined in his
spiritual condition, and lost his communion, he is in great danger,
when conscience begins to work, of failing in the apprehension of
divine grace, and of stopping short of the proper mark of divine
restoration. Now, we know that God does every thing in a way entirely
worthy of himself. Whether he creates, redeems, converts, restores, or
provides, he can only act like himself. What is worthy of himself is,
ever and only, his standard of action. This is unspeakably happy for
us, inasmuch as we would ever seek to "limit the Holy One of Israel;"
and in nothing are we so prone to limit him as in his restoring grace.
In the case now before us, we see that Abraham was not only delivered
out of Egypt, but brought back "unto the place where his tent had been
_at the beginning_, ... unto the place of the altar which he had made
there _at the first_: and there Abraham called on the name of the
Lord." Nothing can satisfy God, in reference to a wanderer or
backslider, but his being entirely restored. We, in the
self-righteousness of our hearts, might imagine that such an one should
take a lower place than that which he had formerly occupied; and so he
should, were it a question of his merit or his character; but, inasmuch
as it is, altogether, a question of grace, it is God's prerogative to
fix the standard of restoration; and his standard is set forth in the
following passage: "If thou wilt return, O Israel, return _to me_." It
is thus that God restores, and it would be unworthy of himself to do
any thing else. He will either not restore at all, or else restore in
such a way as to magnify and glorify the riches of his grace. Thus,
when the leper was brought back, he was actually conducted "to the door
of the tabernacle of the congregation." When the prodigal returned, he
was set down at the table with the father. When Peter was restored, he
was able to stand before the men of Israel and say, "ye denied the Holy
One, and the Just,"--the very thing which he had done himself, under
the most aggravated circumstances. In all these cases, and many more
which might be adduced, we see the perfectness of God's restoration. He
always brings the soul back to himself, in the full power of grace and
the full confidence of faith. "If thou wilt return, return _to me_."
"Abraham came unto the place where his tent had been at _the
beginning_."

Then, as to the moral effect of divine restoration, it is most deeply
practical. If legalism gets its answer in the _character_ of the
restoration, antinomianism gets its answer in the _effect_ thereof. The
restored soul will have a very deep and keen sense of the evil from
which it has been delivered, and this will be evidenced by a jealous,
prayerful, holy, and circumspect spirit. We are not restored in order
that we may, the more lightly, go and sin again, but rather that we may
"go and sin no more." The deeper my sense of the _grace_ of divine
restoration, the deeper will be my sense of the _holiness_ of it also.
This principle is taught and established throughout all scripture; but
especially in two well-known passages, namely, Psalms xxiii. 3, and 1
John i. 9: "He restoreth my soul: _he leadeth me in the paths of
righteousness_ for his name's sake." And again: "If we confess our
sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to _cleanse
us from all unrighteousness_." The proper path for a divinely-restored
soul is "the path of righteousness." In other words, having tasted
divine grace we walk in righteousness. To talk of grace, while walking
in unrighteousness, is, as the apostle says, to turn "the grace of our
God into lasciviousness." If "grace reigns through righteousness unto
eternal life," it also manifests itself in righteousness, in the
outflow of that life. The grace that forgives us our sins, cleanses us
from all unrighteousness. Those things must never be separated. When
taken together, they furnish a triumphant answer to the legalism and
antinomianism of the human heart.

But there was a deeper trial for Abraham's heart than even the famine,
namely, that arising from the company of one who evidently was not
walking in the energy of personal faith, nor in the realization of
personal responsibility. It seems plain that Lot was, from the very
beginning, borne onward rather by Abraham's influence and example, than
by his own faith in God. This is a very common case. If we look down
along the history of the people of God, we can easily see how that, in
every great movement produced by the Spirit of God, certain individuals
have attached themselves thereto who were not personally participators
of the power which had produced the movement. Such persons go on for a
time, either as a dead weight upon the testimony, or an active
hindrance to it. Thus, in Abraham's case, the Lord called him to leave
his kindred; but he brought his kindred with him. Terah retarded him in
his movement, until death took him out of the way. Lot followed him
somewhat farther, until "the lusts of other things" overpowered him,
and he entirely broke down.

The same thing is observable in the great movement of Israel out of
Egypt. "A mixed multitude" followed them, and caused much defilement,
weakness, and sorrow; for we read, in Numbers xi., "the mixed multitude
that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel _also_
wept again, and said, who shall give us flesh to eat." So also, in the
early days of the Church; and not only so, but in every revival which
has taken place therein, down to the present day, many have been acted
upon by various influences, which, not being divine, proved evanescent;
and the persons so acted upon sooner or later gave way, and found their
proper level. Nothing will endure but that which is of God. I must
realize the link between me and the living God. I must know myself as
one called of him into the position which I occupy, else I shall have
no stability, and exhibit no consistency therein. It will not do for us
to follow in the track of other people, merely because it is their
track. God will graciously give each a path to walk in, a sphere to
move in, and a responsibility to fulfil; and we are bound to know our
calling and the functions thereof, that, by his grace ministered to our
souls daily, we may work therein effectually to his glory. It matters
not what our measure may be, provided it be what God hath dealt to us.
We may have "five talents," or we may have but "one:" still, if we use
the "one," with our eye fixed on the Master, we shall be just as sure
to hear from his gracious lips the words, "well done," as if we had
used the "five." This is encouraging. Paul, Peter, James, and John, had
each his peculiar measure, his specific ministry; and so with all: none
needs to interfere with another. A carpenter has a saw and a plane, a
hammer and a chisel; and he uses each as he needs it. Nothing can be
more worthless than imitation. If, in the natural world, we look at the
various orders of creation, we see no imitation. All have their proper
sphere, their proper functions. And if it be thus in the natural world,
how much more in the spiritual. The field is wide enough for all. In
every house there are vessels of various sizes and various shapes. The
master wants them all.

Let us, therefore, my beloved reader, search and see whether we are
walking under a divine or a human influence; whether our faith stands
in the wisdom of man, or in the power of God; whether we are doing
things because others have done them, or because the Lord has called us
to do them; whether we are merely propped up by the example and
influence of our fellow, or sustained by personal faith in God. These
are serious inquiries. It is, no doubt, a happy privilege to enjoy the
fellowship of our brethren; but if we are propped up by them, we shall
soon make shipwreck. So, also, if we go beyond our measure, our action
will be strained and unsightly, uneasy and unnatural. It is very easy
to see when a man is working in his place, and according to his
measure. All affectation, assumption, and imitation, is contemptible
in the extreme. Hence, though we cannot be great, let us be honest; and
though we cannot be brilliant, let us be genuine. If a person goes
beyond his depth, without knowing how to swim, he will surely flounder.
If a vessel put out to sea, without being sea-worthy and in trim, it
will surely be beaten back into harbor, or lost. Lot left "Ur of the
Chaldees," but he fell in the plains of Sodom. The call of God had not
reached his heart, nor the inheritance of God filled his vision. Solemn
thought! may we ponder it deeply! Blessed be God, there is a path for
each of his servants, along which shines the light of his approving
countenance, and to walk therein should be our chief joy. His approval
is enough for the heart that knows him. True, we may not always be able
to command the approval and concurrence of our brethren; we may
frequently be misunderstood; but we cannot help these things. "The day"
will set all this to rights, and the loyal heart can contentedly wait
for that day, knowing that then "every man shall have praise of God."

But it may be well to examine, more particularly, what it was that
caused Lot to turn aside off the path of public testimony. There is a
crisis in every man's history at which it will assuredly be made
manifest on what ground he is resting, by what motives he is actuated,
and by what objects he is animated. Thus it was with Lot. He did not
die at Charran; but he fell at Sodom. The _ostensible_ cause of his
fall was the strife between his herdmen and those of Abraham; but the
fact is, when one is not really walking with a single eye and purified
affections, he will easily find a stone to stumble over. If he does
not find it at one time, he will at another. If he does not find it
here, he will find it there. In one sense, it makes little matter as to
what may be the apparent cause of turning aside; the _real_ cause lies
underneath, far away, it may be, from common observation, in the hidden
chambers of the heart's affections and desires, where _the world_, in
some shape or form, has been sought after. The strife between the
herdmen might have been easily settled without spiritual damage to
either Abraham or Lot. To the former, indeed, it only afforded an
occasion for exhibiting the beautiful power of faith, and the moral
elevation, the heavenly vantage-ground, on which faith ever sets the
possessor thereof. But to the latter it was an occasion for exhibiting
the thorough worldliness of his heart. The strife no more produced the
worldliness in Lot than it produced the faith in Abraham; it only
manifested, in the case of each, what was really there.

Thus it is always: controversies and divisions arise in the Church of
God, and many are stumbled thereby, and driven back into the world, in
one way or another. They then lay the blame on the controversy and
division, whereas the truth is, that these things were only the means
of developing the real condition of the soul, and the bent of the
heart. The world was in the heart, and _would be_ reached by some
_route_ or another; nor is there much of moral excellency exhibited in
blaming men and things, when the root of the matter lies within. It is
not that controversy and division are not to be deeply deplored:
assuredly they are. To see brethren contending in the very presence of
"the Canaanite and the Perizzite," is truly lamentable and
humiliating. Our language should ever be, "Let there be no strife, I
pray thee, between me and thee ... for we are brethren." Still, why did
not Abraham make choice of Sodom? Why did not the strife drive him into
the world? Why was it not an occasion of stumbling to him? Because he
looked at it from God's point of view. No doubt, he had a heart that
could be attracted by "well-watered plains," just as powerfully as
Lot's heart; but then he did not allow his own heart to choose. He
first let Lot take his choice, and then left God to choose for him.
This was heavenly wisdom. This is what faith ever does: it allows God
to fix its inheritance, as it also allows him to make it good. It is
always satisfied with the portion which God gives. It can say, "the
lines are fallen to me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly
heritage." It matters not where "the lines" fall; for, in the judgment
of faith, they always "fall in pleasant places," just because God casts
them there.

The man of faith can easily afford to allow the man of sight to take
his choice. He can say, "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." What beautiful disinterestedness and moral elevation we have
here! and yet what security! It is certain that, let nature range where
it will, let it take its most comprehensive grasp, its boldest and
highest flight, there is never the slightest danger of its laying its
hand upon faith's treasure. It will seek its portion in quite an
opposite direction. Faith lays up its treasure in a place which nature
would never dream of examining and, as to its approaching thereto, it
could not if it would; and it would not if it could. Hence, therefore,
faith is perfectly safe, as well as beautifully disinterested, in
allowing nature to take its choice.

What, then, did Lot choose when he got his choice. He chose Sodom. The
very place that was about to be judged. But how was this? Why select
such a spot? Because he looked at the outward appearance, and not at
the intrinsic character and future destiny. The intrinsic character was
"_wicked_." Its future destiny was "_judgment_,"--to be destroyed by
"fire and brimstone out of heaven." But, it may be said, "Lot knew
nothing of all this." Perhaps not, nor Abraham either; but God did; and
had Lot allowed God to "choose his inheritance for him," he certainly
would not have chosen a spot that he himself was about to destroy. He
did not, however. He judged for himself. Sodom suited him, though it
did not suit God. His eye rested on the "well-watered plains," and his
heart was attracted by them. "He pitched his tent _toward_ Sodom." Such
is nature's choice! "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present
world." Lot forsook Abraham for the same reason. He left the place of
testimony, and got into the place of judgment.

"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 forever." The
"strife" and "separation," so far from damaging Abraham's spiritual
condition, rather brought out, in full relief, his heavenly principles,
and strengthened in his soul the life of faith. Moreover, it cleared
the prospect for him, and delivered him from the company of one who
could only prove a dead weight. Thus it worked for good, and yielded a
harvest of blessing. It is at once most solemn, and yet most
encouraging, to bear in mind that, in the long run, men find their
proper level. Men who run unsent, break down, in one way or another,
and find their way back to that which they profess to have left. On the
other hand, those who are called of God, and lean on him, are, by his
grace, sustained. "Their path is as the shining light, which shineth
more and more unto the perfect day." The thought of this should keep us
humble, watchful, and prayerful. "Let him that thinketh he standeth
take heed lest he fall," for truly, "there are first that shall be
last, and there are last that shall be first." "He that endureth to the
end, the same shall be saved," is a principle which, whatever be its
specific application, has a wide moral bearing. Many a vessel has
sailed out of harbor in gallant style, with all its canvas spread, amid
cheering and shouting, and with many fair promises of a first-rate
passage; but, alas! storms, waves, shoals, rocks, and quicksands, have
changed the aspect of things; and the voyage that commenced with hope
has ended in disaster. I am here only referring to the path of service
and testimony, and by no means to the question of a man's eternal
acceptance in Christ. This latter, blessed be God, does not in any wise
rest with ourselves, but with him who has said, "I give unto my sheep
eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them
out of my hand." But do we not know that many Christians set out on
some special course of service or testimony, under the impression that
they are called of God thereto, and after a time they break down?
Unquestionably. And, further, very many set out in the profession of
some special principle of action, respecting which they have not been
divinely taught, or the consequences of which they have not maturely
considered in the presence of God, and, as a necessary result, they
themselves have been found after a time in the open violation of those
very principles. All this is deplorable, and should be carefully
avoided. It tends to weaken the faith of God's elect, and causes the
enemies of the truth to speak reproachfully. Each one should receive
his call and his commission directly from the Master himself. All whom
Christ calls into any special service, he will, infallibly, maintain
therein, for he never sent any one a warfare at his own charges. But if
we run unsent, we shall not only be left to _learn_ our folly, but to
_exhibit_ it.

Yet it is not that any one should set himself up as the impersonation
of any principle, or as an example of any special character of service
or testimony. God forbid. This would be the most egregious folly and
empty conceit. It is a teacher's business to set forth God's Word; and
it is a servant's business to set forth the Master's will; but while
all this is fully understood and admitted, we must ever remember the
deep need there is of counting the cost, ere we undertake to build a
tower or go forth to war. Were this more seriously attended to, there
would be far less confusion and failure in our midst. Abraham was
called of God from Ur to Canaan, and hence, God led him forth on the
way. When Abraham tarried at Charran, God waited for him; when he
went down into Egypt, he restored him; when he needed guidance, he
guided him; when there was a strife and a separation, he took care of
him; so that Abraham had only to say, "Oh, how great is thy goodness
which _thou hast laid up_ for them that fear thee; which thou hast
wrought for them that trust in thee, before the sons of men." He lost
nothing by the strife. He had his tent and his altar before; and he had
his tent and his altar afterwards. "Then Abram removed _his tent_ and
came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built
there _an altar_ unto the Lord." Lot might choose Sodom; but as for
Abraham, he sought and found his all in God. There was no altar in
Sodom. Alas! all who travel in that direction are in quest of something
quite different from that. It is never the worship of God, but the love
of the world that leads them thither. And even though they should
attain their object, what is it? How does it end? Just thus: "He gave
them their request, but sent leanness into their souls."



CHAPTER XIV.


We are here presented with an historic record of the revolt of five
kings from under the hand of Chedorlaomer, and a battle consequent
thereon. The Spirit of God can occupy himself with the movements of
"kings and their armies," when such movements are in anywise connected
with the people of God. In the present case, Abraham personally had
nothing whatever to do with the revolt or its consequences. His "tent
and altar" were not likely to furnish an occasion for the declaration
of war, nor yet to be much affected by the outbreak or issue thereof.
The proper portion of a heavenly man could never, by any possibility,
tempt the cupidity nor excite the ambition of the kings and conquerors
of this world.

However, although Abraham was not affected by the battle of "four kings
with five," yet Lot was. His position was such as to involve him in the
whole affair. So long as we are enabled, through grace, to pursue the
path of simple faith, we shall be thrown completely outside the range
of this world's circumstances; but if we abandon our high and holy
position as those whose "citizenship is in heaven," and seek a name, a
place, and a portion in the earth, we must expect to participate in
earth's convulsions and vicissitudes. Lot had taken up his abode in the
plains of Sodom, and was, therefore, deeply and sensibly affected by
the wars of Sodom. It must ever be thus. It is a bitter and a painful
thing for the child of God to mingle himself with the children of this
world. He can never do so without serious damage to his own soul, as
well as to the testimony with which he is entrusted. What testimony was
Lot in Sodom? A very feeble one, indeed, if one at all. The very fact
of his settling himself there was the death-blow to his testimony. To
have spoken a word against Sodom and its ways would have been to
condemn himself,--for why was he there? But in truth, it does not by
any means appear that to testify for God formed any part of his object
in "pitching his tent toward Sodom." Personal and family interests
seem to have been the leading springs of action in his heart; and
though, as Peter tells us, "his righteous soul was vexed with the
filthy conversation of the wicked, from day to day," yet had he but
little power to act against it, even if inclined so to do.

It is important, in a practical point of view, to see that we cannot be
governed by two objects at the same time. For example, I cannot have
before my mind as objects my worldly interests and the interests of the
gospel of Christ. If I go to a town for the purpose of setting-up in
business, then, clearly, business is my object, and not the gospel. I
may, no doubt, propose to myself both to attend to business and to
preach the gospel as well; but, all the while, either one or the other
must be my object. It is not that a servant of Christ may not most
blessedly and effectually preach the gospel and attend to business
also: he assuredly may; but, in such a case, the gospel will be his
object, and not business. Paul preached the gospel and made tents; but
the gospel was his object, and not tent-making. If I make business my
object, the gospel preaching will speedily prove to be formal and
unprofitable work; yea, it will be well if it be not made use of to
sanctify my covetousness. The heart is very treacherous; and it is
often truly astonishing to see how it deceives us when we desire to
gain some special point. It will furnish, in abundance, the most
plausible reasons; while the eyes of our understanding are so blinded
by self-interest or unjudged wilfulness, as to be incapable of
detecting their plausibility. How frequently do we hear persons
defending a continuance in a position which they admit to be wrong,
on the plea that they thereby enjoy a wider sphere of usefulness. To
all such reasoning, Samuel furnishes a pointed and powerful reply: "To
obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams."
Which was--Abraham or Lot--able to do the more good? Does not the
history of those two men prove beyond a question that the most
effectual way to serve the world is to be faithful to it, by separating
from and testifying against it?

But be it remembered that genuine separation from the world can only be
the result of communion with God. I may seclude myself from the world,
and constitute myself the centre of my being, like a monk or a cynic;
but separation to God is a totally different thing. The one chills and
contracts, the other warms and expands. That drives us in upon
ourselves; this draws us out in love and interest for others. That
makes self and its interests our centre; this makes God and his glory
our centre. Thus, in Abraham's case, we see that the very fact of his
separation enabled him to render effectual service to one who had
involved himself in trouble by his worldly ways. "When Abraham heard
that _his brother_ was taken captive, he armed his trained servants,
born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them
unto Dan ... and he brought back all the goods, and also brought again
his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people."
Lot was Abraham's brother, after all; and brotherly love must act. "A
brother is born for adversity;" and it often happens that a season of
adversity softens the heart, and renders it susceptible of kindness,
even from one with whom we have had to part company; and it is
remarkable that, while in verse 12 we read, "they took Lot, _Abraham's
brother's son_," yet in verse 14 we read, "when Abram heard that _his
brother_ was taken captive." The claims of a brother's trouble are
answered by the affections of a brother's heart. This is divine.
Genuine faith, while it always renders us independent, never renders us
indifferent. It will never wrap itself up in its fleece while a brother
shivers in the cold. There are three things which faith does: it
"purifies the heart;" it "works by love;" and it "overcomes the world;"
and all these results of faith are beautifully exhibited in Abraham on
this occasion. His heart was purified from Sodom's pollutions; he
manifested genuine love to Lot, his brother; and, finally, he was
completely victorious over the kings. Such are the precious fruits of
faith,--that heavenly, Christ-honoring principle.

However, the man of faith is not exempt from the assaults of the enemy;
and it frequently happens that immediately after a victory one has to
encounter a fresh temptation. Thus it was with Abraham. "The king of
Sodom went out to meet him, after his return from the slaughter of
Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him." There was,
evidently, a very deep and insidious design of the enemy in this
movement. "The king of Sodom" presents a very different thought, and
exhibits a very different phase of the enemy's power, from what we have
in "Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him." In the former, we
have rather the hiss of the serpent; in the latter, the roar of the
lion; but whether it were the serpent or the lion, the Lord's grace
was amply sufficient; and most seasonably was this grace ministered to
the Lord's servant at the exact moment of need. "And Melchizedek, king
of Salem, brought forth bread and wine, and he was the priest of the
most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the
most high God, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be the most
high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand." We have
here to remark, first, the peculiar point at which Melchizedek enters
the scene; and, secondly, the double effect of his ministry. He did not
come forth when Abraham was in pursuit of Chedorlaomer, but when the
king of Sodom was in pursuit of Abraham. This makes a great moral
difference. A deeper character of communion was needed to meet the
deeper character of conflict.

And then as to the ministry,--the "bread and wine" refreshed Abraham's
spirit, after his conflict with Chedorlaomer; while the benediction
prepared his heart for his conflict with the king of Sodom. Abraham was
a conqueror, and yet he was about to be a combatant, and the royal
priest refreshed the conqueror's spirit, and fortified the combatant's
heart.

It is peculiarly sweet to observe the manner in which Melchizedek
introduces God to the thoughts of Abraham. He calls him "the most high
God, possessor of heaven and earth;" and not only so, but pronounces
Abraham "blessed" of that same God. This was effectually preparing him
for the king of Sodom. A man who was "blessed" of God did not need to
take aught from the enemy; and if "the possessor of heaven and earth"
filled his vision, "the goods" of Sodom could have but little
attraction. Hence, as might be expected, when the king of Sodom made
his proposal, "Give me the persons and take the goods to thyself,"
Abraham replies, "I have lift up my hand unto the Lord, the most high
God, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take from a
thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that
is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich." Abraham
refuses to be enriched by the king of Sodom. How could he think of
delivering Lot from the power of the world, if he himself were governed
thereby? The only true way in which to deliver another is to be
thoroughly delivered myself. So long as I am in the fire, it is quite
impossible I can pluck another out of it. The path of separation is the
path of power, as it is also the path of peace and blessedness.

The world in all its various forms is the great instrument of which
Satan makes use, in order to weaken the hands and alienate the
affections of the servants of Christ. But, blessed be God, when the
heart is true to him, he always comes in to cheer, to strengthen, and
to fortify, at the right time. "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro
throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of
them whose heart is perfect toward him." (2 Chron. xvi. 9.) This is an
encouraging truth for our poor, timid, doubting, faltering hearts.
Christ will be our strength and shield. He will "cover our heads in the
day of battle;" he will "teach our hands to war and our fingers to
fight;" and finally "he will bruise Satan under our feet shortly." All
this is unspeakably comforting to a heart sincerely desirous of making
way against "the world, the flesh, and the devil." May the Lord keep
our hearts true to himself in the midst of the ensnaring scene around
us.



CHAPTER XV.


"After these things, the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision,
saying, Fear not, Abram. I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great
reward." The Lord would not suffer his servant to be a loser, by
rejecting the offers of this world. It was infinitely better for
Abraham to find himself hidden behind Jehovah's shield, than to take
refuge beneath the patronage of the king of Sodom; and to be
anticipating his "exceeding great reward," than to accept "the goods"
of Sodom. The position into which Abraham is put in the opening verse
of our chapter, is beautifully expressive of the position into which
every soul is introduced by the faith of Christ. Jehovah was his
"shield," that he might rest in him; Jehovah was his "reward," that he
might wait for him. So with the believer now: he finds his present
rest, his present peace, his present security, all in Christ. No dart
of the enemy can possibly penetrate the shield which covers the weakest
believer in Jesus.

And then as to the future, Christ fills it. Precious portion! Precious
hope! A portion which can never be exhausted: a hope which will never
make ashamed. Both are infallibly secured by the counsels of God, and
the accomplished atonement of Christ. The present enjoyment thereof is
by the ministry of the Holy Ghost who dwells in us. This being the
case, it is manifest that if the believer is pursuing a worldly career,
or indulging in worldly or carnal desires, he cannot be enjoying either
the "shield" or the "reward." If the Holy Ghost is grieved, he will not
minister the enjoyment of that which is our proper portion, our proper
hope. Hence in the section of Abraham's history now before us, we see
that when he had returned from the slaughter of the kings and rejected
the offer of the king of Sodom, Jehovah rose before his soul in the
double character, as his "shield and his exceeding great reward." Let
the heart ponder this, for it contains a volume of deeply practical
truth. We shall now examine the remainder of the chapter.

In it we have unfolded to us the two great principles of sonship and
heirship. "And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I
go _childless_, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of
Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, thou hast given to me no _seed_: and
lo, one born in my house is mine _heir_." Abraham desired a son, for he
knew upon divine authority that his "seed" should inherit the land.
(Chap. xiii. 15.) Sonship and heirship are inseparably connected in the
thoughts of God. "He that shall come forth out of thine own bowels
shall be thine heir." Sonship is the proper basis of every thing; and
moreover it is the result of God's sovereign counsel and operation, as
we read in James, "of his own will begat he us." Finally, it is founded
upon God's eternal principle of resurrection. How else could it be?
Abraham's body was "dead;" wherefore, in his case, as in every other,
sonship must be in the power of resurrection. Nature is dead, and can
neither beget nor conceive aught for God. There lay the inheritance
stretching out before the patriarch's eye, in all its magnificent
dimensions; but where was the heir? Abraham's body and Sarah's womb
alike answered "_death_." But Jehovah is the God of resurrection, and,
therefore, a "dead body" was the very thing for him to act upon. Had
nature not been dead, God should have put it to death ere he could
fully show himself. The most suitable theatre for the living God is
that from which nature, with all its boasted powers and empty
pretensions, has been totally expelled by the sentence of death.
Wherefore, God's word to Abraham was, "look now toward heaven, and tell
the stars, if thou be able to number them; and he said unto him, So
shall thy seed be." When the God of resurrection fills the vision there
is no limit to the soul's blessing, for he who can quicken the dead,
can do any thing.

"And he believed in the Lord, and he counted it unto him for
righteousness." The imputation of righteousness to Abraham is here
founded upon his believing in the Lord as the Quickener of the dead. It
is in this character that he reveals himself in a world where death
reigns; and when a soul believes in him, as such, it is counted
righteous in his sight. This necessarily shuts man out, as regards his
co-operation, for what can he do in the midst of a scene of death? Can
he raise the dead? Can he open the gates of the grave? Can he deliver
himself from the power of death, and walk forth, in life and liberty,
beyond the limits of its dreary domain? Assuredly not. Well, then, if
he cannot do so, he cannot work out righteousness, nor establish
himself in the relation of sonship. "God is not the God of the dead,
but of the living," and, therefore, so long as a man is under the power
of death, and under the dominion of sin, he can neither know the
position of a son, nor the condition of righteousness. Thus, God alone
can bestow the adoption of sons, and he alone can impute righteousness,
and both are connected with faith in him as the One who raised up
Christ from the dead.

It is in this way that the apostle handles the question of Abraham's
faith, in Romans iv., where he says, "It was not written for his sake
alone, that it was imputed unto him; but for us also to whom it shall
be imputed, _if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from
the dead_." Here the God of resurrection is presented "to us also," as
the object of faith, and our faith in him as the alone ground of our
righteousness. If Abraham had looked up into heaven's vault, spangled
with innumerable stars, and then looked at "his own body now dead," how
could he ever grasp the idea of a seed as numerous as those stars?
Impossible. But he did not look at his own body, but at the
resurrection power of God; and, inasmuch as that was the power which
was to produce the seed, we can easily see that the stars of heaven and
the sand on the sea-shore are but feeble figures indeed; for what
natural object could possibly illustrate the effect of that power which
can raise the dead?

So also, when a sinner hearkens to the glad tidings of the gospel, were
he to look up to the unsullied light of the divine presence, and then
look down into the unexplored depths of his own evil nature, he might
well exclaim, How can I ever get thither? How can I ever be fit to
dwell in that light? Where is the answer? In himself? Nay, blessed be
God, but in that blessed One who travelled from the bosom to the cross
and the grave, and from thence to the throne, thus filling up in his
person and work all the space between those extreme points. There can
be nothing higher than the bosom of God,--the eternal dwelling-place of
the Son; and there can be nothing lower than the cross and the grave;
but, amazing truth! I find Christ in both. I find him in the bosom, and
I find him in the grave. He went down into death in order that he might
leave behind him in the dust thereof the full weight of his people's
sins and iniquities. Christ in the grave exhibits the end of every
thing human,--the end of sin,--the full limit of Satan's power. The
grave of Jesus forms the grand terminus of all. But resurrection takes
us beyond this terminus and constitutes the imperishable basis on which
God's glory and man's blessing repose forever. The moment the eye of
faith rests on a risen Christ, there is a triumphant answer to every
question as to sin, judgment, death, and the grave. The One who
divinely met all these is alive from the dead, and has taken his seat
at the right hand of the majesty in the heavens; and, not only so, but
the Spirit of that risen and glorified One, in the believer,
constitutes him a son. He is quickened out of the grave of Christ; as
we read, "and you, being dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of
your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you
all trespasses." (Col. ii. 13.)

Hence, therefore, sonship, being founded on resurrection, stands
connected with perfect justification,--perfect righteousness,--perfect
freedom from every thing which could, in any wise, be against us. God
could not have us in his presence with sin upon us. He could not suffer
a single speck or stain of sin upon his sons and daughters. The father
could not have the prodigal at _his_ table with the rags of the far
country upon him. He could go forth to meet him in those rags. He could
fall upon his neck and kiss him, in those rags. It was worthy, and
beautifully characteristic of his grace so to do; but then to seat him
at his table in the rags would never do. The grace that brought the
father out to the prodigal, reigns through the righteousness which
brought the prodigal in to the father. It would not have been grace had
the father waited for the son to deck himself in robes of his own
providing; and it would not have been righteous to bring him in in his
rags; but both grace and righteousness shone forth in all their
respective brightness and beauty when the father went out and fell on
the prodigal's neck; but yet did not give him a seat at the table until
he was clad and decked in a manner suited to that elevated and happy
position. God, in Christ, has stooped to the very lowest point of man's
moral condition, that, by stooping he might raise man to the very
highest point of blessedness, in fellowship with himself. From all
this, it follows, that our sonship, with all its consequent dignities
and privileges, is entirely independent of us. We have just as little
to do with it as Abraham's dead body and Sarah's dead womb had to do
with a seed as numerous as the stars which garnish the heavens, or as
the sand on the sea-shore. It is all of God. God the Father drew the
plan, God the Son laid the foundation, and God the Holy Ghost raises
the superstructure; and on this superstructure appears the inscription,
"THROUGH GRACE, BY FAITH, WITHOUT WORKS OF LAW."

But, then, our chapter opens another most important subject to our
view, namely, _heirship_. The question of sonship and righteousness
being fully settled,--divinely and unconditionally settled,--the Lord
said unto Abraham, "I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the
Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it." Here comes out the
great question of heirship, and the peculiar path along which the
chosen heirs are to travel ere they reach the promised inheritance. "If
children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so
be that we _suffer_ with him, that we may be also glorified together."
Our way to the kingdom lies through suffering, affliction, and
tribulation; but, thank God, we can, by faith, say, "the _sufferings_
of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which
shall be revealed in us." And further, we know that "our _light
affliction_, which is but for a moment, worketh out for us a far more
exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Finally, "we glory in
_tribulation_, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience
experience, and experience hope." It is a high honor and a real
privilege to be allowed to drink of our blessed Master's cup, and be
baptized with his baptism; to travel in blest companionship with him
along the road which leads directly to the glorious inheritance. The
Heir and the joint-heirs reach that inheritance by the pathway of
suffering.

But let it be remembered that the suffering of which the joint-heirs
participate has no penal element in it. It is not suffering from the
hand of infinite justice, because of sin; all that was fully met on the
cross, when the divine Victim bowed his sacred head beneath the stroke.
"Christ also hath _once_ suffered for sins," and that "once," was on
the tree and _nowhere else_. He never suffered for sins before, and he
never can suffer for sins again. "_Once_, in the end of the world, (the
end of all flesh,) hath he appeared to put away sin, by the sacrifice
of himself." "Christ was _once_ offered."

There are two ways in which to view a suffering Christ: first, as
bruised of Jehovah; secondly, as rejected of men. In the former, he
stood alone; in the latter, we have the honor of being associated with
him. In the former, I say, he stood alone, for who could have stood
with him? He bore the wrath of God alone; he travelled in solitude down
into "the rough valley that had neither been eared nor sown," and there
he settled forever the question of our sins. _With_ this we had nothing
to do, though _to_ this we are eternally indebted for every thing. He
fought the fight and gained the victory, alone; but he divides the
spoils with us. He was in solitude "in the horrible pit and miry clay;"
but directly he planted his foot on the everlasting "rock" of
resurrection, he associates us with him. He uttered the _cry_ alone; he
sings the "_new song_" in company. (Ps. xl. 2, 3.)

Now, the question is, Shall we refuse to suffer from the hand of man
_with him_ who suffered from the hand of God _for us_? That it is, in a
certain sense, a question is evident from the Spirit's constant use of
the word "if," in connection with it. "If so be we suffer with him."
"If we suffer, we shall reign." There is no such question as to
sonship. We do not reach the high dignity of sons through suffering,
but through the quickening power of the Holy Ghost, founded on the
accomplished work of Christ, according to God's eternal counsel. This
can never be touched. We do not reach the _family_ through suffering.
The apostle does not say, "that ye may be counted worthy of the
_family_ of God for which ye also suffer." They were in the family
already; but they were bound for the kingdom; and their road to that
kingdom lay through suffering; and not only so, but the measure of
suffering for the kingdom would be according to their devotedness and
conformity to the King. The more like we are _to_ him, the more we
shall suffer _with_ him; and the deeper our fellowship with him in the
suffering, the deeper will be our fellowship in the glory. There is a
difference between the _house_ of the Father and the kingdom of the
Son: in the former, it will be a question of capacity; in the latter, a
question of assigned position. All my children may be round my table,
but their enjoyment of my company and conversation will entirely depend
on their capacity. One may be seated on my knee, in the full enjoyment
of his relationship as a child, yet perfectly unable to comprehend a
word I say; another may exhibit uncommon intelligence in conversation,
yet not be a whit happier in his relationship than the infant on my
knee. But when it becomes a question of service for me, or public
identification with me, it is evidently quite another thing. This is
but a feeble illustration of the idea of capacity in the Father's
house, and assigned position in the kingdom of the Son.

But let it be remembered that our suffering with Christ is not a yoke
of bondage, but a matter of privilege; not an iron rule, but a gracious
gift; not constrained servitude, but voluntary devotedness. "Unto you
_it is given_, in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but
also to suffer for his sake." (Phil. i. 29.) Moreover, there can be
little doubt but that the real secret of suffering for Christ is to
have the heart's affections centred in him. The more I love Jesus, the
closer I shall walk with him, and the closer I walk with him, the more
faithfully I shall imitate him, and the more faithfully I imitate him,
the more I shall suffer with him. Thus it all flows from love to
Christ; and then it is a fundamental truth that "we love him because he
first loved us." In this, as in every thing else, let us beware of a
legal spirit; for it must not be imagined that a man, with the yoke of
legality round his neck, is suffering for Christ; alas! it is much to
be feared that such an one does not know Christ; does not know the
blessedness of sonship; has not yet been established in grace; is
rather seeking to reach the family by works of law, than to reach the
kingdom by the path of suffering.

On the other hand, let us see that we are not shrinking from our
Master's cup and baptism. Let us not profess to enjoy the benefits
which his cross secures, while we refuse the rejection which that cross
involves. We may rest assured that the road to the kingdom is not
enlightened by the sunshine of this world's favor, nor strewed with the
roses of its prosperity. If a Christian is advancing in the world, he
has much reason to apprehend that he is not walking in company with
Christ. "If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there
shall also my servant be." What was the goal of Christ's earthly
career? Was it an elevated, influential position in this world? By no
means. What then? He found his place on the cross, between two
condemned malefactors. "But," it will be said, "God was in this." True;
yet man was in it likewise; and this latter truth is what must
inevitably secure our rejection by the world, if only we keep in
company with Christ. The companionship of Christ, which lets me into
heaven, casts me out of earth; and to talk of the former, while I am
ignorant of the latter, proves there is something wrong. If Christ were
on earth, now, what would his path be? Whither would it tend? Where
would it terminate? Would we like to walk with him? Let us answer these
inquiries under the edge of the word, and under the eye of the
Almighty; and may the Holy Ghost make us faithful to an absent, a
rejected, a crucified Master. The man who walks in the Spirit will be
filled with Christ; and, being filled with him, he will not be occupied
with suffering, but with him for whom he suffers. If the eye is fixed
on Christ, the suffering will be as nothing in comparison with the
present joy and future glory.

The subject of heirship has led me much further than I intended; but I
do not regret it, as it is of considerable importance. Let us now
briefly glance at the deeply significant vision of Abraham as set forth
in the closing verses of our chapter. "And _when the sun was going
down_, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great
darkness fell upon him. And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety, that
thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall
serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years: and also
that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall
they come out with great substance.... And it came to pass, that _when
the sun went down_, and it was dark, behold, a smoking furnace, and a
burning lamp that passed between those pieces."

The entire of Israel's history is summed up in those two figures, the
"furnace" and the "lamp." The former presents to us those periods of
their history in which they were brought into suffering and trial;
such, for example, as the long period of Egyptian bondage, their
subjection to the kings of Canaan, the Babylonish captivity, their
present dispersed and degraded condition. During all these periods they
may be considered as passing through the smoking furnace. (See Deut.
iv. 20; 1 Kings viii. 51; Isaiah xlviii. 10.)

Then, in the burning lamp, we have those points in Israel's eventful
history at which Jehovah graciously appeared for their relief, such as
their deliverance from Egypt, by the hand of Moses; their deliverance
from under the power of the kings of Canaan, by the ministry of the
various judges; their return from Babylon, by the decree of Cyrus; and
their final deliverance, when Christ shall appear in his glory. The
inheritance must be reached through the furnace; and the darker the
smoke of the furnace, the brighter and more cheering will be the lamp
of God's salvation.

Nor is this principle confined merely to the people of God as a whole;
it applies just as fully to individuals. All who have ever reached a
position of eminence as _servants_, have endured the furnace before
they enjoyed the lamp. "An horror of great darkness" passed across the
spirit of Abraham. Jacob had to endure twenty-one years of sore
hardship, in the house of Laban. Joseph found his furnace of affliction
in the dungeons of Egypt. Moses spent forty years in the desert. Thus
it must be with all God's _servants_. They must be "tried" first, that,
being found "faithful," they may be "put into the ministry." God's
principle, in reference to those who serve him, is expressed in those
words of St. Paul, "not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride, he
fall into the condemnation of the devil." (1 Tim. iii. 6.)

It is one thing to be _a child of God_; it is quite another to be _a
servant of Christ_. I may love my child very much, yet, if I set him to
work in my garden, he may do more harm than good. Why? Is it because he
is not a dear child? No; but because he is not a practised servant.
This makes all the difference. Relationship and office are distinct
things. Not one of the Queen's children is at present capable of being
her prime minister. It is not that all God's children have not
something to do, something to suffer, something to learn. Undoubtedly
they have; yet it ever holds good that _public service_ and _private
discipline_ are intimately connected in the ways of God. One who comes
forward much in public will need that chastened spirit, that matured
judgment, that subdued and mortified mind, that broken will, that
mellow tone, which are the sure and beautiful result of God's secret
discipline; and it will generally be found that those who take a
prominent place without more or less of the above moral qualifications,
will sooner or later break down.

Lord Jesus, keep thy feeble servants very near unto thine own most
blessed person, and in the hollow of thine hand!



CHAPTER XVI.


Here we find unbelief casting its dark shadow across the spirit of
Abraham, and again turning him aside for a season from the path of
simple, happy confidence in God. "And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold the
Lord hath restrained me from bearing." These words bespeak the usual
impatience of unbelief; and Abram should have treated them accordingly,
and waited patiently on the Lord for the accomplishment of his gracious
promise. The poor heart naturally prefers any thing to the attitude of
_waiting_. It will turn to any expedient, any scheme, any resource,
rather than be kept in that posture. It is one thing to believe a
promise at the first, and quite another thing to wait quietly for the
accomplishment thereof. We can see this distinction constantly
exemplified in a child. If I promise my child any thing, he has no idea
of doubting my word; but yet, I can detect the greatest possible
restlessness and impatience in reference to the time and manner of
accomplishment. And cannot the wisest sage find a true mirror in which
to see himself reflected in the conduct of a child? Truly so. Abraham
exhibits faith, in Chapter xv. and yet he fails in patience in Chapter
xvi. Hence the force and beauty of the apostle's word, in Hebrews vi.
"followers of them who through _faith and patience_ inherit the
promises." God makes a promise: faith believes it; hope anticipates it;
patience _waits_ quietly for it.

There is such a thing in the commercial world as "the present worth" of
a bill or promissory note; for if men are called upon to wait for their
money, they must be paid for waiting. Now, in faith's world, there is
such a thing as the _present_ worth of God's promise; and the scale by
which that worth is regulated is the heart's experimental knowledge of
God; for according to my estimate of God, will be my estimate of his
promise; and moreover, the subdued and patient spirit finds its rich
and full reward in waiting upon him for the accomplishment of all that
he has promised.

However, as to Sarah, the real amount of her word to Abraham is this,
"The Lord has failed me; it may be, my Egyptian maid will prove a
resource for me." Any thing but God for a heart under the influence of
unbelief. It is often truly marvellous to observe the trifles to which
we will betake ourselves when once we have lost the sense of God's
nearness, his infallible faithfulness, and unfailing sufficiency. We
lose that calm and well-balanced condition of soul so essential to the
proper testimony of the man of faith; and, just like other people,
betake ourselves to any or every expedient, in order to reach the
wished-for end, and call that "a laudable use of means."

But it is a bitter thing to take ourselves out of the place of
absolute dependence upon God. The consequences must be disastrous. Had
Sarah said, "Nature has failed me, but God is my resource," how
different it would have been! This would have been her proper ground;
for nature really had failed her. But then it was nature in one shape,
and therefore she wished to try nature in another. She had not learnt
to look away from nature in every shape. In the judgment of God and of
faith, nature in Hagar was no better than nature in Sarah. Nature,
whether young or old, is alike to God; and, therefore, alike to faith;
but, ah! we are only in the power of this truth when we are
experimentally finding our living centre in God himself. When the eye
is taken off that glorious Being, we are ready for the meanest device
of unbelief. It is only when we are consciously leaning on the only
true, the only wise, the living God, that we are enabled to look away
from every creature stream. It is not that we shall despise God's
instrumentality. By no means. To do so would be recklessness and not
faith. Faith values the instrument, not because of itself, but because
of him who uses it. Unbelief looks only at the instrument, and judges
of the success of a matter by the apparent efficiency thereof, instead
of by the sufficiency of him who, in grace, uses it. Like Saul, who,
when he looked at David, and then looked at the Philistine, said, "Thou
art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for thou
art but a youth." Yet the question in David's heart was, not as to
whether he was able, but whether Jehovah was able.

The path of faith is a very simple and a very narrow one. It neither
deifies the means on the one hand, nor despises it on the other. It
simply values it, so far as it is evidently God's means, and no
further. There is a vast difference between God's using the creature to
minister to me, and my using it to shut him out. This difference is not
sufficiently attended to. God used the ravens to minister to Elijah,
but Elijah did not use them to exclude God. If the heart be really
trusting in God, it will not trouble itself about his means. It waits
on him, in the sweet assurance that by what means soever he pleases, he
will bless, he will minister, he will provide.

Now, in the case before us, in this chapter, it is evident that Hagar
was not God's instrument for the accomplishment of his promise to
Abraham. He had promised a son, no doubt, but he had not said that this
son should be Hagar's; and, in point of fact, we find from the
narrative, that both Abraham and Sarah "multiplied their sorrow," by
having recourse to Hagar; for "when she saw that she had conceived, her
mistress was despised in her eyes." This was but the beginning of those
multiplied sorrows which flowed from hastening after nature's
resources. Sarah's dignity was trampled down by an Egyptian bond-woman,
and she found herself in the place of weakness and contempt. The only
true place of dignity and power is the place of felt weakness and
dependence. There is no one so entirely independent of all around as
the man who is really walking by faith, and waiting only upon God; but
the moment a child of God makes himself a debtor to nature or the
world, he loses his dignity, and will speedily be made to feel his
loss. It is no easy task to estimate the loss sustained by diverging,
in the smallest measure, from the path of faith. No doubt, all those
who walk in that path will find trial and exercise; but one thing is
certain, that the blessings and joys which peculiarly belong to them
are infinitely more than a counterpoise; whereas, when they turn aside,
they have to encounter far deeper trial, and naught but that.

"And Sarai said, My wrong be _upon thee_." When we act wrong, we are
ofttimes prone to lay the blame on some one else. Sarah was only
reaping the fruit of her own proposal, and yet she says to Abraham, "My
wrong be upon thee;" and then, with Abraham's permission, she seeks to
get rid of the trial which her own impatience had brought upon her.
"But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold thy maid is in thy hand; do to her
as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled
from her face." This will not do. "The bond-woman" cannot be got rid of
by hard treatment. When we make mistakes, and find ourselves called
upon to encounter the results thereof, we cannot counteract those
results by carrying ourselves with a high hand. We frequently try this
method, but we are sure to make matters worse thereby. If we have done
wrong, we should humble ourselves and confess the wrong, and wait on
God for deliverance. But there was nothing like this manifested in
Sarah's case. Quite the reverse. There is no sense of having done
wrong; and, so far from waiting on God for deliverance, she seeks to
deliver herself in her own way. However, it will always be found that
every effort which we make to rectify our errors, previous to the full
confession thereof, only tends to render our path more difficult. Thus
Hagar had to return, and give birth to her son, which son proved to be
not the child of promise at all, but a very great trial to Abraham and
his house, as we shall see in the sequel.

Now, we should view all this in a double aspect; first, as teaching us
a direct practical principle of much value; and secondly, in a
doctrinal point of view. And, first, as to the direct, practical
teaching, we may learn that when, through the unbelief of our hearts,
we make mistakes, it is not all in a moment, nor yet by our own
devices, we can remedy them. Things must take their course. "Whatsoever
a man soweth that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh
shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit,
shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." This is an unalterable
principle, meeting us again and again on the page of inspiration, and
also on the page of our personal history. Grace forgives the sin and
restores the soul, but that which is sown must be reaped. Abraham and
Sarah had to endure the presence of the bond-woman and her son for a
number of years, and then get rid of them in God's way. There is
peculiar blessedness in leaving ourselves in God's hands. Had Abraham
and Sarah done so on the present occasion, they would never have been
troubled with the presence of the bond-woman and her son; but, having
made themselves debtors to nature, they had to endure the consequences.
But, alas! we are often "like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke," when
it would be our exceeding comfort to "behave and quiet ourselves as a
child that is weaned of his mother." No two figures can be more
opposite than a stubborn bullock and a weaned child. The former
represents a person senselessly struggling under the yoke of
circumstances, and rendering his yoke all the more galling by his
efforts to get rid of it; the latter represents one meekly bowing his
head to every thing, and rendering his portion all the sweeter by
entire subjection of spirit.

And now, as to the doctrinal view of this chapter. We are authorized to
look at Hagar and her son, as figures of the covenant of works, and all
who are thereby brought into bondage. (See Gal. iv. 22-25.) "The flesh"
is, in this important passage, contrasted with "promise;" and thus we
not only get the divine idea as to what the term "flesh" implies, but
also as to Abraham's effort to obtain the seed by means of Hagar,
instead of resting in God's "promise." The two covenants are
allegorized by Hagar and Sarah, and are diametrically opposite the one
to the other. The one gendering to bondage, inasmuch as it raised the
question as to man's competency "to do" and "not to do," and made life
entirely dependent upon that competency. "The man that doeth these
things shall live in them." This was the Hagar-covenant. But the
Sarah-covenant reveals God as the God of promise, which promise is
entirely independent of man, and founded upon God's willingness and
ability to fulfil it. When God makes a promise there is no "if"
attached thereto. He makes it unconditionally, and is resolved to
fulfil it; and faith rests in him in perfect liberty of heart. It needs
no effort of nature to reach the accomplishment of a divine promise.
Here was, precisely, where Abraham and Sarah failed. They made an
effort of nature to reach a certain end, which end was absolutely
secured by a promise of God. This is the grand mistake of unbelief. By
its restless activity, it raises a hazy mist around the soul, which
hinders the beams of the divine glory from reaching it. "He could there
do no mighty works, because of their unbelief." One great
characteristic virtue of faith is, that it ever leaves the platform
clear for God to show himself; and truly, when he shows himself, man
must take the place of a happy worshipper.

The error into which the Galatians allowed themselves to be drawn, was
the addition of something of nature to what Christ had already
accomplished for them by the cross. The gospel which had been preached
to them and which they had received, was the simple presentation of
God's absolute, unqualified, and unconditional, grace. "Jesus Christ
had been evidently set forth crucified among them." This was not merely
promise divinely made, but promise divinely and most gloriously
accomplished. A crucified Christ settled every thing in reference both
to God's claims and man's necessities. But the false teachers upset all
this, or sought to upset it, by saying, "Except ye be circumcised after
the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved." This, as the apostle teaches
them, was in reality "making Christ of none effect." Christ must either
be a _whole_ Saviour, or _no_ Saviour at all. The moment a man says,
"Except _ye_ be this or that, ye cannot be saved," he totally subverts
Christianity; for in Christianity I find God coming down to me _just as
I am_, a lost, guilty, self-destroyed sinner; and coming moreover with
a full remission of _all_ my sins, and a full salvation from my lost
estate, all perfectly wrought by himself on the cross.

Hence, therefore, a man who tells me, "You must be so and so, in order
to be saved," robs the cross of all its glory, and robs me of all my
peace. If salvation depends upon our being or doing aught, we shall
inevitably be lost. Thank God it does not; for the great fundamental
principle of the gospel is, that God is ALL,--man is NOTHING. It is not
a mixture of God and man. It is all of God. The peace of the gospel
does not repose in part on Christ's work, and in part on man's work; it
reposes _wholly_ on Christ's work, because that work is
perfect,--perfect forever; and it renders all who put their trust in it
as perfect as itself.

Under the law, God as it were stood still to see what man could do; but
in the gospel God is seen acting, and as for man, he has but to "stand
still and see the salvation of God." This being so, the inspired
apostle hesitates not to say to the Galatians, "Christ is become of no
effect unto you; whosoever of you are justified by law ([Greek: en
nomô]), ye are fallen from grace." If man has any thing to do in the
matter, God is shut out; and if God is shut out, there can be no
salvation, for it is impossible that man can work out a salvation by
that which proves him a lost creature; and then if it be a question of
_grace_, it must be all grace. It cannot be half grace, half law. The
two covenants are perfectly distinct. It cannot be half Sarah and half
Hagar. It must be either the one or the other. If it be Hagar, God has
nothing to do with it; and if it be Sarah, man has nothing to do with
it. Thus it stands throughout. The law addresses man, tests him, sees
what he is really worth, proves him a ruin, and puts him under the
curse; and not only puts him under it, but keeps him there so long as
he is occupied with it,--so long as he is alive. "The law hath dominion
over a man so long as he liveth;" but when he is dead, its dominion
necessarily ceases so far as he is concerned, though it still remains
in full force to curse every _living_ man.

The gospel, on the contrary, assuming man to be lost, ruined, dead,
reveals God as he is,--the Saviour of the lost,--the Pardoner of the
guilty,--the Quickener of the dead. It reveals him, not as exacting
aught from man, (for what could be expected from one who has died a
bankrupt?) but as exhibiting his own independent grace in redemption.
This makes a material difference and will account for the extraordinary
strength of the language employed in the Epistle to the Galatians: "I
marvel"--"Who hath bewitched you?"--"I am afraid of you"--"I stand in
doubt of you"--"I would they were even cut off that trouble you." This
is the language of the Holy Ghost, who knows the value of a full Christ
and a full salvation; and who also knows how essential the knowledge of
both is to a lost sinner. We have no such language as this in any other
epistle; not even in that to the Corinthians, although there were some
of the grossest disorders to be corrected amongst them. All human
failure and error can be corrected by bringing in God's grace; but the
Galatians, like Abraham in this chapter, were going away from God, and
returning to the flesh. What remedy could be devised for this? How can
you correct an error which consists in departing from that which alone
can correct any thing? To fall from grace, is to get back under the
law, from which nothing can ever be reaped but "the CURSE." May the
Lord establish our hearts in his own most excellent grace!



CHAPTER XVII.


Here we have God's remedy for Abraham's failure set before us. "And
when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared unto Abram,
and said unto him, _I am the Almighty God_: walk before _me_, and be
thou _perfect_."[15] This is a most comprehensive verse. It is very
evident that Abraham had not been walking before the Almighty God when
he adopted Sarah's expedient in reference to Hagar. It is faith alone
that can enable a man to walk up and down before an Almighty One.
Unbelief will ever be thrusting in something of self, something of
circumstances, second causes, and the like, and thus the soul is robbed
of the joy and peace, the calm elevation, and holy independence, which
flow from leaning upon the arm of One who can do every thing. I believe
we deeply need to ponder this. God is not such an abiding reality to
our souls as he ought to be, or as he would be, were we walking in more
simple faith and dependence.

"Walk before _me_." This is true power. To walk thus, implies our
having nothing whatever before our hearts save God himself. If I am
founding my expectation upon men and things, I am not walking before
God, but before men and things. It is of the utmost importance to
ascertain who or what I have before me as an object. To what am I
looking? On whom or what am I leaning, at this moment? Does God
_entirely_ fill my future? Have men or circumstances aught to do
therein? Is there any space allotted to the creature? The only way in
which to get above the world is to walk by faith, because faith so
completely fills the scene with God, that there is no room for the
creature,--no room for the world. If God fills up my entire range of
vision, I can see nothing else; and then I am able to say with the
Psalmist, "My soul, wait thou _only_ upon God; for my expectation is
from him. He _only_ is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence, I
shall not be moved." (Ps. lxii. 5, 6.) This word "only" is deeply
searching. Nature cannot say this. Not that it will, save when under
the direct influence of a daring and blasphemous skepticism, formally
shut out God altogether; but it, assuredly, cannot say, "_He only_."

Now, it is well to see that, as in the matter of salvation, so in all
the details of actual life, from day to day, God will not share his
glory with the creature. From first to last, it must be "he only;" and
this, too, in reality. It will not do to have the language of
dependence upon God on our lips, while our hearts are really leaning on
some creature resource. God will make all this fully manifest; he will
test the heart; he will put faith into the furnace. "Walk before me,
and be thou perfect." Thus it is we reach the proper point. When the
soul is enabled, by grace, to get rid of all its fondly-cherished
creature expectations, then, and only then, it is prepared to let God
act; and when he acts all must be well. He will not leave any thing
undone. He will perfectly settle every thing on behalf of those who
simply put their trust in him. When unerring wisdom, omnipotent power,
and infinite love combine, the confiding heart may enjoy unruffled
repose. Unless we can find some circumstance too big or too little for
"the Almighty God," we have no proper base on which to found a single
anxious thought. This is an amazing truth, and one eminently calculated
to put all who believe it into the blessed position in which we find
Abraham in this chapter. When God had, in effect, said to him, "Leave
_all_ to me and I will settle it for you, beyond your utmost desires
and expectations; the seed and the inheritance, and every thing
pertaining thereto, will be fully and everlastingly settled, according
to the covenant of the Almighty God,"--then "_Abram fell on his face_."
Truly blessed attitude! the only proper one for a thoroughly empty,
feeble, and unprofitable sinner to occupy in the presence of the living
God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the possessor of all things, "the
Almighty God."

"And God talked with him." It is when man is in the dust that God can
talk to him in grace. Abraham's posture here is the beautiful
expression of entire prostration, in the presence of God, in the sense
of utter weakness and nothingness. And this, be it observed, is the
sure precursor of God's revelation of himself. It is when the creature
is laid low that God can show himself in the unclouded effulgence of
what he is. He will not give his glory to another. He can reveal
himself, and allow man to worship in view of that revelation; but until
the sinner takes his proper place, there can be no unfolding of the
divine character. How different is Abraham's attitude in this and the
preceding chapter! There, he had nature before him; here, he has the
Almighty God. There, he was an actor; here, he is a worshipper. There,
he was betaking himself to his own and Sarah's contrivance; here, he
leaves himself and his circumstances, his present and his future, in
God's hands, and allows him to act in him, for him, and through him.
Hence, God can say, "I will make"--"I will establish"--"I will
give"--"I will bless." In a word, it is all God and his actings; and
this is real rest for the poor heart that has learnt any thing of
itself.

The covenant of circumcision is now introduced. Every member of the
household of faith must bear in his body the seal of that covenant.
There must be no exception. "He that is born in thy house, and he that
is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant
shall be in your flesh, for an everlasting covenant. And the
uncircumcised man-child, whose flesh of his foreskin is not
circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people: he hath broken
my covenant." We are taught in Romans iv., that circumcision was "a
seal of the righteousness of faith." "Abraham believed God, and it was
counted unto him for righteousness." Being thus counted righteous, God
set his "seal" upon him.

The seal with which the believer is now sealed is not a mark in the
flesh, but "that Holy Spirit of promise, whereby he is sealed unto the
day of redemption." This is founded upon his everlasting connection
with Christ, and his perfect identification with him, in death and
resurrection; as we read, in Colossians, "And ye are complete in him,
which is the head of all principality and power. In whom also ye are
_circumcised_ with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off
the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ;
buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him, through
the faith of the operation of God who hath raised him from the dead.
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh,
hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all
trespasses." This is a most glorious passage, unfolding to us the true
idea of what circumcision was meant to typify. Every believer belongs
to "the circumcision" in virtue of his living association with him who,
by his cross, has forever abolished every thing that stood in the way
of his church's perfect justification. There was not a speck of sin on
the conscience, nor a principle of sin in the nature of his people, for
which Christ was not judged on the cross; and they are now looked upon
as having died with Christ, lain in the grave with Christ, been raised
with Christ, perfectly accepted in him,--their sins, their iniquities,
their transgressions, their enmity, their uncircumcision, having been
entirely put away by the cross. The sentence of death has been written
on the flesh; but the believer is in possession of a new life, in union
with his risen Head in glory.

The apostle in the above passage teaches that the Church was quickened
out of the grave of Christ; and moreover, that the forgiveness of all
her trespasses is as complete, and as entirely the work of God, as was
the raising of Christ from the dead; and this latter, we know, was the
result of "God's mighty power," or, as it may be rendered, "according
to the energy of the might of his power" (Eph. i. 19),--a truly
wonderful expression, calculated to set forth the magnitude and glory
of redemption, as well as the solid basis on which it rests.

What rest--perfect rest--for the heart and conscience is here! What
full relief for the burdened spirit! _All_ our sins buried in the grave
of Christ,--not one--even the smallest--left out! God did this for us!
All that his searching eye could detect in us, he laid on the head of
Christ when he hung upon the cross! He judged him there and then,
instead of judging us, in hell forever! Precious fruit, this, of the
admirable, the profound, the eternal counsels of redeeming love! And we
are "sealed," not with a certain mark cut in our flesh, but with the
Holy Ghost. The entire household of faith is sealed thus. Such is the
dignity, the value, the changeless efficacy of the blood of Christ,
that the Holy Ghost--the Third Person of the eternal Trinity--can take
up his abode in all those who have put their trust therein.

And now, what remains for those who know these things, save to "be
steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." Thus
may it be, O Lord, through the grace of thy Holy Spirit!

FOOTNOTES:

[15] I would here offer a remark as to the word "perfect." When Abraham
was called upon to be "perfect," it did not mean perfect to himself;
for this he never was, and never could be. It simply meant that he
should be perfect as regards the object before his heart,--that his
hopes and expectations were to be perfectly and undividedly centred in
the "Almighty God."

In looking through the New Testament, we find the word "perfect" used
in at least four distinct senses. In Matt. v. 48, we read, "Be ye
therefore _perfect_, even as your Father which is in heaven is
perfect." Here we learn from the context that the word "perfect" refers
to the principle of our walk. At verse 44, we read, "love your enemies,
... that ye may be the sons of your Father which is in heaven; for he
maketh the sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and sendeth rain
upon the just and the unjust." Hence to be "perfect" in the sense of
Matt. v. 48 is to act on a principle of grace toward all, even toward
those who are injurious and hostile. A Christian going to law, and
asserting or contending for his rights, is not "perfect as his Father;"
for his Father is dealing in _grace_, whereas he is dealing in
_righteousness_.

The question here is not as to the right or wrong of going to law with
worldly people (as to brethren, 1 Cor. vi. is conclusive). All I
contend for is, that a Christian so doing is acting in a character the
direct opposite to that of his Father; for assuredly he is not going to
law with the world. He is not now on a judgment-seat, but on a
mercy-seat--a throne of grace. He showers his blessings upon those who,
were he to go to law with them, should be in hell. Wherefore it is
plain that a Christian, when he brings a man before the judgment-seat,
is not "perfect as his Father which is in heaven is perfect."

At the close of Matt. xviii. we have a parable which teaches us that a
man who asserts his rights is ignorant of the true character and proper
effect of grace. The servant was not _unrighteous_ in demanding what
was due to him; but he was _ungracious_. He was totally unlike his
master. He had been forgiven ten thousand talents, and yet he could
seize his fellow by the throat for a paltry hundred pence. What was the
consequence? He was delivered to the tormentors. He lost the happy
sense of _grace_, and was left to reap the bitter fruits of having
asserted his _rights_, while being himself a subject of _grace_. And,
observe further, he was called "a _wicked_ servant," not because of
having owed "ten thousand talents," but because of not having forgiven
the "hundred pence." _The master_ had ample grace to settle the former,
but _he_ had not grace to settle the latter. This parable has a solemn
voice for all Christians going to law; for although in the application
of it, it is said, "so shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you from
your heart, forgive not every one _his brother_ their trespasses," yet
is the principle of general application, that a man acting in
righteousness will lose _the sense_ of grace.

In Hebrews ix. we have another sense of the term "perfect." Here, too,
the context settles the import of the word. It is "perfect, as
pertaining to the conscience." This is a deeply important use of the
term. The worshipper under the law never could have a perfect
conscience, for the simplest reason possible, because he never had a
perfect sacrifice. The blood of a bullock and a goat did well enough
_for a time_, but it could not do _forever_, and therefore could not
give a perfect conscience. Now, however, the weakest believer in Jesus
is privileged to have a perfect conscience. Why? Is it because he is a
_better man_ than the worshipper under the law? Nay; but because he has
gotten a _better sacrifice_. If Christ's sacrifice is perfect forever,
the believer's conscience is perfect forever. The two things
necessarily go together. For the Christian not to have a perfect
conscience is a dishonor to the sacrifice of Christ. It is tantamount
to saying that his sacrifice is only temporary, and not eternal in its
effect; and what is this but to bring it down to the level of the
sacrifices under the Mosaic economy.

It is very needful to distinguish between perfection in the flesh and
perfection as to conscience. To pretend to the former, is to exalt
_self_; to refuse the latter, is to dishonor Christ. The babe in Christ
should have a perfect conscience; whereas St. Paul had not, nor could
have, perfect flesh. The flesh is not presented in the word as a thing
which is to be perfected, but as a thing which has been crucified. This
makes a wide difference. The Christian has sin in him, but not _on_
him. Why? Because Christ who had no sin _in_ him, ever, had sin on him
when he was nailed to the cross.

Finally, in Phil. iii. we have two other senses of the word "perfect."
The apostle says, "not as though I had already attained, either were
already _perfect_;" and yet a little farther on he says, "Let as many
as be _perfect_ be thus minded." The former refers to the apostle's
full and everlasting conformity to Christ in glory. The latter refers
to our having Christ as the all-engrossing object before the heart's
affections.



CHAPTER XVIII.


This chapter affords a beautiful exemplification of the results of an
obedient, separated walk. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if
any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup
with him, and he with me." (Rev. iii. 20.) Again, we read, "Jesus
answered, and said unto him, If a man love me he will keep my words,
and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our
abode with him." (John xiv. 23.) From these passages, taken in
connection with our chapter, we learn that an obedient soul enjoys a
character of communion entirely unknown to one who moves in a worldly
atmosphere.

This does not touch, in the most remote manner, the question of
forgiveness or justification. All believers are clothed in the same
spotless robe of righteousness,--all stand in one common justification,
under the eye of God. The one life flows down from the Head in heaven
through all the members on earth. This is plain. The doctrine, in
reference to the above important points, is fully established in the
word; and has been, again and again, unfolded through the foregoing
pages of this volume. But we should remember that justification is one
thing, and the fruit thereof quite another. To be a child is one thing,
to be an obedient child is quite another. Now, a father loves an
obedient child, and will make such a child more the depositary of his
thoughts and plans. And is this not true, in reference to our heavenly
Father? Unquestionably. John xiv. 23, puts this quite beyond dispute;
and, moreover, it proves that for one to speak of loving Christ and not
to "keep his words," is hypocrisy. "If a man love me, he will keep my
words." Hence, if we are not keeping Christ's words, it is a sure proof
we are not walking in the love of his name. Love to Christ is proved by
doing the things which he commands, and not by merely saying, "Lord,
Lord." It is of very little avail to say, "I go, sir," while the heart
has no idea of going.

However, in Abraham we see one who, however he may have failed in
detail, was nevertheless characterized in the main by a close, simple,
and elevated walk with God; and in the interesting section of his
history now before us, we find him in the enjoyment of three special
privileges, namely, providing refreshment _for_ the Lord, enjoying full
communion _with_ the Lord, and interceding for others _before_ the
Lord. These are high distinctions; and yet are they only such as ever
result from an obedient, separated, holy walk. Obedience refreshes the
Lord, as being the fruit of his own grace in our hearts. We see in the
only perfect man that ever lived how he constantly refreshed and
delighted the Father. Again and again God bore testimony to him from
heaven, as his "beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased." The path of
Christ furnished a continual feast to heaven. His ways were ever
sending up a fragrant incense to the throne of God. From the manger to
the cross, he did always the things which pleased his Father. There was
no interruption, no variation, no salient point. He was the only
perfect One. "There only can the Spirit trace a perfect life below."
Here and there, as we look along the current of inspiration, we find
one and another who occasionally refreshed the mind of heaven. Thus, in
the chapter before us, we find the tent of the stranger at Mamre
affording refreshment to the Lord himself,--refreshment lovingly
offered and willingly accepted. (Ver. 1-8.)

Then we find Abraham enjoying high communion _with_ the Lord, first in
reference to his own personal interests, (ver. 9-15,) and secondly in
reference to the destinies of Sodom. (Ver. 16, 21.) What confirmation
to Abraham's heart in the absolute promise "_Sarah_ shall have a son!"
Yet this promise only elicited a laugh from Sarah, as it had elicited
one from Abraham in the preceding chapter.

There are two kinds of laughter spoken of in scripture. There is first
the laughter with which the Lord fills our mouth, when, at some trying
crisis, he appears in a signal manner for our relief. "When the Lord
turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then
was our mouth filled with _laughter_, and our tongue with singing: then
said they among the heathen, the Lord hath done great things for them;
the Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad." (Ps.
cxxvi. 1, 2.)

Again, there is the laughter with which unbelief fills our mouths, when
God's promises are too magnificent for our narrow hearts to take in, or
the visible agency too small in our judgment for the accomplishment of
his grand designs. The first of these we are never ashamed or afraid to
avow. Zion's sons are not ashamed to say, "then was our mouth filled
with laughter." (Ps. cxxvi. 2.) When Jehovah makes us to laugh, we may
laugh heartily. "But Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was
afraid." Unbelief makes us cowards and liars; faith makes us bold and
truthful. It enables us to "come boldly," and to "draw near with true
hearts."

But, further, Abraham is made the depositary of God's thoughts and
counsels about Sodom. Though having nothing to do with it personally,
yet he was so near the Lord that he was let into his mind in reference
to it. The way to know the divine purposes about this present evil
world, is not to be mixed up with it in its schemes and speculations,
but to be entirely separated from it. The more closely we walk with
God, and the more subject we are to his word, the more we shall know of
his mind about every thing. I do not need to study the newspaper in
order to know what is going to happen in the world. God's word reveals
all I want to know. In its pure and sanctifying pages I learn all about
the character, the course, and the destiny of the world; whereas, if I
go to the men of the world for news, I may expect that the devil will
use them to cast dust in my eyes.

Had Abraham visited Sodom in order to obtain information about its
facts, had he applied to some of its leading intelligent men, to know
what they thought of Sodom's present condition and future prospects,
how would he have been answered? Doubtless they would have called his
attention to their agricultural and architectural schemes, the vast
resources of the country; they would have placed before his eyes one
vast, mingled scene of buying and selling, building and planting,
eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. Doubtless, too,
they would never dream of judgment, and if any one had made mention
thereof, their mouths would have been filled with infidel laughter.
Hence, then, it is plain, that Sodom was not the place in which to
learn about Sodom's end. No; "the place, where Abraham stood before the
Lord," afforded the only proper point from whence to take in the whole
prospect. There he could stand entirely above the fogs and mists which
had gathered upon Sodom's horizon. There, in the clearness and calmness
of the divine presence, he could understand it all. And what use did he
make of his knowledge and his elevated position? How was he occupied in
the Lord's presence? The answer to these inquiries leads us to the
third special privilege enjoyed by our patriarch in this chapter,
namely,--

Intercession for others _before_ the Lord. He was enabled to plead for
those who were mixed up in Sodom's defilement, and in danger of being
involved in Sodom's judgment. This was a happy and a holy use to make
of his place of nearness to God. Thus it is ever. The soul that can
"draw near to God," in the assurance of faith, having the heart and
conscience perfectly at rest, being able to repose in God as to the
past, the present, and the future,--that soul will be able and willing
to intercede for others. The man who has on "the whole armor of God,"
will be able to pray for all "saints." And, oh! what a view this gives
us of the intercession of our Great High-priest, who has passed into
the heavens! "What infinite repose he enjoys in all the divine
counsels!" With what conscious acceptance he sits enthroned amid the
brightness of the Majesty in the heavens! And with what efficacy he
pleads before that Majesty for those who are toiling along amid the
defilement of this present scene! Happy, ineffably happy, they who are
the subjects of such all-prevailing intercession! At once happy and
secure. Would that we had hearts to enter into all this,--hearts
enlarged by personal communion with God, to take in more of the
infinite fulness of his grace, and the suitability of his provision,
for all our need.

We see in this scripture that how blessed soever Abraham's intercession
might be, yet it was limited, because the intercessor was _but a man_.
It did not reach the need. He said, "I will speak _yet but this once_,"
and there he stopped short, as if afraid of having presented too large
a draft at the treasury of infinite grace, or forgetting that faith's
check was never yet dishonored at God's bank. It was not that he was
straitened in God. By no means. There was abundance of grace and
patience in him to have hearkened to his dear servant, had he proceeded
even to three or one. But the servant was limited. He was afraid of
overdrawing his account. He ceased to ask, and God ceased to give. Not
so our blessed Intercessor. Of him it can be said, "He is able to save
_to the uttermost_, ... seeing he _ever_ liveth to make intercession."
May our hearts cling to him in all our need, our weakness, and our
conflict.

Before closing this section, I would offer a remark, which, whether it
may be regarded as properly flowing out of the truth contained therein,
or not, is nevertheless worthy of consideration. It is of the utmost
importance in the study of scripture to distinguish between God's moral
government of the world, and the specific hope of the Church. The
entire body of Old Testament prophecy, and much of the New, treats of
the former, and, in so doing, presents, I need hardly say, a subject of
commanding interest to every Christian. It is interesting to know what
God is doing, and will do, with all the nations of the
earth,--interesting to read God's thoughts about Tyre, Babylon,
Nineveh, and Jerusalem,--about Egypt, Assyria, and the land of Israel.
In short, the entire range of Old Testament prophecy demands the
prayerful attention of every true believer. But let it be remembered,
we do not find therein contained the proper hope of the Church. How
could we? If we have not therein the Church's existence directly
revealed, how could we have the Church's hope? Impossible. It is not
that the Church cannot find there a rich harvest of divine moral
principles, which she may most happily and profitably use. She
undoubtedly can; but this is quite another thing from finding there her
proper existence and specific hope. And yet, a large portion of the
Old-Testament prophecies has been applied to the Church; and this
application has involved the whole subject in such mist and confusion
that simple minds are scared away from the study; and, in neglecting
the study of prophecy, they have also neglected that which is quite
distinct from prophecy, properly so called, even the hope of the
Church; which hope, be it well remembered, is not any thing which God
is going to do with the nations of the earth, but to meet the Lord
Jesus in the clouds of heaven, to be forever with him, and forever like
him.

Many may say, I have no _head_ for prophecy. Perhaps not, but you have
a _heart_ for Christ? Surely if you love Christ, you will love his
appearing, though you may have no capacity for prophetic
investigation. An affectionate wife may not have a head to enter into
her husband's affairs; but she has a heart for her husband's return.
She might not be able to understand his ledger and day-book; but she
knows his footstep and recognizes his voice. The most unlettered saint,
if only he has affection for the person of the Lord Jesus, can
entertain the most intense desire to see him; and this is the Church's
hope. The apostle could say to the Thessalonians, "Ye turned to God
from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to _wait for his Son
from heaven_." (1 Thess. i. 9, 10.) Now, evidently, those Thessalonian
saints could, at the moment of their conversion, have known little, if
any thing, of prophecy, or the special subject thereof; and yet they
were, at that very moment, put into the full possession and power of
the specific hope of the Church,--even the coming of the Son. Thus is
it throughout the entire New Testament. There, no doubt, we have
prophecy,--there, too, we have God's moral government; but, at the same
time, numberless passages might be adduced in proof of the fact that
the common hope of Christians in apostolic times--the simple,
unimpeded, and unencumbered hope--was, THE RETURN OF THE BRIDEGROOM.
May the Holy Ghost revive "that blessed hope" in the Church,--may he
gather in the number of the elect, and "make ready a people prepared
for the Lord!"



CHAPTER XIX.


There are two methods which the Lord graciously adopts, in order to
draw the heart away from this present world. The first is, by setting
before it the attractiveness and stability of "things above." The
second is, by faithfully declaring the evanescent and shakeable nature
of "things on the earth." The close of Hebrews xii. furnishes a
beautiful example of each of these methods. After stating the truth,
that we are come unto mount Zion, with all its attendant joys and
privileges, the apostle goes on to say, "See that ye refuse not him
that speaketh: for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on
earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that
speaketh from heaven; whose voice then shook the earth, but now he hath
promised, saying, Yet once I shake, not only the earth, but also
heaven. Now this word Once signifieth the removal of the shakeable
things, as of things that are made, that the unshakeable things may
remain." Now it is much better to be _drawn_ by the joys of heaven,
than _driven_ by the sorrows of earth. The believer should not wait to
be shaken out of present things. He should not wait for the world to
give him up before he gives up the world. He should give it up in the
power of communion with heavenly things. There is no difficulty in
giving up the world when we have, by faith, laid hold of Christ: the
difficulty would then be to hold it. If a scavenger were left an estate
of ten thousand a year, he would not long continue to sweep the
streets. Thus, if we are realizing our portion amid the unshakeable
realities of heaven, we shall find little difficulty in resigning the
delusive joys of earth. Let us now look at the solemn section of
inspired history here set before us.

In it we find Lot "sitting in the gate of Sodom," the place of
authority. He has evidently made progress. He has "got on in the
world." Looked at from a worldly point of view, his course has been a
successful one. He at first "pitched his tent _toward_ Sodom." Then, no
doubt, he found his way into it; and now we find him sitting in the
gate,--a prominent, influential post. How different is all this from
the scene with which the preceding chapter opens! But, ah! my reader,
the reason is obvious. "_By faith_ Abraham sojourned in the land of
promise, as in a _strange country_, dwelling in tabernacles." We have
no such statement in reference to Lot.[16] It could not be said, "By
faith Lot sat in the gate of Sodom." Alas! no: he gets no place among
the noble army of confessors,--the great cloud of witnesses to the
power of faith. The world was his snare, present things his bane. He
did not "endure as seeing him who is invisible." He looked at "the
things which are seen, and temporal:" whereas Abraham looked at "the
things which are unseen and eternal." There was a most material
difference between those two men, who, though they started together on
their course, reached a very different goal, so far as their public
testimony was concerned. No doubt Lot was saved, yet it was "so as by
fire," for, truly, "his work was burned up." On the other hand, Abraham
had "an abundant entrance ministered unto him into the everlasting
kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."

Further, we do not find that Lot is permitted to enjoy any of the high
distinctions and privileges with which Abraham was favored. Instead of
refreshing the Lord, Lot gets his righteous soul vexed; instead of
enjoying communion _with_ the Lord, he is at a lamentable distance
_from_ the Lord; and lastly, instead of interceding for others, he
finds enough to do to intercede for himself. The Lord remained to
commune with Abraham, and merely sent his angels to Sodom; and these
angels could, with difficulty be induced to enter into Lot's house, or
partake of his hospitality: "they said, Nay, but _we will abide in the
street all night_." What a rebuke! How different from the willing
acceptance of Abraham's invitation, as expressed in the words, "So do
as thou hast said."

There is a great deal involved in the act of partaking of any one's
hospitality. It expresses, when intelligently looked at, full
fellowship with him. "I will come in unto him, and sup _with him_, and
_he with me_." "If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come
into my house and abide." If they had not so judged her, they would not
have accepted her invitation.

Hence, the angels' word to Lot contains a most unqualified condemnation
of his position in Sodom. They would rather abide in the street all
night, than enter under the roof of one in a wrong position. Indeed,
their only object in coming to Sodom seems to have been to deliver
Lot, and that, too, because of Abraham; as we read: "And it came to
pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that _God remembered
Abraham_, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he
overthrew the cities in which Lot dwelt." This is strongly marked. It
was simply for Abraham's sake that Lot was suffered to escape: the Lord
has no sympathy with a worldly mind; and such a mind it was that had
led Lot to settle down amid the defilement of that guilty city. Faith
never put him there; a spiritual mind never put him there; "his
righteous soul" never put him there. It was simple love for this
present evil world that led him first to "_choose_," then to "pitch his
tent toward," and finally, to "sit in the gate of Sodom." And, oh! what
a portion he chose. Truly it was a broken cistern which could hold no
water,--a broken reed which pierced his hand. It is a bitter thing to
seek, in any wise, to manage for ourselves; we are sure to make the
most grievous mistakes. It is infinitely better to allow God to order
all our ways for us, to commit them all, in the spirit of a little
child, to him who is so willing and so able to manage for us,--to put
the pen, as it were, into his blessed hand, and allow him to sketch out
our entire course according to his own unerring wisdom and infinite
love.

No doubt Lot thought he was doing well for himself and his family when
he moved to Sodom; but the sequel shows how entirely he erred; and it
also sounds in our ears a voice of deepest solemnity,--a voice telling
us to beware how we yield to the incipient workings of a worldly
spirit. "Be content with such things as ye have." Why? Is it because
you are so well off in the world? Because you have all that your poor
rambling hearts would seek after? Because there is not so much as a
single chink in your circumstances, through which a vain desire might
make its escape? Is this to be the ground of our contentment? By no
means. What then? "For he hath said, I will never leave thee nor
forsake thee." Blessed portion! Had Lot been content therewith, he
never would have sought the well-watered plains of Sodom.

And then, if we need any further ground of inducement to the exercise
of a contented spirit, truly we have it in this chapter. What did Lot
gain in the way of happiness and contentment? Little indeed. The people
of Sodom surround his house, and threaten to break into it; he seeks to
appease them by a most humiliating proposition, but all in vain. If a
man will mingle with the world for the purpose of self-aggrandizement,
he must make up his mind to endure the sad consequences. We cannot
profit by the world, and at the same time bear effectual testimony
against its wickedness. "This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he
will needs be a judge." This will never do. The true way to judge is to
stand apart, in the moral power of grace, not in the supercilious
spirit of Pharisaism. To attempt to reprove the world's ways while we
profit by association with it, is vanity; the world will attach very
little weight to such reproof and such testimony. Thus it was, too,
with Lot's testimony to his sons-in-law; "he seemed as one that
mocked." It is vain to speak of approaching judgment, while finding our
place, our portion, and our enjoyment, in the very scene which is to be
judged.

Abraham was in a far better position to speak of judgment, inasmuch as
he was entirely outside of the sphere thereof. The tent of the stranger
at Mamre was in no danger, though Sodom were in flames. Oh, that our
hearts longed more after the precious fruits of a realized
strangership, so that instead of having, like poor Lot, to be dragged
by main force out of the world, and casting a lingering look behind, we
might, with holy alacrity bound forward like a racer towards the goal!

Lot evidently longed after the scene which he was forced by angelic
power to abandon; for not only had the angels to lay hold of him and
hasten him away from the impending judgment, but even when exhorted to
escape for _his life_ (which was all he could save from the wreck) and
flee to the mountain, he replies, "Oh! not so, my Lord: behold, now,
thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy
mercy which thou hast showed unto me in saving _my life_; and I cannot
escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me and I die: behold, now,
_this city_ is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: oh, let me
escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live." What
a picture! He seems like a drowning man, ready to catch even at a
floating feather. Though commanded by the angel to flee to the
mountain, he refuses, and still fondly clings to the idea of "a little
city,"--some little shred of the world. He feared death in the place to
which God was mercifully directing him,--yea, he feared all manner of
evil, and could only hope for safety in some little city, some spot of
his own devising. "Oh, let me escape _thither, and my soul shall
live_." How sad! There is no casting himself wholly upon God. Alas! he
had too long walked at a distance from him; too long breathed the dense
atmosphere of a "city," to be able to appreciate the pure air of the
divine presence, or lean on the arm of the Almighty. His soul seemed
completely unhinged; his worldly nest had been abruptly broken up, and
he was not quite able to nestle himself, by faith, in the bosom of God.
He had not been cultivating communion with the invisible world; and,
now, the visible was passing away from beneath his feet with tremendous
rapidity. The "fire and brimstone from heaven" were about to fall upon
that in which all his hopes and all his affections were centred. The
thief had broken in upon him, and he seems entirely divested of
spiritual nerve and self-possession. He is at his wits' end; but the
worldly element, being strong in his heart, prevails, and he seeks his
only refuge in "a little city." Yet he is not at ease even there, for
he leaves it and gets up to the mountain. He does through fear what he
would not do at the command of God's messenger.

And then, see his end! His own children make him drunk, and in his
drunkenness he becomes the instrument of bringing into existence the
Ammonites and the Moabites,--the determined enemies of the people of
God. What a volume of solemn instruction is here! Oh, my reader, see
here what the world is! see what a fatal thing it is to allow the heart
to go out after it! What a commentary is Lot's history upon that brief
but comprehensive admonition, "Love not the world!" This world's Sodoms
and its Zoars are all alike. There is no security, no peace, no rest,
no solid satisfaction for the heart therein. The judgment of God hangs
over the whole scene; and he only holds back the sword, in
long-suffering mercy, not willing that any should perish, but that all
should come to repentance.

Let us, then, seek to pursue a path of holy separation from the world.
Let us, while standing outside its entire range, be found cherishing
the hope of the Master's return. May its well-watered plains have no
charms for our hearts. May its honors, its distinctions, and its
riches, be all surveyed by us in the light of the coming glory of
Christ. May we be enabled, like the holy patriarch Abraham, to get up
into the presence of the Lord, and, from that elevated ground, look
forth upon the scene of wide-spread ruin and desolation,--to see it
all, by faith's anticipative glance, a smoking ruin. _Such it will be._
"The earth also, and the things that are therein, shall be burned up."
All that about which the children of this world are so intensely
anxious--after which they are so eagerly grasping--for which they are
so fiercely contending--all--all will be burned up. And who can tell
how soon? "Where is Sodom? Where is Gomorrah? Where are the cities of
the plain,--those cities which were once all life, and stir, and
bustle? Where are they now? All gone! swept away by the judgment of
God! Consumed by his fire and brimstone!" Well, his judgments now hang
over this guilty world. The day is at hand; and, while judgments
impend, the sweet story of grace is being told out to many an ear.
Happy they who hear and believe that story! Happy they who flee to the
strong mountain of God's salvation! who take refuge behind the cross of
the Son of God, and therein find pardon and peace!

God grant that the reader of these lines may know what it is, with a
conscience purged from sin, and his heart's affections purged from the
defiling influence of the world, to wait for the Son from heaven.

FOOTNOTES:

[16] It would furnish a very searching question for the heart, in
reference to every undertaking, were we to ask, "Am I doing this by
faith?" "Whatever is not of faith is sin;" and, "Without faith it is
impossible to please God."



CHAPTER XX.


We have two distinct points in this chapter: first, the moral
degradation to which the child of God sometimes subjects himself in the
view of the world; and, secondly, the moral dignity which always
belongs to him in the view of God. Abraham again exhibits the dread of
circumstances which the heart can so easily understand. He sojourns in
Gerar, and fears the men of that place. Judging that God was not there,
he forgets that he is always with him. He seems to be more occupied
with the men of Gerar than with the One who was stronger than they.
Forgetting God's ability to protect his wife, he has recourse to the
same stratagem which, years before, he had adopted in Egypt. This is
very admonitory. The father of the faithful was carried away, by taking
his eye off God. He lost for a little his centre in God, and,
therefore, gave way. How true it is that we are only strong as we cling
to God in the sense of our perfect weakness. So long as we are in the
path of his appointment, nothing can harm us. Had Abraham simply leaned
on God, the men of Gerar would not have meddled with him; and it was
his privilege to have vindicated God's faithfulness in the midst of the
most appalling difficulties. Thus, too, he would have maintained his
own dignity as a man of faith.

It is often a source of sorrow to the heart to mark how the children of
God dishonor him, and, as a consequence, lower themselves before the
world by losing the sense of his sufficiency for every emergency. So
long as we live in the realization of the truth that _all_ our springs
are in God, so long shall we be above the world, in every shape and
form. There is nothing so elevating to the whole moral being as faith:
it carries one entirely beyond the reach of this world's thoughts; for
how can the men of the world, or even worldly-minded Christians,
understand the life of faith? Impossible: the springs on which it draws
lie far away beyond their comprehension. They live on the surface of
present things. So long as they can _see_ what they deem a proper
foundation for hope and confidence, so long they are hopeful and
confident; but the idea of resting solely on the promise of an unseen
God, they understand not. But the man of faith is calm in the midst of
scenes in which nature can _see_ nothing. Hence it is that faith ever
seems, in the judgment of nature, such a reckless, improvident,
visionary thing. None but those who know God, can ever approve the
actings of faith, for none but they really understand the solid and
truly reasonable ground of such actings.

In this chapter we find the man of God actually exposing himself to the
rebuke and reproach of the men of the world, by reason of his actings
when under the power of unbelief. Thus it must ever be. Nothing but
faith can impart true elevation to a man's course and character. We
may, it is true, see some who are naturally upright and honorable in
their ways, yet nature's uprightness and honor cannot be trusted: they
rest on a bad foundation, and are liable to give way at any moment. It
is only faith which can impart a truly elevated moral tone, because it
connects the soul in living power with God, the only Source of true
morality. And it is a remarkable fact that, in the case of all those
whom God has graciously taken up, we see that, when off the path of
faith, they sank even lower than other men. This will account for
Abraham's conduct in this part of his history.

But there is another point of much interest and value brought out here.
We find that Abraham had harbored an evil thing for a number of years:
he had, it seems, started upon his course with a certain reserve in his
soul, which reserve was the result of his want of full, unqualified
confidence in God. Had he been able fully to trust God in reference to
Sarah, there would have been no need of any reserve or subterfuge
whatever. God would have fenced her round about from every ill; and who
can harm those who are the happy subjects of his unslumbering
guardianship? However, through mercy, Abraham is enabled to bring out
the root of the whole matter,--to confess and judge it thoroughly, and
get rid of it. This is the true way to act. There can be no real
blessing and power till every particle of leaven is brought forth into
the light and there trampled under foot. God's patience is exhaustless.
He can wait. He can bear with us; but he never will conduct a soul to
the culminating point of blessing and power while leaven remains known
and unjudged. Thus much as to Abimelech and Abraham. Let us now look at
the moral dignity of the latter, in the view of God.

In the history of God's people, whether we look at them as a whole, or
as individuals, we are often struck with the amazing difference between
what they are in God's view, and what they are in the view of the
world. God sees his people in Christ. He looks at them through Christ;
and hence he sees them "without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing."
They are as Christ is before God. They are perfected forever, as to
their standing in Christ. "They are not in the flesh but in the
Spirit."

But, in themselves, they are poor, feeble, imperfect, stumbling,
inconsistent creatures; and, inasmuch as it is what they are in
themselves, and that alone, that the world takes knowledge of,
therefore it is that the difference seems so great between the divine
and the human estimate.

Yet it is God's prerogative to set forth the beauty, the dignity, and
the perfection of his people. It is his exclusive prerogative, inasmuch
as it is he himself who has bestowed those things. They are only comely
through the comeliness which he has put upon them; and it is therefore
due to him to declare what that comeliness is; and truly he does it in
a manner worthy of himself, and never more blessedly than when the
enemy comes forth to injure, to curse, or accuse. Thus, when Balak
seeks to curse the seed of Abraham, Jehovah's word is: "I have not
beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither have I seen perverseness in Israel."
"How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel."
Again, when Satan stands forth to resist Joshua, the word is, "The Lord
rebuke thee, O Satan, ... is not this a brand plucked out of the
fire?" Thus he ever puts himself between his people and every tongue
that would accuse them. He does not answer the accusation by a
reference to what his people are in themselves, or to what they are in
the view of the men of this world, but to what he himself has made
them, and where he set them.

Thus, in Abraham's case, he might lower himself in the view of
Abimelech, king of Gerar; and Abimelech might have to rebuke him, yet,
when God comes to deal with the case, he says to Abimelech, "Behold,
thou art but a dead man;" and of Abraham he says, "He is a prophet, and
he shall pray for thee." Yes, with all "the integrity of his heart, and
the innocency of his hands," the king of Gerar was "but a dead man;"
and, moreover, he must be a debtor to the prayers of the erring and
inconsistent stranger for the restoration of the health of his
household. Such is the manner of God: he may have many a secret
controversy with his child on the ground of his practical ways; but
directly the enemy enters a suit against him, Jehovah ever pleads his
servant's cause. "Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm."
"He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye." "It is God that
justifieth, who is he that condemneth?" No dart of the enemy can
penetrate the shield, behind which the Lord has hidden the very
feeblest lamb of his blood-bought flock. He hides his people in his
pavilion, sets their feet upon the Rock of ages, lifts their head above
their enemies round about, and fills their hearts with the everlasting
joy of his salvation.

His name be praised for evermore!



CHAPTER XXI.


"And the Lord visited Sarah, as he had said, and the Lord did unto
Sarah as he had spoken." Here we have accomplished promise,--the
blessed fruit of patient waiting upon God. None ever waited in vain.
The soul that takes hold of God's promise by faith has gotten a stable
reality which will never fail him. Thus was it with Abraham; thus was
it with all the faithful from age to age; and thus will it be with all
those who are enabled, in any measure, to trust in the living God. Oh,
it is a wonderful blessing to have God himself as our portion and
resting-place, amid the unsatisfying shadows of this scene through
which we are passing; to have our anchor cast within the veil; to have
the word and oath of God, the two immutable things, to lean upon, for
the comfort and tranquillity of our souls.

When God's promise stood before the soul of Abraham, as an accomplished
fact, he might well have learnt the futility of his own effort to reach
that accomplishment. Ishmael was of no use whatever, so far as God's
promise was concerned. He might, and did, afford something for nature's
affections to entwine themselves around, thus furnishing a more
difficult task for Abraham to perform afterwards; but he was in no wise
conducive to the development of the purpose of God, or to the
establishment of Abraham's faith,--quite the reverse. Nature can never
do aught for God. The Lord must "visit," and the Lord must "do," and
faith must wait, and nature must be still; yea, must be entirely set
aside as a dead, worthless thing, and then the divine glory can shine
out, and faith find in that outshining all its rich and sweet reward.
"Sarah conceived and bare Abraham a son in his old age, _at the set
time_ of which God had spoken to him." There is such a thing as God's
"set time," his "due season," and for this the faithful must be content
to wait. The time may seem long, and hope deferred may make the heart
sick; but the spiritual mind will ever find its relief in the assurance
that all is for the ultimate display of God's glory. "For the vision is
for an appointed time, but _at the end_ it shall speak, and not lie;
though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not
tarry ... but the just shall live by his faith." (Hab. ii. 3, 4.) This
wondrous faith! It brings into our present all the power of God's
future, and feeds upon God's promise as a present reality. By its power
the soul is kept hanging upon God, when every outward thing seems to be
against it; and, "at the set time," the mouth is filled with laughter.
"Abraham was an hundred years old when his son Isaac was born unto
him." Thus nature had nothing to glory in. "Man's extremity was God's
opportunity;" and Sarah said, "_God_ hath made me to laugh." All is
triumph when God is allowed to show himself.

Now, while the birth of Isaac filled Sarah's mouth with laughter, it
introduced an entirely new element into Abraham's house. The son of the
free-woman very speedily developed the true character of the son of the
bond-woman. Indeed, Isaac proved in principle to be to the household of
Abraham what the implantation of the new nature is in the soul of a
sinner. It was not _Ishmael changed_, but it was _Isaac born_. The son
of the bond-woman could never be any thing else but that. He might
become a great nation; he might dwell in the wilderness and become an
archer; he might become the father of twelve princes;--but he was the
son of the bond-woman all the while. On the contrary, no matter how
weak and despised Isaac might be, he was the son of the free-woman. His
position and character, his standing and prospects, were all from the
Lord. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born
of the Spirit is spirit."

Regeneration is not a change of the old nature, but the introduction of
a new: it is the implantation of the nature or life of the second Adam,
by the operation of the Holy Ghost, founded upon the accomplished
redemption of Christ, and in full keeping with the sovereign will or
counsel of God. The moment a sinner believes in his heart and confesses
with his mouth the Lord Jesus, he becomes the possessor of a new life,
and that life is Christ. He is born of God, is a child of God, is a son
of the free-woman. (See Rom. x. 9; Col. iii. 4; 1 John iii. 1, 2; Gal.
iii. 26; iv. 31.)

Nor does the introduction of this new nature alter, in the slightest
degree, the true, essential character of the old. This latter continues
what it was, and is made in no respect better; yea, rather, there is
the full display of its evil character in opposition to the new
element. "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against
the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other." There they are
in all their distinctness, and the one is only thrown into relief by
the other.

I believe this doctrine of the two natures in the believer is not
generally understood; and yet, so long as there is ignorance of it, the
mind must be utterly at sea, in reference to the true standing and
privileges of the child of God. Some there are, who think that
regeneration is a certain change which the old nature undergoes; and,
moreover, that this change is gradual in its operation, until at length
the whole man becomes transformed. That this idea is unsound can be
proved by various quotations from the New Testament. For example, "the
carnal mind is enmity against God." How can that which is thus spoken
of ever undergo any improvement? The apostle goes on to say, "it is not
subject to the law of God, _neither indeed can be_." If it _cannot be_
subject to the law of God, how can it be improved? How can it undergo
any change? Again, "that which is born of the flesh is flesh." Do what
you will with flesh, and it is flesh all the while. As Solomon says,
"Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar, among wheat with a
pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him." (Prov. xxvii.
22.) There is no use in seeking to make foolishness wise: you must
introduce heavenly wisdom into the heart that has been heretofore only
governed by folly. Again, "ye have put off the old man." (Col. iii. 9.)
He does not say, Ye have improved or are seeking to improve "the old
man;" but, Ye have put it off. This gives us a totally different idea.
There is a very great difference between seeking to mend an old
garment, and casting it aside altogether, and putting on a new one.
This is the idea of the last-quoted passage. It is a putting off the
old and a putting on of the new. Nothing can be more distinct or
simple.

Passages might easily be multiplied to prove the unsoundness of the
theory, with respect to the gradual improvement of the old nature,--to
prove that the old nature is dead in sins, and utterly unrenewable and
unimproveable; and, moreover, that the only thing we can do with it is,
to keep it under our feet in the power of that new life which we have
in union with our risen Head in the heavens.

The birth of Isaac did not improve Ishmael, but only brought out his
real opposition to the child of promise. He might have gone on very
quietly and orderly till Isaac made his appearance; but then he showed
what he was by persecuting and mocking at the child of resurrection.
What, then, was the remedy? To make Ishmael better? By no means; but,
"cast out this bond-woman and her son; for the son of this bond-woman
shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac." (8-10.) Here was the
only remedy. "That which is crooked cannot be made straight;" therefore
you have only to get rid of the crooked thing altogether, and occupy
yourself with that which is divinely straight. It is labor lost to seek
to make a crooked thing straight. Hence all efforts after the
improvement of nature are utterly futile, so far as God is concerned.
It may be all very well for men to cultivate and improve that which is
of use to themselves; but God has given his children something
infinitely better to do, even to cultivate that which is his own
creation, the fruits of which, while they in no wise serve to exalt
nature, are entirely to his praise and glory.

Now, the error into which the Galatian churches fell, was the
introduction of that which addressed itself to nature. "Except ye be
circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved." Here
salvation was made to depend upon something that man could be, or man
could do, or man could keep. This was upsetting the whole glorious
fabric of redemption, which, as the believer knows, rests exclusively
upon what Christ is, and what he has done. To make salvation dependent
in the most remote manner upon any thing in, or done by, man, is to set
it entirely aside. In other words, Ishmael must be entirely cast out,
and all Abraham's hopes be made to depend upon what God had done and
given in the person of Isaac. This, it is needless to say, leaves man
nothing to glory in. If present or future blessedness were made to
depend upon even a divine change wrought in nature, flesh might glory.
Though my nature were improved, it would be something of _me_, and thus
God would not have _all_ the glory. But when I am introduced into a new
creation, I find it is all of God, designed, matured, developed by
himself alone. God is the actor, and I am a worshipper; he is the
blesser, and I am the blessed; he is "the better," and I am "the less;"
(Heb. vii. 7;) he is the giver, and I am the receiver. This is what
makes Christianity what it is; and, moreover, distinguishes it from
every system of human religion under the sun, whether it be Romanism,
Puseyism, or any other _ism_ whatsoever. Human religion gives the
creature a place more or less; it keeps the bond-woman and her son in
the house; it gives man something to glory in. On the contrary,
Christianity excludes the creature from all interference in the work of
salvation; casts out the bond-woman and her son, and gives _all_ the
glory to him to whom alone it is due.

But let us inquire who this bond-woman and her son really are, and what
they shadow forth. Galatians iv. furnishes ample teaching as to these
two points. In a word then the bond-woman represents the covenant of
the law; and her son represents all who are "of works of law," or on
that principle ([Greek: ex ergôn nomou]). This is very plain. The
bond-woman only genders to bondage, and can never bring forth a free
man. How can she? The law never could give liberty, for so long as a
man was alive it ruled him. (Rom. vii. 1.) I can never be free so long
as I am under the dominion of any one. But while I live, the law rules
me; and nothing but death can give me deliverance from its dominion.
This is the blessed doctrine of Romans vii. "Wherefore, my brethren, ye
also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should
be married to another, even to him that is raised from the dead, that
we should bring forth fruit unto God." This is freedom; for, "If the
Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (John viii. 36.)
"So, then, brethren, we are not children of the bond-woman, but of the
free." (Gal. iv. 31.)

Now, it is in the power of this freedom that we are enabled to obey the
command, "Cast out this bond-woman and her son." If I am not
consciously free, I shall be seeking to attain liberty in the strangest
way possible, even by keeping the bond-woman in the house; in other
words, I shall be seeking to get life by keeping the law; I shall be
establishing any own righteousness. No doubt, it will involve a
struggle to cast out this element of bondage, for legalism is natural
to our hearts. "The thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight, because
of his son." Still, however grievous it may be, it is according to the
divine mind that we should abidingly "stand fast in the liberty
wherewith Christ hath made us free, and not be entangled again with the
yoke of bondage." (Gal. v. 1.) May we, beloved reader, so fully and
experimentally enter into the blessedness of God's provision for us in
Christ that we may be done with all thoughts about the flesh, and all
that it can be, do, or produce. There is a fulness in Christ which
renders all appeal to nature utterly superfluous and vain.



CHAPTER XXII.


Abraham is now in a fit moral position to have his heart put to a most
severe test. The long-cherished reserve being put forth from his heart,
in Chap. xx.--the bond-woman and her son being put forth from his
house, as in Chap. xxi., he now stands forth in the most honored
position in which any soul can be placed, and that is a position of
trial from the hand of God himself. There are various kinds of trial:
trial from the hand of Satan; trial from surrounding circumstances; but
the highest character of trial is that which comes directly from the
hand of God, when he puts his dear child into the furnace for the
purpose of testing the reality of his faith. God will do this: he must
have reality. It will not do to say, "Lord, Lord," or, "I go, sir." The
heart must be probed to the very bottom, in order that no element of
hypocrisy or false profession may be allowed to lodge there. "My son,
give me _thine heart_." He does not say, "Give me thine head, or thine
intellect, or thy talents, or thy tongue, or thy money;" but "Give me
thine heart:" and in order to prove the sincerity of our response to
this gracious command, he will lay his hand upon something very near
our hearts. Thus he says to Abraham, "Take now thy son, thine only son
Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and
offer him there for a burnt-offering, upon one of the mountains which I
will tell thee of." This was coming very close to Abraham's heart. It
was passing him through a searching crucible indeed. God "requires
truth in the inward parts." There may be much truth on the lips, and
much in the intellect, but God looks for it in the heart. It is no
ordinary proof that will satisfy God, as to the love of our hearts. He
himself did not rest satisfied with giving an ordinary proof. He gave
his Son, and we should aim at giving very striking proofs of our love
to him who so loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins.

However, it is well to see that God confers a signal honor upon us when
he thus tests our hearts. We never read that "the Lord did tempt Lot."
No; Sodom tempted Lot. He never reached a sufficiently high elevation
to warrant his being tried by the hand of Jehovah. It was too plainly
manifest that there was plenty between his heart and the Lord, and it
did not, therefore, require the furnace to bring that out. Sodom would
have held out no temptation whatever to Abraham. This was made manifest
in his interview with Sodom's king, in Chapter xiv. God knew well that
Abraham loved him far better than Sodom; but he would make it manifest
that he loved him better than any one or any thing, by laying his hand
upon the nearest and dearest object. "Take now thy son, thine only son,
Isaac." Yes, Isaac, the child of promise; Isaac, the object of
long-deferred hope, the object of parental love, and the one in whom
all the kindreds of the earth were to be blessed. This Isaac must be
offered as a burnt-offering. This, surely, was putting faith to the
test, in order that, being more precious than gold that perisheth,
though it be tried with fire, it might be found unto praise, and honor,
and glory. Had Abraham's whole soul not been stayed simply on the Lord,
he never could have yielded unhesitating obedience to such a searching
command. But God himself was the living and abiding support of his
heart, and therefore he was prepared to give up all for him.

The soul that has found _all_ its springs in God, can, without any
demur, retire from _all_ creature streams. We can give up the creature,
just in proportion as we have found out, or become experimentally
acquainted with the Creator, and no further. To attempt to give up the
visible things in any other way, save in the energy of that faith which
lays hold of the invisible, is the most fruitless labor possible. It
cannot be done. I will hold fast my Isaac until I have found my all in
God. It is when we are enabled by faith, to say "God is our refuge and
strength, a very present help in trouble," that we can also add,
"therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and though
the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." (Ps. xlvi. 1, 2.)

"And Abraham rose up early in the morning." There is ready obedience.
"I made haste and delayed not to keep thy commandments." Faith never
stops to look at circumstances, or ponder results; it only looks at
God; it expresses itself thus: "But when it pleased God, who separated
me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son
in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles; immediately I
conferred not with flesh and blood." (Gal. i. 15, 16.) The moment we
confer with flesh and blood, our testimony and service are marred, for
flesh and blood can never obey. We must rise early, and carry out,
through grace, the divine command. Thus we are blessed, and God is
glorified. Having God's own word as the basis of our acting will ever
impart strength and stability to our acting. If we merely act from
impulse, when the impulse subsides, the acting will subside also.

There are two things needful to a course of steady and consistent
action, viz., the Holy Ghost, as the power of action, and the word to
give proper direction. To use a familiar illustration: on a railway, we
should find steam of little use without the iron rails firmly laid
down; the former is the power by which we move; and the latter, the
direction. It is needless to add that the rails would be of little use
without the steam. Now, Abraham was blessed with both. He had the power
of action conferred by God; and the command to act given by God also.
His devotedness was of a most definite character; and this is deeply
important. We frequently find much that looks like devotedness, but
which, in reality, is but the desultory activity of a will not brought
under the powerful action of the word of God. All such apparent
devotedness is worthless, and the spirit from which it proceeds will
very speedily evaporate. We may lay down the following principle,
viz., whenever devotedness passes beyond divinely appointed bounds it
is suspicious. If it comes not up to these bounds it is defective; if
it flows without them it is erratic. I quite admit that there are
extraordinary operations and ways of the Spirit of God, in which he
asserts his own sovereignty, and rises above ordinary bounds; but, in
such cases, the evidence of divine activity will be sufficiently strong
to carry home conviction to every spiritual mind; nor will they, in the
slightest degree, interfere with the truth of the principle that true
devotedness will ever be founded upon and governed by divine principle.
To sacrifice a son might seem to be an act of most extraordinary
devotedness; but, be it remembered, that what gave that act all its
value, in God's sight, was the simple fact of its being based upon
God's command.

Then, we have another thing connected with true devotedness, and that
is a spirit of worship. "I and the lad will go yonder and _worship_."
The really devoted servant will keep his eye, not on his service, be it
ever so great, but on the Master, and this will produce a spirit of
worship. If I love my master, according to the flesh, I shall not mind
whether I am cleaning his shoes or driving his carriage; but if I am
thinking more of myself than of him, I shall rather be a coachman than
a shoeblack. So it is precisely in the service of the heavenly Master:
if I am thinking only of him, planting churches and making tents will
be both alike to me. We may see the same thine in angelic ministry. It
matters not to an angel whether he be sent to destroy an army, or to
protect the person of some heir of salvation. It is the Master who
entirely fills his vision. As some one has remarked, "if two angels
were sent from heaven, one to rule an empire, and the other to sweep
the streets, they would not dispute about their respective work." This
is most true, and so should it be with us. The servant should ever be
combined with the worshipper, and the works of our hands perfumed with
the ardent breathings of our spirits. In other words we should go forth
to our work in the spirit of those memorable words, "I and the lad will
go yonder and worship." This would effectually preserve us from that
merely mechanical service into which we are so prone to drop,--doing
things for doing's sake, and being more occupied with our work than
with our Master. All must flow from simple faith in God, and obedience
to his word.

"By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac; and he that had
received the promises, offered up his only-begotten." (Heb. xi. 17.) It
is only as we are walking by faith that we can begin, continue, and end
our works in God. Abraham not merely set out to offer his son, but he
went on, and reached the spot which God had appointed. "And Abraham
took the wood of the burnt-offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son;
and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife: and they went both of
them together." And further on we read, "And Abraham built an altar
there; and laid the wood in order; and bound Isaac his son, and laid
him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand,
and took the knife to slay his son." This was real work, "a work of
faith and labor of love," in the highest sense. It was no mere
mockery--no drawing near with the lips, while the heart was far off--no
saying, "I go, sir, and went not." It was all deep reality, just such
as faith ever delights to produce, and which God delights to accept. It
is easy to make a show of devotedness when there is no demand for it.
It is easy to say, "though all shall be offended because of thee, yet
will I never be offended ... though I should die with thee, yet will I
not deny thee;" but the point is to stand the trial. When Peter was put
to the test, he entirely broke down. Faith never talks of what it will
do, but does what it can in the strength of the Lord. Nothing can be
more thoroughly worthless than a spirit of empty pretension. It is just
as worthless as the basis on which it rests. But faith acts "when it is
tried;" and till then it is content to be unseen and silent.

Now, it needs hardly to be remarked that God is glorified in those holy
activities of faith. He is the immediate object of them, as he is the
spring from whence they emanate. There was not a scene in Abraham's
entire history in which God was so much glorified as the scene on Mount
Moriah. There it was that he was enabled to bear testimony to the fact
that he had found all his fresh springs in God,--found them not merely
previous to, but after, Isaac's birth. This is a most touching point.
It is one thing to rest in God's blessings, and another thing to rest
in himself. It is one thing to trust God when I have before my eyes the
channel through which the blessing is to flow; and quite another thing
to trust him when that channel is entirely stopped up. This was what
proved the excellency of Abraham's faith. He showed that he could not
merely trust God for an innumerable seed while Isaac stood before him
in health and vigor; but just as fully if he were a smoking victim on
the altar. This was a high order of confidence in God; it was unalloyed
confidence; it was not a confidence propped up in part by the Creator
and in part by the creature. No; it rested on one solid pedestal, viz.,
God himself. "He accounted that God was able." He never accounted that
Isaac was able. Isaac without God was nothing; God without Isaac was
every thing. This is a principle of the very last importance, and one
eminently calculated to test the heart most keenly. Does it make any
difference to me to see the apparent channel of all my blessings dried
up? Am I dwelling sufficiently near the fountain-head to be able, with
a worshipping spirit, to behold all the creature streams dried up? This
I do feel to be a searching question. Have I such a simple view of
God's sufficiency as to be able as it were to "stretch forth my hand
and take the knife to slay my son." Abraham was enabled to do this,
because his eye rested on the God of resurrection. "He accounted that
God was able to raise him up even from the dead."

In a word, it was with God he had to do, and that was quite enough. He
was not suffered to strike the blow. He had gone to the very utmost
bounds; he had come up to the line beyond which God could not suffer
him to go. The Blessed One spared the father's heart the pang which he
did not spare his own heart, even that of smiting his Son. He, blessed
be his name, passed beyond the utmost bounds, for "he spared not his
own Son, but delivered him up for us all." "It pleased the Lord to
bruise him; he hath put him to grief." There was no voice from heaven
when, on Calvary, the Father offered up his only-begotten Son. No, it
was a perfectly accomplished sacrifice; and in its accomplishment our
everlasting peace is sealed.

However, Abraham's devotedness was fully proved and fully accepted.
"For now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld
thy son, thine only son, from me." Mark, it is "_now_ I know." It had
never been proved before. It was there, no doubt; and, if there, God
knew it; but the valuable point here is, that God founds his knowledge
of it upon the palpable evidence afforded at the altar upon Mount
Moriah. Faith is always proved by action, and the fear of God by the
fruits which flow from it. "Was not Abraham our father justified by
works when he had offered Isaac his son on the altar?" (James ii. 21.)
Who could think of calling his faith in question? Take away faith, and
Abraham appears on Moriah as a murderer and a madman. Take faith into
account, and he appears as a devoted worshipper,--a God-fearing,
justified man. But faith must be proved. "What doth it profit, my
brethren, though a man _say_ he hath faith, and have not works?" (James
ii. 14.) Will either God or man be satisfied with a powerless and
profitless profession? Surely not. God looks for reality, and honors it
where he sees it; and as for man, he can understand naught save the
living and intelligible utterance of a faith that shows itself in acts.
We are surrounded by the profession of religion; the phraseology of
faith is on every lip; but faith itself is as rare a gem as ever,--that
faith which will enable a man to push out from the shore of present
circumstances, and meet the waves and the winds, and not only meet
them, but endure them, even though the Master should seem to be asleep
on the pillow.

And here I would remark the beautiful harmony between St. James and St.
Paul on the subject of justification. The intelligent and spiritual
reader, who bows to the important truth of the plenary inspiration of
holy scripture, knows full well that on this question it is not with
Paul or James we have to do, but with the Holy Ghost, who graciously
used each of those honored men as the pen to write his thoughts, just
as I might take up a quill-pen or a steel-pen to write my thoughts, in
which case it would be quite preposterous to speak of a discrepancy
between the two pens, inasmuch as the writer is one. Hence it is just
as impossible that two divinely-inspired penmen could clash, as that
two heavenly bodies, while moving in their divinely-appointed orbits,
could come into collision.

But, in reality, as might be expected, there is the fullest and most
perfect harmony between those two apostles; indeed, on the subject of
justification, the one is the counterpart or exponent of the other. St
Paul gives us the inward principle, St. James the outward development
of that principle; the former presents the hidden life, the latter the
manifested life; the former looks at man in relation to God, the latter
looks at him in his relation to man. Now we want both: the inward would
not do without the outward; and the outward would be valueless and
powerless without the inward. "Abraham was justified" when "he believed
God;" and "Abraham was justified" when "he offered Isaac his son." In
the former case we have his secret standing; in the latter, his public
acknowledgment by heaven and earth. It is well to understand this
distinction. There was no voice from heaven when "Abraham believed
God," though in God's view he was there, then, and thus "counted
righteous;" but "when he had offered his son upon the altar," God could
say, "now I know;" and all the world had a powerful and unanswerable
proof of the fact that Abraham was a justified man. Thus will it ever
be. Where there is the inward principle, there will be the outward
acting; but all the value of the latter springs from its connection
with the former. Disconnect, for one moment, Abraham's acting, as set
forth by St. James, from Abraham's faith, as set forth by St. Paul, and
what justifying virtue did it possess? None whatever. All its value,
all its efficacy, all its virtue, springs from the fact that it was the
outward manifestation of that faith, by virtue of which he had been
already counted righteous before God. Thus much as to the admirable
harmony between St. Paul and St. James: or rather as to the unity of
the voice of the Holy Ghost, whether that voice be uttered by St. Paul
or St. James.

We now return to our chapter. It is deeply interesting to mark here how
Abraham's soul is led into a fresh discovery of God's character by the
trial of his faith. When we are enabled to bear the testings of God's
own hand, it is sure to lead us into some new experience with respect
to his character, which makes us to know how valuable the testing is.
If Abraham had not stretched out his hand to slay his son, he never
would have known the rich and exquisite depths of that title which he
here bestows upon God, viz., "Jehovah Jireh." It is only when we are
really put to the test that we discover what God is. Without trial we
can be but theorists, and God would not have us such: he would have us
entering into the living depths that are in himself,--the divine
realities of personal communion with him. With what different feelings
and convictions must Abraham have retraced his steps from Moriah to
Beersheba! from the mount of the Lord to the well of the oath! What
very different thoughts of God! What different thoughts of Isaac! What
different thoughts of every thing! Truly we may say, "Happy is the man
that endureth trial." It is an honor put upon one by the Lord himself,
and the deep blessedness of the experience to which it leads cannot
easily be estimated. It is when men are brought, to use the language of
the 107th Psalm, "to their wits' end," that they discover what God is.
Oh, for grace to endure trial, that God's workmanship may appear, and
his name be glorified in us!

There is one point, which, before closing my remarks on this chapter, I
shall notice, and that is, the gracious way in which God gives Abraham
credit for having done the act which he had showed himself so fully
prepared to do. "By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord; for because
_thou hast done this thing_, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only
son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will
multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon
the sea-shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of _his enemies_;
and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed: because
thou hast obeyed my voice." This beautifully corresponds with the
Spirit's notice of Abraham's acting, as put before us in Heb. xi. and
also in James ii., in both of which scriptures he is looked upon as
having offered Isaac his son upon the altar. The grand principle
conveyed in the whole matter is this: Abraham proved that he was
prepared to have the scene entirely cleared of _all_ but God; and,
moreover, it was this same principle which both _constituted_ and
_proved_ him a justified man. Faith can do without every one and every
thing but God. It has the full sense of his sufficiency, and can,
therefore, let go all beside. Hence Abraham could rightly estimate the
words, "_by myself_ have I sworn." Yes, this wondrous word, "myself,"
was every thing to the man of faith. "For when God made promise to
Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself....
For men verily swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is to
them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show
unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it
by an oath." The word and oath of the living God should put an end to
all the strivings and workings of the human will, and form the
immovable anchor of the soul amid all the tossing and tumult of this
stormy world.

Now, we must condemn ourselves constantly, because of the little power
which the promise of God has in our hearts. There it is, and we profess
to believe it; but ah! it is not that deep, abiding, influential
reality which it ought ever to be; we do not draw from it that "strong
consolation" which it is calculated to afford. How little prepared are
we, in the power of faith, in the promise of God, to slay our Isaac! We
need to cry to God that he would be graciously pleased to endow us
with a deeper insight into the blessed reality of a life of faith in
himself, that so we may understand better the import of that word of
St. John: "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even your
faith." We can only overcome the world by faith. Unbelief puts us under
the power of present things; in other words, it gives the world the
victory over us. A soul that has entered by the teaching of the Holy
Ghost into the sense of God's sufficiency, is entirely independent of
things here. Beloved reader, may we know this, for our peace and joy in
God and his glory in us.



CHAPTER XXIII.


This little section of inspiration furnishes much sweet and profitable
instruction to the soul. In it the Holy Spirit sets before us a
beautiful exhibition of the mode in which the man of faith should carry
himself toward those that are without. While it is true, divinely true,
that faith makes a man independent of the men of the world, it is no
less true that faith will ever teach him to walk honestly toward them.
We are told to "walk honestly toward them that are without;" (1 Thess.
iv. 12:) "to provide things honest in the sight of all;" (2 Cor. viii.
21:) "to owe no man any thing;" (Rom. xiii. 8.) These are weighty
precepts,--precepts which, even before their distinct enunciation, were
duly observed in all ages by the faithful servants of Christ, but which
in modern times alas! have not been sufficiently attended to.

The 23d of Genesis therefore is worthy of special notice. It opens with
the death of Sarah, and introduces Abraham in a new character, viz.,
that of a mourner. "Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for
her." The child of God must meet such things; but he must not meet them
as others. The great fact of resurrection comes in to his relief, and
imparts a character to his sorrow quite peculiar. (1 Thess. iv. 13,
14.) The man of faith can stand at the grave of a brother or sister, in
the happy consciousness that it shall not long hold its captive, "For
if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which
sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." The redemption of the soul
secures the redemption of the body; the former we have, the latter we
wait for. (Rom. viii. 23.)

Now, I believe that in purchasing Machpelah for a burying-place,
Abraham gave expression to his faith in resurrection. "_He stood up
from_ before his dead." Faith cannot long keep death in view; it has a
higher object, blessed be the "living God" who has given it.
Resurrection is that which ever fills the vision of faith; and, in the
power thereof, it can rise up from before the dead. There is much
conveyed in this action of Abraham. We want to understand its meaning
much more fully, because we are much too prone to be occupied with
death and its consequences. Death is the boundary of Satan's power; but
where Satan ends, God begins. Abraham understood this when he rose up
and purchased the cave of Machpelah as a sleeping-place for Sarah. This
was the expression of Abraham's thought in reference to the future. He
knew that in the ages to come, God's promise about the land of Canaan
would be fulfilled, and he was able to lay the body of Sarah in the
tomb, "in sure and certain hope of a glorious resurrection."

The sons of Heth knew nothing about this. The thoughts which were
filling the patriarch's soul were entirely foreign to the uncircumcised
children of Heth. To them it seemed a small matter where he buried his
dead; but it was by no means a small matter to him. "I am a stranger
and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a burying-place with
you that I may bury my dead out of my sight." It might, and manifestly
did, appear strange to them to make so much ado about a grave; but,
"beloved, the world knoweth us not, even as it knew him not." The
finest traits and characteristics of faith are those which are most
incomprehensible to the natural man. The Canaanites had no idea of the
expectations which were giving character to Abraham's actings on this
occasion. They had no idea that he was looking forward to the
possession of the land, while he was merely looking for a spot in
which, as a dead man, he might wait for God's time, and God's manner,
viz., the MORNING OF RESURRECTION. He felt _he_ had no controversy with
the children of Heth, and hence he was quite prepared to lay his head
in the grave, and allow God to act for him, and with him, and by him.

"These all died in (or according to) faith, ([Greek: kata pistin]) not
having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were
persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were
strangers and pilgrims on the earth." (Heb. xi. 13.) This is a truly
exquisite feature in the divine life. Those "witnesses," of whom the
apostle is speaking in Heb. xi. not merely lived by faith, but even
when they arrived at the close of their career, they proved that the
promises of God were as real and satisfying to their souls as when they
first started. Now, I believe this purchase of a burying-place in the
land was an exhibition of the power of faith, not only to live, but to
die. Why was Abraham so particular about this purchase? Why was he so
anxious to make good his claim to the field and cave of Ephron on
righteous principles? Why so determined to weigh out the full price
"current with the merchant?" FAITH is the answer. He did it all by
faith. He knew the land was his in prospect, and that in
resurrection-glory his seed should yet possess it, and until then he
would be no debtor to those who were yet to be dispossessed.

Thus we may view this beautiful chapter in a twofold light; first, as
setting before us a plain, practical principle, as to our dealings with
the men of this world; and secondly, as presenting the blessed hope
which should ever animate the man of faith. Putting both these points
together, we have an example of what the child of God should ever be.
The hope set before us in the gospel is a glorious immortality; and
this, while it lifts the heart above every influence of nature and the
world, furnishes a high and holy principle with which to govern all our
intercourse with those who are without. "We know that when he shall
appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." This is
our hope. What is the moral effect of this? "Every man that hath this
hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." (1 John iii. 2, 3.)
If I am to be like Christ by-and-by, I shall seek to be as like him now
as I can. Hence, the Christian should ever seek to walk in purity,
integrity, and moral grace, in the view of all around.

Thus it was with Abraham, in reference to the sons of Heth. His whole
deportment and conduct, as set forth in our chapter, would seem to have
been marked with very pure elevation and disinterestedness. He was "a
mighty prince among them," and they would fain have done him a favor;
but Abraham had learnt to take his favors only from the God of
resurrection, and while he would pay _them_ for Machpelah, he would
look to _him_ for Canaan. The sons of Heth knew well the value of
"current money with the merchant," and Abraham knew the value of the
cave of Machpelah. It was worth much more to him than it was to them.
"The land was worth" to them "four hundred shekels of silver," but to
him it was priceless, as the earnest of an everlasting inheritance,
which, because it was an everlasting inheritance, could only be
possessed in the power of resurrection. Faith conducts the soul onward
into God's future; it looks at things as he looks at them, and
estimates them according to the judgment of the sanctuary. Therefore,
in the intelligence of faith, Abraham stood up from before his dead,
and purchased a burying-place, which significantly set forth his hope
of resurrection, and of an inheritance founded thereon.



CHAPTER XXIV.


The connection of this chapter with the two which precede it is worthy
of notice. In Chapter xxii. the son is offered up; in Chap. xxiii.
Sarah is laid aside; and in Chapter xxiv. the servant is sent forth to
procure a bride for him who had been, as it were, received from the
dead in a figure. This connection, in a very striking manner, coincides
with the order of events connected with the calling out of the Church.
Whether this coincidence is to be regarded as of divine origin will, it
may be, raise a question in the minds of some; but it must at least be
regarded as not a little remarkable.

When we turn to the New Testament, the grand events which meet our view
are, first, the rejection and death of Christ; secondly, the setting
aside of Israel after the flesh; and, lastly, the calling out of the
Church to occupy the high position of the bride of the Lamb.

Now all this exactly corresponds with the contents of this and the two
preceding chapters. The death of Christ needed to be an accomplished
fact ere the Church, properly so called, could be called out. "The
middle wall of partition" needed to be broken down, ere the "_one new
man_" could be developed. It is well to understand this in order that
we may know the place which the Church occupies in the ways of God. So
long as the Jewish economy subsisted there was the most strict
separation maintained between Jew and Gentile, and hence the idea of
both being united in one new man was far removed from the mind of a
Jew. He was led to view himself in a position of entire superiority to
that of a Gentile, and to view the latter as utterly unclean, to whom
it was unlawful to come in. (Acts x. 28.)

If Israel had walked with God according to the truth of the
relationship into which he had graciously brought them, they would have
continued in their peculiar place of separation and superiority; but
this they did not do; and, therefore, when they had filled up the
measure of their iniquity, by crucifying the Lord of life and glory,
and rejecting the testimony of the Holy Ghost, we find St. Paul is
raised up to be the minister of a new thing, which was held back in the
counsels of God, while the testimony to Israel was going on. "For this
cause I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye
have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me
to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery
... which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, _as it
is now_ revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets (i. e.,
New-Testament prophets, [Greek: tois hagiois apostolois autou kai
prophêtais]) by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs,
and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the
gospel." (Eph. iii. 1-6.) This is conclusive. The mystery of the
Church, composed of Jew and Gentile, baptized by one Spirit into one
body, united to the glorious Head in the heavens, had never been
revealed until Paul's day. Of this mystery the apostle goes on to say,
"_I_ was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God,
given unto me, by the effectual working of his power." (Ver. 7.) The
apostles and prophets of the New Testament formed, as it were, the
first layer of this glorious building. (See Eph. ii. 20.) This being
so, it follows as a consequence that the building could not have been
begun before. If the building had been going on from the days of Abel
downwards, the apostle would then have said, "the foundation of the
Old-Testament saints." But he has not said so, and therefore we
conclude that, whatever be the position assigned to the Old-Testament
saints, they cannot possibly belong to a body which had no existence,
save in the purpose of God, until the death and resurrection of Christ,
and the consequent descent of the Holy Ghost. Saved they were, blessed
be God: saved by the blood of Christ, and destined to enjoy heavenly
glory with the Church; but they could not have formed a part of that
which did not exist for hundreds of years after their time.

It were easy to enter upon a more elaborate demonstration of this most
important truth, were this the place for so doing; but I shall now go
on with our chapter, having merely touched upon a question of
commanding interest, because of its being suggested by the position of
the 24th of Genesis.

There may be a question in some minds as to whether we are to view this
deeply-interesting portion of scripture as _a type_ of the calling out
of the Church by the Holy Ghost. For myself, I feel happier in merely
handling it as _an illustration_ of that glorious work. We cannot
suppose that the Spirit of God would occupy an unusually long chapter
with the mere detail of a family compact, were that compact not
typical or illustrative of some great truth. "Whatsoever things were
written aforetime, were written for our learning." This is emphatic.
What, therefore, are we to learn from the chapter before us? I believe
it furnishes us with a beautiful illustration or foreshadowing of the
great mystery of the Church. It is important to see that, while there
is no direct revelation of this mystery in the Old Testament, there
are, nevertheless, scenes and circumstances which, in a very remarkable
manner, shadow it forth; as, for example, the chapter before us. As has
been remarked, the son being, in a figure, offered up, and received
again from the dead; the original parent stem, as it were, being laid
aside, the messenger is sent forth by the father to procure a bride for
the son.

Now, in order to the clear and full understanding of the contents of
the entire chapter, we may consider the following points, viz., 1, _the
oath_; 2, _the testimony_; 3, _the result_. It is beautiful to observe
that the call and exaltation of Rebekah were founded upon the oath
between Abraham and his servant. She knew nothing of this, though she
was, in the purpose of God, so entirely the subject of it all. So it is
exactly with the Church of God as a whole and each constituent part.
"In thy book were all my members written, which in continuance were
fashioned, when as yet there were none of them." (Ps. cxxxix. 16.)
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath
blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ;
according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the
world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love."
(Eph. i. 3, 4.) "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to
be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born
among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also
called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he
justified, them he also glorified." (Rom. viii. 29, 30.) These
scriptures are all in beautiful harmony with the point immediately
before us. The call, the justification, and the glory of the Church,
are all founded on the eternal purpose of God,--his word and oath,
ratified by the death, resurrection, and exaltation of the Son. Far
back, beyond the bounds of time, in the deep recesses of God's eternal
mind, lay this wondrous purpose respecting the Church, which cannot, by
any means, be separated from the divine thought respecting the glory of
the Son. The oath between Abraham and the servant had for its object
the provision of a partner for the son. It was the father's desire with
respect to the son that all led to Rebekah's after-dignity. It is happy
to see this. Happy to see how the Church's security and blessing stand
inseparably connected with Christ and his glory. "For the man is not of
the woman, but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for
the woman; but the woman for the man." (1 Cor. xi. 8, 9.) So it is in
the beautiful parable of the marriage-supper; "the kingdom of heaven is
like unto a certain king which made a marriage for his son." (Matt.
xxii. 2.) THE SON is the grand object of all the thoughts and counsels
of God: and if any are brought into blessing, or glory, or dignity, it
can only be in connection with him. All title to these things, and even
to life itself, was forfeited by sin; but Christ met all the penalty
due to sin; he made himself responsible for every thing on behalf of
his body the Church; he was nailed to the cross as her representative;
he bore her sins in his own body on the tree, and went down into the
grave under the full weight of them. Hence, nothing can be more
complete than the Church's deliverance from all that was against her.
She is quickened out of the grave of Christ, where all her trespasses
were laid. The life which she has is a life taken up at the other side
of death, after every possible demand had been met. Hence, this life is
connected with, and founded upon, divine righteousness, inasmuch as
Christ's title to life is founded upon his having entirely exhausted
the power of death; and he is the Church's life. Thus the Church enjoys
divine life; she stands in divine righteousness; and the hope that
animates her is the hope of righteousness. (See, amongst many other
scriptures, John iii. 16, 36; v. 39, 40; vi. 27, 40, 47, 68; xi. 25;
xvii. 2; Rom. v. 21; vi. 23; 1 Tim. i. 16; 1 John ii. 25; v. 20; Jude
21; Eph. ii. 1-6, 14, 15; Col. i. 12-22; ii. 10-15; Rom. i. 17; iii.
21-26; iv. 5, 23-25; 2 Cor. v. 21; Gal. v. 5.)

These scriptures most fully establish the three points, viz., the life,
the righteousness, and the hope of the Church, all of which flow from
her being one with him who was raised from the dead. Now, nothing can
be so calculated to assure the heart as the conviction that the
Church's existence is essential to the glory of Christ. "The woman is
the glory of the man." (1 Cor. xi. 7.) And again, the Church is called
"the fulness of him that filleth all in all." (Eph. i. 23.) This last
is a remarkable expression. The word translated "fulness" means the
complement, that which, being added to something else, makes up a
whole. Thus it is that Christ the Head, and the Church the body, make
up the "one new man." (Eph. ii. 15.) Looking at the matter in this
point of view, it is no marvel that the Church should have been the
object of God's eternal counsels. When we view her as the body, the
bride, the companion, the counterpart, of his only-begotten Son, we
feel that there was, through grace, wondrous reason for her being so
thought of before the foundation of the world. Rebekah was necessary to
Isaac, and therefore she was the subject of secret counsel while yet in
profound ignorance about her high destiny. All Abraham's thought was
about Isaac. "I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven,
and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take _a wife unto my son_
of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell." Here we see
that the all-important point was, "a wife unto my son." "It is not good
that the man should be alone." This opens up a very deep and blessed
view of the Church. In the counsels of God she is necessary to Christ;
and in the accomplished work of Christ, divine provision has been made
for her being called into existence.

While occupied with such a character of truth as this, it is no longer
a question as to whether God can save poor sinners; he actually wants
to "make a marriage for his Son," and the Church is the destined
bride,--she is the object of the Father's purpose, the object of the
Son's love, and of the testimony of the Holy Ghost. She is to be the
sharer of all the Son's dignity and glory, as she is the sharer of all
that love of which he has been the everlasting object. Hear his own
words: "And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them; that
they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that
they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou
hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me." (John xvii.
22, 23.) This settles the whole question. The words just quoted give us
the thoughts of Christ's heart in reference to the Church. She is to be
as he is, and not only so, but she is so even now, as St. John tells
us, "Herein is love perfected with us, that we may have boldness in the
day of judgment: because as he is, _so are we_ in this world." (1 John
iv. 17.) This gives full confidence to the soul. "We are in him that,
is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal
life." (1 John v. 20.) There is here no ground for uncertainty. Every
thing is secured for the bride in the bridegroom. All that belonged to
Isaac became Rebekah's because Isaac was hers; and so all that belongs
to Christ is made available to the Church. "All things are yours;
whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death,
or things present, or things to come; all are yours, and ye are
Christ's, and Christ is God's." (1 Cor. iii. 21-23.) Christ is "head
over all things to the Church." (Eph. i. 22.) It will be his joy
throughout eternity to exhibit the Church in all the glory and beauty
with which he has endowed her, for her glory and beauty will be but the
reflection of his. Angels and principalities shall behold in the Church
the marvellous display of the wisdom, power, and grace of God in
Christ.

But we shall now look at the second point for consideration, viz.,
_the testimony_. Abraham's servant carried with him a very distinct
testimony. "And he said, I am Abraham's servant. And the Lord hath
blessed my master greatly, and he is become great; and he hath given
him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and men servants, and maid
servants, and camels, and asses. And Sarah, my master's wife, bare a
son to my master when she was old; and unto him hath he given all that
he hath." (Ver. 34-36.) He reveals the father and the son. Such was his
testimony. He speaks of the vast resources of the father, and of the
son's being endowed with all these in virtue of his being "the
only-begotten," and the object of the father's love. With this
testimony he seeks to obtain a bride for the son.

All this, I need hardly remark, is strikingly illustrative of the
testimony with which the Holy Ghost was sent from heaven upon the day
of Pentecost. "When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you
from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the
Father, he shall testify of me." (John xv. 26.) Again, "Howbeit when he
the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he
shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he
speak; and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he
shall receive of mine and show it unto you. _All things that the
Father hath are mine_: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine and
shall show it unto you." (John xvi. 13-15.) The coincidence of these
words with the testimony of Abraham's servant is instructive and
interesting. It was by telling of Isaac that he sought to attract the
heart of Rebekah; and it is, as we know, by telling of Jesus, that the
Holy Ghost seeks to draw poor sinners away from a world of sin and
folly into the blessed and holy unity of the body of Christ. "He shall
take of mine and show it unto you." The Spirit of God will never lead
any one to look at himself or his work; but only and always at Christ.
Hence, the more really spiritual any one is, the more entirely will he
be occupied with Christ.

Some there are who regard it as a great mark of spirituality to be ever
looking in at their own hearts, and dwelling upon what they find there,
even though that be the work of the Spirit. This is a great mistake. So
far from its being a proof of spirituality, it is a proof of the very
reverse, for it is expressly declared of the Holy Ghost that "he shall
not speak of himself;" but that, on the contrary, "he shall take of
mine and show it unto you." Therefore, whenever one is looking inward,
and building on the evidences of the Spirit's work there, he may be
assured he is not led by the Spirit of God in so doing. It is by
holding up Christ that the Spirit draws souls to God. This is very
important. The knowledge of Christ is life eternal; and it is the
Father's revelation of Christ by the Holy Ghost that constitutes the
basis of the Church. When Peter confessed Christ to be the Son of the
living God, Christ's answer was, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jonah;
for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which
is in heaven. And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter; and upon this
rock _I will build_ my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail
against it." (Matt. xvi. 17, 18.) What rock? Peter? God forbid. "This
rock" [Greek: tautê tê petra] simply means the Father's revelation of
Christ as the Son of the living God, which is the only means by which
any one is introduced into the assembly of Christ. Now this opens to us
very much the true character of the gospel. It is pre-eminently and
emphatically a revelation,--a revelation not merely of a doctrine, but
of a Person,--the Person of the Son. This revelation being received by
faith, draws the heart to Christ, and becomes the spring of life and
power,--the ground of membership,--the power of fellowship. "When it
pleased God ... to _reveal his Son_ in me," &c. Here we have the true
principle of "the rock," viz., God revealing his Son. It is thus the
superstructure is reared up; and on this solid foundation it reposes,
according to God's eternal purpose.

It is therefore peculiarly instructive to find in this 24th of Genesis
such a marked and beautiful illustration of the mission and special
testimony of the Holy Ghost. Abraham's servant, in seeking to procure a
bride for Isaac, sets forth all the dignity and wealth with which he
had been endowed by the father; the love of which he was the object;
and, in short, all that was calculated to affect the heart and draw it
off from present things. He showed Rebekah an object in the distance,
and set before her the blessedness and reality of being made one with
that beloved and highly-favored object. All that belonged to Isaac
would belong to Rebekah too, when she became part of him. Such was his
testimony. Such also is the testimony of the Holy Ghost He speaks of
Christ, the glory of Christ, "the beauty of Christ, the fulness of
Christ, the grace of Christ, the unsearchable riches of Christ," the
dignity of his Person and the perfectness of his work.

Moreover, he sets forth the amazing blessedness of being one with such
a Christ, "members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." Such
is the Spirit's testimony always; and herein we have an excellent
touchstone by which to try all sorts of teaching and preaching. The
most spiritual teaching will ever be characterized by a full and
constant presentation of Christ. He will ever form the burden of such
teaching. The Spirit cannot dwell on aught but Jesus. Of him he
delights to speak. He delights in setting forth his attractions and
excellencies. Hence, when a man is ministering by the power of the
Spirit of God, there will always be more of Christ than any thing else
in his ministry. There will be little room in such ministry for human
logic and reasoning. Such things may do very well where a man desires
to set forth himself; but the Spirit's sole object,--be it well
remembered by all who minister,--will ever be to set forth Christ.

Let us now look, in the last place, at _the result_ of all this. Truth,
and the practical application of truth, are two very different things.
It is one thing to speak of the peculiar glories of the Church, and
quite another thing to be practically influenced by those glories. In
Rebekah's case, the effect was most marked and decisive. The testimony
of Abraham's servant sank down into her ears, and into her heart, and
entirely detached her heart's affections from the scene of things
around her. She was ready to leave all and follow after, in order that
she might apprehend that for which she had been apprehended. It was
morally impossible that she could believe herself to be the subject of
such high destinies, and yet continue amid the circumstances of nature.
If the report concerning the future were true, attachment to the
present was the worst of folly. If the hope of being Isaac's bride,
joint-heir with him of all his dignity and glory,--if this were a
reality, then to continue to tend Laban's sheep would be practically to
despise all that God had in grace set before her.

But, no: the prospect was far too bright to be thus lightly given up.
True, she had not yet seen Isaac, nor yet the inheritance; but she had
believed the report, the testimony of _him_, and had received, as it
were, the earnest of _it_, and these were enough for her heart; and
hence she unhesitatingly arises and expresses her readiness to depart
in the memorable words, "_I will go_." She was fully prepared to enter
upon an unknown path in companionship with one who had told her of an
object far away, and of a glory connected with him, to which she was
about to be raised. "I will go," said she, and "forgetting the things
which were behind, and reaching forth toward the things which were
before, she pressed toward the mark for the prize of her high calling."
Most touching and beautiful illustration this of the Church, under the
conduct of the Holy Ghost, going onward to meet her heavenly
Bridegroom. This is what the Church should be; but, alas! there is sad
failure here. There is little of that holy alacrity in laying aside
every weight and every entanglement, in the power of communion with the
Holy Guide and Companion of our way, whose office and delight it is to
take of the things of Jesus, and show them unto us; just as Abraham's
servant took of the things of Isaac, and showed them to Rebekah; and
no doubt, too, he found his joy in pouring fresh testimonies concerning
the son into her ear, as they moved onward toward the consummation of
all her joy and glory. Thus it is, at least with our heavenly guide and
companion. He delights to tell of Jesus, "He shall take of mine and
show it unto you;" and again, "he shall show you things to come." Now,
this is what we really want,--this ministry of the Spirit of God,
unfolding Christ to our souls, producing earnest longing to see him as
he is, and be made like him forever. Naught but this will ever detach
our hearts from earth and nature. What, save the hope of being
associated with Isaac, would ever have led Rebekah to say, "I will go,"
when her "brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a
few days, at least ten." And so with us: nothing but the hope of seeing
Jesus as he is, and being like him, will ever enable or lead us to
purify ourselves, even as he is pure.



CHAPTER XXV.


In the opening of this chapter, Abraham's second marriage is set before
us,--an event not without its interest to the spiritual mind, when
viewed in connection with what we have been considering in the
preceding chapter. With the light furnished by the prophetic scriptures
of the New Testament, we understand that after the completion and
taking-up of the elect bride of Christ, the seed of Abraham will again
come into notice. Thus, after the marriage of Isaac, the Holy Ghost
takes up the history of Abraham's seed by a new marriage, together
with other points in his history, and that of his seed according to the
flesh. I do not press any special interpretation of all this: I merely
say that it is not without its interest.

We have already referred to the remark of some one on the book of
Genesis, namely, that it is "full of the seeds of things;" and as we
pass along its comprehensive pages, we shall find them teeming with all
the fundamental principles of truth, which are more elaborately wrought
out in the New Testament. True, in Genesis these principles are set
forth illustratively, and in the New Testament didactically; still, the
illustration is deeply interesting, and eminently calculated to bring
home the truth with power to the soul.

At the close of this chapter we are presented with some principles of a
very solemn and practical nature. Jacob's character and actings will
hereafter, if the Lord will, come more fully before us; but I would
just notice, ere passing on, the conduct of Esau in reference to the
birthright, and all which it involved. The natural heart places no
value on the things of God. To it God's promise is a vague, valueless,
powerless thing, simply because God is not known. Hence it is that
present things carry such weight and influence in man's estimation. Any
thing that man can _see_ he values, because he is governed by sight,
and not by faith. To him the present is every thing: the future is a
mere uninfluential thing,--a matter of the merest uncertainty. Thus it
was with Esau. Hear his fallacious reasoning: "Behold, I am at the
point to die; and what profit shall this birthright do to me?" What
strange reasoning! _The present_ is slipping from beneath my feet: I
will therefore despise and entirely let go the _future_! Time is
fading from my view, I will therefore abandon all interest in eternity!
"Thus Esau despised his birthright." Thus Israel despised the pleasant
land; (Ps. cvi. 24); thus they despised Christ. (Zech. xi. 13.) Thus
those who were bidden to the marriage despised the invitation. (Matt.
xxii. 5.) Man has no heart for the things of God. The present is every
thing to him. A mess of pottage is better than a title to Canaan.
Hence, the very reason why Esau made light of the birthright was the
reason why he ought to have grasped it with the greater intensity. The
more clearly I see the vanity of man's present, the more I shall cleave
to God's future. Thus it is in the judgment of faith. "Seeing then that
_all these things shall be dissolved_, what manner of persons ought ye
to be in all holy conversation and godliness; looking for and hasting
unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire
shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
Nevertheless we, _according to his promise_, look for new heavens and a
new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." (2 Pet. iii. 11-13.) These
are the thoughts of God, and therefore the thoughts of faith. The
things that are seen shall be dissolved. What, then, are we to despise
the unseen? By no means. The present is rapidly passing away. What is
our resource? "Looking for, and hasting unto, the coming of the day of
God." This is the judgment of the renewed mind; and any other judgment
is only that of "a profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat
sold his birthright." (Heb. xii. 16.) The Lord keep us judging of
things as he judges. This can only be done by faith.



CHAPTER XXVI.


The opening verse of this chapter connects itself with Chap. xii.
"There was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in
the days of Abraham." The trials which meet God's people in their
course are very much alike; and they ever tend to make manifest how far
the heart has found its _all_ in God. It is a difficult matter--a rare
attainment--so to walk in sweet communion with God as to be rendered
thereby entirely independent of things and people here. The Egypts and
the Gerars which lie on our right hand and on our left present great
temptations, either to turn aside out of the right way, or to stop
short of our true position as servants of the true and living God.

"And Isaac went unto Abimelech, King of the Philistines, unto Gerar."
There is a manifest difference between Egypt and Gerar. Egypt is the
expression of the world in its natural resources, and its independence
of God. "My river is mine own," is the language of an Egyptian who knew
not Jehovah, and thought not of looking to him for aught. Egypt was,
locally, farther removed from Canaan than Gerar; and, morally, it
expresses a condition of soul farther from God. Gerar is thus referred
to in Chap. x.: "And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as
thou comest to Gerar, unto Gaza: as thou goest unto Sodom, and
Gomorrah, and Admah, and Zeboim, even unto Lasha." (Ver. 19.) We are
informed that "from Gerar to Jerusalem was three days' journey." It
was, therefore, as compared with Egypt, an advanced position; but still
it lay within the range of very dangerous influences. Abraham got into
trouble there, and so does Isaac, in this chapter, and that, too, in
the very same way. Abraham denied his wife, and so does Isaac. This is
peculiarly solemn. To see both the father and the son fall into the
same evil, in the same place, tells us plainly that the influence of
that place was not good.

Had Isaac not gone to Abimelech, King of Gerar, he would have no
necessity for denying his wife; but the slightest divergence from the
true line of conduct superinduces spiritual weakness. It was when Peter
stood and warmed himself at the high-priest's fire that he denied his
Master. Now, it is manifest that Isaac was not really happy in Gerar.
True, the Lord says unto him, "sojourn in this land;" but how often
does the Lord give directions to his people morally suitable to the
condition he knows them to be in, and calculated also to arouse them to
a true sense of that condition? He directed Moses, in Num. xiii. to
send men to search the land of Canaan; but had they not been in a low
moral condition such a step would not have been necessary. We know well
that faith does not need "_to spy out_" when God's promise lies before
us. Again, he directed Moses to choose out seventy elders to help him
in the work; but had Moses fully entered into the dignity and
blessedness of his position, he would not have needed such a direction.
So, in reference to the setting up of a king, in 1 Sam. viii. They
ought not to have needed a king. Hence, we must always take into
consideration the condition of an individual or a people to whom a
direction is given before we can form any correct judgment as to the
direction.

But again it may be said, if Isaac's position in Gerar was wrong, how
do we read, "Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received the same year
an hundred-fold: and the Lord blessed him." (Ver. 12.) I reply, we can
never judge that a person's condition is right because of prosperous
circumstances. We have had already to remark that there is a great
difference between the Lord's presence and his blessing. Many have the
latter without the former; and, moreover, the heart is prone to mistake
the one for the other,--prone to put the blessing for the presence; or
at least to argue that the one must ever accompany the other. This is a
great mistake. How many do we see surrounded by God's blessings, who
neither have, nor wish for, God's presence? It is important to see
this. A man may "wax great, and go forward, and grow until he becomes
very great, and have possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and
great store of servants," and all the while not have the full,
unhindered joy of the Lord's presence with him. Flocks and herds are
not the Lord. They are things on account of which the Philistines might
envy Isaac, whereas they never would have envied him on account of the
Lord's presence. He might have been enjoying the sweetest and richest
communion with God, and the Philistines have thought nothing whatever
about it, simply because they had no heart to understand or appreciate
such a reality. Flocks, herds, servants, and wells of water they could
appreciate; but the divine presence they could not appreciate.

However, Isaac at length makes his way from amongst the Philistines,
and gets up to Beersheba. "And _the Lord appeared unto him_ the same
night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father; fear not, for _I
am with thee_, and will bless thee" (Ver. 24.) Mark, it was not the
Lord's blessing merely, but the Lord himself. And why? because Isaac
had left the Philistines, with all their envy, and strife, and
contention behind, and gone up to Beersheba. Here the Lord could show
himself to his servant. The blessings of his liberal hand might follow
him during his sojourn in Gerar; but his presence could not there be
enjoyed. To enjoy God's presence we must be where he is, and he
certainly is not to be found amid the strife and contention of an
ungodly world; and hence, the sooner the child of God gets away from
all such, the better. So Isaac found it. He had no rest in his own
spirit; and he assuredly did not in any wise serve the Philistines by
his sojourn amongst them. It is a very common error to imagine that we
serve the men of this world by mixing ourselves up with them in their
associations and ways. The true way to serve them is to stand apart
from them in the power of communion with God, and thus show them the
pattern of a more excellent way.

Mark the progress in Isaac's soul, and the moral effect of his course.
"He went up from thence," "the Lord appeared unto him," "he builded an
altar," "he called upon the name of the Lord," "he pitched his tent,"
"his servants digged a well." Here we have most blessed progress. The
moment he took a step in the right direction, he went from strength to
strength. He entered into the joy of God's presence,--tasted the sweets
of true worship, and exhibited the character of a stranger and
pilgrim, and found peaceful refreshment, an undisputed well, which the
Philistines could not stop because they were not there.

These were blessed results in reference to Isaac himself; and now
observe the effect produced upon others. "Then Abimelech went to him
from Gerar, and Ahuzzath, one of his friends, and Phicol the chief
captain of his army. And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me,
seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you? And they said, We
saw certainly that the Lord was with thee: and we said, Let there now
be an oath betwixt us," &c. The true way to act on the hearts and
consciences of the men of the world is to stand in decided separation
from them, while dealing in perfect grace toward them. So long as Isaac
continued in Gerar, there was nothing but strife and contention. He was
reaping sorrow for himself, and producing no effect whatever upon those
around him. On the contrary, the moment he went away from them, their
hearts were touched, and they followed him, and desired a covenant.
This is very instructive. The principle unfolded here may be seen
constantly exemplified in the history of the children of God. The first
point with the heart should ever be to see that in our position we are
_right with God_, and not only right in position, but in the moral
condition of the soul. When we are right with God, we may expect to act
salutarily upon men. The moment Isaac got up to Beersheba, and took his
place as a worshipper, his own soul was refreshed, and he was used of
God to act upon others. So long as we continue in a low position, we
are robbing ourselves of blessing, and failing totally in our testimony
and service.

Nor should we, when in a wrong position, stop to inquire, as we so
often do, "Where can I find any thing better?" God's order is, "Cease
to do evil;" and when we have acted upon that holy precept, we are
furnished with another, namely, "Learn to do well." If we expect to
"learn" how "to do well," before we "cease to do evil," we are entirely
mistaken. "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from among the dead."
([Greek: ek tôn nekrôn].) And what then? "Christ shall give thee
light." (Eph. v. 14.)

My beloved reader, if you are doing what you know to be wrong, or if
you are identified in any way with what you own to be contrary to
scripture, hearken to the word of the Lord, "Cease to do evil." And be
assured, when you have yielded obedience to this word, you will not
long be left in ignorance as to your path. It is sheer unbelief that
leads us to say, "I cannot cease to do evil until I find something
better." The Lord grant us a single eye and a docile spirit.



CHAPTERS XXVII.-XXXV.


These chapters present to us the history of Jacob,--at least the
principal scenes in that history. The Spirit of God here sets before us
the deepest instruction, first, as to God's purpose of infinite grace;
and, secondly, as to the utter worthlessness and depravity of human
nature.

There is a passage in Chap. xxv. which I purposely passed over, in
order to take it up here, so that we might have the truth in reference
to Jacob fully before us. "And Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife,
because she was barren; and the Lord was entreated of him, and Rebekah
his wife conceived. And the children struggled together within her: and
she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the
Lord. And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two
manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people
shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the
younger." This is referred to in Malachi, where we read, "I have loved
you, saith the Lord; yet ye say, wherein hast thou loved us? Was not
Esau Jacob's brother? saith the Lord: yet I have loved Jacob and hated
Esau." This is again referred to in Rom. ix.: "For the children being
not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of
God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that
calleth; it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger, as it
is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."

Thus we have very distinctly before us, God's eternal purpose according
to _the election of grace_. There is much involved in this expression.
It banishes all human pretension from the scene, and asserts God's
right to act as he will. This is of the very last importance. The
creature can enjoy no real blessedness until he is brought to bow his
head to sovereign grace. It becomes him so to do, inasmuch as he is a
sinner, and as such utterly without claim to act or dictate. The great
value of finding oneself on this ground is, that it is then no longer a
question of what we deserve to get, but simply of what God is pleased
to give. The prodigal might talk of being a servant, but he really did
not deserve the place of a servant, if it were to be made a question of
desert; and therefore he had only to take what the father was pleased
to give,--and that was the very highest place, even the place of
fellowship with himself. Thus it must ever be. "Grace all the work
shall crown through everlasting days." Happy for us that it is so. As
we go on, day by day, making fresh discoveries of ourselves, we need to
have beneath our feet the solid foundation of God's grace: nothing else
could possibly sustain us in our growing self-knowledge. The ruin is
hopeless, and therefore the grace must be infinite: and infinite it is,
having its source in God himself, its channel in Christ, and the power
of application and enjoyment in the Holy Ghost. The Trinity is brought
out in connection with the grace that saves a poor sinner. "Grace
reigns through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our
Lord." It is only in redemption that this reign of grace could be seen.
We may see in creation the reign of wisdom and power; we may see in
providence the reign of goodness and long-suffering; but only in
redemption do we see the reign of grace, and that, too, on the
principle of righteousness.

Now, we have in the person of Jacob a most striking exhibition of the
power of divine grace; and for this reason, that we have in him a
striking exhibition of the power of human nature. In him we see nature
in all its obliquity, and therefore we see grace in all its moral
beauty and power. From the facts of his remarkable history, it would
seem that, before his birth, at his birth, and after his birth, the
extraordinary energy of nature was seen. Before his birth, we read,
"the children struggled together within her." At his birth, we read,
"his hand took hold on Esau's heel." And, after his birth,--yea, to the
turning-point of his history, in Chap. xxxii., without any
exception,--his course exhibits nothing but the most unamiable traits
of nature; but all this only serves, like a dark back-ground, to throw
into relief the grace of him who condescends to call himself by the
peculiarly touching name, "the God of Jacob,"--a name most sweetly
expressive of free grace.

Let us now examine the chapters consecutively. Chap. xxvii. exhibits a
most humbling picture of sensuality, deceit, and cunning; and when one
thinks of such things in connection with the people of God, it is sad
and painful to the very last degree. Yet how true and faithful is the
Holy Ghost! He must tell all out. He cannot give us a partial picture.
If he gives us a history of man, he must describe man as he is, and not
as he is not.

So, if he unfolds to us the character and ways of God, he gives us God
as he is. And this, we need hardly remark, is exactly what we need. We
need the revelation of one perfect in holiness, yet perfect in grace
and mercy, who could come down into all the depth of man's need, his
misery and his degradation, and deal with him there, and raise him up
out of it into full, unhindered fellowship with himself in all the
reality of what he is. This is what scripture gives us. God knew what
we needed, and he has given it to us, blessed be his name!

And be it remembered that in setting before us in faithful love all the
traits of a man's character, it is simply with a view to magnify the
riches of divine grace and to admonish our souls. It is not by any
means in order to perpetuate the memory of sins forever blotted out
from his sight. The blots, the failures, and the errors of Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob, have been perfectly washed away, and they have taken
their place amid "the spirits of just men made perfect;" but their
history remains on the page of inspiration for the display of God's
grace, and for the warning of God's people in all ages; and, moreover,
that we may distinctly see that the blessed God has not been dealing
with perfect men and women, but with those of "like passions as we
are;" that he has been walking and bearing with the same failures, the
same infirmities, the same errors, as those over which we mourn every
day.

This is peculiarly comforting to the heart; and it may well stand in
striking contrast with the way in which the great majority of human
biographies are written, in which, for the most part, we find not the
history of men, but of beings devoid of error and infirmity. Such
histories have rather the effect of discouraging than of edifying those
who read them. They are rather histories of what men ought to be, than
of what they really are, and they are therefore useless to us,--yea,
not only useless, but mischievous.

Nothing can edify save the presentation of God dealing with man as he
really is; and this is what the word gives us. The chapter before us
illustrates this very fully. Here we find the aged patriarch Isaac,
standing as it were at the very portal of eternity, the earth and
nature fast fading away from his view, yet occupied about "savory
meat," and about to act in direct opposition to the divine counsel, by
blessing the elder instead of the younger. Truly this was nature, and
nature with its "eyes dim." If Esau had sold his birthright for a mess
of pottage, Isaac was about to give away the blessing for a mess of
venison. How very humiliating!

But God's purpose must stand, and he will do all his pleasure. Faith
knows this; and, in the power of that knowledge, can wait for God's
time. This nature never can do, but must set about gaining its own ends
by its own inventions. These are the two grand points brought out in
Jacob's history,--God's purpose of grace on the one hand; and, on the
other, nature plotting and scheming to reach what that purpose would
have infallibly brought about without any plot or scheme at all. This
simplifies Jacob's history amazingly, and not only simplifies it, but
heightens the soul's interest in it also. There is nothing, perhaps, in
which we are so lamentably deficient, as in the grace of patient,
self-renouncing dependence upon God. Nature will be working in some
shape or form, and thus, so far as in it lies, hindering the outshining
of divine grace and power. God did not need the aid of such elements as
Rebekah's cunning and Jacob's gross deceit, in order to accomplish his
purpose. He had said, "the elder shall serve the younger." This was
enough,--enough for faith, but not enough for nature, which must ever
adopt its own ways, and know nothing of what it is to wait on God.

Now, nothing can be more truly blessed than the position of hanging in
child-like dependence upon God, and being entirely content to wait for
his time. True it will involve trial; but the renewed mind learns some
of its deepest lessons, and enjoys some of its sweetest experiences,
while waiting on the Lord; and the more pressing the temptation to
take ourselves out of his hands, the richer will be the blessing of
leaving ourselves there. It is so exceedingly sweet to find ourselves
wholly dependent upon one who finds infinite joy in blessing us. It is
only those who have tasted in any little measure the reality of this
wondrous position that can at all appreciate it. The only one who ever
occupied it perfectly and uninterruptedly was the Lord Jesus himself.
He was over dependent upon God, and utterly rejected every proposal of
the enemy to be any thing else. His language was, "In thee do I put my
trust;" and again, "I was cast upon thee from the womb." Hence, when
tempted by the devil to make an effort to satisfy his hunger, his reply
was, "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every
word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." When tempted to cast
himself from the pinnacle of the temple, his reply was, "It is written
again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." When tempted to take the
kingdoms of the world from the hand of another than God, and by doing
homage to another than him, his reply was, "It is written, Thou shalt
worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." In a word,
nothing could allure the perfect man from the place of absolute
dependence upon God. True, it was God's purpose to sustain his Son; it
was his purpose that he should suddenly come to his temple; it was his
purpose to give him the kingdoms of this world; but this was the very
reason why the Lord Jesus would simply and uninterruptedly wait on God
for the accomplishment of his purpose, in his own time and in his own
way. He did not set about accomplishing his own ends. He left himself
thoroughly at God's disposal. He would only eat when God gave him
bread; he would only enter the temple when sent of God; he will ascend
the throne when God appoints the time. "Sit thou at my right hand,
_until I make_ thine enemies thy footstool." (Ps. cx.)

This profound subjection of the Son to the Father is admirable beyond
expression. Though entirely equal with God, he took, as man, the place
of dependence, rejoicing always in the will of the Father; giving
thanks even when things seemed to be against him; doing always the
things which pleased the Father; making it his grand and unvarying
object to glorify the Father; and finally, when all was accomplished,
when he had perfectly finished the work which the Father had given, he
breathed his spirit into the Father's hand, and his flesh rested in
hope of the promised glory and exaltation. Well, therefore, may the
inspired apostle say, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in
Christ Jesus; who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to
be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him
the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being
found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto
death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly
exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at
the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and
things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue
should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the
Father." (Phil. ii. 5-11.)

How little Jacob knew, in the opening of his history, of this blessed
mind! How little was he prepared to wait for God's time and God's way!
He much preferred Jacob's time and Jacob's way. He thought it much
better to arrive at the blessing and the inheritance by all sorts of
cunning and deception, than by simple dependence upon and subjection to
God, whose electing grace had promised, and whose almighty power and
wisdom would assuredly accomplish all for him.

But oh! how well one knows the opposition of the human heart to all
this! Any attitude for it save that of patient waiting upon God. It is
almost enough to drive nature to distraction to find itself bereft of
all resource but God. This tells us in language not to be misunderstood
the true character of human nature. In order to know what nature is, I
need not travel into those scenes of vice and crime which justly shock
all refined moral sense. No: all that is needful is just to try it for
a moment in the place of dependence, and see how it will carry itself
there. It really knows nothing of God, and therefore cannot trust him;
and herein lies the secret of all its misery and moral degradation. It
is totally ignorant of the true God, and can therefore be naught else
but a ruined and worthless thing. The knowledge of God is the source of
life,--yea, is itself life; and until a man has life, what is he, or
what can he be?

Now, in Rebekah and Jacob, we see nature taking advantage of nature in
Isaac and Esau. It was really this. There was no waiting upon God
whatever. Isaac's eyes were dim: he could therefore be imposed upon,
and they set about doing so, instead of looking to God, who would have
entirely frustrated Isaac's purpose to bless the one whom God would not
bless,--a purpose founded in nature, and most unlovely nature, for
"Isaac loved Esau," not because he was the first-born, but "because he
did eat of his venison." How humiliating!

But we are sure to bring unmixed sorrow upon ourselves when we take
ourselves, our circumstances, or our destinies, out of the hands of
God.[17] Thus it was with Jacob, as we shall see in the sequel. It has
been observed by another, that "whoever observes Jacob's life, after he
had surreptitiously obtained his father's blessing, will perceive that
he enjoyed very little worldly felicity. His brother purposed to murder
him, to avoid which he was forced to flee from his father's house; his
uncle Laban deceived him, as he had deceived his father, and treated
him with great rigor; after a servitude of twenty-one years, he was
obliged to leave him in a clandestine manner, and not without danger of
being brought back or murdered by his enraged brother; no sooner were
these fears over, than he experienced the baseness of his son Reuben,
in defiling his bed; he had next to bewail the treachery and cruelty of
Simeon and Levi towards the Shechemites; then he had to feel the loss
of his beloved wife; he was next imposed upon by his own sons, and had
to lament the supposed untimely end of Joseph; and, to complete all,
lie was forced by famine to go into Egypt, and there died in a strange
land. So just, wonderful, and instructive are all the ways of
providence."

This is a true picture, so far as Jacob was concerned; but it only
gives us one side, and that the gloomy side. Blessed be God, there is a
bright side likewise; for God had to do with Jacob; and in every scene
of his life, when Jacob was called to reap the fruits of his own
plotting and crookedness, the God of Jacob brought good out of evil,
and caused his grace to abound over all the sin and folly of his poor
servant. This we shall see as we proceed with his history.

I shall just offer a remark here upon Isaac, Rebekah, and Esau. It is
very interesting to observe how, notwithstanding the exhibition of
nature's excessive weakness, in the opening of this 27th chapter, Isaac
maintains by faith the dignity which God had conferred upon him. He
blesses with all the consciousness of being endowed with power to
bless. He says, "I have blessed him; yea, and he shall be blessed....
Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to
him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him; and what
shall I do now unto thee, my son?" He speaks as one who by faith, had
at his disposal all the treasures of earth. There is no false humility,
no taking a low ground by reason of the manifestation of nature. True,
he was on the eve of making a grievous mistake,--even of moving right
athwart the counsel of God; still he knew God, and took his place
accordingly, dispensing blessings in all the dignity and power of
faith. "I have blessed him; yea, and he shall be blessed." "With corn
and wine have I sustained him." It is the proper province of faith to
rise above all one's own failure, and the consequences thereof, into
the place where God's grace has set us.

As to Rebekah, she was called to feel all the sad results of her
cunning actings. She no doubt imagined she was managing matters most
skilfully; but alas! she never saw Jacob again: so much for management!
How different would it have been had she left the matter entirely in
the hands of God. This is the way in which faith manages, and it is
ever a gainer. "Which of you, by taking thought, can add to his stature
one cubit?" We gain nothing by our anxiety and planning; we only shut
out God, and that is no gain. It is a just judgment from the hand of
God to be left to reap the fruits of our own devices; and I know of few
things more sad than to see a child of God so entirely forgetting his
proper place and privilege, as to take the management of his affairs
into his own hands. The birds of the air and the lilies of the field
may well be our teachers when we so far forget our position of
unqualified dependence upon God.

Then, again, as to Esau, the apostle calls him "a profane person, who
for one morsel of meat sold his birthright," and "afterwards, when he
would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no
place of change of mind, though he sought it carefully with tears."
Thus we learn what a profane person is, viz. one who would like to hold
both worlds; one who would like to enjoy the present, without
forfeiting his title to the future. This is by no means an uncommon
case. It expresses to us the mere worldly professor, whose conscience
has never felt the action of divine truth, and whose heart has never
felt the influence of divine grace.

FOOTNOTES:

[17] We should ever remember, in a place of trial, that what we want is
not a change of circumstances, but victory over self.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


We are now called to trace Jacob in his movement from under his
father's roof, to view him as a homeless and lonely wanderer on the
earth. It is here that God's special dealings with him commence. Jacob
now begins to realize, in some measure, the bitter fruit of his
conduct, in reference to Esau; while, at the same time, God is seen
rising above all the weakness and folly of his servant, and displaying
his own sovereign grace and profound wisdom in his dealings with him.
God will accomplish his own purpose, no matter by what instrumentality;
but if his child, in impatience of spirit, and unbelief of heart, will
take himself out of his hands, he must expect much sorrowful exercise
and painful discipline. Thus it was with Jacob: he might not have had
to flee to Haran, had he allowed God to act for him. God would,
assuredly, have dealt with Esau, and caused him to find his destined
place and portion; and Jacob might have enjoyed that sweet peace which
nothing can yield save entire subjection in all things to the hand and
counsel of God.

But here is where the excessive feebleness of our hearts is constantly
disclosed. We do not lie passive in God's hand; we will be acting; and,
by our acting, we hinder the display of God's grace and power on our
behalf. "_Be still_ and know that I am God," is a precept which naught,
save the power of divine grace, can enable one to obey. "Let your
moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. ([Greek: engys])
Be careful for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." What will
be the result of thus acting? "The peace of God, which passeth all
understanding, shall garrison ([Greek: phrourêsei]) your hearts and
minds by Christ Jesus." (Phil. iv. 5-7.)

However, God graciously overrules our folly and weakness, and while we
are called upon to reap the fruits of our unbelieving and impatient
ways, he takes occasion from them to teach our hearts still deeper
lessons of his own tender grace and perfect wisdom. This, while it,
assuredly, affords no warrant whatever for unbelief and impatience,
does most wonderfully exhibit the goodness of our God, and comfort the
heart even while we may be passing through the painful circumstances
consequent upon our failure. God is above all; and, moreover, it is his
special prerogative to bring good out of evil; to make the eater yield
meat, and the strong yield sweetness; and hence, while it is quite true
that Jacob was compelled to be an exile from his father's roof in
consequence of his own restless and deceitful acting, it is equally
true that he never could have learnt the meaning of "Bethel" had he
been quietly at home. Thus the two sides of the picture are strongly
marked in every scene of Jacob's history. It was when he was driven, by
his own folly, from Isaac's house, that he was led to taste, in some
measure, the blessedness and solemnity of "God's house."

"And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. And he
lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the
sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place and put them for
his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep." Here we find the
homeless wanderer just in the very position in which God could meet
him, and in which he could unfold his purposes of grace and glory.
Nothing could possibly be more expressive of helplessness and
nothingness than Jacob's condition as here set before us. Beneath the
open canopy of heaven, with a pillow of stone, in the helpless
condition of sleep. Thus it was that the God of Bethel unfolded to
Jacob his purposes respecting him and his seed. "And he dreamed, and
behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to
heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
And behold the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of
Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest,
to thee will I give it, and to thy seed. And thy seed shall be as the
dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the
east, and to the north and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed
shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with
thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will
bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I
have done that which I have spoken to thee of."

Here we have, indeed, "grace and glory." The ladder "set _on the
earth_" naturally leads the heart to meditate on the display of God's
grace, in the Person and work of his Son. On the earth it was that the
wondrous work was accomplished which forms the basis, the strong and
everlasting basis, of all the divine counsels in reference to Israel,
the Church, and the world at large. On the earth it was that Jesus
lived, labored, and died; that through his death he might remove out
of the way every obstacle to the accomplishment of the divine purpose
of blessing to man.

But "the top of the ladder reached to heaven." It formed the medium of
communication between heaven and earth; and "behold the angels of God
ascending and descending upon it,"--striking and beautiful picture of
him by whom God has come down into all the depth of man's need, and by
whom also he has brought man up and set him in his own presence
forever, in the power of divine righteousness! God has made provision
for the accomplishment of all his plans, despite of man's folly and
sin; and it is for the everlasting joy of any soul to find itself, by
the teaching of the Holy Ghost, within the limits of God's gracious
purpose.

The prophet Hosea leads us on to the time when that which was
foreshadowed by Jacob's ladder shall have its full accomplishment. "And
in that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the
field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of
the ground: and I will break the bow, and the sword, and the battle,
out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. And I will
betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in
righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies;
I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know
the Lord. And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the
Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; and the
earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall
hear Jezreel. And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have
mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them
which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou
art my God." (Hosea ii. 18-23.) There is also an expression in the
first chapter of John, bearing upon Jacob's remarkable vision; it is
Christ's word to Nathanael, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, hereafter
ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and
descending upon the Son of man." (Ver. 51.)

Now, this vision of Jacob's is a very blessed disclosure of divine
grace to Israel. We have been led to see something of Jacob's real
character, something, too, of his real condition; both were evidently
such as to show that it should either be divine grace for him, or
nothing. By birth he had no claim; nor yet by character. Esau might put
forward some claim on both these grounds; i. e., provided God's
prerogative were set aside; but Jacob had no claim whatsoever; and
hence, while Esau could only stand upon the exclusion of God's
prerogative, Jacob could only stand upon the introduction and
establishment thereof. Jacob was such a sinner, and so utterly divested
of all claim, both by birth and by practice, that he had nothing
whatever to rest upon save God's purpose of pure, free, and sovereign
grace. Hence, in the revelation which the Lord makes to his chosen
servant, in the passage just quoted, it is a simple record or
prediction of what he himself would yet do. "_I_ am.... _I_ will
give.... _I_ will keep.... _I_ will bring.... _I_ will not leave thee
until _I_ have done that which _I_ have spoken to thee of." It was all
himself. There is no condition whatever. No _if_ or _but_; for when
_grace_ acts there can be no such thing. Where there is an _if_, it
cannot possibly be grace. Not that God cannot put man into a position
of responsibility in which he must needs address him with an "if." We
know he can; but Jacob asleep on a pillow of stone was not in a
position of responsibility, but of the deepest helplessness and need;
and therefore he was in a position to receive a revelation of the
fullest, richest, and most unconditional grace.

Now, we cannot but own the blessedness of being in such a condition
that we have nothing to rest upon save God himself; and, moreover, that
it is in the most perfect establishment of God's own character and
prerogative that we obtain all our true joy and blessing. According to
this principle, it would be an irreparable loss to us to have any
ground of our own to stand upon, for in that case God should address us
on the ground of responsibility, and failure would then be inevitable.
Jacob was so bad, that none but God himself could do for him.

And, be it remarked, that it was his failure in the habitual
recognition of this that led him into so much sorrow and pressure.
God's revelation of himself is one thing, and our resting in that
revelation is quite another. God shows himself to Jacob, in infinite
grace; but no sooner does Jacob awake out of sleep, than we find him
developing his true character, and proving how little he knew,
practically, of the blessed One who had just been revealing himself so
marvellously to him. "He was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this
place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of
heaven." His heart was not at home in the presence of God; nor can any
heart be so until it has been thoroughly emptied and broken. God is at
home, blessed be his name, with a broken heart, and a broken heart at
home with him. But Jacob's heart was not yet in this condition; nor had
he yet learnt to repose, like a little child, in the perfect love of
one who could say, "Jacob have I loved." "Perfect love casteth out
fear;" but where such love is not known and fully realized, there will
always be a measure of uneasiness and perturbation. God's house and
God's presence are not dreadful to a soul who knows the love of God as
expressed in the perfect sacrifice of Christ. Such a soul is rather led
to say, "Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place
where thine honor dwelleth." (Ps. xxvi. 8.) And again, "One thing have
I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the
house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the
Lord, and to inquire in his temple." (Ps. xxvii. 4.) And again, "How
amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea,
even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord." (Ps. lxxxiv.) When the
heart is established in the knowledge of God, it will assuredly love
his house, whatever the character of that house may be, whether it be
Bethel, or the temple at Jerusalem, or the Church now composed of all
true believers, "builded together for an habitation of God through the
Spirit." However, Jacob's knowledge, both of God and his house, was
very shallow, at that point in his history on which we are now
dwelling.

We shall have occasion, again, to refer to some principles connected
with Bethel; and shall now close our meditations upon this chapter with
a brief notice of Jacob's bargain with God, so truly characteristic of
him, and so demonstrative of the truth of the statement with respect to
the shallowness of his knowledge of the divine character. "And Jacob
vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this
way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so
that I come again to my Father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be
my God; and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's
house: and of all that thou shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth
unto thee." Observe, "_if_ God will be with me." Now, the Lord had just
said, emphatically, "I _am_ with thee, and _will keep thee in all
places_ whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land,"
&c. And yet poor Jacob's heart cannot get beyond an "_if_;" nor, in its
thoughts of God's goodness, can it rise higher than "bread to eat, and
raiment to put on." Such were the thoughts of one who had just seen the
magnificent vision of the ladder reaching from earth to heaven, with
the Lord standing above, and promising an innumerable seed and an
everlasting possession. Jacob was evidently unable to enter into the
reality and fulness of God's thoughts. He measured God by himself, and
thus utterly failed to apprehend him. In short, Jacob had not yet
really got to the end of himself; and hence he had not really begun
with God.



CHAPTERS XXIX.-XXXI.


"Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people
of the east." As we have just seen, in Chap. xxviii., Jacob utterly
fails in the apprehension of God's real character, and meets all the
rich grace of Bethel with an "if," and a miserable bargain about food
and raiment. We now follow him into a scene of thorough bargain-making.
"Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." There is no
possibility of escaping from this. Jacob had not yet found his true
level in the presence of God; and therefore God uses circumstances to
chasten and break him down.

This is the real secret of much, very much, of our sorrow and trial in
the world. Our hearts have never been really broken before the Lord; we
have never been self-judged and self-emptied; and hence, again and
again, we, as it were, knock our heads against the wall. No one can
really enjoy God until he has got to the bottom of self, and for this
plain reason, that God has begun the display of himself at the very
point at which the end of flesh is seen. If, therefore, I have not
reached the end of my flesh, in the deep and positive experience of my
soul, it is morally impossible that I can have any thing like a just
apprehension of God's character. But I must, in some way or other, be
conducted to the true measure of nature. To accomplish this end, the
Lord makes use of various agencies which, no matter what they are, are
only effectual when used by him for the purpose of disclosing, in our
view, the true character of all that is in our hearts. How often do we
find, as in Jacob's case, that even although the Lord may come near to
us and speak in our ears, yet we do not understand his voice or take
our true place in his presence. "The Lord is in this place, and I knew
it not.... How dreadful is this place!" Jacob learnt nothing by all
this, and it therefore needed twenty years of terrible schooling, and
that, too, in a school marvellously adapted to his flesh; and even
that, as we shall see, was not sufficient to break him down.

However, it is remarkable to see how he gets back into an atmosphere so
entirely suited to his moral constitution. The bargain-making Jacob
meets with the bargain-making Laban, and they are both seen as it were,
straining every nerve to outwit each other. Nor can we wonder at Laban,
for he had never been at Bethel: he had seen no open heaven with a
ladder reaching from thence to earth; he had heard no magnificent
promises from the lips of Jehovah, securing to him all the land of
Canaan, with a countless seed: no marvel, therefore, that he should
exhibit a grasping, grovelling spirit; he had no other resource. It is
useless to expect from worldly men aught but a worldly spirit and
worldly principles and ways; they have gotten naught superior; and you
cannot bring a clean thing out of an unclean. But to find Jacob, after
all he had seen and heard at Bethel, struggling with a man of the
world, and endeavoring by such means to accumulate property, is
peculiarly humbling.

And yet, alas! it is no uncommon thing to find the children of God thus
forgetting their high destinies and heavenly inheritance, and
descending into the arena with the children of this world, to struggle
there for the riches and honors of a perishing, sin-stricken earth.
Indeed, to such an extent is this true, in many instances, that it is
often hard to trace a single evidence of that principle which St. John
tells us "overcometh the world." Looking at Jacob and Laban, and
judging of them upon natural principles, it would be hard to trace any
difference. One should get behind the scenes, and enter into God's
thoughts about both, in order to see how widely they differed. But it
was God that had made them to differ, not Jacob; and so it is now.
Difficult as it may be to trace any difference between the children of
light and the children of darkness, there is nevertheless a very wide
difference indeed,--a difference founded on the solemn fact that the
former are "the vessels of mercy, which God has afore prepared unto
glory," while the latter are "the vessels of wrath, fitted (not by God,
but by sin) to destruction."[18] (Rom. ix. 22, 23.) This makes a very
serious difference. The Jacobs and the Labans differ materially, and
have differed, and will differ forever, though the former may so sadly
fail in the realization and practical exhibition of their true
character and dignity.

Now, in Jacob's case, as set forth in the three chapters now before us,
all his toiling and working, like his wretched bargain before, is the
result of his ignorance of God's grace, and his inability to put
implicit confidence in God's promise. The man that could say, after a
most unqualified promise from God to give him the whole land of Canaan,
"IF God will give me food to eat and raiment to put on," could have had
but a very faint apprehension of who God was, or what his promise was
either; and because of this, we see him seeking to do the best he can
for himself. This is always the way when grace is not understood: the
principles of grace may be professed, but the real measure of our
experience of the power of grace is quite another thing. One would have
imagined that Jacob's vision had told him a tale of grace; but God's
revelation at Bethel, and Jacob's actings at Haran, are two very
different things; yet the latter tell out what was Jacob's sense of the
former. Character and conduct prove the real measure of the soul's
experience and conviction, whatever the profession may be. But Jacob
had never yet been brought to measure himself in God's presence, and
therefore he was ignorant of grace, and he proved his ignorance by
measuring himself with Laban, and adopting his maxims and ways.

One cannot help remarking the fact that inasmuch as Jacob failed to
learn and judge the inherent character of his flesh before God,
therefore he was in the providence of God led into the very sphere in
which that character was fully exhibited in its broadest lines. He was
conducted to Haran, the country of Laban and Rebekah, the very school
from whence those principles, in which he was such a remarkable adept,
had emanated, and where they were taught, exhibited, and maintained. If
one wanted to learn what God was, he should go to Bethel; if to learn
what man was, he should go to Haran. But Jacob had failed to take in
God's revelation of himself at Bethel, and he therefore went to Haran,
and there showed what he was,--and oh, what scrambling and scraping!
what shuffling and shifting! There is no holy and elevated confidence
in God, no simply looking to and waiting on him. True, God was with
Jacob,--for nothing can hinder the outshinings of divine grace.
Moreover, Jacob in a measure owns God's presence and faithfulness.
Still nothing can be done without a scheme and a plan. Jacob cannot
allow God to settle the question as to his wives and his wages, but
seeks to settle all by his own cunning and management. In short, it is
"the supplanter" throughout. Let the reader turn, for example, to Chap.
xxx. 37-42, and say where he can find a more masterly piece of cunning.
It is verily a perfect picture of Jacob. In place of allowing God to
multiply "the ringstraked, speckled, and spotted cattle," as he most
assuredly would have done, had he been trusted, he sets about securing
their multiplication by a piece of policy which could only have found
its origin in the mind of a Jacob. So in all his actings, during his
twenty years' sojourn with Laban; and finally, he most
characteristically "steals away," thus maintaining in every thing his
consistency with himself.

Now, it is in tracing out Jacob's real character from stage to stage of
his extraordinary history, that one gets a wondrous view of divine
grace. None but God could have borne with such an one, as none but God
would have taken such an one up. Grace begins at the very lowest point.
It takes up man as he is, and deals with him in the full intelligence
of what he is. It is of the very last importance to understand this
feature of grace at one's first starting; it enables us to bear with
steadiness of heart the after discoveries of personal vileness which so
frequently shake the confidence and disturb the peace of the children
of God.

Many there are who at first fail in the full apprehension of the utter
ruin of nature as looked at in God's presence, though their hearts have
been attracted by the grace of God, and their consciences tranquillized
in some degree by the application of the blood of Christ. Hence, as
they get on in their course, they begin to make deeper discoveries of
the evil within; and, being deficient in their apprehensions of God's
grace and the extent and efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ, they
immediately raise a question as to their being children of God at all.
Thus they are taken off Christ and thrown on themselves, and then they
either betake themselves to ordinances in order to keep up their tone
of devotion, or else fall back into thorough worldliness and carnality.
These are disastrous consequences, and all the result of not having
"the heart established in grace."

It is this that renders the study of Jacob's history so profoundly
interesting and eminently useful. No one can read the three chapters
now before us and not be struck at the amazing grace that could take up
such an one as Jacob; and not only take him up, but say, after the full
discovery of all that was in him, "He hath not beheld iniquity in
Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel." (Numb. xxiii. 21.)
He does not say that iniquity and perverseness were not in him. This
would never give the heart confidence,--the very thing above all others
which God desires to give. It could never assure a poor sinner's heart
to be told that there was _no sin in_ him; for alas! he knows too well
there is; but to be told there is no sin _on_ him, and that, moreover,
in God's sight, on the simple ground of Christ's perfect sacrifice,
must infallibly set his heart and conscience at rest. Had God taken up
Esau, we should not have had by any means such a blessed display of
grace; for this reason, that he does not appear before us in the
unamiable light in which we see Jacob. The more man sinks, the more
God's grace rises. As my debt rises in my estimation from the fifty
pence up to the five hundred, so my sense of grace rises also, my
experience of that love which, when we "had _nothing_ to pay," could
"frankly forgive" us all. (Luke vii. 42.) Well might the apostle say,
"it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace: not with
meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein."
(Heb. xiii. 9.)

FOOTNOTES:

[18] It is deeply interesting to the spiritual mind to mark how
sedulously the Spirit of God, in Rom. ix. and indeed throughout all
scripture, guards against the horrid inference which the human mind
draws from the doctrine of God's election. When he speaks of "vessels
of wrath," he simply says, "fitted to destruction." He does not say
that God "fitted" them.

Whereas, on the other hand, when he refers to "the vessels of mercy" he
says, "whom _he_ had afore prepared unto glory." This is most marked.

If my reader will turn for a moment to Matt. xxv. 34-41, he will find
another striking and beautiful instance of the same thing.

When the king addresses those on his right hand, he says, "Come, ye
_blessed of my Father_, inherit the kingdom _prepared for you_ from the
foundation of the world." (Verse 34.)

But when he addresses those on his left, he says, "Depart from me, ye
cursed." He does not say, "cursed of my Father." And, further, he says,
"into everlasting fire, prepared," not for _you_, but "for the devil
and his angels." (Verse 41.)

In a word, then, it is plain that God has "prepared" a kingdom of
glory, and "vessels of mercy" to inherit that kingdom; but he has not
prepared "everlasting fire" for men, but for the "devil and his
angels;" nor has he fitted the "vessels of wrath," but they have fitted
themselves.

The word of God as clearly establishes "_election_" as it sedulously
guards against "_reprobation_." Every one who finds himself in heaven
will have to thank God for it; and every one that finds himself in hell
will have to thank himself.



CHAPTER XXXII.


"And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him." Still God's
grace follows him, notwithstanding all. "Nothing changeth God's
affection." Whom he loves, and how he loves, he loves to the end. His
love is like himself, "the same yesterday, to-day, and forever." But
how little effect "God's host" had upon Jacob may be seen by his
actings as here set before us. "And Jacob sent messengers before him to
Esau his brother, unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom." He
evidently feels uneasy in reference to Esau, and not without reason. He
had treated him badly, and his conscience was not at ease; but instead
of casting himself unreservedly upon God, he betakes himself to his
usual planning again, in order to avert Esau's wrath. He tries to
_manage_ Esau, instead of leaning on God.

"And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall ye speak unto _my lord_
Esau; _thy servant_ Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and
stayed there until now." All this bespeaks a soul very much off its
centre in God. "My lord," and "thy servant," is not like the language
of a brother, or of one in the conscious dignity of the presence of
God; but it was the language of Jacob, and of Jacob, too, with a bad
conscience.

"And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother
Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him.
Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed." But what does he first
do? Does he at once cast himself upon God? No; he begins to manage. "He
divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and
the camels, into two bands; and said, If Esau come to the one company
and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape."
Jacob's first thought was always _a plan_; and in this we have a true
picture of the poor human heart. True, he turns to God after he makes
his plan, and cries to him for deliverance; but no sooner does he cease
praying than he resumes the planning. Now, praying and planning will
never do together. If I plan, I am leaning more or less on my plan; but
when I pray, I should lean exclusively upon God. Hence, the two things
are perfectly incompatible; they virtually destroy each other. When my
eye is filled with my own management of things, I am not prepared to
see God acting for me; and in that case prayer is not the utterance of
my need, but the mere superstitious performance of something which I
think ought to be done, or it may be asking God to sanctify my plans.
This will never do. It is not asking God to sanctify and bless my
means, but it is asking him to do it all himself.[19]

Though Jacob asked God to deliver him from his brother Esau, he
evidently was not satisfied with that, and therefore he tried to
"appease him with a present." Thus his confidence was in the "present,"
and not entirely in God. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and
desperately wicked." It is often hard to detect what is the real ground
of the heart's confidence. We imagine, or would fain persuade
ourselves, that we are leaning upon God, when we are in reality leaning
upon some scheme of our own devising. Who, after hearkening to Jacob's
prayer, wherein he says, "Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my
brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he will come and
smite me, and the mother with the children," could imagine him saying,
"I will appease him with a present." Had he forgotten his prayer? Was
he making a god of his present? Did he place more confidence in a few
cattle than in Jehovah, to whom he had just been committing himself?
These are questions which naturally arise out of Jacob's actings in
reference to Esau, and we can readily answer them by looking into the
glass of our own hearts. There we learn, as well as on the page of
Jacob's history, how much more apt we are to lean on our own management
than on God; but it will not do; we must be brought to see the end of
our management, that it is perfect folly, and that the true path of
wisdom is to repose in full confidence upon God.

Nor will it do to make our prayers part of our management. We often
feel very well satisfied with ourselves when we add prayer to our
arrangement, or when we have used all lawful means and called upon God
to bless them. When this is the case, our prayers are worth about as
much as our plans, inasmuch as we are leaning upon them instead of upon
God. We must be really brought to the end of every thing with which
self has aught to do; for until then, God cannot show himself. But we
can never get to the end of our plans until we have been brought to the
end of ourselves. We must see that "all flesh is grass, and all the
goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field." (Isa. xl. 6.)

Thus it is in this interesting chapter; when Jacob had made all his
prudent arrangements, we read, "And Jacob was left alone; and there
wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day." This is a
turning-point in the history of this very remarkable man. To be left
alone with God is the only true way of arriving at a just knowledge of
ourselves and our ways. We can never get a true estimate of nature and
all its actings, until we have weighed them in the balance of the
sanctuary, and there we ascertain their real worth. No matter what we
may think about ourselves, nor yet what man may think about us; the
great question is, What does God think about us? And the answer to this
question can only be heard when we are "left alone." Away from the
world; away from self; away from all the thoughts, reasonings,
imaginations, and emotions of mere nature, and "alone" with God,--thus,
and thus alone, can we get a correct judgment about ourselves.

"Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him." Mark, it was
not Jacob wrestling with a man; but a man wrestling with Jacob; this
scene is very commonly referred to as an instance of Jacob's power in
prayer. That it is not this is evident from the simple wording of the
passage. My wrestling with a man, and a man wrestling with me, present
two totally different ideas to the mind. In the former case I want to
gain some object from him; in the latter, he wants to gain some object
from me. Now, in Jacob's case, the divine object was to bring him to
see what a poor, feeble, worthless creature he was, and when Jacob so
pertinaciously held out against the divine dealing with him, "he
touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was
out of joint as he wrestled with him." The sentence of death must be
written on the flesh,--the power of the cross must be entered into
before we can steadily and happily walk with God. We have followed
Jacob so far, amid all the windings and workings of his extraordinary
character,--we have seen him planning and managing during his twenty
years' sojourn with Laban; but not until he "was left alone," did he
get a true idea of what a perfectly helpless thing he was in himself.
Then, the seat of his strength being touched, he learnt to say, "I will
not let _thee_ go."

   "Other refuge have I none:
   Clings my helpless soul to thee."

This was a new era in the history of the supplanting, planning Jacob.
Up to this point he had held fast by his own ways and means; but now he
is brought to say, "I will not let _thee_ go." Now, let my reader
remark, that Jacob did not express himself thus until "the hollow of
his thigh was touched." This simple fact is quite sufficient to settle
the true interpretation of the whole scene. God was wrestling with
Jacob to bring him to this point. We have already seen that, as to
Jacob's power in prayer, he had no sooner uttered a few words to God
than he let out the real secret of his soul's dependence, by saying, "I
will appease him (Esau) with a present." Would he have said this if he
had really entered into the meaning of prayer, or true dependence upon
God? Assuredly not. If he had been looking to God alone to appease
Esau, could he have said, "I will appease him by a present?"
Impossible: God and the creature must be kept distinct, and will be
kept so in every soul that knows much of the sacred reality of a life
of faith.

But, alas! here is where we fail, if one may speak for another. Under
the plausible and apparently pious formula of using means, we really
cloak the positive infidelity of our poor deceitful hearts; we think we
are looking to God to bless our means, while, in reality, we are
shutting him out by leaning on the means, instead of leaning on him.
Oh, may our hearts be taught the evil of thus acting. May we learn to
cling more simply to God _alone_, that so our history may be more
characterized by that holy elevation above the circumstances through
which we are passing! It is not, by any means, an easy matter so to get
to the end of the creature, in every shape and form, as to be able to
say, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me." To say this from
the heart, and to abide in the power of it, is the secret of all true
strength. Jacob said it when the hollow of his thigh was touched; but
not till then. He struggled long ere he gave way, because his
confidence in the flesh was strong. But God can bring down to the dust
the stoutest character. He knows how to touch the spring of nature's
strength, and write the sentence of death thoroughly upon it; and until
this is done, there can be no real "power with God or man." We must be
"weak" ere we can be "strong." "The power of Christ" can only "rest on
us" in connection with the knowledge of our infirmities. Christ cannot
put the seal of his approval upon nature's strength, its wisdom, or its
glory: all these must sink that he may rise. Nature can never form, in
any one way, a pedestal on which to display the grace or power of
Christ; for if it could, then might flesh glory in his presence; but
this, we know, can never be.

And, inasmuch as the display of God's glory, and God's name or
character, is connected with the entire setting aside of nature, so,
until this latter is set aside, the soul can never enjoy the disclosure
of the former. Hence, though Jacob is called to tell out his name, to
own that his name is "Jacob, or a supplanter," he yet receives no
revelation of the name of him who had been wrestling with him, and
bringing him down into the dust. He received for himself the name of
"Israel, or prince," which was a great step in advance; but when he
says, "Tell me, I pray thee, thy name;" he received the reply,
"Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name?" The Lord refuses to
tell his name, though he had elicited from Jacob the truth as to
himself, and he blesses him accordingly. How often is this the case in
the annals of God's family! There is the disclosure of self in all its
moral deformity; but we fail to get hold practically of what God is,
though he has come so very close to us, and blessed us, too, in
connection with the discovery of ourselves. Jacob received the new name
of Israel when the hollow of his thigh had been touched. He became a
mighty prince when he had been brought to know himself as a weak man;
but still the Lord had to say, "Wherefore is it that thou dost ask
after my name?" There is no disclosure of the name of him who,
nevertheless, had brought out the real name and condition of Jacob.

From all this we learn that it is one thing to be blessed by the Lord,
and quite another thing to have the revelation of his character, by the
Spirit, to our hearts. "He blessed him there;" but he did not tell his
name. There is blessing in being brought, in any measure, to know
ourselves, for therein we are led into a path, in which we are able,
more clearly, to discern what God is to us in detail. Thus it was with
Jacob. When the hollow of his thigh was touched he found himself in a
condition in which it was either God or nothing. A poor halting man
could do little: it therefore behoved him to cling to one who was
almighty.

I would remark, ere leaving this chapter, that the book of Job is, in a
certain sense, a detailed commentary on this scene in Jacob's history.
Throughout the first thirty-one chapters, Job grapples with his
friends, and maintains his point against all their arguments; but in
Chapter xxxii. God, by the instrumentality of Elihu, begins to wrestle
with him; and in Chapter xxxviii. he comes down upon him directly with
all the majesty of his power, overwhelms him by the display of his
greatness and glory, and elicits from him the well-known words, "I have
heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.
Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (Chap. xlii.
5, 6.) This was really touching the hollow of his thigh. And mark the
expression, "mine eye seeth _thee_." He does not say, "I see myself"
merely; no; but "thee." Nothing but a view of what God is, can really
lead to repentance and self-loathing. Thus it will be with the people
of Israel, whose history is very analogous with that of Job. When they
shall look upon him whom they have pierced, they will mourn, and then
there will be full restoration and blessing. Their latter end, like
Job's will be better than their beginning. They will learn the full
meaning of that word, "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me
is thine help." (Hosea xiii. 9.)

FOOTNOTES:

[19] No doubt, when faith allows God to act, he will use his own
agency; but this is a totally different thing from his owning and
blessing the plans and arrangements of unbelief and impatience. This
distinction is not sufficiently understood.



CHAPTERS XXXIII. XXXIV.


We may here see how groundless were all Jacob's fears, and how useless
all his plans. Notwithstanding the wrestling, the touching the hollow
of the thigh, and the halting, we find Jacob still planning. "And Jacob
lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him
four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto
Rachel, and unto the two handmaids. And he put the handmaids and their
children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and
Joseph hindermost." This arrangement proved the continuance of his
fears. He still anticipated vengeance from the hand of Esau, and he
exposed those about whom he cared least to the first stroke of that
vengeance. How wondrous are the depths of the human heart! How slow it
is to trust God! Had Jacob been really leaning upon God, he never
could have anticipated destruction for himself and his family; but
alas! the heart knows something of the difficulty of simply reposing,
in calm confidence, upon an ever-present, all-powerful, and infinitely
gracious God.

But mark now the thorough vanity of the heart's anxiety. "And Esau ran
to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him; and
they wept." The present was quite unnecessary,--the plan useless. God
"appeased" Esau, as he had already appeased Laban. Thus it is he ever
delights to rebuke our poor, coward, unbelieving hearts, and put to
flight all our fears. Instead of the dreaded sword of Esau, Jacob meets
his embrace and kiss; instead of strife and conflict, they mingle their
tears. Such are God's ways. Who would not trust him? Who would not
honor him with the heart's fullest confidence? Why is it that,
notwithstanding all the sweet evidence of his faithfulness to those who
put their trust in him, we are so ready, on every fresh occasion, to
doubt and hesitate? The answer is simple: we are not sufficiently
acquainted with God. "Acquaint now thyself with him and be at peace."
(Job xxii. 21.) This is true, whether in reference to the unconverted
sinner, or to the child of God. The true knowledge of God, real
acquaintance with him, is life and peace. "This is life eternal, that
they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou
hast sent." (John xvii. 3.) The more intimate our acquaintance with
God, the more solid will be our peace, and the more will our souls be
lifted above every creature dependence. "God is a rock," and we only
need to lean our whole weight upon him to know how ready and how able
he is to sustain us.

After all this manifestation of God's goodness, we find Jacob settling
down in Succoth, and, contrary to the spirit and principles of a
pilgrim life, building a house as if it were his home. Now, Succoth was
evidently not his divinely-appointed destination. The Lord had not said
to him, "I am the God of Succoth;" no; but "I am the God of Bethel."
Bethel, therefore, and not Succoth, should have been Jacob's grand
object. But alas! the heart is always prone to rest satisfied with a
position and portion short of what God would graciously assign.

Jacob then moves on to Shechem, and purchases ground, still falling
short of the divine mark, and the name by which he calls his altar is
indicative of the moral condition of his soul. He calls it
"El-elohe-Israel," or "God, the God of Israel." This was taking a very
contracted view of God. True, it is our privilege to know God as our
God; but it is a higher thing to know him as the God of his own house,
and to view ourselves as part of that house. It is the believer's
privilege to know Christ as _his_ head; but it is a higher thing to
know him as the head of his body the Church, and to know ourselves as
members of that body.

We shall see, when we come to Chap. xxxv. that Jacob is led to take a
higher and a wider view of God; but at Shechem he was manifestly on low
ground, and he was made to smart for it, as is always the case when we
stop short of God's own ground. The two tribes and a half took up their
position on this side of Jordan, and they were the first to fall into
the enemy's hand. So it was with Jacob. We see, in Chap. xxxiv., the
bitter fruits of his sojourn at Shechem. There is a blot cast upon his
family, which Simeon and Levi attempt to wipe out, in the mere energy
and violence of nature, which only led to still deeper sorrow; and
that, too, which touched Jacob still more keenly than the insult
offered to his daughter: "And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have
troubled _me_, to make _me_ to stink among the inhabitants of the land,
among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and _I_ being few in number,
they shall gather themselves together against _me_, and slay _me_; and
_I_ shall be destroyed, _I_ and my house." Thus it was the consequences
in reference to himself that affected Jacob most. He seems to have
walked in constant apprehension of danger to himself or his family, and
in the manifestation of an anxious, a cautious, timid, calculating
spirit, utterly incompatible with a life of genuine faith in God.

It is not that Jacob was not, in the main, a man of faith; he assuredly
was, and as such gets a place amongst the "cloud of witnesses" in Heb.
xi. But then he exhibited sad failure from not walking in the habitual
exercise of that divine principle. Could faith have led him to say, "I
shall be destroyed, I and my house?" Surely not. God's promise in
Chapter xxviii. 14, 15, should have banished every fear from his poor
timid spirit. "I will keep thee.... I will not leave thee." This should
have tranquillized his heart. But the fact is, his mind was more
occupied with his danger among the Shechemites than with his security
in the hand of God. He ought to have known that not a hair of his head
could be touched, and therefore, instead of looking at Simeon and Levi,
or the consequences of their rash acting, he should have judged himself
for being in such a position at all. If he had not settled at Shechem,
Dinah would not have been dishonored, and the violence of his sons
would not have been exhibited. We constantly see Christians getting
into deep sorrow and trouble through their own unfaithfulness; and
then, instead of judging themselves, they begin to look at
circumstances, and to cast upon them the blame.

How often do we see Christian parents, for instance, in keen anguish of
soul about the wildness, unsubduedness, and worldliness of their
children; and, all the while, they have mainly to blame themselves for
not walking faithfully before God in reference to their family. Thus
was it with Jacob. He was on low moral ground at Shechem; and, inasmuch
as he lacked that refined sensibility which would have led him to
detect the low ground, God, in very faithfulness, used his
circumstances to chastise him. "God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man
soweth that shall he also reap." This is a principle flowing out of
God's moral government,--a principle, from the application of which
none can possibly escape; and it is a positive mercy to the children of
God that they are obliged to reap the fruits of their errors. It is a
mercy to be taught, in any way, the bitterness of departing from, or
stopping short of, the living God. We must learn that this is not our
rest; for, blessed be God, he would not give us a polluted rest. He
would ever have us resting _in_, and _with_ himself. Such is his
perfect grace; and when our hearts wander, or fall short, his word is,
"If thou wilt return, return _unto me_." False humility, which is
simply the fruit of unbelief, would lead the wanderer or backslider to
take lower ground, not knowing the principle or measure of God's
restoration. The prodigal would seek to be made a servant, not knowing
that, so far as he was concerned, he had no more title to the place of
a servant than to that of a son; and, moreover, that it would be
utterly unworthy of the father's character to put him in such a
position. We must come to God on a principle and in a manner worthy of
himself, or not at all.



CHAPTER XXXV.


"And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there." This
confirms the principle on which we have been dwelling. When there is a
failure or declension, the Lord calls the soul back to himself.
"Remember therefore _from whence thou art fallen_; and repent and do
_the first works_." (Rev. ii. 5.) This is the divine principle of
restoration. The soul must be recalled to the very highest point; it
must be brought back to the divine standard. The Lord does not say,
"remember where you are;" no; but "remember the lofty position from
whence you have fallen." Thus only can one learn how far he has
declined, and how he is to retrace his steps.

Now, it is when thus recalled to God's high and holy standard, that one
is really led to see the sad evil of one's fallen condition. What a
fearful amount of moral evil had gathered round Jacob's family,
unjudged by him, until his soul was roused by the call to "go up to
Bethel." Shechem was not the place in which to detect all this evil.
The atmosphere of that place was too much impregnated with impure
elements to admit of the soul's discerning, with any degree of
clearness and precision, the true character of evil. But the moment the
call to Bethel fell on Jacob's ear, "Then Jacob said unto his
household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods
that are among you, and be clean and change your garments, and let us
arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make thee an altar unto God, who
answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which
I went." The very mention of "the house of God" struck a chord in the
soul of the patriarch; it carried him, in the twinkling of an eye, over
the history of twenty eventful years. It was at Bethel he had learnt
what God was, and not at Shechem; hence he must get back to Bethel
again, and erect an altar upon a totally different base, and under a
totally different name, from his altar at Shechem. This latter was
connected with a mass of uncleanness and idolatry.

Jacob could speak of "El-elohe-Israel," while surrounded by a quantity
of things utterly incompatible with the holiness of the house of God.
It is important to be clear in reference to this point. Nothing can
keep the soul in a path of consistent, intelligent separation from evil
save the sense of what "the house of God" is, and what becomes that
house. If I merely look at God, in reference to myself, I shall not
have a clear, full, divine sense of all that flows out of a due
recognition of God's relation to his house. Some there are who deem it
a matter of no importance how they are mixed up with impure materials
in the worship of God, provided they themselves are true and upright in
heart. In other words, they think they can worship God at Shechem; and
that an altar named "El-elohe-Israel" is just as elevated, just as much
according to God, as an altar named "El Bethel." This is evidently a
mistake. The spiritually-minded reader will at once detect the vast
moral difference between Jacob's condition at Shechem and his condition
at Bethel; and the same difference is observable between the two
altars. Our ideas in reference to the worship of God must, of
necessity, be affected by our spiritual condition; and the worship
which we present will be low and contracted, or elevated and
comprehensive, just in proportion as we enter into the apprehension of
his character and relationship.

Now, the name of our altar and the character of our worship express the
same idea. El-Bethel worship is higher than El-elohe-Israel worship,
for this simple reason, that it conveys a higher idea of God. It gives
me a more elevated thought of God to speak of him as the God of his
house than as the God of a solitary individual. True, there is
beautiful grace expressed in the title, "God, the God of Israel;" and
the soul must ever feel happy in looking at the character of God, as
graciously connecting himself with every separate stone of his house,
and every separate member of the body. Each stone in the building of
God is a "lively stone," as connected with the "living stone," having
communion with the "living God," by the power of "the Spirit of life."
But while all this is blessedly true, God is the God of his house; and
when we are enabled, by an enlarged spiritual intelligence, to view him
as such, we enjoy a higher character of worship than that which flows
from merely apprehending what he is to ourselves individually.

But there is another thing to be remarked in Jacob's recall to Bethel.
He is told to make an altar "unto God, that appeared unto thee when
thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother." He is thus reminded
of "the day of his distress." It is often well to have our minds led in
this way to the point in our history in which we found ourselves
brought down to the lowest step of the ladder. Thus Saul is brought
back to the time when he was "little in his own eyes." This is the true
starting-point with all of us. "When thou wast little in thine own
eyes," is a point of which we often need to be reminded. It is then
that the heart really leans on God. Afterwards we begin to fancy
ourselves to be something, and the Lord is obliged to teach us afresh
our own nothingness. When first one enters upon a path of service or
testimony, what a sense there is of personal weakness and incapacity!
and, as a consequence, what leaning upon God! what earnest, fervent
appeals to him for help and strength! Afterwards we begin to think
that, from being so long at the work, we can get on by ourselves,--at
least there is not the same sense of weakness or the same simple
dependence upon God; and then our ministry becomes a poor, meagre,
flippant, wordy thing, without unction or power,--a thing flowing, not
from the exhaustless tide of the Spirit, but from our own wretched
minds.

From ver. 9-15, God renews his promise to Jacob, and confirms the new
name of "prince," instead of "supplanter;" and Jacob again calls the
name of the place "Bethel." At verse 18 we have an interesting example
of the difference between the judgment of faith and the judgment of
nature. The latter looks at things through the hazy mist with which it
is surrounded; the former looks at them in the light of the presence
and counsels of God. "And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing
(for she died), that she called his name Ben-oni: but his father called
him Benjamin." Nature called him "the son of my sorrow;" but faith
called him "the son of the right hand." Thus is it ever. The difference
between the thoughts of nature and those of faith must ever be wide
indeed; and we should earnestly desire that our souls should be
governed only by the latter, and not by the former.



CHAPTER XXXVI.


Furnishes a catalogue of Esau's sons, with their various titles and
localities. We shall not dwell on this, but pass on to one of the most
fruitful and interesting sections in the entire canon of inspiration,
viz.:--



CHAPTERS XXXVII-L,


On which we shall dwell more particularly. There is not in scripture a
more perfect and beautiful type of Christ than Joseph. Whether we view
Christ as the object of the Father's love,--the object of the envy of
"his own",--in his humiliation, sufferings, death, exaltation, and
glory,--in all, we have him strikingly typified by Joseph.

In Chapter xxxvii. we have Joseph's dreams,--the statement of which
draws out the enmity of his brethren. He was the object of his father's
love, and the subject of very high destinies; and, inasmuch as the
hearts of his brethren were not in communion with these things, they
hated him. They had no fellowship in the father's love, and they would
not yield to the thought of Joseph's exaltation. In all this they
represent the Jews in Christ's day. "He came to his own, and his own
received him not." He had "no form nor comeliness in their eyes." They
would neither own him as the Son of God, nor King of Israel. Their eyes
were not open to behold "his glory,--the glory as of the only begotten
of the Father, full of grace and truth." They would not have him; yea,
they hated him.

Now, in Joseph's case, we see that he, in no wise, relaxed his
testimony in consequence of his brethren's refusal of his first dream.
"And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brethren," and they
hated him yet the more.... "And he dreamed yet another dream, and he
told it to his brethren." This was simple testimony founded upon divine
revelation; but it was testimony which brought Joseph down to the pit.
Had he kept back his testimony, or taken off aught of its edge and
power, he might have spared himself; but, no: he told them the truth,
and therefore they hated him.

Thus was it with Joseph's great Antitype. He bore witness to the
truth--he witnessed a good confession--he kept back nothing--he could
only speak the truth because he was _the_ truth, and his testimony to
the truth was answered, on man's part, by the cross, the vinegar, the
soldier's spear. The testimony of Christ, too, was connected with the
deepest, fullest, richest grace. He not only came as "the truth," but
also as the perfect expression of all the love of the Father's heart;
"grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." He was the full disclosure to
man of what God was. Hence man was left entirely without excuse. He
came and showed God to man, and man hated God with a perfect hatred.
The fullest exhibition of divine love was answered by the fullest
exhibition of human hatred. This is seen in the cross,--and we have it
touchingly foreshadowed at the pit into which Joseph was cast by his
brethren.

"And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them,
they conspired against him to slay him. And they said one to another,
Behold, this dreamer cometh; come now, therefore, and let us slay him,
and cast him into some pit; and we will say, some evil beast hath
devoured him; and we shall see what will become of his dreams." These
words forcibly remind us of the parable in Matthew xxii. "But, last of
all, he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But
when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is
the heir, come let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.
And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him."
God sent his Son into the world with this thought, "They will
reverence my son;" but alas! man's heart had no reverence for the
"well-beloved" of the Father. They cast him out. Earth and heaven were
at issue in reference to Christ; and they are at issue still. _Man_
crucified him; but _God_ raised him from the dead. Man placed him on a
cross between two thieves; God set him at his own right hand in the
heavens. Man gave him the very lowest place on earth; God gave him the
very highest place in heaven, in brightest majesty.

All this is shown out in Joseph's history. "Joseph is a fruitful bough,
even a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the wall. The
archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him; but
his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong
by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd,
the stone of Israel;) even by the God of thy father, who shall help
thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of
heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the
breast and of the womb; the blessings of thy father have prevailed
above the blessings of my progenitors, unto the utmost bounds of the
everlasting hills; they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the
crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren." (Gen.
xlix. 22-26.)

These verses beautifully exhibit to our view "the sufferings of Christ
and the glory that should follow." "The archers" have done their work;
but God was stronger than they. The true Joseph has been shot at and
grievously wounded in the house of his friends; but "the arms of his
hands have been made strong" in the power of resurrection, and faith
now knows him as the basis of all God's purposes of blessing and glory
in reference to the Church, Israel, and the whole creation. When we
look at Joseph in the pit and in the prison, and look at him afterwards
as ruler over all the land of Egypt, we see the difference between the
thoughts of God and the thoughts of men; and so when we look at the
cross, and at "the throne of the majesty in the heavens," we see the
same thing.

Nothing ever brought out the real state of man's heart toward God but
the coming of Christ. "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had
not had sin." (John xv. 22.) It is not that they would not have been
sinners. No: but "they had not had sin." So he says in another place,
"If ye were blind, ye should have no sin." (John ix. 41.) God came near
to man in the person of his Son, and man was able to say, "this is the
heir;" but yet he said, "come, let us kill him." Hence "they have no
cloak for their sin." Those who say they see have no excuse. _Confessed
blindness_ is not at all the difficulty, but _professed sight_. This is
a truly solemn principle for a professing age like the present. The
permanence of sin is connected with the mere profession to see. A man
who is blind and knows it, can have his eyes opened; but what can be
done for one who thinks he sees, when he really does not?



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


Presents one of those remarkable circumstances in which divine grace is
seen gloriously triumphing over man's sin. "It is evident that our Lord
sprang out of Juda." (Heb. vii. 14.) But how? "Judas begat Phares and
Zara of _Thamar_." (Matt. i. 3.) This is peculiarly striking. God, in
his great grace, rising above the sin and folly of man, in order to
bring about his own purposes of love and mercy. Thus, a little farther
on, in Matthew, we read, "David the king begat Solomon, of her that had
been the wife of Urias." It is worthy of God thus to act. The Spirit of
God is conducting us along the line through which, according to the
flesh, Christ came; and in doing so he gives us as links in the
genealogical chain, Tamar and Bathsheba! How evident it is that there
is nothing of man in this! How plain it is that when we reach the close
of the first chapter of Matthew, it is "God manifest in the flesh" we
find, and that, too, from the pen of the Holy Ghost! Man could never
have devised such a genealogy. It is entirely divine: and no spiritual
person can read it without seeing in it a blessed exhibition of divine
grace in the first place, and of the divine inspiration of Matthew's
gospel in the second place,--at least of his account of Christ's
genealogy according to the flesh. I believe a comparison of 2 Sam. xi.
and Gen. xxxviii. with Matt. i. will furnish the thoughtful Christian
with matter for a very sweet and edifying meditation.



CHAPTER XXXIX.-XLV.


In perusing these interesting sections of inspiration, we perceive a
remarkable chain of providential actings, all tending to one grand
point, namely, _the exaltation of the man who had been in the pit_; and
at the same time bringing out by the way a number of subordinate
objects. "The thoughts of many hearts" were to be "revealed;" but
Joseph was to be exalted. "He called for a famine upon the land: he
brake the whole staff of bread. He sent a man before them, even Joseph,
who was sold for a servant; whose feet they hurt with fetters; he was
laid in iron; until the time that his word came; the word of the Lord
tried him. The king sent and loosed him; even the ruler of the people,
and let him go free. He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all
his substance; to bind his princes at his pleasure, and teach his
senators wisdom." (Psalm cv. 16-22.)

It is well to see that the leading object was to exalt the one whom men
had rejected; and then to produce in those same men a sense of their
sin in rejecting. And how admirably all this is effected! The most
trivial and the most important, the most likely and the most unlikely
circumstances are made to minister to the development of God's
purposes. In Chapter xxxix. Satan uses Potiphar's wife, and in Chap.
xl. he uses Pharaoh's chief butler. The former he used to put Joseph
into the dungeon; and the latter he used to keep him there, through his
ungrateful negligence; but all in vain. God was behind the scenes. His
finger was guiding all the springs of the vast machine of
circumstances, and when the due time was come, he brought forth the man
of his purpose, and set his feet in a large room. Now, this is ever
God's prerogative. He is above all, and can use all for the
accomplishment of his grand and unsearchable designs. It is sweet to be
able thus to trace our Father's hand and counsel in every thing. Sweet
to know that all sorts of agents are at his sovereign disposal; angels,
men, and devils--all are under his omnipotent hand, and all are made to
carry out his purposes.

In the scripture now before us, all this is seen in a most remarkable
manner. God visits the domestic circle of a heathen captain, the
household of a heathen king, yea, and his bed-side, and makes the very
visions of his head upon his bed contribute to the development of his
counsels. Nor is it merely individuals and their circumstances that we
see thus taken up and used for the furtherance of God's ends; but Egypt
and all the surrounding countries are brought into the scene; in short,
the whole earth was prepared by the hand of God to be a theatre on
which to display the glory and greatness of the one "who was separate
from his brethren." Such are God's ways; and it is one of the happiest
and most elevating exercises for the soul of a saint to trace thus the
admirable actings of his heavenly Father. How forcibly is God's
providence brought out in this profoundly interesting history of
Joseph! Look, for a moment, into the dungeon of the captain of the
guard. See there a man "laid in iron," charged with a most abominable
crime--the outcast and offscouring of society; and yet see him, almost
in a moment, raised to the very highest eminence, and who can deny that
God is in it all?

"And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath showed thee all
this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: thou shalt be
over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be
ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. And Pharaoh said
unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And
Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand,
and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about
his neck. And he made him to ride in the second chariot that he had:
and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all
the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and
without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of
Egypt." (Chap. xli. 39-44.)

Here, then, was exaltation of no ordinary kind. Contrast this with the
pit and the dungeon; and mark the chain of events by which it was all
brought about, and you have, at once, a marked exhibition of the hand
of God, and a striking type of the sufferings and glory of the Lord
Jesus Christ. Joseph was taken from the pit and the dungeon, into which
he had been brought by the envy of his brethren, and the false judgment
of the Gentile, to be ruler over the whole land of Egypt; and not only
so, but to be the channel of blessing, and the sustainer of life, to
Israel and the whole earth. This is all typical of Christ; indeed, a
type could hardly be more perfect. We see a man laid, to all intents
and purposes, in the place of death, by the hand of man, and then
raised up by the hand of God, and set in dignity and glory. "Ye men of
Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God
among you by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him in
the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know; him, being delivered by
the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by
wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having
loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that he should
be holden of it." (Acts. ii. 22-24.)

But there are two points in Joseph's history which, together with what
has been noticed, render the type remarkably perfect; I allude to his
marriage with a stranger in Chapter xli, and his interview with his
brethren in Chapter xlv. The following is the order of events. Joseph
presents himself to his brethren as one sent by the father; they reject
him, and, so far as lies in them, put him in the place of death; God
takes him up from thence, and raises him to a position of highest
dignity: thus exalted, he gets a bride; and when his brethren according
to the flesh, are thoroughly broken and prostrate before him, he makes
himself known to them, tranquillizes their hearts, and brings them into
blessing; he then becomes the channel of blessing to them and to the
whole world.

I shall just make a few remarks on Joseph's marriage and the
restoration of his brethren. The strange wife shadows forth the Church.
Christ presented himself to the Jews, and being rejected, took his seat
on high, and sent down the Holy Ghost to gather out an elect Church,
composed of Jew and Gentile, to be united with him in heavenly glory.
The doctrine of the Church has already been dwelt upon in our remarks
on Chapter xxiv., but one or two points remain to be noticed here. And
first, we may observe that Joseph's Egyptian bride was intimately
associated with him in his glory.[20] She, as being part of himself,
shared in all that was his. Moreover, she occupied a place of nearness
and intimacy known only to herself. Thus it is with the Church, the
bride of the Lamb. She is gathered to Christ to be the sharer, at once,
of his rejection and his glory. It is Christ's position which gives
character to the position of the Church, and her position should ever
give character to her walk. If we are gathered to Christ, it is as
exalted in glory, and not as humbled down here. "Henceforth know we no
man after the flesh; yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh,
yet now henceforth know we him no more." (2 Cor. v. 16.) The Church's
gathering-point is Christ in glory. "I, if I be lifted up from the
earth, will draw all men unto me." (John xii. 32.)

There is far more of practical value in the clear apprehension of this
principle than might, at first sight, appear. It is ever the aim of
Satan, as it is the tendency of our hearts, to lead us to stop short of
God's mark in every thing, and specially in the centre of our unity as
Christians. It is a popular sentiment, that "the blood of the Lamb is
the union of saints," i. e., it is the blood which forms their centre
of unity. Now, that it is the infinitely precious blood of Christ
which sets us individually as worshippers in the presence of God is
blessedly true. The blood, therefore, forms the divine basis of our
fellowship with God. But when we come to speak of the centre of our
unity as a church, we must see that the Holy Ghost gathers us to the
Person of a risen and glorified Christ; and this grand truth gives
character--high and holy character--to our association as Christians.
If we take lower ground than this we must inevitably form a sect or an
_ism_. If we gather round an ordinance, however important, or round a
truth, however indisputable, we make something less than Christ our
centre.

Hence, it is more important to ponder the practical consequences which
flow out of the truth of our being gathered to a risen and glorified
Head in the heavens. If Christ were on earth, we should be gathered to
him here; but, inasmuch as he is hidden in the heavens, the Church
takes her character from his position there. Hence, Christ could say,
"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world;" and again,
"For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified
through the truth." (John xvii. 16, 19.) So, also, in 1 Peter, we read,
"To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but
chosen of God and precious; ye also, as lively stones, are built up a
spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices,
acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." (Chap. ii. 4, 5.) If we are
gathered to Christ we must be gathered to him _as_ he is, and _where_
he is; and the more the Spirit of God leads our souls into the
understanding of this, the more clearly we shall see the character of
walk that becomes us. Joseph's bride was united to him, not in the pit
or the dungeon, but in the dignity and glory of his position in Egypt;
and, in her case, we can have no difficulty in perceiving the vast
difference between the two positions.

But farther we read, "And unto Joseph were born two sons, _before the
years of famine came_." There was a time of trouble coming; but
previous thereto the fruit of his union appeared. The children whom God
had given him were called into existence previous to this time of
trial. So will it be in reference to the Church. All the members
thereof will be called out, the whole body will be completed and
gathered to the Head in heaven, previous to "the great tribulation"
which shall come upon all the earth.

We shall now turn for a little to Joseph's interview with his brethren,
in which we shall find some points of resemblance to Israel's history
in the latter day. During the period that Joseph was hidden from the
view of his brethren, these latter were called to pass through deep and
searching trial,--through intensely painful exercises of conscience.
One of these exercises is poured out in the following words: "And they
said one to another, _We are verily guilty_ concerning our brother, in
that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and _we would
not hear_; therefore _is this distress come upon us_. And Reuben
answered them, saying. Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against
the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also, _his blood
is required_." (Chap. xlii. 21, 22.)

Again, in Chap. xliv. we read, "And Judah said, What shall we say unto
my Lord? What shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath
found out the iniquity of thy servants." None can teach like God. He
alone can produce in the conscience the true sense of sin, and bring
the soul down into the profound depths of its own condition in his
presence. This is all his own work. Men run on in their career of
guilt, heedless of every thing, until the arrow of the Almighty pierces
their conscience, and then they are led into those searchings of heart,
and intense exercises of soul, which can only find relief in the rich
resources of redeeming love. Joseph's brethren had no conception of all
that was to flow to them from their actings toward him. "They took him
and cast him into a pit ... and they sat down to eat bread." "Woe to
them ... that drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief
ointments; but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph."
(Amos vi. 6.)

However, God produced grief of heart, and exercises of conscience, and
that in a most wonderful way. Years rolled on, and these brethren might
have vainly imagined that all was right; but, then, "seven years of
plenty, and seven years of scarcity!" What did they mean? Who sent
them? And for what were they designed? Admirable providence!
Unsearchable wisdom! The famine reaches to Canaan, and the calls of
hunger actually bring the guilty brethren to the feet of the injured
Joseph! How marked is the display of God's own hand in all this! There
they stand, with the arrow of conviction thrust through and through
their consciences, in the presence of the man whom they had, "with
wicked hands," cast into the pit. Surely their sin had found them out;
but it was in the presence of Joseph. Blessed place!

"Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by
him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood
no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren."
(Chap. xlv. 1.) No stranger was allowed to witness this sacred scene.
What stranger could understand or appreciate it? We are here called to
witness, as it were, divinely-wrought conviction in the presence of
divine grace; and we may say, when these two come together there is an
easy settlement of every question.

"And Joseph said unto his brethren, _Come near to me_, I pray you. And
they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold
into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves,
that you sold me hither; for God did send me before you, to preserve
life.... And God sent me before you, to preserve you a posterity in the
earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not
you sent me hither, but God." This is grace indeed, setting the
convicted conscience perfectly at rest. The brethren had, already, most
thoroughly condemned themselves, and hence Joseph had only to pour in
the blessed balm into their broken hearts. "This is all sweetly typical
of God's dealings with Israel, in the latter day, when they shall look
upon him whom they have pierced, and mourn." Then they shall prove the
reality of divine grace, and the cleansing efficacy of that "fountain
which shall be opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of
Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness." (Zech. xiii. 1.)

In the third chapter of Acts, we find the Spirit of God in Peter
seeking to produce this divine conviction in the consciences of the
Jews. "The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our
fathers, hath glorified his son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied
him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.
But ye denied the holy One and the just, and desired a murderer to be
granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised
from the dead, whereof we are witnesses." These statements were
designed to elicit from the hearts and lips of the hearers the
confession made by Joseph's brethren--"We are verily guilty." Then
follows the grace. "And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye
did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had
showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he
hath so fulfilled. Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your
sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from
the presence of the Lord." We here see that, although the Jews really
carried out the enmity of their hearts in the death of Christ, as did
also Joseph's brethren in their treatment of him, yet, the grace of God
to each is seen in this, that all is shown to be decreed and foreshown
of God for their blessing. This is perfect grace, surpassing all human
thought; and all that is needed in order to the enjoyment thereof, is a
conscience truly convicted by the truth of God. Those who could say,
"We are verily guilty," could rightly understand the words of precious
grace, "It was not you, but God." Thus it must ever be. The soul that
has thoroughly pronounced its own condemnation, is prepared to
understand and appreciate God's pardon.

The remaining chapters of this book are taken up with the removal of
Jacob and his family into Egypt, and their settlement there; Joseph's
actings during the remaining years of famine; Jacob's blessing the
twelve patriarchs; his death and burial. We shall not dwell in detail
upon these things, though the spiritual mind may find much to feed upon
therein.[21] Jacob's groundless fears dissipated by the sight of his
son alive, and exalted,--the peculiar grace of God seen in its
overruling power, yet evidently mingled with judgment, inasmuch as
Jacob's sons have to go down into the very place whither they had sent
their brother. Again, Joseph's remarkable grace throughout: though
exalted by Pharaoh, he hides himself, as it were, and binds the people
in abiding obligation to the king. Pharaoh says, "Go to Joseph," and
Joseph, in effect, says, "all you have and all you are belong to
Pharaoh." This is sweetly interesting, and leads the soul on to that
glorious time when the Son of man shall take the reins of government
into his own hand, by divine appointment, and rule over the whole
redeemed creation, his Church--the bride of the Lamb--occupying the
nearest and most intimate place, according to the eternal counsels. The
house of Israel, fully restored, shall be nourished and sustained by
his gracious hand; and all the earth shall know the deep blessedness of
being under his sceptre. Finally, having brought every thing into
subjection, he shall hand back the reins of government into the hands
of God, that "he may be all in all." From all this we may form some
idea of the richness and copiousness of Joseph's history. In short, it
sets before us distinctly in type the mission of the Son to the house
of Israel,--his humiliation and rejection,--the deep exercises and
final repentance and restoration of Israel,--the union of the Church
with Christ,--his exaltation and universal government, and, finally, it
points us forward to the time when "God shall be all in all." It is
quite needless to remark, that all these things are largely taught and
fully established throughout the entire canon of inspiration: we do not
therefore build their truth upon Joseph's history; still it is edifying
to find such early foreshadowings of these precious truths: it proves
to us the divine unity which pervades holy scripture. Whether we turn
to Genesis or to Ephesians,--to the prophets of the Old or those of the
New Testament,--we learn the same truths. "ALL SCRIPTURE IS GIVEN BY
INSPIRATION OF GOD."

FOOTNOTES:

[20] Joseph's wife sets forth the Church as united to Christ in his
glory; Moses' wife presents the Church as united to Christ in his
rejection.

[21] The close of Jacob's career stands in most pleasing contrast with
all the previous scenes of his eventful history. It reminds one of a
serene evening, after a tempestuous day: the sun, which during the day
had been hidden from view by clouds, mists, and fogs, sets in majesty
and brightness, gilding with his beams the western sky, and holding out
the cheering prospect of a bright to-morrow. Thus is it with our aged
patriarch. The supplanting, the bargain-making, the cunning, the
management, the shifting, the shuffling, the unbelieving selfish
fears,--all those dark clouds of nature and of earth seem to have
passed away, and he comes forth in all the calm elevation of faith, to
bestow blessings, and impart dignities, in that holy skilfulness, which
communion with God can alone impart.

Though nature's eyes are dim, faith's vision is sharp. He is not to be
deceived as to the relative positions assigned to Ephraim and Manasseh
in the counsels of God. He has not, like his father Isaac, in Chapter
xxvii., to "tremble very exceedingly," in view of an almost fatal
mistake. Quite the reverse. His intelligent reply to his less
instructed son is, "I know it, my son, I know it." The power of sense
has not, as in Isaac's case, dimmed his spiritual vision. He has been
taught in the school of experience the importance of keeping close to
the divine purpose, and nature's influence cannot move him from thence.

In Chapter xlviii. 11, we have a very beautiful example of the mode in
which our God ever rises above all our thoughts, and proves himself
better than all our fears. "And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not
thought to see thy face; and, lo, God hath showed me also thy seed." To
nature's view, Joseph was dead; whereas in God's view he was alive, and
seated in the highest place of authority, next the throne. "Eye hath
not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man,
the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." (1 Cor. ii.
9.) Would that our souls could rise higher in their apprehension of God
and his ways.

It is interesting to notice the way in which the titles "Jacob" and
"Israel" are introduced in the close of the Book of Genesis; as, for
example, "One told _Jacob_, and said, Behold thy son Joseph cometh unto
thee: and _Israel_ strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed." Then,
it is immediately added, "And _Jacob_ said unto Joseph, God Almighty
appeared unto me at Luz." Now, we know, there is nothing in scripture
without its specific meaning, and hence this interchange of names
contains some instruction. In general, it may be remarked, that "Jacob"
sets forth the depth to which God had descended; "Israel," the height
to which Jacob was raised.


       *       *       *       *       *

Transcribers notes:

Maintained original spelling and punctuation.

Greek and Hebrew transliteration is enclosed in brackets i.e.[Greek:]





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search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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