Page images

sceptered monarchs of Pagan antiquity; and we scruple not to say, that no titles ever bestowed upon the proudest sovereign of the world, by the most fulsome of his flatterers, would bear a moment's competition with that honourable distinction which the Almighty himself bestowed upon Jacob, viz. the remarkable adoption of his name into the everlasting title of the “ King of kings:

« And God said unto Moses, this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations, the God of Abraham, the God of Ísaac, and the God of JACOB."

One admirable and distinguishing feature of the Scripture biography, is the perfect candour of the narrative, and that absence of all comment either of eulogy or reprobation, on which infidels have founded an ignorant objection against the Divine character of the records; whereas it is this peculiarity that renders them so pre-eminently instructive. The principle upon which biography is generally written, is that of inculcating virtue by the heroic or holy example of good men, and of cautioning against vice by portraying the evil conduct and punishment of the wicked. In the former case, the defects and errors of the subject of the narrative, are either thrown into the back-ground, or adverted to in a strain of palliation and apology. But, as regards the moral lessons to be derived from biography, the most instructive and monitory examples are of a mixed character, exhibiting the errors of the wise, the failings of the good. Thus, the fall of Peter is a circumstance far more adapted to check a rash self-confidence, and to instruct the Christian into the deceitfulness of the heart, than the apostacy of Judas; and, to take a case from uninspired narrative, the timid vaccillation of Cranmer, though less exemplary, is more affecting and more instructive, than the heroic constancy of some of his fellow martyrs. It must be admitted that, on a first view, the character of Jacob appears to disadvantage by the side of that of his brother, who is styled a 'cunning hunter,' but who seems to have been the reverse of cunning as a man. In this respect, Mr. Blunt has not done justice to Esau ; nor do we conceive that the first part of the verse cited from Ileb. xii. 16, was meant to apply to his character; he was, however, a wild man and a profane or irreligious one, -despising, probably, the pastoral habits of his ancestors, and making light of that reversionary inheritance which was secured to Abraham and his posterity by the covenant of God. The following remarks on the character and conduct of Jacob, are extremely judicious and striking

· The character of Jacob, strikingly conscientious and devout as we shall find it in the more advanced portion of the narrative, exhibits itself under circumstances by no means advantageous or prepossessing in the opening scenes. The very first incident which succeeds the

text, disposes us to think but lightly, either of his brotherly kindness, or of his generosity.

· Esau returns wearied with hunting, at a time when, probably, (from the opening of the following chapter,) a famine was raging in the land ; and seeing Jacob preparing his daily meal, he applies to him, in the language of importunate necessity, “ Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage, for I am faint.” Jacob, instead of cheerfully availing himself of an opportunity to supply the wants of a perishing brother, seizes, with great avidity, the favourable hour for acquiring the birthright which God had promised him, and replies, “ Sell me this day thy birthright.” Thus, in a moment of hunger and indifference to the promised blessing on the one hand, and extreme anxiety to obtain it on the other, the important bargain was concluded, that was to transfer for ever to the younger son the right of primogeniture ; which, at that time, conveyed the double portion of all temporalities, the especial blessing of the dying parent, and, above all, the inheritance of the covenant, which God had made with Abraham, that from his loins Christ should come.

· That Esau merits our censure for treating with indifference so unspeakable a privilege, has been decided by that writer of inspiration, who has affixed for ever, the epithet “profane,” to the man who thus, “ for one morsel of meat, sold his birthright;" and that Jacob deserves our warmest commendation for earnestly desiring such a blessing, there can be no question. But here we must pause : the means by which Jacob obtained the birthright, were utterly unjustifiable, uncharitable, and unkind; and proved as much his want of faith in the Almighty to bring that to pass which God himself had promised, as it proved his want of tenderness towards his suffering brother.

• If it be true, that Jacob acted thus wrongfully in the circumstance which we have recounted, how shall we justify him in the very next incident in which we find him engaged—that memorable and deceitful transaction, in which, to obtain the promised blessing, he, at the instigation of his mother, imposed upon the old age of his affectionate father, and overreached his unsuspecting brother? Is it possible that this could be the “plain man," whom we behold, clothed in the garments of his elder brother, and personating the first-born ? Could it be he who concealed his artifice under “ the refuge of lies," not only declaring that he was Esau, and that the kid was venison, but even introducing the name and the providence of his God, to give greater colour to his abominable falsehood ? “ I have found it quickly, because the Lord thy God brought it to me.” When we read the guilty transaction, we blush-not only for the parties concerned, but for the whole human race, that such a fraud could have been suggested, and carried into execution, and this, not in the tents of ungodliness, but in that single family which, of all the families of the earth, alone professed the worship of the God of truth. How humbling to the holiest ! how awful a warning to the most eminent of the servants of the Lord ! “ Let him that thinketh he ståndeth, take heed lest he fall!” Let him who wilfully indulges in the smallest degree of known sin, observe how rapidly sin advances--how fearfully it darkens as it advances; how soon the lie requires to be strengthened by the oath, and the oath


power. Isaac


to be supported by the tremendous blasphemy, which would, if possible, have made it appear that God himself was a confederate in the fraud :

-“ The Lord thy God brought it to me.” Shall we then attempt to justify that conduct in Jacob, which we should deeply condemn in ourselves, and deplore in you ? God forbid! It is in vain to say, that Jacob knew the blessing was already his by purchase, having acquired it when he bought the birthright, and that he was therefore only possessing himself of what he considered his unquestionable right. Îhis is no extenuation. Isaac, his father, was a reasonable man, and a conscientious man ; why not, therefore, plead the right before him, and convince him that he was about to bestow that upon Esau, of which Esau had himself disposed. It is equally vain to say, that, as the Almighty had consigned the blessing to Jacob, it was inalienably his own, and therefore might be obtained by any method in his was a holy man, as well as a reasonable and conscientious man ; why not, therefore, recall to his recollection, this perhaps long-forgotten promise, and enforce upon his conscience the duty and necessity of his compliance ? Or shall we agree with those who


that « the offence of Jacob was certainly alleviated, if not entirely taken off, by the circumstance of Rebecca pledging herself to bear the blame the single injunction of the Spirit of God, not to “ do evil that good may come,” aims a death-blow at all such casuistry as this. The sin of deceiving a man into what is right, differs little from the sin of deceiving him into what is evil. The effect of the sin, we grant, is different-the moral turpitude may be different—but the sin against God remains unaltered ; while, to imagine for a moment that Rebecca's pledging herself to bear the blame,upon me be thy curse, my son," would extenuate the guilt of her son, is indeed a low tone of Christian morals. There is but one Being who has ever said—who could ever truly say, “Upon me be thy curse.” The compassionate Saviour, the truly tender parent, the Lord Jesus Christ—he, indeed, has not only made the astonishing offer, but he has proved, with his life's blood, his power and his willingness to fulfil it. But to whom does he address the encouraging declaration ? Not to the sinner rushing headlong into guilt--to the man of subtilty and cunning, proceeding artfully to overreach his neighbour, but to the man oppressed and borne down by a deeply contrite sense of sin committed, and sincerely lamenting with a godly sorrow, that he has grieved the Holy Spirit ; that he has offended a good and merciful God; that he has contracted a load of guilt; that he has merited an everlasting curse.'

The second lecture, on Gen. xxviii. 5. illustrates the manner in which Jacob's sin entailed its punishment. On the subject of his vow, which has been much misunderstood, Mr. Blunt has some very judicious remarks. An intelligent child at a very early age, who was reading the Scripture history to his mother, on coming to this part of the narrative, in which Jacob says, 'If • God will keep me, then will I serve him,'-broke off, and exclaimed emphatically, 'Why not without ?'-meaning without any such condition. Mr. Blunt remarks:

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

• The nature of this vow was equally a proof of the moderation of Jacob's desires, asking only " bread to eat and raiment to put on,” and of the reality of his faith in the promises which had just been vouch. safed him. The vow was in fact an echo of the promise, not intending to be merely conditional, and to say, “If God will keep me, then will I serve him ;” but evidently implying, "since God has pledged

“ himself to keep me, therefore will I devote myself wholly to his service; since God has promised to be with me, therefore shall the Lord be my God.”

It was not then, as has been falsely represented by the enemies of Revelation, the shrewd compact of an avaricious man to bind the Deity to his interests, but the overflowing of a grateful heart anxious to bind itself to its God ; that love of God which proceeds from the conviction that he first loved us.'

The lecture concludes with the following solemn appeal :

• My brethren, we have endeavoured to apply the spiritual lesson taught by Jacob's pillar, more especially to you who have passed through trouble, or sickness and sorrow; to you, then, we would also desire to apply Jacob's vow.

• Did your hour of trouble, your chamber of sorrow, your bed of sickness, witness no vows ? Have you never, in adversity, said, “ If the Lord will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on ;” or, in sickness, If the Lord will raise me up again; or, in spiritual despondency, If the Lord will keep me in this way, that I may come to my father's house—the house with many mansions, “ then shall the Lord be my God?” And were not yonr petitions heard, and the solicited blessing vouchsafed, and the hour of spiritual despondency, or of natural terror and alarm, permitted to pass away? How, then, have these vows been kept ? Have they been “as a morning cloud, and as the early dew? ” When the terror of the grave departed, did the resolutions of sickness depart with it ? and are you now eagerly seeking the giddy bustle of the world, to brush away the few lingering remains of broken vows and frustrated intentions ? Suffer, then, the present example to act as a solemn memento to your conscience ; believe that the God of all your mercies, who answered your prayers, has also registered your vows, and now grieves over the neglect of them ; he, of whom you once said, “ Then shall the Lord be my God," sees with a parent's feeling, that you have forgotten him, and sends this message of love to your soul, still willing to recall his wandering child, still desirous of bringing you to himself. Remember those hours of affliction and of weakness; remember what you would then have felt, could you have been assured that you should have been in this place, in your accustomed health, to-day. Twenty years after Jacob had vowed, God expressly reminded him of that vow.' He is now mercifully doing the same to you. O let it not be in vain! Let the solemn season which is before you, be employed in regaining the vantage ground upon which, by the mercy of God, you once stood; retrace your steps ; recall the feelings and the resolutions of those long past hours ; dedicate yourself anew to the service of God; come once more to the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness, and devete “ yourself, your soul and body," to the glory of your Redeemer. Then,

indeed, shall the Lord be your God, equally present to bless and comfort you in health and sickness, in sorrow and in joy, in time and in eternity! Then shall you find, even while on earth, that “ peace

of God which passeth all understanding ;" and when you have departed hence, “an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom and joy of your Lord.” But if you still turn a deaf ear to him that speaketh from heaven ; if you still forget what God has done for you, and neglect what you have promised him ; we would solemnly charge it upon your conscience, that this is not the last time that you shall think of your wasted resolutions, and of your broken vows.

You shall be reminded of them upon another day ! in another place ! by another speaker !

The subjects of the remaining lectures are taken from-Gen. xxix. 20., Jacob serving Laban ; Gen. xxxii. 11, Jacob in fear of Esau ; Gen. xxxiii. 4., Jacob and Esau reconciled; Gen. xxxv. 2. Jacob reforming his household ; Gen. xlv. 26, Jacob bereaved of his children, and incredulous as to Joseph's messaye; Gen. xlvii. 8. Jacob's answer to Pharaoh.

The lectures upon the history of Peter, illustrate the following circumstances in the Apostle's history.

•I. Peter brought by Andrew to our Lord Jesus. His confession of sinfulness. II. Peter walking upon the water.

III. Peter's confession of faith. IV. Peter's rebuking Christ. Present at the transfiguration. V. Peter's inquiry, « What shall we have therefore ?" VI. Peter refuses to have his feet washed by Christ. VII. Peter present at our Lord's

agony. VIII. Peter's denial of his Lord, and his repentance. IX. Peter's interview with his risen Saviour. Peter's death.'

An extract or two, without comment, will sufficiently speak for the merit and interesting character of this volume. In the third lecture, Peter's confession of faith is thus strikingly introduced.

• The inspired historian having mentioned this fact of the departure even of “ many of the disciples", immediately adds our Lord's own atfecting comment upon it.

- Then said Jesus unto the twelve, will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life, and we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” How near do such little incidents as these appear to bring us to the heart of Jesus, and of him whose life we are considering; we can almost behold the affectionate Redeemer looking round upon his “ little flock ", and while marking their diminished numbers, making that inquiry which must have touched the hardest heart; we can imagine we see the zealous Peter pressing forward from the circle, and almost interrupting the reproachful inquiry, eager to disclaim for his brethren and himself the possibility of such an act, burning to relieve his own bosom by a voluntary confession of a faith already matured into certainty, and a regard which even then had ripened into love. Who can read his answer, “ Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life",


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »