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And is this Abraham ? Is this the mighty man of faith? Is this the man who, from the strength of his faith in the divine testimony, is constituted the father of the faithful to the end of the world ? Is this the man who had strength of nerve to lay his only son on the altar, and grasp the knife to sacrifice him to the Lord ? Then let us learn that faith is the gift of God; that the strength of it depends not on the vigour of the human mind, but on the Spirit of the Lord who bestows and upholds it.
How useful is this instance of weakness in this mighty man of faith! Had Abraham always supported his character for unconquerable faith, men would have represented it as owing to peculiar nobility of mind, and as naturally the product of his own virtue. Indeed, after all the instances of Abraham's weakness when left to himself, many are in the habit of representing Abraham's great faith as worthy of justification from its own intrinsic excellence. But all such representations are proved utterly false, not only by the express declarations of Scripture, but also in a pointed manner, by Abraham's utter want of faith whenever God left him to himself. Let those who are in the habit of giving glory to Abraham on account of the faith by which he was justified, attend to this disgraceful instance of cowardice and total want of trust in the Divine protector. If Abraham discovered the strongest instance of faith, he also manifested the most pusillanimous example of distrust. There is nothing that is good in man. “ Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name, O Lord, be the glory.” “In me,” says Paul, “that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing."
This instance of weakness in Abraham is also of great importance for the encouragement of timid believers. In prospect of great trial, they may deprive themselves of the encouragement afforded in Abraham's faith, by considering him as utterly beyond the reach of imitators. Abraham, they may say, was strong, we are nothing but weakness. And what was Abraham but weakness when left to himself? And when God was with him his strength was unconquerable. In like manner, whatever may be the greatness of the trial to which God calls the weakest of his people, they have encouragement to trust in his strength. He will not suffer them to be tempted above that they are able to bear, but will, with the temptation, make a way to escape, that they may be able to bear it. He perfects strength in their weakness. If God would call the weakest of his people to a trial as great as that of Abraham, he is able to uphold him as he did the father of the faithful.
The Providence of God, in directing the circumstances that here brought Abraham into trial, is seen also in the fact that Sarah happened to be seen by Pharaoh's princes. Not only did “the Egyptians behold the woman that she was very fair, the princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh.” She might have been long in the country without being een by any of the court. Indeed, had precaution been used, she might have been little seen even by the common people of Egypt. And it is strange that Abraham's fears did not lead him to keep his wife in retirement. The manners of the time also were favourable to this. Sarah had a tent of her own, and might have remained secluded from common observation. But it was the Lord's design that Abraham should be, in this affair, brought into trial, and all circumstances open
way to the trial. Except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen watch in vain. Sarah is seen by those who had constant and immediate access to the king: they commend her beauty to him, and she is brought into his house to be one of his wives. Such is the unsearchable wisdom of God, that he performs his purposes through the means of the counsels and actions of men. Human intellect cannot fathom this; but it is presented to our view in the Scriptures in almost every page.
How consoling is this exhibition of Divine Providence! God often delivers his people from the injurious consequences of the indulgence of their wisdom. Abraham sinfully brought himself into the danger of dishonouring himself and his wife: God permitted the plan to operate to the very brink of fulfilment. But then he mercifully counteracted it: By His Providence Pharaoh was prevented from fulfilling his purpose. “ And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues, because of Sarai Abram's wife.” And no doubt disease and afflictive accidents are often employed by God to keep the wicked from injuring his people ; and to keep his people from fulfilling sinful or hurtful
purposes. Men of God ought to take evil as well as good as coming from the Lord. Not only did Pharaoh, through this interference of Providence, abstain from taking Sarah to be his wife“ He commanded his men concerning him; and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.” By this means he prevented all further occasion of evil. But while Abraham is dismissed, he is not spoiled. He had received great riches from Pharaoh, and he is allowed to carry all with him. This was the direction of the affair by Divine Providence. Had it been God's will, Pharaoh might have sent Abraham away stripped of all his goods.
No doubt, also, the Providence of God directed the dismissal of Abraham, that he might go back and sojourn in the land of promise. He was to go about from place to place as a stranger and pilgrim in that country, as a father of all believers, who are strangers and pilgrims on earth. Abraham was not to be put in possession of the land of Canaan, but he is to live in it; and for this purpose Divine Providence, when the object of his residence in Egypt was fulfilled, sent him back to reside in the typical land of promise.
ABRAHAM'S VICTORY OVER CHEDORLAOMER.
Gen. xiv. 20.
The race is not to the swift, nor is the battle to the strong. It is God who giveth the victory. The most numerous and the best disciplined armies are no security for success. Divine Providence disposes the event according to sovereign pleasure. Even without any miraculous interference, the most powerful armies are often defeated by a small number. So was it on this occasion. The household of Abraham, with a few confederates, obtained an easy victory over the forces of four powerful kings.
Yet this does not imply that the strongest means in our power are not to be employed, and every exertion made to gain the purpose. Abraham armed his trained servants, and availed himself of the assistance of his confederates. He divided his band, attacked the enemy by night, and used every precaution, as if he depended for success solely on his own wisdom and power. He fought, he conquered ; but God gave victory. “ Blessed be the Most High God,” says Melchizedek, “who hath delivered thine enemies into thine hand." God is the author of the victory obtained through the means of Abraham's little army, as truly as if the enemy had been defeated by the artillery of heaven, while Abraham and his men had been reposing on their beds. In all things let the people of the Lord trust in him with the greatest confidence; in all things let them with the utmost earnestness and vigour use the means that God puts in their power. This is the will of God with respect both to things temporal and things spiritual. Men are prone to separate