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one received from the dead in a figure, the other in reality. In the purpose of his father, Isaac was de voted and sacrificed: nay, an actual sacrifice was offered as Abraham had expected; but in the unexpected way of a substitution; and Isaac was alive, as one who had survived the fiery trial of the altar*. His father, in reflecting upon it, would naturally break forth into some expression, to the same effect with that of the father in the parable-This my son was dead, and is alive again!
With respect to the circumstances of time and place, the two transactions agree in a wonderful man
For it appears, thať Isaac was thus received from the dead on the third day. The sacred history informs us (doubtless with some wise intention) that on the third day Abraham lift up his eyes, and saw afar off the place which God had appointed. On that same day, he laid him upon the altar, and received him from it alive, after he had been as good as dead in the estimation of his father for three days, according to the time of Christ's resurrection. The place was on tlie mountains of Moriah; those very mountains, on one of which our Lord Jesus Christ was afterwards crucified. The city of Jerusalem was built upon them: on the highest, which in 2 Chron, ch. ii. is expressly called by the name of Mount Moriah, stood the holy Temple, in which the Lamb Christ Jesus was figuratively offered for several hundred years in the daily sacrifices of the Law; and Calvary, on which he was at length offered in person, though without the city walls, was a part in the chain of the mountains of Moriah. The Patriarch foreseeing that the figurative offering and resurrection of his son, would one day be there realized in the death and resurrection of the Messiah, gave a name to the place in the spirit of prophecy, calling it Jehovah jireh, the Lord will provide ; alluding to the words he had before used in answer to the expostulation of Isaac, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering" which though they were then words meant of Isaac himself, went over his head, and took place in the person of Christ. And the historian adds, that the place was thenceforward marked out for the observation of posterity by a proverbial tradition-us it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen. But here the English version differs from the original, and from almost every translation, commentator, and critic; who agree to render the words—In this mountain the Lord shall provide ; that is, if we complete the sentence-Shall provide himself that Lamb for an offering, which shall take away the sins of the world.
* The author of The Divine Legation of Moses, vol. II. part ii. is of opinion, that by the offering of Isaac, Abraham was instructed in the final sacrifice of Christ; while the permitted one of the Ram informed him of the intermediate sacrifices of the Law. But this doth not appear, and may be thought too nice and refined an application of typical evidence. Is seems more probable, that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ was principally foreshewn in the person
of Isaac, and his bloody Death in the permitted sacrifice of the Ram; so that by the conjunction of the two, the exhibition was complete.
XX. What I have farther to say upon the case is this: that if Abraham understood the scene we have been considering as an earnest and figure of the Messiah's death and resurrection, as he appears to have done by his own prophetical declaration; then the design of God in this whole affair needs no farther apology nor explanation. For now it is evident, that the hard task imposed upon Abraham, instead of defeating the promise of God, as it seemed about to do, did not only ensure it more effectually, but was made
also to exhibit the very manner in which it should be accomplished. Such are the ways of God! In the creation of the natural world, he brought light out of darkness; and in the economy of the spiritual, life out of death. Here also, out of a dark and severe precept, which seemed to promise nothing but a scene of disappointment and cruelty, he opened to the father of the faithful a lively prospect of his future mercy in the redemption of mankind. From the issue of this transaction in particular, Abraham saw the day of Christ, and was glad.
XXI. If we proceed to moralize upon this subject, it will occur to us in the first place, that the Ways of God are not like our ways: his purposes are brought to pass by such means, as seem to us the most unlikely of all others. While His eye is intent upon some future good, our prospect is bounded by the present evil out of which it is to arise: and the wisdom of the world is ready to deny the providence of God, if it cannot immediately reconcile its operations with its own prejudices and passions. If a moralist of the modern stamp had been in the place of Abraham, he must by his own rules have replied against God, and determined the precept unfit, unjust, and contrary to nature; for having no faith, he would have judged only according to what appeared. But if Abraham had judged thus, the event had been very different. Instead of being celebrated as the great example of faith and righteousness, the progenitor of the Messiah, and the friend of God, he would probably have lost his son some other way; would have been rejected as a person unfit for the blessings intended; and must have sought his comfort amongst the philosophers of Babel.
XXII. The wise son of Sirach, well acquainted
with the history of Abraham's probation, seems to have extracted from it this refined and excellent moral. My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, pre
pare thy soul for temptation. Set thy heart aright, “ and constantly endure, and make not haste in time “ of trouble. Cleave unto him and depart not away, " that thou mayest be increased at thy last end. For
gold is tried in the fire, and acceptable men in the fur
nace of adversity.” Forewarned of this, no faith. ful disciple ought to be surprised, if some trial is found for him now, as for Abraham of old; neither let him wonder if the matter of it should be furnished by that treasure, whatever it may be, upon which his heart is most fixed. For the affections may be shaken off from the world most powerfully, by the instrumentality of that which hath the fastest hold upon them." If he is wise, he will learn to trust to God for an explanation of those things, which at present may seem irreconcileable, either with the goodness of his nature, or the wisdom of his providence.
XXIII. It is a lesson to which flesh and blood are strangely averse; yet on some principle or other it must be admitted, that nothing is to be set in competition with God. Isaac was to Abraham the greatest support and comfort of his life, the tenderest object of his affection. Power, honour, and pleasure had no allurements for him; he was content to live as a stranger upon earth, and to be exposed to perils and affronts in an idolatrous inhospitable country. Yet this blessing he was ready to give up, so far as God should require it, and in the manner he should command. His faith did indeed assure him of an happy consequence, when the course of the temptation should be finished. And thence all his children may learn, that it is impossible to be, a loser by sub
mitting to the commands of God. Abraham by venturing to lose his son saved him; and he that will venture, on a parallel occasion, to lose even his life in this world, shall save it to life eternal.
XXIV. In the mean time, let him consider for his comfort, that every instance of self-denial will be found by experience to be much lighter than it appears. There may be difficulty and terror in the
precept which enjoins it, but it shall vanish in the
performance, as it did with Abraham. There was indeed a loss of life; but how different, how far inferior to that which he had dreaded! After he had expected to see the blood of his only son streaming upon the altar, and the flames consuming the object of his affection; he at last saw a brute animal expiring in his stead. And while we are fearing that our peace, our comfort, our happiness, our life, must all be sacrificed in obedience to the divine precepts; their severity will at last fall only upon the brutal part of us: that which is most dear and valuable to us will be preserved; and that only will be lost, which is not worth saving. This part of the moral is so elegantly touclied by St. Bernard, that I shall give it to the reader in his own words. “ Tu igitur, si vocem Domini audieris intus “ in animo, et dicatur tibi, ut offeras Isaac, ut tuum “ quodcunque est gaudium immoles Reo, (interpre
tatur enim Isaac gaudium seu risus) fideliter et con“ stanter obedire ne timeas : securus esto: non Isaac
sed aries morietur: non peribit tibi lætitia sed con" tumacia-Hæc vita est sanctorum; tanquam
tristes, semper autem gaudentes; tanquam morientes, et ecce vivimus.