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the princes of the contending parties, he thus, with hands lifted up and in a loud voice, prayed; "O Father Jove, most glorious, most mighty: O sun, who seest and hearest every thing: ye rivers, thou earth, and ye powers who in the regions below punish the false and perjured, be ye witnesses, and preserve this covenant unviolated." Then, having repeated the words of the covenant in the audience of all, he cleft asunder the heads of the consecrated lambs, placed their palpitating limbs opposite to each other on the ground, poured sacred wine upon them, and again prayed, or rather imprecated: "O Jupiter Almighty, most glorious, and ye other immortals! Whoever shall first transgress his solemn oath, may his brains and those of his children, flow upon the ground like this wine, and let his wife be divided from him and given to another." Thus when it was agreed to settle the contest for empire between Rome and Alba by the combat of three youths, brothers, on either side; after the interposition of ceremonies similar to those which have been described, the Roman priest who presided, addressed a prayer to Heaven to this effect: "Hear, Father Jupiter, hear prince of Alba, and ye whole Alban nation. Whatever has been read from that waxen tablet, from first to last, according to the plain meaning of the words, without any reservation whatever, the Roman people engages to stand to, and will not be the first to violate. If with a fraudulent intention, and by an act of the state, they shall first transgress, that very day, O Jupiter, strike the Roman people as I to-day shall strike this hog, and so much the more heavily, as you are more mighty and more powerful than me." And having thus spoken, with a sharp flint, he dashed out the brains of the animal.
Thus in the three most distinguished nations that ever existed, we find the origin of their greatness, in similar ceremonies; empire founded in religion, and good faith secured by the sanction of solemn sacred rights. And is it not pleasing to find the living and true God, as in respect of majesty and dignity, so in priority of time, taking the lead in all that is great and venerable among men ? We find Moses, the prince of sacred writers, describing a religious sacrifice performed by Abram one thousand nine hundred and thirteen years before Christ, which the prince of heathen poets so exactly describes as the practice of his own country upwards of one thousand years later; and which the great Roman historian relates as in use among his countrymen, in the time of Tullus Hostilius, the third king of Rome, before Christ about six hundred and sixty-eight years.
The circumstances of this interesting transaction have led me much farther than I intended; I now return to take up the thread of the narration. Abram having returned from the slaughter of the kings; having achieved the deliverance of Lot his brother's son from captivity; having paid tithes to Melchizedec, the type and representative of the great High Priest over the household of God, perhaps the Son of God himself, thus early exhibited in human nature to the world; having received the blessing from him, and bidden him farewell, retires again to the quietness and privacy of domestic life, humbly confiding in the divine protection, and patiently waiting the accomplishment of the promises. The man who habitually seeks God, is readily and happily found of him. "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 din of war, and the gratulations of victory, these transitory and perturbed occupations and comforts being over, intercourse with Heaven recommences and improves the still small voice of divine favour is again heard-"Fear not, I am thy shield." Abram was become the dread of one confederacy of princes, and the envy of another; both of them situations
* Genesis xv. 1.
full of danger; but his security is the protection of the Almighty. He scorned to be made rich by the generosity of the king of Sodom; and his magnanimity and disinterestedness are recompensed by the bounty of the great Lord of all; "I am thy exceeding great reward." Why should we curiously inquire after the nature of the heavenly vision, and ask in what manner the word of the Lord came unto him? Know we not the secret, the inexplicable, the irresistible power which God possesses, and exercises over the bodies and over the minds of men? Know we not what it is to blush for our follies, though no eye beholds us; to tremble under the threatenings of a guilty conscience, though no avenger be pursuing; and to enjoy serenity and peace, in the midst of confusion and tempest? Whence is this, but from the word of the Lord within us, constraining or encouraging us to hear?
This renewed declaration of the divine favour, draws from Abram a dutiful yet pathetic expostulation, on the condition of his family and affairs; in which the impatience and fretfulness of the man, mingle with the submission and resignation of the believer. He was grown rich and respected; he had been victorious over his enemies, and become a blessing to his friends; but he is sinking into the vale of years, and his great possessions are ready to descend to a stranger, Eliezer of Damascus, the steward of his household. Is it any wonder to see a proud, unmortified Haman dissatisfied, though basking in the sunshine of royal favour, because one Mordecai sits in the king's gate, when a pious Abram feels uneasy in the enjoyment of all this world could bestow, because one thing was withheld? Alas, what condition of humanity is exempted, for any length of time together, from sorrow and vexation of spirit? How much of the affliction of the remainder of Abram's life, arose from the possession of that blessing, which he now coveted so earnestly! But surely we should do but slender justice to the holy man, in supposing that the sentiments which he expressed upon this occasion were merely the effect of a natural desire of having children of his own body, to whom his large possessions might descend. The man who rejoiced in the prospect of the Saviour's day; the man who was ready at God's command, to offer up Isaac in sacrifice; the man who had given up every thing nature holds dear, when duty called him to it; and who took the simple promise of God as a full indemnification; such a man must, in charity, be presumed to entertain the most liberal and disinterested views, in thus ardently desiring a son. We' hear of no disapprobation expressed against his ardour and impatience; on the contrary, it procures from God a more distinct and decisive promise of the speedy accomplishment of his wishes-" And behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.”* The time, though not the manner of the vision is fully conveyed to us; it was early in the morning while it was yet dark, for "he brought him forth abroad, and said, 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," Scripture allusions to natural objects, are adapted to the ordinary conceptions of mankind. The sun is represented as rising, and sitting, and moving round the earth; and the stars are represented as innumerable, because this is apparently the case, and justified by the ideas and language of all nations, though the fact be philosophically otherwise. Surely the truth of God, in his promise to Abram, is little affected by the astronomical arrangement of the heavenly bodies, which latter ages have devised, and whereby the number of those glorious luminaries is determined to a greater degree of accuracy. What the promise means to give the good man full assurance of, is, that his posterity should be both numerous and il
* Gen. xv. 4.
+ Gen. xv. 5.
lustrious beyond all conception. And, if I may be permitted to hazard a conjecture, and to anticipate an observation on this subject, the error of David, many ages afterwards, in insisting on having the people numbered in his reign, which was one of the most prosperous periods of the Israelitish history, consisted in his attempting to determine what God would have left undetermined. It being an object of much greater importance to a wise and good prince, to see his subjects thriving, numerous, and happy, than to know the exact number over which he reigns; just as it is much more delightful and beneficial to a man, to contemplate the beautiful seeming irregularity of the starry heavens, to lose ourselves, as it were, in their glory and immensity, and to enjoy their benign influences, than to fix with the utmost exactness and precision, their number, motions, and distances. Accordingly, we find, that in the days of Solomon the son of David, when Jewish splendour and populousness were at their zenith, no attempt was made to discover the number of the people; but in conformity to the obvious intention of God, in the passage now under review, that matter was forever left in a state of glorious uncertainty.
Abram's doubts are now entirely removed; "he believed in the Lord; and counted it to him for righteousness.' As God rewards the faithful, not by halves, not sparingly, nor grudgingly; so all true believers, like faithful Abram, honour God by an entire and unlimited confidence; and believe not only in hope but against hope. The patriarch thus indulged and encouraged, presumes still farther on the divine goodness, to entreat some present token of the truth and certainty of the promises made to him. "And he said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it."+ Both from what goes before and follows, we must conclude, that this was not a request of diffidence, but of desire and love. We neither desire nor exact from our friends formal obligations to shew us kindness: this would imply a doubt of their attachment; but we dearly love to bear about us the tokens of their affection. In like manner Abram asked for a sign, not that he suspected any thing, but because he loved much. It was taken, as it was meant; and friendship was strengthened by the request and the grant of it. The covenant which ensued and the ceremonies by which it was ratified, have already been considered. But some farther circumstances here recorded well deserve our notice. The
order for the sacrifice was given early in the morning. The former part of the day was employed in preparing it; and we may suppose all things ready by noon. Abram has done what was incumbent upon him; but the great God is not limited to seasons or forms; Abram must therefore wait and watch -wait till God condescends to appear-watch, that his sacrifice be not plundered or polluted. At length, about the going down of the sun, the approach of deity is felt. "And when the sun was going down a deep sleep fell upon Abram and lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him." How insupportable must be the visitations of God's anger! (I tremble while I speak) if the visions of his mercy and love are so awful and tremendous! While he was in this extasy, the principal events that should affect his family for the space of four hundred years, are revealed to him; and the issue is to be, at the end of that period, the quiet and certain possession of the very land which he then inhabited; even from the Nile to the Euphrates. But we trespass on your patience too long.
—Let us, in conclusion, raise our thoughts to a new covenant, established on better promises; to a sacrifice whose "blood cleanseth from all sin ;" "to a new and living way consecrated into the holiest of all, through the veil, the Redeemer's flesh." Let us look to that body which was broken upon the
* Gen. xv. 6.
+ Gen. xv. &.
Gen. xv. 12.,
cross, the atonement for transgression; to that inheritance which is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away;" to that kingdom which cannot be moved," that government and peace of "which there shall be no end;" to that "great multitude which no man can number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people and tongues, which stand before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palms in their hands;" to that day, when "they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever.
-Is every discovery of God a mixture of light and darkness, "a furnace that smoketh, a lamp that burneth," "a pillar of cloud, a pillar of fire?" Let us rejoice, and walk, and live in that light; let us revere, adore, and preserve an humble distance from that darkness. Are the visits of God's wrath intolerable to the wicked; and the approaches of his gracious presence awful even to the good? Let us, then, think of drawing nigh to him, only through the son of his love, in whom he is ever well pleased.
Is the covenant on God's part "ordered in all things and sure?" Are all "the promises" in Christ "yea and amen?" Is the "glory" they propose and ensure, 66 yet to be revealed?" Be not faithless but believing;" cast all your care upon him for he careth for you." Now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall know even as also as I am known." "He who cometh, will come and will not tar ry." "The grace of our Lord Jesus be with your spirits." Amen.
HISTORY OF ABRAM,
ISAIAH XXVIII. 16.
He that believeth shall not make haste.
THE ways of Providence and the workings of the human mind do not always keep pace one with another. In the pursuit of their ends, men are at one time careless and indolent, at another, over eager and hasty; but God is ever advancing towards his, with a steady, progressive, majestic pace. When we get sight of a favourite object, we grasp at it through possibility and imPossibility; we hurry on to possession, too little scrupulous about the means, To God all things are possible; and "he is the rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity; just and right is he." Men ignorantly and weakly judge of their Maker by themselves, and foolishly attempt to regulate the divine procedure by their own preconceived opinions of it: "Behold I thought," said Naaman the Syrian, will surely come out to me, and stand, and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper;" but God had said, "Go and wash in Jordan seven times and thou shalt be clean." It is rare to find a faith which steadily, cheerfully, and constantly walks hand in hand with the purpose and promise of Heaven. We either "stagger at the promise, through unbelief," or impatiently strive to bring forward the accom plishment by indirect methods.
When we look into history, how unlike do events appear from the form into which they were previously shaped by the fond expectations of the persons concerned! The Jews, in the person of Messiah, looked for a prince who should revive the faded splendour of David's throne; but the Messiah whom God raised up, established a kingdom" of righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." The disciples are dreaming of sitting at their Master's right and left hand, when "the kingdom should be restored to Israel;" he is sending them forth to "suffer shame for his name."
The sentiment of the prophet which I have now read, as the foundation of another Lecture on the history of Abram, is just and striking. "He that believeth shall not make haste.' Faith neither lags behind, nor strives to outrun the word of God. "Thus saith the Lord," is its rule and measure; it endures, waits, proceeds, acts, refrains, as "seeing him who is invisible." But in the most composed, firmest, and faithfullest of believers, we find the frailties and infirmities of the man frequently predominant; and a slighter temptation sometimes prevailing, after more severe and difficult trials have been withstood and overcome. Nothing can exceed the solemnity with which God ratified his covenant with Abram, as recorded in the fifteenth chapter of Genesis. Under the sanction of the most awful forms and ceremonies, a son is promised, the future father of a numerous offspring; and an inheritance is allotted to that chosen seed, by him who has all things in heaven and in earth at his disposal. Abram takes the word of God as a full security; believes and rejoices. He had now dwelt ten years in Canaan; and notwithstanding his advanced period of life, we find him discovering nothing like eagerness or impatience; he "believed" and therefore did not make haste." But though he was not the first to devise an undue and intemperate method of arriving at the accomplishment of the promise, we find him ready enough to adopt one of this nature when it was suggested to him.
It was now put beyond a doubt that Abram should become a father, but it has not yet been declared explicitly that Sarai shall be a mother. With the anxiety natural to women in her circumstances, however, we may suppose her to hope till she could hope no longer. At length, her feelings as a wife gave way to her concern about her husband's glory and happiness; and she consents to Abram's having children by another, rather than that he should not have children at all. Projects formed and executed in haste, are generally repented of at leisure; and when we fly in the face either of nature or of religion, we shall speedily and infallibly find both the one and the other much too powerful for us. Sarai's was a lot to be envied by most women; beautiful and beloved even to old age; mistress of an ample fortune, and a numerous train of domestics; the wife of a prince, and, what is much more, of an amiable and excellent man. But the glory and joy of all these flattering circumstances were marred and diminished by one perverse accident, "she bare Abram no children." Not blindly and capriciously, but in wisdom and in righteousness, the great God apportions to the sons of men good and evil in this life; that none may be exalted above measure, and that none may sink into dejection and despair. During Abram's sojourn in Egypt, Pharaoh, smitten with Sarai's beauty, had made his court to her, on the presumption of her being a single woman, by the usual modes of attention, and presents numerous and costly, suitable to his rank and the manners of the times; "sheep, oxen, he-asses, men-servants, maidservants, she-asses, and camels.' Of the female servants probably bestowed upon that occasion, one is now brought particularly into view, and occupies a conspicuous place henceforward in this history. The deception attempted by Abram, in making his wife pass for a sister, is very little to his credit; and his accepting presents from Pharaoh, circumstanced as he was and knowing what he did, was far from being an