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that Rebekah and her son, both of whom were true servants of God, should be ignorant, or regardless of their duty in an astonishing degree. Every feature of the plot is vile and wicked. Yet this mother, this servant of the Lord, invents that hypocri. tical device, which her son, so eminent a man of God, was base enough to execute. How is it that they combined to practise so shameful a deception ?
This conduct was not influenced by the faith of Abraham, but was the result of unbelief. Not relying on the power and wisdom of God to give effect to his own purposes, they foolishly, as well as impiously, took the accomplishment of the divine counsels into their own hands, and brought about the divine appointment by sinful means. Here we see that God can fulfil his will through the means even of the sins of his own people. Here is sovereignty. Here is the depth of divine wisdom. The result of the conduct of Jacob and his mother was a fulfilment of God's eternal purpose ; yet their conduct is not the less sinful. A child may see the justness of this observation ; but can an angel of God fathom this abyss ? Be silent, proud Philosophy; and thou, vain Theology, who lovest to lisp in the phraseology of science. Can ye show the harmony of these two apparently opposite truths ? God ordains what men's sin effects. Yet man is guilty, and God is just !
The sovereignty of God, with respect to Jacob and Esau, is so offensive to the human mind, that it is not unusual, on this subject, to take revenge on the divine conduct, under the colour of lashing the misconduct of this favourite. A comparison of Esau with Jacob is made at great length, and greatly to the advantage of the elder brother. Esau is a plain, blunt, honest man, of great virtue and integrity; while Jacob is a deep, designing hypocrite. God says, “Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated;" but the language of their heart is, “ Esau have I loved, and Jacob have I hated.” And why do they love Esau ; why do they hate Jacob? Just because they hate that divine Sovereignty which preferred the younger to the elder. There is no reason to hide, or palliate, the sins of Jacob in this matter. By his misconduct, we see that it is not on account of works of our own righteousness that God chooses or saves us. The ground of God's preference of his people is his own free and sovereign good-will. We should not hide this, by endeavouring to justify or excuse any thing that is wrong in Jacob. But nothing but disaffection to God will prefer the character of Esan to that of Jacob. With all his faults, Jacob was a man of God; with all that the most partial affection can claim for Esau, he was a man who profanely undervalued his birthright. He was a carnal man, who had all his happiness in this world. When he was roused, he showed what was in his heart. He purposed to take revenge by murdering his brother. This is the virtue of the reprobate, who is so great a favourite with the enemies of God. With all the ingenuity of Rebekah, her scheme would have been
frustrated, had it not been assisted by an addition from the prudence of Jacob. The savoury meat might have been brought to Isaac by Jacob in the room of Esau ; but though the blindness of the Patriarch might not have been able to detect the imposture, his hand would have discovered the deceit. Here, then, there is another link added to the chain which connects Jacob with the blessing. Jacob thinks of the danger of detection, and his mother, by another contrivance, guards effectually against it. She covered his hands and his neck with the skins of the kids, and the smooth Jacob passes for the hairy Esau.
But, after all, what a hair's breadth escape from detection? Though Isaac was so dim of sight that he could not discover the difference between his sons by their external appearance, yet his ear is not so deficient but that it still recognises the difference between their voices. “ The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.”
What prevents the whole plot from now being broken up ? What makes Isaac, the guarded, suspicious Isaac, overlook this symptom ? Why did he not put the matter to a farther proof? Was any thing more easy? Why did he not demand that both his sons should come into his presence ? But the blessing is to be transferred to Jacob. This was God's eternal, unchangeable purpose. Isaac, then, with all his wariness, overcomes his well-founded suspicions, and boldly confers the blessing, when both affection and prudence cried out for delay. Men's wisdom and men's weakness both equally fulfil God's purposes. Here is wisdom. Let those who are truly wise study and admire it. The language in which Isaac conferred the blessing was, no doubt, the immediate dictation of the Holy Spirit; and, therefore, we cannot properly speak of this as a providential circumstance. But in this, inspiration is quite in keep ing with the Providence exhibited in this matter. In conferring the blessing the Holy Spirit puts nothing into the mouth of the Patriarch by which he could see that Jacob was the person to whom he was speaking. The blessing was conferred in language so general, that there is no allusion whatever to any thing peculiar in Jacob. Here is the wisdom of the manner of inspiration. It speaks suitably to the character and situations of the persons by whom it speaks. This fact, instead of being discovered by human wisdom, is so little understood by many Christians, that they have been led by it to invent theories of inspiration, which make the Scriptures in a great measure the mere word of men, and virtually divest them of inspiration.
After all the preparations of hypocrisy and prudence, after all his hardy falsehoods and acting, with his venison and kid's skins, and garments of Esau, Jacob was on the very point of being detected in time to disappoint him of the blessing. What a wonderful, what a providential escape! Jacob is scarc ly gone out with the blessing when Esau comes in to receive it. “ And it came to pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob,
and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting.” Who is so blind as not to see the hand of Providence here? Had Esau been a few minutes sooner, Jacob's scheme would have been frustrated. The sovereign God in his Providence prospers the plan which was to fulfil his purposes, while his holy law utterly disclaims that plan. Every link in this chain is inserted by an overruling Providence, while Jacob and his mother are solely the authors of their guilty conduct.
The transaction is finished; Jacob is blessed, and blessed he must be. But the Lord of Providence must continually protect him, and preserve him for the promised blessing. That Providence is immediately at work to watch over him, and defend him from his brother's malice. « And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand, then will I slay my brother Jacob.” What can prevent him from executing his wicked purpose ? What then becomes of the blessing? When Esau made this purpose, why did he not keep it to himself? He said this in his heart: Why did he not keep it there? Why did he put it in words ? Why did he make a confidant, or speak so as to be overheard ? Yet he did so. Some person was made aware of Esau's intention ; and that person discovered the intention to Esau's mo. ther. Was he entrusted with it by Esau ? Why