Images de page

his duty to God, and his affection to his child ; so that every step of this unwelcome and wearisome journey, he did, as it were, lay violent hands upon bimself.

He was to offer up his son but once; but he facrificed himself, and his own will, every moment for three days together ; and when he came thither, and all things were ready, the altar, the wood, and the fire, and the knife, it must needs be a stabbing question, and wound him to the heart, which his innocent fonso innocently asked him, Where is the lamb, for a burnt-offering ??

It must be a strong faith indeed, and a mighty resolution, that could make him to hold out three days against the violent assaults of his own nature, and the charming presence of his son, enough to melt his heart, as often as he cast his eyes upon him: and yet nothing of all this made him to stagger in his duty, but, being strong in faith, he gave glory to God, by one of the most miraculous acts of obedience that ever was exacted from any of the fons of men.

III. In the third and last place, I come to consider the reasonableness of his faith, in that he was able to give satisfaction to himself in so intricate and perplexed a case. The constancy of Abraham's faith was not an obstinate and stubborn persuasion, but the result of the wifeft reasoning and roberest consideration.

So the text fays, that he counted (the word is nogice'fefe, he reasoned with himself) that God was able to raise him up from the dead; so that he debated the matter with himself, and gave himself satisfaction concerning the objections and difficulties in the case; and being fully fatisfied that it was a divine command, he resolved to obey it.

As for the objections I have mentioned :

1. The horrid appearance of the thing, that a father should slay his innocent son. Why should Abraham fcruple the doing this, at the command of God, who being the author of life, bath power over it, and may resume what he hath given, and take away the life of any of his creatures when he will, and make whem be pleaseth instruments in the execution of his command?


It was indeed a hard case, considering nataral affection; and therefore God did not permit it to be executed.

But the question of God's right over the lives of men, and of his authority to command any man to be the instrument of his pleasure in such a case, admits of no dispute.

And though God hath planted strong affections in parents towards their children; yet he hath written no law in any man's to the prejudice of his own fovereign right. This is a cafe always excepted, and this takes away the objection of injustice.

2. As to the scandal of it; that could be no great objection in those times, when the absolute power of parents over their children was in its full force, and they might put them to death without being accountable for it. So that then it was no such startling matter to hear of a father putting his child to death. Nay, in much later times we find, that in the most ancient laws of the Romans, (I mean those of the twelve tables), children are absolutely put in the power of their parents ; to whom is given jus vite & necis, * and death over them ;” and likewise to sell them for flaves.

And though amongst the Jews this paternal power was limited by the law of Moses; and the judgment of life and death was taken out of the father's hands, except in case of contumacy and rebellion ; (and even in that case the process was to be before the elders of the city): yet it is certain, that in elder times the paternal power was more absolute and unaccountable ; which takes off much from the horror and scandal of the thing, as it appears now to us who have no fuch power.

And therefore we do not find in the history, that this objection did much stick with Abraham; it being then no unufual thing for a father to put his child to death upon a just account.

And the command of God, who hath absolute dominion over the lives of his creatures, is certainly a just reason; and no man can reasonably fcruple the doing of that, upon the command of God, which he might have done by his own authority, without being accountable for the action to any but God only.

a. power of life


3. As

3. As to the objection from the horrible consequence of the thing commanded, that the saying of Isaac feem ed to overthrow the promise which God had made before to Abraham, That in Ifaac his feed fhould be called ; this seems to him to be the great difficulty; and here he makes use of reason, to reconcile the seeming contradiction of this command of God to his former promise. So the text tells us, that he offered up his only begotten Jon : of whom it was faid, That in Ifaac shall thy seed be called : reasoning that God was able to raise him up from the dead. So that, though Isaac were put to death, yet he saw how the promise of God might still be made good by his being raised from the dead, and living afterwards to have a numerous pofterity.

There had then indeed been no instance or example of any such thing in the world, as the resurrection of one from the dead; which makes Abraham's faith the more wonderful. But he confirmed himself in this be lief, by an example as near the case as might be : He reaJone!, that God was able to raise him from the dead; from whence also he had received him in a figure.,

This, I know, is by interpreters generally understood of Jiaac's being delivered from the jaws of death, when he was laid upon the altar, and ready to be fain. But the text seeins not to speak of what happened after ; but of something that had passed before, by which Abraham confirmed himself in this persuasion, that if he were slain, God would raise him up again.

And so the words tev exouidato ought to be rendered in the past time, from whence also he had received him in a figure. So that this expression plainly refers to the miraculous birth of Isaac, when his parents were past the age of having children ; which was little less than a resurrection from the dead.

And so the scripture speaks of it, Rom. iv. 17. Abraham believed God, who quickeneth ile dead, and calleth the things which are not, as if they were : and not being weak in faith, he considered not his own body which was dead. And a little before the text, speaking of the miraculous birth of Isaac, And therefore sprang there of one, and him as good as dead, as many as the Nars of heaven. From whence (as the Apostle tells us) Abraham rea


foned thus : That God who gave him Ifaac at first in so miraculous a manner, was able by another miracle to restore him to life again after he was dead, and to make him the father of many nations : He reasoned, that God was able to raise him up from the deat; from whence also he had received him in a figure.

Thus you see the reasonableness of Abraham's faith. He pitched upon the main difficulty in the case, and he answered it well as was possible. And, in his reasoning about this matter, he gives the utmost weight to every thing that might tend to vindicate the truth and faithfulness of God's promise, and to make the revelations of God consistent with one another : and this, though he had a great interest and a very tender concernment of his own to have biassed him.

For he might have argued with great appearance and probability the other way. But as every pious and good man should do, he reasoned on God's fide, and favoured that part. Rather than disobey a command of God, or believe that his promise should be frustrate, he will believe any thing that is credible and possible, how improbable foever. Thus far faith will go ; but no farther. From the believing of plain contradictions and impossibilities, it always desires to be excused.

Thus much for explication of the words ; which I hope hath not been altogether unprofitable; because it tends to clear a point which hath something of difficulty and obscurity in it; and to vindicate the holy scripture, and the divine revelation therein contained, from one of the most fpecious objections of infidelity.

But I had a farther design in this text ; and that is, to make some obfervations and inferences from it that may be of use to us.

As, First, That human nature is capable of clear and full fatisfaction concerning a divine revelation. For if Abraham had not been fully and past all doubt assured, that this was a command from God, he would certainly have {pared his son. And nothing is more reasonable, than to believe, that those to whom God is pleafed to make immediate revelations of his will, are some way or other affured that they are divine ; otherwise they would be in vain, and ro no purpose.

[ocr errors]

But how men are assured concerning divine revelations made to them, is not so easy to make out to others. Only these two things we are sure of.

1. That God can work in the mind of man a firm perfuafion of the truth of what he reveals, and that such a revelation is from him. This no man can doubt of, that considers the great power and influence which God, who made us, and perfectly knows our frame, mult needs have upon our minds and understandings.

2. That God never offers any thing to any man's belief that plainly contradicts the natural and essential notions of his mind; because this would be for God to destroy his own workmanship, and to impose that upon the understanding of man, which, whilst it remains what it is, it cannot possibly admit.

For instance, we cannot imagine, that God should reveal to any man any thing that plainly contradicts the essential perfections of the divine nature :, for such a re-. velation can no more be supposed to be from God, than a revelation from God that there is no God; which is a downright contradiction.

Now, to apply this to the revelation which God made to Abraham

concerning the sacrificing of his son; this was made to him by an audible voice, and he was fully satisfied by the evidence which it carried along with it, that it was from God.

For this was not the first of many revelations that had been made to him ; so that he knew the manner of them, and had found, by manifold experience, that he was not deceived ; and upon this experience was grown to a great confidence in the truth and goodness of God. And it is very probable, the first time God appeared to Abraham, because it was a new thing, that, to make way for the credit of future revelations, God did shew himself to him in fo glorious a manner as was abundantly to his conviction.

And this St. Stephen does seem to intimate, Acts vii. 2. The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia. Now, by this glorious appearance of God to him at first, he was so prepared for the entertainment of after revelations, that he was not. staggered even at this, concerning the sacrificing of his


« PrécédentContinuer »