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Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. 10 And the angel of the LoRD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. 11 And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name “Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction. 12 And he will be a wild man ; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him ; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren. 13 And she called the name of the LoRD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me 3 14 Wherefore the well was called * Beerlahai-roi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered. 15 T And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael. 16 And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.

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THE workings of nature and the counteraction of grace may be practically observed in the character and conduct of the people of God. It is only in Christ that any believer can be viewed as complete. Imperfection and defilement will be seen in the best characters while they are here below. In heaven alone will all be perfectly holy and blessed for ever.

If you lose sight of this truth your mind will always be perplexed; you will never be able to account either for the faults or the excellences of the children of God, nor perceive how good and evil can be blended in the same person, and that person be safe notwithstanding. But of this you may always be sure : whatever is wrong belongs to us; whatever is good comes from God.

Bring these reflections to the contents of this chapter, and thus seek to turn them to the best advantage. Lay down this as a settled maxim. Sin, wherever found, is always our own fault, and carries its own punishment. On the contrary, “the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.” (Is. xxxii. 17.)

Was Sarai right in the proposal she made to Abram about Hagar Was Abram right in hearkening to her voice Was Hagar right in acting as she did to please her master and mistress Alas! alas ! this was all wrong; all wicked; all the effect of temptation, impatience, and unbelief. Again, was Hagar right, after what had happened, in despising her mistress as she did Was Sarai right in dealing unkindly towards her, after what she had done Was Abram right in hearkening to her complaints, and allowing her to act as she liked under the influence of evil passions and jealous feelings : Alas! alas ! in these respects, also, all was wrong. Here we see again some of the effects of sin; how it ever carries with it its own punishment; and how those who have been prompters and tempters of others to sin, become the means of mutually scourging and tormenting each other. Thus Abram's happy and peaceful family became the abode of contention, confusion, and strife. Sin was added to sin, and one punishment followed another. Do we palliate these offences By no means. Do we seek to offer any excuse for them : Certainly not; they afford one of the most humiliating lessons we have all to learn. “Lord, what is man " (Ps. cxliv. 3.) And whence arose all these sad scenes : Entirely from impatience and unbelief. Because the promised seed was not yet given, they were tempted to use unhallowed means; and God punished (though he pardoned) them for their sin. “He that believeth shall not make haste” (Is. xxviii. 16); all this was haste. God will have us wait in faith for promised blessings.

But behold the mercy of God. Was the promise withdrawn Was Abram cast off? Was Sarai rejected Was Hagar abandoned No ; the promise was still sure; and Hagar, though most unworthy, found the Lord to be a very present help in time of need. In the midst of her distress, when wandering in the lonely desert, the Lord found her, and bade her return to the proper duties of her appointed sphere. And then, as they had all sinned together, let them all mourn for their sin, seek for mercy and forgiveness, and, in time to come, be helpers of each other's welfare, and no longer snares and hindrances to each other.

It is sin.

You may also see here what is the cause of all family misery, and personal discord. One does wrong; others follow the example, and then mutual recrimination, anger, distrust, hard dealing, and bitter provocation ensue. Such is sin; such are some of its bitter fruits; and if not repented of and forgiven, what must be the consequences hereafter! Oh! what a place must hell be, “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched " (Mark is, 46; Is. lxvi. 34.)

The believer in Jesus will readily bear witness to the Lord's mercy to Hagar * Did not the Lord see you in all your misery and sin Did he not find you out in the waste howling wilderness Did he not bid you return to him after all your wanderings and sin, and submit to his mercy and grace Oh! cherish a lively sense of all these mercies! Bless God that you were not left still to wander on ; but that he hath guided your “feet into the way of peace.” (Luke i. 79.)

CHAPTER XVII.

1 God reneureth the covenant. 5 Abram his name is changed in token of a greater blessing. 10 Circumcision is instituted. 15 Sarai her name is changed, and she blessed. 17 Isaac is promised. 23 Abraham and Ishmael are circumcised.

A” when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LoRD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou 'perfect. 2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. 3 And Abram fell on #. face: and God talked with him, saying, 4. As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of * many nations. 5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be “Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. 6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. 8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land "wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

9 * And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. 11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin ; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. 12 And * he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. 13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And the umcircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant. 15 "I And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but "Sarah shall her name be. 16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and 7 she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. 17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old * and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear 2 18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! 19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac : and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. 22 And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham. . 23 °s And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.

24 And Abraham was ninety years old and

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THE mercy of our covenant God is infinite and everlasting. But when he bestows it, he will rebuke as well as pardon; and, by reminding us of what he is, he will teach us what all his accepted people ought to be. Some sad facts were recorded in the last chapter. Faults were committed on all sides; but they were forgiven; and when sin is pardoned, it ought never to be repeated. “If I have done iniquity, I will do no more” (Job xxxiv. 32), is the language of every gracious soul. This feeling the Lord would stamp indelibly on Abram's heart. Thirteen years after those preceding events, the Lord appeared to Abram, when he was ninety years old and nine, “and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect” (v. 1); or, as it is in the margin, upright, sincere. Now, Abram could not be upright, nor sincere, if such acts were repeated; and, as the Almighty God was the bountiful source of all blessing, to walk before God, or in the presence of God, setting God always before his face, was the surest way to be kept from evil, and the appointed method of realising the promise, which was now soon to be fulfilled. Does not this address to Abram speak to ourselves? Are we perfect, sincere, upright before God? Do we walk before him in this manner * Do we rely on him as our all-bountiful and Almighty God, reconciled in the Son of his love Is not this the way to be kept from evil, and to realise the promises Such words as these of God to Abram should humble us, and bring us on our knees in the deepest abasement before God, conscious of our great unworthiness, and praying for renewed tokens of divine mercy, faithfulness, and love.

Observe the nature of this covenant: “I will be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee" (v. 7). Is not such the nature of the gospel covenant? “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer. xxxi. 33.) Observe, also, the form of its visible ratification. “Every man-child among you shall be circumcised,” and every one that is not circumcised “shall be cut off” (v. 10, 14.) Is not the gospel covenant visibly signed and sealed? Has not the spiritual regeneration of the soul its visible sign and seal? Has not our redemption by Christ its visible seal and sign also? What are baptism and the supper of the Lord but, the one the sign of our new birth by the Spirit, and the other, the sacrament of our redemption by Christ? Are we then at liberty to disregard these sacred institutions, or can we do so with impunity ? By no means.

At the same time, we must equally guard against abuse. There is a vast difference between observing a divine ordinance, and abusing it. If any of the seed of Abram thought they were the true people of God merely because they were circumcised, it would be as fatal a mistake and as great an abuse of that institution, as if any among us were to say that, simply because they were baptised, or partook of the Lord's supper, they were, therefore, born of the Spirit and interested in Christ. In either case, it would be evident, there was a gross abuse of sacred ordinances, and that the right state of heart was still wanting. (See Rom. ii. 28, 26; iii. 29, 30; iv. 8, 25; Gal. v. 6; Phil. iii. 3.)

Bear in mind, however, that you must as carefully guard against misconception of the divine ordinances as the abuse of them. There is a great distinction between what is indispensable in its observance, and that which is essential to salvation. It is clear that circumcision was indispensably enjoined on all the future seed of Abram; at least, till another institution should supersede its use. The sanction with which it was enforced proves this; but it was not essential to Abram's salvation. Abram had been a called and a justified believer for twenty-five years before this rite was enjoined. The same remark applies equally to the two sacraments of the gospel. As instituted and commanded by Christ, they are to be indispensably observed by all professing the faith of his name, throughout all generations to the end of time. Undoubtedly, they are “generally necessary to salvation,” where they may be had ; but we are not saved by baptism, nor by the Lord's supper; but by Christ. We are born of the Spirit, and saved by Christ. A man may use these ordinances and be left totally destitute of any blessing: and then, of what avail would their observance be to him : Abraham's prayer for Ishmael may well suit for all such occasions. “Oh that” my soul “might live before Thee.” Then, “he that believeth and is baptised shall be saved" (Mark xvi. 16); and, “as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.” (1 Cor. xi. 26.)

CHAPTER XVIII.

1 Abraham entertaineth three angels, 9 Sarah is reproved for laughing at the strange promise. 17 The destruction of Sodom is revealed to Abraham. 23 Abraham maketh intercession for the men thereof. ND the LoRD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre; and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, 3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: 4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree : 5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and 'comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on : for therefore * are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, "Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. 7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. 8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. 9 * And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife : And he said, Behold, in the tent.

10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age ; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also : 13 And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old : 14 Is any thing too hard for the Lord At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. 15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh. 16 T And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. 17 And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do: 18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him * 19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LoRD, to do justice and judgment; that the LoRD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. 20 And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; 21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. 22 And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom : but Abraham stood yet before the Lord. 23 *| And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked * , 24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein 25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the carth do right? 26 And the LoRD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes

27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes: 28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. 29 And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's sake. 30 And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. 31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. 32 And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once : Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake. 33 And the LoRD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham : and Abraham returned unto his place.

(1) Heb. stay. (2) Heb, you have passed. (3) Heb. Hastem.

Two events arrest our attention in this chapter; the promise now about to be fulfilled, and the intercession of Abraham on behalf of Sodom. Both the subjects teach us some very important and practical lessons. First, the promise about to be fulfilled. God has his own time, and his own way,for bringing to pass the covenanted promises of his word. They are all sure and certain, and will undoubtedly be fulfilled in their season. Delays are nothing with God; but faith and patience must be tried. By such means we are benefited, and God is glorified. Nearly fiveand-twenty years had passed away since God gave the promise of a seed to Abraham. Even then he was advanced in years, and it seemed altogether an unlikely event now that he was more aged; and the probability of issue lessened every day. But the time was come, and Abraham and Sarah shall have a som. What is the lesson we learn ? “He is faithful that promised.” (Heb. x. 23; xi. 11.) Let the promise of life to the soul, and of grace and mercy to help in time of need, be believed ; and, in due season, it shall be fulfilled. “The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not

lie : though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” (Habakkuk ii. 3.) “Blessed,” then, “is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.” (Luke i. 45.) And every mercy thus received will be, what Isaac was to Abraham and Sarah, a source of joy, praise, and thanksgiving. But let us turn, secondly, to Sodom. We have already had some allusion to that place in some previous chapters. The wickedness of its inhabitants, and the sad choice of Lot in fixing his abode there, have been previously noticed. But now we are told of Sodom's doom. God had determined to destroy the cities of the plain, and to set them forth as an example to all who should afterwards live an ungodly life. And is not the doom of all unrepenting sinners already foretold in the Word of God? “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God 2" (Ps. ix. 17.) The same heavenly messengers, that assure Abraham of the fulfilment of God's promise to him, acquaint him also with Sodom's doom. Is it not thus with the messengers of the gospel ? Are they not “a sweet savour” unto God “in them that are saved, and in them that perish *" (2 Cor. ii. 15.) Are they not “to the one the savour of death unto death, and to the other the savour of life unto life f" (2 Cor. ii. 16.) How must this intelligence have distressed Abraham | Where was his relative In that very place which the Lord was about to destroy 1 Mark what follows. He that before prayed, “O that Ishmael might live before thee,” now prays that some, at least, might be spared in that wicked place. There can be no doubt that Lot lay near his heart, though he did not venture to mention him by name before the Lord. See how he prays. If there be fifty, forty, thirty, twenty, or even ten righteous within the city, will not the Lord spare them, and not destroy them all Alas! that number was not there. The event proved that the true people of God, in any place, may be much fewer in number than we may at all suppose. And the day that cometh at last will make it manifest. Remember these things are written for our

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