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observe the father of the faithful repeatedly equivocating! Let us avoid this sin, and especially be on our guard in those instances in which we have fallen before. Past miscarriages should be as marks to prevent our making shipwreck of faith and a good conscience.
2. It is a great comfort to preserve the testimony of our own conscience; so Abimelech did. He had no ill design, no intention of injuring Abraham or Sarah. Polygamy was reckoned unlawful even in those days. Let us keep a conscience void of offence toward God and man. It will be our rejoicing in the day of evil: and then, if our hearts condemn us not, we shall have confidence toward God. If he knows that we act in the integrity of our hearts, it is happy for us, whether men will own it or not. Those who walk uprightly, walk surely; and they may humbly hope, that God will keep them from sinning against him, when they desire to know their duty, and avoid the appearance of evil.
3. We should acknowledge it as a great mercy to be restrained from sin, though it should be by affliction. God often makes use of afflicting providences as a means of curing vicious inclinations; and thus he takes away the opportunity of our doing evil. Those afflictions that keep us from sin are blessings indeed. God should be praised for restraining grace ; and it should be our daily prayer, that he would not permit us, to fall into temptation, but that he would deliver us from evil.
4. The fear of God is a good restraint from sin i'. 11. Abraham thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place, and they will stay me for my wife's sake. The want of this principle introduces all manner of confusion. Justly do our indictments say, concerning criminals, that they do sp and so, not having the fear of God. There is no good to be expected without this. David says, Psalm xxxvi.l. The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God brfore his eyes; whatever they profess, their conduct saith so. An holy awe of God will keep us from sin, as in the case of Nehemiah, This did not I because of the fear cf the Lord. If therefore we would avoid sin, and every appearance of evil, let us be in the fear, of the ford all the day fang.
5. Sometimes it is a snare to us to have a bad opinion of others, and to suspect their characters more than wc ought. Abraham suspected Abimelech, but without reason. He appears to have been a man of great wisdom, judgment, and integrity; not an idolater, but a worshipper of the true God, as Melchizedek was. God conversed with him by dreams, and thus made known his will to him. It seems that he abhorred adultery, and had he known that Sarah was another man's wife, would not have attempted to take her. Perhaps Abraham might think, that Abimelech and his people did not fear God, because they were riot circumcised ; had not the seal of God's covenant; or did not offer sacrifices, or not such sacrifices as he did. Uncharitableness leads to other sins; particularly, to lake wrongj fnethods to secure ourselves ; charity hc/ieth all thing». 'There are," says Mr. Henry, ' many persons that have more of the fear of God in their hearts than we think. Perhaps they are not called by our dividing names, nor wear our badges. They are not of our opinion, and therefore we conclude that they have not the fear of God in their hearts. But this is injurious both to Christ and Christians, and makes us obnoxious to the divine judgment.' Once more,
6. Cet us learn to temper our rebukes with gentleness and kindness; thus Abimelech did. Men are apt to be displeased at a reproof, however just it may be; and therefore we ought to mingle it -with kindness: when we do so, they will hearken the better, and believe we have a good design. Many a reproof loses its force, by being delivered with too much heat. Men are ready to think that zeal for God and holiness will vindicate this; but they are mistaken. The virath of man чоог/ceth not the righteousness of God. Let us then in meekness instruct those who oppose themselves, and with gentleness reprove those who do amiss; apd endeavour, by real kindness, to show that we wish them well, and should be glad to see them happy. An arrow winged with love is most likely to reach the heart. So God deals with us, and so should we deal with each other.
We are noto entering upon the history of Isaac, who is cne of the most perfect c/iaracters of the Old Testament. This chafiter contains an account of his birth ; hoio Ishmael was cast ovt; of a treaty made between Abraham and Abimelech; and of Abrar ham's solemn devotion,
1 AND the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the JLX Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken, that is, performed his promise. For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him : for this reason Isaac is said to have been born by prom
3 I'm. And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac, that is, laughter,
4 because of the joy he had in Aim. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac, being eight days old, as God had commanded
5 him. And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him, and Sarah ninety years old.
6 And Sarah said, God hath made me, who once foolishly laughed through, distrust, to laugh/or joy ,• holy gratitude Jills my heart: [so that] all that hear will laugh with me and rejoice
7 at his birth. And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? who vnuld
Have ventured to assert so iniprobable a thing? none but God* and he hath fulfilled his word; for I have born [him] a son in his old age, and can suckle and nourish it from my own breast. '8 And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made
a great feast the [same] day that Isaac was weaned.* 9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had borne unto Abraham, mocking ;perhapsat the great feast, and jeering Isaac in some malignant bitter way, as their young master, he that, forsooth, must be heir of all; this made Paul call it persecution, Gal. iv. 29. Perhaps he was put on by Hagar-, who thought her son, who was the firstborn, should be the heir.
JO Wherefore she said unto Abraham, I cannot bear this insolent behaviour, and therefore beseech you to cast out this bondwoman, and her son ; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be
1 1 heir with my son, [even] with Isaac. And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight, because of his love to his son, and God's promise concerning him, and lest he should be ex.
'12 posed to danger and idolatry. And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman ; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Isaac, as heir to thy house, shall bear and propagate thy name: and the promised seed, and spiritual prerogatives shall be entail
\% ed upon him. Heb. xi. 18. And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, as I have promised, because he
34 [is] thy seed. And Abraham, to show his readiness to obey the divine command, rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave [it] unto Hagar, putting [it] on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.f
15 And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the
'16 child under .one of the shrubs. And she went av>d sat her down over against [him] a good way off, as it were a bow shot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she satover against [him,] and lift up her voice, and wept, God did not design that they should perish, but that they shoidd
• 7 be brought to repentance / And therefore God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God calledto Hagarout of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar I fear not; for
18 God hath heard the voice of the lad where he [is.] Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand ; for I will make
3 9 him a great nation. And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water, which was there before, though she saw it not., by reason of grief, or some other cause ; and she went and filled
• Not the day he was circumcised, that would bave interrupted their retard to this religious rite; but the day he was weaned, when the mother and child were both stronger.
+ This might be done to humble both hers:lf and her son for their improper conduit. .and to be anemUemof her posterity, who*hoiud wander in the wilderness.
20 the bottle with water, and gave the lad to drink. And Gocf was with the lad, blessed him in temporal things; and he grew and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer, a skilful'
21 hunter of beasts and warrior with men, (ch. xvi. 12.) And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.*
22 And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phichol the chief captain of his host spake unto Abraham, say-'
23 ing, God [is] with thee in all that thou doest: Now, therefore? let us enter into a league of friendship and mutual kindnesses; swear unto me here by God, that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son nor with my son's son: [but] according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shah do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned.
24 And Abraham consented and said, I will swear. And Abraham
25 reproved Abimelech, or, debated tlie matter with him, because of a well of water, which was exceeding valuable in that country^ and which Abimelech's servants had violently taken away.
26 And Abimelech said, I wot not who hath done this thing, Iam, quite ignorant of the affair: neither didst thou tell me, or I. would have redressed the grievance ; neither yet heard I [of it,]
27 but today. And Abraham, out of gratitude for former favours, took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant, according to the custom of
25 the country. And Abraham set seven ewe lambs'of the Bock by
29 themselves. And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What [mean] these seven ewe lambs which, thou hast set by themselves:
30 And he said, For [these] seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well, and a token of our agreement in this matter.
31 Wherefort: he called that place Beersheba, that is the well of
32 the oath; because there they sware both of them. Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba: then Abimelech rose up, and Phichol the chief captain of his host, and they returned into th^ land of the Philistines.
S3 And [Abraham] planted a grove ia Beersheba, fir peace and retirement, and a shelter from the heat; or rather, for public worship, as a tent could not /told his large family z and he called there on the name of the Loss, the everlasting God. This practice was afterwards abused to superstition and? idolatry, and therefore forbidden,. Exod. xxxiv. 13. Dent.
34 xvi. 21. And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines' land; many days, or years.
* It is probaftc that he often saw Abraham afterwards, and hud giftt fiom.iiim; "t «e &n& in chap, *ky' that U» •« at hit fadpr's t'uncnl.
1. T* E Т us patiently and cheerfully wait for God's promise, 1 J after the example of Abraham and Sarah, who staggered not through unbelief. Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and -was delivered of a child token the ivas /last age, because she judged him faithful "who had /iromised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which ie by the seashore innumerable. Heb. ул. 11. 12. Thus their desire was answered, and what they expected came to pass. Faithful is he who hath promised, and at the set time his promise was fulfilled- v. 2. God is punctual to his word, and his time is the best; let us therefore wait for it, and not prescribe to him.
2. Parents should cheerfully devote their children to the serTice of God. Abraham circumcised Isaac and complied with the divine appointment. However dear Isaac was, it must be done. Let parents enter their children into God's family, and be ihankful that he will admit them. As the promise is to us and our children, let us see to it that we put them in the way of God's blessing, and devote them early to him.
3. From the example of Sarah, we may infer the duty of mothers to nurse their own children. The good women of those days thought it their duty to do so, and dry breasts were reckoned a great reproach. Sarah ivas a person of quality, of great eminence, had a large family, and many cares ; they had three hundred and eighteen servant men beside women; and yet thought that no excuse. She had women enough to nurse it in her house, and was herself aged, beirfg ninety years old; but she did it herself, and speaks of it with the greatest pleasure. It is a refinement of this last age for women to consign that work to strangers; which is a very cruel and barbarous practice, and shows the mind to be almost destitute of natural affection. The Lord himself says this, Lam. iv. 3. Even the sea monsters draw out the breast, they give suck to their young ones: but the daughter of my people it become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness, who leave their young to be hatched and brought up by others. It ¡я a practice directly contrary to the dictates of nature, and the clear intention of Providence. Neither quality, nor business, nor difficulties, nor inconveniences, will excuse for the neglect of this plain duty; and what God hath made a duty, we may hope he will give strength to perform, as multitudes would experience, if they would but try: nothing but evident necessity can vindicate so unnatural a custom. These were the sentimepts of Archbishop Tillotson, who says, " It is a natural duty; and because it is so, of more necessity and indispensable obligation than any positive precept of revealed religion, such as baptism, or the like; and that the general neglect of it, is one of the great and crying