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lion. He makes such prudent arrangements that the possibility of escape it afforded to one part should the other be destroyed by Esau. Nor did he neglect any thing which seemed likely to reconcile Esau and win his heart: to which several considerable presents, which he prepared for that purpose, were intended to contribute.
But the pious Patriarch did not let the matter rest there; he did not ground his confidence upon these arrangements, but upon God. In the midst of his anxious preparations, he applied to Him by earnest prayer, which emanated from the depth of his distress. He appears openly before his covenant God; he frankly confesses his fears, and does not conceal his wretchedness; he thanks Him for all his former undeserved benefits; he bows himself in deep humility; he cleaves by faith to the command and gracious promise of the Lord. Thou, saidst, I will surely do thee good ;' he cleaves to the power and goodness of God, and beseeches Him to deliver him. He passed a sleepless night in making the arrangements he thought necessary; and conducted his flocks, his family, and his people over the brook Jabbok.
He was then left entirely alone : which he preferred, as being the best suited for his state of mind at the time. He was desirous of pouring out his heart still more fully before the Lord; of praying still more fervently;
of pressing to the throne of Grace, unhindered by external things, at a time when he required help. The good hand of God which was extended over him, drew him into this retirement, because it had something great and particular in view with him.
It was night: a season calculated in itself to excite a feeling of awe. The heavens above him, with their countless stars, reminded him of the promise given to his holy forefather, and sealed it to him also, that thus numerous should his descendants be. The gloomy earth was full of terrors to him, and Esau not far off; perhaps even very near. His help was solely in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. What a blessed night he had already once enjoyed, when sleeping in a desert with a stone beneath his head, and when heaven opened itself above him! But this was a night of anxious fear. It was not only night around the holy Patriarch, but it had also become dark in his soul. He was greatly afraid. This fear seemed to be justified by the circumstances in which he was placed : yet still it had its root in his want of faith ; and if Christ blamed his disciples on account of the unbelieving fear which they manifested in the most imminent danger of death, Jacob was also deserving of a similar reproof on account of similar misconduct; although that must be an uncommon confidence, which can preserve us from fear under such appalling circumstances.
Jacob was manifestly, according to the expression of the Apostle, not perfect in love ;' for the latter expels fear. Fear, however, proceeds more especially from an evil and defiled conscience. No sooner had Adam incurred the latter by his disobedience, than he was afraid, and fled from the face of God.
A guilty conscience is like a dangerous and poisonous imposthume in the individual, which finally prepares him for the flames of hell, unless healed by the blood of
Christ, the only remedy. This alone, appropriated by the power of the Holy Spirit, brings peace. Who does not know that Jacob was an object of God's love, and therefore also a partaker of this peace. But as the renovation of the children of God here upon earth is progressive, so this part of it is particularly so, and is more obvious when trying occasions and circumstances occur,
than at other times. Besides which, God, as Moses says in Psalm xc., places, in the times of visitation, our trangressions before him, and our secret sins in the light of his countenance. He begins, at some afterperiod, to reckon with his servants, and to set before their eyes what they have done ; and then is fulfilled what is written in Psalm xcix. 8, Thou answeredst them, thou forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions." They are perhaps not sufficiently aware of the greatness of the guilt ; its abominable and culpable nature, and the aggravating circumstances which attend it. They have not been rendered sufficiently contrite, humble, and heart-broken on account of it; they have not sufficiently accused themselves before God because of it ; they have been desirous of excusing, if not of justifying themselves in some measure; their hatred to sin is perhaps not sufficiently powerful; their desire for deliverance, and their gratitude on account of it, not sufficiently ardent. They must be made to ascend higher, and to descend deeper. Their self-knowledge is to receive an addition, and their view of the real nature, extent, necessity, and preciousness of Divine grace, to become brightTheir conscience is to be rendered more tender,
their walk more circumspect, their looking unto the Lord more fixed, their abiding in Him and his abiding in them more intimate ; and themselves, generally speaking, more fit for every good work, by faith in Christ Jesus. The potter takes the clay into his forming hand, and purifies and ennobles it from one degree to another. The path of the child of God is from faith to faith, from strength to strength. The fruitfulness which was at first but thirty-fold, becomes sixty-fold, and the latter an hundred-fold. In the blade the ear is formed ; the latter shoots pleasingly forth from its envelopement, and fills itself with corn, which ripens in the sunshine and the storm. The child becomes a youth, the youth a man and a father in Christ; in whom, as the Head, they all grow together in all things. Such is the conduct of the Father with his elect, whom he has chosen in Christ, before the foundation of the world, that they might be holy and without blame before him in love ; and such was the path by which he led Jacob whom he loved.
Something had occured in the life of this Patriarch, which was out of order, and this was the blessing of his father. Isaac intended to have bestowed it upon Esau ; but with the assistance of his mother, who gave the preference to Jacob, even as Isaac strangely did to Esau, he deprived Esau of the blessing intended for him, and procured its bestowment upon himself. We know the artful manner in which this was accomplished, and how the old -blind patriarch was deceived, who took Jacob for Esau, and blessed him instead of the latter. It is true that the blessing descended upon him for
whom God had intended it. For before the children were born, and had done neither good nor evil, it was said to Rebecca, the elder shall serve the younger, in order that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him that calleth, as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.' It is true also, that Isaac, on afterwards learning the real state of the case, instead of retracting his blessing, confirmed it, and did not suffer a single word of disapprobation to fall, respecting the manner in which he had been deceived and imposed upon.
But deception continues to be deception, and consequently sinful and not to be excused but reproved, in whatever cause it may be employed. Some, indeed, with the venerable Luther at their head, have not only excused the mode of acting of Rebecca and her son, but have even justified and defended it as the consequence of a noble faith. Jacob, however, did not regard it in this light, but was apprehensive, lest by such conduct he should have inherited a curse instead of a blessing from his father ; and when his mother endeavored to pacify him by saying, Upon me be thy curse, my son ! it is evident she means nothing by it, and is a proof that she was unable to make a proper reply. To de fend such a transaction, is in reality only to maintain the abominable position, that the end sanctifies the
But this is certain, that God never fails of attaining his aim, and that even the improper conduct of individuals must promote the accomplishment of his purposes. Yet these improprieties are not thereby justified ; otherwise the curse on account of the crucifix