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VOWS CALLED TO REMEMBRANCE
GEN. XXXV. 1, 2, 3.
AND GOD SAID UNTO JACOB, ARISE, GO UP TO BETHEL, AND DWELL
THERE ; AND MAKE THERE AN ALTAR UNTO GOD, THAT APPEARED UNTO THEE WIEN THOU FLEDDEST FROM THE FACE OF ESAU THE BROTHER. Then JACOB SAID UNTO HIS HOUSEHOLD, AND TO ALL THAT WERE WITH HIM, PUT AWAY THE STRANGE GODS THAT ARE AMONG rou, AND BE CLEAN, AND CHANGE YOUR GARMENTS, AND LET US ARISE, AND GO UP TO BETHEL ; AND I WILL MAKE THERE AN ALTAR unto GOD, WHO Answered ME IN THE DAT OF MY DISTRESS, AND WAS WITH ME IN THE WAY WHICH I WENT.
THE pieces of history preserved in the book of Genesis are peculiarly valuable, and worthy of our regard. They possess the claim of truth, of impartiality, of remote antiquity, of individual and minute description. They are family scenes, which always charm. We feel ourselves in private life. We pursue single characters through all the vicissitudes of their pilgrimage, and observe the various workings of their minds, their imperfections, and their excellencies, the flesh lufting against the spirit, and the spirit gaining a victory over the flesh. Thoy are also recommended, as holding forth the dispensations of divine Providence and Grace combined. It is painful to see a man raised up to be an instrument only ; girded and guided, by a hand which he knows not; accomplishing designs which he never desired or approved ; and then laid aside or dashed to pieces as a vessel in which there is no pleasure, and such are often the philosophers, the politicians, and the heroes of this world. But how delightful and edifying is it, to contemplate men who were not only instruments, but favourites; who did « the will of God from the heart," and “ had the “ testimony that they pleased Him;" who were the depofitories of the divine counsel, and increafed the treasures of revelation : “ of whom, as concerning “the flesh, Christ came," and with whom we hope to reside forever : “ for many shall come from the east “and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and “ Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven." "The command of God also leads us back to the patriarchal age, sends us forth in search of these renowned worthies, and enjoins us not to be slothful, but followers “ of them, who through faith and patience inherit the “promises.”
These reflections, my brethren, are intended to raise this book in your esteem, and to engage your atten. tion to the words which I have detached from it for your edification this evening. “And God said unto “ Jacob, arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there ; and “ make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto “thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy “ brother. Then Jacob said unto his household, and
u to all that were with him, put away the strange Gods “that are among you, and be clean, and change your
garments ; and let us arise, and go up to Bethel ; 4 and I will make there an altar unto God, who an“ swered me in the day of my distress, and was with
me in the way which I went." Let us REVIEW THE TRANSACTION TO WHICH THESE WORDS REFER ; DRAW FORTH SOME OF THE INSTRUCTIONS IMPLIED IN THEM; AND DISTINGUISH THE CHARACTERS IN THIS ASSEMBLY, WHO ARE CONCERNED IN THE COMMAND AND THE EXAMPLE.-“ Arise, and
go up to Betbel.”-“Let us arise and go up to “ Bethel ; and I will there make an altar unto God, “ who answered me in the day of my distress, and “ was with me in the way which I went."
Part I. The passage before us refers to a very interesting part of the history of Jacob, which it will be neceffary for us to review. To escape the fury of his brother Esau, Jacob, by the proposal of his mother, goes to Padan-Aram, to the house of his uncle Laban. On the first night of his journey he dreamed. He saw a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, angels ascending and descending upon it, and God above it, in a posture of attention, “ standing," and viewing a poor pilgrim below. He also spake ; and assured him of the relation in which HE stood to his pious ancestors, promised to give the land of Canaan to his seed, to render his progeny illustrious, and ennumerable, and eventually in one of his descendants to bless all the families of the earth. To accommodate Himself still more to the exigencies of his condition, he added
« behold I am with thee, and will keep thee in all
places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again " into this land; for I will not leave thee until I have “ done that which I have spoken to thee of.” Deeply impressed, Jacob arose and before he proceeded on his journey, “ VOWED A vow, saying, If God will be with
me, and will keep me in the way that I go, and will
give me bread to eat, and raiinent-to put on, so that “ I come again to my father's house in peace; then “ shall the Lord be my God, and this stone which I « have set for a pillar shall be God's house, and of all that “ thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto " thee." His wishing to lay God under an additional bond marks his infirmity. God had spoken, and Jacob should have been satisfied. But it was wise and pious to bind himself. Some have been inclined to censure Jacob, as too conditional and too selfifh on this occafion; supposing he engaged only to serve God, provided he should be indulged with the blessings he specifies. This would have been censurable indeed, and utterly opposite to the faith of the patriarchs, one of whom said, “ though he slay me, yet will I trust in him;" and another of whom, when commanded, “ obeyed, “and went out, not knowing whither he went.” The meaning is, that God by these fresh instances of his favour, would furnish him with fresh motives to serve and glorify Him; and he stipulates the manner in which he would discharge the obligation he should be laid under.
After twenty years hard service in the house of his uncle, Jacob resolves to return, Three days after his departure, Laban pursues him. He overtakes him in
Gilead, is pacified, and withdraws. Jacob moves on, crosses the ford of Jabboc, descends on its southern bank, reacheth the ford of Succoth, wrestles with the angel, passes over the river Jordan westward, and comes to Shalem.' This was an eventful position ; here he bought a piece of ground from Hamor; here he raised an altar; and here befel him the affliction he experienced in the seduction of his daughter, and the murder of the Shechemitvös here he lingers till seven or eight years have elapsed. O Bethel, how årt thou forgotten! O Jacob, where is your vow to. repair thither as soon as you returned! Your God has fulậlled his engagement. He has been with you, defended you, prospered you, and you are come back in peace. Where is your altar? Where the tenth of ġour possessions to maintain it? We may compare one character with another. Behold David. What is he saying? " I will go into thy house with burnt offer
ings; I will pay thee my vows, which my lips have
uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in 66 trouble.” Hannah .occurs.
I see her in the bitter. ness of her soul, praying and weeping sore.
* And " she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of Hosts, if thou 6 wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, “ and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, “ but will give unto thine handmaid a man child, then 6 I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, « and there shall no razor come upon his head.” He is born ; and his very" name shall be a remembrancer. He is weaned; and she takes him with her, and brings him unto the house of God in Shiloh, and introduces him to Eli, “ And she said, O my lord, as