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our inquiry ought to be modified, until we have examined it in its bearings upon the question in which we are engaged.

Pursuing this course in the preceding Lecture, we arrived at a conclusion directly the reverse of that which the Deist has embraced, upon the command by which Abraham was required to offer up his only son. We saw, from the issue of the transaction, that it never was the purpose of the Most High that the sacrifice of a human being should be carried into actual execution. We saw, from the narrative of Moses, that the primary object of the command was to try the Patriarch in the severest manner; and from a comparison of the circumstances of the transaction with the crucifixion of Christ,

were unavoidably led to suppose that a secondary and not less important object, was. to prove to those who should live under the Gospel dispensation, that this great event had been typified, and consequently both foreseen and fore-ordained. The inference which we ultimately drew from these considerations was a vindication of the propriety of the command, as one which never could be unworthy of being given by that omniscient God, before whose eye every benefit and consequence which would result from it must have been completely revealed.



But there is not one of these observations which Abraham could have distinctly made for himself, before he had obeyed the injunction of the Lord, and “stretched forth his hand to slay his son." That his obedience and faith were in reality most severely tried, he would inevitably feel ; but he could have no certain knowledge that the command was intended only as a trial, nor could he be at all aware, that what was so solemnly required and circumstantially directed, would be so suddenly interrupted in its progress by the interposition of the heavenly voice. He could have little hope that the command would be recalled, and still less can he be imagined to have had that clear insight into its connection with the death of the Messiah which, in these later ages, we so joyfully recognise. When, therefore, we proceed, as is the purpose of the present Discourse, to shew the propriety of his obedience to the words he had heard, we must reason either from principles altogether different, or, at least, very differently modified, from those which have been hitherto the foundation of our argument. I mark this distinction the more carefully, because the confusion which has prevailed, from the want of a due separation between the different objections which may be made to this incident, and the different mode in which they are to be answered,

has been one great cause of the failure of divines in producing the conviction they desired. The propriety of giving the command, and the propriety of obeying it, are two separate propositions, and whenever they are confounded together in our inquiries, neither will our ideas be clear, nor our arguments conclusive.

Now in endeavouring to ascertain what might be the considerations which influenced the Patriarch to an act of such painful obedience, we may lay it down as an admitted principle, that he was fully authorised to fulfil both this and every

other command, however repugnant to his feelings and thoughts, provided he could be satisfactorily assured that it really proceeded out of the mouth of God. God is the universal and all-mighty Governor of the world. By his wisdom all possibilities are foreseen, and by his power all events are regulated. To every one, therefore, who acknowledges that the Lord is King, and that he ruleth irresistibly over the affairs of men, and who believes, at the same time, that his mercy is over all his works, and that justice and righteousness are the habitation of his seat: to every one who thus thinks of the Deity, it must be evident that he has but to know the will of God in order to fulfil it. Such unquestionably was the faith of Abraham.

Looking up to the Holy One that inhabiteth eternity, as the mighty, but yet merciful Father of his creatures upon earth, he deemed that what he had called him to perform must be right to perform, and could be intended for nothing but kindness in reality, however harsh in its apparent tendency. What then were the grounds of Abraham's conviction upon these points? How knew he that it was indeed the Lord who had spoken? How could he reconcile the seeming inconsistency between the previous promise and the present command; or persuade himself that he with whom “there is neither variableness nor shadow of turning,” could require him to violate the prohibition of shedding human blood ? These are the questions we are to answer, and in order to give them a full and a fair consideration, it will be expedient to examine, first, the external, and secondly, the internal evidences of the divine origin of the command to Abraham. For the only true way of preserving the impartiality of the reasoning powers, and guarding against a precipitate or erroneous judgement upon any disputed point, is never to enter into any minute investigation of its nature and propriety, until we have, first of all, given a due attention to its positive and external proof. When the force of the latter has been once correctly appreciated, we shall then be able to perceive

what is the degree of moderation or boldness with which we may examine its internal fitness and consistency.

I. In the first place then we may observe, with regard to the external evidences of the divine origin of the command, that it is absolutely inconceivable how Abraham could for a moment be deceived or in doubt. Familiarised for the space of more than twenty years to a series of successive communications with a Being who claimed to himself the ineffable name and the awful attributes of Jehovah, he could not possibly be ignorant of the form and manner of his appearance. One professing to be the Lord had originally commanded him to quit his native country, and his father's land, and had promised him the land of Canaan for the possession of his posterity“. One professing to be the same Lord had established with him an everlasting covenant, and instituted the rite of circumcision as its sign. In the plains of Mamre had the same Lord appeared unto him, and talked with him of Sodom and Gomorrah's wickedness, and told him of Sodom and Gomorrah's destruction. The promises of a blessing to his seed, and of seed from Sarah, the commandment to leave Hagar to her fate", and to offer up Isaac his son,

a Gen. xii. and xiii.
e Ibid. xviii,

Ibid. xvii.
d Ibid. xxi. 12.

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