« PreviousContinue »
like Abraham, we be indeed the children of faith, like Abraham too, we shall be called upon to resign that upon which our affections are most firmly fixed. There is indeed but one object of love which will never be torn from us, and that is the God and Saviour of the world. There is but one kind of joy and desire which we may indulge without fear, and never indulge too much, and that is the joy and the desire of those heavenly things which we shall never be called upon to sacrifice, and the supply and the love of which will grow and increase in us for evermore.
Be it our care, therefore, to walk, like our father Abraham, by faith, and not by sight, and to fix our thoughts and hearts not upon the things which are seen, but upon the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are uncertain and temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal and sure.
JACOB AND ESAU.
GENESIS XXVII. 33, 34, 35.
“ Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where
is he that hath taken tenison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? yea, and he shall be blessed. ... And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with an exceeding great and bitter cry, and he said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father. ... And he said, Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away thy blessing.”
It is impossible to read the history of which these sentences form a part, and not sympathize with Esau in his disappointment, and with Isaac in his distress. It is equally impossible to investigate the causes of that disappointment and distress, without condemning Jacob for his subtilty, and without including his mother also in the condemnation, as well as the commission of the fraud.
Neither do the Scriptures, in any of the numerous passages in which they allude to the life
and character of Jacob, give the smallest intimation of having regarded his subtilty as worthy of praise. Moses merely relates the transaction as it occurred : and St. Paul, in those observations which he has made upon the profaneness of Esau, never utters a single word to extol the righteousness of the means by which he was deprived either of his birthright or his blessing. He observesa that Esau was a profane person, “who sold his birthright for one morsel of meat;” but he never justifies the conduct of Jacob, in the artifice by which he supplanted his brother : and when, in another epistle”, he speaks of the preference shewn to Jacob, in making him the progenitor of the Messiah, be resolves it not into the merit of Jacob, but into the will of the Almighty as its source ; " that the purpose of God might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth.” We do not, therefore, pretend to say, that the deception of Rebekah and of Jacob was a righteous deed, or one which can bear the scrutiny of a correct and rigid morality. Its subtilty and falsehood we alike condemn, and would make the errors of persons, so generally well affected to religion and to God, an awful warning to every Christian to “take heed lest,” however sincere and pious, "they fall” after the example of the same infirmity.
Yet whilst we thus confess the fault of these individuals in their conduct, we would at the same time represent the motives by which they were influenced, and, by pointing out the object they had in view, and the reasons upon which they acted, would shew that it was one of those deeds in which there was more of human frailty than of human depravity ; that the end was not unholy, though the means were unsanctified; in short, that it was one of those instances, of which we daily see too many in the world, an instance in which evil was done, under the notion of securing some future good. Jacob and Rebekah conspired to deceive Isaac and supplant Esau, with a view of compelling the fulfilment of those promises which God had voluntarily made, and which without any improper interference on their parts, he would most assuredly also have brought to pass.
In order, however, that we may understand the matter more thoroughly, and perceive why Jacob and Rebekah thus united in the sin of subtilty, it will be necessary to retrace the history of Esau and his brother, from their earliest conception to their father's death.
It had been the good pleasure of God to declare to Rebekah, the mother of Esau and Jacob, that the elder should serve the younger : and this
declaration was made even before the children were born, and consequently before they could have had the possibility of doing either good or evil; thus proving that the choice of God was not determined by their deeds, but by the counsels of his own eternal wisdom. Rebekah, we are told“,
conceived ; and the children struggled within her. And she went to enquire of the Lord. And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people, and the elder shall serve the younger.
When the days of Rebekah were fulfilled, she brought forth twins, Esau and Jacob. Esau was the first-born, “and after that came his brother out.” Such were the circumstances under which these two beings were introduced into the world; the elder under the certainty of a predicted subjection and inferiority to the younger, though at what period, and to what extent, was left in a great measure to be determined by the event.
It is written of Mary the mother of our Lord, that "she pondered all” those extraordinary things which were connected with her son, “and laid them up in her heart ;" and we shall find the
• Gen. xxv. 21, 22, 23.