Page images
PDF
EPUB

Thus it appears that every one of the individuals engaged in the transaction under our review had something to blame in themselves. Isaac in the partiality of a fond and foolish affection, founded on weak or unworthy grounds, would have counteracted, had it been in his power, the designs of an unerring Providence. Esau, after having in levity thrown away his rights, would yet have retained the benefits attached to those rights, and evaded the consequences of his own regardlessness of his holy birth. Rebekah framed a fraud, where she should have exercised her faith ; and Jacob consented to be a partaker in her subtilty. Thus all were sinners; but who is there that is otherwise ? The best of human beings have many frailties to weep for, and to confess; and in the best of our deeds we may generally find more of imperfection and frailty than in this, and that too without having, in general, the same good and religious end in view; without one thought either of God or his promises, ever entering our minds. To such then as would pass a sentence of unmitigated severity upon all, and censure the Holy One and the Just, for having permitted his favours to rest on such imperfect creatures as Isaac, and Rebekah, and Jacob,--to such I would say, Who art thou that judgest another, and expectest mercy for thyself? Look to thine own heart and

the elder son. Esau had no longer the claims of primogeniture to entitle him to such a preference, and in consenting to accept the advantages after he had transferred the charter of his inheritance, he acted naturally, but scarce innocently, to Jacob. Jacob, therefore, might easily regard Esau as having ceased to be the elder, as to all practical purposes, and might not unreasonably conceive that in following the subtle dictates of his mother, he was but asserting his own legitimate rights. By considerations like these we may palliate, but can never altogether remove his guilt. He should still have regarded the nature both of the transaction in which he was now engaged, and the means by which the birthright had already passed into his hands. In the treaty with his brother he might applaud his own zeal, but not his own humanity: and if in the present adventure he could perceive that he would “seem a deceiver" to his Father, and " bring a curse upon himself and not a blessing,” if detected, he might have considered that the act which such a father would condemn as deceitful, could scarce be consistent with the rules of a strict and straightforward integrity. But Jacob was a man, though a pious one, and like the rest of men was content to be less scrupulous in accomplishing the wishes of his heart.

Thus it appears that every one of the individuals engaged in the transaction under our review had something to blame in themselves. Isaac in the partiality of a fond and foolish affection, founded on weak or unworthy grounds, would have counteracted, had it been in his power, the designs of an unerring Providence. Esau, after having in levity thrown away his rights, would yet have retained the benefits attached to those rights, and evaded the consequences of his own regardlessness of his holy birth. Rebekah framed a fraud, where she should have exercised her faith ; and Jacob consented to be a partaker in her subtilty. Thus all were sinners; but who is there that is otherwise ? The best of human beings have many frailties to weep for, and to confess; and in the best of our deeds we may generally find more of imperfection and frailty than in this, and that too without having, in general, the same good and religious end in view; without one thought either of God or his promises, ever entering our minds. To such then as would pass a sentence of unmitigated severity upon all, and censure the Holy One and the Just, for having permitted his favours to rest on such imperfect creatures as Isaac, and Rebekah, and Jacob,--to such I would say,

Who art thou that judgest another, and expectest mercy for thyself? Look to thine own heart and

praise. It is its natural favourite, because it implies the presence of some engaging properties which render the intercourse of life easy and agreeable. But we should recollect, that in too many this amiableness of temper is, as in Esau, a mere moral qualification, or gifi of nature, and may be found in those who are quite aliens to the "one thing needful,”—without any deep reverence for God, or any serious impressions of divine things. Little, therefore, does it merit the exclusive admiration it receives, and still less is it to be admitted as a substitute for a principle of religion in the soul. Yet a principle of religion in the soul is not always accompanied by the fruits of righteousness; and such is the deceitfulness of the heart, that the consciousness of the holiness of our general views is apt to make us careless about

any

little deviations from the inoral law. Jacob with all his desire for God's blessing, and however zealously affected towards the interests of godliness, yet sinks before the profaneness of his brother, in some of the minor charities of life, and appears at times neither so amiable nor so sincere as Esau. The unbelieving world, and the world in general, are apt to censure him too severely for those faults, and in their esteem for what is delightful in a companion, rather than what is truly excellent in the sight of God, to condemn both him and every other professor of

piety, who may fall into a fault, as guilty of the worst hypocrisy towards his Maker. On the other hand, the religious world are far too anxious to palliate, or to deny, the existence of the failings of pious individuals, and far too careless of preserving the spirit of cheerfulness in themselves, and of kindness to their brethren. In the earnestness of the pursuit after personal holiness, they regard too little the effect which their ungenial conduct produces on the happiness of others. Against all these faults we may learn to guard from the examples before us. We may there see, not only how valueless are the more amiable qualities of disposition and temper if not sanctified by piety, but also how shameful and how sinful it is for piety to relax in the smallest degree from the strictness of the moral law, or to neglect the cultivation of the generous and engaging qualities of the heart.

In regulating the affections in domestic life, the lesson we are taught is that of founding them upon some solid basis, and directing them to worthy objects. Regarding only the lusts of the eye, or the dictates of appetite, Isaac fixed his partial love upon his less deserving child, and Esau chose the wife of his bosom from the enemies of the Lord, and to the grief of his parents; and the consequences to both were misery and sin. It is

« PreviousContinue »