« PreviousContinue »
you by a great deliverance." But who were they, the simple shepherds of Canaan, a family at most but "of threescore and fifteen souls" that they should thus fix upon them the eye of Heaven, and call forth so many of its mighty acts? Because the blessing of Abraham was upon them; because the everlasting covenant of God was their's, and in their loins was the salvation of the world shut up, and in their seed were all the families of the earth to be blessed. Blot out the name of Israel from under Heaven, and man must have gone mourning all the days of his life, without remedy of his wretchedness, and without redemption from the grave; for to the name of Israel alone were the promises of God assured, and in the name of Israel alone had the sons of Adam hope, and Joseph himself was nothing but as he belonged to Israel. To us then nothing is more easy than to see the importance of this race, "though few in number, and they strangers of the land." Living in a brighter hour, and under a better revelation, we are conscious that all the interests of humanity were bound up in the preservation of their posterity, and walking in the mid-day blaze of that life and immortality which has been brought to light through the Gospel, we count the very hairs of their head to have been of more value to the solid welfare of the world, than Pharaoh
king of Egypt, and all his host. But it was far otherwise in the fainter illumination of those early days, when a few scattered rays of prophecy "faint and far-between," were the only light to guide the steps of the believer, and shew to him. the finger of Providence as it pointed the way to the great end of all revelation, and all hope. Yet Joseph did see the tendency of God's wonders; and great, indeed, must have been the piety, the humility, and the faith towards God, which could thus teach him, that in the eye of the Almighty himself was nothing, and Egypt was nothing; but that all the mercies which Egypt had felt, and all the greatness, and the glory, and the power of Joseph were but the secret workings of an over-ruling Providence, wrought for the direct and special purpose of saving Israel from famine by a great deliverance, and preserving to Israel a posterity in the earth. To recommend the imitation of such faith and piety is needless; but it is not needless to say that the example is the example of one young, of one who "remembered his Creator in the days of his youth," of one who had resisted a temptation in his youth, as a wickedness against God, which even in our age we often consider as no wickedness at all; and who from his very childhood had embraced, and held fast the profession of that faith which sages have wanted and philosophers denied. Woe be to
them, for they have gone out of the only way in which no danger is found, and turned from the only fountain in whose waters are life are life, and immortality, and joy.
MINOR DIFFICULTIES IN GENESIS.
2 PET. III. 16. "In which are some things hard to be understood."
IT is the purpose of the present course of Lectures to consider only the Ethico-historical Difficulties of the book of Genesis,-those difficulties which arise out of such historical incidents as may be deemed improper to be recorded in a divine revelation, or whose nature may appear irreconcileable either with the moral attributes of the Deity, or the general systems of our moral philosophy. Each of the principal difficulties of this kind, which seemed capable of affording matter for a separate Discourse, has already been investigated. We have explained the grounds of that superior respect with which Abel's offering was received; and vindicated the curse of Noah upon Canaan from any accusation of injustice or vindictive wrath. We have justified Abraham in
his obedience to the command to offer up his son; examined into the respective merits of Jacob and Esau, and elucidated the motives of Joseph's conduct towards his brethren. This, at least, is what we have attempted to perform to the best of our power, and with all the diligence and impartiality we could command. But besides these greater difficulties there are others in Genesis of a similar nature, though of inferior magnitude and importance, which still demand our attention. To these a general answer only is required, a brief answer only can be given. It seems expedient, therefore, before we close the labours of the year, to class these minor difficulties according to their several resemblances, under some distinct heads, and thus bringing together those which have some common characteristics, to examine them not individually, but collectively.
Of these minor difficulties, then, we may observe three different classes in Genesis :-First, the lesser faults of the three great Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Secondly, the more heinous transgressions of their immediate descendants or relatives: and thirdly, the supposed offences of either, those actions either of the Patriarchs or their posterity against which the accusation of immorality or impropriety has been unjustly directed by the infidel.