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Of the lesser faults of the three primary progenitors of the Israelites, we may enumerate the two-fold denial of his wife by Abraham;--a similar denial of Rebekah by Isaac; and some instances in which Jacob does not appear to have spoken and acted with a due regard to the strict requisitions of sincerity and truth. When “Abraham went down into Egypt to sojourn there, he said unto Sarah his wife, Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake*.”. And when they came into Egypt she said as she had been commanded, and was taken into Pharaoh's, the king of Egypt's house. Again, when he “sojourned in Gerar, Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech, king of Gerar, sent and took Sarah.” In both these instances the Patriarch was guilty of equivocation if not of untruth; and in both, his deviation from the rigid laws of correctness was followed by a variety of serious evils to those whom his assertions had deceived. Pharaoh and Abimelech were both “plagued with great plagues, because of Sarah, Abraham's wife,” although the conduct they had pursued had been occasioned only by the fault of another. In the same manner also did Isaac act towards another Abimelech ; and when the men of Gerar asked him of his wife, Isaac said, “She is my sister; for he

a Gen. xii. 10–20.

Ibid. xx. 2 to the end.


Be it,

feared to say, She is my wife, lest the men of the place should kill him for Rebekah ; because she was fair to look upona.” Here also we have another departure from sincerity of speech; and, perhaps, when Jacobo desired Esau “to pass on before him,” and said that he himself would follow more slowly, “according as the cattle and the children were able to endure, until he came unto Esau unto Seir," he scarce had any serious intention of fulfilling his promise. Be it so. that in all these cases there was guile in the lips of the speakers, and what will follow from the admission but this, that these holy men were still men, infirm and erring, and prone to evil, like ourselves. We neither pretend nor wish to deny the existence of their failings. We neither prohibit nor fear the censures which the enemies of revelation can justly level against their characters. Let them exaggerate none of their offences, and let them magnify none of their defects ; let them set down nothing in malice, nor ever wilfully misrepresent their motives or their deeds, and we will freely allow the frailties of every one of the saints of God. For what if they were not perfect in their generation ? At least it must be allowed, that their violations of the holiness of God's law were neither frequent nor great. They stood pre-eminent in religion and righteousness above the rest of their a Gen. xxvi. 6-11.

• Ibid, xxxiii. 14.

contemporaries, though still sinners indeed, in some respects, together with the rest. In the fervency of their zeal for the pure worship of the only God, in the readiness of their submission to his will, the steadfastness of their faith, and the sincerity of their obedience, we shall be able to find but few in any age by whom they could be equalled, and none by whom they could be excelled: and if some errors and infirmities are still observed in their actions and words, those failings can never, indeed, be justified or excused, but neither can they be justly considered as rendering the individuals in whom they were found unworthy of the best favours of the Almighty. It is comparative, and not positive excellence in man, which must guide the Deity in the choice of his instruments. It is the least sinful, and not the perfectly sinless being, whom he must select for the depositaries of his truth, and the preservation of the knowledge of his will: because if it were otherwise, if nothing but unblemished innocence were to be allowed to recommend us to Heaven, and no one was to be separated from the rest of his fellow-creatures, as the father of the Messiah, and the progenitor of the chosen people, but one who was free from every degree of criminality, then would there have been neither any people chosen, nor any Messiah born. For it is the language of experience, as

well as holy writ, that "all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God,” and that temptations have triumphed in their turn over the brightest and best of those examples which the world has been accustomed to set up as the objects of imitation and praise. Let the unbeliever, then, be as severe as he will upon the failings of the “ friends of God;" we neither deny the existence of their errors, nor palliate their guilt. We readily lament and acknowledge both; but we maintain that, notwithstanding these manifest imperfections and faults, they were, of all others, the most holy in their respective generations, and possessed of qualifications which, so far as our judgements extend, rendered them, of all others, the fittest for the execution of those purposes they were intended to serve. If there be


who doubt the justness of the conclusion, let them point out that blot in their general characters, which was so foul as to make them unworthy of God's

miercy approve, or that defect from which their absolute unfitness may be proved. But never let us Christians be driven from our belief in the truth of revelation, because we find the corruption of nature and the consequences of the fall exemplified in the failings of the Saints.


We have now seen that if God was to choose any of the sons of Adam from the rest, it must be

some of his sinful sons, because all are sinful; and hence we have inferred, that however undeniable may be the faults of Abrabam, or Isaac, or Jacob, upon some special occasions, yet as their general holiness was most exemplary, and their piety and sincerity most undoubted, we have no reason to allow their few and comparatively trivial infirmities to disturb our confidence in the propriety of their selection, as the friends of God. But why did Moses record their transgressions at all? Why, it may be said, did he not leave us to conceive that the Patriarchs were imperfect, like the rest of their fellow-creatures, and not diminish our respect for their excellence, and give an opening for the objections of infidelity by a detailed narration of their misdeeds ? Because the objections of infidelity would not have been obviated by his silence; and because there were some weighty reasons for the method he has actually pursued. Had the virtues of the Saints been the only part of their character upon which the pen of the sacred historian had dwelt, had he concealed the faults of the progenitors of the Israelites whilst relating the sins of the surrounding nations, the unbeliever would have still more severely condemned him for the partiality of his narrative, than he now does for the impropriety of some of the circumstances he has detailed. In fact, the honesty and fidelity of Moses,

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