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more recently removed, with a suitable pro The distresses which embittered the revision, into a distant part of the country.* mainder of Isaac's life, were chiefly interna. So that upon his father's demise, Isaac found and domestic; and, alas ! had their source in himself in the quiet possession of by far the his own infirmity, namely, a fond partiality greatest part of his immense wealth, but ex- in favour of his elder son; the mischief of cluded from the society of those whom his which was increased and kept alive, by own sweetness of temper and sense of duty, partiality, equally decided, which Rebekah and the proximity of blood, would have led had conceived in favour of Jacob. “ Isaac him to cultivate and cherish. And thus loved Esau because he did eat of his venison riches, the object of universal desire and but Rebekah loved Jacob."* Most of the pursuit, create more and greater wants than evils of a man's lot may be easily traced up those which they are able to remove. By to some weakness in which he has indulged exciting envy, jealousy, and suspicion, they himself, some error into which he has fallen, separate those whom nature has joined; some opportunity he has let slip, or some friendship is sacrificed to convenience; and, crime which he has committed. Of all the to enjoy in security what Providence has infirmities to which our nature is subject, given him, the unhappy possessor is con- none is more common, none is more unreastrained to become an alien to his own bro sonable, unwise, and unjust, none more easily ther. We cannot refrain from bestowing, guarded against, none more fatal in its consein this place, a posthumous praise upon Abra- quences to ourselves and others, than that ham, who, uninfected by the tenacity of old of making a difference between one child and age and selfishness, cheerfully surrendered, another. It destroys the favourite, and diswhile he yet lived, a considerable part of courages those who are postponed and slighthis property, in order to insure the future ed; it sows the seeds of jealousy and malice, peace of his family, and wisely left his prin- which frequently produce strite, and end in cipal heir a poorer man, that he might leave violence and blood. It sets the father against him happier and more secure. How unlike the mother, and the mother against the fathose sordid wretches, who will scatter no- ther; the sister against the brother, and the thing till death breaks into the hoard; and brother against the sister. It disturbed the who care not what strife and wretchedness repose of Isaac's family, and had well nigh overtake those who come after them, in the brought down Jacob's hoary head with sorvery distribution of their property, provided row to the grave. Parents ought to examine, they can keep it all to themselves, were it and to watch over themselves carefully on but for one day longer !
this head. If they are unable to suppress Isaac had hitherto trusted every thing to the feeling, the expression of it, at least, is the wisdom and affection of his kind father, in their power; and policy, if not justice, and to the care of an indulgent Providence, demands of them an equitable distribution even so far as to the choice of his partner of their affection, their countenance, and for life. But his father being now removed their goods. For, if there be a folly which, by death, and his own children growing up more certainly than another, punishes itself
, fast upon him, he is under the necessity of it is this ill-judged and wicked distinction arising and exerting himself. For the bless- between equals. One is ashamed to think ing of Providence is to be asked and ex- of the reason which is assigned for Isaac's pected, only when men are found in the way preference of his elder to his younger son, of their duty, and wisely employing lawful Isaac loved Esau because he did eat of his and appointed means of prospering. We venison.” The original language expresses accordingly find him, with the prudent sa- it still more forcibly, “because his venison gacity of a good husband, father, and master, was in his mouth.” By what grovelling and directing the removal of his family from place unworthy motives are wise and good men to place, as occasion frequently required; often actuated! And what a mortifying forming alliances with his powerful neigh- view of human nature is it, to see the laws bours, for their mutual security; and presid- of prudence, and justice, and piety, vilely ing in the offices of religion, his favourite controlled and counteracted by the lowest employment. And though Providence has and grossest of our appetites ! It was not deprived him of the counsel and protection long before the effect of parental partialities of an earthly parent, he finds, in his happy appeared. A competition for precedency, experience, that the man whom God con- and the rights of primogeniture, engaged the tinues to protect and bless, has lost nothing. attention of the two brothers, and whetted
Father and mother have forsaken him, but their spirits against each other, from their the Lord has graciously taken him up," earliest years. The pretensions of each “ hedged him round on every side," and put were supported respectively by the parents the fear and dread of him into all the neigh- according to favour, to the disregard of every bouring nations, who, though they envied, maxim of good sense, and of the destination durst not hurt him.
and direction of the Divine Providence.
• Gen. xxv. 28.
Who it was that prevailed in this conten- of God over the hearts of men. The dreadtion, and by what means, will be seen in the ful judgment of Sodom, where Lot dwelt; sequel.
the blindness which punished the attempt to While the family of the patriarch was thus violate his guests, and the more tremendous torn with internal dissension, Providence destruction which avenged just heaven of was pleased to visit him with a grievous ex- their ungodly deeds, might operate power ternal calamity. “ There was a famine in fully, so far as these events were known ana the land, besides the first famine that was in their memory was preserved, to overawe the the days of Abraham.”* This, for a while, neighbouring nations, and to procure for represses animosity. Distress, common to Lot's family and kindred, the attention and all, teaches them to love one another; and, respect which fear, if not love, inspires. And, instead of a struggle for precedency, the as a proof of his supremacy, that God, " in weightier concern, “Where shall we find whose hand the heart of the king is, and who bread ?" now occupies their thoughts. This can turn it which way soever he will," has dispensation was probably intended as a re- frequently constrained the enemies of his proof and correction to all parties. The church and people to be their friends and parents were admonished of the folly of aid- protectors. ing and increasing the unavoidable ills of This repeated visitation of Canaan by falife, by wilfully sowing discord among bre- mine, was a repeated trial of the patriarch's thren. Esau, ready again to perish with faith. The promise of a land, so frequently want, is stung with remorse to think, that in unable to sustain its inhabitants, could have one hasty impatient moment of hunger, he little value in the eye of a worldly mind. had sold, for the transient gratification of a But faith in God discerns the principal worth low appetite, what no penitence could undo, and importance of temporal blessings, in their no money repurchase. And Jacob, feeling being connected with, and representing spihimself the cravings of hunger, was chas- ritual objects; and examines events, not by tised for taking an unkind advantage of his their agreement with preconceived opinions, brother's necessity; and, ready in his turn and extravagant expectations, but by their to perish, might be constrained to adopt the moral effects and consequences. A region words of starving Esau, “ behold, I am at the uniformly and unfailingly plenteous, might point to die, and what profit shall this birth- betray its possessor into the belief that its right do to me."t For, although God serves fertility flowed solely from natural causes, himself of the weaknesses and vices of men, and God might be forgotten and neglected. he approves them not, nor will suffer them A year of scarcity is calculated to teach man to pass unpunished.
his dependence, and to force him to implore Ísaac, warned of God, removes not into the blessing which maketh rich, and causeth Egypt, the land which had afforded his father the earth to yield its increase." shelter and subsistence in a similar storm, While he sojourned among the Philistines, and which has often proved an asylum to the Isaac falls into the same infirmity which dischurch; but retires to Gerar, one of the ci- honoured his father in Egypt. Misled, by ties of Palestine, situated between Kadesh suspicion unworthy of an honest man, and and Shur. Abimelech was the prince who fear unworthy of the friend of God, he violates at that time reigned over the Philistines. sacred truth, and sins against his own conThe same person, according to Josephus, science: for when interrogated concerning with whom Abraham had formed a con- Rebekah," he said, She is my sister: for he nexion so friendly, and with whom, for that feared to say, She is my wife, lest, said he, reason, Heaven now directed Isaac to sojourn, the men of this place should kill me for Retill the famine should be relieved. This con- bekah: because she was fair to look upon.' jecture of the Jewish historian, though not The criminality of this mistrust is greatly insupportable, from a physical impediment aggravated by the clearness and fulness of seems highly improbable; if we consider that the heavenly vision, whereby he had been seventy-five years have elapsed since Abra- admonished to bend his course to the court of ham resided at Gerar: and history furnishes Abimelech. “ And the Lord appeared unto few, if any examples, of reigns of so long him and said, Go not down into Egypt. Dwel! continuance. It is more probable that Abime in the land which I shall tell thee of. Sojourn lech was then the general appellative name in this land, and I will be with thee, and will of the princes of that part of Palestine, as bless thee: for unto thee, and unto thy seed, Pharaoh was that of the kings of Egypt. I will give all these conntries, and I will perWhen we behold the patriarchs thus remov- form the oath which I sware unto Abraham ing from place to place, a feeble, unwarlike, thy father. And I will make thy seed to encumbered band, through nations fierce, en- multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give vious, and violent, their safety is to be ac- unto thy seed all these countries: and in thy counted for only from the restraining power seed shall all the nations of the earth be
blessed. Because that Abraham obeyed ny
Gen. xxv. 32. I Gen. xx. 1.
$Gen. xx. 14, 15. M
Gen, xxvi. L.
* Gen. xxvi. 7.
voice, and kept my charge, my command, the flocks and the herde. For without water ments, my statutes, and my laws."* Slight" the cattle upon a thousand hills” are a temptations frequently prevail, after trials poor, perishing commodity. Envy considers more formidable have been successfully re- that as gained to itself which is lost to ansisted and overcome. The wise, therefore, other: and not only delights in destruction, will reckon no danger small, no foe con- from which it hopes to draw advantage, but temptible, no condition perfectly secure. The enjoys the mischief which it works merely faithful will learn to speak truth, to do good, for mischief's sake. Envy will even submit to trust in the Lord, and fear nothing. to hurt itself a little, to have the malicious
Virtue is not hereditary in families, it de- satisfaction of hurting another much. Abiscends but in rarer instances; whereas frail- melech himself, more liberal-minded than ty, alas ! descends from every father to every meaner men, grows at length weary of his son. Virtue is the water in the particular guest, feels hurt at his growing prosperity, pool; vice the torrent in the river, which envies his greatness, and dismisses him with sweeps every thing before it. The modera- cold civility. “ And Abimelech said unto tion, honour, and good sense of Abimelech, Isaac, Go from us: for thou art much mightier are the severest imaginable reproof of the than we. Grandeur admits not of frienddisingenuousness of the prophet,+ and hap- ship; and friendship disdains to dwell with pily prevented the mischief
, which Isaac, profligacy. Of all the men in a nation, the seeking by improper means to shun, had well king is most certainly excluded from this nigh occasioned.
blessing; and surely, his lot contains nothing Under the protection and friendship of to be once compared with it, or which can this prince, he has now obtained a settlement supply its want. in the land; and by the blessing of Heaven Isaac prudently gives way. He withupon his honest industry, he prospers and in- draws the hated object from before the eyes creases in the midst of difficulties. " Isaac of envy, and leaving the city, pitches his sowed in the land, and received in the same tent in the valley of Gerar. Apprehending, year an hundred fold: and the Lord blessed he had a hereditary right to the wells of him. And the man waxed great, and went water which were his father's, and which forward, and grew, until he became very the Philistines had maliciously obstructed, great. For he had possession of flocks, and he digs again for them in the valley. And possession of herds, and great store of ser- from respect to the memory of Abraham, as vants."! But we are by no means to imagine, well as to keep alive the remembrance of that worldly success is ever proportioned to the gracious interpositions of the Divine promising means and favourable opportuni- Providence in his behalf
, he revives the anties. “ The race is not always to the swift, cient names by which the wells were disnor the battle to the strong. Some men's tinguished. Particularly the name Beersails seem to gather every breath of the sheba, or, the well of the oath, is preserved, wind: they get forward in spite of every the memorial of the covenant ratified upobstacle. "Others feel the tempest continu- wards of seventy years before, between the ally blowing in their faces. All things are king of the Philistines and Abraham; and against them, and though they set out with which was known by that name for many the fairest, most flattering prospects, unac- ages afterwards, as one of the extreme bouncountably thwarted and disappointed, they daries of the holy land. But the unrelenting
wax poor, and fall into decay." Let not jealousy of the Philistines pursues him from prosperity, then, be deemed 'an infallible the city into the field. No sooner has he by proof of wisdom, or worth, or of divine favour. industry procured for his family that importNeither let want of success be always de- ant necessary of life, water, than the herdrived from folly, or vice, or the curse of Hea- men of Gerar, endeavoured by violence to ven; for in this mixed, imperfect, probation- possess themselves of it. Isaac, fond of ary state, time and chance happen to all peace, chooses rather to recede from his just men," neither can a man tell " what is good right, than to support it by force; and still for him all the days of his vain life, which he retires, seeking relief in patience and indusspendeth as a shadow."
try. He finds himself still pursued by the Every, temporal advantage has a corres- pride and selfishness of his neighbours; but ponding infelicity. Isaac grew rich and great, at length conquers by yielding. A victory but"the Philistines envied him.” And, who the most certain, the most honourable, and can stand before envy?" That dark, malig- the most satisfactory. And the tranquillity nant passion, prompted his surly, jealous foes and ease of Rehoboth,t amply compensate w cut off one source of his wealth, “ for all the troubles and vexation of Esekt and Sitthe wells which his father's servants had dig- nah. Finally, to prevent as far as in him ged in the days of Abraham his father, the lay, every ground of quarrel, he fixes his Philistines had stopped them, and filled them | residence at a still greater distance from with earth."$ This was, in effect, to destroy Abimelech. “He went up from thence to * Gen. Ixvi. 2-5. t Ib. 9–11. 1 Ib. 12–14. $ Ib. 15. * Gen. xxvi. 36. † Room. Contention. $ Hatred
Beer-sheba ;" where feeling himself at home, son; who, in the fortieth year of his own life, after so many removals, he at once pitches that is, the hundreth of his father's, introhis tent for repose, and builds an altar for duced two idolatrous wives at once, into the religion; and the hatred and violence of man holy family. This was two great evils in is lost and forgotten in communion with one. It was being unequally yoked with inGod.
fidelity; and carrying on a practice which The expression," he called upon the name has ever been and ever will be fatal to doof the Lord,” seems to import, that when his mestic peace. The daughter of a Hittite altar was built, it was consecrated to the would naturally be disposed to interrupt the service of God, with certain extraordinary religious harmony which prevailed in Isaac's solemnities; such as sacrifice, and public habitation, and two wives at once would, as thanksgiving, at which the whole family as certainly, be disposed to annoy each other, sisted, and in which the holy man himself, and to embroil the whole family in their the priest as well as the prince of his family, quarrels. Isaac was well acquainted with joyfully presided. His piety was speedily the solicitude of his pious father on his own acknowledged and crowned with the appro- account, in the important article, marriage; bation and smiles of his Heavenly Father. and was conscious of a similar anxiety resFor, “ the Lord appeared unto him the pecting the settlement of his sons. same night, and said, I am the God of Abra- easily conceive, then, how he felt at this acham thy father, fear not, for I am with thee, cumulated irregularity and imprudence of and will bless thee, and will multiply thy Esau. He was wounded there, where as a seed, for my servant Abraham's sake. "* His man, a father, and a servant of the true God, meek and placid deportment, together with he was most vulnerable. To be neglected, his increasing power and wealth, and the unacknowledged in a matter of the highest favour of Heaven so unequivocally declared, moment to his comfort, by that son whom he have rendered the patriarch so dignified and had cherished with the fondest affection, and respectable in the eyes of the world, that on whom he rested his fondest hopes; how the prince, who from an unworthy motive mortifying to a father! But besides the had been induced to treat him with unkind- holy descent was in danger of being marred ness, and to dismiss him from his capital, by an impure heathenish mixture; and the now feels himself impelled to court his minds of his grandchildren likely to be perfriendship, and to secure it by a solemn com- verted from the knowledge and worship of sact. Abimelech considers it as no diminu- the God of their fathers. Such is the un. sion of his dignity, to leave home, attended gracious return which parents often meet with the most honourable of his council, and with, for all that profusion of tenderness and the supreme in command over his armies, in affection which they lavish upon their offorder to visit the shepherd in his tent. The spring; such their reward, for all their expostulationt of Isaac is simple and natural, wearisome days, and sleepless nights. The and his conducts exhibits a mind free from ingrates dispose of their affections, their pergall, free from resentment. The reply of sons, their prospects, their all, in a hasty fit Abimelech discloses the true motive of this of passion; as if the father who brought them visit. And we are not surprised to find, that up with so much toil and trouble, as if the fear has at least as large a share in it as love. mother who bore them had no concern in the The worst of men find it to be their interest matter. The ungrateful, disorderly conduct to live on good terms with the wise and pious: of their elder son, and no wonder, was and good men cleave to each other from af- grief of mind to Isaac and to Rebekah.” fection.
Whether it was from the vexation occaThe covenant being amicably renewed, sioned by this event, from disease, from acci. and the oath of God interposed, and, “ an oath dent, or some natural weakness in the organs for confirmation is an end of all strife," the of sight, we are not informed, but we find king of Gerar and his retinue return in peace, Isaac, in the one hundred and thirty-fifth and leave Isaac to the retirement which he year of his life,—in a state of total blindness; loved, and to that intercourse with Heaven, and he was probably visited with the loss of which he prized infinitely above the friend that precious sense at a much earlier period. ship of earthly potentates. And now, a de- But forty-five years, at least, of his earthly lightful calm of eighteen years ensued, of pilgrimage were passed in this dark and which no traces remain to inform or instruct comfortless state. All men wish to live to men, but which from the well known cha- old age; but when they have attained their racter of this patriarch, we may well suppose wish, they are apt to repine at the infirmiwere spent in such a manner, as to be had ties and the discomforts which are necessain everlasting remembrance before God. rily incident to it. They would be old ; but
At this period, his domestic tranquillity was they would not be blind, and palsied, and again cruelly disturbed, and, by his favourite feeble. They would be old; but they would
not be neglected, wearied of, and forsaken. 1 Gen. xxvi. 30. & Gen. xxvi. 28, 29.
They would be old; but they would not be
• Gen. xxvi. 24.
+ Gen. xxvi. 27.
practised upon and deceived. But, old age i blame, have been known to establish distinccertainly brings on all these, and many more tions in families, which destroyed their peace inconveniences; and vain it is to dream of and accelerated their ruin. Children unborn the benefit, without the care. We read but have often felt the dire effects of a silly nickof one, that is Moses himself, whose eye at name, imposed on a progenitor whom they the age of one hundred and twenty, was not knew not, and whose relation to them was dim, nor his natural force abated."
thereby rendered a curse. Men are often This dark period of Isaac's life, containing deemed unfortunate, both by themselves and many interesting and instructive particulars, others, where they deserve to be reckoned will furnish matter for a separate discourse. unwise. They themselves do the mischief, In reviewing the past, we are under the ne- and then wonder how it came about. They cessity of again admonishing parents on that spoil their children, and then complain that momentous article.--Impartiality in the dis- they are so perverse. I know how difficult it tribution of their attention, their tenderness, is to bring up youth; how difficult to bear an and their property, among their children. even hand between child and child, to counThe trifling circumstances of name, of per- teract the bias of favour and affection, to consonal likeness, of beauty and deformity, and ceal and disguise the strong emotions of the like, over which parents had little power, the heart. But it is only the more neces and the children none at all; and which in sary to be prudent, to be vigilant, "to walk themselves have neither merit nor demerit, circumspectly,” and, to ask “ wisdom of and are the objects of neither just praise nor | God.”
HISTORY OF ISAAC
And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called
Esau his eldest son, and said unto him, My son. And he said unto him, Behold, here am I. And he said, Behold, now I am old, I know not the day of my death. Now, therefore, take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison ; and make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die. And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son: and Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it.-GENESIS xxvii. 1-5.
There is a generous principle in human good report,
;"* and the persons who love and nature, which commonly disposes us to take practise them. part with the weakest. We feel an honest It is not the least profitable part of the stuindignation at seeing weakness oppressed by dy of both providence and scripture, to trace might, honesty over-reached by cunning, and the conduct of a righteous God in punishing unsuspecting goodness played upon by self- the offender, though he has subdued the of ishness and knavery. God himself feels the fence into a servant of his own will; chasteninsults offered to the destitute and the helping his children by a rod of their own preless; declares himself “the judge of the wi- paring; tumbling the wicked into the pit dow, the protector of the fatherless, the shield which themselves have digged, and bringing of the stranger.” He aims his thunder at the backsliders again to himself, by making them head of him who putteth a "stumbling-block to eat the bitter fruit of their own doings.in the way of the blind, and planteth a snare Happy it is for the children of men, if their for the innocent.” And though, in the sove- deviations from the path of rectitude meet reignty of his power, and the depths of his their correction in a temporal punishment wisdom, he is sometimes pleased to employ But wo to that man, whom justice permits the vices of men to execute his purposes of to thrive in his iniquity, and to grow hardengoodness and mercy, he loves and approves ed through impunity; whose retribution is only whatsoever things are true, whatso- deferred, till repentance can produce no ever things are honest, whatsoever things are change. Chastise me, O Father, as severely rust, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever as thou wilt. Let me not fall asleep under chings are lovely, whatsoever things are of
• Phil. iv. &