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my transgression, and thy hot displeasure.-- ly principle of grace may consist with much Dispose as thou wilt of my body, my estate, natural weakness. my worldly comfort; but let my soul live be Rebekah, equally attentive to the interest fore thee. Let me see my sin, and purge me of her younger son, happened to overhear the thoroughly from it.
charge which Isaac gave to Esau, and immeWe are now to attempt the illustration of diately, with the quickness of a female, dethese reflections, from history.
termined, at all hazards, to carry a favourite The life ot' Isaac may be divided into three point, she builds upon it a project of obtainperiods. The first, containing seventy-five ing, by management and address, what she years, from his birth to the death of Abra- despaired of bringing about by the direct road ham; during which, being under parental of entreaty or persuasion. Unhappy it is for government, and of a meek, unaspiring dis- that family, the heads of which entertain opposition, his history is blended with, and in- posite views, and pursue separate interests. cluded in that of his father. The second, One tent could not long contain two rival commencing at his father's death, and end brothers, whose animosity was kept alive and ing in his one hundred and thirty-seventh encouraged by those whose wisdom and auyear: when it pleased God to visit him with thority should have interposed to suppress it. extreme weakness, or total loss of eye-sight. It is affecting to think how little scrupulous This contains the space of sixty-two years, even good people are, about the means of which may be termed his active period. To accomplishing what their hearts are set upon; it succeeds a heavy period of forty-three how easily the understanding and the conyears, up to the day of his death. During science become the dupe of the affections.which we see a poor, dark old man, at the The apologists of Rebekah charitably ascribe disposal of others, moving in a narrow sphere; her conduct on this occasion to motives of “ knowledge” and comfort " at one entrance, religion. She is supposed to be actuated quite shut out.” We behold a man, who, throughout by zeal for supporting the destiwhen he was young, girded himself, and nation of Heaven, “The elder shall serve the walked whither he would; but now become younger;" a destination which she observed old, stretching forth his hands, and another her husband was eager to subvert. I am not girding him, and carrying him whither he disposed to refuse her, to a certain degree, would not.” This portion of his history, ac- the credit of so worthy a principle; for the cordingly, is blended with, and swallowed up piety of her spirit, on other occasions, is unin that of his two sons.
questionable. But I see too much of the wo At the beginning of this period, we find man, of the mother, of the spirit of this world, Isaac sensible of his growing infirmities, feel in her behaviour, to believe that her motives ing the approach of death, though ignorant were wholly pure and spiritual. Religion, of the day of it, and anxious to convey the true religion, never does evil that good may double portion, the patriarchal benediction come. and the covenant promise, according to the Admitting that Isaac was to blame, for misbent of his natural affection, to his elder and understanding, forgetting or endeavouring to more beloved son. He calls him with accents contradict the oracle which gave the preferof paternal tenderness, and proposes to him ence to Jacob; surely, surely, it belonged to the mingled gratification of pursuing his own the wife of his youth to have employed other favourite amusement, of ministering to his means to undeceive and admonish him. Was fond father's pleasure, and of securing to the deception which she practised upon his himself the great object of his ambition and helplessness and infirmity, the proof she exdesire, the blessing, with all its valuable ef- hibited of the love, honour, and obedience fects.
which she owed her lord? Was it consistent Behold of what importance it is, that our with genuine piety, to take the work of God propensities be originally good, seeing indul- out of his hands? As if the wisdom of Jehovah gence and habit interweave them with our needed the aid of human craft and invention. very constitution, till they become a second And, could a mother, not only herself deviate nature, and age confirms, instead of eradi- into the crooked paths of dissimulation and cating them. We find the two great infirmi- falsehood, and become a pattern of deceit, ties of Isaac's character predominant to the but wickedly attempt to decoy, persuade, last, a disposition to gratify his palate with constrain her own son, to violate sacred a particular kind of food, and partiality to his truth? “It is not, and it cannot come to son Esau. Time has not yet blunted the edge good ?". of appetite; and the eye of the mind, dim as Having planned her scheme, and overthe bodily organ, overlooks the undutifulness persuaded Jacob to assist in the execution which had pierced a father's heart, by unhal- of it, Rebekah loses not a moment; and Isaac's lowed, inauspicious marriages with the Hit- favourite dish is ready to be served up, long tite; and Isaac discerns in his darling, those before the uncertainty of hunting, and the qualities only in which misguided affection dexterity of Esau could have procured its bad dressed him out. Thus a strong and live- | Jacob, arrayed in goodly raiment of his elder
brother, disguised to the sense of feeling, as would, but as the Spirit of God constrained much as art could disguise him, and furnished him; and thus, Caiaphas predicted the death with the savoury meat which his father loved, of Christ for the sins of the people; but advances with trembling, doubtful steps to this spake he not of himself; but being his apartment. In the conversation that en- high priest that year, he prophesied that Je sued, which is most to be wondered at the sus should die for that nation.” honest, unsuspecting simplicity of the father; Thus was Isaac deceived, in having Jacob or the shameless, undaunted effrontery of the imposed upon him for Esau. Nor was Reson? But, in thinking of the one, our won- bekah less disappointed. For the blessing der is mingled with respect and esteem; the which she had surreptitiously obtained for other excites resentment and abhorrence. It her favourite, instead of producing the imshows the danger of getting into a wrong mediate benefits expected from it, plunged train. One fraud must be followed up with him into an ocean of distress, exiled him another; one injury must support and justify from his country and his father's house, exanother; and simple falsehood, by an easy posed him, in his turn, to imposition and inprogress, rises up to perjury. Who is not sult; and, but for the care of a superintendshocked, to hear the son of Isaac interposing ing Providence, the success which he had the great and dreadful name of the LORD earned by the sacrifice of a good conscience, God of his father," not to confirm the truth, must have defeated and destroyed itself. But but to countenance and bear out a wilful and "the counsel of the Lord standeth forever, deliberate lie ? What earthly good is worth the thoughts of his heart to all generations."+ purchasing at such a price? Surely his "His decree may no man reverse." * The tongue faltered when it pronounced those wrath of man worketh not the righteousness solemn, those awful words.
of God;" but the wisdom and righteousness The good old man's suspicions were evi- of God, can easily bend the wrath of man to dently alarmed, either by the tone of Jacob's their purpose. voice, or by the hesitating manner in which Jacob has hardly departed with his ill-gothe spoke. And, apprehending he had an in- ten benediction, when Esau arrives in the fallible method of detection, if a fallacy triumph of success and hope ; his heart overthere were, he appeals from the testimony flowing with filial tenderness, and panting of his ears, to his feeling. But behold, craft for the promised reward of his labours. The is too deep for honesty. Rebekah and her feelings of both the father and son, when the son have not contrived their plot so ill, as to cheat was discovered, are more easily confail at this stage of the business; and Isaac ceived than described : the shame of being is too good himself to imagine that others over-reached, resentment against the imposcould be so wicked. He suffers himself, tor, the chagrin of disappointed hope, of distherefore, to be at length persuaded; and, appointed ambition; bitter reflection on the refreshed with meat and drink, pronounces folly and danger of resisting the high wil the blessing which he had promised. Had he of Heaven, and on the hard necessity of subnot been blinded, when he saw, with ill. mitting to the irreversible decree. Nothing judged favour to Esau, and seduced by the can exceed the tenderness of Esau's expose flavour of his venison, he had not been ex-tulation, when he found the blessing was irposed to this imposition, in his helpless state. recoverably gone from him. The name of Could Jacob have trusted in God, and waited his brother; the occasion of its being given to be conducted of Providence, he had ar- him; his conduct since he grew up; the rerived at his end no less certainly, and with peated advantage he had taken, of his neces. much less dishonour. But “God is true, sity at one time, of his absence at another. though every man be found a liar." all rush upon his mind at once, and excite a
It is worthy of observation, that though tempest of passion which he is unable to go Isaac, by the spirit of prophesy which was vern. " And Esau said unto his father, Hast in him, foresaw and foretold the future for thou but one blessing, my father? Bless me, tunes of his family; though he could clearly even me also, O my father; and Esau lift up discern objects at the remotest distance, his his voice and wept."I The ability and the natural discernment was so small, and even good will of an earthly parent have their lihis prophetic knowledge so partial, that he mits. He has but one, or at most a second could not distinguish the one branch of his blessing to bestow. What he gives to this family from the other; and, impelled by a child is so much taken away from that other. will more powerful than his own, he involun- But the liberality, and the power of our heatarily bestowed dominion and precedency venly Father, are unbounded. “In our Fawhere he least intended'it. “For the pro- ther's house there are many mansions." phesy came not in old time by the will of With him “there is bread enough and to man: but holy men of God spake as they spare." Isaac discovers at length, that he were moved by the Holy Ghost." Thus, has been fighting against God; and while he Balaam afterwards prophesied, not what he resents Jacob's subtilty, and the unkindness
• Jolin xi. 51. Psalm uxiii. 11. Gen. xxvii. 38
* 2 Peter i. 21,
of Rebekah, he acknowledges and submits to length, settle on him whom he loved less. the high will of Heaven. The blessing But, to part with the heir of the promise, at which he had pronounced unwittingly, and the age of one hundred and forty years, to which he finds to be irrevocable, he now de- send him away into a far country—was it liberately and cheerfully confirms.
not to part with him for ever? The fervour And now, behold the little spark of dis- of his farewell benediction, pathetically excord between the brethren blown up into a presses his despair of meeting him again, tiame, which threatens destruction to the “God Almighty bless thee, and make thee whole family. And, dreadful to think, Esau fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest looks forward, with desire to the death of his be a multitude of people: and give thee the old, kind father, that he might prosecute re- blessing of Abraham, to thee and to thy seed venge against his brother unto blood. Hither with thee; that thou mayest inherit the to we have seen in Esau an object of com- land wherein thou art a stranger, which passion: we now view him with detestation; God gave to Abraham."* These are the and we find the righteous judgment of God last words, this the last action of Isaac's life, prosecuting this murderous disposition in his upon record. But his latter end was at a posterity to their utter ruin. For thy vio- greater distance than he or than Esau aplence against thy brother Jacob, shame shall prehended. He survived this event forty cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for years. He lived to lose in communion with
“As I live, saith the Lord God, I God, the disorder and dispersion of his will prepare thee unto blood, and blood shall family. He lived to shelter and to bless by pursue thee: sith thou hast not hated blood, his prayers, him whom the paternal roof even blood shall pursue thee. Thus I will could shelter and protect no longer. He make Mount Seir most desolate, and cut off lived to be refreshed with the good tidings from it him that passeth out and him that of the success of the blessing, and the happy returneth."| “ Thus saith the Lord, For increase of Jacob's family. He lived to three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I see him” again “ in his touch," and to emwill not turn away the punishment thereof; brace his grandchildren. This period of his because he did pursue his brother with the life is a mere blank to posterity. But if we sword, and did cast off all pity, and his an- are ever admitted to read in the book of ger did tear perpetually, and kept his wrath God's remembrance," O how will these forty for ever.
But I will send a fire upon Te-years of silence and oblivion arise and shine! man, which shall devour the palaces of Boz At last, old and full of days, Isaac drops rah."| Rebekah too, now that “a sword into the grave. “The days of Isaac were pierces through her own soul," ready “to an hundred and fourscore years, and Isaac lose both her children in one day,” too late gave up the ghost and died, and was gadiscerns how imprudently she has acted, thered unto his people.”+ “Let me die the and is glad to purchase the safety of her fa- death of the righteous, and let my last end vourite at the price of his banishment. So be like his !" Time, and a better spirit and uneasily do those possessions sit upon us the death of a father, have happily extinwhich we have acquired by improper means. guished resentment between the brothers.
The threatening words of his elder son, Esau thinks no more of slaying Jacob. They must have speedily reached the ears of the mingle tears, as did Isaac and Ishmael, over aged patriarch also. And he has the inex- their parent's tomb, and their angry passions pressible mortification of learning that the sleep in the dust with him. ungrateful wretch whom he had cherished Thus lived and died Isaac, the son of Abrain his bosom, and to whom his fondness ham, a man of contemplation, piety, and would have given every thing, was enjoying peace. A man of few and slight infirmities; the prospect of his approaching death, be- of many and eminent virtues. A man, cause it would afford a safer opportunity of whom Providence tried with multiplied and practising his meditated revenge. This in- severe afflictions; and whom faith strengthdeed was the bitterness of death, to "feel ened to bear them with patience and fortihow sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to tude. His story comes home to the breast have a thankless child. And, thus severely and bosom of every man. His excellencies the unwise attachment of both the parents are such as all may, by due cultivation, acpunished itself, by the effect which it pro- quire; his virtue such as all may imitate. duced.
His faults are those, to which even good men To prevent the dreadful mischief which are liable, and which they are the more conhung over his hoary head, all his prospects cerned to avoid, or to amend. concerning Esau, being now blighted by the To young men, we would hold him up as heathenish alliances which he had formed, a pattern of filial tenderness and submission. by his diabolical character, and by the re- Isaac possessed in an eminent degree, that jection of Heaven, he gladly consents to the most amiable quality of ingenuous youth, dismission of Jacob: and all his hopes, at dutiful respect to the mother who bare hila. • Obad. verse 10. † Ezek. xxxv. 6, 7. | Amos i. 11, 12. * Gen. xxviii, 3, 4 | Gen. xxiv, 28, 29
He cherished her with pious attention while, temper, his resignation under affliction, his she lived, and sincerely lamented her in gentle requital of deception and insult, his death; till duty called him to drop the grate- superiority to the world, his composure in the ful and affectionate son, in the loving and prospect of dissolution, and the faith which faithful husband. So long as Abraham lived, triumphed over death and the grave. Let Isaac had no will but the will of his father. the affluent and the prosperous learn of him, The master of a family may learn of him to adorn high rank and ample fortune, by hudomestic piety and devotion, conjugal fide- mility and condescension; and the wretched, lity, prudent foresight, persevering industry. to endure distress with fortitude and resig
The selfish and contentious are reproved, nation. Let his faults be forgotten, and his by the example of his moderation, by his infirmities covered; or remembered only patience under unkindness and injustice, by as a reproof and admonition to ourselves. his meek surrender of an undoubted right, And let us be followers together of him, and for the sake of peace. Let the aged con- of all them who through faith and patience sider him well, and imitate his sweetness of inherit the promises."
HISTORY OF JACOB.
And the boys grew; and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field: aná Jacob was a plain man,
dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison; but Rebekah loved Jacob. And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field and he was faint. And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage, for I am faint; therefore his name was called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright
do me? And Jacob
said, Swear to me this day and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles, and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way; thus Esau despised his birthright.-GENESIS XXV. 27–34.
The importance of personages, to whose and the ensamples of all them who in after acquaintance we are introduced in the sacred ages should believe. “I am the God of Abrapages, is to be estimated, not by circumstances ham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of which catch and engage the superficial and Jacob.” Thus it is spoken of the men, whom the vain, and which constitute what is called the King of kings delighted to honour. And greatness among men. No; “God hath chosen what is rank and title, among men, compared the weak things of the world, to confound the to this? things which are mighty; and base things of Jacob was, by the ordinance of heaven, the world, and things which are despised, destined to pre-eminence and superiority behath God chosen, yea, and things which are fore he was born. And he who could have not, to bring to naught things that are.”. raised him to the rights of primogeniture, in When great men are to be sought for, the the ordinary course of nature, was pleased, mind that is governed by worldly ideas, such is divine sovereignty, to bestow this adrushes straight to the palaces of kings, or vantage upon him, by the concurrence of enters into the cabinet where statesmen as various providential events. That men may semble, or attends the footsteps of the warrior adore, and submit to the God " who worketh over the ensanguined field. But reason and all things according to the counsel of his own religion conduct us in far different paths, and will." present us with far different objects. They The struggle between the twin brothers discover to us, many a time, true greatness began early, and lasted long.
With more under the obscure roof of a cottage, or the than ordinary reasons for loving each other, spreading branches of a great tree. They the ill-judged partialities, of parental affecexhibit dignity and consequence, affixed, not tion, and the lust of precedency and power, to the royal sceptre, but to the shepherd's inflame them to uncommon rancour and anicrook; and feelingly teach us, that what is mosity. The strife, which was at first accihighly prized among men is of little estima- dental, or instinctive, becomes at length wiltion in the sight of God.
ful and deliberate. And the name of Jacob The person on whose history we are now imposed in the beginning, from the slight entering is the third in order and succession incident of his laying hold, with his hand, of of the illustrious three, who are distinguished his brother's heel, comes in process of time la scripture as the covenant friends of God, I to be a mark of his character, and a record
of his conduct. Events unimportant, inci-| hands; but if we presume to take the whole dental, contingent in the eyes of men, are or any part of the work of God upon ouroften matters of deep design, of mighty and selves, it is both with sin and with danger lasting consequence with God. The natural - His counsel indeed shall stand," but the disposition of the two brothers early disco- offender shall pay the price of his rashness. vered itself. Esau betakes himself to the It is a dreadful thing to get into a course and active and laborious sports of the field.— habit of acting amiss. When once we have Jacob, forned for social and domestic life, got a favourite object in view, how every abides at home in the tents, attending to fa- thing is made to bend to it! The birthright, mily affairs, cultivating filial affections, and the birthright was the darling object of Jaliving in the exercise of filial duties. The cob's fondest wishes; and, as if the decree Chaldee Paraphrast gives a translation of the and the prediction of heaven had not been words of Moses, rendered in our version, security sufficient for the attainment of it, he "dwelling in tents," considerably different seeks to confirm it to himself by a deed of in sense, “ He was a minister in the house sale with his brother, and the interposition of teaching,” understanding by the word tents of a solemn oath; and finally, is eager to or tabernacles, the place appointed for divine have the bargain ratified by the solemn beneworship
diction of his father's prophetic lips. “He The first action of Jacob's life, which we that believeth shall not make haste."
But find recorded by the sacred historian, is by alas! I see in Jacob an earnestness to obtain no means calculated to give us a favourable his end, that borders on diffidence and susimpression of his heart. The young men picion; and indeed, whom or what can that were now in their twenty-fifth year. The man trust, who has not confidence in his elder entirely devoted to his favourite pur- Maker? The vile scene of imposition and suit: the younger, ever on the watch to ob- fraud practised upon his blind and aged patain that by art or industry which nature had rent, as forming an essential article of Jacob's taken from him. It happened on a certain history, rises again to view. I like his taking day, that Jacob had employed himself in pre- advantage of his father's blindness still less paring a plain dish of pottage of lentiles, for than his attempt to carry a favourite point by his own entertainment. And here, let not taking advantage of his brother's hunger and the fastidious critic, who measures every impetuosity. The latter was but the skill and thing by modern manners and maxims, con- address of an open adversary; the former sider this as an employment beneath the dig- was the cunning and deceit of a crafty and nity of Isaac's son. It is, in truth, one of a undutiful child. Observe how cautiously, multitude of instances, of the beautiful sim- and fearfully, and slowly, the footsteps of the plicity of ancient customs. The greatest deceitful must proceed. The moment that heroes, and proudest princes, whom Homer the conscience swerves from truth and rectihas exhibited, are frequently found engaged tude, the man becomes jealous, and anxious, in similar occupations. Esau, returning from and timid. But integrity advances with firmthe field, and having been either unsuccess-ness and intrepidity. “And Jacob said to ful in hunting, or being too impatient to delay Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brothe gratification of his appetite till his venison ther is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. was prepared, entreats his brother to give My father peradventure will feel me, and I him a share of the provision which he had shall seem to him as a deceiver, and I shall made for himself. Jacob, taking advantage bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing."* of his hunger and eagerness, proposes, as an
But, what could make Rebekah and her equivalent for his pottage, no less a price than favourite son so anxious to attain this superithe favourite object of all his ambition and ority? What was there in the birthright, desire, the birthright. Unconscious or re- to make it thus fondly coveted, and unregardless of its value, and in a haste to satisfy mittingly pursued? The answer to these the cravings of the moment, he inconsider- questions will at least plead some excuse for ately parts with that which nature had given their zeal, if not wholly do away the guilt him in vain, and which a father's fondness of their falsehood. First-The gift of prostrove to secure for him; but which a con- phesy was known to reside in the patriarch duct so “profane" and precipitate proved him Isaac; and the parental benediction, in ceraltogether unworthy of possessing.
tain circumstances, was considered as hav. But, was the conduct of Jacob pure and ing the force of a prediction. Secondlypraise-worthy in this transaction? It cannot Preeminency and power over the rest of the be affirmed. Providence had indeed ordained family in patriarchal times, were affixed to him to the blessing which he so ardently priority of birth ; thus God speaks to Cain coveted; but Providence neither appoints nor concerning Abel, “ Unto thee shall be his approves of crooked and indirect paths to the desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” Thirdends which it has proposed. Weak and err-ly-A double portion of the paternal inheriing men may perhaps not be displeased, to tance appertained to the first born. And have part of their work taken off from their
• Gen. xxvii. 11, 12