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the oracles of God, and from whom should come the “light to lighten the Gentiles.”
In this event we have the inception of that great institution which we call the Holy Catholic Church, the introduction of a means of grace by which His purpose should be realized. Like all really great events, it was not initiated by blowing trumpets or shouting multitudes, but by the quiet response of a human soul to a call of duty, as God gave him to see his duty.
How God spake to Abraham we do not know, nor how much he foresaw of that long course varied discipline by which his seed should be fitted for their office and perform the same; but, somehow God gave him the necessary knowledge of His will, and a clear conviction of his own duty. However much or little he may have known of the details of God's plan, one thing he knew, that God had called Him; and "by faith Abraham when he was called of God obeyed to go out unto a place he was to receive for an inheritance, and he went out not knowing whither he went.” The statement that he knew not whither he went seems to mean that he had little knowledge of God's purpose beyond the fact of his own duty, and the assurance that by obedience he would bless the world.
The Threefold promise which accompanied the call contained no detail, but is sublimely comprehensive.
It was personal—“I will bless thee and make thy name great."
It was national—“I will make of thee a great nation."
It was universal—“In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed."
All these promises were amplified from time to time, but this first call and its triple blessing gives in outline the entire covenant, the basis of his hope and ours. It is the great charter of the Holy Catholic Church. It defines the purpose of the church-to bless all families of the earth. It reveals the basis
of our hope and confidence, for it is God's work. It specifies our reward, we are blessed in blessing others. The “chosen race” were chosen not to any selfish advantage nor to immunity from obligation, but, on the contrary, they were called to a service of great responsibility.
This office and responsibility is the inheritance of the church of all ages, for, “if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed and heirs of the things promised to him." Whatever questions may be raised as to the special functions of the church,-its relation to the state, its authority over the individual soul, its responsibility as a corporate institution, or any other, they must be answered by reference to this fundamental and essential purpose for which it was ordained and instituted, namely, to be a blessing to all families of the earth.
The promise that his name should be made great was the least important item of the threefold blessing offered to Abraham, yet God has never forgotten it, but fulfilled it in all generations for nearly four thousand years. It is indeed one of the most remarkable facts of history that the name of Abraham is more widely known and honored than the name of any
other man who ever lived. The Jew, the Christian, and the Mohammedan unite in paying honor to the name of Abraham. “The most diverse races of men find one common meeting place at the tomb of him who bore that unequalled title--'the friend of God.'”
So God has kept his promise for almost forty centuries; and the most wonderful fact of it all is that He has thus fulfilled His word by the free actions of all these generations who have done honor to Abraham, with no thought or intention of fulfilling prophecy.
The promise that he should become a great nation has been no less literally fulfilled; for the descendants of Abraham were, and are, a great nation, a nation with the most remarkable history; a nation that never counted for much in the political
affairs of the world, only for a few years—under David and Solomon-rising to the dignity of a second class world power, and during by far the greater part of their history subject to some other nation, and for nearly two thousand years without a national organization, without a country, and without a bond of union, still a great nation, a peculiar people, a wonderful race, scattered over all the earth, subjects in every nation, associated with every form of human enterprise, and yet a distinct and separate people. A great nation, forceful, shrewd, and thrifty, they have survived all manner of oppression, persecution, and hostility, and are to this day one of the great nations of the world, a people to be reckoned with in every civilized country.
But the personal and national blessings, promised so distinctly and so marvelously kept, are only the preface and preliminary to the great blessing assured to Abraham and to his seed. The promise that in them all nations of the earth should be blessed rises above all personal and national hopes as Mt. Sinai towers above the foot-hills of the desert. This promise gave a hope which reaches out across the ages to the far horizon of earthly history. It looks beyond all confines of time, ignores the rise and fall of empires and the vicissitudes of fortune, and lays hold of things eternal. It looks to the "better country," to "the city which hath foundations whose maker and builder is God.”
God's plans make little account of time. He took millions of years to bring the earth to its present state. He takes twenty years to bring a human body to maturity; and the possibilities before the human soul are infinite, but “known unto God are all his ways from the beginning."
When we recite the familiar words, “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church,” we make a very great confession. We profess our faith in, and our allegiance to, an ideal framed by God's abounding grace and revealed for our acceptance, not fully, "for we see through a glass darkly," but in outlines that
are distinctly drawn and changeless.
The whole scheme of the covenant is an evolution; first the man, then the nation, then all families of the earth. "First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear,” is the usual order in all the works of God. The revelation of God's will can be made to us only so far and so fast as we have eyes to see it; and the realization of his purpose must be timed to the slow progress of our souls' capacity and the subjection of our will to His. The race as well as the individual must work out its own salvation, nevertheless it is “God that worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure."
"The gracious revealer while ever keeping in view his ultimate design, must connect the particular recipient with that design in a way suited to his whole position. In accordance with this rule, after the promise, came the law.” And the law hath been our tutor to bring us unto Christ.
The gracious purpose which was in the mind of God from "the beginning” announced in Eden, confirmed to Noah, is, in the call of Abraham, more definitely outlined and its method more distinctly revealed. From that time there is no break in the continunity of its development. Long and varied has been the history of the church since Abraham's day, but the bruised reed has never been broken nor the smoking fax been quenched : and we have the comforting assurance that He will not fail nor be discouraged till He have set Justice in the earth.
THE PRIEST NATION
“Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation."
HE period from Abraham to Moses covered about four hundred years. For the most part they were dreary and uneventful years, during which the seed
of Abraham gave little evidence of special grace or spiritual excellence. These years, however, were necessary to the development of the race that should perform the high office assigned to them in the divine plan of redemption.
“I will make of thee a great nation,” was God's promise to Abraham, and in this period that promise is fulfilled by the natural growth of the family of Jacob—seventy souls—who went down into Egypt till they became a multitude large enough to form a nation, ready to be organized and fitted to perform their office as the priest of the world.
The dispensations of Providence by which this preparation was accomplished are quite easily understood as we view them in retrospect, though doubtless very strange and puzzling to those who passed through them. For three generations they lived in the freedom of the open fields and tent life of southern Canaan. Then they were transplanted to the highly organized life of lower Egypt and for some time flourished in the rich pasture lands of Goshen. Thus they were brought into contact with the highest civilization of the world of that time. But the race prejudice of the Egyptians prevented their becoming absorbed into that nation: and the fear that they might become an element of danger to the state in case of war with the nations of the East, with whom they were connected in