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FROM THE CALL OF ABRAHAM TO THE BIRTH OF CHRIST; EMBRAC
ING 1921 YEARS.
Call of Abraham. Institution of Circumcision, and establishment of the Jewish Church.
Destruction of the cities of the plain. State of religion in the world.
ABRAHAM was born in the 2008th year of the world; 352 years after the flood, and 1996 years before Christ. He was the son of Terah; and the tenth, in a direct line, from Noah. His ancestors lived in Ur of the Chaldees; whence his father came into Mesopotamia, expelled, if we may credit a traditionary account recorded in the book of Judith, by the idolaters, for his worship of the true God. Even they, however, were seduced into the heaven-provoking abomination, and bowed down, to some extent to idols. " Your father,” said God, by Joshua, “dwelt on the other side of the flood (the Euphrates) in old time; even Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor; and they served other gods.” Besides Abraham, Terah had two sons, Nahor and Haran, and one daughter, Sarai, who became Abraham's wife. Though she was his sister she was of a different mother. Haran was the father of Lot and died in Ur.
As the nations were becoming corrupt with amazing rapidity, and true religion was in danger of being extinct in the world, God selected this family to be the depository of truth. He appeared to Abraham in the 75th year of his age, directed him to leave his country and his kindred, and go to a land he would show him, and promised that he would bless him and give him a numerous posterity, and that in him all the families of the earth should be blessed. This was the third time that the covenant of grace had been revealed by God to his Church. It was first made known to Adam and Eve, when the Lord assured them that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. It
was renewed with Noah and his sons, when they came out of the ark. And now, it was presented to Abraham with still greater fulness. Christ was promised from his loins; and in him, it was declared, that all the families of the earth should be blessed. This was a great Era in the Church.
Confiding in the word of the Lord, this pious patriarch took Sarai his wife, and Lot, his brother's son, and all their substance, passed to Sichem, in the land of Canaan, and there built an altar unto the Lord. There again God appeared to him, and renewed covenant with him. Finding a grievous famine in the land, he went to Egypt, where he came near losing his wife, because she was very beautiful, and was known only as his sister. But God interposed for her rescue, and made his power and his wrath known to the Egyptians. When the famine had ceased, Abraham returned to Canaan, laden with much wealth, and divided the land with Lot. There he became a man of great substance and strength: having 318 servants in his household, and being able to wage effectual war with the plundering nations around him. God often appeared to him; assuring him that he was his shield and his exceeding great reward; accepting his sacrifices and confirming the promises. On a certain occasion Melchisedec, king of Salem, a priest of the most high God, met him and blessed him in the name of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth.
But though Abraham believed the word of the Lord, that in his seed should all the families of the earth be blessed, yet so long was the promised heir delayed, that he foolishly took to himself Hagar, his Egyptian maid; and became the father of a son whom he called Ishmael. But this was not the promised seed. So far were all the nations from being blessed in him, that the angel of the Lord prophesied concerning him, “ He will be a wild man, his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him." His posterity, the Arabs, have, to this day, been thieves and robbers, unsubdued by any people.
At length, however, when God had well tried the faith of the patriarch, he gave him, in the hundredth year of his age, the promised son; again renewing with him his covenant for an everlasting covenant, promising that he would be a God to him and to his seed after him, and instituting the ordinance of circumcision, which was to seal to them the covenant of grace, and bind them to an observance of all its requisitions.
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Hitherto the Church had existed in an unembodied state. By no token was she distinguished from the world. God was now pleased to give her a visible standing among the nations. By the ordinance of circumcision, all his people, with their infant seed, were set apart as the Lord's. Who. ever beheld them in successive generations, might know by this sign and seal, that God was their God, and they were his people. From this event, which occurred in the 2108th year of the world, is dated the establishment of the
JEWISH CHURCH. By two other remarkable events, was the life of this eminently holy man, this head of the Church, and father of believers, distinguished. One was an awful destruction of the ungodly.
The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, with whom Lot dwelt, were among the most wicked of the posterity of Ham. Their abominations cried aloud to heaven for vengeance: and the Lord God determined to make an “ example of them to those that should after live ungodly.” His tremendous purpose he made known to his favored servant, Abraham; whose humble, fervent intercession for the righteous that might dwell among them, has since greatly endeared him to the people of God. Lot was a righteous man, a member of the true Church, the only one that dwelt in the cities of the plain. His righteous soul was vexed from day to day, with the conversation of the wicked, and with their unlawful deeds; yet he remained among them, from an inordinate attachment to the world, and saw all that were dear to him corrupted and destroyed. But for him Abraham had effectually interceded; and the angels said unto him, “ Escape for thy life.” No sooner had he fled, than the Lord rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and the inhabitants were totally destroyed, and the whole plain was converted into a vast lake, called the Dead Sea; which still remains a memorial of the vengeance of God. How awful the wrath of an holy Jehovah! This judgment was inflicted in the 2108th year of the world, and 1896 years before Christ.
The other event was a trial of Abraham's faith.
Thirty years had elapsed since the birth of Isaac; the Jong expected seed, the child of promise, the declared progenitor of Him, in whom “all the families of the earth were to be blessed;" when God said to Abraham, “ Take
now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” Never was there a command so full of terror! Every word must have wrung the patriarch's heart with anguish. What can we look for but a firm remonstrance against the horrid deed; a plea from the fatal example on the surrounding heathen, the reproach of his piety, and the very promises and covenant of God ratified over and over! But nothing of this. With calm submission and holy confidence in Jehovah, he went forward and built the altar, and laid the wood, and bound Isaac his son, and lifted the knife to slay him, when the Angel of the Lord interposed and said, “ Now I know thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” It was a glorious exhibition of faith; for which God again confirmed to him his exceeding great and precious promises. Having laid Sarah in the grave, and provided a wife for Isaac, from the family of his brother Nahor, in Padanaram, Abraham died in the 175th year of his age.
This eminent patriarch was as distinguished for his piety, as for the remarkable events of his life. In humility, meekness, patience, submission and unwavering confidence in God, he has been a pattern to all saints of succeeding ages. Like the rest of this fallen world, he was a sinner; he could not be justified by works; he had nothing whereof to glory. But he saw Christ's day afar off, and was glad. He believed in God-rejoiced in a Savior to come, and his faith was counted for righteousness. His faith was a vital principle. “It wrought with his works, and by works was his faith made perfect; and he was called the FRIEND OF God."
The age of Abraham was one of great declension. It was the age of Sodom and Gomorrah. But it was not the period, when in one of the capital cities of the world, an altar should be erected “To the Unknown God.” Mankind had not as yet lost the knowledge of Jehovah. Some who came out of the ark with their immediate descendants, were still living. A knowledge of that dread event, and of the power and holiness of God which occasioned it, must therefore have existed among all people, while not a few were to be found of sincere and fervent piety. The Persians were the descendants of Shem, by his son Elam, as Abraham and his descendants were by Arphaxad; and continued, probably for a considerable period, to walk in the way of their fathers. The Chaldeans, the descendants of Ham, were so far corrupt, as to expel the father of Abraham for his religion, from their country. Among them, therefore, we may look in vain for any true religion.
The Arabians retained the knowledge and worship of the God of Heaven, until after the days of Moses. Among them we find in this far distant age, Job. He dwelt in that part of Arabia Petrea, which was called Edom, and bordered upon the tribe of Judah to the south. His origin is uncertain; and the exact period in which he lived cannot well be determinerl. His years were more than 200—the age of man before the days of the patriarchs. In his writings are mentioned only the most ancient species of idolatry, the worship of the Sun and Moon; and his riches are reckoned by his cattle. If he lived after the days of Abraham, and as some suppose, as late as Moses, still he appears to have known nothing of that eminent patriarch, or of the wanderings of the children of Israel. His knowledge of God was evidently handed down to him from Noah; but was greatly increased by intimate communion with heaven. The book which bears his name, and gives an account of the wonderful dealings of God with him, has been ascribed to Moses, to Solomon, to Isaiah and Ezra, but it is evidently the work of Job himself. Its style is sublime and lofty; full of figure, and corresponds to the genius of the Arabic language. It every where abounds with religious instruction, and the noblest sentiments of piety; and, with inimitable majesty, proclaims the Almighty power and unsearchable wisdom of the Maker of the universe.
With all his faults, Job was a man of deep humility and exalted piety. Through traditional religion and the sug. gestions and influences of the Holy Spirit, he disclaimed all hope of justification from his own righteousness; placed his confidence in the great Redeemer, and looked forward with joyful hope to a resurrection and future judgment. Such a man must have been a light in the world. His book conveyed truths to mankind which unassisted reason had never learned, and powerfully refuted the erroneous views which were fast spreading in the earth, of the moral government of God. When it was admitted into the sacred canon we know not; but it is cited as inspired by the Apostles, and was universally received as canonical by the early Chris