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the census, recorded in Numbers, there were among the Israelites 603,550, above 20 years of age, that were able to go forth to war. If to this number we add five to one for females, males under twenty, and old men unfit for war, and 60,000, for the tribe of Levi, not included in the above number; the whole congregation of Israel will amount to three millions, seventyseven thousand, seven hundred and fifty. Now, was it possible for this vast number to assemble together so as to hear Moses? The fact is, their rulers assembled to hear the word of the Lord from Moses, and they are called the congregation, because they represented the congregation. In the same sense we are to understand our Lord when he says "tell it to the church;" i. e. tell it to the rulers of the church, who represent and govern the church. No other just interpretation, I believe, can be given

J. F. (To be continued.) In the last No. page 296, line 7th: instead of “who are not of the household of faith,” read “who are of the household of faith."

of this passage.

LECTURES ON BIBLICAL HISTORY.

NO. XII.

“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham. And he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, 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 upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of."--GEN. xxii. 1, 2.

Faith, which is essential to true religion, is proved and developed by trials. The trials which Abraham sustained, and the manner in which he behaved under them, enable us to understand, in some measure, why he is called, by way of eminence, “ the friend of God, and the father of the faithful.” He was distinguished, pretty uniformly, by an unshaken confidence in the divine testimony, and an unhesitating submission to the will of God. His faith had been frequently put to the test; but never in a manner so severe and extraordinary as in the instance now before us. Isaac was a child of prayer, and of great promise; and to part with him, in the ordinary way, would have been a heavy affliction. But that the father should be required to despatch his beloved son with his own hand, was a trial altogether without a parallel. Here was a case in which the divine promises and command seemed to interfere, and to be utterly inconsistent with one another; yet Abraham was promptly obedient to the heavenly mandate, assured that God would maintain his truth, and, in due time, display the wisdom and equity of the command.

This, however, is a difficult passage of scripture. It has not only been excepted to by infidel writers, but many pious people have been at a loss to know how to reconcile it to the benignity of the Creator, and the rectitude of his government. The command is so repugnant to our feelings, and appears, at first view, to be of so bad a tendency, that one is tempted to ask, was not the patriarch under a mistake in believing that it came from God? may it not have been the suggestion of some malignant spirit, and have been intended to seduce Abraham into the perpetration of a deed, which would bring reproach upon him and his religion? In reply to this objection, which is indeed very plausible, we'would remark, that it impeaches not only the character of Abraham, but that of Moses, the sacred historian. Supposing the patriarch to have been deceived in this matter, how came Moses to record the deception, and present it to us, and to all the world, as an express and peremptory injunction of Jehovah? If you say that Abraham was deceived, you give up the authenticity of the Pentateuch, and admit that the writer of the first five books in the Bible was not only an uninspired man,

but a man very deficient either in honesty or discernment. Nor is this all; the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews is involved in the same condemnation: for, among the triumphs of faith which he mentions in the eleventh chapter of his letter, this is noticed with unqualified approbation:“ By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac; and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.” That Abraham was fully convinced that the command was from God, is evident from the promptitude with which he proceeded to execute it. If it be asked, how he could know assuredly that God required this sacrifice at his hand, we answer, by an explicit manifestation of the divine will, such as impelled him, first, to leave “Ur of the Chaldees," and, afterwards, to go forth from Haran of Mesopotamia. God condescended, on several occasions, to make himself known to him in a very special manner. He did this in various modes; as, by symbols of his presence, by an audible voice, and by the ministry of angels. He had entered into solemn covenant with him, as the father of all them that believe, and as the representative of the visible church. And Abraham, as an evidence of his acquiescence in this covenant, submitted to circumcision; a painful rite—a rite which a sober man, at his advanced age, cannot be supposed to have accepted for himself and his numerous family, without a full and deliberate conviction that it was ordained of God for a wise and holy purpose. And, after all this, is it credible that the “high father of many nations” would be left to follow the suggestion of a lying and malignant spirit; and that too, in a matter of so much moment as the life of Isaac, the heir according to promise, in whom the holy seed, the church, was to be continued,

and in whose family the ordinances of religion were to be maintained till the coming of Messiah? It is not credible. But, not to detain you longer on this point, the result proved that Abraham was not deceived. Had he been instigated by Satan, to sacrifice his son, the deed would have been accomplished; for they who so far yield to temptation, as to make arrangements to comply with it, seldom stop short of the ultimate design of the tempter. But Isaac was not actually slain: the end being answered which God intended, Abraham's hand is arrested by a voice from heaven; a voice not of reproof, but of commendation : “ Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him.” Why? Not because thou hast been deceived, and art following the instigations of the devil; but, be- • cause, “ now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” Now, if Abraham was convinced that this command proceeded from the Lord, it was clearly his duty to obey it, however grievous it might be to flesh and blood. The known will of the Creator is and ought to be law to the intelligent creature. Faith does not make void this law; genuine faith invariably yields obedience and submission. These are its proper effects, and where these are wanting, the existence of the principle is, at least, questionable.

But, it may still be alleged that, though God is to be obeyed in all cases, and in some instances contrary to those tender feel. ings which are connatural to us, yet, as he always acts according to the eternal rules of reason, he can neither act himself, nor require his creatures to act in a manner contradictory to those rules. “ And as the slaying of a child is an obvious violation of the law of nature, which obliges a parent to cherish and protect his offspring, would it not be impugning the character of the Divine Being, to suppose that he ever issued such a command as that now in question ?” This is placing the difficulty in a strong point of light: let us see whether it be not capable of a rational and satisfactory solution.

That God acts, uniformly, on principles of the most perfect rectitude is indubitable; that he can neither do, nor command others to do a wrong thing, is also indubitable. But then it should be recollected that the rules which regulate his conduct have a bearing on the whole universe, and are deduced from the infinite relations which his works and designs have to one another, and to the ultimate good of his kingdom, considered as one immense and entire whole. Now we cannot comprehend these vast relations of things, and, therefore, we cannot determine, in any given case, what would be right, or what would be wrong in the divine government, because that is conducted on principles of which we can form no adequate conception. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than Vol. II.-Presb. Mag.

2 X

your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts, saith the Lord.”

Even on the supposition that God had intended that Abraham should take away his son's life, there would have been no injustice in the command. The Author and Giver of life has a right to resume it, at what time, and by whatever means he sees fit. So that had the injunction been actually executed, we must have acknowledged it to have been wise, just, and good; because a divine command necessarily implies wisdom, justice, and goodness, though we may be unable to discern the reasons upon which it is founded. But did not this intentional sacrifice of Isaac give countenance to the practice, which is known to have obtained among some pagan nations, of offering human victims to propitiate their gods? Had the sacrifice been actually made there would have been some force in this objection; but as the fatal blow was arrested by the same divine authority that ordered it to be inflicted, the effect of the whole affair, as narrated by Moses, would, in our view, be to discountenance the practice to which the objection refers: Isaac is spared, and a ram of the Lord's own providing is offered in his stead. And this, most obviously and impressively, intimated that the God of Abraham delighted not in human blood ; that he approved of inferior victims, and designed that these should serve as types and shadows till the fulness of time, when the true LAMB OF God should appear in the flesh, and shed his blood as the great and inestimable sacrifice which cleanseth from all sin.

As Isaac must have attained nearly, if not quite, to the age of manhood when this transaction took place, it is naturally asked why he made no resistance, but quietly submitted to be bound and laid on the altar? The only way in which we can account for this is, by supposing that he was an eminently pious youth; that he was satisfactorily informed that God required him to submit, and that he was endued with the devoted heroism of the martyrs; many of whom, even under the Jewish economy, as a testimony of their love of truth and duty,“ were stoned, sawn asunder, and tortured; not accepting deliverance, that they might inherit a joyful resurrection.” Josephus, the Jewish historian, taking his materials from the glosses of the rabbis, tells us, that Abraham made a pathetic speech to his son, on the occasion, exhorting him to constancy and submission to the decree of heaven; to which Isaac attended, says he, with a composure and resignation worthy the son of such a father. And upon this account of their mutual behaviour, (whether true or fictitious, we pretend not to determine,) Gregory Nazyanzen, an eloquent father of the Greek church, makes the following impressive remark; “ all the strength of reluctant love could not withhold the father's hand; and all the terror of a violent dissolution could not tempt the son to move for his own preservation. Which of the two, shall we say, deserves the precedence in our wonder and veneration ? For there seems to have been a religious emulation or contest between them, which should most remarkably signalize himself; the father in loving God more than his own child, and the son in the love of duty above his own life.”

Whatever of truth may be in these representations, both father and son seem to have acted under a strong sense of duty, with a reverential regard to the authority, and a single eye to the glory of Jehovah. That Abraham expected his beloved Isaac would be restored to life, after he should have sacrificed him in obedience to the divine command, seems highly probable; not only from his reinark to the young men that accompanied them to the foot of the mountain, “abide ye here with the ass, and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you,” but from an observation of Paul, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, xi. 19, “ accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence, also, he received him in a figure.” And this hope would be not a little consolatory to them both in yielding a compliance with the painful duty to which they were now called, the one actively, and the other passively.

Having thus endeavoured to remove the principal objections, to which, at first view, this passage of sacred writ seems liable, let us try to ascertain the end, or useful purpose, which was designed to be answered by the wonderful transaction therein recorded.

The end to be answered, we suppose, was two-fold: First, to afford to the church, and to all who should read the sacred story, an illustrious exemplification of the nature and energy of a true faith in God; secondly, to furnish, in the virtual sacrifice of Isaac, a type, or symbolical adumbration of our blessed Lord's voluntary sufferings and death.

In the first place, this command was designed to prove Abraham's faith, and to afford an exemplification of the amazing power of that divine principle. “God,” it is said, “ did tempt Abraham.” To tempt, is a phrase used in scripture in two senses; its most common meaning is, to suggest evil thoughts, or instigate to wicked actions. In this sense, it is never applied to the Divine Being. “Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man,” James i. 13. The other acceptation, in which the phrase is used, is to prove, or try a person or thing by experiment. In this sense it is frequently applied to God, in his conduct towards mankind. And thus, he tempted, proved, or tried Abraham; not for his own satisfaction, for he knew

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