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Isaac, whom he most tenderly loved, and who was the object of his highest hopes, according to the promises of God, would have been far more distressing, if he had been allowed to do it, at home, surrounded by his family and friends. But he was commanded to go to a distant, unknown, dreary wilderness, and there offer up the son of his love and highest hopes, a burnt offering. It is hardly possible to conceive, that his trial could have been carried to any higher degree. But this trial he cheerfully and patiently endured. Ye have heard of the patience of Job ; but was it equal to the patience and submission of Abraham ? The evidence of the sincerity and supremacy of his love to God, rises in proportion to the number and magnitude of the difficulties and obstacles, which stood in the way of his obedience.
2. The cheerfulness and promptitude, with which he obeyed the divine command, increase the evidence of the sincerity and supremacy of his love to God. Good men have often shown reluctance to obeying self-denying commands. Moses and Aaron were reluctant to bear the divine messages to Pharoah, and begged to be excused. Jonah dreaded to go to Nineveh and denounce the judgments of God against that city, and actually disobeyed the divine commands. have no account, that Abraham stood a moment hesitating whether he should obey the hard injunction laid upon him, or so much as pleading to be excused from performing the appalling and self-denying act of sacrificing his son. Such promptitude and alacrity in obedience, eminently displayed the purity, strength, and ardor of his love to God. His supreme love to God seemed to banish every selfish affection from his heart
which rendered the trial an infallible evidence of his sincerity. If he had harbored any selfish feelings at that time, they would most certainly have manifest. ed themselves by reluctance, murmuring, or complaint. It must be further observed,
3. That his obedience to the command to sacrifico his son, was obedient to the mere will of God, which renders it in the highest possible degree evidential of his real and supreme love to him. God assigned no reason for his command, and he could see no reason for it, but many plain and powerful reasons against it. There was nothing to induce him to obey, but a full conviction, that the command came from God, was expressive of his pleasure, and clothed with his authority.--Some of the divine commands carry their own reasons with them why they should be obeyed. And in other cases, he condescends to give reasons why his commands should be obeyed; and such reasons serve to excite a prompt and cheerful obedience. But in the command given to Abraham, God gave no reasons why he should obey it, but simply his sovereign will.--And to this will, Abraham paid the most prompt and cheerful obedience, which was the highest possible evidence that he could give, that his will, like Christ's, was swallowed up in the divine will. This was carrying his obedience to the highest pitch, and laid a just foundation for God to transmit his character to all future generations, under the noblest appellation, the friend of God. Thus God constantly accomplished his design in his command to Abraham.
1. It appears from Abraham's ready obedience to the command in the text, that those who are willing to
obey God, ean very easily understand the real meaning of his commands. God's command to Abraham was a very singular and self-denying command, but he found no difficulty in understanding its plain, but important meaning. His willingness to obey God in the most self-denying manner, made him willing to un derstand his command in the most self-denying sense. He knew, that God had a right to require him to deny himself in respect to any thing and every thing that he had given him, and therefore might, if he saw good reason for it, require him to sacrifice any one of his children, and even Isaac his beloved child. Accordingly he felt no disposition to stand and hesitate, whether the command came from God; or whether it was contrary to the nature of things ; or whether it was inconsistent with other commands he had given him ; or whether it was inconsistent with the promises he had made to him ; or whether it was kind in him to require such an extraordinary act of self-denial. He knew the plain meaning of the words of the command, and was willing to obey it in the most self-denying sense. This willingness to obey, was the cause of his willingness to understand it in its proper meaning. And this is the case of those, who are willing to obey God, that they are equally willing to understand his commands in his word, which require the greatest self-denial. But those, who have not the love of God in them, find great difficulty in understanding the most self-denying duties and doctrines of the gospel. They find great difficulty in understanding the doctrine of total selfishness ; the doctrine of disinterested love ; the doctrine of unconditional submission; the doctrine of renouncing the world ; the doctrine of divine sovereignty; the doctrine of vindictive justice ; and the doctrine of endless punishment for impenitence and unbelief.
And those, who undertake to explain and preach the word of God, find great difficulty, in explaining such texts as teach such self-denying doctrines. And where will you find an expositor, who does not labour to soften and explain away the self-denying duties and doctrines contained in the bible? This difficulty of understanding the doctrines and duties of divine revelation, principally arises from an unwillingness to believe and do what God requires. This was the cause, why sinners could not understand what Christ taught them. And to this cause he ascribes it. “Why do ye not understand my speech ? even because ye cannot hear my word.” To this cause it is owing that so many complain, that they cannot understand those who preach the self-denying duties and doctrines in their plain and full meaning. They are unwilling to do what God requires.
2. Did Abraham exhibit the highest evidence of his sincere and supreme love to God, by obedience to his command ? Hence we learn, that this is the only way for all good men to exhibit the highest evidence of their sincere and supreme love to God. Obedience to God is the most infallible evidence, that creatures can exhibit of their sincere and supreme love to him. The angels in heaven never have exhibited, and never can exhibit any higher evidence of their pure, sincere love to God, than their cordial and cheerful obedience to his will. When God meant, that Abraham should exhibit the highest evidence of his sincere love to him, he proposed a certain act of obedience ; and by performing that act, he exhibited the highest evidence of his supreme love to his maker. God says to him, * Now I know that thou fearest me, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.”
Our Savior made obedience to him, the infallible test and highest evidence of true love to him “ If ye love me, keep my commandments. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” It is by obedience, that good men exhibit the highest evidence to the world, that they love God Though Abraham professed to love God; yet he never exhibited so high an evidence of it, as when in obedience to him, he offered up his
And though christians may have the love of God in their hearts, yet they cannot exhibit evidence of it, without obedience to the divine commands. And it is by obedience, that christians exhibit the highest evidence to themselves, that their love to God is sineere and supreme. Abraham exhibited higher evidence to himself, that he loved God supremely, by offering up his son, than he ever did before. Men often think, that they are willing to do that beforehand, which they find themselves unwilling to do, when they come to the trial. Most, who make a profession of religion, probably think, that they shall be willing to do all that they engage to do ; but how often do they find, that their resolutions and hearts fail them? So it is especially with young converts. T'hey imagine, that they shall always be willing to obey every divine command and perform every self-denying duty. But it is only by actual obedience, that they find the nature and strength of their love to God.
3. It appears from the obedience of Abraham to the divine command, that all true obedience to God, Aows from pure disinterested love to him. God has set his seal upon Abraham's obedience, as being gen