Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

a pious fraud is just as flagrant a violation of the law of truth and honesty, as any other piece of deliberate and wilful deception. The deed of sale, ratified by oath, which made over to Jacob the primogeniture, even supposing the birth-right included the paternal blessing, conveyed no license to use unlawful and immoral measures to secure it. That end which cannot be accomplished without resorting to unlawful means, may, to say the least, be suspected of being a bad end ; nor can any end, however great and holy, sanctify unhallowed means. Had they a full conviction that God designed the blessing for the younger, and not for the elder? Then they should have waited patiently for God to effect his own design in his own way. The Lord of all the earth will do right; his purposes are holy; his power infinite, and his resources abundant; he has means enough, always at hand, to accomplish his designs, without tarnishing his glorious goodness, or fixing a stigma on his immaculate purity. And, readers, while we thus censure the wickedness of Jacob and his mother, in this affair, may we not take a useful hint, even from their misconduct? We are often perplexed, and in straits-often at a loss to reconcile the promises of God with the dispensations of his providence. When this is our case, let us wait on the Lord, and stay ourselves on the Most High ; if he assigns us a heavy cross, let us take it up, and bear it patiently; let us follow our blessed Master whithersoever he may conduct us, but let us never go before him, by the use of forbidden expedients, for the purpose either of getting rid of our trials, or of bringing about what we may believe to be according to the good pleasure of his will. Whatever may be our circumstances, either in temporal, or in spiritual concerns, let us confidently, yet humbly, commit our cause to God our Saviour, for "blessed are they who put their trust in him!”

But how shall we justify the conduct of Divine Providence, in permitting its design to be accomplished by such means as Rebekah and Jacob used in wresting the blessing from Esau? This is a difficulty which belongs, in common, to several cases recorded in sacred scripture; and though we may not be able to justify the ways of God to man, in the case now before us, or in any other given case, yet, that they are justifiable, and that they will be vindicated one day to the honour of the divine government, and to the entire satisfaction of holy men and angels, it is our happiness most confidently to believe. Let it be carefully observed, that the difficulty is not peculiar to the case now under consideration. God designed that Joseph should go into Egypt to prepare the way for Jacob and the rest of his family; but God never required Joseph's brethren to conspire against him, and send him thither as a slave.--It was “ according to the

determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God," that Jesus of Nazareth was to die, the just for the unjust; but the righteous Lord of heaven and earth never required Pontius Pilate to condemn the innocent, or the Jews and Romans to take him, and, with wicked hands, to crucify and slay him.-So God designed that Jacob should inherit the paternal blessing; but who will say that he either demanded or needed circumvention and falsehood for the accomplishment of his design? In all these cases the human agency concerned in bringing about the several events, was volunteered. No necessity of doing wickedly was laid upon Joseph's brethren—nor on the murderers of our Saviour-nor on Jacob and Rebekah ; they acted freely, deliberately, and voluntarily; their acts were their own, and theirs were the guilt and turpitude of those evil deeds, which the wonder-working hand of God overruled for good, and rendered subservient to his most holy and merciful designs. If you ask why God did not prevent the acts of these wicked agents, you might as well ask why he permits the wicked to act voluntarily, i. e. why he does not divest them of their moral character, and free them at once from all responsibility for the deeds done in the body. The power that educes good out of evil, that lays the worst actions of men under contribution to the most worthy purposes of heaven, is, indeed, mysterious, and, to our feeble intellect, utterly incomprehensible; yet that there is such a power continually operating in our world, we as fully believe, as that the sum of all the parts is equal to the whole, or that two and two make four. “The Lord reigneth ; let the earth rejoice, and the multitude of the isles be glad thereof.". Rebekah and her favourite son may have designed evil against Esau; they followed the devices of their own hearts; their motives may have been bad; their agency was unsolicited and obtrusive; the means they employed were wicked and unwarrantable, as appeared in the sequel, by their personal sorrows, as well as by the feuds and animosities which their unnatural conspiracy engendered: they repented, however, and both, we may hope, obtained forgiveness through grace. But the divine purpose was good; nor was it to be frustrated by the ignorance, or ill designs of erring mortals. The mistake of the fond father, and the pious fraud of the partial mother and her ill-advised son, are overruled by a wise and gracious Providence. Jacob receives the benediction, and, through him, it is conveyed not only to his immediate descendants, the heads of the twelve tribes, but to the seed of Abraham, the church of the living God, down to generations yet unborn.

Proceed we now to inquire briefly into the meaning of the paternal blessing : “God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. Let peo

ple serve thee, and nations bow down unto thee; be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.” This solemn and religious benediction, was one of the distinguishing usages of the patriarchal or Abrahamic dispensation; the design was, as has been already observed, to transmit the promise of Canaan, of a numerous progeny, of divine protection; and, especial, the promise of that seed of the woman that was to bruise the serpent's head, and in whom all the families of the earth are to be blessed ; as, also, to transmit from father to son the sacerdotal office, as it then existed; so that the son who received the blessing, was invested with authority to offer sacrifices, and preside, generally, in ecclesiastical concerns; and, along this line of succession, as far as it extends, we are to look for the lineage of Him, who “came a light into the world,” and who is the Prophet, the High Priest, the King, and sole Head of the church.

It is observable that the blessing here given to Jacob, is prophetic; and that it consists of three branches; viz. all needful supplies of worldly substance ;_extensive dominion ;-family pre-eminence, and great and lasting spiritual advantages. “God give thee, or God shall give thee of the dew of heaven." In hot countries, where rain is less frequent than in others, the morning and evening dews afford an appropriate image of plentiful harvests and fruitful seasons. " And the fatness of the earth.” Canaan, assigned as the temporal residence of Jacob's posterity, was a fertile soil; and, therefore, it is called “a fat land,” Neh. ix. 25, and the fatness of the land means its produce, in rich abundance. « Plenty of corn and wine,” are expressions of similar import. “Let people serve, and nations bow down unto thee;" this was fulfilled to Jacob's descendants, when the Idumeans, the Arabians, and Syrians, were subservient to the Israelites, in the reigns of David and Solomon. * And let thy mother's sons bow down unto thee;" this part of the blessing indicated the prerogative of Jacob, as having the chief authority in the family, particularly in religious matters. “ Cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee;" this is manifestly a promise of divine protection, in the form of a solemn warning to the world, not to treat the church of God with contumely or reproach.

To exhibit the sense and import of this remarkable and prophetic benediction, as fully as possible in a small compass, we would observe :--That the blessing given to Jacob in terms implying dominion over his brethren, was a conveyance of authority in the visible church, and a transmission of the special blessing promised to Abraham, which related to Christ, and his kingdom. This prediction, then, had its full accomplishment,

neither in the person, nor in the natural posterity of Jacob, but in that illustrious personage descended from him according to the flesh; and “who being in the form of God, and thinking it no robbery to be equal with God, made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, humbled him. self, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore, God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that, at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in the earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father:" Phil. ii.

Come the blessed day, when this glorious design shall be brought to pass, in the unbounded reign of Messiah, the Prince of Peace, and the desire of nations !

W. N.

THE BOOK OF JOB.

This part of the sacred scriptures, or Hagiographa of the Jews, contains a most interesting and instructive biography of a man whose genuine piety, unsurpassed patience, and sincere humility, hold him forth as a bright and rare example of that faith “which works by love and purifies the heart :” but various hypotheses have been indulged with regard to its author and truth. Some suppose it to be an allegory, and the production of Moses, during his forty years residence with the Midianites.* But others, with a higher degree of probability, regard it as the true memoirs of a man whom the Almighty thought proper to afflict, but, who “ troubled on every side, yet not distressed-perplexed, but not in despair-cast down, but not destroyed,” has left to posterity the records of the Lord's mercy and goodness, conveying the moral that although the light of his countenance be apparently withdrawn for a little, it will not utterly be withheld from his true disciples.

As to the former supposition it does not carry with it a plausible appearance ; for if Moses had intended to write a fictitious history of this nature, we should think that it would appear from his own intimation of the fact ; for we are not authorized to imagine that he would suffer that narrative, if fictitious, to go into the world with such manifest evidence of its being true, if it were not really so. This opinion is more fully substantiated by scripture itself: certainly Ezekiel had no doubts, and he corroborates his belief, (xiv. 14.) “Though these three men, Noah,

See Hunter's Sacred Biography, Lect. 2. Vol. III. ; and Dr. Blair's Lectures on Rhetoric, Lect. XLI. which seem to favour this opinion.

Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God:” and also James, (v. 11.) "Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, that he is very pitiful and of tender mercy.” “ It is scarcely to be believed,” says bishop Pretyman,* “ that the apostle would refer to an imaginary character, as an example of patience, or in proof of the mercy of God." “ No reasonable doubt,” says the commentator Scott, “therefore, can remain, but that the narrative of this book is historical truth; though we may safely allow that, as the discourses of Job and his friends are recorded in poetical language, their sentiments and arguments alone are transmitted to us, and not the exact words which they used in conversation.” (Prefatory Remarks to the Book of yob.)

Besides to Moses, the authorship (of the principal part at least) has been ascribed to Job himself, and to Elihu ; but since “all scripture is written for our learning" the subject is of too little importance to authorize a minute critical investigation into the merits of the various theories concerning its author, and we the rather abstain from it, fearful lest in an attempt to reconcile them we should increase doubts and multiply suppositions. Thus much we think proper to have said plainly concerning the authenticity of the book, that it may not rashly be considered a “cunningly devised fable."

j. B.

FOR THE PRESBYTERIAX MAGAZINE.

STRICTURES ON INFIDELITY. The adoption of error, not unfrequently, affords a solution of primâ facie difficulties ; like the practice of sin, it often produces present gratification. If, however, in the same view, we include the whole range of evidence and objection, the rejection of truth will be found to be a matter of no little difficulty: so it would seem in theory, if there be any such thing as truth it must be attended with evidence; and so it is found in fact. “ The way of transgressors is hard ;" in exchange for a momentary triumph, she dashes her votaries into a bottomless pit, and eternally do they sink in the darkening abyss, while every looked for resting place has on it the awful inscription, “ a refuge of lies.”

By rejecting revelation, the deist avoids some seeming difficulties, but at how great a sacrifice! By immolating some of

Elements of Christian Theology, Vol. I.; or in a separate volume entitled, “ Introduction to the Study of the Bible." Vol. II.- Presb. Mag.

3 M

« PoprzedniaDalej »