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WHEN Abraham received the Divine command to go to the land of Moriah, and there, on one of the mountains which God should show him, offer his son Isaac for a burnt-offering, he departed with the purpose of performing what he believed to be a religious duty. On the third day after his departure, he beheld the place afar off ; and laying the wood upon Isaac, and taking the fire and a knife in his hand, he set out with his unsuspecting victim for the spot where he was to immolate him on the altar of his God. As they proceeded on their way, Isaac said to Abraham, “My father, Behold the wood and the fire, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?" To this startling and touching question the patriarch replied, “My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt-offering.”
Arrived at the appointed place, Abraham built an altar, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac, and laid him thereon. The patriarch had taken the knife to slay his son, when his hand was arrested by a voice from heaven, which said, “ Abraham, Abraham, lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him, for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from Me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold, a ram caught in a thicket by his horns, and he took the ram, and offered him up instead of his son.” To mark his sense of the Divine mercy which had so unexpectedly removed the bitterness of his trial, and turned his sorrow into joy, Abraham called the name of the place Jehovah-Jireh -the Lord will provide.
* A Funeral Sermon preached from Gen. xxii. 14.
The all but consummated sacrifice of Isaac was obviously typical of the sacrifice of the Lord, who made a voluntary offering of Himself; for He had power to lay down His life, and He had power to take it again ; and this commandment he received from His Father—from the promptings of His own infinite and eternal love.
The name given by Abraham to the place where he had built the altar is eminently expressive of the merciful provision which was made, through the Lord's sacrifice, for the salvation of the human race. The place itself is connected historically with that sacrifice. Jerusalem stood upon Mount Moriah, and Jewish tradition places the site of Solonion's temple on the spot where the altar of Abraham stood. Without placing implicit reliance on this, it is at least certain that the temple stood upon one of the mountains of Moriah, and that on one of the mountains of Moriah the Lord was crucified. The land of Moriah spiritually signifies a place and state of temptation; and the mountain is a symbol of the Divine love, from which the Lord engaged in conflict, especially in His last temptation, which was the passion of the Cross, with the powers of darkness, for accomplishment of human redemption.
The circumstance which procured for the place of Abraham's trial the name JEHOVAH-JIREH, is not only designed to point to the last great trial of the Lord as the means of His final and complete triumph over the powers of darkness, but to exemplify and proclaim the consolotary truth, that in every trial which the Lord permits His children to endure, He provides for them a way of escape, which shall also be a means of purification. It is well adapted to teach us the most difficult of all lessons—TRUST IN GOD, trust that He will, in all times and circumstances, provide for us what is most suitable to our states, and best adapted to advance our eternal interests, although the means by which the beneficent end is to be wrought out may not always be congenial to our natural affections, nor in accordance with our temporal aims. But it is in the want of accordance between the will and wisdom of God and the will and wisdom of man that all human trial originates. No event in life would be felt to be a trial, if all our desires were in harmony with the Divine will, and all our views of happiness were in harmony with the Divine wisdom. If, as the Scriptures assure us, Providence rules in all things, the least as well as the greatest, the most adverse as well as the most prosperous, that the very hairs of our head are all numbered, and that a sparrow falls not to the ground without our Father who is in heaven, no circumstance can ever occur that is not directed or controlled by infinite wisdom, acting from infinite love, to bring us nearer to heaven. Temporal ends are nothing in the estimation of the Divine Providence ; they have no place in the system of God's administration. But whence do anxiety and sorrow arise, but from regarding that to be all which God regards as nothing, and from our pursuing as the supreme good that which His wisdom has declared to be vanity, except when subordinated to an eternal end? If we could at once, and with all our heart, confide in the Lord's providence as perfectly wise and beneficent, could we for a moment entertain the thought, that any thing, not a sinful act of our own; could be opposed to our best interests, or be inconsistent with our real happiness? True, we, who are by nature ignorant of our best interests and disinclined to that which constitutes our truest happiness, cannot at once, nor even during a whole lifetime, so entirely surrender ourselves to the providence of God and so completely conform to His will, as effectually to shut out from the heart all the disturbing influences of the world and the flesh. It is, however, highly necessary for us to know and consent to the truth, that evil is the only cause of discontent; and that we suffer, not from any purpose of God to afflict us, but from the activity within us of some unsubdued affection of our natural will, embodied in some delusive picture of ideal happiness. With this truth impressed upon the mind, we may acquire such a measure of confidence in God as will lead
us, in dutiful obedience to the Divine will, to repair, like faithful Abraham, to our land of Moriah, and there, on one of the mountains which God Himself will tell us of, offer up to Him, as a willing and dutiful sacrifice, the dearest object of our affections, and be further enabled, by His grace, to call the name of the place Jehovah-Jireh—to impart to the states of our bitterest experience, or leave impressed upon the heart their result, an abiding sense of the Divine goodness, as allprovident of the affairs of life. And taking up the lofty strain of Habakkuk, we may exclaim, " Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall the fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flocks shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of my salvation.” And the still more complete utterance of unreserved confidence in the author of all Providence, “ Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him."
Those children of the world, whose desires never rise above the earth, whose aims never extend beyond the attainment of temporal happiness, must ever regard the permissions of Providence, which con
flict with their one end of life, as unmitigated evils. If their grief yields to time, it is still but grief suppressed, or worn out by its own excess—an impression effaced by floods of passionate, not of penitential tears. Their sorrow, though exhausted, is never turned into joy. The unholy fire may have burnt out, but no holy fire has been kindled in its place. The altar of Baal, though it may have fallen into decay, has never been thrown down; and no altar to the Lord has ever been reared in its place; they have no feeling in their heart, no thought in their mind, no state in their experience, on which to inscribe the pious sentiment—THE LORD WILL PROVIDE.
But when our ends are in heaven, the whole aspect of Providence and of life is changed. When the kingdom of God and His righteousness have obtained the first place in our affections, then do we know that all things will be added unto us,—all things that deserve to be called good, all things that are consistent with the one purpose of Divine Providence, to establish and maintain in our hearts the supre. macy of the kingdom of God's truth and righteousness. It must, therefore, be a settled principle with the spiritual man, that the Lord will provide all spiritual things, and with them all temporal things, so far as He sees that these will condnce to his spiritual welfare. More than this the Christian cannot be in the principle of requiring; and if his desires or his appetites mislead him, he will regard the affliction which follows as the correction of a Father, who reminds him that he has transgressed, and admonishes him to retrace his steps, and place himself within the pale of the Divine protection and blessing.
When eternal life is desired or loved as an end, the Providence of the Lord is regarded principally in respect to the care which it exeicises over the concerns of the soul and its spiritual life. Although, being infinite, the Divine Providence is equally perfect in every department of its government, the spiritual concerns of mankind are more directly under its care, the natural life and its concerns being governed through the spiritual, and therefore in entire subordination to them. While this accounts for the chequered aspect which temporal life so often presents, it points out, at the same time, the relative estimate we should make of temporal and spiritual blessings, and the far higher importance we should attach to our spiritual life than to our temporal condition; and, therefore, the far higher importance we should assign to the Divine provision which has been, and is continually made, for our spiritual support and everlasting happiness.
To give even a general view of the provision which the Lord has made for the spiritual welfare of His children, would be to bring under review the general means of human salvation, and the general course of Christian experience. Amongst the means provided for our spiritual welfare are—the Word of truth, the work of Redemption, the operation of the Holy Spirit, the ministry of angels. All these are to be gratefully remembered in our offerings on the altar of holy worship. But these blessings, great as they are in themselves, are blessings to us only when we have become sensible of their value from our own experience. It is to experience, therefore, that we must ultimately have recourse for the evidence and the memorial of the Divine goodness, as manifested to us in the various states and circumstances of life. Regeneration is the blessing which comprehends in itself and gives a grateful sense of all others. It is, therefore, in the regenerate heart that the altar of holy worship is to be raised, and it is there that the offering is to be consecrated to the service of the Lord, who saves from sin and death.
The historical event connected with our text must be regarded as one of the severest trials to which the natural affections of a human being can be subjected; and it teaches us that our duty to God may require us to surrender the objects which lie nearest to our hearts, and which are cherished as the foundation of our fondest hopes. The trials of the spiritual life do not, however, consist necessarily, and never consist essentially, in surrendering the objects of affection themselves; they rather consist in surrendering the object which we have in loving those objects. For what are the objects of this life but means through which we look to some end, and for the sake of which we esteem and cherish them? All of us have not only objects that we love, we have also an object in loving them; and it is this object, if it be selfish, and therefore sinful, which our duty to God requires us to crucify. This is a surrender that is to be made, whether or not, in the course of Providence, we are required to relinquish the objects of affection themselves. If we are carnally minded, we love ourselves in all the objects that we love. It is the selfish love of these objects that our duty to God requires to give up; and in giving up this, we give up all—all that is essentially opposed to the love of God. This selfish love is distinct from the natural affection which we have for the objects themselves. It therefore can be separated from that affection, so that an unselfish love may be implanted in its stead. We may take the love of children as an example, and one immediately suggested by the text. Those who are natural may love their children as tenderly as those who are spiritual; but they love their children for the sake of themselves, which is