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T ENT A ND THE ALT A Ꭱ .
A PILGRIM FATHER.
“The world's grey fathers.".
“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and
from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing." GEN. xii. 2, 3.
To see the important part that Abraham occupies in the word of God, I will quote two or three passages where he is referred to. In Acts vii. 2–5, we read these words : “And Stephen said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, or Charran, and said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee. Then came he out of the land of the Chaldæans, and dwelt in Charran : and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell. And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to
him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.” We have another reference to the same interesting fact in Romans iv. 1–5: “What shall we then say that Abraham, our father as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the Scripture ? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” And also at the 17th verse of the same chapter: "As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who,” that is, Abraham, “ against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.” We have another reference to the same interesting and instructive passage in the Epistle to the Galatians, in the third chapter, at the 6th verse: “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith,” that is, Christians, “ the same are the children of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” And lastly, in that most interesting and precious chapter, the 11th of the Epistle to the Hebrews, we find a reference to the same character, beginning at the 8th verse: “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the
land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” These are some of the most remarkable allusions contained in the New Testament Scriptures to the patriarchal biography now introduced to our notice.
How God appeared to Abraham it is not expressly said. Whether it was the Shechinah, that is, the bright glory that afterwards dwelt between the cherubim, and shone at the gates of Paradise upon the exiles that left; or whether it was by an express command, audible to Abraham, and intelligible to him, we are not informed. This, however, we must be aware of, that God has a thousand ways of reaching man’s, mind additional to the channels of the senses. He might, by his providence, point with the finger, or by his prophets utter a voice, or by direct communion with the human mind he may have told Abraham, “ Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee.”
It appears that at this very period, when Abraham was selected for this grand mission, and to be the father of so illustrious a progeny, the whole earth, without exception, had become utterly corrupt. The imaginations of the thoughts of man's heart were evil before the Flood; God pronounces that they were evil after the Flood; and in the days of Abraham the degeneracy seems to have been so entire, that God had to select a heathen, an idolater, dwelling in Ur of the Chaldoes, in Mesopotamia, between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, in order to be the germ of that race to whom should be committed the oracles of God, and from whom the Saviour according to the flesh should spring. How total must have been the eclipse which had passed upon man's mind, and the corruption which had laid
its grasp upon his nature, when, in-spite of judgments, of miracles, and manifestations of Deity, man's heart remained deceitful above all things, and his life desperately wicked.
In this selection of Abraham we have the commencement of one of those grand dispensations of which the whole Scripture is full. We have the patriarchal dispensation starting with Abraham, like a solitary streamlet in a bleak and inhospitable land; we see that streamlet spreading into a broad river in the case of the Levitical economy, and that broad river augmented by many tributary streams, swelling into that grand river of life that will spread, and flow, and deepen, reflecting the sheen of great cities, and mingling with the hum of vast populations, until the whole earth is covered with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the channels of the great deep. This history, therefore, will be an intensely interesting one; it will be interesting to learn from what small beginnings great events come; it will be no less instructive to see, as we advance through Genesis, how anile and absurd is the notion that there are any accidents in man's life, or any loose pegs in the machinery of God's providence — not a pin can drop, not an arrest can occur, not a slackening of the speed, or a quickening of it, without God's instant cognizance, permission, or control. And this great lesson we shall learn by striking examples as we pass through what I think is not the least interesting part of the Bible — Christianity in patriarchal days, not so fully developed, but as real, as precious, and as influential and practical as Christianity in our days.
In God's selection of Abraham we find an instance and illustration of what is called the sovereign grace of God. Why did God select Abraham ? He was a heathen, just like others. There is no evidence that the refracted and reflected light of truth, as it passed through the media of tradition, had made any good impressions upon his heart, any more than upon the heart of Terah, or upon those of the rest of the idolaters of the land of Ur of the Chaldees. Why did God select him? That is a “why” we must often ask, and it is a question that eternity must answer, if it ever be answered at all. And very often, when we ask, Why did this occur to me? Why am I here? Why is my relation this ? Why is my family that? we can get no answer; but we can see that little things, which the world, in its atheistic vocabulary, calls chance things, were the pivots upon which turned all that distinguishes, that delights, that characterizes us and ours at this moment. It was the accidental hearing of a conversation that brought us to a house of God where we now are: it was the accidental turning of a corner that brought you to another place, where you may have heard the truth that has been blest to you: it was an accidental company or party that determined whether I should be the husband of that wife; or that woman the wife of me, her husband. It is on the most accidental things that the most momentous effects have grown and developed themselves. Can I believe that there was no God in the little things ? Grant me this, that God leaves little things to chance, and assert that he only takes care of great things, and I will demonstrate most satisfactorily that there is no Providence at all. The fact is, that the little things are the great things really; but we think those great things only which are so physically: so vulgar is our sense that we can only see great things when they are physically great; and so insensible are we, that we cannot see that those little things are, though seemingly minute to us yet, developing themselves into the most striking and influential of results. In fact, so important are they, that allow me to touch Europe where and how I like in the last hundred years, allow me to put in a pin at any point that I like, and I will guarantee the whole state of Europe will be entirely altered.