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the command; by which he gave an infallible evidence that he loved God sincerely and supremely. He rose up early in the morning, and set out upon his journey, which he continued unto the third day, when he arrived at the place which God had told him of. There he built an altar, and laid wood in order and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood, and stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. But at that moment, “the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham! And he said, here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do any thing unto him : for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing that thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord; for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiply. ing I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” Now we must be fully convinced that by this act of obedience, Abraham gave an infallible evidence of his sincere and supreme love to God, if we consider,
1. That he obeyed, in contrariety to all the natural feelings and affections of the human heart. In many cases, natural affections and selfish motives may induce mankind to pay an external obedience to the divine commands; but in this case, we can see no room for the operation of these sinister motives. The command itself was directly calculated to awaken every natural passion, and selfish feeling, in opposition to obedience.
As soon as Abraham heard the dread command, what a crowd of difficulties must have started up in his mind, and forbidden him to obey! What a conflict must he have had between love to God, and love to himself, and his son! Every circumstance of the action which he was required to do, was extremely self denying and painful. To have sacrificed any other man's son, would have been a hard task. To have sacrificed Ishmael, or any other of his children, would have been a harder task. To have sacrificed Isaac, whom he most tenderly loved, and who was the object of his highest hopes according to the prornises of God, would have been far more distressing, even 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 Pharaoh, 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 command.
But we 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 manifested themselves by reluctance, murmuring, or complaint. It must be farther observed,
3. That his obedience to the command to sacrifice his son, was obedience 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 VOL. VI.
character to all future generations, under the noblest appellation, the Friend of God. Thus God completely 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, can 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 understand 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
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 labor 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? Then 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 Saviour 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 son. 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 sincere 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. They 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 flows from pure disinterested love to him. God has set his seal upon Abraham's obedience, as being genuine, and acceptable to him. But it abundantly appears from what has been said, that his obedience flowed from pure disinterested love. He obeyed the mere will of God, without the least regard to his own interest, but in apparent opposition to it. His own apparent interests all plead for disobedience. But he gave up the objects which lay the nearest to his heart. He gave up his son whom he loved, and all the promises of good which centered in him. He was willing, if God required it, not only to give up his son, but his posterity, though numerous as the stars of heaven, and as the sand upon the sea shore. We know no man who had so much to give up as Abraham; but he gave all that he had, which is the 'utmost that Christ or God ever required. Abraham's love was not only without interest, but contrary to interest, which justly denominates it disinterested. Moses felt and expressed the same disinterested love, when he gave up all the treasures of Egypt, and cheerfully consented to suffer affliction with the people of God; and when he was willing to have his name blotted out of the book of life, if it might be the cause of saving his nation from ruin. Paul felt and expressed the same disinterested love, in wishing for the salvation of the Jews. Christ came not to do his own will, but the will of his Father; and displayed more disinterested love in dying on the cross, than Abraham did in giving up his son, or than Isaac did in giving up his life. Christ taught his followers to exercise no other than disinterested love; not to love those only that love them, but even those who hate them. And Paul declared that he should have no reason to think that he was a real christian, if he did not exercise that love or charity which seeketh not her own. According to the whole tenor of scripture, there can be no true obedience to the divine commands, which does not flow from disinterested love.
4. It appears from God's design in giving the command in the text, and from the effects of it, that christians have no reason to think it strange concerning the fiery trials which they are called to endure. God has a good design in all their trials. He means to do that which they desire him to do. David prayed that God would try him. All christians desire that God would try them, in order that they may know whether their love is selfish or benevolent, and how far it is selfish. By trials God means to give them an opportunity to know their hearts. And he has another end to answer by trying them; and that is, to give them an opportunity to manifest the reality, beauty and importance of true religion before the eyes of the world. Abra