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GEN. 28. 20. And Jacob vowed a vow. THIS is the first vow that we read of in the Bible. It will therefore be proper to explain to you what a vow is. A vow is a promise made to God of doing some good thing hereafter. Vows are mentioned in many parts of the Bible, and there were several laws made for the right performance of different vows in us among the Jews. A man might devote himself or his children to the Lord. Samuel was vowed and set apart to the ser Ivice of the Lord. He was offered to the Lord when he was yet a child, and at a very early age employed in the service of the Tabernacle. If a man or woman vowed themselves or their children to the Lord, they were obliged to remain firm to their promise, and with a steady and fixed mind to perform the work to which they had devoted themselves. If they did not act according to the conditions
conditions of the vow, they were to be redeemed:*
The vows and promies of children were void, they were not bound to perform their promises unless they were ratified and con firmed either by the express or silent consent of their parents.†
A vow when made by one who fears God and loves Christ, is either general or particular. Particular vows are those promises by which we bind ourselves and resolve by the strength and grace of God, to endeavor to leave some particular sin, or to perform some particular duty. A vow must be made deliberately and devoutly (not rashly) and with proper consideration. You must not vow that which you are not able to perform. The perfor mance of vows is strictly enjoined in the Sacred Scriptures. "When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee. But if thou shalt forbear to
*Lev. 27. 2. 3.
† Num. 50. 4.
wow, it shall be no sin in thee. That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform even a free will offering, according as thou hast vowed unto the Lord thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth." We shall first notice,
I. JACOB'S MONUMENT.
"And Jacob rose up early in the morning and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar and poured oil upon the top of it." This was the monument that Jacob set up. A stone, the stone on which he had laid his head, he placed it in an upright manner in the ground and poured oil upon it. The anointing or pouring oil upon stones was a ceremony much used in ancient times, and not then accounted superstitious or undawful. In India stones are worshipped as gods. I have often passed trees under which these stones are placed, they are of different shapes and sizes. They are generally daubed
with red, and you
can see that oil has been
poured on them. Flowers are offered to
them. The Shalgramu is a sacred stone worshipped
* Deut. 23. 21, 22, 23.
worshipped by the Hindoos. It is said that one of these stones are sometimes sold for
2000 rupees.* The Lingu is another stone image that is worshipped as a god, and the Temples containing this image are to be seen in almost every Town and Village in Bengal. It is a very common object of worship. It is a smooth black stone cut in a particular shape, almost like a sugar loaf. The bottom part is something like the mouth of a spoon. .t It is one part of the duty of a Bramin to anoint the stone images with oil before bathing.
Jacob had not time now to erect an altar here, ther fore he set up this stone to mark the place that he might easily find it on his return. He also gave a new name to the place. He called it BETH-EL, that is, the House of God. It seems it was near a city that was called Luz, which means an almond tree. Perhaps there were many of these trees in and about the city. The gracious appearance of God to Jacob, the vision which he saw and
* See Ward's History of the Hindoos. vol. 2. Page 221.
† See Page 15.
the words which he heard, made it much more remarkable than the almond trees which grew there. This was certainly a very suitable name. It was the place where God visited Jacob, and was therefore his house. Every place where the presence of God is ́ enjoyed may be called a Bethel. There was a city of this name about 8, some say 12, miles from Jerusalem. It belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. This Bethel or House of God was afterwards called Bethaven, house of vanity or wickedness, the temple of Idols. Jeroboam set up one of his calves there, for the people to worship. This is that Jeroboam who made Israel to sin. Let us make the house in which we live a Bethel, a house for God. There are too many whose houses might be called Bethavens, houses of wickedness and iniquity, where God is insulted and forgotten.
II. Let us consider JACOB'S VOW.
"And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me and will keep me in this way which I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be