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Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.
ESAU and Jacob were the twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca. Esau was the elder of the two, and was a man rough in appearance and in manners, but open and unsuspicious in his temper; a man of courage, who delighted in the sports of the field, and the favourite of his father, because he hunted for him and partook of his good cheer. Jacob was more of a domestic character, retired, artful, and over-reaching he was the favourite of his mother.
Esau is called a fornicator, because he married the daughter of an idolater, and was probably seduced by her into idolatrous practices. He is also said to be profane, because, believing himself at the point of death, he sold his birthright, that is, his title as the first born to the inheritance of the promise which God had made to Abraham and Isaac, for a mess of pottage.
He would afterwards have inherited the blessing; and to this end he went out to hunt at the desire of his father Isaac, to prepare venison for him, and to obtain his father's blessing. But before he could accomplish his purpose, Jacob, at the instigation of Rebecca, disguised himself, brought in the venison, and surreptitiously secured it. When Esau returned, and the fraud was discovered, Esau importuned Isaac, if not to retract his blessing of Jacob, at least to confer a blessing upon him. This Isaac refused; though Esau, with tears, and earnest intreaties, besought him to change his mind, and to restore that blessing to him which his brother had so fraudulently obtained. But he wept and implored in vain. And his example is held up by the writer to the Hebrews, as a warning to those who are tempted to make light of their christian privileges, and to neglect the day of their visitation.
From this interesting history many important inferences may be drawn, some of which shall be noticed in succeeding pages.
One inference is, that this narrative shows the fidelity of the sacred historian.
The faults of distinguished persons are related by him with the same simplicity as their virtues. Isaac and Jacob are heroes of the story, yet their failings are not concealed. The fond and foolish partiality of Isaac and Rebecca to their favourite sons, the selfish, ungenerous, over-reaching spirit of Jacob, his fraud and lies, are related with the same simplicity and impartial attention to truth as the faith of Abraham, the wisdom of Solomon, and the resignation of Eli. There is no history that is written with a fairness and impartiality comparable to that of the Israelite nation and the Abrahamic family. Here men are represented as they exist in real life, with all their virtues and with all their crimes. The judgment of the historians may be sometimes erroneous, and they may sometimes commend when they ought severely to censure; but their veracity and impartiality stand unimpeached. The history therefore speaks for itself, and carries its own credentials with it, beyond any other that ever was written.
With pity, Lord! my weakness view,
And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau, thy first born.
The fault of Esau by no means extenuates the crimes of Jacob and Rebecca.
- Esau disobeyed his parents, and heaped affliction upon their grey hairs, by marrying into the family of a heathen and an idolater. He departed from the covenant of his God, probably by joining in idolatrous rites, and by indulging himself in their licentious practices. It was hardly possible for him to enter into so close an alliance with bad and profligate persons, without being seduced, in some degree into their follies and their crimes. He was headstrong and impetuous. Imagining, or pretending, that he was ready to expire with hunger and fatigue, he, "in an evil hour," parted with his birthright, and renounced his interest in the promises for the sake of a single repast. Hence he is justly called profane, and held up as a warning to those who are in danger of resigning their christian privileges and hopes for secular and unworthy considerations.
But this is no excuse for the conduct of his unkind mother, and his base, ungenerous brother. Esau's conduct was bad, but that of Jacob, in this matter, was far worse. Nothing could betray a more selfish and contemptible spirit than Jacob's mean extortion of the privileges of the birthright from a brother, whom he saw ready to perish with hunger. And as to the conduct of himself and his mother in imposing upon the ignorant and fond credulity of Isaac, it is a continued tissue of wilful and deliberate fraud and falsehood, and betrays, in both the parties concerned, a rooted depravity of heart. It is to be hoped, that both of them, upon reflection, repented of their misdeeds, for they had much greater need to shed tears of penitence and contrition upon the occasion, than the poor youth whom they had combined to defraud.
Esau found no place for repentance; his father would not revoke his blessing. This teaches that regret is often unavailing to restore an offender to the privileges of innocence. Esau sold his birthright, and he soon discovered his errour, and when he would have retracted the bargain, it was out of his power. The blessing once gone was gone forever and tears, and prayers, and exclamations, were in vain employed to recover it. Let us then learn caution in the concerns of life, and never engage in any undertaking of importance without due deliberation. A false step once taken, how soon soever it may be discovered, how earnest soever the desire and the labour to retract it, may be irrecoverable, and the consequence of it may embitter the whole life.
This caution applies with double force to the commission of crime and the contraction of guilt. Regret, however bitter, repentance, however sincere, can never replace the offender on the high ground of innocence on which he before stood. Miserable self deceivers are they who yield to temptation, and fall into sin, in the fond expectation of recovering themselves by early repentance. They will soon learn their fatal errour. They will find that repentance is no easy task, nor always either in their will or their power In vain will they look for their former peace of mind, conscious innocence, and pleasing hope. They may seek for it with tears, but they will seek in vain.
GOD'S ELECTION OF JACOB CONSIDERED.
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out.
Or two, one was to be chosen; and Jacob is selected to lead in the line of the Messiah, Through the whole of this singular scene, the divine character is clear and without a cloud.
Nothing could be more inconsistent with the wisdom and dignity of the divine administration, than that the blessings of the covenant should have been made to depend upon the circumstances related in the history of Esau. Nothing could be more ridiculous and absurd than to expect, that the entail of a promise, in which the whole world was materially interested, should depend on the fond partiality of a doting old man, the artful contrivance of an intriguing woman, or the extortion, fraud, and falsehood of a selfish and dishonest boy. Had the circumstances of the narration led to this conclusion, the history would indeed have been of very doubtful credit. But the contrary is most apparent.
For wise reasons God had ordained the different destiny of the twin descendants of Isaac and Rebecca, previous to their birth, and had actually foretold to the inquiring mother that the elder should serve the younger. This determination was made previous to any voluntary act upon the part of the children, and therefore quite independent of their moral character, upon any merit or demerit of their own. Such is the observation of the Apostle, Rom. ix. 11. "The children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth, it was said unto her, the elder shall serve the younger, as it is written, Mal. i. 2, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated ;" that is, in the figurative language of prophecy, I have chosen Jacob and his posterity to the possession of privileges, which will be denied to Esau and his posterity.
Why this choice was actually made we are not informed, and it is vain to conjecture. It is certain, that no injustice was done to the elder brother; for God has an undoubted right to dispose of his gifts as he pleases, and no creature has a claim on him for more than he chooses to bestow. But as God is wise as well as good, and does nothing without a sufficient motive, it is certain, that he had some good reason for making this preference, though we are not acquainted with it, and cannot discover it. At any rate, it is perfectly analagous to the general dispensations of divine Providence, by which, without any apparent reason, important blessings, both natural and moral, are conferred upon one nation, family, or individual, which are denied to another; and it should seem, intellectual and moral advantages are sometimes communicated to those, who, it is known, will not improve them; while they are withheld from others who would have made a right use of them. So that human sagacity, baffled in its researches into the abyss of Providence, is constrained to adore what it cannot comprehend, and at the conclusion of its most laborious investigation, it must join issue with the Apostle, "O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out !"-We see proofs enough of God's wisdom, power and grace to create trust and to inspire hope. Let us adore him for all that he is in himself, and love him for all that he is towards us.
SCRIPTURES MUST BE READ WITH DISCRIMINATION,
Understandest thou what thou readest?
THE Scriptures of the Old Testament should be read by all, and especially by young persons, with great discrimination and cau
There are many persons who believe, but without sufficient reason, that the whole of the Old Testament Scriptures are of the highest authority, and that all the persons who make a conspicuous figure in the Jewish history, especially if they were upon any occasion the medium of divine communications to mankind, were eminent, and even perfect examples of virtue. One is called "the Father of the faithful;" another is, "the man after God's own heart;"this is the wisest of men; that is the meekest; and another is the most patient of mankind; and in this way unreflecting persons are induced to believe, that every thing which such persons are reported to have said or done, is right, and worthy of imitation. Whereas, in fact, no conclusion can be more remote from truth ; and there is scarcely a character in the Old Testament, however respectable, and even venerable in many respects, that is not debased by some glaring defect in virtue, if not contaminated by some notorious crime. Jacob, when young, was guilty of fraud and falsehood Solomon was at one time an idolater and dissolute; and David had to repent of the highest crimes.
Young persons, in reading the Scriptures of the Old Testament, should be apprized that this fidelity and impartiality in the narrative adds much to the credibility of the Old Testament, though it detracts greatly from the perfection of the character of the reputed saint. Let them therefore read the history with caution, with judgment, and with discrimination. Let them regard it as true and credible, and as containing many authentic accounts of divine communications. But do not let them suppose that the character of a prophet is universally impeccable, much less let them regard the eminent characters in the Jewish scriptures as models for their imitation. It requires a considerable exercise of charity, and great allowance to be made for the defect of the dispensation under which they lived, for the force of prejudice, and for the influence of example, to believe, that some, whose characters are highly extolled, were really the best of men; and it should be remembered, that their excellences are often more political than personal. David was "a man after God's own heart," not because of his private character, which was very problematical, but because he exterminated idolatry. And the wisdom of Solomon was mostly philosophical and political. Personally his conduct was marked with folly.
How widely different the character of the very best of those whose history is recorded in the Old Testament, from that of Jesus, as exhibited in the gospel. Here indeed we see the true model of perfection; an example in every particular worthy of imitation. And how came the evangelists to describe such a character as this? Was it their own invention ?—Their uncultivated minds were utterly incapable of forming so sublime a picture. But they had the great original before their eyes. They relate what they saw, and what they heard, and what they felt, and therefore their testimony must be true, and the gospel doctrine must be worthy of all acceptation. By this example we are bound. It is a divine law.
One Jesus which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.
JESUS CHRIST foretold that he should rise the third day. On that day God made good his promise by raising him to life. This was the rock of offence to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness.-That he who expired on the cross was the promised Messiah, the deliverer of Israel, the annointed king of the chosen people of God, whose advent had been foretold in the magnificent language of prophecy, was a mortifying doctrine, to which the prejudiced Jew, bred up with far different views and expectations, could not listen but with indignation and horrour. That a dead man had been restored to life was a tale which naturally excited in the sceptical Gentile a smile of contempt.
Yet this was the fact which the venerable apostle peremptorily affirmed, and steadily and zealously persisted in, at the hazard of his worldly all, his reputation, his liberty, and his life. And his constancy and zeal, however it might be taunted as an object of ridicule by some, and of reproach by others, were in the highest degree reasonable and commendable. For the fact was capable of the most satisfactory proof, and the belief of it was of the most interesting importance.
That Jesus was actually raised from the dead, was fully proved by his repeated personal appearance to those who, having been conversant with him, were best qualified to ascertain the fact: first, to the women who had been his attendants, and whom he had miraculously healed: then to Peter and James: afterwards to the apostles, at different times for the space of forty days and again in Galilee, to more than five hundred disciples at once and last of all to the apostle Paul himself, as to one born out of due time, as he himself expresses it. And the testimony of these faithful witnesses was confirmed to the world by the effusion of the Holy Spirit, and the miracles which they were authorized to perform in the name of Jesus. Evidence more satisfactory than this cannot be conceived by the imagination. It operated conviction in the hearts of thousands. Many of whom bore their public testimony to the truth, and sealed that testimony with their blood.
The consequences of this joyful event are of the highest moment. The resurrection of Jesus fulfilled the scriptures, confirmed his divine mission, and constitute the proof, the pattern, and the pledge of the resurrection of all his faithful followers. Because he lives, we shall live also.
If then, christians, we are convinced of the certainty of these facts, which lie at the foundation of all christian hope, let us act up to the conviction of our understandings. Let us joyfully celebrate the weekly and the annual festivals which bring to our remembrance this great event, the resurrection of our exalted Master. Let us live as those who have immortality in view. Neither mourning over our departed friends as others who have no hope, nor alarmed beyond reason at the prospect of our approaching dissolution: anxious for nothing but to secure the approbation of our final Judge and humbly, but cheerfully hoping that he who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead, will raise up us also by Jesus, to a new, a happy, and immortal life.