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Soon after this God again appeared to Abraham, and annexed to the command for his farther removal the promise that he should become the father of a great nation, and that in him should all the families of the earth be blessed. That the latter part of this declaration had reference to the Messiah, the promised seed of the woman, there can be no doubt. Your father Abraham, said Jesus to the Jews, rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad. How did he see the day of Christ? I answer, he saw it by faith in God's promise; he saw it, indeed, afar off as respects time, but, believing in the word of Jehovah, he was enabled to roll back the curtain of the future, and to rejoice in things to come as though they were already present.
In obedience to this second call, Abraham departed with his wife and nephew into Palestine, then inhabited by the descendants of Ham, and called Canaan. Unto thy seed, says the Almighty, will I give this land, and there, as in every other place where Abraham sojourned, he built an altar unto the Lord; that is, he avowed publicly his belief in the true God. He did this in the midst of idolatry and superstition, and is in this respect an exemplar of the wise man's injunction, In all thy ways acknowledge God, and he shall direct thy paths. It is comparatively an easy matter to appear religious in the presence of those who fear God, but, alas! how many act as if ashamed of their profession, ashamed of their Redeemer when thrown into the company of the scorner and the skeptic.
While dwelling in Canaan Abraham's faith was put to a severe test. The first famine of which history gives any account occurred in that land so renowned for its remarkable fertility; a famine sent by Heaven as a punishment for the wickedness of the inhabitants; as says the Psalmist. He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the water springs into dry ground; a fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein. It was, says Moses, a grievous famine; and a less lively faith than Abraham's would have been staggered at this unexpected event, and driven him back to his native land.
During the prevalence of this famine Abraham retired with his possessions, for a season, into Egypt; and while there,
knowing the dissolute character of the Egyptians, he directed Sarah to call herself his sister, which assertion, although literally true, she being the daughter of Terah by another mother, was in fact and reality designed to make a false impression, and consequently partook of the essence and the guilt of an untruth. His conduct in this respect is not, of course, held up for imitation; and it is remarkable that by the very act he fell into the danger which he had hoped thereby to avoid. As appears from the history, if he had told the whole truth in the first instance, he would have escaped that danger into which both himself and his wife were plunged by his unmanly prevarication. The sacred writer relates the simple fact, with its consequences, leaving us to deduce from it a practical lesson for our own guidance; that lesson is that, in addition to the guilt of prevarication in the sight of God, it is always accompanied by danger more or less to all who indulge it. Truth is a straight line, a plain path; he who walks therein is safe, for God is there, while he who wanders from this path, by direct falsehood, by equivocation, or by the suppression of essential facts, entangles himself in a labyrinth wherein he may not hope for the protection or the blessing of the Almighty. Indeed, to leave out of the question the retributions of eternity; to say nothing even of peace of conscience, or the approbation of God, the plain truth is always most easy, most safe, most honorable.
Soon after the famine to which we have adverted Abraham returned to Canaan, where he again seeks and obtains the favor of God. He pitches his tent at Bethel, a city at that time called Luz, which word signifies an almond. It was so called, probably, from the number of almond-trees which grew in those parts. We shall see hereafter why the name was changed to Bethel. And there, says the sacred writer, where he had built an altar at first, he again calls upon the name of the Lord. Himself and his nephew Lot, for they still continued together, being blessed in their temporal affairs, and having become rich in the possession of flocks and herds a quarrel arose between their respective herdsmen. this matter the character of Abraham appears in an amiable and instructive light. Let there, says he, be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between
my herdsmen and thy herdsmen, for we are brethren. We are brethren! A touching remark, full of benignity and kindness, and giving one of the very best arguments against contention and strife. How would peace and harmony be promoted in the world, and especially in the Church and in the family circle, by a recurrence, on the first buddings of alienated affection, to the simple truth, We are brethren; brethren, if not because seated around the same domestic fireside, still brethren because children of one common Father and destined for one common home. Let there, therefore, be no strife between us. It is one of the strange anomalies of human nature, too, that just in proportion to the nearness of the contending parties is the strength, the bitterness, and the endurance of their animosity. A lawsuit between children of the same parents is frequently protracted until there is nothing left for either; a family quarrel is proverbial not less for its folly than its severity; and when contention is fairly started among those who are united in Church fellowship, who have pledged themselves at the same altar to love each other with pure hearts fervently, it becomes very often a raging fire that many waters cannot quench. Examples are abundant both in our own experience and on the page of history. I need not, therefore, dwell upon them, but would, if possible, so fix upon your minds the conduct of Abraham in this matter, that it may prove a ruling principle in all after life. Let there be no strife between thee and thy brother, thy fellow-disciple, or thy fellow-man, but as far as lieth in thee, live peaceably with all men. But this will require sacrifices; I shall be obliged to yield sometimes, even when I know that I am in the right. Very likely. It is better, far better, in any supposable case, to suffer wrong than to do wrong, and patient endurance is godlike. Mark here the conduct of Abraham. Instead of contesting the point with his nephew, or even of inquiring into the merits of the quarrel between their respective herdsmen, he proposes an amicable separation, and he does this in a manner that exhibits in a pleasing light his humility, his moderation, and his love of peace. Behold, says he, the land is all before thee; take thy choice; if thou wilt take the left hand, I will take the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to
the left. Abraham was the older man. On that ground, if on no other, he might have assumed the right to choose for himself first. If one must yield, the common courtesies of life would have said it ought to be the nephew, the younger. But the choice was offered to Lot, and he took it. He lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan that it was well watered everywhere, even as the garden of the Lord; and Lot chose all the plain of Jordan; and he journeyed east, and they separated themselves the one from the other.
Soon after this event we are introduced to Abraham in a new character-as a man of war. Intelligence is brought to him that by a confederacy of the petty kings of the Euphrates and the adjoining countries Lot and his family have been taken prisoners, and carried into captivity. With great promptness he summons together his numerous attendants, and we behold, says Hunter, the good old man exchanging his shepherd's crook for the warrior's spear, and rushing with all the ardor and impetuosity of youth upon the insolent oppressor. In this important and interesting transaction we know not which most to admire, the strong natural affection which prompted him to fly to the rescue of his nephew; his honest indignation at violence and wrong; the skill with which he planned his enterprise; the boldness with which he executed it; the moderation with which he exercised his victory; or his disinterestedness in declining any share of the fruits of it for himself. Taken all together, they constitute unequivocal and brilliant proof of a mind truly noble and dignified. This is the same man, who, for the sake of peace with a brother, gave up a just claim to a junior and inferior, who now, in the cause of the oppressed and the injured, is not afraid to attack a numerous host, headed by princes and flushed with victory. With whom, then, asks a celebrated writer, does true magnanimity reside? Surely with the humble and condescending. The man who has subdued his own spirit is invinci ble. Behold in this the nature and the foundation of true courage. It is not to make light of life; it is not to rush like the horse into the battle. It is to fear God; it is to be calm and composed in danger; it is to possess hope beyond the grave; it is to be superior to the pride, and incapable of the insulting triumph of suc
See, too, how the kindred graces
and virtues delight to reside in unity and harmony in the bosom of a good man! Is a man pious? Then he is humble. Is he humble? Then meek and condescending; then bold, then just, then generous, then merciful. The good man is aptly compared by the sacred writers to a tree, a tree which beareth fruit, and this fruit hangs in clusters, never solitary and alone. The King of Sodom said unto Abraham, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself; evidently intending that Abraham should thus be repaid for his toil and his success. But Abraham replied, I have lifted up my hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take from a thread, even to a shoe latchet, and that I will not take anything that is thine, lest thou: shouldst say, I have made Abraham rich. It was on his return from this exploit that Abraham was met by one of high dignity, yet of a mysterious character. He is called Melchizedec, and united in his own person the offices of priest and king. He was King of Salem, supposed by some to have been the same city which was afterward called Jerusalem, and a priest of the most high God. By this it would seem that even among the idolaters of that age there were those who retained the knowledge of the true God, and who worshiped Jehovah. Into the mysteries which surround this man's character I enter not. That he was a type of Christ, who is our great high priest, and king of Salem, or king of peace, as the word Salem literally means, is the general opinion founded on the express declaration of the apostle. Jesus, says he, made a priest forever after the order of Melchizedec; and in this he appears to have merely quoted from the prophetic declaration of the psalmist : The Lord hath sworn and will not repent. Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedec. The Scripture narrative informs us that on this occasion he came forth to congratulate Abraham on his success; that they interchanged mutual acts of courtesy and kindness. Melchizedec brought him refreshments of bread and wine, and, as a priest, pronounced upon the patriarch the benediction of his God. In return, Abraham acknowledged in him the authority of Jehovah; and, as a token of gratitude for his success, and an acknowledgment that he owed his all to God, he gave tithes of everything to Melchizedec.
Soon after this we are introduced to apother transaction which shows in a striking light the intimacy subsisting between Abraham and his God. He had left, as we have seen, his native land, under a special promise that God would multiply his descendants as the stars of heaven, and that in him should all the nations of the earth be blessed. Years had elapsed since the giving of that promise; it was yet unfulfilled, and to all human appearance not likely to be fulfilled. And Abraham had ventured to question the Lord. Seeing, said he, I am childless, and a stranger, Eliezer of Damascus is likely to be my heir; what wilt thou give unto me, or how shall thy promise be fulfilled? In reply to this inquiry the word of the Lord, it is said, appeared unto him in a vision by night, and said, Fear not, Abraham, I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward; and he brought him forth and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them; and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. Who was it that thus appeared to the patriarch, and addressed him in this language? Who declared himself his shield, that is, his protector and defense, and his exceeding great reward? or, as the Hebrew might have been rendered, his superlatively multiplied reward? Moses says it was the word of the Lord who thus appeared and made these promises. In the New Testament, and especially in John's Gospel, we have the full explanation of this term. We are told there, that the word was God, and that the word was made flesh. And these assertions, taken in connection with the passage before us, at once attest Abraham's acquaintance with the promised Messiah, and the supreme divinity of Jesus Christ.
It was the word of the Lord that appeared to Abraham; it was the word that was made flesh it was the word to whom Abraham addressed the language of supreme adoration, calling him Lord God: and, finally, it was in this same Lord that it is said Abraham believed, and it was counted to him for righteousness.
Having arrived at this period of our narrative, let us pause and dwell a moment on the plan of salvation by faith, now explicitly declared and revealed with still increasing clearness as the Sun of righteousness arose higher and higher in the moral heavens; and at length reached its
fidelity and the grace by which copies may be made from the best modern paintings, and their beauties, in every particular, save that of color, presented to our readers. For most of the selections from which our artist makes his selections we are indebted to a London publication bearing our own name, THE NATIONAL MAGAZINE, but our junior by five or six years.
Our first copy is from a painting by J. Archer, on a subject which just now appeals with peculiar force to the people of England; a subject, indeed, always calculated to awaken thrilling emotions among all people, for of wars and rumors of wars the world is full. In time of war! What doleful words; how significant they are of suffering, endurance, terror, and death; how suggestive of sorrow, bitterness, disappointment, and anger! Hearing them, we must always think of a long track of agony and grief left behind, as after the passage of a fiery flood, coming as it were to clear a sullen and overladen atmosphere with a terrible purification and a burning relief. But most of us heed few of these things, rather regarding the pomp, the splendor, the glorious valor and victorious fortitude which accompany and characterize them, than giving heed to the low, still voices of bereaved ones at home; nor do we regard the sad following of all these superhuman triumphs, when men, recovering from wounds, lead lives of dull languor, passing through an existence weakened and exhausted by suffering, and sink with mournful gladness to an early grave.
meridian glory, when there was a voice heard upon our earth proclaiming, I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. And what was Abraham's faith that was counted to him for righteousness? An answer to this question will settle another that has given rise to much controversy, and perplexed some minds which were honestly seeking after truth, namely, What is it to believe in Christ? Let us review for a moment the history of the father of the faithful. When he was called to go forth from the home of his fathers, he knew not whither he was going; whether his condition would be bettered by the exchange or not; whether he should meet with friends or enemies. Why, then, did he go? I answer, first, because he had satisfactory evidence that God called him; and, secondly, because he had confidence in the ability and the willingness of God to perform his promise. His view of the character of Jehovah gave him a tranquil assurance that He would do all things well. This was the faith of Abraham. How did he give evidence of its existence? I answer, in the only way in which it was possible to give this evidence, by obeying God. Let us apply the case to ourselves: we are sinners, condemned by the law of God, unhappy now, and likely to be unhappy forever. Unto us there is a voice that calls: Come unto me, and I will give you rest. Who is it that calls? It is the voice of the blessed Jesus, the same voice which Abraham heard in the plains of Chaldea. What does he require of us? Not to forsake our homes, to bid adieu to our native land, but to surrender ourselves into his hands, to give ourselves up entire-flocks shudderingly huddle together. The ly to him, and to consent to be saved by him in his own way. And this is faith-that faith which will be counted to us for righteousness, when we give evidence of its existence in the only way in which that evidence can be given.
COPIES FROM MODERN PAINTINGS.
HE art of engraving on wood has
a high of perfection.
Previous numbers of this magazine bear ample testimony to the fact, and still the motto of the artist is Excelsior. In the present volume we propose to exhibit the
The scene before us is a glimpse into a household at home, when the rumors of war and tales from distant battle-fields darken the homestead like flying winter clouds, beneath whose chilling gloom the
painting suggests to us that the elder lady, into whose hands a letter from some beloved son (probably the husband of the younger, and father of the child before us) has fallen, conveying news of wounds or defeat, approaches the wife, and painfully hesitates to communicate the evil tidings. With faltering steps she has come down the long garden-paths, through the gathering gloom of the evening-gloom darkly
where are the young wife and child of him whose misfortune has to be made known; a misfortune greater, perhaps, to them than to him. The child neglects its