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eous were not to be found, and consequently the threatened destruction came upon the cities of the plain. The Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.
The site formerly occupied by these cities is now a lake of water known as the Dead or Salt Sea. It will form the subject of a future essay.
About twelve months after this, namely, in the year from the creation 2108, when Abraham had reached the one hundredth year of his age, and Sarah her ninety-first, the long-delayed promise is fulfilled, and a son is born. They give unto him the name Isaac, and passing over the years of his childhood and youth we arrive at the most severe of Abraham's trials, an
manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. Here we see exemplified in a remarkable manner that saying of the Saviour: the righteous are the salt of the earth. Had there been fifty righteous in Sodom, for their sakes, it had not been destroyed. We see also that love to God produces love to man; Abraham prays for the ungodly and intercedes for the trangressors. Peradventure, he continues, there shall lack five of the fifty righteous. Behold now, I have taken upon me, who am but dust and ashes, to speak unto the LORD. Wilt thou destroy the city for lack of five? And God answered, If I find there forty and five I will not destroy it. And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Perad-event so strange, so unexpected, so unventure there shall be found forty there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's sake. Abraham continues, O, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Perad-spiration. It came to pass that God did venture there shall thirty be found there. And God said, I will not do it if I find thirty there. And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake. Abraham makes one more appeal; and he says, O let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there; and the Lord answered again, I will not destroy it for ten's sake. It is highly probable that Abraham supposed that certainly ten righteous persons would be found in Sodom, and therefore desisted from his supplication under the belief that the impending doom would be averted for their sakes.
With what humility, and yet with what boldness does Abraham pray! How wonderfully is every petition answered on the spot! and God ceases to promise to show mercy only when his servant ceases to intercede! What encouragement is there here to perseverance in prayer, for our neighbors and for those with whom we associate! What a persuasive for fathers and mothers to faint not in their supplications for those children who are even yet without God and without hope!
like the requirement of a God of mercy, that it would be in itself incredible did it not come to us attested by the pen of in
tempt, or, as it ought to have been rendered, did try Abraham, as if in the comparison all his former trials had been as dust in the balance, and of no account. The immolation of human victims on the altar of an imaginary god had been practiced by many idolatrous nations. It was a common custom among the worshipers of Moloch thus to sacrifice the most precious, the favorite, the first-born. In allusion to which custom the prophet Micah asks: Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? Such offerings God himself had taught his people were an utter abomination in his sight; yet there comes to Abraham, in the stillness of the night, a strangely mysterious voice: Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains that I will tell thee of. What language is this! and what is the spontaneous train of feeling and thought that passes through the mind of the father as he assures himself that it is indeed the voice of his God that he hears! Take thy son, thine only son, thy beloved son. Take him where? for what? To invest him with the honors of the promise
It seems, however, that the ten right- so oft repeated? to put him in possession
of his destined inheritance? Alas, no! Take him to his death. Take him, thou, his father, and offer him up upon the al
known, as is supposed, in after ages, by the hallowed name of Calvary. And Isaac spoke unto Abraham and said, My Shed thou his blood, and witness father! and he said, Here am I, my son. his dying pang! What a host of objec- And he said, Behold the fire and the tions to this requirement readily occur to wood, but where is the lamb for a burntthe mind of Abraham had he been dis- offering? I know not that there is in the posed to make them. As for instance: whole compass of the book of God a pasWhat is to become of the promise which sage of more subduing and thrilling pathos declared that in Isaac shall thy seed be than this question of the innocent Isaac, called? What will the very heathen addressed at this moment to a father torn round about say when it becomes known by contending emotions of parental affecto them that I, a father, have shed the tion and of trust and confidence in the blood of mine own son by thy command? promises of God. My father, where is How then, with these hands reeking in the lamb for the burnt-offering? Still blood, shall I argue with them who know Abraham conceals his purpose, and anthee not, that thou art a God of infinite swers, My son, God will provide himself tenderness and compassion? And O! a lamb! He spoke prophetically, and had above all, with what face shall I return to reference, doubtless, to that sacrifice the lad's mother, and tell her that her son, known emphatically as the “Lamb of her only son, hath died by his father's hand. God." And now the altar is built; the The direction appears to have been wood is placed in order; all things are given to Abraham at night, and very severe ready. By some of the Jewish writers doubtless was the mental conflict during a dialogue is here given as passing bethe hours of darkness, yet he murmurs not; tween the father and the son, pathetic, but he does not even acquaint Sarah with his doubtless imaginary merely. The sacred purpose, fearing, perhaps, lest a mother's writer leaves it with the reader in a simtenderness should interpose and prevent ple narrative of facts. Certainly, nothing that obedience which God required, and but the conviction that he was acting in embarrass or overpower his faith. On obedience to the command of Him whom the ensuing morning Abraham, it is said, he was bound in all things to obey could rose up early and made the necessary have sustained the patriarch, and nerved preparation for the task imposed upon him to the dreadful task. Nor must we him, and in company with Isaac departed overlook the conduct of Isaac on this octoward the place of which God had told casion. He was not, as some have suphim. They journeyed on three days, dur- posed, a mere child, incapable of resisting which ample "leisure," says Bush, ance; on the contrary, he had reached "was afforded for reflection; the powerful his thirty-third year, and had he not also pleadings of nature would make them- been fully satisfied that the requirement selves heard; parental affection had time was from God would certainly have reto revive; and the sight, the society, and fused thus to be offered up, thus in the the conversation of Isaac could not but prime of life to die. And now, amid combine to shake the steadfastness of his mutual tears, the last kiss is given, they faith, and urge him to return. Had the bid each other farewell to meet again in command been for an instantaneous sacri- that better world at the resurrection of fice, the struggle, though severe, would the just. With unfaltering faith the hand have been short, and comparatively easy." of the father is stretched forth; the trial But every hour's delay increased the se- is complete, the victory is gained, and verity of the trial, and heightened the ag- God's voice is heard bidding him stay his ony of the father's soul. hand, and accepting the will for the deed. Now I know, says he, that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me!
At length Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place of which God had told him. With an unfaltering faith and a serene countenance he dismisses his attendants; lays the wood for the burnt-offering upon his son, and bearing himself the knife and the fire, the two ascend with slow and measured pace the mountain
The conclusion of Abraham's history, with that of Sarah and Isaac, will form the subject of a succeeding number. Let us for a moment consider the design of the Almighty in the remarkable transaction
to which our attention has been directed. This design, I apprehend, was twofold: first, an exhibition of faith calculated for the instruction and encouragement of God's people in all ages, and secondly, to present a lively type of that sacrificial death whereby salvation is offered unto a world lying in wickedness. And first, the subject before us is eminently calculated to induce confidence in God. Abraham believed when all around was dark, and this faith produced obedience prompt, cheerful, unmurmuring. God had, indeed, said, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. The same God had said, Take that son, that same Isaac, and offer him up upon the altar. The question then naturally arising was, How can the promise be fulfilled? That question seems not to have troubled the patriarch at all. He was well assured that God's promise could not fail; that his love could find a thousand ways to foolish man unknown. He knew, says the apostle, that God was able to raise his Isaac from the dead. And what a practical lesson is here.
Trials in this life are what the Christian is taught to expect, and how, O how, when they come in like a flood, shall he be delivered from them? What can sustain the sinking soul when called to give up the dearest and nearest friend to close the eyes of a husband or a wife; to listen to the agonizing shrieks of a beloved child as they grow fainter and fainter, and the luster of the innocent eye grows dim, and the heart so warm and true becomes cold and still! I answer, faith in God can do all this. It can wipe away the tear of sorrow, and nerve the soul, as it did that of the patriarch when he offered up without a murmur his well beloved son to the God who gave him. True faith, the faith of Abraham, is nothing more and nothing less than an abiding, steadfast assurance that God will do all things well. It is evinced by obediently walking in the way
of God's commandments.
see more at length, when considering the history of Isaac, is the parallel between his offering and that of the world's Redeemer upon the same mountain, when the fullness of time had come. Abraham, when the trial of his faith was complete, and his only son had been virtutually offered, called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh, as it is said to this day: In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen. What shall be seen? Evidently the manner by which God's love to a lost world was to be exemplified in the father giving his only son to die upon the cross. Thus, from that time onward to the advent of the Redeemer, there was, to those who possessed the writings of Moses, a lively figure of the offering up of the Son of God for the sins of the world. It was but a figure, a type, a shadow. Unto us God has made known the glorious reality. Unto us there comes a voice calling our attention away from Isaac; it comes unto us from the excellent glory, proclaiming to all the dwellers upon our earth, Behold, behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world!
MRS. BROWNING'S POEMS.
T has been said that Mrs. Browning's
IT been said Mrs.
Goethe, and John Keats, more closely than with any other of her poet-predecessors the religious element in her character bringing her into alliance with the first, while her intimacy with the spiritworld is eminently Goethean, and the Greek classic model on which much of her imagery of life is formed recalls the manner of Keats. Her relationship to Tennyson is still more obvious. "Even Miss Barrett, whom we take," says Mr. Leigh Hunt," to be the most imaginative poetess that has appeared in England, perhaps in Europe, and who will attain to great eminence if the fineness of her vein can but outgrow a certain morbidity, reminds her readers of the peculiarities of cotemporary genius. She is like an ultrasensitive sister of Alfred Tennyson." In which likeness, moreover, Leontius celebrates her in verse as well as prose; for he thus introduces her at the Feast of the Violets:
This transaction had another object besides the mere trial and exhibition of Abraham's faith. It was to show him in a striking light the manner in which all the families of the earth should be blessed in him. In other words, it was a prefiguration of the sacrifice of Christ, and Abraham was enabled to see and feel by what means this great end should be accomA young lady then, whom to miss were a caret plished. Very remarkable, as we shall❘ In any verse-history, named, I think. Barrett,
(I took her at first for a sister of Tennyson) Knelt and received the god's kindliest benison. "Truly," said he," dost thou share the bless'd
Poetic, the fragrance as well as the flower;
If she is chargeable with being too often diffuse—with not always journeying on without pause or retrogression, so that occasionally her garments are seen floating or dragging, and she has sometimes "given out the idea, before she has given up her verse"-it is a charge made most
hesitatingly by her admirers, for, say they, what a loss it were, if in getting rid of what we may fancy to be her defects, she were to lose any of what we know to be her beauties. "And perhaps what we think we see amiss in her is only that dross which forms part of every ore in which lies the true metal, and she may in this respect only resemble, after all, Milton, and Shakspeare, and-Nature." Even her mannerisms are precious to some of her disciples; partly from their being so easily caught, copied, and exaggerated by sentimental mimics. The failures of these personages, as a writer on Shelley has
fault-finding, or finding out faults. What, But a truce to the sorry occupation of after all, are they among so many" beauties that make up the staple of Mrs Browning's delicate white handiwork?
have seen her on bended knees, "with pale-wrung hands and prayings low and
Exquisite in feeling and expressionallowing in the latter case, as usual, for frequent mannerism-is many a contribution of hers to the Poetry of the Affections. The picture, for example, in "Isabel's Child," of the young mother sitting motionless, a wistful, lonely watcher, by the side of her dying baby-" pale as baby remarked, furnish in the end tests of criticarved in stone, and seen by glimpses of cism which are perhaps among the truest the moon, in a dark cathedral aisle." She that can be applied; for they are certain to caricature and over-do peculiarities, hour for eight long, agonizing days, days has watched the hours depart, hour after until the very style of their model palls of suspense and the sickness of hope deon the public appetite, and, out of all pa-ferred; hours whose coming and going tience with the affectation, mannerism, and false taste of these sectaries, the world associates the merits of the original with the faults to which they have given birth: whereupon ensues the critical moment for the eventual fame of that original; who, if endowed with sound and genuine qualities, will shake off these importunate encumbrances and float again; if not, will by them be dragged to the bottom. Meanwhile, for a good deal of bad grammar and bad poetry, perpetrated by imitators who take her word (or words) for law, Mrs. Browning is virtually responsible, by such lyrics and lines of hers as tell how Bertha "fell flooded with a Dark," or of "the heavenly Infinite falling off from our Created," or how "the full sense of your mortal rushed upon you loud and deep," or of "chanting down the Golden," of "the whole bush in a tremble green," etc. rhymes are very often defective or culpable; negatively or positively bad. "Eden"
broken;" hours shadowed with awful fore-
O, take not, Lord, my babe away:
Doth make the whole warm earth a'cold!
Instead of slumber; nor to prayer
No face from me of friend or lover!
The picture, again, however fainter in hue and lighter in effect, of the happy child in "The Deserted Garden," as seen, in pensive retrospect, by that child's sobered, saddened self, altera et eadem, in after years.
And that, in a still lighter vein, of Little Ellie sitting alone among the beeches of the meadow, on the stream
side's grassy covering-now dipping her
feet in the shallow water's flow, and now holding them "nakedly in her hands, all sleek and dripping, while she rocketh to and fro;" her thoughts shaping out, at the impulse of plastic fancy, the lover who shall woo and win her, a lover noble of form, mounted on red-roan steed; and to whom, and whom alone, she will dis
That swan's nest among the reeds. And that of Bertha's sister, recalling, on her meek death-bed, the scene she had beheld, the words she had heard, under "boughs of May-bloom" in the lane; striving as she dies of a broken-heart to comfort the bruised heart of others; altogether, indeed, as it has no way carelessly been called, "the purest picture of a
This, and cognate forms of expression, we cannot view with the same favor as Mrs. Browning. Especially objectionable is the form "Dear God!" which, to some minds, has the unhappy effect of coming in once and again to mar an otherwise beautiful passage, as in the most moving "Lay of the Brown Rosary,"
"Then breaking into tears, 'Dear God,' she cried, ‘and must we see
All blissful things depart from us, or ere we go to THEE," etc.
Mr. Kingsley's fictions and reviews are similarly chargeable with the repetition of the phrase "God's earth," etc. Nothing more easily degenerates into jargon than this sort of diction.
broken heart that ever drew tears from the eyes of woman or of man." And that of her who being dead yet speaketh in the "Poet's Vow." And that of the stately Lady Geraldine, approaching low-born Bertram "slowly, slowly, in a gliding measured pace,
With her two white hands extended, as if praying one offended,
And a look of supplication, gazing earnest in his face"
while he gazes, rapt in ecstasy as fond as ever thrilled Leontes gazing on Hermione marbled in living flesh, and is swoon to death in the too utter ready to life" brought by this apparition of his love
But perhaps superior to all in pathetic
earnestness and depth, is the farewell of Catarina to Camöens.
There are frequent touches in Mrs. Browning's poems, not so commonly noticed as they deserve, significant of peculiar skill in producing a kind of weird and eerie impression, by certain interjectional details, or thrilling asides, or subdued terrors, pertaining to the ghostly element in the consciousness or the imagination of man. The Lay of the Brown Rosary shows a master-hand in this class of composition. Detached fragments might be instanced from various other lays or legends. As exemplifying, however, in its least direct but not least stirring expression, the art to which we refer, take some lines from "Bertha in the Lane;" where the dying girl's simple narrative of a too painful past is interrupted now and then by surmises, startings, startled questionings, that wonderfully deepen and determine the interest of the scene :
Had he seen thee, when he swore
To our kin in Sidmouth town.
Could we blame him with grave words,