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led by some engagement to associate with a minister of the gospel, who had sadly neglected his sacred duties. They journeyed together, and the subject of religion was, indeed, a topic of conversation. But on retiring to rest, being obliged to lodge in the same room, the clergyman undressed, and was soon in bed. The pious man paused, hesitated, and for a short time appeared to doubt what was duty; but, at length,convinced that he was bound to pray, even although he should thereby rebuke a minister of Jesus Christ, he knelt down, while yet the light was unextinguished, and prayed as he was wont. The rebuke was felt; conviction of guilt followed; and, from that time, the unfaithful ambassador became a devoted and laborious servant of Jesus.
But, perhaps, professors who travel, do the cause of Christ even greater injury, by continuing their journey on the sabbath, and thus intermitting the duties appropriate to that day.
I have, indeed, read of those who travelled only till the hour of divine service; when, if they happened to reach a church, they would attend service, and proceed when that was ended. There have been those also, who were quite careful to lay in a stock of good books to peruse, while proceeding on their journey on the sabbath; and not long since, it was stated in a public journal, that a steamboat put out on one of the western lakes, on Saturday evening, or on the morning of the sabbath, with four clergymen on board, who quieted their consciences and the consciences of numerous professors, with the determination of holding divine service on board ; thus serving God, while at the same time they were serving themselves. Dr. Nevins tells us of a lady, who, intending to travel on the sabbath, volunteered this exculpation of herself. “She had travelled one sabbath already since she left home, and she supposed it was no worse to travel on another.”
To the spiritual and conscientious believer, such apologies it must be apparent, are mere excuses to silence an upbraid
ing conscience; to keep up the show of piety and devotion, while, in fact, piety and devotion have little, if any concern in the case.
There are those, however, who have more of the spirit of the conscientious patriarch. They carry their principles, and a pious practice, with them. The late Mr. Evarts, the distinguished secretary of the American Board, being once on his return from a visit to the Missionary stations, among the Indians, was passing up the Mississippi in a steamboat. Just before Saturday night, he informed the captain that it was not his custom to travel on the sabbath, and requested, therefore, to be left at some convenient village on the banks of the river. The captain remonstrated; and, when, at length, the intention of the Secretary became known to the passengers, they also attempted to dissuade him from his purpose. “ Another boat might not come along in days; nay, a fortnight might he be detained.” “ No matter for that,” replied Mr. Evarts, “ Providence will take care. Duty is mine; consequences I must leave with God.” Finding his passenger fixed in purpose, the captain landed him. On the sabbath, Mr. Evarts conducted a religious meeting in the destitute village, at which he had stopped; and on Monday morning another boat came along, on board of which he took passage. It so happened, that the other boat, not long after he left it, broke some portion of her machinery, which so retarded her progress, that the secretary reached his destination on the river about the same time.
Such a regard for the honor of God may be rare; but who will deny its propriety and beauty? And, in this case, we see virtue rewarded. God did not suffer a servant, who wished to honor him, to be retarded in the journey before him. And who can say, that the security in which Abraham travelled among heathen, and even warlike tribes, was not a reward for his “building an altar to the Lord,” whereever he encamped ? He had the courage to show to the
idolatrous nations of Canaan, that he feared the Lord; and he found time to send up the smoke of the expiring victira on the altar, or some other sacrifice, while “he called upon the name of the Lord.”
Recall, for a moment, the journeyings of Paul. Who travelled more than the great apostle of the Gentiles? We read of his visiting some of the most celebrated regions, and renowned cities of the world. “With indefatigable step, he toiled his way over no small portions of Syria, Arabia, Asia Minor, and Europe. He sailed the waters of the Mediterra
He coursed his track among the innumerable islands, that so beautifully stud the Grecian Archipelago. On the soil of ancient Troy, along the classic shores of Greece, at Antioch, Ephesus, Phillippi, Corinth, and Athens, he planted the standard of the cross. But when, or where; whether on the land, or sea; in polished Athens, or in licentious Corinth; before Felix, or while a prisoner near the court of Rome, did this champion of the cross, either through fear, haste, or indifference, fail in the duties of personal piety, or in honoring the cause of his Master ?
PRAYER OF ABRAHAM FOR ISHMAEL.
And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! And God
said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant and with his seed after him. And as for Ishmael I have heard thee: Behold I have blessed him and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly.Gen. xvii. 18-20.
BEFORE us is the first prayer, in form, recorded in the Bible. Let us briefly review the circumstances which gave it birth:
Abraham being called to leave his country, and to go into a strange land, receives from God this gracious promise: "I
will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thec, and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing.” (12. 2.) This promise was at several different times repeated; and, on one occasion, (15. 4,) it was distinctly announced that one should be born to him, who should be heir of the blessings involved in the covenant established between God and his servant.
Ten years, however, from his entrance into the land of Canaan, we find Abraham still childless.
But he appears, notwithstanding his advanced age, not to have doubted the fulfillment of the divine promise, nor to have been impatient at the long delay. Not so with Sarah, his wife. She was solicitous to see a speedy accomplishment of a promise, which would signally contribute to the honor of her family. *As yet, there had been no explicit annunciation that she herself should become a mother; and, as that happiness appeared quite improbable, she concluded that if the promise was to be fulfilled, it must be in the person of another.
Without pausing to reflect upon her culpable distrust of God, or her censurable impatience, it will suffice to say, that she proposes to Abraham to take Hagar, a bond-woman in the family, as his concubine. Abraham inconsiderately listens to this “ weak and carnal expedient,” as if God were at a loss, in what manner to fulfill his own promises, and, therefore, needed the wisdom and aid of his creatures. The year following, Ishmael was born.
From this time, it appears probable that Abraham rested in the belief, that Ishmael was the destined seed; and, consequently, renounced the expectation of any further heir.
But the promise had reference to a son, to be born of his more legitimate wife. Yet, from the birth of Ishmael, thirteen years elapsed, before the views of the patriarch were in this particular corrected, and the full import of the covenant respecting the child of promise was understood.
Sometime in the 99th year of his age, the patriarch re
ceives still another communication from God, who now, for the fifth time, repeats his assurances, gives more particular form and expression to the covenant, and, finally, makes the clear annunciation, that not Ishmael, but a son to be born the following year, is to be the child of promise. Surprised at these tidings, Abraham falls upon his face, and laughs for joy. “Shall a child,” said he,“ be born unto him that is an hundred
old ?" But, in the midst of his exultation, he seems to have paused. A doubt occurred to him, which struck a damp upon him. He had long regarded Ishmael as the child of promise; the affections of his heart had centered in him, and they had strengthened as years added to his age: but, now, it is announced that Ishmael is to be set aside.
And what is to become of him? The inquiry was natural, and does honor to the father's heart. He imagined, may be, that Ishmael was to be removed from life, to make way for the expected heir; or that the signal favors to be bestowed upon the latter would diminish the prosperity and blessings, which he had anticipated for the former. Abraham, therefore, like a fond father, seizes the moment of his disquietude to pray that his apprehensions in relation to Ishmael may be removed: "O that Ishmael may live before thee!" May he live, and may he prosper; may he enjoy the distinguished temporal blessings formerly promised to him: and, perhaps, we shall not err, if we include in this ardent supplication such an interest in spiritual good, as would, if rightly improved, insure his eternal life.
To this supplication for Ishmael, God replied, that the covenant containing the promise of the Messiah, and all its related privileges and blessings, should be established with Isaac, as he had already determined. But he had not, and would not cast off his other son. “As for Ishmael, I have heard thee;" and he goes on to assure the anxious and inquiring father, in what manner he would bless him.