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here be remarked :1. That the first prayer in form, recorded in the Bible, was that of a father in behalf of a child.
Was there design in this ? Did God intend to show to parents in all future time, by giving the example of Abraham so early and prominent a place in the Inspired Volume, how parents should feel, and how they should pray for their children? Many parents put forth unwearied effort for the worldly prosperity, and advancement of their children, but they seldom or never pray for them. If they could do but one-better, far better, to pray; but both may be consistently combined; yet prayer should have the preeminence.
2. This first prayer asked more than God had offered to bestow.
The patriarch did not ask for a reversal of the divine decision. Although he had long cherished the belief, that Ishmael was the promised heir, and that the covenant was to descend to him, when informed that Isaac, and not Ishmael, was
the divine choice, he at once cheerfully acquiesces. It is not our prerogative to prescribe to God; nor, when his will is revealed, should we wish it altered. Heavenly Father allows his children to plead with Him for other and larger blessings, than at any time he has promised. This Abraham did. God had made no distinct and special promises to Ishmael, but great and incomprehensible blessings to Isaac. Grateful for these in prospect, Abraham ventures to intercede for blessings for Ishmael. The bestowment of great blessings should lead us humbly to seek for still greater. Blessings bestowed upon one child should not deter parents from soliciting favors for another.
In this connection, it may be observed, that parents, especially those who have large families, are often guilty of a singular and surprising wrong to the grace of God. They seem to apprehend, that if several of their children are converted, it is all they may expect. But why not all? Where
is the intimation that some of any family must necessarily perish? Alas! while some, perhaps, of almost every large family do perish, may it not be imputed to this most unwarrantable and mischievous assumption to which we have adverted? The apprehension is indulged, in the first instance, that the grace of God must be limited; and, hence, after the conversion of some, prayer and effort are,
in a most cruel degree, suspended in relation to the others. This was not the reasoning or the practice of Abraham. He considers the divine liberality, in respect to Isaac, no obstacle to the solicitation of blessings for Ishmael. Let parents, who have converted children be indeed grateful; but let them remember that, notwithstanding this, they may pray for those out of the covenant, as earnestly and importunately, as if none were converted; nay, they may urge blessings bestowed, as a good argument, why others should follow.
3. This first prayer was immediately answered.
“O that Ishmael may live before thee,” was the humble supplication of the believing patriarch; and the prompt reply of a gracious and prayer-hearing God was, "as for Ishmael, I have heard thee.”
Parents! do you wish for a higher warrant to pray for your children--for all your children, than is here presented ? The first prayer recorded in the Bible is that of a parent in behalf of a child: that prayer asked for more blessings than had been promised; and, finally, that prayer was immediately answered.
The example of Abraham is a beacon-light, which may well guide parents to a God, who hears prayer for children!
INTERCESSION OF ABRAHAM FOR SODOM.
And Abraham drew near and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the
wicked ? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein ? &c.-Gen. xviii. 23-33.
This eighteenth chapter opens with a beautiful delineation of oriental manners. A tent erected; flocks and herds grazing around; and Abraham reposing at the door of his tent, during the heat of the day. While thus engaged, he raises his eyes and sees three strangers approaching. Instantly he rises and hastes to meet them; unsolicited, he admits them to all the rights of hospitality. Water is brought to wash their feet; ample provision is made; the table is spread under the friendly shade of a tree, and Abraham himself performs the office of waiter.”
It is generally agreed, that two of these strangers were created angels; but, from the context, it has been inferred, that the third was the Eternal Son, visibly appearing in human form. Indeed, there is no intimation in the narrative of any other appearance than the three men, whom Abraham entertains. No allusion to the Shekinah, or Divine Manifestation, when Abraham prays, as, in the subsequent part of the chapter, he is represented as doing, in behalf of Sodom; but the narrative seems to represent, that when he “stood before the Lord,” he addressed one of the three. During the whole interview, one of the personages has the prëeminence, and talks as having power and authority within himself.
Two objects seem to have brought the strangers to the tent of Abraham: the first, to announce to the patriarch and his wife the time of Isaac's birth; and the second, to communicate to the former the destruction of Sodom, which they were on their way to perform. 19. 13.
The first message having been delivered, two of the messengers arose, and directed their way towards the guilty city; but the principal personage tarried behind. Abraham, probably, in deference to a custom of the times, accompanied the two a short distance, and then returning, “stood before the Lord.”
Two reasons are assigned for letting Abraham know of the approaching doom of Sodom: the first is, the dignity and importance of his character, and the great things, which God had proposed to do for him. When God has begun to do good to his servants, he follows them with still accumulating mercies.
The second reason is, that Abraham would make a good use of the intelligence; he would naturally relate the divine communication to his family; he would point to it, as the consequence of bold transgression, and thus employ it to warn his household" to keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment." Thus the intelligence, se solemnly announced beforehand, would contribute to the accomplishment of the divine purpose and promise, in respect to the future enlargement of Abraham's posterity; who, being a people instructed in the way of the Lord, might be consistently blessed, with all the blessings promised to their pious ancestor. Perhaps, also, although not mentioned in the narrative, the Lord designed to furnish Abraham with an opportunity to exercise his benevolent affections in pleading for Sodom; especially for Lot, who was within its tainted atmosphere, and also to prove his righteousness in destroying a city, in which not ten righteous persons were to be found.
The announcement is made. Whether amazement might have at first filled the heart of the patriarch, we soon find him intent on rescuing the guilty city from her impending doom. He could not, indeed, interpose a shield, if he would, between her and a justly indignant God; nor could he, by any art or force, stay, for one moment, the storm which was
now ready to sweep with desolating fury through the vale of Siddim; but he had one resort, one duty, one privilege--he could pray ; and he 66
commences one of the most remarkable instances of human intercession to be met with in the whole compass of revelations; one in which the tender and sympathizing benevolence of Abraham, on the one hand, and the astonishing clemency and forbearance of Jehovah, on the other, are portrayed in colors, such as the pencil of inspiration alone could present."
At first, Abraham seems to have contemplated the preservation of the righteous only: “ wilt thou destroy the righteous with the wicked ?" But he soon enlarges his views of the divine mercy,
and his intercession thence has a corresponding wider scope: "spare not only the righteous, but, for their sakes, the wicked also."
This narrative may lead us to remark :1. Upon the benevolence of good men.
Abraham, no doubt, abhorred the wickedness of Sodom, and he did not intimate that God would not be just in her contemplated destruction. But he felt deeply in view of the approaching doom of her inhabitants. He wished that they might be spared, if consistent with the honor of God; and he addresses himself to effect their salvation, in the only possible way, in which he can act, with any hope of success. He prays-prays.most fervently-prays most importunately, This is a beautiful trait in the character of all good men. They dread the doom of the ungodly. They ardently desire their salvation, and often pour forth their supplications with many tears, that, if possible, they may be spared.
2. The importance of the righteous to a wicked world
“They are well termed the 'light of the world, and the salt of the earth,' for, without them, the world would be immersed in total darkness, and speedily become one mass of corruption. Little do the world think, how much they are indebted to God's people. If only ten persons of this char