« السابقةمتابعة »
ledge it, and according to some writers, call it "the sea of Lot." Mr. Maundrel, who has written an account of A Journey to Aleppo, was even told by two aged persons of probity, that they had actually seen pillars, and other fragments of buildings, in the water near the shore, but he could not discover them.
Abram having removed his tents from Bethel to the plain of Mamre, in the mean time receives more explicit conffrmation of the promises. His name is changed to Abraham, and that of his wife to Sarah.* "I will bless her," said the divine oracle," and give thee a son of her, and thou shalt call his name Isaac, and she shall be a mother of nations, and kings of people shall be of her. Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river Euphrates; they shall be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years. And also that nation whom they shall serve will I judge, and afterwards shall they come out with great substance.” (B. C. 1897).
CHARLES. Had the natives been acquainted with these prophecies, they would not have suffered this distinguished stranger to remain among them.
MRS. M. Perhaps not. But his character and immense riches procured him respect. He must have been an eminent person at this time, for we read of his taking three hundred and eighteen trained servants, born in his house, to rescue his kinsman Lot, who had been seized
* Hebrew names, unlike ours, which are entirely arbitrary, were significant. Abraham and Sarab, our philologists translate, "the heads or progenitors of a multitude," according with the spirit of the annexed prophecy.
with all his, at the sacking of Sodom in a quarrel amongst the petty princes of the vale of Siddim.
Journeying still farther south, Abraham came into Philistia on the border of the Mediterranean, and halted near Gerar, the residence of the king. Again he was tempted to represent Sarah as his sister, and a second time she was taken to the palace; but Abimelech, yet unconscious of the wrong he had done, was warned in a dream-" Thou art but a dead man for the woman whom thou hast takenfor she is a man's wife," was the appalling sentence. With unfeigned horror the terrified prince received it, and appealed to Omniscience—" In the innocency of my heart have I done this. Said he not unto me, she is my sister; and she even she herself said, he is my brother. Lord, wilt thou slay a righteous nation?" "Restore the man his wife," said his just Judge," for he is a prophet and shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live. But if thou restore her not, thou shalt die, thou and all thy house.' In the morning early, therefore, Abimelech collected his servants and related his dream, and sent for the strangers and reprehended them both; enquiring wherein he had offended, that they should lead him into such imminent danger; or what evil disposition they had seen in him to justify their suspicion of his integrity? "Because I thought," replied the timid husband, "surely, the fear of God is not in this place, and they will slay me for my wife's sake; and yet indeed she is my sister, the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother."
CATHERINE. I hope Abraham was not really married to his sister!
MRS. M. Not his sister, as we understand that appella
tion, but as it is commonly used in scripture, where relatives of the same stock are called brethren, or sisters, though not of the same father and mother. Taking advantage of this custom, Abraham imagined he might with impunity defend himself by a mental reservation.
CATHERINE. But in his case it was a duty to tell the whole truth, because his concealment of a part not only exposed him to the danger of losing his wife, but entangled the king, who it appears was an upright man.
MRS. M. The vicious state of public morals had not permitted Abraham to hope that he should again find such disinterested virtue, united with power, as he had seen in Pharaoh. But the king of Gerar was equally just, and yet more liberal: for together with Sarah, he sent large presents to Abraham, of cattle and servants and silver; and nobly offered him the choice of his whole domain to settle wheresoever he pleased. Thus by his piety and munificence he obtained the prayers of Abraham, and the blessing of heaven.
The next year the promise of a son to Abraham and Sarah was verified in the birth of Isaac; the father was in the hundredth year of his age, and his wife in her ninetieth, at this period. (B. C. 1896.)
The patriarch had now dwelt at Gerar some years in such high prosperity, that the Philistines, ascribing it to the particular favour of heaven, were anxious to secure his friendship. To obtain this favour, the Prince himself, attended by his general, made a visit to their illustrious guest and courteously reminding him of the kindness he had received, entreated that he would solemnly engage not to use his power to the injury of the people who had so hospitably entertained him. A treaty of friendship was
accordingly made, and Abraham made use of the opportunity to inform the king, that he had been violently deprived of a well near the place of their present meeting by the herdsmen of Abimelech. The right of Abraham was acknowledged at once, and the well ever afterwards called Beer-sheba, or the Well of the Oath, because it was the place where a covenant was ratified by an oath.
At Beer-sheba the family of Abraham continued at least till the twenty-fifth year of Isaac's age; for there we find them when he became the subject of a most affecting story.
CHARLES. Do not omit the stories, my dear mother; I love to listen to them.
MRS. M. All that I have said to you, my dear, or shall say, is one connected story, though episodes, particularly affecting, are sometimes interposed, and it is no wonder you should hear them with delight. You cannot study them too much, for they are accurate pictures of the human heart, and related with exquisite skill. The most accomplished writers of fiction have taken hints from many of them for their finest compositions; but as the face of nature is always more interesting than a copy, so the real incidents of life are infinitely more affecting than the best imitations. The wisdom and goodness which dictated the scriptures for our instruction, are evinced in giving us lessons in a form so engaging, that pleasure and profit go hand in hand. That which I am about to relate of Abraham, would be incredible, if it were not stamped with the unquestionable impress of veracity.
To put the faith and obedience of Abraham, who is emphatically called "the father of the faithful," to the most rigid trial, God commanded him to take Isaac his son into the land of Moriah, and offer him on one of the mountains
for a burnt offering. Isaac, his only son, whom he loved -Isaac, whose children were to be multiplied as the stars of heaven-and in whom "all the families of the earth were to be blessed!"-How can all this come to pass if he is to be put to death before he has one child from whom a race might descend? Without being a father; the father of an only child-and one too from whom great and peculiar blessings were to be derived, it is impossible to appreciate the extreme hardship of this singular experiment.
FANNY. I often recollect a very affecting answer of a lady which I have somewhere read, who, in excessive grief for the loss of a child, was exhorted by her confessor to imitate the resignation of Abraham. "Ah! father," cried she, "God would never have required such a sacrifice at the hand of a mother!"
But how could Abrabam be made to believe that so cruel a sacrifice was required at his hand ?
MRS. M. The creator of the human mind, my son, must know how to impress it infallibly: and we may be sure that he would leave no doubt of the source of a command so truly distressing. We may be sure the patriarch had none, because he obeyed. He obeyed too, because he knew that the Almighty had a right to require the life he had given. He arose early in the morning, and took Isaac, his beloved child, and two of his young men, and after cutting the wood for the fire, went three days' journey into the land of Moriah. When they came near to the appointed place, Abraham directed the servants, who might have interposed to prevent the execution of his purpose, to remain there, while he and the lad should go and worship. Then laying the wood on the shoulders of his