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son, and taking the fire and the knife in his own hand, they proceeded to prepare the altar. Unapprised of the severe duty imposed on his father, Isaac very naturally inquired
-“ Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering ?” “ My son," said the pious Abraham, “ God will provide himself a lamb.” And so indeed he did : for at the moment when, having bound his son, and laid him on the altar, his uplifted arm, with still unshaken confidence, prepared to strike the fatal blow, the Angel of the Lord called to him out of heaven, “ Lay not thine hand on the ladfor now I know that thou fearest God, seeing that thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” Looking up, the patriarch beheld a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. This he took, and offered instead of his son. This act of faith, more honourable to Abraham than wealth and military triumphs, God was pleased to reward with renewed assurances of protection and favour. (B. C. 1871.)
CHARLES. Such an uncommon act of submission certainly deserved a reward.
Mrs. M. No act of man can deserve a reward from the deity to whom all his services are due. But virtue and piety are sometimes graciously distinguished even in this life, and for our encouragement, we know they will certainly be rewarded hereafter.
A very eminent advocate for the divine legation of Moses, whose learning and ingenuity entitle his opinions to great respect, takes another view of this remarkable event in the life of Abraham, which, although not inconsistent with, is somewhat different from that which I have just presented to you. Action being a common mode of communication in the East, he considers this whole exhi
bition as designed to develope completely the promise to Abraham (bitherto opened by degrees and but partially understood) by a lively representation of the sacrifice of an only Son, which should one day be offered on this same Mount of Moriah. Thus the seeiningly harsh command became really the brilliant reward of his singular piety.
CATHERINE. Why then did Moses, in his relation, conceal this most interesting truth, and speak of the command as the trial of Abraham's faith?
Mrs. M. It was truly, though incidentally, a trial of his faith ;'while, according to this writer, it had, primarily, a more important reference, which, his people being then under a preparatory dispensation, Moses was not permitted to declare otherwise.' --CATHERINE. Why is Isaac denominated the only son of Abraham, when Ishmael was also his son?
Mrs. M. Because the spiritual promise bestowed upon Abraham was to be transmitted through Isaac to his posterity, and finally from them to all mankind. Ishmael was the son of Hagar, a wife less honourable than Sarah, who being the first, was considered the superior. In those days it was the practice even of good men, to have several wives. Sarah seems at first to have adopted Ishmael, supposing him to be the promised beir of Abraham. But when Isaac was afterwards given to her, she instigated her husband (not, however, without provocation from the unbecoming conduct of both mother and son,) to banish both from his house, declaring that he should not inherit with her son.
This unreasonable desire was very grievous to the venerable patriarch, but his unerring Counsellor com
* Bishop Warburton considers this the true interpretation of that declaration of Christ, “ Abraham rejoiced to see my day.”
manded him to listen to his wife, and comforted him with an assurance, that of Ishmael also“ he would make a great nation." Thus encouraged, he sent away the unhappy Hagar and her son, furnishing them, however, with such provisions as she could carry. When these were spent, as they wandered in the wilderness of Beer-sheba, despairing of any further supply, she laid her son down under some bushes, and, that she might not see him die, she sat down to weep at a distance! From this overwhelming anguish she was aroused by a voice of consolation, directing her to “take up the lad, and give him drink from a well,” which she now perceived to be at hand; for “ he should live and become a great nation.” (B. C. 1892.) Before his birth, when Hagar had fled into the same wilderness from the unkind treatment of her mistress, “ the Angel of the Lord” had appeared unto her, and told her, ..“ that her posterity should not be numbered for multitude, that her son should be a wild man, that his hand should be against every man, and every man's hand against him, yet he should dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” And now that the prophecy might be fulfilled, the hand of providence conducted him to the desert, where he grew up and " became an archer" or a wild man. His children, the Arabs, are a savage race. To this day they live by violence and rapine, their hand being against every man, and all men are their enemies. Yet they preserve their independence and are a very numerous people.
CATHERINE. Their country, perhaps, is not worth the expense of a conquest. We hear much of the deserts of Arabia.
Mrs. M. It is indeed generally sandy and barren, but it is interspersed with beautiful spots and fruitful vallies, One part was anciently distinguished by the name of Aram bia the happy. But were it utterly worthless, it would
. seem to be the interest of the neighbouring states to extir. pate such a pestilent race of robbers; and in fact, it has often been attempted, but never accomplished. They boast of their descent from Abraham, have still some customs in common with the Jews, and justify the robberies, as travellers have told us, by the plea, tha their progenitor was turned out of doors to take whatever he could get. *
After these things had happened, the patriarch removed from Beer-sheba and again pitched his tents in the plain of Mamre, where he had formerly dwelt. Here Sarah died, and was buried in a piece of ground which Abraham pur. chased for a burial-place for his family.
The particulars of this incident afford a beautiful example of mutual politeness equal to any thing in our own refined days. Abraham is represented as weeping over the companion of many years, and although he stood on the ground which had been assured to his family by a better bond than any human compact could confer, he attempts not to appropriate even a sepulchre for his wife, but respectfully offers to purchase of the natives a burial-place for his family. Highly venerated by them, the afflicted patriarch is solicited to make a choice, and the spot is repeatedly pressed upon him without a price. But the just and independent spirit of the sojourner, refusing to lie under an obligation to strangers, he pays the greatest sum intimated as the value of the ground and receives a deed in due form, in the presence of all the people.
The education of Isaac had ever been the most interest
* See Newton on the Prophecies.
ing concern of Abraham. It now remained to secure him from the pernicious influence of a connexion with the idolatrous families of Canaan. To this end he called the principal servant of his house, one who had the charge of all his affairs, and directed him to go down into Mesopotamia in Syria, the native country of his master, and bring thence a wife for his son. “ The Lord God of Heaven," he told
o would send his angel before him,” to guide and prosper him.
Fanny. Why did not Abraham send Isaac to choose a wife for himself ?
MRś. M. Princes, you know, in our own times send ambassadors to bring their wives from foreign states; and Abraham was a prince of high standing. Besides, he had been commanded to leave for ever the land of his nativity, and go into the country which his children should inherit. Accordingly, he charges his servant—" Beware that thou bring not my son thither again; but go thou to my country, and to my kindred, and bring thence a wife for my son Isaac."
Thus instructed, the servant took ten camels" for all the property of his master was in his hand”—and valuable presents in silver, and in gold, and in raiment, and departed. As he approached the city, where Nahor, his master's brother resided, he came to a well, about the time in the evening when the women of the place came thither to water their flocks. Here he waited; and while he was yet praying, that his journey might be prospered, and that she to whom he should first speak might be the appointed wife of Isaac-Rebekah, a beautiful young woman, came out to the well, with a pitcher on her shoulder, He requested a draught from her pitcher, which she readily