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his household after him.” Observe the respect and obedience he enforced, and his great influence over his family.
This was owing to his station. God had made him their head, and they had been taught to acknowledge and revere the appointment of God.
His knowledge and wisdom.
His known and approved piety. They knew God was on his side, and that if they opposed him, God would resent it.
His consistent virtue.
A man of FIDELITY. Whatever knowledge, piety, virtue, or authority he had, he faithfully employed for his glory, who entrusted him with them, and to the end intended,--the good of others, and especially of his own family.
A man of DILIGENCE. He appears evidently to have been laborious in this duty.
II. THE NATURE OF THIS DUTY ; OR HIS ENDEAVOURS FOR THE GOOD OF HIS FAMILY.
He not only prayed with and before his family, but interceded for them as a PRIEST. This the ancient patriarchs and holy men of old did. They were priests in their own houses. (Job i. 5.) So should every master of a Christian family be. Indeed every private Christian is a priest unto God. (Enlarge respecting praying with and for every member of our family.)
He was a PROPHET in his family. He instructed them; not in matters of mere speculation, nor doubtful disputation,—this were foolish and unprofitable,-but in matters of experimental and practical religion and virtue.
He taught them the “ way of the LORD," i. e. God's way towards them, as a Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, and their way towards God, or piety, and godliness ; the true knowledge, fear, love of God, obedience to his commands, patience under his dispensations, contentment in all estates, the time being short, deadness to the world and sin, and devotedness to God; and, in order to all this, repentance towards God, and faith in Christ. (Here show how the being and attributes of God may be demonstrated even to children from the works of creation, &c., the truth of the Scriptures also, and of Christianity, &c.)
He taught them virtue, “to do justice and judgment,"—truth, justice, mercy, charity, flowing from the love of our neighbour, and the love of God. Children should be taught to consider all men as allied to each other, being creatures of one Creator, made of one blood, partaking of one nature, mortal, immortal, bought by the Redeemer, &c. Also, children should be early accustomed to sincerity, veraeity, strict honesty, plain dealing, pity to those in distress, a forgiving spirit, a readiness to relieve those in want. In order to this, as well as to the health of their own bodies, and the peace of their own minds, they should be taught temperance, chastity, self-denial, &c.
Abraham taught his family, lastly, not barely to know these things, but to do them.
Now upon whom must this be inculcated ? - Upon children. (Deut. iv. 9.) If our children be the Lord's, they must be educated for him. If they wear his livery, and be called by his name, they must do his work. What hypocrisy is it to dedicate our children to God in baptism, and promise they shall “ renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the carnal desires of the flesh, so that they shall not follow, nor be led by them,” and afterwards to take no care that they may fulfil it !- Upon servants. Abraham had born in his house, 318 servants, (Gen. xiv. 14,) trained, or, as the Hebrew word means, catechized. Our servants are entrusted to our care, and should be taught and directed by us, while in our family.
But how must our children and servants be instructed ? (Deut. vi. 6, &c.) By conversation, advice, exhortation, reading, hearing, catechizing, &c., and especially teaching them to “ know the Scriptures.” (2 Tim. iii. 15.) Further,
He was a king in his house, and used authority. He not only recommended these things, and advised, and set before them the advantages on the one hand, and the miseries on the other, of the conduct which they might pursue, but he solemnly enjoined and insisted on these things, on pain of incurring his displeasure, as well as that of God. He not only used doctrine, vodeord, but discipline, Taodeia. (Eph. vi. 4.) He not only informed the understanding of his children and domestics, as it might gradually open, by doctrine, and reminded and admonished them, but he persuaded, turned, and subdued the will to God and man, as far as possible, by discipline, rewards, punishments, or corrections, especially with regard to his children.
III. How PLEASING IT WAS TO God, AND THE BLESSED CONSEQUENCES THEREOF TO ABRAHAM AND HIS FAMILY.
Observe-The reason why God would hide nothing from Abraham. " For I know him," &c. Abraham was communicative of his knowledge, and improved it to the good of those under his care, and therefore God resolved to make communications to him.
The way to the accomplishment of God's promises; “ That the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.”
Family blessings arise from family religion ;-Temperance, frugality, in dustry, discretion.
Peace, quietness, love, harmony.
The favour, protection, care of God, his direction and aid.
We make a comfortable progress together in the ways of God, and receive many spiritual blessings.
We shall meet in his presence and kingdom hereafter, and spend an eternity together.
The sad reverse when this course is not taken.
We shall meet at the left hand of the Judge in the great day, and in hell, amidst everlasting strife and misery.
Gen. xxviii. 20, 21. If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go,
and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God.
The chapter from which these words are taken, contains an account of the journey of the patriarch Jacob from Beer-sheba to Padan-aram, to escape the effects of his brother Esau's rage, whom he had defrauded of the blessing ; in the course of which journey, overcome with fatigue, and no hospitable dwelling being at hand, he laid down to rest in a certain place, taking the stones for his pillows,” and having the heavens for his covering ; but he was comfortable in the persuasion of the divine protection, implied in the blessing, which he inherited from Abraham, and the assurance his God could make him to dwell in safety, Here, in a
dream, he was favoured with a vision of the ladder set upon the earth, the top of which reached to heaven,” representing the providence of God over his people, carried on by the ministry of angels, but vouchsafed only through the mediation of Christ; for he is the true ladder, who, by his humiliation and exaltation, has alone opened a gracious communication between heaven and earth, (Col. i. 20.) Moreover the Lord appeared standing above it, and ratified to him, in the fullest manner, the blessings promised in his covenant with Abraham, promising likewise to attend and preserve him, “ in all places where he was going, and to bring him back to that land.” Jacob, having met with these unexpected manifestations of God, was filled with holy fear and reverence, and having set up the stone on which he had laid his head, for 66 a pillar,” or memorial of God's favour to him, and
poured oil on the top of it,” as an earnest of his intention to build an altar there, when he should have the means of doing it,calling the name of the place Beth-el, or the house of God, he bound himself by the vow, contained in the text, saying, “ If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way
and will give me bread to eat and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God.”
In considering this vow, we shall notice,
I. WHAT JACOB DESIRED OF GOD IN
He desired— The comfortable presence and favour of God. “ If God will be with me.” When the ancients would express all that seemed beneficial in life, they used this phrase. (Gen. xxxix. 2, 3, 21; 1 Sam. xviii. 14, 28; 2 Sam. v. 10.) The wisdom, courage, and success of David is resolved into this,—The Lord was with him.”
This administers solid, satisfying comfort to the soul. (Psalm iv. 6, 7, xxxvi. 7-9, and Ixiii. I, John iv. 14.)
Where this is wanting nothing else can fully satisfy; not riches, honour, health, &c. (Jer. ii. 13.)
This can satisfy when all other things are wanting ; in disgrace, in poverty, in bonds, in bodily affliction, in torture, in death ; both by the present enjoyment and comfort which the soul hereby receives, and also by the hope and assurance this gives of endless happiness.
" What have I lost of excellent or fair,
What have I lost of truth or amity,
Created pride must languish and decline." This is the all in all. (Col. iii. 2-4, 11, Phil. i. 21.) - The guidance of the divine counsel and the protection of the divine Providence. 66 And will keep me in this way that I go.”
This is a most sure direction, and safe defence. The righteous shall not err in any thing of importance, either as to this life, or the next; either as to truth or duty.
They shall be safe. (Prov. xviii. 10, Psalm xxvii. 1-6, and xxxii. 7.)
If all other counsel and protection be wanting, this will be a compensation. (Rom. viii. 31, 1 Pet. iii. 12, 13, Heb. xiii. 5, 6.)
All other refuges and defences are weak without this. (Psalm cxxiv.)
Therefore,—That he would supply him, not with delicacies and luxuries, but with necessaries; “ And will give me bread to eat and raiment to put on.” This is the wise request of Agur, (Prov. xxx. 8.) This, the Lord's prayer teaches us to be content with; and the Apostle's rule, (1 Tim. vi. 8.)
Whatever we possess, we have from the free allowance, and mere goodness of God; he owes us nothing.
Our measure is determined for us, not only by him who is the absolute LORD of his own bounty, but by him who is the wise dispenser of his own benefits, and knows, far better than we do, what portion is fittest for us.
We are but stewards of external blessings, and must account for the use we make of them; and, if we have more than enough, our account will be more difficult.
Nature is content with little; natura paucis contenta. Whatever is more than enough is, in truth, vain, useless, and unprofitable, and even an incumbrance.
A state of mediocrity is more safe and free from care, than any other state. Jacob with his staff ras more happy than Jacob with his flocks.
We are more safe in reference to others ; less exposed to envy, &c.
All worldly matters are subject to many and great changes. (Psalm lxxiii. 3, 18-20, ciii. 15, 16, xxxvii. 1, 2.)
This should be the rule and the measure of every good man in reference to this life, till he 6 come to his Father's house in peace ; ” that house wherein there are
many mansions,” which the great Father, 6 of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,” hath provided for them that love him.
In this house, our mansion will be according to our works ; our holiness, usefulness, suffering. There we shall be at home; now we are pilgrims in a foreign land. There we shall find rest and all felicity; here we must look for labour and suffering. This, therefore, is the mark we should continually keep in view.