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pulling them out, not by loosing their strings, nor by making them say nothing, but by teaching them to say too much : here is nothing varied but the sound of letters ; even this frustrates the work, and befools the workmen: how easy it is for God ten thou. sand ways to correct and forestal the greatest projects of men ! He, that taught Adam the first words, taught them words that never were. One calls for brick, the other looks him in the face, and wonders what he commands, and how and why he speaks such words as were never heard ; and instead thereof brings him mortar, returning him an answer as little understood : each chides with other, expressing his choler, so as he only can understand himself; from heat they fall to quiet intreaties, but still with the same success. At first, every man thinks his fellow mocks him; but now, perceiving this serious confusion, their only answer was silence, and ceasing: they could not come together, for no man could call them to be understood; and if they had assembled, nothing could be determined, because one could never attain to the other's purpose: no, they could not have the honour of a general dismission, but each man leaves his trowel and station, more like a fool than he undertook it: so commonly actions begun in glory, shut up in shame.
All external actions depend upon the tongue: no man can know another's mind, if this be not the interpreter; hence, as there were many tongues given to stay the building of Babel, so there were as many given to build the New Jerusalem, the evangelical Church. How dear hath Babel cost all the world! At the first, when there was but one language, men did spend their time in arts, (so was it requisite at the first settling of the world) and so came early to perfection; but now we stay so long (of necessity) upon the shell of tongues, that we can hardly have time to chew the sweet kernel of knowledge: surely men would have grown too proud, if there had been no Babel? It falls out oft-times that one sin is a remedy of a greater. Division of tongues must needs slacken any work : multiplicity of language had not been given by the Holy Ghost, for a blessing to the Church, if the world had not been before possessed with multiplicity of languages for a punishment : hence it is, that the building of our Sion rises no faster, because our tongues are divided; happy were the Church of God, if we all spake but one language : while we differ, we can build nothing but Babel; difference of tongues caused their Babel to cease, but it builds ours.
OF ABRAHAM. It was fit that he, which should be the father and pattern of the faithful, should be thoroughly tried; for in a set copy every fault is important, and may prove a rule of error. Of ten trials which Abraham past, the last was the sorest. No son of Abraham can hope to escape temptations, while he sees that bosom, in which he de. sires to rest, so assaulted with difficulties,
Abraham must leave his country and kindred, and live amongst strangers : the calling of God neyer leaves men, where it finds them : the earth is the Lord's, and all places are alike to the wise and faithful. If Chaldea had not been grossly idolatrous, Abraham had not left it; no bond must tie us to the danger of ins fection.
But whither must he go? to a place he knew not, to men that knew not him: it is enough comfort to a good man, wheresoever he is, that he is acquainted with God; we are never out of our way, while we follow the calling of God. Never any man lost by his obedience to the Highest; because Abraham yielded, God gives him the possession of Canaan: I wonder more at his faith in taking this possession, than in leaving his own; behold, Abraham takes possession for that seed which he had not, which in nature he was not like to have; of that land whereof he should not have one foot, wherein his seed should not be settled of almost five hundred years after : the power of faith can prevent time, and make future things present; if we be the true sons of Abraham, we have already, while we sojourn here on earth, the possession of our Land of Pro. mise: while we seek our country, we have it.
Yet even Canaan doth not afford him bread, which yet he must believe shall flow with milk and honey to his seed : sense must yield to faith; woe were us, if we must judge of our future estate by the present: Egypt gives relief to Abraham, when Canaan cannot. In outward things God's enemies may fare better than his friends. Thrice had Egypt preserved the Church of God, in Abraham, in Jacob, in Christ; God oft-times makes use of the world, for the behoof of his, though without their thanks: as contrarily he uses the wicked for scourges to his own inheritance, and burns them ; because in his good they intended evil.
But what a change is this ! hitherto hath Sarah been Abraham's wife, now Egypt hath made her his sister : fear hath turned him from a husband to a brother; no strength of faith can exclude some doubtings : God hath said, " I will make thee a great nation;" Abraham says, “ The Egyptians will kill me :" he, that lived by his faith, yet shrinketh and sinneth. How vainly shall we hope to be. lieve without all fear, and to live without infirmities! Some little aspersions of unbelief cannot hinder the praise and power of faith; Abraham believed, and it was imputed to him for righteousness. He, that through inconsiderateness doubted twice of his own life, doubted not the life of his seed, even from thedead and dry womb. of Sarah: yet was it more difficult that his posterity should live in Sarah, than that Sarah's husband should live in Egypt: this was above nature, yet he believes it. Sometimes the believer sticks at easy trials, and yet breaks through the greatest temptations without fear. Abraham was old, ere this promise and hope of a son; and still the older, the more incapable: yet God makes him wait twenty-five years for performance. No time is long to faith; which had learned to defer hopes without fainting and irksomeness.
not moreg bed for a Hould be
Abraham heard this news from the angel, and laughed ; Sarah heard it, and laughed: they did not more agree in their desire, than differ in their affection: Abraham laughed for joy ; Sarah, for distrust : Abraham laughed, because he believed it would be so ; Sarah, because she belicved it could not be so : the same act vas ries in the manner of doing, and the intention of the doer. Yet Sa. rah laughed but within herself, and is betrayed : how God can find
us out in secret sins! How easily did she now think, that he, which · could know of her inward laughter, could know of her conception ; and now she that laughed, and believed not, believeth and feareth.
What a lively pattern do I see in Abraham and Sarah of a strong faith, and weak! of strong in Abraham, and weak in Sarah. She, to maķe God good of his word to Abraham, knowing her own barrenness, substitutes a Hagar, and in an ambition of seed persuades to polygamy. Abraham had never looked to obtain the promise by any other than a barren womb, if his own wife had not importuned him to take another. When our own apparent means fail, weak faith is put to the shifts; and projects strange devices of her own to attain the end. She will rather conceive by another womb than be childless : when she hears of an impossibility to nature, she doubteth, and yet hides her diffidence; and when she must believe, feareth, because she did distrust : Abraham hears and believes, and expects and rejoices; he saith not, “ I am old and weak, Sarah is old and barren ; where are the many nations that shall come from these withered loins ?" It is enough to him that God hath said it: he sees not the means, he sees the promise. He knew that God would rather raise him up seed from the very stones that he trod upon, than himself should want a large and happy issue,
There is no faith, where there is either means or hopes. Difficulties and impossibilities are the true objects of belief: hereupon God adds to his name, that which he would fetch from his loins, and made his name as ample as his posterity : never any man was a loser by believing : faith is ever recompensed with glory.
Neither is Abraham content only to wait for God, but to smart for him: God bids him cut his own flesh; he willingly sacrifices . this parcel of his skin and blood to him, that was the owner of all: How glad he is to carry this painful mark of the love of his Cre. ator! how forward to seal this covenant with blood, betwixt God and him! not regarding the soreness of his body, in comparison of the confirmation of his soul. The wound was not so grievous as the signification was comfortable. For herein he saw, that from his loins should come that blessed Seed, which should purge his soul from all corruption. Well is that part of us lost, which may give assurance of the salvation of the whole ; our faith is not yet sound, if it have not taught us to neglect pain for God, and more to love his sacraments than our own fesh.
OF ISAAC SACRIFICED. But all these are but easy tasks of faith: all ages have stood amazed at the next; not knowing whether they should more wonder at God's command, or' Abraham's obedience. Many years had that good patriarch waited for his Isaac ; now at last he hath joy. fully received him, and that with this gracious acclamation; in Isaac shall thy seed be called, and all nations blessed. Behold, the son of his age, the son of his love, the son of his expectation, he that might not endure a mock from his brother, must now endure the knife of his father : Take thine only son Isaac whom thou lovest, and get thee to the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering.
Never any gold was tried in so bot a fire. Who but Abraham would not have expostulated with God? " What! doth the God of mercies now begin to delight in blood ? Is it possible that murder should become piety! or, if thou wilt needs take pleasure in a human sacrifice, is there none but Isaac fit for thine altar; none but Abraham to offer him? Shall these hands destroy the fruits of mine own loins ? Can I not be faithful unless I be unnatural; or, if I must needs be the monster of all parents, will not Ishmael yet be accepted ? O God, where is thy mercy; where is thy justice ? Hast thou given me but one only son, and must I now slay him? Why did I wait so long for him? Why didst thou give him me? Why didst thou promise me a blessing in him? What will the heathen say, when they shall hear of this infamous massacre ? How can thy name and my profession escape a perpetual blasphemy? With what face shall I look upon my wife Sarah, whose son I have murdered? How shall she entertain the executioner of Isaac? or who will believe that I did this from thee? How shall not all the world spit at this holy cruelty, and say, ' There goes the man that cut the throat of his own son? Yet if he were an ungracious or rebel. lious child, his deserts might give some colour to this violence; but to lay hands on so dear, so dutiful, so hopeful a son, is incapable of all pretences. But grant that thou, which art the God of nature, mayest either alter or neglect it: what shall I say to the truth of thy promises ? Can thy justice admit contradictions? Can thy decrees be changeable? Canst thou promise and disappoint? Can these two stand together, Isaac shall live to be the father of nations ;' and · Isaac shall now die by the hand of his father? When Isaac is once gone, where is my seed, where is my blessing ? O God, if thy commands and purposes be capable of alteration, alter this bloody sentence, and let thy first word stand.”
These would have been the thoughts of a weak heart: but Gad knew that he spake to an Abraham, and Abraham knew that he had to do with a God : faith had taught him not to argue, but obey. In a holy wilfulness he either forgets nature, or despises her ; he is sure that what God commands, is good; that what he promises, is infallible; and therefore is careless of the means, and trusts to the end.
In matters of God, whosoever consults with flesh and blood shall never offer up his Isaac to God: there needs no counsellor when we know God is the commander : here is neither grudging, nor delibe'rating, nor delaying : his faith would not suffer hiin so much as to be sorry for that he must do. Sarah herself may not know of God's charge, and her husband's purpose, lest her affection should have overcome her faith ; lest her weakness, now grown importunate, should have said, “ Disobey God and die.” That which he must do, he will do; he, that hath learned not to regard the life of his son, had learned not to regard the sorrow of his wife. It is too much tenderness to respect the censures and constructions of others, when we have a direct word from God.
The good patriarch rises early, and addresses himself to his sad journey. And now must he travel three whole days to this execution; and still must Isaac be in his eye, whom all this while he seems to see bleeding upon the pile of wood which he carries : there is nothing so miserable as to dwell under the expectation of a great evil; that misery which must be, is mitigated with speed, and aggravated with delay. All this while, if Abraham had repented him, he had leisure to return.
There is no small trial even in the very time of trial. Now, when they are come within sight of the chosen mountain, the servants are dismissed; what a devotion is this that will abide no witnesses! He will not suffer two of his own vassals to see him do that, which soon after all the world must know he hath done; yet is not Abrahàm afraid of that piety, which the beholders could not see without horror, without resistance ; which no ear could hear of without abomination. What stranger could have endured to see the father carry the knife and fire, instruments of that death, which he would rather suffer than inflict?—The son securely carrying that burden which must carry him ?
But if Abraham's heart could have known how to relent, that question of his dear, innocent, and religious son had melted it into compassion ; My father, behold the fire and the wood, but where is the sacrifice? I know not whether that word, My father, did not strike Abraham as deep as the knife of Abraham could strike his son : yet doth he not so much as think, “O miserable man, that may not at once be a son to such a God, and a father to such a son;" still he persists, and conceals, and, where he meant not, prophesies; My son, God shall provide a lamb for the burnt offering,
The heavy tidings were loath to come forth: it was a death to Abraham to say what he must do : he knows his own faith to act this, he knows not Isaac's to endure it. But now when Isaac hath helped to build the altar, whereon he must be consumed, he hears, not without astonishment, the strange command of God, the final will of his father : “My son, thou art the lamb which God hath provided for this burnt-offering : if my blood would have excused