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thee, how many thousand times would I rather to give thee mine own life than take thine!. Alas, I am full of days, and now of long lived not but in thee; thou mightest have preserved the life of thy father, and have comforted his death, but the God of us both hath chosen thee: he, that gave thee unto me miraculously, bids me by an unusual means return thee unto him. I need not tell thee, that I sacrifice all my worldly joys, yea and myself, in thee; but God must be obeyed; neither art thou too dear for him that calls thee: come on, my son, restore the life that God hath given thee by me: offer thyself willingly to these flames; send up thy soul cheerfully unto thy glory; and know that God loves thee above others, since he requires thee alone to be consecrated in sacrifice to himself."
Who cannot imagine with what perplexed mixtures of passions, with what changes of countenance, what doubts, what fears, what amazement, good Isaac received this sudden message from the mouth of his father, how he questioned, how he pleaded ? But when he had somewhat digested his thoughts, and considered that the author was God, the actor Abraham, the action a sacrifice, he now approves himself the son of Abraham ; now he encourages the trembling hand of his father, with whom he strives in this praise of forwardness and obedience; now he offers his hands and feet to the cords, his throat to the knife, his body to the altar; and growing ambitious of the sword and fire, intreats his father to do that which he would have done though he had dissuaded him. O holy emulation of faith! O blessed agreement of the sacrificer and obla. tion! Abraham is as ready to take, as Isaac to give; he binds those dear hands, which are more straitly bound with the cords of duty and resolution: he lays his sacrifice upon the wood, which now before-hand burnt inwardly with the heavenly fire of zeal and devotion.
And now, having kissed him his last, not without mutual tears, he lifts up his hand to fetch the stroke of death at once, not só much as thinking, “ perhaps God will relent after the first wound.?! Now, the stay of Abraham, the hope of the Church, lies about to bleed under the hand of a father : what bowels can choose but yearn at this spectacle ? which of the savagest heathens that had been now upon the hill of Moriah, and had seen, through the bushes, the sword of a father hanging over the throat of such a son, would not have been more perplexed in his thoughts, than that unexpected sacrifice was in those briars? yet he whom it nearest concerned is least touched ; faith hath wrought the same in him which cruelty would in others, not to be moved. He contemns all fears, and overlooks all impossibilities; his heart tells him that the same hand, · which raised Isaac from the dead womb of Sarah, can raise him again from the ashes of his sacrifice: with this confidence was the hand of Abraham now falling upon the throat of Isaac, who had given himself for dead, and rejoiced in the change; when suddenly the angel of God interrupts him, forbids him, commends him.
The voice of God was never so welcome, never so sweet, never
so seasonable as now: it was the trial, that God intended, not the fact; Isaac is sacrificed, and is yet alive: and now both of them are more happy in that they would have done, than they could have been distressed if they had done it. God's charges are, oft-times harsh in the beginnings and proceeding, but in the conclusion al. ways comfortable : true spiritual comforts are commonly late and sudden : God defers on purpose that our trials may be perfect, our deliverance welcome, our recompence glorious; Isaac had never been so precious to his father, if he had not been recovered from death; if he had not been as miraculously restored as given : Abraham had never been so blessed in his seed, if he had not neglected Isaac for God. The only way to find comfort in any earthly ching, is to surrender it, in a faithful carelessness, into the hands of God.
Abraham came to sacrifice, he may not go away with dry hands : God cannot abide that good purposes should be frustrated. · Lest either he should not do that for which he came, or should want, means of speedy thanksgiving for so gracious a disappointment; behold a ram stands ready for the sacrifice, and, as it were, proffers himself to this happy exchange: He, that made that beast, brings him thither, fastens him there: even in small things there is a great providence. What mysteries there are in every act of God! the only Son of God, upon this very hill is laid upon the altar of the Cross; and so becomes a true sacrifice for the world, that yet he is raised without impeachment, and exempted from the power of death: the Lamb of God, which takes away the sins of the world, is here really offered and accepted : one Saviour in two figures; in the one dying ; restored in the other. So Abraham, while he exercises his faith, confirms it; and rejoices more to foresee the true isaac in that place offered to death for his sins, than to see the car. nal Isaac preserved from death for the reward of his faith. ,
Whatsoever is dearest to us upon earth is our Isaac ; happy are we if we can sacrifice it to God: those shall never rest with Abraham, that cannot sacrifice with Abrahain.
OF LOT AND SODOM. BEFORE Abraham and Lot grew rich, they dwelt together ; now their wealth separates them : their society was a greater good than their riches; many a one is a loser by his wealth: who would account those things good which make us worse?
It had been the duty of young Lot to offer rather than to choose ; to yield rather than contend : who would not here think Abrahain the nephew, and Lot the uncle? It is no disparagement for greater persons to begin treaties of peace. Better doth it beseem every son of Abraham to win with love, than to sway with power. Abraham yields over this right of his choice; Lot takes it. And behold, Lot is crossed in that which he chose, Abraham is blessed in that which was left him ; God never suffers any man to lose, by an humble remission of his right in a desire of peace.
Wealth had made Lot not only undutiful, but covetous; he sees the good plains of Jordan, the richness of the soil, the commodity of the rivers, the situation of the cities, and now, not once inquiring into the conditions of the inhabitants, he is in love with Sodom : outward appearances are deceitful guides to our judgment, or af. fections: they are worthy to be deceived that value things as they seem : it is not long after, that Lot pays dear for his rashness. He fled for quietness with his uncle, and finds war with strangers : now is he carried prisoner with all his substance, by great enemies; Abraham must rescue him, of whom he was forsaken. That wealth, which was the cause of his former quarrels, is made a prey to mera ciless heathens: that place, which his eye covetously chose, betrays his life and goods. How many Christians, while they have looked at gain, have lost themselves!
Yet this ill success hath neither driven out Lot, nor amended Sodom; he still loves his commodity, and the Sodomites their sins: wicked men grow worse with afflictions, as water grows more cold after a heat, and as they leave not sinning, so God leaves not plaguing them, but still follows them with succession of judgments. In how few years hath Sodom forgot she was spoiled, and led captive! If that wicked city had been warned by the sword, it had escaped the fire; but now this visitation hath not made ten good men, in those five cities : how fit was this heap for the fire, which was all chaff! Only Lot vexed his righteous soul with the sight of their uncleanness; he vexed his own soul, for who bade him stay there? yet because he was vexed, he is delivered. He escapeth their judgment from whose sins he escaped. Though . he would be a guest of Sodom, yet because he would not entertain their sins, he becomes a host to the angels : even the good , angels are the executioners of God's judgment: there cannot be a better or more noble act, than to do justice upon obstinate malefactors.
Who can be ashamed of thạt which did not mis-beseem the very angels of God? Where should the angels lodge but with Lot? the houses of holy men are full of these heavenly spirits, when they know not; they pitch their tents in ours, and visit us, when we see not; and when we feel not, protect us. It is the honour of God's saints to be attended by angels. The filthy Sodomites now flock together, stirred up with the fury of envy and lust; and dare require to do that in troops, which to act single, had been too abo. minable; to imagine, unnatural : continuance and society in evil, makes wicked men outrageous and impudent : it is not enough for Lot to be the witness, but he must be the bawd also. Bring forth these men, that we may know them. Behold! even the Sodomites speak modestly; though their acts and intents be villanous. What a shame is it for those which profess purity of heart, to speak filthily!
The good man craves and pleads the laws of hospitality; and
he sees heacan ill host allowance through we can be
CONTEMPLATIONS. when he sees headstrong purposes of mischief, chooses rather to be an ill father than an ill host : his intention was good, but his offer was faulty; if through his allowance the Sodomites had defiled his daughters, it had been his sin; if through violence they had de filed his guests, it had been only theirs : there can be no warrant for us to sin, lest others should sin: it is for God to prevent sins with judgments, it is not for men to prevent a greater sin with a less : the best minds, when they are troubled, yield inconsiderate motions; as water, that is violently stirred, sends up bubbles : God meant better to Lot, than to suffer his weak offer to be accepted : those which are bent upon villany are more exasperated by dissuasion; as some strong streams, when they are resisted by Hoodgates, swell over the banks.
Many a one is hardened by the good Word of God; and instead of receiving the counsel, rages at the messenger : when men are grown to that pass, that they are no whit better by afflictions, and worse with admonitions, God finds it time to strike. Now Lot's guests begin to shew themselves angels, and first deliver Lot in Sodom, then from Sodom; first strike them with blindness, whom they will after consume with fire. How little did the Sodomites think that vengeance was so near them! While they went groping in the street, and cursing those whom they could not find, Lot with the angels is in secure light, and sees them miserable, and foresces them burning. It is the usc of God to blind and besot those whom he means to destroy: the light which they shall see shall be fiery, which shall be the beginning of an everlasting darkness, and a fire unquenchable.
Now they have done sinning, and God begins to judge: wickedness hath but a time, the punishment of wickedness is beyond all time. The residue of the night was both short and dangerous.
Yet, good Lot, though sought for by the Sodomites, and newly , pulled into his house by the angels, goes forth of his house to seek
his sons-in-law : no good man would be saved alone; faith inakes us charitable with neglect of all peril: he warns them like a pro.' phet, and advises them like a father, but both in vain; he seeins to them as if he mocked, and they do more than seemn to mock him again. " Why should to-morrow differ from other days? Who ever saw it rairi fire ? or whence should that brimstone come? Or if such showers must fall, how shall nothing burn but this valley?" So to carnal men preaching is foolishness, devotion idleness, the prophets madmen, Paul a babbler : these men's incredulity is as worthy of the fire, as the others' uncleanness. He, that believes not, is condemned already.
The messengers of God do not only hasten Lot, but pull him by a gracious violence, out of that impure city. They thirsted' at
once after vengeance upon Sodom, and Lot's safety ; they knew " God could not strikę Sodom, till Lot were gone out, and that Lot
could not be safe within those walls. We are naturally in Sodom : if God did not hale us out, whilst we linger, we should be con
demned with the world. If God meet with a very good field, he pulls up the weeds, and lets the corn grow; if indifferent, he lets the corn and weeds grow together; if very ill, he gathers the few ears of corn, and burns the weeds.
Oh the large bounty of God, which reacheth not to us only, but to ours! God saves Lot for Abraham's sake, and Zoar for Lot's sake; if Sodom had not been too wicked, it had escaped : were it not for God's dear children, that are intermixed with the world, it could not stand : the wicked owe their lives unto those few good, whom they hate and persecute.
Now at once the sun rises upon Zoar, and fire falls down upon Sodom : Abraham stands upon the hill, and sees the cities burning; it is fair weather with God's children, when it is foulest with the wicked. Those, which burned with the fire of lust, are now consumed with the fire of vengeance : they sinned against nature; and now, against the course of nature, fire descends from heaven, and consumes them.
Lot may not so much as look at the flame, whether for the stay of his passage, or the horror of the sight, or trial of his faith, or fear of commiseration. Small precepts from God are of importance; obedience is as well tried, and disobedience as well pu. nished, in little, as in much: his wife doth but turn back her head, whether in curiosity, or unbelief, or love and compassion of the place; she is turned into a monument of disobedience: what doth it avail her not to be turned into ashes in Sodom, when she is turned into a pillar of salt in the plain! He, that saved a whole city, cannot save his own wife. God cannot abide small sins, in those whom he hath obliged. If we displease him, God can as well meet with us out of Sodom. Lot, now come into Zoar, marvels at the stay of her, whom he might not before look back to call; and soon after returning to seek her, beholds this change with wonder and grief: he finds salt instead of flesh, a pillar instead of a wife: he finds Sodom consumed, and her standing; and is more amazed with this, by how much it was both more near him, and less expected.
When God delivers us from destruction, he doth not secure us from all afflictions : Lot hath lost his wife, his allies, his substance, and now betakes himself to an uncomfortable solitariness.
Yet though he fled from company, he could not fly from sin: he, who could not be tainted with uncleanness in Sodom, is over taken with drunkennness and incest in a cave: rather than Satan shall want baits, his own daughters will prove Sodomites; those, which should have comforted, betrayed him : how little are some hearts moved with judgments! the ashes of Sodom, and the pillar of salt, were not yet out of their eye, when they dare think of lying with their own father. They knew that whilst Lot was sober, he could not be unchaste; drunkenness is the way o all bestial affection s and acts. Wine knows no difference either of persons, or sins : No doubt, Lot was afterwards ashamed of his incestuous