Page images
PDF
EPUB

seed, and now wished he had come alone out of Sodom; yet even this unnatural bed was blessed with increase ; and one of our Sa. viour's worthy ancestors sprung after from this line. God's election is not tied to our means; neither are blessings or curses ever traduced: the chaste bed of holy parents hath oft-times bred a monstrous generation; and contrarily, God hath raised sometimes a holy seed from the drunken bed of incest or fornication. It hath been seen, that weighty ears of corn have grown out of the compass of the tilled field : thus will God magnify the freedom of his own choice; and let us know that we are not born, but made good.

Gen, xiii, xir.

CONTEMPLATIONS.

BOOK III.

TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE

THE LORD DENNY, -
BARON OF WALTHAM, MY SINGULAR GOOD PATRON,

ALL GRACE AND HAPPINESS.

RIGHT HONOURABLE: I KNOW, and in all humility confess, how weak my discourse is, and how unworthy of this divine subject which I have under. taken ; which if an angel from heaven should say he could suffciently comment upon, I should distrust him : yet this let me say, without any vain boasting, that these thoughts, such as they are, through the blessing of God, I have woven out of myself; as hold ing it after our Saviour's rule, better to give, than to receive. It is easier to heap together large volumes of others' labours, than to work out lesser of our own ; and the suggestion of one new thought, is better than miany repeated.

This part (which together with the Author is your's) shall present to your Lordship the busiest of all the patriarchs, together with his trials, and success : wherein you shall see Esau stripped by fraud of that which he willingly sold ; Jacob's hard adventures for the blessing, and no less hard services for his wives and substance, his dangerous encounters ending joyfully, the rape of his only daughter, seconded with the treacherous murder of his sons; Judah's wrong to Tamar repayed by his own uncleanness; Joseph's sale, imprisonment, honour, piety; the sin of his brethren well bestowed, well answered. I so touch at the uses of all these, as one that knows it is easy to say more, and impossible to say enough. God give a blessing to my endeavours, and a pardon to my weakness, to your Lordship an increase of his graces, and per. ection of all happiness.

Your Lordships humbly.
and officiously devoted in-all duty,

JOSEPH HALL. ;

OF JACOB AND ESAU. Of all the patriarchs, none make so little noise in the world as Isaac; none lived either so privately, or so innocently: neither know I whether he approved himself a better son or husband. For the one; he gave himself over to the knife of his father, and

mourned three years for his mother: for the other; he sought not to any handmaid's bed, but in a chaste forbearance reserved him. self for twenty years' space, and prayed : Rebecca was so long barren: his prayers proved more effectual than his seed. At last she conceived, as if she had been more than the daughter-in-law to Sarah, whose son was given her, not out of the power of nature, but of her husband's faith.

God is oft better to us than we would : Isaac prays for a son ; God gives him two at once: now, she is no less troubled with the strife of the children in her womb, than before with the want of children: we know not when we are pleased; that which we desire, oft-times discontents us more in the fruition ; we are ready to complain both full and fasting. Before Rebecca conceived, she was at ease : before spiritual regeneration there is all peace in the soul; no sooner is the new man formed in us, but the flesh conflicts with the spirit. There is no grace where is no unquietness : Esau alone would not have striven : nature will ever agree with itself. Never any Rebecca conceived only an Esau, or was so happy as to conceive none but a Jacob; she must be the mother of both, that she may have both joy and exercise. This strife began early every true Israelite begins his war with his being. How many actions which we know not of, are not without presage and signi- . fication !

These two were the champions of two nations; the field was their mother's womb; their quarrel precedency and superiority. Esau got the right of nature, Jacob of grace: yet that there might be some pretence of equality, lest Esau should outrun his brother into the world, Jacob holds him fast by the heel : so his hand was born before the other's foot: but because Esau was some minutes the elder, that the younger might have better claim to that which God had promised, he buys that which he could not win : if either by strife, or purchase, or suit, we can attain spiritual blessings, we are happy: if Jacob had come forth first, he had not known how much he was bound to God for the favour of his advancement.

There was never any meat, except the forbidden fruit, so dear bought as this broth of Jacob ; in both the receiver and the eater is accursed : every true son of Israel will be content to purchase spiritual favours with earthly; and that man hath in him too much of the blood of Esau, which will not rather die than forego his birth-right. .

But what hath careless Esau lost, if, having sold his birth-right, he may obtain the blessing? Or what hath Jacob gained, if his brother's venison may countervail his pottage? Yet thus hath old Isaac decreed; who was not now more blind in his eyes, than in his affections : God had forewarned him that the elder should serve the younger, yet Isaac goes about to bless Esau. : It was not so hard for Abraham to reconcile God's promise and Isaac's sacrifice, as for Isaac to reconcile the 'superiority of Jacob with Esau's benediction ; for God's hand was in that, in this none but his own: the dearest of God's saints have been sometimes

as

[ocr errors]

at Chough the elder; he cons: he saw himself

[ocr errors]

JACOB AND E6AU. transported with natural affections : he saw himself preferred to Ishmael, though the elder; he saw his father wilfully forgetting nature at God's command, in binding him for sacrifice; he saw Esau lewdly matched with heathens; and yet he will remember nothing, but, “ Esau is my first-born:" but how gracious is God, that, when we would, will not let us sin; and so orders our actions, that we do not what we will, but what we ought !

That God, which had ordained the lordship to the younger, will also contrive for him the blessing: what he will have effected shall not want means : the mother shall rather defeat the son, and be guile the father, than the father shall beguile the chosen son of his blessing. What was Jacob to Rebecca more than Esau ? or what mother doth not more affect the elder ? But now God inclines the love of the mother to the younger, against the custom of nature, because the father loves the elder, against the promise: the affections of the parents are divided, that the promise might be fulfilled ; Rebecca's craft shall answer Isaac's partiality : Isaac would unjustly turn Esau into Jacob, Rebecca doth as cunningly turn Jacob into Esau : her desire was good, her means were unlawful: God doth oft-times effect his just will by our weaknesses; yet neither thereby justifying our infirmities, nor blemishing his own actions.

Here was nothing but counterfeiting; a feigned person, a feigned name, feigned venison, a feigned answer, and yet behold, a true blessing; but to the man, not to the means : those were so unsound, that. Jacob himself doth more fear their curse than hope for their success. Isaac was now both simple and old; yet if he had perceived the fraud, Jacob had been more sure of a curse, than he could be sure that he should not be perceived,

Those, which are plain-hearted in themselves, are the bitterest enemies to deceit in others : Rebecca, presuming upon the oracle of God, and her busband's simplicity, dare be surety for the danger, his counsellor for the carriage of the business, his cook for the diet, yea, dresses both the meat and the man; and now puts words into his mouth, the dish into his hand, the garments upon his back, the goat's-hair upon the open parts of his body, and sends him in thus furnished for the blessing ; standing no doubt, at the door, to see how well her lesson was learned, how well her device succeeded. And if old Isaac should by any of his senses have discerned the guise, she had soon stept in and undertaken the blame, and urged him with the known will of God concerning Jacob's doininion and Esau's servitude, which either age or affection had made him forget,

And now she wishes she could borroiy Esau's tongue as well as his garments, that she might securely deceive all the senses of him, which had suffered himself to be more dangerously deceived with his affection : but this is past her remedy: her son must name himself Esau with the voice of Jacob. It is hard if our tongue do not bewray what we are, in spite of our habit. This was enough to work Isaac to ą suspicion, to an inquiry, not to an incredulity:

-, he, that is good of himself, will hardly believe evil of another; and

will rather distrust his own senses, than the fidelity of those he • trusted. All the senses are set to examine ; none sticketh at the

judgment but the ear; to deceive that, Jacob must second his dis

simulation with three lies at one breath: I am Esau ; as thou badst "me; my venison : one sin entertained fetcheth in another; and if

it be forced to lodge alone, either departeth or dieth: I love Jacob's blessing, but I hate his lie. I would not do that wilfully,

which Jacob did weakly, upon condition of a blessing : he, that par• doned his infirmity, would curse my obstinacy. .. Good Isaac sets his hands to try whether his ears informed him

aright; he feels the hands of him whose voice he suspected: that honest heart could not think, that the skin might more easily be counterfeited, than the lungs: a small satisfaction contents those whom guiltiness hath not made scrupulous: Isaac believes and blesses the younger son in the garments of the elder : if our heavenly Father smell upon our backs the savour of our elder brother's robes, we cannot depart from him unblessed.

No sooner is Jacob gone away full of the joy of his blessing, than Esau comes in full of the hope of the blessing: and now he cannot repent him to have sold that in his hunger for pottage, which in his pleasure he shall buy again with venison. The hopes of the wicked fail them when they are at highest, whereas God's children find those comforts in extremity which they durst not expect,

Now he comes in blowing and sweating for his reward, and finds nothing but a repulse : lewd men, when they think they have earned of God, and come proudly to challenge favour, receive no answer, but, Who art thou? Both the father and the son wonder at each other; the one with fear, the other with grief. Isaac trembled and Esau wept; the one upon conscience, the other upon envy. Isaac's heart now told him, that he should not have purpos. ed the blessing where he did, and that it was due to him unto whom it was given and not purposed; hence he durst not reverse that which he had done with God's will, besides his own : for now he saw that he had done unwilling justice : God will find both time and means to reclaim his own, to prevent their sins, to manifest and reform their errors. Who would have looked for tears from Esau? Or who dare trust tears, when he sees them fall from so graceless eyes?

It was a good word, Bless me also, my father : every miscreant can wish himself well: no man would be miserable, if it were enough to desire happiness : why did he not rather weep to his brother for the pottage, than to Isaac for a blessing? If he had not then sold, he had not needed now to beg: it is just with God to deny us those favours, which we were careless in keeping, and which we undervalued in enjoying. Esau's tears find no place for Isaac's repentance; except it were that he hath done that by wile, . which he should have done upon duty.'

No motive can cause a good heart to repent that he hath done well. How happy a thing it is, to know the seasons of grace, and

« PreviousContinue »