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“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, The LORD Appeared to Abram, and Said unto him, I am The ALMIGHTY GOD! Walk before Me; and be thou Perfect! And I will Make My Covenant between Me and thee; and will Multiply thee exceedingly.' And Abram fell on his face. And GOD Talked with him, Saying, As for Me, behold, My Covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a Father of many Nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham, for a Father of many Nations have I Made thee: and I will Make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will Make Nations of thee: and Kings shall come out of thee. And I will Establish My Covenant between Me and thee, and thy Seed after thee in their Generations, for an Everlasting Covenant to be A GOD unto thee and to thy Seed after thee. And I will Give unto thee and to thy Seed after thee, the Land wherein thou art a Stranger, all the Land of Canaan for an everlasting Possession, and I will be their GOD.' And GOD Said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep My Covenant therefore, thou and thy Seed after thee, in their Generations. This is My Covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you, and thy Seed after thee; Every Man and Child among you shall be circumcised. And it shall be a Token of the Covenant between Me and you: and he, that is eight days old, shall be circumcised among you, every Man Child in your Generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any Stranger, which is not of thy Seed.' And GOD Said unto Abraham, ‘As for Sarai, thy Wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be: and I will Bless her; and Give thee a Son also of her; yea, I will Bless her; and she shall be a Mother of Nations-Kings of People shall be of her.' Then Abraham fell upon his face and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a Child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?" And Abraham said unto GOD, O that Ishmael might live before Thee!' And GOD Said, Sarah, thy Wife, shall bear thee a Son indeed: and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will Establish My Covenant with him for an Everlasting Covenant, and with his Seed after him. And as for Ishmael, I have Heard thee; Behold, I have Blessed him, and will Make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve Princes shall he beget; and I will Make him a great Ñation. But My Covenant will I Establish with Isaac; which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.' And He Left off Talking with him; and GOD Went up from Abraham. And Abraham took Ishmael, his Son, and All that were born in his house, and All that were bought with his money, every Male among the Men of Abraham's house, and circumcised them in the same day, as GOD had Said unto him: and Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised."-Gen. xvii, 1 to 13. 15 to 24.
The change of name from Abram to Abraham, was from that of a "distinguished Father" to that of a "Father of many Generations ;" and that of Sarai to Sarah, was of a "Royal Person" to that of a Royal Mother."
The most prompt and implicit obedience to the Command of GOD was manifested by Abraham in his circumcising himself at the advanced age of ninety and nine years; though in the moment of the Utterance of That Promise of Blessedness in a Progeny by Sarah, of which that sacrifice was a primary Condition, he is said even to have laughed (or perhaps smiled), not, it is only reasonable to suppose, contemptuously or in distrust of GOD'S Power or Purpose, but that he and Sarah, who were then Both so stricken in years, should have the joy of being Parents.
Devotedness to the Service and Honour of GOD seems to have been ever uppermost in his mind; for on the Visitation to him of The LORD and two Attendant Angels, in the Plains of Mamre, Abraham ran to meet Them; and with equal humility and hospitality intreated that he might be Permitted to entertain Them; bowing himself toward the ground, and saying, “ My LORD!
If now I have found Favour in Thy Sight, Pass not away, I pray Thee, from Thy Servant! Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your Feet; and Rest Yourselves under the tree! And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and Comfort ye Your Hearts! After that Ye shall Pass on! For therefore are Ye Come to Your Servant. And they said, 'So do, as thou hast said!' And Abram hastened into the tent unto Sarai, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it; and make cakes upon the hearth!' And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young Man; and he hasted to dress it; and he took butter and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before Them: and he stood by Them under the tree; and They did Eat.”—Gen. xviii, 1 to 8. By the example of a Patriarch, as also by the admonition of an Apostle, are we encouraged to use hospitality, and to "entertain Strangers; for thereby Some have entertained Angels unawares."—Heb. xiii, 2.
Order and regularity prevailed in the government of Abraham's Family; and these virtues were crowned by the manifestation of that most valuable Parental and Magisterial influence, the inducing to walk in the ways of Godliness; for of him did The LORD Say, "I Know him, that he will command his Children and his Household after him: and they shall keep the Way of The LORD, to do justice and judgment."-Gen. xviii, 19. If they, that turn Many to Righteousness, shall shine as the Stars of Heaven, how great is the encouragement to tread in these steps of our Father Abraham; and to strive both by ourselves and our Households to serve The LORD! And how full of reflective joy and of prospective hope must be the pillow of death to every One, who, from the same motive that actuated Abraham, hath in this respect gone and done likewise.
Through the promptings and influence of Brotherly love and perfect charity towards Lot and his Family and Connections, did Abraham venture so perseveringly to intercede on behalf of the Inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, when the Phial of The ALMIGHTY'S Wrath was Threatened to be Poured out upon them. In the innocency of his own heart, and not even suspecting, perhaps, the extent of the corruption of Others, he was led to reason with GOD, and to supplicate that the Guilty and the Guiltless might not be Confounded in the Awful Doom from the DIVINE Displeasure; For Abraham stood before The LORD, and drew near and said, Wilt Thou also Destroy the Righteous with the Wicked? Peradventure there be Fifty Righteous within the City: wilt Thou also Destroy and not Spare the Place for the Fifty Righteous that are therein? That be Far from Thee to Do after this manner; to Slay the Righteous with the Wicked; and that the Righteous should be as the Wicked! That be Far from Thee! Shall not The JUDGE of all the Earth Do Right?"-Gen. xviii, 22 to 25. What a mixture of humanity and humility is here observable! How beautifully are those characteristics of Spiritual excellence here portrayed! Abraham felt for his Fellow Creatures, and in seeking for their Delivery from the Vengeance That was Threatened by Him to Whom Vengeance Belongs, he did not withhold his acknowledgment of Immutable Justice in the DIVINE Decrees. The fervent, effectual prayer of a righteous Man availeth much and large as must have been the then Population of these Places, yet, as will afterwards appear, if Ten righteous Souls had been found therein, the Destruction of the Whole would have been Averted by Abraham's pious intercession. For "The LORD Said If I Find in Sodom Fifty Righteous within the City, then I will Spare all the City for their sakes.""-Ver. 26. Thus also do we see how rich may be the fruits of a life of Righteousness, even in the life that is; and that not only to ourselves, but to Others, our Kindred, our Neighbours, or our Nation. "And Abraham answered and said, Behold, now I have taken upon me to speak unto The LORD, which am but dust and ashes.'"-Ver. 27. How highly doth this abasement of the pious
Abraham exalt his character in our estimation! Upright as he was (humanly speaking, for before GOD the Heavens themselves are not pure) in all his ways, and holy in all his dealings, he yet knew himself without hope, but in the Forbearance and Mercy of his CREATOR: he knew that Man was Formed from the dust of the Earth, and that worms would feed sweetly on his body; that naked came he into the world; and naked would he return thither; he knew that it was not for the clay to say unto the Potter, "Why hast thou formed me thus?" he knew that All Things were from The LORD, and that His Goodness was over All His Works; that His Wisdom is Infinite, and His Ways past finding out: he knew therefore, and devoutly acknowledged the Great Truth, that The JUDGE of All the Earth would Do Right: and, in effect, Abraham made it his prayer, that through the deceivableness of sin his benevolence might not be made an occasion of sin, and this in a manner so meek and Spiritually-minded that the greatest fervour of devotion cannot exceed. Through diffidence of his own claim to a Further Extension of DIVINE Consideration and Clemency, not less perhaps, than from the hope that the Number of Others, righteous as himself, might not be so miserably small, did he thus mediatorially continue his communing with GOD—“ Peradventure there shall lack Five of the Fifty Righteous! Wilt Thou Destroy all the City for lack of Five?"-Ver. 28. Abraham did not arrogantly doubt What GOD had in substance Declared, that there were not Fifty Righteous Persons there; but proceeded upon the full belief in The DIVINE Word that the fact was so; and hoping that there might be All of Fifty but Five, renewed his intercessory supplication, after GOD had Answered and Said “If I Find there Forty and Five, I will not Destroy it."-Ver. 28. Emboldened by This Gracious Attention to his prayer, Abraham, continuing to be actuated by the two-fold influence of diffidence of himself and desire for the Salvation of Others, again addresses The FOUNTAIN of Mercy, saying yet again, “Peradventure there shall be Forty found there! And GOD Said I will not Destroy it for Forty's sake.'"-Ver. 29. In like manner did Abraham gradually increase in the supplication, by gradually decreasing in his estimate of the Number for whose sakes it was made; and as Readily did The LORD Express a Willingness to Grant his prayer, if the ground on which it proceeded, had sustained it; as exhibited in the succeeding Scriptural Narrative. "And Abraham said unto The LORD, 'Oh Let not The LORD be Angry! and I will speak: Peradventure there shall Thirty be found there!' And The LORD Said I will not Destroy it if I And Abraham said, Behold, now, I have taken upon me to Find Thirty there.' speak unto The LORD: Peradventure there shall be Twenty found there!' And He Said I will not Destroy it for Twenty's sake.' And Abraham said, 'Oh Let not The LORD be Angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure Ten shall be found there!' And He Said I will not Destroy it for Ten's sake.' And The LORD Went His Way, as soon as He had Left Communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place."-Ver. 30 to 33. Abraham did not presumptuously ask that the City might be Spared for his own sake; which was a further evidence of his humility after the Concessions previously Made to him by The GOD of Mercy and of Power. Neither did Abraham call in question the Intimation of The DEITY that the Number of the Righteous (if there were any save Lot and Members of his Family) was less than he had advanced his hope of the City's Preservation upon: he knew that all Things were Known unto GOD, from the beginning of the World, even from Everlasting: and that as The LORD had Said, If Ten Righteous were found Destruction would not be Visited upon the City, Abraham felt assured that there were not that Number, and that the Impending Desolation had therefore but too Justly Its Course. A City so wholly lost to reason and religion as, with a numerous Population, to be without
ten righteous Persons, must be universally acknowledged to be a fit Object for The DIVINE Jealousy, as well as amenable to The DIVINE Chastisement; and The ALMIGHTY'S Compassionate Regard for Those that were His, though less than even half the number of ten, amidst the Inhabitants of two extensive Cities, was Manifested in His Selecting Lot, his Wife and two Daughters, from the otherwise universal Annihilation. Such also, if not here, will assuredly Hereafter be the Discriminating Decision of The JUDGE of Quick and Dead, in Separating the Righteous from the Wicked, and Saving the Former from the Fire that will never be quenched, but into which the Latter, with the Devil and his Angels, will be irretrievably Cast.
If Abraham were faithless to A Protecting and Over-Ruling PROVIDENCE, in avowing himself, before Abimelech, to be the Brother rather than the Husband of Sarah, whereby Abimelech was nearly unconsciously induced to commit the act of adultery-this is an instance of frailty, which we must lament in so otherwise exalted a Character, and shall do well to avoid: for the reason assigned by the Patriarch for his conduct on this occasion, namely, because he thought, "Surely the fear of GOD was not in that Place"-Gen. xx, 11, should not, in a pious mind, have deliberately counselled such fabrication or evasion; since he could not, on due consideration, but have felt and acknowledged, that GOD can Strike the hardest or most impious heart with fear, or Disappoint its purposes of evil. But though distrustful of Abimelech's piety and moral virtue previously to the development of his character; yet, when the excellence and purity of it were manifested, and his bounty and protection extended to Abraham, he was not ungrateful nor unmindful of the favours conferred, but put forth, doubtless from the bottom of his heart, a prayer on behalf of his Benefactor, that The LORD would Remove from Abimelech and his House the Judgment of barrenness with Which they had been Visited, as it is Written "So Abraham prayed unto God! And GOD Healed Abimelech, and his Wife, and his Maid Servants; and they bare Children."—ib. xx, 17.
On the birth of Isaac the same reverential observance of the Appointed Ceremony of Circumcision did Abraham perform; and in devout gratefulness to Him, with Whom is the Fruit of the Womb, did he, on the weaning of the Child, give a sumptuous entertainment, as thus recorded with the connecting circumstances. And The LORD Visited Sarah, as He had Said; and The LORD did unto Sarah as He had Spoken, for Sarah conceived and bare Abraham a Son in his old age, at the Set Time of which GOD had Spoken to him. And Abraham called the name of his Son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac: and Abraham circumcised his Son Isaac, being eight days old, as GOD had Commanded him: and Abraham was an hundred years old, when his Son Isaac was born unto him. And the Child grew and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned.”—Gen. xxi, 1 to 5. 8. The force of Parental affection and an anxious regard for the welfare of his Offspring displayed themselves in the sorrow Abraham manifested at Sarah's proposed banishment of Ishmael for his contempt of her on the birth of Isaac. Attached as he was to Sarah, it is yet not improbable that the conflict between Conjugal and Parental feelings would have continued much longer, and the result have been questionable, had not The VOICE of Inspiration, Which to Abraham was never Uttered in vain, Dictated the Course he was to pursue-as is thus Detailed in Holy Writ. "And Sarah saw the Son of Hagar, the Egyptian, which she had borne unto Abraham, mocking, wherefore she said unto Abraham, 'Cast out this Bond Woman and her Son! For the Son of this Bond Woman shall not be Heir with my Son, even with Isaac.' And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight, because of his Son. And GOD Said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of
the Lad and because of thy Bond Woman! In all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice! For in Isaac shall thy SEED be Called. And also of the Son of the Bond Woman will I Make a Nation; because he is thy Seed.' And Abraham rose up early in the morning and took bread and a bottle of water and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the Child, and sent her away."-Gen. xxi, 9 to 14. Our Blessed SAVIOUR Said, "If any Man come to Me, and hate not his Father and Mother, and Wife and Children, and Brethren and Sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My Disciple."-Luke xiv, 26. Strong as was Abraham's attachment to the Child of his own loins, yet stronger, and deservedly so, was his attachment to That BEING, from Whom he and All Creation derived their Existence and Support. In compliance therefore with The DIVINE Injunction, he acted towards his own Child as though he hated him, comparatively with his love for his MAKER'S Will, sending the Child into a Desert Wilderness, with no other Human Protector than his agonized and helpless Mother. But Thy Ways, O GOD, are not our ways; neither are Thy Thoughts our thoughts; for it is with Thee to Save by Few as by Many: and What Thou hast Promised Thou wilt Surely Bring to Pass. In firm reliance on the Sufficiency of The ALMIGHTY'S Protection, and in confidence of His Fulfilling His Revealed Intention, the faithful Abraham sent from his hospitable roof the once Partner of his bed and the first Child of his bosom; and that destitute of other provision than a little bread and water, without Human Guard, or any recommendatory introduction. But he knew that he placed them under the Care and Adoption of An All Wise PROVIDENCE, with Whom is All Power to Save both Body and Soul, and Who Alone Dispenseth That Bread and Water, which Endure unto Life Eternal.
As a further instance of gratitude and goodness of heart, we find Abraham, in compliance with the solicitation of Abimelech (who acknowledged the Patriarch's influence with The LORD of the Universe) that he would not deal hostilely with him or his Descendants through two Generations (beyond which it was scarcely in Human probability that Abraham himself should be alive), binding himself by an oath, uttered as under the consciousness of the Presence of The Omniscient, though Invisible, GOD, pledging himself to the return of the good offices, which during his stay in the Land of Gerar he had received from Abimelech. The Favour with Which The ALMIGHTY had Visited Abimelech for Abraham's Sake, might to a worldly mind have seemed sufficient to have offered the Assurance of his word; but Abraham in the ingenuousness of his heart was determined to evince with the utmost solemnity the sacredness of his esteem for Abimelech, and to requite his protection with no unsparing hand. It is hence that we may reap the benefit of an Example in a return for kindnesses received; not to limit, but with our Lives, both the will and the effort to serve or countenance Those who have served and benefited us, and though not with an oath-bound vow so to do, yet in a spirit of equally conscious obligation, as in the Record of GOD, Who Trieth the heart and thought, and Who hath Especially Commanded that we love One Another.
Open reproof is better than secret love" said the Wisest of Mankind. "Let there be no strife between me and thee, nor between thy Servants and my Servants!" have we seen the righteous Abraham before propose; and on the occasion of Abimelech's Servants ungraciously, if not unwarrantably, driving Abraham's Herdsmen from a well that they had habitually used, Abraham did not fly to arms, to defend his right, or to support his claim, nor did he pray to GOD to Bring Destruction on Those, who had so injured or insulted him; but he openly and manfully reasoned with Abimelech himself, as the local Fountain of Authority, on the impropriety of the conduct that his Retainers had observed,