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FROM THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW.-CHAP. I.
VERSE 1-"The Book of the Generation of JESUS CHRIST, The Son of David, The Son of Abraham."
The Gospel according to St. Matthew, Which by the arrangement of the Evangelical History, adopted by our Church, first presents Itself, thus opensWhereby It Points at once to the great Forerunners in faith and holiness, from whom The Man CHRIST JESUS, Very GOD, and Very Man, The Promised MESSIAH, Descended; Declaring that He, (Who was with The FATHER and The HOLY SPIRIT before all Worlds, and by Whom all Worlds were Made) was of the Flesh of David, and of the Seed of Abraham;-of David, who was "the Man after GOD'S Own Heart"-1st Samuel xiii, 14; and to whom it was Prophetically Said, in reference to That Same JESUS, "Thine House and Thy Kingdom shall be Established for Ever before thee"-2 Sam. vii, 16; and of Abraham, who was characterized as "The Father of the Faithful," —Rom. iv, 11; and in whom, it was repeatedly Pronounced from JEHOVAH that "all the Families of the Earth should be Blessed"—Gen. xii, 3., xxviii, 14.
In Relation to These Exceeding Great and Precious Promises Thus Made to Mankind in general in the Persons of Abraham and David, and the Spiritual Blessedness Awaiting their Fulfilment, by way of Illustrating Their more Particular Application, The HOLY GHOST, Whose is The Spirit of Prophecy, had long previously to the Advent of CHRIST upon Earth, thus by the pen of Jeremiah, Proclaimed " Behold, the Days Come, Saith The Lord, that I will Raise unto David A Righteous BRANCH; and A KING shall Reign and Prosper; and shall Execute Judgment and Justice in the Earth! In His Days Judah shall be Saved and Israel shall dwell safely: and This is His Name, Whereby He shall be Called, The LORD our RIGHTEOUSNESS."-Jer. xxiii, 5, 6.
To Spiritual Blessings These Prophecies obviously Point; and The Gospel is Intended to Direct the mind to JESUS as The Great FOUNTAIN from Whence They Flow-as The SOURCE, from Which we may hope for Redemption; and to obtain Reconciliation with The FATHER of Spirits, and Sanctification unto Divine and Immortal Honours-as The SUN of Righteousness, Who Brought Life and Immortality to Light; and Who has Thrown Open to us, in prospect here, and the Means of possessing hereafter, Heaven and Its Everlasting Joys.
The Jews, prior to the Advent of The MESSIAH, were universally in expectation of Him; and Prophecy had led them to calculate on His Being according to the Human Nature, the Descendant both of Abraham and David. Evangelist therefore, in confirmation of the truth of such an Expectancy, boldly asserts (what, if it had been an untruth might easily and would instantly have been exposed as such by the Adversaries of the Christian faith,) that JESUS, Whom as CHRIST St. Matthew and the other Apostles worshipped, was the Son of David; the Son of Abraham.
Having prefaced with the above general assertion, the Apostle then proceeds to the more minute elucidation of his position by tracing the entire Genealogy of The Great SUBJECT of his History, beginning with Abraham as the Parent Stock. And pre-eminently as this Individual is thus twice put forth in connection with An Event Important beyond all others, excepting Creation, that have affected or can happen to Man, it seems but reasonable to inquire, how this Distinguished Individual spoke and acted, so as to draw down upon him Such Proofs of DIVINE Favour and Preference, that we may, according to our abilities and opportunities, go and do likewise; and, cherishing in its fervency his faith, be Made Partakers, with him, of an Inheritance in The KINGDOM of HEAVEN.
The Scriptural History of Abraham begins with his genealogy as the Son of Terah, and a Descendant in the ninth generation from Shem, one of the Sons of Noah-It is thus related, "Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram.”Gen. xi, 26. And the first incident recorded of him is that of his marriage : Abram and Nahor (his only then surviving Brother) took them Wives; the name of Abram's wife was Šarai; and the name of Nahor's Wife, Milcah, the Daughter of Haran.—ib. 29. But the most acceptable Blessing upon such an union was, it seems, for a time Withheld from Abraham, by Him, Whose is the Fruit of the Womb; for it is recorded that "Sarai was barren; she had no Child."-ib. 30. At this time Abraham was probably about 60 years old; and though of that age and married also, he seems to have attached himself with filial reverence to the fate of his Father, and to have submitted to him with the most implicit obedience of a Child; not suffering himself, by an assumed independence, to break that tie of affection and devotion towards a Parent, which indeed should be cherished in every age and act of life. The History thus continues-" And Terah took Abram, his Son, and Lot, the Son of Haran, his (deceased) Son's Son, and Sarai, his Daughter in law, his Son Abram's Wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees to go into the Land of Canaan: and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there."-ib. 31. In this situation Abraham continued for about 15 years, neither withdrawing his allegiance from his Father, though he was stricken in years, and incapable of advancing the welfare of his Family; nor his attachment from his Wife, though she had not crowned him with the glory of an Offspring. On the death of his Father which occurred in Haran (ib. 32.), Abraham had had a most unequivocal Testimony Borne to the piety of his heart, and the uprightness of his conduct, by the most Express Avowal of The DIVINE Favour and Preference towards him, in a Revelation of The ALMIGHTY'S Will on his behalf, thus Recorded-" Now The LORD had Said unto Abram, 'Get thee out of thy Country and from thy Kindred and from thy Father's House, unto a Land, that I will Shew thee; and I will Make of thee a Great Nation; and I will Bless thee, and Make thy Name Great: and thou shalt be a blessing; and I will Bless them that bless thee; and Curse him, that curseth thee: and in thee shall all Families of the Earth be Blessed."-Gen. xii, 1 to 3. Great as was the Reward Promised on an obedience to This Command, yet Extending as It did, to a separation from the strong ties of Kindred and long indulged Connection; and Pointing to a hope beyond the natural reason of Man to justify, it is only in the perfection of Faith, that we can look for a solution of the principle, which influenced (as we shall see) Abraham to so ready an obedience; a principle of confidence in The Promises of GOD, that should actuate every Human breast, to which the knowledge of The LORD hath been Revealed: for "Hath He Said? And shall He not Do It?" or Who, that ever trusted in Him, hath been Forsaken? So Abram departed, as The LORD had Spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old, whem he departed out of Haran.
And Abram took Sarai his Wife, and Lot, his Brother's Son, and all their substance, that they had gathered, and the Souls that they had gotten in Haran: and they went forth to go into the Land of Canaan; and into the Land of Canaan they came: and Abram passed through the Land unto the place of Sichem, unto the Plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the Land. And The LORD Appeared unto Abram and Said Unto thy Seed will I Give this Land!' And there builded he an Altar unto The LORD, Who Appeared unto him. And he removed from thence unto a Mountain on the east of Beth-el, and pitched his tent, having Beth-el on the west and Hai on the east; and there he builded an Altar unto The LORD; and called upon the Name of The LORD."-Gen. xii, 4 to 8. On the first exercise of a docile and submissive Spirit The DIVINE Regard is Manifested; and Renewed Encouragement Given to persevere in That Way, Which Leadeth unto Life Eternal. Oh, that an equal willingness and obedience emanated from every bosom, to which The HOLY SPIRIT Offers Its Admonitions, or The Holy Book of Life Its Incitements; and that, like Abraham, having tasted, in our hearts and spirits, of the Ever-Enduring Goodness and Mercy of GOD, we did like Abraham offer up, on every occasion, upon the altar of Faith the Acceptable incense of praise and thanksgiving!-Submitting to the Parental office of Guardian to his deceased Brother's Son, Abraham generously unites their fortunes and their destinies; and is equally provident of his Nephew's welfare, as of his own. But when jealousies and disagreements unhappily arose between their respective Servants, Abraham, instead of assuming the authority of dictatorial power, or siding, under the influence of natural prejudice, in favour of his own Dependents, suggested, with all the prudence and feeling of the most disinterested Umpire, the means of avoiding such dissensions in future; thus expressing himself to LotLet there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my Herdsmen and thy Herdsmen ! For we be Brethren. Is not the whole Land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me! If thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left." -Gen. xiii, 8, 9. Thus yielding even to a Nephew the palm of superiority in relinquishing to him the prior right of election: for Abraham knew what the Great Gentile Advocate for The Gospel has since instructed us, that it was right "to give place unto wrath rather than to avenge ourselves "-Rom. xii, 19; and that "no Man should seek his own; but every Man another's wealth."—1 Cor. x, 24; and he knew also What The FOUNTAIN of Wisdom hath since Revealed, both in Letter and Spirit (and which we shall find, if we but make the trial), that "Blessed are the Peace Makers! For they shall be Called The Children of GOD." -Matt, v, 9. When driven by necessity to take up arms for the restoration of his Nephew's person from captivity, though the further fruit of his skill and valour was the obtaining the treasures of the discomfited Enemy whom he had pursued principally with his own Servants, yet did Abraham from pious motives and a sacred observance of a vow he had made, refuse to partake of those treasures, though pressed so to do by the King, Abraham saying unto him, “ I have lift up mine hand unto The LORD, The MÖST HIGH GOD, The POSSESSOR of Heaven and Earth, that I will not take from a thread even to a shoe latchet, and that I will not take anything that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, 'I have made Abram rich!' save that which the young Men have eaten, and the portion of the Men which went me," Aner, Eschol, and Mamre: let them take their portion !”Gen. xiv, 21 to 24. But though scrupulously mindful of his vow in not appropriating to himself any of the spoils of the victory, he was not regardless of what was due to the Church and Honour of GOD: for he gave unto Melchizedec, who was the Priest of The MOST HIGH GOD, tithes of all that he had taken; and in return received what is of infinitely more value than earthly riches, this
fervent prayer of a Man of GOD for Blessings on his head, and the most solemn testimony to his own faithfulness-" Blessed be Abram of The MOST HIGH GOD, POSSESSOR of Heaven and Earth! and Blessed be The MOST HIGH GOD, Which hath Delivered thine Enemies into thy hand!"-Gen. xiv, 19, 20. On this incident in the life of Abraham it is very luminously observed in the Epistle to the Hebrews (after a referenec to Melchizedec's as the Order of Priesthood, which JESUS, The Great OFFERER of the Acceptable Sacrifice of Himself, in Atonement for the sins of the whole World, and for the Sanctification by The SPIRIT of every penitent Believer Therein, had for ever Adopted agreeably to the Prophetic Annunciation "THOU art A PRIEST for ever after the Order of Melchizedec"-Ps. cx, 4.) For this Melchizedec, King of Salem, Priest of The MOST HIGH GOD, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the Kings and blessed him; to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of Righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of Peace; without Father, without Mother, without descent (or pedigree) having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto The SON of GOD, abideth a Priest continually. Now consider (says the Inspired Writer) how great this Man was, unto whom even the Patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils." -Heb. vii, 1 to 4. Thus is Abraham's zeal for his GOD, and the Honour of His Spiritual Service portrayed both in the Old and New Testament.-Knowing that all Good Gifts are from The LORD, and that the Fruit of the Womb is His Reward, Abraham, though long married and without an Offspring, yet despaired not of being Blest with a Progeny, if The ALMIGHTY should so Decree it. To this end in the earnestness of faith his supplications were poured forth, saying, "LORD, GOD! What wilt Thou Give me? Seeing I go Childless; and the Steward of my House is this Eliezer of Damascus. And Abram said, Behold! to me Thou hast Given no Seed! And lo! One born in my house is mine Heir.' And, behold! The Word of The LORD Came unto him, Saying, This shall not be thine Heir; but he, that shall come forth out of thine own bowels, shall be thine Heir.' And He Brought him forth abroad, and Said Look now toward Heaven, and tell the Stars, if thou be able to number them!' and He Said unto him, 'So shall thy Seed be!' And he believed in The LORD: and He Counted it to him for righteousness." -Gen. xv, 2 to 6. Thus, as St. Paul said of him, Abraham against hope believed in hope, that he might become the Father of many Nations, according to That, Which was Spoken, So shall thy Seed be!'"-Rom. iv, 18; that is, against the common probabilities of Nature that he should have Descendants without number, who was thitherto, and had so long been without Issue, he yet cherished the fulness of hope in the confidence that as GOD had Said, so would He in His Own Time Bring it to pass. And this act of faith, though unaccompanied, as it should seem, by any profession, or outward act of veneration or sacrifice, was by Him, Who Knoweth the secrets of all hearts, Reckoned to Abraham for Righteousness-To us Thereby holding out the comforting Assurance that the silent trust of a pious heart in the Promises of GOD will be Attended, if not here, yet assuredly hereafter, with His Blessing.
In the exercise of Conjugal affection the character of Abraham scems also to have been exemplary, for to Sarah did he refer the disposal of Hagar on the Latter's contemptuous treatment of her; of which treatment Sarah complained, when Abraham said to her, " Behold! thy Maid is in thine hand: Do to her as it pleaseth thee !”—Gen. xvi, 6. At the same time the tenderness and solicitude of his Parental feelings are conspicuous in his intercessory prayer for Ishmael, his Offspring by Hagar; for in addressing JEHOVAH on his behalf, he asked, not for riches, or honours, or dominion, neither for length of days, but "that Ishmael might live before GOD!"-Gen. xvii, 18.