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aken God with them, it had been com- laying of the first stone, and might as easily mendable ; establishing of societies is pleas- have made a trench for the foundation, the mg to him that is the God of order : but grave of the builders ; but he loves to see a tower whose top may reach to heaven, what wicked men would do, and to let was a shameful arrogance, an impious pre-fools run themselves out of breath. What sumption. Who would think, that we monument should they have had of their little ants, that creep upon this earth, own madness, and his powerful interrupshould think of climbing up to heaven, by tion, if the walls had risen to no height? multiplying of earth?
To stop them, then, in the midst of their Pride ever looks at the highest. The course, he meddles not with either their first man would know as God; these would hands or their feet, but their tongues ; not dwell as God: covetousness and ambition by pulling them out, not by loosing their know no limits. And what if they had strings, not by making them say nothing, reached up to heaven ? Some hills are as but by teaching them to say too much. Here high as they could hope to be, and yet are is nothing varied but the sound of letters ; no whit the better ; no place alters the even this frustrates the work, and befools condition of nature. An angel is glorious, the workmen. How easy is it for God ten though he be upon earth; and man is but thousand ways to correct and forestall the earth though he be above the clouds. The greatest projects of men ! He that taught nearer they had been to heaven, the more Adam the first words, taught them words subject they had been to the violences of that never were. One calls for brick, the heaven, to thunders, lightnings, and those other looks him in the face, and wonders other higher inflammations : what had this what he commands, and how and why he been, but to thrust themselves into the speaks such words as were never heard, hands of the revenger of all wicked inso and instead thereof brings him mortar, lences ! God loves that heaven should be returning him an answer as little underlooked at, and affected with all humble de stood; each chides with other, expressing sires, with the holy ambitions of faith, not his choler, so as he only can understand with the proud imaginations of our own | himself. From heat they fall to quiet enachievements.
treaties, but still with the same success. At But wherefore was all this? not that first every man thinks his fellow mocks they loved so much to be neighbours to liim ; but now perceiving this serious conheaven, as to be famous upon earth. It fusion, their only answer was silence, and was not commodity that was here sought, ceasing: they could not come together, for : not safety, but glory. Whither doth not no man could call them to be understood; thirst of fame carry men, whether in good and if they had assembled, nothing could or evil? It makes them seek to climb to be determined, because one could never heaven; it makes them not fear to run down attain to the other's purpose: no, they headlong to hell. Even in the best things, could not have the honour of a general disdesire of praise stands in competition with mission, but each man leaves his trowel conscience, and brags to have the more and station, more like a fool than he un. clients. One builds a temple to Diana, in dertook it: so commonly actions begun in hope of glory, intending it for one of the glory shut up in shame. All external great wonders of the world; another, in actions depend upon the tongue. No man hope of fame, burns it. He is a rare man can know another's mind, if this be not the that hath not some Babel of his own, interpreter. Hence, as there were many whereon he bestows pains and cost, only tongues given to stay the building of Babel, to be talked of. If they had done better so there were as many given to build the things in a vain-glorious purpose, their act New Jerusalem, the evangelical church. had been accursed: if they had built houses How dear hath Babel cost all the world ! to God, if they had sacrificed, prayed, lived At the first, when there was but one lanwell; the intent poisons the action : But guage, men did spend their time in arts ; now both the act and the purpose are (so was it requisite at the first settling of the equally vain, and the issue is as vain as world, and so came early to perfection): but either.
now we stay so long (of necessity) upon God hath a special indignation at pride the shell of tongues, that we can hardly above all sins, and will cross our endea have time to chew the sweet kernel of vours, not for that they are evil, (what knowledge. Surely men would have grown hurt could be in laying one brick upon too proud, if there had been no Babel. It another ?) but for that they are proudly falls out ofttimes that one sin is a remedy undertaken. He could have hindered the of a greater. Division of tongues must
needs slacken any work. Multiplicity of ham, when Canaan cannot. In outward languages had not been given by the Holy things, God's enemies may fare better than Ghost, for a blessing to the church, if the his friends. Thrice had Egypt preserved world had not been before possessed with the church of God; in Abraham, in Jacob, multiplicity of languages for a punishment. in Christ. God ofttimes makes use of the Hence it is, that the building of our Sion world for the behoof of his, though without rises no faster, because our tongues are their thanks; as contrarily he uses the divided. Happy were the church of God, wicked for scourges to his own inheritance, if we all spake but one language : while we and burns them; because in his good they differ, we can build nothing but Babel ; intended evil. difference of tongues caused their Babel to But what a change is this! Hitherto cease, but it builds ours.
hath Sarah been Abraham's wife ; now Egypt hath made her his sister ; fear hath
turned him from a husband to a brother : CONTEMPLATION III. -OP ABRAHAM. no strength of faith can exclude some doubt.
ings. God hath said, I will make thee a It was fit that he which should be the great nation: Abraham saith, the Egyptians father and pattern of the faithful, should will kill me. He that lived by his faith, be thoroughly tried; for in a set copy every yet shrinketh and sinneth. How vainly fault is important, and may prove a rule of shall we hope to believe without all fear, error. Often trials which Abraham passed, and to live without infirmities! Some little the last was the sorest. No son of Abra- aspersions of unbelief cannot hinder the ham can hope to escape temptations, while praise and power of faith. Abraham he sees that bosom in which he desires to believed, and it was imputed to him for rest, so assaulted with difficulties. Abra- righteousness. He that through inconsi. ham must leave his country and kindred, derateness doubted twice of his own life, and live amongst strangers. The calling doubted not of the life of his seed, even of God never leaves men where it finds from the dead and dry womb of Sarah; them. The earth is the Lord's, and all yet it was more difficult that his posterity places are alike to the wise and faithful. should live in Sarah, than that Sarah's If Chaldea had not been grossly idolatrous, husband should live in Egypt: this was Abraham had not left it ; no bond must above nature, yet he believes it. Sometie us to the danger of infection.
times the believer sticks at easy trials, and But whither must he go? To a place yet breaks through the greatest temptations he knew not, to men that knew not him. without fear. Abraham was old, ere this It is enough comfort to a good man, where promise and hope of a son, and still the soever he is, that he is acquainted with older, the more incapable ; yet God makes God: we are never out of our way, while him wait twenty-five years for performance. Ve follow the calling of God. Never any | No time is long to faith, which hath learned man lost by his obedience to the Highest. to defer hopes without fainting and irkBecause Abraham yielded, God gives him someness. the possession of Canaan. I wonder more Abraham heard this news from the angel, at his faith in taking this possession, than and laughed ; Sarah heard it, and laughed: in leaving his own. Behold, Abraham takes they did not more agree in their desire, possession for that seed which he had not; than differ in their affection. Abraham which in nature he was not like to have : laughed for joy; Sarah for distrust. Abra. of that land whereof he should not have ham laughed, because he believed it would one foot, wherein his seed should not be be so; Sarah, becasue she believed it could settled for almost five hundred years after. not be. The same act varies in the manner The power of faith can prevent time, and of doing, and the intention of the doer. Yet Inake future things present. If we be the Sarah laughed but within herself, and is true sons of Abraham, we have already bewrayed. How God can find us out in (while we sojourn here on earth) the pos- secret sins! How easily did she now think, session of our land of promise ; while we that he, which could know of her inward seek our country, we have it.
laughter, could know of her conception ! Yet even Canaan doth not afford him and now she that laughed, and believed bread, which yet he must believe shall not, believeth and feareth. flow with milk and honey to his seed. | What a lively pattern do I see in AbraSense must yield to faith. Woe were us, ham, and Sarah, of a strong faith, and a if we must judge of our future estate by weak; of strong in Abraham, and weak in the present. Egypt gives relief to Abra- Sarah! She to make God good of his word to Abraham, knowing her own barrenness, obedience. Many years had that good substitutes an Hagar ; and, in an ambition patriarch waited for his Issac ; now at last of seed, persuades to polygamy. Abraham he hath joyfully received him, and that had never looked to obtain the promise by with this gracious acclamation, “ In Isaac any other than a barren womb, if his own shall thy seed be called, and all nations wife had not importuned him to take an- blessed." Behold the son of his age, the other. When our own apparent means fail, son of his love, the son of his expectation; weak faith is put to the shifts, and pro- he that might not endure a mock from his jects strange devices of her own, to attain brother, must now endure the kmife of his her end. She will rather conceive by an- father: “ Take thine only son Isaac whom other womb, than be childless. When she thou lovest, and get thee to the land of hears of an impossibility to nature, she Moriah, and offer him there for a burntdoubteth, and yet hides her diffidence; and, offering.' when she must believe, feareth, because Never any gold was tried in so hot a fire. she did distrust. Abraham hears and be- Who but Abraham would not have exposlieves, and expects and rejoices : he saith | tulated with God? What! doth the God not, I am old and weak ; Sarah is old and of mercies now begin to delight in blood ? barren: where are the many nations that Is it possible that murder should become shall come from these withered loins ? It piety? Or if thou wilt needs take pleasure is enough to him that God hath said it: in a human sacrifice, is there none but he sees not the means, he sees the pro- | Isaac fit for thine altar? none but Abraham mise. He knew that God would rather raise to offer him ? Shall these hands destroy him up seed from the very stones that he the fruits of mine own loins ? Can I not trode upon, than himself should want a be faithful, unless I be unnatural ? Or if large and happy issue.
I must needs be the monster of all parents, There is no faith where there is either will not Ishmael yet be accepted ? 0 God! means or hopes. Difficulties and impossi- where is thy mercy ? where is thy justice ? bilities are the true objects of belief. Here | Hast thou given me but one only son, and upon God adds to his name, that which must I now slay him? Why did I wait he would fetch from his loins, and made so long for him? Why didst thou give his name as ample as his posterity. Never him me? Why didst thou promise me a any man was a loser by believing : faith is blessing in him? What will the heathen ever recompensed with glory.
say, when they shall hear of this infamous Neither is Abraham content only to wait massacre ? How can thy name, and my for God, but to smart for him. God bids profession, escape a perpetual blasphemy? him cut his own flesh; he willingly sacrifices With what face shall I look upon my wife this parcel of his skin and blood to him that Sarah, whose son I have murdered? How' was the owner of all. How glad he is to shall she entertain the executioner of Isaac? carry this painful mark of the love of his Or who will believe that I did this from Creator! How forward to seal this cove-thee? How shall not all the world spit nant with blood, betwixt God and him! at this holy cruelty, and say, There goes not regarding the soreness of his body, in the man that cut the throat of his own comparison of the confirmation of his soul. son! Yet if he were an ungracious or reThe wound was not so grievous as a signi. bellious child, his deserts might give some fication was comfortable. For herein he colour to this violence: but to lay hands saw, that from his loins should come that on so dear, so dutiful, so hopeful a son, is blessed seed, which should purge his soul | incapable of all pretences. from all corruption. Well is that part of But grant that thou, which art the God us lost which may give assurance of the of nature, mayest either alter or neglect it; salvation of the whole. Our faith is not what shall I say to the truth of thy proyet sound, if it have not taught us to neglect mises ? Can thy justice admit contradicpain for God, and more to love his sacra- tions? Can thy decrees be changeable ? ments than our own flesh.
Canst thou promise and disappoint? Can these two stand together— Isaac shall live
to be the father of nations, and Isaac shall CONTEMPLATION IV.-OF ISAAC SACRIFICED. | now die by the hand of his father? When
Isaac is once gone, where is my seed, where But all these are but easy tasks of faith: is my blessing? O God, if thy commands all ages have stood amazed at the next ; , and purposes be capable of alteration, alter not knowing whether they should more this bloody sentence, and let thy first word wonder at God's command, or Abraham's | stand.
These would have been the thoughts of | into compassion : “ My father, behold the a weak heart. But God knew that he fire and the wood, but where is the sacri. spake to an Abraham, and Abraham knew fice ?" I know not whether that word that he had to do with a God : faith had (my father) did not strike Abraham as deep taught him not to argue but obey. In a as the knife of Abraham could strike his holy wilfulness he either forgets nature or | son: yet doth he not so much as think, O despises her: he is sure that what God miserable man, that may not at once be a commands is good, that what he promises son to such a God, and father to such a is infallible; and therefore is careless of son! Still he persists, and conceals; and, the means, and trusts to the end.
where he meant not, prophesies, “ My son, In matters of God, whosoever consults God shall provide a lamb for the burntwith flesh and blood, shall never offer up offering." his Isaac to God. There needs no coun. The heavy tidings were loath to come sellor when we know God is the com- | forth. It was a death to Abraham to say mander; here is neither grudging, nor what he must do. He knows his own deliberating, nor delaying ; his faith would faith to act this; he knows not Isaac's to not suffer him so much as to be sorry for endure it. But now when Isaac hath that he must do. Sarah herself may not helped to build the altar, whereon he must know of God's charge and her husband's be consumed, he hears (not without aspurpose, lest her affection should have tonishment) the strange command of God, overcome her faith; lest her weakness, now the final will of his father: My son, thou grown importunate, should have said, Dis-art the lamb, which God hath provided obey God, and die. That which he must for this burnt-offering. If my blood would do, he will do; he that hath learned not have excused thee, how many thousand to regard the life of his son, had learned times had I rather to give thee my own not to regard the sorrow of his wife. It is life, than take thine! Alas! I am full of too much tenderness to respect the censures days, and now, of long, lived not but in and constructions of others, when we have thee. Thou mightest have preserved the a direct word from God. The good patri- / life of thy father, and have comforted his arch rises early, and addresses himself to death; but the God of us both hath chosen his sad journey. And now must he travel thee. He, that gave thee unto me mirathree whole days to this execution; and culously, bids me, by an unusual means, still must Isaac be in his eye, whom all return thee unto him. I need not tell thee this while he seems to see bleeding upon that I sacrifice all my worldly joys, yea and the pile of wood which he carries. There myself, in thee; but God must be obeyed: is nothing so miserable as to dwell under neither art thou too dear for him that calls the expectation of a great evil. That thee. Come on, my son, restore the life misery which must be, is mitigated with that God hath given thee by me. Offer speed, and aggravated with delay. All thyself willingly to these flames; send up this while, if Abraham had repented him, thy soul cheerfully unto thy glory; and he had leisure to return. There is no know, that God loves thee above others, small trial, even in the very time of trial. since he requires thee alone to be conseNow, when they are come within sight of crated in sacrifice to himself. the chosen mountain, the servants are dis- Who cannot imagine with what per. missed. What a devotion is this that will plexed mixtures of passions, with what abide no witnesses ! He will not suffer changes of countenance, what doubts, what tFo of his own vassals to see him do that, fears, what amazement, good Isaac received which soon after all the world must know this sudden message from the mouth of his he hath done; yet is not Abraham afraid father ! how he questioned, how he pleadof that piety, which the beholders could ed ! But when he had somewhat digested not see without horror, without resistance, his thoughts, and considered that the au. which no ear could hear of without abo. chor was God, the actor Abraham, the mination. What stranger could have en action a sacrifice, he now approves himself dured to see the father carry the knife and the son of Abraham : now he encourages fire, instruments of that death which he the trembling hands of his father, with bad rather suffer than inflict; the son se- whom he strives in this praise of forward. curely carrying that burden which must ness and obedience: now he offers his carry him?
hands and feet to the cords, his throat to But if Abraham's heart could have known the knife, his body to the altar; and, grow. how to relent, that question of his dear, ing ambitious of the sword and fire, entreats innocent, and religious son had melted it his father to do that which he would have done, though he had dissuaded him. 0 | Abraham came to sacrifice : he may not go noly emulation of faith! O blessed agree-away with dry hands. God cannot abide ment of the sacrificer and oblation! Abra- that good purposes should be frustrate, lest ham is as ready to take as Isaac to give : either he should not do that for which he he binds those dear hands, which are more came, or should want means of speedy straitly bound with the cords of duty and thanksgiving for so gracious a disappointresolution ; he lays his sacrifice upon the ment. Behold, a ram stands ready for the wood, which now before-hand burnt in sacrifice, and, as it were, proffers himself to wardly with the heavenly fire of zeal and this happy exchange. He that made that devotion.
beast, brings him thither, fastens him there. And now having kissed him his last, not | Even in small things there is a great proviwithout mutual tears, he lifts up his hand dence. What mysteries there are in every to fetch the stroke of death at once, not so act of God! The only Son of God, upon much as thinking, perhaps, God will relent this very hill, is laid upon the altar of the after the first wound. Now the stay of cross, and so becomes a true sacrifice for Abraham, the hope of the church, lies the world ; that yet he is raised without bleeding under the hand of a father. What impeachment, and exempted from the power bowels can choose but yearn at this specta- of death. The Lamb of God, which takes cle! Which of the savagest heathens, that away the sins of the world, is here really had been now upon the hill of Moriah, and offered and accepted. One Saviour in two had seen (through the bushes) the sword figures; in the one dying, restored in the of a father hanging over the throat of such other. So Abraham, while he exercises a son, would not have been more perplexed his faith, confirms it; and rejoices more to in his thoughts than that unexpected sacri- foresee the true Isaac in that place offered fice was in those briars? Yet he, whom it to death for his sins, than to see the carnal nearest concerned, is least touched : faith Isaac preserved from death for the reward hath wrought the same in him which of his faith. Whatsoever is dearest to us cruelty would in others, not to be moved. upon earth, is our Isaac: happy are we, if He contemns all fears, and overlooks all we can sacrifice it to God. Those shall impossibilities. His heart tells him, that never rest with Abraham, that cannot sa. the same hand which raised Isaac from the crifice with Abraham. dead womb of Sarah, can raise him again from the ashes of his sacrifice. With this confidence was the hand of Abraham now CONTEMPLATION V.- OF LOT AND SODOM. falling upon the throat of Isaac, who had given himself for dead, and rejoiced in the Before Abraham and Lot grew rich, change ; when suddenly the angel of God they dwelt together; now their wealth interrupts him, forbids him, commends him. | separates them; their society was a greater
The voice of God was never so welcome, good than their riches. Many a one is a never so sweet, never so seasonable as now: loser by his wealth. Who would account it was the trial that God intended, not the those things good which make us worse. fact: Isaac is sacrificed, and is yet alive ; It had been the duty of young Lot to offer and now both of them are more happy in rather than to choose, to yield rather than that they would have done, than they contend. Who would not here think Abracould have been distressed if they had ham the nephew, and Lot the uncle? It done it. God's charges are ofttimes harsh is no disparagement for greater persons to in the beginnings and proceeding, but in begin treaties of peace. Better doth it bethe conclusion always comfortable. True seem every son of Abraham to win with spiritual comforts are commonly late and love, than to sway with power. Abraham sudden. God defers on purpose, that our yields over this right of his choice ; Lot trials may be perfect, our deliverance wel- | takes it: and behold, Lot is crossed in come, our recompense glorious. Isaac had that which he chose, Abraham was blessed never been so precious to his father, if he in that which was left him. God never had not been recovered from death; if he suffers any man to lose by an humble re. had not been as miraculously restored as mission of his right in a desire for peace. given. Abraham had never been so blessed Wealth had made Lot not only undutiin his seed, if he had not neglected Isaac | ful but covetous : he sees the goodly plains for God.
of Jordan, the richness of the soil, the The only way to find comfort in an commodity of the rivers, the situation of earthly thing is to surrender it (in a faith- the cities; and now not once inquiring sul carelessness) into the hands of God. into the conditions of the inhabitants, he is