After his creation man was placed by his Maker in the beautiful and pleasant garden of Eden, or Delight (probably either in Babylonia or Armenia). He was not to live in dreamy indolence or luxurious enjoyment; but, as work of some kind is necessary for his well-being while on earth, he was placed in a garden, to dress and keep it--the easiest way of life. He was surrounded by his beneficent Creator with all the joys of an earthly , with everything his heart could wish--fruits and flowers, groves and streams, inoffensive animals, perfect health of soul and body, a lovely wife, and the frequent companionship of his kind and omnipotent Maker, who delighted to minister to his happiness. But man must be taught the all-important truth that he is under obligations to, and dependent upon, his Divine, Sovereign Creator, Preserver and Benefactor.
It was the prerogative and pleasure of God to give law for the government of all things created by Him, whether in relation to the motion of the planets or the creeping of an insect, and therefore man could not be exempt from that universal rule. Adam had a law given him which he must obey or forfeit the approbation of his Maker. It was given to him before Eve was formed and presented to him as his wife; but as she was virtually in him when he received the law, it was equally binding on her. He was the head of his wife and whole human race, and represented both her and them. He was as innocent and pure as an angel in heaven, and stood forth, in the image of God, the admiration of the angelic throng as well as of the immense multitude of living creatures around him, all of which belonged to him and were obedient to his commands. In the midst or centre of the garden were two peculiar trees, called "the tree of life" and "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." The exact species or nature of these two trees is now unknown to man. It is supposed that "the tree of life" was an evergreen tree of unremitting productiveness, the fruit of which when eaten tended to preserve the natural health and life of man forever (Gen. iii. 22), and that it was a symbol or type of the true "tree of life," or Christ, in the heavenly (Revelation ii. 7; xxii. 9). The "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" is thought to have been of an intoxicating, or morally poisonous nature, the prohibition of whose fruit was a mercy, as well as a test of manís obedience and fidelity to God. In man's unfallen and happycondition we cannot think of a more appropriate or a more benevolent test. This arrangement was the covenant of works (Hosea vi. 7; Isaiah i. 19, 20; Romans x. 5; Gal. iii. 12).
God said to Adam this: "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. ii. 16, 17). We discover the love of God to Adam in this enlarged liberty bestowed on him, and the small restraint imposed. Yet he could not willingly bear the restraint, however small. He was made able to stand, but liable to fall; and in the hour of temptation he fell, and great was that fall. This was a notable epoch in his history; it changed the whole course of his conduct, and involved himself and posterity * in guilt and ruin. He was assailed through the weaker vessel, his wife. It was human nature, unaided by the power of God's grace, that was assailed and captured. This temptation was no fancy sketch, figure or allegory. It was a reality, and penned down in the Book of God by the Holy Ghost, and frequently mentioned in the sacred volume (John viii. 44; 2 Cor. xi. 8; 1 Tim. ii. 14; Rev. xii. 9; Romans v. 12-19; xvi. 20).
*As the remedy is determined by the disease, one's whole system of theology is decided by his view of original sin. Pelagianism (so called from Pelagius, a British monk of the fifth century), which is a form, not of Christianity, but of Rationalism. asserts that Adam's sin injured only himself; that men are born into the world in the same unfallen state in which Adam was created; that men may, and sometimes do, live without sin: that the law is as good a system of salvation as the gospel: that men have no need of divine assistance in order to be holy: and that Christianity has no essential superiority over heathenism or natural religion. But it is the plain testimony of Scripture, as well as of all known experience and history, and it has always been the doctrine of both the Jewish and the Christian Church, that the sin and guilt of Adam were imputed to all his posterity. Adam was the natural and federal head and representative of his race. Everything said or granted or promised or threatened to him had as much reference to his posterity, as to himself. They, like him, have dominion over the lower animals: their law of marriage is like his; the penalty of transgression pronounced upon him has fallen upon them; the earth is cursed to them, as to him; they too have to earn their bread in the sweat of their face; the daughters of Eve suffer the same peculiar pains as their mother; all mankind, even unborn infants, die, and their bodies return to dust. Since the fall our first parents, all their posterity have been born outside of Eden, away from the favor of God, and with the sinful natures of the first fallen pair (Eph. ii. 1-3). It seemed good (Matt. xi. 26) to our wise and holy Creator that our race should have its probation or trial in Adam. Adam, when created, was surrounded with a multiplicity of the most exquisite means of innocent enjoyment: he had no natural inclination to evil; he had no known bad company; he was not a child, but a man in the maturity of his powers; he had the noblest possible motives to stand; there is absolutely no reason to believe that any one of his descendants would have done better. Had he stood, we should have enjoyed all the benefits of his obedience. Just as Christ, the second Adam, is the federal head and representative of all His people, and they are made alive and righteous by His obedience, so the first Adam was the federal head and representative of all his children, and, by his disobedience, they were all made unrighteous and spiritually dead (Rom. v. 19; 1 Cor. xv. 22, 45; Eph. ii. 1). The inborn depravity of human nature is proved by the early manifestation, the universality, and the incorrigibility of sin, by the abundant testimony of both the Old and New Testament Scriptures (Gen. vi. 5; viii. 21; Job xiv. 4; xxv. 4; Psalms xiv. 3; Ii. v; Isaiah i. 5, 6: Jer. xvii. 9: Matt. vii. 16-20; xv. 19; John iii. 6: Rom. iii. 9-20, etc.) by the necessity of redemption by the death of Christ, and of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, by the experience of all Christians, by the whole course of human history, and by the universality of death. The Wesleyans, while admitting the imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity, maintain that such imputation was Just in God only on condition that He should give every individual of the human family sufficient grace in Christ to enable him, if he chooses, to attain salvation--thus taking back with the left hand what they give us with the right, and making themselves semi-Pelagians, and contradicting the whole tenor of the Scriptures, which everywhere affirm or imply that Godís gift of Christ was an act of pure and unmerited mercy.
The mysterious principle of representation pervades both Scriptures and nature (Gen. ix. 22, 25; xxv. 34, compared with Obadiah 19; Ex. xx. 5; xxxiv. 6, 7; Num. xvi. 32, 33; Josh. vi. 25; vii. 24, 25; 1 Sam. iii.14; xv. 2, 3; 2 Sam. xii.10; xxi. 1-9; 1 Kings v. 27; Jer. xxxii; 18; Matt. xxiii. 35, etc.) The God of nature visits the crimes and vices of individuals in many ways upon their posterity. By finite minds Godís "judgments are unsearchable, and His ways past finding out" (Rom. xi. 33). But, though "clouds and darkness are round about Him," his children know that "justice and judgment are the habitation of His throne." (Psalm xcvii. 2). We cannot understand the doctrine of representation or imputation, any more than we can understand why an infinitely wise, powerful,, holy and benevolent Being should gave ever permitted the existence of sin and misery in the universe.
"Now the serpent* was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise [see I John ii. 16], she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat" (Gen. iii. 1-6). Thus we see that the citadel was stormed and carried. Man was left to his own free choice to partake or not. No grace was there--no power of God to restrain him, and he fell an easy prey to the wiles of Satan. "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And He said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee .that thou shouldest not eat ? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.** And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.** And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat, all the days of thy life. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shalt bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception: in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field: in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."--Gen, iii. 1-19.
*In the early rites, symbols and legends of all the most ancient nations is found the tradition that the serpent was somehow associated with the ruin of the human family, and that he was, when thus employed, the vehicle of the Evil Spirit. We are told in the New Testament that a legion of devils, on one occasion, entered a herd of swine (Mark v. 9-13), and that, after the last supper, Satan entered into Judas (John xiii. 27). So the chief of the fallen angels, who may once have been before his fall, the vicegerent of God on earth, and who is now "the prince of the power of the air." (Eph. ii. 2), hating God, and envying man's happiness, plotted to mar this fairest object of God's terrestrial creation. To accomplish his malignant purpose, he selects the serpent, the subtlest or craftiest of all the animal tribes, and inspires him to tempt Eve, the weaker of the human pair (2 Cor. xi. 3; Rev. vii. 9; xx. 2).
**We see thus the mean, selfish and ungodly tendency of sin, which is to cast the blame upon some one else, whether it be an inferior animal, or another human being, or even upon God, our Maker, who "cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man" (James i. 12-15), though He tries or proves His people (Psalm vii. 9; Jer. xx. 12; Zech. xiii. 9).
Thus we have the fall of man depicted, his arraignment and condemnation. God drove him out of the garden; and to prevent his returning to it, and eating of the tree of life, and living forever, God placed at the east of the garden cherubim*** and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.--Gen. iii. 24. Man could corrupt or destroy himself, but could not purify his own heart or restore himself to the favor and image of God. That had to be done by another.
***Or, as the original Hebrew means, "At the gate of the garden God tabernacled, or set as the dwelling place of His shekinah glory, cherubim and a sword-like flame which turned every way, to keep the way to the tree of life." The pointed flame, darting its resplendent beams around on every side, so as to present an effectual bar to all access by the old approach to the garden, symbolized God's unchangeable holiness and justice; while the cherubim symbolized his mercy. The name and the cherubim at the front of Eden seem to have constituted the antediluvian local tabernacle (Gen. iv. 3, 4, 14-16), and were the forerunners of the sanctuary, where the cherubim on either side of the shekinah cloud represented the meeting together of God's mercy and Justice in man's redemption. The cherubim, as sculptured or wrought figures in the Tabernacle or the Temple, seem to have had human forms and faces with angelic wings, representing that redeemed men are to be equal to angels (Luke xx. 26); and in the visions of Isaiah, Ezekiel and John, they. are living creatures, having four or six wings apiece and having (as in Ezekiel) each four faces, or a lion, an ox, a man and an angel, or each having (as in John) only one of these faces--the four leading forms of animal life being used to represent the perfected life in glory of those redeemed from all the world (Rev. iv. 7; v. 8, 9).
God had already provided a ransom, and makes it known. "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Here is a promise of Christ, a Savior, "the seed of the woman," who was to bruise the head of Satan, while Satan could only bruise the heel of Christ. Christ is the seed of the woman, and his elect children are his seed. The seed of the devil are his angels and wicked men who die without repentance; the term SEED here being understood, not in a physical, but in a spiritual sense. He is a fallen angel, and led his comrades in rebellion, and through the medium of the serpent seduced man also from his allegiance to God. The contest is to be between Satan and Christ; so that while Satan is to bruise the heel or the church of Christ, Christ is to bruise the head or the Power of Satan. Satan may annoy, but Christ overcomes, by destroying him that had the power of death.--Heb, ii. 14; Rom. xvi. 20; 1 John iii. 8.
Salvation through Christ was no doubt proclaimed by the Almighty to Adam and Eve; sacrifices were ordained to typify the crucifixion of the Savior. Skins of beasts, probably slain in sacrifice, taken by God and placed around the bodies of Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness, were figurative of the righteousness of Christ, which was to be imputed and placed as a robe around all the saints of God. The system is revealed, and the warfare soon began. The offspring of Adam and Eve, having been born after the fall, of course were brought forth in a state of sin and death, so that those without faith persecuted those who had faith. The first man born was named Cain, and the second was named Abel. Each brought a sacrifice to God. Cain's was without faith, being of the fruit of the ground. Abel's was with faith, and was of the firstlings of his flock and the fat thereof, typifying the offering of the Lamb of God in the fullness of the time (Heb. xi. 4). "Cain in unbelieving self-righteousness presented, like the Pharisee in the temple (Luke xviii. 11), merely a pretended thank-offering, not like Abel and the publican, feeling his need of the propitiatory sacrifice appointed for sin. God had respect (first) unto Abel, and (then) to his offering (Gen. iv. 4); and so our works are not accepted of God, until ourselves have been so, through faith His work of grace."ĖA.. R.. -Fausset.. Abel's offering was accepted and Cain's rejected. This displeased Cain so that he slew his brother; and wherefore slew he him? because he was of that wicked one and his works were evil, while Abel's were righteous (1 John iii. 12). Hence began the warfare between the children of men. The enmity between the seed of Satan and the seed of the woman grows out of the very nature of Holiness and Sin. Satan and his seed or servants, being sinful, will forever hate and rebel against a holy God; and God, being immutably holy, can never tolerate, but will forever express His hatred against their sin. Satan and his seed give expression to their enmity in every form of opposition and ill-will which their ingenious wickedness can devise and their circumstances permit; and there is no work against the glory, happiness, or even the existence of God and His people, which, if unrestrained, they would not exert themselves to accomplish. Cain now stands as a representative of that portion of the human race who persecute the children of God, and Abel represents that portion who are persecuted by men, often unto death. Figuratively speaking, Cain has always been killing Abel, and Abel has all along fallen by the hands of Cain. To Eve another son was given, and she called his name Seth (appointed). "For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed, instead of Abel, whom Cain slew" (Gen. iv. 25.)
From these two, therefore, we trace to some extent the divergent lines of the race--the one servants of God and the other the servants of Satan. Faith is the great distinguishing feature. "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh." (Heb. xi. 4).
The names of the chosen line from Adam to Noah are about as follows, viz.: Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah.
The names of the rejected line are about as follows, some of their names being like those of the chosen line, viz.: Cain, Enoch, Irad, Mehujael, Methusael, Lamech, and by Lamech's wife Adah, Jabal and Jubal, and by his wife Zillah, Tubal-Cain.
"The resemblances in the names of the two families seems a natural consequence of the use of significant names, at a time when language acquired no great variety; and in both cases several of the names have sense natural at that age, increase and possession. The different number of generations suggests that the period between the children of Lamech and the flood was occupied with the development of the inventions ascribed to them, by their unnamed descendants. The only personal facts of their history are, the foundation by Cain of the first city, which he named after his son Enoch; the polygamy of Lamech; and the occupations of his sons, of whom Jabal was the first nomad herdsman, Jubal the inventor of musical instruments, both stringed and wind, and Tubal-Cain the first smith. The great contrast, however, between the two races, is in their social and moral condition." "It is remarkable that corruption of religion and morals advanced most rapidly in the line of Cain, where the greatest progress had been made in art and in science; thus showing that knowledge and civilization, apart from religion, have no power to purify the heart, or to preserve society from corruption."--W. G. Blaikie.
As the arts and sciences advanced, and population and civilization increased, wickedness also increased. The "sons of God," the Sethite professors of religion, intermarried with the "daughters of men," the irreligious Cainites; the selfish, worldly, licentious and warlike offspring of these wicked marriages filled the earth with profligacy and bloodshed. Enoch and Noah, and perhaps other prophets, preached righteousness, and predicted the coming terrible judgment of God upon the ungodly race, but in vain. Enoch walked with God, and, about a thousand years after the creation of Adam, was translated to heaven without dying; just as, about two thousand years afterwards, during the rampant idolatry of the kingdom of Israel, the Prophet Elijah was similarly favored--these two witnesses, before the coming of Christ, thus being divinely enabled to demonstrate to an unbelieving world the doctrine of the resurrection of the body and its existence with the soul in glory. In the same manner, the bodies of the saints who are living on the earth at the second or last personal coming of Christ, shall be changed, in a moment, without dying, from a mortal to an immortal state, and be caught up with their spirits to dwell forever with the Lord (1 Thess. iv. 15-17).
The wicked race cared nothing for the solemn and faithful warnings of the prophets; and God's Spirit in His servants would not always strive with corrupt and rebellious flesh (Neh. ix. 30; Acts vii. 51, 52). His sparing mercy, extended to them 120 years, was equally contemned; every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart become only evil continually. Noah was the only righteous man left, and he, being warned of God, and believing the warning, prepared an ark to the saving of his house. But the ungodly race continued eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah and his family, with two each of unclean and seven each of clean animals, entered into the ark, and the Lord shut them in, and the windows of heaven were opened, and the foundations of the great deep were broken up, and God, in awful majesty, justice and power, brought in the flood, and destroyed them all* (2 Peter iii. 5, 6; Job xii. 15; Psalm civ. 57).
*God's purpose was to destroy the entire wicked race of man, except the family of Noah, and to show the world's need of divine purification (Gen. xi. 13; 1 Peter iii. 20, 21; John iii. 5). The flood was no doubt universal, so far as the occupants of the Ark could see (Gen. vii. 19), and so far as the human race was concerned; but the word "all," both in Scripture and in popular language, frequently means only a large part (see Gen. xli. 57; Ex. ix. 6, 19; Deut. ii. 25; Matt. iii. 5: xxi. 26: and Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, last edition). These and similar passages of Scripture, together with numerous scientific considerations, have led some of the ablest Bible scholars to believe that the region submerged covered only about a million square miles in Western Asia, where man first dwelt--the object of God being to destroy the corrupt human race. Reckoning 21 inches for the sacred cubit, the ark was only 525 feet long, 87 1/2 broad and 52 1/2 high, and these two-and-a-half million cubic feet could have held, it is said, only one-fourth of the clean animals alone, taking in seven of each kind. The steamship Great Eastern is one-third larger than was the Ark, but it would have been far too small to have held a million living creatures, with twelve months provisions for them, as it must have done, it is said, if the flood had been universal, and two of every unclean and seven of every clean animal had been taken on board. Besides, it is computed that it would have required three times as much water as there is on the globe to have covered the entire earth to the depth of five miles, the altitude of the highest mountains; and Moses does not tell us that any water was created for the purpose, but he does say that the material creation ceased with the creation of Adam (Gen. ii. 2). Like most of the historical descriptions in Scripture, the account of the deluge is probably the truthful statement of an eye-witness, perhaps Shem, handed down to Moses. As far as his eye could reach, everything on earth was submerged beneath the waters. How forcible an emblem was the deluge of baptism (1 Peter iii. 20, 21), and the Ark an emblem of Christ (Gen. vii. 23; Acts iv. 12). The Assyrian Deluge Tablet, 4000 years old, but recently exhumed and deciphered, states thirty of the very same facts as are mentioned by Moses in his narrative of the deluge.
After all that may be said, we know that God is omnipotent, and that there are no physical difficulties with Him, and the deluge that He sent upon the wicked race may have been literally as well as optically universal.
From the period when man became a living soul to the day when the waters of the deluge began to fall on the earth, timeís duration probably numbered about 1,656 years. About 1,500 years of this time, it may be supposed, there was antagonism between the chosen people of God and the children of the wicked one,--the Spirit of God in His elect on the one side, and the spirit of the devil in his children on the other, warring against each other. The weapons of warfare, on the part of true worshipers, were not carnal, but spiritual; while those used by the enemies of God and truth were carnal and fatal to the bodies of the saints.
Witness the murder of righteous Abel, and the design no doubt to take the life of Enoch, also, who prophesied of the coming of the "Lord with ten thousand of His saints to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of their ungodly deeds, which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." But God delivered him out of their hands by translating him directly to Heaven. Truth has ever made slow progress in this world, and the antediluvian age, of all, in this respect, is the most remarkable. The number of true worshipers appeared to decrease as time rolled on, until but one man and his family were to be found on earth serving God. Methuselah, the grandfather of Noah, it is thought, died the very year of the deluge, and Lamech, the father of Noah, died five years before; so that Noah was the only patriarch left on earth, the only preacher of righteousness in the world, and the only man who with his house served God truly.
The children of God in this nineteenth century of the Christian era think that they have a hard time of it, while enduring the scoff, derisions and hatred of a gainsaying world; but what is this when compared with the cruel mockings and scourgings endured by their brethren before the flood? While we now write, the visible number of God's people is on the increase; some few are being added to the churches. The churches are scattered over the land, but sparsely, of course, in comparison with the number of other religious organizations. There is nearly one minister for every two churches, and appointments by many are published in their periodicals for itinerant preaching, by Elders and licentiates going in almost every direction, preaching the everlasting gospel of the kingdom. Congregations to hear preaching are large and frequently come together. They are protected in their gatherings and devotional exercises by the laws of the land, so that none dare molest or make them afraid while thus worshiping--while thus defending the faith that Abel, Enoch and Noah had, and at the same time preaching Christ and him crucified as the only way of salvation.
God's people now expect a further increase of their numbers before the day comes that shall burn as an oven, but then they had no such expectation. They were persecuted by fearful odds against them, with their numbers constantly diminishing, and every prospect before them of being overrun by an ungodly world and completely exterminated, according to all human appearances. Yet they boldly fought on, believed in and feared God, daily making their altars smoke with the victims offered up as typical of the great offering afterward to be made by the Lamb of God for the sins of His people; and counted not their lives dear unto themselves, so that they might finish their course with joy and gain the approbation of their God.
These were thought to be very stubborn people, no doubt, by their enemies, and to be worthy of death for their stern and uncompromising spirit. Do we see anything like it in the world now? Can we not readily find a people now who are equally stubborn, equally inflexible, equally steadfast and immovable on the foundation which God has laid in Zion? a people who would yield their lives rather than yield their faith, and will have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness?
Look at the Baptists of the present day and see if they can respond to the call, or if the measure will fit them. (Rev. xi. 1, 2). We do not mean Baptists merely, so called, for their name is legion; but we mean genuine BIBLE BAPTISTS, those called "Primitive" or "Predestinarian," by way of distinction from others, and "Hardshells" by way of reproach. These people, who are opposed and abused by all other sects and societies in the world--these who have been hunted in dens and caves of the earth by Mystery Babylon and her daughters for centuries past, and put to death for their faith in Christ, and have only had a respite of about one hundred years from the tyranny of the magistrate and religious despotism. And we ask these people to read carefully and see if they cannot find the counterpart of their own history in the lives of their brethren before the flood. When they look at them and see their unpopularity, their firm faith, their peculiarity, their steadfastness to the end, notwithstanding that nearly the combined world was against them, do they not see themselves reflected as in a mirror, and feel willing to call them brethren? God's people must be the same in all ages, for He never had but one way of saving them. There has never been but one Savior for them. All are saved by grace, through faith, and that not of themselves, it is the gift of God (Eph. ii. 8).
And again, if the truth of God made such slow progress among the antediluvians, coming immediately from Adam and the patriarchs, is it any wonder that it did not make a greater progress under the Mosaic dispensation, or that it does not now under the Christian dispensation?
If success and numbers prove the truth of a creed or party, then the antediluvians who killed the patriarchs and filled the earth with violence, had the best of the argument; and so had the 850 prophets of Baal in the days of Elijah; and so had the whole nation of Israel, also, in his day, as against the seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal; and so had the Jews when they crucified the Savior; and so had the Gentiles when they destroyed Christians by thousands; and so has Rome now, as against the balance of what is called Christendom; and so has the pagan world as against the rest of mankind; and last, though not of least importance to us, so have the so-called Missionaries, as against the Primitive Baptists of the United States; the former are twenty times as numerous. But if numbers and success do not prove the truth and justice of any cause whatever, but rather the contrary, in all the history of the Adamic race, then we may expect to find the minority in the right in all ages of the world, especially in religious matters. Such was the case before the flood, all must agree; such was the case under the legal dispensation, and such is the case under the new dispensation, according to the language of our blessed Savior Himself, who says there are few that be saved: "Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Fatherís good pleasure to give you the kingdom," etc., etc. (Matt. vii. 14; Luke xii. 32).*
*The above argument does not prove that, in religious matters, every minority is right; but it does completely destroy, the force of every argument that bases the defense of any religious party upon the great numbers of that party.
Another reflection arises here, which is this: If God Almighty destroyed the old world with a flood as a punishment for the crimes of its inhabitants, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone for the crimes of their inhabitants, and Jerusalem and the nationality of the Hebrews as a punishment for their crimes, what will He burn up this world for in the last great day? Will it be because earth's inhabitants will have become so civil, so truthful, so honest, so upright, so loving, so tender-hearted, so unselfish, so Christianized, so evangelized, that the Lord must forsooth send down fire and burn up their beautiful dwelling place? Or will it be because men will wax worse and worse, iniquity abound more and more, generation after generation become deeper and deeper steeped in sin as the ages roll on, until every principle of morality, justice, judgment and equity be swept away from the minds of men, and cruelty, rapine and murder cover the earth, so as to induce the Almighty to purify it with fire, cause time to cease, and appropriate the planet to some other use?
It was crime that caused the destruction of the old world, the cities of the plain, and the Hebrew nationality; and by a parity of reasoning we may safely conclude that crime will be the cause of the final conflagration and the destruction of this mundane system.
The rain poured down forty days (forty being the number significant of judgment), and the whole known or visible world was covered, and every living creature that had existed on the dry land died. After one hundred and fifty days the waters abated, and the ark rested "upon the mountains of Ararat," or "the hills of Armenia," as otherwise rendered; and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains (or hills) were seen. Forty days afterward Noah, to ascertain the state of the earth, opened the window of the ark and sent forth a raven, which went to and fro, satisfied to feed on the floating carcasses, and never reentering the ark--"emblem of the restless carnal mind." Then he sent forth a dove, which, finding no rest for the sole of her foot, returned into the ark--"emblem of the soul drawn from the world by Christ to Himself." Seven days afterward he sends out the dove again, and, as a sign that even the low trees were uncovered, she returns with a fresh olive leaf, the olive being a tree which can live under a flood better than most trees--"emblem of the Spirit of peace, the earnest of the saintsí inheritance." Sent forth again, after seven days, the dove returns no more'' emblem of the new heavens and earth which shall be after the fiery deluge, when the ark of the church to separate us from the world shall be needed no more." One year after he entered the ark Noah, on the first day of the first month, removed the covering of the ark, and saw that the earth was dry; and on the twenty-seventh day of the second month, at Godís command, he and his family and all the living creatures went forth from the ark. Building an altar unto the Lord, he made burnt offerings of every clean beast and fowl, as a sacrifice of thanksgiving and consecration to God; and the Lord graciously accepted the offering, and promised that He would no more curse the ground for manís sake, "for the imagination of manís heart is evil from his youth;" neither would He again smite every living thing, as He had done, but that, "while the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, Summer and Winter, and day and night, shall not cease." God blessed Noah, and gave him and his posterity the right to eat animal as well as vegetable food; and as a token of His covenant with all flesh, that he would no more destroy the earth with a watery flood, He appoints the rainbow in the cloud--this beautiful and universally visible phenomenon being a most appropriate sign of His natural mercy to all His creatures on earth; clearly indicating the early cessation of rain because, in order to its formation, the clouds must be broken and the sun must be shining through them. Of the same
absolute unconditional nature as this natural covenant with Noah and all flesh, God declares His new covenant with spiritual Israel to be (Isa. liv. 4-10, 17; Jer. xxxi. 31-37).*
*Isaiah liv. 7-10 was the first text ever taken by the Junior author of this work in his public ministry, December 10, 1871, at Skewarkey meeting-house, near Williamston, Martin Co.,
God gave Noah three new precepts--the abstinence from blood as a food (the blood being the life, and being typical of the cleansing efficacy of the shed blood of Christ), the prohibition of murder (on the grounds that man was made in the image of God, and that all men are brothers), and the recognition of the civil authority (" he that sheddeth manís blood, by man shall his blood be shed").
From the flood to the calling of Abraham was about 400 years, and during this period idolatry arose and then increased greatly. "Noah lived 350 years after the flood, and died at the age of 950; just half-way according to the common chronology between the creation and the Christian era. He survived the fifth and sixth of his descendants, Peleg and Reu; he was 128 years contemporary with Terah, the father of Abraham; and died only two years before the birth of Abraham himself (A.M. 2006; B.C. 1998). Looking back we find that he was born only 126 years after the death of Adam, and 14 years after that of Seth. He was contemporary with Enos for 84 years, and with the remaining six antediluvian patriarchs (except Enoch) for centuries. We give these computations, not as a matter of curiosity, but to show by how few steps, and yet by how many contemporary teachers, the traditions of primeval history may have been handed down--from Adam to Noah, and from Noah to Abraham, and we might add, from Abraham to Moses."--Old Testament History, by Wm. Smith.**
**Between Adam and Isaac were only two links, Methuselah and Shem. According to the Hebrew numbers, Adam and Methuselah were contemporaneous 243 years. Methuselah and Shem 98 years; and Shem and Isaac 49 years.
The world was to some extent divided between Noah's three sons, so that we may in general reckon Asia to Shem, Africa to Ham, and Europe to Japheth*** though of course there was some crossing of these lines by each.
***The names of Noah's sons were prophetic. Shem signifies name or renown (the Scriptures
have been given to us through the family of Shem, and Christ was of that family); Ham signifies hot or black (his descendants mainly peopled Africa); and Japheth signifies either fair or enlarged (his descendants are the white-faced Europeans, who have gone forth and established colonies in all the other grand divisions of the globe).
The greatest saints, while on earth, are sinners; and the inspired writers are terribly faithful in recording the vices, as well as the virtues, of Scripture characters. Noah planted a vineyard and became intoxicated with the fruit of the vine, and, while in this condition, Ham discovered his nakedness and reported it to his other brothers in an improper spirit --without sorrow and without respect either to his person or character. "Shem and Japheth" upon this report "took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger* son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant" (Gen. ix. 20-27). The curse did not fall upon Ham directly, but what is often the sorest point with a father, he was cursed in his youngest son. In the brief language of Noah, as recorded, Ham's other sons are not mentioned; Canaan is thought to be especially named, because of the future historical relations between the Canaanites and Israelites. But the other sons of Ham (Gen. x. 6-14) may also have been indirectly intended. Egypt and Babylon, as well as Canaan, were settled by Hamite races, which at first were the most brilliant and civilized, but, because of their irreligion and profligacy, became the most degraded. In saying, "Blessed be the Lord God of Shem," Noah pronounces the highest possible blessing upon Shem, as he thus declares the Lord God peculiarly the God of Shem; this language was especially verified in the descendants of Shem--Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their posterity, the Israelites. Japheth was, by his expansive energy and God's providence, to overpass his own bounds (Europe) and dwell in the tents of Shem, as the ancient Greek and Roman, and the modern European and American nationalities, exemplify. And gradually Japheth was to dwell in Shem's tents spiritually, that is, he should be brought to believe in and worship the God of Shem.
*Qatan, in the twenty-fourth verse, translated "younger," is elsewhere rendered "'youngest" (1Samuel xvi.11; xvii.14), and its literal meaning is "little." "Little son," or "young son,"
with the Jews often meant grandson: so that many scholars think that the expression here denotes Noah's grandson, Canaan: and they suppose that Canaan first saw Noah and told his father Ham, who then told Shem and Japheth. The word Canaan means low, and denotes him and his posterity as low, morally, socially and geographically. The Canaanites mainly inhabited the Mediterranean lowlands of Palestine and the low-depressed valley of the Jordan. Like their father, they were exceedingly sensual and depraved. Sodom and Gomorrah were Canaanite cities.
By Japheth's dwelling in the tents of Shem, it seems also implied that they should be more confederate, more social, more upon an equality as a class of human beings with each other than with Ham, while he should be servant to both, and sometimes his descendants should actually become servants to others of his descendants, thereby filling the lowest station--"a servant of servants."
The prophecy of Noah has been fulfilled in the destruction and final subjugation and enslavement of the Canaanites, by the descendants of Shem, the children of Israel; in the subjugation and enslavement of the Phoenicians and Carthaginians by the Greeks and Romans, the descendants of Japheth; in the subjugation of the Egyptians and Ethiopians; in the enslavement of Africans in almost all ages of the world, even down to the present day, and their miserable enslavement of each other." What a wonderful prophetic summary, in three short verses, of the history of the world! Who but an omniscient and omnipotent God could have inspired such a prediction?
The genealogical** line of the Messiah extends from Noah to Shem, Shem to Arphaxad, Arphaxad to Salah, Salah to Eber, Eber to Peleg, Peleg to Reu, Reu to Serug, Serug to Nahor, Nahor to Terah, and Terah to Abram. "The footsteps of the flock" are very difficult to trace along this period of 400 years. The knowledge and true worship of God seem to have been pretty much confined to the patriarchs, while nearly all their descendants were enveloped in darkness. Indeed, some of the patriarchs themselves appear to have been tainted with idolatry. About 100 years after the flood the town of Babel was commenced by the wicked descendants of Noah in opposition to God's will and to the building of His spiritual kingdom. They were of one language and of one purpose, and that was to defy God and make a tower high enough to reach heaven, to make to themselves a name and build a city that would concentrate the people and rule the world. This same sort of enterprise has been undertaken by others since on nearly the same spot, but all has proved a failure. The language of the first builders was confounded*** and they ceased to build; God dispersed them. He has also dispersed their successors, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus and Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and Napoleon. God came down and confounded their schemes.
**The tenth chapter of Genesis is the most interesting and valuable ethnological record in the world. The latest and most critical scientific researches establish its entire accuracy.
***The confusion of tongues divinely produced at Babel accounts for all the radical differences between human languages.
The great length of life, and the great distance of death, seemed to make the antediluvians more reckless and corrupt; and therefore, after the flood, it pleased the Lord gradually to shorten human life from little less than a thousand to less than a hundred years. All men have a natural sense of dependence on a higher power, and therefore have some sort of religion; but the natural heart of fallen man recoils from the perfect purity of the true God and a spiritual worship of Him, and "devises means and mediators of its own for approaching the Most High, paying adoration to the sun, moon and stars, and others of His works, even animals and stones; making images to represent His attributes and worshiping them; asking beings inferior to God but superior to himself to intercede with God on his behalf; and, when most dark and degraded, resorting to magical charms and similar devices as means of obtaining the favor of the powers above. Thus, wherever men went, they forsook the pure worship of the true God, as it had been practiced by Noah, and instituted religious and idolatrous rites and practices of their own."-- W. G. Blaikie.
One bright streak penetrates this gloom from the flood to Abraham, and that is the experience of the patriarch Job.* He is thought to have been a descendant of Aram, son of Shem (Genesis x. 22, 23). He was a patriarch, a prophet, a man of God, a perfect man, one that feared God and eschewed evil, and one whose experience and writings have been interesting and profitable ~o the people of God in every generation since his day, and will be to the end of the world. He lived in the land of Uz, perhaps that portion of country occupied by Uz, the son of Aram (Gen. x. 23). It no doubt included the land of Edom, and was a vast country at one time, stretching far into Arabia and the East. Hence Job is called one of "the sons of the East," His book is one of the oldest of the inspired writings, having been written probably long before Moses was born, and wonderfully preserved, so as to be placed in the sacred canon. It was probably written by Job himself, with the exception of the last line, which mentions his death; that of course was added by the hand of a friend. Job was a real, not an imaginary, person. So the book declares, and God honors him by associating his name with that of Noah and Daniel (Ezekiel xiv. 14-20). The Apostle James mentions him as an example of patience (James v. 11). The extreme antiquity of the book of Job (as evinced by internal evidence), its compact, powerful and majestic style, and its solemn, profound and sublime conceptions, demonstrate the high intellectuality of primeval man. The leading object of the book seems to proclaim the sovereignty and infinite power, wisdom, righteousness, faithfulness and mercy of God, and the purity and omnipotence of His grace in the hearts of His people, causing them to serve Him freely from love of His adorable character, and to triumph at last over all their enemies.
*Uz, the country of Job, was probably in the middle of Northern Arabia; and the statement of Eusebius, that he lived two ages before Moses, or about the time of Isaac, some 1800 B.C., is probably as correct as can now be ascertained. It is supposed that Moses became acquainted with the book of Job during his stay in Arabia, near Horeb, and introduced it into the Hebrew canon, as calculated to teach the Israelites patience under their afflictions. Job's disease is believed to have been elephantiasis, or black leprosy, the most loathsome aud terrible of all diseases (ii. 7, 8; vii. 5, 7, 8, 13--16; xvi. 8; xix. 17; xix. 17-21, 27, 29, 30).
"The patience and the final perseverance of the saints, nowithstanding temporary distrust under Satan's persecutions, which entailed loss of family, friends, possessions and bodily health, are illustrated in Job's history. God's people serve Him for His own sake, not merely for the temporary reward which His service may bring; they serve Him even in overwhelming trial. Herein is Job an imperfect type of Christ. Job's chief agony was, not so much his accumulated losses and sufferings, not even his being misunderstood by friends, but that God hid His face from him, as these calamities too truly seemed to prove (xxiii. 3-9). Yet conscience told him he was no hypocrite, nay, though God was slaying him, he still trusted in God (xxiii. 10-15; compare Abraham, xxii. 19)."---Fausset.
"Job's chief error was his undue self-justification, which he at last utterly renounced." This book shows its author to have been a believer in a Savior to come, and to have been in possession of the gifts, graces and qualifications of the Holy Spirit, such as characterize the people of God now, and have characterized them in all ages of the world. His social and private virtues all bespeak him the child of God, and the church of God at this day would fellowship such an individual and give him freely all the privileges and immunities that appertain to the heirs of promise.
He was afflicted not as a punishment for his sins so much as for the trial of his faith--for his own good in the end, and for a pattern of patience and resignation that should encourage all the suffering saints of God, to the end of time.
"Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning Providence
He hides a smiling face.
"Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan God's work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain." *
*Elder Silas H. Durand, of Southampton,Penn., is the author of an admirable book called "The Trial of Job)," price $1 (A Hymn and Tune Book, by Elders S. H. Durand and P. G. Lester, may be had of Elder Durand for $1.25).
About midway between the creation of Adam and the advent of the Messiah, about 2000 A.M. and 2000 B. C., a man was born in Ur of the Chaldees, in Mesopotamia, whose name first was Abram, and afterwards, at the ratification of God's covenant with him by circumcision (Gen. xvii. 1-14), changed to Abraham. This man was chosen and called of God, and set up as the head of a family and progenitor of a nation, that should continue to exist for 2000 years* and become one highly favored of the Lord, and be greatly distinguished by spiritual blessings from all the other nations of the earth. In this family the true knowledge and worship of God were to be preserved in the midst of the rapidly increasing idolatry of the world, and the church of God was to be manifested and be taken care of until the Messiah appeared, upon whose death the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile was to be broken down, and then the blessings of salvation were to be extended to all nations, and the church of God be seen among every kindred and tribe of men.
*Though now scattered over the world, the Jews are still a separate and distinct peopleĖliving proofs, everywhere among the Gentiles, of the truth of the Old Testament--an absolutely unique feature in the history of the world, which ought to enchain the serious attention of every thinking mind; especially when this extraordinary fact was predicted by Moses 1500 years before their dispersion (Deut. xxx. 3).
The call of Abram was by virtue of the sovereign, gracious Will of God,* not at all dependent upon any human means or measures, and is a fit type of God's call to every man in nature's night, from darkness to light, and from the bondage of sin and Satan into the kingdom of God's dear Son. The first call of Abram moved the family with him; for his father Terah and others accompanied him part of the way. The first stopping place was at Haran, called in the New Testament Charran, east of the Euphrates, "the flood" which divided the old home of the family from the new land of promise. Here Terah died. Here it is thought Nahor remained. Haran, the oldest son, had died, and Abram and Nahor had married his daughters, Sarai and Milcah. At the second call of Abraham he crosses "the flood" (the river Euphrates) with his family and his nephew Lot and his family, Lot being a son of Haran and a brother of Abram's wife. Abram was now about seventy-five years old, having been born about two years after the death of Noah. "His father Terah was the ninth of the patriarchs from Shem and the nineteenth from Adam (inclusive). At the age of seventy (B. C. 2056) Terah begat three sons, Abram, Nahor and Haran. This is the order of dignity; as when we read of Shem, Ham and Japheth; but there is no doubt that Haran was the oldest and Abram the youngest of the three. The name Abram signifies father of elevation, i. e., exalted father, which was prophetic of his calling to be the ancestor of a race chosen for an exalted destiny, while the name Abraham, into which it was afterwards changed, signifies father of a multitude. Abramís future abode was described by Jehovah simply as Ďa land that I will show thee ;í and so Ďhe went out not knowing whither he went.í This was the first great proof of that unwavering faith, which added to his two other names of father the title, ĎFather of the faithful.í God's promise to him runs thus; 'I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing [to others]: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessedí (Gen. xii. 2, 3). The last words already involve the crowning blessings of the old covenant, the promise of the Messiah, and that to the Gentiles, all families of the earth".--Smith.
*"In the midst of his polytheistic kindred," says Prof. Max Muller, the ablest living philologist, "Abraham obtained his knowledge of the true God by a special divine revelation." So must every true child of God obtain a saving knowledge of the Most High (Matt. xi. 27; xvi. 17; Gal. i. 12),
Abram leaves Haran, as it is said: "So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him; and Abram was seventy-five years old when 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" (Gen. xii. 4, 5).
Abram crossed the "Great River" (Euphrates), and passing through the great Syrian desert (as we suppose), reached at length the city of Damascus and tarried there awhile. There he added to his family that faithful steward of his house, Eliezer, who was a native of the place. Quitting Damascus, he enters the holy land, and finds a resting place in the valley of Shethem or Sichem, the first in the promised land. Here he built an altar, and here God again appeared to him, with the promise of giving his seed that goodly land. Nine times did God appear to him who was called "the friend of God."
Abram next halted between Bethel and Ai. This was a delightful mountain region, but was scant of pasture for his cattle. He therefore kept moving southward till the presence of famine drove him out of the promised land into Egypt. Here he fared well; but, for fear of losing his life, he called Sarai his sister, which she was indeed, according to the Hebrew and other languages, wherein a niece is called a sister, but was untrue in fact, and a misrepresentation to Pharaoh, who at first took her to be an unmarried woman.* Abram left Egypt "very rich in cattle, in silver and in gold," and traveled back through the south of Palestine to his old encampment near Bethel.
*No other book is so candid and truthful as the Bible. "The faults of the most eminent saints are not glossed over; each saint not only fails at times, but is represented as failing in the very grace (for example, Abraham in faith) for which he was most noted." This proves that all their graces were not of themselves, but were gifts of God; if He did not sustain them they failed. "It deserves to be noticed that throughout the history of the chose race, Egypt was to them the scene of spiritual danger, of covetousness and love of riches, of wordly security, of temptation to rest on an arm of flesh, on manís own understanding, and not on God only. "ĖA. R. Faussett.
He now soon experienced the inconvenience of having too much property. His herdmen and those of Lot disagreed, and, in order to keep peace, a separation was agreed on, Abram giving to Lot the choice of direction, in the true spirit of brotherly kindness; and Lot chose the rich plains of the Jordan about Sodom, "well watered everywhere, as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt," which they had lately quitted.
Abram removed to the oaks of Mamre, near Hebron, in the centre of the hills of the south, and there built an altar. Lotís new home brought him into trouble. The five cities and kings of the plain became involved in war with Chedorlaomer, King of Elam, who had established a strong empire in Western Asia, and thirteen years before placed these cities of the plain under tribute. They revolted, and the war was to force the payment of the tribute. The King of Elam secured the alliance of three other kings, and conquered the five kings, carrying off a great deal of booty and many captives, Lot being among the number with his goods.
Upon hearing this Abram resolved to regain possession of his nephew, and to that end made an alliance with the three uncaptured kings; and arming his servants, three hundred and eighteen in number, he overtook and punished the retiring hosts of Chedorlaomer, retook the spoils, and brought them, including Lot, to the valley again. He would receive no compensation for this outlay of time, trouble and endurance; but after giving tithes of the spoils as an offering to God, he gave the remainder to the young kings who accompanied him.
A remarkable scene occurred just here. Melchizedek, king of Salem, and priest of the Most High God, met Abram on his return from the expedition and blessed him, and Abram gave to Melchizedek tithes of all the spoil. Said this priest, who also brought forth bread and wine for the occasion, "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." Here is a king and a priest not reckoned in the Hebrew or Noachian genealogy, and yet is fully accredited by Abram as a man of God, and one higher in authority than himself, who blesses Abram and receives tithes from him. Without controversy, the less is blessed by the greater.
The Holy Ghost adopts this method of presenting to us the most perfect type of the eternal priesthood of Christ. The Aaronic priesthood was insufficient, because they were not permitted to continue by reason of death; and they were ordained by the law of a carnal commandment, but this by the power of an endless life; without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life (Heb. vii.). This king bears a title, which Jews in after years would recognize as designating their own sovereign, and bearing gifts which recall to Christians the Lord's Supper. "Disappearing as suddenly as he came in, he is lost to the sacred writings for a thousand years; and then a few emphatic words, for another moment, bring him into sight as a type of the coming Lord of David. Once more, after another thousand years, the Hebrew Christians are taught to see in him a proof that it was the consistent purpose of God to abolish the Levitical priesthood." Levi, who afterward received tithes of his brethren, paid tithes in Abraham; for he was in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him. Thus we have presented to us, apart from the Mosaic genealogy, Job among the patriarchs, Melchizedek among the priests, and subsequently Balaam among the prophets.
In order that Abram's faith might not fail, God renewed His promises to him. He bade him look toward heaven and tell the stars, if he was able to count them, and said unto him "So shall thy seed be." And Abram believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness (Gen. xv. 5, 6).
And when he was 99 years old God renewed His covenant with him--changed his name to Abraham, because he was to be the father of many nations, and added the sign of circumcision to distinguish his male descendants from the rest of mankind. The name of Sarai (contentious) was also changed to Sarah (princess), and a son promised her, and his name Isaac also given, before he was born. Isaac signifies laughter. Abraham fell on his face and laughed when God made the promise (xvii. 17).
He therefore when born was appropriately called the child of promise, because born out of the regular course of nature, and born by virtue of the promise. Typical was this birth of that of our blessed Savior, and also of every child of grace who is born into the spiritual world.
Ishmael was born after the flesh, and not by promise. He was brought forth also by a bondmaid, and not by a free woman. Her child could not, therefore, either supplant or be heir with the son of the free woman. Ishmael was the product of the impatience of Sarah, who could not brook the delay in the fulfillment of God's promise, and to hasten it, put her servant Hagar into Abraham's bed.* The disappointment is well known; and the plan and result are typical of all fleshly-made professors of religion from that day to this. When born of the flesh, or of the blood, or of the will of man, however much zeal may be manifested on the occasion, a mocking Ishmaelite only will be the result (Gal. iv. 22-31). Circumcision was enjoined as a rite to J~e imposed on all the male descendants of Abraham, when eight days Old, as well as on the servants and on all slaves when they were purchased (Gen. xvii. 12, 13).
*Polygamy began with the Cainites (Gen. iv. 19-24), and no doubt greatly helped to bring on the fearful Judgment of the flood (Gen. vi. 1-5). It was practiced by the Hebrews until after their return from Babylon. "The desire of offspring among the Jews was associated with the hope of the promised Redeemer. This in some degree palliates, though it does not justify, the concubinage of Abraham and Jacob. The seeming laxity of morals thus tolerated is a feature in the divine plan arising from its progressive character. In the beginning, when man was sinless, God made but one woman for one man. But, when man fell, and, in the course of developing corruption, strayed more and more from the original law, God provisionally sanctioned a code which imposed some checks on the prevailing licentiousness--the very permission being a witness against the hardness of man's heart (Matt. xix- 8). Christ restored the original pure code (Matt. xix. 1--9)"
Ishmael's share in the temporal promise was confirmed by his circumcision; and the rite is still observed by the Arabs, who are his descendants.
Again God appeared to Abraham as he sat in his tent door, under the oak of Mamre. He became aware of the presence of "three men," for such they appeared to him; and offered them that hospitality which is commemorated in the apostolic precept: "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have often entertained angels unawares" (Heb. xiii. 2). "He soon learnt the dignity of his visitors, when they inquired after Sarah, and rebuked her incredulity, by repeating the promise that she should bear Abraham a son, and fixing the time for its fulfillment." Upon their departure with their faces toward Sodom, Abraham, as "the friend of God," brought them on their way, when the design of Sodom's overthrow was made known to him. Two of the persons left, and with the other Abraham conversed and interceded for the salvation of Sodom, but without avail, for not even ten righteous men could be found within that devoted city. The person addressed was God, we suppose, or the Son of God veiled in assumed humanity, and the two others were angels who went down to snatch from destruction Lot and his family from the city of Sodom. Lot and his wife and two daughters are all that would leave. His wife, because she looked back, was turned to a pillar of salt; and as he and two daughters entered the city of Zoar (a little city) at sunrise on the morning of the next day, Jehovah rained down upon the cities--Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim--"brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven; and He overthrew these cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground" (Gen. xix. 24, 25; compared with Deut. xxix. 23; Isaiah xiii. 19; Jer. xx. 16; l.40; Ezek. xvi. 49, 50; Hosea xi. 8; Amos iv. 11; Zeph. ii. 9).*
* It is believed that the wicked cities occupied a part of the site now covered by the Dead Sea There are vast quantities of sulphur and bitumen and salt, and numerous evidences of other than volcanic combustion, in and around that most mysterious body of water. The surface of the Dead Sea is 1,800 feet below the level of the Mediterranean, and its water, in the northern part, is 1,800 feet deep. It is the deepest depression on the surface of the earth: and the air above and around has a hot, steaming, stagnant, sulphureous character; neither animals nor vegetables live in the water: dead driftwood fringe the shores--apt emblems of the low morals of the corrupt inhabitants of the plain, and God's terrible judgment upon them,--spiritual and eternal death.
"The plain in which the cities stood, hitherto fruitful "as the garden of Jehovah," became henceforth a scene of perpetual desolation. Our Lord Himself and the Apostles Peter and Jude have clearly taught the lasting lesson which is involved in the judgment; that it is a type of the final destruction by fire of a world which will have reached a wickedness like that of Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke xvii. 29; 2 Peter ii. 6; Jude 7). A more special warning to those who, when once separated from an ungodly world, desire to turn back, is enforced by the fate of Lot's wife, who when she looked back from behind him,.became a pillar of salt (Gen. xix. 26; Luke xvii. 32).
"Lot himself, though saved from Sodom, fell, like Noah after the deluge, into vile intoxication, of which his own daughters took advantage to indulge the incestuous passion, from which sprang the races of Moab and Ammon (Gen. xix. 30-38),-- W. Smith.
The fourth resting place of Abraham in the Holy Land was Beersheba, at the southwestern extremity of the country, so that the established formula to indicate the whole country was to say "from Dan to Beersheba." Abimelech reigned in the valley of Gerar, and, through fear of him, Abraham practiced another deception in regard to his wife (Gen. xx).
In Beersheba Isaac was born, and the greatest trial of Abrahamís faith was made when he was called upon to offer his son Isaac in sacrifice to God as a burnt-offering. There was not the slightest hesitation, however, on the part of Abraham, in obeying this command. He took his son, then twenty-five years old, to the spot designated by the Lord, clave the wood, laid his son on the altar, and raised the knife to slay him, when he was arrested by a voice from heaven, forbidding his doing the deed.
A ram was immediately seen caught in a thicket by his horns, and him Abraham took and offered in the stead of his son.* Thus a burnt offering was made and Isaac set free. Isaac became a figure of the church and the ram a figure of Christ.
*It was then that Abraham saw Christ's day, and was glad (John viii. 56). It was Abraham's faith, not his work, that was imputed to him for righteousness (Gen. xv. 6; Romans iv 1-25); and yet that faith would not have proved its reality and vitality unless it had worked in loving obedience to God (1 Cor. xiii. 2: Gal. v. 6; James ii. 14-16).
Abraham intended to slay his son, believing, no doubt, that God would restore him to him alive, so that he and his son could both return to the young men again whom they had left with the ass at the foot of the mountain (Gen. xxii. 5; Heb. xi. 19).
"And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh [the Lord will provide]: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen" (Gen. ii. 14).
Such a trying scene as this has never been surpassed, and to the end of time Abraham must be considered the father of the faithful; so all that do believe in Christ are reckoned the children of Abraham.
Abraham moved again to his old resting place at Hebron, and there Sarah died at the age of 127, which induced him to purchase land of the inhabitants for a burial place; for up to this time he owned no land. He bought of Ephraim, the Hittite, the cave of Machpelah (or the Double Cave), close to the oak of Mamre, with the field in which it stood, for the sum of four hundred shekelsí weight of silver, "current money with the merchant" (about two hundred and fifty dollars). "Here he buried Sarah; here he was buried by his sons Isaac and Ishmael; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; Jacob and his wife Leah, and perhaps Joseph.** It is said that the sepulchre still exists under the mosque of Hebron, and was first permitted to be seen by Europeans since the Crusades, when it was visited by the Prince of Wales in 1862. Hebron is held by the Mussulmans to be the fourth of the Holy Places; Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem being the other three."
**"Whence came the extraordinary, passionate affection of such sensible men as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, father, son, grandson and great-grandson, for the hilly and rocky land of Canaan, inhabited by an idolatrous and most corrupt people, while all that they possessed in that land was little more than a grave? What drew Abraham to it from the fertile plain of Mesopotamia, brought him back to it from wealthy and civilized Egypt, and would not let him hear of Isaac leaving it? What made its attractions so irresistible to Jacob, bringing him back to it after long absence, in spite of his exceeding fear of Esau? What made Joseph, the great lord of Egypt, decline the honors of pyramid and mausoleum and bind his brethren so solemnly to bury his bones in the soil of Canaan? Of these strange facts no other feasible explanation can be devised than that it was the promise of God to give to them and their posterity the land of Canaan, and to cause to be born of their descendants, in that land, one in whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed."--W. G. Blaikie.
After the burial of Sarah, Abraham seems to have returned to his old home again, Beersheba. His next care was to procure a wife for his son Isaac. She must not come from the idolatrous and depraved Canaanites, among whom he dwelt, but must be taken from among his own family relations. Therefore, the oldest servant was sworn in the matter, and undertook the task of finding a wife for Isaac. With ten camels and divers outfits and presents he started on his journey and kept on his way, till he crossed "the flood," the great river Euphrates, and found the city of Haran, in Mesopotamia, where Terah, Nahor, Abraham and Lot first halted after leaving Ur of the Chaldees, and where Nahor remained when Abram and Lot recommenced their journey toward the land of Canaan. God prospered the servant's journey and search; for there at Haran he found the damsel suited to his young master in the person of Rebekah, daughter of Bethnel and granddaughter of Nahor. She was the daughter, therefore, of Isaac's own cousin. The whole narrative, as recorded in the Bible, is very interesting, and clearly shows the hand of Providence as guiding the purpose of Abraham and directing the course of his servant from first to last.
Isaac took Rebekah into his mother's tent, and she became his wife, and he loved her, and was comforted after his mother's death (Gen. xxiv. 67). Isaac was forty years old when he was married, and his residence was by the well of La-hai-roi, in the extreme south of Palestine.
After the marriage of Isaac, Abraham formed a new union with Keturah, by whom he became the father of the Keturaite Arabs. He is said to have married Keturah, but perhaps the union was only that of concubinage, as her sons had no inheritance with Isaac and were sent off eastward with presents, so as to be entirely out of Isaac's way, as Ishmael was in the first instance. To Isaac he gave his great wealth, and then died in a good old age. He died, apparently at Beersheba, at the age of 175. His sons Isaac and Ishmael met at his funeral and buried him in the cave of Machpelah. Ishmael survived him just fifty years, and died at the age of 137.
The character of Abraham is one of the noblest in history. Modest, courteous, judicious, hospitable, generous and affectionate, full of reverence, love and submission to God, he lived a life of pre-eminent faith and prayer, and brought up his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Yet twice, influenced by the fear of man, he denied his own wife, and he yielded to her wishes, when Isaac's birth was delayed and he became a polygamist.
The Bible is different from all other books; it whitewashes none of its heroes, patriarchs, prophets, priests or kings, but gives an unvarnished statement of all their most important actions, whether good or bad, with the consequences, so that all may properly judge of them, and, while imitating their virtues, avoid their vices. The ancient worthies of the Old Testament, who, according to the Apostle Paul, form such a great crowd of witnesses for the truth (Heb. xi.), as well as the Apostles and ministers of the New Testament, who give such honor and glory to God, were all sinners saved by grace, and liable to err either in faith or practice occasionally, during the term of their natural lives. There is no perfection in the flesh, even if it is the flesh of saints. But their sins bring sorrow to their hearts, and produce a continual repentance toward God for the same.