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his will was the only thing that occupied the mind of the man of Ur. He calmly moved throughout the whole of his life in direct opposition to the settled course of mankind. This devotion, in the midst of universal defection is one of the most distinguishing points of his wonderful history. Amid a world of universal darkness, Abraham walked in light; in an age when, without exception, the whole human race were given to idolatry, he worshipped only the living God. Faith, which constitutes the chief element of moral greatness, existed and operated in him with the power and uniformity of nature's laws. It was his ruling principle. His life exemplified it continually. Infantile simplicity never credited the utterance of maternal lips with more implicit confidence than did Abraham the word of his God. All his recorded acts, with a solitary exception, were full of beauty and dignity. How full of manhood and self-respect was his demeanour towards the king of Sodom after the rescue of his brother Lot!* But what shall be said of his sublime and beautiful deportment when, before the Lord, he interceded in behalf of the guilty city! This scene, in moral grandeur, has never been equalled by any creature. What dignity, what pathos, break forth in his importunate pleadings! How pure, and soft, and heavenly, the spirit that breathes in his intercession !t How infinitely unlike, and how infinitely superior, to all the fabled intercourse of gods and men! Then there is the journey to Mount Moriah, and the events which occurred there in connexion with the offering of his
A world filled with such men would deserve to be the residence of angels. Mankind are morally great only as they resemble Abraham.--Behold the decision and elevation which eminent piety imparts to Christian character!
* Gen. xiv. 13-24.
of Gen. xviii. 23-33
ISAAC was his father in miniature. A gentler spirit has seldom breathed the atmosphere of this lower world ; and the position assigned him was well adapted to his temper.
As compared with that of his father Abraham, and his son Jacob, it might be likened to an isthmus-a neck of land between two oceans--or a season of calm between two storms. His disposition was profoundly contemplative. He was much alone, and he delighted to be alone with God, in the midst of a wicked and tumultuous world. He was great through a spirit of self-annihilation, simplicity, and submissive
In the essential qualities of true moral greatness he was second only to his father. How unparalleled and wonderful was the scene enacted by them on Mount Moriah! Notwithstanding the trying, the terrible nature of the duty there exacted, how implicit was the obedience of Isaac to Abraham, and of Abraham to God! Surpassing patterns of religion and of filial duty! How worthy a type was the gentle Isaac of the Lamb of God !-Behold the decision and elevation which eminent piety imparts to Christian character !
Jacob presents a character differing in many points from that of his father ; yet, allowing for the errors of his youth, he displays much excellence, and many remarkable traits of moral greatness.
His faith and patience, however, were sorely tried. Driven from the house of his father into exile by his own folly, he was constrained, after a lengthened period of vexatious servitude, to flee from the society of his cruel uncle, under whose tyranny he exercised unparalleled patience. Seldom, indeed, has so much patience been combined with so much spirit. That spirit broke out in a burst of manly and noble independence, when Laban—who, without any very obvious cause, had pursued-overtook him : “ Jacob was wroth, and chode with Laban : and Jacob answered and said to Laban, What is my trespass, what is my sin, that thou hast so
hotly pursued after me? Whereas thou hast searched all my stuff, what hast thou found of all thy household stuff? set it here before my brethren and thy brethren, that they may judge betwixt us both. These twenty years have I been with thee; thy ewes and thy shegoats have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten. That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee, I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night. Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night ; and my sleep departed from mine eyes. Thus have I been twenty years in thy house ; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle ; and thou hast changed my wages ten times. Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction, and the labour of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight.”
From this time the special attributes of his character began to manifest themselves, and to exhibit his true greatness. Of these attributes, the chief was his close adherence to God, and his incessant recourse to a throne of grace, in time of trouble. How truly great he appears in his prayer at Peniel ! What elevation, what dignity were his, when, on that awful night, he wrestled with the mysterious stranger, and in the morning listened to the wonderful words, “ Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.”
One of the severest tests of moral greatness is an introduction to the presence of persons in power. The heart which very strongly realizes the divine presence is but little moved by that of mortals, however exalted in point of station. The “ Prince” who had “
power with God," was not likely to be much abashed by the
presence of royalty. Moral greatness, though essentially humble from a sense of its nothingness, is nevertheless always and keenly conscious of its own superiority to all other greatness. Of this, never, perhaps, was there a more remarkable example than that furnished by Jacob at the court of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh ; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou ? And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years : few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage. And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.” With blessing he began, and with blessing he completed the interview ; and if, as saith the apostle, “ without all contradiction, the less is blessed of the greater," the patriarch was superior to the king.–Be. hold the decision and elevation which eminent piety imparts to Christian character ! JOSEPH presents a finished model of moral great
He is exhibited to us under a variety of aspects, and all are beautiful. Whether robbed of his liberty, as a slave, or a prisoner, or clothed with all but sovereign power, he is the same lovely and all but perfect character. It is difficult to conceive of a more exquisite specimen of moral propriety and dignity. The words of inspiration, uttered in after times,—". Thy gentleness hath made me great,” would have been throughout his life a proper motto for this illustrious Hebrew. What greatness distinguished him in the house of Potiphar! What greatness in prison! What greatness in the palace ! What greatness in the disclosure of nimself to his brethren! What greatness, combined with ineffable tenderness, on the first interview with his aged father! What greatness in his
valedictory address to his brethren!
How affecting his commandment concerning his bones ! 6. I die, and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land, unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob: God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.” The faith of Joseph, and his holy fear, were the foundation of his surpassing moral greatness. Hence sprung that firmness of purpose which reflects such lustre on his name. -Behold the decision and elevation which eminent piety imparts to Christian character !
Job is entitled to a foremost place in the ranks of moral greatness. The composition which records the facts of his history, immeasurably surpasses every thing human that has been transmitted from ancient times. All the ethical and theological writings of Greece and Rome are but as the chaff to the wheat compared with the Book of Job; and, in point of character, the best among them are as far inferior to him as are their works to the book which bears his name. Extremes try men. In this way Job was tried to the uttermost; and he endured the trial in a manner which served to illustrate the power and truth of his principles. Great in prosperity, he was, if possible, still greater in adversity, His conceptions of the Divine character and government were sublime and glorious. To compare the chief of our moral philosophers, in this respect, with the Man of Uz, were to compare the obscene bat with the soaring eagle. Where true moral greatness appears, its claims, though denied for a season, are always ultimately conceded. It is seen ; it is felt. Job gives, in an incidental manner, a most pathetic narrative of by-gone days, which strikingly exemplifies the magnitude of his moral stature. “I went out to the gate through the city ; I prepared my seat in the street. The young men saw me, and hid themselves ; and the aged arose and stood up. The princes refrained talking, and laid