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children.' Yet God called for his darling, their only child, the joy of their age, the son of a miracle, and he upon whom the fulfilling of the promise made to Abraham did depend. For this son, I say, God called : a mighty trial: that which, one would have thought, might very well have overturned his faith, and stum. bled his integrity; at least have put him upon this dispute in himself. This command is unreasonable and cruel; it is the tempter's, it cannot be God's. For, is it to be thought that, God gave me a fon to make a facrifice of him? that the father should be butcher of his only child ? Again, that he should require me to offer up the fon of his own promise, by whom his covenant is to be performed: this is incre. dible. I say, thus Abraham might naturally enough have argued, to withstand the voice of God, and indulge his great affections to his be- , loved Isaac. But good old Abraham, that knew the voice that had promised him a son, had not forgot to know it, when it required him back again; he disputes not, though it: looked strange, and perhaps with some surprize and horror, as a man.
He had learned to believe that God, that gave him a child by a miracle, could work another to preserve or restore him. His affections could not balance his duty, much less overcome his faith; for he received him in a way that would let him doubt of nothing that God had promised of him.
To the voice of this Almightiness he bows, builds an altar, binds his only son upon it,
| Gen. xxi. 2.
kindles the fire, and stretches forth his hand to take the knife: but the angel stopped the stroke; Hold, Abraham, thy integrity is proved. What followed ? A ram served, and Isaac was his again. This shows how little serves, where all is resigned, and how mean a sacrifice contents the Almighty, where the heart is approved. So that it is not the facrifice that recommends the heart, but the heart that gives the sacrifice acceptance.
God often touches ourbest comforts, and calls for that which we most love, and are least willing to part with. Not that he always takes it utterly away, but to prove the soul's integrity, to cautiou us from excesses, and that we may remember God, the Author of those blessings we possess, and live loose to them. I speak my experience: the way to keep our enjoyments, is to resign them; and though that be hard, it is sweet to see them returned, as Isaac was to his father Abraham, with more love and blessing than before. O stupid world! O worldly Christians! Not only strangers, but enemies to this excellent faith! And whilst so, the rewards of it you can never know.
§. XIV. But Job presses hard upon Abraham: his felf-denial also was very signal. For when the messengers of his afflictions came thick upon him, one doleful story after another, till he was left almost as naked as when he was born; the first thing he did, he fell to the ground, and worshipped that power, and kissed that hand that stripped him; so far from murmuring, that he concludes his losses of eftate and children with these words : Naked came I out of my moher's womb, and naked shall I return : the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. O the deep faith, parience, and contentment of this excellent man! One would have thought, this repeated news of ruin had been enough to have overfet his confidence in God: but it did not; that stayed him. But indeed he tells us why: his Redeemer lived I know, says he, that my Redeemer lives." And it appeared he did; for he had redeemed him from the world: his heart was not in his worldly comforts; his hope lived above the joys of time, and troubles of mortality; not tempted by the one, nor shaken by the other; but firmly believed, That when after his skin worms should have consumed his body, yet with his eyes he should see his God. Thus was the heart of Job both submitted to, and comforted in, the will of God.
§. XV. Moses is the next great example in sacred story for remarkable self-denial, before the times of Christ's appearance in the flesh. He had been saved when an infant, by an extraordinary providence, and it seems, by what followed, for an extraordinary service : Pharaoh's daughter, whose compassion was the means of his preservation, when the king decreed the slaughter of the Hebrew males, took him for her son, and gave him the education of her father's court. His own graceful presence, and extraordinary abilities, joined with
- Job. i. 21. a Ibid. xix. 25, 26. • Exod. ii. 1. IO.
her love for him, and interest in her father to promote him, must have rendered him, if not capable of succession, at least of being chief minister of affairs under that wealthy and powerful prince. For Egypt was then what Athens and Rome were after, the most famous for learning, arts, and glory.
$. XVI. But Moses, ordained for other work, and guided by a better star, an higher principle, no sooner came to years of discretion, than the impiety of Egypt, and the oppressions of his brethren there, grew a burden too heavy for him to bear. And though so wise and good a man could not want those generous and grateful acknowledgments, that became the kindness of the king's daughter to him; yet he had also seen that God that was invisible;' and did not dare to live in the ease and plenty of Pharaoh's houfe, whilst his poor brethren were required to make brick without straw.9
Thus the fear of the Almighty taking deep hold of his heart, he nobly refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, and chose rather a life of affliction, with the most despised and oppressed Israelites, and to be the companion of their tribulations and jeopardies, than to enjoy the pleasures of fin for a season; esteeming the reproaches of Christ, which he suffered for making that unworldly choice, greater riches than all the treasures of that kingdom
$. XVII. Nor was he so foolish as they thought him; he had reason on his side: for it is said, he had an eye to the recompence of reward: he did but refuse a lefler benefit for a greater. In this his wisdom transcended that of the Egyptians; for they made the present world their choice, as uncertain as the weather, and so lost that which has no end. Moses looked deeper, and weighed the enjoyments of this life in the scales of eternity, and found they made no weight there. He governed himself not by the immediate possession, but the nature and duration of the reward. His faith corrected his affections, and taught him to facrifice the pleasure of self, to the hope he had of a future more excellent recompence.
$. XVIII. Isaiah* was no inconsiderable instance of this blessed self-denial; who of a courtier became a prophet, and left the worldly interests of the one, for the faith, patience, and sufferings of the other. For his choice did not only lose him the favour of men; but their wickedness, enraged at his integrity to God, in his fervent and bold reproofs of them, made a martyr of him in the end : for they barbarously sawed him asunder in the reign of king Manasses. Thus died that excellent man, and commonly called the Evangelical Prophet.
§. XIX. I shall add, of many, one example more, and that is from the fidelity of Daniel ; an holy and wise young man, that when his external advantages came in competition with his duty to Almighty God, he relinquished
* Dorotheus in his lives of the Prophets.