Section 4. — Abraham. (Genesis 11:10 — 21.)

(1.) His Path. (Gen. 11:10 - 14) — The life of Abraham is the well-known pattern-life of faith, as far as the Old Testament could furnish this. It connects, as already noticed, in the closest way, with the story of Noah which precedes it, and alone makes it possible. For the essential characteristic of the life of faith is strangership, but this founded upon citizenship elsewhere. Faith dwells in the unseen, substantiating to itself things hoped for. This is exemplified in Abram, called to Canaan, his possession in hope alone. He dwells there, but in tabernacles, the bringing together of two things typically the heavenly calling and its earthly consequence. Canaan is here Noah's new world beyond the flood, and, as we all know, heaven; but the earthly aspect of this is, as all through Genesis, the prominent one. We must wait for Joshua before we get a distinct type of how faith lays hold, even now, of the inheritance in heaven. Here, tent and altar are as yet the only possession.

The introduction to this history is the record of Abraham's descent from Shem. It is a record of failure, of which the whole story is not told here, for we know that his line whose God Jehovah was were worshiping other gods when the Lord called Abraham from the other side of Euphrates (Joshua 24:2). The genealogy itself may tell us something, however, — in Peleg, how men were possessing themselves more than ever of the earth, and at the same time the days of their tenure of it shortening rapidly, — by half, in this very Peleg's time (Gen. 10:25). Reu lives two hundred and thirty-nine years; Serug, two hundred and thirty; Nahor, but one hundred and forty-eight; Terah, again, two hundred and five; but Haran dies before his father Terah. God yet numbers the fleeting years of those who have forgotten Him.

Now we find a movement in Terah's family, the full explanation of which we must look for outside of Genesis. Here, it seems to originate with Terah, for we read that "Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son's son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth from Ur of the Chaldees, to to go into the land of Canaan: and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there." Terah fulfills his name ("delay"), and ends his days at Haran, so called from his dead son. Natural things hold him fast, though death be written on them, and memory but perpetuates his loss. "Haran" means "parched," yet there he abides (and Abram with him) till he dies. Then we find that whom he had led he had been holding back; and Abram rises up in the power of a divine call which had come to him, and to him alone in the first place, and by which he was separated from country, kindred, and father's house alike, to be blessed and a blessing in the land pointed out of God for his abode. And now there is no further delay: "they went forth to go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan they came."

Which of us does not know something of these compromises, which seem to promise so much more than God and to exact so much less, but in which obedience to God goes overboard at the start, and which end but in Haran, and not Canaan? Who would not have thought it gain to carry our kindred with us, instead of a needless and painful separation from them? Why separate, when their faces can be set in the same way as ours? and why not tarry for them and be gentle to their weakness, if they do linger on the road? How hard to distinguish from self-will or moroseness and unconcern for others, the simplicity of obedience and a true walk with God! But the lesson of this is too important to end here, and Lot's walk with Abraham is yet to give us full-length instruction upon a point which is vital to the life of faith.

But now Abram is in the land. We hear of the first halt at Sichem (Shechem), at the oak of Moreh. The first of these words means" shoulder," the second, "instructor; and it is in bowing one's shoulder to bear that we find instruction. He that will do God's will shall know of the doctrine: he that will learn of Christ must take His yoke. This is the "virtue" in which still is "knowledge" (2 Peter 1:5). The oak of Moreh grows at Shechem still.

And it is surely "in the land" we find it: power for full obedience in those heavenly places, where we are "blessed with all spiritual blessings," and where "to the principalities and powers are made known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God." It is as Canaan-dwellers the secrets of God's heart are opened to us; and Christ, in whom we are, becomes the key of knowledge as of power. In Him, "in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily," we are "filled up."

Jehovah now appears to Abram, and confirms the land to his seed as their inheritance; and here for the second time in Genesis we read of an "altar," the first that Abram builds. He worships in the fullness of blessing, and then first also his "tent" comes into view: "he removed from thence into a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east." "Hai" means "a heap of ruin," and is the city which in Joshua resists the power of Israel, after Jericho falls to the ground. It is as if the very ruins of Jericho had risen up against those who had lost the victorious presence of God their strength. Typically, Hai is no doubt the ruined old creation, and thus between a judged world and the "house of God" Abram's tent is pitched, in view of both. Here, too, once more he builds an altar, and calls upon Jehovah's name.

But Canaan is a dependent land. It is contrasted with Egypt as not being like it watered with the foot, but drinking directly of the rain of heaven.* Azad although the eyes of the Lord are there continually, that does not exclude the trial which a life of faith implies and necessitates. Thus Abram finds a famine in the land to which God has called him, and to avoid it goes down to Egypt. There it becomes very evident that he is out of the path of faith, and he fails openly.

{* Egypt of course must needs be dependent also, but not so immediately. Its river was its boast, and the sources of supply were too far off to be so easily recognized: a vivid type of the world in its self-sufficiency and independence of God. They are yet sending scientific expeditions to explore the sources of their unfailing river; and by searching yet have not found out God.}

But we must note that the secret failure had begun before, and the famine itself had followed, not preceded this. A famine in Canaan cannot be mere sovereignty on God's part — sovereign though He be. And thus we find that when Abram, fully restored in soul, returns to the land, it is "to the place of the altar, which he made there at the first." There, between Bethel and Hai, he had been at the beginning; but there he had not been when the famine came, but in the south — his face toward Egypt, if not yet there. This border-land is ever a dry land, and Abram found it so. Famine soon comes for us in our own things when we get into this border-land. But who that has known what God's path is but has known the trial of a famine there? And when we find such, how Egypt tempts — how the world in some shape solicits to give up the separate place which we have taken. Few, perhaps, but have made some temporary visit to Egypt in the emergency. But the price of Egypt's succor is well known. Abram's fall there has been but too constantly repeated, and its repetition upon the largest scale has been one great step in the failure of the whole dispensation. Sarai in Pharaoh's house is but the commencement of that which reaches its full development in the guilty commerce of the harlot-woman with the kings of the earth. But the germ is yet very different from the development, and Sarai is of course by no means the apocalyptic woman. She is, as the epistle to the Galatians tells us, the covenant contrasted with the Sinaitic, as grace with law. The grace in which we stand God has linked with faith, and with faith alone. It belongs not to the world in any wise. We are not of the world: "we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness." But who can maintain that testimony, when the world's help is wanted, and association with it sought? It is evident some form of universalism must be preached. Sarai (grace) must not be held as Abraham's exclusive possession, but the world allowed to believe it can obtain what divorced from faith is sufficiently attractive to it. Give Sarai up, and you shall have wealth and honors — be the king's brother-in-law; and by simony such as this has the Church bought peace and prosperity in the world; but the world will yet learn by judgment (as did Pharaoh) that Sarai is not its own. This manifest, its favors cease, and Abram is sent away.

And now the true character of Lot comes out. His story (one of the saddest in Genesis) is most important to be noticed in a day when, God having revealed to us the truth of our heavenly calling, it is but even too plain that there are many Lots. The word "Lot" means "covering," and under a covering he is ever found. With Abraham outwardly, he is not at heart what Abraham is; and with the men of Sodom outwardly, he is not after all a Sodomite either. He is a saint, and therefore not a Sodomite, though in Sodom. He is a saint untrue to his saintship, and herein Abraham's contrast, even of his companion. His is, however, alas! a downward course. First, with Abraham, a pilgrim; then, a dweller in Sodom; finally, he falls under deeper personal reproach, and his life ends as it began — under a covering. There is no revival, no effort even upward, throughout nothing but mere gravitation, dragging down into still deeper ruin lives associated with his. His wife's memorial is a pillar of salt; his daughters', a more abiding and perpetual infamy, linked with his own shame forever. How terrible this record! How emphatic an admonition to re- member, in him, how near two roads may be at the beginning which at the end lie far indeed apart! Reader, may none who read this trace this by-path, save here where God has marked out for us the end from the beginning, that with Him we may see it; not, as having trod it, the beginning from the end.

The beginning is found here: —

"And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son's son … to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there."

Nature, taking in hand to follow a divine call, which it had never understood nor heard for itself; leading without being led; settling down short altogether of the point for which it started, to dwell in a scene of death to which it clings spite of dissatisfaction: — these are the moral elements amid which many a Lot is nurtured. Terah shines out in him when, having undertaken to walk with Abram, the plain of Jordan fixes his eyes and heart; once again, when in the presence of judgment, the messengers of it laid hold upon his hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and brought him forth and set him without the city, — because "he lingered."

But there is another beginning, after this; for now —

"Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, … and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan they came."

Not nature now, but the man of faith leads, and they no longer linger on the road; but Lot merely follows Abram, as before he had followed Terah. Abram walks with God; Lot only with Abram. How easy even for a believer to walk where another's bolder faith leads and makes the way practicable, without exercise of conscience or reality of faith as to the way itself! How many such there are, practically but the camp-followers of the Lord's host, adherents of a cause for which they have no thought of being martyrs, nearly balanced between what they know as truth and a world which has never been seen by them in the light of it. For such, as with Lot, a time of sifting comes, and like dead leaves they drop off from the stem that holds them.

Egypt had acted thus for Lot. The attraction it had for him comes out very plainly there where the coveted plain of Jordan seems in his eyes "like the land of Egypt." But beside this, it is easy to understand how Abram's failure there had loosened the moral hold he had hitherto retained upon his nephew. Yet still true to the weakness of his character, Lot does not propose separation, but Abram does, after it was plain they could no longer happily walk together. Their possessions, increased largely in Egypt, separate them, but Abram manifests his own restoration of soul by the magnanimity of his offer. Lot, though the younger, and dependent, shall choose for himself his portion; and he, not imitating the unselfishness by which he profits, lifts up his eyes and beholds the fertility of the plain of Jordan, and he chooses there.

The names unmistakably reveal what is before us here. Jordan ("descending") is the river of death, flowing in rapid course ever down to the sea of judgment, from which there is no outlet — no escape.* There, in a plain soon to be visited with fire and brimstone from the Lord, he settles down, at first still in a tent though among the cities there, but soon to exchange it for a more fixed abode in Sodom, toward which from the first he gravitates.

{*The Dead Sea, it is well known, lies in a deep hollow, twelve hundred and ninety-two feet below the level of the Mediterranean, and there is no river flowing out of it.}

Lot-like, even this he covers with a wail of piety. The plain of Jordan is "like the garden of the Lord" — like paradise: why should he not enjoy God's gifts in it? He forgets the fall, and that paradise is barred from man, argues religiously enough, while under it all the real secret is found in this: It is "like the land of Egypt." How much of man's reasoning comes from his heart and not his head — a heart too far away from God! It is significantly added, "As thou comest unto Zoar;" and thus indeed Lot came to it.

But Abram dwells in the land of Canaan, and God bids him walk through it as his own. Thereupon he removes and dwells in Mamre ("fatness") which is in Hebron ("companionship, communion"). The names speak for themselves again sufficiently. May we only know, and live in, the portion of Abram here.

In the next chapter things are greatly changed. Abram himself is in connection with Sodom, as well as with another power, which we may easily identify as essentially Babylonish. The names are difficult to read, and two at least of the confederated countries are just as doubtful.* But in the first enumeration Amraphel, king of Shinar, stands first, the undoubted representative of the kingdom of Nimrod, although Chedorlaomer appears the most active and interested. They all seem but divisions of this Babylonish empire however, though changed no doubt into a confederacy of more or less equal powers.

{*For the attempt to make Ellasar Hellas, or Greece, though favored by the Septuagint, can scarcely be maintained. It is more probably Larsa. Nor is Tidal, king of nations, a very satisfactory representative of the Roman power, as some take it.}

These four kings — and our attention is specially called to the number here (ver. 9.) — are at war with the five petty kings of the plain of Jordan. Typically, these last represent the world in its undisguised* and sensual wickedness; the Babylonish kings, the religious world-power, always seeking to hold captive (and in general successfully) the more open form of evil. Indeed the Sodom of heathenism never yielded but to a spiritual Babylon which had already obtained supremacy over the Christianity of Scripture and the apostles; and in no way was this last ever really established, nor could it be. But the world craves some religion; and nothing could suit it better than one which with external evidences to accredit it, such as undeniably historical Christianity had, linked its blessings with a system of ordinances by which they could be dispensed to its votaries. This exactly was the character of Nicene Christianity, and hence its conquest of the Roman empire. The leaven was already in the meal: the adulteration of the gospel had already advanced far; but leaven (evil as in Scripture its character undoubtedly is) has certainly the power of rapid diffusion, and rapidly the popularized gospel spread.

{*Undisguised indeed, if Gesenius is right as to Bera being equivalent to Ben-ra, "son of evil," and Birsha to Ben-resha, "son of wickedness."}

These, then, are the powers represented here. The portion of Abram lies outside the whole field of conflict. Lot, on the other hand, is already in Sodom, and of course is carried captive in the captivity of Sodom. It is the spiritual history of those who, having known the truth, fall under the power of the world-church which Babylon represents. It is their link with the world by which they are sucked in. And such is the secret of all departure from the truth. The Lord is too faithful to allow mere honest ignorance to be deceived; and although men may credit Him with it, the record still stands: "Whosoever willeth to do His will shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God."

The secret of Abram's power is revealed in one pregnant word, which as here used of him flashes light upon the scene before us: "There came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew." That word, patronymic as it may be, is yet significant: it means "the passenger." So Peter exhorts us, "as strangers and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lusts" — the destruction of Sodom, while to the pilgrim, Babylon, claiming her kingdom now in the yet unpurged earth, can only be the persecutor, "red with the blood of the saints and of the martyrs of Jesus." Here may seem a difference between Abram and the spiritual sons whom he represents; but typically he none the less may represent those who, after their Lord's example, conquer by suffering. There never were more real conquerors than were the martyrs.

So Abram brings back his brother Lot and all the other captives; whose deliverance indeed was, as we see, merely incidental. For as between Sodom and Shinar how could Abram interfere, or what deliverance would it be for a mere child of Sodom to be delivered from the power of Babylon? Even as to Lot it is once more solemnly made manifest that not circumstances have made him what he is, and that change of circumstances do not change him. Freed by God's hand working by another, he is not really free; and soon we shall find him needing once more to be delivered from what, having escaped man's judgment, falls under God's.

But if Lot's eyes are still on Sodom, those of his pilgrim-brother find another object. For as he returned from the slaughter of the kings, "Melchisedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine; and he was the priest of the Most High God." The type is explained to us by the apostle in the epistle to the Hebrews; and we all know in Christ the Priest after the order of Melchisedek. The apostle's words are remarkable for the way in which they bring out and insist upon the perfection of Scripture, in what it omits as well as what it inserts. "Without father, without mother, without beginning of days or end of life," are words which have been thought to show that the mysterious person before us was no other than Christ Himself; but this the apostle's very next words disprove; for "made like unto the Son of God" could not be said of the Son of God Himself. It is simply of the omissions of the narrative that the apostle is speaking; these omissions being necessary to the perfection of the type. He is our High-Priest, not finding His place among the ephemeral generations of an earthly priesthood, but subsisting in the power of an endless life; Priest and King in one. Whilst, however, the Lord is thus even now a Priest after the order of Melchisedek, it is not after Melchisedek's pattern that He is now acting. Here, His type is rather Aaron. It is at a future time — a time, as we say, millennial — that He will fulfill the type before us, as many of its features clearly show. Thus Melchisedek is priest of the Most High God, — a title always used of God in the coming day of manifested supremacy. This Melchisedek's own words show: "Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, Possessor of heaven and earth." The interpretation of his name, and the name of his city, confirms this: "First of all, 'King of Righteousness'; and after that, 'King of Salem,' which is, 'King of Peace.'" This is the order in which the prophet gives the same things, when speaking of millennial times: "Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field; and the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever."

His place in this chapter is in perfect and beautiful keeping with all this. For we find the timeliness of Melchisedek's appearance to the victor over the kings, when the king of Sodom says to Abram, "Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself." It is to the "Most High God, Possessor of heaven and earth" — the One of whom Melchisedek has spoken to him, — that Abram declares he has lifted up the hand, not to take from a thread even to a shoe-latchet. Christ seen thus by the pilgrim man of faith, claiming on God's part all that is his own, is the true antidote to the world's offers. If Christ could not accept the kingdoms of the world at the hands of Satan, but from His Father only, no more can His followers accept enrichment at the hands of a world which has rejected Christ for Satan. And that bread and wine which we receive from our true Melchisedek, the memorial of those sufferings by which alone we are enriched, for him who has tasted it, implies the refusal of a portion here.

(2) Abraham's Inner Life. (Gen. 15 — 21.) — It is evident that in the fifteenth chapter we have a new beginning, and that we pass from the more external view of his path and circumstances to that of his inner life and experiences. Abram is now for the first time put before us as a man righteous by faith, a thing fundamental to all spiritual relationships and all right experiences. It was not, surely, now for the first time that he believed the Lord when God said to him under the starry sky of Syria, "So shall thy seed be." Yet here it pleased God first openly to give the attestation of his righteousness: words which lay for a gleam of comfort to how many sin-tossed souls, before God could come openly out with the proclamation of it as His principle, that a "man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law."

There are two things specially before us in this chapter; and they come before us in the shape of a divine answer to two questions from the heart of Abram. The two questions, moreover, are drawn out of him by two assurances on God's part, each of which is of unspeakable moment to ourselves.

The two assurances are, (1) "Fear not, Abram; I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward" (2) "I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it." As we would read this for ourselves now, — "God is our portion," and "Heaven is the place in which we are to enjoy our portion."

To the first assurance Abram replies, "Lord God what wilt Thou give me, seeing I go childless?" to the second, "Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?" Strange words, it may seem, in the face of God's absolute assurance; yet questions which do speak to us of a need in man's heart which not merely God's word, but God's act must meet; questions which thus He takes up in His grace, seriously to answer, and that we through all time may have the blessedness of their being answered.

The answer to both, no Christian heart can doubt, is Christ; for Christ is God's answer to every question. Here it may be figuratively and enigmatically given, as was characteristic of a time in which God could not yet speak out fully. None the less should it be plain to us now what is intended, and unspeakably precious to find Christ unfolding to us, as it were, out of every rose-bud in this garden of the Lord.

"After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: 'Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.'"

Had Abram been fearing? The things that had just transpired, and to which the Lord evidently refers, were his victory over the combined power of the kings, which we have already looked at; and secondly, his refusal to be enriched at the hands of the king of Sodom. Brave deeds and brave words! wrought with God and spoken before God, who could doubt? Yet it is nothing uncommon, just when we have wrought something, for a sudden revolution of feeling to surprise us, — for the ecstatic and high-strung emotion upon whose summit we were just now carried, to subside and leave us, like a stranded boat, consciously, if we may so say, above water-mark. The necessity of action just now shut out all other thought. That over, it no longer sustains. We drop out of heroism, to find — what? Blessed be His name! — God Himself beneath us! We who were shielding others find more than ever the need of God our shield: we who were energetically refusing Sodom's offers need to be reminded, "I am thy exceeding great reward." Thank God, when the boat strands there!

God our defense! what shaft of the enemy can pierce through to us? God our recompensing portion! what is all the world can give? In this place of eternal shelter, oh to know more the still unsearchable riches!

"Of Christ," adds the apostle. Did not Abram feel the lack of our revelation there, — unintelligent as he may be as to what was wanted, and utterly unable, of course, to forestall God's as yet but partially hinted purpose? Grasping, as it were, at infinity, and unable to lay hold of it, he drops from heaven to earth, and cries, with something like impatience, as the immensity of the blessing makes itself felt in his very inability to hold it, Lord God, what wilt Thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? … Behold, to me Thou hast given no seed; and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir."

How flat all God's assurances seem to have fallen with the pattern man of faith! And yet we may find, very manifestly, in all this our pattern. It is all very well to say that Abram's faith was not up to the mark here. In truth it was not; but that is no explanation. Do you know what it is, apart from Christ as now revealed to us, to grasp after this immensity of God your portion? If you do, you will know how the wings of faith flutter vainly in the void, and cannot rise to it. Thank God, if you cannot rise, God can come down; and so He does here to Abram. Serenely He comes down to the low level of Abram's faith, and goes on to give him what it can grasp: "And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, 'This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.' And He brought him forth abroad, and said, 'Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: so shall thy seed be.' And he believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness."

The many seeds and the One are here; and the many to be reached by means of the One. Abram's "One Seed" must be familiar to us all. Through and in Isaac we read Christ: "He saith not, And unto seeds, as of many; but as of one, 'And to thy Seed,' which is Christ." To us, at least, is it an obscure utterance of how this first assurance is made good to us, and possible to be realized? The Son of Man, here amongst us, where faith shall need no impossible flights to lay hold of Him, and the infinity of Godhead shall be brought down to the apprehension of a little child. Himself "the Child born," Himself the "Son given," the kingdom of peace is forestalled for those with whom, all the faculties of their soul subdued and harmonized under His blessed hand, "the calf and the young lion and the fatling" dwell together, and a little child leads them.

God our shield, and God our reward: we know these, we appreciate them in Him who is God manifest, because God incarnate.

The second question now comes up. — "And He said unto him, 'I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.' And he said, 'Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?'"

Here too the question is plain, and to be answered by deeds, not words. The land for us is the good land of our inheritance, the land upon which the eyes of the Lord are continually — not earth, but heaven. A wonderful place to enjoy our portion, when we know indeed what our portion is! "Where I am" is the Lord's own description; and thus you will find it most apt and suited, that it is not until He stands before us upon earth that the full clear revelation of an inheritance in heaven is made to us. He uncloses heaven who ascending up there carries the hearts of His disciples within its gates. Did they open to admit us without this, would not our eyes turn back reluctantly to that earth only familiar to us? Did they not open now, would they not be an eternal distance-putting between us and our Beloved? "That where I am, there ye may be also" explains all. The stars shining out of heaven are thus in this chapter the evident symbol of the multitudinous seed.

But how is man to reach a land like this? A place with Christ, reader! Look at what you are, and answer me: what is to raise a child of earth up to the height of God's own heaven?

No work of man, at least; no human invention of any kind. How could we think of a place with Christ as the fruit of any thing but God's infinite grace? He who came down from the glory of God to put His hand upon us, alone can raise us up thither. No human obedience merely, even were it perfect, could have value of this kind, because it would be still merely what was our duty to do. He to whom obedience was a voluntary stooping, not a debt, alone could give it value. And He, raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, and gone in as man into the presence of God, brings us for whom His work was done into the self-same place which as man He takes.

Thus God answers Abram by putting before him Christ as the pledge of inheritance: "Take Me a heifer of three years old, and a she-goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon." God delights to accumulate the types of what Christ is, and press their various significance upon us. These are all types which are brought out more distinctly before us in the offerings after this. The three beasts — all tame, not wild, nor needing to be captured for us, but the willing servants of man's need; each three years old — time in its progress unfolding in them a divine mystery. The first two, females, the type of fruitfulness: the heifer, of the patient Workman; the she-goat, of the Victim for our sins; the ram, in whom the meek surrender of the sheep becomes more positive energy, — afterward, therefore, the ram of consecration, and of the trespass-offering. (Lev. 5:15; Lev. 8:22.) The birds speak of One from heaven, One whom love made a man of sorrow (the turtle-dove), and One come down to a life of faith on earth (the rock-pigeon, like the coney, making its nest in the place of security and strength).

To unfold all this, and apply it, would require a volume. No wonder, for we have here our occupation for eternity begun. These, the fivefold type expressed in one perfect Man, Abram "divided in the midst, and laid each piece one against another, but the birds divided he not; and when the fowls came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away." Thus upon all these types of moral beauty, and that they may be fit types of Him whom they represent, death passes, and they lie exposed under the open heaven, faith in Abram guarding the sacrifice from profanation, until, "when the sun was going down, a deep sleep passed upon Abram, and he slept; and, lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him." Faith's watchfulness is over; darkness succeeds to light; but this only brings out the supreme value of the sacrifice itself, which not faith gives efficacy to, but which sustains faith. God Himself, under the symbol of the "smoking furnace and the burning lamp," passes between the pieces, pledging Himself by covenant* to perform His promise of inheritance. Purifier and enlightener, He pledges Himself by the sacrifice to give the discipline needed in faith's failure, and the needed light in the darkness it involves; and thus the inheritance, not apart from the suited state to enjoy it with God, but along with the conditions which His holiness (and so His love) necessitates.

{*See Jeremiah 34:18, where God announces the doom of those who had not performed the covenant made with Him, when they "cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof."}

How complete and beautiful is this, then, as the answer to Abram's second question! If, with his eyes upon himself, he asks, "How shall I know that I shall inherit it?" he is answered by the revelation of the infinite value of all that puts a holy God and a righteous One, in both characters, upon his side: under-propping faith in all its frailty, and securing holiness as fully as it secures the inheritance itself. These types and shadows belong assuredly to us, to whom Christ has become the revelation of all, the substance of all these shadows. Ours is indeed a wider and a wondrous inheritance. But so ours is a sacrifice of infinite value, and which alone gave their value to these symbols themselves. How precious to see God's eye resting in delight upon that which for Him had such significance, ages before its import could be revealed! How responsible we whom grace has favored with so great a revelation!

Thus all is secured to Abram by indefeasible promise on the ground of sacrifice. It is of promise as contrasted with law, as the apostle says. Abram believes the promise, but does not yet know this contrast. He believes God, but not yet simply; alas! as with all of us at the beginning, he believes in himself also. He is a believer, but not yet a circumcised believer. Do you perchance even yet know the difference, beloved reader? It is this that Abram's history is to make plain to us.

"Now Sarai, Abram's wife, bare him no children." Sarai is, as we have seen, the principle of grace, and this is one of the strangest, saddest things in a believer's experience, the apparent barrenness of that which should be the principle of fertility in his life and walk. "Sin shall not have dominion over you, because ye are not under the law, but under grace." And yet it is the justified man, and who thus far at least knows what divine grace is, who says, "When I would do good, evil is present with me;" and "The good that I would I do not; but the evil that I would not, that I do." It is impossible to read the lesson of the seventh of Romans aright until we have seen this. The struggle that it speaks of is not a struggle after peace or justification; nay, cannot be known aright until this is over. The whole secret of it is the break-down, not of a sinner, but of a saint. That efforts after righteousness before God should be vain and fruitless is simple enough; but that efforts after holiness should be fruitless is a very different thing, and a much harder thing to realize. It is Sarai's barrenness that troubles us. Alas! how in this distress Sarai herself, as it were, incites us to leave her; persuading us, she may be builded up by Hagar!

Of Hagar also we have the inspired interpretation. She is the covenant "from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage:" the only form of religion that man's natural thought leads him to, and that to which, if grace is left, we necessarily drop down. Hagar is thus an Egyptian, a child of nature, or as the epistle to the Galatians interprets, "the elements of the world." The principle of law, however much for the purposes of divine wisdom adopted by God, was never His thought. He uses it that man being thoroughly tested by it may convince himself by experiment of the folly of his own thoughts. It is thus Sarai's handmaid, though exalted often even by the man of faith to a different place. The tendency of law, as it were, to depart from this place of service is shown in her very name — Hagar, that is, "fugitive" and thus the angel of the Lord finds her by the well, going down to Egypt. When she is finally dismissed from Abram's house, she is again found with her son, gravitating down to Egypt; and upon the wilderness upon its borders Ishmael dwells afterward. How little Christians suspect this tendency of that by which they seek holiness and fruit! Yet even that which, as given by God, is necessarily "holy and just and good," speaks nothing of heaven or of Christ, or, therefore, of pilgrim-life on earth. But thus all of power is left out also; for Abram's pilgrim-life springs from his Canaan-place; and "in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing nor uncircumcision," — the whole condition of man as man, — "but a new creation."

Abram takes Hagar, however, to be fruitful by her, just as believers in the present day take up the law simply as a principle of fruitfulness, not at all for justification: it is their very thought that is being tested here. And the effect at first seems all that could be desired: fruit is produced at once. It is only when God speaks that it is seen that Ishmael is, after all, not the promised seed. The immediate result is, Sarai is despised: "And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes." So it ever is. Once admit the principle of law, and what is law if it be not sovereign? Faith may cling to and own barren Sarai still, but the principle introduced is none the less its essential opposite. "Sarai dealt hardly with her," and "she fled from her face."

The scene that follows in the wilderness is, I doubt not, a lesson from the dispensations. It is the instruction, not of experience, as in Romans, but, as in Galatians, of divine history. It is the explanation of the divine connection with the law. It is between the promise of the seed and its fulfillment that Hagar's history comes in. The law was given, not from the beginning, but four hundred and thirty years after the promise was made; and it was added till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made. Again, it was not God who first gave Hagar to Abram, but Abram who took Hagar: that the experiment might be worked fully out, God sends her back to him; that is all. So in like manner the covenant at Sinai was not God's own proper thought, but what was in man's mind taken up of God to be worked out, under true conditions, to its necessary result. The whole scene is here significant: God's own voice now recognizing, and insisting on, that servant-place which alone Hagar filled; the "fountain of water" by which Hagar is found, the symbol of that spiritual truth which, connected with law, is not law, that characterizing, before his birth, of the "wild-ass man," Ishmael — child of law, and lawless, — just as the law from the beginning foretold its own necessary issue: "Every imagination of the thought of man's heart" being "only evil, and that continually." Therefore the vail before the holiest, and the declaration, even to Moses, "Thou canst not see My face." God in all this, we may note, appears to Hagar, and not to Abram: for thirteen years more we read of no further intercourse between God and Abram.

But when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said unto him, I am the almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect.'" This is the period to which the apostle refers in the epistle to the Romans, when his body was now dead, being about one hundred years old; and it is striking to see how completely the intermediate years from the taking of Hagar are counted but as loss. "And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about a hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief: but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that what He had promised He was able also to perform: and therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness." (Rom. 4:19-22.)

Now here it should seem as if the apostle had confounded times far apart. It was at least fourteen years before that Abram had "believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness." Before Ishmael was born his body was not dead, for Ishmael was born "after the flesh," or in the energy of nature merely, in contrast with the power of God. It could not have been at that time, then, that he considered not his body now dead. Thus the faith that the apostle speaks of is really the faith of the later period. All the intervening time is thus covered, and the two periods brought together.

Natural power had to reach its end with him before the power of God could be displayed. It was now an almighty God before whom Abram was called to walk. Mighty he had known Him; not really till now almighty. The apprehension of power in ourselves limits (how greatly!) the apprehension of so simple a fact as that all "power belongeth unto God." By our need we learn His grace; by our poverty, His fullness; and the Christian as such has to receive the sentence of death in himself, that he may not trust in himself, but in God that raiseth the dead, and as a child of Abraham find his place with God according to the covenant of circumcision.

"For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh;" "having put off the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ." The cross is our end as men in the flesh, not that we should trust in ourselves now as Christians, but in Christ: that as we have received Christ Jesus our Lord, we should walk IN HIM. How little is it realized what that is! In our complaints of weakness, how little that to be really weak is strength indeed!

What comfort is there for us in the fact that thus "sprang there of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable"! How serious and how blessed that upon all the natural seed is the very condition upon which alone they can call him father! the token of the covenant was to be in his flesh for an everlasting covenant, the token of the perpetual terms upon which they were with God. How striking to find that under the law the very nation in the flesh must carry the "sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which Abraham had being yet uncircumcised"! and that at any time, spite of the middle wall of partition still standing, any Gentile could freely appropriate the sign of such a righteousness, and with his males circumcised sit down to the feast of redemption — the passover-feast!

Another reminder is here "And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man-child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed." Every child of God is both born in the house and bought with money; not with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: and the "eight days old" shows to how fair an inheritance we are destined for the eighth day speaks, of course, to us of new creation, the first week of the old having run out. It is in the power of the knowledge of this that practical circumcision can alone be retained. In the wilderness Israel lost theirs, and on reaching Canaan had to be circumcised the second time. So too the water of separation had to be sprinkled on the third day: in the power of resurrection only could death be applied for the cleansing of the soul. The sense of what is ours in Christ alone qualifies us to walk in His steps. It is only what His own words imply, — "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, no more can ye except ye abide in Me." "As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk ye in Him."


Circumcision known, we find in the next chapter God in communion with Abraham (now indeed Abraham) after a manner never before enjoyed. The Lord not only comes or appears to him, but openly associates Himself with him as with one of whom He is not ashamed. No one can doubt, that looks at it, the suggestive contrast with the next chapter, in which Lot for the last time comes before us, the very type of one "saved so as through the fire." This has been seen by others, but the more we look at it, the more striking and instructive will it be found. I shall dwell at more length than I have usually permitted myself upon lessons of such intense and practical interest as are those which God in His mercy has here given us.

It should be evident that the foundation of all this contrast expresses itself in the different position of these two men — the one, in the door of his tent at Mamre; the other, in the gate of Sodom. In the one, we see still the persistent pilgrim; in the other, one who has been untrue to his pilgrimship, and is settled down amid the pollutions of a sinful world. Striking it is, and most important to remember, that he is a "righteous man," expressly declared so by the word of inspiration: "That righteous man, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their ungodly deeds." He is thus an example of how "the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations." (2 Peter 2:7, 9.) This is a complete contrast with the way in which the book of Genesis represents him. I need scarcely say, there is no contradiction; and the contrast itself is a very beautiful instance of the style of Scripture. In the actual narrative he is spoken of as one of whom God is ashamed: "And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in the midst of which Lot dwelt." Lot has been under the cover, and God must use the cover toward him. He is the God of Abraham; how could He call Himself the God of Lot? How solemn this treatment of one of His own! Reader, how is it with you this moment as before God? Is He confessing, or denying you? This is not a question which you can turn off by saying, I am a Christian. It is on that very ground that it appeals to you.

In the history, then, we find God making Himself strange to Lot. This was what His governmental ways required — the discipline that the need of his soul called for at the time. The need past and gone, as He looks back upon that history now, He can pick out of it the good He had marked all through, and say how precious to Him, even in a Lot, was the trouble of soul which the iniquity of Sodom gave him. Such is our God! such is His holiness, and such His grace!

But then how clear this makes it that it was not because Lot had taken part in the wickedness of Sodom that the Lord was thus displeased! It was simply on account of his being there, even as of Abraham that tent-life of his is marked out for His special approval: "By faith he sojourned in the land of promise as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise … These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He hath prepared for them a city." (Heb. 11:9, 13, 16.)

Thus, then, we are right in saying that the tent at Mamre and the gate of Sodom are characteristic and contrasted things. Faith, looking for a city which hath foundations, is content to scratch the earth with a tent-pole merely. This was Abraham's place, pattern as he is, and father of all them that believe; and God comes to commune with him, in the broad open day — "in the heat of the day."

The style of His coming is as noticeable as all else: there is no distance, there is intimacy: it is three men who come; in fact, two angels, and One before whom the angels vail their faces. But they come as men, and keep this place — the more strikingly, because in the next chapter we find those who had left Abraham still as two men appear in Sodom explicitly as angels. Clearly, this difference has meaning in it. How sweet a foreshadowing of what in due time was to take place — the tabernacling in flesh of Him in whom faith realizes the glory of Immanuel, now no more to faith a Visitant merely.

And Abraham's practiced heart knew under all disguises Him who stood there. We learn this plainly from the first words with which he welcomes One whom yet in this garb he has never seen before. "Lord," he says, distinguishing Him by a title only given to God, "if now I have found favor in Thy sight, pass not away, I pray Thee, from Thy servant; let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: and I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come unto your servant."

The faith that recognizes, entertains in the same simplicity Him whom it recognizes. There is none of the unbelieving cry so often heard, "We have seen God, and we shall die." In beautiful confidence of faith, he meets Him who has come to him as man, and as man gives Him human welcome. If He stoop to come so, he will not say, "That be far from Thee, Lord," but receive Him as He comes, putting undoubtedly before Him whatever he has, and being met with unhesitating acceptance. "He stood by them under the tree, and they did eat."

And do you, beloved reader, in the like unsuspicious way receive the grace which has now come to us in a Christ made fully known? or do you, alas! draw back from His approach, as if He knew not the full reality of the place which He has taken with us, or else the full reality of what we are, among whom He has come? I cannot find that Abraham even put his dress in order to appear before the Lord Almighty. His best and his worst were not so far apart as to make him think of it. There was no preparation of himself to appear before Him who knew him through and through. Just as he was, whatever he was, the love that met him was worthy of reception, then and there: all the sweeter and more wonderful the more he was unworthy.

But in fact, if we translate these figures, Abraham has that which may well, wherever He finds it, bring the Lord in to have communion with us. These "three measures of fine meal," and this "calf, tender and good:" do you not recognize them? Surely wherever such food is found there will still be found the Lord in company. It is Christ of whom these things speak, and occupation with Christ is still the essential and only pre-requisite for communion. It is when the apostle has introduced to us, in just such nearness as was Abraham's here, that eternal life which was with the Father, and heard, seen, looked upon, and handled with the hands among us here, that he says, "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye may have fellowship with us," and then he adds, "and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ."

If, then, our souls lack fellowship, — if we are out of communion, — ought we not to ask ourselves if the great primary lack be not of occupation with Christ? Other things, no doubt, will enter in where this is absent, and we shall not be able to return to feed on Him until these things be judged and removed. But here is the first point of departure, as with Israel the turning from the manna.

Abraham's tent is provided, then, with that with which he entertains a heavenly guest. First, the three measures of meal tell of Christ personally. The "meal" is not merely this: it is the "fine flour" of the meat-offering afterward, which we all know represents Him. It is Christ as man, the Bread of life, the food of His people. But what then are the "three measures"? What is the measure of the Man Christ Jesus? Nothing less, surely, than this, that "in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." And is not this what the number three, the number of the Trinity — that is, of divine fullness, speaks?* The "calf," on the other hand, — not necessarily what this implies for us, but a young, fresh animal — no less clearly reminds us of Him who was the true and perfect Workman for God. And here that mystery, which we have before seen after the flood began to be pressed upon man, that life given up must sustain life, is once more told out.

{*The same exactly as in the parable in Matthew 13. I cannot but understand, therefore, that it is Christ also that is represented there it is the food of God's people which the professing church, having assumed the teacher's chair, is leavening with false doctrine.}

In Scripture thus the person and work of Christ are kept ever together: it is not a work alone, but a living Person who has accomplished the work. Where we have Him before us really, communion with God there cannot but be. How sweet that thus, Lord's day by Lord's day at least, the bread and the wine are to be before us, to occupy our very hands and eyes — so busy with the things of time and sense as they are — with Him who claims the whole man for Himself, — that is, for fullest joy and blessing: that afresh and afresh He in His person and work may make communion with God our power to go though a world which has rejected Him.

And now Abraham is to receive the final message that the long-expected promise shall be fulfilled. Intimately connected, surely, with the scene before us (if we look through the figure to that of which it speaks,) is the birth of Isaac now announced. It was a "son born" that was to make Abraham's heart glad, — and we know of whom Isaac is the type. Is it not of Christ come to dwell — no more to visit merely — that the figure speaks? Thus we have here what filled the apostle's heart so afterward for the Ephesians, and bowed his knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: "That He would grant unto you, according to the riches of His glory, to be filled with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints the length and depth and breadth and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God."

{*"Isaac" means "Laughter."}

But this we shall have to look at more in another place. We have now to see as the fulfillment and fruit of communion, the Lord disclosing to Abraham the doom of Sodom, now just ready to overwhelm her. How striking are the words in which He counsels with Himself as to this, permitting us also to hear that counsel! "And the Lord said, 'Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? for I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham all that He hath spoken of him.'"

How beautiful this testimony to one who could be called "the friend of God"! How sweet the encouragement in maintaining in one's household an authority rapidly being given up in these days an authority from God and for God! "He will command, … and they shall keep the way of the Lord." Do we not see the connection also between the man of God and the prophet? It was the constant title of these — men of God: Abraham too is called "a prophet." "And surely," says Amos, "the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets." To be with God is the way to penetrate the reality of things even of the world itself. And it is in this way that the book of Revelation addresses itself to Christ's servants, "to show unto them the things which must shortly come to pass."

How carefully and patiently God judges, moreover, as to Sodom, — no indifference, with all His apparent slowness! How that full oversight and patient judgment of every thing are affirmed! "And the Lord said, 'Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto Me; and if not, I will know.'"

"And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham stood yet before the Lord."

And now Abraham takes the place which it was surely one part of the design of this gracious communication to put him into — the place of intercession. For us whose characters are to be formed by the apprehension of Christ, and who know Him now as in this very place of intercession, how important it is to realize what is before us here! It is His people for whom the Holy Spirit intercedes below. Abraham's prayer too follows the same pattern: "And Abraham drew near and said, 'Wilt Thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city, wilt Thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from Thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked; and that the righteous be as the wicked, that be far from Thee: shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?'"

How strange the implied doubt here in Abraham's mind! What poor weak questions do not these minds of ours raise! An Abraham praying the Judge of all the earth to do right! Is it not a first principle that of course He must? How could he doubt? we say. Beloved, do we never? and how much more do we know of God than Abraham could do possibly! How large a portion of our prayers, if they were analyzed, would be resolved into this, the asking God to do right! Alas! what infidelity, even as to first principles, cleaves to us when we little suspect it! God will do right! Why, of course. Oh, but when every thing on earth seems as if it were going wrong, — when with Jacob we are tempted to say, "All these things are against us," — when with Job we have to take our place upon the dust-heap, has there never the bitter question sprung up in our hearts, if it brake not the door of our lips, — do we never at least have to still our hearts with it, — "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

But it is beautiful to see how Abraham flings it all out — doubt and all, casts it down before God. "Pour out your hearts before Him," says the Psalmist; "Be careful for nothing," adds the apostle; "but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." In these very requests, what a multitude of things unworthy of Him! but He who has known them in the heart before would have us pour them out in His presence, and oh the relief that the heart gets so! How many of these workings of unbelief do the psalms thus give us! but they are poured out before God, and the soul stills itself in that blessed presence as no where else can it be stilled. What! we have been asking God if He is God! "O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted," peace! He is indeed the "God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

On the other hand, the intercession is right, and of God. He will do all things well. He will care for His saints whether we ask Him or not: Christ intercedes; could we add any thing to the efficacy of His intercession? is it not all-prevailing? does it not cover all? Yes, yes, yes, He into whose hands God has given His people is surely the merciful and faithful High-Priest, never forgetting those whom He bears upon His breast before God. Yet none the less is it ours to pray "with all prayer and supplication for all saints." He has ordained, in His grace to us, that that flow of abundant blessing which He pours out upon His people should flow, in part at least, through channels of our own providing. He has given us fellowship with Himself in His love and care for His people. How blessed this fellowship! Is it not, I ask again, in a peculiar way our privilege who are one with Him who as man has entered into the presence of God, and with whom we are one, surely not in position only, but in heart and spirit also? Thus the Spirit maketh intercession for the saints according to God and in our hearts where this intercession is made, if there be prayer "in the Holy Ghost," it will still be "intercession for the saints:" not for me or mine (in the narrow human sense), not for individual saints dear to me merely; not for sect or party; but "for all saints"! O for more power for this broad and blessed outlook, with Christ for the whole field of those that are His! O for more ability to throw ourselves in with them into their joys, their sorrows, their cares, their exercises; to "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ;" to realize our oneness with Him, as we take His own into our arms and hearts in real and hearty recognition of eternal kinship!

Sodom's judgment is indeed, alas! near at hand; and little does the proud and self-sufficient world dream, (just ready to throw off openly the rule of the ordained Ruler of the scene of His rejection,) that it is the "fifty righteous" that alone have suspended divine judgment hitherto. How solemn their condition for whom presently no prayer will any more avail!

There is no rebuke with God, but a full answer. "And the Lord said, 'If I find fifty righteous with in the city, then I will spare all the place for their sake.'" Abraham goes further. But it is not needful to go through the detail, so familiar as it is, of these requests which, pressed on and on, find nothing but acceptance from the patient goodness of God; until at last Abraham's faith fails, but not God's goodness: for we read that "it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in the midst of which Lot dwelt"


"And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them: and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; and he said, 'Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early and go on your ways.' And they said, 'Nay; but we will abide in the street all night.'"

How every circumstance seems designed to bring out the contrast! Two angels come, not men: there is distance, not familiarity; and the Lord Himself does not come nigh. Hence communion there is not and cannot be. Evening, too, is fallen; they come in gloom, and as it not to be seen. And although Lot's hospitality is as ready as Abraham's, there is no such readiness in the response. They yield, however, to his urgency, — "And he pressed upon them greatly, and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat."

But even the semblance of communion is not possible for him. Out of the path of faith, he is not master of circumstances, but they of him. The men of Sodom break in upon him, and the very attempt to entertain the heavenly guests only provokes the outbreak of the lusts of the flesh. Instead of the good he seeks, Lot has to listen to a message of judgment, which falls upon all with which he has chosen to associate himself.

How solemn is the lesson of all this in a day when heaven is indeed allowed to be the final home of the saint, but in no wise his present practical abiding-place; when Christians count it no shame to be citizens of this world, to be "yoked" in every possible way — commercially, politically, socially, and even ecclesiastically — "with unbelievers;" to sit as judges in the gate of Sodom, and mend a scene out of which He who came in blessing for it has been rejected, and which, when He comes again, for that rejection, He comes to judge! If all this be not just Lot's place, what is it? Personal "righteousness" — in the low sense in which necessarily we must think of it here, — no more exempts one from the condition pictured than it actually exempted Lot. God's Word persists in claiming one's voluntary associations as part of one's personal state. Not to be "unequally yoked with unbelievers" is the condition God gives upon which alone our Father can "be a Father to us" to be "purged" from "vessels to dishonor" is the only state which has attached to it the promise, He shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master's use, and prepared to every good work." (2 Cor. 6:17-18; 2 Tim. 2:21.)

I am well aware that such principles are too narrow to meet with aught but contemptuous rejection in the present day. Evangelical leaders even can now take their places openly on public platforms with Unitarians and skeptics of almost every grade; and societies, secret or public, can link together all possible beliefs in the most hearty good fellowship. It is this that marks the time as so near the limit of divine long-suffering, that the very people who are orthodox as to Christ can:nevertheless be so easily content to leave Him aside on any utilitarian plea by which they may have fellowship with His rejecters. Do they think that they can thus bribe the Father to forget His Son, or efface the ineffaceable distinction between the righteous and the wicked as "him that serveth God, and him that serveth Him not"? Alas! they can make men forget this, and easily teach the practical unimportance — and so, really, the untruthfulness, — of what in their creed they recognize.

Oh for a voice to penetrate to the consciences of God's people before judgment comes to enforce the distinction they refuse to make, and to separate them from what they cling to with such fatal pertinacity! The days of Lot are in their character linked in our Lord's words with "the day when the Son of Man is revealed." May his history, as we recount it, do its work of warning to our souls.

Communion we have found to be one thing impossible for Lot in Sodom. It is surely what is implied in that assurance on God's part, — "I will be a Father to you," — which He conditions upon our taking the separate place from what is opposed to Him that our relationship to Him necessitates. How is it possible, indeed, if "whoever will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God," to have communion with both at the same time? How is it possible to say to the world, "I will walk with you," and stretch out the other hand to God, saying, "Walk with me"?

But if this be so, communion with God must be how rare a thing! How many things must be substituted for it, and, with the terrible self-deception which we can practice on ourselves, to be taken to be this even! With most, indeed, how little is Christ abidingly the occupation and enjoyment of the soul! And when we would be with Him, in our seasons of habitual or special devotion, how often do we perhaps all realize the intrusion of other thoughts, — unwelcome as, to Lot, were the men of Sodom. We are apt, at least, to console ourselves that they are unwelcome, perhaps to silence, or seek to silence, conscience with the thought, as if this relieved us from responsibility about them. Yet who could assert that Lot was not responsible for the intrusion of the men of Sodom? If their being unwelcome settled the whole matter, there is no doubt that they were unwelcome. But why had Abraham no such intruders?

The thoughts that throng upon us when we would gladly be free — at the Lord's table, at the prayer-meeting, or elsewhere, — have we indeed no responsibility as to these? The effort necessary to obtain what when obtained we can so little retain, while other things flock in with no effort, does it not reveal the fact of where we are permitting our hearts to settle down?

It may be, perhaps, a strange and inconsistent, thing at first sight, in view of what has been already said, and if we are to find a figure here in Lot's case as in Abraham's, — that he has the materials wherewith to entertain his heavenly visitants. It is true he has neither the "calf, tender and good," which Abraham has, nor the "three measures of meal." Applying these figures, we may say that Christ is not, in the way thus pictured, present to the soul of one in Lot's case. Yet he has, what may seem almost as hard to realize, that "unleavened bread" with which the apostle bids us keep our passover-feast, and which he interprets for us as "the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." How, then, may we attribute this to Lot?

The answer seems to me an exceedingly solemn one. It is found, I doubt not, in the very first case in which the command to keep the feast of unleavened bread was carried out. How, in fact, and why, was it carried out? Nothing would seem clearer than to say, Because the Lord enjoined it. But it is not this that Scripture itself gives as the reason.

"And the people took their dough before it was leavened their kneading-troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of the and of Egypt: for it was not leavened because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry; neither had they prepared for themselves any victual." (Ex. 12:34, 39.)

That is, their obedience to the divine command was not the fruit, alas! of the spirit of obedience. It was the product of necessity, the fruit of their being forced out of Egypt. And do we not, indeed, easily recognize in the Church's history under what circumstances in general the feast has thus been kept? Has it not been when by the hostility of the world she has been forced out of the world? Persecution has always helped men to reality. If it be simply a question between open acceptance of Christ or explicit rejection of Him, this will be a matter necessarily settled alike by every Christian. The black or white would have no possible shades of intermediate gray. The "perilous times" of the last days are not such to the natural life. All the more are they perilous to the soul.

Similarly, in the shadow of calamity and distress men wake up to reality. Their desire, the object of their lives, is taken from them, but the stars come out in the saddened sky. Face to face with eternity they have to learn how "man walketh in a vain show, and disquieteth himself" too "in vain." There are times when even Lots become real. Yet, as the mere fruit of circumstance, it has no necessary permanence in it, nor any power to lift to a higher level one in fact so low. Nay, a Lot stripped of his cover, how degraded does he seem! Strip some of my readers, perhaps, of every artificial help to make something of them, — of every thing outside the man himself, — what would be the result? Yet to this it must come: aye, to this. We brought nothing into this world we can carry nothing out: the world passeth away and the lust thereof. If our hearts have chosen that which passes, retain it we cannot. We must some day stand where Lot stood, and hear, as he did, words of judgment from the very lips of grace.

"And the men said unto Lot, 'Hast thou here any besides? son-in-law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: for we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it.'"

And then we find how utter had been the wreck of testimony with a man personally righteous. Nay, that character of his (who can doubt?) would only contribute to the rejection of so strange a story as that God would visit with signal judgment for its wickedness a place so attractive as Sodom had proved to righteous Lot. God, then, it would seem, had not been in sympathy with him. This was his own confession: but if He now were, who could then possibly tell? "He seemed as one that mocked unto his sons-in-law."

Here we have, clearly, designed, sharp contrast with what had been God's own testimony as to Abraham's household. Evil has thus its law and order, we may be assured, as good has. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Train him up for the world, and can you marvel if your work be as successful?

"And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, 'Arise, take thy wife and thy two daughters which are here, lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city.' And while he lingered, the men" — notice how in the time of his strait the more familiar term is used again, — "the men laid hold upon his hand and the hand of his wife and the hand of his two daughters, (the Lord being merciful to him,) and they brought him forth and set him without the city."

But now the shipwreck he had made of faith begins to be apparent in him. How often do you hear people speak of not having "faith for the path"' Here, it becomes plain that what is needed is to have the path in order to faith. How, indeed, can one speak of faith except for God's path? Can we have faith to walk in some way that is not God's? or does He put before us one way for faith, and some alternative way if we will be excused from the necessity of faith?

If we have not, then, faith for the path, we must walk, manifestly, in unbelief, where God is not with us, where no promise of His assures us, where the might of His arm cannot be reckoned on. What a thing for men to choose — from weakness, as they would urge, or fear — a path in which God is not! Surely the sense of weakness it is not which drives men away from Him: it is willfulness, or love of the world, — sin; but never weakness.

Had one to ask really, Have I faith for the path? who could dare to say he had? This excuse might well excuse us all. Which of us knows where God's path may lead? The one thing certain is, it will be a path contrary to nature, impossible to mere flesh and blood. Had we in this sense to count the costs, — or better, to meet the charges of the way, we would all be bankrupts the first day's journey.

But is there, then, no Shepherd of the sheep? or does He not lead now in green pastures, and beside still waters? and even in the valley of death-shade is there no virtue in His rod and staff? shall we malign a path which is His path, or count upon all that which calls for His power and grace, but not upon Himself to show this?

In the path it is that He sustains the faith for the path. Out of the path, faith goes overboard at the first step; and then the after-life becomes necessarily the diligent practice of an unbelief which strengthens itself with all the maxims of sense and selfishness and worldly calculation. In Lot we have to recognize now this utter prostration of faith in a believer.

"And it came to pass, when they had brought him forth abroad, that he said, 'Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.'

"And Lot said unto them, 'Oh, not so, my Lord; behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy which thou hast shown me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live!'"

How many prayers does not unbelief dictate! and how plainly does it characterize this prayer throughout! He owns a mercy he yet dare not trust; asks God for Zoar as a little city, that He might spare as such; and for his own good, not the human lives that were involved. How base is unbelief! How wonderful the goodness that, at such intercession, could spare Zoar!

But for Lot there is no revival. His wife's end follows, involved in the destruction of the city from which she had never really separated. Then he leaves Zoar, haunted still by the unbelieving fear which had taken him there at first. Finally, he is involved in the infamy of his own children, and his death is unrecorded: he had died before.

Thus far, if the anchorage be lost, may the vessel drift. And this is what the Spirit of God has put before us as the contrasted alternative with the life of faith in Abraham. Let us remember that the grossness of the outward history here may have its representative before God in what to mere human eyes may appear as correct as can be. God knoweth the heart. Blessed be His name, He has shown us also what is on His own.

The Philistines

After the judgment of Sodom, and before Isaac is yet born, we find Abraham again in the south country, and in connection with a people who in the after-history of Israel have a much more important place. Throughout the times of Samson, Eli, Samuel, and Saul, (whom they defeat and slay,) the Philistines hold the chief place among the enemies of Israel. David defeats and subjugates them, although they appear again in the times of his degenerate successors.

Their typical importance must correspond to their place in an inspired history of "things" which "happened unto them for types," and their general history and character throw light upon what is written of them in that part of Genesis to which we are now come.

The Philistines were not Canaanites, although sons of Ham. They sprang, according to Genesis 10:14, from Mizraim, to whom the land of Egypt gave its distinctive name. Yet we find them in the land of Canaan always, on the lowland of the south-west coast, with their outlook indeed toward Egypt, with which they had (as see Ex. 13:17), the freest and most unobstructed communication.

To translate this spiritually, they are natural men in heavenly things. Of Ham and Mizraim we have already briefly spoken. Ham is the darkness of resisted light, and out of this, Egypt, the natural world, is come. Its name, "Mizraim," or "double straitness," applies with unmistakable clearness to the strip of land on either side of the river, maintained in fertility and beauty by its yearly overflow, and bounded strictly by the desert on either hand. From their land the people derive their name. As natural men, they are conditioned and limited between narrow bounds, within which they may do great things, but not transcend them. They are governed and characterized by their conditions, naturally; are governed and get their name from what they should govern.

Such limits — indeed, much narrower, — confine the Philistines to their strip of sea-coast. They hold but a border of the land; and, however fertile, its lowest part. Other parts they may ravage, not really possess there, they are (according to their name) "wanderers" merely. Here too they are sojourners in a land that is not theirs it belongs already, in divine purpose, to the seed of that "Abram the Hebrew," who now comes to Gerar, no wanderer, but a "passenger," or pilgrim. To the one alone is there a future, a fixed point beyond, faith in him the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Yet as the order is, first, that which is natural, and afterward that which is spiritual, the Philistines for long seem to possess the land. Abraham already finds a king at Gerar whose name, however interpreted,* speaks of established, successional authority, while the captain of his host is Phichol — i.e., the "voice of all." Who that is prepared to find meaning here at all can fail to see in this the shadow of that traditional authority to which human religiousness, ignorant of the living Spirit, ever appeals? And completely in accordance with this it is that with Abraham and Isaac, as with the men of faith of every age, their great contention is about the wells of water which they themselves never dig, but of which they would with violence possess themselves, only to stop them again with earth. Of how many Sitnahs and Eseks has church-history been the record, until in God's mercy a Rehoboth came and they who sought the truth found "room"! All this in its general meaning seems easy enough to follow, and to make the typical character of these Philistines very clear.

{* Abimelech: either "Father of a king," or "whose father [is] king."}

It is noteworthy, too, that while never themselves possessing more than a border of it, they have loomed so largely in men's eyes as to give their name to the whole land. Palestine is only Philistine. So the traditional church is "catholic" — universal.

And now at Gerar we find Abraham once more failing as long before he had failed in Egypt. These Philistines, too, are but Egyptians, though in Canaan; even as the world, though come into the church, is still the world. Sarah, the covenant of grace, belongs still and only to the man of faith; but how often has he failed to assert this absolutely exclusive claim! In the present day there is surely more failure in this respect than ever; when, with an open Bible ours, and more enlightenment, Protestant traditions are become the rule of what is no less a world-church than Rome itself. For such, the Abimelechs and Phichols will have their place as of old; human authority be substituted for divine; the wells which faith had dug be stopped again. And here, how great the danger of Sarah being given up, — of grace being divorced from faith!

Alas! the liberality of the day is gone so far in this direction, that grace must not be denied where not only faith, but the faith, is absent, — where Christ is Himself denied. Orthodox and unorthodox mingle on platform and in pulpit. All lines are being surely and not slowly effaced. Churches with orthodox creeds open their doors widely to whatever is popular enough to make it worth their while; and Christians, with whatever trouble of conscience or grief of heart, dare not purge themselves from the evils which they feebly lament. They have obeyed one scriptural injunction at least, — they have "counted the cost:" alas! with too cold a calculation, into which neither the glory of God nor even their own true blessing has been allowed to come.

How little man's hand is competent to hold what God has entrusted to it we may see in Abraham. It is not the young and raw disciple, but the man who has walked in the path of faith for long, who here shows himself ready to give up the partner of his life, and the depositary of all the promises! What then is man? and what hope for him except in God? None, surely. And it is to ground us well in this that we are given to see the sad and terrible failure of these honored servants of God. Not to discourage, but to lead us to the source of all confidence and strength. Only in realized weakness do we find this. Only when unable to do without God for a moment do we find what He is for us moment by moment.

And it is the best blessing that we show most our incompetence to hold. Our place in Christ is that upon which all else for us depends, yet who of those to whom God has in His goodness been showing it in these last days is not aware how the knowledge of it had for ages almost disappeared out of the faith of Christians? Justification by faith, given similarly back to us in Reformation days, has been only by the same goodness preserved by constant revivals out of perpetual decline since then. Well for us will it be in proportion as we learn these lessons and our faith takes hold upon the living God. Alas! that even here the very failure of man should tend to shake our hold of His faithfulness, — as if He, not we, had failed! But "hearken unto Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by Me from the belly, which are carried from the womb, even to your old age, I am He; even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you."

In a marked way God interferes here for His failing servant, suffering him indeed to find for awhile the fruit of his own ways, but coming in for him at last in how tender and gracious a manner, to speak of him as "a prophet," and to make Abimelech debtor to his prayers. How different from our own ways with one another, ready as we are so easily to give up each other, sometimes at the mere suspicion of wrong-doing, when faith would hold fast the people of God for God! How sweet and restoring too for Abraham's soul this goodness of the ever-faithful One! for grace it is that restores alone: "sin shall not have dominion over you, because ye are not under law, but under grace."

Let us hold each other fast for God, if of this grace indeed we would be ministers. Members of Christ as we are, we are members also, and thus, of one another. This bond will survive all failure, and it should in whatever failure be felt (the more not the less, for the strain upon it,) in our hearts.

And now, unmoved from His own purposes of wisdom and of love, the Lord fulfills to Abraham the promise that He had made. A son is given to gladden his life, and be the pledge of mercies still to come. Isaac is born, type of a greater, in whom all promises find completion. In Him, dwelling in the heart by faith, the life of faith finds its completion. From the first its one necessity, He now becomes its abiding realization. Let us look at this briefly, as the prayer in Ephesians 3 develops it.

The apostle's prayer is to "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom every* family in heaven and earth is named." Christ in His place as Man, yet Son of the Father, is a new link of relationship between God and all His creatures. Angels as well as men have their place here. It is impossible but that the place He takes must affect all. He is Head over all things, as well as Head to His body the Church: the "First-born of every creature," — "Beginning of the creation of God." The arms which reach to man at the farthest distance encompass all between. The love which has displayed itself toward the lowest is felt as a pulse of new life by every rank of the unfallen "sons of God." Every family of these has for its Father the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. How this at once sets the one in whose heart by faith Christ dwells at the centre of all the divine purposes! How "length and breadth and depth and height" begin to dawn upon him whose eye rests upon Him by whom and for whom all things were created! No wonder, therefore, that the apostle prays "that He would grant unto you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." The "inner man" and the "heart" are parallel in meaning in Scripture: the "hidden man of the heart," as Peter calls it; not affections merely, but the whole man himself — the true man under all appearances. Here, in the centre and citadel of his being, faith receives its Lord.

{*So, rightly, the Revised Version, with Alford, Ellicott, etc.}

Christ dwelling in the heart by faith redeems us then from the narrowness and pettiness of mere individual interests, and brings us into the plans and counsels of a wisdom that embraces all things. "Rooted and grounded" ourselves "in love," which has met and satisfied all need in so wondrous a manner, "breadth and length and depth and height" begin to be revealed to us. All mysteries find solution in the deeper mystery of the cross. Evil is no where else so evil, but it is no where else so met, defeated, triumphed over, by the inherent power of good. And it is good which is in God Himself toward us, which manifests and glorifies Him.

The "breadth and length and depth and height," of which the apostle speaks, are not, of course, measures of "the love of Christ, which," he declares, "passeth knowledge" yet are they the means of better knowing how infinite it is. The "love" in which we are "rooted and grounded" alone enables us to "comprehend the breadth and length and depth and height;" and these apprehended, heaven and earth, time and eternity, are filled forthwith with the fullness of a divine presence. We know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, and are filled up in all the fullness of God.

This is the consummation of the life of faith when the true Isaac dwells thus with us. It is the conclusion, therefore, of this section of the book before us, save only the brief appendix in which we see, first, the bondwoman and her child cast out, and then the Philistines owning the superiority of the pilgrim man of faith.

The first has a dispensational application, which the apostle gives us in Galatians iv; and here Isaac appears, not as the representative of Christ Himself, but of those who by grace are one with Him. "Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise; but as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the Scripture? 'Cast out the bondwoman and her son; for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.'"

In Christianity God had for the first time recognized relationship with a family not born after the flesh, as in Judaism Israel as a nation was, but with those spiritually born of Him. The children of law were born to bondage; the children of grace alone are free. But the Church had, as Isaac, its weaning-time, before the child of the bondwoman was cast off. The larger part of the Acts illustrates this, which the close of the fifth of Hebrews explains and applies. The last chapter of this epistle shows the camp rejected, — Ishmael and Hagar, the nation on the footing of the legal covenant.

Cast out, they wander in the wilderness of Beer-sheba, and are nigh perishing for thirst. This I conceive to be the present condition of Israel. The water, the word of life, is spent for them, and the well they see not, although the oath of God, the covenant with their fathers, secures it for their final possession.* This, therefore, their eyes shall yet be opened to, and Hagar herself become a means of blessing to them (Deut. 30:1-3.); their dwelling still and ever outside of Canaan — the heavenly inheritance.

{*"Beersheba" means "The well of the oath." (ver. 14.)}

The development of these things would be full of interest, but would lead us too far to follow. The individual application is clear in general, although the details may be less easy to trace. Most interesting is it to see that the Philistine has now to concede that "God is with" the man of faith, and that the well of water is all his own. Here, then, afresh he worships, calling on Jehovah, the everlasting God.