Female Scripture Biographies, Vol. I
Francis Augustus Cox

Part 1 out of 6

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´╗┐Female Scripture Biography:

Including an Essay on What Christianity Has Done for Women.

By Francis Augustus Cox, A.M.

"It is a necessary charity to the (female) sex to acquaint them with their
own value, to animate them to some higher thoughts of themselves, not to
yield their suffrage to those injurious estimates the world hath made of
them, and from a supposed incapacity of noble things, to neglect the
pursuit of them, from which God and nature have no more precluded the
feminine than the masculine part of mankind."

The Ladies' Calling, Pref.




Notwithstanding the variety of theological publications of a devotional
class, which are perpetually issuing from the press, the author concurs in
the opinion of those who think they can scarcely be too numerous. It may
reasonably be hoped, that in proportion to the multiplication of works of
this kind, the almost incalculable diversities of taste will be suited;
and that those who may be disinclined to one style of writing, or to a
particular series of subjects, may be allured by their predilections to
the perusal of others.

Amidst the general plenty, however, there is one department which
experiences a degree of scarcity--a department to which these volumes
properly belong. Pious families require a supply of religious reading,
adapted to occupy the intervals of business, the hours of devotion, and
the time which is often and properly appropriated to domestic instruction
in the evenings of the Christian Sabbath. To have the minds of the young
directed at such seasons, not only to the truths of religion in general,
but the more attractive parts of Scripture in particular, seems highly
important. By a happy combination of amusement and instruction, piety is
divested of her formality, and clothed with fascination: the ear is
caught, and the heart gained; while the narrative interests, the best
lessons become impressed even upon the gay and the trifling; and he who,
when summoned to the social circle, sat down with reluctance, may rise up
with regret.

Whoever has been blessed with the advantages of a religious education, and
recurs to his own years of juvenile susceptibility, cannot forget the
strong impressions he received by these means; and must have had frequent
occasion to remark the tenaciousness with which they have lingered in his
memory, and sprung up amidst his recollections at every subsequent period.
In many cases they have proved the basis, of future eminence in piety,
and blended delightfully with the gladdening retrospections of declining
life. In those instances, where all the good effects which might be
anticipated did not appear, these early lessons have checked the
impetuousity of passion, neutralized the force of temptation, and
cherished the convictions of an incipient piety.

The writer of the following pages is aware of the just celebrity acquired
by some of his predecessors in the same line of composition, and he might
have felt wholly deterred from pursuing his design, by an apprehension of
having been superseded by the elegant and comprehensive lectures of
HUNTER, and the simple, perspicuous, and devotional biography of ROBINSON,
had he not remarked that their notices of the women in Scripture formed
but a small proportion of their respective works, and that the present
performance might be very properly considered as a continuation of their
volumes, particularly of those of the latter author.

It will be seen, that some of the same characters which have been given in
preceding writers, appear in the "Female Scripture Biography;" but the
reader may perhaps be conciliated to this seeming repetition, by being
reminded that they were necessarily retouched, in order to complete the
series; while the writer satisfies himself with the reflection that,
whatever subjects are deduced from Scripture, are not only unexhausted,
but will forever remain inexhaustible. The "wells of salvation," from
which preceding ages have drawn, still afford to us, and will supply to
far-distant generations, the same spiritual, copious, and unfailing

The Introductory Essay to the second volume, respecting the influence of
Christianity on the condition of the female sex, has been somewhat
divested of that literary cast which it might have been expected to
assume, the better to accord with the general drift of the work. The
reader will, it is confidently anticipated, deem, it no
unacceptable addition.

Contents of Vol. I.


Eve--Chapter I

Superiority of man in the universe: present degradation of reason: the
mere philosopher and the Christian contrasted: God seen in all his
works: creation of man: his corporeal and mental constitution: value of
the soul: Adam in paradise: alone: supplied with a help meet: Revelation
points out the true dignity of the female character: one woman given to
the man: the fall: aggravated and complex nature of the sin of Eve:
consequences, the loss of Eden: loss of the favour of God: loss of life:
ruin of posterity: remarks to obviate some difficulties attaching to
this subject in general.

Sarah--Chapter II

Abraham's departure from Chaldea: his faith: its failure: Sarah and
Abraham agree to prevaricate: the admonition which Sarah attracted:
Abraham's dismissal from the country of Egypt: beauty and dress:
importance of a proper education: parental vanity: source of real
attraction: Sarah proposes to Abraham to take Hagar: unhappy
consequencies: Hagar's flight and return: visit of three angels: Sarah's
laughter at the subject of their commission: her subsequent character:
general remarks: birth of Isaac: Ishmael's conduct, and its
consequences: Sarah's death.

Hagar--Chapter III

Retrospective glance at the history: Hagar: the wilderness: angelic
manifestation: divine promises: a view of their accomplishment: Hagar's
piety: her second banishment and distress: another interposition:
Providence illustrated.

Lot's Wife--Chapter IV

Delusions to which the young in particular are exposed: Lot's erroneous
choice: sin brings punishment: advantages of Lot's wife: her remarkable
deliverance: her guilt: general causes of apostacy traced, fear, love of
the world, levity of mind, pride: doom of Lot's wife.

Rebekah--Chapter V

Section I.

Progress of time: patriarchal mode of living: Abraham's solicitude
respecting the settlement of his son: sends a servant to procure him a
wife: his arrival in the vicinity of Nahor: his meeting with Rebekah:
her behaviour, and then conversation: the good qualities already
discoverable in Rebekah, which render her worthy of imitation: her
industrious and domesticated habits: unaffected simplicity: modesty:
courtesy: humanity.

Section II.

The Servant of Abraham cordially received into the house of Laban
tells his story: proposes to take Rebekah: consent of her family: her
readiness to go: the interview with Isaac: Rebekah becomes his wife:
their anxieties: birth of Jacob and Esau: Isaac's death-bed, and
Rebekah's unwarrantable proceedings: her solicitude respecting her son's
future conduct.

Miriam--Chapter VI.

Proceedings of the new King of Egypt: birth of Moses: conduct of Miriam:
preservation of Moses: escape of Israel: Miram's zeal in celebrating the
event: her character formed by early advantages: contrasted with
Michael: she engages with Aaron in a plot against Moses: God observes
it and punishment of leprosy inflicted upon Miriam: her cure: dies at
Kadesh: general remarks on slander: debasing nature of sin: hope of
escaping punishment fallacious: danger of opposing Christ: exhortation
to imitate the temper of Moses.

Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth--Chapter VII.

Section I.

History of domestic life most instructive: book of Ruth: sketch of the
Family of Elimelech while residing in Moab: reflections arising out of
a view of their circumstances: Naomi's resolution to return, and that of
her daughters in-law to accompany her: Orpah soon quits her mother and
sister: her character, and that of Ruth: requirements of religion:
arrival of Naomi and Ruth at Bethlehem: feelings of the former.

Section II.

Time of the return to Bethlehem: Ruth offers to go and glean:
disposition indicated by this proposal: she happens upon the field of
Boaz: his kindness: their conversation: additional favours: Ruth's
return home: her mother-in-law's wish to connect her in marriage with
Boaz: the measures she suggests, and which her daughter adopts with
ultimate success: their marriage: birth of a son: concluding remarks.

Deborah--Chapter VIII.

Section I.

Historical retrospect: Deborah sitting as a judge and prophetess under a
palm-tree: sends to Barak to confront Sisera: accompanies him
preparations for battle: victorious result: death of Sisera:

Section II.

Capacity of Deborah as a poetess: paraphrase of her remarkable song
composed to celebrate the victory over Sisera.

Manoah's Wife--Chapter IX.

State of Israel: appearance of an angel to the wife of Manoah: she
communicates the design of his visit to her husband: second
manifestation from heaven: result of the interview: reflection of
Manoah's wife stated and analyzed: considerations deducible from the
narrative: to avoid precipitancy of judgment: to avow our convictions at
every suitable opportunity: to feel assured that the providence of God
does never really, though it may apparently, contradict his word.

Hannah--Chapter X.

Section I.

Religion a source of peace: account of Elkanah and his two wives:
Peninnah reproaches Hannah: sin of despising others for their
infirmities: the family at Shiloh: Elkanah endeavours to console his
wife: her conduct and prayer: Eli's unjust imputation: Hannah's defence,
and her accuser's retraction: return from Shiloh: birth of Samuel:
his weaning.

Section II.

Samuel is devoted to the service of the sanctuary: uniformity of
character exemplified in Hannah: her song paraphrased: five other
children born to Hannah: view of her natural kindness and
self-denying piety.

Abigail--Chapter XI.

Many persons naturally capable of great attainments and elevated
stations have lived and died unknown: the dispensations of Providence
analogous in this respect to the arrangements of nature: Scripture
account of Nabal and Abigail: sources of incongruous marriages:
ambition: wish to maintain the respectability of a family: persuasion of
friends: early disappointments: Nabal's conduct to David: Abigail's
interposition: death of her husband: she becomes David's wife.

The Queen of Sheba--Chapter XII.

David's anxiety for his son: its happy issue: Solomon's prayer and the
answer of God: Solomon's riches and fame: the queen of Sheba's visit:
her country ascertained: such solicitude for wisdom not common: she
proves Solomon with hard questions, her desire of knowledge worthy of
imitation: Solomon's conduct: his buildings: the queen's congratulatory
address: reflections: her presents to Solomon, and his to the queen of
Sheba, Christ's application of the subject.

The Shunammite--Chapter XIII.

Section I.

Characteristic difference between profane and sacred history: the
Shunammite introduced: her hospitality; proposes to her husband to
accommodate Elisha with a chamber: the gratitude manifested by the
prophet in offering to speak for her to the king: her reply expressive
of contentment: various considerations calculated to promote this
disposition, advantages of a daily and deep impression of the transitory
nature of our possessions, and of keeping another life in view.

Section II.

Elisha promises a son to the Shunammite: his birth: his sudden death in
consequence of being sun smitten: She replies to the prophet her
expression of profound submission to the will of God: her subsequent
impassioned appeal to Elisha: the child restored to life: the
Shunammite's removal into Philistra, and return: her successful
application to the king for the restoration of her property.

Esther--Chapter XIV.

The feasts of the king of Persia: his queen Vashti sent for her refusal
to obey the summons: her divorce: plan to fill up the vacancy: Esther
chosen queen: Morder detects a conspiracy declines paying homage to
Haman; resentment of the latter, who obtains a decree against the Jews:
Mordecai's grief, and repeated applications to Esther: she goes in to
the king, is accepted: invites the king and Haman to a banquet:
mortification of the latter at Mordecai's continued neglect: orders a
gallows to be built for the disrespectful Jew: the honour conferred by
the king upon Mordecai for his past zeal in his service: Haman's
indignation: is fetched to a second banquet: Esther tells her feelings
and accuses Haman: his confusion and useless entreaties: he is hung on
his own gallows: Mordecai's advancement: escape of the Jews by the
intercession of Esther: feast of Purim.

Female Scripture Biography.


Chapter I.

Superiority of Man in the Universe--Present Degradation of Reason--The
mere Philosopher and the Christian Contrasted--God seen in all his
Works--Creation of Man--His Corporeal and Mental Constitution--Value of
the Soul--Adam in Paradise--Alone--Supplied with a Help Meet--Revelation
points out the True Dignity of the Female Character--One Woman given to
the Man--The Fall--Aggravated and complex Nature of the Sin of
Eve--Consequences, the Loss of Eden--Loss of the Favour of God--Loss of
Life--Ruin of Posterity--Remarks to obviate some Difficulties attaching
to this subject in general.

What a glorious pre-eminence in the creation, has Infinite Wisdom assigned
to the human species! As the skilful architect finishes his performance by
the most exquisite specimens of workmanship, so "the great Builder of this
varied frame," after the formation of _matter_, proceeded to impart
_life_, to communicate _instinct_, and to inspire reason. "And God said,
Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have
_dominion_ over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and
over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing
that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his _own image_; in
the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."

The superiority of man to _matter_, however fair, to _life_ however
pleasing, to _instinct_ however perfect, appears in this, that he only is
capable of contemplating and admiring the works of God--he only has an
eye that opens upon the heavens, and a mind adapted to receive impressions
from their diversified glories.

But even _reason_, in its present state, is so degraded, that the wonders
of creative wisdom are, in a considerable degree, overlooked or
undervalued. The heavens, with all their stars, and suns, and systems,
exhibit few beauties to the great mass of inattentive spectators; and the
observance of them, by day and by night, excites no correspondent
emotions. All is a blank! Plunged into an abyss of cares and anxieties,
chained to the oar of constant, unvarying labour; and solicitous only "to
buy and sell, and get gain," to _them_ "the heavens declare the glory of
God, and the firmament showeth his handywork" almost in vain!

Nor can it escape observation, that valuable as the discoveries of
philosophy are, the _mere discoverer_ who converts his knowledge to no
pious purpose, is the most infatuated of human beings. While he
contemplates distances, magnitudes, and number--while he investigates the
laws of motion, and the phenomena of nature--while he points the telescope
to gaze on fiery comets, to pursue wandering planets in their orbits, to
detect hitherto undiscovered globes of matter in the fields of space,
merely to gratify curiosity or to acquire fame--the Christian contemplates
the scene with another eye, and with far different sentiments. He sees
GOD in all. "This," says he, "is _his_ creation--this the work of _his_
fingers--these the productions of _his_ skill"--"by _his_ spirit he hath
garnished the heavens"--_he_ hath appointed "the sweet influences of the
Pleiades, and looseth the bands of Orion"--_he_ "bringeth forth Mazzaroth
in his season, and guides Arcturus with his sons." Yonder sun was formed
and fixed by _his_ mighty power--that moon, which walks forth in
brightness, and those stars, which glitter on the robe of night, were
kindled by _his_ energy, and shine by _his_ command.--"Lift up your eyes
on high, and behold WHO hath created these things, that bringeth out their
host by number; he calleth them all by names."

The God of _nature_ is the God of _truth_, the God of _revelation_, and
the God of _Israel_. If the Christian contemplate the firmament, or look
into the Bible, he sees the same Being. His operations are diverse, but it
is the same God. If he go, like Isaac, "into the fields to meditate at the
eventide," he meets with God in every leaf, in every stream, and in every
star; if he enter into his closet to read the Scriptures, still he finds
God in every page and in every truth; or if he pray, it is to "his FATHER
who seeth in secret." He may change his place, but he can never remove
from this lovely presence. "Nevertheless, I am continually with thee."
Hence nature shines with new glory in his eyes. God in the _sun_, conducts
him by a delightful association of ideas, and a frequent train of
reflection, to "God in _Christ_, reconciling the world unto himself, not
imputing their trespasses unto them."

[Sidenote: Years before Christ, 4004.]

Creation was the work of six days, upon the third of which, the earth was
formed, and clothed with vegetative fertility; on the last "the Lord God
formed MAN of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the
breath of life; and man became a living soul." It is for this reason that
Eternal Wisdom is represented as "rejoicing in the habitable part of his
earth, and her delights were with the sons of men." The _uninhabited_ part
of the earth is surely worthy of divine complacency. It forms a portion of
that universe which the Supreme Architect at first pronounced to be "very
good." The most retired places of this terrestrial globe, those extensive
deserts which were never printed by the human foot, those dens and caves,
deep valleys and cloud-encircled mountains, where silence and solitude
have reigned from the beginning of time, contain innumerable
manifestations of wisdom, power, and goodness. Wisdom might rejoice in a
thousand wonders that lie concealed within the bowels of the earth, or in
the caverns of the ocean, a world of mineral productions which our utmost
research fails to discover; but the _habitable_ part of the earth has ever
excited the highest interest, as the residence of his intelligent
creature, and the anticipated scene where the mediatorial work of his
beloved Son was to be accomplished.

Man has been called "an abridgment of the universe," [1] uniting in
himself in the extremes of being; in his body connected with the material,
in his soul with the spiritual world;--by his corporeal constitution a fit
inhabitant of the earth; by his intellectual faculties, a suitable tenant
of the skies.

The soul of man constitutes the perfection of his nature, being destined
to survive the dissolution of his body, and capable of everlasting
progression in knowledge and felicity. And here a vast, an illimitable
field of observation presents itself to view; but we must pass by it with
only one practical remark. The welfare of this immortal soul ought to
become the object of our principal solicitude. Considering the extent of
its capacities, the indissoluble nature of its constituent principles, the
novel and interesting circumstances under which it will hereafter exist,
its total incompetency to provide for itself under those amazing
vicissitudes which it is destined to undergo in a change of worlds, and
the unalterable perpetuity of its future condition, how inconsiderate and
how presumptuous must that individual be who neglects its interests, and
acts in constant hostility to the first great law of nature,
SELF-PRESERVATION! The protomartyr of the Christian age evinced a wise
anxiety when he exclaimed in his dying moments, "Lord Jesus, receive my
_spirit_." He was aware that his body would soon be consigned by the fury
of persecution to its native dust; but this excited comparatively little
concern. To him it was of no importance whether his grave was with the
rich or the poor, whether his burying-place were an obscure or an
illustrious spot: he was anxious for the salvation of his _soul_.
Unhappily, mankind in general lavish all their cares upon the body, to
embellish or preserve it, to pamper its appetites, or to minister to its
artificial necessities: but what an infatuation is it, to provide for that
which perishes, and to be careless of that which is immortal--to decorate
the walls, and to despise the furniture--to value the casket, and to throw
away the jewel!

The situation of Adam in the garden of Eden, shows that his Creator had
adopted every proper expedient to promote his felicity. The place selected
for his residence was in the highest degree rich and fertile, furnished
with every suitable accommodation, and "well watered" by a large river
which ran through it, and afterward divided itself into four considerable
branches. In being directed to "dress" and to "keep" the garden, the
goodness of God appears in providing him with an employment adapted to a
state of primitive innocence, and calculated by a proper occupation of his
time to promote his happiness. A slothful inactivity is not only
incompatible with true enjoyment in our fallen state, but would have been
inconsistent with the bliss of original paradise; and even when our nature
shall have attained its greatest perfection in a future world, an
incessant exertion of our intellectual powers and moral capacities, is
represent as essential to the joy of heaven. There "his servants shall
_serve_ him."

"When we think of Paradise," observes bishop Horne, "we think of it as the
seat of delight. The name EDEN authorizes us so to do. It signifies
PLEASURE, and the idea of pleasure is inseparable from that of a garden,
where man still seeks after lost happiness, and where, perhaps, a good man
finds the nearest resemblance of it which this world affords." "What is
requisite," exclaims a great and original genius, "to make a wise and a
happy man, but reflection and peace? And both are the natural growth of a
garden. A garden to the virtuous is a paradise still extant, a paradise
unlost." [2] The culture of a garden, as it was the first employment of
man, so it is that to which the most eminent persons in different ages
have retired, from the camp and the cabinet, to pass the interval between
a life of action and a removal hence. When old Dioclesian was invited from
his retreat, to resume the purple which he had laid down some years
before, "Ah," said he, "could you but see those fruits and herbs of mine
own raising at Salona, you would never talk to me of empire!" An
accomplished statesman of our own country, who spent the latter part of
his life in this manner, has so well described the advantages of it, that
it would be injustice to communicate his ideas in any words but his own.
"No other sort of abode," says he, "seems to contribute so much both to
tranquillity of mind and indolence of body. The sweetness of the air, the
pleasantness of the smell, the verdure of plants, the clearness and
lightness of food, the exercise of working or walking; but above all, the
exemption from care and solicitude, seem equally to favour and improve
both contemplation and health, the enjoyment of sense and imagination, and
thereby the quiet and ease both of body and mind. A garden has been the
inclination of kings, and the choice of philosophers; the common favourite
of public and private men; the pleasure of the greatest, and the care of
the meanest; an employment and a possession for which no man is too high
nor too low. If we believe the Scriptures, we must allow that God Almighty
esteemed the life of man in a garden the happiest he could give him, or
else he would not have placed Adam in that of Eden." [3] Traditions of
this state of primeval felicity are current among all nations; they are
discoverable in the Roman and Grecian fables of the gardens of Flora, of
Alcinous, and of the Hesperides; and in the pleasing fictions of the poets
respecting the golden age.

Thus the Lord God formed the nature of man pure, placed him in a garden of
delights, and poured around him rivers of joy. The heavens and the earth,
the visible and invisible worlds, animate and inanimate, material and
spiritual beings, conspired to replenish his cup of bliss; and, as the
perfection of his felicity, God himself condescended to visit
his creature.

Human transgression has disturbed the peace of human life; but man, in his
primeval state, was exposed to no changes; his cup had no bitterness, his
day no cloud, his path no thorn; the _past_ had no regrets, the _present_
no guilt, the _future_, no terror; the stream of mercy flowed into
Paradise with uninterrupted course, and the beam of prosperity shone with
unfading brightness and unsetting splendour.

In this exalted condition there was neither corporeal nor mental debility;
and the body and soul were not more closely connected in the constitution
of their being, than in the harmony of their friendship. There was no
opposition between the flesh and the spirit, no internal warfare, no
unhappy disagreement; the dictates of a pure mind were unreluctantly
obeyed by the faculties of an uncorrupted body; for it appears to have
been the established order of Infinite Wisdom in the constitution of the
universe, that matter should be in subjection to spirit, body to soul,
animals to rational creatures, and man to God; his understanding was
clear, his judgment correct, his affections holy, his will free, his
reason upright; he desired only what was desirable, he loved only what was
lovely; the whole moral machinery was in the most complete order, the
fine-toned instrument constructed by omniscient skill, was in
perfect tune!

But notwithstanding the diversified means of enjoyment with which Adam was
furnished, his paradise was still incomplete; one ingredient was wanting
to his cup of joy. Although the place of his residence was, us the
greatest of poets describes it,

"A happy rural seat of various view,--"

although diversified with "groves," and "lawns," and "level downs," and
"flocks," and "irriguous valleys," and "umbrageous grots and caves of cool
recess," and "murmuring waters," and "airs, vernal airs--"

"while universal Pan,
Knit with the Graces and the Hours in dance,
Led on th' eternal spring--"

the favoured lord of this unrivalled dominion was ALONE. The inanimate
creation spread before his view its unparalleled beauties, and nature
furnished a table to supply all his wants; the animal world acknowledged
his superiority, and went to him to receive their names: his Maker
condescended to hold communion with this excellent and intellectual
creature, admitting him to that sacred intercourse, and imparting some of
that divine knowledge which will no doubt constitute the future felicity
of emparadised believers: still he had no COMPANION, no one to share his
pleasures, no one upon equal terms to whom he could communicate his
sentiments. Endowed with a social nature, he had at present no social
means; he seemed as if placed in that solitary point, that fair, but
desolate region, where he saw thousands of creatures below him and above
him, but none upon that pleasing _level_ which conduces to a delightful
and profitable familiarity.

This defect, however, scarcely existed before the goodness of his Maker
supplied it. "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be
alone; I will make him a help meet for him." The process by which this
merciful intention was accomplished appears truly wonderful: Adam was put
into a profound sleep, and the Lord God took out one of his ribs, from
which he made a woman, and closed up the flesh. What must have been the
emotions of our great progenitor, when, upon awaking from his supernatural
slumber, this help meet was presented to him! He had, it seems, an
intuitive perception of the kind purpose for which this female companion
of his future days was made; or some immediate revelation disclosing both
the manner of her formation, and the reason of his being presented with
this invaluable gift. In the first transports of gratitude he exclaimed,
"This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called
woman (or _Ishah_,) because she was taken out of man." This name was
afterwards changed by him to _Havah,_ or EVE; assigning, as a reason, that
"she was the mother of all living." This name we have placed at the head
of the list of female characters in the present work; and while her brief
history is replete with instruction, it possesses an additional interest,
from the consideration of her being the _first_ woman. We are conducted
back to the infancy of time, to the origin of human being, to the cause of
the present degradation of our race, to an impressive exhibition of the
evil of sin, and to the dawn of redeeming mercy upon this world of
transgressors. In this history we shall perceive reasons both for
humiliation and triumph; we shall see human nature in ruins, and provision
made for its reparation; we shall witness the effects of infernal agency,
the loss of primeval glory, the power of female influence; and, above all,
the INFINITE GOODNESS of our Creator.

It very much enhances the dignity of the female character to reflect, that
of all created things the woman was selected as the only suitable
companion of the first and fairest of men; she was made expressly to
contribute to his mental and social pleasures, and not to be the slave of
his will; if the _mother_, she was intended also as the _instructor_ of
his children; his assistant, at least, in the "delightful task" of
"rearing the tender thought," and "teaching the young idea how to shoot:"
she was qualified to counsel and co-operate with him in his daily
occupations, to aid in the investigation of those laws which regulated the
new-made world, to unite with him in acts of worship, and to enliven, as
well as to participate, his devotional hours.

Revelation is the only system that assigns to woman her natural and proper
elevation in the scale of being, and inspires a consciousness of her real
dignity. The moment that an intelligent being is by any injurious
treatment, or by any prevailing error, induced to form a degrading
estimate of itself, that moment it begins to approximate a state of
meanness which was hitherto only imaginary. Let such an one be conscious
of being held in no esteem, or prized solely as the tool of servitude or
the food of appetite, and all majesty of character is lost; all aim or
wish to rise above the brute, to aspire after a station or character, to
the occupation of which a tyrannic impiety has opposed an insurmountable
barrier, is gone; and those great principles which confer a superiority
upon the human kind, and point to a noble pre-eminence, cease to operate,
and expire for want of action. This state of things is unnatural, contrary
to the original purpose of creation, and in fact, more dishonorable to the
usurper than to the degraded sufferer. In Mahometan and Pagan countries
the rights of women have been sacrificed to the caprices of men; and,
having plucked this fair flower of creation from its original and highly
elevated situation, its beauty has faded, its glory been lost in the
sacrilegious hands of its barbarian possessor. Abject slavery or base
flattery have existed where woman has been displaced from her proper and
original character, and the most mischievous consequences have ensued.

The first woman is said to have been formed _out of man_; hence, as a
_part of himself_, it seems the law of creation, that man should cherish
the most affectionate sentiments for the woman:--"Therefore," says the
inspired history, "shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall
cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh."

It is observable, that the woman was neither taken out of the _head_, nor
from the _feet_, but from the _side_, and near the _heart_! If, therefore,
on the one hand, she ought not to assume pre-eminence, on the other she is
not to be trampled on and despised, but received as an equal and a friend.

As the original arrangements of Infinite Wisdom were the most perfect in
their respective kinds, the appropriation of _one_ woman only, as the
companion and _wife_ of the first created man, indicates both the will of
the Creator respecting marriage, and the circumstances in which it is most
likely to produce the greatest sum of domestic felicity. Man is neither to
live _alone_, nor to indulge that depravity of taste, which, by seeking
enjoyment in diversity, not only ensures disappointment, but
generates discord.

The advocates for celibacy and for plurality, equally betray an ignorance
of Scripture and of human nature, and can find few supporters, except
amongst the infidel or the barbarian classes of mankind. "They that will
not connect their interests, lest they should be unhappy by their
partner's fault, dream away their time without friendship, without
fondness, and are driven to rid themselves of the day, for which they have
no use, by childish amusement or vicious delights. They act as beings
under the constant sense of some known inferiority, that fills their minds
with rancor and their tongues with censure; they are peevish at home, and
malevolent abroad; and, as the outlaws of human nature, make it their
business and their pleasure to disturb that society which debars them from
its privileges. To live without feeling or exciting sympathy, to be
fortunate without adding to the felicity of others, or afflicted without
tasting the balm of pity, is a state more gloomy than solitude: it is not
retreat, but exclusion from mankind. Marriage has many pains, but celibacy
has no pleasures." [5]

The original law is enforced in the New Testament by an infallible
commentator: "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning
made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave
father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be
one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What,
therefore, God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." Thus Jesus
Christ sanctions marriage by his authority, virtually interdicts polygamy,
and absolutely prohibits divorce.

As the bestowal of one woman upon one man, at the creation of the human
species, was sufficiently indicative of the divine will, so the near
equality of the two sexes is a strong presumptive argument in favour of
this division of society: if a different proportion were better calculated
to replenish the world with population, the circumstances of Adam seemed
particularly to require such an arrangement; or if it were calculated to
promote human happiness, the Divine Being, who created Eve for the very
purpose of enhancing the bliss of our first parent, would have superadded
this to his paradisaical possessions. The reverse, however, was obviously
the case. Polygamy violates the constitution of nature, and produces
contests, jealousies, distracted affections, a voluptuousness which
dissolves the vigour of the intellectual and corporeal faculties, neglect
of children, with other lamentable evils, for which it furnishes no
compensation. "Whether," says Dr. Paley, "simultaneous polygamy was
permitted by the law of Moses, seems doubtful; but whether permitted or
not, it was certainly practised by the Jewish patriarchs, both before that
law and under it. The permission, if there were any, might be like that of
divorce, 'for the hardness of their heart,' in condescension to their
established indulgencies, rather than from the general rectitude or
propriety of the thing itself. The state of manners in Judea had probably
undergone a reformation in this respect before the time of Christ, for in
the New Testament we meet with no trace or mention of any such practice
being tolerated." [6]

Though man was created in the state we have been representing, encircled
with the divine favour, rich in all the requisites of happiness, and the
tenant of a glorious palace, a melancholy alteration soon occurred.
Seduced by infernal temptation, he forsook his God and forfeited his
paradise; and from the narrative of his fall in the book of Genesis, which
immediately succeeds the account of his felicity, we learn that the WOMAN
was the first transgressor. Assuming the form of a serpent, Satan
presented himself to Eve, and entered into familiar conversation with her.
To his artful inquiry respecting the divine interdiction of one of the
trees of the garden, she at first gave a very proper answer. Satan
insinuated that the terms which God had prescribed, were severe, if not
capricious: but she replied in a manner indicative of her perfect
acquiescence in the commandment, her untainted purity of mind, and such a
sense of the beneficence of God, as prevented even a momentary doubt of
his wisdom or goodness, in the denial of "one tree in the midst of
the garden."

The tempter, in making a second attack, became more positive. In
contradiction to the divine assurance, he affirmed, with unhesitating
effrontery, that they should _not_ die, even though they tasted the fruit
of the interdicted tree; but on the contrary, that they should be "as
gods, knowing good and evil." By the very same representations do the
ministers of satanic malice in every age seduce mankind, suggesting that
the commands of Heaven are extremely rigid, and flattering them that sin
may be committed with impunity.

The fatal moment was come--she _looked_ at _the tree!_--Ah! thou mother of
all living! hadst thou looked at the _command_, and turned away from the
attractive plant and the beguiling serpent, all would have been
well--thine innocence had been uncorrupted, thy posterity uncondemned! But
unhallowed curiosity prompted the fatal experiment--she wished to
be wise--

"Her rash hand in evil hour,
Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she ate.
Earth felt the wound; and Nature from her seat,
Sighing through all her works, gave signs of wo,
That all was lost!"

It does not appear that any ill consequences resulted _immediately_ from
the criminal rashness of this sinner, so that she was encouraged to go to
her husband, who, seduced by a fairer tempter, and one endeared to him by
the tenderest ties, complied with her request to share the violated tree.
Motives of curiosity and pride excited _her_ to sin, and so far as appears
from the history, blind affection influenced _him_. Alas! she who was
given him as a "_help meet_," is changed into his _seducer_, and from his
_comfort_ is become his _snare_! That influence which she naturally
possessed over her husband, ought to have been exerted to _prevent_ his
compliance with any sinful intimation, in case of an unexpected
solicitation, instead of which it was used to _induce_ him to plunge into
guilt and ruin. "We have a right to presume," observes Saurin, "that as no
crime was ever connected with more melancholy results, so none was ever
more atrocious than hers. The more we examine its nature, the more base it
appears, and the more easy is it to exculpate religion from those
reproaches which this statement has so often occasioned. Whatever tends to
extenuate the guilt of other sins, is an aggravation of this.

"Sometimes a confusion _of the passions_ obscures all the powers of the
soul; a man who sins in this manner, is frequently less deserving of
abhorrence than of pity; he acts from a sort of compulsion, and protests
against the crime, even at the moment he is committing it. Eve possessed a
dominion over those passions to which we are become enslaved; she could
easily calm their turbulence, and they had no other influence over her,
than what was on her own part voluntary.

"Sometimes _necessity_ inspires the design of acquiring by unlawful
methods, a supply which nature has rendered requisite, and which cannot be
legitimately obtained. But, what could be wanting to satisfy the
insatiable cravings of this woman? What could she need as an addition to
her happiness? She might be said to be 'crowned with glory and honour;'
she had dominion over the works of the Creator; all things were put under
her feet; all sheep and oxen; yea, and the beasts of the field, the fowl
of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the
paths of the seas. Even her love of variety could not yet be satiated, and
this garden offered a thousand exquisite fruits which she had
never tasted.

"Sometimes _doubt_ blends itself with disobedience. There are but few sins
totally unaccompanied with unbelief; some clouds always obscure our faith;
some veils of concealment overspread the existence of the Creator. Among
the previous pangs which sin occasions, when we deliberate respecting the
commission of it, there always exist certain vague ideas in the mind, such
as these--perhaps no superior being concerns himself about it; or, perhaps
no one has forbidden it;--but Eve could not possibly doubt of the
existence or the will of the Creator. She had herself heard this language
from his mouth, 'In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shall
surely die.'

"Sometimes our abuse of a favour proceeds from _false ideas of its
origin_. Though every sinner be ungrateful, yet every sinner is not a
monster of ingratitude. The first cause of our felicity is sometimes
mingled with the second, which is serviceable in procuring it. Our
industry frequently seems to share with Providence the glory of our
condition, and the nature of a blessing sometimes leads us to forget the
acknowledgments due to our benefactor; but Eve enjoyed no good which did
not in some respect proceed _immediately_ from the bounty of God, and
which ought not to have induced her to glorify him.

"Sometimes a _pure motive_ produces an _impure action_, and the love of
virtue itself sometimes occasions our removal from it; but in the present
case the action is aggravated by the motive. Pride, vain-glory, perhaps
the desire of robbing God of his pre-eminence, his omniscience, or his
jurisdiction over the creature, his most sacred and incommunicable
distinctions, were the dispositions that actuated this woman.

"Can any imaginable pretext serve to palliate so atrocious a crime, or
excuse the woman who first committed it, and the man who joined in the
rebellion? Would they indeed have been less criminal, if a seraph of glory
had proposed to them the impious deed? Was not the faculty of _reason_
which they had received from God, sufficient to make them understand what
revelation has taught us, that if an angel from heaven were to proclaim
any thing contrary to what God has commanded, it ought to inspire us with
no other sentiments than those of _anathema_ and execration?"

The general consequences of human transgression were:

1. _The loss of Eden_, and the subjection of our first parents to a mode
of life both humiliating and painful. Ease was exchanged for toil, honour
for degradation, peace for distraction and wo.

It is always painful to quit a favourite spot. The heart lingers long
behind, and employs the pencil of memory to paint the absent scene. Adam
and Eve must have experienced inexpressible emotions when driven from
their primeval residence, where all the elements, all the seasons, and all
beings had contributed to their enjoyment. Never, never, could they forget
those landscapes on which the eye paused with rapture; never, never, could
they cease to remember its rich productions, its often-frequented vales,
and hills, and rivers, and woods; never, never, could they obliterate from
their memory the bright sunshine of heavenly love that beamed upon them
there--for by transgression they suffered.

2. _The loss of their God_. The divine favour can alone constitute the
real felicity of a creature; this, in its full manifestation, is
_heaven_--in its total absence, is _hell_. No place, however loaded with
blessings, can constitute a desirable abode, unless God be there. The
fairest Eden without this manifestation must be a melancholy dungeon to an
intelligent and immortal being. It is this which was forfeited by original
sin, and which occasioned "a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep
the way of the tree of life."

It would be inconsistent with the nature of God not to manifest
displeasure against iniquity, however high and dignified the being who
commits it. An angel must lose his crown, if he dare to disobey that Being
who is "glorious in holiness."

3. Mankind incurred by sin _the loss of life_.--"And the Lord God
commanded the man, saying, Of every tree in the garden thou mayest freely
eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shall not eat
of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die."
This denunciation included an exposure not only to temporal, but to
eternal death, as might be shown from the nature and demerit of sin, the
means which were afterwards employed to destroy its effects in the work of
Christ, the repeated declarations of Scripture, and the peculiar energy
of the original expression; it is literally, "Dying, thou shalt die." The
weight of the condemnation rested on the sinner's head, and in order to
maintain the glory of his character, "the blessed God" rendered his
punishment as extraordinary as his former mercies, and proportionate to
his enormous guilt.--"Thou wilt by no means clear the guilty."--"These
shall go away into _everlasting_ punishment."

4. The sin of Adam and Eve involved the _ruin of their posterity_. As the
first man and woman, they stood in a peculiar relation to all who should
hereafter be born, the representatives of unnumbered millions, whose
future condition essentially depended on their character and
circumstances. Had they continued innocent, it cannot be doubted their
children would have been placed in a far happier condition. They would
have inherited purity and a blessing for the Father's sake, instead of
being "shapen in iniquity." As the streams become polluted when the
fountain is poisoned, or as the branches die when the root is destroyed,
so the race of men are become degraded, accursed, and condemned by their
parent's sin. They inherit a nature depraved by original transgression,
and disposed to every wicked indulgence. Instead of becoming more
assimilated to God, as man had flattered himself he should be by partaking
of the forbidden fruit, he became from that moment assimilated to the
devil. Every dishonorable and hurtful passion took immediate possession of
the breast, and to this hour reigns in the carnal man with unrivalled
influence. Whatever misery results from the gratification of these
passions, is solely attributable to the principle; for man, who is
criminal by nature, is still more so by inclination and practice. The
world is thrown into a state of anarchy. The unbridled dominion of the
passions disturbs the peace of the individual and the harmony of society.
Sin makes a man at variance with himself, with his neighbour, and with the
whole constitution of things. He is restless as the ocean, impelled by
every contrary wind, and tossed about by every sportive billow. The desire
of happiness exists; but he is ignorant of the true means of it, and is
perpetually pursuing it by a method which only plunges him into greater
misery. To this cause must be attributed all the mental distresses and all
the bodily afflictions of the individual--all the disturbances which
prevent domestic enjoyment, the bickerings and jealousies of families with
their various alliances--all the animosities which agitate social
life--all the intestine broils, ambitious emulations, endless contentions,
and opposing interests that distract a state--all the melancholy wars that
convulse nations and desolate empires, the record of which has stained the
page of history in all ages--with every particular, form, and mode of
evil, discoverable in the world.

But sin extends its ravages beyond the present state. It has not only
strewed the whole path of life with tormenting thorns, but enkindled
"everlasting burnings." It has not only introduced disorder into the
world, disease into the body, and distress into the condition of men, but
exposed them to the agonies of death and of hell. It is sin which banishes
every hope and excludes every ray of comfort from the realms of infernal
despair. Justly, then, is it characterized by the apostle, as
"_exceeding sinful_."

There were two respects in which the woman became more deeply affected by
the curse than the man; she not only participated, as a fallen creature,
in the diversified calamities which, from the moment of transgression,
were entailed upon humanity, but suffered as a _female_ in the _conjugal_
and _maternal_ relationships which she was destined hereafter to sustain.
Her husband was to "rule over her," and in sorrow "she was to bring forth
children." The yoke of subjection, indeed, in the one case, and the pangs
of childbirth in the other, are alleviated by the benign influences of
Christianity, whose supplies are intended to heal the wounds inflicted by
the poisonous serpent; but they nevertheless attach, in greater or less
degrees, to the human constitution.

The reason of this marked difference in the dispensation of an avenging
Providence to the two principal parties concerned, was obviously this; the
woman was _first_ in the transgression, and after listening to the
deceptive counsel of her adversary, tempted when she ought to have warned
her husband. It appears consonant to every principle of equity, that the
atrociousness of her guilt should be characterized by appropriate
expressions of displeasure; and that, in the future condition of mankind,
all beings should recognize, not only the general purity of the divine
administration, but its reference to the peculiarities of individual
delinquency. Whatever mystery may at present involve the proceedings of
Infinite Wisdom, and however incapacitated we may be to discover in every
given case, or even in the majority of instances, the distinct traces of a
justice that holds the even balance, and adjusts with nicety the
proportions of sin and punishment, of this we may feel perfectly assured,
that "every one" will eventually "receive the things done in his body,
_according to that he hath done_, whether it be good or bad."

It should be a matter of serious consideration to women to employ the
influence which they possess, as the gift of nature, to wise, holy, and
useful purposes. Let the young female especially see to it, that her
attractions are not dedicated to the service of sin, but to that of virtue
and of Christ. Let her neither be tempted, nor tempt others, but close her
ear against the voice of enticement, and make a covenant with her tongue,
that it neither utter folly, nor propagate slander. Let the daughters of
Eve imitate their mother in her state of unfallen rectitude, when she
shone in all the purity of innocence, and in all the summer of her charms;
but let them avoid that course which tarnished her glory, debased her
nature, and withered her paradise. It is indisputable that society is
materially affected by the character of women; and in very important
respects the moral state, as well as the social comfort of the world, is
at their disposal. Let them beware of the delusions to which they are
exposed, and make virtuous use of the influence which is undoubtedly given
them. Let them aim to be guides to piety, not seducers to sin; and,
instead of presenting to others the forbidden fruit, refuse to taste, or
even to _look_ at it: so shall they regain the dignity they have lost, be
admitted to partake of the untainted spring of happiness, and enjoy at
once a peaceful conscience and an approving God.

The narrative which has here been briefly introduced, stands in immediate
connection with a subject which abounds in considerable difficulties, and
has produced, unhappily, many acrimonious controversies. These it would be
improper to detail; but as our design is chiefly practical, if some of
those objections which occur to almost every mind, can, by a few words, be
in any degree obviated, it will be worthy at least of a short digression.

1. It has been alleged that the first man might have been created
immutable by a necessity of nature, the consequence of which would have
been his own perfect and unchanging happiness, and that of all mankind.
The imagination seizes the transporting thought, and in a moment converts
every spot of this barren wilderness into "the garden of Eden." Does it,
however, become us to prescribe rules to Omniscience? Was the Deity
obliged to impose a miraculous constraint upon the human will, and compel
his creature to choose whatever is best with invariable determination and
promptitude? If a parent were to caution his child against a danger, into
which he afterward plunged himself by his inadvertence or perverseness,
would the child be justified in censuring the parent, because, in addition
to advice, he did not employ bonds and cords? Adam might have been created
immutable by a necessity of nature. True--but Adam would then have been
another being, and not a man. It might with similar propriety be asked,
why men were not created equal to angels, or beasts to men? This sentiment
implies, that it was not proper to create such a being as _man_ at all, an
intimation sufficiently presumptuous. Adam possessed all the perfections
essential to his nature, and conducive to his felicity, and all the
motives to obedience, which a reasonable creature could demand. If he
fell, it was _violating_ and not _concurring_ with the principles of his
nature. And who was culpable for this violation? It is true he was
_tempted_,--but then he was _forewarned_. He was _tempted_--so was the
_second Adam_, the Lord from heaven, who effectually _resisted_ the

2. Some have supposed that the punishment was disproportioned to the
offence. A more attentive consideration of the subject, however, will
demonstrate the contrary. The compliance with the seductions of the
tempter, of which our first parents were guilty, betrayed many lamentable
symptoms of degeneracy. Pride, ambition, discontent, unbelief,
presumption, ingratitude, and an undervaluation of the divine favour, are
all plainly discernible through the thin veil of an extenuating apology,
with which they vainly attempted to conceal their baseness.--"The woman,
whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat."
And the woman said, "The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." Endowed as
they were with knowledge, it was a sin against the greatest _light_;
surrounded as they were with motives, it was a sin against the greatest
_means_; warned as they were of danger and promised eternal blessedness,
it was a sin against the greatest _reason_; and placed as they were at the
head of a numerous posterity, and in a sense the depositories and trustees
of their happiness, it was a sin against the greatest _public good_.

Besides, it was the _first sin_, and consequently justice demanded such an
expression of the divine displeasure as would tend to deter future
transgressors, and evince the purity of God to all holy intelligences.
When justice seized upon the delinquents, and brought them to the
equitable tribunal of Heaven, the whole intelligent universe may be
considered as attentive spectators of the scene. Every eye was
fixed--every ear open--every tongue silent--every harp suspended. The
great Judge with whom "a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a
thousand years," saw, as it were, the unborn generations of men all
present, and tremblingly awaiting the verdict. This was the solemn hour
when the perfections of Deity were to be most sublimely illustrated, and
ten thousand worlds were to learn in one eventful moment the character of
their Creator, "Therefore the Lord God sent him from the garden of Eden."

The nature of sin in itself should also be considered. It is no trifling
affair. From the habit of observing only its outward effects, we overlook
its rancorous principle. The propensity to extenuate sin arises from
ignorance of its vileness. We judge of every thing by comparison, and
self-flattery always renders the comparison favorable to ourselves. But
_small_ and _large_ are terms which, though we have chosen to adopt them,
do not properly belong to the subject. The divine mind contemplates sin in
its principle; and the _least_ transgression, being a resistance of his
command, an insult to his authority, an opposition to his truth, a
violation, of general order, a perversion and misuse of the noblest
faculties, whatever may be the force of the attack or the nature of the
temptation, is infinitely offensive to the blessed God. It is an admission
of that principle which, could it possibly prevail, would produce eternal
discord, universal rebellion, and boundless misery.

3. If, however, we be accounted sinners in Adam, may it not be inferred
that our guilt is incalculably _inferior_ to his, and that in all our
actions resulting from this inherent depravity, we are more _pitiable_
than _culpable_? By no means.--It is sufficient to remark, that though our
original guilt be less than his, not having been personally the
perpetrators of the first crime, our _actual_ guilt is equal, if not
greater. For it is obvious we sin with all the experience of the past to
forewarn us; we sin, though we witness the deplorable effects of his fall,
and hear the denunciations of vengeance in the Scriptures.

Though it be true that sin originates in a depravity of heart, which is
the fatal inheritance of the whole human race, will any one pretend that
such a sentiment justifies its excesses? The perpetration of iniquity in
the course of our daily practice, must not be confounded with the original
tendency. These excesses are in no sense chargeable upon the principle as
its necessary and unavoidable result, because thousands escape "the
pollutions that are in the world." Nor are we less obliged to love God in
consequence of the fall, though unhappily we are become more incapable and
indisposed to it. You ask, why passions were implanted in human nature?
The reply is, to extend the means of our happiness, by rendering us more
capable of glorifying and enjoying God. If they have acquired a sinful
bias, the obligation to devote them to their original purpose is by no
means diminished: But their great Author, to whom we are responsible for
every faculty, requires that we should oppose their perverse propensities,
earnestly repent of the irregularities produced by their seducing
influence, and solicit the aid of his grace to conquer them.

When the apostle of the Gentiles was reasoning before an unjust judge of
"righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come," it is said, "Felix
trembled, and answered. Go thy way for this time, when I have a convenient
season I will call for thee." Unhappy man! Hadst thou but obeyed Paul
instead of dismissing him, hadst thou but yielded to thy kindling
convictions, confessed thy sins, and sought salvation through the blood of
that Jesus whom Paul preached, the church of Christ would have hailed thee
as "a brand plucked out of the burning."

Every one is conscious that, however corrupt his nature, he is under no
irresistible impulse, no constraining necessity. If he commit sin it is
voluntarily. Sin is his choice and his pleasure. He does not sin because
he is _necessitated_ to do it, but because he _loves_ it: and however
willing the carnal mind may be to avail itself of sophistical reasonings
to quiet conscience, every one must, in the hour of dispassionate
reflection, feel himself implicated in the charge, "all have sinned."

Listen to the case of a wretched prodigal.--Crime had reduced him to rags.
He had a _home_--but through perverseness he banished himself from all its
comforts. He had a _father_--but he undervalued his affection, in a moment
of folly demanded his patrimony, and adventured abroad friendless and
alone. A few years brought him to the very gates of death. O thoughtless
sinner, "_Thou_ art the man!" _Thou_ hast forsaken God, the Father of
mercies! _Thou_ art "perishing in ignorance and unbelief!" But this moral
lunatic came to himself, and resolved to return to his father; "I will
arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned
against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy
son; make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose and came to his
father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had
compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." What a son!
what a father! what a meeting! what sighs of penitence! what tears of
fondness! what looks of tenderness! what words of peace! How were
resentment and grief drowned in a sea of love!

God of all comfort, who art thyself this kind, forgiving, bountiful
Father, grant of thine infinite mercy that every reader may prove himself
this humble, sincere, and grateful penitent!


Chapter II.

Abraham's Departure from Chaldea--His Faith--Its Failure--Sarah and
Abraham agree to prevaricate--The Admiration which Sarah
attracted--Abraham's Dismissal from the country of Egypt--Beauty and
Dress--Importance of a proper Education--Parental Vanity--Source of real
Attraction--Sarah proposes to Abraham to take Hagar--Unhappy
Consequences--Hagar's Flight and Return--Visit of three Angels--Sarah's
laughter at the subject of their commission--Her subsequent
Character--General Remarks--Birth of Isaac--Ishmael's Conduct and its
Consequences--Sarah's Death.

[Sidenote: Years before Christ, about 1920-1921.]

At a very advanced period of life, and in obedience to a divine
injunction, Abraham went out from his country and his father's house, "not
knowing whither he went." By this cheerful, prompt, and pious submission
to the mysterious will of Heaven, he has acquired a high distinction in
the sacred records, and presents a noble example for the imitation of all
future ages. Here was no debate between a sense of duty and an inclination
to sin--no disposition to question the wisdom or the goodness of the
command--no effort to devise expedients for the purpose of procuring
delay--and no unholy apprehensions respecting the possible or probable
consequences of such a proceeding.

In this removal from Chaldea, the illustrious exile took with him his
wife, his nephew, "and all their substance that they had gathered, and the
souls that they had gotten in Haran." Upon their arrival in Canaan, the
divine declaration respecting his future possession of the country was
renewed, and he erected an altar to the Lord in the plain of Moreh. The
same act of devotion was performed at the next stage of his journey, on a
mountain to the east of Bethel; for no change of place could obliterate
his sense of religious obligation.

This land of promise was soon afflicted with a grievous famine, in
consequence of which, he was necessitated to provide for the subsistence
of his family by removing into Egypt. This was a new trial to his faith;
for by what possible means could a land at present so impoverished, become
a place of plentiful subsistence to his posterity, when multiplied as the
sands upon the sea-shore? Driven even from this promised inheritance, he
did not, however, manifest a spirit of discontent or unbelief, but
hastened to seek a temporary asylum, convinced that he to whose guidance
he had committed himself and his beloved family, could, by the
outstretched arm of his power, not only overcome every obstacle which to
human ignorance might seem insurmountable; but by his concurrent wisdom
render difficulties themselves subservient to the accomplishment of
his purposes.

Alas! on his entering Egypt he is seized with apprehension. The faith
which had hitherto been so conspicuous is mingled with distrust, and he
engages his beloved SARAH, who is now introduced to our notice, in an act
of most unwarrantable duplicity. The whole of this transaction is detailed
with that perfect impartiality which characterizes the histories of the
Scriptures, and which furnishes one very decisive evidence of their

Sarah is represented as very beautiful. Her husband was aware that this
circumstance would attract the notice of the Egyptians, not only because
of the contrast her person would exhibit to the swarthy complexions of
their women, but on account of their licentious character. He dreaded
their illicit attachment, and the probable consequence that they might
assassinate him in order to obtain his wife. This idea of Egyptian morals
was no doubt correct, but how deplorable! They would not commit adultery;
but for the sake of gratifying a guilty passion, were ready to perpetrate
the abominable sin of murder! And thus, under the strange pretence of
reverence for the matrimonial law, they would have violated at once the
dictates of humanity, the principles of reason, and the constitutions of
heaven. So common is it for transgressors to "strain at a knat and swallow
a camel;" and so uniform the course of guilt, which never walks alone, but
draws with it a train of complicated iniquities!

The preliminaries being settled, Abraham and his family entered Egypt. She
was to say, when any inquiries were made, that she was his _sister_,
hoping by this artifice to escape danger. This, it must be observed, was
not a _direct_ falsehood: it was such only by _implication_. It was true
that, according to the Jewish mode of reckoning, Sarah was the _sister_ of
Abraham; but their intention in circulating this statement was, to conceal
the whole truth of her being his _wife_. Notwithstanding the ingenuity
which some learned men have displayed in attempting to vindicate this
conduct, we must without hesitation pronounce it base, mean, and
prevaricating. The purpose was to deceive, and it was the more censurable
for being so deliberately premeditated and so perseveringly practised.
There are cases in which persons have been overtaken in a fault, impelled
by some momentary passion, excited by some brilliant temptation, or
betrayed by some unexpected coincidence of circumstances, and of which
they have deeply and almost immediately repented--a situation which
cannot but excite our pity, as well as our disapprobation; but this was a
transaction which it is impossible either to extenuate or justify. Let it
be improved as a motive for self-examination, and a beacon to warn us from
similar misconduct. "O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be
ashamed, for I put my trust in thee. Let INTEGRITY and UPRIGHTNESS
preserve me, for I wait on thee."

Prevarication of every kind partakes of the very essence of lying, being
not only subversive of social happiness, by preventing all confidential
intercourse amongst mankind, but diametrically opposed to the commands of
God. Every species of wilful deceit, as the use of ambiguities in language
for the purpose of misleading; the adoption of expressions which we know
to be understood by another in a different sense from what we really mean;
mental reservations; a studied suppression of part of the truth, as in the
present example, is unworthy the character of any person who professes to
be an honest man, much more of one who sustains the dignified character of
a Christian. "Wherefore, putting away lying, speak every man truth with
his neighbour."

In theory, it seems an easy thing to adhere to truth; but it is too
frequently found difficult in practice. When motives of interest are
balanced against motives of duty, it is well if the former do not
sometimes preponderate. Are we always careful to state facts _exactly_ as
they exist; to avoid all false colouring; to swear even to our own hurt?
If so, we need not fear investigation, because nothing can be detected but
an honourable, undissembled mind.

When Adam disobeyed the divine commandment, and in consequence forfeited
the bliss of primeval paradise, he was seduced by his fair partner, who
had already listened to the wily suggestions of the serpent; but Abraham,
so far from being tempted by his wife, appears to have been the sole
contriver of this disingenuous artifice, and employed all his influence to
induce her to transgress. In following him from his original residence
into Canaan, and subsequently to Egypt, she obeyed the dictates of
affection and of religion; but when she suffered herself to be persuaded
into a deceitful action, she sacrificed the purity of her conscience. It
became her, however painful the conflict, to resist the temptation; and,
when the claims of heaven were opposed to those of affection or human
authority, to obey God rather than man. It appears that we are not only in
danger of being misled by those who are our avowed enemies, or by the
pernicious example of the multitude who do evil, but the nearest and
dearest relatives may become snares to our feet; and even those, in whose
piety and wisdom we should naturally confide, may, under the influence of
temporary delusion, incite us to do wrong. Our affections must not be
implicitly trusted. There is a point where submission to man becomes
treason against heaven. It were better to incur the displeasure even of
the dearest friend and tenderest relative, than of Him who possesses
supreme authority over conscience.

At the same time, let a woman, who thus ventures to disobey her husband,
do it with that caution which results solely from a conviction of
paramount duty, and from a well founded assurance that she is not
mistaken. It is no trifling occasion that will justify opposition to the
will of him whom she is commanded to obey; and if it be done in a proper
spirit, it will be done with a degree of reluctance, and under an
overwhelming sense of necessity. Let the spirit of meekness be prevalent.
Nothing in the _manner_, in which unwelcome opposition is maintained, must
indicate a proud resistance, or an air of triumph. It must not be
litigious, petulant, unconciliating; but the importance of those
principles which occasion the difference, must be apparent in the temper
of mind they produce. Thus, it will be possible to maintain the rights of
conscience, and not to violate the claims of duty: the integrity of the
heart will be indicated, not by words only, but by actions.--It is natural
to feel indignant against a conduct which we suspect to proceed from
improper motives, and a hostile spirit; but we extenuate even the mistakes
of those who differ most widely from ourselves, provided we have
sufficient evidence that their scruples result from conscientious
feelings. While, therefore, in our differences from others, we are careful
not to be actuated by mere frivolous pretences, we must be equally
solicitous not to be deterred from showing a firm consistence of conduct,
lest we should incur the charge of an affected singularity.

The fact was such as Abraham had anticipated. Sarah was the object of
universal admiration. She attracted the attention even of Pharaoh's
courtiers, who, with the view of pleasing their master, recommended her to
the king. Supposing she had been the stranger's sister, she was taken into
his house. Alas! what availed all this timid policy! The very means which
had been devised for the preservation of Sarah from Egyptian
licentiousness, nearly exposed her to all its dreaded consequences; and
Abraham was duped by his own craftiness. His wife was endangered, his
artifice detected, and the household of Pharaoh visited with divine
chastisements on her account. And, in addition to the pain which both he
and his beloved partner must have felt, from the consciousness of having
acted wrong, they were dismissed from the country. "And Pharaoh called
Abraham, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? Why didst
thou not tell me that she was thy wife? Why saidst thou, She is my sister?
So I might have taken her to me to wife: now, therefore, behold thy wife,
take her and go thy way. And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and
they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had."

The _beauty_ of Sarah was obviously the occasion of her committing, in
concert with her husband, the sin of equivocation, and of the misfortunes
which attended their Egyptian journey. If she had not been distinguished
for a fair exterior, she would have escaped the admiration of these
strangers, and the difficulties which she and Abraham afterwards
encountered. Solomon pronounces beauty to be vain; and the history of the
world will show, that, in innumerable instances, as well as that of Sarah,
it has betrayed its fair possessor into many snares. Experience, however,
in this respect, does not seem to teach wisdom; for the wish to acquire
the attraction which beauty confers, seems to be no less prevalent in the
present age, than it was at the earliest period of the world. How many
hours of the day, and how many days of the wasted year, do some females
devote to the improvement of their persons! Impossible as it has ever
been, and ever will be found, to make one hair black or white, to add one
cubit to the stature, to bend one untractable feature into the admired
curve to which common consent attributes grace and loveliness; the
impossible transformation is nevertheless attempted. The treasures of
opulence are exhausted; the more valuable possession of health is often
sacrificed at the shrine of vanity: and while the noble distinctions of
cultivated intellect and solid piety are neglected, the ostentatious
decoration of exterior polish is sought with useless and guilty avidity.

The most effectual means of correcting this error, is in early life to
commence the important business of moral discipline by a solid education.
If a greater degree of attention be paid to showy, than to substantial
acquirements; if young ladies be systematically prepared to shine and
attract, instead of being assiduously formed to be useful in the stations
to which Providence has assigned them; it may be expected that they should
become solicitous of courting admiration, rather than of winning esteem.
They will necessarily be unfitted for domestic management, and
disqualified for the sober realities of life. If the matrimonial connexion
be founded upon no better pretensions, and no superior reasons for
attachment, it is incapable of securing solid happiness. It is, in fact,
at the mercy of every breeze. The wind of adversity may blow upon the fair
flower, wither its exterior charms, and leave nothing but prickles and
thorns. A consciousness of insignificance on the one hand, and a
perception of it on the other, will produce disappointment, and generate
dissatisfaction; and it will be found, too late perhaps, that the _mind_,
instead of the _face_, ought to have been principally regarded.

There is a species of parental vanity against which we would loudly
appeal. Some persons are extremely anxious that their daughters should
possess all the attractions of beauty; and from their earliest infancy, a
concern for appearances is instilled into them, as of the first
importance. If young persons, so unhappily circumstanced, should receive a
wrong bias, we cannot feel surprised; and it will require a long course of
salutary discipline, combined with the inculcation of religious
principles, effectually to teach them that to see, and to be seen, are not
the great purposes of human existence; that they must live for nobler
ends, and secure the approbation of the wise and good by other
accomplishments than a taste for the arrangement of a ribbon, or the
harmony of a tune. Unless they should be unfortunate enough to meet with
none but flippant and vacant admirers, to whose flattering nothings they
are induced to listen, they will find, that persons of real worth are not
to be attracted by tinsel decorations, nor a butterfly exterior, but that

"Man has a relish more refined;"

and will rather breathe the following sentiments, as the appropriate
language of a noble enthusiasm, connected with rationality and religion;

"Souls are for social bliss designed--
Give me a blessing fit to match my mind;
A kindred soul to double and to share my joys."

That which constitutes the source of attraction to well regulated minds,
does not depend upon the disposition of the features, nor the colour of
the skin. It is possible to every kind of exterior form. "This beauty," it
has been well observed, "does not always consist in smiles, but varies as
expressions of meekness and kindness vary with their objects: it is
extremely forcible in the silent complaint of patient sufferance, the
tender solicitude of friendship, and the glow of filial obedience; and in
tears, whether of joy, of pity, or of grief, it is almost irresistible.

"This is the charm which captivates without the aid of nature, and without
which her utmost bounty is ineffectual. But it cannot be assumed as a mask
to conceal insensibility or malevolence: it must be the effect of
corresponding sentiments, or it will impress upon the countenance a new
and more disgusting deformity--AFFECTATION. Looks, which do not correspond
with the heart, cannot be assumed without labour, nor continued without
pain: the motive to relinquish them must, therefore, soon preponderate,
and the aspect and apparel of the visit will be laid by together: the
smiles and the languishments of art will vanish, and the fierceness of
rage, or the gloom of discontent, will either obscure or destroy all the
elegance of symmetry and complexion.

"The artificial aspect is, indeed, as wretched a substitute for the
expression of sentiment, as the smear of paint for the blushes of health:
it is not only equally transient, and equally liable to detection; but, as
paint leaves the countenance yet more withered and ghastly, the passions
burst out with more violence after restraint, the features become more
distorted, and excite more determined aversion.

"Beauty, therefore, depends principally upon the mind, and consequently
may be influenced by education. It has been remarked, that the predominent
passion may generally be discovered in the countenance; because the
muscles by which it is expressed, being almost perpetually contracted,
lose their tone, and never totally relax; so that the expression remains
when the passion is suspended: thus, an angry, a disdainful, a subtle, and
a suspicious temper, is displayed in characters that are almost
universally understood. It is equally true of the pleasing and the softer
passions, that they leave their signatures upon the countenance when they
cease to act. The prevalence of these passions, therefore, produces a
mechanical effect upon the aspect, and gives a turn and cast to the
features, which make a more favourable and forcible impression upon the
mind of others, than any charm produced by mere external causes.

"Neither does the beauty which depends upon temper and sentiment, equally
endanger the possessor: it is, to use an eastern metaphor, 'like the
towers of a city--not only an ornament, but a defence:' if it excite
desire, it at once controls and refines it; it represses with awe, it
softens with delicacy, and it wins to imitation. The love of reason and of
virtue is mingled with the love of beauty; because this beauty is little
more than the emanation of intellectual excellence, which is not an object
of corporeal appetite. As it excites a purer passion, it also more
forcibly engages to fidelity: every man finds himself more powerfully
restrained from giving pain to goodness than to beauty; and every look of
a countenance in which they are blended, in which beauty is the expression
of goodness, is a silent reproach to the first irregular wish; and the
purpose immediately appears to be disingenuous and cruel, by which the
tender hope of ineffable affection would be disappointed, the placid
confidence of unsuspecting simplicity abused, and the peace even of virtue
endangered, by the most sordid infidelity, and the breach of the strongest

"But the hope of the hypocrite must perish.--When the factitious beauty
has laid by her smiles; when the lustre of her eyes, and the bloom of her
cheeks, have lost their influence with their novelty; what remains, but a
tyrant divested of power, who will never be seen without a mixture of
indignation and disdain? The only desire which this object could gratify,
will be transferred to another, not only without reluctance, but
with triumph.

"Let it, therefore, be remembered, that none can be disciples of the
GRACES, but in the school of VIRTUE; and that those who wish to be
LOVELY, must learn early to be GOOD."

In the next transaction, Sarah appears in a still more unfavourable light
than in the former part of her history. In whatever degree the
circumstances in which she was placed may seem to extenuate the guilt of
her conduct in Egypt, they can no longer be pleaded on her behalf. She is
not now overawed by the authority of her husband, or seduced by an
affection, which would, at all hazards, endeavour to save his valuable
life; but becomes the voluntary tempter to a violation of divine
institutions, by which she not only manifested her unbelief, but
sacrifices to unworthy motives her domestic peace.

Notwithstanding the divine assurance, that the posterity of Abraham should
become a great nation, and possess the land of Canaan, Sarah begins to
think that there is no probability of her becoming a mother. Ten years had
elapsed, and no child was born. Reflecting on her advanced period of life,
and incapable of an implicit reliance upon the power of God, she requested
Abraham to take Hagar, her Egyptian handmaid, in order that she might
obtain children by her. It is scarcely possible to imagine a proposal more
calculated to subvert the comfort of her family, or more illustrative of
an unbelieving spirit. She could not rely upon the slow but certain
operations of a superintending Providence to fulfil those promises which
had been given; although a humble faith would have cherished confidence in
his word. He who has filled the volume of inspiration with "exceeding
great and precious promises," will assuredly accomplish them,
notwithstanding every apparent impediment. Omnipotence marches forward
with a steady, undeviating step, to its predestined purpose; and that
infinite wisdom which originally planned the future, can never be
frustrated or confused by any contingencies or vicissitudes; for no
possible event can occur which was not fully anticipated at the moment
when the promise was given.

Sarah was not only under the influence of distrust, but of inordinate
desire. She was impatient for one of those prime domestic comforts which
it was seen fit at present to deny her; and because the time which had
elapsed, exceeded her calculations of probability, she took upon herself
to devise a plan to hasten the accomplishment of her wishes. Let us beware
of an undue eagerness after the possession of any temporal enjoyment. It
will not only produce distrust, but, probably, precipitate us into
irregular means of gratifying our wishes. "Inordinate desires commonly
produce irregular endeavours. If our wishes be not kept in submission to
God's providence, our pursuits will scarcely be kept under the restraints
of his precepts."

It is truly surprising, that the father of the faithful should listen to
this insinuating request. Possibly he thought that, as Sarah was not
distinctly mentioned in the promise, Hagar might become the parent of the
promised seed; and by this specious pretence, being anxious for a son, he
was induced to comply. We are easily persuaded, when our own inclinations
already concur with a proposal; and even good men are very liable to
misinterpret the intimations of Providence, whenever they consult their
own feelings rather than the word of God.

It is remarked, that "Abraham hearkened to the voice of SARAH." This was
his error. There was another voice he should have heard. If he had any
doubts upon his mind, or any suspicion that his present wife was not the
predestined mother of the numerous posterity that were to people Canaan,
he should at least have betook himself to prayer. In a day of such
remarkable revelations, and in an affair of so much consequence, he might
reasonably have expected an express direction from heaven; and he who had
been already so privileged, ought to have unbosomed his thoughts and
explained his desires to the Lord. Let such as sustain the closest
connexion, beware of becoming snares instead of helps to each other!
Previous to a compliance with any important request that may lead to
considerable consequences, Let us, from whatever quarter it proceed, or
however justifiable it may appear, promptly avail ourselves of that
gracious throne, which is always accessible to the humble petitioner. We
are liable to so many misconceptions, exposed to the influence of so many
prejudices, and subject to the attacks of such a variety of temptations,
that our only security is in the exercise of a devotional spirit, our only
help is in the Lord our God. If any man lack wisdom, let him repair to the
fountain of intelligence, and solicit those supplies from heaven which are
not only freely dispensed, but fully adequate to our diversified

The consequence of this unsanctioned proceeding, was precisely what might
have been expected. Elated with the honour of her situation, Sarah is
despised by her Egyptian handmaid. She treats her with contempt and
impertinence, as if she were the peculiar favourite of Heaven, and hoping
no doubt, that the ample promises of God were to be fulfilled by her
means. Knowing what human nature is, we cannot wonder at this disposition,
culpable as it was. Nothing is more common than for persons, when raised
above the meanness of their birth, and the inferiority of their former
circumstances, to be guilty of assuming airs of importance, and to forget
their most obvious duties: and we would caution servants especially
against such unwarrantable conduct. If divine favours should be conferred
upon them; if by the grace of God they should be made partakers of that
spiritual dignity which genuine religion confers, and be thus placed upon
a level with their masters or mistresses in the Christian church, let them
remember that they are not exempted from a civil subserviency. They are by
no means elevated above their natural situation as _servants,_ because
they become _Christians_; but all the peculiar claims of domestic duty
remain. An aspiring, or a haughty spirit, is unbecoming their newly
acquired character, and shows that they have very imperfectly learned of
him who was "meek and lowly of heart." Every person is respectable in his
station, exactly in proportion as it is properly occupied; and real
religion, instead of disqualifying for subordinate situations, is adapted
to produce contentment, and to dictate an exemplary and uniform
correctness of conduct in _whatever_ condition we may be placed by
Providence. "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters,
according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your
heart, as unto Christ: not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but as the
servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will
doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever
good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether
he be bond or free." "Let as many servants as are under the yoke, count
their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his
doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them
not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service,
because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit."

If Hagar behaved with impertinence and vanity, Sarah manifested a very
censurable degree of resentment. Irritated by her handmaid's arrogance,
she appealed to Abraham, protesting that she could not endure such
insolence, and charging him with a secret connivance, if not an
encouragement of her provoking behaviour. Thus we perceive a specimen of
what will generally prove the case in family dissensions--both were in the
wrong. Hagar was aspiring and rude; Sarah passionate and severe. If the
former should have recollected her obligations, the latter ought not to
have forgotten her own foolishness in raising her above her natural level,
and placing her in circumstances of powerful temptation. The one should
have known her place; the other have kept her temper. Let the modern
mistress and servant take a lesson from this unhappy difference. How many
intestine commotions might be prevented, if inferiors would not overstep
the proper limits of their sphere; and if superiors in station would be
conciliating in spirit; "The beginning of strife is as when one letteth
out water; therefore leave off contention before it be meddled with."

Abraham wisely avoided all interference in this affair; and though his
beloved Sarah had appealed to him in very intemperate terms, he gave a
soft answer. "Behold thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth
thee." He refrained from all self-vindication, to which he seemed called
by the violent appeal of his wife; but if he thought proper either to
defend himself, or to remonstrate with her, he chose another occasion.
When the passions are inflamed, the judgment is seldom sufficiently
unbiassed to listen to reason or to consult propriety. It has been
questioned, however, whether in this instance he was not too submissive.
The Egyptian maid seemed entitled to protection; and, instead of yielding
to the rage of Sarah, he should have interposed his _meditation_, and if
necessary, his _authority_, to restore peace.

Incapable of resisting the combined assaults of jealousy, rage, and
revenge, the poor foreigner is driven from the roof of Abraham. She fled
into the wilderness with the view of returning to her native country, but
was suddenly arrested in her flight by an angelic messenger, who
admonished her to return to her mistress, and pacify her by ready and
unconditional submission. He also predicted the character and habits of
her future offspring, mentioning the name by which he was to be called,
and consoling her in this season of tribulation by an assurance that "the
Lord had heard her affliction." She instantly retracted her steps; and, as
no intimation is given to the contrary, we may infer that the fugitive was
restored to her situation in the family. She was humble, and Sarah
conciliated: and as we hear nothing of her for some years, they probably
lived in tolerable harmony. It was a merciful interposition to send her
back to the family of Abraham; for a connexion with the people of God,
whatever may be their faults, is far more desirable than the richest
inheritance, or the noblest alliance, where religion is discarded
or unknown.

[Sidenote: Years before Christ 1898]

As the birth of the Egyptian's son was attended by no divine
congratulations, Abraham is still permitted to pass thirteen years more in
a state of suspense respecting the promised child; when at the age of
ninety-nine, the covenant is renewed by another revelation. On this
remarkable occasion his wife received the name by which we have uniformly
called her, Abraham being distinctly assured of her predestined privilege
as the mother of the promised seed. A similar change of name was conferred
upon the patriarch. Hitherto he had been called _Abram_, a "high," or
"eminent father;" now he is to be _Abraham_, "the father of a great
multitude." His beloved wife, who had been called _Sarai_, "my princess,"
was in future to be distinguished by the name of _Sarah_, "a princess,"
denoting a more extensive honour. If he were to become the _Father_, she
was to be the _Mother_, of "many nations."

Having already witnessed the misconduct of Abraham's wife on two memorable
occasions, it would be highly gratifying to hear, in the next circumstance
of her history, that she acted worthy of her connexion with so illustrious
a husband, But alas! we are still necessitated to derive instruction
rather from a record of her faults than of her excellencies. We must
expect to witness a variety of these in every human character, combined
only with comparatively a small number of shining graces. Indeed we find,
in general, but one very distinguishing good quality associated with those
of a different complexion; and if the plant of grace spring up and grow in
the human character, it is usually in a thicket of inferior principles and
unholy propensities. While, therefore, engaged in the cultivation of our
hearts, in "keeping them with all diligence," as the wise king of Israel
expresses it; one very important duty we owe to ourselves is to watch the
appearance of these irregularities, and aim, by unremitting attention,
united with fervent prayer, to eradicate them from the moral soil. In
Sarah we see as great a luxuriance of evil as can be imagined to blend
with real piety, without essentially deteriorating it.

Sitting one day at the door of his tent to enjoy the refreshing shade,
[8] Abraham observed three strangers approaching, whom he hastened
to meet, that he might offer them any temporary accommodation in his
power. This act of hospitality was conformable to the usage of the
country; but the peculiar generosity of Abraham seems indicated in his
_running_ to meet them. The invitation is immediately accepted; and the
good old man, with the most obliging readiness, offered water to wash
their feet, and bread to satisfy their hunger. He hastened to Sarah,
directing her to make some cakes of fine meal, and bake them on the
hearth; and then went himself to the herd to choose a tender calf, which
he immediately proceeded to dress. Butter and milk, the produce of their
own pasture, were of course supplied. The venerable patriarch then took
his respectful standing under the branches of a neighbouring tree, which
afforded a pleasant screen from the sultry sun. What exquisite simplicity
is discernible here! what a subject for the painter! what a theme for the
poet! what an example for the good! Three heavenly messengers at the
humble table of one of the greatest men that ever inhabited this world--a
patriarch--a prince--the father of the faithful--the friend of
God--venerable for age--distinguished by his hospitality--still more
eminent for faith!--their canopy the overarching sky--their shelter, the
wide-spreading tree--flocks and herds grazing around, the indications of
an industry which Providence had blessed with remarkable success--and the
plain of Mamre spreading its luxuriance before their eyes!--

But we must hasten to the remarkable subject of their conversation. At
present the patriarch did not suspect the real character of his visiters;
who introduced their intended communication by asking, "Where is Sarah thy
wife?" This must have excited great surprise; for how could strangers know
the affairs of his family, and the particular name of his wife, which had
been so recently changed? He informed them, however, that she was in the
tent, where, according to the prevailing custom of the times, she had her
separate table. One of the angels, immediately personating Jehovah
himself, if he were not, as appears probable, the very "Angel of the
Covenant," gave this solemn assurance: "I will certainly return unto thee
according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son!"
Sarah, whom curiosity had brought to the door of the tent to listen to
what passed, overhearing this assurance, and looking upon it as an
impossible occurrence at her time of life, laughed in derision. She had
long come to the conclusion that she should produce no son to Abraham,
and, therefore, that all such expectations were chimerical and ridiculous.
This excessive incredulity--excessive, because a distinct assurance of the
fact had been already given to Abraham upon the occasion of their change
of names--was highly culpable; but while we denounce it with merited
severity, let us examine our own hearts. Have _we_ never acted in a
similar manner? Have _we_ never distrusted the providence of God or his
promises? Who can plead exemption from a spirit of unbelief? What surmises
have agitated our bosoms, when the events of life contradicted our
expectations? What despondency have we shown, and what distrust, when the
movements Omniscience were incomprehensible to our reason, and opposed to
our apparent interest? If but one part only of the divine proceedings
seemed incongruous, we have dared to arraign "the whole stupendous plan;"
if but "a momentary cloud" arose upon our prospect, we have begun to fancy
that order was at an end, that the sun had for ever disappeared, that God
had "forgotten to be gracious, and in anger shut up his tender mercies."
Let us then aim to correct these irregularities of feeling, and to dismiss
these misinterpretations of providence.

Sarah imagined that her contemptuous incredulity was only known to
herself: but the heavenly visiter instantly detected it, and appealed to
Abraham on its impropriety. Possibly the reason of addressing Abraham,
rather than calling the culprit herself to an account, was to inflict the
severer reproof. Ah! how vainly do we strive to conceal the secret
thoughts of the mind from the knowledge of God! His eyes, which run to and
fro through the earth, penetrate through every disguise, and perfectly
discern every inward motion as well as every outward action. We live every
moment--in the darkest midnight as well as at the brightest noon--in the
full blaze of Omniscience. "O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me:
thou knowest my down-sitting and mine up-rising; thou understandest my
thoughts afar off."

Incapable of enduring this exposure, the criminal now rushes from her
concealment, and boldly calls out, "I laughed not." This was a direct
falsehood, dictated by apprehension; and it was confronted by the instant
retort of him who knew her heart: "Nay, but thou _didst_ laugh." It is
possible that Sarah had some mental reservation, when she so flatly
denied the assertion of the angel: she might persuade herself that she did
not absolutely laugh, but only smiled, or felt contempt; but whatever mode
she might have adopted to explain away her conscious guilt, it was
unavailable, as every such unworthy subterfuge must always prove.

We cannot help remarking the danger of the least deviation from the path
of rectitude. One sin prepares the way for the commission of another; one
step over the edge and boundary of uprightness may lead us down a
precipice, and plunge us into a fatal series of crimes. We have already
seen an exemplification of this remark; and it is more strikingly
illustrated in the present transaction. Curiosity brought her to the door,
where she was soon betrayed into unbelief: detection soon produced a fear
of censure; this dread produced a ridiculous attempt at concealment and
self-justification; and the pride of her heart issued in exciting her to a
deliberate falsehood. Notwithstanding her incredulity, however, Sarah
shall bear a son, to be the spring of innumerable blessings to her
posterity. Thus infinite goodness overrules the perverseness of his
people, as well as the wrath of sinners, ultimately to promote his
own designs.

If, on this occasion, the daring transgressor had been smitten to the
earth by an instantaneous judgment, it must have been regarded as a proper
expression of the divine displeasure. Her repeated provocations merited
the severest chastisement, and would undoubtedly have justified such a
proceeding. The thoughts of Jehovah, however, are not as our thoughts, nor
his ways as our ways. There is nothing vindictive in the character of the
blessed God; and if he have on certain occasions launched the thunderbolt
upon the guilty heads of sinners, the circumstances have shown that the
atrocity of their iniquities has required a signal visitation. How far
punishment of this nature may be necessary in any particular case, it is
not for beings limited in their views as we are to decide, but simply to
rely on the wisdom of him, who, with a due intermixture of severity and
mercy, justice and grace, conducts the affairs of the universe.

Overawed by the angelic presence, and mortified by an inward consciousness
of her folly and sin, Sarah uttered not another word. She could neither
vindicate her incredulity, nor extenuate her false assertion; and though
she proceeded to great lengths, we are happy to find that she sufficiently
restrained her intemperate passions to retire in silence.

From this moment we trust she assumed another character. Reflection
restored her to her right mind. She dismissed her criminal doubts, and
resigned herself to the divine disposal. As the predestined period of her
giving birth to the child of promise was approaching, her faith produced
the liveliest sensations of joy; and both she and Abraham exulted in the
prospect of a son. That this was the state of her mind, we are assured
from indisputable authority: "Through faith Sarah herself received
strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past
age, because she judged him faithful who had promised."

Perhaps we may be disposed to say, it was time she _did_ believe. After
such remarkable manifestations, and such reiterated promises to Abraham,
it would have been passing strange had she continued incredulous. Surely
there was enough to convince her, that, whatever difficulties nature might
present, grace had determined to overcome them, and that every reasonable
and every possible evidence of the intended miracle had been given. But
is it so unusual for mankind to resist the most convincing arguments, and
to disbelieve even the most obvious truth, that the case of Sarah ought to
be regarded as so extraordinary? Have we not daily proof of a similar
obstinacy and perverseness? If it be observed that Sarah possessed great
advantages, being connected with so excellent a man, and so great a
favourite of Heaven as Abraham, and being visited by angelic messengers,
and instructed by celestial visions; this may be admitted. But do not
those who reject the truth of Christianity, or disobey its precepts, act a
more criminal as well as unreasonable part, inasmuch as they enjoy all the
instruction and all the experience of past ages? And is it not a more
outrageous defiance of Heaven to oppose the reality of its manifestations,
after successive centuries have demonstrated the truth of predictions once
mysterious, evinced the nature of facts once misunderstood, dispersed the
typical shadow which once enveloped the sublimest discoveries of infinite
wisdom, and poured upon a benighted world the full blaze of evangelical
revelations?--Sarah doubted the possibility of an occurrence which was
attended with striking difficulties, and evidently miraculous; but what
censure do not they deserve who shut their eyes against the clearest
light, perplex with sophisms the most intelligible statements, and
endeavour, by every exertion of a slanderous tongue and a malignant pen,
to subvert the basis of our religious hopes, and to undermine a fabric
which has stood the test of ages, giving repose and refreshment to
millions of heaven-bound pilgrims on their journey!

To draw the circle of reflection closer.--If _our_ inconsistencies were
written in a book--if the instances of _our_ unbelief amidst evidences, of
_our_ failures in temper and spirit, of _our_ misimprovement of the
peculiar advantages of our situation, were recorded for the warning of
others--is there any probability that we should acquire much honour by a
comparison with the wife of Abraham? We do not indeed justify _her_
faults, but let us not overlook _our own_. We have better means, and
brighter discoveries. In these last days God hath spoken unto us by his
Son. We are, through faith, become the children of Abraham, interested in
the new covenant, introduced into the family, and admitted to the
friendship of God. We have seen the visions of patriarchal days, the
promises and blessings of the ancient dispensation, the memorable and
terrific descent of Jehovah on Sinai, the prefigurations of the Mosaic
economy, the personal glories, the incarnate love, the agonizing death,
the triumphant ascension of the Son of God: we enjoy means of instruction
which no other age did or could possess. And wherein consists our
superiority to former saints, even those whose imperfections are the most
conspicuous? Surely, the observation may be retorted upon many hearers and
professors of the gospel, in reference to their too frequent instances of
inconsistency--it is time you _did_ believe!

[Sidenote: Years before Christ, 1897.]

The birth of Isaac, the promised seed was attended with great rejoicings.
His very name, signifying _laughter_, was expressive of the happy
occasion; and Sarah, in the ecstacy of her mind, exclaimed, "God hath made
me to laugh, so that all that hear me will laugh with me." The birth of a
child is naturally the subject of joy and congratulation; but the
introduction of Isaac into the world, who had been so long and repeatedly
promised, demanded and excited unusual satisfaction. Sarah, who introduced
him with a mother's joy, nursed him herself with a mother's care. She was
ignorant of the cruel absurdity which modern refinement has invented, of
separating the tender offspring from its proper guardian and provider, and
thus not only exposing it to many inconveniences and hardships, but
nullifying the wise and kind arrangements of Providence. Alas! nature,
reason, and religion, must all be violated in compliance with fashion!
Need we feel surprised that barbarity should produce alienation, and that
she who refuses to show tenderness, should fail of receiving attachment?
Is it at all astonishing, that habits and sentiments foreign to domestic
comfort should be acquired; and that, when proper discipline and personal
superintendence are neglected, the young plant should shoot into unsightly
irregularities of spirit and character?

How soon may the brightest day be overcast with a cloud! How liable are
our best enjoyments to interruption! The weaning of Isaac was celebrated
with great festivities; upon which occasion this favourite child was
recognized as Abraham's heir. This excited the displeasure of Ishmael;
which the jealous eye of Sarah observing, she insisted upon the
instantaneous expulsion of mother and son from the family. We are sorry to
witness any revival of the old spirit; but, in this world, unholy passions
cannot be totally eradicated. We should hope, however, there was more
reason, as well as religion, in her displeasure on this than on a former
occasion. The young man was, probably, ridiculing the whole ceremony, and
deriding the parents, the child, and the promise; for passion and
prejudice are never very discriminating in their censures. Ishmael was, in
fact, of a wild, ungovernable temper; but we have no evidence that the
provocation was sufficient to justify the proceeding of Sarah, in
peremptorily demanding the expulsion of the mother and her child. Thus
did Abraham's concubinage continue to imbitter his domestic peace; and the
good old patriarch was again placed in a most difficult and perplexing

Whatever feelings may be supposed to have dictated the resolution of
Sarah, it was coincident with the designs of God; and Abraham, who had
certainly sought divine direction, was commanded to comply. This would, no
doubt, quiet the feverish anxiety of his mind; for a consciousness of
doing the will of God, however contrary it may be to our natural
inclinations, is sufficient to smooth the roughest path of duty, and to
lighten the heaviest burden we may be called to sustain. Abraham, in this,
as well as in various other instances, displayed exemplary faith. The
bitter draught, however, was somewhat sweetened. It was difficult to
parental feelings to concur in so severe a measure; but some gleam of
futurity was afforded to enlighten the darksome but appointed path. "And
God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight, because of the
lad, and because of thy bond-woman: in all that Sarah hath said unto thee,
hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. And also of
the son of the bond-woman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed."

Notwithstanding the faults to which we have found it necessary to advert,
Sarah was unquestionably a great character. She not only stands recorded
in the New Testament amongst those who were illustrious in ancient times
for their faith, but is exhibited as a pattern of domestic conduct. Her
defects were but occasionally visible, being commonly concealed amidst the
brightness of her numerous excellencies. Her obedience to Abraham is
specified by the apostle as a laudable singularity, which, in connexion
with other virtues, he thus recommends: "Likewise, ye wives, be in
subjection to your own husbands; that if any obey not the word, they also
may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; while they
behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.--Whose adorning let it
not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold,
or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in
that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet
spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this
manner, in the old time, the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned
themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands, even as Sarah
obeyed Abraham, calling him lord; whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do
well, and are not afraid with any amazement."

[Sidenote: Years before Christ, 1859.]

Seven and thirty years after the birth of Isaac and when Sarah had
attained the age of one hundred and twenty-seven, we come to the
conclusion of her "mortal story." Her death, and the respect paid to her
memory, are related with a circumstantial minuteness which is truly
honourable to her character. This affecting event occurred at Kirjah-Arba,
or Hebron, in the plain of Mamre, where Abraham came to bemoan his loss.
Venerable man! thine was no common mourning! Thou didst not merely sit
upon the ground, assuming the customary attitude of grief; but thine were
genuine sorrows! What big tears of undissembled pain poured down thine
aged cheeks! How did affection recal the days, and months, and years of
delightful union, which time had strengthened, but death had now
dissolved! And yet, while nature demanded this tribute of fond
remembrance, religion had taught thee to moderate thy distress, and to
elevate thy hopes to a brighter world, where holy friendship, begun on
earth, shall be purified and perpetuated through everlasting ages!

The longevity of ancient times, and especially of the antediluvians,
naturally excites surprise; but what a dream is human life, even at its
most protracted period! How soon do even centuries elapse! How solemn the
consideration, that the flood of ages, which has swept from the surface of
this globe so many millions of our predecessors, however firm may have
been their health, or numerous their years, or eminent their characters,
is daily impelling us forward to the "house appointed for all living."
_Their_ pilgrimage terminated, and so must _ours: their_ earthly relations
were dissolved, and _their_ places in society were vacated; and soon the
place which we occupy, shall "know us no more." The stream flows on, and
we cannot arrest its course. Happy for us, if it should appear that we are
going to join the society of the blessed; if, possessing the faith of
Abraham, we have reason to indulge the hope of being eventually
transported to his bosom!

Sitting in imagination at the grave of Sarah, and blending our
sympathizing tears with those of her honoured husband, what a lesson may
we learn respecting the vanity of human life! The flower whose exquisite
beauty and attractive sweetness once excited so much desire, is faded, and
mingled with common dust! There lies a form, which _was_ so lovely and so
beloved, to furnish a repast for creeping worms! How bereft of that spirit
which once animated it! How altered and defaced by the putrifying touch of
mortality! Here the race of life terminates; and to this loathsome
dwelling, the proudest, the fairest, the wealthiest, _the_ most
celebrated, and the most elevated of our race, must sooner or later
descend! "Prepare to meet thy God!"

We may take a momentary glance at another consideration. In order to
answer the great end of their being, in order to be furnished with
adequate means for the employment of their immortal faculties, and for
possessing that plenitude of felicity of which their sanctified natures
are capable, the saints of God must be removed out of the present world.
Often do they exclaim, "I loath it; I would not live alway:"--"O that I
had wings like a dove; for then would I flee away and be at rest!"

This prevailing _wish_ accords with the _purpose_ of Heaven. Infinite
benevolence cannot allow a spiritual and sanctified character always to be
imprisoned within the narrow confines of flesh and blood. It could never
be satisfied to assign the objects of its affection so mean a portion as
the pleasures and the possessions of this inferior state of existence.
They must _die_ to be perfectly _blest_. This earth _will not do_ for a
Christian in the _maturity_ of his character. It is too vile, and too
transitory. Its gold is but dust--its applause, a puff of noisy air--its
sparkling pleasures, but polluted cisterns--its richest gifts, but
bubbles, which, if they reflect the fairest colours of the rainbow, break
when they are grasped, or dissolve as we approach them, into mist and
nothingness! "Set your affection on things above:--the things which are
_seen_ are TEMPORAL; the things which are _not seen_ are ETERNAL!"


Chapter III.

Retrospective Glance at the History--Hagar--the Wilderness--Angelic
Manifestation--Divine Promises--a View of their Accomplishment--Hagar's
Piety--her second Banishment and Distress--another
Interposition--Providence illustrated.

The contention between the wife of Abraham and her Egyptian handmaid, has
already been the subject of animadversion; but although their histories
are considerably blended, some features in the character of the latter,
and some affecting circumstances of her life, have been hitherto omitted,
which seem to claim a separate notice.

That retreat into Egypt, which was in some respects so dishonourable to
the integrity, both of Abraham and Sarah, was overruled for good. Pharaoh
showed great kindness to the patriarch, on account of his fair companion,
who he had been led to suppose was his sister; and according to the custom
of the age, and the high station of her admirer, he presented him with
"sheep, and oxen, and he-asses, and men-servants, and _maid-servants_, and
she-asses, and camels." No doubt it was at this time Hagar was introduced
into this pious family, and left her native country to accompany her
mistress and master upon their return.

The handmaids were a sort of female slaves. They were considered as the
unalienable property of their mistresses, who claimed the produce of their
labour, and even the children they bore. [9]

Sarah's impatience for offspring, and the rash policy of her urging
Abraham to take this Egyptian servant as a concubine, have been already
mentioned, as well as the unhappy differences it occasioned in the family.
We have seen the pride of Hagar, the petulance of Sarah, and the consent
of Abraham that she should be banished from their dwelling. Let us follow
the fugitive into the wilderness, and observe the extraordinary result.

It was the evident intention of Hagar to escape to her native country. She
went into the wilderness of Shur, which extended between Canaan and Egypt,
where she sat down for refreshment by a spring of water. Whatever degree
of blame we may impute to her in this precipitate removal from the house
of her pious master, it is impossible not to pity her melancholy
situation. Alone, and unbefriended by any human being; surrounded by a
thousand perils in the desert which stretched its cheerless solitude
before her; expelled from a family where she had so long resided, and
where she enjoyed so many advantages; uncertain of her future residence;
and in a condition which peculiarly claims our sympathy with the female
sufferer; her history cannot but excite inquiry, and produce interest.
There was an eye that watched her movements and her tears. In a short time
she is addressed by an unknown voice, which proved to be the voice of one
of those ministering spirits that are employed to execute the designs of
infinite goodness. "Hagar," said he, "Sarah's maid, whence earnest thou?
and whither wilt thou go?"

The knowledge of her past history which this question indicated, must have
convinced the poor, fugitive that this was some divine visitation; and she
immediately answered, "I flee from the face of my mistress Sarah." This
was a simple, direct, ingenuous statement. Here was no concealment; no
prevarication respecting the whole truth; and how much better was this
than any attempt at evasion or dishonesty! We are not, indeed, always
obliged to disclose our circumstances to every inquirer; but, if we do,
our words ought to be the exact representation of the case: for, sooner or
later, integrity will be advantageous both to our character and our real


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