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CRITICAL AND PRACTICAL,
ON THE BOOK OF
DESIGNED AS A GENERAL HELP TO
BIBLICAL READING AND INSTRUCTION
BY GEORGE BUSH,
PROF. OF HEB. AND ORIENT. LIT., N. Y. CITY UNIVERSITY.
IN TWO VOLUMES
PUBLISHED BY MARK H. NEWMAN.
Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1838, by
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Southern District of New York
STEREOTYPED BY J. S. REDFIELD,
No. 13 Chainbers-street, New York.
THE BOOK OF GENESIS.
could, no doubt, have submitted without If those portions of history are most hesitation ; but when, to the eye of replete with interest and instruction reason, he saw the precept arrayed which exhibit to us illustrious charac- against the promise of God, and an act ters in trying situations, having their enjoined directly at variance with all virtues put to the severest test, yet hold- the attributes of a Being holy, just, and ing fast their integrity, conquering diffi- true, he could not but be conscious of culties, and rising superior to temptation an inward struggle, ineffably severe. by the power of moral principle, then But the faith which had triumphed bethe ensuing narrative of Abraham's last fore, triumphed now; and as he came and greatest trial prefers the strongest forth from the terrible ordeal, like gold claims to our attention. It is an event tried in the furnace, how pertinently preeminently memorable in the life of may we conceive an approving God the patriarch. Whatever signal instan- addressing him in the language of the ces of faith and obedience have hither-poet :to distinguished his conduct, they are
"All thy vexations all eclipsed by that which we are now
Were but my trials of thy love: and thou called to consider. At the very time Hast strangely stood the test." when we are prompted to congratulate
The command here given to the pathe happy sire, and flatter ourselves triarch to sacrifice his only son has ever that his tribulations have an end; been so fruitful a theme of cavil with the that the storms which ruffled the noon enemies of revelation, that it will be
proof life are blown over, and the evening per, in the outset, to advert with some of his age is becoming calm and serene, particularity to the objections usually the sorest of his struggles yet awaits urged against it. The command, it is him. The loss of a beloved child would, said, is inconsistent with the attributes under any circumstances, have been a of a Being of perfect justice and goodgrievous affliction; but in the present ness. But to this it may be replied, that case he finds himself required to submit the, assertion rests upon no sufficient to a bereavement which threatened to grounds. As God is the author and giver extinguish the hopes of the world. Nor of life, he surely can, without the least was this all. The fatal blow was to be shadow of injustice, take it away when struck with his own hand ! And in and in what manner he pleases. It this he was called to obey a mandate cannot be supposed that he conferred in which the divine counsel seemed so life either upon Abraham or Isaac, upon evidently to war with itself, that his bo- the terms of taking it away only in one som could not but be torn with a con- certain manner, or in the way most flict of emotions, such as the mere grief agreeable to them. It was given in of a father could never occasion. To a this, as in all other cases, under the orcommand which should merely put to dinary reserve of his own indisputable the proof his paternal affection. he right of resumption in any mode that
might seem to him best. There is un- from being concerned in guarding great doubtedly something shocking in the minds from great trials, that it is rather idea of a parent's taking away the life evinced in granting them. Nor are we of his own child ; but when this is done to estimate such a dispensation by the in obedience to an express command slight and transient anxieties or pains of from a competent authority, then that the trial itself, but by the lasting joy which would otherwise be a sin be- that awaits and rewards the triumph. comes a duty, and whoever would im- Add to this the incalculable advantages pugn the act, must necessarily impugn that would redound to mankind at large the authority from which it proceeds. from such an example. No one can doubt To human view it might appear a very that every signal instance of devout barbarous deed in a father to order a submission to the will of God under the son to be beaten to death with rods be- pressure of sharp temptations is among fore his eyes; yet the conduct of Junius the stablest supports and the most powBrutus, who passed this sentence upon erful incitements to a similar conduct his own children, is usually considered under similar circumstances. Every as having been fully justified by the such example is a new and shining light circumstances which occasioned it. set up on high to guide, enlighten, and And did Abraham owe less obedience cheer us in the path of duty. But while to God than Brutus to his country? we find, in these considerations, an ample Indeed, had the command been actually vindication of the wisdom and equity of executed, we should have been bound, this command, perhaps a still more adeby our antecedent knowledge of the quate estimate will be formed of it, if we perfections of the Deity, to regard it as view it in another light. It has genewise, just, and good; though we might rally been held that the present comnot, from our limited powers, have been mand was imposed merely as a trial of able to see the reason of it; for a di- Abraham's faith ; and seeing the deed vine command necessarily supposes wis- was not executed, it has been affirmed dom, justice, and goodness in the highest that there was nothing unworthy the possible degree. But this was not the divine goodness in having instituted
God never intended that the such a trial; all which may be readily command should be actually executed. admitted : but as Bp. Warburton has His purpose was to make trial of Abra- suggested, it hardly accounts for all the ham's faith and obedience ; to make circumstances; and it may be well to him perfect by suffering; and in him state, in a condensed form, the theory of to propose to all coming generations an that learned divine in regard to it. He illustrious example for their imitation supposes that Abraham was desirous of in the various trying services and sacri- becoming acquainted with the manner fices to which the voice of duty might in which all the families of the earth call them. And will any one affirm should be blessed in him ; and upon that God may not, without impeaching this he builds the conclusion that the his wisdom, his justice, or his mercy, command was imposed upon him chiefput true religion to the test ?—the test ly with the design of teaching him by of severe and repeated trials--the bet-action, instead of words, and thus enater to display, to perfect, and to crown bling him to see and feel by what means it? Great virtue has a right to be made this great end should be accomplished. conspicuous. It is sinking the merit of In other words, that it was a prefiguraall true moral heroism to withold from tion of the sacrifice of Christ. it the occasions of exercising itself.
This theory the author founds upon The justice of God, therefore is so far that passage of the Gospel of John 8
A ND it came to pass after these Abraham, and said unto him, Abra
things, that a God did tempt ham: and he said, Behold, here I
56. in which the Lord says to the unhe- Abraham must have rejoiced to see, and lieving Jews, “Your father Abraham re- seeing which he was glad. But there joiced to see my day; and he saw it is nothing recorded of Abraham in the and was glad.' It is evident, from the Old Testament, from which it could be reply made by the Jews to this asser- inferred that he saw Christ's day in tion, that they understood the expression this sense, if he did not see and feel it in to see in its most literal sense ; while it the command to sacrifice his only son. is equally evident, that when they ob- In this transaction therefore, he would jected to the possibility of a man, not have a lively figure of the offering up of yet fifty years old, having seen Abra- the Son of God for the sins of the ham, our Lord did not correct them in world ; and not only so, but the interthe notion which they had formed as mediate system of typical sacrifices unto seeing. It was not, however, himself der the Mosaic economy was reprepersonally, whom our Saviour asserted sented by the prescribed oblation of the that Abraham rejoiced to see, but his ram instead of Isaac. day; by which cannot be meant the On the whole, we regard this as a veperiod of his sojourn upon earth, but the ry rational and plausible hypothesis, and circumstance in his life which was of one that derives no little support from the highest importance, and mainly the place where the scene of the transcharacteristic of his office as the Re-action was laid. If the design of the deemer. That the term will admit of command had been simply a trial of this interpretation is indubitable, from Abraham's faith, it is not easy to see the frequent use made, in a similar why he should have been required to sense, of the word hour. Thus, when go to such a distance to perform an act our Lord repeatedly says, ' My hour is that might as well have been performnot yet come the hour is at hand, ed anywhere else. But when we find and the Son of Man is betrayed into him directed to go to the site of Jerusathe hands of sinners ;' when he prayed lem, and to rear his altar, and offer up that 'if it were possible the hour might his sacrifice, on or near the very spot pass from him :' where it is said, that where the Saviour was afterwards actu
no man laid hands on him, because ally crucified, we cannot well avoid seehis hour was not yet come;' and again, ing in the incident a designed typical
that the hour was come when the Son and prophetical character. But a fuller of Man should be glorified,'-in all these view of the event in its various bearinstances it is evident that the word ings will be gained from the explanadoes not signify a mere portion of time, tions that follow. from which no one can be saved by its 1. And it came to pass after these things. passing from him ; but some particular Heb.' After these words.' That is, we circumstance or circumstances in his suppose, not merely after the things relife, which were peculiar to him as the corded in the preceding chapter, but Redeemer. The peculiar circumstance, after all the previous trials which Abrahowever, which constituted Jesus the ham had been called to pass through. Redeemer of the world, was the laying Notwithstanding he may have hoped down of his life; and this it was which for a period of tranquil rest in the de