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Now Sarai, Abram's wife, being barren, gave her handmaid, Hagar, to her husband to bear children, which might be called by her name. Hagar conceived a child; and now forgetting her former station, and casting away all gratitude towards her mistress, who had elevated her to be Abram's wife, her heart was filled with pride; she thought herself superior to Sarai, and hoped to be better beloved by Abram.
When Sarai saw this, her spirit was wounded with jealousy and anger. She unfolded her wrong in bitter language to Abram, accusing him also as a participator in her handmaid's injurious conduct. “My wrong be upon thee," she exclaimed reproachfully. “I gave thee my
handmaid in kindness and good-will, and now I am despised by her: the Lord judge between me and thee.”
When Abram heard these words of reproach and indignation, he was grieved for Sarai, and would not, as Hagar had anticipated, shelter her from the anger and resentment of her mistress, but said, “Thy maid is in thy hands, do unto her as thou seest fit.”
Sarai in her anger forgot mercy, she dealt very severely with Hagar until even life was miserable. She chose in preference to the severity of her mistress, to dare the horrors of the wilderness, and fled alone from Abram's dwelling
Wearily and sadly she wandered during the day, and at length seated herself by a fountain of water. Here, as she sat mournfully, thinking of the prospect before her, and weeping at the remembrance of her mistress' harshness, which had reduced her to this sad state, a heavenly voice addressed her, and looking up she beheld a shining figure before her. The Angel came to reprove, but also to comfort; he reminds her that she is still a servant, though the wife of Abram. Addressing her in sad but gentle accents as Hagar, Sarai's maid,” he asks “Whence comest thou, and whither goest thou?”
What can the trembling Hagar reply? She knows her guilt towards her mistress, and she knows that in quitting her home she is but adding to it; yet she pleads in extenuation the harshness of that mistress. “I flee from the face of Sarai my mistress.” But the Angel bids her return, and submit herself to her ; but that she might be encouraged to bear her lot with patience, the Angel assured her that God would make of her seed also a great nation he also bade her call her child's name Ishmael ; a name signifying God shall hear, because the Lord had looked upon her affliction, and thus sent his Angel to comfort her when her spirit was oppressed with grief. And Hagar's heart was comforted, and her mourning spirit was cheered by her merciful God's assurances, and she knelt, and with tears of joy and gratitude worshipped and praised him. She now felt how inestimable a blessing it is to know that “Thou God seest
me,” and she exclaimed with grateful joy, “ Here also have I looked after God that seeth
The fountain by which she sat when her Lord graciously interfered to turn her back unto the path of duty, and to convey his delightful promises to her, she called in remembrance “The Well of Him who liveth and seeth me.” And she returned to her mistress, and her child was born, and named as God had commanded.
It was thirteen years after this, when God again vouchsafed to converse freely with Abram, and he changed his name to Abraham, which signifies “A father of a great multitude;" also to Sarai He gave the name of Sarah, signifying “A princess.” At the same time God instituted the rite of circumcision as the form of admission into his Church.
Abraham had no other child but Ishmael, and he was ninety nine years old; but God promised him another, a son to be born of Sarah, in whom his seed should be called. When Abraham heard this he fell upon his face with an overflowing feeling of joy and gratitude in his heart, exclaiming with delighted surprise, “And shall a child be born unto him that is a hundred years old ? And shall Sarah who is ninety years old bear a son ?" And he laughed joyfully in his heart. Then fearing that for this promised seed, God would entirely put aside Ishmael, he ventured to entreat “Oh ! that Ishmael might also live before thee.”
Yes! Ishmael shall live before Him who remembers His promise to Hagar, and He graciously replies“ Behold I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and multiply him exceedingly ; twelve princes shall descend from him. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee.” Oh ! how gracious and full of loving kindness is Jehovah unto those who love and obey Him ! See how He has rewarded the ready faith working by love, which Abraham had exhibited. He left his country and came into Canaan without a place in which to set his foot; but now (though in a strange land) he is a prince possessing great riches ;-before childless, he has now one son, who is promised to be a father of princes, and another will shortly be given even mightier than he, a child the fame of whose