Brethren Archive

Notes On The Life Of Abraham.

by Henry Grattan Guinness

I.  His Call. (Gen. xii.)
THE name of this great patriarch means father----"father of a great multitude."  It is akin to Abba.  Abba: Abraham.  Mankind has three principal fathers of races; Adam, father of us all; Noah, father of the post-diluvian world, and Abraham, father of the faithful.  The first, whose name connected him with the dust from which his frame was formed, fell: in him all die.  The second, whose name signifies "rest," passed safely through the flood, and re-peopled the renewed earth, the lively type of Him who saves and brings us into the rest of God.  The third, whose name links him with a mighty posterity, countless as the sand, innumerable and enduring as the starry host, brought forth that nation which brought forth the Messiah, who has brought forth the Church of the living God.
"The God of glory appeared unto our Father Abraham.''  Here begins the history of "the Israel of God."  It begins with God revealing Himself to that man.  What a vision has the soul that sees God, that sees the God of gloryWhere it saw but man and nature, it sees God; sees through and beyond created glories, the uncreated glory that excelleth; sees beyond the material, the temporal, the limited, the spiritual, the eternal, the infinite.
"The first instance," says Jonathan Edwards, "that I remember of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and Divine things, that I have lived much in since, was on reading those words, 1 Tim. i. 17, 'Now unto the King Eternal, Immortal, Invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory, for ever and ever. Amen.'  As I read these words, there came into my soul, and was as it were, diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from anything I ever experienced beforeNever any words of Scripture seemed to me as these words did.  I thought with myself how excellent a Being that was, and how happy I should be if I might enjoy that God and be rapt up to Him in Heaven, and be as it were, swallowed up in Him for ever!" . . . Reflecting on the effects of this revelation of God's glory to his soul, Edwards adds, "the soul of a true Christian, as I then wrote in my meditations, appeared like such a little white flower as we see in the spring of the year; low and humble on the ground, opening its bosom to receive the pleasant beams of the sun's glory; rejoicing as it were in a calm rapture, diffusing around a sweet fragrancy, standing peacefully and lovingIy in the midst of other flowers round about, all in like manner opening their bosoms to drink in the light of the sun."  Thus did Abram rejoice to see the glory of God; first, in a great line of illuminated souls, comprehending him who said, "I beseech thee, show me thy glory," and him who so wondrously spake of "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
"There be many that say, Who will show us any good?  Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us!" Ps. iv.
"By faith Abraham when he was called." . . . He who so often "called upon the Name of the Lord" (Gen. xii. 8) was first called by the Lord.  In the union of the soul with God, God is first.  He chooses us, that we may choose Him.  His voice says, "My son," before ours cries "my father."   "My son, give me thine heart."  Our love is born of His.  The vapours never rise heavenward from the bosom of the earth till the sunbeams call them.  And how variously He calls His children!  By how many voices; in how many tones; with words; without words; by their names; without their names; suddenly and startlingly; gently and gradually; as with the thunderclap; as with the whisper.  He who created speech, can He not speak?  He who formed the ear, can He not cause His voice to vibrate within the hollow chambers of the soul?  Have I heard His voice?  Have they?  "Every man therefore that hath heard and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me," said Jesus.  None come to Him uncalled.  None believe in Him save those "taught of God.''
Lord, teach them!  Who am I?  O Lord, be Thou my teacher.  In vain I call those whom Thou callest not.  Thou hast called me; call others by me.  O voice that wakes the dead, call these men who "know not God."
II.  "Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's, into a land that I will show thee; and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing, and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."
The Lord called Abraham out of Haran; Israel out of Egypt; the Church out of the world.
Abraham and Israel were called to Palestine,----we, to Paradise----"a better country; that is, an heavenly."
When God called Abram, He blessed him.  He gave him----what?----"the promises."


Wonderful!  The Infinite Creator makes promise to the creature,----God to----Abraham!
God is free----who can bind Him?  Himself!  With His word, He binds Himself.  His promises are His own bonds.
But why bind Himself?  For our sakes.  Not to make sure His purpose, but to manifest His purpose sure.  That we might know the immutability of His counsel.  What can there be in time to change a counsel dating from eternity?  But why manifest its immutability?  Because of the thing that is immutable----immutable love----that knowing and being assured of it, "we might have strong consolation"----we----who? the righteous?  Nay, sinners" who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us."----Blessed be God!
When God promises, He promises as God.  What man cannot do, what man could never do, could never conceive, He promises.  Who but God could have done, or could have even conceived, the things now promised to Abraham, the things which God both promised and performed?  To begin with, see seven promises; we may call them:


1.  "I will make of thee a great nation."
A man was to beget a nation----Abraham----Israel!
Compare the seed with the tree.  There in the first pages of the oldest book in all the world, there is the promise----and here before our eyes, stretching out already through thirty-five centuries of history, is the performance.  Here is Israel, a great nation, a nation like no other, the oldest of nations, a nation dwelling everywhere, a separate nation, a nation that mocks at death, that cannot die.  The Lord hath spoken, and the Lord hath done it.  Can any deny the promise is there?  Is it not written in those old Hebrew letters?  Is it not repeated?  Is it not already translated into every tongue?  And can any deny its fulfilment?  Can they deny the existence of the Hebrew people?  And can they show anything like it in all the world?  What other nation upon earth is certainly sprung from one father as is Israel?  Other nations are combinations of families----Israel alone is one.
2.  "I will bless thee."  See sovereign, saving grace.  Behold the blessing of the blessed God.  First mark its source----not man----"I''----"I will bless thee."  Mark its sovereignty and security----"WILL"----not may;----"I WILL bless thee."  Mark its substance, the thing promised----"BLESS"----fathom that if you can----"I will BLESS thee."  Mark its object----           "THEE;"   "I will bless THEE."  That is the Gospel of salvation.
What a contrast with the law!  The law promised life----on certain conditions----"This do and live."  Those should be blessed who----"kept all things written in the book of the law to do them."  That was righteous, but this is gracious.  There are no conditions of perfect obedience here.  "I will bless thee"----we must ponder the Gospel if we would be fitted to proclaim itWe must be filled with its graciousness if its gracious words are to flow from our mouths. (Study Heb, viii.)
3.  "I will make thy name great."  Many names in the world have won the epithet of great.  Men have sought for greatness, have laboured for it, fought for it, suffered for it, died for it, got it----a wreath of flowers----a crown of withered leaves.
God made Abraham great!   What is the greatness of Nimrod, of Pharaoh, of Sennacherib, of Cyrus, of Caesar, of Charlemagne, of Napoleon, compared to the eternal dignity of Abraham?
Abraham "the friend of God''----"the father of the faithful."
4.  "Thou shalt be a blessing."  To be a blessing to others, what a blessing this! Love courts it.  Many a great man has been a curse----"thou shalt be a blessing.''  The blessedness of blessing is that of God.  For Him to make us a blessing----and only He can do it----is to transfer a part of His own blessedness to us.  How did God make Abraham a blessing?  Do we not know that of him, as concerning the flesh, Jesus Christ sprang? and that "salvation of the Jews."  What blessing can equal that of salvation, that of Christ, and in a sense, God has brought forth these from Abraham.
5.  "I will bless them that bless thee.''  How divine love flows over here!  Not only blessing Abraham, but blessing all who bless Abraham.  To bless Abraham, is to do what God does.  It is to be in harmony with Him.  It is to do what He rewards.  He blesses those who bless His people.  He rewards kindness to His people as service to Himself.  He blesses those who show it.  Show kindness, then, to the seed of Abraham, both to all natural seed and his spiritual seed.  Do good to "the Israel of God."  "They shall prosper that love thee."
6.  "And curse him that curseth thee.''  When Egypt oppressed Israel, did it prosper?  What of the ten plagues and the Red Sea?  When Babylon destroyed Jerusalem, was not Babylon destroyed?  Remember Belshazzar's feast.  When Pagan Rome persecuted the early Church, what did God do to it?  Did He not break in pieces the oppressor?  Better a millstone were tied about our necks, and be cast into the sea, than that we should offend even the least of God's little ones.  They have a great Father in Heaven----let the enemies of His people fear Him.
7"And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.''  The greatest promise comes the last.  "All families of the earth,"----think what this means.  What nation does it not include?  What of these nations? "Blessed"How?  In Abraham----"in thee."  Whether to marvel most at the promise or at its fulfillment I know not.  Think of it----think of the Jews, that small, separate, despised, exclusive people, dwelling for long ages alone, and never reckoned among the nations----think of Abraham, that solitary stranger, in a land that was not his, that pilgrim in the silent far-off past, blessed to "all families of the earth," blessed to all the nations and the myriads of the whole world!  There shines the promise.  Now see its vast fulfilment.  Behold, in one word, JESUS!  Consider Christ, the Church, Christianity. Look back at the dim, distant figure of the Pilgrim Patriarch; and then look up at the Son of Man upon the throne, and see the multitudes of every nation, tribe, and tongue assembled there!  Listen to the still small voice of the early promise, and then listen to the thunder of the music of that praise!  There is the majestic ocean into which the river has opened and there the Patriarchal spring from which I came.  To God be all the glory, for "He hath done this.''
"The Illustrated Missionary News" 1877.


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