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VOWS CALLED TO REMEMBRANCE
GEN. XXXV. 1, 2, 3.
AND GOD SAID UNTO JACOB, ARISE, GO UP TO BETHEL, AND DWELL THERE; AND MAKE THERE AN ALTAR UNTO GOD, THAT APPEARED UNTO THEE WHEN THOU fleddest from the face of Esau tHY BROTHER. THEN JACOB SAID UNTO HIs household, AND TO ALL THAT' WERE WITH HIM, PUT AWAY THE STRANGE GODS THAT ARE AMONG YOU, AND BE CLEAN, AND CHANGE YOUR GARMENTS, AND LET US ARISE, AND Go up to BetheL; AND I WILl make there AN ALȚAR UNTO GOD, WHO ANSWERED ME IN THE DAY OF MY DISTRESS, AND WAS WITH ME IN THE WAY WHICH I WENT.
THE pieces of hiftory preferved in the book of Genefis are peculiarly valuable, and worthy of our regard. They poffefs the claim of truth, of impartiality, of remote antiquity, of individual and minute description. They are family scenes, which always charm. We feel ourselves in private life. We pursue fingle characters through all the viciffitudes of their pilgrimage, and observe the various workings of their minds, their imperfections, and their excellencies, the flesh lufting against the spirit, and the spirit gaining
a victory over the flesh. They are also recommended, as holding forth the dispensations of divine Providence and Grace combined. It is painful to see a man raised up to be an inftrument only; girded and guided, by a hand which he knows not; accomplishing designs which he never desired or approved; and then laid aside or dashed to pieces as a vessel in which there is no pleasure, and such are often the philosophers, the politicians, and the heroes of this world. But how delightful and edifying is it, to contemplate men who were not only instruments, but favourites; who did "the will of God from the heart," and "had the "testimony that they pleased Him;" who were the depofitories of the divine counsel, and increased the treasures of revelation: "of whom, as concerning "the flesh, Chrift came," and with whom we hope to reside forever: "for many shall come from the east "and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and "Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven." The command of God also leads us back to the patriarchal age, sends us forth in search of these renowned worthies, and enjoins us "not to be slothful, but followers "of them, who through faith and patience inherit the c6 promises."
These reflections, my brethren, are intended to raise this book in your esteem, and to engage your attention to the words which I have detached from it for your edification this evening. "And God said unto "Jacob, arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there; and "make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto "thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy "brother. Then Jacob said unto his household, and
"to all that were with him, put away the strange Gods "that are among you, and be clean, and change your
garments; and let us arise, and go up to Bethel " and I will make there an altar unto God, who an"swered me in the day of my distress, and was with “me in the way which I went." Let us REVIEW
THE TRANSACTION TO WHICH THESE WORDS REFER; DRAW FORTH SOME OF THE INSTRUCTIONS IMPLIED IN THEM; AND DISTINGUISH THE CHARACTERS IN THIS ASSEMBLY, WHO ARE CONCERNED IN THE COMMAND AND THE EXAMPLE." Arise, and go up to Bethel."—" Let us arise and go up to "Bethel; and I will there make an altar unto God, "who answered me in the day of my distress, and "was with me in the way which I went."
PART I. The paffage before us refers to a very interefting part of the hiftory of Jacob, which it will be neceflary for us to review. To escape the fury of his brother Esau, Jacob, by the proposal of his mother, goes to Padan-Aram, to the house of his uncle Laban. On the first night of his journey he dreamed. He saw a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, angels ascending and descending upon it, and God above it, in a posture of attention, "ftanding," and viewing a poor pilgrim below. He also spake; and affured him of the relation in which HE ftood to his pious ancestors, promised to give the land of Canaan to his seed, to render his progeny illuftrious, and ennumerable, and eventually in one of his descendants to bless all the families of the earth. To accommodate Himself ftill more to the exigencies of his condition, he added
"behold I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goeft, and will bring thee again "into this land; for I will not leave thee until I have "done that which I have spoken to thee of." Deeply impreffed, Jacob arose and before he proceeded on his journey, "VOWED A Vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in the way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that "I come again to my father's house in peace; then "fhall the Lord be my God, and this stone which I "have set for a pillar fhall be God's house, and of all that "thou fhalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto "thee." His wishing to lay God under an additional bond marks his infirmity. God had spoken, and Jacob should have been satisfied. But it was wise and pious to bind himself. Some have been inclined to censure Jacob, as too conditional and too selfifh on this occafion; supposing he engaged only to serve God, provided he should be indulged with the blessings he specifies. This would have been censurable indeed, and utterly oppofite to the faith of the patriarchs, one of whom said, "though he slay me, yet will I truft in him;" and another of whom, when commanded, "obeyed, "and went out, not knowing whither he went." The meaning is, that God by these fresh inftances of his favour, would furnish him with fresh motives to serve and glorify Him; and he ftipulates the manner in which he would discharge the obligation he should be laid under.
After twenty years hard service in the house of his uncle, Jacob resolves to return. Three days after his departure, Laban pursues him. He overtakes him in
Gilead, is pacified, and withdraws. Jacob moves on, croffes the ford of Jabboc, descends on its southern bank, reacheth the ford of Succoth, wrestles with the angel, passes over the river Jordan weftward, and comes to Shalem. This was an eventful pofition; here he bought a piece of ground from Hamor; here he raised an altar; and here befel him the affliction he experienced in the seduction of his daughter, and the murder of the Shechemits; here he lingers till seven or eight years have elapsed. O Bethel, how art thou forgotten! O Jacob, where is your vow to repair thither as soon as you returned! Your God has fulfilled his engagement. He has been with you, defended you, prospered you, and you are come back in peace. Where is your altar? Where the tenth of your possessions to maintain it? We may compare one character with another. Behold David. What is he saying? "I will go into thy house with burnt offer"ings; I will pay thee my vows, which my lips have. "uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in " trouble." Hannah occurs. I see her in the bitterness of her soul, praying and weeping sore. "And "fhe vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of Hosts, if thou " wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, "and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, "but will give unto thine handmaid a man child, then. "I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, "and there shall no razor come upon his head." He is born; and his very name shall be a remembrancer. He is weaned; and fhe takes him with her, and brings him unto the house of God in Shiloh, and introduces him to Eli. "And he said, O my lord, as