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The man of strictest virtue, is, in this state, lia. ble to adversity ; nor can we, from the calamities which a man suffers, conclude him to be a trans, gressor. But when calamities, by direct and natural steps, follow after manifest iniquity, we must view the former as the proper fruit and punishment of the latter.
Though rewards and punishments are not exacte ly and constantly dispensed here, yet there are ma. ny cases, in which they take place in a degree, to awaken men's attention to the different consequences of yirtue and vice, and to convince them that righteousness tends to life, and that he who pursues evil, pursues it to his death.
When they see the connexion between sin ang punishment here, they ought to extend their views to the world of retribution, where, on the children of disobedience, the wrath of God will come to the uttermost. He makes their sins, to fall upon them in this world, to remind them, that these sins, indulged unțil death, will find them out in the next, If there is a natural connexion between vice and misery, visible in many instances now, it is presymption and madness for the sinner to flatter him, self, that he can ever be secure from misery without renouncing his sins.
It often proves a mercy to mankind, that vice is productive of present misery, because thus its progress is retarded, and, in some instances, transgress, ors are thus reclaimed. This seems to have been the case with our fallen hero. While he indulged, with profound security, the luxuries of life, he for, got the yow which should bave bound him to the strictest purity; and to what depth he might have fallen, if nothing had disturbed his guilty slumbers, we cannot tell. But awakened by the insulting alarm, The Philistines be upon thee ; and, after a fruitless effort, finding himself in their power, and his former strength departed ; experiencing the sad change from a hero to a slave, and the sudden transition from a seat of judgment to a dungeon, he be. gan, we may suppose, to reflect on the errours of his life, and especially on his late criminal conduct, which had produced so dismal a reverse ; and in his darksome solitude, exercised that deep repentance, which entitled him to the divine favour, and to the return of the supernatural gift which had forsaken him.
Affliction is the common means of repentance. When transgressors are bound in fetters of iron, and holden in cords of affliction, God sheweth them their works, openeth their ears to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity.
It is happy for some to be denied the means, and cut off from the opportunities of former indulgences. Samson, in prison; had it no longer in his power to pursue a habit
, which was dangerously gaining influence upon him. He here renewed his Nazariteship, which had been, for a time, interrupted ; and he returned to the purity which that required. Though he could not offer sacrifice for the expiation of his guilt, as the law in this case enjoined, yet, no doubt, by repentance, prayer, and a fresh dedication of himself, he sought and obtained par. don of God; and therefore, as the token of his Nazariteship returned, the privilege annexed to it returned also. By sin we provoke God to withdraw. his presence ; by repentance we recover his favour. Reflecting
therefore on the fatal effects of transgression; let offenders dedicate themselves to God with deep repentance, and stronger resolutions of vir. tue and obedience. Thus God will have mercy on them, and abundantly pardon them.
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And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What savest thou, that thou
hast done this thing? And Abraham said, because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will say me for my wife's sake.
ABRAHAM, having occasion to remove from Mamre toward the southern part of the land of Canaan, to a place called Gerar, of which A, bimelech was king, adopted, for the security of his life, the same expedient which he had once before used in Egypt. He desired his wife to disguise the relation between them, and to call him her brother, and he also agreed to call her his sister, lest some of the people, tempted by her beauty, should kill him for her sake.
From so good a man, and one who had so often experienced the divine protection, we should not have expected an artifice like this ; especially as the result, on a former trial, had taught him how unnecessary it was. But the best men have their weaknesses; and in men, whose faith is ordinarily strong, fear will sometimes prevail.
Abimelech, supposing Surah to be only Abra. ham's sister, sent and took her into his house, with an intention, not to dishonour her, but to make her his wife.
Before he had accomplished this design, God, by a dream in the night, warned him of the dangerous step which he was meditating, ånd directed him to restore the woman to Abraham, whose wife she
The king, after professing the innocence of his intentions, calls for Abraham, and thus expostu. lates with him on the unjustifiable deception which he had used. " What hast thou done to us? and, What have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me, and on my kingdom, a great sin ?” i. e. exposed us to a great scandal and calamity. “Thou hast done deeds to me, which ought not to be done. What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?" Abraham answers, I did this,“ because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place, and they will slay me for my wife's sake." However, he says, the relation which they had professed, was not altogether fictitious ; for “ she was the daughter of his father, though not the daughter of his mother.” She was his father's grand daughter ; and, in the language of scripture, grandchildren are often called children. Sarai, who in the elev. enth chapter is called Iscah, was daughter to Haran, Abraham's elder brother. It seems, by this account, that Terah, Abraham's Father, had two wives, from one of whom was born Haran, the fa. ther of Lot and Sarai, or Iscah, and from the other was born Abraham. So that she was daughter to Abraham's half brother. And with such a niece, it was, in those days, thought not unlawful to marry.
But though Abraham's account of their relation, was, according to the language of the times, literally true ; yet his concealment of the more delicate and important relation, could not, on the reason assigned, be justified. For surely he ought not to have gone voluntarily among a people, where he apprehended no regard would be paid to the conju. gal rights : Or, if he was called in providence to sojourn among them, he might have trusted to divine protection.
This incident, in the history of Abraham's life, will afford us some useful observations.
I. The atrocious nature of the sin of adultery, which consists in violating connubial rights, is here tepresented in a very striking manner.
Though Abraham supposed that there was no sense of God and religion among the people of Gerar, yet he seems not to have entertained the least suspicion, that they would insult the honour of his family, either by rape or seduction. His apprehension was, that they would kill him for his wife's sake. He imagined, that no man could be so abandoned, as to take his wife from him, or debauch her, while he was alive ; but he was much afraid, there were men bad enough to murder him, that they mighit have liberty to enjoy her.
Abraham evidently considers adultery as a crime far more horrid in its nature, and far more contrary to the dictates of natural reason and conscience, than even murder itself. His whole conduct, in this, and the former instance, is grounded on the supposition, that a ruffian, who is bloody enough to assassinate an innocent man, yet may not be so brutal as to violate a married woman.
The man who can do the latter, in a deliberate and customary manner, is undoubtedly capable of any kind of wickedness, to which he feels the smallest temptation. VOL. I,