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withhold it a little longer. “Let me go, for the day breaketh :” i. e. It is not proper that any persons should witness this interview; it must be secret; and, as the day now dawns, postpone your petition till some other opportunity. The result proved, that this was not the real object of the Angel of the covenant; and that he meant, by a request to be “let go,” to quicken Jacob's earnestness, in soliciting his stay; that he only meant to confirm his resolution, not to let him go; but, at first view, they seem to import something very different; and surely unbelief, at such language, would have said, “It is presumption to proceed: after this it is vain to plead the strongest and most applicable promises.” Christian reader, you may remember the time, when such reasoning occupied your mind; when such unbelief was cherished in your heart; when you interpreted these words of the angel wrong; when they spoke to your apprehension a rejection of your supplication' This was the case with you, 1. When the state of things in your soul was such, that you felt no freedom nor engagedness in prayer. A sense of guilt has at times overwhelmed your soul; and this very thing, which is the strongest argument for the necessity of prayer, you have found in your experience to hinder its performance. When you have felt the stings of conscience; when your transgressions have appeared before you in all their variety and aggravations, then you have felt a dread of entering into the presence of God—have been led to despair of obtaining his mercy, and induced to adopt the language of the Psalmist, “Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up ; they are more than the hairs of mine head, therefore my heart faileth me.” The same difficulty has been felt, when you have cherished unbelieving thoughts, or been assailed by the temptations of Satan. Sometimes you have been in perplexity about the meaning, and even cherished doubts of the certainty of God's word. Sometimes you have been made to doubt your title to the promises; to view them as a rich and abundant table, en
* Psalm xl. 13.
compassed with a flaming sword, forbidding your approach, and thus, led away from the consolation of Israel, you have in vain sought for a foundation of comfort in yourself. And sometimes you have, by the wiles of Satan, been driven to the very brink of the precipice: you have been made to doubt the very being of a God, and the reality of all religion. And, if these things have not removed the conviction of the necessity and use of prayer, they have, many times, cooled its fervour, and destroyed its comfort. You have had to contend with the same difficulty, when your own heart has been cold, and dead, and slothful; when, though you have been speaking to the great and eternal God, you have found it difficult to maintain a serious and attentive frame of spirit; when, though you lay under great and unspeakable obligations to his mercy, your sense of gratitude has been weak and languid; and when you were indifferent in asking blessings of the most inestimable value. In such cases your soul becomes like a wilderness. Every thing seems dark and confused. Then God seems to say, “Let me go—wrestle no more.” Then the language of the heart is, “The child is dead; trouble not the master.” Then, like the Psalmist, you are ready to say, “I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.” 2. The Christian is led to conclude, that God is unwilling to answer his prayers, when he does not find an immediate compliance with them. Though the petitions of Christians may be offered up in faith, and for things agreeable to the Divine will, they are not always granted in the manner, measure, and season, which they desire, and think most proper. The answer is reserved for the time which Infinite Wisdom sees is best; and is sent in a manner which promotes their good, and his glory. The interval, however, often proves a season of suspense; and, in many oases, not only abates fervour, but witnesses despair of success. They have often looked out for the morning, but, behold, the shadows of night still rest on their habitation; and it is like a sword through their vitals, to be asked, “Where is thy God? where are thy prayers? where is the fulfilment of the promise which you have so often pleaded ?” Such was Jacob's trial. He wrestled until the dawn of day; and yet the night of darkness rested on his soul. And such is the case of many modern Christians; they pray long, and yet obtain no relief; and are, therefore, led to conclude, that the delay is their final answer. 3. The language, “Let me go; for the day breaketh,” discourages Christians, when they are denied fellowship with God in his ordinances. When Christians cannot find God in prayer, nor in the word, they seek him in the other institutions of his house. And then, if his visits are only like those of the wayfaring man; if his Spirit comes and goes, before they can realize that he has been present; if they feel little life in the duty—less access to God by it, and no consolation derived from the promises, they think God has forgotten them. Unbelief suggests— “This evil is of the Lord. God abhors his ordinances for thy sake. If God was with you, why should all this evil come upon you?” This is indeed a severe trial to one who cannot be satisfied without finding God in duty. But it affords a fit opportunity for holy fervour and importunity in prayer; for wrestling with God, like Jacob, with a view to prevail, like Israel! II. Let every reader then attend to what is implied in the resolution of Jacob, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me,” that is worthy the imitation of Christians, under such circumstances as have been described. Though the address of the angel has the appearance of unfriendliness, it is, Indeed, marked with the greatest condescension. It is a sort of request to sinful dust and ashes. It, as it were, yields the victory to Jacob, and contains the language of the vanquished, asking the victor permission to quit the field. “Let me go.” How amazing the condescension of God, to his worm Jacob! He, who could lame him for life, by a single “touch,” could most easily have disengaged himself from the feeble grasp of a mortal. But he wished to be detained; he came to command the blessing. Accordingly, through the influences of Divine Grace, Jacob becomes more bold and resolute, at the intimation of being separated from the only source of his help, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” “Since thou art pleased to leave the matter to my choice, I cannot grant the permission requested, upon any other terms, than obtaining thy blessing. This is all I want. This will secure me thy favour and protection against the evils to which I am now exposed. With all the firmness, therefore, which my extreme need, and thy great condescension warrant, I declare I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” This resolution implies, 1. That the Patriarch sincerely wanted a blessing, and that he expected it only from the Angel of the covenant—“Thou bless me.” “Blessing” is, every where, opposed to “cursing.” Consequently the blessing, which Jacob expected from Christ, was opposed to that curse, under which all men are by nature. It ‘needs no laboured proof, that the person with whom Jacob wrestled, and who, in consequence of his importunity, blessed him, was “God—manifest in the flesh.” This person had indeed the appearance of a man, in token of his future incarnation; but he was also God, as is plainly intimated in the expression, v. 28, “as a prince thou hast power with God.” And Jacob was assuredly sensible that he was a Divine person; for he says, v. 30, “I have seen Gad face to face; and my life is preserved.” This Lord Jesus is the only person from whom the blessing can come. He endured the curse, that he might bless us with freedom from the guilt, the punishment, the power and pollution of sin. The blessings which, as the surety of the covenant, he purchased by his blood, he hestows upon his people as the administrator of that covenant. And hence the prediction concerning him, “Men shall be blessed in him, and all nations shall call him blessed.”
* Psalm crlii. 4.
To the truth of this, the resolution of the Patriarch attests, He needed the blessing of freedom from the effects of the curse—of a title to future glory—and, in the mean time, of Divine guidance and protection. Accordingly, while in the company of the Angel of the covenant, and under a consciousness that he only could bestow the boon, he resolved, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” 2. This resolution implies an earnestness and importunity after the blessing, which could not be checked by any opposing difficulty. It was an unfavourable circumstance to Jacob, that his conflict happened during the darkness of the night, when he could not see how to conduct himself to the best advantage; when the surrounding gloom was calculated to increase his terror, and to nourish his despair. His trial too, was severe; inasmuch as it lasted, probably, for hours, until the dawn of day. His difficulties were increased by the omnipotence of his opposer ; and, especially, after he had lost the use of one of his limbs. But, through surrounding darkness, a protracted struggle, opposing strength, and personal weakness, grace was given him to persevere in seeking the blessing. “I will not let thee go :”— “I can take no denial; without thy blessing my case is desperate.” Here was no cold heart—no labour of the lip—the whole soul was engaged—and all that was within him was stirred up, to obtain the heavenly benediction. 3. This resolution implies the exercise of faith. Under Jacob's circumstances, unbelief would have charged him to desist, as engaged in a hopeless contest. It would have drowned the voice of God's word, “wait on the Lord,” with the cry—darkness, delay, disappointment, defeat. Jacob's perseverance, therefore, discovers his persuasion, that his covenant God could not mean his destruction. While he found the angel put forth no more strength than he was enabled to oppose, his faith rightly concluded, that the opposing exertions were only intended to exercise the vigour, with which he was constantly supplied. This is the only way to account for Jacob's persevering in the contest against unequal force. Every