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Two very striking peculiarities of Scripture are the impartiality and the vividness of the delineations of character that it presents to our notice. It discloses the good qualities, where such exist, of the foreigner, of the pagan, of the sinner. It does not hide the failings, the sins, the crimes of the saint. The falsehood of Abraham, the deceit of Jacob, the impurity of David, the weakness of Peter, are not concealed ; the noble frankness of Esau, the generosity of Naaman, the humiltiy of the centurion whose servant was sick, the impartiality of Festus, all these traits are dwelt upon with commendation. And as the portraiture is impartial so is it vivid. With a few masterly touches each personage lives, as it were, before our eyes. The historical retrospect over which the Bible ranges is extensive, and yet every figure, from public or private life, that is introduced upon the scene is an exact living portraiture. The poor widow of Sarepta is brought as clearly before us as the luxurious despot Ahasuerus ; nay, oftentimes, as God judges not as men judge, those that are highly esteemed amongst men have to yield, in the promin ence that they occupy in the Scripture narrative, to the humble and the poor. The first are there last and the last first. Frequently also some of the most interesting characters are introduced to our notice only for a moment. We know not whence they come whither they go; their past and their future are alike hidden from
Their very names are not mentioned. Like the swallow that fled through the assembly of the Saxon thanes, they are seen by us but for a moment, yet, like that swallow, they may be useful to point many a moral, and even to bring us to a fuller Christian knowledge. In the hope that the unnamed personages who are brought before us by the Church in the several passages of Scripture appointed to be read during the Sundays in Trinity may prove thus beneficial to our moral welfare, this series of lessons is composed.
15th Sunday after Trinity.—2 Kings xix. 35.
Trinity Sunday.-Abraham's Celestial Visitors.
FIRST LESSON AT EVENING SERVICE.
“ AND HE LIFT UP HIS EYES AND LOOKED, AND, LO, THREE MEN STOOD BY HIM: AND WHEN HE SAW THEM, HE RAN TO MEET THEM FROM THE TENT DOOR, AND BOWED HIMSELF TOWARD THE GROUND.”—Gen. xviii, 2.
THERE is presented to us here a charming picture of pastoral patriarchal life. In the heat of the day Abraham sits in his tent door in the plains of Mamre. Suddenly three wayfarers draw near, the aspect of one of the three, however, being so much more imposing than that of either of the others, that the patriarch instinctively directs his discourse to him chiefly, if not entirely. Abraham hastens to greet the travellers with reverential attitude, and courteously entreats them to take rest under the shade of the adjacent tree, while fit refreshment is being prepared for them. He directs his wife Sarah to make cakes upon the hearth; he himself fetches a calf from the herd, and orders his servant to dress it; while water is brought to bathe the feet of his guests.
Then the cakes, and the calf, with butter and milk, are served up to them as they recline under the tree, and Abraham waits in all humility and zeal upon them. They inquire after Sarah, who is within the tent. They foretell that in due time, as was told to Abraham before, Sarah shall have a son. Sarah laughs with incredulity, and on being reproved for her illtimed mirth denies that she had laughed; but although her laugh had been a silent one, it had been noted by the chief guest. This guest tells Abraham what was about to come upon the inhabitants of Sodom. By successive appeals Abraham obtains an that if ten righteous be found in the city it shall not be destroyed. Those ten righteous are not found; but even while righteous Lot remained in it the city perished not, as is afterwards seen. Then the guests take their departure towards the cities of the plain, and Abraham returns to his tent door to muse upon what he had seen and heard.
LESSONS TO BE LEARNED.
1. KINDLINESS TO STRANGERS.
Abraham hastened to proffer hospitality to the travellers, had water brought for their feet, killed “the fatted calf," prepared the best viands in his power, strove personally and through all the members of his household to entertain the guests, although they might seem to the superficial observer but common folk, journeying without state or dignity. So should we use hospitality one to another without grudging, for “God loveth a cheerful giver." So should we bestow our bounty not upon those by whom a recompense may be made us, but upon those who cannot