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Mercy heard and set him free,
Lord, that mercy came to me.
JUNE 9.-" And he sa , Thy name shall be called no more Jacoh, but lsrael ; for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. Gen. xxxii. 28, 29.
Thus he was knighted on the field. He had two names, and both of them were gained by wrestling: the one by wrestling with his brother in the womb; the other by wrestling with the angel at Peniel. Jacob signifies a supplanter: Israel means a prince with God-And the reason of the new name was, that he had “power with God and with men, and had prevailed.” That is, he had prevailed with God, and this was an assurance that he would prevail with man-his brother Esau, and every other foe. These go together. If God refuses to hear us, creatures will help in vain ; and if God be for us, who can be against us? “When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” How much is it our interest, to secure his favour, who has all events at his disposal, and every heart under his control ? Yet some, to engage the friendship of mortals, will offend and provoke him who can turn the wisdom of the wisest into foolishness, and the strength of the strongest into weakness.
We can hardly wonder that Jacob asked and said, “ Tell me, I pay thee, thy name.” Yet it appears to have been more curious than wise. There is much of this tendency in us all; and it is a proof of our depravity, that we are equally disposed to neglect what is plain and useful, and to pry into things which we have not seen, and which, if discovered, could be of little avail to us. This is a world of action rather than of science. The humblest Christian will know more in a moment after death than the most laborious research can acquire now in months and years. The Scripture therefore never indulges a vain curiosity that would draw us off from the one thing needful. Instead of gratifying Peter when he inquired after the destiny of John, our Savior rebuked him: “ What is that to thee? follow thou me.” And when the Apostles would become students of prophecy; and asked, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel ?” he said unto them, “ It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power." He therefore here said unto Jacob, “Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And be blessed him there.” This furnishes us with an opportunity to remark two things. The first regards our infirmities in prayer. We often know not what we ask. The second, God's method in answering us. He grants us while he denies. If he refuses us, he gives us something better in exchange, something better in itself, and better also for us. It is better to prepare us for his coming at any time, or in any way, than to inform us of it. It is better to make us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, than to make us acquainted with the nature of it. With regard to the thorn in the flesh, the Apostle was more than satisfied with the manner in which his prayer for the removal of it was answered, when, though it continued, he had the assurance of all-sufficient grace under it, and that the Saviour's strength, should be made perfect in his weakness—"Most gladly, therefore,” says he, will I glory in my infirmity, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” He withholds abundance, but he teaches and enables us to be content with such things as we have. Let us leave ourselves to his wisdom and goodness; a wisdom that is infinite, a goodness that spared not his own Son. He would not tell Jacob his name—but he blessed him there.
JUNE 10.-" And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew vhich shrauk, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day ; because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank.”—Gen. xxxii. 30–32.
Here we have some of the immediate consequences of this singular event. It is obvious that Jacoh apprehended the personage to be Divine. Hence he wonders at his preservation. Human nature is weak, and can only bear a degree of impression. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God: and “no man," said God himself to Moses, “can see my face and live.” Jacob therefore could not have seen him face to face, unless in the human form which he had assumed. Thus in the gospel God is manifest in the flesh. And thus through the veil, that is to say his flesh, we are not only saved, but shall have communion with him for ever. Jacob's humility also filled him with surprise, that he should have been not only so supported, but so signalized and dignified above all mankind. When we are in a proper frame of mind, divine favours abase as well as encourage.
That the event might not be forgotten, he calls the place by a new name, significant of the manifestation. For the same reason after a deliverance, Samuel had set up a stone, and called it Ebenezer. And Joseph and Moses had given their children names that would serve to recall their trials and their mercies. Nothing can affect us any longer than it is in our thoughts; we should therefore be careful that we forget not all his benefits. Our gratitude and our confidence depend on remembrance.
Jacob knew that the best way to glorify God is to serve him in the condition and circumstances wherein we are placed. He therefore is not idle; but as soon as the divine visitant had left hirn, he went forward, hastening to join his household, and to perform the duties of the husband, the father, the master, and to prepare for the expected interview. But as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. He could not have travelled at all unless he who had lamed him had re-jointed him. Yet if not some pain, some weakness was left; and he limped for life. There was doubtless a contraction of the muscle or tendon, for it is said, “therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew that shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day ; because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sineu that shrank.” Was this refusal founded in a superstitious conceit? It was rather the consequence of a divine appointment, analogous to a ceremonial and sensible dispensation of religion; or the disuse resulted from the veneration his posterity entertained for the patriarch, and their concern to memorialize this astonishing occurrence. It would be saying, Our father trusted in thee, and thou didst deliver him-Say not to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain.
But what a night was here! What a morning was here! With what confidence and peace would he now go forward, assured of a safe and pleasant meeting with his brother, and that goodness and mercy would follow him all the days of his life! And oh! what a relation would he have to communicate to his company as soon as he had overtaken them! They would wonder to see him halting as he approached; but they would marvel far more when he had told them of all that had happened unto him--of his wrestling! and of his success!
And how much shall we have to announce to our company who have crossed the river before us, and are waiting to receive us into everlasting habitations, when we have reached them, not in a yet unfinished and trying journey, but at home, in the rest that remains for the people of God.
" There, on a green and flowery mount,
Our weary souls shall sit ;
The labours of our feet."
JUNE 11.4"And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth."Zech. xii. 3.
As in money transactions the sterling coin gives rise to the counterfeit, so in religious concerns, reality is followed by hypocrisy. From the beginning there were in Israel true prophets. Hence also there were false ones, wearing the attire, and assuming the manners of God's own servants; pretending to communications which they had never received ; exercising and encouraging idolatry ; and crying, Peace, peace, when there was no peace. When therefore God intended mercy to the country, he engages to sweep away from the earth these emissaries of the devil, and plagues and curses of the human race. “In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered : and I will cause the prophets, and the unclean spirits to pass out of the land." And so allected would the people be, and even their relations and their nearest relations, that rising above the feelings of nature, they would themselves execute the judgment threatened : “And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begät him, shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord : and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth.” This would be very trying to flesh and blood; but we are to love God supremely, and creatures only in subordination to him. And this is no more than Moses required: “If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy basom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him ; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him ; but thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people" It is no more than Levi performed in the slaughter of the idolaters in tne camp at Horeb: “He said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor know his own children." How unlike this was the conduct of Eli, who, when his sons made themselves vile, restrained them not, but only gave them a gentle rebuke. And what can we think of those parents who connive at the delinquencies of their children ; and instead of opposing them with the authority and influence they possess, can rather cherish their inclinations, and accompany their steps ? “He that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
As the words from the immediately preceding and following context are allowed to refer to the evangelical dispensation, some have derived an argument from them in favour of compulsion and persecution in religion. But the Gospel sanctions nothing of this. When James and John would have called for fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans, the greatest schismatics of the age, and who had refused him a night's lodging, our Lord rebuked them, saying, “Ye know not what manner of spiriere are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.” Some therefore have solved the difficulty by applying the prophecy exclusively to the conversion of the Jews, and supposing that when they become Christians they will at first act according to their former usages, just as at the beginning of the Gospel they for a while strove to bring in with Christ, circumcision, and the observance of meats and seasons. But the conjecture is improbable; and the confinement of the words to this people is groundless. The meaning isthat effects are here put for principles—Christians should not indeed act in the same manner, but have the same zeal the pious Jews had, . when of old they showed themselves on the Lord's side, and obeyed his cominands, however expensive or painful the service—they should display the most determined firmness and fidelity in opposing error, and in spreading divine truth-holding nothing dear but the glory of God their Saviour-and forsaking all they have to be his disciples. It is therefore another of the many instances in the Old Testament, in which things Christian are expressed by Jewish allusions. The Prophets could only use their own language, and employ their own ideas and terms, even when speaking of another and a future dispensation. Nothing, therefore, can be more unwise, than to build opinions and expectations upon so weak a foundation as the
names they often give to persons, places, and objects taken from their own economy. Surely if a Jewish prophecy or promise be allowed to refer to Christian times, influences, and blessiags, the • phraseologies in which it is announced should be taken, not in a
Jewish, but in a Christian interpretation. Admit the reverse, and we should kill people, and think we did God service from the words before us; and fetch a thousa... bsurdities from other passages also.
JUNE 12._"That we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”—2 Cor. i. 4.
The Apostle mentions this as the purpose for which God bad comforted him and bis companions in all their tribulation. This is very instructive and edifying. We see the aim of God in the favours he confers upon us. He means them not to terminate in ourselves, but to extend to others, like the streams which flow on and turn mill after mill, and refresh and fertilize meadow after meadow. We are not the proprietors, but only the stewards of the manifold grace of God: and we are to consider ourselves debtors, not only to him but to our fellow-creatures. If we are rich in this world's good, we are to be ready to distribute. If we are enlightened, we are to arise and shine. If we are converted, we are to sirengthen our brethren-and if we are comforted, we are to be comforters.
We also see how the Lord employs human instrumentality. He is the God of all comfort ; but though he is the source, we are the mediums. He could dispense with our services, but he wisely employs them; as he thereby secures our own improvement; promote brotherly love; unites the giver to the receiver by pity, and the receiver to the giver by gratitude; shows us that there is a connexion between all ranks and degrees in society; that there is no such thing as independence; that every man has something to receive to teach him humility, and that every man has something to impart to keep him from discouragement. " If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body ; is it therefore not of the body ? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you."
We therefore learn also, how free our minds should be from that selfisbness which is satisfied with personal advantage and enjor. ment. “Look not,” says the Apostle, “every man to his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” And how well does he exemplify his own admonition ! He delights in the thought that the crown of righteousness was secured for others as well as himself. He wishes that all his hearers had all his blessedness without his bonds. And we here see how he prized the copsolations he had enjoyed, not because he had been comforted by them in his suffering, but because they would render him useful 10 others who are in any trouble.
Such as are “in any trouble” have peculiar claims upon us; and we are able to comfort them with those comforts wherewith we ourselves have been comforted of God," three ways. First, by es. citement-They dispose and stir us up to exertion and communica