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THE CALL OF ABRAM.
ABRAM the son of Tereh,, was born in Ur of Chaldea. It was customary in scripture genealogy to mention the first born of the family upon whom, in virtue of this relation, were bestowed peculiar blessings. In particular cases the Lord saw fit to deviate from this custom, and to bestow peculiar favors upon a younger member of the family. Such was the case with Abram, as he seems to have been the youngest of the three sons of Tereh, who are mentioned in the Scriptures. The name Abram, which means a high father, was afterwards changed to that of Abraham, the father of a multitude.
When Abram was about seventy-five years of age he received a call from the Lord to depart out of his native country; to leave his friends and kindred, and to get himself into a land which God would show him. In the land in which he lived he was surrounded with idolatrous neighbors, and idolatrous practices, into which he was continually liable to fall. This, together with other purposes laid up in the councils of God concerning Abram and his posterity, and which were remarkably fulfilled afterwards, may be among the reasons for his call. We are now concerned with the call, and Abram's conduct in the premises.
In the sacred narrative we read of no hesitation on the part of the patriarch; no arguing the case in his own mind; no counting the costs, although the command may not have appeared to his own mind—that is, to his reason simply, as being very full of promise, or even perhaps promising at all. He was no doubt happily and comfortably situated among his friends; his outward circumstances may have presented no cause wherefore he should arise and go into a strange land. And God did not see fit at the first to unfold to him his designs concerning him and his posterity. It then required a sacrifice on his part, and was from the start an act of faith.
In the call of Abram we may see a type of what must take place in every one who is called from the kingdom of darkness into that of light and grace. The analogy is of the most perfect kind, and logical and natural withal. Abram was the type of the faithful, and the truths with which he was brought into contact, which are absolute and eternal, and which, although brought down in the sphere of nature, pointed to others in the order of grace. These truths were lived out in the person of Abram, and have therefore become for us flesh and blood.
Man cannot be saved in the condition in which he is born. That may be one in which he is well pleased to dwell and remain. He
may be among his friends in a two-fold sense; outwardly the world is in harmony with him, and inwardly his thoughts and feelings are pleasing and familiar to him. Going out of this condition involves a sacrifice. This is sometimes as painful as the plucking out of an eye, or the severing of a right arm. It involves a struggle in our nature, with our own sins, and with the prince of the air. These contests are hidden, and are not understood by the children of the world. They are known however to the Christian, and when you speak to him of sore conflicts, of hard fighting, of inward groanings and of mighty breathings, you do not speak in an unknown tongue. His experience responds to the descriptions. Indeed when this is not the case there is room to fear that all is not right. If all is still within, it affords room to fear that the enemy holds absolute dominion.
This sacrifice must be in disposition complete. Abram left all. Not many Christians in the present day are called to forsake father, mother, wife and children, lands and houses, for the Gospel's sake, as were some of the primitive Christians, yet Christianity is now precisely what it was then, and Christians must have the same disposition should circumstances require it. There should be a disposition to give up all for Christ's sake. If the disposition be complete, no contingencies will occur under which there will not be a safe and certain rule. Suppose Abram had cast longing eyes back upon his native hills and vales, the lovely associates of his childhood days; upon the prospects of wealth and enjoyment that may have been opening up for his manhood, and had commenced to hesitate and doubt respecting the righteousness of the command that was given him. What, suppose ye, would have been the language addressed to him? "He, that having put his hand to the plow, looketh at the things that are behind, is not worthy of the kingdom of heaven."
The act requires faith. Had Abram lacked faith, his obedience would have been blind and slavish. His reason might have sugguested that God had the right to command, and the power to punish disobedience. Influenced by such motives, he might have started upon his journey, but that would not have been a cheerful obedience. It was an intelligent obedience, and not blind. It was not, however, what might be called an intellectual assurance. He was unable by a logical process of reasoning simply, by deductions from natural causes, to calculate the interest involved. It was the assurance of faith. God had called him, and had promised to bless him, and he knew by this kind of assurance that he was faithful to fulfil.
There is something peculiarly interesting in this part of the analogy. It teaches that, in the kingdom of grace, obedience continually goes before knowledge. This is the case in the first step, and in all the life of the Christian. This was the motto of the
learned and pious Anselm. The scriptures teach us the same: "If ye obey my commandments, ye shall know of the doctrine." Men, in seeking salvation, generally commence directly the opposite of this; they want to know all about the kingdom of grace before they enter it. If you speak of mysteries in religion, they think of phantoms, of creations of the imagination, which are not for one the same as for another. They resort to the Scriptures, and expect every thing to yield to the scrutiny of their search; they imagine that they find dark sayings and contradictions there, and perplex themselves with these, while they have not yet made the first step in obedience to the command of the Gospel; they expect to be able to see clear through the way before they have yet entered upon it.
In what, then, does this first act of faith consist? In the case of Abram it consisted in taking God at his word; submitting to his guidance; trusting implicitly and without wavering in him. He arose and departed, leaving all the consequences to God. It is submitting one's self to Christ in the ordinance of his Church. This is an act of obedience that must rest upon faith, and knowledge must come afterwards. Abram could not understand fully the nature of the promised land that lay before him, until he had journeyed and beheld it for himself. There are those who are hindered from obeying his call by considerations like these "they must become good" before uniting themselves to the church-that is, as if poor, hungry, and starving men, before whom a plentiful table had been spread, and of which they had been invited to partake, should say, "We must first provide ourselves with food, and satisfy our craving hunger, and then we will accept of the invitation, and partake of the bounties spread out for us." In a state of nature men are poor, and blind, and naked, momentarily standing in danger of falling into the pit. In the church is salvation; treasure to enrich; light to shine upon our darkness; garments of salvation to clothe our nakedness; yet many imagine that they will get all these out of the church, and thus qualify themselves for its service.
This mistake arises from the low views which we permit ourselves to entertain of the nature and powers of the church. Are we about to connect ourselves with some respectable human society, we prepare ourselves to give character and weight to that society by our wealth, influence and talents. Reasoning thus of the church, we imagine that it has need of us, while precisely the opposite is the truth-we have need of the church. It is a mournful fact, staring us in the face every day. Vast numbers of young persons, members of Christian families, and who rest under the solemn vows of baptism, seem to feel quite at rest out of the church, and deem their position, to say the least, quite as safe as any other. They do not despise the church; they attend upon its or
dinances, and feel themselves at home, it may be, in doing so; but, so low and mean are the views of church members themselves, and even of ministers sometimes-and what could be expected under these circumstances of those without?-that no special concern is felt in the case. Now, if church relations are of such small account that persons may assume them or not, let it be proclaimed. But, if an awful hazard hangs upon the obedience of men in this particular, nothing but the most stolid indifference can complacently look upon these things. This state of affairs is increasing. It seems to be the reaction upon the cold formalism that preceded the vortex of new measures, into which the Reformation churches were in danger of falling a few years ago.
There are cheering indications in the liturgy movement that seems to be springing up in all the churches, and hopes are beginning to be entertained that the services of the church will again be clothed with flesh and blood, and that the church will address itself to the world as the only ark of safety, in which men may ride above the troubled waters of the world, and escape the wrath
FROM THE GERMAN OP HEINE.
A horseman through the mountain pass
The mountain voice replies--
And onward still the horseman rides
The voice again replies-
The tears fall from the horseman's eyes,
The hollow voice replies-
HEAR ME BUT ONCE.
HEAR me but once, while o'er the grave,
Of joys now lost, and charms now fled.
Those eyes so bright through many a day!
"MY ANGEL LOVE."
There is a poem, written by one of our foster-children of genius, of which I am reminded by this question of angelic aid to our moral imperfectness of reach. I am not sure that it has ever been published. "Fanny Forester" wrote it, and it has been among my manuscripts till I have learned its inspired harmonies by heart. If it be found elsewhere in print, however, it will not be unrefreshing to read-for a change—a bit of the old-fashioned poetry that had in it both meaning and music. The widowed heart of the gifted one-with her apostle husband just gone before her into heaven-thus exquisitely tells the story of their earthly love and still lingering "hold of hands:"
In those last two unsurpassed lines-lines in the golden cadence of which lay the lark-song of her own then dawning morning in heaven-EMILY JUDSON has