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God so protects him, that of the inhabitants of the land, whom he feared; and among whom he felt he was become a nuisance, not one ventured to attack him: The terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.
This passage furnishes:
A LESSON OF DUTY TO OUR FAMILIES.
CONSOLATION TO EVERY PIOUS MAN, WHO UNDERTAKES THE REFORMATION OF HIS FAMILY one of the most difficult of duties!
I. REPROOF OF OUR FORGETFULNESS OF PAST MERCIES.
It was seven or eight years since Jacob came to Canaan. He had purchased ground, and built an altar; as you will see Chap. xxxiii. 19, 20. But he forgot his vow with respect to the erection of a pillar, which he had promised in the day of his distress. What is this, but a picture of human nature? Let any man look back to his past life, and remember the day of his distress-how he then consecrated himself, and resolved on the reformation of himself and his family. Let him recollect what prospects, under these softening impressions, he pictured out to himself, as to his
future conduct. But that day is gone! He has mingled with the people of the world! Time has worne out his resolutions. It is apt to efface such impressions.
Jacob had endured a sore affliction. In the xxxivth chapter you will read an account of this trial. But still it seems to produce no remembrance of his vow. What is to be done? He restoreth my soul. God calls expressly to Jacob“ Jacob!- You have forgot your vow! Arise, go to Bethel ! Remember what you said in the day --and what you felt in the day, when you fled from Esau !" My Dear Hearers, if God loves us he will remind, as well as restore us; and, in order to restore, he will reprove us : he will chasten us, if we are not bastards but sons. “Remember,” says he, when thou fleddest from the face of thy brother Esau. You have forgotten it: but,” as if he had said, “I have not forgotten it! I have not forgotten the deliverance which I afforded thee when thou didst wrestle for the blessing."
The remembrance of our past troubles, and of the impressions which they produced, should recal to our minds what we then intended to do, and what we have forgotten to do, Let us, my Dear Hearers, turn over the book of our lives : we are fond of reading many books: but no book will do us so much good, next to the Bible, as reading the history of the dispensations of Providence in our own particular cases. Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God hath led thee, these forty years, in the wilderness : to humble thee, and to prove thee, and to know what was in thy heart. Let us particularly dwell on the pages
of distress, and on the special deliverances afforded us: these are to be gratefully remembered. Let us recollect the voice which spake to us in these things, and what the Lord said to Jacob on this occasion: “ Jacob! you have forgotten your vow: but I have not forgotten it: arise, and go to Bethel !"
II. We have in these words A LESSON WITH RESPECT TO OUR DUTY IN OUR FAMILIES.
Go to Bethel: but not merely go to Bethel, nor merely build an altar there. Jacob knew that this would avail nothing with a heart-searching God: and therefore he said to his house, “ Put away the strange Gods that are among you. Let us arise; and, in this way, go to Bethel.” And they gave to Jacob all the strange gods that were in their hand, and all the ear-rings that were in their ears. And Jacob'hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.
You see, Brethren, that a man with a family is an accountable man. God spake to Jacob, and Jacob spake to his household. And it is said of
Abraham, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do? seeing that I know Abraham, that he will command his household after. I know that he will go forth, and set them an example: that he will be their teacher; and teach them to follow him, in their outward demeanour at least, if he cannot convey grace to enable them to follow him in the heart.
Put away the strange gods that are among you! What did strange gods do in the house of Jacob? An extraordinary thing, that there should be strange gods in the house of a man that taught his children the knowledge of the true God, and their obligations to him! What! Idols in the house of a godly man, and a sincere witness for God!-a man who had had personal intercourse with God! Puto
Put away the strange Gods that are among you! What! Did he know that he had idols in the house ?—So it appears. And what are we to remark from this, but that, in the best families, as some commentator observes, there are strange , if enter, in spite not strange gods ? Idols will enter, in spite of Jacob; because they are the creatures of the heart, and will dwell in the house in spite of his example and prohibition.
Yet, if we observe them in the houses of others, let us see and mark them with candour, forbear- , ance, and tenderness; for many there are, who will gaze on the faults and idols which they see in the houses of others, who seem quite blind to
greater in their own. We cannot be too tender and candid in the defects which we observe out of our houses : perhaps they prove a bitter and severe cross to the owner of that house! He knows there are such things, and he is labouring to prohibit and remove them. His case calls not for our censure ; but for our pity, our assistance, and our prayers. There may be idols in a house, and yet the fear of the true God in that house. . But, however candid we ought to be in respect to the idols of others, let us imitate Jacob, in being determined reformers of our own houses. Put away the strang'e Gods that are among you. Yet, whatever we may lament as to the state of our houses, our comfort, if we are real servants of the living God, should be that of David, when he said, “ Although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; and this is all my salvation, and all my desire. I mourn to see these idols in my family; but, as to myself, I serve the living God.” This should be our comfort, as well as David's. But our conduct should be that of Jacob: we may lawfully take David's comfort, if we adopt Jacob's conduct. Therefore we find Jacob calling on his family to follow him with cleanness and purity; telling them what God had done for him in the day of his distress : “ I am his witness, that he is the God that heareth and answereth prayer.” Let us endeavour, as family