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prepense. He required him only to offer him a burnt sacrifice, and though this implied the taking away of life ; yet it did not imply any thing of the nature of murder. God required Abraham to take his son, his only son, whom he loved, and in the exercise of love to him, to offer him a burnt sacrifice. This was essentially different from requiring him to slay his son, as Cain slew is brother Abel, from malice prepense. It is impossible to see, that there was any thing morally evil, or in its own nature wrong, in the divine command to Abraham. God required nothing of Abraham, but what he could do in the exercise of that love, which is the fulfilling of the law. It was no more intrinsically wrong for God to require Abraham to sacrifice his son in the exercise of pure benevolence, than it was to require him to leave his country, his kindred, and his father's family, and sojourn in a strange land. None can object to this command, as being wrong in the nature of things, without first perverting the plain and obvious meaning of it. According to both the letter and spirit of it, it was entirely consistent with the moral rectitude of the Deity, to require Abraham to sacrifice his son.
In the next place, it must be allowed, that God himself had an original and independent right to take away that life from Isaac, which he had of his mere sovereignty given him. It is a divine and self-evident truth, that he has a right to do what he will with his own creatures. And this right God not only claims, but constantly exercises, in respect to the lives of men. He taketh away, and who can hinder him ? And he takes away when, and where, and by whom he pleases. He sometimes takes away with a stroke of SERMON IX.
THE TRIAL OF ABRAHAM.
GENESIS XXII. 2.---And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah ; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains, which I will tell thee of
This is the most extraordinary command, which we find in scripture. In order to set it in the most intelligible and instructive light, I shall make the following inquiries.
I. Let us inquire, whether God had a right to give this command to Abraham. The enemies of divine revelation allege this command, as an unanswerable objection against the inspiration of the Mosaic history. They challenge all the divines in the world, to reconcile this command with the law of nature written in every human heart. They say it is a plain violation of that rule of right, which is founded in the nature of things, for any man to imbrue his hands in the blood of his child. They say, if such an action be not wrong, it is impossible to prove any action to be so ; for it is nothing less than murder, which is repugnant to every dictate of justice, benevolence, and humanity. But however plausible these objections against the divine command may appear, at first view; they are entirely groundless. For,
In the first place, God did not command Abraham to murder Isaac, or take away his life from m
of his own hand, and sometimes by the stroke of the assassin, and murderer, and the executioners of justice. He commanded Samuel to hew Agag in pieces before the Lord. His own right to take away the life of man, gives him full right to command whom he pleases to take away the life of another. He had, therefore, an absolute right to command Abraham to take away his son's life.
his son's life. And his command to take away his son's life, no more required him to murder Isaac, than his command to Saul to slay Agag, required him to murder that captivated king.
Furthermore, God has a right to require mën to do that at one time, which he has forbidden them to do at another. Though he had forbidden men to offer human sacrifices in general ; yet he had a right to require Abraham, in particular to offer up Isaac as a burnt sacrifice. And after he had required him to sacrifice Isaac, he had a right to forbid him to do it, as he actually did. Though God forbid Balaam at first to comply with the request of Balak, and go with the messengers, whom he sent to him ; yet afterwards he told Balaam to go with them. God has a right to countermand his own orders. As there was nothing morally evil, in God's commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son; so there was no inconsistency in his commanding him to do it, notwithstanding his general prohibition to mankind to offer human sacrifices. If we only view the command in the text, in its true and obvious import, we cannot discover any thing in it contrary to the light of nature, or the moral character of God; and consequently, must be convinced, that he had an absolute right to give such a command to Abraham. Let us now inquire,
II. Whether Abraham could know, that this command came from God. Those who deny, that God could consistently give such a command to him, deny that he could rationally know and believe, that he actually gave him such a command. This they say was so different from, if not contrary to all other commands of God, and so singular, extraordinary, and unaccountable, that he could not have so good reasons to believe, as to disbelieve, that it came from God. Now, it must be granted by all, that if Abraham did sacrifice Isaac, or offer him upon the altar, that he really thought God did require him to do it, and if he did really think So, it must have been owing either to his own heated imagination, or to the delusion of some evil spirit, or else to some real evidence of God's requiring him to sacrifice his son.
But it is evident, that it could not be owing to his own heated imagination ; because there was nothing in nature to lead him to form such an imagination.--The command was contrary to every thing that God had before required of him; it was contrary to what God had revealed in respect to human sacrifices ; and it was contrary to all the natural instincts, inclinations, and feelings of the human heart. Though men are apt to imagine things, which are agreeable to their natural and selfish inclinations ; yet they are never apt to imagine things, which are totally contrary to all these natural feelings. It is absurd, therefore, to suppose that Abraham's imagination would lead him to think, that God did require him to sacrifice his only beloved son, if he did not actually require it. It is especially absurd to suppose this of Abraham, who in no other part of his conduct ever discovered a wild or enthusiastic