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who live under it, may be said to live in the concluding period of the world.
Now the foregoing events admonish us
[It was to no purpose that the Israelites called themselves the people of God, while they were unmindful of the obligations which such a profession entailed upon them. While they called God and Abraham their father, they were, like their descendents also, children of the wicked one. Thus it will be in vain for us to call ourselves Christians, if we have, not the power as well as the form of godliness. On the contrary, as God disowned the people before referred to, so, however confident our claims to his favour may be, will He disown us in the day of judgment. Let us seek then to be Christians, “ not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth." Let us not only unite ourselves to the church of God, but also devote ourselves to God in body, soul and spirit.] 2. Not to indulge any evil desires,
[This is particularly specified by the apostle as a principal end for which these events were recorded.i Had the Israelites watched against the first risings of sensuality and lewdness, they had not fallen into those numerous sins which brought upon them God's heavy displeasure. And, if we would be preserved from spiritual idolatry, or even from the grossest acts of uncleanness, we must avoid all needless connexion with an idolatrous world, and labour to suppress the first motions of sin which work in our members.' “God requires truth in our inward parts;” nor shall any but the pure in heart ever behold his face in peace.k 'An “hypocrite in heart only treasures up wrath against the day of wrath.”]
3. Not so to presume on any past mercies, as to forget that we have need of continual watchfulness and circumspection.
[The Israelites thought, that, after so many signal manifestations of God's favour towards them, they could never be cast off. But, like Lot's wife, they stand as a pillar of salt to us. Let not us then forget, that we may have
escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust, and yet be entangled again with it and overcome;"m and that “ we may have been enlightened by the word of God, and have tasted of the
powers of the world to come, and yet so apostatize, as never to be renewed unto repentance."n The apostle himself felt the necessity of “ keeping his body under, lest, after having preached
f John viii. 39, 41, 44. & Jer. vii. 4.
m 2 Pet. ii. 20.
i- Ver. 6.
to others, he himself should be a cast-away:"« much more therefore, should
however confident we may be of our own. stedfastness, “ take heed lest we fall.”p Let us then not be satisfied with having come out of Egypt, or having put ourselves under the divine guidance, or having lived hitherto on Christ, the living bread and living water; but let us go on in dependence on his grace, and in obedience to his wilt. Let us combine a consciousness of our proneness to fall, with an humble affiance in him," who alone is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy."?]
01 Cor. ix. 27.
p Ver. 12.
9 Jude 24,
CXX. THE BIRTH-RIGHT TYPICAL OF THE CHRIS
Gen. xxv. 32. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die:
and what profit shall this birth-right do to me? IT may be considered as a general rule, that no man abstains from any thing which he has purposed to do, for want of some excuse of expedience or necessity to justify it. A melancholy instance of infatuation we have in the history before us; an instance singular indeed as to the immediate act, but common, and almost universal as to the spirit manifested in it. Esau, having come home from hunting unusually oppressed with fatigue and hunger, set his heart upon his brother's pottage; and not only agreed to sell his birth-right for it, but confirmed with an oath the alienation of that inheritance, to which, by primogeniture, he was entitled. To justify his conduct he of fered this vain and false apology, Behold, I am at the point to die; and what profit shall this birth-right do to me? But the fact is, as the historian informs us, he “despised his birth-right.”
Let us then consider
There were many important privileges attached to primogeniture among the Jews
[The first-born was by God's appointment to have dominion over his brethren,a and to enjoy a double portion of
A Gen. xxvii. 29, 37. also xlxix. 3.
his Father's inheritance. But besides these civil, there were also some sacred privileges, which he possessed. The Messiah, of whom he was to be a type, and who, in reference to the ordinances of birth-right, is called “the first-born among many brethren, was to spring from his loins. Yea, in some sense, the first-born had a better prospect even of heaven itself, than the rest of his brethren; because the expectation of the Mes. siah, who was to descend from him, would naturally cause him to look forward to that great event, and to enquire into the office and character, which the promised seed should sustain.] But these privileges Esau despised
[He accounted them of no more value than a mess of pottage: nor did he speedily repent of his folly and wickedness. If he had seen the evil of his conduct, he would surely have endeavoured to get the agreement cancelled; and if his brother Jacob had refused to reverse it, he should have intreated the mediation of his father, that so he might be reinstated in his natural rights. But we read not of any such endeavours: on the contrary, we are told, “ He did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way;" so little did he value, or rather, so utterly did he “ despise his birth-right.”. On this account is he stigmatized by the apostle, as a profane person:e had he disregarded only temporal benefits, he had been guilty of folly; but his contempt of spiritual blessings argued profaneness.]
Jacob's conduct indeed in this matter was exceeding base: but Esau's was inexpressibly vile. Yet will he be found to have many followers, if we examine II. The analogy between his conduct and our own The birth-right was typical of the Christian's portion
[The true Christian has not indeed any temporal advantages similar to those enjoyed by right of primogeniture: but he is made an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ. He has a distinguished interest in the Saviour, and an indisputable title to the inheritance of heaven. And hence they who have attained the full possession of their inheritance are called, “ The general assembly and church of the first-born."f]
But the generality are like Esau, having 1. The same indifference about spiritual blessings
b This was not optional with the parent in any case.
Deut. xxi. *15, 17.
c Rom. viii. 29. d In one instance this privilege was separated from the foregoing one; and both were alienated from the first-born; the former being given to Joseph, and the latter to Judah, as a punishment of Reuben's iniquity in lying with his father's concubine. i Chron. v. 1, 2, e Heb. xii. 16,
fIb. 23. VOL. II.
[Some excuse may be offered for Esau, because he knew not what a Saviour, or what an inheritance he despised. But we have had the Saviour fully revealed to us; and know what a glorious place the heavenly Canaan is. Yet too many of us think as lightly of Christ and of heaven, as if neither he nor it were worth our attention: yea, we are ready at any time to barter them away for the most trifling gratification: and what is this, but to imitate the profaneness of Esau?]
2. The same insatiable thirst after earthly and sensual indulgence
[Though Esau pretended that he was near to die, it was only an excuse for his profane conduct; for it cannot be conceived, but that, in the house of an opulent man like Isaac, there either was, or might easily be procured, something to satisfy the cravings of nature. But he was bent upon having his brother's pottage, whatever it might cost. And is it not so with those who yield to uncleanness, intemperance, or any base passion? Do they not sacrifice their health, their reputation, yea, their very souls, for a momentary indulgence? Do they not say, in fact, “ Give me the indulgence of my lust; I must and will have it, whatever be the consequence: if I cannot have it without the loss of my birth-right, be it so; let my hope in Christ be destroyed; let my prospects of heaven be for ever darkened; let my soul perish; welcome hell; welcome damnation; only give me the indulgence which my soul longs after.” This sounds harsh in words; but is it not realized in the lives and actions of the generality? Yes; as the wild ass, when seeking her mate, defies all endeavours to catch and detain her, so these persist in spite of all the means that may be used to stop their course; no persuasions, no promises, no threatenings, no consequences, temporal or eternal, can divert them from their purpose."]
3. The same want of remorse for having sold their birth-right for a thing of nought
[Never did Esau discover any remorse for what he had done: for though, when the birth-right was actually given to Jacob, he “ cried with an exceeding bitter cry, Bless me, even me also, O my father," i yet he never humbled himself for his iniquity, never prayed to God for mercy, nor endured patiently the consequences of his profaneness: on the contrary, he comforted himself with the thought, that he would murder his brother, as soon as ever his father should be dead.k And is it not thus also with the generality? They go on, none saying, What have I done? Instead of confessing and bewailing their guilt and folly, they extenuate to the utmost, or perhaps even presume to justify, their impieties. Instead of crying day and night to God for mercy, they never bow their knee before him, or do it only in a cold and formal manner. And, instead of submitting to the rebukes of Providence, and kissing the rod, they are rather like a wild bull in a net, determining to add sin to sin. Even Judas himself had greater penitence than they. Alas! alas! what a resemblance does almost every one around us bear to this worthless wretch, this monster of profaneness!] ADDRESS Those who are still despising their birth-right
8 His extreme eagerness may be seen in his words, “Give me that red, red.” Being captivated with the colour, he determined to get it whatever it might be, and whatever it might cost: and from thence the name Edom, which signifies red, was given him. Ver. 30. Jer. ii. 23, 24.
i Gen. xxvii. 34. k Ib. 41, 42.
[Reflect a moment on your folly and your danger. Place yourselves a moment on a death-bed, and say, “ I am at the point to die; and what profit do my past lusts and pleasures now do me?” Will ye then justify yourselves as ye now do, or congratulate yourselves on having so often gratified your vicious inclinations? Suppose on the other hand that ye were dying, like Isaac, in the faith of Christ; would ye then say, what profit shall my Birth-right do to me? Would it then appear a trifling matter to have an interest in the Saviour, and a title to heaven? Consider further, how probable it is that you may one day, like Esau, seek earnestly the inheritance you have sold, and yet find no place of repentance in your father's bosom! We mean not to say that any true penitent will be rejected: but the apostle intimates, what daily experience proves true, that, as Esau could not obtain a revocation of his father's word, though he sought it carefully with tears, so we may cry with great bitterness and anguish on account of the loss we have sustained, and yet never so repent as to regain our forfeited inheritance. At all events, if we obtain not a title to heaven while we are here, we may come to the door and knock, like the foolish virgins, and be dismissed with scorn and contempt. Having "sown the wind, we shall reap the whirlwind.” Let us then“ seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near.”]
2. Those who value their birth-right above every
Amidst the multitudes who pour contempt on spiritual blessings, there are some who know their value and taste their sweetness. But how often will temptations arise, that divert our attention from these great concerns, and impel us, with almost irresistible energy, to the commission of sin! And how may we do in one moment, what we shall have occasion to
1 Heb. xü. 17.