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in his ears. Vehement as Esau's anger was, it could not withstand all this kindness, humility, and gentleness. The submission of his brother perfectly disarmed him: and “the gift in his bosom pacified his strong wratha."
Thus we may hope to “overcome evil with good b." As stones are melted by being subjected to the action of intense heat, so are the hardest of men melted by love: it“ heaps coals of fire upon their head," and turns their rancorous hostilities into self-condemning accusations. We say not indeed that the victory shall be certain and uniform in all cases; for even the Saviour's meekness did not prevail to assuage the malice of his enemies: but, as a means, we may reasonably expect it to conduce to that end. As a proud, distant, and vindictive carriage serves to confirm the hatred of an adversary, so, on the other hand, a kind, gentle, and submissive deportment has a direct tendency to effect a reconciliation with him.]
Not that a short and transient care will suffice: on the contrary, III. When once a reconciliation is effected, extreme
caution is necessary to preserve and maintain itA wound that has been lately closed, may easily be rent open again: and friendship that has been dissolved by any means, does not speedily regain its former stability. To cement affection, much attention is required. We must aim at it, 1. By mutual kindnesses and endearments
[Exceeding tender was the interview between the brothers, after their long absence, and alienation from each other. Nor should we deem it beneath us to yield thus to the emotions of love, or to express our regards by salutations and tears. These may possibly be counterfeited by a consummate hypocrite: but, in general, they are the involuntary effusions of a loving heart. And as denoting cordiality, they have the strongest tendency to unite discordant minds, and to efface from the memory all painful recollections.] .
2. By abstaining from all mention of past grievances
[The revival of things which have been matters in dispute, generally revive the feelings which the dispute occasioned. And, as few are ever found to acknowledge that the fault or error has been wholly on their own side, recriminations will
by a loving bedency to unite recollection
• a Prov. xxi. 14.
c Rom. xii. 20.
Rom. xi. 21. di Sam, xxiv. 16, 17.
arise from accusations, and the breach perhaps be made wider than ever. To bury matters in oblivion is the readiest way to the maintenance of peace. In this respect the reconciled brothers acted wisely: explanations would only have led to evil consequences; and therefore they avoided them altogether. And we in similar circumstances shall do well to follow their example.]
3. By guarding against that kind or degree of intercourse that may rekindle animosities—
[There are some whose dispositions are so opposite, that they cannot long move in harmony with each other:.“not being agreed, they cannot walk comfortably together.” It is thus particularly with those whose spiritual views are different: for, “what communion hath light with darkness, or Christ with Belial?” It was prudent in Jacob to decline the proffered civilities of Esau, when he saw the mutual sacrifices that would be necessary in order to carry them into effect: it was prudent that Esau with his four hundred armed men should prosecute their journey without needless incumbrances and delays; and that Jacob should be left at liberty to consult the comfort of his children, and the benefit of his flocks. Had the two endeavoured to make concessions, and to accommodate themselves to each other, neither would have been happy; and their renewed amity would have been endangered. Thus, where the dispositions and habits are so dissimilar as to bid defiance, as it were, to mutual concessions, the best way to preserve peace is to interfere with each other as little as possible.] APPLICATION
[Are there any who are involved in disputes and quarrels ? Follow after peace and be forbearing and forgiving to others, if ever you would that God should be so to you. Are there any who desire reconciliation with an offended friend? Be willing rather to make, than to exact, submission: and let generosity and kindness be exercised to the uttermost, to soften the resentments which have been harboured against you. And lastly, are there any who have an opportunity of promoting peace ? Embrace it gladly, and exert yourselves with impartiality. And instead of widening a breach, by carrying tales, endeavour to heal it by all possible offices of love. Let the quarrels of brethren be regarded as a fire, which it is every one's duty and desire to extinguish. Thus shall you yourselves have the blessing promised to peace-makers, and be numbered among the children of God".]
Gen. xxxiv. 31. And they said, Should he deal with our sister
as with an harlot?
THE life of man is continually exposed to trouble; and not unfrequently waves follow waves with little intermission. It was thus in Jacob's case, who, from the time that he fled from the face of Esau, met with a continued series of difficulties and distresses. Having terminated his hard service under Laban, and miraculously escaped the vindictive assaults both of Laban and of Esau, he seemed to have obtained a respite. But his peace was of very short duration ; for his own children, to whom he looked for comfort in his declining years, became to him a source of the most poignant sorrows. It appears indeed, from various circumstances in this short history, that he did not maintain sufficient authority over his own house. Had he taken the direction of matters into his own hands, instead of waiting to consult his young, inexperienced, and headstrong sons, he had prevented those horrible crimes which they perpetrated without fear, and vindicated without remorse.
In considering the petulant answer which they made to his reproofs, we shall be led to notice, I. The provocation they had received
We apprehend that Leah herself was in part accessary to the evils that befell her daughter
[Dinah, like other young people, wished to see, and be seen; and on some festive occasion went to visit the daughters of the land of Canaan. She would probably have been displeased, if her mother had imposed restraints upon her. But it was her parent's duty to consult, not so much her inclination, as her safety: and it was highly blameable in Leah to suffer her daughter, scarcely fifteen years of age, to go into scenes of gaiety and dissipation unprotected and unwatched.
Perhaps by this calamity Leah herself was punished for the prostitution of herself (for what else can it be called ?) in compliance with her father's wishes. Personating her sister Rachel, she had yielded to what might be justly termed, an incestuous commerce : and now she lives to see the humiliation and defilement of her only daughter.]
But, whatever degree of blame attached either to Dinah or her mother, the provocation given by Shechem was doubtless exceeding great
[To take advantage of a thoughtless unprotected female was exceedingly base : and the distress brought by it upon her whole family was most deplorable. Ah! little do the gay and dissipated think, what sacrifices they require for the gratification of their lusts. Here was the happiness, not of an individual only, but of a whole family, destroyed. That her seducer endeavoured afterwards to repair the injury, is true: and in this he differed from the generality, who, as soon as they have accomplished their vile purposes, have their love turned into indifference or aversion : but the injury was absolutely irreparable; and therefore we do not wonder that it excited a deep resentment in the breasts of her dishonoured relatives.]
But though her brothers were justly indignant at the treatment she had received, they were by no means justified in, II. The manner in which they resented it
Shechem, though a prince among the Hivites, instantly made application to Dinah's father to give her to him in marriage. Though he had humbled her, he did not wish to perpetuate her disgrace, but sought, as much as possible, to obliterate it for ever. The terms he proposed were dictated not only by a sense of honour, but by the most tender affection. Happy would it have been if Jacob's sons had been actuated by principles equally honourable and praiseworthy! But they, alas! intent only on revenge, contrived a plot as wicked and diabolical as ever entered into the heart of man. They formed a design to murder, not only the person who had given them the offence, but all the men of his city together with him. In the execution of their purpose they employed, 1. Hypocrisy
[They pretended to have scruples of conscience about connecting themselves with persons who were uncircumcised. We may admit for a moment, that this did really operate on their minds as an objection to the projected union; and that this
was indeed to " sina plan for murderino e when they could de:
objection was sufficient to weigh down every other consideration: still what regard had they for conscience when they could deliberately contrive a plan for murdering the whole city? This was indeed to “strain at a gnat, and to swallow a camel."] 2. Profaneness
[They knew that both the prince and his people were altogether ignorant of Jehovah, and destitute of the smallest wish to be interested in the Covenant which God had made with Abraham: and yet they proposed that all the males should receive the seal of God's covenant in circumcision; and that too, not in order to obtain any spiritual benefit, but solely with a view to carnal gratification. What a profanation was this of God's holy ordinance! and what impiety was there in recommending to them such a method of attaining their ends !] 3. Cruelty
[One would scarcely have conceived that such cruelty could have existed in the human heart. That a spirit of revenge should excite in the minds of these men the thought of murdering the person who was more immediately implicated in the offence, was possible enough : but that it should prompt them to involve a multitude of innocent persons in the same ruin; and at a time when those persons were making very great sacrifices in order to conciliate their favour; and that it should induce them to make use of religion as a cloak for the more easy accomplishment of their execrable purpose; this almost exceeds belief: yet such was their inhuman plot, which too successfully they carried into effect. And though their brethren did not join them in destroying the lives of any, yet they so far participated in the crime, as to take captive the defenceless women, and to seize upon all the cattle and property for a prey.]
There is nothing so iniquitous, but the perpetrators of it will justify it. This appears from, III. Their vindication of their conduct
In their answer to their father's reproof we behold nothing but, 1. Offended pride
[They would not have felt any displeasure against Shechem, if he had dealt with any other female, or any number of them, as harlots; but that he should offer such an indignity to “ their sister," this was the offence, an offence that could not be expiated by any thing less than the blood of all that were even in the most distant way connected with him. We are surprised and shocked at the relation of this event: and yet