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And Abraham called the name of his son that was bom unto him, whom
Sarah bare to him, Isaac. — Gen. xii., 3.

And Abraham called the name of his son that was bom unto him, whom
Sarah bare to him, Isaac. — Gen. xii., 3.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jul 14, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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ISAAC. BY ALEXADER GARDIER MERCER, D.D. And Abraham called the name of his son that was bom unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac. — Gen. xii., 3. I HAVE often spoken of subjects connected with the early history of our race. I have done so partly because of the freshness and charm which that distant age brings to the present. A well-known American author — Mr. Emerson — ^writes thus : " In York Minster, on the day of the enthroniza- tion of the new archbishop, I heard the service of evening prayer read and chanted in the choir. It was strange to hear the pretty pastoral of the betrothal of Rebekah and Isaac, in the morning of the world, read with circum- stantiality in York Minster on the 13th of January, 1848, to the decorous English audience, just fresh from the Tivics newspaper and their wine, and listening with all the devotion of national pride. That was binding old and new together to some purpose. The reverence for the Scriptures is an element of civilization. So here in England every day, — a chapter of Genesis and a leader in the Times *' Setting aside the irony as to the Englishman and his manners, he well notes the strange, sweet blending of the 14 ISAAC. 15 past and the present ; but he (ails to note with becoming reverence the great lessons which the latest age may
learn from the simplest of the stories of this early time. One of them is before us this morning in the account of Isaac. The character of Isaac is not prominent, and is not, perhaps, especially interesting. The interest is rather about him than in him. He is, for example, the only child of Abraham and Sarah, — of the unique and majestic Abraham and of the once beautiful Sarah, a woman with a woman's interest and a woman's faults, yet invested with a simple dignity as the " mother of nations," of whom the promise was that " kings of people " should come of her. Then Isaac is, besides, the great providen- tial child of all that ancient history, — " the child of prom- ise," as he is called. For a long time the whole scheme of God seemed to wait for Isaac, and seemed ready to fail because of his absence. The honor of God seemed about to fail ; and if we really enter into the thoughts and feelings of Abraham, — of the childless old man, who began to fear that the promises of God, that nations like the stars in number should come of him, were flatteries, — then this child Isaac (awaited with such strange feeling, and received at last with such triumphant joy) becomes clothed with a singular and sacred interest. Again, see the peculiar light cast on this child, as placed by the side of his brother Ishmael, — the boy Isaac the head of the chosen people ; the boy Ishmael 1 6 BIBLE CHARACTERS, the head of that hardly less wonderful Arabian race ! And then the very sad but natural story of Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, cast out with her son because of Isaac. For " Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian mocking/' The bright, vigorous young Ishmael, " a slip of wildness," the father of Arabs, naturally mocked the
quiet and somewhat tame boy Isaac, and that Sarah could not abide, so Hagar and her son were cast out, and Isaac was left without a rival. See, again, the interest which attaches to Isaac because of the story of his marriage. Rebekah, ** the damsel very fair to look upon," being in her own land and near her father's house, went down to the well to fill her pitcher. As she went to draw water among the com- pany of Syrian virgins, she was divinely pointed out to the messenger of Abraham as the chosen wife of Isaac, — pointed out by her grace and beauty first, then con- clusively by her gracious kindness. She says to the weary and thirsty messenger, " Drink, my lord," and, hastening to the well again, draws water for all his camels, saying, "We have provender enough for all the cattle," and adds that in her father's house there is " room to lodge in." Very just tests these of a kind woman, and one also of a prompt and energetic nature, as she was afterward proved to be. But I hasten to the real subject : What was Isaac ? Difficult to say with accurate justice. The lines are so few in this primitive sketch of a human face that al- ISAAC, 17 most any likeness may be made out of it, according to our prepossessions, by reading between the lines, as we say. From the hints given, however, the critics have usually judged that Isaac was of a peaceable, amiable, and yielding temper, without much strength or elevation, — ^a quiet person, with many of the faults of passiveness. This is to be seen, they might say, in all his history. But I am not quite content with this view. In all the stories of Isaac's weakness, though I admit much, I see there is something more. The first great scene of his life, which was the scene of his intended

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