ABRAHAM IN EGYPT.

By ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, D.D.
PREACHED ON THE NILE, BETWEEN CAIRO AND THEBES, ON THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, MARCH 9, 1862.

Abraham went down into Egypt to sojourn there. ù Gen. xii. 10. IT may have struck some of us, as it struck me, when the Fn'st Lesson of last Smiday afternoon was read at Cairo, containing these words, that it was a fitting welcome to our arrival in this country. It is the earliest mention of that connection of Egypt with the Bible which was never afterwards lost. In those ^ few verses, which describe the visit of Abraham, some of the main features of the country appear, as we see them at this day. The great river was flowing then, as it had flowed for ages before, and has flowed for ages since, scattering verdure and fertility along its banks, so that when Abraham found a famine elsewhere, he could still be sure of finding plenty in Egypt. There was already seated on the Egyptian throne one of the ancient dynasty, called by the name of the Sun, whose brightness and penetrating power we feel so powerfully at this moment, Pharaoh, " the Child or Servant of the Sun." And it is clear fi'om the account that tliis Pharaoh was not the first of his

22 SERMONS IN EGYPT. [Serm. I. race ; that he was one of a long succession that had gone before. The monarchy had ah'eadj grown up ; Lis court and his prmces were round him, and his power and his fame were so great as to inspire awe and terror into the heart of the simple Shepherd Chief, who came Avith his wife fi'om Palestine ; and when that Shepherd Chief goes away, the Eg}-|:)tian King lavishes upon him, with a profusion of liberahty, all the gifts of Egjq^t, such as Ave now see them, and such as would be most acceptable to one who was still a traveller and wanderer in the desert : droves of " oxen and " herds of " sheep, and he-asses and she-asses, and camels." This is our first introduction to Egj'pt in the Bible. Let us ask, on this day, what religious lessons it is intended to teach us : what was the relation of Eg}^t to the Chosen People and the rehgious history of mankind? It is, in one word, the introduction of the Chosen People to the World ù to the world, not in the bad

sense in which we often use the word, but in its most general sense, both good and bad. 1. Egypt Avas to Abraham ù to the JcAvish people ù to the whole course of the Old Testament, what the Avorld, Avith all its interests and pursuits and enjoyments, is to us. It Avas the parent of civilization, of art, of learning, of royal poAver, of vast armies. The very names AAdiich Ave still use for the paper on which Ave Avrite, for the sciences of INIedicine and Cliemisti'y, are derived from the natural products and from the old religion of Egypt. We might think, perhaps, tliat the Bible Avould take no account of such a country ù that it Avould have seemed too much belonging to this earth, and the things of this earth. Not so ;

Serm. I.] ABRAHAM IN EGYPT. 23 from first to last, this marvellous country, with all its manifold interests, is regarded as the home and the refuge of the chosen race. Hither came Abraham, as the extremest goal of his long travels, from Chaldea southwards ; here Joseph ruled, as viceroy ; here Jacob and his descendants settled as in their second home, for several generations ; here Moses became " learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians." From the customs and laws and arts of the Egyptians, many of the customs, laws, and arts of the Israelites were borrowed. Here, in the last days of the Bible history, the Holy Family found a refuge. On these scenes, for a moment, even though in unconscious infancy, alone of any Gentile country, the eyes of our Redeemer rested. From the philosophy which floui'ished at Alexandria came the first philosophy of the Christian Church. This, then, is one main lesson which the Bible teaches us by the stress laid on Egypt. It tells us that we may lawfully use the world and its enjoyments, ù that the world is acknowledged by true religion, as well as by our own natural instincts, to be a beautiflil, a glorious, and, in this respect, a good and useful world. In it our lot is cast. What was permitted as an innocent refreshment to Abraham ; what was enjoined as a sacred duty on Moses and Apollos ; what was consecrated by the presence of Christ our Saviour, we too may enjoy and admire and use. Power and learning and civihzation and art may all minister now, as they did then, to the advancement of the welfare of man and the glory of God. 2. But, secondly, the meeting of Abraham and Pharaoh, ù the contact of Egypt with the Bible, ù remuid us forcibly that there is something better and

24 SERMONS IN EGYPT. [Serm. I.

higher even than the most glorious, or the most luxurious, or the most powerful, or the most interesting, sights and scenes of the world, even at its highest pitch, here or elsewhere. Whose name or history is now best remembered? Is it that of Pharaoh, or of the old Egj'ptian nation ? No. It is the name of the Shepherd, as he must have seemed, who came to seek his fortunes here, as a stranger and sojourner. Much or little as we, or our friends at home, rich or poor, may know or care about Egypt, we all know and care about Abraham. It is his visit, and the visit of his descendants, that gives to Egypt its most universal mterest. So it is with the world at large, of which, as I have said, in those old days Egypt Avas the likeness. Who is it that, when years are gone by, we remember with the purest gratitude and pleasure ? Not the learned, or the clever, or the rich, or the powerftil, that we may have known in oiu' passage through life ; but those who, hke Abraham, have had the force of character to prefer the flitm'e to the present, ù the good of others to their own pleasure. These it is who leave a mark in the world, more really lasting than Pyramid or Temple, because it is a mark that outlasts this life, and will be found in the hfe to come. He comes into contact with Egypt, with the world ; he uses it ; he enjoys it. It is but one of the halting-places in his life. He falls for a moment under its darker influences ; for a moment he yields to the fear of man, and to the temptation of miworthy deceit. But in the next moment he is himself again. He is what we see him in tlie chapter which has just been read, describing the offering of Isaac, ù willing to sacrifice whatever is nearest and

Serm. I.] ABRAHAM IN EGYPT. 25 dearest to the call of God and of duty. Heathen traditions represent him as teaching the Egyptians the astronomy that he brought with him from Chaldea ; or as reconciling their theological and political disputes. But this is not that for which he is remembered in the Bible and by mankind at large. It is as the Friend of God, and as the Father of the Faithful. It is not for those points which distinguish him from the rest of mankind, but for those points which we may all have in common with him. His character and his name, as compared with that of the mighty country and the mighty people, in the midst of which we thus for an instant find him, exemplify, in the simplest yet strongest colors, the grand truth that " man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." To be in the world, but not of it ; to use it without

abusing it, ù this is the duty which we find it so hard to follow ; but it is the very duty which Abraham first, ^ and our blessed Lord afterwards, have set before us. It is what the hermits and monks, who buried themselves in the caves and tombs of this country, failed to see on the one side ; it is what mere men of the world fail to see on the other side. But it is what we may and ought to follow, if, with God's blessing, we strive to walk in the steps of our first father Abraham, of oiu" Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books 2. ALL WRITINGS 0http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful