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did not instantly relieve the woman of Syro-Phenicia. Let the Lord's people, then, in their distresses think of this. Let them hope against hope ; and let them never cease to trust in God, and use the means that they may judge most prudent to avert any threatened evil, or obtain
wished-for good. The dark clouds that thicken over their heads may burst in blessings. Providence may bring them to the brink of ruin, and keep them trembling over the precipice; but he can prevent them from falling over, and can draw them back when he pleases.
On the return of the messengers Jacob was greatly alarmed; but he did not despair. He used every precaution of prudence, while he looked to the Lord for deliverance. It is plain that he expected deliverance only from the interposition of Providence ; and it is equally plain that he expected this interposition in the use of means. Indeed, though Jacob took the most effectual means to soften Esau, yet all these means would have been utterly ineffectual without the interposition of Providence. Jacob, therefore, while he was planning and employing these means, still says,
“ Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother.” Means succeed by Providence, not without it. After all the preparations of Jacob, Esau might have remained obstinate and relentless.
Human wisdom will say, “ If God delivers, then leave it to him. Why use means ?" he will save, throw yourself into the river.” said Satan : “ Cast thyself down, for it is writteu."
« If God says
But Christ replies, “ It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” The means are appointed by God as well as the end. God commanded Jacob to return, and promised to be with him. But in returning Jacob is in great danger, both from Laban and from Esau ; and he uses the means of defence that God put in his power. In the use of these means God delivered him out of the hand of his enemies. Jacob, in faith, reminds God of his command and promise : “Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee." But while he looks to God for deliverance, he plans and executes a most consummate scheme of wisdom. He divides his flocks into two bands, that if the one should be taken the other might have a chance of escape. Then he selected a present for his brother from his flocks and herds, and divided them into several bands, that the effect on his brother's mind might be the greater; with orders to his servants how to express themselves on the occasion. All these things were well calculated to effect his appease the wrath of Esau. But when Jacob had planned and put in train all that his prudence could contrive to appease bis incensed brother, he trusts not to this preparation. His confidence was in the God of his fathers, Abraham and Isaac. He spent the night in prayer, and his God gave efficiency to the means which his servant had employed.
How interesting is the meeting of the brothers ! Jacob's only hope of safety is in God, for as yet he
purpose, and sees no instance nor symptom of reconciliation in his brother. He approaches him whom he had so greatly offended. “He bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother." The God who has the hearts of all men in his hands was not forgetful of his servant. Esau is overcome. Not only does he not injure, but natural affection bursts in tears from his eyes. “ And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept." How glorious does the Providence of God appear in this interesting scene!
CRUELTY OF THE SONS OF JACOB TO THE
When we do not attend to the design of God with respect to the family of Jacob, we are inclined not only to blame the guilty conduct of two of the sons of Jacob, with respect to the Shechemites, but to regret the result of that nefarious doing. To human wisdom a fair prospect was opened of extending the knowledge and worship of God. Why, then, did the hand of Providence interpose and entirely break off this happy alliance? To those acquainted with the typical character of Israel, a moment's consideration will show that it was neces. sary to prevent the union of the accursed nations of Canaan with the family of Jacob. The nations of Canaan are in time to be expelled, and no union must be formed that will prevent this. As the kingdom of Christ is distinguished from the kingdom of Satan, so the nation of Israel, the type of Christ's kingdom, must be distinct from the nations of Canaan, the types of God's enemies in every age.
Besides, a religious accession of the Shechemites to the house of Jacob, from the political motives on which they were about to act, was more likely to draw the worshippers of God into idolatry, than to draw idolaters into the service of God. The union proposed would most likely have ended in the rapid apostacy of the children of Israel. The union, then, must be prevented, and the guilty conduct of the sons of Jacob was overruled by God to prevent the union. The thing was of God, though all the guilt of it was with man. A sovereign Providence knew how to execute his purposes by the hands of wicked men.
Divine Providence could have prevented this union in many ways. He had, no doubt, a sufficient reason for that way which he actually did employ. It affords a striking emblem of the wisdom of the world in adopting a profession of Christianity from worldly motives, and of the folly of such wisdom. However wise the men of this world may think themselves in their conduct with respect to the religion of Christ, from political motives, in the end, certain, and dreadful, and sudden will be their destruction. How many thousands, called Christians, are influenced in religion by no higher motives than those employed by Hamor and
Shechem to persuade their subjects to embrace the religion of the house of Jacob? The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.
JACOB'S ESCAPE FROM THE VENGEANCE OF THE
CANAANITES, ON THE MURDER OF THE SHECHEMITES BY HIS SONS. -Gen. xxxv. 5.
But were the sons of Jacob blind through revenge ? If their thirst of blood had been ever so great, might we not expect that they would still have respect to their own safety ? If they should succeed, by their abominable hypocrisy, in cutting off the people of Shechem, could they expect to escape the vengeance of the neighbouring nations ? Shall a single family undertake a quarrel against a multitude of nations, among whom they reside as strangers ? Had they reflected, what could they expect but destruction to themselves and to the whole house of their father? It is evident that they could not have trusted for deliverance to the God of Israel, for they who believe and trust in him also obey him. Could they thus expect safety in this enormous violation of the law of God? It is evident they thought of nothing but of gratifying their revenge. They were blinded by the fury of their wrath.
But, notwithstanding this, God did not forget his servant Jacob. Divine Providence casts a shield over him and his guilty sons. But what was the