« PreviousContinue »
ESAU DESPISES THE BIRTHRIGHT.
GENESIS XXv. 34.
Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.
IN the last Sermon we endeavoured to shew the pious regard which Abraham had to the promises which God had given to him, and his anxious solicitude that his family might remain with full expectation of their fulfilment in the country which had been so promised to him and his seed; and we saw the measures which he took, under these views and feelings, for the marriage of his son. We have now an account of the children of that marriage; and while we shall see in them, as in the case of Ishmael and Isaac, another instance
of God's own appointment of the line in which these promises should descend, we may also, I hope, discover much that may be useful for our own private and individual instruction.
I. Before I enter upon the particular incident recorded in the text it will be necessary, in the first place, to give some previous account of the birth of Esau and Jacob. Isaac and Rebekah had been married twenty years before they had any child, so long a time were they required to wait for any appearance of the fulfilment of the promise that their posterity should be numerous as the stars of heaven. At length in answer to the prayer of Isaac Rebekah conceived, and the future condition of the children and their descendants was made the subject of prophecy before they were born. children struggled within her; if it be so, why am I thus? to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said, two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people, and the elder shall serve the
We read, "the
and she said, And she went
younger." The progress of the Scripture history shews us how accurately this prophecy was accomplished. The Israelites and Edomites, who were respectively the nations descended from Jacob and Esau, were continually struggling for superiority over each other, but the Israelites at length prevailed, and the Edomites were brought into absolute subjection to them; and the history of every nation that has been in any way the subject of prophetic notice, if that history were perfectly known, would be found to confirm the truth of divine revelation, even to the most minute particulars.
But it has often been observed that this circumstance forms a striking representation of the struggle which has always been in the world between religion and irreligion. Piety and holiness have ever had to strive against vice and iniquity; and the apparent circumstances of the contest have often been such as to fill the minds of the pious with astonishment and doubting enquiry. They have been ready to say, if religion be indeed true, and if God be the disposer of all things and
judge in the earth, "why is it thus ?" why does his cause make so little progress? why do idolatries, superstitions, and wickedness seem, like a flood, to carry all before them? why are the righteous so oppressed, the wicked so triumphant? The answer is, that it has pleased God to appoint such a state of things at present, apparently to exercise the faith and trust of those who believe his word, and direct their views and hopes more simply to a future world, wherein righteousness shall wholly prevail, and sin and evil be for ever destroyed.
It has also been often observed that this circumstance forms a resemblance of the conflict in the christian's mind between the flesh and the spirit, which is spoken of somewhat at large by St. Paul in the seventh chapter of Romans, and more briefly, but very emphatically in Galatians, v. 17. "The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." How true is that text, and how painful that struggle, every
believer knows by his own experience; and it often makes him to stand in amazement
and doubt of himself.
says, "why am I thus ?"
"If it be so," he
If I be a child of God, why am I thus harassed, perplexed, and tempted? Can I possibly partake of his Spirit, and yet find so much of sin still dwelling in me? If I be restored to his favour, why this darkness, these doubts, distresses, and fears? Surely it could not be thus, if I were truly in a state of grace, and accepted through Christ?' The christian must be informed that such is his present warfare; and that so long as he continues a member of the church militant on earth, he will have to maintain a conflict. Let him only take care to war a good warfare, to fight a good fight, and in the present life he will find increasing strength and holiness; he will go on conquering, and to conquer; and at last he will be made, in the powerful language of the Apostle, "more than conqueror through him that loveth him."
But you will remember, no doubt, that the Spirit of God himself makes use of this