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JACOB'S RESIDENCE WITH LABAN.
GENESIS XXXI. 41.
Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy tro daughters, and six years for thy cattle, and thou hast changed my wages ten times.
In the last sermon we saw Jacob setting out from his father's house towards Haran, the country where the other descendants of Terah, the father of Abraham still dwelt: and here we find him preparing to return again to the land of Canaan. There we saw him going alone and poor; bere we find him returning with a large family, numerous servants and followers, and exceeding many flocks and herds. God had promised in the vision at Bethel to be with him; he
had fulfilled his promise even as to his temporal prosperity, and his blessing had made him rich. In this sermon it is my intention to bring before your notice some of the principal circumstances which occurred during the residence of Jacob with Laban, his mother's brother, in the course of the twenty years of which he speaks in the text.
1. The first is, his service for fourteen years for his two wives.
As soon as Jacob arrived in Haran, he met, by the providence of God, with Rachel, the daughter of his uncle Laban, and was in consequence very kindly received into his house. When he had been there a month, Laban, thinking it unreasonable that he should serve him for nothing, proposed that he should receive wages during his stay with him; and Jacob having conceived an affection for Rachel, offered to serve him seven years, if he might then have her to wife, which offer Laban readily accepted. Jacob's part of the contract was faithfully fulfilled; Laban's circumstances prospered greatly under his care and management; the
served in the same manner, so that with what measure he had meted to others, it was now measured out to him again. Well would it be for ourselves if every disappointment, every act of injustice or unkindness that we meet with, should bring our own faults to remembrance, and make us say with the suffering Job, "Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins." Here Jacob received a part of his punishment he found himself bound to one whom he had never loved, and towards whom he could not but feel still greater repugnance, as having been herself a party in the cheat which had been put upon him.
The point was settled by the following expedient. It was proposed by Laban that at the end of the week of the marriage feast, Jacob should receive Rachel also as his wife for the service of other seven years, to which Jacob acceded. This leads me to make some observations on a practice which we find was so common among the patriarchs, namely, the practice of polygamy, or the marrying more wives than one.
The marriage of one man with one woman was the original appointment of God at the creation. This appears in the formation of only one of each sex, as is afterwards alluded to by the prophet Malachi, (ii. 15.) "Did he not make one? Yet had he the residue of the Spirit." And therefore could have made more, had he seen it fit. The prophet's argument goes wholly on the supposition that it was the original appointment of God that the man should have but one wife. The terms also in which their first union is spoken of, especially as they are commented on by our Lord himself, prove the same thing, "Have ye not read, that he who made them at the beginning made them male and female; and said, for this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave unto his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh." Yet as no positive law was given, men forgot or overlooked the original appointment. That appointment has been however definitively established by the Christian law, "let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." And herein, as in
seven years were served, and “ they seemed to him but a few days for the love he had to her."
God makes use of the circumstance of this servitude of Jacob to keep up a spirit of humility, as well as a memory of their ancestry, among the children of Israel. When a law was afterwards appointed that they should offer a freewill-offering of all their first-ripe fruits unto the Lord, they were commanded thus to begin their acknowledgments of his goodness in giving them the land and its rich produce, "A Syrian ready to perish was my father," alluding to Jacob's poverty and distress when he first came, at this time, into Syria. And when the prophet Hosea reproves the people in his day for their luxury and pride and idolatrous sacrifices, he reminds them that " Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep." It would tend to abate the pride and haughty spirit of many who are now wealthy and great, and proud of their rank and riches, if they would look back upon the humble and perhaps servile