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altar; as you will see Chap. xxxiii, 19, 20. But he forgot his vow with respect to the erection of a pillar, which he had promised in the day of his distress. What is this, but a picture of human nature? Let any man look back to his past life, and remember the day of his distress—how he then consecrated himself, and resolved on the reformation of himself and his family. Let him recollect what prospects, under these softening impressions, he pictured out to himself, as to his future conduct. But that day is gone! He has mingled with the people of the world! Time has worn out his resolutions. It is apt to efface such impressions.
. Jacob had endured a sore affliction. In the xxxivth chapter you will read an account of this trial. But still it seems to produce no remembrance of his vow. What is to be done? He restoreth my soul. God calls expressly to Jacob—" Jacob!-You have forgot your vow! Arise, go to Bethel! Remember what you said in the day-and what you felt in the day, when you fled from Esau !” My dear hearers, if God loves us he will remind, as well as restore us; and, in order to restore, he will reprove us: he will chasten us, if we are not bastards but sons. member," says he, “ when thou fleddest from the face of thy brother Esau. You have forgotten it: but," as if he had said, “ I have not forgotten it! I have not forgotten the deliverance which I afforded thee when thou didst wrestle for the blessing."
The remembrance of our past troubles, and of the impressions which they produced, should recall to our minds what we then intended to do, and what we have forgotten to do. Let us, my dear hearers, turn over the book of our lives: we are fond of reading many books: but no book will do us so much good, next to the Bible, as reading the history of the dispensations of providence in our own particular cases. Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God hath led thee, these forty years, in the wilderness: to
humble thee and to prove thee, and to know what was in thy heart. Let us particularly dwell on the pages of distress, and on the special deliverances afforded us : these are to be gratefully remembered. Let us recollect the voice which spake to us in these things, and what the Lord said to Jacob on this occasion : " Jacob! you have forgotten your vow: but I have not forgotten it: arise, and go to Bethel !"
II. We have, in these words, A LESSON WITH RESPECT TO OUR DUTY IN OUR FAMILIES.
Go to Bethel : but not merely go to Bethel, nor merely build an altar there. Jacob knew that this would avail nothing with a heart-searching God : and therefore he said to his house, “ Put away the strange Gods that are among you.
Let us arise; and, in this way, go to Bethel.»
And they gave to Jacob all the strange gods that were in their hand, and all the earrings that were in their ears. And Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.
You see, Brethren, that a man with a family is an accountable man. God spake to Jacob, and Jacob spake to his household. And it is said of Abraham, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do? seeing that I know Abraham, that he will command his household after. I know that he will go forth, and set them an example: that he will be their teacher; and teach them to follow him, in their outward demeanour at least, if he cannot convey grace to enable them to follow him in the heart,
Put away the strange Gods that are among you ! What did strange Gods do in the house of Jacob? An extraordinary thing, that there should be strange Gods in the house of a man that taught his children the knowledge of the true God, and their obligations to him! What! Idols in the house of a godly man, and a sincere witness for God! a man who had had personal intercourse with God! Put away the strange Gods that are among you! What! Did he know that he had idols in the house! So it appears. And what are we to remark from this, but that, in the best families, as some commentator observes, there are strange things, if not strange Gods! Idols will enter, in spite of Jacob; because they are the creatures of the heart, and will dwell in the house in spite of his example and prohibition.
Yet, if we observe them in the houses of others, let us see and mark them with candour, forbearance, and tenderness; for many there are, who will gaze on the faults and idols which they see in the houses of others, who seem quite blind to greater in their own. We cannot be too tender and candid in the defects which we observe out of our houses : perhaps they prove a bitter and severe cross to the owner of that house! He knows there are such things, and he is labouring to prohibit and remove them. His case calls not for our censure; but for our pity, our assistance, and our prayers. There may be idols in a house, and yet the fear of the true God in that house!
But, however candid we ought to be in respect to the idols of others, let us imitate Jacob, in being determined reformers of our own houses. the strange Gods that are among you.
Yet, whatever we may lament as to the state of our houses, our comfort, if we are real servants of the living God, should be that of David, when he said, “ Although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; and this is all my salvation, and all my desire. I mourn to see these idols in my family; but, as to myself, I serve the living God." This should be our comfort, as well as David's. But our conduct should be that of Jacob: we may lawfully take David's comfort, if we adopt Jacob's conduct. Therefore we find Jacob calling on his family to follow him with
cleanness and purity; telling them what God had done for him in the day of his distress : “I am his witness, that he is the God that heareth and answereth prayer." Let us endeavour, as family-men, to set before our households the reasonableness of the thing, as well as the thing itself. “He appeared to me; he is my friend; I bid you put away idols; and I bid you do it, because they incense my friend." If any one should
" What reference has this to us? What idols have we in our houses ?" ] ask, Have you nothing in your houses, that takes the place of God in your heart? Did you never read of a covetous man being called an idolater? What is the pleasure-taker, who will sacrifice every thing to folly and appetite? What is the poor gay worldling, who will banish every religious consideration that he may follow his entertainments? What is the man who makes a god of the creature, and slights the truth of God? Could such an one say to a poor stupid idolater, "I disclaim your conduct as abominable," when his own is far more so, considered in reference to the light under which he lives?
Family reformation is very difficult; as every family-man feels: but let us set forward with the resolution of Jacob, remembering that a sincere desire to reform our houses is a considerable step toward the accomplishment of this reformation, because we work with God: God is on our side. It is never too late to attempt it: yet it can never be attempted too
Some people suppose that they cannot succeed without a special call. My dear hearers, much more can be done than men generally suppose, when it is sincerely and resolutely attempted. Utterly remove those evils, which have a tendency to turn a pious man's house into a seat of idolatry. Bad books poison a house : so do bad company, whose very breath :
, is contagious: your family is injured by dangerous
amusements, wrong notions, customary sentiments that will not endure the trial of the Scriptures. To the law and to the testimony: if they will not bear that light, it is because they are deeds of darkness. It matters not what you think, or what those persons may think on whose opinion you lean. What does God say? The judge is to try us: let us hear his opinion, before the trial comes on. “Put away the strange Gods that are among you,” says Jacob.
. “ They will not stand. They will eat out my increase. I cannot build an altar with simplicity, while they remain."
Brethren, as you love your children, and would perform your duty to your children and servants and dependants, teach them the principles and doctrines of Christ. Quote his own words to confirm those truths : and if they reject or neglect them, it were better for them that they had never been born: more tolerable will it be for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for them. Depend upon God's blessing your endeavours, in thus setting up his altar; and, while you feel the influence of these truths yourselves, call upon them to walk after you in obeying them. “Let us arise," says Jacob: “let us go together:" no man knows, even when your heads are laid in the dust, the blessing which God may give to your endeavours : and the seed which you have sown in weakness, perhaps weeping, shall be raised in power; and the harvest be great in the day of judgment.
If you say, “ It is a difficult duty!"- I would ask, Do
you think it was an easy one to Jacob? Do you think there were no remonstrances ?—that the idols were parted with readily ?—that the ear-rings were buried under the oak without regret, by the other part of the family? But let us consider, whether we had not better suffer the present remonstrances and objections of our families, than be the means of their