Early the next morning, Jacob took the stone that he had placed under his head, and he set it up as a pillar. He poured oil on top of it,
I. THE TRUE LIFE is that which starts from the place of fellowship with God and commits the future to him. We can always find a pillar of blessed memorial and consecration. The Bethel.
1. Providential care.
2. Religious privilege.
3. Special communications of the Spirit.
God with us as a fact. Our pilgrimage a Bethel all through.
II. THE TRUE TESTIMONY that which erects a stone of witness, a Bethel, where others can find God.
1. Personal. The pillow of rest the pillar of praise.
2. Practical. The testimony which speaks of the journey and the traveler.
III. THE TRUE COVENANT.
1. Coming out of fellowship.
2. Pledging the future at the house of God, and in sight of Divine revelation.
3. Blessed exchange of gifts, confirmation of love. Jehovah keeping and guiding and feeding; his servant serving him and giving him a tenth of all he received. The patriarch's vow was the result of a distinct advance in his religious life. The hope of blessing became the covenant of engagement, service, worship, sacrifice. The highest form of religious life is that which rests on a solemn vow of grateful dedication at Bethel. The end before us is "our Father's house in peace." - R.
I. BETHEL TELLS OF AN EXILE AWAY FROM HIS FATHER'S HOUSE.
And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel.I. First of all, we are told that Jacob erected a material monument, and planted it as a fixed landmark on the spot. Concerning which, remark these three things: he did it immediately, he did it symbolically, he did it religiously. There is instruction in each.
1. "He rose up early in the morning." He took the moment when the memory of his bright vision was the clearest, and the emotion it aroused was at its height. He caught the fitful experience when it had most force, as if he knew it might grow less before long. When Divine grace invites, and kindles, and stands ready to help, no time must be lost.
2. Remark, again, Jacob "took the stone that he had put for his pillow, and set it up for a pillar." That is to say, he made his affliction the monument of His mercy. Plenty of stones besides that there were lying about in that bleak plain. But he chose that one, so as to identify the history, when he saw the spot. Herein was the very spirit of splendid symbolism. Nothing could be finer. No emblem could be more pathetically accurate, as a picture of the utter desolation which he, as a homeless fugitive, had felt the evening before, than the fragment of rock he had been obliged to lay his head upon to sleep. Now to make that, the reminder of his friendlessness, the monument also of his disclosure of Divine adoption, was match. less in ingenuity. When he should see that pillar in the future, he would say, "Behold the outcast, and the prince! behold man's necessity, and God's opportunity I behold earthly weakness, and heavenly help I see where I was, and where I am!"
3. But observe, once more, Jacob, having set up his pillar, "poured oil upon the top of it." You are quite familiar with Old Testament uses of oil in religious service. These were established by direct order. The command given early to Moses was, "Thou shalt take the anointing off, and anoint the tabernacle, and all that is therein, and shalt hallow it, and all the vessels thereof, and it shall be holy." This direction was extended so as to cover the altar and the laver, and even the priests, Aaron and his sons. The spirit of inspiration laid hold of what was an earlier custom, and so consecrated it. If Jacob had said, concerning this great incident of his life, It is the turning-point in my history, and I will not forget it, he would have done no unimportant thing by itself. But by anointing the pillar he made it a definitely religious memorial. It recognized not only his extraordinary blessing, but recorded for ever the fact that God had bestowed it upon him. It was an act of devotion. There was worship in it. There was self-consecration in it.
II. The lessons thus far learned, however, will become clearer and more impressive when we pass on to consider the second form of perpetuation this patriarch adopted. He proceeded to invoke the help of his fellow-men. "He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was called Luz at the first." Conclusion:
1. Count up your mercies for rehearsal and record.
2. Confess Christ openly before men.
3. Set up memorials of blessing.
4. Expect to understand your own biography by and by. When Jacob next visited Bethel, he could read the meaning of the Divine promise.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
II. BETHEL TELLS OF A GLORIOUS VISION.
III. BETHEL TELLS OF A HOLY VOW.
IV. BETHEL TELLS OF A SACRED MEMORIAL.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
The Preacher's Monthly.I. THE TIME, PLACE, AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF A MAN'S DISCOVERY OF GOD IN HIS LIFE ARE THE MOST MEMORABLE IN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE.
II. WITH SUCH A DISCOVERY, THERE ALWAYS RISES AN IMPULSE TO SET UP SOME LANDMARK FOR MEMORY.
III. THE BEST MEMORIALS ARE THOSE WHICH RISE UP IN A MAN'S HABITS AND CHARACTER.
(The Preacher's Monthly.)
1. You will observe, in the first instance, that here was clearly a commemoration of providential favour.
2. Here was also the commemoration of spiritual blessings.
II. We now require your attention to observe, secondly, that in the action of the patriarch there was DEDICATION. It will be observed "he took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it " — the oil being the sign, not merely that he dedicated the pillar for the purpose of commemoration, but that he also dedicated himself to the service and glory of that God from whom his marries had been received. This act of the patriarch, my brethren, very clearly and beautifully sets forth the duty of the children of men in the review and retrospect of mercies which they have received from God — even the duty of dedicating themselves wholly to His praise and to His glory. Let me request you now, under this part of the subject, with greater distinctnesss, to observe in what this dedication consists, and under what circumstances this dedication is especially appropriate.
1. Observe in what this dedication consists. It must be regarded, of course, as founded upon a recognition by men of the right of God, the Author of all their mercies, to the entire possession of whatever they possess, and of whatever they are; and comprehends within it certain resolutions which are intended to constitute a permanent state of heart and life. For, example, it comprehends a resolution that there shall be firm and unbending adherence to the truths which God has revealed; and whatever principles He is found to have announced for your cordial acceptance and belief, will be cordially embraced and adhered to. Again, it involves a resolution that there shall be anxious and diligent cultivation of the holiness which God has commanded; and whatever are the requirements of His law for governing the deportment and the affections of men, so as to conform them to His own image — these will be sincerely and cheerfully obeyed. Again, it comprehends the resolution that there shall be public and solemn union with the people whom He has redeemed; and whatever external ordinances and public professions have been appointed by Divine authority, as the pledge and the sign of that union, will be at once and readily performed; so that it may be seen by those around that the decision pronounced by Ruth has been taken in the highest and most spiritual sense with regard to those who constitute the Church of the living God: "Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodges, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me." And then it involves a resolution that there shall be zealous and persevering activity for the cause which God has established; and whatever objects God has determined upon and announced for the purpose of extending His authority and restoring His glory in this apostate and long-disordered world — these will be studiously and diligently pursued. There will be the rendering of time, there will be the rendering of talent, and the rendering (which is often the hardest of all) of property, for the purpose of carrying on those designs of mercy, which are not to terminate till the whole world shall be brought back to its allegiance to the Almighty. These, my brethren, is man called upon to give, and in the spirit in which the disciples remembered the saying and applied it to the Redeemer: "The zeal of the Lord's house hath eaten me up."
2. There is a second inquiry, which must be regarded as intimately connected with this, namely, under what circumstances this dedication is peculiarly appropriate. The spirit of dedication, as the result of the mercies with which God has been pleased to surround us, must properly be considered as furnishing and constituting what ought to be the habitual condition of man. There is not a pulse that beats, nor is there a throb that palpitates in the hand or in the heart, but what ought to remind every one amongst us that we should write upon ourselves "Corban" — a gift upon the altar of God. There are circumstances which sometimes peculiarly occur in the course of life, when it seems especially appropriate that the dedication should be undertaken, or, if already undertaken, that it should be renovated and renewed. We may, for example, mention seasons when new and extraordinary mercies have been received from God. We may mention, again, the seasons when new and extraordinary manifestations have occurred in the course of human existence. Here, for example, are the seasons when we constitute and enter into new domestic or social connections; the seasons when we commemorate the days of our birth, or the seasons when we mark the lapse of time by passing from one closing year to the commencement of another.
III. In the action of the patriarch there was ANTICIPATION. The whole of the passage which is before us distinctly announces that, in connection with the retrospect of the past, there was, in the memorial of the patriarch, the anticipation of the future. Nor can we look upon the monumental pillar which he had erected, without finding that it was not merely a commemoration, but a prophecy; and that from the past he hurried his thoughts onward and still onward into the dark and almost impalpable future, showing him the destinies of his temporal prosperity in distant ages, especially exhibiting to him the day of Him whom Abraham rejoiced to see and was glad; and raising his thoughts above the scenes of this sublunary state to the enjoyment of that better country, that is, a heavenly, into which he knew his spiritual seed would be exalted, through the boundless mercy of God. And, my brethren, those of us who have performed the act of dedication to our God, and are desirous of preserving the spirit of dedication as long as life shall last, are called on to connect our commemoration and our dedication with a spirit of anticipation, from which we shall find our highest and purest emotions to be derived. Observe that our expectation must involve future good in time. Having rendered yourselves to the service of that Jehovah who has conjured us by His past mercies, we have nothing before us, my brethren, in the prospect of the future, but calmness and peace. It is so in Providence. Affliction, poverty, bereavement, disease, "the rich man's scorn, the proud man's contumely," the worst storms and buffetings of "outrageous fortune" — these, separately or accumulated, form no drawback or hindrance to the enjoyment of the blessings we have announced. No, my brethren, these very things themselves, in consequence of our covenant connection with our God, are transformed, possess a new aspect; not rising before us like demons and fiends of terror, but like ministering angels, only to bring us nearer and nearer to our God, and to bring us nearer and nearer to His reward. Nor is there one who, in reviewing past mercies, which his God has rendered him, and who has been able to dedicate himself to the service of that God in return, who cannot rest in the prospect of the future, on that one stupendous, glorious announcement of the apostle, "All things shall work together for good to them that love God." And then, in the sphere of grace, what can we anticipate with regard to the future in the present life, but those enjoyments which "make rich," and can "add no sorrow"? We anticipate that we shall be kept; that we shall receive larger communications of knowledge, of holiness, of love, and of zeal; that we shall receive additional and nearer visions of Jehovah in spiritual intercourse and fellowship with Him; and that we shall be made more and more like unto Him who was given "that He might be the First-born among many brethren"; becoming etherealized in our own nature, and made thus to partake of the beginning of heaven below. Nor can we anticipate but that when the end of our pilgrimage is come, we shall go and stand by the side of "the rolling stream of Jordan; not terrified nor shrinking back, as we behold it bear upon its flood the wrecks of departed beauty and departed power; for we shall find the ark of the covenant there, and the glory of the Shekinah there; and no sooner shall the foot touch the stream than the waters, as by magic power, shall cleave asunder, and will permit us to pass dry-shod through the deep, exclaiming, in triumphant language, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." And so, to use the language of Bunyan, we may anticipate that "all the trumpets shall sound for us from the other side." And my brethren, the future good which we may anticipate in time, must be also connected with the fact that we must anticipate future good throughout immortality. My brethren, there is not a blessing in Providence or in grace received by one who, as the result of an enlightened retrospective, has dedicated himself to the service of God, but what must be considered as a pledge and foretaste, a decisive promise of higher and more holy and extactic blessings which are reserved beyond the grave. And now, my brethren, in closing this address, let me present two calls to those who, perhaps, constitute a large proportion of this assembly. The first call is one to immediate repentance. In connection with our call to immediate repentance, we must also present a call to immediate dedication and devotedness to God, by which alone repentance can be testified and can be confirmed.
(J. Parsons, M. A.)
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