Genesis 32:29
Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel. Twenty years before Jacob learned at Bethel to know God as a living and present Protector. This a great step in spiritual life; belief of God in heaven, becoming consciousness of God "in this place," guiding all events. It is the first step towards walking with God. But his training not yet complete. Truth is usually grasped by degrees. Unbelief, cast out, returns in new forms and under new pretences. A common mistake at beginning of Christian life is to think that the battle is at an end when decision made. The soul may have passed from death to life; but much still to be done, much to be learned. Many a young Christian little knows the weakness of his faith. During these years Jacob shows real faith, but not perfect reliance (Genesis 30:37; Genesis 31:20). Returning home greatly enriched, he heard of Esau at hand. He feared his anger. No help in man; God's promise his only refuge. Could he trust to it? His wrestling. We cannot picture its outward form; but its essence a spiritual struggle. His endurance tried by bodily infirmity (cf. Job 2:5) and by the apparent unwillingness of the Being with whom he strove (cf. Matthew 15:26). His answer showed determination (cf. 2 Kings 4:30). This prevailed; weak as he was, he received the blessing (cf. Hebrews 11:34). And the new name was the sign of his victory (cf. Matthew 21:22; 1 John 5:4).

I. THE STRUGGLE. Why thus protracted? It was not merely a prolonged prayer, like Luke 6:12. There was some hindrance to be overcome (cf. Matthew 11:12); not by muscular force, but by earnest supplication. Where Scripture is silent we must speak cautiously. But probable explanation is the state of Jacob's own mind. Hitherto faith had been mixed with faithlessness; belief in the promise with hesitation to commit the means to God. Against this divided mind (James 1:8) the Lord contended. No peace while this remained (cf. Isaiah 26:3). And the lesson of that night was to trust God's promise entirely (cf. Psalm 37:3). When this was learned the wrestling of the Spirit against the double mind was at an end. Such a struggle may be going on in the hearts of some here. A craving for peace, yet a restless disquiet. The gospel believed, yet failing to bring comfort. Prayer for peace apparently unanswered, so that there seemed to be some power contending against us. Why is this? Most probably from failing to commit all to God. Perhaps requiring some sign (John 20:25), some particular state of feeling, or change of disposition; perhaps looking for faith within as the ground of trust; perhaps choosing the particular blessing - self-will as to the morsel of the bread of life to satisfy us, instead of taking every word of God. There is the evil. It is against self thou must strive. Behold thy loving Savior; will he fail thee in the hour of need? Tell all to him; commit thyself into his hands; not once or twice, but habitually.

II. THE NEW NAME (Cf. Revelation 3:12). No more Jacob, the crafty, but Israel, God's prince (cf. Revelation 1:6). The token of victory over distrust, self-will, self-confidence. In knowledge of poverty is wealth (Matthew 5:3); in knowledge of weakness, strength (2 Corinthians 12:10). That name is offered to all. The means, persevering prayer; but prayer not to force our will upon God, but that trust may be so entire that our wills may in all things embrace his. - M.







Tell me, I pray Thee, Thy name.
This is the question of all questions. For the name of God denotes His nature and His essence, the sum of all His properties and attributes.

I. It is a question worth the asking. There is a despair of religious knowledge in the world, as though in God's rich universe, theology, which is the science of God Himself, were the one field in which no harvest could be reaped, no service of sacred knowledge gained.

II. The knowledge of God is the one thing needful. He who seeks to do the work of a Paley in presenting Christian evidences in a sense conformable to the intellectual state of thoughtful men, as the shadows are folding themselves about this wearied century — above all, he who cultivates and disciplines his spirituality until it has become the central fact of his being — it is he who offers in a right and reverent spirit the prayer of Jacob at Penuel, "Tell me, I pray Thee, Thy name."

III. It is necessary not only to ask the great question of the Divine nature, but to ask it in a right spirit. Jacob acted as though there were no other way of asking the question aright than by prayer; he must also ask it at the cost of personal suffering.

IV. What is the answer when it comes? Jacob's question was asked, but was not answered; or, rather, it was answered not directly and in so many words, but effectually: "He blessed him there." It is not knowledge that God gives to striving souls, but blessing. He stills your doubtings; He helps you to trust Him. You go forth no longer as Jacob, the supplanter, mean, earthly, temporal, but in the power of a Divine enthusiasm, as an Israel, a prince with God.

(J. E. C. Welldon, M. A.)

The Lord had asked Jacob how he was called, not as if He did not know it, but in order to give him a name more in accordance with his present state of grace. Jacob, meanwhile, feels emboldened to ask his antagonist His name. It may be that he was desirous of knowing how the Lord ought properly to be called. He was usually called "Elohim" — the Most High. God Himself had said to Abraham, "I am the El Shaddai, the Almighty or All-sufficient God." He was also called simply El, the Strong One. But these appellations no longer satisfied the patriarch after his recent experience. They all expressed something of the Divine glory, but none of them the whole of it. There was probably an ardour in his soul, which would gladly have poured itself out in hymns of praise, but for which he could not find words. But Jacob doubtless was not anxious merely about the name when he said, "Tell me, I pray Thee, Thy name." I think he meant to say by it, "Lord, how shall I call Thee? I know not what to think, much less to say. Such a condescension as that which Thou hast shown to me, who am but dust, is more than my heart could have remotely anticipated. I know and confess that Thou, O Lord! art wonderful and gracious. It was Thou who madest me competent to all this, and yet commendest me, as if I, a poor timid creature, had done it of myself. Thou, who art the Holy One, sufferest Thyself to be embraced by my unholy arms; Thou, who art Almighty, to be overcome by one so weak as I! This is too much, this is too wonderful and too lofty; I cannot comprehend it. Tell me, what is Thy name? What shall I say of Thee? for I know not. Who, indeed, can know how he ought to bless, praise, exalt, and extol Thee as he ought, when he learns and is conscious of what Thou doest to Thy children? "If it had been said to Jacob, thus filled with God," This that the Lord hath now done unto thee is something very trifling compared with that which He is willing to do for thee. He has, in this instance, assumed the human form only for a short time; but in the fulness of time He will really be born of a woman, and not spend merely a few hours, but three-and-thirty years, upon earth; suffer in body and soul the most extreme anguish; and even die for Israel that they may live. And the people will not meet Him, as thou hast done, with prayers and tears, but with great wrath and bitter fury will they do Him all conceivable injury; whilst He, from love, will bear it as a lamb." If the patriarch could then have been told these things — which were not fitted, however, for that period — "Oh," he would have exclaimed, by God's grace, "I can believe it! I can believe it! What can be too much for Him to perform?" Had he been told that He would be called Love, he would have exclaimed, "That is His true name!"' And who can say what an insight Jacob may have obtained into the mystery of salvation during this event, and of which he uttered many things in his parting blessing? At least, Jesus says of Abraham, "He saw my day, and was glad." But "tell me, I pray Thee, Thy name. Reveal Thyself more intimately to my soul." Such a desire is very laudable. Christ declares that "this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent." Paul found so much comprised in the knowledge of Jesus Christ that he regarded everything else in comparison with it as loss and dung. Moses also once experienced such a strong desire that he prayed, saying, "If I have now found grace in Thy sight, I beseech Thee show me Thy glory." And the Lord really granted him his request, as far as was possible. Who would not tong for such an acquaintance, and pray, "Make Thyself known to me; cause Thy face to shine upon me; make me acquainted with Thee!" especially since we have the promise, "Thou shalt know the Lord"? Certainly this is a pearl worthy of the whole of our poor property; a treasure for the sake of which we may well sell everything in order to obtain it. But it is only in the light of God that we see light. Blessed are the eyes which see what ye see. "Flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven." The Lord does all things well in due time, in general, as well as in particular — He only knows also the proper manner; and hence we must be content to be told, "my hour is not yet come." Jacob's question was also fully answered; eternity, however, is destined for its further elucidation. Israel thought he might then become acquainted with the whole mystery of redemption; but a couple of centuries must elapse ere it was fully made known. Israel was obliged to learn to wait — to see the promises afar off, and to be satisfied with it. He was satisfied, and held his peace.

(D. C. Krumreacher.)

In this experience there seem to be three things — a request, a denial, and a compensation.

I. THE REQUEST here, as Jacob urges it, is this: "Tell me, I pray Thee, Thy name."

1. The manner is bold and abrupt. It appears strange, sometimes, as we note the real prayers on record in the Bible, to find them so short, so sharp, so resolute in utterance. "Master, carest Thou not that we perish!" — "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom!" ..... Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me!" — "Lord, save me, I perish!" It is an old Reformer's saying: "Prayer is the Christian's gun-shot. As then the bullet out of a gun, so prayers out of the mouth, can go no further than they are carried. If they be put out faintly, they cannot fly far. If they be hollow-hearted, then they will not pierce much. Only the fervent, active devotion hits the mark, and pierceth the walls of heaven, though, like those of Gaza, made of brass and iron."

2. But what does this request of Jacob's mean? Indeed, it seems quite fair to retort the question of the angel. Jacob asked to know the name of the Being he had been wrestling with. Most surely, we are not left to imagine he still remained in ignorance who his antagonist was. You have already learned, from the change in Jacob's own name, that names in those days meant character — indicated personality. And when this wearied man girds up his remaining force for a new petition, he is simply pressing the old answerless question of the human soul: Who is God — and What is God?

3. The order of experience in this heart-history is of special value, and must be noted also. It follows success and not failure. It best becomes, therefore, the symbol of prayer founded on encouragement. It suggests to us a rewarded soul standing on the vantage-ground of a previous welcome, and stretching out its hand for a yet more advanced disclosure of love.

II. THE DENIAL. It seems to be the settled determination of the Divine will to hold in a holy and unbroken reserve the heights and depths of His character and being. Enough only is revealed for us to be sure He is our friend and our well-wisher. It cannot be called an unwholesome question, this in our text, even though it never meets an earthly answer. It stimulates the soul. Even a reverent curiosity about God is better than a dead apathy.

III. THE COMPENSATION. "And He blessed him there." There is something surpassingly beautiful in this quiet statement. The mystery remains unrelieved, but the affection pays for it. Just as a loving mother grants every wish of her little one, until a serious mistake is pressed as a petition. Then she declines with a smile, and compensates with a kiss, so that the child is glad to be disappointed. And that is exactly the delicate figure of the Scripture: "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you," saith the Lord. But now you press the inquiry — Is there any answer to the old question — does not this same Being, who is to judge us at the last, as He made us in the beginning, elude our every search — oh, that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come even to His seat — has He no word to speak to me? Yes — I answer; there are two disclosures at least in this experience of compensation that give relief. They are always made. They are here, as elsewhere, in the story of Jacob. One of these is a clear revelation of the right of human petition. The other is a new repetition of Divine confidence.

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

I. Jacob in that hour felt THE DARK SECRET AND MYSTERY OF EXISTENCE.

1. The contrast observable between this and a former revelation made to Jacob's soul. Twenty years before he had seen in vision a ladder reared against the sky, and angels ascending and descending on it. Exceedingly remarkable. Immediately after his transgression, when leaving his father's home, a banished man, to be a wanderer for many years, this first meeting took place. Fresh from his sin, God met him in tenderness and forgiveness. After twenty years God met him again; but this second intercourse was of a very different character. It was no longer God the Forgiver, God the Protector, God the covenanting Love, that met Jacob; but God the Awful, the Unnameable, whose breath blasts, at whose touch the flesh of the mortal shrinks and shrivels up.

2. Again I remark, that the end and aim of Jacob's struggle was to know the name of God. "Tell me, I pray Thee, Thy name." In the Hebrew history are discernible three periods distinctly marked, in which names and words bore very different characters. These three, it has been observed by acute philologists, correspond to the periods in which the nation bore the three different appellations of Hebrews, Israelites, Jews. In the first of these periods, names meant truths, and words were the symbols of realities. The characteristics of the names given then were simplicity and sincerity. They were drawn from a few simple sources: either from some characteristic of the individual, as Jacob, the supplanter, or Moses, drawn from the water; or from the idea of family, as Benjamin, the son of my right hand; or from the conception of the tribe or nation, then gradually consolidating itself; or, lastly, from the religious idea of God. But in this case not the highest notion of God — not Jah or Jehovah, but simply the safer and simpler idea of Deity. The second period begins about the time of the departure from Egypt, and it is characterized by unabated simplicity, with the addition of sublimer thought and feeling more intensely religious. The heart of the nation was big with mighty and new religious truth — and the feelings with which the national heart was swelling found vent in the names which were given abundantly. God, under His name Jah, the noblest assemblage of spiritual truths yet conceived, became the adjunct to names of places and persons. Oshea's name is changed into Jehoshua. The third period was at its zenith in the time of Christ — words had lost their meaning, and shared the hollow unreal state of all things. A man's name might be Judas, and still he might be a traitor. Yet in this period, exactly in proportion as the solemnity of the idea was gone, reverence was scrupulously paid to the corpse-like word which remained and had once enclosed it. In that hollow, artificial age, the Jew would wipe his pen before he ventured to write the Name — he would leave out the vowels of the sacred Jehovah, and substitute those of the less sacred Elohim. In that kind of age, too, men bow to the name of Jesus, often just in that proportion in which they have ceased to recognize His true grandeur and majesty of character. In such an age it would be indeed preposterous to spend the strength upon an inquiry such as this — "Tell me Thy name?" Jehovah, Jove, or Lord what matter? But Jacob did not live in this third period, when names meant nothing; nor did he live in the second, when words contained the deepest truth the nation is ever destined to receive. But he lived in the first age, when men are sincere, and truthful, and earnest, and names exhibit character. To tell Jacob the name of God was to reveal to him what God is and who.

3. This desire of Jacob was not the one we should naturally have expected on such an occasion. He is alone — his past fault is coming retributively on a guilty conscience — he dreads the meeting with his brother. His soul is agonized with that, and that we naturally expect will be the subject and the burden of his prayer. No such thing l Not a word about Esau — not a word about personal danger at all. All that is banished completely for the time, and deeper thoughts are grappling with his soul. To get safe through to-morrow? No, no, no! To be blessed by God — to know Him, and what He is — that is the battle of Jacob's soul from sunset till the dawn of day. And this is our struggle — the struggle.

II. THE REVELATION OF THE MYSTERY.

1. It was revealed by awe. Very significantly are we told that the Divine antagonist seemed as it were anxious to depart as the day was about to dawn; and that Jacob held Him more convulsively fast, as if aware that the daylight was likely to rob him of his anticipated blessing; in which there seems concealed a very deep truth. God is approached more nearly in that which is indefinite than in that which is definite and distinct. He is felt in awe, and Wonder and worship, rather than in clear conceptions.

2. Again, this revelation was made in an unsyllabled blessing. Jacob requested two things. He asked for a blessing — and he prayed to know the name of God. God gave him the blessing. "He blessed him there," but refused to tell His name. "Wherefore dost thou ask after My name?" In this, too, seems to lie a most important truth. Names have a power, a strange power, of hiding God. Speech has been bitterly defined as the art of hiding thought. Well, that sarcastic definition has in it a truth. The Eternal Word is the revealer of God's thought; and every true word of man is originally the expression of a thought; but by degrees the word hides the thought. Language is valuable for the things of this life; but for the things of the other world, it is an encumbrance almost as much as an assistance. Lastly, the effect of this revelation was to change Jacob's character. His name was changed from Jacob to Israel, because himself was an altered man. Hitherto there had been something subtle in his character — a certain cunning and craft — a want of breadth, as if he had no firm footing upon reality. The forgiveness of God twenty years before had not altered this. He remained Jacob, the subtle supplanter still. For, indeed, a man whose religion is chiefly the sense of forgiveness, does not thereby rise into integrity or firmness of character — a certain tenderness of character may very easily go along with a great deal of subtlety. Jacob was tender and devout, and grateful for God's pardon, and only half honest still. But this half-insincere man is brought into contact with the awful God, and his subtlety falls from him. He becomes real at once. Every insincere habit of mind shrivels in the face of God. One clear, true glance into the depths of Being, and the whole man is altered. The name changes because the character has changed, No longer Jacob the supplanter, but Israel the Prince of God — the champion of the Lord, who had fought with God and conquered; and who, henceforth, will fight for God and be His true loyal soldier: a larger, more unselfish name — a larger and more unselfish man — honest and true at last. No man becomes honest till he has got face to face with God.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after My name?

This answer of the Being — "Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after My name?" — what does it mean? So far as I can judge, it is the same reply that was given long afterward to the wise and learned Moses — "When I speak to the people, who shall I say hath sent me? What is Thy name? .... I am that I am. This shalt thou say, I AM hath sent me unto you"; that is, as I think, "I am, the nameless One, the One who refuses to be named, whose being transcends all description." The highest revelation of God must consist of two sides — the apprehensible, the inapprehensible. God must be the apprehensible and inapprehensible God. Throughout the Bible He is introduced generally with the definition and distinction of a high man; He talks, acts, feels before us as plainly as any character in the history, and we have the satisfaction of the clearest knowledge. But were this all, it would not have been God, and would have ended in the rankest idolatry. So in this singular tale of Jacob — so far back — for the first time, I think, is there a revelation of the infinite, unspeakable God, manifested so simply in the fact that He refuses to be or cannot be revealed. "Wherefore?" "I am."

(A. G. Mercer, D. D.)

He blessed him there.

God blessed Jacob at Penuel because he asked to be blessed, and his desire for it constituted at once his worthiness and his capacity. He began the blessing by the agony of prayer, and he completed it with the discipline of sorrow.

1. Life being itself a blessing, and to one who believes in God and hopes from Him the greatest of all blessings, God makes it a yet greater blessing by ordaining for it a fixed plan.

2. God does not expect perfect characters to fulfil His purposes. He chooses the fittest instruments He can find for His purest purpose, and trains them and bears with them until their work is done.

3. God uses circumstances as His angels and voices to us, and He has special epochs and crises in which He visits our souls and lives.

4. The perfection of youth is eagerness without impetuosity; the perfection of old age is wisdom without cynicism, and a faith in the purpose of God which deepens and widens with the years.

(Bishop Thorold.)

1. Evil conduct will, sooner or later, bring trouble to those guilty of it.

2. We may meet with trouble in the way God bids us go.

3. The memory of former wrong-doing robs us of comfort and hope under new trials.

4. God will help us if we repent, confess, seek pardon, and call for His aid.

I. THERE IS A FULNESS OF BLESSING IN GOD TO MEET OUR NEEDS BEYOND ALL WE HAVE EVER REALIZED. We can have blessings spiritual, moral, mental, physical, secular, personal, family, national.

II. GOD IS WILLING AND WAITING TO BESTOW ALL WE NEED OUT OF THAT FULNESS. We see this from —

1. The nature of God. "God is love."

2. The promises.

3. Past dealings.

III. THE MEANS BY WHICH THE BLESSING BECOMES OURS IS EARNEST, FERVENT PRAYER. This the key that opens the treasure, the channel that conducts the water to my soul, the hand that grasps the blessing.

(J. Marsden, B. A.)

I. WHAT WAS JACOB'S BLESSING IN THAT PLACE?

1. He was saved from a great peril — Esau's attack.

2. He was forgiven a great wrong — supplanting.

3. He was able to feel that a great breach was healed (Genesis 33:4).

4. He had won a new name and rank (ver. 28). He was knighted on the spot, made a prince on the field.

5. He was now under a fresh anointing: he was a superior man ever after. "The angel redeemed him from all evil" (Genesis 48:16).

II. WHAT WAS THE PLACE? "He blessed him there."

1. A place of great trial (vers. 6, 7).

2. A place of humble confession. "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which Thou hast showed to Thy servant" (ver. 10).

3. A place of pleading (vers. 11, 12). "There wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day" (ver. 24).

4. A place of communion. "I have seen God face to face" (ver. 30).

5. A place of conscious weakness. "As he passed over Penuel, the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh."

III. ARE THERE OTHER SUCH PLACES?

1. Before the earth was created the Lord blessed His chosen people in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3, 4).

2. At the Cross the tomb, and the throne of Jesus.

3. In the heavenly places.

4. At conversion (Psalm 32:1, 2).

5. In times of stripping, humbling, chastening, pleading, &c. (James 1:12).

6. In times of prompt obedience (Psalm 1:1).

7. At the ordinances (Acts 8:39; Luke 24:30, 31).

IV. IS THIS SUCH A PLACE? Yes, if you are —

1. Willing to give up sin.

2. Willing to have Jesus for your all in all.

3. Willing to resign yourself to the Father's will.

4. Willing to serve God in His own way.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

1. God's blessing on His saints unites their hearts unto Him to seek His praise.

2. Saints ascribe all their blessings to the face or favour of God.

3. Gracious souls desire that exaltations of God be monumental and perpetual.

4. God's face-discoveries have been in measure to sight towards His saints of old.

5. God's sensible discoveries of Himself have been dangerous to the life of His saints (Daniel 8:27).

6. God's appearance, visible in grace, hath been to the preservation of humbled souls (ver. 30).

7. God giveth a pass to His servants in their way after He hath tried them.

(G. Hughes, B. D.)

This blessing wherewith Christ here blessed Jacob was a Divine blessing containing all other blessings within its bowels. It was that blessing of the throne which comprehended in it the blessings of the footstool. Jacob had got already a great store of footstool mercies — much wealth, wives and children, &c. These worldly blessings would not (and indeed could not) content him. He tugs hard still, and must have some better mercy than these, even the throne mercy, to wit, peace with God; well knowing that this would bring peace with his brother, and all other good things; as Job saith, "Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee" (Job 22:21). He knew that his power to prevail with Emmanuel Himself would fill him with power to prevail with Esau.

(Christopher Ness.)

It was with a young man a day of seeking, and he entered a little sanctuary and heard a sermon from "Look unto Me, and be ye saved." He obeyed the Lord's command, and "He blessed him there." Soon after he made a profession of his faith before many witnesses, declaring his consecration to the Lord, and "He blessed him there." Anon he began to labour for the Lord in little rooms, among a few people, and " He blessed him there." His opportunities enlarged, and by faith he ventured upon daring things for the Lord's sake, and "He blessed him there." A household. grew about him, and together with his loving wife he tried to train his children in the fear of the Lord, and "He blessed him there." Then came sharp and frequent trial, and he was in pain and anguish, but the Lord "blessed him there." This is that man's experience all along, from the day of his conversion to this hour: up hill and down dale his path has been a varied one, but every part of his pilgrimage he can praise the Lord, for "He blessed him there."

Arvine's Anecdotes.
I have here (said Mr. Fuller) two religious characters, who were intimately acquainted in early life. Providence favoured one of them with a tide of prosperity. The other, fearing for his friend, lest his heart should be overcharged with the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches, one day asked him if he did not find prosperity a snare to him. He paused and answered, "I am not conscious that I do, for I enjoy God in all things." Some years afterwards his affairs took another turn; he lost, if not the whole, yet the far greater part of what he had once gained, and by this disaster was greatly reduced. His old friend, being one day in his company, renewed his question, whether he did not find what had lately befallen him to be too much for him. Again he paused and answered," I am not conscious that I do, for now I enjoy all things in God." This was truly a life of faith. To him it was as true as to Jacob — "He blessed him there."

(Arvine's Anecdotes.)

It is a common temptation to men to think that if their circumstances were different they could become religious, put forth all its fruits, enjoy all its blessings; but with things as they are they can hope for little. By this miserable temptation thousands are deluded, life is wasted, souls are lest. What I wish to show is that the realization of salvation and the maintenance of a holy life are possible to us anywhere, everywhere, if we have the true disposition of heart. Goodness is never a question of the outer world; it is always a question of the inner world. Now, in nature climate determines everything respecting the animals which live, the flowers which grow; the character of the climate, not the nature of the soil, or the conformation of the ground. It is from difference of climate that tropical life differs so much from arctic, and both these from the life of temperate regions. It is climate, and climate alone, that causes the orange and vine to blossom, and the olive to flourish in the south, but denies them to the north of Europe. It is climate, and. climate alone, that enables the forest tree to grow on the plain, but not on the mountain top; that causes wheat and barley to flourish on the mainland of Scotland, but not on the steppes of Siberia. Not the quality of the ground, or the form of the ground, but the climate; the products of the landscape are determined not by the soil itself, or by what is below the soil, but by what is outside it, above it, beyond it. But human character is not governed by circumstance as the landscape is determined by climate. The supreme distinction of man, the characteristic that marks him out from the mere physical universe, is that there is in him a self-energy, an inner freedom, a fundamental liberty and strength of soul, by which he triumphs over the unfriendliest conditions in pursuit of his ideal. How Demosthenes, in spite of his stammering, became an orator; how Huber, in his love of science, triumphed over his blindness; how Beethoven created splendid music despite his deafness! It is the same in the moral life of man; victory is from within, no matter what may be the state of things without. The patriarch struggling with the angel until he overcame is the picture of man's ability to overcome all difficulties in the way of the highest life, to realize purity and peace and uttermost salvation. And so we constantly see men getting goodness and exemplifying goodness in circumstances which seem altogether to forbid moral excellence. We see here how mistaken men are in fancying that they cannot give themselves to God and live for Him just where they find themselves. And yet that is a common mistake. Thousands to-day are waiting for the propitious hour, the fitting place, the convenient season.

1. "I cannot serve God in this home," says one. If their parents and friends had been religious, if their training had been otherwise, it would have been otherwise with them. Now, believe it, God can bless and keep you there. There was " some good thing in the house of Jeroboam," the most unlikely house in Israel. Abijah was there, a God-fearing and a God-favoured youth. Some little while ago I noticed in a field quite a vast growth of fungi — yellow, purple, black, spotted, no end of toadstools and devil's snuff-boxes — and right in the middle of the ghastly, pestilent, poisonous growth there was a single mushroom, white and fragrant, a veritable pearl of the field. So Abijah stood in the house of Jeroboam.

2. "I cannot serve God in this neighbourhood," says another. Ours is a bad neighbourhood, say they, and nobody can live in it and be what they ought to be. Have you never thought how wonderfully God preserved the primitive Christians in such cities as Rome and Ephesus and Corinth, full of atheism, idolatry, sensuality, as they were?

3. "I cannot serve God in this calling," says another. They feel their business is unfriendly to religious life, that their business relations are so. The tailor says, We are a loose set; the shoemaker feels as if all his comrades were infidels; the horse-dealer wants to know how he is going to keep a conscience; the collier, the soldier, the sailor, feel how difficult it is with their vocation to serve God. Do not spend your life sighing for another and more helpful calling; God can bless you where you are; He can give you grace to resist the special temptations of your lot; m slippery places He can make you to stand, in dark places He can make you to shine.

4. "I cannot serve God in this situation," says another. The domestic servant feels this sometimes. She lives where there is not a thought of religion, and it seems incredible that she could keep her soul alive there. Seek God's blessing now. That was a strange place where Jacob wrestled with the angel, on the wild heath beneath the stars; but he was resolute for the blessing, and he got it. Are you earnest for the blessing as he was?

(W. L. Watkinson.)

Be not earnest, in time of affliction, to use inordinate means to speed deliverance. Jacob was too nimble in bending his knees for his father's blessing. It cost him twenty years' exile and a shrunk sinew before he obtained it fully from the angel. Stay God's time, and mercy will ripen more kindly. It is no wisdom to break prison unadvisedly; our troubles will end more auspiciously when angels are sent from heaven to open the iron gate, as they did to Peter, and led him to the house of prayer. When God intends a salvation, the shackles will fall off easily, and the gates will fly open at night; and you shall be like them that dream, when God turns your captivity like streams in the south.

(J. Lee.)

"There's nae gude dune, John, till ye get to the close grips." So said "Jeems," the doorkeeper of Broughton Place Church, Edinburgh, to the immortal Dr. John Brown, the author of "Rab and His Friends." Old Jeems got into a marvellous nearness with God in prayer, and conversed with Him as he would with his "ain father."

(Dr. Cuyler.)

The name of that place Peniel.

This world possesses many uncommonly glorious places. The natural man finds those the most remarkable where Nature manifests herself in peculiar splendour and majesty, where lofty mountains yield delightful prospects, and smiling plains exhibit the blessings of heaven; where majestic rivers roll along, or the wide ocean expands itself like an eternity before the eye which seeks in vain its limit. The scientific man lingers with pleasure on the monuments of ancient and modern art; he gazes with admiration at the enormous dome which ancient times reared heavenwards, or is ravished with the productions of the painter or the statuary, which animate, as it were, the lifeless canvas and the solid marble. He admires the magnificence and beauty of princely palaces, and lingers astonished at the works of art. The historian loses himself in reflection when visiting the scene of former important events, when coming in sight of ancient Rome with all its reminiscences; or when upon a field where memorable battles have been fought. Who at this present period does not think with admiration of Wittenberg and its royal chapel, of the Wartburg, of Zurich and Geneva, and of the names of Luther, Zuinglius, and Calvin, because they remind us of a multiplicity of events connected with them? The Christian has also his memorable spots and places in the world; Bethlehem, Capernaum, Jerusalem, Calvary, and the Mount of Olives, are these remarkable spots. Formerly they were personally visited by the piously superstitious pilgrim, whilst his heart, perhaps, was far from God. His bodily eye saw the remarkable places, whilst the eye of his spirit remained closed against the wonders which there took place for the salvation of sinners. His feet wandered in what is called the Holy Land, where Abraham once sojourned; which the Son of God touched with His sacred feet, and even with His face; which He bedewed with His tears, His bloody sweat, and His atoning blood; in which His lifeless body slumbered three days, and where He again rose to heaven from whence He had come down. There the foot of many a pilgrim wanders, whilst it is not given him to walk in the steps of faithful Abraham, and to know the way of peace — nay, whilst rejecting the Son of God, by thinking to render his own works effectual as an atonement for his sins. These places are Peniels to believers, revelations of the glory of God, since His faith and love find the pastures of eternal life in that which there took place. And has not every Christian his particular Peniels in which God revealed Himself to him in an especial manner? — his closet, a sermon, a book, a company, a solitary hour, and the like, which continue ever memorable to him. Jacob called this remarkable place Peniel — not as a memorial of himself, nor of that which he had there performed and accomplished; but of that which he had apprehended and experienced of God, and of the gracious benefit bestowed upon him.

(D. C. Krummacher.)

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