Rachel envied her sister. I.
IT WAS UNGODLY.
1. She was the victim of unholy passions. Envy and jealousy.
2. She took a despairing view of life.
3. She failed rightly to recognize the true Author of all good things.
II. IT LED TO THE ADOPTION OF WRONG EXPEDIENTS. Showing impatient haste of unbelief, and a want of confidence in God.
III. IT HAD AN INFLUENCE FOR EVIL.
1. Upon her own character. Boasting (vers. 6, 8).
2. Upon her sister (ver. 9).
JACOB TOOK UPON HIMSELF DOMESTIC TROUBLES,
II. IT REQUIRES SOMETHING ELSE THAN THE ATTAINMENT OF OUR WISHES TO BRING HAPPINESS.
III. BLESSINGS DO NOT ALWAYS COME AS WE EXPECT.
IV. HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF.
V. THE PROMISES OF GOD ARE GRADUALLY FULFILLED.
VI. THE UNDESERVING ARE BLESSED BY GOD.
VII. HAVE PATIENCE WITH IRRITATING ASSOCIATES.
The infatuated Caligula slew his brother because he was a beautiful young man. Mutius, a citizen of Rome, was noted to be of such an envious and malevolent disposition, that Publius, one day, observing him to be very sad, said: "Either some great evil has happened to Mutius, or some great good to another." "Dionysius the tyrant," says Plutarch, "out of envy, punished Philoxenius the musician, because he could sing, and Plato, the philosopher, because he could dispute, better than himself." Cambyses killed his brother Smerdis, because he could draw a stronger bow than himself or any of his party.
With great wrestlings have I wrestled.
Thus speaks Rachel; and this woman's experience, multiplied as it is a thousand-fold in hearts that never told their struggles, shows us that life is not so calm as it seems. Beneath many a placid stream there are deep and dangerous under-currents. Often a quiet face hides the deep things, which even the dearest intimacies cannot draw out, and which constitute the tragedies of the heart's history. It is well that we learn the need of wrestling; for life, especially Christian life, has flesh and blood to battle with. Paul says, "we wrestle"; and goodness, even at its best, is dearly bought and hardly won.
I. THIS IS TRUE OF THOSE WHO ARE OUTWARDLY THE WEAKEST. Nothing betokens the warrior; there is no mailed breast, no gauntleted hand. The character seems like the face perhaps, to be common-place and dull. But what a world there is within the humblest forms that move to and fro amongst us! That plain face that we mark no loveliness in, is beautiful perhaps in the eyes of angels — that unillustrious life is associated with paths where some Goliath has been laid low, and where the Philistine host has been dispersed.
II. THIS IS TO BE THE LOT OF OUR CHILDREN. Listen, and you may hear a sigh as of a distant storm, in the spring breeze of childhood's morning, which may break into a weird tempest over their heads before the evening comes. These children of ours cannot do without religion, without Christ — the Brother and the Saviour of men. Do these little ones look made for the endurance of hard wrestlings? Perhaps not. But these little hands will be stretched out in the dark night; these little feet will have to climb in loneliness the toilsome way, when you and I are gone. Who can wonder that we wish to see them before we die in the covert of the great rock?
III. THIS IS THE ONLY PATH TO VICTORY. God sees that it is best. The oak that struggles with the tempest strikes deeper root in the soil; and the faith that has struggled with doubt is the firmest of beliefs. The love which has learnt human insincerity, learns to prize beyond all price the less demonstrative love of true natures. We gain conquest through hardship, defeat, and peril. We wrestle with great wrestlings over inborn tastes and desires, over habits that have steadily risen to dominance, over affections that are carnal and corrupt, and over enemies visible and invisible. For ease is death. When we cease to wrestle, the enemy binds us with fetters of iron. Conquer we may and can — through the faith that looks upward all through the wrestling years. To him that overcometh the glorious promise of victory is vouchsafed. But the struggle will be severe; we shall have not only ordinary sorrows, superficial anxieties, but great wrestlings; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. These wrestlings are not mere matters of mental energy; they are connected with moral pain. Dispositions natural to us have to be overcome; human nature, like a child, likes to be spoiled and petted — it can ill-endure rebuke and resistance I Consequently the battle is hard, and there is no plaudit of honour, no noise of conquest, no palm-wreath on the brow.
IV. THIS IS THE ANCIENT WAY. It leads us back to Moses, to Abraham, and to Jacob who was left alone — "and there wrestled a man with him till the break of day" (Genesis 32:24). And that we have a Divine nature is proven by man's spiritual wrestlings from the earliest dawn of history. And the rendering of this text, as you will see in the margin of your Bibles, leads us to think of God. "With great God-wrestlings have I wrestled." And this ancient way will be our way too.
And God remembered Rachel. I.
IT WAS LONG DELAYER. Discipline.
II. IT WAS GRANTED TO HER AFTER SOME SOLEMN LESSONS HAD BEEN LEARNED.
3. Faith and hope.
III. IT AWAKENED GRATITUDE.
1. Grateful recognition of God's dealings (ver 23).
2. Heartfelt acknowledgment of God (ver. 24).
Send me away that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country.
There is in Switzerland a hill known as the Heimweh Fluh, or Home-sick Mount. It is so called because it is usually the last spot visited by the traveller when leaving that part of the country at a time when his thoughts are turned homeward. It commands a glorious view of the whole valley of Interlaken, with its fields and pastures, its villages and lakes, with a back-ground of snow-capped mountains. It is a fair scene, but the heart of the traveller is not there. His thoughts are with his friends and loved ones at home. He looks upon the homesick mount, and seems to murmur with the patriarch Jacob, "Send me away, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country." There are many such homesick mounts, such landmarks, to remind us of home. The sailor on the slippery deck points to some dark towering cliff, and says, "We shall soon see the Lizard Light"; or, "Yonder is Beechy Head!" The traveller along the wintry road strains his eyes through the darkness to catch a glimpse of the lights of home. And we, if we have learnt to think of our life here as a pilgrimage, shall often stand, as it were, upon some Heimweh Fluh, some mount of home-sickness, and whilst we gaze on the beauties of this world; we shall feel, "This is not my home, I am a stranger and a sojourner, as all my fathers were." We shall press onward "through the night of doubt and sorrow," straining our eyes to catch sight of the lights of home. Let us, by God's grace, try to live and work for Him daily, and when death comes we can say, without fear, "Send me away, that I may go to mine own place, and to my country." The dying Baxter
, who wrote "The Saints' Rest," said, "I am almost well, and nearly at home!" and another dying man exclaimed, "I am going home as fast as I can, and I bless God that I have a good home to go to." Yes, that thought of home is a blessed one, both for time and for eternity. During the American Civil War the two rival armies were encamped opposite each other on the banks of the Potomac River. When the federal bands played some national air of the union, the confederate musicians struck up a rival tune, each band trying to out-play and silence the other. Suddenly one of the bands played " Home, Sweet Home," and the contest ceased. The musicians of both armies played the same tune, voices from opposite sides of the river joined the chorus, "There's no place like home!" So we, the pilgrim band, are bound together by that one strong link — we are going to our own place and our own country, "Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem." When that brave soldier of Jesus Christ, Charles Kingsley, lay dying, he was heard to murmur, "No more fighting; no more fighting." No one knows the full meaning of those words except one who has fought the good fight, whose life has been one long battle with sin. Those words have no meaning for the coward who yielded himself a prisoner to the enemy, the drunkard who never fought against his besetting sin, the angry man who never wrestled with the demon of his temper. What know they of fighting?
I have learned by experience.
The words are Laban's, and, taken in their connection, they intimate that even an utterly wordly man, such as he was, may be forced to acknowledge the moral providence of God, whereby He takes especial and peculiar care of His servants. Look at the moral and religious lessons which a thoughtful man may learn by experience.
I. We learn by experience MUCH THAT IS WHOLESOME ABOUT OURSELVES. By the blunders we have made, the falls we have suffered, the injuries we have sustained, the sins we have committed, and the wrongs we have inflicted on others, God has enlightened us in the knowledge of ourselves, and made us feel that it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.
II. Experience has taught us MUCH REGARDING THE WORLD AND ITS PLEASURES, POSSESSIONS, AND ENJOYMENTS. Even in the case of the Christian, there is much to wean him from the world as the years roll on. As he grows older the world becomes less and less to him, and Christ becomes more and more. He learns to delight in God, and his growth in holiness becomes the ambition of his life.
III. The experience of the lapse of years teaches US MORE AND MORE OF GOD AS THE GOD AND FATHER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. We have increasing proofs of God's wisdom and God's faithfulness. Whoever has been false to us, He has remained true. This testimony of experience thus grows with our growth and strengthens with our strength. It is a fortress which is utterly impregnable.
Find men where you may, they all agree in owning that they owe much to the same Instructor: they all agree in owning that they have grown wiser for the teaching of that unflattering Preceptor, who knows no royal road to truth, and in whose stern school you must stumble once, that you may learn to avoid falling again. And truly here is the best way to learn — the way that sinks the deepest, and is remembered the best. And if it be true, as the proverbial saying would have it, that experience teaches the foolish, surely it is true no less that experience makes the wise. And as experience is the teacher that instructs all men. and instructs them unthanked and unasked, so there are many things which no other can teach us: many lessons we never learn, and many matters we never rightly understand, till we have "learned by experience." We shall never know, for example, what our hearts can feel and bear, by the descriptions of other people; no account can make us understand what great sorrow is, or great anxiety, or buoyant gladness, or hearty gratitude, or fixed determination; we must feel in ourselves the quickened pulse of hopefulness, the laden heart of care, the blankness of disappointment and failure; or we shall never know what they mean. Even Jesus Christ, our Maker, gained that consummate sympathy with us which it became our Saviour to have, through actual experience. But there is one class of subjects one great subject which above all others we must know by experience, or we shall not know at all. My brethren, this is a thing that is hard upon mere human reason; this matter of the real power and efficacy of prayer. If there be any truth in what we believe of the power of prayer, it is the mightiest agent — save God Himself — in all the universe: it is stronger than the hurricane that wrecks a navy: stronger than the great ocean to which man's mightiest works are as a plaything. Christian brethren, let us frankly confess what a weak state, what an insecure position we should be in, if we were taking all this on hearsay. Why, it looks such a truly monstrous deal to believe, that positively for your credit as a reasonable man, you would be half ashamed to say you fancied all this. Never concern yourself to unravel the threads the sceptic has twisted; never set yourself to answer by argument the objections he has raised. It can be done, but there is a far better way. Tell him that your Bible bids you pray, and assures you that prayer shall prevail; but tell him more — and God be thanked if you can say so much — tell him that you have put the matter to the proof! — that you were not content to take the thing on the word of others; that you fairly tried, and that you "learned by experience" that prayer is heard and answered! Another thing that we may learn by rote, but that we never shall really believe till we learn it by experience, is the insufficiency of this world to satisfy the soul; the great truth, that "This is not our rest." For experience alone is enough to bring men to the strong belief, that all worldly things, even when possessed in their intensest degree, leave an aching void within the soul — many a stated man of pleasure, many a successful man of ambition, has told us as much as that — but it needs God's Holy Spirit to touch the soul, before it can take the next step — before it can draw the final conclusion — that the right things for the soul to love and seek are beyond the grave, and that the heart's true home and abiding treasure are there. But we shall give the remainder of our time to looking at one great fact which is best learned by experience — I mean the preciousness, the all-sufficiency, the love and grace, of our blessed Saviour. You remember it is written, "Unto you which believe He is precious." Now that seems to mean, that to those who believe, He is more precious than He is to other people; that, in a peculiarly strong sense, His preciousness is a thing that must be learned by experience. So it is. And it is easy to see how it must be. For the value of a thing is understood fully only by those who know how much they want it. And if a man feels that he does not want a thing — that he can do perfectly well without it — why, he will esteem it as of very little value indeed. Now a perfectly worldly and unconverted man feels he needs food, he cannot do without that; and so of course he sets a value on it. He feels he needs a home to dwell in — he cannot do without that; and so of course he sets a value on it. He feels he needs friends — that life would be a poor, heartless thing without them; and so he sets a value on them. But the quite worldly and unconverted man, who brings everything to a quite worldly estimate, does not feel he needs Christ; he never feels any want of Him; he thinks he can do quite well without Him; and of course he sets no value on Him; of course the Saviour is not precious to that man — how can He be? But, brethren, look to the man who has been convinced of his sin and misery by the Spirit of God; and that only our Redeemer can save us from that dismal estate, and see what he thinks of Christ! Yes, that convicted sinner has found his need of the Saviour. He has learnt that food and raiment, and all things men work hardest for and value most, are not the one thing needful — are worth nothing when compared with a saving interest in the blessed Lamb of God. He has "learned by experience I " He has felt a want, felt that the Saviour alone could supply that want; and he knows what Christ is worth, by what Christ has done!
The true teacher.
2. The universal monitor.
3. The indisputable evidence.
4. Experience of sin, pardon, peace.
5. Character thus becomes argument.
6. Let sin be subjected to this test.
7. The Christian triumphant here.
8. Many can answer by experience who cannot answer by controversy.
The world is a school, and the period of our remaining here is the school-time of our existence. The school is a severe one, the discipline is hard, and the process is often tedious. God is the teacher, and He has many assistants, which in various ways and manners are used to bring the soul to saving knowledge of the truth. Now, there is no method so potent for impressing facts on the mind as actual practice. Theory is an ideality which amid the whirl of time and business is soon dissipated. It is only when we ourselves apprehend, through actual touching and handling, that we get a positive and practical knowledge of anything. The most learned engineer who ever lived would feel at a terrible loss if put to drive an express locomotive or to superintend the engines of a vast steamship, if he had never seen one before, although he might have read and written on the subjects all his life. The most skilful theoretical architect would shrink from the ordeal of practical building.
I. We learn by experience THE FLIGHT OF TIME. The child is scarcely conscious that time moves at all. It is to him a calm, placid, unruffled lake. But the illusion is gradually dispelled. Youth deepens into maturity, maturity glides into incipient decay, and the soul is startled to find how rapidly life is passing. Then it begins to fly by like a rushing river torrent.
II. We learn by experience THE FRAILTY OF HUMAN NATURE. The curse of decay comes as a revelation. Death of a playmate or relation startles the little soul and awakens an unknown terror. Then with the flight of time comes the realization of weakness within ourselves.
III. We have learned by experience the DISAPPOINTMENTS OF EARTH. How has the sanguine heart grown broken and seared! The rosy vision has minished into darkness. Disappointments!
IV. We have learnt by experience THE VANITY OF TRUSTING TO SELF. Self-sufficiency is man's heritage and Satan's mightiest weapon. The best contrived scheme brought to nought, the wisest forethought nullified, the labours of a lifetime lost, have shown us how vain is man.
V. We have learned by experience THE UNENDING LOVE, COMPASSION, AND GOODNESS OF GOD.
SOME OF THE LESSONS LEARNED BY EXPERIENCE.
1. The unsatisfying nature of all earthly objects.
2. The preciousness of Christ.
3. The efficacy of prayer.
4. The benefit of affliction.
5. The sustaining power of God's grace.
II. THE REASONS WHY GOD TEACHES US BY EXPERIENCE.
1. Because we will not learn our duty without it.
2. Because the lessons thus acquired are the most valuable and permanent.
3. Because we are then more useful to our fellow-men.
Appoint me thy wages, and I will give it. I.
IT WAS ENTERED UPON IN OPPOSITION TO HIS BETTER FEELINGS AND CONVICTIONS.
II. IT WAS MARKED BY WORLDLY PRUDENCE.
1. The prudence which calculates.
2. The prudence which takes advantage of superior knowledge.
A Divine benediction is always invisibly breathed on painful and lawful diligence. Thus the servant employed in making and blowing of the fire, though sent away thence as soon as it burneth clear, ofttimes getteth by his pains a more kindly and continuing heat than the master himself who sitteth down by the same; and thus persons industriously occupying themselves thrive better on a little of their own honest getting than lazy heirs on the large revenues left unto them.
What though you have found no treasure, nor has any friend left you a rich legacy! Diligence is the mother of good luck, and God gives all things to industry. Then plough deep while sluggards sleep, and you shall have corn to sell or to keep. Work while it is called to-day, for you know not how much you may be hindered to-morrow. One to-day is worth two to-morrows, as poor Richard says; and further, never leave that till to-morrow which you can do to-day.
God has given us precepts of such a holiness and such a purity, such a meekness and such humility, as hath no pattern but Christ, no precedent but the purities of God; and, therefore, it is intended we should live with a life whose actions are not chequered with white and black, half sin and half virtue. God's sheep are not like Jacob's flock, "streaked and spotted," it is an entire holiness that God requires, and will not endure to have a holy course interrupted by the dishonour of a base and ignoble action. I do not mean that a man's life can be as pure as the sun, or the rays of celestial Jerusalem; but like the moon, in which there are spots, but they are no deformity; a lessening only and an abatement of light, no cloud to hinder and draw a veil before its face, but sometimes it is not so severe and bright as at other times. Every man hath his indiscretions and infirmities, but no good man ever commits one act of adultery; no godly man will at any time be drunk; or if he be he ceases to be a godly man, and is run into the confines of death, and is sick at heart, and may die of the sickness — die eternally.
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