I. THE UNIVERSALITY OF DIVINE GRACE. The varieties in moral state of nations a testimony to God's forbearing mercy. There was evidently a great contrast between such people as dwelt under Abimelech's rule and the cities of the plain, which helps us to see the extreme wickedness of the latter. It was probably no vain boast which the king-uttered when he spoke of "the integrity of his heart and innocency of his hands." Moreover, God appeared to him by dreams, and it is implied that he would have the greatest reverence for Jehovah's prophet. Abraham testified the same; although he declared that the fear of God was not in the place, still he sojourned in Gerar, and after Lot's experience he would not have done so unless he had believed it to be very different from Sodom.
II. THE CHARACTER OF GOD'S CHILDREN IS NOT THE GROUND OF THEIR ACCEPTANCE WITH HIM. It is strange that the Egyptian experience should not have taught the patriarch simply to trust in God. But the imperfect faith justifies; the grace of God alone sanctifies. The conduct of Abimelech is throughout honorable and straightforward. Abraham's equivocation is not excusable. It sprang from fear, and it was no sudden error, but a deliberate policy which betokened weakness, to say the least.
III. THE LORD BRINGS GOOD OUT OF EVIL. Abimelech's character is a bright spot in the terrible picture of evil and its consequences. By the discipline of Providence the errors and follies of men are made the opportunities for learning God's purposes and character. The contact of the less enlightened with the more enlightened, though it may humble both, gives room for Divine teaching and gracious bestowments. Again we are reminded "the prayer of a righteous man availeth much" not because he is himself righteous, but because he is the 'channel of blessing to others, chosen of God's free grace. - R.
1. It is often strong in those who enjoy high religious privileges. Abraham thought himself so highly favoured of God that he was unwilling to admit that any goodness could be found among those who were less favoured.
I. MORALITY OUTSIDE THE CHURCH MAY ATTAIN TO GREAT EXCELLENCE.
And Abraham said, Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place.
I. CONSIDER THE ORIGIN OF THE HABIT OF HARSH JUDGMENT. TWO main sources.
1. The first a heathen Roman can illustrate for us (Acts 22:27, 28). The thing has cost us much; we feel it is hard to believe that it can be widely shared. Abraham had made a terrible sacrifice to assure his calling. As for those easy, jovial, prosperous heathen, surely the fear of God was not there.
2. A second source of this harshness of judgment is the predominance in all of us of the natural aristocratic principle over the Christian principle of communion. Men naturally believe in election. But, with tale exceptions, they naturally believe themselves to he the elect. It is hard indeed to believe that a private possession gains instead of loses by being shared by all mankind.
II. THE HISTORIES OF SCRIPTURE ARE A PERPETUAL WARNING AGAINST NARROW AND SELFISH JUDGMENTS OF MEN. It is as if the Spirit had resolved that the virtues of those outside the pale should be kept clearly before the eyes of men. God is no respecter of persons, and He keeps hold in ways, of which we little dream, of the most unlikely human hearts.
III. THE TRUE CHRISTIAN POLICY IN JUDGING MANKIND.
1. Let your personal fellowship be based on the clear explicit manifestation of that which is in tune with your higher life and Christ's.
2. As for those who are without, believe that God is nearer to them than you wot of, and has more to do with them than you dream.
(J. B. Brown, B. A.)
1. Belief in a moral standard of right and wrong.
2. Belief in the moral relations of human society.
3. A sense of injured moral feeling in the presence of wrong.
4. A readiness to make restitution for faults committed against others.
II. MORALITY OUTSIDE THE CHURCH MAY HAVE LESSONS OF REPROOF FOR THOSE WHO ARE WITHIN IT.
1. For their mean subterfuges.
2. Their distrust of Providence.
3. Their religious prejudices.
(T. H. Leale.)
2. The evils of it are great.
(1) (2) (3)
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