"Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated
well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you." Genesis 12:13
Abraham said of his wife Sarah, "She is my sister."
When grace subdues the heart, a wondrous change ensues.
Earth knows no greater. But words are weak to picture it. Images lend not
Light shines, where once night brooded. Satan's chains no
more enslave. The prison-bars are broken. Right principles direct. Right
ends are sought. Right means are used. Life now is life indeed, for the man
lives to God. Such is a feeble outline of the new creation.
But is sin therefore dead? Wounded indeed it is. But like
the gashed snake it retains power to sting. Sometimes it revives in fearful
strength. Though crippled, it strives to conquer. It may seem for a season
to regain its hold, and win brief victory. It may roll the new man in the
mire. But it cannot keep him down. Its real dominion is gone. Its existence
only lingers, until full escape from this world delivers wholly from its
Where is the saint who is not conscious that the foe
still lives? Witness the closet of the man of God. What bitter humblings!
what smitings of the breast! what sensitive laments! what writhing under the
motions of corruption's filth! Tears, sobs, and cries are frequent. "When I
would do good, evil is present with me." "O wretched man that I am! who
shall deliver me from the body of this death?" "God be merciful to me a
sinner." Faithful Scripture warns of this constant conflict. It tells, that
the heavenward march is over treacherous roads, where many pilgrims slip and
stumble! Earnest exhortations call to watchfulness--to prayer--to use the
shield of faith--to gird up the loins of the mind--to fight the good fight
of faith--to give no place to the devil.
The honest page is often darkened, also, by recitals of
sin's unexpected outbreak. Sudden eclipses hide the brightest orbs. The
glittering star falls quickly from the sky. Waters lately so calm, cast up
mire and dirt. Thus instances divulge, that sinful nature continues to be
nature, even where grace has undoubted seat.
This Beacon gives a graphic proof.
ABRAHAM appears. How marked with special favors! How
enriched with heaven-born powers! How crowned, as God's distinguished child!
Heir of what hopes! Laden with what treasures of high promise!
He dwelt in early youth, an idolater in an idolatrous
land. In nature's darkness "he served other gods." Josh. 24:2. In due time
the God of glory reveals Himself. He calls his servant to leave Chaldea's
godless scenes. He guides to a home typical of heavenly rest. The pilgrim
holds as a staff, grand promises and assurances. Light, bright as
Bethlehem's star, beckons onward. The distant horizon sparkles with
illimitable blessedness. His ears hear heaven's pledge, "I will make of you
a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great--and you
shall be a blessing, and I will bless those who bless you, and curse him
that curses you, and in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed."
Genesis 12:2-3. Could faith ask more? Could heaven give richer hope? Surely
the owner of such promises will stand as a fortress garrisoned with all
strength! He will have feet, which never can be moved--a hand, which never
can hang down--a heart, which never can know doubt! All fear must be forever
banished! Far raised above misgivings and alarms, this blessed one will
boldly march on solid ground throughout earth's pilgrimage.
The trial comes. Grace must be tried. Rare is the faith
which boldly resists. Happy the hero, whose eye never looks off from Jesus.
Beloved, you must encounter winds and billows. Heed them not. Gaze only on
your Lord. Thus you will never sink.
The trial comes. Provisions fail. Famine grievously
prevails. Abraham meditates to seek sustenance in Egypt's fertile fields. Is
this an act of faith? He holds the pledge, "I will make of you a great
nation." Shall he tremble, lest dearth of food should nip this sure hope?
But he distrusts, and he turns his face towards Egypt.
We find that one sin leads to more. Temptations seldom
come alone. One knocks. If the door be opened, a troop will enter.
It was thus with Abraham. When he draws near to
heathen-land, he looks on Sarah. Her countenance is lovely. Beauty so rare
will rivet admiration. In her attractiveness he sees danger for himself. He
reasons, she is mine--she may not be another's, until I be removed. If I be
slain, what will check the wishes of a foreign suitor! Therefore surely I
Has then the promise been recalled, "I will make of you a
great nation?" But faith succumbs to fear. He suggests falsehood to his
wife. "Say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and
my soul shall live because of you." Genesis 12:13.
Thus in full sight of evil he proceeds. The net is spread
before his eyes. He knows it, yet he flees not. Evasion promises safety. The
evasion involves falsehood. Untruth is his scheme of security in Egypt. The
plan is godless, yet he scruples not to act it out.
Reader! perhaps you bask in sunshine of especial favors.
Perhaps you boast, that the promises are yours. Still you are not above
temptation's reach. You still may tamper with sad sin. Abraham thus sinned.
The land is reached. Sarah is seen, and eyes admire. Her
lovely countenance is praised. Pharaoh hears. Into his palace she is
conducted. The denial of the wife shields Abraham. But Sarah totters on the
brink of foulest shame.
The Lord interposes. In spite of themselves the culprits
are rescued. Great plagues trouble the king, and all his court. The cause is
revealed. The pretended sister is in truth a wife. The conniving patriarch
is summoned. What shame would cover him, when thus a heathen's lips reprove!
"What is this, that you have done unto me? Why did you not tell me that she
was your wife?" Genesis 12:18. Why did you lay this trap before my
unconscious feet? Then safe from injury the patriarch is dismissed.
Sad is this sight. The child of God--the heir of
heaven--the chosen progenitor of the world's Savior is downcast in
discovered guilt. He stands abashed before a worshiper of stocks and stones.
What shame would fill his heart! He had distrusted the living God, whose
power was boundless--whose hand was never-failing refuge. He had brought
plagues upon a guiltless house. Merited reproach now stings him to the
quick! Where will he hide his face? What time will dry his penitential
tears? Surely henceforth his trust will be unfailing--his courage will never
flinch again--his zeal for pure truth will be unquenchable. Untruth will he
hated, as a vile monster--the touch of falsehood will be feared as a
Is relapse possible into this identical sin? He knows not
man's corruption, who cries, 'It cannot be.' While life remains the tempter
will renew attack. He will seek again the crevice through which once he
crept. He will mark the chinks which once his arrows pierced.
Time rolls on its course. Abraham deepens in the
knowledge of his God. Repeated favors cheer him. In combat against mighty
kings, heavenly power befriends him. He fights--they are thwarted and flee.
After the victory, he is commanded to reject all fear. He hears the
strength-inspiring word, "I am your shield, and your exceeding great
reward." Genesis 15:1. He is told that his ardent longings shall be
gratified. Against hope an heir would be born. Isaac shall gladden his home.
"In him shall all the families of the earth be blessed."
He witnesses, also, God's dreadful judgments on the
guilty plain. He hears terrific overthrow denounced. He sees the execution.
Early in the morning he revisits the place, where he had stood before the
threatening Lord. "He looked towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and towards all the
cities of the plain, and behold, and lo! the smoke of the country went up as
the smoke of a furnace." Genesis 19:28. Thus the mercies of God's loving
heart were spread before his wondering gaze. Thus, also, he saw the power of
just wrath. What large experience! He will surely trust, and never fear what
man can do! He will surely be impregnable to evil, and walk before God in
After this the Patriarch leaves Mamre and seeks Gerar.
What motives prompted him, the story tells not. But he desired no settled
home on earth. His eye looked far above. He lived a citizen of that "city,
which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Heb. 11:10.
Doubtless at Gerar, as in earth's every spot, ungodliness
would be rife. His mind concludes, "Surely the fear of God is not in this
place." Genesis 20:11. Instantly his early apprehensions live again. His
faith again recedes. Death seems again at hand, because pretty Sarah is
his wife. The old temptation re-spreads its wily bait. His former disgrace
fades from his view. His grievous fall haunts him no more. The keen reproach
of Pharaoh is forgotten. Distrustful of His God--forgetful of the
past--reckless of the future--he sins again the same foul sin. He rushes
again into the same open net! He suppresses again the truth. He exposes
Sarah again to hideous crime. He opens the door for vile deeds in Gerar's
Where is his heart! where his piety! where his faith!
where his love towards God! where thought for Sarah and his own soul! where
his delight in holy ways! where his abhorrence of all evil! where his
remembrance of Egypt--of his fall--his disgraced dismissal! Alas! his lips
again deceive. He frames the subterfuge, "She is my sister." Can faith so
totter! Can the most faithful of God's children so belie his high
profession! What man, however deep in Christian experience, can read and
Sarah is brought to the king's house. Abraham is
acquiescing. His heart seems dead. He forgets that the season is now near
when Isaac shall be born.
But God is God still. His faithfulness, and love, and
truth change not. Dreams on his bed affright Abimelech. It is revealed that
Sarah is already wedded. Death is denounced on him and all his house, if the
stranger's wife be violated. Guilty Abraham again stands humbled before a
heathen prince. How would the words of dignified reproach sound witheringly
through every corner of his heart! "What is this you have done to us? What
have I done to you that deserves treatment like this, making me and my
kingdom guilty of this great sin? This kind of thing should not be done!"
Reader! think of Abraham so reproached--for such a
sin--at such a place, and by such lips! Think, and remember self. The same
snare may not endanger you. But snares to kindred offence are always near.
Open falsehood may be indignantly rejected; but the occasions are many,
when, by a wrongly-colored word--by an ambiguous term--by a misguiding
emphasis--by a suppressed avowal, the hearer is intentionally
deceived--truth is virtually denied--erroneous impressions are stealthily
Reader! beware! The prevaricating whisper is repetition
of the earliest sin. In every misleading word there is a likeness of the
Devil--the liar from the beginning. The dishonest whisper may seem but a
little bud; but God sees in it full-blown iniquity. The equivocation may be
half-muttered; but in His ears it has a trumpet-tongue.
Who will not pray, "Set a watch, O Lord, upon my mouth,
and keep the door of my lips." Ps. 141:3. "Let the words of my mouth, and
the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength
and my redeemer." Ps. 19:14.