"Up to me bright boyhood looks,
Heart and mind and soul awake;
Guide my steps, O gracious Father
For my loved one's sake.

Let Your holy counsel lead me;
Let Your light before me shine;
That he may not stumble over
Word or deed of mine!"--Whittier

"Amazingly great is the power which mothers exert over the spiritual life of their offspring. It goes to one's heart to see a young tree, which while still slender and soft might have been trained to grow straight and bear fruit and show a beautiful head, ABANDONED."--Tholuck.

"And Rebekah spoke unto Jacob . Now, therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command you." Genesis 27:6-8.

"Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran." Genesis 28:10

In subsequent chapters, the unfolding of the Patriarch's dream will be suggestive of topics of highest interest, alike regarding God's providential and spiritual dealings--the soul and eternity. We may well, however, before proceeding, pause on the threshold, and gather a few lessons of a more purely domestic complexion, but not on that account less momentous or important, with which the story is replete. Moreover, though it be mainly filial calls and encouragements--filial duties and responsibilities--to which indirect reference will be made in this volume, we cannot well omit all allusion to those parental influences which so vividly challenge our attention in the opening of the narrative. To the latter we shall give the priority in this chapter, reserving the former for that which follows.

Jacob was trained for long years under the eye of his God-fearing father, who, if we may transfer modern phraseology to an age innocent of theological erudition and book-lore, had himself been a devout student alike in natural and revealed religion. He who delighted to "meditate in the field at eventide" (Gen. 24:63) would not likely allow his child to grow up to youth or manhood with that 'outer oracle' of God unread and unreverenced. No minstrel had yet arisen to sing of "the green pastures, or the still waters" where the Divine Shepherd led His flock; of "the valleys covered with corn, the little hills rejoicing on every side." But the meadows around, fringing the desert, and the oasis where we may imagine the tents were pitched, would then, as now, form a floral lesson-book for the young and enquiring mind; while the bright heavens above, whether vaulted in their canopy of blue, or arched with the rainbow, or gleaming with oriental stars, would serve as a mighty diagram to illustrate the power, and love, and glory of the Almighty Framer.

Isaac, also, could unfold to his son more sacred revelations of Jehovah than those seen in the hieroglyphics of external nature, the penciling of desert flower, or the lighting of the burning fires in the temple of night. By that desert tent there was an altar on which, morning and evening, sacrifices were slain, and from which the incense cloud ascended. More than this, it is evident from an expression Jacob afterwards employs, that the Divine Being was so constantly realized by him, (although as yet by no outward palpable manifestations), that the "no creed," so common in apostate Christendom, never threw its malignant shadow across his early mental vision. There were other wilds on which he might roam, but not the bleak wilds of sceptic doubt. He speaks of God with the familiarity of a recognized, ever-present friend--"The Lord before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God that fed me all my life long" (Gen. 48:15, 16).

These simple but sublime verities, these religious principles in which he had been nurtured from his earliest years, were further illustrated and authenticated by his parents' holy and consistent life. For although Isaac is the least prominent and conspicuous of the founders of the nation, reticent, retiring, unambitious, he never seems to have lost the impress and reward of his early faith, on that memorable occasion when he so meekly bowed his young head in unexampled self-sacrifice at the bidding of his father and his father's God. That patient, unmurmuring act of filial obedience appears to have given a tone of peacefulness to his subsequent character.

The well of Lahairoi, the well of Hagar and her outcast boy, where the Patriarch occasionally pitched his tent, was well calculated, from its name and associations, to give Jacob his earliest impressions of the "all-seeing God." Nor must we forget the most venerable form in that primitive domestic circle. During the most impressible period of his existence (from childhood to fifteen years of age), he enjoyed the ever-brightening faith of his grandfather Abraham. We can think of the aged Patriarch Abraham, seated by the tent-door, listening with the subdued rapture of old-age to the ringing laugh of childhood and youth, watching with tender interest the dawn of two young lives with diverse tastes and dispositions rapidly developing. Or we can picture those sacred sabbaths when the family group were assembled, and father and grandfather, uniting the traditions of the past with the fuller Divine disclosures of the present, unfolded in the ears of wives and household-slaves, children and children's children, the earliest stories of providence and grace. "I know him," said Jehovah, speaking of the revered "father of the faithful," "that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment" (Gen. 18:19). When Jacob, indeed, at the time of which we are about to speak, sped on his journey towards Haran, Abraham, the saintly head of the race, had long been gathered to his fathers. But the memories of his life must have been fragrant as ever. The fugitive, therefore, in his flight, could not fail to bear along with him in vivid recollection, despite of counter-acting impressions to which we shall immediately refer, the beneficial influences of a godly home--influences which we may pronounce to have been unique in their kind, and which were never shared before or since by any who have left the paternal roof to pursue the world's great pilgrimage.

But there was another side, another and a sadder phase to this parental example.

Mournful exception, also, was it to the general experience--the deteriorating and counteracting influences coming from the quarter which is generally the sacred one. The maternal training which, in a hundred instances to one, is so hallowed and blest, was in the case of Jacob baneful and blighting. Rebekah (herself inheriting the deceitfulness and treachery of her father's household and race) trained her boy from his earliest years in deceitful deeds. His susceptible nature was only too open to such impressions and teachings. Strange, indeed, seems her resort to the wicked dealings which formed the impelling cause of Jacob's present flight. Strange that she should have deemed it necessary to stoop to a domestic scandal--dishonorable plottings and contrivances which she must have known to be unnecessary. She had been made personally cognizant that a future of greatness, riches, and renown, as one of the spiritual chiefs of a new divine dispensation, had been infallibly secured to her favorite son by what was equivalent to a legal bequest. She may possibly have thought that it would extenuate the guilt of thus clandestinely obtaining the blessing for Jacob, that she was thereby only taking an indirect means of accelerating and fulfilling the divine decrees--accomplishing the divine will and purpose. As if He whom she professed to own and worship could not, in manifold ways unknown to her, fulfill His own pleasure beyond any risk of miscarriage and without human help or expedient.

How different her conduct, with its rationalization and chicanery, from that of more than one of the saintly heroines of the future, whose attitude was simply to "stand still and see the salvation of God." REBEKAH is placed before us in the sacred page an exceptional beacon of warning among the mothers of Israel. What, after all, did she make of her promptness of invention and heartless, though successful, shrewdness? She had indeed obtained the coveted blessing for her son; but she had to pay for the triumph of her scheming and maneuvering, among other penalties, the life-long forfeiture of his presence and companionship. The glimpse she obtained of him that morning when he went forth a trembling, conscience-smitten impostor and outcast from her sight, was, unknown to her at the time, her final one. Their eyes never again met. She was left with a companion for the rest of her years--the son she had basely duped and whose affections she had rightly forfeited. In her solitary moments in the Beersheba tent, how terrible the reflection that the arrow which pierced her was one feathered from her own bosom! The unwritten words of a future inspired penman might in many ways ring their retributive monitions in her ears--"These things have you done, and I kept silence; you thought that I was altogether such an one as yourself; but I will reprove you, and set them in order before your eyes" (Ps. 50:21). Her own bold, reckless challenge was only too painfully and faithfully ratified--"Upon me be your curse, my son!"

Thanks be to God, the annals of Christendom are replete with nobler testimonies to a mother's sovereign power over the young heart. "The Church owes much to the glorious company of Christian mothers. They have saved and adorned it in every age. They obtain no public recognition; but they have their reward, and they are enshrined in the hearts of their sons." (British Quarterly Review.)

The mother truly is the Angel of the house. The might of her beneficent sway is more than that of all other moral forces. She speaks and is listened to as the oracle of God. Silent, undemonstrative, it may be, but her influence is like the aroma of the precious nard spoken of in the Gospels, diffusing its fragrance, until the whole heart--the whole house is filled with the odor of the ointment. A father's domain is the mind--the intellect. A mother's is the will and the affections--the heart and the life. "Let France," said another, who knew the silent workings of human nature as well as the tactics and strategy of battlefields, "Let France" said Napoleon, "have good mothers, and she will have good sons."

Yes, and like that fragrant perfume of which we have spoken, these hallowed influences often survive after the casket is broken. Indeed, when the grave has closed upon her, the mother at times wields a sovereign power which she may have failed to command in life. In her case, more than in any other, there is 'a speech of the dead'--the memory of gentle looks, and kindly utterances, and holy prayers, like the rustle of angels' wings, inciting to all goodness and deterring from all baseness.

Sad, on the other hand, when alike present and posthumous influence may be on the side of evil. When in life, by equivocating word and sinister deed, she may take the keen edge off the moral perceptions, weaken the strength of principle, dull the fires of truth and integrity within the shrine of the youthful soul. Sadder still, when life is ended, the shaft of evil still speeds on its fatal mission of ungodliness, when the hand that drew the bow is mouldering in the dust!

Home       QUOTES       SERMONS       BOOKS