CONCEIVE such a trust, as never can be put in the righteousness of any human creature, and this is Abraham's story. He must know what God's meaning is; he is certain that in some way it will be proved, that He has not designed His creature to do a wicked and monstrous thing, and yet that there is a purpose in the revelation that has been made to him,--that a submission and a sacrifice, such as he had never made yet, were called for now. He takes his son; he goes three days' journey to Mount Moriah; he prepares the altar, and the wood, and the knife; his son is with him; but he has already offered up himself. And now he is taught that this is the offering which God was seeking for; that, when he had presented that, he had given the real thing, for which he had perceived no sacrifice of a lamb or an ox could be exchanged; that, when the real victim had been slain, the ram caught in the thicket was all that was needed, for the symbolical expression of that inward oblation.
And what was the reward? "In blessing," (said the Divine Voice,) "I will bless thee; in multiplying, I will multiply thee." When this secret had been learnt, learnt in this plain manner through an act,--when he had done God's Win, and been so taught of His doctrine,--every blessing became an actual, vital, blessing; every gift, that might have been only an outside possession, was. changed into a spiritual treasure. He had become free of God's universe j for he had begun to understand the principle upon which God rules it, and the law of man's position in it. He had found sacrifice to be no one solitary act, no sudden expression of joy, no violent effort to make a return for blessings, which we can only return by accepting; but that it lies at the very root of our being j that our lives stand upon it; that society is held together by it; that all power to be right, and to do right, begins with the offering up of ourselves, because it is thus that the righteous Lord makes us like Himself.
Yes, like Himself! There was a mystery in this, which Abraham could dimly and awfully look into, which ages to come must unfold. I do not anticipate any of the deeper truths respecting the nature of sacrifice, which were hidden in this act, and which God in His own method would bring to light. But you will find in this story of the method, by which Abraham came to knowledge and to peace, what must be your course too. You cannot trust God too much. You cannot be too confident that He Himself is guiding you, and that every embarrassment in your thoughts, every complication in your circumstances, is known by Him, is intended by Him, as a means to enable you to understand wisdom secretly, that you may show forth the fruits of it openly. The rashness, that leads you to act at once upon some impression, to make some apparently great sacrifice, which will startle and astonish other men, is a sign of distrust and of pride. The cowardice, that makes you wish to stifle the suggestions of your hearts, the witness of your consciences, has the same origin. Faith in the righteousness of God gives that prudence, or providence, which will make you wary of your footsteps, suspicious of yourselves. Faith in the righteousness of God gives you that courage, which will enable you to move on steadily, calmly, resolutely,--certain that you will have light to see what you ought to do, and that, in doing it, you will know more of the just and gracious Mind of God, towards all men as well as towards yourselves.
If we follow this teaching, we shall learn that we must be ready to present our souls and bodies, and all that is dear to us, every day, as sacrifices to God. And then we may leave it to Him, how and when it shall please Him, to take these souls and bodies for other services than those, to which He has appointed them here. It may be in the battle-field; it may be on the judgment-seat. At sunset or at cock-crowing, on the sick-bed, or in the midst of work, the voice may reach any of us. It is enough for us to know Whose voice it is, and to what it is summoning us. It is the voice of Him, Who made a covenant with Abraham, Who has made a better covenant with us. It is calling us to make a real sacrifice, to present ourselves to God. Then we shall see in the thicket the Lamb that has been already slain; we shall see in that Lamb a Son, Whom the Father has offered up, and Who has gone together with Him in a voluntary and perfect self-oblation.--Sermons on Sacrifice, pp. 42-44, 47, 48.