Genesis 18:19 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
ABRAHAM’S CARE OF HIS FAMILY
Gen 18:19. I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord.
WONDERFUL is the condescension of Almighty God. His attention to his own peculiar people surpasses almost the bounds of credibility. Who would think that He “whose ways are in the great deep” should yet so far humble himself as to “do nothing without first revealing his secret unto his servants the prophets [Note: Amo 3:7.] !” He had in his righteous judgment determined to take signal vengeance on Sodom and Gomorrha for their horrible iniquities. But he had a favoured servant who was particularly interested in the fate of those cities; and he knew not how to proceed in the work of destruction until he had apprised him of his intention, and given him an opportunity of interceding for them: “The Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?” No; I will not: “for I know him,” how faithful he is in the discharge of all his duties to me: and since he so delights to honour me, I also will delight to honour him.
The duties, for the performance of which Abraham was so highly commended, were of a domestic nature: “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord.” He eminently excelled in the observance of what may be called, family religion. And this being of such incalculable importance to the maintenance of piety in the world, I will propose him as an example to you; and with that view will shew,
The use we should make of influence—
Influence, of whatever kind it be, should be diligently improved;
To enforce the commands of God—
[Nothing should be of importance in our eyes in comparison of the honour of God. To uphold it should be our chief aim. The power given us, of whatever kind it be, is bestowed for this end. It is, in fact, God’s own power, delegated to us; and, so far as we possess it, we are responsible to him for the use of it. Magistrates are invested with it by him, and are therefore called “his Ministers” and Vicegerents upon earth [Note: Rom 13:1-6.]. Masters in like manner bear his authority, and are his Representatives in the exercise of it [Note: Col 3:24.]. To encourage virtue, to repress vice, to enforce the observance of “justice and judgment,” and to make men “keep the way of the Lord,” this, I say, is the true end of authority, whether it be official or personal, civil or religious. In particular, every thing that dishonours God, no less than that which is injurious to society, must be opposed with determined vigour. The violation of the Sabbath, and all kinds of profaneness, must be discountenanced to the utmost: and all the maxims and habits of the world, as far as they are contrary to the commands of God, must be held up to decided reprehension. The Gospel too, which above all things most exalts the honour of God, must be patronized, inculcated, enforced. The utmost possible exertion should be made to diffuse the knowledge of a crucified Saviour, “in whom all the fulness of the Godhead dwells,” and “in whose face all the glory of the Godhead shines.” In a word, the legitimate use of power is, so to exercise it “that God in all things may be glorified through Christ Jesus [Note: 1Pe 4:11.].”]
To promote the best interests of men—
[Were this world our only state of existence, it would be sufficient so to use our authority as most to subserve the present happiness of mankind. But men are immortal beings; and their chief concern in this life is to prepare for a better. In this work then we should aid them to the utmost of our power. To this should all our instructions and exhortations tend. We should, as far as we are able, make known to them “the way of the Lord,” and especially the way in which they may find acceptance with Him in the last day. With this view we should enable, and indeed require, them to attend upon the ordinances of religion. We should inquire from time to time into their proficiency in divine knowledge, and their progress in the heavenly road. This is not the duty of Ministers only, but of all, according to their ability, and to the measure of influence which they possess. Parents should pay this attention to their children; and Masters to their servants, and apprentices. They should not be content to see those whom God has committed to their care prospering in a worldly view, but should be anxious for the good of their souls, praying for them, and praying with them, and using every effort for their eternal welfare. St. Paul speaks of his “power as given to him for edification [Note: 2Co 10:8.]:” and the same may be said of all influence whatever: it is a talent committed to us for the benefit of others: and we are not to hide it in a napkin, but to improve it for the good of all around us. Of course, the nearer any are to us, the stronger claim they have upon us for our exertions in their behalf: and hence our domestic duties are of primary obligation. But we are not to say in reference to any man, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” but to do him good in every way that we can, and to the utmost extent of our ability. As our blessed Lord did all imaginable good to the bodies of men, yet did not neglect their souls, so in relation to these more important duties we must say, “These ought we to do, and not to leave the other undone.”]
That we may be stirred up to exert our influence in this way, let us consider,
The benefit of using it aright—
This is great,
To those who exercise it—
[So Abraham found it: he was approved of his God, and had the most astonishing testimonies of Divine approbation given to him. ‘I know him,’ says God; ‘and he shall know that I know him. Go, ye my angels, and make known to him my purposes respecting Sodom and Gomorrha. He has a zeal for my honour, and a love for his fellow-creatures: go, give him an opportunity of exercising both. He has Relations too in Sodom: go and deliver them. This holy man shall never want a testimony of my love: I will fulfil to him in their utmost extent all the promises of my covenant [Note: 0.].’
And shall any other person “give unto the Lord, and not be recompensed again [Note: Rom 11:35.] ?” The ungodly have indeed said, “What profit is there that we should serve him [Note: Mal 3:14.] ?” but he never gave occasion for such an impious charge. Say, ye who have endeavoured to live for His glory, has he not favoured you with his visits, and “lifted up upon you the light of his countenance?” Has he not shed abroad his love in your hearts, and “by the witness of his Spirit enabled you to cry, Abba, Father?” Yes, his promise to you is this; “Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble: I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation [Note: Psa 91:14-16.].” This, I say, is his promise to his faithful servants; and the whole of it shall be fulfilled to you in its season. “Faithful is He that hath called you; who also will do it [Note: 1Th 5:24.].”]
To those over whom it is exercised—
[It is said, “Train up a child in the way he shall go, and when he is old he will not depart from it [Note: Pro 22:6.].” This is not to be understood as an universal truth: for it is in many instances contradicted by experience: but it is a general truth: and there is ample ground to hope for its accomplishment. At all events some benefit must accrue to those who are brought up in the fear of God. Innumerable evils, which under a different education would have been committed, are prevented; and good habits are, for a time at least, induced. And though afterwards the force of temptation may prevail to draw them aside from the good way, yet in a season of trouble they may be brought to reflection, and the seed long buried in the earth may spring up, and bring forth fruit to their eternal welfare. The prodigal son is no uncommon character. The advantages of a father’s house may be forgotten for a season; but in a day of adversity may be remembered, and be realized to an extent greater perhaps in proportion as they were before neglected and despised.]
That this subject may be more deeply impressed on our minds, let us pursue it,
In a way of inquiry—
[Are we, Brethren, “walking in the steps of our father Abraham?” Can God say respecting each of us, “I know him:” ‘I know his principle: he regards all that he possesses, his wisdom, his power, his wealth, his influence altogether, as a talent committed to him by me, to be improved for the good of others, and the glory of my name. I know his inclination: he has a zeal for my honour, and longs to be an instrument of exalting and magnifying my name: he has also a love to his fellow-creatures, and desires to benefit them in every possible way to the utmost of his power. I know his practice too: he calls his family together from day to day, to unite in worshipping and serving me. He catechises his children; he instructs his servants; he labours steadily and affectionately to guide them all into the way of peace. His heart is set upon these things: he enters into them as one who feels his responsibility, and has no wish but to approve himself to me, and to give up a good account of his stewardship at last.’
Say, Brethren, whether the heart-searching God can testify these things respecting you? Must he not rather, respecting many of you say, “I know him,” that he cares no more for the souls committed to him than he does for his flocks and herds, or for the cattle which are employed in his service? If only they are well, and subserve his interest, and do his work, it is all he is concerned about. Even his very children are not regarded by him as immortal beings: if they do but get forward in their respective callings, and prosper in relation to the present world, he is satisfied, and leaves all the rest to “time and chance.” Alas! alas! what an account will such persons have to give at the judgment-seat of Christ, when the Lord Jesus shall say to them, ‘Is this the way in which you dealt with the souls committed to you, the souls which I purchased with my own blood?’ Beloved, brethren, if ye are so unlike to Abraham in this world, do you think that you can be numbered amongst his children in the world to come? O judge yourselves, that ye may not be judged of the Lord in that great and fearful day.]
In a way of reproof—
[Surely this subject administers a severe reproof not only to those who never employ their influence at all for God, but those also who exert it only in a tame and timid ineffectual way.
Think, ye who have children, servants, apprentices, have ye no responsibility on their account? Has not God constituted you watchmen to give them warning of their subtle enemy, and to shew them how they are to escape from his assaults? And, if they perish through your neglect, shall not their blood be required at your hands? Did God intrust them to you for your comfort and advancement only, and not at all for their benefit? And the many Sabbaths which he has given you to be improved for them, shall not a fearful account be given of them also? Is it pleasing to Him, think you, that you suffer the ordinances of divine worship to be neglected by them, and the Sabbaths to be wasted in idle vanities, instead of being employed by them and you for their welfare?
But perhaps you will say, ‘I do occasionally give them good advice.’ What is that? Abraham did not satisfy himself with giving good advice to his children and his household, but “commanded them:” he maintained authority in his family, and exercised that authority for God. And thus should you do also. Eli could say to his sons, “Nay, my sons, this is no good report that I hear of you: ye make the Lord’s people to transgress.” He even went further, and reminded them of the day of judgment: “If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall entreat for him?” But was this all that his situation called for? No: he should have “commanded them,” and have thrust them out from the priestly office, if they did not obey his injunctions: and because he neglected to do this, God sent him a message that “made the ears of all that heard it to tingle.” And some awful message shall you also have, if you neglect to employ for God the authority you have received from God: for “them that honour him he will honour; and those who despise him shall be lightly esteemed [Note: 1Sa 2:22-23.].”]
In a way of encouragement—
[True it is, that though you may command, you cannot ensure obedience to your commands: and notwithstanding your utmost care, there may be much amiss among those who are under your control. In Abraham’s family there was a mocking Ishmael, in Isaac’s a profane Esau, and in Jacob’s many a sinful character. But still, if you fail in many instances, and succeed in only one, will not one soul repay you for all your trouble? — — — The testimony of your own conscience too, confirmed by the witness of God’s Spirit—is this no recompence? Will not this amply repay every effort you can make, even though you should never succeed in one single instance? Reflect too on the testimony which God himself will give you in the last day: “I know him:” I know how he persevered under the most discouraging circumstances: I know the battles he fought for me: I know the contempt he endured for me: but he was determined to persevere: and “he was faithful unto death: and therefore I award to him a crown of life.” Say, Brethren, is there not enough in such a prospect as this to carry you forward, though your difficulties were ten thousand times greater than they are? Say not, ‘I am not able to conduct family worship, and to instruct my family.’ If this be the case, as doubtless in many instances it is, are there not helps sufficient to be obtained from books of instruction and from forms of prayer? Do your best; and beg of God to bless your endeavours: and you shall not labour in vain nor run in vain: for “out of the mouth of babes and sucklings God will ordain strength, and perfect praise.”]
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Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
Charles Simeon (1759 - 1836) was an English evangelical Anglican cleric.
Horae Homileticae reflects the rich source of Biblical understanding of Simeon, a towering figure in the history of evangelical theology.