Genesis 22:12 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
IMPORTANCE OF EVIDENCES
Gen 22:12. Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me.
THERE are in the Holy Scriptures many expressions, which, if taken in the strictest and most literal sense, would convey to us very erroneous conceptions of the Deity. God is often pleased to speak of himself in terms accommodated to our feeble apprehensions, and properly applicable to man only. For instance; in the passage before us, he speaks as if from Abraham’s conduct he had acquired a knowledge of something which he did not know before: whereas he is omniscient: there is nothing past, present, or future, which is not open before him, and distinctly viewed by him in all its parts. Strictly speaking, he needed not Abraham’s obedience to discover to him the state of Abraham’s mind: he knew that Abraham feared him, before he gave the trial to Abraham: yea, he knew, from all eternity, that Abraham would fear him. But it was for our sakes that he made the discovery of Abraham’s obedience a ground for acknowledging the existence of the hidden principle from which it sprang: for it is in this way that we are to ascertain our own character, and the characters of our fellow-men. And this is the point which it is my intention chiefly to insist upon at this time. I shall not enter upon the circumstances of the history, but confine myself rather to the consideration of two points; namely,
The general importance of evidences for ascertaining our state before God—
Many are ready to pour contempt on marks and evidences, as though they were legal. They imagine that the direct agency of the Spirit on the souls of men is quite sufficient to satisfy our minds respecting our real state. Now, though we deny not that there is a direct agency of the Holy Spirit on the souls of men, and that “God’s Spirit does witness with our spirits, that we are his [Note: Rom 8:16.],” yet is this not of itself sufficient; because it may easily be mistaken, and can never, except by its practical effects, be discovered from the workings of our own imagination. Indeed, the greater our confidence is, when independent of evidences, the more questionable it is; because there is the more reason to suspect that Satan has made the impression in order to deceive us. Evidences in confirmation of this persuasion are necessary,
For the satisfaction of our own minds—
[The Scriptures suggest innumerable marks whereby to discover our true character. St. John seems to have written his First Epistle almost for the very purpose of informing us on this head, that he might leave us altogether inexcusable if we erred respecting it: “Hereby we do know that we know God, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him: but whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected. Hereby know we that we are in him [Note: See 1Jn 2:3-5; 1Jn 3:6-10; 1Jn 3:14-15; 1Jn 3:18-21; 1Jn 4:13; 1Jn 4:20; 1Jn 5:1-4; 1Jn 5:10; 1Jn 5:18 .].” (Some of the other passages referred to may also be cited.) And St. Paul particularly exhorts us to consult these marks and evidences, just as we would in the assaying of gold: “Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith: prove your own selves.”]
For the satisfaction of others—
[What can others know of our state, any farther than it is discoverable in our lives? Our blessed Lord teaches us to bring all, even though they may call themselves prophets, to this test: “Ye shall know them by their fruits: do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them [Note: Mat 7:15-20.].” And to this test must we ourselves be brought: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another [Note: Joh 13:35.].”]
For the honour of our God—
[Men will judge of our principles by our practice. Now the Gospel is represented as “a doctrine according to godliness.” But how shall men know it to be so? Our mere assertions will carry no conviction with them, if they be not confirmed by manifest and substantial proofs. Men will naturally say to us, “Shew me your faith by your works:” and, if our works be unworthy of our profession, “the name of God and his doctrine will be blasphemed [Note: 1Ti 6:1.].” It is by our works that we are to shine as lights in the world: and we are therefore bidden to let our light shine before men, that they, seeing our good works, may glorify our Father that is in heaven [Note: Mat 5:16.].”]
From the text we learn,
What is that evidence which alone will prove satisfactory to God or our own souls—
Never was there a more glorious act of obedience than that which Abraham performed in offering up his son, his only son, Isaac. But it will be asked, Is any thing like that required of us? I answer,
A full equivalent to this is required of us—
[True, indeed, we are not called to that very act of offering up our own son: but we are expressly commanded to “hate father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and our own life also, in comparison of Christ [Note: Luk 14:26.]:” and our blessed Lord declares, that “whosoever cometh not after him, and forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be his disciple [Note: Luk 14:33.].” This may be deemed a hard saying; but so it is; and the declaration is irreversible: and further still, our blessed Lord has decreed, that “he who saveth his life shall lose it; and he only who loseth his life for his sake, shall find it unto life eternal [Note: Mat 16:25.].” There is no difference between either persons or times: the same is true respecting all his followers, in every age and place. On no lower terms will any human being be acknowledged as a friend of Christ; nor will any child of man that is unwilling to comply with them, find acceptance with him in the day of judgment.]
Without a compliance with this, we in vain pretend to have the fear of God—
[”The fear of God” is the lowest of all graces: yet must that, no less than the highest, be tried by this test. The truth is, that the new creature, even in its lowest state, is complete in all its parts. A little infant has all the parts of an adult: there is nothing added to him even to his dying hour: the only difference between him in the different periods of his life is, that his parts are more matured by age, and capable of greater exertion when he arrives at manhood than they were in the earlier stages of his existence. The different rays of light may be separated by a prism, and so be brought under distinct and separate consideration: but it is the assemblage of all the rays that constitutes light. In like manner, we may separate in idea the graces of a Christian: but where there is one truly operative, there is, and must be, all. One particular grace may shine more bright in one person, and another in another; but when “Christ is formed in us [Note: Gal 4:19.],” not one of his graces can be absent. Hence then I say, that the fear of God, no less than the love of him, must be tried by this test: and by this alone will “God know that you fear him, if you withhold not your son, your only son, from him.”]
Now, let me ASK, What testimony must God bear respecting you?
[He knows every one amongst you, and every secret of your hearts: yet will he not proceed in judgment without adducing the proofs which you had given of your true character. If he say to you, “Come, ye blessed,” or, “Go, ye cursed,” he will assign his reasons for it, and thereby approve the equity of his sentence before the whole universe [Note: Mat 25:34-43.]. Let me ask, then, What sacrifices have you made for him? and what duties have you performed? Have you “plucked out the right eye, and cut off the right hand, that has offended you?” If not, you know the sad alternative, that “your whole body and soul will be cast into hell fire [Note: Mar 9:43-48.].” Examine yourselves, then, and inquire, whether God can bear this testimony respecting you? Must he not rather, with respect to the greater part of you, say, ‘I know you, that “you have not the fear of God before your eyes [Note: Rom 3:18.] !” You have made no sacrifice for me; nor have you paid any attention to my commands. Abraham consulted not even his own wife, lest she should prove a snare to him: but you have been ready to follow any adviser that would counsel you to disregard me.’ Well, know of a surety that the time is shortly coming, when God will call every one of you into judgment, and when he will put an awful difference between his friends and his enemies; between those who feared his name, and those who feared him not [Note: Mal 3:18.].]
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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.