|Vol. IV, No. 4
Tamuz 5606, July 1846
A Few Thoughts,
on the True Nature and Import of Such Expressions in Scripture as “A Blessing of the Lord,” etc.
What is meant by those constantly recurring expressions in the works of our sacred writers, “The BLESSING of the Lord;” “Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store;” “BLESSED is the man that trusteth in Thee;” and that promise of the Most High, “I will bless thee?”
We need be at no loss for the deep, high, faith-inspiring, life-consoling, soul-strengthening meaning of such words, if we will only examine those infallible writings which abound in them, with the single object in view of discovering their true and wonderful signification, seeking out for this purpose all the passages in which they occur, and examining them in connexion with the conditions and promises annexed to them, and with the events both of our national history and of the individual lives of our fathers, as there recorded. The FACT which this study will disclose to us, is, that the Lord, the Invisible and Omnipotent and Omnipresent God, lends His miraculous and mysterious aid to the endeavours of man; yet not indiscriminately, but with an all-seeing, heart-searching, discernment and justice.
To whom is the reiterated promise of this BLESSING constantly made? To him who “seeks the Lord;” who studies the LAW that he may know it, and then “takes heed to his ways” that he may obey it.
The believers can require no stronger proof that the Creator possesses an intimate knowledge of the daily lives of his creatures, and that the especial dispensations of His providence are exercised towards us individually, than the mere promise of this Blessing, and the conditions upon which it is to be obtained. When such a promise is for instance annexed to the observance of the command, “Honour thy father and thy mother,” we must believe undoubtingly that He who gave this command and promised a reward upon its observance, must know and mark our daily domestic intercourse, and judge us according to the nature and degree of our obedience to it. We must either believe that these promises are empty words, implying merely the natural or necessary consequences of what we consider adequate causes, entirely independent of a Superior Power; or we must believe that God knows our daily lives, observes the extent of our obedience, and so disposes of what we call accidents and circumstances, as to secure or withhold His blessing. As many of His commands,—such, for instance, as “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,” &c., “Thou shalt not covet,” &c.,—can, for the most part, be only invisibly obeyed, being confined entirely to the secret operations of the heart: must we not also, in a spirit of unrestrained conviction, exclaim with David, “There is not a thought in my heart, but lo! O Lord, Thou knowest it altogether?”
The writer has not the blind presumption to imagine that she is now treating upon a new theme, or that she can furnish one original idea upon a subject which has been known and understood “since Israel was a nation.” Our fathers knew Good thus, and thus only; and even the weak and erring among them, in the beautiful simplicity of their faith, saw only His direct interference in every thing that befell them, read His Blessing in their successes, its withdrawal in their failures, and failed not to recognise in their own conduct the just causes of each. This beautiful guardianship of the God of Israel, this intimate connexion with Him, this self-renouncing dependence upon Him, are taught, and exemplified, and proved, and, as it were, unintentionally acknowledged, by all our inspired writers, throughout the books of the law, the historical, devotional, and prophetic writings. The present writer can then have neither the hope nor the desire to originate any thing on this ancient and sacred theme. Her humble wishes and endeavours have but one object. It is to call the attention of the living descendants of those God-taught men to the nature and degree of that knowledge of God, (the unchanging One, who is now what He was then, and whose people WE ARE,) which was possessed by them; and that this same God may so bless her efforts, to influence some among them to bring this knowledge, as their fathers did, into habitual exercise in their daily lives, that they may draw from it the restraining and sanctifying influences, the encouragement, and the consolation it is so abundantly capable of affording; that they may know what it is to “walk before the Lord in the light of the living.”
show that the convictions expressed above are the result of no fancy-born
theory, but that they are derived entirely from the study of the sacred
records, we will take as an exemplification a view of the life of Joseph,
as far as it throws light upon this subject; and we shall find that from
the time he was purchased by Potiphar of the Ishmaelitish merchants as any
other slave would have been purchased, to that moment of triumphant faith
and self-renouncing humility, when, raised to the summit of honour and
power in the service of Pharaoh, he so generously and feelingly made
himself known to his penitent and terrified brothers, saying to them,
“Now therefore be not grieved nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me
hither, for God did send me before you to preserve life;” “so now it
was not you that sent me hither; but God;” that Joseph knew and
acknowledged that “the Lord was with him, and made all that he did to
prosper in his hand.”
Joseph’s career, for many years of his life, was a most humble one, and yet “it came to pass from the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, that the Lord BLESSED the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake.”
That respect which is always commanded by a faithful and prudent servant was the highest honour he knew while in the service of Potiphar; and from this station he was unjustly cast into prison, where the Lord’s Blessing still attended him, while he filled the yet more humble office of steward to the keeper of the prison. In both these situations we are repeatedly told, “and that which he did the Lord made it to prosper.” Now what may we imagine to have been Joseph’s employments in these situations? Something more exalted than the duties which devolve daily upon us, and therefore more worthy of the favour of the Almighty? This, we may not suppose; for, leaving out the improbabilities attending this supposition, there is no mere earthly duty which, in itself, (however important it may be in our eyes,) can be exalted in the eyes of the infinite Ruler of the universe; and yet what duty, however humble, may not become exalted in His sight, and bring down a BLESSING from Him, if performed in a spirit of love and obedience?
employments, from the stations which he filled before entering into the
service of Pharaoh, must have included all those minor duties comprised in
the government of a household. It is then in these that we must look for
that BLESSING OF THE LORD which “made that which he did to
prosper,” in crowning all his operations with success. Among other
things, we may imagine the domestics in the house of Potiphar, as well as
the inmates of the prison, willingly submitting to his rule, and
cheerfully and successfully executing his commands, because the Lord was
with him. And why was the Lord with him? Because Joseph loved and feared
Him, and, regardless of worldly consequences, steadily preserved the
sacred integrity of his God-fearing heart; and when persecuted almost
beyond endurance, he fled from the temptations which assailed him. In the
upright simplicity of his faith he exclaimed, “How then can I do this
great wickedness and sin against God?”
This God-fearing purity and noble simplicity of faith, which we are apt to consider natural to Joseph, were doubtless the blessed fruits of his father’s early instructions, and of the examples of the then recent lives of Isaac and Abraham, all acting upon a disposition and intellect of a high degree of excellence; for although he was evidently from his earliest youth marked out as one of God’s peculiar instruments in the operations of His wonderful providence, we have no reason to suppose that his general life was a more inspired one than we all have the means of leading. It is most consoling too to see that the BLESSINGS attendant upon such a life may exist through the heaviest afflictions and severest trials, lightening and softening them all, and endowing us with a heaven-born strength to support them nobly. The whole of Joseph’s God-serving life was marked by this BLESSING; yet we see him experiencing misfortunes which would for ever have prostrated the unsupported spirit of a worldly-minded man, but which we involuntarily imagine him sustaining with that undisturbed serenity inseparable from conscious innocence, combined with the love of God, perfect faith in His overruling providence, and consequent submission to His will. His superior holiness, however it may have been attained, is yet more attainable to us, who have the word of God for our guide, if we have but received that first blessing of God, the desire to attain it—the belief that we can attain it. The fear of the Lord, and perfect faith in Him, were Joseph’s safeguards and guides; to these we may add treasures which were unknown to him: God’s commandments, and His assurance that obedience to them will be richly BLESSED; yes, blessed here upon earth in all those things which proud man erroneously fancies himself to consider the minor concerns of life, even while his care-worn countenance and toil-spent days show that success and failure in these are far from possessing a trifling importance in his eyes. It is, in fact, this false idea of the actual insignificance of the concerns of life which keeps man continually at war with his nature. In the Christian world it is the doctrine which is preached from every pulpit; and to be taught to despise the things of this life is the vain prayer that is sent forth from the retirement of every closet. Nothing of this contempt of human affairs, human joys, and human sufferings, is to be found in those “statutes of the Lord” which “are right, rejoicing the heart,” in that “commandment of the Lord” which “is pure, enlightening the eyes.” There, on the contrary, we shall learn to attach more importance than we have ever done to the so-called small concerns of life—we shall learn to take a more just view of human life, and to respect its daily appointments. Life is God-given, its concerns are God-appointed, and therefore are the smallest of these entitled to a high degree of respect. It is filled with means adapted to our present condition, of making us happy here, while the same means are advancing us to a higher state of being. This view is afforded, and its correctness at the same time confirmed beyond a doubt by the study of our holy law. Who can read the minute regulations that the great God there lays down for the daily conduct of His chosen people, containing directions, “making wise the simple,” for every possible transaction of life as it is, without feeling that he has no right to regard as contemptible trifles those affairs to which the omnipotent Creator condescends to attach value, and without being convinced that there must be an all-important influence for good or evil belonging to them? In the eye of Omnipotence, we again repeat, what may be the great concerns of the short life of man?—with Him they can have no relative value. The spiritual effects and influences of our employments, duties, or enjoyments, give them their true importance; the spirit in which we pass through them purifies or contaminates us. They may all be made steppingstones to God’s favour, and means of securing through simple vigilant and habitual obedience, that “BLESSING of THE LORD which is with them that fear Him, with such as remember His commandments to do them.”
We may then diligently and with redoubled interest pursue our various callings, purifying our lives by adhering to God’s laws, looking undoubtingly for His aid, as for that to which He has himself entitled us through our obedience; and trustingly and without anxiety committing to his sought BLESSING the success that is to crown our every endeavour. This is the condition, the holy and Blessed condition, from which Israel, that “people beloved of the Lord,” has fallen—fallen, until our God, as known to our fathers, is almost unknown to us. But we have not been miraculously preserved among the nations of the earth to remain always thus; for thus saith the Lord: “The time cometh when it shall no longer be said, Know ye the Lord; for ye shall all know me, from the least unto the greatest;” and then “unto us shall the gentiles seek,” until “the whole earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” May the God who has said it, and who changes not, hasten its coming! Amen.
AN AMERICAN JEWESS.
June 10, 1846.