(Calvin, Genesis 1. part 25) 11. "Ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin." Very strange and unaccountable would this command at first sight appear. The subject treated of, is the sacred covenant, in which righteousness, salvation, and happiness are promised; whereby the seed of Abraham is distinguished from other nations, in order that it may be holy and blessed; and who can say that it is reasonable for the sign of so great a mystery to consist in circumcision? But as it was necessary for Abraham to become a fool, in order to prove himself obedient to God; so whosoever is wise, will both soberly and reverently receive what God seems to us foolishly to have commanded. And yet we must inquire, whether any analogy is here apparent between the visible sign, and the thing signified. For the signs which God has appointed to assist our infirmity, should be accommodated to the measure of our capacity, or they would be unprofitable. Moreover, it is probable that the Lord commanded circumcision for two reasons; first, to show that whatever is born of man is polluted; then, that salvation would proceed from the blessed seed of Abraham. In the first place, therefore, whatever men have peculiar to themselves, by generation, God has condemned, in the appointment of circumcision; in order that the corruption of nature being manifest, he might induce them to mortify their flesh. Whence also it follows, that circumcision was a sign of repentance. Yet, at the same time, the blessing which was promised in the seed of Abraham, was thereby marked and attested. If then it seem absurd to any one, that the token of a favour so excellent and so singular, was given in that part of the body, let him become ashamed of own salvation, which flowed from the loins of Abraham; but it has pleased God thus to confound the wisdom of the world, that he may the more completely abase the pride of the flesh. And hence we now learn, in the second place, how the reconciliation between God and men, which was exhibited in Christ, was testified by this sign. For which reason it is styled by Paul a seal of the righteousness of faith. (Rom. 4: 11.) Let it suffice thus briefly to have touched upon the analogy between the thing signified and the sign. 12. "And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised." God now prescribes the eighth day for circumcision; whence it appears that this was a part of that discipline, under which he intended to keep his ancient people; for greater liberty is at this day, permitted in the administration of baptism. Some, however maintain that we must not contend earnestly about the number of days, because the Lord spared the children on account of their tenderness, since it was not without danger to inflict a wound upon those who were newly born. For although he might have provided that circumcision should produce no harm or injury; yet there would be no absurdity in saying, that He has respect to their tenser age, in order to prove to the Jews his paternal love towards their children. To others this seems to be too frigid; therefore they seek a spiritual mystery in the number of days. They think that the present life is allegorically signified by the seven days; that God commanded infants to be circumcised on the eighth day, in order to show that though we must give attention to the mortification of the flesh during the whole course of our life, it will not be completed till the end. Augustine also thinks that it had reference to the resurrection of Christ; whereby external circumcision was abolished and the truth of the figure was set forth. It is probable and consonant with reason, that the number seven designated the course of the present life. Therefore the eighth day might seem to be fixed upon by the Lord, to prefigure the beginning of a new life. But because such a reason is never given in Scripture, I dare affirm nothing. Wherefore, let it suffice to maintain what is certain and solid; namely, that God, in this symbol, has so represented the destruction of the old man, as yet to show that he restores men to life. "He that is born in the house, or bought with money." When God commands Abraham to circumcise all whom he has under his power, his special love towards holy Abraham is conspicuous in this, that He embraces his whole family in His grace. We know that formerly slaves were scarcely reckoned among the number of men. But God, out of regard to his servant Abraham, adopts them as his own sons: to this mercy nothing whatever can be added. The pride also of the flesh is cast down; because God, without respect of persons, gathers together both freemen and slaves. But in the person of Abraham, he has prescribed it as a law to all his servants, that they should endeavour to bring all who are subject to them, into the same society of faith with themselves. For every family of the pious ought to be a church. Therefore, it we desire to prove our piety, we must labour that every one of us may have his house ordered in obedience to God. And Abraham is not only commanded to dedicate and to offer unto God those born in his house, but whomsoever he might afterwards obtain. 13. "For an everlasting covenant." The meaning of this expression may be twofold: either that God promises that his grace, of which circumcision was a sign and pledge, should be eternal; or that he intended the sign itself to be perpetually observed. Indeed, I have no doubt that this perpetuity ought to be referred to the visible sign. But they who hence infer, that the use of it ought to flourish among the Jews even of the present time, are (in my opinion) deceived. For they swerve from that axiom which we ought to regard as fixed; that since Christ is the end of the law, the perpetuity which is ascribed to the ceremonies of the law, was terminated as soon as Christ appeared. The temple was the perpetual habitation of God, according to that declaration, "This is my rest forever, here will I dwell," (Ps. 132: 14.) The Sabbath indicated not a temporal but a perpetual sanctification of the people. Nevertheless, it is not to be denied, that Christ brought them both to an end. In the same way must we also think of circumcision. If the Jews object, that in this manner, the law was violated by Christ; the answer is easy; that the external use of the law was so abrogated, as to establish its truth. For, at length, by the coming of Christ, circumcision was substantially confirmed, so that it should endure forever, and that the covenant which God had before made, should be ratified. Moreover, lest the changing of the visible sign should perplex any one, let that renovation of the world, of which I have spoken, be kept in mind; which renovation-- notwithstanding some interposed variety--has perpetuated those things which would otherwise have been fading. Therefore, although the use of circumcision has ceased; yet it does not cerise to be an everlasting, or perpetual covenant, if only Christ be regarded as the Mediator; who, though the sign be changed, has confirmed the truth. And that, by the coming of Christ, external circumcision ceased, is plain from the words of Paul; who not only teaches that we are circumcised by the death of Christy spiritually, and not through the carnal sign: but who expressly substitutes baptism for circumcision; (Col. 2: 11;) and truly baptism could not succeed circumcision, without taking it away. Therefore in the next chapter he denies that there is any difference between circumcision and uncircumcision; because, at that time, the thing was indifferent, and of no importance. Whence we refute the error of those, who think that circumcision is still in force among the Jews, as if it were a peculiar symbol of the nation, which never ought to be abrogated. I acknowledge, indeed, that it was permitted to them for a time, until the liberty obtained by Christ should be better known; but though permitted, it by no means retained its original force. For it would be absurd to be initiated into the Church by two different signs; of which the one should testify and affirm that Christ was come, and the other should shadow him forth as absent. 14. "And the uncircumcised man-child." In order that circumcision might be the more attended to, God denounces a severe punishment on any one who should neglect it. And as this shows God's great care for the salvation of men; so, on the other hand, it rebukes their negligence. For since God thus benignantly offers a pledge of his love, and of eternal life, for what purpose does he add threatening but to rouse the sluggishness of those whose duty it is to run with diligence? Therefore, this denunciation of punishment virtually charges men with foul ingratitude, because they either reject or despise the grace of God. The passage however teaches, that such contempt shall not pass unpunished. And since God threatens punishment only to despisers, we infer that the uncircumcision of children would do them no harm, if they died before the eighth day. For the bare promise of God was effectual to their salvation. He did not so attest this salvation by external signs, as to restrict his own effectual working to those signs. Moses, indeed, sets aside all controversy on this subject, by adducing as a reason, that they would make void the covenant of God: for we know, that the covenant was not violated, when the power of keeping it was taken away. Let us then consider, that the salvation of the race of Abraham was included in that expression, 'I will be a God to thy seed.' And although circumcision was added as a confirmation, it nevertheless did not deprive the word of its force and efficacy. But because it is not in the power of man to sever what God has joined together; no one could despise or neglect the sign, without both rejecting the word itself; and depriving himself of the benefit therein offered. And therefore the Lord punished bare neglect with such severity. But if any infants were deprived by death of the tokens of salvation, he spared them, because they had done nothing derogatory to the covenant of God. The same reasoning is at this day in force respecting baptism. Whoever, having neglected baptism, feigns himself to be contented with the bare promise, tramples, as much as in him lies, upon the blood of Christ, or at least does not suffer it to flow for the washing of his own children. Therefore, just punishment follows the contempt of the sign, in the privation of grace; because, by an impious severance of the sign and the word, or rather by a laceration of them, the covenant of God is violated. To consign to destruction those infants, whom a sudden death has not allowed to be presented for baptism, before any neglect of parents could intervene, is a cruelty originating in superstition. But that the promise belongs to such children, is not in the least doubtful. For what can be more absurd than that the symbol, which is added for the sake of confirming the promise, should really enervate its force? Wherefore, the common opinion, by which baptism is supposed to be necessary to salvation, ought to be so moderated, that it should not bind the grace of Gods or the power of the Spirit, to external symbols, and bring against God a charge of falsehood. "He hath broken my covenant." For the covenant of God is ratified, when by faith we embrace what he promises. Should any one object, that infants were guiltless of this fault, because they hitherto were destitute of reason: I answer, we ought not to press this divine declaration too closely, as if God held the infants as chargeable with a fault of their own: but we must observe the antithesis, that as God adopts the infant son in the person of his father, so when the father repudiates such a benefit, the infant is said to cut himself off from the Church. For the meaning of the expression is this, 'He shall be blotted out from the people whom God had chosen to himself'. The explanation of some, that they who remained in uncircumcision would not be Jews, and would have no place in the census of that people, is too frigid. We must go farther, and say, that God, indeed, will not acknowledge those as among his people, who will not bear the mark and token of adoption. 15. "As for Sarai thy wife." God now promises to Abraham a legitimate seed by Sarai. She had been (as I have said) too precipitate, when she substituted, without any command from God, her handmaid in her own place: Abraham also bad been too pliant in following his, wife, who foolishly and rashly wished to anticipate the design of God; nevertheless, their united fault did not prevent God frown making it known to them that he was about to give them that seed, from the expectation of which, they had, in a manner, cut themselves off. Whence the gratuitous kindness of God shines the more clearly, because, although men impede the course of it by obstacles of their own, it nevertheless comes to them. Moreover, God changes the name of Sarai, in order that he may extend her preeminence far and wide, which in her former name had been more restricted. For the letter "jod" has the force among the Hebrews of the possessive pronoun: this being now taken away, God designs that Sarah should every where, and without exception, be celebrated as a sovereign and princess. And this is expressed in the context, when God promises that he will give her a son, from whom at length nations and kings should be born. And although at first sight this benediction appears most ample, it is still far richer than it seems to be, in the words here used, as we shall see in a little time. 17. "And Abraham fell upon his face." This was in token, not only of his reverence, but also of his faith. For Abraham not only adores God, but in giving him thanks, testifies that he receives and embraces what was promised concerning a son. Hence also we infer that he laughed, not because he either despised, or regarded as fabulous, or rejected, the promise of God; but, as is commonly wont to happen in things which are least expected, partly exulting with joy, and partly being carried beyond himself in admiration, he breaks forth into laughter. For I do not assent to the opinion of those who suppose, that this laughter flowed solely from joy; but I rather think that Abraham was as one astonished; which his next interrogation also confirms, "shall a child be born to him that is an hundred years old?" For although he does not reject as vain what had been said by the angel, he yet shows that he was no otherwise affected, than as if he had received some incredible tidings. The novelty of the thing so strikes him, that for a short time he is confounded; yet he humbles himself before God, and with confused mind, prostrating himself on the earth, he, by faith, adores the power of God. For, that this was not the language of one who doubts, Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, is a witness, (4: 19,) who denies that Abraham considered his body now dead, or the barren womb of Sarah, or that he staggered through unbelief; but declares that he believed in hope against hope. And that which Moses relates, "that Abraham said in his heart," I do not so explain as if he had distinctly conceived this in his mind: but as many things steal upon us contrary to our purpose, the perplexing thought suddenly rushed upon his mind, 'What a strange thing is this, that a son should be born to one a hundred years old!' This, however, seems to some, to be a kind of contest between carnal reason and faith; for although Abraham, reverently prostrating himself before God, submits his own mind to the divine word, he is still disturbed by the novelty of the affair. I answer, that this admiration, which did not obstruct the course of God's power, was not contrary to faith; nay, the strength of faith shone the more brightly, in having surmounted an obstacle so arduous. And therefore he is not reprehended for laughing, as Sarah is in the next chapter. 18. "And Abraham said unto God." Abraham does not now wonder silently within himself, but pours forth his wish and prayer. His language, however, is that of a mind still perturbed and vacillating, "O that (or I wish that) Ishmael might live!" For, as if he did not dare to hope for all that God promises, he fixes his mind upon the son already born; not because he would reject the promise of fresh offspring, but because he was contented with the favour already received, provided the liberality of God should not extend further. He does not, then, reject what the Lord offers; but while he is prepared to embrace it, the expression, "O that Ishmael!" yet flows from him through the weakness of his flesh. Some think that Abraham spoke thus, because he was afraid for his firstborn. But there is no reason why we should suppose that Abraham was smitten with any such fear, as that God, in giving him another son, would take away the former, or as if the latter favour should absorb that which had preceded. The answer of God, which follows shortly after, refutes this interpretation. What I have said is more certain; namely, that Abraham prayed that the grace of God, in which he acquiesced, might be ratified and confirmed to him. Moreover, without reflection, he breaks forth into this wish, when, for very joy, he could scarcely believe what he had heard from the mouth of God. 'To live before Jehovah' is as much as, to be preserved in safety under his protection, or to be blessed by Him. Abraham therefore desires of the Lord, that he will preserve the life which he has given to Ishmael. 19. "Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed." Some take the adverb "aval", to mean 'Truly.' Others, however, more rightly suppose it to be used for increasing the force of the expression. For God rouses the slumbering mind of his servant; as if he would say, 'The sight of one favour prevents thee from raising thyself higher; and thus it happens that thou dost confine thy thoughts within too narrow limits. Now, therefore, enlarge thy mind, to receive also what I promise concerning Sarah. For the door of hope ought to be sufficiently open to admit the word in its full magnitude.' "And I will establish my covenant with him." He confines the spiritual covenant to one family, in order that Abraham may hence learn to hope for the blessing before promised; for since he had framed for himself a false hope, not founded on the word of God, it was necessary that this false hope should first be dislodged from his heart, in order that he might now the more fully rely upon the heavenly oracles, anal might fix the anchor of his faith, which before had wavered in a fallacious imagination, on the firm truth of God. He calls the covenant everlasting, in the sense which we have previously explained. He then declares that it shall not be bound to one person only, but shall be common to his whole race, that it may, by continual succession, descend to his posterity. Yet it may seem absurd, that God should command Ishmael, whom he deprives of his grace, to be circumcised. I answer; although the Lord constitutes Isaac the firstborn and the head, from whom he intends the covenant of salvation to flow, he still does not entirely exclude Ishmael, but rather, in adopting the whole family of Abraham, joins Ishmael to his brother Isaac as an inferior member, until Ishmael cut himself off from his father's house, and his brother's society. Therefore his circumcision was not useless, until he apostatized from the covenant: for although it was not deposited with him, he might, nevertheless, participate in it, with his brother Isaac. In short, the Lord intends nothing else, by these words, than that Isaac should be the legitimate heir of the promised benediction. 20. "And as for Ishmael." He here more clearly discriminates between the two sons of Abraham. For in promising to the one wealth, dignity, and other things pertaining to the present life, he proves him to be a son according to the flesh. But he makes a special covenant with Isaac, which rises above the world and this frail life: not for the sake of cutting Ishmael off from the hope of eternal life, but in order to teach him that salvation is to be sought from the race of Isaac, where it really dwells. We infers however, from this passage, that the holy fathers were by no means kept down to earth, by the promises of God, but rather were borne upwards to heaven. For God liberally and profusely promises to Ishmael whatever is desirable with respect to this earthly life: and yet He accounts as nothing all the gifts He confers on him, in comparison with the covenant which was to be established in Isaac. It therefore follow, that neither wealth, nor power, nor any other temporal gift, is promised to the sons of the Spirit, but an eternal blessing, which is possessed only by hope, in this world. Therefore, however we may now abound in delights, and in all good things, our happiness is still transient, unless by faith we penetrate into the celestial kingdom of God, where a greater and higher blessing is laid up for us. It is however asked, whether Abraham had respect only to this earthly life when he prayed for his son? For this the Lord seems to intimate, when he declares that he had granted what Abraham asked, and yet only mentions the things we have recorded. But it was not God's design to fulfill the whole wish of Abraham on this point; only he makes it plain that he would have some respect to Ishmael, for whom Abraham had entreated; so as to show that the fathers prayer had not been in vain. For he meant to testify that he embraced Abraham with such love, that, for his sake, he had respect to his whole race, and dignified it with peculiar benefits. 22. "God went up from Abraham." This expression contains a profitable doctrine, namely, that Abraham certainly knew this vision to be from God; for the ascent here spoken implies as much. And it is necessary for the pious to be fully assured that what they hear proceeds from God, in order that they may not be carried hither and thither but may depend alone upon heaven. And whereas God now, when he has spoken to us, does not openly ascend to heaven before our eyes; this ought to diminish nothing from the certainty of our faith; because a full manifestation of Him has been made in Christ, with which it is right that we should be satisfied. Besides, although God does not daily ascend upwards in a visible form, yet, in this his majesty is not less resplendent, that he raises us upwards by transforming us into his own image. Further, he gives sufficient authority to his word, when he seals it upon our hearts by his spirit. 23. "And Abraham took Ishmael." Moses now commends the obedience of Abraham because he circumcised the whole of his family as he had been commanded. For he must, of necessity, have been entirely devoted to God, since he did not hesitate to inflict upon himself a wound attended with acute pain, and not without danger of life. To this may be added the circumstance of the time; namely, that he does not defer the work to another day, but immediately obeys the Divine mandate. There is, however, no doubt, that he had to contend with various perplexing thoughts. Not to mention innumerable others, this might come into his mind, 'As for me, who have been so long harassed with many adverse affairs, and tossed about in different exiles, and yet have never swerved from the word of God; if, by this symbol, he would consecrate me to himself as a servant, why has he put me off to extreme old age? What does this mean, that I cannot be saved unless I, with one foot almost in the grave, thus mutilate myself?' But this was an illustrious proof of obedience, that having overcome all difficulties, he quickly, and without delay, followed where God called him. And he gave, in so doing, an example of faith not less excellent; because, unless he had certainly embraced the promises of God, he would by no means have become so prompt to obey. Hence, therefore, arose his great alacrity, because he set the word of God in opposition to the various temptations which might disturb his mind, and draw him in contrary directions. Two things also here are worthy of observation. First, that Abraham was not deterred by the difficulty of the work from yielding to God the duty which he owed him. We know that he had a great multitude in his house, nearly equal to a people. It was scarcely credible that so many men would have suffered themselves to be wounded apparently to be made a laughingstock. Therefore it was justly to be feared, that he would excite a great tumult in his tranquil family; yea, that, by a common impulses the major part of his servants would rise up against him; nevertheless, relying upon the word of God, he strenuously attempts what seemed impossible. We next see, how faithfully his family was instructed; because not only his home-born slaves, but foreigners, and men bought with money, meekly receive the wounds which was both troublesome, and the occasion of shame to carnal sense. It appears then that Abraham diligently took care to have them prepared for due obedience. And since he held them under holy discipline, he received the reward of his own diligences in finding them so tractable in a most arduous affair. So, at this day, God seems to enjoin a thing impossible to be done, when he requires his gospel to be preached every where in the whole world, for the purpose of restoring it from death to life. For we see how great is the obstinacy of nearly all men, and what numerous and powerful methods of resistance Satan employs; so that, in short, all the ways of access to these principles are obstructed. Yet it behoves individuals to do their duty, and not to yield to impediments; and, finally our endeavours and our labours shall by no means fail of that success which is not yet apparent. Chapter XVIII. 1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw [them], he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, 3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: 4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: 5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead [it], and make cakes upon the hearth. 7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave [it] unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. 8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set [it] before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. 9 And they said unto him, Where [is] Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. 10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard [it] in the tent door, which [was] behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah [were] old [and] well stricken in age; [and] it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? 13 And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? 14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. 15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh. 16 And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. 17 And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; 18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I know him, 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; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. 20 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; 21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. 22 And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD. 23 And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that [are] therein? 25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? 26 And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. 27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which [am but] dust and ashes: 28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for [lack of] five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy [it]. 29 And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do [it] for forty's sake. 30 And he said [unto him], Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do [it], if I find thirty there. 31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy [it] for twenty's sake. 32 And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy [it] for ten's sake. 33 And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place. 1. "And the Lord appeared unto him." It is uncertain whether Moses says, that God afterwards appeared again unto Abraham; or whether, reverting to the previous history, he here introduces other circumstances, which he had not before mentioned. I prefer, however, the former of these interpretations; namely, that God confirmed the mind of his servant with a new vision; just as the faith of the saints requires, at intervals, renewed assistance. It is also possible that the promise was repeated for the sake of Sarah. What shall we say, if in this manner, he chose to do honour to the greatness of his grace? For the promise concerning Isaac, from whom, at length, redemption and salvation should shine forth to the world, cannot be extolled in terms adequate to its dignity. Whichever of these views be taken, we perceive that there was sufficient reason why Isaac was again promised. Concerning the word Mamre we have spoken in the thirteenth chapter. Probably a grove of oaks was in that place, and Abraham dwelt there, on account of the convenience of the situation. 2. "And, lo, three men stood by him." Before Moses proceeds to his principal subject, he describes to us, the hospitality of the holy man; and he calls the angels men, because, being clothed with human bodies, they appeared to be nothing else than men. And this was done designedly, in order that he, receiving them as men, might give proof of his charity. For angels do not need those services of ours, which are the true evidences of charity. Moreover, hospitality holds the chief place among these services; because it is no common virtue to assist strangers, from whom there is no hope of reward. For men in general are wont, when they do favours to others, to look for a return; but he who is kind to unknown guests and persons, proves himself to be disinterestedly liberal. Wherefore the humanity of Abraham deserves no slight praise; because he freely invites men who were to him unknown, through whom he had received no advantage, and from whom he had no hope of mutual favours. What, therefore was Abraham's object? Truly, that he might relieve the necessity of his guests. He sees them wearied with their journeys and has no doubt that they are overcome by heat; he considers that the time of day was becoming dangerous to travellers; and therefore he wishes both to comfort, and to relieve persons thus oppressed. And certainly, the sense of nature itself dictates, that strangers are to be especially assisted; unless blind self-love rather impels us to mercenary services. For none are more deserving of compassion and help than those whom we see deprived of friends, and of domestic comforts. And therefore the right of hospitality has been held most sacred among all people, and no disgrace was ever more detestable than to be called inhospitable. For it is a brutal cruelty, proudly to despise those who, being destitute of ordinary protection, have recourse to our assistance. It is however asked, whether Abraham was wont thus to receive indiscriminately all kinds of guests? I answer, that, according to his accustomed prudence he made a distinction between his guests. And truly the invitation, which Moses here relates, has something uncommon. Undoubtedly, the angels bore, in their countenance and manner, marks of extraordinary dignity; so that Abraham would conclude them to be worthy not only of meat and drink, but also of honour. They who think that he was thus attentive to this office, because he had been taught, by his fathers that angels often appeared in the world in human form, reason too philosophically. Even the authority of the Apostle is contrary to this; for he denies that they were, at first, known to be angels either by Abraham, or by Lot, since they thought they were entertaining men. (Heb. 13: 2.) This, then, is to be maintained; that when he saw men of reverend aspects and having marks of singular excellence, advancing on their journey, he saluted them with honour, and invited them to repose. But, at that time, there was greater honesty than is, at present, to be found amid the prevailing perfidy of mankind; so that the right of hospitality might be exercised with less danger. Therefore, the great number of inns are evidence of our depravity, and prove it to have arisen from our own fault, that the principal duty of humanity has become obsolete among us. (continued in part 26...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-01: cvgn1-25.txt .