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Genesis 12:8 - Homilies By J.f. Montgomery

Abraham's altar.

"And there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord." There is a solemn word ( Matthew 10:32 , Matthew 10:33 ). The distinction is not between Christians and heathen; it is within the visible Church. To confess Christ is more than professing Christianity. It must be in the life, not merely in religious services. No doubt these have their use; without them spiritual life would wither and die, like a light under a vessel. They are as food; but "the life is more than meat." The world acquiesces in such services as respectable and proper. But it is a poor Christianity that raises no opposition. A Christian life may constrain respect, but it must differ from worldly

1. He built an altar, i.e. made open confession of his faith.

2. "Called on the name," &c; i.e. spoke to God as a living person, a real helper.

I. WHAT IS IT TO CONFESS GOD ?

1. In the heart; firmly to believe what he has revealed. His promises were given to be trusted. The fool puts away belief ( Psalms 14:1 ). It may be from dislike of truth (cf. Romans 1:28 ); it may be despondingly (cf. Genesis 42:36 ), afraid to take God at his word. The voice of true wisdom, Psalms 62:1 , Psalms 62:2 .

2. In the life; acting upon "ye are not your own." We cannot go far without being tried: in business, in companionship, in bearing what we do not like, in resisting self-will and self-seeking, in standing firm against the world's scorn or well-meant persuasions. Passing events constantly put the question whom we serve (cf. Daniel 3:15 ; Acts 5:28 , Acts 5:29 ). And not merely in matters that seem great. Little things show whom we have first in our hearts.

II. CLOSELY CONNECTED WITH THIS IS CALLING ON THE NAME OF THE LORD . We must look below the surface. Among professing Christians some prayer is a matter of course; but is it used as a real means to obtain? It is one thing to believe the doctrine of God's providence, and of the use of prayer, and another to pray as a practical power and to feel our Father's care. Yet St. Paul connects prayer and peace ( Philippians 4:6 , Philippians 4:7 ). When Hannah had prayed she was no more sad ( 1 Samuel 1:18 ). The Bible has many encouragements to pray, but not one warning against asking too much.

III. EFFECT OF THIS OR THE CHARACTER . Abraham's character as eminently faithful was built up by exercising faith. He walked with God not by any constraining power, nor by reason of special manifestations; then he would be no example for us. Each acknowledgment of God increased his communion. Each altar marked a step in his own life, and a work in the world. He who is faithful in little gains more power (cf. Matthew 13:12 ).— M .

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