(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

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

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
  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
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
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
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
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]
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...)

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