Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.…
How many are there who set out on the way to Canaan, but never reach that land of promise — who run well for a time, but are afterwards hindered! In the present life they obtain rest, in peace with God, in the exercise of the grace He ministers, and in a conscious sense of His approbation; and these first fruits of the Spirit are the earnest of the rich, everlasting harvest. Those only who enter by faith into the land of promise here shall be admitted into the Canaan above. But how many are there who seem to set out well, and even to make some progress, and yet die before they gain that happy reversion!
I. We ask, HOW FAR MEN MAY GO IN THE WAY TO CANAAN, AND YET, LIKE TERAH, DIE IN HARAN? in other words, How far they may proceed in the ways of religion, yet fall short of the kingdom of grace and glory?
1. We may be visited with many convictions, and even with great terrors, and yet fall short of a state of grace. Does conscience admonish you that you have been neglecting your duty to your God and your Saviour — your highest duties, your first interests, even the interests of your immortal souls? Does the fear of futurity sometimes visit you, urging you to say, "What must I do?" It may be well — it shall be well, if those alarms impel you to the Saviour. But rest not in convictions; for if these be the whole extent of your experience, you are still in Haran, separated by a wide boundary from the land of promise, the spiritual Canaan: and if you die in your present state, you are excluded from the Canaan that is above.
2. We may be conscious of tender religious emotions — sorrow, desire, joy — and yet fall short of real grace. Not only may the conscience be convinced, but the heart may be in some measure softened, and yet remain unconverted; for it is "deceitful above all things."
3. We may form many good resolutions, and yet be dwelling in Haran. Who is there that has not often formed these? In a season of conviction, in an hour of compunction, in a day of trial and adversity, we resolve to apply to the things that belong to our peace, to attend to the warnings of the word and providence of God, and to seek after that portion that is satisfying and abiding. But alas! the conviction wears off, the trial passes by, the danger is averted; and we forget all our purposes and resolutions. Or perhaps we set about fulfilling them, and adhere to them for a time; but, trusting in our own strength, we are overcome and brought again under the power of the enemy. What avail an army of good resolutions, unaccompanied by prayer, and unsupported by grace, against the subtlety and power of the enemy of souls? "The way to hell," it has been emphatically said, "is paved with good resolutions."
4. We may actually enter on the work of reformation, and proceed a certain length in it, and yet fall short. Herod not only feared John, but "did many things." Thus are men often induced to abstain from particular transgressions, to exercise some degree of self-denial, to address themselves to various duties — things in themselves, no doubt, promising and right, but being done only from temporary impulse, or from selfish and slavish motives, consistent still with an unregenerate state, are usually as transient in their duration as defective in their principle. These facts are affecting, and even alarming. You are ready to say, If all the attainments you have mentioned are ineffective, what is there that will avail? My brethren, nothing will avail without a change of heart — "a new heart" must be given us, "a new spirit" put within us.
II. We proceed to ask, WHAT ARE THE OBSTACLES THAT INTERRUPT THE PROGRESS OF THOSE WHO SEEM TO SET OUT IN THE WAY TO CANAAN?
1. Here the analogy of a journey leads us to mention, first, sloth, spiritual sloth. Like a paralysis extending over our whole frame, it completely unfits us for prosecuting our journey.
2. We mention, as a second obstacle, the love of the world; a principle that entangles and enchains — that perverts the heart, and turns the feet out of the right path.
3. In fine, the grand obstacle is, an inward aversion to the ways of God, a dislike of serious religion.
III. We inquire, WHAT IS THE STATE AND PROSPECT OF THOSE WHO STOP SHORT OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD? Surely it may well awaken both sorrow and fear. Do you not lament the fate of a promising youth who, in the near prospect of succeeding to a large estate, is cut off by the hand of death? Do you not mourn when any object, exceedingly desirable, seems just ready to be attained, and is then unexpectedly snatched from us and lost forever? How deplorable! to have gone so far in the way to Canaan and yet to come short, to have approached so near the promised land, yet never to enter; to come to the gate of heaven, and to be cast down into hell!
1. Consider; those who stop short of the kingdom lose the benefit of all they have felt and done in the things of religion.
2. Nay, further, all that they have felt and done in religion will really serve to aggravate their guilt and imbitter their disappointment.
3. Once more; the conduct of such persons brings peculiar reproach upon religion. For they convey to others an injurious conception of it; they represent it as a system of restraints, of difficulties, and of dangers, without adequate reward. And now, in concluding, I address, first, those who have not yet set out on the way to Canaan — I intend careless sinners, who continue to this day, without fear or concern, in the broad way that leads to destruction. Has God no claims upon you? Has Christ no right to your regard? Has eternity no demands on your attention? Even in you there is a conscience that will speak if you will give it a hearing, and if not here, yet assuredly hereafter. Be persuaded to avert its overwhelming reproaches, yea, the more overwhelming frown of Him who is greater than conscience, by now making peace with Him through Jesus Christ. Secondly, I address those who have professedly set out on the way to Canaan — I mean those who profess that they have given themselves to Christ, to be saved and to be governed by Him. Remember, my beloved friends, you must "endure to the end," if you would be saved. If a man enter the army, and follow his regiment a few marches, and then desert to the enemy, is he not accounted a traitor and a rebel? Such will your character be, if, having professed to give yourselves to Christ, you forsake Him and return to the world.
(H. Gray, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.