by Thomas Boston
And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me, ver. 29. And he blessed him there - GENESIS 32:26, 29.
HOW mean are the exploits and encounters of the most celebrated heroes, whom the world admires, in comparison of the great things done by faith. Natural courage and valour have gained a reputation to some, as if they only were the men, and valour died with them. But when the sum of all is heard, it amounts to no more but worm man striving with his fellow worm for a thing of nought, and gaining a victory which can never be more glorious than their party and cause are, the one a worm, the other a thing which is not, Prov. 23:5.
But behold an encounter of faith, worm Jacob wrestling with the Mighty God, the angel of the covenant, Jesus Christ, and that for the divine blessing. Both the party and the cause are great without a parallel, and the victory falls to the weak side. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. In these words we see,
Jacob bringing the matter of the struggle to a precise point. They had wrestled all or a good part of the night, and when the day was breaking, the angel desires him to let him go, but Jacob holds, and tells him, Thus and thus will he do it and not otherwise. A blessing, his blessing, or he will not let him go.
Consider here the great point in wrestling Jacob is seeking. A blessing, God's blessing. Jacob was blessed before, and he had used art to obtain it, even beguiling his father which was his sin. He must be blessed again, and he uses holy violence to obtain it, even wrestling with his God, which was his laudable duty.
Thus a person once really blessed will be concerned for a further blessing. None despise the blessing, but those who are strangers to it, and are near to a curse. If there be a soul that has got any access to God in secret duties, such persons will have an edge on their spirit for a sermon or communion blessing. And they will always be seeking more of the blessing, till they receive it in full tale, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you, before the foundation of the world."
From the barren rocks the showers run off as they fall, while the fruitful field drinks up the rain, that it may bring forth more fruit.
It is surely a good sign when the heart of a man is crying within him to heaven, a blessing, a blessing, a spiritual blessing. The curse locks up the heart, and lays it under bonds, that it cannot stir nor move within the man for the blessing. But a blessing opens the heart for more, and presages God's opening of his hands. There could be no better sign of a feast to be here, than this, all the children crying hunger, hunger, hunger! Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.
The blessing Jacob seeks from the man that wrestled with him, and had disjointed his thigh with a touch, but had not prevailed against him. But since the less is blessed by the greater, Jacob here acknowledges his superiority over him, and humbly begs his blessing.
We may observe that the humble soul is the most likely to obtain the blessing. God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace unto the humble. The valleys are refreshed with rain, while it runs off the mountains. And to the humble soul it will be said, come up hither. God's blessing does not fall by random into one's bosom; but they that get it see first the hand from which it comes. And seeing him in his glory as the bestower of blessings, they must needs be vile, and as nothing in their own eyes. "I have heard of thee, says Job, by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Isaiah speaks to the same purpose, chap. 6:5.
As ever then we would have the blessing let us be humble and vile in our own eyes. There is no room for it in the proud self-conceited sinner. "The full soul loatheth an honey-comb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet." The swelling botch of the pride of the heart must be lanced, and dissolved, before you be meet to receive the blessing. The unhumbled sinner's hands are so swelled, that he cannot put on our Elder Brother's clothes: and we cannot receive the blessing but in them.
There are two sights which you should seek this night, if you be for the blessing. The bright and glorious sight of God's greatness, excellency, majesty and holiness. Look to his works, look to his word for it. Look and look again, till your souls be made to say within you, "Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?" The other is the black and dismal sight of your own vileness and unworthiness. Look through the holy spiritual law for this, and then through thy disorderly life and heart. Look and look again, till thou be filled with self-abhorrence, and get a humbling view of your righteousness as well as your unrighteousness, and then you will come empty handed for the blessing, to buy without money, and without price, that is, purely to beg it for the Lord's sake.
The man from whom Jacob sought the blessing was the man Christ, the God-man, who took away our curse and gives us the blessing. Now they that would have the blessing must come to our Lord Jesus Christ for it. All power in heaven and in earth is given unto him. This is the honour which the Father has put upon the royal Mediator, to be the great steward of heaven. When the famished Egyptians came crying to Pharaoh for corn, he bade them go to Joseph. This is the Father's voice in the gospel to poor sinners that would have the blessing. He has put the key of the treasures of blessings into Christ's hands; and whoso will have it must go to him.
Come to Christ then for the blessing to get it out of his hand. For there is no other way of receiving the blessing. "God blesses us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." God out of Christ is a consuming fire, and they that presume to put forth their hand to God for it, but under the covert of his blood, will get a curse, instead of a blessing. We cannot receive it but by the hand of the Mediator, into which the Father hath put the blessing, to be communicated by him. When Christ ascended on high, "he received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell amongst them. Paul quoting these words renders them, and gave gifts unto men. As if he had said, we dare not meddle with the blessing to take it at our own hand, but Lord Jesus take it for us, and give it to us.
The blessing for which Jacob was so earnest, I think must be understood in a suitableness to his particular circumstances, namely the great hazard in which he and his family were by Esau, who was coming to meet him with four hundred men. Alas! what shall he do for this rencounter. He cannot think to fight him. His few servants, the women, and the young lads, his children were not fit to fight, nay, hardly to flee. Well, but a blessing will make up all this want, and the strait in which he was, makes him the more eager for it. I judge there are two things at which Jacob aimed here.
1. The ratification of his father's blessing, which he had received twenty years before. This blessing he took away from Esan, who despised it, and this was the great ground of Esau's quarrel with him. And now the time seemed to be come for the revenge of that quarrel.
We observe, that a new ratification of old blessings is a weighty errand to the throne of grace. Whom God once blesses they shall be blessed, but we cannot have the comfort of old blessings, without a fresh believing view of them. Let then old disciples and Christians of considerable standing, know that they have an errand at a communion table more than young converts and new coveuanters. That is to get a ten, twenty, forty, sixty year old blessing newly ratified at this communion. God is saying unto you now, "I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me." Bring ye forth old experiences to be polished, and to get a new lustre upon them at this communion. And well may you do it, for it is very pleasant to the Lord, for us to promise well of free grace, and every enjoyment which a believer receives, he may call it Joseph.
Jacob saw he was like to run a great hazard for the cause of the blessing, and therefore he endeavours to be very sure of it before hand, reckoning no doubt that it would bear all the cost. They that are in hazard for religion had need to have a sure hold of it, that they do not run a risk for nought. They that suffer in the cause of religion, and yet are void of the life and power of it, are of all men the most miserable. Men hate them, because they seem to be what they are not; and God hates them because they are not what they seem to be.
If you have a mind to engage in the cause of religion, be sure to go through with, and lay a good foundation. The spirit of apostacy prevailing at this day will bring in a spirit of persecution, if God do not stem the tide. Lay your accounts with suffering, and since you must lay your accounts with it, labour by all means to have pennyworths, that you suffer not for nothing: but you have as much religion as will bear the cost of all you lose on that head.
2. A new blessing to carry him through the present distress. He was to meet Esau with his four hundred men, so he must have God's blessing before he venture out to this rencounter. He cannot face Esau without it. In solemn addresses to God, we should labour to have in our eye the evil world through which we are to pass, and the particular straits that may be immediately before us, and to get a blessing suitable for supporting us under them.
Let it be our errand to God at this communion, to get a blessing for our wilderness journey. Come in hither as travellers to an inn upon the road for a refreshment, by which we may be strengthened to go through the seen to the unseen world where glory dwells. Consider your own case, and be distinct and particular. If there be any duty or trouble before you more than ordinary, represent that particularly to the Lord at his table, and seek direction, strength, and furniture for that particular. For our great Physician loves to see his people pointing to their sores.
3. We have Jacob's peremptoriness and resoluteness in this point. I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. He had struggled long, and after all the angel offers to go without blessing him, for the trial of his faith and patience, but he will not quit his hold. His thigh was now disjointed; but though it should cost him more broken bones, he will not let him go.
4. The happy success. He blessed him there. The sore battle has a happy issue. Wrestling Jacob comes off a conqueror, and gets the blessing upon the spot.
Doctrine.—The way to get the blessing is to go to the Lord for it, resolved not to take a denial, nor to part with him even till he get it. In prosecuting this doctrine, I shall,
I. Open up this way of getting the blessing.
II. I will shew what it is that makes some souls so peremptory and resolute for the blessing, while others slight it.
III. I will shew that this is the true way to obtain the blessing, and that they who take this way will come speed. I am then,
I. To open up this way to obtain the blessing, which you may take up in these particulars. If we would have the blessing, then,
1. We must have a lively sense of our need of it. "He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away." It was felt need brought the prodigal home to his father's house. I perish, said he, with hunger. They that feel not their need of the blessing will soon sit down easy without it; they will, with the raven, feed on the carrion, and take up their rest short of the ark. But a pinching sense of need is necessary to excite the soul to wrestle with God for it. For none will ever come back to the Lord, but those whom felt need drives, not knowing how to live without his blessing and favour.
2. We must by faith lay hold on Christ the store house of blessings for it. God blesses us with all spiritual blessings in Christ. All saving blessings are benefits of the covenant of grace, and are given to the sinner with Christ. In vain will you stand at a distance from Christ, out of the covenant, and try for the blessing; for the falling dew shall as soon pierce the rock, as your faithless importunity shall procure you the blessing, without uniting with Christ in whom only we can be blessed.
3. We must by fervent prayer wrestle with him for it. How did Jacob obtain it? "Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed; he wept, and made supplication unto him." Can they expect the blessing who will not seek it? And can they seek it to purpose, who do not seek it fervently, as those who are in good earnest, whose hearts are set upon it. "Set me, says the spouse, as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm; for love is strong as death." And says Solomon, "yea if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God." Careless begging at the throne of grace does in effect court a denial. And where the blessing is to come, grace will set the heart aloft after it in the first place.
4. We must by believing the promise, keep a sure hold of the blessed Redeemer. He had said to Jacob, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea which cannot be numbered." And we find Jacob, ver. 12. reminding him of this promise. Now what way can we hold him and not let him go, but holding him by his word. They who hold him by his word, they have sure hold. Heaven and earth are not so sure as that handle by which the believer holds him. But unbelief makes the soul let go its hold, and the issue is this, the man goes away without the blessing. "Jesus saith unto her, said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldst believe, thou shouldst see the glory of God." The promises of the gospel are the conduit pipes, by which the blessings of the covenant come to the soul. Faith must suck at these by a believing application of them, or no good can come in an ordinary way.
5. We must by hope wait for the blessing. "Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait I say on the Lord." God may suffer his people to wait long about his hand, and to wrestle in the dark, before the day break, but they must be resolved to bear one disappointment after another, and still to wait. "My soul waiteth for the Lord, more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning." They that turn hopeless of the blessing, are in a fair way to let him go without it. For the Christian is fed by hope, as the husbandman is, who will never sow his seed where he has no hope of a harvest: "therefore cast not away your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward."
6. We must leave no mean unessayed to obtain it, but use every mean till we find it. Song 3:1–4. We must go through every duty and seek the Lord through all thy trysting places, where he uses to meet with his people. Yea, we must go back again and again to the same duties till we find him. Duty is ours, but times and seasons are in his hand. And they may long seek and not find who yet will obtain a joyful meeting at last.
7. No discouragements must cause us to faint. Jacob wrestles on with his disjointed thigh, though the day was broken, and it was very unfit that the shepherds, who might be tending their flocks, should see what passed betwixt the angel and him. Yet he will not let him go, he will wrestle till broad day light, before he want it. Perhaps you may go to God, and with the woman of Canaan get no answer. When "she cried, saying, have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered not a word." Perhaps you may get a breast full of convictions and no more. Perhaps great objections may be mustered up against you, to dash your hopes of prevailing. But whether these objections be taken from the heaven without you, or the hell within you, you must not give over; but make your way through them by answering them from the doctrine of the gospel. When Jesus said to the woman, it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord; yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table." But in case you cannot get through the objections, even step over them; if you cannot loose the knot, cut it, and hold on. Thus when Jesus told the woman, that he was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But instead of going away, Then she came, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
8. If at any time we fall, we must resolutely recover and renew the struggle. Jacob's thigh is disjointed with a touch of the angel's hand, he is so far worsted, but he makes a new vigorous sally, and tells him he will not let him go, except he bless him. They that fall in this good fight, must not lie still, but rise again, and renew the actings of faith, in opposition to sense, and hope against hope.
Lastly, We must resolve never to give over till we get it, and so hold on. I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. If it should be noon day, if Esau should come upon me on the spot, I shall never let thee go till I get the blessing. The soul must resolve to hold on, that nothing shall end the struggle but death, or victory; that if they die without it, they shall die at his door. This is the resolute struggle, this is the way to the blessing.
Motives to urge you to this way.
1. Consider the worth of the blessing. Whatever pains, and struggles, and on-waiting it may cost, it will far more than repay the expence of all. God's blessing is God's good word to the soul, but it is big with God's grace and good deeds to the man that gets it; and that is enough to make one happy for ever. It is the purchase of Christ's death, and therefore must be most valuable. God's blessing removes the curse of the law from off the soul, entitles to glory, and in the meantime makes all things work together for good.
2. Consider the need you have of it. You are by nature under the curse, and unless you get the blessing, you must for ever be under the curse. But, O consider, how can you want it, how can you do without it? How will you live, die, or stand before the tribunal of God without it? Your absolute need makes all things necessary in the way of getting it.
3. If you will not be at this pains for it, you will be reckoned despisers of the blessing; and that is most dangerous, and will bring on most bitter vengeance. And you will see the day you would do any thing for it when you cannot get it.
Lastly, If you will take this way you will get the blessing. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened." The Lord never refused it to one that sought at this rate. Never did such a one die at his door. Amen.