« PreviousContinue »
are those in which God's transactions with Abraham the father of the Israelites are recorded : namely Gen. xii. 1.-3. xii. 14, 15, 16. xiii. 14.-16. xv. 1.-7. 18. xvii. 1.-8. xviii. 19. xxii. 10.-18.
In the first of these passages we are informed, that God commanded Abram to leave his country and kindred, and go into a land which he would shew him. And to encourage him to break his connections with his idolatrous kindred and acquaintance, God said to him, Gen. xii. 2. I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee and make thy name great, and thou shall be a blessing. 3. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee : and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Having received this command, Abram obeyed and went out, not knowing whither he went, Heb. xi. 8. He went out, notwithstanding he did not know whether the land into which he was going, was a good or a bad land; or whether it was far off or near.
On leaving Haran, Abram it seems was directed to go to Canaan. For on his coming to the plain of Moreh in Canaan, Gen. xii. 7. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land. Some time after this, when Abram separated from Lot, Gen. xiii. 14. The Lord said to Abram, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward, and southward ; and eastward, and westward, 15. For the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. 16. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.
AH this while Abram had no child; for which reason, eight vears after he left Haran, when God said to him, Gen. xv. l. Fear not Abram I am thy shield and exceeding great rervard, he replied, What wilt thou give me seeing I go childle88 ? Being now above eighty years old, the performance of the promise to make of him a great nation, appearing every day more and more improbable, he became uneasy at the delay. Wherefore, ver. 5. God brought him forth abroad, early in the morning, and said, Look now toward heaven and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, so shall thy seed be. 6. And he believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness. 7. And he said 10 him, I am the Lord who brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land 10 inherit it ; and ver. 18
In that same day, to assure him of the performance of this promise, the Lord made a covenant with Abram saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.
In an after transaction, recorded Gen. xvü. the Lord explained to Abram the particulars comprehended in the covenant which he made with him, after counting his faith to him for righteous. ness. Ver. 1. When Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, I am the Almighty God, walk before me and be thou perfect. 2. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. 3. And Abram fell on his face : and God talked with him, saying, 4. As for me, behold my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. 5. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham, for a father of many nations have I made thee. 6. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. 7. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee. 8. And I will give unto thee and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.
Some time after this transaction, to shew us that the things promised to Abraham in the covenant, depended on his continuing to believe and obey God, and on his commanding his children after him to keep the way of the Lord, and to do justice and judgment, the Lord said concerning him, Gen. xviii. 19. I know him, that he will command his children after him, and his household, to keep the way of the Lord, and to do justice and judgment, that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
At length, when Abraham was an hundred years old, and Sarah was ninety, she brought forth her long expected son, whom Abraham named Isaac, (laughter) on account of the joy which his birth occasioned to his parents.—But lo! when this only son, to whom all the promises were expressly limited, was grown up, God put Abraham's faith to a trial, still more severe, than that which was occasioned by deferring his birth so long : He commanded him to offer this only son as a burnt-offering, Gen. xxii. 2. This most difficult command, Abraham without hesitation set about obeying. He went with Isaac to the appointed
mountain, raised an altar, put wood on it, bound Isaac, laid him on the altar on the wood, and stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son : and would have slain him, had not the angel of the Lord called to him and said, ver. 12. Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing to him ; for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me.-15. And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham out of heaven the second time, 16. And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, 17. That in blessing, I wil bless thee, and in multiplying, I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore, 18. And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice. Here it is to be remarked, that God confirmed all his former promises with an oath ; and declared that he would perform these promises, because Abraham had done the difficult work of offering up his only son as a burntoffering. Also he gave him a new promise, That the person in whom all the nations of the earth are to be blessed, should be one of his descendants; and declared, as before, that he made him this promise, because he had obeyed his voice.
From the foregoing account of God's transactions with Abraham, it appears that God's covenant with him contained six separate promises or stipulations on the part of God, namely,
I. That God would exceedingly bless Abraham.
II. That Abraham should be the father of many nations, and very fruitful.
III. That God would give to Abraham, and to his seed after him, all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession.
IV. That he would be a God to Abraham, and to his seed after him in their generation.
V. That in Abraham himself, all the families of the earth should be blessed.
VI. That in Abraham's seed also, all the nations of the earth should be blessed.
These stipulations, the apostle Paul, in different places of his epistles, hath styled the promises ; and hath entered deeply into their meaning.
To understand these promises, in the whole extent of their meaning, the reader should recollect, that in the early ages, before the art of writing was invented, the most approved method of communicating and preserving knowledge, was by allegory ; that is, by making sensible objects which were present, or not very distant in point of time, representations of things which are not the objects of sense, or which are future, but which have some affinity to the things made use of to represent them. In this method of instruction, the characters and actions of remarkable persons, and the ordinary events of their life, were on some occasions considered as prefigurations of more distant persons, and events to which they had a resemblance. Of this kind, which may be called the natural allegory, we have the following examples in scripture.--Abraham, in respect of the faith and obedience which he exercised in uncircumcision, was a type of believers of all nations; and to shew this, he was made their father.-Melchizedeck, in his character and offices of a king and priest, was made by God himself a type of Christ, Ps. cx. 4.David also, in his office and kingdom, prefigured Christ; on which account, Christ is called David by the later prophets.Abraham's wives and sons, according to St. Paul, Gal. iv. 24. were allegorical representations of the two covenants, and of the persons placed under these covenants. The swallowing of Jonah by the whale, and his continuing in its belly three days and three nights, is declared by our Lord himself to be a prefiguration of his burial, and of his resurrection on the third day, Matt. xvi. 4. -The characters, actions, and events which constitute the natural allegory, though existing apparently in the ordinary course of things, were ordered of God, so as to be fit emblems of those future persons and events, the knowledge of which God intended to communicate to the world.
There is in scripture, likewise, what may be called The instiluted allegory; because it consisted of actions which God appointed to be performed with such and such circumstances, for the purpose of prefiguring future persons and events. Of this sort were all the Levitical sacrifices, particularly the paschallamb, John xix. 36.—and all the rites of worship appointed by Moses, which, as Paul tells us, Heb. x. I. were shadows of good things to come.-Of the same kind was the lifting up of the brazen serpent in the wilderness, which our Lord tells us, John ii. 14, 15. was a type of his being himself lifted up on the cross. -Probably also the command to offer up Isaac as a burnt-offering, was intended as an allegorical representation of the sacrifice of Christ, Heb. xi. 19.-And to name no more instances, many of the extraordinary things done by the prophets, at the command of God, were types; as is evident from the explications with which they were accompanied.
The allegorical method of communicating and preserving instruction, was attended with three advantages. 1. The emblem being an object of sense, made a strong impression on the imagination of the persons for whose instruction the allegory was. intended, and might easily be remembered. 2. The verbal explication which often accompanied the instituted allegory, having for its subject an object of sense, neither required many words, nor were these words of uncertain meaning. This kind of allegory, therefore, with its interpretation, could be handed down to posterity with a good degree of accuracy, without the aid of writing.-3. In scripture, some future events are foretold in such a manner as to shew, that they are themselves prefigurations or predictions of future events more remote. In such cases, when the first events come to pass in the manner foretold, they are both a proof and a pledge that the more remote events, of which they are the signs, will take place in their season. ,
This account of the ancient scripture allegory I have given here, because from what our Lord and his apostles have said concerning the promises in the covenant with Abraham, it appears that that transaction, besides its first meaning which terminated in the persons and events literally spoken of, had an allegorical or second and higher meaning, which was to be ac, complished in persons and events more remote. For example, Abraham's natural descendants by Isaac, though he was not yet born, were considered in the covenant as types of his seed by faith.-In like manner, Isaac's supernatural birth accomplished by the power of God, typified the regeneration of believers by the same power. And the land of Canaan, promised to the natural seed as their inheritance, was an emblem of the heavenly country, the inheritance of the seed by faith.--In short, the temporal blessings promised in the covenant to the natural seed, had all an allegorical or second meaning; being images of those better blessings which God intended to bestow in a more remote period, on Abraham's seed by faith, as shall be shewn immediately.
The promises in the covenant with Abraham, thus allegorically interpreted according to their true intention, throw great light on the gospel revelation, in which there are many allusions to that covenant ; not to mention that the accomplishments of