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recognized in the New Testament as still standing; and they are sure to all the seed of Abraham, having faith in the promised Messiah, whether they belong to the circumcision or uncircumcision, to the Jews within the wall of separation, and as well to the branches of Joseph which have run over the wall. The blessing is still more directly to Israel; and, through them, to other nations. Our business, therefore, is still with the promises made unto the fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The first of these promises, to which we refer, is recorded Gen. xii. 1--3:
“ Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee: and I will make of thee a great nation."
—This seems to refer to the ultimate fulfilment of the promise,“ when shall be gathered into one nation, all the children of God, that are scattered abroad;"
inheritance. As marking this distinction, the apostle very beautifully argues, (Rom. iv. 13-18,) “The promise that he (that is, Abraham) should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect." Why? Because the law hath utterly failed of securing the heirship to Israel. In place of doing this, “ It worketh wrath, for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed: not to that only which is of the law,” (such as the Jews, who still retained the Mosaic ritual,) " but to that also, which is of the faith of Abraham:" who was justified by a faith which he had before circumcision. The main portion of Abraham's descendants, of the house of Israel, who had been then seven hundred years out of the land, were already in circumstances similar to his, and in uncircumcision were growing up into the promised multitude of nations. And so the Apostle here takes notice of its being said to Abraham, “ I have made thee a father of many nations.” He is the father of us all, before Him, whom he believed; although, to the view of man, the literal accomplishment of the prophecy has not taken place. Israel, or Ephraim, the seed of Abraham, of whom the promised multitude of nations was emphatically to come, has been accounted dead, or not existent; but God “ quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things that be not, as though they were." Abraham, “ against hope, believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be,” that is,
as the stars of heaven for multitude.” And that this was spoken of the multitude of a natural seed, even as contrasted with an adopted, we shall presently see. The promises made to the fathers, with respect to the heirship of the world, are thus
“And I will bless thee, and make thy nanie great;"
—Such was the meaning of the name which he then bore: Abram,—great, or high father, or Father of the High One:
"And thou shall be a blessing: 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."
The seed of Abram were thus to have an intimate, powerful, and, ultimately, a most beneficial influence upon all the families of mankind. Other nations were to be blessed through their instrumentality. Those who refused participation in their blessings, would wither away before them: and their commission to bless extended to all the families of the earth. This is their calling from the beginning; and of which, He who knows the end, from the beginning, will not repent. Abraham obeyed the call of Jehovah, and came into the land of Canaan;(ver. 7):-
OF THE PROMISES MADE TO ABRAM.
" And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land.”
merely an adopted family, not the natural descendants of Abraham? The circumstances of Abraham at the time of receiving the promise, seemed to offer nothing but an adopted heir. The doubt, however, is resolved for him, Gen. xv. He had been complaining that not a son of his own; but that merely one born in his house, was to be his heir. The Lord answers, (verses 4, 5);
“ This shall not be thine heir ; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And He brought him forth abroad, 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."
Here the promise is full and free. It is a gift of the land, before the law was given; and even before circumcision; and therefore altogether unconditional. It may also be observed, that the promise of the land is intimately connected with the former promise, that in his seed "all the families of mankind were to be blessed,"—the land being the most advantageous position from which streams of blessing could be diffused over all the world.
There may be some dispute as to what is meant by the seed of Abraham here spoken of. Is it an individual, or many? Is it an adopted, or a natural posterity? It means One. This is plainly declared, Gal. ii. 16, "Now to Abraham and to his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of One, And to thy seed, which is Christ." It was Christ, then, to whom the land was promised. He is the Head, and only in him can the inheritance be enjoyed; none can come into the possession, except as being viewed in Him.“ Thou art worthy," sing the four living creatures, and twice twelve elders, Rev. v. 8, 9. He only is worthy to claim the inheritance, having truly acted the part of a kinsman Redeemer: but He does not retain the possession to himself alone, the sole inhabitant of the land.—No, although it is to One that the land is given, yet many come into the enjoyment of it through that One. And, accordingly, the song concludes thus:
Here the Lord evidently distinguishes between a natural and merely an adopted seed; and, at the same time, speaks of the natural, as being undoubtedly that which was spoken of. He undoubtedly, points to the multiplicity of the seed, as in contrast to mere human expectation, at the time. It is added, “ And he believed in the Lord, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness." He looked forward to the promised inheritance, through the right of the One promised seed, through whom alone, either he or any of his numerous progeny, could come into the promised possession; and he stood accepted in Him, whose day he saw afar off, and seeing which, he rejoiced.
A further distinction, as to the seed, is made in Gen. xvii. where the multiplicity of the seed is particularly dwelt upon, (verses 3--6):
" Thou hast made us unto our God, kings and priests : and we shall REIGN ON THE EARTH.
By this seed, therefore, is meant One, Christ; to whom the land is absolutely given; and in whose right a multitudinous seed come into the enjoyment of it.
The question then comes to be, whether this multitudinous seed, viewed in the One seed, Christ, is the natural posterity of Abraham; or
“ And Abram fell on his face; and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations; Neither shall thy name be any more called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have 1 made thee. And I will make thee exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee."
And then, with regard to the continuance of God's favour towards the posterity of Abram, (verse 7):
Now, the question is, Was this numerous posterity, with whom the Lord was to be always; and who would ultimately, he given possession of the land: was it to come of Ishmael, who had already been born to Abraham, and whose posterity is now known to be extremely numerous, and may be said to have long had actual possession of the land? Abraham, himself, seems to have had scarcely any other expectation; but, what saith God? (verses 19, 21):
“ Sarah, thy wife, shall bear thee a son indeed, and thou shalt call his name Isaac; I will establish m covenant with him, for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. My covenant will I establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year."
Thus explicit is the word of promise, with regard to the many nations to come;—not of Ishmael, however numerous his posterity might be, but of that very son Isaac, which should be born of his wife Sarah, the following year. And the name of Sarai, my lady, is changed to Sarah, the lady, as if she would be the mother, in common, of those who should inherit the promises : as Abram is changed to Abraham, the father of a multitude,—a multitude of nations.
That these promises may be made doubly sure, God confirms them with an oath, in Gen. xxii. 16--18,Abraham having, in purpose,
offered up his son Isaac—a type of the offering up of the Son of God, the Heir of the promises; and whereby they all are
Here, then, the three birthright blessings are distinctly promised to Abraham: These are, the multiplicity or double portion; the kingship or place of rule; and the priesthood or being made the medium of blessing. The double portion seems to be expressed in the first of these promises, which speaks of the immense multiplicity of the race; and the language in which the promise is conveyed, seems to intimate that they would possess both the more elevated portions of the earth, and also the sea-shore: and their own land is one in which they may indeed most eligibly possess this double portion,—it being the most centrally placed with regard to both land and water.
The second of these promises regards the place of rule—the kingship: which is expressed by its being said that they should
possess " the gate of their enemies." It was in the gates, of old, that the people held their counsels, and that rule was exercised. To possess the gate of the enemy, was the same with overturning his counsels and possessing his power. Now it may be observed that it was from the North, that the great enemies of Israel proceeded: the Babylonian, Median, Greek, and Roman, all proceeded from the North. These were the empires that composed the great image de
THE THREE GREAT BIRTHRIGHT BLESSINGS.
To Isaac the promises were confirmed, which had been thus so unequivocally given to Abraham, Gen. xxvi. 2–4:
“ And the Lord appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land that I shall tell thee of. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and I will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries. And I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham, thy father; and I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed."
scribed in Daniel, chap. ii. as well as the Assyrian, who had previously ravaged the land, and led away the main portion of the people into the north country ;—where they have multiplied as promised; and where they were given possession of the gate of their enemies; and have gone out by it, unto all parts of the world.
The third promise regards the priesthood. This seed, promised to Abraham, are to be made the means of conveying blessing unto all the nations of the earth. This is emphatically true of Christ; but it is also true of the other seed of Abraham, who are heirs, together with Him, of the promise. Already have these nations, who so wonderfully multiplied in the north, and who have been already givenso far, the gate of their enemy; already are they made the instruments of conveying the glorious gospel of the grace of God unto almost all the ends of the earth. All blessings are, in the first instance, put into their hands; and, through them, are these widely distributed among the nations. True, the children of Belial are here also, and try to mar this ministration of blessing; but still it is through Israel that the blessing is conveyed; and this, we are given to hope, will yet be much more abundant.
These three promises were written in the names of the three great receivers of the promises. The first, referring to their multiplicity, is written in the name of Abraham,—the father of a great multitude, who had also been called Abram, or high father. The second promise, regarding the supplanting, and the possession of power, is written in the name of his grandson, Jacob, a supplanter ; and Israel, prince of God, or great prince. And the third promise, regarding the communication of blessing, the making known the good tidings of great joy unto all people, is expressed in the name of Abraham's own son, Isaac, that is, laughter: at whose birth his mother said,—"God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.”
Here, again, the multiplicity, the dominion, and the power of blessing are spoken of ; and are expressly connected with the seed of Abraham, in the line of Isaac.
But Isaac had two sons, both of the same mother, and born at the same time. Which of these was heir of the promises ? Neither are we here left in doubt. Even before they were born, the blessing was promised to Jacob. Isaac wished to have the blessing conveyed to Esau, in preference: but his purpose was overruled; and the blessing, after all, descended upon the child of promise, although by means which we cannot approve. It is a wonderful example of divine faithfulness, triumphing over human infidelity,—of Isaac to his God,—of Rebekah to her husband,—of Jacob to his brother. Jacob seems to be a type of the supplanting seed of Abraham, who have come into the possession of blessing, meant of God for them; but, by the human bestowers, for another. And this is the blessing wherewith Isaac blessed Jacob, supposing him to be Esau, (Gen. ch. xxvii. 28, 29):
God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee. Be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee. Cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee."
The heirship of the world is thus most
THE PROMISES MADE TO JACOB.
At the same place, (Bethel, or house of God,) the Lord met with Jacob, upon his return from the north country, where he had served for a wife, (Gen. xxxv. 9—12):
distinctly given to Jacob's posterity, even as distinguished from that of his own twin brother, Esau.
In Gen. xxviii. 12—15, the promises which had been made to the fathers, Abraham and Isaac, and which had been unintentionally conveyed to Jacob, are all confirmed to the latter, in a vision which he had of the glorious kingdom of the Messiah; to which our Saviour seems to allude, whenspeaking with Nathaniel, who had made confession of his being the king of Israel—he says, 66 Hereafter shall ye see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Sou of man." Here it is said, that Jacob, having lighted on a certain place, took a stone for his pillow, and laid him down to sleep:
" And God appeared unto Jacob, when he came out of Padan-aram, and blessed him. And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob; thy name shall not any more be called Jacob, but Israel (or Prince of God) shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. And God said unto him, I am God Almighty.”
It is when Israel returns with his numerous posterity, that the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given them. It is then, when God has been enquired at to do for them what he hath promised ; when they have wrestled to obtain the blessing, that they shall, indeed, in fulness, be made princes of all the earth. And God condescends to pledge his Great Name, that He will accomplish these promises He has now written in the names of the three great receivers of the promises. And he adds,
"And he dreamed, and, behold, a ladder set upon the earth; and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it, and he said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac; the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed, and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth; and thou shalt spread abroad, to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south."
“ Be fruitful, and multiply; a nation, and a company of nations, shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins, and the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.”
Now this is the very order in which we suppose the seed of Israel to have spread; first to the west, and then, latterly, to the east; first to the north, and now emphatically to the south. And now seems to be dawning, that which is here again said,
" And in thee, and in thy seed, shall all the families of the earth be blessed." And then, with regard to the good providence of God, until all these things should be accomplished, (verse 15):
" And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land, for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.”
But Jacob had a number of sons, twelve in all: To which of them were the birthright promises made ?— Or were they all made alike to all ? They belonged to Reuben, the firstborn ; but they were taken from him, and distributed among three of his brethren. The priesthood was given to Levi. The kingship to Judah: his mother's children were to bow down to him.-Of him, according to the flesh, came Christ, to whom every knee shall bow. The double portion, the multiplicity, was given to Joseph. The very name of Joseph means increase; and there is abundant reference to the increase, both as to the number of his posterity, and the amplitude of their possessions, in the blessing which Jacob pronounced upon Joseph, as recorded, Gen. xlix. (verses 22-26);
-Notwithstanding all appearances, we believe that God has been true to his promise, in making Israel the object of his peculiar care. He will never leave them until the kingdom of grace be consummated in glory.