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need not be thought strange, considering the great strength of his understanding, and the just ideas of the power, veracity, and other perfections of God, which he had attained. Besides, St. Paul assures us that he reasoned with a similar strength of understanding and faith, concerning his having a son by Sarah, notwithstanding the birth of that son was delayed, till Abraham was an hundred years old and Sarah ninety. Rom. iv. 19. And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body now dead, being about an hundred years old, neither the deadness of Sarah's womb. 20. Therefore against the promise of God he did not dispute through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. 21. And was fully persuaded that what was promised, he was able certainly to perform.-Also Abraham reasoned in the like admirable manner, concerning the command to offer up his only son as a burnt offering, that long expected son to whom all the promises were limited. For recollecting that they were all to be fulfilled in Isaac, and having the most exalted ideas of the veracity and power of God, he concluded, that although Isaac were burnt to ashes on the altar, God would raise him from the dead. Heb. xi. 17. By faith Abraham, when tried, offered up Isaac ; he who had received the promises offered up even his only begotten : 18. Concerning whom it was said, Surely in Isaac a seed shall be unto thee. 19. Loyirouevos, Reasoning that God was able to raise him even from the dead; from which he received him even for a parable.
If Abraham could reason so justly concerning the birth of Isaac, and concerning the command to offer him up as a burnt offering, we may believe that he reasoned with an equal strength of understanding and faith, concerning God's blessing him, and counting his faith to him for righteousness; and indeed concerning all the other promises in the covenant.
of the second Promise in the Covenant with Abraham. This promise is recorded in the following passages. Gen. xii. 2. I will make of thee a great nation.--xiii. 16. I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth : 80 that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered,Gen. xv. 5. 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.-xvii. 4. 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 I have constituted thee. 6. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful : and I will make nations of thee : and kings shall come out of thee.-xviii. 18. Abraham skall surely become a great and mighty nation.—xxii. 17. In multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore.
On this promise the first thing to be observed is, that in the account given of it, Gen. xvii. 5, 6. there is a remarkable diversity in the expression : First, Abraham was to be a father of many nations. And to shew in what manner he was to be a father of many nations, God said to him, Thy name shall be Abraham : for a father of many nations I have made thee. In the Hebrew it is, Nathattecha, Dedi te, I have given thee : Lxx. tedeira of, Posui te; I have placed or constituted thee. Next, Abraham was to be exceeding fruitful : and nations were to be made of him, and kings were to come out of him. He was to be the father of many nations by the constitution or appointment of God; and he was to be so exceedingly fruitful by procreating children, that nations were to be made of him, and kings were to come out of him. In this diversity of expression, God intimated to Abraham, that he was to have two kinds of seed; one by the constitution or appointment of God, in respect of which he was to be a father of many nations ; and another by natural descent, in respect of which he was to be exceeding fruitful in children. This account of Abraham's seed merits attention, because the promises in the covenant being made, not to Abraham alone, but to his seed; in their first or literal meaning they belonged to his natural seed, but in their second or highest meaning, they were promises to his seed by faith.
The distinction of Abraham's seed into two kinds, is intimated by our Lord himself, John viii. 39. where he told the Jews who sought to kill him, that notwithstanding they were the natural offspring of Abraham, they were not his childern unless they did the works of Abraham.—The same distinction is taught still more plainly by the apostle Paul, who calls Abraham's natural progeny, his seed by the law ; the law of marriage: but his seed by the appointment of God, who gave believers of all nations to him for seed, That which is by the faith of Abraham. Rom. iv. 16. That the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is by the law, but to that also which is by the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.-In like manner, the same apostle by telling us, Rom. ix. 8. The children of the flesh, these are not the children of God, but the children of promise are counted for seed, hath insinuated that Abraham had two kinds of children or seed; and that the seed by the promise, a father of many nations I have constituted thee ; are the children of God to whom alone the promises in the covenant in their second and highest meanings belong.
This distinction of his seed into two sorts, I doubt not Abraham himself understood. My reasons are as follow:
1. In the promise, A father of many nations I have constituted thee; the expression I have constituted thee, must have led Abraham to expect a seed of some kind or other, different from that which he was to have by natural descent. For he could not imagine God would promise it as a favour, that he would constitute him the father of his natural offspring. He was their father by having begotten them, and not by any positive appointment of God whatever.
2. Seeing the seed, of which God constituted Abraham the father, was to be so numerous as to make many nations, he must have known that these nations were not to be his descendants. His descendants to whom the promises in their literal meaning belonged, were to be but one nation; as Abraham knew, from the limitation of the promises, first to Isaac to the exclusion of Ishmael; and after that to Jacob, to the exclusion of Esau. Besides, that his descendants by Jacob were to be but one nation, Abraham must have known from the purposes for which they were chosen to be the people of God; and from their having so narrow a country as Canaan, promised to them as their habitation. For he could not but know, that Canaan, instead of cortaining many nations, was no more than sufficient to be the habitation of the one nation of his descendants by Jacob.
3. Although the many nations of whom Abraham was constituted the father, are called his seed, that appellation could not lead him to conclude certainly, that these nations were to spring from him by natural descent. Anciently, not only a person's offspring, but those who resembled him in his dispositions and actions, were called his seed. Thus, in the sentence pronounced at the fall, wicked men are called the seed of the serpent : and the devil is called by our Lord, the father of murderers and liars. Wherefore as Abraham knew that the promises in the covenant in their first or literal meaning, were limited to the one nation of his natural descendants by Jacob, it would readily occur to him, that the many nations of whom he was constituted the father, and who as his children were to inherit the promises in their second or highest meaning, were nations of persons who resembled him in his faith and obedience. And the rather when he considered, that those who partook of the qualities of his mind, were more really his children, than those who were related to him only by fleshly descent. Besides he may have known, that his seed by faith, being also the children of God, were better qualified than those who were his seed by natural descent, to receive the blessings promised in the covenant to his seed; especially the eternal inheritance of the heavenly country, which was promised to them under the image of the everlasting possession of Canaan.
4. The occasions on which the numerous seed was promised to Abraham must have led him then, as they do us now, to think of a numerous seed, different from his natural progeny.
Gen. xvii. 1. When Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him ; am the Almighty God, walk before me and be thou perfect. 2. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and I will multiply thee exceedingly. Gen. xxii. 16. 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 will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore. The numerous seed being promised to Abraham, as the reward of his walking before the Lord in a perfect manner, and of his having offered up Isaac as a burnt offering, he could not think that a numerous natural progeny was the only seed promised to him. That kind of seed however numerous, he must have known is not the proper reward of a man's walking before the Lord in a perfect manner, far less is it the proper reward of such an eminent degree of faith and piety as he expressed in the offering up of Isaac. To be the founder of a great nation, or even of many nations, was a blessing which any wicked man might attain in the ordinary course of things, and which some of that character actually had attained. Wherefore, when God repeatedly promised to Abraham, with a solemnity and pomp of expression which could not fail to attract his attention, that he would multiply him exceedingly, and that his seed should be numerous as the stars of the heaven, this chief of believers, whose understanding was as extensive as his faith was strong, would not interpret God's promises of a numerous natural seed only, but of a numerous spiritual seed also, who were to resemble him in his faith and obedience. The promise of the numerous seed thus understood, must, to a person of Abraham's piety, have appeared an high reward indeed. It was an assurance from God himself, that in the progress of the world, there were to be multitudes in every age and country, who should know and worship the true God; that God would acknowledge all such as Abraham's seed; that in fulfilment of the promises made in the covenant to Abraham's seed, he would count their faith to them for righteousness; and that he would bestow on them the everlasting possession of the heavenly country, promised to Abraham, and to his seed by faith.
Having thus shewed that a numerous seed by faith was promised to Abraham, as well as a numerous natural progeny, and that Abraham himself knew both kinds of seed were promised to him, it remains to speak of the accomplishment of the promise, according to its two fold meaning. And first, the promise that Abraham's natural seed should be as numerous as the dust of the earth, and as the sand which is on the sea shore, though limited to the one nation of the Israelites, who descended from Abraham by Jacob, hath been remarkably fulfilled even in that one nation ; agreeably to Gen. xii. 2. I will make of thee a great nation. For, notwithstanding the oppression of Jacob's posterity in Egypt, they had multiplied so exceedingly, that when they came out, and were numbered in the wilderness, the males among them, who were above twenty years old, and able to go to war, were no fewer than six hundred and three thousand, five hundred and fifty: Now, as neither the Levites, nor the old men, the women, and the children under twenty years old, were numbered, these together must have been at least four times the number of the males fit to go to war ; consequently the souls who came out of Egypt, could not be fewer than three millions : So exceedingly did God multiply Abraham's natural seed during the short time of their sojourning in Egypt.
The Israelites, after they were settled in Canaan, continued to multiply greatly ; for when David numbered them, there were found in Israel and Judah, thirteen hundred thousand valiant men who drew the sword, 2 Sam. xxiv, 9.-Afterwards, indeed, their numbers were diminished by the inroads of the Assyrians and Chaldeans, and by the captivity, first of the ten tribes, and then of the two tribes ; so that when they returned from Baby