Page images
PDF
EPUB

Christ ?—Moses (says he) put a veil over his face, that the Children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished. But their minds were blinded : for until this day remaineth the same reil untaken away, in the reading of the Old Testament : which veil is done away in CHRIST.*

But it may be asked, perhaps, “If such Revelations could not be clearly recorded, why were they recorded at all ?” For a very plain as well as weighty reason ; that when the fulness of time should come, they might rise up in Evidence against Infidelity, for the real relation and dependency between the two Dispensations of Moses and of Christ ; † when from this, and divers the like instances it should appear, that the first Dispensation could be but very imperfectly understood without a reference to the latter.

But had not the sacred Writer designedly obscured this illustrious Revelation, by an omission of the attendant circumstances, yet the narrative of such a converse by action was not, in its nature, so intelligible or obvious, as that where God is shewn conversing by action, to the Prophets, in the several instances formerly given. I And the reason is this. Those informations, as they are given to the Prophets for the instruction of the People, have necessarily, in the course of the history, their explanations annexed. But the information to Abraham being solely for his own private consolation (as Dr. Scott expresses it above) there was no room for that formal explanation, which made the commanded actions to the Prophets so clear and intelligible.—Yet, as if I had never said this, Dr. Stebbing tells the world, I make this action of Abraham's parallel to those of the Prophets, whereas (says he) it differs from them all in a very material circumstance, as they had their several explanations annexed, and this had not. But to shew by example, as well as comparison, that obscurity is naturally attendant on the relation of converse by action, where the information is for the sake of the Actor only, I shall instance in a case where no obscurity was affected by the Historian. It is the relation of Jacob's wrestling with the Angel. $ The Patriarch, on his return from Haran to his native Country, hearing of his brother Esau's power, and dreading his resentment for the defrauded Birthright, addresses himself for protection in this distress to the God of his Fathers, with all humility and confidence. God hears his prayer ; and is pleased to inform him of the happy issue of the adventure, by a significative action : The following night, he has a struggle with an Angel, with whom he is suffered to make his part so good, that from thence he collected God had granted his petition.

• 2 Cor. iii. 13, 14. And see note UU, at the end of this book. XX, at the end of this book. | See vol. ii. pp. 185–187. 24, &e.

+ See note $ Gen. xxxii.

This is the circumstance in Jacob's history which affords such mirth to our illiterate Libertines : For this information by action concerning only the Actor, who little needed to be told the meaning of a mode of Instruction, at that time in vulgar use, hath now an obscurity which the Scripture-relations of the same mode of information to the Prophets are free from, by reason of their being given for the use of the People, to whom they were explained.

But it may perhaps be asked, “Why, when the fulness of time was come, Scripture did not break its long silence, and instruct us in the principal and proper reason of the Command to offer Isaac?” I answer, that it has done so. The words of Jesus are a convincing proof. Nay, I might go farther, and say that this is not the only place where the true reason of the Command is plainly hinted at. The Author of the epistle to the Hebrews, speaking of this very Command, says-By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac-accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead, from whence also he received him in

* ΕΝ ΠΑ. PABOAH., in a Parable : a mode of information either by words or actions, which consists in putting one thing for another. Now, in a Writer who regarded this commanded action as a representative information of the Redemption of mankind, nothing could be more fine or easy than this expression. For though Abraham did not indeed receive Isaac restored to life after a real dissolution, yet the Son being in this action to represent Christ suffering death for the sins of the world, when the Father brought him safe from mount Moriah after three days, (during which the Son was in a state of condemnation to death) the Father plainly received him, under the character of CHRIST's Representative, as restored from the dead. For, as his being brought to the mount, there bound, and laid upon the Altar, figured the death and sufferings of Christ, so his being taken from thence alive, as properly figured Christ's Resurrection from the dead. With the highest propriety therefore and elegance of speech, might Abraham be said to receive Isaac from the dead in a parable, or in representation. But the nature of the command not being understood, these words of the epistle have been hitherto interpreted, to signify only that Isaac was a type of Christ, in the same sense that the old Tabernacle, in this epistle, I is called a typeñtis ITAPABOAH, that is, a thing designed by the Holy Spirit to have both a present significancy and a future. Which amounts but just to this, That Abraham receiving Isaac safe from mount Moriah, in the manner related by Scripture, he thereby became a Type. An ancient Interpretation, as appears from the reading of the vulgar Latin-Unde eum et in PARABOLAM accepit, for in parabola, as it ought to have been translated conformably to the Greek. However I desire it may be observed, in corroboration of my sense of the Command, that the resemblance to Christ's sacrifice in all the circumstances of the story was so strong that Interpreters could never overlook the resemblance, in their comments on the passage. · 2. To the second part of the Objection, I answer thus ; It is the office of History to assign the Causes of the facts related. In those facts therefore, which have several Causes, of which the principal cannot be conveniently told, the inferior come in properly to take its place. Thus, in the case before us ; though it be made, I presume, very evident that the principal design of the Command was to reveal to Abraham, by action instead of words, the Redemption of mankind ; yet as this was a favour of a very high nature, and conferred on Abraham at his earnest request, it was but fit he should approve himself worthy of it by some proportionable Trial ; agreeably to what we find in Scripture to be God's way of dealing with his favoured Servants. On this account, therefore, God was pleased, by the very manner in which this Mystery was revealed, to tempt or try Abraham. Where the making the favour itself the trial of his deserving it, hath all that superior elegance and beauty which is to be conceived in the Dispensations of divine Wisdom only. Now, as the principal reason of the Command could not be conveniently told by the Historian, this inferior one of the Trial is assigned with great truth and proprietyAnd it came to pass after these things God did tempt Abraham, and said, Take now thy son, &c. And it is to be observed, that the very manner of recording this reason shews it to be indeed what we suppose it; an inferior one. For it is not said that God gave this Command in order to try Abraham, which expresses a principal reason ; but that, in giving the Command, God did try him, which at most only implies an inferior one. We have said, that a Trial, when approved, implied a following reward. Now as there may be more reasons than one for giving a Command, so there may

A FIGURE ;

• Heb. xi, 17-19.

+ See note YY, at the end of this book.

1 Heb. ix. 9.

more rewards than one attendant on a Trial. Thus it was in the case before us, And it is remarkable that the sacred Historian has observed the same rule with regard to the reward of the Trial as to the reason of the Command. The principal and peculiar reward of Abraham's Trial here was the revelation of the mystery of Redemption : this the Historian could not mention, for the reasons given above: but besides this

, God rewarded him with a repetition of all the former Promises. This the Historian could, and, in pursuance of the rules of History, does mention :-By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only sm, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying, I will multiply thy seed as the stars of Heaven, and as the sand which is upon the

be

sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies ; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice.*

On the whole, This Objection to the interpretation, the only one I can think of, is so far from obscuring, and weakening, that it adds great light and strength unto it. For admitting the sense here proposed, to be indeed true, we see the Story must of necessity have been told in the very manner we find it to be recorded. +

Before I conclude this part of the Discourse, I shall but just take notice how strongly this interpretation of the Command concludes against the SOCINIANS, for the real sacrifice of Christ, and the proper Redemption of mankind. For if the Command was an information by action instead of words, the proof conveyed in it is decisive; there being here no room for their evasion of its being a figurative expression, since the figurative action, the original of such expression, denotes either a real sacrifice, or nothing at all.

II. I come now to the other part of this Discourse, viz. to shew, that the interpretation here given intirely dissipates all those blustering objections which Infidelity hath raised up against the historic truth of the relation.

They say, “GOD could not give such a Command to Abraham, because it would throw him into inextricable doubts concerning the Author of it, as Whether it proceeded from a good or an evil Being. Or if not so, but that he might be satisfied it came from God, it would then mislead him in his notions of the divine Attributes, and of the fundamental principles of Morality. Because, though the revocation of the Command prevented the homicide, yet the species of the action commanded not being condemned when it was revoked, Abraham and his family must needs have thought HUMAN SACRIFICES grateful to the Almighty: for a simple revoking was not condemning; but would be more naturally thought a peculiar indulgence for a ready dience. Thus, the Pagan fable of Diana's substituting a Hind in the place of Iphigenia did not make Idolaters believe that she therefore abhorred Human Sacrifices, they having before been persuaded of the contrary, from the Command of that Idol to offer up the daughter of Agamemnon.”—This is the substance, only set in a clearer light, of all their dull cloudy dissertations on the case of Abraham.t

1. Let us see then how the case stood : God had been pleased to reveal to him his eternal purpose of making all mankind blessed through him : and likewise to confirm this promise, in a regular course

• Gen. xxii. 16, et seq. † See note 22, at the end of this book. note AAA, at the end of this book.

See

of successive Revelations, each fuller and more explicit than the other. By this time we cannot but suppose the Father of the Faithful must, from the nature of the thing, be become very desirous of knowing the inander how this Blessing was to be brought about : A Mystery, if we will believe the Author of our Faith, that engaged the attention of other holy men, less immediately concerned than Abraham, and consequently less stimulated and excited by their curiosity :-And Jesus turned to his Disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things which ye see. For I tell you that many Prophets and Kings have DESIRED to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them, and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.*

But we are assured, by the same authority, that Abraham had, in fact, this very desire highly raised in him : Abraham rejoiced to see my day (says Jesus), and he saw it, and was glad ; or rather, He rejoiced THAT HE MIGHT SEE, INA TAHı; which implies, that the period of his joy was in the space between the promise made, and the actual performance of it by the delivery of the Command; consequently, that it was granted at his earnest request.t In the second place, we shall shew from the same words, that Abraham, at the time when the Command was given, knew it to be that Revelation he had so earnestly requested. This is of the highest importance for the understanding the true nature of the Command.—Your Father Abraham rejoiced to see my Day, and he saw it, and was glad. 'A@pacije o σατήρ υμών ήγαλλιάσατο ΙΝΑ ΙΔΗι την ημέραν την εμήν· και είδε, και éxépn. We have observed that ivæ ion, in strict propriety, signifies that he might see. The English phrase,—to see, is equivocal and ambiguous, and means either the present time, that he then did see ; or the future, that he was promised he should see : but the original iva toy has only the latter sense. So that the text plainly distinguishes two different periods of Joy; the first, when it was promised he should see; the second, when he actually saw : And it is to be observed I that, according to the exact use of the words, in kyardiãouces is implied the tumultuous pleasure which the certain expectation of an approaching blessing, understood only in the gross, occasions; and, in xzipw that calm and settled joy which arises from our knowledge, in the possession of it. But the Translators, perhaps, not apprehending that there was any time between the Grant to see, and the actual seeing, turned it, he rejoiced to see ; as if it had been the Paraphrase of the Poet Nonnus,

ιδείν γάλλετο θυμώ. . whereas this History of Abraham hath plainly three distinct periods.

• Luke x. 23, 24.

+ Thus all the Eastern Versions understand it: “Cupidus fuit ridendi."'--Syriac.

Cupidus erat ut videret."- Persic. Exoptavit videre.". Arab. “Desideravit, gavisus est ut videret."-Æthiop. See note BBB, at the end of this book.

« PreviousContinue »