Page images
[ocr errors]

art a stranger, all the land of Canaan ; for an everlasting podelion, Gen. xxii. 17. Thy feed fball possess the gate of his enemies.

Concerning the first or literal meaning of this promise, there can be no doubt : as little can there be any doubt concerning its fulfilment to Abraham's natural feed, according to that meaning. After they had sojourned in Canaan and Egypt, God put Abraham's natural feed in poffefsion of the promised country by great miracles, and maintained them in the poffeffion of it during many ages.

But, like all the other promises in the covenant, this had a fecond and higher meaning, which Abraham and his immediate descendants well understood ; namely, that under the image of the possession of Canaan, the poffeffion of a better country, even an heavenly, was promised to them; as the following arguments I think sufficiently prove.

1. Although, when God said to Abraham, Gen. xii. 1. Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's boufe, unto a land that I will shew thee, he might think of some country on earth only, yet when God afterwards said to him, Gen. xvii. 1. I am the Almighty God, walk before me, and be thou perfect.-8. And I will give to thee, and to thy feed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan for an everlasting pobellion ; and I will be their God; he would naturally conclude that some better country than any country on earth was promised to him, as the reward of his walking before God in a perfect manner. For the translation of his ancestor Enoch, from this earth in the body, after walking with God, must have convinced him, that neither the poffeffion of Canaan, nor of any country on earth in its present state, is the proper reward of a perfect virtue. Besides, the whole earth being cursed for Adam's transgression, no part of it, as Abraham well knew, could be an everlasting habitation to him. In short, Abraham must have seen, that if the posseffion of Canaan, during the whole of his life, was all that God promised to him as the reward of his walking before him in a perfect manner, he would not be rewarded more than other men; many of whom, notwithstanding they were great sinners, he observed, were enjoying the felicity of earthly countries in the greatest perfection.


2. The possession of Canaan, promised in the covenant, being termed an everlasting popefion, if nothing was meant thereby, but the everlasting possession of the earthly country so called, Abraham, to whom it was promised, must have expected to live in that country

for The fame expectation, Isaac and Jacob, his immediate descendants, must have entertained, to whom, as well as to him, the everlasting poffeffion of Canaan was promised. But if Abraham and all his posterity were to live in the earthly Canaan without dying, he would soon be sensible that it was a country too ftrait for containing all his feed.-Again, if that circumstance led him to interpret the promise concerning the everlasting possession of Canaan, of its being possessed for a long series of years, by the successive generations of his pos. terity, yet when he considered that the poffefsion of Canaan was promifed to all his seed, to his feed by faith as well as to his natural seed, he would foon relinquish that interpretation ; because it could not enter into his mind, to think that believers of all nations, who were on the earth in any one age, could live with his natural feed in so narrow a country as Canaan. Or if such a thing had been possible, he must have known, that to be transported into Canaan, would have been no advantage, but rather a loss to many of them; since the countries in which they were living, were better in every respect than Canaan. These rea. sons, I think, must have convinced Abraham, that a better and greater country then Canaan was promised in the covenant to him and to his feed, even an heavenly country, which was capable of containing all his feed, and of which the earthly country promised to his natural feed, was only the emblem and pledge.

3. Supposing that Abraham thought Canaan was the only country promised to him and to his feed, if any of them died without receiving that country, he must have expected either that God would raise them from the dead to enjoy it, or that he would give them in the other world, a country equal to, or better than Canaan. For a person of Abraham's exalted faith and piety, never could think God capable of breaking his promise. Accordingly, our Lord, in reasoning with the Sadducees, affirmed, that the promise to give to Abraham and to his immediate descendants the everlasting possession of Canaan, was virtually a promise to raise them from the dead. Luke xx. 37. Now that the dead are raised, even Mofes fewed at the bush, whez he calleth the Lord, the God of Abraham, and the God of Ifaac, and the God of Jacob; for he is not a God of the dead, but of the living. When Mofes at the bush, called the Lord, the God of Abraham and of his immediate descendants, he brought to the remembrance of the Israelites, the memorable words with which the promise, to give to their fathers personally, the everlatting pos session of the land of Canaan, was concluded, namely, And I will be their God, Gen. xvii. 8. From these words our Lord reasoned against the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection of the dead, in the following manner : Seeing the Lord, when he promised to give to Abraham and to his feed, the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession, added, And I will be their God, if Abraham and his immediate descendants died without receiving Canaan, and are not to be raised from the dead to possess ita the Lord who promised it to them, could not with truth call himself their God, so many years after they were dead. Or, as the apostle insinuates, Heb. xi. 16. he might have been ashamed to call himself their God.-Besides, in the preceding part of his discourse, our Lord termed the promised country, That world, in contradiction to This world; and declared, that to enjoy that world, Abraham and his feed must be raised from the dead. Luke xx. 34. The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage. But they who fall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage. '35. Neither can then die any more, for they are equal to the angels, and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. Wherefore, our Lord himself hath authorised us to believe, that in the promise to give to Abraham and to his feed, the land of Canaan for an everlasting poffeffion, a new world, and a resurrection from the dead, in order to their enjoying that world, was really promised so them; for which reason he charged the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, with ignorance of the scriptures. Matth. xxii. 29. Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures.


4. St. Paul expressly affirms, that Abraham and his imme. diate descendants, knew that in the promise to give to him and to them, the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession, a better


country, even an heavenly country, was promised to them. For he tells us, thefe men, to shew that they expected a city whose builder and ruler is God, never built any house or fixed habitation in Canaan, but always dwelled there in tents. Heb. xi. 9. By faith be fojourned in the land of promise, as belonging to others, dwelling in tents with Ifaac and Jacob, the joint heirs of the same promise. 10. For he expected a city having foundations, of which city the builder and ruler is God.-Farther, the same apostle informs us, that Abraham, and Ifaac, and Jacob, though they never obtained the possession of Canaan, all died in the firm persuasion of obtaining it. Heb. xi. 13. All these died in faith, though they did not receive the things promised. For seeing them afar off, and being persuaded of them, and embracing them, they confeffed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14. Now they who speak such things, plainly declare, that they earnestly seek, natpida, a native country, not Chaldea. 15. For if they had remembered that from which they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16. But indeed they strongly desired a better country, even an heavenly. After these express testimonies, can any one suspect that Abraham and his immediate descendants, did not know an was promised to them in the covenant, under the image of Canaan; and that they were to be raised from the dead, in order to their enjoying it?

5. That the promise to give to Abraham and to his feed, the everlasting possession of Canaan, was a promise to give them the everlasting possession of an heavenly country, and to raise them from the dead to enjoy that country; and that Abraham and his descendants understood the promise no otherwise, is evident from this, that the Israelites from the earliest times, entertained a strong hope of the resurrection of the dead, founded on the covenant with Abraham. Thus the Pfalmift, speaking of the wicked, faith, Pfal. xlix. 14. Like feep they are laid in the grave, -and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning : Their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling. 15. But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave : for he mall receive me.-Wisdom of Solomon iii. 4. Though they be punished in the fight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality. C4


What a strong belief of the resurrection of the just, and of the retributions of an after life founded on the covenant with Abraham, the later Jews entertained, we learn from the history of the seven brethren with their mother, who were put to death by Antiochus for refusing to taste swine's flesh, 2 Mac. vii. 9. The second, When he was at the last gasp, said, Thou like a fury takejt us out of this present life ; but the king of the world fall raise us up, who have died for his laws, to everlasting life. And that they expected this resurrection to everlasting life, by virtue of the covenant with Abraham, appears from the words of the youngest of these brethren : ver. 36. For our brethren who now have suffered a foort pain, are dead under God's covenant of everlasting life: for what covenant of everlasting life did God ever make with the Jews, under which they could die, unless it be the covenant with Abraham, in which he promised with an oath, to give to him and to his seed, the land of Canaan for an everlasting poffeffion.

Farther, that the Jews derived their hope of the resurrection, from the covenant with Abraham, may be gathered from their expecting the resurrection of the just only. Thus our Lord, speaking of the resurrection, according to the opinion which the Jews entertained of it, calls it, Luke xiv. 14. The resurrection of the juft. In like manner, the fourth of the seven brethren men. tioned above, said to his persecutor, 2 Mac. vii. 14. As for thee, thou shalt have no resurrection to life. So also Josephus, speaking of the opinion of the Pharisees, says, Antiq. xviii. 2. “ They be« lieve that there are υπο χθονα δικαιωσεις, retributions under the « earth to such as have attached themselves to virtue, or vice “ in this life; and that the one are condemned to perpetual “ imprisonment, but that the other have an easy return to life.” -To this notion of the resurrection, the Jews were naturally led by the covenant with Abraham, in which the everlasting possession of Canaan, in its second and highest meaning, was promised to the spiritual feed only; that is, to believers of all nations, who in the covenant are counted to Abraham for feed.

That the Jews, from the earliest times, expected the resurrection of the dead, and derived their hope of that great event from the covenant with Abraham, is attested in the most express


« PreviousContinue »