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IV. That he would be a God to Abraham, and to his feed after him in their generation.
V. That in Abraham himself, all the families of the earth should be blefled.
VI. That in Abraham's feed 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 thew 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, Pf. 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 fcripture, likewise, 'what may be called The inftituted allegory; because it confited of actions which God appointed to be performed with such and fucli circumstances, for the purpose of prefiguring future persons and events. Of this fort were all the Levitical facrifices, particularly the paschal-lamb, John xix. 36.--and all the rites of worship appointed by Moses, which, as Paul tells us, Heb. x. 1. were fhadows 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 iii. 14, 15. was a type of his being himself lifted up on the cross.Probably also the command to offer up Ifaac a's a burnt-offering, was intended as an allegorical representation of the facrifice of Christ, Heb. xi. 19.- And to name no more inftances, 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 institused 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, befides its first meaning which ter. minated in the persons and events literally spoken of, had an allegorical or second and higher meaning, which was to be accomplished in persons and events more remote.
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 feed as their inheritance, was an emblem of the heavenly country, the inheritance of the feed 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 feed by faith, as fhall 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 accomplithments of its promises in their literal meaning to Abraham's natural seed, is a striking proof of the divine original, both of the covenant itself, and of the gospel which it prefigured.
SECT. I. Of the First Promise in the Covenant with Abraham.
The first promise in the covenant was, that Abraham should be exceedingly blessed. Gen. xii. 2. I will bless' thee, and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing. Gen. xxii. i6. By myself have I sworn, faith the Lord, for because thou huft done this thing, and haft not withheld thine only son, 17. That in blefing I will bless thee ; that is, I will greatly bless thee.
This promise, in its first and literal meaning, implied,
J. That God would bestow on Abraham great temporal prosperity, and protect him from evil during his sojournings as a stranger in Canaan, and in the neighbouring countries into which he might have occasion to go. Hence in allufion to the literal meaning of this promise, God called himself Abraham's , field, Gen. xv. 1.-In fulfilment of this promise, according to its literal meaning, God blefled Abraham so exceedingly, that after living in Canaan a few years, the male flaves born in his house who were capable of going to war, were no fewer than 318, with whom he pursued Chedorlaomer and his confederates, B 4
and defeated them near Damascus.:-Farther, in the account which Moses' hath given of Abraham's sojournings in Canaan, and Egypt, and in the land of the Philistines, various dangers, from which God shielded him, are mentioned, which being well known, it is needless to speak of them particularly.
2. The blefling of Abraham, in its literal meaning, comprehended also God's counting Abraham's faith, concerning his numerous natural seed, to him for righteousness. Now the meaning of God's counting an action for righteousness, may be understood from the application of the phrase to Phinehas, after he executed judgment on Zimri and Cozbi. Psalm cvi. 30. Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment, and so the plague was staid, and it was ccunted to him for righteousness to all generations; that is, his executing judgment on these wicked persons, was rewarded by God as a righteous action, with a temporal reward which descended to his latest posterity. That this is the meaning of the phrase, appears from Numb. xxv. where speaking of the same action, God faith to Mofes, ver. 11. Phinchas the son of Eleazar, the fon of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, (while he was zealous for my fake among them) that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. 12. Wherefore fay, Behold, 1 give unto him my covenant of peace. 13. And he shall have it, and his feed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood. Now, as in the case of Phinehas, his laying Zimri and Cozbi is said to have been counted to him for righteousness, because God rewarded him and his posterity with the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; so in the case of Abraham, his believing in the Lord that his seed should be numerous as the stars of heaven, is said to have been counted to him for righteousness, because God rewarded him and his seed with the promise of the inheritance of Canaan, immediately after declaring that his faith was counted to him for righteousness. Gen. xv. 7. And he said to him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. Then, as in the case of Phinehas, God confirmed this grant to Abraham's seed, by a coreirant, ver. 18 In that fame day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy feed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.
Such is the first or literal meaning of God's blefing Abrahain exceedingly, and of his counting bis faith to him for righteousness, But this promise in both its parts, had also a second and higher meaning, of which the literal meaning was itself the fign, and which must now be exp.ained.
The promise to bestow on Abraham great temporal prospe. rity, and to protect him from evil during his sojourning in Canaan, was likewise a promise to bellow on him those spiritual blessings, and that protection from his spiritual enemies, which were necessary to his perseverance in faith and obedience, during his sojourning on earth. This we learn from the apostle Paul, who calls the assistances of the Spirit, the blessing of Abraham, and rrpresents them as promised to him. Gal. iii. 13. Chrif bath bought us off from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.-14. That the blesing of Abraham might come on the nations through Jesus Chrift; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Next, the counting of. Abraham's faith to him for righteous. ness, Gen. xv. 6. by bestowing on him the inheritance of Ca. naan, was in its second and highest meaning, a promise to bestow on him the blessing of justification by faith. This appears from Gal. iii. 8. The scripture foreseeing that God would juftify the nations by faith, preached the gospel before to Abraham, saging, Surely in thee all the nations Mall be blessed. For the blesGng of justification by faith, the apostle hath termed, the blessing of Abraham, and tells us in ver. 13. as quoted above, that Christ died that the blessing of Abraham might come on the nations, Wherefore, if the counting of Abraham's faith to him for rightcousness, was nothing but God's rewarding him with the promise of bestowing on him and on his feed the inheritance of the earthly country, which indeed was its first meaning, the blessing of Abraham neither hath come on the nations, nor can come on them, notwithstanding the apostle hath aflured us, that Christ died to procure that blessing for them.
It is evident, therefore, that when God promised to bless Abraham by counting his faith to him for righteousness, he in effect promised to justify him by faith. Now this implied, 1. That he would pardon Abraham's fins. 2. That he would reward him as a righteous person.