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and in order.-Abraham is first commanded to go into a Land which should be shewn to him-then that Land, to be possessed by his numerous posterity, is exhibited before him-Its distinct boundaries are afterwards marked out-He is next assured, while yet childless, that his posterity, to which so much was promised, should not be from an adopted son, but from one out of his own loins-He is then told that his son should be born of Sarah-which is followed by a formal execution of the COVENANT confirmed by the seal of Circumcision-After all this, the birth of Isaac is predicted :—who being born at the appointed time, Ishmael is ordered to be sent away; to design with more certainty the succession of the son by Sarah. Here we see throughout, a gradual opening, and fit preparative for some farther Revelation; which, in pursuance of this regular scheme of progressive Dispensations, could be no other than that of the REDEMPTION OF MANKIND BY THE MESSIAH, the completion of the whole Economy of Grace, as it only is the explanation of his first and fundamental Promise, that in Abraham should all the families of the earth be blessed. But now, the sole remaining revelation of God's Will to Abraham, recorded by the sacred Historian, is the Command to offer up his son Isaac. This COMMAND then, as there is no other that can pretend to be the revelation in question, and as we have shewn it must be somewhere or other recorded in Abraham's story, is the very revelation we seek; which perfects all the foregoing, and makes the whole series complete and uniform. And the place in which we find it is its proper station; for, being the completion of the rest, it must needs be the last in order.
Such, in the intention of the Holy Spirit, doth St. CHRYSOSTOM, in his comment on the place, understand it to be.—Tv dè 'HMEPAN ἐνταῦθά μοι δοκεῖ λέγειν τὴν τοῦ σταυροῦ, ἣν ἐν τῇ τοῦ κριοῦ προσ φορᾷ καὶ τοῦ Ἰσαὰκ προδιετύπωσε. And in this he is joined or followed by ERASMUS, in his paraphrase. "Hoc ænigmate Jesus significavit, Abraham, quum pararet immolare filium Isaac, per Prophetiæ spiritum vidisse Dominum Jesum in mortem crucis a patre tradendum pro mundi salute."—But these excellent men, not reflecting on that ancient mode of information, where the Inquirer is answered by a significative action instead of speech, never conceived that this Command was an imparted information of that kind, but rather a typical representation unsought, and given in an enjoined Rite; of whose import Abraham had then no knowledge.*
4. Again, We find the Revelation of the redemption of mankind in that very place where, if considered only in itself, and not relatively, as the completion of the rest, we should, according to all the rules of plain sense, be disposed to seek it. We must know then • See note RR, at the end of this book.
that this Revelation, as shall be proved from the words of JESUS,Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad, was ardently desired and sought after by the Patriarch. Now the happiness or REDEMPTION of mankind promised, on Abraham's first Vocation, to come through him, could not but make him more and more inquisitive into the manner of its being brought about, in proportion as he found himself to be more and more personally concerned as the Instrument of so great a blessing. But every new Revelation would shew him still farther interested in this honour: Therefore, by the time Ishmael was ordered to be sent away, and the promised Seed fixed in Isaac, we must needs suppose him very impatient to understand the Mystery of Redemption; and so, fitly prepared to receive this last and supreme Revelation. This, in the like cases, we find to be the disposition and state of mind in the holy men of old. Thus Daniel, by the study of the Prophecies of Jeremiah, understanding the approaching restoration of the Jews, applies himself by fasting and prayer for God's further information; and the Angel Gabriel is sent unto him. So John, anxious and solicitous for the suffering Church, being in prayers on the Lord's day, was favoured with all his glorious Revelations.
5. Again, The new light in which this Command is placed, dispels all that perplexity in the common interpretation (taken notice of above) arising from our ideas of a trial; where that which should in use and reason go before some extraordinary favour, is made to come after all. But now, according to our sense of the Command, the trial, as is meet, precedes the last and greatest favour ever bestowed by God on Abraham.
6. To confirm all this, we may consider that this interpretation of the Command is most easy and natural, as being intirely agreeable to the ancient way of communicating information. We have shewn * it to have been the general custom of Antiquity, in personal conferences, to instruct by actions instead of words; a custom begun out of necessity, but continued out of choice, for the superior advantages it hath in making an impression. For motion, naturally significative, which enters at the eye, hath a much stronger effect than articulate sound, only arbitrarily significative, which enters at the ear. We have shown likewise, by numerous examples, that God himself vouchsafed, in compliance to a general custom, to use this way of information, when he instructed the holy Patriarchs and Prophets in his Will.
7. Again, As the high importance of this Revelation seemed to require its being given in the strong and forcible way of action,† so nothing can be conceived more apposite to convey the information ↑ See note SS, at the end of this book.
See vol: ii. pp. 185 to 190.
required than this very action. Abraham desired earnestly to be let into the mystery of the REDEMPTION; and GOD, to instruct him (in the best manner humanity is capable of receiving instruction) in the infinite extent of divine goodness to mankind, who spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all,* let Abraham feel, by experience, what it was to lose a beloved son ;-Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac; the Son born miraculously when Sarah was past child-bearing, as Jesus was miraculously born of a pure Virgin. The duration too of the action was the same as that between CHRIST'S Death and Resurrection; both which were designed to be represented in it and still farther, not only the final archietypical Sacrifice of the son of GOD was figured in the command to offer Isaac, but the intermediate Typical sacrifice, in the Mosaic Economy, was represented, by the permitted sacrifice of the Ram offered up instead of Isaac.
8. The last reason I shall offer in support of this point, that the Command concerning Isaac was this Revelation of Christ's day, or the redemption of mankind by his death and sufferings, is the allusion which Jesus makes (in these words, Abraham rejoiced to see my day, &c.) to the following words of Moses, in the history of the command-And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh : as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.
To shew that Jesus alluded to these words of Moses, and had them in his eye, when he speaks of Abraham's rejoicing to see his day, it will be proper to consider the true force and meaning of either text. The words of Jesus have been fully considered already.+
And, in the words of Moses-Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen, we have the assertion of Jesus confirmed, that Abraham saw Christ's day and was glad. 1. Jehovah-jireh signifies, as several of the best interpreters agree, THE LORD SHALL BE SEEN.‡ But with what propriety could this name be given to it by Abraham, if, in this transaction, he had not seen the representation of the Lord's passion, which was to happen in a future age? And if he did see it, how apposite was the name! The Historian goes on-as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen; or more exactly to the Hebrew-for he said, In the mount THE LORD SHALL BE SEEN. In the first part of the verse the sacred Historian tells us
Rom. viii. 32. ↑ See p. 173, et seq. "Dominus videbitur," (says the learned Father Houbigant) "1°, Non videtur, ne ab futuro verbi aberremus. 2°, Non videbit, non modo quia non additur quid sit Deus visurus, sed etiam quia in totâ illà visione, hominis est videre, Domini, videri; propter quam causam Deus locum istum mox nomine visionis insigniebat. Nimirum Deus Abrahamo id ostendit, quod Abraham vidit et gavisus est." The near relation of these words of Jesus to those of Moses, was too strongly marked to be overlooked by this very judicious Critic, though he considered the transaction in no other light than as a Type of the death and passion of Jesus.
that Abraham called the mount, The Lord shall be seen; and in the latter part he acquaints us with the manner how Abraham imposed that appellation, namely by the use of a proverbial speech implying the reason of the name.-To-day in the mount, the Lord shall be seen. Proverbial speeches, before the general use of recording abstract names and things by writing, being the best and safest conveyance of the memory of events to Posterity. Conformably to this interpretation of the text, the Historian on his entrance on the transaction calls the land of Moriah, to which Abraham went with Isaac (according to Jerome's interpretation), the LAND OF VISION, which shews that the words of Jesus, Abraham SAW MY DAY and was GLAD, evidently allude to this extraordinary circumstance; namely, the disposition of Abraham's mind on the occasion, expressed in his memorial of a new name imposed on the scene of action ; the ancient way of commemorating joyful and happy events. In a word, Jesus says, Abraham saw his day; and Abraham, by the name he imposed upon the mount, declares the same thing. But as the VISION was of a public, not of a private nature, he expresses himself in terms which signify what mankind in general shall see, not what he himself had seen-THE LORD SHALL BE SEEN. From a vague allusion, therefore, of the words of Jesus, to this history of the command in general, we have now fixed them to the very words of Moses, to which they more particularly refer.
The sum then of the Argument is this-JESUS expressly says that Abraham saw, and rejoiced to see, his day, or the great Sacrifice for the sins of mankind by representation-The records of sacred History must needs verify his assertion-But there is no place in Scripture which presents the least traces of this Revelation, except the history of the Command to offer Isaac.-This history not only easily and naturally admits of such a sense, but even demands it—And reciprocally, this sense gives all imaginable light to the History; and removes the greatest difficulties attending the common interpretation of it. Hence, we conclude with certainty, that the command to
• "Atque hoc illud est" (says Father Houbigant) “quod memoriæ sempiternæ Abraham consecrabat, cum ita subjungeret, hodie in monte, Dominus videbitur ; illud hodie sic accipiens, ut accepit Paulus Ap. illud Davidis, hodie si vocem ejus audieritis; quod hodie tamdiu durat, quamdiu sæcula illa durabunt, de quibus Apostolus, donec hodie cognominatur. Propterea Abraham non dicit, hodie Dominus videtur. Nam id spectaculum nunc solus videt Abraham, postea omnes visuri sunt, et ad omnes pertinebit istud, videbitur, generatim dictum, cum omnes Unigenitum in monte viderint generis humani victimam factam. Nec aliam sententiam series verborum patitur. Ex qua serie illi deviant, qui hæc verba, dixit enim hodie in monte dominus-Mosi sic narranti attribuunt, propterea dicitur hodie in monte Domini-quasi renarret Moyses usurpatum sua ætate proverbium. Nam si sic erit, non jam docebit Abraham, cur huic loco nomen fecerit Dominus videbitur; quam tamen nominum notationem in sacris paginis non omittunt ii, quicumque nomina rebus imponunt. Quod contra plane docebit Abraham, si de eo Moyses sie narrat, vocavit nomen loci hujus, DEUS VIDEBITUR; nam dixit, in monte Deus videbitur."
Abraham to offer up his son was only an INFORMATION IN ACTION, which, at Abraham's earnest request, God was graciously pleased to give him, of the great sacrifice of Christ for the Redemption of mankind. The thing to be proved. Two great ends seem to be gained by this interpretation: The one, to free the Command from a supposed violation of natural Law; The other, to support the connexion, and dependency between the two Revelations; for this interpretation makes the history of the Command a DIRECT Prophecy of Christ as Redeemer of the world; whereas the common brings it, at most, but to a TYPICAL intimation. Now the Defenders* of the common interpretation confess, that the "evidence of direct Prophecies is superior to that of Types."
The only plausible Objection which can be made to my explanation, I conceive to be the following-"That what is here supposed the principal and proper reason of the Command, is not at all mentioned by the sacred Historian; but another, of a different nature; namely, the Trial of Abraham's faith and obedience. And it came to pass after these things, God did tempt Abraham, and said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac-And when the affair is over, the same reason is again insinuated :-By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not witheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee," &c.t
1. To the first part of the Objection I answer, That the knowledge of God's future Dispensation in the redemption of mankind by the death of his Son, revealed, as a singular grace, to the Father of the Faithful, was what could by no means be communicated to the Hebrew People, when Moses wrote this History for their use; because they being then to continue long under a carnal Economy, this knowledge, of the END OF THE LAW, would have greatly indisposed them to a Dispensation, with which (as a Schoolmaster, that was to bring them by degrees, through a harsh and rugged discipline, to the easy yoke of CHRIST) GOD, in his infinite wisdom, thought fit to exercise them.‡ But he who does not see, from the plain reason of the thing, the necessity of the Historian's silence, is referred, for farther satisfaction, to what hath been already, and will be hereafter said, to evince the necessity of such a conduct, in other momentous points relating to that future Dispensation.
In the mean time, I give him St. Paul's word for this conduct of Moses, who expressly tells us, that he obscured some parts of his history, or put a veil over his face that the Israelites might not see to the end of that Law which was to be abolished. And what was that end, if not the Redemption of mankind by the death and sacrifice of
† Gen. xxii. 16, 17.
See note TT, at the end of
• DR. STEBBING.