« PreviousContinue »
Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but Abraham, for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.” But the same thing had been repeatedly promised to Abraham before, as God's covenant with him. Thus in the first promise which was addressed to him, God said, Gen. xii. 2. “ And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great." And in the xüi chapter, 16 verse. “And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth ; so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed be numbered.” Again, chapter xv. 5th verse. “ And he brought him forth abroad, and said, look toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them, and he said unto him, so shall thy seed be.” It is evident that these promises are the same. They have respect to one object, the multitude of Abraham's posterity. I do not mean that they respect this object exclusively. For Paul, in the fourth chapter of Romans, 16, and onward, extends this clause of the promise, “And thou shalt be a father of many nations,” to be. lieving Gentiles; by which we are assured, that the salvation of these Gentiles was comprehended in this promise. “ Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end, the promise might be sure to all the seed, not to that only which is of the law; but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, (these are believing Gentiles) who is the Father of us all. (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations) before him, whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not, as though they were; who against hope believed in hope ; that he might become the father of many na. tions, according to that which is written, so shall thy seed be.” Here the promise is shewn to extend to a secondary object. This secondary object we shall shew directly was also embraced in promises previous. , ly made. In regard to the first object, the multitude,
of a posterity, proceeding from Abraham's loins, it is undeniable, that the promises are the same.
Another promise of this covenant is, that God would give to Abraham, and his seed, the land of Ca. · naan, verse 8. “And I will give unto thee, and thy seed
after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession.” This also had been a matter of covenant promise before. It was made when Abraham first came into the land of Canaan. Gen. xii. 7. “ And the Lord appeared unto Abraham, and said, unto thy seed will I give this land.” See also xiii chapter, 13, 14 and 17 verses. “ And the Lord said unto Abraham, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up thine eyes now, and look from the place where thou art, northward; and southward, and eastward, and westward, for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed, after thee. Arise and walk through the land, in the length, and in the breadth of it, for I will give it unto
Another promise of this covenant is, that God would be a God unto Abraham. “And I will establish my covenant, between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee." But this also, which is the sum of all conceivable good, as respected Abraham, had been engaged repeatedly before. The first covenant transaction which took place with Abraham, was this promise, though not in precisely the same words. Gen. xii. 1. “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee.” This promise involved an assurance that God was, and ever would be, Abraham's God. Unquestionably, God is the God of the man whom he undertakes to bless. The call itself, the design of it, and the prompt obedience of Abraham, as a matter of faith, implied the same thing. Melchizedek's benediction testified that God was unalienably Abraham's God. God himself made a declaration equivalent with it, Gen. xv. l. “Fear not Abraham, for I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” This certainly a
God was, and is the God of thie designer of faith,
mounted to an engagement, on the part of God, that he would be Abraham's God.
So far then it is plain, that the covenant recorded here, is not at all distinguishable from the covenant transactions that went before it.
The remaining clause has some appearance of being å new engagement; but if carefully considered, it will be found, that even here the difference is verbal only. It is merely an explicit annunciation of what had before been implicitly engaged. The clause is this. “And I will establish my covenant with thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be their God.” Surely the promises previously made, that the seed should increase to a vast multitude ; that they should have the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession ; that they should have a peculiar elevation in the world ; and especially this promise, “and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed,” which Paul, in his epistle to the Galatians, explains, as having special respect to Christ, as the seed, are equivalent with the promise contained in this clause. The words of Paul are, Galatians iii. 16. “ Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made.” They were made to them jointly with Abraham, and they all terminated in a common good. They all implied therefore, that God would establish his covenant with them, and be their God. “ He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one. And to thy seed which is Christ." Christ was respected in all the promises. Hence the declaration in the following verse. " And this I say, that the cove. nant, which was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect." • It has been just shewn, that the promise, “ And I will make thee a father of many nations,” extends to the saved Gentiles. Now Paul, who has given us this explanation, has certified also, that this promise was made in the first covenant transaction which took place between God and Abraham. For, to confirm the as.
· sertion, that, “ the scripture foreseeing that God would
justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham,” he quotes a clause in that first covenant transaction, Genesis xii. 3. “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
The covenant of circumcision was not then now established as an entirely new thing. It was only a new, and more explicit edition, of a covenant already made. The promises are several, and repeated, but the cove. nant is one. Christ was “the minister of the circum. cision, for the truth of God, to confirm the promises, made unto the fathers." Yet he is the mediator of but one covenant. Hence the covenant transactions of God with Abraham, are so generally spoken of throughout the scriptures, in the singular form. Leviticus xxvi. 9. “For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you.” Deuteronomy iv. 31. “For the Lord thy God is a merciful God, he will not forsake thee, nor destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of the Fathers which he sware unto thee.” Acts iii. 25. “ Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant, which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abra. ham, “ And in thy seed shall all the kindred of the earth be blessed.” The instances are very numerous. *
Does not this uniform manner of speaking, when God's covenant transactions with Abraham are in view, which runs through all parts of the Bible, lead us naturally, and necessarily to the conclusion, that all these transactions are one covenant ? Are we not nec. essarily led to conclude also, that, allowing for such in. cidental variations, as particular promises to individu. als, in their private capacity, involve, this covenant is none other than the one, eternal, gracious covenant of God, under a particular application, or fastening itself upon Abraham and his seed? That this is a fact, it is thought is made evident, by what has been already said on this one covenant ; and it will be abundantly con
• There are two or three exceptions. But when the plural form is used, it is evident, that the Horeb covenant is united with the Abrahamis,
firmed by the illustrations which will be produced. Noah and Abraham were certainly under the same general covenant, though particular promises are made to the one, which are not made to the other. Hebrews xi. 8. “ By faith Noah, being warned of God, of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house, by which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." Thus the same good essentially was secured to Noah by covenant, which is secured to Abraham by covenant. This was the case with Abel, and E. noch, and all the elders who obtained a good report through faith. It is the case with all the just ; for " the just shall live by faith.” Faith always terminates upon the promise of an eternal inheritance. Was Abraham the subject of any other covenant than that which secured to him the righteousness of faith; and which circumcision sealed; when, in all the retrospective language of scripture, the singular form is used; when the seed especially respected was Christ, in whom allthe promises are yea and amen; and when, in the light of these promises, Abraham saw Christ's day, and was glad ?
The form of expression in the covenant, it is true, is in the future tense: “I will make, and I will establish This manner of expression, however, may be fairly understood as meaning no more, than a new confirmation of the covenant, with a farther explanation of its articles, and the institution of a seal. And the indisputable fact, that the covenant had been made a long time, and repeated, makes this interpretation unavoidable.* The date which the apostle gives to the covenant established by God with Abraham, as '430 years before the law, perfectly coincides with the idea, that all God's covenant transactions with him constituted one covenant.-The date applies to the time when this covenant was first established with Abraham ; i. e. when he was called from his father's house, and the first promises were
** The scriptures which promise the making of a covenant, only intend the clearer manifestation and application of the covenant of grace to persons to whom it belongs."
Gills Reply to Clark, page 11.