Page images

made to him, Genesis xii. 1. It was proper that the covenant should be dated here. All transactions of this kind are dated at their first establishment. This will do nothing towards proving that the covenant recorded in the 17th chapter of Genesis, is numerically distinct from the covenant promises previously made.

III. A third remark respecting the covenant of circumcision, entitled to notice, and to be noticed carefully, because it confirms what has been already said, is, that its promises are absolute. .

An absolute promise is one, which is not suspended upon any contingence. It cannot be vacated by any circumstance whatever. Absolgte promises may respect very different things. The execution of them may involve, as has been already suggested, activity on the part of him, whom the promises respect. In this case they are absolute, no less, than if all the agency were on the part of the promisor. For the term abso. lute characterizes, neither the agent nor the object; but the promise. The promises made to Abraham were all of this kind. They respected moral beings, and secured an active conformity to the spirit of the promises in them. To say therefore, that if Abraham and his seed had not been obedient to the covenant, it would not have taken effect with respect to them ;) though it be true, is to say nothing incompatible with the idea, that its promises were absolute. A bare inspection of the promises of this covenant, one would think, sufficient to shew them to be absolute. I will multiply thee exceedingly-my covenant is with thee --thou shalt be a father of many nations-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, and thy seed after thee 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, and I will be their God-I will bless thee, and thou shalt be a blessing-I will bless him that blesseth thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. These promises are of one kind, and they are certainly absolute ; for not a condition is mentioned. Nothing like reserve or contingence appears. Hence it was that God revealed himself to Moses, un. der this peculiar, lasting memorial, “ the God of A. braham, and Isaac, and Jacob ;" i, e. aș maintaining his unalterable engagements, to them. Hence also, when anticipating the then future perverseness of a large proportion of Abraham's natural descendants, and foretelling the judgments, which, in consequence, he would bring upon them, God, to preclude all sus. picion of his faithfulness, says, Leviticus, xxvi. 24, 6 Yet for all that, when they be in the land of their en. emies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them, for I ain the Lord their God. But I will, for their sakes, remember the covenaut of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt, in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their, God." This passage teaches us, that no perverseness in Israel, could induce God to break his covenant. Then the promises

of it were not suspended upon any contingence ; no, bencerreno

w not upon the condition of obedience. There seems - crisis

then, to be abundant evidence of the absolute nature of
the promises of the Abrahamic coyenant, from the un-
conditional manner in which they are expressed. But
this idea is confirmed by all the representations of
scripture, by the nature of the purpose which these
promises unfold, by fact, and by the necessity of the
case. To collect and arrange this evidence, would be
superfluous. But I cannot forbear to mention the man..
ner in which the promises of the covenant are spoken
of, in Hebrews vi. 13th, and onward, as God's swear.
ing, and as his oath, and as declarative of his counsel ;
therefore, exhibiting ground of sure confidence to Abra-
- ham. “For when God made promise to Abraham, be-

cause he could swear by no greater, he swore by
himself, saying, surely, blessing, I will bless thee ;
and multiplying, I will multiply thee ; and so, after he
had patiently endured, he obtained the promise : For
men verily swear by the greater, and an oath for confir.


mation is to them the end of all strife. Wherein, (that is, in this very engagement entered into with Abraham.) God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs, of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath ; that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong con. solation who have fled for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before us, which hope we have, as an anchor to the soul, both sure and stedfast, entering to that within the vail.” It is to be noticed, that the immutabili. ty of God's counsel, is here said to be revealed in the promises made to Abraham ; and is extended to all the heirs of promise, or subjects of grace, who are considered as united with him in the reception of the blessing. This immutable counsel, this strong consolation, and this hope which is sure and stedfast, are a common inheri. tance among all who, as believers, are objects of prom, ise ; whether they now exist or not ; those who live after Christ, as well as those who lived before him ; and are all connected with the oath, addressed to Abra, ham. The counsel was what the oath confirmed to him, and to all the heirs of promise. The counsel and the oath are two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie. He can neither alter his purpose, nor forfeit his veracity. As this counsel, and this oath respect all the heirs of promise, they furnish strong consolation to them, the moment they have evidence that they have fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before them. The hope they possess, being founded upon such a bottom, is indeed sure and stedfast. It is so sure and so stedfast, that nothing, not even their own pervérseness, cán unsettle it. Surely then, the covenant established with Abraham, is the Gospel covenant; God's one gracious and eternal covemant, under a particular application, and its promises are absolute. It is evidently in this view that Christ's advent is spoken of, Luke i. 72, as taking place “ in remembrance of the covenant." If he had not come, God would unfaithfully have forgotten his covenant. *

* Dr. Bellamy, though in favor of the conditionality of the covenant of circumcision, concedes, that it was expressed in the form of an absolute unconditional promise."

See Reply to Mather, page 32. •

To suppose the promises of this covenant condition, | al, is to suppose, that at the time they were made, there Twas no security that one of them would take effect. It

is to suppose there was no certainty that God would
establish his covenant with Abraham's seed at all; that
he would ever give them the land of Canaan ; or that in
his seed all the families of the earth would be blessed.

If any one should imagine that the initial language of
this coyenant, ".Walk before me, and be thou perfect.
And I will make my covenant between me and thee,”! , -
implies, that the promises of the covenant are suspend.
ed upon a condition, a recurrence to what has been
şaid will surely correct his mistake. This was simply
a direction which respected Abraham personally ; the
observation of which was indeed his duty. But this
duty was so far from being a contingence upon which
the covenant was suspended, that it was secured by the
promise of it. It was the determined way in which it
should take effect, That promise which assured that
God would be the God of Abraham, his shield and ex.
ceeding great reward, assured, that Abraham would
dutifully maintain this relation. The promise that se.
cured a seed, to whom God would be a God, secured
the holiness of that seed. Law, though always obliga.
tory, is never against 'the promise, Grace and duty
are perfectly coincident. If any doubt remains with
the reader respecting the doctrine now advanced, that
the promises of the covenant of circumcision were all
absolute, it is presumed none will remain after he has
progressed a little farther in this analysis. .
i IV. The next thing to be ascertained, in regard to :
this covenant is, who the covenanteęs are. Respecting
Abraham the father there is no doubt. To him the
promise is expressly addressed as its immediate ob-
ject. But the convenant was not only to be establish-
ed with him ; but also, and as unfrustrably, with his
seed. God promised to Abraham a seed, that he would
establish his covenant with that seed, and be their God.
Whom are we to understand to be here intended by

the seed ? To settle this question rightly, is of the great.

to certainty Jair muum, mountainty im yichwe'rlarini arma mavéalidean saint

da seed, to whiceed. Law, the Grace and

est consequence; and, as contrary theories have spread a good deal of obscurity over it, requires a patient in. vestigation. Beyond all doubt, if we will impartially follow the light of scripture, we shall find this question determined conclusively. That we may proceed with certainty, it seems necessary to premise, that the term seed has both a literal, and a figurative meaning. The literal meaning is one thing, and the figurative meaning is another. Christ says to the unbelieving Jews, John viii. 37, “ I know that ye are Abraham's seed, but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.” And again, verse 39. “ If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.?! Here, though a different term is used, the two senses are brought into view. The former is the literal ; the latter is the figurative sense. In the first passage, Christ acknowledges that the Jews were what they claimed to be, lineal descendants from Abraham. But he denies the conclusion, that they were of his character, and partakers with him of the blessing. In the second passage he speaks of them, as not being children of Abraham. in character,.- If they were, he tells them, they would do the works of Abraham. If these Jews had been disposed to do Abraham's works, they would have proved themselves his true 'seed, his seed in both respects, morally considered, as well as by lineal descent. The term seed is used by Paul in the figur. ative sense, Gal. iii. 29. “If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” The term seed is here applied to converts from the Gentile world. These converts were not Abraham's seed, by natural descent. They were his seed, only as they were of faith, and blessed with him, or par. takers with him of promise....

These two entirely distinct meanings of the term seed, cannot be confounded. They are as distinct, and remote from each other, as if they were exact contraries. It is true, that in two or three instances, and the examples have been already introduced, the term seed is extended to the saved from the Gentile world,

« PreviousContinue »