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in connexion with natural descendants. Still, in almost every case in which the term is used through the scrip, ture, it is used in the literal sense, as meaning appropriately natural descendants from Abraham, When it is used as extending to both, they are primarily intended. The reader will see this confirmed as we proceed. I say they are intended, as natural descendants, in the literal sense ; a sense by which they are entirely distinguished from Gentile believers.
It is evident, that, by the seed, in the covenant of circumcision, must be meant, primarily, and in the lito eral sense, natural descendants from Abraham, as such or believers generally, must be meant, without any resa pect to a descent from him. Let it here be carefully noticed, that if a natural seed are primarily intended, they may be a seed in character also. The cove: nant may be actually established with them. Whereas if a spiritual seed simply is intended, without any spés cial respect to a descent from Abraham, then; though the covenant may be established with them, it may bé, that not one descendant from Abraham shall be found among them. I mean for ought that can be learned from the covenant. .
Now, that a seed literally; or according to the flesh must be primarily intended, and intended under that description, will, I apprehend, be evident from the fol: lowing considerations.
1. It is a good and an established rule of interpretation, that the primitive, literal meaning of a term should always be taken, unless the subject treated of be such as to make it necessary to take it figuratively. * Without the use of this rule, words will be always indéter. minate. If the figurative sense be designed, the sub ject itself must clearly determine that it is so. But surely, in this case, there is nothing in the subject which makes it necessary to take the term seed in the mere figurative sense. There is in fact every thing
*"The literal sense is always to be preferred to the figuratiye, unless there appears plain and good reasons to the contrary."
Hemmenway on Baptism.
against it. To apply the figurative sense will make ali these covenant transactions, not only ambiguous, but wholly inexplicable. It will be impossible to find the objects in whom several of these promises were fulfilled. We are at the outset then, presented with a very strong presụmption, that by the term seed are meant, pri. marily, natural decendants from Abraham's body,
2. It is evident Abraham himself could receive no other idea from the term, as it was used, in the several covenant transactions, which took place between God, and him. His separation had a family design. Sev. eral of the promises made to him were such as to oblige him to apply them to his natural descendants. The promise, “I will make of thee a great nation, and kings shall come out of thee, must have had respect to a natural posterity. The promise that his seed should be as the stars in heaven for multitude, was equivalent with the promise just mentioned, and pri. marily to be taken in the same sense. The promise that his seed should possess the land of Canaan, could apply to natural descendants only. To them, and to them omly, has the promise been fulfilled. But if the term seed, in these promises, be certainly to be taken primarily, in its literal meaning; beyond a question, it is so to be taken in the whole of the covenant. The meaning of the term cannot be supposed to be changed when the subject is not. The following prom. ise was superadded to that which immediately re. spected the seed. “And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Here the diffusion of spiritual blessings beyond the limits of Abraham's naturaly posterity is in view. But the objects of these blessings are not intended primarily by the seed. This is undeniable. For it was in Abraham that all these families of the earth were to be blessed. They are only spoken of. He is the immediate covenantee. But how were they to be blessed in Abraham? Not in him personally only, but especially in his seed. He is identified with his seed." This Paul, in his Epistle to the Galatians clearly illustrates. 3 Chapter 15. verse. “That the bles
harily, in taken in the not be suppe following ely re
sing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles througti Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the spirit through faith.” Jesus Christ was the seed natural. ly. He was a lineal descendant from Abraham. “Of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came,” Romans ix. 5. He was éminently the seed. For the apostle adds. “Now to Abraham, and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds as of many, but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ."* Christ certainly was not of the spiritual seed, i. e, of the seed in the mere figurative sense. He was not one of those whom God's gracious covenant contemplated to save from their sins. He was the seed, merely as a natural descendant from Abraham. “He took on him the seed of Abraham.” Heb. ï. 16, the seed of the woman, of the Virgin Mary, that seed, which was to bruise the serpent's head ; and in whom all the promises of God are yea, and in him amen. Then by the term seed is undeniably meant a natural offspring. This thought, that Christ is the seed, not as one of the saved ; but as lineally descended, the reader is requested to keep in remembrance. For it will go far towards elucidating several other parts of our subject.t . .
3. The use of the term generations in the covenant, constrains us to understand the term seed, as applica. ble to natural descendants from Abraham as such. “ And thy seed after thee in their generations for an
* The promise was originally made to Abraham as the immediate covenantee. It was made to the seed as a subject of promise, and standing in covenant connexion with Abraham, Christ was eminently, not exclusively, this seed. All of the posterity of Abraham, who were connected with him as brethren in the cove' enant, came jointly with him under this denomination. In this view he appro. priates the common relation indicated by the term seed. " I ascend to my father, and to your father ; to my God, and to your God." He is accordingly said to be 6 the first born among many brethren." Exactly comporting with which is the passage, Heb. ii. 11, 12. “ For both he who sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying,” &c.
t A Mr. Samuel Manning, in a late pamphlet, which I am credibly informed came from the press under the inspection and patronage of one of the ablest Baptist writers in this country, tells us, page, 27, that the promise mentioned in the abové argument, made to Christ as Abraham's seed, “ ultimately respected Christ, as God." Then Christ was Abraham's seed as God, Then, when Christ took on him, the feed of Abraham, he took on him godhead. This is certainly worse than transubstantiation. For it is not only a war with common sense, but a denial of express divipe testimony.
overlasting covenant.” This term does not apply to a spiritual seed, irrespective of a natural descent from A. braham. Such a seed therefore is not designed by the term seed in the covenant. The term generation is indeed sometimes used figuratively to characterize both good and bad men. But this is not the import of it in this place. To apply this sense to it would load the promise with absurdity.
4. To say that a spiritual seed is designated, as such, irrespective of descent; would imply, that Abraham had no more reason to calculate that either temporal or spiritual blessings, would come upon his lineal desa cendants, than upon the idolatrous inhabitants of Ca. naan, or the world at large. A natural offspring was not, upon this supposition, respected in the promise. For ought that Abraham could learn, his natural seed might all be reprobated ; and the rest of the world be chosen, and saved. But this would be to separate A. braham entirely from his natural posterity, as to a coy. enant relation to God; it would take away those very consolations respecting them, which the covenant was designed to administer; enfeeble his motives to fidele ity in instructing his seed ; destroy the distinction which is made throughout the scriptures, and in a multitude of facts, between his posterity and the world ; and would be to load with absurdity the whole Bible.
5. To suppose that by the term seed is meant a spiritual seed at large, and not natural descendants from A. braham as such, is to take away all cause for the application of circumcision to Abraham's lineal descendants, and particularly in their infancy. Circumcision is certainly to be applied to the seed mentionedin the covenant. Verses 9, 10, 11. " And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my cove. nant which ye shall keep, between me and you, and thy seed after thee, every manchild among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you." Beyond a question, the term seed
has the same meaning here, that it has in the preceding verses. The subjects are not altogether changed without any notice given of it. But the seed here certainly means natural descendants. For it is added as an explarratory direction, " every manchild among you shall be circumcised. And it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.” To the natural seed then circumcision was to be applied. And it was to be applied to them as a party in the covenant. But if a spiritual seed merely, as such, was respected, this direction would have been irrelevant, and the application of circumcision to the natural seed wholly unmeaning.
6. The Apostle Paul in the 9th chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, expressly applies the term seed, as meaning natural offspring. 7th verse. “ Neither be. cause they are the seed of Abraham are they all children; but in Isaac shall thy seed be called. By the term seed he evidently means natural offspring. He is speaking about them only. They were his brethren according to the flesh. His whole description applies to them, and to them only. “Who are Israelites, to · whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the
covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises ; whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God, blessed forever. The distinction he makes between the nominal and true Israel applies to them only. * Not as though the word of God, had. taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, who are of Israel.” When therefore, in the lat. ter part of the verse, he applies the term seed to Isaac, it is evidently in the literal sense. Isaac is one of the seed intended in the promise. But he is such as the fruit of Sarah's womb.
It may be thought, and it has often been suggested, that the following verse is opposed to this idea. But it is not. It is only explanatory of the doctrine of discriminating grace, which the Apostle had mentioned, and on which he insists throughout this, and the two
over all between the Not as thous they are not lat