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following chapters, as extending to the natural seed of Abraham, as well as the world at large. " That is, they which are the children of the flesh ; these are not the children of God; but the children of promise are, counted for the seed."* All the natural offspring of Abraham are not as such the children of God. Some of them however are. They are as such. For“ in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” The seed was called in Isaac, as Abraham's child, descended from his body. Yet it was also called in Isaac in distinction from Ishmael, as he was a child of promise, and stood in spe. cial relation to Christ, in whom all the promises of God are yea and amen. This idea the Apostle illustrates as he proceeds. " For this is the word of promise ; at this time will I come and Sarah shall have a son." Isaac was a child of special promise. Ishmael was not. Verse 10th, “ And not only this, but when Re. becca had conceived by one, even by our Father Isaac (for the children, being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God, accord. ing to election, might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth ;) it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger, as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." Here the Apostle carefully runs the distinction of discriminating grace, between the elect, and the non elect parts of the nominal seed. Yet the nominal seed, or the seed according to the fesh only is in view. This is evident from the destinction he makes. To suppose that by seed, he means all be. lievers, as such, without any respect to descent from Abraham, would destroy the unity of his discoure, and the force of his argument. Directly indeed, he ex. tends his remarks to persons who were not lineal descendants from Abraham ; but this is only to illustrate the same doctrine of divine sovereignity, as extending to all the saved. By the term seed then the Apostle evidently means Abraham's lineal descendants only.
* The general mistake in applying this passage has been founded in unwarrantably extending it beyond the subjects of the Apostle's discourse. · He has respect to no others than to Abraham's natural descendants, or the children of the flesh.
Hence, after having in such a solemn manner insisted on the severity, as well as on the goodness of God, he anticipates, in the beginning of the 11th chapter, the question, which he foresaw would naturally rise in the minds of those to whom he was writing ; " I say then hath God cast away his people ?». There would have been no propriety in this question, if the Apostle had excluded the natural descendants of Abraham as having no special interest in the covenant. But if they have a special interest in the covenant, beyond all doubt, they have it as the seed. “God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew.”.. . · As we shall be obliged to recal this distinction di. rectly, we shall here take leave of it'; having sufficiently shown, not only that it is consistent with, but a proof, that by the term seed are meant, in the covenant, lineal descendants. . .
7. But one more proof will be added to establish this, as the proper sense of the word seed, in the covenant. This proof is furnished in the declaration of Peter to the Jews, Acts iii. 25. “Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, and in thy seed shall all the kindred of the earth be blessed.” These Jews were children of the covenant, not as believers; for Peter did not address them as sustaining this character; but as chargeable with great wickedness in killing the Prince of life. They were in his view children of the covenant only as lineal descendants from Abraham. The terms children of the covenant are used as equivalent with that of seed. For he supports his declaration by adverting to that clause in the covenant in which the term seed is inserted. "Saying unto Abraham, and in thy secd shall all the kindred of the earth be blessed."
Against this theory there are objections, which it is proper here to notice. * 1. It is objected, that " as the same declarations and promises are made in the covenant with respect to the
seed, which are made with respect to Abraham, per. sonally, it will follow, that the natural seed of Abra. ham without distinction are interested in the covenant of grace, as extensively as Abraham himself, which is contrary to scripture, and to fact." The explanations already made, furnish a reply to this objection. Though the term seed be used in the covenant indefinitely, for reasons which will soon be mentioned, it is not to be understood as applying, so as to involve an interest in the promise, to all the natural offspring without exception. This is evident from what has already been said, and will be more fully illustrated in some subsequent remarks. - 2. It is farther objected," that the term seed can. not mean natural descendants of Abraham, because, upon that supposition, circumcision, as a token of the covenant, must have been confined to Abraham's natural children ; whereas the institution extended to all that were born in his house, and bought with his money.” Answer. This objection lies equally a. gainst the other hypothesis, that the term seed is to be taken figuratively. For circumcision was certainly applied to other persons than a spiritual seed. If circumcision were confined to the seed, and yet extend. ed to others, besides lineal descendants ; if it were so extended to the latter, as to have no appropriate respect to the former ; then indeed it must be conceded, either, that circumcision had no connexion with the seed, or that by the seed were intended other persons than lin. eal descendants, and that it had no special respect to such descendants at all. But the express distinction which is made in the law of circumcision, between the seed and others, as subjects of circumcision, unde. niably proves, that it was not thus confined ; and that natural descendants were intended by the seed. “This is my covenant therefore which ye shall keep between me and you, and thy seed after theé. Every manchild among you, shall be circumcised. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you; every manchild in your generations ; he that is born in the house, or bought with thy money, of any stranger which is not of thy seed.” This express distinction, which is not of thy seed, is nugatory, upon the supposition that the term seed is used figuratively for a spiritual seed merely. There would have been no propriety in mentioning the natural seed at all,
3. It is again objected, “ that natural descendants from Abraham, as such, cannot be intended by the seed, because Ishmael, who was from his loins, is expressly excluded from the covenant, as born after the flesh; and he and his posterity are spoken of as allegorically representing the law ; and as persecuting the seed." But surely this proves directly the contrary. It confirms the idea, that by seed are meant lineal descend. ants from Abraham. For, why is Ishmael excluded ? Why is the distinction made between him and Isaac ?: Evidently, because with Isaac he was Abraham's natural son. The seed then had respect to natural de. scent. Had the term respected believers in general, without any respect to a descent from Abraham, there would have been no propriety in mentioning Ishmael as excluded, any more than any one of the reprobate world.
Besides, it is by no means certain that Ishmael personally was not a subject of the covenant, so far as to have God for his God. And this might be on another principle than that of being the seed ; i. e. as some of the servants of Abraham were. This principle we shall have occasion more fully to explain directly.-The limitation of the seed to the line of Isaac, no more excluded Ishmael from the personal felicity of having God for his God, than it excluded Cornelius, who was by birth a Roman. Be this however as it may, the fact mentioned in the objection, evidently proves the very thing that the objection opposes.
4. It is moreover objected, that the term seed cannot intend natural offspring as such, because the term is confined by Paul, Romans iv. 16, to believers."
The words are these, “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be.
law, buthe father of us For why the dishat which is
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, who is the father of us all.” But the passage itself confutes the objection. For why the distinction be. tween the seed which is of the law, and that which is of faith? Does not that which is mentioned as of the law, intend those who are Jews by nature ? And does not the seed which is of faith intend believers from the Gentile world ? Most evidently. For in the 11th and 12th verses, the Apostle says, “ And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had, being yet uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed unto them also, (i. e. Gentile believers) and the father of circumcision tothem who are not of the circumcision only ; but also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham which he had, being yet uncircumcised.” . .
By those who are not of the circumcision only, are designed lineal descendants from Abraham. They are part of the seed ; and they are so under that description, as lineal descendants ; of course as the natural seed. . Believing Jews, and believing Gentiles are equally covenant children of Abraham, or joint heirs with Christ, of covenant blessings. And this is what is intended by the terms in the passage all the seed.-They are equivalent with all the saved. But this does not militate with the idea, that by the term seed in the covenant, is meant primarily and appropriately natura al descendants. Because these belong, as a distinct class, to all the seed ; or are not of the circumcision only, but also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had, being yet uncircumcised."
These objections, and there are no other, of any plausibility, which have occurred to the Author in the course of his reading, being found futile, the conclusion may be taken as questionless, that the term seed, in the covenant, intends, primarily and especially, a natural seed as such. .
The promise then being to be taken as absolute, and as respecting a natural seed, another question now pre