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schts itself, of as great importance as the former, vizi Did the promise embrace as those with whom it was to be carried into effect, or be establihed, all the seed without exception, or all Abraham's natural descendants ? This question has been in some degree una. voidably anticipated. But the truth respecting it is so fundamental, that it must be yet more clearly ascertained. And if we should repeat some things which have been already suggested, it will be easily pardoned. On the just solution of the question, Who are inten. ded by the seed ? depend essentially all correct views of the Abrahamic covenant, and the economy of God's holy kingdom. It must be acknowledged, the word is used here in the xvii. of Genesis indefinitely, At the same time it must be admitted, that it is so used, as not necessarily to extend to all the posterity of Abraham numerically. If the word is necessarily to be understood as embracing all the individuals, who sprung from Abraham's loins, then it involves essentially the idea of number. If not, then it is rather a generic term, designating a class, a society. It is undeniable that words are often used in the scriptures in this large sense; as descriptive of a collection of persons, when all the individuals, who stand related are not numerically intended. Thus it is said of the race of man general. ly, Gen. xi. 12. “ The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and behold it was corrupt. For all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.” But Noah personally did not come under this description. The prophet Jer. says, V. 23. “But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone.” But there were individuals unquestionably who had not bowed the knee to any false God. “Ephraim," says Hosea, “is joined to his idols, let him alone.” But it is not to be supposed that all Ephraim numerically, were idolatrous. The Church of Smyrna as a body, is honorably characterized. “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where : Satan's seat is, and thou holdest fast my name, and hasti
not denied my faith, even in those days, wherein An. tipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where satan dwelleth." Yet there were some in that Church who held the doctrine of Balaam, and the doctrine of the Nicholaitans. To suppose then that the term seed, is not to be taken as designating Abraham's descendants numerically, but classically; and that a part of them only are really embraced, is more agreeable to the analogy of scripture language than otherways. Now, let us consider what the Holy Ghost teaches relative to this matter.
Some of the promises of the Abrahamic covenant, it is evident, are necessarily to be appropriated to a part of the nominal seed. The promise, “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed,” is expressly appropriated by Paul to Christ, and that part of Abraham's posterity, who had life in him. “Not as of many; but as of one. And to thy seed which is Christ." The promise, “for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever;" applied to a part of the natural seed only. With respect to a part of them only was it executed. Thousands fell short of the promised land through unbelief.* The prediction, "Know of a surety that thy seed, shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them, and they shall affict them four hundred years," applied to a part of the posterity only. Abraham himself must have been led to entertain a restricted idea of the seed, from the very terms of the covenant. “And the uncircumcised manchild, whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people, he hath broken my covenant.” Here the possibility of breaking the covenant, i. e. of fatally trampling on
* A restriction of the term seed, as applying to a part of Abraham's natural dea scendants only, is admitted by Dr. Cyprian Strong in regard to this promise, in his Second Enquiry, page 21. i. This promise of Canaan however did not respect all the posterity of Abraham. The promise only imported that some of Abraham's posterity (more or fewer, as God in his sovereignty should determine) should possess that land.” If the term seed, in regard to the extent of its application, may be subjected to this limitation in respect to the promise of the land of Canaan; why may it not be subjected to a similar limitation in regard to the nore substantial interests of the covenant ?
the duties it enjoined, is presented to Abraham's view. And what else can be the ground of his prayer respecting Ishmael ? “O that Ishmael might live before thee !" If all the individuals of the natural posterity were embraced in the promise, there was already a certainty that Ishmael would live before God. The prayer implies that Abraham was apprehensive, that notwithstanding the promise of the covenant, Ishmael might be excluded from the divine favor.
In the 21st. verse of the chapter, the covenant is unequivocally explained to Abraham as having an exclu. sive reference. “But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear unto thee in the set time in the next year.” .
After the birth of Isaac, Sarah, prompted as it would seem by a special divine impulse, for it is quoted by Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians in that light, says to Abraham, o Cast out this bond woman, and her son, for the son of this bond woman, shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.” Abraham had too much natural affection for his son Ishmael, to be pleased with this apparently severe measure. But God says to him, “Let it not be grievous in thy sight, because of the lad, and because of the bond woman ; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for, in Isaac shall thy seed be called.”
This appropriation of the covenant engagement as it respects the seed, to Isaac, the Apostle Paul treats as an initial dispensation, which gave a cast to the whole divine economy respecting the seed. “Because they were the seed of Abraham, they were not all children.” Some of them were. They were the children respected in the promise.” For the children of the promise, are counted for the seed.” Romans ix. 7, 8. These were the Israel who were of Israel. They were the remnant according to the election of grace, the remnant as it respected Israel at large. For Romans ix. 29. “Except the Lord of Sabaoth, had left us (us Israel) a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha," i. e. we had been all given up to destruction. They were those who, Ephes. 1. 5. “ Were predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ according to the good pleasure of his will.” They were those who were made accepted in the beloved ; who, in every age walked in the steps of that faith of their father Abraham, which he had, be. ing yet uncircumcised. This was the character of a part of the natural posterity only, “more or fewer” at different times, “ as God in his sovereignty determined.” The residue were children without faith. They entered not in because of unbelief. They rejected the covenant of their God; and generally went off into open idolatry in some form or other. “ Being igno. rant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, they submitted not them. selves to the righteousness of God." They stumbled at this stumbling stone. While the election, i. e, the election of Israel, obtained, they were blinded. Hence, the solemn declaration of Moses just before his decease. Deut. xxxi. 16, and onward. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, and this people shall rise up and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be amongst them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant, which I have made with them.* Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day ; and I will forsake them, and hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, Are not all these evils come upon us because the Lord our. God is not among us? Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel ; put it into their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel. For when I shall have brought them into the land which I sware unto their fathers that floweth with milk and honey, and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxed fat, then will they turn unto other Gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant. And it shall come to pass when many evils and troubles are be: fallen them, that this song shall testify against them, as a witness ; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their' seed ; for I know their imagination which they go about even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware.” This is a predic. tive view of the reprobate part of Israel. : · Agreeable to this is the direction of God'to the prophet Isaiah. Isai. vi. 9. 10. " Go and tell this peo. ple, hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert and be healed." . .. " .' \ .. . ::
* Though the promise of the covenant in strictness, or as to its effect, extend. ed to the election only ; yet the covenant as has been hinted, and as will be more fully explained directly, 'was made or established, as to its outward administration, with the whole body,
John, the Baptist, urged strenuously this distinction, between the elect, and the nonelect parts of the de: scendants of Abraham. Matt. iii. 7. “ But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said to them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come ; Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance, and think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our father ; for God is able even of these stones to raise up children -unto Abralram. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees ; therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." . This declaration had evidently a special, primary respect to nominal Israel, for it was addressed to those who belonged to them. ** Our Savior insisted much on the same distinction. He says, “ Many are called, but few chosen-Ye cannot believe because ye are not of my sheep as I said unto you~And they shall come from the east and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the kingdom of God; but the children of the kingdom; (the disobedient part of the visible seed) shall be cast