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oses ; buof the Chur of the bledescendant
$; but as a Church during its me, which
so far, were as removed as possible from all legal prin. ciples, and from a mere temporal or civil alliance.
The land of Canaan was indeed promised to him ; not however as a mere temporal acquisition, or for political purposes ; but as a part of the inheritance of grace; as the cradle of the Church during its minority; as subservient to the diffusion of the blessing, which was to be transmitted through his natural descendants ; às a theatre on which was to be transacted, the great tvork of our redemption ; and as a type of heaven. It was promised in the same light that godliness, under the latter dispensation, has a promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come.”
God promised also that he would make of Abraham a great nation ; but it was not to be such in the ordinary acceptation of the words, for his posterity have never been such. The obvious meaning is, that his posterity should be exceedingly numerous ; and that they should be contradistinguished from the world, as à holy people. The promise that he should be the heir of the world, it is evident, has also the same spiritual meaning. , For Paul says, Romans iv. 13, that this promise, “ was not through the law, but through the righteousness of faith."
This view of the character and moral state of Abraham, anterior to the appointment of circumcision, ought to have its due influence upon our minds, in estimating the nature and design of the covenant transsactions, recorded in the 17th of Genesis. It can hardly be imagined that it was the divine plan, that what was so favorably begun in the spirit, should end in the flesh. After having elevated this patriarch to the honor of being the father of the whole family of the faithful to the end of the world ; after having admitted him to such a free and covenant intercourse as his peculiar friend; after multiplying benedictions so altogether spiritual ; it cannot readily be supposed, that he should sink him down to the pitiful condition, of being the founder of a mere political society ; that too in a transaction in troduced with uncommon solemnity.
Respecting the Covenant of Circumcision.
IN the seventeenth chapter of the book of Gen. esis we are presented with what has been commonly denominated, the Covenant of Circumcision. . 1. This covenant we shall now attempt to analyse. It is of the last importance to understandaccurately the nature of this covenant; in what respects it agrees with, or is distinguishable from, any other covenant which may be found mentioned in the scriptures; the nature and extent of its promises; with whom it is established; and in what way its blessings are transmitted and enjoyed. • That we may look at the subject fairly, and prosecute our analysis upon secure principles, it may be proper to put down all that is said upon it in this chapter. “And when Abraham was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared unto Abraham, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God, walk before me and be thou perfect ; and I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abraham fell on his face; and God talked with him, say. ing ; As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be 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. 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. And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou and thy seed after thee, in their generations. This is my covenant which ye shall keep between me and you, and thy seed after thee. Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a token of the covenant between me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised a. mong you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house,or bought with thy money must needs be circumcised. And, my covenant shall be in · your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncir.
cumcised man child, whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people;' he hath broken my covenant.” The 23, 24, 25, 26, and 27 verses, only inform us of Abraham's compliance with the command of God. He circumcised himself, Ishmael, and all that were born in his house, or bought with his money. · I. The first thing which claims to be noticed, respect. ing the covenant transaction recorded here, is, that cir. cumcision itself was not the covenant. It was but the token of it. It is indeed called the covenant. But the meaning of this language is fully explained by what is said in the eleventh verse of the chapter. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you." Paul gives the same explanation, Rom. iv. 12. « And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal, of the righteousness of the faith which he had, being yet un. circumcised.” That which is a token, sign, or seal of a thing, cannot at the same time be the very thing of which it is a token. The language is metonymical. Christ says, in the institution of the supper, referring to the bread before him, “ This is my body.” All pro. testants understand the meaning to be, this is a symbol of my body. The literal construction involves the most glaring absurdity.
If circumcision be only a token, then it was really no part of the covenant. And if it was no part of the covenant, certainly it was not a condition of it. A condition is always an essential part of the covenant, to which it belongs. Exclude the condition, and the covenant is destroyed.
It may in this connexion be farther remarked, that the painful nature of the operation, which took place when a person was circumcised, though it was a yoke, which required some selfdenial patiently to bear, * was no more inconsistent with the supposition, that the cov. enant, of which circumcision was a token, was exclu
sively of a gracious nature, than the innumerable dis· tresses which have always been a part of the experi.
ence of the children of faith, are inconsistent with their being interested in the blessings of grace. Selfdenial is the narrow path by which all the people of God, un. der every dispensation, enter the gates of the heavenly city. To them it is given, not only to obtain salvation through, but to suffer, for the sake, of their adorable Redeemer. Faith must be tried. Self must be sub. dued. God must be enthroned. To all does the language of the Apostle Peter apply. i Peter i. 6. 6. Though now for a season (if need be) ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations, that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, may be found unto praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Je. sus Christ.”
II. The next thing which claims to be noticed res. pecting the covenant here mentioned, is, that the promises of it, allowing for some verbal variations, are the same with those, which had been before made in the antecedent covenant transactions with Abraham. T'he first promise respects the multitude of Abraham's posterity. The 2 and 6 verses are, “ And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and I will multiply thee.exceed. ingly. And thou shalt be a father of many nations
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 prom. ised 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 xiïi chapter, 16 yerşe. “ 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 to. ' ! ward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to num. ber them, and he said unto him, so shall thy seed be.” It is evident that these promises are the same. They 1 have respect to one object, the multitude of Abraham's af posterity. I do not mean that they respect this object le exclusively. For Paul, in the fourth chapter of Romans, oh 16, and onward, extends this clause of the promise, “ And thou shalt be a father of many nations,”! to be de lieving Gentiles; by which we are assured, that the sale o
vation of these Gentiles was comprehended in this · promise. « Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end, the promise night 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 i hope ; that he might become the father of many na jions ; 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 previously made. In regard to the first object, the multitude