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Posterity in an extraordinary manner, but would separate them from all other Nations, and he would be their God, and they should be his PEOPLE*. And this national adoption requiring a mutual Covenant, the rite of CIRCUMCISION is at the same time enjoined as the mark of the Covenantt. Lastly, Abraham is shewn his fond mistake, and told, that it was not the Son of the bond-woman, but of his Wife Sarah, who was ordained to be Heir of the Promises $. But Abraham had so long indulged himself in his mistake, and consequently in his affection for Ishmael, that he begs God would indulge it too-0 that Ishmael might live before thee g. And God, in compassion to his paternal fondness, graciously promises that the Posterity of Ishmael should become exceeding great and powerfulll
, but, that, nevertheless, his Covenant should be with Isaac, and with his Seed after him. However, this Revelation having been received with some kind of doubt, as appears by the words of the historian **, God was pleased to repeat the promise of a Son by Sarah ft : and even to mark the time of his birth| ; according to which, Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a Son $$. After this, God revealed bimself yet again to Abraham||, with a command to put away his Son Ishmael; and to assure him, that the CHOSEN POBTERITY should come from Isaac: For Abraham was not yet weaned from his unreasonable partiality for Ishmael; but still reckoned upon him as his Second hopes, in case of any disaster or misfortune, that should happen to Isaac. This appears from Ishmael's insolent behaviour (T; from Abraham's great unwil. lingness to dismiss bim*t; and from God's assuring him, in order to make him easy, That in Isaac his Seed should
be called*We now come to the famous History of the Command to offer up his Son Isaac-And it came to pass (says the sacred historian) AFTER THESE THINGS, that God did tempt Abraham, and said, Take now thy Son, THINE ONLY SON Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee unto the land of Moriah: and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham arose †, &c. This was the last of God's Revelations to Abraham-And it came to pass after these things-And with this, the history of them is closed.
Here we see all these Revelations, except the last, are plain and clear, as referring to TEMPORAL Felicities to be conferred on Abraham and his Posterity after the flesh; through whom, some way or other, a BLESSING was to extend to all Mankind. Not one of these therefore can pretend to be that Revelation of the Redemption of the world. The last is the only dark and obscure one of the whole; which, if indeed a Revelation of this grand Mystery, must of necessity, as we shall shew, be darkly and obscurely recorded.
But to this perhaps it may be objected, that the famous Promise of GOD to Abraham, that in him should all the Families of the earth be blessed, is that Revelation; because St. Paul calls this the preaching of the Gospel unto him-And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Heathen through Faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations of the earth be blessed §. To this I reply, that the Apostle is here convincing the Galatians, that the Gospel of CHRIST is founded on the same PRINCIPLE with that which justified Abraham, namely, FAITH;— Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. He then pursues his argument in this manner, Therefore, they which be of Faith, are blessed
† Chap. xxii. ver. 1, 2, 3.
| Ver. 6.
with faithful Abraham*. The reason he gives is from the promise in question, given in reward of Abraham's Faith, that in him should all Nations be blessed. This is the force of the argument; and it is very finely managed. But then the terms, Faith and Gospel, are here used, as they very often are in the apostolic writings t, not in their specific but generic sense, for confidence in any one, and glad tidings in general. For it is plain, Abraham's Faith here recommended, was not that Christian Faith in Jesus the MESSIAH, but, faith in God, who had promised to make his Posterity according to the flesh, as numerous as the stars of Heaven, when as yet he had no offspring I. In a like latitude of expression, St. Paul
, uses the word τροευαγίελίζομαι, to preach the Gospel beforehand; not the tidings of the Messiah the Redeemer, but the effects of the Redemption wrought by him, a BLESSING on the whole race of mankind. Tidings which indeed referred to a future Dispensation: and, in this, differing from his use of the word Faith, which did not. But then, this is very far from his SEEING CHRIST'S DAY; of which indeed he speaks in another place, as we shall see presently. It is true, this promised BLESSING was the preparatory Revelation, by which, we were to estimate the ultimate end of all the following; and on which, we must suppose them to be built: And so much we are concerned to prove it was. I conclude therefore, that when Jesus says, Abraham saw his Day; and when St. Paul says, that he had the Gospel preached before unto him, they spoke of two different Revelations. We come, therefore,
II. To the second point : which is to shew, that the COMMAND to offer up Isaac was the very revelation of CHRIST'S DAY, or the Redemption of mankind, by his death and sufferings.
• Ver. 9.
+ See what hath been said on this subject in the preceding discourse on the xith chapter to the Hebrews. Gen, xv. 6.
1. We may observe, from this short view of Abraham's history, that all God's Revelations to him, even unto this last, open by degrees; and relate, primarily indeed, to his Posterity according to the flesh, but ultimately, to the whole race of Mankind : as appears from that MYSTICK Promise so early made to him as the foundation of all the following, that in Him should all the Families of the earth be blessed. These are the two great coincident Truths, to which all these Revelations tend. But the last, the famous Command in question, which one would naturally expect to find the confirmation and completion of the rest, hath, if the common Interpreters understand it right, no kind of relation to them, but is entirely foreign to every thing that preceded. Hence we conclude, and surely not unreasonably, that there is something more in the Command than these Interpreters, resting in the outside relation, have yet discovered to us.
2. But this is not all. The Command, as it hath been hitherto understood, is not only quite disjoined from the rest of Abraham's history, but likewise occupies a place in it, which, according to our ideas of things, it hath certainly usurped. The Command is supposed to be given as a Trial only* Now when the great Searcher of hearts is pleased to try any of his Servants, either for example sake, or for some other end favourable of bis Dispensations to mankind; as in this, he condescends to the manner of men, who cannot judge of the merits of their inferior Agents without Trial, so we may
be assured, he would accommodate himself to their manner likewise, in that which is the material circumstance of a Trial : But, amongst men, the Agent is always tried before he be set on work, or rewarded ; and not after : because the Trial is in order to know, or to make it known, whether he be fit for the work, or deserving of the Reward. When we come therefore to this place, and see a Command only to tempt or try * See Note [D] at the end of this Book.
Abraham, we naturally expect, on his answering to the Trial, to find him importantly employed or greatly rewarded. On the contrary we are told, that this Trial was made after all his Work was done, and all his Reward received— And it came to pass after these things. Nay, what is still more strange, after he had been once tried already. For the promise to him, when he was yet childless, his Wife barren, and both of them far advanced in years, that his seed should be as the stars of Heaven' for multitude, was a Trial of his faith; and his believing, against all probability in a natural way, the sacred Historian tells us, was accounted to him for righteousness*. Such therefore being the method Loth of God and Men in this matter, we must needs conclude, that the Command was not, according to the common notion, a Trial only, because it comes after all God's Dispensations t. Yet as the sacred text assures us it was a Trial; and as a Trial necessarily precedes the employment or reward of the person tried; we must needs conclude, that as no employment, so some benefit followed this trial. Now, on our interpretation, a benefit, as we shall see, did follow : We have reason therefore to conclude that this interpretation is the true.
3. Having seen the difficulties arising from the common interpretation of the Command, let us view it now on the other side; in the new light in which we have adventured to place it. And here we shall find that every circumstance of the Story concurs to support our interpretation. From the view given of Abraham's history, we sce, as was said before, how all God's revelations to him, to this last, ultimately related to that mystic fundamental promise made to hun, on bis first Vocation, that in him shculu all the families of the earth be blessed. God opens the scheme of his Dispensations by exact and regular steps ; and the Revelations follow one another gradually and in order. Abraham is first * Gen. xv. 6.
# See Note [E] at the end of this Book. VOL. VI.