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However, after saving and reserving to ourselves the benefit of all those arguments, which have been hitherto brought to support the history of the COMMAND; I beg leave to say, that the source of all the difficulty is the very wrong idea men have been taught to entertain of it, while it was considered as given for a TRIAL ONLY of Abraham's faith; and consequently as a Revelation unsought by him, and unrelated to any of those before vouchsafed unto him: Whereas, in truth, it was a Revelation ARDENTLY DESIRED, had the CLOSEST CONNEXION with, and was, indeed, the COMPLETION OF ALL THE FOREGOING; which were all directed to one end; as the gradual view of the orderly parts of one intire Dispensation required: consequently, the principal purpose of the COMMAND was not to try Abraham's faith, although its nature was such, that in the very giving of it, God did, indeed, tempt or try Abraham*.
In plain terms, the Action was enjoined as the conveyance of information to the Actor, of something he had requested to know: This mode of information by Signs instead of Words being, as we have shewn, of common practice in those early Ages: And as the force of the following reasoning is founded on that ancient custom, I must request the Reader carefully to review what hath been said in an early part of the Fourth Volume, Book IV. Sect. 4. concerning the origin, progress, and various modes of personal converse; where it is seen, how the conveying information, and giving directions, to Another, by Signs and Actions, instead of Words, came to be of general practice in the first rude Ages; and how, in compliance therewith, God was pleased frequently
TURE; the greatest virtue to be the most villanous action, and "the most virtuous thoughts to be the most criminal: He can in a quarter of an hour, make ABRAHAM willing to kill his Son, "which however is the most abominable thought a man can have." Count Zinzendorf's Serm. in Rimius, p. 53.
♦ Gen. xxii. 1.
ture as it is natural in itself. Thus that signal catastrophe in the fortunes of the Jewish People, both temporal and spiritual, their Restoration, is called their DAY-Then shall the Children of Judah (says God by the Prophet Hosea) and the children of Israel, be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be THE DAY of Israel
2. But not only the matter, but the manner, likewise of this great Revelation, is delivered in the text-Abraham rejoiced to SEE my day: and he saw it, and was glad.— ἵνα ΙΔΗι τὴν ἡμέραν τὴν ἐμήν· καὶ ΕΙΔΕ-This evidently shews the Revelation to have been made, not by relation in words, but by REPRESENTATION in action. The verb dw is frequently used in the New Testament, in its proper signification, to see sensibly. But whether used literally or figuratively, it always denotes a full intuition. That the expression was as strong in the Syrian language used by JESUS, as here in the Greek of his Historian, appears from the reply the Jews made to him-Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou SEEN Abra-. ham ? Plainly intimating that they understood the assertion of Abraham's seeing Christ's day to be a real beholding him in person. We must conclude therefore, from the words of the text, that the Redemption of Mankind was not only revealed to Abraham, but was revealed likewise by representation. A late Writer, extremely well skilled in the style of Scripture, was so sensible of the force of JESUS's words, that, though he had no suspicion they related to any part of Abraham's recorded history, yet he saw plainly they implied an information by representation-Thus also Abraham (says he) saw the day of CHRIST, and was glad. But this must be in a typical or prophetical vision .-The excellent Dr. Scott is of the same opinion. He supposes "the words refer to some peculiar discoveries, which the Spirit of God
might make to Abraham, for his own private conso"lation, though not recorded in Scripture *."
So far, then, is clear, that Abraham had indeed this Revelation. The next question will be, whether we can reasonably expect to find it in the history of his life, recorded in the Old Testament? And that we may find it here, both the words of JESUS, and the nature of the thing, assure us.
1. We learn, by the history of CHRIST's Ministry, that in his disputations with the Jews, he never urged them with any circumstance of God's Dispensations to their Forefathers, which they either were not, or might not be, well acquainted with by the study of their Scriptures. The reason is evident. His credentials were twofold, SCRIPTURE and MIRACLES. In the first way therefore of confirming his Mission, if, instead of appealing to the course of God's Dispensation to his chosen People, as delivered in Scripture, he had given them an unknown history of that Dispensation, (as was one of the tricks of Mahomet in his Alcoran) such a method had been so far from supporting his Character, that it would have heightened the unfavourable prejudices of Unbelievers towards him as looking like a confession that the known history was against him; and that he was forced to invent a new one, to countenance his pretensions. He must, therefore, for the necessary support of his Character, appeal to some acknowleged Facts. These were all contained in SCRIPTURE and TRADITION. But, we know, he always studiously declined supporting himself on their Traditions, though they were full of circumstances favourable to the Religion he came to propagate, such as the doctrines of eternal Life, and the Resur rection of the Body: Nay, he took all occasions of decrying their TRADITIONS as impious 'corruptions, by which they had rendered the wRITTEN word of none effect. We conclude, therefore, from JESUS's own
* Christian Life, Vol. V, p. 194.
frequently to converse with the holy Patriarchs and Prophets in that very manner.
Laying down therefore what hath been said on this subject, in the place referred to, as a Postulatum ; I undertake to prove the following Proposition:
THAT WHEN GOD SAYS TO ABRAHAM, TAKE NOI THY SON, THINE ONLY SON ISAAC, &c.* THE
COMMAND IS MERELY AN INFORMATION BY ACTION, INSTEAD OF WORDS, OF THE GREAT SACRIFICE OF CHRIST FOR THE REDEMPTION OF MANKIND, GIVEN AT THE EARNEST REQUEST OF ABRAHAM, WHO LONGED IMPATIENTLY TO SEE CHRIST'S DAY; and is, in its nature, exactly the same as those informations to the Prophets, where to this Man, God says, Make thee bonds and yokes, and put them on thy neck†; to another -Go take unto thee a wife of whoredoms ‡, &c. and to a third-Prepare thee stuff for removing §, &c. that is, AN INFORMATION OF HIS PURPOSE BY ACTION INSTEAD OF WORDS; in the first case, foretelling the conquests of Nebuchadnezzar over Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon; in the second, declaring his abhorrence of the idolatries of the House of Israel; and in the third, the approaching Captivity of Zedekiah.
The foundation of my Thesis I lay in that scripture of St. John, where JESUS says to the unbelieving Jews, YOUR FATHER ABRAHAM REJOICED TO SEE MY DAY; AND HE SAW IT, AND WAS GLAD ||.
1. If we consider Abraham's personal character, together with the choice made of him for head and origin of that People which God would separate and make holy to himself; from whence was to arise the REDEEMER of Mankind, the ultimate end of that separation; we cannot but conclude it probable, that the knowledge
Gen. xxii. 2. § Ezek. xii. 3.
+ Jerem. xxvii. 2.
↑ Hosea i. 2.
of this Redeemer would be revealed to him. Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do? says GOD, in a
matter that much less concerned the Father of the Faithful. And here, in the words of JESUS, we have this probable truth arising from the nature of the thing, made certain and put out of all reasonable questionAbraham rejoiced, says JESUS, to see my DAY †, Tйν пμéραu. Tμv. Now when the figurative word day is used, not to express in general the period of any one's existence, but to denote his peculiar office and employment, it must needs signify that very circumstance in his life, which is characteristic of such office and employment. But JESUS is here speaking of his peculiar office and employment, as appears from the occasion of the debate, which was his saying, If any man keep my commandments, he shall never taste of death, intimating thereby the virtue of his office of Redeemer. Therefore, by the word DAY must needs be meant that characteristic circumstance of his life; But that circumstance was the laying down his life for the Redemption of Mankind. Consequently, by the word DAY is meant the great sacrifice of CHRIST. Hence we may discover the real or affected ignorance of the Socinian Comment upon this place; which would have day only to signify in general the life of CHRIST, or the period of his abode here on earth.
To reconcile the learned Reader to the propriety and elegance as well as to the truth of this sense of the word, Day, he may observe, that as Jesus entitles his great Work, in his state of humiliation, the Redemption of Mankind, by the name of HIS DAY; so is he pleased to give the same appellation to his other great Work, in his triumphant state, the Judgment of Mankind. "For as the lightning "(says he) that lightneth out of the one part under "heaven, so shall also the Son of man be in HIS
"DAYS." But this figure is indeed as usual in Scrip
* Gen. xviii. 17.
See Note [A] at the end of this Book.
+ John viii. 56. § Luke xvii. 24.