« PreviousContinue »
lent goodness of the benefactor........And though to some of the recipients these bounties were lost by their misimprovement, and worse than lost, still it remains a fact, that such blessings were put into their hands, most freely, and in a way the most wisely devised to secure to them so great an advantage.
If, however, instead of a requirement which existed in the nature of the bestowment, it had been this, Occupy your own means, and prove yourselves trust worthy, and I will then give you POUNDS and TALENTS, it would have altered the nature of the transaction. This might have been the requirement on reasonable and honorable principles, for such are the principles of the law; but, in this case, the reward would have been reckoned of debt, and the transaction could never have been contemplated under the character of free, rich and sovereign grace.
I am sensible that some will say, If God does not give us good hearts, he gives us no blessings; but it will appear otherwise in the Day of Accounts. By the king's money and talents, bestowed upon these servants, nothing less was meant than the Blessing of the Gospel of the kingdom; that kingdom which he was going a long journey to receive, and with which he was to return with glory. And whatever be the estimation we now make of this gift, it will appear in a future day to be of infinite value.
The land of Canaan was given to Abraham, and to Isaac, and to Israel, for a possession; it was therefore requisite, in the nature of the bestowment, that Abraham should go into the land, and that lie, with Isaac and Jacob, should dwell in it..... With this promise in his hand, which was“ God's deed of gift of the country to him, Abraham left Chaldea, and journeyed for the promised heritage; and having come into the land, he
dwelt there, with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. In this, and in some other duties, equally comprised in the nature of the blessing bestowed upon him, as will be shewn in some following sections, consisted the works of Abraham; and in requisites of the same nature, consist the illustrious works of his children.
As this obligation was comprised in the nature of the blessing, the people of Israel, who rebelled at Cadish-bernea, and refused to go forward to possess the land, clearly forfeited the interest. And though they were disinherited by a righteous judicial act, and perished in the wilderness; yet this event, properly underst d, does not in the least affect a view of the free and absolute nature of the gift and grace which, by the promise, was bestowed upon them. If however, instead of obligations resulting from the blessings actually bestowed, there had been made pre-requisites; and "to become intitled “ to the blessings of the covenant, Abraham “must walk before God, and be perfect; must “ have true faith, and be sincerely obedient.” If “ this was necessary, as it respected himself “ personally, and equally necessary as it respect« ed his children,”the view of these adorable transactions would be intirely changed, and the glory of them would sink as far below what it truly is, as the earth is distant from the heavens.
Were the same things to be required of a man, in order to become intitled to some interest, which should follow of course upon the bestowment of the interest, it would intirely change the nature of the requirement, and the grounds of obligation. Laban required of Jacob, aş a condition of his daughter's being given to him to be his wife, that he should serve him seven years, and keep his cattle. Jacob, accordingly, kept the flock of Laban. In very similar circum
stances, Jethro gave his daughter to Moses to be his wife, frankly and nobly; but Moses, becoming a member, emploved himself in the business of the family, and kept the flock of Jethro. And it appears that Moses continued in this employment for nearly forty years. Jethro receive ed more service for his daughter, which he gave of his mere good pleasure to Moses, than Laban did for both his, which he sold to Jacob. But though they both received services, and of the same kind, on account of the marriage of their daughters, yet how very differently did the circumstances of these marriages affect not only the nature of the services received, but also the characters of these parents ? For whilst the character of Laban appears mercenary and stupid, as the most sordid slave, the character of Jethro appears generous and enlightened, like a prince as he was. And both these connections, as might have been expected, ended in the same stile in which they were commenced. For, as the one was begun upon the principle of debt and credit, we see the parties standing up to each other, like two studs, for their respective claims, until their books were settled by a heap of stones' in Mount Gilead, a sure presage of the dreadful wars which, in after ages, opened between the two nations of Syria and Israel; whereas the other, which was begun upon the principle of liberality and good fellowship, proceeded in the same honourable and beneficent stile, until the family of Jethro were joined with Moses in the common interest of the covenant people.
These cases are sufficient to shew, that obligations and requisites, existing in the nature of bestowments, are of a very different character from obligations and requisites imposed as conditions of our becoming intitled to the same privileges and blessings.
All the promises of the covenant are summed ap in the gift of Christ, in whom are wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and eternal redemption. This name, Christ, is the name of the Son, as being over his own house. The promise of Christ, therefore, includes all the privileges and blessings of this house, viz. That it shall be a sanctuary to its members, obeying its head, which is a requisite ever indispensable in the nature of the family privilege; and that it shall be well guarded, and afford its members ample provision for time and for eternity.
The gift of Christ is often spoken of in the scriptures, as comprising and fulfilling all that was promised to the Fathers in the covenant, as in Acts xiii. 32, 33. “And we declare unto you
glad tidings, how that the promise which was “ made unto the Fathers, God has fulfilled the
same unto us their children, in that he hath “ raised
up Jesus again.” The promise of Christ “ was made to our first parents, in the most absolute and unconditional manner. In like manner it was made to Abraham; and it was fulfilled as freely and sovereignly as it was made. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had nisilom, they had righteousness, they had sanctification, they had eternal redemption. The land in which they dwelt, was a sanctuary to them, they were well guarded. “ When they were but a few men in
number; yea, very few, and strangers in it; « when they went from one nation to another, " from one kingdom to another people; he suf« fered no man to do them wrong, yea, he re“ proved kings for their sakes; saying, touch
not mine anointed, and do my prophets no “ harm.” And for provision, food and raiment, God did provide ; he fed them all their life long; yea, he enriched them, and multiplied thein, and made themagreat name, like unto the name of
the great men that are in the earth. So rich and princely were the possessions which, of his love and mercy, he freely bestowed upon them, that he was not ashamed to be called their God!
Upon this ground, the Apostle makes the declaration, that righteousness was counted to Abraham, as to one that worketh not. For to him that norketh is the reward, not reckoned of grace, but of debt. And so far is the Apostle from representing the blessed man as a creditor, by possessing pre-requisites for the reward, that he does not stop with the declaration, that he is without works, but frankly confesses, that he stands on the contrary score, the deepest debtor.
• Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the “man unto whom God imputeth righteousness “without works, saying, blessed are they whose
iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are « covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord “ will not impute sin.”
SECTION V...... The Works of Abraham.
THAT the ground of title to the blessings of the promises, as just stated, is the free and sove reign act of God, is apparent; not only from the divine declarations which are explicit and full, but also from the nature of these interests; for did we possess the righteousness of the law, in all its amazing extent, it would not, in the least degree, afford a ground for blessings of this nature. But we are sinners; the whole race of Adam have "together become unprofitable.....We