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insists, that had it been but a man's covenant only nothing could have been taken from it, neither anything added to its prejudice: how much more, when it is God's covenant, ought it to be regarded as “ ordered in all things and sure !” He may choose to bring some of its provisions into operation sooner than others; just as the executors under a will may choose to begin first with certain of its conditions, and to defer others: yet none can be lawfully dispensed with; all must in due course be fulfilled.
I. Let us now inquire into the particulars of this covenant; in regard to which I must admonish you, that they were given at different periods to Abraham, with more or less of enlargement; and not only to Abraham, but also to his son Isaac, and to his grandson Jacob. Wherefore, the Apostle calls it in one place “ the covenants of promise,” in the plural; and in another place, God, when speaking to Israel concerning it, calls it, 6 The covenant which I made with your fathers.”*
The first promise is in Gen. xii. 1-3, when God directs Abraham to get him out from his kindred and from his father's house unto a land which he would show him: “And I will make of thee a great nation ;” (saith the Lord), “and I will bless
* Ephes. ii. 12; Exod. vi. 4; Deut. iv. 31 ; vii. 8.
thee, and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee: and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
The second time God visits him at Bethel, and says, “ Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward : for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.
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 also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it, and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.”*
In chap. xv. we read, that God brings him forth abroad and says, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them.” And he said unto him, “ So shall thy seed be.” Then follows the account of a token, which God gave him for his encouragement, which will fall under consideration presently; and the narrative of the whole transaction thus concludes: - In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt
* Gen. xiii. 14-17.
unto the great river, the river Euphrates, the Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaim, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
In Gen. xvii. we have the institution of the rite of circumcision; on which occasion there is a further confirmation and enlargement of particulars. “ Behold, (saith the Lord), 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 called 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 stablish 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 to thy seed after thee.
And I will give unto thee, AND to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, and all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” “ And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her,
* Verse 4_8.
and give thee a son also of her; yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations : kings of people shall be of her.”*
About thirty years afterwards Abraham was called to offer up Isaac, the son borne him by Sarah; on which occasion God, “ willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath ; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie,” viz. his promise and his oath, the heirs of promise “ might have strong consolation."_“ By myself have I sworn, (saith the Lord,) for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess, the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed
my voice." +
In the next instance the covenant is established with Isaac; to whom the Lord appeared, and said, “Go not down into Egypt, but sojourn in this land, and I will bless thee; for unto thee, and to thy seed I will give all these countries, and will perform the oath which I sware
Verses 15, 16. + Gen. xxii. 15-18.
unto Abraham thy father; and I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and I will give unto thy seed all these countries, and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed."*
Finally, the Lord establishes this covenant with Jacob, and saith, “I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest to thee will I give it, and to thy seed. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee, and in thy seed, shall all families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee; and will keep thee in all places whithersoever thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.”+
Such are the promises referred to in the text. I will now briefly sum up the heads of them :
1. First, there is the promise to Abraham of one pre-eminent seed, who we are assured in the text is CHRIST; and also the promise of a numerous seed or offspring, conveyed in the assurance that God would make a great nation of him, and that his seed should be as difficult to number as the stars of heaven, the dust of the earth, and the sand which is by the sea-shore. Gen. xxvi. 2-4.
+ Gen. xxviii. 13-15.