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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." *
Again, on receiving the name of Abraham: —
"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 to thy seed after thee. And 1 will give unto thee, and to 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."t
Lastly, on his obedient faith, when ready to offer his son Isaac on the appointed spot, the highly destined mountains of Moriah: —
1 "By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord"—" that in blessing, I will bless thee; and in multiplying, I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." J
What Abraham could have understood by the bare terms of these promises respecting future and eternal blessings, it is not our purpose to inquire. It is probable, however, that being possessed of all the knowledge of the patriarchal church respecting " the woman's seed," and the future incarnation of the Redeemer, whom the faithful were to behold on their rising from the dead. — It is probable, that Abraham knowing this, would connect the promises made to him respecting " his seed," with the ancient oracles respecting the " seed of the woman;" and
* Chap. xiii. 14, &c. t Chap. xvii. 5, &c. I Chap. xxii. 16.
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the deliverance to be wrought by him, when he should come " with his holy myriads."
But we are not left to conjecture, we have a divine comment on this text, which informs us that what is argued to be probable, was in reality the case; and that these promises relate not to temporal blessings, but to a world to come; even the inheritance of the land of Canaan, which they pledge was not that which the ten tribes received by the hands of Moses and Joshua; bat relates to blessings that are still the expectation of the believing family of Abraham in a future economy of the kingdom of Christ.
1. That Abraham did not understand the promises as relating to temporal blessings only, which he should receive in the persons of his natural descendants, — for that himself received them not in the present life requires no proof, is made evident by the apostle in his Epistle to the Hebrews.* "By faith, Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose maker and builder is God."—" These all died in faith, not having received the promises; but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims upon earth. For they that say such things, declare plainly that they seek a country. And, truly, had they been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might
* Chap. xi. 8.
have had opportunities to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he hath prepared for them a city." — "A heavenly country" — "a city," which they were to inhabit after death, was, then, the inheritance expected by Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, while they sojourned as strangers in "the land of promise." But, why the land of promise? Or why is the father of the faithful told to arise and walk through the land, in the length of it, and in the breadth of it? Was it merely a type, or emblem of the better and heavenly country, as any other country might have been, in which he had been sent to journey as a stranger?—Or is something more intended, when the Lord from heaven, and his holy myriads, shall descend on earth? Let the question here started be deeply impressed upon our minds. As we proceed to consult the later oracles of God, we shall suspect that the Holy Land, as we emphatically call it, is not a mere type or emblem; but is destined hereafter to be the scene of great and heavenly things, when " the promise to Abraham and his seed, that He should be the heir of the world" shall be fulfilled. Nor is it possible, indeed, that the promise, "to thee, and to thy seed after thee, will I give the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession," was fulfilled in its temporary occupation by the twelve tribes.
There are also Scriptures that throw farther light upon the promises made to Abraham, and from thence we gather these two important facts: — First, that the seed of Abraham, in these promises, does not mean his natural descendants as such, but believers in God, whether actually his seed—as for many ages was the case exclusively; or whether called from the midst of other nations, and spiritually adopted into that family; which is especially the case during the season of the Gospel church, when the natural family is in a state of apostacy. Secondly; that the promises made to Abraham, and to his seed, were expressly worded so as to embrace, among his real and spiritual children, one particular seed or person, in whom all these promises were first to meet, and from his blessed person to diverge on all the children of promise.
First: That a particular seed, and not the natural descendants of the patriarch, is intended in these promises, we learn from the Epistle to the Romans: "For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel; neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but in Isaac shall thy seed be called."* That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of promise are counted for the seed. "For this is the word of promise: At this time nill I come, and Sarah shall have a son." And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac, (for the children being yet unborn, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) it was said unto her, " the elder shall serve the younger," &c. &c. So that it appears a peculiar seed was in the view of God in all these promises—a seed which, we are also informed, consists of every believer: "They that be of faith, are blessed with faithful Abraham.'^
The blessing of Abraham, as we learn from all these texts, when read with their contexts, includes, indeed, ah" the spiritual blessings which believers now enjoy, to pre
* Chap. ix. 6, &c. f Gal. iii. 9.
pare them, and make them meet to be partakers with the saints in light. But they do not terminate here. It will be manifest from the passage next quoted, that what was promised to Abraham as an eternal possession of the land of Canaan, has some connexion with the future bliss and exaltation of all the children of God: so that the inheritance that the carnal Jews obtained in the land of Palestine under Joshua, was no part of the original promise or covenant with Abraham. It was part of another divine engagement with Abraham, as we shall presently see, but no part of the original promise; or what we should call, by way of eminence, the Abrahamic covenant. "For the promise to Abraham, that he should be the Heir Of The World, was not to Abraham, and to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect. Because the law worketh wrath; for where there is no law, there is no transgression: therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end that the promise might 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, 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 that be not as though they were." *
The promise to Abraham, and to his seed, that he should be heir of the world, i. e. "lord," "possessor," "inheritor," of the world, in this passage, must have some connexion with the grant, in the blessings we are considering: "To thee will I give this land for an ever
• Rom. iv. is.