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faith. Such a condition was consistent with the covenant's being a gracious covenant.Says Paul, “ The promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For, if they," who " are of the law, be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of” no “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 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.”* Abraham believed, and was circumcised ; and according to the gospel, “ He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved.” Abraham believed, and it was imputed to him for righteousness; and circumcision was a seal of the righteousness of his faith. 5. With the heart," says Paul, “ man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”+ It became Abraham afterwards to live in a manner correspondent to the dignified and happy state, into which he and his family were brought; and it becomes Christians * Rom. iv. 13—16. † Rom. x. 10. Compare Acts, viii. 36–37.
to walk in a manner worthy of their high vocation.
2. The covenant made with Abraham, secured the continuance of the church, among his natural descendants, in the line of Isaac and Jacob.
God said to Abraham, “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.* « In Isaac shall thy seed be called”-“I will establish my covenant with him, for an everlasting covenant, and with his sced after him.”+ God said to Isaac, “I am the God of Abraham thy father ; fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed, for my servànt Abraham's sake.”[ The same promise, essentially, was renewed to Jacob concerning his seed. Thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth,” &c.
It appears then, that God established an everlasting covenant with the seed of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. But who were the seed, on whom the promised blessings were to be bestowed, from generation to generation ? The natural seed of Jacob were, as a nation, to receive great temporal favours, and to enjoy * Gen. xvii. 7. † Gen. xxi. 12. xvii. 19. Gen: xxvi. 24. $ Gen. xxviii. 14.
great privileges in regard to religion. * And God showed them great mercy from generation to generation, in remembrance of the gracious covenant, which he made with Abraham, and confirmed to Isaac and to Jacob. But the promises of the covenant were to be fully realized by a spiritual seed, who should walk in the steps of Abraham's faith; a succession of pious persons; of real saints. Such persons are members of Christ; and the Apostle considers Christ and his members one, and calls them jointly the “seed” of Abraham. “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many, but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ.”+
That they were to be a spiritual seed, the promise itself makes evident. Jehovah promised to be their God. This implies all spiritual blessings. The gospel, in its most perfect dispensation, promises no greater good to believers, than to have Jehovah, or God in Christ, for their God.
Equally evident is it, that this spiritual seed were, primarily, Abraham's seed in a natural, as well as in a spiritual sense children by lincal descent, and children of promise. St. Paul says, “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish, that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites : to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises : whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. Not, as though the word of God hath taken none effect.
* See Deut. X. 15. + Gal. iii. 16.
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” who “are the chil. dren of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed."* The Israelites had great privileges; and among them were a spiritual seed.
To the Israelites, as the natural seed of Jacob, pertained the adoption ; (see Acts iii. 19, 25, 26.) and a filial spirit towards God, correspondent to that adoption, was possessed by some of the Israelites, in every generation.Hence, though, in the time of the Apostle,
* Rom. ix. 2-8.
they in general were perishing in unbelief, and he had great heaviness, and continual sorrow in his heart, on their account; yet he sorrowed, not, as though the word of God had taken no effect, or as though God's promise to Abraham had failed of its accomplishment. For the promise did not imply, that all the nation of Israel should be true believers, and Abraham's spiritual seed, but, that there should be a succession of pious persons, Israelites indeed. What,” says the Apostle, “if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?"* "Hath God cast away his people? God forbid.”+ Some, and even the great body of the Israelites, did not believe; but God was true and faithful to his promise. He had “not cast away his people, which he foreknew.” There was “a remnant, according to the election of grace.”
The covenant made with Abraham is to be considered, as containing not only a promise of the divine favour to all those of the natural seed of Jacob, who should walk in the steps of Abraham's faith, but also an absolute promise, that some of that seed should so walk, and be so blessed.
But this absolute promise was not to be fulfilled, nor the church to be continued, without means.
* Rom. iii. 3. | Rom. xi. 1.