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ost evited forangan, teheshe bounds propagation redemption.abel to cease
ants, immediately after God had caused the building of Babel to cease. This was done so as most to suit that great design of redemption. And particularly, God therein had an eye to the future propagation of the gospel among the nations. They were so placed, the bounds of their habitation so limited round about the land of Canaan, the place laid out for the habitation of God's people, as most suited the design of propagating the gospel among them : Deut. xxxii. 8, “ When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.” Acts xvii. 26, 27, “And bath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him.” The land of Canaan was the most conveniently situated of any place in the world for the purpose of spreading the light of the gospel thence among the nations in general. The inhabited world was chiefly in the Roman empire in the times immediately after Christ, which was in the countries round about Jerusalem, and so properly situated for the purpose of diffusing the light of the gospel among them from that place. The devil seeing the advantage of this situation of the nations for promoting the great work of redemption, and the disadvantage of it with respect to the interests of his kingdom, afterward led away many nations into the remotest parts of the world, to that end, to get them out of the way of the gospel. Thus he led some into America ; and others into northern cold regions, that are almost inaccessible.
VII. Another thing I would mention in this period, was God's preserving the true religion in the line from which Christ was to proceed, when the world in general apostatized to idolatry, and the church were in imminent danger of being swallowed up in the general corruption. Although God had lately wrought so wonderfully for the deliverance of his church, and had shown so great mercy towards it, as for its sake even to destroy all the rest of the world; and although he had lately renewed and established his covenant of grace with Noah and his sons : yet so prone is the corrupt heart of man to depart from God, and to sink into the depths of wickedness, and so prone to darkness, delusion, and idolatry, that the world soon after the flood fell into gross idolatry ; so that before Abraham the distemper was become almost universal. "The-earth was become very corrupt at the time of the building of Babel ; and even God's people themselves, even that line from which Christ was to come, were corrupted in a measure with idolatry: Josh. xxiv. 2, “ Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah the father of Abraham, and the father of Nahor; and they served other gods." The other side of the flood means beyond the river Euphrates, where the ancestors of Abraham lived.
We are not to understand, that they where wholly drawn off to idolatry, to forsake the true God. For God is said to be the God of Nahor: Gen. xxxi 53, “ The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their fathers, judge betwixt us.” But they only partook in some measure of the general and almost universal corruption of the times; as Solomon was in a measure infected with idolatrous corruption; and as the children of Israel in Egypt are said to serve other gods, though yet there was the true church of God among them; and as there were images kept for a considerable time in the family of Jacob; the corruption being brought from Padan Aram, whence he fetched his wives.
This was the second time that the church was almost brought to nothing by the corruption and general defection of the world from true religion. But still the true religion was kept in the family from which Christ was to proceed. Which is another instance of God's remarkably preserving his church in a time of a general deluge of wickedness; and wherein, although the god of this world raged, and had almost swallowed up God's church, yet God did not suffer the gates of hell to prevail against it.
ill Christ'shod, that his church of whom Christ
From the Calling of Abraham to Moses. I PROCEED now to show how the work of redemption was carried on through the third period of the times of the Old Testament, beginning with the calling of Abraham, and extending to Moses. And here,
I. It pleased God now to separate that person of whom Christ was to come, from the rest of the world, that his church might be upheld in his family and posterity till Christ should come; as he did in calling Abraham out of his own country, and from his kindred, to go into a distant country, that God should show hiin, and bringing him first out of Ur of the Chaldees to Charran, and then to the land of Canaan.
It was before observed, that the corruption of the world with idolatry was now become general; mankind were almost wholly overrun with idolatry : God therefore saw it necessary, in order to uphold true religion in the world, that there should be a family separated from the rest of the world. It proved to be high time to take this course, lest the church of Christ should wholly be carried away with the apostasy. For the church of God itself, that had been upheld in the line of Abraham's ancestors, was already considerably corrupted, Abraham's own country and kindred had most of them fallen off; and without some extraordinary interposition of Providence, in all likelihood, in a generation or two more, the true religion in this line would have been extinct. And therefore God saw it to be time to call Abraham, the person in whose family he intended to uphold the true religion, out of his own country, and from his kindred, to a far distant country, that his posterity might there remain a people separate from all the rest of the world, that so the true religion might be upheld there, while all mankind besides were swallowed up in Heathenisin.
The land of the Chaldees, that Abraham was called to go out of, was the country about Babel; Babel, or Babylon was the chief city of the land of Chaldea. Learned men suppose, by what they gather from some of the most ancient accounts of things, that it was in this land that idolatry first began; that Babel and Chaldea were the original and chief seat of the worship of idols, whence it spread into other nations. And therefore the land of the Chaldeans, or the country of Babylon, is in Scripture called the land of graven images ; as you may see, Jer. 1. 35, together with verse 38 : “ A sword is upon the Chaldeans, saith the Lord, and upon the inhabitants of Babylon, and upon her princes, and upon her wise men. -—A drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up; for it is the land of graven images, and they are mad upon their idols.” God calls Abraham out of this idolatrous country, to a great distance from it. And when he came there, he gave him no inheritance in it, no not so much as to set his foot on; but he remained a stranger and a sojourner, that he and his family might be kept separate from all the world.
This was a new thing: God had never taken such a method before. His church had not in this manner been separated from the rest of the world till now; but were wont to dwell with them, without any bar or fence to keep them separate ; the mischievous consequences of which had been found once and again. The effect before the flood of God's people living intermingled with the wicked world, without any remarkable wall of separation, was, that the sons of the church joined in marriage with others, and thereby almost all soon became infected, and the church was almost brought to nothing. The method that Go took then to fence the church was, to drown the wicked world, and save the church in the ark. And now the world, before Abraham was called, was become corrupt again. But now God took another method. He did not destroy the wicked world, and save Abraham, and his wife, and Lot, in an ark; but he calls these persons to go and live separate from the rest of the world.
This was a new thing, and a great thing, that God did toward the work of redemption. This thing was done now about the iniddle of the space of time between the fall of man and the coming of Christ; and there were about two thousand years yet to come before Christ the great Redeemer was to come. But by this calling of Abraham, the ancestor of Christ, a foundation was laid for the upholding the church of Christ in the world, till Christ should come. For the world having become idolatrous, there was a necessity that the seed of the woman should be thus separated from the idolatrous world in order to that.
And then it was needful that there should be a particular nation separated from the rest of the world, to receive the types and prophecies that were needful to be given of Christ, to prepare the way for his coming; that to them might be committed the oracles of God; and that by them the history of God's great works of creation and providence might be upheld; and that so Christ might be born of this nation ; and that from hence the light of the gospel might shine forth to the rest of the world. These ends could not be well obtained, if God's people through all these two thousand years, had lived intermixed with the Heathen world. So that this calling of Abraham may be looked upon as a kind of a new foundation laid for the visible church of God, in a more distinct and regular state, to be upheld and built up on this foundation from henceforward, till Christ should actually come, and then through him to be propagated to all nations. So that Abraham being the person in whom this foundation is laid, is represented in Scripture as though he were the father of all the church, the father of all them that believe; as it were a root whence the visible church thenceforward through Christ, Abraham's root and offspring, rose as a tree, distinct from all other plants; of which tree Christ was the branch of righteousness; and from which tree, after Christ came, the natural branches were broken off, and the Gentiles were grafted into the same tree. So that Abraham still remains the father of the church, or root of the tree, through Christ his seed. It is the same tree that flourishes from that smali beginning, that was in Abraham's time, and has in these days of the gospel spread its branches over a great part of the earth, and will fill the whole earth in due time, and at the end of the world shall be transplanted from an earthly soil into the paradise of God.
II. There accompanied this a more particular and full revelation and confirmation of the covenant of grace than ever had been before. There had before this been, as it were, two particular and solemn editions or confirmations of this covenant; one at the beginning of the first period, which was that whereby the covenant of grace was revealed to our first parents, soon after the fall; the other at the beginning of the second period, whereby God solemnly renewed the covenant of grace with Noah and his family soon after the flood; and now there is a third, at the beginning of the third period, at and after the calling of Abraham. And it now being much nearer the time of the coming of Christ than when the covenant of grace was first revealed, it being, as was said before, about half way between the fall and the coming of Christ, the revelation of the covenant now was much more full than any that had been before. The covenant was now more particularly revealed. It was now revealed, not only that Christ should be ; but it was revealed to Abraham, that he should be his seed; and it was now promised, that all the families of the earth should be blessed in him. And God was much in the promises of this to Abraham. The first promise was when he first called him, Gen. xii. 2: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing." And again the same promise was renewed after he came into the land of Canaan, chap. xiii. 14, &c. And the covenant was again renewed after Abraham had returned from the slaughter of the kings, chap. xv. 5, 6. And again, after his offering up Isaac, chap. xxii. 16, 17, 18.
In this renewal of the covenant of grace with Abraham, several particulars concerning that covenant were revealed more fully than ever had been before ; not only that Christ was to be of Abraham's seed, but also, the calling of the Gentiles, and the bringing all nations into the church, that all the families of the earth were to be blessed, was now made known. And then the great condition of the covenant of grace, which is faith, was now more fully made known. Gen. xv. 5, 6, “ And he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” Which is much taken notice of in the New Testament, as that whence Abraham was called the father of them that believe.
And as there was now a further revelation of the covenant of grace, so there was a further confirmation of it by seals and pledges, than ever had been before; as, particularly, God did now institute a certain sacrament, to be a steady seal of this covenant in the visible church, till Christ should come, viz., circumcision. Circumcision was a seal of this covenant of grace, as appears by the first institution, as we have an account of it in the 17th chapter of Genesis. It there appears to be a seal of that covenant by which God promised to make Abraham a father of many nations, as appears by the 5th verse, compared with the 9th and 10th verses. And we are expressly taught, that it was a seal of the righteousness of faith, Rom. iv. 11. Speaking of Abraham, the apostle says, “ he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of faith.”
As I observed before, God called Abraham, that his family and posterity might be kept separate from the rest of the world, till Christ should come, which God saw to be necessary on the forementioned accounts. And this sacrament was the principal wall of separation; it chiefly distinguished Abraham's seed from the world, and kept up a distinction and separation more than any other particular observance whatsoever.
And besides this, there were other occasional seals, pledges and confirmations, that Abraham had of this covenant; as, particularly, God gave Abraham a remarkable pledge of the fulfilment of the promise he had made him, in his victory over Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him. Chèdorlaomer seems to have been a great emperor, that reigned over a great part of the world at that day; and though he had his seat at Élam, which was not much if any
thing short of a thousand miles distant from the land of Canaan, yet he extended his empire so as to reign over many parts of the land of Canaan, as appears by chap. xiv. 4, 5, 6, 7. It is supposed by learned men, that he was a king of the Assyrian empire at that day, which had been before begun by Nimrod at Babel. And as it was the honor of kings in those days to build new cities to be made the seat of their empire, as appears by Gen. x. 10, 11, 12; so it is conjectured, that he had gone forth and built him a city in Elam, and made that his seat; and that those other kings, who came with him, were bis deputies in the several cities and countries where they reigned. But yet, as mighty an empire as he had, and as great an army as he now came with into the land where Abraham was, yet Abraham, only with his trained servants, that were born in his own house, conquered, subdued, and baffled this mighty emperor, and the kings that came with him, and all their army. This he received of God as a pledge of what he had promised, viz., the victory that Christ his seed should obtain over the nations of the earth, whereby he should possess the gates of his enemies. It is plainly spoken of as such in the 41st of Isaiah. In that chapter is foretold the future glorious victory the church shall obtain over the nations of the world; as you may see in the 1st, 10th, and 15th verses, &c. But here this victory of Abraham over such a great emperor and his mighty forces, is spoken of as a pledge and earnest of this victory of the church, as you may see in the 2d and 3d verses : “ Who raised up the righteous man from the east, called him to his foot, gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings? He gave them as the dust to his sword, and as driven stubble to his bow. He pursued them, and passed safely; even by the way that he had not gone with his feet.”
Another remarkable confirmation Abraham received of the covenant of grace, was when he returned from the slaughter of the kings; when Melchisedec the king of Salem, the priest of the most high God, that great type of Christ, met him, and blessed him, and brought forth bread and wine. The bread and wine signified the same blessings of the covenant of grace, that the bread and wine does in the sacrament of the Lord's supper. So that as Abraham had a seal of the covenant in circumcision that was equivalent to baptism, so now he had a seal of it équivalent to the Lord's supper. "And Melchisedec's coming to meet hiin with such a seal of the covenant of grace, on the occasion of this victory of his over the kings of the north, confirms that that victory was a pledge of God's fulfilment of the same covenant; for that is the mercy that • Melchisedec with his bread and wine takes notice of; as you may see by what he says in Gen. xiv. 19, 20.
Another confirmation that God gave Abraham of the covenant of grace, was the vision that he had in the deep sleep that fell upon him, of the smoking furnace, and burning lamp, that passed between the parts of the sacrifice, as in the latter part of the 15th chapter of Genesis. The sacrifice, as all sacrifices do, signified the sacrifice of Christ. The smoking furnace that passed through the midst of that sacrifice first, signified the sufferings of Christ. But the burning lamp that followed, which shone with a clear bright light, signifies the glory that followed Christ's sufferings, and was procured by them.
Another remarkable pledge that God gave Abraham of the fulfilment of the covenant of grace, was his giving of the child of whom Christ was to come, in his old age. This is spoken of as such in Scripture, Heb. xi. 11, 12 and also Rom. iv. 18, &c.
Again, another remarkable pledge that God gave Abraham of the fulfilment of the covenant of grace, was his delivering Isaac, after he was laid upon the