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ham did, and not on what Isaac suffered; and if there were anything typical, it was the ram that was the type, and not Isaac.
All this, to a great extent, may be admitted ; but we humbly conceive that it will not amount to a proof that Abraham's offering up Isaac was not typical of the Eternal Father's giving his Son to be a sacrifice for human guilt: for, in the first place, if likeness be not necessary to constitute one thing a type of another, as some have contended,* then Isaac may have been a type of Christ, although his blood was not actually shed; especially as the conduct of both father and son resembled so nearly what was really done in the fulness of time in the case of our Lord. God, however, not only calls things that are not as though they were, but he also takes those deeds that are designed in purpose as done in reality; and so fully was the mind of the Patriarch made up to the performance of the painful act to which the Almighty called him, that He who regards the motives and intentions of his servants rather than their outward acts, looked upon it as done; and therefore, whenever this transaction is spoken of in the Scriptures, it is mentioned as actually accomplished. So the angel addressed him,-“ Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me. ps It is true, that had the death of Isaac really taken place it could not have been a proper atonement, neither was the paschal Iamb endowed with that character; and the same is true in regard to many of the sacrifices which were offered by the Jews: but these are
* See page 20. + Gen. xxii. 12.
all, with few exceptions, held to be types of Christ; and to say that no Jew would have obtained the idea of an atonement from Abraham's offering looks very much like assuming more than can be proved. There were many of the other types from which those who were acquainted with them could not gather all the truths they were intended to teach without Divine aid to assist them; and for anything that appears in the history of the event to the contrary, heavenly teaching may have accompanied this instance of the Divine procedure. The fact is, that the lesson was conveyed in the command given to the Patriarch. He was to offer up his son for a burnt-offering; and this injunction, we may suppose, would be known to all the people of God of that day, at least after the scene had terminated, though not before, and into its meaning and import they would not fail to inquire. With a burntoffering, however, there was always connected the idea of substitution; and its being known, as it undoubtedly would be, that the Angel of the Lord, or rather the Lord himself, had approved of all that had been done, and had actually conceded to Abraham that he had offered up his son, because he had fully determined to do it, there would be no difficulty at all in the idea of an atonement being conceived in connection with this remarkable event. Abraham is declared by our Lord himself to have had a distinct view of his day: “ He rejoiced to see it: he saw it and was glad;"* and though we are not certain that it was in the
• John viii, 56.
event of the sacrifice of his son that he was so honoured, yet it must be admitted to be very probable that such was the case.
" What extent of knowledge,” says Dr. Smith, “ Abraham might have of the Messiah we have not the means of knowing. We are assured that in some manner, which Jesus plainly represents as distinguished and important (John viii. 56 — 58), he saw the day of the Messiah and rejoiced. It is not improbable that the striking scene of his anticipated sacrifice of his son was a lesson as well as a trial to his faith ; and it may reasonably be supposed that in the Divine communication which was immediately after made to him, and of which the passage before us is a part, some more extended information might be afforded to gladden the heart of the father and pattern of believers with a prophetic view of his great Descendant, who was to be manifested at the close of the ages, for the putting away of sin by the sacrifice of himself, and in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed ; since He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world."*
But let us now turn to the words of the Apostle, which we have already quoted, and see whether from them anything can be gathered to decide this point. It is clearly not for the sake of giving prominence to Isaac, either as a type, or in any other character, that he alludes to the transaction mentioned, but for the sake of adducing a striking instance of the power of faith in Abraham, to whom the Jews looked with so much reverence. Hence, after asserting that he
Messiah,” vol. i. p. 178.
accounted that God was able to raise him up even from the dead; he adds, from whence also he received him in a figure (IIapaßorn) parable. Here it is evident that the father of the faithful had his son restored to him, at the completion of his trial, as conveying to him, and to the church of God in general, a highly important lesson. That the intention of the Almighty had been wholly concealed from him up to this point is certain, otherwise the demand which was made upon his affections would not have been so great a trial to his faith ; but now light seems to have been thrown upon the whole affair, and assisted by it, he considered the exercise as he had never done before, and learnt that more fully of which he had received many intimations,
In what character, then, did Abraham receive his son after laying him on the altar?-in what aspect is the whole scene 'to be viewed by us? What is the meaning of the word figure or parable? Dr. Adam Clarke, in a long dissertation on it, says, “ that it sometimes imports a daring exploit—a case of severe trial;” and after quoting some Greek writers and lexicographers, states it as likely that the phrase here has that meaning, and proposes to read the words of the Apostle, as follows: “ By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac; of whom it was said, In Isaac shall thy seed be called : Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence he received him” (he being in the most imminent danger of losing his life.) He does not, however, give one instance in the canonical books of Scripture, in which the expression is so used,
but refers to 2 Maccabees xiv. 38, where he thinks it is employed in that sense.
It should be observed, however, that the words (in a parable) seem to refer to Abraham, and not to Isaac; and certainly there could be no great peril of life, or exploit, in receiving his son again to his embraces, when the danger of losing him was over. Moreover, the meaning of the word among Greek classic writers is not sufficient to determine the sense of it here, even allowing that this learned commentator is correct in his references: but the question is, in what sense do the sacred writers use it; and especially how does the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews employ it? In the writings of the Evangelists it means a parable in the true sense of the term; but in the ninth chapter of this Epistle, and the 9th verse, it evidently means a type, a representation, (" which was a figure [parable] for the time then present.") If, then, this is the sense in which the writer of this Epistle uses it in some parts of his composition, it is most likely that he does the same here; so that whether we look at the circumstances of the case, or the import of the phrase employed, the conclusion to which we are brought is, that Abraham's offering up his son was typical—a representation. And now we have to inquire, what did it set forth? It may be regarded as prefigurative in relation both to Abraham and to Isaac.
I. In relation to the patriarch Abraham himself:
1. In the mystery in which the whole circumstance appears to have been shrouded.