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To conceal from the agents themselves the great design of the events with which they were connected, and sometimes the import of the very words they used in reference to them, was common to the conduct of God, in connection with the dispensation under which Abraham lived, and that by which it was immediately followed. Hence we read of the prophets who predicted the times of Christ: “Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow."* And so strict was the adherence of the Almighty to this his own ordained procedure, that there is reason to believe the event of Abraham offering up Isaac remained for a long time but very imperfectly known. That the father of the faithful did himself understand its ultimate design is very probable, especially if it be allowed that what our Lord says as to his seeing his day refers to this circumstance; but it appears that the typical character of what he was commanded to do remained hidden from him until the whole transaction had nearly closed. It was in the final release of Isaac that he perceived it to have an allusion to good things to come, and he received him in a figure.
That the event was known in the family of the patriarch is most likely; but if so, it was regarded only as a test and proof of his faith and obedience; and it is spoken of by the sacred historian in full accordance with the obscurity of the times in which it occurred, who mentions it merely in regard to its more ostensible features,
* 1 Pet. i. 11.
and says, “it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham.” He tempted him, it is true; but he went further than this,-He showed him how he himself would give up his own Son, who should die in the fulness of timea sacrifice for human guilt; but the revelation thus made to this distinguished saint, was probably, to a great extent, kept a secret until the New Testament writers disclosed and explained it to his descendants.
So the glorious plan of redemption, although it existed from eternity, and was set forth by many similes, and in various characters, from the beginning of the world,was yet comparatively unknown to the sons of men. But when the stupendous transaction of Calvary had actually taken place, then was manifested the scheme which God had devised, and which, by the offering up of Isaac, had been but imperfectly shadowed forth. Hence Paul, speaking of his preaching, says, “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory."* The offering up of Isaac may be regarded as prefigurative with respect to Abraham,
2. In the great sacrifice which giving up the son involved on the part of the father. The command addressed to him was, “ Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of;"f and we are assured that “He who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son." I
Now it was essential to the nature of an ac* 1 Cor. ii. 7. † Gen, xxii, 2. Heb. xi. 17.
ceptable offering—at least when personally made
that it should involve some loss to the individual by whom it was presented. In all cases its extent was to be regulated by the ability he possessed; but that no one might be able to claim exception on the ground of poverty, great latitude was allowed by the law, according to which they were regulated, from a hundred or a thousand of the larger animals, down to two turtle doves, or a pair of young pigeons. In every instance, however, some inconvenience was required to be felt; hence David resolved that "he would not offer unto the Lord that which cost him nothing."* Had Abraham been required to give up his worldly possessions, the demand might have been so made-notwithstanding their vast extent—that its pressure should have been felt: but it was impossible to make any request that would touch his heart like taking from him his beloved Isaac; for when God made him a promise of large possessions, he looked upon the whole as nothing, while the prediction relating to his seed remained unfulfilled : hence he said, “ Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless ?”f The nearness of the relation which the demanded sacrifice sustained to himself—the place that he occupied in the affections of his parents—the time he had been expected—the announcements that were made in connection with him and the years he had lived to strengthen the expectations to which his birth had given rise; all tended to make compliance with the Divine command, to offer him up, a painful and distressing exercise.
* 2 Sam. xxiv. 24. + Gen. xv. 2.
So Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father—the Son of his love. In what way the emotions to which we are subject, and the effect of circumstances upon us can have any resemblance in the infinite mind of the eternal, is beyond our power to conceive; but nothing can be clearer than that the gift of the Son is spoken of in such a way as to imply a sacrifice on the part of the Father: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."* “ He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him
up all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things ?" of Yet, dear as that Son was, he kept him not back; great as was the sacrifice which his death involved, his mercy induced him to make it for the salvation of a lost and ruined world. The sacrifice of Isaac was prefigurative in regard to Abraham,
3. On account of the readiness with which it was made.
One of the greatest effects which the fall from God has produced upon the human constitution, is the destruction of the harmony of our senses, and all our faculties. In consequence of this, to act according to the convictions of the judgment and the free exercise of the will, when they are opposed to each other, and to give proper scope to one sense when it is thwarted by the rest, is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible; and though renewing Divine influence does much to rectify this state of things in our fallen race, yet the best are imper* John iii. 16.
+ Rom. viii. 32.
fect; so that even where the graces of the Spirit have their seat in the heart, one exercised in harmony with all the rest is a case rarely seen; but in the character and conduct of Abraham, on the occasion referred to above, a concord of pious excellencies appears to have obtained. His love to his son was great, but did not exceed his submission to the Divine will; nor were the very trying circumstances in which he was placed too great for his faith to survive ; and, therefore, whilst his heart was ready to break with compassion for his child, his pious devotedness to God nerved his hand to take his son, and having bound him, to grasp the knife with the intent to pierce his heart. This harmony of properties to which we have adverted, constituted much of the perfection of man when he was first created in the image of God; we may be sure, therefore, that it exists in the highest possible sense in the Deity himself; accordingly it is found that the willingness with which he gave Christ to die for our sins, and so honour the demands of Divine justice, was equal to the great love wherewith he loved him. Judging of the Almighty, as if he were altogether like ourselves, and finding how difficult it is to assume a hostile attitude towards those whom we greatly love, there are some passages of Scripture from which we might be led to doubt either the love of God to Christ on the one hand, or the reality of his relation to him on the other. There is, however, no difficulty in the case which a careful attention to the subject, and the authority of the Scriptures, will not remove. In them the declarations of the love of God to his Son, even