« AnteriorContinuar »
taught by the Law of Moses ; because by the Old Testament is ever meant both the Law and the Prophets. Now I hold that the Prophets gave strong intimations, though in figurative language borrowed from the Jewish (Economy, of the everlasting life offered to mankind by JESUS CHRIST.
The concluding words of the Article which relate to this matter, say,—wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign, that the old FATHERS did look only for transitory promises ; and so say I: because Jesus himself is to be heard, before all such ; and he affirms the direct contrary of the Father of the faithful in particular. Your father Abraham (says he to the unbelieving Jews) rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.* A fact not only of the utmost certainty in itself, but of the highest importance to be rightly understood. That I may not therefore be suspected of prevarication, I chuse this instance (the noblest that ever was given of the HARMONY between the Old and New Testament) to illustrate this consistent truth.
1. And I persuade myself that the learned Reader will be content to go along with me, while I take occasion, from these remarkable words of Jesus, to explain the history of the famous COMMAND TO ABRAHAM TO OFFER UP HIS SON; for to this History, I shall prove, the words refer ; and by their aid I shall be enabled to justify a revolting circumstance in it, which has been long the stumbling-block of Infidelity.
In the sense in which the History of the COMMAND hath been hitherto understood, the best apology for Abraham's behaviour (and it is hard we should be obliged, at this time of day, to make apologies for an action, which, we are told, had the greatest merit in the sight of God) seems to be this, that having had much intercourse with the God of Heaven, whose Revelations (not to say, his voice of Nature) spoke him a good and just Being, Abraham concluded that this command to sacrifice his son, conveyed to him like the rest, by the same strong and clear impression on the Sensory, came also from the same God. How rational soever this solution be, the Deist, perhaps, would be apt to tell us it was little better than Electra's answer to Orestes, who, staggering in his purpose to kill his mother by the command of Apollo, says: But if, after all, this should be an evil Demon, who, bent upon mischief, hath assumed the form of a God? She replies, What, an evil Demon possess the sacred Tripod ? It is not to be supposed. †
But the idea hitherto conceived of this important History has sub
• John viii. 56.
H^. 'Iepdv kaol(wv Tpinos'; 'Eyà Mè où Sok@.--EURIPIDIS Electra, verse 979.
jected it even to a worse abuse than that of Infidelity: Fanatics, carnally as well as spiritually licentious, have employed it to countenance and support the most abominable of their Doctrines and Practices. Rimius in his Candid Narrative hath given us a strange passage from the writings of the Moravian Brethren, which the reader, from a note of his, will find transcribed here below.*
However, after saving and reserving to ourselves the benefit of all those arguments, which have been hitherto brought to support the history of the COMMAND; I beg leave to say, that the source of all the difficulty is the very wrong idea men have been taught to entertain of it, while it was considered as given for a TRYAL ONLY of Abraham's faith ; and consequently as a Revelation unsought by him, and unrelated to any of those before vouchsafed unto him: Whereas, in truth, it was a Revelation ARDENTLY DESIRED, had the CLOSEST CONNECTION with, and was, indeed, the COMPLETION OF ALL THE FOREGOING; which were all directed to one end; as the gradual view of the orderly parts of one intire Dispensation required : consequently, the principal purpose of the ComMAND was not to try Abraham's faith, although its nature was such, that in the very giving of it, God did, indeed, tempt or try Abraham.t
In plain terms, the Action was enjoined as the conveyance of information to the Actor, of something he had requested to know : This mode of information by Signs instead of Words being, as we have shewn, of common practice in those early Ages : And as the force of the following reasoning is founded on that ancient custom, I must request the Reader carefully to review what hath been said between the one hundred and eighty-fifth and one hundred and ninetieth pages of the second volume, concerning the origin, progress, and various modes of personal converse ; where it is seen, how the conveying information, and giving directions, to Another, by Signs and Actions, instead of Words, came to be of general practice in the first rude Ages ; and how, in compliance therewith, God was pleased frequently to converse with the holy Patriarchs and Prophets in that very manner.
Laying down therefore what hath been said on this subject, in the place referred to, as a Postulatum ; I undertake to prove the following Proposition :
THAT WHEN GOD SAYS TO ABRAHAM, TAKE NOW THY SON, THINE ONLY SON, ISAAC, &c.I THE COMMAND IS
• " He (the Saviour) can dispose of life and soul; he can make the economy of salvation, and change it every hour, that the bindermost be the foremost : He can make laws and abrogate them; HE CAN MAKE THAT TO BE MORAL WHICH IS AGAINST NATURE; the greatest virtue to be the most villainous action, and the most virtuous thoughts to be the most criminal: He can in a quarter of an hour, make ABRAHAM willing to kill his Son, which however is the most abominable thought a man can have." --COUNT ZINZENDORF'S “Serm.” in Rimius, p. 53. 7 Gen. xxii, 1. Verse 2.
RPOSE BY Ao removing, I boredoms, 7 fc.
hing cablolatrics, and sidenqueste
MERELY AN INFORMATION BY ACTION, INSTEAD OF WORDS, OF THE GREAT SACRIFICE OF CHRIST FOR THE REDEMPTION OF MANKIND, GIVEN AT THE EARNEST REQUEST OF ABRAHAM, WHO LONGED IMPATIENTLY TO SEE CARIST'S DAY; and is, in its nature, exactly the same as those informations to the Prophets, where to this Man, God says, Make thee bonds and yokes, and put them on thy neck ;* to another-Go take unto thee a wife of whoredoms, t &c. and to a third :-Prepare thee stuff for removing, I fc. that is, AN INFORMATION OF HIS PURPOSE BY ACTION INSTEAD OF WORDS; in the first case, foretelling the conquests of Nebuchadnezzar over Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon ; in the second, declaring his abhorrence of the idolatries of the House of Israel ; and in the third, the approaching Captivity of Zedekiah.
The foundation of my Thesis I lay in that scripture of St. John, where Jesus says to the unbelieving Jews, YOUR FATHER ABRAHAM REJOICED TO SEE MY DAY; AND HE SAW IT, AND WAS GLAD.S
1. If we consider Abraham's personal character, together with the choice made of him for head and origin of that people which God would separate and make holy to himself; from whence was to arise the REDEEMER of Mankind, the ultimate end of that separation ; we cannot but conclude it probable, that the knowledge of this Redeemer would be revealed to him. Shall I hide from Abraham the thing which I do? || says God, in a matter that much less concerned the Father of the Faithful. And here, in the words of JESUS, we have this probable truth arising from the nature of the thing, made certain and put out of all reasonable question- Abraham rejoiced, says Jesus, to see my DAY, I την ημέραν την εμήν. Now when the figurative word day is used, not to express in general the period of any one's existence, but to denote his peculiar office and employment, it must needs signify that very circumstance in his life, which is characteristic of such office and employment. But Jesus is here speaking of his peculiar office and employment, as appears from the occasion of the debate, which was his saying, If any man keep my commandments, he shall never taste of death, intimating thereby the virtue of his office of Redeemer. Therefore, by the word day must peeds be meant that characteristic circumstance of his life ; But that circumstance was the laying down his life for the Redemption of Mankind. Conseqnently, by the word day is meant the great sacrifice of CHRIST.** Hence we may discover the real or affected ignorance of the Socinian Comment upon this place ; which would have day only to signify in general the life of CARIST, or the period of his abode here on earth.
• Jer. xxvii. 2. 1 Gen, xviii, 17.
Hosea i. 2. ( John viii. 56.
Ezek. xii. 3.
John viii. 56. ** See note MM, at the end of this book.
To reconcile the learned Reader to the propriety and elegance as well as to the truth of this sense of the word, Day, he may observe, that as Jesus intitles his great Work, in his state of humiliation, the Redemption of Mankind, by the name of his day; so is he pleased to give the same appellation to his other great Work, in his triumphant state, the Judgment of Mankind. “For as the lightning” (says he) " that lightneth out of the one part under heaven,—80 shall also the Son of Man be, in HIS DAY.” * But this figure is indeed as usual in Scripture as it is natural in itself. Thus that signal catastrophe in the fortunes of the Jewish People, both temporal and spiritual, their Restoration, is called their day.—Then shall the Children of Judah (says God by the Prophet Hosea) and the children of Israel, be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land : for great shall be THE DAY of Israel.+
2. But not only the matter, but the manner, likewise of this great Revelation, is delivered in the text-Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.—Iva IAH, toly ýuépav Try fusiv, xai EIAE—This evidently shews the Revelation to have been made, not by relation in words, but by REPRESENTATION in action. The verb sièw is frequently used in the New Testament, in its proper signification, to see sensibly. But whether used literally or figuratively, it always denotes a full intuition. That the expression was as strong in the Syrian language used by Jesus, as here in the Greek of his Historian, appears from the reply the Jews made to him—Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou SEEN Abraham ? I Plainly intimating that they understood the assertion of Abraham's seeing Christ's day to be a real beholding him in person. We must conclude therefore, from the words of the text, that the Redemption of Mankind was not only revealed to Abraham, but was revealed likewise by representation. A late Writer, extremely well skilled in the style of Scripture, was so sensible of the force of Jesus's words, that, though he had no suspicion they related to any part of Abraham’s recorded history, yet he saw plainly they implied an information by representation—Thus also Abraham (says he) saw the day of Christ and was glad. But this must be in a typical or prophetical vision.$ The excellent Dr. Scott is of the same opinion. He supposes “the words refer to some peculiar discoveries, which the Spirit of God might make to Abraham, for his own private consolation, though not recorded in Scripture.” I
So far, then, is clear, that Abraham had indeed this Revelation. The next question will be, whether we can reasonably expect to find it in the history of his life, recorded in the Old Testament? And that
Luke xvii. 24. the end of this book
Hosea i. II. John viii. 57.
!! “ Christian Life," vol. v. p. 194.
See note NN,
we may find it here, both the words of Jesus, and the nature of the thing, assure us.
1. We learn, by the history of Christ's Ministry, that in his disputations with the Jews, he never urged them with any circumstance of God's Dispensations to their forefathers, which they either were not, or might not be, well acquainted with by the study of their Scriptures. The reason is evident. His credentials were two-fold, SCRIPTURE and MIRACLES. In the first way therefore of confirming his Mission, if instead of appealing to the course of God's Dispensation to his chosen People, as delivered in Scripture, he had given them an unknown history of that Dispensation, (as was one of the tricks of Mahomet in his Alcoran) such a method had been so far from supporting his Character, that it would have heightened the unfavourable prejudices of Unbelievers towards him; as looking like a confession that the known history was against him; and that he was forced to invent a new one, to countenance his pretensions. He must, therefore, for the necessary support of his Character, appeal to some acknowledged Facts. These were all contained in SCRIPTURE and TRADITION. But, we know, he always studiously declined supporting himself on their Traditions, though they were full of circumstances favourable to the Religion he came to propagate, such as the doctrines of eternal Life, and the Resurrection of the Body : Nay, he took all occasions of decrying their TRADITIONS as impious corruptions, by which they had rendered the written word of none effect. We conclude, therefore, from Jesus's own words, that the circumstance of Abraham's knowledge of his Day is certainly to be found in Abraham's history: Not in so clear a manner, indeed, as to be understood by a Carnal-minded Jew, nor even by a System-making Christian, for reasons hereafter to be explained ; yet certainly There; and certainly proved to be There, by the best rules of logic and criticism.
2. But though this did not (as it does) appear from the words of Jesus, yet it might be collected from the very nature of the thing. For admit only the fact, (as we now must) that Abraham did see CHRIST's Day, and it is utterly incredible that so capital a circumstance should be omitted in his History, a sacred Record, pre-ordained for one of the supports and evidences of Christ's Religion. That it could not be delivered in the book of Genesis, in terms plainly to be understood by the People, during the first periods of a preparatory Dispensation, is very certain : as will be seen hereafter : But then, this is far from being a reason why it should not be recorded at all : Great ends, such as supporting the truth of the future Dispensation, being to be gained by the delivery of it even in so obscure a manner.
Having thus far cleared our way, and shewn, that the doctrine of Redemption was revealed to Abraham ; and that the history of that Reve