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THE CALL OF ABRAHAM, AND THE INSTI
TUTION OF CIRCUMCISION.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
THE several renewals of Divine Revelation which were vouchsafed to the patriarchs, in exposition and confirmation of the covenant of redemption, run in the form of promises, or gratuitoụs assurances of good things to come. These promises are suspended on no conditions to be performed by the parties who are beneficially interested in them; but are described as indefeisible and certain. Indeed, it could not have been otherwise consistently with the purpose
of God and the salvation of man. Thus, the promise of a son given to Abraham is spoken of by St. Paul: “ Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth or addeth thereto. 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. And this I
say, that the covenant which was confirmed before of
God in Christ,* the law which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make THE PROMISE of no effect.” of “The covenanting parties are God, and his Christ to be born of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh. Christ is the surety of the whole transaction ; so that all the promises are in Him, YEA, and in Him Amen,” to the glory of the Triune Jehovah.
To none other of the patriarchs were so many discoveries of covenanted mercy made, as were afforded to the patriarch Abraham. They have been reckoned as eight in number. First, in Ur of Chaldea, when God commanded him to leave his country. Gen. xii. 1. Acts vii. 2, &c. Heb. xi. 8. Secondly, In the land of Canaan, near Sichem. Chap. xii. 6, 7. Thirdly, At Bethel, after his separation from Lot. Chap. xiii. 14. Fourthly, When God promised him a son, and a posterity to be compared with the stars in number. Chap. xv. 1-6.
Fifthly, when God gave him the sign and seal of circumcision. Chap. xvii. 1, &c. Sixthly, When he entertained the three visitors in the plains of Mamre. Chap. xviii. 1, &c. Seventhly, When he was commanded to exclude Ishmael and Hagar from his family. Chap. xxi. 12. Eightly, When he was required to sacrifice his son Isaac, a requisition which was afterwards revoked. Chap. xxii. 1, &c.* To these must be added, if the hypothesis which will be discussed in a future letter be admitted, the appearance under the character of Melchizedek, the king of righteousness and peace, which is recorded, chap. xiv. 18, &c.
* « The covenant which was confirmed uTO T8 €8 by God ΕΙΣ Χριστον To Christ.”
† Gal. iji. 15, &c.
It seems to me highly probable that all these manifestations of Jehovah to Abraham were real exhibitions of the Second Person of the ALEIM, and were presented to his view under the human form. That the first of them, on which I shall now offer you a few remarks, was not a dream of the night, nor any other effect produced on the patriarch's imagination, may be inferred, not only from the silence of the history on the subject, while in other instances it is expressly mentioned; but also from the manner in which St. Stephen has described the transaction, Acts vii. 2, &c. The God of glory appeared up to our father Abraham.”
a visible exhibition of “ the God of glory;" and the phrase which is used in speaking of Him who appeared, indicates that it was the Second Person of the Godhead ; for “ Glory,” or Light in irradiation, is his peculiar and distinctive title. He is “the King of Glory;" Ps. xxiv. 7, 8. “ The brightness," or effulgence, of the Divine “Glory;" Heb. i. 3. “ The Glory of Jehovah” that was to be “ revealed;" Isa. xl. 5. “ The Glory of Jehovah” who was to “ arise” on the church, and who, in the following verse, is identified with Jehovah Himself. Isa. Ix. 1, 2. Thus also our Lord Jesus Christ is called by St. James, chap. i. 2, “ the Glory,”* and by St. Paul, “ the Lord of Glory,” 1 Cor. ii. 8, without any other epithet; and I apprehend that when the word “Glory” is used as a personal title of Deity, (unless the Father or the Holy Spirit be expressly mentioned, as in Eph. i. 17,) it points out to us the. Second Person.
* See Fabricii Christologia. Diss. iv. p. 106; and Witsius on the Covenants.
+ noin was seen (1 Cor. xv. 5-8.)
But how did he appear? In what form or shape? We are informed that, in one of the several instances on record which we have enumerated, he appeared as a man; Gen. xviii. 1. and it was One in the form of man who wrestled with Jacob. In narrating the several appearances, the same verbum is generally used; and in the memoir of the fourth instance it is said that THE WORD OF Jehovah came unto Abraham, whom the patriarch addressed as JEHOVAH Aleim. Chap. xv. 1, 2. This, it is true, is said to have been “a vision;" but that does not alter the nature of the appearance which was exhibited to him. Is it not reasonable then to suppose that all these appearances were in the human form, surrounded by such insignia of Deity as could leave no doubt on the patriarch's mind who it was that appeared to him? “ The form of God" which St. Paul ascribes to our Lord before his incarnation, (Phil. ii. 6.)* seems to mean the glory which attended these appear
* Το Κυριε ημων Ιησε Χρισία, της δοξης; where the words " the Glory" seem to be in apposition with the preceding titles. † 87' appeared to, or was seen by.
See the sense attributed to these words in the Targums, &c, quoted in Allix's Judgement. p. 370.
It was what he did not retain during his incarnation, when he appeared “in the form of a servant;" it was what he laid aside during his incarnation, and therefore it could not be his Godhead, essentially considered. Though it may not be of the first importance for us to determine in what mode the communication was made; and though it may be enough for us to know that the mode was sufficiently explicit to satisfy the patriarch's mind respecting his Divine vocation; yet is it a gratifying view of the subject to consider, that He, who from the beginning rejoiced in the habitable parts of the earth," and whose delights,” from the creation of man, have been “ with the sons of men,” (Prov. viii. 31.) did reveal himself, to the patriarchal expectants of his advent in the flesh, as man among men.
* See Macknight's note.