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Is it possible to survey the submissive victim of mount Moriah “ laid on the altar upon the wood,” without adverting to an infinitely greater personage, a far more interesting spectacle, even our great atoning sacrifice, our sinless victim, laid also on the wood of the cross, and nailed thereto? Isaac was spared, but Jesus suffered. A ram was substituted in the place of Isaac; but no substitute could be found for “ the Lamb of God.” It was necessary for human salvation that He should “ suffer, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.”
The substitution of :he ram in the place of Isaac was necessary to the completion of the typical exhibition, unless Isaac had been actually put to death and miraculously raised again from it. But this latter mode would have afforded too close a representation of the thing signified. In all the types scope was left for the exercise of faith by some obscurity in the parabolic prefiguration. Had Isaac been really sacrificed and raised from the dead, the type would have differed in this instance from all the other shadows of the typical dispensations.
Two things were to be made known to the father of the faithful who was constituted the depositary of truth, and through whose seed the faith delivered to the patriarchs was to be handed down through successive generations till the appearance of its great object. He was to have set before
his eyes a figure of the death and resurrection of the promised Seed of the woman, the Benefactor of all nations. But how was this to be effected It could only be effected by a double image, as in the cases, under the Levitical institution, of the two goats on the great day of atonement, and of the two birds in the rite of cleansing the leper, one of whom, in each instance, was slain and the other suffered to live. Yet, in both cases, sufficient evidence was given, in the former by the transfer of guilt to the scape goat, and in the latter by dipping the wings of the surviving bird in the blood of the one that had been slain, that the twofold exhibition in either instance was to be identified in different relations, with respect to the typical object it proposed. When the historian says that “ Abraham took the ram and offered him up in the stead of his son," I understand him to mean, that Abraham did so, by Divine direction, in order to fulfil the representation which had been left incomplete by the gracious rescue of Isaac from the sacrificing knife.
Divine agency is to be marked both in the type and antitype. It was not chance that brought the ram to the spot where it was wanted, or that entangled its horns in the thicket where it was caught. It was God who provided the ram for the typical offering, and who in the fulness of time provided the great antitypical holocaust, on
the credit of which the patriarchs were pardoned and saved, and by faith in which we also attain the blessings of pardon and salvation.
It has been thought by some writers on the subject, that Abraham supposed, at the commencement of this transaction, that Isaac was himself the great Benefactor who was to appear, as Eve had before supposed that her first born Cain was “the expected “ man-Jehovah." Certainty in the birth of Isaac, and in the command which Abraham received for offering him up as a sacrifice there was what was sufficiently extraordinary to excite suspicion in the patriarch’s mind, unless he had very closely and attentively weighed the terms of the original promise. Bishop Horsley seems to have favoured this opinion, if we may judge from an extract he has produced from the works of Hutchinson, without censuring its contents. The extract, in his Biblical Criticism on this chapter is as follows: “ The types and promises showed that one of the line of Abraham was, (by the obligation of the antemundane oath) to be sacrificed, and to be a blessing to all the race of Adam. The person in Abraham's time was not described; he was ordered to sacrifice his son; he complied with the precept, not doubting but, as he was directed to sacrifice him, that he was the person who was to redeem man
Thus he was a shadow of the essence, the Supreme Father who
gave; his Son, of the Son of that Father who really redeemed his brethren; and though he was not offered, the will of each performed his part, and, in that sense, Isaac was offered, and Abraham offered."*
I must not, my dear friend, bid adieu to the interesting subject which we have surveyed, till we have, cursorily at least, noticed the lovely model which the conduct of Abraham presents for our imitation.
This celebrated up act of Abraham was a wonderful display of faith in Divine promises. It
'by faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac-accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead, from whence also he received him in a figure.”
And as all Divine faith in the human soul has an atoning Saviour for its object, it is not to be doubted that, through this typical representation, Abraham as a guilty sinner, looked to the promised Redeemer. He therein “saw Christ's day and was glad,” as well indeed he might be. (See Rom. iv. throughout.) This profession of faith resembled that which was afterwards enjoined to the Israelites, (Lev. i. 4) who, when they brought their burnt-offering to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord, were required to “ lay their hands on the head of the burnt-offering;" by that significative action transferring their guilt to the typical atoner, and professing their faith in the true expiatory offering. Whosoever will be pardoned and justified, must obtain the blessing in the same way; for there is no other.
* Hutchinson, vol. vii. p. 325. Quoted in Biblical Criticism vol. i. p. 71.
† Celebrated by Jews, Heathens, Mahomedans, and the church of God.
Was Abraham's faith productive of obedience? The faith of God's elect is still the same operative principle. “ Wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness, and he was called the friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is. justified, and not by faith only." James ii. 20—24.
We are not however to infer from this reasoning of the Apostle, that Abraham's person was justified by works before God; for this would be to contradict the express declaration of St. Paul, Rom. iv. 1–5. But the meaning of St. James is plainly this, that the reality and Divine origin of Abraham's faith was justified before men by the excellent fruits which it produced. “ Faith,” in all instances of its existence,“ worketh by love; and in propor