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He was not probably Christ himself; but was a remarkable type of him. For, Hebrews, vii. 3, "Being-made like unto the Son of God, he abideth a priest continually." As the contrast of the mortal state of the priests of the Aaronic order, it is "witnessed of him that he liveth," 8th verse. Five times, in this Epistle to the Hebrews, is Jesus mentioned as, "made a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."
As such a remarkable type of Christ, Melchizedek was commissioned to bear the blessing to Abraham.— And as an outward testimonial of it, to which the appointed elements in the Lord's supper are probably conformed, he brought forth bread and wine. In this whole transaction we perceive a wonderful coincidence with the dispensation of the Gospel. Here is in fact u Gospel preacher, an extraordinary representative and forerunner of the adorable Jesus, bringing glad tidings of great joy to the Father of the faithful; which not only respected him, but his immense family. This annunciation of Gospel blessings, at this time, when exhausted by the labors of travel and battle, must have been greatly exhilerating to Abraham. Now, "he rejoiced to see Christ's day, and he saw it and was glad." John viii. 56.
In the conquest he gained over the enemies of God, a,nd the spiritual consolations imparted to him under this benediction, he enjoyed those holy triumphs which fall to the experience of all believers.
In the 15th chapter of this book of Genesis, God again addresses Abraham in language of covenant favor. *' After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abraham in a vision, saying, Fear not Abraham, for I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward." What more gracious declaration was ever made,orcan be made, to man than this ? Here Abraham is required to dismiss all his solicitude, both with respect to this world, and the next; for that God is his salvation.
The next thing of importance that we find respecting Abraham, is the promise of an heir from his own bowels. This promise he believed, and it was counted to him for righteousness. The promise of an heir, and the faith with which Abraham embraced it, were considerably anterior to the appointment of circumcision. This is found to be a fact on the face of the history; and is expressly mentioned by the apostle Paul, Romans, iv. 9. "For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? When he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had, being yet uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also." It is evident from this passage, as well as from all that has been before adduced, that Abraham was interested in the righteousness of faith, that righteousness which faith secures, long before circumcision was instituted. This righteousness of faith was a righteousness which Abraham found. For the assertion of the apostle just quoted from the 4th of Romans, is'made in reply to the question put in the first verse of the chapter. "What shall we say then that Abraham, our lather, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found ?** It is a righteousness entirely distinct from faith itself. It is a righteousness imputed to all who believe. It is a righteousness without works, verse 6th. It is the nonimputation of sin, and the blessedness which the full pardon of it involves, verse 8th. It is comprehensively the blessing with which God blessed Abraham, and which was the specific reward of his faith. It is the very blessing which has come on the Gentiles through faith. It cannot be otherwayS; because faith is ever a fruit of the same spirit; is of the same nature; respects the same object, the promise; is ever contrasted to "the same things, law and works ; is ever the principle of life; for " the just shall live by his faith ;" and is ever crowned with the same victory; for "this is the victory, which overcometh the world, even our faith."
It may be worth while to remark here, that, as circumcision is expressly declared by the apostle to be a
kal of the righteousness of the faith which Abraham had, being yet uncircumcised, that is, long before circumcision was instituted, it scaled a promise v\hich was made long before the transactions recorded in the 17th of Genesis; and as circumcision is also declared to be a token of the covenant, spoken of in this 17th chapter, established by God with Abraham and his seed; it is undeniable, that thiscovenant,called the covenant of circumcision, and the anterior promise,are substantially the same. Circumcision is certainly not a seal of one thing, and a token of another. Or if it should be contended, that seal and token are not of exactly equivalent import, yet, circumcision had respect to the first transaction as well as to the last, and to nothing but promise.* On the whole it seems undeniable that Abraham was respected altogether as a saint; that God was his God* upon this ground; that he was in covenant with God years before circumcision was instituted; that the relation, which subsisted between God and him, was altogether spiritual; that the blessings promised were wholly by grace; that they were embraced by faith; and therefore, that all the transactions of God with him,
* It is a pitiful explanation which is given by some writers of this righteousness of faith, which is mentioned here, and in many other places of the scripture; that it means the reality, or the morally right nature of Abraham's faith ; and therefore has no respect to the object of faith, or the faith of any other person.— "That which St. Paul meant, by calling circumcision the seal of the righteousness of Abraham's faith is simply this, that the alacrity, promptitude and cheerfulness, with which he received and »beyed this self denying duty, was a seal, token, or confirming evidence, of the sincerity of his faith." Andrews's Vindication, page 39 According to this construction, the whole design of circumcision, in all the innumerable cases in which it has been practiced, was to assure Abraham aad the world, that his faith was not insincere, but sincere faith; or true faith in opposition to that which is mere pretence. But the sincerity of Abraham's faith wanted no such confirmation. The attestation of God who knew his heart; and his own works, furnished such pioof of this, as rendered every other evidence altogether superfluous. James tells us how Abraham's faith was justified, or proved to be genuine. It was not by circumcision, but by his works. James ii. 22, "Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by toorks was faith made perfect f" The sealing respected nothing done by man.— It respected* the promise of God, with the blessing which it secured. Man cannotseal his own actions. He is a mere recipient of the blessing. The righteousness of faith was not peculiar to Abraham It was enjoyed by his progenitor Noah. Hebrews xi 7. "By faith Noah, being warned of God, of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prep-ired an Ark to the saving of his house ; by which he condemned the world, and became heir if the righteousness which is by faith." See an ingenious illustration of the righteousness of faith, by Edward Williams, D. D. in his work emitted, Antipcedobaptism Examined, Vol I. chapter 2. See also, Dr. Stephen Weft's Dissertatian on Infant Baptism, paje 14,.
so far, were as removed as possible from all legal principles, arid from a mere temporal or civil alliance.
The land of Canaan was indeed promised to him; not however as a mere temporal acquisition, or for political purposes; but as a part of the inheritance of grace; as the cradle of the Church during its minority; as subservient to the diffusion of the blessing, which was to be transmitted through his natural descendants; as a theatre on which was to be transacted, the great Work of our redemption; and as a type of heaven. It was promised in the same light that godliness, under the latter dispensation, has "promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come."
God promised also that he would make of Abraham a great nation; but it was not to be such in the ordinary acceptation of the words, for his posterity have never been such. The obvious meaning is, that his posterity should be exceedingly numerous; and that they should be contradistinguished from the world, as a holy people. The promise that he should be the heir of the world, it is evident, has also the same spiritual meaning. For Paul says, Romans iv. 13, that this promise, "was not through the law, but through the righteousness of faith."
This view of the character and moral state of Abraham, anterior to the appointment of circumcision, ought to have its due influence upon our minds, in estimating the nature and design of the covenant transactions, recorded in the 17th of Genesis. It can hardly be imagined that it was the divine plan, that what was so favorably begun in the spirit, should end in the flesh. After having elevated this patriarch to the honor of being the father of the whole family of the faithful to the end of the world; after having admitted him to such a free and covenant intercourse as his peculiar friend; after multiplying benedictions so altogether spiritual; it cannot readily be supposed, that he should sink him down to the pitiful condition, of being the founder of a mere political society; that too in a transaction introduced with uncommon solemnity.
Respecting the Covenant of Circumcision.
IN the seventeenth chapter of the book of Genesis we are presented with what has been commonly denominated, the Covenant of Circumcision.
This covenant we shall now attempt to analyse. It is of the last importance to understandaccurately the nature of this covenant; in what respects it agrees with, or is distinguishable from, any other covenant which may be found mentioned in the scriptures; the nature and extent of its promises; with whom it is established; and in what way its blessings are transmitted and enjoyed.
That we may look at the subject fairly, and prosecute our analysis upon secure principles, it may be proper to put down all that is said upon it in this chapter. "And when Abraham was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared unto Abraham, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God, walk before me and be thou perfect; -and I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abraham fell on his face ; and God talked with him, saying; As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee; and I will make thee exceeding fruitful; and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant; to be a God unto thee, and thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and thy seed after thee, the land, . E