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everlasting covenant." This term does not apply to a spiritual seed, irrespective of a natural descent from Abraham. . Such a seed therefore is not designed by the term seed in the covenant. The term generation is indeed sometimes used figuratively to characterize both good and bad men. But this is not the import of it in this place. To apply this sense to it would load the promise with absurdity.
4. To say that a spiritual seed is designated, as such, irrespective of descent, would imply, that Abraham 1iad no more reason to calculate that either temporal or spiritual blessings, would come upon his lineal descendants, than upon the idolatrous inhabitants of Canaan, or the world at large. A natural offspring was not, upon this supposition, respected in the promise. For ought that Abraham could learn, his natural seed might all be reprobated; and the rest of the world be chosen, and saved. But this would be to separate Abraham entirely from his natural posterity, as to a covenant relation to God; it would take away those very consolations respecting them, which the covenant was designed to administer; enfeeble his motives to fidelity in instructing his seed; destroy the distinction which is made throughout the scriptures, and in a multitude of facts, between his posterity and the world; and would be to load with absurdity the whole Bible.
5. To suppose that by the term seed is meant a spiritual seed at large, and not natural descendants from Abraham as such, is to take away all cause for the application of circumcision to Abraham's lineal descendants, and particularly in their infancy. Circumcision is certainly to be applied to the seed mentionedin the covenant. Verses 9, 10, 11. ""And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant which ye shall keep, between me and you, and thy seed after thee, every manchild among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you." Beyond a question, the term seed
has the same meaning here, that it has in the preceding verses. The subjects are not altogether changed without any notice given of it. But the seed here certainly means natural descendants. For it is added as an explanatory direction, " every manchild among you shall be circumcised. And it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me andjyow." To the natural seed then circumcision was to be applied. And it was to be applied to them as a party in the covenant. But if a spiritual seed merely, as such, was respected, this direction would have been irrelevant, and the applica^ tion of circumcision to the natural seed wholly unmeaning.
6. The Apostle Paul in the 9th chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, expressly applies the term seed, as meaning natural offspring. 7th verse. "Neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children; but in Isaac shall thy seed be called. By the term seed he evidently means natural offspring. He is speaking about them only. They were his brethren according to the flesh. His whole description applies to them, and to them only. "Who are Israelites, to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises ; whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God, blessed forever." The distinction he makes between the nominal and true Israel applies to them only. "Not as though the word of God, had taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, who are of Israel." When therefore, in the latter part of the verse, he applies the term seed to Isaac, it is evidently in the literal sense. . Isaac is one of the seed intended in the promise. But he is such as the fruit of Sarah's womb.
It may be thought, and it has often been suggested, that the following verse is opposed to this idea. But it is not. It is only explanatory of the doctrine of discriminating grace, which the Apostle had mentioned, and on which he insists throughout this, and the t\v» following chapters, as extending to the natural seed of Abraham, as well as the world at large. "That is, they which are the children of the flesh ; these are not the children of God; but the children of promise are counted for the seed."* All the natural offspring of Abraham are not as such the children of God. Sonie of them however are. They are as such. For" in Isaac shall thy seed be called." The seed was called in Isaac, as Abraham's child, descended from his body. Yet it was also called in Isaac in distinction from Ishmael, as he was a child of promise, and stood in special relation to Christ, in whom all the promises of God are yea and amen. This idea the Apostle illustrates as he proceeds. "For this is the word of promise; at this time will I come and Sarah shall have a son." Isaac was a child of special promise. Ishmael was riot. Verse 10th, "And not only this, but when Rebecca had conceived by one, even by our Father Isaac (for the children, being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger, as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." Here the Apostle carefully runs the distinction of discriminating grace, between the elect, and the non elect parts of the nominal seed. Yet the nominal seed, or the seed according to the flesh only is in view. This is evident from the destinction he makes. To suppose that by seed, he means all believers, as such, without any respect to descent from Abraham, would destroy the unity of his discoure, and the force of his argument. Directly indeed, he extends his remarks to persons who were not lineal descendants from Abraham; but this is only to illustrate the same doctrine of divine sovereignity, as extending to all the saved. By the term seed then the Apostle evidently means Abraham's lineal descendants only.
* The general mistake in applying this passage has been founded in unwarrantably extending it beyond the fubjects of the Apostle's discourl'e. He has respect '• no others than to Abraham's natural descendants, or the children ofthejlesh.
Hence, after having in such a solemn manner insisted on the severity, as well as on the goodness of God, he anticipates, in the beginning of tlie Xlth chapter, the question, which he foresaw would naturally rise in the minds of those to whom he was writing; "I say then hath God cast away his people?" There would have been no propriety in this question, if the Apostle had excluded the natural descendants of Abraham as having no special interest in the covenant. But if they have a special interest in the covenant, beyond all doubt, they have it as the seed. "God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham. God hath not castaway his people which he foreknew."
As we shall be obliged to recal this distinction directly, we shall here take leave of it; having sufficiently shown, not only that it is consistent with, but a proof, that by the term seed are meant, in the covenant, lineal descendants.
7. But one more proof will be added to establish this, as the proper sense of the word seed, in the covenant. This proof is furnished in the declaration of Peter to the Jews, Acts hi. 25. "Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, and in thy seed shall all the kindred of the earth be blessed." These Jews were children of the covenant, not as believers; for Peter did not address them as sustaining this character; but as chargeable with great wickedness in killing the Prir.ee of life. They were in his view children of the covenant only as lineal descendants from Abraham. The terms children of the covenant are used as equivalent with that of seed. For he supports his declaration by adverting tothat clause in the covenant in which the term seed is inserted. "Saying unto Abraham, and in thy seed shall all the kindred of the earth be blessed."
Against this theory there are objections, which it is proper here to notice.
1. It is objected, that " as the same declarations and promises are made in the covenant with respect to the
seed, which are made with respect to Abraham, personally, it will follow, that the natural seed of Abraham without distinction are interested in the covenant of grace, as extensively as Abraham himself, which is contrary to scripture, and to fact." The explanations already made, furnish a reply to this objection. Though the term seed be used in the covenant indefinitely, for reasons which will soon be mentioned, it is not to be understood as applying, so as to involve an interest in the promise, to all the natural offspring without exception. This is evident from what has already been said, and will be more fully illustrated in some subsequent remarks.
2. It is farther objected, "that the term seed cannot mean natural descendants of Abraham, because, upon that supposition, circumcision, as a token of the covenant, must have been confined to Abraham's natural children; whereas the institution extended to all that were born in his house, and bought with his money." Answer. This objection lies equally against the other hypothesis, that the term seed is to be taken figuratively. For circumcision was certainly applied to other persons than a spiritual seed. If circumcision were confined to the seed, and yet extended to others, besides lineal descendants; if it were so extended to the latter, as to have no appropriate respect to the former; then indeed it must be conceded, either, that circumcision had no connexion with the seed, or that by the seed were intended other persons than lineal descendants, and that it had no special respect to such descendants at all. But the express distinction which is made in the law of circumcision, between the seed and others, as subjects of circumcision, undeniably proves, that it was not thus confined; and that natural descendants Were intended by the seed. "1 his is my covenant therefore which ye shall keep between me and you, and thy seed after thee. Every manchikl among you, shall be circumcised. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you; every manchikl in your generations; he that is born in the