« AnteriorContinuar »
house, or bought with thy money, of any stranger which is not of thy seed." This express distinction, which is not of thy seed, is nugatory, upon the supposition that the term seed is used figuratively for a spiritual seed merely. There would have been no propriety in mentioning the natural'seed at all.
3. It is again objected, "that natural descendants from Abraham, as such, cannot be intended by the seed, because Ishmael, who was from his loins, is expressly excluded from the covenant, as born after the flesh; and he and his posterity are spoken of as allegorically representing the law; and as persecuting the seed." But surely this proves directly the contrary. It confirms the idea, that by seed are meant lineal descendants from Abraham. For, why is Ishmael excluded? Why is the distinction made between him and Isaac? Evidently, because with Isaac he was Abraham's natural son. The seed then had respect to natural descent. Had the term respected believers in general, without any respect to a descent from Abraham, there would have been no propriety in mentioning Ishmael as excluded, any more than any one of the reprobate world.
Besides, it is by no means certain that Ishmael personally was not a subject of the covenant, so far as to" have God for his God. And this might be on another principle than that of being the seed; i. e. as some of the servants of Abraham were. This principle we shall have occasion more fully to explain directly.— The limitation of the seed to the line of Isaac, no more excluded Ishmael from the personal felicity of having God for his God, than it excluded Cornelius, who was by birth a Roman. Be this however as it may, the fact mentioned in the objection, evidently proves the very thing that the objection opposes.
4. It is moreover objected, "that the term seed cannot intend natural offspring" as such, because the term is confined by Paul, Romans iv. 16, to believers." The words are these, "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be" sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all." But the passage itself confutes the objection. For why the distinction between the seed which is of the law, and that which is of faith? Does not that which is mentioned as of the law, intend those who are Jews by nature? And does not the seed which is of faith intend believers from the Gentile world ? Most evidently. For in the 11th and 12th verses, the Apostle says, "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 unto them also, (i. e. Gentile believers) and the father ofcircumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only; but also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham which he had, being yet uncircumcised."
By those who are not of the circumcision onfy, are designed lineal descendants from Abraham. They are part of the seed; and they are so under that description, as lineal descendants; of course, as the natural seed. Believing Jews, and believing Gentiles are equally covenant children of Abraham, or joint heirs with Christ, of covenant blessings. And this is what is intended by the terms in the passage all the seed.— They are equivalent with all the saved. But this does not militate with the idea, that by the term seed in the covenant, is meant primarily and appropriately natural descendants. Because these belong, as a distinct class, to all the seed; or are not of the circumcision only, but also walk in the steps ef that faith of our father Abraham, which he had, being yet uncircumcised."
These objections, and there are no other, of any plausibility, which have occurred to the Author in the course of his reading, being found futile, the conclusion may be taken as questionless, that the term seed, in the covenant, intends, primarily and especially, a natural seed as such.
The promise then being to be taken as absolute, and as respecting a natural seed, another question now pre»
sents itself, of as great importance as the former, viz. Did the promise embrace as those with whom it was to be carried into effect, or be establihed, all the seed without exception, or all Abraham's natural descen- . dants? This question has been in some degree una- * roidably anticipated. But the truth respecting it is so fundamental, that it must be yet more clearly ascertained. And if we should repeat some things which have been already suggested, it will be easily pardoned. On the just solution of the question, Who are intended by the seed? depend essentially all correct views of the Abrahamic covenant, and the economy of God's holy kingdom. It must be acknowledged, the word is used here in the xvii. of Genesis indefinitely. At the same time it must be admitted, that it is so used, as not necessarily to extend to all the posterity of Abraham numerically. If the word is necessarily to be understood as embracing all the individuals, who sprung from Abraham's loins, then it involves essentially the idea of number. If not, then it is rather a generic term, designating a class, a society. It is undeniable that words are often used in the scriptures in this large sense; as descriptive of a collection of persons, when all the individuals, who stand related are not numerically intended. Thus it is said of the race of man generally, Gen. xi. 12. "The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and behold it was corrupt. ¥or2\\ flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth." But Noah personally did not come under this description. The prophet Jer. says, v. 23. "But tins people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone." But there were individuals unquestionably who had not bowed the knee to any false God. "Ephraim," says Hosea, "is joined to his idols, let him alone." But it is not to be supposed that all Ephraim numerically, were idolatrous. The Church of Smyrna as a body, is honorably characterized. "I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is, and thou holdest fast my name, and hast
M denied ray faith, even in those days, wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where satan dwelleth." Yet there were some in that Church who held the doctrine of Balaam, and the doctrine of the Nicholaitans. To suppose then that the term seed, is not to be taken as designating Abraham's descendants numerically, but classically; and that a part of them only are really embraced, is more agreeable to the analogy of scripture language than otherways. Now, let us consider what the Holy Ghost teaches relative to this matter.
Some of the promises of the Abrahartiic covenant, it. is evident, are necessarily to be appropriated to a part , of the nominal seed. The promise, " In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed," is expressly appropriated by Paul to Christ, and that part of Abraham's posterity, who had life in him. "Not as of many; but as of one. And to thy seed which is Christ." The promise, "for all the land which thou seest, to thee 1 will I give it, and to thy seed forever;" applied to a part of the natural seed only. With respect to a part of them only was it executed. Thousands fell short of the promised land through unbelief.* The prediction, "Know of a surety that thy seed, shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years," applied to ipart of the posterity only. Abraham himself must have been led to entertain a restricted idea of the seed, from the very terms of the covenant. "And the uncircumcised manchild, whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people, he hath broken my covenant." Here the possibility
of breaking the covenant, i. e. of fatally trampling on
* A restriction of the term seed, as applying to a pari of Abraham's natural descendants only. is admitted by Dr. CypiianStrong in regard to this promise, in his Second Enquiry, page 11. "This promise of Canaan however did not respect M the posterity of Abraham. The promise .only imported that some of Abraham's posterity (more or fewer, as God in his sovereignty should determine] thould possess that land." If the term seed, in regard to the extent of it! application, mav be subjected to this limitation in respect to the promise of the land of Canaan;' why may it not be subjected to a similar limitation in regard tu the wore substantial interests of the covenant?
the duties it enjoined, is presented to Abraham's view. And what else can be the ground of his prayer respecting Ishmael ?" O that lshmacl might live before thee!" If all the individuals of the natural posterity were embraced in the promise, there was already a certainty that Ishmael would live before God. The prayer implies that Abraham was apprehensive, that notwithstanding the promise of the covenant, Ishmael might be excluded from tlie divine favor.
In the 21st. verse of the chapter, the covenant is unequivocally explained to Abraham as having an exclusive reference. "But my covenant will / establish vjith Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear unto thee in the set time in the next year;"
After the birth of Isaac, Sarah, prompted as it would seem by a special divine impulse, for it is quoted by Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians in that light, says to Abraham, " Cast out this bond woman, and her son, for the son of this bond woman, shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac." Abraham had too much natural affection for his son Ishmael, to be pleased with this apparently severe measure. But God says to him, "Let it not be grievous in thy sight, because of the lad, and because of the bond woman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for, in Isaac shall thy seed be called.'*
This appropriation of the covenant engagement as it respects the seed, to Isaac, the Aposde Paul treats as an initial dispensation, which gave a cast to the whole divine economy respecting the seed. "Because they were the seed of Abraham, they were not all children." Some of them were. They were the children respected in the promise." For the children qf the promise, are counted for the sded." Romans ix. V, 8. These were the Israel who were of Israel. They were the remnant according to the election of grace, the remnant as it respected Israel at large. For Romans ix. 29. "Except the Lord of Sabaoth, had left us (us Israel) a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha," i. e. we had been ell