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Aided by this extended view of God's gracious covenant, we shall be better able to understand the nature of God's transactions with Abraham. To which therefore we will next proceed.
constantly handed down by the ancients, more fully explained by Christ himself and his apostles and is to continue throughout all ages; in virtue of which believers shall inherit eternal happiness." Most undoubtedly it is the covenant of Redemption which was fixed in eternity, and in virtue of which believers inherit eternal happiness. In like manner, Dr. Samuel Hopkins says, System, 2d. Vol. page 93,"The Covenant of Grace, when understood in the most extensive sense, comprehends all the designs and transactions respecting the redemption of man by Jesus Christ. In this view, it comprehends the eternal purpose of God, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, to redeem man, fixing the manner of it, and every thing that relates to it, and entering into a mutual agreement or covenant, in which the part which each person should perform, as distinguished from the other, was fixed and voluntarily undertaken." Here certainly is the covenant of Redemption. Yet, strange to tell! The Dr. a.tempts to make an entirely distinct thing of the Covenant of Grace. The reason of this confusion is, that it is impossible to give any account of the one, without comprehending the other. Is the Covenant of Grace simply an agreement which subsists between God and the individual believer? Then it had its beginning in time. For the agreement could not exist before the believer himself existed. And then there are as ma ny Covenants of Grace as there are believers. For the agreement which subsists between God and me, is not an agreement which subsists between God and another person. In short, a Covenant of Grace, distinct numerically from the Cove nant of Redemption, is an indefinable thing.
Respecting the character and relative state of Abraham, prior to God's establishing with him that covenant which has been commonly styled the covenant of circumcision; or prior to that covenant transaction recorded in the 17th chapter of Genesis.
IT is undeniable that from a period not very remote from the first apostacy, to the calling of Abraham, there were pious persons in the world. Abel, Enoch, and Noah, were eminently of this character. Others there were who were distinguished from the idolatrous, and irreligious part of mankind, as the sons of God. But so little is said respecting their open separation and union, under covenant bonds; or as a collective society; that we can scarcely discern an organized Church during that whole period.
The calling of Abraham was a new epoch in the history of the work of redemption. It was an event which had special respect to the Messiah; and the establishment, increase, and perpetutity, of his kingdom in a compacted state, and before the eyes of the world. Abraham was a person of real piety. He was strong in faith, giving glory to God. He is spoken of in the scriptures, in terms of high commendation, in that light. God testifies of him, Genesis, xviii. 19. For I know. him, that he will command his children, and his household after him; and they shall keep the way of the Lord; to do justice and judgment, that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him." He is called by way of eminence," the friend of God." Isaiah, xli. 8. He is spoken of by Jesus Christ, as the Father of the whole body of Israel. John viii. 56. "Your Father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad." And the whole
body of believers, from Christ, to the end of the world, are placed in connexion with him, as his children.All who are of faith are asserted to be children of, and to be blessed with, faithful Abraham. Believing Jews, and believing Gentiles, have one common spiritual relation to him. Galatians iii. 28, 29. "There is
neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." All inferior distinctions are ultimately lost in the unity of the family state. This family is the Church; the Church, as a collective and associated body, under immediate divine superintendance, and protection. In order then to obtain right ideas of the constitution and duration of the Church of God in this view, we must begin with this illustrious patriarch. We must endeavor to ascertain as accurately as we can, the relation to God in which he stood, and the peculiar nature of those covenant transactions which took place between God and him.
The first thing we hear of importance respecting Abraham is his calling, or his open separation, in obedience to the command of God, from his kindred, and the place of his accustomed habitation. Genesis, xii. 1, "Now the Lord had said unto Abraham, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee. And I will make of thee a great nation. And I will bless thee and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and I will curse him that curseth thee, and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abraham departed as the Lord had spoken unto him: And Lot went with him. And Abraham was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abraham took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all the substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran, and they went forth into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan they came."
It is evident that Abraham was at this time, a subject of faith. His prompt obedience to the command of God, in the face of so many natural inducements to the contrary, is proof of it. Faith was the principle of this obedience. For the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in the 11th chapter and 8th verse of that Epistle, tells us, "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out, into a place, which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed, and he went out, not knowing whither he went." He was separated from his father's house, led to Canaan, his future earthly inheritance, a type and pledge of the heavenly, was blessed of God, and designated to be a blessing, as a subject of faith.
The promises attached to this call were comprehensive of all good. They implied an indissoluble and holy relation between God and Abraham; and had evidently in view, the establishment of the Church in the persons of his descendants; the advent of the Messiah, who, according to the flesh, was to proceed from his loins; and, by a series of antecedent and subsequent events, the accomplishment of that great salvation, of which the Messiah is the author, and the finisher. This is evident from the obvious import of these promises; but will be made to appear more clearly in the sequel. This initial proceeding on the part of God, was altogether gracious, and ought to be understood as giving a character to all subsequent transactions with this patriarch, and the events which followed, in regard to the family of which he was now publicly and solemnly constituted head. The promises were certainly of a gracious nature. All promises made by God to creatures who have become obnoxious to punishment by sinning against him, must be of this nature. The law and prom. ise are contrasted. The law worketh wrath. Promise is the language of peace. It holds out a blessing, Hence the apostle Paul so carefully distinguishes between law and promise. Galatians iii. 18, "For if the inheritance be of the law it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise." God declares here that he will curse all who curse Abraham.
He is here then, as expressly as possible,recognized as a subject of grace, and all the blessings secured to him are promised upon this ground. These promises are not conditional, but absolute. They are suspended upon no contingence. They are an irrecoverable grant, and must take effect.
Another promise made to Abraham is mentioned in the 7th verse of this chapter. "And the Lord appeared unto Abraham, and said, unto thy seed will I give this land." This promise also, is, for the reasons just mentioned, of a gracious nature, and proves that Abraham was now a subject of special grace.
The promise of a numerous posterity, and of the land of Canaan to be given them for a possession, is renewed to Abraham in the 14, 15, 16, and 17 verses; and, as in the former case, proves his covenant interest in the divine favor. This holy relation Abraham ratifies by building an altar unto the Lord in Hebron, verse 18.
Afterwards we find it openly acknowledged, and confirmed, by the benediction of Melchizedek, king of Salem, and priest of the Most High God, who went forth to meet him, as he was returning in triumph from the vale of Siddim. Genesis, xiv, 18, 19. "And Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine; and he was the priest of the Most High God, and he blessed him and said, Blessed be Abraham of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth.” Melchizedek was an extraordinary character. In him, as in the Savior, were united, the offices of prophet, priest, and king. This benediction was prophetical; and the offices of priest and king are expressly assigned to him. His priesthood was altogether distinguishable from the order of Aaron, and superior to it. For the tribe of Levi, which enjoyed the Aaronic priesthood, was in the loins of Abraham, when Melchizedek met him; and as the less was blessed of the better. Hebrews vii. 6, 7. "But he whose descent is not counted from them, received tithes from Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all controversy, the less is blessed of the better."