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THE CALL OF ABRAHAM, AND THE INSTI
TUTION OF CIRCUMCISION.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
The several renewals of Divine Revelation which were vouchsafed to the patriarchs, in exposition and confirmation of the covenant of redemption, run in the form of promises, or gratuitoụs assurances of good things to come. These promises are suspended on no conditions to be performed by the parties who are beneficially interested in them; but are described as indefeisible and certain. Indeed, it could not have been otherwise consistently with the purpose of God and the salvation of man. Thus, the promise of a son given to Abraham is spoken of by St. Paul: “ Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not,
And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, 'And to thy seed' which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant which was confirmed before of
God in Christ,* the law which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make THE PROMISE of no effect.” of “The covenanting parties are God, and his Christ to be born of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh. Christ is the surety of the whole transaction ; so that all the promises are in Him, YEA, and in Him Amen,” to the glory of the Triune Jehovah.
To none other of the patriarchs were so many discoveries of covenanted mercy made, as were afforded to the patriarch Abraham. They have been reckoned as eight in number. First, in Ur of Chaldea, when God commanded him to leave his country. Gen. xii. 1. Acts vii. 2, &c. Heb. xi. 8. Secondly, In the land of Canaan, near Sichem. Chap. xii. 6, 7. Thirdly, At Bethel, after his separation from Lot. Chap. xiii. 14. Fourthly, When God promised him a son, and a posterity to be compared with the stars in number. Chap. xv. 1–6. Fifthly, when God gave him the sign and seal of circumcision. Chap. xvii. 1, &c. Sixthly, When he entertained the three visitors in the plains of Mamre. Chap. xviii. 1, &c. Seventhly, When he was commanded to exclude Ishmael and Hagar from his family. Chap. xxi. 12. Eightly, When he was required The language of Jehovah, in speaking of the Babel project, seems to stamp a high degree of criminality on that project, which I know not how to ascribe to the building of a city and a tower for merely civil purposes.
* « The covenant which was confirmed uTO T8 €8 by God EIE Xpromov to Christ.”
+ Gal. iji. 15, &c.
“ This they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do.” ver. 6. They had taken the first step in a course of wickedness, which would naturally lead to still worse consequences. They had formed a plan, which, without interruption from Divine interposition, threatened the extirpation of the true religion from the earth. Had they been suffered to mature that plan, they would have become too strong a body; and following up the course of persecution of the faithful, of which Nimrod had already set an example, they would have become formidable enemies of their brethren who adhered to the worship of Jehovah, the Lord of heaven and earth.
If the hypothesis respecting the design of the tower of Babel which I have advocated, be admitted, the common argument drawn from this history in support of a personal plurality in the Godhead, will be greatly strengthened. For can it be supposed that the omniscient Spirit who guided the pen of the historian, when recording the first recorded instance of Polytheism, would have employed plural pronouns and verbs, in language ascribed to Jehovah when speaking of Himself, had there been no personalities in the Godhead; especially as the plural name ALEIM does not occur in the whole passage? The plural name seems to have been intentionally avoided in this narrative, for the purpose of showing that the sin of the Babel-builders consisted in their rejection of Jehovah, or “the eternal power and Godhead,” and in ascribing his attributes and operations to the material agents which he had created.
But though the transaction at Babel is the first recorded instance of idolatrous worship, there is good reason to believe that it was practised before the flood, and was the root of that abounding immorality which had overspread the earth, * and, together with its usual effects, was the meritorious cause of the destruction which followed. I say, there is reason to believe this; for since a period is fixed by Moses when “men began to call upon the name of Jehovah,” Gen. iv. 26, he cannot be supposed to intimate that Jehovah had not been before worshipped, because he had himself recorded an instance to the contrary; but his meaning, as I conceive is, that then the children of Seth began to distinguish themselves and their worship by their use of the name Jehovah.
* Gen. vi. 11. “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.” The “ 'corruption bably was related both to faith and morals ; and the “violence' to the outrages of persecution.
They had before found it safficient to avow themselves worshippers of the Aleim, the Creators (Eccles. xii. 1) of heaven and earth: no question had hitherto arisen respecting Him whom Adam, and Abel, and Seth, had adored as their Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier ; but among the seed of Cain a corruption of principles had been introduced, and this had taken such deep root, and had spread so widely, that the adherents to the worship of the supreme Alaim found it necessary to separate themselves and their worship, which they did by adopting the name of Jehovah in their creed, in order to show that the object of their adoration was not the material Aleim (the term Aleim having become equivocal) whom the apostates worshipped. The phraseology which Moses has employed, describes the grand article in the faith of the antediluvian Patriarchs, wherein they differed from their idolatrous brethren. That which has rendered creeds and confessions necessary in the Christian era, rendered a like measure necessary among the early descendants of Adam, viz. prevailing heterodoxy.
This view of the reason why men“ began to call on the name Jehovah,” is strengthened by what is recorded of Abraham and of Isaac under like circumstances. See Gen. xii. 8. xjïi. 4. xxi. 33. xxvi. 25. And when Naaman describes the Lord God of Elisha, he speaks of him as Jehovah, his (Elisha's) ALEIM, contradistin