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dren, he devoted them to God, and promised to treat them as God's children, and educate them for God, which implied praying for them and with them, instructing them in the things of this covenant, and directing and watching over them, and exercising parental care and government of them, and using all proper means to lead them to know and do their duty to God and man, as soon as they should be capable of acting for themselves, at the same time setting a good example before them in all his conduct, both of true piety towards God, and righteousness and benevolence towards men. This was the covenant between God and Abraham, on Abraham's part, with respect to his children, of which circumcision was the sign, token, and seal; and though he circumcised his children, if he did not in heart dedicate them to God, and faithfully perform the duties signified and promised in this transaction, he did not keep the covenant of circumcision, but would break it in the most important and essential part of it. Upon this condition, implied, professed, and engaged, in Abraham's circumcising his children, God promised to be their God, to bless them with the blessings of the covenant, or that they should be holy and happy forever. Thus God entered into covenant with Abraham and with his seed; and the promise was to him and his children, upon condition he would keep the covenant of circumcision, which was a token and seal of the covenant, by both the parties covenanting.

This is here said to be an everlasting covenant. covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant." (Gen. xvii. 13.) True religion and salvation would be transmitted to a thousand generations, even without end, or to the end of the world, from parents to children, if parents were faithful in the covenant, as it respects their children. But this covenant may be broken by the parent's not keeping covenant, and not acting up to his obligations, profession, and promises, with regard to his children, and being guilty of great and persevering neglect of his duty, and by his unfaithfulness. This is evident from the words which follow, and is plainly expressed in them. " And the uncircumcised man child, whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant." (Gen. x. 14.) Upon these words the following observations may be made:

First. In the case mentioned, the child does not properly break the covenant; for he is not in the least active or guilty in the affair. The covenant is broken by the parent's neglect of his duty to the child. Therefore, when it is said, “ he hath broken my covenant,” the meaning is, the covenant is broken

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as it respects the child, and by this means the child is out of covenant, and excluded from the privileges of it; but the parent is the covenant-breaker, as it is wholly by his neglect to circumcise his child.

SECONDLY. As the covenant made with Abraham was visibly broken by a parent's refusing or neglecting to circumcise his children; so it was really broken by the parent if he resused and neglected to do what is implied in the circumcision of children, and what he professed and promised in that transaction. Though he performed the external rite, yet if his heart were not answerable to it, and he were disposed to neg. lect all the important duty respecting his children, which be professes and solemnly engages, in performing the external rite of circumcision, he breaks the covenant as much, and more, in the sight of God, than if he had not circumcised his children, and forfeits all the promised blessings of the covenant to his children which were promised on condition of his faithfulness in keeping this covenant. Circumcision, considered as a mere external rite and ceremony, was not the circumcision which was commanded by God, if the moral exercises and duties implied in it, and signified by it, and which were professer and engaged, did not take place, but were neglected. These were of the essence of circumcision; the external rite was but a sign or token of the other, in which the covenant consisted; and if the things signified, professed, and promised by this external sign and token did not take place, the external sign and transaction was a mere nullity in the sight of God, and in the sight of men too, so far as this was apparent and known to them. This is expressly asserted by the apostle Paul, when speaking of circumcision. “ Circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law; but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh.” (Rom. ii. 25, 28.)

Therefore, when a parent in Israel circumcised his children, and neglected to do the duties enjoined, professed, and ised, of which the circumcision of his children was a token and pledge, and so did not keep the law of circumcision, but broke it, his children were, in this respect, as if they had not been circumcised, and the covenant of circumcision was as really and as much broken as if he had neglected to circumcise his children; and his children were, by this neglect, cut off from the promises and blessings of the covenant. Can any thing be more plain and certain than this? What moral exercises and duties, respecting the children, the parent professed and promised, and what was the law of circumcision in this respect, has been briefly stated above, and will be more fully explained before the subject is closed.


Thirdly. Hence it appears that the covenant of circumcision, as it respected the seed or children of the parents who circumcised them, did not extend, in the promises of it, any farther than to the children thus circumcised, though the parents were faithful in keeping covenant, and acted up to their profession and engagements. They could transmit the blessings of the covenant, according to the promises of it, no farther than to their children which were circumcised by them. If these children should neglect to circumcise their children, or if they should circumcise them, and yet not keep the law of circumcision, but neglect the duties with respect to their children which they had professed and engaged, the covenant would be broken, and their children be cut off from the promises and blessings of it. And thus, this everlasting covenant, which, if faithfully kept, would transmit spiritual blessings and salvation to all generations, to the end of the world, may be, and has been, broken; by which breach of this covenant, all the dreadful and prevailing evils and the curse which have fallen upon mankind have been introduced and spread over the world, agreeably to the words of God by Isaiah.

66 The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate.” (Isa. xxiv. 5, 6.)

But the following question will be suggested here, which requires an answer :

Question. If spiritual blessings and salvation, the blessings promised in the covenant, be transmitted from parents who keep covenant to their children, these children will be holy and obedient, according to the promise made to their parents; consequently, their children will be holy and obedient also, and so on through every generation, to the end of the world. How' then can this covenant be broken, so that any children in this line of succession should be unholy and disobedient ? Must not holiness and salvation be infallibly transmitted from parents to children, to the last generation, according to this notion of the covenant, without a possibility of a breach of covenant?

ANSWER. The covenant, as it respects the parents, in their own persons, and the duties required of them, in order to their own salvation, is different from the covenant, and the duties required, as they respect their children. What regards their children is a distinct branch of the covenant, and differs from what respects their own persons only.

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The covenant, as it respects the individual person entering into covenant, promises salvation to him who believeth, even to the least and lowest degree of true faith, by which he lays hold of the covenant; it promises that all such shall be finally saved; that they shall be furnished with every thing necessary for this, and shall be kept by the power of God, through their faith, unto salvation. The person entering into covenant, as it respects his own person, professes this faith, and to devote himself to God in the exercise of it; lays hold of the covenant, and promises by divine assistance, relying upon the promised grace of God, to live a life of faith and holiness.

The covenant, as it respects the children of believing parents, and includes them, promises spiritual blessings and salvation to them, on condition of the parents' faithfulness in devoting them to God, and bringing them up for him, persevering in the exercises and duties which are implied in this; and these exercises and duties respecting their children are professed and promised by the parents, when they devote them to God in this covenant transaction, and in applying the seal of the covenant to them. But there is no promise in this covenant that if they do, with a degree of sincerity, give up their children to God, and profess all those exercises and promise to perform all that duty towards them which are implied in bringing them up for God, that they shall certainly do all this; but they may be very deficient and unfaithful in this covenant, as it respects their children, and bring a curse upon them, rather than the blessings promised in the covenant.

Therefore, though the parents may be true believers, and interested in all the blessings of the covenant, so far as they respect themselves in their own persons, yet they may be so negligent of the exercises and duties of the covenant as it respects their children, and which they have promised, and by this so break the covenant, with respect to them, as to cut them off from the promised blessings of the covenant. Though the parents of children may, in one instance or more, be faithful in performing their promised duty to their children, and their children be made partakers of spiritual blessings in consequence of it; yet these children, though true believers, and interested in the blessings of the covenant themselves, may so neglect their duty to their children, as not to keep covenant as it respects them, and consequently their children be deprived of the blessings of the covenant; and so the covenant and the succession of blessings, from parents to children, be broken, and cease.

Though Abraham was faithful in this covenant, and fulfilled the duties of it as it respected his children, yet Isaac or Jacob, or both, though good men, and interested in the promises of the covenant in their own persons, might be so negligent and unfaithful in their duty to their children, or some of them, at least, as to cut them off from the promises of the covenant, as it respected them. Eli appears to have been a good man; yet he was so negligent of his duty to his sons, that by this, evil came upon them. And King David, who was in many respects an eminently holy man, appears, from the history we have of him and his family, to be very unfaithful in his duty to many of his children, and indulged a partiality in their favor, and a parental fondness which was inconsistent with his treating them as he ought to have done, and led him far astray from his duty to them. Even his marrying so many wives was inconsistent with the regard he ought to have had for his posterity, and tended to prevent his doing his duty to his children.

The prophet Malachi, speaking against polygamy, refers to the original institution of marriage by God, who made only one woman for one man, and says, " And did not he make ONE? Yet had he the residue of the Spirit. And wherefore ONE? That he might seek a Godly seed.” (Mal. ii. 15.) It appears from these words, that, in the institution of marriage, God had regard to the good of children and posterity, that they might be a holy seed; and that if the duties of this relation, particularly as they respect their offspring, be properly and faithfully attended to and performed, their children will be holy, inherit the blessings of the covenant, and be saved. It also appears, that polygamy is contrary to the good of posterity, and has a strong tendency to produce an ungodly seed, as it is unfriendly to the duties which parents owe to their children, and in many respects inconsistent with them.

It is to be observed, and must be kept in mind, that what has been said on the Abrahamic covenant and the circumcising his children, the profession, promise, and duties implied in this, and what depended upon these, with regard to the children, is equally applicable to parents and their seed, and to the baptism of their children, under the Christian dispensation.

All that has been observed concerning the covenant made with Abraham and his seed, may be yet further illustrated, and made more evident, by attending to the following words of God concerning Abraham and his children and household: “ 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.” (Gen. xviii. 19)

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