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as for its sake even to destroy all the rest of the world; and although he had lately renewed and established his covenant of grace with Noah and his sons; yet so prone is the corrupt heart of man to depart from God, and to sink into the depths of wickedness, darkness, and delusion, that the world soon after the flood fell into gross idolatry ; so that before Abraham the distemper was become almost universal. The earth was become very corrupt at the time of the building of Babel; even God's people themselves, that line of which Christ was to come. Josh. xxiv, 2. “ Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terrah the father of Abraham, and the father of Nahor; and they served other gods." The other side of the food means beyond the river Euphrates, where the ancestors of Abraham lived.
We are not to understand that they were wholly drawn off to idolatry, to forsake the true God. For God is said to be the God of Nahor: Gen, xxxi. 53. “The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us." But they partook in some measure of the general and almost universal corruption of the times; as Solomon was in a measure infected with idolatrous corruption ; and as the children of Israel in Egypt are said to serve other gods, though there was the true church of God among them; and as there were images kept for a considerable time in the family of Jacob; the corruption being brought from Padan-Aram, whence he fetched his wives.
This was the second time that the church was almost brought to nothing by the corruption and general defection of the world from true religion. But still the true religion was kept up in the family from which Christ was to proceed; which is another instance of God's remarkably preserving his church in a time of a general deluge of wickedness, and wherein, although the god of this world raged, and had almost swallowed up God's church, yet he did not suffer the gates of hell to presail against it
From the calling of Abraham to Moses. I proceed now to show how the work of redemption was carried on from the calling of Abraham to Moses. And,
1. It pleased God now to separate that person of whom Christ was to come, from the rest of the world, that his church might be upheld in his family and posterity till that time. He called Abraham out of his own country, and from his kindred, to go into a distant country, that God should show him; and brought him first out of Ur of the Chaldees to Charran, and then to the land of Canaan.
It was before observed, that the idolatrous corruption of the world was now become general; mankind were almost wholly over-run with idolatry. God therefore saw it neces. sary, in order to uphold true religion in the world, that there should be a family separated from all others. It proved to be high time to take this course, lest the church of Christ should wholly be carried away with the apostacy. For Abraham's own country and kindred had most of them fallen off; and without some extraordinary interposition of Providence, in all likelihood, in a generation or two more, the true religion in this line would have been extinct. And therefore God called Abraham, the person in whose family he intended to uphold the true religion, out of his own country, and from lois kindred, to a far distant country, that his posterity might there remain a people separate from all the rest of the world ; that so the true religion might be upheld there, while all mankind besides were swallowed up in Heathenism.
The land of the Chaldees, whence Abraham was called, was the country about Babel. Babel, or Babylon, was the chief city of Chaldea. Learned men suppose, by what they gather from the most ancient accounts of things, that it was in ihis land idolatry first began ; that Babel and Chaldea were the original and chief seats of the worship of idols, whence it spread into other nations. And therefore the land of the Chaldeans, the country of Babylon, is in scripture called the land of graven images. Jer. 1. 35, 38. “ A sword is upon the Chaldeans, saith the Lord, and upon the inhabitants of Babylon, and upon her princes, and upon her wise men.” “A drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up; for it is the land of graven images, and they are mad upon their idols.” God calls Abraham out of this idolatrous country, to a great distance from it. And when he came there, he gave him no inheritance in it, no not so much as to set his foot on; but he remained a stranger and a
sojourner, that he and his family might be kept separate from all the world.
This was a new thing: God had never taken such a method before. His church had not in this manner been separated from the rest of the world till now; but were wont to dwell with them without any bar or fence to keep them separate; the mischievous consequence of which had been found once
Before the flood the effect of God's people living intermingled with the wicked world, without any remarkable wall of separation, was, that the sons of the church joined in marriage with others, and thereby almost all soon became infected, and the church was almost brought to nothing. The method that God then took to fence the church was, to drown the wicked world, and save the church in the ark. Before Abraham was called, the world was become corrupt again. But now God took another method; he did not destroy the wicked world, and save Abraham, and his wife, and Lot, but calls these persons to go and live separate from the rest of the world.
This was a new and great thing that God did toward the work of redemption. It was about the middle of the space of time between the fall of man and the coming of Christ; about two thousand years before the great Redeemer was to appear. But by this calling of Abraham, the ancestor of Christ, a foundation was laid for upholding the church in the world, till Christ should come. For the world having become idolatrous, there was a necessity in order to this, that the seed of the woman should be thus separated from it.
And then it was needful that there should be a particular nation separated from the rest of the world, to receive the types and prophecies that were to be given of Christ, to prepare the way for his coming; that to thein might be committed the oracles of God; that by them the history of God's great works of creation and providence might be preserved ; that Christ might be born of this nation; and that from hence the light of the gospel might shine forth to the rest of the world. These ends could not well be obtained, if God's people, through all these two thousand years, had lived intermixed with the heathen world. So that the calling of Abraham may be looked upon as a kind of new foundation laid for the visible church of God, in a more distinct and regular state. Abraham, being the person in whom this foundation is laid, is represented in scripture as though he were the father of all the church, the father of all them that believe; a root whence the visible church rose as a tree, distinct from all other plants. of this tree Christ was the branch of righteousness; and from it, after Christ came, the natural branches were broken off, and the Gentiles were grafted in. So that Abraham still remains
the father, the root of the church. It is the same tree which, from that small beginning in Abraham's time, has in these days of the gospel spread its branches over a great part of the earth, and will fill the whole in due time, and at the end of the world shall be transplanted from an earthly soil into the paradise of God.
II. There accompanied this a more particular and full revelation and confirmation of the covenant of grace
than ever before. There had been before this two particular and solemn editions or confirmations of this covenant; one, to our first parents, soon after the fall; the other to Noah and his family, soon after the food. And now there is a third, at and after the calling of Abraham. It was now revealed to Abraham, not only that Christ should come ; but that he should be his seed; and promised, that all the families of the earth should be blessed in him. And God repeated the promises of this to Abraham. The first promise was when he first called him, Gen. xii. 2. “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.” The same promise was renewed after he came into the land of Canaan, (chap. xiii. 14, &c.). Again after Abraham had returned from the slaughter of the kings, (chap. xv. 5, 6.) And a fourth time after his offering up Isaac, (chap. xxii
. 16—18.) In this renewal of the covenant of grace with Abraham, several particulars concerning it were revealed more fully than before ; not only that Christ was to be of Abraham's seed, but also, the calling of the Gentiles, that all nations should be brought into the church, all the families of the earth made blessed. And then the great condition of the covenant of grace, which is faith, was now more fully made known. Gen. xv. 5, 6. “ And he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.' Which is much noticed in the New Testament, as that for which Abraham was called the father of believers.
And as there was now a further revelation of the covenant of grace, so there was a further confirmation of it by seals and pledges ; particularly circumcision, which was a seal of the covenant of grace, as appears by the first institution of it, Gen. xvii. It there appears to be a seal of that covenant by which God promised to make Abraham a father of many nations, (ver. 5, 9, 10.) And we are expressly taught, that it was "a seal of the righteousness of faith,” Rom. iv. 11. Speaking of Abraham, the apostle says, “ he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of faith."
Abraham's family and posterity must be kept separate from the rest of the world, till Christ should come; and this sacrament was the principal wall of separation. Besides, God
gave Abraham a remarkable pledge of the fulfilment of the promise he had made him, in his victory over Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him. Chedorlaomer seems to have been a great emperor, who reigned over a great part of the world at that day; and though he had his seat at Elam, which was not much if any thing short of a thousand miles distant from the land of Canaan, yet he extended his empire so as to reign over many parts of the land of Canaan, as appears by chap. xiv. 4, 5, 6, 7. It is supposed by learned men, that he was a king of the Assyrian empire at that day, which had been before begun by Nimrod at Babel. And as it was the honour of kings in those days to build cities for the seat of their empire, (Gen. x. 10–12,) so it is conjectured, that he had gone forth and built him a city in Elam, and made that his seat; and that those other kings who came with him, were his deputies in the several cities and countries where they reigned. But yet, as mighty an empire as he had, and as great an army as he came with, Abraham, only with his trained servants, that were born in his house, conquered and subdued this mighty emperor, the kings that came with him, and all their army. This he received of God as a pledge of what he had promised, viz. the victory that Christ his seed should obtain over the nations of the earth, whereby he should possess the gates of his enemies. It is plainly spoken of as such in the Alst Isaiah. In that chapter is foretold the future glorious victory the church shall obtain over the nations of the world, (ver. 1, 10, 15.) This victory of Abraham over such a great cmperor and his mighty forces, is spoken of as a pledge and earnest of victory to the church, (ver. 2, 3.). Who raised up the righteous man from the east, called him to his foot, gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings? He gave them as the dust of his sword, and as driven stubble to his bow, He pursued them, and passed safely; even by the way that he had not gone with his feet.”
Another remarkable confirmation Abraham received of the covenant of grace, was when he returned from the slaughter of the kings; when Melchizedec the king of Salem, the priest of the most high God, that great type of Christ, met him, and blessed him, and brought forth bread and wine. The bread and wine signified the same blessings of the covenant of grace,
that the bread and wine does in the sacrament of the Lord's supper. As Abraham had a seal of the covenant in circumcision that was equivalent to baptism, so now he had a seal of it equivalent to the Lord's supper. And Melchizedec's coming to meet him with such a seal of the covenant of grace, on the occasion of this victory, evinces that it was a pledge of God's fulfilment of the same covenant. (Gen. siv, 19, 20)