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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, and so prone to darkness, delusion, and idolatry, 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; and even God’s people themselves, even that line from which Christ was to come, were corrupted in a measure with idolatry: Josh. xxiv. 2. “Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the floodin old time, even Terrah the father of Abraham, and the father of Nahor; and they served other gods.” The other side of the flood 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 only 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 yet 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 God did not suffer the gates of hell to prevail against it.
From the Calling of Abraham to Moses.
I PROCEED now to show how the work of redemption was carried on through the third fieriod of the times of the Old Testament, beginning with the calling of Abraham, and extending to Moses. And here, I. 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 Christ should come ; as he did in calling Abraham out of his own country, and from his kindred, to go into a distant country, that God should show him, and bringing him first out of Ur of the Chaldees to Charran, and then to the land of Canaan. It was before observed, that the corruption of the world with idolatry was now become general ; mankind were almost wholly overrun with idolatry : God therefore saw it necessary, in order to uphold true religion in the world, that there should be a family separated from the rest of the world. It proved to be high time to take this course, lest the church of Christ should wholly be carried away with the apostacy. For the church of God itself, that had been upheld in the line of Abraham's ancestors, was already considerably corrupted. 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 saw it to be time to call Abraham, the person in whose family he intended to uphold the true religion, out of his own country, and from his 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, that Abraham was called to go out of, was the country about Babel ; Babel, or Babylon was the chief city of the land of Chaldea. Learned men suppose,
by what they gather from some of the most ancient accounts of things, that it was in this land that idolatry first began ; that Babel and Chaldea were the original and chief seat of the worship of idols, whence it spread into other nations. And therefore the land of the Chaldeans, or the country of Babylon, is in scripture called the land of graven images ; as you may see, Jer. I. 35, together with verse 38. “A sword is upon the Chakdeans, 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 consequences of which had been found once and again. The effect before the flood 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 took then to fence the church was, to drown the wicked world, and save the church in the ark. And now the world, before Abraham was called, 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, in an ark; but he calls these persons to go and live separate from the rest of the world. This was a new thing, and a great thing, that God did toward the work of redemption. This thing was done now about the middle of the space of time between the fall of man and the coming of Christ; and there were about two thousand years yet to come before Christ the great Redeemer was to come. But by this calling of Abraham, the ancestor of Christ, , a foundation was laid for the upholding the church of Christ in the world, till Christ should come. For the world having become idolatrous, there was a necessity that the seed of the woman should be thus separated from the idolatrous world in order to that. 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 needful to be given of Christ, to prepare the way for his coming; that to them might be committed the oracles of God ; and that by them the history of God's great works of creation and providence might be upheld : and that so 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 be well obtained, if God’s people through all these two thousand years, had lived intermixed with the Heathen world. So that this calling of Abraham may be looked upon as a kind of a newfoundation laid . for the visible church of God, in a more distinct and regular state, to be upheld and built up on this foundation from henceforward, till Christ should actually come, and then through him to be propagated to all nations. So that 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 ; as it were a root whence the visible church thenceforward through Christ, Abraham's root and offspring, rose as a tree, distinct from all other plants; of which tree Christ was the branch of righteousness; and from which tree, after Christ came, the natural branches were broken off, and the Gentiles were grafted into the same tree. So that Abraham still remains the father of the church, or root of the tree, through Christ his seed. It is the same tree that flourishes from that small beginning, that was in Abraham's time, and has in these days of the gospel spread its branches over a great part of the earth, and will fill the whole earth 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 had been before. There had before this been, as it were, two particular and solemn editions or confirmations of this covenant; one at the beginning of the first period, which was that whereby the covenant of grace was revealed to our first parents, soon after the fall; the other at the beginning of the second period, whereby God solemnly renewed the covenant of grace with Noah and his family soon after the flood; and now there is a third, at the beginning of the third period, at and after the calling of Abraham. And it now being much nearer the time of the coming of Christ than when the covenant of grace was first revealed, it being, as was said before, about half way between the fall and the coming of Christ, the revelation of the covenant now was much more full than any that had been before. The covenant was now more particularly revealed. It was now revealed, not only that Christ should be ; but it was revealed to Abraham, that he should be his seed; and it was now promised, that all the families of the earth should be blessed in him. And God was much in 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.” And again the same promise was renewed after he came into the land of Canaan, chap. xiii. 14, &c. And the covenant was again renewed after Abraham had returned from the slaughter of the kings, chap. xv. 5, 6. And again, after his offering up Isaac, chap. xxii. 16, 17, 18.
In this renewal of the covenant of grace with Abraham, several particulars concerning that covenant were revealed more fully than ever had been before ; not only that Christ was to be of Abraham's seed, but also, the calling of the Gentiles, and the bringing all nations into the church, that all the families of the earth were to be blessed, was now made known. 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.”
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