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wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou and thy seed after thee, in their generations. This is my covenant which ye shall keep between me and you, and thy seed after thee. Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a token of the covenant between me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with thy money must needs be circumcised. And, my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 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." The 23, 24, 25, 26,
and 27 verses, only inform us of Abraham's compliance with the command of God. He circumcised himself, Ishmael, and all that were born in his house, or bought with his money.
I. The first thing which claims to be noticed, respect. ing the covenant transaction recorded here, is, that circumcision itself was not the covenant. It was but the token of it. It is indeed called the covenant. But the meaning of this language is fully explained by what is said in the eleventh verse of the chapter. "And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you." Paul gives the same explanation, Rom. iv. 12. "And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal, of the righteousness of the faith which he had, being yet uncircumcised." That which is a token, sign, or seal of a thing, cannot at the same time be the very thing of which it is a token. The language is metonymical. Christ says, in the institution of the supper, referring to the bread before him, "This is my body." All protestants understand the meaning to be, this is a symbol of my body. The literal construction involves the most glaring absurdity.
If circumcision be only a token, then it was really no part of the covenant. And if it was no part of the covenant, certainly it was not a condition of it. A condition is always an essential part of the covenant, to which it belongs. Exclude the condition, and the covenant is destroyed.
It may in this connexion be farther remarked, that the painful nature of the operation, which took place when a person was circumcised, though it was a yoke, which required some selfdenial patiently to bear, was no more inconsistent with the supposition, that the covenant, of which circumcision was a token, was exclusively of a gracious nature, than the innumerable dis.tresses which have always been a part of the experience of the children of faith, are inconsistent with their being interested in the blessings of grace. Selfdenial
is the narrow path by which all the people of God, under every dispensation, enter the gates of the heavenly city. To them it is given, not only to obtain salvation through, but to suffer, for the sake, of their adorable Redeemer. Faith must be tried. Self must be subdued. God must be enthroned. To all does the language of the Apostle Peter apply. 1 Peter i. 6. "Though now for a season (if need be) ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations, that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, may be found unto praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ."
II. The next thing which claims to be noticed respecting the covenant here mentioned, is, that the promises of it, allowing for some verbal variations, are the same with those, which had been before made, in the antecedent covenant transactions with Abraham. The first promise respects the multitude of Abraham's posterity. The 2 and 6 verses are, " And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and I will multiply thee.exceed. ingly. And thou shalt be a father of many nations.
* Acts xv. 10.
Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but Abraham, for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee." But the same thing had been repeatedly promised to Abraham before, as God's covenant with him. Thus in the first promise which was addressed to him, God said, Gen. xii. 2. " And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great." And in the xiii chapter, 16 yerse. "And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth; so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed be numbered." Again, chapter xv. 5th verse. "And he brought him forth abroad, and said, look toIward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them, and he said unto him, so shall thy seed be.” It is evident that these promises are the same. They have respect to one object, the multitude of Abraham's posterity. I do not mean that they respect this object exclusively. For Paul, in the fourth chapter of Romans, 16, and onward, extends this clause of the promise, And thou shalt be a father of many nations," to believing Gentiles; by which we are assured, that the salvation of these Gentiles was comprehended in this promise. "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end, the promise might be sure to all the seed, not to that only which is of the law; but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, (these are believing Gentiles) who is the Father of us all. (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations) before him, whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not, as though they were; who against hope believed in hope; that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which is written, so shall thy seed be." Here the promise is shewn to extend to a secondary object. This secondary object we shall shew directly was also embraced in promises previously made. In regard to the first object, the multitude
of a posterity, proceeding from Abraham's loins, it is undeniable, that the promises are the same.
Another promise of this covenant is, that God would give to Abraham, and his seed, the land of Canaan, verse 8. " And I will give unto thee, and thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession." This also had been a matter of covenant promise before. It was made when Abraham first came into the land of Canaan. Gen. xii. 7. "And the Lord appeared unto Abraham, and said, unto thy seed will I give this land." See also xiii chapter, 13, 14 and 17 verses. "And the Lord said unto Abraham, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up thine eyes now, and look from the place where thou art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward, for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed after thee. Arise and walk through the land, in the length, and in the breadth of it, for I will give it unto thee."
Another promise of this covenant is, that God would be a God unto Abraham. "And I will establish my covenant, between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee." But this also, which is the sum of all conceivable good, as respected Abraham, had been engaged repeatedly before. The first covenant transaction which took place with Abraham, was this promise, though not in precisely the same words. Gen. xii. 1. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee." This promise involved an assurance that God was, and ever would be, Abraham's God. Unquestionably, God is the God of the man whom he undertakes to bless. The call itself, the design of it, and the prompt obedience of Abraham, as a matter of faith, implied the same thing. Melchizedek's benediction testified that God was unalienably Abraham's God. God himself made a declaration equivalent with it, Gen. xv. 1. "Fear not Abraham, for I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward." This certainly a
mounted to an engagement, on the part of God, that he would be Abraham's God.
So far then it is plain, that the covenant recorded. here, is not at all distinguishable from the covenant transactions that went before it.
The remaining clause has some appearance of being a new engagement; but if carefully considered, it will be found, that even here the difference is verbal only. It is merely an explicit annunciation of what had before been implicitly engaged. The clause is this. "And I will establish my covenant with thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be their God." Surely the promises previously made, that the seed should increase to a vast multitude; that they should have the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession; that they should have a peculiar elevation in the world; and especially this promise, "and in thee `shall all families of the earth be blessed," which Paul, in his epistle to the Galatians, explains, as having special respect to Christ, as the seed, are equivalent with the promise contained in this clause. The words of Paul are, Galatians iii. 16. "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made." They were made to them jointly with Abraham, and they all terminated in a common good. They all implied therefore, that God would establish his covenant with them, and be their God. "He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one. And to thy seed which is Christ." Christ was respected in all the promises. Hence the declaration in the following verse. "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 none effect."
It has been just shewn, that the promise, " And I will make thee a father of many nations," extends to the saved Gentiles. Now Paul, who has given us this explanation, has certified also, that this promise was made in the first covenant transaction which took place between God and Abraham. For, to confirm the as