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body of believers, from Christ, to the end of the world, are placed in connexion with him, as his children.All who are of faith are asserted to be children of, and to be blessed with, faithful Abraham. Believing Jews, and believing Gentiles, have one common spiritual relation to him. Galatians iii. 28, 29. " There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female ; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” All inferior distinctions are ultimately lost in the unity of the family state. This family is the Church ; the Church, as a collective and associated body, under immediate divine superintendance, and protection. In order then to obtain right ideas of the constitution and duration of the Church of God in this view, we must begin with this illustrious patriarch. We must en. deavor to ascertain as accurately as we can, the relation to God in which he stood, and the peculiar nature of those covenant transactions which took place between God and him.
The first thing we hear of importance respecting Abraham is his calling, or his open separation, in obedience to the command of God, from his kindred, and the place of his accustomed habitation. Genesis, xii. 1, · Now the Lord had said unto Abraham, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee. 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 I will bless them that bless thee, and I will curse him that curseth thee, and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abraham depart. ed as the Lord had spoken unto him : And Lot went with him. And Abraham was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abraham took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all the substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran, and they went forth into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan they came.'
It is evident that Abraham was at this time, a subject of faith. His prompt obedience to the command of God, in the face of so many natural inducements to the contrary, is proof of it. Faith was the principle of this obedience. For the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in the 11th chapter and 8th verse of that Epistle, tells us, “ By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out, into a place, which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed, and he went out, not knowing whither he went." He was separated from his father's house, led to Canaan, his future earthly inheritance, a type and pledge of the heavenly, was blessed of God, and designated to be a blessing, as a subject of faith.
The promises attached to this call were comprehen. sive of all good. They implied an indissoluble and holy relation between God and Abraham ; and had evi. dently in view, the establishment of the Church in the persons of his descendants ; the advent of the Messiah, who, according to the flesh, was to proceed from his loins; and, by a series of antecedent and subsequent events, the accomplishment of that great salvation, of which the Messiah is the author, and the finisher. This is evident from the obvious import of these promises ; but will be made to appear more clearly in the sequel. This initial proceeding on the part of God, was altogether gracious, and ought to be understood as giving a character to all subsequent transactions with this patriarch, and the events which followed, in regard to the family of which he was now publicly and solemnly constituted head. The promises were certainly of a gracious nature. All .promises made by God to creatures who have become obnoxious to punishment by sinning against him, must be of this nature. The law and promise are contrasted. The law worketh wrath. Promise is the language of peace. It holds out a blessing. Hence the apostle Paul so carefully distinguishes between law and promise. Galatians iii. 18, “ For if the inheritance be of the law it is no more of promise ; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.” God declares here that he will curse all who curse Abraham.
He is here then, as expressly as possible,recognized as a subject of grace, and all the blessings secured to him are promised upon this ground. These promises are not conditional, but absolute. They are suspended upon no contingence. They are an irrepoteable grant, and must take effect.
Another promise made to Abraham is mentioned in the 7th verse of this chapter. “And the Lord appeared unto Abraham, and said, unto thy seed will I give this land." This promise also, is, for the reasons just mentioned, of a gracious nature, and proves that Abraham was now a subject of special grace. The promise of a numerous posterity, and
of the land of Canaan to be given them for a possession, is renewed to Abraham in the 14, 15, 16, and 17 verses ; and, as in the former case, proyes his covenant interest in the divine favor. This holy relation Abraham ratifies by building an altar unto the Lord in Hebron, verse 18.
Afterwards we find it openly acknowledged, and confirmed, by the benediction of Melchizedek, king of Salem, and priest of the Most High God, who went forth to meet him, as he was returning in triumph from the vale of Siddim. Genesis, xiv, 18, 19, Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine ; and he was the priest of the Most High God, and he blessed him and said, Blessed be Abraham of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth.” Melchizedek was an extraordinary character. In him, as in the Savior, were united, the offices of prophet, priest, and king. This benediction was prophetical ; and the offices of priest and 'king are expressly assigned to him. His priesthood was altogether distinguishable from the order of Aaron, and superior to it. For the tribe of Levi, which enjoyed the Aaronic priesthood, was in the loins of Abraham, when Melchizedek met him ; and as the less was blessed of the better. Hebrews vii. 6, 7. “But he whose descent is not counted from them, received tithes from Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all controversy, the less is blessed of the better."
He was not probably Christ himself ; but was a rc, markable type of him. For, Hebrews, vii. 3, “Being made like unto the Son of God, he abideth a priest continually.” As the contrast of the mortal state of the priests of the Aaronic order, it is “ witnessed of him that he liveth,” 8th verse. Five times, in this Epistle to the Hebrews, is Jesus mentioned as, “made a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
As such a remarkable type of Christ, Melchizedek was commissioned to bear the blessing to Abraham.-And as an outward testimonial of it, to which the appointed elements in the Lord's supper are probably conformed, he brought forth bread and wine. In this whole transaction we perceive a wonderful coincidence with the dispensation of the Gospel, Here is in fact a Gospel preacher, an extraordinary representative and forerunner of the adorable Jesus, bringing glad tidings of great joy to the Father of the faithful; which not on. ly respected him, but his immense family. This an. nunciation of Gospel blessings, at this time, when exhausted by the labors of travel and battle, must have been greatly exhilerating to Abraham. Now," he rejoiced to see Christ's day, and he saw it and was glad.” John yiii. 56.
In the conquest he gained over the enemies of God, and the spiritual consolations imparted to him under this benediction, he enjoyed those holy triumphs which fall to the experience of all believers.
In the 15th chapter of this book of Genesis, God again addresses Abraham in language of covenant fa
“ After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abraham in a vision, saying, Fear' not Abraham, for I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” What more gracious declaration was ever made,or can be made, to man than this ? Here Abraham is required to dismiss all his solicitude, both with respect to this world, and the next; for that God is his salvation.
The next thing of importance that we find respecting Abraham, is the promise of an heir from his own bow. els. This promise he believed, and it was counted to
ans, iv. 9.
him for righteousness. The promise of an heir, and the faith with which Abraham embraced it, were considerably anterior to the appointment of circumcision. This is found to be a fact on the face of the history ; and is expressly mentioned by the apostle Paul, Roma
“For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned ? When he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision ? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had, being yet uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also.” It is evident from this passage, as well as from all that has been before adduced, that Abraham was interested in the righteousness of faith, that righteousness which faith secures, long before circumcision was instituted. This righteousness of faith was a righteousness which Abraham found. For the assertion of the apostle just quoted from the 4th of Romans, is made in reply to the question put in the first verse of the chapter. “What shall we say then that Abraham, our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found ?" It is a righteousness entirely distinct from faith itself. It is a righteousness imputed to all who believe. It is a righteousness without works, verse 6th. It is the nonimputation of sin, and the blessedness which the full pardon of it involves, verse 8th. It is comprehensively the blessing with which God blessed Abraham, and which was the specific reward of his faith. It is the very blessing which has come on the Gentiles through faith. It cannot be otherways; because faith is ever a fruit of the same spirit; is of the same nature; respects the same object, the promise ; is ever con. trasted to the same things, law and works ; is ever the principle of life ; for the just shall live by his faith ;” and is ever crowled with the same victory; for “this is the victory, which overcometh the world, even our faith."
It may be worth while to remark here, that, as circumcision is expressly declared by the apostle to be a