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sertion, that, “ the scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham,” he quotes a clause in that first covenant transaction, Genesis xii. 3. “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."
The covenant of circumcision was not then now es. tablished as an entirely new thing. It was only a new, and more explicit edition, of a covenant already made. The promises are several, and repeated, but the covenant is one. Christ was “ the minister of the circum- . cision, for the truth of God, to confirm the promises, made unto the fathers." Yet he is the mediator of but one covenant. Hence the covenant transactions of God with Abraham, are so generally spoken of throughout the scriptures, in the singular form. Leviticus xxvi. 9. " For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you.” Deuteronomy iv. 31. “For the Lord thy God is a merciful God, he will not forsake thee, nor destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of the Fathers which he sware unto thee." Acts iii. 25.
" Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant, which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, “ And in thy seed shall all the kindred of the earth be blessed." The instances are very numerous. *
Does not this uniform manner of speaking, when God's covenant transactions with Abraharn are in view, which runs through all parts of the Bible, lead us naturally, and necessarily to the conclusion, that all these transactions are one covenant ? Are we not essarily led to conclude also, that, allowing for such in. cidental variations, as particular promises to individu. als, in their private capacity, involve, this covenant is none other than the one, eternal, gracious covenant of God, under a particular application, or fastening itself upon Abraham and his seed? That this is a fact, it is thought is made evident, by what has been already said on this one covenant ; and it will be abundantly con
* There are two or three exceptions. But when the plural form is used, it is evident, that the Horeb covenant is united with the Abrahamic.
firmed by the illustrations which will be produced. Noah and Abraham were certainly under the same general covenant, though particular promises are made to the one, which are not made to the other. Hebrews xi. 8. By faith Noah, being warned of God, of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house, by which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” Thus the same good essentially was secured to Noah by covenant, which is secured to Abraham by covenant. This was the case with Abel, and Epoch, and all the elders who obtained a good report through faith. It is the case with all the just ; for “the just shall live by faith.” Faith always terminates upon the promise of an eternal inheritance. Was Abra. ham the subject of any other covenant than that which secured to him the righteousness of faith ; and which circumcision sealed; when, in all the retrospective language of scripture, the singular form is used; when the seed especially respected was Christ, in whom allthepromises are yea and amen; and when, in the light of these promises, Abraham saw Christ's day, and was glad ?
The form of expression in the covenant, it is true, is in the future tense: “I will make, and I will establish.” This manner of expression, however, may be fairly understood as meaning no more, than a new confirmation of the covenant, with a farther explanation of its articles, and the institution of a seal. And the indisputable fact, that the covenant had been made a long time, and repeated, makes this interpretation unavoidable. * The date which the apostle gives to the covenant established by God with Abraham, as 430 years before the law, perfectly coincides with the idea, that all God's cove; nant transactions with him constituted one covenant.The date applies to the time when this covenant was first established with Abraham ; i. e. when he was called from his father's house, and the first promises were
*“ The scriptures which promise the making of a covenant, only intend the clearer manifestation and application of the covenant of grace to persons to whom it belongs."
Gills Reply to Clark, page 11.
made to him, Genesis xii. 1. It was proper that the covenant should be dated here. All transactions of this kind are dated at their first establishment. This will do nothing towards proving that the covenant recorded in the 17th chapter of Genesis, is numerically distinct from the covenant promises previously made.
III. A third remark respecting the covenant of cir. cumcision, entitled to notice, and to be noticed carefully, because it confirms what has been already said, is, that its promises are absolute.
An absolute promise is one, which is not suspended upon any contingence. It cannot be vacated by any circumstance whatever. Absolute promises may respect very different things. The execution of them may involve, as has been already suggested, activity on the part of him, whom the promises respect. In this case they are absolute, no less, than if all the agency were on the part of the promisor. For the term absolute characterizes, neither the agent nor the object ;. but the promise. The promises made to Abraham were all of this kind. They respected moral beings, and secured an active conformity to the spirit of the promises in them. To say therefore, “that if Abraham and his seed had not been obedient to the covenant, it would not have taken effect with respect to them ;" though it be true, is to say nothing incompatible with the idea, that its promises were absolute. A bare inspection of the promises of this covenant, one would think, sufficient to shew them to be absolute. + I will multiply thee exceedingly-my covenant is with thee -thou shalt be a father of many nations--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, and thy seed after thee 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, and I will be their God-I will bless thee, and thou shalt be a blessing-I will bless him that blesseth thee, and curse him that cur. seth thee ; and in thee shall all families of the earth be
blessed." These promises are of one kind, and they are certainly absolute ; for not a condition is mentioned. Nothing like reserve or contingence appears. Hence it was that God revealed himself to Moses, un. der this peculiar, lasting memorial, “ the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob;' i. e. as maintaining his unalterable engagements, to them. Hence also, when anticipating the then future perverseness of a large proportion of Abraham's natural descendants, and foretelling the judgments, which, in consequence, he would bring upon them, God, to preclude all suspicion of his faithfulness, says, Leviticus, xxvi. 24,
Yet for all that, when they be in the land of their en. emies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God. But I will, for their sakes, remember the covenaut of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt, in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God.” This passage teaches us, that no perverseness in Israel, could induce God to break his covenant. Then the promises of it were not suspended upon any contingence ; no, not upon the condition of obedience. There seems then, to be abundant evidence of the absolute nature of the promises of the Abrahamic covenant, from the unconditional manner in which they are expressed. But this idea is confirmed by all the representations of scripture, by the nature of the purpose which these promises unfold, by fact, and by the necessity of the
To collect and arrange this evidence, would be superfluous. But I cannot forbear to mention the man., ner in which the promises of the covenant are spoken of, in Hebrews vi. 13th, and onward, as God's swearing, and as his oath, and as declarative of his counsel ; therefore, exhibiting ground of sure confidence to Abraham. “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he swore by himself, saying, surely, blessing, I will bless thee; and multiplying, I will multiply thee; and so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise: For men verily swear by the greater, and an oath for confir
mation is to them the end of all strife. Wherein, (that is, in this very engagement entered into with Abraham.) God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath ; that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation who have fled for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before us, which hope we have, as an anchor to the soul, both sure and stedfast, entering to that within the vail.” It is to be noticed, that the immutabili. ty of God's counsel, is here said to be revealed in the promises made to Abraham ; and is extended to all the heirs of promise, or subjects of grace, who are considered as united with him in the reception of the blessing. This immutable counsel, this strong consolation, and this hope which is sure and stedfast, are a common inheri. tance among all who, as believers, are objects of promise ; whether they now exist or not ; those who live after Christ, as well as those who lived before him ; and are all connected with the oath, addressed to Abraham. The counsel was what the oath confirmed to him, and to all the heirs of promise. The counsel and the oath are two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie. He can neither alter his purpose, nor forfeit his veracity. As this counsel, and this oath respect all the heirs of promise, they furnish strong consolation to them, the moment they have evidence that they have fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before them. The hope they possess, being founded upon such a bottom, is indeed sure and stedfast. It is so sure and so stedfast, that nothing, not even their own perverseness, can unsettle it. Surely then, the covenant established with Abraham, is the Gospel covenant; God's one gracious and eternal covenant, under a particular application ; and its promises are absolute. It is evidently in this view that Christ's advent is spoken of, Luke i. 72, as taking place “ in remembrance of the covenant."
If he had not come, God would unfaithfully have forgotten his covenant.*
* Dr. Bellamy, though in favor of the conditionality of the covenant of ciréumcision, concedes, that "it was expresșed in the form of an absolute uncouditional promise."
See Reply to Mather, page 3o.