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Which is much taken notice of in the New Testament, as that whence Abraham was called the father of them that believe.
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, than ever had been before ; as, particularly, God did now institute a certain sacrament, to be a steady seal of this covenant in the visible church, till Christ should come, viz. circumcision. Circumcision was a seal of this covenant of grace, as appears by the first institution, as we have an account of it in the 17th chapter of Genesis. It there appears to be a seal of that covenant by which God promised to make Abra. ham a father of many nations, as appears by the 5th verse, compared with the 9th and 10th verses.
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.”
As I observed before, God called Abraham, that his family and posterity might be kept separate from the rest of the world, till Christ should come, which God saw to be necessary on the forementioned accounts. And this sacrament was the principal wall of separation ; it chiefly distinguished Abraham's seed from the world, and kept up a distinction and separation more than any other particular observance whatso
And besides this, there were other occasional seals, pledges, and confirmations, that Abraham had of this covenant ; as, particularly, 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, that 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 Assyri. an empire at that day, which had been before begun by Nimrod at Babel. And as it was the honor of kings in those days to build new cities to be made the seat of their empire, as appears by Gen. x. 10, 11, 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 ķings, 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 be now came with into the land where Abraham was, yet Abraham, only with his trained servants, that were born in his own house, conquered, subdued, and baffled this mighty emperor,and 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 nas tions of the earth, whereby he should possess the gates of his enemies. It is plainly spoken of as such in the 41st of Isaiah. In that chapter is foretold the future glorious victory the church shall obtain over the nations of the world; as you may see in the 1st, 10th, and 15th verses, &c. But here this victory of Abraham over such a great emperor and his mighty forces, is spoken of as a pledge and earnest of this victory of the church, as you may see in the 2d and 3d verses. « 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 to his sworel, and as driven stubble to his low. 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 gracę, was when he returned from the slaughter of the kings; when Melchisedec 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. So that 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 Melchisedec's coming to meet him with such a seal of the
covenant of grace, on the occasion of this victory of his over the kings of the north, confirms that that victory was a pledge of God's fulfilment of the same covenant; for that is the mercy that Melchisedec with his bread and wine takes notice of; as you may see by what he says in Gen. xiv. 19, 20.
Another confirmation that God gave Abraham of the covenant of grace, was the vision that he had in the deep sleep that fell upon him, of the smoking furnance, and burning lamp, that passed between the parts of the sacrifice, as in the latter part of the 15th chapter of Genesis. The sacrifice, as all sacrifices do, signified the sacrifice of Christ. The smoking furnace that passed through the midst of that sacrifice first, signified the sufferings of Christ. But the burning lamp that followed, which shone with a clear bright light, signifies the glory that followed Christ's sufferings, and was procured by them.
Another remarkable pledge that God gave Abraham of the fulfilment of the covenant of grace, was his giving of the child of whom Christ was to come, in his old age. This is spoken of as such in scripture ; Heb. xi. 11, 12. and also Rom. iv. 18. &c. Again, another remarkable pledge that God gave
Abraham of the fulfilment of the covenant of grace, was his delivering Isaac, after he was laid upon the wood of the sacrifice to be slain. This was a confirmation of Abraham's faith in the promise that God had made of Christ, that he should be of Isaac's posterity ; and was a representation of the resurrection of Christ ; as you may see, Heb. xi. 17, 18, 19. And because this was given as a confirmation of the covenant of grace, therefore God renewed that covenant with Abraham on this occasion, as you may see, Gen. xxiv. 15. &c.
Thus you see how much more fully the covenant of grace was revealed and confirmed in Abraham's time than ever it had been before ; by means of which, Abraham seems to have had a more clear understanding and sight of Christ the great Redeemer, and the future things that were to be accomplished by him, than any of the saints that had gone before. And therefore Christ takes notice of it, that Abraham rejoiced to see his day, and he saw it, and was glad, John viii. 56.
great an advance did it please God now to make in this building, which he had been carrying on from the beginning of the world.
III. The next thing that I would take notice of here, is God's preserving the patriarchs for so long a time in the midst of the wicked inhabitants of Canaan, and from all other enemies. The patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were those of whom Christ was to proceed ; and they were now separated from the world, that in them his church might be upheld. Therefore in preserving them, the great design of redemption was upheld and carried on. He preserved them and kept the inhabitants of the land where they sojourned from destroying them ; which was a remarkable dispensation of Providence. For the inhabitants of the land were at that day exceedingly wicked, though they grew more wicked afterwards. This appears by Gen. xv. 16.
“ In the fourth generation they shall come hither again ; for the iniquity of the Canaanites is not yet full :" As much as to say, Though it be very great, yet it is not full. And their great wickedness also appears by Abraham and Isaac's aversion to their children marrying any of the daughters of the land. Abraham, when he was old could not be content till he had made his servant swear that he would not take a wife for his son of the daughters of the land. And Isaac and Rebecca were content to send away Jacob to so great a distance as Padan Aram, to take him a wife thence. And when Esau married some of the daughters of the land, we are told, that they were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebecca.
Another argument of their great wickedness, was the instances we have in Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim, which were some of the cities of Canaan, though they were probably distinguishingly wicked.
And they being thus wicked, were likely to have the most bitter enmity against these holy men ; agreeably to what was declared at first, “ I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed.” Their holy lives were a continual condemnation of their wickedness. And besides, it could not be otherwise, but that they must be much
in reproving their wickedness, as we find Lot was in Sodom ; who, we are told, vexed his righteous soul with their unlaw. ful deeds, and was a preacher of righteousness to them.
And they were the more exposed to them, being strangers and sojourners in the land, and having no inheritance there as yet. Men are more apt to find fault with strangers, and to be irritated by any thing in them that offends them, as they were with Lot in Sodom. He very gently reproved their wicked. ness; and they say upon it, “ This fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a ruler and a judge ;" and threatened what they would do to him.
But God wonderfully preserved Abraham and Lot, and Isaac and Jacob, and their families, amongst them, though they were few in number, and they might quickly have destroyed them ; which is taken notice of as a wonderful in. stance of God's preserving mercy toward his church, Psal. cv. 12. &c. “ When they were but a few men in number ; yea, very few, and strangers in it. When they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people. He suffered no man to do them wrong; yea, he reproved kings for their sakes, saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.”
This preservation was, in some instances especially, very remarkable ; those instances that we have an account of, wherein the people of the land were greatly irritated and provoked; as they were by Simeon and Levi's treatment of the Shechemites, as you may see in Gen. xxxiv. 30. &c. God then strangely preserved Jacob and his family, restraining the provoked people by an unusual terror on their minds, as you may see in Gen. xxxv. 5.
« And the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.”
And God's preserving them, not only from the Canaanites, is here to be taken notice of, but his preserving them from all others that intended mischief to them : As his preserving Jacob and his company, when pursued by Laban, full of rage, and a disposition to overtake him as an enemy : God met him,