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gers of God, about to appear in the world ; and though it does not appear to me that they distinctly knew who he should be, or what should be the peculiarities of his office, and how he should perform it,* yet they expected him under the Welcome character of a Deliverer, and that in some way which divine wisdom would appoint he should bring salvation to penitent sinners. Thus Jesus congratulates his disciples upon their peculiar privilege, above the best men of the preceding times : Blessed are your eyes, for they see : and your ears, for they hear : for verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them : und to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. Matt. xiii. 16, 17. Their desiring to hear and see these things, which the gospel reveals, implies that they had some general imperfect knowledge of them ; for there can be no desire at all of a thing entirely unknown : but their knowledge was indistinct and obscure, and not satisfactory to their pious curiosity. Therefore, as St. Peter informs us, the prophets did not fully understand their own prophecies, but inquired and searched diligently concerne ing the salvation and grace now brought to us ; searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ, which was in them, did signify, when it testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow ; to whom it was revealed, that not they, but
we, should fully enjoy the advantage of their own prophecies, or that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things which are now reported unto you, by them that have preached the gospel unto you, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things, not only the prophets, but even the angels of heaven, those superior intelligences, desire to look into and study. 1 Pet. i. 10–12.
To the same purpose St. Paul speaks concerning Abraham, Noah, and the other pious patriarchs : These all died in faith, not having received the promises ; that is, the accomplishment of them, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them,
* It is evident, that the apostles before Christ's resurrection, though they enjoyed the light not only of the ancient types, promises, and prophecies, but also of many instructions from his own lips, yet were ignorant of his death and resurrection, the nature and extent of his kingdom, and many other important peculiarities of the gospel. And much more so, may we suppose, were the prophets and good men of ancient times. Several great divines have, I think, represented their faith as much more particular and distinct than it appears to have been.
and embraced them; that is, they saw by faith, though afar off, at the distance of thousands of years, the blessings contained in those early promises, particularly that great, all-comprehending blessing, the Messiah ; and were persuaded they would be fulfilled in due time, and embraced them with eager affection and confi. dence, as their highest hope and happiness.
This is the influence which even the faint discovery of a Saviour had upon good men many ages ago ; but St. Paul tells us, whose privilege it was to live in gospel-day, that God has provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. Heb xi. 13, 40 : for us he hath provided the clear revelation of the gospel ; and shall not this have a proportionable influe ence upon us? We should at least be as much affected with these things as Abraham, who was far inferior to us in external advantages ; and how Abraham was affected, we are told by Jesus him. self in the text : Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad.
The Jews, in the context, are pleading the cause of their own pride and self-confidence, against some just reflections which Christ had made upon them. When he insinuates that they were slaves to sin, and therefore stood in need of freedom from him, they resent it as a scandalous imputation, intolerable to a people so proud and tenacious of their liberty; and either not understanding in what sense he meant they were slaves, or imagining that they could not be the servants of sin, who were the natural descendants of Abraham, they think to defend themselves by pleading, We are Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man : how sayest thou, ye shall be made free ? I cannot see how they could have made good this assertion ; for they had been in bon-, dage to the Babylonians, the Syrians, and the Greeks, and were then in subjection to the Roman empire ; but what is there so false or absurd, but men will plead in their own defence, when once they have renounced the gospel ? Jesus, in his answer, tells them, that the dispute at present was not, who was their natural father? but, who was their father in a moral sense ? And he lays down this principle, upon which to settle their moral genealogy, namely, that they were his children, whom they resembled in temper and practice. Now they did not resemble Abraham, much less God, whom they also called their Father; and therefore they were not the children of Abraham, or of God, in such a sense as to be free from slavery to sin ; which was the sense
then under consideration : but they resembled the devil in doing bis lusts and particularly in their love of falsehood, and enmity to truth. and therefore, says he, Ye are of your father the devil. In the progress of the debate, the Jews were offended, because Christ insimulated that he was greater than Abraham and the prophets. And my text may be considered as referring both to this and the former argument. As referring to the last, it may be thus understood : “ Abraham himself was sensible how much I : am superior to him ; for he rejoiced at the distant sight of my
day, when a much greater Person than he should appear upon the : stage of the world, from wbom himself, as well as his posterity,
and all nations of the earth, should receive the most important blessings.” As referring to the former, the meaning may be : 6. You cannot be the genuine children of Abraham, in the sense now under consideration ; for you are not at all like him. You live in my day, and yet rejoice not in it; but he earnestly desired a sight of it, and rejoiced in the sight, though faint and afar off. His disposition and yours towards me, are entirely different, and therefore you cannot be his true spiritual children.” Thus, in both these views, the text contains a conclusive argument in vindication of Jesus Christ, and in confutation of his enemies.
2. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day. The day of Christ primarily signifies the time when he appeared in the flesh, and conversed with men. So the days of John the Baptist, the days of Noah, &c. signify the time when John the Baptist and Noab lived upon earth. - Matt. xi. 12, and chap. xxiv. 37. But we are to consider the Lord Jesus as coming into the world under a public character ; that is, as a Saviour of sinners, and as the improver of the Mosaic and patriarchal religion, by the introduction of the gospel dispensation ; and therefore the day of Christ, which Abraham desired to see, must signify the time when he should appear upon earth as a great prophet, to make a more perfect revelation of the will of God; the time when he should offer the great propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the world, of which the sacrifices of former dispensations were but types and shadows; the time when he should receive domin. ion, glory, and a kingdom from the ancient of days, which should not be confined to the Jews alone, but extend to all people, nations, and languages, Dan. vii 14, or, in other words, the time when the great radical promise to Abraham should be fulfilled, That in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. VOL. II,
Gen. xxii. 18. The time when the dispensation of the gospel should be set up in its full glory, the most perfect dispensation of religion on this side heaven; which is not to give way to another, like that of Moses, but to continue to the end of the world. This is the illustrious day here intended : and according to this explication, you see it includes not only the time of Christ's appearance upon earth, but also the whole space from that time to the end of the 'world, or the whole time of the gospel dispensation. This is a long and glorious day, and in this day it is our happy lot to live. Abraham would have thought himself happy to live in the same age with us : He would rather ħave lived in Hanover* than in Canaan with all his riches ; and would rather have been a member of our church, than the great patriarch of the Jewish church.
The time of Christ's appearance upon earth, and of the gospel dispensation introduced by him, may be called a day, not only in conformity to the usual language of scripture, in which the time of a person's life, the duration of a thing, or the time allotted for any business, is called a day, though it should contain many hundreds or thousands of natural days ; I say, it may be called a day, not only on this account, but also to intimate, that it is a season of light to the moral world, a season when the Sun of Righteousness shines upon this benighted earth, pierces the glooms of ignorance that covered it, and brings the deepest mysteries to light ; a season, when the perfections of the divine nature, the way of pardon and acceptance for obnoxious mankind, the wonders of the unseen world, and the things that belong to our peace, are displayed in full splendour. The night of heathen darkness, and the twilight of the Abrahamic and Mosaic dispensation, kindle into day, wherever the gospel shines. Abraham lived in the twilight or early dawn ; and therefore, says Christ, he desired to see my day. It is translated he rejoiced to see my day ; and it must be owned, this is the usual sense of the original word it but this cannot be its meaning here, for this would
* The name of a county in Virginia, where this sermon was preached.
tüyaan coulo-Since yauanõuzi, which is commonly used metaphorically, and signifies 10 exult or leap for joy, literally signifies to leap, why may it not be understood literally without a metaphor in this place As if he he had said; “ Abraham leaped up, he raised himself like one endeavouring to catch a glance of some distant object, that he might see the distant gleamings of Christ's day." But this new criticism I only hint, and submit it to examination.
The editor of these Discourses of Mr. Davies, thinks it not improper to subjoin a criticism upon this word from Mr. Anthony Blackwall." I make a needless tautology with the last part of the verse, he was glad. To rejoice and to be glad, is the same thing ; but it would hardly be sense to say, Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and rejoiced. Besides, to rejoice that he might see, seems absurd ; for his rejoicing could not be to the end that he might see, but because he did see. I therefore conclude the word here must signify a strong transport of desire, and should be rendered, - your father Abraham earnestly desired that he might see my day ; he wished to live in an age when Christ and the gospel should be fully revealed. From the dawn, he looked forward with eager desire to see the sun rising, and the heavenly day shining around him, revealing to his view those lovely prospects which were then wrapt in darkness. He longed to see that illustrious personage springing from his seed,” in whom all nations should be blessed, “and who was his Lord and Saviour, as well as his Son."
Nor was his desire in vain : for Jesus adds, he saw it ; that is, my day. His desire was granted, and he was favoured with the sight he longed for. But here it may be quericd,“ how, or in what sense, could Abraham be said to see Christ's day, since he died so long before bis appearance in the flesh? To this sundry answers bave been given, particularly, 1. That he saw Christ's day by faith in the promises given him, of the accomplishment of which he was confident ; and this confidence inspired him with joy, Faith, says the apostle, is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen, Heb. xi. 1, and such was Abraham's faith in the promise of a Messiah. He saw his day by faith, and was persuaded of his certain appearance, and embraced him, as though he had been then in the reach of bis arms. 2. Abraham might be said to see the day of Christ in that strange transaction, the offering up of his own son Isaac. This is the most striking typical representation, I think, which we
beg my reader's leave, says he, to propose one conjecture, by putting down ányan alalõuas, as a peculiarity in St. John, signifying to desire with vehemence. And this sense affixed to it, which is not strained or unnatural, will solve what seems to me to be a gross tautology in our translation. It is this, “he rejoiced to see my day, and saw it, and was glad ;” that is, he was glad to see my day, and saw it, and so was glad..--In this signification it runs easy and clean, he earnestly wished or desired to see my day, and saw it and rejoiced. The Persian, Syriac, and Arabic versions all give it this sense, and the particle iva in the original, seems to require it.---It is a very natural metonymy, whereby antecedents and consequents are put for each other.” Sacred Glassics, Vol. i. p. 35, 36.