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*have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, "that they are all under sin: As it is written, "there is none righteous, no not one." There was no other way for Abraham himself, to become intitled to the privileges and blessings of the covenant, than that in which every other saved sinner is, viz. that he receive them outright, as a free and sovereign bestowment from him that justifieth the ungodly.
This being the fact, some have made the inference, that therefore there is nothing for us to do. But the inference does not follow from the premises. Mephibosheth enjoyed the privileges of David's house, and sat at his table, by an act of the king's free bounty; but it did not follow, that there were no obligations upon him to David. The servants, as in the parable, possessed invaluable talents, by the spontaneous act of their Lord; but it did not follow, that they had nothing to do. It is true, there is nothing for us to do, in order to intitle us to the gift and grace of God in Christ Jesus. "Faith cometh "by hearing, and hearing by the word of God; "as Isaias boldly says, I was found of them that "sought me not; I was made manifest unto "them that asked not after me The grace of God is self-moved, rich, and free, and sovereign, or we should never have known it. But it does not therefore follow, that there are no duties involved in the nature of his unspeakable gift.
This false inference is repelled by the Apostle James, when he observes that Abraham our father was justified by works; and that faith, or the promise of God, wrought with his works to the accomplishment of its glorious end; and that, in this manner, by works was faith made perfect. James does not deny the doctrine testified by Paul, that Abraham became intitled to his immense treasures, as heir of the world, without
morks; but he denies the inference, that requisites indispensable did not exist in the nature of the things freely given to him in the promise. This will appear by a proper investigation of the works of Abraham.....The obligation of circumcision, and his trial in offering his son, will be attended to in particular sections; besides these, his going to and dwelling in the land of Canaan, together with the good government of his house, are expressly recorded as indispensable requisites to the fulfilment of the promises.......But that these things were inseparable from the blessings promised, nothing is more plain.
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. This land being promised to Abraham for a possession, the command given to him to go and possess it was inseparable from the promise. Pursuant to which, with this bank bill of Heaven in his hand, under his Guide, who had engaged to shew it to him, Abraham sat out in quest of the country. And coming into the land, though subjected to the inconveniencies and exposures of a pilgrim and stranger, he sojourned there, and died and was buried there,* thus holding possession of his title to an everlasting possession. Holding faith, and keeping the word of God, is considered in the New Testament as inseparable from our gospel hope; for it is in effect the same, as the holding of a promissary note is inseparable from
* Being buried on lands was considered, anciently, as evidence of title to the premises.
a title to the species therein named; if we part with the obligation, we loose the interest...... "Therefore," says the Apostle, "we ought to
give the more earnest heed to the things which "we HAVE HEARD, lest at any time we let them slip......Let us, therefore, fear, lest A PROMISE being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it."
The importance of keeping the evidence of the truth of God in his hand was well understood by Abraham, as appears both by his general conduct, and by the charge he gave to his servant, concerning his taking a wife from among his kindred for Isaac......" The servant said unto him, Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land; must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence "thou camest? And Abraham said unto him, "Beware thou, that thou bring not my son thi "ther again."
The same indispensable requisite existing in the nature of his title to the promised inheritance, was impressed upon Isaac; for when there was a famine in the land, and Isaac had removed unto Gerar, which was bordering on Egypt, The Lord appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt: dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee: for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father.
This land was made, as it were, a House of Sanctuary, and as such it was given to Abraham and his children; in allusion to which our Lord, in his lamentation over Jerusalem, said, Behold your house, meaning evidently both city and country, is left unto you desolate. It was a family house, a land of habitation.......But, for a house to be a sanctuary, it must be resorted to; and to be a
habitation, it must be dwelt in...... Of the free grace of God, this house, this sanctuary with all its provisions, was bestowed upon Abraham, &c. pursuant to which he resorted to it, and dwelt in it. Such were the works of Abraham......Yea, moreover, God has promised of his free and sovereign grace, that the righteousness of this house ......that the righteousness of the Lord of this house should be imputed unto its inhabitants, of every name and description, obeying the good orders of the house, and living in the peace and fellowship of the family; which obligations, as has been fully shewn, are, in their nature, inseparable from family privileges.
The privilege of a house of sanctuary, and the necessity of resorting to it, was shewn when the stroke of the destroying angel fell upon Egypt; for whilst, within the designated doors, persons of every description were equally safe, it was known, that to be without, the most virtuous Is raelite would have been equally exposed with the most offensive Egyptian.
The good government of Abraham's house is also expressly mentioned as being connected with the promise. And the Lord said, shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. The promise, as we have seen, was that of a family and household blessing; it respected the state of a distinct society, formed upon the most perfect principles to become a great and mighty nation.....But a family and household of disorder and violence is not a blessing to any man; and a society without government, justice
and judgment, can never be truly great and illustrious. It appears, therefore, most plainly, that these obligations and works of Abraham, in relation to his children and household, existed in the nature of the promise, and were inseparable from the blessing; and that they do not in the least affect the principle, that the privileges and blessings of the covenant were bestowed upon him in the most absolute and unconditional man
When the Lord said of Abraham, as in the passage above quoted, I know him, &c. it is not to be understood, surely, that he regarded any ground of confidence out of himself. Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight, Job xv. 15......But as Abraham stood in company with Christ, it was saying merely that he knew the firm; that he knew the responsibleness of the house of Abraham, &c. which was saying no more than that he knew himself. He is a rock, and his work is perfect........ And this chief corner stone does, indeed, give solidity to the whole house.
Were it necessary we might make similar remarks upon the peculiar nature of Abraham's acts of worship; his memorials, altars, sacrifices, &c. and shew, that so far from being conditions of his title to the blessings of the covenant, they resulted from it; and, in a wonderful degree, were participations, earnests and foretastes of the promised glory, that, as one with Christ, he should be a king, a prophet and a priest unto God.
Together with the works of Abraham, James illustrates his observation upon the nature of the promise, by the works of Rahab the harlot, which, therefore, under this head require consideration. The Son of Peace, without any act or knowledge of her's, and without any consideration of her merits, (for she may not have been the most vir