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debtor, was never immediately thrown upon his hands, is abundantly evident. The obligation, as it was laid upon him, was prosecuted no farther than was necessary, in order to bring into full view the truth of his consent unto the law that it is good; which consent was necessary to his having a standing in the bond, and therefore necessary to his glorious prospects, as being associated with its great Sponser.
If it be asked particularly, why was Abraham bound under the obligation of the law, when its demands were not to be exacted upon him? The answer is, for the same reason that in a copartnership, the whole company and concern are bound by the contracts which relate to it, so as that the avails shall become a common interest, though it be known that the credit of the whole lies in the responsibleness of an individual. And, on the same ground, the objection may be answered respecting the righteousness of laying obligations upon a man beyond his ability to perform. If Abraham were to be considered in an individual standing, the objection would have weight; but that this was not his standing in circumcision, we have the clearest evidence. And considered on the ground of a partnership, with one able every way to answer its engagements, no objection can be made to this view of the exceeding extensiveness of these bonds.
We have seen, that from our great principle, the divine will, there arises two ministrations, that of death and that of quickening the dead. And from the whole frame of the Divine Theory, it appears that the mediate state of the church, and therefore circumcision, which was the distinguishing token of this state, had a special connection with the ministration of death. This appears in the whole aspect of this state of the
church, particularly in the ordinance of circumcision, it was a bloody sign. Thus Abraham and his circumcised family, had the sentence of death in themselves; and were made painfully to feel, by a bond given in their own blood, that they were, in that mediate state, dead in law; yea, by their own voluntary act in circumcision, they gave their solemn consent to the ministration of condemnation. They were therefore shut up to the faith; and by the law, as by a schoolmaster, were brought to lay hold on the hope of Christ; who, as the Lord of Life, should lay down his life, and thereby extinguish the bond; and as the resurrection, should take it again, and thereby quicken the dead.
As it was not Abraham alone, but Abraham and partner, that constituted this firm, it was essential to the compact to cleave to the ordinances exhibiting Christ. The unbelieving Jews talked as they acted, when they said, we have Abraham to our father; as though Abraham stood as a principal alone in the covenant, and was engaged singly to do the law of God. Hopeless men! they invited the ministration of death, but rejected the spirit of life; and in this most solemn case of blood, were witnesses against themselves!
But Abraham and others profited much every way by circumcision. See Rom. iii. 2 and 9, 4. For as they stood in union with Christ, the law and its services united with the promises to confirm the truth of God; the high titles and prerogatives of Abraham; such as his being the heir of the world to come; the father of all them that believe, and that all the blessings of the blessed families of the earth, should be in him; all these, and more, by means of circumcision, it being a law transaction, had the confirmation of law; so that by this establishment of the church, as it took in the whole law ground, the righteousness
of faith........the righteousness of God, which Abraham possessed as a free gift before circumcision, is manifested, being witnessed by the LAW and the Prophets.
We are expressly told in what way Abraham and others profited so much by circumcision, viz. Keeping the commandments of God. 1 Cor. vii. 19. Again, faith which worketh by love. Gal. v. 6. These were the works of Abraham; and, as already shewn, were comprised in the nature of his privileges and blessings. Without holding faith, and observing the laws and regulations of the house of God, Abraham could not, in the nature of things, have maintained company. The fellowship must have been dissolved. Holding faith, and keeping the commandments, or word of God, being things so essential to the bond of union with Christ, it is manifest, that circumcision could have been of no avail to Abraham, more than uncircumcision; or than baptism is to us; in any other point of view, than that these indispensable requisites, in the nature of union and fellowship, were by him maintained.
If, however, circumcision had not been a transaction of the nature of the law, the righteousness of faith, or the promise of God, could not have been thus manifested and witnessed to Abraham. But though keeping hold of the law and ordinances of faith, was doing no more than what was necessary, in order to shew love and good will to the immense work engaged in the bond of circumcision; yet, as in this way, Abraham and others, kept up the copartnership established by the grace of God; of course it availed them as much, and they became thereby as lanfully intitled to justification, and the inheritance of eternal life, as if, personally and individually, they had done the whole redemption work. In this way, though ungodly in them
selves considered, they became lawfully intitled to the name just, and to the reward of the just man, life; for the just shall live by faith.
SECTION VII...... The Trial of Abraham.
A'S a covenant implies faith or fidelity, and faith implies trial; Abraham being taken into the redemption-covenant, he was necessarily, on this ground, put upon trial; but this was the ground of sacrifice. The place of the sanctuary, in the house of God, was the apartment for sacrifice. As a distinct apartment, it was prepared for that purpose; there, at the entrance thereof, was the altar; there was the fire and the wood for sacrifice; and there must be found the lamb for a burnt-offering.
Again, as the mark of the covenant was now upon Abraham himself, the sword of sacrifice must pass through his own soul; and, as in Isaac his seed was named, they must be joined together in the trial; and also, as the seed was the great sponser, Isaac was designated to be the lamb. Accordingly, Abraham was required to offer up his dearest life.
According to the great import of the covenant, in relation to the seed, the bond was given, as the case required, upon a credit, until the seed should come; not only be born, but come of lawful age. But Isaac being born, in whom the seed was called, and having come to mature age, the bond was open for prosecution. This circumstance respecting the expiration of the time
for the bond to be retained unanswered, appears to be in the view of John, the herbinger, and explains the manner of his address to the people, saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent-ye, and believe the gospel.
But the express command given to Abraham to offer his son for a burnt-offering, could not have come wholly unexpected to him; his mind had been prepared for it by the ordinance of circumcision. Some people, however, who have not understood circumcision better than they have baptism, have represented Abraham to be as ignorant as themselves; and as acting, in this matter, upon their own stupid hypothesis, that it is lawful and safe for men to engage in the most solemn and binding transactions, without knowing their "import and profit," or the nature of the obligations which they take upon them. But we may not suppose that Abraham engaged in the covenant of circumcision without understanding; and that, by this sacramental sign, he took condemnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. And it is plain, that his trial was no more than a requirement to fulfil his engagement. Isaac also, must be supposed to have had such instruction into the meaning of this sign, as would make a scene of suffering, of sacrificing, very familiar to him. When he remarked to his father, Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering? Could he have been without the apprehension of the solemn crisis drawing nigh! And when his father answered, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt-offering, my son, did he not remember who was the child of God's promise.
The trial of Abraham was a trial of the whole covenant ground; it tested the true understanding of him that received the promises, and the responsibleness of him that made them. Abraham