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its promises in their literal meaning to Abraham's natural seed, is a striking proof of the divine original, both of the covenant itself, and of the gospel which it prefigured.
SECTION I. of the First Promise in the Covenant with Abraham. The first promise in the covenant was, that Abraham should be exceedingly blessed. Gen. xii. 2. I will bless thee, and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing. Gen. xxii. 16. By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thine only son, 17. That in blessing I will bless thee ; that is, I will greatly bless thee..
This promise, in its first and literal meaning, implied,
1. That God would bestow on Abraham great temporal prosperity, and protect him from evil during his sojournings as a stranger in Canaan, and in the neighboring countries into which he might have occasion to go. Hence in allusion to the literal meaning of this promise, God called himself Abraham's shield, Gen. xv. 1.-In fulfilment of this promise, according to its literal meaning, God blessed Abraham so exceedingly, that after living in Canaan a few years, the male slaves born in his house who were capable of going to war, were no fewer than 318, with whom he pursued Chedorlaomer and his confederates, and defeated them near Damascus.-Farther, in the account which Moses hath given of Abraham's sojournings in Canaan, and Egypt, and in the land of the Philistines, various dangers, from which God shielded him, are mentioned, which being well known, it is needless to speak of them particularly.
2. The blessing of Abraham, in its literal meaning, comprehended also God's counting Abraham's faith, concerning his puinerous natural seed, to him for righteousness. Now the meaning of God's counting an action for righteousness, may be understood from the application of the phrase to Phinehas, after he executed judgment on Zimri and Cozbi. Psalm cvi. 30.
Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment, and so the plague was slaid, and it was counted to him for righteousness to all generations ; that is, his executing judgment on these wicked persons, was rewarded by God as a righteous action, with a temporal reward which descended to his latest posterity. That this is the meaning of the phrase, appears from Numb. xxv. where speaking of the same action, God saith to Moses, ver. 11. Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, (while he was zealous for my sake among them) that I consumed not the children of 18rael in my jealousy. 12. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace. 13. And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood. Now, as in the case of Phinehas, his slaying Zimri and Cosbi is said to have been counted to him for righteousness, because God rewarded him and his posterity with the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; so in the case of Abraham, his believing in the Lord that his seed should be numerous as the stars of heaven, is said to have been counted to him for righteousness, because God rewarded him and his seed with the promise of the inheritance of Canaan, immediately after declaring that his faith was counted to him for righteousness. Gen. xv. 7. And he said to him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. Then, as in the case of Phinehas, God confirmed this grant to Abraham's seed, by a covenant, ver. 18. In that same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy secd have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates. · Such is the first or literal meaning of God's blessing Abraham exceedingly, and of his counting his faith to him for righteousness. But this promise in both its parts, had also a second and higher meaning, of which the literal meaning was itself the sign, and which must now be explained.
The promise to bestow on Abraham great temporal prosperity, and to protect him from evil during his sojourning in Canaan, was likewise a promise to bestow on him those spiritual blessings, and that protection from his spiritual enemies, which were necessary to his perseverance in faith and obedience, during his sojourning on earth. This we learn from the apostle Paul, who calls the assistances of the Spirit, the blessing of Abraham, and represents them as promised to him. Gal. iii. 13. Christ hath bought us off from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.-14. That the blessing of Abraham might come on the nations through Jesus Christ ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Next, the counting of Abraham's, faith to him for righteousness, Gen. xv. 6. by bestowing on him the inheritance of
Canaan, was in its second and highest meaning, a promise to bestow on him the blessing of justification by faith. This appears from Gal. iii. 8. The scripture foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the gospel before to Abrakam, saying, Surely in thee all the nations shall be blessed. For the blessing of justification by faith, the apostle hath termed, the blessing of Abraham, and tells us in ver. 13. as quoted above, that Christ died that the blessing of Abraham might come on the nations. Wherefore, if the counting of Abraham's faith to him for righteousness, was nothing but God's rewarding him with the promise of bestowing on him and on his seed the inheritance of the earthly country, which indeed was its first meaning, the blessing of Abraham neither hath come on the nations, nor can come on them, notwithstanding the apostle hath assured us, that Christ died to procure that blessing for them.
It is evident, therefore, that when God promised to bless Abraham by counting his faith to him for righteousness, he in effect promised to justify him by faith. Now this implied, 1. That he would pardon Abraham's sins. 2. That he would reward him as a righteous person. .
1. That the counting of Abraham's faith to him for righteous.” ness, was a promise to justify him by faith, that is, to pardon his sins on account of his faith, is evident from Rom. iv. 6. In like manner, David describeth the blessedness of the man to whom the Lord counteth righteousness without works. 7. Saying Blessed, like Abraham, are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will . not count sin.
2. That the counting of Abraham's faith to him for righteousness, was likewise a promise to reward him as a righteous person, by bestowing on him the inheritance of an heavenly country as a free gift, is plain, I think, from the history. For we are told, that immediately after God counted Abraham's faith to him for righteousness, he promised to give him the land of Canaan in inheritance : by which, not the inheritance of the earthly country only was meant, but the inheritance of an heavenly country also; as shall be proved in sect. 3. where that promise is explained. Besides, that under the emblem of the earthly country, an heavenly country was promised to him, Abraham himself knew : for the apostle assureth us, that he died in the firm persuasion of his being to receive a country of that sort, according to God's promise. Wherefore, the apostle
hath authorized us to believe, Abraham knew that the counting of his faith to him for righteousness, implied not only the pardon of his sins, but his being rewarded as a righteous person, with the inheritance of heaven.
But if Abraham knew the true import of God's counting his faith to him for righteousness, he would consider it either as a declaration from God, that his sins were then pardoned, and that he was immediately to be rewarded with the possession of the heavenly country: or as a promise that he would be pardoned and rewarded at the general judgment.-If he considered it as a declaration, that his sins were then pardoned, and that he was immediately to be put in possession of the heavenly country, he would expect to be freed from death, the punisment of sin, and to be soon translated in the body into some place fit to be the everlasting abode of righteous men, like his pious ancestor Enoch, with whose history he no doubt was acquainted. But if he considered the counting of his faith for righteousness, only as a promise that his sins were to be pardoned, and the possession of the heavenly country to be given him at the general judgment, he would expect to be raised from the dead, with a body suited to the nature of the heavenly country into which he was to be introduced, and to live in that heavenly habitation in the body for ever. One or other of these, Abraham had reason to expect; unless he thought God's counting his faith to him for righteousness, was nothing but a promise to give him the earthly country. However, as he did not find himself immediately translated from this earth in the body; and as but one righteous person had been so translated without dying, he would think it more probable, that in the counting of his faith to him for righteousness, the pardon of his sins and the possession of the heavenly country, were only promised to him as blessings which he was to receive at the judgment. Wherefore, not doubting that he would die like other righteous men, Abraham, in consequence of his faith being counted to him for righteousness, would expect to be raised from the dead, to enjoy that life in the body, which he knew he was to be deprived of by death, and to possess the heavenly country which was promised to him as the reward of his faith.
That Abraham should have been able to reason in the manner above described, concerning God's blessing him exceedingly, and concerning his counting his faith to him for righteousness, need not be thought strange, considering the great strength of his understanding, and the just ideas of the power, veracity, and other perfections of God, which he had attained. Besides, St. Paul assures us that he reasoned with a similar strength of understanding and faith, concerning his having a son by Sarah, notwithstanding the birth of that son was delayed, till Abraham was an hundred years old and Sarah ninety. Rom. iv. 19. · And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body now dead, being about an hundred years old, neither the deadness of Sarah's womó. 20. Therefore against the promise of God he did not dispute through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. 21. And was fully persuaded that what was promised, he was able certainly to perform.--Also Abraham reasoned in the like admirable manner, concerning the command to offer up his only son as a burnt offering, that long expected son to whom all the promises were limited. For recollecting that they were all to be fulfilled in Isaac, and having the most exalted ideas of the vera. city and power of God, he concluded, that although Isaac were burnt to ashes on the altar, God would raise him from the dead. Heb. xi. 17. By faith Abraham, when tried, offered up Isaac ; he sho had received the promises offered up even his only begotten : 18. Concerning whom it was said, Surely in Isaac a seed shall be unto thee. 19. doirausvos, Reasoning that God was able to raise him even from the dead; from which he received him even for a parable.
If Abraham could reason so justly concerning the birth of Isaac, and concerning the command to offer him up as a burnt offering, we may believe that he reasoned with an equal strength of understanding and faith, concerning God's blessing him, and counting his faith to him for righteousness; and indeed concerning all the other promises in the covenant.
SECTION II. of the second Promise in the Covenant with Abraham. This promise is recorded in the following passages. Gen. xü. 2. I will make of thee a great nation.-xiii. 16. I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth : 80 that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.-Gen. xv. 5. Look now toward heaven and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.--xvii. 4. Thou shall be a father of many nations. 5. Neither shall thy name any