Page images
PDF
EPUB

covenants of promise, were to be allured by the preaching of the gospel to the communion of the church of Israel.

XXI. We are also here to take notice of the longevity of the patriarchs in this period; by which means, the doctrine of grace could be very conveniently and safely propagated by them. For our father Noah, not to mention now the others, lived to see all the Antediluvians, excepting the first three : and his fon Shem who also had seen the first world, lived to the fiftyfirst year of Jacob. But as these testimonies, concerning the doctrine of the ancient church, were in that period, both more obscure and sparing, we have been the fuller in treating of them: we shall therefore study more conciseness in the others, where the lustre of divine grace was made known in greater plenty and perspicuity.

CH A P. III.

Of the Doctrine of Grace from Abraham to Mofes.

I. TTTE are now got to the days of ABRAHAM, to whom

VV as God revealed himself at sundry times and in divers manners, fo leaft. our present work thould exceed all proper bounds, we shall only briefly consider the principal heads: and, first treat of the appearances made to Abraham; and then of the covenant solemnly entered into and frequently renewed between God and him. For, both these contribute to set the doctrine of the church, during that period in a clearer light.

II. The scriptures testify, that God appeared eight times to Abraham I. At Ur of the Chaldees when he commanded him to leave his country and kindred, and go elsewhere. Gen. xii. 1. compared with Acts vii. 2. II. Near Sichem, at the oak of Mamre, Gen. xii. 69. III. In Bethel, Gen. xiii. 3, 4. IV. When he promised him a son and heir, Gen. xv. 1. V. When he gave him circumcision, Gen. xvii. 1. VI. When he entertained him as his guest, Gen. xviii. 1. VII. When he approved Sarah's proposal to cast out Hagar and Ismael, Gen. xxi. 12. 8thly, When he commanded him to offer up Isaac in sacrifice, Gen. xxii. 1. . .

III. There was, in these appearances such an evident manifestation of the divine majesty made to the conviction of conscience, that the godly could as easily distinguish them from the delusions of evil spirits, as a sober man can distinguish

fleeping

fleeping and waking. But the scripture does not always determine, in what form God appeared to Abraham. It is however clear, that sometimes it was in a human form, by way of prélude, it seems, and symbol of the future incarnation. Nor are they mistaken, who imagine, that generally it was the Son of God, who appeared to Abraham, as he did afterwards to the other patriarchs, and to Moses. To which may be referred John viii. 56. “ your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it and was glad." He saw that day in the promise of the feed, in illustrious appearances, in Isaac the type and pledge of the Messiah, who was to come, and in fine by faith, the property of which is to exhibit things future, as if they were present: in all these things he had a prospect of the incarnation of the Son of God.

IV. Among the other appearances, that mentioned, Gen. xviii. 1. is very eminent. Where it is said, that “ Jehovah appeared unto Abraham," and ver. 2. and immediately subjoined, that he saw three men : whence the pious ancients concluded, that the adorable Trinity appeared to Abraham in a visible form. Ambrose, in Proemio in lib. 2. de Spirtu Sancto, speaks thus : “ but Abraham was not ignorant of the Holy Spirit. He really saw three, and adored one; because one Lord, one God and one Spirit. And therefore, there was an unity of honour, because an unity of power.” Augustine lib. 2. de Trinit. c. 11. 12. also lib. 3. contra inaximinum, c. 26. is more full on this head. With whom agrees Pafchafius the Roman deacon, lib. 1. de foir. fancto, c. 5.: and others cited by Forbes. Instruct. hift. Thol. lib. 1. C. 14. See Chriftiani Schotani Bibliotheca, in hift. Abrahami, p. 155. Seq. MÚSCULUS. though. of a different opinion, yet in his commentaries writés : “ this paffage was usually quoted in the church, when the mystery of the sacred Trinity and unity was treated of.” MUNSTER, after reciting the words of Aben Ezra, who in vain attacks the doctrine of the Christians, adds: “ this is certain, that Abraham saw three, and addresled himself to one, O my Lord, if I have found favour in thine eyes; whatever the Jews may idly talk to the contrary. Had not Abraham acknowledged that mystery, he would have said MY LORDS, if I have found favour in your eyes, &c. The prophets represent a plurality of persons in God, &c.” Fagius infinuates that it is a common argument of our divines, when he says, “our authors, infer the mystery of the Trinity from the appearance of angels. Though MARTYR is of the fame opinion with Musculus, yet he thinks he should not conceal, that both the ancient Latin and Greek fathers, usually produced this paffage in proof of the Trinity ;

and

days fitting on Dan. vii. 9;S 37, and, as I thindreffes

TE) and adds, that the inculcating these things is not altogether un

pleasant to godly persons.

V. We indeed acknowledge, that the church has stronger arguments, whereby to establish this fundamental article of our faith; yet we imagine, the pious zeal of the fathers in this sub

ject, is on no account to be exploded. The text affords them co wherewith to defend themselves. And why shall we so far

E gratify our adversaries, as to go about to overturn no contemptien ble reasons for the truth? First, we are to observe, that after at Mofes had said, ver. 1. “ and Jehovah appeared to him," he

immediately adds, ver. 2. “ and he lift up his eyes, and looked, e and lo, three men stood by him.” Which words really seem

to contain the explication of the manner, in which God ap. peared to Abraham. Nor should it be thought unsuitable, that even the Father and the Holy Spirit appeared in human form; for Isaiah saw the whole Trinity, like a king sitting on a throne, This vision is, actually explained of the Son, John xii. 41. and also of the Holy Ghost, Acts xxviii. 25. and, I imagine, none fhould exclude the Father. Daniel also saw the ancient of

days sitting on a throne, and another, like the son of man, who 03 came to him, Dan. vii. 9, 13. Which interpreters commonly explain of the Father and Son, and, as I think, not improperly,

VI. Moreover, we find that Abraham addresses these three; as if they were one, saying, in the singular number : “ O my Lord, if I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away from thy servant. He was accustomed, perhaps, to see God in a like form, or was instructed in that matter by the Holy Spirit; and therefore in the Trinity he immediately observed an unity : for, what some object, that Abraham addressed himself to one of the three, because, by his more august appearance, he difcovered himself to be the Lord of the others, is saying a thing without proof and beside the text. Nay, the words of the Patriarch are so put together, that they not only express a civil and common respect, but a religious homage. For, he uses the appellation Adonai with kametz under the letter nun, which being thus pointed, (unless, perhaps, on account of the accent, patach may be changed into kametz), is among the epithets of the supreme being, as the orthodox agree. Nor is it any objection, that he entertained them as men. For, seeing they behaved themselves as such, he was unwilling to deny the duties of humanity, due to the person they sustained. But it was fomething above common civility, that while they were eating, he himself should stand by them as a servant under the tree,

yer. 8. 1. VII. It is added, that when three men appeared to Abraham,

onę

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

one of them is constantly called Jehovah, ver. 13, 17, 20, &c. ? and the others, angels, Gen. xix. 1, sent by Jehovah to destroy Sodom, ver. 13. Because the name, angel, cannot agree to the party Father, who is never sent; but may to the Son and Holy Spirit, who are sent by the Father. Augustine says well, lib. 2. de Trinit. c. 13: «'though I do not recollect, that the Holy Spirit is any where called an angel ; yet it may be gathered from his in office. For, of him it is said, he will annunciate or declare unto you, things to come: and certainly angel is interpreted is messenger; but we very evidently read concerning our Lordele Jesus Christ in the prophet, that he is called the angel of the covenant; though both the Holy Spirit and the Son of God is God and Lord of angels. Nor does Epiphanius differ in his sentiments, in Ancorato §. 70. “ for, as the Son is the angel of the covenant, so also the Holy Spirit.” But that those angels, which Lot faw, were not ministering spirits, may be gathered from the religious honour, which he paid them, Gen. xix. 18, 19. &c. And the answer, full of authority and divine majesty, they gave, ver. 21. What some pretend, that, in the mean time, a third person intervened, who had remained with Abraham, and to whom these words are to be applied, is what is not in the text: nor do I fee, how it can be proved.

VIII. It does not militate against this interpretation, that these angels are expressly distinguished from Jehovah, ver. 13. · They are, indeed, distinguished from Jehovah the Father, not

essentially, as we have shewn, but hypoftatically or personally. Nor is it below the dignity of an increated angel to say, x3 nwys 5314, “ I shall not be able to do any thing, till thou be come thither,” ver. 22.; because that was said, on the suppofition of a gracious decree and a promise already made to Lot. And this expression should be compared with John v. 19, 29. And lastly, Heb. xiii. 2. is but foolishly.objected, for the apostle there recommends hofpitality on this account ; namely that « some have entertained angels unawares ;" whereas if God himself had been entertained, that consideration should rather have been urged. But it is not for us to prescribe to the Holy Spirit, what arguments or expressions he is to make use of. If the apoftle had thought fit to say, that Jehovah himself was entertained, he might certainly have done it, seeing Moses expressly afferts it.' And now when he speaks of angels, he, in like manner, imitates Moses, who declares that angels turned into Lot. But seeing the term angel signifies diverse things, and may be applied both to an increated and to a created angel ; therefore from the bare appellation, angel, it cannot be proved, that the discourse only regards created angels. Moreover,

when

[ocr errors]

when he says, that some entertained angels unawares, he again has an eye to Lot, who, inviting them to come under his roof, imagined they were some honourable guests, till, from their talk, or by the inspiration of the Spirit, he understood who they really were. Nor is it any objection, that the apostle says in the plural number, that some entertained angels. For an enallage or change of number is frequent in such ways of speaking ; and it is probable, that what happened to Lot, happened also to many others. And now let it be sufficient, to have said these things, in favour of the explication of the ancients, and of other very excellent divines of the reformed church. Nor do I imagine, that equitable judges will blame me for having attempted to shew, that those pious and learned men neither spoke incon. siderately, nor, by their arguments, did any prejudice to the good caufe they undertook to maintain. But should any one think otherwise, it is not our province to contend with him, we Ihall use much stronger arguments than these with such a person,

IX. Let us now consider that covenant which God entered into with Abraham. Paul says, that its commencement was four hundred and thirty years before the giving of the law, Gal. iii. 17. As chronologers vary in their calculations, so it is a matter of dispute among them, from what period to begin these years; the difficulty of finding the truth being such, that Scaliger declared it to be unsurmountable. What seems to come nearest, Fridericus Spanhemius in Introduct. Chronologica ad Hift. V. T. has ingeniously, as is his manner, explained. Whole calculation is thus : from the 75th * year of Abraham in which he came out of Charan, Gen. xii. 4. to the birth of Isaac in the hundredth year of his father, are 25 years. From the birth of Isaac to that of Jacob, who was born in Isaac's both year, Gen. xxv. 26. and 15 years before the death of Abraham, Gen. xxv. 7, 8, are 60 years. From that period to the going down of Jacob into Egypt, in the 39th year of Joseph, or about nine years after his exaltation in Egypt, Gen. xli. 46, are 130 years, Gen. xlvii. 9. The years from Abraham's entering Canaan, to the going down of Jacob to Egypt, come to be 215. And then the years of the dwelling or bondage of the Israelites in Egypt, were as many, or 215 years; and are thus calculated. Jofeph died in the 110th year of his age,

Gen.

brath year, Gulfaac torkear of

* There is doubtless a typographical mistake in our author, who makes Abraham to leave Charan in his 78th year, and that in the 28th year after, Ifaac was born. Whereas the sacred text fays, he was but 75, to which we add 25, that will bring us.to.Abraham's 100th year, when Isaac was born.

VOL. II.

« PreviousContinue »