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Secondly, together with this he had also another privilege, namely, that his faith, whereby he was personally interested in the covenant, should be the pattern of the faith of the church in all generations. On this account he became the father of all believers;' for “they that are of faith, the same are the children of ‘Abraham,' Gal. iii, 7, Rom. iv, 11; and also, ‘heir of “the world;' ver. 13, in that all who should believe throughout the world, being thereby implanted into the covenant made with him, should become his spiritual children.
$4. Answerable to this two-fold end of the separation of Abraham, there was a double seed allotted to him. A seed according to the flesh, separated to the bringing forth of the Messiah; and a seed according to the promise, such as by the righteousness of faith should be interested in the promise, all the elect of God. Not that these two seeds were always subjectively diverse; Rom. ix, 10, 11, for sometimes the same seed was the seed of Abraham, both according to the flesh and according to the promise; though sometimes those according to the flesh were not of the promise; and so on the contrary. Thus Isaac and Jacob were the seed of Abraham, both according to the flesh and the promise; and multitudes afterwards of the carnal seed of Abraham, separated to bring forth the Messiah, were not of the seed according to the promise, because they did not personally believe. And many afterwards, who were not of the carnal seed of Abraham, were yet designed to be made his spiritual seed, by faith, that in them he might become heir of the world, and all nations of the earth be blessed in him.
$5. And herein lay the great mistake of the Jews of old, wherein they are followed by their posterity unto this day. They thought no more was needful to interest them in the covenant of Abraham, but that they were his seed, according to the flesh. And they constantly pleaded the latter privilege, as the ground and reason of the former, not reflecting, that they can have no other privilege on that account, than Abraham himself had in the flesh; which was, that he should be set apart as the special channel through whose loins God would derive the promised seed into the world; when the very nature of the thing shews, the separation and privilege were to cease. For to what purpose should it be continued, when the end for which it was designed was fully effected? Seeing, therefore, that this carnal privilege was come to an end, with all its attendant ordinances, by the actual coming of the Messiah, to which they were subservient; if they did not by faith in the promised seed attain an interest in the privileges of the spiritual blessing, it is evident that they would on no account be considered as actual sharers in the covenant of God.
$6. We have seen, then, that Abraham was the father of all that believe, and heir of the world, on account of his faith, and not of his separation according to the flesh. And in the covenant made with him lies the foundation of the church in all ages: wheresoever this covenant is, there all the promises and privileges of the church are. Hence it was, that at the coming of the Messiah there was not one church taken away, and another set up in the room of it; but the church continued the same in those that were the children of Abraham according to faith. The Christian church is not another church, but the very same that was before the coming of Christ, having the same faith, and interested in the same covenant. It is true, that the former carnal privileges of Abraham and his posterity expiring, on the grounds before mentioned, the ordinances of worship which were suited thereto, did necessarily cease also; and this cast the Jews into great perplexities, and proved the last trial that God made of them. For, whereas both the carnal and spiritual privileges of Abraham's covenant, which had been carried on together in a mixed way for many generations, came now to be separated, and trial must be made, Mal. iii, who of the Jews had interest in both, and who in the one only, those who had only the carnal privilege contended for a share on that single account in the other also, that is, in all the promises annexed to the covenant. But the foundation of their plea was taken away; and the church to which the promises belong remained with them who were the heirs of Abraham's faith only.
$7. It remains, then, that the church, founded in the covenant, abode at the coming of Christ, and doth abide ever since, among those who are the children of Abraham by faith. The old church was not taken away, and a new one set up; but the same church was continued in those, only those, who by faith inherited the promises. Great external alterations were indeed then made; new ordinances of worship were appointed, suited to the new light and grace granted then to the church, while the old were abolished; and the Gentiles came in to the faith of Abraham, together with the Jews, to be fellow-heirs with them in his blessing. But none of these, nor all of them together, made any such alteration in the church, but that it was still ONE and the same. The olive tree was the same, though some branches were broken off, and others grafted in; the Jews fell off, and the Gentiles came in their room.
$8. And this determines the difference between the Jews and the Christians about the promises of the Old
Testament; they are all made to the church. No individual person can claim interest in them but by virtue of his membership therewith: this church is, and always was one and the same; with whomsoever it remains, the promises are theirs directly and properly; and among those promises this is one, that God will be a God unto them and their seed for ever..
THE JEWISH WRITINGS.
$1. The present Jewish notion about the written word and oral
tradition. 2. Their general distribution of the Old Testament. $3. Their smaller divisions. $4. The Massora. $5. Their pretended oral law. $6, 7, (I.) What they intend by it. 98, 9, (II.) The whole disproved. $10. Agreement of the Jews and Papists about traditions.
$1. The apostle dealing with the Hebrews about the revelation of the will of God made to their fathers, assigns it in general unto their speaking to them (EV TOIS Apontes) in the prophets, chap. i, 1. This speaking to them the present Jews affirm to consist of two parts:
1. That which Moses and the following prophets were commanded to write for the public use of the church; and,
2. What was delivered only by word of mouth unto Moses, and which, being continued by oral tradition until after the last destruction of the temple, was afterwards committed to writing. And because those who would read our Exposition, or the epistle itself, with profit, had need of some insight into the opinions of the Jews about these things, I shall, for the sake of them who want either skill, leisure, or means to search after them elsewhere, give a brief account of their faith concerning these two heads of revelation, and therein discover both the principle, nature, and means of their apostasy and infidelity.
$2. The scripture of the Old Testament they call (x9pp) mikra, the reading, and divide it into three parts; the law, the prophets, the writings by Divine inspiration, usually called the Hagiographa, or holy writings. Thus R. Bechai, in Cad Hackemach, “The law, i. e. the whole writing, is divided into three parts; the law, the prophets, and the holy writings.” And that all are generally comprised under the law,” thus they observe, in Midrash Tehillim, Psalm lxxviii, 1, “The “Psalms are the law, and the prophets are the law,” that is, the whole scripture.
This distribution, intimated by our Savior, Luke xxiv, 27, evidently arises from the nature and subject matter of the books themselves, and it was the received division whilst the Jewish church continued. But the post-talmudical doctors overlooking, or wilfully neglecting the true reason of this distribution, have fancied others, taken from the different manners and degrees of revelation by which they were given. Yea, in the eleven degrees of Divine revelation assigned by Maimonides, (Mor. Nebu. par. ii.) that by inspiration is cast into the lowest place. How groundless and fanciful is this distinction! For, though God was pleased to use various ways in representing things to the minds of the prophets, it was in them all the inspiration of the Holy Ghost alone that enabled them infallibly to declare the mind of God to the church, 2 Pet. i, 21.
They make the Revelation to Moses the most excellent; and next in degree they place the spirit of prophecy; and of the last sort they reckon the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.