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1. We may observe, from this short view of Abraham's history, that all God's Revelations to him, even unto this last, open by degrees; and relate, primarily indeed, to his Posterity according to the flesh, but ultimately, to the whole race of Mankind : as appears from that MYSTICK Promise so early made to him as the foundation of all the following, that in Him should all the Families of the earth be blessed. These are the two great coincident Truths, to which all these Revelations tend. But the last, the famous Command in question, which one would naturally expect to find the confirmation and completion of the rest, hath, if the common Interpreters understand it right, no kind of relation to them, but is entirely foreign to every thing that preceded. Hence we conclude, and surely not unreasonably, that there is something more in the Command than these Interpreters, resting in the outside relation, have yet discovered to us.
2. But this is not all. The Command, as it hath been hitherto understood, is not only quite disjoined from the rest of Abraham's history, but likewise occupies a place in it, which, according to our ideas of things, it hath certainly usurped. The Command is
supposed to be given as a Trial only*, Now when the great Searcher of hearts is pleased to try any of his Servants, either for example sake, or for some other end favourable of his Dispensations to mankind; as in this, he condescends to the manner of men, who cannot judge of the merits of their inferior Agents without Trial, so we may be assured, he would accommodate himself to their manner likewise, in that which is the material circumştance of a Trial : But, amongst men, the Agent is always tried before he be set on work, or rewarded ; and not after: because the Trial is in order to know, or to make it known, whether he be fit for the work, or deserving of the Reward. When we come therefore to this place, and see a Command only to tempt or try
* See Note [D] at the end of this Book.
Abraham, Abraham, we naturally expect, on his answering to the Trial, to find him importantly employed or greatly rewarded. On the contrary we are told, that this Trial was made after all his Work was done, and all his Reward received-, And it came to pass after these things. Nay, what is still more strange, after he had been once tried already. For the promise to him, when he was yet childless, bis Wife barren, and both of them far advanced in years, that his seed should be as the stars of Heaven for multitude, was a Trial of his faith; and his believing, against all probability in a natural way, the sacred Historian tells us, was accounted to him for righteousness*. Such therefore being the method both of God and Men in this matter, we must needs conclude, that the Command was not, according to the common notion, a Trial only, because it comes after all God's Dispensations 1. Yet as the sacred text assures us it was a Trial; and as a Trial necessarily precedes the employment or reward of the person tried; we must needs conclude, that as no employment, so some benefit followed this trial. Now, on our interpretation, a benefit, as we shall see, did follow : We have reason therefore to conclude that this interpretation is the true.
3. Having seen the difficulties arising from the common interpretation of the Command, let us view it now on the other side; in the new light in which we have adventured to place it. And here we shall find that every circumstance of the Story concurs to support our interpretation. From the view given of Abraham's history, we see, as was said before, how all God's revelations to him, to this last, ultimately related to that mystic fundamental promise made to him, on his first
ration, that in him shculd all the families of the earth lessed. God oper scheme of his Dispensations xact and regula and the Revelations follow another gr
coinmanded to go into a Land which should be shewn to him--then that Land, to be possessed by his numerous, posterity, is exhibited before him-Its distinct boundaries are afterwards marked out--He is next assured, while yet childless, that his posterity, to which so inuch was promised, should not be from an adopted son, but from one out of his own loins-He is then told that his son should be born of Sarah-which is followed by a formal execution of the COVENANT confirmed by the seal of Circumcision-After all this, the birth of Isaac is predicted :—who being born at the appointed time, Ishmael is ordered to be sent away; to design with more certainty the succession of the son by Sarahı. Ilere we see throughout, a gradual opening, and fit preparative for some farther Revelation ; which, in pursuance of this regular scheme of progressive Dispensations, could be no other than that of the REDEMPTION OF MANKIND BY THE MESSIAH, the completion of the whole Economy of Grace, as it only is the explanation of his first and fundamental Promise, that in Abraham should all the families of the earth be blessed. But now, the sole remaining revelation of God's Will to Abraham, recorded by the sacred Historian, is the Command to offer up his son Isaac. This couANT, then, as there is no other that can pretend to be the revelation in question, and as we have shown it must be someu here or other recorded in Abrahain's story, is the very revelation we seek; which perfects all the foregoing, and makes the whole series complete and uniforn.. And the place in which we find it is its proper station; for, being the completion of the rest, it must needs be the last in order.
Such, in the intention of the Holy Spirit, doth St. CHRYSOSTOM, in his comment on the place, understand it to be την δε ΗΜΕΡΑΝ ενταύθα μοι δοκεί λέγειν την τε σαυρά, ήν εν τη τα κρια προσφορά και τα Ισαακ προδιετύπωσε. And in this he is joined or followed by ERASMUS, in his paraphrasc, Hoc ænigmate Jesus significavit, Abraham, quum pararet immolare filium Isaac, per Prophetiæ spiritum vidisse Dominum Jesum in mortem crucis a patre tradendum pro mundi salute.--But these excellent men, not reflecting on that ancient mode of information, where the Inquirer is answered by a significative action instead of speech, never conceived that this Command was an imparted information of that kind, but rather a typical representation unsought, and given in an enjoined Rite; of whose import Abraham had then no knowledge *.
4. Again, We find the Revelation of the redemption of mankind in that very place, where, if considered only in itself, and not relatively, as the completion of the rest, we should, according to all the rules of plain sense, be disposed to seek it. We must know then that this Revelation, as shall be proved from the words of JESUS, Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad, was ardently desired and sought after by the Patriarch. Now the happiness or REDEMPTION of mankind promised, on Abraham's first Vocation, to come through him, could not but make him more and more inquisitive into the manner of its being brought about, in proportion as he found himself to be more and more personally concerned as the Instrument of so great a blessing. But every new Revelation would shew him still farther interested in this honour : Therefore, by the time Ishmael was ordered to be sent away, and the promised Secd fixed in Isaac, we must needs suppose him very impatient to understand the Mystery of Redemption; and so, Gtly prepared to receive this last and supreme Revelation. This, in the like cases, we find to be the disposition and state of mind in the holy men of old. Thus Daniel, by the study of the Prophecies of Jeremiah, understanding the approaching restoration of the Jews, applies himself by fasting and prayer for God's further information; and the Angel Gabriel is sent unto him. So John, anxious and solicitous for the suffering See note [F] at the end of this Book,
Church, being in prayers on the Lord's day, was favouredi with all his glorious Revelations.
5. Again, The new light in which this Command is placed, dispels all that perplexity in the common interpretation (taken notice of above) avising from our ideas of a trial; where that which should in use and reason go before some extraordinary favour, is made to come after all. But now, according to our sense of the Command, the trial, as is meet, precedes the last and greatest favour ever bestowed by God on Abrahain.
6. To confirm all this, we may consider that this interpretation of the Command is most easy and natural, as being intirely agreeable to the ancient way of communicating information. We have shewn* it to have been the general custom of Antiquity, in personal conferences, to instruct by actions instead of words; a custom begun out of necessity, but continued out of choice, fop. the superior advantages it hath in making an impression. For motion, naturally significative, which enters at the eye, hath a much stronger effect than articulate sound, enly arbitrarily signiticative, which enters at the ear: We have shewn likewise, by numerous examples, that God himself vouchsafed, in compliance to a general €ustom, to use this way of information; when he instructed the holy Patriarchs and Prophets in his Will.
7. Again, As the high importance of this Revelation seemed to require its being given in the strong and forcible way of actiont, so nothing can be conceivedmore apposite to convey the information required, thana this very action. Abraham desired carnestly to be let: into the mystery of the REDEMPTION; and God, to instruct him in the best manner humanity is capable of receiving instruction) in the infinite extent of divine goodness to mankind, who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all I, let Abraham feel, by ex
* See Book IV. $ 4. + See rote [G] at the end of this Book.. 1 Rom. viii. 32.