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planations annexed. . But the information to Abraham being solely for his own private consolation (as Dr. Scott expresses it above) there was no room for that formal explanation, which made the commanded actions to the Prophets so clear and intelligible.--Yet, as if I had never said this, Dr. Stebbing tells the world, I make this action of Abraham's parallel to those of the Prophets; whereas (says he) it differs from them all in a very material circumstance, as they had their screral erplanations annered, and this had not. But to shew hy example, as well as comparison, that obscurity is naturally attendant on the relation of converse by action, where the information is for the sake of the Actor only, I shall instance in a case where no obscurity was affected by the Historian. It is the relation of Jacob's wrestling with the Angel * The Patriarch, on his return from Haran to his native Country, hearing of his brother Esau's power, and dreading his resentment for the defrauded Birthright, addresses himself for protection in this dis. tress to the God of his Fathers, with all humility and confidence. God hears his prayer; and is pleased to inform him of the happy issue of the adventure, by a significative action: The following night, he has a struggle with an Angel, with whom he is suffered to make his part so good, that from thence he collected God had granted his petition. This is the circumstance in Jacob's history, which affords such mirth to our illiterate Libertines: For this information by action concerning only the Actor, who little needed to be told the meaning of a mode of Instruction, at that time in vulgar use, hath now an obscurity which the Scripture-relations of the same mode of information to the Prophets are free from, by teason of their being given for the use of the People, to whom they were explained.
But it may perhaps be asked, “Why, when the fulness of time was come, Scripture did not break its long silence, * Gen. xxii. ? 4, etc.
and instruct us in the principal and proper reason of the Command to offer Isaac?” I answer, that it has done so. The words of Jesus are a convincing proof. Nay, I might go farther, and say that this is not the only place where the true reason of the Command is plainly hinted at. The Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, speaking of this very Command, says
Command, says-By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac-accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead, from whence also he received him In A FIGURE*; EN IAPABOAHı, in a Parable: a mode of information either by words or actions, which consists in putting one thing for another. Now, in a Writer who regarded this commanded action as a representative information of the Redemption of mankind, nothing could be more fine or easy than this expression. For, though Abraham did not indeed receive Isaac restored to life after a real dissolution, yet the Son being in this action to represent CHRIST suffering death for the sins of the world, when the Father brought him safe from mount Moria' after three days, (during which the Son was in a state of condemnation to death) the Father plainly received him, under the character of Christ's Representative, as restored from the dead. For, as his being brought to the mount, there bound, and laid upon the Altar, figured the death and sufferings of CHRIST, so his being taken from thence alive, 'as properly figured Christ's Resurrection from the dead. With the highest propriety therefore and ele. gance of speech, might Abraham be said to receive Isaac from the dead in a parable, or in representationt. But the nature of the command not being understood, these words of the epistle have been hitherto interpreted, to signify only that Isaac was a type of Christ, in the same sense that the old Tabernacle, in this epistleţ, is called a type--HIAPABOAH, that is, a thing designed by the
Chap. xin ver. 17-19. + See note [L] at the end. 1 Chap. ix. ver. 9.
Holy Spirit to have both a present significancy and a future. Which amounts but just to this, That Abraham receiving Isaac safe from mount Moriah, in the manner related by Scripture, he thereby became a Type. Au ancient Interpretation, as appears from the reading of the vulgar Latin-Unde eum & IN PARABOLAN accepit, for in parabola, as it ought to have been translated conformably to the Greek.
I desire it may be observed, in corroboration of my sense of the Command, that the resemblance to Christ's sacrifice in all the circumstances of the story was so strong, that Interpreters could never overlook the resemblance, in their comments on the passage.
2. To the second part of the Objection, I answer thus; It is the office of History to assign the Causes of the facts related. In those facts therefore, which have several Causes, of which the principal cannot be conveniently told, the inferior come in properly to take its place. Thus, in the case before us; though it be made, I presume, very evident that the principal design of the Command was to reveal to Abraham, by action instead of words, the Redemption of mankind; yet as this was a favour of a very high nature, and conferred on Abraham at his earnest request, it was but fit he should approve himself worthy of it by some proportionable Trial; agreeably to what we find in Scripture to be God's way of dealing with his favoured Servants. On this account, therefore, God was pleased, by the very manner in which this Mystery was revealed, to tempt or try Abraham. Where the making the favour itself the trial of his deserving it, hath all that superior elegance and beauty which is to be conceived in the Dispensations of divine Wisdom only, Now, as the principal reason of the Command could not be conveniently told by the Historian, this inferior one of the Trial is assigned with great truth and proprietyAnd it came to pass after these things, God did tempt Abraham, and said, Take now thy son, fc. And it is to
be observed, that the very manner of recording this yeason shews it to be indeed what we suppose it; an inferior one.
For it is not said that God gave this Command in order to try Abraham, which expresses a principal reason; but that, in giving the Command, God did try him, which at most only implies an inferior
We have said, that a Trial, when approved, implied a following reward. Now as there may be more reasons than one for giving a Command, so there may be more rewards than one attendant on a Trial. Thus it, was in the case before us. And it is remarkable, that the sacred Historian has observed the same rule with regard to the reward of the Trial as to the reason of the Command. The principal and peculiar reward of Abrahani's Trial here was the revelation of the mystery of Redemption: this the Historian could not mention, for the reasons given above: but besides this, God rewarded him with a repetition of all the former Promises. This the Historiari could, and, in pursuance of the rules of History, does mention :-By myself hate I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast pot withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of Heaven, and as the sand which ás upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice *.
On the whole, This Objection to the interpretation, the only one I can think of, is so far from obscuring, and weakening, that it adds great light and strength unto it. For, admitting the sense here proposed, to be indeed the true, we see the Story must of necessity have been told in the very manner we find it to be recorded t.
Before I conclude this part of the Discourse, I shall but just take notice how strongly this interpretation of the
* Gen, xxii. ver. 16, & seq.
Command concludes against the Socinians, for the real sacrifice of Christ, and the proper Redemption of mankind. For if the Command was an information by action instead of words, the proof conveyed in it is decisive; there being here no room for their evasion of its being a figuratire expression, since the figurative action, the original of such expression, denotes either a real sacrifice, or nothing at all.
II. I come now to the other part of this Discourse, viz. to shew, that the interpretation here given intirely dissipates all those blustering objections which Infidelity hath raised up against the historic truth of the relation.
“God could not give such a Command to Abraham, because it would throw him into inextricable doubts concerning the Author of it, as Whether it proceeded from a good or an evil Being. Or if not so, but that he might be satisfied it came froin Gon, it would then mislead him in his notions of the divine Attributes, and of the fundamental principles of Morality. Because, though the revocation of the Command prevented the homicide, yet the species of the action commanded not being condemned when it was revoked, Abraham and his Family must needs have thought HUMAN SACRIFICES grateful to the Almighty: fora simple revoking was not condemning; but would be more naturally thouglit a peculiar indulgence for a ready obedience. Thus, the pagan fable of Diana's substituting a llind in the place of Iphigenia, did not make Idolaters believe that she therefore abhorred Human Sacrifices, they having before been persuaded of the contrary, from the Command of that Idol to offer up the daughter of Agamemnon.”- This is the substance, only set in a clearer light, of all their dull cloudy dissertations on the case of Abraham *.
1. Let us see then how this case stood : God had been pleased to reveal to him his eternal purpose of * See note [N] at the end of this Book.