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respects them now; an evident propriety will be seen in continuing to apply the scal of the covenant to both.”
Now it must be manifest, since Christ was, and Abraham was not the covenantee in the covenant of grace,
that the Abrahamic covenant was NOT the covenant of grace. We rather prefer the assertion of Mr. Williams in his Inquiry, that the covenant made with Abraham, was an ADMINISTRATION of the covenant of grace; and that Christ by commissioning hi: ministers ic baptize in his name, introduced a new administration, or dispensation of the sime covenant, which is everlasting.
The visible church in the world, we de fine to be that assembly of people, which has been visibly called out of the world, to constiute a society for the worship of God, according to his institutions. The word exxanoid, the church, drived from ex, out of, and xaneo to call, signifies an assembly, or collection of people called together out of the mass of mankind.
The invisible church, consisting of all the elect of God, began to be called out from mankind, and to be organized as the Messiah's mystical body, so soon as the first instance of regeneration occurred; but the visible church, designed to be instrumental in erecting the invisible, was not organized until the days of Abraham; for until his days, no portion of mankind was separated from the rest by any peculiar external ordinance, plan of association, mode of government, or covenant relation. Whatever ordinances of worship had been previously given, had been indiscriminately given to mankind, so that Cain no less than Abel offered sacrifices. It was not so with circumcision. We agree, therefore, with Dr. Mason, that God made a covenant with Abraham, when he was seventy-five years of age, by which he secured to him a numerous posterity, and their inheritance in the land of Canaan; (See Gen. xiii. 14, 15, 16, and xv. 7 to 18.) and that when Abraham was ninety-nine years old, Jehovah made another covenant with him, in which he promised to be a God to him and to his seed after him in their generations. Gen. xvii. I to 22. In making these two covenants Jehovah in condescension obligated himself to do, what he assured Abraham he Vol. I.
would do, in Ur of the Chaldees, when he said, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee; and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." Gen. xii. 1, 2, 3. This command and assurance given in Ur, were not the covenants, but rather a preface to them. The covenants, of which we have spoken, were made in conformity with this divine inti. mation; but not until Abraham had left Ur, and sojourned in the land of promise.
With Dr. Mason, we are persuaded, that the second covenant with Abraham, made fourteen years after the first, was neither a covenant of grace, nor a covenant of works, for eternal life; nor a domestic, nor a personal covenant, as was the first made with him. The second covenant, recorded in Gen. xvii. which is denominated the Abra. hamic Covenant, was designed to assure the accomplishment of the second great promise made to him while he was yet in Ur of the Chaldees; [in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed,] and the effect of it was to bring him and his family with all who should join them in a kindred profession, into a church estate. It was a covenant ecclesiastical, by which Jehovah organized the visible church, as one distinct spiritual society; and according to which all his after dealings were to be regulated. The grace of God had been dispensed in various ways, before the Abrahamic Covenant was made; but that covenant introduced a new, a peculiar, an ecclesiastical “ administration of the covenant of grace, by visible means,” which is to endure as long as the sun.
The sign of this ministration, dispensation, or administration, has been changed, but the dispensation of grace, through the existence and instrumentality of a visible society, called the church in the world, shall not cease while the world stands.
The inherent grace of God moved him to institute the church, by this ecclesiastical covenant with Abra.
ham; and the design of the Church instituted is to convey grace
from God, to the souls of men, instrumentally by the oracles of which the visible church is the depository, and by the ordinances observed by her; but me. ritoriously through the Divine Seed born of her; and efficaciously through the Holy Spirit, promised to dwell in her. Of this church-covenant with Abraham, circumcision was the scal, the token, the symbol, the distinctive mark. It was an institution of God designed to instruct, comfort, and edify men who are material in one component part of their being: it was addressed to the external senses. By it, God reminded every contemplative Israelite of the covenant made with Abraham; and consequently of the gracious designs, obligations and results of it. Being a seal of the covenant, it becomes also from the nature of the case, an external seal, or symbol, of the grace that originated the Abrahamic covenant, and of the grace that was to be communicated by it.
The covenant of grace laid the foundation for the Abrahamic church-covenant: and the latter was a manifestation of the former. In the latter Jehovah promised to be a God to Abraham, and to his seed. Now by the seed of Abraham, Mr. Dow has clearly proved, we are to understand," 1. His natural posterity, 2. Christ, and 3. Believers.” The proof he derives from the following passages. Rom. ix. 7. “Neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children.” Gal. ii. 16. "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of
one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” Gal. iii. 29. “If ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." We quote Mr. Dow's exhibition of the meaning of the expression concerning Abraham's seed, in Gen. xvii. not to prove, as he thinks he has done, that the Abrahamic covenant and its promises referred exclusively to Believers; but because we are convinced that the Abrahamic church-covenant included under the promise, of being a God to his seed, not only all professed believers of all nations with their children, and all of his circumcised offspring, except a few specifically rejected, but even Christ himself; for Jehovah certainly covenants to be a God, in an ecclesiastical relation, to all the three. In this relation he is God to Christ in his Mediatorial person and office; and hence it is said “the head of Christ is God," as Chris! is the head of the Church, and “Christ is God's." That Christ was included in the covenant made with Abraham is also evident, from the fact, that in him, born in the Church, as its Lord and Saviour, all the nations of the earth were to be blessed; and it is only in this Seed, that the whole of the promise is to be fulfilled.
It may be demanded, if circumcision was the seal of the Abrahainic church-covenant, why it is said by all these authors bui Dr. Mason, to be a seal of the co. venant of grace. The reason is obvious; in the covenant with Abraham, God promised a Saviour, through whom, all that believe with the faith of Abraham, are to be justified freely by God's grace, on account of the righteousness of Christ. The design of sending this Divine Seed of Abraham is explained by the gospel, which was preached to that patriarch, as it is to us; and when he received a seal of God's covenant to raise up the Christ from his loins, it was also sealed to him, that through the righteousness of his Seed, Chris!, all who in faith receive him shall be justified. Thus circumcision became directly or indirectly, the seal of two distinct covenants; indirectly of the covenant of grace between God and the Mediator; and directly of the covenant ecclesiastical, between God and Abraham, called in Acts viii. 8. the covenunt of cir. cumcision, by which the blessings of the covenant of redemption were to be dispensed. It is not unusual for a divinely appointed symbol to have a double signification. The language of the covenant and the testimony of the apostle Paul united, assure us, that circumcision was a seal of the covenant by which Abraham was constituted the futher of all them that believe, and of the righteousness of the faith, which Abraham had, and which the covenant with him was to introduce.
The declaration of Paul, Rom. iv. 11. that circumcision was a seal of the righteousness of the faith which Abraham had, being yet uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circum
cised; that righteousness might be imputed to them also; seems to have been generally misunderstood.
All the writers we have quoted on this subject, but Messrs. Williams and Chadwick, and Drs. Mason and Janeway; and all the Baptists, consider circumcision as a sign, seal, or token of Abraham's faith. Dr. Janeway well says, “ The sacred writer, I apprehend, does not intend to teach us, that circumcision was given to the patriarch as a seal of his faith, and as such to certify him directly that he was a true believer: for, you will observe, he does not say, he received it as the seal of his FAITH, but he received it as a seal of the RIGHTEOUSNESS of the faith which he had. Between these forms of expression there is a manifest difference. - It sealed the blessing to him, by sealing the covenant which contained it. This covenant exhibited, among other benefits, the righteousness of faith, or, in other words, justification by faith in the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ: it engaged that Abraham and all true believers should be made righteous, by this glorious righteousness of Christ, received by faith.” Letters, p. 143, 144. To the same purpose Mr. Chadwick remarks,
“The phrase, “the righteousness of the faith,' most evidently means the righteousness which God has provided for the justification of sinners, even the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus, which is apprehended by faith; and not the purity and sincerity of Abraham's faith. That he had a genuine faith, does not admit of a doubt. But that he should be required to attest the genuineness of it, in so solemn a manner, does not appear at all probable. Whereas there was an undoubted propriety in God's giving him a token that the righteousness of the promised Saviour was imputed to him for his justification, and that it should also be imputed to all of his character, whether Jews or Gentiles. This idea of the term under consideration is clearly confirmed by the last clause in the 11th verse; viz. “that righteousness might be imputed to them also. Circumcision was a seal of that righteousness which is imputed to believers. This view of the subject is further confirmed by the consideration that the phrase, the righteousness of faith,' is several times contrasted with the righteousness of the law,' where it can certainly mean nothing less than the righteousness of Christ which is imputed to them that believe. There is an instance of this kind in the 13th verse of this.