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respect which it bears to something which is indeed righteous
The faith of Abram, though of a holy nature, yet contained nothing in itself fit for a justifying righteousness : all the adaptedness which it possessed to that end was the respect which it had to the Messiah, on whom it terminated.
4. Though faith is not our justifying righteousness, yet it is a necessary concomitant, and mean of justification ; and being the grace which above all others honours Christ, it is that which above all others God delights to honour. Hence it is that justification is ascribed to it, rather than to the righteousuess of Christ without it. Our Saviour might have said to Bartimeus, .Gò thy way, I have made thee whole.' This would have been truth, but not the whole of the truth which it was his design to convey. The necessity of faith in order to healing would not have appeared from this mode of speaking, nor bad any honour been done, or encouragement given to it: but by his saying, Go thy way, The FAITH hath made thee whole, each of these ideas is conveyed. Christ would omit mentioning his own honour, as knowing that faith, having an immediate respect to him, amply provided for it.
* President Edwards's Sermons on Justification. Disc. I. p. 9.
+ From the above remarks, we may be able to solve an apparent difficulty in the case of Cornelius. He feared God, and his alms and prayers came up for a memorial before God. He must therefore have been at that time in a state of salvation. Yet after this he was directed to send for Peter, who shoul1 tell him words by which he and all his house SHOULD BE SAVED. (Acts x. 2. 4. xi. 14.) What Abram was in respect of justification before he heard and believed what was promised him concerning the Messiah, Cornelius was in respect of salvation before he heard and believed the words by which he was to be saved. Both were the subjects of faith according to their light. Abram believed from the time that he Ur of the dess; and Cornelius could not have feared God without believing in him: but the object by which they were justified and saved, was not from the first so clearly revealed to them as it was afterwards.
RENEWAL OF PROMISES TO ABRAM.
Gen. xv. 7-21.
VER. 7. The Lord, having promised Abram a numerous offspring goes on to renew the promise of the land of Canaan for an inheritance; and this by a reference to what had been said to him when he first left the land of the Chaldees.
It is God's usual way, in giving a promise, to refer to former promises of the same thing, which would show him to be of one mind, and intimate that he had not forgotten him, but was carrying on his designs of mercy towards him.
Ver. 8. Abram, however, ventures to ask for a sign by which he may know that by his posterity he shall inherit the land. This request does not appear to have arisen from unbelief ; but having lately experienced the happy effects of a sign, he hopes thereby to be better armed against it.
Ver. 9. The purport of the answer seems to be, ' Bring me an offering, which I will accept at thy hand, and this shall be the sign.' It is in condescension to our weakness that, in addition to his promises, the Lord has given us sensible signs, as in the ordinance of baptism and the supper. If it were desirable to Abram to know that he should inherit the earthly Canaan, it must be much more so to us to know that we shall inherit the beavenly Canaan ; and God is willing that the heirs of promise should, on this subject, have strong consolation, and therefore has confirmed his word with an oath.
Ver. 10. Abram, obedient to the divine command, takes of the first and best of his animals for a sacrifice. Their being divided in Vol. V.
the midst was the usual form of sacrificing when a covenant was to be made. Each of the parties passed between the parts of the animals ; q. d. · Thus may I be cut asunder, if I break this covenant !' This was called, making a covenant by sacrifice.* This process therefore, it appears, was accompanied with a solemn cov. enant between the Lord and his servant Abram.
Ver. 11. Having made ready the sacrifices, he waited, perhaps, for the fire of God to consume them, which was the usual token of acceptance ; but meanwhile the birds of prey came down upon them, which he was obliged to drive away. Interruptions, we see, attend the father of the faithful in his most solemn approaches to God; and interruptions of a different kind attend believers in theirs. How often do intruding cares, like unclean birds, seize upon that time, and those affections, which are devoted to God! Happy is it for os, if by prayer and watchfulness, we can drive them away, so as to worship him without distraction.
Ver. 12—16. By the account taken together, it appears as if this was a day which Abram dedicated wholly to God. His first vision was before day-light, while the stars were yet to be seen : in the morning he prepares the sacrifices, and while he is waiting, the sun goes down, and no immediate answer is given him. At this time he falls into a deep sleep, and now we may expect that God will answer him as he had done before, by vision. But what kind of vision is it? Not like that which he had before; but lo,
; an horror of great darkness falls upon him. This might be designed in part to impress his mind with an awful reverence of God; for those who rejoice in him must rejoice with trembling : and partly to give him what he asked for, a sign : not merely that his seed should inherit the land, but of the way in which this promise should be accomplished ; namely, by their first going down and enduring great affliction in Egypt. The light must be preceded by darkness. Such appears to be the interpretation given of it in the words which follow: Know of a surety, that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them, and they
* Jer. xxxiv. 18, 19. Psa. 1. 5.
shall aflict them four hundred years.* Egypt is not named, for prophecy requires to be delivered with some degree of obscurity, or it might tend to defeat its own design : but the thing is certain, and God will in the end avenge their cause. It is remarkable how the prophecies gradually open and expand, beginning with what is general, and proceeding to particulars. Abram had never bad so mucb revealed to him before, as to times and circumstances. He is given to understand that these things shall not take place in his day; but that he should first go to his fathers, and that in peace, and be buried in a good old age; but that in the fourth generation after their going down, they should return. It is enough to die such a death as this, though we see not all the promises fulfilled. The reason given for their being so long ere they were accomplished, is, that the iniquity of the Anorites was not yet full. There is a fitness in all God's proceedings, and a wonderful fullness of design, answering many ends by one and the same event. The possession of Canaan was to Israel a promised good, but to the Canaanites a threatened evil. It is deferred towards both till each be prepared for it. As there is a time when God's promises to his people are ripe for accomplishment, so there is a time when his forbearance towards the wicked shall cease ; and they often prove to be the same. The fall of Babylon was the deliverance of Judah ; and the fall of another Babylon
; will be the signal for the kingdoms of this world becoming the kingdoms of our Lord and of bis Christ.
Ver. 17. After this, when the sun was set, and it was dark, Abram, perhaps still in vision, has the sign repeated in another form. He sees a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp. The design of these, as well as the other, seems to be to show him what should take place hereafter. The former was an emblem of the affliction which his posterity should endure in Egypt, that iron furnace ;t and the latter might denote the light
* These four hundred years are reckoned, by Ainsworth, to have commenced from the time of Isaac's being weaned, when the son of Hagar the Egyptian mocked. So that as soon as Abram's seed, according to the promise, was born, he began to be afflioted, and that by one of Egyptian extraction.
+ Deut. iv, 20.