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account wears such an aspect. She, who, for any thing that appears, had never prayed before, now addresses herself to the angel who spake to her, and whom she considers as Jehovah ; calling him by an endearing name, the meaning of which is, Thou God seest me. She did not mean by this to acknowledge bis omniscience, so much as his mercy, in baving beheld and pitied her affliction. On his withdrawing, she seems to have looked after him, with faith and hope and affectionate desire; and, reflecting upon what had passed, is overcome with the goodness of God towards her, exclaiming, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me! It was great mercy for God to bave looked on her, and heard her afflictive moans ; but it was greater to draw her heart to look after him; and greater still that he should do it here, in the wilderness, when she had lived so many years where prayer was wont to be made, in vain. Under the influence of these impressions, she calls the well by which she sat down, Beer-lahai-roi, a name whicb would serve as a memorial of the mercy. Let this well, as if she had said, be called Jehovah's well, the well of him that liveth and seeth me! Thus God, in mercy, sets that right, which, through human folly, bad been thrown into disorder. Hagar returns and submits; bears Abram a son when he is fourscore and six years old; and Abram, on being informed of the prophecy which went before, called his name Ishmael.
GOD'S COVENANT WITH ABRAM AND HIS SEED.
THIRTEEN years elapse, of which nothing is recorded. Hagar is submissive to Sarai, and Ishmael is growing up; but as to Abram, things after all wear a doubtful aspect. It is true, God hath given him a son ; but no intimations of his being the son of promise. No divine congratulations attend his birth; bat, on the contrary, Jehovah, who had been used to manifest bimself with frequency and freedom, now seems to carry it reservedly to bis servant. It is something like the thing which he had believed in ; but not the thing itself. He has seen, as it were, a wind, a fire, and an earthquake; but the Lord is not in them.
Ver. 1. After this, when he was ninety-nine years old, the Lord again appeared to him, and reminded him of a truth which he needed to have re-impressed ; namely, his almighty power. It was for want of considering this, that he had had recourse to crooked devices in order to accomplish the promise. This truth is followed by an admonition_Walk before me, and be thou per. fect; which admonition implies a serious reproof. It was like saying, 'Have recourse no more to unbelieving expedients ; keep thou the path of uprightness, and leave me to fulfil my promise in the time and manner that seem good to me!' What a lesson is here afforded us, never to use unlawful means under the pretence of being more useful, or promoting the cause of God! Our concern is to walk before him, and be upright, leaving him to bring to pass his own designs in his own way.
Ver. 2, 3. Abram having been admonished, the promise is renewed to him ; and the time drawing Dear in which the seed should be born, the Lord declares his mind to make a solemn cov. enant with bim, and to multiply him exceedingly. Such language denotes great kindness and condescension, with large designs of mercy. Abram was so much affected with it as to fall on his face, and in that posture The Lord talked with him.
Ver. 4–6. It is observable, that the last time in which mention is made of a covenant with Abram, (Chap. xv. 18.) God made over to his posterity the land of Canaan for a possession : but the design of this is more extensive, dwelling more particularly on their being multiplied and blessed. The very idea of a covenant is expressive of peace and good-will; and in this, and some other instances, it is not confined to the party, but extends to others for his sake. Thus, as we have seen, God made a covenant of peace which included the preservation of the world; but it was with one man, even Noah, and the world was preserved for his sake. And the covenant in question is one that shall involve great blessings to the world in all future ages : yet it is not made with the world, but with Abram. God will give them blessings; but it shall be through him. Surely these things were designed to familiarize the great principle on which our salvation should rest. It was the purpose of God to save perishing sinners; yet bis covenant is not originally with them, but with Christ. With him it stands fast; and for his sake they are accepted and blessed. Even the blessedness of Abram himself, and all the rewards conferred on him, were for his sake. He was justified, as we have seen, not by his own righteousness, but by faith in the promised Messiah.
Moreover : A covenant being a solemn agreement, and indicating a design to walk together in amity, it was proper there should be an understanding, as we should say, between the parties. When Israel came to have a king, Samuel told them the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the Lord. Thus, as Abram is about to commence the father of a family, who were to be God's chosen people, it was fit at the outset that he should not only be encouraged by promises, but directed how he and his descendants should conduct themselves.
The first promise in this covenant is, that he shall be the father of many nations ; and as a token of it, his name in future is to be called ABRAHAM. He had the name of a high, or eminent father, from the beginning; but now it shall be more comprehensive, indicating a very large progeny. By the exposition given of this promise in the New Testament,* we are directed to understand it, not only of those who sprang from Abraham's body, though these were many nations ; but also of all that should be of the FAITH of Abraham. It went to make him the father of the church of God in all future ages; or, as the Apostle calls bim, the heir of the world. In this view he is the father of many, even of a multitude of nations. All that the Christian world enjoys, or ever will enjoy, it is indebted for it to Abraham and his seed. A high honour this, to be the father of the faithful, the stock from wbich the Messiah should spring, and on which the church of God should grow. It was this honour that Esau despised, when he sold his birth-right; and here lay the profaneness of that act, which involved a contempt of the most sacred of all objects--the Messiah, and his everlasting kingdom !
Ver. 7-14. The covenant with Abraham, as has been observed already, was not confined to his own person, but extended to his posterity after him in their generations. To ascertain the meaning of this promise, we can proceed on no ground more certain than fact. It is fact, that God in succeeding ages took the seed of Abraham to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all other nations ; not only giving them the land of Canaan for a possession, but himself to be their God, King, or temporal Governor. Nor was this all; it was among them that he set up his spiritual king. dom; giving them his lively oracles, sending to them his prophets, and establishing among them his holy worship ; which great advantages were, for many ages, in a manner confined to them: and what was still more, the great body of those who were eternally saved, previously to the coming of Christ, were saved from among them. These things taken together, were an immensely greater favour than if they had all been literally made kings and
* Rom. iv. 16, 17.