Imagens da página

they remembered that, they remembered that behind the law there was grace. And so it came to pass that when for very shame they could not plead the covenant made with themselves as a nation in the wilderness they still could plead the covenant made with their fathers at an earlier date. What bearing this has on unfulfilled prophecy may be discussed further on in our inquiry.

Meantime, if anything were yet wanting for arousing in the minds of CHRISTIANS an interest in the Abrahamic covenant, it would be supplied by the way in which that fundamental compact is spoken of in the New Testament. When the child Jesus was born, The godly Zachariah, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke of the event as a proof that God had “remembered the holy covenant, the oath that He sware to our father Abraham ” (Luke i. 72, 73). The Apostle Peter, preaching in Solomon's Porch, and wishing to conciliate his Hebrew brethren, exclaims : “Ye are sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed” (Acts iii. 25). Most true! their national life was derived primarily from the Abrahamic covenant, and so they were its sons. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Romans (chap. iv.), attributes it to the covenant with Abraham that the patriarch was constituted father of all believers, and that all believers, Gentiles and Jews alike, are heirs of the promise, heirs of the inheritance, heirs of the world with the renowned patriarch : writing to the Galatians (chap. iii.), he finds in the Abrahamic covenant a preintimation of the good news of the justification of the Gentiles by faith and of the further bestowment of the Spirit; affirms the Abrahamic covenant to be both older and mightier than the law; and distinctly teaches that the "one seed” of that covenant “ is Christ,” into whom by faith Gentiles are incorporated. The letter to the Hebrews (chap. vi.), if possible, goes further still, since it makes the covenant-oath of God sworn to Abraham to be one of two immutable things by which we have mighty consolation and a sure hope of an inheritance within the veil whither Jesus has already entered as our forerunner.

II. The Hebrew word for covenant is " berith.” The first interesting circumstance regarding this word is that in ordinary dealings between man and man it means the very same as our word “ covenant”-namely, a coming together, a mutual agreement, a compact, a league. Thus berith is used of the mutual agreement come to by Abraham and Abimelech (Gen. xxi. 22-32), by Laban and Jacob (Gen. xxxi. 44-54), by Jonathan and David (1 Sam. xviii. 3 ; xxiii. 18), by Abner and David (2 Sam. iii. 12, 13), by all Israel and David (2 Sam. iii. 21 ; v.

3), and by the Gibeonites and Israel under Joshua (Jos. ix. 6, 7, 11, 15, 16). In several of these examples, and notably five times in the last named, berith is rendered “league” in the " Authorised” English Version. We may add that in Mal. ii. 14, "the wife of thy youth” is termed "the wife of thy covenant.” In each of these cases the agreement was mutual. The proposal might come from one side only, and the parties might not in all respects be equal, and in some of these they were not, but in all alike both sides are at least consenting parties to the transaction. This element of mutual consent becomes supremely interesting when the word b'rith is applied to transactions between God and man. For we naturally

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

expect to find the same element still present, and yet are constrained to admire the Divine condescension which is evident when we find that element there. We reflect that it is proper to the Divine Being to command ; but does He then at the same time seek His creatures' consent ? We may indeed be tempted to shrink from so representing the Eternal Majesty, and may be ready to suppose rather that the word berith must, when applied to Him, lose something of its ordinary significance. Still, however true it may be that the higher usage throws a sacred halo around the word, we do well to recollect that the association of ideas springing from its familiar application must always cling to it more or less closely. God enters into a berith with Abraham-what is a borith? Well, whatever it is, Abraham entered into a bérith with AbimelechLaban into a berith with Jacob-Jonathan into a berith with David, and so forth freely all round. There is one instance in which berith is so used twice in the same connection, first of a transaction between God and men and then of a transaction between men and men, as that only an unjustifiable violence can hinder the effect on the reader's mind. And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal unto Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I swear unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break

Berith with


shall make no borith with the inhabi. tants of this land” (Judges ii. 1, 2). Is berith “covenant?” Then you must say: “I will not break my covenant with you,


shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land." Or do you prefer "league?” Then it must run thus: “I will not break my league with you, and ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land."

We thus find the word berith in its general usage to be so strongly charged with the notion of a real compact by free consent between two or more parties, that we should clearly not be justified in assuming the word to be divested of that significance, even when the berith itself is on one side Divine, save under stern necessity. Hence it follows that if in point of fact we discover the Most High earnestly wooing the consent of His servants, Abrabam, Isaac, and Jacob, to accept His terms of treaty-if we observe Him diligently cultivating their willinghood-if we perceive Ilim renewing His proposals to them from time to time and seeking to enamour them of His plans that they may freely and deliberately acquiesce in the great transaction (and certainly these are marked features in His recorded dealings with them),—then surely our warrant is ample to hold fast the true covenant conception of the word berith even when applied to the Divine arrangement now to be considered.

Yet we must not therefore become hard and narrow in our interpretation of the provisions of this covenant. It is a covenant-it bas its stipulations—we may speak of its bonds. But it does not follow that we can measure and weigh all its promises. For let us remember that even among men there are covenants and covenants; and that in merely human treaty-making it may happen that although the superficial acreage conveyed is perfectly definite, yet the precious deposits beneath the surface, also conveyed, may be practically illimitable. Most assuredly the Abrahamic covenant has in it something of an unknown quantity; for one of its most marked provisions is the bestowment by the Divine Covenanter of HIMSELF upon those whom His gracious treaty primarily embraces. Or do we, after all, know exactly how much is implied when the Creator becomes the covenant God of a man or the covenant God of a pation ? On the contrary, must not the most confirmed Sadducee feel that it would be rather presumptuous to inscribe on the portals of the Cave of Machpelah : “Here lie men who were once in covenant with God, but who are now dead and done with for ever ?And, in like manner, must not the most strenuous disbeliever in a future Hebrew nationality admit that nothing short of the most irrefragable evidence can warrant his inscribing on the metaphorical grave of the defunct people of Israel the bold words : “A nation once, great and strong; made so by Him who promised to be to them a God; but, for all that, now a nation no more for ever ?

To the evidence, brethren, to the evidence; for how can we limit the Almighty merely by a few generalities ? Say we of these and the other Israelitish promises : “Mere temporal mercies-mere national benefits ?” Much easier to say, than to determine how much God can be to a nation which He once takes in hand. If He scatter that nation, truly it is scattered ; but if He promise again to gather it, who shall say Him nay? Again, therefore, we urge-To the evidence, brethren : first and foremost to the Abrahamic covenant itself in the fair meaning of its stupendous assurances ; then to the Sinai covenant as temporally and subordinately executory of the Abrahamic ; and, finally, to the new national covenant foretold by the prophets and obviously framed to carry out the Abrahamic efficaciously and triumphantly to its cosmo politan ends; yea, and not the Israel-and-Judah covenant alone, but the covenants also with Samaria and with Sodom, and any other coveDant noted on the sacred page, together with all less formal promises, so that they are fitted to guide us rightly to decipher the designs intended of God to be embraced by the leading covenant of which we treat.

But we have to notice one or two further particulars concerning the word borith; and the next is the way in which it is fitted to carry with it the idea of sacrifice. The word itself is by scholars supposed to mean by derivation a cutting in pieces, “from the custom of going between the parts of the cut animals” (Fürst), “ since it was the custom in making solemn covenants to pass between the divided parts of victims" (Gesenius). Be that as it may, it is a fact that the verb commonly coupled with it to express the idea of " making” (karat) means " to cut up,"—the full phrase being, to cut up a borith, to cut up a league or covenant. Even if it be true, as some have thought, that the idea of eating is latent in berith, that by no means excludes the idea of sacrifice; since the covenanting parties may have been in the habit of feasting on the covenant sacrifice; and in some cases it is clear they did so. We shall have occasion to return to this subject of covenanting by sacrifice further on.

Another interesting fact about the word børith is its interchangeableness with the word oath. Where there is covenant there is also an oath. The covenant is cut up-the covenant is also sworn. An example or two of this will suffice for the present-of its significance by-andbye. Abimelech and his friends said unto Isaac: “Let there now be an oath betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee" (Gen. xxvi. 28). For the Lord thy God is a merciful

God; He will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which He sware unto them ” (Deut. iv. 31). Let the word Beersheba be our reminder of this association between covenant and oath. " Wherefore they called that place Beersheba [oath-well] ; because there they sware both of them. Thus they made a covenant [a berith] at Beersheba ” (Gen. xxi. 31, 32). Had the fact thus put into memento for us been observed, a singular error regarding the Abrahamic covenant might possibly have been avoided.

III. Intending in the following chapters to pursue a method rather historical and expository than dogmatic, the writer is not anxious to formulate all the propositions which he supposes the evidence will establish ; nevertheless it is possible that most readers would feel assisted by having set before them, here at the outset, the principal conclusions which have commended tbemselves to the writer's mind. Accordingly the following are submitted under earnest protest against the reader's taking any one of them for granted. They are designed to awaken interest, and not to forestall individual investigation. They are these :

First, that God made one covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and one only; and that any appearances to the contrary are due chiefly on the one hand to the comprehensiveness of the covenant itself, and on the other to the educational purposes which the repetition of it from time to time was intended to serve.

Second, that this covenant (which for convenience we call the Abrahamic) was primarily made with the patriarch Abraham, to whom the promises were most fully applicable, and whose deliberate consent was most distinctly secured; but, next to him, was then renewed and confirmed to Isaac and Jacob, who also freely responded to the Divine call to become "joint-heirs ” of the covenant promises with their father

“ Abraham; and that, thus made over to these three believing and obedient worthies, the Abrahamic covenant is fixed and inviolable as an embodiment of the unchangeable counsel of God.

Third, that the widest and furthest design of the Abrahamic covenant is to secure blessing to all the families of the earth.

Fourth, that for the conveyance of this blessing a peculiar Abrahamic seed is required, extending outwardly from one great and mighty nation to an assembly of nations, and inwardly to the Redeemer of the Human Race, who is the means of life, unity, and power for blessing to the whole of the Abrahamic seed.

Fifth, that the land of Canaan, granted as an æonial or everlasting inheritance to Abraham and his seed, is an essential part of the Abrahamic covenant.

Sixth, that circumcision is not a distinct covenant by itself, but is a sign of the whole covenant made with Abraham.

Seventh, that the Abrahamic covenant is to be clearly distinguished from the Sinaitic; the latter being made, not with all Abraham's seed, but with Israel only, and with Israel but for a time; so that the abrogation of the Sinaitic covenant defeats no provision in the older, wider, and more gracious covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Eighth, that the new national covenant promised by Jeremiah is called "new" not with respect to the Abrahamic, to which indeed it gives effect, but solely in contrast with the legal covenant of Sinai, which it supersedes.

It may further interest the reader to add that in the course of our investigation the following inquiries may be expected to arise :

1. How is it that in negotiating the Abrahamic covenant no mediator appears ? Is it because the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob is. the Angel of the Divine Presence, and so Himself the Angel and Mediator of this covenant ?

2. What is the meaning of the name Jehovau—or, as we shall presume to write it, YEHWEJ (giving our reasons in due course); and does that meaning suggest any explanation of the singular statement in Exodus vi., that El Shaddai was not known by this special name (YHWH) to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, while yet we find it frequently upon their lips ?

3. Does the Abrahamic covenant seem to require the recall to life of the three original covenantees ?

4. Will the land of promise appear on the new earth ?

5. How came it about that Abraham was promised a Land and yet looked for a Heavenly City ?

May the great favour be vouchsafed that the theme suggesting these inquiries may be profitably pursued !



1. A

RE our names in Thy Book, O Lord ?

Hast Thou graciously written them down,
To be read in the cloudless light,

When Thou gettest Thy throne and crown?
2. We think we will worship Thee best

When we meet 'Thee in glory there,
When there is no more room for doubt,

And no more need for prayer.

3. This is surely our weakness, Lord;

The songs of the smitten are sweet,
When they spring from the heart of faith,

And rise to Thy glorious seat.

4. The angels, in vision, are seen

Surrounding the throne of that day ;
But the ransomed from earth appear

As nearer the Sovereign than they.

5. The King is the wonderful man

Who wept at the grave of His friend;
The sorrows of those that are His,

In glory eternal shall end.


« AnteriorContinuar »