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should be buried in a good old age. A smoking furnace and a burning lamp passed between the parts of the sacrifice, as a token of the ratification of the promise. "In that same day, the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt, unto the great river Euphrates.” Now, let it be observed, that this sign was given to Abram, for the express purpose of confirming his faith in the promise, that his posterity should inherit Canaan. Nothing is said here, of all the families of the earth being blessed in him; no token is instituted to be applied to his seed, in their generations : a circumstance that distinguishes the compact, into the design of which we are going to inquire. In one word, temporal blessings only seem to have been the subject matter of the transaction just alluded to; whereas the covenant of circumcision has a deeper, a more lasting, and important aim, as we hope to show in the sequel.
Nor are we satisfied with that view of the transaction, now under consideration, which represents it as a renewal or formal exhibition of the covenant of grace. We suppose, indeed, that the mediation of Christ is the basis of this and all other favourable dispensations of Providence to any of the human family: for a holy God can have no intercourse with sinners, except through a mediator, duly qualified to guard the rights of the divine government, while he saves the guilty. But the covenant of grace was formed in the counsels of eternity, between the Father of mercies and his beloved Son, as the surety and Saviour of his people. It was in operation long before Abram was born. Its benefits had been applied to many individuals, by the Holy Spirit, even before the deluge. Abram himself, we are expressly assured, had the righteousness of faith, before he received the circumcision which is in the flesh. “ He believed in the Lord, and it was counted to him for righteousness." He was, already, in a state of grace,-a renewed and a justified man. A compliance with the terms of this external compact, therefore, whatever evidence it might afford of his piety, could not place him on safer ground, in regard to the salvation of his soul, than he occupied before it was propounded to him. What, then, was the true intent of the covenant of circumcision? What relation did it constitute between the parties, that did not exist before? If it was not a domestic and temporary covenant, securing to the patriarch a numerous natural seed, and to that seed an inheritance in Canaan,-nor yet the covenant of grace, securing to the elect eternal life and blessedness, what was it? We answer, it was an exposition and solemn ratification of that remarkable promise given to Abram, when he was called out of 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 good
all who should join them, by making a like profession, into a church estate; i. e. it was an ecclesiastical covenant, by which Jehovah organized the visible church, as one, distinct, spiritual society; and, according to which, all his after dealings with her were to be regulated. Hitherto she had been scattered, and
, existed in detached parts. Now it pleased God to reduce her into a compact form, that she might be prepared for the things to come. Since Abram was designated as the man from whom the Messiah was to spring; since he had signally glorified the Lord's veracity, not staggering at his promise through unbelief, he selected this his servant, as the favoured man in whose family he would complete the organization of that church in which he designed to perpetuate the righteousness of t. ith. With this church, as with a whole, composed, in the first instance, of Abraham's family, and to be increased afterwards, by the addition of all such as should own his faith, was this covenant made.”* Such, in our apprehension, is its true purport. It is the sealed bond of union between the Almighty God, and that great and growing community, which we call the visible . church, and which is composed of all people, with their families, who profess the true religion, and worship the true God, according to the plan revealed in the Bible, the statute book of Jehovah's kingdom.
II. The provisions and promises of this covenant are ample, and of the most momentous import. The Lord proclaims himself to Abram, as the Almighty God; the shield and exceeding great reward of him and his seed; and, hereupon, requires them —First, “to walk before him, and be perfect:” that is, to act as seeing him, their all-sufficient but invisible protector; to confide in his power, to believe his word, to obey his precepts, to celebrate his worship, and keep his ordinances pure and entire. Secondly, that they keep his covenant in their generations : that is, that they consider its great end and design; holiness of heart and purity of manners; that they apply the seal at the time, and in the manner prescribed, to the proper subjects ; that they maintain the discipline of his house, and guard, with the utmost vigilance, against the neglect or profanation of any of the institutions of his grace. And, as the requirements are strict, so the promises are great and precious. First, there is obviously a promise of protection couched in the proclamation already noticed; “ I am the Almighty God!" United by cove
; nant to the Almighty, Abram and his seed have nothing to fear. “The Lord's portion is his people: Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.” “Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord !"
Secondly, there is a promise of large accessions to this com
* See Christian's Magazine, vol. i. p. 147, 148.
munity of the Lord's people: “I will multiply thee exceedingly; and I will make thee exceeding fruitful; and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.” And as a memorial and confirmation of this promise, the patriarch's name is changed from Abram to ABRAHAM, so as, instead of high father, to signify high father of many nations. This promise cannot relate to Abraham's natural seed, because the benefits of this covenant were expressly limited to his descendants in the line of Isaac; and from Isaac downward, in the line of Jacob; Esau having profanely bartered away his birth-right. So that, by this limitation, Abraham was, literally, the father of no more than one nation. To the Christian dispensation we must, unquestionably, look for the fulfilment of this promise. The apostle Paul has expounded and applied it: “ If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise.” It is, as the honoured father of all who believe in Christ, that Abraham is the high father of many nations.
But, thirdly, the most comprehensive and extended promise is in these words: “I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” This promise concerns all the covenant seed of Abraham; but that seed, we have seen, designates all who pro
n fess the true religion, and worship the true God. Hence, it is plain that the people of God, at this day, have a right to plead this promise for themselves and their children. Ali Christians are Abraham's seed: let them lay hold of this covenant-promise; let them dedicate their little ones to the God of Abraham, and commend them to his divine care and influence. Be it your constant aim, Christian parents, to bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; “The promise is to you and to your children." And if the Lord be your God, and establish his covenant with your households for ever, no essential evil can befall you; all things shall work together for your good; "the voice of rejoicing is in the tabernacle of the righteous.”
III. The seal of this covenant, in its original form, was the rite of circumcision. “ This is my covenant which ye shall keep between me and you, and thy seed after thee ; every manchild among you shall be circumcised.” It were idle for us to inquire why God chose this strange and painful observance, as the token or sign of his covenant. We may be sure it was not selected without good reasons. It was designed not merely to distinguish the family of Abraham from other nations, but to remind them of their native depravity, and of the necessity of self-denial, submission to God, and obedience to his commands, however irksome these things might be to their fleshly and cor
rupt nature. And, as an ordinance in the church, it certified to the seed of Abraham that the covenant with their progenitor was in force ; that they were under it, and might humbly hope to partake of the benefits which it secured. And the apostle Paul, in the fourth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, has taught us that it 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 circumcised ; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also.”
This seal was to be applied to male-children, without needless delay, after they became eight days old; but not before that age: from which circumstance, it appears that this rite was not considered essential to salvation, else it would not have been permitted to delay it; for many children must have died before they attained to the prescribed age. We learn, also, from this provision respecting the application of the covenant-seal, that it is not proper to postpone the dedication of our children to God, in baptism, beyond the first favourable opportunity, which Providence may afford us.
Circumcision was to be administered to servants, by those who enjoyed their services, and had charge of their religious education and improvement. “He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised.” Alas! how little this duty of taking care for the morals and religious principles of servants, is regarded by many masters and employers now-a-days!
Finally, this covenant was guarded by a sanction, or penalty; and it was an awful and solemn one. “ And the uncircumcised man-child, whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.” The guilt of this neglect, undoubtedly, rested on the parent or master, not on the child; and the consequence was, the excommunication of both, from the communion and privileges of the visible church. Let it be carefully observed here, that a neglect of this rite is declared to be a violation of the covenant. God does nothing in vain. He institutes no needless ordinances; issues no superfluous commands. Let no one expect to go unpunished, who contemns his wisdom, or slights his grace, by neglecting the means by which it is ordinarily communicated. It is dangerous to live in the neglect of divine institutions ; they are happily adapted to our circumstances and wants. Respect for the authority of God, gratitude for his goodness, and a suitable regard for our own peace and spiritual edification unite in urging us to walk before the Lord in all his statutes and ordinances blameless. “Ye are my friends," says Christ, “ if ye do whatsoever I command you:"_" He that hath my com
mandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father; and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." W. N.
I send you the following short address, which, if practicable, I should like to see in the July number of your Magazine. Although adapted for the binnacle, I hope it may not prove an unprofitable companion to the landsman in his parlour, and the Christian in his closet.
Philadelphia, June, 8th, 1822.
Repectfully, Dear Sir,
FOR THE PRESBYTERIAN MAGAZINE.
BRIEF DISCOURSES.-NO. IX.
Jesus Christ the Light of the World.
A SERMON FOR SEAMEN,
"I am the Light of the World."-JOHN viii. 12.
The advantages which we derive from natural light are inestimable. They are connected with every purpose of life. Without light, life would be scarcely desirable. "Light is sweet, and it is a pleasant thing to behold the sun."
To the traveller unsheltered, in an unknown land, and benighted on his journey, the dawn of morning is as an angel of peace; it makes him forget the terrors of night, and dissipates his fears.
To the sea-worn mariner, borne on the stormy ocean, in the darkness of night, the return of day is unutterably welcome. After a series of tempests and toils, having been driven by adverse winds, how animating is the meridian sun, by which the weary navigator is enabled to take an observation, and calculate the circumstances of his voyage: but when his vessel is driven amidst rocks and shoals, by boisterous gales, and encompassed by darkness, the appearance of the warning and directing light is most cheering. It shows him the bearing of the harbour, and affords him an object by which he can determine what course to steer to avoid the surrounding dangers, and enter the port where he may moor his barque in safety.
If in natural life and common avocations light is so important, how much more precious is it as respects intellectual and moral objects and operations.
"I am the light of the world!" saith the Lord Jesus Christ. 1. He is God the creator; "all things were made by him." He is "the Father of lights." He formed the sun, the great