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how can even the command of God authorize a. deed so unnatural in me? No, he knew it his duty to do whatsoever God commanded, be knew God commanded him to do this, and he knew therefore that God had a right to command it, and consequently to be obeyed. He did not set up the dictates of his moral sense against the evidence of a revelation actually given, against the evidence of things not seen, neither was he prevailed with by nature to rebel against the author and God of nature. Howsoever astonishing the faith of Abraham, thus triumphing over the severest trials, may seem to some men, it was as far from a weak credulity, as his obedience, the effect of that faith, was from a slavish submission. Right reason was with him in all he believed, although ever so incredible to less rational men, for it was God whom he believed ; and right reason was therefore with him in all he did, although ever so contrary to the feelings of flesh and blood in him, as well as in men less religious, for it was God whom he obeyed.
Secondly, It is carefully to be remarked, that those affections, which in corrupt and libertine natures prove too hard for the clearest evidences of religion, gave no obstruction to the faith and obedience of Abraham. He was a good man, and as such, no doubt, loved his country and kindred no less tenderly than other good men. Yet he forsook them all, and followed the commandment of God into a strange land, where he had neither friends nor connexions. He was a prudent man, and had all that regard to his worldly affairs and interests, which a prudent and honest man ought to have; yet, without the least regret or hesitation, without any other reliance than on the blessing and protection of God, and even without a promise from God of any immediate establishment among the Canaanites, he quitted a comfortable settlement at Haran, where his father had prospered, and he was growing rich, to sojourn in a distant country, at a time when that country was afflicted with famine. Abraham was also a man, in whom humanity and natural affection were as strong, as in any other man. His son Isaac was beloved by him with all that tenderness which the best of fathers feels for the best of children. Yet when God commands him to execute his son with his own hands, he raises the deadly weapon, and with a full purpose of obedience,
aims at the heart of his innocent, his beloved child, the comfort of his life, the prop of his old age, the gift of God, and the foundation of all his hopes. On this most trying occasion, he felt no libertine dispute between his rebellious affections, and the awful commands of God; or only felt it in a glorious triumph of reason, of faith, and of duty over these soothing sophisters of the heart, which unbelievers find it so difficult to refute or silence.
Thirdly, It is to be remarked, that, in all this, Abraham was the first confessor on record to Christianity, or the covenant in Christ Jesus; for to * Abraham and his seed were the great and spiritual promises' of that covenant repeatedly made. This is clearly proved by St. Paul, who observes, that God in giving these promises to Abraham,' saith not, and to seeds, as of many, but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ;' and farther, that God confirmed the covenant in Christ by promise to Abraham, four hundred and thirty years before he gave the law by Moses.' Hence it is, that the same apostle saith, God preached the gospel, or covenant unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.' And hence also it was, that Christ himself tells the Jews,‘your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day'(that is, prophetically to see the time of my coming),‘and he saw it, and was glad.'
Lastly, It is worth observing, that the sacrifice of Isaac (for such intentionally it was) by the hands of his own father, was providentially designed by God to familiarize and predispose the posterity of Abraham, and through them the rest of mankind, to the future sacrifice of Christ, 'who was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God to be crucified and slain, an offering for sin.' From the sacrifice of Isaac to that of Christ, there was time enough afforded to debate and settle this important point, that God, as an absolute legislator, could dispense with a law of his own making, and order a father to slay his son, or give up his own to be slain. Yet even at this day, there are some pretended Christians who dispute the dispensing power of God in regard to the law of nature, and consequently the authority of this record given by Moses, concerning the sacrifice of Isaac, although in so doing they destroy that of the whole Scripture. These men, however, in opposition to
the scheme of providence, from first to last, do but strike at the sacrifice of Christ through that of Isaac, for they can by no means digest the doctrine of the Holy Spirit by St. Luke, that Christ was or could have been slain by the determinate counsel of God,' as he was wholly without sin, nor the doctrine of the same Spirit by St. Peter, that Christ hath suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, being put to death in the flesh, that he might bring us to God.'
Let us now proceed, in the second place, to inquire, why this faith of Abraham was imputed to him for righteousness, and in what sense the word righteousness is here to be understood.
by this word we understand nothing more than that goodness or virtue, which consists in a firm reliance on the promises, and a ready obedience to the will of God, a very short inquiry may suffice on this occasion; for Abraham believed and relied with all the cheerfulness and confidence that is due to the promises of infinite truth itself; and he obeyed with equal resignation. Now, in a confidence and obedience like his, there is undoubtedly the highest degree of virtue and goodness that human nature is capable of. His judgment was resigned, against all human appearances, to the promises, and his will submitted, against the bent of all his affections, to the commands of his Maker. This is virtue (and the piety, it is hoped, that gave rise to it, willnot be allowed to spoil it) if there is any such thing as virtue in the world.
This, however, is not all that was meant by Moses and the apostle, when they said, that the faith of Abraham was counted to him for righteousness. No, as he believed in Christ, his righteousness was even the imputed righteousness of God, which is by faith in Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all them that believe. All men have sinned, not excepting even Abraham himself, and have come short of the glory of God;' but Abraham, as well as the rest of mankind, is 'freely justified by grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood. Where is boasting then? boasting in our own righteousness? It is excluded. As to Abraham himself, even supposing him to have been justified by works, though he may have whereof to glory, he cannot
glory before God,' because his good works were done through the grace and assistance lent him by God; and therefore what saith the Scripture ? Abraham believed, and it was counted to him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth in him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man to whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom God will not impute sin.
Thus we see, that the righteousness of Abraham was his faith, that his faith was a firm reliance on the merits of his Redeemer, and that those merits obtained for him remission of sins, that is, acquittal, justification, and righteousness, in the sight of his judge: Had God removed Abraham out of the world, the instant this faith, and the good resolutions resulting from this faith, were confirmed in bim, before he had time to reduce those resolutions to practice, we should no more have doubted of his justification, than we now doubt it, after all he did. But though no good works which Abraham did, could give him a right to pardon for his ill ones; yet those works, or at least a will and resolution to do them, were necessary to his faith, otherwise it must have been, what St. James calls a dead faith, and consequently incapable of justifying. Was not Abraham,' saith the apostle, `justified by works, when he had offered his son Isaac upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled, which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness.' Herein is no contradiction to the doctrine of St. Paul, who insists on the power of a principle or cause, whereas St. James insists on the necessity of the effect, in order to prove the power of that cause ; and St. Paul does the same as peremptorily, whenever his subject brings it in his way.
St. Paul, to remove all dependence on that righteousness which is by the law,' and establish a firm reliance on 'the righteousness of Christ,' the sole righteousness whereby the punishment of sin actually committed may be averted,
and the reward of good works, though for want of opportunity, never performed, may be obtained; lays the chief stress on faith, as the great immediate principle in every true believer, by which the righteousness of Christ is brought home, applied, and imputed to his soul, as if it were his own, and by which also the free gift and grace of God are glorified in the salvation of every real Christian. But then this apostle in a thousand places, makes this faith the spring of repentance, reformation, and good works; if we believe in his doctrine, we must die to sin, and live anew unto righteousness. “This,' saith he to Titus, ‘is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God, be careful to maintain good works; for God hath not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness.'
St. James himself is not more full for the necessity of good works. He only insists that faith, as a principle of life and action must be proved by good works, as its true and natural effects, the very doctrine of St. Paul to Titus: he even forbids the hope of success to our prayers, if we
ask not in faith,' and repeats it, that the faith of Abraham was imputed to him for righteousness, but observes, 'that his faith was made perfect by works, and that faith without works is dead.' I ask, however, did he expect good works without faith? No more, undoubtedly, than he hoped for fruit without a tree.
Having now seen what the faith of Abraham was, why it was counted to him for righteousness, and what we are to understand by this righteousness; it is time to shew, in the last place, that the faith of Abraham is recommended to us, not only as a pattern and model for ours, but as that very faith which will be imputed to all who have it as righteousness, no less than it was to Abraham.
Had the example of Abraham's faith and resignation been never recommended to us, it must have been nevertheless highly deserving of our imitation. To know it, and to admire it, is but the same thing in a good mind : and to know and admire it, without endeavouring to follow it, is impossible to such a mind. To believe in God, to trust in him, and to give up ourselves and all things that concern us, to