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habuisse illum alterum allegoricum sensum, sed Paulus explicans locum, sequitur suorum popularium morem.” Koppe explains the first word of v. 24. by “this whole history may be explained in a much more exalted sense;" and immediately after denies that narrations merely historical, can in any one instance, in either sacred or profane writing, be certainly proved to have also a secondary meaning.
A third view is that of Borger. He says that the Apostle quoted the passage in Genesis, not for argument, but for illustration, and that he explains those characters and events, not as prefiguring the two covenants and those who were attached to them, but adduces them as exhibiting a remarkable similarity in several particulars to these, and therefore well calculated to set them before the Galatians in a clear and striking light.
His paraphrase of the first clause of v. 24. is, “which things may be excellently accommodated to our cause:" and he says, “Cum vero Paulus, Hagaram et Saram fuisse docet dúo diaonxwv týnous, id non ita interpretandum est, quasi illarum historia mulierum religionis Christianæ Judaicam illam aliquando eversuræ ad significationem jam habuerit: cum id tantum contendere videatur Apostolus, narrationem Mosis insigni similitudine cum religionis permutatione esse conjunctam adeoque aptissimè hanc cum illa comparari posse.
In cases, which, like the present, refer to the Old Testament history, or dispensation, it is indispensable that the whole ground be accurately examined, and it will here be of advantage to direct our first and particular efforts to obtaining an adequate understanding of the passage in the Old Testament; and then apply the light we have obtained to the elucidation of the place in the New.
What then is the plain, full meaning of the narrative in Gen. xxi. 9-14? What is the nature of the event there recorded? Let us endeavour to pursue this inquiry with all the assistance the Bible affords.
And here it is necessary, first of all, that adequate notions be entertained of the Abrahamic covenant. This matter shall be presented as briefly as possible, by the quotation of one or two passages of Scripture. Rom. iv. 13, 14. 16. "For the promise that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise is made of none
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effect. Therefore it is of faith that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed, not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham who is the father of us all.” Here it is plain that the promises made in the Abrahamic covenant are fulfilled in the blessings conferred upon true believers. Again, Heb.vi. 13, 14. 17, 18, “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” From this passage it is plain that the oath recorded, Gen xxii. 16–20. confirmed those promises to which they became heirs, who, under the preaching of the Gospel, flee for refuge to the hope set before them. See also verses 19, 20. Of course the Abrahamic covenant embraced the whole covenant of grace, and was identical with it. And this is established by Gal. iii. 14—29. where the Apostle proves the validity of the Gospel covenant against that of the law, by its precedency in point of time, viz. 430 years. “ That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
This whole argument depends on the identity of the Abrahamic covenant with the covenant of grace.
All the Apostles also in their preaching regarded the promises of the Abrahamic covenant, as embracing the spiritual blessings of the Gospel. After having proclaimed the doctrines and offers of the Gospel, they say, in applying them to the Jews whom they are addressing, (Acts, iii. 24–26.) “Ye are the children of the promise and of the covenant which God made with Abraham, saying, In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed." This last promise refers, according to Paul, Gal. iii. 16. exclusively to Christ.
Observe now the language used. Gospel blessings, when spoken of as embraced in the Abrahamic covenant, are called “an inheritance,” Gal. iii. 18; or “the promise,” Rom. iv. 16; true believers in Christ are called “the seed or children of Abraham,” Gal. iii. 7. 29. and thus “heirs of the promises.” Heb. vi. 17.
What then, again, is the nature of the transaction, recorded Gen. xxi. 9–14? Sarah saw Ishmael, the son of her bond-woman Hagar, “mocking," abusing, or as Paul says, Gal. iv. 29,"persecuting” her son Isaac; and desires Abraham, in consequence, to cast out this bond-woman and her son, declaring that the son of the bond-woman should not inherit with her son Isaac. Her meaning is plain; the word she uses, we cast out, is applied, as well as the corresponding word èxParaw, used by Paul, to repudiating a wife, and casting off a son. See Lev. xxi. 7, Hebrew and Septuagint; also Eccles. vii. 28. Ezra, x. 3. Jud. xi. 2. 7. She wished Ishmael to be entirely excluded from all that might be inherited by virtue of being a son of Abraham. Further than this, probably, she did not think. But why was the thing very grievous in Abraham's sight, because of his son? He knew the spiritual nature of the promise made to him, (see Heb. xi. 9, 10. 14–16.) and may he not have felt that to comply with Sarah's request would be to cut him off from all these? But whatever were his views of the consequences, or his feelings in relation to them, God commnads him, v. 12, “Let it not then be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bond-woman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice ; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” This is the important passage, and fortunately it has found an inspired interpreter." Rom. ix. 6—9. “ They are not all Israel which are of Israel; neither because they are the seed of Jacob, are they all children, but, In Isaac shall thy seed he called:' that is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God, but the children of promise, and accounted for the seed.” In this passage, those denominated Israel, children, children of God, children of the promise, are, according to the Apostle, those in whose case the word of God, in his promises to Abraham, (and we know what they are,) takes effect, v. 6.; and they are distinguished from those, who like Ishmael, are merely the descendants of Abraham by natural generation, to whom, as is necessarily implied, these promises were never
made. And this confined reference of the promise of the Abrahamic, i. e. of the Gospel covenant, Paul proves, v. 7, by this passage; “ In Isaac shall thy seed be called," i.e. according to Paul, all who shall in fact inherit these promises, are the subject of special promise, as Isaac was: this must be the meaning of v. 8.
Now supply the reasoning, “ Hearken to Sarah, and cast out Ishmael, for neither he, nor others shall participate in the spiritual blessings of my covenant, by virtue of their natural descent from you; but only those, who like Isaac, are the subjects of special promise."
If there is any coherency here, between the command and the reason assigned for it, we have in them plain ground for two remarks.
1. We have in Ishmael, an actual case of non-participation in the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant, i. e. of the Gospel. 2. The casting forth of Ishmael was an act expressive
of this fact.
Nothing can be plainer than these inferences, and nothing need be said to prove them. A few more preliminary remarks, and we shall be ready to direct our attention directly to the passage in the Epistle.
And first, on what ground did Ishmael stand with relation to the covenant of grace? The facts can be easily brought together. He was, by natural descent, a son of Abraham, he was circumcised by virtue of this descent, Gen. xvii. 23. he lived to at least the age of sixteen with Abraham in the land of Canaan, (compare Gen. xvi. 16. and xxi. 5. 8.) and doubtless, united in the worship of God by sacrifice, &c. at the altar. But he was not the subject of special promise
, and did not inherit the spiritual blessings promised to Abraham and his believing seed.
2. What was the relation which Isaac bore to the covenant of grace? He was a subject of special promise, and therefore became an inheritor of all the spiritual blessings of the covenant. Rom. ix. 7, 8. “ In Isaac shall thy seed be called: that is,” &c. That the words of the promise, v. 9. refer to his being a child also in faith, is proved by the simple language of these verses.
3. On what ground did the Jews of the Apostle's days, who clung to the law as a rule of life and a system of salvation, stand, with regard to the covenant of grace? They were
descendants of Abraham by natural generation, they were circumcised, performed the worship prescribed by the law, and wishing to be justified by the law, Christ was made of no effect unto them. Gal. v. 3.
4. What relation did real Christians of the Apostle's days bear to the covenant of grace? They, like Isaac, were subjects of promise. Gal. iv. 28; and in consequence of having believed in Christ, became Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise made to him. Gal. iii. 29.
These things being undeniable, it follows, That the relation of Christians to the covenant of grace, and of Isaac to the covenant, are the same relation. And Isaac, as an instance of an heir to the promises, differed in no respect from the individual believers of the Apostle's days, except in having preceded them by about 2000 years.
It equally follows that the relation which the Jews of the Apostle's time who clung to the law, bore to the covenant of grace, and the relation which Ishmael bore to that covenant, are the same relation. He lived, indeed, 430 years before the establishment of the Mosaic dispensation, but all the circumstances in which those who lived under that dispensation, differed from him, were not of a kind calculated to affect their common relation to the covenant of grace. The principal circumstances in the situation of each of the parties are enumerated above, and are the same in both. The condition therefore of Ishmael was the condition of all Judaizing unbelievers of the Apostle's time: and his fate of exclusion from the blessings of the covenant of grace must inevitably be theirs, provided they remained on that ground. And this fate, having in his case, already taken place, it would afford a striking instance and exemplification of the impending fate of the rest.
Let us turn now to the passage in the Epistle. The Galatian Christians had, soon after Paul left them, been visited by teachers, who taught that "unless they were circumcised and kept the law, they could not be saved.” And they had so far forsaken the doctrines of grace which Paul had preached to them, that though they still believed Christ to be the Son of God, they grounded their hope of salvation principally on their observance of the Jewish law. Paul, with a warmth of zeal unsurpassed in any of his writings, testifies against this perversion of the Gospel, and their foolish and ruinous apostacy. He shows that men, now, like Abraham,