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church in his time, and in the time of those who succeeded him. Until this remarkable period, the true worship of God, as established in the time of Noah, was observed, and from the time of Peleg and Reu, the established order of worship was broken. From this period, we are authorized to date the beginning of idolatry, in the line of Shem.
Serug, his son, confirmed this change. The word Serug means to wrap together, to be wreathed or twisted together, like the tender branches of a vine, Gen. x. 12.— Joel, i. 7. which, in conformity with the preceding state, shows that the church, in the time of Serug, continued th e separation or division. Thus, when the church had fallen into gross errors, the professors united themselves together with those, who had joined the popular idol worship.
This appears to have been the very last stage of this ancient patriarchal church, when the true worship of God was not known as a national, or public worship: but instead thereof, idols, and visible representations, under the delusive idea of a personification of the attributes and infinite excellences of a Supreme, were at length worshipped.
Nahor, the son of Serug, was an idolater of the same cast as his predecessors, who appear to have gradually declined from the true worship of God, to that of figures, which represented the passions and affections. This worship was finally received among the descendants of Shem, who, like the posterity of Ham, the builders of Babel, and the founders of the Babylonish empire, worshipped the same idols. The state of things at this period, was similar to that at the conclusion of the first patriarchal church; nothing remained of the true worship, by which it could be known what was its origin in
the time of Noah. So universally did idolatrous worship prevail throughout all the nations of the east, that Nahor, the immediate successor of Serug, and the grandfather of Abraham, had joined in the idolatrous worship, as before mentioned.
NAMES AND AGES OF THE PATRIARCHS
OP THE SECOND ORDER.
Salah . .
Reu . .
This ancient Noahotic church, had now come to its final consummation. Nahor and Terah his son, the father of Abraham, alone remained to fill up the lineal descent; but being idolaters, nothing can be said concerning them respecting the true church. We shall, therefore, pursue the order of the sacred history, which will lead us to
THE COVENANT WITH ABRAHAM.*
The covenant, which was established with Abraham, was not new. It related to the coming of Messiah, and was only a repetition of the promise which God made to Adam; and which he renewed with Noah concerning the certainty of the fulfilment of the ancient promise,— that the Holy One should, in the fulness of time, appear in the world to redeem man.
A command was given to Abraham, which was not known in any of the former churches. At this period, God commanded circumcision to be strictly observed by him and his posterity; but when they went into Egypt, this rite was neglected, and was again commanded to be observed before they entered the holy land.
* An opinion seems to have been entertained by most people, that Abraham was a person of little consequence, a private individual; and if we were to be guided by many commentators, we should conclude that he was a farmer, a grazier, a kind of itinerant wanderer. But the historical vestiges of antiquity, which are preserved to the present day, give us a very different account of the patriarch. Some writers have been bold enough to affirm, that no particulars of the epoch of Abraham are to be found in ancient profane history. Such, however, may be convinced of their error by turning to Josephus, Jlntiq. c. 8. where he quotes the statement of Berosus, the Chaldean historian. And in Justinlib. xxxvi. c. 2. we have the testimony of Trogus Pompeius, who says, 'the Jews derive their origin from Damascus, a famous city of Syria; their kings were Abraham and Israel.' See also Clemens Alexandrinus, Strom. V. and Eusebius, lib. xiii. c. 12. This is also perfectly consistent with scripture, for we find it there stated, that he was a mighty prince, Gen. c. xxxiii. 2. And even the sons of Ishmael, were twelve princes according to their nations. Gen. c. xxv. 16.
At this period, 6acrificial worship was again instituted by divine authority. Sacrifices were understood by Abraham to point to a Redeemer: the dispensation, therefore, given to Moses, which by way of distinction, has been called the Mosaic dispensation, and this church, the Israelitish church, was more properly the Abrahamic dispensation; for the primary commands given to Moses, were only a renewal of those given to Abraham, and which had been neglected during their stay in Egypt.
But the full display of this dispensation was not to be manifested for the term of 400 years, during which time they were to be strangers in a land, not their own. In the fourth generation, all things respecting this dispensation were to be then promulgated, Gen. xv. 16. This was literally accomplished; for Moses, who led them out of Egypt, was the fourth generation from Levi, who went into Egypt, viz. Levi, Koath, Amram, Moses. In this generation, the law, the commandments, the rites, and ceremonies, were promulgated on Mount Sinai, in the presence of the whole Hebrew nation.
It is proper here to observe, that the worship of God was not wholly extinct at the time of the call of Abraham, for he was met by Melchizedeck, king of Salem, and priest of the most high God. By this we learn, that, before the time of Moses, the patriarchal Monarch was also a priest, Gen. iv. 3. "And Melchizedeck, king of Salem, brought forth the bread and wine, and he was the priest of the most high God;" that is, he was a priest of that order which had long been established for the worship of the God of heaven at Salem, the ancient name of Jerusalem. This, as I have observed in another place, is mentioned by David, who refers tc the church established by Noah, in which the priest* were of a different order from those of the Israelitish
church. Psalm lxxvi. "In Judah God is known, his name is great in Israel. In Salem also is his tabernacle:" but which should be, "In Salem also was his tabernacle." For there was, at that period, an order of priesthood, established among the heathen for the worship of idols, as we learn from scripture; those nations famous for idolatry, the Amalekites, Amonites, Chaldeans, &c. being then powerful nations.
Many have supposed, fr.om what is said in the epistle of Paul, as it stands in the English translation, that this Melchizedeck was Christ, and that there never was such it person king of Salem. But this is a great error, and if admitted, it would make the account of Abraham's returning from the battle of the kings, when he was met by Melchizedeck, not a relation of a literal, but altogether of a spiritual, transaction.
In the translation, the passage runs thus: "Jesus, made an high-priest forever, after the order of Melchizedeck, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him, without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continually." Heb. vii. The passage in the original is avatuf ctiA-nTui ccYtteccXoytiTcf 'no father, no mother, no genealogy,' that is, no descent from any sacerdotal family, as the Levitical priests had. This is plain from the following verses of the same chapter, 4. 5, 6. "Now, considering, how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. And, verily, they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people, according to the law. But he (Melchizedeck) whose descent is not counted from them (i. e. the