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Recovering the classic, Protestant interpretation of Bible prophecy.

CHAPTER III. - THE ABRAHAMIC PROGRAM.

 

TRAVELLING recently from Baden to Switzerland, as we emerged from the beautiful Black Forest and approached Schaffhausen, we crossed a small stream which we looked at, at first, without any special interest. It reappeared, however, again and again; and as we ran for some time along its banks, one of our party, looking at the guidebook, exclaimed, ?Why, this is the Danube!? The Danube? We looked at the little stream with new interest. The mind?s eye followed it at once from this its upland cradle amid the mountains, close to the sources of the northward and westward flowing Rhine; from this its spring in a watershed more than 3, 000 feet in height, down through Wurtemburg and Bavaria, past Passau and Lintz and the castle where Coeur de Lion fretted in his captivity, past Vienna, Presburg, and Buda-Pesth, through Hungary on to Belgrade, till we seemed to see its broad waters rolling between Bulgaria and Wallachia, through Bessarabia and Russia, and the great delta at the end of its course of 1, 400 miles. Bavarian, Hungarian, Austrian, and Turkish in turn, we remembered how for ages this great river had been one of the northern boundaries of the old Roman empire the great moat that guarded it from the invasion of barbarian hordes. We recalled how it forms now a highway for European commerce an international barrier whose navigation has been the subject of treaties between rival empires, and whose banks have been the scene of memorable historic battles. Small and unimportant as seemed the little stream dashing over its rocky bed beside the railway, all that we knew of its after course made it most interesting in our eyes. When sailing on the Danube years previously through the ?Iron Gates, ? which it has cut in the Carpathian mountains, we had marvelled at the might of the current which had worn for itself so stupendous a gorge, gazed with interest at the Cossack villages and Turkish towns studding its banks, and spent day after day on its broad bosom as it rolled majestically through the rich pasture lands of Moldavia and Wallachia into the Black Sea. How could the infancy of such a stream fail to interest us?

 

With similar feelings an historian and Bible student ponders the biography of Abraham in the Book of Genesis. The brief story consists of slight and simple memorials of the quiet life led by a Semitic patriarch four thousand years ago. It tells us how he wandered over the pastures of Chaldea and Syria, growing rich in flocks and herds and in retainers, but living in tents with his wife and children; how he worshipped God in spirit and in truth, though in utter simplicity, without temple, ritual, or image; a man of child-like obedience and strong faith, not without faults and frailties, but yet loved and respected in his day. He had none of the legislative power of Moses, nor of the poetical pathos of David, much less of the far-sighted wisdom of Daniel. But there was about him a benignity, a faith, an obedience, a courtesy, a piety, and especially a paternal dignity, which are peculiarly his own; while the age in which he lived, the lands in which he wandered, and the simple tent-life of his pilgrimage, throw over the story ?the light as of an early Eastern morning, and the freshness as of a breeze from the wilderness.?

 

Why has this old oriental biography so profound an interest still in this busy nineteenth century to men and women all the world over, not to those who profess and call themselves Christians only, but also to Jews and Arabs and all the followers of the False Prophet? Strange! that out of the hundreds of such ancient Eastern sheiks of wandering pastoral tribes, the name of one should still be a household word, honored alike by Moslem, Jew, and Christian throughout the world. Yet so it is. In mosque and synagogue and Christian church alike, in the East and in the West, in the North and in the South, the patriarch Abraham is still esteemed as ?the friend of God? or as the Father of the Faithful. He never occupied a throne nor wielded a sceptre; he never made a discovery nor produced an invention; he never published a volume nor framed a code of laws; he never conquered a country nor enslaved his neighbours, like the Pharaohs and the Nimrods of those early times; he reared no huge monuments to immortalize his name, nor carved on the rocks the story of his exploits: yet he lives in the loving memory of mankind while multitudes of those who did all these things are forgotten. He is held in filial respect and affection by myriads of men, who to Egypt?s greatest kings and Chaldea?s mightiest monarchs accord but an unsympathetic and disapproving wonder. What has ennobled and distinguished this ancient patriarch? The answer is, He believed and obeyed the God who had chosen him to be the channel of the world?s redemption, and to him was communicated the third section of the Divine program of the world?s history.

 

In order to the right appreciation of the importance of this program and of the real character and career of Abraham, we must, before considering it, recall for a moment the state of the world at the time when it was given, and the general course of human history during the interval between the deluge and the call of Abraham. It was a long one of several centuries; it witnessed the second development of the human race through the stages of its childhood, youth, and early maturity. These centuries have until lately been considered prehistoric, but they cannot in the future be so regarded. The figures of the patriarch and his family no longer loom out dimly from a thick mist of historic obscurity suggestive of doubt as to their actual reality. The days are past in which the story of Abraham, told in the thirteen chapters of the Book of Genesis, can be called in question or treated by any well-informed person as unauthentic or legendary. The old isolation of the Pentateuch has passed away never to return. Formerly it presented almost all we knew about the earliest times and the pristine experiences of mankind. It stood alone, unconfirmed, and sceptics found no barriers in the way of treating it as ?unhistorical? (a euphemism for ?fabulous ?); but all that is utterly altered now. Modern explorations and discoveries in archaeology enable us to confirm almost every detail of the narrative, and to perceive its perfect and most striking harmony with the period to which it belongs. The geographical, historical, and social allusions in the story are very numerous; and the similar incidents recorded in contemporary documents enable us mentally to reproduce the days of Abraham with wonderful exactitude and vivid reality.

 

We can now, in the light of its own records, study and understand the ancient and idolatrous civilization from which the patriarch was originally called out, and that with which he subsequently came in contact in Egypt. The evil and corrupt state of society in which he mixed becomes clear to us, as do the characters and exploits of his great contemporaries both in Chaldea and Egypt. The length and the direction of his various journeyings, the true nature of his momentous emigration, the size and peculiarities of the cities with which he was connected, and a hundred other particulars of his life which before seemed comparatively vagueall stand out now real and life-like, supplying the true background to the Biblical portrait of the patriarch. The works of Sir Henry Rawlinson and Professor Rawlinson, of Dr. Birch, the late George Smith and others connected with the British

 

Museum, of Professor Sayce, Lieutenant Conder, Captain Warren, Layard, Lenormant, and many more; ?The Records of the Past? (Bagster), ?The Inscriptions of Western Asia, ?published by the Trustees of the British Museum, the ?Transactions? of the Society of Biblical Arch~eo1ogy, and many similar works, conspire to throw a flood of light on the environment of the patriarch and the history of his times.]

 

It is important that this should be realized, for it strengthens the foundations of our argument. The promises and predictions we have to consider were, as we hold, given to Abraham two thousand years before Christ, as we have them embodied in the books of Moses. But is the story that they were so given authentic? Any argument derived from fulfillment clearly depends on this previous inquiry; that is, on the date of the predictions and on the general trustworthiness of the narratives in which they are embodied.

 

Some ?Studies on the Times of Abraham? have lately been published by a member of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, who devoted five years to the work of elucidating the relation between three chapters only of Abraham?s story and the results of recent research. The investigation of even this small portion of the narrative makes a volume. It is illustrated with photo-tint cuts of buildings, idols, statues, engraved seals and cylinders, portraits of various carved heads of Egyptian, Chaldean, Hittite, and Arab heroes, and of hieroglyphic inscriptions, and enriched by full references to the original oriental sources from which the facts are drawn, enabling even readers who are unlearned in archaeological lore to judge for themselves as to the nature and value of the light thrown on the life of Abraham by existing monuments, and inscriptions of antiquity. These studies have profoundly impressed their author with the close connection between facts in the Bible biography and facts of the times as learned from other sources.

 

The story of Lot?s rescue, for instance, given in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis, mentions some fifty facts of geography, history, and chronology; it gives the names of fourteen kings, chiefs, and other individuals living at the time; of eight different tribes and peoples, and of no less than twenty-three different places. It has, moreover, three notes of chronology, and several statements of number. Now most of these become possible points of contact with ancient contemporary records, or else with existing facts as to present names, sites, and distances. We do not pause to remark on the de priori evidence of truth and authenticity offered by the very existence of such a narrative so full of statements which if false would be easily proved so. But we ask, Is this remarkable narrative of the first great organized military expedition recorded in historya narrative which bristles thus with biographical, historical, local, and chronological noticesconfirmed or contradicted by comparison with extraneous authorities? It is most amply confirmed. ?All that is hitherto known tallies in the most remarkable manner with the firm, strong outline in the Book of Genesis of facts which, as M. Lenormant justly pronounces, have ?a historic character the most striking;? and when we estimate at its true value the decisive interposition of Abraham in his only recorded act of warfare, we do not wonder at the honourable acknowledgment of the sons of Kheth, ?A prince of God art thou among us.? Tomkins? ?Studies on the Times of Abraham ? p. 203 (Bagster: 15, Paternoster Row).

 

This expedition against the king of Elam and his confederates seems to have been a far more important affair than one would have judged from the fifteenth of Genesis, though the native inscriptions of Babylonia and Assyria amply confirm the main and most surprising facts contained in that story. Canon Rawlinson says; - ?A certain amount of light is thrown on the narrative contained in Genesis xiv. by the inscriptions of Babylonia and Assyria. We learn from that narrative that in the time of Abraham (about mc. 21001900) an important monarchy was established in Elam, under a king named Chedor-laomer (more properly Kedor-Lagomer), to whom Babylonia and other adjacent countries were subject, and who was powerful enough to carry his arms into Syria, and to exercise dominion for the space of twelve years over the more eastern parts of Palestine, The position of Elam is well marked by the Greek and Roman geographers, who place it between Persia proper and Babylonia, to the east of the Lower Tigris. In classical times and in oriental history as made known to us by the classical writers, the country appears as insignificant; it is never independent, and though it has a line of native kings, they at no time show themselves of much importance, even among vassal princes. Till recently the passage of Genesis stood alone in representing Elain as a great kingdom, one capable of exercising for a time the chief authority in Western Asia, of establishing her supremacy over Babylonia, and making expeditions to the distance of a thousand miles from her proper frontier. But the later Assyrian inscriptions have now shown that from the time of Sargon (B.C. 722) to nearly the close of the empire, Elam was the second power in Western Asia, that she sturdily maintained her independence, and long resisted the utmost efforts of Assyria to bring her into subjection.

 

?Documents, probably fourteen hundred years older, found in Babylonia itself; establish the fact that at least one king of the country held his crown as a chief under an Elamitic monarch, who had placed and maintained him on the throne. Kudur-Mabuk, whose probable date is about B.C. 2100, and who is distinctly called ?king of Elam, ? established his son, Ardu-Sin, in Babylonia, and names him with himself in his inscriptions, invoking the blessing of the gods upon him. Similarly Ardo-Sin mentions and invokes blessings on his father, ?Kudur-Mabuk, lord of Elam.? It is further remarkable that this same ?Kudur-Mabuk, lord of Elam, ? calls himself also ?lord of Syria, ? thereby implying that his dominion reached from the mountains of Luristan on the one side to the Mediterranean upon the other, which is exactly what Scripture implies of Chedor-laomer.

 

? The native inscriptions of Babylonia and Assyria tell us, therefore, three things concerning this early period; namelyfirst, that there was a powerful dynasty established in Elam about B.C. 2300-2000; secondly, that this dynasty exercised authority over Babylon; and thirdly, that it had carried its arms into Syria; thus confirming three of the main and most surprising facts contained in the narrative of Genesis xiv.? Canon Rawlinson, ?The Bible Educator, ? vols. i. and ii. pp. 67, 68.

 

The Bible, and especially the Book of Genesis, passes rapidly over long intervals of time during which no special advance was made in the work which it is written to record the redemption of the human race. It presents only one incident and two genealogical tables as bridging ever the interval between the death of Noah and the call of Abram. The story of Babel is narrated and the subsequent dispersion of mankind, and ?the generations of the sons of Noah in their nations, ? which we have considered in our last section, follows. The generations of Shemthat is, of the son of Noah in whose race the knowledge of God was to be preserved, and in which deliverance for a ruined race was destined to ariseare given very fully, ?the generations of Terah, ? the father of Abraham, coming last. These are all comprised in the tenth and eleventh chapters of the Book of Genesis, from which we may also gather some passing indications of the state of things in the early post-diluvian earth, though it would have been beside the purpose of the book to deal with facts having only a remote connection with its main subject. From later scriptures we may glean a few other particulars as to this period, while from classical authors, and especially from the most ancient oriental sacred classics, some of the earliest hymns and prayers of which go back nearly to Noah?s dayssuch as the Zend Avestas of Persia, the Brahminic Vedas of India, the She-king of China, and The Book of the Dead, or funeral ritual, of ancient Egyptand, above all, from the monumental remains and inscriptions still extant and deciphered by modern research, we can, as we have seen, to a great extent fill up the outline. Combining the rays of light proceeding from these different sources, we learn that during the early centuries after the flood a very rapid development of. the race had taken place, leading to extensive colonization of even distant regions; that the earth had been already in the days of Peleg divided into nations, and that the international strifes which have characterized all subsequent time had at once arisen; wars and fightings had become common; and though the wide world lay open before the young human race, and though their utmost fruitfullness and multiplication could not have replenished it, they nevertheless fought for territory and for supremacy, displaying the same lust of conquest and of power that all subsequent nations have done. Hence there arose empires, with all their concomitant slavery, cruelty and pride, inordinate pomp and luxury on the part of some, with cruel toil, suffering, and oppression on the part of others. The original unity of speech and of religious faith which had prevailed in the family and immediate descendants of Noah, and of which distinct traces abound in all the most ancient writings of every land, was gradually lost in these altered circumstances, and a great variety of idolatries sprung up in the earth, especially the worship of the host of heaven. The primitive monotheistic faiththe worship of one invisible God, the maker and judge of all lingered on in certain families and in a few spiritual oases, but the desert waste of an idolatrous world was evermore encroaching even on these, and threatening towards the close of the period to swallow them up.

 

It is not easy for us to conceive the condition of the world four thousand years ago, when neither the Christian Church nor the Jewish nation were in existence, when men possessed neither the Old Testament nor the New, when tradition and conscience were the only sources of religion, and when the fathers of the racewho had known something of the antediluvian world, been eye-witnesses of the deluge, and recipients of the gracious revelations that followed ithad passed away. No line of special witnesses for God had as yet been selected or invested with responsibility for the maintenance of the true faith. The family of Shem retained apparently more of piety and morality than the descendants of his two brothers, but even Shem?s posterity had for the most part lapsed into creature worship. The adoration of the sun and moon were common, as also the worship of Jupiter and Saturn, Mercury and Venus, and idolatry was fast spreading in the earth.

 

Egypt had already become mighty and grossly idolatrous; the Hittite power had developed into an extensive empire, and together with the Hamitic races occupying Southern Babylonia and Palestine, had also sunk into unblushing polytheism.. Traditions of the creation and fall of man, of the flood, and of Babel, existed in all lands, and were recorded on monuments and tablets, on papyri and mummy cases, which we can still read and study after four thousand years. But they were all more or less distorted and corrupted. Gleams of the light of revelation were retained in different lands, and backed by the teaching of nature and by consciencethe voice of God in the soul of man they saved some from the almost universal apostasy of deifying the heavenly bodies, the elements, and the passions, together with men and animals, reptiles and vegetables, and even stocks and stones.

 

This corruption had not in Abraham?s day become as universal as the wickedness of man before the flood, when one righteous man alone remained on earth, for there were such men as Melchisedek here and theretrue priests of God. Yet even in the elect line of Shem, and in the chosen family of Terah, idolatry prevailed. As the Lord said to Joshua, ?Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood (or Euphrates) in old time, and they served other gods; and I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan.?

 

Terah?s home, UR of the CHALDEES, was the name both of a city and of a country. The former is now identified with Mugheir, which stands about six miles from the Euphrates on its right bank. In Abraham?s day it was a large, busy maritime place on the Persian Gulf, the capital and the port of Southern Babylonia. The beautiful region around was the natural home of the wheat plant, which would produce two and even three hundred-fold in the soil of which classic writers speak as the richest in all Asia.

 

Shady palm groves embowered the country laden with their golden clusters; and Professor Rawlinson says that the region was amongst the most productive on the face of the earth, yielding spontaneously some of the best gifts of God to man, and capable under careful management of being made one continuous garden. Sir Henry Rawlinson supposes that the Garden of Eden was in this neighbourhood. The situation of the ruins now was not the situation of the ancient city, for the alluvium brought down by the Tigris and Euphrates encroaches very rapidly on the Persian Gulf. Geologists consider that the increase of the land in that direction has been at the rate of a mile in thirty years on an average all through the historic period, so that the ruins which now stand considerably inland mark the site of a city which was a seaport town in Abraham?s days.

 

The patriarch was, it would seem, a citizen of no mean city. Ur was the residence of a great monarch called Urukh, remains of whose immense. idolatrous temple are still in existence, as also the ruins of his palace. The walls which once defended his city are traceable as low sandy mounds surrounding an oval space some two miles in extent, in the midst of which the temple mound still rises seventy feet above the plain. Several of the Assyrian and Babylonian monuments allude to this country of UR. Contracts between citizens, transfers of land duly attested by witnesses and preserved in duplicate, astronomical and political records as well as royal inscriptions relating to this place and kingdom, exist in abundance; its traffic by land and its commerce by ships are described, and its monarch, Urukh, must have had ample resources to have been able to erect the buildings he describes, the ruins of which still attest the truth of his accounts. The people wereas in all seaport townsa mixture of various races and nationalities. The merchants of Ur traded with countries in Arabia and on the African coast, the Chaldeans themselves being a Cushite or Hamitic people, though Semitic tribes had also descended into their country. Terah?s ancestor Arphaxad seems to have dwelt on the borders of Armenia, where a district of country bore his name; but some of his posterity had migrated southward, and Terah, at the time of Abraham?s birth, was resident either in the country or the city of Ur.

 

The one fact which is more prominent than any other in all the inscriptions of the period is the rank polytheism and idolatry which prevailed. The heavenly bodies were worshipped, and the great gods Ra and Bel or Belus, with their respective wives, together with Vul and Shamas and Sau, and especially Hurki, or the moon-god, who was esteemed the leading protector of the land, Merodach, Nergal, Ishtar, Nebo, and a host of other deities too numerous to mention. They attributed to their gods the caprice and the evil notions of which they were conscious in themselves, and a base and degrading superstition had replaced the Noahic faith in the justice and mercy of God, and the ante-diluvian hope of a mighty coming deliverer. Most of the Chaldean literature which has been deciphered consists of formula for warding off disease and sorcery, charms for bewitching people or for exorcising evil influences, treatises on omens and divinations, and records of business transactions. Long hymns for ritual worship and prayers both for public and private use show that the popular religion was of a base and sensual type, and that it must have had the effect of degrading rather than of elevating its adherents.

 

Yet many fundamental truths were still retained in the minds of men, and the Akkadian and Semitic records alike prove that a consciousness of sin and of its guilt, a fear of death and of future punishment, an appreciation of righteousness and a yearning after holiness, found constant expression, together with allusions to the flood as a great proof of God?s justice, to the fall of men and angels and the existence of a tempter, a belief in a future life and judgment to come, an observance of the Sabbath, and, above all, a recognition of the value of vicarious sacrifice. The nearer we draw to the days of Noah, the clearer do all such allusions become. They had even some notions of resurrection, though these latter were hazy. All the truth they retained was, however, smothered by corruption, superstition, and error.

 

Whatever Abraham?s after life, we must picture his earlier years therefore as spent in a renowned and much-venerated city, where was the then magnificent temple of a popular faith, the seat of a flourishing commerce, and which was moreover a garrison town, the frontier walled fortress of the empire on the western side of the Euphrates. It seems to have been also a sacred burial city, where the dead in innumerable multitudes were gathered round the walls, as at the present day around the sacred cities of the Mohammedans and Jews.

 

?It used to be a matter of vague conjecture as to whether Abraham was acquainted with the art of writing, but, as we have seen, modern research has shown that it was in familiar use in his native place. In the daily transactions of business, in loan and sale contracts, and indeed in all important transactions, duplicate memoranda on terracotta tablets or on papyrus were preserved. Multitudes of these exist, and such multitudes more have perished that immense heaps of fine powder-like dust are composed of their remains. Libraries and stores of records were common, so that Terah?s family registers were doubtless preserved in this permanent form, and Abraham himself may very probably have left similar memorials of his own life, to be subsequently utilized by Moses. Abraham was doubtless trained in military exercises, as is proved by his ability and promptness in undertaking the expedition for the rescue of Lot; and he was probably accustomed to river navigation on the great Euphrates, as well as to seafaring customs and to the sight of foreigners ?brought in the ships of Ur? to his native town. So great a mixture of races prevailed in the country that he was equally well acquainted with Semitic, Hamitic and Japhetic tribes. Indeed, these names are found in cuneiform texts as ethnic expressions, and are identified in meaning (according to Professor Sayce and Mr. Boscawen) with the different hues of complexionyellow, black, and fair respectively. Abraham was therefore no mere wandering Arab sheik, but familiar with all sorts and conditions of men, and with various phases of human society.

 

It was no easy thing for one accustomed to the life of Ur to forsake home and country and break up his family and social ties. ?He was born and grew up in his father?s house: a man of rank surrounded by all the conditions and influences of civilized fife; in the center of the world?s interests and rivalries; the hive which had thrown off the strong swarms of ASSUR, of CANAAN, and it may be, before that, of MIZRAIM; a land thick with conflicting powers, where his own kindred the sons of Shem had been in the ascendant, but were now for a while once more thrust down by the Cushite lords of Susa.? Tomkins? ?Times of Abraham, ? p. 49.

 

What moved the patriarch to obey so readily the call of God? ?The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, ? said Stephen, ?when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran.? A revelationin what form or style we know notof God, the God of glory: that was the motive. power with Abraham, as with Saul of Tarsus in later days. The first command to leave his country and kindred was not accompanied by the promise of Canaan. The patriarch had to go forth not knowing whither he wentin simple obedience; and from that day to the day when, at God?s command, he offered up his son, his only son, accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead, the same strong faith in and implicit obedience to God characterized the father of the faithful. When, later on, Jehovah made a covenant with him to which the mark of circumcision was attached, Abraham lost not a day in assuming that mark himself; and requiring Ishmael and all his house to do the same. When Jehovah desired him to offer his only son, he rose up early in the morning to start on the mournful expedition. Obedience became a habit with him, and faith was strengthened by long trial.

 

Providential circumstances seem to have facilitated the original removal of Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees. Many movements of Semitic tribes and families westward were then taking place. His father Terah, for some reason not assigned, resolved about this time to emigrate with his family. Whether the premature death of his son Haran was the cause of this removal (as Josephus asserts), or whether his son Abraham?s influence had recalled the aged father to the faith of his ancestors and made him anxious to free his family from the degrading idolatrous usages around them whatever the impulse, Terah and his tribe, as well as Abraham, forsook Chaldea, and journeying slowly some six hundred miles up the stream of the Euphrates, reached the district and town of KHARRAN, or Padan-Aram, where the emigrants and their flocks halted for some years, and where Terah ended his days. This was an important commercial town on a rich alluvial plain in Northern Babylonia, a station on the high-road from Syria to Palestine. It is well known in secular history as a busy and important town of ancient date, the key of the highway from east to west. Its name, which is still attached to the spot (Kharran, ?a road?), as also the mention of the place in #Eze 27:23, implied this; and it was dedicated to the same moon-god worshipped in Ur. There is an inscription in the British Museum (K 2701) mentioning this temple. Nahor and his wife Milcah, who had at first been left behind, joined the family party again at Kharran, where they prospered greatly and increased in number and grew rich. But the place was an outpost of the old Chaldean rule, and full of, and surrounded by, the very idolatries that had prevailed in Ur, and it was consequently no suitable home for the chosen race. It was not the land which God had promised to show Abram; and when, after fifteen years, Terah died at the age of two hundred and five, Abraham, relieved of filial duties, was once more free to pursue his pilgrim path. It was then that a second and more definite call came to Abraham, and this time a glorious promise was attached to it: {#Ge 12:1, 2} ? Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father?s house, unto the land that I will show thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and him that cursed thee will I curse: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.?

 

From time to time in the life of the patriarch and in those of his son and grandson, additional particulars were added to this promise, as we shall see; details were filled in, the predictions were enriched and defined in their scope; but here is the third program of the world?s history in outline. A childless man was to become the father of a great and blessed nation; the nation was to possess a land which would be indicated later on, and the whole human family were to be blessed through it. For many a year already Abram had pondered in his heart the first revelation of the God of glory granted to him in his own home. It had molded his life and his hopes, sanctified his spirit, and separated him from an idolatrous world. Hence this command finds him prompt to obey, and with all the souls he had gotten in Haran, and great wealth in flocks and herds, to separate himself from his brother Nahor, and plunge into the wide wilderness which divided Haran from Canaan. The expression, ?the souls he had gotten in Haran, ? may imply that his large household had learned the true religion from their master. Many Jewish and Christian commentators take them to signify that he had converted them to the worship of Jehovah, and taught them his own faith. He rejoiced doubtless to sever himself and his dependants from the idolatries of Babylonia, and he went forth to the unknown west leaning on the promised guidance of God. ?They went forth to go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan they came.? The pilgrim party must have been, like those still often to be seen in the East following some Arab sheik, furnished with large numbers of the black goats?-hair tents for encampment so familiar to oriental travellers. If Abraham?s retainers numbered over twelve hundred, as is with good ground supposed, judging from the number of his well-trained servants, it was rather the emigration of a tribe than that of a family. The route taken seems to have led them to Damascus, for there are local traditions distinctly indicative of a prolonged visit of Abraham to the neighbourhood of that great and ancient city. A secretary of Herod the Great, Nicolaus of Damascus, says: ?Abraham ruled at Damascus. He was a foreigner, who had come with an army out of the land beyond Babylon, called the land of the Chaldees.? And he adds that he migrated to Canaan, and that his name is well known even to this day in Damascus; a village in the suburbs being pointed out which is still called the house of Abraham, and a well also being named from him. Josephus? ?Antiquities, ? Book I. chap. vii. We know that the steward of his house was one Eliezer of Damascus; but the narrative proves that he cannot have remained long in the city, even if he did visit it. Crossing the land of Bashan and the Jordan River, he descended into Palestine probably near the plain of Esdraelon, and passing through it made his first encampment at Sychem. There between Ebal and Gerizim, in one of the loveliest valleys in Palestine, was his first home in the land of promise; and before we follow him we must ask, What was the condition of the country and who were its inhabitants at this time? We are told that the Canaanite was then in the land, or, as it might be better rendered, was already in the land. Various tribes of the children of Ham had at this time settled in the country, though their number was not as yet great, and they seemed to have had no inclination to oppose the residence of so mighty a ?prince? as Abraham. Four hundred years later these Hamitic tribes had grown up into the seven nations of Canaan whose gross corruptions led to their extermination. In Abraham?s day the Amorites and the Hittites were chief among them. Both of these are largely mentioned in the Egyptian records, and a head of one of the Amorite kings may be seen in the British Museum. It was here at Sychem that Abraham received a definite gift of this very country to his posterity, the second promise from God, ?Unto thy seed will I give this land.? He believed the promise and built an altar to the name of the Lord who appeared unto him. His obedience to the Divine call in forsaking Chaldea was rewarded by this gift of the land of Canaan. But the promise must have tested his faith, for its accomplishment seemed impossible. It was given to a childless man, and it related to a country already in the possession of others. But he staggered not at the promise of God either on this occasion or on any subsequent one: he was strong in faith giving glory to God, and being fully persuaded that what He had promised He was able also to perform.

 

Journeying still towards the south of Canaan, Abraham was led at last by the stress of famine to a brief and unhappy tarriance in Egypt, where he came in contact with another phase of the high civilization then existing among the sons of Ham, accompanied as usual by gross idolatry and polytheism. How long his sojourn in Egypt lasted is not recorded, probably only a few months. Josephus says that he went there not merely to share the plenty of the land, but to examine into the state of religion, and ascertain whether the Egyptian priests had any true light; to endeavour also to teach them the truth, if, as he expected, he found them ignorant of it; that he convinced many of the superiority of his own faith, and gained the reputation of a learned philosopher. But we have no confirmatory testimony for these statements, and look upon his sojourn in Egypt as a period of failure in faith, and a time of leaning to his own understandingone illustration of the fact that Egypt and its antitype have always been scenes of temptation to the people of God. The patriarch speedily returned to the place where his tent had been in the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, and it was here that when trouble arose with Lot he showed his noble forbearance and unworldly generosity, by giving his nephew the choice of the land, and accepting for himself the inferior portion. It was on the occasion of this separation, when his own act had broken the link between himself and the last of his kindred, that the Lord appeared the third time to Abraham. ?And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and east- ward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee?. {#Ge 13:14-17}

 

Yet again a fourth time was the promise renewed to the patriarch after his rescue of Lot and the inhabitants of Sodom from Chedor-laomer, king of Elam, and his confederates. ?After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.? But Abram, unable to see in his childless condition how the promises of God could be fulfilled, sadly pleaded: ?Lord God, what wilt Thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? Behold, to me Thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.? God had pity on his perplexity, and ?Behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This Eliezer of Damascus shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And He brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness. And He said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it?. {#Ge 15:47}

 

In connection with this promise the announcement was also made that Abraham?s seed would be a stranger in a land not their own. ?And He said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full? (Gen. xv. 1316). This prediction was full of contrasted elements, calculated some to sadden and some to rejoice the heart of Abraham. His posterity was to suffer, to be brought into bondage, to endure hardness, not to possess the promised land at once, but only after a long course of discipline. On the other hand, they were to possess it, they were to inherit the land on which their father merely pitched his tent. Why might they not take possession of it at once, and without the preliminary suffering? They would not be numerous enough to people the land, for one thing, not warlike enough to drive out its inhabitants; moreover, and this was the reason assigned, the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full. That of the Canaanites settled in the plains of Jericho among whom Lot had rashly elected to reside, was almost full; their cities were a very hotbed of corruption. But the moral condition of Aner and Eschol and the sons of Heth, or Hittites, at Hebron, seems to have been at that time widely different, and for four hundred years they were to be still spared and tested. The cup of iniquity was fillingnot yet full. It should be noted that the limits assigned to the promised land are here broadly stated as from the Nile to the Euphrates, ?from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.? This large and important territory was the one bestowed by God on Abraham, and is still the entailed inheritance of his seed, ?For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.? Passing by for the present the incidents connected with the birth of Ishmael, we come to the fifth and principal revelation of God to Abraham, that recorded in the seventeenth chapter of Genesis. It was on this occasion that the solemn COVENANT which is mentioned eleven times over in the chapter was made.. This happened thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael, the natural but not the promised seed of the patriarch. Abraham was ninety years old and nine when this covenantsealed and attested by the ordinance of circumcisionwas made with him. We read ?And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect. And I will make My covenant between Me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for Me, behold, My covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And 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. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God ?. {#Ge 17:18}

 

The ordinance of circumcision is then given in detail, and Sarah is included in the covenant, her name being altered in token of it, and it is revealed that she was to be the mother of the promised seed. ?And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.... And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year? (#Ge 17:16, 192 1). In this last clause a chronological element is added to the promise, and the time of its fulfillment is specified. A promise as to Ishmael was uttered on this occasion, which had in substance been previously given to Hagar. He was to be blessed, to be multiplied exceedingly, to beget twelve princes and to become a great nation. It had previously been stated that he would be a wild man, his hand against every man and every man?s hand against him, and that he would dwell in the presence of all his brethren. Once again, shortly after this time, on the occasion of the visit of the angels to Abraham on the plains of Mamre and the revelation of the coming destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the promise was for a sixth time renewed, with an intimation that the first instalment of its fulfillment was close at hand, the all-essential birth of the promised seed. ?Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the time ap- pointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.? And again, after the birth of the long-promised seed, there was a further intimation given that Ishmael was not to be heir with Isaac, but that the child of Abraham and Sarah was to be the seed in whom the promises were to be fulfilled. {#Ge 21:12} And then last, not least, came the glorious prediction, confirmed with an oath, which was given in connection with Abraham?s great trial, the commanded sacrifice of his son.

 

?Abraham?s faith had stood all former tests. It had been strong enough to break the ties that bound him to country, home, and kindred. It had patiently endured the many and long delays in the fulfilling of the promises. It had risen above all the obstacles, physical and moral, that stood in the way of their accomplishment. It had accepted Isaac and given up Ishmael. Would it stand the last demand, to give up to God the best loved thing on earth; to do what appeared not only alien to God?s own character, but contrary to His own word and promise? For herein lay the peculiarity and severity of the trial as a test of faith. The command and the promise were in conflict. If he obeyed the command, he frustrated the promise; if he kept by the promise, he must break the command. But one way of reconciling them could be even fancied, and, dim though it was, the quick eye of faith discerned it. ?He accounted that God was able to raise up Isaac from the dead.? In obedience to the Divine command, Isaac was forthwith unbound. The ram caught in the thicket was substituted in his stead. The fire was kindled and the sacrifice completed. the father and son are preparing to return, when once again the voice from above is heard pronouncing the solemn words: ?By Myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed My voice.? In His intercourse with the patriarchs, God never sware by Himself but in this one case. The uniqueness and importance of the oath appears from its being quoted afterwards upon important occasions by Abraham himself, by Joseph, by Moses, by Zacharias, by Stephen, and by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, as well as from its being frequently referred to by God Himself. Its utterance was Ilie last that fell from the lips of God upon the ear of Abraham.? Rev. W. Hanna: ?The Bible Educator, ? vol. i. p. 86.

 

Though not given to the patriarch personally, but to his descendants, we must regard the promises to Isaac and to Jacob as all parts of the Abrahamic program. It was because of the promise that he should inherit the land that the command was given to Isaac: ?Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of: sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and I will bless thee; for unto thee and unto thy seed I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; and I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and I will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.? So to Jacob at Bethel when, as an exile journeying from Beersheba toward Haran, he was granted the vision of the ladder connecting heaven and earth, the promise was again repeated, and certain additional features added: ? Thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth; thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and thy seed shall all the families of the earth he blessed... I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.? Haran was not to be his home; Canaan was BETHELthe House of Godand God was his God; God would give him that land, and a posterity countless as the dust of the earth; mankind was to he blessed in his seed. The vastness of this program was all the more striking because the faith of Jacob was unable to take it in. At a later period in his life, when his name was changed to Israel, his faith was probably better able to grasp the promise, which now had other features added to it. ?And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; and the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.?

 

Still further was the promise expanded in this patriarch?s dying prophecy, and especially in the particulars mentioned as regards Judah. ?The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.? The sceptre of the earth was yet to belong to the ?lion of the tribe of Judah, ? who should also be the lawgiver, and yet at the same time, Shiloh, the peaceable, the Prince of peace. Taking a wider view of the Abrahamic program as comprising all the prophetic utterances of the patriarchal age, it would include those given to and through Isaac, Rebecca, and Jacob. Space forbids our dwelling on these, remarkable as they are. Divine foreknowledge was evinced, specially in the anticipations of the contrasted characters and fortunes of the posterity of the twin brothers Jacob and Esau. The passages of Scripture in which the subsequent history of ?Esau, which is Edom, ? is given, and in which the mutual relations of the Edomites and Israelites at different periods are sketched, well repay a careful study. They will mostly he found under the head ?Edom, Edomites in Bagster?s index, or in a concordance.

 

Combining now into one view all these predictions and covenant promises, given at intervals during a period of about forty years to the ?father of the faithful, ? and confirmed subsequently to his descendants, Isaac and Jacob, we ask, What is the main outline contained in this Abrahamic program of the world?s then future history? What did it foretell?

 

Omitting the less salient points, the main features are three in number.

 

I. Abraham?s posterity was to be greatly multiplied and highly distinguished; kings were to proceed from him, he was to be the father of MANY NATIONS, and especially of one GREAT NATION, which, after a period of exile, affliction, and bondage spent elsewhere, was to inherit, as their inalienable possession, the land of Canaan.

 

II. That the descendants of his son ISHMAEL were also to become a great and enduring nation, and one of a most peculiar character, unlike the rest of his seed, and especially that Ishmael should be the father of TWELVE PRINCES; and

 

III. Lastly and mainly, that through his true ?seed? which was to be called in Isaac? all the families of the earth, ? ?ALL NATIONS, ? were to be blessed.

 

The name of the patriarch changed from Abramwhich means exalted fatherto Abrahamwhich means father of a multitudecondenses this prophecy into a word. He was to become the father of one nation, many nations, and the channel of blessing to all nations. It was a wonderful revelation, and one apparently impossible of fulfillment. The recipient of the predictions was a childless and aged man. Nations do not as a rule spring from individuals, much less many nations from a single father; and Abraham should always be remembered, not as a founder of nations, but essentially and especially a father. As Adam was the father of the whole human race, and Noah the father of that portion of it which peopled the world that now is, so Abraham is the father, not only of the Jewish people, of the Arabs, Midianites, and other ?children of the East, ? or ?Saracens, ? but also the father of the faithful or believing people of God in all ages.

 

?How is the fact to be explained, ? asks Max Muller, ?that the three greatest religions in the world, in which the unity of the Deity forms the keynote, are of Semitic origin? Mahometanism, no doubt, is a Semitic religion, and its very core is monotheism. But did Mahomet invent monotheism? Did he invent even a new name of God? Not at all. And how is it with Christianity? Did Christ come to preach faith in a new God? Did He or His disciples invent a new name of God? No. Christ came, not to destroy, but to fulfil, and the God whom He preached was the God of Abraham. And who is the God of Jeremiah, of Elijah, and of Moses? We answer again: The God of Abraham. Thus the faith in the One Living God.. is traced back to one man; to Him ?in whom all the families of the earth shall be blessed.? And if from our earliest childhood we have looked upon Abraham, the Friend of God, with love and veneration, his venerable figure will assume still more majestic proportions, when we see in him the Life-spring of that faith which was to unite all the nations of the earth, and the author of that blessing which was to come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ. And if we are asked how this one Abraham passed, through the denial of all other gods, to the knowledge of the one God, we are content to answer that it was by a special Divine revelation, granted to that one man, and handed down by him to Jews, Christians, and Mahometans, to all who believe in the God of Abraham. We want to know more of that man than we do; but even with the little we know of him, he stands before us as a figure, second only to One in the whole history of the world.?Max Muller; ?Selected Essays, ? vol. ii. p. 435.

 

We must now inquire into the fulfillment of the predictions of the Abrahamic program.

 

I. When we ask, first, Did the seed of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob, become a great nation and possess the land of Canaan? and secondly, Does that nation still exist? the former of these questions may be answered by an appeal to the state of the Jewish nation in the days of Solomon, who spoke of his subjects as ?a great people that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.? During his reign, we read:

 

?Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry. And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life.

 

And he had peace on all sides round about him. And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon... And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon.? Kings iv. 20, 21, 24, 25, 34.

 

And if we inquire, secondly, Does this nation still exist? lo! we are confronted with the standing miracle embodied in the word ?Israel.? The twelve sons of Jacob (unlike Esau and Jacob, who founded two; or Moab and Ammon, or Isaac and Ishmael) did not found twelve nations, but one. After a lapse of four thousand years that nation exists still the only one on earth which can trace back its ancestry to a single individual at such a distance chronologically. Though now without a land and without a king, the authentic national history of the Jews, attested by ancient documents still extant, goes back farther than that of any other people. They have for 3, 500 years been a nation and yet a family still, owning one father and one mother, bearing to each other the strong family likeness observable between brothers and sisters, using still the old family names, cherishing as their very heart?s blood the old family traditions, living among all nations yet belonging to none, retaining even among Aryan and Hamitic peoples the peculiar and refined Semitic type, distinct in character, in religion, in worship, in language, in customs, in memories, in hopesdistinct from all other, alike only among themselves. There they are, living still among us, confronting every nation upon earth with a present fulfillment of predictions which are four thousand years old. They speak all Gentile languages, and dwell in all Gentile lands, yet sharply defined lines separate them from the rest of the Gentile world; and so broad and deep is the distinction, that the division of the human race into Jews and Gentiles puts Israel alone on the one side, and all the earth besides on the other. The Jews are the oldest of nations, and yet they exist in full vigour still, after their early contemporariesHittites, Amorites, Egyptians, Chaldeans, Assyrians and Babylonians, Medians, Persians and Grecians, as well as their later contemporariesSeleucidæ, Ptolemies, and Caesars, have all long since passed away.

 

Century after century, millenary after millenary have rolled by, since the program we are considering was first divinely announced, and all those ages unanimously attest its fulfillment. It is some four thousand years since the birth of the promised seed, three thousand five hundred since the exodus and the birth of the Jewish nation, and eighteen hundred years since the Jewish dispersion; and yet, though they have been the most sorely afflicted people known to history, they are still preserved; and now, in this nineteenth century, they are again obtaining, through their wonderful financial skill and immense money resources, such power in the civilized world, that emperors, kings, princes, and presidents are forced to treat them with consideration and respect, and are even in many lands afraid of them. Though so long scattered in all countries, and destitute of a government of their own, they are none the less one people still. The Universal Israelite Alliance binds the scattered Jews all the world over into one body; the Hebrew Bible, the synagogue ritual, the fasts and feasts of the Jewish calendar, the ordinance of circumcision, the seventh day Sabbath rest, these and other distinctive observances make the Jews, dwell where they may, one people. As a nation, they are absolutely unique in character; and though their national independence lasted but for a short part of their long history, though they have never been very numerous, and though they have always been despised and disliked by other nations, they have nevertheless as a people exerted more decided and widespread influence on the world than any other that ever existed. And ?what conceivable explanation is there of the history of the Jews, with their inextinguishable vitality, and the fulfillment again and again of their unquenchable hopes, except the truth that God had chosen them, and that God was with them? They had no righteousness, but were a stiff-necked people. They had no splendid territory, but a strip of barren, narrow, ill-watered land. They had no grand genealogya Syrian ready to perish was their father. They were not powerful enough of themselves even to conquer their own small land. They were not united. Ephraim envied Judah, and Judah vexed Ephraim. They were not free, but became the prey of nation after nation. They were not a maritime people, for their strip of sea-coast was mostly harbour less, and not their own. They had no commercial industry like Venice or Holland, no art like Greece, no arms like Rome, no colonies like England, no philosophy like Germany. They were constantly starting aside like a broken bow. Yet no power has ever been able to crush, no persecution to destroy them. They have influenced, taught, pervaded mankind. Their sacred book is the sacred book of humanity, their religious ideas are becoming more and more the religious ideas of the race. What explains it all, and alone explains it? Nothing but the truth that ?God showed His word unto Jacob, His statutes and ordinances unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation.?

 

The history of the Jewish nation is familiar to all, and we shall have to consider certain phases of it in connection with more advanced and complex programs later on. We need not, therefore, dwell on it much in this place, where the fact of its past and present existence and of its relation to the patriarch Abraham is the main point before us. We must, however, allude to one prediction frequently reiterated in the program before passing on. The posterity of the patriarch was to be greatly multiplied ?as the sand of the seashore and as the stars of heaven.? Seven times over, to Abraham, again to Isaac and again to Jacob, was this promise repeated as something distinct from the mere development of his seed into a nation. It was characterized by a special fecundity, and was, under the blessing of God, to increase with unusual rapidity. This has been throughout their history, and still is, a remarkable characteristic of the Jewish race. Had it not been so, they must long since have become extinct. So severe have been the bondages and servitudes they have undergone, so cruel and unnatural the edicts issued from time to time against them ever since Pharaoh?s command that their male children should be drowned in the Nile, so terrible have been the wars waged against them and the massacres inflicted on them, so unhealthy the conditions in which they were compelled to exist all through the Middle Ages, that it is only by a miracle they have survived at all. But their vitality is unquestionably greater than that of Gentiles; and the rapid increase which in Egypt, even under most unfavorable conditions, alarmed Pharaoh and his people, is habitual with them. They always tend to outgrow the nations among whom they dwell in number. After the return of fifty thousand only from Babylon, {#Ezr 2:64} they had multiplied to millions by the time of Christ, in spite of the Maccabaean persecutions. When Titus destroyed Jerusalem, it is recorded that over a million were assembled in the city. Though now for eighteen hundred years an exiled nation and exposed to terrible persecutions, yet they have again multiplied to eight millions. ?The more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew, ? is the testimony borne about them in Egypt, and which might be borne about them still. Births occur among them in a greater proportion than among the Gentiles, and they have besides an unusually low average of mortality. ?According to the Civil stands-Register of Frankfort, for the period between the years 1846 and 1858, while the fourth part of all children born among the Christian population had passed away before the age of six years and eleven months, the fourth part of all Jews born were not gone until twenty-eight years and three months; half of all Christians born had died before reaching thirty-six years and six months, while half of the Jews survived the age of fifty-three; of Christians born, three-fourths had passed away before reaching the age of sixty, while of the Jews one-fourth were still living at seventy-one! Again, according to the church and synagogue records of the Prussian monarchy for the eighteen years from 1823 to 1841, the average of deaths annually among the Gentile population was one in every thirty-four, but among the Jews only one in forty-six. Twenty per cent, of the Jews reached seventy years, as against only twelve per cent, of the Christians.?(Kellogg: ?The Jews, Prediction and Fulfillment, ? p 181.)

 

The Jews in America, within the last forty-two years, have increased in number from 50, 000 in a population of 20, 000, 000 to 500, 000 in the present population. This is a most remarkable fact. It means that while the general population has trebled in the period, the Israelites have increased tenfold far more rapidly than any other race. Their advance in wealth and power during the same time has been proportionate to their increase in numbers. They are recognized as the most influential members on all New York commercial exchanges, on several of which they occupy the position of chairman or treasurer. They negotiate the most important government loans and railway operations. They have almost absorbed the import trade in diamonds, watches, and jewellery, so that many of the oldest Gentile firms have been swept out of existence.

 

But one fact which is obvious to all in New York speaks more as to their growth in power and influence than many figures. The rich and important street of Broadwaythe central part of New York, lying between Canal Street and Union Squarewhich used formerly to be occupied by magnificent shops, has of late undergone a complete change. The retail trade has gone to the up-town thoroughfares, and of the four hundred buildings in the district almost all are occupied by wholesale Jewish firms. Out of twelve hundred such firms one thousand are Jewish.

 

We noted, when considering the Noahic program, the prediction that religious supremacy would run in the race of Shem. The call of his descendant Abraham and the selection of his seed to be the special custodians of the knowledge of the true God, and thus in the highest senses blessing to all nations, confirmed this previous prediction; but the fact that such a call and such a remarkable providential training as that given to the patriarchs was needful to the preservation of true religion in the earth, even in the race of Shem, is most suggestive, and its bearings must in passing be indicated. Modern infidelity has among its other theories started one which is virtually an endeavour to account for the widespread and beneficial influence of the faith of Abraham apart from any supernatural influence. It is argued by Renan and others that the Shemites, or Semitic races, have ?a natural genius? for and tendency to monotheism, and that therefore the bud of Judaism, with its flower of Christianity, grew naturally on this stock. No assertion could well be more contrary to fact, nor could any theory be more utterly baseless. As in the case of many other rationalistic schemes, history must be blotted out or ignored before it can be received. We have already mentioned that with the earliest dawn of monumental records gross idolatry is found already prevailing, not only among the Hamitic, but equally among the Semitic peoples of Babylonia, Mesopotamia, Elam, Chaldea, and Egypt.

 

?Among the deities they worshipped were Moloch, Nisroch, Rimmon, Necho, Dagon, Asbtaroth, Baal-Chemosh, Milcom, Adrammelech, Nergal, the sun, the moon, the planets, and all the host of heaven.? (Max Muller: ?Chips from a German Workshop, ? vol. i. p. 345.)

 

If there was any difference, the Shemites would seem almost to have exceeded. Professor Ebrard, in his ?Apologetik, ? has a section which gives ample proof of this. He says

 

?Those Euphrates-Semites must have been given over to a spirit of confusion out of the abyss, as they declared everything which the conscience forbids and condemns as infamous and horrible to be precisely that which belonged to the service of the Godhead.? And again: ?It was no gradual declension from a purer knowledge of God to a knowledge less clear, as with the Persians, Indians, Greeks, and Egyptians. The rise of this religionthe primitive Semitic heathenismpresupposes a wilful repetition of the original fall, a fall out of a state of simple sinfullness into a diabolic and demoniac hardness of heart, an accursed revolt against both God and the conscience.?

 

Even Jews, when their faith is undermined by rationalism, take the ground that they arrived ?intuitively in a prehistoric age at? the sublime conception of ?the unity of the creative force? in other words, at a knowledge of the one living and true God? by the genius of the race.? See article on ?The Jewish Problem? in the Century Magazine for February, 1883 p. 609. So far from this, we see that Terah and his family had fallen into idolatry, and that the Semitic people who were their contemporaries were distinguished, as Professor Zuckler says, by ?a natural inclination to a gross, sensual, idolatrous superstition, and a strong tendency to polytheism, instead of the monotheistic instinct which is claimed for them.? History moreover shows us that the Jews themselves, in spite of all the numerous Divine interventions recorded in their annals, in violation of their own covenant and in defiance of their own law, and even in face of the living voices of the prophets, were so strongly and so persistently inclined to idolatry that, right down to the day of the captivity of the land, they persisted in returning at intervals to debasing, licentious, and cruel idolatry, to the obscene worship of ? the queen of heaven? or the unnatural sacrifices to Moloch. Nothing can be more certain than that during the whole thirteen hundred years from the call of Abram to the Babylonian captivity, the Israelites themselves were constantly falling back into the idolatry from which they had been rescued, and that it was only by frequently renewed Divine intervention, by the severest providential chastenings, and by the earnest remonstrances of inspired prophets, that the Jews were at last cured of the inveterate Semitic tendency to polytheism. Of their ultimate national testimony against idolatry, no explanation which is purely natural can be accepted, or made to fit with the acknowledged facts of the case. The Divine choice of Abraham?s seed to be a peculiar people, to be the medium of conveying to the world the knowledge of the true God, is the only account which can honestly be given of the monotheism of the Jewish people amid the gross polytheism of the Gentiles.

 

II. As to the second point of the predictionthe fortunes of Ishmael and his descendantsthree points especially were stated

 

1. That God would make him a great nation.

 

2. That there should be a marked antagonism between it and other nations; that, in contrast to the seed of Isaac, which should be a blessing to the world, the seed of Ishmael would be a foe to all other peoples, and other peoples to it.

 

3. That Ishmael should ?dwell in the presence of his brethren, ? or continue to enjoy an independent existence in spite of the constant opposition of neighbouring nations.

 

Though not the promised seed, Ishmael was a son of Abraham and a descendant of Shem, and was to inherit to some extent the blessing of his forefathers. His mother Hagar, however, was an Egyptian, a descendant of Cush, and therefore a Hamite, and she is an early illustration of the fulfillment of the Noahic prediction about the servitude of the descendants of Ham to their brethren. She was a bond-woman or slave in the family of Abraham, and her child was consequently a slave also; he was the offspring, not of faith and Divine power, but of nature. He was, however, his father?s firstborn, and shared in Abraham?s affection and prayers. He was promised a part in the blessing of multiplication and increase common to all Abraham?s seed, and that he should partake to some extent of the distinction of Abraham?s children; but his lot was in other respects to be markedly contrasted to theirs.

 

He was to be the father of twelve princes, and ultimately to ?become ?not begeta great nation. To his mother it had been predicted that while the posterity of her son should not be numbered for multitude, he would always be a wild man, his hand against every man and every man?s hand against him. Yet he was to continue to ?dwell in the presence of his brethren.? This portrait of the unborn race is drawn with such a bold individuality of touch that the race itself must be easy of recognition. The expression employed in the original to characterize Ishmael?s seed is stronger than that in our version. He was to be ?a wild ass of a man, ? the race would be a wild, lawless, independent one, impatient of restraint, inclined to run free in the wilderness, and to live by plunder and robbery, ?his hand against every man, leading to the natural result that every man?s hand would be against him. Ishmael?s seed, unlike Israel, would not be a blessing in the earth, but rather a woe to mankind, ever warring and warred against, yet inextinguishable as the Jews themselves, and continuing to the end a distinct people.

 

Has this remarkable prediction been falsified by the course of history, or has it been, on the other hand, strikingly fulfilled? The Arabs are almost as much a living miracle as the Jews themselves. To the letter, and in the most wonderful manner, and for thousands of years in succession, this part of the program has been realized on the stage of history.

 

Did Ishmael beget twelve princes? #1Ch 1:29 gives the answer: ?The firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; then Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, Mishma, and Dumah, Massa, Hadad, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. These are the sons of Ishmael.?

 

Did these sons become princes? #Ge 25:16 gives the answer: ?These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations.? It is added that they occupied the country ?between Havilah and Shur;? that is, districts in Arabia between Egypt and Assyria* Nebajoth (? heights ?), the eldest son of Ishmael, was the father of the Nebathians, a people of Northern Arabia who lived by merchandise and rapine, according to Diodorus. Kedar (? black skin ?) was the father of the Cedrie, characterized as good bowmen, dwelling between Arabia Petrea and Babylon. Dumah (? silence ?) dwelt on the edge of the Assyrian desert. Hadad was father of the Arabs of Yemen; Tema of the tribes on the Persian Gulf; and so on.

 

* The Arabian peninsula had been originally peopled by the descendants of Joktan, the son of Heber, of the posterity of Shem, and certain Cushite (Hamitic) races bad also settled there. No histories but only certain fabulous traditions of these ?old Arab? races are available. The ?pure Arabs? are Joktan?s descendants, and the ?mixed Arabs? are the children of Ishmael. Mohammed traced his own descent from the marriage of Ishmael with Modad, a daughter of the king of Hejaz. The Arabs regard this branch of their pedigree as the most important, and boast as much as the Jews that they are ?children of Abraham.? The Nabathean Arabs, under a race of native princes, long preserved a distinct name as a nation, and maintained their independence against the hosts of Egypt and Ethiopia, of the Jews, the Assyrians, the Greeks, and the Romans, all of whom in turn tried in vain to subdue them. (See Chrichton?s ?Arabia and its People.?)

 

Archaeology has identified the early history of most of these twelve tribes. The expression ?towns and castles? would be better translated by ?unwalled encampments and fortified keeps.? They were nomadic tribes, and lived to a large extent by rapine, though possessed of abundant flocks and addicted to some extent to merchandise. They are often alluded to in later scriptures. ?The mighty men of Kedar? and the ?glory of Kedar? are expressions used by Isaiah, and Ezekiel speaks of ?the princes of Kedar.? Strabo and other ancient writers distinctly connect the origin of the Arabian ?Pylachs, ? or heads of tribes, with Hagar and Ishmael. #Ps 83:6 speaks of ?the tabernacles of the Ishmaelites and the Hagarenes, ? or descendants of Hagar. The promise of rapid multiplication was conspicuously fulfilled, for already in the days of Jacob we read of a company of Ishmaelites, coming from Gilead, trading with camels to Egypt, where they carried spicery, balm, and myrrh. See Gen. xxxvii. 2736.

 

The posterity of Abraham by his concubine Keturah, especially through his sons Medan and Midian, fraternized and united to some extent with the sons of Ishmael, so that in this passage the names of Ishmaelites and Midianites are used interchangeably. See also #Jud 8:22 and 24.

 

The Idumaeans and Amalekites, or descendants of Isaac?s son Esau, also mingled with the Ishmaelites, and were comprised under the common name ?the children of the East.? In the days of Gideon these Ishmaelites were so numerous that they are described as ?lying in the valley, like grasshoppers for multitude, their camels without number, as the sand by the seaside for multitude? (Jud. vii. 12). Mention is made of the hosts of the ?children of the East, ? and of one hundred and twenty thousand of their warriors falling in one battle. These ?children of the East? were all, as Josephus distinctly says, regarded as Ishmaelites, though Arabs descended from the younger sons of Abraham were numbered among them, as well as the Edomites.

 

The subsequent history of the Arab tribes and peoples is most remarkable. They have retained their freedom from the first day until now. Neither the Egyptians nor any of the four great empires were ever able to subdue them. At one time they themselves subdued the larger part of the then known world, but never have they been subdued to any other power. Sesostris, the great king of Egypt, was obliged to erect a wall to secure Egypt from the incursions of the Arabs, whom he had endeavoured in vain to conquer. They remained enemies to the Egyptians rather than subjects, in spite of all his efforts, and assisted the Assyrians in overturning the kingdom, lending their aid freely and independently. When the Persian Cyrus and his followers became the great conquerors of the East, they never could subdue Ishmael?s descendants. Herodotus says: ?The Arabs were never reduced by the Persians to the condition of subjects, but were considered by them as friends, and opened to them a passage into Egypt, which without the assistance and permission of the Arabs would have been utterly impracticable.? All other countries paid tribute to the Persians, but the Arabian territories were free. When Alexander the Great overturned the Persian empire and conquered Asia, the Arabs alone refused to make submission or send ambassadors to acknowledge the victor; they simply took no notice of him. This so angered Alexander that he was meditating a terrible expedition against them, the preparations for which showed what he thought of their prowess, when death put a stop to all his schemes and saved the Arabians from his onslaught.

 

Diodorus Siculus mentions that Antigonus, one of Alexander?s successors, made two attempts to subjugate the Arabians, both of which were defeated; and he adds:

 

?Neither the Assyrians formerly nor the kings of the Medes and Persians, nor yet of the Macedonians, were able to subdue them; nay, though they led many and great forces against them, yet they could not accomplish their attempts.? They sometimes joined the Assyrians and sometimes the Egyptians, sometimes helped the Jews, and at others plundered them; but throughout their history they always acted as a free and independent people, who cared neither for the favour nor for the opposition of any other nation.

 

But the Romans surely reduced them to subjection? No; not even they! Pompey, though he conquered three-quarters of the world, failed to subdue Arabia. He obtained some victories there, but was obliged to retire before he had gained any solid footing, and directly he was gone the Arabs undertook reprisals into the Roman provinces. One of the generals of Augustus penetrated farther into the country, firmly resolved to subdue it; but a strange and unaccountable sickness broke out among his troops, so that after two years he was glad to escape with the small remainder of his army. Trajan tried and failed to subdue Arabia, and the historian Dion gives a strange account of his reason for raising the siege of the city of the Hagarenes: ?His soldiers were repelled by lightnings, thunderings, hail and whirlwinds, and other prodigies; they were constantly so repelled, as often as they renewed their assaults. At the same time great swarms of flies infested his camp, and he was at last forced to retire with disgrace into his own dominions.? Eighty years later the Emperor Severus twice besieged the same city with a numerous army and a formidable train of military engines, but he had no better success than Trajan. No subsequent Roman emperor attempted the task, and the Arabs continued their incursions into Syria and their depredations in other Roman provinces with absolute impunity.

 

Then came the most remarkable phase of Arabian history, the time when Ishmael beyond all doubt became ?a great nation? so great as to make the world tremble. After the rise of Mohammed in Arabia, in A.D. 622, and the establishment of his monotheistic faith in place of the idolatry which was at that time beginning to prevail among the Arabians, they, under the better known name of Saracens, emerging from their desert home, conquered with the most amazing rapidity a vast extent both of Asiatic and European territory. They overran in the course of a few years more countries and subdued more nations than the Romans did in the course of centuries, and then for three hundred years they were not only free and independent of all other kingdoms, but they were themselves masters of the most important part of the earth. Their dominion extended from the walls of China to the Atlantic Ocean, and from the Sahara to the Pyrenees; and in the exercise of this wide rule they exhibited still their characteristic peculiarities. Nowhere did they reign as conquerors accepted and welcomed by other peoples, but always as tyrants who exacted either conversion to their faith and confession of their false creed, or tribute and slavery. They were a ?woe? to the corrupt Christian countries they overran. After this period, when the flood of their invasion subsided and they were once more confined within the limits of Arabia, they still maintained their independence. Tartars, Mamelukes, and Turks alike failed to subjugate them. The rest of Asia might fall under Napoleon-like conquerors, but they remained free, and as usual employed their liberty for the injury of their neighbours. The Turks even in the height of their power were obliged to pay them a tribute for the protection of the pilgrims to Mecca, and do so still. No traveller in the East has failed to be struck with the marvelous coincidences still observable between the Bedaween of the desert and the Scripture predictions as to the children of Ishmael.

 

It should be borne in mind that those predictions were given before Hagar?s child was born, and when no human wisdom could possibly have foreseen either his character or that of his descendants. It should be remembered also that a similar identity of characteristics extending over thousands of years cannot be traced in the history of any other nation if we except the Jews. The modern Italians are not what the old Romans were, and the English of to-day are utterly unlike the Britons of a thousand years age. As a rule, men and manners change with the lapse of ages, but the Arabians maintain still in our nineteenth century the family and national characteristics predicted four thousand years ago. Nor can this be accounted for by the fact that they dwell in Arabia, isolated to some extent from the rest of mankind. They have trafficked with the neighbouring nations from the earliest days. When they overran the earth by their conquests, they possessed most of the learning that was then in the world, and did some service to mankind in extending and diffusing it; but they remained then, and remain still, the same fierce, intractable people, like their father Ishmael, and unlike all other nations. Ishmael was circumcised at thirteen, and they still observe the Abrahamic ordinance at the same age; they still live in tents as he did, still trade with Egypt as he did, and exist in clans and tribes and in a state of warfare and antagonism with all their brethren precisely as foretold. How, apart from Divine inspiration, can these things have been foreseen? and how, apart from the providential power of God, can such a nation have been maintained in such a condition for four thousand years? Is not this the finger of God?

 

III. The third point of the Abrahamic program was that ?all the nations of the earth, ? and even ?all the families? of the earth, should be blessed through Abraham s seed. Has this prediction been fulfilled?

 

For answer let us glance at the world of A.D. 1888. We will divide all its nations and families into two parts, including in the one all those which have directly or indirectly been brought under the influence of his seed, and on the other hand all those which have not. The prophecy, it must be remembered, is only partially fulfilled at present. Successive ages as they have rolled away have been evermore fulfilling it, but not until ?the dispensation of the fullness of times wilt it be wholly accomplished. But the fulfillment has already gone quite far enough to afford the most ample proof of the inspiration of the prophetic program.

 

How are we to decide which of earth?s nations have been influenced by Abraham?s seed, and which have not? The question is easily answered. All the monotheism in the world is distinctly traceable to Abraham. Wherever we find a nation or a family which worships the one living and true God, there we find a nation and a family which has been blessed through the patriarch and his seed. Hence not Jews only, but all professing Christian nations and the entire Mohammedan world as well, must form our first group of nations; while the second will consist of all those professing polytheistic, pantheistic, and other forms of religion, as well as those which have none; including thus all idolaters, and all the fetish and devil worshippers of every kind. All the theistic religions that have ever existed are distinctly and historically connected with the Old and New Testaments: the ancient forms with the Jewish Scriptures, and the more modern ones with the Christian writings of later date. Hence we may say that, but for the influence of Abraham?s seed, the world this day would have been without any true knowledge of the existence and moral government of one personal God, creator and judge of all. The influence which this knowledge has had on the development of the human race is the measure of the beneficial influence exerted among the families of the earth through the seed of Abraham. We will therefore call the two groups into which we proceed to divide the nations of the earth the Abrahamic and the non-Abrahamic respectively.

 

In the Abrahamic group we should have some 600 millions of the human race who are monotheists, and in the second a rather larger number, about 800 millions, who have no knowledge of Abraham nor of his God, but are still polytheists and, like the old Chaldeans from whose midst he was called out, idolaters. Now, in the first place, is it not a very wonderful fact that nearly half the human r~ace have actually already been influenced by Abraham?s seed and Abraham?s faith that 600 millions of mankind know his name and revere his character, and hold sacred the cave of Machpelah at Hebron where rest his remains? But what of the blessedness of this half of humanity compared with that of the larger half which has not yet come under the influence of Abraham and his seed? By blessedness we at present mean only the evident outward manifestations of happiness, prosperity, and hopeful prospects for the future; that mental illumination and physical well-being which we include in the one comprehensive expression, progressive civilization. Which of the two halves of humanity is in these senses the most ?blessed?? In the monotheistic or Abrahamic group we should have the English, Scotch and Irish, the Norwegians, Swedes and Danes, the Dutch, Belgian and French, the Spaniards, Portuguese and Italians, the Swiss, Austrians and Greeks, the Germans, Poles and Russians; the hundred millions of similar races in America, Africa and Australia, and seven millions of Christianized negroes in the United States and those in the West Indies, the eight millions of Jews scattered throughout the world; the Eastern Christians of the Armenian, Nestorian, Maronite and Coptic Churches of Syria and Egypt, and in addition to these the entire Mohammedan world numbering 170 millions, and including Arabs, Sikhs, Persians, Turks, Egyptians, Moors and Berbers, extending from India and Arabia to the Atlantic; together with all the converts from heathenism gathered in of late years through missionary efforts.

 

In the other group, the non-Abrahamic or polytheistic group, we should have such families and nations as the Japanese and Chinese, including the black hairy Amos of the former, and the wild Shan and Miautsc tribes of the latter; the dark Buddhistic Mongols, Thibetians, and Tartars, the wild and cruel Calmucs and Kurds, the superstitious and caste-ridden Tamils, Telegus and Bengalis, the Singhalese, Burmans and Siamese, the wretched and degraded Gonds, Bhils and Santhals of India; the Malays and Papuans, the blood-thirsty Dyaks of Borneo and the animal-like native Australians; the (heathen) Malagasy, the fierce Zulus and naked Kaffirs, the warlike Griquas and Matabele, the Hottentots and Namaquas, the monkey-like Bushmen of the Kalihari desert, who have lost almost the semblance of humanity; the countless Bantu tribes and nations of Central Africa, with their cannibalism, slavery, and cruel intertribal warfare; the Ashanti and Fanti nations of West Africa; Dinka, Monbutto and other heathen nations of the Soudan; the Somali, Gallas and Masai of East Africa; together with the some sixteen millions of degraded and fast dying out American Indians, the Patagonians and the Terra del Fuegians, the cannibals of the Pacific Islands, and the Maori of New Zealand.

 

We say nothing of the past or of the future, but these two lists recall roughly the world of the nineteenth, century. Can any one hesitate for a single moment in deciding as to which of these two groups of the nations of the earth is the ?blessed? or happy one? There are degrees of light in the first, and degrees of darkness in the second; but, taken as groups, is not the progress and prosperity of the world found in the first? Does not the future lie with it, ay, and with the most enlightened section of it too? Which are the foremost and most rapidly advancing races of mankind? Not those which profess the faith of Islam, monotheistic though it be; but those which profess the faith of Abraham?s great seed, which is Christ. The Christian nations take the lead this day in the world, and especially those which hold the purest forms of Christianity. Foremost among all the races of the human family stand the Protestant Saxons, German and English, the two mightiest nations of Europe, and the latter, with its American representative, the dominant power in the Western world.

 

Surely then the most superficial and cursory glance at the present condition of the human race affords a proof of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic program, the strength and conclusiveness of which cannot be over-estimateda demonstration of its Divine inspiration which no candid mind can fail to perceive. The announcement of a future event whose occurrence could not possibly be foreseen by any natural human sagacity must be an inspired prophecy. In this case it cannot be for a moment questioned that the Abrahamic program was promulgated several thousand years before any such fulfillment could be perceived. Even the most extravagant critics cannot postdate the Pentateuch more than a few centuries, and it was at least twenty-three hundred years before this fulfillment which we have indicated became even dimly visible, much longer before it became clear, while it has only been conspicuous within the last three centuries. Yet now none can deny or even question it. The contrast in freedom, independence, power, wealth, light and leading, peace and prosperity, between the two groups we have presented is startling; but this present condition of the world could by no human sagacity have been foreseen four, or even three, thousand years ago. It could not possibly have been anticipated by man. The correspondence between prediction and fulfillment is close, the scale of the fulfillment is gigantic, the interval since the prophecy was published enormous. For ages Israel treasured the prediction, but saw no signs of. its accomplishment. Abraham was the father of their nation, and of the Arab nations, but there was no sign of all nations being blessed through him. Even when Christ came, the state of the Roman world, as contrasted with their own condition, showed that no blessing had yet flowed to mankind through Abraham?s seed. The Israelites had the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the law, and the service of God, and the promises; the fathers and the prophets belonged to them; the Scriptures were their sacred books; and they felt that they, and they only, were the children of promise and counted for the seed. As to the rest of mankind, they were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world, afar off from Him, walking in the vanity of their minds, having the understanding darkened, and being alienated from the life of God through ignorance and blindness of heart. But now we may boldly say, there is not a blessed nation on earth whose blessing has not come to it through Abraham?s seed, and every passing year makes this strange fact only more apparent.

 

This view, however, is but a superficial one; we must go deeper. In His promise to the patriarch, ?God, ? says Paul, ?preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee and in thy seed shall all nations be blessed.... He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is CHRIST.? The great promise to Abraham was the promise of Christ. It was a second and more emphatic repetition of the hope held out in Eden, that the salvation of a sin-ruined race should be wrought out by the woman s seed. That seed, it was now revealed, was to be Abraham?s seed, and He would not only crush the serpent?s head, but bring blessing to the wide world. What blessing? Not merely the outward blessing to which we have alluded, but the deepest and richest of all blessings ?Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin?. {#Ro 4:7, 8}

 

The great blessing of the Abrahamic covenant was spiritual not temporal, and it promised to man all that is included in that fathomless word SALVATION. How far Abraham understood this we know not, nor is it important to our argument to decide. ?Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, ? said Christ, ?and he saw it and was glad.? How did he see it? Was it in the strangely typical action to which he himself was constrained in the providence of Godthe offering up of his well-beloved son? One can hardly refrain from the conviction that he must have seen in that sacred scene on Mount Moriah more than met the eye! But whether Abraham understood or no, He who made the promises to Abraham, and ?because He could swear by no greater, sware by Himself?He understood the profound and comprehensive nature of the prediction, that Israel should be the universal center of blessing to mankind, that salvation should be of the Jews, that humanity at largethe whole race, Jew and Gentile alikeshould through Abraham be blessed for ever, blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ. The Christian Church is in a sense Abraham?s seed, as it is written: ?If ye be Christ?s, then are ye Abraham?s seed, and heirs according to the promise.? Who shall estimate the blessing which that Church, in spite of all its failures, has been to the worldthe blessing that it is this day? Who can express what the gift of Christ has done for the Gentiles? How has He illuminated, emancipated, elevated, sanctified, transformed? The results of His mission include justification by faith, and the gift of the Holy Spirita gift not visible to the world save in its effects, the lives and the deeds of the justified and indwelt Church of God. These are sufficiently visible. The Church is a city set on a hill; the light of the world, which owes all its blessing instrumentally to her.

 

The great and all-important series of events which date from the incarnation, embracing the existence and all the effects of the Christian Church in the world, and all the unknown yet revealed and glorious future lying before redeemed humanityall is foretold in embryo in this brief, simple sentence of the Abraham program. Repeatedly and plainly it is predicted that Abraham?s seed was to be the salvation of mankind. Can there be any doubt as to the meaning of the prediction, and has it not been in process of fulfillment for the last two thousand years, at any rate? Does not every year make this fulfillment more evident? Eternal ages alone will unfold its full meaning, but do not we see already millions of mankind enjoying the promised blessing, and rejoicing in their spiritual relation to Abraham even more than the Jews glory in their natural descent from him Has not the bud already opened into a blossom, and is not that blossom an earnest of the glory and beauty of the ancient stem when it shall be covered with such blossoms, when not half the world shall be partially blessed through Christ, but the whole world perfectly and for evermore?

 

How easily this prophecy might have failed of fulfillment in one or all of its particulars! The Jews might have become merged with the Egyptians, and never have escaped from the land of their bondage. They might have perished in the wilderness, or, more likely still, have become a mere tribe of uninfluential Bedaween. Still more likely, they might have failed in their attempt to conquer Canaan, or have been permanently corrupted by the gross polytheisms of their neighbours, into which they were so prone to fall. Or again, judging from the first four thousand years of human history, how utterly improbable an event was it that the Jewish nation, when it had lost all independence and even a ruler of its ownwhen it had become a mere province of the Roman empireshould become the center of a movement which should revolutionize civilized society, and give birth to One who in less than three centuries should be recognized and worshipped as a Divine being by the entire Roman world, and then by degrees win the adoration and obedience of half the human race, as Christ, the son of Abraham, has done at this day. How very easily all this might not have been as it has been, nay, how exceedingly improbable that the fact should have been what it is, and thus have fulfilled the ancient prediction.

 

Look again at the case of Ishmael?s seed. How perfectly natural it would have been that they should have shared the fate of all other nations, and been subjugated by the four great empires which subdued all else, in succession. How easily it might have happened that they should have remained always what they were for ages, and what they have long since become againutterly uninfluential in the world?s history. What strange and unlikely episodes those wonderful Saracenic conquests, and that widespread Saracenic empire, those centuries in which Ishmael became indeed ?a great nation?

 

And it must be noted that none of these great events could have been brought about by any human intention to fulfil the Abrahamic program. Even supposing the Jews had set their hearts on its fulfillment, and been as anxious as they were careless about it and even opposed to it (as witness their indignant refusal to believe in the call of the Gentiles), had they wished to bring all nations into their covenant with Jehovah, what could they have done? How could they have overthrown the pantheon of the Roman mythology, they who had just been themselves utterly overthrown by Roman power? It has been by no effort of the Jewish nation that Christ has become the acknowledged Savior of the world and supreme King of humanity! As a nation they rejected and slew Him, and they have hated and spurned His name ever since. As to the Gentiles who received Him, they most assuredly did not do so because of any knowledge they had of the Abrahamic program! They were for the most part in total ignorance both of it and of the Scriptures which contained it. These facts are so wide in their scope, so ancient in their duration, so enduring in their character, that there is no accounting for them at all by any theory save the true one, that He who foresaw the end from the beginning was the author of that section of the program of the world?s history given to Abraham.

 

To conclude; we challenge the infidel to blot out, if he can, the name of ABRAHAM, with the promise and the prophecy it contains, from the pages of the Pentateuch and of the entire Bible. If he cannot do that, we challenge him to blot out the four thousand years of Jewish, Arabian, and Gentile history which have fulfilled that prophecy, and made good that promise. If he can do neither the one nor the other if it be beyond his power either to obliterate the name or to alter the historylet him confess with all honesty that the history was anticipated, that what has happened was foreseen and foretold; or, in other words, that there is here an unquestionable miracle of foreknowledge, and a proof of inspiration so conclusive that it cannot be gainsaid.

 

I AM JEHOVAH: THAT IS MY NAME: AND MY GLORY WILL I NOT GIVE TO ANOTHER, NEITHER MY PRAISE TO GRAVEN IMAGES. BEHOLD, THE FORMER THINGS ARE COME TO PASS, AND NEW THINGS DO I DECLARE: BEFORE THEY SPRING FORTH I TELL YOU OF THEM. {Isaiah 42:8, 9}

 

KNOWN UNTO GOD ARE ALL HIS WORKS FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD. {Acts 15:18}

 

Index Intro 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Conclusion





About Me

Historicism.com is owned and operated by me, Joe Haynes, of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I serve as a pastor in a church plant in Victoria since 2013. My wife, Heather, and I have five kids. In 2011, I completed a Master of Arts in Christian Studies from Northwest Baptist Seminary at the Associated Canadian Theological Seminaries of Trinity Western University. Feel free to visit my blog at Keruxai.com.
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