« PreviousContinue »
just and unjust.” “ As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” " The dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." 26
In his conference with the Sadducees, our Saviour certainly set about to prove “as touching the dead, that they rise”-in the present tense.
And what less was this than representing the resurrection to be a current event, even as is death, or natural birth? “ As touching the dead, that they rise,” said he, “ have ye not read in the book of Moses?" &c. “Now that the dead are raised, eren Moses showed at the bush,” &c.27 And the way he makes it appear
that the rising of the dead was shown by Moses, (he does not speak of its being foreshown, as though altogether a future event,) is by adverting to the fact that Abraham and others were shown to be alive after having died, in that the Lord, through an angel, declared himself to be their God at that time, as He had been before their decease. But how did this show the rising of the dead in the sense of their being destined to rise many thousands of years thereafter ?
To conclude, “ the dead are raised ;” we also shall be ; all the dead will be. And the writer of this is entirely confident that when the conviction shall have become general, (as he is certain it by and by will,) that the time of the surrection is, has been, and will be, constantly present,also, that the Scriptures reveal no existence for a human spirit except in connection with a bodily organism,—the “difficulties” which seem to cluster so thickly around the subject when viewed from a different stand-point, will have mostly, if not wholly and for ever, disappeared.
26 Acts xxiv. 15; 1 Cor. xv. 22, 52.
The Promise to Abraham.
The place of Abraham's nativity was Mesopotamia, that region of country which lies between the Euphrates and Tigris, large rivers of Asia. The high plain lying between these rivers supported a dense population at an early period of the world's history. Here one of the most powerful empires of antiquity grew up; and here two of the most renowned cities of olden time were located, Nineveh and Babylon. This seat of ancient civilization was probably not far from the Eden of the Scriptures, where the first pair dwelt in Paradise. But society in Mesopotamia became corrupt at that early period when Abraham dwelt there, a young man ; yet he was distinguished for those virtues and
graces which are ornaments to society and commend one to God. Indeed, the whole family, Abraham with his father and brothers, seem to have been worthy and good. Haran, the youngest, died at an early age in his native land, leaving one son, Lot, a prominent name in the early history of the Jews. Tereh, resolving to leave that country and locate in Canaan, took Abraham, Nahor and Lot, his grandson, and journeyed westward. There are evidences that all the tribes and nations of the earth are descended from a parent stock whose home was in the interior of Asia, not far, perhaps, from the sources of the river Indus. Tereh, while making his westward journey, halted in Haran, where he died at the advanced age of two hundred and five years. After his burial, “the Lord said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land which 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 curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
Obedient to this command, Abraham took Lot, his brother's son, and proceeded on his journey westward, with all his possessions, till he arrived in that part of Canaan which was afterwards called Samaria. Being a religious man, he erected an altar there in Sichem, and worshipped God according to the manner of those times. But he seems to have continued only a little while in Sichem, for the next statement respecting him is, that he proceeded southward near to Bethel where he sojourned and erected an altar for worship. We must not assign to Abraham, at any period of his life, a fixed habitation ; for, being a herdsman, he journeyed almost continually from place to place, seeking pasturage for his numerous flocks and herds. He built for himself no house, but dwelt in a tent where it suited his convenience. There were, at that time, various tribes inhabiting the country, yet it appears that they offered no resistance to Abraham, but permitted him to dwell among them in peace. It is probable that the tribes which occupied the country before Abraham's entrance into it, were nomadic, gaining a subsistence by tending flocks and herds, which they pastured in any locality where they could find the best feed. In this manner, a wanderer amidst wanderers, lived the patriarch Abraham ; yet he had the promise that all that land should be given him and his posterity for a lasting possession.
Thus Abraham lived, trusting in God that all his prom. ises would be fulfilled. But when he was advanced in years, and was without child, it seems he began to despair of having a numerous posterity. In this season of despondency, “the Lord came unto him in a vision, saying, Fear not Abram ; I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus ?" “And the Lord 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 God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." When he was an hundred years old a son
was born to him according to promise, yet he was commanded to offer him, when a youth, in sacrifice on mount Moriah. The patriarch proceeded to obey this command, and having bound his son was about to slay him, when a voice from heaven called him to stay his hand, and pointed out a suitable victim as a substitute for the youth. Then “the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven, the second time, and said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord ; for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld 'thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore; and thy seed shall possess the gates of his enemies, and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” Thus on several different occasions, was the promise made to Abraham that he should be the father of a numerous posterity, and that in him should all the nations of the earth be blessed. We know that a numerous posterity proceeded from him, constituting a large and powerful nation among the surrounding tribes; and that nation, even to the present time, has cherished his name with reverence, and has been ever proud to call him their father.
The questions which specially concern us are, Is this blessing to be universal in the sense of including every individual of the human family? or, in the sense that the blessing shall become common in the world? And in what does the blessing consist ? It
may be claimed with some show of reason that the blessing was promised to every individual of the human race, on account of the form in which it was made, and repeated to Isaac and Jacob. Embracing these several forms in one, it will appear that all the nations, families and kindreds of the earth are to be blessed in Abraham and his seed. It may be confidently affirmed that all the nations, families and kindreds of the earth, embrace every individual of the human race. But phrases do not always mean what, on a superficial reading, they seem to mean. And this phrase which has sometimes been understood as teaching that every one shall participate in the blessing promised, or shall come into the possession of it in the future life, may not really teach such a doctrine, nay, may not contain any allusion to it.
The words family and kindred are nearly or quite synonymous, or the words in the original are; hence two forms only remain for examination ; only nations and families are included in the promise,—In thy seed shall all the nations and families of the earth be blessed. What, now, is a family, in the scriptural sense of the
word? Does it consist only of parents and their children, including domestics, perhaps ? No; what we call a family is, in the Scriptures, usually called a household ; and the father or head man is called a householder. But the word translated family, in every instance in which it is used in connection with the promise to Abraham, is a different one, never meaning family or household, as we use these words, but tribe or lineage ; and bears a relation to patriarch like that which family, in English, bears to father. When a man became eminent his decendants for a long time, perhaps for all time, called him patriarch, while his posterity were called his family. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were patriarchs. Jacob had twelve sons, each of whom may also be regarded as a patriarch, being the head of a distinct division of the Hebrew nation. These several divisions were tribes or families. And when any particular man greatly distinguished himself, and became eminent in his tribe, he was honored with the name of patriarch, and his descendants, to the latest posterity, were his family. In reading the Old Testament we find this to be the common usage, a usage, indeed, from which there is seldom if ever a departure. Thus David is called a patriarch ; and Joseph, the reputed father of Jesus, is said to be of the family of David. He was a lineal descendant of the king, and in this sense a member of his family.
It thus appears that family, as used in the Scriptures, has considerable latitude of meaning; sometimes denoting all the posterity of a highly eminent man, in which case family is equivalent to nation, or tribe-in this sense all the He brew people constituted the family of Abraham, -and sometimes denoting the posterity of a certain man of this great family, who, for some cause, became distinguished; in this sense the descendants of Jacob's twelve sons were called their families, and all who could trace their lineal descent to David were called his family. When the Jews are spoken of as descended from Abraham, a common sire, they may be called indifferently a family, tribe, or nation ; but when spoken of as descended from different patriarchs, the descendants of each patriarchi would be called a family, but not a nation ; it might require several of these families to constitute one tribe, and several tribes to constitute the whole nation. A family may be either a whole tribe, or a