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see the good of thy CHOSEN; that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy NATION; that I may glory with thine INHERITANCE. In this charming passage, is beautifully comprehended the substance of this essay. The free grace or favour of God induced the choice, which he made of his people: that choice, when carried into act, raised them to be his nation that nation, thus chosen and governed, became his own peculiar delight and inheritance.
What a wonderful distinction is here bestowed upon the called, and chosen, and faithful? To what a super-eminent dignity are those children of men raised, who are made the children of God?
And is this thy portion, O Christian, thou son of earth by nature, yet redeemed from it? Is this thy calling, thou poor benighted Gentile, sitting in the shadow of death? If David, in the contemplation of these mercies, could say; Who am I, O Lord God, and what is mine house, that thou hast brought me hitherto? what ought to be the feeling of thy soul, so gathered from among the heathen as thou art, and so wonderfully entitled to inherit the throne of glory?
O reflect, with adoration and comfort, that thou art peculiarly God's own; and therefore, in proof of it, that thou must be holy. Be ye holy for I am holy, saith the Lord. A sheep cannot be filthy as a swine, nor live upon its trash for food. Every real believer hateth the garment which is spotted by the flesh; for, being cleansed and clothed by Christ, he loves to be clean, both for his Redeemer's sake and for his own.
And remember too, when thy soul trembles under the violence of trial or temptation, that thou art so peculiarly
*Ps, cvi. 4, 5,
God's own, as never to be another's, never to be lost. He will never leave nor forsake, what he hath loved so much, as to purchase at the dear rate of the death of his Son. Fear thou not [and this exhortation is repeated again and again] for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee, yea [non] I will hold fast to support thee, with the right hand of my righteousness. Fear not; for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I Jehovah am thy Alehim, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.†
Christian, what greater promises than these canst thou desire? O be not faithless, but believing; and all shall be done according to this holy word. It is a shame to doubt the veracity of a good and upright man: it is something more to distrust the faithfulness of HIM, who is the truth itself, who cannot be deceived or disappointed, who is too full of compassion to deceive thee, and too full of power and providence to cease working by all means for thy welfare.
THIS title is not always to be taken in the strict sense, implied in the English word; for the Hebrew signifies not only first-born, but also the chief, præ-eminent, most-excellent, &c. There is another word, which more properly signifies the first transmission of a creature into the world. The first-born males, however; those literally such; had great privileges and consideration above the succeeding children, from the earliest ages. Under the patriarchal dispensation, though every man was a priest for himself and for his own house, and therefore offered up sacrifices to God (which under the Jewish dispensation was confined to one particular family or tribe;) yet, upon solemn occasions, where a whole lineage were assembled, it is with good reason believed, that he, who had the right of primogeniture, made the offerings upon the altar for all the rest. Thus Jethro, Moses's father-in-law, took a burnt-offering and sacrifices for God, just before the Levitical institution, though Moses and Aaron, and all the elders of Israel, were present to communicate sacramentally with him.* The learned Selden has observed, that they were thus dignified particularly as the servants of God, in performing
* Exod. xviii. 12,
his may or ministry; and, in being eminently such, were considered as the heads of the people. Hence, in respect to their divine office, they were called by the title of 5, which implies prince or primate as well as priest; and thus what is rendered priest of On (Gen. xli. 45.) and priest of Midian (Exod. ii. 16.) includes both the civil and religious notion of a præ-eminent man, or chief. In process of time, therefore, when great monarchical governments were established, then), priests or princes, were such persons as had liberty of nearest access to kings, and, from their weight and influence or for their wisdom, were admitted to be their counsellors and confidents.*
The young ment of the children of Israel, whom Moses sent to offer burnt-offerings and to sacrifice peaceofferings unto the Lord, are supposed to be the first-born or chiefs of families or tribes, to whom was yielded this solemn office of the primogeniture. This is the last act recorded of the patriarchal economy amongst the sons of Israel; for, soon afterwards, the first-born were redeemed from that duty by the substitution of the Levites in their stead, who from thenceforth,‡ in a peculiar manner, were the Lord's,§ and were to bear sin instead of the first-born, as representatives of the Messiah, till he should appear in the world.
From hence it seems, that there had been an antient claim of God to the first-born, as his own, or as the
The Gentiles, long after the patriarchal times, had this reference to their chiefs, though much depraved, as every other religious institution was among them.
+ Exod, xviii, 12. Numb. xviii. 22,
§ Numb. iii. 45, &c. repre.
representative of the great first-born who should come in the fulness of time (and hence probably Eve's mistake in Gen. iv. 1. concerning Cain her first-born; "I have gotten a man, or person, the very Jehovah.") which claim was renewed in Exod. iv. 22. and confined to a particular stock; Israel is my son, even my first-born.
Now, this claim of God could not arise from his right to the first-born as Jehovah the Creator, for, as such, he certainly has a right to all, and so it is expressly said in Exod. xix. 5. but as Jehovah the Redeemer, whose office it was, when united to the human nature, to be the first-born among many brethren, and, as such, being the first and nearest of kin, to redeem as their representative the inheritance lost to the family. And the first-born, being thus specially claimed, showed, that the inheritance had been forfeited; that he, who had the next natural right, was therefore cut off from it by being the Lord's; and that he, as well as the inheritance, must be redeemed by another, fully able and rightfully capable of performing such a redemption. It appears then, that the ground of the doctrine of the first-born is this. All men and all their posterity are naturally under the curse for sin. The first-born therefore was to be devoted to God, as his peculiar, for an acknowledgement of this truth, in the first instance; and, in the second, for the declaration of another truth, arising by God's mercy out of the former; namely, that God would appoint his first-born and only
Hence, the selling the birth-right was so great a sin in Esau. He valued neither religion before God, nor good example to man; but preferred a small present enjoyment, the gratification of his belly, before both. See Gen. xxv. 34. Exod. xvi, 3. Phil. iii, 19,