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GENESIS XVII, XVIII. Olympas. SOMETHING remains on the subject of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness of faith. At this point we left off our morning lesson. What do seals imply, William?
William. Something previously stipulated or agreed upon.
Olympas. When covenants are under consideration, that is true; but when Paul says that Abraham received the “sign of circumcision, a seat of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised," does it allude to a covenant transaction at all ?
Thomas. It would seem that Paul meant no more than that God's giving to Abraham the covenant of circumcision was a pledge, or an approval, of that faith which he had formerly exhibited in believing and obeying the first promise concerning the seed of blessings.
Olympas. You are right: the sign of circumcision was to Abraham not merely a sign, as it was to Ishmael and Isaac; but in addition, a proof of the excellency of that, faith which he had twenty-four years before Isaac was orn, or the covenant of circumcision ordained.
Thomas. Can baptism be a seal to any one of the faith which he has before he receives the ordinance ?
Olympas. No; in strict conformity to the facts in the case of Abraham, it cannot be said either of infant or adult baptism, of believing or not believing baptism, that it is a seal of the righteousness of the faith which the subject previously possessed.
Eliza. Of infants it could not be, because they have no previous faith; but Dr. Godfather preaches that to those who have faith in person, or by proxy, baptism like circumcision, is a seal of the righteousness of the faith which they before possessed.
Olympas. Dr. Godfather is not infallible, nor is his opinion so profoundly learned or wise, as that it were either a sin or a shame to differ from it. But, however learned or wise in other matters, will take upon me to say, that, in this respect, he is greatly mistaken.
Thomas. I read in some of the Baptist books that baptism, like circumcision, may be called a seal of the righteousness of faith to those who have faith before baptism.
Olympas. They are, indeed, in this point as much mistaken as the Pedobaptists : for their case and that of Abraham have no analogy in the point in which Paul contemplates the affair. Abraham's case was this: He had believed and obeyed God in a very singular way long before the birth of Ishmael or Isaac. The Lord's making a formal and special covenant with him afterwards as an approval of his previous faith and obedience, was, indeed, a striking seal or pledge of the excellency of his faith ; but baptism requires only a confession of faith from any one, and then it is common to all such confessors, and cannot be to any of them a formal, or special divine interposition, or solemn approval of his faith or of its righteousness; and therefore no man's baptism can be to him from God what Abraham's circumcision was to him—a special pledge of the righteousness of his previous belief. Baptism never is to any one what circumcision was to Abrahaman immediate pledge from God that his faith is fully approved. We shall now hear you read in turn the eighteenth chapter of Genesis.
[The chapter being read Olympas called upon all the family in order, to ask him, or each other, a question on some point in it.]
James. What means “the Plains of Mamre?"
Susan. Mamre was the brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner, and is called an Amorite.
William. Who were these three visitants that appeared to Abraham ?
Eliza. Three angels, I presume.
Reuben. One of them was more than an angel. He seems to have been the Lord.
Rufus. Yes; for Abraham shows by his words and his actions in accosting one of them, and in bowing so humbly towards the ground, when he invited him into his teut, that he supposed him to be more than a mortal.
Francis. Abraham was a very polite gentleman. He bowed very courteously to the sons of Heth on another occasion. It would, therefore, be too strong an inference to deduce from this the divinity of any one of the
company. Thomas. Some of the circumstances would seem to conflict with the opinion that they were angels; and yet it is difficult to contemplate thein in any other light.
Olympas. The ancient rites of hospitality are admirably depicted in this passage. See the venerable Prince Abraham sitting at the door of bis tent, during the heat of the day, casting his eyes occasionally along the plain, that, should any fatigued pilgrim appear, he might invite him to enjoy the hospitalities of his tabernacle. Meanwhile, three pilgrims in human form present themselves. They suddenly stood by him; and, lifting up his eyes, he ran to meet them at the door of his dwelling; and from some indications of superior standing, he humbly bowed to the ground while he solicited the favour of their company; and thus prevailed with them to sojourn with him for a few hours. They accepted of his kind invitation; and immediately, after informing Sarah of his wishes for his guests, and selecting a fatted calf, which he gave to a servant to prepare with all despatch, he had their sandals removed, and their feet refreshed with a cooling bath. The refreshment being prepared, and the table spread under an oak at the door of his tent, simply furrished with bread and roasted veal, butter and milk, Abraham himself in at the table and waited upon his illustrious guests.
Edward. Why did not Abraham call half a dozen of his Negroes to wait upon his guests, rather than officiate in person? Had he not many servants ? Was it not parsimony, rather than politeness, that prompted this ? And what gentleman, who owns five hundred or a thousand slaves, would have his wife to go out and prepare a meal for his friends when they call upon him ? I do not understand this.
Henry. I did not know that Abraham had any Negroes in those days. Were Abraham's servants blacks ?
Olympas. Abraham's servants were of his own colour, and were not kept about his tent to wait upon his person, or upon that of his wife. They were for other uses in these patriarchal times. Besides, work was no disgrace to either patriarchal gentlemen or ladies. To be employed in the reasonable and necessary labours of the house, the garden, or the field, was then regarded as both pleasant and honourable. Besides, it was in much better taste for Abraham to serve his guests as he did, than to have employed inferior persons as proxies to do it for him. Would you not, Edward, consider it a greater honour to have the master of a large household, his wife, or his sons and daughters, to wait upon you in their own persons, than to have him call up either a hired servant or a servile Ethiopian to minister to your comforts ?
Edward. Doubtless I should : yet still I do not see the use of servants if we must wait upon ourselves.
Olympas. We often have more business than we can manage or perform . it is therefore expedient to have help-not, however, to enable us to dispense with labour, or to make it either irksome or disgraceful to ourselves. Depend upon it, my children, whenever any one regards labour às disgraceful, he is far gone in the theory of profligacy and ruin.
God made man to work, and furnished him with a case of instruments, called hands, of the most admirable contrivance, and with a patrimony on which to employ them both pleasantly and profitably. But with Prince Abraham in our eye serving his strange guests, who can regard such services as discreditable or humiliating? But I would have you more especially to mark the