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the Jews, while they persisted in their own infidelity, should hereafter contract, upon the extension of the privilege which they considered peculiarly their own, to the Gentiles-the privilege of standing in the relation of the children of Abraham, of the heirs of the promises, and of the chosen people of God P.

THE INTERPRETATION.

The foundation of the history was the fact first mentioned; A certain man had two sons: on which it was an obvious remark, that though there could be only one father, there might have been more than two sons. The reason for thus restricting the number of members belonging to the same family, who are supposed to stand to its head in the relation of children, must now appear; if by the father or head of the family we are at liberty to understand the Creator of mankind, and by the sons or subordinate parts of the family, the two comprehensive divisions of his moral creatures, into the Jews and the Gentiles. Nor, after the call of Abraham, is any other

P The general consent of the Christian church in Tertullian's time, explained the two brethren as typical the one of the Jew, the other of the Christian. It is true, he himself opposes this explanation; but solely on the ground that the language of the elder brother to his father, Lo so many years am I serving thee, and never have transgressed a command of thine, cannot hold good of the Jew. But this objection makes no allowance for the irritation of the moment: and in what sense the assertion may be even literally true of the Jews, (at least in our Saviour's time will appear hereafter. In any case, as long as the Jews still continued to retain their relation to God as his peculiar people, so long they must be supposed still to be serving him, in some sense or other, to his satisfaction, and still not to be transgressing his commandments.

division of mankind recognised in scripture, than into the posterity of Abraham and the children of the Gentiles; nor, after the settlement of the Jews in a country of their own, any other partition of the world, than into the land of Israel and the countries of the Gentiles.

Where the relation of a father, as such, is alone regarded, it is, and must be, the same in respect to any one of his children as to the rest; and where the relation of a son alone is taken into account, it is the same in one brother as in another. To the relation of a father on the one hand, it is indifferent whether there is one son, or more; and to that of sons on the other, which is the elder and which is the younger brother. It was not possible to express with more exact propriety the nature of the personal relation of the Creator to his creatures, than by that of a father to his children; nor consequently the reciprocal relation of the creatures to the Creator, than by that of children to their father. In this point of view, both Jew and Gentile become identified, and retain no individual or distinctive character, either of them more than the other. If God was by creation the Father of all, then all mankind was one family, of which he was the head, and the various nations of the world were the members. The apostle, St. Paul, could tell his Gentile auditors at Athens, with no less truth in the assertion of the fact, than novelty in the apprehension of his hearers, to whom of all others the statement of such a truth would be most surprising-that God had made every nation of mankind of one blood, that is, of the blood of one pair ; and in the circumstance of their origin respec

9 Acts xvii. 16.

tively, there was no distinction of one from another, whatever there might be in other things. All were brothers, because all were the children of the same parents; all were equal, because all distinctions between the children of the same parents, except those of age, and the honorary, rather than real, preeminence which attaches to priority of birth, are unnatural and unjust. The Jew, as only one of the children of Adam, was no better than the Gentile; the Greek, than the barbarian; the freeman, than the slave.

It was implied, that for a longer or a shorter period, before the commencement of the parabolic transaction, the members of this one family had lived uninterruptedly together; the father in the enjoyment of both his children, the brothers in each other's society, under the same paternal roof. In like manner, before the time of that separation of one family, and of their descendants, which God was pleased to make from the rest of the world—the identity of his relation to all his rational creation on earth, was at yet unmodified by the assumption of a new and peculiar relation to one part of them, distinct from the rest; and all mankind must still be considered as forming but one family, not yet broken into its separate or component parts. Nor until the period of the same separation, do we know that there was any difference in the moral condition, or the religious circumstances of mankind; nor therefore in the nature of that spiritual relation, wherein all were still placed, to their common Creator. From the time of Adam to that of Noah, and from the time of Noah to the call of Abraham, there was no such difference with regard to the recipients or ob

jects, the matter or subjects, the measure, degrees, or manner of revealed religious truth, as was thenceforward seen to exist, when one people had been chosen to be the depositaries of the divine communications, exclusively of all besides. During the œconomy of the antediluvian world, when the lifetime of the first father of mankind almost extended to the deluge, and an interval of an hundred years only was necessary to make Adam contemporary with Noah; the light possessed by the first pair of mankind must have been reflected without diminution to their posterity: and after the deluge, the descendants of the second father of mankind were placed on a similar footing; for the remainder of the life of Noah extended beyond the birth of Abraham himself. The spiritual knowledge, possessed by him, would therefore descend as a common inheritance to his posterity; to be used or abused; to be improved or impaired; to be retained or lost; according to their different personal apprehensions of its value, and their different personal inclinations to turn it to a better or a worse account.

It is agreeable to this supposition, that the particular patrimony of the younger son was the same in kind, as that of the elder; the same substance, (sucía,) the same fortune or living, (Bíos,) was divided in certain proportions between them. Nor were they merely the same in kind, but apparently equal in degree. In allotting their respective parts of the inheritance to each of his children, no such distinction was seen to be made by the father, as that of a younger and an elder brother's portion; the right of primogeniture, and the privileges annexed to that relation, consisted in the elder son's staying at home,

while the younger went abroad-the inheritor consequently not only of the remaining half of his father's property, but of every addition which might afterwards be made to it, while his brother continued abroad. Now the patrimony, or inheritance, supposed to belong to a family of which God in the relation of Creator, is the head, and mankind in that of his creatures, are the members, must necessarily be considered to stand for that knowledge of himself-of his nature and attributes, of his proper relation to his creatures, and of theirs to him, and by virtue of a common relation to a common Creator, of their particular relations to themselves and to each other-and of the several duties which are instinctively felt to flow from the fact of these several relations, whether in reference to their Creator, to themselves, or to others-which we may call the amount of religious, social, or personal truth; in a word, of moral or spiritual light-which whether natural or revealed, whether discoverable by human reason and furnished by the consciences of God's moral creatures for themselves, or directly derived from above, is yet in either case, mediately or immediately, to be referred to God. God. In the kind or degrees of this light, among men, there was no difference up to the time when God was pleased to begin to manifest himself after a special manner to one part of the descendants of Noah, but not to the rest. Whatever acquaintance with the true God, and whatever knowledge of religious, social, or personal duty, even Abraham possessed before his call; all his contemporaries, as alike the posterity of Noah, and alike in possession of the spiritual patrimony

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