Verses 7–14

Here is, I. The continuance of the covenant, intimated in three things:—1. It is established; not to be altered nor revoked. It is fixed, it is ratified, it is made as firm as the divine power and truth can make it. 2. It is entailed; it is a covenant, not with Abraham only (then it would die with him), but with his seed after him, not only his seed after the flesh, but his spiritual seed. 3. It is everlasting in the evangelical sense and meaning of it. The covenant of grace is everlasting. It is from everlasting in the counsels of it, and to everlasting in the consequences of it; and the external administration of it is transmitted with the seal of it to the seed of believers, and the internal administration of it by the Spirit of Christ’s seed in every age.

II. The contents of the covenant: it is a covenant of promises, exceedingly great and precious promises. Here are two which indeed are all-sufficient:—1. That God would be their God, Gen. 17:7, 8. All the privileges of the covenant, all its joys and all its hopes, are summed up in this. A man needs desire no more than this to make him happy. What God is himself, that he will be to his people: his wisdom theirs, to guide and counsel them; his power theirs, to protect and support them; his goodness theirs, to supply and comfort them. What faithful worshippers can expect from the God they serve believers shall find in God as theirs. This is enough, yet not all. 2. That Canaan should be their everlasting possession, Gen. 17:8. God had before promised this land to Abraham and his seed, Gen. 15:18. But here, where it is promised for an everlasting possession, surely it must be looked upon as a type of heaven’s happiness, that everlasting rest which remains for the people of God, Heb. 4:9. This is that better country to which Abraham had an eye, and the grant of which was that which answered to the vast extent and compass of that promise, that God would be to them a God; so that, if God had not prepared and designed this, he would have been ashamed to be called their God, Heb. 11:16. As the land of Canaan was secured to the seed of Abraham according to the flesh, so heaven is secured to all his spiritual seed, by a covenant, and for a possession, truly everlasting. The offer of this eternal life is made in the word, and confirmed by the sacraments, to all that are under the external administration of the covenant; and the earnest of it is given to all believers, Eph. 1:14. Canaan is here said to be the land wherein Abraham was a stranger; and the heavenly Canaan is a land to which we are strangers, for it does not yet appear what we shall be.

III. The token of the covenant, and that is circumcision, for the sake of which the covenant is itself called the covenant of circumcision, Acts 7:8. It is here said to be the covenant which Abraham and his seed must keep, as a copy or counterpart, Gen. 17:9, 10. It is called a sign and seal (Rom. 4:11), for it was, 1. A confirmation to Abraham and his seed of those promises which were God’s part of the covenant, assuring them that they should be fulfilled, that in due time Canaan would be theirs: and the continuance of this ordinance, after Canaan was theirs, intimates that these promises looked further to another Canaan, which they must still be in expectation of. See Heb. 4:8. 2. An obligation upon Abraham and his seed to that duty which was their part of the covenant; not only to the duty of accepting the covenant and consenting to it, and putting away the corruption of the flesh (which were more immediately and primarily signified by circumcision), but, in general, to the observance of all God’s commands, as they should at any time hereafter be intimated and made known to them; for circumcision made men debtors to do the whole law, Gal. 5:3. Those who will have God to be to them a God must consent and resolve to be to him a people. Now, (1.) Circumcision was a bloody ordinance; for all things by the law were purged with blood, Heb. 9:22. See Exod. 24:8. But, the blood of Christ being shed, all bloody ordinances are now abolished; circumcision therefore gives way to baptism. (2.) It was peculiar to the males, though the women were also included in the covenant, for the man is the head of the woman. In our kingdom, the oath of allegiance is required only from men. Some think that the blood of the males only was shed in circumcision because respect was had in it to Jesus Christ and his blood. (3.) It was the flesh of the foreskin that was to be cut off, because it is by ordinary generation that sin is propagated, and with an eye to the promised seed, who was to come from the loins of Abraham. Christ having not yet offered himself to us, God would have man to enter into covenant by the offering of some part of his own body, and no part could be better spared. It is a secret part of the body; for the true circumcision is that of the heart: this honour God put upon an uncomely part, 1 Cor. 12:23, 24. (4.) The ordinance was to be administered to children when they were eight days old, and not sooner, that they might gather some strength, to be able to undergo the pain of it, and that at least one sabbath might pass over them. (5.) The children of the strangers, of whom the master of the family was the true domestic owner, were to be circumcised (Gen. 17:12, 13), which looked favourably upon the Gentiles, who should in due time be brought into the family of Abraham, by faith. See Gal. 3:14. (6.) The religious observance of this institution was required under a very severe penalty, Gen. 17:14. The contempt of circumcision was a contempt of the covenant; if the parents did not circumcise their children, it was at their peril, as in the case of Moses, Exod. 4:24, 25. With respect to those that were not circumcised in their infancy, if, when they grew up, they did not themselves come under this ordinance, God would surely reckon with them. If they cut not off the flesh of their foreskin, God would cut them off from their people. It is a dangerous thing to make light of divine institutions, and to live in the neglect of them.