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makes it clear that the land of Canaan is the field of the prophecy, even if the explanation were not subjoined; "Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you to the land of our fathers." The prophecy bears one circumstance included in it, which demands a separate notice. It foretold, that these twelve sons of Jacob should be the founders of so many Tribes, by a perpetuation of race and lineage to each. This itself was a great undertaking of prophecy. The common calculation of human life would not have warranted such a promise, at least in any times of the world with which we are acquainted. For if an inheritance of territory were to be apportioned upon the contingency of a several male offspring in a numerous and multiplied distant issue, to twelve sons of a family, I believe it will be allowed to be an event highly improbable that such a disposition of the inheritance should in all its branches take effect. But here the grant was from the almighty Disposer, and Prophecy relied upon intentions not to be defeated*.
*The succession and increase of the human race, however, are among those phenomena which we shall not be justified in subjecting to the calculations of any fixed immutable laws, for the ordinary state of things, in all seasons of the world. God has kept the system of nature in this great instance in his own hands; witness the disparate longevity of man in different periods since the Creation. And if the term of human life have varied from seven hundred to seventy years, what a multitude of other phenomena connected with the succession and increase of the species may have partaken of a similar variation?
Again: Observe the season when this disclosure, so full and circumstantial, is made, confirming, for the third time, the promise of the return from Egypt, with an accession of particulars against a time still far off. Jacob, under the divine command, had planted his family in Egypt; he had given them a home there, and a fixed possession. Lest, therefore, the force of the antecedent predictions with regard to Canaan, should be obliterated or obscured by the interposed abode and domestication in this other foreign country, the most specific disclosure is made to them as to their subsequent enjoyment and partition of their proper inheritance, which had been originally assured to their fathers, and which was still shewn to be the immutable object of the divine donation; whilst the distribution of this patrimony held forth to be made among twelve tribes, gave to the heads and founders of
Perhaps the descent of twelve numerous tribes from as many sons of one family was not so extraordinary in those days, as it would be in our own under any circumstances whatever of society or life. The same obtained in the line of Ishmael. We want the sufficient data from which to draw any certain conclusions in the comparison we make in this point, between those primæval times and any others. It is a precarious hypothesis in like manner to assume, without limit, a perpetual uniform action, retrospectively, for the general system of the world. Since man, in his physical constitution, has undergone such a change, what may not have happened to other parts of the Natural System?
these tribes an immediate personal hope and interest in the promised land, and thereby turned their minds the more distinctly and forcibly to the object of God's promise. I need not stay to remark how seasonable the Patriarch's prophecy was to bespeak his own faith. His death-bed was full of hope, and he departed like one of those who "died in “faith, not having received the promises, but be“held them afar off." But we see it furnished a new and signal instruction to the hopes and views of his family, and led them on to God's further purpose. At the crisis of time, in the very conjuncture of things, when the course of Providence appeared to be making a different order for them; when they seemed to be taking root in Egypt; their faith is recalled to the primitive blessing secured to them by the veracity of the God of their Fathers.
But this prophecy contains something more: it opens to us one distinct view towards the Advent of Christ. This it does in the memorable designation which it makes of the tribe of Judah, and of the perpetuity, or prolonged continuance, of the sceptre with that tribe, appointed to extend to the Gospel æra. "The sceptre shall not depart from "Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until "Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering "of the people be." The critical investigation of this prophecy in all its parts is not necessary to my
purpose. But after all that has been written upon it, I may treat it as a prominent revelation of two things: the prolonged duration of some public power of the tribe of Judah, as distinguished from the rest; and the cessation of that power on the coming of Christ;-to whom the gathering of the people should be; who should rule by a new sceptre, or polity, that of Judah being then to be taken away.
Now, although the evangelical prophecies during these early times could never be out of place of season, yet I think we must confess a singular aptitude of season for the union of this one Christian prediction with the other branches of the Patriarch's prophecy. For his prophecy, be it observed, is the first place in Scripture* which exhibits or implies, the constitution of the twelve tribes under which their state was afterwards to be moulded and wholly governed. As soon as prophecy recognised this division and arrangement of tribes, it set the mark also upon that one tribe which was destined to have the pre-eminence of duration, and the privilege of a nearer union with the Advent of Christ. When the form of tribes began to be seen
* His prophecy is followed by this significant comment upon it. "All these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is that "their father spake unto them, and blessed them, every one "according to his blessing he blessed them."-Genesis xlix. 28.
at all, the Christian subject, in relation to those tribes, is immediately introduced. And so this one design of God is disclosed under each other view of the intentions of his Providence. It was joined with the first general promise of Canaan; it is now joined with the partition of that promised land, and specifically with the tribal constitution.
III. The remaining predictions belonging to this age come under the same scheme of exposition with those which have been considered. They laid a basis of religion grounded on Faith, in which the temporal and the Gospel promises were combined together. But the more distinct and the more copious revelations of prophecy, those which gave the most determinate objects of hope, and the clearest guidance to the life, by an immediate present reliance upon the understood purposes of God, were the temporal. It is not to be denied that the nearer purposes of the Divine Economy are in this period the most explicitly unfolded. The fact is SO. And in reason we shall see it accords most perfectly with the visible work and declared order of God's providence that it should be so. For it is no more than this, that men's duty, and their conformity of hope and action to the divine will, were in the first instance guided by prophecy through that instant course of things which God made to be the sphere of their faith and trial, as it was of