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Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedeki!
5. If I be right in this view of the character of Melchizedek, we shall soon find the same illustrious personage again appearing to Abraham.
Omitting other less striking manifestations of the Divine Word," I pass to that very extraordinary one, which is recorded as taking place immediately before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha.
The narrative opens with informing us, that Jehovah appeared unto Abraham in the plains of Manre: and it then proceeds to point out the mode of this appearance, or the mode (as it is expressed somewhat more strongly in the original) wherein Jehovah WAS SEEN of him. As he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day, three beings in the form of men stood by him: and the chief of these is plainly that Jehovah, whom he is said to have then beheld; for the whole subsequent conversation is described as passing between Jehovah and Abraham. Now the three were not mere phantasms, airy and insubstantial : but the bodies, which they had assumed as their organs, were solid material bodies; for we are told, both that Abraham washed their feet, and that they actually eat of the provisions which he set before them. The bodies therefore were real human bodies, tangible as well as visible : and one of those
" Heb. vii. 4-9, 15-17. See Gen, xv. 1, 4, xvi. 9–14. xvii, 1, 22. xxi. 17, 19,
bodies, as is plain from the whole tenor of the nar
. rative, was animated by the chief speaker Jehovah; who is said at the commencement of it to have appeared unto or to have been seen of Abraham, and who evidently (so far as the mode of appearance is concerned) was seen of him in the subsequently-mentioned form of a true and proper man.
Some have imagined, that we have here upon record a visible descent of the whole Trinity; and they have urged, in favour of their opinion, the remarkable change of number from plural to singular and from singular to plural, which so often occurs in the course of the narrative.
On this last circumstance I greatly doubt whether much can be built: for the plural form, be it observed, is never employed, where the speaker uses the exclusively peculiar tone of the Deity. But, to pass this by, there is an argument, furnished us by Holy Writ itself, which effectually confutes the supposition before us. The Word of God has repeatedly become visible in a human form; and the Divine Spirit has displayed himself, both in the figure of a dove, and under the semblance of cloven fiery tongues, so that there would be no obstacle to our believing that he also might have been one of the three men who conversed with Abraham : but we are expressly taught, that no mun hath seen God the Father at any time, and he is therefore specially celebrated as the invisible Deity; hence we are evidently precluded from supposing the third man to be an appearance of the Paternal
Godhead.' Such being the case, we are conpelled to discard the theory, which would make Abraham converse with a visible manifestation of the whole Trinity.
Yet one of the three men, who appear, is unequivocally spoken of as Jehovah : and we know (both from other parallel places, and from St. John's assertion that it is the peculiar office of the only-begotten Son to declare the Father), that the person, who upon all occasions visibly manifests himself, is the Word or Angel of God. We canpot doubt therefore, that this Jehovah, who appeared to Abraham under a human form, and who is exbibited as the principal speaker in the conversation, was God the Word; that special scope and object of all the three dispensations, and that being whom Jacob declares to be the Angel-God of his fathers. Here then we have another instance of the Divine Word visibly manifesting himself in a temporary human body, long before he was born permanently incarnate from the womb of the virgin.
As for his two companions, we seem compelled to esteem them created angels, who were enabled to render themselves visible to Abraham after the same manner as the Word ; that is to say, by the assumption of temporary human bodies. The propriety of such an opinion is sufficiently evident from the sequel. Three men, in the first instance,
" John i. 18. Coloss. i. 15.
appear to Abraham. Next we are told, that the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom; and that Abraham went with them to bring them on the way.' Afterwards we find Abraham still conversing with a single person denominated Jehodah : and, at the close of the discourse, we read, that Jehovah went his way, or rather (what strongly marks his human form) that Jehovah walked away; while Abraham, who had accompanied him, returned unto his place. Now, though three men leave Abraham to go toward Sodom, two only out of the three arrive there; who spend the night under the roof of Lot, and who the next morning convey him and his family from the devoted city. What then becomes of the third ? He clearly stays behind; and holds that conversation with the patriarch, wherein Abraham fruitlessly intercedes for the cities of the plain. The original number three therefore is reduced to two : and, as the incarnate Word is the person who stays behind, the two that visit Lot must be his two angelic companions. But the person, who stays behind, leaves Abraham at the close of their conversation : and the two created angels, who had meanwhile gone to Sodom, are plainly, as angels, mere subordinate executioners of God's will. The being however, who preëminently destroys the guilty cities and who appears as the chief agent in the work, is declared to be Jehovah himself: for it is said, that Jehovah rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrha brimstone and fire
from Jehovah out of heaven. Jehovah therefore in a human form, when he left Abraham, must have again associated himself with the two angels, upon their return to Sodom after they had con: ducted Lot from beyond its precincts: and thus the original number three will be restored. But this same Jehovah, anthropomorphically visible upon earth, rains down fire and brimstone from an invisible Jehovah out of heaven. Now I see not how this passage, when viewed in connection with all the preceding context, can be understood : except that the Word of God or the Divine Angel of Jehovah, who had recently conversed with Abraham in the figure of a man, rained down fire out of heaven from the invisible Paternal Deity; while two subordinate created beings, of the same nature as those, who appeared to Jacob at Mahanaim, who are denominated God's host, and who received from the patriarch no religious adoration whatsoever, acted as inferior ministers both of mercy
and of judgment."
6. There is yet another manifestation of the Divine Word to Abraham, much too remarkable to be passed over in silence.
When he was in the very act of sacrificing his son, agreeably to the command which he had received from God, his hand was arrested by the voice of the Angel of Jehovah, calling to him from heaven, and (if we may argue analogically from other parallel passages) visibly manifesting himself in a human form.
! Gen. xix. 24.
2 Gen. xxxii. 1, 2.