(Calvin, Genesis 1. part 24)

here the confession of the tongue, rather than change of mind, is
denoted. I rather incline, however, to the opinion, that Hagar, who had
before been of a wild and intractable temper, begins now at length to
acknowledge the providence of God. Moreover, as to that which some
suppose; namely, that God is called 'the God of vision,' because he
appears and manifests himself to men, it is a forced interpretation.
Rather let us understand that Hagar, who before had appeared to herself
to be carried away by chance, through the desert; now perceives and
acknowledges that human affairs are under divine government. And whoever
is persuaded that he is looked upon by God, must of necessity walk as in
his sight.
  "Have I also here seen after him that seeth me?" Some translate this,
'Have I not seen after the vision?' But it really is as I have rendered
it. Moreover, the obscurity of the sentence has procured for us various
interpretations. Some among the Hebrews say that Hagar was astonished at
the sight of the angel; because she thought that God was nowhere seen but
in the house of Abram. But this is frigid, and in this way the ambition
of the Jews often compels them to trifle; seeing that they apply their
whole study to boasting on the glory of their race. Others so understand
the passage, 'Have I seen after my vision?' that is, so late, that during
the vision I was blind? According to these interpreters, the vision of
Hagar was twofold: the former erroneous; since she perceived nothing
celestial in the angel; but the other true, after she had been affected
with a sense of the divine nature of the vision. To some it seems that a
negative answer is implied; as if she would say, I did not see him
departing; and then from his sudden disappearance, she collects that he
must have been an angel of God.
  Also, on the second member of the sentence, interpreters disagree.
Jerome renders it, 'the back parts of him that teeth me:' which many
refer to an obscure vision, so that the phrase is deemed metaphorical.
For as we do not plainly perceive men from behind; so they are said to
see the back parts of God, to whom he does not openly nor clearly
manifest himself; and this opinion is commonly received. Others think
that Moses used a different figure; for they take the seeing of the back
parts of God, for the sense of his anger; just as his face is said to
shine upon us, when he shows himself propitious and favourable.
Therefore, according to them, the sense is, 'I thought that I had
escaped, so that I should no more be obnoxious to the rod or chastening
of God; but here also I perceive that he is angry with me.' So far I have
briefly related the opinion of others. And although I have no intention
to pause for the purpose of refuting each of these expositions; I yet
freely declare, that not one of these interpreters has apprehended the
meaning of Moses. I willingly accept what some adduce, that Hagar
wondered at the goodness of God, by whom she had been regarded even in
the desert: but this, though something, is not the whole. In the first
place, Hagar chides herself, because, as she had before been too blind,
she even now opened her eyes too slowly and indolently to perceive God.
For she aggravates the guilt of her torpor by the circumstance both of
place and time. She had frequently found, by many proofs, that she was
regarded by the Lord; yet becoming blind, she had despised his
providence, as if, with closed eyes, she had passed by him when he
presented himself before her. She now accuses herself for not having more
quickly awoke when the angel appeared. The consideration of place is also
of great weight, because God, who had always testified that he was
present with her in the house of Abram, now pursued her as a fugitive,
even into the desert. It implied, indeed, a base ingratitude on her part,
to be blind to the presence of God; so that even when she knew he was
looking upon her, she did not, in return, raise her eyes to behold him.
But it was a still more shameful blindness, that she, being regarded by
the Lord, although a wanderer and an exile, paying the just penalty of
her perverseness, still would not even acknowledge him as present. We now
see the point to which her self-reproach tends; 'Hitherto I have not
sought God, nor had respect to him, except by constraint; whereas, he had
before deigned to look down upon me: even now in the desert, where being
afflicted with evils, I ought immediately to have roused myself, I have,
according to my custom, been stupefied: nor should I ever have raised my
eyes towards heaven, unless I had first been looked upon by the Lord.'

14. "Wherefore the well was called." I subscribe to the opinion of those
who take the word "kara" indefinitely, which is usual enough in the
Hebrew language. In order that the sense may be the clearer it is capable
of being resolved into the passive voice, that 'the well was called.' Yet
I think this common appellation originated with Hagar, who, not content
with one simple confession, wished that the mercy of God should be
attested in time to come; and therefore she transmitted her testimony, as
from hand to hand. Hence we infer how useful it is, that they who do not
freely humble themselves, should be subdued by stripes. Hagar, who had
always been wild and rebellious, and who had, at length, entirely shaken
off the yoke; now, when the hardness of her heart was broken by
afflictions, appears altogether another person. She was not, however,
reduced to order by stripes only; but a celestial vision was also added,
which thoroughly arrested her. And the same thing is necessary for us;
namely, that God, while chastising us with his hand, should also bring us
into a state of submissive meekness by his Spirit. Some among the Hebrews
say that the name of the well was given to it, as being a testimony of a
twofold favour, because Ishmael was revived from death, and God had
respect to Hagar, his mother. But they foolishly mutilate things joined
together: for Hagar wished to testify that she had been favourably
regarded by Him who was the Living God, or the Author of life.

15. "And Abram called." Hagar had been commanded to give that name to her
son; but Moses follows the order of nature; because fathers, by the
imposition of the name, declare the power which they have over their
sons. We may easily gather, that Hagar, when she returned home, related
the events which had occurred. Therefore, Abram shows himself to be
obedient and grateful to God: because he both names his son according to
the command of the angel, and celebrates the goodness of God in having
hearkened to the miseries of Hagar.

Chapter XVII.

1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to
Abram, and said unto him, I [am] the Almighty God; walk before me, and be
thou perfect.
2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee
3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
4 As for me, behold, my covenant [is] with thee, and thou shalt be a
father of many nations.
5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be
Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of
thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after
thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto
thee, and to thy seed after thee.
8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein
thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting
possession; and I will be their God.
9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou,
and thy seed after thee in their generations.
10 This [is] my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy
seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a
token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every
man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought
with money of any stranger, which [is] not of thy seed.
13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money,
must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an
everlasting covenant.
14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not
circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken
my covenant.
15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call
her name Sarai, but Sarah [shall] her name [be].
16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will
bless her, and she shall be [a mother] of nations; kings of people shall
be of her.
17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart,
Shall [a child] be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall
Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?
18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!
19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou
shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for
an everlasting covenant, [and] with his seed after him.
20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and
will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes
shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.
21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear
unto thee at this set time in the next year.
22 And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.
23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house,
and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of
Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the
selfsame day, as God had said unto him.
24 And Abraham [was] ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised
in the flesh of his foreskin.
25 And Ishmael his son [was] thirteen years old, when he was circumcised
in the flesh of his foreskin.
26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.
27 And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money
of the stranger, were circumcised with him.

1. "And when Abram was nineteen years old and nine." Moses passes over
thirteen years of Abram's life, not because nothing worthy of remembrance
had in the meantime occurred; but because the Spirit of God, according to
his own will, selects those things which are most necessary to be known.
He purposely points out the length of time which had elapsed from the
birth of Ishmael to the period when Isaac was promised, for the purpose
of teaching us that he long remained satisfied with that son who should,
at length, be rejected, and that he was as one deluded by a fallacious
appearance. Meanwhile, we see in what a circuitous course the Lord led
him. It was even possible that he brought this delay upon himself by his
own fault, in having precipitately entered into second nuptials; yet as
Moses declares no such thing, I leave it undetermined. Let it suffice to
accept what is certain; namely, that Abram being contented with his only
son, ceased to desire any other seed. The want of offspring had
previously excited him to constant prayers and sighings; for the promise
of God was so fixed in his mind, that he was ardently carried forward to
seek its fulfilment. And now, falsely supposing that he had obtained his
wish, he is led away by the presence of his son according to the flesh,
from the expectation of a spiritual seed. Again the wonderful goodness of
God shows itself, in that Abram himself is raised, beyond his own
expectation and desire, to a new hope, and he suddenly hears, that what
it never came into his mind to ask, is granted unto him. If he had been
daily offering up importunate prayers for this blessing, we should not so
plainly have seen that it was conferred upon him by the free gift of God,
as when it is given to him without his either thinking of it or desiring
it. Before however we speak of Isaac, it will repay our labour, to notice
the order and connection of the words.
  First, Moses says that the Lord "appeared" unto him, in order that we
may know that the oracle was not pronounced by secret revelation, but
that a vision at the same time was added to it. Besides the vision was
not speechless, but had the word annexed, from which word the faith of
Abram might receive profit. Now that word summarily contains this
declaration, that God enters into covenant with Abram: it then unfolds
the nature of the covenant itself, and finally puts to it the seal, with
the accompanying attestations.
  "I am the Almighty God." The Hebrew noun El, which is derived from
power, is here put for God. The same remark applies to the accompanying
word "shaddai", as if God would declare, that he had sufficient power for
Abram's protection: because our faith can only stand firmly, while we are
certainly persuaded that the defense of God is alone sufficient for use
and can sincerely despise everything in the world which is opposed to our
salvation. God, therefore, does not boast of that power which lies
concealed within himself; but of that which he manifests towards his
children; and he does so, in order that Abram might hence derive
materials for confidence. Thus, in these words, a promise is included.
  "Walk before me." The force of this expression we have elsewhere
explained. In making the covenant, God stipulates for obedience, on the
part of his servant. Yet He does not in vain prefix the declaration that
he is 'the Almighty God,' and is furnished with power to help his own
people: because it was necessary that Abram should be recalled from all
other means of help, that he might entirely devote himself to God alone.
For no one will ever retake himself to God, but he who keeps created
things in their proper place, and looks up to God alone. Where, indeed,
the power of God has been once acknowledged, it ought so to transport us
with admiration, and our minds ought so to be filled with reverence for
him, that nothing should hinder us from worshipping him. Moreover,
because the eyes of God look for faith and truth in the heart, Abram is
commanded to aim at integrity. For the Hebrews call him a man of
perfections who is not of a deceitful or double mind, but sincerely
cultivates rectitude. In short, the integrity here mentioned is opposed,
to hypocrisy. And surely, when we have to deal with God, no place for
dissimulation remains. Now, from these words, we learn for what end God
gathers together for himself a church; namely, that they whom he has
called, may be holy. The foundation, indeed, of the divine calling, is a
gratuitous promise; but it follows immediately after, that they whom he
has chosen as a peculiar people to himself, should devote themselves to
the righteousness of God. For on this condition, he adopts children as
his own, that he may, in return, obtain the place and the honour of a
Father. And as he himself cannot lie, so he rightly demands mutual
fidelity from his own children. Wherefore, let us know, that God
manifests himself to the faithful, in order that they may live as in his
sight; and may make him the arbiter not only of their works, but of their
thoughts. Whence also we infer, that there is no other method of living
piously and justly than that of depending upon God.

2. "And I will make my covenant." He now begins more fully and abundantly
to explain what he had before alluded to briefly. We have said that the
covenant of God with Abram had two parts. The first was a declaration of
gratuitous love; to which was annexed the promise of a happy life. But
the other was an exhortation to the sincere endeavour to cultivate
uprightness, since God had given, in a single word only, a slight taste
of his grace; and then immediately had descended to the design of
miscalling; namely, that Abram should be upright. He now subjoins a more
ample declaration of his grace, in order that Abram may endeavour more
willingly to form his mind and his life, both to reverence towards God,
and to the cultivation of uprightness; as if God had said 'See how kindly
I indulge thee: for I do not require integrity from thee simply on
account of my authority, which I might justly do; but whereas I owe thee
nothing, I condescend graciously to engage in a mutual covenant.' He does
not, however, speak of this as of a new thing: but he recalls the memory
of the covenant which he had before made, and now fully confirms and
establishes its certainty. For God is not wont to utter new oracles,
which may destroy the credit, or obscure the light, or weaken the
efficacy of those which preceded; but he continues, as in one perpetual
tenor, those promises which he has once given. Wherefore, by these words,
he intends nothing else than that the covenant, of which Abram had heard
before should be established and ratified: but he expressly introduces
that principal point, concerning the multiplication of seed, which he
afterwards frequently repeats.

3. "And Abram fell on his face." We know that this was the ancient rite
of adoration. Moreover, Abram testifies, first, that he acknowledges God,
in whose presence all flesh ought to keep silence, and to be humbled;
and, secondly that he reverently receives and cordially embraces whatever
God is about to speak. If, however, this was intended as a confession of
faith, we must observe, that the faith which relies upon the grace of God
cannot be disjoined from a pure conscience. God, in offering his grace to
Abram, requires of him a sincere disposition to live justly and homily.
Abram, in prostrating himself, declares that he obediently receives both.
Let us therefore remember, that in one and the same bond of faith, the
gratuitous adoption in which our salvation is placed, is to be combined
with newness of life. And although Abram utters not a word, he declares
more fully by his silence, than if he had spoken with a loud and sounding
voice, that he yields obedience to the word of God.

4. "As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee." They who translate the
passage, 'Behold, I make a covenant with thee,' or, 'Behold, I and my
covenant with thee;' do not seem to me faithfully to represent the
meaning of Moses. For, first, God declares that he is the speaker, in
order that absolute authority may appear in his words. For since our
faith can rest on no other foundation than his eternal veracity, it
becomes, above all things, necessary for us to be informed that what is
proposed to us, has proceeded from his sacred mouth. Therefore, the
pronoun I, is to be read separately as a preface to the rest; in order
that Abram might have a composed mind, and might engage, without
hesitation, in the proposed covenant. Whence a useful doctrine is
deduced, that faith necessarily has reference to God: because, although
all angels and men should speak to us, never would their authority appear
sufficiently great to confirm our minds. And it cannot but be, that we
should at times waver, until that voice sounds from heaven, 'I am.'
Whence also it appears what kind of religion is that of the Papacy:
where, instead of the word of God, the fictions of men are alone the
subject of boast. And they are justly exposed to continual fluctuation,
who, depending upon the word of men, act unjustly towards God, by
ascribing to them more than is right. But let us have no other foundation
of our faith than this word 'I', not as spoken indifferently by any mouth
whatever, but by the mouth of God alone. If, however, myriads of men set
themselves in opposition, and proudly exclaim, 'We, we,' let this single
word of God suffice to dissipate the empty sound of multitudes.
  "And thou shalt be a father of many nations." It is asked what is this
multitude of nations? It obviously appears, that different nations had
their origin from the holy Patriarch: for Ishmael grew to a great people:
the Idumeans, from another branch were spread far and wide; large
families also sprung from other sons, whom he had by Keturah. But Moses
looked still further, because, indeed, the Gentiles were to be, by faith,
inserted into the stock of Abram, although not descended from him
according to the flesh: of which fact Paul is to us a faithful
interpreter and witness. For he does not gather together the Arabians,
Idumeans, and others, for the purpose of making Abram the father of many
nations; but he so extends the name of father, as to make it applicable
to the whole world, in order that the Gentiles, in other respects
strangers, and separated from each other, might, from all sides combine
in one family of Abram. I grant, indeed, that, for a time, the twelve
tribes were as so many nations; but only in order to form a prelude to
that immense multitude, which, at length, is collected together as the
one family of Abram. And that Moses speaks of those sons, who, being
regenerate by faith, acquire the name, and pass over into the stock of
Abram, is sufficiently proved by this one consideration. For the carnal
race of Abram could not be divided into different nations, without
causing those who had departed from the unity, to be immediately
accounted strangers. Thus the Church rejected the Ishmaelites, the
Idumeans, and others, and regarded them as foreigners. Abram therefore
was not called the father of many nations, because his seed was to be
divided into many nations; but rather, because many nations were to be
gathered together unto him. A change also of his name is added as a
token. For he begins to be called Abraham, in order that the name itself
may teach him, that he should not be the father of one family only; but
that a progeny should rise up to him from an immense multitude, beyond
the common course of nature. For this reason, the Lord so often renews
this promise; because the very repetition of it shows that no common
blessing was promised.

7. "And thy seed after thee." There is no doubt that the Lord
distinguishes the race of Abraham from the rest of the world. We must now
see what people he intends. Now they are deceived who think that his
elect alone are here pointed out; and that all the faithful are
indiscriminately comprehended, from whatever people, according to the
flesh, they are descended. For, on the contrary, the Scripture declares
that the race of Abraham, by lineal descent, had been peculiarly accepted
by God. And it is the evident doctrine of Paul concerning the natural
descendants of Abraham, that they are holy branches which have proceeded
from a holy root, (Rom. 11: 16.) And lest any one should restrict this
assertion to the shadows of the law, or should evade it by allegory, he
elsewhere expressly declares, that Christ came to be a minister of the
circumcision, (Rom. 15: 8.) Wherefore, nothing is more certain, than that
God made his covenant with those sons of Abraham who were naturally to be
born of him. If any one object, that this opinion by no means agrees with
the former, in which we said that they are reckoned the children of
Abraham, who being by faith ingrafted into his body, form one family; the
difference is easily reconciled, by laying down certain distinct degrees
of adoption, which may be collected from various passages of Scripture.
In the beginning, antecedently to this covenant, the condition of the
whole world was one and the same. But as soon as it was said, 'I will be
a God to thee and to thy seed after thee,' the Church was separated from
other nations; just as in the creation of the world, the light emerged
out of the darkness. Then the people of Israel was received, as the flock
of God, into their own fold: the other nations wandered, like wild
beasts, through mountains, woods, and deserts. Since this dignity, in
which the sons of Abraham excelled other nations, depended on the word of
God alone, the gratuitous adoption of God belongs to them all in common.
For if Paul deprives the Gentiles of God and of eternal life, on the
ground of their being aliens from the covenant, (Eph. 4: 18,) it follows
that all Israelites were of the household of the Church, and sons of God,
and heirs of eternal life. And although it was by the grace of God, and
not by nature, that they excelled the Gentiles; and although the
inheritance at the kingdom of God came to them by promise, and not by
carnal descent; yet they are sometimes said to differ by nature from the
rest of the world. In the Epistle to the Galatians, chap. 2: ver. 15, and
elsewhere, Paul calls them saints 'by nature,' because God was willing
that his grace should descend, by a continual succession, to the whole
seed. In this sense, they who were unbelievers among the Jews, are yet
called the children of the celestial kingdom by Christ. (Matth. 8: 12.)
Nor does what St Paul says contradict this; namely, that not all who are
from Abraham are to be esteemed legitimate children; because they are not
the children of the promise, but only of the flesh. (Rom. 9: 8.) For
there, the promise is not taken generally for that outward word, by which
God conferred his favour as well upon the reprobate as upon the elect;
but must be restricted to that efficacious calling, which he inwardly
seals by his Spirit. And that this is the case, is proved without
difficulty; for the promise by which the Lord had adopted them all as
children, was common to all: and in that promise, it cannot be denied,
that eternal salvation was offered to all. What, therefore, can be the
meaning of Paul, when he denies that certain persons have any right to be
reckoned among children, except that he is no longer reasoning about the
externally offered grace, but about that of which only the elect
effectually partake? Here, then, a twofold class of sons presents itself
to us, in the Church; for since the whole body of the people is gathered
together into the fold of God, by one and the same voice, all without
exception, are in this respects accounted children; the name of the
Church is applicable in common to them all: but in the innermost
sanctuary of God, none others are reckoned the sons of God, than they in
whom the promise is ratified by faith. And although this difference flows
from the fountain of gratuitous election, whence also faith itself
springs; yet, since the counsel of God is in itself hidden from us, we
therefore distinguish the true from the spurious children, by the
respective marks of faith and of unbelief. This method and dispensation
continued even to the promulgation of the gospel; but then the middle
wall was broken down, (Ephes. 2: 14,) and God made the Gentiles equal to
the natural descendants of Abraham. That was the renovation of the world,
by which they, who had before been strangers, began to be called sons.
Yet whenever a comparison is made between Jews and Gentiles, the
inheritance of life is assigned to the former, as lawfully belonging to
them; but to the latter, it is said to be adventitious. Meanwhile, the
oracle was fulfilled in which God promises that Abraham should be the
father of many nations. For whereas previously, the natural sons of
Abraham were succeeded by their descendants in continual succession, and
the benediction, which began with him, flowed down to his children; the
coming of Christ, by inverting the original order, introduced into his
family those who before were separated from his seed: at length the Jews
were cast out, (except that a hidden seed of the election remained among
them,) in order that the rest might be saved. It was necessary that these
things concerning the seed of Abraham should once be stated, that they
may open to us an easy introduction to what follows.
  "In their generations." This succession of generations clearly proves
that the posterity of Abraham were taken into the Church, in such a
manner that sons might be born to them, who should be heirs of the same
grace. In this way the covenant is called perpetual, as lasting until the
renovation of the world; which took place at the advent of Christ. I
grant, indeed, that the covenant was without end, and may with propriety
be called eternal, as far as the whole Church is concerned; it must,
however always remain as a settled point, that the regular succession of
ages was partly broken, and partly changed, by the coming of Christ,
because the middle wall being broken down, and the sons by nature being,
at length, disinherited, Abraham began to have a race associated with
himself from all regions of the world.
  "To be a God unto thee." In this single word we are plainly taught that
this was a spiritual covenant, not confirmed in reference to the present
life only; but one from which Abraham might conceive the hope of eternal
salvations so that being raised even to heaven, he might lay hold of
solid and perfect bliss. For those whom God adopts to himself, from among
a people--seeing that he makes them partakers of his righteousness and of
all good things--he also constitutes heirs of celestial life. Let us then
mark this as the principal part of the covenant, that He who is the God
of the living, not of the dead, promises to be a God to the children of
Abraham. It follows afterwards, in the way of augmentation of the grant,
that he promise6 to give them the land. I confess, indeed, that something
greater and more excellent than itself was shadowed forth by the land of
Canaan; yet this is not at variance with the statement, that the promise
now made was an accession to that primary one, 'I will be thy God.' Now,
although God again affirms, as before, that He will give the land to
Abraham himself, we nevertheless know, that Abraham never possessed
dominion over it; but the holy man was contented with his title to it
alone, although the possession of it was not granted him; and, therefore,
he calmly passed from his earthly pilgrimage into heaven. God again
repeats that He will be a God to the posterity of Abraham, in order that
they may not settle upon earth, but may regard themselves as trained for
higher things.

9. "Thou shalt keep my covenant." As formerly, covenants were not only
committed to public records, but were also wont to be engraven in brass,
or sculptured on stones, in order that the memory of them might be more
fully recorded, and more highly celebrated; so in the present instance,
God inscribes his covenant in the flesh of Abraham. For circumcision was
as a solemn memorial of that adoption, by which the family of Abraham had
been elected to be the peculiar people of God. The pious had previously
possessed other ceremonies which confirmed to them the certainty of the
grace of God; but now the Lord attests the new covenant with a new kind
of symbol. But the reason why He suffered the human race to be without
this testimony of his grace, during so many ages, is concealed from us;
except that we see it was instituted at the time when he chose a certain
nation to himself; which thing itself depends on his secret counsel.
Moreover, although it would, perhaps, be more suitable for the purpose of
instruction, were we to give a summary of those things which are to be
said concerning circumcision; I will yet follow the order of the text,
which I think more appropriate to the office of an interpreter. In the
first place; since circumcision is called by Moses, the covenant of God,
we thence infer that the promise of grace was included in it. For had it
been only a mark or token of external profession among men, the name of
covenant would be by no means suitable, for a covenant is not otherwise
confirmed, than as faith answers to it. And it is common to all
sacraments to have the word of God annexed to them, by which he testifies
that he is propitious to us, and calls us to the hope of salvation; yea,
a sacrament is nothing else than a visible word, or sculpture and image
of that grace of God, which the word more fully illustrates. If, then,
there is a mutual relation between the word and faith; it follows, that
the proposed end and use of sacraments is to help, promote and confirm
faith. But they who deny that sacraments are supports to faith, or that
they aid the word in strengthening faith, must of necessity expunge the
name of covenant; because, either God there offers himself as a Promiser,
in mockery and falsely, or else, faith there finds that on which it may
support itself, and from which it may confirm its own assurance. And
although we must maintain the distinction between the word and the sign;
yet let us know, that as soon as the sign itself meets our eyes, the word
ought to sound in our ears. Therefore, while, in this place, Abraham is
commanded to keep the covenant, God does not enjoin upon him the bare use
of the ceremony, but chiefly designs that he should regard the end; and
certainly, since the promise is the very soul of the sign, whenever it is
torn away from the sign, nothing remains but a lifeless and vain phantom.
This is the reason why we say, that sacraments are abolished by the
Papists; because, the voice of God having become extinct, nothing remains
with them, except the residuum of mute figures. Truly frivolous is their
boasts that their magical exorcisms stand in the place of the word. For
nothing can be called a covenants but what is perceived by us to be
clearly revealed, so that it may edify our faith; these actors, who by
gesture alone, or by a confused murmuring, play as on pipes, have nothing
like this.
  We now consider how the covenant is rightly kept; namely, when the word
precedes, and we embrace the sign as a testimony and pledge of grace; for
as God binds himself to keep the promise given to us; so the consent of
faith and of obedience is demanded from us. What follows further on this
subject is worthy of notice.
  "Between me and you." Whereby we are taught that a sacrament has not
respect only to the external confession, but is an intervening pledge
between God and the conscience of man. And, therefore, whosoever is not
directed to God through the sacraments, profanes their use. But by the
figure metonymy, the name of covenant is transferred to circumcision
which is so conjoined with the word, that it could not be separated from

10. "Every man-child among you shall be circumcised." Although God
promised alike to males and females, what he afterwards sanctioned by
circumcision, he nevertheless consecrated, in one sex, the whole people
to himself. For whereas, by this symbol, the promise which was given,
indiscriminately, to males and females, is confirmed, and it is certain
that females as well as males had need of confirmation, it is hence
evident, that the symbol was ordained for the sake of both sexes. Nor is
it of any force in opposition to this reasoning to say that each
individual is commanded to communicate in the sacraments, if he would
derive any benefit from them, on the ground that no profit is received by
those who neglect their use. For the covenant of God was graven on the
bodies of the males, with this condition annexed, that the females also
should as their associates be partakers of the same sign.

(continued in part 25...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-01: cvgn1-24.txt