Joseph Stennett.

The Works of the late Reverend and Learned Mr. Joseph Stennett : in five volumes ; to which is prefix'd some account of his life (Volume 1) online

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frieft continually. Yet when 'tis fuggefted,
as it is in the fame place, that the priefthood
of Chrift was prefigured by this perfon, 'tis
not fo difficult to underftand the meaning
of thofe expreffions ; and that they are not
to be taken in an abfolute fenfe, as if he was
without parentage and genealogy, as if he was
never born, nor ever died ; for this is incon-
fifient with the ftate of any mere man :
but that the fenfe is, there is no account
in his hiftory of what family he defcended,
of the time of his birth, or that of his
death ; all which were purpofely concealed,
to render him as fit a type of our blefled
Saviour, as the condition of a frail man
would allow, f or Chrift may be faid to be
without father J in refpedt of his human na-
ture J without mother^ in regard of his di-
vine i without beginning of days^ as he is
God ; and without end of life^ not only as
he is God, but as he is man too, now fince
he is rifen from the dead.

And feeing a more than ordinary care
was antiently taken to preferve the genea-
logy both of kings and pricfts, and no fuch

» Hcb 7. 4. I " ct^fesiAoTKT©-, ver. j.


Serm. VIII. many fuccejfes in 1708. 359

thing is done for Melchizedek, notwithftand-
ing his eminency in both offices, 'tis a fuffi-
cient indication that the account of his fa-
mily and defcent, of his birth and death, are
omitted in the facred hiftory, to give him
fome fhadow of refeniblance to our Saviour,
the dignity of whofe perfon, and eternity of
whofe prieflhood, he was defign'd to typify
and reprefent, as much as the circumftances
of human nature could permit.

Having confidered the chara(5ler of that
great prince who congratulated Abram, I
am now,

(3.) To fpeak of the congratulation itfelf.

The great refped: Melchizedek bare to
the patriarch, is expreffed in the text, by
his going out to meet him^ by the entertain-
ment he gave him, and by the blejjing he
pronounced on him, on the occafion of his
glorious expedition.

He took this opportunity, not only to
fhew his hofpitality to Abram and his
troops., who were probably much fatigu'd
with long and fpeedy marches, but to ex-
prefs his affection to the noble caufe of li-
berty, which Abram had vindicated with
fo much courage, refolution and good con-
dud:, and which the providence of God had
fo fignally favoured, in crowning his enter-
prizes with the defired fuccefs.

Philo indeed fays, Melchizedek offered fa-
crijices on the account of this vidory ^ j and

' 'ETnvlKM s9ue.

A a 4 *tis

3^0 A thank/giving fermon for the

*tis pofflble he might prefent to God other
facrifices befides that of praife on this oc-
cafion ; feeing this is not at all inconfiftent
with his treating Abraham and his army
with bread and wine. But the proof the
Romanifts pretend to bring for their facri-
fice of the mafs, from the fuppofition that
bread and wine were the matter of Mel-
chizedek's oblation, is too far fetch'd to need
a ferious refutation. Nor is it worth the
while to give a particular account of a tra-
dition which pafles among the eaflern chrif-
tians, T^hat Mekhizedek offered no bloody fa-
crijices, but only bread and wi?ie ^. 'Tis much
more reafonable to conclude, that as the
Ammonites and Moabites expofcd themfelves
to a curfe, and were not fuffered to enter
into the congregation of the Lord, even to the
tenth generation^ becaife they met not the If-
raelites ivitb bread and water in the way^ when
they came out of Egypt ^ j fo this pious prince,
who entertain'd Abram and his forces with
bread and wine, after they had been ha-
zarding their lives for the fervice of the pub-
lick, entail'd a bleffing on himfelf by this
generous and hoJpitable adl, while he pro-
nounced a bkjjing on him who had the pro-
mifes : which is the next thing under con-

■^ Vid. Seldcn de Jure Nat. | " Dcuf. 13. 5, 4,
& Gent. juxtaHcbr. 1.;;. c. x.


Serm. VIII. many ficcejfes in i-jo^, 351

For one man to blefs another, in the com-
mon ufe of that phrafe, is to wifh or pray
for his happinefs and profperity : and it
being ufual for men to fignify their refpedt
to each other by the expreffion of fuch de-
fires J to blefs, in the Hebrew idiom, is to
faliite, or pay refpedi. Thus when Jofeph
prefented his father to the king of Egypt,
*tis faid, "Jacob blejfed Pharaoh ^ ; and the
fame phrafe is ufed when he went out of
the king's prefence. And becaufe 'tis com-
mon for men to take notice of the good
qualities or adlions of thofe whom they
efteem, and to whom they would fhew a
great deal of refped:, the fame word fome-
times imports to praife. Thus David fays
to Abigail, BleJJcd be thy advice, and bleffed
be thou, who haji kept me this day from co-
ming to Jhed blood % &c. As if he had faid.
Thy counfel is very much to be commended,
and thou art worthy of efteem and praife,
who haft given me this good advice.

Another principal part of civility is to
acknowledge obligations j and fo, to blefs,
may fometimes be interpreted, to give thatiks.
Thus when Joab had obtained leave of Da-
vid to bring Abfalom again to court after
his exile ; his grateful refentment of this
favour is thus expreifed : Joab fell on his
face to the ground, and bowed himfelf and
thanked the king =*, or blejfed the kiiig, as it is

y Gen. 47. 7, 10. 1*2 Sam. 14. 22.

I Sam. 25. 33.


^52 A thank/giving fermon for the

in the original. And as refpe6l and gra-
titude are often {hewn by making prefents,
thefe are called bleflings in the Hebrew dia-
led:. Receive my prefcnf from my hand, fays
Jacob to his brother Efaii ; for therefore I
have feen thy face, as tho I had feen the face
of God, and thou waft pleafed with me. 'Take^
I pray thee, my blcffmg, that is brought to
thee •».

Nor is this word lefs frequently ufed for
congratulation : for after the dedication of
the temple of Solomon, we are told, He
fent the people away ; and they bleffed the king,
and went to their tents joyful a?id glad of
heart, for all the goodnefs that the Lord had
done for David his fervant, and for Ifrael
his people ^ That is, they congratulated the
king, on this occafion of publick joy and
thankfgiving. And in this fenfe aged Si-
meon bleffed Jofeph, and Mary the mother
of our Saviour ^.

According to this account, when our text
fays, Melchizedek blelTed Abram, it may
reafonably be fuppofed, that the king of
Salem, at this interview, faluted the patri-
arch with great marks of affedion and re-
fped: J that he commended his generofity
and publick fpirit, who fo willingly drew
his fword in defence of the rights of man-
kind, and fliew'd no lefs condudt in the fpee-
dy march of his troops, and the prudent

* Gen. 3 3. 10, 1 1. 1 Sam. I "^ 1 Kings 8. 6S.
25- V- I ^ Luke 2. 3 3, 34.


Serm. VIIL many fucceffes in \^o%. 3^3

difpofition of them to furprize the enemy,
than courage in expofing his own perfon
at the head of them : that he did not omit
to recount the great obHgations all the neigh-
bouring princes owed to this viiflorious ge-
neral, who had cleared the country of thofe
tyrants, whofe barbarity was become infup-
portable ; fince they had laid wafte fo many
fruitful countries, and depopulated fo many
cities already, and were likely to extend
their exorbitant power much farther in a
very little time : that he returned thanks
to Abram, as the reftorer and defender of
the common liberty ; that he prefented him
fome refrefhments, and even regal'd his ar-
my with bread and wine, as an acknowledg-
ment of his extraordinary fer vices to the
publick ; and that he congratulated him on
fo glorious and joyful an occafion, wifhing
him all imaginable profperity and fuccefs
for the future.

Melchizedek, in quality of a king, had
reafon to blefs Abram after this manner :
but the character of his priefthood gives us
a yet more full idea of his bleffing. For
the prediction of future benefits is commonly
called a bleffing ^ -, and in this fenfe the pa-
triarchs were wont to blefs their children.
And as it fometimes fignifies an ad: which
properly belonged to the prieflly office, it
was not only a prayer for the profperity

^ Gen. 27. and cHap. 49.


3 ^4 -^ thankfgiving fermon for the

of others, but a prophecy of their happi-
nefs. After this manner Aaron and his fons
were ordered to blefs the children of Ifrael
under the law, faying, T^he Lord hlefs thee,
and keep thee ; the Lord make his face to fiine
upon thee, and be gracious unto thee ; the Lord
lift up his countenance upon thee^ and give thee
peace ^ : for 'tis added, y4?id they Jhall put
my name upon the children of Ifrael^ and I
will blefs them ^. Thefe fentences had the
force of divine promifes, and were pro-
nounced in the name of God, to affure their
accomplifhment to all who worfliipped and
obeyed him. And in our text, inftead of
bleffed be Abram^ the Arabick veriion ren-
ders it, Abram fall be blejfed.

That Melchizedek bleffed Abram by vir-
tue of his prieftly office, appears, in that
the author of the epiftle to the Hebrews
infers the authority and dignity of the for-
mer above the latter, from this very a(5l,
when he lays, Without all contradlSllon^ the
lejs is bleffed of the better ^. So that there
is no inconfiflence in fuppofing that Mel-
chizedek biefl'ed Abram both in a civil
and religious manner ; that, as he was a
prieft, he added predictions of his fuccefs,
and affu ranees of the favour of God, to the
congratulation he made him as a king.

This is confirmed by the form of words
he ufed in pronouncing this bleffing, Bleffed

^ Num. C. 23 — 25. I ^ Heb. 7. 7.

s Vcr. 27. I


Serrrr. VIII. many fticcejfes in 170^. 365

be Abrarn of the 7nofi high God^ P^MIfor' of
heaven and earth. For this name oj the ?::o/i
high God, being ufed in oppofuion to the
falfe gods of the pagan nations, was fit to be
mentioned on this occalion, to excite the pa-
triarch's faith and confidence in the divine
favour and proted:ion ; and the other title, of
•pojfejjbr of heaven and earth, which the Sep-
tuagint renders, tht maker of heaven and earth,
feems added to afTert the fovereign authority
and univerfal dominion of God. And thus,
'tis as if the royal prieft had faid, " May
" the fupreme Ruler of the world, who has
" an undoubted right to govern the univerfe
" which himfelf has created and upholds j
" may he, who has fo fignally exerted his
" power in favour of thole who fear and
" ferve him, in oppolition to the proud and
" cruel attempts of arbitrary princes, conti-
" nue to crown thee with his blefling, who,
" in confidence of his afliflance and defence,
" haft fought his battles, and vindicated the
" caufe of liberty, which the Almighty fo
" much approves." For tho God's kingdojn
ruleth over all '\ as the pfalmift fpeaks ; tho
he has an uncontroulable power and autho-
rity, yet he governs the world by rules of
wifdom and equity, and ftill tempers his fo-
vereignty with clemency and goodnefs : for
fhall not the judge of all the earth do right ^ ?
Tho he has a mighty arm, Jirong is his hand,

' Pfal. 103, 19. I k Gen. 18. 25.


^66 A thankfglving fermon for the

and high is his right hand ; yet jiiftice and
judgment are the habitation c/his throne^ mer-
cy a?id truth go before his face K

And if Melchizedek was a prophet, as in
ail appearance he was, fince he is fo much
preferred to Abram, to whom that title
•is exprefly given '"j he might be infpired to
blefs Abram at this time, to give him the
greater aflurance of the divine approbation
of his expedition, and the future blefTings he
might expe(Sl as the reward of fo glorious
an undertaking.

'Tis, moreover, worthy a remark, that
this bl effing was foon after confirmed to A-
bram from heaven in a vilion : for in the
beginning of the fifteenth chapter 'tis faid.
After thefe things carne the word of the Lord
to Abram in a njifion^ f^yi^gt Fear noty A-
bram, I am thy Jhield, and thy exceeding
great reward. And as this great vi(ftory was
a pledge of the bleffings God had promifed
him before, in thefe terms, / will make of
thee a great nation ; a?id I will blefs thee^ and
make thy name greats and thou fialt be a blef-
fing : And I will blefs them that blefs thee ",
&c. fo we find this glorious action not only
recorded to his immortal honour in this hil-
tory of Mofes, but celebrated long after by
the eloquent and infpired pen of Ifaiah : for
the beft interpreters believe this prophet gives
a defcription of Abram, when he fays,

1 Pfal. 89. 13,14. I " Gen. 12. 2,3.

«" Gen. 20. 7. I


Serm. VIII. many fuccejfes in 1^0%, 35

Who hath raifed up the righteous man from
the eaft^ called him to his foot, gave the na-
tions before him, and made him rule over kings ?
He gave them as the dufi to his fword, and as
driven fiiihble to his bow. He purfued them,
and pajjcd fafely -, even by the way that he had
not gone with his feet. Who hath wrought and
• done it, calling the generations from the be-
ginning ? /, the Lord, thefirft, and with the
lajl, I am he °. And indeed fome of the
Jews think this vidory, obtained over the
four kings, an early prefage and figure of
the overthrow of the four great monarchies
of the world, fpoken of by the prophet Da-
niel ; who, when he had predicted their de-
ftru(5tion, adds, ^fid the kingdom and domi-
nion, and the greatnefs of the kingdom under
the whole heaven fiall be given to the people
of the faints of the moji High, whofe kingdom
is an everlafting kingdom ; and all dominions
Jhall ferve and obey him p.

While the king of Salem does Abram
the honour that his important fervices to the
publick required, he does not forget to offer
folemn praifes to that God who rules the
hofls of heaven, as well as the armies of
men : for while he is congratulating and blef-

fmg the patriarch, he adds And blejjed be

the mojl high God, who hath delivered thine
enemies into thy hand -, or, who hath [hut thine
enemies into thy hand, as fome chufe to render

« Ifa. 41. 2, 3, 4. I p Dan. 7. 27.


3 68 A thank/giving fermon for the

it : an exprefTion which feems to lignify how
much the divine providence interpofed to
favour Abram with fuccefs, by giving him
an opportunity of inclofing his enemies, fo as
to give them an intire defeat. For whatever
praife is due to the great benefadtors of man-
kind, for procuring the pubiick welfare and
peace, and whatever acknowledgment is due
to their excellent qualities and illuftrious ac-
tions ; yet the chief glory belongs to the
moji Htgh^ who rideth in every kingdom of
men J oid giveth it to who?nfoever he will "^ :
who, when he fees fit, cutteth off' the fpirit
of princes^ and is terrible to the kings of the
earth "" : who can infatuate their counfels,
or break their well-concerted meafures, and
make their armies fly, even when none pur-
fues : who can infpire thofe, whom he de-
figns for conquerors, with prudence in coun-
fel, courage in the time of danger, refolution
in difficult circumftances, and prefence of
mind in the heat of battle j and can incline
the ballance of victory how and when he

The piety of Abram no lefs appears, on
this account, than that of Melchizedek ; for
while one offers folemn thankfgivings to God
for this vi6lory, the other humbly acknow-
ledges the fame bleffing, in paying the ho-
mage of tithes, after Melchizedek's congra-
tulation : for we propos'd to dillourfe, -

•1 Dan, 4. 25. I ' Pfal. 76. 12.


Serm, Vlil. many fuccejfes in i-jo"^. 35^

II. Of Abram's offering : And he gave him
tithes of all.

He prefented an oblation of the tenth part
of the fpoils he had taken, to the high prieft,
by way of homage to the moft high God,
■ in whofe caufe he had been engaged, who
had preferved him from the perils of war,
and had given him the necks of his ene-

Some conjedure, that when he took the
field he made a folemn vow to God, that
if he would pleafe to cover his head iti the
day of battle^ and make him return a con-
queror, he would pay this homage at his
altar , as Jacob afterwards vowed to pay
the tithes of all his fubftance, if God would
preferve him, fupply him with food and rai-
ment^ and return him to his father s houfe in
peace \ 'Tis true, Abram tells the king
of Sodom, that he had lifted up his hand
to the moft high God, poffelTor of heaven
and earth * ; that he would take nothing of
the fpoil which belong'd to that prince :
but whether this vow was made before the
vidory, or if fo, whether Abram bound
his foul with the fame facred obligation to
offer the tenth of his fpoil, in cafe he fhould
return in triumph, is uncertain.

However, 'tis not to be doubted, that as
war is an appeal to God to give, by his pro-

» Gen. 28. 20, 21, 22, I * Gen, 14. 23.

Vol. I, B b videnccj

270 A thdiikfgiv'nig fcrmon for the

vidence, a dcciiion of fuch controverfies be-
tween princes and ftatcs, as cannot be other-
wife determined for want of fufficient arbi-
ters on earth ; the pious patriarch had offer-
ed up his mod fervent prayers for the divine
affiftancc in fo hazardous an undertaking.
And now, neither the congratulations of the
princes, nor the acclamations of the people
whom he had refcued from the hands of
tyrants, could make him forget the duty he
owed to that God, who bad given him his
kearfs defire^ and had not luithholden the re-
qiiefi of his lips ".

'Tis obfervable, that the payment of tithes
was a homage of a very antient dace, as ap-
pears by what has been already faid. Some
veftiges of it are early to be found among
fome of the heathens, who devoted the tenth
part of the product of their land, either to
the fervice of their gods, or to the exigencies
of the publick j as appears by what Piliftra-
tus, king of Athens, fays in his letter to
Solon ''.

And under the law of Mofes, God did not
only claim the tithe of the produd: of their
land as facred to himfelf, and order it to be
devoted to his fervice '' ; but after the Ifrae-
lites had obtained a victory over the Midia-

Pfal. z 1. 1. (^iti, y^j tA'77 aKKo 't^T koi-

TstAa/iii Diog. Laeit. in vita

« Lev.:/. 30, 31, 51.


Serm. VIII. many ficcejfes in ijo%, 371

nites, there was an offering not unlike this
decimation by Abram ^ : for a certain tri-
bute was levy'd out of the fpoil, which is
caird the heave-offering of the Lord. Some-
thing of this kind is referred to by the pfal-
mift, when, after he had celebrated fome
great vi

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 24 26 27 28

Online LibraryJoseph StennettThe Works of the late Reverend and Learned Mr. Joseph Stennett : in five volumes ; to which is prefix'd some account of his life (Volume 1) → online text (page 24 of 28)