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Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary
Sarah's handmaid: she was an Egyptian. Her name Hagar signifies a stranger. We have her history at large, in the sixteenth and twenty-first chapters of Genesis; and a very interesting history it is. But we never should have known the spiritual import of it, had not God the Holy Ghost graciously taught the church, by the ministry of his servant the apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians. From thence we learn, that the whole of those transactions respecting Sarah and Hagar was an allegory, or figure, of the covenants; the one of bondage in nature, the other of freedom by grace. Without this divine illustration the mind of man never could have conceived such an idea, neither have entered into a proper apprehension of the subject. Indeed, from the tendency of every man's mind by nature, to take part with flesh and blood rather than spiritual objects, we should have felt disposed to consider Hagar hardly dealt with, and Sarah unkind and cruel. But taught by divine instruction, from this beautiful allegory we learn the vast importance of being found belonging to a covenant of grace, and not with the bond-woman under the law of works. As the subject is so very highly interesting, I venture to persuade myself, that it will not be tedious to the reader, neither, under grace, will it be unprofitable to consider it yet a little more particularly.
The apostle was commissioned to tell the church, that this allegory represented the two covenants. Hagar and her son Ishmael, the law-covenant, gendering to bondage; Sarah and her son Isaac, the gospel-covenant, leading to freedom. And agreeably to this statement of the apostle, all the features of both correspond.
Ishmael, Hagar's son, was born in the ordinary course of nature; Isaac, Sarah's son, was born out of it, and contrary to the general laws of nature. Ishmael was the natural result of things; Isaac the child of promise. The one born without an eye to the covenant; the other wholly on account of the covenant. Had Ishmael never been born, no interruption would have taken place in respect of the promised seed; but had Isaac never been born, the promise itself could not have been fulfilled; for so the terms of the charter ran, "in Isaac shall thy seed be called." (Genesis 21:12) And though a period of somewhat more than twenty years had elapsed between the promise given to Abraham and the fulfilment of it, yet the thing itself was as sure and certain as the promise concerning the coming of Christ himself. "To Abraham and his seed was the promise made. He saith not unto seeds, as of many, but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ." (Galatians 3:16) And how striking was the difference in the gift of these two sorts to Abraham! Ishmael was the product of lust; Isaac a child of prayer. "Lord God, said Abraham, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless? Look now (said God,) towards heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them. And he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness." (Genesis 15:2-6) It may not be improper to add, that as in the two covenants the one is in direct opposition to the other, so in the allegory the same is manifested. "He that was born after the flesh, persecuted him that was born after the Spirit; even so it is now." The everlasting hatred of nature to grace was then strikingly set forth, by the mocking of the bond-woman's son. And as Ishmael, as well as Isaac, was circumcised, the allegory hereby manifested, (what hath not been so much noticed as it deserves,) that the persecution of the true seed doth not arise only from the world, but from those who profess the same faith. A faith, like Ishmael's, of nature, but not, like Isaac's, of grace. But what a blessed thing it is, when by a true saving grace we are led to know our birthright, and as sweetly to enjoy it. When we can say with the apostle, "Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise." And surely, the bond-woman and her son cannot be heir with the son of the free-woman; for all of the Hagar, the mount Sinai covenant, are in bondage. They are under the precept of a broken law; they are subject to the condemning power of that law; and they are exposed to the penalty due to the breaches of that law. Oh! the blessedness of being for ever freed both from the guilt and condemnation of it in Christ. Well might the apostle comfort the church with that sweet assurance, "so then, brethren, we are not children of the bond-woman, but of the free." (Galatians 4:31)
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Hawker, Robert D.D. Entry for 'Hagar'. Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance and Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/pmd/h/hagar.html. London. 1828.