« PreviousContinue »
signified under the parable of a fruitless figtree *, visited for three years (the term of our Lord's ministry among the Jews) and then, after another short trial, to be cut down as an incumbrance to the ground. The parable and the miracle are of the same interpretation. They have long been fulfilled upon the Jews; but they are applicable at all times, in the moral of them, to those persons who bring forth no fruit under the means of divine grace; whose end will be to wither away and be cast out of the vineyard.
I cannot leave this subject of the miracles without mentioning one more from the Old Testament. How often have the profane and ignorant made themselves merry with the ass of Balaam! We must, indeed, confess, that God could have rebuked the apostacy of Balaam, without opening the eyes of a brute beast to see the heavenly minister of vengeance, whom a mercenary prophet could not see; and to remonstrate against his wickedness with an human voice: but the time was to come, when the eyes of the Heathen world were to be opened, and their voice to condemn the mercenary Jews, who should make themselves the messengers and hirelings of an idolatrous power to bring destruction upon the Christian church. And as Balaam, by his own confession, fell away with his eyes open, so did the Jews offend against their own knowledge; while, at the same time, they bore testimony against them. selves by maintaining the writings of the Holy Scripture. It was not more contrary to the nature of things, that an ass should see an angel, whom a perverse prophet could not see, than that blind Gentiles should be alarmed and brought to repentance by the preaching of the Gospel; while the perverse Jews, with the word of prophecy in their possession, should see nothing; but beat and abuse those who saw more than themselves: and if the sword of power had been in their hands, they would have killed every Christian
* Luke xiii. 7.
earth. I have now some observations to add on figurative occurrences, providentially ordained, and recorded for our instruction. Many events related in the Scripture are of such a wonderful character, that they carry with them natural marks of their own truth; and are thereby distinguished from the events recorded in all the histories of the world. To those who have ears to hear, they speak that sense in sign and figure which they relate in words. It is impossible to explain this without examples: and there are U 3
certainly certainly more to be found than I can here
produçe, or would presume to understand. As there are many wonders in Nature, into which no eye can penetrate, so can we discern but in part the manifold wisdom of God in the inexhaustible treasures of his word.
Such occurrences, as I am about to produce, are no where more observable and abundant than in the history of our Saviour's birth, and of his passion. His birth was witnessed by the appearance of a new star ; to signify that a new light was come into the world, such as had never appeared before: and it was observed, and followed by wise men from the East, as a prelude to his reception by the Gentiles; while the people of his own country saw nothing, and when he came had no room for him. All the disadvantageous circumstances, under which the blessed Infant was found, prevented not the adoration of those men, who had been conducted to him by this heavenly light; as no offence will be taken against any part of the Christian plan by those whom the grace
of God hath guided to it, and who see his word as a new light risen upon the world.
Our Saviour was born upon a journey, and at an inn ; to shew, that he was to be a stranger and a sojourner upon earth, as all his fathers,
the holy patriarchs, were before him ; and as all his disciples are called to be after him.
Shepherds, watching their flocks in the field by night, were selected as proper persons to receive the glad tidings of his birth. Their office represents that of the ministers of God, who are to make known abroad what is told them from heaven : and those shepherds will always have the preference, who are found in their office, watching over their flocks.
Even the time of the year in which our Saviour was born was not without its meaning. This happened on the night when the sun passed the winter solstice, and was returning to bring back the increasing light of the spring. The birth of John the Baptist had happened six months earlier ; at the season when the sun begins to shorten the days, and his light is daily decreasing. These two seasons are respectively agreeable to the characters of the two persons, and the event of their ministry: with a view to which, it was predicted of both by the Baptist himself, he must increase, but I must decrease*.
If we go from the season of his birth to that of his passion, most of the circumstances, preparatory to it and attending it, have their propriety and signification : of which one single U 4
# John iii. 30.
fact will be sufficient to convince us. For, as his birth was witnessed by a new star lighted up in the heavens; so at his passion the light of the day was extinguished at noon, and gave
its testimony, that He was the true light who was then expiring upon the cross at Jerusalem.
The disciples were directed to the house where the passover of the Lord's supper was to be eaten, by a man bearing a pitcher of water*, whom they were to follow, and where he entered they were to enter and make ready. The same direction will serve to the end of the world: for where the water of baptism is found with the living waters of the word and spirit of God, there is the house of God, and there are his mysteries to be celebrated : as, on the other hand, where there is no baptism, there is no church, nor can be any supper of the Lord.
The agony of our Saviour in a garden, and the treason of Judas there committed, and his burial in a garden, where he appeared after his resurrection, and was taken for the gardener of the place, are so many natural signs, which refer us back to the garden where that sin began, which brought him to his sufferings. The wood of his cross, which is called a treet, upon which he bare our sins, answers to the fatal