Page images

venom of the living serpent had occasioned ! Was not this indeed a mockery of sorrow; or at least, the inefficacious prescription of the physician, when he leaves his patient hopelessly to die ? Hath God indeed gifted the herbs and minerals of the earth with their powers of healing ; and cannot the comprehensive range of his wisdom discover in one of them a specific for the deadly visitation ? Is not his arm almighty—are not all the stores of earth at his disposal ; or cannot he who created it create also something more and thus administer relief? Nay, is he not now contradicting the spirit of his own command, and erecting an image, when he had previously forbidden his people “to make to themselves the likeness of any thing in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth ?” Thus would the voice of infidelity whisper among the children of Israel. Thus would unbelievers, blind as they are, presumptuously limit the mind of eternal wisdom, and fetter the free hand of the Almighty. No common remedy was to be applied. The serpents were not to be removed ; their venom not to be extracted; their mouths not to be closed. They were still permitted to infest the camp, and bite the people.

Moses, by the divine command, merely formed a resemblance of these dreadful serpents, and set it up upon a pole in the sight

of all the people. It was made in all things like the original, except in its powers of life and mischief.

Such was the spiritual condition of man, when God the Father made that astonishing display of mercy, that inconceivable interference of wisdom, which types prefigured, prophecies foretold, and his incarnate Son consummated upon the cross. When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so was the Son of man lifted up in the agony of his crucifixion. Is it admitted by any enquirer, that the world was defiled by iniquity, and under sentence of death from the just award of an injured God? And yet, is that enquirer lost in amazement, that in man's extremity, and God's opportunity, such a scheme of salvation should have been devised, as was revealed in the gospel by the death of Christi Is it asked, Where is the analogy between the remedy and the disease ? Could not the universal governor and monarch of the world have adopted some method of glorifying himself, and saving sinners, more intelligible, and apparently more fitting, than the great mystery of godliness, “God manifest in the flesh?” We have no other answer to make, than by expressing the scriptural conviction, that this interference on man's behalf is stamped with characters of wisdom so radiant, that the very angels who inhabit the rest of heaven, and share the knowledge which is reflected to them in such intensity by their nearness to the throne of light, “ desire to look into these things.” Whether any other method of saving the perishing world of sinners, and yet of harmonizing and glorifying the divine perfections could have originated in the mind of the Most High is equally vain and sinful to enquire. This we do know, and if we be the redeemed of Jesus Christ it will be the wellspring of our bliss for ever, that the Christian scheme emanated from the unsearchable riches of our father's love. Scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die : but God commended his love to us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. God so loved the world, as the Saviour himself declares, immediately after appropriating this miracle to himself,—God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but should have everlasting life. This also we know, that he by whom this scheme of mercy was fulfilled is “Christ, the wisdom of God.” This we moreover know, that he who had the Holy Spirit and saw the secrets of the blessed in his unutterable rapture, has exclaimed concerning the mystery of redemption, O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! The serpents are not removed! Sin is still permitted to sting : and if the sufferer continue proud or careless, to destroy—but a remedy is provided. The appointed deliverer takes the nature that had offended, and that, if he save it not, must die for the offence. God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful

flesh, and

for sin, condemned sin in the flesh. He hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. It is thus manifested, that the deliverance wrought for man is as much independent of his co-operation, as it is above his comprehension. It was not more apparent that the cure of the dying thousands of Israel, after the abandonment of every other hope, was the sole work of God, than his exclusive agency is proved by the scheme of life and mercy revealed in the everlasting gospel. That voice came to the Israelite whose rebellion was punished, but whose wound was healed, which comes to every transgressor whom the law condemns, and wrath pursues, but whom. the infinite compassions of God have been exerted to save through the cross of his Son. Thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thy help.

“Men and brethren unto you is the word of this salvation sent." God looked, and there was no man; therefore his own arm brought redemption, and so brought it, that every reflecting man with the words of life and wisdom in his hand, must surely say, “This hath God done;" for he must perceive that it is his work.

The Most High was not contented merely to provide a deliverance and cure for his people. He gave them also a most simple, but most comprehensive and infallible mode of using it to their healing. “It shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it shall live.” The serpent stood on high among the people, like the royal banner of an ancient army, where every eye among the dying thousands could behold it. The sufferer might lie in his agony at the uttermost limit of the congregation, where he could hardly distinguish the mysterious sign of his recovery. He might have been long bitten. He might have tried in vain every method of cure, until the poison had taken strong possession of his frame, and marked him out for the grave. His eye might be already glazed and dim with the approaching darkness of death: but if, under any of these threatening, or even apparently desperate circumstances, he looked to the brazen serpent, with a persuasion, that God had ordered it as

« PreviousContinue »