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4. Next to the persons of the prophets is the history of the church at large ; concerning which the wisdom of God ordained, that things past should represent things to come, and serve as admonitions and signs to the people of God to the end of the world. Hence it comes to pass, that no scripture is of any private interpretation : its sense does not end in the persons of whom it speaks, but is of public application for the benefit of all places and of all times. The apostle speaking of some remarkable circumstances in the history of the church, assures us, that all those things happened for ensamples, and are written for our admonition. The deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt was a pledge of our deliverance from this world of sin and bondage ; the service of which is perfect slavery, like that of the Hebrews under Pharaoh. Their temptations in the wilderness were like our trials in the passage through this mortal life. Their settlement in Canaan is an earnest to us, that if we commit ourselves in faith to the guidance of God, we shall in like manner obtain the promised inheritance; and that without faith, we shall fall short of it.
Lastly, the actions of the prophets, and particularly of Christ himself, were figurative and prophetical; they are therefore called signs as D?
well as miracles, because they carried an instructive signification, and pointed to something greater than themselves. The ways of divine wisdom are comprehensive, and answer many purposes at once. Our Saviour performed many mighty works, that for the sake of them men might believe hini to be the Saviour of the world; but then they were withal of such a sort, as to admit of an application to the state of all Christians. We do not hear his voice, bidding us leave our companions in the ship and walk towards him upon the water: but all that will come to him must have their faith exercised, as that of Peter was, upon the waves of this troublesome world; they must undertake å hazardous
passage, in which nothing but the power of Christ can support them; and if they cry to him, the same right hand, which saved the fearful Apostle, will be stretched out to help them in all their dangers and necessities *; and the same goodness will be tender toward their infirmity in the hour of trial; reproving and yet pardoning the deficiencies of their faith.
All the miracles of Christ are after this pattern; they are signs of salvation in all ages, and admit of a general application to every member
* See the collect for the second Sunday after the Epiphany,
of the church, with whom the same miraculous power is still present, and acting for the highest purposes, though invisible to mortal sight.
To one or other of these five heads, the spiritual language of the scripture may be reduced, and from them the matter of it is borrowed: 1. From the images of nature, or visible things as representations of things invisible. 2. From the institutions of the law, as prefiguring the things of the gospel. 3. From the persons of the prophets, as types of the great prophet and Saviour that was to come. 4. From the history of the church of Israel as an ensample to the christian world. 5. From the miraculous acts of Moses, Christ, and others, as signs of the saving power of God towards the souls of men. All these things compose the figurative language of the bible ; and that interpretation which opens and applies them to the objects of faith, is called a spiritual interpretation; as being agreeable to that testimony of Jesus, which is the spirit of prophecy.
I have been thus particular in the division of my subject, that by understanding at the beginning what my design is in the whole, it may always be known, as I proceed in it, what part I am upon. Of this figurative language, the elements first
to be understood are those which are borrowed from the images of nature. And here a vast field is open to us, as wide as the world itself. If we consider it in due order, we must begin with the creation; which is related in the book of Genesis, is a pattern of the new creation in Christ Jesus; and is so applied by the apostle: God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ*. Till this light shines in the heart of man, he is in the same state as the unformed world was, when darkness lay upon the face of the deep: and when the new creation takes place, he rises in baptism, as the new earth did from the waters, by the spirit of God moving upon them.
The lights of heaven in their order are all applied to give us conceptions of God's power, and shew us the glory of his kingdom. In the 84th Psalm, the Lord is said to be a sun and a Mield; a sun to give light to his people, and a shield to protect them from the power of darkness. Christ, in the language of the prophet is the sun of righteousness, who as the natural sun revives the grass, and renews the year, brings on the acceptable year of the Lord, and is the great restorer of all things in the kingdom of grace ; shining with the new light of life and immortality to those who once sat in darkness and in the shadow of death. And the church has warning to receive him under this glorious character: Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee*. When he was manifested to the eyes of men, he called himself the light of the world, and promised to give the same light to those that follow him. In the absence of Christ as the personal light of the world, his place is supplied by the light of the scripture, which is still a lamp to our feet, and a light unto our paths. The word of prophecy is as a light shining in a dark place; and as we study by the light of a lamp, so we must give heed to this light, if we would see things to come.
great 2 Cor. iv. 6.
The moon is used as an emblem of the church; which receives its light from Christ as the moon does from the sun: therefore the renovation of the moon signifies the renovation of the church; as a sign of which, the new moons were appointed to be observed as religious festivals under the law; and the apostle tells us they were a shadow of things to come ; and the substance of that shadow is known from
* Isaiah lx. I.