Page images
PDF
EPUB

By a miracle of like sense and significatioty, did our blessed Saviour pay tribute for himself and his disciple from the mouth of a fish which came first out of the sea*, I have a notion of my own, for which I can produce no authority of

any commentator, that the three orders of animals, the fowls of the air, the beasts of the earth, and the fishes of the sea, represent three states of being : the fowls of the air, the angelic or spiritual nature, both bad and good; the land animals, the present state of man's life; the fish of the sea, the state of the dead, who are silent and invisible. This may appear strange and visionary to those who have not considered it: but, if the distinction is founded on the Scripture, then the fish, that first cometh up, is he that first cometh up from the dead, as Christ did ; the first fruits of them that slept : and as he rose for our justification, he brought with him our ransom, to be paid for those who have no tribute-money of their own to give. With this sense, the case was worthy of the divine interposition.

There is another miracle of our Saviour, which, when considered in itself, as it stands in the letter of the history, is very difficult, and hath perplexed many commentators ; but is

easily

[blocks in formation]

easily réconciled, if we take it in its undoubted signification. In the way to Jerusalemi our. Lord saw a fig-tree, which had nothing but leaves upon it when he wished for fruit; and he pronounced sentence upon it; in consequence of which it soon withered away*. Now a fig-tree is no object of a curse, unless it be for a sign or figure ; least of all could this figtree be so, because, as the history adds, it was not yet the season of figs t; had it been so, they would have been gathered, in which case no fruit could have been expected, and then the tree had not been proper for the use he intended to make of it, as a sign of the character and fate of the Jewish church. He was returning in displeasure from Jerusalem, where he had observed the unprofitable state of the people, whose religion was now reduced to a form of words, without any good works; as a fig-tree having leaves but no fruit : and from this example it was to be understood, that, as the fig-tree withered away, so should the fruitless Jerusalem perish. Its fate is elsewhere

signified

U 2

* Mark xi. 13, 21. + A fig-tree with us has always figs upon it in some stage or other. If it was not the time of figs, they had not yet been gathered; so the tree should have had its fruit

upon it.

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 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 * Luke xiii. 7.

eyes of the

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 themselves 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 upon 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

certainly

[ocr errors]

certainly more to be found than I can here

produce, 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,

« PreviousContinue »