« AnteriorContinuar »
over. It is the duty of a christian minister not to disappoint the law or the gospel, but to do justice to the wisdom of God in both, and put these things together, for the edification of the people. “Our sufficiency (saith the apostle) is “ of God, who hath made us able ministers of $6 the new testament, not of the letter, but of the “ spirit; for the letter killeth, but the spirit “ giveth life.”. The letter of the law, voided of its evangelical intention, leaves our bodies washed, but our souls unclean; it leaves us nothing but the blood of bulls and of goats, and consequently under guilt and forfeiture; whence the apostle hath truly affirmed, that in this capacity it is a ministration of death. In his reasonings with the Jews, he presses them with the unreasonableness and wickedness of resting in the literal observation of the law; telling them, that by the letter and circumcision they transgressed the law. But how could this be? did not the law ordain circumcision in the letter? it did undoubtedly: yet, however paradoxical it may appear, the literal observation of the law was a transgression of the law. From whence it is a necessary consequence, that the letter of the law was ordained only for the sake of its spirit or moral intention; which the Jew neg. ļecting, while he trusted in the law as a form, 4 4
was in effect a transgressor of it; and was condemned in his error by the Gentiles, who without being born under the letter of the law, had now attained to the spirit of it, and were better Jews than the Jews themselves : for, adds the apostle, he is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision (as Moses himself had taught*) is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter.
Toenquire more particularly into the errors of the Jews and the causes of them, would be foreign to my design. The fact is plain, that they erred by a literal interpretation of their law; and that by still adhering to the same, they are no nearer to the gospel now than they were seventeen hundred years ago. On the other hand, the apostles of Jesus Christ succeeded in their labours by being ministers of the spirit ; that is, by interpreting and reasoning according to an inward or figurative sense in the law, the prophets, and the psalms. All the fathers of the christian church followed their example ; particularly Origen, one of the most useful and powerful of primitive expositors. Then were the Jews confounded, the heathens converted,
* Deut. x. 16.
the word of God was efficacious, and the people were edified. The same way of teaching was observed in the middle ages, 'till the times of the reformation; and even then our best scholars still drew their divine oratory, particularly the learned and accomplished Erasmus, from the spiritual wisdom of the first ages. To revive and promote which, within my own little sphere, is the design of this and the following lectures: in all which I shall invariably follow the rule of making the scripture its own interpreter. And now I have opened the way by shewing in what respects and for what reasons the style of the scripture differs from that of other books, and that it is symbolical or figura. tive ;' I propose with God's leave to distinguish the figures of the scripture into their proper kinds, with examples and explanations in each kind, from the scripture itself.
ON THE FIGURES WHICH ARE FOUND IN THE
LANGUAGE OF THE SCRIPTURE, AND THE
SEVERAL KINDS OF THEM.
T hath been shewn in the former Lecture, that as the scripture teaches spiritual things which cannot be taught in words, the wisdom of God hath made use of things, as signs and figures, to explain them. This is done for several reasons: first, because we cannot conceive things of a spiritual nature but by borrowing our notions of them from the things that are visible and familiar to our senses. Secondly, because the scripture can speak under this form to some men, and reveal many things to them, while the same words reveal nothing to others : like that pillar in the wilderness, which was a cloud of darkness to the
Egyptians, while it gave light to the Hebrews. Thirdly because an outward sign, such as those of the scripture are, becomes a pledge and an evidence of the thing signified; as it doubtless is a wonderful confirmation of the gospel to see its mysteries exactly delineated so long before in the services of the law of Moses; and much more to see them written in the characters of nature itself.
The things which the scripture uses as figures of other things are taken, 1. From the natural creation, or world of sensible objects. 2. From the institutions of the law. 3. From the persons of the prophets and holy men of old time. 4. From the history of the church. 5. From the actions of inspired men, which in many instances were not only miracles but signs of something beyond themselves, and conformable to the general plan of our salvation and redemption.
These are the materials of that figurative language
in which the bible is written; and of the several kinds of them, as here distinguished, I shall treat in their order, after I have given a general description of each.
1. When any object is taken from the visible creation, and applied as an illustration or sign of some spiritual truth, we call it a natural