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ther act, in which the allegory is still carried on; and as such it is no precedent for any man to take a plurality of wives. Jacob, whose name is Israel, is the father, or head, under whom the church was formed, which still bears the name of the Israel of God. The twelve patriarchs might have been raised up, if it had so pleased God, from one wife; but they were born of several; of the bond and the free, the ill-favoured and the beautiful, to foreshew the different characters of which the church of God should be composed in different times. In Leah the elder, less beloved and tender eyed, we have the person of the Jewish church, first taken, but not able to see by faith the mysteries of the Gospel. In Rachel, we see a wife well-beloved, as the Christian church was afterwards to be; at first barren, as Sarah also had been before ; but at length travailing in pain, and bringing forth sons of sorrow and atfliction. Rachel is accordingly represented by the prophet, and the passage is applied by the evangelist, as weeping for those children who first suffered in the cause of Christ. Her spiritual children, by their profession, are in general such as she called that child of which she died, sons of affliction : as such they are to consider themselves, and be prepared to act and to suffer in their proper character. As the tender-eyed Leah, was, for an appointed time, fraudulently substituted in the place of Rachel, so was the Jewish church, though not the best beloved, taken first in order: to which case those words of the apostle may be applied, that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, and afterwards that which is spiritual
In the lives of the prophets many things are to be found, which seem to be in themselves either superfluous or unaccountable; but when such things are considered as the signs of other future things which are of infinite importance to mankind, they assume a different form, and become worthy of the divine wisdom.
This mode of prophesying by significant actions was remarkably used under God's direction in the ministry of the prophet Ezekiel; where the judgment on Jerusalem is shewn by the boiling of a pot with its scum : the profanation of the sanctuary by the death of the prophet's wife: in which, and other like figurative actions, the prophet Ezechiel was unto them a sign*; and the people, not being able to see the sense of his actions, said, wilt thou not tell us what these things are to us, that thou doest so?
On another occasion, the prophet Jeremiah was commanded to carry a linen girdle, and hide it in a hole of the earth near the river Euphrates; there to lie till it should be rotten t: as a sign, that the people, whom God had taken to be nearest to him. self, should be pulled off from him, and carried away, to be hidden and consumed in a remote land.
With these examples before us, we are to learn, that in like things there is a like intention; and when we see any thing that appears strange and unaccount. able, we may assure ourselves there is some wise reason, and that probably of universal concern, at the bottom; in which case we are to ask, as the people did of Ezechiel, what are these things unto us? We know that God could have formed Eve of the earth, as he had formed Adam; but his wisdom acted for our information, that we may know the certainty of those things wherein we have been instructed : he derived the woman from the man, to shew that the church, which like Eve is the mother of us all, should derive its existence from Christ, the second Adam; and particularly from the death of Christ, and from the side of Christ as from the sleep and from the side of Adam. The apostle hath taught us that this affair is to be understood as a mystery ; and that when we speak of Adam and Eve, we speak of Christ and the Church in other words. God could have healed Naaman, the Syrian, by a motion of the prophet's hand; but he sent him to wash, and that in a river of the holy land, even in Jordan, where Christ was to be baptized ; that from this case the Gentiles might afterwards be convinced, how necessary it is for all men, under the leprosy of sin, to be washed by the waters of baptism, sent into all the world from the land of Judea : the story of Naaman is wonderfully instructive in all its circumstances *. Upon another occasion, the prophet made iron to swim, when the head of an axe was lost in a river How are we to justify the wisdom of God, in recovering a thing of little value by the exercise of a power so extraordinary? The reason of this, being not in the thing itself, must be found in the use and sense of the thing; and we must ask here, as the people did on the occasion, when Ezechiel acted in a manner they could not account for, what are these things unto us? When this miracle is examined according to the rule of faith, we see in it a pledge of our own recovery from the consequences of the Fall, by the power of Christ's death and resurrection. For let us mark the circumstances, and they will speak for themselves f. The sons of the prophets complain of dwelling in a
* Ch. xxiv. 24.
* Jer. xiii.
place too strait for them; and, as they are at work for their own enlargement, the head of an axe falls from its helve into the river Jordan; and the loss was the worse because it was borrowed : Alas, master, said the workman to the prophet, for it was borrowed ! The prophet, having cut down a stick of wood, casts it in at the place; with which the iron swims, and the man recovers what he had lost. Upon this case let us venture thus to argue, after the manner of the primitive Christians, and we shall not be far from the truth. As the head of the axe, the better part of it, was lost in the water, so did the soul or spirit of man, the better part of him, fall into death the very day on which he undertook to enlarge and improve his condition: and when man loses his soul, he loses what is not his own, but that for which he is accountable to God, who hath trusted it to his free will; and, if lost upon a vain experiment, he must be accountable for it, and hath just reason to bewail the obligation he is under. For when the soul of man is lost and sunk, no human power can recover it. As surely as iron rests at the bottom of a deep river, so surely must the soul of man remain for ever under the dominion of death. But as the prophet, by casting in wood, which swims of its own nature, brought up the iron with it, so doth the Son of Man draw all men unto himself : the branch of the stem of Jesse was cut down, and cast with us into the waters of death: but as wood, if thrown to the bottom of a river, will rise up again, so could death have no power over him. And thus are we, when sunk and lost, raised up to life by the power of his resurrection upon us. When considered in this way, the power exercised by the prophet gives us as true and philosophical a pattern of the miracle of our salvation, as the whole circle of nature can afford : and as such I have often reflected upon the case with admiration and pleasure not to be expressed *.
When the widow cried unto the prophet in behalf of herself and her two sons, who were seized by the creditor for bond-men, he could have found means of paying their debt, without multiplying a vessel of oil by a miraclet: but then, our faith would not have been able to learn from the story, how the two sons of the church, the Jews and the Gentiles, are redeemed from the bondage of sin-and death by Jesus Christ, the great prophet; to whom the spirit was given without measure, as the oil was given to that inexhaustible vessel, and of whose fullness we have all received. St. Augustin has an excellent discourse upon all the circumstances of this miracle, and applies them as every other commentator will do, who has the Scripture ready in his mind, and interprets by the same rule.
By a miracle of like sense and signification, 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. 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
the state oi' the dead, who are silent and invisible. This may appear strange and visionary to those who have
* Compare what hath been here said with the interpretation of Irenæus, lib. v. 17.
+ 2 Kings 4.