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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 eommentators; but is easily reconciled, if we take it in its undoubted signification. In the way to Jerusalem 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 fig tree be so, because, as the history adds, it was not yet the season of figst; 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 figtree 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
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'; 90 the tree should have had its fruit upon it.
perish. Its fate is elsewhere signified under the parable of a fruitless fig-tree*, 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 prophane 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 eyes 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 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 know. ledge; 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 Gen. tiles should be alarmed and brought to repentance by
* Luke xiii. 7.
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 exanıples: and there are 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 exhaustible 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 observ. ed, 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 bim. 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 holy patriarchs, were before him; and as all his disciples are called to be after him.
Shepherds, watching their flocks in the field by night, were selected as proper persons to receive the glad tidings of his birth. Their office represents that of the ministers of God, who are to make kpown abroad what is told them from heaven : and those shepherds will always have the preference, who are found in their office, watching over their flocks.
Even the time of the year in which our Saviour was born was not without its meaning. This happened on the night when the sun passed the winter solstice, and was returning to bring back the increasing light of the spring. The birth of John the Baptist had happened six months earlier; at the season when the sun begins to shorten the days, and his light is daily decreasing. These two seasons are respectively agreeable to the characters of the two persons, and the event of their ministry : with a view to which, it was predicted of both by the Baptist him self, he must increase, but I must decrease *.
If we go from the season of his birth to that of his passion, most of the circumstances, preparatory to it and attending it, have their propriety and signification: of which one single fact will be sufficient to convince us. For, as his birth was witnessed by a new star lighted up in the heavens ;
in the heavens ; so at his passion
the light of the day was extinguished at poon, and gave its testimony, that He was the true light who was then expiring upon the cross at Jerusalem.
The disciples were directed to the house where the passover of the Lord's supper was to be eaten, by a man bearing a pitcher of water*, whom they were to follow, anèl where he entered they were to enter and make ready. The same direction will serve to the end of the world : for where the water of baptism is found with the living waters of the word and spirit of God, there is the house of God, and there are his mysteries to be celebrated: as, on the other hand, where there is no baptism, there is no church, nor can be any supper of the Lord.
The agony of our Saviour in a garden, and the treason of Judas there committed, and his burial in a garden, where he appeared after his resurrection, and was taken for the gardener of the place, are so many natural signs, which refer us back to the garden where that sin began, which brought him to his sufferings. The wood of his cross, which is called a tree t, upon which he bare our sins, answers to the fatal tree of Paradise which brought sin into the world : the one tree was the instrument of our ruin, the other of our salvation, It was, therefore, ordained, that Jesus Christ should suffer death under the Roman power, and not under the Jewish. When the Jews refused to put him to death in their own way, (which would have been by stoning ) out of flattery to the Roman governor they ignorantly contributed to the great plan of Providence, and proved Jesus Christ to be the true Saviour, who died for Adam's sin. Thus will it ever happen : the perverse ways of man shall fulfil the