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Luke. Our Saviour* proposed Jonah to the Jews as a sign of his own future resurrection. This prophet went down into the mouth of a monster, as Christ was to be swallowed up like other men by the devouring jaws of death. As the prophet was detained there three days, Christ was so long to be confined to the sepulchre and as Jonah was restored to the light at the divine command, so was Christ to rise again from the dead. Jonah was therefore a sign of his death and resurrection, such as no words could have delivered; for a miraculous fact is best signified by a miraculous sign, which shews us that the thing was known and determined before it came to pass.
Such another sign was Solomon; the fame of whose wisdom brought the Queen of Sheba from a heathen land to hear his words, and wonder at the greatness of his kingdom, and admire the order of his government: a sign that the Gentiles should listen to the word of him that was greater than Solomon, and be converted to the laws and economy of his spiritual kingdom; while the Jews should despise his words and persecute his church: for which the example of the Queen of Sheba shall rise in judgment to condemn them.
* Matth. xii. 40.
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 flavery, 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
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 him 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 à 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 fecond 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 Shield; 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