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things, the human understanding is weak, blind, and depraved, and that human reason and right reason are two different things; that in many cases it is very rational to distrust our reasoning powers; and that always, it is our highest wisdom, to submit implicitly to the declarations of Holy Writ.—But besides this general account of the prejudice to which I allude, I may be permitted to observe further, that it is a very narrow and contracted prejudice. It is founded on our Northern taste. The parabolical and typical style would give no offence to Oriental
Neither was the Bible calculated particularly for philosophers, nor designed to make men philosophers; but for infinitely more generous purposes; for the salvation of souls, of the souls of mankind in general, and not of a few learned persons only. In this light, who does not see, that divine things may often be more strongly and more simply conveyed to the intelligence of the common people, by parables and comparisons, than by abstract reasonings ? God knows what suits his creatures best. - An unlearned simple mind' will feed on a divine truth, conveyed in a type or emblem, and will receive a clear and strong impression in that way, when the capacity is not able to go through a strict course of reasoning. Many, indeed, I do fear, have helped to strengthen this prejudice, against types and figures, by the wrong, though well meant, use made of them. This, however, lessens not their real use. The law of Moses is altogether a type, or shadow: Perhaps it is not wrong to say, the whole Old Testament, or nearly so, is a continued display of types.- He, who undertakes to explain them, should know their law and order, and their right use, no doubt; but passage throws
in regard to the emblem of the Text, it must be allowed to be so clear and intelligible, that it explains itself, especially when we consider the light which the Divine Saviour in this Let us therefore, if you please, endeavour to sit at his feet, in all the simplicity of the vulgar and unlearned, and hear his words. They are not the words of Moses, or Paul,—though that would make no difference with the real believer of Scripture;but they are the words of Jesus himself. He will naturally send us first, to the history of the Serpent, which is, briefly this, as you will find in the twentyfirst chapter of the Book of Numbers. The Lord, to punish the rebellious Israelites, for their murmurings, “sent fiery Serpents among the people; and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.” The punishment was severe, and their sin, in murmuring and disbelieving the kindness of so gracious a God, needed such a chastisement. А. good effect was wrought on the minds of the congregation. In the seventh verse, they confessed to Moses their sin, in these words, “We have sinned; for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee: Pray unto the Lord, that he take away the Serpents from us : and Moses prayed for the peo- . ple.” The Lord is never slow to save, when men are truly humbled before him : He upbraideth not for the past.-He provided a method of cure for the dying people : but, mark how singular was the remedy on this occasion, and what a lesson of dependance on himself,--the lesson of lessons,did the whole order of it teach the Israelites! They were in the utmost distress : there was but, as it were, a hair's breadth between them and death;
and in themselves they were perfectly helpless.Then,
“ The Lord said unto Moses, make thee a fiery Serpent, and set it upon a pole; and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh
, upon it, shall live: and Moses made a Serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a Serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the Serpent of brass, he lived."
The cure was, you see, quite out of the course of nature. It could not be brought about in any of the diseased, but such, AS FELT themselves bitten by the Serpents; nor in them, except they LOOKED, with a believing dependance on God, at the brazen Serpent erected on a pole. The disorder which they had, was of a very dangerous kind: but however dangerous the disorder, there was not an instance of
any man's looking at the brazen Serpent, but he lived. How does our Lord teach us to apply all this! “ As Moses lifted up the Serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The Lord of
” glory was lifted up on a Cross for our sins: Without him we perish: In ourselves we are in a ruinous and perishing condition.—Did much people of Israel die by the bites of the Serpent ?-So surely sin is that Serpent, that inbred Serpent, which has poisoned our vitals; and if it be not taken away, will consume us with a never-ending destruction. It will be to us the worm that dies not; and the fire that is not quenched.
What then is meant by being exhorted to believe on Jesus ? What dispositions of mind does the expression imply? And what are the true exercises of Faith? Could you desire a clearer practical account of these matters than this before us? - As the wounded Israelites beheld the brazen Serpent for their cure, so must we, feeling our perishing condition by sin, look with the eye of our souls to the cross of Christ, and view him, redeeming us from the curse, and from all the miseries of sin: And if in the temporal case, healing followed, so it does in the spiritual. You shall not perish, but have eternal life: And be it remembered, that the term life, does not here denote merely existence; though that, as opposed to annihilation, were an immense blessing ;-it signifies all that new vigour and energy of soul, all those new principles, new tastes, and affections, of which a fallen creature becomes partaker by believing on his Saviour, and receiving him in all his offices. In this sense you shall have life eternal : In this world it shall commence in EARNESTS of the Spirit; and the everlasting fulness of it shall be hereafter.
Here then is the most important subject that can be conceived: Does not every other subject, in comparison of it, dwindle into insignificance? You are taught the way of obtaining eternal felicity,the way of knowing and enjoying the tru
the true God. Moreover this way is laid open to rebels and sinners, who are in a perishing condition, who are under a sentence of wrath, and who otherwise have no means to help themselves.
There are three capital points before us :
2. The beholding of Christ crucified for our relief and redemption.
3. The happy effect of such looking; life eternal, May the Lord assist our weak understandings, that we may in the sequel of this discourse, comprehend and apply each of these considerations in a suitable manner!
1. The conviction of our perishing state.
This, this is a trying point indeed, yet absolutely necessary.
What were the motives which inclined the poor wounded Israelite to turn his longing eyes to the brazen Serpent? What were the circumstances which rendered it necessary for him to do so ?The pain of his wound, the consciousness of imminent peril, the danger of a moment's delay, and, lastly, the sense he had of his own inability to relieve himself. All this is easily transferred to the SPIRITUAL case before us. You can scarce help being beforehand with me in apprehending the salutary doctrine. So easy, so obvious are the right inferences ! Oh! that we were as ready, with as much feeling, and with as much alarm, to seek and to use the true remedy for our distempered souls, as we are, in temporal cases, for our sick bodies ? Men have no inclination to consult a physician if they are well, or if they think themselves well :
They that be whole need not a Physician:” these words of the Divine Saviour are commonly applied on this occasion, and not more commonly than truly and justly. Assure yourselves then, that if you not your perishing state by nature, it is not possible for you to have so much as one believing look at Christ crucified. The story of his death may possibly be to you an affecting history: Its spiritual use you cannot fathom : Its supreme beauty you cannot relish : The wisdom and goodness of God