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This affection to symbols in religious worship may be carried too far, and degenerate into theatrical scenery or even into idolatry, (for idols are no other than symbols) but to cast them all off, and strip religious worship naked; is an act of fanatical ignorance, which understands neither the sense of ceremonies, nor the nature of man; whose mind in its present state must either raise itself by the help of sensible objects and bodily gestures, or be in danger of sinking into sullenness and stupidity.
Thus has the use of symbols extended to all times, and wisdom hath been communicated in this form by the teachers of every science and profession. We might wonder if it were not so; when God, from the beginning of the world, taught man after this form ; setting life and death before him under the symbols of two trees; and it is both an ingenious and a sublime sentiment in a certain author, that the whole scenery of paradise was disposed into an hieroglyphi. cal school for the instruction of the first man; and that the same plan, so far as it could be, was afterwards transferred to the tabernacle and temple.
END OF THE LECTURES
USE AND INTENTION
NOT COMMONLY UNDERSTOOD.
ADDRESSED TO THE
READERS OF A COURSE OF LECTURES
FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURE.
BY WILLIAM JONES, M.A.
In a course of lectures on the figurative language of the Scripture (a work which has two characters, according to the fate of all my writings) the tenth lecture treats of the miracles of our Saviour, as signs of his saving power upon the souls of men ; which, to common readers, appear only as miraculous cures wrought upon their bodies. My plan is not complete unless something be added on other signs and significant actions and events, which frequently occur in the Old and New Testament, and are little noticed in these days, though the early writers of the Christian church were not unacquainted with them.
A sign is a kind of prophecy, which speaks by things and actions instead of words. When the Jews demanded a sign of Christ *, they meant some miracle ; to shew, by an act of divine power, the truth of his divine mission; but he gave them a sign of the prophetic sort, such as I am now speaking of, the sign of the prophet Jonah, swallowed by the fish; of which kind of sign they seemed to have no knowledge ; and I have reason to think there are many Christians who know as little about them as the Jews did, and suppose authors to be scarcely in their senses when they treat of them. But all the signs of the Scripture are excellent, if we have a key to them, and will give both delight and edification to people of devout affections.
It hath been shewed, in the second and third lectures, that the great use of Nature, in the hand of God, is to instruct man; and, from the works of Nature, give him a right understanding of such things as are above Nature; and the matter is beyond dispute, because the fact speaks
* Matthew xii. 38.