« AnteriorContinuar »
ON THE FIGURES OF THE SCRIPTURE WHICH ARE TAKEN
(A CONTINUATION OF THE FORMER.)
The former Lecture would not allow me room to explain the figures which the scripture hath borrowed from the natural world and the objects of common life; though I determined to select such of them only as might be thought most important and instructive: and even now, the subject is so copious, that I must leave many which I should be glad to treat of.
From the consideration of the heavens, the elements and the seasons, we descended to man, whose bodily life is a pattern and shadow of his spiritual life, and is applied to illustrate it in many instances.
From his natural, we must now go forward to his social, civil, or political life, as a citizen, subject, and member of society; together with his worldly condition, relations, offices, and occupations.
The spiritual state, or kingdom of heaven, is represented to us under the emblem of an earthly kingdom, in which God is the supreme governor and judge, ruling all his creatures with infinite power, and according to the laws of justice, goodness, and mercy.
The church is a spiritual kingdom under Christ its head; and its ministers are ambassadors, commissioned to treat with the world, and propose terms of reconciliation from God, with whom they are by nature at enmity. St. Paul, having occasion to speak of his commission under Jesus Christ, saith, for whom I am an ambassador in bonds. This was a strange case; and he mentions it as such ; because the persons of ambassadors were accounted sacred, and it was against the law of nations to do any violence to them: but the world, while it keeps good faith with itself, keeps none with God. Our blessed Saviour, as Pilate truly entitled him upon the Cross, was the King of the Jews, though not after the form and authority of worldly kingdoms; and as such had a claim to the allegiance of his subjects. Their rebellious treatment of him and his ambassadors is represented in the parable of the marriage of the king's son *; whose invitation they rejected, and abused his servants. In consequence of this his armies were sent out, to do execution upon them as murtherers, and burn up their city : all of which was fulfilled upon the apostate Jews, and their city Jerusalem: and having rejected him, they are to this day without a king, without laws, without a country.
There is another parable of the same kind, which admits of a more general application, and comes home to ourselves. Christ ascending into heaven, there to receive all power, and return invested with it to the general judgment, is signified under the person of a nobleman who went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom and to return-But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, we will not have this man to reign over us f. Thus insolently and • Matth. xxii.
+ Luke xix. 12.
ungratefully doth a wicked world treat the authority of Christ in his absence: but he shall return; and then the authority they will not admit for their good, will be turned to their destruction-Those mine enemies which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them before me. Not all the powers upon earth can hinder the execution of this command-bring them hither—wherever these offenders shall then be, they will all be found ; even the grave shall not hide them, the dust shall not cover them ; but the ministers of vengeance will drag them forth, and present them before that king whom they hated and affronted. Some there are, who send their message after him in terms of open treason and defiance; while others explain away the sense and authority of his kingdom with subtilties of logic and a mask of piety. But let them speak or reason as they please, the proudest of them all are under the power of Jesus Christ : those who do not allow of his spiritual authority in his kingdom the church, are still within the reach of his justice. Happiest are they, in whose hearts the kingdom of God is established according to those words which were spoken of itthe kingdom of God is within you ; and who can pray daily, as they are commanded, that his kingdom may come ; that it may prevail over our affections, and direct all our doings, till at length it shall be manifested over all, and the king himself shall appear in his glory.
The judgment passed by the magistrate in this world against crimes is founded on the law of God, and is an administration of his justice for the time
ministration which is to come. Every tribunal before which criminals are summoned is a prelude to
the day of doom, when the judgment shall sit, and the dead, small and great, shall stand before God, and the dead shall be judged out of those things that are written. This may seem distant to us now, in our blind way of considering things; but in the language of the scripture it is otherwise : behold, saith St. James, the judge standeth before the door, ready to enter, and to bring every secret work, and every neglected and perverted cause into judgment. • Other figures of the scripture are taken from the state in which mankind are engaged under the dangers of war. As men are troubled with violence and treachery from one another; so is there another warfare more hazardous, to which all Christians are enlisted under the captain of their salvation, against enemies whom no man can see; active, subtle, vigilant, malignant spirits; for, we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers. As men prepare for an earthly war, so are we to prepare ourselves that we may stand in the evil day : we are to put on the whole armour of God, as the apostle hath described it; we are to take the shield of faith, the sword of God's word, the helmet of salvation; and to pray that we may be inspired with fortitude, and assisted in the use of them. We have treachery as well as force to guard against. There are deceitful lusts which assume the mask of pleasure, while they are warring against the soul, as it were by sap, to undermine and destroy it. ..
No man can use a sword with skill, but he who hath been instructed in the art of defence, and hath practised it long : so can no man handle the word of God aright, that sword of the spirit, but he that has studied it diligently. With unskilful handling by the ignorant, or the ill-disposed, it may wound ourselves, and our friends, like a sword in the hands of a child or a madman.
Amongst the occupations of men, the chief is that of husbandry; and it will afford us much instruction. As the field is the subject of man's labour, so man himself is a field under the cultivation of God: ye are God's husbandry, saith the apostle. All the particulars in the course of husbandry are fulfilled in our hearts. For as the ground is broken and cleared, so is the heart to be prepared by repentance: whence the prophet Hosea thus calls upon the people; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord. In the parable of the sower, the seed is the word of God, quick and powerful with the principles of life; and the different kinds of soil denote the various dispositions with which men receive the word of God; some few into an honest and good heart; many more into hearts open as the common high-way to the lusts of the world and the visits of Satan; and as such people understand nothing spiritual, they immediately lose what they receive. Some, whose minds are shallow, cannot retain it, as not having depth enough for the word to be rooted, so as to withstand trials and temptations, signified by the scorching heat of the sun upon a stony soil. Some are so full of care and business, that the word can no more thrive, than seed among thorns and thistles.
I would propose this parable of the sower as a specimen of the excellence of that figurative mode of instruction so constantly pursued throughout the scripture. See how much doctrine, enough to fill a volume, is here comprehended in how few words; in a form striking to the imagination, and plain to every capacity!
Another sort of husbandry, not so familiar to us in