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This hidden wisdom of the scripture is to be considered as treasure hid in the earth, for which men must search with that same zeal and labour with which they penetrate into a mine of gold: for when our Saviour commands us to search the scriptures for their testimony of himself, the language of the precept implies that kind of searching by which gold and silver are discovered under ground. He who doth not search the word of God in that manner, and with that spirit, for what is to be found underneath it, will never discover its true value. The same principle is inculcated with a like allusion, when the divine law is compared to honey and the honeycomb; an inward sense being therein hidden, as when the bee seals up its treasure in the cells of wax : and the one when taken out is as sweet to the understanding as the other is to the palate. It is also as the corn in the husk, which must be taken from thence by the labour of the ox on the threshing floor, (as the custom was of old) before it can support the life of man. As the disciples of Christ plucked the ears of corn, and rubbed them in their hands on the sabbath day, so should every Christian preacher handle the word of God before it can give nourishment to their hearers. The labour of the ministry is certainly alluded to in that precept relating to the threshing floor, thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn: for the apostle seems to wonder how any could be so absurd as to suppose that God considered nothing but the benefit of the beast on this occasion; as if he had care of oxen, when he undoubtedly meant to assign the reward, and signify the work of his ministers, who labour in the word and doctrine. It is the work of the ministry to expound the word of God, as the labouring ox in the threshing
floor treadeth out the grain from the chaff: and as the ox is not muzzled at such a time, but partakes freely of the fruits of his labour; so by parity of justice, they who preach the word have a right to live of it.
That there is both a plain and a figurative sense in the language of the scripture, particularly in the law, is clear from the Apostle's reasoning on another occasion. He gives a name to each of these, distinguishing them under the contrary terms of the letter and the spirit: which terms are not unfrequently applied in the language of civil life to the laws of the land, in which there is a literal sense of the words, and a deeper sense of their general intention, called the spirit, which the letter cannot always reach.
The letter of the scripture is applied to the outward institutions and ceremonies of the law, as they stand in the words of the law without their interpretation: the spirit of them, or the intention of the law-giver, is the same with the doctrine of the new Testament, called elsewhere the good things to come, of which the law had an image and shadow. In its washings and purifications we see the doctrine of baptism; that is, of regeneration by water and the Spirit of God *. In its sacrifices we see the necessity and efficacy of Christ's death once for all. Had it not been necessary for man to be born of the Spirit, and redeemed by the blood of Christ, the law would not have troubled the people with washings and sacrifices; for in that case they would have signified nothing, and consequently would have been superfluous and impertinent: whereas if we take them right, the services of the law are the gospel in figu
Ezek. xxxvi. 25.
rative description, and the gospel is the law in spirit and signification. The passover of the law is a sign of Christ that was to come; and Christ when he is come is the sense and signification of the passover. It is the duty of a christian minister not to disappoint the law or the gospel, but to do justice to the wisdom of God in both, and put these things together, for the edification of the people. "Our sufficiency
(saith the apostle) is of God, who hath made us "able ministers of the new testament, not of the "letter but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but "the spirit giveth life." The letter of the law, voided of its evangelical intention, leaves our bodies washed, but our souls unclean; it leaves us nothing but the blood of bulls and of goats, and consequently under guilt and forfeiture; whence the apostle hath truly affirmed, that in this capacity it is a ministration of death. In his reasonings with the Jews, he presses them with the unreasonableness and wickedness of resting in the literal observation of the law; telling them, that by the letter and circumcision they transgressed the law. But how could this be? did not the law ordain circumcision in the letter? it did undoubtedly: yet, however paradoxical it may appear, the literal observation of the law was a transgression of the law. From whence it is a necessary consequence, that the letter of the law was ordained only for the sake of its spirit or moral intention; which the Jew neglecting, while he trusted in the law as a form, was in effect a transgressor of it; and was condemned in his error by the Gentiles, who without being born under the letter of the law, had now attained to the spirit of it, and were better Jews than the Jews themselves: for, adds the apostle, he is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision, which is с
outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision (as Moses himself had taught *) is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter.
To enquire more particularly into the errors of the Jews and the causes of them, would be foreign to my design. The fact is plain, that they erred by a literal interpretation of their law; and that by still adhering to the same, they are no nearer to the gospel now than they were seventeen hundred years ago. On the other hand, the apostles of Jesus Christ succeeded in their labours by being ministers of the spirit; that is, by interpreting and reasoning according to an inward or figurative sense in the law, the prophets, and the psalms. All the fathers of the christian church followed their example: particularly Origen, one of the most useful and powerful of primitive expositors. Then were the Jews confounded, the heathens converted, the word of God was efficacious, and the people were edified. The same way of teaching was observed in the middle ages, 'till the times of the reformation; and even then our best scholars still drew their divine oratory, particularly the learned and accomplished Erasmus, from the spiritual wisdom of the first ages. To revive and promote which, within my own little sphere, is the design of this and the following Lectures: in all which I shall invariably follow the rule of making the scripture its own interpreter. And now I have opened the way by shewing in what respects and for what reasons the style of the scripture differs from that of other books, and that it is symbolical or figurative: I propose with God's leave to distinguish the figures of the scripture into their proper kinds, with examples and explanations in each kind, from the scripture itself.
Deut. x. 16.
ON THE FIGURES WHICH ARE FOUND IN THE LAN
GUAGE OF THE SCRIPTURE,
AND THE SEVERAL
KINDS OF THEM.
IT hath been shewn in the former Lecture, that as the scripture teaches spiritual things which cannot be taught in words, the wisdom of God hath made use of things, as signs and figures, to explain them. This is done for several reasons: first, because we cannot conceive things of a spiritual nature but by borrowing our notions of them from the things that are visible and familiar to our senses. Secondly, because the scripture can speak under this form to some men, and reveal many things to them, while the same words reveal nothing to others: like that pillar in the wilderness, which was a cloud of darkness to the Egyptians, while it gave light to the Hebrews. Thirdly, because an outward sign, such as those of the scripture are, becomes a pledge and an evidence of the thing signified; as it doubtless is a wonderful confirmation of the gospel to see its mysteries exactly delineated so long before in the services of the