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always to remember, that the widest difference subsists, between ascribing a typical intention to any passage of Scripture, and its spiritual improvement, (as it is sometimes called,) that is,
deducing from it spiritual instructions for the practical edification of the reader.
We shall not at present stop to enquire, whether there may not sometimes be a latent spiritual sense, where there are no express data for its elimination :-at all events, in such cases, we can never feel that satisfying conviction, with which we rest on the authority of Scripture. Our first object, then, being the discovery of any evidence, there may exist, of the divine intention, it will be necessary to make use of certain criteria, for the purpose of weighing the value and sufficiency of such evidence. The criteria, by which the presence of a typical meaning may be satisfactorily ascertained, seem to be the following:
1. Where the interpretation may be gathered from the language of the New Testament, or the prophetical books of the Old":
2. Where the clearest analogy may be proved to subsist between the case in hand, and some other undeniably typical : or,
When the events immediately inductive of the miracle, or the scope of our Lord's discourses, in reference or at least in close proximity
4 Horne's Introd. Part 11. ch. iii. § 7. ch. v. § 1. ch. vi. ch. viii.
to it, obviously and without violence, suggest such an intention.
With these directions before us, it will be hardly necessary to remark, that the interpretation of a specific miracle once furnished, is equally applicable to all its repetitions. Thus our Lord oftener than once miraculously feeds great multitudes,—obtains an extraordinary draught of fishes --raises the dead to life; and, of course, the spiritual import of these miracles does not vary with their recurrence. As to the miracles of healing, we formerly observed, that they all convey at least a general allusion to the removal of sin; and we have more specifically ascertained the antitypes of some of the different kinds of them. Following the path thus laid down for us, we may, without much fear of error, venture to supply the spiritual correspondents to the others. Thus deafness is a striking emblem of the natural incapacity of the unassisted sinner to hear, or understand the words of life. We find it frequently coupled with blindness, in the spiritual allusions of Scripture:
“ Lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them!.” The natural man
“ hath ears yet heareth not ;” “like the deaf adder he stoppeth his ear, and refuseth to hear the voice of the charmer”.” And it is the Gospel and Grace of Christ alone, which can effectually relieve him, by the authoritative command,— Ephphatha—be opened".
1 Matt. xiii. 15.
Again, the loathsome disease of leprosy is a fearfully accurate representation of the internal corruption and pollution incurred by guilt. It seems indeed, in the ceremonial laws of the Jews, to have been emphatically regarded as a typical disorder. The minute regulations prescribed for its treatment, the exclusion of the leper from the camp, and the ceremonies necessary for legal purification, all appear to point to such an intention. And, though our Lord's dispensation was the fulfilment, and so far the termination of the Old Testament types, the same figure, which had been employed in its prediction, might well enough be continued in the process of its establishment. Indeed, on two occasions where the cure of lepers is recorded, we find our Lord enjoining a careful observance of the Mosaic regulations. The cure of this dreadful disease, then, was intended to represent the Grace of our Saviour; who still “looketh upon us in our blood;" and is willing to cleanse us from that leprosy of the heart, which taints our whole moral nature, and excludes us from all communication with holiness.
Ps. Lviii. 4.
3 Mark vii. 34. 4 Matt. viii. 4. Luke xvii. 14.
We might proceed, in the same manner, to consider dumbness as emblematic of our inability to say',—and palsy, impotence, and other debilitating disorders, of our inability to perform, any good thing of ourselves :—but the principle has been already sufficiently illustrated. There is one very instructive feature, however, in many of the cures, which, though perhaps more properly illustrative than typical, is well worthy of our consideration, from the insight it affords us into the workings of divine mercy :—we mean the strong faith, shewn by many of the sufferers, in him to whom they applied for relief. It is to this, that many owe the exertion of Jesus' power. The words, “ Thy faith hath made thee whole?,” frequently convey to them the assurance at once of his approbation, and their own recovery. Nor is faith less necessary and effective in the work of our salvation. Whoever cometh unto Christ in faith, “he will in no wise cast out;"-—while we are assured, that “he that wavereth,” need not “think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord'.”
We now proceed to the examination of a miracle of an entirely different character. The literal
Mark v. 34; X. 52; Luke viii. 48; xvii. 19.
4 James i. 7.
narrative of the cursing of the barren fig-tree' has been the source of frequent cavil among infidels, both from the alleged malice of the action, and from some seeming inconsistencies in the details. With these objections we have not to do; the rather that they have been repeatedly met by a satisfactory refutation. Our concern is with the mediate intention, which has been imputed to it, in subservience to that which our Lord informs us was its primary one,—the confirmation of his disciples' faith". The vestigia of mystical design are by no means deeply traced ; but, after mature consideration, we have been led to the conviction, that more than one of the criteria proposed above are sufficiently satisfied.
The period was fast approaching, when the Jewish people were to be punished for their obstinate abuse of the advantages, which they had in such abundance enjoyed, by the withdrawal of God's favour, and the loss of their civil and religious privileges. The prophets had again and again warned them of the consequences of their ingratitude ;—not unfrequently under the figure of a barren fruit-tree: “ Israel is an empty vine?,” says one ;—and another, “I had planted thee a noble vine, a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me ?” 5 Matt. xxi. 19.
o Ibid. xxi. 21. 9 Hos. x. 1.
a Jer. ii. 21.