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The approaching judgment had already been denounced by our Lord parabolically, as well as in express predictions; and was now represented by this significant action. The correspondence between it and the parable of the barren fig - tree is singularly close'. In the parable, the irreversible decree had well - nigh gone forth; and was but delayed for a season. The sentence, “cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground? ?”, was still impending, and here it is executed. The tree was cursed, and “presently it withered away 3.” And, that .there might remain no doubt as to the prophetical meaning of this miracle, our Lord immediately delivered two parables on the same subject : that of the vineyard", especially, bearing a great resemblance to the miracle, and closing with these remarkable words, — “ And, therefore, I say unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the FRUITS thereof 5.” We would do well to remember that this awful warning is not confined to the Jews. We too have our privileges; and we are bound to be s neither barren nor unfruitful,” but always abound in “ the fruits thereof?:"—for if we neglect the “great salvation” in our power, we may rest assured, that, with the Jews, we “ shall all likewise perish.”
Luke xiii. 6.
; Ib. xiii. 7.
3 Matt. xxi. 28.
So far we have proceeded with confidence; the evidence of the divine intention being, in these instances, sufficiently full and satisfactory. Perhaps our criteria might have been successfully applied to other cases; but, with every deduction, which the most liberal construction of the Scripture authority will allow us to make, there will still remain some miracles, to the solution of which we have no clue but conjecture, and where probability must be inevitably attended with doubt. Of this nature are, the miracle at Cana, our Lord's transfiguration, his walking on the water, procuring the tribute-money, conveying himself from the reach of his enemies; and many others of those acts of divine power, which passing circumstances incessantly called forth. Whether we are justified in working out the interpretation of these, to the best of our unassisted capacities, is a question as to which there is much diversity of opinion.
On the one hand, it is argued, with some appearance of probability, that our Saviour did not undertake to supply the spiritual sense of all the miracles which admitted of such an interpretation, but only to furnish us with a key, which might be applied to the opening of all :
8 Luke xiii. 5.
and we shall be guilty of neglect of the means of information allowed us, if we do not avail ourselves of them to their fullest extent. That this was the belief of the Church in its earliest days, is sufficiently proved by the writings of the Fathers; whose opinions, independently of their own authority, are entitled to additional respect, from the advantages they enjoyed in their near connexion with the apostolic times Nor does there seem to be any marked or essential difference in character, between the miracles which we know, from the authority of Scripture, to be typical, and those which we are now considering. But for those recorded explanations, should we not have found equal difficulty with both classes ? Thus, did we not know, from the words of our Lord, that the miraculous draught of fishes was intended to represent Peter's success in the propagation of the Gospel, might we not reasonably have hesitated, before positively ascribing to it such an intention ?
To these arguments it may be answered ; that it does not necessarily follow, because our Lord made some of his miracles serviceable in the illustration of his doctrines, that all are therefore of the same character. On the contrary, when we consider the number of the miracles, (St John informs us they were almost infinite',) their various natures, and, above all, the grand
+ John xxi. 25.
and all-important purposes they primarily served, the confirmation of his mission, and the manifestation of his power and mercy,--we can scarcely believe that they were all studiously adapted to figurative illustration. Is it not natural to suppose, that while our Lord's leading doctrines were thus exemplified, many of the minor and every-day calls upon his benevolence might be gratified, without any such ulterior object? With the profoundest reverence for those fathers of the church, who, in the midst of persecution and reproach, maintained inviolate “that which was committed to their trust?," and, more than all who have succeeded them, strengthened and beautified the edifice, of which they are the pillars; we still venture to believe, that their warm enthusiasm, acting in a direction to which the frequent study of the Old Testament types gave their minds a natural bent, has carried them farther in this seductive path, than is warranted by the intention of Scripture. We err, if we expect in the New Testament history, the same minute and systematic adaptation to typical purposes, which prevails in the Old. The old covenant was, in its nature, so essentially typical, that the literal is often no more than a vehicle for the figurative sense. And the result is a beautifully complete and symmetrical scheme of prophetical action. The new dispensation, on
* 2 Tim. vi. 10.
the contrary, is not properly so much typical, as the subject of types. Indeed, some writers seem inclined to question, whether the word type' is not too strong a term to express the spiritual import of our Saviour's actions. It is rather a symbol,--an analogy between his operations upon external nature and the heart of man, than a type, to which we naturally expect some feature of a new system of things, as the antitype. We can scarcely, with propriety, say that any portion of a dispensation is a type of itself. But, what we would most insist upon, is the danger of departing from the sure footing of inspired authority. If we once acknowledge the principle, that the exercise of human ingenuity can supply that which the Scripture has left wanting, we open the door to the most extravagant and inconsistent interpretations. Every one conceives himself at liberty to give his own exposition; and the inevitable consequence must be divided opinions, and, in many cases, rash and unfounded conjectures. For, scarcely is there a favourite opinion, which a fertile imagination may not thus extract from some portion of Scripture; and very different, nay, contrary interpretations of this kind, have often been made of the very same texts, according to men's various fancies or inventions?.
See Note (G).