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MANY good Christians, who read the word of God with a desire to profit by it, and have been taught, that whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning (Rom. xv. 4.) have their doubts concerning the use of many things they find in the Scripture; not being able to see how they can answer that general design of adding to our learning, and thereby leading us to more patience and comfort: The apostle takes a passage from the Psalms of David, and understands Jesus Christ to be the speaker of it; and lest we should wonder or be offended at this use of the Scripture, he tells us the rule is general, that the things written aforetime are to be thus applied to Jesus Christ; without which they are nothing to us as Christians, neither shall we find in them the comfort they were intended to give. In the way
I shall take of illustrating this doctrine, I shall bring strange things to the ears of some people, and such as they will never be able to receive ; yet others, who will receive them, and be edified by them, as primitive Christians were, ought to have a sight of them.
I once met with a person, a clergyman of no mean learning, who, not having observed how things are related to one another in the great plan of redemption, objected to the use of the Magnificat, in the
service of the church, as a form that could have no relation to us. The virgin Mary, he said, being the mother of Christ, might very properly use the words of that hymn; but that they could not belong to us, por be used by us, with any propriety. To this it was answered, that as Jesus Christ did not come into the world for the purpose of making the virgin Mary a mother, but to save mankind, every Christian soul has reason to rejoice with her. Christ, who was formed in the blessed virgin, is also formed in us * ; and the mother of Christ, like Sarah, the mother of the promised seed, in her spiritual capacity, is a figure of the church, that blessed Jerusalem ; which is the mother of us all: so that the words, which were spoken by her, may be used by all Christians, with the utmost truth and propriety. Each of us may truly say, My soul doth magnify the Lord, for he, who regarded the virgin, did regard her for
salvation ; that Christ might be formed in me, as he was in her. He that sent away the rich, and accepted a lowly maiden, hath cast off and sent empty away the proud Jews, and condescended to regard and magnify us poor Gentiles. When the promise, made to the church of Israel in our father Abraham, was fulfilled to the blessed virgin, it was fulfilled to us, that is, to the seed of Abraham for ever, which seed are we at this day. Thus is the magnificat brought home to us, and the use of it in the church, to the end of the world, is justified.
This example sheweth us, how it may be true, that no Scripture is of any private interpretation ; that a fact, when recorded in the Scripture, does not end in the private parties of whom it is told, but belongs
* Gal. iv. 19.
to us and to our children*, and is to be applied to something beyond itself t. When the goodness of God is acting for the benefit of some of his saicts, and (as inexperience might suppose) for the benefit of them only, his foreknowledge is acting for us all, and a record of the matter becomes prophetical. Many passages, therefore, of the Scripture, when properly understood, and discreetly applied according to the rule of the apostle, will turn out to be highly significant, even though they may seem at first sight to have no relation to us; and, in some cases, even to contradict the laws of divine wisdom and justice.
I shall now produce some examples: and, that this may be done in an orderly manner, I shall begin with the case of our father Abraham. We read that he had a son by an Egyptian bond-maid, whose name was Hagar; which thing, though contrary to the moral or social law of God, is yet perfectly agreeable to the laws of his providence and the sense of his promises. The apostle has, therefore, treated of this case without any censure; instructing us that the whole is an allegory, a prophetical transaction : that in the two persons of Surah and Hagar we are to see the two characters of the spiritual and the temporal Jerusalem : and from the conditions and characters of their two children Isaac and Ishmael, we are to learn how it was to be with the natural and spiritual seed of Abraham. The allegory is in force to this day. The children of the bondwoman, who were under the yoke of the law, are even now in that state of servitude, to which they were cast out, along with their mother the Jewish church; and the Gentiles, as the children of the promise, are now admitted to
dwell as inheritors in the house of their Father. The case of Abraham's concubinage, thus applied, is still teaching us the will of God concerning Jews and Gentiles, and will continue to do so as long as Jerusalem shall be trodden down, and the Christian church shall consist of converts taken from the Heathen world. The act of Abraham in taking a bond-woman, can never be drawn into a precedent, because no man can be in his circumstances, standing in a prophetic character, as the progenitor of two orders of people, a carnal and a spiritual Israel, the sons of his nature and the sons of his faith, and furnishing us with an allegory, which has been fulfilling in its several parts for more than half the age of this world.
The fraud of Jacob, in obtaining the blessing from his elder brother, is to be accounted for as a prophetical act, under which we have a figure of the Gentiles, as the younger brother, supplanting the Jews, and taking from them that spiritual inheritance which they knew not how to value. The case of Jacob and Esau would admit of an extensive application in all its circumstances. The elder brother is a man of a worldly spirit, and obtains a temporal establishment; while the younger leads a wandering life, as a stranger upon earth, under terrors for himself, and his family, and his flock, from worldly power; all of which was fulfilled in the different tempers and fortunes of the Jews and the Christians.
The Jew is still saying in his heart, with the profane Esau, what profit shall this birthright do to me; and so takes the provision this world affords for his hope and inheritance, and commonly gets a plentiful share of it.
The polygamy of Jacob is to be considered as ano