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us. When considered in this way, the power exercised by the prophet gives us as true and philosophical a pattern of the miracle of our salvation, as the whole circle of nature can afford: and as such I have often reflected upon the case with admiration and pleasure not to be expressed *.
When the widow cried unto the prophet in behalf of herself and her two sons, who were seized by the creditor for bond-men, he could have found means of paying their debt, without multiplying a vessel of oil by a miracle f: but then, our faith would not have been able to learn from the story, how the two sons of the church, the Jews and the Gentiles, are redeemed from the bondage of sin and death by Jesus Christ, the great prophet; to whom the spirit was given without measure, as the oil was given to that inexhaustible vessel, and of whose fullness we have all received. St. Augustin has an excellent discourse upon all the circumstances of this miracle, and applies them as every other commentator will do, who has the Scripture ready in his mind, and interprets by the same rule.
Vol. iv. u By
* Compare what hath been here said with the interpretation of Irenami, lib. v. 17.
+ a Kings 4.
By a miracle of like sense and signification, did our blessed Saviour pay tribute for himself and his disciple from the mouth of a fish which came first out of the sea", I have a notion of my own, for which I can produce no authority of any commentator, that the three orders of animals, the fowls of the air, the beasts of the earth, and the fishes of the sea, represent three states of being : the fowls of the air, the angelic or spiritual nature, both bad and good; the land animals, the present state of man's life; the fish of the sea, the state of the dead, who are silent and invisible. This may appear strange and visionary to those who have not considered it: but, if the distinction is founded on the Scripture, then the fish, that first cometh up, is he that first cometh up from the dead, as Christ did; the first fruits of them that slept ; and as he rose for our justification, he brought with him our ransom, to be paid for those who have no tribute-money of their own to give. With this sense, the case was worthy of the divine
interposition. There is another miracle of our Saviour, which, when considered in itself, as it stands in the letter of the history, is very difficult, and hath perplexed many commentators; but is * easily
* Matt. xvii. 27.
easily reconciled, if we take it in its undoubted signification. In the way to Jerusalem our. Lord saw a fig-tree, which had nothing but leaves upon it when he wished for fruit; and he pronounced sentence upon it; in consequence of which it soon withered away”. Now a fig-tree is no object of a curse, unless it be for a sign or figure ; least of all could this figtree be so, because, as the history adds, it was not yet the season of figs f ; had it been so, they would have been gathered, in which case nofruit could have been expected, and then the tree had not been proper for the use he intended to make of it, as a sign of the character and fate of the Jewish church. He was returning in displeasure from Jerusalem, where he had observed the unprofitable state of the people, whose religion was now reduced to a form of words, without any good works; as a fig-tree having leaves but no fruit; and from this example it was to be understood, that, as the fig-tree withered away, so should the fruitless Jerusalem perish. Its fate is elsewhere
U 2 signified
* Mark xi. 13, 21.
+ A fig-tree with us has always figs upon it in"some stage or other. If it was not the time of figs, they had not yet been gathered; so the tree should have had its fruit upon it,
signified under the parable of a fruitless figtree *, visited for three years (the term of our Lord's ministry among the Jews) and then, after another short trial, to be cut down as an incumbrance to the ground. The parable and the miracle are of the same interpretation. They have long been fulfilled upon the Jews; but they are applicable at all times, in the moral of them, to those persons who bring forth no fruit under the means of divine grace; whose end will be to wither away and be cast out of the vineyard.
I cannot leave this subject of the miracles without mentioning one more from the Old Testament. How often have the profane and ignorant made themselves merry with the ass of Balaam! We must, indeed, confess, that God could have rebuked the apostacy of Balaam, without opening the eyes of a brute beast to see the heavenly minister of vengeance, whom a mercenary prophet could not see; and to remonstrate against his wickedness with an human voice: but the time was to come, when the eyes of the Heathen world were to be opened, and their voice to condemn the mercenary Jews, who should make themselves the messengers and hirelings of an idolatrous power to
* Luke xiii. 7.
bring destruction upon the Christian church. And as Balaam, by his own confession, fell away with his eyes open, so did the Jews offend against their own knowledge; while, at the same time, they bore testimony against themselves by maintaining the writings of the Holy Scripture. It was not more contrary to the nature of things, that an ass should see an angel, whom a perverse prophet could not see, than that blind Gentiles should be alarmed and brought to repentance by the preaching of the Gospel; while the perverse Jews, with the word of prophecy in their possession, should see nothing; but beat and abuse those who saw more than themselves: and if the sword of power had been in their hands, they would have killed every Christian upon earth.
I have now some observations to add on figurative occurrences, providentially ordained, and recorded for our instruction. Many events related in the Scripture are of such a wonderful character, that they carry with them natural marks of their own truth; and are thereby distinguished from the events recorded in all the histories of the world. To those who have -ears to hear, they speak that sense in sign and figure which they relate in words. It is impossible to explain this without examples: and there are u 3 certainly