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the Lord, and insinuates that the things spoken to him, which are mentioned in the following chapters, proceeded from this ap pearance, it may perhaps be conjectured that the vision was an ænigmatical representation of the attributes of the Deity exerted in the government of the world: and that that representation was formed by the union of a number of symbols, whose meaning those who understood the ancient picture writing knew, but which we, whose knowledge of that sort of writing is extremely imperfect, cannot pretend to explain.
It remains to observe, that in foretelling future events, especially those which were of an extensive nature and at a great distance in point of time, the Spirit of God thought proper to make use of allegorical dreams and visions rather than of plain verbal descriptions, for the following reasons: 1. These dreams and visions, whether formed on known, or on arbitrary symbols, were naturally so dark, even when accompanied with an interpretation, as not to be distinctly understood, till they were explained by their fulfilment. This darkness I think was necessary to prevent unbelievers from pretending that the prophecy, by exciting persons to do the things foretold, occasioned its own accomplishment.-2. The images of which these allegorical dreams and visions were composed, being all objects of sight, they made a much more lively and forcible impression on the minds of the prophets, than it was possible to do by words; consequently they could be more distinctly remembered, and more accurately related to others, than if the qualities and actions of the persons represented by the symbols in the dream or vision, had been expressed in a verbal description.-3. The facility with which the representations, in an allegorical dream or vision could be remembered, and the precision with which they could be related in all their circumstances, rendered the transmision of them to posterity as matters of fact easy. And although the meaning of these dreams and visions was not understood by those to whom they were related, yet being of such a nature as to make a strong impression on all to whom they were related, when they came to be explained by their accomplishment, the inspiration of the prophet who had the dream or vision was rendered undeniable, and the sovereignty of God in the government of the world was raised beyond all possibility of doubt.
Of the Method of conveying Instruction by significant Actions.
- To render speech forcible and affecting, mankind, in all ages and countries, have been in use to accompany their words, with such gestures and actions as indicated the sentiments and feelings of their mind. This was the custom more especially in the first ages of the world, when the primitive languages were not sufficiently copious, and men's passions were under little restraint. Hence the eastern nations, whose imaginations were warm and whose tempers were lively, early delighted in this method of communicating their sentiments and feelings; and even after their language became so copious as not to need that extrinsic aid, they still continued to express their sentiments in the same way. Nay, all savage nations at this day express their strongest feelings by accompanying their words with significant actions, which shews that the custom is founded in nature.The scriptures furnish many instances of this custom.-For example, to render promissory oaths more solemn and binding, the person who sware the oath, put his hand under the thigh of him to whom he sware, Gen. xxiv. 2. “ Abraham said unto his " eldest servant of his house,-Put I pray thee thy hand under my thigh: 3. And I will make thee swear by the Lord the "God of heaven and the God of the earth, that thou wilt not "take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites." -In like manner, Jacob before his death, required his son Joseph to put his hand under his thigh, and swear, that he would not bury him in Egypt, but in Canaan with his fathers. Gen. xlvii. 29.
To express extreme affliction and grief they rent their clothes, and covered themselves with sackcloth. Thus it is said of Jacob when he saw Joseph's coat, "He rent his clothes, and put "sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days." -1 Kings xxi. 27. when Ahab heard Elijah's words, "he rent ❝his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh, and fasted, and lay "in sackcloth and went softly."
Moses having constrained his wife Zipporah to circumcise her son, she, to express her detestation of the action, and her displeasure with her husband for having commanded it, cast the foreskin of the child at his feet, and said, "Surely a bloody hus"band art thou to me." Exod. iv. 25.
Anciently the significant actions with which any kind of information was accompanied, were commonly of the typical
kind; that is, they were so contrived as to express the information conveyed by the words. Thus, when Moses saw an Egyptian smiting an Israelite, he slew the Egyptian, to shew, by action, that God would by him deliver the Israelites from the bondage of the Egyptians. So Stephen assures us, Acts vii. 25. -Thus also, 1 Kings xi. 30. The prophet Ahijah "caught "the new garment that was on Jeroboam, and rent it in twelve " pieces. 31. And he said to Jeroboam, take thee ten pieces, "for thus saith the Lord the God of Israel, behold I will rend "the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten "tribes to thee."-1 Kings xxii. 11. "Zedekiah the son of "Chenaanah made him horns of iron: and he said, Thus saith "the Lord, with these shalt thou push the Syrians until thou "have consumed them.' 2 Kings xiii. 18. "Elisha said un"to the king of Israel, smite upon the ground: and he smote "thrice, and staid. 19. And the man of God was wroth with "him, and said, thou shouldest have smitten five or six times, "then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it. "Whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice." The king's fault was, that knowing his smiting upon the ground was typical of his smiting Syria, he ought to have smitten it oftner than thrice. Nehemiah v. 13. " Also I shook my lap and said, so "God shake out every man from his house, and from his la"bour, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken."-Ezek. xxi. 6. "Sigh therefore thou son of man with "the breaking (beating) of thy loins: and with bitterness sigh "before their eyes. 7. And it shall be when they say unto "thee, Wherefore sighest thou? That thou shalt answer, For "the tidings, because it cometh; and every heart shall melt, "and all hands shall be feeble," &c.-Ver. 14. "Thou therefore "son of man prophesy, and smite thine hands together."
In later times likewise, the Jews accompanied their discourses with significant actions, to give their instructions the greater force. Matth. xviii. 2. "Jesus called a little child unto him, "and set him in the midst of them. 3. And said, Verily, I say "unto you, except ye be converted and become as little chil"dren, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4. "Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child," &c. Mark xi. 12. "On the morrow when they were come "from Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13. And seeing a figtree afar off having leaves he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon; and when he came to it he found nothing but leaves. Now the time of (gathering) figs was not yet.
"14. And Jesus answered and said to it, No man eat fruit of "thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.-20. "And on the (next) morning, as they passed by, they saw the "fig-tree dried up from the roots. 21. And Peter calling to "remembrance, saith unto him, Master, behold the fig-tree "which thou cursedst is withered away." Peter called his Master's declaration, in consequence of which the fig-tree was destroyed, a curse, agreeably to the phraseology of the Hebrews, who considered land absolutely sterile as cursed. Heb. vi. 8.— By the typical action of destroying the barren fig-tree, our Lord intimated to his disciples, the destruction which was coming on the Jewish nation on account of their wickedness.-John xiii. 4. Jesus "riseth from supper and laid aside his garments, and "took a towel and girded himself. 5. After that he poureth "water in a bason, and began to wash the disciples feet, and to "wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.-12. So "after he had washed their feet and had taken his garments " and was set down again, he said to them, know ye what I have "done to you?-14. If I your Lord and Master have washed 66 your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet." Ye ought to do the meanest offices to each other, when they are necessary for promoting each other's happiness.-Luke ix. 5. "Whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, "shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against "them."-Matth. xix. 13. "Then there were brought unto "him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and 66 pray.-15. And he laid his hands on them."-1 Tim. iv. 14. "Neglect not the spiritual gift which is in thee, which was ❝ given thee according to prophecy, together with the imposition "of the hands of the eldership."-Matth. xx. 34. "Jesus had "compassion on them and touched their eyes; and immediately "their eyes received sight."-John ix. 6. "He spat on the ❝ground and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes "of the blind man with the clay. 7. And said to him, go wash " in the pool of Siloam."
These examples shew that our Lord's taking Peter's wife's mother, who was sick of a fever, and Iairus's daughter, who was dead, by the hand; and his touching the eyes of the two blind men mentioned, Matth. ix. 2. with other things of the like nature, were merely significant actions, by which he intimated to the persons themselves, and to those who were present, that he was going to work a miracle in their behalf. So also, before
he said to his apostles, John xx. 22. Receive ye the Holy Ghost, He breathed on them, to intimate that by the invisible operation of his power he would confer on them the gifts of inspiration and miracles.
Another remarkable instance of enforcing information by a significant action, we have, Acts xxi. 11. Agabus "took Paul's "girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith "the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man "that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands "of the Gentiles."
Lastly, it is well known that baptism and the Lord's supper were instituted by Christ, and appointed to be continued in the church, for the purpose of setting before the people by significant action, some of the greatest articles of their faith.
Since then it was common in the eastern countries to give instruction by symbolical actions, as well as by words, the many extraordinary things done by the Jewish prophets, for discovering to the Israelites God's purposes concerning themselves, and concerning the neighbouring nations, cannot be matter either of astonishment or of offence to us. They were all of them done at the commandment of God, and agreeably to the manners of the times; and were admirably adapted to convey, in the strongest and most forcible manner, the information intended.
Thus, Isaiah was commanded by God to walk three years not only barefoot but naked, that is, without his upper garment; namely, the hairy mantle commonly worn by the prophets, Zechar. xiii. 4. And this he was to do as a sign, and a wonder upon Egypt and Ethiopia, Isa. xx. 2, 3. that is, as it is explained ver. 4. to shew by action, that the king of Assyria would lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.-B. Lowth, in his note on Isa. xx. 3. thinks it probable that Isaiah was ordered to walk naked and barefoot three days, to shew that within three years, after the defeat of the Cushites and Egyptians by the king of Assyria, the town should be taken. For he thinks the time was foretold, as well as the event; and that the words three days may have been lost out of the text at the end of ver. 2. after the word barefoot, a day being put for a year, according to the prophetic rule.
In like manner Jeremiah was ordered, chap. xix. 1. to get a potter's earthen bottle, and with the ancients of the people and of the priests, ver. 2. to go to the valley of Hinnom, and pro