Abbildungen der Seite

the word of revelation in general,—that it was given for the instruction of all mankind, the lowest as well as the highest, the most illiterate as well as the wise and learned; and, if with any difference, with a special regard to the benefit of those who, from their condition, were the most deficient in the means of natyral improvement. It may be reckoned, therefore, a necessary characteristic of divine revelation, that it shall be delivered in a manner the most adapted to what are vulgarly called the meanest capacities. And by this perspicuity, both of precept and of doctrine, the whole Bible is remarkably distinguished: for although St. Peter speaks of things in it hard to be understood, he speaks of such things only as could never have been understood at all, had they not been revealed, and, being revealed, are yet not capable of proof or explanation upon scientific principles, but rest solely on the authority of the revelation; not that the terms in which these discoveries are made are obscure and ambiguous in their meaning, or that the things themselves, however hard for the pride of philosophy, are not of easy digestion to an bumble faith. Obscurities undoubtedly have arisen, from the great antiquity of the sacred writings, from the changes which time makes in language, and from some points of ancient history, become dark or doubtful: but these affect only particular passages, and bring no difficulty at all upon the general doctrine of revelation, which is the only thing of universal and perpetual importance. Now, the method of teaching which the Holy Spirit hath employed to adapt the profoundest mysteries of religion to the most ordinary capacities, has been, in all ages, to propound them by his inspired messengers, the prophets under the law, and the apostles in the first ages of Christianity, in figurative expressions, in images and allusions, taken either from the most striking objects of the senses in the works of nature, or from human life. The relation between Christ and his church, it is evident, must be of a nature not to be adequately typified by any thing in the material world, and nothing could be found in human life which might so aptly represent it as the relation of husband and wife in the holy state of wedlock: and in this, the analogy is so perfect, that the notion of the ancient Jews has received the express sanction of St. Paul, that the relation of the Saviour and the church was typified in the union of our first parents, and in the particular manner of Eve's formation out of the substance of Adam. The most striking particulars of the resemblance are these: the union, in both cases, in the natural case of man and wife, and the spiritual case of Messiah and the church, is a union of the most entire affection, and the warmest mutual love, between unequals; contrary to the admired maxim of the heathen moralist, that friendship was not to be found but between equals. The maxim may be true in all human friendship, except the conjugal, but fails completely in the love between Christ and the church, in which the affection on both sides is the most cordial, though the rank of the parties be the most disparate. Secondly, The union is indissoluble, except by a' violation of the nuptial vow. But the great resemblance of all lies in this; the never-failing protection and support afforded by the husband to the wife, and the abstraction of the affections from all other objects on the part of the wife, and the surrender of her whole heart and mind to the husband. In these circumstances principally, but in many others also, which the time will not permit me to recount, the propriety and significance of the type consists. It is applied with some variety, and with more or less accuracy, in different parts of holy writ, according to the purpose of the writer. Where the church catholic is considered simply in its totality, without distinction of the parts of which it is composed, the whole church is taken as the wife: but when it is considered as consisting of two great branches, the church of the natural Israel, and the church of the Gentiles, of which two branches the whole was composed in the primitive ages, and will be



composed again, then the former is considered as the wife, or queen consort, and the Gentile congregations as her daughters, or ladies of honour of her court. And in this manner, the type is used in many parts of the prophet Isaiah, and very remarkably in this psalm.

In the part of it which we are now about to expound, the holy Psalmist having seated the King Messiah on his everlasting throne, proceeds to the magnificence of his court, as it appeared on the wedding-day; in which, the thing that first strikes him, and fixes his attention, is the majesty and splendour of the king's own dress, which, indeed, is described by the single circumstance of the profusion of rich perfumes with which it was scented. But this, by inference, implies every thing else of elegance and costly ornament: for among the nations of the east, in ancient times, perfume was considered as the finishing of the dress of persons of condition when they appeared in public; and modern manners give us no conception of the costliness of the materials employed in the composition of their odours, their care and nicety in the preparation of them, and the quantity in which they were used. The high-priest of the Jews was not sprinkled with a few scanty drops of the perfume of the sanctuary; but his person was so bedewed with it, that it literally ran down from his beard to the skirts of his garment. The highpriest of the Jews, in his robes of office, was in this, as I shall presently explain, and in every circumstance, the living type of our great High-priest. The Psalmist describes the fragrance of Messiah's garments to be such, as if the aromatic woods had been the very substance out of which the robes were made :

“Thy garments are all myrrh, aloes, and cassia."

The sequel of this verse is somewhat obscure in the original, by reason of the ambiguity of one little word, which different interpreters have taken differently. I shall give you what in my judgment is the literal rendering of the

passage, and trust I shall not find it difficult to make the meaning of it very clear.

Thy garments are all myrrh, aloes, and cassia,
Excelling the palaces of ivory,

Excelling those which delight thee." Ivory was highly valued and admired among the Jews, and other eastern nations of antiquity, for the purity of its white, the delicate smoothness of the surface, and the durability of the substance; being not liable to tarnish or rust like metals, or, like wood, to rot or to be worm-eaten, Hence, it was a favourite ornament in the furniture of the houses and palaces of great men; and all such ornamental furniture was plentifully perfumed. The Psalmist, therefore, says, that the fragrance of the King's garments far exceeded any thing that met the nostrils of the visitors in the stateliest and best furnished palaces. But this is not all: he says, besides, that these perfumes of the royal garments “excel those which delight thee.” To understand this, you must recollect, that there were two very exquisite perfumes used in the symbolical service of the temple, both made of the richest spices, mixed in certain proportions, and by a process directed by the law. The one was used to anoint every article of the furniture of the sanctuary, and the robes and persons of the priests. The composition of it was not to be imitated, nor was it to be applied to the person of any but a consecrated priest, upon pain of death. Some, indeed, of the kings of David's line were anointed with it; but when this was done, it was by the special direction of a prophet, and it was to intimate, as I apprehend, the relation of that royal house to the eternal priesthood, to be instituted in due season in that family. The other was a compound of other ingredients, which made the incense that was burnt upon the golden altar as a grateful odour to the Lord. This, too, was most holy, and to attempt to make the like for private use was a capital offence.

Now the perfumed garments of the Psalmist's King de

note the very same thing which was typified under the law by the perfumed garments of the high-priest; the Psalmist's King being, indeed, the real person of whom the high-priest, in every particular, of his office, his services, and his dress, was the type. The perfumed garments were typical: first, of the graces and virtues of the Redeemer himself in his human character; secondly, of whatever is refreshing, encouraging, consoling, and cheering in the external ministration of the word; and, thirdly, of the internal comforts of the Holy Spirit. But the incense fumed upon the golden altar was typical of a far inferior, though of a precious and holy thing;

namely, of whatever is pleasing to God in the faith, the devotions, and the good works of the saints. Now the Psalmist says, that the fragrance breathing from the garments of the King far excels, not only the sweetest odours of any earthly monarch's palace, but that it surpasses those spiritual odours of sanctity in which the King himself delights. The consolations which the faithful, under all their sufferings, receive from him, in the example of his holy life, the ministration of the word and sacraments, and the succours of the Spirit, are far beyond the proportion of any thing they have to offer in return to him, in their praises, their prayers, and their good lives, notwithstanding in these their services he condescends to take delight. This is the doctrine of this highly mystic text, that the value of all our best works of faith and obedience, even in our own eyes, must sink into nothing, when they are contrasted with the exuberant mercy of God extended to us through Christ.

Such is the fragrance breathing from the great King's wedding garments. We proceed to other particular's in the magnificent appearance of his court on the weddingday, figurative of the glory of the church in its final condition of purity and peace, and of the rank and order of particular churches.

“ Kings' daughters are among thy honourable women." You will observe, that the word “women,” in the Bibles

« ZurückWeiter »