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USE AND INTENTION
NOT COMMONLY UNDERSTOOD.
ADDRESSED TO THE
READERS OF A COURSE OF LECTURES
FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURE.
BY WILLIAM JONES, M. A.
IN a course of lectures on the figurative language of the Scripture (a work which has two characters, according to the fate of all my writings) the tenth lecture treats of the miracles of our Saviour, as signs of his saving power upon the souls of men ; which, to common readers, appear only as miraculous cures wrought upon their bodies. My plan is not complete unless something be added on other signs and significant actions and events, which frequently occur in the Old and New Testament, and are little noticed in these days, though the early writers of the Christian church were not unacquainted with them.
A sign is a kind of prophecy, which speaks by things and actions instead of words. When the Jews demanded a sign of Christ *, they meant some miracle ; to shew, by an act of divine power, the truth of his divine mission ; but he gave them a sign of the prophetic sort, such as I am now speaking of, the sign of the prophet Jonah, swallowed by the fish; of which kind of sign they seemed to have no knowledge; and I have reason to think there are many Christians who know as little about them as the Jews did, and suppose authors to be scarcely in their senses when they treat of them. But all the signs of the Scripture are excellent, if we have a key to then, and will give both delight and edification to people of devout affections.
It hath been shewed, in the second and third lectures, that the great use of Nature, in the hand of God, is to instruct man; and, from the works of Nature, give him a right understanding of such things as are above Nature ; and the matter is beyond dispute, because the fact speaks
for itself. Yet, to my astonishment, this is denied, and even scouted by learned men, who profess a critical judgment of all literary productions; though this sublime and delightful method of teaching is notorious throughout the Old and New Testament. But, alas! when they think they see what they call Hutchinsonian, though it be exactly what Christians knew and taught above a thousand years ago, gentlemen are seized with such fears and suspicions as do not become wise men ; falsely (and I may say, weakly in those who ought to know better) ascribing things to Hutchinson, which were borrowed from Origen. Let any candid man open his eyes, and look into the Bible: he will there discover, that the visible world is a school, in which God teaches us by earthly things the nature of heavenly, as Christ taught Nicodemus. But the Christian, with a mind and an education similar to those of Nicodemus, will see nothing of all this; for which I heartily pity him, because I am sure he şuffers a great loss. To what purpose, O man, doth the sun shine upon thee, unless it teach thee to know more truly the Sun of Righteousness, and to rejoice in his light? If not, the sun shines upon thee, as upon beasts and reptiles, to give light to thy body, but none to thy understanding. Whereas the salvation of man, by Jesus Christ, is so great, so ines, timable a subject, that the goodness of God throws every thing in our way, which may bring it to our minds, and res commend it to our affections. For this, the sun shines, the winds blow, the grass grows, the springs water the earth, the rain falls from heaven. But it is in the siudy of the Scripture, as in other sciences, all things are not equally obvious, nor will they appear of equal concern to different people ; and there are those who may think I have been throwing away my thoughts, in exploring things too minute and obscure to be understood. When we use a microscope, toex. amine the minute objects of the creation, ignorant minds may think we are idly employed, and that our objects are insignificant because they are small ; but whoever shall exam mine small things, will find them full of wonders ; and that God is every where great in the smallest of his works ; agreeably to that wise observation of Pliny, Rerum natura tota est nusquam magis quam in minimis, bis power and providence are as manifest in the economy of an insect, as in the revolutions of an empire. The philosopher sees wonders in Nature, which the multitude pass by with unconcern ; and the botanist explores minutely what others trample under their feet. The wisest and most inquisitive, with the utmost of their application, can see but a part of the works of God; and the most studious reader can understand but a part of his word; among the treasures of which, as in the bowels of the earth, there are gems and precious ores, which lie so deep, that they have never been disturbed by the hand of mau. We can produce only so far as we can penetrate ; and when we hare done our best, the work will not be acceptable to every mind; so far from it, that I dare not yet trust the following discourse with the public; among whom there are too many persons, like the Jews of old, whose eyes if we attempt to open, we shall increase their blindness; and I know, from the experience of my past life, how critical and tender the case is. Such persons I do not mean to hurt, and I should be sorry to offend them. I, therefore, print ibis Discourse, with a desire, that it should fall into the hands of those only who are prepared, by what they have already seen in the other lectures, to give it due consideration.
A learned and judicious friend (now with God) wbose prudence, in my estimation, was almost oracular, had a sight of all the lectures before their publication, and preferred this, in some respects, to the rest ; but advised me not to publish it with them at first, lest evil-minded people should take advantage from it, to bring the whole plan into disrepute; but to reserve it till the rest had been considered, and then to let it be seen by my readers. I took the former part of his advice twelve years ago, and now I think the time is come when I may take the latter ; imploring the Divine blessing on what I now commit to the press; that, as we see more intimately into the ways of God, we may daily love him more, and serve him better. Amen.