Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

of that narrative, on which the precept is grounded. It is the general design of the parables of Christ, to set before us the great and interesting principles of the Gospel, under the form of something familiar to the understanding : therefore our blessed Saviour never relates any thing of this kind, but with some superior allusion : and if we take this story as a parable, representing to us under other terms that merciful act of redemption in which we are all equally concerned, then there will be no difficulty in making the example and the precept consistent with each other. I may add likewise, that in this Christian acceptation of the parable, we shall agree with all the best expositors of the Church, from the apostolic age to the present: which consideration will have its weight with all those, who are not poisoned with the pretended improvements of modern times. It is the general intention of the Gospel, and of all its principles and doctrines in particular, to improve our understandings in the way of godliness, and encourage our endeavours to the practice of holiness. This passage of the Scrip. ture, when truly interpreted, will, like the rest, be found capable of answering both these purposes : with which persuasion, I shall now propose to your consideration the several particulars.

A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

If we suppose the man here spoken of to be Adam, departing first from innocence to sin, and next from paradise into the world; all the circumstances of the parable will fall naturally into this interpretation, and we shall soon be satisfied that the design of it is not inisunderstood. The journey from Jerusalem to Je.

[ocr errors]

?

richo is plainly that from paradise into the world. In the book of Revelation, the names of “Jerusalem" and “ Paradise" are applied indifferently to the same thing. The free of life is spoken of as growing in the midst of the paradise of God: but in another place, the same tree of life is said to grow in the inidst of the street of the new Jerusalem. Sonething of the like kind occurs in St. Paul ; who tells us he was caught up to the third heaven, which he calls paradise : yet elsewhere, with allusion to the same paradise, he speaks of a Jerusalem that is above, which is the mother of us all: to which character, in a proper sense, the earthly paradise also had a title, in as much as all mankind are descended from it. And if it be true, that we all died in Adam, it will follow, that in him we all were once inhabitauts of paradise ; and the sin which drove Adam from that happy place, drove out his posterity with him. So long as Adam preserved his innocence, he was secure in his possession of paradise, and had a right of inheritance in the Jerusalem that is above; that heavenly original, of which the garden planted upon earth was but an earnest and a pattern. But when he disobeyed the divine command, he lost the present enjoyment of the inferior paradise, and at the same time forfeited his reversionary title to the superior. His departure therefore is very properly described as a going down from Jerusalem : the fall of man, as the term necessarily signifies, being in every acceptation of it a descent from an higher to a lower state.

Nor is the place to which he descended less expressive than that of Jerusalem : for when Adam was expelled from Eden, he was removed into the world, of which the city Jericho was emblematical in several respects *. It was accursed to the Lord for the

* Sce this idea enlarged on in the preceding discourse.

wickedness of its inhabitants, as this world is now subjected to a curse for the disobedience of man. Jericho was formally devoted to ruin and destruction, and the man who should attempt to rebuild it, was to lay the foundation thereof in his first-born, and in his youngest son to set up the gates of it: which sentence was at length fulfilled upon Hiel, a presumptuous projector in the degenerate times of Ahab. The world itself is under a like sentence; being kept in store against the day of judgment. The walls of Jericho fell down flat, and the city was burned with fire, and all that was in it was destroyed, on the seventh day, after the sounding of the trumpets and the shouting of the people. The world in like manner, according to the sense of antiquity, and some obscure intimations of the Scripture, is expected to endure six thousand years, and to perish in the seventh, which answers to the sabbath; when the last trumpet shall sound, and the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout.The Lord himself seems here in the language of the Apostle to be opposed to Joshua or Jesus his representative, and the circumstances attending the destruction of the world are selected and worded in such a manner, as to shew a plain allusion to the fall of Jericho *

But we are now to follow our traveller, and to observe what happens to him upon his journey.

Ever since the introduction of evil, the constitution of this world hath been changed, and the Devil (together with the host of darkness) hath been permitted to establish his own empire in it; whence the devil is expressly called the prince of this world. Hence it pometh to pass, that no man can depart from paradise

[ocr errors]

* Compare 1 Thess. iv. 16, and v. 3, with Joshua, chap. 6,

into the world, without falling into the hands of evil spirits, or, as the parable expresses it, without falling among thieves. For these are the thieves to whom our Lord seems to refer, where he commands us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieres do not break through nor steal. The moth which devours the garment of the body, is death *: the rust whereby the soul is darkeneđ and defiled, is sin : and the maliguiant powers of hell are the thieves which steal away our treasure : who, according to the character given of them in another parable, endeavour to steal the word of God out of the heart as soon as it is laid up there.

If we examine the marks of violence which they left on the man who went down to Jericho, it will soon be discovered that they are the thieves intended by this parable. Devils, like men, may be known by their acts; as a lion may be distinguished from other beasts by the print of his foot. For in the first place, these thieves stripped the traveller of his raiment. Adam, when he had sinned, found himself naked.--Then they wounded him; sin was the weapon, and mortality was the effect of it; for it was said, “in the day thou eatest thou shalt surely die.While Christ was upon earth, it was his custom to signify his power in curing the distempers of the soul, and renewing it again to purity and holiness, by restoring all the diseased faculties of the body. So the Destroyer, whose actions are opposite to those of the Saviour, made it his practice to commit such acts of violence upon the body as corresponded exactly with his destructive attempts upon the

Isaiah li. 8, fear ye not men, for the moth shall eat them up like a garment.

spirit. For, according to the pattern of this original stripping and wounding in the parable, the poor demoniac in the country of the Gadarenes, who was possessed by a legion of these thieves, ware no clothes ; he wandered amongst the mountains and the tombs night and day, crying, and cutting hinself with stones. We read also, that when the evil spirit had prevailed over the seven sons of Sceva, they fled out of that house NAKED and wounded. All of which presents us with a wonderful uniformity in the operations of the Devil, who delights himself with every thing that looks like a repetition of that mischief and cruelty which he first committed in the fall of Adam.

When the thieves had stripped the man and wounded him, they departed : their malice had effected all its purposes ; righteousness was stolen from him, and the sting of death was left in him. But here the case is very particular; they left him half dead. Sin was not the immediate death of Adam, in a bodily sense; but he died in spirit on the very day in which he sinned, and so his better half was dead : in consequence of which, the death of the body would necessarily follow. The man who is mortally wounded, inay languish for a considerable time; but he has the earnest of death in him, and its effect must at length be completed.

Such is the present state of every son of Adam; from which neither the prince, nor the warrior, nor the philosopher, is exempt. The first may glory in his honours, the second in his conquests, and the last in his contemplations : but whatever they may think of themselves, these thieves have prevailed against them all; they are stripped, wounded, and half dead, in the sight of God, and also in the sight of those who are taught by divine revelation to distinguish between appearances and realities.

6

« AnteriorContinuar »