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of the Israelites was typical of the salvation of Christ,
II. In the apparent inadequacy, and yet real efficiency, of the remedy.
The Jews, in committing themselves to Moses, gave a sufficient proof of their confidence in his wisdom and management, whatever may have been the view which they first entertained of his interesting himself on their behalf; but what must they have thought of his conduct in this instance? Perhaps there were those among them, not altogether ignorant of the healing art, who would not fail to hold this contrivance up to ridicule, especially if it had the effect of superseding their own attempts, and the remedies recommended by them. In fact, to Moses himself, had he been disposed to listen to the suggestions of carnal reason, the proposed remedy must have appeared like trifling with their calamity. It was the design of the Almighty, however, in this instance, to reserve to himself all the honour of this recovery; and therefore means were chosen, which, by rather militating against the cure than tending to promote it, completely answered his design.
Thus the scheme of salvation by Christ is one which human wisdom could never have contrived; and when revealed, was rejected as unworthy of the God from whom it professed to emanate, and reflecting upon the wisdom of those by whom it was advocated. Christ crucified was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness. But since, in the one case as well as the other, it was the
object of the Almighty to humble the pride of man, and promote his own glory, the mode of procedure in both instances was such as to secure that effect. The means used by Christ and his Apostles were regarded as “the foolishness of preaching ;” but “ the foolishness of God is wiser than men ; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
" For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.”+
In saying this, it is not intended it should be thought that there is an exact agreement between the type and the antitype in this respect; for the serpent that Moses made had in itself no tendency whatever to effect a cure-rather the reverse; but Christ gives his flesh for the life of the world. I His blood is a just consideration for the sins of mankind; and in pardoning rebels on account of it, God acts worthy of his own character. This is equally true of the Gospel as a means for renewing the soul. In looking at the brazen serpent there could be no healing virtue obtained apart from the Divine blessing; but in the preaching of the cross, in which Christ is held up, even when regarded only in itself as a means, and separate from any spiritual agency, there is a tendency to produce at least a moral effect, and to prepare the way of the Lord. It was in appearance only that the means seemed unequal, and here the type and the antitype were alike. They were so,
1 Cor. i. 25. + 1 Cor. iii. 19, 20. I John vi. 51.
III. In the simplicity of the method of cure adopted.
This circumstance, considering how much the people of Israel were accustomed to have their senses exercised, is a remarkable thing. Almost throughout their ceremonial law, and in most of the interpositions of God on their behalf, there was something to be done on their part in order to their being blessed; but here nothing of the kind was requiredno painful operation to be submitted to, nor any tedious application of remedies, but a simple looking. Neither did it depend upon the strength of the organ of vision, or continuance of the act of beholding. They looked, and whoever looked was made whole.
Thus the Gospel way of salvation is by fixing the eye of faith on Jesus Christ.
- Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth : for I am God, and there is none else.”* And it is the Divine nature of faith that makes it saving, not its strength. That the method of cure should be objected to by perverted reason and the carnal mind, in the latter case as well as in the former, is what we might expect, but it is not on that account the less effective ; “ for the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”+ The cure obtained by means of the serpent, and that effected by Christ, resembled each other,
IV. In the facility afforded.
Numerous are the remedies discovered for the temporal diseases of men, but many of them * Isa. xlv. 22.
f 1 Cor. i. 18.
are beyond the reach of those by whom they are needed. That, however, was not the case with the serpent. Its benefits were available to the whole people-invited the immediate attention of all, and to obviate whatever inconveniences might arise from age or locality, it was elevated from the earth.
Equal and greater facilities are afforded for obtaining the blessings of the Gospel: “ And 1," said the Saviour of the world, “if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."* « The righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above :) or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach." op
As it respects the creature on which the afflicted were exhorted to look, nothing would seem at first less inviting of attention. Indeed, to make a serpent of brass, in the likeness of those by which the people had been bitten, must have appeared (until the good effects had actually been experienced) like a design to mock their misery. Yet the remedy was no sooner tested than its efficacy was proved.
The serpent, as a type of Christ, was designed to prefigure some most important things in his person and character.
It showed the relation he bore to Adam, by whose sin and fall all his posterity are ruined; * John xii. 32.
† Rom. x. 6.
and yet its being without the sting by which the poison was conveyed, pointed out how, as the Son of man, he was to be perfectly pure and innocent. It taught that by the same nature which had ruined us our recovery should be effected, and that God would procure salvation for us rather by counteracting the effects of the fall, than taking away the cause to which it is ascribed. It was man that had sinned, and by man the world was to be saved. “Forasmuch, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same. Wherefore in all things it behoved him “to be made like unto his brethren."* He “ was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." +
THE ROCK IN THE WILDERNESS. All who are acquainted with the history of Israel, as recorded in the Old Testament Scriptures, must be aware that there were two rocks smitten by Moses, from which the people obtained supplies of water, at two distinct periods of their journey; one at Rephidim, soon after they left Egypt, of which mention is made in Exod. xvii. 6; the other at Kadesh Barnea, about thirty years afterwards, as recorded in Num. xx. 11. That it is one of these literal rocks designed for a typical representation to which reference is made by the Apostle Paul, when he says that the fathers “ did all drink of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ," I there can be but little doubt, when it is considered that the other part
* Heb. ii. 14, 17. + Heb. iv. 15. I 1 Cor. x. 4.