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times they were instituted by God himself, but the greater part originated with distinguished men, under the direction of Divine inspiration ; but concerning which they had not an immediate command from heaven. Not a few of them were of an extraordinary character, and highly significant. These were had recourse to only on particular occasions; but a great number were of common occurrence, and such as grew out of the customs of the times, and the manners of the people among whom they were employed. Of the former of these different kinds may be reckoned as one of the most striking,
THE RAINBOW. Of this we have an account in Genesis ix. 12-16; “ And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: and I will remember my covenant which is between me and you, and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud, and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.”
The natural causes of this phenomenon are too little connected with the subject of the present work, and now generally too well under
be lood to deand them, and
stood to require any attention on the present occasion ; neither is it of much importance to determine whether it had existed before the flood, or was for the first time brought into being by that awful event. We may just observe, however, that the opinion of .Dr. Adam Clarke* and Fuller seems entitled to regard. They maintain, that as the cause of the bow had existed from the beginning, the effect in the phenomenon of the bow itself was parallel with it. Mather, however, considers that it would have afforded the ancient world but little comfort or assurance to see what they had seen before; and Burnet says, it must have been new to attract attention. The conclusion, that it had been previously in existence, though now appropriated to a particular purpose, seems indeed to harmonise with some modern theories of the extent of the deluge, and also to agree with the general conduct of the Deity, who does not employ creating power when his designs can be accomplished without it, or by making a fresh appropriation of that which already exists. But the latter opinion seems to be supported by the words in which it is spoken of in the Scripture; for God does not say I have set my bow in the clouds, but I do set it; which appears to imply that it was not in existence before these words were spoken.
That the rainbow was intended to be a sign or seal of the covenant which God made with the earth, or with Noah on its behalf, all are agreed; indeed, it is too plainly expressed to
Clark's Com, on the place.
allow of any difference of opinion on that subject; but the question is, was it any thing more? That the old writers on the types should find in it much besides this, is what we might expect from their disposition to allegorise almost everything they met with ; accordingly Mather calls it a sign of the covenant of grace, and alludes to the horns of the bow being downwards, and the back upwards, as being significant.* Some writers have gone even so far as to maintain that the bow did not appear immediately after the flood, as is generally supposed, but on the fifteenth day; which circumstance they consider typified the birth of Christ, whose entrance into the world, they say, took place on that very day of the year. With equal ingenuity they have discovered, that the glory which shone around the heads of the shepherds was a phenomenon corresponding to the rainbow.
Now perhaps one reason, if not the chief, why the rainbow has been thought to have a typical design, is the circumstance of its being afterwards alluded to in connection with God, and with Christ. Thus, Ezekiel i. 27, 28, when describing the vision which he saw, says, “I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. ance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the glory of the Lord.” In like manner, John, speaking in the Book of the Revelation, (chap. iv. 3, says, “And there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald;"
. See p. 27.
As the appear
and again, (chap. x. 1,) “and a rainbow was upon his head :" but there is nothing in these places to show that anything more than a sign was intended by the bow, in the first instance. That in Ezekiel does not express the presence of the bow at all: it is merely an allusion to it, for the sake of describing the glory that was beheld; and though in the Revelation it is expressly said, that a bow was about the throne, and upon his head, it may be fairly questioned whether this had any reference at all to the covenant of grace, or even to the faithfulness of God, keeping covenant with his people. The object intended in the Revelation was to give John a glorious manifestation of Christ; and as a rainbow is one of the most beautiful objects in nature, this is introduced to make the glory complete.
THE RITE OF CIRCUMCISION. Of the same character as the rainbow, although employed for another purpose, was the rite of circumcision. That this was practised by some other nations besides the Jews, particularly by the Egyptians, has been the opinion of some learned men; but whether when it is said God gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision,* we are to understand that it was then first used, or only adopted from another nation by the Jews, is a matter of very little importance. It is clear, that it was intended to be a sign and seal of the covenant which God made with Abraham. As that covenant was typical of the covenant of grace, and, in fact, was the latter in another form, so in design and intention circumcision
* Acts vii. 8.
bore a resemblance to baptism, which is substituted in the New Testament dispensation in its stead. On this account there are some places in the writings of the Apostles where the thing signified by baptism is so spoken of as to lead to the conclusion that the inspired author had circumcision in his mind at the time he wrote. See, for instance, 1 Peter iii. 21: “ The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
These circumstances have led some to conceive that one was typical of the other; and a number of particulars, in which the resemblance between them has been thought to hold good, have been pointed out.* But there is no scriptural authority for believing that, beyond the intention and use as a sign, the former of these had any reference to the latter.
When God called Gideon to the great work of delivering Israel, his mind was appalled by the difficulties that presented themselves before him. It was therefore natural that, in accordance with the custom of the times in which he lived, he should require some decided token of the authority under which he acted, and the presence of God with him. In compassion to his want of confidence, therefore, the Almighty condescended to give him a sign, as recorded, Judges vi. 36–38: 6 And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only,
* Mather 192.