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NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS.
HERE is, according to my apprehensions of spiritual things, one of the most illustrious types of our most glorious Christ, in all the Scriptures; as I have already observed in my "Poor Man's Commentary on the Bible," on the passage both in the Old Testament and the New. But in addition to what I have there offered, (for the subject is abundantly copious to furnish matter for endless discourse,) I will request the reader to follow me through the several particulars of this wonderful history, one by one; and looking at the whole through the medium of the gospel, when his mind hath felt the full impression of the several contents, I hope he will find grace to bend the knee with me to the Almighty Author of all Scripture, God the Holy Ghost, who was graciously pleased to shadow forth by such a process to the Old Testament saints, what was to be accomplished under the gospel dispensation for the joy of New Testament believers; that both might be made partakers of the same unspeakable grace, which is in Christ Jesus. It is impossible that any mistake can arise in the application of the whole as typical to Christ; because the Son of God himself hath so pointedly declared it. And therefore we may very safely go over the whole history with an eye to Christ. And if the Lord, the Spirit, who hath given the church this record, shall graciously accompany our present review of it with the unction of his divine teaching, sure I am, that the savour of Christ's name through every part of it, will be, "as the ointment poured forth."
I begin with observing the striking analogy in this history of the camp of Israel, between the sin and the punishment. "Sin entered into the world, and
death by sin." It was by the subtilty of the serpent, that the great enemy of souls ruined our first parents. And what are all the sad consequences of that original introduction of sin, which is inherent in our nature, breaking out as it doth in actual transgression, but like the fiery darts of the same! (Eph. vi. 16.) It is a stong expression of Scripture, speaking of the effects of sin, when it is said: "It biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder." (Prov. xxiii. 32.)
But what are all the bites of serpents, or the stings of adders, which reach no farther than the death of the body, compared to those everlasting stings of conscience, which, if uncured by Christ, induce the second death of the soul; whose superlative misery is described by the Lord Jesus, under those strong and awful figures: "the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched." (Mark ix. 44, 46, 48.) A death, whose very life (if the expression be warrantable) is an everlasting existence of death and dying: where the awful beings seek death, and cannot find it; and desire to die, but death fleeth from them. (Rev. ix. 6.) Such is sin, in all its tremendous consequences; the sure and ultimate state of all that die out of Christ.
Secondly. The remedy which the Lord prescribed to Israel, for the bite of the serpent in the wilderness; namely, the representation of a serpent made of brass. This also was figurative. For apparently what affinity was there between the disease and the proposed cure? Evidently in the very command, Moses and the people could not but at once discover, that if the remedy succeeded, it must be miraculous. And indeed in an hot climate, like that wilderness which Israel was then in, those reptiles abounded; and where the sun's heat in the day must for the most part have been intense; while the poison of the serpent was raging through their whole frame from its venom; the burnished and shining brass if looked upon
(speaking after the manner of men) must have added fuel to fire, and increased the madness in the brain ten fold. But this was the Lord's prescribed remedy and not man's; and the sequel of the history manifested both the Lord's wisdom, and his grace in the appointment.
Thirdly. Thus far the church, in the subsequent generations from the days of Moses might and would have read the wonderful history of the Lord's grace to Israel in such a means of cure; and on this occasion, as upon many others, every child of God, taught of God, in the contemplation would have exclaimed: "For his mercy endureth for ever;" but had not the Lord Jesus Christ himself given his comment and illustration of it, we should never have seen what, through his blessed and divine teaching, we now see, the ground upon which the Lord prescribed this very remedy for Israel; and that through the whole and every part of it, the Lord Jesus Christ himself was preached in type and figure. We might indeed have concluded, being taught of God, that both Israel's pardon and Israel's cure was then, as it is now; and in all ages of the church, can only be, in and through, and for Christ. Some indeed of the Lord's people, under the Lord's unction, might have been led to connect this part of Israel's history, as being miraculously healed, by looking as commanded to the figure of a serpent, with that first and most precious promise which came in immediately at the fall; "that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head ;" and from knowing that the cure could only be in and by Christ, they might have discovered a beautiful coincidence between those Scriptures. But never would it have entered into the mind of man, untaught of God, and without our adorable Lord's own illustration of it, that the serpent Moses lifted up in the wilderness prefigured Christ and more especially under those astonishing
features of representation with which the subject is connected, none would, nor could have ventured to conceive; nay, none would or could have supposed it. Hear the sweet, the precious, the gracious, words of our most glorious Christ, upon the subject, as expressed by himself; and then, "the Lord give (if it be his holy will, both to writer and reader,) a right understanding in all things." "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John iii. 14, 15.)
The first observation that I would propose on those words of our most glorious Christ, is in relation to his person. His person, as I have often remarked, is the great object of faith; as his salvation is the great subject of hope. The right apprehension therefore of his person, spiritually and scripturally considered, can be the only security for the right foundation of trust in him. It forms a standard of decision in the word of God: "They that know thy name (that is thy person) will put their trust in thee." (Psalm ix. 10.) But none can trust an unknown Christ. Now in relation to Christ's person, and particularly with an eye to our present subject, (if the Lord be our teacher,) we shall behold Christ in this high character, as he here calls himself, "the Son of Man," in his double nature, God and Man in One person. Hence we receive him as the Christ of God; the sent of God; the Sponsor, the Surety, the Redeemer of his church and people. Now, saith our adorable Lord, "as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness; even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." And doing as we are commanded to do "not speaking in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual;" (1 Cor. ii. 13.)
we here discover (under the Lord's teaching, the needs be, both for Moses's lifting up the serpent in the wilderness; and Christ being lifted up on the cross; that in the former instance of the servant, every type and shadow which prefigured Christ might be held forth to the Old Testament saints; to shew them by shadowy representations, what would be accomplished in substance under the New Testament dispensation; as being both alike interested in one and the same salvation:-and in the latter instance of the Master, the Lord of glory might be lifted up and thus complete the salvation which that and other types prefigured; to the end that, under both dispensations, "whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have eternal life."
And it is most blessed as we trace this subject under the several different features of it, to behold what a wonderful coincidence of circumstances in those shadowy representations were made of our most glorious Christ in every one, and in all. Moses was the servant of his Lord and Master; not only to lift up the serpent as typical of Christ; but also of every other, more or less, which pointed either by express representation, or distinct allusion, to the Lord Jesus. Hence if the lamb of the morning, or the lamb of the evening, were offered in sacrifice; if in the passover the flesh was eaten, and the blood sprinkled; if the rock was smitten to give water to Israel; if the scape goat was sent away by the hand of some fit man into the wilderness, when the High Priest had confessed over him "all the iniquities of the children of Israel; and all their transgressions in all their sins; putting them upon the head of the goat ;” (Levit. xvi. 21, 22.) all these, and every other, were the blessed methods which God the Holy Ghost, the Almighty Founder of the church, graciously appointed in preaching Christ to his church and peo