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which is before." Let us beg of God to "perfect that which concerneth us," and to form us altogether "into his own image in righteousness and true holiness." It is by our progress that we must manifest the work to have been begun; and then only can we be sure that our path is right, when, "like the light, it shineth more and more unto the perfect day."]
CXLI. JACOB'S VISION A TYPE OF THE MINISTRA
TION OF ANGELS TO CHRIST.
Gen. xxviii. 12, 13. And he dreamed; and behold, a ladder set upon the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord God stood above it.
NOW that God has given to the world a complete revelation of his mind and will, we are no longer to expect any extraordinary and personal communications with him: but, in former days, he frequently instructed his more favoured servants by dreams and visions. The particular vision recorded in the passage before us is almost universally considered as typical, though few, if any, have given any satisfactory account wherein the type consists. We shall endeavour therefore to put the subject in a just point of view; and for that purpose shall consider I. The immediate end of the vision
When so remarkable a revelation is vouchsafed to man, we may conclude that some end, worthy of the divine interposition, is to be answered by it. The intent of the vision here given to Jacob, seems to be
1. To dispel his fears of merited evils
[Jacob could not but be conscious that he had acted a base and treacherous part: and that therefore he had incurred the divine displeasure, at the same time that he had excited a murderous rancour in the breast of his injured brother. He was now fleeing to avoid the effects of his brother's wrath, and had but too much reason to dread some righteous judgment from the hand of God. But God, who is altogether sovereign in the distribution of his favours, and frequently bestows them at seasons, when, according to our conceptions, they could be the least expected, appeared to him, with expressions of love and mercy. He assured the unhappy fugi
tive, that he was reconciled towards him, and would give his angels charge over him to keep him in all his way, to protect him from all danger, and to supply his every want. Thus were all his apprenensions at once removed, and his mind restored to perfect peace.]
2. To confirm his hope of promised blessings
[He had received a promise of the birthright, while yet he lay in his mother's womb; and doubtless he had expected its accomplishment. But when he saw his Father dying, and knew that the rights of primogeniture were about to be confirmed to his elder brother, his faith failed him; and, instead of waiting like David for the throne of Saul, he yielded to the solicitations of his mother, and sought to obtain by craft, what, if he had waited God's time, he would have received in a fair and honourable way. And now he had good reason to doubt, whether he had not forfeited his interest in God's promise, and entailed a curse upon himself instead of a blessing. But God, on this occasion, renewed his promise to him, almost in the very terms, in which, but a few hours before, it had been declared by his father; and thus assured to him, not only a numerous seed, and the inheritance of Canaan, but (which was infinitely the dearest right of primogeniture) the descent of Christ from his loins. From henceforth therefore we behold him walking stedfastly in the faith of Abraham, looking forward with joy to the day of Christ, and maintaining a conduct suitable to his profession.
While the vision was replete with personal benefit to Jacob, it conveyed instruction also to the church by II. Its typical reference
Instead of supposing, with all writers upon this subject, that the ladder was a type of Christ in his divine and human nature mediating between heaven and earth, (which is fanciful, and without any warrant from scripture) we rather think that the vision itself was the type (if it was indeed a type) and that it prefigured
1. The testimony which angels were to give to Christ [Our Lord himself has cast the true light on this passage. In his conversation with Nathaniel, he tells the young convert, that he should one day see that realized in him, which had been shadowed forth in Jacob's vision. Accordingly we find that as, from the first conception of Christ in the womb to that very hour, the angels had deeply interested themselves
b Compare ver. 13, 14. with ver, 3, 4.
a Ver. 15.
in every thing that related to him, so they continued on all occasions to wait upon him, to soothe his sorrows, to animate his courage, to fulfil his will, and to bear testimony on his behalf. More than twelve legions of them would have come to his succour if he had desired their aid. Here then is a correspondence between the type and antitype: Jesus was a man of sorrows, and cast out by his brethren, who said, "This is the heir, come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours:" but God would not leave his beloved Son without witness, or without support; and therefore opened a communication between heaven and earth, that the angels might have continual access to him, whilst "he himself stood, as it were, at the top of the ladder" to direct their operations.]
2. The confirmation which his people's faith was to receive from that testimony
[The circumstances of Nathaniel and his other disciples, to whom this ocular demonstration was to be given, were not unlike to those of Jacob, to whom the vision was vouchsafed.. They had believed in Jesus; but their faith was to be sorely tried, so that they should be reduced almost to despair. There was however a seasonable support to be afforded them by the intervention and agency of angels. It was the repeated testimony of angels that first inspired them with hope, and that, afterwards, at the time of Christ's ascension into heaven, filled them all with a pleasing expectation, that they should one day see him come again in power and great glory. In consequence of their declarations, no less than of the declarations of Christ himself, "they returned to Jerusalem with great joy," and waited for the promised effusion of the Holy Ghost, "knowing in whom they had believed, and assured that he would keep that which they had committed to him." Thus in this respect also did the type receive a suitable accomplishment.
For our further IMPROVEMENT of this history, we may observe
1. There is no person so guilty but God is willing and desirous to shew mercy to him
[We cannot but admire the extent and freeness of that mercy with which God revealed himself to this guilty fugitive. We have a similar instance in the mercy shewn to Saul, at the very instant he was "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of Christ." And, has not the
d Matt. iv. 11. Luke xxii. 43. and xxiv. 4, 5, 6, 7, 23.
e Matt. xxvi. 53.
g John xx. 12.
f Luke xx. 14.
b Acts i. 11.
apostle told us that he was intended of God to be in this respect a monument of God's "long-suffering, and a pattern to those who should hereafter believe on him?" Let none then despair; but, whatever evils they have brought upon themselves by their iniquities, and whatever reason they may have to dread the wrath, either of God or man, let them call to mind the example before us; and turn unto him, who has promised "that he will in no wise cast them out."
2. There is no distress so great but God is able and willing to deliver us from it
[God has thousands of angels at his command, and has appointed them to "minister unto those who shall be heirs of salvation." These he orders to "encamp round about his people, and deliver them." Let us then suppose ourselves as destitute as Jacob himself, having only the earth for our bed, a stone for our pillow, and no other canopy than the heavens; still, a vision of God, with the ministry of his angels, shall render our situation both comfortable and happy; yea, shall make it appear to us as "the very house of God, the gate of heaven." And such a confirmation will these "visions of the Almighty" give to our faith and hope, that we shall be fitted for all future trials, and be enabled to testify on God's behalf, that "he will never leave his people, till he has fulfilled to them his promises in their utmost extent."
k 1 Tim. i. 16.
I Heb. i. 14.
m Ps. xxxiv. 7.
CXLII. THE BURNING BUSH.
Exod. iii. 2, 3. The angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
IF God have on some occasions revealed himself to persons, when, like Saul, they have been in the very act of committing the most heinous sins, he has more generally favoured them when they have been occupied, like the shepherds, in their proper calling. Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro his father in law, when God appeared to him in a burning bush, and gave him a commission to deliver Israel from their bondage in Egypt.
a Acts ix. 4.
b Luke ii. 8, 9.
By this extraordinary appearance God not merely awakened the curiosity of Moses, but conveyed to him some very important instruction; to elucidate which we shall
I. Shew what was intended by the burning bush
It was intended to represent the state and condition 1. Of the Israelites in Egypt
[They were cruelly oppressed, and every effort was made to destroy them. Nor had they in themselves any more ability to withstand their enemies, than a thorny bush has to resist the action of fire. Yet they were not only preserved from destruction, but they even multiplied in proportion as means were used to prevent their increase.]
2. Of the church of God in the world
[The church, whose state was typified by that of Israel, has at all times suffered by persecution, though it has enjoyed some intervals of comparative rest. And, considering that all the powers of the world have been confederate against it, we may well be amazed that it has not been utterly consumed. But it has endured the fiery trial to this hour, and still defies the impotent attacks of all its adversaries.]
3. Of every individual in the church
[The declaration that "all who would live godly in Christ Jesus should suffer persecution" has been verified in every place and every age: "the third part are, and ever will be, brought through the fire." And it is no less than a miracle, that, when the believer has so many enemies, both without and within, he does not "make shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience." But the furnace, instead of destroying, purifies and refines him; and his very graces are perfected by the trials that endanger their existence."]
Having pointed out both the primary and more remote signification of this phænomenon, we shall II. Account for the miracle which it exhibited
Well might the sight of a bush burning, but not consumed, excite the astonishment of Moses: but his wonder would cease when he found that God was in the bush The person here called "the angel of the Lord" was Christ
[The angel expressly called himself "The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;" which sufficiently proves that he could not be a created angel, seeing