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LECTURE XI.

THE BRASEN SERPENT.

John iii. 14, 15.

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, eren so

must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

Having already considered those historical types of Christ, which are mentioned in Scripture, and corroborated by prophecies, delivered before the appearance of the antitype, and subsequently fulfilled, we may now turn to those typical persons and events, which are ratified by the completion of prophecy, delivered by him who

prefers a claim to the character of the antitype. One prominent event of this nature, is the erection of the brasen serpent by Moses.

The existence of a preconcerted connection between two series of events may be revealed with various degrees of precision. Their mutual relation may be so strongly marked, and so plainly asserted, that no one who believes the

authority of the writings, in which they are recorded, can doubt its reality. Or, on the other hand, although great similarity may exist, the intentional connection may be so faintly pointed out, that the most ardent mind may reasonably hesitate before it will draw the conclusion, that the one was designedly intended to prefigure the other. And, between the two extremes, there may be conceived any number of intermediate gradations.

Now, it is certain, that the lifting up of the brasen serpent is not plainly declared, either in the Old or New Testament, to have been ordained by God, purposely to represent, to the Israelites, the future mysteries of the Gospel revelation. And there appears no sufficient ground for concluding, that the serpent was such a type of Christ, as some men of fervid imagination have been anxious to shew, by an enumeration of fanciful resemblances. Still, some kind of connection between the two events seems to be intimated by Christ himself. And that intimation is made the foundation of a very remarkable prophecy, accurately fulfilled. We may, therefore, institute a cautious and unprejudiced enquiry, in order to discover what degree of preconcerted connection is set forth in Scripture, between the lifting up of the serpent, and the lifting up of the Son of man. If any such connection were assumed by Christ, before the second event took place, the accompanying prophecy, since completed, invests his interpretation with infallible authority. And even if the inferred connection should be too slight to justify the conclusion, that the one event clearly prefigured the other, we still shall find, in the exact prophecy of Christ, one of those incontrovertible proofs, upon which the reality of his divine mission is founded.

The history of the brasen serpent is well known. When the time appointed for the wandering of the Israelites, in the wilderness, had nearly expired, the murmuring of the people, which had long been directed against Moses and his family, at length broke out into open

rebellion against the Most High. “They journeyed from mount Hor, by the way of the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom,” * through which they had in vain attempted to procure a passage. Their steps were thus turned once more from the promised land of Canaan ; " and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the

And the people spake against God and against Moses, saying, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness ? For there is no bread, neither is there any water, and our soul loatheth this light bread.” Their impiety was soon visited with a special judgment. “ The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people: and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people,” terrified at the fearful visitation, came to Moses and said, We have sinned: for we have spoken against the Lord and against thee: pray unto the Lord that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent,” in form and colour like those which had been the instruments in producing the plague, “and set it upon a pole,” or, perhaps, set it up for a sign: “ And it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole: and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.""

way.

* Numb. xxi. 4.-9.

• Numb. xx. 14...21.

Such is the simple and brief narration of this miraculous event. Of the fact itself there can be no doubt. Many experienced the salutary effects in the healing of their deadly wounds : and thousands were witnesses of its efficacy. The brasen serpent itself was, for many centuries, preserved among the people as a memorial of the event. Neither can there be any doubt, that the cure

* See Kidder's Demonstr. of the Messiah, Book I. chap. vii.

was supernatural. The Jews themselves well knew, that the effect was not produced, as has been fancifully asserted, by any subtle incantation, nor by any human art, but by the power of God alone. They regarded the serpent as “a sign of salvation, to put them in remembrance of the commandment of the law.” For they knew that “he that turned himself toward it was not saved by the thing that he saw, but by Him who is the Saviour of all.” Some of them, calling to mind the various promises, which had been made of old time to their fathers, instructed to look for that seed of the woman, which should bruise the serpent's head, deeply feeling, in their own hearts, their need of a physician, who should heal them of the plague of sin, knowing how strictly the Israelites were forbidden to make any image, and yet that Moses was expressly commanded to make this,

d 2 Kings xviii. 4.

e Sir John Marsham attempted to shew, that the brasen serpent was a talisman. Canon Chronic. Ægypt. Sæcul. X. Sect. 9. See Calmet; Bible on Numb. xxi. 8. The notion is confuted in Shuckford's Connection, Book. XII. | Wisdom xvi. 6, 7.

8 Gen. iii. 15. "As early as the second century of the Christian Æra, the Jews acknowledged, that they could give no account of this apparent contradiction, unless the fact were considered typical of some future blessings. Justin Martyr, Dial. cum Tryphone, p. 322. B. Fol. Paris, 1636. See also Fagius on Numb. xxi. 9.

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