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E VERY Institution of God must have
something in it which deserves our attention : and though the wisdom of any particular Law may not shew itself to a careless Enquirer, who looks no deeper than the surface; yet if it be examined by the rules of interpretation laid down for us in the Scripture, and compared with the State of Nature, we shall generally find our labour well rewarded.
As we did not invent the Bible, God hath wisely provided against our inventing the interpretation of it: the Scripture itself, when properly searched, being sufficient for the unfolding of its own difficulties.
If any subject is left without an explanation where it is first delivered, we find it resumed or referred to in other places; and some new circumstances are introduced, which serve to
enlarge our views and clear up what is ob
Hence it comes to pass, that howsoever other books may be explained, the only
rational method of interpreting the Scripture I is to compare spiritual things with spiritual; to clear up one passage of divine writ by others which relate to it: and in the mouth of two or three witnesses of this sort every word ought to be established. Let this rule be our direction with respect to the Institution we are about to examine.
I. In the 1lih Chapter of Leviticus, the principal Animals of the Creation are divided into two Classes, one of which is declared to be clean the other unclean: and when the proper distinctions are adjusted, the whole is summed up in the following manner. " This is the Law of the beasts and of the
fowl, and of every living creature that i moveth in the waters, and of every crea“ ture that creepeth upon the earth; to “ make a difference between the unclean and “ the clean, and between the beast that may “ be eaten, and the beast that may not be " eatena.”
The Hebrews were to eat of 110 creatures, but those which bore certain marks or characters in their several natures, such as gave them a place amongst the clean animals: and as to the rest, which have also their pro-, per characters, different from the former, they were forbid to taste or even to touch them, under the penalty of making themselves unclean and abominable in the sight of God.
a V. 46, 47
II. Now if God doth nothing but for wise and sufficient reasons, as all men must believe who believe that there is a God; He must have commanded his people to observe this distinction for some reason, either natural or moral: either because some animals are by nature clean or unclean in themselves; or emblematically so, with respect to other things expressed and understood by them. It could not be for the former reason; because God had already pronounced the whole creation, including all beasts, cattle, creeping things, fishes, and fowls, to be very good. (Therefore no creature could be objected to on account of any natural disqualification.) And had any of them been unclean in a natural sense, at the time. God delivered this Law to Moses, they would be so still; their natures being still the same: and it would be as unfit and sinful for a Christian to eat them now, as it was to an Hebrew formerly. But this it certainly is not: for saith the Apostle, " I know and am
persuaded by the Lord Jesus that there is “ nothing unclean of itself-For every crea“ ture of God is good, and nothing to be re“ fused, if it be received with thanksgiving; “ for it is sanctified by the word of God, " and by 'prayer".” It may seem strange to us at this time, that the apostle should express himself with so much warmth and earnestness concerning a subject seemingly so indifferent : bụt the newly converted Jews being under the prejudices of Education, were extremely tenacious of the observances of the Law of Moses ; and of this in particular, as their posterity also are (or pretend to be) at this day.
III. This distinction then did not subsist on account of any nutural uncleanness in some creatures more than in others. And but one more sensible reason can be assigned, why there should have been any distinction at all. For if no creature of God is unclean of itself, in its natural capacity; it evidently follows, that when the Law of Moses declared many creatures to be unclean, nothing but theire moral capacity could be intended. Hence it will be easy enough to understand, that although there could be no virtue or morality in abstaining from such creatures upon their own account, it might be very useful and edifying to do so, if a pious regard were had at the same time to what their natures and properties resembled: as, on the other hand, it must have been a very indifferent ceremony, if not childish and absurd in the sight of the Divine Law-giver, to observe this law in the letter, without any sense of its moral intention; as children read over the Fables of Æsop, not to understand men and manners, but for the curiosity of hearing Sheep, Foxes, and Ravens argue like human creatures. In a word ; if this Institution was figurative, and carried with it a moral obligation, it will be found worthy of the divine wisdom, and consequently worth the consideration of every Naturalist, who hath sense enough to understand, that indevotion is no necessary part of his profession as a Philosopher. That it really was such as I have just now supposed, may be fully proved from the vision of St. Peter; which will serve as a key to open this whole subject.
• 1 Tim. iv. 5.