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THE TWELVE SIGNS IN THE BIBLICAL HEAVENS.
"I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers; unto which promise, our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come."-Acts xxvi. 6, 7.
IN commencing the twelfth volume of THE EARTHEN VESSEL, (casting away, for the present, the editorial "we,") I shall simply endeavour to direct the attention of my readers to some few things which THE WORD OF GOD, and the present aspect of affairs in the nations and kingdoms of the earth, present to our view. I feel an exceedingly heavy burden upon my spirit in starting-and much difficulty and dryness lays on my mind; still, I hope, after a few struggles, to get freely and fully into that wide sea of truth the contemplation of which has, for a number of years, been the richest enjoyment my soul has known.
Sleepless nights and tiresome tossings in the dark hours before the dawn of the morning, are no strange things to me; and I cannot but hope, at this very moment, that in some sense, the words of Elihu have been true in my case, where, speaking of some of the Lord's dealings with the children of men, he saith, "In slumberings upon the bed, he revealeth, or uncovereth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction." This, I trust, has given rise to what I hope to lay before my readers during the coming year, if it please the Lord to spare my life, and to help me in my labors.
Monday night, the 17th December, was a night of great distress in my soul. No sleep could I get. One thought amid a thousand painful ones-came to my mind; it was this: "You are about to begin the twelfth volume of THE EARTHEN VESSEL; and there is something very remarkable, and some things full of the deepest instruction to the VOL. XII.-No. 132.
church of God, in the number TWELVE as used in the Bible.
I arose at two o'clock in the morning; obtained a light; took the Bible and the Concordance, and to work I went, searching for that hidden treasure, which a secret something told me was concealed in the sacred pages of that most precious book.
The words of Paul, which I have quoted, at the head of this page, were most precious to my soul at that time: "THE HOPE OF THE PROMISE MADE OF GOD UNTO OUR FATHERS, UNTO WHICH PROMISE, OUR "TWELVE" TRIBES
INSTANTLY SERVING GOD DAY AND NIGHT-HOPE TO COME." I searched diligently for "THE PROMISE MADE OF GOD UNTO OUR FATHERS;" and thought of the TWELVE TRIBES-the worshipping family of God, and of their position as expressed by Paul, "unto which promise they HOPE TO COME;" but upon the meditation of these things I could not long remain; for one sentence fastened itself upon my affections, and appeared like a KEY put into my hands, wherewith some of the treasures of holy knowledge were to be opened up, and searched out. The sentence was this-"CANST THOU BRING FORTH THE TWELVE SIGNS ?" It is Cruden's interpretation of Job xxxviii. 32. Our Bible reads "Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or, canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons ?" But, in the margin, the word "Mazzaroth" is rendered, the twelve signs.
This solemn question was one among many which the LORD put to Job, when he answered him out of the whirlwind
and it is one that is connected more with knowledge of which Wisdom speaks, when she saith, "Riches and honor are with me: yea, durable riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold; and my revenue than choice silver. lead in the way of righteousness, and in the midst of the paths of judgment; that I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures." In the dust of self-abasement, low at the feet of Mercy's throne, would I entreat the Lord thus to bless my soul in writing; and the souls of all that here may read.
the natural, than with the spiritual heavens. I would not, therefore, trifle with this word; but, inasmuch as it was the handmaid which led me to look for "THE TWELVE SIGNS" in the Bible, and, inasmuch as I found therein twelve distinct signs of the grace and glory of God as developed in the salvation of his people; I would humbly trust that the Lord cannot be angry with me-that his people will not be offended with me; and that I shall not "darken counsel by words without knowledge," if I attempt to stir up the minds of the people by publishing THE TRUTH as typed out in these sighs, which, like so many brilliant stars, are set by the Lord the Spirit, both in the Old and in the New Testaments.
The times in which our lot is cast would seem to demand of us the fullest declaration and dealing out of Divine truth that lies in our power. The long and heavy war has brought, and is bringing, distress of nations. Oh, what poverty! what misery! what destitution is to be found, even in our own land! Large firms are breaking; long-standing commercial interests are sinking; paleness and poverty meets us at every trun. We see too much, and feel too severely these facts, to either question them, or say much on them. Things are so; and nothing but the covenant of grace, the promises of a faithful God, the blessed gospel, the work and witness of the Eternal Spirit, nothing short of living truth in the power and preciousness of it, can possibly be a balm for all these painful wounds, or a substantial cordial for our fears. For the most part, too, our churches are weak, and our ministers are in great distress. A form of godliness, without the power-a rapid spread of infidelity-and a host of awful delusions, these things are the features of our times. Wherefore, unto every man who hath the talent and the time; the will and the way; to every such favored son or servant, the Word saith, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might for there is neither work nor device in the grave, whither we are fast hastening."
Signs are not substances but the signs which God hath given, (if we are, by THE SPIRIT, led into a spiritual and special knowledge of them), will furnish our minds with some of that saving
"THE TWELVE SIGNS IN THE BIBLICAL HEAVENS." (Of course, I shall confine myself to those types, signs, and metaphors, which are specially of new covenant offspring: although the others may be considered, if the Lord permit).
The FIRST SIGN, is that little typical bundle of life, "THE TWELVE SONS OF JACOB." "Now the sons of Jacob were twelve." Leah bare him six: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. Rachel bare him two: Joseph and Benjamin; and Bilhah bare him two: Dan and Naphtali. Beside these were Gad and Ashur. These patriarchs, and heads of the tribes of Israel are for signs and for wonders. I believe the Divine sovereignty in the choice of the heirs of promise; and the great variety of character, office, and spirit, in the church of God, are herein to be discovered of which I must speak under that head.
The SECOND SIGN is found in "the twelve wells of water." Very soon after poor Israel had sung their happy song on the shores of the Red Sea, "Moses brought them from thence out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. They went on to Marah, where there was water, but so bitter they could not drink. Like unto this, is now the condition of many a child of God; they have been delivered; they have sung their happy anthems of praise and thanksgiving; they have rejoiced in God their Saviour; but after this, into the wilderness they come. The streams of salvation do not flow; the refreshing draughts of the gospel cannot be found; or, if there be a ministry, it is bitter, brackish, unsound, unsavory, and without profit. What crying, then, unto the Lord! What mournful days are spent! But when the Tree of Life is found, when the power and presence of Christ is enjoyed; the bitters are turned to sweets; and
Elim's shade, and flowing wells, doth | ceremonial telescopes we look, how enmake them glad again. This will be the amoured our souls become! And as second sign to be brought forth, if grace and life be given. I wish it to be understood I am here simply naming the metaphors; notes and reflections on them, I must reserve for each succeeding
through them we catch a glimpse of God in Christ-of Christ in the flesh-of Immanuel in glory-of Jesus coming down to save poor guilty sinners-and of the Good Shepherd gathering, enfolding, feeding, and instructing his sheep, we cannot keep silent; but cry out
"If such the sweetness of the stream,
The THIRD SIGN is found in Exodus xxiv. 4-"Moses wrote all the words of the Lord; and rose up early in the mornWhat must the fountain be!" ing, and builded an altar under the hill, Leviticus xxiv. 5, contains the FIFTH and TWELVE PILLARS, according to SIGN. "Thou shalt take fine flour, and the twelve tribes of Israel." Here were make TWELVE CAKES; and thou shalt set twelve pillars for the twelve tribes; shew them on two rows; six in a row ; UPON ing how eternally complete and all- THE PURE TABLE BEFORE THE LORD. sufficient the mediatorial work of Christ And thou shalt put frankincense upon was for the election of grace-and as each row; that it may be BREAD FOR A these pillars stood between the Mount MEMORIAL "-do mark these mighty Sinai and the people; so doth the glori- sentences: every one is so full of the most ous Mediator stand between the law, glorious Gospel,]-" even an offering (with all its penal threatenings, curses, MADE BY FIRE unto the Lord." and condemnings), and those the Father. The remaining seven signs I can only hath given him; and as Moses sent name; as the space allotted to me is young men of the children of Israel to filled up. The SIXTH SIGN is in Joshua offer burnt offerings on this altar stand-iv. 3.,-the TWELVE STONES taken up by ing upon these twelve pillars, so do all Joshua's twelve men, and carried on true believers draw near to God upon the their shoulders before the ark of the ground of that which CHRIST the Lord Lord. The seventh is in 1 Kings viii. for them hath done. Oh, the sacred 25, "the Molten Sea," standing upon beauties of the dear Redeemer's work! twelve yoke of oxen. The eighth sign is How great! How full of glory, virtue, Elisha ploughing with TWELVE YOKE OF efficiency, and praise, are all my Saviour's OXEN," and he with the twelfth." 1 acts and doings! Through these glim- Kings xix. 19. mering lights in the Old Dispensation, I see something of the King in his beauty; and deeply feel, that thrice happy and eternally blest is that dear soul, that doth this glorious Saviour know. [I must go on to read my text.]
The twelve baskets of fragments"a crown of twelve stars" the twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels”— and "the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits," complete the Twelve Signs-which the Spirit of God hath been pleased to use as emblematical of divine mysteries; the interpretation of which that same Spirit only can give; but as He "deviseth means," I have hoped He may graciously condescend to use me in some measure for the further edification of his people; and the circulation of his truth.
The FOURTH SIGN is transcendantly delightful. It is the Breast-plate with the TWELVE PRECIOUS stones contained therein, of which I must not here say one word, because the whole of the type must be fairly and fully considered. But we must read Exodus xviii., from verse 15 to 20; and if our minds in holy contemplation should be led, how divinely I humbly hope my brethren and sisters great our joys will be! For ever must in Christ may all be led into a prayerful we praise the Lord, for what I may call, and holy contemplation of these signs; the preparatory and the illuminating and not a few valuable papers, I trust, provisions of the Old Testament! By will be written by others, in connection figures so chaste-by metaphors so full with my own; that the Twelfth Volume of expression-by signs so unmeasurably of the EARTHEN VESSEL may be filled with Bignificant-the Lord hath condescended records of the inexhaustible fulness, the into let down some faint and feeble dis- describable glories, and the invaluable coveries of the amazing glories of the blessings of the everlasting covenant. upper and the better world: and when, So prays their servant in bonds, by the Light of Life, through these THE EDITOR.
EPISTLES TO THEOPHILUS.
MY good Theophilus, in my last letter to you I set before you the two distinct principles of regeneration, and of human, individual responsibility, and proposed to go on to shew some of the delusions and evils arising from substituting the principle of human duty for that of regeneration. But before going on into such matters, I think it will tend to clear our way if I set before you another principle in which many of the invitations, exhortations, expostulations, and parables of the Word of God are founded. The principle to which I here refer is that of a profession of the name of the Lord. He that saith he abideth in him, ought to walk also as he walked. The Saviour walked in perfect harmony with the new covenant; and in walking in perfect harmony with this covenant, he walked in harmony with all that was of God; love being the fulfilling of the law, as well as of the gospel.
Now, I wish you here to take particular notice that the exhortation and parables I am about to set before you are founded, not in the false delusive doctrine that it is the duty of a dead sinner to come savingly to Christ, No; but are founded on the profession made by those to whom they are addressed.
Let us begin with Psalm xcv. Here we have those who stood out clear, as the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. But there were some who professed to be the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand, who seemed to have but very little ear or heart for pastoral or new covenant truth; and yet professed to be people of God. Now, then, not, I say, founded on the ground of the humanly devised doctrine of its being the duty of the dead sinner to come savingly to Christ; no, but on the ground of the profession they made; therefore it is, "If ye will hear his voice, (that is, his truth-for the truth is his voice), if ye will bear his voice, harden not your hearts."
The living new covenant truth of God in the order and vital experience of it, is that against which the heart of a mere professor, more than against anything under heaven, is hardened. Strong may be their pity for Barrabas-but of the truth their language is "Away with it!" It is, then, to those who profess the name of the Lord, that the words are addressed, "If ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." As though it said, You profess to be the seed of Abraham; see that you are brought experimentally into the bond of the same sworn and immutable covenant; see that ye are sealed with the same Spirit of promise as was Isaac; see that ye prevail with God as did Jacob; that you are brought to the same ladder of eternal truth. By these truths Jehovah will, by his own people, be remembered to all generations.
The apostle Paul, as you are aware, makes, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, considerable use of this 95th Psalm; and the apostle is there addressing the professing church; and there were some among them of whom he stood in doubt; they seemed not rightly united to the
great theme of the first chapter of that Epistle and that theme is summed up in one verse: "Who, being the brightness of his glory, and the express Image of his Person, upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high."
1st. Here is a brightness which is sure not only to charm and enliven the aged pilgrim, but will attract also the eyes of the new-born soul.
2nd. Here is an oneness with the Father, which commends the Saviour to a poor, helpless, self-despairing sinner. He is almighty to save; he is the express, or exact Image of the Father. He is God.
3rd. Here is sustentation-"Upholding all things by the word of his power.' Now, the law, in consequence of sin, will break down all things; and this you, my good Theophilus, felt when conviction of sin siezed your soul. You were shaken to the very centre; the heavens and the earth seemed to tremble around and under you; you felt that you were without hope and without God in the world. But there is still a nobler word-it is the word of the gospel; and if there be on the one hand an all things to be broken down, so, on the other hand, there is an all things to be holden up; an all things made new; an all things to be inherited; an all things which cannot be moved; and this all things is by the warfare accomplished by the Saviour. This word of his power is our strength; that just as this word stands good, so will our hope be sure and stedfast; while, by the power of the Holy Ghost, we shall abound therein.
4th. Here is the abolition the putting away of sin, and that for ever. There is no more remembrance of them; for if there were, there would be more sacrifice called for. Hence, under the Old Testament, there was a fresh remembrance of sin every year; but in one offering here made there is no more remem brance of sin; it is blotted out, forgiven, and forgotten. This one offering carries us without a cloud into eternity; constitutes us a morning without clouds; pure even as he is pure; righteous and free, even as he is righteous and free; no higher, stronger or dearer tie than this to unite to the blessed God can be found; it will make us perfect in love.
5th. He put away our sins by himself. Who shall undertake to describe the depth and awfulness of the solitude into which he went? Truly he was by himself. Of the people there was none with him, except those who were against him. He went to the end of the curse of the law. This is what neither lost man nor fallen angels can ever do. Hell itself is not so far from God in suffering as the Saviour went. He went deeper than hell, he drank the last drop of the cup of penal wrath. However far from God we had gone in sinning, he went in suffering; and such is our enmity naturally against God, that if we had it in our power, we should not spare the Almighty himself; as is beyond all dispute proved in the awful crime of slaying the Prince of life; and we are all virtually guilty. If men did but know what sin is in the sight