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Of Typical Instruction generally.
of instruction is the improvement of the pupil: a wise and benevolent instructor will, therefore, carefully avail himself of every mode of communicating to the learner such principles of knowledge as are essential to his welfare and happiness; but he will prefer, and most anxiously employ, those means which are best calculated to produce powerful and permanent effects on his disciples.
Whatever, then, may be the doctrines taught, the wisdom and ability of the teacher will be evident in the suitability of the means selected by him to ensure the accomplishment of his purposes, as fully, or perhaps more so, than in the success which may follow his exertions.
But when God graciously condescends to become the instructor of his creatures, he
possesses that supremacy, both of wisdom and authority, which pre-eminently distinguishes him from every other. In all respects, as dependent upon him, his will ought to be our law; and when it is made known unto us, obedience becomes imperiously our duty. His knowledge of the state of our faculties, corruptions, and necessities, is infinitely more perfect and complete than we can possibly attain, even as far as we are individually concerned, and places him, both as to the extent of our ignorance, and the means of removing it, far above the most exalted of created teachers; and as every display of his perfections more clearly manifests the excellency of that wisdom by which his infinite love towards mankind is discovered and administered, we may reasonably expect that in any revelation which he has communicated to us, we shall find such expedients employed, as are calculated to enlighten our understandings, to impress our minds, confirm our faith, warm our love, enliven our hope, support us under trial and affliction, strengthen us in the warfare with our spiritual adversaries, and improving our present state, to lead us on to victory and eternal happiness.
Nor will this expectation be disappointed. In the volume of inspiration, we find every various method of instruction employed which can conduce to these respective purposes. Metaphors, borrowed from animate or inanimate nature, facilitate our comprehension of the divine power, goodness, and sufficiency; and how these are employed for the benefit of the redeemed. God is a sun to enlighten, and a shield to defend his people: a lion to tear in pieces, and a fire to consume his enemies. He is a rock whose shadow defends his church from the heat, and whose covert secures her from the tempest: a tower, a stronghold to protect, a light to direct, a glory to adorn her, and a haven for her repose when the stormy voyage of life is terminated. Similies taken from every relation in life powerfully illustrate our dependence on him as our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier; and forcibly assure us of his holiness, justice, mercy, love, and faithfulness. He is their surety to ransom them from the captivity of Satan, and deliver them from the dominion of the grave; the father that pities them as his children; the guide that directs their feet in the way of peace;
the refiner that purges away all their dross; the captain of their salvation who marshals them on to victory; the shepherd who leads them beside the still waters, who makes them to lie down in green pastures, and supplies their every want; whilst, as the husband of his church, he assures them that his loving-kindness shall never be taken from them, neither shall his faithfulness fail.
But this mode of instruction is not adopted to the exclusion of the more direct one of plain and positive precept. A large portion of the sacred volume is occupied with injunctions, supported by the authority of the Almighty, and sanctioned by promises of the highest reward to the obedient, and by denunciations of the severest punishment to the rebellious. The corruptions of human nature too forcibly prevail to obliterate the impressions made by this mode of teaching; therefore, to render them more permanent and effectual, the consequences of compliance with, or neglect of, the divine commands, are exemplified in records of the transactions and practices of men in every rank of life, and under such diversity of circumstances, that, perhaps, it would be difficult to find an incident to which something sufficiently parallel is not registered in the sacred scriptures, either to warn us against the evil, or to encourage us to pursue the good that was likely to result from it.
The history recorded in the Bible thus becomes the exemplification of its doctrines; but when applied to different persons, placed in circumstances not exactly similar, much of the effect may
be lost, or rendered less impressive. Cases corresponding in every particular, will of necessity, be rarely found; therefore, it has been the practice of teachers to have recourse to narratives of supposed events, to give greater efficacy to their instructions.
On the same principle, they have used emblems of the doctrines they wished to impress, or representatiors of the facts to which they desired to draw the attention of their hearers; thus giving a sort of bodily life and presence to that which otherwise could have been only mentally or rationally conceived, or could only have been endued with a remote or future existence: the former we denominate a parable or similitude, the latter a pattern, a figure, or type.
All these various methods have been successfully used by the best teachers in every age; and we find in the scriptures instances of their baving been employed both by inspired and uninspired persons. The address of Jotham to the men of Shechem, Judges ix. 7–15; those of Nathan to David, 2 Sam. xii. 1–6; of Jehoash to Amaziah, 2 Kings xiv. 9, are examples of the former. Zedekiah's horns of iron, though used for a false prophecy, and a wicked purpose, is an instance of the latter, 1 Kings