It is a matter of doubt, whether believers under the Old Testament understood that the legal ceremonies were types of Christ and of his benefits.
I do not remember to have said this at any time: nay, I am conscious that I have never said it, because I never yet durst utter any such expression. But I have said, that an inquiry not altogether unprofitable might be instituted, |how far the ancient Jews understood the legal ceremonies to be types of Christ?| At least I feel myself well assured, that they did not understand those ceremonies, as we do to whom the mystery of the Gospel is revealed. Nor do I suppose that any one will venture to deny this. But I wish our brethren would take upon themselves the task of proving, that believers under the Old Testament understood the legal ceremonies to be types of Christ and his benefits. For they not only know that this opinion of theirs is called in question by some persons, but that it is likewise confidently denied. Let them make the experiment, and they will perceive how difficult an enterprise they have undertaken. For the passages which seem to prove their proposition, are taken away from them in such a specious manner by their adversaries, that a man who is accustomed to yield assent to those things alone which are well supported by proofs, may be easily induced to doubt whether the believers under the Old Testament had any knowledge of this matter; especially if he consider, that, according to Gal. iv.3, the whole of the ancient [Jewish] Church was in a state of infancy or childhood, and therefore possessed only the understanding of a child. Whether an infant be competent to perceive in these corporal things the spiritual things which are signified by them, let those decide who are acquainted with that passage, |When I was a child, I understood as a child.| (1 Cor. xiii.11.) Let those passages also be inspected which, we will venture to say, have a typical signification, because we have been taught so to view them by Christ and his Apostles; and it will be seen whether they be made so plain and obvious, as, without the previous interpretation of the Messiah, to have enabled us to understand them according to their spiritual meaning. It is said, (John viii.56,) |Abraham saw the day of Christ, and was glad.| Those who are of a contrary sentiment, interpret this passage as if it was to be understood by a metonymy, because, Abraham saw the day of Isaac, who was a type of Christ, and therefore his day was |the day of Christ.| It is an undoubted fact, that no mention is made in the scriptures of any other rejoicing than of this. The faith of Abraham and its object occupy nearly the whole of the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. Let what is there said be compared together; and let it be demonstrated from this comparison, that Abraham saw Christ in those promises which he apprehended by faith. Who would understand |the sign of Jonah,| to have been instituted to typify the three days in which Christ remained in the bowels of the earth, unless Christ had himself given that explanation? What injury does this opinion produce, since those who hold it do not deny, that the Fathers were saved by the infantile faith which they possessed? For an infant is as much the heir of his father's property, as an adult son.
Should any one say, it follows as a necessary consequence, that |the Fathers were saved without faith in Christ.| I reply, the faith which has respect to the salvation of God that has been promised by him, and |waits for the redemption of Israel,| understood under a general notion, is |faith in Christ,| according to the dispensation of that age. This is easily perceived from the following passages: |I have waited for thy salvation, or thy saving mercy, O Lord! (Gen. xlix, 18.) |And the same man, (Simeon,) was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel.| (Luke ii.25.) In the same chapter it is said, |Anna, a prophetess, spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.|
But if we consider the |faith in Christ,| which is that of the New Testament, and which has regard to Him as a Spiritual and Heavenly King, who bestows upon his followers those celestial benefits which he has procured for them by his passion and death; then a greater difficulty will hence arise. What man ever received more promises concerning the Messiah than David, or who has prophesied more largely about Him? Yet any one may with some show of reason, entertain doubts, whether David really understood that the Messiah would be a Spiritual and Heavenly Monarch; for when he seemed to be pouring out his whole soul before the Lord, (2 Sam.7,) he did not suffer a single word to escape that might indicate the bent of his understanding to this point, which, nevertheless, would have been of great potency in magnifying Jehovah and in confirming his own confidence.
The knowledge which all Israel had of the Messiah and of his kingdom, in the days when Christ was himself on earth, appears not only from the Pharisees and the whole of the populace, but also from his own disciples after they had for three years and more enjoyed constant opportunities of communication with him, and had heard from his own lips frequent and open mention of the kingdom of Heaven. Nay, what is still more wonderful, immediately after the resurrection of Christ from the dead, they did not even then comprehend his meaning. (Luke xxiv.21-25.) From this, it seems, we must say, either |that the knowledge which they formerly possessed had gradually died away,| or |that the Pharisees, through their hatred against Jesus, had corrupted that knowledge.| But neither of these assertions appears to be at all probable. (1.) The former is not; because the nearer those times were to the Messiah, the clearer were the prophecies concerning him, and the more manifest the apprehension of them. And this for a good reason, because it then began to be still more necessary for men to believe that person to be the Messiah, or at least the time was fast approaching in which such a faith would become necessary. (2.) The latter is not probable; because the Pharisees conceived that hatred against him on account of his preaching and miracles. But it was at the very commencement of his office that he called into his service those twelve disciples. There are persons, I am aware, who produce many things from the Rabbinical writers of that age, concerning the spiritual kingdom of Christ; but I leave those passages to the authors of them, because it is out of my power to pronounce a decision on the subject.
While I have been engaged in the contemplation of this topic, and desirous to prove from the preceding prophecies, that the kingdom of Christ the Messiah, was to be spiritual, no small difficulty has arisen, especially after consulting most of those who have written upon it. Let those who on this point do not allow any one to indulge in a single doubt, try an experiment. Let them exhibit a specimen of the arguments by which they suppose their doctrine can be proved, even in this age, which is illuminated with the light of the New Testament. I will engage, that, after this experiment, they will not pass such a sinister judgment on those who confess to feel some hesitation about this point.
These observations have been adduced by me, not with the design of denying that the opinion of the brethren on this matter is true, much less for the purpose of confuting it. But I adduce them, to teach others to bear with the weakness of that man who dares not act the part of a dogmatist on this subject.