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the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Jonah 2

Fairbairn's Commentary on Ezekiel, Jonah and Pastoral EpistlesFairbairn's Commentaries

Verses 1-10

CHAPTER IV. JONAH IN HIS DISTRESS AN EXAMPLE OF SANCTIFIED AFFLICTION

IT is always interesting, and may be profitable as well as interesting, to mark the workings of a soul when struggling with the strong billows of affliction, especially if that affliction has come in the immediate train of backsliding, and appears as the net in which God has caught a wanderer from the fold, or the rod by which he would bring him back to wisdom and obedience. The effect would be quite uniform: the means would always reach their intended aim, if in the persons so dealt with there were always the elements of a sincere and living piety. This, however, is far from being the case. And hence there is a class of professing Christians, in whom even the heaviest afflictions are found to work no spiritual good the flesh bruised, but still the spirit not sanctified; earthly delights cut off with a stroke, but yet no springs of heavenly consolation opened up; a valley of Baca, but without its wells of living water; a wilderness with no manna from above, or Canaan in prospect; a sorrow that either works death or leads with delusive hope to new refuges of lies. A sad case truly, when the medicine of God’s righteous discipline makes itself known only in its bitterness, or tends but to deepen the wound it was intended to cure.

But, on the other hand, when the life of grace has really obtained a footing in the soul, another and happier result is sure to flow from the visitation of severe distress. Earnest thought, a spirit of serious reflection, is awakened. The voice of conscience makes itself heard in the chambers of the inner man; and if any delusive charm has been laying the spell of its enchantment upon the heart, the spell is broken, truth and reason regain their rightful ascendant the soul lives again to God. Such, pre-eminently, was the result of “the horror of great darkness” which fell upon Jonah, and his descent under God’s judgment into the bowels of the earth, as the record of his experience amply testifies: “And Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly. And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell (Literally, out of the womb of Sheol: or, more generally, the interior of the place of the departed; implying, along with the expressions in ver. 6, that he felt as if actually in the state of the dead.) cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast (or, hast cast) me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, (The verbs here should properly be rendered in the present tense: “The waters compass me about,” &c. For though the prayer might not be composed till he came out of the fish, yet it expresses what he thought and felt while in it.) even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever; yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God. (This verse admits of various emendations, and would be more correctly rendered thus: “I have gone down to the roots (or clefts) of the mountains; the earth! her bars are about me for ever. And thou shalt bring up my soul from the pit, O Jehovah my God.” In the first clause, the prophet expresses the hopelessness of his condition, as having gone to a depth from which he had no power to rise up again. In the second, he glances to the earth, the habitation of the living, and sees only its bars impenetrably shut against him; but in the third, he turns to God, and expresses his confidence, that even from that pit of death the divine power and mercy would recover him. The שחת from which he expects to be brought up, is falsely rendered corruption, and also still by Henderson destruction; its common, or rather its only meaning is the pit, (see Hengstenberg on Psalms 16:10) used here, as elsewhere, in the sense of the grave. Jonah regards himself as actually among the dead.) When my soul fainted within me (or rather, because of the overwhelming of my soul upon me) I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thy holy temple. They that observe (regard) lying vanities forsake their own mercy. (The last clause should be, “forsake their Loving-kindness,” this being understood as an epithet of God. The expression is taken from Psalms 144:2, where David styles God “my goodness,” or loving-kindness, חסדי : God, who is to me all beneficence “Love;” so also, in Psalms 59:17, “The God of my mercy,” or, more correctly, “my kindness-God.”) But I will sacrifice to thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.” Now, viewing the thoughts and feelings expressed in this prayer as a proof that Jonah’s affliction was truly sanctified to him the light in which they ought chiefly to be regarded there are a few leading points that more especially deserve our consideration.

1. First, we remark the altered feeling toward God of which he was now conscious, as compared with that state of mind which tempted him to go astray. In the former respect it is said of him, “he rose up to flee from the presence of the Lord;” he felt too near, as it were, to Jehovah, and would fain withdraw to a greater distance, that so he might escape from a burden which pressed like an iron yoke upon his neck. But now it is one of the bitterest parts of his complaint that he was so far from God: “I said, I am cast out from thy sight,” driven away, as it more literally is, from before thine eyes. He has got in this respect his desire; God has retired to a distance from him; but ah! instead of finding it to be well with him on that account, the thought of God’s averted countenance becomes insupportably painful. How sweet now would it be to him to dwell amid the beams of that countenance! for he sees God as he never did before, in an aspect of tenderness and love; the very idea of God is identified with loving-kindness, and the attempt to seek comfort by going into estrangement from him appears only as a species of infatuation or madness.

It must, indeed, be a sanctified trouble which disposes the soul to feel thus toward God to eye him as a loving Father at the very time he is applying the rod of chastisement, and to charge all the blame of the severity of the dealing upon its own waywardness and folly. This is not the way of unrenewed nature. Where it alone works, there may possibly be no rising against the authority or fretting at the appointment of God there may be the exercise of a spirit of subduing fear and quiet resignation; but actually to cherish kind thoughts of God, and be conscious of a drawing affection toward him to see him lovely and good, and feel that in his favour is life, while still his providence is dark and frowning this can be found only with the child of grace, who has the Spirit of God, quickening the heart to love, and sanctifying the rod of affliction. He who is in this condition, but he alone, has come to regard God as the only good, and a state of separation and distance from him as the worst of evils.

2. It was but the natural consequence of this state of mind in Jonah, though it may be noted as another mark of his sanctified affliction, that he poured out his heart in prayer: the Spirit of sonship was again revived in him, and it led him to cry, Abba, Father. And it is worthy of remark, that we are not told this of him before he reached the extremity of his distress. We have seen him in great danger, in profound slumber, under deep convictions of sin, adjudging himself, in agony of spirit, to the doom of an outcast; but only now, when shut up in the deep waters, do we hear of his having sought to God in prayer. For he had knowingly taken the part of a backslider from God; and in nothing does backsliding more readily discover itself than in the loss of familiarity with Heaven; consciousness of sin excludes nearness and freedom of communion; “prayer is restrained before God,” the very form not unfrequently abandoned; and, even where that in some degree is retained, still the life is utterly gone no thirsting of the soul after God and the things of his salvation. But now when the work of severity has effected its end, and a truly chastened heart has been wrought in Jonah, he begins to cry in earnest to the Lord; he becomes, in the strictest sense, a man of prayer.

What is this but the man returning to his proper place again? He has wandered as a lost child, but says, “I will arise and go to my Father.” What prompts the return, and gives it this salutary direction? What, but the bruising influence of the rod the felt want and desolation of soul, which can find relief nowhere else than in God? It is not prosperity, which we naturally so much covet and run after, that does this; nay, thousands have been carried by that into forgetfulness of God, and tempted to leave off habits of communion with him which they once possessed, endangered most of all by the fulness of their condition and the smoothness of their course. Not prosperity, therefore, but affliction; yet this only when sanctified by grace to discover the vanity of the world, to wean the heart from its fleshly confidences, and awaken it to the necessity of a life “that has some relish of salvation in it.” “This poor man cried” cried just because, under the discipline of God, he had come to know himself to be poor “and the Lord heard him.” “In their affliction they will seek me early;” they fled from me before, but now they will be in haste to find me and call upon my name. So that we may certainly conclude of affliction generally, if it drives the heart from its idols, if it breaks the spirit of self-sufficiency, if it brings a man to his knees, it is an affliction sanctified for his spiritual good.

3. But, more particularly, we have to mark the workings of faith here, sanctified affliction being always characterized by the degree in which faith is called into exercise. The prayer itself is entitled to notice on this ground; for what was it in the case of Jonah, or what is sincere prayer in any case but the fruit of faith? Yet it is not so much the simple act of prayer, as rather the particular views and feelings which are expressed in prayer, or otherwise manifested, that mainly indicate the faith which should be found in the school of affliction.

(1). In this respect we have to note, first, the exercise of faith in regard to the appointment of the visitation. Jonah was at no loss to discover the quarter from which his overwhelming troubles came upon him; it was not accident or some unknown power, but the hand of God which had ordained them: “ Thou hast cast me into the deep;” “ thy waves and thy billows have passed over me.” In like manner Job in the day of his calamity: “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” So also David in the season of rebuke and blasphemy: “Let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David” the man (Shimei) is but an instrument; that his malice takes this direction rather than any other is from the Lord; and, if I had not needed such a visitation of evil, it would not have been allowed to come upon me.

Such invariably is the feeling of the heart when it is enabled to exercise faith under the afflictions that press upon it; it looks above the immediate occasion or the particular circumstances, and feels that it has to do with Him who is through all and over all. As in the things we then experience there is a direct and special dealing with us on the part of God, so it is only when we are duly sensible of this, and acknowledge his hand in the appointment, that we are prepared to profit aright by the discipline, or to bear ourselves suitably under it. The thought of God’s hand is especially fitted to quiet the turbulence of the heart when agitated with trouble, and check the rise of evil affections. No man who sees God in his distress, will be disposed to say, that he suffers more than he deserves, or that the trials he experiences are not wisely ordained for some good end. But if the outward circumstances or immediate instruments alone are considered, then fretting, discontent, or even ebullitions of angry passion, will be ready to spring up. I can say, perhaps, of a fellow-creature, He should not have acted in such a manner toward me; it was not the treatment I was entitled to expect from him. But when I look higher, and see in the things that befall me the operation of God’s hand, I necessarily feel that silence is my becoming attitude; I have now to do with infinite faithfulness and wisdom. “It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth good to him.” “I was dumb because thou didst it.”

(2). As another exercise of Jonah’s faith, and common with him to all afflicted saints, we must mark his confidence and hope in God, not extinguished, but rather roused into action, by the extremity of his distress. Viewed simply in itself, his situation was of the most desperate and forlorn description an outcast from his fellow-men, from the habitable globe itself, as being no longer fit to have a place among the living and that in consequence of the just judgment of Heaven, re-echoed and approved by the cry of guilt in his own conscience, so that there seemed to be almost every thing in his condition that might bar the possibility of confidence and hope. Nor was it by shutting his eyes on the evil that he found relief to his mind; on the contrary, he takes the full gauge of its dimensions, and pathetically laments that “he was cast into the deep,” “cast out of God’s sight;” he had turned his back on God, and now God. making his sin his punishment, turned his hack on him; nay, made “ all his waves and billows pass over him.” For a time, indeed, he seems to have concluded, that all was completely over with him, that there was no room for hope, the daughter of faith, to enter; he had felt as if the earth’s bars were about him for ever, and he was enclosed in the pit of all-devouring Sheol. But it was only for a time; “he remembered the Lord” when thus overwhelmed with perplexity; “he looked again toward God’s holy temple,” and cried in faith, and hoped for deliverance.

But faith must have some ground to stand upon, and some plea to urge. What had Jonah of this? Where had faith any thing on which to build its confidence and hope toward God? Why, simply in that he lived, and could look to the God to whom salvation belongs. He could say, “The Lord has chastened me sore, but not given me over to perdition; I live, and, while I live, I see my past folly, and turn again to the God of my life. There is mercy with Him, that he may be feared. His name is the Lord God, merciful and gracious. And why do I yet breathe? Why is sense and reflection still left to me in this place of dungeon-darkness? Is it not, that I might yet lay hold of God, and be found to his glory? I will therefore trust and hope in his mercy.”

Faith is always, in proportion to its clearness and strength, fertile in resources; it is of quick discernment in the fear of the Lord, and will often find grounds of confidence and rays of hope, where to the natural mind all seems enveloped in gloom and despondency. The heart that is really inspired with faith, has that keen and lively relish for divine things which is ever found to be the best sharpener of the intellect, and “because it feels with enthusiasm, it penetrates with sagacity.” Jonah had here the least possible ground to stand upon, but that little with faith was sufficient. The Syro-Phoenician woman with her great faith gathered strength to her confidence from the very things that seemed to the eye of sense to undermine it. “I am not sent,” said Jesus, in answer to her suit, “but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” True, thou art not sent elsewhere, but thou canst go; thou art the Son of David, the glorious king of Zion, and canst still, if thou pleasest, give what I ask “Lord help me.” “But it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and cast it to the dogs.” No, not meet, indeed, but neither do I ask it; I am content to take but the dog’s portion, for even they eat of the crumbs that fall from the table, and such is all I now supplicate.

There are times of trouble and distress, when the soul has thus to look down and search narrowly for its grounds of consolation and support times when so many things are against it, that scarcely any special promise of Scripture appears altogether to meet its case, and it has nothing but the general manifestations of God’s character to fall back upon. Still, however, at the very worst it has these, and the express warrant of the prophet to make use of them: “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name (the manifested character) of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” Besides, such times of extreme perplexity are comparatively of rare occurrence; for the most part, no such difficulty need be felt; there are grounds of consolation and words of promise amply sufficient to meet the exigencies of the soul when struggling amid the deep waters of affliction; and if grace truly mingles with the trial, to sanctify the evil and call faith into exercise, it will never fail to bring the soul in confidence and hope to God.

(3). There is a still further manifestation of faith in the words of Jonah, and one which forms another special mark of sanctified affliction; although it lies less upon the surface than those already noticed, and may even escape the observation of a hasty reader. I refer to the use that is made of the earlier portions of the word of God, and the recorded experiences of former times. It is but a brief prayer this of Jonah’s, the whole being comprised in eight short verses; and yet it contains no fewer than seven quotations from the Book of Psalms, which, more than any other book of Scripture, is a record of the believer’s experiences and hopes in times of trouble. (I have said seven quotations, on the supposition that the words in ver. 2, “I cried by reason of mine affliction to the Lord, and he heard me,” are taken from Psalms 120:1, to which they very nearly in our version, and in the original almost entirely, correspond. But the date of that psalm is unknown, and it is quite possible that it may not have been composed till a period posterior to the age of Jonah; so that the quotation may be from Jonah by the psalmist, and not from the psalmist by Jonah. There can be no doubt about the others, which are all taken from psalms belonging to the times of David, and pointing to the trials of his own eventful life. They are as follows: v. 3, “All thy billows and thy waves passed over me,” literally from Psalms 42:7; ver. 4, “And I said, I am cast out of thy sight,” or, from before thine eyes, with the change only of one letter in the original, from Psalms 31:22; ver. 5, “The waters compassed me about to the soul,” with the difference of only one word from Psalms 69:1; ver. 7, “When my soul fainted (was overwhelmed) within me,” literally from Psalms 142:3; ver. 8, “They that observe lying vanities,” literally from Psalms 31:6; ver. 9, “Salvation is of the Lord,” or is the Lord’s, from Psalms 3:8. Besides, there is a plain reference, as before noticed, to Psalms 144:2, in the peculiar name that is applied to God in ver. 8, “loving-kindness;” and though the words are a little different, yet the sentiment in the latter part of ver. 7 is precisely the same with that in Psalms 18:6.) In a spirit of faith Jonah identifies himself with the saints of former times, so far as to appropriate to himself the language that describes their trials and deliverances. He looks back to the footsteps of the flock as traced by the fingers of inspired men, and sees there some gleams of light to relieve the intense darkness that surrounded him. The staggering thing to him at first was, that his case was so remarkably peculiar; he was where no one had ever been before; and if he could have bethought him of any saint that had ever been as low, and yet had been delivered, it would have gone far to re-assure and comfort his heart. But lo! he does find this; he finds it in the word of the living God itself, which records experiences of others, not indeed altogether identical with his own, but so nearly alike, in all their essential features so much the same, that the words spoken of them were precisely those in which he could most fitly express the things that concerned himself. In the volume of the book it was written even of him; for it was written of those who, like him, felt as if they had been cast out of God’s sight had been plunged in deep waters rolled over by swelling waves and mighty billows, so that the waters came in to their very soul, and who yet in such great distresses cried to the Lord, and found him both able and willing to accomplish their deliverance. How comforting for Jonah at such a time to find this! And how precious to him then that volume, in which there was contained for him the milk of such sweet consolation!

It is a great part of the design for which so many providential dealings and personal experiences have found a place in the inspired record, to furnish the means of such consolation in times of trial; and no small part of the wisdom and sagacity of faith consists in deriving at these times suitable and proper instruction from them. Of the things written in this department, it may be emphatically said, “They were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures may have hope.” As the Church of all ages is essentially one, so also is the manifested character of God; and whenever, or wherever, any child of God, and any portion of his Church, find themselves in a situation answerable to the testimonies recorded of past troubles or deliverances, they both may and ought to appropriate the language to themselves. For God is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; what he was, and what he has done in the past, he still is, and is ready to do in the future; and what he reveals of himself to one, he virtually declares to all to the very end of time.

In this appropriating use of the recorded experiences of former times, and the utterances of divine truth connected with them, not Jonah alone, but our blessed Lord himself, has left us an example of faith exercising itself thus under trial and temptation. As when, to refer only to one specimen, he replied to the solicitation of the tempter to turn a stone into bread, by saying, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” When and where was it so written? By Moses (in Deuteronomy 8:3), when rehearsing to the Israelites, at the close of their sojourn in the wilderness, the wonderful nature of God’s dealings with them, and the support he miraculously provided through manna, when they were cut off from all ordinary supplies of food “that he might make thee know (said the man of God), that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God doth man live.” Might make thee know this, and with thee every child of God to the latest time. Therefore did the holy child Jesus take it in his state of wilderness bereavement as a word of direction and promise to him, not less than if it had been specially addressed to himself; and by his example he instructs us to do the same, and to make a corresponding use of all the memorials of God’s past dealings with his people. He bids us enter by faith into their history; and, when we are conscious of standing in a situation similar to theirs, to make its lessons of wisdom or its words of comfort our own it is a revelation of God to us.

But the instruction may also be applied with greater latitude to the word of God at large. Not some select portions merely, but that word as a whole will always become precious, when affliction is truly sanctified; faith will then be ever ready to repair thither as to its storehouse to get counsel from the Lord and replenish itself with arguments. “This is my comfort in my affliction; for thy word hath quickened me.” And again, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes.” As much as to say, I did not know till I was in trouble and distress what was in thy word; I had but skimmed its surface, and knew not the depth of meaning, the rich mine of instruction and blessing, that is laid up in it. But I now know it; my own trials and necessities have opened out its infinite suitableness to my condition, and taught me to appreciate its divine cordials, as well as to listen to its wholesome counsels. It is well to know the word of God at any time, even in the day of security and repose; for otherwise we shall not be prepared, in the season of peculiar need, to draw from it the strength and refreshment it is fitted to impart. But the full sense of its amazing richness and incomparable preciousness can be attained only in the school of tribulation. There then appears a reality, a felt adaptation to the wants and necessities of our case, in its tidings of mercy, its promises of love, even its darker representations, the sighs from the deep, the struggles of faith, the manifold alternations of fear and hope, through which it leads us of which we were very imperfectly conscious before. The rod is blessed in the truest sense, when it thus brings us acquainted with the hidden treasures of wisdom and grace which lie enclosed in the word of God.

4. The last thing deserving of notice in the prayer of Jonah, as a mark of sanctified affliction, is the purpose of amendment it expresses. This rather runs through the whole of it, and appears in the altered tone of feeling it breathes toward God and his service, than comes distinctly out in any separate and formal announcements. We feel, it is impossible for us to doubt, while we read these meditations of his heart, that he is now cured of flying from God, and is resolutely bent on following the path of duty, wherever that may lead. Silently comparing his behavior in the past to the conduct of idolaters, those who “regard lying vanities” for whatever withdraws the trust of the soul, and steals away the homage of its affections from God, is in substance an idol, and as such a delusive vanity, whose promises can end only in disappointment and ruin Jonah now declares his conviction of the folly of such courses; it is forsaking for vain shadows the very source of love and beneficence; and he therefore turns to God, whom he can now regard also as the author of his salvation, with the vow of thankful and devoted obedience. “I will sacrifice to thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed.”

When trials and distresses are sent, as in the case of Jonah, for correction and reproof in backsliding, this is always of necessity the great end and issue to which they point. They must, if not sent in vain, work in us a thorough sense of the folly, as well as guilt of sin, and of the wisdom and happiness, not less than the duty, of obedience. While they do not forbid us to count the cost of a dutiful surrender to the will of God, they call us, with a voice of stern rebuke, to count the incomparably greater cost of a refusal, and seek to enforce upon our deceitful and foolish hearts the salutary lesson, that if we would do well to ourselves we must first do faithful and willing service to God. Let the heart, therefore, of the believer ever say to itself, when cast by Christ into the furnace of affliction: “My Lord sits here as a refiner of silver; he would have me entirely separated from what mars the purity of my affections, and interferes with the integrity of my obedience. Let me fall in with his design, and, giving the dross of my corruption to he burnt up as in the fire of his judgment, devote myself anew as a living sacrifice to his fear; so that, if I must confess with the Psalmist, ‘Before I was afflicted I went astray,” with him also I may be enabled to add, ‘But now I keep thy word.’”

CHAPTER V. IN WHAT RESPECTS THE THINGS WHICH BEFELL JONAH RENDERED HIM A SIGN

THE singular chapter of Jonah’s history relating to his descent into the fish’s belly, and his restoration alive, after a sojourn there of a part of three days, to the habitable earth, was not intended to form a mere excrescence or stray incident in his life, nor even a special providence, without any other end in view than the prophet’s personal good. It was to be inwrought as an essential element into his public character, and was both intended and fitted to exert an important bearing on his future calling and destiny. This we learn beyond all doubt from the testimony of our Lord himself, who on two separate occasions referred to this remarkable period of Jonah’s history, and spake of the instruction with which it was fraught for past and coming generations. The first occasion is the one of which we have the fullest report in the twelfth chapter of the gospel by Matthew. It formed part of the transactions which arose out of the cure of a poor demoniac a cure that so impressed the people with the supernatural power and glory of Jesus, that they instinctively said one to another, “Is not this the Son of David?” To nullify, if possible, this fatal conclusion, the Pharisees who were present resorted to the equally impious and unreasonable device of ascribing the power by which Jesus thus cast out devils, to Beelzebub the prince of the devils; which called forth from our Lord first an unanswerable exposure of the palpable absurdity of the supposition, then an awful warning in regard to the unpardonable sin of uttering blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, followed by a denunciation of the intense and hopeless malignity of those from whom such thoughts of wickedness proceeded. But some, it would appear, were not disposed to go altogether along with those, who imputed to Jesus such a revolting alliance with the powers of darkness, and yet were not satisfied with the supernatural proofs he had hitherto given of his Messiahship. These persons, therefore, who are called “certain of the Scribes and of the Pharisees,” struck in at the close of our Lord’s solemn discourse with the request, “Master, we would see a sign from thee;” which, in the corresponding passage of Luke’s gospel (Luke 11:16), is more explicitly called a sign from heaven: “And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven.” “But he answered and said unto them,” it is again written in Matthew, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of the prophet Jonas. For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation and shall condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonas, and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.” Turning again, however, to the corresponding passage in the other evangelist, we find an important element added from the discourse of Christ on the occasion; for it is there stated, with respect no doubt to Jonah’s sojourn for a time in the deep, that he was a sign to the Ninevites, as well as to the generation among whom our Lord lived: “As Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.” (The words in the original are somewhat more express than in our version, and denote, not merely that our Lord and Jonah were equally signs to the people among whom respectively they delivered the message of God, but that they were signs of the same kind ( καθῶς ἐγενετο Ἰωνᾶς ), according as, or in the same manner “as Jonas was a sign to the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.”)

The other occasion on which our Lord pointed to the instruction contained in Jonah’s temporary entombment in the fish’s belly, occurred somewhat later in his history, and is noticed nowhere but at the commencement of the sixteenth chapter of St Matthew’s gospel. We are there told, that “the Pharisees with the Sadducees came, and tempting, desired him that he would show them a sign from heaven.” To which he first replied by rebuking them for their inability to discern the signs of the times, while they could so skilfully discern the face of the sky; and then referred them again to the prophet Jonah, but without any note apparently of explanation: “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign: and there shall no sign be given unto it but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them and departed.”

It is obvious, that the words used on this latter occasion by Christ, add nothing to the information previously given concerning Jonah as a sign, and are simply to be regarded as a new intimation and warning to the Jews of the important bearing of that sign on their present circumstances, and the danger likely to arise from their not giving heed to it. But it is equally obvious, that the information given on the former occasion, when we combine together the accounts of the two evangelists, presents the sign in a twofold character to our view, and declares it to have had an immediate and direct bearing on the Ninevites, as well as an indirect and remote bearing on the Jews of our Lord’s time. Jonah was first precisely such a sign to the Ninevites as Christ was to the Jews; and, secondly, Jonah was also a sign to the Jews, that they might, by properly attending to it, be prepared for understanding and receiving the things concerning Christ. The matter must be contemplated in both of its aspects to be fully understood.

1. In what respect, then, was Jonah a sign to the Ninevites? It could not be as a prophet that he was so designated; for though the word sign is used with considerable latitude in Scripture, yet it always denotes, when applied as here to the manifestations of Godhead, something of the nature of a prodigy, an extraordinary and undoubted operation of the hand; of God; and it must, therefore, have been meant to be understood of Jonah, not simply as the Lord’s prophet to the Ninevites, but as himself a wonder in the earth; being one who had, in a manner, tasted of death, and yet had not seen corruption who had been sent into Sheol because of sin, and now again returned to witness for righteousness among the living, and show them the way of salvation. What could more fitly deserve the name of a sign? Let us mark the singular properties that belonged to it. It was, first of all, wrought in secret, in the lower parts of the earth a work of God in a mystery; and, if the Ninevites had chosen to treat the appearance of Jonah among them with indifference and contempt, no suspicion probably would ever have entered their minds, at least no certain information would have reached them, of the wonderful experience through which he had passed. Then, it was a sign which for Jonah himself was of a most humiliating nature; it had marked him out as peculiarly the object of divine resentment on account of sin, even to his being driven forth as an outcast from God and man into the lowest depths of abasement and distress; so that he had himself occasion to be ashamed, rather than to boast of what had happened; and the Ninevites if, on hearing the marvellous story, they had been disposed to find an excuse for neglecting the message brought to them might have turned round on Jonah with the taunt: “Physician, heal thyself; thou who hast so recently gone astray, and hast borne the just wages of thy sin, art thou the man to come and cry against us about transgression? Or are we to look to thee for help, who hast proved so helpless for thyself?”

But if, on the other hand, those Ninevites should be actuated by a different spirit if, on the voice of this stranger being heard in their streets proclaiming the speedy approach of God’s judgment for sin, they should incline their ear, and should inquire and learn if so singular a messenger had any peculiar claims on their confidence and respect, then what sign could have been conceived so remarkably fitted to arrest their attention, and enforce upon their minds the call to repent? For no sooner could they turn their thoughts in this direction, than they should find that the man who rung so unwelcome a message in their ears, was in his own person a witness of the most marvellous kind of God’s purpose to be avenged of sin, and specially to visit them in judgment for their aggravated transgressions. They would find that the burden of their guilt and doom, when concealed in his own bosom, instead of being proclaimed, as it should have been, in the streets of Nineveh, had rendered him an alien and an outcast from the land of the living. And now, when restored as from the dead by an unprecedented display of divine power and goodness, that he might go and charge it without reserve upon themselves, what room any longer remained for indifference or delay? Or, if they should agree to slight such an ambassador what swift destruction might certainly be expected to alight on their devoted heads?

Such thoughts would naturally arise even on the first consideration of the matter; but there was another thought still, which on further consideration and deeper reflection could scarcely fail to impress itself on the minds of the Ninevites. For Jonah, who had formerly received into his bosom the wages of transgression, was now a recovered victim recovered even from the jaws of death and the regions of corruption and in his present condition he bore no less striking evidence to the gracious and placable, than in his past experience he had done to the holy and righteous, character of God. As a sign, therefore, from God to the Ninevites, its full import could only be read aright if they proceeded to reason thus with themselves: “There is here a token of good bound up with the evil; this man’s appearance is the harbinger of hope to us, as well as the just ground of fear and alarm. When we think of what he has experienced, we should be of all men the most foolish and reckless if we trifled with his message; but when we see him living and speaking in the midst of us, we are taught not to despair at the severity of its denunciations. The prophet has himself been dead and become alive again, lost and again found; for what end, but that through his mercy we might also obtain mercy, and that his restored life might be the means of saving us from destruction!”

But are we quite certain that the Lord intended the Ninevites should thus become acquainted with what had previously befallen Jonah, and the precise character in which he now appeared? Unquestionably if Jonah, in respect to that portion of his history, was appointed to be a sign to the Ninevites; then, as such, the thing wrought must have been open at least to their inquiries, and capable of being ascertained, so as to produce its due effect upon their minds. If it must still have remained in concealment, however it might have served as a sign to others, it could not possibly have been a sign to the people of Nineveh. We therefore conclude, with perfect confidence, that God must have designed that they should inquire into the history of his messenger to them, and should obtain the requisite information concerning the remarkable dealings of God toward him. Nor, if we glance at the result of his embassy, can we entertain the slightest doubt that they became acquainted with what was past, and that the knowledge of it formed their chief motive for attending to the message proclaimed in their hearing. For is it to be imagined that the people of Nineveh, not rude and ignorant barbarians, but men whose minds were sharpened by the most extensive commerce, and many of whom lived in the highest luxury and refinement is it for one moment to be imagined that they would be startled from their security, filled with consternation, brought to fasting and repentance, on the mere cry of impending ruin raised by a stranger, of whom they were totally ignorant, and who, for aught they knew, might only be uttering the dreams of his own excited fancy? By all the laws that are known to regulate human belief and conduct, we are not only warranted, but compelled to suppose, that, before such a result was attained, the most searching investigations had been made regarding the credibility of him who uttered the cry, and his claims on their confidence and regard. It was not simply the prophetic denunciation he uttered, but this recommended and enforced by the wonderful character of the sign which the prophet displayed before their eyes in his own person, that struck such astonishment and awe into the hearts of the people, and brought them, in contrition, and fear, and hope, to supplicate the mercy of God. With such a witness among them of the righteousness, the awful severity, and saving power of God, they felt that they durst not trifle with the word of threatening addressed to them.

Let us pause here for a moment to contemplate the wonder-working hand of God, and mark with what infinite skill it contrives to make all things redound to the glory of his name. It was the very things which befell Jonah, as the fruit and consequence of his backsliding, that fitted him to do the work of a successful ambassador to Nineveh. Had he gone on the first intimation, before his descent into the mighty deep, he would have wanted the most essential qualification for gaining the ear of the men of Nineveh, and arousing their consciences to a sense of their guilt and danger; he might have preached the same word of warning, but, in all probability, he would have preached in vain. And so God, in a manifold variety of ways, is ever manifesting his power to convert what is in itself evil into an instrument of good; from the eater he brings forth meat; and obtains means and instruments of blessing to his Church even from the dear-bought spoils of backsliding and correction. How many a successful combatant in the Lord’s spiritual warfare has, like Saul the persecutor, derived his peculiar vantage-ground, and some of his most powerful weapons of assault, from his earlier experience in the ranks of the enemy! Saints too, like David or Peter, who have been permitted for a time to fall before temptation, and have thereby caused others to stumble or blaspheme, have still, by the very breaking of their bones, and their more lively and earnest grasp of the consolations of the gospel, become pre-eminently qualified for reviving the downcast, and strengthening tempted and troubled souls. To choose a course of evil for the ulterior good to which it may be rendered subservient, is a policy which can only have the devil for its author; but, from the evil already done, to extract an instrument or an occasion against the interests of the kingdom of darkness, is one of the most triumphant displays of the superabounding grace and manifold wisdom of God.

2. We have thus seen in what sense Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites. But his being a sign to them was no reason why he might not also be a sign to others, and in particular to the generation among whom our Lord exercised his personal ministry. It was characteristic of all the religious institutions and the dispensations of Providence, which were intended to speak to gospel times, that they had an end to serve for the time then present, as well as lessons of instruction to convey to a more distant age. The design of their appointment was to symbolize or embody truths, which were needed for those who lived in the earlier ages of the Church, and, at the same time, to typify things to come; that is, to give promise of other things still future, in which the same truths should receive a higher manifestation, when the kingdom of God should have reached another and more advanced stage of development. And as Christ and the affairs of his everlasting kingdom were the grand and ultimate things to which, from the first, the divine administration pointed, so the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God peculiarly showed itself in the times that are past, by arranging all in the institutions of worship and the events of life, with a view to their forming the most correct image of the greater things to come, and the most suitable preparation for their appearance. Hence, Jonah’s being a sign (an embodied lesson or living symbol) to the Ninevites, not only did not hinder, but might rather peculiarly fit him for being also a sign to a future generation of his own countrymen in respect to the history of Christ’s work and kingdom; and as this last was the grand and ultimate object in the eye of God, there may have been or, we should rather say, there doubtless were things connected with this portion of the history of Jonah, of which the full meaning could not be discerned, nor the entire mystery solved, till the whole was seen in the light of Christ’s finished undertaking. (See the proof given of these general principles in the first volume of my Typology, Part I.)

When our Lord took occasion to point to Jonah as a sign for the generation among whom he lived, it was, as we have seen, in reply to a solicitation on the part of some Scribes and Pharisees, that he would show them “a sign from heaven.” This request, it will be remembered, was made at a pretty advanced stage of our Lord’s earthly ministry after multitudes of the most astonishing wonders and indubitable proofs of divine working had been exhibited by him in open day, and through many districts of the country. So that, by demanding a further sign, and, as contrasted with these, one that might appropriately be denominated a sign from heaven, they must have intended to seek, preparatory to their owning his claims as Messiah, some glorious display of the divine majesty upon him such, perhaps, as the Shechinah of old, or the lustre that shone from the face of Moses, which, they imagined, could not be withheld from him if he were the Messiah, and which, if given, would at once dispel their doubts of the truth of his pretensions.

It was not possible that a request proceeding from such a state of mind could meet with a favourable reception from Christ. In making it they were disparaging the testimony raised in behalf of his Messiah-ship by all the mighty works which he had already performed the very works which ancient prophecy had indicated should mark his footsteps upon earth. They at once showed themselves to be labouring under the most obdurate blindness, in slighting the signs which in such great numbers had already proceeded from his hand, and were guilty of intolerable presumption in prescribing the kind of sign which alone they would deem entitled to their belief. Not only so, but such a manifestation of glory as they were evidently bent on witnessing, would have been altogether unsuited to the state of humiliation which became him when travailing in pain for the world’s redemption; and the very desire after it betrayed on their part an unpreparedness of heart, a blindness and alienation of mind, in respect to that spiritual glory which shone from the faultless purity of his character, and his execution of the work given him to do. Christ, therefore, could plainly give no countenance to their request. His answer must have possessed the character of a rebuke not of an encouragement; and to suppose, as is commonly done, that in his reference to Jonah having been so long in the fish’s belly, and his own confinement for a like period in the bowels of the earth, he pointed especially to the safe deliverance in the one case, and the glorious resurrection in the other, as what might in the fullest sense he considered a sign from heaven, is to give a turn to the answer quite unsuited to the occasion. Had such been the purport of our Lord’s allusion and reply, he would have substantially granted what they sought. “One sign only,” he would in that case have promised, to use the language of Calvin, “but that as good as all: with this alone let them be content, that as Jonas, after having escaped from the depths of the sea, preached to the Ninevites, so they also should hear the voice of the prophet raised from the dead.”

It is not to Jonah’s safe deliverance from the belly of the fish, and afterwards doing the work of a prophet, but simply to the fact of his being there before going to Nineveh, that our Lord specially alludes. Nor is it to his own resurrection from the dead, after having been confined for a certain period in its gloomy mansions, and resuming his work of mediatorial agency, that he properly points in reference to himself. He speaks only of his appointed descent into the lower parts of the earth, as a movement to be made by him precisely in the opposite direction to that on which their expectations were turned. “A sign from heaven!” he virtually says to them, “will nothing but that satisfy you that I am the Messiah foretold by the prophets, and as such entitled to your homage and regard? Will you receive no messenger of heaven but one who comes to you recommended by a blaze of supernatural glory, and arrayed in somewhat of the splendour of divine majesty? Your own scriptures, if read aright, might teach you another lesson, and put to shame your incredulity. Jonah, whom you justly reverence as a true prophet, and who was received in that character even by a heathen city, carried with him thither no such attestations as you expect from me; so far from it, he had but newly escaped from that “belly of hell” to which divine justice had sent him for the punishment of sin; yet the Ninevites listened to his preaching, wisely looking more to the truth of his message than to the circumstances of dishonour attending his history. And I so completely do ye misunderstand the nature of my mission, and miscalculate regarding the circumstances that are to mark its execution must pass through a similar, though still deeper, process of humiliation than Jonah. The signs which are to discover themselves in me are to grow darker and not brighter; they are to be derived, not from the heavens above, but from the depths beneath from the very chambers of the dead; yet am I not less on that account the ambassador of heaven nay, surpassing Jonah in the depth of my humiliation, I still more surpass him in the dignity of my character; and the inhabitants of the heathen city, which repented at his preaching, will assuredly rise up in judgment to condemn the impenitence of this generation.”

This, we conceive, is the purport of our Lord’s answer, and the precise object of his reference to Jonah. He meant to tell them, that they were looking in the wrong direction for an undoubted seal of his divine commission; and that the circumstances in which he appeared, and the nature of the work to which he was bound, required that he should bear upon him the signs, not of heavenly splendour, but of profound humiliation. Any other sign any sign such as they expected would have been a false one; it would have given a wrong impression of his character and work, and served to encourage them in the carnal views they cherished respecting the Messiah. He had no want of signs, in the proper sense, to manifest who and what he was; but they were signs which did not so much distinguish his person as reveal his character and work; and when so many wonders of a sanatory and restorative kind had proceeded from his hand, all proclaiming as with a voice from heaven what a blessed work of healing and recovery he had come to do among men, he justly charged them with hypocrisy in not being able to discern the signs of the times, and answered their expectations of a sign from heaven by pledging them a countersign from the heart of the earth.

Then, in the parallel case appealed to, what a striking identity of principle did it present to that of our Lord, notwithstanding the incidental and formal diversities that appeared between them! In both alike, a prophet sent to call a people to repentance yet that prophet himself appearing in a low and friendless condition nay, bearing in such a sense the burden of sin as to receive on account of it the awful visitations of divine wrath, given over to death, and only brought back again by the peculiar operation of God yet all ordered so, as, when rightly considered, not to damage, but incalculably to promote the end in view! In so many particulars do we perceive here that oneness of principle pervading the two cases, which ever constitutes the real connexion between type and antitype. And even some of the non-essential circumstances of the type such as the preservation of Jonah in a sort of tomb under the earth, rather than any other way; his detention there for the period precisely of three days and three nights, or a part of these according to the eastern mode of computation; and the very language he used so literally descriptive of a state of death these merely circumstantial things in the case of Jonah, which look, perhaps, somewhat strange or capricious when viewed simply with reference to himself, have only to be seen in relation to their ultimate design to acquire light and meaning. They were so many distinctive marks in the outward shell of the transaction, to enable the contemporaries of Jesus the more easily to read its hidden import, and descry the more essential lines of resemblance between his case and that of the prophet of Gath-hepher. Happy, if they had but received the instruction, which divine wisdom had thus so long before prepared for their good! But pride with most of them still bore the ascendant. They would not stoop to regard themselves in the condition of Nineveh, as a people needing to repent, or requiring a Messiah who had aught to do with punishment and death; and so, what should have proved a guiding star to the Saviour, stands only as a pillar of witness to condemn their incurable folly and perverseness.

It were well, however, if those persons stood alone in their condemnation. But the error into which they fell, was the natural offspring of a carnal heart; and under other forms it is constantly repeating itself. There are two different ways especially, in which it is often appearing in present times.

1. It appears in those hearers of the gospel, who, instead of looking to the message itself, and applying their hearts faithfully to the things which it sets before them, fix their eye upon something connected with the bearers of it, which differs from their ideas of what is right and proper, and which they deem sufficient to justify them in neglecting the very substance of the message. The doctrines pressed upon their acceptance may be ever so well fitted to command their reverence, and the duties to which they are called may be of the gravest importance and connected with the most pressing obligations but they have some exception to take against the instrument through which the whole is conveyed to them, or the manner in which it is delivered; and on that account they hold themselves excused from taking much thought about the matter. It is not enough for them, that divine truth descends from heaven to present herself to their embrace; she must come attired in the precise form and dress which they conceive suited to her lofty origin, otherwise they will not so much as give her a respectful audience. It is not enough that the call to repent, and to do things meet for repentance, is heard by them, and inwardly responded to by the voice of conscience, as well as enforced by what is most fitted to move and influence the heart if it is not also accredited to their outward senses by becoming signs of honour and authority, they will leave the demand unsatisfied! What preposterous folly in reasonable creatures! As if the shell were more than the kernel it contains or the voice of Heaven were only to be listened to when it falls upon the ear with attractive and winning sounds! Surely when that voice cries, the first and grand consideration should always be, what does it cry not how, with what peculiar tone, or with what attendant circumstances! Let it only meet with a patient hearing, and due regard be paid to the substance of the message, and there will be no occasion to doubt either the nature of the communication, or the quarter from which it proceeds. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.”

2. It is but another form of the same fundamental error which appears sometimes in a total rejection of the claims of the gospel, or in a disavowal of some of its essential parts because not possessing a certain kind or amount of evidence, which is pre-supposed to have been necessary if it had been truly of God. The scribes and Pharisees would not own Christ as a divine messenger on account of the supernatural signs he actually showed, but they professed their readiness to do so if he produced a sign of a different kind a sign from heaven. The mass of the people would not believe in him because he had saved so many from mortal disease and death during the period of his active ministry; but if he could have saved himself from the doom of impending destruction when hanging on the cross, then they would have believed. So the wayward will of man, in its mad controversy with the will of God, is always ready to take exception against the means he graciously employs to overcome it, and pitches upon something else, something of its own, which alone it will regard as satisfactory. It has the audacity of prescribing to its Maker, and, instead of humbly sitting down to weigh the grounds on which he challenges its belief and obedience, it presumptuously insists upon certain terms of its own as indispensable. How could Jesus of Nazareth have been so generally rejected by his own countrymen (certain unbelievers have asked with the view of finding some colour for their unbelief), if he had been manifested among them as the Son of God with power? And if salvation really depended upon the reception of the truths of his gospel, how could it have been confined by a merciful God to so small a portion of mankind, and not communicated to the world at large? Others, again, who would not dispense with the whole gospel, but only with some of its more peculiar doctrines or observances, conceive themselves warranted in rejecting these, because they are not to be found in such portions of Scripture, or do not stand out in so unequivocal and prominent a form as might have been anticipated. But who art thou that wouldst dictate to God how he is to disclose his will, or with what degrees of light and conviction he is to accompany it? The question for thee to consider, in regard to any doctrine revealed or any duty imposed in the word of his gospel, is simply, whether such may not be ascertained to be the mind and will of God by all who are honestly desirous of knowing it. Is there not light clear and satisfactory enough to determine the convictions and direct the course of every one who looks with a single eye to what is before him? It never was God’s intention, in the communication of his truth to man, to render all evasion impossible on the part of such as are inwardly bent on shunning the obligations it brings. Persons of this description will always be able to find some plausible, though shallow, pretext on which to excuse their unwillingness. But such persons, on the other hand, as walk humbly with their God, and are content to look at the signs which he himself has furnished for their guidance and instruction, will find nothing to be wanting that an enlightened faith can require. “For the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk therein; but the transgressors shall fall therein.”

All this, however, it must be remembered, has respect only to one aspect of the Jonah-like sign which our Lord’s history was to present to the men of his generation the descent on his part into the bowels of the earth, and on theirs the necessity of repenting and turning to the Lord. This was the peculiar aspect which the occasions arising in Christ’s ministry, and the general character of the times, naturally led him to bring out most distinctly into view. It is also for the world at large the most important. For, in the work of Christ, all may be said to hinge upon his death; the centre is there, and without it nothing as regards salvation is accomplished, either in the scheme of God or in the experience of man. Apart from this death, the call to repent loses its mightiest argument the exhibition of God’s avenging righteousness in the awful sacrifice of the cross; and even if repentance could be exercised, the most fervent and sincere, it would still be of no avail for the sinner’s restoration to peace and blessing, as without the death of Christ there were no solid ground for him on which to make an acceptable return to God. On this account doubtless it was, that not only, as when a sign from heaven was asked, were suitable occasions readily embraced, but other occasions also, and such as might even seem scarcely suitable ones, were studiously sought to direct men’s thoughts to the death of Jesus, as the event out of which the grand results were to grow for his Church and kingdom. As when, for example, amid the glories of the transfiguration, Moses and Elias made it, though apparently out of place at such a time, the one topic of their discourse with him “they spake of the decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.” Or when, after expelling, on the first occasion, the buyers and sellers from the temple, and a sign being demanded for his authority to interfere in such a manner with the house of God, he said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again,” pointing to the death and resurrection of his own body. Or, once more, when, in the brief discourse that followed the presentation of certain Grecians before him, as recorded in the 12th chapter of John’s gospel, he not only began by declaring, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit;” but afterwards again reverted to the subject in these peculiar and somewhat enigmatical words: “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men to me.” Such allusions beforehand to the death of Jesus can only be accounted for on the supposition of its holding such a pre-eminent place, that it was, so to speak, the grand centre to which every thing previously tended, and out of which the issues of God’s kingdom were afterwards to unfold themselves.

But the other aspect of the sign, its bearing upon the encouragement to repent, and its connexion more immediately with the return of Christ from “the heart of the earth,” his rising again from the dead and ascending to the right hand of God this, though not specially noticed by our Lord in the passages formerly referred to, was certainly not intended to be left out of view. It is plainly included in his being a sign to the Jews such as Jonah was to the Ninevites. And though his pointing to that sign, with the assurance that no other would be given them, might at first seem to betoken only trouble and disaster to his mission, yet the more thoughtful and discerning minds would not fail to discover, on further reflection, that there was also couched under it a promise of encouragement and success far beyond any thing that had hitherto appeared. He was to become to the world the sign that Jonah was to Nineveh only when he entered upon the resurrection-life, and in his name repentance and remission of sins were preached to the people. And hence the great stress laid upon the fact of the resurrection by the first heralds of the gospel, and the wonderful effect produced by it upon those who heard them, not simply because of the proof it afforded of the truth of Christ’s pretensions to be the Son of God, but also and still more from the impressive attestation, the living witness it gave of the placability of God, and of the holy earnestness of his desire that sinners would repent and live. Precisely as in the case of Jonah, though in a manner unspeakably more solemn and affecting, the things that had befallen Jesus, and the condition in which he now presented himself through his ambassadors to the people, were seen to be a most singular and magnificent provision of love on the part of God to reach their consciences, and to avert, ere it might he too late, the doom of condemnation which divine justice had suspended over their heads.

With this resemblance between the two cases, there was, of course, a real and fundamental difference. Jonah’s descent into the deep, and his return again to the land of the living, could at the most operate but as the means of moral suasion upon the minds of the Ninevites; and even in that respect it fell far short of what is contained in the death and resurrection of Christ. But in the case of Christ this instrumental power carries along with it, and is grounded upon, an inherent efficacious virtue. He actually did what Jonah could not be said to do, except in a kind of figurative and shadowy sense bore, in his treatment as an outcast, the burden of their guilt and condemnation whom he was sent to save, and in his resurrection from the dead, became for them the seed-corn of a glorious harvest the wellspring of a new and eternal life like his own. Jesus, dying and descending into the chambers of death, is the sign of God’s judgment flaming out against the transgressions of the guilty; the same Jesus risen and glorified is the sign of mercy rejoicing against judgment, and ready to flow out in streams of life and blessing to the penitent. And the voice that now emphatically comes to awakened souls from the risen and exalted Saviour, speaks in such a strain as this to them, “Believe and live; behold in me the infallible proof that the justice of the Father is satisfied for sin, and that he is willing to bestow everlasting life on all who will enter through repentance and faith into the fellowship of what I have experienced and done; and be assured and doubt not, that wherever the word of salvation is now sent, it is sent to bless you in turning every one of you away from his iniquities.”

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Jonah 2". "Fairbairn's Commentary on Ezekiel, Jonah and Pastoral Epistles". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/fbn/jonah-2.html.
 
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