The fulness of blessing

by Sarah Frances Smiley

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The Creation Concept

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I. The land of Promise

II. The failure of unbelief

III. Change of Leadership

IV. The Boundary Line

V. The Triple Preparation

VI. The Ark of the Covenant

VII. Memorial Stones

VIII. The Reproach of Egypt

IX. The Passover in Canaan

X. The New Corn And Fruit of the Land

XI. Seeing The Captain

XII. The Good Fight of Faith

XIII. Failure and Mistakes

XIV. Choice Possessions

XV. The Last Charge of Joshua

The fulness of blessing


The gospel of Christ as illustrated from the book of Joshua

by Sarah Frances Smiley
Hodder and Stroughton, London.




Sarah F. Smiley in 1872MUSICIANS tell us that the quality of the voice in song depends upon its overtones; that is, the accordant notes which are heard sounding faintly above the fundamental tones. It is the same peculiarity which gives the silvery ring to some voices in speech. And so as we listen to the voices of the Law and of the Prophets, we find a wondrous, and, to some, a mysterious charm. But the ear that has been trained by the same master-skill that taught their lips, solves the secret of the spell, and catches with delight through the deep thunder utterances the glad over-tones of the coming Gospel. They could not rise so high as to utter its loftiest truth; but they reached on to this, and this, the Spirit, speaking through them, signified. Alas! that for so many it was signified in vain--for the dull of mind became sluggish of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.

It is a somewhat astonishing folly that stands charged to the saints, that so many who have essayed to expound the Word of God, have, in the very outset, and, as a matter of principle, flung away that key which can alone unlock its most intricate wards. The sequel has been too often, that they fell into the same ditch of ignorance with the confessedly blind whom they professed to lead. Until a period comparatively recent, and not yet fully inaugurated, the majority of English and American expositors have ignored the typical teaching of the Old Testament, some of them even denouncing all such interpretations not fully sanctioned by the later Scriptures. [1] With all that erudition to which we owe so much, they yet have missed a treasure which God, even in hiding, brought often to the surface, that the eager and earnest might track its deeper veins.

Along with some happy exceptions to this statement, there have been others who erred by an opposite extreme. Among the latter may be numbered not a few of the early Christian writers. These first explorers of the rich mines brought up such a mixture of metals as was beyond their skill to assay, and so mingled fact and fancy as to cast discredit upon their work. And yet, along with every great revival of Evangelical Truth, these mines have been re-opened, if only for random research.

Meanwhile, all along these centuries, a mass of simple Christian believers, escaping the dicta of the wise and prudent, have been steadily and instinctively applying this typical teaching to their own needs. At least the babes, who were never sent to school, have kept this knowledge which their Father gave them; [2] and as the most childlike simplicity is always close of kin to the most profound wisdom, we see at last the highest scholarship, and especially German scholarship, on the side of these little ones. The prominence given of late both to unfulfilled prophecy and unexplained type, is only the due honoring of the claim that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable." That God has chosen to teach us in such a way--by patterns, types, and symbols, among all His divers manners, is enough of itself to justify its wisdom. It is the skill of the master, who has a further aim than to make all things as easy as possible to the learner. He has given us Holy Scripture, not to read merely, but to search.

Such teaching is analogous to another which began with Creation, when God let His invisible things be clearly seen and understood by the things which He made, giving to the world, even in the Primer of Nature, such lessons as left it without excuse if it knew Him not. And having filled one volume with the living letters by which men should spell out the words of Truth, it was but fitting that human life, as wrought out in History, should be another for still aigher study: that laws and customs, arts and events, as arranged by God, should all be a revelation of Himself. And such the Scriptures assert them to be. [3]

"Which things are an allegory," [4] is the simple statement of St. Paul respecting the two sons of Abraham, the one by a bond-woman, the other by a free-woman--although in the history itself not a hint of the kind is given. Again, concerning a variety of events, he twice asserts that "these things happened unto them for types." [5] He does not even treat them as events first occurring, and then found afterward to convey a useful lesson, but he boldly traces an "intent" of God in permitting them so to happen, and then preserving their record for the lesson's sake. [6] Yet this is the very point upon which we find such peculiar sensitiveness. Use, it is said, if it so please you, these historical incidents, and apply them as illustrations of truth. But do not call them types. Think your own profitable thoughts, but do not suggest that God had any such thoughts. Are we, then, really more quick-sighted and far-sighted than the Spirit, who "searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God?" Whatever of truth we see in any of these words of Inspiration we may be sure that He placed there, in order that we might see it.

Again, when it is said that "these things were types," they seem selected as examples and not as exceptions. Indeed, in the constant use of the Old Testament by our Lord and His Apostles, regarding its spirit rather than its letter--what it implies more than what it asserts, determining the nature of events more by their seed than by leaf or flower--we find the law of their true interpretation to be not literalness, but liberty. [7] And taking this ground themselves as highest authorities, they do not forbid us to follow; on the contrary, it seems everywhere suggested that we should trace out these clews. "Have ye not read?" was the usual query of Jesus in drawing profound inferences from the simplest statements His words imply, "Have ye not read it thus? Ye also should have seen its meaning as I do. How is it that ye do not understand?"

The Types of the Bible lie like so many island groups in the wide sea of Truth. The mainland of each, with many another isle, has been put upon our chart by the pen of inspiration. But all the little islets that lie clustering around are for us to explore. Nor have we to launch out into a far-off ocean. Our simple task is but to reach them from the shores discovered for us. The remotest of them shall hardly take us out of sight of land. Nor are we sent out adrift upon such new discoveries. As true as the needle to the pole-star, though that star be hidden, so does the Spirit ever point to Christ, even when we see Him not. And greater than that gift of the magnet to the voyager, was the promise to the souls of all that seek after God, "He will guide you into the whole truth." [8] All Scripture presupposes the light by which alone it can be truly read. Surely, it was not for a brief moment only that Jesus opened the understanding to "understand the Scriptures." There would seem to be a misapprehension of the very genius of Christianity among those who profess such alarm, lest venturing beyond that interpretation of Scripture given in itself, we should go utterly astray. There are and must needs be perils in all liberty. But they who, from unhallowed fear, forego the liberty, only fall into worse perils.

God, who gave us His Holy Spirit, has provided still further against danger in His promised gift of "a sound mind." Again, we have a safeguard in that important authority established in the Scriptures-- the consenting judgment of the Church. Making all due allowance for the Church in her aphelion, and the dim sight of many in her brightest hours, yet that which fails finally to commend itself to the children of God whose lives are richest in experience, must be delusive. [9]

But, it is objected, such license would flood us with a vast variety of interpretations, in itself a plain proof of error. This shallow argument is met by the Scriptures themselves. In the free use of this great store of types, the same figure does service in more than one direction; as, for instance, the Temple finds one fulfilment in Christ, another in the Church, and yet is fearlessly applied to the very body of an individual believer. [10] In fact, it appears to be a prominent feature of this whole plan of typical teaching, not to give us framed pictures, but a series of dissolving views.

Especially does St. Paul, in his use of the types and symbols of the Old Testament, take delight in turning them round and round, like so many bright fragments in a kaleidoscope. He breaks up suddenly a perfectly harmonious arrangement to give us a new combination, and so on with variations that seem simply inexhaustible. How can we but draw the inference that so our interpretation gives us a harmonious picture in full accord with Truth as otherwise revealed, we have in it a right lesson, though very possibly not the richest.

No one eye can ever, by itself, see all that God has thus taught us. No more can any one sect, nation, or age. There is needed for this the grand universality of the One Church, and the unity of the One Spirit. Only, with all the saints, shall we be able to comprehend the breadth, and length, and depth, and height. In the great Body of the Church it is with our vision as with the eyes of so many insects. The organ is composite, and the many thousands of little eyes are grouped upon a convex surface; and while the range of each is thus more limited than is the human eye, the field of vision, as a whole, is greatly widened. Nor is there really any lack to each, since equally with ours the vision is a unit. It is easy to accept the limitations of our own individual insight of Truth, as we find our gain in the widest sympathy with others. Each of us set to gather into a perfect focus some one aspect of Truth, we are bound to impart this, while we receive in return all the other aspects. To have the vision complete--to sweep over the whole range of revelation, we need the eyes of all the ages, of all nationalities, of all true creeds, of all temperaments--the eyes of youth and of age, the eyes of the unlettered and the learned. There is good ground to hope that in the Christianizing of Oriental nations, one of our greatest gains will result from their clearer insight into symbolic teaching.

There is a still larger class of objectors who are ready to admit the value of typical teaching in a general way, but who feel the strongest repugnance to its interpretation in detail. For instance, they regard the Jewish sacrifices on the whole, as pointing to Christ. But the attempt to find significance in the minute arrangements of that ritual, they regard as simply contemptible. Does it ever enter into their thoughts that they are in danger of despising, not man, but God? If it be puerile to seek a meaning in them, why were they written by Inspiration, and why was so large a space assigned them? Yet it does not seem to us unworthy of the scientist to sit patiently before the tiniest thing in nature, and with his microscope, examine the most exquisite and skilful touches of the finger of God. He is perfectly sure that everything has a meaning, and he toils on to its discovery. [11] And is, then, God's Word so inferior to His other works, that, like man's work, it can not bear this close inspection? Such, surely, is not the relative position which is claimed for it in the Word itself. Nor need we make an abatement from this claim from the fact that it is not, like nature, purely the work of God, but in part the work of man; since at least to the full extent of human imperfection, both in its origin and transmission, are human research and enlightened Christian judgment allowed to enter now.

But, again, the general objection to such interpretation falls with double force upon the histories of the Old Testament. Yet these, as we have already seen, are so interpreted in the New Testament. And one may well ask what such readers find in these portions that is spiritually "profitable." Nor can we be surprised at their frequent though half-reluctant admission of dullness, and a corresponding slight put upon this part of the Bible. Nor does the evil end here. As histories only, many of these events seem so unimportant, so repugnant even to our tastes, that it is no rare thing to find the germs of doubt and scepticism springing freely up in such waste and untilled soil.

No better instance of this can be selected than the Book of Joshua, which will be used as the historical basis for the teaching attempted in this volume. It is almost purely historical; and, to some, simply a book of bloody battles and a geographical description of the divisions of the land of Canaan, with here and there a few lessons of faith, and courage, and kindred virtues. And if this, indeed, be all, then it may as well be openly said, as so often secretly thought, ministering far less to our spiritual needs than many an uninspired volume of Christian devotion. There is no refuge from the scepticism that assails the Scriptures save in their more spiritual study.

But approaching this same Book of Joshua with faith in that clear statement, "Now these things happened unto them for types," and reading it as a history indeed, but, at the same time, so anticipating the history of our own hearts as to be an allegory-- we see now before us a Picture, the grandest in its proportions--the most life-like in its groupings--the most striking in its wealth of coloring--and the most skilful in its quiet touches, of any that God has given us in this Royal Art Gallery of Truth. There is significance even in the very place where the Picture is hung. We have gone through the Pentateuch--we are well out of this shadowy vestibule of the Law, and at once the advancing eye is met by this grand representation of the Gospel. In this Book we find that the failure is over, and the victory begins. Anticipation becomes realization.

Moreover, it is that Book in our Bible which, more than any other, presents and powerfully illustrates that range of truth which, as by a subtle consent, is attracting the eyes of all Christendom; which has taken to itself many names--as many as its mountain peaks--but which, as a whole, is covered by one matchless expression of St. Paul, "The fulness of the blessing of [the Gospel of] Christ." [12]

It is, indeed, in the awakening of the Church to the clearer recognition of this blessing, that the key is recovered to the right interpretation of the Book of Joshua. To those who have seen Heaven, but no intervening Heavenlies--a rest that remaineth, but no rest which the believer now enters--it was perfectly natural that Canaan should signify Heaven, and Jordan be simply the river of death. If this were true, there would be little else to be said. There could be no consistent typical meaning in the warfare which followed. Besides, such an application could make nothing of the command to enter the land; the failure to do so, and the consequent anger of God. In fact, it passes by entirely the very points which are so clearly interpreted for us in the New Testament.

One of the ablest of modern writers upon this subject, [13] after a masterly review of the Exodus, upon reaching the wilderness wanderings, thus disposes of them: "The inevitable falling off of the common hours and experiences, from the level of the moments when our life gets up into the world which was made to be its home, seems to me to be the great teaching of this passage of Israel's history." Happily a higher authority has given us a different teaching. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, we read, "So we see that they could not enter in" (not because it was inevitable, but) "because of their unbelief." To carry on such an interpretation into the Book of Joshua, were to lose, almost entirely, the warnings, the encouragements, and the manifold lessons which fill its pages. Of course, too little is left to make it an attractive field; so that, in fact, it is represented by little more than a few fragmentary volumes in English Exegesis. [14]

In these pages it is by no means a commentary, and scarcely an exposition, which is attempted; but rather the unfolding of that Truth which is signified both there and elsewhere. The great theme of victory through faith which is here opened has many parts. The Divine Epic which begins in History, reappears in the Psalms as Poetry, in Isaiah as Prophecy, in the teaching of Jesus as the highest of all Philosophy; and, finally, in the Epistles as Experience. So that if proper light is allowed to fall upon our Picture, it must be freely borrowed from the other portions of Scripture. The outline of the subject is so distinctly sketched, however, in the history, as to require little change.

The Book of Joshua would seem to be the special heritage of this generation. The mists that have hung so long around the hills, are rolling off, and many are lifting up rejoicing eyes to see how much more lies beyond them of Christian possibility than they had thought to reach. Surely the day in which we live is one of those set times in which God favors Zion. But while He thus dispels the darkness and gives us clearer light, so that things once unseen or dimly seen, now shine as the day, there may be, with not a few, a personal hindrance remaining;--a veil not taken away in the reading of the New Testament. As the Israelite's veil kept him from seeing to the end of that which was commanded, so may the Christian's veil keep him from seeing to the end of that which is promised. No struggles of our own, no possible straining of our intellectual vision, can meet this difficulty. "Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away."

Meanwhile, working in harmony with the Word and promises of God, there lies a vast power in Christian testimony to convince even veiled eyes of the privileges that await them. It is not often wise for such a testimony to put its own experience in the foreground; and yet without such experience there could be no true testimony or even right knowledge. He who lays the scene of his story in a land of which he has only read and heard, will, with all his care, be sure to betray his ignorance. If he has only visited it, this also will appear. Even as a dweller in the land, there may still be local discrepancies to be detected.

She who ventures in these pages to describe the Land of Blessing, so far as her feet have walked its length and breadth, has found it everywhere a good and glorious land; and she can only hope that what her eyes have missed, or seen mistakenly, will find other and wiser witnesses. She gives this as her simple contribution to the comprehension of all saints.

It is her comfort to consider that it is not theory acutely thought out for which the Church of Christ is now longing, but practical truth, and to know alike from experience and observation that there is a Truth which, whether philosophically discerned or not, can yet assert its living power in the hearts of the humblest, and against all odds of nature. If others shall find in these pages a joy in the least proportionate to that which she has found in their preparation, it will be to her an unspeakable reward.


1. For a list of authors adopting this view, see Fairbairn on the Typology of Scripture, pp. 37, 39. He quotes the following from Moses Stuart: "Just so much of the Old Testament is to be accounted typical as the New Testament affirms to be so, and no more.'' He adds this comment upon such a system: "It drops a golden principle for the sake of avoiding a few lawless aberrations...And in proportion as a more profound and spiritual acquaintance with the Divine Word is cultivated, will the feeling of dissatisfaction grow in respect to a style of interpretation that so miserably dwarfs end cripples the relation that the preparatory bears to the ultimate in God's revelations."

Dean Alford deals more summarily with the system: "Of course no one who reads, marks, learns, and inwardly digests the Scriptures, can subscribe to the shallow and ignorant dictum of Macknight. 'This is to be laid down as a fixed rule, that no ancient history is to be considered allegorical but that which inspired persons have interpreted allegorically.'"--The Greek Testament, by Henry Alford, D.D. Fourth Ed. Vol. III., p. 48.

2. "The real secret of the neglect of the types, I can not but think, may, in part, be traced to this--that they require more spiritual intelligence than many Christians can bring to them. To apprehend them, requires a certain measure of spiritual capacity and habitual exercise in the things of God, which all do not possess for want of abiding fellowship with Jesus. The mere superficial glance upon the Word in these parts, brings no corresponding idea to the mind of the reader. The types are, indeed, pictures, but to understand the pictures it is necessary we should know something of the reality. The most perfect representation of a steam-engine to a South Sea savage, would be wholly and hopelessly unintelligible to him simply because the reality, the outline of which was presented to him, was something hitherto unknown. But let the same drawing be shown to those who have seen the reality, such will have no difficulty in explaining the representation. And the greater the acquaintance with the reality, the greater will be the ability to explain the picture."-- The Law of the Offerings, by Andrew Jukes, p. 6.

3. Rev. Hugh Macmillan ("The Garden and the City") speaks of "that subtle organization of Scripture, which must strike every exegete, and which, like the organization of nature, presents from every new point of view new harmonies of form and detail." Again, speaking of the resemblances of Scripture and the manifold combinations resulting: "The whole typology of Scripture is founded upon this law of mutual resemblance. The study of Scripture derives from it much of its charm and interest, for each special aspect of Divine truth can be perfectly combined with every other. Nay, more, the whole scheme of nature, the whole history of life is based upon the law in question...All things, according to the poet, by a law divine, mingle in one another's being. And if the discovery of profound resemblances of form and analogies of structure, where others see only wide divergencies and palpable contrasts, be to the naturalist one of the purest of his pleasures, inasmuch as it brings him into contact with the Great Mind of the universe in whose image he was made; so over the so of the Bible student there creeps a feeling of increasing joy and wonder at the fulness and subtlety of the connection by which each part of the Scriptures is bound to all the others--for this is the highest proof of its inspiration and of its fitness for gathering together all things in heaven and earth into One, even in Him who is the Truth and the Life, the Beginning and the End."-- See Introduction, p. xxxix.-xlvi.

4. Gal. iv. 24. "The lesson to be drawn from this whole passage, as regards the Christian use of the Old Testament, is of an importance which can scarcely be overrated."- Conybeare and Howson's Life and Epistles of St. Paul.

5. Cf. 1 Cor. x. 6; 1 Cor. x. 11.

6. "Every moment it becomes a more serious question whether this language [of Hebrew ideas and imagery] is to be allowed for as inaccurate in itself, but under the circumstances of the case inevitable, or whether it is to be insisted on as the method prepared in the purpose of God for the most adequate expression of spiritual truth. The question was, indeed, decided by the two facts, that the Old Covenant itself was a Divine ordinance, and that its historical relations with the New Covenant were a Divine provision. Still, it was of high importance to the clearness and fixedness of the doctrine, that this connection between the two covenants should be deliberately shown to consist not in rhetorical illustration, but in a divinely-intended system of analogies. This is the permanent office of the Epistle to the Hebrews It expressly recognizes the fact that "the word of the beginning of Christ" had been enlarged by intervening teaching into a "perfection," which many of those who are here addressed had sinfully and shamefully failed to receive; the teachers sent from God having wrought out for them full expositions of truth, to which their old prepossessions had closed their hearts. And it exhibits the further fact that this perfecting of the truth by the fullest definite interpretation of the principles of the Gospel, had been accomplished by means of the true reading of the Old Testament in the light of the knowledge of Christ."--Progress of Doctrine in the New Testament--Bampton Lectures, by Thomas Dehany Bernard, p. 170.

7. "The existence of an abiding spiritual sense underlying the literal text of the Old Testament, is sufficiently attested by the quotations in the New. Unless it be recognized, many of the interpretations of the Evangelists and Apostles must appear forced and arbitrary; but if we assume that it exists, their usage appears to furnish an adequate clew to the investigation of its most intricate mazes."-- Westcott's Introduction to the Study of the Gospels, p. 63.

8. In this, as in all other quotations from Holy Scripture in this volume, wherever our present version at all obscures the meaning, free use has been made of others, as well as of the original. Except in a few instances, it has not seemed needful to credit the special authority or to indicate the change.

9. We are forced to recognize the extent to which the judgment of the Church is responsible, from what we know of the collection of the Canon. In an extremely suggestive volume by the late Frederick Myers, his thoughts upon the latter subject will also apply to the one before us. I copy from the edition printed for private circulation only, though the work has since been published: "No event has exercised greater influence on the character of the Church of Christ than the existence ot the Christian Scriptures, and yet no event was less apparently miraculous as contra-distinguished from providential. It was, it must be repeated, a result of the exercise of that enlightened and sanctified spiritual judgment which is the special continuous endowment of all ages of the Church; which, if duly honored, would be found equal to great tasks always, and which, if unduly dishonored, will be found to leave us in difficulties which will be o also dangers. This case of the Christian Canon is a case in point. For, if none but a literal line and measure of Canonicity will be accepted, in this case there is none forthcoming; if Christian tact and discerning of spirit be despised, there is nothing which remains in their stead."--Catholic Thoughts on the Bible and Theology, 1841-1848, p. 52.

10. Dr. Farrar, in his Life of Christ, speaks of this "many-sided symbolism" of some of the acts of Jesus. See Vol. II., p. 216.

11. As an instance of this, see a strong statement of Darwin as quoted by the Duke of Argyle in his "Reign of Law." It is taken from a work entitled "The various contrivances by which British and foreign Orchids are fertilized by Insects." By Chas. Darwin, F.R.S. London, 1862. "The strange position of the Labellum perched on the summit of the column, ought to have shown me that here was the place for experiment. I ought to have scorned the notion that the Labellum was thus placed for no good purpose. I neglected this plain guide, and, for a long time, completely failed to understand the flower,'' p. 262.

12. "The Gospel of" is omitted in the best MSS.

13. James Baldwin Brown, "The Soul's Exodus and Pilgrimage."

14. In one of these few works, it is only upon the last page of its Appendix that we find how far the author has seen beyond the limits to which he restricted his comments.

"Nor can we ignore the lessons which come to us through a symbolism which we are taught by the Apostle Paul and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. We see, not as a poetic imagination, but as a heavenly instruction, the entrance into Canaan symbolizing the believer's entrance into rest, not the rest of heaven, but the rest which, even here, he has in Jesus Christ. We see that in this rest he may be disturbed by his own lack of faith, the results of which failure will be thorns in his side, and that only by a complete commitment of himself to the will of God will his rest be made perfect. We see, moreover, how our Joshua (Jesus) is the sole guide to this rest, so that as Jesus is both priest and sacrifice, both foundation and builder, so is He both the Rest and the Guide to it. In the light of the New Testament, this Book of Joshua will prove full of spiritual comfort and edification to every seeking believer. God has placed it in the Canon, not to praise Joshua or Israel, but to teach and bless His dear people to the end of time."--Expository Notes on the Book of Joshua, by Howard Crosby.