In “Moses the Type of Christ” John Henry Newman sets forth the life of Moses as a prefiguring of the Messiah, Christ. As Moses leads the Israelites out of the land of Egypt, Christ leads humankind out of the fallen wilderness of sinful nature. Just as Moses sustains the hope of the Israelites in moments of despair, so Christ holds up the broken will of erring human nature. At the same time, however, Newman distinguishes between Moses and Christ. Unlike Moses, Christ is able to see the true presence of God and shares more intimately in union; offers grace and truth in addition to the Law, and never sinned. However, in the last paragraph Newman suddenly redirects his analysis of comparing and contrasting Moses and Christ, and directly exhorts in the second person:
Awake, then, my brethren, with this season, to meet your God, who now summons you from His cross and tomb. Put aside the sin that doth so easily beset you, and be ye holy even as He is holy. Stand ready to suffer with Him, should it be needful, that you may rise together with Him. He can make bitter things sweet to you, and hard ways easy, if you have but the heart to desire Him to do so. He can change the Law into the Gospel. He can, for Moses, give you Himself. He can write the Law on your hearts, and thereby take away the hand-writing that is against you, even the old curse which by nature you inherit. He has done this for many in time past. He does it for many at all times. [131/132] Why should He not do it for you? Why should you be left out? Why should you not enter into his rest? Why should you not see His glory? O, why should you be blotted from his book?” ["Moses the Type of Christ"]
While Newman previously focused on interpreting Moses as a type of Christ, he now seems to exhort the reader and general humanity as a new type of Christ. He encourages “be ye holy even as He is holy,” thereby encouraging through the second person vocative, for all to become a type imaging and imitating Christ. Further, Newman places the personal Self in relation typologically to scripture by alluding to “write the Law on your hearts, and thereby take the handwriting that is against youÉwhy should you be blotted from his book?” Thus, Newman sets up humankind as a type of scripture or tablet, upon which God writes law.
1. “Be ye holy even as He is holy.” Why does Newman suddenly turn from analyzing Moses as a type of Christ, and exhort all humanity in general to be a type of Christ?
2. “He can make bitter things sweet to you.” How is the bitter blood of suffering turned into a sweet wine of saving grace? In the pattern of Christ and Moses, what is the response to suffering?
3. “He can write the Law on your hearts, and thereby take away the handwriting that is against you, even the old curse which by nature you inherit.” Even in the matter of faith and religion, Newman evokes the tension between manÕs civilization and manÕs own nature. In this discourse on faith, why does he bring up the controlled, rational, reasoning, taming voice of writing in opposition to the uncontrolled, overwhelming, and tyrannical voice of nature? What does this add to the discourse of faith?
4. “O why should you be blotted from his book?” For Newman, what is the relationship between writing and faith; between authorship and God; between text and believer?
Last modified 2 February 2011