In working to establish a link between the Old Testament myth of Moses appeasing the thirst of the Israelites with the New Testament Passion of Christ, Melvill establishes exchanges of “hardness” and “salvation.” These discourses establish a process that transforms a stiff legal code into an agent of redemption. The people of Israel are “hard” and stubborn in their refusal to accept God without constant reminders of his power. Their hardness can only be overcome by breaking a different hardness, hence Moses’ task of showing the Israelites a rock that cedes its hardness in favor of life-giving water. Melvill draws this line to illustrate a parallel to Christ. Like the rock, Christ is the “Mediator” between the unwillingness of the people and the salvation they need.

Now you will remember that, soon after the Israelites had come out of Egypt, they were distressed for water in the wilderness, and were so incensed against Moses as to be almost ready to stone him. On this occasion, Moses was directed by God to take the rod, with which he had wrought such great wonders in Egypt, and to smite the rock in Horeb; he did, and forthwith came there out water in abundance. It is generally allowed that this rock in Horeb was typical of Christ; and that the circumstance of the rock yielding no water, until smitten by thereof of Moses, represented the important truth, that the Mediator must receive the blows of the law, before He could be the source of Salvation to a parched and perishing world. [“The Death of Moses”]

Typical here seems to extend its meaning beyond the common parlance of “normal” or “expected.” Melvill uses the word in a further sense — we can tie this to our class discussion of “typical” as corresponding to “typological.” Interestingly, both words have ties to the actual act of “typing,” according to the OED. MelvillŐs paralleling of the Christ and Moses stories with his writing corresponds to his actual use of the words involved. His very act of composing the sermon flowers into the other meanings of the words involved.

Questions

1. Having set up this relationship, what is Melvill’s goal in linking Old and New Testaments? Which one is the primary basis for establishing the relationship?

2. In the later part of the paragraph, Melvill states that God allowed the water supply to fail so that the Israelites would not forget their master. Following the same pattern, what does this piece of the story highlight in terms of the Christ parallels?

3. The word “typical” here seems to be used in a different way than we use it. Is “typical” here really signifying something more. Is the word endowed with some deeper significance given the extent of the parallel?

4. If Christ is the source of water to a “parched world,” what is the reminder of his sacrifice? Is it the church?


Victorian Overview Religion sermons: An
Overview

Last modified 31 January 2011