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were spectators of the fact, the apostles addressed themselves in a powerful discourse to those who were present; the lame man still cleaving to them, and standing by them as a witness: and thus they made some thousands of converts to the word of the gospel. But behold, the Sadducees were grieved at the doctrine of the resurrection, though preached with all the force of truth from their own scriptures, and attended with the credential of an indisputable miracle; which only vexed and distressed them the more. At Athens, the philosophers of the place, proud of their Grecian talent for oratory and disputation, considered the matter of Paul's preaching merely as a new thing, which gave them an opportunity of questioning and wrangling. Some called him a babbler; some said they would hear him again; some mocked at the resurrection of the dead; while Dionysius, one of their senators, Damaris, and some others, clave unto them and believed: in other words, they received the gospel with that faculty of the spirit, which alone is susceptible of it. Till there is in man the sense which receiveth these things, the book which treats of them will not be understood.If they are rejected, we must conclude this sense to be wanting: and when that is the case, the evidence of a miracle will not force its way through the hardness of the human heart. Some speculative writers have treated of credibility and probability, and the nature, and force, and degrees, of evidence, as if we had rules for weighing all truth to a single grain with mechanical certainty: whereas in fact, man, with all his boasted balancings of reason, can resist a proof that would confound a devil. Compare the following examples: The Jews said, “ as for this fel“ low we know not whence he is.” The devils said,
" I know thee who thou art, the holy one of God." The Jews said, that Christ cast out devils through Belzebub their prince: but the devils never said so themselves. The sun of the noon-day shines without
the blind, because the proper sense is wanting : so saith the Evangelist, the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not. Vicious inclinations and habits of sin, which render truth disagreeable, are sure to have the effect of weakening and perverting the judgment : this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. The understanding of truth implies a love of truth; and the understanding will be deficient so long as that love is wanting. None are so blind as they who are so by choice; that is to say, the ignorant are never found to be so absurd as the disaffected. The word of God is in itself all-sufficient for the illumination of the mind; it is a seed, quick and vigorous with the principles of life; but, like other seeds, it must find something congenial with itself in the soil into which it falls. The word spoken did not profit the Jews, because it was not mixed with faith in them that heard it; there was nothing in the soil to give it nourishment and growth.
The distinction which the scripture hath made between natural and spiritual men ; 'that is, between men that have faith and men that have none, is agreeable to what hath been observed from the beginning of the world; that there have been two classes of people, all sprung from the same original, but totally different in their views, principles, and
Before the flood, they were distinguished as the children of Cain, and the children of Seth;
the latter of whom inherited the faith of Abel. After the flood we find them again under the denomination of Hebrews and Heathens. In the gospel they appear to us as the children of this world, and the children of light: the former cunning and active in their generation for the interests of this life, the other wise towards God and the things of eternity. These two run on together, like two parallel lines, through the history of this world: always near to one another, but never meeting. Whoever considers this fact, will not be at a loss for a reason, why the wisdom of God in the scripture is so differently accepted in the world.
Having thus endeavoured to shew that the scripture must have its difficulties, and whence they arise; we shall obtain some farther light, if we enquire what the scripture hath said concerning itself.
The great apostle thus distinguishes between the language of revelation, and the words of human wisdom. “ We speak the wisdom of God in a mys
tery, even the hidden wisdom—which none of the princes of this world knew ; for had they known
' “ it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." By which he means, that the priests and
. rulers who stood up against the Lord, did so for want of understanding that sense of the scripture which is hidden under the signs and symbols of it, in a way totally different from the wisdom of this world, and which the natural man can neither see nor admit. The word mystery, in a vulgar acceptation, is applied to such things as are dark and unintelligible: but to speak in a mystery, as the phrase is
1 Cor. ii. 14.
used in the scripture, is to reveal some sacred and heavenly doctrine under some outward and visible sign of it: and thus the sacraments of the church being outward signs with an in ward and spiritual meaning, are also to be understood as mysteries. This sense of the word mystery is ascertained by that passage in the revelation; the mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches; and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. "To signify a church holding forth the light of the gospel, by that domestic instrument of illumination which holds a candle; and to signify a ruler or teacher by a star which gives light from the firmament of heaven, is to speak under the form of a mystery; which is not necessarily unintelligible, because it is here explained. So in another place; this is a great mystery, saith the apostle, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. To teach us the union betwixt Christ and the church, for the bringing forth of sons to glory, under the similitude of Adam and Eve united in Paradise for the multiplying of mankind upon earth, is also to speak in a mystery. The sorceress in the Revelation*, who is called by the name of Babylon, hath the word MYSTERY inscribed with that name upon her forehead; because Babylon is there not literal, but figurative or mystical, to denote that abomination of idolatry, by the sorceries of which all nations were deceived t: she sitteth on a scarlet-coloured beast, supported by the imperial powers of this world, called, the kings of the earth: and the wine in her cup is the false doctrine with which she intoxicates the minds of men.
* Chap. xvii.
+ Chap. xii. 23.
This hidden wisdom of the scripture is to be considered as treasure hid in the earth, for which men must search with that same zeal and labour with which they penetrate into a mine of gold: for when our Saviour commands us to search the scriptures for their testimony of himself, the language of the precept implies that kind of searching by which gold and silver are discovered under ground. He who doth not search the word of God in that manner, and with that spirit, for what is to be found underneath it, will never discover its true value. The same principle is inculcated with a like allusion, when the divine law is compared to honey and the honeycomb; an inward sense being therein hidden, as when the bee seals up its treasure in the cells of wax: and the one when taken out is as sweet to the understanding as the other is to the palate. It is also as the corn in the husk, which must be taken from thence by the labour of the ox on the threshing floor, (as the custom was of old) before it can support the life of
As the disciples of Christ plucked the ears of corn, and rubbed them in their hands on the sabbath day, so should every christian preacher handle the word of God before it can give nourishment to their hearers. The labour of the ministry is certainly alluded to in that precept relating to the threshing floor, thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn: for the apostle seems to wonder how any could be so absurd as to suppose that God considered nothing but the benefit of the beast on this occasion; as if he had care of oxen, when he undoubtedly meant to assign the reward, and signify the work of his ministers, who labour in the word and doctrine. It is the work of the ministry to expound the word of God, as the labouring ox in the threshing