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"I know thee who thou art, the holy one of God." The Jews said, that Christ cast out devils through Beelzebub their prince: but the devils never said so themselves. The sun of the noon-day shines without effect upon 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 manners. 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 mystery, 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 inward 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 deceivedt: 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.
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 man. 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
floor treadeth out the grain from the chaff: and as the ox is not muzzled at such a time, but partakes freely of the fruits of his labour; so by parity of justice, they who preach the word have a right to live of it.
That there is both a plain and a figurative sense in the language of the scripture, particularly in the law, is clear from the Apostle's reasoning on another occasion. He gives a name to each of these, distinguishing them under the contrary terms of the letter and the spirit: which terms are not unfrequently applied in the language of civil life to the laws of the land, in which there is a literal sense of the words, and a deeper sense of their general intention, called the spirit, which the letter cannot always reach.
The letter of the scripture is applied to the outward institutions and ceremonies of the law, as they stand in the words of the law without their interpretation: the spirit of them, or the intention of the law-giver, is the same with the doctrine of the new Testament, called elsewhere the good things to come, of which the law had an image and shadow. In its washings and purifications we see the doctrine of baptism; that is, of regeneration by water and the Spirit of God *. In its sacrifices we see the necessity and efficacy of Christ's death once for all. Had it not been necessary for man to be born of the Spirit, and redeemed by the blood of Christ, the law would not have troubled the people with washings and sacrifices; for in that case they would have signified nothing, and consequently would have been superfluous and impertinent: whereas if we take them right, the services of the law are the gospel in figu
* Ezek. xxxvi. 25.