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the Apostles, during our Lord's ministry, and to the commission they received from him. In regard to the former, he tells them, "To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven;" no secret, relating to this subject, is withheld from you; "but to them it is not given; "" that is, not yet given. For these very Apostles, when commissioned to preach, were not only empowered, but commanded, to disclose to all the world, the whole mystery of God, his secret counsels in regard to man's salvation. And that they might not imagine that the private informations, received from their Master, had never been intended for the public ear, he gave them this express injunction: "What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light. And what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the house tops." He assigns the reason, the divine decree; a topic to which he oftener than once recurs. "There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, and hid that shall not be known. " 8 Again: "There is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad. 9 This may serve to explain to us the import of these phrases which occur in the Epistles, as expressing the whole Christian institution, "the mystery of the gospel, the mystery of the faith, the mystery of God, and the mystery of Christ; " mystery, in the singular number, not mysteries, in the plural, which would have been more conformable to the modern import of the word, as relating to the incomprehensibility of the different articles of doctrine. But the whole of the gospel, taken together, is denominated the mystery, the grand secret, in reference to the silence or concealment under which it was formerly kept; as, in like manner, it is styled the revelation of Jesus Christ, in reference to the publication afterwards enjoined.
7. I signified, before, that there was another meaning which the term mystery sometimes bears in the New Testament. But it is so nearly related to, if not coincident with, the former, that I am doubtful whether I can call it other than a particular application of the same meaning. However, if the thing be understood, it is not material which of the two ways we denominate it. The word is sometimes employed to denote the figurative sense, as distinguished from the literal, which is conveyed under any fable, parable, allegory, symbolical action, representation, dream, or vision. It is plain that, in this case, the term mystery is used comparatively; for, however clear the meaning, intended to be conveyed in the apologue, or parable, may be to the intelligent, it is obscure, compared with the literal sense, which, to the unin
6 Matth. xiii. 41. x. 26, 27.
7 Matth. xxviii. 19. Mark xvi. 15. 9 Mark iv. 22.
telligent, proves a kind of veil. The one is, as it were, open to the senses; the other requires penetration and reflection. Perhaps there was some allusion to this import of the term, when our Lord said to his disciples, "To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but to them that are without all these things are done in parables." 10 The apostles were let into the secret, and got the spiritual sense of the similitude, whilst the multitude amused themselves with the letter, and searched no further.
'In this sense, mystery is used in these words: "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 are the seven churches:" "1 Again in the same book: "I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her," &c. 12 There is only one other passage, to which this meaning of the word is adapted, and on which I shall have occasion to remark afterwards: 13 "This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church. "14 Nor is it any objection to this interpretation of the word mystery here, that the Apostle alluded not to any fiction, but to an historical fact, the formation of Eve out of the body of Adam her husband. For, though there is no necessity that the story which supplies us with the body of the parable or allegory (if I may so express myself,) be literally true; there is on the other hand, no necessity that it be false. Passages of true history are sometimes allegorized by the sacred penmen. Witness the story of Abraham and his two sons, Isaac by his wife Sarah, and Ishmael by his bondwoman Hagar, of which the Apostle has made an allegory for representing the comparative natures of the Mosaic dispensation and the Christian.
Having traced the usage of the word mystery, among the fathers of the Greek and Latin churches, and shown by what means it became perverted from its original sense, Dr. Campbell adds,
13. Before I finish this topic, it is proper to take notice of one passage wherein the word pushgiov, it may be plausibly urged, must have the same sense with that which present use gives to the English word mystery, and denote something which, though revealed, is inexplicable, and, to human faculties, unintelligible. The words are, "Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit,
10 Mark iv. 11. 11 Rev. i. 20. part iii. § 9. 14 Eph. v. 32.
seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." "6 I do not here inquire into the justness of this reading, though differing from that of the two most ancient versions, the Syriac and the Vulgate, and some of the oldest manuscripts. The words, as they stand, sufficiently answer my purpose. Admit then that some of the great articles enumerated, may be justly called mysteries, in the ecclesiastical and present acceptation of the term; it does not follow that this is the sense of the term here. When a word in a sentence of holy writ is susceptible of two interpretations, so that the sentence, whichsoever of the two ways the word be interpreted, conveys a distinct meaning suitable to the scope of the place; and when one of these interpretations expresses the common import of the word in holy writ, and the other assigns it a meaning which it plainly has not in any other passage of Scripture, the rules of criticism manifestly require that we recur to the common acceptation of the term. Nothing can vindicate us in giving it a singular, or even a very uncommon, signification, but that all the more usual meanings would make the sentence involve some absurdity or nonsense. This is not the case here. The purport of the sentence plainly is, Great unquestionably, is the divine secret, of which our religion brings the discovery; "God was manifest in the flesh," &c.
Such is Dr. Campbell's exposition. His remarks are perhaps so conclusive in themselves, that it may seem useless to pursue the subject further. But if we take the pains to consult the several passages (and they are not very numerous,) in which the word mystery occurs in the New Testament, the correctness of his general view will be placed beyond all doubt; and it will appear surprising that the usage in question should ever have been mistaken by men accustomed to read the Scriptures. We shall subjoin a number of examples, sufficient to show what was the habitual sense of the term in the apostolic age.
In the four Gospels, there is, properly speaking, but a single case of its occurrence; for though the word is found in three passages, one in Matthew, another in Mark, and a third in Luke, yet these are parallel texts, belonging to one and the same circumstance as related by the different evangelists. Our Saviour having addressed to the Jews the parable of the sower, his disciples came to him after the multitude had
16 1 Tim. iii. 16.
retired, and asked, 'Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because, it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.'17 Accordingly, he proceeded to explain to their understanding the parable just delivered. Here it is evident, that by the mysteries of the kingdom, or of the gospel, he meant, not incomprehensible doctrines, but those facts and circumstances connected with his religion, which had not yet been plainly announced, but which when once stated were perfectly simple and intelligible. 'Blessed are your eyes,' added Christ, for they see, and your ears, for they hear; for verily I say unto you that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them, and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.' These things had hitherto been kept secret, and in this sense they were called mysteries; but now they were made known to the disciples, though still concealed from the rest of the world. Such is the only occurrence of the term in the four Gospels.
Passing onwards, we meet with it frequently in St. Paul's writings, but nowhere else, except the book of Revelation. The first instance is in that part of the Epistle to the Romans, in which St. Paul unfolds the counsel of God with regard to the Jews, their existing blindness, and especially their future conversion to the gospel. The latter event, so important, seems not to have been anticipated by the Gentile believers; and, after a labored exposition, the apostle says to them, 'I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, (lest ye should be wise in your own conceits,) that—' What? Does he proceed to state some incomprehensible proposition, some doctrine mysterious in the modern sense? No; but,that blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved.'18 This was the mystery, so called; yet it was simply a plain matter of fact, and, though hitherto unknown, was readily understood when announced. The next instance is in the conclusion of the same Epistle: 'Now,' says St. Paul, 'to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the
17 Matt. xiii. 10, &c.; Mark iv. 10, &c.; Luke viii. 9, &c. xi. 25.
world began, but now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith. 19 Here the language is too explicit to need illustration, if we only mark the bearing of those phrases which are connected with the term in question: it had been kept secret since the world began, but was now made manifest, made known, &c., and was therefore called the revelation of the mystery. This passage will aid in discovering the meaning of the word in the next case of its occurrence: We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory; which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.' This mystery, of which the princes of this world had been ignorant, was not only taught by the apostles, but understood by the believers; for, adds St. Paul, though neither eye, nor ear, nor heart, hath perceived the things prepared for them that love God, yet God hath revealed them unto us by his spirit. 20 The mystery consisted simply in the circumstance of their not having been made generally known. Omitting one or two examples, in which there is no such phraseology connected with the word as defines its meaning, we give the following expression from St. Paul's remarks on the impropriety of addressing the church in an unknown tongue, except through an interpreter: He that speaketh in an unknown tongue, speaketh not unto men, but unto God, for no man understandeth him; howbeit, in the spirit he speaketh mysteries,' 21 that is, his subject remains of course a secret with himself, so long as he speaks only in an unknown language. Again: while laboring with the Corinthians to convince them of the resurrection of the dead, St. Paul exclaims, 'Behold, I show you a mystery we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump.' 22 This was a mystery, a fact which had not been heretofore known, but which was brought to light through the gospel; it was a fact of which even the Christians at Corinth were till that time ignorant, and were then to be informed by the apostle. To the Ephesians he says, God hath made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good
19 Rom. xvi. 25, 22 1 Cor. xv. 51.
20 1 Cor. ii. 7 - 10.
211 Cor. xiv. 2.