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THE MYSTERIES OF REVELATION.
he has life, simply because he can no more tell
what life is, than he can unfold tke mysteries of No. I.
the Gospel ? By The Rev. Marcus Dods,
We may safely conclude, therefore, that no man Minister of the Scotch Church, Belford.
rejects any truth of the Gospel simply because It is often objected to Christianity, that it con- it is mysterious, because there is no man who fains mysteries, and it is unreasonable to call upon does not cordially believe, nay, who would not a man to believe what he does not understand. hold it absolute insanity to doubt, many things Besides, it is urged, that as the Gospel professes which are quite as mysterious as any announceto be a revelation, nothing can be more incon- ment which the Gospel contains. sistent with such a profession, than the putting This single remark is a complete reply to the forth of what is confessedly too mysterious to be objection ; and were its refutation the only object capable of being apprehended.
that I have in view, I should not deem it necesThe objection is so very easily answered, that it sary to add another word. But we may go farwould hardly be necessary to give even a formal ther, and remark, in the next place, that in a restatement of the proper reply to it, were it not velation from heaven, mysteries are unavoidable. that, as some are weak enough to put it forth, All truths, at least all moral truths, are inseparaothers may be weak enough to rely upon it. Be- bly linked together. There is no truth of this sides, the objection sometimes acquires a force and kind which stands solitary and unconnected with an importance which do not naturally belong to it, others. Now, in consequence of this connection, from the injudicious way in which it is attempted when a clear view of any particular truth is comto be set aside.
municated to us, we necessarily obtain a view, In reply to the objection, it may be remarked, more or less distinct, of the truths which stand in in the first place, that all things are, to a certain the nearest connection with it. But we get only extent, mysterious, and that all men believe mys- a partial glimpse of these truths, as it is not the teries. We are surrounded on every hand by ob- object of the revelation to communicate to us a jects which effectually baffle every attempt to com- knowledge of them. They appear only incidenprehend them. Yet no man dreams of making this tally,-a
-are seen only so far as their connection incomprehensibility a reason for denying the ex- with the truth, which it is the design of revelation istence or the reality of these objects. We are to communicate, makes them known, but beyond ourselves a mystery to ourselves. How two things this are left dim and indistinct,-faintly seen and of so opposite a nature, as a material body and an partially comprehended. immaterial soul, should combine together to form It may, perhaps, be said, Why should not the one person,-how these are united, and how they truths, thus incidentally and partially brought into cperate on one another, are quite as mysterious view, be fully cleared up, even though the knowand incomprehensible as any thing that the Gos- | ledge of them should not be necessary, that thus pel requires us to believe. Yet, who on that ac- mystery may be avoided ? But then a full elucicount pretends to deny or to doubt the reality of dation of these truths would bring other trutlis them? Our very existence is a mystery. For partially into view, so that we would thus get what is life? Where does it reside ? or, how does quit of one set of mysteries only to be introduced it operate? These are questions which no man into another set of them ; unless, indeed, it were has ever yet been able to answer, and probably no possible to go on and exhaust all truth,—that is, man ever will be able to answer them,—able to unless it were possible for us to become as wise tell us what is that mysterious agent which works as the Omniscient. Mysteries, therefore, were within us, and without which we should cease to altogether unavoidable in giving a revelation ; and exist. Yet, was any man ever found so utterly mysteries there must for ever be. wild as to doubt his own existence, because it is The truths necessary for our salvation have to him utterly incomprehensible, or to deny that been clearly revealed. In the revelation of them,
other truths have been incidentally brought into | is the fact, which we may believe
upon competent view, but have been left in obscurity. It is not evidence, while that which is mysterious in the because they are of less importance than those inatter, is the manner how they are connected with, which have been revealed, but because they are of and operate upon each other; and with regard to less importance to us in our present circumstances. this we know nothing, and are required to believe A star which we can hardly see, from which we nothing ; the very same thing is true of any Scripderive no perceptible advantage, and which, for ture mystery. The union of two natures in one any concern that we have in it, might be extin- person, in Christ, for example, is doubtless a great guished without apparent loss, may, in reality, be mystery. But the fact we may believe
upon comquite as important a body as the earth or the sun. petent evidence; while of the manner how they But it is not so to us. So it is with truth. It is all- are united we know nothing, and are required to important; but what is necessary for us, in our pre- believe nothing. sent state, has been brought near to us ; while But then we cannot be required to believe conother truths are seen only like a dim and distant star. tradictions; and some of the Scripture mysteries,
Were we at once conveyed to the star that ap- it is alleged, involve contradictions. Now, in the pears smallest to our eye, we would find it to be a first place, I deny the proposition, that we cannot body of great magnitude, and we would see other be called upon to believe contradictions ; for, stars as far beyond it. Were we conveyed to these, though it be true in the abstract, that contradicwe would find just the same appearance. And tions cannot both be true, yet it is equally true, how often soever we might be transported from that we do often believe what to us are irreconstar to star, that appearance would continue the cileable contradictions. What can be more myssame, unless it were possible for us to exhaust terious, more incapable of being reconciled by us, space, or measure the universe. Of the same ex- than the omniscience and providence of God and haustless nature is truth. To whatever extent the free agency of man? Yet every man feels that our knowledge of it may be carried, we shall still he is a free agent, on the one hand, and on the see other portions of it showing themselves dim other, few have gone so far as to deny the omnisand indistinctly from afar. While, therefore, it cience of God, in order to get quit of the diffiwill be readily admitted that we are well employ- culty. We have ample evidence for both, and ed when endeavouring to enlarge the extent of we therefore believe both ; and we feel satisfied, our knowledge, we ought at the same time to be that the apparent contradiction arises simply from grateful that the knowledge necessary for our our ignorance, and that when we come to a state salvation is confined within narrow limits, and to of higher knowledge, we shall see how these apguard against the spirit that would urge us on to parently irreconcileable truths harmonise with one be “wise above what is written," in the vain hope another. It is, therefore, no solid objection to of advancing to a degree of knowledge where there any doctrine whatever, that it involves what apwill be no mysteries ; since it is very certain, that pear to us to be irreconcileable contradictions.
we advance in the path of knowledge, mysteries Least of all can such an objection be urged will multiply around us.
against what is avowedly a mystery; for with reAn observation ought to be made here, though gard to a mystery, no man is entitled to say that there can be no occasion to dwell upon it, namely, it involves contradictions. The man who says that God has an undoubted right to demand our this, says, in effect, that it is no mystery,—that, belief of what is mysterious. This I think will on the contrary, he clearly comprehends it. But, not be doubted by any man who reflects that we if he say that it is a mystery,—that he is quite are actually surrounded by mysteries, which no unable to comprehend it, then it is obviously abman ever dreams of calling in question ; and, surd in him to say that it contains contradictions. moreover, that, as far as we can see, it is impossi- If he do not fully comprehend it, he is clearly not ble to communicate to man any moral truth what- entitled to say what it contains. It may contain ever, without, at the same time, suggesting others, apparent contradictions, but that is no objection, which will be partially seen and imperfectly un- since apparent contradictions every man believes. derstood, and consequently, to some extent mys- And unless he can say that he fully compreterious. If, in the works of nature, we are called hends it, that is, has destroyed the mystery, he is upon to believe mysteries, and find no difficulty in not entitled to say that these contradictions are real. believing them, it is utterly absurd to say that we ought not to be called upon to believe them in the A MINISTER'S NEW YEAR'S GIFT TO IIIS work of redemption,—a work of a higher charac
PARISHIONERS. ter than the works of nature, and lying much more
BY THE Rev. ROBERT JAMIESON, beyond our reach fully to explore.
Minister of Westruther. If it be said, that in reality nature does not de
PART. I. mand our belief in mysteries, since that which is
" Bcloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be mysterious in any thing forms no part of our knowledge or belief ; the very same thing may be said It is an old and established practice, at seasons like the of Scripture mysteries. If it be said, for example, present, when we have completed one portion of our allotthat the union of the soul and body is indeed mys- ted pilgrimage, and are about to enter on another, for one terious, but then what we are required to believe friend to express towards another the mutual demonstradion of cordiality and good will. The practice is good in nature was furnished with all its variety of powers exitself, and one, too, that is perfectly in unison with the clusively for the sphere in which we at present move, benevolent spirit of the religion of Christ; and therefore, i then there could not be the shadow of a doubt existing my friend, whoever you are into whose hands this paper in the mind of any thinking person, on what all the may come, I beg you to accept my best and warmest energies of his thought and labours should be exerted. wisbes for your welfare. I pray to God (and may the But seeing that we have not merely a presumptive, but Father of the spirits of all Aesh realize the fervent a demonstrative, proof that there is a scene beyond the prayer) that this year may be to you the commence- present, where we are destined to exist ; seeing that Dent of many happy years to come; that during this it is written, as with a sunbeam, on every province of and many successive seasons, your bread may be given nature, that this world is but preparatory to another ; you, and your water may be sure; that yourself and all seeing that the voice of reason, above all, the book of tbat are near and dear to you may be shielded from revelation, proclaim aloud, and in language which all every biting blast, and the numerous ills that humanity feel and can appreciate, that this is but the infancy of is beir to; and that yon bright luminary, who is now our being, that the body which we carry about with us, rejoicing like a bridegroom to resume his race, and and for which we are so much concerned, is but the measure out to your observant eye the progress of your fragile, transitory, ephemeral habitation of the soul, days, and weeks, and months, may not reach the goal which is infinitely superior in value, and which is desof his annual journey, without finding you in the full tined to reach its full maturity only when it shall have and unalloyed possession of all the temporal blessings left the scenes of time, it can require no great discernwhich a friend and a pastor can desire for you. ment to perceive, that the one object which should take
in health."--3 JOHN, 2.
But while I am happy, my friend, to have an oppor- precedence of every other, is that of providing for the tunity of expressing my cordial and affectionate desires welfare of the immortal part of our nature; and that for your health and prosperity during the year that has if, on the other hand, we harbour no fervent wish, and jest begun, I mean that the full fervour of my wishes, make no serious effort to provide for the welfare of the and the full strength of your solicitude should extend soul in futurity, we are acting contrary to the princibeyond these, should be directed towards, and fixed ples which govern us in the ordinary concerns of the upon, an object immeasurably more important to you world, and by which we are led to proportion the de. than either the establishment of your bodily health, or gree of our anxiety and pursuit to the relative value of the promotion of your temporal prosperity. Doubt the objects around us. Taking it for granted, my friend, less, the enjoyment of health, and the possession of a that you admit the truth, and feel the weight of these conpetent portion of the comforts of the world, are so considerations, that you are convinced of the fact that needful to our present existence, so conducive to the you have a soul, whose future welfare is dependent welfare and preservation of the body that has been on your conduct now, and of the reasonableness of given to us, and so indispensable to render life a plea- bestowing all possible attention and care in securing sant and desirable possession, that as soon would your the welfare of that which you own to be so much noheart cease to beat and to hold any sympathy with the bler in nature, and superior in value, and more durable world around you, as that you would cease to make in existence than the body, I proceed to the main dethese the subjects of your frequent thoughts and your sign of this paper, which is to direct you in the right anxious desire; and all the ardour you discover in the use of those means which God has appointed, and propursuit of them, all the time, and labour, and expensemised to bless, for producing the rise, progress, and you bestow in securing them, only shew that you prize establishment of religion in the soul. them as you ought to do, that you are determined not In the first place, you must read the Scriptures. to hold in trivial estimation, or to waste and endanger You profess, I trust, to receive them as the Word of what has been given you for use, and what, like all God; and you cannot, therefore, without impiety and your other possessions, are the gifts of a munificent dishonour to the divine perfections, treat with neglect, Providence.
or remain in ignorance of a book that has descended In making the body, then, and its concomitant in- from him. You are commanded by your Saviour to terests, the objects of your solicitude and care, you search the Scriptures; and there cannot be a greater se justified by every consideration that can sway abuse of language, or a greater outrage upon consistenthe conduct of reasonable creatures ; and among all cy, than for a person to assume the name and make the the various motives which the Gospel suggests, there profession of one of his followers, and yet to be heedis not one, that does not enlist all the strongest prin- less of the Bible,—to have no desire, and take no pains ciples of our nature to press on you the duty of pro- to acquire a knowledge of its contents, though it be naing for the wants, and increasing the comforts of the book from which he professes to draw bis principles the life that now is. So far the maxims of the world and his practice. The truth is, that the reading of the barmonize with the spirit and precepts of religion. Be- Bible is a duty which goes before, and takes precedence tween both there is observable, to a certain extent, of, all other duties, inasmuch as it is the source whence a congeniality of sentiment and a similarity of advice. the knowledge of all duties must be derived ; so But beyond this the harmony does not extend; and the that if you desire to know, and knowing, to be able to wa rims of the world, and the anxieties and pursuits of perform, all that the Lord requires of you, you must the generality of men, terminate at the very point read the Bible, and make yourself acquainted with its where all that is interesting and momentous in religion peculiar doctrines and requirements, otherwise, from a begins. Were we assured that there is no object to partial or a total ignorance of it, you may fall into en zage our solicitude beyond the material mechanism many dangerous errors, both of sentiment and action. which we call the body, and were we satisfied that our In reading the Bible, you must, in order to profit by
it, have a regard to its principal, its sole design. There taking its object and design, you will continue a stranger to is a great deal in the Scriptures to interest and instruct the spiritual blessings for which it was given, and which the mind of a reader ; for that sacred book contains, it is so well fitted to impart. There is an anecdote recordin its simple and primitive annals, an account of the ed of the Rev. Mr Hervey, author of the “Meditations," origin of society, and government, and the arts; is en- which it may not be inappropriate to introduce, as bearriched with many poetical effusions, which no efforts of ing upon the subject of these remarks. On being once vninspired genius have ever surpassed; abounds with applied to by a person who had felt some convictions traits of men and manners different altogether from any of sin, and who had in consequence betaken himself thing observable in our western hemisphere ; and, in to the reading of the Scriptures, without experiencsbort, comprehends a treasure of the most varied and ing that measure of comfort and relief he anticipated, valuable matter, far greater than can be found any the divine replied, “I perceive, Sir, the cause of where else in so small a compass. But although the your distress—you have set yourself to read the Bible, Bible contains these and many other things of equal or and you have made yourself acquainted with the leadsuperior interest, it is not on this account you must re- ing facts of its history, but you have not read it as gard it as the best and most precious book the world a sinner.” Captain James Wilson, the commander of
Its great excellence, and that which should the first missionary ship that sailed to the South Sua stamp it, in your estimation, with supreme importance, Islands, was precisely in the same circumstances. We and incomparable value, is, that it is addressed to sin- are told by Griffin, his biographer, that having been ners—that it discovers the guilt and misery of you and brought, by the conversations of a friend, to entertain all men by nature—and at the same time points out the a speculative belief in the divine origin of Christianity, only efficient remedy for that condition. All the other he began to read the Scriptures; but as it was with the matter it contains is subordinate to this design-has same spirit of self-conceit, and the same love of the been introduced merely from being connected in some world and of sinful pleasure, which had formerly distinway or other with its progress and extension in the guished him, he experienced no sanctifying change, nor world, or from being calculated to illustrate and enforce comfortable impressions, from the perusal; and it was its provisions. So that, in order to reap the benefit of not until, after having heard a sermon on justification, the Bible, you must keep ever in mind the peculiar de- which made a deep impression on his mind, and led him sign for which it was written; and just as in perusing to search the Scriptures, in the grand inquiry how he a work of any human author, you would direct your should be saved, that he enjoyed the benefit of that mind, amid the occasional notices of other things you blessed book, and was introduced into its marvellous may meet with in the volume, to the principal subject light. To the same purport, the excellent Dr Watts on which it professes to give information; as in taking says, “that the most learned and kpowing have only the up a medical book, for instance, you are prepared, from same plain way of pardon and acceptance through the its character, to obtain from it chietiy an account of the method of salvation revealed in the Scriptures, as the symptoms and treatment of disease ; or in reading a most common and unlearned.” And Cecil says, history of Scotland, you expect to find, amid inciden- the Bible contains the only specific medicine for sin, tal allusions to foreign powers with whom it may
have we must go to it for that, otherwise that book will be been in amicable relations, that the main stream of the of no more use to us than any other book. Let me exTiarrative will be directed towards the affairs and insti- hort you, then, my friend, to read the Bible in the tutions of your native country; so, in reading that spirit, and with the views, of which I have been speakbook, which was dictated by the Spirit, and which pre-ing, and you will find in it every thing adapted to the eminently claims to be “the Word of reconciliation," character and situation of a sinner—a righteousness to you should always carry along with you the impression justify you, and grace for conforming you to the will that its predominating object is to disclose the method and image of God—an all-sufficient Saviour, who has of God's dealing with sinners, and that consequently, freed you from the threatened penalty, and a divine in order to understand its doctrine, and appreciate its Spirit, to deliver you from the reigning power, of sinvalue, you must go to it as a sinner.
a fulness of merit, to procure you acceptance with It is not enough, however, that you go to the Bible God—and a fulness of Spirit, to prepare you for his with the general and often unmeaning admission of presence." many, that they are sinners-an admission which is The circumstance of the Bible providing the only often nothing more then a mere verbal acknowledg- remedy for your condition as a sinner, which is the ment, or at least which consists often with a very character you bear in the sight of God, should detervague and imperfect view of the nature and demerit mine you to devote your chief attention to its perusal, of sin. Before you can be freed from the influence of and to draw all the principles and hopes you entertain sin, you must be aware that this malignant disease from that only source of divine truth. I do not mean is preying upon the vitals of your spiritual consti- that you are to abstain from the reading of all other tution; and before you can enjoy the benefit of that books. If you possess the inestimable talent of being remedy which the Bible provides, you must be really able to read, which, from its being the almost universal and deeply convinced that you are in the cor.dition of privilege of Scotsmen, I trust, and presume you do, you those for whom that divine Word was given, otherwise ought, by all means, to cultivate it ; and it is your duty, you will never enter, if I may say so, into the spirit of and will tend to your advantage, to avail yourself, as the book; and you may study it from beginning to end, far as your means and situation will allow, of all the you may make it the subject of your frequent and daily instruction you can obtain from the perusal of useful perusal, you may expend upon it the energies of the long- historical, moral, and especially, religious publications. est life and the most accomplished mind, but, entirely mis- And blessed be God! that facilities for the cultivation
" that as
of this talent are afforded, to the greatest extent, and Bible of all its characteristic peculiarities as a revela. ca tie cheapest terms, in our age and country, where, tion from heaven? From what, in short, but the same in consequence of the very laudable exertions that are fatal propensity to follow the speculations, and submit now being made to disseminate the knowledge of religion to the authority of men in religion, has it arisen, that among all, especially the humbler classes of society, the tide of opinion has at all times been ready to flow innumerable works are daily issuing from the press, and in the way of error ; that, in our own day, so many circulated in all quarters, so that there is scarcely a sin- crude and false opinions have been so eagerly taught de article of Christian doctrine or duty, that has not and received as the true and unquestionable doctrines been selected as the subject of a separate treatise or a of Scripture, and that multitudes take all their ideas lengthened illustration; and these being, for the most from the works of some favourite author, whose name part, compiled by the diligence, and sent forth with the is ever on their lips, and whose authority, in all matters prayers, of many excellent and pious men, it cannot fail of religion, they deem so paramount and decisive a law, but that the blessing of heaven will accompany, or fol- that they are resolved to believe and approve, and conlow, their cireulation. So far from discouraging you demn nothing but what is believed, and approved, and in the reading of these, I should think that every mi- condemned by the id before whom they have prostrated ister, who is anxious for the improvement of his peo- their judgment and their faith, and by whose oracular ple, would rejoice to see them so well and profitably response they are determined to abide ? No wonder, eroployed. But, how excellent and useful soever these that persons of this description are so liable to fall away may be, you must beware of the degree of estimation from the form of sound words, and make shipwreck of in which you hold them, and the influence you allow the faith, as it cannot otherwise be, when, instead of them to acquire over you, and, let me warn you, that to guiding their way by the clear and steady rays of divine content yourself, as many do, with reading commentaries, truth, they follow “ lights that shine but to bewilder, sermons, or religious magazines, while you neglect to have and dazzle but to blind ;” and no wonder that the recourse to the Word of God itself, is as foolish, and far system of opinion they adopt, should be as fragile and more pernicious, than would be the conduct of the man short-lived as the image of Nebuchadnezzar, which who should quench his thirst in a pool of polluted and consisted of iron and clay, seeing it is formed of equalstagnant water, when he has it in his power to enjoy the ly frail and incongruous materials. Beware, then, of Precious fluid, in all its purity and freshness, at the foun- the light in which you regard the opinions and expositain-bead; or, who should be satisfied with the second-tions of men on the subject of religion. Look to them hand intelligence, that he had been promised a rich and as helps, but as no more than helps, to the better unvaluable inheritance, while he denies himself the as- derstanding of the Word of God. Apply to them to surance and satisfaction of seeing the promise itself in aid you in illustrating obscurities, in solving difficulties, the deed that gives him a title to the inheritance. Be- in explaining allusions to ancient manners and customs, sides, the Henrys, the Newtons, the Herveys, the Bos- or in assisting you to practical and devout relections. tons, and the other men, who with such eloquence, and But never let your admiration of them carry you beyond piety, and zeal, have favoured the world with expositions the limits I have now specified. Never allow them to of Christian doctrine and duty, never meant that their exercise an undue influence in regulating your judgment works should supersede the Bible, or cast it into the or your practice. Once allow them to lead when they shade. All they designed, and all they wished for, was should only suggest, and to dictate when they should that their efforts should be subservient to the grand only advise, and they will become as objectionable and object of explaining the import, and enforcing the prin- pernicious as they are otherwise useful. “ As the rule ciples of the sacred volume; and that they should serve to attain our chief end,” says Sir Matthew Hale, “must only as bumble pioneers, to pave the way for your being come from God; and as the Scriptures of the Old and more easily and safely conducted to the temple of truth New Testaments are the Word of God, so we say, that itself; and were these holy men now to revisit the these Scriptures are the rule, and the only rule, to atworld, and to see the undue influence which their tain our chief end; good books of other men, such as works exert over the mind of many a professing Cbris- sermons and commentaries, are good helps, but there tian, they would be the first themselves to notice and is no other rule but this. It is by this rule that we deplore the perverted purposes to which their labours must try other men's books and sermons; yea, the very De misapplied.
Church itself. Thus, the Bereans tried the doctrine of Say not that this is a practice unentitled to the no- the apostles themselves by the Scriptures which they tice we are taking of it, either from its prevalence, or then had, and are commended for it. Peter prefers the from the magnitude of the evils to which it has given evidence of the Scriptures before a voice from heaven; rise. It is a practice that prevails to a lamentable and Christ himself appeals to the Scriptures to justify extent, and which has been the prolific source of some himself and his doctrine.” To the same purport, Herof the greatest corruptions that have crept into the vey says, in his own expressive style, as a wise !nan Church of Christ. To what was it owing, that the will not build a palace on the stalk of a tulip, nor venapsurd and unmeaning superstitions which emanated ture on a long voyage in a crazy vessel, so no man who from the Papal Chair long obtained such easy credit knows the value of the soul, will venture it into any and such general currency, but to the circumstance of hands but those of the Divine Saviour, or trust to any iled gradually neglecting, and finally losing all know- inferior guide to conduct him thither but the Word itledge of the Scriptures ? To what but the same cause self of the living God.” is it owing, that the Socinian heresy has arisen,-a he- The Word of God, then, being thus entitled to your resy which, constituting the reason of man a proud and supreme attention, you should read it with diligence. inaltible judge in matters of religion, has stripped the The whole analogy of nature, and the whole course of