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THE NATURE OF SPIRITUAL REVELATION, AND
WHO ARE FAVOURED WITH IT.
MATTH. xi. 25.
At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Fa
ther, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed then unto babes.
WE proceed now to the more pleasing part of our subject. The great things of the Gospel, though hid, are not lost: not hid as in the bottom of the sea ; but he who hides them from the wise and prudent, is ready and willing to make them known to every sincere inquirer. This discovery, on the Lord's part, is a revelation, and the character of those who obtain it is expressed by the word babes. Of the five particulars I proposed to consider from the text, these two yet remain to be spoken to.
IV. The saving knowledge of divine truth is a revelation. Our Lord uses a parallel expression, when he commends Peter's confession of his faith; “ Blessed “ art thou, Simon Barjona : for flesh and blood hath “ not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is " in heaven*.” Peter had Moses and the prophets, so had the Scribes and Pharisees; and after their manner they were diligent in reading and searching them. But that he could acknowledge Jesus to be the Messiah, when they rejected him, was because the Father had revealed his truth to him, and given him a clearer knowledge of it, than he could have received from the written word alone. But it may be proper to inquire into the meaning of this term. What are we here to understand by revelation ?
* Matth. xvi. 17.
Sometimes revelation is used in an extraordinary sense, as when of old the Lord made known to his servants, the prophets, those doctrines and events which, till then, were neither heard nor thought of. Of this we are not now to speak, but of that which is common to all believers, and necessary to salvation.
Now this revelation supposes the things to be revealed were real and certain before, but unknown, and not to be found out in
way. Revelation is not the creation or invention of something new, but the manifestation of what was till then unknown. The great things of eternity, the glorious truths of the Gospel, are real and certain in themselves already, and do not begin to be when we begin to be acquainted with them: yet till God is pleased to reveal them to the heart, we have no more spiritual and effective knowledge of them, than if they were not. Ignorance of things very near to us, and in which we are nearly concerned, may be from two
1. From a want of light. Nothing can be perceived in the dark. If you are in a dark room, though it is richly adorned and furnished, all is lost to you. If you stand in a dark niglit upon the top of a hill that commands a fine prospect, still you are able to see no more than if you was in a valley. Though you were in a dangerous place with pitfalls and precipices, and thieves and murderers all around you, still you might imagine yourself in safety, if you had no light with you.
2. It may be from some hindrance or obstruction between you and the object. Thus your dearest friend, or greatest enemy, might be within a few yards of you, and you know nothing of it, if there was a wall between you.
These comparisons may in some measure represent our case by nature. God is near; “ in him we live,
move, and have our being.” Eternity is near; we stand upon the brink of it. Death is near, advancing towards us with hasty strides. The truths of God's word are most certain in themselves, and of the utmost consequence to us. But we perceive none of these things; we are not affected by them, because our understandings are dark, and because thick walls of ignorance, prejudice, and unbelief, stand before the
of the mind, and keep them from our view. Even those notions of truth which we sometimes pick up by hearing and reading, are but like windows in a dark room; they are suited to afford an entrance to the light when it comes, but can give no light of themselves.
I think, therefore, we may conclude, that God's revealing these things to us.only signifies his effecting such a change in us, by his Holy Spirit, as disposes and enables us to behold thein. He sends a divine light into the soul; and things begin to appear so plain, we wonder at our former stupidity that we could not perceive them before. By the power of his Spirit, he breaks down the walls which prevented and confined our views; and a new unthought-of prospect suddenly appears before us.
. Then the soul sees its danger : “ I thought myself secure; but I find I am in the midst 56 of enemies. Guilt pursues me behind, fear, and " the snare, and the pit, are before me; which way “ shall I turn?" Then it perceives its mistake: “While
my views were confined, I thought there was nothing but this span of life to take care of; but
now I see a boundless eternity beyond it.” It obtains a glimpse likewise of the glories of the better world, of the beauties of holiness, of the excellency of Jesus. This light is at first faint and imperfect, but grows stronger by the use of appointed means; and as it is increased, every thing appears with a stronger evidence.
We may more particularly illustrate this work of the Holy Spirit, as it influences those leading faculties of the soul, the understanding, affections, and will. By nature the will is perverse and rebellious, and the affections alienated from God: the primary cause of these disorders lies in the darkness of the understanding. Here then the change begins. The Spirit of God enlightens the understanding, by which the sinner perceives things to be as they are represented in the word of God; that he is a transgressor against the divine law, and on this account obnoxious to wrath; that he is not only guilty, but depraved and unclean, and utterly unable, either to repair past evil, or to amend his own heart and life. He sees that the great God might justly refuse him mercy; and that he has no plea to offer in arrest of judgement. This discovery would sink him into despair, if it went no farther; but by the same light which discovers him to himself, he begins to see a suitableness, wisdom, and glory, in the method of salvation revealed in the Gospel. He reads and hears concerning the person, sufferings, and offices of Christ, in a very different manner to what he did before; and as, by attending to the word and ministry, his apprehensions of Jesus, and his understanding, become more clear and distinct, a spiritual hope takes place, and increases, in his soul; and the sure effect of this is, he feels his love drawn forth to him who so loved him as to die for his sins. Beholding, by faith, the Lord Jesus Christ, as bleeding and dying upon the cross; and knowing for whom, and on what account, he suffered, he learns to hate, with a bitter hatred, those sins which nailed him there. The amazing love of Christ constrains him to account all things which he formerly valued, as dross and dung, for the excellency of the knowledge of his Saviour. Nor does his faith stop here; he views him who once suffered and died, rising triumphant from the tomb, and ascending into heaven in the character of the representative, friend, and forerunner of his people. Having such a High-priest, he is encouraged to draw near to God, to claim an interest in the promises respecting the life that now is, and that which is to come. Thus possessing, in the beginnings of grace, an earnest of the glory that shall be revealed, a real, universal, abiding change necessarily takes place in the affections. Now old things are passed away, and all things become new : the soul no longer cleaves willingly to the dust, or can be satisfied with earthly things, but thirsts for communion with God, and an increase of holiness. Sin is no longer consented to, or delighted in, but is opposed and watched against; and every unallowed deviation from the will of God, excites the sincerest grief and humiliation, and leads to renewed application to the blood and grace of Jesus for pardon and strength. Thus the will likewise is brought into an unreserved subjection and surrender to the power of Christ, and acts as freely in his service as it once did against him. For that