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always determined in the purpose of God, but fully revealed to men in these late ages of
Once more in the same epistle. Eph. vi. 19, 20. "and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that I may speak boldly as I ought to speak."
To the like purpose in the epistle to the Colossians, which we have often observed to have a great agreement with that to the Ephesians. Col. i. 25-27. « Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God, which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God, even the mystery which has been hid from ages and generations, but now is made manifest to his saints to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you the hope of glory."
And ch. ii. 2. "that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, even the Father, and of Jesus Christ."
And ch. iv. 3. "Withal praying for us, that God would open to us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ: for which I am also in bonds."
And in this very chapter, the third of the first epistle to Timothy, ver. 8, 9. "Likewise must the deacons be grave,--holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience."
There can be no doubt then, but that by "the mystery of godliness" the apostle means the evangelical dispensation, or the doctrine of the gospel of Christ, which he oftentimes calls "a mystery, the mystery of the gospel, the mystery of the faith;" and here "the mystery of godliness."
To the like purpose in the sixth chapter of this first epistle to Timothy. Ver. 2, 3. "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing." And the epistle to Titus begins in this manner. "Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness."
This doctrine of the gospel, the apostle says in the text, is "great," unquestionably so. "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness.' the mystery of godliness." By "great" meaning, as we may reasonably think, every thing, which can be comprehended in that character. It is weighty and important: it is sublime: most true and certain: in all respects worthy of God, and carrying in it the best and kindest design toward men: most likely and most effectual to reclaim them from sin, and bring them to God and true holiness here, and to durable and unmixed happiness hereafter. Upon the comparison too it surpasseth in glory, riches, and grace, all former dispensations. Finally, it may be said to be great, as it was unsearchable, exceeding all that had entered into the heart of man to conceive: though fully determined by the Divine Being, and often hinted and foretold in the revelations of the prophets, in the more early ages of the world.
Thus far we seem to have proceeded with a satisfactory evidence and perspicuity, as to the meaning of the words.
It follows. "God was manifest in the flesh." Here we have a difficulty well known to learned Christians, and the laborious and diligent interpreters of scripture. For whereas we have in our text, "God was manifest in the flesh :" some think we should read, "Which was manifest in the flesh."
In favour of the reading last mentioned it is alleged, that it is found in divers ancient versions, and in several Latin authors. On the other hand, in favour of our present, and more common reading, it is said, that it is in most, and well nigh all Greek manuscripts that we know of. It is likewise observed, that several of the expressions which follow, are more properly used of a person than of a thing. For instance: of "the mystery of godliness," it cannot be so properly said, that "it was manifested in the flesh :" nor that it was "received up into glory."
Without deciding this point, I shall now proceed to explain the several following expressions of the text. And I suppose it will appear, that which soever of these two readings we follow, the meaning is much the same.
The first thing here affirmed, whether the subject be "the mystery of godliness," or "God,” is," was manifest," or manifested" in the flesh." And certainly, the connection is very good,
understanding this to be spoken of the former of the two. And how it may be said, appears from many of the texts before alleged, when it was shewn, that by "the mystery of godliness," is to be understood the evangelical dispensation, or the doctrine of the gospel. For in those, and other texts, the apostle speaks of "the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but is now made manifest:" and, "the mystery, which had been hid from ages and generations, but now is made manifest unto his saints. The mystery of godliness,” or the doctrine of the gospel, had been made manifest, by the preaching of John the Baptist, of our Saviour himself, and his apostles after him. It had been manifested" in the flesh," that is, to, and among men.
But take our present, and more common reading. "God was manifest in the flesh." And the expression will not be very difficult to be understood: the same thing being often said, and spoken of in other places of scripture. For God was manifested in the human nature of Jesus Christ. As St. John says at the beginning of his gospel: "And the word was made flesh and dwelled among us." And at the beginning of his first epistle: "For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us." And says St. Paul, Col. ii. 9. "In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily:" that is really and durably, not figuratively and typically, as in a bright cloud or glory, sometimes appearing under the ancient dispensations. The same apostle therefore says of Christ, Col. i. 15, that he is "the image of the invisible God." And Heb. i. 3. "the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person." For in him appeared the wisdom, the power, the truth, the holiness, the goodness, the mercifulness of God. In the like manner, and for the same reason, Jesus is called " Emmanuel," or "God with us," Matt. i. 23: or, as St Peter expresseth it, Acts x. 38. " Ye know, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil. For God was with him."
And so far as we can perceive, those ancient Christian writers, who read "which," understood this, and also the following particulars, concerning Jesus Christ.*
justified in the spirit," or by the spirit. This is easily understood either of "the mystery of godliness," or of " God manifested in the flesh." For the doctrine of the gospel was proved and attested by many miraculous works. Or, the divine authority and mission of the Lord Jesus were proved and evidenced by the spirit. As John the Baptist declares in his testimony to him. John iii. 34. "He whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God. For God giveth not the spirit by measure unto him." And our Lord himself, Matt. xii. 28. “ If I by the Spirit of God cast out dæmons, then the kingdom of God is come unto you." And compare Luke xi. 20, and John v. 36. "The works, which the Father has given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me." And to the like purpose elsewhere.
The whole doctrine of the gospel, the divinity of this dispensation, and all things concerning the Lord Jesus, were confirmed by his resurrection from the dead. As St. Paul says, Rom. i. 4. "Declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead: and also by the plentiful effusion of gifts of the Spirit upon the apostles, and other believers, after his ascension, in conformity to his predictions and promises concerning that matter. So John xvi. 13, 14. "Howbeit, when the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth-And he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me. For he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you." And St. Paul reminds the Corinthians, 1 Cor. ii. 4, that he had preached to them "in demonstration of the Spirit and power." See also 1 Thess. i. 5, 6, and Heb. ii. 3, 4. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the
• Quod. Clar. Lat. Vulg. Syr.—Hieron. Fulgentius aliique Latini. Qui tamen omnes cum Græcis in eo consentiunt, quod partem hanc cum sequentibus in Christi personam interpretentur. Mill, in loc.
So Mill. I shall put down here the passages of some early Greek writers, who have referred to this text, and understood it of Jesus Christ.
Οι χαριν απέτειλε λόγον, να κοσμω φανη. ος υπο λαδ
ατιμασθεις, δια αποςόλων κηρυχθεις, υπο εθνων επισεύθη. Ep. ad Diognel. p. 501. D. Paris.
Ω μυτηριον. Μεθ ημων ειδον οι αγγελοι τον Χρισον, προ
Εαν δε ο εμος ιεσες αναλαμβανεσθαι εν δόξη λέγηται. Οrig.
Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him: God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will." And St. Peter 1 Epist. i. 12. "Of which salvation the prophets have inquired unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did minister the things which are now reported unto you, by them that have preached the gospel unto you, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven." That is, "justified by the Spirit.
It follows: "seen of angels:" which also may be well understood of "the mystery of godliness." For St. Peter, in the place just cited from him, says of the ancient prophets, "that they did minister the things," which had been lately "reported:--which the angels desire to look into." And St. Paul, Eph. iii. 9, 10. " To make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God---To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God."
Understand this article of " God manifested in the flesh," or in the human nature of Jesus Christ. And then we may suppose to be hereby meant the appearances of angels at our Saviour's nativity, their ministering to him after his temptation in the wilderness, and upon divers other occasions, and particularly their attendance on him at his resurrection and
"Preached unto the Gentiles:" that is, to all the world, not to Jews only, but to Gentiles also. This, as every one immediately perceives, may be properly said either of the mystery of godliness, or of the divine manifestation in the person of Christ. The doctrine of the gospel in its genuine purity, simplicity and fulness, was preached by Paul and others both to Jews and Gentiles. And God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them," 2 Cor. v. 19.
Believed on in the world." It met with acceptance, and had great effects all over the world. This may be fitly understood of either of the two subjects so often mentioned. Says the apostle to the Romans, i. 5, 6. "By whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for his name. Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ." 2 Cor. ii. 14. "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place." And Col. i. 5, 6. "We give thanks to God for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the truth of the gospel: which is come unto you, as it is in all the world, and bringeth forth fruit, as it does also in you, since the day ye heard it, and knew the grace of God in truth."
Finally, "received up into glory." If this be understood of "the mystery of godliness," or the doctrine of the gospel, the meaning is, that it was gloriously exalted: inasmuch as thereby the knowledge of God had been spread over the earth, more than by reason alone, or any former revelation: and that it had a more powerful effect and influence than any other doctrine whatever, for enlightening, sanctifying, and saving men.
But this expression may be also very properly understood of "God manifested in the flesh," meaning our Lord's glorious ascension. Acts i. 2. "until the day in which he was taken up." And ver. 11. " they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up." Indeed the phrase, "received up into glory," taken separately, might be very properly used concerning our Lord's ascension into heaven. The chief difficulty attending this interpretation is the place in which it is mentioned, last in order: whereas the ascension of Christ preceded several things. here observed: "preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world." However, possibly, this objection may be solved, by only supposing, that the apostle having begun with that particular, "God manifested in the flesh," meaning his appearance in the human nature of Christ, might choose to conclude with that which put a period to our Lord's personal presence, and visible appearance among men in this earth: his triumphant ascension to heaven, and his reception there into glory, at the right hand of God.
Thus I have represented the several senses of these expressions, and according to my ability briefly explained the whole.
And I presume, that the truth of the observation, mentioned at the beginning of this discourse, may now be more apparent; that there is nothing in this text but what is perfectly agreeable to many other texts of scripture; and that the several particulars here mentioned, are articles of
faith received by all Christians in general; whether the subject here spoken of be "the mystery of godliness," or "God" himself.
Suppose the first. It is known and believed by all Christians, that the doctrine of the gospel was "manifested" to and among men, by Jesus Christ and his apostles: that it was "justified by the Spirit," confirmed by miracles wrought by Christ himself, and by his apostles, and others afterwards: "seen of angels," beheld by them with ready approbation, and with surprise and wonder: "preached to the Gentiles," as well as Jews: "believed on in the world," received by men of all characters in all nations: "received up into glory," gloriously exalted, greatly honoured and magnified by that reception, and by its effects in the hearts and lives of men.
Suppose this to be said of God. It is also true, and received by all Christians in general. There was an especial presence, and most extraordinary manifestation of the Divine Being in the human nature, or person of Jesus Christ, who is therefore called Emmanuel, or God with us. The divine authority of Jesus was “ justified by the Spirit," by many miraculous works, and by a very plentiful effusion of the Holy Ghost upon such as believed in him. He was seen and ministered to," by angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world," and finally "received up into glory" in heaven.
APPLICATION. What remains after this paraphrastical explication of the words of the text, is an application in two or three inferences.
1. We must here see reason for praise and thanksgiving to God for the revelation of his will, and for the manifestation of himself to us in Christ, and his gospel: especially if we ourselves have not only been favoured with this discovery, but have also heartily embraced it, and reaped benefit by it. As our Lord said to his disciples, "to whom it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven," and who had diligently attended to the instructions afforded to them. "Blessed are your eyes, 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," Matt. xiii. 16, 17.
2. We may hence perceive it to be a duty, especially incumbent upon the ministers of Christ, in his church, to support and defend the true doctrine of the gospel.
It is with this view that this matter is now mentioned to Timothy. And every thing here insisted upon is very proper to engage and influence those who are in a station at all resembling his. And it is with redoubled earnestness, that the apostle renews his exhortation to this evangelist, near the conclusion of the epistle, ch. vi. 13, 14. "I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and of Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession: that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of Jesus Christ."
3. And lastly, The same considerations do also in a like manner direct the conduct of all Christians in general. They should be engaged to use their best endeavours to uphold and maintain the doctrine of the gospel, "the mystery of godliness," which, confessedly, is very great.
It has been "manifested," and has been fully " justified by the Spirit, seen of angels, preached" to all nations, "believed" by men of all characters in every part of the world, and gloriously exalted by its happy fruits and effects.
After this there can be no reason to doubt of its truth. And they who have received it, ought to use all reasonable methods to preserve it pure and entire. It cannot be justly expected, that if we lose the truth, after it has been so delivered to us, God should again manifest it to us, or appoint a new series of like miracles and wonderful events to give it credit. Instead of indulging such vain expectations, we should diligently search the scriptures, and labour to know the mind of God contained therein. And "we should give earnest heed unto the things which we have heard, lest at any time," or by any means, "we should let them slip," Heb. ii. 1. And " we should earnestly contend for the faith, which was once delivered to the saints," Jude ver. 3. Which, as before said, will not be so delivered any more, as it once was, by Christ himself, and his apostles. Nor can any thing else be substituted in its room, that shall be equally excellent, important and beneficial.
ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS.
THE EDITOR'S ADVERTISEMENT.
Or the following Sermons, the first four were fairly transcribed by the author, but probably had not undergone his last correction; the fifth and sixth (preached at the Tuesday Lecture in the Old Jewry) were not transcribed, but had upon them this remark: Perused, and so far as I am able to perceive, all is right; and I humbly conceive ought to be published:' the seventh was transcribed in part: the eighth and last is entirely printed from his notes, and may therefore, with the fifth and sixth, be considered as specimens of his usual compositions for the pulpit.
THE RIGHT IMPROVEMENT OF TIME.
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.-Eph. v. 16.
We find this advice twice given in St. Paul's epistles: and in both places recommended as a branch of prudence and circumspection. So it is here: "See then, that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise: redeeming the time, because the days are evil." And in like manner in the epistle to the Colossians: "Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time," Col. iv. 5.
• Pool upon the place. The same upon Col, iv. 5.
Some expositors suppose, that the right improvement of time is the direct meaning and design of the expression, as used in this place: and say, that Redeeming is a metaphorical expression taken from merchants, who diligently observe the fittest time for buying and selling, and easily 'part with their pleasure for gain. So do you also deny yourselves in your ease and pleasure, to gain an opportunity for doing good.' Again: Time past, strictly speaking, cannot be ' recalled. But you are to redeem, or recover as far as possible, that time which has been lost 'by a double diligence in improving what remains.”
Others think, that the proper meaning of the apostle's direction is, that the Christians to whom he is writing, Should secure themselves, by a prudent carriage toward all men, from the 'inconveniences of those difficult times in which they lived:' or, "redeeming the time;" that 'is, gaining as much time as you can, prolonging your own tranquillity, and the opportunity of spreading the gospel. Observe a prudent behaviour toward unconverted Gentiles, and unbelieving Jews; that they may be as little exasperated as possible, by your different senti'ments from theirs, or by your pure and holy life, whereby you seem to condemn and ' reproach them."
Lock upon the place. To that purpose, Peirce upon Col. iv. 5.