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pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him.'23 This divine purpose to gather all things together in Christ, was indeed now made known; but having been hitherto a secret, it was, in the style of the New Testament, called a mystery. To the same church he repeats this idea in the following explicit language, 'Ye have heard of the dispensation of the word of God which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote afore in few words, whereby when ye read ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the spirit: that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.' And immediately afterwards he mentions the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God.' 24 In these cases it is clear that the reception of the Gentiles into the covenant of promise, was denominated a mystery, not from any incomprehensibleness in the fact, (for what could be more intelligible?) but on account of its having been formerly unknown. Passing again over one or two indefinite sentences in which the word occurs, we find the same significant phraseology repeated in the following passage: 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 hath been hid from ages and from generations, but is now made manifest to his saints; to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles. '25
These instances will suffice to exemplify St. Paul's usage of this much abused term. Let us proceed to the Revelation of St. John, the only remaining division of the New Testament in which it occurs. Here, however, it is introduced in but three passages, two of which, the reader will recollect, have been briefly illustrated by Dr. Campbell. But the propriety of his suggestions on these cases, will be more fully seen, if we observe, in reference to thein, that St. John did not at first understand what was meant to be denoted by
23 Eph. i. 9, 10.
24 Eph. iii. 2-9.
25 Coloss. i. 25-27.
the seven stars and the seven golden candlesticks in one instance, nor by the woman and the beast in the other. In both cases, the meaning was, at first, a secret, or mystery, not made known to him. For his information, therefore, the Son of Man says to him, '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.' 26 Here the secret was explained, so as to be no longer a secret. On the other occasion the angel said to him, 'Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carrieth her. . . . . The beast that thou sawest, was and is not,' &c; and after giving a particular explanation of this wonder, he adds, the woman which thou sawest is that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth.' 27 This was the clearing up of the mystery. The only remaining instance of its use in this book, is in a passage which seems preliminary to the sounding of the seventh trumpet: An angel descends from heaven, and standing on the earth and the sea, lifts his hand and swears that the time should not be yet; adding, however, that in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.' 28 Here, the mystery of God is evidently his counsels, his purposes, with regard to the train of events predicted. And these counsels would of course remain a mystery, a secret, but partially understood, till their actual execution should bring them forth into clear light. This was to be accomplished in the days of the voice of the seventh angel.
We have thus brought under review most of the passages in which the word mystery occurs in the New Testament. We think no doubt can remain with regard to its habitual meaning there. The investigation will serve to free our Saviour and his apostles from the suspicion of having devoted their ministry to the unworthy business of inculcating recondite and unintelligible dogmas; and we hope it will likewise tend to suppress the custom of appealing to the Scripture mysteries as a sanction or a screen for the absurd and inconceiv able propositions of modern divinity. H. B. 2d.
36 Rev. i. 20.
27 Rev. xvii. 5-18.
28 Rev. x. 6, 7.
What is Religion?
It is a very late hour in the day, one would think, to propose the question What is religion? It is, indeed, lamentable, if not strange, that, after a lapse of nearly two thousand years since the Christian faith was revealed, - after all the controversies which have been carried on, the official decisions that have been pronounced, the treatises and commentaries which have been written, there should yet be any possible need of asking, in a land of enlightened Christians, What is religion, as revealed and recommended by Jesus Christ and his apostles? Was it not distinctly and explicitly taught by its author? We all say it was. And did not his disciples and apostles themselves understand and plainly make known to others the very soul and body, so to speak, of the Christian religion? There is no doubt of it. And, with the Gospels, the Acts, and the Epistles all before us, with all of which we are as familiar as with household words are people not yet agreed as to this originally plain and simple subject? Even such is the fact. The causes may be various. It is one of the easiest things in the world, for pride and passion to carry people away from the simplicity there is in Christ; to make them run so far, indeed, in the course of centuries, as that they shall quite lose sight of the original thing. If it were not so in this case, probably there would be little or no disagreement at this late day, amongst honest and intelligent men, on the main subject. But we are obliged to take things as we find them. There is, all about us, much disagreement. The world is divided into sects. The materials for controversy are as wide spread and as ample as they ever were. We trust, indeed, that reaction has commenced, and that the tendency is more to the centre and less to the circumference than formerly. Discoveries are being made. Improvements are going on. The different sects are gradually, though as covertly as possible, repudiating their exposed errors, and lopping off their excrescences. To speak chemically, the attraction of cohesion is taking the place of that of repulsion; or, astronomically, the centripetal force is regaining its equilibrium against the allowed freaks of the centrifugal. Still there is a mighty com
motion. There is a whirlpool of waters. There are currents and counter-currents. The world is disagreed. The question, then, must still be asked-What is religion?
We have some remarks to offer upon this subject. Though much is written and said about religion in the present day, the most, we fear, is indeed about it. We fear, that much less is known or practised of the thing itself. That which engages the most solicitude and attention may be a religion, which
'Plays round the head, but comes not near the heart,' —
a religion which has no necessary connexion with actual goodness; but which is ambitious chiefly for display. It does seem to us, that, in the pursuit of religion, as generally in the pursuit of happiness by other and less certain means, it has become quite too fashionable to go away from home; to seek for foreign products; to hanker after something novel and strange; to overlook and slight the things about us, the common blessings and ordinary means that are accessible to all, and to place a supreme value upon exotics; in short, to leave the substance in a restless and an eager pursuit of shadows; to depart from home, where, if anywhere, happiness must be found, and to roam over the world, like the eyes of the fool, after its tinselled counterfeits. This, we fear, is too much the character of the religion which now makes so much noise and display in the world. It spurns things within ordinary reach; desires chiefly the marvellous and the extravagant; ranges abroad for what can be found only within one's own heart; and its professors, it may be, are like some censured in Scripture, forever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.'
In justification of these remarks, let us inquire-What is religion, as it seems to be understood by those who claim to be its exclusive patrons, and who are certainly the most active in endeavoring to extend it through the world? It is, as contended, a mysterious and radical change of the heart, which, though
it may be followed by a corresponding alteration in the external conduct, does not necessarily imply, as it is not generally accompanied by, such a change. The person, first of all, is taught to look upon his Maker as his incensed enemy; to contemplate the miserable doom which awaits him; to fear and tremble in view of God and hell, and to seek an escape from the fury of the former and the jaws of the latter, through
repentance, faith and a connexion with the visible church, the real ark of safety. The object to be accomplished by this change, and the causes which operate to produce it, are all distant and foreign. Religion is supposed to be necessary, not primarily on account of its present benefits, but chiefly, if not altogether, on account of an evil to be averted or a good to be secured in the future world. The terrors, too, by which the subject is made to feel the necessity of thus providing for the destinies of eternity, are all foreign. They are brought from the invisible world. The imagination, and not the understanding, supplies the materials by which the transformation is accomplished. All is distant-all foreign. Little concern is felt on account of present effects, and but a subordinate value placed upon religion as pertaining to the duties and enjoyments. of the present life.
Now we believe, that this propensity to run after foreign objects, this building upon the imagination rather than upon an improved understanding, is prejudicial to the cause of truth, virtue and human happiness. It leads people to overlook the hell in their own bosoms, to avoid a local hell in another state of existence; to slight the happiness of a pure mind, to secure a seat in a local heaven. The happiness or misery which men must enjoy or suffer, are in their own souls, and they can never run away from either. No change of place in this world, no change of existence from this to the next, can carry away or avert that hell which hath its lowest foundations in an impure and unsanctified heart.
The consequences of such views of religion are, that people rely more upon the imagination than upon the understanding, and think less of inward and substantial good, than upon outward and specious rewards. The duties of this life are therefore neglected, in the great and sole concern to provide for the happiness of another. We have said that religion, as explained in the present day, has no necessary connexion with actual practical goodness. We said this, because, according to the explanation, practical goodness, which is quite intelligible, is one thing; religion, which is quite unintelligible-a mysterious and awful subject, is another. They are not the same thing. They may exist together, but the connexion is not necessary. Hence, as we all know, people may obtain the reputation of being very religious, though it does not necessarily follow that they are, therefore, any better as citizens and neigh