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ing faculties—if, under the engrossment of one great and overwhelming apprehension, we can neither see with precision nor contemplate with steadinessabove all, if, under the administration of a righteous God, there be a constant alliance between spiritual darkness and a sense of sin unpardoned or sin unexpiated— Then may we be sure that an obscurity of the deepest character lay upon the first moments in the history of sinful man; and which required both light from Heaven upon his soul, and a renovation of its vitiated and disordered faculties, ere it could be effectually dissipated.
From this point then, the restoration of spiritual light to our benighted world takes its commencement--when Adam was utterly blind; and the canopy over his head, was palled in impenetrable darkness. To remove the one disability, was in itself to do nothing--to remove the other disability, was in itself to do nothing. Both must be removed, ere Adam could again see. Both may have been removed instantaneously; and by one fiat of Omnipotence, such a perfection of spiritual discernment may have been conferred on our first parents, and such a number of spiritual truths have been made by a direct communication from Heaven to stand around him, as in a single moment would have ushered him into all the splendours of a full and finished revelation. But this has not been God's method in His dealings with a sinful world. Spiritual light and spiritual discernment, were not called forth to meet each other, in all the plenitude of an unclouded brilliancy, at the bidding of His immediate voice. The outward truth has been dealt out by a gradual process of revelation-and the inward perception of it has been made to maintain a corresponding pace through a process equally gradual. A greater number of spiritual objects has been introduced, from one time to another, into the field of visibility—and the power of spiritual vision has from one age to another been made to vary
and to increase along with them.
Those truths, which make up the body of our written revelation, may be regarded as so'many objects, on which visibility has been conferred by so many successive communications of light from Heaven. They were at first few in number; and these few were offered to mankind, under the disguise of a rather vague and extended generality. The dawn of this eternal revelation was marked by the solitary announcement, given to our outcast progenitors, that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent. To this, other announcements were added in the progress
of --and even the great truth, which lay enveloped in the very first of them, had a growing illumination cast upon it in the lapse of generations. The promise given to Adam, brightened into a more cheering and intelligible hope, when renewed to Abraham, in the shape of an assurance, that, through one of his descendants, all the families of the earth were to be blest; and to Jacob, that Shiloh was to be born, and that to Him the gathering of the people should be; and to Moses, that a great Prophet was to arise like unto himself; and to David, that one of his house was to sit upon
his throne for ever; and to Isaiah, that one was to
ages appear, who should be a light unto the Gentiles, and the salvation of all the ends of the earth; and to Daniel, that the Messiah was to be cut off, but not for Himself, and that through Him reconciliation was to be made for iniquity, and an everlasting righteousness was to be brought in; and to John the Baptist, that the kingdom of Heaven was at hand, and the Prince of that kingdom was immediately to follow in the train of his own ministrations; and to the apostles in the days of our Saviour upon earth, that He with whom they companied was soon to be lifted up for the healing of the nations, and that all who looked to Him should live; and finally, to the apostles after the day of Pentecost, when, fraught with the full and explicit tidings of a world's atonement and a world's regeneration, they went forth with the doctrine of Christianity in its entire copiousness, and have transmitted it to future ages in a book, of which it has been said, that no man shall add thereto, and that no man shall take
from it. This forms but a faint and a feeble outline of that march, by which God's external revelation hath passed magnificently onwards, from the first days of our world, through the twilight of the patriarchal ages—and the brightening of the Jewish dispensation, aided as it was by the secondary lustre of types and of ceremonies and the constant accumulation of Prophecy, with its visions every century becoming more distinct, and its veil becoming more transparent—and the personal communications of God manifest in the flesh, who opened His mouth amongst us, but still opened it in parables-insomuch that when He ascended from His disciples, He still left them in wonder and dimness and mystery— Till, by the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit from the place which He had gone to occupy, the evidence of inspiration received its last and its mightiest enlargement, which is now open to all for the purpose of perusal, but so shut against every purpose of augmentation, that in this respect it may be said, its words are closed up and sealed to the time of the end.
The Epistle to the Romans, forms one of the most complete and substantial products of this last and greatest illumination. In this document, the visibility of external revelation is poured forth not merely on the greatest variety of Christian doctrine, but on that doctrine so harmoniously blended with the truths of human experience—so solidly reared from the foundation of Jesus Christ and of Him crucified, into a superstructure at once firm and graceful and stately—so branching forth into all the utilities of moral and practical application ---and, at length, from an argument bearing upon one great conclusion, so richly efflorescing into all the virtues and accomplishments which serve both to mark and to adorn the person of regenerated man-Such is the worth and the density and the copiousness of this epistle--that, did our power of vision keep pace at all with the number and the value of those spiritual lessons which abound in it, then indeed should we, become the children of light, be rich in a wisdom that the world knoweth not, in a wisdom which is unto salvation.
But the outward light by which an object is ren
dered visible is one thing--and the power of vision is another. That these two are not only distinct in respect of theoretical conception, but were also experimentally distinct from each other in the actual history of God's communications to the world, will, we trust, be made to appear from several passages of that revealed history in the Bible; and from one single appeal which we shall make to the experience of our hearers.
The first passage is in 1 Peter, i, 10–12. “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you. Searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. 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 ; which things the angels desire to look into.” This passage sets the old prophets before us in a very striking attitude. They positively did not know the meaning of their own prophecies. They were like men of dim and imperfect sight, whose hand was guided by some foreign power to the execution of a picture--and who, after it was finished, vainly attempted, by straining their eyes, to explain and to ascertain the subject of it. They were the transmitters of a light, which, at the same time, did not illuminate themselves. They uttered the word, or they put it down in writing, as it was given