« AnteriorContinuar »
ed, from time to time, with difficulties and perplexities; and are apt to believe, that, if more had been disclosed, our difficulties and perplexities would have been lessened. This is, however, an entire mistake. Had more things been revealed concerning these subjects, their nature would have seemed more vast, their connections more numerous and perplexing, their consequences more difficult and doubtful, and their mysteriousness, more absolute and discouraging. Our minds, therefore, would in this case have been less satisfied and settled, than they now are ; and the influence of this part of Revelation on our hearts and lives would have been less useful and happy. In our present situation we are prone to imagine, that, if we could see a little farther, and know a little more, we should arrive at certain boundaries, where satisfaction and rest would be obtained; but did we reflect with only a moderate degree of attention and candour, we should perceive, that our adventures in knowledge are like excursions in space; where the imagined goal, at which we intend to stop, retires even faster than we advance; and will continue to retire forever. Thus from the very nature of the case it seems evident, that the secret things, referred to in the text, are wisely withheld from us by our Creator ; that in withholding them he has placed us in a better situation for obeying all the words of his law, than if he had revealed them; and that this is one great, and not improbably the principal, reason, for which they are withheld.
That the same valuable end is in the best manner promoted by the things, which are revealed, will probably be rarely, if ever, questioned by any man, who believes in the existence of a divine Revelation, and seriously makes the Bible the object of his study. I shall only observe on this part of the subject, that ho, who, with a becoming attention and an honest heart, applies bimself diligently to this book, will never want a perfect rule to direct him, nor suficient motives to urge him to every part of his duty.
What our reason thus readily perceives, and admits; the wisdom and goodness of God establish beyond debate. We know that he designed to promote the good of mankind, by the Revelation which he has given them. That he perfectly knew, what it would be best to reveal, and what to withhold, will not be doubted; nor that he was perfectly disposed to reveal and to withhold
cordare oue es
A was perfectly fitted to place them in the stand and obey his will, and to obtain their course, the Revelation, which he has actually in the best manner to accomplish these great
the observations which have been made, are just; it follows, „he Scriptures are a perfect Revelation, and are ever to be reded as such by Mankind.
By this I intend, that they contain, to use the language of St. Peter, all things pertaining to life and godliness, and that they contain nothing more. Whatever is necessary or useful to our faith or practice, in the attainment of our salvation, is found in them; and nothing which is not useful. Were any thing omitted or added, they would be less useful, and our situation less advantageous and desirable than it now is. God disclosed and withheld, all that is disclosed and withheld in them; and that, as his infinite wisdom and goodness directed. They are therefore a perfect Revelation; and nothing is to be added to them, nor ought diminished from them, according to his frequently repeated commands; commands founded wholly upon this, their absolute perfection. We are not permitted even to wish for such additions or diminutions. Every wish of this nature is a direct opposition to the divine will, and a direct impeachment of the divine wisdom.
These observations are no less applicable to the manner, in which the Scriptures are written, than to the matter, which they contain. The manner, so far as it affects the sense of what is written, was equally an object of the divine attention with the matter; and is equally fitted to promote the good designed. The Scriptures are written for mankind at large; a great part of whom are ignorant of science and philosophy, and of the language of philosophers ; and they are written, therefore, in plain and popular language. This language was designed to be understood, in the plain and popular manner.
If it were otherwise, to nine tenths of the human race they would be unintelligible. From this mode
of understanding and interpreting the Scriptures, we cannot be excused ; and all our attempts to interpret them in any other manner, are a mere perversion. Should it be said, in answer to these observations, that the different writers in the Scriptures were, each of them, plainly left to his own mode of expression, as is evident from the fact that they express themselves in so many different modes, and each in his own mode : I reply, that this very variety, in which each writer adopted his own style, is a part of the perfection specified. Each writer spoke his own language in this sense, that he adopted such a style as was natural to him: but in this sense he spoke the language of God, i. e. not the words which man's wisdom taught, but which the Holy Ghost taught; that he used in his own style such words as express the true pleasure of God, in the best manner, most plainly, most exactly, most forcibly. In both these things combined we have, on the one band, the pleasure of God most perfectly expressed, and, on the other, a clear proof that the Scriptures were written by many hands in different ages and circumstances; while at the same time they exhibit a perfect accordance in all concerning the great truths of Revelation : an advantage, plainly inestimable:
%. It is equally evident, that it is the great interest and duty of mankind to use the Scriptures as they are, in the most diligent and faithful manner; that the great ends, for which they were intended, may be accomplished.
Particularly we are required to read them daily, with profound attention, great care, and unceasing constancy; that we may learn their import; that we may understand them in the same manner, learn from them the same truths and precepts, and gain by means of them the same wisdom and excellence, which were designed by their Author. To this employment we are by our interest, as truly as by our duty, required to come with a spirit of entire candour, with humble submission, with a willingness that God should speak in his own manner, and the very things which he has in fact spoken, and without any desire or design to make the scriptures speak in a different manner.
The things, which are contained in the scriptures, are partly truths which are the objects of our faith, and partly precepts which are rules of our duty, and both united are means of our salvation.
The truths, contained in the scriptures, are in some instances mysterious. In all cases of this nature there is usually some fact, or some doctrine, declared concerning a subject incapable of being investigated by us. The fact or doctrine, thus declared, brings up to our view some connection with some other facts or doctrines, more or less obscurely shadowed forth to our apprehension. But the nature of these facts or doctrines, and the connection between them, are either very imperfectly, or not at all, understood. Oftentimes, the nature of the revealed fact it is either very difficult or impossible clearly to understand, and, perhaps always, completely to comprehend. In such a case, we naturally wish to know more of the subject; often feel dissatisfied, that no more is revealed; and not unfrequently set ourselves laboriously to work, to find out something more by the employ• ment of our own faculties. But our wishes are unbecoming, our dissatisfaction blameable, and our labours vain. The doctrine, er fact, revealed, is true and useful; more useful than it would be, if those others, which we wish for, had been revealed also. It is not all the truth respecting the subject; but it is all which would be useful to us. We are therefore to receive it in this character, and entirely to acquiesce in the existing revelation, as perfectly wise and good. Thus it is declared, that Christ is God, the true God, the mighty God, Jehovah, I am ; that he is eternal, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Almighty, and Immutable; that he created all thing's visible and invisible, that he upholds all things, that he governs all things; that he will judge the quick and the dead, and rewards the righteous and the wicked; that all things are his possession and property ; that he forgives the sins of men; and that he ought to be, and is, worshipped and honoured by angels and men, even as the Father is, and ought to be, honoured. All these things are unquestionably and certainly true, and true in the obvious and popular sense of the expressions ; as being written chiefly for those, who cannot understand the expressions in any other sense, viz. the great body of mankind. At the same time, it is equally true and certain, that Christ is in some respect or other distinct from the Father, because he says of himself I, and to and of the Father thou and he ; because of the different appellations the Father and the Son; and because he is frequently
styled the Angel Jehovah, or Jehovah the messenger; and a