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LECTURES ON THE ROMANS.
IT is possible to conceive the face of our be a twofold process begun and carried world overspread with a thick and mid- forward, and at length brought to its full night darkness, and without so much as a and perfect termination. Light must be particle of light to alleviate it, from any poured upon the earth, and the faculty of one quarter of the firmament around us. seeing must be conferred upon its inhabiIn this case, it were of no avail to the tants. One can imagine, that, instead of people who live in it, that all of them were the light being made instantaneously to in possession of sound and perfect eyes. burst upon us in its highest splendour, The organ of sight may be entire, and yet and, instead of the faculty being immedinothing be seen from the total absence of ately bestowed upon us in full vigour to external light among the objects on every meet and to encounter so strong a tide of side of us. Or in other words, to bring effulgency-that both these processes were about the perception of that which is with- conducted in a way that was altogether out, it is not enough that we have the gradual-that the light, for example, had power of vision among men; but, in ad- its first weak glimmering; and that the dition to this, there must be a visibility in eye, in the feebleness of its infancy, was the trees, and the houses, and the moun- not overcome by it-that the light adtains, and the living creatures, which are vanced with morning step to a clearer Low in the ordinary discernment of men. brilliancy; and that the eye, rendered But, on the other hand, we may reverse able to bear it, multiplied the objects of the supposition. We may conceive an its sight, and took in a wider range of entire luminousness to be extended over perception-that the light shone at length the face of nature-while the faculty of unto the perfect day; and that the eye, sight was wanting among all the indivi- with the last finish upon its properties and duals of our species. In this case, the its powers, embraced the whole of that external light would be of as little avail variety which lies within the present comtowards our perception of any object at a pass of human contemplation. We must distance from us, as the mere possession see that if one of these processes be graof the sense of seeing was in the former dual, the other should be gradual also instance. Both must conspire to the effect By shedding too strong a light upon weak of our being rendered conversant with the eyes, we may overpower and extinguish external world through the medium of the them. By granting too weak a light to eyc. And if the power of vision was not him who has strong eyes, we make the fa enough, without a visibility on the part of culty outstrip the object of its exercise, the things which are around as, by God and thus incur a waste of endowment. saying let there be light-as little is their By attempering the one process to the visibility enough, without the power of other, we maintain, throughout all the vision stamped as an endowment by the stages, that harmony which is so abundhand of God, on the creatures whom He antly manifested in the works of Nature has formed. and Providence, between man as he actually is, and the circumstances by which man is actually surrounded.
Now we can conceive that both these defects or disabilities, in the way of vision, may exist at the same time-or that all the world was dark, and that all the people in the world were blind. To emerge out of this condition-there must
These preliminary statements will we trust be of some use for illustrating the progress, not of natural, but of spiritual light, along that path which forms the suc
cessive history of our world. Whatever | est character lay upon the first moments discernment Adam had of the things of in the history of sinful man; and which God in Paradise, the fall which he experienced was a fall into the very depths of the obscurity of midnight. The faculties he had in a state of innocence, made him able to perceive, that the Creator, who formed him, took pleasure in all that He had formed; and rejoiced over them so long as he siw that they were good. But when they ceased to be good, and became evil-when sin had crept into our world in the shape of a novelty as yet unheard, and as yet unprovided for-when the relation of man to his Maker was not merely altered, but utterly and diametrically reversed-when, from a loyal and affectionate friend, he had become at first a daring, and then a distrustful and affrighted rebel -Adam may, when a sense of integrity made all look bright and smiling and serene around him, have been visited from Heaven with the light of many high communications; nor could he feel at a loss to comprehend, how He, who was the Fountain of moral excellence, should cherish, with a Father's best and kindest regards, all those whom He had filled and beautified and blest with its unsullied emanations: But, after the gold had become dim, how He whose eye was an eye of unspotted holiness could look upon it with complacency-after the sentence had been incurred, how, while truth and unchangeableness were the attributes of God, it ever could be reversed by the lips of Him who pronounced it-after guilt with all its associated terrors had changed to the view of our first parents the aspect of the Divinity, how the light of His countenance should ever beam upon them again with an expression of love or tenderness-these were the mysteries which beset and closed and shrouded in thickest darkness, the understandings of those who had just passed out of innocence into sin. Till God made this first communication, there was no external light, to alleviate that despair and dreariness which followed the first visitation of a feeling so painful and so new as the consciousness of evil. And, if the agitations of the heart have any power to confuse and to unsettle the perceptions of the understanding-if remorse and perplexity and fear, go to disturb the exercise of all our judging and all our discerning faculties-if, under the engrossment of one great and overwhelming apprehension, we can neither see with precision nor contemplate with steadiness-above 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 deep
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 nurnber 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 external 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 ages-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 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 away from it.
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 rendered 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.
This forms but a faint and a feeble out- The first passage is in 1 Peter i. 10-12. line of that march, by which God's exter-"Of which salvation the prophets have nal 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 ceremoniesand 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
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 to them-and then they searched by their own power, but searched in vain for the signification of it. They enquired diligently what the meaning of the Spirit could be, when it testified of the sufferings of Christ and the glory
of Christ. But till that Spirit gave the which had arisen on the outward page of power of discernment, as well as set be- revelation, had also dawned and arisen fore them the objects of discernment-upon their own hearts-not, in short, till their attempts were nugatory. And in- the great agent of all revelation, even the deed they were sensible of this, and ac- Holy Spirit who had already furnished the quiesced in it. It was told them by reve- object of perception in the word, had also lation, that the subject matter of their pro- furnished the organ of perception in the phecy was not for themselves, but for understanding-not till then, were the inothers-even for those to whom the gospel quirers after the truth as it is in Jesus should be preached in future days, and effectually introduced, to a full acquaintwho, along with the ministration of the ance with all its parts, or to the full beexternal word, were to receive the minis-nefit of all its influence. tration of the Holy Ghost-whose office it is to put into the mouths of prophets the things which are to be looked to and believed, and whose office also it is to put into the hearts of others the power of seeing and believing these things. And it serves clearly to mark the distinction between these two offices, that the prophets, alluded to in this passage, presented to the world a set of truths which they themselves did not understand-and that again the private disciples of Peter, who were not so learned as to be made the original and inspired authors of such a communication, were honoured with the far more valuable privilege of being made to understand it.
This we think will appear still more clearly from another passage of the same apostle in 2 Peter i. 19-21. "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts. Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." No prophecy is of private interpretation. It was not suggested by the natural sense of him who uttered it-and as little is it understood, or can it be cxplained, by the natural powers of the same person. He was the mere recipient of a higher influence; and he conveyed what he had thus received to the world-speaking not of his own will but just as he was moved by the Holy Ghost-and enabled to discern or to expound the meaning of what he had thus spoken, not of his own power, but just as the same Holy Ghost who gave him the materials of contemplation, gave him also the faculty of a just and true contemplation. The light of which he was barely the organ of transmission, shone in a dark place, so long as it shone upon the blind; and, not till the blind was made to seenot till the eyes of those, who were taking heed to the letter of the prophecy, were opened to perceive the life and meaning and spirit of the prophecy-not till that day which has dawned, and that day-star
We cannot take leave of this passage, without adverting to the importance of that practical injunction which is contained in it. They who are still in darkness are called upon to look, and with earnestness too, to a particular quarter; and that is the word of God-and to do so until the power of vision was granted to them. If a blind man were desirous of beholding a landscape, and had the hope at the same time of having his sight miraculously restored to him, he might, even when blind, go to the right post of observation, and turn his face to the right direction, and thus wait for the recovery of that power which was extinguished. And, in like manner, we are all at the right post, when we are giving heed to our Bibles. We are all going through a right exercise, when, with the strenuous application of our natural powers, we are reading and pondering and comparing and remembering the words of the testimony-and if asked, how long we should persevere in this employment, let us persevere in it with patience and prayer until, as Peter says, the day dawn and the day-star arise in our hearts.
That John the Baptist should not know himself to have been he who was to come in the spirit and power of Elijah; and hence, in reply to the question Art thou Elias? should say that I am not-whereas our Saviour affirmed of him, that he was the Elias who should come-this ignorance of his may be as much due to the want of outward information about the point, as to any lack in the faculty of discernment. The same thing however can scarcely be said of his ignorance of the true character of the very Messiah whom he himself foretold-insomuch, that, though he had baptized him and attested him to be the Lamb of God, and had seen the Spirit descending upon him like a dove-yet he seems afterwards to have been so much startled by the obscurity of his circumstances, and by the style of his companionship which looked unsuitable to the character of a great Prince and Deliverer, that, in perplexity about the matter, he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask whether he was the person who should come or they had to look for another
He laboured under such a disadvantage, | He made them see old things more clearly whether of darkness or of blindness about than before; and that, by a direct work the whole nature of the new dispensation, on the power of mental perception, He that though, in respect of light, he was greater than the greatest of the prophets, who had gone before him-yet, in the very same respect, he was less than the least in the kingdom of heaven; or less than the least enlightened of the Christian disciples who should come after him.
The constant misapprehension of our Saviour's own immediate disciples, of which we read so much in the Gospels, was certainly due as much to their being blind as to their being in the dark-to their defect in the power of seeing, as to any defect in the visibility of what was actually set before them.
brought them to their remembrance; and He made them skilful in the discernment of Scripture-a term applied exclusively at that time to the writings of the Old Testament; and He, not only cleared away the external darkness which rested on that part of Christian doctrine that was still unpromulgated, but He strengthened and purified that organ of discernment through which the light both of things new and old finds its way into the heart-insomuch that we know not two states of understanding which stand more decidedly contrasted with each other, than that of the apostles before, and of the same apostles after the resurrection-so that from being timid irresolute, confused, and altogether doubting and unsatisfied inquirers, they became the brave unshrinking and consistent ministers of a spiritual faith-looking back both on the writings of the Old Testament, and on our Saviour's conversations with other eyes than they had formerly, and enabled so to harmonize them all with their subsequent revelations, as to make them perceive an evangelical spirit and an evangelical meaning even in those earlier communications, which, of themselves, shed so dim and so feeble a lustre over the patriarchal and the prophetic ages.
We read of our Saviour's sayings being hid from them, that they perceived notand of His dealing out the light of external truth to them, as their eyes were able to bear it-and of His averring, in spite of all he had dealt out in the course of his personal ministrations upon earth, of His averring, at the close of these ministrations, that as yet they knew nothing, though if they had had the power of discernment, they might surely have learned much from what is now before us in the Gospels, and of which they were both the eye and the ear witnesses. We further read, that after the resurrection, when He met two of his disciples, and the eyes of their body were holden that they should So that the office of the Holy Ghost not know Him, just as the eyes of their with the apostles, was, not merely to show mind were holden that they should not them things new respecting Christ, but to know the things which were said in Moses make them see things both new and old. and the prophets and all the Scriptures The former of His functions, as we said concerning Himself, they at length came before, has now ceased-nor have we to recognize His person-not by any ad- reason to believe, that, during the whole ditional light thrown upon the external currency of our present world, there will object, but simply by their eyes being another article of doctrine or information opened; and they also came to recognize be given to us, than what is already Him in the Scriptures-not by any change treasured up in the written and unalteror any addition to the word of their testi-able word of God's communications. But mony, but simply by their understandings the latter function is still in full exercise. being opened to understand them. We It did not cease with the apostolic age. also read of the descent of the Holy Ghost The external revelation is completed. in the day of Pentecost-that event on But, for the power of beholding aright the which our Saviour set such an import- truths which it sets before us, we are just ance, as to make it more than an equiva-as dependent on the Holy Ghost as the lent for His own presence in the way of teaching and enlightening the minds of his apostles. "If I go not away, He will not come unto you-but if I depart, then Him who is not yet given, because I am not yet glorified, I will send unto you. And He will guide you into all truth, and take of my things, and show them unto you." There is no doubt that He showed them new things, which we have in the Epistles; and so made the light of external revelation shine more fully and brightly upon them. But there is as little doubt, that, in His office as a Revealer,
apostles of old were. His miraculous
There is with many amongst us, an un