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A SERIES of pulpit discourses on the obvious subject-rit er of Scripture, is of a different character from those critical and expository works, the object of which is to fix and ascertain the meaning—even of the more obscure and controverted, as well as of the clearest passages. The following is a record of the Sabbath preparations of many years back-now given without change or improvement to the world; and the appearance of which in their present state is very much owing to the fre quently expressed desire of my old hearers, to have the Lec tures which I delivered on the Epistle to the Romans, set before them in a more permanent form.
But it may be right to mention that the pulpit lectures which were delivered during my incumbency in the parish of St John's, Glasgow, from September, 1819, to November, 183, extend only a little way into the tenth chapter, and that ne remaining lectures, with the exception of the one on xiv. 7 have been only prepared now for the completion of this wor
Edinburgh, January, 1842.
LECTURES ON THE ROMANS.
It is possible to conceive the face of our world overspread with a thick and midnight darkness, and without so much as a particle of light to alleviate it, from any one quarter of the firmament around us. In this case, it were of no avail to the people who live in it, that all of them were in possession of sound and perfect eyes. The organ of sight may be entire, and yet nothing be seen from the total absence of external light among the objects on every side of us. Or in other words, to bring about the perception of that which is without, it is not enough that we have the power of vision among men; but, in addition to this, there must be a visibility in the trees, and the houses, and the mountains, and the living creatures, which are now in the ordinary discernment of men. But, on the other hand, we may reverse the supposition. We may conceive an entire luminousness to be extended over the face of nature-while the faculty of sight was wanting among all the individuals of our species. In this case, the external light would be of as little avail towards our perception of any object at a distance from us, as the mere possession of the sense of seeing was in the former instance. Both must conspire to the effect of our being rendered conversant with the external world through the medium of the eye. And if the power of vision was not enough, without a visibility on the part of the things which are around us, by God saying let there be light-as little is their visibility enough, without the power of vision stamped as an endowment by the hand of God, on the creatures whom He has formed.
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
be a twofold process begun and carried forward, and at length brought to its full and perfect termination. Light must be poured upon the earth, and the faculty of seeing must be conferred upon its inhabitants. One can imagine, that, instead of the light being made instantaneously to burst upon us in its highest splendour, and, instead of the faculty being immediately bestowed upon us in full vigour to meet and to encounter so strong a tide of effulgency-that both these processes were conducted in a way that was altogether gradual—that the light, for example, had its first weak glimmering; and that the eye, in the feebleness of its infancy, was not overcome by it-that the light advanced with morning step to a clearer brilliancy; and that the eye, rendered able to bear it, multiplied the objects of its sight, and took in a wider range of perception-that the light shone at length unto the perfect day; and that the eye, with the last finish upon its properties and its powers, embraced the whole of that variety which lies within the present compass of human contemplation. We must see that if one of these processes be gradual, the other should be gradual also By shedding too strong a light upon weak eyes, we may overpower and extinguish them. By granting too weak a light to him who has strong eyes, we make the faculty outstrip the object of its exercise, and thus incur a waste of endowment. By attempering the one process to the other, we maintain, throughout all the stages, that harmony which is so abundantly manifested in the works of Nature and Providence, between man as he actually is, and the circumstances by which man is actually surrounded.
These preliminary statements will we trust be of some use for illustrating the progress, not of natural, but of spiritual light, along that oath which forms the suc
est 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 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.
cessive history of our world. Whatever discernment Adam had of the things of 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 nad formed; and rejoiced over them so long as he saw 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 un-cast progenitors, that the seed of the woderstanding-if remorse and perplexity man should bruise the head of the serand fear, go to disturb the exercise of all pent. To this, other announcements were our judging and all our discerning facul- added in the progress of ages-and even ties-if, under the engrossment of one the great truth, which lay enveloped in great and overwhelming apprehension, the very first of them, had a growing illuwe can neither see with precision nor mination cast upon it in the lapse of genecontemplate with steadiness-above all, rations. The promise given to Adam, if, under the administration of a righteous brightened into a more cheering and inGod, there be a constant alliance between telligible hope, when renewed to Abraspiritual darkness and a sense of sin un- ham, in the shape of an assurance, that, pardoned or sin unexpiated-then may through one of his descendants, all the we be sure that an obscurity of the deep-families of the earth were to be blest; and
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 out
blended with the truths of human experience-so solidly reared from the founda. tion 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.
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 But the outward light by which an obnations, and that all who looked to Him ject is rendered visible is one thing-and That should live; and finally, to the apostles the power of vision is another. after the day of Pentecost, when, fraught these two are not only distinct in respect with the full and explicit tidings of a of theoretical conception, but were also world's atonement and a world's regene-experimentally distinct from each other in ration, they went forth with the doctrine the actual history of God's communicaof 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.
tions 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 enquired and searched diligently, who onwards, from the first days of our world, prophesied of the grace that should come through the twilight of the patriarchal unto you. Searching what, or what ages-and the brightening of the Jewish manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which dispensation, aided as it was by the secon- was in them did signify, when it testified dary lustre of types and of ceremonies- beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and and the constant accumulation of Prophe- the glory that should follow. Unto whom cy, with its visions every century becom- it was revealed, that not unto themselves, ing more distinct, and its veil becoming but unto us, they did minister the things more transparent--and the personal com- which are now reported unto you, by munications of God manifest in the flesh, them that have preached the gospel unto who opened His mouth amongst us, but you, with the Holy Ghost sent down from still opened it in parables-insomuch that heaven; which things the angels desire to when He ascended from His disciples, He look into." This passage sets the old prostill left them in wonder and dimness and phets before us in a very striking attitude. mystery-till, by the pouring forth of the They positively did not know the meanHoly Spirit from the place which He had ing of their own prophecies. They were gone to occupy, the evidence of inspira- like men of dim and imperfect sight, whose tion received its last and its mightiest en-hand was guided by some foreign power largement, 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.
to the execution of a picture-and who, after it was finished, vainly attempted, by straining their eyes, to explain and to as certain the subject of it. They were the transmitters of a light, which, at the same time, did not illuminate the.nselves. They The Epistle to the Romans, forms one uttered the word, or they put it down in of the most complete and substantial pro-writing, as it was given to them-and then ducts 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
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