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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 inhabi. In 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 ad. tains, and the living creatures, which are vanced with morning step to a clearer now 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 ngth 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 com. towards 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 gra. of 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 eye. 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 us, 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 acNow we can conceive that both these tually is, and the circumstances by which defects or disabilities, in the way of vi- man is actually surrounded. sion, may exist at the same time-or that These preliminary statements will we all the world was dark, and that all the trust be of some use for illustrating the people in the world were blind. To progress, not of natural, but of spiritual emerge out of this condition—there must 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 expe- required both light from Ileaven upon his rienced was a fall into the very depths of soul, and a renovation of its vitiated and the obscurity of midnight. The faculties disordered faculties, ere it could be effeche had in a state of innocence, made him tually dissipated. able to perceive, that the Creator, who From this point then, the restoration of formed him, took pleasure in all that He spiritual light to our benighted world had formed ; and rejoiced over them so takes its commencement-when Adam long as he saw that they were good. But was utterly blind; and the canopy over when they ceased to be good, and became his head, was palled in impenetrable darkevil—when sin had crept into our world ness. To remove the one disability, was in the shape of a novelty as yet unheard, in itself to do nothing—to remove the and as yet unprovided for—when the re- other disability was in itself to do nothing: lation of man to his Maker was not merely Both must be removed, ere Adam could altered, but utterly and diametrically re-again see. Both may have been removed versed—when, from a loyal and affection- instantaneously; and by one fiat of Om. ate friend, he had become at first a daring, nipotence, such a perfection of spiritual and then a distrustful and affrighted rebel discernment may have been conferred on -Adam may, when a sense of integrity our first parents, and such a number of made all look bright and smiling and se- spiritual truths have been made by a rene around him, have been visited from direct communication from heaven to Heaven with the light of many high com- stand around him, as in a single moment munications; nor could he feel at a loss would have ushered him into all the splento comprehend, how He, who was the dours of a full and finished revelation. Fountain of moral excellence, should But this has not been God's method in cherish, with a Father's best and kindest His dealings with a sinful world. Spiritual regards, all those whom He had filled and light and spiritual discernment, were not beautified and blest with its unsullied called forth to meet each other, in all the emanations : But, after the gold had be- plenitude of an unclouded brilliancy, at come dim, how He whose eye was an eye ihe bidding of His immediate voice. The of unspotted holiness could look upon it outward truth has been dealt out by a with complacency-after the sentence had gradual process of revelation-and the been incurred, how, while truth and un- inward perception of it has been made to changeableness were the attributes of maintain a corresponding pace through a God, it ever could be reversed by the lips process equally gradual. A greater nunof Him who pronounced it-after guilt ber of spiritual objects has been introwith all its associated terrors had changed duced, from one time to another, into the to the view of our first parents the aspect field of visibility—and the power of of the Divinity, how the light of His coun- spiritual vision has from one age to ano. tenance should ever beam upon them ther been made to vary and to increase again with an expression of love or ten- along with them. derness—these were the mysteries which Those truths, which make up the body beset and closed and shrouded in thickest of our written revelation, may be regarded darkness, the understandings of those as so many objects, on which visibility who had just passed out of innocence into has been conferred by so many success sin. Till God made this first communi- sive communications of light from Heaven. cation, there was no external light, to They were at first few in number ; and alleviate that despair and dreariness these few were offered to mankind, under which followed the first visitation of a the disguise of a rather vague and exfeeling so painful and so new as the contended generality. The dawn of this exsciousness of evil. And, if the agitations ternal revelation, was marked by the of the heart have any power to confuse solitary announcement, given to our outand 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 cren 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
to Jacob, that Shiloh was to be born, and blended with the truths of human experi. that to Him the gathering of the people ence—so solidly reared from the foundashould be ; and to Moses, that a great tion of Jesus Christ and of Him crucified, Prophet was to arise like unto himself; into a superstructure at once firm and and to David, that one of his house was to graceful and stately-so branching forth sit upon his throne for ever; and to Isaiah, into all the utilities of moral and practi. that one was to appear, who should be a cal application-and, at length, from an light unto the Gentiles, and the salvation argument bearing upon one great concluof all the ends of the earth ; and to sion, so richly efflorescing into all the Daniel, that the Messiah was to be cut virtues and accomplishments which serve off, but not for himself, and that through both to mark and to adorn the person of Him reconciliation was to be made for regenerated man-Such is the worth and iniquity, and an everlasting righteousness the density and the copiousness of this was to be brought in ; and to John the epistle—that, did our power of vision keep Baptist, that the kingdom of Heaven was pace at all with the number and the value at hand, and the Prince of that kingdom of those spiritual lessons which abound was immediately to follow in the train of in it, then indeed should we become the his own ministrations; and to the apos- children of light, be rich in a wisdom that tles in the days of our Saviour upon earth, the world knoweth not, in a wisdom which that He with whom they companied was is unto salvation. 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 should live ; and finally, to the apostles the power of vision is another. That 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, tions to the world, will, we trust, be made and have transmitted it to future ages in to appear from several passages of that a book, of which it has been said, that no revealed history in the Bible; and from man shall add thereto, and that no man one single appeal which we shall make to shall take away from it.
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 ty pes 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 to the execution of a picture—and who, the purpose of perusal, but so shut against after it was finished, vainly attempted, by every purpose of augmentation, that in straining their eyes, to explain and to as. this respect it may be said, its words are certain the subject of it. They were the closed up and sealed to the time of the transmitters of a light, which, at the same end.
time, did not illuminate themselves. 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. they searched by their own power, but In this document, the visibility of external searched in vain for the signification of it. revelation is poured forth not merely on They enquired diligently what the meanthe greatest variety of Christian doctrine, ing of the Spirit could be, when it testified but on that doctrine so harmoniously 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 in. others—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 We cannot take leave of this passage, it is to put into the mouths of prophets without adverting to the importance of the things which are to be looked to and that practical injunction which is containbelieved, and whose office also it is to put ed in it. They who are still in darkness into the hearts of others the power of are called upon to look, and with earnestseeing and believing these things. And ness too, to a particular quarter; and that it serves clearly lo mark the distinction is the word of God—and to do so until the between these two offices, that the pro- power of vision was granted to them. If phets, alluded to in this passage, present a blind man were desirous of beholding a ed to the world a set of truths which they landscape, and had the hope at the same themselves did not understand—and that time of having his sight miraculously re. again the private disciples of Peter, who stored to him, he might, even when blind, were not so learned as to be made the go to the right post of observation, and original and inspired authors of such a turn his face to the right direction, and communication, were honoured with the thus wait for the recovery of that power far more valuable privilege of being made which was extinguished. And, in like to understand it.
manner, we are all at the right post, when This we think will appear still more we are giving heed to our Bibles. We clearly from another passage of the same are all going through a right exercise, apostle in 2 Peter i. 19–21. “ We have when, with the strenuous application of also a
more sure word of prophecy ; our natural powers, we are reading and whereunto ye do well that ye take heed as pondering and comparing and rememberunto a light that shineth in a dark place, ing the words of the testimony-and if until the day dawn, and the day-star arise asked, how long we should persevere in in your hearts. Knowing this first, that this employment, let us persevere in it no prophecy of the Scripture is of any with patience and prayer until, as Peter private interpretation. For the prophecy says, the day dawn and the day-star arise came not in old time by the will of man; in our hearts. but holy men of God spake as they were That John the Baptist should not know moved by the Holy Ghost.” No prophecy himself to have been he who was to come is of private interpretation. It was not in the spirit and power of Elijah; and suggested by the natural sense of him hence, in reply to ihe question Art thou who uttered it—and as little is it under- Elias ? should say that I am not—whereas stood, or can it be explained, by the na- our Saviour affirmed of him, that he was tural powers of the same person. He the Elias who should come-this ignor. was the mere recipient of a higher influ- ance of his may be as much due to tho ence; and he conveyed what he had thus want of outward information about the received to the world-speaking not of his point, as to any lack in the faculty of own will but just as he was moved by the discernment. The same thing however Holy Ghost-and enabled to discern or to can scarcely be said of his ignorance of expound the meaning of what he had thus the true character of the very Messiah spoken, not of his own power, but just as whom he himself foretold-insomuch, that, the same Holy Ghost who gave him the though he had baptized him and attested materials of contemplation, gave him also him to be the Lamb of God, and had seen the faculty of a just and true contempla- the Spirit descending upon him like a tion. The light of which he was barely dove-yet he seems afterwards to have the organ of transmission, shone in a dark been so much startled by the obscurity of place, so long as it shone upon the blind; his circumstances, and by the style of his and, not till the blind was made to sce- companionship which looked unsuitable not till the eyes of those, who were taking to the character of a great Prince and heed to the letter of the prophecy, were Deliverer, that, in perplexity about the opened to perceive the life and meaning matter, he sent his disciples to Jesus to and spirit of the prophecy-not till that ask whether he was the person who should day which has dawned, and that day-star come or they had to look for another?