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the Son in the likeness of man, the union of two natures infinitely different into one individual Person, faith that living principle by which the sinner is joined to the Saviour, and the resurrection of the body at last, are all, in their turn, pronounced A MYSTERY.Such is the acknowledgement of prophets and apostles; and therefore if every part of divine revelation appeared perfectly plain, obvious to the understanding at first view, the bible would be inconsistent with itself; it could no longer be considered a faithful saying; it might with propriety be rejected as not coming from Him whose ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts.
2. It may be inferred, that these doctrines, however mysterious, should be taught without reserve by the spiritual steward.We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery. It is readily acknowledged that there are particular truths which ought to be discussed with much prudlence and caution, lest they be abused by the wanton, or prove stumbling to the weak. The eternal generation of the Son by the Father; the procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son, should ever be mentioned with the profoundest reverence as mysteries utterly incomprehensible; otherwise an impure imagination may be led to conceive of God after the manner of inen, or consider the Son and SPIRIT as inferior to the Father. The absolute, eternal election of a certain number to future glory, is also a doctrine in the illustration of which much wisdom is requisite, lest enquiring souls be discouraged, and the ungodly hardened in sin. While it is taught as the truth of God, that some were ordained to eternal life, it should also be taught that this decree is among those secret things which belong to the Lord, into which we ought not boldly to enquire ; that, in the everlasting gospel, salvation is tendered freely to every hearer; that no man knows but he is elected, and that he is really invited and commanded, by embracing the offered Saviour, to make his calling and election sure. Again, the sovereign agency of the Spirit in the sanctification of believers, and their certain perseverance in holiness, are parts of our message to be discussed with extreme caution, lest the presumptuous be tempted to sin because grace abounds, or to neglect the means of salvation, merely because they cannot give efficacy to these means. In order to prevent these dangerous consequences, it may be proper to teach, that, although the Holy Ghost works, yet he usually works by the ordinances of his own appointment; that although faith is peculiarly his gift, yet this faith cometh by hearing the word of God; that the dead in sin are raised to spiritual life, and those who are already alive to God grow up to perfect men, by means of meditation and prayer, by the instrumentality of the word read and preached, as really as the natural babe is supported and nourished by the natural milk. But although caution is requisite in handling the word of life, yet no part of the mystery of God ought to be neglected; to conceal any truth, from an apprehension that the cause might be injured by declaring it, betrays a shameful disbelief both of the power and promise of God: to shun proclaiming any doctrine in its proper season and connexion, lest our characters might be exposed to reproach, betrays an inexcusable pride. Suppose that an ambassador was sent to a foreign court, for the purpose of negociating a treaty; and he, from motives of policy or popularity, should conceal a part of his instructions, how arrogant must his conduct appear? what a reflection upon the court which he was appointed to represent, as if they knew not what measures were most conducive to their interest and honor! If liberties of this nature would be thought daring among men, how inconceivably greater is his arrogance, who trifles with the authority of the King of kings ; who ventures to conceal or amend his adorable counsels? With what sovereignty does the Lord God give command to his servant the prophet, and through him to the spiritual ambassador in every age? “ So tbou O son of man, I have set thee a watchman to the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word from my mouth, and warn them from me.-Go unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, thus saith the Lord God, whether they will hear, or whe
ther they will forbear.” Armed with a commission thus solemn and explicit, how bold were both prophets and apostles, in proclaiming the whole counsel of God, without respect to persons, or regard to consequences ? For this they cheerfully became the song of the drunkard, were derided as fools by the wise of this world, and rejected as the very off-scouring of all things : Yet neither this scorn nor persecution moved them; yea, they accounted not even life dear, that they might finish their course with joy, and the ministry which they had received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
3. It may be inferred, that it is the duty of all implicitly and cordially to receive this wisdom of God in a mystery. In vain is the most nourishing bread presented, unless it be improved ; in vain do the purest waters flow around us, unless they be applied for quenching our thirst; and in vain are these mysteries of revelation indiscriminately announced, unless indiscriminately embraced, All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and should therefore be fully believed, and thankfully improved by us. As the ministers of Jesus are not at liberty to choose which part of their message to deliver, and which to conceal ; neither are his professed followers at liberty to choose which to accept, or which to reject. The consideration that many doctrines of christianity are beyond our comprehension, is not the least VOL. 2.
objection against receiving them. There are ten thousand appearances in nature which all believe, yet none can understand. We believe that the heavenly bodies revolve around each other, and that by this revolution day and night, summer and winter, alternately return; yet no philosopher has attempted fully to explain the laws by which they are kept in motion : We believe that the grass grows, without being capable of saying how; we believe that one plant is pleasant to the palate and nourishing to the body, while another is both offensive and poisonous, yet we are unable to account for this difference of qualities; they both grow in the same climate, are supported by the same soil, are surrounded with the same atmosphere, have the influences of the same sun to warm, and the same rain to water and refresh them. I am bold to affirm, that those who believe nothing but what they comprehend, must believe nothing at all. — There is not a rose that blushes in the garden, not a spire of grass which blooms in the field, not a leaf which waves in the forest, that we can completely analyze and understand; nay, they must even doubt and deny their very existence. I can as easily explain any mystery in the gospel, as I can explain the manner of my own existence. I am lost when I begin scrupulously to enquire how I was created at first ; how I am supported from day to day; how the muscles move, and the blood flows in my veins, without a