Page images

duce several instances. First; the resurrection of the body is a doctrine of revelation, and it is a mysterious doctrine. No man will venture to say that he is able to comprehend how God raises the dead body, any more than he comprehends how God caused him to be conceived in the womb. But God has declared that the dead body shall be raised immortal: this mortal must put on immortality, and this corruptible must put on incorruption.

There is certainly something mysterious in the doctrine of the resurrection: for, says the apostle, "behold I show you a mystery; the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." Here are many things we cannot find out unto perfection: we cannot tell the nature of that change which those who shall not sleep shall undergo at the coming of the Lord Jesus: but God knows it; and it should not be thought an incredible thing that God should raise the dead body, or change the living.

The relation of Christ to his church is a mystery, a great mystery; yet it is asserted that he and his church are one body. Have we nothing to do with this mystery? Or are we not to believe it, unless we are able to understand or explain the precise nature of this connexion? We know some reasons why Christ and his church are called one body mystical; there may be other reasons which none but Omniscience knows; but if Divine wisdom had given us no reason in this matter, the declaration of the apostle is sufficient to ascertain the fact-namely, that Christ and his church are, in a certain sense, one body.

In the dispensations of grace, revealed religion shows us mysteries, as natural religion shows us mysteries in the course of Divine providence. The apostle asserts that blindness in part happened unto Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles he come in ; and that this was a wise dispensation of God. I am certain it was a mysterious one, and that it was one of those ways of God which are past finding out. "I

would not, brethren," says the apostle, "that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceit, that blindness in part is happened unto Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in." Here is a mystery of which the apostle would not have his brethren ignorant; therefore something may be known concerning mysteries. He would not have them ignorant of the fact, though the Divine procedure in this matter is inscrutable; as appears in the conclusion of this chapter, where the apostle resolves the whole of this dispensation into the wisdom, the knowledge, and sovereignty of God: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him are all things; to whom be glory for ever, Amen."-Romans, xi.

This mystery was not declared or made known to the church merely for speculation, but to show the vanity of human wisdom, to prevent the disciples from being wise in their own conceits, and to teach them humility. This same apostle speaks of his "knowledge in the mystery of Christ;" and in the close of his epistle to the Romans he uses these remarkable words: "Now to him that is of power to stablish you, according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began, but is now made manifest; and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith."-Romans, xvi. 25, 26. Whoever seriously attends to these words of the inspired apostle, will scarcely venture to assert that we have nothing to do with mysteries in religion; seeing a mystery has been revealed by the commandment of the everlasting God, "for the obedience of faith."

[ocr errors]

In the sacred scriptures there are doctrines revealed which the light of nature could never have discovered; but, when revealed or made known, they appear perfectly agreeable to the dictates of sound reason, admirably suited to our situation and necessities, and every way worthy of a wise, holy, just, and merciful God. These doctrines may be called mysteries, because the light of reason could never have discovered them: they may be called the hidden things, which revelation hath discovered more obscurely or mysteriously in the days of the fathers, and of the prophets, but with clearer and stronger light in the gospel of Christ: and they may still with propriety be called mysteries, because in these doctrines, which reason approves, and faith rejoices to believe, there is an height to which our most elevated thoughts cannot soar, a length and breadth we cannot measure, and a depth which is unfathomable.

The same scriptures contain some doctrines which are more highly mysterious than others: there are lesser and greater mysteries in the Christian revelation: we can see farther into some than we can into others, and those are the greatest mysteries in which reason is least concerned, and faith most. With regard to doctrines above reason, Divine faith, which is the subsance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen, rests upon the testimony of God, › and believes, upon the authority of the holy scriptures, doctrines which reason cannot comprehend.

But it will be asked, what are we to believe? Can we believe any doctrine or proposition evidently above our comprehension? or can we assert or deny any proposition concerning such matters? Yes, we can say that God is eternal and infinite; yet God, eternity, and infinity, are incomprehensible. We can say that we have souls, and that they act upon our bodily organs, and are affected by these organs, but we cannot comprehend how. We know that there is a God, but that he is unsearchable; we know that he has existed from all eternity, and never began to exist: here our

faculties are lost in an unfathomable abyss. We may believe more than we can know, or there can be no such thing as faith: all things that can be known by us are the objects of the understanding: things that cannot be fully known, or are above our comprehension, are, when revealed, the proper objects of faith. In every scripture mystery there is something of which we can form clear and distinct ideas; there is always something clear, plain, and intelligible, while at the same time there are other things not so clear, and others that are perfectly incomprehensible by us. We will endeavour to illustrate this in a particular case, and by an instance which is directly in point. The apostle, writing to Timothy, says, "without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”—I. Tim. iii. 16. In the first place, it is very obvious that there is one great mystery in the Christian revelation: without controversy, says the apostle, great is the mystery of godliness. Secondly, the apostle asserts certain facts, and it is plain that he had some ideas of these facts, some ideas annexed to the words which he used in his epistle, and that Timothy, to whom he wrote, might have some ideas of the apostle's words; and, consequently, that we who have this epistle to read may also have some ideas of the facts recorded. God was manifest in the flesh; God was justified in the spirit; God was seen of angels; God was preached unto the Gentiles; God was believed on in the world; and God was received up into glory. All these propositions are contained in the text; and they are true, if the word of God is true. I shall confine my. self to the first proposition, namely, God was manifest in the flesh; and, whatever this may mean, it is evident that God was manifest in the flesh, either in away and manner that we can comprehend, or in a way and manner that we cannot comprehend; but that he was manifest in the flesh cannot be denied.

We have some clear and distinct ideas of God, though none that are adequate to his nature and perfections; and we have some clear and distinct ideas of the word flesh; and thus we may form this proposition: viz. God appeared in the flesh, that is, in our nature. The apostle Paul says that he was seen of angels; and the apostle John says he was seen of men. This person who appeared, and was seen in our nature, is God the Son; for he is the person who was justified in the spirit, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

[ocr errors]

Farther, the apostle John says, "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." Hence it follows, that he who was manifest in the flesh was made flesh. Now, as it is absurd to suppose that the divine nature could be changed into the human, therefore we must have recourse to other passages of scripture relating to the same subject for more light and information in this matter; for these words, made flesh, cannot possibly signify that the divine nature was made the human nature, or changed into it. Upon further inquiry we find that the scriptures speak more fully and clearly upon this subject; and we are informed that the Son of God took upon him the form of a servant, that he was possessed of the divine nature, that he was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God; that he made himself of no reputation, took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. I shall quote the whole passage, as it will ascertain some very important facts which will help to determine what meaning we are to annex to the words above mentioned. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and, being found in fa

« PreviousContinue »