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seed containing within itself the elements of the future plant, as the acorn does of the oak (Matt. xiii. 31).
In the preceding chapter, p. 34, it is said that God gave us the Bible to teach (1) what He is and (2) what we are ; and both these topics were considered as introductory to that which
may be viewed as God's great design in the gift of the Holy Scriptures—(3) the making known that dispensation of mercy, through the Son and Holy Spirit, by which God can be just, and the Justifier of the Sinner (Rom. iii. 26); and the sinner, restored to the Divine favour and image, be thus qualified for the full enjoyment of God for ever (John xvii. 21).
It is now to be remarked, that the term “gradual" applies in some measure to each of these three topics ; but that it applies chiefly to the third and last-namely, the great work of man's redemption. § i. The nature and attributes of God revealed gradually.
1. God revealed his nature gradually.—This is an overwhelming subject—the nature of God—to us, who know so little even of our own nature, and needs the deepest humility in the contemplation of it.
At the very beginning God clearly revealed the unity of his nature (Gen. i. 1); but for 4000 years afterwards God only indistinctly made known that in the unity of his nature there were three Persons.
Some intimation of this truth is given in the very first chapter of the first book of the Bible, where it is implied that there is a plurality of persons in the Godhead, (Gen. i. 26) “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.” Again iii. 22, “Man is become as one of Us :" and again, ch. xi. 7, “Let Us go down.”
In other books of Scripture may be traced the same intimation, as Isa. vi. 3, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts ;” with verse 8, “Who will go for Us,” evidently calculated, as Dr. Smith remarks, to excite a remote conception in the mind of the original hearer or reader of a plurality of some kind in the Infinite Essence. See also Isa. xlviii. 16, translated by Lowth, “Now the Lord Jehovah hath sent me and his Spirit.”
Again, a person is described in the Old Testament under various titles, particularly as the Angel of the Lord to whom the name and attributes of Jehovah are given, yet represented as distinct from God and acting, as the term Angel imports, under a Divine commission. See Gen. xvi. 7, “ The Angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness," with verse 13, “ And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, “Thou God seest me.'' Moses calls him LORD*, i. e. Jehovah ; and Hagar, God.
The Prophets dwell yet more distinctly on this, as for instance, Isa. ix. 6, “ Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder : and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, THE Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace;" evidently identifying this mysterious person with the promised Messiah.
So also while we must look to the New Testament for the full view of the person and office of the Holy Spirit, He is spoken of in the Old Testament in terms which imply his personality and office. Gen. i. 2. vi. 3 ; 2 Sam. xxiii
. 2; Ps. li. 12. cxliii. 10; Isa. xlviii. 16. lxi. 1. lxiii. 10; Ezek. iii. 24, 27.
But the following passages compared together, remarkably shew how the germ of the great doctrine of the Trinity is discoverable in the Old Testament; Numb. vi. 24, 27, the Mosaic form, with 2 Cor. xii. 14, the Apostolic form of blessing, and with Matthew xxviii. 19, the form of words appointed to be used by our Blessed Lord on baptism.
2. God revealed his attributes gradually.
By the attributes of God are here meant his power, wisdom, justice, goodness, &c.: and by these chiefly we describe what we mean by the character of God. In this sense, then, we remark, that the outline of that character may be traced in the first three chapters of Genesis, especially in God's first revelation to fallen man, as contained in the third chapter. It is essentially the same character as that presented to us throughout the Bible. But as we proceed, the character of God opens to our view; and this is particularly the case in the history of the Jews, one object of whose selection doubtless was (for God accomplishes many purposes by one act) the gradual display of his character to man (see Exod. vi. 3; xxxiv. 5). To them God gave, during a period of nearly 2000 years, many declarations respecting Himself-many laws, promises, threateningsmany sensible proofs of his government of them ;-stating in many instances the reasons of his conduct : and these become so many illustrations of God's character, exhibiting in a great variety of lights his power, wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, &c.
* Where Lord is printed in capital letters, it is in the original Jehovah, or self-existent independent Being.
A peculiar, and to us inestimable value of the Bible, is, that it is such an accumulation of facts, selected by God himself, as enables us to trace events to their moral causes; that is, to the reasons which God, as Governor of the world, had in permitting them. These facts thus become “so many keys to open to us the path to the secret method by which He governs the world and us." In the ordinary course of God's providence, we know not (to use a Scriptural illustration) whether they on whom the tower of Siloam fell were or were not sinners above all the dwellers in Jerusalem; we are in great danger of tracing the event to a wrong cause, and in so doing may be led to act as well as think wrong on the subject, Judges xvii. 13, Micah; 1 Sam. xxiii. 7, Saul; 1 Sam. xxvi. 8, Abishai ; Job iv. 7, Job's friends : Acts xxviii. 146; but when Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it (Judges ix. 52–56), and a certain woman cast a piece of millstone upon his head and brake his scull, and the Scriptures tell us, thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech which he did unto his father in slaying his seventy brethren ; the moral cause of the event being given us by God himself, the event becomes a proof to us of God's justice in the punishment of sin, and a warning to every sinner that he
be sure that, sooner or later, his sin will find him out.
This is an instance of God's justice ; others are given of his long-suffering, faithfulness to his promises, readiness to hear prayer, pardon sin, &c. (Ps. lxxviii., &c.), his exact notice of men's motives, and punishment of those he most loves, as in the case of Moses smiting the rock, of David numbering the people, and Hezekiah shewing his treasures. Illustrations are also given of his providence, calculated to inspire in those who serve him the greatest confidence in his protection. Of this the history of Joseph is a most striking display, shewing how God, without appearing in the least to disturb the ordinary course of men's actions, causes the worst evils to bring about the greatest good : the envy of Joseph's brethren, the false accusation of Potiphar's wife, the unjust wrath of Potiphar, the imprisonment of Joseph, all contributing to that advancement by which God enabled him to become the saviour of the infant church from famine. And from many such facts, thus traced by God himself to their causes through the course of thousands of years, shewing what is pleasing or displeasing to him, and how he has acted towards others under every variety of circumstance in which we can be placed, we may learn how to behave towards him, and what to expect from him; for by his moral government in things temporal thus explained to us, God shews us the great principles upon which our eternal interests will be determined. That the history of the Jews was miraculous, does not render it less instructive to us in this respect; for miracles do not alter the principles upon which God acts ; they only illustrate those principles in a more striking manner. The punishment of Uzziah by leprosy (2 Chron. xxvi. 19), and the deliverance of the three children of Israel from the fiery furnace, and of Daniel from the lions' den, were by miracle ; but they are only more striking illustrations of a principle from which God never departs, and which shall be more fully developed in the great day, that“ they that honour him he will honour, and they that despise him shall be lightly esteemed.”
The foundation of all our knowledge of God, as derived from the Bible, is that He is unchangeable (Heb. xii. 8); that what was pleasing or displeasing to him in any
of his creatures for instance, in Abel or Adam-6000 years ago, is equally so now. Without respect of persons, he judges according to every man's work, and that by a rule which never varies : from this great truth it follows, that “ the method of God's dealing with any rational creature is the common concern of all.” 2 Pet. ii. 4. But as by a long observation of his conduct, of what he says and does, especially if he condescend to acquaint us with his motives, we become gradually acquainted with the character of a fellowcreature, though he may have never varied in the principles of his conduct; so God, “ with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning,” may be said in the Bible to have made known his character gradually to man ; till, in the fulness of time, “ the Word was made ftesh, and dwelt among us” (John i. 14): and in the Only-begotten Son, “who is in the bosom of the Father,” we were called to see
light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. iv. 6; John i. 18; xiv. 9).
Yet, with regard to this glorious manifestation of the Divine character, it may be truly said, “Lo, these are parts of his ways; but how little a portion is heard of him !" Even here “ we see through a glass, darkly.” (Job xxvi. 14; 1 Cor. xiii.) But eternity is before us; and “ increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. i. 10) will be, through eternity, the delightful employment of all those who are now seeking to know him as he is revealed in Christ, (compare John xvii. 3 with 2 Thess. i. 8,) presenting an awful contrast, and suggesting an urgent motive for selfexamination.
§ ii. The character and prospects of man revealed gradually.
I. God revealed the character of man gradually.
The great fact upon which, as derived from the Bible, all our knowledge of ourselves depends, is, that as in water face answereth to face, so does the heart of man to man" (Prov. xxvii. 19); in other words, that human nature is the same in all ages, whether viewed as fallen in Adam or renewed by Divine grace (Gen. v. 3, with John iii. 6). In this sense, Cain and Abel are, in the essential principles of their character, the representatives of the two great classes into which all mankind may be divided to the end of time (1 John iii. 10–12). But the outline at first given (Gen. iii. iv.) is made more distinct-is gradually filled up-by an accumulation of facts.
1. Particular examples are given of the effects of God's grace. When it is said, Gen. V.,
“ Enoch walked with God," this
may be truly said to contain, as the acorn does the oak, the principle of all that is excellent in character. But in the Bible facts are accumulated illustrating this principle; details are given which exhibit the graces of God's spirit under every variety of circumstance. Passing by those which the world calls great events, and which are the usual subjects of history, while the mighty empires of Babylon and Nineveh (Gen. x. 10, 11), and the progress of the arts and sciences in Egypt, are overlooked; the domestic lives of obscure individuals—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Naomi and