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tion which revelation itself hath pointed out to us, will want no miracle to persuade him of the Christian doctrines: for nature itself is Christian, and the world itself a daily miracle; the heavens, speak to us, and the earth and all things therein join in the same testimony: so that if all nations were to disbelieve, nature itself would still continue a faithful witness to the truth: if the children of Abraham were to hold their peace, the stones would cry out.
Here we ought to descend to particulars, and shew how the state of nature and the several parts of it agree with the doctrines of the scripture; but there is not room for it on the present occasion and I have purposely considered the natural Evidence of Christianity by itself in two lectures, which open a prospect into that extensive subject, without attempting to penetrate to the end of it; and to them I must now refer you.
To these advantages of the sacred style, I am now to add that which is the greatest of all, and will justify the attention I have bestowed for several years past upon the matter of these lectures; namely, that the spirit of those figures under which the bible delivers to us the things of God, has a power of raising and glorifying, even in this life, the spirit of man; producing an effect upon it, the same in kind with what it shall hereafter experience when admitted into the presence of God. This is a great thing to say; but I learn it of that apostle who laboured more abundantly in opening to us the wisdom of God from the figures of the old Testament. The same was also signified by our Saviour himself in his discourses with his disciples.
St. Paul teaches the Corinthians, that it is the proper business of the Christian ministry to preach
the spirit of the law of Moses, and not to rest in the letter of it as the Jews did; whose weakness in this respect was foreshewed by what happened to their fathers; who could not look stedfastly on that glory which shone upon the face of Moses: for which reason Moses put a veil upon his face; which veil, saith the apostle, is still upon their hearts in the reading of the old testament. So far was the act of Moses fulfilled upon them.
But now with respect to us Christians, who see the glorious spirit of the new testament under the letter of the old, we are not like Moses when veiled, as the Jews are: but like Moses when turned to the Lord; and deriving glory to his own face from beholding the light of the divine presence. Just such is the effect of the spirit of the old testament on those who are converted and look towards it, through faith in Jesus Christ, who is the spirit and glory of the law it occasions a transfiguration in man's nature, and derives glory to it, like to that which fell upon the face of Moses when he had conference with God, and was turned towards him. This is the effect which happens to us according to the sense of the apostle; whose words, though very obscure when taken independent of the context, will be easily understood after what hath been said-" We all, with
open (that is, unveiled) face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the "spirit of the Lord;" or, as the margin reads, by the Lord who is the spirit of the law, as aforesaid. Of all which the sense, in brief, is this: there was a glory on the face of Moses underneath his veil, and there is a glorious spirit under the letter of his law, which they who behold stedfastly are them
selves transfigured and glorified after the manner of Moses. Whoever beholds the glory of God is himself thereby glorified, as he who looks at the sun is shone upon by it. All we can see of God in this mortal life is in his word: there that light doth still shine which illuminated the face of Moses; and they who behold it reflected as in a glass from the figures and ceremonies of his law, are changed (Gr. transfigured) into the same image, from glory to glory; from the glory of the law which appeared in Moses, to the glory of the gospel which appeared in the transfiguration of Jesus Christ *.
A sight of that glory which is in the spirit of the law, is not only our privilege, but is absolutely necessary toward the conversion of a natural man into a spiritual one; if it doth not rather presuppose such a conversion; because a natural man can neither receive nor discern the things of the spirit of God. This was the case of the Jews; they were not able to see the inward spirit of our Saviour's parables; and so, instead of being converted, they were only condemned by it. "Their ears, said he, are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and should hear with their ears, " and should understand with their hearts, and should " be converted, and I should heal them." Hence we see, that they who have the spiritual sense which discerns spiritual things, may be converted and healed:
* Christianis cum legitur (Lex) thesaurus est absconsus in agroostendens sapientiam Dei-quoniam in tantum homo diligens Deum proficiet, ut etiam videat Deum, et audiat sermonem ejus, et exauditu loquelæ ejus in tantum glorificari, uti reliqui non possint intendere in faciem gloriæ ejus, quemadmodum dictum est a Daniele ; quoniam intelligentes fulgebunt, quemadmodum claritas firmamenti, &c. Irenæi, Lib. 4. c. 48. Irenæus has here fallen upon the very same idea with that before us, though he does not collect it from the same passage. N
while they who have it not, are only hardened in their unbelief. Instead of improving they grow worse, and are farther from God than ever: " whosoever hath "not, from him shall be taken away even that he "hath." As it was with Christ, in his parables, such to this day will be the success of every preacher of God's word, who keeps up to his profession as a minister of the spirit: if his hearers do not grow better and become spiritually minded, they will grow worse as the Jews did. The spirit of God's word which should convert and heal them will never prove to be an inactive indifferent medicine: it will either do good or harm; it will operate either towards life, or towards death; it will make men turn to God or drive them farther away from him: which is a serious and fearful consideration; and I pray to God you may lay it to heart. My only desire is to do you good, and I should be sorry to speak to the condemnation of any one soul committed to my charge. But you see how the case is as the benefit is great, so is the danger : if there should be darkness where there ought to be light, how great will be that darkness!
Such then is the excellence of the sacred style, that it is accommodated to our capacities, it delights our imagination, and leads us into all truth by the pleasantest way; it improves the natural world into a witness of our faith; it transfigures us from natural into spiritual men, and gives us a foretaste of the glorious presence of God. If these are the effects of it, it must be of infinite value to particular persons in their several studies and professions.
And first, it is absolutely necessary to a Christian preacher whose doctrine, if it be after the form of the scriptural imagery, will be more intelligible, more agreeable, and more edifying to all sorts of hearers.
If this is the method God hath been pleased to prefer for the teaching of man, it must be the best when one man undertakes to teach another. We have seen how our Saviour's preaching was in the form of parables; how the apostles in their interpretation of the old testament apply it as a figure and shadow of things to come; and how in their exhortations they reason from some parallel case in the ways of nature. And still it will always be found, that nothing has such an effect in preaching, as the skilful handling of some image or figure of the scripture. For truth, as we have often observed, does not enter into men's minds in its own abstracted nature, but under the vehicle of some analogy, which conveys a great deal of sense in very few words: and therefore the best preachers have always taken advantage of some such analogy, after the manner of the scripture itself, which gives us the pattern of all true preaching.
Let me show you how this is by an example. Suppose a preacher would persuade his audience not to abuse the station in life to which Providence hath appointed them; and not to presume upon the character they may sustain amongst men for a short time here upon earth: he reasons from the transitory nature of worldly things: and this he teaches them to see in a glass, by setting before them the changeable scenery and temporary disguises of men in a theatre. In the world at large, as upon a stage, there is a fashion in the characters and actions of men, which passes away, just as the scenery changes, and the curtain drops, in a theatre; to which the apostle alludes. The world is a great shew, which presents us various scenes and fantastic characters; princes, politicians, warriors, and philosophers; the rich, the honourable, the learned and the wise and with these, the servant