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If this world subsisted only to teach men the existence of God, his divinity would have shined forth in every part of it with resistless splendour. But since the world only exists by Jesus Christ, and for him, and to teach men their fall and their redemption, the whole abounds with proofs of these two truths. The appearance of things indicates neither the total abandonment, nor the plenary presence of the Divinity, but the presence of a God that hideth himself. Every thing wears this character.
If God had never appeared at all, such a total concealment might have been ambiguous, and might have been referred equally to the non-existence of Deity, as to the unworthiness of men to know him. But his occasional manifestations remove the ambiguity. If he has appeared once, then he is always. And we are shut up to the conclusion, that there is a God, and that men are unworthy of his manifested presence.
3. The purpose of God was more to rectify the will, than the understanding of man. Now, an unclouded brightness would have satisfied the understanding, and left the will unreformed. Had there been no obscurity, man would not have been sensible of his corruption. Had there been no light, man would have despaired of a remedy. It is then not only equitable, but profitable for us, that God should be partly hidden, and partly reveal. ed; since it is equally dangerous for man to know God, without the consciousness of his misery; or to know his misery, without knowing his God.
4. All things around man teach him his real state ; but he should read them rightly. For it is not true either that God is wholly revealed, or wholly hidden. But both
these assertions are true together, that he hides himself from those who tempt him, and that he discovers himself to those who seek him. Because men are, at the same time, unworthy of God, and yet capable of receiving him ; unworthy in consequence of their corruption; capable by their original nature.
5. Every thing on earth proclaims the misery of man, or the mercy of God; the powerlessness of man without God, or his might when God is with him.
The whole universe teaches man, either that he is corrupt, or that he is redeemed. All things teach him his greatness or his misery. In the heathen he sees the withdrawment of God; in the Jews, his presence and protection.
6. All things work together for good to the elect; even the obscurities of Scripture ; for they reverence them on account of those portions which are manifestly Divine. All things are evil to the reprobate, even the plainest truths of Scripture, because they blaspheme them on account of those obscurities, which they cannot comprehend.
7. If Jesus Christ had only ne to sanctify and save, the whole of Scripture, and all other things, would have tended to that object, and it would have been easy indeed to convince the infidel. But since, as Isaiah says, chap. viii. 14. he became both as a sanctuary (for salvation) and a rock of offence, we cannot expect to overcome the obstinacy of infidelity. But this does not militate against us, since we ourselves affirm, that God's dealings with us were not meant to carry conviction to those stubborn, self-satisfied spirits, who do not sincerely seek for truth, Jesus is come, that those who see not, may see; and that those who see, may become blind. He came to heal the diseased, and to let the whole perish: to call sinners to repentance and justification, and to leave the righteous, those who think themselves righteous, in their sins: to fill the hungry with good things, and to send the rich empty away.
What say the prophets of Jesus Christ? That he should be manifestly God ? No. But that he is the true God veiled; that he shall be unrecognized ; that men shall not think that this is he; that he shall be a stone of stumbling, on which many shall fall.
It is that Messiah might be known by the good, and unknown by the wicked, that he is foretold as he is. If the mode of his coming had been fully unfolded, there would have been no obscurity even to the wicked. If the period had been foretold obscurely, there would have been darkness on the minds of the good, for their moral state would not convey to them the idea of Hebrew notation; for instance, that a should signify 600 years. The time therefore was foretold plainly—the mode mystically.
Thus, the wicked erroneously supposing, that the blessings promised were temporal, were misled, although the time was so distinctly foretold; while the righteous avoided the error, because the comprehension of such blessings is with the heart, which always calls that good, that it really loves ; but the knowledge of the time was not a matter for the comprehension of the heart. And thus the clear pointing out of the time, together with an obscure description of the blessing, could only mislead the wicked,
8. Why was it necessary with respect to Messiah, that it should be stated of him, that in him the sceptre was to
remain perpetually in Judah ; and yet, that at his coming, the sceptre should be taken from Judah ?
As a provision, That seeing, they might not see ; and that hearing, they might not understand, nothing could be more effectual.
Instead of lamenting that God is hidden, we should thank him that he has been so far revealed; we should thank him that he has not revealed himself to the prųdent and the proud of this world, who were unworthy to know a holy God.
9. The genealogy of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, is blended with so many others apparently useless, as to be scarcely discernible. If Moses had only registered the ancestry of Jesus Christ, the fact would have been too plainly exhibited. But even to an accurate observer, it may be distinctly traced through Thamar, Ruth, Bathsheba, &c.
Even the apparently weak points in the chain of evidence, have their peculiar force to a well constituted mind. Witness the two genealogies by Matthew and Luke, which prove that there has not been collusion.
10. Let them not reproach us any longer, with the want of clearness in our evidence. We own the fact as part of our system. But let them recognize the truth of our religion, even in its obscurities, in the little light that we have ; and in the indifference respecting the discovery of it, which is so generally manifested.
Had there been but one religion, God would have been too manifest. The case were the same, if our religion only had its martyrs,
Jesus Christ so far left the wicked to their wilful blindness, in that he did not say he was not of Nazareth, nor that he was not the son of Joseph.
As Jesus Christ dwelt unrecognized among men, so the truth dwells undistinguished among the crowd of vulgar opinions.
If the mercy of God is so great, that it makes us wise unto salvation, even while he hideth himself, what illumination may we not expect when he is fully revealed !
We can know nothing of the work of God, not admit as a first principle, that he blinds some, while he enlightens others.
THAT THE RELIGION OF REAL CHRISTIANS, AND REAL
JEWS, IS ONE AND THE SAME.
THE Jewish religion seemed to consist essentially in descent from Abraham, in circumcision, in sacrifices, and ceremonies, in the ark, and the temple at Jerusalem, and in the law, and the covenant of Moses.
I affirm that it did not consist in all, or any of these things, but simply in the love of God; and that God disa allowed all the rest.
That God did not choose the people who sprung from Abraham according to the flesh,
That the Jews were to be punished by the Almighty, as strangers would be, if they offended. If thou forget the Lord thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them ; I testify against you this day, that ye shall surely perish ; as the nations which the Lord destroyeth *before your face, so shall ye perish.