Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

Although a mystery, then, in a worldly sense, be thought difficult or inexplicable, "the mystery of godliness" implies no such unapproachable distinction. There are indeed many things, both in nature and in grace, which we do not now fully comprehend. Our limited faculties forbid us to grasp the things of eternity: a state of information, which they have not yet attained. But though our faculties are limited, the goodness of God is both unlimited, and inexhaustible. Mystery, therefore, may confound, but it cannot destroy the inherent principle of inquiry in the human mind. Common reason, though it cannot explain, can account for, and be satisfied with, mysteries; which have such a spiritual influence on an earthly body, as is both necessary, and beneficial to its existence.

It is not difficult to apprehend the connection between conjecture and reality; though they, in fact, are specifically different. We have an experimental knowledge of the substance of flesh and blood: we have a theological assurance of a spiritual substance. Our blessed Lord we believe to be of one substance with the Father. This may be imagined, but cannot be explained. Further; we know experimentally that we possess "a vile body," or rather a body of vileness, a mortal body, a body of an inferior quality; and we are assured by St. Paul, that when raised from

Phil. iii. 21.

the dead, "our vile body shall be fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body';" that is, his glorified body, or, the body of his glorification. This is a great mystery; but it is a mystery, not only capable of belief, but indispensable to be believed.

All the doctrines depending on the fall of man, and his restoration by Jesus Christ, are necessarily mysterious; original sin, regeneration, redemption, sanctification, justification, are highly mysterious. A father of our church says, "In the Supper (of our Lord) lieth a hidden mystery. There is a horror of sin, there is the death of our Lord for sin represented, how he was wounded for our sins, and tormented for our iniquities, and led as a lamb to the slaughter. There may we see the shame of the cross, the darkness over the world, the earth to quake, the stones to cleave asunder, the graves to open and the dead to rise. These things we may see in the Supper: this is the meaning of these holy mysteries".

These are mysteries indeed: but as they have an infinite influence on the spiritual condition of man, and are essential to his salvation, the piety of that heart which impartially, and in proper frame, contemplates them, cannot but acknowledge their importance. They operate, indeed, beyond a second nature; but without rendering any man a mystic, or a visionary in religion, they arrest his reason and understanding in

1 Phil. iii. 21.

2 Bp. Jewell on the Sacrament.

the great cause of truth: and if these holy truths are discoverable by reason, and not contradictory to understanding, the only solution of mystery will be faith.

XVII.-Eternity.

I HAVE often meditated on eternity, and have often been overwhelmed with the idea. That there ever was a time when time was not, and that there ever will be a time, when "time shall be no longer'," are propositions inconceivable in a state of mortality. I thought on these things, but they were too hard for me, "until I went into the sanctuary of God." The result of my contemplation was, not to deny what I did not understand, but to reflect that "God was in heaven, and I upon earth," therefore, that on subjects above human comprehension, "my words should be few" This did not compromise the question, but it convinced me that all I knew, or perhaps was capable of knowing, was sufficient for the condition in which I was placed. To endeavour to be wise above what is written is no proof of sound wisdom: but to be convinced of an eternal state, is of indispensable consequence to the happiness of man.

The existence of an Almighty Being, "eternal,

Rev. x. 6.

2 Ps. lxxiii. 17.

3 Eccles. v. 2.

T

immortal, invisible," the Creator of the universe, is a deduction of pure and unsophisticated reason. But without the assistance of revelation, all would be inexplicable. And though it might be conceded (which it is not) that there is no innate idea of a God, many floating truths, relating both to the nature of God and the nature of man, have descended by tradition, even through obscure ages, and can be no otherwise accounted for, than arising from an original communication; faded, indeed, and fading through many a savage and corrupted people, but bearing a wonderful analogy to one common origin. The warm impression of a dying negro returning to his father's land, bears an affinity, even with Gospel-promises "I go to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the spirits of just men made perfect 2.

But to bring the question home. An admission of an eternal state opens the revelations both of the Old and the New Testaments. "In the beginning God created,"" In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"." Here is eternity, and the Author of eternity. Here is the doctrine intimated and revealed. Here also are the fundamental doctrines of revelation connected with this truth, unequivocally disclosed. With respect to the Eternal Word, the object and end of the Christian dispensation, the language of the Apostle is both

11 Tim. i. 17.

Heb. xii. 24.

3 Gen. i. 1. John i. 1.

elucidating and convincing: "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." The three portions of time, if I may so call them, designated in the Almighty mind, are clearly distinguished in the anthem of the Church, "as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be."

Though we cannot, therefore, delineate eternity by any intelligible definition, we clearly and thankfully acknowledge what it is: and with Christian hope and Christian confidence, look forward to a state to be more fully demonstrated to our faculties at a future period a state promised indeed to us, but not described. An awful obscurity, it is true, shadows every part of the prospect, but an assurance of glory, though unapproachable in our present state, and angelical communications, reveal the reality of our heavenly habitations. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when Jesus shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is "."

2

[ocr errors]

But the dispensation of eternity is still more comprehensive and appalling. Eternal life to the righteous, and eternal punishment to the wicked, present a picture of futurity which will arrest the attention of the least contemplative believer. "These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal 3. In the original language the expression is the same, though here differently translated; there

1 Heb. xiii. 8.

Matt. xxv. 46.

21 John iii. 2.

4

αιωνιον.

« ForrigeFortsæt »