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Acts xvi. 8.
Dan. iv. 5.
St. PAUL AT TROAS. Whilst Paul was at Troas, a vision appeared to him in the night. His vision. A man of Macedon seemed to stand before him, and say, “Pass over and help us. From this dream or apparition, the apostle inferred that the Lord had called him thither to preach the Gospel; and the result proved that he was not mistaken. The Holy Ghost, which had hitherto checked and diverted their course, when proceeding contrary to the line marked out in the Divine counsels, now permitted them to pass over, and crowned their efforts with
From the words of the sacred narrative, it cannot be certainly determined, whether this were a waking vision or a dream. Supposing it, however, to have been of the latter description, it would be by no means a singular instance of God thus communicating his will to his servants, and even to others. Abraham, Abimelech, Gen. xv. 12; Jacob, Joseph, Pharaoh, Solomon, Nebuchadnezzar, are familiar xx di instances. Of these “last days,” too, it had been expressly fore- xxxvii. 5; told, among the ordinary signs, that men should “ see visions and 1 Kings iii. 5; dream dreams." 58
It is no where suggested, that there was any thing peculiar in the manner of dreaming on these occasions. Sometimes, too, as in the present instance, it looks like the ordinary result of the circumstances under which it is reported to have occurred. If this were a dream of St. Paul, (it may be said,) what ground had he and his company to suppose it a Divine impulse, and to class it with the the light and the voice sent to him when on the road to Damascus, or with the vision of “unutterable things,' which he received in his trance in the temple? Would it not have been more sober and reasonable to conclude, that the approach to the verge of the Asiatic continent, and the sight of that famous strait which formed the slight barrier between them and Europe, had carried Paul's meditations to the opposite shores? Musing upon those especially who, crossing here with Alexander, made conquest of the East, even of his own Judæa, and established in Egypt a rival to Jerusalem, he could not but expect to retain in his dreams some impression of a train of thought so deeply interesting, tinged, as every dream of his might well be, with the one subject which was predominant in his mind. It must be recollected, however, that the Holy Ghost (by some mode of communication not specified) had of late been making known his approval or disapproval of the several steps of their journey as soon as they were attempted. The absence of this check, General therefore, might have formed an appropriate evidence that the call observations was Divine. Still, as the same solution will not serve in other communicacases, it will be more satisfactory to take a general view of the
58 Joel ii. 28, quoted and applied by St. Peter in his harangue on the great day of Pentecost.-Acts ii. 17.
Acts x. 10; Gen. xxviii. 12.
question, extending it not only to all inspired dreams, but to all other modes of Divine communication. Let us consider then, first, what those modes were, and then, what evidence the persons addressed had, that the communication in each instance was Divine.
I. Visions.—By which is meant, any communication conveyed through an object of sight. Of this kind were, the handwriting on the wall of Belshazzar's banquet room, the pillar of fire and cloud which guided the Israelites through the wilderness, and the like.
II. Voices, or revelations conveyed through the sense of hearing. These were the most frequent, and although often accompanied with extraordinary impressions on the other senses, yet were naturally
the readiest and most distinct mode of communication. Such was Exod. iii. 2; the giving of the Ten Commandments, the call of Moses, and
probably all those revelations designated in Genesis by the expression,
The Lord said unto him.”
III. Dreams.-Under which is included whatever was addressed to the imagination only; whether the abstraction from a conscious
ness of surrounding objects was the effect of sleep, or of some super2 Cor. xii. 2; natural influence, as in a trance or érotaOIS. As instances of this
class may be mentioned, Peter's vision of the sheet, St. Paul's revelation in the temple, Jacob's dream, and the like.
IV. Instinctive impulses.—This term is used to denote some Impulses.
method of making known the Divine will, which does not appear to have been an address either to the senses or to the imagination, but to have operated on the desires, affections, and other inclinations, as those other communications did on the senses or the imagination. Such may we conceive to have been the method whereby Paul and his company are described in this journey as hindered by the Holy Ghost from pursuing a wrong course.
By this, it may Acts xvi. , be, they were enabled to interpret Paul's vision of the man of
Macedon to be of Divine origin. This too might have been what the disciples of our Lord experienced, when walking with him after his resurrection. For, although at the time they failed to attend to
it, they afterwards expressed their surprise that they should have Luke xxiv. been so dull. “ Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked
with us?” Perhaps this mode of revelation, being then new to them, was not at once recognised.
These will include all the various revelations of God to man, for there is no other conceivable form, except where the mediation of
some being is interposed; and this belongs to a distinct consideration. All operated To this general statement, the first remark to be added is, that naturally.
in all the different methods, the senses and the imagination were probably affected only as in the ordinary course of nature—that the exercise of sight, of hearing, and of fancy, was in every case of the same kind as that produced by natural objects, natural sounds, and natural sleep. Thus Samuel is described as mistaking the voice of God for that of Eli; and another, more experienced, as desiring to
1 Sam. iii.
be certified by a sign, that the impression was supernatural, and Judg. ri. 17. being gratified in his desire as reasonable.
This being so, it follows that besides the vehicle of communication, Signs of whether voice, vision, or dream, some sign of confirmation must tion. always have been provided, in order to satisfy the person visited, that he was not imposed on, or else imposing on himself—imposed on, as in the case of " lying spirits,” or of human contrivances, or of accidental phenomena; imposing on himself, as in the case of enthusiasm. Not that in all, or in most instances, any record will be found of the sign of confirmation ; because the revelation alone concerns those to whom the records of the event are addressed the sign, the persons visited. Still it is in many instances mentioned. In some indeed it was unavoidable; whenever, namely, the same display served the double purpose of confirming sign and vehicle of communication, as in the case of the handwriting addressed to Bel- Dan. v. 5. shazzar. In some cases, again, the two are connected together, so as to form what is called in loose phrase one vision. Of this kind was that which occurred at St. Paul's conversion. The voice alone Acts ix. 3-5. was the medium of communication; while the light served to certify that it proceeded from no human lips. The same may be observed of the call of Moses at the bush. Sometimes also the two were so Ex. iii. 2, 4. joined, as that the sign should not become proof until afterwards ; it being in this case a sort of prophetic appendage. Of this kind was Zacharias's revelation respecting John the Baptist, that of Cor- Luke i. 11; nelius concerning his own admission into the Church, and the like. Acts x. The last case is where the two were disjoined; and then the confirmation might be effected in some distinct revelation, or by specific miracle. Thus the budding of Aaron's rod was a sign of confirma- Num. xvii 8; tion to Aaron, and the miracle of the fleece to Gideon. Thus, too, Judg. vi. 37. the power of working miracles, granted in all ages to the messengers of God, were signs not only to those to whom they were sent, but to themselves also, that they were really so commissioned. It is probable, that with those who were in the habit of receiving frequent communications, a miracle in every case might not have been requisite; or if any, merely what has been described as an instinctive impulse, such as was supposed to have confirmed St. Paul's view of his vision at Troas. Certain it is, that he is said on that occasion to have acted " immediately” on the authority of the vision. Acts xvi. 8, The word is introduced, as if for the purpose of marking a case in 10. which no further sign of confirmation was waited for. Perhaps, then, the vision alone was sufficient for one like St. Paul, thoroughly accustomed to the Divine communications. For although it is true that this mode of operating on the senses or imagination was apparently the same, as if ordinary and natural causes were operating ;
69 It is often asserted, that St. Paul then blind, and the manifestation of Christ, of saw the Lord. But this could not have which he speaks, took place subsequently been the case. He was immediately struck in the Temple at Jerusalem.
Numb, xxii. 20, et seq. Modes by which a Revelation of God is
still, the eye, the ear, or the mind, would become familiarized to
already noticed,) as ignorant of the nature of the heavenly call, the 1 Sam. iii. 7. expression of Scripture is, that “he did not yet know the Lord;"
the natural interpretation of which seems to be, that he had not yet
become acquainted with the voice by experience. In like manner, Gen. iii. 8,10. Adam is said to have “known” or recognised the voice of the Lord
God walking in the garden. That even in these cases it might have been the duty of the inspired to wait for a confirming signsuppose such only as the instinctive impulse or prohibition,-and that for neglecting to do so they might have been sometimes misled, as in the case of Balaam, is not important.
This topic has been already more than sufficiently dwelt our immediate purpose; and yet it leads to a consideration so
important to Christian faith, that it is difficult to refrain from purconveyed.
suing it a little further. Has the reader ever attempted to state to himself distinctly what he understands by the term revelation, meaning a revelation of the Divine nature? Neither the voice, the vision, the dream, nor the instinct, can be said to be God. All are evidently vehicles, and modes of communicating his messages to
“Him no man hath seen at any time. Suppose, then, we wished to convey a description of an object of sight to one born blind; (for that is our condition in relation to the Divine-nature ;) he may perhaps be made to receive some indistinct idea of it through his sense of hearing; and the vehicle of this revelation, as it may be termed, would be a voice. Some contrivance may be afterwards invented, which should convey to him the same description, by submitting to his touch figures representing it, or, as is done in some asylums, by letters and words strongly impressed on card, so as to be distinctly felt. If it had so happened, that he was at length favoured with the gift of sight, (as occurred with some in the miraculous period of the Church, that same description might be set before his eyes in a painting. Meanwhile, suppose him never yet to have witnessed the object itself, thus variously represented. He would then have become acquainted with it in three distinct ways. and have been enabled to improve and to apply his knowledge of it by means of each ; still, he would hardly be absurd enough to make either of these assertions,
1. That the sounds, the figures, the writing, or the painting, were the very thing described.
2. That the variety in the mode of conveying the description
John i. 18.
implied any corresponding distinction in that one object, the idea of which was thus variously communicated to him.
Is the reader sufficiently assured of the truth of these remarks, to apply them to the descriptions man has received of the Divine nature ? God has been omnipresent from the beginning, and cannot be supposed at any time to be more in one place than in another. Yet it has pleased Him from time to time to “ lift up an ensign, to which men might come to ask for communication of his will, and to be made sensible of his presence.
Such was the Shechinah granted to the Israelites, from between the Cherubim, where God is accordingly said to have dwelt. With this flame the voice or Ex. xxix. 4:3, other vehicle of communication was so connected, that the priest was obliged to come to the former, in order to avail himself of the latter. The flame was the sign; and besides this there was the voice or other channel of revelation. It afterwards pleased the Most High to set up an ensign for all the world to resort unto,
“ for the nations afar.” This ensign was, the Human-nature Isaiah v. 26. of our blessed Lord. To Him, all were now to come who desired to receive the Divine communications. His words and symbolical miracles, and other acts, formed the vehicle of that communication
-as much so, and in like manner, as the voice which gave the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai, or which spoke at different times to Adam, to the patriarchs, to the prophets, and others his servants of old. Hence it is written, that “the Word was made flesh and John i. 14. dwelt
among us,” and that “men beheld his glory,” in allusion to the analogy between Him and the Shechinah. Hence, too, the occasional radiant appearances which could not fail to have suggested to Jewish witnesses the symbol of Divine manifestation. At the same time it must be borne in mind, that the incarnation of the Son of God differed from all other modes of Divine communication, in that Christ did not only represent, personate, and manifest God, but man also. Hence he is called the only Mediator;" and with Gal. iii. 20; reference to this peculiarity it is, perhaps, that St. Paul speaking of him says, “Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one ;” i. e. Christ as Mediator is at once the mean of communication from God to man, and from man to God—the representative of both
1 Tim. ii. 5.
60 In truth, omnipresent is a relative why should we presume to say,
that term. God is said to be omnipresent, any such succession is requisite for the because all things are present to him, not Divine mind? A savage would instruct because he is present to all things. The a traveller in his route, by a successive original error consists in assigning him enumeration of point after point, and any place at all,--in attributing locality to line after line in his course; a civilized a Being who cannot be affected, as we man would do the same at once, by are, by the distinctions of space. The placing a map before him.
If then same may be observed of eternity, as human nature exerts itself so differently, applied to the Divine nature. We can as it is cultivated or neglected, how cauonly judge of time by a succession of im- tious should we be in framing analogies pressions on the mind; and it is usually between the energies and capacities of by supposing an infinite succession that the most perfect mind, and of God who we arrive at our notion of eternity. But forined it!