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Untenable objections on the ground of our present position. 113
house." Now if there was any weight in these passages against this reserve, it would be merely that of one Scripture expression opposed to another; for there are several commands in the same discourse of an opposite character', and therefore of course they admit of explanation without contradicting each other. The obvious meaning of these passages of course is, "Think not that My kingdom is to be confined, as now it is, to you few alone; it is to be preached to all the world;" and such a declaration evidently does not interfere with this principle of holy reserve, as the guide and mode of doing this most sincerely and effectually. And indeed to the latter text it is added, as if showing us the way by which we were to extend the truth, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works,” as Chrysostom says, not of course that they were to display their works in any way, but that if they keep the fire burning within them, it necessarily must shine. And besides which it appears, on many occasions, when expressions of this kind are used, that they have a reference also to the day of Judgment; as if it had been said, "Wonder not that My ways are so much in secret, and that I require your works also to be done so much in secret, and unlike those of the Pharisees; a time is coming when every thing whatever shall be publicly made known, to all men and angels." As if it were in some measure an explanation given, that that great manifestation will be a counterpart to this reserve.
But that these expressions respecting the general knowledge of the Gospel throughout the world, do in no way affect this rule of reserve, will be evident if we consider the various periods of the Divine economy as various manifestations of CHRIST. And it will be easily perceived that they are all characterized by this same law. First of all, the term manifestation is applied to our LORD's appearing in the flesh; it is applied to Him at His Birth; it is applied to the coming and calling of the Gentiles;
1 Thus St. Chrysostom observes, "Though it be every where preached, still it is a mystery; for as we have been commanded 'what things we have heard in the ear, to speak upon the housetops,' so have we been also charged, 'not to give the holy things unto dogs, nor yet to cast pearls before swine."" 1 Cor. Hom. vii. 3. 2 St. Luke xii. 2; viii. 16, &c.
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it is applied to the Presentation in the temple; it is applied to our LORD at His Baptism: and to the first miracle He performed in Cana of Galilee. It is applied to Him more especially in His miracles and teaching. All these we celebrate in the Epiphany, as will be seen in the successive Gospels for that season: but how secretly and mysteriously were they all conducted? these are manifestations of GOD seen in the flesh, our Immanuel. And all these are with this reserve. In like manner the preaching of the Gospel, and the extension of the Kingdom, are more fully manifestations of God; but as in the former cases CHRIST was known and acknowledged but by a very few, notwithstanding those manifestations of Himself; so is it now. It is evident that in some sense even now the manifestation of Himself must be according to some law of exceeding reserve and secrecy, for our LORD has said that if any man will keep His commandments He will love him, and will manifest Himself unto him; that He would "manifest Himself to His disciples, and not unto the world." Now as it is too obvious that many do not keep His commandments, therefore to many He is not manifested. So that to us all, even now, our LORD observes this rule of concealing Himself even in His manifestations; and therefore all His manifestations in His Church are ways of reserve.
9. This principle more than ever needed.
But great surprise is expressed, because we have maintained that the spread of religious knowledge throughout the world renders it a matter for serious apprehension, lest we should abuse that knowledge. Surely, since to him who knoweth and doeth not, to him it is sin, all knowledge of GoD should be accompanied with this apprehension. All things seem to be tending to the one great manifestation of GOD, in the day of Judgment, which will be in destruction as well as in salvation; and therefore it may be, as intimations going before of that time, that all manifestations of GOD even now are awful, and often as it were kept back with a gracious and merciful forbearance to mankind. It will, I think, be observed in Scripture throughout, that greater
manifestations of Gon, and declarations accompanied with the least reserve, are ever the most awful and severe. For instance, when St. John the Baptist first of all proclaimed the kingdom, it was with fearful words,—of “ the axe at the root of the tree," and the "fire unquenchable." And when our LORD went up at last to Jerusalem, He spoke more openly and publicly, before the Jews and in the temple; but then the things that belonged unto their peace were hidden from their eyes, and they could not believe; and His teaching was far more severe than it had been; therefore the more open manifestation was an awful matter, a matter for serious apprehension.
Again, after His death the Jews were given one trial more; the HOLY GHOST was sent down, and the preaching of the Gospel was more open and public than ever before, and this preceded their condemnation; as if in some degree, and in some sense, guilty of sin against the HOLY GHOST, of the terrible effects of which they had been so strongly warned: then their final destruction came. This more public manifestation therefore was, I say, matter for serious apprehension.
A far more extensive manifestation is now taking place over the whole world. Now the event to be apprehended in the last days, as closing the period of the world's trial, when God will spare it no longer, is sin against the HOLY SPIRIT. And one does not see how this can take place, how the SPIRIT can be rejected, excepting when the SPIRIT is manifested. Therefore the knowledge of religion, which is now extending over the world, is a matter for serious apprehension. Not of course that this consideration affords any reason for withholding that knowledge; for to preach the Gospel to the world, is our office and duty, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear; we are bound to do it, μαρτυρεῖν καὶ κηρύσσειν : but to learn how we may best do it is the part of Christian wisdom. But our having this knowledge should lead us to take the more heed, that we do not fall into that sin for which there are provided no further means of recovery.
And let it be remembered that the whole of this treatise is, under another name, on the subject of irreverence; but as reve
rential words, or a reverential demeanour, may be but a specious irreverence and hypocrisy, this sacred reserve seems a better designation. Every step in this irreverence, every indication of it, is so far a state of progress towards the sin against the HOLY SPIRIT. And as this latter is unpardonable, so we may perceive that a state of irreverence, where it has thoroughly affected the character, is irremediable. For if men have lost all reverence for GOD, how can they pray to Him? and if they cannot, nor have any sense of reverence for His power, who can help them? Under any other circumstances men may be guilty of the worst sins, and when greater light is manifested to them, even at the last hour, they may repent and be forgiven: but when that light has been habitually rejected, the case becomes very different, the SPIRIT is quenched, the light within is darkened. When the power of acknowledging God's presence, which is the eye of the soul, is lost, what else can restore it? None can approach Him without His help, and His help cannot be attained without a reverential acknowledgment of His presence.
It would appear, therefore, that under the dispensation of grace in which we live, in the light of these full revelations of God, as the highest privileges are to be derived from a due acknowledgment of GOD, so there is the greatest conceivable danger from an absence of that fear and reverence. A danger incalculably increased, and infinitely beyond that of former generations, if our knowledge be so much greater. And this irreverence is more especially to be guarded against in all our approaches to God, and our imperfect modes of serving Him. We must remember that one of the Ten commandments refers to it, which is expressed in more awful terms than any other,-viz., that we take not that awful Name in vain, the meaning of which is not to be limited to open profaneness, but must be as extensive in its intentions as all the other commandments. It is to be observed, again, that the first petition in the LORD's prayer seems to be for this reverence of mind, as the first thing to be obtained in all acts of devotion, a prayer that God's Name may be hallowed: the efficacy of our prayers depending on the reverential regard we have for that dreadful Name: And the last clause in the same prayer is an act
or expression of reverence. And one of our SAVIOUR's first rules with regard to prayer, is, that we do not use "vain repetitions," i. e. use idle words, without a sense of Whom we are speaking to. Indeed, the first words of that prayer,- "Our FATHER which art in Heaven,❞—may teach us the same, for that GOD is in Heaven and we on earth, is given as a reason why our words should be few. And in religious worship our SAVIOUR'S charges are chiefly directed against, what is called in Scripture, "hypocrisy." Of course we cannot confine this most subtle and pervading habit to those circumstances in which it was developed in the religion of that day; but of all other vices it is that which most changes its complexion with the aspects of the age, being in itself equally applicable to human nature in all times; and surely there is none which more thoroughly destroys in the heart all love of truth. Such formalism may of course be found in a strict observance of the external duties of religious worship; in a shape no less dangerous and subtle will it be developed in adopting modes of expression ; and what is perhaps of all the worst, in taking hold of the most touching and sacred doctrines of Religion, entering as it were into the Holiest of Holies. In all things it consists in a want of reverence and fear, in having the form of godliness while the power of it is lost, the peculiar danger we are warned of in the last days.
10. Want of reverence now prevailing.
Let it be again considered, what this principle suggests respecting this knowledge which is now abroad, and how greatly our position is altered on account of that knowledge. For if the ALMIGHTY (according to His providential dealings with mankind) does withhold religious truth in a remarkable manner, the reason is because such truth is dangerous to us. It is dangerous to us to know it. Therefore, because we have these truths revealed to us, we are in a peculiar danger,-danger of neglecting them. There is no reserve in holding back that which is fully known; but there is reverence necessary because it is known. And therefore, the very fact of the Atonement, and other great doctrines