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flesh) infinitely near to us, and that if we discern him not, it is our own fault. It is as if heaven itself were not a local change, but that the invisible FATHER, and Son, and HOLY GHOST, and the Majesty of heaven were around us, and with us, and that we might have this truth disclosed to us, after some ineffable manner, if we will bow our heads to that lowly portal. This reserve by which GoD discloses Himself, in all natural and revealed religion, proves the entrance to be narrow and confined. That it is not by speculative inquiry, nor learned research, but by deepest humiliation of soul and body, that we must feel after Him, and expect pain and trouble in doing so, knowing that He is " a consuming fire," and therefore will burn up what is human about us, as we approach Him. Infinitely happy if we may do so at any cost. That sensible good of all kinds dims and obscures the due perception of Him: that every step towards it is contrary to our natural tendencies, for to know God is entirely a matter of faith; which is to the spiritual life what breath is to the natural life, the beginning of it, and co-extensive with it; of which it may be said, "when Thou takest away their breath they die, and are turned again into their dust."
That our position is, after some indescribable and transcendent manner, analogous to that of those who saw our LORD in the flesh; that this knowledge, which is the reward of obedience, has the effect of bringing men into some intimate connexion with Himself, would appear from the descriptions which are given of it. For unto him that will keep His commandments, and act up to His sayings, JESUS CHRIST will be as mother, and sister, and brother. Which, and many other like expressions, imply being brought into some mysterious consciousness of His Presence. Obedience itself is quickened and enlivened by CHRIST'S Presence, without which, it could not be, and therefore is often called faith or love, as being that in man by which he apprehends Him, in opposition to the human understanding. Revelation has supplied us through the whole of our moral probation with living means, a living way, and a living end. The end is Personal, and the means also a living Person. The yearnings of our nature after knowledge, the yearnings after love, here find their object:
the friendship and the wisdom, which the heathen philosopher considered as the end and perfection of the practical virtues, and most needful for the soul's rest, are here combined,-combined in one living object of affection, Personal, Human, Divine.
Such reflections should encourage in us habits of reverence, reserve, and fear, as considering the awful dispensation under which we walk. We may observe how much there is in this principle to withdraw us from the world, and from the busy excitement that prevails. Every messenger that comes from the world in these evil times, may well cause the Christian to feel as did the prophet, "when he settled his face stedfastly" on the messenger, and then turned aside " and wept."
As GOD has declared Himself not to be in noise and tempest, but in the still small voice, so has He shown Himself in all His manifestations to mankind. In the older dispensation He was ever as One who, in disclosing, hideth Himself. When our LORD appeared on earth in His incarnation, He was still ever as one who, ever desirous to manifest, yet in love for mankind withdrew Himself. The same was ever the case in His Church in its purest and best days; it was ever (as in faint imitation of her LORD) a system of reserve, in which the blessings of the Kingdom were laid up, as a treasure hid in a field. And such is still the system of the Church throughout her ways; GOD dwelleth in secret, and by faith only can be discerned. Faith is the key to His secret treasures. All that is directed to the eye of GoD will in some measure partake of this reserve. In opposition to which, all the ways of the world, of human expediency, all systems and practices that look to man, will be marked by an absence of this reserve. As far as we look to GOD we shall have this; as far as we look to man we shall have it not; and as far as thoughts of man are allowed to enter into the sanctuary and worship of GOD, our conduct will be marked by an absence of this reserve. The world knows not GoD, and cannot know Him; so far, therefore, as we know Him, so far also, the world also will not know us, and will not understand our ways, and our words. So that from the very nature of the case, this reserve becomes necessary and unavoidable. If we make those secrets
of God known to it, we shall injure ourselves, by bringing the gaze of the world into the secrets of God, and His holy place; and injure others also, for those things which they cannot understand, they will not reverence. If we wish to do good to the world we must not look to it, but unto God; our strength must be in secret where GoD is; the bad instruments of the world (such as the daily periodical) must not be ours; the platform is not our strength, nay, even the pulpit itself is not our chief strength, in these we must yield to others if they wish it but our chief strength must be the Altar; it must be in Sacraments and prayers and a good life to give efficacy to them; and in secret alms to the poor to buy their prayers, which have great power with GOD. Our strength must be in secret where God is. If others have recourse to thoughtless controversial disputations, we must leave such to them, and endeavour, ourselves, to learn the truth, and our obedience shall be their light. Remembering always, that this reserve of Holy Scripture, in which every thing that is good must be now, more or less, concealed, is ever calculated to lead on our thoughts by a necessary connexion to that great manifestation, when there is "nothing secret that shall not be manifest;" neither any thing hid that shall not be known and come abroad, when He who now "seeth in secret, shall reward openly" those that wait for Him.
IF the subject of this Treatise is not distinctly brought forward by the older Divines of our Church, the reason obviously is because the evils it is intended to controvert have been more peculiarly developed in the present age. But the principle is often allowed incidentally; and the following instances may serve to express, in the words of others, what has been the writer's meaning. The first passage from Dr. Isaac Barrow had not been seen by the writer, till after the publication of Tract No. 80; but expresses very much the view he has taken respecting our LORD's conduct and that of the Apostles. Sermon LXIII. The Doctrine of Universal Redemption, vol. iii. p. 403. Oxford Edition, 1818.
"That GOD doth commonly observe this method (plainly suitable to divine justice, wisdom, and goodness) to dispense the revelation of His truth, according to men's disposition to receive it, and aptness to make a fruitful and worthy use of it, to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, as St. John Baptist spake; and to withhold it from those who are indisposed to admit it, or unfit to profit by it; we may from divers express passages and notable instances (beside many probable intimations) of Scripture learn. Matt. iv. 18. John i. 24 37. Matt. xix. 27. John i. 47. Luke xix. 8, 9. Matt. xxi. 31. Luke v. 31.
We may on the one hand observe, that those whom our Saviour did choose to call, were persons disposed easily upon His call to comply; to forsake their fathers and their nets; to leave their receipts of custom; to relinquish all, (relations, occupations, estates,) and to follow Him; faithful Israelites, without guile, like Nathaniel, (that is, as is probably conjectured, St. Bartholomew;) men honestly devout, and charitable, like Zaccheus; that He chose to converse with publicans and sinners, men apt to be convinced of their errors, and touched with the sense of their sins; apt to see their need of mercy and grace, and therefore ready to entertain the overtures of them; that He blesses GOD for revealing His mysteries to babes, (to innocent and well-meaning, imprejudicate and uncorrupted persons,) such as if men were not, they could in nowise enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, or become Christians; those poor in spirit, of whom is the Kingdom of Heaven; those foolish things which GOD chooses as most fit objects of His mercy and grace; that He enjoined His disciples, in their travels for the pro
Matt. iii. 8.
pagation of the Gospel, to inquire concerning the worthiness or fitness of persons,
Matt. x. 11.
and accordingly to make more close applications to them: Into what city or village ye enter, inquire who therein is worthy; and entering in abide there. Of this proceeding we have a notable instance in Cornelius, who, for his honest piety (correspondent to the proportion of knowledge vouchsafed him), was so acceptable to GOD, that in regard thereto he obtained from Him the revelation of truth in a peculiar and extraordinary manner. And St. Paul was another most remarkable example thereof; who for the like reason was so wonderfully called, as himself intimates, describing himself to have been nλwrig Oɛov, zealously affected toward God, according to the righteousness in the law, blameless; one that had continually behaved himself in all good conscience toward God, who, even in the persecution of GOD's truth, did proceed with an honest meaning, and according to his conscience, for which cause he saith, that GOD had mercy on him; foreseeing how willingly he would embrace the truth, and how earnestly promote it. We may also observe how, in the Acts of the Apostles, the HOLY SPIRIT commonly directed the Apostles to such places where a competent number of people were well disposed to receive the truth; who were εὔθετοι εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ Θεοῦ, well disposed to the Kingdom of Heaven, and consequently by Gob's foresight (τεταγμένοι εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον) ordained to have the word of eternal life, (the rò σwrýρiov Aεou, as it is in a parallel place called) discovered to them; such people as the Bereans, men ingenuous and tractable; who consequently entertained the word μerà táons рolvμiag, with all promptitude and alacrity. To such persons GOD sometimes by extraordinary revelation directed the Apostles to preach; as to the Corinthians, in respect to whom the LORD spake to St. Paul in a vision, saying, Fear not, but speak, and be not silent; for I am with thee, because ñoλùç ¿orí μoi λaòç, there is for me much people in this city; much people whom I see disposed to comply with my truth. So in behalf of the Macedonians, ἀνήρ τις Μακεδών, a certain man of Macedonia, was in a vision seen to St. Paul, exhorting him and saying, Passing into Macedonia, help us. Thus, on that hand, doth God take special care that His Truth be manifested to such as are fitly qualified to embrace it, and use it well. Thus is GOD ready to make good that answer of Ponthinus (Bishop of Lyons, and immediate successor to St. Irenæus) to the prefect, who asking him Who was the Christians' God? was answered, 'Eàv ýç ãžios, yvwoy, If thou be worthy thou shalt know; thus, as the wise man divinely saith, the divine Wisdom, džiovs avτns περιέρχεται ζητοῦσα, gouth about seeking such as are worthy of her; sheweth herself favourable unto them in their ways, and meeteth them in every thought.
Acts xviii. 9, 10.
Acts xvi. 9.
Euseb. v. 1.
Wisd. vi. 16.
"And on the other hand, that GOD withholds the special discoveries of His
Acts xxii. 3.
- xxiii. 1, πεπολίτευμαι.
Phil. iii. 6.
1 Tim. i. 3. Luke ix. 62. Acts xiii. 48. - xvii. 11.