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&c. from the application of which term to the person of Christ, we are taught under this one word of the passover, that he is to us a lamb in meekness and innocence of manners; pure and spotless from every stain of sin; slain (and that without the breaking of his bones) for the redemption of his people from the wrath of the destroyer; and feeding with his body those who put away all leaven from their hearts.
But know, beside this first difficulty, which we are under, of comprehending the matter of the scripture from the peculiar manner in which it is delivered, we are under a second difficulty as to the receiving of it; without which our understanding of it will be very imperfect, if any at all. For the force of men's minds is generally found to be according to their affections ; for which reason the disaffection of the Jew is attended with a very conspicuous weakness of the understanding. We may lay it down as a certain truth, confirmed by the experience of all men, that when any object is admitted into the mind, it must find a faculty there which corresponds with its own peculiar nature. When there is no appetite, the sweetest meat is of no value, and even the sight and savour of it may be disagreeable. When there is neither ear nor skill in music, heavenly sounds give no delight; and with the blind the beams of the sun give no beauty to the richest prospect. It is thus in every other case of the kind. The mathematician and logician apply to the intuitive faculty of reason; the poet to the imagination or mirror of the mind; the orator to the sensibility of the affections; the musician to the musical ear. The mathematician demonstrates nothing but to patient and attentive reason; to the imagination which is dull the poet is a trifler; on the hard and unfeeling heart the orator makes no
impression : and the sweetest music is referred to the class of noises, where there is no sense of harmony. Thus, when God speaks of things which are above nature, his meaning must be received by a faculty which is not the gift of nature, but superadded to nature by the gift of God himself. For spiritual truth there must be a spiritual sense ; and the scripture calls this sense by the name of faith : which word sometimes signifies the act of believing; sometimes the matter which is believed ; but in many passages it is used for that sense or capacity in the intellect, by which the invisible things of the spirit of God are admitted and approved.
It is a doctrine which may occasion some mortification to human pride, and it seldom fails to do so; but no doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ is more decided than this, that all men have not faith; that it is the gift of God wherever it is found ; and that the natural man, or man with no powers but those of our common nature, receiveth not the things of the spirit of God: so far from it, that they seem foolish, extravagant, and incredible, and are rejected with mockery and contempt by men who can write a pleasant style, and who seem to be in other respects (within the sphere of their affections) very sensible and ingenious persons. On what other ground but that of the scriptural distinction between faith and natural reason, is it possible to account for a fact which so frequently occurred at the first publication of the gospel ; when the same speech, the same reasoning, yea, and the same miracle, had a totally different effect on the minds of different hearers, all present on the same occasion ? When Peter and John healed the lame man at the gate of the temple, and all the people were spectators of the fact, the apostles addressed themselves in a powerful discourse to those who were present; the lame man still cleaving to them, and standing by them as a witness: and thus they made some thousands of converts to the word of the gospel. But behold, the Sadducees were grieved at the doctrine of the resurrection, though preached with all the force of truth from their own scriptures, and attended with the credential of an indisputable miracle; which only vexed and distressed them the more. At Athens, the philosophers of the place, proud of their Grecian talent for oratory and disputation, considered the matter of Paul's preaching merely as a new thing, which gave them an opportunity of questioning and wrangling. Some called him a babbler ; some said they would hear him again ; some mocked at the reşurrection of the dead; while Dionysius, one of their senators, Damaris, and some others, clave unto them and believed: in other words, they received the gospel with that faculty of the spirit, which alone is susceptible of it. Till there is in man the sense which receiveth these things, the book which treats of them will not be understood.-If they are rejected, we must conclude this sense to be wanting : and when that is the case, the evidence of a miracle will not force its way through the hardness of the human heart. Some speculative writers have treated of credibility and probability, and the nature, and force, and degrees, of evidence, as if we had rules for weighing all truth to a single grain with mechanical certainty : whereas in fact, man, with all his boasted balancings of reason, can resist a proof that would confound a devil. Compare the following examples; The Jews said, “as for this fellow “ we know not whence he is." The devils said, “ I know thee who thou art, the holy one of God.” The Jews said, that Christ cast out devils through Beelzebub their prince : but the devils never said so themselves. The sun of the noon-day shines without effect upon the blind, because the proper sense is wanting: so saith the Evangelist, the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not. Vicious inclinations and habits of sin, which render truth disagreeable, are sure to have the effect of weakening and perverting the judgment: this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. The understanding of truth implies a love of truth; and the understanding will be deficient so long as that love is wanting. None are so blind as they who are so by choice; that is to say, the ignorant are never found to be so absurd as the disaffected. The word of God is in itself all-sufficient for the illumination of the mind; it is a seed, quick and vigorous with the principles of life; but, like other seeds, it must find something congenial with itself in the soil into which it falls. The word spoken did not profit the Jews, because it was not mixed with faith in them that heard it; there was nothing in the soil to give it nourishment and growth.
The distinction which the scripture hath made between natural and spiritual men; that is, between men that have faith and men that have none, is agreeable to what hath been observed from the beginning of the world ; that there have been two classes of people, all sprung from the same original, but totally different in their views, principles, and manners. Before the flood, they were distinguished as the children of Cain, and the children of Seth ; the latter of whom inherited the faith of Abel. After the flood we find them again under the denomination of Hebrews and Heathens. In the gospel they appear to us as the children of this world, and the children of light : the former, cunning and active in their generation for the interests of this life, the other, wise towards God and the things of eternity. These two run on together, like two parallel lines, through the history of this world: always near to one another, but never meeting. Whoever considers this fact, will not be at a loss for a reason, why the wisdom of God in the scripture is so differently accepted in the world.
Having thus endeavoured to shew that the scripture must have its difficulties, and whence they arise; we shall obtain some farther light, if we enquire what the scripture hath said concerning itself.
The great apostle thus distinguishes between the language of revelation, and the words of human wisdom. .“ We speak the wisdom of God in a mys" tery, even the hidden wisdom—which none of the “ princes of this world knew; for had they known “ it, they would not have crucified the Lord of “ glory." By which he means, that the priests and rulers who stood up against the Lord, did so for want of understanding that sense of the scripture which is hidden under the signs and symbols of it, in a way totally different from the wisdom of this world, and which the natural man * can neither see nor admit. The word mystery, in a vulgar acceptation, is applied to such things as are dark and unintelligible: but to speak in a mystery, as the phrase is
* I Cor. ii. 14.