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THE BIBLE-A REVELATION BY ITS SILENCE, AS WELL AS BY ITS SPEECH.
By the late Reb. Alfred J. Morris.
"If it were not so, I would have told you," said Christ. His silence was proof. If God had not provided many mansions in the paternal house, if our Heavenly Father had not made ample and meet provision for His children in another world, Christ must have told them. How wonderful! He would not have allowed them to labour under an error on so important a subject, even a pleasant and not injurious error. He would have dissolved the charm. As Boyle says of the Bible, "Not only its expressions, but its silences are teaching, like the dial in which the shadow as well as the light informs us."
We shall endeavour to illustrate this principle.
I. THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST.
We must select instances as specimens. The absence of a Priesthood. It is a remarkable fact that Jesus Christ is the only Priest under the Gospel. Sacrificial language is used figuratively. Christians are called priests, and their worship and alms sacrifices, but obviously not in a true and proper, but only in a metaphorical sense. The fact of the language being applied to them generally is proof that it is so used; for priests proper cannot be the worshippers and devotees as a whole, but must be only certain men selected from their number to act on their behalf, to represent and mediate for the body. The essence of priesthood, according to Hill and all other authorities, consists in offering sacrifice and intercession for the body and mass of men by some few specially set apart to the work. "Every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices; wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer."
VOL. VI.-NEW SERIES.
This is said of Christ, but of no other.
Sacerdotal terms and titles are
never applied to any particular class in the New Testament. There is not a solitary instance of ministers of any grade being called priests or said to do the work of priests.
This is striking every way-striking in contrast with the usage of Christians and of well-nigh all men. "If our religion had been devised by man (says Whately) "it would, in all probability, have been in this point (as well as in many others) different from what it is. And what could not have come from man must have come from God. It cannot be deemed, therefore, an insignificant circumstance that the Christian religion should differ from all others in a point in which, amidst their infinite varieties, they all agree." And when we remember that even Christians with the New Testament in their hands-that by far the largest number of the professed followers of Christ-that the Roman Church and the Greek Church and many members of Protestant Churches-still cleave, as a vital thing, to the priesthood of ministry, and the true sacrificial character of their service— it is most strange, but upon one supposition, that Apostles ignore them.
And there is something that makes the fact still more wonderful. They were Jews. They had been trained and educated in Judaism. They had passed from that system into Christianity. They held it precious. Slow and hard was the transition of their minds from that to this. They were saturated with Jewish conceptions of things. The ideas of the Gospel were made to take a Jewish form, and were clothed in Jewish language. It is not that they abstained from reference to old law, that they disused the terms with which it was familiar. On the contrary, they abound in them. Sacrificial thoughts and words continually occur. They have no more chosen speech in which to describe the state, character, and privileges, and record the acts and exercises of the saints. The temple, the indwelling Deity, the offerings supply them with frequent figures and images of the position and proceedings of the Christian people. And yet there is a cautious abstinence from all these in relation to the ministry. Instead of, as might have been expected, calling ministers priests and their services sacrifices, they never do anything of the kind.
Had they looked at the mediating for them with
How can we account for this but in one way? ministry as representing the people to God, and God-had they believed and known that there was any order in the Church of Christ answering to priests under the law—had they possessed the conviction that pastors had the power, the exclusive power, of making Christ's merits available-that they could repeat and apply the propitiation of the Son of God-that their prayers had any other virtue than that of other Christians, any other virtue than that of other Christian men, any other virtue than that of faith and fervour-would they not have said it? Must they not have said it. As men-as Jewish Christians— as organs of the God of truth-was it possible that they could not have said it said it often and earnestly? And when we find that they did not
say it-that they differ entirely from all those who believe it-that, instead of saying it, they even avoid, in reference to ministers, the figurative language which their past experience supplied and suggested-and language they do use abundantly in other connections-can we help seeing that their silence is one of the strongest arguments that there is no priesthood but that of Christ?
He is Priest. As to Him there is no doubt. He atones-He intercedes. No such abstinence as to Him. In clear statements His death and blood are said to be expiatory-His intercession said to be always effectual. He cleanses from all sin-He is always heard. Yea, He is the only Priestthe only Priest that ever fully deserved the title-the only Priest that ever did efficiently mediate. The one Mediator-as there is one God-by one offering perfecting men for ever-by His exclusive advocacy securing the application of His propitiation. All other priests were but shadows-all other offerings but types; could not take away sin—could not make the comers thereunto perfect. So that the manner in which they speak of Him— coupled with the manner in which they do not speak of ministers—not only shows what they are not, but most conclusively what He is-shows that they are but moral expounders and enforcers of His work, and that His work is alone and peculiar, the only hope of men, the only ground and reason of Divine acceptance.
The destiny of children furnishes another instance.
Children are certainly a class deserving of notice in a revelation of eternal life when we consider the enormous number of our race that never live beyond the age of childhood. Even in our own country, in some places a fourth, and in some a half, die before they reach ten years of age. And when we remember the disadvantages under which, in most countries, they labour-the cruel practices that expose and destroy themthe fearful maladies that are allowed to ravage without check from science or from care-it is appalling to imagine what multitudes perish ere they reach an age of responsibility. "In this respect the successive generations of mankind somewhat resemble the produce of a luxuriant fruit-tree: numerous blossoms are put forth, and afterwards abundant fruit; but of the blossoms, many are shed as soon as they expand; and of the fruit, much falls before it is full-grown."
Now, is it not a singular thing that we have no explicit declaration as to the fate of this vast portion of the human race? I grant you that there are inferential reasonings available-that general principles apply-but that a revelation should not distinctly state the future destiny of perhaps a majority of our kind dying before they come consciously under its moral laws and gracious provisions, is a fact of importance. Some have so rigorously, so mercilessly applied their systems of theology as to leave them hopeless, or, at least, to leave us without any certain faith as to their eternal salvation. On the contrary, the silence, so far as direct statement is concerned, of the Bible, is to me a conclusive proof of their salvation.
I need no revelation of the blessedness of dead infants. I should need a very clear revelation indeed of anything else. In cases where the Scriptures do not distinctly speak, we are left to the general character of the Divine Providence, and the natural instincts of the human heart. All we know of God, and all we feel in ourselves, certifies the delightful truth that babes die in Jesus and are blessed.
Besides, Christianity is a revelation of salvation. It comes to make known the way of life-to bring life and immortality to light. It points to One. who took our nature. It looks benignly on our race. Strange, indeed, if it had nothing for the half of humanity-the half not personally and voluntarily involved in the evils it announces our redemption from—if it left necessarily beyond its circle of grace those who have known neither good nor evil. If only some shared its favours, surely we should be told what the terms and conditions of their blessedness-if, as many think, their blessedness depended on the acts or relationships of others, on being baptized, or on being descendants of believers-we should be informed what these were, and be advised and exhorted in reference to them. But when we find that nothing is said as to some being saved and others not saved that nothing is said as to the way in which, to be saved, they must be dealt with—may we not apply our argument and believe that the silence of the Bible is demonstrative of what lies nearest to the tenderest hearts ? Oh yes " "If it were not so, I would have told you." His not telling us is speech and evidence. We have no distinct declaration, but we have, nevertheless, a distinct faith. And when our little ones are taken away we sorrow not without hope. Death is but an agent in bringing them to Christ. And if, like the disciples, we are tempted to rebuke Him that brings them, the very silence of Scripture is a voice of mercy, and echoes and applies to our sobbing souls the words that gladdened and lifted up hearts of old-" Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not."
II. THE PROVIDENCE OF CHRIST.
The first series
A very singular specimen you have in the Apocalypse. of prophetic visions are given at the opening of seven seals. as I think, to the Jewish Antichrist. The first six seals give the judgments which were to come on the unbelieving people of the old covenant, and their effects. But when the Lamb opens the seventh seal nothing follows. Instead of a new scene with accompanying voices, we read (in first verse of eighth chapter), "And when he had opened the seventh seal there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour." Before any fresh objects were presented, any fresh noises heard, there is a an unbroken stillness for a season. And this was one of the between the seals, but one of them, the whole of one of them. a passage in the successive representations of the fortunes of the Church. This was prepared for by the solemn breaking of the seal. This was all
blank and seals-not
that followed the opening of a roll. This silence was part of the communication, this absence of the objects part of the revelation.
And if you remember and understand the matter well, you will see how and why it was so. It was "a most significant intimation that after representations of the denationalization of Israel, and the mingling of the believing Israelites with the believing Gentiles, there was no need of any further prediction concerning the once separated and peculiar people." It taught more impressively than words could teach that Jews, as such, were to be no more regarded in the dispensations of God that the chosen people were henceforth to mingle with mankind and be subjected to the same laws as they-that in Christ Jesus were to be neither Jew nor Gentile that the common earth should be the theatre of redeeming Providence, and the common nature supply the materials of the Church of God. It was a solemn saying that the past was past, not to be repeated, for that a new state of things was to be introduced.
Take another case. The Bible is history, but not history in generalnot the history of the world—not the history of the greatest nations of the world. "When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel." But how instructive is this fact! What a light it throws on the estimations of the Most High! Here you have a poor, mean, insignificant people selected for subjects of Divine history, and nations great and mighty, far advanced in civilisation and arts, when they were wandering tribes, are omitted, or mentioned only when their history touches the history of the chosen people. The monarchies whose memories cast a solemn shadow on the ages have no existence in the Bible but as they affect the condition and experience of the "holy nation." In all respects but one they were more worthy of regard than the descendants of Abraham. For magnitude, for wealth, for power, for antiquity the Jews were less important than kingdoms that are only glanced at in Scripture records. That one was religion. The Jews had the true religion. "To them pertained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; and of them as concerning the flesh, Christ was to come, who is over all, God blessed for ever." This is the key to the fact before us. The interest of this world to God is in its religion-nations to Him are important in their relation to Himself. It is this we learn from the silence of Scripture history-God makes no or but little account of the things that engage the eye and strike the imaginations of the children of men. The kingdoms of the world and the glory of them are nothing in His view, but as they have to do with His kingdom and its glory. The majestic march of events has little worth and significance apart from its connection with the development of His redeeming purpose. The world would not have been, and being, would not have been continued, but for the Messiah. "All things were made by him and for him." And the secret of Divine