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consistent, uniform, unclashing system : like an instrument of music, in perfect tune, without one discordant string; or, like a consummate picture, wherein every stroke is correlative, and symmetry and just proportion reign throughout. Such is the picture of Christianity, drawn by St. Paul, in the verse before us. A miniature piece, indeed it is; but the design is happy, and the finishing masterly. The first sentence may stand as a motto to the whole: Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness. More literally, the mystery of religion is confessedly great. Where by godliness, or religion, are evidently meant, the distinguishing doctrines of Christianity; and, by mystery, the obscurity, or incomprehensibility, with which those truths are more or less attended, during man's present benighted state below. I explain the term mysterious, by incomprehensible: because, properly speaking, the mysteriousness of divine objects does not so much arise from the nature of the objects themselves, as from our inability to comprehend them. The darkness is in us, not in them. It is the imperfection of human reason, both as to light, capacity, and strength, which gives birth to the mysteries. Thus many things, unfathomable by men, are self-evident to angels: and things still more obscure, in whose contemplation even angels would lose their depth, are to God, clearer than meridian day.
In direct opposition both to scripture and common sense, there are writers, who make no scruple to assert roundly, that Christianity is not mysterious; and that, “ whatever doctrines are involved in mystery, ought for that very reason, to be rejected as false.” If we admit this, we must, to be consistently complaisant, renounce our senses, as well as our faith, and throw philosophy into the same grave with Christianity. For, are not the mysteries of nature, no less than those of grace,
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confessedly great? Did that philosopher ever live,
If, then, there is more comprised in the
The higher we go, the stronger this observation binds. In the scale of beings, the farther our contemplation ascends, the more must our diffi. culty of comprehension increase. Matter, both in itself and in its various modifications, is inexplicably mysterious; the nature of spirit, whether human or angelic, is more mysterious still; and God, the infinite, uncreated spirit, is most mysterious of all *
If the fashionable maxim be true, that “our faith should go no farther than the clearness of our ideas :" i. e. in other words, if all mysteries are to be cashiered and expunged without mercy; we have
*“ Some of Epictetus' scholars observed to that philosopher, that he had told them many excellent things concerning God; but that still they could not comprehend his nature. To this the admirable stoic is said to have answered, Si omninò ego Deum declararem, vel
ego Deus essem, vel ille Deus non foret: i. e. were I able fully to set forth God, I must either be God myself, or God himself must cease to be so." See Arrowsmith's Chain of Pr. 131.
nothing to do but to commence infidels and madmen at once. We must, by parity of argument, deny the existence of every object whatever, in the whole compass of nature; because there is not a single object which we perfectly understand. We must deny the being of a Deity, because our reason is at a loss to explain his essence and manner of operation. We must deny our own existence, because we are ignorant both of the particles whereof our bodies are composed, and of the nature of that soul by which the human body is actuated. In short, resolve to believe no mysteries, and you virtually resolve to believe nothing at all: for every thing is mysterious, in a greater or less degree, from the highest arch-angel, down to the most imperceptible animalcule; and from the sun in the firmament, down to the minutest particle of matter. The very terms, which philosophy is forced to make use of, prove the scantiness of that rational cordage, which, unable to sound a drop of common water, would madly presume to fathom infinity. What, for instance, is attraction? What is repulsion ? names for certain effects, of whose real causes we are, in the main, as utterly ignorant, as the boy that holds the plough, or as the peasant that directs the team.
In the front of religious mysteries, St. Paul places the miraculous and supernatural incarnation of Jesus Christ. “ God was manifested in the flesh :” God the Son, who, in the covenant of redemption, had taken upon him to deliver man, became man, to accomplish that deliverance. The truth of his divinity is demonstrable from the whole current of scripture; and the truth of his human nature, or the reality of his manifestation in the flesh, is evident, from his having been liable, in general, to the sinless infirmities incident to men. He slept; he shed
ears; he experienced hunger, thirst, and weariness; he was acquainted with pain of body, and distress of
mind. In one respect indeed, he seems to have been exempted from the common lot of other human beings; we no where find, to the best of my remembrance, that he ever so much as once experienced any attack of sickness or disease *. The reason of this extraordinary circumstance was, no doubt, owing to the sinless formation of his humanity, by the immediate operation of the Holy Ghost. Sin was that which introduced every kind of asağıc into the human system; and disease among the rest. But the man Christ Jesus was formed and conceived totally without stain. Hence he was, like our first parents before the fall, naturally immortal ; nor could he have died, had he not, by an act of gracious susception, taken the guilt of men upon himself, and become responsible to divine justice for the utmost payment of their penal debt. And, even under those circumstances, we read, that his death, though violent, was voluntary. His resignation of life is constantly represented in scripture, as his own act and deed. For, exclusively of his union with the second person in the godhead; his absolute freedom from sin would of itself have been a certain security from the possibility of dying. Hence, the evangelists express themselves thus ; αφηκε το πνευμα, he dismissed, or let go his spirit, Matthew xxvii. 50. Tageowze so hverjuce, he resigned, delivered up, or made a surrender of his spirit, John xix. 30. St. Mark's and St. Luke's egeTVEUDE
, taken in connection with John x. 18. evidently carries the same import.
As Christ was manifested in the flesh, so was he justified in the spirit : not only justified as to the divinity of his person and mission, and proved to be the Son of God by the miracles which he wrought in conjunctiont with the holy Spirit; but likewise
* It is indeed declared, that himself took our infirmities, and bore our sic esses, Matth. viii. 17. Meaning, I suppose, the sins of his people; those moral sicknesses, which himself bore away in his own body on the tree.
+ Luke xi. 20.
spiritually justified by God the Father, from all those sins, which, as the dying surety of his people, he had taken upon himself to expiate. He was thus spiritually or mystically justified, and received his open discharge, as a 'sin bearing and sin atoning Saviour, when he was raised from the dead, and released from the prison of the tomb; when the Sun of righteousness emerged from his sad, but short eclipse; and rose to set no more.
He was, moreover, seen of angels; seen, with joy and adoration, by the angels that never fell ; seen, with envy and dismay, and acknowledged with reluctance, by the apostate spirits who kept not their first estate. The apostle adds, that he was preached unto the Gentiles : preached under his twofold character of God and Mediator; preached as the only sacrifice for sin, and as the everlasting righteousness of believing sinners; preached by all his faithful ministers in every age, as well under the legal, as under the gospel dispensation. And he will still be preached to the end of time, as long as there is one elect sinner uncalled, and until all the vessels of mercy are brought to the saving knowledge and love of himself.
In consequence of being thus preached unto the Gentiles, he is, and will continue to be, believed on in the world. The holy Spirit makes, and will persist to make, the preaching of Christ crucified, the grand channel of his converting power. Pharisees, convinced of sin, shall be dislodged from reliance of their own works, and seek to Jesus for righteousness and strength. Hell deserving offenders, who once saw no comeliness in Christ, but perhaps blasphemed his name, despised his cross, and trod all his commandments under their feet; pierced with the keen, but salutary arrow of penitential anguish, and melted down by effectual grace; shall look for salvation to him whom they have pierced, and mourn in the bitterness of their souls, as one that mourneth