THE OBSCURITIES OF DIVINE REVELATION.
Psalm xliii. 3.—" O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles."
Psalm xxxvi. 9.—"For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light."
Perhaps no one ever studied the Bible as a professed revelation from God who has not had such questions cross his mind as the following:—Why is there so much in this hook that is obscure and unintelligible ? Why is not more information given on great and important questions about which the human mind has always been perplexed? Why is no more light thrown on the subject of moral government; on the question why sin and misery were allowed to enter the world; on the nature of the happiness of heaven; on the reasons why the wicked are to suffer for ever ? Why are so many subjects left in total darkness in a professed revelation, and others left with only such a feeble glimmering of light as almost to make us wish that there had been none ?
These questions produce increased perplexity and embarrassment when such thoughts as the following occur, as they will be very likely to do, in connexion with them:—First, it seems that it would have been so easy for God to have removed all difficulty on many or all of these subjects. There can be no darkness or obscurity with Him in relation to them, and he could readily have taken away all our perplexity by a simple explanation, almost by a single " stroke of the pen." Secondly, such an explanation seems to have been demanded in order to clear up his own character and dealings. There are many dark things about his government; many things which give occasion to hard thoughts, to aspersions, and to reflections on his character, which his friends cannot meet, and to difficulties which they cannot solve; and, instead of removing all these, he has so left the matter as to perplex the good, and to give occasion for the unanswered reproaches of the evil, when a simple explanation might have saved the whole difficulty. Thirdly, such an explanation seemed to be demanded as an act of benevolence on his part, in order to remove perplexity and distress from the human mind, even if he was willing that his own character and the principles of his government should rest under a cloud. Man by nature is in darkness. He is perplexed and embarrassed with his condition and prospects. He struggles in vain to obtain relief by the unassisted efforts of his own mind. A revelation is proposed ; but on the most important and perplexing of his difficulties it seems only to tantalize him, and to leave him as much in the dark as he was before. And, fourthly, all this difficulty is increased when he reflects how much of this same book is occupied with histories which have lost their interest; with names and genealogical tables now of little or no value; with laws pertaining to rites and ceremonies long since obsolete, and always apparently pertaining to trifling subjects; and with narratives often of apparently little dignity, and of slight importance. The thought will cross the mind, Why were not. those portions of the book occupied with statements which would have been of permanent value to man ? Why, instead of these, did not God cause to be inserted there important explanations respecting his own character and government ; the condition of the heavenly world; the reasons why sin and woe came into the system; and why the wicked must be punished for ever ? Disappointed, and troubled, and half feeling that he is trifled with, many an inquirer after truth is tempted to throw the book aside, and never to open it again with the hope of finding an answer to the questions which most deeply agitate his soul.
These are hold questions which man asks, but they will come into tho mind, and it is important to meet them, and to calm down the spirit which would ask them, if we can. To obtain a rational view of this matter, there are two inquiries :—
I. What is the measure of light actually imparted in the Bible? and,
II. Why is there no more ?
In the answer which may be given to these two inquiries, wo may find something, perhaps, to soothe the feelings and calm the mind, in reference to the perplexities referred to.
I. The first inquiry is, What is the measure of light actually imparted in the Bible? I do not, of course, intend to go into detail here—for this would involve an enumeration of all the points embraced in the system of Christian theology,—but I purpose only to suggest the principles, if I may be allowed the expression, which guided the Divine Mind in giving a revelation to man. It is evident that in giving such a revelation, the question must have occurred, whether light should be imparted on these points referred to; whether all should be communicated that could be; whether care should be taken to explain every question that might ever arise in the human mind; whether the whole subject of moral government should be unfolded, or whether some other rule should be adopted, and some other object should be aimed at. Now, the principles which seem to have guided the Divine Mind, admitting for the time that the Bible is a revelation from God, so far as we can judge from the manner in which the revelation was actually given, are the following:—
(1.) First, to leave many subjects, and among them some of those on which the mind is most inquisitive, perfectly in the dark. It was intended that not a ray of light should be shed on them; that there should be nothing which could constitute a basis of even a plausible conjecture. It was clearly the design of God to fix an outer limit to human knowledge so far as this world is concerned, in reference to those points, and to leave the race totally and designedly in the dark. This principle is involved in the declaration, " Secret things belong to the Lord your God, but things that are revealed to you and your children."
A few remarks in relation to this outer limit, or this boundary, will apply equally fo reason and revelation; and while they may do something as an explanation of the general principles of the Divine proceedings, they may, at the same time, do something to reconcile us to the fact that it is found in a book of professed revelation.
(a) There is a limit to the human faculties—a point beyond which man, in this world, cannot go in inquiring into the various questions which may occur. That point may not yet have been reached on any one subject ; but clearly there is such a point, beyond which all is dark. Occasionally a bright genius arises—some one endowed with almost superhuman powers—who seems to secure, almost by intuition, all that man had before discovered, and who is prepared, at the beginning of his own career, to start where others left off, and to penetrate the deep profound where mortals never before have trod—to open the eyes on new regions of thought, and new worlds of matter; but even he soon comes to the outer limit of the human powers, and will always feel, as Newton did at the close of his life, that the great ocean of truth is still unexplorcd. " I do not know," said he, " what I may appear to tho world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." * Whatever may be the attainments which man may make in the general progress of society, and whatever light may be shed on objects before obscure by the few men of transcendant genius whom God raises up from age to age, there is an outer limit to all such progress—a point beyond which all is involved in Cimmerian darkness. The ancients, in their ignorance of the true structure of the world, supposed that the earth was surrounded by interminable seas, and that whosoever should venture out in a right line from the land would soon enter regions deepening in darkness, till not a ray of light should be visible; and they feigned one such voyage, in which the mariner stood boldly for the west, until, terrified and affrighted by the increasing darkness, he turned the prow of his vessel, and sought again his native shores. What to them pertaining to the structure of the earth was fable, is true on the point before us in regard to higher subjects. There is an outer limit beyond which there is no light. We cannot penetrate it. We have no faculties, as men ordinarily are made, to penetrate it; and no genius arises so superior to the ordinary human endowments as to be able to carry the torch of discovery into those unexplored regions.
(6) In like manner, as in regard to our natural faculties, so it was clearly the design of God that there should be many subjects on which not a ray of light should be thrown by revelation. There are many points on which no statement is made ; on which no hint is given that would relieve the anxiety of a troubled mind. Far on the hither side of what we would like to know, the line is drawn, and the whole book is closed at what may, without irreverence, be called—or which, whether irreverent or not, expresses our natural feelings—a provoking point, just at the point where we would be glad to ask questions, and where we by no means feel our minds satisfied with what we possess.
(e) As a matter of fact, therefore, whatever conclusions may be drawn from it, there is a great variety of subjects, many of them of great interest to the human mind, which are left totally in the dart and on which the utmost efforts of ingenuity,
• Brewster's Life of Newton, pp. 300, 301.
employed in endeavouring to make the Bible speak out, have been utterly ineffectual. The silence of the Bible is, in this respect, somewhat like the silence of the dead about their condition, and about the future world. If they live, why do they not return ? Why do they not come and tell us what it is to die ?—whither man goes when he dies ?—and whether they are happy or not, and how we may be ? Why do they keep their countenances so fixed and grave; and why do the lips once so ready to impart knowledge now keep themselves so close on the very points on which we would be glad to have them speak ?
As a believer in revelation, and a friend of it, I am constrained, therefore, to admit that there are many important points on which not a ray of light is shed. I am, for one, willing to concede that among these points are the questions why moral evil was admitted into the system; why misery ever found its way into the empire of an infinitely benevolent and almighty Creator and moral Governor; and why the period will never arrive when sin and woe shall everywhere come to an end. On these, and on many kindred topics of great interest to man, I confess I have never seen a ray of light cast by any human speculation; and that though I have been silenced, I have not been convinced. Other men think they see light here ; I see none.
Just here, however, one remark should be made, to guard this observation from abuse. It is, that as we cannot allow the darkness attending the subject of moral evil to disprove the fact that it exists—for no one can dispute the fact—we should not allow the darkness in relation to future punishment, even though it should be eternal, to lead us to doubt or deny that fact. Our ignorance in the one case does not disprove the fact—how can it in the other ?
(2.) A second principle on which revelation seems to have been given, similar to the one just mentioned, is, to state nothing merely to gratify curiosity. In the large book which constitutes what we call the Bible, embracing as it does a vast variety of histories, of apophthegms, of laws, of parables, of proverbs, of poetry, of eloquent appeals, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to fix the attention on a single thing that seems to have been revealed merely to gratify curiosity, or which would not have been recorded in the absence of such design. It was remarkable, in particular, how steadily the Saviour refused to gratify this spirit, or to answer questions based on this, when it would have been so easy to have responded to the questions proposed. I say " so easy to have responded to them," for, on the supposition that he was what ho claimed to be, and had actually come down from heaven, the information which was asked could have been readily given; and on the supposition of the infidel that he was an impostor, nothing would have been more easy than to give some answer—since no one could prove that it was wrong; and I may add, that nothing would have been more unnatural than that, with that assumed character, he should have attempted no answer. But he never attempted it—never gratified such an inquiry. Thus, when he was asked, " Lord, are there few that be saved ?" he gave no hint to gratify the spirit of curiosity, hut directed those who propounded the question to " strive to enter in at the strait gate." When the mother of James and John came to him requesting that her two sons might sit the one on his right hand and the other on his left hand in his kingdom, he said " it was not his to give, except for those for whom it had been prepared by his Father." When, after his resurrection, he was asked by his disciples whether he " would at that time restore the kingdom to Israel ?" he said it was " not for them to know the times or the seasons, which the Father had put in his own power." Thus Paul also, in the most explicit manner (Col. ii. 18), condemns those deceivers, one of the characteristics of whose teaching was, that they " intruded into those things which they had not seen." And so throughout the Bible, nothing seems to be done merely to gratify curiosity. If we go to it to learn what is duty; to obtain principles of conduct to guide us; to discover some promise that shall support us in temptation and trouble; to learn in what way we may acceptably worship our Maker; to know what we should do in the relations of husbands and wives, of parents and children, and of masters and servants; to ascertain what we should do for the poor, the ignorant, the prisoner, the oppressed; to learn what we must do to be saved, we never consult the oracle in vain. If we go with a question of mere curiosity; with a desire to obtain some response that shall be of no practical advantage, that shall flatter our self-esteem, or inflate us with a vain conceit of knowledge, we are sure to return with not even the respect that would be involved in the most ambiguous and unmeaning response that was ever uttered at Delphi.
(3.) The third and vital principle, therefore, that seems to have directed the Divine Mind in giving a revelation was, to furnish knowledge enough to be a safe guide to heaven. The principle seems to have been to give us so much information that we may learn the way of life if we will, and so as to keep the mind in a healthful exercise in investigating truth. It is never forgotten that we are moral agents; that we have powers to be disciplined and cultivated; and that our grand business here is not to gratify our curiosity, but to secure our salvation. AVould not all the essential purposes of a revelation be answered if it would enable us to secure the salvation of our souls ? Should it be a serious objection to it, if, while it did this, it did not also cast light on a thousand other points, however interesting and important they might be? And should we reject it and spurn it because there are many things which it leaves in the dark—many questions which are unanswered ? Revelation to us is not like the broad and clear sun that sheds down its rays on the spread-out landscape covered with smiling fields, and flocks, and hamlets ; disclosing each tree, and hill, and house, and the winding course of each rivulet:—it is, to use an illustration suggested by another, like the lighthouse that gleams on a dark and stormy coast to reveal the haven to the ocean-tossed mariner. " It shines afar over the stormy ocean, only penetrating a darkness which it never was intended to expel." The mariner can see that light clearly. It guides him. It cheers him when the tempest beats around him, and when the waves roll high. It shows him where the port is. It assures him that if he reaches that spot he is safe. It is all that he wants from that shore now, amid the darkness of the night, to guide him. True, it is not a sun; it does not dissipate all the darkness; " it is a mere star, showing nothing but itself —perhaps not even its own reflection on the water." But it is enough. There it stands, despite the storm and the darkness, to tell the mariner just what he wishes to know, and no more. It has saved many a richly-freighted bark, and all that he needs is that it will save his own. It tells him there is a haven there, though it leaves him all uninformed about everything else. Beyond the distance where it throws its beams, all is midnight. On a thousand questions, ou which curiosity might be excited, it casts no light whatever. " The cities, the towns, the green fields, the thousand happy homes which spread along the shore to which it invites him, it does not reveal." On a calmer sea curiosity would be glad to know all about the land on which that light stands, and to anticipate the time when, safe from danger, the feet might range over those fields " beyond the swelling flood." And so, too, " all is dark in reference to that stormy expanse over which the mariner has sailed," and all around him, as well as on the land to which he goes; but shall he therefore reject the aid of that light because it discloses no more ? Shall he refuse its assistance in guiding his vessel into port because it does not disclose to him all that there is in that land, or shed a flood of day on the heavens above him, and on all that stormy ocean on which he is embarked ?
So it is in respect to the Gospel. Man, too, is on a stormy ocean—the ocean of life, and the night is very dark. There are tempests that beat around us; under-currents that would drift us into unknown seas; rocks that make our voyage perilous. The Gospel is a light " standing on the dark shore of eternity, just simply guiding us there." It reveals to us almost nothing of the land to which we go, but only the way to reach it. It does nothing to answer the thousand questions which we would ask about that world, but it tells how we may see it with our own eyes. It does not tell us all about the past—the vast ocean of eternity that rolled on countless ages before we had a beginning; about the government of God; about our own mysterious being; but it would guide us to God's " holy hill and tabernacle," where in his " light we may see light;" and where what is now obscure may become as clear as noonday.
If these are correct views, then it follows that the Bible, as a revelation from God, was not designed to give us all the information which we might desire, nor to solve all the questions about which the human mind is perplexed, but to impart enough to be a safe guide to the haven of eternal rest.
II. Our second inquiry is, Why was no more light given? Why was no more done to dissipate the darkness on those points on which we are now so much perplexed; to answer the questions which we are so ready to ask, and which we feel it is proper for us to ask ?
It would be presumptuous to attempt to assign with certainty the reasons which influenced the Divine Mind in adopting the principles which have been suggested in making a revelation, and all that is proper for man to attempt to do in the case is to show that revelation is not liable to any well-founded objection on that account, and that, grateful for the light which has been given us, we should not murmur because we have no more —as the appropriate feeling of our mariner would be gratitude that that bright and clear, though little light is kept burning on that stormy coast to guide every vessel that may chance to come into those waters, not of complaint that it does not reveal the hills, and vales, and cities, and hamlets of that land.
In endeavouring, therefore, to show you that this is the appropriate state in which the mind should be, or to calm down the murmurs that rise in our souls because God has told us no more, I would submit the following remarks:—
(1.) First, our essential condition on earth is one of disciplini and probation. But this supposes that, while there shall be light and truth enough to make our condition safe, if we choose to have it so—that is, that it shall be a practicable thing to secure our salvation—there shall be enough also to exercise our powers in the best manner; to secure their most healthful development; to determine whether we are disposed to exert ourselves and to make inquiry; while there shall be enough in reserve to furnish occupation for the mind ever onward. Now it is certain that while many of the points suggested may furnish material for inquiry and thought, and while in advancing years in our own lives, or in the progress of society, light may be thrown on many subjects which are now dark, yet their solution is not necessary to our salvation, and perhaps would in no manner promote it. To recur once more to our illustration. Desirable as it might be, on many accounts, to know all that there is in that land on which the light stands that is to direct the mariner, yet the knowledge of that would not aid him in guiding his vessel into port. That it was a land of peace and plenty; that it was the place of his fathers' sepulchres ; that it was the home of his wife and children; that it opened rich fields for commerce or scientific research, might indeed stimulate and animate him amidst the billows, as our hope of heaven does in the storms that beat around us, but the most minute acquaintance with that country would not materially aid him in guiding his vessel into port.
Now, if we would search our own minds we should probably find that the questions in reference to which we are most disposed to complain because they are not solved, are not those which really embarrass us in the matter of salvation, or which, being solved, would aid us, but those in reference to which our salvation may be equally safe and easy whether they are solved or not. When a man finds himself struggling in a stream, it does nothing to facilitate his escape to know how he came there ; nor would it aid the matter if he could determine beyond a doubt why God made streams so that men could ever fall into them, and did not make every bank so that it would not crumble beneath the feet.
In the condition of man, therefore, regarded as in a state of discipline and probation, all that seems really to be demanded is, first, to furnish so much light in regard to the future that the salvation of the soul shall not necessarily be endangered— as in the case of our lighthouse; and, secondly, to bring before it so many unsolved, but important questions, as to furnish a healthful exercise of its powers:—to place the mind in such a state that there may be progress, hut not exhaustion ; to leave to the soul the stimulus derived; from the fact that there are boundless fields of thought and inquiry before it, not to leave it to the imbecility and inaction resulting from the fact that all has been explored, and that there are no new discoveries to be made, as Alexander is said to have sat down and wept because there were no other worlds to be conquered.
Accordingly, this is the way in which God everywhere deals with the human powers. Youth is stimulated to make attainments in literature and science because there are vast fields yet unexplored, and to a noble mind it is all the better if not a ray of light has ever been shed upon them ; nor would a generousminded youth thank even his Maker to stop the career of noble thought and the path of discovery by pouring down a flood of light on all those regions, so that no more was left for the efforts of honourable ambition. The explorer of unknown lands is cheered because a vast and inviting field is before him which the foot of man has never trod; and as he passes on in his obstructed way through fields of flowers new to the eye of man, and ascends streams on which man has never glided, and climbs the mountain top on which a human being ever before stood, and looks abroad on rich valleys that still invite him, he is cheered and excited by the fact that all this has been unknown; nor would he thank even his Maker to disclose all this at once to the world, and bid him sink down to supineness and inaction. It was this which animated Columbus when his prow first crossed the line beyond which no ship had ever sailed, and plunged into unknown seas. Every wave that was thrown up had a new interest and beauty from the fact that its repose had never been disturbed before by the keel of a vessel; and when his eyes first saw the land, and he prostrated himself and kissed the earth, his glory was at the highest, for he saw what in all ages was unknown before. So we are everywhere stimulated and animated by the unknown; by what is before us and maybe gained; by the fields of new thought which man has * never explored. But for this, which arises from the very nature of discipline, how flaccid and supine would be all our powers!"
* " Avia Pieridum peragro loca, nullius ante
Trita solo; juvat integros acoedere fonteis;
And here, I will just say in this connexion, to those whose minds are perplexed because God has revealed no more; to those who find a thousand questions crowding upon them which they cannot solve ; and especially to those who are in the beginning of their Christian way, in whose minds there rise sceptical, or murmuring, or even blasphemous thoughts against God, and around whom, on the most important subjects, there seem to be the shades of the deepest midnight, that in a few years, as the result of calm examination and of maturer reflection and observation, most of these difficulties will disappear. Light steals in gradually but certainly on a man's soul when he " watches daily at the gates of wisdom, and waits at the posts of her doors" (Prov. viii. 34), and not many years will elapse when either these questions which are started in connexion with revelation will be solved, or will take their place with those that pertain not to the Bible peculiarly, but to the government of the world as actually administered, and, therefore, are questions with which the Christian is not peculiarly concerned.
" In the early part of my biblical studies, some thirty to thirtyfive years ago," says the most distinguished professor of biblical learning in this country, " when I first began the critical investigation of the Scriptures, doubts and difficulties started up on every side, like the armed men whom Cadmus is fabled to have raised up. Time, patience, continued study, a better acquaintance with the original scriptural languages, and the countries where the sacred books were written, have scattered to the winds nearly all those doubts. I meet, indeed," says he, " with difficulties still, which I cannot solve at once, with some where even repeated efforts have not solved them. But I quiet myself by calling to mind that hosts of other difficulties, once apparently to me as formidable as these, have been removed, and have disappeared from the circle of my troubled vision. Why may I not hope, then, as to the difficulties that remain ?"*
(2.) The second thought which I suggest as a reason why no more was imparted to man on these great questions is, that it is not absolutely certain, it is not even probable, that we could comprehend any statements which could be made on those points which now perplex us. " If I have told you earthly things," said the Saviour to Nicodemus, " and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?" (John iii. 12). If one should undertake to explain to an ordinary child of four years of age the views which governed Canning in some great
* Prof. Stuart on the Canon of the Old Testament, p. 18.
act of diplomacy, or all the bearings of the positions assumed by the different contracting powers at the peace of .Tilsit, the difficulty would not be so much in the explanation, or in the thing itself, as in the immature powers, the want of knowledge, the feeble grasp of comprehension of the boy that he should seek thus to instruct. A few years may do wonders for that boy. He jnay then possibly grasp these principles more clearly than even Canning could, or might perhaps conduct a negotiation for peace with more talent than either of the great powers of Russia, France, or Prussia. The following specifications under this head may do something further to explain this, and to relieve the difficulty:—
(a) One is, that though up to a certain point—a point which depends on the measure of our faculties, our age, and our attainments, a thing may be clear to us as the sunbeam, yet beyond that it is impossible to convey any idea. The mind is confused and overpowered. It falters under the great and incomprehensible subject, and no matter how much you may say with a view to imparting instruction, not a new idea is conveyed to the soul. Thus, for example, up to a certain extent, we comprehend what is meant by distances. We know the length of the journey that we have made; we have an idea of distances as measured on the surface of the earth ; we form a conception of what is the distance from Philadelphia to London, or to Canton; we have a faint conception of the distance of some of the planets from the earth. But beyond that, though you may use figures and language, you convey no distinct idea. When you speak of the planet Herschel as one thousand eight hundred millions of miles from the sun, and, still more, when you speak of the nearest fixed star as certainly more than twenty billions of miles from the earth, though you use words, and are capable of conducting an investigation by the figures before you, you form no distinct idea of so amazing a distance. So it is of magnitude. Up to a certain point, all may be clear. The magnitude of a mountain, or of the earth, or even of the planet Jupiter, you may form some conception of; but what distinct conception have you of the magnitude of the sun? And what idea is conveyed when you are told of one of the fixed stars, that it is fourteen millions of times as large as our sun ? Still more, what conception have you of the extent of the visible uerse ? After a short distance in the description, you are lost, and there is no power that could convey the great idea to a finite mind. So it is of velocity. The fleet horse, the wind, the fast-sailing ship, the railroad car, the bird, perhaps the earth in its orbit, we may conceive of in regard to velocity; but what idea have you of the velocity of a substance that flies at the rate of twelve millions of miles every minute, like light? So of heat. Of melted iron, or burning lava, you may form some conception ; but what idea is conveyed to the mind, when you are told of the comet that approaches so near to the sun, that it is several thousand times hotter than red-hot iron ? Men may indeed use words on such subjects, and they may be founded in truth, but they convey no idea to the human soul.
Now, how do you know but that it may be so on those great subjects which pertain to the moral government of God that give you so much trouble? You understand something—but after all how little—of the government of a family or a school; you may have a clear idea of the principles which regulate civil government in its ordinary administration; perhaps you might embrace some of the views that would influence such a mind as that of Metternich; but are you certain that you could comprehend the high principles of the Divine administration, even if they were stated to you ? Do you believe that the views of Metternich could be understood ordinarily by a boy of four years old; or that any statements on the subject would convey any clear conceptions to his mind, or that the perplexities which might arise in contemplating those complicated views of government and diplomacy could be made clear to such a mind ? And, " Canst thou by searching find out God ? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection ? It is as high as heaven ; what canst thou do ? deeper than hell; what canst thou know ? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea," Job xi. 7—9.
(6) Again, reflect how little of the future and the unseen can be known by description; how faint and imperfect a view you can get of anything by a mere statement; how little you know of a landscape, a waterfall, a picture, by any description that can be given. Especially must this be so of objects which have no resemblance to anything that we have seen. Who ever obtained any idea of Niagara by a description ? Who, say to the most polished Greek and Roman mind, could have conveyed by mere description any idea of the printing-press, of a locomotive engine, of the magnetic telegraph ? Who could convey to one born blind an idea of the prismatic colours; or to the deaf an idea of sounds ? And when you think how meagre in the Bible is the description of heaven; when you think how easy it would have been to furnish a more minute explanation, are you certain that human language could have communicated to you the great and bright conception ; or that, if words could have been found, they would have conveyed to you any exact idea of a state so different from what is our condition here ? If the comparison is not too low, may we not for a moment suppose the gay and gilded butterfly that plays in the sunbeam, endued with the power of imparting ideas; but to its companions of yesterday—low and grovelling worms—could any adequate idea be furnished of that new condition of being into which the chrysalis had emerged ?
I have spoken of what grows necessarily out of the fact that we are in a state of discipline as regulating revelation, and of the difficulty of conveying any ideas to the human mind beyond a certain point. I add
(3.) A third thought. It is, that we are in the very infancy of our being; that we have but just opened our eyes upon this wonderful uerse, which in its structure demanded all the wisdom, and goodness, and power of an infinite God! Very few of us have lived through the period of seventy revolving suns; a majority of us not fifty; many not twenty. We have but just learned to speak, to handle things, to talk, to walk. But yesterday we were at our mothers' breasts. We knew not anything. We knew not that a candle would burn our finger if we put it there. We knew not how to distinguish one sound from another, nor whence any sound came. We knew not the use of the eye, or ear, or hand, or foot. We knew not the name of one rock, or plant, or human being—not even what is meant by father and mother. We could neither walk, nor stand, nor creep. By slow degrees we first learned to creep. Then, sustained by the hand of a parent, we began to stand. Then, assuming boldness, to the delight of father and mother, we ventured off half a dozen steps alone. We began to utter sounds that were kindly construed into language. We lisped, and hesitated, and then achieved a great victory in mastering a few simple monosyllables. And now, forsooth, we wonder that we do not know all about God, and these worlds, and the moral government of the Most High. We sit in judgment on what our Maker has told us. We complain that anything is left dark. We murmur that we do not know why he permitted sin to come into his system; why he allowed misery to enter his uerse; why he does not check and remove it altogether. Wo complain that he has not told us all about heaven, and that there is even one subject to which the human mind can apply itself that is not as clear as noonday. We are sullen and silent; we repress our gratitude; we throw back his Bible in his face; we have no songs and no thanksgivings, because we are not told all about this earth, and these skies—about heaven, and about hell, and about the God that made, and that rules over all!
Hoping that these views may do something to calm the murmurs that rise up in our souls; to reconcile us to the manner in which the book of revealed truth has been given; to make us grateful for the measure of light which we have; to bear without complaining the trials involved in mystery that are brought upon us; and to lead us to look forward to the developments of the Divine government in future times and worlds, I will now close the consideration of the subject with two additional remarks.
(1.) First, in the view of our subject, we may be prepared to see the beauty of the passages of Scripture which speak of heaven as a world of light. Standing in the midst of our darkness, in a world where there is so much mystery, where we see Bo few things with any degree of clearness, we may learn to prize more the descriptions of that world to which we go—the declarations respecting heaven with which the sacred volume so appropriately closes:—" And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it,—and there shall be no night there.—And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him.—And they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever," Rev. xxi. 23—25 ; xxii. 3—5.
In view, too, of such future light and glory, and in view of our darkness now on a thousand subjects on which we pant to be informed, how appropriate for man is the language of our text—. " O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill and to thy tabernacles. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light."
(2.) The second and last remark is, what a glorious career is before the Christian. All this darkness shall yet be dissipated; all that is now obscure shall be made light. Destined to live for ever and ever; capable of an eternal progression in knowledge ; advancing to a world where all is light; soon to be ushered into the splendours of that eternal abode where there is no need of the light of the sun or the moon, and where there is no night, we may well submit for a little time to the mysteries which hang over the Divine dealings, and with exulting feelings look onward. In a little time—a few week or days—by removal to a higher sphere of being, we shall doubtless have made a progress in true knowledge, compared with which all that we have gained since we left our cradles is a nameless trifle; and then all that there is to be known in those worlds that shine upon our path by day and night; all that is to be known in the character of our Maker and the principles of his moral government ; all that is to be enjoyed in a world of glory without a cloud and without a tear; all that is beatific in the friendship of God the Father, of the ascended Redeemer, of the Sacred Spirit, and of the angels; all that is blessed and pure in the goodly fellowship of the apostles and martyrs ; and all that is rapturous in reunion with the spirits of those we loved on earth, and the friendship of the "just made perfect," is before us. Let it be dark, then, a little longer; let the storm a little longer beat around me, and the waves arise; let even the heavens be overcast so that I can see neither sun nor star, I will neither murmur nor complain—for I see the light burn clearly that stands on the shores of Eternity, and that invites and guides me there.