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not be in the winter, nor yet on the sabbath day; and moreover, it must be equally evident, that the prayers of the Christians would have some influence in fixing the Divine determinations, as to the time when this long-expected scourge should overtake that incorrigible people. The disciples had a sign given to them for their departure from the devoted city; and it was a sign, the wisdom and the policy of which, any human understanding may easily discover. “When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed about with armies, then flee ye to the mountains.” They were, therefore, it appears, to continue in Jerusalem until the very eve of its destruction : and for what purpose ? Was it not for the

purpose of reclaiming every sinner who would hearken to the invitations of the Gospel, and escape with them from the evil to come?

The preceding explanation must, I think, render the passage here alluded to, exceedingly intelligible. The Father had not determined the day nor the hour in which those things should take place, and therefore it was, that the Son himself was unacquainted with that matter. But if it had been known to the Father, it would certainly have been known to the Son. “ For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that he doeth.” John v. 20. Since, therefore, the Son did not know the day nor the hour in which the destruction of Jerusalem would ultimately take place, it must of necessity follow, that neither did the Father know the day nor the hour in which it would eventually transpire. On the hypothesis of an eternal prescience, it is not possible to reconcile the foregoing scripture with the Divinity of the Son of God. Either the doctrine of eternal prescience must be absolutely false, or else the Saviour of the world cannot possibly be Divine.

176

CHAP. XVII.

The popular notion of a purposed secrecy in the contents of the sacred

volume, and the general economy of Providence in the government of the world, invidious of the character of the Almighty, and inconsistent with the avowed purposes of Divine revelation, and with the general edi. fication of the righteous in the knowledge of God and in the requisitions of personal piety.

I have never been satisfactorily informed, in what part of the holy Scriptures we are taught to regard an inquisitiveness of spirit, about the contents of the sacred volume, as being an object of Divine disapprobation, and as being inimical to the edification, and happiness, and salvation of human beings; or as being inconsistent with a genuine and fervent piety. What evidence have we in the holy Scriptures that God has purposely concealed any part of his will, or the reasons of his conduct, from believers in his holy word, and from persons whose hearts are in a state of honest integrity towards him?

The following scripture has often been quoted in support of the foregoing hypothesis ; but whether it be relevant or not we shall shortly inquire. “ The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, may do all the words of this law.” Deut. xxix. 29. ACcording to the rendering which our translators have given to this passage, including the inserted italics, there is no conceivable sense in the passage by itself, nor any visible connexion between it and the preceding part of the chapter. Houbigant's rendering is perfectly intelligible: “The things which were hidden with the Lord our God, are made manifest to us, and our children, for many generations.” God had, by the ministry of Moses, predicted his future purposes towards the Israelites for many generations. But even the popular construction of the authorized version,

that we

would have no bearing upon the question at issue, except to shew that what God had revealed to the ancient Israel. ites, was rendered a matter of public notoriety, and the Israelites were bound to read it and put it into practice from generation to generation. But what evidence does this afford, that any man may be too inquisitive, and too curious, in his investigations of religious truth, and the important contents of the sacred volume ?

Allusion has been sometimes made to the following scripture, in support of the doctrine of a purposed secrecy in the conduct and reasons of the Deity. “Why dost thou strive against him ? for he giveth not account of any of his matters.” Job xxxiii. 13. But it is evident that Elihu is asserting the sovereignty, and not the secrecy, of the Divine conduct, as is the case with the prophet when he saith, “ None can stay his hand, or say, What doest thou ?” Dan. iv. 35. This cannot be understood of his purposes, or of the reasons of his conduct, for he has evidently and repeatedly given account of such matters. But it only implies that his authority is supreme, that his will is a sufficient reason for our obedience, and that he will not be arraigned by his creatures.

It may be objected, Was not the Gospel, and especially the incorporation of the Gentiles with the Jews in the church of God, kept a secret and hid from generation to generation ? I answer, it had been kept silent, as the word σεσεγημενου implies. . But what was the cause of this silence ? Had not the prophets spoken and written of those things ? Had they not been rendered prominent in the sacred writings; and especially in the predictions of the Messiah, and the glories of his kingdom ? And had the Jews ever been enjoined by Divine authority to keep those things secret; and not to disclose them to the Gentile world? The Gospel has indeed remained a secret unto this very day, in many parts of the world. But what is the cause? Is it because the Lord desires to keep any part of the world unacquainted with his great salvation ? Is it because he has laid the christian church under any restrictions in giving publicity to his Gospel? Or is it because he does not design that the Gospel should be sent to every part of the human family at the present day; and that he has fixed on some future period for the conversion of some

parts of the world ? No. What then is the cause? I answer, the very cause by which it had been hid from ages and from generations, before the coming of our Lord and the preaching of the Gospel by the apostles. You will inquire, What was that cause? I answer, God intended it to be made public, but the Jews kept it a secret ; kept it silent. They undervalued it, and neglected it, and forgot it, and had almost entirely lost it, when our blessed Redeemer appeared among them, and life and immortality were brought to light; they were dragged out of their obscurity by the Gospel.

This subject, it would seem, did actually excite the curiosity of angels; nor have we the least intimation that their curiosity was displeasing to God. Is it not rather mentioned with the marked approbation of the Almighty ? and is it not recommended to us as an example worthy of our imitation ?

The prophets themselves are represented as being under the influence of a similar curiosity. “Of which salvation the prophets have inquired, and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the suffering of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Which things the angels desire to look into.” 1 Pet. i. 10-12.

It has been argued that our Lord said unto Peter, “ What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt (wilt) know hereafter." John xiii. 7. Peter knew what the Lord did, but he did not understand the import thereof, because he had not received the Holy Ghost, nor entered into the practical designs of Christianity.

Jesus saith unto him, “ If I will that he tarry until I come, what is that to thee?John xxi. 22. It was not the curiosity of Peter that was here repressed, but his disposition to arraign the conduct of his Master.

“ How that I was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” 2 Cor. xii. 4. But all commentators agree that ouk éxòy does not imply impropriety, but difficulty of utterance; and should be rendered not possible for a man to utter.

When one of the disciples said unto our Lord, “ Lord, are there few that be saved ?" He did not, as some persons have imagined, repress the curiosity of that disciple and return an evasive answer; for his answer was the most satisfactory and decisive, and it contained, no doubt, the whole sum of the Divine knowledge on that important and interesting subject; “ Strive to enter in at the straight gate: for many I say unto you, shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” Luke xiii. 23, 24.

The case of Uzzah, who put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it, and the Lord smote him, and he died, is, I conceive, as far from the point as any of the cases which we have already noticed.

He trespassed upon the office of the priesthood, and for that offence he fell under the displeasure of the Almighty. 2 Sam. vi. 6.

The case of the men of Bethshemesh whom the Lord smote, because they looked into the ark of the Lord, has no bearing upon the question of a sincere and pious inquiry into the contents of the word of God, and the nature and bearing of religious truth. They were pagans, who had no reverence for God, nor the institutions of his worship; and the Lord smote them to convince the world of his power, and to refute the vain pretences of idolatry. And the men of Bethshemesh said, Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God ? 1 Sam. vi. 19.

But there is no evidence in any of the foregoing cases, nor in any other passages of the holy Scriptures, that it is impious to inquire into the evidence of Divine truth, or the reasons of the Divine conduct. The service of God is a reasonable service; and if Christians were only more diligent in their inquiries into that evidence and those reasons, their faith would be laid on a better foundation, and their piety would be more capable of standing the test of temptation, and every species of gainsaying and unbelief. When I am told, that I am not to be too curious in my inquiries into the evidences of Christianity and the reasons of the Divine conduct, my heart replies, What! are you afraid I shall find out some weakness in religious institutions; some chicanery and cheat in the Divine character and conduct? Are you afraid I shall find the Almighty out? or discover that there is not so much truth or moral excellency in the Gospel as I have been taught to believe? What!

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