God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,…
The question before us is, whether the great Author of truth, the inexhaustible source of pure celestial light, can — and if He can, whether it be probable that He would — and if it be probable that He would, whether He has — rolled back the veil that hangs between Himself and us; whether it be true that " He giveth wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding," and whether "He revealeth the deep and secret things."
I. In entertaining this grave inquiry, it will be proper, in the first place, to ascertain WHETHER IT BE POSSIBLE FOR THE SUPREME MIND TO REVEAL HIMSELF TO MEN. Two things must be proved. First, that there is a Supreme Being, the Maker and Preserver of all being. And, secondly, that we are rational creatures, capable of entertaining the question at present in debate. It is then admitted that we all are the offspring of God. Such is the testimony of reason, or rather of the common sense of mankind. But surely it will not be denied that He who made us can influence and inform our under-standings — can, in one word, operate up ,n our souls, in any manner that shall be suitable to its faculties.
II. Presuming that we are agreed on the possibility, let us advance another step in the argument. Let us cart fully inquire whether there are not considerations us, THAT RENDER IT HIGHLY PROBABLE THAT THE SUPREME INTELLIGENCE WOULD FAVOUR MAN WITH A REVELATION. The question is this: whether, taking into our consideration the character of the Supreme Being, our necessary connection with Him, the peculiar capacities with which we are endowed, and the deplorable condition in which we find the human family, it be not most probable that this infinitely benevolent Being would make important communications to mankind.
1. It cannot be rationally denied, that the human spirit is capable of enjoying intercourse with "the Father of our spirits." Minds correspond with fellow-minds, and hearts sympathise with kindred hearts. But who will say that that noble spirit, with which the Almighty has distinguished us, is not formed for communion with Him who is a pure spirit, and who has been sublimely defined as Light and Love. Now if it cannot reasonably be denied that man is formed for such lofty communion, then it is highly irrational to deny that God would impart such instructions to him as would lay the foundation for this communion.
2. But if it be rational to suppose that the chief end of our being is to know, and love, and obey our Maker, to glorify God, is it not equally rational to suppose that God would make such communications to His creature as should enable him at once to fulfil the end of his being? Can it be rationally, believed that God would create the first man, or the first men, capable of religion, and designed for its obligations and its exercises, and then abandon him to gather up the necessary information as best he might?
3. We must not, however, overlook the real condition of mankind. Indeed, who can deny that man is the subject of moral derangement — the child of misery? Ask yourself whether it be, or be not, an improbable thing that his compassionate Creator should mercifully make some discoveries that should enlighten and relieve him in relation to his condition, the means of his restoration to happiness, and his final destiny?
III. I would ascend another step in the argument, and endeavour to show THAT SUCH A REVELATION IS NECESSARY.
1. It has been the practice amongst a certain portion of the community, to speak of those who are believers in a Divine revelation as being, on that account, weak and irrational persons, seduced by prejudice, and overreached by designing and self-interested men. Now it may be as well to remind those who thus judge of their fellow-countrymen, that men of all ages and all creeds — Heathens, Jews, Christians, and disbelievers in Christianity — have not thought it a proof of an irrational weakness to believe that our Creator has made some revelations to us, His creatures. Nay, many in each of these classes of persons have entertained the conviction that a revelation is even necessary to teach men language. Even Hobbes gives it as his decided opinion, that God taught Adam this useful invention.
2. But I am to show that God has given to men something more than the faculty of receiving knowledge, and reasoning upon such knowledge. I contend that He has actually unveiled to our race His own character and His law. The constitution of our nature renders the knowledge of these great things absolutely necessary. But was it possible that this knowledge could have been originally acquired otherwise than by revelation?
3. But the necessity of such revelation is most fully sustained by facts. Read history, and learn what man has been; look around you, and see what man is; and turn your eyes within, and analyse yourself; and then candidly say whether such a process has not induced the conviction that revelation is necessary.
IV. In conclusion, I would DIRECT ATTENTION TO THE BIBLE. WHICH PROFESSES TO BE GIVEN BY INSPIRATION OF GOD.
1. I remark that the disclosures which the Bible makes, relating to the character of the Supreme Being, are such as commend themselves to right reason. Let not those who live in a country where the revelations of the Bible are known forget the manifold information which, whether they think so or not, they cannot but have derived from this source.
2. Again, the disclosures which the Bible makes to us, relating to the Divine Law, are such as commend themselves to right reason. That Jaw, which this book records as coming from God, will be found to accord with the characters which it ascribes to God. There is no discrepancy between the Lawgiver and His enactments. This law is well deserving the description of "holy, just, and good." It has, moreover, the high advantage of being spiritual; insinuating itself into the soul — reaching the heart — and convincing the understanding. It is further possessed of the character of universal adaptation. It suits men in all conditions, ages, and circumstances. And then it ought, to be particularly remarked of it, that it possesses two points of excellence which every other code must be acknowledged to want — it exhibits a fixed standard, and adequate motives.
3. Once more; I argue, that the things which the Bible reveals, relating to the system of reconciliation, commend themselves to right reason. We are accustomed to trace out the fitness of things in the works of nature. The soil of the earth is made for its vegetable productions, and those vegetables are fitted to the soil in which they grow — the fish is made for the waters, and the waters for the fish; the eye is made for the light, and the light for the eye; and the lungs are made for the air, and the air is adapted to the lungs. Now if we are accustomed to trace these contrivances of the material avid visible world to an all-wise Contriver, can we refuse to allow that a system, which, like nature, is adapted to the end it seeks to accomplish, is likewise from God? A few instances may be sufficient to bring out this fitness of Christianity to the wants of man. Are we not ignorant? And does not this revelation impart all necessary knowledge? What is there necessary to be known about the Supreme Being — our relation to Him — our own nature and responsibilities — our immortality — our death — the final judgment and our ultimate destiny — which this book does not unfold? Jesus Christ is the light of the world; and he that believeth in Him shall not walk in darkness. Have we not broken the Divine Law? In other words, are we not guilty? Do not our consciences accuse us of guilt? And does not the doctrine of Christ's substitution meet our ease? Yet again; are we not conscious of being in a state of moral pollution? Must not all agree that our minds are darkened, and our hearts depraved? Can anything, then, be more rational than the doctrine of a spiritual influence — the influence of God" the Spirit renewing us in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, after the image of Him that created us? This the scheme of redemption provides.
(H. Christmas, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,