Open you my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
Two forms of Divine teaching are implied in these words — revelation and spiritual apprehension to receive that which is revealed; truth in the written Word, and the inward illumination of the Holy Spirit; the one therefore universal, common to all men — the open Bible, the Gospel preached to every creature under heaven; the other personal, private, incommunicable by man to man; the one the noonday sunshine flooding the whole world with light from the hills on the horizon to the grass and pebbles at your feet; the other the eye in which a clouded lens or a palsied nerve leaves you dark in the midst of the blaze of noon.
1. The distinction which is here implied is in perfect harmony and analogy with all the conditions of human knowledge. Every branch of human knowledge has what in the philosophical language of the day is called its objective and subjective side. In every art, every science, every pursuit, there are these two things; there are general laws, rules, theories, principles, illustrations, examples, which can be committed to writing, stored up in books, taught in words by the teacher to the scholar; and there is the personal aptitude, which may be developed by culture if it be latent, but which can never be bestowed when it is wanting. In the very same family one child has a talent for drawing and painting, and no ear whatever for music; another, if he were to drudge with the pencil or brush for years would never make anything of it, but music speaks a language that seems like his native tongue, and, with moderate teaching and moderate opportunities, yields up its secret to his ear and his finger. So it is familiarly in business as well as in art and in science, in everything that man can teach man; one succeeds where another fails, and the best and ablest, and most skilful teacher has often to say in despair, "If you cannot see it, I cannot make you see it." Now, if we find something exactly corresponding to this in regard to spiritual truth; if this book is one book to one man and quite another book to another; if doctrines which to some minds shine by their own light need no proof but what is in them, are to others dark, mysterious, difficult, and to others totally incredible or utterly uninteresting — this, you observe, is no more than you might expect; it is merely the repetition within the sphere or region of spiritual truth of what is abundantly familiar to us in all other directions. But it does not follow that the difference between the Christian and the unbeliever, between the earnest inquirer after Divine truth, and the careless, unintelligent, irreligious hearer, is to be accounted for on the same principles, and is simply of the same kind, as the difference between the musician and the painter, between the linguist and the mathematician, between the keen successful man of business and the blunderer who is always failing. Thank God, no; but surely this follows, that the prevalence of scepticism or of irreligion, were these a hundred times more prevalent than they are, does not produce the shadow of a presumption that the Christian is wrong in his faith, or that he is deluded in his experience.
2. The Bible amply recognizes and abundantly teaches this double character of Divine knowledge, this analogy between Divine knowledge and every other kind of knowledge, but at the same time with a broad and vital difference. The Bible knows nothing, either in the Old Testament or in the New, of any doctrine of reserve. Where it speaks it speaks to all; its "voice is to the sons of men"; its "sound is gone out through all the earth, and its word is to the end of the world"; but at the same time nothing is more emphatically and plainly taught in the Bible itself than that these open pages, open to the whole world, and even to be pressed upon the eyes of all men who can be persuaded to look into them, are all the while a sealed book except to those who have eyes to see. So far as it is possible for truth to be put into words, so far the Holy Scriptures are "able to make us wise unto salvation." But the Scriptures themselves tell us that there is a learning that cannot be put into words, that cannot be written, or printed, or spoken, and that, therefore, cannot be communicated by man to his fellow-man; that there must be the eye to see and the ear to hear.
3. It is an unspeakably consoling and delightful reflection that this impossibility of attaining spiritual truth apart from Divine teaching which God's Word so plainly sets forth, puts no hindrance in any man's way, no hindrance in the way of the simplest learner, no hindrance in the way of the unbeliever any more than of the believer, if only the unbeliever is desirous of knowing what is truth. Our Saviour's words, when He says, "No man can come to Me, except the Father who hath sent Me, draw him," are not building up a barrier between Himself and any human soul; they are throwing down all barriers; they are assuring us that so far as is possible, God has put all men upon one spiritual level of privilege and opportunity. It is not that a hindrance and a barrier has been built up; it is that human nature, as it exists, needs the Divine light, the Divine grace, the Divine help, as it needs the Divine atonement and the Divine Saviour, and that as man cannot lift himself, even a single foot or inch from his mother earth by his own power, so much less can he lift himself one step towards God, unless not only the light shine down and shows him what he is, and what God is, but the saving hand lays hold of him and inspires within his heart the assurance that the hand that has once taken hold upon him shall never loose its hold.
(E. R. Conder, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.