God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,…
I. TIME. Centuries were required to complete the scheme, Man was to be taken at a low and infantile point, and raised up to the fulness of the stature of a perfect manhood; from "a living soul" to "a quickening spirit." By no one sudden blow could the benevolent design of giving man the true knowledge of God, and his own duty and destiny, be executed. The laws of progress, gradation, and periodicity must be observed in regard to our higher nature. One age was to witness one attainment, and another, another. It has much to establish the unity of the Deity; it was more to develop the Idea of the Father.
II. AGENTS AND EXAMPLES. Again, the manner of revelation is not abstract, but concrete. The ordinary as well as supernatural agencies are employed. If angels are sent, so are men; if the special messenger raised up, sanctified, and commissioned be the Son of God by excellence, yet a long line of the good and the great bear up the ark of God; and patriarch, king, and priest, and prophet, and apostle, are seen at different intervals along the majestic procession. In selecting men to act so distinguished a part in the designs of God towards His children, we perceive a part of the same system which we witness in business, art, science, government, and literature. For if "History be philosophy teaching by example," then is revelation religion teaching by example. In this feature of the mode of communication we see the wise adaptation of means to ends, the use of causes to produce effects, such as we should anticipate from so great a Designer.
III. LANGUAGES AND BOOKS. In two principal languages, Hebrew and Greek, with a few passages in the Chaldee — in sixty-six books, written by at least thirty-nine authors — the Jewish and Christian Scriptures present that fertility of human genius, as well as of sacred truth, that fitly entitles it to be called the Bible — The Book. Here are flowers of every hue and fragrance, fruits of every taste and nut iment. The sinner cannot read far without meeting with his warning, nor the saint without hearing his beatitude nor the sad without alighting upon his consolation, nor the weak without touching the wand of spiritual strength, nor the poor without opening the mine of heavenly treasures, nor the rich without being reminded that they brought nothing into this world, and that they can carry nothing out.
IV. MIRACLES. Most of us are so earthly-minded that some extraneous means to arouse us from indifference are needed. We want a bell rung to call us to the temple of the Lord to receive His gracious message. Miracles are that tell. They prove nothing by their solitary selves. It would be hard to defend miracles in general, but not the Christian miracles; for they subserve a great and good end, worthy of the interposing finger of God. All along, too, in speaking of His signs and wonders, Jesus very remarkably and clearly points out their office. It was that men might believe on Him, and believing, have life. They added no weight to the truth as truth, but they did add weight to truth, as received by the ignorant, the degraded, and the inattentive.
V. INSTITUTIONS AND ORDINANCES. The institution of Moses, however puerile they may seem to a Christian, were yet admirably adapted to raise up a low and barbarous people, and give a race of idolators the knowledge and we, ship of the One True and Living God. But if we turn to the Christian revelation, the institutions are more simple, as becomes a more perfect faith and spirituality. Forms are not absolute, but relative; not essential, but important; they have place, but it is not the first place. They are a species of gigantic language, whose letters are facts and whose sentences are customs. They are to be observed, not for their own sake, but for the spiritual purport they imply and convey.
(A. A. Livermore.)
Parallel VersesKJV: God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,