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€ Professing themselves to be wise, they became “ fools, and changed the glory of the incorrup«« tible God into an image made like to corrup66 tible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts “ and creeping things.” (Rom. i. 22, 23.) And the effects which philosophy produced on their morals corresponded with the darkness which it brought on their minds, as appears by the awful detail which follows the verses we have cited. . God hath now, by the word of His grace, dispersed the dark cloud which covered all spiritual subjects. He hath revealed in the Scriptures “ the things which belong to our peace." He hath “ brought life and immortality to light by " the Gospel.” But without the faculty of vision of what use is light? Multitudes who have the Bible in their hands continue in error. They grope in darkness at noon-day. They neither discern the way of salvation, nor the path of duty. They are « alienated from the life of God s through the ignorance that is in them, because 6 of the blindness of their heart."
The Christian believer is made sensible both of the objective and subjective darkness in which the way of salvation is involved independent of Divine mercy. He therefore thanks God for the Bible which removes the one, and for the “unction " from the Holy One” which removes the other. The Bible is a Divine remedy made effectual by a Divine blessing. That he has the Scriptures in his hand is a great blessing; but that his understanding is opened to understand them is another of equal importance. He discerns the necessity of both to the salvation of his soul, and acknowledges God to be the Author of both. And being conscious that as yet his mental eye-sight is in a diseased and imperfect state, he prays for more distinctness of vision.
Bishop Davenant, speaking in his exposition of the epistle to the Colossians of the revelation which God makes to His saints of the mystery of Christ, (chap. i. ver. 26) says, “A twofold reason may be asssigned for the necessity of this Divine Revelation - partly on account of the things revealed, and partly on account of the human intellect. The things revealed, viz. the mysteries of our salvation in Christ, are supernatural, and depend on the mere will and dispensation of God. The incarnation of God, the expiation of sin by His death, gratuitous salvation by faith in His mediation are all things of such a nature as could never have entered into the human mind, unless God had revealed His design of saving mankind by such means ; for they depend on the most free volition of God, without any connection of natural causes.
" As to the human understanding, it is so obscured by the darkness of sin, that it is not merely dim-sighted, but it is totally blind. “The natural “ man perceives not the things which be of God." (1 Cor. ii. 14.) There is therefore a necessity of a Divine revelation. Excellently St. Augustine speaks, Hypog. iii. "Let no one boast that he “ hath begotten faith by his own reason ; let him “ acknowledge in himself that the faith which is in “ Christ Jesus, as well before the law, as under " the law, and after the law, is savingly revealed s to every one by the illumination of grace which “ is from God the Father.” For “the eye of the “ soul (as Gerson rightly observes) is become " turbid, being totally stained with sensuality; 66 enveloped with a cloud in its inferior reason, 5 and blinded in its superior.” To sum up all. The mystery of the gospel is above nature. It depends on the eternal and secret counsel of God, The human mind is, through sin, degraded beneath its own nature. Its eye is stained, overclouded, and become totally blind. Therefore this mystery could never have been perceived by us without the benefit of a Divine Revelation.”
All men are naturally " in error.” How can it be otherwise, since all are naturally blind! A blind man, placed in a wilderness without a guide, must, of necessity, wander about not knowing whither he goeth. “We have all erred and “ strayed from God's ways like lost sheep,” as our own confessions testify. Of this there is no doubt. The grand question is, Are we restored to the way of righteousness ? There are two spirits mentioned by St. John, (1 Ep. iv. 6.) as ruling and governing the whole world, “the spi“ rit of truth, and the spirit of error.”. By which of these are we led ? If we have been brought back to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, and are now led by His Spirit, the glory is due to God, while we are made conscious of the happy change which we have experienced-a change of sentiments, of heart, and of life.
- The light of God's truth” is the revelation which He hath made in His word. Once we « wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way, " and found no city to dwell in. Hungry and “ thirsty our souls fainted in us.” We “ walked « in darkness and had no light. But the word of God is now “a light to our feet and a lamp to « our paths.” The sun of righteousness hath arisen upon us. And if our eyes have been anointed with that eye-salve which the great Physician prescribes and applies, we benefit by His rays. We discern the tremendous dangers which we have escaped during the darkness in which we before travelled. We discover the perils with
which our path is still encompassed so as to shun them. The tract which we are to follow is evident to our view, and the object at which we are to aim is in sight. « The light of God's truth," the information which is communicated in the Scriptures and received by faith, is such as may be fully depended on. It is “a faithful saying " and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus “ came into the world to save sinners.” The light of Scripture is not an ignis fatuus, which, like the supposed revelations of enthusiastic minds, will allure and disappoint. But it is a solid, steady, uniform light, which guides the feet of those who make use of it in the paths of peace to the realms of bliss.
That act of Divine mercy which is described in our collect, then, is of a twofold nature, as we have already observed. There is a twofold manifestation of light which God graciously vouchsafes to His people ; one in His word, the other in the human mind. The light diffused by the word, like that of the material sun, is designed for our use and fully adapted to its end. But as the material light is of use to those only who have the faculty of sight, so also the word of God can produce no saving effects on any persons but those only who have that “faith” which is - of " the operation of God.” God “shews to them " that be in error the light of His truth,” by removing the film which sin has spread over the eye of the mind. He “opens the understanding s to understand the Scriptures.” The eye is the lamp of the whole body. Therefore, on the one hand, if the eye be clear, and free from any vitiating humour, the whole body will be full of light, enjoying the advantage of the solar beams; but, on the other hand, if the eye be distempered,
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the whole body will be full of darkness, notwithstanding the sun shines with meridian brightness.
The end for which '“ God shews to them that so be in error the light of His truth" is their salvation. It is “to the intent that they may reso turn into the way of righteousness.” “ The - way of righteousness” is “the right way that s leads to the city of habitation." Christ is the way of faith and holiness- of righteousness both imputed and imparted of justification and sanctification. A reliance on Christ for pardon and acceptance, and universal obedience to the will of God, conjointly for the way in which we must walk, as it is pointed out to us by the light of God's truth, in order that we may attain to the salvation of our souls—these cannot be disunited from each other. Faith and love are correlatives; they have a reciprocal relation, so that the existence of one depends on the existence of the other.
O merciful intent of Divine goodness! May Almighty God” who alone can do it “ shew's both to the writer and reader of these pages “the “ light of His truth, so that we may return into “ the way of righteousness !” May He convert our souls, and lead us in “ the paths of right“ eousness for His name's sake.” May He “turn “ us from darkness to light”-from error to truth - from the law to Christ--from sin to holiness from the devil, the world, and the flesh, to God from the confines of hell to the threshold of heaven.
We are not to suppose from the language of our collect that God merely points out “the way os of righteousness," and then leaves the sinner to his own depraved will. No; He “worketh $s in ys both to will and to do of His own good