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LECT. this fact, will not be at a loss for a
reason, why the wisdom of God in the scripture is so differently accepted in the world.
Having thus endeavoured to shew that the scripture must have its difficulties, and whence they arise; we shall obtain some farther light, if we enquire what the scripture hath said concerning itself. .
The great apostle thus distinguishes between the language of revelation, and the words of human wisdom. “ We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom—which none of the princes of this world knew ; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” By which he means, that the priests and rulers who stood up against the Lord, did so for want of understanding that sense of the scripture which is hidden under the signs and symbols of it, in a way totally different from the wisdom of this world, and which the natural man*
* Cor. ii. 14
can neither see nor admit. The word LECT. mystery, in a vulgar acceptation, is applied to such things as are dark and unintelligible: but to speak in a mystery, as the phrase is used in the scripture, is to reveal fome facred and heavenly doctrine under some outward and visible sign of it: and thus the sacraments of the church being outward signs with an inward and fpiritual meaning, are also to be understood as mysteries. This sense of the word mystery is ascertained by that passage in the revelation ; the mystery of the seven stars which thou fawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks : the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches ; and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. To signify a church holding forth the light of the gospel, by that domestic instrument of illumination which holds a candle; and to signify a ruler or teacher by a star which gives light from the firmament of heaven, is to speak under the form of a mystery; which is not necessarily unintelligible, because it is here explained. So in another place;
LECT. this is a great mystery, faith the apostle, but ita I speak concerning Christ and the church,
To teach us the union betwixt Christ and the church, for the bringing forth of fons to glory, under the fimilitude of Adam and Eye united in paradise for the multiplying of mankind upon earth, is also to speak in a mystery. The forceress in the Revelation *, who is called by the name of Babylon, hath the word MYSTERY inscribed with that name upon her forehead; because Babylon is there not literal, but figurative or mystical, to denote that abomination of idolatry, by the forceries of which all nations were deceived*: She fitteth on a scarlet-colour'd beast, supported by the imperial powers of this world, called, the kings of the earth ; and the wine in her cup is the false doctrine with which she intoxicates the minds of men.
This hidden wisdom of the scripture is to be considered as treasure hid in the earth, for which men must search with that same zeal and labour with which they * Chap. xvii. † Chap. xii. 23.
penetrate into a mine of gold: for when LECT. our Saviour commands us to search the Scriptures, for their testimony of himself, the language of the precept implies that kind of searching by which gold and silver are discovered under ground. He who doth not search the word of God in that manner, and with that spirit, for what is to be found underneath it, will never difcover its true value. The same principle is inculcated with a like allusion, when the divine law is compared to honey and the honeycomb ; an inward sense being therein hidden, as when the bee seals up its treasure in the cells of wax: and the one when taken out is as sweet to the understanding as the other is to the palate. It is also as the corn in the husk, which must be taken from thence by the labour of the ox on the threshing floor, (as the custom was of old) before it can support the life of man. As the disciples of Christ plucked the ears of corn, and rubbed them in their hands on the fabþath day, so should every christian preacher handle the word of God before it can give
LECT. nourishment to their hearers. The la; I.
bour of the ministry is certainly alluded to in that precept relating to the threshing floor, thou malt not muzzle the ox when be treadeth out the corn: for the apostle seems to wonder how any could be fo abfurd as to suppose that God considered nothing but the benefit of the beast on this occafion; as if he had care of oxen, when he undoubtedly meant to aflign the reward, and fignify the work of his ministers, who labour in the word and doctrine. It is the work of the ministry to expound the word of God, as the labouring ox in the threshing floor treadeth out the grain from the chaff: and as the ox is not muzzled at such a time, but partakes freely of the fruits of his labour; so by parity of justice, they who preach the word have a right to live of it.
That there is both a plain and a figurative sense in the language of the scripture, particularly in the law, is clear from the Apostle's reafoning on another occasion. He gives a name to each of these, distin