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ever; nor were the cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night, which hovered over the children of Israel in all their journey through the wilderness, a more distinguishing characteristic. Besides being incorporated in full in the summary of the moral law, written upon the two tables of stone by the finger of God, the law of the Sabbath is again and again stated in connection with the institutions and history of the church of God. It was noticed in connection with the giving of the manna. And while the giving of the manna continued, God gave them every seventh day the bread of two days, that every man and every family might rest on the Lord's day. It was particularly mentioned when directions were given for the building of the tabernacle, Exod. xxxi. 12–17. And if ever there could have been a plausible reason for employing holy time in manual labor, it would have been when all hands were more or less to be employed in building the tabernacle. In the busy and important seasons of the year, seed time and harvest, the Sabbath was to be religiously observed, Exod. xxxiv. 20. In Old Testament prophecy the Sabbath is also again and again referred to as a something which should be a distinguishing characteristic of the church and of God's people to the end of time. See Is. lvi. 3—8, and lxvi. 23.
Now apply all these and similar statements and references, and it will be hard to find a case of more heaven-daring and aggravated presumption than the case of the man who gathered the sticks upon the Sabbath day.
We close with a single inference, viz. The guilt of every Christ. ian land, and of every Christian church, and of every Christian family, and probably of every Christian man, must be uncommonly great with respect to the law of the Sabbath. “If thou, O Lord, shouldst mark iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand ?" Truly, it is of the Lord's mercy that we and our people are not consumed. Let all those who profess to regard the divine authority consider and examine their ways. And when the Lord sball return again the captivity of Zion, evangelical repentance with respect to this matter will, without doubt, be deep, and general, and universal.
BY AARON W. LELAND, D.D.
THE SECRET COUNSELS OF GOD. DEUTERONOMY XXIX. 29.—The secret things belong unto the Lord
our God; but those things which are revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
The Bible is not designed to give universal knowledge to man; nor to bring within the reach of our feeble comprehension all the principles and purposes of the divine administration. On the contrary its declared object is to afford such information as to the great facts, in which we are essentially concerned, as may render us " wise unto salvation." Those doctrines and precepts, which it is important for us thoroughly to know, are clearly stated, lucidly explained, and urgently enforced by argument and illustration. But in making known those great mysteries of godliness, which are wholly beyond the ken of our dim intelligence, and which we are yet bound assuredly to believe, the sacred writers simply declare the facts under the sanction of, Thus saith the Lord.
It is thus evidently not the desigu of revelation to gratify curiosity or foster the pride of intellect; but rather to afford such glimpses of the great system of God's government as will bring the lofty looks of man in the dust, with a humbling sense of his ignorance; that the Lord alone may be exalted.
There are important reasons why God has reserved so much that is connected with the subject matter of divine revelation to himself, wrapped in an impenetrable veil from the view of mortals. Some things are secret, because with our present powers, we are utterly unable to comprehend them: and some, because a full knowledge of them is inconsistent with a state of probation. It seems to have been the special design of God to render the disclosure of truth sufficiently full and explicit to satisfy a humble spirit, willing to repose a filial confidence in divine wisdom and goodness—and yet to leave enough of mystery to cause a development of the real feelings of the unsanctified heart.
If the great things of religion, and all the destinies of the spiritual world were fully unfolded to our senses, our state of probation would be at an end. As all men must know the truth of things thus revealed, whether they loved or hated them; such belief would be no evidence of the subjection of the heart to the fear and love of God. Whereas, now, we find it a remarkable fact, that truth is so revealed, that while the honest inquirer is fully satisfied, the captious objector finds ample materials for caviling--the proud heart very plausible pretexts for its opposition. The Bible, therefore, is so admirably adapted to be a decisive test of character, that a cordial belief in its doctrines is the best evidence of a renewed, humble spirit; while a disposition to raise objections evinces the predominating influence of the carnal heart which is enmity against God.
A further reason, why so small a portion of universal truth is actually revealed, doubtless is, that the grand development is reserved to form the employment of eternity. How absurd is it for feeble man, in this in fancy of his being, to push his inquiries into those illimitable fields of knowledge, which are only to be opened by the angel of death, and whose survey will occupy his immortal energies through the whole of an endless duration.
Infinite wisdom, clearly discerning what degree, and what kinds of knowledge are adapted to our condition, and are adequate to our necessities in this brief existence, has imparted just so much light and instruction, as are exactly commensurate with our present exigencies and the proper exercise of our limited capacities. While at the same time, lest we should be elated by an abundance of revelation, we are effectually humbled by a reference to regions of truth which we can. not penetrate, and fountains of light not yet opened.
Thus the matters contained in the holy scriptures are divided into two distinct classes—the one consisting of subjects fully revealed brought entirely within our comprehension; which we are required to understand and treasure up as the principles of our conduct and the very elements of our spiritual life. The other class consists of those high, mysterious doctrines, which we are neither required nor permitted fully to understand, but which it is the office of faith to receive simply on the divine authority.
A careful regard to this distinction is practically important, because it guards us against two opposite dangers. For as on the one hand it is criminal to undervalue the knowledge of those things which are fully revealed in the inspired volume; so on the other, it is offensive to God and dangerous to the souls of men to extend our speculations beyond the limits which divine wisdom has prescribed, or to attempt to investigate and decide upon those things in religion which the
Deity has not been pleased to make known. No language, indeed, can express the impious arrogance of those who resolve to be wise above what is written, and vainly attempt to break through the bar. riers which divine wisdom has erected to limit the inquiries of mortal man. It is a practical denial of the right of our Almighty Maker to decide what knowledge is attainable and necessary in this preparatory existence; and what subjects are unsuited to our present condition and are therefore wisely veiled from our examination.
As life is brief and time exceedingly precious, we have none to waste in needless, fruitless speculations; especially as those mental efforts which are thrown away in striving to penetrate the deep things of God, and to obtain clear views of those spiritual objects which no man can see and live, might be profitably and delightfully devoted to those plainly revealed doctrines, in the knowledge of which is life everlasting. These doctrines in which we are so abundantly intructed, and which are so solemnly urged upon our attention, furnish 80 wide a field, that the longest life and the mightiest intellect are in. sufficient for its full investigation.
In order properly to discriminate between those secret things which belong to God, and those revealed truths which belong to us, it is only necessary to remark, that the former are made known by a simple naked declaration of God's word; whereas the latter are commended to our attention by explanations and instructions. As to those, we are only to inquire what hath the Lord spoken, and to place implicit confidence in his word. As to these, we are to give all diligence to add to our faith knowledge, and to search the scriptures daily, that we may be as scribes well instructed in the things of the kingdom.
These preliminary remarks may be illustrated and exemplified by considering some of those secret things, whose existence and reality the Bible most forcibly declares, and yet whose nature and essence are not so revealed, as to be within the scope of human comprehension.
It is evidently an important object of the sacred volume to make known to men the divine existence and perfections. It holds up the character of God, and commands every intellectual eye to be fixed upon it with intense regard, and to contemplate it with overpowering emotions of reverence and love. But in what manner is this infinite object presented to our minds ? Does the Bible make an effort to ex. plain the divine essence? Does it attempt to lead men to find out the Almighty to perfection? Does it ever profess to bring down to the level of human comprehension the high and awful theme of God's eternity, or his all pervading presence and knowledge ? Evidently not. These deep things of God are clearly announced to men, and they are required, not to comprehend them, but to receive them on the divine testimony. If our hope of enjoying the divine favor depended upon our fully understanding the essential attributes of Deity, we must sink down in utter despair. But, though we cannot penetrate these secret things of God; we enjoy a full disclosure of every thing in the divine character and government, which it is important for us to know, and in which we are immediately concerned. His laws, precepts, promises and threatenings are so plainly stated, that a child can understand them. His holiness, justness and goodness are written as with a sunbeam; and the principles of his moral government are engraven upon our hearts as with a pen of iron or the point of a diamond. It is as absurd as it is impious for men to seek for profound explanations to accompany the revelation we enjoy of the nature and perfections of God. The proud skeptic asks, Where is the evidence that God existed from eternity and was before all things ? Where are the witnesses that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth? It is obvious in the very nature of things that no such testimony can exist. We must receive these great truths on the simple declaration of God's word, or else, rejecting the only light we can enjoy, be left to wander in utter darkness.
Equally fruitless and presumptuous are all inquiries and conjectures as to the events or history of a past eternity. If the divine existence be without beginning of days, then an infinite duration had already passed, before the creation of our world. It is sometimes asked what transactions took place under the divine government, what was done by the Almighty, in that illimitable expanse of being which preceded the creation of our world! Why was not man created millions of ages sooner ? Where is the history of the races of beings which constituted the subjects of the divine government in far distant periods of the past? To such questions it is evident that no answer can be returned—they may be urged and repeated, but heaven and earth continue silent, because they relate to secret things which belong to God. The Bible gives us no useless information—it instructs us in nothing as to which we are wholly unconcerned. Certainly it is not necessary for us to know what took place in the periods of a past eternity; and therefore we are left wholly in the dark upon the subject. Our condition in this world, so replete with danger and responsibility, requires that our undivided attention should be fixed upon the things which belong to our own everlasting peace; therefore, all disclosures in relation to other portions of the empire of Jehovah, and other periods of his government, are reserved for a state of being where guilt and fear and death shall be no longer.
It is another inexplicable mystery, which human reason in vain