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to them-and then they searched by their own
even for those to whom the gospel should be preached in future days, and who, along with the ministration of the external word, were to receive the ministration of the Holy Ghost—whose office it is to put into the mouths of prophets the things which are to be looked to and believed, and whose office also it is to put into the hearts of others the power of seeing and believing these things. And it serves clearly to mark the distinction between these two offices, that the prophets, alluded to in this passage, presented to the world a set of truths which they themselves did not understand-and that again the private disciples of Peter, who were not so learned as to be made the original and inspired authors of such a communication were honoured with the far more valuable privilege of being made to understand it.
This we think will appear still more clearly from another passage of the same apostle in 2 Peter, i, 19-21. “ We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until
the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts. Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." No prophecy is of private interpretation. It was not suggested by the natural sense of him who uttered it and as little is it understood, or can it be explained, by the natural powers of the same person.
He was the mere recipient of a higher influence; and he conveyed what he had thus received to the world—speaking not of his own will but just as he was moved by the Holy Ghost—and enabled to discern or to expound the meaning of what he had thus spoken, not of his own power, but just as the same Holy Ghost who gave him the materials of contemplation, gave him also the faculty of a just and true contemplation. The light of which he was barely the organ of transmission, shone in a dark place, so long as it shone upon the blind; and, not till the blind was made to see—not till the eyes of those, who were taking heed to the letter of the prophecy, were opened to perceive the life and meaning and spirit of the prophecy-not till that day which has dawned, and that day-star which had arisen on the outward page of revelation, had also dawned and arisen upon their own hearts-not, in short, till the great agent of all revelation, even the Holy Spirit who had already furnished the object of perception in the word, had also furnished the organ of perception in the understanding-Not till then, were the enquiries after the truth as it is in Jesus effectually introduced, to a full acquaintance with all its parts,—or to the full benefit of all its influence.
We cannot take leave of this passage, without adverting to the importance of that practical injunction which is contained in it. They who are still in darkness are called upon to look, and with earnestness too, to a particular quarter ; and that is the word of God --and to do so until the power of vision was granted to them.
If a blind man were desirous of beholding a landscape, and had the hope at the same time of having his sight miraculously restored to him, he might, even when blind, go to the right post of observation, and turn his face to the right direction, and thus wait for the recovery of that power which was extinguished. And, in like manner, we are all at the right post, when we are giving heed to our Bibles. We are all going through a right exercise, when, with the strenuous application of our natural powers, we are reading and pondering and comparing and remembering the words of the testimony—and if asked, how long we should persevere in this employment, let us persevere in it with patience and prayer until, as Peter says, until the day dawn and the day-star arise in our hearts.
That John the Baptist should not know himself to have been he who was to come in the spirit and power of Elijah ; and hence, in reply to the question Art thou Elias ? should say that I am notwhereas our Saviour affirmed of him, that he was the Elias who should come—this ignorance of his may be as much due to the want of outward information about the point, as to any lack in the faculty of discernment. The same thing however can scarcely be said of his ignorance of the true character of the very Messiah whom he himself foretold--insomuch, that, though he had baptized him and attested him to be the Lamb of God, and had seen the Spirit descending upon him like a dove-yet he seems afterwards to have been so much startled by the obscurity of his circumstances, and by the style of his companionship which looked unsuitable to the character of a great Prince and Deliverer, that, in perplexity about the matter, he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask whether he was the
person who should come or they had to look for another? He laboured under such a disadvantage, whether of darkness or of blindness about the whole nature of the new dispensation, that though, in respect of light, he was greater than the greatest of the prophets, who had gone before him-yet, in the very same respect, he was less than the least in the kingdom of heaven; orless than the least enlightened of the Christian disciples who should come after him.
The constant misapprehension of our Saviour's own immediate disciples, of which we read so much in the Gospels, was certainly due as much to their being blind as to their being in the dark-to their defect in the power of seeing, as to any defect in the visibility of what was actually set before them.
We read of our Saviour's sayings being hid from them, that they perceived not—and of His dealing out the light of external truth to them, as their eyes were able to bear it—and of His averring, in spite of all He had dealt out in the course of His personal ministrations upon earth, of His averring, at the close of these ministrations, that as yet they knew nothing, though if they had had the power of discernment, they might surely have learned much from what is now before us in the Gospels, and of which they were both the eye
and the ear witnesses. We further read, that after the resurrection, when He met two of His disciples, and the eyes of their body were holden that they should not know Him, just as the eyes
of their mind were holden that they should not know the things which were said in Moses and the Prophets and all the Scriptures concerning Himself, they at length came to recognize His person—not by any additional light thrown upon the external object, but simply by their eyes being opened ; and they also came to recognize Him in the Scriptures—not by any change or any addition to the word of their testimony, but simply by their understandings being opened to understand them. We also read of the descent of the Holy Ghost in the day of Pentecost--that event on which our Saviour set such an importance, as to make it more than an equivalent for His own presence in the way of teaching and enlightening the minds of His apostles. “If I go not away, he will not come unto you—but if I depart, then him who is not yet given, because I am not yet glorified, I will send unto you. And he will guide you into all truth, and take of my things, and show them unto you."
There is no doubt that He showed them new things, which we have in the Epistles ; and so made the light of external revelation shine more