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SECRET THINGS BELONG TO GOD.
DEUTERONOMY xxix. 29.
The secret things belong to the Lord our God; but those things
which are revealed, belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.
In this chapter, Moses solemnly reminds the Israelites of the wonderful works, which they had seen accomplished by the hand of God; and urges them, as powerful motives to faithful obedience. In the succeeding paragraph he foretels the miserable destruction, which would follow their disobedience, in the most affecting language; and thus warns them not to disobey. Both subjects, he knew, would naturally excite, in their minds and in those of their posterity, many curious inquiries and many dangerous speculations, concerning the designs and providence of God. In the text, therefore, he prohibits all these useless and pernicious wanderings of an unsatisfied and too inquisitive mind; and the doubts, the unbelief, the murmuring, and the revolt, to which they regularly give birth in sinful men. Secret things, he informs them, universally belong to God; but things revealed,
This singular and important declaration of Moses is not less hecessary to us, than it was to the Israelites; nor are we less prone than they were to the vain and mischievous investigations which it forbids. We may therefore well employ our time in
considering its import, and in endeavouring to bring it home to our hearts. To aid those who hear me in the performance of this duty, is the design of the following discourse.
In the accomplishment of this design I shall attempt to show, 1. In what sense secret things belong to God. 2. In what sense things revealed belong to men.
3. The End, for which God has made this prescription known to mankind.
1. I shall altempt to show the import of the declaration, that secret things belong to God.
The phrase “ secret things” naturally includes, and denotes, whatever is concealed from the eye
of man. In the text, however, it is, by being opposed to things revealed, limited to a parrower sense, and denotes only those things, which might be expected in a Revelation from God, but which were yet withheld by design. They are, therefore, such things as respect the great subjects of revelation ; the character and pleasure of God, and the faith, duty, and salvation of man. It is to be observed, that all things which God withholds, he withholds of design ; neither negligence nor accident being applicable to him.
Of these things it is said, that they belong to God. By this is intended, that, having retained them in his own possession, and not communicated them to mankind, they are his property only. Whoever, therefore, attempts to intermeddle with them, either by making them objects of his faith, rules of his duty, or means or sources of his salvation, plainly intrudes into his possessions ; occupies that, which God has purposely withheld from him; and acts, of course, not in conformity, but in opposition, to the divine will.
2dly. I shall allempt to show what is intended by the declaration, that things revealed belong to men.
By things revealed I intend whatever is communicated in the Scriptures, whether expressly, or by fair and necessary implication: The things, expressly communicated in the Scriptures, are those, which are contained in the fair, natural, and obvious sense of the expressions; the sense, which arises, when the words are allowed to speak for themselves, what they most naturally mean; and are not strained to mean more, abridged of their full import and
so made to mean less, nor perverted and so made to mean sou other thing, than that, which is conveyed in their natural meal. ing : when they are not compelled to support an opinion or sys tem, which we love, or to oppose one which we hate ; but are permitted to declare what God intended they should declare. This meaning will usually be found by him, who, with a competent knowledge of language, and a willingness to receive the truth of God, whatever it is, comes to the Bible to learn what is .contained in it, and to form his opinions out of its declarations ; but will be very often missed by him, who resorts to it to gain support for a preconceived doctrine, or system.
Things revealed are further those very things, and those only, which are declared concerning any subject. If God has chosen to reveal any doctrine partially, and to disclose only the certain things pertaining to it; then these are the only revealed things, which concern this doctrine. We, perhaps, may imagine, that other things are necessary to finish the proper scheme of this doctrine, and to make it more rational, consistent, and satisfactory; and may endeavour to supply the defect by eking out the Revelation with additional opinions of our own. What we have thus added we may fondly believe to be a proper part of the doctrine revealed. But nothing can be more delusive. The clay, which we endeavour thus to unite with the iron, will never cohere; but, however ingeniously moulded, and however carefully conjoined, will still be clay, brittle and perishing.
With regard to doctrines, implied in Scriptural expressions, I shall only observe, that they must be clearly, and certainly implied. When the inference is clear and immediate, or evinced by a very short and obvious train of reasoning, it may be generally received with safety ; but, when the links are many, and the chain long, there will almost always be danger. Long courses of even mathematical reasoning are often deceptive : how much more exposed we are to error in our moral reasonings, I need not explain.
Things revealed are said in the text to belong to men. By this I understand, that they are our possession and property ; given to us by God for our use, direction, and benefit. They are intended to be the objects of our faith, the rules of our duty, and the means of our salvation. These are the ends, for which the Revelation,