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were but very imperfectly understood.

The same interpretations must be used in explaining Ephesians i, 9. iii, 3, 4, and 9. vi, 19,--Colossians i, 26 and 2i. ii, 2. iv, 3. and 1 Timothy ii, 9.-In each of these passages, “mystery” will be found to mean either the system of christianity in general, or the particular doctrine of the application of the benefits of the gospel indiscriminately to the Jews and Gentiles, which is termed the calling of the Gentiles,” was frequently spoken of by Paul, and was peculiarly offensive to the Jews ;-and these were called mysteries, because they had been long concealed and unknown, though they were now brought to light by divine revelation. With reference to the same meaning our Saviour (Matth. xi, 35) quotes the words of the prophet, “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.

1 Corinthians, ii, 7.-—"But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery,&c. : that is, as Schleusner says, we teach the doctrine of divine truth, full of wisdom, which had hitherto been unknown to men. Here the same general sense occurs, as above. So, too, 1 Corinthians iv, 1,“ stewards of the mysteries of God," means those who were employed in teaching the truths and doce trines of the Christian religion, which would not have been known, had not God revealed them.

1 Corinthians, xiii, 2.--"And thougb I understand all mysteries.” This expression may either signify to understand things, which are generally considered as obscure and profound, or, according to Rosenmüller, “to understand what cannot be understood except by divine revelation,”—or we may interpret it as relating to things written in the Old Testament, with Locke, who remarks on this passage,-“any predictions relating to our Saviour, or bis doctrine, or the times of the gospel, contained in the Old Testament in types, or figurative and obscure expres. sions, not understood before his coming, and being revealed to the world, St. Paul calls mystery,' as may be seen all through his writings."

Corinthians xiv, 2.-St. Paol here mentions those, who had what was called the gift of tongues. “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue," says he, “ speaketh not unto men, but unto God;" that is, God alone understands him ; "howbeit,” he continues, " in the spirit he speaketh mysteries," that is, he speaks what those who hear him do not understand, not because the subject of which he treats is unintelligible, but because they do not understand the language in which he delivers his discourse.

1 Corinthians, xv, 51.-"Behold I shew you a mystery," &c. that is, according to the use of the word already so often men

tioned, " I teach or declare unto you what has been hitherto unknown, or very partially and obscurely known." What St. Paul here refers to, as is plain from the context, is the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead, which is called a mystery, not on account of its being incomprehensible, but because it had lain obscured in concealment, till it was fully brought to light by the Gospel.

Ephesians v. 32. “ This is a great mystery, but I speak con, cerning Christ and the church." The word is here used to express that which has a mystical or allegorical sense, or is to be explained by an allegorical interpretation. St. Paul had just spoken of the duty of affection in the husband towards the wife in the conjugal relation. He then (v. 31) cites a passage on this subject from Genesis ii. 24. and when he immediately adds, “this is a great mystery," ac. it is the same as if he had said, “this is capable of being applied in a remarkable allegorical sense with reference to Christ and his church;" that is, Christ has the same love for his church, or his true followers, that the husband should have for his wife. St. Paul, as Rosenmüller remarks, " in this and similar passages has imitated the mystical mode of interpretation common among the Jews, by which when some person, history, or rite is mentioned, another thing is compared with and illustrated by it."

2 Thessalonians ii. 7. "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work ;"—that is, concealed, secret iniquity. The apostle had just spoken of "the man of sin." Who, or what, is meant by this expression is a question, which bas long agitated and divided commentators : but it is of no importance to our present purpose. St. Paul evidently alludes to some person or principles, whose nature and influence would be malignant and dangerous, but whose open appearance was for a time prevented. Still it was already working in secret; and therefore he calls it the mystery of iniquity, that is, iniquity operating in darkness and concealment.

1 Timothy, iii. 16. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness," &c. Here, whatever reading we may prefer, or whatever interpretation we may give of the rest of the verse, it is evident that the word mystery,--the only point with which we are now concerned, --cannot mean any thing inexplicable or incomprehensible, because the things, which the apostle mentions as making up this mystery, were facts familiarly known to all who knew of christianity,--the appearance of the power and agency of God in Jesus Christ, &c. “Mystery" undoubt. edly has in this place the signification so often referred to, viz. what was not known till it was revealed. The word translated Nezo Series-ool. II.

55

And upon

"godliness” is one frequently used in speaking of Christianity at large; thus “the mystery of godliness" signifies those iruths and facts relating to cbristianity, which were unknown till the time of divine revelation. If ihose, who think they find in this verse the doctrine of the deity of Christ, are willing to grant that this doctrine is mysterious, only because it was never known till christianity, as they say, brought it to light, there cannot, it should seem, be any particular objection to the use of the word in that sense.

Revelation i. 20. “ The mystery of the seven stars :" that is, that of which the seven stars are the symbol, that which is hidden under this emblematical representation.

Revelation x. 7. “ The mystery of God should be finished ;" that is, the secret or concealed, not the unintelligible, purpose of God should be accomplished. What this purpose was is matter of dispute. Revelation xvii. 5.

her forehead was a name written, Mystery,” &c. In the use of this name, the allusion is probably to the symbolical and enigmatical nature of the representation here introduced,—there being a hidden sense under it. So likewise in the 7th verse of this chapter, “I will tell thee the mystery of the woman," that is, I will tell thee that of which the woman is the emblem or figurative representation.

It appears, then, after an examination of all the passages in the New Testament, in which the word “ Mystery" occurs, that it is no where used in such a sense, as to justify those incorrect applications of it, which are so common in theological writings and in conversation. The sacred writers never attach to it any such signification, as will require us to renounce the exercise of our reason, to prostrate our understandings, and hold ourselves in readiness to receive whatever comes to us under the shelter of its name,-however absurd, however irreconcileable in different parts with itself. Yet in such a sense the word has been abundantly used by those, who in the support of human inventions in religion have met objections, wbich they could not answer, and encountered difficulties, which they could not otherwise surmount.

It might be interesting to trace the history of the abuse of this word. One of the original sources of corruption on this, as well as on many other religious subjects, was the desire, so common in the early ages, to give a false character of dignity and an imposing appearance to christianity, in order to recommend it to those. to whom it was addressed. “ The profound respect,” says Mosheim,* " that was paid to the Greek and Ro

* Vol. 1, p. 199

man mysteries, and the extraordinary sanctity that was attributed to them, was a further circumstance, that induced christians to give their religion a mystic air, in order to put it upon an equal foot in point of dignity with that of the pagans.

For this purpose they gave the name of mysteries to the institutions of the gospel, and decorated particularly the holy sacrament with that solemn title." Thus probably the abuse of this word was confirmed, if not introduced; and even this might be justified by the singular argument of Tillotson, who assigns as one of the reasons, why, as he says, “God was pleased to appear in our nature," that, as “the world was much given to admire mysteries,” they might thus have a mystery worthy of their admiration.* We know indeed, that the passion for what is strange, wonderful, and confounding, has always been prevalent among mankind, and that this passion has had a most extravagant indulgence in the different religions of the world, because the nature of the subject affords a wide range for the license of conjecture and speculation. But are we prepared to believe that the Christian dispensation was on set purpose adapted to employ and gratify this propensity ?

The most prevalent Scripture sense of “mystery,” as we have 'seen, is something which mankind had not known, or which the light of reason alone could not discover, but which was revealed; and never does it mean any thing in its nature unintelligible, much less any thing, which reason sees to be self contradictory and at war with the first principles of knowledge.

The word, like all other words, has its proper uses.

We often say a thing is mysterious, because we do not understand it; but there is a difference between what we do not understand and what cannot be understood. It is very common to remark, that the ways of God are a mystery to us, because we cannot look on them as a whole with one unbroken view, because we do not see all their bearings, are not apprised of the purposes they are designed to answer, and cannot open the long track of consequences to which they may lead ; but can we feel satisfied in believing, merely on the strength of this word, doctrines which are derogatory to the character of the Deity, and hostile to what reason and Scripture teach us of the nature of his purposes and government ? Are we not sometimes required by man thus to surrender the use of our faculties? Is not believing in what are called mysteries often the same thing as believing without ideas? Are not mysteries in religion too frequently the resource to which men are driven by the apprehension, that their doctrines will not bear the scrutiny of examination ; and are they not thus kept, like the

* Serinon concerning the incarnation of Christ.

monarchs of the East, within the narrow precincts of retire. ment, lest what is adored, as the dictates of divinity, if exposed, might be discovered to be nothing but the dream of a mortal! And after all, those, who believe that Christianity has inexplicable mysteries, will do well to remember the words of Moses to the Israelites," the secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.!'

W.

UNITARIAN EXPOSITOR.

passages ad

meant."*

No. V. Of the texts which are thought to contain the application of the title God to Christ, the first we shall examine is the 28th verse of the 20th chap. of John. “ Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.” This is one of the duced by the orthodox to show, that," the New Testament gives to Christ, the appellation of God, in such a manner, as that, accordto the fair rules of interpretation, only the Supreme God can be

We beg of our readers, to reflect for a moment on what they are here called upon to believe. Thomas, as a Jew, must have been well instructed in the nature of the divine being ; he must have known that God was an infinite, eternal, invisible spirit, He was well assured too, that his master was a man; nobody, we take it, will doubt that; and he was suddenly brought from entire incredulity in the resurrection of him whom he knew to be a man, to acknowledge him as his God. And this sudden and violent conversion, this conviction that a man was God, was brought about by what means? By his having an opportunity to satisfy himself by his bodily senses of sight and touch, that it was in truth his master, who had a few days before been crucified, that now stood before bim. Did he believe that the Supreme Being bad suffered on the cross ? Did he believe that he was in the immediate presence of his God? If he did, he was wonderfully composed on the occasion. If Thomas, in fact, applied the title to our Saviour, we must acknowledge that he used the word either in the highest, or in an inferior sense. If in the latter, no unitarian would object to the interpretation ; if in the former, then it follows that Thomas, being satisfied that the person whom he addressed was indeed his master whom he had known to be crucified, believed

* Professor Stuart's Letters, p. 57. 2d edition.

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