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ciated. Such was the condition of the Jews; they were inattentive to the doctrines of the Gospel, they were indifferent about its truth, they heard it promulgated, but were heedless what they heard, “ hearing they heard not, and seeing they saw not.” Jesus therefore taught them in parables, that he might get their curiosity enlisted, and their minds awakened from lethargy; that he might arouse them to meditate by themselves, and to inquire of others what was the signification of his teaching. It was not to conceal knowledge, but to excite to reflection, that the Master spake to the multitude in parables.
Here occurs the phrase, “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven," i. e. the Gospel dispensation. What are the mysteries of the Gospel? and what is a MYSTERY? With the generality of Christians, a mystery is something that is contradictory to sense and reason, as that “three are one,” or that “ bread and wine are flesh and blood,” or it is something which cannot be understood. Such is not the meaning of the word in the New Testament. In Scriptural use, it signifies something which was once a secret, but which is now revealed. Paul says to the Corinthians, “ Behold, I show you a mystery, we shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed.” (1 Cor. xv. 51.) The fact here inculcated, that those who are alive at the last day shall undergo a change without seeing death, had hitherto been a “mystery,” that is, a secret, no one was aware that such would be the case; but when the Apostle declared it, then it was no longer unknown, no longer a secret, no longer a mystery. At the conclusion of his Epistle to the Romans (xvi. 25), Paul speaks of the “ revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest.” When the mystery, by which is here meant the Gospel, was “made manifest,” it was a mystery no longer. In Ephesians i. 9, the fact that the Gospel should be preached to and received by the Heathen world, is styled a mystery: “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth.” By “things in heaven” and “ things on earth,”
is frequently meant in the New Testament, Jews and Gentiles. The calling of the Gentiles was a thing previously unknown; it was contrary to the popular creed, which taught that the Jews, and they only, were the children of God; this secret is now revealed, it is now declared that Jehovah will receive the Heathen into covenant; of course, being known, it is no longer a mystery. A mystery, then, in the Scriptural acceptation of the term, means a thing which was once a secret, but which is now revealed. Thus, the truth of a final judgment is a mystery, i. e. a truth which was at one period unknown. Hence it is apparent, that there are, in the popular acceptation of the term, no mysteries in the Christian religion. If any doctrines have been revealed, they are no longer mysteries; if they are mysteries, then they have not been revealed. Revelation and mystery are as opposite as light and darkness.
A passage occurs towards the conclusion of this chapter, similar to one near the close of the preceding. When Jesus went to preach in the synagogue of Nazareth, his birth-place, the Nazarenes inquired, “Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brothers, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? and his sisters, are they not all with us?” verses 55, 56. (See chap. xii. 46.) Hence it appears that Jesus had brothers and sisters, in the ordinary sense of these words, who were also the children of Joseph and Mary. In Matt. i. 25, Jesus is called the “first-born son” of Mary, which necessarily implies that she had other children. James is mentioned in the text as one of the brothers of the Saviour; and Paul (Gal. i. 19), speaks of the same person under the title of “ James, the Lord's brother." Hence, Jesus had at least four brothers, and more than one sister; and Joseph and Mary had at least six other children besides him who was the promised Messiah. This is not a matter of any great moment; but it is doubted by many Protestants, and denied by all Roman Catholics. To explain the words, brothers and sisters, as only meaning cousins, which many commentators do, is a striking proof how even the plainest language can be bent to serve a system.
THE SOUL. And what is the soul? Is it part of God? Is it inherently immortal? Could it exist without the body? How does a man know that he has a soul? To put such questions as these, and triumphantly assert that they cannot be answered, is sometimes assumed to be true and exalted philosophy. But there is a more glorious and blessed philosophy. To toil after an idea of the souls abstract nature, is vain; to struggle for knowledge of its essence, is folly; and to rest the interests of intellect, the concerns of morals, and the affairs of religion, on a theory respecting the occult properties of the human soul, is insanity. But, to observe the effects of mind, to notice the workings of the spirit that is in man, to mark the powers of the soul, and make all possible beneficial use of the knowledge thus attained, this is wisdom, this philosophy, this great gain.
Better, nobler, and happier is he who properly employs the intellectual and moral forces that he finds in his own soul, than he who wastes all his energies on the futile attempt to dissolve all the mysteries of mind in the alembic of human comprehension. An atom of matter is a fathomless mystery. Not more familiar are we with the essence of a particle of dust, than with the essence of the Deity. In the knowledge, or rather in ignorance, of the abstract qualities of both matter and spirit, the most and the least learned are precisely alike. Let the former accumulate all the names for soul, spirit, or mind, that all human languages, living and dead, supply, and evince his profundity in philology by the most masterly criticisms on the words, and the most perfect acumen in all the analogies and niceties of philosophical etymology, and then
say whether he has approached nearer, by one millionth part of a hair's breadth to a knowledge of the souls essence, than the untutored peasant. Words are neither the things for which they stand, nor the ideas of those things.
Doubtless the dead languages inform us, as far as we understand them, and, through their instrumentality, get to the ideas of those who once spoke them, what they thought on any given subject to which their attention was given. Thus, we learn what were the views of the ancients respecting the soul. But to know what the Greeks and Romans thought and believed of the soul, is not to know what is the abstract nature of that great principle of humanity. Wiser, more improving, and profitable must it be, to study the thing itself, than to study the notions of bygone ages respecting that thing.
Now, the real object of thought and investigation, is the outward manifestation of that inward principle which we designate soul, spirit, or mind. If the soul itself be an inscrutable mystery, its effects are among the plainest and most palpable objects of sense. When the soul produces violence and injustice in word and action, the operations of the soul are as distinctly heard and seen, as are thunder and lightning. And when the spirit yields benevolence in language and deed, these operations of the soul are as evident to the eye and ear, as are melody and sunshine. These effects are things which all comprehend. The simplest fully understand them. The wise and the unwise alike know what they are. And the soul is known by its fruits. If only evil words and actions characterise one human being, he is justly denounced as having a bad heart, or soul. If good words and actions constantly flow from another, he is truly said to possess a good heart. And if one course of language and deeds be changed to another, with perfect propriety is it affirmed that the heart is changed. No matter though it could be clearly demonstrated that the abstract nature of the soul is just the same when it is yielding virtue as when it is producing vice, and that the different effects result from a mere change of direction given to the spirit's power; still it must be true, practically and philosophically, that the heart is changed. All changes are relative. A good and a bad sea is the same sea producing different effects. A good and a bad wind, and the wind in any point of the compass, is identically the same wind. No alteration of its nature takes place, when either sea or air changes its relative condition, and alters from good to bad or bad to good.
Gravitation, motion, electricity, and heat, all remain in themselves unchanged, amidst all the relative mutations which they undergo. Their nature is the same when they are doing us good, as when they are working us evil.
They are very often good to one, and evil to another, at the very same moment, and by the very same operation. Now, so of the human soul: the heart may be called evil and corrupt when its effects are evil and corrupt; and good and
when its effects are good and pure, although the heart or soul may in its nature and essence be precisely the same in the one case as in the other. Physical and mental forces, directed to mischievous ends, are evils; but the same forces employed for beneficial aims, are good.
In speaking, then, of change of heart, we are concerned only with a change of direction and operation. We know nothing of the soul's essence or abstract nature; and, consequently, can never show that that essence or nature has undergone a change. We are without data on the subject; and, as no premises are possessed, no conclusions can be drawn. Not more unwise would it be to mix up angry disputes about the essences of sea and wind, when we are conversing on our simple experience of them being in their effects good or bad, than to blend rabid controversy respecting the essence or abstract nature of the human heart or soul, with moral and religious principles of action. Miserable is the mistake when a theory respecting the heart or mind of man, is taken for knowledge, piety, and purity. Woful is the error into which the intellect is plunged, when it is compelled to assume, that sin, or the transgression of the law, changed the essence of the soul. And deplorable beyond measure or conception, is the condition of that mind which has been forced to habit itself in the dogma, that the belief of an inherent change of the soul's nature from perfect purity to utter and radical depravity, is the only method of effecting a change of heart, gaining gospel grace, obtaining the favour of God, and securing endless bliss. When it shall become practicable to obey physical laws and direct physical forms by speculative notions respecting the occult properties of matter, it may become practicable to obey mental and moral laws, and direct mental and moral forces, by speculative notions respecting the occult properties of mind.
The soul is mighty for good or evil. Of this there is positive knowledge, actual experience, the evidence of