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II CORINTHIANS, Iv. 3.-But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.
This solemn declaration of the apostle was made with immediate reference to those who at that time heard and disbelieved the gospel which he and his fellow-laborers preached. Having mentioned the blindness of the Jews, who even unto his day, heard the Old Testament read with a veil upon their hearts;' he was naturally led to reflect upon the still greater and more criminal blindness of all such as remained in unbelief, under the luminous dispensation of the Gospel, and the instructive and convincing sermons of the apostles. "We are not" he writes, "as many who corrupt the word of God-we use great plainness of speech, and not as Moses, who put a veil over his face. Seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." To which he adds, "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world bath blinded the minds of them who believe not, test the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”
The declaration in the text is no private interpretation, but applicable to all men who pass their term of probation without a spiritual knowledge of evangelical truth. The doctrine of Christ is called the everlasting gospel: it is the same in all ages, and equally necessary for all mankind, as the means of 'turning them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." The case of all those from whom the gospel remains hid, is hopeless.
But, what is to be understood by the gospel? From whom is the gospel hid? And why will those from whom the gospel remains hid, be lost? A brief answer to these three questions, will now be attempted, as necessary to illustrate the apostle's words, and lay the foundation of a few reflections, suited to the present occasion.
I. What is to be understood by the gospel? The apostle calls it "our gospel;" meaning the gospel which he and the other apostles preached, and which they received not from man, but from God. In this same epistle, he speaks of another gospel; and to the Galatians he writes, "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that
called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel, which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ." There have been such troublesome teachers ever since, who have corrupted the word of God, and perverted the gospel of God our Saviour. But it is the true gospel which Christ taught and inspired his apostles to preach, which it is so important for men to know, and which is hid from them that are lost.
The term gospel means, good news. The gospel is news, or tidings, as it reveals what mankind did not, and could not learn from the light of nature; as the peculiar mode of the Divine Existence, the moral possibility of saving lost men, the purpose of God to save as many as it is best to save, the incarnation of the Word, or 'God manifest in the flesh,' and the resurrection of the bodies of all mankind, at the last day. The gospel is good news, as all its doctrines and precepts are good in themselves, tend to make men good, bring good to such as cordially embrace them, and in all cases promote the highest good of the intelligent universe. The apostle sometimes calls the gospel, "the grace of God:" It is, indeed, a scheme of Divine Grace. The peculiar doctrines of the gospel imply, that the law of God is good-that mankind ought to keep itand that they have all transgressed it, and deserve its curse, which is eternal death. The gospel reveals the purpose which God purposed in Jesus Christ before the world began, respecting the redemption of lost men through his blood-his 'predestination of those whom he foreknew it would be most for his glory to save, to be conformed to the image of his Son,' and his choice of them, from the beginning, unto salvation, through sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth.' The gospel teaches the necessity of the new birth, arising from the total moral depravity of mankind by nature, and the consequent impossibility of obtaining justification by works. The gospel inculcates the duty of exercising such impartial disinterested love, as the divine law requires towards God and man, and which is the essence of repentance for sin, faith in Christ, self denial, unconditional submission to the will of God, and indeed of every grace and every virtue. In a word, the gospel is 'the grace of God which brings salvation, and teaches men to deny ungodliness and every worldly lust, and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.'
II. From whom is the gospel hid?
In answer to this question, it may be observed.
1. The gospel is hid from all those who never had opportunity to read the scriptures, or hear the word.
The gospel was originally revealed to men by the Teacher sent from heaven, and by the Evangelists and Apostles, under the immediate inspiration of hisspirit. But after the death of the apostles, inspiration ceased, asbeing no longer necessary, after the completion of the canon of sacred scripture.Since that period, God has been pleased to communicate the knowledge of the gospel by means of the written word, and the instructions of such as He has qualified and sent to explain
the doctrines and enforce the duties of Divine Revelation. All pretensions to inspiration, or supernatural suggestions, at this day, are to be rejected, as fanatical and false. Those who would now learn the truths and duties of the gospel, must search the scriptures and hear the word. Those who have not access to at least one of these aneans of instruction, remain as ignorant of the gospel, as if God had never revealed his will to men. These two means of instruction generally accompany each other. Where God sends his written word, there he usually sends his servants to expound and inculcate its doctrines and duties; and where He sends his ministers, they bring with them the written word, translate it into the language of the country, and do what they can to place it in the hands and commend it to the attentive and serious perusal of all classes. And though some may learn divine truths by reading simply, and others by hearing simply; yet a saving knowledge of the gospel generally comes by both. It is however certain, that from those who have neither read nor heard the word of God, the gospel is hid.
2. The gospel is hid from all those who misunderstand it. Owing to the native moral blindness of our race, many who read the scriptures and hear preaching, entirely misunderstand the gospel. Some read the Bible without candor, and with a determination to find evidence of their preconceived opinions, rather than a desire to find the truth. Some read in a false translation, or one glossed with erroneons comments. Some hear the gospel perverted by those who profess to preach it: others hear plain and scriptural preaching, with prejudice and prepossession: 'Ever learning, they never come to the knowledge of the truth.' But, from all those, who misunder stand the peculiar and essential doctrines of divine revelation-by whatever means they may be biassed and blinded-the gospel is hid. To their eyes, the gospel appears distorted, and altogether different from the reality. It is another gospel' and not the real gospel of Christ, with which they are acquainted. They remain as ignorant of the true gospel, as believers in the Koran. firmly they are fixed in the belief of their false views and erroneous opinions, the more completely is the true gospel hidden from their
3. The gospel is hid from all those who disbelieve it. Men may read and hear the true gospel, and clearly understand its leading doctrines and precepts, while they have no belief in its truths. They reject it, as a 'cunningly devised fable'-an uninspired fiction.--From such the gospel is hid. And those who, while they assent to the inspiration of the scriptures in general, discard their leading and essential doctrines, are as blind to the real beauty and glory of the gospel, as ave wed infidels. Accordingly, the apostle expressly represents the gospel as hidden from those who disbelieve it: "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."
It must be added,
4. That the gospel is hid from all those who hate and oppose it. This system of divine wisdom and grace, may be read, and heard, and understood, and believed, by such as feel opposed at heart, to all its essential truths and self-denying duties. Indeed, the gospel cannot be hated, until known and understood, if not believed: for how can one feel opposed to that of which he has no correct conception? But from those whose hearts are disaffected with the doctrines and precepts of the gospel, its superlative moral beauty and worth lie concealed. They have 'closed their eyes,' and 'their whole body is full of darkness.' The 'things of the spirit of God are foolishness unto them;' they see no form nor comeliness in the person and character of Christ, nothing desirable in salvation through his atoning blood, nothing to call forth praise and thanksgiving in electing love and renewing grace, nothing glorious in those wonders of redemption, into which the angels desire to look. The real excellency and worth of the gospel is as effectually hidden from them, as to any saving illumination, as from the most benighted Pagans.
The third question remains, viz.
III. Why will those be lost, from whom the gospel remains hid? The reason may be gathered from the following observations. 1. The natural state of mankind is helpless and hopeless. All have sinned and transgressed the law of God, and lie under its awful curse, from which none are able to deliver themselves by any thing they can do or suffer; since present obedience is no more than present duty, and the desert or wages of sin is eternal death or endless misery. Being children of disobedience, we are all children
2. The gospel is the only appointed means of salvation; and that in two respects:
First, it reveals the only ground of salvation, which is laid in the atonement made by the sufferings and death of Christ. God would be unjust to his own character and his moral kingdom, should he pardon sin without an adequate atonement: and such an atonement no being was qualified to make, but He, who is the "brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person. "" Hence Peter declared to the unbelieving Jews, in their own temple, (Acts IV. 11, 12.) This (Jesus Christ of Nazereth) is the stone (metaphorically predicted by Isaiah) which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: "for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." And,
Secondly, The gospel is the only appointed means of fitting mankind for salvation. That men might be saved, it was necessary, not only that an atonement should be made to open the way for their pardon, but that their hearts should be sanctified to fit them for heaven. The gospel is adapted to sanctify the hearts of men, as all its 'doctrines are according to godliness,' and all its precepts according to the divine law. It is the great instrument in the hand of the Holy Spirit, of turning men from darkness to light, from the