There is some mystery yet connected with the things of the kingdom.
PROPOSITION 12. There is some mystery yet connected with the things of the kingdom.
This is seen, e.g. in Rev. 10:7, where it is declared that under the last period of time in this age, “the mystery of God should be finished,” which commentators generally apply to the fulfilment of the Divine Purpose in the setting up of the kingdom in a manner that shall be universally acknowledged, in vindicating through its establishment the Divine plan, etc. It indicates that some things hitherto kept concealed or partially known, should now be revealed or openly manifested. Whatever meaning is attached to the passage, it leaves the impression that not everything pertaining to the kingdom is yet fully known.
Obs. 1. Men who have given the subject much thought, have the idea that the mystery here stated mainly refers to the period, not definitely known, for the outward manifestation of the kingdom, but it may, for aught we know, include much more. While the mystery does not allude to the nature of the kingdom (for this, as will be shown hereafter, is explained), it suggests the comparative unknown time for its glorious establishment, the events connected with it of which only broken hints are given, the occurrrence of things not revealed, and the manner in which things revealed shall be accomplished.[*]
Note. The chief mystery seems to be this: how in the person of Jesus, and those associated with Him in regal power, there will be a consolidation, or a most intimate blending of the purest Theocracy with the restored throne and Kingdom of David. This union is stated, and the inestimable blessings and honor flowing from it are described, but just how it will be performed, what changes and evolutions result from its organization, what extraordinary dignity and glory will be imparted to the engrafted, providentially reared, and elevated Davidic Kingdom in its manifested Divine relationship, we cannot fully tell, having, for the present, to rest satisfied with general descriptions. Glimpses are vouchsafed, promises are given, intimations of things inexpressibly great, which indicate that, however done and whatever the results, it will be a most desirable exhibition of power and rule, a most wonderful revealment of mercy, judgment, and love, a most unparalleled outgrowth of Redemption in a visible, indisputable form. The design of previous dispensations, the orderings of Providence, the probation of saints, the longsuffering and patience of God, the permission of evil—in brief, all that has preceded, will find their solution in the incoming Kingdom.
Obs. 2. The word “mystery,” according to Fairbairn (On Proph., p. 372), “in the quite uniform usage of Scripture, denotes something which lies beyond the ken of the natural apprehension, and is revealed only to such as have the mind and spirit of God. So it is used frequently by the Apostle Paul, Rom. 16:25, 1 Cor. 2:7, 10, etc.” Whilst the Scriptures and a devout mind are requisite to grasp the truth thus revealed, it still remains true that some things that are mysterious remain; for some things are only hinted at, others stated without explanation, others again so allied with the Supernatural, so far beyond present experience that we are utterly unable to tell how, or in what manner and time, they will be accomplished. Hence down to the end of this age there is still some mystery attached to things pertaining to the kingdom. The question of Nicodemus, “How can these things be?” may be often repeated, without the spirit of unbelief, in the way of inquiry.[*]
Note. Comp., e.g., Bh. Sanderson’s Works, vol. 1, p. 233, on the text, “The mystery of godliness,” etc., Kirk’s Lec. on Parables, on word “Mystery,” the Baird Lecture for 1874, by Dr. Crawford, The Mysteries of Christianity, etc. It may be added, that Rev. Hall in his Review of Gregory’s Letters, sustaining the latter’s “Fourth Letter on Mysteries in Religion,” adverts to the sophism, ascribed to Dr. Foster—“that where mystery begins, religion ends,” and then forcibly says: “The fact is, that religion and mystery both begin and end together—a portion of what is inscrutable to our faculties being intimately and inseparably blended with its most vital and operative truths. A religion without mysteries is a temple without God.” The least reflection will indicate the truthfulness of such a position, seeing that Religion deals so largely with the Supernatural and the future destiny of man. As the doctrine of the Kingdom embraces these as vital points, mystery is necessarily connected with it. Thus, e.g., mystery will attach itself to revealed things (as the resurrection), the relation that one thing sustains to another (as in the Oneness of the Father and Son), the statement of a fact (as the translation), the transcendent nature of the subject treated (as the glorification), the limited extent of disclosure (as in the Antichrist and doom), the inadequacy of language to convey a proper conception of certain things (as in the Person of the King, and His rule, and the blessings resulting), the seeming inconsistency from our being incapable (owing to finiteness) to place ourselves in the largeness of the Spirit in its infinite conceptions (as in time, dispensational orderings, etc.).
Obs. 3. A multitude of writers attest to the existence of mysteries, their necessity, their value, and usefulness; and correctly affirm, that without them a decided proof of the Divine origin of the Bible would be lacking, a sublime display of Divine perfection would be wanting, and that the scope for faith, hope, reverence, humility, etc., would be seriously narrowed. This is especially true of the kingdom, in view of the Theocratic King and His glorified co-rulers, and the realization of Redemption through their power and rule. If there is mystery connected with the operations of nature, contained even in the growth of the smallest plant and in the structure of a grain of sand, most certainly they will be found in a subject so vast and comprehensive (Props. 1 and 2) as that of “the Gospel of the Kingdom.” Bogue (Essay on Div. Author of the N. Test., p. 249) has well said, when comparing the mysteries of nature with those of Revelation: “Without mysteries, the Gospel would not be like the works of God.” Bish. Butler (Anal., 1. c. 1), speaking of mysteries necessarily connected with Religion, calls them “clouds on the mercy seat,” capable of only an imperfect explanation, owing to our limited capacities and experience. Eaton (Permanence of Christianity) asserts: “Mysteries are the properties of all genuine religions, in regard to which the believer walks by faith and not by sight.”[*]
Note. Comp.Campbell’s Prel. Diss. to Gospels, vol. 1, p. 383, Burr’s Pater Mundi, sec. 6, South’s Sermons, ser. 6. vol. 3, Bh. Newton’s Works, vol. 4, Diss. 35, Mansel’s “Limits of Relig. Thought Examined,” in Bampton Lects., 1858, as well as the writings of Hall, Stillingfleet, Claude, McCosh, etc., and works specially devoted to presenting the Evidences of Christianity. It may be remarked that a few writers (as, e.g., Knapp, Ch. Theol., p. 36) say that the Scriptures, although containing mysteries, must not “necessarily contain” them, and that their existence is “a question of fact.” But this is taking a low estimate of the subjects which a Revelation—to be adequate—must contain (pertaining to the Infinite), and it also ignores that their very existence in the Word indicates that in God’s wisdom they were requisite for His purposes. Comp. Rogers’ Superhuman Origin of the Bible, p. 403, commencing: “A Revelation without mystery is not even conceivable. A revelation, if it deserves the name, must make known some new truths,” etc.
Obs. 4. The doctrine of the Kingdom thus containing mysteries, confirms the position taken, that to its proper understanding, we must apply to the Scriptures, and seek within its limits for the things appertaining to it, Props. 9, and 10.
Obs. 5. It is difficult to satisfy the cavils of unbelief on this point, seeing that the most opposite objections are urged against mysteries. The manner in which they are presented, indicate that they come more from the heart (i.e. are desired) than from the head (i.e. intelligently based).[*]
Note. Some object to the Scriptures because they contain mysteries. This has been shown (as, e.g., Vinet, Miscel. Art., “The Mysteries of Christianity,” and many others) to be both unjust and unreasonable; and it has been conclusively proven (Eaton, Perm. of Chris., Horne’s Introd., etc.) that “mysteries are not contradictions to reason or to fact.” Those who discard them take the same ground occupied by Toland, the English Deist, who in his work “Christianity not Mysterious,” charges the mysteries to the craft and ambition of priests and philosophers. So also Annet, in Judging for Ourselves, pronounces “mysteries a fraud.” This is a one-sided statement, violating all analogy and the reasoning and facts of common life. It is scarcely worthy of the attention that it has received. Toland, Annet, and others like them, if mysteries were lacking, would quickly and eagerly have built a really forcible argument upon such an absence, by pressing into their service the abundant analogies found in nature. But then we have the objection in another form, brought from the opposite extreme, viz.: that there is no mystery in the Bible, and consequently it cannot be accepted. After admitting that there is mystery, and hence the Scriptures cannot be received, because it is unreasonable, the work of men, etc., the information is gravely imparted, that there is none, and that, in consequence, the Word is unreliable. This feature is mainly based on the idea that we cannot believe in a mystery, and is founded thus: “A proposition to be believed, must be expressed in intelligible terms, and that if the terms are intelligible, the thing signified cannot be mysterious.” This is a Thesis that very well answers their purpose to apply to Holy Writ, but which they do not refer to nature, to themselves, or to a Supreme Cause. It is palpably absurd. The key-note of a prevailing opinion, that all things relating to Christianity are so readily understood that a child can comprehend them, is found in this direction. This unscriptural view first originated in unbelief, was seized by philosophy (see Locke, Mansel on Free Thinking), and urged as an objection to Christianity, without distinguishing between essentials to Salvation and Knowledge in general. Hence two objections are to be met: (1) That there is mystery; (2) that there is none. Extremes are to be avoided; thus, e.g., the adage used by some. “that that only is truth which we can fully understand” (for this limits our knowledge), and the other “omnia exeunt in mysterium” (which would make all knowledge end in mystery).
Obs. 6. It is a strange fact, that unbelievers of the past and present, who reject the mysteries of the Bible, call upon us to accept of the incomprehensible, the mysterious, the hypothetical in their several theories. Thus e.g. their readers are invited to believe in some unexplained “living principle,” or “substance,” or “forces,” or “chance,” or “laws;” they are urged to receive as the highest wisdom a mysterious “self-creative world matter,” “origin of things by self-development,” “self-developing man,” “hypotheses of science,” etc. Mystery, the inexplicable, the unexplained, the impenetrable, gives them no trouble, and is not opposed to reason or facts, but when found in the Bible, is to be rejected as incompatible with reason and fact.[*]
Note. It is to be remarked, that such men as Spencer, Tyndall, etc., recognize an “insoluble mystery,” “the Unknowable,” “the inscrutable,” something beyond the power of man fully to grasp—something which is, “in all probability,” the Great Cause of all the manifestations seen and experienced. This acknowledgment even of “a mystery” by such talented men, does not suit a wing of the Rationalistic Progress party. The latter party takes the former to task (as, e.g., in Abbott’s Index) for thus erecting “a quasi-God,” a something that must be received “on faith,” alleging that Science virtually “cuts her own throat” by the confession or concession that “the manifestation of anything under heaven is ‘inscrutable’ to her.” They contend, over against Tyndall, etc., that “mystery” is to be abolished, that “the knowable” is to be the grand solvent of progress, and that such concessions, pronounced to be “empty gibberish” and “meaningless jargon,” are to be utterly discarded. Surely the wise man, in such an exposition of arrogance, has food for reflection over the vanity and pride of the creature.
As an example how men will flatly contradict themselves on this point, when not directly arguing against the Bible or Christianity, the reader is referred to Strauss (The Old Faith and the New, p. 306), who, when speaking of the forms of government, advocating adhesion to the monarchy, remarks: “There is something enigmatic—nay, seemingly absurd—in a monarchy. But just in this consists the mystery of its superiority. Every mystery appears absurd; and yet nothing profound, either in life, in the arts, or in the State, is devoid of mystery.” A Reviewer, in the Edinburgh Review, justly says, that Strauss never thought of this in his Life of Jesus—for then, it seems, the reverse of this was truth with him. Figuier, in his World before the Deluge, is not opposed to “mystery,” for he closes the same by “suggesting, without hoping to solve, this formidable problem,” viz.: whether after the four preceding Kingdoms (as in the Primary epoch the vegetable, in the Secondary and Tertiary epochs the vegetable and animal, and in the Quaternary epoch the human kingdom) another and “new kingdom” is to appear. He pronounces this “an impenetrable mystery,” and adds: “It is a great mystery, which, according to the fine expression of Pliny, ‘lies hid in the majesty of nature’; or, to speak more in the spirit of Christian Philosophy, it is known only to the Almighty Creator of the Universe.” Alas! that men are unwilling to receive “the mystery” as revealed by this Creator.
Obs. 7. Some writers (as e.g. Reuss, His. Ch. Theol. of Apos. Age, p. 149) connect the mystery with a change of the nature of the Kingdom, so that a new meaning is to be attached to it; it includes, at least, such new characteristics added, such modifications or alterations, that it is completely transformed. Admitting additions and changes to it as predicted, yet it remains unproven that there is a change in its nature or meaning. This already appears, but will be more conclusively shown by the preaching of Jesus and His disciples, etc. The Church-Kingdom theory suggested such an opinion by way of apology for its lacking the characteristics of the Kingdom as given in the grammatical sense of the prophets. The mysteries, however, were those respecting the gathering out of the elect who should inherit the Kingdom, the death of the King, the postponement of the Kingdom, the continued desolation of the Davidic house until the Times of the Gentiles were fulfilled, the ultimate re-establishment of the Kingdom after the rise, progress, and conflict with the Antichrist, etc., and they do not refer to a change of the nature of the Kingdom. It is, and ever remains the unchangeable Theocratic Kingdom, manifested in a covenanted line and through a covenanted nation. If such a change was intended or made in the most important of matters, there certainly would be something direct on the subject, and it would not be left to mere inference to deduce it.