2 Corinthians 3:12
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.
Sermons
Boldness of Speech; the Two Ministries; from Glory to GloryC. Lipscomb 2 Corinthians 3:12-18
Moral Insensibility of SinnersD. Thomas, D. D.2 Corinthians 3:12-18
Our Study of God's Truth Must be with the HeartDean Goulburn.2 Corinthians 3:12-18
The Duty of Outspokenness on Religious QuestionsProf. Lewis Campbell.2 Corinthians 3:12-18
The Shining of Moses' FacePlain Sermons by Contributors to the Tracts for the Times2 Corinthians 3:12-18
Truth UnveiledR. Brydon.2 Corinthians 3:12-18
VeilsE. Mellor, D. D.2 Corinthians 3:12-18
Dwelling on the superior excellence of the gospel, it was natural for the apostle to speak of his hopefulness (such hope) and of the effect thereof on his ministry. He had spoken of his trust (ver. 4), and now he expresses the hope which filled his soul from "the intervening vision of the glory of his work" (Stanley) and its future results. He uses "great plainness of speech" - unreservedness, without disguise, boldness (the last conveying his meaning most fully). The "able ministers of the new covenant" were also bold, having no reason for concealment, but every reason for openness and candour. From the beginning of the Spirit's dispensation this boldness had characterized apostolic preaching. St. Peter, who had shown such cowardice in the high priest's palace, evinced the utmost fearlessness at Pentecost. It was a spectacle of wonder to the Sanhedrim. "When they saw the boldness of Peter and John... they marvelled;" and what was the explanation of their courage? "They took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus." Immediately thereafter we hear of prayer offered by the Church that "with all boldness" they may speak God's Word. Boldness, at that time, was a virtue in request, and not one of the apostles failed to meet its requisitions. At this point the contrast between the Law and the gospel presents a new aspect. Moses had veiled his face, "that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished." The veil concealed the evanescence of the brightness and was symbolic of that judicial blindness which fell upon Israel. "Their minds were blinded," or hardened, so that their perceptions were not in accordance with facts; impressibility was lost, feeling was callous. "Until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament." The punishment continued. What were the old Scriptures but a sealed book to most of the Jews in the apostle's day? and now, after eighteen centuries, how palpable to us the confirmation of his words in the ignorance and the delusions of the Jews touching the spiritual import of their sacred books! "Until this day" has a meaning for us it could not have had to St. Paul's contemporaries. Time has done nothing or next to nothing to remove the darkness enveloping Jewish mind. Shrewd, intelligent, sagacious, in everything else; distinguished on nearly every arena of commercial and professional life; often foremost among men in matters as widely separated as music and statesmanship; - they yet present the strangest of contrarieties in adhesion to prejudices almost two thousand years old, and that too while evincing an adaptiveness to every form of civilization and to all the modifications going on in the current activities of the age. Find them where you may, they are pliant to circumstances, Not a national mould can be mentioned in which their external character cannot be cast, and yet, while this plasticity is such that we have Russian, Italian, German, Spanish, French, English, American, Jews, and withal the individual nationality apparent, there is the same religious blindness of which St. Paul wrote long ago. Their land, homes, institutions, the objects that come before us when we think of Judaea and Galilee, have passed from their grasp; but they hold fast to the shreds of their ancient beliefs, nor can any power relax their hold. Now, surely, this is inexplicable on the ordinary grounds of human experience. No law of the mind, no law of society, can explain the phenomenon. Such a spectacle as the Jews present of retaining their attachment and devotion to a skeleton religion, from which the soul has departed, is unique in the world's history. St. Paul solves the enigma; it is providential, it is punitive; "until this day the veil is untaken away." Two statements follow:

(1) the "veil is done away in Christ;"

(2) but, though done away in Christ, "even unto this day, when Moses [his writings] is read, the veil is upon their heart."

Only in and through Christ have we the power to see Christ in the Old Testament. Only in Christ risen and glorified, only in him as sending the Holy Ghost, can we understand the relations of Moses to the gospel. "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures" - a post-resurrection matter altogether and coincident with the preliminary gift of the Holy Ghost during the forty days. Yet, while asserting that Moses has been unveiled, and that his testimony to Christ, as the end of the Law to every believer, has been made clear and simple, nevertheless, the veil remains. The idea would seem to be, "The veil remains not taken away in the reading of the old covenant, it not being unveiled to them that it (the old covenant) is done away in Christ" (note in Lange's 'Commentary'). But was there not room for hope? Already, in thousands of cases, the veil had been removed. A blinder and more rabid Pharisee than St. Paul lived not in Jerusalem, and he had had the veil taken away. The work was going on. One day it would be completed and Israel would know her Messiah. "When it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away." We, in the present day, read this third chapter of the Second Corinthians in a fuller light than even our immediate ancestors. The events of the nineteenth century have shown us how near the Jews are to the heart of Providence. Taken as a body of people, they are advancing in wealth, in culture, in certain elements of social power, at a rate beyond the average progress of races. Christian thinkers cannot look at these facts without seeing much more than material prosperity. Providence is the historic antecedent of the Spirit. The prophets of God in our age are not Elijahs and Elishas, but events that revolutionize thought and silently change the hearts of nations. But this turning to the Lord (ver. 16) must be explained as to its Divine Agent, and the nature, thoroughness, and growing excellence of the work be set forth. Its Divine Agent. He is the Holy Ghost. Not only did Christ teach that he depended on the Holy Spirit for his anointing as the Messiah, and that the unction proceeding thence was the strength and inspiration of his earthly work ("The Spirit of the Lord is upon me"); not only did he refer everything to the fulness of the Spirit in him ("I do nothing of myself"); not only did he wait for its baptismal descent upon him before entering on his ministry, and' acknowledge his presence in his miracles and teaching ("If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God," etc.; "The words I speak unto you, I speak not of myself"); but, in the most solemn hours of his existence, death just at hand, he taught the disciples to expect the Spirit as his gift, stating what would be his offices as Remembrancer, Convincer, Witness, Glorifier, and in all the Comforter. This was to be their outfit for discipling all nations, for victory over themselves as to all self-seeking and self-furthering emotions, for triumph over all opposing forces. This was to be the means of realizing him as their glorified Lord, so that they should know him no more after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Now, we must not fail to notice that we are indebted to St. Paul for a very full portrayal of the actual work of the Spirit in the Church. One may call him the historian of the Spirit, the thinker who, under God, discerned his blessed operations in their variety and compass, the writer who put them on record for the illumination of the Church in all ages, the man who laid bare his own soul in extremities of sorrow and in moments of supreme happiness so that we might have his theology of the Holy Ghost in its experimental results. From him, then, we have not only the completest doctrinal instruction on this most vital subject, but likewise the flesh-and-blood view superinduced upon the anatomy of theological truth; witness this third chapter: yet this is only one among his many-sided presentations el this topic. Observe, however, this chapter fills a special place in his system of teaching. Step by step he had been approaching a point at which he could demonstrate the pre-eminent excellence of the gospel. Charity had been delineated once and forever; the resurrection had been argued on a method and in a manner unusual with him; so too the economy of the Church as a society divinely planned. In this third chapter all his prominent ideas coalesce in one great master truth, viz. the dispensation of the gospel as the ministry of the Spirit. The phrase, "ministry of the Spirit," is itself remarkable. It includes, in a certain sense, the ministry of Moses, while differentiating the old covenant from the new. It takes in all ministries, apostolic, ordinary, and the numerous kinds of the ordinary. If we have lost some of these as they existed in St. Paul's day, how many have we gained as original to later times and generic to circumstances called into existence by England and America in the eighteenth century - the century of a constellation of epochs in the firmament of history? "Now the Lord is that Spirit." Everywhere, in everything, the Lord Jesus Christ is the Dispenser of its manifold influence. "Being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear." It is the doctrine of Pentecost. It is the miracle and grandeur of Pentecost. Yet St. Peter does little more than state the fact. The doctrinal elaboration waits for St. Paul, and these two Epistles furnish the opportunity. Nature, thoroughness, and growing excellence of the Spirit's work. It is liberty. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." Liberty from the pedagogy of the Law; liberty from the tyranny of the carnal intellect; liberty from that national domination which in the case of the Jews offered such a solid resistance to the gospel; liberty from Gentile idolatry; liberty from every agency that wrought evil in the soul of man. "if the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." But it was the glorified Son who was to make men free by communicating the Holy Ghost. It is a revelation of God in Christ and Christ in the Spirit of the consciousness and conscience of men, and therefore thorough. It addresses his consciousness as one who has the capacity to think, feel, judge; and it addresses his conscience as to how he should think, feel, judge, as touching his obligations and as enforcing them by an immortality of reward or punishment. By the truth of the gospel, by the Spirit accompanying that truth and rendering it effective, consciousness is enlightened, cultivated, enlarged. The man sees much in himself he never saw before. And his moral sense or conscience, that mightiest of the instincts, is instructed and guided so as to represent the Spirit. It is in the soul a Remembrancer, a Convincer, a Witness, a Glorifier of Christ, a Comforter. And under this twofold development which is brought into unity by the Spirit of truth and love, the work of grace extends to all the man's faculties. The intellect, the moral sensibilities, the social affections, lift up the physical man into themselves, and grow together into the spiritual man. Not an appetite, not a passion, not an attribute, of body or soul is left neglected. The ideal is "body, soul, and spirit" consecrated to Christ, living, working, suffering, so that" whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus." And its growing excellence is seen in this, that in harmony with its freedom and its development of spiritual consciousness and conscience, it has an unveiled face. The eye is open and unhindered. Nothing intervenes between it and the glory of the Lord. True, it sees only in a mirror; it sees by reflection; it sees the image merely - the image of God in Christ, the image of humanity in Christ, the God Man, the one perfect Man of the human race. We see him in the New Testament, in the Gospels and Epistles, in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Apocalypse, the acts of Providence future and final. We see him in all his relations and aspects - the babe of Mary, the boy of Nazareth, the carpenter's son, the public Man, Teacher, Benefactor, Healer, Helper, Friend. Every page of the New Testament is as a burnished surface whereon he is presented to the eye of faith as a manifestation of God's righteousness and love, while he exhibits also the guilt and condemnation of man. "The glory of the Lord" is thus brought to view amidst the scenes and circumstances that instruct us in daily life. It is on a level with our comprehension. It finds the same kind of access to our sympathies that human qualities have in ordinary intercourse. "I beseech thee, show me thy glory," was the prayer of Moses, and the Lord answered and made all his goodness pass before him. What Christ's glory was in Moses, in the Psalms and prophecies, in his incarnation and atoning death, in his glorification; what it has been, is now, and will be; - all this we have in the Scriptures of the Spirit and in his Divine offices to sanctify the Word. If we behold as in a mirror, is the image distorted, confused, inoperative, ineffective? Nay; it is with "open face" that we look, and the result is we "are changed into the same image from glory to glory." Faith is the organ of vision, and faith is essentially transforming by its power to make what is an object of thought and fueling the most effectual of subjective influences. It takes the object from the outer world, separates it from the limitations of sense and intellect, disconnects the object from whatever is darkening and enervating, and secures to it fulness of activity. Faith is the purest, truest, noblest, form of belief. It is belief of things unseen and eternal, revealed to us by God and testified unto by the most honest and faithful witnessess the human race could furnish. To give us a Peter, a John, a Paul, as testifiers, the world was under providential training for many centuries and especially its elect race, whose ancestor, Abraham, inaugurated the career of the nation by an act of faith the most pathetic, the most sublime, the most illustrious, in the annals of mankind. It is not only a belief of things invisible as disclosed by a Revealer and assured by witnesses, but likewise a belief created, directed, and sustained in personal consciousness by the agency of the Holy Ghost. Hence its power to conform us to the Divine image as displayed in Christ, and hence also its progressive work. Not only are we changed, but we are changed "from glory to glory." "The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith," so that we realize more and more clearly the consistency of the Divine righteousness in our justification, and the righteousness formed in our souls by the Spirit. We know why we are pardoned and by whom renewed, and, as we advance into new stages of experience, the past work of grace is rendered more and more intelligible. Current experiences leave much unexplained. Infancy, childhood, youth, in religious life are not fully comprehended till the interpretative light of manhood is thrown back upon them. "From glory to glory;" this is true of every Christian virtue. At flint we are timid in confessing Christ before the world; the cross is heavy; self-denial is often very painful; the remains of the carnal mind are yet strong enough to resist when some onerous task is put upon us; but in time we gain strength, and in time are able to run and not weary, to walk and not faint. It is "from strength to strength," as the psalmist sang long ago. Take the virtue of patience; what years are needed to acquire it in any large degree! St. Peter says, "Add to your faith, virtue," etc.; keep up the supply, and exercise all diligence in building up one virtue by means of another. Again, "Grow in grace;" if growth stops, grace stops. "From glory to glory." Temptations that had to be fought against, and sometimes ineffectually, twenty years ago, trouble us no longer. Infirmities are less infirm. Mysteries that used to perplex have ceased to disturb. People whose presence was an annoyance can be borne with. Irritations, recurring daily, have lost their power to ruffle the temper. Many a crooked way has been made straight, many a rough place smooth, many a darkened spot bright, to our steps. "From glory to glory." Grace has worked its way down into our instincts and begun their fuller development. Thence comes the white light so grateful to sighs and so helpful. It is reflected upon the intellect, the sense organs, the outward world, and dissipates the occasional gloom that falls upon us when Satan's "It is written" obscures our perceptions, or when the logic of the sense intellect gathers its mists about our pathway. Blessed hours of illumination are those which attend the later stages of grace penetrating the depths of instinct. Doubts are over; for we know whom we have believed. "From glory to glory." Gradually our hearts are detached from the world, and, while its beauty and love and tenderness are none the less, they are seen as parts of a higher life and a remoter sphere. Afflictions, once "grievous," yield "the peaceable fruit of righteousness;" for the "afterward" has come, and what an "afterward"! To be reconciled to the cross of pain; to glory in the cross of the Divine Sufferer; to die to self as we die when the Man of sorrows becomes the Christ of our instincts; to say, "Thy will be done" with no half way utterance, but from the heart, and submit not only willingly but gladly to whatever it may please Providence to ordain; - this indeed is proof that we have advanced "from glory to glory." - L.







Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech
True religion is very simple and very deep. A s simple as this statement, "God is good"; as deep as life and death. But it has ever been hard for men to receive religion in all its simplicity and in all its depth. They want something they can touch and handle, something to fill the imagination, something with many colours to attract the eye. And human teachers have ever been ready to adapt themselves to this craving, and have put their teaching into a shape in which they thought it most likely to be received. And yet it is sometimes the part of the Christian minister, in following the example of Christ and of St. Paul, to "use great plainness of speech": to tell the people, not what they most wish or expect to hear, not what is most in accordance with their previous ideas and prejudices, but what he himself thinks and knows, what he has found in his own experience to be of lasting value, or, in Scriptural language, the truth which he believes that he has heard of God. St. Paul made the greatest effort that was ever made by any one, excepting only Christ, to bring men to receive a spiritual religion. He strove to show to the Jew that God in Christ was the Father of all men, and not of the Jew only; that righteousness meant not the mere outward performance of certain acts, but a right attitude of the heart towards God. And we read in this Epistle to the Corinthians that this teaching of St. Paul was "to the Jews a stumbling-block and to the Greeks foolishness." Now, why was this? Let us try to imagine how they must have felt in listening to him. Let us imagine the Jew being told that the law of Moses was abolished and done away, that the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin; that the Passover, the commemoration of the great deliverance that had first made the Jews a nation, was only a type and a shadow which was vanishing; that the peculiar people must no longer think that Jehovah had any special regard for them, but must learn to embrace the Gentiles, who for half their lives had been polluting themselves with abominations of idols. Was this, the Jewish objector might say — was this, indeed, to stand upon the ancient paths and to restore the desolations of many generations? Was it not rather to remove the landmarks, to tear up the foundations? Such then was the nature of the offence which the teaching of St. Paul gave to the Jew. Let us now turn and ask what impression it was likely to produce upon the Gentiles. I think I hear one of them crying, "What will this babbler say? And are we not to worship the sun going forth as a giant to run his course, nor the moon walking in brightness, nor the earth, nor the glorious heaven that smiles on us with pure radiance in the daytime and gazes on us with a thousand eyes at night? The Diana of the Ephesians, the Jupiter of Lystria or of Athens, these are to be nothing to us. Those are no gods, you tell us, that are made with hands. Would you take from them the only stay, the only consolation which they have amid the miseries of their feeble life, and offer them instead an unseen God, to be comprehended only with the mind! Take heed that you are not destroying what you cannot restore." Now St. Paul was not the first nor the last who in teaching a spiritual religion, in trying to open a way between the soul of man and the Spirit of God, had won for himself amongst the people of his own time the name of a godless and irreligious man. Isaiah is heard proclaiming in the name of God, "Your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hateth, they are a trouble unto me, I am weary to bear them. Bring no more vain oblations. Cease to do evil, learn to do well: seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow." And Ezekiel is heard to cry, "The son shall not bear the iniquity of his father. The soul that sinneth, it shall die." But Isaiah fell a victim to the idolatrous fanaticism of his countrymen, and of Ezekiel the people said, "Doth he not speak parables?" And so all the Hebrew prophets, one by one, bore witness equally against the formalism and idolatry of the people, and were rejected equally. And what of Christ Himself? Was He not put to death for blasphemy: because He had said, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up," and because He told the Chief Priests that "The hour was coming when the Son of Man should sit on the right hand of Power"? We need not fear, then, or be discouraged, if it should be found that in some matters either of doctrine or of custom and tradition there is still a veil upon the people's heart which clouds for them the perfect vision of the righteousness and goodness, the justice and mercy, of Almighty God: nor should the Christian teacher, who thinks he sees it is so, shrink from trying to remove the veil: if he may hope thereby to bring the minds of his countrymen nearer to a pure and spiritual religion. Least of all is he to be deterred by the imputation of impiety, or of infidelity and atheism, which has been shared by all religious teachers who have had anything to tell mankind, including Christ Himself. But still the unveiling of Divine truth to human apprehensions must be a gradual process, and is not to be completed in this life, and the same St. Paul who says, "That we all, beholding with open face the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image, from glory to glory," had already said to this same Corinthian Church, "Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as I also am known."

(Prof. Lewis Campbell.)

But their minds were blinded
I. ITS FIGURATIVE REPRESENTATION. This moral blindness)is —

1. Criminal — the result of a sinful course.

2. Dangerous — a most alarming moral disease.

3. Temporary — the heart must one day be quickened.

II. ITS UNIVERSAL SYMPTOMS. Want of spiritual —

1. Understanding.

2. Perception. A thick haze of sin hides the spiritual from the soul's eye.

III. ITS GRAND DISCOVERY. Man's awful moral insensibility is seen in —

1. His opposition.

2. His indifference to the gospel. But yet this will be done away in Christ.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

But even unto this day when Moses is read, the vail is upon their hearts.
How is it that the number of those who believe the gospel is so small compared with the number of those who do not believe in it? Our nation has had the gospel in it more or less now for the space of one thousand six hundred years. Week by week the gospel has been expounded and enforced by all sorts of agencies, yet in no town is there one-half of the population found within the walls of Christian sanctuaries, and there are few congregations in which the unbelievers do not out-number the believers. How is this? We propose to look at the answer to this question as given by St. Paul. The veil is on the heart. The vision of an object may be rendered impossible in either of two ways at least. There is a mountain that rears its majestic head to the sky; you may spend weeks in its neighbourhood, and yet never see it once. It may be shrouded in mist. The veil is then on the mountain. Or, the mountain may be still unseen, for the eye may be covered with thick films. The veil is then on the eye. This latter case is the one which fitly illustrates the language of the apostle, "The veil is upon the heart, not upon Moses; he is read, but he is not understood; the veil is upon the heart." Let us look at a few of the veils which are on the hearts of men now.

I. THE VEIL OF HUMAN DEPRAVITY OR NATURAL CORRUPTION. No one surely will say that even the best man we know would reflect credit upon his Creator, had he been made exactly as he now is, with so many sinful tendencies in him. Nor do I see how any thoughtful man can maintain the theory which affirms that we all came into the world with a clean, pure soul, and which accounts for what we are, entirely upon the principle of the influence of circumstances and education. How any one who has had to deal with children can maintain such a theory passes my comprehension. It may sound a very plausible principle. "Teach men the truth, and they will believe it; teach men the right, and they will do it." But does any one seriously believe that ignorance explains all the wickedness of the world? Ignorance of what? Ignorance that it is wickedness? Is it so, then, that man is now doing wrong with the consciousness that it is wrong? To say that men would not drink" if they knew better is to trifle. They do know better. Where, then, is the veil in such a case which prevents their reformation? It is not over the consequences of their sin. It can only be upon their heart. The vice is indulged because it is loved. And what is true of this vice is true also of man's general alienation from what is good. The carnal mind is enmity against God, etc.

II. THE VEIL OF CONCEIT OR INTELLECTUAL PRIDE. This is closely connected with the one we have just considered. It is, in fact, one of its folds. There is a peril in our times arising from the almost exclusive attention which is being directed to the study of the wonders of external nature. It is obvious that the fascinations of scientific investigation may blind the mind to the claims of higher truth, which depends for its understanding on qualities of heart rather than of intellect. The mathematician may dwell so long in the region of figures and formulas that he may never dream of a world in which they play no part whatever. The chemist may so busy himself among acids, and alkalies, and crucibles, and retorts that he may deign no thought to anything which he cannot fuse or analyse. The Bible introduces the philosopher into a world which is all but entirely new. It does not require his calculus, or his crucible, or his battery, or his microscope. Its truths are different from any that can be reached by these processes of investigation. What can they tell us about sin? The Bible does not create sin, it finds it. It deals not only with sin as a fact, but guilt as a feeling. This, too, is not created by the Bible. The Bible deals with the idea of a nobler life. Even this idea it did not wholly create. It deals with death, and with death in its moral aspects, and with eternity. The Bible tells us of the incarnation, and of the Cross, and of the resurrection. Now the reason of man could tell us nothing of these things apart from the Bible. That profound mysteries are mingled up with this revelation is admitted. But it surely is not for the human intellect to proudly turn away from it on this account. How many doors of nature it has knocked at? how many subtle forces it has sought to seize, and see in their inmost essence, but in vain? Does it hear and obey the voice which nature utters, "Hitherto shalt thou go, but no further"? and does it resent such a limitation in the domain of the Divine Word? Then it becomes not the reason which is reverent, but the reason which is proud. It will not accept the truth on which the light shines full, because there is truth which lies in darkness. But where in this case is the veil? The veil is on the heart.

III. THE VEIL OF PREJUDICE AND TRADITION. There are few vices of the mind which are more common and invincible. What a fearful amount of evidence a prejudice can resist! Now prejudice often assumes the form of holding fast to a traditional faith. This was the very case with the Jews, who held fast not to the true Moses, but to the Moses as he had been represented to them by their authoritative teachers. Had they listened to the true Moses, they would have been prepared to welcome Christ. But when Moses was read in their hearing, or by themselves, he was read, not through a clear medium as when one sees objects through the pure air by the light of the sun, but he was read through a jaundiced eye and a medium which distorted him. They brought their conceptions with them, and made their own Moses in a large degree. They were like men who consult the oracle, and tell the oracle what shall be his response, or who speak in an echoing vault, and find their voice returned to them. Things are to us in great measure what we are to them. And if we bring prejudice or a traditional faith with us, a faith, I mean, which we have not ourselves tested and proved, and which does not live within us and support our life, then we need not expect to see the truth. Let us have a better reason for our faith than that we have always held it, or that our father held it. It was because the Jews had no better reason that they called Christ Beelzebub — that they crucified Him: and that even to the days of Paul, yes, and even down to our own days when Moses is read, the veil is on their eyes.

IV. THE VEIL OF LUST, SELF-INTEREST, OR ANY OTHER SIN WHICH HAS ACQUIRED A MASTERY OVER THE HEART AND LIFE. There is nothing that can so darken the eye of the soul as a sin, and hence no man who is addicted to sin can see so clearly as the man whose soul is pure whether in fact or in aspiration. Who is sanguine in his endeavours to persuade a man to relinquish a traffic, however mischievous, provided only it brings in ample gains? He sees no evil in the traffic, why should he? He compels no one to buy; and they may buy as little as they choose. Besides, if he did not sell some one else would. Thus he reasons, but those arguments did not lead him to begin the traffic, or to continue in it. They never occur to him except when he is put on his defence. The one abiding and omnipotent motive is that the trade is lucrative. This is the veil which is before his eyes, and which no amount of light will suffice to penetrate. Conclusion: Will you submit to this blinding process? Or, will you cry to the Great Healer, and say to Him, "Lord, that I may receive my sight"? The veil, you will remember, cannot remain for ever. The hand of death will tear it away; but the light which then will fall upon your eyes will not be the light of salvation, but that which discovers to you, when too late, the blessedness which you have bartered for the pleasures of a day.

(E. Mellor, D. D.)

The apostle in the text contrasts the state of believing Christians with that of the unbelieving Jews, for the former, all with open face, behold the glory of the Lord. Now the language here employed admits of some latitude of interpretation. The word "open" means unveiled, and this shows that a contrast is intended. And the phrase may either be rendered "with open face," alluding to the face of the beholders, or "in an open face," referring to the face of Christ, as contrasted with that of Moses. For at the sixth verse of the next chapter the apostle expressly says that "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." If, then, we understand the words in the former sense, the spiritually enlightened Christian is contrasted with the carnal and prejudiced Jew. But if we understand the words in the latter sense, the objects contrasted are the Christian and Mosaic dispensations, implying that the beholders have now the advantage, externally, of a far more glorious revelation. Christ did not put a veil on His face like Moses, but openly reflected the glory of the Lord. Now, in whichever sense the words ought to be grammatically explained, we apprehend that both ideas are included in the view of the apostle. He obviously means, that however it was in former times, and however it might be still with blinded, unbelieving Jews, both the veil of Moses and the veil of the heart were now taken away in reference to the Christian believer. There was no longer an obstructing medium interposed between them and the sublime truths of redemption. The light fell at once upon the eyes of their understanding and the object of their contemplation, and nothing tended any longer either to obscure it or to intercept its progress. There was neither a diseased organ of vision in the beholder nor a concealed object.

I. In the first place, IT BECOMES US TO REFLECT, WITH UNFEIGNED GRATITUDE TO GOD, ON THE PECULIAR ADVANTAGES OF OUR OWN EXTERNAL SITUATION IN REGARD TO THE MEANS OF GRACE. There are many heathen nations in the world who have never enjoyed the light of Divine truth in any degree. And how obscurely was it possessed even by the ancient Israelites! Yes, the way of salvation is now patent and plain. The glory of the Lord, the excellent glory of His Divine mercy and love, as seen in the whole series of His dispensations, and reflected from the word of His grace, is now placed fully in our view.

II. BUT IT BECOMES US TO CONSIDER THE STATE OF OUR OWN HEARTS IN REFERENCE TO THE PRIVILEGES WE ENJOY. In our day there is no veil upon the truth, but is there none upon our own minds? Do we now distinguish that glory of the Lord which emanates from the plan of redemption? Do we discern the moral beauty, and feel the blessed influence of the doctrines of grace? If so, then the internal veil has surely been removed from our hearts. But if not, let us remember that the fault is our own, and that the blindness is in ourselves, for the glory of the Lord has been openly revealed. And if we discern it not the veil must be still upon our hearts. This was the case with many among the Jews even after Christ had come, And, alas! how many among professing Christians in the present day have the same veil upon their hearts. For otherwise, how shall we account for the dimness of their perception in discerning the real nature and bearings of Divine truth? Why do they not see sin in all its native deformity and soul-ruining consequences? Why do they not see the beauty and excellency of holiness, and the pure and spiritual happiness with which holiness is connected? Why do they not recognise the claims of God upon the devoted affection? Or why do they not feel and acknowledge the unspeakable obligations under which they are laid to the infinite love and grace of the Redeemer? Why do they not see the magnitude of the gospel salvation, and the aggravated guilt and infatuation of neglecting it? And why do they form such erroneous, unworthy, and unscriptural conceptions of that salvation? Were it only a cloud of ignorance which overshadowed their understandings, it might easily be dispelled, and could not long remain with all the abundant means of instruction they enjoy. But, alas! it is a dark cloud, not of ignorance merely, but of prejudice. It is the influence of pride, stirring up the enmity of the carnal mind against the humiliating doctrines of the gospel; it is the cherished indulgence of some favourite sin; it is the inveterate love of this present evil world. But it is the peculiar privilege of the true believer to behold the glory of the Lord with open face in the mirror of the gospel. Savingly taught by the Holy Spirit, he has been delivered from his native ignorance and unbelief; he has obtained the gift of spiritual discernment, and he beholds wondrous things out of the Divine law. He sees a majesty and a glory in the Scriptures, a high importance and excellency in spiritual subjects, to which he was originally blind.

(R. Brydon.)

1. In this passage the intellectual blindness of the Jews is traced up to the wrong state of their hearts. Indeed, even without this statement we could have gathered as much. The miracles of our Lord, and the close agreement of His career with prophecy, must have carried the convictions of the Jews by force, had there not been a predisposition in the heart not to believe. As soon, therefore, as this predisposition shall be removed, they shall forthwith be convinced, and "the veil shall be taken away."

2. Men are well aware that the understanding is liable to be prejudiced by the heart. "Love," they say, "is blind." We should exclude from the trial of a man's cause both his friends and his foes, because we account strong sympathies or antipathies prejudicial to the judgment. But the proverb extends to our judgment of things. The mind of man — the faculty by which he discerns truth — may be compared to an eye placed above a fuming caldron, which can see nothing clearly, because the vapours intercept the vision. The heart is the caldron, and sends up the vapours which distort the view. Now in seeking to reform human nature, the philosophers of antiquity either did not notice this fact, or did not see how the difficulty which it presents could be surmounted. At all events, by way of persuading men to virtue, they made their appeal to the understanding, and sought to carry their point to convincing the mind. As far as the understanding went, nothing could be more effective than such a method. But what if men do not, as notoriously they do not, conclude moral questions affecting themselves, on the mere verdict of the understanding? What if they set the will on the judgment-seat? Unless you can rectify the will and its prepossessions, you only argue before a corrupted judge, and in the sentence the argument goes for nothing.

3. Christianity, in seeking to reform mankind, makes its first appeal to the affections, which are the springs of the will, and through them clears and rectifies the understanding. What may be said to have been the main scope of our Lord's teaching? This — "God so loved the world," dee. Was not the apostolic exhortation only a prolonging of the echoes of the Saviour's voice: "We pray you... be ye reconciled to God"? Now the facts of the life and sufferings and teaching of Christ are the implements with which Christianity works. Let any one read the gospel records with thorough simplicity, and he cannot fail to be touched by them in a salutary way, especially by the concluding part of the great story.

4. But not only did Christianity commence with an appeal to the hearts of men; but this is the order which grace observes in its work on each individual soul. The Scripture says, "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness." Justifying faith is not a mere intellectual conviction of the truth; but an operation of the heart, and by consequence of the will, involving a movement of the affections towards Christ in trust or love. And every forward step in Christian life must be made on the same principle as the first. It is quite as true to say, "with the heart man is edified," as it is to say, "with the heart man believeth." Now let us develop this truth, that edification is through the heart, and not through the mind.

I. TESTIMONY IS BORNE TO IT BY THE UNIVERSAL EXPERIENCE OF CHRISTIANS. What is that impalpable something, which if an inferior sermon has, it succeeds in doing good, but if a superior sermon lacks, it fails of doing good? We call it "unction" — a fervent way of throwing out Divine truth, corresponding with the fervent character of that truth. Unction would be no merit at all, but the reverse, if the gospel were to be received by the intellect rather than the affections. But men know that the gospel is designed to meet their sympathies; and if it should be presented to them in such a manner as not to do this, they feel that it is wronged and misrepresented.

II. OWING TO OUR NOT PERCEIVING THIS TRUTH, RELIGIOUS EXERCISES ABE SOMETIMES TAKEN TO BE EDIFYING WHICH ARE NOT SO. Shall I say that much of our ordinary reading of Holy Scripture comes under this head? that it often resolves itself into a mental exercitation, and that not of a very high order? What a misuse of terms is there in the phraseology so often applied to things got by rote, of which we say that they are "learned by heart"! So far from being learned by heart, such things are often not even learned by mind, for sometimes they are most deficiently understood; and the very utmost that can be said in favour of such learning is that it lodges truth in the memory, which may expand and serve a good purpose at some future time. Has our study of Scripture given any bias to the will in the path of holiness? Has it at all stimulated the affections to the love of God, or of our neighbour? Has it nerved us against temptation? supported us under trial? prompted a prayer? or stirred in us a holy ambition? By these and the like questions must its influence upon the heart be tested; and unless it has had some influence upon the heart, there has been no edification in it.

III. LET OUR STUDIES TURN MORE AND MORE ON THAT WHICH IS THE CORE AND CENTRE OF THE BIBLE. The Bible is a revelation of God; and the core and centre of God's revelation is Christ crucified.

(Dean Goulburn.)

Nevertheless, when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to the Tracts for the Times.
When Moses spoke of old to their fathers, the veil was upon his face; but now when he is read to them, the veil is upon their hearts. In old time it was God's doing; the Scriptures were made obscure for a time on purpose, the types and prophecies could not be understood till their fulfilment: but it is now the Jews' own doing; it is their own perverseness, refusing to see Christ in their Scriptures. Thus St. Paul speaks; thinking, most likely, as in many other places, of his own history, and of God's dealings with him in particular. You know, in his early days, he was a sort of figure and type of the whole Jewish nation, in his great and bitter enmity to Jesus Christ. His face was not towards the Lord. When he read the law he saw only the outward sign; he knew nothing as yet of its end and hidden meaning. But our Saviour, in compassion to his well-meaning but blind zeal, called to him from heaven and touched his heart by His grace. When St. Paul's heart had thus turned to the Lord, then the scales fell from his eyes; then he saw the purpose and drift of the ceremonies and sacrifices, the temple and tabernacle, the crown on David's head, and the anointing oil on Aaron's. And here we must observe well what "knowing Christ," and "turning to Him," mean in such places as these. It was not simply knowing that there was such a person, attending to what they heard and saw of Him; "turning to Him," means turning to His Cross, taking it up and following Him. When a person had done this sincerely, he would find quite a new light break in upon places in the Old Testament, which before he had no true knowledge of. He would learn what was meant by a lamb without spot or blemish. Again, he would understand the meaning of circumcision; how it marked men as belonging to Him. He would see why the people were fed with manna, to signify the true bread from heaven. He would understand why the tabernacle and temple had two parts, the holy place and the most holy, and why the most holy can only be entered once a year, and then not without blood. But does this saying apply to Sews only, and to the reading of the Old Testament only? or is it so, that we also, though we have been Christians many years, may have a veil upon our hearts, and -that, in the reading of the New Testament as well as the Old, of the gospel as well as of the law, of St. Paul and the epistles as well as of Moses and the prophets? Surely it may be our case too; after all that has been done for us, we may but too easily, if we will, yet go on in stumbling and in ignorance. Is it not too plain that very many of us come often to hear God's Holy Word; we are present at the reading of chapter after chapter, and yet we make no real improvement in our knowledge of holy things? And the cure for this must be the same as in the other case. When a man turns unto the Lord, that is, unto Christ, then the veil is taken away. Then a new light and an unaccustomed glory will break out and shine round our Bibles and in our Churches, and we shall begin to feel something of what the holy patriarch felt when he cried out, "Surely the Lord is in this place and I knew it not." But, as I said, to obtain this blessing, to see so much of heaven on earth, a person must turn habitually to the Lord. And what is "turning to the Lord"? I will answer in the words of an ancient writer. "The better to know what it is to be turned to the Lord, let us first state what it is to be turned away from Him. Every person who, while the words of the law are in reading, is occupied with matters of ordinary talk, is turned away from the Lord. Every one who, whilst the Bible is reading, is indulging thoughts of worldly business, of money, of gain, he too is turned away. Every one who is pressed with cares about his possessions, who strains himself eagerly after wealth, who longs after worldly glory and the honours of this life, every such person likewise is turned away." Who follows Divine meditations with as much zeal and labour as human? and how then dare we complain of our ignorance of that which we never tried to learn? Then again he reproves them for their carelessness about what is read in Church, and says of those who talk during the service, that when the Holy Scriptures are read, not only a veil, but even a partition, if one may call it so, and a wall, is upon their hearts." The veil, he says, of the sense is the sound of the words; but not even so much as this comes to them, who either stay away from the solemn assemblies, or come there and behave inattentively. Thus you see what strict attention "turning to the Lord" was then supposed to require, Now merely to attend may seem to some a simple thing enough: but those who have tried know it to be no small effort. But then we must well observe what else is implied in that turning to the Lord which the apostle mentions as the condition of the veil being withdrawn. Attention by itself is not enough; children we see will sometimes attend to their lessons in order to be rewarded; or out of a sort of curiosity, just to know what is said; it must be accompanied by prayer, and must be itself of the nature of prayer. Christian obedience is a great condition of all the promises we have heard. Without this, turning to the Lord is but a mockery, and it is vain to think of the veil being taken away. And, finally, as Moses at our Lord's transfiguration saw that in course of real accomplishment, which in shadow God had showed him in Mount Sinai long before — saw the skirts of the glory of God, the Incarnate Son glorified, and partook himself in His brightness; so shall it be one day with all who faithfully turn to Christ; and in the meantime His Spirit is with them to change them, unknown to themselves (for Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone), after the one image, from glory to glory.

(Plain Sermons by Contributors to the Tracts for the Times.)

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