Plain Sermons by Contributors to the Tracts for the Times
2 Corinthians 3:12-18
Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:…
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.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: