Spiritual light and intellectual perplexity

We gain spiritual light at the price of intellectual perplexity; a blessed exchange doubtless, (for which is better, to be well and happy within ourselves, or to know what is going on at the world’s end?) still at the price of perplexity. For instance, how infinitely important and blessed is the news of eternal happiness? but we learn in connexion with this joyful truth, that there is a state of endless misery too. Now, how great a mystery is this! yet the difficulty goes hand in hand with the spiritual blessing.

It is still more strikingly to the point to refer to the message of mercy itself. We are saved by the death of Christ; but who is Christ? Christ is the Very Son of God, Begotten of God and One with God from everlasting, God incarnate. This is our inexpressible comfort, and a most sanctifying truth if we receive it rightly; but how stupendous a mystery is the incarnation and sufferings of the Son of God! Here, not merely do the good tidings and the mystery go together, as in the revelation of eternal life and eternal death, but the very doctrine which is the mystery, brings to comfort also.

Weak, ignorant, sinful, desponding, sorrowful man, gains the knowledge of an infinitely merciful Protector, a Giver of all good, most powerful, the Worker of all righteousness within him; at what price? at the price of a mystery. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory;” and He laid down His life for the world. What rightly disposed mind but will gladly make the exchange, and exclaim, in the language of one whose words are almost sacred among us, “Let it be counted folly, or frenzy, or fury whatsoever; it is our comfort and our wisdom. We care for no knowledge in the world but this, that man hath sinned, and God hath suffered; that God hath made Himself the Son of Man, and that men are made the righteousness of God.”

The same singular connexion between religious light and comfort, and intellectual darkness, is also seen in the doctrine of the Trinity. Frail man requires pardon and sanctification; can he do otherwise than gratefully devote himself to, and trust implicitly in, his Redeemer and his Sanctifier? But if our Redeemer were not God, and our Sanctifier were not God, how great would have been our danger of preferring creatures to the Creator!

What a source of light, freedom, and comfort is it, to know we cannot love Them too much, or humble ourselves before Them too reverently, for both Son and Spirit are separately God! Such is the practical effect of the doctrine; but what a mystery also is therein involved! What a source of perplexity and darkness (I say) to the reason, is the doctrine which immediately results from it! for if Christ be by Himself God, and the Spirit be by Himself God, and yet there be but One God, here is plainly something altogether beyond our comprehension; and, though we might have antecedently supposed there were numberless truths relating to Almighty God which we could neither know nor understand, yet certain as this is, it does not make this mystery at all less overpowering when it is revealed.

And it is important to observe, that this doctrine of the Trinity is not proposed in Scripture as a mystery. It seems then that, as we draw forth many remarkable facts concerning the natural world which do not lie on its surface, so by meditation we detect in Revelation this remarkable principle, which is not openly propounded, that religious light is intellectual darkness. As if our gracious Lord had said to us; “Scripture does not aim at making mysteries, but they are as shadows brought out by the Sun of Truth. When you knew nothing of revealed light, you knew not revealed darkness. Religious truth requires you should be told something, your own imperfect nature prevents your knowing all; and to know something, and not all,—partial knowledge,—must of course perplex; doctrines imperfectly revealed must be mysterious.”