But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
I. IN WHAT DOES THE VEIL CONSIST? Especially in prejudice and in unbelief. As the Israelites were so persuaded of the incomparable excellence of the Mosaic Law that they could not discern the higher revelation to which that Law was designed to lead, so oftentimes men's minds are so preoccupied with their own notions of religion, of righteousness, etc., that they are not prepared to give heed to the Divine manifestation and appeal.
II. WHAT DOES THE VEIL HIDE? The covering referred to in the context hid the face of the lawgiver; but the veil of error and of unbelief conceals the countenance of Christ, the revelation of Divine attributes, purposes, and promises. What it would be most for our interests to behold we may, by our sin and folly, obscure from our own view. See what we may, if we behold not the light of God's glory in the face of Jesus Christ we forfeit the highest privileges of which we are capable.
III. HOW IS THE VEIL REMOVED? The answer is very simple, "When it shall turn to the Lord." That is to say, the obstacle to spiritual vision lies with ourselves and not with Heaven. Repentance, or the turning of the heart away from sin, is the condition of true enlightenment, Whilst the mind is occupied with itself and its own inclinations and fancies, the spiritual glory of the Saviour is not discernible. It only needs that, under the guidance of the Spirit of God, the mind should look away from self to Christ, in order that at once the scales should fall from the eyes of the beholder, and the veil should drop from the face of the Redeemer, and a true revelation should take place.
IV. WHAT DOES THE REMOVAL OF THE VEIL EFFECT?
1. The transitory character of preparatory dispensations is clearly discerned; the veil being dropped, it is seen that the glory of the older covenant has gone.
2. The true glory of Christ and of Christianity is made manifest; the new covenant appears in all its splendour, unfading and eternal. - T.
Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech
(Prof. Lewis Campbell.)
But their minds were blindedI. 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 —
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.
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.)
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.
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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