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came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.” O privileged place ; dis
; tinguished hour; exalted and glorious converse ! What would we give to share such transcendent favor! So near to heaven; "eye-witnesses of his majesty ;" hearing the very attestation of the voice of God!
While his readers might so indulge or framo their sentiments, the apostle interposes, as if to say ; “ The pageant was indeed gorgeous and astounding. I almost swooned at the glare of its radiance; and knew not what to do or where I was. But let none envy us ; none especially who have the Bible! There “the prophetic word is " made“ more firm,” more permanent, more complete for every desirable purpose. Jesus Christ is its all pervading theme: and instead of a voice so transient, so secluded, so dense and brief in its comprehensive import, commending him to your confidence ; you have a volume of accomplished and accomplishing truth, equally divine, equally from heaven, equally intelligible. Peruse it, meditate it, follow it forever."
The prophetic word as spoken on mount Tabor, and the prophetic word made “more firm” in the scriptures ; these are plainly the subjects of comparison: as Friend Bevan himself might have seen; or any other ignorant man that could look at the context, and take the scope or simply the continuity of the argument. Does any man doubt that the Bible is meant, by the “light that shineth in a dark place ?" The immediately following verses make it obvious : “knowing this first, that no prophecy of
the scripture is of any private interpretation ; [or origin, as some prefer;] for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” verses 20, 21. This we ought to “KNOW FIRST" or chief!
I have said that the true and plain sense of this text is ruinous to the pretensions of Quakerism. For
1. It shows the superiority of the scriptures as a rule. The voice miraculous that he had just panegyrized to our wonder and our faith, is less firm, less permanent, less full, less satisfactory, less every way to be desired, than the prophetic word of scrip
Will any one now say that his own inward light' is superior ? But grant for a moment that it is—how it demonstrates the ignorance or mental weakness of the apostle, who in commending his readers to a superior light to that on the mount, never mentioned the glorious rule of Friends, which makes the scriptures “secondary” by its own nobler effulgence! He surely knew nothing of it.
2. It shows the practice of primitive christians ; “whereunto-ye take heed;" in walking by the rule of scripture. It shows also the commendation of God for that cause. “ Ye do well,” says the apostle; encouraging their adherence and piety. But he does more. He puts an imprimatur upon the excellence of the scripture, and its spiritual utility in the scheme of salvation, its subserviency in the constitution of God throughout the whole process of piety in the soul, that seals its value as supreme; that shows it, from the very nature of its office and its use, the paramount rule in religion; and that shows as well the nature of religion, vital, genuine, sober, enlightened, and true religion, as distinguished from all counterfeits ; for we “do well taking heed to its light” as long as we sojourn in this “ dark place;" and “till the day dawn and the star of morning arise in our hearts.” The morning-star, “sure pledge of day, that crowns the smiling morn,” is used in scripture as the sparkling image of hope. Rev. 2: 28. 22:16. Col. 1:27. 1 Tim. 1:1. It rises here “in the heart;" implying delighted and purified affections in religion, as connected with the influence of hope in Jesus Christ. 1 John, 3: 3. It is plain that this experience is consequent upon rightly “taking heed” to the light of scripture. “The dawning of the day” is much cotemporaneous in nature with the rise of the star of morning; that beauteous phosphor (Pwo popos) of the dappled orient, that glittering harbinger of splendid day, that bright precursor of the sun, shining in his glory! I care not to analyze poetically or rhetorically the force and finish of the figures, picturesque and glowing and apposite as they are : but would say in brief, they evidently refer to the whole of experimental religion; they claim the instrumental cause of scripture truth for all that is genuine in our experience; they require us to elevate and honor that “light” as paramount; and there is no reasonable fear of dishonoring the agency and office-work of “the eternal Spirit,” by following “what he saith unto the churches,” respecting the end for which he
furnished us with his own thrice blessed word! It appears evident that the figures, of the “ day dawning” and “the star of morning arising in our hearts," are in apposition; the latter being an explication of the former, and both referring to piety in this world, as viewed in connection with its consequent and certain glorification in the next. Here at best it is but the progress or the perfecting of authentic hope ; it is
; comparative night or the dawning only, of the day of everlasting holiness and glory. “The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble. But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." Reader, do you hope on a death-bed to say, “I have fought a good fight," unless you can also say, “I HAVE KEPT THE FAITH ?” If not, then “TAKE HEED to the light that shineth in a dark place;' and beware of false lights, inward lights, and blind guideshowever smooth and affectionate they seem!
Errors not soon corrected :
Is most to be suspected.—ALTERED FROM Cowper.
Give me a man of wisdom, of principle and moral courage, of honesty and steadiness.
3. It represents the scripture as a most precious treasure, invaluable and solitary; and the ruin of the world without it: “A LIGHT THAT SHINETH." It shines steadily, purely, benignly, certainly, superlatively. And it is one, not many; a unit, not a plurality ; its light is all homogeneous, unique, di
vine. Besides, It shineth “in a dark place;" a place of darkness and pollution : εν αυχμηρω τοπω. Such is our world. So God views all the inward light of men. Reader, suppose you were traversing, for instance, the tunnel of the Thames, or some hideous mine or cavern of the earth, or rather the catacombs of Paris ; were marching with one lighted flambeau only, along the well described but narrow path of that awful subterranean receptacle of “ dead men's bones" if not of “all uncleanness;" and had advanced some one or two miles of your way from the aperture of your facilis descensus, and were beginning to think of the returning process; revocare gradum; would you not look at the precious light in your hand with a high and hearty estimate, “midst upper, nether, and surrounding darkness ?" How dependent you would feel on its friendly beams! Now, suppose two strangers should appear, or two voices greet you in the dark; one would assure you of a superior light to be seen by just shutting your eyes and looking at the interior of yourself; the other would commend you to value that in your hand, as “a light that shineth in a dark place,” to “take heed” to it, and trust no other medium of vision or of conduct, till you arrived at open day, or saw clearly the peering light of the aperture above: would you not require to be made vERY SURE INDEED of the comparative inferiority of the light in your hand, before you would either throw it away or trust the other, in such “ a dark place ?” There truly some visitors are said to have lost their way and left their own bones in