Sunday, April 2, 2017

Great is the mystery of godliness

And, without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness:  God manifested
in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles,
believed on in the world, received up to glory.            1 Timothy 3:16

     All the graces are mysteries, every grace.  Let a man once know it, and he shall
find that there is a mystery in faith; that the earthly soul of man should be carried above
itself, to believe supernatural truths, and to depend upon that he sees not, to sway the
life by reasons spiritual; that the heart of man should believe; that a man in trouble should
carry himself quietly and patiently, from supernatural supports and grounds, it is a mystery. 
That a man should be as a rock in the midst of a storm, to stand unmoveable, it is a mystery. 
That the carriage of the soul should be turned universally another way; that the judgment
and affections should be turned backward, as it were; that he that was proud before
should now be humble; that he that was ambitious before should now despise the vain
world; that he that was given to his lusts and vanities before  should now, on the contrary,
be serious and heavenly-minded:  here is a mystery indeed when all is turned backward. 
Therefore we see how Nicodemus, as wise as he was, it was a riddle to him when our
blessed Saviour spake to him of the new birth, that a man should be wholly changed and
new moulded; that a man should be the same; the same man for soul and body, yet not
the same in regard of a supernatural life and being put into him, carrying him another way,
leading him in another manner, by other rules and respects, as much different from other
men as a man differs from a beast.  A strange mystery, that raiseth a man above other
men, as much as another man is above other creatures.  For a man to be content with his
condition, in all changes and varieties, when he is cast and tossed up and down in the
world, to have a mind unmoveable, it is a mystery.  Therefore St Paul saith,
Philip. 4:11-12, 'I have entered into religion,' as it were, 'I have consecrated myself.' 
The word is wondrous significant.  'I have learned this mystery, to be content.'  It is a
mystery for a man to be tossed up and down, and yet to have a contented mind.  'I can
want, and I can abound; I can do all through Christ that strengtheneth me.'  Why? 
I have consecrated myself to Christ and religion, and from them I have learned this point,
to be content.  Therefore in the text here,—as we shall see afterwards,—not only divine
truths are a mystery —'great is the mystery of godliness'—but he insists on particular
graces, 'preached to the Gentiles, believed on in the world:'  these are mysteries.
     In Christ, all is mysteries:  two natures, God and man, in one person; mortal and
 immortal; greatness and baseness; infiniteness and finiteness, in one person.
     The church itself is a mystical thing.  For under baseness, under the scorn of the
world, what is hid?  A glorious people.  The state of the church in this world, it is like a
tree that is weather-beaten.  The leaves and fruit are gone, but there is life in the root. 
So, what is the church?  A company of men that are in the world without glory, without
comeliness and beauty; yet notwithstanding, they have life in the root, a hidden life: 
'Our life is hid with Christ, in God,' Col. 3:3.  The church hath a life, but it is a hidden
mystical life, a life under death.  They seem to die to the world, but they are alive. 
This is excellently and theoretically followed by St Paul:  'As dying, and yet we live;
as poor, yet making many rich,' 2 Cor. 6:9.  A strange kind of people; poor and rich,
living and dying, glorious and base.  Yet this is the state of the church here in this
world.  They are an excellent people, but they are veiled under infirmities of their
own, and the disgraces and persecutions of the world.  So we see both the doctrine
itself, and the graces, and the head of the church, and the church itself, are nothing
but mysteries.
                                                                                           Richard Sibbes, D.D.

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