C. H. M. on the Mystery, a teaching NOT to be found in the Old Testament

(From his Notes on Numbers, pp. 126-128)

     But there is a bright day coming, when Jehovah-Messiah shall rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in His people. The prophets, from Isaiah to Malachi, are full of the most glowing and stirring allusions to that bright and blissful day. To quote the passages would literally fill a volume. But if the reader will turn to the closing section of Isaiah's prophecy, he will find a sample of that to which we refer; and he will find many similar passages throughout the various books of the prophets.

     We must not attempt to quote; but we would warn the reader against the danger of being led astray by the uninspired headings attached to those magnificent passages which refer to Israel's future, such, for example, as "The blessings of the gospel!"==="The enlargement of the Church." These expressions are calculated to mislead many pious readers who are apt to take for granted that the headings are as much inspired as the text; or, if not inspired, that they, at least, contain a correct statement of what the text sets forth. The fact is, there is not a syllable about the Church from beginning to end of the prophets. That the Church can find most precious instruction, light, comfort, and edification from this grand division of the inspired volume, is blessedly true; but she will do this just in proportion as she is enabled, by the Spirit's teaching, to discern the real scope and object of this portion of the book of God. To suppose, for a moment, that we can only derive comfort and profit from that which exclusively or primarily refers to ourselves, would be to take a very narrow, if not an egotistical, view of things. Can we not learn from the Book of Leviticus? And yet who would assert that section refers to the Church?

     No, reader; you may rest assured that a calm, unprejudiced, prayerful study of "The law and the prophets" will convince you that the great theme of both the one and the other is God's government of the world in immediate connection with Israel. True it is that throughout "Moses and all the prophets" there are things concerning (the Lord) Himself. This is plain from Luke xxiv.27. But it is "Himself" in his government of this world, and of Israel in particular. If this fact be not distinctly seized, we whall study the Old Testament with little intelligence or profit.

     It may seem to some of our readers, a strong statement to assert that there is nothing about the Church, properly so called, throughout the prophets, or indeed in the Old Testament; but a statement or two from the inspired pen of St. Paul will settle the whole question for any one who is really willing to submit to the authority of holy scripture. Thus in Romans xvi, we read, "Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets [evidently of the New Testament], according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith." Verses 25, 26.

     So also in Ephesians iii, we read, "For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me to you-ward; how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ;) which  in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;* that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel. . . . . . . And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been HID IN God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be kown by the church the manifold wisdom of God." Verses 1 - 10.

     But we must not pursue this deeply interesting subject of the Church; we have merely referred to the foregoing plain passages of scripture, in order to settle the reader's mind as to the fact that the doctrine of the Church, as taught by Paul, finds no place in the pages of the Old Testament; and therefore, when he reads the prophets and meets the words "Israel," "Jerusalem," "Zion," he is not to apply such terms to the Church of God, inasmuch as they belong to the literal people of Israel, the seed of Abraham, the land of Canaan, and the city of Jerusalem.**  God means what He says; and, therefore, we must not countenance aught that borders upon, or looks like, a loose and irreverent mode of handling the word of God. When the Spirit speaks of Jerusalem, He means Jerusalem; if He meant the Church, He would say so. We should not attempt to treat a respectable human document as we treat the inspired volume. We take it for granted that a man not only knows what he means to say, but says what he means; and if this be so, in regard to a poor fallible mortal, how much more so, in regard to the only wise and living God, who cannot lie?

[CHM's footnote]

* The "prophets," in the above quotations, are those of the New Testament, as is evident from the form of expression. Had the apostle meant Old Testament prophets, he would have said, "His holy prophets and apostles." But the very point he is insisting upon is that the mystery had never been revealed until his time -- that it was hid in God; not hid in the scriptures, but in the infinite mind of God.


 [A second CHM footnote}

**. . . . We have no revelation of "the Church," properly so called, in the Old Testament scriptures.