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strange dream he had had the night before. He dreamt he was about entering the future world, the unknown world, and that one came to him, holding out a garment with which he must invest himself ere he could enter. But he tried in vain to put it on. He could not undo the fastenings. On three successive fastenings there were inscriptions. On the first was written, “Know God; on the next was written, “Who can know God?”. and on the third was written, “None but God can know God.” He could not unfasten them. Poor dying Hebrew, he had not the key of David, the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; and he was very sad. His sons were unable to help him, and the Rabbi himself was unable to unlock the meaning of his dream. It was a sad scene, and he told a solemn truth.
"None but God can know God.” We must be in God before we can know Him, and therefore He makes us partakers of the Divine nature, and gives us His Holy Spirit that we may know Him. Blessed position, glorious science in which to advance. Oh, how He teaches us if we are willing to learn, and obedient in following His precepts! How wonderful the classes through which He leads us ! Sometimes the brightness of prosperity, at other times the darkness of sorrow and suffering, but each of them that we His children may learn to know Him, to understand God.
Now, dear brethren, the Bible is the revelation of the knowledge of God. In the book of Ezekiel, for example, the very key to the book, seventy-one times repeated is, " That ye may know that I am the Lord." The expositions of our brethren, however fertile, suggestive, or Scriptural, cannot of themselves lead one soul here into the knowledge of God. We may know the theory, beloved friends; but it is practice that enables us to know the Lord; it is experimental knowledge we want ; experience, not exposition, however valuable that exposition may be. And therefore whilst to-day, and on the two succeeding days, we listen to what our friends bring forth from God's Word, things new and old, may God grant each one of us the deep yearning desire to turn it all into practice ; for it is only in obedience to the Father's will that we have fellowship with Him and learn to know Him who is a Spirit, in spirit and in truth.
Thus and thus only shall our Conference of 1884 be truly blessed to each one of us. I tremble to think lest any have come, merely because it is one of the religious gatherings of the year from which they do not like to be absent. Have you come to face God? Have I? I ask myself; I ask you, If we have not come to receive with meekness the engrafted Word which is able to save our souls, then I believe Mildmay Conference—though a wonderful privilege and means of gracewill be one of the witnesses to rise up and condemn us out of our own mouths. God forbid any should be here as a sort of religious excitement, or from a mere interest in the outward and external things of religion, even though it be in the letter of the Word! God give us all the Spirit of grace, of supplication, of liberty, and of love, and then we shall indeed learn to know Him whom to know is life eternal.
Prayer was presented by the Rev. C. A. Fox, after which the first address of the morning was delivered by the
REV, H. W. WEBB-PEPLOE, M.A.
, If a sense of awe in any degree proportionate to the vastness of the subject that God has given us to dwell upor. in these three days of Conference is now upon all gathered here in God's sight, there must be an exceeding blessed condition of soul. We have never entered together on a subject so vast as this.
Never have we sought to gaze into depth so fathomless, so solemn, and so all-influential as this subject contains. The subject is “ To know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.”
“I know more of Jesus Christ than of any human being on earth,” said an aged Christian, when asked for a reason of the hope that was in him. And we have in that one sentence the expression of a true theology : the expression of a faith on which a inay
live and die. And it is surely a very beautiful thing for us to-day to be able to say, “We know more of God's dear Son than of any human being on earth.” “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." We are told "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," May He give us to see the face of His Son, by whom God hath granted to us this exceeding precious Gospel !
Again, if we turn to the words of the Lord Jesus to His disciples, we find that, enumerating the blessings of atonement, life, and glory, He said, "If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also : and from henceforth ye know Him and have seen Him." And when one asked that they might see the Father, He said, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” And in the seventeenth verse of the same chapter we read, concerning the Spirit of God, " The world cannot receive Him, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him ; but
ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” Hence we see our way to the manifestation or knowledge of the three Persons of the Trinity. God is one; but God is Father, God is Son, and God is Holy Ghost. While by experimental knowledge we may know the Holy Ghost, because He dwelleth in us, and is ever working in us, the knowledge of Jesus Christ becomes manifested to us by the Holy Ghost, who opens it to us; for the knowledge of Jesus is ever revealed to us by that instigating and guiding Spirit of God: and the knowledge of the Father can only be gained by the declaration of the Son through the Holy Ghost. Now, while we dwell below, there are limitations in this knowledge, as indeed in all knowledge which man is aspiring to; and though there shall come a day when we shall not have to say, “Know the Lord, for all shall know Him, from the least unto the greatest," that is not now. We are still looking for the day when “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is,” and when “we shall know even as we are known." Meanwhile our aspiration is to have an experimental knowledge of God, by the Holy Ghost, in the face of Jesus Christ, to understand God as He has revealed Himself as the Father; and never to forget that no religion is in consonance with God's Word that contents itself with a knowledge of the working of the Holy Ghost, or even the knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is blessed to see the Holy Ghost power revealed in lives that are controlled by the Word of God; and many can say truly, "I believe in the Holy Ghost.”. There are many more, perhaps, who will speak of their delightsome knowledge of Jesus as their personal Saviour, through the precious blood, and as a mighty Keeper through the power of the Spirit, who after all forget there is any God the Father to whom Jesus Christ desires to bring us.
This is, as I understand it, the knowledge after which we aspire this day, and it is the very noblest and highest of all aspirations; that we may know God, the great God—not even to be contented with Jesus Christ His blessed Son, and certainly not to be contented with Him who commences the work in our souls and carries it on until we reach perfection, that mighty Spirit “of power, of love, and of a sound mind.” We are to rise in the Spirit by Jesus Christ to the knowledge of God the Father in Heaven. And to this I pray you now to aspire.
Now, in entering upon the subject given us to-day, I observe that the syllabus does not declare what is meant by the knowledge of God," and as I am privileged to open the Conference, and there are other dear brethren who will follow on the points I do not touch, I feel I am at liberty to dwell on the more general aspect of this wonderful “knowledge of God.” Unquestionably the subject is one that pervades the whole Word of God as constantly, as impressively, as any that can be named.
At the very outset of man's history we read of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I suppose that God purposed the enjoyment of that tree as the final reward of obedience. It pleased God in His Divine wisdom that the creature should be subjected to a test of his childlike obedience, and, yielding that, he would doubtless have been permitted to enter into the full enjoyment of that wonderful gift of God, when God had proved that His creature was fitted to have and enjoy it.
And there are preliminary stages in this knowledge of God for us, just as there seem to have been for Adam, that knowledge of the Divine which we can only receive from God. This knowledge is not like those mental attainments which we aspire to on earth. The two aspirations are totally distinct. This is plain; and yet we must emphasise the fact, however much like a platitude it seems to assert it; for there is no one subject on which there is such liability to error in our day as on this particular subject of the knowledge of God. Wherever we move we find the knowledge of the Divine, if there be a Divine, is the aspiration of almost all intelligent persons.
And there are two divergent and very peculiar errors which I fear are exceedingly prevalent, and 10 which all of us are liable. There is, on the one hand, the endeavour to find God by bold speculative study, to attain to a mental knowledge of God, and to discover everything hitherto unknown. There riever was a day in which men so aspired to enter into the reason of everything brought before them; and while, with all gratitude to God and thankfulness to men, we acknowledge the wonderful devotion on the part of scientists and philosophers, in seeking to attain to the knowledge of everything in the world, we cannot fail to see that this knowledge cannot make us wise unto salvation. It is altogether a contradiction of Scripture to speak of this as the knowledge which God desires His creatures to attain to in their souls. It may be useful, and collaterally help to swell our knowledge of God's power in one realm or other of His works. It is good to study the works of God in Nature, but that is different from seeking the knowledge of God Himself, by whom Nature exists; and it is altogether beside the question for which this gathering assuredly takes place in God's sight to-day.
But there is another error, and one, perhaps, more dangerous to ourselves, an error into whiclı many are falling by reason of the great and glorious gatherings of men who are spiritually seeking to know and love the Lord. In these we greatly rejoice, and bless God for the manifestation of His Spirit given thereby, but there is a great danger that in the excitement of emotional and sentimental delight we forget that God is as it were behind all this, and that if we are to know Him as He would be known we must seek after Him for His own sake, and not for feelings of delight. There is a danger that multitudes may find their highest aspiration in yielding to these emotional delights, attempting to satisfy themselves with what is, after all, at its best, but one of the results of knowing God. There may be a collateral help even in such emotions, but emotions are not the knowledge of God. Thus we find that neither with the brain nor with the feeling can man know God in any true sense of the word. The knowledge we desire to attain to is altogether distinct from these.
Now, we have already remarked that the importance of this knowledge of God may be traced from Genesis to Revelation. Few of us are aware how constantly in all parts of the Word of God the knowledge of God is brought before us, and the need made evident that, if we would be blessed, we must know Him in the true sense of the word. And though men in old times were aware of this, and constantly aspiring after it, and yet never could attain to anything like the true knowledge of God, surely we in these days, under the Gospel dispensation,