« ForrigeFortsett »
and with the revelation of God in Christ, may not only aspire after, but attain to, a real saving and joy-giving knowledge of God!
When we turn to Job xi. 7, we find Zophar asking, “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?" This is true; and yet not only does Jesus Christ declare that to know God is life eternal, which shows that it is essential, and is, of course, the central thought in this matter for us, but by one of those writers who preceded our Lord there is a very remarkable statement, more or less inspired (though not, of course, like the Divine writings); I allude to the book of Apocrypha, wherein we read, “To know Thee is perfect righteousness; yea, to know Thy power is the root of immortality" (Wisdom of Solomon xv. 3). What a glorious sentence from the pen of one who was not directly inspired! Now, so vastly important is the matter, that we find the Apostle Paul, in one of his Epistles (1 Cor.) bringing before us twenty-five times the knowledge of observation, twenty-seven times the knowledge of reflection, and four times what is called perfect knowledge, the deep experimental knowledge of enjoyment. In each case he employs, of course, a different word in the Greek. First, levwOKO); second, οιδα ; third, επίγνωσις. So that fifty-six times is this wonderful subject, knowledge, brought before us by one Apostle in one Epistle. Take another example. The Apostle John, in his First Epistle of five short chapters, speaks twenty-five times of the knowledge of observation, and fifteen times of the knowledge of reflection. Forty times in one short Epistle! Who, then, can attempt in a few minutes to do justice to the wonderful subject ?
But if we ask what is meant by the knowledge of God, we may reply that this knowledge implies unity of nature, community of goods, similarity of taste, and a constant yearning after the same end.
We say, then, that in order to have this knowledge of God there must be an unity of nature. You remember that “Except a man be born of God, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” How many deceive themselves with the idea that this knowledge is to be gained by constant study ! Whereas we receive this knowledge by the gift of God. The gift of God is eternal
life. The Holy Spirit quickens our souls, and then this knowledge becomes possible. It is not until the Spirit of God has entered the soul of a man that he becomes in a position to commence, or enter upon, the study of God. Until we possess the life of God we are never in a state in which it is possible to have an elementary knowledge of God. If there be one, therefore, this morning in this assembly who is conscious that he has not been made partaker of the very life of God, let that man know that he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. “For," says the Apostle Paul, in 1 Cor. ii. 11-14, what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, ; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth ; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God : for they are foolishness unto him : neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” “The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” We must be “partakers of the Divine nature,” i.e., we are united to God, being begotten of God (1 John ii. 18); and this is not by the self-exaltation of man, but by the condescension of God. That unity brings us into our proper position for the enjoyment of the very being of God (2 Cor. vi. 16, &c.). Thus it is man gains the first step of his possible future by being bound closely to the absolutely unknowable.
But further, not only must there be a unity of nature, but also a community of goods (1 Cor. iii, 21-23). We have seen that it is impossible for any to know any man who is not in sympathy with the one he would know. This truth has been traced by theologians in language that might appear hardly becoming to a gathering like this. But all can apprehend the thought that if a man would know the Divine he must have the Divine. If a man would know another he must be so united to that other as to have a sense of perfect community of interests, &c., in all that belongs to that oher whom he would know. There must be sympathy and there must be realisation of oneness in habits, tastes, desires, property, and prospects (Rev. xxi. 7). And if man has not thus realised the things given him of God, it is vain for him to speak of his knowledge of God. Let there be this realisation of trust in God, this knowledge of the things which God gives us in Christ (1 Cor. ii. 12), and we are in a position to commence further study of our God.
I might now proceed to show that God has granted this knowledge of Himself, in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, by the communicating power of the Holy Ghost; but on these two points I do not propose to enter at length ; but rather I would indicate the conditions on which this knowledge of God is to be attained, and the nature of the knowledge we may hope to gain when the conditions are fulfilled. I have dared to define these conditions as unity of nature, community of goods, similarity of taste, and constant aspiration towards the same end; and you will readily see now that without unity of nature and community of goods we cannot commence the study of the knowledge of God. Again, God is in Heaven. God is a Spirit. How can we know Him until we are made partakers of the Divine Spirit? But how many there are who profess the faith of a Christian, and yet have never believed and realised that we have been placed far above all principalities and powers in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, and that God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus! Surely, the one lack of the Church to-day is simple belief in God's Holy Word, as God Himself has put it before us.
I remember when I first came to Mildmay-I believe ten years ago, I was staying at the house of your late superintendent, Captain Moreton, and he asked me to visit a dying girl. “ Can I help her ?” I said. “No," was the response, “but she will help you.” He then told me that her dying words to him, as he left her bedside, not expecting to see him again in this life, were, “I love to be alone in this room.” " Why?" "Because," she said, “I have Him now all to myself; and He is so real to me. Is He not to you?” I never forgot these words, “ He is so real to me. Is He not to you ?” Must we not be really with a real God to know God? Must we not be in Heaven with Christ, really realising our sitting there with Him in the heavenlies, in order to have a true knowledge of God?
Further, there must be implanted in us similarity of taste with God. How implanted? When a man has been by faith in Christ as it were put to death and made alive from the dead by the Holy Ghost, then that Holy Spirit implants the Divine instincts and Divine habits. Study St. John's Epistle, and see how he expressed this. His teaching seems summed up in the one expression, “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us.” “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” Now God is love ; love is the very instinct of God. It is similarity of taste and character with God that alone can make us enter into real enjoyment of this wonderful subject. But love (as God revealed it in Christ) is self-sacrifice. We must be prepared, therefore, for self-sacrifice, such as God's Son made for us. If there are those here who have come to secure emotional enjoyment at Mildmay Conference, for the mere study and holy talk without partaking of the real character of God, I remind such that that is not the way to enter upon this solemn subject committed to us in these days. The knowledge of God is closely interwoven with the self-sacrifice His Son made on the cross. He came that He might reveal God as God is : the life of God, the love of God, the very heart of God. God is a Spirit, and Jesus came to reveal the Spirit life ; God is love, Jesus came to exhibit, in the sacrifice of Himself, the very love of God. God is a fire, and He by His Son will yet consume the wickedness of the world with the holy fire of His wrath and indignation, while He will lovingly consume the dross of His saints. He would have men realise the Spirit life of love and fire, and He only makes men alive that they may know it, and then communicate it to the world.
Now, turning to another branch of study—have you ever noticed the “knows” of the sixth of Romans? I take this passage as a specimen, and you will observe how repeatedly the apostle addresses us thus, “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death ?” And in the sixth verse, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” And in the ninth verse he says, “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more ; death lias no more dominion over Him.” And again in the sixteenth verse, " Know ye not,
that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
The knowledge of God is only to be had by those who have been conformed to the death of His Son, and have entered on the enjoyment of His resurrection life, by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. In union with the Divine nature we pass into the realities of God, and begin to love as God loves; we thus begin to know God; and this is life eternal, to know Him and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent.
And now I must close by asking whether we have fulfilled these conditions on which alone we can enter on the knowledge of God. Ere we can enter on any development of that knowledge which may follow, we want to be placed in the attitude in which alone we can enter on the enjoyment of this blessing. Ask yourselves, then, as in the presence of God, whether you can truly say, "I know," according to the example of St. Paul in Rom. vi., Phil. iii., and 2 Tim. i. 12.
Certain other texts we might apply, but I can only allude to a few. For instance, in Gal. iv. 9, we read, “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage ?" The knowledge of God is not religiousness, it is not binding ourselves with legality, it does not allow the setting up of ceremonials or anything of the sort between us and God. It is to be " Free from the law, oh, happy condition.” Yes! blessed condition, to know the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and to have the love of God shed abroad by His Spirit in our hearts.
Again, in 1 John ii. 3, 4, we are warned, “Hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.” “He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." Oh, solemn words ! Unless we are giving ourselves to obedience to God's holy will and commandments, and unless we are obeying the great conimandment of God “to believe on His Son Jesus Christ, and to love one another” (1 John iii. 23), we have not yet entered on the sphere in which alone the knowledge of God is to be found.
And again, in 1 John iv. 7, we read, “ Beloved, let us love one another : for love is of God; and every one that loveth