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the knowledge of God or want of growth in the knowledge of Him, as not really a sin, but only as a loss to ourselves.
Now I think this book of Hosea shows us very clearly that not to know God, and not to grow in the knowledge of God, is not merely a sin, but the most grievous wound we can inflict on our loving Father's heart. It is grieving the Holy Spirit, whereby believers are sealed unto the day of redemption. It is this coming short of the knowledge of God that is pointed to here as the offence of Israel: “Till they acknowledge their offence” (v. 15); not their loss of privilege, but their offence. For what is it our gracious God and Father desires above all things—desires more than active service or consecration of goods ? Look at the next chapter (vi. 6): “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." God wants to be known, to be understood, to be sympathised with by His creatures, and specially by His own children. What can be more grieving to a father's or mother's heart than to be misunderstood and therefore misrepresented ? —that the children, on whom they have spent love, labour, and everything, should grow up to misunderstand their parents, not entering into their purposes or sympathising with their deepest feelings and desires and plans? Therefore it is that our Father in heaven throughout this book presses upon His children not only the loss of privilege to themselves, but the pain, the grief, to use Scriptural language, it is to Him that they do not cultivate His society, live in His sight, and enjoy His presence and fellowship with Him. Hence He says (chap. vii. 13, 14, 15), “They have fled from Me.” “They have transgressed against Me." “They have spoken against Me." “They rebel against Me." “ They imagine mischief against Me." And (v. 4), “ They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: they have not known the Lord.”
And hence it is in the opening words of the prophecy of Isaiah that we find our Father opening His grief to His people, and saying, "Hear, O heavens; and give ear, O earth : for the Lord hath spoken: I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel doth not know, My people doth not consider.” Can we find any language throughout the Word of God more strikingly and more touchingly expressive of our Father's desire that we should know Him, enter into His society and understand His character and
purpose ? It is, therefore, an "offence" to grieve the Holy Spirit of God.
Now what must be the consequence of that? Every sin entails chastisement. Specially must" judgment begin at the house of God.” And therefore we find that this sin that touched the Lord in His most tender point, His heart of love, was visited by chastisement. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge : because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to Me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (chap. iv. 6). But mark, this chastisement is a loving one from the hand, not of a judge, but of a Father and Saviour; and therefore, while they grieved His heart by their lack of desire to know Him, yet He does not give them up : “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim ? Mine heart is turned within Me, My repentings are kindled together” (chap. xi. 8). There is the heart of love breaking out over them. I cannot let you go; I cannot visit you with extermination as I did those guilty cities. You are My loved ones; I have sent chastisement on you that you may seek My face and return to Me. He loves; therefore it is He deals so patiently with His children. “I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt. And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call Me Ishi ; and shalt call Me no more Baali. And I will betroth thee unto Me for ever ; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the Lord” (chap. ii. 14, 15, 19, 20).
There is nothing better for God's heart, nothing better for us, nothing better for time, nothing better for eternity, than to know the Lord.
Now see the result of this experimentally in the sixth chapter : Come, let us return unto the Lord : for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up.” It is blessed when chastisement results in a desire to return to the Lord. Many may have come to this hall as an interesting place to hear about these things. May all have but one desire
to know God better by what they have heard here, and to increase in knowledge by practically obeying His will. They may have grown cold, and have got into the wilderness. What must you do? “Come, let us return unto the Lord.” And then mark the result. “ Then shall we know if we follow on to know the Lord.” Salvation is unconditional, but communion and knowledge is strictly conditional. It is if we follow we shall know. So Paul felt when he counted "all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ —that I may know Him." And mark the certainty of that result. “His going forth is like the morning." It is established. There is something stable, regular, permanent in the ways of God.
They are like the morning. You know where to find the light in the morning. It is an absolute certainty that as the sun rose in the east this morning, so it will rise in the east, and not in the west, to-morrow morning; and you know where to look if you want to get the knowledge of God. His going forth is like the morning. He is nigh at hand, and not hard to find for those who follow on with a conscious desire to know Him. Every one of us may know Him better to-day than ever before.
And at the same time the morning is gradual, you cannot tell when the first beam of dawn breaks on the earth. And so the knowledge of God is a gradual thing. Sometimes perhaps we have a break in the cloud, and the glory of God seems to suddenly shine forth in the face of Jesus Christ; we may remember distinct experiences of the kind. But in the main it is like the light of the morning; it is gradual, as well as stablished and certain.
And then mark how ready He is to vouchsafe it to us. Not merely shall we follow on to know the Lord, but “He shall come to us." Yes, as the father ran to meet the prodigal son returning, He shall come to ineet us, and His coming is "as the rain," gentle, soft, bringing fresh life, and fertility, and joy, and peace, into our souls.
I have only here pointed out a few passages, which, I hope, will help us each one to follow on to know the Lord; showing, as they do, the sorrow inflicted on the heart of our Heavenly Father by our not seeking to know Him; and the blessed way of advancement and growth in that blessed knowledge. God grant that may be the result of this Conference, for Christ's sake. Hymn No. 27 was sung:
“Come, let us to the Lord our God
With contrite hearts return."
And the first address of the morning was given by the
REV. JOHN H. SHAW, M.A. In absolute knowledge of God, as we heard yesterday, we must admit that we are but as Agnostics ; though in relative knowledge of God, we claim the position and privilege of children. The knowledge of what God is in Himself is beyond our present faculties; it is too wonderful for us, so high, we cannot attain unto it
. But with the knowledge of what God is to us, as revealed and related to us in Christ Jesus, it is different. There we may cry, “My God, we know Thee !” There we may " freely know the things that are given us,” to know "of God." Our absolute knowledge of God necessarily must be most imperfect ; whilst our relative knowledge of God may be most clear and comforting, soul satisfying, and soul saving The little child of some mighty monarch may know nothing of his great sire's puissant sway, but he may know right well that sire as a loving, tender, compassionate, and forgiving father. So, we, if we have received the Spirit of adoption, may know God as Abba, Father; may know Christ as Saviour and Shepherd ; may know the Holy Ghost as Comforter, Sanctifier, and Indweller. And so know God, not with a theoretical and speculative knowledge that leads simply to bewilderment, but with a knowledge personal, practical, and experimental, leading to those blessed results which are brought before us as our subject for this morning, on the first three of which I have been requested to speak. The knowledge of God : ist, the Essence of Life ; and, the Ground of Faith ; 3rd, the Source of Peace; and for the sake of linking them together, allow me to paraphrase them thus : (a) The knowledge of God imparted to the soul, its Life. (6) The knowledge of God exercised by the soul, its Faith. (c) The knowledge of God rested on in the soul, its Peace.
First, the knowledge of God imparted to, and received by the soul, is the soul's spiritual life. Christ tells us that in this knowledge consists the very essence of life, spiritual and eternal. “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee
the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent" (John xvii. 3). The life eternal of the soul is not merely the continued existence of the soul, nor its endless duration. It is rather the life belonging to eternity. In the knowledge of God consists the life belonging to eternity, the highest state of being of which the creature is capable.
There are depths in this wondrous saying of the Lord Jesus that we with our present faculties are unable to fathom. It need not surprise us. No wonder it is difficult to understand what life spiritual and eternal is, since it is most difficult to understand or define what mere physical and natural life is. We may define life as consisting in the inherent powers of motion and assimilation, Take the very lowest form of life with which we are acquainted—the cell of protoplasm. You find it a little vortex of motion, and of constant growth by continued assimilation. This is life in its simplest form ; a marvellous force though; one that man with all his ingenuity cannot produce or even explain. “He knoweth not whence it cometh, or whither it goeth." Latest scientific experiments have conclusively established that it is never a self-produced thing ; that “ life can only come from the touch of life;' no material or physical forces can evolve it.
The inert particles of life are only quickened as they are brought under the spell of an agent already living.
And in life there are various stages and denominations. There is vegetable life ; that is the lowest st There is animal life ; that is a distinct stage higher. There is more of life in a bird than in a tree. The bird is alive to many a thing to which the tree is insensible, and so to speak, dead. And not only is the circumference of life, as it were, enlarged as we advance in the scale, but another form of life begins to make itself manifest in the animal kingdom. Found almost in a startling degree in some of the lower insects, e.g., ants, but which reaches its highest development in man. I mean mental life. A life that consists not in the motions of matter in the body, or the assimilation of matter by the body; but in the motions of thought in the mind, and the assimilation by the mind of ideas. We speak of this mental life as intelligence, or the property of knowing and acquiring knowledge. It is superior to vegetable life. Indeed, vegetable life does not seem capable of it, for we do not speak of intelligent plants. It is superior also to mere animal life, and is something superadded to it.