« ForrigeFortsett »
In the motions of thought, in the emotions of feeling, in the assimilation of ideas, lies the life of the mind, just as in the circulation of the blood, the play of the lungs, the sensations of the nerves and the assimilation of food, resides the life of the body. The body lives whilst it breathes; the mind lives whilst it thinks.
Now, let us carry on this process of thought a stage further. Man possesses, in addition to a body and a mind, which are (the one altogether, the other at least to some extent) common to him with the lower animals, a soul, distinctively breathed into him by the Divine Being ; and in the possession of this soul there lies the possibility of his attaining to a still higher development of life to that which is possible to the mere animal creation. Just as an animal is capable of a higher life than a vegetable owing to its possession of a brain, so a man is capable of a higher life than a mere animal, owing to his possession of a soul. The endowment of a soul gives him the possibility of attaining to that which is the highest stage of life, viz., spiritual life. And in what does the spiritual life of the soul consist? When does man's soul begin to live? And how is its life maintained ? Mental life begins when the first glimmer of a thought flashes through the newly-formed brain. With the first ray of intelligence begins the thought-life of the mind. So the life of the soul begins—how? To use the very words of inspiration, when “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shines into the heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” It is the creative act of omnipotence quickening into life the soul of man. In the earth's primal chaos, the matter previously existing, possessed the possibility of being quickened into motion and thrilled by light waves, though it could never have so quickened and illuminated itself. The brooding Spirit of God must come, the living agent from above, bending down to inert matter beneath, and quickening it into motion must thrill it with light's luminiferous waves. And just so, dear friends, the brooding Spirit of God must quicken man's dead soul, creating the first motion in the soul by the illumination of the soul with the knowledge of God in Christ.
It is a personal thing this. Oh! I trust all we here have experienced it. The "Holy Ghost must come upon us, and the
power of the Highest overshadow us,” that so this Divine life may be spiritually conceived in us, and Christ implanted in our hearts the hope of glory. He that so hath the Son “ hath life," whilst “he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life.” And as the life of the soul begins with the reception of the knowledge of God in the person of Jesus Christ by the soul, so the existence of life in the soul is sensibly indicated by the emotions of the soul which that quickening knowledge of God in Christ calls forth-emotions of trust in God-love towards God-hope in God-emotions which the carnal mind of man simply cannot have, and which are just as much beyond him, because his soul is still dead, as thought-life is beyond the plant, because it has no brain wherewith to think. And then with the motions of the quickened soul towards God there comes also the property of the soul now as a living thing, of acquiring more of God by assimilation, becoming more and more a partaker of the Divine nature, by growing in grace and in the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Thus, then, the knowledge of God imparted to, and received by the soul, is the soul's spiritual life. Its further assimilation is the soul's spiritual growth, and this is a process of life which from its very nature is undying, a process of growth which from its very nature is unending, an eternal life, not endless existence merely, but a life that constitutes the life of eternity. “This is life eternal to know Thee the only true God” (aye, mark that, not some fictitious deity of man's imagining; and on! what idol divinities are even here in England set up in the chambers of man's imagination—but God the only true) "and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent."
This is a life which is necessarily eternal—to use a biological phrase (which some of you, perhaps, may be familiar with from its occurrence in a remarkable book* from which I have culled not a few thoughts)—because it is “uninterrupted correspondence with a perfect and unchanging environment." The life of the musician is not eternal, he lives only in the sphere of music whilst he hears; let him become cut off from it, let him become deaf, and his musical life is dead : let the artist become blind, and his artistic life is over ; but upon no bodily functions, nay, not even upon any mental functions, does the life of the soul consist. The body may die; the brain may perish; but the soul lives on, because the life of the soul is to know not music, or painting, or anything with which it is connected through the bodily organism, but to know God. To know God is to correspond with God, to have communion with God, and so to live in an eternal sphere which is beyond the reach of the changes of death, dissolution, and decay. A life, oh glorious thought ! that through the ages of eternity shall be an ever-expanding life. Christ came to impart to us the knowledge of God that so we might “have life and have it more abundantly”; here at the best we but see “through a glass darkly, and know in part; but then shall we know even as also we are known." And in the ever-increasing knowledge of the infinite greatness and goodness and glory of God we have a life capable of infinite expansion, and so capable of everincreasing bliss. Well may we pray, in the words of the old collect, "O God, mercifully grant that we who know Thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of the glorious Godhead through Jesus Christ our Lord."
* Drummond's “ Natural Law in the Spiritual Life.”
But we must pass on more briefly, and consider if the knowledge of God imparted by the Spirit to the soul is life, that knowledge exercised by the soul is faith. This is the first motion of the soul when quickened by the Spirit, that which shows the soul has passed from the sphere of death into that of life. And this motion of the soul is called forth in the soul by the knowledge of God imparted by the Spirit to the soul; and this brings us to the second text before our thoughts this morning, Psa. ix. 10, “They that know Thy name shall put their trust in Thee." I need not remind you that in language of antiquity a name always characterised some description of the persons to whom it belonged. Emphatically is this the case with the name of God. The name of God is the revelation of the character of God, God Himself proclaims it as such. Moses
prays, “Show me now Thy way, that I may know Thee." God put Moses in the cleft of the rock, and proclaims the name of the Lord. How? With grandiloquent and sonorous titles, as earthly monarchs are heralded ? No, but by a declaration of the character of God. “ The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty," What is the Old Testament but a revelation of the name of God revealed there in picture just as He is in the New Testament revealed in person. Look at the different names of God. What do we find in them but God making by them a revelation of Himself to His people ? The Almighty God, the Jah-Jehovah, the self-existent Being, becoming to perishing men Jehovah-Jireh, the Provider of the ransom; Jehovah-Rophi, the Lord the Healer; Jehovah-Nissi, the Lord the Conqueror; JehovahShalom, the Lord the Peacegiver; Jehovah-Tsidkenu, the Lord the Sanctifier; and, lastly, Jehovah-Shamah, the Lord the Indweller.
Now in the New Testament all these scattered rays are gathered up and focused in One, JEHOVAH-JESUS. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son." And how speaks the Son? “I have declared unto them, O Father, Thy NAME, and will declare it.” So “the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true.”
Now this knowledge of God's name—that is, of God's character as revealed in Christ—will lead to what? “They that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee.” The knowledge of God's character received into the soul will show itself by the soul's exercise of trust. The foundation of trust, be it ever remembered, is knowledge. Faith is not some extraordinary emotion of the soul that the poor soul has to wriggle itself into. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God,” for the “ entrance of Thy Word giveth light.” God's Word is the medium for imparting through the Spirit God's knowledge, and that knowledge truly received into the soul necessarily leads to faith being exercised by the soul.
A bank-note is tendered me. It is a promise to pay, but by whom—the Oriental Bank Corporation? Should not have it. That institution has lost its good name; would not trust it. Another note is handed me; this bears the name of the Bank of England. Ah, that is a different matter. I know that bank has a name for solvency and stability. So without any hesitation I take the note just for what it stands. I do not ask for any discount off its amount, as I might if there were a shade of suspicion attaching to its name; I just take it for what it appears on its face to be worth, so confident am I that it will be paid to the full in the sterling coin of the realm. My knowledge of the character of that great institution leads me to implicit trust in the promises of that institution. So a knowledge of the character of God will lead us to be fully persuaded, as was Abraham, “that what He hath promised, He will be able also to perform."
Take another illustration. A maiden is woced by one whose character she knows and esteems, and thus on whose word she relies. He tells her of his love. She believes it. He tells her of the future happiness he has in store for her if she will be his. She trusts him as she would not a stranger. She gives him her heart, she entrusts her future to his keeping, and commits her all to his charge. Now the great God condescends to woo us by the revelation of His love to us in Christ. Have
“known and believed the love that He hath to us”? If so, we will give Him our hearts, and entrust Him with our all. St. Paul did so. “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep the deposit I have committed to Him against that day."
We see, then, that the knowledge of God received into the soul when acted on by the soul is faith, and when rested on in the soul is peace; and this brings us to our third text, Job xxii. 21, “ Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace. The knowledge of God, and that God the true God, is the only knowledge that gives peace. The knowledge of things in the world around us, does that give peace? “He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow,” as we see “all the foundation of the earth out of course,” and “the whole creation travailing in pain together.” The knowledge of things within, can that give
The heart knoweth its own bitterness, its own plague. It is like a troubled sea that cannot rest. But the knowledge of God comes and gives peace. For it is the only knowledge that enables us to look, without actual desperation, on either the world without or the world within. So far as the world without goes, it shows us that the present state of things is developing to a glorious consummation, all working together for good. So far as the world within is concerned, it comes and speaks peace to the troubled heart. The soul is disquieted by the conscience of sin. God makes Himself known as forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and shows us how He can be faithful and just in doing so since peace has been made by the blood of the cross. The soul is harassed by cares and anxieties, but it learns that God is a Father, that He knows our every need, and in all our affliction is afflicted; that He is all-powerful, and therefore that His resources can never be limited ; that He is all-wise, and therefore can never make a mistake; that He is all love, and therefore can never be unkind, or neglect us, or cease to care for us : and so we learn to bend