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mystery hidden for ages and for ge- person of Christ, as the Divine Medinerations; and yet in earlier times ator, as the actual incarnation of the result was abundantly declared God's eternal and co-equal Son. And when the Lord proclaimed Himself to the statements of Scripture on this Moses,—"The Lord God, merciful point are very wonderful, but not and gracious, longsuffering, and more wonderful than true, and as abundant in goodness and truth, suited to the circumstances and real keeping mercy for thousands, forgiv- necessities of man as they are true. ing iniquity and transgression and sin, They hold out a satisfactory prospect and that will by no means clear the of hope for another and an eternal guilty.”
existence, which elsewhere man has But in later times, since the coming not; a hope that it were sad indeed of the Son of God in the flesh, the to lose sight of, for if we have not this mystery has been made known, and hope in Christ, there is nothing for us we are permitted to see, in the atone- but dark uncertainty and despair. ment of Jesus Christ and the recon- But let any man give himself sericiliation of the world through the in- ously to this subject; let him dive finite merit of His propitiatory death with honest earnestness into the Scripin the fresh, how it is that God can be tures; let him examine accurately, just, and yet absolve and accept and scrutinizingly; let him see whether bless a sinner,
one part tallies with another, and It is then in the study of the work whether there are, or are not, in this of Christ especially that we arrive at book of a thousand years, any serious an accurate theoretical knowledge of discrepancies either as to the characGod. “In Him dwelt all the fulness ter of God or the work of redemption, of the Godhead bodily.” Christ was and he will find the issue of anything the only begotten Son which was in like a fair inspection of the record to the bosom of the Father, and who be a deeper conviction of the wisdom hath declared Him to us. Christ, as and harmony of the whole system, the Mediator between God and man, a more clear and satisfactory knowis the mysterious and gracious point ledge of God's character, and a graof communication between finite and dual opening to his mind of the mysinfinite mind; and all that man can tery of incarnation and atonement, so yet know of God is contained in the that he will see the wisdom and scriptural declarations made respect- beauty of it, and the consistency and ing Him. These declarations go di- dignity and glory of such a dealing rectly to shew, that though man has on the part of Him who framed the sinned, God is a reconciled God, and worlds and the inhabitants thereof. that now is a day of salvation and of There will gradually come forth to acceptance, if men will hear and not his mind the mystery of God's triune harden their hearts; that a way of nature, the practicability of such an return to God, and of admission to incarnation, the adaptation of it to His favour and to the assured hope man's guilty and lost state, and to the of eternal glory with Him, is open to satisfaction of Divine justice, and the us, if we will seek it.
propriety of an entire alteration of These great and blessed truths flow the dealings of God towards those from the revelation given to us of the who in His mercy are led to avail themselves of this His offered salva- others. There is a practical knowtion. Many a man who began to read ledge of God, which is essential to the Scriptures with doubts has gradu- the having the mind stayed on Him. ally become delighted with the accu- Doubtless, through God's mercy, the racy and minute perfection of every close study of Scripture theoretically part of the scheme of grace, as it has often leads to this practical knowopened before him, and has been ledge; and sometimes, also, this prac-compelled to exclaim, “O the depth tical knowledge is full and saving, of the riches both of the wisdom and even when theoretical knowledge is knowledge of God! how unsearcha- comparatively scanty; but clearly one ble are His judgments, and His ways may exist without the other, and it past finding out!”
behoves every one to receive with We have been speaking hitherto of very great seriousness and self-applithe theoretical or speculative know- cation, the truth that a man may ledge of God. There are these cerhave a very accurate knowledge of tain truths set forth in Scripture, in what is the scriptural doctrine re80 many plain terms, so that it is specting God and salvation, without competent to any one who will be at any real practical knowledge of God the pains, to gather them and form for himself, any effectual reverence them into a system or digest. The for God or love to Him, and without truths contained in that blessed book any saving efficacy of the christian are plain and palpable, and may be scheme upon his own heart and confound as the truths of any other book science. are found, either in so many direct We must know God practically. statements or by comparison and fair And what is this practical knowledge? inference, on laying one passage aside It is the actual application of the of another. And in this way a man doctrines of Scripture to the heart, so may arrive at the whole system of that we feel that we have to do with christian doctrine as a revelation of them as the most important realities God, and may make up his mind' of our present existence. The Scripcompletely as to the truth and sub- ture declares the omnipresence of stance of the christian religion, and God, and that He is a God near at as to what it declares of the atone hand and not afar off, and made ment, of the forgiveness of sins, and known to them that seek Him, so that of the life everlasting.
they live in the light of His counteBut something more than this is nance. The practical knowledge of necessary. This is to know God theo- God is the consciousness of this reality retically; but if we stop here, it is not of God, so that a man deals with God to know Him usefully and savingly. even in the private depths of his A man may have the whole scheme heart as certainly and really as he of christian truth in his head, without does with any other being, in positive any hearty or saving application to it. converse and communion, and is senHe may have accurately ascertained sible that he can address God as the relative bearing of its doctrinal knowing the very secrets of his heart points, and yet feel no living interest and spying out all his ways. A man in the operation and influence of the should feel to be practically in God, as system upon his own heart, or that of he feels in the blaze of day enveloped
and illumined by it; nay, further, he theorist, but all such theorists may should feel that the palpable nearness rest assured, that in the practical of his body to the warming, enlight- knowledge of God there is a reality ening, invigorating radiance of the in the comparison of the testimony of sun, is but a weak emblem of the re- conscience with the testimony of God's ality of his relation to that infinite law, which is most tremendous in its power in whom he lives and moves influence on the heart. It is described and has his being. Look to the con- by St. Paul in Rom. vii. 9, 10, when he duct of the Old and New Testament says, “I was alive without the law saints, and see how powerful are their once: but when the commandment conceptions of the reality and omni- came, sin revived, and I died. And presence of the glorious Jehovah the commandment, which was orThere is no reason why it should not dained to life, I found to be unto be so now with us. There is abun- death.” Now that coming of the dant promise that God will dwell with commandment with power upon the us, and walk in us, and manifest Him- conscience, is what the mere theorist self to us, and make His abode with in Christianity cannot comprehend, us, and give us of His Spirit. And and that is the practical knowledge of all this amounts to more than a mere God's holiness, and the practical bearspeculative and rational conviction ing of it upon a sinful and responsithat there is a God. It is acquaint- ble being. Would that we all knew ance with Him.
it as far as is sufficient for salvation !
holy, sin-hating God, "of purer eyes different cases; but no man can be than to behold iniquity.” The practi- saved who has not known something cal knowledge of God is the feeling of it, because “the whole have no comparison of God's holiness with our need of a physician, but they that are individual guilt; not merely talking sick.” We must be awakened to a theologically about it, nor formally sense of our danger, before we can saying, “We have done the things we make any real application for help ought not to have done, and left un- and deliverance. We must find the done the things we ought to have holy law of God's nature to be a midone,” but realizing it as a man re- nistration of death to us as sinners, alizes the avalanche just bursting before we shall ever humble ourselves from its base and about to overwhelm to seek for shelter in any other attrihim. Such a sense of the fact that bute of God's character than His God hates sin, that God has denounced justice. vengeance on sin, as compels the man But then the Scripture speaks of to look honestly and fully, and with forgiveness, of grace, of reconciliaalarm, at his own case, and say in the tion, and sets forth, as we have shewn, depth of his heart, “O Lord, who a system of peculiar wisdom, symmeshall stand?" "I have sinned; what try, and beauty, for the purpose of shall I do unto Thee, O thou Pre- bringing about this forgiveness. The server of men?” “O Lord, rebuke practical knowledge of God extends me not in thine anger, neither chas- to the belief of the redemption of the ten me in thy hot displeasure.” It is Gospel as effected by God, and the impossible to describe this to a mere sincere application of the soul, in consequence of that belief, to be mind becomes as truly occupied with made a partaker of the benefits of God's power, holiness, justice, and that forgiveness. It is one thing to mercy, as it does with the same know theoretically that there is for- qualities in men. The Spirit takes giveness, it is another to be pleading of the things of Christ and shews with God from the secret depths of them to us. The Spirit convinces of the soul, in all the reality of want, sin. The Spirit leads to the fountain under an awful sense of guilt and of the waters of life. The Spirit asdanger, and with the idea full before sures of forgiveness and salvation, the mind that God is on a throne of and bears witness with our spirits that grace, that “the blood of Jesus Christ we are become the children of God. His Son cleanseth from all sin.” And It is by the Almighty himself, who it is a step further in the practical made the heart, thus revealing Himknowledge of God, when we actually self to it, and manifesting Himself realize the sense of forgiveness, when there as He does not to the world. It we have by the clear and consolatory is thus that we acquire the practical intimation of the Word, an assurance knowledge of God. We know Him, that our God and Father has absolved because He has revealed Himself in us from all our offences and received us by the ordinary influence of His us to Himself as dear children, hav- Spirit. ing an inheritance secured to us be- 2. The second point towards hav. fore His throne in light; when we ing the mind stayed on God is, to can consider the cross of Jesus, and have it brought to a full approbation dwell upon His love, and breathe of God so revealed. This is essential after communion with Him on the to entire confidence and repose. We throne of His glory, and have the cannot altogether confide in one mind elevated in communion with whom we do not thoroughly approve. Him above present trials and difficul. And this is a state to which the practies, and know that we have fellow- tical Christian is gradually brought. ship with the Father, and with His Originally we dislike God, shrink Son Jesus Christ.
from Him, and mistrust Him. It is The practical knowledge of God because we do not know Him. How does extend to this realizing of a con- could we mistrust infinite goodness nexion with God; and the great prin- and love, if we knew it to be such? ciple of it, by which it is made to dif- The practical teaching of the Holy fer from a mere systematic view of Spirit goes far, therefore, to remove truth, is, that the Spirit of God has this mistrust, because it shews us the brought divine truth to bear power character and dealings of God with fully upon the soul. As no “man sinners in a very different light, and knoweth the things of a man, save leads us in contrition, and child-like the spirit of a man which is in him, humiliation and simplicity, to come to even so the things of God knoweth God as a willing Redeemer. And no man, but the Spirit of God;" and the gradual effect of such teaching to whomsoever that Spirit is commu- and its results in experience, is to nicated, God, and the things of God, produce full and unhesitating satisbecomie perceptible realities, as real faction in God. We try other sources as visible material things; and the of comfort and they dry up; we try
other friends and they fail us; but der the most humbling and oppresthe longer we live, the deeper our sive sense of guilt, there is no mistake need, and the more full and unquali- as to what God is. We may think ill fied our application to God for help, of ourselves, and of our deserts, but strength, and consolation, the more we cannot think ill of God, or of His abundant is our conviction of His wil- dealings with us. He “spared not lingness, and ability, and readiness to His own Son, but freely delivered help and deliver. So that though the Him up for us all.” When we were earlier years of the Christian's course at enmity with God, He called us by may be marked by fears and dishon- His grace; when we were dead in ouring suspicions, these pass away, trespasses and sins, He quickened us and each succeeding years experi- together with Christ; when we were ence confirms more abundantly the the slaves of Satan, He broke our testimony that God is good, that He chains and gave us liberty; when we is love, that He giveth liberally and have wandered, He has brought us upbraideth not, that no good thing back again; when we have not bea will He withhold from them that walk lieved, He has continued faithful ; uprightly, that all things shall work when we have forgotten Him, He has together for good to them that love not forgotten us : but just according God, and that His salvation is a pre- as comfort or chastening was really sent realized salvation.
needful, in kindness and in mercy He There is such a thing as the im- has administered it; and on all His movable conviction of experience, dispensations, of whatever nature, that the friendship of an earthly throughout all the vicissitudes of our friend and fellow-creature is real and earthly pilgrimage, there has been constant. The past history of the manifestly written, Infinite wisdom deeds of friendship may make that and infinite love. To feel this is to certain beyond all allowable or just be satisfied question. But the Christian's practi- And then, thirdly, when by the cal experience of what God is to those correct practical knowledge and exwho love and fear Him, becomes perience of God, as He is revealed in something more sure than this. It is His word, the Christian's mind has a conviction grounded on what God been brought to this full approbation has revealed of Himself, grounded on of God, then comes the staying of the what God has done in Christ for the mind upon God, the ready and full redemption of the soul, on the way confidence in Him for all the future, in which He has applied it to the for time and for eternity. We must. soul, by effectual calling to repent first know God, then thoroughly apa ance and to holiness, and on His kind prove of Him and love Him, and and faithful providential care, and then trust in Him; and just in progracious teaching, correction, and portion to the accuracy of that knowcomfort, to the soul ever since. And ledge, and the fulness of that approarising from these several elements, bation and regard, is the confidence there is found within the believer, an we place, the staying, the bearing up entire affectionate approbation of, and of the mind under all difficulties. delight in God; so that even in the Now it is no light matter to trust darkest of His dispensations, and un- this invisible Being for all the contin