HOW MAY MAN KNOW GOD?

BY A GRAYLOCK PULPIT

" In God's spiritual universe there are no favorites of Heaven who can attain knowledge and spiritual wisdom apart from obedience. There are none reprobate by an eternal decree, who can surrender self, and in all things submit to God, and yet fail of spiritual convictions. It is not therefore a rare, partial condescension of God, arbitrary and causeless, which gives knowledge of the truth to some and shuts it out from others, but a vast, universal, glorious law. The light lighteth every man Chat Cometh into the world. If any man will do His will, he shall know." — Fred W. Robertson.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Matt, v: 8.

Many, tell us that we can not know God. He is still declared to be, what He was to the old Greeks, the "unknown God." More than that, He is said to be "unknowable." The teaching of Jesus is that we can know God. Is there any real disagreement here between philosophy or science on the one side and religion on the other? We believe that there is none. The differences, where they exist, concern the methods of search for God. All men must agree that God is wholly unknown and unknowable, if sought for in the wrong way. When could one reach a given town, if he persisted in going in the opposite direction than that indicated by the guideposts? When would one secure his winter's fuel, if obliged to fell the forests with a razor or dig anthracite with a pitchfork? It is here contended that everyone must reach the conclusions of the atheist, if he uses the method of the atheist, and that everyone must reach the conclusions of Jesus, if he employs the method of Jesus. Nature, as the word is commonly used, can not make us acquainted with God. We may catch suggestions of God. The poet will find hints of God. For the most part what we learn intensifies the sense of solitude felt in the silence of a great desert. What a silence! Age upon age

came and went with no voice to assure the soul of man, that his future was unlike that of the "clod which the rude swain turns with his share and treads upon." Nature is cold, pitiless, cruel. Pain and want, cold and hunger, war and pestilence, famine and earthquake, drugs which set the nerves on fire, brutal lust, all-mastering greed, the struggle for survival, the cry for bread, men from time immemorial crawling over each other like the worms in Jerusalem's sanitary valley, everywhere reveal nature, "the whole creation groaning and travailing in pain together until now." If this picture were unrelieved, annihilation would be the happiest of all thoughts. Nirvana would be Heaven, Satan would be God. We may learn some things about God from nature. There are attributes of God which we call natural. These attributes are suggested by

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8 A GREYIyOCK PUI<PIT. nature. Everywhere we discover order, power, knowledge, thought in adaptation. What ease we see in the swinging of the spheres in their cycles and the speed of light in its flight. But are we consoled to know that God is strong without knowing how He uses power? Can we say even that the acquaintance opens well, till we find opening before us, what He is as well as what He does? Disposition is deeper than function. The heart of God is the highest kind of knowledge. The disposition which underlies action, the long kept secret, interior intention of the Divine mind, that is motive for the universe, and liberty for all God's children. Nature, as ordinarily defined, gives us no knowledge of this sort. If our definitions are wrong, we ought to change them. There is no sense in forgetting that human nature is not only a part of nature but the best part. Man is the very flower and fruit of nature. Why should we insist on traveling about the globe to find God, when the soul itself is the very consummation of God's work. To be sure, were our senses our only faculties, we could not logically deny the existen::e of God, till we

had visited every star. If God is not on earth he might be in Mars. If not in Mars, try Jupiter. Fortunately human nature is more than physical sensation. Our experience is wider and deeper than sense-perception. From this supersensuous, but not supernatural, part of our human nature, we find the direct and growing sense of God's inner nature. We are loyal to the method of nature. At first we adapted physical powers to physical objects and obtained physical results, or at the best intellect working with matter. Now we adapt another range of powers in another realm of objects and gain their natural ends. Both are natural and depend upon the everlasting nature of God. Some object to forming ideas of God out of our experience. They say no two men will have the same idea of God. There is nothing definite and authoritative to their minds in this method of knowing God. It is too much mingled with human error to command their allegiance. It is too subjective, too mystical, too imperfect. They demand a whole loaf or none. Sense-perception seems so much more real to them, that they demand sense proof for spiritual things, or become, in event of no miracle, agnostic. It is not contended that a man is lost, if he makes an honest endeavor to smell with his tongue or hear with his eye, but the possession of spiritual faculties, their use and the honoring of them, are our sole hope of knowing the God of Nature in those higher attributes, the beginning of which in man separate him most widely from the brute. This method is all we have. It is this or nothing. The skeptic sneers and says, *'ye5 an honest God is the noblest work of man." This ''work of man," however, acquires its nobility from the deeper fact, that **an honest man is the noblest work of God." Blessed is the honest man, for he will recognize honesty in others. Blessed are the pure in heart, for by virtue of that purity they shall stfe God. According to the clearness of the soul lens will be the vision of the eternal. This is necessarily the only method of knowing God.

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A GREYI^OCK PUI.PIT. 9

The believer in verbal inspiration of Scripture is very apt to say that he obtains his knowledge of God from the Bible alone. He seems to treat the Bible as though it fell from the skies. He, like the materialist, seeks for a "sign," and has not learned to trust the method of Jesus. He may forget the promise of the Spirit to teach the soul. He follows the method and authority of the scribes, rather than the spiritual law of the soul's knowledge. The objection against "anthropomorphism" is not well founded. It can only be fairly advanced against the abuse of taking human experience to represent God. The Divine method is used, according to a Divine intent and object, when our higher experiences are interpreters of God. It is abused, when we follow the practice of barbaric days, and derive ideas of God from the lower experiences of mankind. Real knowledge of God's nature, the nature which alone makes life worth living, and any kind of knowledge worth knowing, is that which is w^orked out in our experience, as free as possible from artifical, external and purely material sources. The reason of man occupies a high place in nature. It has a vast critical capacity. On the constructive side, it has limitations which become very marked in dealing with our moral nature. The Greek mind ^-as so given to philosophy as to make it their religion. Many Christian men have been caught in its sophistries. They have been led to transfer emphasis, once given to Christian living, to an intellectual articulation of belief and to formulated statements of faith. They have feared to trust the life itself in their zeal to answer questions of philosophy. The creed has thus been deified. This abuse of a method does not disparage its rightful use. Again men have so feared to trust the reason, even as a servant of the moral sense, that they have demanded a "deposit" of grace and authority which would lift from man all responsibility of knowing God or having a direct access to Him. The Church, or the divinely succeeding repreentatives of an original vicar of Christ, receives this supposed "deposit," and man goes free from any earnest search for truth in the spiritual realm. Both the agnostic and theoretically this sort of churchman unwittingly agree to give up this quest for the knowledge of God. One says it can not be found. The other says the Church must find it for us. The result is, that neither make the discovery, because it is supposed to be beyond reach, or is said to be something conveyed to the soul rather than life in the soul. The fact stands that our knowledge of God's higher

nature is obtained through our corresponding higher nature, or the simple principle that like understands like. This method of knowing God falls in with all we discover in the study of the world's religions. It explains how our idea of God keeps pace with our historical and national development. This gives us a key to the understanding of the evolution which underlies both the Old and the New Testament histories. It comes out in a thousand changing forms of expression, in narrative, and parable, in proverb and song, in familiar epistle and drama. "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God."

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10 A GREYI^OCK PULPIT. "Everyone, that loveth, is born of God and knoweth God." "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him." "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." "He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father." Passages might be indefinitely multiplied, to show that there is no other process of Divine Revelation to man than that of spiritual unfolding in the soul. The spiritual sense, of each man and each age, is a host to receive the Divine guest and a message for that age and person. It is a question of hospitality. He still comes unto his own, and His own receive Him not; but as many as receive Him, to them gives He the power and the right to become the sons of God. They become conscious that they are princes and they live as those who rejoice in their royalty. All other faculties, and all other agencies, become valuable simply by their power to serve the supreme love of the soul. How miserable is the life which lives only to seem, and not to

be right, to wear the uniform of the soldier, yet to refuse battle. We are able to deceive one another to an extent, but we can not deceive ourselves or God. Consider how the man of artifice and policy may, during a long life, live a tolerable career among his fellows. Suave and smooth in his outward dealings, he conceals a heart essentially cold and selfish. During the day of his mental vigor, he has the art of holding the mask over his life. He is, at last, in his second childhood. The mask falls and reveals a soured old man. That which he has been all along, now works itself out, and the man stands this side of the grave, discovered. The opposite is also true; a man of rather brusque style, awkward, of plain speech, frank to a fault when communicative, trained to silence, at last reaches his old age judgment day, only to show the world his mellow, kind and generous soul within. Each has a God. To the one God is only a creator; to the other He is a saviour and friend. A young man leaves his home full of ambition, goes to college, decides to be a physician, wins a considerable success, cultivates his soul very little, fails to find the larger life of the spirit, conforms to the average standards around him, retires from the practice of medicine, goes on a last visit, as by instinct seeking for the early associations which gave him ideals long since crushed and forgotten, and finally finds his way, leaning on his staff, to the old homestead. He wanders down the woodland path to the spring where his boyhood face had often found a smiling reflection. Kneeling down, to look once more into the same old mirror, he is startled to behold the sad and haggard face of a poor old man. Here he kneels, who is not accustomed to kneel. Faith, hope and love have not been his habit. His second childhood has brought him, at the eleventh hour, to a spirit that he ought ever to have cherished. God is the smiling face of youth reflected in the clear spring of the soul's innocence. He is under the penitent face of wisdom which ever lingers after ethical knowledge and which is perfected there if not here.

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A GRP:yI,OCK PUI.PIT. 11 We see as much purity as we have purity. We see as much of God

as there is God in us. We have also the faith faculty, which can take what we have and carry it up to heroic size, and in this vision God actually energizes to bring our attainment to new heights, from whence faith gains new hope and is inspired for new ascent. There is also a danger in the use of the right method of knowing God. "Now abideth" ethics, religion and love, but the greatest of these is love, because it includes both ethics and religion. We are in constant danger of being creatures of one idea. We emphasize ethics to the exclusion of spirituality or we make the gospel idea strong and despise morals. Not perhaps in proportion to the development of the ethical life, but still in that life, there is tempation to think, "this is my character" to the exclusion of the part and honor of God. Indeed the modern Pharisee is common. His God is small because no larger than himself. He is a dwarf, an arrested development. Sometimes he stands praying reminding those who hear, that he at least has done many wonderful works. Sometimes he sulks and will not come in, because some one is being sought for with more demonstration and attention than he receives. Sometimes he is one who joins some organization to rail at some other organization, but they are all marked alike, as those who are enamored of themselves. Some cases are more aggravated than others. Some can conceal and some can not conceal the disease, but it is the old story of Godless self-sufficiency. G-o-o-d spells God by the omission of one o» The God in all good is more than three to one in the constituent elements. We are often too ethical. In other words, we do not recognize God's true place and share in all goodness. What God unites, we put asunder. God is synthetic. We are too exclusively analytic. We allow the spirit of investigation to destroy the repose of faith. Worse than this, we call ethical preaching practical, Gospel preaching, mystical and dreamy. Such a man prides himself that he is walking on the solid earth. He sheds no tears that men have not risen up in literature to take the place of Emerson, Longfellow, Bryant, Hawthorne, and others on this side of the sea, or Tennyson, Wordsworth, Burns, Milton and Shakspere on the other. He is happy because he is not an idle dreamer like some religionists whom he knows so well. Then on the other hand, there is another one sided man, who loves to pray and sing. He may be sentimental, mercurial, easily responsive to moral truth as it appeals to feeling. He can not be charged with having a low or secular line of life. He is even unwarrantably afraid of ethicsHe fears that men will have narrow and contracted ideals. Their ethics are not Divine, or in a sense ethical enough. He believes that morality

ought to be moral toward God. We are thus led to ask why not combine love to God with love to man? Why not obey the great law of love which comprehends both sides instead of raising up a race of men who throw at each other from opposite sides of society? Hither side alone is sadly defective. In the moral realm subtraction is easier than addition, but addition is life and subtraction is death. "And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and

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12 A GRE\XOCK PLXPIS. to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge self-mastery; and to self-mastery patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things be in yon, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and can not see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins." After we have given all diligence to add virture to faith, we still find that it is God's all-wnse method to save men by their greater moral development. God's gifts are not physical and fiat gifts to pauperize us, they are often gifts of hardship and pain. Nothing is handed to us by the magic of the Cross. In the Cross is the heart of God combined with its most ethical and crucial test of conduct. True repentance is therefore a repentance toward Him who sees in onr faith a desire to attain and bestows upon us power. This Divine heart purity ever seeks new fields of effort, and widens to comprehend the world. It can pray, not only in traditional lines of custom, but under a haystack with God's lightning for frescoes and the institution of the American Board for its sequel. New life will make new ethics for old organizations. New bottles for new wine are ever at hand. Finally then, we are to know God's love by love in ourselves. We may appropriate God by love for the ideal in Christ and by the additional inspiration of The Holy Spirit. Despite our imperfections and despite

our sins, we shall find in God's Spirit power to fulfill the manhood of Jesus and to enjoy the beatific vision.

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