The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
Moreover the spirit lifted me up, and brought me unto the east gate of the LORD'S house, which looketh eastward: and behold at the door of the gate five and twenty men; among whom I saw Jaazaniah the son of Azur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people.Prophetic Malediction
A remarkable characteristic of this chapter is that it gives the vision from an unexpected and totally different point of view. We are not to look upon the chapter as an historical sequence; it is rather another aspect of a dream. In the ninth chapter, those who had not divine marks upon their foreheads were slain by the destroying angels; in the tenth, the city itself, as we have already seen, had fire scattered upon it with a view to its destruction. After this we should have thought the tragedy complete. The prophet in this eleventh chapter sees evildoers again, and once more he pours upon them his prophetic malediction. We are to consider that the same things which have been before looked upon by the prophet are now regarded from a distinct point of view. Not historical sequence, but moral variation, must be regarded as the key of what follows. In the eleventh chapter the princes are judged, blessings are promised upon those who repent, and at the end the glory of the Lord vanishes altogether from the city, and Ezekiel is in vision restored to Chaldaea to tell the captives what he has seen.
From Ezekiel 11:1-12 we have the judgment on the "princes." When he was come to the east gate of the Lord's house Ezekiel saw five-and-twenty men, princes of the people. Against those men a terrible indictment is produced. The spirit told Ezekiel that the princes were the men that devised mischief and gave wicked counsels to the city. How often have we seen this prostitution of great mental power and great official authority through the service of evil! The prophets prophesy falsely; men who are ordained to proclaim the truth have taken up with the practice of telling lies, and misrepresenting the powers and thought of God; the whole head is sick, the whole heart is faint: the disease of which God complains is not cutaneous, nor does it attach itself to any of the inferior members of the body; it has penetrated the very head, the very genius, the supreme power and dignity of the state. Imagine the picture of five-and-twenty men, the princes of Israel, all given over to the conception of evil policies and the execution of selfish designs! We shall miss the whole purpose of divine revelation if we suppose that evil is local, or that it is confined to the ignorant and the poor. Evil is universal: it is in the thrones of the nations, as well as in the hovels and huts of poverty; the king has wandered as far from the standard of righteousness as has the meanest subject of his crown. Education, when not sanctified, is simply an instrument of evil. Great social station, when it is divorced from the action of a healthy conscience, only gives a man leverage, by the working of which he can do infinite social mischief. Moral security, therefore, is not in circumstances, but in character. When princes are right and just, wise and patriotic, it does not follow that the people will follow their example, or reproduce their excellences; but when the princes are of a contrary mind it is easy to imagine how their great influence may contribute vastly to the spread of wrong thinking and mischievous action When wealth is sanctified, poverty will feel the blessedness of it; but when wealth is left without sanctification, it will become an instrument of monopoly, oppression, and utterest selfishness. Does God forbear to prophesy against falsehearted princes? Is it true that all religious judgment is directed against the poor? Did the ancient prophets only make themselves free to the houses of the needy, that there they might speak their words of threatening? On the contrary, the ancient prophets thundered at the doors of kings, spoke their judgments to the occupants of thrones, denounced mighty men who were doing wrong, and impeached princes of high treason—"Therefore prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man." The message which the Spirit of the Lord delivered through Ezekiel was, "Thus have ye said, O house of Israel: for I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them. Ye have multiplied your slain in this city, and ye have filled the streets thereof with the slain." What was to be the upshot of this action? Were men permitted to do these monstrous deeds and to escape with impunity? Is there not a "therefore" in the divine reasoning?
The seventh verse will reply:—
"Therefore thus saith the Lord God: Your slain whom ye have laid in the midst of it, they are the flesh, and this city is the caldron; but I will bring you forth out of the midst of it." (Ezekiel 11:7)
This conies of alienation from God. Religious apostasy means social anarchy. When the princes ceased to pray they ceased to regard human nature as of any value; slaughter became a pastime; heaps of slain men were passed by as mere commonplaces, and the whole city became as but a caldron in which the flesh of men might be boiled. But God himself says he will make this use of the city; he will make it a caldron, and they who supposed it was a place of security shall find what uses providence can make of human arrangements. Thus the passage may be taken from either of two points of view: the princes had made the city as a caldron, or God would so make it; the place which had been regarded as a security for the living God should henceforth become only a security to the dead. Like many cf the figurative expressions of Ezekiel, it is impossible to fix any definite and exclusive meaning to his words; yet it is impossible not to see that the spirit of judgment runs through the entire issue of this malediction. The Lord says that he is proceeding on account of the sins of the people, saying, "I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them." The empire of the mind is supposed to be the exclusive property of the individual: what brother can take out of his brother's heart all the thoughts that live there? What man can read the mind of his dearest friend, and be as familiar with that friend's motives as he is with that friend's conduct? The mind can shut out the closest observer, yet the one observer that it cannot exclude is the living God. The things that come into the mind determine the real character of the mind of man. Conduct is but a short measure by which to estimate a man's character. The things that he would do are the things that he does in reality, according to the judgment of God. But this has also a gracious as well as an alarming aspect. If the sins that come into the mind arc set down against us as positive charges, all the blessed intentions which come into the heart, and which would execute themselves if they could, are also regarded as accomplished facts. The cup of water which we would give, were it in our power, is recorded in our name as if we had actually given it. Thus the way of the Lord is equal.
In the thirteenth verse there is a remarkable incident. Whilst Ezekiel was prophesying in vision, Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died. He was one of the princes of the people who devised mischief and gave wicked counsel. It would seem as if the prince had fallen dead at the prophet's feet. The incident overwhelmed Ezekiel for the moment, for he fell down upon his face, "and cried with a loud voice, and said, Ah Lord God! wilt thou make a full end of the remnant of Israel?"—as if he had said, Shall every one die as Pelatiah has died? is this but the beginning of a course of destruction? am I to see man after man fall dead at my feet? wilt thou not spare thy judgment, O Lord, and give even the worst men a place for repentance? We have already seen how the prophet himself was overwhelmed when he came to minister the judgments of Heaven: they were too heavy for him; he could not wield such thunder and remain at ease. It is one thing to hear of destruction by the hearing of the ear, and another to see it carrying its processes of desolation and annihilation through houses, and districts, and cities. All startling events should not terminate in themselves, but should be regarded as significant of the full judgment that is yet in reserve. In the death of Pelatiah, Ezekiel saw the death of all the wicked, and therefore with a loud voice he inquired whether the Lord would not stay the hand of wrath.
From the fourteenth verse a new tone is noticeable. It would seem as if for the moment the Lord was about to change his course:—
"Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord God; Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come" (Ezekiel 11:16).
Instead of "a little sanctuary" read "as a sanctuary for a little," the original word being rather an adverb than an adjective. The idea is that the sanctuary was to exist for a little time, or was to be in some degree a sanctuary. Already God has declared that he had vacated the temple, and given up Jerusalem to the wrath of the destroyer; and yet now with characteristic clemency he halts a little, and says, even in the fury of his indignation, that an outstretched hand or an eye uplifted in prayer will turn aside his anger and elicit expressions of his love.
A beautiful picture he represents in the nineteenth verse:—
"I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 11:19)
Thus can God rebuild broken and scattered ones. Through all the mind of the exiles the Lord could send unity of purpose, and could knit the hearts of his people together in one strong brotherhood. This promise of unity is set in opposition to the state of the wicked as described in Isaiah 53:6 : "We have turned every one to his own way." This is the result of self-will. Unity is broken up, and each man becomes a king to himself, and he who was his own king soon becomes his own god. The Lord's answer to all this self-completeness and self-idolatry is, "I will give them one heart and one way." The purpose of Christ, too, is that all! his Church should be one. In the Lord's intercessory prayer this: is one of the main points. In the early Church we read, "The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul." How does the Lord propose to make Israel united? He proposed as usual to proceed fundamentally. No mechanical arrangement is suggested. We cannot have unity by schedule or stipulation. We can only have unity by a changed state of heart; therefore the Lord says, "I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh." Stoniness of heart is unnatural, altogether an incongruity, wholly a libel upon the purpose of God in the creation of man. God would have us sensitive, responsive, easily impressible, so that we can be moved by divine appeals, and instantly respond to every call to the enjoyment of divine fellowship. This is the thing that is wanted in every age: not a new hand, but a new heart; not a new arrangement, but a new spirit. From the beginning the Lord has moved according to this policy: "This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts." The Psalmist cried, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." What is true of the Old Testament is equally true of the New. God's method of procedure does not change, except in things that are outward and temporary. Still it is the heart on which God fixes his attention; still it is the spirit that he would renew and establish in righteousness. The Apostle Paul says, "Be renewed in the spirit of your mind"; and again he describes the Corinthians as "the epistle of Christ,... written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart." Thus in wrath God remembers mercy. Even whilst his hand is held up and stretched out bearing a glittering sword, he is still open to the cry of penitence and to the desire of convicted hearts.
From Ezekiel 11:22-25 we have another picture of the abandonment of the city, the final departure of the divine glory:—
"Then did the cherubims lift up their wings, and the wheels beside them; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above. And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city" (Ezekiel 11:22-23).
The meaning always is that the divine glory may vanish. Let us work while it is called day, for the night cometh wherein no man can work; let us redeem the time, buy up the opportunity, seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near. Faithful preachers must always declare the brevity of the day of grace. We see how all things here are marked with brevity. How little a time there is for our education! In how short a period we have to gather our experience! Though the number of years fully told is but small, yet no man has any guarantee that he will live to see their expiry. The destroyer is at the door, judgment has already gone forth against evil-doing; at any moment the avenging lightning may strike us down. It is well to live under this consciousness of the brevity of life, when it moves us to deeper prayer, and compels us to sweeter communion with him whom we may at any moment see, as it were, face to face. Brevity need bring with it no alarm to prepared hearts; indeed, the fact of the brevity is itself an element in the true enjoyment of the Christian. He says of all separations, They are but for a little while; he says of all affliction and pain, They endure but for a moment; he says of all the unsatisfactoriness of time, The time of my satisfaction is hastening; I shall see the Lord, and be made comely with his beauty.
"Afterwards the spirit took me up, and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to them of the captivity. So the vision that I had seen went up from me. Then I spake unto them of the captivity all the things that the Lord had shewed me" (Ezekiel 11:24-25).
In these verses Ezekiel is charged to declare the vision to them of the Captivity. The spirit took him up and brought him to Chaldaea; then the vision that he had seen went up from him, and then he began to address the people, the mourning exiles, telling them of the things that the Lord had showed him. Probably this was the hardest part of the whole process through which he had passed. Sometimes the enjoyment of a vision will not bear transference into words; some joys are spoiled by speech. We keep them in our hearts; we ponder them in silence; we will not let the vision go: it was so bright, so tenderly beautiful, so exactly what the soul needed in its pain and fear. On the other hand, there are visions that must be told in the plainest terms, for on the proper telling of them much may depend of the world's education, rectification, and solid progress. But who can tell all that he knows? When the thunderer has delivered his most alarming messages, he knows that he has only spoken in whispers, for the thing that is coming is so much larger than the way in which he has foretold it Men should be careful only to say what they themselves have seen. We cannot repeat the visions of other men. They are useful for purposes of reference and for purposes of confirmation, but any vision that is to be told to the highest advantage of the hearer must be told as a vision which the man himself has seen. Herein is the power of true preaching. The preacher does not repeat a lesson, he relates an experience. The preacher takes up the visions of the ancient prophets only because he can confirm them by his own happy religious consciousness. To-day we see everything Ezekiel saw, or Jeremiah, in so far as our own age is concerned. Whatever may change, the law never undergoes any modification; righteousness is as stern as ever, holiness is still as the unspotted snow; the gospel is still the ineffable sweetness of the divine love; the Cross is still the one central and eternal necessity of a sinful world. The form of the vision changes, but the God of the vision abides the same. Let us say of the Lord that he is good and that his mercy endureth for ever; let us declare that righteousness is unyielding, and that the inflexibility of its spirit is the very guarantee of the largeness and tenderness of the gospel. It righteousness could be changed in its demands, or modified in its severity, there would be no need of the gospel; it is because the law is unchangeable that the gospel is needed to absorb, engross, fulfil, and glorify it. Jesus Christ did not come to abolish the law, except by its fulfilment. Let us tell what we have seen of God's readiness to forgive. We may not have seen many instances of positive forgiveness in others, but the gospel we have to declare is that we ourselves are pardoned, we ourselves have undergone the wondrous change, we ourselves know what it is to have had the stony heart taken away, and a heart of flesh set in its place. If we thus keep to our own experience and declare it with modesty, simplicity, and unction, men may listen with interest, and who shall say that they will not accept our word and flee for refuge to the same redeeming Christ?
O thou Saviour of the World, may every soul hear thy cry, saying, Turn ye turn ye! why will ye die? Thou didst say, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! how often would I have gathered thee! Thou hast said, Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. On the last day of the feast, thou didst stand and cry, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. Thou art the Saviour of the world; thou hast tasted death for every man; thou wouldst not that any should die, but that all should turn and live. We remember thy sweet word: thou art come to give us life, and to give us life more abundantly, life upon life, even unto immortality, the immeasurable duration of bliss. This is thy gift, eternal life: may none die; plead with every heart; show thy Cross to every one who is asking the upward way; bring all men to the tree of life. Amen.
We have found it convenient to divide nature into matter and mind. Some of us regard all so-called body as an incarnation, in some sense an expression of thought: every bridge, every picture, every house, each is an embodied incarnation, or represented thought. We realise this more vividly because its applications are very large. Men look at a bridge who never suppose that that bridge is only a thought put into stone: hence they talk about that which is practical—forgetting that there is nothing practical, in the truest and largest sense of the term, that does not back upon infinity, mystery, deity. The bridge does not begin and end in itself; it represents a man, a thinking man, a student, a man who has deeply thought over mathematics, quantities, forces—composition and resistance of forces; a man who has talked metaphysics to himself before he called in a man with a spade to begin to dig. The labourer never could have dug if the mathematician had not thought. Why do we not see that everything belongs to God? Why this cutting asunder of the currents of things? What has the fountain done that the very stream which has issued from it should be cut off as if it had originated itself? All things are religious. It may be convenient for us to shut our eyes to that fact, and thus perpetrate a species of idolatry, instead of entering into some act of profound and simple worship; but there stands the fact, that every bridge is a thought, every picture is a thought, every building is a thought, every pebble claims the care of the creatorship of God. Man, above all things known to us, represents the thought or purpose of God. What wonder then that God knows what is in man—knows man's thoughts before they are in shape? The Psalmist says, "Thou understandest my thought afar off"—before I know it myself; thou knowest my thought in plasm, while it is yet a film, while it is the mystery of a mystery, coming up out of eternity to tabernacle for a while within the narrow spaces of time. Jesus "needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man." These are the texts that prove the deity of the Son of God. Of what other man could it be said without palpable exaggeration: He needed not that any should testify of man, because he read him through and through, was part of him, was always in the inmost sanctuary of the man's heart? Curious Carpenter I marvellous Man! The mystery is greater if we limit Jesus Christ to humanity than if we accord him the prerogatives and dignities of Godhood. On either theory there is mystery enough. On the one side we find the mystery of darkness and palpable contradiction; on the other side we find the mystery of light and possible glory to come.
The doctrine of the text is that the mind or man can have no secrets from God. This ought not to be a commonplace; it should be indeed the very sanctuary in which men worship, and think and grow in all holiest edification. We are face to face with the omniscience of God, and especially with that omniscience as applied to mind. You know everything that is in your child's wardrobe: you know very little of what is in your child's mind. God may know all the stars, and yet he may be shut out from the human mind; but he says, No: "I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them." There is no escape from God. "Thou God seest me."
This doctrine is the more remarkable as being so prominently set forth in the Old Testament Very little is said in the New Testament about what we call the attributes of God; yet they are all assumed. The New Testament did not come first to re-write the Old Testament, and then say it approved of it: the New Testament assumes the Old Testament, and every word and letter in it Without the Pentateuch we could not have had the Gospels: they would have come upon us as nothing else has come, with a kind of rudeness, violence, and sense of intellectual and moral collision; we should have been startled by a miracle without being prepared for it. You cannot have read the Gospels if you have not read the Pentateuch. By reading I do not mean going through the words, but reading with the heart, appreciating with the mind, responding with the soul, tabernacling God in the very heart's heart. The New Testament re-writes the Old Testament by assuming it.
God's omniscience is mental: "I know the things that come into your mind." Not only does he know all the worlds, he knows what is going on in the secret heart of the meanest member of the innumerable throngs that tenant the mansions he has built. This is a doctrine; at this moment we are not dwelling upon the fact, but upon a certain conception of God, and that conception accords God the power of intimately reading everything that ever passes through the human soul. It is a grand conception. Whoever dreamed it ought to have influence upon human thought; and seeing that many men dreamed the same dream, and represented it in the same words, there seems to grow up from these facts an argument that God himself revealed to the dreaming mind his own omniscience in all mental as well as in all material spheres. Wonderful is the concurrent testimony of the Bible upon this mental omniscience. "I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me." All our murmurings are not spoken; our deepest, bitterest murmurings are inarticulate sighs, sounds often soundless to human ears, but which fall under the roof of heaven like minor thunders; there is a complaining heart, a begrudging, and reproaching, and fretfulness, never uttered in words that can be written out in form of libel and signed as printed slanders. The murmur is sometimes in the look, in the furtive glance, sometimes in the ill-suppressed sigh, sometimes in a suggestive twist of the body, sometimes in a gnarled, wrinkled old face that ought to have been all sunshine. God says: I know it, I know what you are thinking about, what you are complaining concerning; I know all your little frets and all your unspoken complaints against my providence. "I know their imagination which they go about." That is a penetrating judgment, quite the subtlety of insight, the most piercing of all mental actions. God says: I follow their imagination—now a dream, now a nightmare, now something so bad you will not, dare not speak it I know all the tricks of the serpent when he plays upon the imagination of men. "The Lord looketh on the heart"—not the little muscle which the physiologist calls heart, but that spirituality which makes the man. "The Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts." No man can believe this fully and live another day. Yet every man believes it theoretically, and calls it a commonplace. Think of it, that God's eye burns on your soul's soul! That we may write down in a creed, and give it distinct enumeration as a separate and gorgeous dogma, but if a man really believed that, got hold of it with his whole soul, he would commit suicide; in some form at least he would utter a protestation arising out of sheer intolerable agony: never to have a moment to himself; the soul to have no eyelid, closing which it can exclude God, as the eyelid of the body can exclude the midday; never, never to have one moment's release from the burning criticism of God: who can bear it? Yet we must write it theoretically, insist upon it dogmatically, and pass it by simply regarding it as a commonplace. But it is no commonplace: if a fact, it should burn us, it should afflict us with the profoundest humiliation. God judges by our dispositions as well as by our actions. This is the supposition that lay at the heart of the old bitter Calvinism. When such Calvinists as Boston said there were children in hell not a span long, they vindicated that monstrous doctrine by the very theory that God judges dispositions, not actions; protoplasm, not completed growth: God does not need to wait until he sees what the child may turn out, so said the old pestiferous Calvinism; God knows what the child is, he reads the plasm, the quality and stuff of which the child is made: he saw Iscariot in Iscariot's father, in Iscariot's father's father, in Adam. That is how it is we have a damned world; and as for children being a span long or men being six feet long in hell, that, said the old Calvinism, has nothing to do with it; it is the disposition that is perditioned, not the stature in feet and in inches.
"I know the things that come into your mind, every one cf them." This should be a great terror to us. Hear Job (Job 34:21): "His eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings." What! not a moment's loneliness? not one secret thought, not one undivided purpose? What! not one little corner of the heart in which the man can sit and think his own thoughts without the presence and without the criticism of God? Hear Job again (Job 42:2): "No thought can be withholden from thee." Nor did Job bear testimony alone, in some mood of desolateness representing the pessimism of the human mind: the Psalmist, man of the harp, said, "He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?... He that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know?" This is the cold argument of cold reason. This is no dreaming, affrighted, hysterical rhetoric; here is a man arguing as he would argue in geometry: He that planted the ear, shall he himself be deaf? he that formed the eye—an eye that can take in a universe at a glance—is he himself a blind Creator? God knoweth the way of the soul. Here is an evil thought against a brother; we have never spoken it, yet it is written in heaven as if an historical incident, day, and date, and hour, and minute, and there stands the record of heaven, God the Registrar. Here is a secretly planned device wrought out in the chamber of imagery, and we say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge with the Most High? We elaborate all our mischief, and it is all telephoned to heaven. The soul will not keep secrets from God. If your soul has told you that it is going to do something for you without telling God about it, your soul has told you a lie. Whenever the soul speaks it speaks right into a telephone—it cannot help doing so; if it wanted to avert its head it would speak but into another telephone, if possible, of larger capacity and finer sensitiveness. There is nothing that is hidden from God. "The ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings." Before the man sets a foot outside on the path, the Lord says, He will take this course to-day—sinuous or direct, or uphill or down the valley, or he will call a ship and bid the captain speed across the flood, that he may get his mischief done the more quickly: it is all foreseen, it is all known in heaven; there is no escape. "Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down: and though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence; and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them." No escape! This is the doctrine of the Bible. If we believed it we could not live. Yet we would not for the world deny it We write down "omniscience" as a divine attribute; then we call its application a commonplace.
"I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them." This should be a great comfort to us. What! both a terror and a comfort? Yes: behold the goodness and the severity of God. God is love—our God is a consuming fire. The good have nothing to fear. "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him."
What was the comfort of Job? God's omniscience. The very thing that is a terror to the bad man is a comfort to the good man. Hear Job (Job 23:10): "He knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." Here is a man rejoicing in the very doctrine that fills the world with terror. Observe, if it were a terror only life would be destroyed; it is because it is a comfort as well as a terror that the Christian can face the sublimity of the doctrine of the omniscience of God. This was the comfort of David—"The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous." And again, "The Lord knoweth the days of the upright"; and again, "He that keepeth thee will not slumber"; and again, "When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path." Think of men drinking comfort at this fountain! We have just declared that if God looked only that he might judge and deal out righteous judgment to the sinner's heart no man could live before him. "Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified." And yet we go to this very fountain—on the one side a fountain of lava, on the other a fountain of crystal water—and on the consolatory side we drink, lift up our heads by the way, and are glad. "He knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are but dust." His omniscience is our defence. The very thing we were afraid of a moment ago we now run into as pursued men might run into a city of refuge. He knoweth our frame, he knoweth how slender we are and frail, he knoweth the temperature of our blood; he knoweth the peculiarity of our structure; he is physiologist as well as theologian; he knows our weight, our stature, everything about us, and he remembereth that at our best estate we are as dust and as vanity, and because he knows so much he speaks so tenderly. The knowledge of God is either our hell or our heaven.
Did Jesus Christ and his Apostles say anything about this omniscience? They assumed it, in some instances they almost explicitly referred to it. Jesus Christ described God in these terms—"Thy Father which seeth in secret." That is the Old Testament written all over again in one sentence. There must be prayers we dare not tell our dearest friends about. Distrust the man who can tell you all he ever prayed. Whilst on the one hand there are public prayers meant for public edification, and that ought to be published all round the earth in every language of man, there are other prayers that are prayed when the door is shut, bolted, sealed. That door may not be wooden or physical; we have doors that are mental, and whilst we are looking at our friend we can be plunged into the depths of eternity. He may think he sees us and hears us, but he does neither the one nor the other. Jesus reiterates the doctrine when he speaks about a falling sparrow; he says, "One of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father." Your Father will say, That is my bird. It took God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost to set that little pendulum-heart in motion; it took the whole Trinity to shape that eye. "God knoweth your hearts." Hear Paul: "The Lord knoweth them that are his." And John comes in with a great gospel of this whole doctrine, and says, Do not be too despondent, do not be too overwhelmed with dejection; "if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things." He knows how you came into that difficulty; he understands how it was that you were caught in that wickedness; he saw how it was that you fell into drunkenness and shame; he knows all the story of your bankruptcy. These things being so, let us leave our judgment with God. Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest how I came to be this and do this and say this; I am sorry for it all now, but I am fearfully and wonderfully made; I did not make myself, and I cannot unmake myself; my judgment is with the Lord, other men rebuke me and condemn me, other men think they speak more wisely and to greater purpose than I do, and yet somehow I cannot hold my tongue; I want to serve thee in my very blunders: God be merciful to me a sinner. I will leave my judgment in thine hands; thou knowest all things: now it is my mother, now it is my father, now they are both operating in me by an interaction that tears and wounds me and enfeebles me; thou knowest all things: it is better to fall into the hands of God than into the hands of men: thy very omniscience is my protection if my purpose be right.
This being so, leave all providence with God. Do not intermeddle with providence. Forbear thou from meddling with God. Do allow God some room in his own universe. Do not pester thyself with heresies, and straying theologies, and erratic speculations, and new inventions that have been offered for patent at the office, but have been declined because nobody fully comprehended the specification. Do not tear thyself to pieces because of evildoers, but rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him, and he shall give thee thine heart's desire. God cares more for his Church than we can care about it. He bought it with blood—he will not forsake it.
Almighty God, thou hast sent forth thy word as a sign; thou hast given unto men kindly ministry that cannot be mistaken; thou hast charged thy ministry as with thunder and lightning, also with warnings deep and solemn, also with promises and welcomes tenderer than all we know of human love. Strange men hast thou created; we cannot tell all they say, nor do they themselves know what they speak: yet we are sure that their word is not the word of man, the creation of time, the picture of a transient moment; it cometh up from eternity, it trembles with the music of another world. We know thy word when we hear it; there is none like it: sometimes it is a terrible word, splitting the heart as fire splits the rock; and sometimes a gentle, gracious morning dew that the weakest flower can cany without the sense of burdensomeness: but thy word is alway unlike every other word: may we hear it, treasure it, answer it, and live according to its discipline, and be glad because of its rich promises. Oh that we had hearkened unto thy law, and that thy commandments had been the delight of our heart! then had we been signs to our brethren; they would have seen our peace, and have asked whence such tranquillity came. But are we not carnal and weak as men? Are we not yet in our nonage? Are we not also carried about by fear, anxiety, trouble, and imagined care? Ought we not to be the sons of peace, the children of light, the princes of God, calm amid all upset, tranquil though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea? We have trusted to ourselves, and not to the living God; hence our agitation, and unrest, and disturbance, and distrust, no better than atheism. But these confessions we make because of a voice within us which says, If we confess our sins thou art faithful and just to forgive us our sins. We would not confess the iniquity were we not inspired by hope of pardon, and by a conviction that even yet our life may be made beautiful by God. Hear us when we confess; listen to us when we plead; because we confess at the Cross, we plead at the Cross, and we abide at the Cross, and other altar we have none. Our prayers are mighty through Jesus Christ, Priest of the universe, Intercessor on behalf of man: may each heart say, He is my Advocate, therefore my cause shall not fail; I have entrusted him with my pleading, therefore will he bring an answer of security. Thus may we stand upon eternal rocks, thus may we abide though the wind be high and the thunder roar. Amen.