Exodus 19:9)? God "dwells in the light which no man can approach unto" (1 Timothy 6:16), and this is the same thing; for the dazzling light is to us as the darkness. As our eye is constituted to receive no more than a certain degree of light, so our mind is created to receive no more than a measure of truth. And this is markedly and manifestly true of our knowledge of God. He is the incomprehensible One, whom we "cannot find out," whose "ways are unsearchable." This is true of -
I. THE DIVINE NATURE. Of his eternity, of his infinity, of his sovereignty, and of his omniscience, taken in connection with our human liberty, how little can we comprehend! how soon do we find ourselves beyond our depth, involved in difficulties which are hopelessly insoluble!
II. HIS REVELATION OF HIMSELF IN JESUS CHRIST. "His rich, his free redemption" is, as has been said or sung, "dark through brightness." Jesus Christ is distinctly and pre-eminently the Revelation of God to man. Yet is there in the connection of his Sonship of God with his Sonship of man a mystery which baffles us. How One equipped with Divine power and wisdom as was Jesus the Christ could "grow in wisdom" as well as in stature, is dark and impenetrable to our understanding.
III. HIS RULING OF OUR RACE. Why did God allow forty centuries of sin and strife, of superstition and sorrow, of darkness and death, to pass away before he sent his Son into the world to be its Light, and to redeem it from its ruin?
IV. HIS DIRECTION OF OUR INDIVIDUAL LIVES. How is it, we wonder, that God allows certain things to happen which (as it seems to us) are certain to be so injurious in their effects? how is it that he does not act in a way which would (as we are convinced) be fraught with so much blessing? Events in the lives of others or in our own lives are often so different from, so contrary to, what we should expect at the hand of One who rules in wisdom, in faithfulness, in love. Consider:
1. How inevitable it is that this should be so. The feeble-minded and uncultured man completely fails to understand his gifted and educated brother; the little child completely misunderstands his father; Day, he thinks his father unwise, unjust, or unkind in those very things in which that father knows himself to be most wise, most just, most kind. And what is the difference which separates human ignorance from human wisdom when compared with that which separates us from God?
2. We may reasonably hope that this will gradually lessen, though they can never disappear. As we pass on in life, we understand more of God's character and his ways. When we shall receive that glorious enlargement of spiritual faculty for which we look and long, we shall know God as the best and wisest do not know him here. But we rejoice to think that, in the remotest future to which our imagination can look forward, we shall still be inquiring and gaining knowledge of our heavenly Father.
3. How much we know now that is of the greatest practical value. We know that God is One who is a Spirit even as we are, but sinless and Divine; that he is perfectly holy, wise, faithful, kind; that he is accessible to our prayer, and is not only ready but eager to receive us again into his favour; that he is a Father who is tenderly interested in all his children, and who responds to the filial love and obedience of those who seek to serve him; that he is pleased with an endeavour to do and bear his will; that he is seeking and outworking our spiritual, our eternal well-being. This is enough for the highest ends of our existence, for the restoration of our soul, for the ennoblement of our character. - C.
Then said Solomon, The Lord hath said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.
I. IN REGARD TO GOD HIMSELF, ANY PERFECT KNOWLEDGE OF HIM IS IMPOSSIBLE TO MAN. The smaller must comprehend the greater, before man can comprehend Deity as He is in His absolute nature. This secrecy of God is one of the attributes and perfections of the Almighty. He who sees all and is Himself unseen must be the Creator. The words of the inspired writer contain a literal truth, "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing."
1. Under this condition God has ever revealed Himself: to our first parents in the garden of Eden; to Moses in the bush and in the clouds of Sinai; to Elijah. He was present in each case, but could not be traced; revealed, but unseen. The answer of the old heathen philosopher respecting Him is the true one: "When I look for Him I find Him not, when I look not for Him I find Him everywhere."
2. Not otherwise was it in the Incarnation. A light in a dark place, and the darkness comprehended it not. "There standeth One among you whom ye know not."
3. It is the same with God's manifestation through the Holy Spirit. He has been, and is, a Presence and a Power in the earth, working wondrously but inscrutably.
4. As with the Person, so it has been with the Word of God; an obscure light, enough to try faith, not to gratify human speculation. Take, e.g., prophecy. In its broad features the cast corresponds with the mould. But when we enter into details, the exact literal completion is difficult to trace.
5. It was the same with the parables of Christ. They were truth under a veil.
6. So it is in numberless instances of the deeper truths revealed in Scripture.
II. Pass now to THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD. It is a true idea that represents God as manifest in history, ruling the world in righteousness and justice. But immediately we leave this general truth and examine the case of particular nations or particular periods, what perplexity arises! Civilised nations falling back into darkness and degradation; eras of barbarism intervening; wars springing up and throwing a continent back fifty years in its progress; evil of all kinds permitted; wrong and injustice prevailing. "His way is in the sea, and His paths in the great waters." "His footsteps are not known." It would be easy to illustrate this in numberless other instances — in our individual lives; in moral science; in physical science. The lesson from all this is that all truth is beset with some obscurity, but must not be rejected on that account. "In this world there is little to be known but much to be done." It teaches us in matters of right and wrong, in matters of religion, to trust but little to our reason, but much to our inward consciousness, the instinct of conscience and the aspirations of faith.
(Archdeacon Grant, D.C.L.)
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